Divine Office / Liturgical Reform / Liturgical Spirituality / Ordinary Form

Revised Liturgy of the Hours — What Do We Know?

LOTH2Many of those who pray the liturgy of the hours in the ordinary form of the Roman rite have heard of, and are excited about, the U.S. Bishops’ ongoing revision that will result in the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition for use in the U.S. and some other countries, at some currently-unknown future date (according to this new report by the National Catholic Register, slated for 2022).

Why do we need the revisions, what will change, what won’t, and what do we know about where we are in the process?

Background: Why the Revision?

LHThe last general reform of the divine office according to the Roman rite was completed in and its first Latin edition promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1971. With the new permission from the Vatican for those canonically bound to praying the office to do so in the vernacular, a flurry of translation activity began worldwide. The English translation in use in the U.S., Canada, and several other English-speaking countries (but not the UK, Australia, New Zealand and some other Commonwealth countries!) was directed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and published in 1975. This is the American breviary still in normative use today.

In the meantime, Rome revised the Liturgia Horarum in 1985, and published a second edition (editio typica altera), which among other things makes use of the Neovulgate psalter, and provides for a 3-year cycle of Gospel Canticle antiphons for Sundays, to match the Gospel of the Sunday in the respective year. (The 1971 Latin and 1975 American edition used the Year A Gospel for Evening Prayer I, Year B for Morning Prayer, and Year C for Evening Prayer II.)

The goal of the ongoing revision, then, is primarily to align the English text to the Latin currently in force, while also ironing out other issues and fixing some problems that plagued the first American edition:

  • Instead of providing English versions of the rich Latin hymnody of the Liturgia Horarum, LOTH 1975 offers a very idiosyncratic mix of hymns in disparate styles. LOTH Second Edition will instead provide fresh, accurate, and singable translations of the nearly 300 Latin hymns, ensuring much greater stylistic consistency across the offices and their ability to be chanted to traditional Gregorian melodies, while reconnecting us to the heritage and tradition of our mother church of Rome.
  • The Intercessions of Lauds and Vespers in LOTH 1975 exhibit an inconsistency in style and composition, sometimes (somewhat) matching the original Latin preces, but sometimes not. In LOTH SE, they will be brought in accordance with the originals, and the translations greatly improved to bring out “more of the scriptural imagery latent in the Latin” (see the USCCB’s page on LOTH SE, which is also the source of most of the information compiled in this post, and a good page to bookmark for reference).
  • Likewise, the Psalm, Canticle, Scripture, and Collect/Prayer translations left something to be desired in light of the norms of the 2001 Roman document Liturgiam authenticam governing liturgical translations and mandating greater fidelity to the Latin originals. Many of the collects of the original LOTH, most of them having been shared with the Roman Missal, were particularly asinine in their lack of accuracy and the consequent loss of meaning. This week’s collect (21st week of Ordinary Time) is a perfect illustration. Here is the revised collect according to the Third Edition of the Roman Missal (2011): O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Jesus Christ etc.
    Compare this with the old 1970s ICEL version, still in the current LOTH: Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. 

What is not changing?

A question I frequently get from liturgically-minded friends is whether the LOTH Second Edition might solve one of the greatest deficiencies of the current Liturgy of the Hours: three missing psalms, and nineteen other psalms (along with six OT and two NT canticles) with various verses cut out for alleged “psychological difficulties,” because of their imprecations (curses) against “enemies.” (Of course, the Fathers, following St. Paul, have always understood these enemies to be spiritual: primarily demons, sins and temptations assaulting the church and the individual faithful.)

The short and sad answer is: No. The missing psalms and psalm/canticle verses are “baked into the cake” of Roman liturgical reform, and were decreed by the Consilium that created the Liturgia Horarum. As a consequence, the only way the integral psalter will ever be restored to the ordinary form of the Roman office is by another structural reform directed by Rome and approved by the Pope. This goes for any other re-ordering of the psalter scheme, which is set by the Latin edition.

Another element not affected by the revision is the text of the second (non-Scriptural) lessons in the Office of Readings, which would be an enormous undertaking of relatively secondary importance.

Glory Be, or Glory To?

monk Jean-Baptiste-Camille-Corot_Monk-in-white 1850sAnother issue currently still up in the air is the translation of the doxology: the “Glory be” (or “Glory to”) that opens every hour and closes almost every psalm and canticle in the office.

Most English-speaking Catholics are familiar with the traditional form, used in the Rosary: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The 1975 edition of the Liturgy of the Hours introduced ICEL’s new translation: Glory to the Father (. . .) as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. This is the version prescribed for the LOTH, with no formal permission for any alternatives.

There were rumors that providing for the traditional form (whether alongside or instead of the 1970s version) may be part of the ongoing revision.

Indeed, the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship confirmed to me recently via email correspondence that the question is scheduled for review by the bishops, but has not been discussed and resolved yet.

Conclusion: Where Things Stand

Here is a brief outline of what we know to be completed, and what is still being worked on:

  • Psalms and Canticles: DONE — modified Revised Grail Psalter, approved by Rome, whose copyright was bought by the U.S. Bishops in July 2019 and renamed “Abbey Psalms and Canticles”
  • Office Hymns: DONE — ICEL has completed the translation of nearly 300 hymns from the Liturgia Horarum into English that is both accurate and singable to the original Gregorian tones.
  • Intercessions: In Progress —  Intercessions for the Proper of Time (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time) are completed and approved. Intercessions for the Commons, Office for the Dead, Proper of Saints, and Four-Week Psalter, are under revision.
  • Benedictus and Magnificat Antiphons: DONE — The U.S. Bishops in June 2018 approved the translations of the three-year cycle of antiphons from the 1985 Latin Liturgia Horarum mentioned above.
  • Scripture Lessons: In Progress — All lessons and chapters from Scripture will be aligned to the new liturgical Bible (a final, complete revision of the NABRE) currently in progress, and which will serve as the lectionary for Mass, Office, and private devotion across the American church.
  • Psalm Antiphons: In Progress —  Since the Psalms and OT/NT Canticles are being replaced with the new Abbey Psalms and Canticles (formerly known as the Revised Grail), the antiphons need to be adjusted to match the new, more accurate psalm texts.
  • Collects/Orations: In Progress — Most of the propers and commons of saints already have revised collects in the 2011 Roman Missal (Third Edition). Those collects, notably the ferial prayers of the Four-Week Psalter, that do not are currently under revision, and their “Green Book” (initial draft) stage is already completed.

In conclusion, although the single biggest defect of the reformed office (the missing psalms and verses) cannot be remedied without general reform from the Apostolic See, the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition will be a very significant improvement on the American liturgical scene. It will bring much-improved accuracy and faithfulness to the Latin, a completely restored hymnody, and prayers that match those of the Mass. It may also bring back (at least as an option) the old doxology, inherited from our Anglican brethren, in lieu of ICEL’s “Glory to” version.

In the incredibly remote chance that anyone with any responsible role in the revision process were to read this, I would humbly submit two further minor recommendations for their consideration.

First, consider moving the Psalm Prayers to a separate appendix (as originally intended by the designers of the Liturgia Horarum) for the sake of improved structural cleanness and simplicity. Second, it would be a huge help to those of us who sing the office if at least the customary daggers and asterisks were included in the psalms and canticles, to aid chanting and antiphonal recitation.

Finally, the USCCB and ICEL deserve credit and recognition, not only for undertaking this important but gargantuan task, but also for making real and substantial progress over the last few years, and for being transparent about where things stand and what may be expected. Let us offer a prayer for guidance by the Holy Spirit for the successful conclusion of this endeavor, and so that it may bear abundant fruit across the church for years and decades to come.

UPDATE: Check out my newest post on the best hymnal for the current edition of the Liturgy of the Hours.


47 thoughts on “Revised Liturgy of the Hours — What Do We Know?

  1. Pingback: TVESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  2. The Antiphons for the Benedictus and Magnificat other than for Sundays were not mentioned. I hope that the revised translations better follow the Latin structure so that they can be sung to the chant melodies. For example, the Vespers antiphon for the Common of Doctors of the Church is now “O blessed Doctor, St. N., light of holy Church and lover of God’s law, pray to the Son of God for us.” It could be sung to the chant melody if it were “O blessed Doctor, light of holy Church, St. N., lover of God’s law, pray for us to the Son of God.” Another sore thumb is the “O Key of David” antiphon.

  3. There is something that those of us in First, Second, and Third Orders of Franciscans, Dominicans, Carelites, etc. will find difficult with a new LOTH. Will the publishers provide the required Supplements fo us to follow our particular Calendars of feasts and memorials of the Saints and Blesseds of our Orders? If not, we will not be able to say the LOTH properly without mixing and matching the present translation and format with the new LOTH SE. Presently there are separate fascicles for these Supplements that tuck into the back of our copies of the LOTH or into a special cover that accepts these fascicles. Perhaps someone could put a “bug” in the ears of our American Publishers to include those Supplements as Appendices in the Breviaries themselves in lieu of fascicles and publish them as Liturgy of the Hours with Franciscan (Dominican, Carmelite, etc.) Appendix. Pre-orders from the various Communites may help the publishers decide in that direction in lieu of the present fascicle route.

  4. quote
    the 2001 Roman document Liturgiam authenticam governing liturgical translations and mandating greater fidelity to the Latin originals.

    How does Pope Francis’ muto proprio Magnum Principium, [September 9, 2017] come in to play? I’m no where near an expert, but that document seems to call the status of Liturgiam Authenticam into question.

    • As I understand it, while MP lightens the grip of Rome on the process, it does not provide different principles of translation. It’s been pretty clear that Francis’ curia is not going to enforce LA very strictly, but the U.S. Bishops still seem to be trending strongly in that direction, and I doubt that the Holy See will challenge them.

      • This old priest laughs at the “faithful to Latin” silliness, because we are trying to take an inflected language and find some way to put it into a language based around word order. The example the author gave about the wonderful new collect in place of the original translation is an example in point. Faithfulness to Latin means a long complicated translation of a Latin poem. The scorned collect slices through the ponderous Latin phrases with wonderful brevity. That is the version I can pray with.

        But this will have little real effect because I pray my Spanish breviary, which does not possess the American worry about faithfulness to Latin.

      • I appreciate your points, Fr William.

        It’s not my contention that the 2011 is always and in every case superior to either the 1970s or the thrown-out 1998 proposed Sacramentary. I think there is a felix via media to be found between slavish literalness and freewheeling “dynamic equivalence.” There is much to be said for brevity and punchiness, but it’s not always better when depth of meaning is also at stake.

        On the whole, I think the 2011 translation is an understandable, if at times overwrought, response to an excessive pendulum swing the other way in the 70s. I do agree with you (based at least on my experience with the Hungarian LH) that some non-English versions seem to be better at avoiding these extremes.

  5. I thought I read on the USCCB website that the Psalm prayers were not going to be included in the new translation.

  6. I’m surprised NCR said the new LOTH would be ready by as soon as 2022. All of USCCB’s announcements I’ve seen in its newsletters have basically said this is tied to the preparation of a liturgical Bible based on NABRE and the Grail Psalter and implied that this would take years and years.

    • Right, but the psalms and canticles are done and already have the approbation of the Holy See, and as far as the NABRE revision is concerned, as far as I know they are only revising the New Testament (last revised in 1986), since the OT is complete. I too would be cautious about banking on 2022, but it doesn’t sound quite as off to me.

  7. What needs to be updated is the Calender of Saints with newer canonized saints like Paul VI,JP II, John XXIII, PADRE PIO, etc.

  8. Thank you for mentioning the daggers and asterisks — the pointing for binary psalm tones (also useful for antiphonal or responsive recitation). These have always been provided in The Divine Office, the three-volume Liturgy of the Hours for the UK and other countries, and I’ve often wondered why American editions of Grail psalms never include those. The Conception Abbey monks have this pointing in their own office books at the Abbey, but not in the Grail editions they publish.

  9. A major thing missing is the abolition of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Bible translation used. Every time I read some tradition-obscuring, linguistically-unfamiliar, stilted, and obstructive translation in a passage of any version of the NAB, I switch to the RSVCE and ask, “Why, oh why didn’t they use THIS instead?”

    I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy to undermine the catechesis and faith of Catholics.

    I’m just saying that any people who actually were conspiring to undermine the catechesis and faith of Catholics, while trying to remain under-the-radar, might not have done much different.

    • Is the NABRE really that bad though? I don’t personally refer to it much at all, but based on my cursory reading, the recently revised Old Testament (unlike the NT which was last revised in 1986) is really not that bad compared to the older NABs.

      • Hmm. Okay, I guess it has improved in places. I just checked some of the Psalm translations that used to bug me, and some of the wording has been readjusted.

        However, they kept their original word-choice for Genesis 1:1-2 and it still avoids “Spirit of God” in favor of “mighty wind”: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— 2 and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—.”

        Now, if you happen to know that the phrase for “mighty such-and-such” is “such-and-such of God,” and if you also happen to know that the same word is used for Spirit, breath, and wind (and generally still implies the other usages even when one usage seems most-natural from context), then you can derive the traditional wording as an alternative. So with some homework, you’ll say: “Ah, the Spirit of God is sweeping over the waters, which is immediately followed by God’s Word calling things into being. Consequently, the creation is a Trinitarian Act, from the get-go.” You can also get other connections: Noah’s flood as an un-creation followed by a new creation, the dove of Noah’s ark as the Spirit, the shape of the dove at Jesus’ baptism, etc.

        So they could have gone with the traditional English translation, but didn’t. Why not? Nothing wrong with it, much good about it. Why obscure important connections?

        They also kept “favored one” instead of “full-of-grace” (or, “fully-graced one”) in Luke 1. I can see why they’d do that if they were making a Bible for Protestant pews, but if you’re gonna be the approved Catholic translation why would you avoid the equally-good wording that would make the connection to the Hail Mary obvious? At least they said “Hail” rather than “Greetings.”

        There are at least 2 other passages that used to really bug me in the NAB but I can’t recall what they were, so I don’t know if they were improved or not.

        I also found that the NAB footnotes were excruciatingly modernist and heretical at times. Here’s a footnote associated with one of Jesus’ predictions of His coming crucifixion: ” Neither this nor the two later passion predictions (Matthew 17:22-23; 20:17-19) can be taken as sayings that, as they stand, go back to Jesus himself. However, it is probable that he foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated by God.” The footnote-author is implying, “Well, we all know there’s no such thing as true prophecy. So these were added into the text later to make Christians feel better and fool the rubes.”

        I don’t know whether the footnotes were improved in NABRE or not.

      • One of my “favorite” pieces of NAB commentary is on Genesis, where it says (I am paraphrasing from memory) that the reason Scripture uses plural (e.g. “we made man in our own image”) is because according to ancient Hebrew cosmology, God was the most powerful being who ruled over and acted through other, lesser beings. (Never mind that the plural is trinitarian…)

        I think what a former pastor of mine once said about the 1979 Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer applies to the NAB’s commentary: “It was written by unbelievers… and it shows.”

  10. Last year, the bishops of India approved an English translation of the Bible which will be used throughout the Mass and the LOTH, apparently including even the Psalms. It’s the
    English Standard Version – Catholic edition. Here’s a description:


    They rightly call it “a gift to the Church” – a sort of English Vulgate – but for now the gift will have to remain in India. The publishers are not selling it outside of India.

    • Almost everything will be updated — new psalm, canticle and antiphon translations; completely new hymnody; updated Scripture translations throughout; new collects, etc. So, yes — you’d need new books. As for the old books… keep them for emotional value/keepsakes? Sell them on eBay? Donate them to used bookstores? Up to each, I suppose.

  11. Pingback: Best Hymnal for the Liturgy of the Hours | Tom's Digest

  12. Any comments about expanded language in regards to humankind? Or will women have to still just pray for brothers and men?

  13. Pingback: Status of LOH Version 2 – Canonical Eye

  14. Pingback: Status of LOH Second Edition – Canonical Eye

    • It seemed to me that Sr. Barbara’s “question” was rhetorical and grievance-driven, rhetorically akin to “So, do you still beat your wife?” — not an honest inquiry asked in good faith. Your follow-up, imputing lack of decency on my part for the lack of an answer to it (when the opposite is the case — I let her comment stand when I could’ve simply rejected it, albeit I did not take the polemical bait), does not seem to be in a much better vein. In any event, whatever the merits or demerits of gender-inclusivity in scripture translation, I’m not interested in having a debate about it on my blog. Thanks for understanding.

      • Thanks for your note. You’re probably right. Be that as it may, it does not obviate the original comment’s tone and the follow-up’s insinuations of a lack of decency. I would’ve even welcomed a simple “I hope the intercessions will be updated to include ‘sisters’ where only ‘brothers’ are mentioned.” No problem with that! Heck, I would have even sympathized with it. But as I hope you’ll understand, this combox is not intended for passive-aggressive griping.

  15. Pingback: Liturgy of Hours Second Edition – Canonical Eye

  16. Pingback: Spring 2020 Updates on the Liturgy of the Hours Second Edition | Tom's Digest

  17. Pingback: Major Milestones in U.S. Catholic Liturgy | Tom's Digest

  18. Pingback: Breviary Insert with New Approved Texts for the Liturgy of the Hours | Tom's Digest

      • From Darie Sockey who wrote the book on LOTH

        Hey everyone! The other day I emailed the USCCB Divine Worship committee and asked if 2022 was still a good estimate for publication of the revised edition of the LOTH. The answer: it now appears that 2024 is more realistic.

  19. Can anyone enlighten me about the “psalm prayers”? I can see one in the photograph of the book at the top of the article. I’ve heard Americans mention them before. But I’m familiar with the Latin original (I edited the Gregorian chant so that Westminster Cathedral can sing a daily Vespers) and I’m familiar with the English edition used in the UK. Neither of these editions contains psalm prayers. Where do they come from?

    • As far as I’m aware, they only actually exist in the American breviary. I’m not sure who composed them. USCCB’s divine worship secretariat confirmed that they will not be in the Second Edition anymore, since they are not in the editio typica altera of the Latin either (as you noted).

    • And they’re very confusingly placed. I attended Evening Prayer in a cathedral, and they prayed the antiphon, then the psalm alternating by strophe, then stopped for the psalm prayer, then the Gloria Patri, then the antiphon. The psalm prayer doesn’t belong anywhere but after the repetition of the antiphon at the end. Or (ideally) should be left out or prayed silently. In my opinion.

    • As of now, the hymns should be published for optional use in late 2021 or early 2022. USCCB also approved all the remaining Intercessions for Lauds and Vespers, and the Collects for the Four-Week Psalter that were not already included in the new translation of the Roman Missal. Fr Menke — the head of the Divine Worship secretariat — said that publication is expected in 2024 or 2025.

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