Many 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?
The 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?
Another 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.