Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rorate Caeli and the Missing Verses


Let's face it. The current, bowdlerized version of the Liturgy of the Hours leaves you cold. You want all the gory bits of your psalms (and who doesn't?) Well, fret not, fellow woodland creatures. You can get the Liturgy of the Hours for Benedictine Oblates from St. Meinrad Archabbey Gift Shop. Heads are shattered far and wide! Also, it is meant to be chanted, and has the Archabbey's set of tones. Grab the iChant app and soon you'll be confidently chanting the four-week cycle of psalms that form the backbone of what St. Benedict called "The Work of God." (It does not include seasons or feast days, and, sadly, their projected volume that was going to has been abandoned, per the Bear's chat with their oblate director this morning.)

Rorate Caeli has a story on a topic dear to the Bear's heart: the Liturgy of the Hours. As Benedictine oblates, the Bear and his mate are expected to pray Lauds and Vespers. Among the changes of the last fifty years was a purported reform. If you guessed that Rorate Caeli is unhappy, you would be correct.

The Bear might as well blow his traditonalist street cred by admitting that he likes praying the hours as the Church has now provided them to us. Over time, one gets familiar with the hours and their individual psalms, and the hymns (most of them decent). There is a comfort in just flipping the ribbons, turning the pages, and allowing the prayer to flow. If the rosary is right-brained, the hours are more left-brained. The Bear cannot express how blessed he is to have a mate to share it with.

The backbone of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH) is a four-week cycle of psalms (and occasional canticles). Feast days and the seasons of Advent, Lent and Easter are taken into account. We use the one-volume Christian Prayer from Catholic Book Publishing Corp., since we normally only do morning and evening prayers (formerly Lauds and Vespers), plus night prayer (formerly Compline).

Before addressing the main complaint over at Rorate Caeli, the Bear would observe that what is suitable for one age may not be suitable for another. For example, St. Benedict, in his rule, makes this sad concession:
For monks who in a week's time say less than the full psalter with the customary canticles betray extreme indolence and lack of devotion in their service. We read, after all, that our holy Fathers, energetic as they were, did all this in a single day. Let us hope that we, lukewarm as we are, can achieve it in a whole week.
So if you want to blame someone for introducing laxity praying the hours, you might as well start with St. Benedict. Now we pray the psalter in four weeks, instead of one. The Bear, for one, is grateful for this.

What really has Rorate Caeli upset is missing verses. For example, they complain that Psalm 109 (110:6) has been expunged to protect the delicate sensibilities of the faithful. "He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter heads over the wide earth."

As you might imagine, this is one of the Bear's favorites. It is not included in Christian Prayer. Nor is dashing little ones against a rock, 136 (137:9); or hating people with a perfect hate, 138 (139:22).

Oh bother.

If there is one thing that keeps the Bear from being a full-bore traditionalist, it is that he can only nail himself to the floor in front of one pew and die there. Or, as the original fire protection Bear, not every smoldering campfire can be a five-alarm blaze. He loves the LOTH, and isn't going to get too upset over Rorate Caeli's missing verses. And the Bear would hate for someone to be dissuaded from trying the gift of the LOTH on account of thinking they were some modernist abomination.

Was the removal of the verses misguided? The Bear suspects yes, but is also sensitive to stumbling blocks before weaker woodland creatures.

Fortunately, the Bear has a Bible, which he reads regularly. Those verses are not lost to him.


  1. Well, I pray the Byzantine Hours, so no missing verses for me. I'm thankful for the present LOTH as well. (I Do pray it as I'm Carmelite)

  2. The Bear being not a (canonically) religious Bear but only an oblate Bear living in the world, his relief at not being bound to a weekly recitation of the entire psalter is understandable. Other creatures, called to the religious life, suffer fewer worldly distractions and consequently are enabled to enjoy the riches of the psalter to a greater degree. Father Benedict's Rule is not laxity for the indulgence of the unserious, but a rule of moderation by which labor may combine with oratio to constitute a fully Benedictine spirituality. Rorate's main point remains: that notwithstanding declarations of the reformers, the true intent of the reformers was to cherry-pick and re-frame Scripture as part of a program to drain the shock-and-awe from Christian prayer, reducing it to the anodyne and agreeable.

    1. I agree that it is less than ideal, as are most things, at least in the verses, in our Church today. Unlike the changes in the Mass, at least it was fixed in a (to me) acceptable form. Definitely Novus Ordo, but without the abuses we sometimes seem in the Mass. I wonder how many people in the world would be saying the Divine Office if they had to get through everything in a week? Perhaps it was time for another concession. Or do you deny that some old monks in St. Benedict's day didn't say, "Why, back in my day, we did ALL the psalms every single day!" ;-)

    2. I am sure some did -- and then Abbot Benedict would kick them in the backside and say have you finished hoeing the garden yet?

      Solitary ascetics have more time to pray because labor is not essential to their spirituality. Deus providebit. The Benedictine rule is another way, incorporating labor not only for practical reasons but because it's essential to that spirituality. Still further along the spectrum, oblates living in the world must accept that they live in the world, and do the best they can.

      I am not an oblate, but do support my wife's interest in this spirituality. We have made a couple of visits to Clear Creek, where the Monastic Diurnal is used. I find it truly nourishing but have not sought oblate status for myself, feeling unable to undertake the concomitant obligations. An annual retreat of just a few days will have to do for me.

  3. I, also, was introduced to the Divine Office thru the LOTH. It did bother me when I noticed the missing verses, but even more so were the watered down prayers and translations. Some sounded like they were straight out of my college days in the 70s (or from FrancisChurch of today!) with the peace and justice crowd. I gradually have migrated to the Roman Breviary, although I am searching for a good translation here (the Baronius edition leaves something to be desired). I sometimes get the entire week in, but do not sweat it if I don't succeed.

    1. Maybe I'm just used to it, but it is rarely that something grates. When it is, it is usually something about peace and justice, which I interpret as only eating some of the bad children instead of all them.

    2. I have found the old form of the LOTH on the web at:

      and prefer it, even though I have the 4 volume set of the post-VII LOTH

  4. When my children were in CCD, I taught them to ask both "Why would someone want to remove this?" and "Why would God want it to be there?" Teachable moments.

  5. The Bear said he was going to lose his traditionalist street cred. :-D

  6. Don't worry, bear. You didn't have any traditionalist street cred.


    I kid because I love.

    That being said, the LOTH, compared to the traditional breviary, is appalling, and there is no way around it. And I am a veteran of both.

  7. I do have to say that the praying doesn't flow that smoothly with all the ribbons and page flipping. I have had to get used to it. I started off with an EZ peasy (as kids say) St Joseph Daily Prayer book which just runs one week with minimal page flipping. Yes, since it's only one week, it is repetitive. There are traditional prayers in the back as well as excerpts from talks/homilies by popes and well-known saints for prayer and meditation. (Yes, we can meditate on Jesus Our Lord, His Wounds, His Birth, His Death, His Resurrection, His Physical Presence in the Eucharist. It's pretty amazing.)

    I will not claim any trad street cred. (Why do we middle aged whites adopt this language of the hood?)

    1. Ribbon-flippin' definitely takes months of practice before it becomes organic to the prayer. Few Catholic things are as intimidating as the Divine Office. But I think it's worth it. And there are always Universalis and Divine Office apps, each very different, to explore if you want.

      That church!

      But whether I have traddie street cred of not, the important thing is that I IDENTIFY as a traddie. Yeah, I may use the new LOTH, may go to a Novus Ordo church, but deep down, I'm a traddie.

    2. Call bear Caitlyn!

      P.S. I think you're a closet trad anyway...

    3. Funny timman!

      Bear. I agree with being a traddie internally. That is part of what I was getting at with "my own private mass" post. Our internal piety, how we approach the mass, can be "traditional" orthodox, etc., regardless of the silliness pronounced from the pulpit, the moving and shaking from the choir pit, and glad handing around the nave. Hold on to your missal. Use it.

    4. I do use my missal. It so happens that our priest dislikes seeing people use their missals. They're not "participating with the proclamation of the Word."

    5. As I saw recently, "I'm so deep in the (traddie) closet I can see Narnia!

    6. And when you use the missal you detect the avoidance of male pronouns or calling God "Father" or something offensive like that. They change the word of God. Additionally, you know what bracketed materials were omitted, and you're not surprised.

      No. They don't like that when we know what's going on, do they?

  8. I'll throw in a De Smet fact here b/c I can. The novices and their priest/professor had to build/expand their own living quarters and functional buildings. Pierre De Smet being of great size and strength was well-suited to this task. He noted as well that nothing of the "spiritual exercises" was neglected during that time of taxing work. I believe the "spiritual exercises" refers to the daily office as much as the St. Ignatius exercises particular to the Jesuits. They were not permitted to miss any of these exercises. It was too much for 2 novices, but Pierre was even more strengthened by such exertions.

  9. This is a very mature and balanced article. Bravo!


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