Liturgical status of the Traditional Benedictine Office*** updated

Checking where people are coming from to find this blog, I stumbled across a thread on Catholic Answers which raised an issue I've seen a few times recently under various guises, namely whether we can be 'doing liturgy' when we say the traditional Benedictine Office. 

The Office can be said either as a devotion or as liturgy.  As a devotion, there is no issue about approved versions, rubrics etc - essentially it is a matter of do as you like (within reason of course)!

As I think there is a bit of misinformation out there, however, let me reiterate a few points here.  Firstly, lay people can, in principle, say the Office liturgically, regardless of whether a cleric or religious is present when they do so.

Secondly, contrary to some claims, the traditional Benedictine Office, with its traditional calendar, using rubrics and calendar approved in 1962 (and very similar to, but not identical with, the 1962 Extraordinary Form calendar and rubrics), continues to be officially approved, and is used by quite a few monasteries.   The Farnborough edition of the Diurnal follows that approved form.

It is true that in 1979 the Benedictine Confederation approved a series of revised options for the Office.  However, from 1984 onwards a number of monasteries received explicit permission through the Ecclesia Dei Commission of the Holy See to retain the traditional Office, Mass and calendar (in line with the permissions for the use of the traditional mass more broadly).   

In 2007, with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the permission to use the traditional forms of the Mass and Office for the Roman Rite was generalized to all clergy wish to use it.  The Ecclesia Dei Commission has indicated that this also extends to the rites and uses of religious orders. Accordingly, there can be no doubt that the traditional Benedictine Office as set out in the 1962 Monastic Breviary is approved for liturgical purposes.

There are though a few issues that do need to be considered in relation to the Diurnal. 

First, while the Latin clearly has ecclesiastical approval, it is not clear whether or not the particular English translation included has approval for liturgical purposes.  An edition of the Diurnal from 1963 using the same text did obtain an Imprimateur, but I haven't seen the detail of its terms, and the English may have intended to be used for study purposes only.  Moreover, the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae specifies in relation to the Roman Breviary that it must be said in Latin.

Secondly, the Farnborough edition of the Diurnal lacks an official attestation that it is published in accordance with an approved edition (CL 826). 

Whether either of these issues is sufficient to render the saying of the Office from the text in English devotional rather than liturgical is perhaps still debatable.  But in the light of  Universae Ecclesiae, the safest approach is to say the Office in Latin, and use the English as an aid to understanding.


BJA said...

Thank you for your wonderful blog!

Abbot Alcuin Deutsch's 1948 preface to the Collegeville Latin-English Monastic Diurnal doesn't explicitly state that the English text is approved for liturgical use, but it doesn't state that only the Latin text is approved either. It would not be an unreasonable conjecture that the English was indeed approved; and that the Sisters of St Benedict in St Joseph, Minnesota (at whose behest the Latin-English Diurnal was prepared at Collegeville) may be even used English for some parts of the Office.

I can tell you that the Collegeville translation did indeed receive local approval in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. I possess a "Monastic Vesperal" produced by the Sisters of St Scholastica's Convent in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which adapts the chants of the "Antiphonale Monasticum" to the Collegeville texts. It features a Nihil Obstat (Rainer J. DeClerk, Ph.D. August 12, 1958) and Imprimatur, +Albert L. Fletcher, Bishop of Little Rock (Feast of the Assumption, 1958).

I seem to recall an article in the American Benedictine Review about some pre-Vatican II Benedictine pioneers of vernacular worship. I will look for it, as it may have some information about the Collegeville translation.

Terra said...

Thank yu BJA, that's very interesting information. I suspect 1948 is too early for the English to be impliedly for liturgical use, but I may be wrong. The Arkansas approval though is pretty helpful.

Any additional info about the Collegeville trans will be of wide interest!

Jonah said...

I have only recently started using the MD. At the moment I am only saying Vespers and Lauds, but I have discovered a few liberties in the English. For example, today's office Sunday Lauds has 'Dextera Domini fecit virtutem: + dextera Domini exaltavit me, * dextera Domini fecit virtutem.' For which the MD 42 has 'The right hand of the Lord giveth strength,* the right hand of the Lord exalteth me.' i.e. the MD omits any translation of the repeated final phrase 'dextera Domini fecit virtutem' (which the Nuns of Stanbrook abbey translate as 'the right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength.') This omission of the repetition runs through all editions of the MD. I am not sure what this means for the reliability of the English or its use liturgically.

Anonymous said...

Further to BJA's comment, I also believe that the sisters of St Benedict in St Joseph Minnesota did indeed use the English for at least some parts of the office, as I possess an old first edition which one of the sisters has marked throughout, replacing thou and ye with you, and replacing Holy Ghost with Paraclete. I don't see any reason to mark the book this way if she were using the Latin text.

Kate said...

Jonah - I'd note first of all that the translations did get an Imprimateur back when they were first done. It is ecclesiastical approval, not the literalness of the translation that is the relevant test here.

Indeed, many of the modern approved translations of Scripture used in our Churches every Sunday would fail any such test.

Secondly, I'd caution against worrying too much about how literal or otherwise the translation is. Some of the repetitions of this kind are often omitted in one or more of the surviving ancient sources (Septuagint Greek, Hebrew or Syriac etc), and there are also often variants between different manuscripts of the same languages the translator/editor has probably (rightly or wrongly) made a judgment that the repetition was a scribal addition or later poetic license.

Its on the bais of manuscript evidence that the 1979 neo-Vulgate makes quite a few changes to the older Clemininte Vulgate, some of which are anticipated by the Diurnal translators. Mind you, more recent evidence from the Dead Seas Scrolls suggests that a lot of those 1979 changes will probably be junked in the not too distant future!

Thirdly, there has always been a distinction between extremely literal translations of a text for study pruposes (a good example is the New English Translation of the Septuagint) and translations intended for liturgical use, which need to sound well when said aloud. The new missal represents a step closer to the literal end of the spectrum then has prevailed through most of the last century or so, but it certainly maintains this attention to the sound of the words criterin in its choices for example.

Jonah said...

Thanks, Kate, your points are interesting (though they appear to point in two different directions simultaneously!!). I think I'm going to take it that the diocesan approval was local (according to BJA's comment) and we are safe only with the Latin (your own original conclusion).

Brian M said...

Note the first few paragraphs of this essay, which concern the "Monastic Vesperal" that BJA cites: