Last Wednesday, I went to the defunct seminary library where I found my Benedictine breviary set. I went there to do some inventory for the librarian, who is a mutual friend, and came back with three more breviaries: a Discalced Carmelite breviary (Brevarium Romano-Carmelitanum), the Office of Our Lady, and a small Benedictine Day Hours (everything except Matins).
I usually collect breviaries for cross-referencing purposes. Since I decided to stick with my Benedictine set, I really haven’t experimented much with breviary formats. Learning how to use one takes a good while and getting used to the format (font sizes, page arrangements, etc.) is something that you get used to with use.
Recently, I decided to use the Office of Our Lady that I found. It was published in 1962 in London. It was specifically designed for religious communities which were obligated to recite the Little Office of Our Lady. As most people who recite the Little Office know, it only consists of three seasons and psalms that almost never change. Therefore, the Office of Our Lady was designed with mroe variety in mind. Instead of the usual three seasons (Advent, Post-Purification, Ordinary Time), there are six seasons (Advent, Post-Purification, Septuagesima, Lent, Paschaltide, and Ordinary Time). Each season has its own antiphons and hymns. The readings, now taken from Scripture and the Doctors of the Church, are arranged to fit those same six seasons. (The earlier Office of Our Lady only had those readings that were proper to the three seasons of the year and nothing more than that).
The Psalms are arranged according to a two week cursus. This would mean that the person using the breviary would go through the entire Book of Psalms in two weeks. In addition, there are Marial psalms used on the feast of the Blessed Virgin and festal psalms that are recited on major feasts of the Church year. Of course, there are also commons for various saints as in other breviaries.
I think that one of the pluses of this breviary is that it is both in Latin and English. As in a hand missal, the Latin is on the left with English on the right. The Latin used is the Pius XII psalter, while the English comes from the Knox Bible.
Having used the Office of Our Lady several times since acquiring it, I’m afraid that I cannot recommend it as highly as others would. First of all, the Pius XII psalter can be problematic for those who are used to the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate. Being that the Pius XII psalter was put together by a committee of literary critics and theologians, its basic structure is less poetic.
The Knox translation of the psalms has its own particular beauties, but it does not hold a candle to the translation used in A Short Breviary. (I am not sure which translation was used, but I am tempted to say that it was the Confraternity version mandated by the United States bishops.)
Of course, these are only externals. After making thorough use of the instructions at the beginning of the breviary, it is possible for one to recite it with devotion and love. The readings themselves are a plus because they are in English only and lend themselves well to the seasons of the year. Today’s reading, for example, came from the writings of Bede the Venerable and focused on the words of St. Peter: “You are a chosen people, a holy nation.”
So what is the difference between the Office of Our Lady and my Benedictine breviary set? There are several things. First of all, this is a specifically Marian breviary designed for congregations or individuals with a Marian spirituality. Marian feast days tend to predominate, while most other feasts are only commemorated.
Where the psalms are concerned, the Benedictine breviary sets out the psalms on a one week cursus. This means that you go through the entire psalter during a week rather than two weeks. Essentially, this is the same monastic office that was formulated in the Rule of St. Benedict and that was in use in the West until the reforms of Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. Pius X.
Since the Office of Our Lady is a Marian breviary, the antiphons for individual feast days will not match those found in the Roman calendar. The reason for this is simple. Since this is an abridgment of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Office of Our Lady has its own specific focus.
Overall, I do believe that the Office of Our Lady is an important document in how the liturgical movement worked during and before the Council. I also find that this breviary would probably be excellent for individuals seeking to recite the 1962 Office and wanting a breviary with a more Marian spirituality.
As for myself, I would probably use this Office for cross-reference purposes or to sample individual readings.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!