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When archbishop thomas cranmer created the first book of common prayer for the church of england in 1549, one of his stated goals was to eliminate what by that time had become an incredibly complex system for praying the divine office that cranmer characterized as, “ to turn the book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.”

To this end, he looked to the continent, especially to the then-recent and wildly popular reformed breviary of the roman church for private use, designed by francisco cardinal quignonez and published with the permission of pope paul III. The quignonez breviary was a drastic simplification of the roman office, eliminating among other things all hymns and antiphons, and devising a new, much simpler and (as it has been critically noted) more “rationalistic” way of getting through all the psalms.

Despite its popularity especially among busy priests, it came under heavy criticism for its departure from the rich complexity of developed roman tradition, and it was completely suppressed by pope paul IV a couple decades later. (the catholic encyclopedia’s general entry on the breviary has a good overview of quignonez’s reform principles.)

Cranmer took some (though not all) of the design elements and principles of the quignonez breviary, along with the old medieval sarum (salisbury) rite of england, and the monastic principle that emphasized the continuous reading of both psalms and scripture (so-called lectio continua), and designed a prayer book office that (to summarize briefly and non-exhaustively):

• eliminated the old eight-fold distribution of the “hours” (matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline) and amalgamated them into two longer hours of morning prayer (or mattins, a combination of the old matins, lauds, and prime) and evening prayer (or evensong, a combination of the old vespers and compline);

• included two lengthy lessons from scripture in each of the two hours, distributed throughout the year in a way in which someone celebrating the office throughout the calendar year would read through the entire old testament once, and the entire new testament, about three times;

• followed cardinal quignonez in eliminating all that he considered to be extraneous elements that added needless complexity, like responsories, constantly repeated silent prayers, proper office hymns, and antiphons to the psalms and canticles.

This prayer book office went through numerous iterations over the last four and a half centuries, with variations between english, scottish, and american uses, among others, and there is no need for purposes of this post to delve into the minutiae of these developments. Best universities in new york A good short history (although from 1893, so it does not cover 20th-century developments) can be found here.

Suffice it to say that one of cranmer’s primary objectives, that of restoring the office as a public, well-known and well-loved common worship of the church (as opposed to, increasingly, a private duty of priestly and monkish prayer), was overwhelmingly fulfilled.

Fr. Z had this excerpt on his blog yesterday marking the 40th anniversary of the election of saint john paul II to the pontificate. It should be read out at the synod on youth, the faith and vocational discernment going on in rome this month oh, for this kind of clarity. This kind of proclamation of the truth is why I am catholic.

Only in the mystery of christ’s redemption do we discover the “concrete” possibilities of man. “it would be a very serious error to conclude… that the church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question.” but what are the “concrete possibilities of man”? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of christ’s redemption. Washington university in seattle christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the holy spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the holy spirit.”

In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for god’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances. It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to god and his mercy. Top universities in texas an attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.