My old addiction


My name is John, and I’m a liturgoholic.

“Hello, John”.

Well, they say the first step is admitting you have a problem. In particular, I appear to be addicted to daily office books, as evidenced by this photograph of my current collection (click image for full-size version). To qualify, the book needn’t be solely an office book (hence the inclusion of the main volume of Common Worship and the Lutheran Service Book, for example), but it must contain orders for at least morning and evening prayer, and I must have used those offices at some point.

From left to right, and in approximate order of when I first used them, the books shown are as follows:

  • Book of Common Prayer (1662). Where it started; the offices that I grew up on, at least in the case of evensong, and one I’ve regularly gone back to since. The language is beautiful, not least the general confession at the start of each order (“…we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep…”) but the lack of variety gets a bit wearing.
  • Book of Common Prayer, as before, only with Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised bound up in the same volume.
  • Alternative Service Book 1980. One word: meh. Any Lutherans who dislike Lutheran Worship should try comparing it with the Church of England’s first attempt at a full, modern liturgy. The ASB’s Communion service is pretty good, and was carried over largely unaltered into Common Worship. But the ASB’s offices are awful, half-hearted revisions of the BCP.
  • Celebrating Common Prayer, 1998 pocket edition. This was my real introduction to regular use of the daily office. Celebrating Common Prayer (CCP) was an attempt to create an improved daily office for the Church of England, and forms the basis of the daily offices in Common Worship. CCP is based on the office of the Society of Saint Francis, but apparently the idea was first suggested by two businessmen wanting an office book for their daily commute! The various pocket editions of CCP are ideal for this purpose.
  • An English Prayer Book. Developed by the conservative evangelical Church Society as an attempt to persuade the Church of England to return to a 1662-style liturgy in modern language. If a 1662 liturgy in ASB language is what you like, then this is the book for you. Hello? Anyone?
  • Celebrating Common Prayer. The original version of CCP. Excellent in many ways, but a bit of a flick-a-thon in use. Rarely have Cranmer’s words in his preface to the BCP seemed more appropriate: “many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out”…
  • Common Worship. The main, Sunday volume of the Church of England’s new (2000) liturgy. The orders for morning, evening and night prayer are largely based on CCP, but using the Common Worship psalter (CCP uses the psalter from ECUSA’s 1979 so-called “Book of Common Prayer”).
  • Lutheran Worship. Don’t knock it. Compared with most liturgies from the 1970s and 1980s, LW is a masterpiece. Seriously. Great to have a chanted office available as part of a church’s standard liturgy: the Lutheran liturgies here are the only ones to print chants in the congregational volumes.
  • The Brotherhood Prayer Book. Produced by the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood as an experiment in creating a Lutheran breviary. Enormous. Interesting, but I’d prefer modern language to “mock-Tudor”, and I really can’t get to grips with Gregorian chant. Anglican chant is simply the best way of chanting in English, guys. Deal with it.
  • Celebrating Common Prayer, 2002 pocket edition. A slightly enriched version of the 1998 edition, using Common Worship texts and with more responses and antiphons included for greater variety.
  • Common Worship:Daily Prayer (CW:DP). A triumph. The best liturgical volume produced by the Church of England since 1662, or maybe even 1549. Based on CCP, but with improved texts. A feast for the eyes, with its luxurious cream paper and rich red rubrics. Gorgeous. A bit too big to carry on the train, though.
  • Celebrating Daily Prayer (CDP). An update of the CCP pocket edition, but based more heavily on CW:DP. A very attractive volume, but just a little too big to fit in my Bible case, so I’ve not been using it recently.
  • Morning & Evening Prayer. The book I currently use. Taken from the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH). Pros: a very rich and dynamic office, lots of material. The section of devotional poems (including Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, Eliot…) is an inspired touch. Cons: requires the occasional bit of “on the fly” editing for doctrinal reasons (replacing “by his intercession” with “inspired by his example” in saint’s day collects, for example). However, since the services are largely scriptural in content, there is very little that is doctrinally problematic in ordinary use (though I think I’ll be back on Celebrating Daily Prayer for Marian feasts). Language often very banal. Can be quite confusing to use – definitely not for liturgical “n00bs” – but conversely it is rewarding* once you get the hang of it. (*or perhaps I should say, “meritorious”…)
  • Lutheran Service Book. The latest LCMS service book. The offices are basically the same as in Lutheran Worship, as far as I can tell.

I do feel I now have my problem under control, however (“He’s in denial! Intervention!”). I can’t see my delving into the more hardcore, monastic volumes, and there’s a limit to how many permutations on “Celebrating Common Prayer” one set of bookshelves can accommodate. I imagine I’ll continue to flit between CCP/CDP and the LOTH, depending on whether I want variety or halfway decent English at any time.

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23 Responses to My old addiction

  1. Kletos Sumboulos says:

    The only reason that I don’t have a larger collection of my own is the general attitude toward liturgy in the U.S. During college my roommate and I ordered the Book of Common Prayer 1662 from Amazon UK because you simply could not get it any other way. Giant shipping (dispatch) cost, but worth every cent (tuppence). *grin* The Coverdale Psalms are brilliant, but I have never heard them sung (shocking isn’t it).

    I have both the Brotherhood Prayer Book and its little brother text edition, bought for portability. It’s interesting that you address the mock-Tudor element. My immediate association with the language is southern Baptist-style fundamentalism. I’ve know preachers who would pray extemporaneously using mock-Tudor. The BPB’s use seems mild and appropriate by comparison. I’m also really grateful to the LLPB for providing the MP3 clips of the various elements. I drive around chanting Compline in my car along with the recordings. It has made learning Gregorian chant seem natural, of course, I didn’t grow up in the CoE, and don’t have any competing notion of how chant should sound.

    Thank you for your review of the other resources. I think I will try to locate a copy of CW:DP and An English Prayer Book. Of course, I will probably have to find an estate sale from an expatriate to make that happen.

    For the record, my few present volumes are vastly underutilized, so it’s not out of necessity that I am interested. I keep thinking, “If I find the perfect from of daily prayer, then I will be able to regularly pray daily prayer,” which is of course a rationalization.

    Thanks again, Kletos

  2. John H says:


    Thanks for your comment. I hadn’t realised there was a smaller, text-only edition of the BPB. I think I may be about to fall off the wagon again…

    As for hearing the 1662 psalms: one of my most treasured possessions is a boxed set of the complete Psalms of David, sung by St Paul’s Cathedral Choir. Alas, the exchange rate means it is eye-wateringly expensive on, but if you have to do without food for a week or two in order to buy it, I’d say that’s a fair trade-off. 😉

    Some sample excerpts can be found on the Hyperion Records website. The setting of Psalm 124 (“If the Lord had not been on our side”) is particularly good.

  3. Chris Stiles says:

    On another note, the various ‘offices’ seem to vary as to the ease with which readings from outside the office can be shoe-horned in – it would be nice to see some comments on this some time.

  4. John H says:

    Chris: thanks for your comment.

    I don’t follow an “official” lectionary, but instead use the St James Devotional Guide’s appointed readings. I read the NT and gospel lessons in the morning, and the OT lesson as part of night prayer (I only use morning prayer and night prayer – I’m such a lightweight…)

    I’ve not found any major difficulty shoe-horning the relevant readings in to the modern offices, even if some office purists would disapprove. However, it is difficult to use the Prayer Book offices with only one reading, as they are structured around an OT and NT lesson at each service.

    George Guiver argues that Scripture readings are inessential to the office anyway, and that the essence of the office is “psalmody + intercession”. It seems clear he would happily drop Scripture readings from the office altogether.

  5. Chris Stiles says:

    Hi John –
    Actually, these past couple of months I’ve been using the St James Devotional too. I was already using CCP (pocket edition) and CW:CDP with excursions into other things like the 1928 BCP – and found the extra psalms and epistle reading a little difficult to fit into the scheme of things. Additionally it was nice to have a responsive prayer that fits in with the psalm that has just been read – though I suppose I could always use the St James prayer for the week instead.

    As someone from a very low church background, I’ve read where I can and then made up the rest – which seems what ultimately happens anyway. It’s strange that there aren’t more books that actually spell out how the office is used – including all those things that ‘everyone knows’.

  6. John H says:

    Chris: I skip the St James psalm provision when using another office, in favour of the psalms from the office itself. Since the St James’s psalms aren’t generally tied to the readings (I think they follow a two-month cycle), that doesn’t seem too problematic.

    If you have questions about how to use the office – though to be honest, just using it as a basis to pray is better than obsessing over whether you’re “doing it right”; my own use is pretty detached from the rubrics half the time – then there’s a great (and very long-lived) thread over on the Ship of Fools site where any questions are guaranteed a friendly and helpful answer. 🙂

    And finding a church where the office is used is a good way in, too. Even if you only attend once or twice, you’ll get more of a feel for how it works. I’d never have got the hang of the LOTH had I not been to a couple of Anglo-Catholic services (at Walsingham) where they were using the book.

  7. Neil says:

    As a good Roman Catholic (my favourite oxmoron!) I’ve always struggled with “Morning and Evening Prayer”. Why is it so difficult to use and why does it make me feel so stupid? That, combined with the brittle pages and continual flitting back-and-forth has really put me off.

    This week, I’ve bought a copy of CDP and think it’s fantastic! It looks right, feels right and is much more user-friendly!

    If only it were just a tiny bit smaller … !

  8. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » A worshipping theology

  9. John says:

    Hi John,

    I am currently using CW:DP, but was thinking of buying CCP (full edition) for some more variety – will I get that or are they basically the same?

    Would appreciate your advice.

    Thanks, John.

  10. John H says:

    John: I prefer CCP as you get (a) midday prayer and (b) more variety for night prayer. CW:DP is derived from CCP and by and large slightly reduces the degree of variation. The bulk of CCP is available online here if you want to check it out.

    Of course, if it’s variety you’re after, there’s always the Liturgy of the Hours

  11. Diane TenEyck says:

    You’re a liturgoholic? Me, too!

    I use Celebrating Common Prayer but have a collection of others. Recent finds at my local thrift store include the “Saint Andrew Daily Missal (I love the side by side Latin and English texts and the wonderful woodcuts) and an obviously never used Russian Orthodox prayer book in English. I was especially charmed to find the latter has prayers to one’s guardian angel. Several years ago, my son gifted me with an Anglican Breviary (1,981 pages). It’s a gorgeous book with those delicately thin pages that feel so nice, but very complicated. I’ve never been able to figure our how to use it.


  12. Diane TenEyck says:

    Forgot to check the box to notify me of followup comments.

  13. John H says:

    It’s a gorgeous book with those delicately thin pages that feel so nice, but very complicated. I’ve never been able to figure our how to use it.

    Sounds a bit like the Roman Catholic liturgy of the hours. 🙂

  14. John says:

    I stumbled upon this entry while researching the daily office. A weekend at a monastery made me desire more routine than a daily quiet time in the morning.I tried using my BCP 1662 ‘shelf ornament’ but found the language and flipping pages discouraging. In the end I settled on a copy of the 2002 edition of Celebrating Common Prayer.I think I’ll like it.Thanks for the help.

  15. Diane TenEyck says:

    You’re welcome! I dusted off my copy at the beginning of November and have been reading it every morning along with the bible verses listed in the BCP. Any idea why those readings are on a two year cycle except for the psalms which repeat every six or seven weeks?

  16. Scott Greene says:

    Diane TenEyck, how much would you want for your Anglican Breviary? If you are willing to part with it, or help me track on down myself. Thanks

  17. Diane TenEyck says: is the site my son bought mine from. He purchases it just two or three years ago so they probably are still selling them. Good luck! It’s a beautiful book.

  18. Scott Greene says:

    Thank you!! why are the books everyone is talking about not so easy to find?

  19. John S. says:

    What of the Monastic Diurnal? Have you (John H.) or others tried using that book?

  20. David says:

    Thanks for the great information. I really enjoy the pocket CCP and CDP.

    John, I would like to know what you think about the volume ‘Celtic Daily Prayer.’ In my initial skimming, the quality seemed variable. I know as a non-denominationally produced work, it’s a bit outside the scope of the collection above, but have you used it?


  21. John H says:

    David: glad you’re enjoying CCP/CDP. I’ve never used Celtic Daily Prayer but, like you, have flicked through it on occasion and been left a bit cold by it.

  22. Diane TenEyck says:

    Scott, this thread was from back in December 2010, but I wondered if you located The Anglican Breviary?

  23. Scott Knitter says:

    Diane, it’s certainly a thread worth continuing!

    My latest find is the two-volume Divine Office from OUP in 1953. It’s the old office of the Society of St Margaret. I have a hand-bound copy of the antiphonal that goes with the Divine Office as well, so I’m all set to chant the office like an SSM sister. 🙂 Ahem.

    Beautiful, slim volumes, one for Advent to Pentecost and one for the rest of the year. Includes Matins and everything else. Like an Anglican Breviary but much more manageable (although definitely flippy…you can’t have a slim volume and put anything in more than one place) and beautifully typeset.

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