Book review: The Daily Office SSF

When I wrote my previous post, I was awaiting delivery of my copy of The Daily Office SSF – the new edition of the Anglican Franciscan office that has been highly influential on the Church of England’s liturgy since 1992.

The book arrived a couple of days later, and I’ve been using it for the past couple of weeks. Here are some initial impressions.

My very first impression of the book was positive: it’s an attractive volume, particularly the gold Franciscan cross embossed on the cover. It also comes with SIX (count ’em!) ribbon markers:

The Daily Office SSF

It’s about the same height and width as Common Worship: Daily Prayer, but slightly thinner and somewhat lighter (675g vs 750g).

The form of the office is very similar to that of Celebrating Common Prayer: provision for morning, midday, evening and night prayer, with a structure that combines a seasonal pattern with a daily pattern for ordinary time (so that “Form 1” is used daily in Easter and for Sundays in ordinary time, and so on). The texts, however, are updated to those used in Common Worship, and the typeface and layout are more attractive than in the original CCP, with wider margins and cleaner type. (Update: see the customer images on Amazon for sample pages.)

For those beginning to use a daily office, I’d still recommend Celebrating Daily Prayer, which prints the appointed psalms within the orders for each office, and is very straightforward to use. The Daily Office SSF, like Celebrating Common Prayer, is more of a “flickathon”: those six ribbons are not just for decoration, and it does occasionally call to mind those words from the Book of Common Prayer’s preface concerning pre-Reformation liturgies:

many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.

The pay-off, though, is a richer and more varied provision, including use of the Laudate psalms (117 and 146 to 150) in the morning office, and more texts for saints’ days and other festivals. It also has by far the clearest notes on how to order the office on different days and seasons than any other office book I can recall: the product of decades of practical experience.

Another difference from Celebrating Common Prayer and Celebrating Daily Prayer is the inclusion of more specifically Franciscan material. This includes more Marian prayers (such as anthems for after night prayer), and occasional requests for “Saint Francis and Saint Clare [to] pray for us”, as well as commemorations of Franciscan saints. All these are easily skipped, though, if you prefer.

The Franciscan material also includes the Principles of the First Order and the Principles of the Third Order, laid out on a daily basis. The latter, as mentioned in a previous post, contain a great deal that is relevant and helpful for all Christians, not just third order Franciscans – I’m finding them helpful to read at midday prayer. (On a good day I say morning prayer, midday prayer and night prayer.)

In conclusion: The Daily Office SSF is a distillation of decades of experience in producing a modern office that combines variety with a clear and consistent structure. If you are looking for an update of Celebrating Common Prayer or a richer provision than Celebrating Daily Prayer, then I’d recommend this over the Church of England’s Common Worship: Daily Prayer.

I should add, though, that I have a history of being extremely fickle and changeable when it comes to which version of the office I’m favouring at any one moment. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m still using The Daily Office SSF in a couple of months or so. I certainly hope so.

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5 Responses to Book review: The Daily Office SSF

  1. Jeremy says:

    I was surprised to find the entire 4-vol RC LOTH at the used bookstore a few days ago. $70 for the set. A good price, but I couldn’t justify spending that much money on it.

    I am thinking, though, that I need to get a bound prayer-book, like the one you’ve reviewed here. I’ve been using the excellent St Bede’s Breviary online – but there’s just too much too distract me when I’m on the computer. I know there are ways around this but I think it’d be best for me to have a book in front of me and the computer out of arm’s reach. I have a problem, I know.

    I need to look around SSF’s website. I’ve been considering becoming an oblate of one or another order …

  2. Geo says:

    Do you have any experience using Phyllis Tickle’s “The Divine Hours” or CPH’s “Treasury of Daily Prayer?”

  3. John H says:

    Geo: I’ve got a copy of the pocket edition of The Divine Hours. Don’t know how representative it is of the full edition. I did get some useful tips from Tickle’s notes, though, especially re chanting.

    Have never tried TDP. For various reasons it doesn’t really suit me: not least the need for a volume I can carry on the train. (TDO SSF is at the upper limit for this.)

    The SSF/CCP family and the RC LOTH have some key features in common that appeal to me. First, they are /offices/ rather than “devotionals”; second, each is /the/ office of a church or religious community, rather than a “private”/”commercial” venture (however laudable); third, they are in British English. (Though LOTH also has US English version of course.)

    Tickle and TDP both fall down on at least one of those counts, perhaps even all three. Not that they aren’t good in their own way: just not for me.

  4. Geo says:

    Thanks for the input. I like Tickle’s book because it’s easy to work through, not a lot of ribbons marking various readings, prayers, etc, and I like that most of the readings are the Psalms – it is a joy to pray God’s Word back to God. I also find the TDP to be much too bulky. I need something I can carry to work and back and the TDP just doesn’t cut it for me. I think I might look into CDP based on the comments you’ve made,

  5. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » “Here is kept the ancient promise…”

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