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:
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.