Towards the end of this Easter season, I was among those who received the eagerly awaited first printing of The Anglican Office Book, edited by C. Lance Davis and published by Whithorn Press and St. Andrew’s Academy. Many readers know St. Andrew’s as the excellent traditional Anglican boarding school, complete with a choir, run by Fr. Brian Foos.
As explained in the Editor’s Preface, this is “a renewal” of Paul Hartzell’s The Prayer Book Office, now out of print and not easy to acquire. This new edition is not cheap either, but the price for this high quality and simply beautiful book is reasonable, especially since it is aimed primarily at the small elite audience of us traditional Anglicans.
The Anglican Office Book packs a lot into a small portable package. My private worship is already being enriched by it. When I desire an extra time of prayer in the middle of the day or at bedtime, the “little hours” are handy. Yes, the book has all seven hours including Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. I also am observing saint’s days more with a very full Proper of the Saints some of which even I have never heard of!
This past Sunday, I found the prayers for before and after receiving Holy Communion very helpful. And when I am about to travel in the coming months I intend to use The Itinerary, which consists of an office “appropriately used when embarking on a journey” and one for safe arrival as well. I need all the help I can get in the midst of horrid drivers and construction. I have not completed my exploration of this office book, so no telling how many other jewels I will find.
Now perhaps all this may be old hat to a few of my liturgically aware friends. But my liturgical awareness is above average, it is safe to say, and to see this and more in one compact book is new to me.
I should add for those new to Anglican liturgy that this book focuses on the daily office, i. e. daily formal prayer, such as Mattins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong (Evening Prayer). It does not contain liturgies for the Eucharist.
Another disclaimer: The Anglican Office Book has a definite Anglo-Catholic tilt. Not all Anglicans can pray, say, some of the Marian prayers or some of the saint’s collects with a good conscience. Although I most definitely have Anglo-Catholic tendencies, I cannot use most of The Seasonal Anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary to give one example. But this should not be a problem for most. Owning this book does not require one to use every bit of it. That’s not in the rubrics. And I am unaware of any Anglican Inquisition that will require you to follow the liturgy of this book properly and in full.
Related, the liturgy of The Anglican Office Book is decidedly more complex than a 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It does come with six bookmark ribbons — and I am using all six already! Cranmer’s complaint about medieval Sarum liturgy requiring more work to figure out what to pray than actually to pray it comes to mind. Deciphering the rubrics and using this in a public setting may take some study and practice for most. I know I still need to learn where the antiphons belong. That is not really the fault of the book, but the nature of traditional High Church or Anglo-Catholic worship. But worshipping the Lord gloriously is worth the work, is it not? Besides, there are many eager to assist in using The Anglican Office Book including those in its Facebook group.
Having said all that, The Anglican Office Book is an attractive portable treasure trove of resources for daily prayer, both public and private. I’ve owned it for less than a month, and my personal prayer time is transformed already. I can be very picky about liturgy; yet I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Anglican liturgy and, well, to anyone who prays. And, Anglicans (I am pounding the table now.), buy this for your priests!