INCE 2012, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has been working on creating a new English-language edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. This new translation is intended to correspond more closely to the official Latin text, as well as to include revisions to the texts and liturgical calendar that have been made since the publication of the current English-language edition. Excitingly, this new edition is also slated to include Latin and English versions of the original, ancient hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours, such as those written by St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, and others.
At this week’s plenary assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bp. Steven J. Lopes (Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship) gave an update on the project that liturgy nerds like me have long been waiting for! You can click on the embedded video to watch his presentation to the USCCB (beginning at the 50-minute mark), but I have also summarized the main points (and the results of the voting) below:
- The liturgical texts for the memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska were approved today by exactly two-thirds of the Latin-rite bishops (the minimum needed for the vote to pass, but no more!).
- ICEL recommends that the text of the doxology be regularized to match the one that all Catholics know from the rosary (“Glory be to the Father…and ever shall be, world without end, Amen”). In my opinion, this is an excellent idea that will save on the awkward stumbling that new pray-ers experience with the current breviary translation (“Glory to the Father…and will be forever, Amen”).
- The USCCB Committee for Divine Worship proposes that the hours be called by their official Latin names (Lauds, Vespers, Compline, etc.) – another excellent development. Bp. Lopes notes that “this ecclesiastical terminology is not difficult – it’s well-known – and it reinforces the ideas that this is not some generic ‘Morning Prayer’ but it is in fact the Church’s prayer.”
- The USCCB committee also intends to include in-text the Latin texts of the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis, especially for the purpose of facilitating the chanting of these canticles – hooray!
- The forthcoming edition is planned to be published in four volumes (not five as some have supposed). Bp. Timothy Doherty of Lafayette-in-Indiana suggested that someone with some graphic design expertise make sure that the text of these volumes is not microscopic! And I for one hope that the publishers of the new edition will include some truly beautiful artwork (like that which has been included in some printings of the 2011 Missale Romanum), rather than the alarming Easter Island-looking totem statues that adorn some of the current books.
- The new hymnal for the Liturgy of the Hours, published by GIA (which, believe it or not, stands for Gregorian Institute of America!), will be available for sale starting next month (July 2023).
- Proper readings for new saints, especially for the second reading of the Office of Readings, have been compiled in a collaborative effort between the Holy See and the postulators for the various causes. Bp. Lopes promises that these will be an especially beautiful addition to the breviary: for example, “a letter from St. Damien describing his experience among the lepers on Molokai,” “a letter from Bl. Miguel Pro talking about his aspiration to join the ranks of the martyrs,” etc.
- In sum: the process of re-translating the Liturgy of the Hours is finally nearing its conclusion! The bishops have been approving bits and pieces of the translations over the past 10+ years as ICEL has systematically been producing them. God-willing, all of the component texts will have been voted on (and hopefully approved) by the USCCB by June 2024, at which point they will be sent off to the Vatican for approval, and we might have our hands on new breviaries by 2026!