N MY LAST POST, I shared a digest of the latest news from the USCCB regarding the forthcoming revised translation of the Liturgy of the Hours. In this post, I’d like to pose some lingering questions about the finer details of the project that, as far as I’m aware, have not been definitively settled by the editors and publishers who will be tasked with making the new editions.
1) Stanza Length
In the current editions of the breviary, stanzas of the Psalms and canticles are of wildly varying line lengths. Usually somewhere between two and seven lines – and not always an even number, either! I sincerely hope that the editors of the revised editions will partition the texts of the Psalms and canticles into stanzas that are a standard (e.g. four-line) length, or that at the very least always have an even number of lines. This would greatly facilitate the chanting of the Office in common, since the two antiphonal sides or choirs would be able to point the texts and alternate stanzas in a more predictable and equitable way.
2) Psalm Prayers
The Psalm prayers which follow each of the Psalms (at least in American editions of the breviary, though not in, for example, those of United Kingdom), composed during the post-conciliar revision of the Liturgy of the Hours, are not the most effective resourcement project that the council fathers ever undertook. That they are something of a novelty when viewed from the perspective of the Latin tradition as a whole does not make them inherently bad (after all, everything was new once), but besides this they are viewed by many as being of dubious theological import or emphasis, and also something of a distraction within the text, considering that they are entirely optional. These prayers might be better relegated to an appendix in the forthcoming edition.
As the saying goes, de gustibus non est disputandum – “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.” Having said that, the stick-figure line art from the 1970s does nothing (at least as far as my own taste is concerned) to raise my heart, mind, and soul to the beauty of God Who is Beauty itself. Many editions of the recently revised Roman Missal (2011) have rightly replaced such drawings with prints of truly beautiful paintings that have long been a part of the heritage of Catholic artwork and devotional imagery, or with newly-commissioned artwork that draws on that same rich patrimony. I hope that the publishers of the revised breviaries will take this same tack again, adorning them with artwork that is suitably dignified, “evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God [and] the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ” (CCC 2502).