Book Review: Kenyan edition of The Liturgy of the Hours

by Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

The Liturgy of the Hours According to the Roman Rite. Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa, 2009. 4 volumes, 7,164 pages. $120 (flexible plastic binding).

 

Introduction

In November 2012 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ assembly decided to prepare a new edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. ICEL has already started work on the new edition. Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, the executive director of ICEL, has stated that this is “an epic project and will probably take some five years or so before it reaches publication.” This new edition will replace the current translation that was published in 1975 (in 1992 a Supplement was published containing the texts for some new saints days, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe and Maximilian Kolbe). It has not been stated yet whether there will be a new edition of the other translation of the Liturgy of the Hours that is in use in much of the English–speaking world, the 1974 three volume Divine Office prepared not by ICEL but by a team of scholars working in the Irish Benedictine abbey of Glenstal on behalf of the episcopal conferences of Australia, England & Wales and Ireland.

In this context, I think that it would be worthwhile to examine a recent revision of the 1975 U.S. Liturgy of the Hours that has recently been published in Africa. In 2009 Pauline Publications Africa in Nairobi Kenya published their own version of The Liturgy of the Hours which was translated by ICEL and approved by the Episcopal Conference of Kenya on behalf of AMECEA (the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa), with a view to the translation being used by all English-speaking Roman Rite Catholics of Africa. This edition was particularly promoted by Cardinal Arinze during his tenure as Prefect of the CDW in Rome. Although it was eventually promulgated under Cardinal Canizares, the bulk of the work was done under Cardinal Arinze. The original web page advertising this set is gone, but some of the contents can be found here.

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While it was noted in some Catholic news sources and blogs at the time of its publication, this new edition is relatively unknown and, to my knowledge, has not been properly reviewed in the United States. I believe that a review should be of interest, not simply because the Kenyan edition is based on the 1985 second edition of the Latin editio typica as opposed to the 1971 edition that the current US and Irish translations are based on, but also because I believe that those preparing the new US edition can benefit from examining some of the decisions that the Kenyan editors made.

I purchased the Kenyan set a couple of years ago in a Roman bookstore. I usually pray the Office in the Seminary Chapel where I minister, but when the Seminary is closed or when I am away, I have been using the Kenyan version for my personal recitation of the Office. Having been transfered from a Seminary in New Jersey to one in Ireland, I am familiar with both the ICEL and the Irish editions from the Seminary liturgies.

 

Translation Issues

Regarding the actual translation, the first point that has to be made is that this is an official ICEL translation. In fact, the Kenyan Liturgy of the Hours is a moderate revision of the current US translation. Additionally the first thing most people would notice when they first examine this version are the revisions to the 1985 second typical edition. Following the second typical edition, the Biblical text has the verse numbers in all but the shortest excerpts. And Sundays and Solemnities have a three year cycle of antiphons for the Magnificat and Benedictus canticles. This provides a proper antiphon for each of Year A, B and C, matching the Gospel readings in the Lectionary for Mass and is a marked improvement on the 1971 version where the Antiphon for the Magnificat in Evening Prayer One matches the Gospel of Year A, that of Lauds matches the Gospel of Year B and that of Evening Prayer Two matches the Gospel of Year C. Not surprisingly, texts have been provided for the additions to the liturgical calendar made since 1971 and those feasts that belong to the Kenyan proper calendar have been included. As a liturgical curiosity, it can be noted that the formula of absolution for the penitential rite in Night Prayer, has been taken from one of the draft versions of the new Roman Missal translation (“May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, to eternal life”).

Most of the non-Biblical material is identical to the US edition, the main difference is that a moderate inclusive language has been introduced into the translation. For example, the Ordinary Time antiphon for Psalm 24 in Tuesday, Week 2 Lauds, has been changed to “The one whose deeds are blameless…” from the 1975 ICEL translation “The man whose deeds are blameless…” (However the translation of the antiphon still doesn’t match the Psalm text, which reads “The clean of hands and pure of heart”). While these texts are an improvement and are more inclusive, they could still use a good copy-editor. A particular challenge facing any edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, is that many texts are dependent on the Bible and a proper translation should ideally use the same translation every time a Biblical passage is used and, where possible, harmonize the Biblical allusions with the actual Biblical translation used. There are also some typos that have crept into the text (for example, the Second Reading of the Office of Readings of Monday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary time is attributed to “Saint Caesarius of Aries”).

The biblical texts are different to the 1975 ICEL edition (an earlier post on Pray Tell has dealt with the inconsistencies in the approval of the different Scriptural versions for different liturgical conferences), the Psalms are taken from the New Grail Psalter from Conception Abbey, MO. Personally I was a little hesitant in dealing with the new translation of the Psalter, given that I was so used to the original Grail translation. However I was very happy to encounter a new translation of the Psalms that was familiar and yet much clearer. The rest of the Biblical readings are taken from The New American Bible in the 1999 incarnation as The African Bible. I am not a card-carrying member of the New American Bible fan club, but in general this is an improvement to the earlier edition that is in use in the current American Liturgy of the Hours (and beats the hodge-podge of biblical versions in the Irish Divine Office edition). Another minor detail is that the Gospel canticles are given in the original Grail translation, which is currently used in the Irish and not the US version (so that the Magnificat ends with the line: “The mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons for ever”), which is a little out of keeping with the rest of the translation in the volume.

Regarding the hymns, this version of the Liturgy of the Hours has followed the practice of both the ICEL and the Irish editions, and has provided English hymns instead of translating the Latin hymns found in the editio typica. While not the same as either of the other editions, these hymns are generally the same selection as can be found in the 1975 ICEL edition (no newer hymns are used, but while fundamentally the same hymns are used in the Kenyan edition, the hymn provided for any given hour is not necessarily the same as the 1975 edition). While it is nice to have the option of singing some hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours, it would also be good to have the official hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours provided in English. (For those interested many of the hymns can be found here and a full academic translation is available here).

 

Final Considerations and Lessons for Those Preparing the New US Version

I would hope that the Kenyan edition can provide a good starting point for those preparing the new U.S. version. The translation of the new texts can provide a very good first draft translation for the new version. Hopefully the editors will learn the lesson that a good copy-editor is needed for the new version.

Before the other English-speaking bishops’ conferences can revise the 1974 Irish edition of the Divine Office, they will have to make the important decision of choosing National scriptural translations. At the moment, aside from use of the Grail Psalms, the Irish version uses the Jerusalem Bible, the Revised Standard Version and the Good News for Modern Man for its scriptural readings. I would imagine that the Congregation for Divine Worship would not approve a revision of this edition, unless a single Scripture translation was used (which could also be used for a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass in these countries). This would be in keeping with the provisions of Liturgiam authenticam §36’s mandate that “it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books.”

I would also recommend some rearrangement of the rubrics in any new edition, given that two of the most important rubrical prescriptions for public recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours are not printed in any current edition of the book. The provision of §275 of the GIRM would be better moved to the Liturgy of the Hours: “A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together.” This is presumably a reference to the minor doxology (Glory be) rather than to the sign of the Cross. However, while the minor doxology was present in the Tridentine Missal, it does not appear anywhere in the current Roman Missal. It would make sense therefore, to move this rubric to the relevant liturgical book.

The Ceremonial of Bishops §203 mentions the sign of the cross during the Magnificat: “When the choir begins the canticle, the bishop wearing the miter, rises and all rise with him. Making the sign of the cross from forehead to breast, the bishop goes to the altar…” If it is a good tradition to make the Sign of the Cross at the start of the Gospel canticles, it should also be included in the rubrics provided in the Liturgy of the Hours itself.

I have avoided commenting on the actual structure of the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite. Personally I have a number of ideas on this matter, but here we are dealing with the preparation of a serviceable new edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. Also regarding any potential changes or improvements, I must bow to the wisdom of the great Fr. Taft:

But perhaps so radical a departure from the official Liturgy of the Hours is not necessary. The desire for a truly public celebration of this liturgy and what is more important, its underlying theology, find pride of place in the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours of February 2, 1971. All one needs is a little imagination. Taking a page from the new U.S. Lutheran Book of Worship, or Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, some communities have found that that a lucernarium can easily be used to open “official” vespers, and this is certainly in accord with the spirit of the General Instruction. Furthermore, that the same document provides for such a variety of hymnody and types of psalmody that the real problem is not so much the limitations of the office itself, as the incompetence of those unable to celebrate it properly and the indifference of those who fail to celebrate it at all. [1]

An example from the Kenyan edition of The Liturgy of the Hours can be found here. It is the text for tomorrow’s Feast of the Transfiguration.

 

Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ. He currently serves as Vice Rector of Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland and as a curate in Holy Redeemer parish.

 

[1] Robert Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: the Origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning for Today. 2nd Ed. (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press: 1993), 316.

27 comments

    1. @Timothy McCormick – comment #1:
      Tim, I’m afraid that I am cantankerous regarding Bible translation. Currently I use the Second Catholic edition of the RSV by Ignatius Press as the best of a bad lot. i suppose I would like a new revision of the Jerusalem Bible, that is more precise than the original and less polemic and easier on the ear than the New Jerusalem Bible. The Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem had started a project along these lines a few years ago, but I don’t think anything became of it. Then I would integrate the New Grail Psalms into the resulting Bible.

    2. @Timothy McCormick – comment #1:
      Timothy, the Ignatius Bible is the best literal translation of the Bible, using the 1962 RSV. Yet even it gives Romans 3:21-26 the Protestant spin. Verse 22 says in Greek “the faith OF Jesus Christ”, and verse 25 says “by his blood THROUGH faith, and versen26:” justifies him OUT OF the faith OF Jesus”. Taken literally, these verse may not mean what Luther wanted them to mean.

  1. Fr. Neil, a highly informative review…thank you! One feature I welcome in the Kenyan edition is the pointing of the psalms not only for strophic recitation/chanting (using Gelineau, St Meinrad, or Conception Abbey tones, with the strophes and accent marks) but also for binary tones (Gregorian, St Meinrad Simple Tones, using the asterisk to mark midverse). American editions of the various Grail versions tend to leave out the asterisks; the three-volume UK Divine Office has always had them. A new American LotH should provide both, as this Kenya edition does. Three cheers for the asterisks!

    1. @Scott Knitter – comment #2:
      Yes Scott, I forgot to mention that in my review. I suppose I am used to chanting the Psalms in the Seminary Chapel, but I haven’t actually prayed the Kenyan version with an assembly ever.

  2. I have the Christian Prayer-type edition of the Kenyan Office book, and for someone who’s prayed the Office for a number of years, I find the Revised Grail Psalms to be frustrating and clunky. The Psalms and Scripture texts of the Office and meant to become a part of one’s very fabric, and when slight words or phrases are changed, it’s more of a distraction than anything.

    You pointed out a few instances of more inclusive language, but overall, it seems to me that this edition has far less inclusive language than the current US version.

    Scott – amen to the pointing!

    Overall, I think that any revision to the US Office will result in far more uproar from clergy than the Missal translation. The Office is something that feeds many clergy, and I think that an attempt to alter it will be met with resistance. Most will probably keep using the old version.

  3. If the current English version of MR3 is anything to go by, one shudders to think what the LOH will be like after Rev Wadsworth and ICEL with the discredited Liturgiam authenticam get their hands on it. I suppose there’s some consolation in the fact that the bulk of the material consisting of sacred scripture will be beyond their reach. From looking at their website it appears as if it hasn’t registered with them that there’s a new Bishop of Rome.

    Fr NXO’D praises the Revised Grail Psalter for its clarity. There isn’t an issue with clarity in relation to the current Grail version. I think perhaps that on balance the Revised Grail is closer to the wording of the Hebrew. In the current version, sometimes the division of psalms to form four-line or six-line units moved slightly in the direction of paraphrase. Psalm 67(66) is a case in point, in the middle verse.

    On the other hand, in some cases the Revised Grail version departs from the Hebrew in a way in which the current version does not. In Psalm 24(23) the cry ‘Who is the king of glory?’ is repeated exactly when it reoccurs a verse later. Whereas the Hebrew and the current Grail have ‘Who is he, the king of glory?’ for the repeat verse.

    On a different note, a new version of the LOH offers the opportunity to review the practice of omitting verses because of the strength of their language. The General Introduction requires this. But for the sake of literary integrity and respect for the text, it should be possible to include the offending verses, even if it meant putting them in Italics. (And for that matter, for the sake of completeness and to recognise the fact that they too are inspired, including in an appendix, the three Psalms from the book of 150 which have been excluded for similar reasons.)

    There are times when it is important to give people the opportunity and the language, with the scriptural precedent, of calling out to God from a place of anger or despair. God knows there have been plenty of reasons why we would want to have done that over the last number of years!

    And, in keeping with practice in contemporary biblical scholarship, it’s time to opt for the Hebrew numbering of Psalms rather than that of the LXX.

  4. Thank you for this thorough review of the Kenyan breviary, Father Neil. I agree it needs more coverage in the USA, both with a view to the planned revision, and for those who don’t want to wait five years to start using the Revised Grail Psalter, the complete Sunday proper antiphons for the gospel canticles, etc. Several posts about the Kenyan breviary appeared on my LOTH blog, Coffee&Canticles, in June and September of 2013. It’s great to see more reviews and reactions in other places.
    As to the Revised Grail, I think everyone will find both things to like and things to dislike. On the one hand, it’s always jarring to find that a favorite, go-to-in-times- or- sorrow- or- joy- verse now readss quite differently. On the other hand, it’s great to see other verses in language that seems fuller, richer, deeper. Both things have happened to me since I started using the Revised Grail Psalter. On the whole, though, I find it an improvement. In particular–although I don’t know ancient languages, therefore cannot speak to the accuracy question–I prefer that it uses “mercy” or ‘merciful love” rather than always the plain “love” used by the current psalter. Gives me more material for thinking about God’s love for us.
    -Daria Sockey,author, The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

  5. “A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together.” This is presumably a reference to the minor doxology (Glory be) rather than to the sign of the Cross. However, while the minor doxology was present in the Tridentine Missal, it does not appear anywhere in the current Roman Missal. It would make sense therefore, to move this rubric to the relevant liturgical book.

    In the Anglo-Catholic parish I used to attend, this rubric was taken to apply to the end of the Gloria:

    “Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father”

    And also to any hymns which named the three Divine Persons together, which was reasonably common in the “New English Hymnal” used there.

  6. With respect to the minor Doxology, while it is not found within the physical book of the Missale Romanum, it IS found within the Graduale Romanum which has pride of place in the context of a chanted Mass.

    Hence, it is included within the Propers when chanted.
    In particular it is always inluced in the chanting of the Introit and the Communion antiphons.

    I honestly believe THAT is what the rubric is referring to when it mentions bowing the head for the three divine persons.

    Ironically, most are not aware that the 1974 Graduale Romanum which Bugnini authorized is simply a photocopy of the 1908 Graduale.

    1. @Todd Orbitz – comment #9:

      Todd, what does inluced mean? “Enlaced”? Or should it be “included”?

      Ironically, most are not aware that the 1974 Graduale Romanum which Bugnini authorized is simply a photocopy of the 1908 Graduale.

      This is quite untrue. The 1974 edition caused something of a furore when it came out precisely because of the changes it introduced. Among additions to the repertoire are a whole raft of additional Communion antiphons which attempted to respond to the fact that we now have a 3-year Lectionary cycle. Unfortunatrly, because the revisers would only use chants which already existed in the mediaeval repertory, rather than compose/adapt new ones in the same style as had happened previously, it was only partially successful. There were also changes and reorganizations in the Kyriale section.

  7. I don’t believed the review mentioned this, but what translation of the Gloria Patri does the Kenyan breviary use? Am I correct in thinking that it is only the Americans who use the ICEL “Glory to the Father and to the Son…is now, and will be forever”? (And American’s only use it for the Hours — I’ve only heard “Glory be to the Father…” used for the Rosary and other devotions.)

  8. “If it is a good tradition to make the Sign of the Cross at the start of the Gospel canticles, it should also be included in the rubrics provided in the Liturgy of the Hours itself.”

    A small point, but it is in fact included in the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n.266 (b)

  9. Paul Inwood : @Todd Orbitz – comment #9: Todd, what does inluced mean? “Enlaced”? Or should it be “included”?

    Forgive me. I have been working of a new Android after using blackberry for the last 15 years. I am not used to the keyboard yet. It should have been “included”.

    1. @Todd Orbitz – comment #15:
      Todd, I’m disappointed; here I thought this was a new word introduced in RM3, derived from the Latin inlucere, “to bring candles into a room”.

      It is closely related to the famous question:

      quot liturgi opus sunt ampullam lucis intorquere

      I.e. “How many liturgists does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

      But happy that the mystery is cleared up 🙂

  10. Paul Inwood : @Todd Orbitz – comment #9: This is quite untrue. The 1974 edition caused something of a furore when it came out precisely because of the changes it introduced. Among additions to the repertoire are a whole raft of additional Communion antiphons which attempted to respond to the fact that we now have a 3-year Lectionary cycle. Unfortunatrly, because the revisers would only use chants which already existed in the mediaeval repertory, rather than compose/adapt new ones in the same style as had happened previously, it was only partially successful. There were also changes and reorganizations in the Kyriale section.

    I am happy to be corrected on this, so please do if I am wrong.

    But, the only published edition of the 1974 Graduale Romanum that I am familiar with is the Solesmes edition of the Graduale Romanum.

    This edition is an exact replica photocopy of the 1908 Editio Vaticana edition that I am in possession of. I couldn’t believe it at first, until I went through it literally page by page.

    The DID rearrange the order of some of it. And they DID add a couple of Chants from the Ordo Cantus Missae. Maybe I shouldn’t have said “simply a replica”, but it functionally is, and the chant as a result is public domain – potentially excepting the Ordo Cantus Missae adds.

    1. @Todd Orbitz – comment #16:
      No, it’s not an exact replica. Keep paging further – the first pages, starting with Advent, have seasons where chants tended to stay in the same place. But throughout the book there are rearrangements to fit the new calendar. Many chants in 1908 are not in 1974. And 1974 reintroduced a whole list of authentic chants not in 1908. 1974 follows the Ordo Cantus Missae, and I’ve photocopied the pages from it, and put it in my 1974, which tell you where things were found in the old one compared to the new one.
      awr

  11. Regarding the hymns in the Kenyan edition of the Liturgy of the Hours: a major problem is the changing of Thee, Thy and Thou to modern equivalents, completely throwing off the rhyme in hymn after hymn (quite a few, as I recall from using this version when first published).

    To be fair, the editor was an Italian missionary priest working in Kenya (I think), so perhaps the result of the emendations was not as jarring on his ear as it would otherwise be. (Again, to give this poor man credit where credit is due, he described in an interview at the time of publication, how he would work on this mammoth project as a labor of love daily, AFTER completing his own very substantial full day’s work).

    Since I don’t have the Kenyan Liturgy of the Hours here with me, an example of what I mean can be found in the United States edition of the Lectionary’s Pentecost Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus:

    O most blessed Light DIVINE,
    Shine within these hearts of YOURS.

    And that, as we know, was prepared by a person whose first (and, one suspects, ONLY) language was English – and who went on to bigger projects, with more disastrous results.

    1. @Xavier Rindfleisch – comment #18:

      I think this fact also accounts for the the newer translations in the book for material introduced in the second edition being slightly strange. I remember being thrown off a little for the reading for the Holy Name of Mary – that very evocative and lyrical piece of St. Bernard.

      I suspect the reason that some of the alternative translations may have been selected (e.g. Gospel canticles, Glory be, etc.) is the fact that some bishop’s conferences in the developing world have approved both versions of the Liturgy of the Hours for public use. This does introduce some points of commonality for the main points of public recitation/singing.

      A little off-topic, but the US lectionary needs a better editor when it comes to the sequences. It has eliminated the possibility of the ad libitum use of the Paschal Sequence throughout the Octave by not printing it in the weekday lectionaries and the Latin texts printed in the English editions need a proof reader (“Duae vitae” instead of “Dux vitae” being the one that comes to mind )

  12. The Liturgy of the Hours does mention that sign of the cross at the beginning of the canticles – unless you meant it should be positioned within the Ordinary?

    One other thing that the editors of a new English edition could look out for are changes made in the texts or choice of the readings in the second typical edition. The Kenyan LOTH has not incorporated all of these – presumably because the editor was unaware, or may have not had access to a list of all the changes. Then too, there are some mistakes which have just carried over from the ICEL edition, such as the use of the long conclusion instead of the short conclusion at Daytime Prayer during the Easter Octave.

    The Latin edition itself could use some cleaning up in terms of rubrics and it is a pity that new vernacular editions cannot (or will not) simply do this. The Christmas rubrics are particularly confused. Despite the fact that the Baptism is now celebrated on a Monday when the Epiphany is celebrated on a Sunday that is 7/8 Jan, the reason behind the preceding Friday functioning as a mini-Baptism celebration no longer exists (and the Second Reading is needlessly duplicated). Then too, the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are out of sync for the days before Epiphany – the missal goes by the day of the week (Monday/Tuesday, etc. before Epiphany, while the LOTH goes by the calendar date (2, 3, 4 Jan, etc.). ICEL tried to fix this (as can be seen in the current LOTH books), but the UK and the new Kenyan books still follow the Latin editio typica.

    I wonder if there is any possibility of the the idea of splitting the text into 4 volumes being revisited, or whether we will be bound (as happened with the missal) to imitating the Latin set of books. It would seem that the whole thing could be conveniently put in 2 volumes, saving both money and paper.

  13. ” these hymns are generally the same selection as can be found in the 1975 ICEL edition (no newer hymns are used”

    If a new US edition does not update and improve the selection of English hymns from the 1970s edition, then the preparers should be sued for malpractice.

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