Monday, November 10, 2008

Treasury of Daily Prayer Review

Having already taken a first look, I was excited to sit down with my copy Saturday evening, and it was a good experience.

It is a big book not designed for portability, but considering it contains the entire daily lectionary, it's not too bad. The smell is nice, but not remarkable. I do not know much about bindings, so I can't comment on that, though it does stay open well and does not appear to be prone to coming apart with use.

As for content, it is very similar to the two-volume Daily Prayer, edited by Robert Sauer (CPH, 1986), though the Treasury is clearly marketed to more than just pastors, unlike Sauer's volumes. Sauer's does have the advantage of size. However, one major difference with the Treasury is the inclusion of the Feasts and Commemorations in the "Propers for Daily Prayer" section. And this is its chief strength.

How does this work? Take December 4 for example. Under the date the commemoration for John of Damascus (note: no honorific before his name) is included in italics. Next is the Psalmody for the day, conveniently pointed for chanting and a suggestion for an additional psalm. Following this is the Old Testament reading (Isa. 10:12-27a, 33-34) printed in its entirety, then the New Testament reading, 2 Pet. 1:1-21 likewise printed. A writing follows that, and for December 4 it is from the Formula of Concord (XI 13-14), a hymn stanza, and a "Prayer of the Day" which joyously commemorates St. John of Damascus, saying, "O Lord through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith. Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praises of the risen Lord, and so that by the power of the resurrection we may also attain the joys of eternal life..." Finally, a brief biography of St. John of Damascus follows and a suggested further reading from the Book of Concord.

When LSB was produced, I was excited to see a fuller list of feasts and commemorations, but until now, there were no rubrics nor resources to use in the actual commemoration of the saints. Now we have appropriate collects and martrologies to read so we can know whom we are thanking God for. It's too bad such materials were not included in the Altar Book, or even the lectionaries.

A resource like this has long been needed in Lutheranism. As others have noted, the book is flexible enough to be used in a number of ways. One who does not wish to flip pages, for instance, could refer only to the "Propers for Daily Prayer" and have a fuller devotional life. Or one could use the propers while using the form Daily Prayer:For Individuals and Families, or Matins and Vespers. If one is feeling maximal, he could even refer to the chart which gives the Psalms for the liturgy of the hours and pray seven times a day. Good stuff, and very flexible for Lutherans is various situations and vocations. It would bring a sea change in our synod if even one third of our laypeople began using this daily. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Now for the criticism. The biggest problem I see is that in the "Time for Easter" the commemorations are not included in the Propers as they are in the second half of the book. The book begins with labeling the days "Ash Wednesday", "Monday-Lent 1" and so forth. Obviously, it's impossible to include a specific commemoration when that Monday could be in February or March. So the editors placed those commemorations and propers in an appendix. Well enough. But they did not include any collects! Only a reading and biography. Why were collects commemorating the saints included in the second half of the year, and not during the time of Lent and Easter? There is some precedent of course, in allowing days to be privileged, and commemorations to be unsaid. However, I didn't read that this was intentionally done in any of the forwards and introductions. And there is no hint of privileged days in the second half of the book. It appears that collects were forgotten to be included.

Furthermore, it would have been nice if the days of commemorations would have included a reading from the one being commemorated. In other words, why is there a reading from the Formula of Concord on and not John of Damascus on December 4? The editor noted in the introduction that a Lutheran bias was intentional, but there are many, many days where no one is commemorated that could have served for readings from Lutheran sources. Likewise, there are commemorations of saints who wrote nothing that has survived, such as Joseph of Arimathea on July 31. Those dates likewise could have included other writings of the editor's choosing.

Finally, the Orders of Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the shorter "Daily Prayer: for Individuals and Families" all require this order: Versicles/Invocation, Ordinaries or Psalm, then :psalm/hymn, readings, then collects. For example, say I'm using Matins. I pray the Opening Versicles, the Common antiphon, Seasonal Antiphon (which the editors also call the Invitatory), the Venite, and then the rubrics say, "Additional Psalms, Office Hymn, Readings." But I turn to November 9, and I see Psalmody, then Readings, then Hymnody. Why wasn't the hymn placed before the Readings, so that this section could have been read straight through? Again, every prayer service included follows the same pattern as Matins, yet the Propers are given in a different order. This makes it just a little harder to keep up with, especially for beginners.

These problems are not deal-killers by any means, but they are more than just peeves. Perhaps a second edition may make these corrections. However, for those Lutherans who do not have a devotional life, or one that is lacking, call CPH and get this book. If you go to church here, you'll be hearing about it soon. And when you get it, use it.


  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Tomorrow or Wednesday we will be placing an order for 10 copies, so I'm please with how it has been received here.

    I, as a whole, might quibble with the season of Easter decision they took -- I think I would have preferred a 365 day continuous reading design. Even though this wouldn't mesh with the seasons of Lent and Easter perfectly well, the readings that are given are just differing chunks of continual readings. It's daily, I'd rather have it be a daily rythem that allows for the seasonal variations, rather than a daily reading that is daily until. . . oh, hey, now we are weekly, whaddya know?

    But that's a minor quibble as well. Today's quote by Sasse was nice.

    Perhaps we should come up with a compendium of addition quotes by the fathers, at least for their days. Nothing says that we can't supplement.

  2. Scot K said...

    Great post. I appreciate your comments and point of view. You can understand the Lectionary Committee's choices when designing the Daily Lectionary by reading the White Papers on my blog, Blog My Soul. I hope that helps.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Scot--thanks, and thank you for your hard work. I sifted through the White Papers, but didn't see anything about why there are no collects for the commemorations during the Easter Cycle (namely in the "The Time of Easter Addition), but are for the portion following the civil calendar. Are there collects for those commemorations somewhere else?

    Thanks for reading, and for your help.