The Chnrch at Prayer, Volume IV The Liturgy and Time, by A.0 Martimort, I.H Dalmais, P. Jounel, (Geoffrey Chapman, f12.50).
The Origins of the Liturgical Year, by Thomas J. Talley (Pueblo, £14.00).
THE publishers are to be congratulated for making available, at a resonable price,
The Church at Prayer which, originally published in 1961, has served students well for over twenty five years.
It is not only a revised edition; most of it has been completely re-written and the authors have taken account of the scholarship of the intervening years and, what is more important from a pastoral viewpoint, have incorporated all the findings of the Constitution on the Liturgical Year and the Liturgy of the Hours, called in this country the Divine Office.
The first part covers 'Time in the Liturgy', which Gregory Dix called "The Sanctification of Time", and then the Sunday and the week, the year with its seasons of Easter, Lent, Christmas and the feasts of the Lord in Ordinary Time, the veneration of the saints and the veneration of Mary.
If readers wish to know the origins of the Liturgical Year and its meaning they will find it here, except for a deeper exploration of the Mystery of Christ, the very heart of the year, which is dealt with in Volume 1, yet to appear in English.
The great seasons and feasts of the year are not just a remembering of past events; they are celebrations of the Mystery of Christ which is made present in the here and now. There is much spiritual — and homiletic — profit to be derived from such an understanding.
A G Martimort has undertaken the very complex history of the Divine Office from its obscure beginnings until it emerged into the full light of history in the sixth century. After a general account of subsequent developments, each part of the Office is examined and its history and meaning are given.
From the beginning the Church has been a praying Church and although its prayer has taken many forms at different times and in different places in the East and the West, all revealed at least in summary here, underlying them all is the endeavour to obey the gospel injunction to "pray constantly".
As appears from the history itself, this is not just a "duty" imposed on the clergy and religious. All are urged to pray with the Church at least morning and evening (the original offices), and one of the results of the reform of the Office and its translation into the people's language is that many laypeople do in fact pray the Morning and Evening prayer of the Church.
One virtue of the Church at Prayer is its clear accounts of complicated historical developments but occasionally they seem a little too clear. T J Talley, the well known American Episcopalian scholar, has explored certain questions in depth, notably the origins of the
Paschal feast and those of Christmas/Epiphany, and shows that certain received positions are open to question.
His conclusions are somewhat speculative but they deserve serious consideration. But his is a different sort of book and it will be useful for the student to read it after studying The Prayer of the Church.
The translation of the latter by Matthew J O'Connell catches the clarity of the original and falters in only two places. The profession of faith referred to on page 22 has nothing to do with confirmation and to translate "Onction chrimale" as confirmation is, in the context, to say too much."
It is to be hoped that it will be widely read for if it is it will give readers a sound understanding of the liturgy, so much needed in this country, and will perhaps raise standards of celebration.