Q: I do not know whether to begin with gratitude or with apology for all the questions I send your way. I do it because I have questions and you respond.
You mentioned recently that a revision of the Liturgy of the Hours is underway, and you mentioned a blog entry about Christmas readings “… several pastors saw drafts… .” In the book At the Supper of the Lamb there has been mention of “study groups.” Do these (pastors, study groups) play a role in the developing new Liturgy of the Hours? Are you involved? Are women and men who pray these prayers consulted? To use a current word, it seems like some synodal process would be helpful developing (or refining at this point) the new texts. I hope the revision takes into consideration the lived experience of people who have prayed this way for decades. And it would be great to feel confident that choices made reflect deep tradition and experience. For example; I love Psalm 63 and the rest of Sunday Week I—but I hope consideration is given about using it so much. I was very glad to hear about use of ancient hymns translated; I could never understand why in the present book for Lent and Easter, the usual Ordinary Time hymns are included in their usual spot—-but are never really appropriate to use. I hope the new translation will not just be “change for the sake of change.” Aside from the gender language, the present Grail translation is awesome. Plus I was taught that there is a value to knowing prayers by heart.
I guess my question comes down to: Can we hope these new texts be fitting for the purpose, to be such a part of daily spiritual life of so many of us?
A: About a month after the bishops participating in the Second Vatican Council approved their first document, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Pope St. Paul VI appointed a Consilium to put the vision of the council into practice. This group appointed dozens of study groups of specialists to work out the revised liturgy that we enjoy today. Some of those groups consulted others—pastors, catechists, and specialists around the world. I mention these study groups in several of my books, including, as you correctly note, At the Supper of the Lamb.
The revision of the Liturgy of the Hours is primarily an updating of the translation, with the inclusion of new saints’ days that have been added to the liturgical calendar. It is not a revision of the structure of the office.
I am involved minimally. I do some work for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which reviews the translations. I attend the (usually) annual meetings of the 11 bishops who make up the commission and take notes for them. They also let me offer comments.
Consequently, you will not see a change in the frequency of praying Psalm 63, but you will say the revised Grail translation, known as Abbey Psalms and Canticles, as well as a more sensitive application of gender-inclusive language throughout. The new hymn translations will add an amazing repertoire to those who pray the Hours.
Will the new texts be fitting for the purpose to be such a part of daily spiritual life of so many of us? That is the intent. I think many who use the Liturgy of the Hours will be very pleased with the results.