Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: Monastic Matins - Lancelot Andrewes Press

A picture of the Matins book.
Nice gold printing on the awesome Vivella cover.

I received a couple weeks ago my copy of Lancelot Andrewes Press edition of the Monastic Matins. This is essentially a photocopy/reprint of the 1925 Oxford Press edition with updates for the interim 1956 rubrics.

Here are a few more details:
  • The Psalter is the well known (Anglican) Coverdale version.
  • The rest of the scripture inside is King James aka Authorized Version.
  • The Collects are the English renditions from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, though they correspond almost exactly to their "traditional" Catholic English renderings from my Baronius 1962 Missal and my explicitly Catholic Monastic Diurnal.
  • Being particularly Anglican, it includes and gives precedence to English Saints on the calendar. There are supplementals in the back for "Western Rite" feast days. These are for the Catholic and Western Rite Orthodox users of the book.
  • That means it does have the Assumption and other things with the Catholic Propers included...
I feel completely comfortable using this even though it is from a Western Rite Orthodox publisher. Praying the Monastic Breviary I have found is a very ecumenical affair. The online groups I belong to for this include Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans. All three denominations feel comfortable using the Diurnal/Matins from either St. Michael's Abbey (the one I use) or Lancelot Andrewes, which also has a corresponding Diurnal (sans Latin). It is all very much centered around the Benedictine Monastic Office. I find it kind of nice we can all rally around something.

Just to make the point clear, consider the publication of the Matins book:
  1. From a Catholic Breviary.
  2. Translated for use by Anglicans.
  3. Published by a Western Rite Orthodox publisher.
  4. Used lovingly by people of all three groups.
It is a nice thought anyway. Let's get back to the review. The paper is pretty nice ("Bible Paper"), though some of the print didn't come over very well. (Smudges, stuff like that. Very few, hardly noticeable. Trust me you won't mind.) The rubrics, ironically, are black and not red. Keeps costs down I assume. There are no ribbons but I learned from an Orthodox priest how to make my own, which turned out to be more fun than simply just having them.

The blurriness in the photo is a camera effect not a printing problem. 99% of the text is absolutely perfect, as you can see.

The real gem of this edition however is the cover. The cover is fantastic. Who the heck needs leather when you have Vivella? I once wrote that every book worth having was worth buying in leather. I need to modify that a little I think.

Any book worth having is worth buying in leather but buy it in Vivella if you can. Something like that. You get my point. Oh, btw, the price is right too. $45 ain't bad. Finally, if you have the Monastic Diurnal from St. Michael's, don't worry because this one supplements it just fine. At least it seems to in my humble estimation.


michaelsbradleyjr said...

Would one of those ribbon tabs that can be inserted into the spine of a book work with this volume, e.g. 5 Ribbon Jerusalem Cross Bookmark?

I've been thinking about purchasing and using the same Diurnal and Matins combo that you're using -- this post on your blog pretty much puts it over the top. Thanks for the info!

Also, if you care to comment, will you be considering the use of a full Roman (as opposed to monastic) breviary, such as will soon be available from Baronius Press? I've even thought about joining in BP's proofreading effort, but I'm not sure if I want more to pray the ancient Benedictine Psalter or the St. Pius X Psalter ... your thoughts on the subject will be appreciated.

Matt said...

I'm not sure about the ribbons. Best way to know is to try them out I guess. The Matins books is pretty thin so so they might be squished a little. Before you order online, try to go to a catholic bookstore and try it out.

As for the Matins book itself my review was favorable but I think I need to add some clarifications. First, the rubrics not being in red mean that you have to be willing (and have the patience, frankly) to spend a lot of time with it. There will be times that you will have to scour the book just to figure out what comes next. LA Press is coming out with a book on the rubrics which should make it a lot easier. Until then, well, things are a bit more difficult. However there is a Google group you can join and perhaps I will put up a link to the PDF file that gives you the outline for each day.

Second, and this is for the Monastic Matins in general, it takes at least 1 full hour to pray Matins. Which means that I am just unable, practically speaking, to do that every day. That means I anticipate the hour before midnight (for the next day) and before I say Compline. It works out though.

As for the Baronius've asked a tough question. I LOVE my Diurnal from St. Michael's Abbey Press. I really enjoy coming back to the same psalms every morning for Lauds. There is a rhythm to it that is kind of comforting. The Roman Breviary is much less repetitive so the priests can get through the psalms during the week in shorter fashion (because they have parishes, schools, etc.)

The Roman Breviary I believe is much more spread out in terms of their psalms. As the Monastic hours are supposed to be prayed in the monastery the monks have a lot more time on their hands. I will say however that the Monastic hours are pretty much untouched since St. Benedict himself back in the 500s. Its an impressive thought when you think of it, to unite yourself across the centuries like that. It really is the prayer of the Saints. But I don't mean to put down the Roman Breivary, it has its strong points too.

So will I buy the Baronius Press one? Probably but I might not use it every day. (or maybe I will!?) Truth be told, I'm very torn about it. After all, this is my daily prayer and it is very important to me. I have been a supporter of Baronius since I found them.

It all comes down to a matter of preference. I do however find it quite absurd to see Latin/English Breviaries or just the English only Breviary from 1962 or before selling for upwards of $700 on Ebay, especially when you can find the Diurnal Latin/English for $60 online.

I hope that helps. If nothing else, I would get the Diurnal from St. Michael's Abbey Press.

Roman Sacristan said...

Wow, I have never heard of this.

I too use a diurnal from Saint Michael's and I love it. But I have always been wanting to have an English version of Matins (although I too admit that I would probably not be able to say it daily).

Just to clarify, this version of Matins is English only right? No Latin?

Still at that price, that is certainly worth it.

Thanks for the review.

Matt said...

Yup, its just the English. The price is great for sure.

I've heard *rumors* that St. Michael's Abbey will be producing a version in Latin and English but that the process is stalled. I can't verify either point of the rumor. Until then...this is a great way to get Matins covered.

Aaron said...

I read your review on the Monastic Matins and it got me interested, as currently I'm using the Monastic Diurnal. Those pictures you took did get me wondering so here's my question...

Is it hard to maneuver around this edition of the Matins breviary? I need a 2nd opinion as I've read raving reviews about it (yours being one of them)

And are those non-dual coloured fonts or the supposedly long haul of the office causes any discomfort or diminishes devotion when doing the Matins routine?

Pardon my curiosity as this would be my first at tackling this one. Your thoughts please.


Matt said...

Hi Aaron, thanks for reading.

You asked:

Is it hard to maneuver around this edition of the Matins breviary?

Yes. It can be difficult at first to get around. But learning any new book or breviary is. When I switched from Christian Prayer to the St. Michael's MD it took about a month to really get used to it. You need to get yourself some ribbons and a cheat sheet to get started.

And are those non-dual coloured fonts or the supposedly long haul of the office causes any discomfort or diminishes devotion when doing the Matins routine?

This is really two questions. The black only fonts make things hard if you don't know the rubrics that well, which admittedly I am still a novice at. It can be frustrating. Again, I recommend a cheat sheet. For my MD I typed a few out in a tiny font, cut them up and stuck them in the diurnal.

As for the length of the hour of Matins... It does prevent me from using the book every day. I simply cannot spend 1 full hour reading it every day. Yes it takes an hour. But you can just to the scripture and church father readings, which I have done in the past too. I have ended up "anticipating" the next day in the evenings instead of waking up at 4am to pray Matins.

I hope this helps!

François said...


so if it includes the 1956 rubrics, the Holy Week and Vigil of the Pentecost are changed too? Or does it include both pre-1950's rubrics together with the 1950's ones. As you probably know there is a wide difference between the two.

thank you.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton