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Book review: Daily Prayer and Divine Office: A short introduction by John-Francis Friendship

by
07 July 2023

Philip Welsh read a supportive guide

AN UNEXPECTED benefit of lockdown was that some parishioners discovered the value of joining remotely in saying the Daily Office, for whom meeting in church was always impracticable. An introduction to the origin and use of the Divine Office seems timely.

John-Francis Friendship draws on his experience as a former Franciscan to provide this, with reminders that this “structured series of age-old scriptural services marking the passage of time” is a discipline that unites us with the Church, is not dependent on our mood, or about helping us to feel better.

He uses a language of piety — “an undivided heart enfolding the mind’s desire for the divine” — which sets the spiritual bar high but rarely touches the ground. Recurrent reference to “the heart’s eye” is echoed in the slightly queasy claim that St John “laid his head on Jesus’ breast and became aware of his Beloved’s heartbeat”.

The author loves the Psalms, “the bulk of most Offices”, insistent on reciting them with that irritating hiccup — “approximately three seconds” — at the caesura. And, while he offers the conventional justification for including the nastier psalms, I still wonder about the effect of a spirituality so heavily dependent on the mindset of the Late Bronze Age.

With wisdom from the classic tradition of prayer, particularly within the Religious life, this will be a supportive booklet for those who already value the Office, but of limited help to those looking for a structured form of prayer on the Clapham omnibus.

 

The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London.

 

Daily Prayer and Divine Office: A short introduction
John-Francis Friendship
DLT £7.99
(978-1-915412-54-6)
Church Times Bookshop £7.19

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