The Saint Ambrose Prayer Book

Thanks to Fr. Benjamin Johnson over at Western Orthodoxy, I learned of The Saint Ambrose Prayer Book a week and a half ago or so. Much of the formation I had as an Episcopalian which led me down an Anglo-Catholic path was thanks to The Saint Augustine Prayer Book, and while I’ve not had the nagging, unfulfilled yearning for that aesthetic that some ex-Anglicans have, I do have to give credit where it is due to the Anglicans who taught me about Apostolic Succession, the Sacraments, and the Real Presence, among other things. Thus, the idea an Orthodox devotional manual after the fashion of the St. Augustine at the very least got my attention.

It arrived yesterday, and while I’ll keep my comments brief, it’s presented really nicely. It is compact, practical, easy to read, the catechetical information is very useful, and the renderings of the prayers and liturgical texts are beautiful and elegant. It is clearly a conscious Orthodox re-think of the St. Augustine, to the extent that it is organized in a nearly identical fashion, many of the images used are similar, the typeface is pretty darn close to being the same, and even the Forewords are word-for-word identical in places. I found myself wondering at times if the text of the St. Augustine had been entered into a word processor and then simply updated where it was determined was necessary. As a result, it feels very much like seeing an old friend wearing brand new clothes.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way; I’m no authority one way or the other on the implementation of the Western Rite and have never seen it in action, but I do think that, insofar as it is an attempt to reclaim historically Orthodox liturgies for modern practice, it could be a good thing. I have no way of knowing if it is or isn’t in its present manifestation.

My main complaint is, as with many Orthodox publishing projects, the copy-editing could have used at least one more pass, and some of the typos are a bit embarrassing, given how nice the rest of the book is. The Foreword somehow manages to be a “Forward”, and there are a number of places where “principle” manages to sneak in for “principal”. If you’re talking about a primary reason, folks, use the word “principal” and do so on “principle.” Follow me? There are also errors like being referred to page 188 for the Six Penitential Psalms, only to have nothing of the kind be within ten pages of 188. One hopes these things can get cleared up in a second edition.

I’ll have more to say once I’ve spent more time with it, but I’d recommend it, at least at this point, partcularly to somebody who comes from a background like mine. You’ll remember some of the good things about Anglican practice that helped you to relate to Orthodoxy better when you started down that path.

3 Responses to “<i>The Saint Ambrose Prayer Book</i>”

  1. 1 Ryan Close 19 February 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I am interested in how they changed the devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus in light of Orthodox reflections on it’s inherent neo-Nestorianism. I think the advertisement made some reference to putting the devotion back on the divine-human love of Christ not his human heart.

  2. 2 Richard Barrett 19 February 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m not overly familiar with the Roman Catholic version of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Perhaps the best thing to do, so as to not run afoul of anybody’s copyright, is for you to tell me the sections of the devotion that you think underscore its neo-Nestorianism and how they do it; I can tell you if, and how, those sections have changed.


  1. 1 Devotions to the Sacred Heart in The Saint Ambrose Prayerbook « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 20 February 2009 at 5:13 pm

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