Eastern Christian Publications. (2022). The Book of Hours. (English Edition). ISBN 978-1-940219-51-6
This gem of a prayerbook is a translation of a volume originally written in Church Slavonic and published in Rome in 1950. It uses common English, something I applaud. I have never been a fan of using pronouns such as Thee and Thou and verb forms such as dost and doeth. I find that to be a little distracting during prayer. This however, is a personal preference, as any Orthodox Christian prayer book does use this language. I suppose it depends on what you are used to.
The liturgical calendar has also been updated to include recent changes made in the United States, such as moving the Conception of the Theotokos to December 8 from December 9 and including the Feast of the Theotokos of Gaudalupe on December 12. The Book of Hours seems to be free of any grammatical or spelling errors and the liturgical texts conform to the current usage in the services of the Byzantine Ruthenian Church in the United States.
The contents of the book include the fixed part of each prayer office, starting with the Midnight Office and concluding with Compline. The changeable parts of the Daily Office are included as well. The Canonicon section includes various Akathists and Canons that can be used to prepare for Holy Communion. Other sections include the Troparia, Theotokia, and Kontakia for the Year; the Troparia and Kontakia of the Lenten and Flowering Triodion (the period after Easter until the Sunday after Pentecost); and a Menologion (daily calendar of commemorations).
The text of the prayers can be a little difficult to follow if one is not acquainted with the Byzantine Office. After all, we use the word Byzantine in popular culture to describe something that is overly complex. However, several videos have been posted on YouTube that help explain how to get the most out of this book by making it easier to use. The videos are exceptionally well done and well worth the time to view to acquaint oneself with the text.
There are some notable omissions from the table of contents. Except for Easter, the services for the Great Feast Days are omitted from the book. The Sunday services are also truncated with only Tone Six propers being included. Aside from Matins for the Departed, there are no other services for the departed such as the Parastas or the Akathist for the Departed. None of this should be taken as a criticism though. The Book of Hours is already 895 pages long and some compromise had to be made to keep the book to a manageable size. All of the material I have mentioned above could easily fill another volume.
There is another alternative available to those who wish to supplement the Book of the Hours in their prayer life with another volume: The Publican’s Prayer Book, printed by Sophia Press in Boston Massachusetts. This volume includes material that would round out the contents of the Book of the Hours quite nicely. For instance, the Publican’s Prayer Book includes sections on prayers for the preparation for Communion, the Canons for the Twelve Great Feasts, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, and Prayers for the Dying and Departed among others. The two together would be a tremendous help for anyone’s prayer life and would make a great gift.
The Book of Hours has a handsome appearance. It has a black hard cover with gold lettering and comes with a ribbon package that must be inserted into the binding of the book. There are five multi-colored ribbons. Those who pray the Daily Office would probably ask for a few more, but certainly the five provided are more than enough for most casual users of this book. The volume is very moderately priced and comes with an accompanying pamphlet describing the history of the Ruthenian Recension. The Book of Hours should be part of the prayer life of any Byzantine Christian. All in all, it is a “must have” for those who wish to pray the Daily Office.