Brendan Returns

Ask and you shall receive… in one of my first posts on the feast of St. Brendan I suggested that there were enough clues in the Navigato Sancti Brendani to do a study of its use of the liturgy of hours. While browsing online this week, I came across the citation to just such a paper.

Thomas O’Loughlin (2006) “The Monastic Liturgy of the Hours in the Navigatio sancti Brendani: A Preliminary Investigation” Irish Theological Quarterly 71: 113-126.

Here are some of his main points:

  • There was a lot of variation in the Liturgy of the Hours prior to the 9th century. The origins of the Liturgy of Hours in the Latin West is traced to Jerome (c. 342-420) and John Cassian (c. 360-435).
  • Variations in Ireland included Rule of Columbanus (36 psalms on weekdays in winter/24 psalms on weekdays in summer, extra over Saturday-Sunday), and the Rule of the Celi De that demanded all 150 psalms every day. The Benedictine Rule, also present in Ireland, spreads the 150 psalms out over a full week.
  • The author is heavily influenced by John Cassian and sometimes contrasts flaws that Cassian mentions with the ideal monasteries that our author describes.
  • The narration of the liturgy of hours are exceptionally well described. On the Isle of the Birds the liturgy for all seven services of a full day are described. “What we are given is a glimpse of what the author imagines as the perfect liturgy of creatures at the perfect time.” (P. 118)
  • Liturgy of Ailbe’s island — built up imagery from the Apocalypse.
  • Island of the Strong Men — pattern on Cassian again, almost all psalmology.
  • O’Loughlin believes “the moral reading of the whole allegory: start to improve the Liturgy of Hours in which one is now a participant.” (p. 125)
  • O’Loughlin concludes:

“Its value lies in that he shows us how it author understood the opus Dei which he preformed each day and the place he believed that it should hold within the monastic agenda. … his use of Cassian is of special significance as it shows him as someone who wishes to imagine his monasteries on the basis of the primary monastic imagery of the West. Moreover, when we not the simplicity and brevity of his various arrangements for the Liturgy of Hours, along with its underlying assumption that earthly prayer ‘blends in’ with the heavenly liturgy rather than being a desperate cry for help from an alien environment, then we possibly see an alternative monastic vision (and more sophisticated theology of prayer) to that being advanced by the Celi De movement which was gaining both disciples and reputation in the early-ninth century.” (p. 125-126).

This is a very interesting paper well worth the time of anyone interested in the history of the Liturgy of the Hours.


One thought on “Brendan Returns

Comments are closed.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: