This post will give you an overview on how the Diurnal is organised.
The Diurnal has six main sections - the most important is towards the middle, and labelled 'The Psalter arranged for the week'.
If you are using a different edition of the Diurnal, the page numbers might be different, or it may be missing some of the material I mention.
This post provides an overview of what is in the Diurnal.
- As you work through the book, you might want to place a ribbon at the beginning of each section so you can find them again quickly.
Warning: Page numbering
The Diurnal is not page numbered consecutively from page 1 to page x at the end of the book.
Instead, it contains a number of separate sections, each starting again at 1, but with brackets, asterisks etc indicating which section of the book you are in.
And don't look for an index, because there isn't one (well ok, actually there is, but it is pretty hard to find, over on page (233)ff, and is more designed to help you find particular psalms, hymns, etc than to help you get a feel for the book).
Includes the Title page, Preface, Introduction, calendars, conclusions to the collects, etc.—marked with Roman numeral page numbers: numbers actually appear starting at MD xi and go to MD xxx.
Most of this material is for reference only, and you won't need it very often, but some of it is important.
- Take particular note of the Conclusions to the Collects page - the Diurnal generally just provides the key words (ie the ones in upper case on this page) and expects you to be able to fill out the text using this page.
Proper of the Season
Marked with a page number and an asterisk: pages numbered (pages, or MD) 1* to 487*.
This part of the Diurnal provides the texts that vary according to the seasons over the year.
In some seasons though, such as Advent, you will use this section a lot.
In time after Pentecost though (the current season in July 2016) the main thing that you need from this section is the collect for the week (used at all of the hours each day except Prime and Compline, except when the weekly collect is displaced by a feast). This section also includes the antiphons for the New Testament canticles (Benedictus and Magnificat) for Saturday and Sunday Vespers and Sunday Lauds.
Marked with plain page numbers: numbered 1 to 269.
This is the most important section of the book, with most of the texts you need each day in it.
Proper of the Saints
Arranged by dates and marked with page numbers in square brackets: numbered  to .
These are the prayers and special texts used on the feasts of saints, and they are arranged by date.
The Common of Saints, assorted prayers and indices
Marked with page numbers in round brackets (parentheses): numbered (1) to (243).
The 'commons' are used for more important feasts that don't have their own special texts. They are grouped by types of saints (apostles, confessors, etc).
The key pages you should have a look at are those for:
- the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, MD (129), which includes prayers and antiphons used most Saturdays of the year;
- the Office of the Dead, MD (135) - use it to say an Office for the repose of souls; and
- the Itinerary, MD (225) - a great set of prayers for anyone going on a major journey.
Supplement of Saints feasts
Feasts celebrated in certain places only—marked with a page number and a double asterisk: numbered 1** to 59**.
These are saints and feasts that don't feature in the main calendar, but whose feasts may be celebrated in particular places.
**Note: This post has been revised, 16 August 2016