In the “Supplemental Canticles” document which will be appended to the Daily Office in our new Prayer Book, Canticle #2 is marked “especially suitable for use during the season after Epiphany.” Well, now we’re there, so let’s look at how to make use of this Canticle.
Throughout the history of Western liturgy, there can be found many Psalms and Canticles that get special treatment and use in various offices and rites. The early Prayer Books were generally simple and minimalist about them, but still allowed a couple options in most cases. If you trace the continuity of the Prayer Book Daily Office from its monastic predecessor, some basic principles can be drawn. Most importantly:
- The three Gospel Canticles (Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis) are said daily: morning (matins), evening (vespers), and night (compline).
- The Te Deum is said on Sundays and feast days.
So, when looking at the Canticles of the Daily Office in current Prayer Book tradition, the usual best practice is to keep the Benedictus in the Morning and the Magnificat in the Evening, and replace the Te Deum or the Nunc Dimittis. For these “seasonal” Canticles in our present list, it is the recommendation of this Customary to use most of them on weekdays in place of the Te Deum. Perhaps, starting this week, you can try out Surge illuminare as the first Canticle in Morning Prayer?
What’s especially neat about this canticle in particular is that it was the Old Testament reading back on the Day of the Epiphany (January 6th), so to have parts of it as a Canticle in the subsequent season is to maintain a thematic and textual link to where this whole section of the calendar began.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.