Living on a prayer half-way through the day

Invitatory

Following the tradition of the monastic offices, Midday Prayer begins with a shortened version of the same dialogue used in Morning and Evening Prayer. So Midday Prayer still is what is traditionally termed a “minor office.” It was a brief devotion primarily observed in the monastaries, intentionally short and largely invariable. This is expressed in the Prayer Book today by its similarity to Morning and Evening Prayer, but shortening all its components. The opening dialogue between the officiant and the people is abbreviated from the regular Daily Office.

The rubrics allow for a “suitable hymn”, also a nod to monastic practice in which every Office (including the Minor Offices of Terce, Sext, and None) has its own hymn for the hour. This option also imitates the role of the Invitatory Psalm or the Phos Hilaron.

Psalmody

The Rule of Saint Benedict set a pattern of psalms on a weekly basis, alloting Psalms 119 through 128 to Terce (9am), Sext (12pm), and None (3pm). Four selections from this range are provided in the main text of Midday Prayer, and the rest are recommended in the Additional Directions. Each of the main four provide a different tone or mood that can be pertinent at midday.

Psalm 119:105-112

This is perhaps the most famous piece of Psalm 119 among Protestants, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet” being a popular memory verse and also put to song. The meditation upon the word of God in this Psalm gives the worshiper an opportunity for daily celebration of God’s spiritual provision.

Psalm 121

This Psalm of trust is a word of comfort. In the middle of the day, when one might feel particularly distant from the grounding morning and evening times of worship, it can be a helpful devotion to lift up one’s eyes to acknowledge the Lord, our help and keeper and defense.

Psalm 124

This is a Psalm of victory, celebrating the triumph of the Lord over the raging waters of our three-fold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Encouragement for us and praise for God, in whom is our help, can be a timely pick-me-up at midday.

Psalm 126

This is a petitionary Psalm, looking at the subject of peseverance. “The Lord has done great things for them”, the worshiper notes, looking back in history, and on that basis looks ahead with hope: “Overturn our captivity, O Lord.” In a difficult day it can be helpful to be reminded in prayer that one is half-way through.

Or, as Jon Bon Jovi wisely put it, “Oh, we’re half-way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer!”

The Extra Directions for the Daily Office

Those who used the 1979 Prayer Book might know or recall that there were a couple of pages of “Additional Directions” for the Daily Offices. Perhaps the traditionalists scoffed at this – the increase in complexity and variation both distances the liturgy from the average person in the pews and distances parish from parish, as customs could diverge more and more.

So it is, perhaps, a relief to see that the 2019 Prayer Book only has a short list of Additional Directions. And most of them are rubrics that the 1928 Book had in-line with the liturgy itself; we simply have them moved to the end of the service to reduce clutter.

Nevertheless, some may question why additional directions are necessary for what should be a simple liturgy. Let’s check them out briefly.

The Confession and Apostles’ Creed may be omitted,
provided each is said at least once during the course of the day.

The 1928 Prayer Book afforded flexibility to the saying of the Creed in Morning Prayer, allowing its omission when the Eucharist was to follow. The 1979 Prayer Book’s Additional Directions standardized the Creed’s omission under those circumstances, and also permitted the dropping of the Confession and Absolution of Sin. It is worth noting that neither the Confession nor the Apostles’ Creed were used in the Daily Office until 1559.

So this isn’t a license for laziness, but an accommodation for pre-existing tradition. After all, if you only read through the liturgy, you’ll never even know that this is an option!

The Gloria Patri (Glory be…) in the opening versicles may be said in unison.
The following form of the Gloria Patri may alternatively be used:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Due to widespread popularity, the 1979 translation of the Gloria Patri is permitted. Would it be better if everyone just used the common text? Yes. This rubric allows congregations that are used to the 1979 version to continue on for a while without having to be bludgeoned with the new text. It also gives a break to the singers who have Psalm and Canticle settings from the past 40 years that they still want to use. But, again, this is an additional direction; the default text is what most people will see, and it will eventually win the day.

The Officiant and People may join in saying “Alleluia” (except in Lent) as an alternative to the versicles “Praise the Lord. The Lord’s Name be praised.”

The saying of “Alleluia” at the end of the Invitatory dialogue was appointed in the 1549 Prayer Book from Easter until Trinity Sunday.

If an offering is to be received, it is appropriate to do so during the hymn or anthem following the Collects.

When weekly Communion was not yet normal, it was common practice in many parishes for the offering to follow the hymn or anthem, after the Collects.

A sermon may be preached after the lessons, after the hymn or anthem following the Collects, or after the conclusion of the Office.

The sermon, when added to the Daily Office, would traditionally be preached after the anthem and the offertory. This rubric also authorizes “after the lessons” to parallel the position of the sermon in the Communion service, and after the conclusion of the Office to allow for the integrity of the Office as it stands and freeing the preaching to follow on its own terms.

Customary update: Holy Baptism

Work on the Saint Aelfric Customary continues; we are getting into more “occasional” services now, where there are fewer options to choose from. But options, there still are, and so some sort of customary is needed to assist the decision-making.

One of the biggest things about the Baptism service in our (2019) Prayer Book, along with the 1979 Book, is that it is expected to be a part of the Communion service. The baptism basically takes the place of the Antecommunion, or the Communion liturgy up to the Offertory. In the classical books, Baptism was a stand-alone office, and as a result there are a number of tradition-minded folks who lament this change. Some are concerned that the Eucharist will overshadow Baptism. Some are concerned that the clarity of our baptismal theology will be hidden amidst a longer, less focused, liturgy. Some are concerned that the Baptism will overshadow the Communion. So there are a number of considerations at play here, giving us good reason to say “no thanks” to the Prayer Book’s recommendation of holding Baptisms within Communion services. There are times that’s a fine idea, and times when it may not be.

So you can read more about that, and how these decisions can impact the execution of the liturgy as a whole, on the Customary page here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-for-holy-baptism/

Ending the Daily Office

Although optional in 1979, the Daily Office in the 2019 Prayer Book ends with a pair of sentences. “Let us bless the Lord. / Thanks be to God.” is a final doxology, our last word of praise offered to God. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ… be with us all evermore” is a final benediction, God’s last word to us. Together, they form a “goodbye” in both directions between the congregation and our Lord, much like the Blessing and Dismissal at the end of the Communion liturgy. The option of Ephesians 3:20-21, however, tips the closing balance in favor of doxology.

Officiant: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

The dialogue (or versicle and response) was added in the 1979 Prayer Book, drawn from ancient Gelasian and Roman Office liturgies. It functions in the same way as the Dismissal at the end of the Communion service, which was also first introduced to the Prayer Book tradition in 1979. Both were optional in that edition, but now this dialogue has been fully adopted as a standard part of the the Daily Office liturgy.

What follows is “the grace” taken from 2 Corinthians 13:14. This is functionally like a blessing, or a benediction, used to close the Daily Office since 1662, and the Litany since 1559. Like the 1979 Book, however, our Prayer Book offers Romans 15:13 and Ephesians 3:20-21 as alternatives. The first is also a benediction, but not explicitly trinitarian; the latter is a doxology, rather than a benediction.

A de-revision: A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time,
with one accord to make our common supplications to you;
and you have promised through your well-beloved Son
that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will grant their requests:
Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us;
granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.

As the name indicates, this prayer’s earliest-known appearance is in the Eastern Orthodoxy Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and Saint Basil, at the end of their Entrance Rites. It first came to Anglican liturgy at the end of Archbishop Cranmer’s Litany of 1544, before the first Prayer Book was compiled. It was removed from the Litany in the American Prayer Books of 1928 and 1979, and the 2019 Prayer Book has followed suit. This prayer was added to the Daily Office in the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, and then the English Book of 1662, where it has remained all subsequent Prayer Books, albeit rendered as optional starting in 1892.

In 1979 several wording changes were introduced. In part this was to align the text with the primary Scriptural reference (Matthew 18:19-20), as well as to conform more closely to the Eastern liturgy from which Cranmer originally drew this prayer. This revised phrase, “you will be in the midst of them” has been rolled back in our present version: “you will grant their requests.” Although the 1979 revision matches the biblical text, the historic Prayer Book wording matches the liturgical purpose of the prayer in its specific context. At the end of a worship service or liturgy, assurance of God’s answering of prayer is more appropriate than assurance of the presence of the Lord.

This ancient prayer draws together two sayings of Jesus: Matthew 18:19-20 (“where two or three are gathered”) and John 14:13-14 (“if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”). Functionally, this prayer is akin to the shorter Occasional Prayers #98, 99, and 100, though its specific appeal to the prayers of the church gathered makes it particularly appropriate for the public liturgy of the Church. In that light, the rubric rendering it optional in American Prayer Books since 1928 is probably a concession for instances where the Office is said by an individual in private.

To offer God “our common supplications” is described here as a gift of grace – liturgy and worship are not so much the efforts of man as they are the power of God in us. And even the power of prayer itself is based on the promises of Christ. In short, this prayer both humbles us and encourages us, as we rehearse the basic theology of prayer: God commands it, God empowers it, God fulfills it. And even when we get it wrong, we simply hope that God will answer “as may be best for us”, which is spelled out as knowledge of his truth and life everlasting. If we come away from the Daily Office remembering nothing else, that desire for divine knowledge and life will be enough.

Christian Fellowship in its Fullness

Happy Saint Aelfric Day! Today we’re just going to look at one of the Scripture readings from today’s Communion Propers. Acts 2:42 may be a popular verse in some circles, but hopefully there is a fresh and inspiring aspect to its contents this time around:

Leorningcnihtes boc

In the wake of the enormous events of the Day of Pentecost comes this oft-quoted description of the Apostolic fellowship among the first Christians:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe/fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Here we see what is, presumably, a healthy Christian community being established. Here we see what is, presumably, a set of…

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Commemorating Richard Hooker

Here’s a book that I’ve just added to my list Things I Should Have Read In Seminary: The Laws of Eccleiastical Polity by Richard Hooker. I recently finished reading books I through IV of this monumental work as rendered into modern English by the good folks over at the Davenant Institute. Check it out if you haven’t before; I highly recommend it.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew that Hooker’s Laws were important in the establishment of classical Anglicanism, that it was a monumental work of English prose, groundbreaking in the field of English-language philosophy, and the beginning of a distinctly Anglican perspective on Christianity as Reformed Catholicism, neither Papist on the one hand nor Radical Puritan on the other, but firmly moderated where it needed to be, in line with the other Protestant churches of Europe. A lot can be gleaned from well-written reviews and cliffnotes. But finally, ten years later than I believe I should have, I’ve finally started reading through this thing. And since today, November 3rd, is Hooker’s commemoration day, this seemed the right time to share some thoughts therefrom.

If you want or need a brief generic introduction to Hooker himself, you can jump over to Wikipedia, or read this little bio I wrote up two years ago.

A lot can be gleaned from an outline, so here are the first four books of the Laws in outline. (Some of the titles below are modernized for clarity.)

The Preface: RADICALISM, When Reform Becomes Revolution

  1. The Cause and Occasion for Writing this Work and What is Hoped for from Those for Whom Such Pains are Taken
  2. The First Establishment of Presbyterian Discipline by John Calvin in Geneva and the Beginning of the Conflict in the Church of England
  3. How So Many People Come to be Trained to Approve of this Discipline
  4. What Has Made the More Learned Approve this Discipline
  5. Their Call for a Trial by Debate
  6. No End to Conflict Until Both Sides Submit to a Definitive Judgement
  7. An Outline of the Remaining Books
  8. Why We Have Many Good Reasons to Fear the Consequences of Your Reformation, if it Indeed Took Place
  9. Conclusion

Book I: DIVINE LAW and HUMAN NATURE

  1. The Reason for Writing this General Discourse
  2. The Law by which God has from the Beginning Determined to Do all Things
  3. The Law by which Natural Agents Work
  4. The Law by which Angels Work
  5. The Law by which Man is Directed to the Imitation of God
  6. How Men First Begin to Know the Law they Should Observe
  7. Man’s Will, which Laws of Action are Made to Guide
  8. Of the Natural Way to Find Out Laws by Reason to Lead the Will to What is Good
  9. The Advantages of Keeping the Law Taught by Reason
  10. How Reason Leads Men to Make the Laws by which Political Societies are Governed and to Agree about Laws of Fellowship between Independent Societies
  11. Why God has made Known in Scripture Supernatural Laws to Direct Men’s Steps
  12. Why So Many Natural Laws and Laws of Reason are Found in Scripture
  13. The Advantage of Having Such Divine Laws Written
  14. The Sufficiency of Scripture unto the End for which it was Instituted
  15. Positive Laws in Scripture, how Some of them are Changeable, and the General Use of Scripture
  16. Conclusion: How All of This Pertains to the Present Controversy

Book II: THE WORD OF GOD

  1. How Far Does the Authority of Scripture Extend?
  2. Doing All Things to the Glory of God
  3. Must All Things Be Sanctified by the Word of God?
  4. Acting Without Clear Direction from Scripture
  5. Negative Arguments Derived from Scripture
  6. Arguments from Scripture’s Silence
  7. The Proper Weight of Human Authority

Book III: THE WORDS OF MAN

  1. Defining the Church
  2. Must Scripture Contain a Complete System of Church Government?
  3. Church Government is not a Matter of Salvation
  4. We Do Not Dishonor Scripture
  5. The Word of God and the Words of Man
  6. All Churches Add Laws Beyond Scripture
  7. The Appeal to “General Rules of Scripture”
  8. Reason May Also Serve as a Tool of the Spirit
  9. The Right Use of Reason in Devising Church Laws
  10. Why Scriptural Commands May Not Always Bind
  11. Can Biblical Laws Be Changed?

Book IV: IN DEFENSE OF REFORMED CATHOLIC WORSHIP

  1. The Importance of Liturgy
  2. Their Demand for Apostolic Simplicity
  3. The Charge that we Follow Rome
  4. Must All Roman Ceremonies Go?
  5. The Status of the Medieval Church
  6. Are Papists the Same as Canaanites?
  7. The Example of the Early Church
  8. The Danger of Swerving to the Opposite Extreme
  9. It Does not matter what Rome Thinks of Our Liturgy
  10. The Laments of “The Godly”
  11. The Charge that our Ceremonies are Judaizing
  12. Stumbling-blocks for Weaker Brethren
  13. Conformity to Foreign Reformed Churches
  14. In Defense of the Church of England’s Proceedings

As you can see, this is a lengthy treatise moving lowly and carefully, step by step. One of the primary purposes of these works was actually to provide a full-scale rebuttal to early Puritan complaints that the Church of England was too “Popish” and needed further reform, particularly in getting rid of bishops in favor of Presbyterianism, and eliminating Roman-infested rites and ceremonies. Many bishops had simply appealed to the status quo or to the authority of the Queen as supreme governor of the national church in reply to such dissent, so Hooker’s defense of what would later come to be known as “Anglicanism” was something new.

Rather than tackling the complaints and objections head-on, Hooker first set out a groundwork of philosophy and theology, biblical hermeneutics and interpretation. He wanted to set out the nature of law before arguing about what laws are good or not good.

For our understanding, it is critical to realize that a “law” in this sense is not necessarily a legal rule, but more generally a rule of how something works, or is. So by that definition, God is literally a “law” unto himself – who and what God is sets out the laws by which God operates. We then turn to the laws by which nature and angels and humans operate, and dive into the long and complicated field of epistemology – the study of how we know what we know. Against the Radical Puritans of his day and in line with historic Christianity, Hooker argues that general revelation, or natural theology, or the Law of Nature, teaches man a great deal about the sciences, morality, and even something of God himself (cf. Romans 1:19-20). This becomes the foundation for his ongoing defense of the role of reason in the discernment of good laws, guided by Scripture.

The doctrine of Scripture is an important subject along the way, too, especially in Book II. There he asserts full agreement with the Radicals concerning the perfection of Scripture, but he argues that the Bible does not exist to be (as we would say today) a complete textbook about everything. Rather, that which it is meant to address, it addresses perfectly. It upholds and clarifies natural law, and reveals divine truths (particularly concerning the Gospel) that would not be knowable otherwise. He even deals with the doctrine of sola scriptura, and candidly explains the reality that the Bible’s perfect authority is not justified by itself (that would be circular logic!), but discerned by reason.

With these foundations in place, Hooker is able to wade into the murky waters of disagreement over the extent of the authority of the Church. Some of it has to do with the “Regulative Principle of Worship” (a primarily Calvinist view that worship can only contain what the Bible positively allows) versus the “Normative Principle” (the traditional view that worship can contain anything the Bible doesn’t forbid). Some of it has to do with the nature of law, already taken care of in previous sections.

Book IV is where things start to get particularly interesting for the modern reader. (I mean, I actually really enjoyed the Preface and first three Books, but on the whole Anglicanism is no longer fighting to defend itself from Presbyterian detractors.) In the 4th book Hooker brings us to a series of objections to Prayer Book worship. These are still mainly about general principles, specific elements in the Prayer Book won’t be addressed until Book V from what I can tell. Nevertheless, here there are arguments that are super helpful for us today. Many of the general questions addressed are still (or again) being asked in the 21st century: is our worship too Papist? How should we address the issues of the “weaker brethren” in our midst? Why can’t we just return to the simplicity of the Apostolic Church? What does Apostolic-age worship even really look like?

Our worship-related issues today aren’t just about Roman influences; we also have controversies over Pentecostal/Charismatic elements, popular evangelical elements, and there is (still or again) a sort of Puritan party to be found here and there, pushing in the direction of Reformed Calvinist worship principles. Richard Hooker doesn’t answer all the questions that we have today, of course, but the observations and arguments he makes in Book IV are all insightful and can ground us more solidly in the tradition we have received.

I am hoping, in my non-existent spare time, to type up specific thoughts and reflections from what of the Laws that I’ve read thus far. If you’re interested in that, you can track my progress on this index page here, and/or follow my personal blog leorningcniht (Old English for “disciple”).

Singing through Hallowtide

Hallowtide is one of the nicknames for the period of time around All Saints’ Day – perhaps most especially from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) through the Octave of All Saints’ Day. Indeed, we do kind of need a name for the phenomenon of how modern Prayer Books direct that we should observe All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday in November. Last year we looked at that in a brief write-up here, so this year we’re taking a more devotional tack.

There are two groups of hymns to consider when looking at how to sing our way through Hallowtide: hymns about the Church Triumphant and hymns about the Church Expectant (or At Rest). You may be familiar with the Roman pair of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd, honoring the Saints in heaven on the former and praying for the souls in purgatory in the latter. Obviously, the Anglican tradition does not teach the Roman doctrine of purgatory, so we have no need of All Souls Day. But many Anglicans today do observe a Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, looking at the mournful side of death (the other side of the coin in All Saints’ Day where we celebrate victory amidst death). So as we sing through Hallowtide we should consider both of these angles along the way.

Here are the hymns appointed in this Customary’s “daily hymnody” plan, remembering that the hymn numbers refer to Book of Common Praise 2017 or Magnify the Lord:

There are, of course, plenty of other appropriate hymns out there that you could draw in. These are just the ones that I selected from one hymnal for this particular week; there are others are scattered throughout the year on particular saints’ days.

After Hallowtide, you may also wish to consider some national hymns on November 8th through 11th, building towards Remembrance Day (Intl.) / Veteran’s Day (USA).

Prayers at the end of the week

Modern Prayer Books have given us some pretty neat prayers related to the passage and sanctity of time, and how we the liturgical tradition helps us encompass time into our very spirituality. I’ve written about a few of them already, and now we’re looking at two more from the Office of Daily Morning Prayer in the 2019 Prayer Book.

Collect for Endurance (Friday Morning)

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we,
walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

This prayer was written by Bishop Huntington and proposed for the 1892 Prayer Book, but not adopted until 1928 where it became the Collect for Monday in Holy Week. (Before 1928, Monday through Wednesday in Holy Week did not have unique collects.) This prayer continues in that role in the 1979 and the present Prayer Books, but was adopted in 1979 for Fridays in Morning Prayer, as continues to be the recommendation here.

The theology of the cross is the major biblical background for this prayer, drawing especially from the language of Romans 8. That our Lord had to suffer before he was glorified is a major theme in the Gospel according to Saint John and famous Holy Week texts such as Philippians 2, and the application of that “way of the cross” has been an enduring element in Christian spirituality ever since. Although there are victories to celebrate, as the Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return indicates, we still must also take up our cross and follow him. Though we have much to endure, we can find following Christ to be “the way of life and peace.”

Collect for Sabbath Rest (Saturday Morning)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works
and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures:
Grant that we,
putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary,
and that our rest here on earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest
promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is another 19th century prayer, written by Edward Benson, the 94th Archbishop of Canterbury. His original used the word “sabbath” instead of “rest” in the body of the text. Its first entry into the Prayer Book tradition seems to be in 1979, labelled a “Collect for Saturdays”, where it remains here.

This prayer reads as a brief summary of a theology of rest, drawing primarily from Hebrews 4:1-9. The rest that God appointed for all his creatures on the Sabbath day is both an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty in the old creation, and an anticipation of his completion of the new creation yet to be revealed. Our day of rest is to be a time to “put away earthly anxieties” and prepare for the divine work of worship.

Customary Update: Communion options!

The Saint Aelfric Customary’s directions through the 2019 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy is complete now. You can read it in full here.

One note of particular interest are recommendations for Communion Hymns based on the liturgical season, drawing from the lovely collection of thirty-seven (!!!) such hymns in the excellent REC hymnal. There is, of course, a lot of argumentation to be found among Christians concerning music, its accessibility, appropriate styles, and theological and biblical content. The subject of Holy Communion (or any sacrament, really) tends to suffer the most neglect in contemporary music, and sacramentology also tends to be something of a partisan battleground among Anglicans already, so making use of a set of lyrics that describe the Lord’s Supper can indeed be quite valuable for our congregations today.

Another feature that may appear somewhat strange here is the implementation of a little rubric in the 2019 Prayer Book’s liturgy authorizing “a sentence of Scripture at the conclusion of the Communion“, immediately before the Post-Common Prayer. Before the Reformation, each Mass had an appointed Communion Sentence. The 1549 Prayer Book reduced this complexity to a simple list of Sentences for the celebrant to choose from, and exploring that list is particularly interesting as it highlights the Reformation doctrine of faith much more prominently than the exaggerated sacramentalism of late medieval piety. Most subsequent Prayer Books have omitted this little piece of the liturgy, but now that it’s authorized again this Customary has seized the opportunity to restore the 1549 list, with a few additions from prior tradition. Check them out!