Some history on the Invitatory

The Invitatory

The invitatory dialogue contains four couplets: two verses of Scripture (Psalm 51:15 and Psalm 70:1) the Gloria Patri (glory be to the Father), and third verse (Psalm 135:1a). In the American Prayer Book tradition, the second couplet was omitted, until 1979 when the second couplet returned in place of the first in Evening Prayer. The final couplet was omitted only in the 1979 Book. Our Prayer Book restores the full English dialogue.

The Antiphons

In the American Prayer Book of 1928, nine antiphons were added for use with the Venite on particular occasions. In 1979 that collection was expanded to thirteen antiphons. Our Prayer Book preserves those thirteen antiphons but moves the ten appointed for specific seasons or holy days to an appendix after the Morning Prayer liturgy to keep the primary text less cluttered. Only the three for general use appear here on BCP 14. Furthermore, these antiphons remain optional.

Historically, in Anglican practice, antiphons have not been a feature. They are extremely common in historic Western liturgy, however – the Roman Rite at its height of complexity having multiple antiphons for every Psalm and Canticle according to season and occasion. At their best, they provide unique “book-ends” that color the worshiper’s experience of the Psalm or Canticle according to the occasion, and enrich the Church’s life of worship. The obvious challenge, of course, is the burdensome complexity that ensues which the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book explicitly endeavors to remedy.

By providing some antiphons on page 14 and collecting the other 10 on pages 29-30, our Prayer Book endeavors to strike a healthier balance between historical Western complexity and Anglican simplicity.

 

The Venite

The use of Psalm 95 as the “invitatory”, the invitation or call to worship, dates back at least to the Rule of Saint Benedict: it was to be prayed every morning at Matins. This was preserved in Archbishop Cranmer’s Prayer Book of 1549 and thereafter: it was called to be said or sung at Morning Prayer daily except for the 19th day of the month when it would be read as part of the Psalms Appointed, and on Easter Day when the Easter Anthem, Pascha Nostrum, was appointed instead. Furthermore, in the English Prayer Books the Venite included the “Glory be” at the end.

The American Prayer Book tradition diverged from this pattern. The Venite was now Psalm 95:1-7 followed by Psalm 96 verses 9 and 13. Furthermore, the Gloria Patri was rendered optional here. Again, it wasn’t until 1979 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was authorized for the invitatory psalm, and until 2019 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was printed in this place in the liturgy, albeit with verses 8-11 still labelled as optional outside of the season of Lent.

 

The Jubilate

In the classical Prayer Book tradition, the Jubilate Deo, or Psalm 100, was a canticle offered in place of the Benedictus, until the 1979 Prayer Book when instead it was included as an alternative to the Venite as the invitatory psalm. It was offered without rubrical directions, though one already accustomed to the Prayer Book tradition might most naturally consider the Jubilate to be a substitute for the Venite on the 19th day of the month when the Venite was formerly appointed to be omitted from the invitatory. Our Prayer Book also provides no rubrical guidance on the matter, so the same historically-minded intention may still be assumed.

 

Pascha Nostrum

The Pascha Nostrum, as indicated in its Scripture reference text, is an amalgamation of three New Testament texts strung together. Although this is an example from early Church history, Anglican liturgical practice has yielded several examples of collating multiple biblical texts into an eclectic but coherent whole for the purpose of worship.

This Easter Anthem has always been a part of the Prayer Book tradition, but its location has changed in modern practice. Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; since the 1979 Book it has been placed here within the Morning Prayer liturgy.

Originally this anthem was appointed only for Easter Day. The American 1892 Prayer Book uniquely added the Gloria Patri to it. The 1928 Prayer Book authorized the option of using this anthem throughout the Easter Octave (that is, from Easter Day through the First Sunday after Easter). The 1979 Book expanded this further still, appointing it for every day in Easter Week and making it optional every day until the Day of Pentecost. This has not changed in the 2019 Prayer Book, though the wording of the rubric has been altered.

There is also a custom in some places of using the Pascha Nostrum in place of the Gloria in excelsis Deo near the beginning of the Communion service, under the modern rubrics that allow other hymns of praise to take its place. Especially in church cultures where the Daily Office is not publicly offered, this can be an effective way of introducing elements of the Office liturgies to the congregation. Such points of contact and familiarity will prove helpful when teaching people to pray the Office.

An Exegesis of the Invitatory

The Venite, Psalm 95, is the historic standard “invitatory”, or call to worship, and even a cursory glance through its text reveals its aptness for the role.  The opening words “O come,” are followed by three “let us” statements, each giving different angles toward defining worship: singing, rejoicing, thankfulness and gladness, approaching God, and particularly using psalms.  The next verses provide reasons for worshiping God: his greatness and kingship, his ownership of all creation by virtue of being its Creator.  The result is a return to the opening verse: “O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  The emphasis on physical posture and gesture is not only symbolic of the disposition of the true worshiper’s heart but also instructive for the postures of right worship; indeed, one of the biblical terms for worship literally means “fall down before” or “prostrate.”

The tone of the second half of Psalm 95 turns suddenly to a dire warning against ignoring God’s voice and hardening against him.  The Exodus generation is invoked as an example of those who so spurned the Lord and received punishment for their rebellion.  These verses point back specifically to Exodus 17, and are in turn picked up for further explication in Hebrews 4 & 5.  The worshiper is reminded of the obligations of worship: praise is empty when not accompanied with (or followed by) obedience to the One who is praised.  Many Old Testament Prophets had strong condemnations for those who participated in divine worship but practiced unrighteousness, and Psalm 95 is our most prominent reminder within the liturgy of the Church that we, too, must practice in our lives the same faith we profess in the congregation.

 The Jubilate, Psalm 100, is a functional substitute for Psalm 95 but does not contain all the same elements.  A few similar phrases are found – 100:2 and 95:7 are almost identical – and the same invitation to worship the Lord is extended, but Psalm 100 lacks the “warning” verses, providing instead only the briefest hint in the words “it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.”

The Pascha Nostrum, as indicated in its Scripture reference text, is an amalgamation of three New Testament texts strung together, the word Alleluia (or “praise the Lord”) interspersed as an antiphon (a repeated word or phrase) between each section of the canticle.  Like the invitatory psalms the Pascha Nostrum invites people to worship – “let us keep the feast” – but instead of grounding the reason for this invitation in God’s kingship or ownership of the world as its Creator, it instead points to the new creation inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  The “warning” text of Psalm 95 is similarly transposed here: rather than dwelling on the danger of apostasy this canticle draws the Gospel connection between Christ’s death and the Christian’s death to sin.  This warning is not the cold hammer of the Law, but the healing embrace of the Gospel.

Ecce, Deus, it’s Trinitytide!

In the 2019 Prayer Book we’ve got a nice collection of ten Supplemental Canticles to spice up the Daily Office a bit.  I’ve written about them before, in general, and I’ve made recommendations as to when one might most appropriate use each of them.  You can find that article here.

Today let’s look at Canticle 8: Ecce, Deus, on page 85, which this Customary appoints for regular weekdays through Trinitytide.  This short canticle is taken from Isaiah 12:2-6, but if you compare the text of this Canticle to, say, the ESV translation of the Bible, you’ll find that the phraseology is quite different indeed.  Most of the differences are verb tenses (something that is honestly kind of squirrelly in Hebrew anyway) and prepositions (which also are pretty loose in Hebrew), which is already enough to give a different “feel” to a text without actually substantially changing the meaning.

As it turns out, the wording used in the Prayer Book is the same as that found in the 1979 Book, where Ecce Deus is Canticle 9 on page 86, named “The First Song of Isaiah.”  So this translation was done by the Rev. Dr. Charles Guilbert, who was heavily involved in the crafting of the 1979 Book and in particular its Psalter.

The text of the Canticle itself is actually two psalms strung together.  Isaiah 12:1-2 and 4-6 are brief songs of praise to God for his deliverance, connected by verse 3.  The first part is more directed toward God, speaking of and to him; the second has more of a human audience in mind, calling upon others to give God praise and thanks also.  Both in formal Bible translations and our liturgical translation, this pattern of praise followed by invitation can be discerned.

The rubric on page 85 indicate that it is appropriate for any time, noting that its themes and content have no specific connotation toward Easter or Advent or any other particular occasion – it is a Canticle for all seasons!  So this is as good a time as any to enjoy Ecce Deus, if you ask me.

Summarizing Eastertide

I know Eastertide is about to shift gears, or even end, depending upon how you understand the bounds of the Easter season, but it’s better late than never… here is the next video in my series on the Church Calendar.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Definition & Major Themes
  • 05:38 Historical Features
  • 09:06 Walk-through in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 12:40 Daily Office & other features
  • 17:36 A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return

Links for further reading:

The Canticle of Zechariah

The seasoned Anglican, or other tradition of Christianity also steeped in liturgy, will have an interesting experience this morning: the Canticle of Zechariah is in the New Testament Lesson!  On a practical lesson that means you should replace that Canticle with a different one in Morning Prayer today; prior Prayer Book tradition recommends the Jubilate, Psalm 100, which can be found a couple pages earlier in the Morning Prayer service, on page 15 of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.  Normally the Canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus, should not be replaced, remaining a static ingredient in the Daily Office of Morning Prayer.

Experientially, though, this is where things get interesting.  If you pray the Daily Office with any regularity, you’ll be used to the translation of the Canticle of Zechariah in the liturgy (whichever one you happen to use), and thus will be reading the awkwardly-different wording for it in your regular Bible today.  But that’s a good thing.  Every now and then it’s helpful to try a different translation of the Bible, as it can give different insights into the breadth and depth of meaning of the text.  You might want to pursue the rabbit trail of the subject of Bible translation; here are two videos:

  1. what sort of translations are there
  2. how to choose among them

Anyway, with that in mind, let’s glance at a couple examples where the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) and the 2019 Prayer Book give us different takes on the Canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.

The ESV uses the word “redeemed” where our Prayer Book renders it “set them free.”  Both of these terms are, of course, helpful.  “Redeem” is a key biblical term and it’s important to note it and retain it, as the Apostles did as they appropriated Old Testament language into their own writings.  But it’s also helpful to tease out the various meanings of redemption, and being set free is one of those aspects.  It sounds rather clinical, or even businesslike, to say God redeemed us.  To say he set us free carries a lot more emotional relatability.  So it’s quite appropriate that our formal Bible translation says “redeem” while our liturgy is more poetic.

to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.

One of the features of modern English compared to Early Modern English and many other languages (especially Koine Greek) is that we like short sentences today.  The ESV tries very hard to preserve the Greek run-on sentence, and that’s great – it helps the reader notice the connectedness of the front half of this canticle, even if it makes it harder to read at first.  But in the course of the liturgy, we want to be able to offer up this song-prayer with ease and beauty, so almost every verse is made into its own sentence.

to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
To give his people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of their sin.

In both cases, this verse is connected to the previous as part of a larger sentence; this is what Zechariah’s child, John the Baptist, would go on to do as the Prophet of the Most High.  The word order of these two translations is slightly different, but the main difference is in the preposition of the second half: “in” or “by” the forgiveness of their sin(s).  Prepositions like these can be very tricky.  Sometimes we use them loosely and think little of them.  Sometimes we make Really Big Deals about the little nuanced differences between them.  Seeing two different prepositions used here, therefore, helps clue us in to how we might best handle its meaning.  In the liturgical text, people are given knowledge of salvation BY the forgiveness of their sin; and the ESV translation says knowledge of salvation comes IN the forgiveness of sins.  So the act or reality of forgiveness is something of an instrument for bring about salvation… IN and BY the cross, for example, Jesus enacts the salvation of the world, the forgiveness of sins.

Anyway, this is just a fun opportunity to experience this text in a different translation than we’re probably used to.  Plus there’s also the dynamic of reading a canticle as a Scripture Lesson rather than as a Canticle on its own.  I’ve noted something of that dynamic in a previous entry you’re welcome to look back on, too.

Learning the Daily Office – part 5 of 12

So you’ve heard about the Daily Office, specifically the Anglican tradition of daily prayer and scripture reading, and you want to enter into this beautiful and formative tradition?  Great, grab a prayer book and go!  Except, maybe someone already said that and you don’t know where to start… or worse, you did try it and it was just too much?  The length of the Office was overwhelming and the contents too complicated to navigate when you’ve got no experience with liturgy.  We understand, we’ve all been at that place before!  Some just don’t remember it as well as others.

Diving into the full Prayer Book life of worship doesn’t work for everyone; sometimes you have to work your way up toward that discipline, adding one piece at a time as you grow comfortable with each feature and learn how to “do” them all.  This post series is basically a twelve-step program to help you advance in the life of disciplined prayer from zero to super-Anglican.  The pace is up to you – the goal of this sort of spiritual discipline is consistency, not “how much” you do.

Step One: Pray a Psalm followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Step Two: Add a Scripture Reading
Step Three: Add more Psalms and Lessons
Step Four: Add the Apostles’ Creed

Step Five: Add Canticles

In terms of content and outline, you’ve already reached a distinctly historic Christian pattern of worship.  This step adds in “Canticles”, which are occasionally Psalms but usually Psalm-like texts from other parts of the Bible, to be read after each Scripture Lesson.  This is where you really start entering into the liturgical history of the Church!

Functionally, this step does not introduce anything new; you started with learning to pray the psalms, and the Canticles work exactly the same way.  Experientially this is purely a matter of logistics: all the Psalms Appointed for the morning or evening are prayed together, then you get the Lessons, both of which are followed by a Canticle.

In Morning Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 17 – you’ll see two choices (Te Deum laudamus and Benedictus es, Domine) for the first one and the Benedictus for the second.  In Evening Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 45 – the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.  There are also Supplemental Canticles for Worship starting on page 79 and I do have a guide to choosing among them, but it’s simplest to stick with the primary ones provided in the Morning and Evening Office liturgies and get used to them first.  The supplemental canticles are just that – supplemental.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. First Canticle
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Second Canticle
  6. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  7. The Lord’s Prayer

This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about ten to fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening.  You are now also engaging with four different places in the Prayer Book: the middle of the Morning Prayer liturgy, the middle of the Evening Prayer liturgy, the Psalter, and the Daily Office Lectionary.

Once you get used to this, you’ll be well-positioned to fill out the rest of the Daily Office liturgies.  Chances are that the next couple steps will progress quickly.

A Guide to choosing the Supplemental Canticles

One of the features of the 2019 Prayer Book that has raised eyebrows among the hard-core prayer book traditionalists, and perhaps evoked mixed reactions from those familiar with the 1979 Prayer Book also, is the section of the book called Supplemental Canticles for Worship.  Starting on page 79, after the Family Prayer and Additional Prayers, these are ten canticles that are offered for use in the Daily Office, each with a rubric recommendation of when it is “especially suitable” – Magna et mirabilia for Advent or Easter, Surge illuminare for Epiphany, and so forth.

The improvement here over against the 1979 Prayer Book is that the primary texts of the Daily Offices are not cluttered with a massive pile of Canticles to wade through.  This also gives place of preference for the historic canticles (Te Deum and Benedictus for the Morning, and Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in the Evening).  Those who want to “complicate” the Office, by drawing from a larger number of canticles, will not be overly bothered by the extra page-flip involved in doing so.

Let’s say you’re a regularly pray-er of the Office, or are getting into it now with this new prayer book.  How should you go about choosing these canticles?  When should you use them?  Which of the standard options should they replace?  To answer this question, let’s start with the “liturgical standard” of 1662.

The “original” Canticles

In Morning Prayer the first canticle was the Te Deum laudamus or Benedicite omnia opera (of which our Canticle 10 is a slightly-streamlined reduction).  The second canticle was the Benedictus, except for when it shows up as a reading at Morning Prayer or the Holy Communion; on those handful of days each year the Jubilate Deo (Psalm 100) is appointed instead.

In Evening Prayer the first canticle was the Magnificat or Cantate Domino (Psalm 98), the only stipulation being that the latter may not be used on the 19th day of the month, when that psalm is one of the regularly-appointed psalms of the day.  The second canticle was the Nunc dimittis or Deus misereatur (Psalm 67) with the same stipulation as before – no repeating the psalm on the 12th day of the month.

In our American context it is worth noting that by the time of the 1928 Prayer Book, further options had emerged.  Along with the Te Deum and the Benedicite was also offered the Benedictus es, which we find as an option alongside the Te Deum in the 2019 Prayer Book.  In Evening Prayer, alongside the Magnificat and Psalm 98 was added Psalm 92; and alongside the Nunc dimittis and Psalm 67 was added Psalm 103 (well, a portion of it).

Between this, and other similar features of the Office in the 1928 Prayer Book, and there can be seen a clear trajectory of diversification when it comes to canticle usage.

the Canticles before the Payer Book

Another factor that may guide how we go about utilizing the canticles at our disposal (in any prayer book, but especially the 2019) is how the canticles were handled in the liturgy of the hours, the Offices, before the first Prayer Book of 1549.  After all, Archbishop Cranmer didn’t just slap together a few random psalm and canticles, he was drawing from centuries of tradition and practice, simplifying what was needlessly complex and streamlining the wide sprawl of medieval monastic practice into something that all the laity could follow.

One major feature of canticle use was the trio of Gospel Canticles.  I’ve written about them before, but in a nutshell these were standard daily canticles that were (as far as I’m aware) never replaced with substitutions.  The Benedictus was said every morning, the Magnificat every evening, and Nunc dimittis every night (compline).  You can see a hint of that in the 1662 rubric concerning the Benedictus – that it should only be replaced with Psalm 100 when its text shows up in one of the readings that morning.

As for the Te Deum, I am generally aware (but not authoritatively certain) that it was appointed to be said in one of the morning Offices on Sundays and Holy Days.  This is also vaguely affirmed by the fact that, in prayer book history, it has the largest number of substitutions allowed.

the Saint Aelfric Customary – on the Canticles

Given all this, what’s our recommendation for using the canticles in the 2019 Prayer Book?  Table first, brief explanations after…

Morning Prayer

  • First Canticle
    • Te Deum laudamus (page 17) on Sundays, weekdays in Christmastide, and other Holy Days
    • Magna et mirabilia (Canticle 1) on weekdays during Advent (and perhaps the first Sunday)
    • Surge illuminare (Canticle 2) on weekdays during Epiphanytide (perhaps including Epiphany Day itself)
    • Benedictus es (page 18) on weekdays during Lent (and perhaps the first Sunday)
    • Cantemus Domino (Canticle 5) on weekdays during Eastertide
    • Dignus es (Canticle 6) on weekdays from Ascension Day through Pentecost week
    • Ecce Deus (Canticle 8) on weekdays during Trinitytide
    • Benedicite (Canticle 10) on Saturdays during Trinitytide
  • Second Canticle
    • Benedictus (page 19) except when it’s in a reading for that morning
    • Jubilate (Psalm 100, taken from the invitatory option on page 15)

Evening Prayer

  • First Canticle
    • Magnificat (page 45) except when it’s in a reading for that evening
    • Cantate Domino (Canticle 7) on those couple days a year
  • Second Canticle
    • Nunc dimittis (page 46) except for the following…
    • Quaerite Dominum (Canticle 4) on Monday through Friday during Advent
    • Kyrie Pantokrator (Canticle 3) on Monday through Friday during Lent
    • Deus misereatur (Canticle 9) on Monday through Friday during Epiphanytide and Trinitytide

Explanations

Two of the three Gospel Canticles are kept stable with almost no exceptions – the Benedictus and Magnificat only get replaced when their text will be read in a lesson at same time of day.  What the 1662 book extended to the Benedictus, we also extend here to the Magnificat.  The Nunc dimittis doesn’t receive this treatment however because it is a mainstay in Compline, which is now available in our prayer book.

Speaking of Compline, its seasonal replacements only apply “Monday through Friday.”  This is because Saturday evenings are the “Eve of” a Sunday, and thus the ‘feast day’ quality of a Sunday begins to apply, hence the retention of the Nunc dimittis on Saturday nights.  Indeed in many liturgical texts of a more Roman style, Saturday evening and night are called “Sunday I” and Sunday evening and night called “Sunday II.”  We need not complicate our liturgy with such terms, but the principles are still sound.

It falls, then, to the Te Deum to receive the largest number of substitutions, rendering that Canticle primarily a feast-day role.  Most of the seasonal substitutions note that they may be used “perhaps on the first Sunday” or something to that effect; this is for the benefit of those who hold regular Sunday Morning Prayer services and wish to utilize occasional seasonal changes while still retaining the Te Deum as the primary regular first canticle.

In order to divide the ten Supplemental Canticles across the various seasonal options, it became necessary to ignore or narrow two of their rubric recommendations: Canticle 1 we appoint in Advent only and not also Easter, and Canticle 4 we appoint in Advent instead of Lent.  But because the rubrics in question are only recommendations, there is no rule violation involved here.

About that Magnificat…

One of the ancient staples of Christian prayer is the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1, after Mary and Elizabeth have their encounter with their respective unborn sons recognizing one another in utero.  It has been associated with Vespers, or Evening Prayer, for many centuries, and the Anglican Prayer Book tradition is no exception.  The 1662 Prayer Book appoints it for Evening Prayer every day, all year, only replacing it with a Psalm when its text will appear in a lesson that day.  Subsequent Prayer Books, including ours, do not make that rule explicit, and so we technically do have more leeway with replacing the Magnificat with another Canticle, but in the spirit of the prayer book tradition, we should not.

And with good reason – the Magnificat is a fantastic song-prayer.  And its words are… startling.  The first half of it celebrates what God has done with, in, and through Mary herself, and the second half of it celebrates what God has done for the whole world.  “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the humble and meek.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent empty away.”  Taken in a (very) anachronistic context, this could be an anthem for class warfare!  But this is prophetic language – a survey of the Old Testament prophets will yield multiple hits of phrases like these.  The work of God, however spiritualized and gospel-centric you describe it, still yields real-work effects.  Sometimes such in-breaking of the Kingdom of God can resemble all sorts of political and economic and social theories without actually confining itself to any one of them.  So while one can not read the Magnificat as a socialist manifesto, one can see elements of a socialist ideal drawn from the Magnificat.  Sure, Marx was an anti-religious nut who didn’t always know what he was criticizing, but that didn’t stop him from absorbing select elements of the Gospel.

The Kingdom of God is like that… it gets everywhere and changes the world in all sorts of ways, whether every individual accepts it wholesale or not.

Meanwhile, regarding the first half of the Magnificat, we can learn a startling amount about the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.  Since we’re in the the midst of Advent now, and that’s basically the only time of year most Protestants dare breathe the name of Mary out loud, let’s talk about her.  What do Anglicans believe about the Virgin Mary?

Subject Index:
* 00:00 Yes Mary did know! (see this for more)
* 02:05 Lessons from the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
* 07:25 Lessons from the Early Church (the Mother of God / theotokos)
* 08:51 An Anglican take on approaching Mariology
* 12:37 Lessons from the Anglican Prayer Book (a “pure Virgin”)
* 19:22 Summary wrap-up which is a bit scatterbrained because I had a headcold at the time, sorry

The Least-read book of the Bible?

Article VI famously lists the biblical canon for the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the “Other books” commonly called Apocrypha (for which I’ve taken preference to the particularly Anglican term Ecclesiastical Books).  Not every book listed in that third category has shown up in Anglican lectionaries.

  • Tobit, Judith, Wisdom (of Solomon), and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) were read in full in the original Daily Office lectionary.  Our 2019 lectionary highlights the majority of those books, yet curiously and sadly omits Tobit entirely.
  • 1 & 2 Maccabees were not touched by the original Daily lectionary, but are very briefly sampled in the 2019 lectionary.
  • The additions to Esther and to Daniel were not originally included, but the former at least were always easy to add in as lengthened readings.  The 2019 lectionary includes one of the additions to Daniel (Susanna), and the Prayer Book tradition has always included another addition to Daniel (the Song of the Three Young Men) among its Morning Prayer canticles.
  • The Prayer of Manasseh, too, has in recent times been distilled into a canticle.
  • A few snippets of 2 Esdras (or 4 Ezra) have appeared in some 20th century Daily lectionaries, including the first draft (but not final copy) of the 2019’s.

That leaves 1 Esdras (or 2 or 3 Ezra) as the only one that isn’t used at all in Anglican liturgy, despite being listed as a canonical book in Article VI useful for reading and instruction.  The reason for this is the same as the reason why 1 & 2 Chronicles were omitted from the original Daily Office lectionary (and are still only sampled in the 2019) – because the vast majority of the book is redundant.  For the most part, 1 Esdras repeats the end of 2 Chronicles and the majority of the book of Ezra.

If you want to know more about this under-noticed book, watch on!

Singing Simplified Anglican Chant

Ideally, both according to Prayer Book tradition as well as the general history Christian worship, the Psalms are most appropriate sung, not simply read aloud.  And when people talk about singing, that universally means chanting (until, say, the 14th century when modern European music began to emerge out of the Greco-Roman chant tradition).  Among the early Anglican Reformers, chant did get a new lease on life in the English language thanks to composers like John Merbecke, but for the most part among Anglicans the chant tradition went into hibernation in the 17th and 18th centuries, finally to re-emerge in 19th century as “Anglican Chant.”

Anglican Chant is distinct from plainchant or Gregorian chant in that it has contemporary harmonizations – a choir or congregation can chant together in four-part harmony.  Thus it utilizes the melodic simplicity of plainchant and the harmonic beauty of English hymnody.  Anglican Chant also stands distinct from ancient plainchant in that it has very little over-arching regulation on matching tunes to texts.  So there is much more room for freedom of expression, new chant tunes and combinations, and even in pointing the text (meaning, lining up the text with the notes).

Why Anglican Chant?  The singing of “metric psalms” enjoyed pride of place for those couple centuries when chant was in remission.  Metric psalms are perhaps easier for us to sing because they use familiar tunes and styles.  The downside of metric psalms, however, is that the Psalms are not written in English poetic rhythms or rhyme schemes, necessitating an entirely new translation.  This means neglect of the beautiful Psalter in our Prayer Books, less standardization of the actual translation (so the formation value is less prominent), and a much looser translation overall in order to force thousands-of-years-old poems into modern poetic styles.  If you use plainchant, or Anglican chant, you don’t have to re-translate the Psalms, but sing the text as it stands.  And to those of us who care deeply about the Word of God, that should be a very important consideration indeed!

There are videos on YouTube such as this one which can help you learn Anglican Chant.  There are also books and hymnals that have detailed written explanations.  But what I’d like to introduce you to here is Simplified Anglican Chant.  As the name suggests, this is a simpler version of the Anglican Chant you’ll hear and see in the videos and books above.

Simplified Anglican Chant is notated as four measures of music with two sets of notes each.  Each measure equals one half-verse of Psalm text.  Thus one full line of Simplified Anglican Chant equals two verses in the text of the Psalm.*  The majority of the half-verse is sung on the first note; the last ‘strong’ syllable is where you switch to the second note.

If you have the Book of Common Praise 2017, you’ll find an excellent explanation of this, complete with pictures, at “hymn” #738a.  Hymns #739-750 are twelve different Simplified Anglican Chant tunes.

Whether you have that book or not, however, you can take a look at this video I put together a little while ago.  In it, I go over some of the basics described above, and then demonstrate a few verses of Psalm 96 (which is among this morning’s appointed psalms, by the way).

The sample tune I used is not one of the twelve in the hymnal; it’s just one I vaguely remembered from when I was in a church choir nearly nine years ago.

simplified anglican chant

* From the 2017 hymnal: “But what if a psalm contains an odd number of verses rather than an even number?  Rather than finish the chant formula halfway through, which would be musically unfulfilling, the congregation can repeat the second half of the chant formula (measures 3 and 4) for the last verse of the psalm.