Learning the Daily Office – part 12 of 12

Well, you’re a regular at the Daily Office, now, that’s awesome.  You want to pray more?  Even more awesome!

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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory
Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day
Step Ten: Add the Closing Prayers
Step Eleven: Supplement it with Occasional Prayers

Step Twelve: Supplement it with Hymnody

After reading the three Collects and Prayers, and before the closing sequence of prayers, there is a line where further prayers are invited.  It also notes that an anthem may be sung.  This is where you can begin to transform “the Daily Office” into “the Choral Service”, or Evening Prayer to “Evensong”!

Any Anglican Hymnal worth its salt has a section for Morning Hymns and a section for Evening Hymns, and those are the perfect places to start when it comes to adding music to the Daily Office.  Like the Collects for each day of the week, these hymns pay particular attention to the time of day, drawing beautiful connections between “natural time” and “sacred time”.  You may also find the hymns for each season of the church calendar to be nice points of connection between your recitation of the Office and the celebration of Holy Communion on Sundays.  If you want to think big, and look at how to sing the whole hymnal in a year, I’ve got you covered!

The simplest places to add hymnody to the Daily Office are three: the aforementioned Anthem towards the end of both Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Phos hilaron, which can be substituted for any hymn.  After that you could consider where to insert additional hymns – perhaps at the very beginning or end.  Technically even the Canticles can be substituted out for hymns, but that would be less desirable from a traditional standpoint.

Good Anglican hymnals also usually include a setting or two of “The Choral Service”, which sets some of the prayers of the Daily Office to chant.  If you are so inclined, you could pick up a hymnal or similar book, and do that too.

With music and additional prayers, the Daily Office can take up to half an hour.  This can be difficult to sustain in this busy world, but I love it when I have the time and discipline to make that happen!  Just remember that supplements are supplements, not requirements.  You may not always be able to make use of every option to expand the Daily Office, and sometimes will have to make use of the rubrics to reduce and truncate them instead.  The goal, as I’ve said throughout this series, is consistency.  Not every day will see you feeling or acting up to snuff, and that’s alright.  The point is that you have a stable life of prayer and worship such that, when things go awry for a little while, you’re not thrown completely off the spiritual track.  Along those lines, the Daily Office is unbeatable.  Godspeed!

Learning the Daily Office – part 11 of 12

Well, you’re a regular at the Daily Office, now, that’s awesome.  You want to pray more?  Even more awesome!

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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory
Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day
Step Ten: Add the Closing Prayers

Step Eleven: Supplement it with Occasional Prayers

After reading the three Collects and Prayers, and before the closing sequence of prayers, there is a line where further prayers are invited.  You could add your own prayers, on the spot, if you so choose.  Perhaps you’ve already been doing that.  But you could also be drawing upon a larger collection of Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings, that start on page 641.  There are 125 prayers in that list, which is a lot to take in.  Most of the classical prayer books provided a smaller list of extra prayers, tacked onto the end of Morning Prayer, but the list has grown so large that it’s been moved to a sort of appendix location where you can draw upon it regardless to the particular Office you may be saying at the time.

If you want to go about using the Occasional Prayers in an orderly manner, feel free to use the outline provided in a previous article.

Learning the Daily Office – part 10 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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory
Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day

Step Ten: Add the Closing Prayers

The last thing to add to the Daily Office are the closing prayers at the end of the service.  These are the same in both morning and evening: a General Thanksgiving, a Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, a quick dialogue, and a final “grace” or “blessing” (on pages 25-26 and 51-53).

Historically, most of these have been optional prayers to tack onto the end of the Daily Office, and most of them remain optional even in our new Prayer Book.  And indeed it may make more sense to omit the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom when you’re praying the Office alone, since it makes reference to the gathering of people in prayer.  Nevertheless, be sure to read it from time to time anyway, because even though you may be praying alone in the physical sense, you are indeed praying in spiritual unity with untold thousands of fellow Anglicans.

If you’re so inclined, the first of the three closing sentences (sometimes called “graces” or “blessings”) is an excellent opportunity to make the sign of the cross, at the three-fold name of God: Father (up), Son (down), and Holy Spirit (left, right).

Summary

You are now praying the entire Daily Office, by the book, without omission.  If you’re doing this comfortably, you can (and probably should!) invite others to join you.  Include your family, or invite some other church members to join in with you!  Maybe even talk to your priest about doing this in the church itself.  Historically, every parish church was supposed to provide the daily rounds of prayer in full, after all.  Wouldn’t that be amazing if God’s people once again could be so moved to daily corporate prayer?

Midday Prayer could take all afternoon!

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On page 39 of the BCP 2019 the following rubric is found:

Other suitable selections from the Psalter include Psalms 19, 67, one or more sections of Psalm 119, or a selection from Psalms 120 through 133.

This is to supplement what is said on page 33:

One or more of the following, or some other suitable Psalm, is sung or said.

So what if (and just go with me on this, okay?) we decide to put the emphasis on the “or more” part of these rubrics.  What if we opt for ALL OF THEM?  Psalms 19, 67, and 119 through 133.  That’s completely permissible, given the rubrics we’ve got.  How long would that take, maybe an hour?  I guess it depends how quickly you read, pray, or chant them.

Welcome to Weird Rubric Wednesday!  Not quite every Wednesday, but most Wednesdays for a while, we’re going to be looking at oddities, loopholes, or opportunities to do weird things to the liturgy without breaking the rules in the 2019 Prayer Book.  This is not meant to bash the Prayer Book (in any edition), but simply an opportunity for some more light-hearted learning.

As it happens, I do have a suggestion for how one might make use of all of those “suitable Psalms” in Midday Prayer over the course of time.  It can be approached in three ways.

Ordinary days of the year like during Epiphanytide and Trinitytide:
Favor the four Psalms provided in the primary text of the liturgy, and add three noteworthy Psalms mentioned in the Additional Directions (19, 67, and 130).

SUNDAY: 67
MONDAY: 119:105-112
TUESDAY: 121
WEDNESDAY: 124
THURSDAY: 126
FRIDAY: 130
SATURDAY: 19

Penitential seasons and occasions like during Lent and Advent:
Set up a two-week rotation (matching the liturgical calendar) that focuses primarily on going through Psalm 119, two sections at a time.  Sunday can use the more penitential of the two of the primary-provided Psalms, and the last slot can go to Psalm 19 which is similar to 119.

124, 126 : SUNDAY : 124, 126
19 : MONDAY : 119:81-96
119:1-16 : TUESDAY : 119:97-112
119:17-32 :WEDNESDAY: 119:113-128
119:33-48 : THURSDAY : 119:129-144
119:49-64 : FRIDAY : 119:145-160
119:65-80 :SATURDAY: 119:161-176

Festal seasons and occasions like during Christmas and Easter:
Walk through the Psalms of ascent listed in the Additional Directions, using the same sort of two-week rotation mentioned above.

120 : SUNDAY : 127
121 : MONDAY : 128
122 : TUESDAY : 129
123 :WEDNESDAY: 130
124 : THURSDAY : 131
125 : FRIDAY : 132
126 :SATURDAY: 133

Learning the Daily Office – part 9 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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory

Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day

You’ll be aware that, in the Prayers, we’ve been skipping the Collect of the Day.  Now it’s time to add that in.  Under where it says “The Collect of the Day” it notes that you can find them in “The Collects of the Christian Year” section of the Prayer Book.  In the rubrics above (in italics) you’ll see it names pages 598-640 for that section.

Functionally, this is a very simple addition: look up the Collect of the Day that applies, and pray it at this point in the service.  Most of the time, the Collect of the Day is the same all week, based upon the most recent Sunday.  But there are also holy days that come with their own Collect of the Day.  The Prayer Book’s calendar also directs that the Collects for Sundays and Holy Days are normally to be used starting at Evening Prayer before the day in question begins.  The experiential challenge here is that you need to understand the basics of the Church Calendar in order to find the correct Collect of the Day.  Presumably, you’ve been going to an Anglican church for a while, if you’ve put this much effort into learning to pray the Anglican Daily Office, so that experience should be enough to give you a sense of where you are in the year.  You’ll hear the Collect of the Day for each Sunday at the communion service, right before the readings, so that’ll tell you if you grabbed the right one the evening before and earlier that morning, and it’ll set you straight for the rest of the week (again, except for other holy days that might come up).

It may be helpful to buy a special calendar, or use your prayer book to mark one up yourself ahead of time, so you can easily see what the Collect of the Day every day.  This can be a fun activity to do with kids, too, inviting them to color each day’s box the traditional liturgical color… my four-year-old loves it!

The main point of this piece of the Daily Office is to provide a tie-in to the liturgical rounds of prayer that are more fully emphasized in the Service of Holy Communion.  For the most part, the Daily Office is meant to be a stable liturgy, changing little from day to day and season to season, the Collect being one of its only links to the ebb and flow of our liturgical year.  And so, learning to identify the Collect of the Day is a milestone in your education of the liturgy, connecting your regular daily prayers to the life of the greater Church beyond your home.

That being said, don’t worry overmuch about this.  Most of the time, the Collect of the Day is just an extra bookmark in your Prayer Book where it simply moves from Sunday to Sunday.  If you miss a holy day or grab the wrong week from time to time, you’ll survive.  Liturgy is meant to be formative, not stressful.  Checking in at church each Sunday will usually provide you with everything you “need to know” about this piece of it.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. (Opening Sentence)
  2. The Confession of Sin
  3. The Invitatory
  4. Invitatory Psalm or Phos Hilaron
  5. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  6. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  7. First Canticle
  8. New Testament Lesson
  9. Second Canticle
  10. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  11. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. The Collect of the Day
    5. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    6. A Prayer for Mission

This covers almost the entire Prayer Book liturgy for daily Morning and Evening Prayer.  Two more steps remain to complete it, and then two extra steps to expand it further if you are so inclined.

Learning the Daily Office – part 8 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
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers

Step Eight: Add the Invitatory

After the Confession of Sin you’ve probably noticed a little dialogue: “O Lord, open our lips / and our mouth shall proclaim your praise” and so on.  This is called the Invitatory – a fancy description of something that invites us to worship.  Included in it is the Gloria Patri – “Glory be to the Father…” – which you will find is also said at the end of most of the Canticles.  If you haven’t already noticed and implemented it, now’s also the time to add this Gloria Patri to the end of the regular Psalms Appointed, too.

The lines “O Lord open our lips…” are from a Psalm, but their liturgical use in the Offices dates to monastic tradition; the idea was that this dialogue was the beginning of the first morning office, effectively being the first thing the monk says each day.  Although this is not the case for us, nor is it even the beginning of the liturgy, it is like the beginning of the liturgy.  If you conceive of the Confession as preparatory to praising God, then the Invitatory dialogue is where our praises actually do begin.

After this dialogue, Morning and Evening Prayer diverge from one another.

Morning Prayer sees an “invitatory psalm” take place, which is traditionally Psalm 95 (Venite), though when that psalm shows up as one of the daily psalms appointed our tradition is to replace it with Psalm 100 (Jubilate).  On Easter the Pascha nostrum takes their place.  You’ll also see a set of Antiphons, which are brief phrases (often based on bible verses) to be said before and after the invitatory psalm.  Catholic tradition is full of antiphons, but our prayer book only provides them for this one place in the liturgy.  Even here, it’s optional, so don’t worry about them if you find it too much.  They’re there to beautify and enrich the liturgy, so if they’re a burden, don’t worry!

Evening Prayer is simpler: we find the Phos hilaron, an ancient Christian hymn, to be read between the dialogue and the Psalms.  It explores the image of Christ as our Light, which has earned it a beloved place in the liturgical tradition.  The classical prayer books didn’t have anything here for Evening Prayer, so the Phos hilaron remains optional.  Or you can read or sing a different hymn instead, if you prefer.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. (Opening Sentence)
  2. The Confession of Sin
  3. The Invitatory
  4. Invitatory Psalm or Phos Hilaron
  5. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  6. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  7. First Canticle
  8. New Testament Lesson
  9. Second Canticle
  10. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  11. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    5. A Prayer for Mission

This covers almost the entire Prayer Book liturgy for daily Morning and Evening Prayer.  Two more steps remain to complete it, and then two extra steps to expand it further if you are so inclined.

What’s different in the liturgy now that it’s Lent?

Welcome to Ash Wednesday, the common name for The First Day of Lent.  Occasionally you’ll see today called quadragesima because there are now 40 days left (excluding Sundays) until Easter Day.  Let the 40-day fast begin!

One of the main questions I get from non-liturgical Christians, concerning Lent, is “what do you differently during this time?”  This blog post is aimed at answering that question – partly for the benefit of those who are wondering the same thing, but also as a reminder to my fellow Anglican readers who might need a reminder of some of the changes, or possible changes, in the daily course of our liturgy.

Today’s  differences

For those of us using the 2019 Daily Lectionary, or one of the historic daily lectionaries that uses the regular calendar, we may need the reminder that today’s lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer are interrupted from the regular course.  At the bottom of page 740 in the BCP 2019 you’ll see the following readings appointed for today:

  • Isaiah 58:1-12 & Luke 18:9-14 for the Morning
  • Jonah 3 & 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for the Evening

To that I would recommend another traditional-for-this-day reading, Hebrews 12:3-17, for Midday Prayer.

At the Holy Communion (or in place of it, if the Communion itself isn’t actually going to be celebrated) we have a special liturgy in the 2019 Book, starting on page 543, and prefaced by a handy introduction to this day (and Lent in general) on page 542.  It’s worth reminding ourselves that the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a custom that was removed from Anglican practice during the Reformation, and not formally put into a Prayer Book until 1979, though the Anglo-Catholic movement had provided extra-liturgical material to sneak the practice back into the liturgy before it was embraced by the church as a whole.  You can read last year’s note about Ash-less Wednesday here.

Also, remember that today’s Collect of the Day is now the Collect of the Day for the rest of this week!

Morning Prayer during Lent

There are some extra Opening Sentences of Scripture appropriate for this season on page 27.

The Venite (Psalm 95) should be said in full daily this season, if you don’t normally do so already.  Keep in mind that you can bookend it with a Lenten antiphon from page 30!

The first Canticle, Te Deum laudamus, is recommended in our Prayer Book to be replaced with the Benedictus es, Domine on page 18.  This Customary would recommend retaining the Te Deum on Sundays and other major holy days, however.

If you don’t normally do so, make a point of praying the Great Litany (page 91) after Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Evening Prayer during Lent

There are some extra Opening Sentences of Scripture appropriate for this season on page 54.

The second canticle, Nunc dimittis, could be replaced by Canticle 3, Kyrie Pantokrator, most evenings.  We’d recommend doing so on Monday through Friday.

The Minor Offices during Lent

The “Alleluia” after the invitatory dialogue is to be omitted now.

For Midday Prayer, it may be a good idea to make use of one the Additional Directions and make more extensive use of Psalm 119 throughout the season.  Consider this two-week rotation of Midday Psalms:

  • <week 1> :day: <week 2>
  • 124, 126 :Sundays: 124, 126
  • 19 :Mondays: 119:81-96
  • 119:1-16 :Tuesdays: 119:97-112
  • 119:17-32 :Wednesdays: 119:113-128
  • 119:33-48 :Thursdays: 119:129-144
  • 119:49-64 :Fridays: 119:145-160
  • 119:65-80 :Saturdays: 119:161-176

Consider making more frequent use of Matthew 11:28-30 as the Lesson at Compline.

The Holy Communion during Lent

There is an Acclamation appropriate for Lent on page 146, and another one for Holy Week.

This is a good season to make weekly use of the Decalogue (page 100) instead of the Summary of the Law if you don’t normally already.

The Gloria in excelsis is traditionally omitted during Lent.  Consider replacing it with a hymn from the Lent section of your hymnal, just to emphasize the season difference in mood.

The First Sunday in Lent is one of the traditional days to read The Exhortation (page 147).

Consider using Offertory Sentences (page 149) that are more pointed about spiritual disciplines, such as Matthew 7:21, 1 John 3:17, and Tobit 4:8-9.  This could be especially effective if you normally use the same one every week, memorized from the list in 1979 Book.

The “alleluia” in the Fraction dialogue (on page 118/135) is to be omitted now.

If you don’t normally prayer the Prayer of Humble Access and the Agnus Dei (page 119/135), this is the season to start.  (Pro-tip: never stop using them!)

In fact, if your congregation normally uses the “Renewed Ancient Text”, I cannot heartily-enough encourage you to switch to the “Anglican Standard Text” at least for Lent.  You’ll get more direct prayers of confession and of consecration (not to mention historically Anglican prayers).

Other Spiritual Practices

The classical Prayer Books appointed the Collect for Ash Wednesday to be used after the Collect of the Day throughout the season of Lent.  I’m not so sure the 2019 Prayer Book intends to allow that, so consider making use of this Collect elsewhere – in the additional prayers at the end of an Office, or after the Prayers of the People at the Communion, or in your private prayers and devotions.

On page 689 our calendar directs The weekdays of Lent and every Friday of the year (outside the 12 Days of Christmas the 50 days of Eastertide) are encouraged as days of fasting.  The classical Prayer Books were more direct about the expectation (not just encouragement) that we should fast.  We’re not Romanists, so we don’t have elaborate standardized definitions of what “counts” as fasting; we have the freedom in Christ to fast according to conscience, as the Bible indicates.  Nevertheless, some advice is helpful, and our calendar provides some: Fasting, in addition to reduced consumption, normally also includes prayer, self-examination, and acts of mercy.  It is popular to “give something up for Lent”, or to “take something on for Lent”, and almost all of those particular expressions of Lenten devotion are summed up in that one sentence.  Consider how you might mark this season in your own lifestyle, and give it a go.

Learning the Daily Office – part 7 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
Step Six: Add the Confession

Step Seven: Add some Prayers

Now it’s time to develop your utilization of the Prayer Book.  You’re already reading the Confession, Psalms, Canticles, and Apostles’ Creed from it, now it’s time for some further prayers.  In Morning Prayer pages 21-24 and in Evening Prayer pages 47-51 you will see that the Lord’s Prayer is preceded and followed by a larger sequence of Prayers.  The Kyrie (“Lord have mercy…”) comes first, and after the Lord’s Prayer comes a “Suffrage” (a back-and-forth set of versicles and responses, mostly taken from the Psalms), and after that a pile of “collects” and prayers.

A Collect is a specific form of prayer, and the Prayer Book has tons of them.  The usual structure of a collect is:

  1. an address to God (identifying a name or attribute or work of God)
  2. a specific petition or request
  3. a reason for that petition or request, often linking back to the address
  4. an appeal to the name of Jesus

In the 2019 Prayer Book you’ll the first Collect listed is “The Collect of the Day” – feel free to skip that for now; we’ll add it in later.  For now, we’re focusing on developing your use of the Prayer Book liturgy without adding more page-flips.

Instead, finish your prayer times now with the Kyrie, Lord’s Prayer, a set of Suffrages, the Collect for the Day of the Week, and a Prayer for Mission.  Morning and Evening Prayer provide different lists of prayers for this section, so your experiences of morning and evening are going to start diverging at this point.

You’ll notice that some of these prayers in Morning Prayer draw upon the image and reality of the beginning of the day, and Evening Prayer draws upon the images of darkness and light as pictures of death and life.  Time and nature are explicitly now being drawn into your prayer life, and that’s a beautiful thing!

You’ll see that there are a couple more prayers and lines of other text after the prayers we’ve listed here, but don’t worry about them for now.  Historically, those have been optional, almost thought of in an after-the-liturgy kind of status, so we’re going to save those for later.  You’re welcome to plough ahead and include them now if you like, but don’t feel pressured.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Confession of Sin
  2. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  3. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  4. First Canticle
  5. New Testament Lesson
  6. Second Canticle
  7. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  8. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    5. A Prayer for Mission

At this point you’re almost saying the entire morning and evening offices in the prayer book tradition, congratulations!

Spacing out the Lessons

Although I grew up a congregationalist, I was blessed to be part of a church that read a pretty good deal of Scripture in the worship service.  As a college student visiting other churches for the first time I was shocked at how often only one reading would be read, and sometimes not until during the sermon, such that the sermon seemed to be controlling the reading, rather than the reading leading to the sermon.

Needless to say, coming into the Anglican tradition was a relief for me on this front, preserving this good practice of reading plenty of Bible stuff during the worship services.  I suppose this background interest and attention paved the way for the amount of time I spent studying lectionaries in the first three-ish years of my priesthood.

But something I hadn’t thought about before was the way we space out the Scripture readings. In my liturgically-influenced congregationalist past, the norm was to hear three readings from the Bible back to back, individually introduced, but responded to as a whole: “This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God for his holy and inspired Word.”  But in the Daily Office we say a Canticle after both lessons, and in the Holy Communion we typically have a psalm and/or a hymn between lessons. Why?

In the case of the Daily Office, the two lessons are not related to each other, so it is valuable to “clear the mind”, as it were, between the two in order to reduce the tendency to try to draw connections that aren’t there.  In the case of the Communion lessons, the traditional thing separating them was a Gradual (or sometimes also Tract or Sequence) which were normally bits of psalms, and actually topically or thematically connected to the other Propers of the day, so they were worshipful expressions in tandem with what was being read.

But John Cosin’s Comments on the Prayer Book provide further insight into this question:

The inferior parts of the soul being vehemently intent about psalms and prayers, and therefore the likelier to be soon spent and wearied; thereupon hath the Church interposed lessons to be read betwixt them, for the higher part of the soul, the understanding, to work upon, that by variety neither may be wearied, and both be an help one to the other.

The sense of his explanation is this: think of worship like physical exercise.  One minute you focus on your triceps, another on your biceps; even from day to day people often have different focuses: leg day, core, and so on.  The point of this is to spread out the stress so you don’t injure yourself.  So with worship: we pray prayers and read canticles, but intersperse them with Scripture so that our hearts and minds can have turns taking the lead within us.

It’s as if our ecclesiastical forebears knew what they were doing, huh? 😉

Learning the Daily Office – part 6 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

Step Six: Add the Confession

Alright, it’s time for something distinctly Anglican: the prayer of confession at the daily office.  While confessing our sins before God is a universal practice (if grossly underutilized among many Evangelicals and Pentecostals today), it is a distinctly Anglican practice to include it in the Daily Office.  You will find it starting on page 11 for Morning Prayer and page 41 for Evening Prayer.  There is a paragraph that the Officiant (the person leading the Office) reads aloud, followed by the prayer of confession itself, followed by a choice of three responses.  Two of those responses are statements of absolution to be read by a priest or bishop, but the third is a prayer for forgiveness that is to be read by anyone when no such minister is present, and that is what you’ll read when you’re doing this alone.

You’ll also see three “opening sentences of scripture” listed before this Confession set; feel free to read one of these first, too, as they serve as a sort of “call to worship”, beginning to direct your focus upon God and his Word before the act of self-examination and confession.

In the Daily Office we confess our sins at the beginning of the liturgy.  This teaches us:

  1. that it is only in repentance that we find salvation;
  2. that we can only approach God in humility, not pride or presumption;
  3. that true worship comes from a “broken and contrite heart”;
  4. that there is no “health” (salvation) in us apart from God’s grace.

So it’s time to start your morning and evening prayer times with this confession.  Sometimes you’ll read it quickly and move right along.  Sometimes you’ll dwell on the words, or need to dwell on the words, along the way, letting their truth sink in and sober you up to reality.  Sometimes a moment of silent self-examination will be necessary – think on your sins in the past day and release them to the Lord for forgiveness and healing.  Sometimes this will feel merely a perfunctory feature of the Daily Office… remember this is a discipline, after all, so it’s there to shape and form you.  Your heart will not always be as “into it” as other times, just like how certain psalms may appeal to you less or more than others.  The point is that this is the pattern of worship you are growing in to, and that you have this opportunity to repent every time you approach the Lord in prayer.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

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

This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening.  Apart from the Canticles, the format and order of Morning and Evening Prayer are identical for you.  But that will soon change.