How to celebrate St. Mary today

Today is the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord, or in the language of the ecumenical councils, the Theotokos (God-bearer).  Sticking with the liturgy that we have, and not violating any rubrics, let’s look at some ways we can mark this holy day in the course of our formal worship today.

Morning Prayer

For the Opening Sentence, consider Habakkuk 2:20, from among the extended provision on page 28.  It’s from a lesson that tends to show up around Christmastime, albeit not in the spartan daily lectionary of our new prayer book.  Let all mortal flesh keep silence, an awesome hymn from an Eastern eucharistic liturgy, is also drawn from this verse, and in many protestant hymnals is considered a Christmas hymn.  Granted, the biblical appearances of Blessed Virgin Mary are not limited to the Christmas story, but it is her most prominent placement.

For the Venite (the invitatory psalm) use a seasonal antiphon.  There are two that work well for this holy day: the one on page 29 for the Presentation & Annunciation (which are both Marian feasts to some extent) and the one on page 30 for All Saints’ & Other Major Saints’ Days.  As the rubric on page 14, above the Venite, explains, an antiphon is used both before and after the psalm or canticle in question.  Time and time again I’ve seen people misuse antiphons… think of them as book-ends to start and finish the song.  Or if etymology is your thing, look at the word itself: anti-phon… opposing sound: use the antiphon on opposing sides of the psalm.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Te Deum and the Benedictus.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the added bonus that the Te Deum actually does mention Mary briefly (Christ “humbly chose the Virgin’s womb”).

The second lesson for Morning Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is Luke 1:26-38, which is the story of the Annunciation.  ‘Nuff said there, I think!

The Collect of the Day, starting at Evening Prayer last night, is on page 631.  As discussed previously it may be read in light of the traditional (but not official) doctrine of the Assumption if one is so inclined.

Evening Prayer

The Opening Sentence could be drawn from the extra one suggested for Christmas (on page 54) or perhaps one of the standard options – Psalm 26:8 – noting that St. Mary herself was a notable place where God’s “honor dwells”.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the obvious bonus that the Magnificat is itself the Song of Mary.

The second lesson for Evening Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is John 14:1-14, which although simply part of the lectio continuo (continuous reading) of Scripture from day to day, proves fitting closure to this holy day in Jesus’ proclamation that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, as do all saints of the Church, ultimately points us to Christ.

Holy Communion

Chances are that most of us don’t have the opportunity to host or attend a celebration of Holy Communion today, but you can always resort to Antecommunion.

The Opening Acclamation should be the last seasonal one on page 146 from the song of the saints in heaven (Revelation 4:11).

As this is a festal occasion, not penitential, the Summary of the Law with the Kyrie is a more appropriate choice than the full Decalogue.  The Gloria in excelsis should follow, as this is a major holy day.

The Collect of the Day has already been commented upon.  The Propers from Scripture are:

  • Isaiah 61:10-11 (typologically, Mary is the garden from which Christ springs)
  • Psalm 34 (“let us magnify the Lord” akin to Mary’s Song)
  • Galatians 4:4-7 (Christ’s birth points to our own adoption in Christ)
  • Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat itself)

The Creed should be said, as per the rubric on the bottom of page 108/126.

The Blessed Virgin Mary should be mentioned in the last “N.” in the last petition of the Prayers of the People on page 111.

If there’s an Offertory, consider Galatians 6:10 for the Offertory Sentence (on page 149), since a Saints’ Day (especially Mary!) is an excellent opportunity to reference “the household of faith“.

For the Proper Preface, I’ve seen some lovely Mary-specific ones out there, but since we’re trying to get used to our new prayer book let’s not introduce anything new yet.  The official Preface appointed for this day on page 631 is the one for Christmas (on page 152).

Other Resources & Opportunities

The fourth collect in Midday Prayer (on page 38) references Mary.

Occasional Prayer #125 on page 683, the Thanksgiving for the Saints and Faithful Departed, also lists Mary among its several commemorated holy ones.

This Customary’s Order for Daily Hymnody appoints hymn #178 God himself is with us for today (check the index to find its number if you don’t have this hymnal).  Surely there are other hymns for Christmas or the Annunciation (and so forth) that will also be appropriate to adorn this feast day.

The Gospel lesson is in the evening now?

You may have noticed yesterday that the Gospel according to St. John started its second sequential read-through of the year in the evening, even though for most of the year so far the gospel lesson has been in the morning (and epistle in the evening).  You may be wondering why did it switch to the evening?

If you’re familiar with classical prayer books and their various daily lectionaries, this may be especially jarring.  The traditional pattern, with very few exceptions, is that the New Testament lessons in Morning Prayer are from the Gospels and from the Epistles in Evening Prayer.  If all you’ve know is the 1979, then maybe you’re still adapting from its weird daily lectionary and didn’t even notice that this little switch has taken place.

On one hand, the daily office lectionary in the 2019 prayer book represents a huge stride toward the style of the 1549/1552/1559/1662 daily lectionary.  But this treatment of the New Testament lessons is a surprising exception.  So let’s take a look at the logic behind this.  (I should be a good role model and cite my sources, but I don’t remember where I read all this, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  Or look through the Prayer Book Q&A stuff yourself.)

How the original daily lectionary worked:

  • Most of the Old Testament and about half of the Ecclesiastical Books were read through, continuously, from Office to Office.  This meant you had to read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in order to keep up.
  • The Gospels and Acts were read through three full times in Morning Prayer.
  • The Epistles were read through three full times in Evening Prayer.  (Revelation was omitted.)

How the 2019 daily lectionary works:

  • Most of the books Genesis through Chronicles, plus extracts from three Ecclesiastical Books, is read through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the rest of the OT, and extracts from the Maccabees, is read through the year in Evening Prayer.
  • The New Testament is read once through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the New Testament is read once through the year in Evening Prayer.

The idea here is an accommodation to the reality that many individuals, not to mention churches, do not say the daily offices daily.  In the old lectionary, if you only say MP, or only EP, you’ll be reading every other chapter of the OT, and miss half of the NT entirely.  In the new one, basically the whole NT is covered in both offices, but in opposite orders (Gospels together, Epistles together).  That way if an individual or church has a pattern of only saying one office per day, the morning and evening “halves” of the lectionary can be turned into a two-year cycle to ensure that the most Bible coverage is attained.

The only downside to this plan, as far as I can tell, is that those who do read the whole lectionary in a year has to keep track of four continuous books at a time, instead of three.  But then again, if you’re spiritually disciplined enough and mature enough to be saying both offices every day (or almost every day), I guess you can probably handle tracking four books of the Bible in tandem.  I just hope you’ve got enough ribbons on your Bible! 😉

Let’s pray Evening Prayer together!

We’ve got a daily hymnody plan available, an order for using the Occasional Prayers, and some insight on how to sing Simplified Anglican Chant.  Let’s put it all together and see what Evening Prayer can be like. We did this with Morning Prayer last week, but now let’s add some chanting to spruce up this feast day commemorating St. Mary Magdalene.  I should warn you that there are a couple of stumblings, hesitations, and even mistakes as I read, pray, and sing.  That’s life, that’s reality.  I’m not here to perform for anyone, and I just want to encourage you to pray and sing, yourself, too.  Anyway, grab your 2019 Prayer Book, ESV Bible, and 2017 Hymnal, and listen and pray along!

 

Order of service (so you can get your books ready)…

  1. Opening Sentence (BCP 41)
  2. Confession *
  3. Invitatory Dialogue with Hymn #444 instead of the Phos hilaron **
  4. Psalms 108 (tune #748) and 109 (tunes #747 & 746)
  5. Old Testament: Ezra 10
  6. Magnificat (tune #743)
  7. New Testament: John 1:1-28
  8. Nunc dimittis (tune #750)
  9. The Apostles’ Creed
  10. The Prayers
  11. The Anthem (Hymn #175)
  12. Brief homiletic reflection
  13. Occasional Prayers #11-15
  14. The General Thanksgiving ***
  15. Closing Sentences

* I don’t read either absolution after the general confession when I’m praying the Office alone because there’s no “you” for me to speak to, so I take on the words of the laity in the prayer for forgiveness instead.

** The rubric at the top of page 44 allows for a hymn to replace the Phos hilaron.  Since the Phos hilaron is not a feature of classic prayer books I typically prefer to replace it with an Evening Hymn (or other hymn as in this case).

*** I tend not to pray the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom when alone, as the rubric indicates it’s optional, and because its language of being gathered for corporate prayer is not exactly fulfilled in private.

Let’s pray Morning Prayer together right now!

Okay, we’ve got a daily hymnody plan available, an order for using the Occasional Prayers, and some advice on the use of Canticles so far.  Let’s put it all together and see what Morning Prayer can be like. Listen and pray along!

Order of service (so you can get your books ready)…

  1. Opening Sentence (BCP 11)
  2. Morning Hymn (#229) *
  3. Invitatory with the Venite (BCP 13-14)
  4. Psalms 79, 80, 81 (BCP 373-377)
  5. 1 Samuel 7
  6. Canticle 8 Ecce Deus (BCP 85-86)
  7. 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
  8. The Benedictus (BCP 18-19)
  9. The Apostles’ Creed (BCP 20)
  10. The Prayers (BCP 21-24)
  11. The Anthem (Hymn #439)
  12. Occasional Prayers #25, 35-37
  13. The General Thanksgiving (BCP 25) **
  14. Closing Sentences (BCP 26)

* The first rubric on page 31 allows for the Confession and the Creed to to be omitted in one Office provided it is said in the other that day.  On my own I tend to say the Creed in the morning and the Confession in the evening.

** I tend not to pray the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom when alone, as the rubric on page 25 indicates it’s optional, and because its language of being gathered for corporate prayer is not exactly fulfilled in private.

Sing the Hymnal in a Year!

When it comes to liturgy, I’m a completionist, meaning I want to make use of all the legitimate options afforded in the Prayer Book in their proper times.  That means I want to say the Daily Offices and minor offices every day (not that my success rate is so high yet), and use each choice of prayer and canticle at appropriate opportunities.

I’m also a completionist when it comes to Bible-reading, and that includes the Ecclesiastical Books.  That’s why I made a supplementary lectionary (best used in Midday Prayer) to cover the various corners of the Bible that the Daily Office Lectionary had to leave out.  (I recently discovered that I’d neglected to fill in the missing chapters of Ezekiel, so I updated the file!)

And so, in this mindset I set out, a couple years ago, to figure out how I could accomplish a similar mission: sing all the hymns in the hymnal!  I made a rough year-long plan using the 1940 hymnal, which I can share if you really want it, though it is definitely quirky and personalized.  And when my congregation and I got our hands on the 2017 hymnal I began the slow process of starting all over again, aiming to make a cleaner, simpler, more logical plan for Daily Hymnody that could be used by anybody.  It took quite some time to “get it right” but now I’m happy to release:

DAILY HYMNODY
for the Book of Common Praise (2017) and the Book of Common Prayer (2019)
(formatted to be printed in “booklet” format if you’ve got a fancy printer)
(formatted to be printed as double-sided landscape that you can fold into a booklet)

Here are some explanatory notes of how this works.

Morning & Evening Hymns

The collection of Morning Hymns and Evening Hymns are treated separately.  They are placed on their own rotations (two-week and one-month, respectively), and thus will be sung several times in a given year.  Especially memorable or historical hymns are repeated more often in these cycles, to avoid awkward 17-day cycles or something silly like that.  Their frequent repetition also allows them to be replaced if there happens to be a large number of Daily Hymns in a given day.

How the Daily Hymns Work

The liturgical calendar has both fixed-date feasts (like Christmas) and moveable feasts (like Easter), which necessitates a daily hymnody plan that operates on both calendar styles in tandem.  This is managed by presenting hymns for fixed dates in either a parallel column or at the bottom of the page near the moveable-date hymns they’ll typically line up with.

As I mentioned in my review of the 2019 hymnal, there are more hymns in here that fit Advent and Lent compared to other books, making this project a lot easier than its 1940 hymnal version.  And, I think, more satisfying to use.  Here’s a quick commentary on how this order for Daily Hymnody uses the 2019 hymnal.

The Advent Hymns (#1-26) are spread throughout the Advent season, generally matched to the theme of the Collect each week.

The Christmas Hymns (#27-82) are sung through most of the 40 days from Christmas Eve until February 2nd (the feast of The Presentation).  Hymns that reference “today” or “this happy morn!” are placed earlier, in the actual twelve days of Christmas.  Hymns that pay particular attention to Mary are placed later, as a topical lead-up to the Presentation.

The Epiphany Hymns (#83-94) are sung January 6th through 11th.

The Lent Hymns (#95-104) are sung in the first week and a half of the season.  The Passiontide Hymns (#105-122) cover Holy Week, and also most of weeks 4 & 5.

The Easter Hymns (#123-146) are sung through Easter Week and the beginning of each subsequent week in Eastertide.  The Rogation Day Hymns (#147-8) are on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension.

The Ascension Hymns (#149-161) cover the ten day of that period, and the Pentecost Hymns (#162-166) cover most of Pentecost Week.  The Trinity Sunday hymn is appointed on its Eve.

The various Saints Days hymns (#168-198) are appointed on their proper (or similar) days.  This includes a couple extra saints days and an All Saints’ Week November 1st-7th, using the Burial Hymns (#318-320) to add an “All Souls” flavor along the way.

The Thanksgiving Hymns (#199-209) are sung on November 21st-29th, ensuring that Thanksgiving Day will be enveloped in that spread of time.

The National Hymns (#210-218) are appointed for Memorial Day, July 1st-4th (covering both Canada Day and Independence Day), and November 8th-11th (giving a lead-up to Veteran’s/Remembrance Day).

The Baptism Hymns (#252-262) adorn the Sundays “Proper 8” through Proper 18 (basically all summer).  The Confirmation Hymns (#300-305) cover Propers 19-23 (and December 5th, because that’s my confirmation anniversary), and the Church Dedication Hymns (#313-317) finish the line on Proper Sundays 24-28.  The Sundays through this time of year also have General Hymn appointed, specially chosen to match its Collect of the Day.

The Communion Hymns (#263-299) are sung on nearly every Thursday from Maundy Thursday through Advent.

The Matrimony Hymns (#306-308) are appointed for the 5th of June and August, highlighting the popular “wedding season” in our culture today.  The Ordination Hymns (#309-312) are sung on the Wednesday of each set of Ember Days throughout the year.

The General Hymns, then, fill out the remaining gaps in the church year.

  • The Trinity section is mostly devoted to Trinity Sunday and the weekdays following.
  • Most of the “Praise to God” and “… God’s Works” section occupies Fridays & Saturdays from Proper 7-17.
  • Most of the “Jesus: Advent” section is sung in the days leading up to the First Sunday in Advent.
  • Most of the “Name…” and “Life & Ministry of Jesus” sections are sung in Epiphany 4-8 (Proper 3-7), with a few entries dotting the final days before Lent, a day in Eastertide, and a few in the week of Proper 8.
  • The “Mission” hymns cover Thursdays in Epiphany 4-7 or Proper 3-6.
  • The “Praise of Jesus” section mostly fills out Eastertide.
  • Most of the “Penitence” section is sung through the middle of Lent.
  • The “Jesus: Helper” section covers Mondays through Wednesdays in the weeks of Propers 9-13.  This is continued with the Holy Spirit, Holy Scripture, and Church sections, taking you to Proper 18.
  • Starting with the week of Proper 18, the split between MTW and FS ends.  The “Christian Vocation” section covers most of 18, “Christian Walk” is sung through Proper 22, continued by “Christian Warfare” and “Christian Duty” through Proper 25.
  • Propers 26-29 end the church year with the “Kingdom of God” and “Church Triumphant” sections.

Anyway, the two links above will get you booklets that give you these orderings in a neat and readable fashion.  I just offer this explanation as background for the curious.  Go, sing, worship, enjoy!

Psalm 67 in Evening Prayer

Since at least the 1662 Prayer Book, Psalm 67 has been an alternative option to the Nunc dimittis – the second canticle in Evening Prayer.  When Thomas Cranmer first compiled the Prayer Book, he telescoped the 7-fold daily monastic office into two: Morning and Evening, so that anyone could pray them.  The service of Evening Prayer thus ended up with the traditional Vespers (evening) canticle: the Magnificat, and the traditional Compline (night) canticle: the Nunc Dimittis.  He then appointed a psalm as an alternative to each canticle, usually with the express purpose of standing in for the canticle when the text of the canticle is found in one the day’s lessons.

Modern Prayer Books, however, following popular Anglican devotion since the beginning, bring Compline back as a minor office, and the Nunc dimittis is therefore a dual resident: it lives both in Evening Prayer and in Compline.  If you regularly pray both Evening Prayer and Compline most days, then it may be a good idea to substitute the Nunc for a different canticle, as I’ve suggested before here.

However, today may not be the day to do that.  Psalm 67 is the typical replacement for the Nunc through the majority of the year, but tonight Psalm 67 is one of the regular psalms at Evening Prayer.  So unless you want to say Psalm 67 twice in the same office tonight, perhaps it’s best you don’t use it as a canticle today!

Two Collects for Peace

In the prayers of the Daily Office, there were traditionally three Collects in a row: the Collect of the Day followed by two set Collects according to the time of day (Morning had two, Evening had two).  In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two Collects got expanded to seven choices, plus a choice of a Prayer for Mission.  Among the original Collects, still found among the modern choices, are two Collects entitled “For Peace.”  Let’s take a little comparative look at these two prayers today.

Collect for Peace (Morning)

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Peace (Evening)

O God, the source of all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

Naturally, both of these prayers address the trouble of enemies.  Perhaps the first question is who are our enemies?  Like several of the Psalms, this is a nebulous concept, a fill-in-the-blank opportunity, and we should take care how we treat it, even in the silence of our hearts.  In a bad mood you might throw your annoying boss into that “enemies” category, or your misbehaving kids, or the noisy neighbors, or members of the wrong political party, or those gosh-darn terrorist foreigners from that other country somewhere else.  The scriptures teach us that the enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Those are the forces that turn us away from God; those are the real threats against whom we need protection, and against whom we must fight.

And I say “must fight” on purpose, for as these prayers express, Peace is not found in avoidance of conflict, but in steadfastness despite conflict.  Through “the might of Jesus” we pray for God’s defense “in all assaults”, not from all assaults.  The goal or purpose of these prayers is that we “may not fear,” and “pass our time in rest and quietness.”  With our trust placed in God’s defense and our hearts set to obey his commandments, we find ourselves on the solid ground of God’s Word, in the footsteps of Jesus, in cooperation with the Spirit.  There, we can withstand the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil; there can be found peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

So whether you pray these prayers every day (as in the old prayer books) or every week (as in the new), take care to note what we’re really praying here.  In this life, the peace of God is found amidst the spiritual war, not as an escape from it.

Nunc Dimittis doing double duty

Most liturgical ingredients in the Prayer Book tradition are set into one particular function with little or no variance.  The Daily Office has its own opening and closing sentences, the Communion liturgy has its own acclamations and dismissals, each major liturgy has its own prayer of confession (though the rubrics now allow cross-pollination  to some extent), and every canticle has its particular home.

But the Nunc dimittis has two appointments in the Prayer Book, such that it’s even printed in the book twice.  It is the second canticle of Evening Prayer, and it is the anthem/canticle in Compline (the night office).  This is a particularly odd repetition, since Evening and Compline are both pretty similar in function and usually near one another in time (evening, bedtime).

The reason for this is that in the English Reformation when Archbishop Thomas Cranmer assembled the first Common Prayer Book he reduced the monastic offices from seven in the day and one at night down to two: Morning (Matins) and Evening (Vespers).  There are elements of three monastic morning offices wrapped up in Anglican Morning Prayer, and elements of Vespers & Compline wrapped up in Anglican Evening Prayer.

So what happens when you try to bring back in one of those “extra” monastic offices?  You get little hints of repetition with the Anglican Daily Office.  In the case of the Nunc dimittis its original home was the night office, Compline, which the Prayer Book tradition rolled into Evening Prayer.  Thus in modern books that bring Compline back to Anglican liturgy, we’ve got a situation where the Nunc dimittis has two homes.

If this doesn’t bother you, well and good.  But if you are someone who regularly prays both Evening Prayer and Compline, and desires to highlight separate identities for both offices, then there is something you can do about that: the 2019 Prayer Book has an appendix to the Daily Office section labeled Supplemental Canticles for Worship.  This is an expansion of what earlier Prayer Books (before 1979) did: offering usually two options of a Canticle for each slot (that is, position of response after each reading in the Morning & Evening offices).  Now, instead of 8 or 9 total Canticles with specific directions on which ones to use where, we have 15 Canticles, 10 of which provide minimal guidance as to their expected use.  If you want to make use of these and reduce the repetition of the Nunc dimittis between Evening Prayer and Compline, consider the following pattern of alternatives:

The Second Canticle, the Nunc dimittis, is to be recited on Saturdays and Sundays, and on other days throughout the year not superseded by the following.

Canticle 4, the Quaerite Dominum, is to be used in its place on the First Sunday of Advent and on weekdays throughout the season.

Canticle 3, the Kyrie Pantokrator, is to be used in its place on Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and every weekday throughout the season.

Canticle 9, the Deus misereatur, is to be used in its place on Monday through Friday during Epiphanytide and Trinitytide, and on the occasion that the text of the Nunc dimittis is part of the New Testament Lesson.

The Easter Anthems – Pascha Nostrum

The Pascha Nostrum is a beautiful set of anthems that Anglican tradition uses at Easter.  It is built upon three scriptural references: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Romans 6:9-11, and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, each bookended with an Alleluia for good measure.

It has always been in Anglican Prayer Books, but its location has changed in modern practice.  Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; in modern books it is placed in the Morning Prayer liturgy.  It’s interesting to note how the rubrics for this canticle have changed over the years.

1662 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Psalm: O Come, let us, &c. these Anthems shall be sung or said.

1928 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Venite, the following shall be said, and may be said throughout the Octave.

2019 BCP:

During the first week of Easter, the Pascha Nostrum, without antiphons, is used in place of the Invitatory Psalm, and it may be used throughout Eastertide.

What stays the same? its function.  This Canticle is always used in place of the Venite in Morning Prayer.  What has changed? its duration of use.  The implication back in 1662 is that this canticle (or set of anthems) only gets used on Easter Day.  By 1928 in the US, it was authorized throughout the octave – that is, the first eight days of Eastertide.  Now, it is appointed (not merely authorized) throughout Easter Week and authorized for the rest of Eastertide.  With this increased anticipated use, it’s no wonder that modern prayer books have opted for printing this canticle directly in the Morning Prayer liturgy, so it’s more accessible!

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 nobody is really praying the Daily Office, this can be a great way of introducing elements of the Office liturgies to the congregation.  Such points of contact and familiarity will prove helpful when trying to make that move toward teaching people to pray the Office.

Canticles for Lent

One of the fun resources in the 2019 Prayer Book is the collection of Supplemental Canticles for the Daily Office.  As we proceed through this season of Lent, there are two Canticles in particular that stand out as appropriate for regular use at this time.

First is the Benedictus es.  This Canticle is taken from the Greek Old Testament version of Daniel 3, known separately in our Bibles as “The Song of the Three Young Men” – when Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were in the fiery furnace alongside the fourth man, the pre-incarnate Christ.  There are two hymns in that passage, and this Canticle is a summary of the first one.  Liturgically, this Canticle is offered directly in the Morning Prayer text itself, presented as an option in place of the Te Deum during Lent.  This Customary recommend using it on Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and on weekdays throughout the season.  (For the 2nd through 5th Sundays, it may be prudent to bring back the Te Deum in recognition that though Lent continues, Sundays are not fast days; and though it is still a penitential season, we are still celebrating the victorious Christ.)

From the Supplemental Canticles,  #3, the Kyrie Pantokrator, may be used in place of the Nunc dimittis (the second Canticle in Evening Prayer) on Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and every weekday throughout the season.  This Canticle is also from the Greek Old Testament, entitled in English as the Prayer of Manasseh.  It is a prayer of penitence attributed to the wicked King Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-20, especially verses 18 & 19).  As with the Benedictus es above, this Canticle is shortened a bit from its original version; also some of its hyperbolic language is toned down so as not to confuse the average reader.  This Canticle, in particular, is a marvelous offering of penitential worship.  In this age where so many of us run fast and loose with sin, the strong language of condemnation and grace in the Kyrie Pantokrator could do us a world of spiritual good.

And it’s got an awesome name, to boot!