Learning the Daily Office – part 3 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

If all’s going well, your twice-daily round of praying a psalm and reading a scripture lesson has increased your appetite for both.  Individuals may well find more comfort and affinity with one of those over the other, but as you grow into the Daily Office tradition there’s still more of both to add.  When you’re consistently covering one Psalm and Lesson each morning and evening, it’s time to add a second Lesson and additional Psalms to each Office.  You will be reading all the Lessons in the Daily Office Lectionary, and it’s probably time also to upgrade from the 60-day Psalter to the Anglican standard monthly psalter.

The monthly psalter is outlined in a table that is provided on page 735, just before the Daily Office Lectionary begins, but the Psalms themselves are also in the Prayer Book, on starting on page 270.  If you weren’t before, it’s time to start using the Prayer Book Psalter.  Even though you’re reading from a Bible, there are a few reasons to prefer the Prayer Book for the Psalms:

  1. The Prayer Book Psalter clearly marks out where the psalms for each Office begin (every morning and evening for each day of the month, read sequentially).
  2. The Prayer Book Psalter translation is intentionally poetic and beautiful, which cannot be said about any mainstream Bible translation.  The ESV or NASB may be the best translations for study, but we’re here to pray the psalms, not analyze them.  (Not that you can’t study the psalms of course, it’s just that the Office is time of prayer.)
  3. Using the Prayer Book is a useful skill that you will be developing bit by bit from here on.

Logistically, what you probably want to do at this point is different from how the Office in its full form will work.  Ultimately, all these Psalms will be prayed in a row before the Lessons, and there will be different things after each reading.  But for now, start in the psalms for the morning and evening and save the last one or two to pray between the two Lessons, or perhaps after both Lessons.

The point of interspersing the Psalms with the Lessons is to provide a little distance between the two readings.  In the Daily Office Lectionary the readings are just moving sequentially through the Bible independently of one another, so by stopping to pray a Psalm after the first lesson you “clear your mind” a little bit before reading the next lesson.  You don’t want to conflate them in your head and attempt to link them together artifically; that’s not how a Daily lectionary works.  Taking a moment to pray a Psalm after each Lesson also helps keep your reading in a context of prayer, cutting down on the “study” mentality and enhancing the “worship” mentality.  Again, this is not to say that studying the Bible is bad, but that such should not interrupt the course of worship.  At most, make a highlight or note in your Bible or on a book mark so you can return to it when the prayer time is concluded.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. Psalm(s) to pray
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. Psalm to pray
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Psalm to pray (maybe)
  6. The Lord’s Prayer

The length of time to do all this is probably about five minutes, maybe as many as ten if the readings are particularly long and you’re reading them out loud.   Same with the Psalms – praying them means reading them aloud – and sometimes they can be a little lengthy too.

Learning the Daily Office – part 2 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

With the daily rounds of psalm-praying every morning and evening in place, it is time to start reading the Bible too.  The Evangelical mentality may balk at this order – why not start with bible-readings and then add prayers?  This can be answered in a couple different ways:

  1. The Psalms are from the Bible, as is the Lord’s Prayer, so Step One was already completely biblical.
  2. Historically, most people didn’t learn to read, so Bible-reading was never really an option; instead they relied on what they could memorize – psalms to sing!
  3. The daily office is, first, a discipline of prayer.  We need to focus on the prayer before we move on to include “study”.

So once your psalm-praying is consistently in place, it’s time to put in a Lesson (a reading from the Bible) between that Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.  Since you’re working toward the daily office tradition, you should start with a part of the Daily Office Lectionary.  Pick one reading “track” for Morning Prayer and one for Evening Prayer and stick to them.  It’d be best to make sure that one is Old Testament and the other is New Testament.  Eventually you’ll be reading from both the OT and the NT in both morning and evening, but you’re pacing yourself.  Get used to one reading first.  Depending upon your background and experience you may find some of our Lessons (especially from the Old Testament) to be rather longer than you’re used to.

You may be tempted, as you read, to look up what individual words mean, or who individual people are, or whatnot.  Resist such interruptions.  Finish the reading, round it off with the Lord’s Prayer to complete the Office, and then go look things up if you need to.  The Daily Office is not a Bible Study, it’s a time of devotion and prayer; the reading of Scripture in the Office is not (historically) followed up by an expository sermon, preaching usually lands in a different liturgical context.  Rather, these scripture lessons are first for exposure and second for familiarity.  If you endeavor to study everything you read, from the very start of your devotional-reading journey, then you may get lost in the details and end up swamped and discouraged.  Receive what you understand and pass along by what you don’t understand.  It may be that you will find the answer to your question in the next chapter, or in another part of the Bible.  Honestly it takes a couple read-throughs of the Bible to begin to develop a memorable sense of its scope and contents, so it isn’t fair to put too much pressure on yourself too soon.

Summary

It’s only step two and you’ve already got an identifiable “Office of Prayer” in place: pray a psalm, read a scripture lesson, and close with the Lord’s Prayer.  In a sense, everything that follows from here is an expansion upon this basic kernel.

In the beginnings

As we’ve noted before, it’s nice starting to read John and Genesis at the same time.  Both deal with “the beginning” in wonderfully complementary ways, and better appreciation of that might save us some interpretative heartache.

And then, once I read from Jeremiah 4 and caught another reference to the language of Genesis 1:1-2, I knew it was time to write something about it.  It took me about a week longer than anticipated, but I finally got ’round to it.

* * *

One of the coolest things about the Bible’s text is that the first book literally starts “In the beginning…”  I mean, of all the things it could start with, it just makes perfect sense that it would start with the beginning.  And when you finish that sentence you find that the “beginning” is eternity past – before time itself was created.  In the beginning, God created.  You learn so much about God in that phrase – his distinction over against all created things, his omnipotence over the same, his very being belonging beyond not only physical existence but also beyond time.  I’m really into science fiction, especially Doctor Who, which deals constantly with the ins and outs and paradoxes of time travel.  So it’s kind of strange, in a marvellous way, to find a truly “timeless” deity proclaimed in the opening words of Sacred Scripture.

But then you get through the first couple chapters and the debates start flying thick and fast – how did God create the world?  Are there conflicts between the various pieces of the text?  Are these writings meant to be taken literally?  What, even, is the literal meaning?  All this and more quickly rises to the forefront of a Bible Study, sermon, or discussion on the opening chapters of the book of Genesis; it’s almost inescapable.  So let’s side-step that direction of argumentation and look at Genesis from a birds-eye view.

“In the beginning, God created…”

Read the rest here.

Filling in the Blanks: Tobit

The Daily Office Lectionary exists to get us through the majority of the Bible in a year, and the one in our 2019 Prayer Book is one of the best on that account.  But it still has some gaps.  That is why I created a Midday Prayer Lectionary, to “fill in the blanks” where the Daily Office has left something out.  We’ll have a few of these entries scattered throughout the year to highlight a few of these opportunities.

Now that we’ve finished the book Wisdom which had been left off at the end of December, let’s move on to one of the Ecclesiastical Books that is completely omitted in the 2019 Daily Lectionary: Tobit.  Tobit was one of the books read in full in the original daily lectionaries… possibly every Prayer Book lectionary until this one, I haven’t checked them all.  At the very least it’s a shame that we’ve lost the truly excellent prophecy of the gospel in Tobit 14.

Unlike the story in the book of Judith, Tobit does not have any noteworthy historical anachronisms to challenge its setting and context.  Where Judith has to be read purely as a morality tale, mixing together different stories of biblical heroes (heroines, specifically), Tobit is more readily understood as a story of some actual Israelite exiles.  Their fidelity to the Law, and God’s provision of an angel to assist them, makes for an encouraging story for God’s faithful people in any age of exile and/or disillusionment.

So if you want to make your way through this book, pull up this Customary’s Supplemental Midday Prayer Lectionary and read along!  We’ll get through all 14 chapters, with a one-day break on the 18th to celebrate the Confession of St. Peter.

Readings Review – The Epiphany Special

Our usual Monday fare is going to look a little different today.  Instead of looking at the lessons of the whole weeks (past and present) we’re just going to narrow in on the feast of the Epiphany.  But first, the quick run-down…

Last week: Wisdom 9-11 Genesis 1-4, Revelation 21-22, John 1-3:21, Song of Songs 6-8, Jeremiah 1-3, Luke 23-24, Galatians 1-4

This week: Genesis 5-11, John 3:22-6:21, Jeremiah 4-10, Galatians 5-6, 1 Thess. 1-4:12

Special reading for the Epiphany on Monday morning: Matthew 2:1-12
Special reading for the Epiphany on Monday evening: John 2:1-12

As I noted last week the Epistles of St. Paul in evening prayer are being read in their estimated chronological order, so after Galatians we’re moving to 1 Thessalonians.

The Epiphany Lessons

The major highlight this week is today – January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany.  It’s one of the seven Principle Feasts listed in the 2019 Prayer Book on page 688, putting it essentially on par with Christmas and Easter (and four other holy days).  As a result, both Morning and Evening Prayer get a special reading, out of the daily sequential sequence, to mark this day.

In the morning is the obvious choice: Matthew 2:1-12, in which we read of the magi and their journey and the gifts for the young Jesus.  This is the “primary” celebration for the Epiphany.  It’s also doubling with today’s gospel lesson at the Communion, which previous daily lectionaries never really did before, but ours does due to the sad reality that very few churches hold communion services on weekday feasts anymore.

The other special reading, in Evening Prayer, is John 2:1-12, which is perhaps less obvious: the Wedding at Cana.  If you go back to the original prayer book daily lectionary you will see three major gospels featured: The adoration of the magi (at the Communion), the baptism of Jesus (in Morning Prayer), and the Wedding at Cana (in Evening Prayer).  Those are three big “epiphanies” that start off the season.  Each of these gospel stories, in their various ways, proclaim the divinity of Jesus – his reception of gifts, the testimony from God the Father, and finally the power at Jesus’ own command.  The wedding at Cana would go on to be the gospel lesson for the Communion in one of the early Sundays of the Epiphany season, and in the 20th century the baptism of Jesus began to take over the first Sunday of Epiphanytide also.  But in the modern lectionary that we have in the 2019 Prayer Book, the wedding at Cana in John 2 is no longer a mainstay gospel.  It’s read on the second Sunday in Year C, but not not Years A & B.  Therefore our lectionary makes a point of retaining this story on Epiphany Day itself to make sure it’s still part of our annual observance of Epiphanytide.

Want to finish the Wisdom of Solomon?

You may have noticed that when we finished reading from Wisdom (or, in full, The Wisdom of Solomon) on December 31st, we weren’t actually finished with the book.  The lectionary just ran out of space, dropped it, and moved on with life.  This is typical of how the 2019 daily lectionary handles the Ecclesiastical Books: just highlight some of the main features of a few books and scurry along in what almost looks like embarrassment of the unique Anglican perspective on these books.

So what if you want to finish the book of Wisdom?  The Saint Aelfric Customary has an answer!  Turn to the Midday Lectionary I put together and you will find that today we pick up where December left us off, and chapter by chapter you can finish the book in Midday Prayer.  With one more interruption on January 6th for The Epiphany, you’ll finish the Wisdom of Solomon on January 10th.

Is this an ideal situation?  Not really; it’d be simpler if we, like the original daily office lectionary in the prayer book, just read it all the way through.  But with our culture the way it is, the best way to “fill the gaps” in the daily lectionary is to utilize Midday Prayer as a catch-up.  And in its own way this is actually a reasonable solution, because Midday Prayer is an extra office, not part of the historic prayer book standard; so by having a lectionary of “primary” readings for Morning & Evening Prayer and a lectionary of “supplemental” readings for Midday Prayer, we can cover literally the entire Bible in a way that actually acknowledges some sense of gradations regarding the usefulness or edifying nature of its component writings.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but it works reasonably well for what we’ve got.

Book Review: The Holy Bible 1611 Fascimile Edition

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’ve been looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

Today we’re going a bit weird and looking at a Bible.  Not just any Bible, but the King James Version.  And not just any KJV Bible, but the 400th anniversary 1611 facsimile edition.  There are a few of these around, so the one I’m specifically dealing with here is the one from Hendrickson Publishers.  You can find others, like from Zondervan, which omit the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, but that’s lame.  We’re Anglicans, and have all the books!

And, more importantly for the purposes of this review, this facsimile edition has the Daily Office Lectionary in it, as conformed to the then-current 1559 Prayer Book.  Looking through this lectionary is a massive education for the modern Anglican, as the history of daily lectionaries has wandered quite a bit over the centuries since.  Here’s a sample:

December

A quick run-down of what we’re looking at here…

  • The far-left column, I must admit, I haven’t figured out.
  • The second-left column is the day of the month (1-31 in this case).
  • The next column has the letters A-g in repetition, allowing you identify the day-of-the-week throughout the month without having to be year-specific.
  • The next column, labeled Kalend. at the top is the older Roman/medieval dating system.
  • The large column notes feasts and fasts: Nicholas Bish[op] on the 6th, Conc[eption] of Mary on the 8th, O Sapientia on the 16th, Fast on the 24th, Christmas on the 25th, etc.
  • The “Psalms” column tells you which day of the month’s psalms to use each day… for the majority of the year it’s identical to the actual day of the month, but there is one exception.
  • The last four columns give you the OT and NT lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer.  Here are a few samples, to help you with the typography:
    • December 1st: Esa. xiiij (Isaiah 14), Actes ii (Acts 2), Esa. xv (Isaiah 15), Hebr.7 (Hebrews 7).
    • December 21st: Pro.xxiij (Proverbs 23), xxi (Acts 21), Prou.24 (Proverbs 24), 1.John1. (1 John 1).
    • December 27th: Eccleſ.v (Ecclesiastes 5), Reuel.i. (Revelation 1), Eccle.6. (Ecclesiastes 6), Reuel.22 (Revelation 22)

As you may be able to see, here, the space-and-ink-saving pattern was not to repeat the name of the current book being read when it’s in continuity with the day above.  Christmas Day reprints Isaiah for the OT lessons because, although Isaiah was already the book being read at the time, the chapters to be read are different from the daily sequence.

You’ll also note that whole chapters were read at once.  The versification we’re used to today was invented in 1557 and first printed in 1560, which means they did not exist when the first prayer books were printed in 1549 and 1552.  The lectionary from those, continued here in 1611, therefore, could not rely on verse numbers to delineate Scripture readings!  There are a couple footnotes in this lectionary to adjust the readings’ start and end points, using phrases rather than verse numbers.

There are, of course, some typographical distinctions that make this book difficult to read at first.  The “long s”, ſ, is only used in the lectionary tables and in titles, never in the regular text of the scripture.  (And, to dispel anachronistic use, never at the end of a word.)  The letters u and v are treated as the same letter, u being in the middle of a word and v at the end of a word.  So, the phrase “leave us not” is instead printed “leaue vs not“.  You can also find the occasional typographical error, in which a u or an n is turned upside down – they’re the same “letter” from the printer’s perspective, just a matter of which-way-up-it’s placed on the printing block.

Anyway, I share this here because it’s a fantastic resource that modern Bibles sadly lack.  As American Anglicans we barely even have a functioning Bible to support our lectionaries, much less a Bible that reprints the lectionary in the front to aid our devotions with the Offices.  Considering how much arm-twisting it took just to get an ESV Bible with the additional books we need, chances are we’ll never have an ESV Bible with the full Anglican resources available.  So it’s all the more important we learn about these resources of old.

On a fun sidenote, this KJV edition is also a handy thing to have when dealing with those who insist on the KJV Bible being the only legitimate Bible, because the original KJV has the books “called apocrypha” which they dread, plus a number of footnotes to supplement the primary translation, not to mention the lectionary tying it explicitly to the Common Prayer Book tradition which such fundamentalists would also despise.  Knowing our own history, unsurprisingly, can help inoculate us against various errors of the present day.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 2/5
This isn’t a particularly easy edition to find; there are other similar editions out there which omit all the things that make this a genuine Anglican book.  It also takes some getting used to in terms of reading it; though it’s not as difficult as some people make it out to be.  This is, after all, Early Modern English.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5 if Applicable
Obviously this is just a Bible with the lectionary.  You can’t pray the Office with this, or follow the Eucharistic lessons.  But as Bible-reading-plans go, this one is very simple and very strong.  It does omit significant portions of a few books, like Leviticus, Numbers, Ezekiel, and Revelation, though when you understand that the goal of a daily lectionary is common prayer, those omissions begin to make a lot more sense.

Reference Value: 4/5
Although this is a very specific snapshot of a very specific piece of Anglican liturgical history, this Bible and lectionary are very informative.  If all you’ve ever seen are the 1928 and/or 1979 Prayer Book lectionaries, you’ll look at the 2019 book’s daily lectionary and wonder what on Earth our committee was up to.  But if you look a this, the original daily lectionary, you’ll find that the 2019’s lectionary is incredibly more in step with historic Anglicanism  Indeed, the daily lectionary is one of the worst features of both the 1928 and 1979 Prayer Books due to their complicated and convoluted reading order and their decreasing coverage of scripture.

Honestly, this is a book I think most Anglicans ought to have, clergymen especially.  Try a year on this lectionary sometime, maybe even in this translation, too.  It’s honestly hard to beat.

What happened after Malachi?

It’s a classic Sunday School question in evangelical churches when learning about the books of the Bible – “what happened after Malachi?”  Nearly four centuries pass between the last regular prophet, Malachi, and the forerunner of the Christ, St. John the Baptist.  What happened during that time?  Why is the Bible silent about it?

Well, the Bible isn’t entirely silent.  The Church has always had at least two books specifically devoted to relating some of the key historical events between Malachi and the Gospels: 1 and 2 Maccabees.  They cover only a specific 50-year stretch (roughly 175-135 B.C.) but relate some critical goings-on that provide the social, cultural, historical, and even political set-up for making sense of what’s going on in Judea in the 1st century.  Only in the past couple centuries have these books fallen out of Protestant attentions – the King James Bible (like Luther’s German Bible, and probably others) included these books as an appendix between the Old and New Testaments.  For economic reasons, many publishers started omitting those middle books once mass printing picked up speed in the 18th century, such that by the 20th and 21st centuries now, hardly any Protestant Christian is aware of them, let alone familiar with their contents.

If you want to learn more about those books, I have an introductory video and links to a few written articles here.  For now let’s just focus on 1 & 2 Maccabees, which our lectionary is about to start sampling in Evening Prayer.  1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, but survives primarily in Greek, and gives us a lengthy 50-year history of the struggles between the Hellenistic kingdom and the Jews.  2 Maccabees was originally written in Greek, meant to summarize another source (probably working off of something much like 1 Maccabees), and gives us a closer look at the events surrounding the desecration and purification of the Temple.

In a general sense, 1 Maccabees is more historically-minded, giving more information, covering more years, providing less religious commentary.  2 Maccabees is more religious in nature, summarizing events with an eye to exhortation to faithfulness to God.  They work together not unlike how 2 Samuel – 2 Kings play off 1 & 2 Chronicles: a lot of overlap providing different emphases.  The following table shows how the two books line up.

maccabees parallel

Our lectionary does not walk through the entirety of either book, but steps through a few highlights.  (To read them in full would be a significantly more lengthy process, and, for many readers, a great deal more tedious.)  From October 9th through 18th we cover:

  • 1 Macc. 1 = the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes and his profaning of the Temple (the “abomination of desolation”)
  • 1 Macc. 2 = the uprising of Mattathias and his sons
  • 2 Macc. 6 = the violent suppression of Judaism
  • 2 Macc. 7 = a specific story of martyrdom at the hands of the Greeks
  • 2 Macc. 8 = Judas Maccabeus takes his father’s place and continues the good fight
  • 2 Macc. 10 = the purification of the Temple (origin of Hanukkah)
  • 1 Macc. 7 = the next round of Greek invasion and suppression of Judaism
  • 1 Macc. 9 = the death of Judas Maccabeus and succession of Jonathan
  • 1 Macc. 13 = the death of Jonathan and succession of Simon
  • 1 Macc. 14 = the final peace established by treaty under Simon’s leadership

If you have time, it’s worth exploring these books in full, to get the whole story.  There are a lot of new names and places to keep track of (from the perspective of one unused to this period of history), but the benefits can be great.  The entanglements between Jewish authorities and Rome, for example, find their beginning here.  When you realize that the Romans helped save the Jews from the Greeks, and supported Judean independence, it sheds new rays of light on the relationship between the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate in the Gospels!

Book Review: The Lutheran Service Book

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

It’s been a couple weeks but we left off with a couple non-Anglican liturgical books, and today we’re picking that trend back up again with The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which is basically the official liturgical text for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

This book is basically a Prayer Book and Hymnal in one, which is super handy.  What’s strange about it, from an Anglican perspective, is the ordering of its contents.

Introductory Contents:
Church Year, Sunday & Holy Day lectionaries, Dates of Easter, Glossary, instructions for chanting psalms

Most of this makes sense to us, the only oddity is that the Sunday / Holy Day lectionaries are placed up front with the calendar – historically that’s where we would have the Daily Office Lectionary, though the 2019 BCP has all its lectionaries toward the back instead.

Interestingly, this book includes two choices for the Calendar and Sunday lectionary: one is their version of the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary (essentially the same as ours, only minor differences), and the other is the traditional one-year calendar and lectionary (essentially the same as in the classical Prayer Books).  Although I’m not surprised the 2019 Prayer Book didn’t provide both calendar & lectionary options, I kind of wish it had.

The chanting instructions make sense here because the first primary section of this book is:

The Psalms

Yes, all 150 are here, and they’re even pointed for chant!  For example, from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn | in your tent? *
Who shall dwell on your | holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does | what is right *
and speaks truth | in his heart.

So that’s pretty useful.  The chant style is very similar to Simplified Anglican Chant, which is great.  Functionally it’s strange that the psalter should be put first like this: this means that you “have to know” where the right worship service starts in the book, increasing the necessary page-flipping.  But in another sense, giving the Psalms place of preference is a theological statement: this is where our worship begins.  Virtually every worship service in the liturgical tradition utilizes the psalms, and biblically they are our greatest model for faithful prayer.

The Divine Service

The next nearly-60 pages are taken up with five “Settings” of the Divine Service, or Holy Communion.  “They have five different eucharistic texts!?” you ask.  Yes.  But they are all extremely similar to one another.

The primary difference between the order of service here and in the 2019 Prayer Book is that this starts with a confession and absolution, rather than placing it after the Prayers of the People.  Setting One’s confession prayer in particular is clearly based upon our confession in the Daily Office.  For the Creed, both the Nicene and Apostles’ are offered.  Two sequences of Communion Prayers are typically offered, one placing the Words of Institution before the Lord’s Prayer, and the other after.  In general, the style and wording of the prayers – particularly the Communion prayers – progress from traditional to contemporary as you look through from Setting One to Setting Five; the last of which sounds the most like the 1979 Prayer Book.

Another fascinating, and consistent, feature of the Lutheran liturgy is the use of the Canticle Nunc dimittis as a Post-Communion praise, just like how the classical Prayer Books employed the Gloria in excelsis.  This has prompted and encouraged me to explore different Canticle options after the administration of Holy Communion in my own church’s worship services, rather than always simply employing a Communion Hymn.

Another curiosity, perhaps marking the most obvious distinction between the five Settings, is the music.  Settings One through Four each have a particular collection of Service Music printed right into them.  This is useful for those who desire to use them, though a bit odd from my observing perspective, as it ties you to particular combinations of musical settings with the variations of prayers.  I assume it’s permissible for them to mix and match text and music, but it just seems an odd way of printing it.  Whateverso, the range of styles are interesting: different forms of chant (some like plainchant, some like Anglican Chant, including the Old Scottish Chant of the Gloria in Setting Three).  Setting Five has no music printed in it, though, preferring the simplicity of spoken liturgy, and indicating a few hymns to sing in place of the standard Kyrie and GloriaSanctus and Agnus Dei.

The Daily Offices

Where the Daily Offices hold pride of place in Anglican Prayer Books, the Lutheran Service Book starts them on page 219, after the Communion settings.  These, too, include musical settings of various Canticles and Psalms right in the text, as well as other chanted parts for the dialogues and blessings and whatnot.  Five Offices are provided: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Payer, and Compline.  Again this is a “huh?” moment for Anglicans, as Matins & Vespers are the Morning & Evening Offices.

As it turns out, Matins and Morning Prayer are very similar in this book, containing largely the same elements.  Like the Communion Settings, the music and chant is the most obvious difference between the two,   Matins is the most like the Prayer Books’ Morning Prayer; the Morning Prayer in this book lacks the Te Deum and rearranges the prayers after the Canticle.

None of these offices include Confessions or the Apostles’ Creed, which is another difference between this book and our tradition.

Vespers and Evening Prayer are similar to one another, but start markedly different: Vespers more resembling the Prayer Book tradition, and Evening Prayer starting off with that curious “Service of Lights” thing in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Compline is very similar to as it is found in modern Anglican Prayer Books.  I assume, since it was not taken up in most Protestant liturgical books during the Reformation, that it saw the least amount of editing and change in unofficial use, such that when it started to reappear in the late 20th century it had undergone the least amount of denominational divergence.

Other Services and Resources

From here the book includes a collection of other liturgies that a Prayer Book would be expected to have: Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral Service, Responsive Prayers, a Litany, Corporate and Private Confessions & Absolution, Daily Prayer for Families, a Daily Lectionary, table of Psalms for the Offices (though not covering the whole psalter or the whole year), Occasional Prayers, the Athanasian Creed, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this is comparable to what one would expect in an Anglican Prayer Book, and much of its contents are recognizably similar to our own.

The first “Other Service”, however, does not have an Anglican counterpart (unless you delve into England’s controversial Common Worship).  It’s called Service of Prayer and Preaching, and it seems to be a what-to-do-on-a-Sunday-morning-when-the-ordained-minister-is-away sort of service.  Opening Verses, an Old Testament Canticle (known to us as #8 Ecce Deus), Scripture readings, dialogued responses, a congregational reading from part of the catechism, Sermon or Catechetical Instruction, (Offertory) Hymn, several Prayers, a New Testament Canticle (known to us as the Pascha Nostrum), and a closing Blessing.

The Hymns

636 hymns follow, arranged by Church Season, Person & Work of Christ, the Christian Church, the Christian Life, other Times and Seasons, additional Service Music, and National Songs.  Naturally there are quite a lot more German Chorales here than in a typical Anglican hymnal (though the 2017 hymnal has quite a few!), and several hymns well-known to us with different arrangements – occasionally entirely different tune settings.  For example Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face is set to FARLEY CASTLE instead of PENITENTIA, and At the Lamb’s high feast we sing is set to SONNE DER GERECHTIGKEIT instead of SALZBURG (ALLE MENSCHEN).

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Page-flipping within a particular worship service (especially the Sunday Communion) is minimal.  The main challenge is making sure you know what service you’re actually doing (five Communion rites, remember).  If you’re trying to use this for the Daily Office then things are rather more complex as you have to hunt for the lectionary and psalms with rather more vigor than a typical Anglican Prayer Book.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This book is not the sum total the LCMS expression of Lutheran worship, but all the basics are here.  As Anglicans we could use this book and find a faithful approximation of our own liturgical tradition.  The Communion Prayers are all significantly shorter than ours (even shorter than what’s in the 1662 Prayer Book), but on the whole theologically compatible with ours.  The lack of clarity regarding daily psalmody would be a loss, however.  This book also has a nice collection of hymns that could supplement our own hymnals.  And to be fair, if I was a Lutheran, I’d rate this as either a or a 5, depending upon what I’d thereby know of the historic liturgies before this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this score.  For most of us, we have no reason to pick up the liturgical text of a different tradition, even one so closely-related as the Lutherans.  The similarities of English-language Lutheran worship with Prayer Book worship also makes it clear that they have taken several queues from us.  As such, this Lutheran Service Book is probably best understood as an expression of historic Lutheran worship using the Anglican Prayer Book as a useful filter from time to time.  If you really want to explore historic Lutheran liturgy, you probably have to pick up the Book of Concord or something to that effect.  But I haven’t done that yet.

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!