Ending the Daily Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return

If there is a single prayer that summarizes a “theology of Sundays” it is this collect.  The Lord’s Day is associated with many things – God’s reign over all creation, the resurrection of Jesus, and the many spoils and great redemption wrought through that victory.  It is from that resurrection power that Christian derive courage, boldness, and obedience to live for him both today and in anticipation of the last great Day.  The worship on this day therefore leads to the works throughout the week, and in so doing we sanctify time itself (cf. Question 298 in the Catechism, To Be A Christian).

Among this list of collects, this one is the only one that is not the same in the 1979 Prayer Book.  That prayer for Sundays in Morning Prayer was short both in length and in theological and devotional content.  Ironically, the prayer we have appointed instead was written originally for the 1979 Prayer Book, where it was found as Occasional Prayer #69.

O God our King,
by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week,
you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life:
Redeem all our days by this victory;
forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will;
and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Suffrages in brief

The Suffrages have also been known as the Lesser Litany or the Preces & Responses. The seven pairs in our Prayer Book are adapted from Psalms 85:7, 20:9, 132:9, 28:10, Leviticus 26:6, Psalms 9:18, and 51:10-11. Thanks to the many choir settings for Choral Evensong, the English Suffrages are very well known. But there have been changes in the American Prayer Books. The first in 1790 reduced these only to the first and last pairs. By 1928 all the original six were restored in Evening Prayer. The suffrage “save the King/Queen” was rendered “save the State.” The 1979 Book brought them to Mornign Prayer as well as Evening, substantially edited the translation of some, and inserted the suffrage for the the needy. Our edition retains the addition of 1979 and has a mix of old- and new-style translations of the original six.

I’ve got a lot more detail here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/2019/02/20/the-suffrage-in-the-daily-office/

Short responsory prayers like these (and like the Great Litany) were not favored by the radical reformers. They argued that prayers should have longer phrases and sentences; whole psalms are more appropriate than recombined clusters of individual verses like these. And yet, some of these litanies and suffrages have survived. There is a time for longer expressions of prayer and intercession – the Psalms Appointed for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer give us opportunity to pray those in their entirety throughout the month, and the Prayers of the People in the Communion service contain prose prayers based on scripture of more substantial length than these Suffrages. But, just as the worshiper is free to use extemporaneous prayer in private and non-biblical yet biblically-inspired prayers in the liturgy, so too is the worshiper free to use biblically-sampled prayers like the Suffrages.

These are, in a way, like the Prayers of the People in miniature. We pray for mercy and salvation, for our earthly governors and church ministers, for all Christians, for peace, the needy, and for sanctification. The full “Great” Litany is traditionally prayed three times a week, so this “Lesser Litany” can indeed be considered its simplified form for daily use.

The Lord’s Prayer, especially in the Daily Office

All Christian prayer begins here, with the words of the Lord Jesus. His prayer was given not merely as a pattern or template by which to structure our own prayers but also as a prayer itself to be prayed by his followers. Accordingly, every liturgy of the church includes this prayer, and historic spiritual advice has always encouraged the memorization and use of this prayer among the faithful in their own private devotions. As a result, the classic Prayer Books included the Lord’s Prayer twice – once at the beginning of a worship service and once near the end. The exact location has varied (before or after the Confession in the Office) and the use of the doxology at the end of the prayer has varied, but the “two uses” of the Lord’s Prayer was pretty clear: it was both a personal preparation for participating in the liturgy and a piece of the liturgy itself.

Over the centuries, later Prayer Books drifted towards the use of the Lord’s Prayer only once in a worship service, and in the modern editions it has been the first appearance that has been removed in favor of the second.

Lifted from Matthew 6:9-13 and its counterpart in Luke 11, the Lord’s Prayer has been a staple of Christian worship both private and public throughout the history of the Church. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, they were expecting a prayer like this, as many teachers in that time had a token prayer that encapsulated their spirituality. This tradition of having such a theme prayer can be seen in later times, such as the Prayer Attributed to Saint Francis, and the existence of different schools of spirituality within the Church. By learning a particular prayer the worshiper is gradually conformed to and fed by the spiritual wisdom of the prayer’s author. The Lord’s Prayer, coming from the mouth of God himself, is thus the greatest prayer in the Christian treasury.

Both its order and contents are informative. We address God as Father, as adopted children, and we bless his holy name, seeking the advance of his kingdom and will on earth, as it is already so in heaven. Then we move to our own petitions – daily bread to sustain us in the present moment, forgiveness of our sins, while also committing ourselves to forgiving others. This is followed with the twin petitions for help against temptation and evil, or the Evil One. So the very logic and flow of this prayer is theological, or God-minded.

The doxology at the end is not now typically thought to be in the original text of St. Matthew’s gospel, but it is attested in documents as early as the Didache (ca. 100AD). Between that and its inclusion in the King James Bible (1611) it endures as a standard ending for the Lord’s Prayer. Liturgical use of the Lord’s Prayer often omitted the doxology, but through sheer familiarity and habit it has become standard in all its appearances in this Prayer Book.

The Kyrie in the Daily Office

The Kyrie is an ancient prayer, attested by the fact that it remains in Greek even in Roman liturgy. It is based upon the biblical cry found twice in the mouth of blind men imploring Jesus’ help in Matthew 20:30-31, as well as similar pleas in Matthew 17 and Psalm 123. The Kyrie has endured in the penitential portions of the liturgy, often being sung ninefold (each line being sung thrice) or even in a set of forty (as in Byzantine liturgy to this day) early in the Communion service. Its appearance in the Daily Office has been consistent through the English and Canadian Prayer Books, though it was omitted in the American Prayer Books until now.

It is a simple prayer, its near-identical repetition making it both a challenge and an opportunity for devotion. The obvious challenge is how easy it is for the worshiper to utter the words as a parrot, without meaning or understanding. Such is the case with anything memorized. The opportunities, however, are manifold. This can prayed as a prayer of contrition – have mercy upon my sins. This can be prayed as a prayer of intercession – have mercy on my needs. The words “on us” (in the traditional form of the Kyrie) may be directed toward one’s family, one’s church, community, nation, or the entire world.

It also serves as a lead-in for the Lord’s Prayer. There, we have the boldness to address God as our Father, here, we address him as Lord and Christ. The Kyrie, thus, is directed primarily at God the Son, our only mediator and advocate who can bring us to the Father. In fact, a Trinitarian pattern of prayer can be inferred in teh sequence of Kyrie, Lord’s Prayer, and Suffrages: first we call upon the name of Jesus, then we address the Father, and then we pray in the Spirit with some God-breathed words of prayer.

About that Salutation…

It’s a classic standard across the liturgical-church world:

“The Lord be with you.”
“And with your/thy spirit.”

This exchange, well known today, was used only sparingly in the classical Prayer Book tradition. The 1549 Prayer Book used it twice in the Communion service (before the Collect of the Day and the Post-Communion Prayer), once in the Baptism service, and once in the Daily Office immediately before the three Collects. By 1559 this arrangement had been drastically reduced: the salutation was not to be found in the Sacramental services, and only at the beginning of the Prayers in the Daily Office. By contrast, a Low Mass before the Reformation would include this salutation as many as seven times!

The origin of this salutation is likely an amalgamation of several biblical blessings. “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Timothy 4:22) is a primary example; some other variations include Ruth 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, and Galatians 6:18.

In the 1979 Prayer Book and similar contemporary liturgies the response was re-translated to read “and also with you.” It was thought, at the time, to be a fair translation of the ancient liturgies, if more dynamic. Recent revisions in both Roman and Anglican liturgy have tended toward the restoration of the more literal translation, “and with your spirit.”

The salutation has come under fire, in recent times, concerning its theological implications. Some argue, in line with Roman tradition, that the language of “and with your spirit” is a reference to the indelible ordination character bestowed upon the priest, thus highlighting the sacredotal character of the ordained ministry. The reduction of the use of this salutation in the first Prayer Book and its near-total disappearance in subsequent versions may be cited as evidence in favor of this interpretation, especially when seeing that the liturgies of the Anglo-Catholic movement increase this salutation’s use.

This is not the only way to understand the salutation, however, nor is it the sole explanation for its disappearance in the more “reformed” Prayer Books. A 17th century commentator, the Rev. Dr. John Boys, observed that the Puritan party at the time was opposed to this and other suffrages and short exchanges and prayers, seeing them as “short cuts, or shreddings” rather than as actual blessings or prayers. Puritan (and other then-radical reformation) liturgies preferred longer, extemporaneous prayers, and this salutation was out of line with their doctrine of worship. John Boys also observed that “the people cannot make a fitter reply than ‘with thy spirit.’ For (as Plato divinely said) every man’s soul is himself.” There was no apparent concern at the time of any sacerdotalism or Romish doctrine of priesthood in this salutation; its real controversy was its brevity. Thus, we ought not today to assign it a meaning more narrow than its simple words merit.

A Prayer that actually isn’t out of date

Among the litany and prayers in the Prayer Book tradition, one of the groups in the “for the needy” category is for those who travel.  Here is Occasional Prayer #53, from page 662 in The Book of Common Prayer (2019).

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel [epsecially ___]; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

As much as I love history and tradition, this has often been an odd prayer subject for me.  Traveling is so much safer today than it was “back then”.  You can fly around the world in airplanes just about anywhere and although accidents happen your chances of coming home safe & sound are incredibly high.  So in my own prayer life whenever I encountered this sort of prayer, I would usually apply it in my heart to people I know who travel for a living, like truck drivers.

You can also spiritualize this sort of prayer really easily.  The Journey is one of several biblical images for the Christian life; we are all pilgrims on the Way of Christ, seeking our eternal abode in that heavenly city.  That’s a great and fruitful allegorical use of this prayer, complete with “every danger” that besets the Christian Journey.

But this prayer must have merit also in its “literal” construction.  And you know what?  COVID-19 has provided a context where this prayer has become more useful and meaningful.  When there is a plague, pandemic, or other widespread disaster or concern, traveling becomes a lot more dangerous.  Popping ’round the corner for groceries with a face mask is one thing, but traveling across multiple State lines in the US, where the infection rates have either fallen or dramatically risen (depending on the state and region) can get rather squirrely.  What differences in policy will I run into if I stop in New York State versus Pennsylvania?  Does Connecticut have the same guidelines as Massachusetts?  Does a family have to take particular self-quarantine measures if a household member has traveled a few hundred miles and back?

These are not questions we should be panicking about, or asking in fear, but they are issues to be concerned with and to seek mindful answers to.  Travel has become more complicated, and public health issues do make traveling more “dangerous” in one form or another.  So if you’re not accustomed to praying this Prayer For Those Who Travel, perhaps for now you’ve got a useful context for it.

FOUR versions of the Lord’s Prayer!?

Did you know that there are four versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the 2019 Prayer Book?

You may be aware of two already.  In just about every rite in the book, a traditional-language and contemporary-language rendition of the Lord’s Prayer are offered in parallel columns.  But how do we get four versions, then?  On pages 39 and 65, the following rubric can be found:

Either version of the Lord’s Prayer may be ended with “deliver us from evil.  Amen.” omitting the concluding doxology.

You may find that confusing – why would one opt for the shorter version?  Don’t just the Romans do the short version?

This rubric has some interesting history behind it; welcome to “Weird Rubric Wednesday”.

If you look at various Prayer Books before our own you’ll find a pretty clear pattern: the doxology is often omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Let’s list it out:

  • Beginning of Morning Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Morning Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of Evening Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Evening Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of the Lord’s Supper:
    1662 No, 1928 No
  • At the reception of Communion:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Baptism & Confirmation:
    1662 No, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes

You can see a slow trend from a fairly even split of using or omitting the Lord’s Prayer’s doxology toward uniform use of that doxology.  A further detail in this sequence in the 1979 Prayer Book’s introduction of Noonday Prayer and Compline, in which the doxology is omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Thus, only in the 2019 Prayer Book has the doxology become ubiquitous.  These “weird rubrics”, however, note the two Offices in which we are formally invited to consider using the short form of the Lord’s Prayer, and it is the same two (Midday and Compline) as appointed in the 1979 Book.

In ordinary practice, the average lay person who doesn’t use the Prayer Book religiously is going to default to the one version he or she knows from Sunday mornings: what is said at the Holy Communion.  If certain Offices omit the doxology, many such people are going to have a big trip-up moment.  So from that practical perspective, one of the factors aiding this slow shift was merely simplifying things so there were fewer things for newcomers to mess up!

Anyway, in your own prayers and use of the 2019 Prayer Book, it is not going to be this Customary’s business to regulate which version of the Lord’s Prayer you ought to use at which points.  It is traditional to use the short version in most Offices and the long version at the Communion.  But if you’re praying all the Offices every day, plus other devotions like the Family Prayer mini-offices, then you’ll be saying the Lord’s Prayer many times a day, and it might be good to change up which version you use just to help avoid turning into a parrot!