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.
Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:
- (Opening Sentence)
- The Confession of Sin
- The Invitatory
- Invitatory Psalm or Phos Hilaron
- The Psalm(s) Appointed
- Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
- First Canticle
- New Testament Lesson
- Second Canticle
- The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
- The Prayers
- Lord have mercy…
- The Lord’s Prayer
- A Collect for (the day of the week)
- 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.