Posts Tagged ‘Daily Office’

Some thoughts about the daily office by Bishop Anthony Burton:

Prayer is a participation in the priestly ministry of Christ and is not a consequence of some external rule but springs from the very nature of our vocation as Christians. It is not the preserve of the clergy but is a vocation common to clergy and laity alike.  This is a Biblical teaching which the Reformers understood well: it underlies Cranmer’s insistence that the daily work of prayer be taken out of the monastery and placed in the parish church.

Its daily character also underscores this high view of the priesthood of all believers. Time itself is ordered, sanctified and offered through Christ to the Father.  Hooker had this to say:

“Now as nature bringeth forth time with motion, so we by motion have learned how to divide time, and by the smaller parts of time both to measure the greater and to know how long all things else endure.” (Laws, V, lxix.2)The whole Prayer Book is designed to enable the laity to fulfil their priestly vocation of prayer: the responses are to be returned by the people and not by the choir only; the prayers are generally short and contain one thought; they are in a language that all can understand; the laity are exhorted to receive their communion; the rubrics demand audibility and visible ceremonial…

and this:

The offices of the Prayer Book proceed from the belief that baptism issues in a vocation to pray in two ways. As a member of the Church, the body of Christ, we are to pray the prayers of the whole Church, publicly if possible, otherwise privately.

We are not members of the Body only at “The Gathering of the Community”. As an individual Christians, we should also have a domestic prayer life, which pertains to the particular needs and circumstances of our life as individuals and, if we have one, as part of a family. No amount of extemporary petition, barked from the back of the Church on Sundays can substitute for this. The distinction between public and private is a problem for the modern world generally. The Prayer Book tradition can help us recover the distinction.

The Prayer Book as a system of spiritual discipline is invaluable in helping us to grow to maturity in Christ. It continually reminds us that the good of the Kingdom of Heaven lies not in the devices and desires of our own hearts but in living in and by the Word of God. And it helps us to grow in community in the Body of Christ by enabling us to pray and adore in the Gospel in common.

Charles Simeon wrote that “The finest sight short of heaven would be a whole congregation using the prayers of the liturgy in the true spirit of them.” The recovery of that spirit has never been needed more than today, and yet if conferences like these are any indication, we have reason to hope that the golden age of Anglican spirituality lies not in the past but in, God willing, His the future.

Read it all here.

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From haligweorc:

While the American 1979 Book of Common Prayer has restored the Eucharistic service to its primary place as the key rite for the gathered Christian community on Sundays, the success of this implementation has had the unfortunate effect of suppressing the praying of the Office among both clergy and laity.

The Daily Office is one of the great treasures of our Anglican heritage. Sunday, Holy-day and even Daily Masses have their place within our piety but they do not—andshould not—replace our need for and practice of the Offices. Rather, the Mass and Office are complementary to one another.

The Daily Office is the daily worship of the Church catholic. It is both symbolic of and an aid to St. Paul’s command in Scripture to “pray without ceasing.” Its constant round of Psalms and Scripture give us fodder for our daily rumination and action. It binds us into the unceasing worship of the whole Church—Militant, Expectant, and Triumphant. It forms us as Christians and as Anglicans. It is one of the greatest gifts that we have to offer to our divided and broken Body of Christ, a fragment of the treasure of the whole that we have preserved and, in this time, may offer back for the edification and rejoicing of all.

None of these things will happen, however,  if we do not pray it and teach others to do likewise.

 Learning to Pray

The first step, then, is learning how to pray the Office. To that end, I offer two aids, one for use with each rite of the ’79 BCP:

How to Pray the Daily Office: Rite I (Anglo-Catholic Style Daily Office)

How to Pray the Office: Rite II (Office Quick Reference)

Both of these try to capture the internal spirit and logic of the rite they represent. Neither of them is fundamentally authoritative in that they are not liturgical straight-jackets. Mix, adapt, learn what works best for you.

Obviously, these work well with your Book of Common Prayer. They may also help guide you (if you need further guidance) in navigating some of the Anglican websites for praying the Office (Roman options are on the side-bar):

Daily Office



St. Augustine in his commentary on the Psalms correctly stated that those who sing pray twice. Singing or chanting the Office is a venerable and beautiful way to pray. A fully notated and pointed version of the Rite II Office, Collects, and Psalter according to the Use of the Order of Julian of Norwich may be found here.

 Teaching Others to Pray

 Praying the Office functions best and is intended to be done in community. Anyone can start this ministry. No priests, clergy, or church professionals are needed for a full and proper celebration of the Office. What is necessary is an informed body of people with the commitment to see it through and to see it done well (consistently, respectfully, and reverently).

Hopefully, resources will appear here for teaching the Office. In the meantime, I offer you the pattern that Josh Thomas, founder of the Daily Office blog, advocates:

Listen, here’s how you get the Daily Office to work for adults.

1. You train laypeople thoroughly in the liturgy, and in the process help them become a praying community. It starts the very first session.

2. At the end of the training (10 weeks, 12?), you ask if they want to take this praying community of theirs out into the streets – in the church, private homes, offices, wherever. This requires a commitment: five mornings or evenings per week, without fail, for a limited period of time.

If they do, you build in dedicated times for feedback, plus a party at the end.

3. You publicize the Office in the parish newsletter, e-mail, etc. so the whole parish is invited.

(You might also make available links to online versions of the Office, which I believe are missing on this site.)

In other words, you simply get a core group of people in the habit of saying the Office together. Let them lead the rest of the parish into a deeper appreciation for disciplined daily prayer.

The dailyness of it is what leads us to stability, obedience and conversion of life. Therefore it is a tool of enormous spiritual power, which no parish in this Church should ignore.

But we do, because we think running church services is the priest’s job.

Equipping lay ministers to be confident officiants will change that right quick.

I have one other suggestion: at suitable times, do a full Choral Evensong with Sermon. Let the priest preach and otherwise have nothing to do but pray; she’ll love that. Partner with the choir, organist and any other musicians nearby; in my parish it’s the Bach Chorale. Make it a cultural, artistic and spiritual experience for the whole city. Take up a collection but give all the proceeds to a local charity.

The congregation will love it, and while you’re there, remind them, “We do a plain version of this five nights a week in the chapel downstairs (the nursing home, wherever). Come join us; it deepens your life in just 10 minutes a day.”

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From Confessions of a Carioca:

Coming at the tradition of historic Christianity as I did (from free-church evangelicalism) and when I did (in my early twenties, nearly four decades ago), it is interesting (providential?) that the parish in which I first worshiped regularly as an Anglican was a “Morning Prayer” parish. That was already a dying breed in the Episcopal Church even then, and now it is virtually extinct. We seem to have thoroughly recovered and embraced the ancient norm that the Eucharist is the principal act of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, and this is, in my view, an overwhelmingly positive development. Yet, on a number of levels, I am glad I had the experience of All Saints-by-the-Sea in Santa Barbara in the early 1970s. It is where I first heard “O Lord, open thou our lips.” It is where I encountered the canticles (I remember especially Benedictus es, Domine sung to Anglican Chant in a manner that has been aptly called “Anglican thump”). It is where I first encountered Cranmer’s majestic liturgical draftsmanship, drinking so deeply as it did of the Benedictine spirit that underlies the Anglican ethos.

In time (and elsewhere), I learned that the purpose of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer is revealed most clearly when they form the foundation of a person’s (or, ideally, a community’s) daily prayer life. That foundation was eventually laid solidly in my own heart and mind and soul, and by the time I matriculated in a seminary that had monastic origins, it wasn’t that big a transition for me, just an intensification of something I was already accustomed to. More than 20 years after leaving Nashotah House, I still miss Michael the Bell calling the community to prayer.

I was blessed, upon graduation, to become a curate in a parish (St Luke’s, Baton Rouge) where Morning and Evening Prayer were read publicly, at stated times, seven days a week, thus extending the regimen to which I had grown accustomed in seminary. In the three congregations where I subsequently assumed the reins of pastoral care (in 1991, 1994, and 2007), I established this same practice. Much of the time I have been alone. Most of the time I have had one other person with me (usually another staff member, but still…), and occasionally a decent handful of co-worshipers. Unfortunately, my experience in this regard is quite atypical. Hardly any churches (of whatever stripe) recite the offices on a daily basis, a significant impoverishment to our common life, I would say.

As I mentioned upstream a few posts, I’m in the middle of reading a novel about a community of English Benedictine nuns that takes place around 1960. That narrative, to the extent that it wants to be authentic, cannot help but make frequent references to the daily liturgical life of the community, which spent several hours out of every 24 in the chapel, with some of them devoting even more hours to rehearsing for the chapel services. These comments, put by the author in the mouth of the novice mistress, particularly arrested my attention:

“This is our craft,” [Dame Agnes] said, using the word in its highest sense. “The craft of a contemplative religious, and as a good workman, an artist, loves his craft, we must delight in ours.”

I would not suggest that the majority of Christians, who, unlike these cloistered nuns, are “in the world,” can hone the same craft to the same degree of subtle and sophisticated beauty. But I am too formed in the same craft, albeit at a more plebian level, to easily let go of the notion that it is something worth doing more and doing better. For nearly the last two years, I have had a sort of apprentice in practicing this craft. As you might imagine, I have over the years acquired some opinions about “best practices” in praying the Daily Office from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and it has been a challenging and rewarding exercise for me to regularly be made to articulate why these practices are indeed “best.” I may not be a “contemplative religious,” but the daily office is part of my craft too, and it’s a craft in which I continue to delight.

Frankly, I cannot imagine trying to be a priest without these daily spiritual anchors. The practice consumes several hours a week when you add it all up, which is time that one could argue could be spent more “usefully.” But not really. There is no value I could ever place on the grooves that have been worn in my soul by more than thirty years of praying all 150 Psalms, the canticles and collects, the Old Testament narratives and prophecies, the gospel pericopes, and the passages from the epistles, Acts, and Revelation. The Daily Office is certainly not in itself a sufficient rule of prayer. But it is, I am persuaded, for most Christians who hang their hats in liturgical churches, a necessary foundation.

…and from Northern Plains Anglicans:

My parishioners sometimes compliment me on my awareness of Bible content, or at least for “having a good memory.”

But the fact is, I am not a “Bible memorizer” as much as I am a reader of The Daily Offices from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m in the Scriptures daily so that the Holy Spirit can remind me of the Word at the right time.

The Anglican Reformers of the 1500s wrote,

THERE was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so surely established… as (emong other thinges) it may plainly appere by the common prayers in the Churche, commonlye called divine service: the firste originall and grounde whereof, if a manne woulde searche out by the auncient fathers, he shall finde that the same was not ordeyned, but of a good purpose, and for a great advauncement of godlines: For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest parte thereof) should be read over once in the yeare, intendyng thereby, that the Cleargie, and specially suche as were Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often readyng and meditacion of Gods worde) be stirred up to godlines themselfes, and be more able also to exhorte other by wholsome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the trueth. And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.


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