Praying the Daily Office: A guide for Trinitarians

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1 Praying the Daily Office: A guide for Trinitarians Why should I learn to pray the daily office? In answer to this question, there are lots of benefits that come with daily prayer, and these could be named: it will order your days, you will learn to love Jesus more, you will learn to love idols less, the Church starts to look more like a family, it s good for marriages, you will pray with more spontaneity outside the confines of the Office, thanksgiving and gratitude (the key Christian dispositions) will fill your life, not to mention the fact that the Lord hears our prayers and does mighty works. But then, maybe not all of these benefits will be obvious all of the time. That s one of the dangers of spelling out the benefits of prayer. Even when the pros and perks are nowhere to be found, the Church still perseveres in prayer: it s simply what we do. And perseverance is exactly what s needed. Prayer is best taken up as a discipline, which means we do it even when we don t feel like it. When we say these prayers everyday, though, something changes. We learn to feel differently. Like the awkward and forced motions of learning to swing a golf club or shoot a basketball, habits slowly sink in, the movements begin to feel natural, and satisfaction becomes more and more a part of the practice. As C.S. Lewis wrote, Poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship. This transformation of desire slowly learning to strangely enjoy worshiping the Lord is part of how the Holy Spirit is remaking you after the likeness of Jesus. The Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer o This is a guide for saying Morning and Evening Prayer as found in 1979 Book of Common Prayer, pages and o The BCP itself has instructions throughout these Offices, listed throughout the services in small, italic letters. These are called Rubrics, which the instructions given here simply guide you through. o This packet will teach you a simple way to pray the Offices, though it gives you options for some more complicated parts, if you re interested in learning more. o The Offices can be said by one or more persons. When two or more people are praying, one person will be the Officiant, and all others the People. When said alone, you say the parts for both Officiant and People (even The Lord be with you; and also with you; let us pray this starts to feel normal fairly quickly). o Fortunately, daily use of these instructions makes them unnecessary very quickly. Before You Start o Materials. All you ll need is Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and a Bible. Any translation of the Bible will do. If your BCP and Bible don t have ribbons to mark pages, you may want to get some scrap slips of paper to use as bookmarks. (Once in a while, instead of the Old Testament lesson, the Lectionary will assign something from the Apocrypha, a collection of Jewish books written between the Old and New Testaments. This is a good thing, since these important books are too often ignored. If you have a Bible with the Apocrypha, it will be helpful on those occasions.) 1

2 o Look up the Psalms. Your BCP includes the full Psalter, beginning on page 585. If you flip through the Psalms in your Prayer Book, you ll notice that they are divided up into thirty days, each day divided into Morning and Evening Psalms. In order to figure out which Psalms to pray, you only need to know what day of the month it is. For example, if today were the 12 th of the month and you were getting ready to say Morning Prayer, you would flip through the Psalms until you found the small, italics heading Twelfth Day: Morning Prayer, which is just before Psalm 62 on page 669. You ll say all of the Psalms following this heading and before the next, which would be Twelfth Day: Evening Prayer. This means you would say Psalms 62, 63, and 64. If it is the 31 st of the month, simply repeat the Psalms that are appointed for the 30 th day. They re really uplifting, so it ends up being pretty nice. Mark the Psalms appointed for whichever service you re about to say. o Look up the Scripture. The readings assigned for each day are found in the Daily Office Lectionary in the back of the Prayer Book, beginning on page 933. This lectionary assigns Psalms and Scripture for every day of the year, in a two-year cycle. To remember whether we re in Year One or Two is easy, since any even year, like 2014 (and its previous December, since the lectionary starts in Advent), will be Year Two (also even), and odd years will be Year One (also odd). In order to find which week of the Lectionary we re in, you can usually find it printed on your Sunday bulletin (e.g. Week of 4 Epiphany ). The season after Pentecost and before Advent ( Ordinary Time summer and fall, basically) is a bit trickier. The Church bulletin will say 6 th Sunday After Pentecost, while the Lectionary will say Proper 11. You can figure out which Proper we re in, though, since they are paired with certain Sundays. So, flipping to page 977 in the Prayer Book, we see at the top of the page: Proper 11 Week of the Sunday Closest to July 20. If this past Sunday were closest to July 20 (or, in our case, actually July 20), then that Sunday would begin Proper 12. If today were Tuesday, then one could scroll down a few lines below Proper 12, find the line beginning, Tuesday, and see which readings are assigned. There will almost always be an Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel lesson assigned. In Year Two (the even years) we read the OT and the Gospel lessons at Morning Prayer, and read the Epistle at Evening Prayer. The Gospel and Epistle are switched in Year One, though, so that at Morning Prayer we ll read the OT and Epistle, and the Gospel will be read in the evening. If you re doing this at home and only saying one prayer service a day, then you should read all three lessons. It s helpful to mark the lectionary page, but you can also go ahead, look up, and mark the Scriptures that are assigned for that morning or evening. 2

3 Morning Prayer Opening Sentence. Begin the office by saying one of the sentences of Scripture given on pages of your BCP. o These sentences are divided up by season, so pick one from the appropriate time of year. During Ordinary Time, say one of the sentences on page 78, under the heading At any Time. Confession of Sin, page 79. o Say one of the invitations to confession, usually the shorter one ( Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor ). o Everyone says the confession together. o You ll notice that there are instructions throughout the service about when to kneel or stand. Often when people say the office at home, they ll sit through the whole thing. This is fine, though there is certainly something to be gained by kneeling when we confess our sins and standing for the creed and prayers, if you are able. o The Officiant then says the absolution on page 80 (if there s not a priest in the room), substituting us for you and our for your. If people have knelt for the confession, the lay Officiant remains kneeling while saying the absolution. The Invitatory and Psalter, page 80. o The Officiant begins, Lord, open our lips. The people respond, And our mouth shall proclaim your praise. Again, if praying alone, say both of these yourself. [If you re interested in this kind of thing, there s a tradition of making a small sign of the cross on your lips at these words.] o Gloria Patri. Then say together: Glory to the Father, etc., adding, Alleluia, when it s not Lent. o Venite. Say together the Venite on page 82. o Psalms. Say the Psalms appointed for this service (responsively by whole-verse, if more than one is praying). See the first page of this packet for instructions about how to look up the Psalms. [If you re interested in complicating things, you can say antiphons before and after the Venite. These are short sentences that are there to dress up the Invitatory Psalm. Like the opening sentences, these are also seasonal. During Ordinary Time, say one of the bottom three antiphons on page 81. If two or more are praying together, the Officiant says the first part (for example, The mercy of the Lord is everlasting ) and the People say the second part (always, Come let us adore him ). This is difficult to remember, so people will need to be reminded about this until they get the hang of it. Again, say the antiphon before and after the Venite (also strangely tough to remember).] The Lessons, page 84. o Then follow the lessons of Scripture. For instructions on how to look up the appointed lessons, see the second page of this packet. Read lessons in order: OT, Epistle, Gospel. o Introduce the lessons like we do on Sundays (for example, A Reading from the Book of Joshua, or A reading from Paul s Letter to the Ephesians ), except for the Gospel lessons. Introduce those simply as A Reading from the Gospel of. You do not have to stand during the reading of the Gospel in the Daily Office. o Conclude all lessons by saying, The Word of the Lord, the People responding, Thanks be to God. 3

4 o Canticles. Every lesson is followed by a Canticle. If you read three lessons, say the Te Deum (Canticle 21, page 95) after the first, the Benedictus es (Canticle 13, page 90) after the second, and the Benedictus (Canticle 16, page 92) after the third. If you read two lessons, say the Te Deum (Canticle 21, page 95) after the first, and the Benedictus (Canticle 16, page 92) after the second. If you read one lesson, say the Benedictus (Canticle 16, page 92) afterward. You ll notice that the Benedictus, which comes from the Gospel of Luke, is really the signature canticle of Morning Prayer and is always said. o The Apostles Creed. Reaffirm your baptismal faith, by saying the Apostles Creed on page 96. If you like, you can make the sign of the cross on yourself at the resurrection of the body (though originally the sign of the cross was made here simply because it was the end of the creed). The Prayers, page 97. o Begin the prayers by saying, The Lord be with you, to which the People respond, And also with you. Remember, say all of this, including Let us pray, even if you re praying alone. If you were to kneel, you would do so after these statements. If you were to stand, you d already be standing from the Apostles Creed. o The Lord s Prayer. Say the Lord s Prayer together on page 97. o Suffrages. Say either Suffrages A or B on page 97 or 98. Suffrages is simply a fancy word for prayers. The Officiant says the statements following V. (short for versicle ) and the People say the statements following R. (short for response ). If you ve said the Te Deum as one of the Canticles after a lesson, you might say Suffrages B, which in older revisions of the Prayer Book used to be attached to the Te Deum, rather than following the Lord s Prayer. This is just a small way of praying within our tradition. o Collects. The Officiant, beginning at the bottom of page 98, then reads a series of prayers. Pick one of the collects from page 98 to the middle of page 100. If there s a prayer listed for that particular day (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), say that one. Pick one of the last three collects (page 100 to 101) to say as the Prayer for Mission. [If you want to get complicated, it is customary to say the Collect for the Week as the first collect before picking another one to say from page 98 to 100. The Collect for the Week is the same collect that we say in Church on Sundays. They re in your Prayer Book from page 211 to 236, and the collect will be listed just as the week is in the Daily Office Lectionary. For example, if your saying the lessons from Proper 12, then you could turn and find the collect listed for Proper 12 on page 231.] o Intercessions. Prayers and Thanksgivings may now be freely offered. If praying with others, say something like, I now invite your prayers and thanksgivings, either silently or aloud. o The General Thanksgiving. Then say together The General Thanksgiving on page 101. Conclusion, page 102. Say, Let us bless the Lord, the People responding, Thanks be to God. o Finish with the first closing sentence: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc. 4

5 Evening Prayer Opening Sentence. Begin the office by saying one of the sentences of Scripture given on pages 115 to 116 of your BCP. Confession of Sin. Say the Confession on page 116, the lay Officiant substituting us for you and our for your in the absolution. The Invitatory and Psalter. On page 117, say O God, make speed to save us, followed by O Lord, make haste to help us. [If this is your thing, you might cross yourself at O God. ] o Gloria Patri. Say together, Glory to the Father, etc., adding Alleluia if it s not Lent. o Phos hilaron. Say together O Gracious Light at the top of page 118. o Psalms. Say the appointed Psalms (see Packet, p. 1). If there s more than one praying together, say them responsively by whole-verse. o Gloria Patri. Again, say the Gloria Patria in the middle of page 118. The Lessons, page 118. Read the lessons appointed for the evening (see Packet, p. 2). o Introduce the lessons like we do on Sundays (for example, A Reading from the Book of Joshua, or A reading from Paul s Letter to the Ephesians ), except for the Gospel lessons. Introduce those simply as A Reading from the Gospel of. You do not have to stand during the reading of the Gospel in the Daily Office. Read lessons in the order they re listed: OT, Epistle, Gospel. o Canticles. If there is more than one lesson being read, say together the Nunc dimittis ( The Song of Simeon, page 120) after the first lesson, the Magnificat ( The Song of Mary, page 119) after the second. If there s a third go straight into the Apostles Creed afterward. If there s only one reading (which there will be if Morning Prayer has been said), then say the Magnificat, page 119. This is the signature evening canticle. o Apostles Creed. Say together the Apostles Creed on page 120. The Prayers, page 121. Even if alone, say, The Lord be with you, followed by, And also with you, and Let us pray. If you choose, now would be the time to kneel. o The Lord s Prayer. Say together the Lord s Prayer on page 121. o Suffrages. Say Suffrages B on page 122. There s a space in the last suffrage, where you name particular saints with whom we re in communion. If you like, you might add the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary. o Collects. Say one of the collects from pages 123 through the middle of page 124. Say one of the Prayers for Mission from the middle of page 124 to the top of page 125. o Intercessions. Prayers and Thanksgivings may now be freely offered. If praying with others, say something like, I now invite your prayers and thanksgivings, either silently or aloud. o The Prayer of St. Chrysostom. The Officiant says the prayer at the top of page 126. Conclusion, page 126. Say, Let us bless the Lord, the People responding, Thanks be to God. o Finish with the first closing sentence: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc. 5

6 Lagniappe You have everything you need to start praying, but if you want to learn more about the Daily Office here are some other things you might be interested in. Decisions, Decisions You ll notice that there are lots of options throughout Morning Prayer. For example, there are 21 Canticles to choose from. Often times people will simply choose the options that they happen to like best, the prayers they think are prettiest, and so on. I want to suggest another way you might put these options to work, though. The flexibility allowed in the office is really helpful for carving out your weeks, months, and years. The key thing to know is that the year is divided up into seasons (more commonly known), and the week is also similarly divided up (less commonly known). The options available in the Daily Office are a very helpful way to help carve out your weeks and months, bringing your life into step with the Church Calendar. In this way, Jesus himself will be the pattern that orders your life. Remember, though, that these are not strict rules (but maybe good advice). Fridays throughout the year are penitential and appropriate for fasting. Every Friday is like a miniature Good Friday, commemorating Jesus s sacrifice. In MP you might be sure to say the confession, say the antiphon The mercy of the Lord is everlasting, followed by the Venite (or Psalm 95 on p. 724), substitute Canticle 14, A Song of Penitence for the Te Deum, say Suffrages B (the more penitential ones), say the Collect for Friday, and say the last Prayer for Mission on p Saturday is properly the Sabbath (see the Collect for Saturday on p. 99). It is a day for rest and delighting in Creation, but it also stands under the shadow of Holy Saturday (when Jesus rested in the tomb). You might say the antiphon The earth is the Lord s for he made it, followed by either the Venite or Jubilate on p. 82 (I usually reserve the Jubilate for Sundays and feast days, though more on that below), say Canticle 12, A Song of Creation in place of the Te Deum, say Suffrages A, and say the Collect for Saturday, being sure to say The General Thanksgiving. Sunday is the eighth day of the week and particularly celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, the day of New Creation (hence it s being known as the eighth day). Every Sunday is a Major Feast of our Lord, a miniature Easter. You might omit the confession (partly since there s a tradition of not kneeling on Sundays going all the way back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD), say the antiphon Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, say the Jubilate in place of the Venite, omit the Apostles Creed (since we ll say the Nicene in Church), say suffrages A, the Collect for Sunday, and saying the first Prayer for Mission on p. 100, being sure to include The General Thanksgiving. Also: Wednesdays are also penitential, so the Venite and Suffrages B are appropriate. There are four collects in MP not assigned to days (pp ); these can be said in order from Monday to Thursday. A Collect of the Holy Eucharist could also be said on Thursdays. Seasonal Options. The Opening Sentences and Antiphons can be seasonally appropriate. The Pascha nostrum should be said in place of the Venite. The Jubilate should be said in place of the Venite throughout the Christmas season (which goes till Jesus s Baptism, the Sunday after Epiphany). Suffrages A might be said throughout Christmas and Easter; Suffrages B might be said throughout Advent and Lent. Also, the second Prayer for Mission (p. 100) is particularly appropriate during Epiphany and the season after, as is the third closing sentence of Scripture (p. 102). The second closing sentence of Scripture is fitting in Advent. 6

7 Feast Days The only other thing you might look into before starting Morning or Evening Prayer on any given day is whether or not it is a Feast Day (and this should really be done first, since major feasts have their own lections, Psalms, and collects appointed). In order to check if the day is a Feast Day or not, turn to the front of your Prayer Book, to the calendar that begins on p. 19. If you flip to July, you ll notice that July 25 lists Saint James the Apostle in bold letters. Any of these feasts printed in bold typeface are major feasts. If the day is a major feast, then this might change how you say MP a little bit. In order to find the readings for that feast day, look on pp On a major feast, say the Psalms appointed for that day, rather than the usual 30-day Psalter. Also, look up the collect appointed for that Major Feast (BCP, ). If the person listed for a day is not in bold letters, it s a Lesser Feast and Morning Prayer goes as usual. This may seem too complicated, but observing feast days is an important Christian discipline (and one of the most enjoyable as well!). Celebrate St. James, or whichever saint or event or doctrine is being commemorated, by cooking yourself a steak or having a drink. (Feasts are particularly nice when they fall on Fridays or during Lent.) Trimming Down the Office If you re running late one day, but still want to squeeze in some Morning or Evening Prayer, you ll notice that there are some parts of the Daily Office that the rubrics allow to be left out if necessary. For example, the Confession and Creed can be omitted (which might be done if you re saying Morning and Evening Prayer). Also, you can cut the antiphons from Morning Prayer, the Phos hilaron can be omitted from Evening Prayer, you can say as few as two collects, The General Thanksgiving and the Prayer of St. Chrysostom can be left out, and even the closing sentence of Scripture can be cut. It s good to end the Office some way, so I recommend leaving the dismissal: Let us bless the Lord, (BCP, 102, 126). Again, if you re in a pinch, it s worth knowing this. Otherwise, it s not good to make a habit out of cutting these corners. A Bit More on the Psalms Above, I gave instructions for how to pray through the Thirty-Day Psalter. You ll notice in the Daily Office Lectionary, though, that there are two sets of numbers separated by a little cross just above each set of Scripture readings. The numbers to the left of the little cross are Psalms assigned for Morning Prayer. The numbers to the right are assigned for Evening Prayer. This will bring you through the Psalms over the course of 7 weeks. So for Tuesday under Proper 11 (p. 977) you would see: Tuesday , 48 Joshua 8:1-22 Rom. 14:1-12 Matt. 26:47-56 In this example, Psalm 45 would be said during Morning Prayer, Psalms 47 and 48 during Evening. One of the advantages to the Lectionary Psalter is that the Psalms are appropriately matched to the day of the week. At Trinity we ve been saying the Thirty-Day Psalter, though, mainly because it covers so much more. This was one of the rare times for choosing quantity over quality. Because of this, we do not say the Gloria Patri between Psalms, pause briefly at the asterisk at half-verse, or have the Officiant begin each Psalm, as some congregations do. 7

8 Cheat Sheet Morning Prayer - Say an opening sentence of Scripture, p Say together the Confession, p. 79 The Invitatory and Psalter - Officiant says, Lord, open our lips, and the people respond, p Say together, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen. p. 80 [If desired, say an appropriate antiphon, pp , people responding, Come let us adore him. ] - Say together the Venite, p. 82 [Repeat antiphon and response] - Say the Psalms appointed for the morning. - Again, say together, Glory to the Father, at the top of p. 84 The Lessons - Read the OT lesson and follow with the Te Deum, p Read the NT lesson and follow with the Benedictus, p Say together the Apostles Creed, p. 96 The Prayers - Say, The Lord be with you. And also with you. Let us pray, p Say together the Lord s Prayer, p Say Suffrages B, p Say one of the collects from pp Say one of the Prayers for Mission, pp Invite people s prayers, either silently or aloud - Say together The General Thanksgiving, p In the middle of p. 102, say, Let us bless the Lord, followed by, Thanks be to God. - Conclude with the first closing sentence of Scripture on p. 102: The grace of our Lord Evening Prayer - Say an opening sentence of Scripture, p Say together the Confession, p. 116 The Invitatory and Psalter - Officiant says, O God, make speed to save us, and the people respond, p Say together, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen. p Say together the Phos hilaron, p Say the Psalms appointed for the morning. - Again, say together, Glory to the Father, at the middle of p. 118 The Lessons - Read the NT lesson and follow with the Magnificat, p Say together the Apostles Creed, p. 120 The Prayers - Say, The Lord be with you. And also with you. Let us pray, p Say together the Lord s Prayer, p Say Suffrages B, p Say one of the collects from pp Say one of the Prayers for Mission, pp Invite people s prayers, either silently or aloud - Officiant says the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, at the top of p In the middle of p. 126, say, Let us bless the Lord, followed by, Thanks be to God. - Conclude with the first closing sentence of Scripture on p. 126 The grace of our Lord 8

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