Fr. Chris recently posted about saying Morning Prayer and I received a request from a parishioner to teach about how to read the Daily Office. Below is a short tract I wrote years ago that I hope you will find helpful.
FOR THE LITURGICALLY CHALLENGED
Fr. Ray Kasch
Bishop James Montgomery, in his introduction to the Daily Office Book, called Morning and Evening Prayer, “perhaps the greatest liturgical treasure of the Anglican Communion”. Among a plethora of devotional material, the Daily Office is unique in its use of ancient prayers, exposure to Holy Scripture, and collection of inspired worship in the use of the Psalms and Canticles. There is a balance and a rhythm of spirituality that begins in personal penitence and ends in the celebration of God’s goodness “to us and to all you have made.”. When done privately the Office can take as little as fifteen minutes or it can be expanded to however long you need it to be, as you include times of reflection, meditation and extemporaneous prayer. It is a privilege to pray these Offices that have been the prayers of saints past and will be the prayers of saints to come. The following is a primer on the use of Morning Prayer and the user is encouraged to add the variations of the Office as they grow with it and make it their own. While I prefer to use the Rite One option, this primer is teaches how to use Rite Two.
STEP I. FIND AND MARK THE LESSONS AND PSALMS
The Lectionary for the Daily Office begins on page 936 in the Book Of Common Prayer (BCP). This lectionary is on a two year cycle. The lessons for year one are on the left page and the lessons for year two are on the right page. Each cycle begins on the first Sunday in Advent. Advent of even numbered years begins year one and Advent of odd numbered years begins year two. Find the current week of year one or two, which you can find by a liturgical calendar or it should say on your Sunday bulletin. For example; March 15th 1998 is the Third Sunday in Lent (Week of 3 Lent) so the lessons for that week are found on page 954 of the BCP.
Next to the days of the week you will see some numbers divided by a small cross. These are the Psalms of the day and the cross separates the Psalms for Morning Prayer from those for Evening Prayer. Below the Psalms are the three lessons of the day. It is typical to read two lessons in Morning Prayer and one in Evening Prayer.
Mark your lessons in the Bible and mark the Psalms in the BCP. Don’t panic! Finding and marking the lessons and canticles is the most difficult part.
STEP 2. START WITH THE INVITATORY AND PSALTER, BCP p.80
Your first words (unless you wish to make a confession on pg.79) are “Lord, open our lips.” from Ps 51:16. These were the first words spoken in monasteries to break the silence that began the previous evening. Even when praying the Office alone, pray both the lines of the officiant and of the people. (You are never alone when praying the Office. Somewhere among the 77 million Anglicans someone else is praying and even if they were not you are praying with “angels and archangels and all of the company of heaven.”) Next say the Doxology (“Glory to the Father…”). Skip, for now, the antiphons p.80, 81 and turn to p. 82. Choose either the Venite or the Jubilate. These are Psalms that invite us to worship. You will want to alternate between them each day. Next read the appointed Psalm that you previously marked. At the end of the Psalms say the Doxology again. This frames the opening part of the Office.
STEP 3. LESSONS AND CANTICLES
The rhythm is to hear from God and to respond in praise. Read a Lesson and follow it with a Canticle. The Canticles are on pages 85-96 and the chart on page 144 gives the Canticle of the day after each lesson for Morning Prayer. The chart on page 145 are the Canticles for Evening Prayer. This may seem awkward at first but after doing it a few times you will appreciate the flow of this pattern.
STEP 4. THE APOSTLES’ CREED, BCP p.96
This recalls the essence of our faith and as the creed of our baptism it reminds us of our Baptismal Covenant.
STEP 5. THE PRAYERS, BCP p.97
Begin with the Lord’s Prayer and choose either Suffrages A or B, again alternating between them each day. These versicles and responses are reflective of the Prayers of the People found in the Eucharist.
STEP 6. THE COLLECTS, BCP p.98-101
The Collect of the Day can be skipped for now because it refers to the Collect from Sunday or from that day if it is a Holy Day or a Saint’s day from Lesser Feasts and Fasts. You may want to add it later as you learn the Office. It is appropriate to pray that Collect from last Sunday all through the week. You will find a set of seven Collects beginning with “A Collect for Sunday”. Since there are seven Collects you may wish to select one for each day of the week, for example, A Collect for the Renewal of Life on Monday, A Collect for Peace on Tuesday, etc.
The three unnamed Collects, which begin on p.100, are the Prayers for Mission. Choose one and alternate them throughout the week. The third prayer for mission on p.101 is particularly appropriate for Fridays, the day of Christ’s crucifixion.
STEP 7. ADD YOUR PERSONAL INTERCESSIONS AND THANKSGIVINGS
STEP 8. THE GENERAL THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER OF ST. CHRYSOSTOM, BCP p.101,102
Pray one or both. The General Thanksgiving is a magnificent prayer that is well worth memorizing. The Prayer of St. Chrysostom is an ancient prayer that sums up our particular prayers.
STEP 9. THE DISMISSAL, BCP p.102
Conclude with “Let us bless the Lord” and one of the three graces.