Promoting the Daily Office

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

MissionStClare

Oremus 

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.”

29 Responses to Promoting the Daily Office

  1. Pingback: Saints and Psalms « haligweorc

  2. Pingback: Bonifce XVI on the Daily Office « haligweorc

  3. Ron Steed says:

    Derek,

    Happy to report that, after reading this article in September, I got a small body of people at St James, New London to agree to daily morning prayer (and with no trouble at all I was surprised to discover!). Its a great way to start the day. We plan to include daily evening prayer later in the year.

    All the best,
    Ron

  4. Excellent! Glad to hear it, Ron!

  5. lukacs says:

    The following site can be a little wonky but it permits you to set up a 1979 Rite I or II full-text office with your choice of Bible translations for the lections and the psalms. It does not use the BCP psalms–your choice of Bible translation determines which translation of the psalms is used.

    http://www.bookofcommonprayer.net/

  6. Interesting, lukacs! I hadn’t known of that one before.

    For others, it’s a liturgy site put together by the Charismatic Episcopal Church which is Anglican in character but not in communion with Canterbury. I knew one of their priests a while back who was quite a fellow…

    To nick one from Bono: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for… And probably never will unless I build it myself.

  7. Pingback: Call for Papers: Daily Office Propaganda « haligweorc

  8. Annie says:

    Thanks to you, Derek, I have made the Daily Office a regular practice in my life. This Lent I decided that Lent would be a good time to try to take it to the Church. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen the way I’d hoped and was never offered. But I have been doing morning prayer, usually rite 1, alone every morning in the sanctuary. I don’t regret being alone at all! In truth, I have found this time alone in the sanctuary to be more fulfilling than it ever was at home where I am liable to rush.

    Every morning has presented me with a special gift, a new contemplation, a new appreciation for a passage, a familiar psalm or a prayer I know by rote. The sanctuary is so beautiful in the silence–and mostly barely lit by the morning sun as I turn only the lights down the center isle. I do believe the saints are sharing my prayers with me when I hear the prayer books shift in the pews behind me. I take my time, I don’t shortcut in any way, I read and sometimes reread every psalm, or pause and reread a verse or two and take the time to think it through. Every day I take some time for silence or I drift into contemplation, or I walk intentionally around or light a candle or two for intercessions. I’ve become enamored of kneeling! The weeks have flown. I never missed the time and I’ve been as productive as ever–and peaceful instead of stressed, too–even short the hour each morning (driving to and from, too). As a lay person, I can highly recommend it as a practice. I love being there even though I am alone and I believe I will continue the discipline now. I can still hope that at some point somebody will join me and share my morning prayer! *But people are asking me for special prayers knowing that I’ll be praying! So I think there is something to saying that the Church is open, the lights (though few) are on and prayers are being offered.*

    Annie

    Annie

  9. That’s a great testimony, Annie! I’m always amazed how much more centered and settled I feel when I’ve done the Office versus the days when I don’t. Yor method is perfect—taking time and sitting with the Scripture as it presents itself in psalms, canticles, readings, and prayers. That’s where we open ourselves to the voice of the Spirit.

  10. Derek says:

    Hi Derek,

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile, and some questions have been brewing. I figure that I may as well post them here, since I am not sure where else would be best.

    I’m a Canadian, Catholic-turned-Anglican, and have tried various office rubrics (at different times, I’ve used the LOTH, COE’s Daily Prayer, 1982 Canadian BAS, 1979 ECUSA BCP, Roman Breviary, 1962 Canadian BCP). I’m having trouble settling on an office format that works for me, which is something you (and others) have mentioned a number of times, which is one reason why I thought you might have some advice.

    At present I’m vaccilating between using an adaptation of Rite II 1979 BCP (using Father John-Julian’s plainchant settings), which I have been using for the better part of the past year; and the 1962 Canadian BCP (essentially similar to the 1662 BCP; I am also using the Saint Dunstan’s Psalter chant settings with this), which I have started using more recently. I guess I’m having trouble making decisions because I want the best of both worlds: I love the beauty of the old prayer book language, and especially the integrity of the older BCP structure of prayers, lessons, collects, etc., but for a number of practical reasons I am not sure whether this is a viable long-term option, particularly in terms of generating interest in one day holding regular office services at my parish. I also find the older books limited in their offerings of “extras” such as such as canticles, Alleluias, etc. On the other hand, I am finding that I generally agree with your reservations about many of the “improvements” I find in the modern prayer book offices (for instance, your comments about the RCL and the accompanying office lectionaries, and the general sacrifice of many well-worn traditional elements without necessarily good reasons for doing so).

    What I’d love to see is a contemporary-language version of the 1662 BCP (or the 1962 Canadian BCP) that preserves more or less the original rubrics, lectionaries, collects, and so on. I am not sure whether something like this exists. And I am a bit tired of trying to improvise by juggling two (if not sometimes three or four) books at a time, to try to achieve the right combination of office rubrics, psalter, collects, lectionary, bible, etc. Given your comments and your obviously strong opinions on these matters, I’m wondering: how do you do it? Do you have any advice that might help me with this? Or is my best bet just to make up my own office booklet like the OJN has? I’ve actually tried this route for several liturgical seasons, but I’m a bit hesitant to stay on this track because there are already enough liturgical options out there, and I’m realizing I should probably just pick one of the existing options and go with it rather than think I can do better than everyone else…

    Anyway, I thought maybe you, or some of the other intelligent people who post on this blog, might have something helpful to say on these topics.

    Oh, and many thanks for all you are doing here–you and bls and Christopher and the others have been a huge blessing to me in my Office-ward and God-ward journeys.

    Peace and blessings,

    Derek

  11. Hi Derek,

    Thanks so much for your comments! Yes, I have given these issues some thought. I’ll address some of them as I go…

    In terms of the varieties of Offices, I do use quite a few but there are a some things I use to ground myself. First, I have a “Home Office”, one that I recognize as my own central, authoritative Office that I keep coming back to. For me, that’s the ’79 BCP’s Rite I. The other grounding factor is M—that’s the Office we use when we pray together.

    But yes, boredom or liturgical adventure-seeking is inevitable. In this case, I like to try to use a new Office or Office system for a whole liturgical season. That helps maintain *some* kind of stability.

    I feel your pain on not yet finding just the right book. I’m good with the ’79 Rite I but… I’ve done many of the things you’ve mentioned including multibook juggling and making up supplement sheets. I was over at LP’s house a few months back but after drooling over his Benedictine Daily Prayer said that I’d never really be happy until I put together my own breviary—then I’d probably get tired of that in a few months… As far as I can tell right now, the key is finding that center, giving yourself permission to wander away in a clear fashion, but always coming back. One of the secrets of coming back—and this speaks to the parish issue—is to have other eople using that same Office with you.

    While this may not solve anything, I hope it points you in some useful directions.

  12. Christopher says:

    This wouldn’t happen to be Derek D-B would it?

  13. lukacs says:

    The “other Derek” writes: “What I’d love to see is a contemporary-language version of the 1662 BCP (or the 1962 Canadian BCP) that preserves more or less the original rubrics, lectionaries, collects, and so on.”

    Dr. Peter Toon of the Prayer Book Society has drafted just such a book, and it is used by some parishes of the AMiA:

    http://www.anglicansatprayer.org/portal/files/AMIA_Prayer_Book1.zip

    The book can be ordered at

    https://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/shop.php?category=books&itemID=233

  14. lukacs says:

    To the “usual Derek”: have you ever laid eyes on the Holy Cross MONASTIC BREVIARY? It is rendered in modern language, but its integration of the ’79 BCP structure and elements of the Breviary (hymns, antiphons for psalms and Gospel canticles including three years of Sunday antiphons, proper festal collects, etc.) is very well done.

  15. Derek says:

    From the “other Derek”:

    Wow, lukacs, thanks very much, that’s a wonderful resource!

    Our situation in Canada is a bit different from that of TEC in that our “official” prayer book is still the 1962 BCP, with the 1662 structure and language, but we also have the 1982 Book of Alternative Services that “updates” the BCP in modern language. Like the 1979 BCP, it introduces important additions and is flexible to more contemporary concerns that are lacking in the older rite. Unlike 1979, it has no equivalent to Rite I and in fact what it does offer is not even really equivalent to Rite II–almost everything is optional, and many elements that even Rite II preserves are dropped. Just one example: the BAS has no yearly collect cycle at all, which baffles me; what’s the point of the liturgical year if it makes no difference in practice to the way we pray?

    In practice, the BAS has almost completely obliterated the BCP in most parishes, which I think leaves us poorer off. I know that few parishes would want to use the BCP because of the older language, but 1962 is still our official prayer book, and I don’t know how well served we are by just pretending it doesn’t exist. Maybe I should offer to kick off a study group on “Reading the Book of Common Prayer” at my parish, or something like that, and see if there is any interest. I am not sure there will be, though … people would wonder what that has to do with social justice. Has anyone out there tried to do something like this?

    Anyway, thanks for the links, I really appreciate that.

    Derek

  16. Lukacs,
    I’ve heard of The breviary of the OHC but have not laid eyes on one. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard about it—I just haven’t had ready cash to acquire one yet…

  17. Christopher says:

    Derek the Aneglican,

    I’ve been looking over The Monastic Diurnal Revised, which does a lot of what Lukacs describes. Can’t seem to find an OHC MB, though I should contact the monks at Incarnation Priory and ask if they have an extra copy before they close down. I guess I lied, they do the Office regularly as well, but they’re only a block from the seminary, and well, the cathedral, but it’s across the Bay.

    In comparing this with the earlier Monastic Diurnal, I note a decided shift from Benedictine to TEC shape and psalm usage in the ordinary.

    The earlier version is more similar to your simplified order of the secular Roman office with Benedict’s recommendations for psalms.

    The new version is in some ways like Christian Prayer (with better translations) and completely aligned to BCP practice–which influenced Christian Prayer.

    I’m conflicted between the two. In either case, however, length is an issue. These books are either for monasteries or for parishes.

    My questions for you, given your much more an expert on the lectionaries than I, is this:

    How would you recommend fitting in one psalm morning and evening?

    How would you recommend fitting in one OT/Epistle reading in the morning and one Gospel reading in the evening?

    How do I do both while not being somehow off on my own?

    I do think you are correct about switching up the Gospel Canticles, so I’ve revised my floridity on that count.

  18. lukacs says:

    Copies of the MONASTIC BREVIARY can be purchased from the Holy Cross bookstore:

    http://www.holycrossmonastery.com/Enterprise/MonksCell.htm

  19. Coincedent with the advent season our parish has begun daily morning and evening prayers. These are led by lay volunteers who are not necessarily members of the lector corps. This has been well received by our people and attendance is better than we anticipated.

    • Ian Edgar says:

      I know I’m a little late joining this conversation…but I thought it was an interesting and important topic. I am recently returned to the Anglican Church of Canada. When I first started praying the Office, I used a bl

      • Ian Edgar says:

        Oops. A blog from the Scottish Episcopal Church that was updated everyday. Then I got ahold of the Daily Office book from the Society of Saint Francis, which is what I use everyday. It contains the Angelus and the appropriate Marian anthems for after Night prayers. Does anyone else use this version? There is a good blog I like to read called “A Year in the Office” based around the Daily Office. Take care! Happy Christmas!

  20. Pingback: How Everyone’s a Theologian « The Writers' Block

  21. Pingback: Learning from a Monastery, Continued « A Red State Mystic

  22. Pingback: Mission, Discipleship, and the Daily Office « theophiliacs

  23. Pingback: Mission & the Daily Office I | Covenant

  24. Pingback: Makin’ It Work: Praying the Office « Babylon Diaries

  25. Pingback: The Psalms in the Daily Office | father christopher

  26. Some music is difficult to classify into one group. Into which category does one find a CD by a group of Irish women singing church music with an instrumental back up? Different people would place a particular recording in different categories. We suggest that you might find something special by browsing in the different categories of recordings on our site from the choices in the Browse box on the left side of this page. Some of the CDs include a short audio example that you can choose to play and hear their sound.

    http://www.episcopalbookstore.com/category.aspx?categoryid=228

  27. Mtr. Ellen Brauza, SCP says:

    Love this compilation in one place of the options and aids that are available online for the Daily Office. I like a bound book myself, but when promoting the practice to my parishioners, the electronic stuff is really helpful. One thing baffles me, however: what makes the language of Rite I inherently more Anglo-Catholic than the language of Rite II? Is it our equivalent of Latin, or something? I ask this as one who has tried to be faithful to the D.O. since my seminary days, who has never considered myself a protestant in any but the most technical sense, (i.e., non-papist,) but who vastly prefers contemporary English, and even rather likes inclusive language, as long as it’s not klutzy. I’m not trying to be snarky; please, please enlighten me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s