Tag Archives: Compline

Daily Office Basics – Daily Prayer Origins

I’m delighted to announce that my series of posts called Daily Office Basics is now available in video form!

This first video introduces you to the origins of daily prayer in the Christian church, tracing how daily prayer has changed over time and how we came to have the form of Morning and Evening Prayer that we use in the Episcopal Church today.

Over the next four days, videos will cover finding your place in the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible and then will look at the three parts of the Daily Office — Psalms, Lessons and Canticles, and Prayers — in turn.

I am particularly grateful to Grace Abounds, the online ministry of Grace Episcopal Church in Sheboygan, for filming and producing these videos. The Ven. MIchele Whitford is content manager, and Zachary and Nicholas Whitford filmed and edited the videos.

The series will reside at dailyofficebasics.graceabounds.online — in addition to the videos, that landing page includes some resources for you to download and use as you prepare to pray the Daily Office.

Thanks also to Andy Barnett and the Theodicy Jazz Collective for permission to use music from their album Vespers. You can listen and buy online from their website.

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Daily Office Basics

Daily Office Basics

The Daily Office Anchor Society will be actual, not just virtual, in February.

Join me on Saturday, February 15 from 8:30 to noon at St. Thomas Church, 226 Washington Street, Menasha WI 54952 for a program on Daily Office Basics.

Many Christians choose to observe Lent with “special acts of discipline or self-denial” such as praying Morning or Evening Prayer.

On February 15, you will not only learn how to pray the Church’s daily offices but you will also receive a variety of resources to help you navigate what may be an unfamiliar or confusing practice. We will have plenty of time for questions and sharing with each other.

We will enjoy coffee and light refreshments at 8:30 am and begin with Morning Prayer at 9 am. The program will conclude promptly at noon.

Psalmody and Simony

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Seven times a day do I praise you, *
because of your righteous judgments. 
Great peace have they who love your law; *
for them there is no stumbling block. 
I have hoped for your salvation, O LORD, *
and have fulfilled your commandments. 
I have kept your decrees *
and I have loved them deeply. 
I have kept your commandments and decrees, *
for all my ways are before you. (Psalm 119:164-168)

This verse from Psalm 119 is behind the Benedictine rule of daily prayer in the monasteries — seven times of prayer which since the 6th century or so have been known as Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.

The Benedictine round of prayer is a workmanlike approach to prayer. Each office is relatively short, all 150 psalms are appointed to be read in the course of every week, and there is only minor variation from day to day, season to season, year to year.

The Daily Office in our Book of Common Prayer definitely springs from that Benedictine tradition. The fruits of the Daily Office are revealed only after long use and steady practice. It takes time for the words of the Psalms and of the rest of Scripture to soak into your mind and heart, time and repetition. I’ve been saying the Daily Office regularly for 20 years now, and I’m only getting started.

Now contrast this with the story appointed for today from the Acts of the Apostles, the story of Simon the magician.

Simon was a magician who did deeds of power in Samaria, but when he saw the disciples and their faith he turned to the Lord and was baptized. Apparently, however, he and the other Samaritans who were baptized did not receive the Holy Spirit, so Peter and John came down to lay hands on them. “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 8:18-19).

It’s from this man Simon that we get the word simony, which means making a profit out of sacred things or buying and selling a position in the Church. The word really comes from the Middle Ages, when the wealthy would buy a bishopric or buy a position as abbot for a family member.

The gift of the Spirit is just that, a gift, and you can’t buy it. And the fruits of the Spirit are revealed over time, too — you can’t just leap to the end state.

I’ll bring it back to the Daily Office with an example.

There are several very marvelous iPhone apps that make saying the Daily Office much easier. My favorite is the app (and website) by Forward Movement called Day by Day. Just open the app or the website, click on Daily Prayer, and the office unfolds before you — no fussing with ribbons or bookmarks, no worrying about whether you’ve picked the right collect. Just click and pray.

Here’s the thing, though. The app makes it easy, but you still have to actually pray.

You still have to put in the time in order to give the Word a chance to soak in. So be like Simon — eager for the gift of the Spirit — but don’t be like Simon in his haste to skip over the work.

Our common life

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I had a Twitter exchange with a fellow Episcopalian, Brendan (@indybrendan), last night about the Daily Office.

He said he couldn’t get into Morning Prayer because he’s not a morning person, but he’d be glad to pray for me during Compline before he went to bed.

Megan (@revlucymeg) piped up and said, “that’s why we have a daily cycle — everyone takes an office,” and I promised I’d have Brendan’s back at Morning Prayer. This is how the Church fulfill’s St. Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing.”

On Thursdays there’s a baptismal slant in Morning Prayer. Canticle 8 (BCP 85), appointed to follow the Old Testament lesson, recounts the Exodus — linked in Christian imagination to the Easter Vigil and baptism. The Collect for Guidance, customarily read on Thursdays, places our identity and our work in God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (BCP 100). In the first Prayer for Mission on that same page we pray to our heavenly Father for “all members of your holy church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you.”

I added this morning, in honor of Brendan, a favorite prayer from Compline that underscores our mutual dependence, not only as members of the Church united by Baptism, but also as creatures united by life on God’s round Earth.

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 134)