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The Three-Part Office
The Daily Office is structured in three parts: the Invitatory and Psalter, the Lessons, and the Prayers.
Introductory material like we discussed yesterday, and the apparently complicated Daily Office Lectionary, can obscure that three-part structure, but it helps to keep it in mind.
On Sunday, we discussed finding your place and preparing to say the Office. Yesterday, we talked about beginning the Office and praying the Psalms. Today we will focus on the Lessons, the readings from Scripture organized by the lectionary in a two-year cycle.
Tomorrow we will finish this series by looking at the Prayers, especially the Collects, which are so distinctive in our prayer book worship.
The Daily Office Lectionary
On Sunday we looked briefly at the Daily Office Lectionary in order to mark our place with the Psalms and Lessons appointed for the day and the particular Office we were praying.
One of the particular treasures of the Daily Office is that it soaks you in Scripture. You can’t help it — as you follow the Daily Office lectionary, you will read all 150 Psalms every seven weeks, the New Testament in the course of a year, and the Old Testament over the course of two years.
Since the Church Year starts in Advent, a little before the calendar year, the Year Two lectionary for even-numbered years like 2014 starts a little before 2014. We’re now beginning Year Two.
Week of 1 Advent
Tuesday 5,6 * 10,11
Amos 3:1-11 2 Pet. 1:12-21 Matt. 21:12-22
We looked at the Psalms yesterday; remember that the Psalms for Morning Prayer are listed first and those for Evening Prayer second.
There are three Scripture passages appointed for each day — Old Testament (or Apocrypha), New Testament (Acts and the Epistles), and Gospel.
The instructions on BCP 934 suggest that two readings be used in the morning and one in the evening. They also suggest that in Year One, you read the Gospel in the evening and in Year Two in the morning.
So today at Morning Prayer, you will read the lessons from Amos and Matthew. At Evening Prayer, you will read the lesson from 2 Peter.
You’ll notice as you go from day to day that you are doing what is called “course reading” — reading through an entire book over the course of several days or weeks. That means most days you won’t have to move your bookmarks, because you’ll pick up reading where you left off the day before.
Lessons and Canticles
Most Episcopalians are familiar with the way Scripture lessons are read in church on Sunday mornings.
We usually read an Old Testament lesson, say or sing a Psalm, read a New Testament lesson, sing a Gradual Hymn during the Gospel procession, and then hear the Gospel read.
It’s actually not too different in the Daily Office. The pattern in the Office is to read a lesson, then respond with a “canticle,” a song made up of verses from Scripture.
So today, we read the passage from Amos, then read a canticle, read the passage from Matthew, then read another canticle.
If you turn in the service of Morning Prayer to BCP 85, you’ll see that there are 14 canticles printed over the next several pages. How do you know which canticle to read?
Enter the handy-dandy Daily Office Anchor Society Canticles Bookmarks!
What they do is replicate the tables found at BCP 144 which lay out which canticles to read on any given day of the week. I suggest that you print them out from the Resources page, trim them to size, and tape them into your prayer book at BCP 84 for Morning Prayer and BCP 118 for Evening Prayer.
Since today is Tuesday, after the Old Testament reading we will turn to BCP 90 and read Canticle 13. Like the Invitatory Psalms, the Canticles have been known for centuries by their Latin names. Benedictus es, Domine is Latin for “Blessed are you, Lord.”
After the New Testament reading, we will turn back to BCP 93 and read Canticle 18, A Song to the Lamb.
Just like there are seasonal sentences of Scripture that you could say to begin the Office, there are also seasonal emphases in the Canticles. You’ll notice on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays on the table above that there are different canticles appointed during Advent, Lent, or Easter. You’ll also see at the bottom of the table that any time there is a Major Feast on the church calendar, you would use Canticles 16 and 21 at Morning Prayer.
It feels like a lot of information, but the pattern for the Lessons is actually pretty simple:
Old Testament reading
Canticle from table
New Testament reading
Canticle from table
The Apostles’ Creed
The last thing we do in the Lessons section of the Office — after hearing God’s holy Word and responding in song — is recite the Apostles’ Creed (BCP 96).
The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient baptismal creed of the Church. When we baptize anyone even today, we renew our own baptismal covenant by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Every day, morning and evening, we remember our baptism.
In the Daily Offices “we come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation” (BCP 79).
Tomorrow, we will conclude this series by looking at the Prayers “for ourselves and on behalf of others” which conclude the Office.