Tag Archives: Invitatory

Daily Office Basics – The Psalms

Today’s installment of Daily Office Basics could also be called “Beginning the Office,” as we consider the various ways to begin Morning or Evening Prayer.

The Daily Office is the public prayer of the Church, not just prayers for us to say at home, so the opening sentences are options to give a seasonal flavor to the service.

The Confession of Sin is optional, too. Some people choose to say it only occasionally, others once a day at Evening Prayer. For me, the Confession is not optional but critical, so I say it every time I pray the office.

The introduction to the Confession in Morning Prayer contains a perfect little statement about what we are doing when we pray the Daily Office:

Dearly beloved, we have 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)

Once we’ve looked at the opening sentences and the Confession of Sin in this video, we get to the proper start of the office, the Psalms with which we “set forth God’s praise.”

In the next two installments, we’ll look at the Lessons and Canticles in which we “hear God’s holy Word,” and then we’ll talk about the Prayers in which we “ask, for ourselves, and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and salvation.”

 

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Undefended, humble, and alive to God

Christ our Passover

Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia. (BCP 83)

Victory through sacrifice

In early Christian art, Christ is often depicted as a Passover lamb, sometimes flanked by twelve other lambs representing the apostles.

By the Middle Ages, it was more common to show the lamb holding a banner or pennant symbolizing the resurrection. This is the image commonly known as the “Agnus Dei,” Latin for Lamb of God.

The Agnus Dei is a symbol of victory through sacrifice.

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” we say when we break the bread at the Eucharist. “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again” we sing at Morning Prayer throughout Easter.

Surely trusting in God’s defense

In the Collect for Peace, which we pray on Tuesday mornings, we ask God to “Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord” (BCP 99).

We do not ask to be delivered from assaults; we ask to be defended in assaults.

And we pray that we may not fear any other power, because of the might — the sacrificial, self-offering mighty power — of Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain.

As we “consider ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord” we can embrace the same self-giving love that Jesus demonstrated.

Undefended, humble, and alive to God, we need not fear any adversaries. Alleluia!

Harden not your hearts

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom. 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps. 95:8).    -Rule of Benedict, Prologue

St. Benedict begins his Rule by inviting his monks to listen for the voice of God and not to harden their hearts to what God is doing in their lives.

His wise advice has endured for the last 1500 years.

Our own Anglican/Episcopal spirituality has roots in the orderliness and balance of Benedict’s Rule, in the notion of a way of life that prescribes “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” but which is also pursued as “a school of the Lord’s service.”

The pattern of our Daily Office definitely bears traces of Benedict’s hand, especially visible in our saying the Venite (Ps. 95:1-7) as an Invitatory Psalm nearly every day.

That’s just as Benedict prescribed in the way he laid out the 150 Psalms to be recited by his monks during the Daily Office every week.

Our Old Testament reading today tells the backstory to Psalm 95. The Israelites are groaning that Moses has brought them into the desert to die. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exod. 17:3).

After God has him strike the rock and causes water to flow, Moses calls the place Massah and Meribah (Test and Quarrel) because of the Israelites’ complaining.

The full text of Psalm 95, including the last few verses, is appointed to be read on Friday mornings during Lent as a special reminder of our tendency to grumble that the Lord is not giving us what we want — a complaint that flies in the face of the water flowing from the rock right in front of us.

“Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Beginning the Office

Prefer Nothing to Christ

Yesterday we prepared to say the Office by finding our place in the Book of Common Prayer and marking various places in the prayer book and Bible for easy reference.

Today we will begin the Office, looking at the opening sentences, the Confession of Sin, the Invitatory and Psalter.

Tomorrow we will look at the Lessons and Canticles, and the next day at the Prayers.

Where to begin?

The proper beginning of Morning Prayer is the opening sentences on BCP 80: “Lord, open our lips. / And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

At Evening Prayer (and other offices throughout the day), the opening sentences are “O God, make speed to save us. / O Lord, make haste to help us.” (BCP 117).

You’ll notice, though, that there are several pages of material printed before those opening sentences. You may choose to begin the Office with a seasonal sentence from Scripture and/or the Confession of Sin.

Seasonal Sentences

Look at BCP 75-78. You’ll see four pages of Scripture verses chosen to fit the seasons of the Church Year.

You might choose to begin the Office with one of these sentences in order to give your prayers the “flavor” of the season. This is especially helpful to distinguish seasons like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, from the long “ordinary” seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost.

Since it’s Advent now, you might choose to begin with “Watch, for you do not know when the master of the house will come …” (BCP 75). Over the next four weeks, you might change it up a little by using one of the other two choices.

Confession of Sin

Look at BCP 79. The italics at the very top of the page are called rubrics. They are directions telling you what to do next.

In this case, the rubrics say, The following Confession of Sin may be said; or the Office may continue at once with “Lord, open our lips” (BCP 79).

“May” is an important word in the rubrics, and it means what it says. You don’t have to say the Confession every time you say the Office; you may say it.

Many people who say both Morning and Evening Prayer choose to say the Confession only in the evening.

In this somewhat more penitential season of Advent, and certainly in the season of Lent, it may seem right to say the Confession at every Office. Again, the choice helps us focus on the season of the Church Year and its emphases.

At any rate, if you’re saying the Office alone, you can omit the introduction to the Confession and simply start, “Most merciful God …”

When you say the absolution at the top of BCP 80, change the pronouns from “you” to “us” — you’ll see the rubrics there to remind you.

The Invitatory and Psalter

Everything we’ve said so far is optional, remember. You could simply begin the Office here on BCP 80 with “Lord, open our lips.”

It’s customary to make a sign of the cross with your thumb over your lips when you say “Lord, open our lips” at Morning Prayer and to make the regular sign of the cross at the sentence “O God, make speed to save us” at the other offices.

Here’s how it goes:

Lord, + open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
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.
Alelluia.

Pause here for breath while we talk about …

The Invitatory Psalm

The Office begins with a selection from the Psalter, which you looked up in the Daily Office Lectionary and marked with a bookmark. Before you say those Psalms, however, you say the Invitatory (or opening) Psalm.

There are two Invitatory Psalms, called Venite and Jubilate after the first word of the Psalm in Latin: “Come” and “Be joyful,” respectively.

Because the Venite is commonly used all the time as the Invitatory, you might like to use the Jubilate during Advent and Lent, just to set the season apart a little. There’s also a special canticle called Pascha nostrum, or “Christ our Passover,” that’s meant for use during Easter.

Again you’ll notice some optional material on BCP 80-82 before the Invitatory Psalms are printed. These are antiphons, or refrains, which you may use in order to give a seasonal flavor to the Venite or Jubilate, which you say every day.

So today, saying the Jubilate might go something like this:

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

The Psalm or Psalms Appointed

The Office continues with the Psalms appointed for the morning or evening.

You may say the “Glory to the Father” at the end of all the Psalms, or at the end of each individual Psalm.

Before you turn to the Psalms, though, let me suggest that you refer to the Table of Canticles that you printed out from the Resources page and taped here at BCP 84. Move your Morning Prayer bookmark or ribbon to mark the canticle assigned to follow the first reading.

Today is Monday, for example, so Canticle 9 is appointed to follow the OT reading.

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If you take a moment now to mark it, you can read the Psalms, then turn directly to the OT lesson, then when you come back here, you can continue on with the Office very smoothly.

What you’re doing with your Morning Prayer bookmark or ribbon is holding your place in the service as you turn to the other resources you need for the Office: the Psalms, the Scripture readings, the Collects and other prayers.

We’ll look in more detail at the Lessons and the Canticles tomorrow morning.

Until then, I hope the Office is beginning to feel a bit more manageable. Every blessing!