Tag Archives: Psalms

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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Daily Office Basics – Finding Your Place

In this installment of Daily Office Basics, we get down to specifics:

How do I know what page I’m supposed to be on in the Book of Common Prayer?

What Bible lesson am I supposed to read this morning? This evening?

How do I remember where I am when I keep flipping back and forth in the book?

All of these questions (and more) will be answered here.

As you watch the video, you’ll see that we are preparing you to start praying the offices next week, starting on the Monday after the First Sunday in Lent.

Also, we have provided nifty bookmarks for your prayer book and Bible, as well as a guide called “Praying the Daily Offices.”

All of them are free to download at dailyofficebasics.graceabounds.online.

Praying the Daily Office is simple, but it’s not self-explanatory. I hope this video will help you find your place and feel more ready to begin.

 

12 Steps of Christmas | Introduction

Before we begin with Step One and Morning Prayer on Christmas Day, here’s a little background information about the Daily Office, the 12 Steps, and my plan for this series that you may find helpful.

About the Daily Office

From the beginning, Christians, like their Jewish forebears, have prayed at set times of the day. (See Acts 3:1, for example.)

Over the centuries, and especially with the rise of monastic communities, Christians gathered to pray as often as seven times a day (emulating Psalm 119:164).

That sevenfold monastic pattern was simplified during the Reformation, and in the Church of England became two “offices” of Morning and Evening Prayer.

The Roman Catholic Church may refer to these prayers as the Liturgy of the Hours, the Orthodox Churches may refer to them as divine services or divine offices, and the Episcopal Church (to which I belong) refers to them as the Daily Office.

Whatever differences there may be — in number of services, times of the day, selections from Scripture to be read at certain times — there is a basic pattern to the Daily Office that’s pretty common.

The Psalter – Reading from the Psalms has for centuries been the foundation of daily prayer.

In the Episcopal Church, the 150 psalms are read at Morning and Evening Prayer on a seven-week cycle.

The Lessons – Readings from the Hebrew Bible (or the Old Testament) and from the New Testament are next. In some churches, those readings are relatively short (maybe just a verse or two) and may be called “chapters.”

In the Episcopal Church, we have inherited a tradition of reading a lot of Scripture in the Daily Office. Over the course of two years, we read most of the Old Testament once and the whole New Testament twice.

The schedule of what Psalms and Scripture lessons are to be read on a particular day is called the “lectionary.”

The Prayers – Beginning with the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for our own needs and those of others and we give thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy.

In the Episcopal Church, there are special prayers called “collects” that set themes for every Sunday of the year, for days of the week, and for special occasions. At each office, we commonly read two or three of these collects.

About the 12 Steps

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, according to the history timeline on the AA website, date to 1938 and to the early experience of the first members.

They are “a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

The 12 Steps were codified from the “Big Book” titled Alcoholics Anonymous, which also includes stories sharing members’ experience, strength, and hope.

You can read the 12 Steps in short form or in the longer form of the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

About this blog

I’ve been praying the Daily Office for about 23 years now, since before my ordination as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and I’ve been writing and teaching about it for many years.

I’ve only been practicing recovery for a little over two years now, since becoming sober in October 2013.

Three things really stand out for me as I compare the two practices:

The first thing that struck me about AA meetings is the regular reading and re-reading of the Big Book and of the “12 and 12.”

This constant return to the basic texts of AA has a lot in common with the practice of the Daily Office.

Year after year, season after season, week after week, “one day at a time,” the words of the basic texts — Bible or Big Book — soak into your imagination, and you begin a process of incorporating their wisdom into your daily living.

The second thing that I discovered is that both AA and the church talk about similar spiritual practices; we just call them by different names. For example, what AA calls a “daily self-inventory” the church calls “Confession of Sin.”

And third, both practices are done not because you feel like it, but because it’s time to do it.

We pray Morning Prayer each day at 6 am because that’s the time to do it; we go to an AA meeting on Friday evenings because that’s the time to do it. We can enjoy a “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” (Big Book 85).

The 12 Steps of Christmas

Each day during the 12 Days of Christmas, we will read one of the 12 steps and pray the Daily Office with its psalms and Bible lessons as appointed in the lectionary.

From the resonances between them, perhaps some wisdom will emerge that will help in our “spiritual awakening.”

I look forward to having you join me in the process for the next 12 days, and I invite you to share in the conversation by adding your comments.

Merry Christmas!

NT Wright on Scripture in worship | A big, exciting room we come in and inhabit

I couldn’t possibly agree more with N.T. Wright’s comments in this five-minute video on Scripture in worship from Glenn Packiam’s Mystery of Faith Blog.

With attention to what we are doing, we are fortunate in our “gentle Anglican liturgy”  — in the morning and evening offices and in the Holy Eucharist — “to inhabit the world of Scripture” just as Wright describes:

What one is doing is turning Scripture into a world where you come in and live, a big exciting room that you come in and inhabit.

Wright gently bemoans how the public reading of Scripture is too often sidelined in worship. He even describes being invited to preach at a “modern-style” service and at the last minute being asked, “Would you like a Scripture reading?”

The public reading of Scripture is itself the primary act of worship. It is not conveying information to the congregation; it’ll do that as well, but it does that as the byproduct … of celebrating the mighty acts of God.

And so what do we do in this “big exciting room that you come in and inhabit”?

When you have built this great house of praise and worship, which is the scriptural story surrounded with the psalms and the prayers of the people of God, then you turn it into intercession, because you’re now living in a room where intercession makes sense.

I’m reminded here of what the founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Fr. Richard Meux Benson, says about praying for others:

As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.

In the first half of the video, Wright has actually been describing the Daily Office, a point that I think might have been lost on his listeners, because he then goes on to clarify that the same thing is happening in the Eucharist.

I am grateful to Packiam and his colleagues for sharing this short glimpse of Wright’s deep, lifelong meditation on Scripture.

However, I find Packiam’s comment as he introduces the clip so poignant:

It is precisely because Prof. Wright is an ‘outsider’ to our modern worship world that his thoughts may be helpful. He may see things we miss. What he chose to address was the absence of Scripture in worship.

Here as elsewhere in his books and videos, I think N.T. Wright is explaining historic Christian worship from the “inside,” especially when he calls it “an act of humility, a way of saying ‘I’m not making this up as I go along.’ It’s a gift from the whole worldwide church, and I inhabit it gratefully.”

The public reading of Scripture — and especially the pattern we have inherited in the Daily Office — is a gift from the worldwide church, indeed, and I inhabit it gratefully. I hope you do, too.

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!

Finding your place

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Saying the Daily Office is relatively simple, but it’s certainly not self-explanatory.

So as the new church year begins on this First Sunday of Advent, here are a few hints to help you find your place.

First, you will find it easier to pray the Office if you mark your Book of Common Prayer and your Bible ahead of time. Use the bookmarks on the Resources page of this blog or your own bookmarks, ribbons, or whatever else you like.

Start with a bookmark for the Daily Office Lectionary, which begins on BCP 937 — today, we begin Year Two of the lectionary, so you’ll be reading down the right-hand page.  The entries look like this:

Sunday          146, 147          *          111, 112, 113
Amos 1:1-5, 13–2:8          1 Thess. 5:1-11          Luke 21:5-19

Place a bookmark at Psalm 146, or BCP 803. The psalms for Morning Prayer are listed first, then those for Evening Prayer.

Place bookmarks in your Bible for the Old Testament (OT) reading from Amos, the Epistle (NT) reading from 1 Thessalonians, and the Gospel reading from Luke.

Place a bookmark at BCP 211, where the Collect of the Day for the First Sunday of Advent is located.

Place bookmarks at the beginning of Morning Prayer (BCP 75) and Evening Prayer (BCP 115).

Finally, print out the two Tables of Canticles from the Resource page; place the Morning Prayer Table at BCP 84 and the Evening Prayer Table at BCP 118.

Pro tips:

I have found it helpful to tape the Tables of Canticles into the BCP at the pages above, as they are small and have a habit of falling out. See the picture above for an example.

Also, after I say the Opening Sentences on BCP 80 and the Invitatory on BCP 82-83, I move the Morning Prayer bookmark (in my case, a ribbon) to the Canticle which will follow the Psalms and OT lesson. Today, for example, that would be for Sunday, in Advent (A), so Canticle 11. That way, after I flip forward to the Psalms and then read the passage from the OT, I can simply flip back to the Morning Prayer bookmark and continue with the canticle. You will certainly work out your own rhythm.

Lastly, you may find it helpful to refer to the document called “Praying the Daily Offices,” also found on the Resources page. It will remind  you what to do next as you move through the three sections of the Daily Office — Invitatory and Psalms, Lessons and Canticles, Prayers — and the bookmarks will already be where you need them when the time comes.

Whether you are beginning the Daily Office in Advent (or beginning again), I hope these few pointers will help you not only to find your place in the prayer book, but to claim your place in God’s kingdom.

 

That they might lovely be

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Over on Twitter this morning, Charles Hawkins (@Parish_Parson) shared an article by Rowan Williams on Augustine and the Psalms. It’s a typically dense read, but well worth attempting on this feast day.

Williams says that “the psalms represent the unifying of the divine and the human voice in Christ.”

What is distinctive about any hermeneutic of the Psalms is that singing them is quite simply and literally an appropriation of Christ’s life, in history and eternity. And, from this act of appropriation, the church as a whole is revealed as the community where humanity is allowed full scope to say what it is, in terms of its failure and pain, so that it may fully become what it is created to be, the multiple echo of the Word’s response to the Father. “Do not hear anything spoken in the person of Christ as if it had nothing to do with you who are members of the Body of Christ” (Enarrat. Ps. 143.1).

He goes on to say that “the singing of the psalms becomes the most immediate routine means of identifying with the voice of Christ. And that identification carries implications for the kind of mutual relation that concretely defines the life of the church.”

What we try to do in the Daily Office as we sing or recite the psalms morning and evening, day after day, is to more and more become the Body of Christ, in which one member cannot say to the other “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12).

The more there is love, the more suffering at the lovelessness of others in the church (Enarrat. Ps. 98.13, referring to Paul in 2 Cor 11). But such love is precisely what we have to offer the loveless within the Body; thus the cost must be borne.

Here Williams’ words call to mind the hymn by Samuel Crossman:

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.

This love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13) is precisely the bond of our unity as the Body of Christ, the unity we pray for in the Collect appointed for this week:

Grant, O merciful God, that your people, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 232)