Skip to comments.What Has Become of the Daily Office?
Posted on 11/08/2005 7:55:40 PM PST by sionnsar
Morning and Evening Prayer are normative in the Anglican tradition, yet when was the last time you said these offices? Many people in ECUSA have never heard of the Daily Office and most are unaware that the 1979 Prayer Book states that Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, along with the Eucharist, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church. (p. 13)
Daily Morning and Evening Prayer were required in all parishes of the Church of England from 1549 and were corporate services of prayer. Beginning in 1552, even clergy without a cure were required to say the Daily Office, either with another person or privately. Priests were bound to the discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer unless by some urgent cause they were hindered from its performance.
At Glastonbury, (which cathedral is now only a shell) Morning and Evening Prayer have been said at the altar by clergy and laypersons without interruption for eight centuries. This is the Anglican Way and adheres to the scriptural injunction to offer prayers day and night in the temple.
Morning and Evening Prayer are public and should be said at fixed times so that people may attend when moved to do so. Morning and Evening Prayer should be offered Monday through Saturday in every parish that describes itself as Anglican.
The Eucharist should not replace Morning Prayer on Sundays. However, since the 1979 Prayer Book insists that the Eucharist must be the principal service of worship on Sundays, few churches provide Morning Prayer. One way to prevent the extinction of Morning Prayer is to say it in place of the ministry of the Word and continue with the Great Thanksgiving. Another way is to hold separate services of Morning Prayer and Eucharist on Sunday morning.
Morning and Evening Prayer are opportunities for spiritual renewal in the course of our daily routines. The purpose of the Daily Office is best stated in the 1552 exhortation to confession, which reads:
Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness, and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of almighty God our heavenly Father, but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same by his infinite goodness and mercy. And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which be requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as be here present, to accompany me with a pure heart and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me
Attendance at the Daily Office provides occasion for heart-felt contrition and reverence to be expressed through the postures of kneeling and bowing, especially during the Creed. Consider the following text of the Creed taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The rubric to bow has been inserted to demonstrate the traditional four instances.
before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, (bow:) came down from heaven, (bow:) And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary (bow:) And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried, And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven; And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together (bow:) is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, (bow:) And the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed effectively as we hear, understand and respond to Gods word through daily common prayer. This Anglican way of prayer is unique and should be preserved. ECUSAs practice of having the Eucharist every time people gather is based on Post-Vatican II developments in the Roman church. It has had the effect of setting aside Morning and Evening Prayer and the use of the Litany on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Loss of these distinctively Anglican resources has no doubt contributed to ECUSAs spiritual poverty and made it an ineffective witness to the Gospel.
This is a very nice article. When I was Anglican, I never understood why Anglicans didn't have Evening Prayer on Saturday night, Morning Prayer prior to the Eucharist, etc... in a manner parallel to Orthodox usage.
As I read about the daily office in the history of the church, I wondered why it had essentially disappeared in the West. I am unaware of a single Episcopalian, Catholic, or Lutheran parish that does any of the daily office in our small city of 100,000. I've heard rumors of a group of lay Franciscans who do some of the office, but I don't know details.
At our parish, we have Vespers on the eves of Sundays and all important feasts, and Matins is chanted on Sunday mornings before the start of Liturgy -- and often prior to Great Feast liturgies as well. We chant Compline during confessions for those who are there.
I greatly admire those Orthodox parishes that have daily Vespers and Matins (all too few, unfortunately.) I know one Orthodox priest who does so, and he says that for a priest not to serve these services daily is like not showing up for work. Many Orthodox priests do much of the daily office in private prayers, but if this is being done, why not do it in church, where others might come to join in prayer?
Of course, few people come to many of the weekday services (we had a grand total of 7 people at last night's Vespers for the Feast of the Holy Angels, and 9 for liturgy this morning), but what is important is that the cycle of prayer goes on, and that it is availableas much as possible to the faithful. One hopes that the practice will grow.
In Tokyo, they had both Vespers and Matins every Saturday evening and Sunday morning respectively. Not sure about weekdays. Every time I was there, the Divine Liturgy was done by the Metropolitan, H.B. Vladyka Daniel.
We have Vespers and Orthros on weekends and of course during Great lent. We also usually have at least Orthros on major feast days.
Does the Roman Church still do this? I remember as a kid that the Roman priests used to say what I remember being called their Divine Office, but I think it was something they read silently at one point or other during the day. It wasn't something they did as a service or devotion on the altar. Am I thinking of something else?
YES! Priests and Deacons are obligated to pray the hours, and the laity are strongly encouraged to do so. The books I linked to are available to the general public ... the single-volume "Christian Prayer" book is commonly used by the laypeople I know who pray the hours. There's a longer version that the Clergy are supposed to use.
In truth, very few lay Catholics actually pray the hours. I think most clergy, in most dioceses, though, are faithful to it.
Our new rector has (re-)introduced the practice; Matins (Morning Prayer) at 8:30 AM, Evensong (Evening Prayer) at 5:30 PM. The attendance is usually small, but we're a very widespread parish and Seattle-area rush-hour traffic is horribly bad.
I can only remember attending Matins or Vespers a few times. The old Lenten and Advent services were done using Vespers, before the district presidents decided that every pastor can just make up his own liturgy. I remember going to youth retreats back in the day that had Matins every morning, but that is it.
Wish we had more of it though. At times I can't attend on Sunday, and would really love a daily service to go to.
You know, that's very nice. I remember attending these devotions during Great Lent at the Episcopal Church in the town I went to college in 100 years back or so, with the girl I was dating at the time. They were beautiful, the prayers, the music, all of it.
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