The Daily Office
A priest friend of mine once told me, “You will have some dark days as a Christian, and the Daily Office will save your life.” I have found that to be true. In recent reflections, I have described the habit of setting apart a space and time for daily prayer, by yourself or with your family. I have also given a short introduction to the history of the Book of Common Prayer. This week, I invite you to look through the services of the Daily Office given in the prayer book. The book contains four of these services: one for morning, noon, evening, and night (Compline). Noonday Prayer and Compline are simpler services with no turning to other parts of the book, and take about 5 minutes. Morning and Evening Prayer contain more options and liturgical depth, and take 15-30 minutes, depending on how much you want to read. If all of these are unfamiliar to you, I invite you to try just one. As I mentioned last week, you may either contact the parish office to borrow a Book of Common Prayer, or find one online. To find the Psalms and readings assigned for the day, one can use the Daily Office Lectionary provided in the prayer book, or simply pick up a Forward Day by Day booklet and look at the top of the page for that day.
To go through any service in the prayer book, you can always find it in the table of contents and follow the instructions given in italics before and throughout the service. Each service contains this basic structure:
One can delve into a number of liturgical details in these services, but for those unfamiliar with the services, they may hinder more than help. The architects of the original Book of Common Prayer intended Morning and Evening Prayer to form the daily bread of parish prayer life, and they possess a natural flow once you have heard them again and again. But for now, rather than try to find the correct opening sentence and antiphons, or even what those are in the first place, I invite you to just follow the basic structure given above, and contact me if you would like some help.
The shape of prayer in the Daily Office can shape us, regardless of our church experience or lack thereof. The consistency of these services reminds us of the unchangeability of God over and above an ever-changing world. They connect us to our roots as Christians. Our personal prayers in the context of common prayer uphold the Church in its daily need, and shape us into becoming who we are called to be. Uplifting our desires to God places them in the context of His desire for us.
Thank you for walking with me through this little pilgrimage of prayer. I hope that you will try some of this for yourselves, and be honest with me about what you find life-giving or what you find difficult. Sometimes they are one and the same! May God bless you this Advent and always.