November 29, 2010

What Is the Daily Office? (Part II)

Editor's Note: If you haven't read Part I, you might want to do that now! Here, in Part II, the Reverend Joshua W. Hale (@expatminister) continues his series about this venerable prayer practice. Again, you're invited to post questions about the Daily Office in the comments section here or chat with us via Twitter or Facebook.

Last Monday, I wrote about the origins and purpose of the Daily Office. Simply put, the Daily Office is a rhythm of prayer during which we undertake the regular (daily, hourly) work of praising God. This week, we focus on the Psalter, which is at the core of the service.

Since praying the entire Book of Psalms in a week is not something most of us (outside of a monastery) can easily do, contemporary forms of the Office often leave space to read as many or as few psalms as time permits. Remember, the “common” or Cathedral form of the Office keeps the same few psalms at each hour, so according to tradition, we pray all or selected verses from one of these psalms:

For Morning Prayer:
Psalms 95, 51, or 63

For Midday Prayer:
Psalms 1, 113, 117, 119 (portions of it!), 121 or 126

For Evening Prayer:
Psalms 141, 121, or 117

For Night Prayer:
Psalms 4, 31, 91, or 134

Our community often tweaks the psalm reading so it can be more easily tweeted, tending to offer a verse (or two) for deeper reflection, especially during Midday Prayer.

You can easily find schedules for daily psalm and scripture readings in any breviary (i.e., a book with everything needed to pray the Daily Office). The Daily Office Lectionary from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is a systematic two-year cycle of both. Although it includes reading and praying a passage (or a few) of scripture, the Daily Office is not intended to be a preaching service, nor are sacraments ordinarily celebrated.

Something else to contemplate: the Daily Office is intended to be led by the laity; it’s a service that wholly belongs to all the people of God.

Want to learn more?

+ Liturgical Training Publications publishes a beautiful translated and illustrated Psalter.

+ Interested in learning the tradition of chanting? Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide comes with a CD, too!

+ You can download the 2-year Daily Office Lectionary from the 1979 BCP.

So, what do you want to know about the Daily Office?

Image: Psalter, Belgium, 15th century.

1 comment:

Sue said...

One of the things I love both about returning to church "IRL" and about the Virtual Abbey is incorporating the daily office into my life. There is something comforting about that familiar language and about the Psalms.

And when life gets difficult, the habit of prayer and the key phrases gets me praying even if before the daily office, I would have felt "not up to" prayer because "what would I say"?

It's easy to pray for others when life is calm and they're the ones in crisis. It's easy to praise or worship or be in gratitude when life is great. But just as you have stamina if you work out regularly, I find out that "working out" with the daily office builds my prayer muscles for times I feel least inspired to pray but most need it.

Here's a cool intro to the different hours--each with an angel. You get the gist of each traditional hour this way--and can choose the liturgy you prefer for the daily office itself.