Category Archives: Daily Office

New Liturgical Look Forward

This is the “Look, ma, no head!” version…

The technical tweak to this video is that I have not included any talking head shots. It occurred to me that it didn’t make sense to do a lot of editing work to overlay pictures of a presentation over top of talking head pictures—why not just record the presentation itself? So, that’s what I tried this week. Too, my digital strategist said that the video was “less cringey” this way.

Thus, without further ado, The Liturgical Look Forward for Proper 2:

New Experiment

After a bit of thought and a couple of false starts, I’m trying out a new experiment: YouTube videos.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that, even though I’m a biblical scholar, I sometimes lose the thread of exactly what we’re doing and where we are in the various Scripture lessons of the Daily Office. I figure that if I have this problem and I’ve got a Ph.D. in the field, it may well be happening to other people too…

So, to address this gap, I’ve started a series of videos entitled a Liturgical Look Forward. The goal is to look at the three Office readings for the upcoming week and locate them within the books that we’re reading through.  In the event of a Holy Day (like the Feast of St. Mark that falls on Wednesday), I mention what we’re missing—but also what we’re getting in the feast itself.

It is, of course, An Experiment. It may not last. Also, as it’s experimental, I have no real idea what I’m doing… The video below is the first video I’ve ever shot and edited for public consumption. The intriguing aspect of this whole realm is that I’m constantly calling in my teen-aged daughter to help me navigate the YouTubes; I’ve never had to rely on younger help to navigate anything digital and it’s quite the humbling experience!

In any case, here it is—let me know what you think.

(And click “subscribe”!)

Evensong Handout, Rite I for Lent

Over on the Rubric Facebook page there was a question about whether any churches do Evensong from the prayer book any more. The answer is, yes, they do…

Just to distinguish, there are three main kinds of evening prayer services:

  • Evening Prayer where the service is prayer from the Book of Common Prayer,
  • (Congregational) Evensong where the officiant and the people sing the service together (the appointed psalms may either be read or sung—I’ve seen it both ways), or
  • Choral Evensong where the service is sung between the officiant and the choir. The congregation may chime in on the canticles or hymns—or not. Usually everything is sung and it uses either the 1928 or the 1662 format.

M’s church has been doing a congregational evensong during Lent and Advent. Attendance varies, sometimes it’s as high as 15, sometimes it’s just been 3 or 4. Usually it’s in the 10 or 11 range, but numbers aren’t the driving goal—offering Evensong is.

For several of the participants over the last couple of seasons, it was the first time they’d ever been to an Evensong. Too, sometimes M invited others to lead—once a priest from another congregation, and once our younger daughter H wanted to give it a try.  It worked because we used a format that was pretty easy. My preference is always to use the book, but I don’t find that practical in this instance because you have to know when and what to sing and when to move from hymnal to prayer book. Instead, we worked up a 1-page front-and-back sheet that contained the main body of the Office without hymns, psalms, or canticles. This allowed us to make one run of sheets that we could laminate and use over and over throughout the season.

Also, when you get into hymns and such you start running afoul of copyright regulations. Virtually all of the hymns and much of the composed service music is under copyright.  Both the text and tunes found in the hymnal for the specific service texts for Evening Prayer are in the public domain because, in the case of the prayer book, the texts are explicitly in the public domain. In the case of the tunes, they are traditional and have been used for hundreds of years. What *is* copyrighted is the typesetting of them in the hymnal. That’s why you can’t copy-and-paste from the hymnal without a license: the image of the contents are copyrighted even if the contents are not.

While M’s church does have one of the big rubber-stamp music licenses because they livestream and YouTube their service (which you can watch here), I opted to dispense with the issue altogether by setting the music myself with a basic music notation font and judicious use of the Paint utility.

So—what you’ll find here is a Rite I Evensong for Lenten congregational use that fits on a one-pager. [Now, with all the notes in the Dismissal!] Officiants will need their prayer books as some of their texts are partial or missing to save space and, of course, no propers are included.

The Confession is included and there’s a reason for that… When M first started this, she was doing it with a clergy colleague. We handed out the sheets, and he began with the Confession—which wasn’t on the sheets. This caused unintentional chaos, so I added it and it’s been on since. (As a basic rule, if you’ve given a handout for an unfamiliar service, you’d be advised to go with what’s on the handout even if it’s not the way you’d normally do it. Finish the service, then address the handout; don’t deviate in the middle [or beginning] and confuse everybody…)

Year B Gospel Canticle Antiphons for the Daily Office

I had a post in the works that got into discussions of the Anglican Missal and Breviary* and such that got long and windy and such so I’ll just keep this brief and cut to the chase…

Of course, I like the Anglican Missal and Breviary but there’s one obvious problem with using them as direct supplements to the ’79 BCP: our current use is grounded in a three-year Eucharistic lectionary. These venerable resources are grounded in a one-year lectionary.

One of the key elements of continuity between the Mass and Office in Western liturgy was the use of bits and pieces of the Gospel and Epistle for the nearby feasts in successive days of the Office and chief among these is the Gospel Canticle Antiphon which was typically taken from the Gospel lection. I have two different cycles of Gospel Canticle Antiphons in the St. Bede’s Breviary, but this is a post to alert you to another…

Friend-of-the-blog Charlie Heeley has put up a set for use with Year B of the Revised Common lectionary that also includes some appropriate Chapter passages for use with Noon Prayer as well. It’s a compact, six-page (printed front & back) booklet that puts these texts right at your fingers. It’s in a Google Doc that can be found here.

Let me know what you think!

Office of the Holy Spirit

A Little Background

One of the reasons I have been so quiet recently is because I have been teaching a Masters level course at The Ecumenical Institute (EI) of St. Mary’s Seminary and University here in Baltimore. It was the first course in the history sequence which started from the time of the New Testament and went up to the Reformation—a span of some 1500 years and 12 million square miles in just a couple of months… While it’s wrapping up now, it was a fun class with a wonderful set of engaged students from a variety of backgrounds split between Roman Catholics, a few mainliners, and several nondenominational folks. In addition to teaching the main historical content of the course, I also offered a 1-credit spirituality component (as EI courses sometimes do).

Rather than trying to follow course content too closely, I decided to have this small group of students take some time with three spiritual practices fundamental to the age that we were studying. First, we spent several weeks doing Evagrian/Desert Father-style breath prayers taken from the Scriptures, especially the psalms. Then we spent several weeks exploring lectio divina. Naturally, I encouraged them to start with the psalms rather than have them tackle a larger book–and because of the prominence of the Psalms in-period. For our third section, I knew I wanted to do something relating to the Books of Hours.

There are all sorts of compelling reasons to focus on the Books of Hours. We had been working with psalms in the earlier parts of the semester—why not experience the psalms in their liturgical context? While not the only devotion used in the period, the Books of Hours were the central devotional locus for the literate laity. Also, Baltimore is the site of the splendid Walters Art Museum, home to one of the greatest collections of Books of Hours in the entire world. Furthermore, I could select something from the scope of the tradition that non-Roman Catholic students could embrace without theological reservations—and this was a live issue as none of the students in the spirituality portion were Roman Catholic. I finally settled on a relatively obscure choice, the Office of the Holy Spirit.

Hours and Offices: A Distinction

As you may know, late medieval books of hours have a fairly standard set of main contents. I’ve talked about these before. There are two chief sets Offices, the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Office of the Dead, that generally follow the outlines of full-on monastic Offices but are shorter and much less variable. These Offices include psalms.

Then, there are several briefer Hours that may or may not appear: Hours of the Passion, Hours of the Holy Trinity, Hours of the Holy Spirit, and a variety of hours for specific saints (John the Baptist, Catherine, etc.). Largely speaking, these tend to consist of a Gospel canticle antiphon, a hymn or hymn portion, a versicle & response, and a collect. Note: no psalms. That’s because these were usually prayed as tack-ons to the end of the main offices. Since you’d already prayed some psalms, more were not necessary.

Thus, if a set of thematic prayers contains one or more psalms we refer to it as an “Office;” if it didn’t, we refer to it as an “Hour.” (And let me note that—like many conventions—this is a modern scholarly convention that you may or may not find in manuscripts of the period.)

The Office of the Holy Spirit

While Hours of the Holy Spirit are not terribly uncommon in the surviving corpus of Books of Hours, the Office of the Holy Spirit is not common at all. Indeed, as far as I know (so take that with a big grain of salt!), the Office of the Holy Spirit did not make the jump into the age of printing. So, I had kind of an issue. The Office of the BVM was out on content-grounds; didn’t want to make my Protestants do Marian devotions without their consent. The Office of the Dead could be interpreted as being on the line too given Reformation concerns, but it also isn’t a full office—it only contains Matins, Lauds, and Vespers. The Hours and attendant Office of the Passion tend to be quite anti-Semitic, and I didn’t have time or opportunity to edit those to make them suitable for modern prayer. However—everybody can get behind the Holy Spirit!

Fortunately, there is a well-written copy of the Office of the Holy Spirit in one of the manuscripts here in the Walters. Walters Ms. W.86 was written in Arras, France, sometime between 1275 and 1300. It’s not a terribly pretty book especially as far as these books go, but it is legible. Much of the material is either biblical or is drawn from standard liturgical materials for Pentecost, so I adapted standard English materials as needed and translated what I didn’t find. I put it all into contemporary English so, at the current time, these Offices are only present in a “Rite II” format.

I wanted my students to have the full experience of a Book of Hours, though, so I brought in some pretty pictures from another Walters manuscript: Walters Ms. W.196.  This is a book with some fantastic images painted in Bruges, Belgium around 1470. Unfortunately, some of the images were cut out of the manuscript, including those for Lauds and Prime of the Holy Spirit and also the Matins of the Blessed Virgin (which would have depicted the Holy Spirit descending on Mary at the Annunciation). As a result, I borrowed a picture from before the Penitential Psalms of David praying for Lauds, and recycled the image from Nones for Prime.

The Site

The site offers the traditional eight-hour sequence of the Office of the Holy Spirit. It is an alternative cycle to the usual Daily Office. Or, of course, the internal hours can be used to supplement a prayer book office if that is your desire. The site structure is very basic: there is a home page which links to the hours and an About page; each of the hours is on its own page and has a link at the bottom back to the home.

I’ll be interested to hear about your experience of this site. I’m trying out some new graphical elements (as you’ll see). The primary purpose was to, again, give the students a feel of what the Books of Hours were like and the kinds of visual cues they used. Books of Hours generally tended to be small-format books so I intentionally designed it to give that kind of feel for tablet/phablet/phone sized screens. A secondary ulterior motive was to explore some new ways of doing image layout and font.

Ok—that’s enough talking; here is the site itself:

The Office of the Holy Spirit home page

Update on New Breviary Offices

Since my previous post, I’ve been able to log some significant time getting bugs fixed and features added to the new code base.

Morning Prayer in the new format is here: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Morning_79_BCP.html

I’m happy to announce that Evening Prayer can now be found here: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Evening_79_BCP.html

But…you might be saying…what if I don’t want to have to go to two different places to get my offices? Never fear, this is a temporary intermediate state while I get things functioning correctly. I’ve already thought of a number of possible end-states where you can go to one place and get the offices you’re after. As usual, I’ll play with a couple, and we’ll figure out what you like best…

Some items to note:

  • The Prayer for Mission is now a choice; all of the options are available, but one is made active.
  • If you’re overwhelmed by options, you can get rid of most of them with the “Simplify Options” button.
  • A number of things will appear now as they ought too—hymns, commemorations, etc.
  • The right creeds are with the right rites.
  • Kalendar selections exist now. There are only three options at the moment: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006 (the official Calendar of the church—more on this anon), Great Cloud of Witnesses (made available at General Convention but not yet published in tangible form), and my own idiosyncratic House Kalendar. I’ll add back more as time allows and as I receive requests.

There are some known issues that I am working on:

  • If you begin on a day with ferial psalm antiphons, select a kalendar that is observing a saint, then decide that you really want to go back and not celebrate the saint, the code has trouble recall the initial ferial antiphons.
  • I’m sure there are more waiting to be found…

There are some things I haven’t gotten to.

  • Chief among them is a way to capture/save/apply preferences. I think we’re really close on this one; I’m just trying to determine if there are some more elegant ways to make it happen rather than a basic brute force approach.
  • Non-current BCP adds. Some folks have recommended some additional changes not yet included. I am both sympathetic and supportive of these—but not right now. The mission on the SBS is to provide an office with full options that is licit within the rubrics and rules of the ’79 BCP.  I may well consider incorporating some of your earlier or ore far-reaching options once I can get the core material nailed down—but the core material does now and will always take precendence.

Things I’m mulling over…

  • Yes, both canticles deserve antiphons. And, I have a nice model for Evening Prayer in the Palmer Evening Office antiphon book where there are appointed Magnificat antiphons coupled with broadly seasonal Nunc Dimittis antiphons. However, that raises questions. What if the first canticle at EP is something else and the second is the Mag? Where does the Mag antiphon go? With the Second (Gospel) canticle? What about a good source for MP First Canticles?

Let me know what you think, and we’ll keep moving forward here…

Thinking on Hymns

I’m in the final stages of edits for my next book, the one on prayer book spirituality. It finally has a title: Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life.

As I went through the section on the Calendar yesterday morning, I realized that while I’d talked about the hymns in some seasons, I’d left others out. So–I spent some time with the hymnal, and put together some thoughts on those.

In going through that exercise, I was reminded just how much the early hymns of the West, those by Ambrose, Gregory, Venantius Fortunatus, Caelius Sedulius, and the the early anonymous compositions connect Scripture, liturgy, and doctrinal themes into a seamless sonic package.

When I think and write about the ways that liturgy provides interpretive lenses for both Scripture and Christian experience, I think these hymns play a particularly important role in not just making some foundational connections but handing them down and keeping them alive.

Meditation on these early Office hymns, what they teach us, and how they teach it is just as much a part of our patristic heritage as doctrinal treatises…

O come, let us get a grip

A piece appeared on the Covenant blog yesterday bemoaning the fact that we don’t have all of Psalm 95 printed in the Morning Prayer service. Personally, while I do have some sympathy for the position,  I don’t find this nearly the issue the author does. Here’s the thing…

  • Psalm 95 can always be used in place of the shortened version
  • We have the full version in Rite I language on pg. 146 for those of us who prefer that idiom
  • The Daily Office Lectionary mandates the use of the entire Psalm 95 on Fridays in Lent

To those points, let me add the following…

  • the shortened version acheives liturgically what the church intends with the Venite
  • the author offends against the American mashup currently found in Rite I by proclaiming it to have been accomplished with “two less offensive verses,” expanded with the comment, “There was no textual reason for this change, except perhaps to remove verses that might make one uncomfortable.”

First, the job of the Venite is to call us to prayer. This is what I’ve written previously on the Venite -as-invitatory:

At the heart of the concept of the invitatory is an invitation. The appointed texts urge those praying them to worship. Psalm 95 holds such a privileged place because it does it three times in rapid succession. It opens with a repeated call to worship in verses 1 and 2: “Come let us sing…let us shout for joy…Let us come…and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.” The call repeats in verse 6:  “Come, let us bow down.” The other element of Psalm 95 that made is so attractive is found at the end of verse 7: “Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!” Although this passage logically goes with the next section of the psalm which gives the rebellion of the people under Moses as an example of what not to do, the Rite II Venite ends here. In addition to the call to come and worship, we are reminded to also listen and take heed of what God is telling us. The Rite I Venite preferred not to include any of the condemnatory section, but swaps in additional encouragement to praise from Psalm 96 and retains the notion that God is also coming to meet us in our worship.

Thus, when you’re looking at intention, the Venite does what it’s supposed to do. I do agree that it is stronger with the rest of the Psalm, but it still gets the job done.

What touched a sore spot for me in the article is the notion that the verses introduced from Ps 96 are mild and inoffensive. The irony of this is that the day before this article came out, I found myself pausing and appreciating just those words in the Venite because they helped reinforce the Advent concept and because starting each day with a remembrance of the Last Judgement is a fine thing to do.

Because—let’s recall—that is what those verses from Psalm 96 are fundamentally about.

Yes, they depict creation joining us in our morning praise, but the reason that the whole creation rejoices is because God is coming to set all things right and to enforce justice, righteousness, and equity upon the earth. That’s Last Judgement material, and we (yes, we) who consume and hoard such a disproportionate percentage of the goods of creation, ought to remember and feel a certain amount of trepidation about the choices we make on a daily basis that reinforce inequity on a global scale that Christ will come to correct…

So, yes, I too, would prefer the full Psalm 95 (and actually have it programmed that way in the breviary throughout Lent). However, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the shorter version; it does what it’s supposed to do. But—and this is probably my main point—if you believe that the verses from Psalm 96 are “less offensive,” you’re not reading them carefully enough.