On the Theology of the Daily Office

The Anglican Scotist wrote a few days ago and mentioned something about the theology of the Office. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. One of the things I keep returning to is how much structure matters. By “structure” I mean a variety of things. It includes but is not limited to 1) the order in which the elements appear (the most basic sense of the word ordo), 2) which elements are chosen when options are available, 3) how often do the elements/ordo change, 4) what prompts the elements/ordo to change.

I’ve been using the Anglican Breviary a lot recently but also found my Office Book which I had managed to loose on my desk. My experience of switching between the two has opened my eyes to the importance of noticing changes and what triggers them. Furthermore, the structure makes a definite theological impact in terms of what elements are not there–especially what elements are displaced or replaced.

There are a lot of options in the Daily Offices. Even if you are going strictly by vanilla 1979 BCP, the liturgy can have and express several different theologies based on how the required, optional, and possible elements are deployed…

4 thoughts on “On the Theology of the Daily Office

  1. The Anglican Scotist

    Go ahead and say some more!

    I’m using the vanilla Rite II BCP ’79. It’s just about at the limit of what I can even gradually assimilate, doing Morning and Evening, sometimes with a Noon office. In particular, I do not think I could handle adding more canticles a la “Enriching Our Worship.”

    More (though still just a little): without some form of lectio divina for at least one of the scripture readings, the office feels like a rear-guard action. As if inevitably I lose much of significance to the nearly ubiquitous press of the daily flux.

    Finally: I can only sing parts of this; it seems designed at many points to be sung aloud (esp. the psalms!), so much so that failing to do so creates a very peculiar atmosphere.

  2. Derek the Ænglican

    Well, one simple example is how the Office starts. The original start was the trina oratio–an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the Creed. The 1549 reduced this to an Our Father, the 1552 replaced it with the current penitential fore-rite that has remained ever since. But this fore-rite is optional in the American ’79 BCP. Whether, how often, and when you use it shifts the theology of the Office that you are living…

  3. The Anglican Scotist


    Two questions:
    (1) Can you give a speech on Office theology with its history in mind?

    (2) Are you planning a book?

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    Funny you should ask… :-D

    I actually do have an outline drawn up and a rough of the first chapter. Unfortunately, I think this one stands as Dissertation Distraction Project N+5 and will probably not progress much further for a while until the Damn Dissertation gets finished.

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