The Essence of the Office

This post follows on the other on the Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving to complete my thoughts on the Essence of the Office.

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The essence of the Daily Office must be found on one hand in Paul’s exhortation for Christians “with gratitude in your hearts [to] sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Col 3:12), and, on the other hand, to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). The two central themes here that we must keep before our eyes are the idea of the use of songs and poetic praises of God and also continuous prayer springing from deliberate acts of periodic prayer. As we consider the Daily Office and its various parts and acts, we will return time and time again to these two basic principles that form its foundation.

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

The Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill (†1941) in her book Worship reinforces the poetic character of the Daily Office and the significance of that quality:

Liturgical worship shares with all ritual action the character of a work of art. Entering upon it, we leave the lower realism of daily life for the higher realism of a successive action which expresses and interprets eternal truth by the deliberate use of poetic and symbolic material. A liturgical service should therefore possess a structural unity; its general form and movement, and each of its parts, being determined by the significance of the whole. By its successive presentation of all the phases of the soul’s response to the Holy, its alternative use of history and oratory, drama and rhythm, its appeals to feeling, thought, and will, the individual is educated and gathered into the great movement of the Church. . . . Nevertheless since its main function is to suggest the Supernatural and lead men out to communion with the supernatural, it is by the methods of poetry that its chief work will be done. . . . [P]oetry still remains a chief element at least in the Daily Office, which is mainly an arrangement of psalms, canticles, and Scripture readings. (Worship, p. 119)

 She goes on to remind us of the interpretive errors that occur when we attempt to read poetry literally and miss its deeper sense and direction. As she sees it, poetry in the liturgy has three main purposes:

(1)    It is the carrying-medium of something which otherwise wholly eludes representation: the soul’s deep and awestruck apprehension of the numinous. . . .

(2)    It can universalize particulars; giving an eternal reference to those things of time in and through which God speaks to men. . . .

(3)    It is a powerful stimulant of the transcendental sense . . .

All these characters of poetry are active in good liturgy, and indeed constitute an important part of its religious value. Moreover, poetry both enchants and informs, addressing its rhythmic and symbolic speech to regions of the mind which are inaccessible to argument, and evoking movements of awe and love which no exhortation can obtain. It has meaning at many levels, and welds together all those who use it; overriding their personal moods and subduing them with a grave loveliness. (Worship, p. 120)

Great art—great poetry—is that which can capture our minds and hearts, and suffuse reality with a new light, a new perspective. It helps us see our ordinary, everyday world as not so ordinary, and cracks open everyday reality to help us see the beauty, the glory, and the wonder that is concealed therein. It helps us see new possibilities; it helps us see grander movements.

This is my best perspective on Scripture: it invites us into a different way of seeing the world and our relationships within it. It invites us to experience the whole cosmos arrayed around the throne of God as portrayed in the heavenly throne-room depicted in Revelation 4-6, and leads us to speculate about what it means to live in a world where justice, mercy, and loving-kindness are fundamental guiding principles. We are invited to recognize our own world transformed and suffused with the light of God and to function as mirrors, lenses, and crystals, reflecting—focusing—diffusing—the divine light, casting it through our facets upon the world and people around us.

The Office with its language of poetry reminds us and orients us to this level of understanding and reflection. Too, it can help us get beyond a literalism and dogmatism that can either frustrate or limit our sense of the holy and the divine. The Athanasian Creed can be a hard pill for many to swallow. On one hand, it’s chalk full of complicated and philosophical technical terms. On the other, it ends with a declaration of damnation containing a certainty that seems to arrogate to itself a judgment properly left with God alone.   The Episcopal Church has never been comfortable with it; Bishop Seabury (†1796), the first American Episcopal bishop, wrote that he was never convinced of the propriety of reading it in church, yet did want to include it along the same lines as the articles of faith to show that we hold the common faith of the West. Indeed, the 1979 revision is the only American prayer book to include it. Especially as modern people, we don’t know what to do with it—but the monks did! They sang it as a canticle complete with antiphons at Sunday Prime, the poetic and musical setting potentially subverting its dogmatism and softening its philosophical formality in song.

After speaking of the eight individual hours that formed the Daily Office in the West, Underhill draws them together and unites them with their purpose:

The complete Divine Office, then, . . . is best understood when regarded as a spiritual and artistic unity; so devised, that the various elements of praise, prayer, and reading, and the predominately poetic and historic material from which it is built up, contribute to one single movement of the corporate soul, and form together one single act of solemn yet exultant worship. This act of worship is designed to give enduring and impersonal expression to eternal truths; and unite the here and now earthly action of the Church with the eternal response of creation to its origin. It is her “Sacred Chant,” and loses some of its quality and meaning when its choral character is suppressed: for in it, the demands of a superficial realism are set aside, in favour of those deeper realities which can only be expressed under poetic and musical forms. (Worship, 124-5)

The more we sing of the Office, the more in touch we are with these melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of which she speaks. Yet, even if we are reading it alone in our rooms, we can still find the cadences there.

On a purely literary level, we can go through the Office step by step and note the presence of the poetry and music at every step. The psalms form the heart of the office. We respond to the Scripture readings with canticles, most of which are infused and inspired by the psalms—or songs like them. The suffrages themselves are verses of psalms recombined and related to one another in new ways. The collects and prayers speak in the language of the psalms and Scriptures.

As we pray the Office and sing it—whether aloud or in our hearts—we are incarnating the Pauline injunction to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God and to one another. As its poetry becomes more deeply a part of us, as these songs become more fully implanted within our hearts, they leads us to a more beautiful lens for locating God at work in our world.

To Pray Without Ceasing

This notion of having the songs and psalms implanted in our hearts and consciousness leads us in to the second principle, to pray without ceasing. If we wish to learning the meaning of this phrase, we must turn our eyes to the Desert Fathers and Mothers for it was they who devoted their entire efforts to live its meaning.

The fourth century was a tumultuous time for the Church as Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 meant an end to persecution and brought with it a tacit sign of imperial favor. (Christianity wouldn’t actually become the official religion of the empire until 380 under Theodosius.) While the easing of restrictions against Christianity brought in a wave of converts—some no doubt embracing it for political gain—this same easing equally triggered a crisis of spirituality. For decades, Christian authenticity had been bound up with martyrdom; fidelity to the way of the cross was identified with the willingness to die a martyr’s death. With martyrdom at the hands of the authorities no longer an option, where was an earnest Christian to turn?

The answer came in the form of the desert. Christians who sought to embody the commands of Scripture sold their possessions, renounced family life, and sought lives of prayer and austerity in the deserts, either on their own or in the company of like-minded souls. This way of life, which would flower into monasticism and feed the church spiritually for centuries to come, was popularized by bishops and theologians who wrote inspiring accounts of the lives of simple men and the spiritual riches they uncovered. The great bishop Athanasius (†373) penned the Life of Antony which chronicled the life and spirituality of one of the earliest desert saints and spread word of the movement across the Greek-speaking world. Not to be outdone, the ascetic and scholar Jerome (†367), living in a monastery in Jerusalem, wrote a number of lives that sought to supplement (or replace) the Life of Antony, bringing knowledge of the desert life to the Latin-speaking church. The first great systematic works of Western Christian spirituality, John Cassian’s (†435) Institutes and Conferences, were written for the benefit of his monastery in Gaul, containing remembrances of his youthful spiritual dialogues with heroes of the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts.

As we sift through the literature of the early monastic movement and the desert saints who founded it, we come back time and time again to this injunction to “pray without ceasing,” to praying of some form of the Daily Office, and a fundamental belief that the use of the Office was the key to praying without ceasing. The characteristic pattern of desert life is captured in a brief description of how Antony lived:

The money he earned from his work he gave to the poor, apart from what he needed to buy bread, and he prayed often, for he learned that one should pray to the Lord without ceasing. He also listened attentively to the Scriptures so that nothing should slip from his mind. He preserved all the Lord’s commandments, keeping them safe in his memory rather than in books. (Life of Antony 3, Early Christian Lives, p. 10)

Note the way that work, prayer, and memorization of the Scriptures are interconnected here. This way of life is further clarified by an episode where a desert hermit was disputing with a group of uber-pietists called the Euchites or Messalians concerning prayer without ceasing:

Some of the monks who are called Euchites went to Enaton to see Abba Lucius. The old man asked them, ‘What is your manual work?’ They said, ‘We do not touch manual work but as the Apostle says, we pray without ceasing.’ The old man asked them if they did not eat and they replied they did. So he said to them, ‘When you are eating, who prays for you then?’ Again he asked them if they did not sleep and they replied they did. And he said to them, ‘When you are asleep, who prays for you then?’ They could not find any answer to give him. He said to them, ‘Forgive me, but you do not act as you speak. I will show you how, while doing my manual work, I pray without interruption. I sit down with God, soaking my reeds and plaiting my ropes, and I say, “God have mercy on me; according to your great goodness and according to the multitude of your mercies, save me from my sins [Ps 51:1,2].”’ So he asked them if this were not prayer and they replied it was. Then he said to them, ‘So when I have spent the whole day working and praying, making thirteen pieces of money more or less, I put two pieces of money outside the door and I pay for my food with the rest of the money. He who takes the two pieces of money prays for me when I am eating and sleeping; so, by the grace of God, I fulfill the precept to pray without ceasing.’ (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 120-1)

This blend of piety and practicality is found throughout this early literature. The life described is one filled with basic manual labor—weaving ropes or baskets made from the leaves of the desert palms or scratching out subsistence gardens from the rocky soil—suffused with constant prayer. Indeed, the Egyptian monks in particular were famous for prayers that were “brief but frequent.”

The prayer recited by Abba Lucius is an adaptation of the start of Psalm 51. Reading through the Life of Antony and the description that Athanasius gives of Antony’s struggles in spiritual travail, a pattern emerges. At a great turning point in Antony’s life, during a struggle with demons that left him both physically and spiritually battered he retained his faith and focus by ceaselessly chanting, “If they place an encampment against me, my heart will not fear” (Ps 27:3). When people came from the cities, hoping to find him dead, he would pray verses from Ps 68:1-2 and Ps 118:10. Throughout the literature, the words of the psalms are constantly appearing through their prayers and discussions. In truth their whole conversations are shot through with Scripture, but consistently the psalms predominate. In fact, the Egyptian “brief but frequent” prayers that appear in the corpus are almost always drawn from Scripture and the psalms. One of the works of Evagrius of Pontus (†399) consists entirely of one-liners from Scripture to be used for prayer in a host of situations organized in relation to the eight vices identified by the desert monks.

For these monks—many of whom were illiterate—Scripture came through hearing. Preeminently, Scripture was heard and memorized in the Daily Offices. The foundation of the Office gave them the words they needed to meditate in the midst of their work and to truly pray without ceasing no matter what they were doing.

Perhaps the preeminent connection between the Scriptures, the psalms, and praying without ceasing comes from the second conference on prayer recorded by John Cassian. Abba Isaac says that the whole goal of the monastic way of life can be summed up like this: “This, I say, is the end [goal] of all perfection–that the mind purged of every carnal desire may daily be elevated to spiritual things, until one’s whole way of life and all the yearnings of one’s heart become and single and continuous prayer” (Conferences 10.7.3). Cassian’s companion Germanus asks how this sort of focus can be achieved. The reply from Abba Isaac is that there is one particular formula for meditation that can secure this result:

The formula for this discipline and prayer that you are seeking, then, shall be presented to you. Every monk who longs for the continual awareness of God should be in the habit of meditating on it ceaselessly in his heart, after having driven out every kind of thought, because he will be unable to hold fast to it in any other way than by being freed from all bodily cares and concerns. Just as this was handed down to us by a few of the oldest fathers who were left, so also we pass it on to none but the most exceptional, who truly desire it. This, then, is the devotional formula proposed to you as absolutely necessary for possessing the perpetual awareness of God: ‘O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me’ [Ps 70:1]. (Conferences 10.10.2)

Yes, this is the line that is used as a verse and response to open each of the prayer offices. No, that’s not an accident.

John Cassian makes the explicit connection between the Daily Office and the continuous prayer of the Egyptian monks in his other big book, the Institutes, but he does so by framing it in the midst of one of the disputes about monastic practice. By the end of the fourth century, there were two major centers of monastic practice—the deserts of Egypt and the deserts of Palestine. They had different ways of praying the Daily Office. The Egyptian model was the same in format as what appears to have been done in many of the early cathedrals of the period—one public service in the morning and another in the evening. Twelve psalms were sung, then there was a reading from the Old Testament, then one from the New Testament. That was it for the day. The Palestinian model was to gather more frequently. Jerome, writing from his monastery in Bethlehem, advises this:

Further, although the apostle bids us to ‘pray without ceasing,’ and although to the saints their very sleep is a supplication, we ought to have fixed hours of prayer, that if we are detained by work, the time may remind us of our duty. Prayers, as everyone knows, ought to be said at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, at dawn and at evening. . . . We should rise two or three times in the night and go over the parts of Scripture which we know by heart. (Letter 22. 37)

and instructs the parents of a young virgin dedicated to the church to train her in the same way: “She ought to rise at night to recite prayers and psalms; to sing hymns in the morning; at the third, sixth, and ninth hours to take her place in the line to do battle for Christ; and lastly to kindle her lamp and to offer her evening sacrifice” (Letter 107.9).

The Egyptians responded rather harshly. One characteristic response comes from the Egyptian-trained Epiphanius:

The Blessed Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, was told this by the abbot of a monastery he had in Palestine, ‘By your prayers we do not neglect our appointed round of psalmody, but we are very careful to recite [the prayer offices of] Terce, Sext and None.’ Then Epiphanius corrected them with the following comment, ‘It is clear you do not trouble about the other hours of the day, if you cease from prayer. The true monk should have prayer and psalmody continuously in his heart.’ (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 57)

Thus, he suggested that by having more set hours of the day, the monks were neglecting this continual prayer of the heart and instead were satisfied only to pray when the clock told them it was time to do so. Frankly, this is kind of a cheap shot. An argument could equally be made that since the Palestinian monks were hearing the psalms more, they had better opportunity to memorize them and keep them always in their hearts—but the (Egyptian) sayings don’t see fit to give us the Palestinian abbot’s response!

In light of this argument between the two parties, John Cassian tries to take a middle path. After explaining the Egyptian system, and before talking about how to pray the day hours, he says this:

For, among [the Egyptians as opposed to the monasteries of Palestine and Mesopotamia] the offices that we are obliged to render to the Lord at different hours and at intervals of time [i.e., the day offices of Terce, Sext, and None] to the call of the summoner, are celebrated continuously and spontaneously throughout the course of the whole day, in tandem with their work. For they are constantly doing manual labor alone in their cells in such a way that they almost never omit meditating on the psalms and on other parts of Scripture, and to this they add entreaties and prayers at every moment, taking up the whole day in offices that we celebrate at fixed times. Hence, apart from the evening and

Morning Prayer for 10/24/2020

Saturday after the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24)
Fore-Office

The Angelus

The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary;
And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
Be it unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And the Word was made flesh:
And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:
We beseech Thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts, that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of His resurrection, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Opening Sentence

Thus saith the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15

Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isaiah 57:15

The Invitatory and Psalter

V. O Lord, open thou our lips.
R. And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

V. Lord, open our lips.
R. And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, *
and will be for ever. Amen.

Alleluia.

Venite Psalm 95:1-7; 96:9, 13

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; *
let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth, *
and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it, *
and his hands prepared the dry land.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

O come, let us worship and fall down *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God, *
and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, *
and with righteousness to judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: O come, let us adore him.

The Psalms Appointed

I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart when I shall have learned the judgements of thy righteousness.

Psalm 119: Aleph Beati immaculati

  Happy are they whose way is blameless, *
who walk in the law of the LORD!
  Happy are they who observe his decrees *
and seek him with all their hearts!
  Who never do any wrong, *
but always walk in his ways.
  You laid down your commandments, *
that we should fully keep them.
  Oh, that my ways were made so direct *
that I might keep your statutes!
  Then I should not be put to shame, *
when I regard all your commandments.
  I will thank you with an unfeigned heart, *
when I have learned your righteous judgments.
  I will keep your statutes; *
do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119: Beth In quo corrigit?
  How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
By keeping to your words.
10   With my whole heart I seek you; *
let me not stray from your commandments.
11   I treasure your promise in my heart, *
that I may not sin against you.
12   Blessed are you, O LORD; *
instruct me in your statutes.
13   With my lips will I recite *
all the judgments of your mouth.
14   I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees *
than in all manner of riches.
15   I will meditate on your commandments *
and give attention to your ways.
16   My delight is in your statutes; *
I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119: Gimel Retribue servo tuo
17   Deal bountifully with your servant, *
that I may live and keep your word.
18   Open my eyes, that I may see *
the wonders of your law.
19   I am a stranger here on earth; *
do not hide your commandments from me.
20   My soul is consumed at all times *
with longing for your judgments.
21   You have rebuked the insolent; *
cursed are they who stray from your commandments!
22   Turn from me shame and rebuke, *
for I have kept your decrees.
23   Even though rulers sit and plot against me, *
I will meditate on your statutes.
24   For your decrees are my delight, *
and they are my counselors.

Psalm 119: Daleth Adhæsit pavimento
25    My soul cleaves to the dust; *
give me life according to your word.
26   I have confessed my ways, and you answered me; *
instruct me in your statutes.
27   Make me understand the way of your commandments, *
that I may meditate on your marvelous works.
28   My soul melts away for sorrow; *
strengthen me according to your word.
29   Take from me the way of lying; *
let me find grace through your law.
30   I have chosen the way of faithfulness; *
I have set your judgments before me.
31   I hold fast to your decrees; *
O LORD, let me not be put to shame.
32   I will run the way of your commandments, *
for you have set my heart at liberty.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart when I shall have learned the judgements of thy righteousness.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, *
and will be for ever. Amen.

The Lessons

A reading from Ecclesiasticus 15:9-20

A hymn of praise is not fitting on the lips of a sinner, for it has not been sent from the Lord. For a hymn of praise should be uttered in wisdom, and the Lord will prosper it. Do not say, "Because of the Lord I left the right way"; for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, "It was he who led me astray"; for he had no need of a sinful man. The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin.

Here endethends the reading.

Canticle

A Song of Creation Benedicite, omnia opera Domini
Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65

I Invocation

O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

II The Cosmic Order

O ye heavens, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye waters that be above the firmament, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord;
O ye showers and dew, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye winds of God, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord;
O ye winter and summer, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye dews and frosts, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye frost and cold, bless ye the Lord;
O ye ice and snow, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye nights and days, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye light and darkness, bless ye the Lord;
O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

III The Earth and its Creatures

O let the earth bless the Lord; *
O ye mountains and hills, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye wells, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye seas and floods, bless ye the Lord;
O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord;
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord; *
O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord;
O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

IV The People of God

O ye people of God, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord;
O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord.
Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; *
praise him and magnify him for ever.

A Song of Creation Benedicite, omnia opera Domini
Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65

Invocation

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I The Cosmic Order

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *
drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, *
O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts,
glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

II The Earth and its Creatures

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, *
O whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, *
and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

III The People of God

Let the people of God glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Doxology

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

A reading from Revelation 10:1-11

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring; when he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down." And the angel whom I saw standing on sea and land lifted up his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there should be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God, as he announced to his servants the prophets, should be fulfilled. Then the voice which I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, "Go, take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, "Take it and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth." And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, "You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings."

Here endethends the reading.

Canticle

Tell us, then what do you think? Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Canticle 4: The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus
Luke 1:68-79

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, *
for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us *
in the house of his servant David,
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, *
which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, *
and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, *
and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, *
that he would give us,
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies *
might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, *
all the days of our life.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, *
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord
to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people *
for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God, *
whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

Tell us, then what do you think? Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Canticle 16: The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus
Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the
shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, *
and will be for ever. Amen.

A reading from Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation." And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Here endethends the reading.

Canticle

Tell us, then what do you think? Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Canticle 4: The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus
Luke 1:68-79

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, *
for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us *
in the house of his servant David,
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, *
which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, *
and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, *
and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, *
that he would give us,
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies *
might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, *
all the days of our life.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, *
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord
to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people *
for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God, *
whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,*
world without end. Amen.

Tell us, then what do you think? Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Canticle 16: The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus
Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the
shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, *
and will be for ever. Amen.

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

Suffrages A

V. Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R. And grant us your salvation.
V. Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R. Let your people sing with joy.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in you can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under your care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let your way be known upon earth;
R. Your saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

V. O Lord, show thy mercy upon us;
R. And grant us thy salvation.
V. Endue thy ministers with righteousness;
R. And make thy chosen people joyful.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in thee can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under thy care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let thy way be known upon earth;
R. Thy saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with thy Holy Spirit.

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, who in Christ hast revealed thy glory among the nations: Preserve the works of thy mercy, that thy Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of thy Name; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest from all thy works and sanctify a day of rest for all thy creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for Mission

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hymn: Aurora Iam Spargit Polum

The dawn is sprinkling in the east
Its golden shower, as day flows in;
Fast mount the pointed shafts of light:
Farewell to darkness and to sin!

Away, ye midnight phantoms all!
Away, despondence and despair!
Whatever guilt the night has brought
Now let it vanish into air.

So, Lord, when that last morning breaks,
Looking to which we sigh and pray,
O may it to Thy minstrels prove
The dawning of a better day.

To God the Father glory be,
And to His sole begotten Son;
Glory, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
While everlasting ages run.

V. O satisfy us early with thy mercy.
R. That we may rejoice and be glad.

 

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving kindness to us and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication unto thee, and hast promised through thy well beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name thou wilt be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for Mission

Hymn: Aurora Iam Spargit Polum

The dawn is sprinkling in the east
Its golden shower, as day flows in;
Fast mount the pointed shafts of light:
Farewell to darkness and to sin!

Away, ye midnight phantoms all!
Away, despondence and despair!
Whatever guilt the night has brought
Now let it vanish into air.

So, Lord, when that last morning breaks,
Looking to which we sigh and pray,
O may it to Thy minstrels prove
The dawning of a better day.

To God the Father glory be,
And to His sole begotten Son;
Glory, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
While everlasting ages run.

V. Satisfy us early with your mercy.
R. That we may rejoice and be glad.

 

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.
 

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Romans 15:13

Salve Regina

Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness,
and our hope.To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this
valley of tears.Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of
mercy toward us. And after this our exile show unto us
the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement
O loving
O sweet Virgin Mary

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R.That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother Mary to become a worthy dwelling for Thy Son; grant that we who rejoice in her commemoration may, by her loving intercession, be delivered from present evils and from the everlasting death. Amen.

V. May the divine help remain with us always.
R. And with our absent brothers and sisters. Amen.

Salve Regina

Mary, we hail you, Mother and Queen compassionate;
Mary, most humble, great and pure, we hail you.
To you we exiles, children of Eve lift our voices.
To you we sing praises, because by the Spirit, you brought
forth to us the Savior.
Turn now, therefore, O our intercessor, your eyes of pity and lovingkindness upon us sinners.
Then at the last, when our earthly journey has been ended, show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb.
O gentle
O tender
O gracious Virgin Mary

V: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R:That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, prepared the body and soul of the glorious Virgin Mary to become a habitation for your Son: Grant that, as we rejoice in her obedience, we may have the support of her loving intercession, and may be delivered from our present evils and eternal death; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

V: May the divine help remain with us always.
R: And with our absent brothers and sisters. Amen.

gatherings, they celebrate no public service during the day except on Saturday and Sunday, when they gather at the third hour for Holy Communion. For what is offered [freely] is greater than what is rendered at particular moments, and a voluntary service is more pleasing than functions that are carried out by canonical obligation. This is why David himself rejoices somewhat boastfully when he says: ‘Willingly shall I sacrifice to you.’ And: ‘May the free offerings of my mouth be pleasing to you, Lord.’

 So, John Cassian is, in essence, admitting that the Egyptians have a more perfect practice: the two Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer give the stern Egyptian monks all they need in order to pray without ceasing for the rest of the day. But then he goes right ahead and tells his monks to do the three day hours in Palestinian fashion! The Egyptian way may be better, but the Palestinian is easier—and is likely better training for those still needing to learn their psalms.

In essence, we can say that these two groups show us two different ways of using the Daily Office to learn how to pray without ceasing. The “Egyptian” model is to only have two long Offices with psalms and readings at both. The “Palestinian” model is to have shorter and more frequent Offices with psalmody, leaving the reading of Scripture for the long Office at night. The Palestinian model wins decisively in the West; Benedict expresses in his Rule what has become normative in the West: eight liturgical services of prayer with an additional monastic business meeting—Chapter—that itself acquires liturgical material. Indeed, this pattern of frequency in corporate recitation of the Offices gets taken to its extreme in the monasteries of Cluny to the point that up to a full eight hours of the day were spent singing liturgies!

With the creation of the Book of Common Prayer at the Reformation, Archbishop Cranmer put the Anglican churches onto the other path. Whereas for centuries the Western Church had followed the Palestinian model, Cranmer turned us back to the Egyptian model. Up until our present book, our Offices had consisted of just what the Egyptian Office had: psalms, a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the New Testament and prayers, all done twice a day. (The 1979 book gives a “Palestinian” nod with the introduction of Noon Prayer and Compline.)

If prayer without ceasing is our goal (and why shouldn’t it be?) we must recall that the Egyptian model is the harder path. In order to fulfill the call, we would be wise to take their advice. Pray the long Offices as they’re appointed, but then—throughout the day—make our private prayers “brief but frequent.” Take a verse that strikes you in the morning. Ponder it through the day; make it your prayer. Repeat it to yourself as you sit in silence. Whisper it to yourself as you work. Roll it in your mind while you eat. Make it part of your prayer without ceasing.

This, then, is the essence of the Office—to make our spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. By speaking in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” our hearts are lifted and our minds expanded to see a world imbued with God. As we take the words of the psalms and the Scriptures into ourselves, we provide ourselves with the basic resources to “pray without ceasing.” The practice of the Office—whether together or alone—builds up in us the pattern of praise and points us in the way of the habitual recollection of God.

3 thoughts on “The Essence of the Office

  1. Barbara (bls)

    Moreover, poetry both enchants and informs, addressing its rhythmic and symbolic speech to regions of the mind which are inaccessible to argument, and evoking movements of awe and love which no exhortation can obtain. It has meaning at many levels, and welds together all those who use it; overriding their personal moods and subduing them with a grave loveliness. (Worship, p. 120)

    Ahhhhh…..

    So wonderful to see Evelyn Underhill make an appearance here; this is a great quote. Very interesting to see a concise enumeration of the various ways human beings perceive, learn, and understand – and how the “poetic” in particular can speak to people in ways the others can’t. “Worship” was one of the first books I ever read about Christianity, and I still think about it and remember parts of it. Fascinating, too, about the Egyptian and Palestinian schools of the office! That’s completely new to me.

    Fantastic article!

  2. Derek Olsen

    Yeah, I’m on an Underhill kick… I didn’t think there was any way I could write this book properly without sitting at her feet for a while so I’m re-reading Worship and The Life of the Spirit and the Life of To-day. This section was just too good not to use.

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