Saturday, June 25, 2016

Resources for Praying the Daily Offices

By Robin G. Jordan

Here are some resources to enrich your praying of the Daily Offices.

Table of Lessons
In his examination of the lectionaries of the historic Prayer Book in “Reading the Bible as a Church” (Anglican Way, October 20, 2013) Gavin Dunbar draws attention to the problems of the office lectionary of the 1928 American Prayer Book and its 1942 replacement.
Though not without virtues, the lessons are often far too short – narratives and arguments reduced to fragments, with large passages of the Old Testament never read at all – and the selection of lessons for special occasions is imperceptive.

In 1871 the 1662 Prayer Book’s Table of Lessons was revised. The readings from the Apocrypha was reduced in number and were limited to three books—Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Baruch. The books of the Apocrypha which were known to contain false teaching such as Tobit and Second Maccabees were avoided. Tobit countenances the practice of magic (Tobit 6:5-7). Tobit also teaches that sinners may obtain forgiveness of their sins by giving alms to the poor (Tobit 4:11; 12:9). Second Maccabees teaches that the living may make atonement for the sins of the dead with offerings of money (2 Maccabees 12:43-45). The New Lectionary, adopted in 1871, reflected the discomfort of English Churchmen of the time with the use of readings from the Apocrypha in public services of worship.

In 1922 the Church of England’s Table of Lessons was revised again. This time the number of readings from the Apocrypha was increased. Readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays were authorized for the first time. Before 1922 readings from the Apocrypha were confined to week days and holidays—a standard which Anglican theologian Roger Beckwith notes is “a norm worth remembering”

The 1922 lectionary was “the first installment in the Prayer Book revision” that produced the ill-fated 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, which Parliament twice rejected due to its Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practices. The new lectionary reflected the growing influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England during the 1920s.

In 1922 the Canadian Church also adopted the new English lectionary. Where it differed from the English Church was that it avoided readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays unless canonical alternatives were provided. In this way Anglo-Catholics who used readings from the Apocrypha in their public services of worship and Evangelicals who objected to their use in public worship were able to use the same lectionary. The alternative readings for Sundays are found at the end of the Canadian version of the revised English lectionary in the 1958-1962 Canadian Prayer Book.

In 1926 the Church of Ireland revised its Prayer Book and its Table of Lessons. While the Church of Ireland generally followed the revised English lectionary, it replaced the readings from the Apocrypha with readings from the canon of the Bible, particularly the Revelation to John. Unfortunately 1926 Irish Prayer Book’s Table of Lessons is not available online.

The canticle Benedicite Omnia Opera was a fixed element of the ancient cathedral office of Lauds and was recited or sung year round. It deserves far greater use than it generally receives. Among the reasons that it has fallen into disuse is its length and the custom of using it only in Advent and Lent. This custom is a late development. The rubrics of the 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books, the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, and the 1928 American Prayer Book follow the ancient practice and permit the canticle’s use throughout the year.

To encourage more frequent use of the Benedicite, the rubrics of a number of Prayer Books permit the shortening of the canticle in one of two ways. The rubrics of the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book permit the omission of the words “praise him, and magnify him for ever,” from the Benedicite except after verses 1, 2, 17, 18, 26, and 32. They also permit the recitation or singing of the first and last sections of the Benedicite on weekdays. Rite I of the 1979 American Prayer Book permits the omission of the second and third sections of the canticle on Sundays as well as on weekdays.

Here is Ralph Vaughn Williams' glorious setting of the Benedicite sung by the Hart House Chorus at its 2001 spring concert. Here is Vaughn William's Benedicite performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Waynflete Singers, and Choir of Winchester Cathedral. Here is his Te Deum in G performed by the English String Orchestra and the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. And the Benedictus Dominus Deus from Vaughn Williams' Service in D minor and sung by the choir of St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford.

The Anglican Service Book contains traditional language versions of the canticles from the 1979 America Prayer Book. They include Cantemus Domino; Ecce, Deus; Quaerite Dominum; Surge, Illuminare; Kyrie Pantokrator, Dignus es; and Magna et mirabilia. The canticles may be used in one of two ways. One of the Old Testament canticles may be read or sung after the Psalms at Morning Prayer and one of the New Testament canticles after the Psalms at Evening Prayer. Or one of the Old Testament canticle may be read or sung after the First Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer or one of the New Testament canticle may be read or sung after the Second Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer.

Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings
The Book of Offices and Prayers for Priest and People, first published in 1896, contains a selection of useful prayers. Frank Colquhoun’s Parish Prayers is a classic. It has prayers for almost every occasion.

The Traditional Anglican Church of Canada website has on its Resource page a helpful Index of Prayers and Thanksgivings in the Book of Common Prayer (Canada 1962). It is designed to help churchmen to find prayers and thanksgivings in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book for private devotions.

The Anglican Service Book includes a traditional language version of the Prayers and Thanksgivings section of the 1979 American Prayer Book.

Noonday Prayer
The Anglican Service Book also includes the office of Noonday Prayer, or Sext, in traditional language.

Those who wish to close their day with prayer have several options from which they may choose. The 1914 Protestant Episcopal Church's Book of Offices, the 1928 Proposed EnglishPrayer Book, and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book  have an office of Compline. So does The Anglican Service Book. 


Julia Marks said...

What is frustrating to me is that I would like to learn to chant the Psalms. And here you have a chanted Canticle. Yet I have yet to find where I can learn just how to do it. I have the "hymn" books for the Psalms, and I've been to sung evensong for years (my son was in the men and boy's choir), so I know that what you see is not necessarily what you get.

If you know of any good instructional recordings, I would truly appreciate sharing your knowledge.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I ran a search of what is available on the Internet. I am posting what I found and which looked promising as today's article. I hope that it proves helpful.

I learned to chant the Psalms, singing with the chancel choir at Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, Louisiana in the 1980s. We sung the Psalms and the occasional canticle to plainsong settings. Our choirmaster who was also an Episcopal deacon had been a Benedictine oblate.

When I was a teenager, we had Morning Prayer at Christ Church two or three Sundays of the month. The congregation chanted the Venite and the canticle after each lesson. I do not remember whether we sung the Psalms. We had a choir and the choir may have sung the Psalms.

At St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Mandeville, Louisiana we sung the Gradual to simplified Anglican chant but we never progressed beyond the one setting. I do not recommend this practice. The setting should reflect the emotional tone,or mood, of the Psalm and should vary with the Psalm.

To my mind plainsong is easier to learn than Anglican chant.