A Guide to the Daily Offices of the Book of Common Prayer

General Principles

Remember that any rubric (the directions in smaller italicized font) whose wording is “may” indicates an optional element of the liturgy. Any rubric whose wording is “shall” or simply declarative (without “may”) indicates a necessary element in the liturgy.

Each office is ordered around three major elements: the Psalter, the Lessons, and the Prayers.

The psalms and lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer are found in the Daily Office Lectionary (pages 934–1001 in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979). The Daily Office Lectionary (which is different from the Eucharistic Lectionary for Sundays and Holy Days) is divided into two years and covers most of the Old and the New Testaments. Year 1 begins on the First Sunday of Advent (late November or early December) preceding an odd-numbered year, while Year 2 begins on the First Sunday of Advent preceding an even-numbered year. We are currently in Year 1 of the Daily Office Lectionary. On November 29, 2015, Year 2 will commence.

In the Daily Office Lectionary the Psalms are listed by number only. The Psalms appointed for recitation in the morning precede the symbol and those for the evening follow it. The original way of reciting the Psalms is found in the Prayer Book Psalter itself (pages 585–808). Note on page 585 that above the Psalm number and a Latin phrase (called the incipit, the first few words of the Latin translation of the Psalm) there is a phrase reading, “First Day: Morning Prayer.” Then note that a phrase, “First Day: Evening Prayer” precedes the number and incipit of Psalm 6 on page 589. Though the 1979 Prayer Book makes no reference to what this means (!), this refers to the way that the Psalter is to be read over the course of a month in the 1662 Prayer Book. Thus, at Morning Prayer on the first day of every month, Psalms 1–5 are to be recited; and at Evening Prayer, Psalms 6–8 are to be recited and so on. In months with thirty-one days, the Psalms appointed for the thirtieth day are to be read again. (And March 1 resumes on First Day rather than continuing on from February with Twenty-ninth Day.) This is the method of reciting the Psalter that I use, both because it means that I don’t have to look up what the appointed psalms are for the day and because I can read the entire Psalter over the course of a month.

This guide does not cover Noonday Prayer and Compline, which are shorter offices and have more straightforward directions. Note that Noonday Prayer and Compline both have psalms and lessons appointed specifically for them, which are not drawn from the daily office lectionary.

This guide is based on the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer (1979) of The Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church in North America has produced trial texts for Morning and Evening Prayer (in the Texts for Common Prayer series), but the authorized Prayer Book for ACNA is still in process. Once the ACNA Prayer Book has been published (likely several years from now), a new guide will be produced.

For an abbreviated form of this guide refer to the appendix, “How I Do It.”

Daily Morning Prayer

Two rites are provided for Daily Morning Prayer: a traditional language rite (Rite One) which begins on page 36, and a contemporary language rite (Rite Two) which begins on page 74. In the directions below, the first page numbers refer to Rite One and the second page numbers to Rite Two. Except for canticles, texts from one rite are not intended to be used in the other. The service may begin with either the Opening Sentences, or with the Confession of Sin, or with the Invitatory and Psalter.

Optional elements are indicated by [brackets].

[Opening Sentences] 37-41; 75-78 [Confession of Sin] 41-42; 79-80

Note: A deacon or lay person pronouncing the form for absolution substitutes “us” for “you” and “our” for “your.”

The Invitatory and Psalter

Preces, Gloria Patri, and Alleluia (except in Lent) 42; 80 [Antiphon] 43-44; 80-82
Invitatory (44-46; 82-83)

One of the Invitatory Psalms, Venite or Jubilate, or Christ our Passover, is said or sung.

The Psalm [or Psalms] Appointed (46; 84)—see “General Principles,” above.

The Lessons

Note: one or two Lessons, as appointed, are read. If two Lessons be read, the Old Testament is read first, followed by either the Epistle or the Gospel. If only one is read, then it can come from either the Old or the New Testament.

[Silence after each Reading] Canticle (47-53; 85-95)

A canticle (biblical song) is said or sung after each Reading. See pages 144-45 for suggested canticles. The traditional canticles at Morning Prayer are the Te Deum laudamus (We praise thee, O God) after the Old Testament lesson; and the Benedictus Dominus Deus (the Song of Zechariah) after the New Testament lesson.

The Apostles’ Creed

The Prayers

Salutation and Lord’s Prayer (54; 97) Suffrages (55; 97-98)
The Collect[s] 55-57; 98-100
Prayer for Mission (57-58; 100-101) [Hymn or Anthem]

[Authorized intercessions and thanksgivings] [The General Thanksgiving] 58-59; 101
[A Prayer of St Chrysostom] 59; 102

[Benedicamus (“Let us bless the Lord”)] 59; 102 [Concluding Scripture Sentence – “The Grace”] 59-60; 102

An Order of Service for Noonday

This service, found on pages 103-107 in the Prayerbook, is fairly straightforward. Remember the use of “may” in the rubrics for optional elements.

Daily Evening Prayer

Two rites are provided for Daily Evening Prayer: a traditional language rite (Rite One) which begins on page 61, and a contemporary language rite (Rite Two) which begins on page 115. In the directions below, the first page numbers refer to Rite One and the second page numbers to Rite Two. Except for canticles, texts from one rite are not intended to be used in the other. Like Morning Prayer, the service may begin with the Opening Sentences, with the Confession of Sin, or with the Invitatory and Psalter.

[Opening Sentences] 61-62; 115-116 [Confession of Sin] 62-63; 116-117

Note: A deacon or lay person pronouncing the form for absolution substitutes “us” for “you” and “our” for “your.”

The Invitatory and Psalter

Preces, Gloria Patri, and Alleluia (except in Lent) 63; 117
[
Phos hilaron – “O Gracious Light” – or some other suitable hymn for evening] 64;  118
The Psalm [or Psalms] Appointed (64; 118)

The Lessons

Note: one or two Lessons, as appointed, are read. If two Lessons be read, the Old Testament is read first, followed by either the Epistle or the Gospel. If only one is read, then it can come from either the Old or the New Testament.

[Silence after each Reading] Canticle (pp. 65-66; pp. 119-120)

A canticle (biblical song) is said or sung after each Reading. See pages 144-45 for suggested canticles. The traditional canticles at Evening Prayer are the Magnificat (the Song of Mary) after the Old Testament lesson; and the Nunc dimittis (the Song of Simeon) after the New Testament lesson.

The Apostles’ Creed

The Prayers

Salutation and Lord’s Prayer (67; 121) Suffrages (67-68; 121-122)
The Collect[s] 68-70; 122-124
Prayer for Mission (70-71; 124-125) [Hymn or Anthem]

[Authorized intercessions and thanksgivings] [The General Thanksgiving] 71-72; 125
[A Prayer of St Chrysostom] 72; 126

[Benedicamus (“Let us bless the Lord”)] 72; 126 [Concluding Scripture Sentence – “The Grace”] 72-73; 126

An Order for Compline

This service for prayer at the close of the day, found on pages 127-135 in the Prayerbook, is fairly straightforward. Remember the use of “may” in the rubrics for optional elements.

Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) also provides abbreviated forms of the four daily offices (morning, noon, early evening, and close of day) on pages 136-140. These devotions follow the basic structure of the Daily Office. Appropriate Psalms, Readings, and Collects are provided in each service, but they may be replaced by other Psalms, Readings, and Collects if desired (see page 136).

These abbreviated offices are particularly useful for being able to be memorized and said in almost any circumstances, when a Prayer Book and Bible might not be available.

Appendix: How I Do It

This guide navigates the reader through the full services of Morning and Evening Prayer, including all of the optional elements. In my own practice, which mirrors that of some religious communities (including the Anglican seminary that I attend in Wisconsin, Nashotah House), I omit some of these optional elements (I also omit the Suffrages from the Prayers) and adapt others to the fact that I am more frequently saying Morning or Evening Prayer alone. Our family practice has been to recite Compline together before bedtime, usually in the abbreviated form on page 140 in the Prayer Book.

The Invitatory and Psalter

Preces, Gloria Patri, and Alleluia (except in Lent) Invitatory

One of the Invitatory Psalms, Venite or Jubilate, or Christ our Passover (in Eastertide) in the morning; and the Phos hilaron in the evening.

The Psalms Appointed

Following the older (1662) schedule noted in “General Principles,” above.

The Lessons

One lesson, either from the Old Testament or the New, following the Daily Office lectionary to read through an entire book over the course of days or weeks.

Silence on what God is saying through his Word follows.

Canticle

The Te Deum laudamus (after an Old Testament lesson) or the Benedictus Dominus Deus (after a New Testament lesson) in the morning; and the Magnificat (after an Old Testament lesson) or the Nunc dimittis (after a New Testament lesson) in the evening.

The Apostles’ Creed

The Prayers

The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect of the Day (see pages 211–257)

On ordinary weekdays, the Collect of the Day is that for the preceding Sunday, and it can be found in the first two or three pages of the Sunday service booklet.

A Collect

After the Collect of the Day, another Collect is said depending on the day of the week: for the Renewal of Life (Monday), for Peace (Tuesday), for Grace (Wednesday), or for Guidance (Thursday). Collects appointed for Sunday, Friday, and Saturday are already noted on pages 98-99. The additional Collects at Evening Prayer may be said according to the same pattern.

Prayer for Mission
One of the three Prayers for Mission is said.

Extempore (free) intercessions and additional prayers (see pages 814–835 in the Prayer Book) may follow.

The General Thanksgiving
This prayer is one of the gems of the Prayer Book tradition.

The Grace

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.

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