This is a continuing series providing answers to the question posed here.
How to Pray the Daily Offices, Part One
Yesterday, I wrote that one of the foundations of following Christ is prayer. Specifically, I advocated for praying the daily offices of morning and evening prayer. Based on the scenario beginning this series, I would be able to lead the inquirer in these offices in order to teach him, but since that is not possible here, I want to provide some instruction on how this “works” to interested readers.
First, download Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the daily lectionary, and the collects and then if you can, print them all. (I have an aversion to screen reading and, as we will see shortly, the ability to re-order a few pages will make things easier.)
For the purposes of this little tutorial, I will use Morning Prayer. Once you understand how that works, Evening Prayer is very similar. Turning to the Morning Prayer document, we see:
The Officiant is the person leading the service—these offices are historically services of the church even though they are now most often practiced privately. If you are praying alone, you are the officiant. The rubrics (directions) are printed in red and the words “may” and “will” are significant. May is optional; will is not—we will go through both.
Our first rubric says to look on pages 17-19 for the opening sentences of scripture. This is the “call to worship” and they are organized by the seasons of the church year. For today, 11 Mar 2016, you would use:
Then, return to the first page and start where it says, “The Officiant says to the People”. Here, you are given an option—say this or this. Generally, the first alternative given is the preferred one, but either is permitted. If you are not in the habit of confession, the longer call to confession provides some instruction as to why we do this.
Then the rubric calls for a moment of silence, giving you time to examine your words, thoughts, and deeds since your last confession and to allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you have fallen short. After this moment of silence, you say the confession, remembering that almost everything said in the daily offices is actually prayed. This is not an exercise in reading out loud, but prayer.
Assuming you are not a priest, you are not authorized to pronounce absolution (I’m not going to address the theology and tradition of that here.) so you would skip to the bottom of page 2.
Now we move to the top of page 3.
If you’ve been paying attention to the rubrics, you’ll notice we knelt through the confession and now we stand. (Again, for brevity, I won’t discuss postures of prayer here.) The Invitatory is our first responsorial section, alternating between Officiant and People. If you are praying by yourself, you are both, and if you are praying with others, choose who will pray each part.
Before we look at the Venite and the Jubilate, let’s discuss the seasonal antiphons. These are short sentences, often from scripture, to be sung or recited a few times in various services. They are mostly used when a service is sung or chanted, as the entirety of Morning Prayer can be, and they are organized by the seasons of the church year, just as the opening sentences of scripture were. So for today, you would find the antiphon for Lent: The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: O come, let us adore him.
Then, you would pray the Venite on the bottom of page 4.
Venite is Latin for “O come” which is the first word of Psalm 95. Why Latin? It is a carryover from when all the liturgies of the church were in Latin. For the Western church, that was for roughly 1000 years until the Reformations (both continental and English) changed the liturgy to a language freely understood by the people. Certain scripture sections in other places are also labelled this way, which becomes a handy shorthand once you become familiar with them.
When you pray Psalm 95, you can stop after verse 7, though in Lent we pray the whole psalm. The Jubilate (Psalm 100) can be prayed instead, but the Venite (Psalm 95) is the traditional text.
This rubric gives the exception to these: the Pascha Nostrum, as you can see, is a collection of New Testament texts used the first week of Easter, which is the Monday following Easter until the first Sunday after Easter. According to the rubric, it can also be used for the entire season of Easter.
Tomorrow, we will continue with the the daily scripture readings.