Andy (emperoraf) wrote,

On the Daily Office

INTREPID READER, INQ (also known as mr-messy) asked this question over on the Book of Faces:
What do you do for your daily office? . . . Though I try to do the Brother Lawrence thing, I don't do it often enough. So, I want to incorporate more "something" in my daily life.
For those of you who do not know, The Brother Lawrence Thing is a method of prayer adapted from a Carmelite monk. Brother Lawrence worked in the monastic kitchen and was not able to sing the Office with the brothers. Therefore, he tried in all things to lift his mind to God while doing even the most menial of tasks. The Brother Lawrence Thing is a way to meet St. Paul's command to pray without ceasing.

I'VE FOUND THAT it is much easier to lift the mind to God between set-times of formalized prayer like the Daily Office. As you engage the discipline of the Daily Office, you'll kill two birds with one stone: you'll get the certain "something" and The Brother Lawrence Thing. I'd like to call it The Daily Office Effect, but the Benedictines called it "amendment of life", so I suppose I should go with them. As you engage the Daily Office, it produces holiness by changing our hearts and minds. Even though it takes years for the effects to be seen, it is one of the most powerful disciplines to engage. Prayers for you as you consider it.

What do I do for the Daily Office?

I do a slightly-augmented form of the Daily Office as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Before this, I used a wide variety of Breviaries and Prayer Books (for the majority of those tumultuous days, I used the Four-Volume Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours). About a year-and-a-half ago, I decided to stick with the BCP because I'm Episcopalian and you'd be hard-pressed to find a competitor in its beautiful use of the English language. Anyway, here is what I do now:
  • Morning and Evening Prayer (ca. 20 min each):
    • The Triple Prayer (Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed) and a few other opening prayers. Then, the Angelus.
    • I do either the Rite I or II Office from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
    • I follow the calendar of TEC (with the occasional Anglo-Catholic interpolation).
    • For a schedule of the Psalms, I follow the monthly scheme inside the Psalter, eg. Nineteenth Day: Evening Prayer.
    • Use the Daily Office Lectionary:
      • OT & Gospel Reading at Morning Prayer:
      • NT & (repeated) Gospel Reading at Evening Prayer.
    • Collect from the previous sunday or from Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
  • Noonday (ca. 7 min):
    • The Triple Prayer (Our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed) and a few other opening prayers. Then, the Angelus.
    • The Rite II Office from the '79 BCP
    • Use the schedule of Psalms from Dennis Michno's A Priest's Handbook.
  • Compline (ca. 10 min):
    • The Rite II Office from the '79 BCP.
    • Use the schedule of Psalms found in the Office of Compline in The Anglican Breviary.
    • The seasonal Marian Antiphon, V/R and Collect after the Office.
    • The Sacrosancte with a few other prayers.
I know that sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. I think it is a good day if I am able to do all four.

General Advice from one very imperfect beginner:
  • Start small and work your way up. Because I am so full of myself, I used to expect that I could do The Liturgy of the Hours (which has 5-7 Offices a day) or The Anglican Breviary (Which has 8 in in The Queen's English). Of course, since I am not a monastic, I was always setting myself up for failure with those unrealistic expectations. I think it is better if you pick something small and work your way up to the bigger and elaborate things. If that means only saying the Angelus or only saying Compline, then do the smallest thing you can as faithfully as possible. As you build up the discipline, you can feel free to add around and to it.
  • Stay close to your Tradition. I think that there is something powerful in being formed in the way that your own Tradition endorses. One of the main reasons why I stopped using The Liturgy of the Hours is because it was forming me in one way and the BCP was forming me in another. While I think it is great to be helped from a variety of traditions and prayers from across the Church Catholic, there is something very (VERY) powerful about common prayer. Even most mainline denominations have structures for daily prayer. If you find what is provided unsatisfactory, perhaps you should find another Church. A Church where they will be formed in a similar direction that you want to be formed.
  • Pick something and stick with it. You'll want to leave it. You'll get sick thinking about having to say the same Canticles. You'll have the vast majority of it memorized, saying it backwards while asleep. But stick with whichever Breviary or Prayer Book you use. Don't drop it on a whim or want something "fresh". This is about changing your heart, not wanting something new.
  • Don't play catch-up. Miss a day? Miss a week? Don't play catch-up. Just pick up and go on. As the old hymn put it, "We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping / While earth rolls onward into light, / Through all the world her watch is keeping, / And rests not now by day or night." Just jump right back in.
  • Engage others in the Discipline. Your family, interested friends and others can always benefit from you devotion to the Office. Share it with them through your prayers and invite them to join you. You might be surprised to find out how many of my biblical-studies-we-just-believe-the-Bible-thank-you-very-much at my Alma Mater would pray Evening Prayer or Compline with me. If there are Offices at your Church, go to them.
  • Be kind to yourself. As with any discipline, there is a tendency for guilt, shame and embarrassment to take hold when you fail. And then to quit once you fail because you're so damn frustrated (at least, it is this way with me). Above all, remember the Daily Office is about changing your heart (and therefore the rest of you), more then about saying a certain number of prayers or being the best Christian EVAR.
Helpful Websites:
  • St. Bede's Breviary. Closest to what I do personally.
  • St. Thomas Fifth Avenue. Broadcasts their Choral Evensong services numerous times throughout the week. Music for your soul from one of the best Church Choirs in America.
  • Mission St. Claire. Broad Church Episcopal. Their Lectionary was way off for a few weeks, but it looks like it is back on. I'd use St. Bede's over this.
  • The Roman Breviary. In Latin and English. This is what The Anglican Breviary was adapted from.
  • Choral Evensong from BBC.
THIS IS A huge topic and I've only scratched the surface. What do you do for your daily prayer times? Any tips or tricks from those who do the Daily Office?

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