There is something delicious about a rhythm learned deeply. Maybe it’s the beat to a song you love, or the steps to a dance – maybe it’s the familiar words of book, read aloud over and over again. If you like routine in your life, maybe it’s the same pattern of events each week, a comforting anchor.
For Anglicans, one of the rhythms of our shared prayer life is the Daily Office. These services have traditionally been used to mark times of daily prayer, stretching back beyond Christianity into Judaism. In medieval Europe the offices were seen primarily as the purview of monastic communities and clergy. Medieval monastic offices were plentiful. In addition to lauds (morning prayer) and vespers (evening prayer), there was matins (at midnight or cockcrow), prime (first hour), terce (third hour), sext (sixth hour), none (ninth hour), and compline (bedtime).
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who wrote the prayer book that our BCP is based on today, reduced the eight monastic offices to the two main services of Morning and Evening Prayer. The services were printed in English vernacular (a big part of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the Anglican Reformation in England) and intended for use by the entire church. While access to books (and an education that enabled someone to read) was still limited, these daily prayers became an integral part of Anglicanism, the rhythm of daily prayer.
Today, our Prayer Book contains Morning, Noon, and Evening Prayer, as well as Compline. There are also abbreviated services, Daily Devotions, that work well with participants of all ages. If you’ve ever flipped through the BCP and wondered what pages 37-146 were about – this is it! While most Episcopal Churches today celebrate Eucharist on Sundays, you may have been to a parish that instead offers Morning Prayer as the primary Sunday service, with Eucharist reserved for select Sundays. This was news to me – I couldn’t remember ever saying Morning Prayer until I began the discernment process. That changed radically when I arrived at seminary: we said Morning Prayer every morning, Monday through Friday, at 7:30 am. At times it was difficult, especially for students with children who needed to get them out of bed and to school. But the practice of praying together and learning these particular forms of prayer has stayed with me – the rhythm stuck – and remains one of the most formative parts of my time at divinity school.
It is a rhythm I have loved continuing here at Redeemer, initially on Facebook and now in person. If you’re curious, or want explore Morning Prayer, you can find us on Monday and Wednesday mornings in the courtyard at 8 am. Navigating the Prayer Book can be tricky; we’re learning together! Or join Bert and the choir for Compline or Evensong – or undertake saying a service at home every day or every week. Try out one of the Daily Devotions with family. If you don’t have a BCP handy, check out Forward Movement’s online Daily Office offering that provides the entire service: https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/home.
This is just one of the many rhythms of life we share, as a Church and as a community. Right now, rhythm is something I’ve been longing for, especially as our world continues to shift daily with restrictions and quarantines and the continuing grief and hope present around us. Maybe Daily Prayer is the anchor you need in this time – or maybe it will lead you to the rhythm that resonates even more.