Hallo again to all.
[We're delighted that Simon Sarmiento, Anglicans Online UK-Europe editor, wrote the letter this week.]
Now that Eastertide is over, we've re-entered what the Church of England, along with many other churches, calls Ordinary Time. Perhaps that's an odd way to designate those six months or so before Lent and after Pentecost not filled with liturgical seasons, but think of 'ordinary' as being 'stable' rather than boring! During these several months of liturgical stability in successive Sundays after Trinity (or Pentecost, depending where in the Anglican world you are), it's a very good time to raise our awareness of Daily Prayer.
A vital part of our Anglican heritage, alas sadly neglected in many places, the tradition of BCP Matins and Evensong*heavily influenced by the Benedictine background of English cathedralsis often more widely admired than diligently imitated. For many, the lengthy daily doses of psalms in course and bible readings fail to provide a model for daily prayer which satisfies their own spiritual needs. Daily Prayer has also been seriously misunderstood as something primarily clerical. Not so: it is rather the common prayer of the whole peopleremember Cranmer's injunction that it should be celebrated daily in parish churchesand happily the custom persisted in many places through the following centuries despite an increasing clericalism.
In recent decades, liturgists have begun to rediscover an earlier tradition of the 'people's office' consisting primarily of psalms and hymns of praise and prayers of intercession and thanksgiving, with fewer and shorter (or even no) readings. Celebrating Common Prayer, which reflected these ideas, was first published in 1992. A runaway success far beyond its authors' expectations, it has become the most widely used form of daily prayer in England. This year, the Church of England published a preliminary edition of Common Worship: Daily Prayer that carries these ideas a stage further. As well as orders for daily services, this book contains a wealth of resources for use in a variety of ways. You can find a modern version of the psalms designed especially for use in daily prayer, with refrains for responsorial singing (or reading) and psalm collects, along with a wide selection of scriptural canticles. So if you don't like the exact way the C of E arranges these services, you can make your own adjustments.
If you've never tried the daily offices before, or have found it difficult, try using these materials during the coming months. As with all new English liturgical texts, the whole book is available online. Read this General Introduction, and the Introduction to Prayer during the Day to get some ideas. Then go (you don't need anyone's permission!) and form a small group locally to pray together regularly, either in your parish church or some other convenient place.
You can find online the full text of each day's morning and evening (and night) office, both in traditional 1662 BCP form and in the new Common Worship form, which makes it easier for those who cannot join physically in a local group to take part. Other online services are at Oremus and The Mission of St Clare, with the American BCP offices.
This week's News Centre should provide plenty of material to stimulate the intercessions and thanksgivings that form an important part of daily prayer.
See you next week.
Last updated: 26 May 2002
*If you aren't sure what 'matins' and 'evensong' are, you can learn about them by looking at the sample chapter of 'Pastoral and Occasional Liturgies' that is linked above (and here) under the word liturgists.