Today is the sixth day of Christmas. I hope and pray that your Christmas season has and will continue to be merry.
As we approach New Years I would like to offer up an idea for your New Year's resolution: Say daily at least one part of the Daily Office.
There is a great website that can help you say the Daily Office according to Anglican Use called the Book of the Hours. Full disclosure: it is run by a friend of mine, and fellow convert from Anglicanism, David Trumbull. See additional webpages from him here.
The Daily Office is a collection of prayers said at certain hours of the day and is one of the treasures of Anglicanism. The two best known are Morning Prayer (or Mattins) and Evening Prayer (or Evensong), whose times are self-explanatory, but the Book of Divine Worship (download here) includes also the Noonday prayer and Compline, which is said as one heads to bed. "Vespers" is also sometimes used to refer to either Evening Prayer or Compline.
The Daily Office, also known as the Divine Office among other names, was not invented by Anglicanism. It has a long history prior to the Reformation and many parts of Christendom say it still, including in the Catholic Church, especially among the religious and the clergy. When monks pray several times a day, they are usually saying some version of the Office.
Rather Anglicanism did two things. It translated the office into Shakespearean English and made it into a lay practice. Indeed, in Anglicanism the regular Sunday service is often a longer version of Morning Prayer.
The Daily Office is not mass. It is not communion and does not involve bread and wine. Rather it is, well, a prayer service and includes many of the non-communion elements of the mass that you may be familiar with, such as bible readings, psalms and prayers of the faithful. Just like in a mass, there are parts that are the same from day to day and there are parts that are specific to that day, perhaps relating to a particular saint. This can make it difficult if you are just starting out or do not have all the right books.
That is where the Book of the Hours website comes in useful. The website will give you all the information and readings that you need for that particular day and prayer with a couple of easy clicks
When you visit the website, first you will need to choose the liturgical season, which is easy to do since the dates are given. Currently we are in the Christmas Season. Second you will need to choose the prayer that you want to say – Morning, Noonday, Evening or Compline. The prayers for tomorrow are here. You will then see a webpage with a frame on the left showing each of the parts of the service with links, and when you click on a link, in the right-hand frame will appear the words for that day for that part of the prayer service.
The Daily Office can be said in a group in a church but that is not necessary. Nor is it necessary for a clergyman to be present. A group can say any of the prayers together, or an individual could say it, sitting in front of the computer with the Book of the Hours website open. When the service is said in a group, one person should be nominated to be the "officiant" of the service, whose part is sometimes indicated with a "V.". The other part, the "people's" part, is sometimes indicated with an "R." and is in bold. The red lettering are the instructions or rubrics.
Regardless of how you say it, integrating the Daily Office into your prayer life is one way to strengthen your relationship with God and to systematically read the Bible, especially the psalms. Anglican Use of the Philippines hopes to sponsor regular public Evening Prayer services according to Anglican Use soon. Stay tuned.
The image is from Our Lady of Walsingham parish, an Anglican Use Catholic parish in Houston, Texas. It is from an Evening Prayer service featuring the semi-professional Chorus Angelorum, which is in residence at the parish. To see the chorus's schedule go here. Their next scheduled Evensong is on February 27, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Walsingham. I "borrowed" the photo from the chorus's website. I hope they won't mind. If you are in Houston, consider attending one of the parish's services.