Because I don’t have much understanding of the Daily Offices, and because my concern is with mystical theology, with what happens to us in liturgy, as David Fagerberg puts it, I have been asking people who get great strength and solace from the daily offices to reflect on what happens to them during morning and evening prayer and compline. Today I’ll reflect on something the Bishop said. He said that he feels connected to people who are praying throughout the church, all over the world, when he prays the Daily Office. Because the offices are ancient, we are also connected to everyone who has ever prayed them when we open our prayer books. Praying the offices are a daily inclusion in the communion of saints, an understanding that we belong to a community of faithful people that transcends space and time.
This is also true of the eucharist, of course, and indeed the daily offices are meant to surround and support the eucharist, like smaller gems surrounding a diamond on a ring, to borrow the Bishop’s metaphor. But while the eucharist is communal in nature, the offices are personal and pietistic. Celebrating the eucharist requires the physical presence of the church, both in the pews and around the altar, and this is why Sunday services feel so sad and denuded during this crisis. A few people gather to celebrate as we live-stream the services, but there’s a feeling of loss to it, a sense that parishioners watching from home are being left out, a sense that the celebration isn’t real without their presence. We can’t hold a eucharist that feels authentic during this time, and it’s time to stop trying. Yet we still want to feel a connection to the communion of saints, which includes our beloved friends within the parish. Although we can’t have a diamond in the center of our ring of prayer and worship, we can, perhaps, have another precious stone. One option that many parishes are using is Ante-Communion, which simply means the usual Sunday service (with some minor alterations) without the Liturgy of the Table. “Ante” means before, so think of it as the part of the service that comes before communion, with the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing added after the Peace. We can maintain our corporate worship in this way, and continue to live-stream it, although we may have to find new ways of doing so as this crisis continues.
But I would also like to make the Daily Offices more a part of my personal practice, and suggest that we all try to do so. For the last two and a half weeks, we’ve been holding Midday Prayer via Zoom at 12:30 PM, and this had been a wonderful way to pray together, learn from each other, and check in on each other. The communion of saints is very present at half past noon! I have begun, these past two mornings, to worship through Morning Prayer as well. I do so because I want it to shape my piety during this time. Why has the communion of saints turned to this form of worship throughout the centuries? How do their voices speak to me through it? What did this form of worship do to them and their faith, and what will it do to me? These are the questions I’ll be asking as I enter into this practice of prayer.
I’ve created a small booklet for you to use. This form of Morning Prayer is from Enriching Our Worship. I’ve made some small modifications to it. There are two .pdfs below: the service laid out sequentially; and, the service laid out in booklet form, which you can print out and fold if you have a duplex printer (make sure you select short-edge binding). The daily readings are available on Forward Movement’s website. Click this link to access them.