The Office


What follows is the text of the full Office, including Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer; those wanting to use the simpler celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer, which has its own introduction, should turn to page 281 (but not in The Daily Office SSF).

The Worshipping Group Whether you are an individual, a small group, a parish at prayer or a religious community, the first decision you have to make is what the regular pattern of worship is to be.

What to Pray What you choose will depend on the circumstances and the time available. Some will want to use the whole fourfold Office provided. Some people will simply say Midday Prayer each day, maybe at another time of day. Others will say Morning and Evening Prayer daily and may also take part in a daily Eucharist. The Office may be said by a person alone or by two people or as a group or community prayer; it may be said or sung. It may be led by anyone and does not need an ordained minister present for its celebration.

Where to Look Next you need to know where to find what it is you have chosen to use. Each of the Offices is set out in full for each day of the week: in Ordinary Time or ‘green’ seasons, simply turn to the appropriate day, for example, Morning Prayer, Monday, and you will find the whole Office set out in order. All you need to look up is the psalms and the Bible readings: the psalms, which are indicated in the text of the Office in the seven-week cycle, and the readings, which are found on pages 341 to 493, ‘The Christian Year’. To discover which week to use, refer to the table on page 704. Using the date, you can find out where you are in ‘The Christian Year’.

Special Seasons When you are in a special season of the Christian Year (these are set out in the notes on page 6) you do not read the Office according to the days of the week; instead, you stay with the Office of one particular day, which has the seasonal flavour, using the second table of psalms for each day of the week. The readings are again found from page 341 onwards. In this way, the pattern of the Christian year is reinforced by the repetition of canticles and prayers particularly appropriate to that season. So in Advent, Tuesday’s Office is used; in Christmastide, Wednesday’s; in Epiphanytide, Thursday’s; in Lent and Passiontide, Friday’s; in Eastertide, Sunday’s; in Pentecost, Monday’s; and in the Kingdom season in November, Saturday’s.

The Shape of the Office Even though the Office is flexible, however much or little the Office is used the basic framework should remain clear. In essence, the Office has three main parts: The Introduction, The Word of God and The Prayers. The Introduction begins by addressing our prayer to God and includes an opening canticle or hymn of praise and an acclamation. The Word of God includes psalms and canticles, bible readings and concludes with a gospel canticle. The Prayers includes intercession, summarised by a collect, and culminates in the Lord’s Prayer. The Office concludes either with The Blessing or one of the forms suitable to a particular day or season, beginning on page 238.

Deciding Where The Notes, page 1, give detailed suggestions for how to tailor the Office to your own situation, but the following points may be helpful.

A group may find it more helpful to sit in a semi-circle in an appropriate size space, around a lectern holding the Bible, rather than behind each other in pews in the main body of the church. Another focus, in addition to or occasionally in place of the lectern – such as a cross, a candle, a seasonal icon or some other Christian symbol – may be found helpful.

Deciding How The way in which the Office is celebrated helps or hinders the prayer of the worshipping group. Singing, however simply, helps unite the prayer; a regular pace also assists this unity and helps to focus the worship on God and not on the words for their own sake.

Being Ready Before the Office begins, you will need to decide how many readings are to be used and who will read them. A similar decision has to be made about the psalms. Everyone will need to find the place in the book where the Office starts and use ribbons to mark the psalms and any special canticle. The Officiant or leader will need to choose which alternative opening is used at Morning and Evening Prayer and will need to prepare the intercessions, possibly using material from page 247 following. If one of the sections from ‘After the Office’ is to be used, a ribbon will need to be put in that place as well. At Evening Prayer, if the Blessing of the Light is to be used, a suitable candle needs to be prepared ready for lighting during the singing of the Song of Light. If all are to hold candles, these need to be distributed beforehand. If incense is to be used, a small brazier (a censer or thurible, or a simple pot) with hot coals (charcoal already prepared is the easiest to cope with) needs to be made ready in a suitable place so that incense may be put on as Psalm 141 is said. This all ensures that worship can be offered by a well-prepared and confident praying community.

Beginning the Office The Officiant begins the Office with an invitation or acclamation to which everybody responds in the opening canticle or hymn of praise.

How to Recite Whether singing or speaking, there are different ways in which psalms and canticles can be treated. Some of the psalms, such as the more personal and penitential ones, are perhaps best spoken by a single voice. Others may be recited antiphonally (different individuals or groups taking alternate verses). Other psalms may be recited together: this is particularly appropriate for the opening canticles. Each canticle has a refrain to set the tone which it does in two ways: to give an indication of the daily or seasonal emphasis and to provide an easily memorised musical refrain. If this refrain is all that the people sing, it may be repeated regularly throughout the canticle.

Psalm Prayer In addition to, or instead of, the gloria at the end of the psalms, a prayer is provided for each psalm to help to articulate the community’s recitation as praying in Christ.

Bible Readings The readings might be read from the lectern Bible and may be followed by a period of silence. The easiest way of concluding this silence is for the Officiant to rise.

The Responsory & Gospel Canticle The responsory, a repetitive mulling over of a key phrase of scripture, forms a link between the scriptural readings and the gospel canticle.

The Prayers After the gospel canticle, the Officiant introduces the prayers of intercession. This may take several forms: litanies, page 249, may be suitable or a series of biddings, followed by the collect. When the Kyries are used as a response to biddings, or during the Litany, they may be said in a single rather than threefold form, in English or in Greek. A regular pattern helps trigger the response. At the end of the Prayers, the Officiant introduces the Lord’s Prayer with appropriate words, when desired.

Ending the Office After the Office, if any corporate movement is to take place, to the font for example, the Officiant should have already explained this before the service.