When Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, he explicitly decreed that the Ordinariates would celebrate “the Holy Eucharist, … the Liturgy of the Hours, and other liturgical celebrations … according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition … so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”
Some members of our community have been praying a portion of the Liturgy of the Hours as Benedict intended, using the Daily Office website established in 2016 by John Covert at prayer.covert.org. Initially created at the request of Fr. Liias as a way for our far-flung parishioners to gather as a community praying Morning Prayer together in a teleconference, the website has been expanded over the years to include not only Morning Prayer, but Evening Prayer, Compline, the three daytime offices of Terce, Sext, and None, and Mattins and Evensong of the Dead. Music for many of the canticles and some of the Office Hymns have been added. With the encouragement of Bishop Lopes, prayer.covert.org has been widely used by clergy of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter to fulfill their obligation to recite the daily office every day. And several people around the country (including our own Fr. O’Driscoll) frequently call the teleconference at the telephone number 914 226-2403 for Daily Morning Prayer at 8:45 AM and Evening Prayer at 5:30 PM, taking turns as officiant and reading the lessons.
But what is the history of this form of liturgical prayer in the Anglican Patrimony, and how does the Ordinariate’s Daily Office implement this “treasure to be shared”?
Prayer Book Morning and Evening Prayer was one of Archbishop Cranmer’s great works of genius. Based upon the ancient Monastic Liturgy of the Hours, which sanctified time with the eight Offices of Matins (2 AM), Lauds (5 AM), Prime (6 AM), Terce (9 AM), Sext (noon), None (3 PM), Vespers (6 PM), and Compline (7 PM or before retiring), the Book of Common Prayer provided just two offices: Morning Prayer (a combination of Matins and Lauds) and Evening Prayer (a combination of Vespers and Compline).
The simplification of the Office did not end with the reduction to just two offices. An introductory essay in the Book of Common Prayer entitled “Concerning the Service of the Church” begins with the famous words, “There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.” To correctly pray the Monastic Office “was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.”
The Prayer Book offices of Morning and Evening Prayer were designed by Cranmer to be as simple as possible. Recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer every day was obligatory for clergy, but the formula was so simple that the laity, almost all of whom would some day come to own their own personal copies of The Book of Common Prayer, could easily pray Morning and Evening Prayer in their homes, simply by starting at the first page and reading through to the last page, inserting the proper psalm from the included Psalter based on the day of the month, a daily first and second lesson found in a table and read from the Bible, and the
Sunday collect. Only a dozen or so major Feasts had their own collects. It was exactly the same pattern as at public worship on Sundays. Until the liturgical renewal of the 1970s, the principal Sunday Service of most parishes of The Episcopal Church and the Church of England was Morning Prayer, and all Cathedrals and larger parishes celebrated Sunday Evening Prayer. Both services were accompanied with hymns and choirs and ceremony that was quite “high church” though not “Anglo-Catholic”. The Eucharist was celebrated in most parishes only monthly, or occasionally as an 8 AM service without music.
The Ordinariate has now published the long awaited “Divine Worship Daily Office.” The first printing was limited to 500 copies, and was sold out long before all the orders for it were filled. A second printing, which will include copies for members of our community, will be distributed by Kevin McDermott to those who ordered them.
In the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog, Peter Jesserer Smith, the ACS Vice President and a staff writer for the National Catholic Register, writes, “Widespread adoption of Divine Worship: Daily Office by the laity—not simply obligated clergy—is key for the Ordinariates’ mission. As Fr. Christopher Lindlar pointed out to the ACS in an interview …, ‘discipleship and evangelisation flow from prayer.’ The Daily Office is foundational for Anglican spirituality in the Catholic Church, and this mainstay of prayer and immersion into scripture has powerfully formed evangelizing disciples of Jesus Christ for centuries.”
How will the Ordinariate Office differ from the Prayer Book Office? It remains approachable even though it is embellished with a not insignificant amount of “business to find out what should be read.” It follows the same basic pattern as the Prayer Book Office, but establishes an extensive, though mostly optional, set of liturgical “propers” for each day of the week and week of the year. It includes the collects not just for Sundays and principal feasts but for all of the Saints observed in the Ordinariate, and more than 100 “office hymns” which may be sung in addition to the familiar canticles.
To learn how to navigate the book, which begins with 8 pages of rubrics (rules for which options to take on any particular day) and another 40 pages of tables of precedence and lessons, can be somewhat daunting. But fear not. Simply open the web page prayer.covert.org, and all of the proper selections will have been made for you. And if you wish, call in and join the others who call into the teleconference (914-226-2403) daily at 8:45 AM and 5:30 PM. Using the website, and if you are so inclined, the teleconference, will quickly train you to navigate the book on your own.
Quoting Peter Jesserer Smith again, “The best gift the Ordinariate clergy and lay leaders can give their parishes, communities, and groups is the gift of praying the Daily Office at home and at church, and transforming their people into missionary disciples in a world that desperately needs them.”
John Covert, a parishioner of Saint Gregory the Great Church.