The Daily Office

As I (with my family) struggle and learn how to pray the Daily Office, it helps (it helps me, at least) to know where this service came from historically within the church.

Which is why I am so thankful for Marion Hatchett’s magisterial Commentary on the American Prayerbook, which would have to be on my “top ten list” of most interesting books I have ever read. (Hatchett served on the editorial board of the 1979 Prayer Book — a book shot through with historical insights from the liturgical renewal movement of the late 19th and 20th century — drafting committee.)

Hatchett explains in detail how and why Cranmer updated the medieval “liturgies of the hours” which he and other reformers — both “Catholic” (to speak anachronistically) and “protestant” — inherited from their medieval predecessors.

Cranmer prepared two drafts for a revised daily office some years before the publication of the 1549 Book: one of these depended on the work of Quinones, the other upon German church orders. Both contributed to the daily office of the first Prayer Book. The psalter was to be read monthly in the morning and evening offices of the book and there were to be two “lessons” at each office with “the most part” of the Old Testament and Apocrypha read yearly at the New Testament (except for the book of Revelation) three times each year. This “in course” reading was seldom to be interrupted [ie, by saints’ days or propers of the church year]….

Hatchett explains how, basically Cranmer simplified and collapsed three of the medieval / monastic offices (Matins, Lauds, and Prime) into Matins or Morning Prayer, and so also for Evenson, or Evening Prayer (Vespers and Compline being streamlined into this service). (All of these other services themselves, of which there are eight, are also described historically by Hatchett.)

It is interesting that in Anglicanism until recently, priests were required to pray the Daily Office daily with parishioners, a historical example of which I have blogged about here.

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