This November has five Sundays. However, the fifth Sunday of November also happens to be the First Sunday of Advent. It seems strange to have the first Sunday of a whole new season not start with a service of Holy Communion, so we are moving up our "fifth Sunday" Evening Prayer service to the fourth Sunday this month instead.
All this is to say:
On Sunday, November 23 at 4:00 pm, Christ Church will have a Service of Evening Prayer as our principle worship service.
The name "Daily Office" comes from the Latin phrase Officium Divinum, which means "divine work." This reflects the deeply held monastic belief that prayer was the most fundamental labor of disciplined Christian life. Set times of prayer during the day is a very ancient custom, one which predates the Christian church. There is evidence of a Jewish custom of set times of prayer within the Psalter itself, as in Psalms 5:3, 55:17, 119:62, and 119:164. See also Acts 3:1, 10:9, and 10:30 for evidence of this custom in the New Testament as well.
Today, the set times or “hours” of the Daily Office consists of three major hours and four minor hours. The major hours are Midnight Prayer (Matins), Dawn Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers). Within the Anglican tradition, these major hours were adapted for a much broader use by the Christian community. Matins and Lauds were consolidated to form what became known as “Morning Prayer,” and Vespers was consolidated with the minor hour of Compline to form “Evening Prayer.” The Anglican tradition thus reduces the major hours from three to two.
Together, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer form the backbone of the daily cycle of devotion. At the heart of these two services is the reading of Scripture, as these services were adapted from their medieval counterparts to provide a context for the public reading of the same. The biblical canticles associated with the medieval rites were turned into responses to longer Scripture readings, producing a pattern of devotion unique to the Anglican tradition. Further, the two services were accompanied by a cycle of Scripture readings called a “lectionary” that was designed to get people through the whole of Scripture in a year’s time. Because of these services’ rich biblical foundation, it has been expected since the time of the Reformation that all Anglicans, and the clergy in particular, would faithfully pray both daily as a critical part of their spiritual formation.
The phraseology, biblical canticles, and prayers of the Daily Office have truly become part of the "common" idiom of the English language. The services have remained largely unchanged since the time of the English Reformation, and they continue to be said (or sung!) daily in churches, especially Anglican cathedrals, in England, the United States, and around the world.
The service we will be using at Christ Church is that of the Anglican Church of North America, an intentional and thoughtful amalgamation of the classical order of the service with some newer additions which first appeared in the late 1970s. Overall, the service retains its classical order, prayers, and canticles.