The Apostle Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th 5:16-18).
This is a tall order when we have to feed ourselves and others, work, sleep, provide care, and do the myriad other things that occupy our time.
The early church compromised; St. Benedict set fixed times of the day and night for prayer for monastic communities, which became known as the canonical hours: small services called matins and lauds (usually counted as a single hour), in the middle of the night; prime, at sunrise; terce, 9 a.m.; sext, noon; none, 3 p.m.; vespers, sunset; and compline, bedtime.
These fixed hour services became known as the Daily Offices, from the Latin word officium meaning duty, following the idea that Christians had a duty to pray regularly.
During the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer simplified the daily offices and boiled them down to four services: Morning Prayer (also called Mattins), Noon Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. All four of these services can be found in the 1962 Prayer Book. Thus our tradition of daily prayer is essentially Benedictine.
Cranmer’s idea was that these short and simple services could give clergy and laity alike a structure for regular prayer and scripture reading that would deepen their spiritual lives while allowing them to live and work in their daily lives.
Old time Anglicans will remember Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays and some who have lived in institutional settings may know the offices as well. Compline got Fr. Michael through a difficult year at a church boy’s school and he loves it to this day.
Sadly, most Anglicans today don’t get much chance to say and hear this ancient and rich prayers, which can ground us in our faith and orient our day on God and God’s purpose for us.
However, lately at All Saints we have been to revive this tradition with some success, in that a few people are showing up to join our clergy in the mornings and evenings.
The schedule we are aiming for is as follows;
Morning Prayer: Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8am
Evening Prayer: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 5pm
However, this schedule may vary slightly from week to week, depending on the availability of our clergy to lead, so please check our parish Facebook page or the bulletin.
Services will be be adapted from the Book of Common Prayer and are easy to follow. There will be no Eucharist, hymns, or sermons and each service takes about 20 minutes. The Elgin Street double doors will be unlocked 5-10 minutes ahead of time. When clergy are unavailable to lead, lay people are perfectly welcome to say the offices, and Sharon and Michael can provide instruction on that (it’s easy).
If you can’t attend but would like to try the Daily Offices at home, there is a simple version which you can download from https://anglicancompass/dailyofficebooklet and there is also an app that you can download from the Prayer Book Society at https://prayerbook.ca/common-prayer-app/
We would be delighted to train some of our parishioners to lead these services, so they can be offered with regularity. There is absolutely no reason why a layperson can not lead morning or evening prayer, it’s easy to do and the clergy can show you how in ten minutes.
Of course, the daily offices are purely optional, so take this merely as an invitation to deepen your prayer life if any of these days, times or methods are convenient. As is true of most things Anglican, the old rule applies: all may, some should, none must.