Today, we return to Ordinary Time. The Christian life, as represented in our Church’s calendar, is shaped by the rhythms of feasts and fasts. This cycle is centered on the two great feasts of Christ’s Incarnation: Christmas and Easter. We celebrate Easter for 50 days ending with the Day of Pentecost (June 9 this year). That was followed by Trinity Sunday last week. The Feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost (50 days after Easter) both sort of naturally lead to reflection on the mystery of the Triune nature of God, which we always contemplate in our worship, but which we contemplated in a concentrated fashion last Sunday. Now, we enter a long stretch of Ordinary Time. The liturgical color is green, which puts me in mind of plants and growth. Ordinary time makes up most of the Church calendar because growing in our faith is something that happens, for the most part, in quotidian, day-to-day life experiences. The way we strive to live the Christian life of worship of God & service toward others in the ordinary times of our lives shapes us into people who can rely on God during the not-so-ordinary times in our lives–times of great joy and also times of great hardship, fear, or distress. God is with us in the feasts and the fasts of life. The task of Christian living is learning to recognize how that is true. That is where the Daily Office comes in.
The Daily Office is the collective name for four services that appear in the Book of Common Prayer: Morning Prayer, Noon Day Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. In his wonderful book, Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life, Derek Olsen devotes a chapter to the Daily Office. Together, these prayers of the Church are meant to shape our days and hours, as Olsen writes, “the Daily Office helps us see the life of faith as a daily activity that must be consistently chosen from among a hundred other things all clamoring for our time and attention.”
The Daily Office forms the backbone of the prayer of the church. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are the “main” offices. Noon Day Prayer and Compline (meant to be prayed at night, or right before bed) are shorter offices, and take between 5 to 10 minutes to pray. All four offices are primarily composed of Scripture, and particularly the poetry of Scripture. A life formed by these prayers is a life formed by the beautiful as well as the good and the true.
Today’s Liturgy Lab experiment involves using the office of Morning Prayer as the Liturgy of the Word in our 10AM Holy Eucharist. If you were here for the first Liturgy Lab last week, you’ll remember me talking about the “logic of liturgy.” The basic logic or structure of our normal 10AM Eucharist is two-fold: Liturgy of the Word (readings, sermon, prayers, etc.) and Liturgy of the Altar (Holy Communion). Today, the second part (starting with the Offering) will be the same as normal, the first part will be the office of Morning Prayer. Most of the same components will be present: the readings, the psalms, the prayers and the sermon, but the order in which we do these things will be significantly different. Our Liturgy Lab discussion at 9:15AM Sunday morning will be devoted to further exploration of these changes and the history and meaning of our common worship. Come for the donuts, stay for the surprisingly interesting discussion.