What is the Daily Office?
The Daily Office is the Anglican name for the cycle of liturgical prayers said throughout the day in many Christian traditions. It’s also known by names like the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours. The structure and content of the Liturgy of the Hours vary from tradition to tradition, but across the board, each Hour consists of psalms, readings from Holy Scripture, and prayers.
The Anglican Daily Office is contained in our Book of Common Prayer, the first of which was assembled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury. Cranmer took St. Benedict’s cycle of 8 canonical Hours as his starting point and simplified it. His goal was to bring the Daily Office out of the monasteries and into parish churches and people’s homes. The Daily Office has since played an important role in Anglican spirituality, grounding our daily lives in Scripture and the Psalms.
The current form of the Daily Office in the Episcopal Church is found in our 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. It consists of 4 Hours:
- Morning Prayer (Matins)
- Noonday Prayer (sometimes called Diurnum)
- Evening Prayer (Vespers or Evensong)
Morning and Evening Prayer are the Major Hours and consist of more extensive psalmody, readings, and prayers. Noonday Prayer and Compline are called Minor Hours and are shorter and less variable.
Why can’t I do this by myself?
You can! The Daily Office can (and should) be said even if you’re by yourself. But it is designed for communal use, and the call-and-response structure makes the most sense in a congregational context. So, saying it with even just one other person, like a spouse or roommate, can greatly enrich the experience.
If you’re saying the Office by yourself, you can just say both the Officiant and the People’s parts.
Why should I join a society for it?
Although the Daily Office has played a vital part in Anglican life historically, it has fallen out of use in much of the Anglican Communion. It’s increasingly rare to find a parish that offers any of the Offices on a regular basis. And even clergy are often no longer required to keep the Daily Office as a basic spiritual discipline. So if you’re interested in keeping the Daily Office as a regular practice nowadays, it can be lonely work.
Our hope is that this Society can provide a network of support for people who are interested in the practice of the Daily Office. The Society is intended to provide mutual support and encouragement for those who pray the Office, as well as resources to help them teach and exhort others to join in the practice.
Is the Society just for clergy?
Most definitely not! Not even our founders are clergy. The Daily Office is the Church’s prayer—the whole Church. The services of the Daily Office are the foremost liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer that can regularly be led by a layperson. While it is our hope that many clerics will join the Society and rediscover the riches of the Daily Office, this effort of renewal must recognize that all Christians have an equal part in this form of worship.
Is the Society just for High Church people?
No! Several of our founding members are High Church/Anglo-catholic, but there is nothing about the Daily Office that is exclusively (or even especially) High Church. Interestingly, for a long time, the Daily Office was biggest among Low Church Anglicans who frequently used it even on Sunday mornings instead of Holy Eucharist. This is a part of our tradition for Anglicans of all pieties.
How do I start a Chapter in my diocese?
Start by taking a look at our charter. Once you have at least 2 other people on board to start a chapter, let the Society’s office know you intend to form one; they’ll let the other chapters know. Chapters should formally be constituted on or around the Feast of St. Nicholas Ferrar (1 December), but you’re highly encouraged to make an informal commitment as a group until that rolls around! On St. Nicholas’ feast, make sure all your members sign the charter and send a copy to the Society’s office. The signing of the Charter makes a great occasion for an Evening Prayer service to kick off your life together as a chapter!
Isn’t the prayerbook super complicated?
One of the drawbacks of the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer is that it can be difficult to figure out how to use it. Unfortunately, until the next prayerbook revision rolls around, there’s not much to be done about that. But with a little explanation and practice, you can learn your way around the prayerbook like a pro. There are also websites and apps that help organize the Office into one page, removing the need to navigate a book. Check out our Resources page for helpful apps and guides on how to use the Daily Office.
Isn’t this a big commitment?
Praying Morning and Evening Prayer every day (and going to the Eucharist every week!) sounds like a big commitment. And promising publicly to do it can be a little intimidating. That’s why we’ve structured the Society’s promises to be on a year-to-year basis. Unlike oblate or religious life, you’re not making vows for life or promises that are so binding you need to be formally released from them. You’re just committing to trying to live this pattern of worship with a group of fellow Christians for year. It’s still a commitment, but in planning the Society, we wanted to make it clear that this is an encouragement to engage in these practices, not a contract to do so.
What if I can’t do it every day?
You might not! You might miss an Office, you might miss a whole day, you might miss a string of days in a row. And that’s okay. Learning a new spiritual discipline is hard work, and you’ll probably falter more than a few times. But God’s grace is abundant, and this is a practice that is meant to form you and nurture your faith. Your salvation doesn’t hang on your performance. When you stumble, remind yourself that you’re already forgiven. The Daily Office is always there waiting for you when you’re ready.