Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are part of the daily cycle of offices in cathedrals and churches throughout the Anglican Communion (Lichfield Cathedral, Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Purpose and aims:
1, To become familiar with the texts, structures and purposes of these two offices.
2, To discuss experiences of leading these offices in a parish setting.
Long before ordination, many of you will have experiences of leading both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in parishes as readers, either as diocesan readers or as parish readers.
These two services can be found in two forms in the Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 78-153.
Inevitably, they have become the normal services in Church of Ireland parish churches throughout the island, on Sundays and on weekdays.
The expectation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (right) was that the Holy Communion or the Eucharist would be celebrated in every parish church on a Sunday morning.
The Book of Common Prayer (2004) states that Holy Communion is celebrated in the Church of Ireland every Sunday and on Christmas Day, Easter Day and the Day pf Pentecost “in every cathedral and every parish church unless the ordinary shall otherwise direct” (p. 18) and on the other prinhcipal holy days (apart from Good Friday) that Holy Communion is celebrated in every cathedral “and in each parish church or in a church within a parochial union or group of parishes” (p. 18).
However, the grouping of churches in parochial groups and unions means (unfortunately) that Morning Prayer has become the normal Sunday morning experience of most people in Church of Ireland parishes.
Meanwhile, as Sunday evening church-going declines, fewer and fewer people are familiar with or retain an appreciation for the particular beauty of traditional Evening Prayer.
Regrettably too, few churches use either order for Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer “daily throughout the year” … although this is the expectation in the Book of Common Prayer.
You will notice that there are two different orders for these offices. But they also have different titles.
Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 are described as “The Order for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer Daily throughout the year.”
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 are described as: “An Order for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer Daily throughout the year.”
These offices have other names:
• Mattins or Matins for Morning Prayer;
• Evensong for Evening Prayer.
These traditional Anglican names are used especially for choral or sung services.
Choral Evensong is a particularly beautiful work of art. It is broadcast twice weekly on BBC Radio 3 – live at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and repeated at 4 p.m. Sunday. Last Wednesday evening (22 April), and again this evening (26 April), Choral Evensong comes from Worcester Cathedral. This service was first broadcast on Thursday 7 October 1926 live from Westminster Abbey and since then has been broadcast weekly on BBC Radio, making Choral Evensong one of the longest-running radio programmes.
You can experience Choral Evensong regularly in Ireland in cathedrals such as Christ Church, Dublin, and Saint Patrick’s, Dublin, and in the Chapel in Trinity College Dublin. I have had particularly moving experiences of Choral Evensong in recent months in Lichfield Cathedral, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and some Cambridge colleges.
Those names, Matins and Evensong, which have become such an accepted and received part of Anglican liturgical culture, are ancient titles dating back to the monastic offices that were used for the two services in 1549 Book of Common Prayer.
Those titles changed by Thomas Cranmer with the publication of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, which was never authorised for use in the Church of Ireland.
Essentially, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer – whatever we may call them – are the offices of daily prayer, to be used daily throughout the year.
They are not designed as the principal Sunday service, and never were intended to be.
Their origins are to be found in the ancient monastic offices used by the monks at different times of the day. These are: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, None, Vespers and Compline.
It was generally accepted in monastic thinking that regular times of prayer lead to a life where prayer is a constant part of our relationship with God.
Cranmer brought these offices together, so there that there was one simple office for the morning and one simple office for the evening.
He also planned and structured those offices so the people would be instructed by the word of God. For example, the clergy were obliged to say both offices, openly or privately, and to toll the church bell before doing so.
Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1:
In the Book of Common Prayer (2004), Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 are the 1662 rite in virtually every respect, with a history that goes back to Cranmer’s original order (1552), and retaining most of the traditional language.
Originally they were printed as two separate rites. They were first integrated in the Alternative Prayer Book (1984), but now, before the Canticles, we are invited to turn to page 93 for Evening Prayer if we are not continuing with Morning Prayer.
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2:
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 have a shared beginning too. Then after the Confession and Absolution we are invited to turn to page 109 for Evening Prayer, if we are not using Morning Prayer.
An abbreviated form of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer can be found on pp 136-138.
Common to both services:
What is common to both offices, to both Morning Prayer and to Evening Prayer?
Although they described as “Prayer”, they are centred upon the reading of Scripture, through the Psalms, the Canticles, the Readings, and even with the versicles and responses.
The different parts:
There are no section headings in Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, unlike Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2.
But it is important to know and identify these sections, so that we can understand the movement that is taking place:
There are four essential ingredients:
1, The Gathering of God’s People
2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:
3, The Prayers of the People
4, Going out as God’s People.
1, The Gathering of God’s People
1, The Greeting:
The Greeting is more obvious in Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2, where we begin by saying: “The Lord be with you …“ (Ruth 2: 4).
2, A sentence of scripture:
We then have a sentence of scripture (pp 78-82), although the provision within Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 is for a sentence as the opening greeting. These sentences fall into three different groupings:
• General, focusing on the nature of worship
• Seasonal, related to particular time.
Get to know the difference, and if you are choosing another sentence try to ensure that it is not your favourite verse but one that sets the tone.
Also try to learn a variety of these sentences off by heart.
3, Opening hymn:
Where do you place the opening hymn for this office? Do you use it as a processional hymn? Or do you announce it first?
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 get this right, placing the first hymn after the opening greeting and sentences.
Choosing the first hymn needs time and careful attention. This sets the tone for the service and its theme, and so should be related to the readings, the prayers and the sermon or address.
4, The Exhortation:
The Exhortation is not a prayer, and is not addressed to God. In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, the Exhortation opens with the words: “Dearly beloved …”
In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2, it begins: “Beloved in Christ …”
The Exhortation could be compared with setting out an agenda before a meeting. It tells people why we are here and what we are going to do, it prepares us for the task ahead.
5, The Confession:
The confession is preceded by an invitation which is issued first.
In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, this confession was not provided in the earlier 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and was introduced by Cranmer in 1552.
The General Confession has resonances of both Romans 7: 8-25 and of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15). It was probably written by Cranmer, drawing on the wording for the confession in the Strasbourg liturgy.
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 provide for a time of silence for reflection, personal confession.
Absolution is a vital step after confession. It is not just about pardon and absolution, but about having a penitent heart, about the power of the Holy Spirit, and about the grace to live holy lives.
A declaratory ‘prayer’ is then pronounced by the priest in the name of God but directed at people.
6, The Lord’s Prayer:
Note the different places for the Lord’s Prayer. In Morning Prayer 1, the Lord’s Prayer follows the absolution. This was the original beginning of the office. However, in a service that combined Morning Prayer, the Liturgy and Holy Communion, which is how Cranmer imagined the parish church worshipping on a Sunday morning, the Lord’s Prayer could have been used five times. Now the only provision is for using the Lord’s Prayer twice.
In this place, the Lord’s Prayer is an introduction to praise. So, when it is provided as an introduction to praise, Cranmer adds the doxology: “… for thine is kingdom, the power and the glory ...”
But at other times, when the Lord’s Prayer is used as introduction to prayer and penitence, Cranmer omits the doxology.
2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:
1, Opening Canticles:
I hope we have an opportunity to look at the Canticles separately, in all their richness, at another stage. But here we should note the different canticles used in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.
Most from the canticles are from Scripture, either the Old Testament or the New Testament. But some are from the Apocrypha, and others, such as Hail gladdening light or Te Deum, are hymns.
The canticles are used in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer as a preparation for hearing God’s word, as a response to hearing God’s word, and as a way of using God’s word to praise God.
The word canticle is of Latin derivation, and simply means a song. Most of the canticles are known to this day by their Latin name (although Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2 attempts to give them simple English names: Venite as Psalm 95; Jubilate as Psalm 100; Benedictus as the Song of Zechariah; Magnificat as The Song of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Nunc Dimittis as The Song of Simeon; Etc. – although Te Deum remains Te Deum)
In the Book of Common Prayer, the canticles are pointed (the little red marks) for Anglican chant. Does this distract you?
Apart from traditional Anglican chant, they can be sung in a variety of other ways. Become familiar with the variations on the canticles in the hymn book.
Traditionally we use different canticles for the different offices. For example, we associate Morning Prayer with Venite and Jubilate, and Evening Prayer especially with the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, but also with A Song of the Light, Deus Misereatur (Psalm 67) and Ecce Nunc.
The Easter Anthems is used for both offices.
The canticles set the scene for hearing God’s word. Look at Venite (pp. 87-88, 103): It calls us to sing out to the Lord, to come before his presence, to praise him with psalms, to acknowledge him as our Lord God and King and Creator, to entrust everything to his care, to worship him, to bow down and kneel (and here it says nothing about the Anglican crouch), to hear his voice, to be contrite and to confess, to admit our sins, and then, in the doxology, to give praise to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Does this set the agenda for Morning Prayer?
A Song of the Light is presented with a new introduction, but is an old Greek song, dating from the third century, Phos Hilarion, and speaks beautifully and poetically of lighting the evening lamps when the dark is closing.
The different versions of Phos Hilarion include Hail gladdening light (Irish Church Hymnal, 699) and Light of the world (Irish Church Hymnal, 702).
2, The first reading:
The first reading now comes here in Evening Prayer. This is one of the changes in the traditional language version. In 1926, the opening canticle was followed by Psalm or Psalms. Now the Psalm or Psalms come after the first reading in both versions of Morning Prayer.
You may ask why this is so? This is because the new lectionary uses the Psalm as a response to the first reading, normally an Old Testament reading.
Some clergy complain that three readings are too much for a morning service. What do you think?
3, The Psalms:
We no longer catalogue the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer by using day numbers (see the Book of Common Prayer 1926).
The original numbering derived from Cranmer’s pattern, which expected that we would the Psalter through each month. This approach to Psalmody, which we have adapted, is part of the Anglican legacy received from the monastic offices and tradition. Benedict wanted the Psalms read through in a week, and the Ceilí Dé monks expected to read them through each day. So the Psalms became the heart of daily worship.
But how do you use the Psalms? Do you sing them? According to which traditional method? Do you read them? By verse or by half-verse? Are you familiar with modern settings for the psalms? Or do you ignore them altogether and replace them with hymns?
4, The Readings after the Psalm(s):
At Morning Prayer, these are the second reading and the Gospel reading. In Evening Prayer, this is where we have both readings.
We should note how the readings are introduced. Order 2 suggests: “A reading from … chapter … beginning at verse …”
But how do you conclude the readings?
Which version of the Bible should be used for Scripture readings? Any translation approved by the House of Bishops can be used. What about other versions?
5, The second and third canticles:
At Morning Prayer, the second canticle can be one of Te Deum, Benedicite, Urbs, Laudate, or other canticles on pp 117-135, except the Benedictus. The third canticle is the Benedictus, the Jubilate, or any New Testament canticle provided on pp 117-135.
At Evening Prayer, the second canticle is Magnificat, Cantate Domino, or any New Testament canticle on pp 117-135. The third canticle is Nunc Dimitis, Deus Misereatur, or any New Testament canticle on pp 117-135.
Why are they here?
The major canticles are three from Saint Luke’s Gospel. They look back and forward at the work of salvation.
But the canticles can also be used thematically. For example, you could chose canticles to reflect harvest, or particular days in the Christian year – what a great day Saint Luke’s day is for being creative in using the canticles.
6, The sermon:
Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were essentially daily services, so originally there was no provision for a sermon.
It is only in over the course of history that these daily offices history became the regular, normative Sunday service, without the Eucharist or Holy Communion, and so the need arose to provide an appropriate place for the sermon.
The offices had normally ended with the grace. Now there was a need for another hymn before the sermon and another hymn after the sermon.
In other churches, such as the Methodists and the Presbyterians, there was an accepted practice of having the sermon at the end of the Sunday service, and this place became traditional in the Church of Ireland. And so, Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 retain this traditional place.
But Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 correctly reposition the sermon within the context of proclaiming and receiving God’s word, and before the Apostles’ Creed, giving the sermon a place that is similar to the place it has in the Holy Communion. In the sermon, the Word of God is broken open.
7, The Apostles’ Creed:
The Apostles’ Creed is an integral part of Sunday offices in the Anglican tradition. But in the daily offices it may be said in Morning Prayer 2 and by tradition is not used in the chapel here in the evening.
The truth is that historically the Apostles’ Creed was not part of the offices of the Church until the Reformation. Of course, it was not written by the apostles, and its adoption in the Western church dates from about 1000 AD, when it was used simply as a baptismal confession of faith.
3, The Prayers of the People:
1, The Prayers of the People
The Prayers of the People may take several different forms, including:
• The Kyries
• The Lesser Litany
“The Litany may be used in Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer after the Apostles’ Creed as The Prayers of the People when it should conclude with the Collect of the Day and the Lord’s Prayer” (p.175).
2, The Lord’s Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer is then said without the doxology in form 1, but with it in form 2. What is the reason for this difference? Because this is the only place the Lord’s Prayer is used in Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2.
Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 provide two versions of the Lord’s Prayer.
The modern version is from the English Language Liturgical Commission, except for the clause “and lead us not into temptation” which replaces the agreed phrase, ‘’save us from the time of trial.”
3, The Versicles and Responses:
The roots and origins of the Versicles and Responses are to be found in the Sarum Breviary, and are taken from Scripture: Psalm 85: 7; I Samuel 10: 24; Psalm 20: 9; Psalm 132: 9; Psalm 28: 9.
They are followed by prayers for rulers, the clergy and people, the collect for peace, and the collect for grace.
In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2, the versicles and responses are not mandatory (see p. 113), but they can be used as a framework for intercession at this point.
4, The Collects:
The provision is for three collects in Order 1, and at least two collects in Order 2, beginning with Collect of the Day.
We should note that the description “Collect of” relates to a particular occasion, while the phrase “Collect for” relates to a subject. So, it is not the not collect of purity, and they are not the Collect for the Conversion of Saint Paul or the Collect for the Circumcision of Christ … although I have heard both being used; indeed, I have heard people pray for the Conversion of Saint Paul and for the Circumcision of Christ.
We all would do well to memorise some of the better-known and well-loved collects used at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (see pp. 114-115), as they are useful, for example, when asked for an extemporary prayer or opening and closing prayers at parish events.
Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 2 then provide an option for having the sermon either here or after the occasional prayers (see p. 97).
5, The Occasional Prayers:
Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 provide a collection of occasional prayers to be used on particular occasions (pp 97-100), including prayers for the monarch and the royal family or the president, for parliament or the Oireachtas, and for the clergy and the people, as well as a prayer marked as “A General Thanksgiving” but usually known as “the” general thanksgiving.
In addition, there is the provision of Daily Prayers for Weekdays (pp. 139-144) – and note that these do not include Sundays – and “Some Prayers and Thanksgiving” which had been included in previous editions of the Book of Common Prayer or in the Alternative Prayer Book (1984). These are valuable resources when planning Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, but are often neglected or forgotten because of their place in the book
Instead, these prayers are often substituted by prayers written by the person reading the service. But if you are going to do this, it is worth remembering to watch the movement in any prayers you write. And remember too that many people will be able to recite from memory, and remember with affection, the words of both the General Thanksgiving and the Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom.
Although the Book of Common Prayer says that these prayers “always conclude” with A Prayer of Saint Chrysostom and the Grace,” this prayer is seldom used, although it roots lie in recognising in prayer how we are dependent on God.
If the sermon is preached at this place, rather than between the collects and the occasional prayers, it may interrupt the flow towards a conclusion and people going out as God’s people.
4, Going out as God’s people:
But in sending them out as God’s people, how do we conclude Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer?
In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, the office always concludes with the grace (see the rubric on p. 97 and the words on p. 100). There is no provision for a blessing or dismissal.
The options for Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 allow for greater flexibility, and for a blessing.
How do you end Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer? How do you being it to a close appropriately, prayerfully and with dignity.
In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, these services always ended with the grace. But since then, we have inserted the sermon on Sundays, and added other things too. Tradition and needs made innovative provision before the grace for an offertory hymn, a place for parish notices and announcements, a blessing, a dismissal and a recessional hymn.
We have lengthened and extended everything just at a time when people might be leaving, they should be going out. It is good advice to remember to try to make it simple at this point. It will be appreciated.
How do you prepare for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer?
How do you find Morning Prayer works compared with (a) The Holy Communion (b) A Service of the Word?
Where do you lead Morning Prayer from? In your parish, does the rector traditionally go to the altar for accepting the collection? How do you robe?
Who reads the lessons?
How do you select the hymns?
How do you use the selection of canticles available?
Do you have a blessing at the end?
How do you use Morning Prayer on a morning when you also have a celebration of the Eucharist/Holy Communion?
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a lecture on the Non-Stipendiary Ministry course on Sunday 26 April 2009.