27 October 2016

‘Space to Think’ celebrates ten years
of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’

Maurice Earls speaking at the launch of ‘Space to Think, marking the tenth anniversary of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’ (Photograph: Patrikck Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Recently I was at a reception in the Irish Architectural Archives in Merrion Square, Dublin, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Dublin Review of Books and the launch of new book to mark this milestone, Space to Think, Ten Years of the Dublin Review of Books.

I was an early contributor to the Dublin Review of Books when I wrote a review in Issue Number 8 (Winter 2008-2009) a book by the Cork-born biblical scholar, the late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor: St Paul’s Ephesus: Texts and Archaeology (Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier).

That review opened:

Strolling down the paved Priests’ Way, or Curetes Street, in Ephesus at the height of the summer, our guide happily pointed out the vista ahead of us, including – in his own words – the ‘Library of Celsius’. Well it was a scorching hot day – and given the decadent reputation of Ephesus at the height of its prosperity I have no doubt the library shelves once held some hot topics.

Like many of the early reviewers, I was one of Enda O’Doherty’s former colleagues at The Irish Times, and it was inevitable that the attendance at this launch [13 October 2016] should include so many old friends who have also contributed to this collection of reviews. Since then, I have enhjoyed dipping in and out of this collection.

Maurice Earls and Enda O’Doherty, have edited Space to Think, which brings together some 50 essays on Irish and international literature, history and culture. The contributors include Roy Foster, Terry Eagleton, Denis Donoghue, Lara Marlowe, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Catriona Crowe, Pádraig Yeates, Denis Donoghue, and Siobhán Parkinson, and the late Adrian Hardiman.

The shared focus on Irish and European culture is richly reflected in the selection of essays in Space to Think, which range from pieces on the life of Seamus Heaney, the foibles of Jonathan Swift to the letters of Samuel Beckett; a study of the Ulysses obscenity trials in the US; the contradictions in George Orwell’s politics; Lara Marlowe on Sartre and de Beauvoir’s existentialist theories and their tawdry lifestyles; Clive James’s marvellous feats of translation; the American crime novel; and the greatest famine the world has ever known, which occurred after Mao’s so-called ‘Great Leap Forward’ in the 1950s.

Other subjects include: Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone, courtship in Jane Austen’s England, Irish prisoners of war in World War II, and the Ryanair experience.

Almost all of the pieces in the anthology were originally published as book reviews or ‘review-essays.’

The Dublin Review of Books was started in order to publish informed and imaginative essays and commentary on Irish and international subjects. Maurice Earls recalled that the Dublin Review of Books was launched online in 2007 because of the digital possibilities offered by virtually free worldwide distribution. The digital edition liberated the publishers from print bills ‘which would surely have sunk us, since we don't have advertising and we don’t charge.’ He pointed out that in the digital age there is little point in publishing a book unless one goes to the trouble of making it a beautiful object.

Enda O’Doherty said that the review essay format can run from 2,500 to 4,500 words. He quoted the British literary critic Frank Kermode, who said that it is ‘a very satisfactory genre,’ occupying a comfortable middle ground between the brief notice of a newspaper review and the lengthy detail of an academic paper or lecture.

To date, the DRB has published over 1,000 essays, from 360 contributors. Many people are willing to write on a pro bono basis, and only those who make a living from writing are paid for their contributions. The DBR is still going after 10 years, and continues to be entirely free to the reader.Space to Think is a lavish production, and is available in bookshops for €25.

Enda O’Doherty speaking at the launch of Space to Think, marking the tenth anniversary of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’ (Photograph: Patrikck Comerford, 2016)

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Full Time) 5.2:
Traditions of prayer (2) seminar,
readings on Reformation prayer

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation in a window in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., Thursdays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 5: 27 October 2016

Liturgy 5.1:
The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.

Liturgy 5.2: Traditions of prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

11.30 a.m.: Liturgy 5.2: Traditions of prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

Readings on Reformation prayer, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes.

1, Martin Luther (1483-1546):

Martin Luther … weaves together four basic elements to provide his ‘garland of prayer’

Reading: David Tripp, ‘Martin Luther, Lutheran Spirituality,’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 253-256.

Martin Luther was a German Augustinian friar, priest and professor of theology who played a key role in initiating the European Reformations. Luther strongly disputed the claim that freedom from the punishment of sin could be bought with money. He challenged the sale of indulgence with his 95 Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the of the Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 led to his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge.

His translation of the Bible into German, instead of Latin, made it more accessible, and had a major impact on the church and on German culture. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches.

Luther’s 1524 creedal hymn Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We All Believe in One True God) is a three-stanza confession of faith prefiguring his 1529 three-part explanation of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism. Luther’s hymn, adapted and expanded from an earlier German creedal hymn, gained widespread use in vernacular Lutheran liturgies as early as 1525.

Luther’s 1538 hymn version of the Lord’s Prayer, Vater unser im Himmelreich, corresponds exactly to Luther’s explanation of the prayer in the Small Catechism. The hymn served both as a liturgical setting of the Lord’s Prayer and as a means of examining candidates on specific catechism questions.

Luther wrote Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (From depths of woe I cry to you) in 1523 as a hymn version of Psalm 130 and sent it as a sample to encourage his colleagues to write psalm-hymns for use in worship. In collaboration with Paul Speratus, this and seven more hymns were published in the first Lutheran hymnal, the Achtliederbuch.

In 1524, Luther developed his original four-stanza psalm paraphrase into a five-stanza Reformation hymn that developed the theme of ‘grace alone’ more fully. Because it expressed essential Reformation doctrine, this expanded version of Aus tiefer Not was designated as a regular component of several regional Lutheran liturgies and was widely used at funerals, including Luther’s own.

In his short and simple work, A Simple Way to Pray (1535), Luther sets out an approach to prayer based on reading Biblical passages such as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-17). He sets out aid to prayer based on a four-fold interaction with the Biblical text.

The four basic elements which he weaves together to provide his ‘garland of prayer’ are:

1, Instruction.
2, Thanksgiving.
3, Confession.
4, Prayer.

On the evening of 17 February 1546, Luther experienced chest pains. When he went to his bed, he prayed: ‘Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God’ (Psalm 31: 5), the common prayer of the dying. At 1 a.m., he awoke with more chest pain, and thanked God for revealing his Son. His companions, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius, shouted loudly: ‘Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?’ Luther’s reply was a distinct ‘Yes.’

A stroke then deprived him of his speech, and he died at 2.45 a.m. on 18 February 1546, aged 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth.

2, John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin ... pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God

Reading: Gordon Wakefield, ‘John Calvin,’ and ‘Calvinist Spirituality’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 63-68.

John Calvin was a French theologian and a principal figure in the development of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. Calvin originally trained as a humanist lawyer, and his breach with the Church came around 1530. When religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel in Switzerland, where he published the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539).

He went on to engage with Church reforms in Geneva and Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead the church there. In Geneva, he struggled unsuccessfully to have weekly celebrations of the Eucharist, and taught the notion of a ‘virtual presence’ by which the power of Christ was united to the communicant by the work of the Spirit.

Calvin pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship, as the believer is caught up in a transforming and renewing encounter with the living God.

His spirituality has three principle characteristics. It is:

● mystical;
● corporate;
● social.

3, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Thomas Cranmer … his legacy includes the Book of Common Prayer, the Collects and the 39 Articles

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 1-11.

Thomas Cranmer, the ‘Father of the Prayer Book,’ was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and (briefly) Mary I. He built a favourable case for Henry VIII’s divorce and supported the principle of royal supremacy.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England. He did not make many radical changes in the Church, but succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

During the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer wrote and compiled the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the Church of England. With the help of Continental reformers, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist.

With the accession of Mary I to the throne, Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy, and was executed in Oxford in 1556. On the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations. As the flames drew around him, he placed his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.’

His legacy lives on through The Book of Common Prayer, although It is difficult to ascertain how much of the Prayer Book is actually Cranmer’s personal composition, and through the 39 Articles, which are part of his legacy although not his composition. But we can agree that his chief concern was to design corporate worship to encourage a lively faith.

4, John Jewel (1522-1571)

John Jewel ... literary apologist of the Elizabethan settlement and the author of Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 12-20.

John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, is seen as the First Anglican Apologist, and as the literary apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement. His Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae (1562) is the first methodical statement of the position of the Church of England. It forms the groundwork for all subsequent controversy, and is his attempt to provide a statement of faith for the Church of England during the reign of Elizabeth I and to answer challenges and accusations of the day.

When Jewel discusses the sacraments, he emphasises that it is not the sacraments themselves but the faith of the individual that effects salvation. On this point, Jewel appeals to several Church Fathers:

‘The faith of the sacraments,’ saith St. Augustine, ‘justifies, and not the sacrament.’ And Origen saith, ‘He [Christ] is the priest and the propitiation, and the sacrifice; and that propitiation comes to every one by way of faith.’ And, therefore, agreeably hereunto, we say that the sacraments of Christ do not profit the living without faith (Apology, II.17).

But he also says:

In the Lord’s Supper, there is truly given unto the believing the body and blood of the Lord, the flesh of the Son of God, which quickeneth our souls, the meat that cometh from above, the food of immortality, grace, truth, and life; and the Supper to be the communion of the body and blood of Christ, by partaking whereof we be revived, we be strengthened, and be fed unto immortality, and whereby we are joined, united and incorporate unto Christ, that we may abide in him, and he in us. (Apology).

Similarly, Jewel says: ‘For, although we do not touch Christ with our teeth and mouth, yet we hold him fast, and eat him by faith, by understanding, and by the spirit’ (Apology, II.15).

5, Richard Hooker (1554-1600):

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... ‘the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 21-33.

Richard Hooker was such an influential Anglican theologian at the end of the Elizabethan era that he is often regarded as the Definitive Anglican. His emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglican theology, and alongside Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker he is regarded as a founder of Anglican theological method.

Throughout Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), Hooker makes it clear that theology involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the Church.

Writing on Prayer, he says: ‘When we are not able to do any other thing for men’s behoof, when though maliciousness or unkindness they vouchsafe not to accept any other good at our hands, prayer is that which we always have in our power to bestow, and they never in theirs to refuse.’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, V.23.1

When it comes to ritual disputes in liturgical matters, he writes: ‘Customs once established and confirmed by long use, being presently without harm, are not in regard of their corrupt original to be held scandalous’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, IV.12.4

6, Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes in Southwark Cathedral ... his prayers and sermons were critical in TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism and had an abiding influence on his writings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 34-46.

Lancelot Andrewes held senior positions in the Church of England in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and after two decades at Cambridge he was successively Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester, and chaired the committee that had oversight of the translation of the King James Version or Authorised Version of the Bible.

TS Eliot, in his essay, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928), argues that Andrewes’s sermons ‘rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.’ Eliot spoke of his indebtedness to the bishop’s writings: he is ‘the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church,’ and he had ‘the voice of a man who had a formed visible church behind him, who spoke with the old authority and the new culture.’

For Eliot, ‘The intellectual achievement and the prose style of Hooker and Andrewes came to complete the structure of the English Church as the philosophy of the thirteenth century crowns the Catholic Church … the achievement of Hooker and Andrewes was to make the English Church more worthy of intellectual assent. No religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction; if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.

‘The writings of both Hooker and Andrewes illustrate that determination to stick to essentials, that awareness of the needs of the time, the desire for clarity and precision on matters of importance, and the indifference to matters indifferent, which was the general policy of Elizabeth … Andrewes is the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.’


TS Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928).
Alister McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
Philip Sheldrake, A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999).

Next week (3 November 2016):

6.1: The nature and theology of sacraments;
6.2: Traditions of prayer (3): seminar, patterns of prayer today (including all-age worship, participation of children in worship, worship and youth).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared for a seminar on 27 October 2016 that was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Full Time) 5.1:
The development of the
Liturgical Year and the Daily Office

Candles light up the choir stalls in Great Saint Mary’s, the University Church, Cambridge ... this morning we look at the development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., Thursdays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 5: 27 October 2016

Liturgy 5.1:
The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.

Liturgy 5.2: Traditions of prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

10 a.m.: Liturgy 5.1: The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.


1, The Liturgical Year
2, The Daily Office (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer)
3, The Collects and the Lectionary

The beach at Donabate bathed in sunshine … the church calendar, like other calendars, is marked by times and seasons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(1) The Liturgical Year:

We all function on a secular calendar, beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December. But we all work with other calendars too. Examples include:

● The Tax year once began and ended on 25 March.
● The Academic year (is it divided into terms or semesters?).
● The football season.
● There is a political year (the opening of parliament).
● A court year (the law year began a few weeks ago).
● A social year, or family year, marks special events, with anniversaries, birthdays. We remember births, marriages and deaths in our own many families, and many regularly take holidays at the same time.
● The working year: the shipyard holiday had an impact on life throughout East Belfast until very recently.

So, the Church Calendar is both important for the life of the Church so that we remember the main events in the story of salvation, so that we do not forget others, and so that we do not forget to prepare for some of these events, marked by days and seasons.

The sources for the Church Calendar

There are two specific calendars for the Church, both working in tandem: the Temporale and the Sanctorale.

The Temporale outlines the Christian Year, from Advent Sunday to the Sunday before Advent. The Sanctorale follows the secular year. This lists the saints’ days, and other key days that fall on the same date each year.

An outline of the Church Calendar:

[handout: Harold Miller, The Desire of our Soul (Dublin: Columba, 1984), p 16.]

For the Temporale, see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 18-19.

All Sundays celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. On no Sunday should that celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ be overshadowed by any other commemoration. Everything we do in Church on Sunday is done in the light of our Easter faith.

The principal Holy Days are:

● Christmas Day (25 December)
● Easter Day
● The Day of Pentecost

Of these, which are the most important?

1, Easter, which has 40 days of preparation, Lent, and is followed by a continuing Easter focus in the 50 days of Easter until Pentecost

2, Christmas, which also has season of preparation, the four weeks of Advent, followed by the 12 days of Christmas up to Epiphany.

3, Pentecost is the climax of the story of the Risen Christ as the Spirit is poured out on the Church, which is a continuing Pentecost.

Seven other principal days are marked in the Church of Ireland Calendar:

1, Epiphany (6 January)
2, The Presentation of Christ (2 February)
3, Maundy Thursday
4, Good Friday (most traditions say it is inappropriate to celebrate Holy Communion on this day)
5, Ascension Day (The Thursday 40 days after Easter Day)
6, Trinity Sunday
7, All Saints’ Day (1 November)

The Seasons

In a natural year, we have the four seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. There are five seasons in the Church year, named in The Book of Common Prayer (p 19):

1, Advent
2, Christmas
3, Epiphany
4, Lent
5, Easter

Note how we name them:

● the Sundays of Advent, and the Sundays of Christmas;
● the Sundays after the Epiphany, the Sundays after Trinity;
● the Sundays before Lent, the Sundays before Advent;
● the Sundays in Lent; and the Days in Holy Week.

Then, we have separately Ordinary Time, which varies in length – depending on how early or late Easter is, and on when Advent begins.

These seasons explore particular theological themes. They provide us with opportunities to recall, to relive, and to learn afresh from particular parts of the Christian story, the story of salvation, as they are read and reflected on.

These seasons set a special mood for us collectively as the Church.

Apart from the seasons we also have days of special observance (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 20), including Ash Wednesday, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and Easter Eve.

The Festivals are not all saints’ days. They include some commemorations of Gospel events, such as events in the life of the Virgin Mary:

1, The Birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September),
2, the Annunciation (25 March),
3, the Visitation (31 May),
4, but not her death (15 August), although this is observed in other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Some events in the life of Christ that are commemorated include:

● His naming or circumcision (1 January)
● His Baptism (Sunday after Epiphany)
● His Transfiguration (6 August)
● His kingship (The Sunday before Advent).

The Saints’ Days [The Sanctorale] are also important reminders of the continuity of the story of salvation. The saints (see pp 20-21) include Saint Michael and All Angels, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, the Holy Innocents, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and Evangelists, and the three patron saints of Ireland. Normally we think of the saints’ days as the days on which they died, but we do not commemorate the Virgin Mary on that day, nor is this the case with Saint Michael and the Angels. And we remember two saints on other days too: Saint Paul (conversion, 25 January) and Saint John the Baptist (birthday, 24 June).

On pp 22-23, we have the commemoration of saints and other important figures in our story as the Church. The red letter days are to be observed, but the others follow local custom.

Rules for Festivals

When one of these days falls on a Sunday, in Holy Week or in Easter Week, it is transferred, even though there may be cultural difficulties in maintaining this rule: some years ago, Saint Patrick’s Day fell in Holy Week – how many observed it on the previous Saturday? Or in that year Saint Joseph (19 March) on 1 April?

There is no celebration of a festival in Easter Week either. So this year, e.g., the Annunciation on 25 March fell on Good Friday [2016], and it was transferred to Monday 4 April, the first open day after Easter Week.


These days are usually remembered in their own part of the country (e.g., Saint Laurence O’Toole in Dublin).

Some of the other days in the Church year include:

● Rogation days (asking God for …) are marked as days asking for God’s blessing on fruits of the earth and human labour.
● Ember Days are days set aside for prayers for ordination and ministry. They include the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the 1st Sunday in Lent, the Day of Pentecost, 14 September and 13 December.

These days are quarterly, so that four times a year we have these prayers before the whole church.

Days of Special Observance:

● Ash Wednesday (see p 338).
● Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, Easter Eve.

Days of discipline and self-denial:

● Lent.
● Fridays.

Dates of Easter and other variables:

These are given up to 2030 in The Book of Common Prayer.

Other dates:

What do we do about other days in the Church year?

When is Harvest celebrated?

What about other dates such as 12 July, Watch Night services, Covenant services, Harvest services, Remembrance Sunday, National Days, &c.?


We always need to remind ourselves that we are incarnational.

A note on Liturgical Colours:

Since fabrics – banners, stoles, vestments &c – have some colour or other, the historic Church has used colour to set the theme of worship. Colour choices were more diverse in the past, for dyes were expensive and it was not as easy as it is today to get fabric in any colour.

In modern times, a consensus has developed about the colours in the western Church: green, purple, white, and red, with gold or ivory as alternatives to white. Some traditions sometimes use blue. Black, for the most part, is no longer used. The Orthodox Churches use colours differently.

Green: Green is the default colour. Green is the colour of vegetation, the colour of life. Green is the colour for the Season of Epiphany and the Season after Pentecost. These two seasons are also called ‘Ordinary Time’ because the Sundays have no names, just ordinal numbers.

Purple: In antiquity, purple dye was very expensive, so purple came to signify wealth, power, and royalty. Therefore purple is the colour for the seasons of Advent and Lent, which celebrate the coming of the King. Since as Christians we prepare for our King through reflection and repentance, purple has also become a penitential colour.

White: Angels announced Christ’s birth (Luke 2: 8-15) and his Resurrection (Luke 24:1-8). The New Testament consistently uses white to describe angels and the risen Lord (see Matthew 17: 2 and 28: 3, Mark 9: 3 and 16: 5, John 20: 12, Acts 1: 10, and throughout Revelation). In the early Church, people were given white robes as they emerged from the waters of baptism. And so, white is the colour for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. White is often the colour for funerals, as the colour of the Resurrection, usually for weddings, regardless of the season, and for secular holidays observed in the Church.

Red: Red is the colour of blood and martyrdom, and so the colour for commemorating the death of a martyr. It is also an alternative colour for the last week of Lent, Holy Week, and also the colour for the Day of Pentecost and for ordinations and installations as the colour of fire and of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2: 3).

Gold: Gold or ivory are alternatives to white, and are designated especially for Christmas Day and Easter Day.

Blue: Blue is an alternative to purple during Advent. Some churches use blue during Advent to avoid the penitential connotation of purple.

Black: Black is the colour of clericals (cassocks are clericals, not vestments). Before modern dyes were invented, all dress clothes were black – look at 19th century formal photographs. Historically, black implied formality. Because we no longer wear black so often, it survives as a formal colour only at the most solemn occasions, such as funerals. For some people today, black immediately connotes a funeral. Black is sometimes, but rarely, the colour for funeral services, Good Friday, and All Souls’ Day (2 November).

Rose: Rose (a shade of pink) was sometimes used on the Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday) to signify joy. The use of rose has a strange origin. Mediaeval Popes customarily gave someone a rose on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday). This led the Roman Catholic clergy to wear rose-coloured vestments that Sunday. As this gave some relief to the solemnity of Lent, it became a popular custom.

Originally, Advent was a solemn fast in preparation for Christmas, so the custom was extended to the third Sunday in Advent to liven it up a little too. And so the third candle in the Advent wreath became pink too. Now, Advent is no longer so solemn … and Popes probably no longer give out roses.

(2) The daily office, including Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

The chapel in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... the daily office dates back to the prayer life of the monasteries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In The Book of Common Prayer (pp 78-153), there are two different orders of service, with different titles:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: “The Order …”

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2: “An Order …”

Other names for these services include: Mattins or Matins for Morning Prayer; or Evensong for Evening Prayer.

These names are used especially for choral or sung services.

Choral Evensong is a particularly beautiful piece of art. It was broadcast every Wednesday evening at 4 p.m. on BBC Radio 3, making it one of the longest-running radio programmes.

You can experience it in our cathedrals, including Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and in the Chapel in TCD.

[Relate personal experience of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Lichfield Cathedral]

Matins and Evensong are ancient titles dating back to the monastic offices, which were used for the two services in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. The titles were changed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (right) in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer.

Essentially these are offices of daily prayer, to be used daily throughout the year, but they were never designed as the principal Sunday service.

Their origins are found in the ancient monastic offices used by the monks at different times of the day:

1, Matins,
2, Lauds,
3, Prime,
4, Terce,
5, None,
6, Vespers,
7, Compline.

The monastic idea and ideal was that regular times of prayer lead to a life where prayer is a constant part of our relationship with God. Cranmer brought these monastic offices together, so that there was one simple office for the morning, and one simple office for the evening.

The offices were also planned and structured so people would be instructed by the word of God: the clergy were obliged to say both offices, openly or privately, and to toll the church bell before doing so.

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are part of the daily cycle of offices in cathedrals and churches throughout the Anglican Communion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 1:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: This is the 1662 rite in virtually every respect, with a history the goes back to Cranmer’s original ‘A …’ (1552).

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were formerly printed as separate rites. They have now been integrated as one office, with variations for morning and evening use.

They were first integrated in 1984 in the Alternative Prayer Book. In The Book of Common Prayer (2004), after the opening prayers and greetings, if we are not following Morning Prayer, we are invited to turn to page 93 for Evening Prayer.

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 2:

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 have a common beginning. Then after the Confession and Absolution, if we are not following Morning Prayer, we are invited to turn to page 109 for Evening Prayer.

What is common to both services?

There is a common approach to both services or offices. Although called “Prayer,” they are centred upon the reading of Scripture, through the Psalms, the Canticles and the Readings. Even the versicles and responses are taken from Scripture.

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 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.

The Gathering of God’s People


The opening greeting is more obvious in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 2, because it is specified: “The Lord be with you …” (Ruth 2: 4).

Sentence of Scripture (pp 78-83 and at the beginning of Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1).

The provisions of sentences of Scripture are in three different groupings:

● General, focusing on the nature of worship
● Seasonal, related to particular time.
● Penitential.

By getting to know the difference one can be much more appropriate in making choices. If choosing another sentence, one needs to avoid constantly using a favourite verse, carefully selecting one that sets the tone and theme. On the other hand, there is value in learning a variety of these verses off by heart.

Opening hymn:

Where is this placed: is it used as a processional? Is it announced first?

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 get this right by placing the hymn after the opening greeting and sentences.

Choosing the hymn sensitively and carefully allows one to set the tone for the service and its theme, so it ought to be related to the readings, prayers and address.


This is not a prayer, and it is not addressed to God. In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 it opens: ‘Dearly beloved …’ In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 it opens: ‘Beloved in Christ …’

It is like setting out an agenda before a meeting: it tells people why we are here and what we’re going to do, it prepares us for the task ahead.


The invitation comes first.

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: This confession was not in the earlier 1549 Prayer Book, and was introduced by Cranmer in 1552.

The general confession has resonances of Romans 7: 8-25, and of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15). It was probably written by Cranmer, and based on the confession in the Strasbourg liturgy.

In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2, the confession provides for a time of silence for reflection, personal confession.


In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 (p 86), this is a vital step after confession. It is not just a declaration or affirmation of pardon and absolution, but it is assurance to a penitent heart of the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of the grace to live holy lives. It is a declaratory ‘prayer,’ pronounced by the priest in the name of God, but directed at the people.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Note the different place for the Lord’s Prayers:

In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, the Lord’s Prayer follows the absolution. This was the original beginning of the office. But in a service that combined Morning Prayer, the Litany and Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer could have been used five times. Now there is provision for using it only twice.

It is an introduction to praise. So, as an introduction to praise, Cranmer added the doxology: ‘… for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, ...’ At other times, when the Lord’s Prayer is used as an introduction to prayer and penitence, the doxology is omitted.

Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:

Opening Canticles:

There are different canticles for use at Morning Prayer and at Evening Prayer. Most of the Canticles are from Scripture, but some are from the Apocrypha, and others, such as Te Deum, are hymns. They serve as 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 Latin and simply means a song. Most of the canticles are known to this day by their Latin names, although Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 attempt to give them simple English names: Venite, Psalm 95; Benedictus, Song of Zechariah.

The little red marks are pointed for Anglican chant. Are they distractions?

The canticles can be sung in a variety of ways, with versions in the hymn book, and other alternatives.

Traditionally, we have used different canticles for the two different offices:

Morning Prayer: Venite and Jubilate.

Evening Prayer: Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, A Song of the Light, Deus Misereatur (Psalm 67) and Ecce Nunc.

The Easter Anthems are used during both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

The canticles set the scene for hearing God’s word.

Look at Venite: [quote from page 87].

A Song of the Light has a new introduction, but this is an old Greek song, dating from the 3rd century, Phos Hilaron (Φῶς Ἱλαρόν): it is not about the rising sun, and is appropriate for lighting the evening lamps when the dark is closing in.

There are different versions. See: Hail Gladdening Light (Irish Church Hymnal, No 699).

The first reading:

The first reading is placed here in Morning Prayer. This is one of the changes introduced to the traditional language version. In the 1926 edition, the opening canticle was followed by the Psalm(s). Now the Psalm comes after first reading in both versions of Morning Prayer.

This change was introduced because the new lectionary uses the Psalm as a response to the first (normally Old Testament) reading.

Some feel that three readings are too much for a morning service.

The Psalms:

The psalms no longer follow the pattern of day numbers in Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 (c.f. the 1926 version).

Cranmer set a pattern of reading the Psalter through each month. Our Psalmody is a legacy of the monastic offices and tradition. Benedict wanted the psalms read through in a week. So, from an early stage the psalms have been at the heart of daily worship.

Readings after the Psalm:

At Morning Prayer, the second reading and the Gospel reading come after the Psalm. In Evening Prayer, both readings follow the Psalm.

Note how the readings are introduced: Order 2 suggests: ‘A reading from … chapter … beginning at verse …’

How do you conclude the readings? Which version of Scripture can we use?

The second and third canticles:

At Morning Prayer, the second canticle is Te Deum, Benedicite, Urbs Fortitudinis, Laudate Dominum (Psalm 148), or another canticle from pp 117-135, except the Benedictus. The third canticle is Benedictus, Jubilate, or any New Testament canticle on pp 117-135.

At Evening Prayer, the second canticle is Magnificat, Cantate Domino, or any New Testament Canticle on pp 117-135. And 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 at and forward to the work of salvation. And they can be used thematically: there are provisions for harvest, for the Christian year (for example, did anyone think there was an opportunity for an appropriate choice of canticle to mark Saint Luke’s Day last week (18 October 2016)?

The sermon:

These were essentially daily services, so originally there was no place for a sermon. It was only over the course of history that these became regular Sunday services, and so the need arose to provide an appropriate place for the sermon. This office had normally ended with the grace. Now there was a need for another hymn before and after the sermon.

In other churches, including the Methodists and Presbyterians, the idea continues of the sermon coming at the end of the service. Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 retain this traditional place. But Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 place the sermon within the section of proclaiming and receiving God’s word, and before the Apostles’ Creed, a place that is similar to the place for the sermon in Holy Communion. This is the place where the Word of God is broken open.

The Apostles’ Creed:

The Apostles’ Creed is an integral part of the offices in the Anglican tradition, although, in the daily offices in the institute chapel it may be said at Morning Prayer 2 and omitted in the evening.

The Apostles’ Creed, historically, was not part of the offices of the Church until the Reformation. This creed was not written by the apostles, and its general adoption in the Western Church dates from about 1000 AD, when it was simply used as a baptismal confession of faith.

The Prayers of the People:

These take several different types:

● The Lesser Litany and Kyrie

● The Lord’s Prayer (with or without the doxology? At this place it is without the doxology in Morning Prayer 1/Evening Prayer 1, but with it in Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, because this is the only place it is used). There are two versions. The modern version comes from the English Language Liturgical Commission (except for the clause ‘and lead us not into temptation,’ which is used instead of ‘Save us from the time of trial.’).

● The use of the Versicles and Responses has its roots in the Sarum Breviary. They are taken from Scripture (Psalm 85: 7; 1 Samuel 10: 24; Psalm 20: 9; Psalm 132: 9; Psalm 28: 9).

● The prayers for rulers, the clergy and people, the collect for peace, and the collect for grace then follow. In Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, they are optional. They are best used when they are seen as a scaffolding or framework that allows one to build appropriate prayers.

The Collects:

There is a provision for three collects in Morning Prayer 1/Evening Prayer 1, and for at least two in Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, beginning with the Collect of the Day.

Note that the phrase ‘Collect of …’ relates to a particular occasion, while the phrase ‘Collect for …’ relates to subject. So it is not the collect of purity, and is certainly not the collect for the conversion of Saint Paul or indeed, as has been heard, for the Circumcision of Christ. And they are the collects at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer.

It is worth memorising some of these, and to know the value of being able to call on them as extempore opening and closing prayers.

Occasional prayers:

The occasional prayers are not for use occasionally but for use on particular occasions.

It is important to watch the movement in prayers one writes, who is addressed, and how they are concluded.

Concluding Prayers:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 always conclude with the grace. The Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom is seldom used in practice, but its roots are in praying in our dependence on God.

The rubric in Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer for concluding the office is simpler.

Going out as God’s people:

How do you end it? This is a long-standing conundrum. In the 1662 version, it was always with the grace. But then the sermon on Sundays was added on, and other things were then added on to that too: the offertory hymn, the dismissal, the recessional hymn, and the blessing.

Going out needs to be thought through too.

Note that there is an abbreviated form of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on pp 136-138.

Saint Patrick’s Church, Donabate ... ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ provides a structure or guidelines for the Service of the Word, rather than a full service (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Service of the Word; Compline; LEO; the Litany.

(a) The Service of the Word:

The Book of Common Prayer provides a structure or guidelines, rather than a full service. The service can be put on one page, although the notes to explain how to use this structure take up three pages.

The influences on writing or the sources for the Service of the Word are:

1, The TEC Book of Common Prayer (pp 400-401), which provides an outline for an informal Eucharist.

2, The Church of England’s Lent, Holy Week and Easter (1984): Services and Prayers, which gives the bare-bones outline for Holy Communion and an agape meal.

3, The Church of Ireland, A Service of the Word (1993): this pale green booklet was an experimental form authorised by the House of Bishops. It included an outline form of service, material that could be used in different slots, and four outline services. But the built-in danger was that people could and did opt for four worked-out services and did not work them out for themselves.

In addition to those three influences, there was a growing realisation that many parishes and clergy were devising their own services outside the approved parameters of services within the Church of Ireland … helped by advances in the manufacture of photocopiers and then the discovery of the OHP.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) provides an outline only, and demands a lot of hard work and preparation on the part by the worship leader. It was not intended to be used straight from the book.

Should we provide service sheets?

Should we use Power Point?

Should we use an Over-Head Projector?

The Structure:

* A Liturgical Greeting

An invitation to worship

A hymn may be sung

* Penitence may be at this part or in Response

* Acclamation and/or A Song of Praise

Metrical forms of Canticles may be used, or a hymn may be sung

* The Collect

Those parts marked * are considered essential to the structure of the service.

Because the service is so flexible, there is an even greater need for attention to detail.

The Preparation must include the following elements:

Some greeting of the congregation: And this should be liturgical. For example: “The Lord be with you …” But it could be a sign of peace.

Penitence: not necessarily in this place. This could be a perfect response to the Ministry of the Word. But it must be included somewhere. There is a variety of possibilities for the form of penitence, including confession and absolution, penitential kyries, and responsorial penitential prayers. But there is room to be imaginative and original.

Acclamation and/or a Song of Praise. Examples include Sursum Corda, Sanctus and Canticles, including Gloria. If a time of praise is being included, this is the place for it.

Then all are drawn together with the Collect, which is about collecting all our thoughts and intentions. That links the Preparation with the Ministry of the Word.

The Preparation is the starter, the Ministry of the Word is the main course – after all, it is the Service of the Word.

The main elements of the Ministry of the Word section are:

Readings from the Bible.

A Psalm or Scripture Song: this may precede or follow the readings. A Bible responsory may follow a reading.

The Sermon.

Then, a Hymn may be sung.

All this may sound very traditional, but it does not mean all must be done in a traditional sort of way … quite the opposite.

Scripture readings could be presented as drama, with many voices reading, with creative interpretations of Scripture (e.g. The Message). But the Word must come across with real power – and must never be omitted.

The place of the Psalm or Scripture Song – before or after a reading – is less important than its inclusion. But there is a variety of ways of singing or saying this: choruses, worship songs, responsorial psalms, solos, items by a music group, congregational parts …

The Sermon could be presented in different ways:

● Dialogue?
● Interview?
● Movie clip?
● Drama?

After the main course, desert is served. This is the Response.

The Response includes:

* An affirmation of faith: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the renewal of baptismal vows, other creeds (e.g. a creed from Iona Community).

* The Prayers, including intercession, thanksgiving and (if not somewhere else) penitence.

A General Collect.

Then the whole section concludes with The Lord’s Prayer in one of its approved forms.

A Hymn may be sung.

Our response might also include our offering.

Then, after desert, there is the coffee:

*A Dismissal Prayer.

A Blessing.

A Salutation.

In organising and preparing, it is worth remembering:

1, There must be a recognisable structure for worship.

2, The emphasis is on the word: reading scripture, reflecting on it through the Psalms.

3, The use of liturgical words (e.g., responses known to the congregation) … it is not a coming together of individual Christians who happen to be in one place, it is ekklesia – the assembly or gathering of those who are called out.

When should we use the Service of the Word?

When the prescribed services of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Holy Communion may not meet the needs of a particular congregation?

Family services?

All-age worship?

Where people are not book-learned?

When there is a need for a more praise-and-prayer approach?

When there is a need for a more reflective, quiet time of worship?

When there is a need a service with a specific focus, or one that is more innovative?

When it is a service aimed at people who are not regular church goers?

Where there might be a large number of non-Anglicans, or non-churchgoers, without the same liturgical tradition?

As the first part of the Holy Communion? If so, Holy Communion would then follow from the Peace.

But there are dangers.

There is the danger of producing service sheets and then losing flexibility.

There is the danger of using it all the time, and then stop realising that it depends on a liturgical tradition that must be recognised and that must live and grow.

There is the danger of not making full use of the resources available, including:

Service of the Word (Church of England).

New Patterns for Worship.

Times and Seasons.

Resources from the Iona Community, Taizé, Corrymeela … other traditions.

But you will need to look at these sensitively. For example, particular Eucharistic prayers in the Church of England are not authorised for use in the Church of Ireland. What about using the prayers for the departed in New Patterns of Worship? And there is the added problem of making multiple copies and compounding your copyright problems.

(b) Compline:

Compline was added to The Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Ireland in 1933 as an Appendix. By then, it was still not in the offices of the Church of England, although it was in the proposed 1928 revision of The Book of Common Prayer in England.

In 1933, an appendix was added to The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland, in which Compline was described as the “Second Alternative form of Evening Prayer.” The “First Alternative form of Evening Prayer” was sometimes called the “Irish Vigils” and has not been included in the 2004 book.

However, Compline should not be seen as a new service. Compline was one of the offices of the Church until the Reformation. The name comes from Latin completorium or the completion [of the day]. The Rule of Saint Benedict (42: 8), which we looked at last Monday and in chapel again this morning, has the oldest occurrence of the term Completorium.

This office was maintained after the Reformation in a series of private manuals of devotion, beginning with Bishop John Cosin’s Collection of Private Devotions (1627). It was restored to use in the 20th century, first in the US and Canada, in TEC’s Book of Offices (1914) and the Canadian Prayer Book (1918). So, the Church of Ireland was early in the restoration of Compline.

The service has an integral unity of its own, it can be used in small groups and in family groups, and Bishop Harold Miller even suggests ‘by married couples in bed’ [p 98]. It has become so popular that a proposal by the LAC for the revision of this service in the 1970s was rejected by the General Synod.

It is now well-loved, perhaps because of its beautiful imagery: ‘Brethren, be sober, be vigilant …’ ‘O Let no evil dreams be near …’ or asking God to keep me as the ‘apple of his eye’ to ‘guard us while sleeping’ and to ‘let thy holy angels dwell’ in our homes.

Late Evening Office:

This is a totally new office in the Alternative Prayer Book (1984). It did not receive a trial period of use before its introduction. Yet it too quickly became popular. It was written by Dean Gilbert Mayes of Lismore, and is based on an order in use in Taizé, published in French in 1971 and in English in 1975.

It has a simple structure:

● An opening blessing of God.
● A prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Trisagion or Sanctus, Holy, Holy, Holy, and the Canticle Ecce Nunc (Psalm 134) or another suitable psalm.
● A New Testament reading.
Nunc Dimittis or a hymn.
● Prayer in short litany form, with responses: [note] Lord have mercy and Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

The introduction of LEO was innovative in a number of ways, including the rubric allowing open prayer and silent prayer. It is an important departure because of its recognitions. But there is a need when you are using it to make clear as leader whether the congregation is entering a time of open prayer or silent prayer.

It concludes with appropriate prayer (Collect, the Lord’s Prayer) and a Blessing.

LEO does not work well if it is stretched out with too many hymns or with a long sermon in the middle.

(c) The Litany:

A litany is a set of short biddings or petitions followed by fixed responses or a series of fixed responses.

There are two forms of the Litany in The Book of Common Prayer: the form found in the 1926 Book of Common Prayer (with revisions to remove political anachronisms) and the form from the 1984 Alternative Prayer Book. But litanies date right back to the early church. Think of: Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison …

The earliest litany in the West was translated from the Greek by Pope Gelasius I (492-496). Later forms included the litany of the saints, which became popular in the 7th century.

The following elements of litany are charted by Paul Bradshaw (Companion to Common Worship, 2001):

● An Introductory Kyrie, followed by invocations of the Holy Trinity, with the response ‘Lord have mercy upon us.’
● The invocation of the saints.
● The deprecations: supplications for deliverance through recalling various events in Christ’s life, with the response, ‘deliver us, Lord.’
● The obsecrations – supplications through various events in Christ’s life, with the response, ‘we beseech you to hear us.’
● Concluding devotions to the Cross and to Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.

The litany was the very first service translated from Latin into English by Cranmer at the Reformation. It was first published in 1544, with a famous prayer for deliverance from the Bishop of Rome and his ‘detestable abnormities’; and with the invocations of the saints reduced in number to three in 1544 and then removed in 1549.

The contemporary language Litany is on p 175 ff, with the main headings and shape preserved in the same order today.

● Section 1: simple invocations to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the response is “have mercy on us”
● Section 2: supplications for deliverance …

The use of the Litany:

The use of the Litany is suggested on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. At one time it was often used once a month on Sundays with Matins or Evensong. But it seemed lengthy and tedious.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) recommends its use on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly in Advent, Lent and Rogation Days. It is good to use when we take things seriously.

The Mystical Supper by Michael Damaskinos … over 100 pages in ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ are devoted to collects and post-communion prayers

(3a) The Collects:

Over 100 pages in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) (pp 241-337) are given over to the collects and post-communion prayers. They were first published in a small booklet a few years before The Book of Common Prayer was published in 2004.

Many of the collects in The Book of Common Prayer are popular, and well-loved. They are drawn from a wide range of sources, from Cranmer’s collects to modern collects, including some that were written specially for the Alternative Prayer Book (1984).

What is a collect? A collect is a short prayer, focussing our thoughts on a particular day or a particular theme.

The First Collect is a collect of a particular occasion (e.g. The Collect of the First Sunday of Advent).

The Second Collect usually has a particular focus (The Collect for Purity, the Collect for aid against all perils).

When a collect is described by its place in a service it is the collect at the particular service (e.g., the Second Collect at Morning Prayer).

What is the function of a collect? Most of our Collects frame our prayers in strong Biblical ways, sometimes in direct Biblical language. They can often remind us of the paucity of our own prayers.

If used properly, systematically and regularly, the collects provide memorable prayers. Some examples include: ‘Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee O Lord …’

Or: ‘O God who art the author of peace and lover of concord …’

Or again, the collect of last Sunday: ‘… read, mark, learn and inwardly digest …’ Or, ‘Prevent us O Lord …’

‘Go before us O Lord ...’

What is the structure of a collect?

A collect contains:

1, An address to God
2, A relative or particular clause referring to some attribute of God or to one of his saving acts
3, The petition
4, The reason for which we ask
5, The conclusion

Sometimes, part 2 and/or part 4 are dispensed with, simplifying the structure of a collect. But, whether or not they are omitted, a collect still needs to be well constructed.

An example, at the Collect for Purity at the beginning of the Holy Communion service (p 201):

1, Almighty God: How we address God is worth attending to; we might simply say ‘God,’ or ‘Father’ or ‘Lord.’ We might be more elaborate, addressing him as ‘Almighty God,’ or ‘Heavenly Father.’

Normally collects are addressed to first person of the Trinity, but there are exceptions: for example, the collect of the 3rd Sunday of Advent opens: ‘O Lord Jesus Christ …’ Sometimes the injunction precedes the address to God: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee …’

2, ‘to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden …’ The collect goes on, in this example, to express our dependency on God.

3, ‘cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit …’ This is the petition, the heart of the matter … what we are asking God to do.

4, ‘that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name …’ This is the reason for asking God do the things we have mentioned in the petition.

5, ‘…through Christ our Lord, Amen.’ As we saw last week in our discussion of the Trinity and worship, Christian prayer is supposed to be addressed to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, and in name of Christ. Ideally, and generally, it should have a traceable Trinitarian movement.

Where do our collects come from?

At Holy Communion, Collects 1 and 2 are often a reworking of traditional language collects.

Advent 1: dates to 1549.

Advent 2: traditionally we had used the Collect associated with Bible Sunday on Advent 2. What we now use as the traditional-form collect on Advent 2 is a Collect once used on Advent 4, and that comes from the Sarum Missal. But the new collect comes from Celebrating Common Prayer (1992).

Advent 3: the collect was written for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer by John Cosin (1594-1672), Bishop of Durham.

Advent 4: the traditional-language collect for this Sunday was written in 1549, and was originally used on Advent 3. The contemporary language collect reflects a new focus on Virgin Mary in Advent. The collect comes from the Church of England’s Promise of his Glory (1990).

A page at the end of this section in The Book of Common Prayer gives the sources.

How are collects used in the liturgies?

We use collects in every Holy Communion service, in every service of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and in every Service of the Word.

But they are used in different ways.

In Holy Communion 1, Holy Communion 2 and Service of the Word, the collect acts as a kind of hinge between the Gathering or Introductory material and the Proclaiming and Receiving of the Word. We are now focusing down into prayer and the congregation is preparing for the Ministry of the Word.

It often helps for the congregation to be quiet for a moment before the collect. And so, on occasion, the collect may be introduced with a few carefully chosen, short words.

During the Seasons, there is a general thematic connection between the readings and the collects, with the readings and collects chosen to fit the particular Sunday of the year. In Ordinary Time (Green), the collects and readings run on different tracks, and have no necessary connection with each other.

In Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the Collect of the Day is used as one of the two or three collects after the Lord’s Prayer and, when they are used, after the Versicles and Responses. The function of the collect here is to begin our prayers, which then widen out to more specific concerns.

In Daily Prayer (Weekdays) [see pp 136 ff], the Collect of the Day is used in a different way. Instead of leading into the intercessions, it becomes the prayer that rounds off the intercessions before the Lord’s Prayer.

Post-Communion Prayers:

Professor David Frost, speaking under a portrait of Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge … the author of Post-Communion Prayers used by the Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The provision of one Post-Communion Prayer for each occasion is relatively new. Previously, there was a very limited selection of Post-Communion Prayers. Then, in 1984, the Alternative Prayer Book provided some Post-Communion Prayers that became very popular. For example, ‘Father of all, we give you thanks and praise …’ This was written by Professor David Frost, until recently the Principal of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, who also compiled the Psalter for the Alternative Prayer Book.

Another of these popular Post-Communion Prayers from the Alternative Prayer Book is: ‘Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us …’

These Post-Communion Prayers show a rich and varied way of addressing God, and they are drawn from the rich range of Biblical language:

● Light eternal,
● God of glory,
● Generous God,
● God of tender care,
● God our Creator,
● God of hope,
● God of our pilgrimage.

The sources for these Post-Communion Prayers are varied too. One comes from the liturgy of Malabar (Trinity 8): ‘Strengthen for Service, Lord, the hands that holy things have taken …’

The prayer for Maundy Thursday is associated in the Roman Catholic tradition with Corpus Christi, but its use in the Anglican tradition goes back to the Scottish Prayer Book (1929).

The Risen Christ and the Four Evangelists in John Piper’s window in Saint John’s, Lichfield … the Lectionary provides for readings from all four Gospels in different years and seasons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(3b) The Lectionary:

[See Harold Miller, Chapter 2 (pp 35-46).]

Why do we use a lectionary? And what are the sources for the Lectionary?

Cranmer was anxious to provide Old Testament and New Testament readings for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer every day.

The Revised Common Lectionary emphasises need to have Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel readings available, along with a Psalm. The roots of the RCL are in a rediscovery of the meaning of the Liturgy of the Word both in the Liturgical Movement of the last century and at Vatican II.

The lectionary is based on having three readings and a psalm, over a three-year period. This is the value of story-telling rather than a thematic approach. You could compare the impact of the lectionary readings with a soap opera. We can enter at any time, and catch on quickly to what the main characters are doing and how they interact with each other.

Year A: Saint Matthew
Year B: Saint Mark
Year C: Saint Luke

Saint John’s Gospel, then, is used for the high points.

In essence, it is a Eucharistic lectionary.

There are exceptions, so that sometimes there is a thematic approach:

● The Second Sunday before Lent: the creation theme is an alternative.
● Sunday before Lent: Transfiguration theme.
● Sunday between 23 and 29 October (last Sunday, 23 October 2016): Bible Sunday theme.
● Sunday between 20 and 16 November: the Kingship of Christ.

Other exceptions and variations include:

● The first reading during Eastertide is from the Acts of the Apostles.
● The major festivals of Christmas are provided with readings not according to Years A, B and C, but Series I, II and III.

Some questions:

How do you feel about readings from the Apocrypha?

Which versions of the Bible can we – and should we – use (p 26 gives a gentle hint that we should use the New Revised Standard Version)?

Why are weekday readings not provided?

The Book of Common Prayer (p 26) allows for occasional diversity from the lectionary during Ordinary Time, but is there a danger or a benefit in allowing variation from set readings?

What are the pitfalls in following the Church of Ireland Directory?

There is not complete ecumenical acceptance of the lectionary, and there are some variations among Roman Catholics, or even between Anglican churches.


Traditions of Prayer (2): seminar, readings on Reformation prayer, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Jewell, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes.

Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).

Philip Sheldrake, A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999).

Next week (3 November 2016):

6.1: The nature and theology of sacraments;
6.2: Traditions of prayer (3): seminar, patterns of prayer today (including all-age worship, participation of children in worship, worship and youth).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 27 October 2016 was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.