The Daily Office Tutorial, part III – Evening Prayer
Now that we’ve mastered the basics of Morning Prayer, let us turn to Evening Prayer. This should be a little bit easier, because it follows the same pattern as Morning Prayer. Again, for this purpose, we’ll be using the Rite II version. If you prefer Rite I, no problem, the same instructions apply, just the page numbers won’t match up. Got your Book of Common Prayer (BCP) handy? Great! Here we go. Turn with me to p. 115.
The Daily Office Tutorial, part III
1. Opening Sentence Exactly like we did in Morning Prayer, we begin Evening Prayer with an opening sentence of Scripture. You’ll notice that in Evening Prayer, the sentences are not proscribed for particular seasons, but are all available for use at any time. Go ahead and pick one to say, and don’t forget the two on top of p. 116.
2. Confession of Sin Following the opening sentence is the confession of sin. Some people like to say the confession of sin at every Office hour, while others find it more fruitful to only say once per day. If you wish to only say it once per day, may I suggest saying it at the end of the day, so, at Evening Prayer or Compline? I find that most personally useful to myself as I can reflect on where I went astray during the course of that day rather than trying to anticipate it at the beginning of the day. Just like at Morning Prayer, there is a longer introduction to the confession and a shorter introduction, from which you may choose. Don’t forget to observe the silence so you can reflect on anything in particular for which you are repentant.
The absolution on p. 117 also works in the same way. If you are not ordained a priest, simply replace the pronouns with the ones given to you in the rubric below the absolution.
3. The Invitatory and the Psalter On p. 117, the Officiant opens with the traditional prayer, “O God, make speed to save us,” and the people respond with the traditional prayer, “O Lord, make haste to help us.” Again, if you are saying the Office by yourself, you say both parts. Following that, the Gloria Patri is said, adding in the “Alleluia” if it is not Lent.
Then the rubric at the bottom of p. 117 instructs you to say the following hymn or some other suitable hymn or song. For our purposes, we’ll stick with the traditional hymn printed in the BCP. The Phos Hilaron (O Gracious Light) appears at the top of p. 118. It has some beautiful musical settings, but we’ll talk about that later in the tutorial on singing/chanting the Office.
Then comes the Psalter. Remember how to find the appointed psalm(s)? First you have to know whether we’re on the Year One or Year Two daily office lectionary track. Year One begins on the first Sunday of Advent preceding odd numbered years and Year Two, likewise, on the first Sunday of Advent preceding even numbered years. That puts us in Year Two. Then we turn to the Daily Office Lectionary in the back of the BCP, beginning on p. 934. Remember we are right now in the Season after Pentecost (or Trinitytide, or Ordinary Time) and we are in the week of Proper 24, because the last Sunday was the Sunday closest to October 19. That puts us on the bottom of p. 989.
The entry for Tuesday in this week looks like this:
Tuesday 26, 28 * 36, 39
Ecclus. 6: 5 – 17 Rev. 7: 9 – 17 Luke 10: 1-16
We know that the numbers on the top line correspond to the numbers of the appointed psalms and that the ones appearing after the asterisk-looking thing are the ones for Eveing Prayer. Therefore we know that for Tuesday, in the week of Proper 24, the Psalms for Evening Prayer are 36 and 39.
The Psalms appear in the BCP beginning on p. 585, with our Psalms for Evening Prayer beginning on pages 632 and 638 respectively.
Following the Psalms, the Gloria Patri is said, as indicated back in Evening Prayer on p. 118.
4. The Lessons In Evening Prayer you may choose to read one or two lessons, just as in Morning Prayer. Since in Morning Prayer we read two lessons, that only leaves one for Evening Prayer. In Morning Prayer we read from the Old Testament and the Gospel, leaving the New Testament lesson for Evening Prayer. Looking above at the lectionary entry, we see that the New Testament lesson is listed as “Rev. 7: 9-17” meaning the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, verses 9 through 17.
I prefer to read my lessons right out of the Bible, but for you more digital types, there are online versions of the Bible, with this one being a good one. If you’re praying the whole Office online, such as at the Mission St. Clare Daily Office site, the lessons will be there for you. However, if you use an actual bound Bible, one of the side benefits of praying the Office is you will learn your way around the Bible, a very valuable lesson!
5. The Canticles The lessons in Evening Prayer are responded to with a Canticle, just as in Morning Prayer. In Evening Prayer, your choice is easier, as there are only two and they are very traditional Evening Prayer canticles: The Magnificat (The Song of Mary) on p. 119, and the Nunc Dimittis (The Song of Simeon) on p. 120. You can use the canticles from Morning Prayer if you really want to.
6. The Apostles’ Creed Starting to see the similar pattern here? Just as in Morning Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed is recited in Evening Prayer. It appears on p. 120. Like the Confession, some people prefer to only say the Creed once a day. If that is you, and you said it at Morning Prayer, you can omit it at Evening Prayer or vice versa.
7. The Salutation, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Suffrages Following the Apostles’ Creed, the Prayers are said, just as in Morning Prayer, on p. 121. If by yourself, you still say all the parts of the Salutation – “The Lord be with you. And also with you. Let us pray.”
Suffrages set “A” beginning on the bottom of p. 121 are the same as set “A” from Morning Prayer. Set “B” differs, however, being adapted from a Byzantine Evening Office. Set “B” is found on p. 122. The last petition of set “B” includes a provision to name a particular saint or saints. This can be the patron saint of your parish, your own patron saint, a saint whose feast day is being commemorated, or any saint of whom you are fond! It should also include, but does not have to, mention of the Ever-blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord. But that could just be my anglo-catholicism flaring up again.
8. The Collects A series of 3 collects is also said at Evening Prayer: The Collect of the Day, one of the “Named” Collects, and a Collect for Mission. The rubric for the Collect of the Day is almost lost on the bottom of p. 122. Again, unless we are celebrating a feast day, the Collect of the Day is always the Collect from the previous Sunday. We’ll talk about feast days in a later tutorial, so for now, (sorry Henry Martyn) we’ll use the Collect from last Sunday, which was what Proper? That’s right – Proper 24. The Collects of the Day are found in the BCP beginning on p. 211 (p. 159 for Rite I users) and are listed seasonally. Our Collect for tonight, from Proper 24 in the Season after Pentecost (or Trinitytide, or Ordinary Time), is on p. 235.
What I call the “Named Collects” appear on p. 123 and the top of p. 124. I call them the “Named Collects” because they all have a name, like “A Collect for Fridays,” or “A Collect for Aid against Perils.” Again, the ones named for days of the week are for those days. The others can be used on any day, but here’s the same hint I gave in the Morning Prayer tutorial: there are three collects named after a day of the week, and four named for a particular petition. So, an easy way to use these is to take the first one not named for a day of the week, the “Collect for Peace,” and nickname it “A Collect for Mondays.” Since there are four of these, you’d have one each for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then you’d be into the ones named for the days of the week. These are not the same at the ones for Morning Prayer, though they bear the same or similar names. If that’s too much structure for you, no worries, do which ever one feels right to you that day!
Finally, the Collect for Mission is prayed. There are three to choose from, of which you will pray one, beginning on the bottom of p. 124 and concluding on the top of p. 125.
9. The Concluding Prayers Just as in Morning Prayer, near the top of p. 125 there is provision given for a hymn or anthem to be sung, and for intercessory prayers and thanksgivings to be made. These intercessions and thanksgivings are a very important part of the Office, so be careful not so skip over it. Here is where you pray for anyone or anything that is on your heart.
Then comes the choice of one or both of “The General Thanksgiving” on the bottom of p. 125 and “The Prayer of St. Chrysostom” on p. 126. If you only say one per Office, you could say one at Morning Prayer and then the other at Evening Prayer. Some people prefer to pray both at both Offices as they are different in theme and tone.
10. The Concluding Blessings After one or both of those prayers, the concluding blessing is prayed: “Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.” If in Eastertide, the “Alleluias” may be added like this:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Then, to wrap it all up, you may say one of the three final blessings from scripture on the bottom of p. 125.
Congratulations! You’ve mastered the basics of Evening Prayer!