Morning and evening prayer invite us to a way of praying that involves the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. There are a number of ways to enhance communal prayer by incorporating sacred space and gesture.
In Christian thought the principle of sacramentality places a high priority on the involvement of the senses in worship. Creation of a sacred space in which the community may gather assists the act of worship. Attention to environment and ambience enriches and focuses our prayer. Incorporation of liturgical symbols and Sacramentals such as water, light, and incense brings together the transcendent and immanent aspects of worship.
Traditionally, the Saturday evening office highlights the Easter symbolism by the lighting of candles or lamps.
Prayerful gestures such as bowing, extending hands in blessing and other movements also enhance communal prayer.
In a celebration in common or in individual recitation the essential structure of this liturgy remains the same, that is, it is a conversation between man and the Divine.
Also known as Lauds (for the Latin word for “praise”), Morning Prayer is the first Office of the day. As its name suggests, it is said at the beginning of the day. In a monastery, that might be at sunrise, however anywhere between 6am and 9am is common. Morning Prayer is one the two principle Offices of the day on which the day should hang. Hence, the traditional reference to Morning and Evening Prayer as the “hinges” of the day. Morning Prayer consists of:
Evening Prayer, or Vespers, is the other principle liturgical Office, which marks and sanctifies the completion of the day. We greet the dawn with Lauds, now we mark the setting of the sun with Vespers. In a monastery where the day begins and ends early, it might be said as early as 3:30pm. Those “in the world” however, might say it at the end of the work day, or just after dinner time. 6pm to 9pm is common. It follows a similar pattern to Morning Prayer:
Night Prayer, also called Compline. Compline means “completion” and so this prayer is associated with the completion of one’s day. It is said just before bedtime. We should pray Night Prayer with more than literal sleep in mind. We also pray it in anticipation of the final sleep of death. Night Prayer is short, and has no variable prayers (or extra page flipping):
You will note that the psalms make up the greatest part of this prayer book. They are more than just another “element” of the Offices; they are the heart of it, and should be prayed with deep contemplation. You will also note that no set schedule for which psalm(s) to pray when are laid out for you. This is intentional.
So how do we pray the psalms in this prayer book? For Morning and Evening Prayer, you may select as many Psalms (at least one) as feels right, fits the occasion, or for which you have time (some psalms are very short, some very long — and the same may also obviously be said about available time from day to day).
What we do recommend, however, is that for the most part, they be prayed in order. So if on Tuesday morning you prayed psalms 45 and 46, then that evening you would simply proceed to 47, and so on. In this manner, you will pray all the psalms, of course cycling back to psalm 1 after 150.