The Daily Office

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Praying through the day is an ancient Christian practice

St Mary’s is situated in one of the oldest multicultural communities in the country, and many of our neighbours and friends are Muslim. There are two mosques nearby. Anyone who knows any devout Muslim will know that nothing will stop them throughout each day stopping what they’re doing to face Mecca and pray the obligatory prayers five times a day.

This practice of praying throughout the day is characteristic of many religions. It’s certainly a feature of the Christian Faith—and yet it’s a practice which for some seems to have fallen out of fashion!  The church, however, has always marked special hours and turning points in the day with prayer.

The earliest sources outside the New Testament tell us that they prayed the ‘Our Father’ at morning and evening. Other early witnesses tell us that they blessed the lighting of lamps at the hour of sunset by calling on Christ, the ‘joyful light‘ of God the Father.

We know that by the time Christians were able to practise their religion freely — the fourth century — the traditions of public morning and evening prayer were well established.

Morning Prayer is a service of thanksgiving and praise to God, offered in and through Christ.  With each new dawn it recalls Christ’s resurrection and our sharing in this new life. Psalms and hymns are sung and the prayers of intercession look forward to the day ahead, asking God’s blessing upon it.

Evening Prayer looks back and thanks God for the blessings of the day that is passing. It remembers Christ’s death and our Christian call to die with him to sin and to live in holiness. 

Sometimes, Evening Prayer may celebrate the arrival of dusk by the lighting of lamps and candles. Incense may be burnt as a penitential rite, something that links with the ‘evening sacrifice’ of Christ on the cross.  Intercessions and prayers bring the world and all people into the mystery of Christ, our light.

Clergy are obliged to say Morning and Evening Prayer every day but this privilege of prayer is not restricted to them.  All Christians are invited to participate in this prayer—for it is ‘the ‘Prayer of the Church.’  It is ‘our’ prayer.

Never alone

Most people aren’t able to gather with other Christians throughout the day to pray, whether it’s for Mass or things such as Morning and Evening Prayer.  It may be that they are at work, have family commitments or do not find it easy to travel.

And yet, even when praying alone, we are conscious that we are praying with the whole church.  Whenever we pray, we dare not isolated individuals (although there will be times when our prayer is filled with deeply personal petitions).  When we pray, we pray as Christ’s body, members of the church, united with Christ our head—and this finds its expression most eloquently in the ‘liturgical prayer’ of the church.

Liturgical Prayer is important because it is ‘our’ prayer, the prayer of the church.  We pray with one heart and one voice, sharing in the prayer of Christ himself for we join together in the sacrifice of praise which he offered to the Father.

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Expertizes

Morning Prayer

With each new dawn we recall Christ’s resurrection and our sharing in this new life. Psalms and hymns are sung and the prayers of intercession look forward to the day ahead, asking God’s blessing upon it.

Midday Prayer

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Evening Prayer

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Night Prayer

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When we pray, we pray as Christ’s body, members of the church, united with Christ our head.

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