Foundation Series: The Daily Office
It’s mid-January, which means we’re in the thick of New-Year’s-Resolution season. Or, I should probably say, the breaking-my-New-Year’s-Resolution season. I can’t even count how many things I made up my mind to do every day, only to fall off the wagon less than three weeks into the new year.
If you’re a church-goer, reading through the Bible is one of the resolutions you probably think of the most around this time of year. It always sounds so great, so helpful and invigorating, and yet somehow it always gets left by the wayside. Bible reading plans help out, but at the end of the day, we’re still our own worst enemies when it comes to discipline and regularity. Pretty soon, a plan that what was once a great idea turns into something guilt-ridden and lost in a dusty drawer.
One of the greatest treasures of the Anglican Church is something called the “Daily Office.” It sounds fancy and kind of official, but in fact it’s simply a bit of a different take on the daily Bible Reading plan. It’s a two-year cycle of readings that covers the majority of the Bible. In fact, if you read the Daily Office readings every day, you’d read most of the Old Testament in two years, and all of the New Testament every year. It’s been around for centuries, and is found in the Book of Common Prayer.
On the surface, it looks just like every other Bible Reading plan, but there are a few hidden gems that make this plan really helpful. The biggest of these is that the Daily Office is not meant to be a guilt-ridden plan for personal discipline. Instead, it’s meant to be used in worship. In fact, there are specific prayer services laid out in the Book of Common Prayer for morning, afternoon, evening, and nightly worship. These passages are meant to be sung, read, and prayed in a rhythm of prayer and worship – not as a simply academic study. The hope is that over time, as we pray and worship, the Word would embed itself within us little by little in a powerful way.
Now, most of us don’t have a typical daily rhythm that allows us to attend four worship services a day, we’re not monks after all! So what do we do with them? Well, here’s a few simple suggestions:
- Start small. But it’s the principle that matters, don’t think of these readings as a daily to-do list to be knocked out in a chunk and checked off the list. Think of them as a tool to help you worship throughout the day. Start by picking one reading each morning, and see how it begins to impact you over time. Then, as you go, add other readings, possibly to other parts of your day. Read a Psalm before bedtime, or before you leave your desk for lunch. Experiment and find a way to read the scriptures that actually helps you worship and interact with God.
- Don’t “catch up.” If you miss a day, a week, or a month, don’t worry. The Daily Office is not meant to be a guilt-ridden task list. Many times, we give up on reading plans because we feel the need to “catch up,” which can become quickly overwhelming. Forget about catching up, just pick up with the day’s readings and start there. Personally, some weeks I read the Office four or five times, and some weeks I read it twice. There won’t be gold stars given out for perfect attendance!
- Notice the rhythm. One great thing about the Daily Office is that it follows the Church Calendar (see last week’s post). So whatever season we’re in as a church, you can always count on the readings to reflect that season. It helps us live out the story of God together as we reflect on the life of Jesus and the life of the Church each day in our readings.
- It’s a global thing. I love the fact that the Daily Office readings aren’t just something I came up with, or from a book I found on a shelf. They are being read and prayed through by millions of people around the world. Each day, we are journeying together through Scripture with Christians from every corner of the globe, some in rich-Western America, and others facing serious oppression and hardship. As I read the Office, it helps me remember that my life is a small part of God’s story, and helps me stay connected with the “great cloud of witnesses” that I often forget about!
So that’s the basics of the Daily Office. Each week, we will post the readings for the week ahead on The Parish Blog. So if you’re interested in starting the Daily Office journey, stay tuned here on the blog and begin reading along with us. And let us know how it’s going, your encouragement may help someone else take the plunge as well!