xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> Structure of the offices
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¶ Common Worship: Daily Prayer — the new Anglican Breviary

Structure of the offices

The breviary is the fruit of several years of work by the Liturgical Commission whose main concern was to provide a flexible framework for daily prayer. This flexibility shows itself in seasonal variations, the calendar, and the many alternatives provided for the essential parts of the office. At the heart of the breviary, though, lies an understanding and appreciation of the traditional structure of daily prayer down the centuries. Though many of the words are new, the framework is traditional.

The Commission decided on a four-fold office – plenty for a fulsome office for those who decided to pray it in full and enough to choose from for those who pray a part of the daily office. The overall structure of all the hours has this underlying framework:

Lauds and Vespers

As Lauds and Vespers are the hinges on which the day opens and closes, their structure is similar. They are similar to each other and also to the ancient offices of Matins with Lauds and Vespers. The Commission also restored the cathedral rite of lucernarium – 'blessing the light' or 'lighting the lamps' – to Vespers as a worthy option, especially for a vigil office on Saturdays and before major festivals.

Daily Lauds and Vespers look like this:

There is considerable variation in antiphons (called refrains), both for seasonal use and from the proper and common of saints. A wide-ranging series of canticles, both Old Testament and New, can be chosen to supplement the Old Testament canticle that completes the psalter at Lauds and the New Testament canticle that completes the psalter at Vespers.

Often, the 'hymn' is a psalm or a portion of a psalm, and not a metrical hymn; at other times, a metrical hymn is given. However, those familiar with the traditional office books will notice that it's in the wrong place, at the beginning of the office and not before the responsory that precedes the Gospel canticle. You may find it useful to say the traditional office hymn in the traditional place. If so, use a hymnal that gives the office hymns, say or sing the hymn before the responsory, omitting it if there's a metrical hymn given or adding the psalm to the beginning of the recitation of the psalter. I shall, in due course, be producing a small book of the office hymns of the Sarum Breviary.

Something else that has dropped out of the breviary is the raison d'être of the name of the morning office, Lauds: the Lauds Psalms. A number of psalms open with the words Laudate or Lauda, and it is from this word that the name Lauds was given to this office.

In the Sarum Breviary, the traditional English Use, the Lauds Psalms were always said in full, with no Gloria between them, after the Old Testament Canticle. The Psalms are 148, 149 and 150, said as one psalm. This is my preferred use, taking the antiphon from one of them and saying them as a single psalm under that antiphon.

The breviary reforms of Pius X in 1910 changed the psalter use and the Lauds Psalms were expanded and split across the week as follows. You could use this system if you want:

If you want to preserve the traditional place for the Lauds Psalm, recite it last, after the Old Testament Canticle, and then group the two or three readings together after the Lauds Psalm and before the Responsory. This will preserve the shape of traditional Lauds.

As far as lections go, if you decide to use the two scriptural readings from the lectionary and one from another source, read the Old Testament first, the extra reading and then the New Testament lection. You could use an absolution and one of the benedictions from Matins to introduce each lection. I should note at this point that these absolutions and benedictions are, of course, from Matins, or Nocturns, and not from Lauds. However, the night office of Matins has been suppressed, so you can use them at Lauds without fear of duplication.

Before the Old Testament lection, say:

Graciously hear the prayers of your servants, and have mercy on us, O Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen

Pray Lord [Father, if a priest is present] give your blessing:
May the Father Eternal bless us with a never-ending blessing. Amen.

Before the extra reading on a ferial day, say:

Succour us of your loving kindness and mercy, O Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray Lord [Father, if a priest is present] give your blessing:
May the Only-Begotten Son of God bless and succour us. Amen.

And before the extra reading on a feast day, say:

Succour us of your loving kindness and mercy, O Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray Lord [Father, if a priest is present] give your blessing:
May he [she or they] whose feast day we are keeping intercede with God for us. Amen.

Before the New Testament reading when it is not a Gospel reading, say:

Break the bonds of our sins and set us free O Lord almighty and merciful, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray Lord [Father, if a priest is present] give your blessing:
May the grace of the Holy Spirit all our heart and mind enlighten. Amen.

And before a Gospel reading, say:

Break the bonds of our sins and set us free O Lord almighty and merciful, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray Lord [Father, if a priest is present] give your blessing:
By the Gospel words today may our sins be done away. Amen.

Traditionally, after Lauds, the appointed Marian Antiphon for the season is said or sung.

Finally in this section, a short word about the Gloria and Alleluia. The Alleluia is not said during Lent anywhere in the Office. If it occurs as the antiphon to a psalm, omit it or replace it with another antiphon. At the beginning of the Office during Lent, instead of Alleluia say the Laus, tibi Domine: 'To you, O Lord, all glory be, King of endless majesty' immediately after Gloria.

Prayer during the day

As expected, prayer during the day follows a similar structure. A nice touch is that the compilers have divided up Psalm 119 through the week, restoring the ancient Sarum Use, which divided the psalm between the three little hours of Terce, Sext and None. A short chapter – the old capitulum – is provided for when there isn't enough time for a longer reading. Prayer during the day looks like this:

Andrew, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, offers an interesting possibility for prayer during the day: he suggests using it as an office of readings, taking the shorter lections from this office to use at Lauds and/or Vespers and using the longer lections and the optional non-scriptural readings here to make a kind of matins. This is a very sound suggestion if you have the time for this during the day, or if you precede Lauds with this office. If not, keep it as a short office for the lunchbreak and read the extra readings at either Lauds or Vespers.


Compline is provided for every night with minimal seasonal variation. The fixed order given in full could be used every night if desired or the hour could be made more varied by using the suggested variations. Compline looks like this:

For some reason I cannot fathom, the compilers have omitted the antiphon on the Compline Psalms. Traditionally, they are said as a group under one antiphon: 'Have mercy, O Lord, and hear my prayer'.

A noticeable difference between the Roman and Sarum Breviaries is the variation for Compline. There is barely any variation at all in the Roman Compline, which makes it easier to memorise than the Sarum, whose variations are pretty much the same as the variations given in the new breviary. Which you use is up to you.

Though very nicely compiled, the beginning of the office of Compline has been slightly amended. If you wish to restore it to its traditional form, begin with the words: Pray, Lord [Father, if a priest is present], give your blessing', continue with 'The Lord almighty...', then insert the second brief lesson from p307, 'Be sober, be vigilant...'. Continue with 'Our help †...', and use the first brief lesson, 'You, O Lord...', when you get to the scripture reading on p307.

The rubric on p303 says: 'The following or other suitable words of penitence may be used'. If you want to use the traditional Compline confession with its absolutions, which simply expands on the 'company of heaven' in the confession on p303, say:

I confess to Almighty God,
to blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin,
to blessed Michael the Archangel,
to blessed John Baptist,
to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
(and) to all the saints,
(and to you, my brothers and sisters,)
that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed,
[striking your breast three times] through negligence, through weakness, through my own deliberate fault.
Therefore I ask blessed Mary, Ever-Virgin,
blessed Michael the Archangel,
blessed John Baptist,
the holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
(and) all the saints,
(and to you, my brothers and sisters,)
to pray to the Lord our God for me.

This confession is followed by two absolutions, the second of which should be said by a priest if one is available, and adjusting the persons if required, making the sign of the cross at the point marked:

Almighty God have mercy upon us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring is to everlasting life. Amen

The almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon,
absolution, † and remission of our sins. Amen

Then say, as a versicle and response: 'Turn us, then, O God our Saviour †: and let your anger cease from us', making the sign of the cross over the left breast with the thumb at the point marked, and continue the office with 'O God, make speed †...'

There is a very nice, short set of preces at the conclusion of the office and a final blessing. These are entirely suitable for use, but I thought I'd give the traditional preces and blessing in case you want to use them on ferial days, saving the conclusion given for feasts. After the antiphon on Nunc dimittis say:

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Our Father the rest secretly to
V. And lead us not into temptation
R. But deliver us from evil.
I believe in God... the rest secretly to
V. The Resurrection of the body
R. And the life † everlasting.
V. Blessed are you, O Lord God of our fathers
R. And to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
V. Let us bless the Father, and the Son, with the Holy Spirit
R. Let us praise him and magnify him for ever.
V. Blessed are you, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven
R. And to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
V. The Lord almighty and merciful vouchsafe to bless and preserve us
R. Amen.
V. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin
R. O Lord, have mercy on us, have mercy on us.
V. O Lord, let your mercy lighten on us
R. As our trust is in you.
V. Lord, hear my prayer
R. And let my cry come to you.

Continue with the Collect, 'Visit this place...', then say again:

V. Lord, hear my prayer
R. And let my cry come to you.
V. Let us bless the Lord
R. Thanks be to God.

May the Lord almighty and merciful, the Father †, the Son and the Holy Spirit, vouchsafe to bless us and keep us.
R. Amen.

And immediately the Marian Antiphons and the rest of the prayer after the office, on the extras page.

Further notes

Overall, the hours in this breviary are of excellent quality. There is plenty of seasonal variation, a few festivals with proper offices and a common to make up the office in those festivals that don't have a proper.

The rubrics are simple and very easy to understand, no mean feat for a breviary. The entire four-fold office in its simplest form will take about an hour a day, more if you add in options, so a full office, even for a busy Christian, is entirely possible.

The ordering of the offices is a little odd: prayer during the day first, then Lauds and Vespers, various thanksgiving offices, a vigil office and then Compline. Each office is laid out with the common forms in full for every day, but it would have been far more useful to lay them out in full in the order in which they're said!