The daily services of Morning and Evening Prayer have a simple basic structure: (1) confession and remission of sin, (2) adoration with understanding, fed by lessons (short for lections, i.e., readings) from the Bible, and (3) supplicatory and intercessory prayer.
The first section, which is a preparation for the rest of the service, is never chanted; it is always said in the natural voice, and (except for what is ordered to be said in a loud voice) only as loudly as necessary to be heard clearly. On weekdays, for a shortened service, it may be permitted to begin with the first Lord’s Prayer and omit the other parts of the introduction.
Beginning of praise.The heart of the service, which may be chanted, begins after the first Lord’s Prayer with the words ‘O Lord, open thou our lips’ from Psalm 51, which King David wrote in penitence after his adultery with Bathsheba; for it is the Lord who cleanses us and enables our lips to sing his praises, ‘and our mouth shall shew [i.e., show] forth thy praise’. Then the worshippers ask for God’s spiritual help, that they may offer worship rightly, and rise from their knees to ascribe glory to the Holy Trinity.
Psalms.Then begin the Psalms, which in the course of daily Morning and Evening Prayer are read through every month. At the end of each psalm, and also of each of the twenty-two sections of Psalm 119, is sung ‘Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost’ &c., in order to connect the belief of the Old Testament to the faithfulness of God in Christ, who as man has experienced the dependence and temptations of man, and as God has purified the human race for his everlasting glory.
Lessons and canticles.Then a Lesson from the Old Testament (or sometimes from the Apocrypha in some reading schemes) is paired with the ancient hymn Te Deum in the morning, and with the Magnificat (Song of Mary) in the evening; likewise, a Lesson from the New Testament is paired with the Benedictus (Song of Zechariah) in the morning, and with the Nunc dimittis (Song of Simeon) in the evening. Hearing the word of God leads us to treasure the holy gospel and love the wisdom of God’s law, and thus to be sanctified in our bodies and participate in his holiness as, in response to his love, we stand to bless his holy Name.
Creed.Finally, taken from the record of Israel’s faith through its perfect fulfilment in Christ, in God’s praise we confess our common faith, either in the words of the Apostles’ Creed or, on some days of the year, of the creed attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria, who confessed Christ’s full divinity and persisted through six exiles.
Suffrages and collects.After the Creed begin the Church’s priestly supplications for its peace and purity, which like ‘O Lord, open thou’ &c. may also be chanted. Of these prayers, the only one that varies is the Collect of the Day (or several collects said in that position). A collect is a short prayer that generally invokes God, acknowledges a divine attribute upon which a petition can be made, makes the petition itself, appends an aspiration or desired result, and pleads on the basis of the mediation of Jesus Christ; the people, hearing the end, add their ‘amen’. The service may end with the Third Collect.
Anthem.After the collects, in cathedrals and other churches with choirs, comes the Anthem. An anthem (short for antiphon) is a choral piece for the congregation to listen to and meditate on, usually drawn either directly from the Bible or from the words of the Prayer Book. Places without a choral endowment will either dispense with the anthem or replace it with a metrical psalm or hymn. In the Holy Order of Saint Stephen, we substitute a metrical psalm, because we wish to help the Church recover the place of the psalms even outside of public worship.
Conclusion.With the Anthem ends the service’s sung portion, in places where it is chanted; whatever follows is said in the natural voice. In Morning Prayer, the Anthem is always followed by intercessions for the nation’s magistrates and clerics, whether in the shorter prayers printed below the Anthem or in the more comprehensive Litany; in Evening Prayer, these prayers are optional. Certain times may call for additional prayers and thanksgivings, to ask for relief from great troubles or to return thanks for deliverance from danger, and for these times the Prayer Book has provided other prayers to be used before the Prayer of Saint Chrysostom and the Grace. Before each of these prayers following the Anthem, it is useful to announce the object of prayer (‘let us pray for the President of the United States’) and pause in silence before reading the prayer from the book. The service ends quietly with the last two prayers.
Rubrics, which are in red (from Latin rubrica, meaning red ochre) or in some books italicized, indicate instructions on how a service is to be run. The following are rubrics applying to the reading of lessons in both Morning and Evening Prayer:
He that readeth shall so stand and turn himself, as he may best be heard of all such as are present.
Note, That before every Lesson the Minister shall say, Here beginneth such a Chapter, or Verse of such a Chapter, of such a Book: And after every Lesson, Here endeth the First, or the Second Lesson.
In addition is a rubric laying out how the services of Morning and Evening Prayer may be shortened on weekdays (i.e., days that are not Sundays).
Upon Week-days the Order for Morning or Evening Prayer may be shortened at the discretion of the Minister by the omission of one Lesson, and of one Canticle; and on such days the Prayers following the Third Collect, except the Prayer of St Chrysostom and the Prayer following, need not be read at Morning Prayer: provided that on Christmas Day, the Circumcision, the Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Ascension Day, the Order for Morning and Evening Prayer shall be read as appointed.
Following the rubrics closely will ensure the keeping of good order and allow for the organic growth of personal devotion and local customs.