26 July 2008

Praying the Office alone vs. communally...clear distinction?

My spiritual director made a comment this week: "How does it work for you to pray the [BCP 1979] office alone, as it's designed to be communal?" I made a quick comment about wanting to stick with the system I'm involved with when praying the office in church at least once a week, and that I do feel I'm participating in a communal prayer when I'm alone. But what do you think about prayer books for the Divine Office being designed for communal versus individual prayer? I've heard the RC Liturgy of the Hours described as having been (sadly, in the opinion of the one I heard say this) designed for individual priests' prayer, missing a chance to make it easily prayed in communities. Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary seems designed for individual oblates. The lines between communal and individual aren't clear, obviously, and one might even argue there is no such line. My SD was obviously just getting me to talk about this...looking forward to exploring that question next time, since it went by rather quickly this session. Anyway, Cynthia Bourgeault, in her Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD, suggests that if one prays alone (and presumably is free to structure one's praying of the psalter in any way), one follow this pattern:


Short scriptural reading

Psalmody (with or without canticle)


I'm about to go looking through my library for books that will facilitate this most easily. Maybe I can use my Benedictine Weekly Psalter if I figure out a scheme for the scriptural readings, or even add such a scheme to the next edition...hmm.


BillyD said...

Sure, it's designed for communal use (but I wonder how many places in the US - besides monasteries and convents - it actually is used communally on a daily basis, morning and evening?), but I haven't found that a great deterrent to saying it individually. For me, it's a powerful reminder that this is the Church's prayer, and that I'm joining people all over the world in praying it.

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Ann said...

I like Borgeault's structure, though I'd put psalm before scripture, so the meditation would be closer to (if not focused on) the scripture reading (I know, Psalms ARE scripture, but a different sort). And that would be close to the daily office. I do not believe the daily office is designed for corporate worship (though the wording and so on clearly are). All Anglicans are (ideally) expected to say the office daily, but not to go to church daily. Scott, you could use Borgeault's structure with MP as in the prayer book, and the daily office lectionary. No need to go hunting around (except I know you enjoy it).

ben said...

Well, in the RC church there is a distinction between the Breviery and Office. they contain the same thing but the office is communal [and sung] the Breivery is private [secular clergy haft to fit into their day]but it should be understood that privately praying the hours is still a participation in the public prayer of the Church [which being a mystical sort of entity is not limited by time space and situation if that makes sence]