The Daily Office is intended to renew and strengthen us as Christians in the rhythm of life lived in the presence of God. It establishes fixed times for prayer which enrich the day and guide Christians through it.
The use of the word “office” dates back to the beginnings of the monastic movement in the early centuries of the church. It was originally used to acknowledge the officium (Latin for “duty” or “pleasure”) of each Christian to pray daily with the whole Church. The daily office was meant to provide prayers which could be said by people at home, as well as by the monks in church. Because most people could not read, and in any case books were not available, the office by its nature needed to be short, and something that could easily be committed to memory.
Each of the offices (Morning, Midday, Evening) are written in such a way that they can soon be learned off by heart, simply by regular recitation. I am a great believer in “recital theology” –that is, to get the word off the page and into the mind and the heart. For this reason it is good whenever possible to say the prayers aloud. By reciting aloud, we use our eyes, mouth and ears as well as our minds. Reading aloud produces a physical vibration that affects not only our ears but our heart and our mind also, so that when we hear the words in a different context an echoing chord is struck in our being, setting off a whole melody of associations. Once we have words in our heart, a phrase, or even a single word, can pluck at our heartstrings and cause us to react.
When we do the daily Bible readings, we are not so much concerned with remembering as with entering into the events; we are emphasizing the eternal rather than the historical. We need to be open to the fact that what we are reading, because it is eternal, is here and now. It is now that our Lord comes, it is now that he is born among us, it is now that he is seen among us, it is now that the risen Lord appears. In the same way it is now that the Father is creating and re-creating. It is now that the Spirit descends. Our daily office of prayers and readings tune us in to the eternal events, allow us to respond to them and to carry that response into our daily living. Thus the rhythm of prayer resonates throughout the day.
One of the great weaknesses of the church today is that people have stopped praying in their homes; or if they do pray, their prayer has no link with the wider Body of Christ and so does not resonate with them. Without daily Bible reading and directed prayer, it is hard for our Sunday worship to strike a chord. But if through daily prayer and a build-up of images the Sunday worship plucks at certain strings, then all are enriched. Once we have built up a collection of phrases and sayings which we have meditated on, every time they are used they echo and re-echo in the depths of our lives. When we have the office by heart we can use it at any spare minute in the day until it truly vibrates in our life – or better, until He truly vibrates in our life.
Over time, doing the daily office builds a great “wealth” we can carry in our hearts and minds. Mere words become the vehicle for the living Word of God. This is no theory or sedative, but a vital relationship with a living Lord. The words and spirit of the Daily Office become part of our daily routine – and then the whole ethos of the readings will pervade our lives. The written word will become a gate for the living Word to enter our midst.
From: David Adam, The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer, (Morehouse
Publishing, © 1996, 2007)
For the Daily Office: http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/
For Daily Readings: http://www.crivoice.org/daily.html