Wednesday this week is the start of Lent. Commonly called Ash Wednesday, this refers to the practice of having ashes imposed on the face of the worshipper, with the person administering the ashes saying
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel
Lent is the 40 days from this point until Easter, and is a period set aside for fasting and responding to that admonition, to repent and believe the Gospel.
Therefore it is a good time to take up some new practice. Devoting myself to a new discipline entails a learning time, making adjustments to my life to make room for the disciplines, and learning the rubrics and rules of the discipline. It is one way to remind myself that I am dust, to shoulder the burden of a discipline for a time.
My daily discipline is inherited from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which is the worship book used by Episcopal churches in the USA. It has three elements:
- Confession of sins
- Daily scripture readings
The centre of the daily office is the reading of the Scripture. Three or four Psalms form the opening worship, with three readings which run either chronologically (I am in Genesis, Hebrews and John’s Gospel right now), or in a way that they interpret one another, unified around an idea.
My experience tells me that often the mere reading of Scripture does not help me daily grasp the reality of the good news of Jesus Christ. Therefore in the style of the Book of Common Prayer I bracket the Office readings by beginning with a confession of sins and ending my readings by reciting the Apostle’s creed. This reminds me of the journey of my faith, always turning from sin toward the truth of God through God’s word.
Once I have come to God through the reading of Scripture, it is then appropriate to pray, which at the very least would be the prayer Jesus taught, the Lord’s Prayer. After this I would add my own petitions, or perhaps read some simple written prayers known as Collects.
In this way I get to daily hear afresh from God and lean upon beautiful words given to me from the history of the Church. Many times it is a means of grace for me, when I have no words to offer to God, there are words I can use.
So this Lent I offer to you the Daily Office. Start simple. Start with one Psalm and the Gospel reading, and watch as that desire to spend more and more time in God’s comforting presence grows. Sometimes all the rules can be disorienting and a little confusing. Don’t be alarmed! You are learning a new language and new way of praying. It’s ok that it would take a little getting used to. Find grace in the process of learning the rules, as this discipline makes you like a child again.
Daily Office readings from the English Standard Version of the Bible. You can find BCP Daily Office as an available reading plan in the app
This extraordinary interpretation of the 1979 BCP includes hymns and songs, and includes a great variety of intercessions to pray for the world in its diverse needs.
A smart and simple app which strips away the formal confession of sin and many of the Collects. You will notice a huge variety of Canticles, the poems between the readings which are typically drawn from scripture itself and attempt to give the worshipper words to respond to God’s revelation.