Marking Time: The Book of Common Prayer
“Marking time” sounds like a stagnant activity. In fact, in the military it describes a step in which soldiers march in place, moving their legs as in marching without stepping forward.
However, in the church it describes an ancient practice of Christian devotion using The Book of Common Prayer, where daily prayers mark the times of the day and the traditions of a praying community. It is anything but stagnant, as there is a community prayer service for five different times in the day as well as services for individuals and families. And on top of that, if you read the appointed scripture readings for each day, you will read through the entire Bible in three years!
For example, the readings for each day morning and evening are called the Daily Office Lectionary. They are arranged in a two-year cycle, years One and Two. Year One begins the First Sunday of Advent preceding even-numbered years. (Thus this year we are reading Year Two readings because last year was an odd numbered year. In Advent this year we will be in Year One.)
Three readings are provided for each day, two to be used in the morning and one in the evening.
The Sunday Lectionary is arranged in a three year cycle, with Year A beginning on the First Sunday of Advent in years evenly divisible by three! (This year which began in 2019, divisible by 3, is Year A.) The Psalms and Lessons appointed for the Sundays are read at the morning services. Yes, you read correctly. We Episcopalians have assigned reading for everyday of the week, thus enabling us to read through the entire Bible in three years! And some say we are not Biblically based enough!!!
Where might you find all these services and scripture readings? In The Book of Common Prayer. You will also find prayers for all sorts of pastoral needs, joys and griefs, as well as the Catechism otherwise known as An Outline of Faith – what we believe and why we believe it. And if you are interested in the history of why we do what we do, the Historical Documents of the Church are towards the back of the Prayer Book, and they include documents from as far back as 451 AD.
To top it all off, there is a Prayer Book/Hymnal available which includes our entire hymnal beginning with all our service music (so you can follow along with the chants and the canticles.)
The Book of Common Prayer is our handbook, our guidebook, our manual for marking Kairos time – God’s time, time that transcends Chronos time, sequential time. The prayer book is anything but stagnant. It is in every way dynamic and full of the Divine.
Contact the Cathedral Bookstore for more information on how to purchase your own Book of Common Prayer. [email protected]
Owene Courtney, Director of Formation and Spirituality