Office Glossary

Antiphon: Antiphon means responsive sound. A short sentence from scripture that proceeds or follows the psalms or canticles in the daily office, and should be a key to interpreting the psalm or canticle. To sing antiphonally is for two groups to alternative verses. This alternation can occur in a variety of ways.

Canticle: A canticle is poetry, sometimes a song, within scripture. Canticles used in liturgy are often short stretches of longer poems or songs that occur in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Canticles are found in the OT books of Exodus, Isaiah, Jonah, Song of Songs (Canticum Canticorum), and others. In the NT, the Gospel of Luke contains the most canticles. Two canticles used in today’s office come from Revelations. Occasionally poetry from the ancient church or favorite saints like Julian of Norwich are used in daily prayer as a canticle.

Collect: A collect is a prayer that collects the thoughts and petitions of the office. Collects should have three parts: an invocation, petition, and ascription. There are a variety of sources for collects. The Book of Common Prayer has collects for every Sunday, all major feast days, and several for special occasions. Lesser Feasts and Fasts contains collects for saints’ feast days. I will be posting some new collects here periodically.

Creed: A creed is a statement of belief. Two common creeds found in daily prayer are the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. Other creeds or a personal creed could replace one of these in daily prayer.

Gloria Patri/Glory be: There are a couple of translations of this common ascription which goes back to at least the time of Origen (d. 264). A few years ago I found it on the end of a sermon by Origen on John 20. The traditional version is: “Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.” The modern Anglican version in the Book of Common Prayer reads “Glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen”. To significant changes, it removes the “be” out of the Glory Be and drops off “world without end” (which was included in Origen’s 3rd century version). This is one place where I still deviate from the BCP to use the more familiar older version (at least older and more familiar to me).

Gloria in excelsis: An early Christian hymn used as a canticle in the Office. It is an expansion of the song sung by the angels at the Nativity of Christ.

Hymns: Hymns are the songs and poems of the Christian church. While we can debate what Paul means by hymns, in today’s church they are the songs of the Christians.

Jubilate: Psalm 100 is a traditional part of morning prayer. It is one of the optional psalms for today’s morning office.

Lesson: Readings from scripture used during the office. Usually one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Sometimes on feast days other readings from the writings of saints or accounts of their lives might be used as an additional lesson.

Office: Derived from the latin word from “duty” refers to the monastic duty to pray the hours. Following Old Testament references to pray seven times a day Christian monastics prayed on a schedule of seven times a day. These prayers can also be called simply ‘hours’ or praying the hours. Offices contain a collection of psalms, canticles/hymns, lessons, and prayers. While clergy may be instructed by their bishop to pray the daily office (morning and evening prayer) according to the Book of Common Prayer (or another approved monastic book), the laity have the latitude to alter the hours as they see fit in private prayer.

Phos hilaron (O Gracious Light): The Phos hilaron is an ancient Christian hymn used in the evening office. It was considered a venerable tradition by St Basil in 379 CE.

Psalms: A psalm is another name for a hymn. The Book of Psalms are the ancient hymnal of the Jews. When speaking of scripture, the word psalm refers to the Book of Psalms.

Prayers: A variety of prayers can be added to the office. The Lord’s Prayer being the most common addition. A variety of other prayers can be added after the collect to meet the needs of the day.

References: Christopher Webber. A User’s Guide to Morning and Evening Prayer. Morehouse, 2005.