Feasts, Fasts, and Feria: Morning Prayer in Lent and Eastertide

By H. Boone Porter

Last month we considered some of the elements which may be included in the first part of Morning Prayer or Matins to express the spirit of Lent. Let us pursue this consideration and then discuss some of the changes which Easter may bring.

The Book of Common Prayer in the 1928 edition requires that the Apostles’ Creed always be used at Morning Prayer, unless it be replaced by the Nicene. This latter provision was apparently intended in the past for congregations in America which rarely had celebrations of the Eucharist and hence would have few other opportunities to use the Nicene Creed. This option seems of little significance today. If Morning Prayer is shortened according to the rubric on page 10, the creed comes in the Eucharist rather than in the office, but is in any case not omitted.

The collects at Morning Prayer are governed by quite specific rubrics occurring here and elsewhere in the book. When the Eucharist is to follow, variable collects are omitted; otherwise the Collect for the Day (usually that of the preceding Sunday) is used, followed by seasonal or octave collects if any.

With the Proposed Book of Common Prayer the rubrics are different. It is assumed the Apostles’ Creed will normally be used, but this is not obligatory on ordinary weekdays, or on any days when the Eucharist with its own creed is to follow. PBCP makes it clear that the Apostles’ Creed is the basic baptismal affirmation (pp. 292-3, 304, 416-7, 852) to which we are professing our allegiance each time we recite it. Turning to the East to say it is a characteristically Anglican custom. A reverent but unostentatious bow at the name Jesus, and the sign of the cross at the end, are appropriate ceremonial gestures, either in public or private recitation.

The former elaborate protocol for collects has been dropped in PCBP. There are many reasons for the change. First was the recognition that the Collect of the Day is usually that of the preceding Sunday and often has no real relation to the day itself, or to the psalms and lessons that are used. Collects for numerous minor holy days are now available for optional use: some people wish to use them at only one office each day, or to use them at the Eucharist but not at the offices at all, unless they have some special interest for the individual or the congregation concerned. The provision of many votive collects for the Eucharist also now means that on weekdays the Collect for the Day may not be used in the Eucharist, and hence one might desire to include it in a preceding office (an option forbidden in BCP 1928, p. 17). Added to this is the provision of optional collectors for certain days of the week, and widespread ecumenical consensus for the dropping of seasonal and octave collects. Without burdensome complexity, all of these features could not be reduced to rules. Hence a wide variety of choice is permitted. Several considerations may strongly influence the selection of collects.

First, when Morning Prayer is a major public service on Sundays and other holy days, one will certainly wish to use the Collect for the Day, as well as one of those for guidance or protection during the day, and appropriate prayers and intercessions. On the other hand, if this service is used as preliminary or preparatory to the Eucharist on Sundays and holy days, it will be kept in brief form (perhaps with only one lesson) with one of the several collects printed in the office and one of the three prayers for the life and the mission of the church, and little more. On the other hand, when Morning Prayer is recited daily by an individual or regular group of worshippers, they may choose an arrangement that fits their needs. On special days, the Collect of the Day would presumably be used. Since Lent is a special season, either the collect of the Sunday or the daily Lenten collect from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (pp. 21-5), are recommended. The seven collects printed on pp. 56-7 and 98-100 may be assigned to different days of the week if desired, but not necessarily. Personally, I normally use the “weekend collects” on the days indicated, but also use either the collect “for the Renewal of Life” or “for Grace” every day, irrespective of what collect comes before it. After the collects, the use of the Litany is appropriate from time to time in Lent, or some other form of general intercession, such as those provided for the Eucharist (pp. 383-395, see also pp. 548-551 and the authorized book, Prayers, Thanksgivings, and Litanies, Church Hymnal Corporation, 1973). For daily use, however, a briefer ending will probably be preferred. One method is to assign different days of the week to different general categories of prayer or praise. When a consistent group worship together, different individuals can be responsible for these prayers on different days.

When we go from Lent to Easter, we should expect a dramatic difference. In BCP 1928 there are distinct Opening Sentences, and Christ our Passover (pp. 162-3) replaces the Venite. We would urge its use through the following Sunday, as rubrics permit. Thereafter, the Venite, with the Easter invitatory antiphon and Alleluias (p. 8), is used. The Te Deum will be used after the first lesson, perhaps shifting to the Benedicite, omnia opera for Rogation Days. Apart from the assigned collects and possible hymns, there is no special way to express the Easter season in the latter part of the office, but one of the prayers of thanksgiving attached to the Burial of the Dead (pp. 334-6) may appropriately be used from time to time in this season.

In PBCP, the distinctive character of the Easter season is very emphatic. Instead of the usual type of opening sentence, the Easter greeting may be used at the office, as at the Eucharist and at baptism. We may as well all learn it and expect to use it at all regular services in this season. Christ our Passover is authorized throughout the Easter season also. It is certainly to be used on all Sundays when the office is performed publicly, so that people can learn it. For private or group recitation, it can be used daily throughout the season, or at least on many days. For variety, for instance, the Venite can be used instead on Tuesdays and the Jubilate can be used on Thursdays. The proper invitatory antiphon is used with either of these two, but not with Christ our Passover.

For canticles after the lessons, PBCP is well equipped for the Easter season. The Song of Moses is a notable restoration, and we recommend its use daily during Easter Week, and on all subsequent Sundays of the season. For weekday recitation, it may be used once, or twice during each week. Canticles 6. 7, 9, 11, 18, 20, and 21 are particularly appropriate in this period also.

As to collects, Easter season is again a special time, when the Sunday collects have greater value for daily use. I would personally recommend not using the optional Friday or Saturday collects in this season. Prayer 8, on p. 395, the prayers of thanksgiving attached to the burial services, and the thanksgivings on pp. 836 and following provide suitable additional prayers for Eastertide. The Alleluias added to “Let us bless the Lord,” and to its response, sustain the Easter emphasis throughout the office.

The Rev. Dr. H. Boone Porter was editor of The Living Church from 1977 to 1990. This article was published in our March 5, 1978 issue.

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