otherwise indicated, the texts for the sacred readings
in this manual are taken from The New Jerusalem Bible.Thus,
the conventions of that translation pertain here as well.
For example, the italicizing of a segment within a reading
indicates that those words or phrases have occurred previously
elsewhere in scripture and probably constitute a direct
quotation or incorporation by the current speaker.
those few occasions when a sacred reading is from the
King James Version rather than The New Jerusalem
Bible, that change is noted at the reading’s conclusion
by the notation, “KJV.” The texts for all
save a handful of the
Psalms and Psalm hymns employed
here are from the Psalter of The Book of Common Prayer.These
departures are marked with the appropriate citing
with one exception where, because of frequency and for
aesthetic reasons, a symbol is used. indicates a medley
or hymning of the canonical Psalms as assembled by Dr.
Fred Bassett (c.f., Acknowledgments).
otherwise indicated, the appointed prayers are taken
from the BCP.
Many of them have been adapted, however,
for use here. Such texts are indicated by the symbol, †.
Principally, the user already familiar with the BCP
note that many of the first person plural pronouns of “us,
we, our” have been changed to the singular ones
of “me, I, my.” The sensibility informing
these adaptations has been the desire to make each more
personal. Whether the offices as they are
produced here are said in private
(as will be by far
the greater use) or in public, each observant prays both
an individual and as a participant in a praying community.
pronominal singulars of “me, I, my” are
employed, the attention should be directed toward the
individual. Where the plurals are employed, attention
and intention are toward the larger community of the
and celebrating the rhythms, images, and aesthetic force of the
originals; and it is for that
reason that they have been used here. The BCP Psalter, like every
other, has its own conventions, and they are followed here. This
is particularly obvious in the presentations of the name of God.
Long a problem for translators as well as readers, the presence
in the Psalms of three different terms for the divine name requires
carefully chosen English wording as well as a clearly defined rationale
for the application of each term chosen. This rationale, while
too lengthy for inclusion here, may be found in the prefatory material
to the BCP Psalter.
The Psalms as reproduced here retain as well the *, or asterisks,
that indicate the poetic breaks in the original Hebrew poem. Whether
one is reading or chanting the Psalm, there should be a pause at
this point in order for the rhythm of the poetry to be realized
fully. Many Christians will want to chant the Psalms, since that
most ancient of practices still extends to the observant the greatest
and purest spiritual benefit personally. For the more chary, reading
aloud will offer a similar benefit, since it too involves the body
as well as the intellect in the keeping of the office.
Most contemporary observants, be they lay or ordained, keep the
hours during the workday, a circumstance that means that the noon
office in particular is observed within a space that is not only
secular, but frequently populated. While one may withdraw to some
removed space like an unoccupied room or a car, one still is rarely
sufficiently secluded to be comfortable chanting or reading aloud.
By contrast, for weekend days and for the offices of morning and
evening, chanting or oral reading may be both possible and desirable.
Chanting an office is a complex exercise with an equally complex
and intricate history. Those who are already informed in the art
will find that the asterisks here furnish the necessary pointing.
For those who have not previously chanted the offices but wish
to add that exercise to their spiritual discipline and for those
who are new observants, a few simple principles may be sufficient
for basic proficiency.
Psalms are sung or chanted along one single note or tone, one
that is chosen by the observant as pleasing and comfortable
to maintain over the course of the text. The pacing is natural,
neither hurried nor pretentiously extended. By chanting, the observant
is weaving in yet another part of the bouquet of prayer that is
being offered to God, and a constant remembrance of this purpose
will do much to make the discipline acceptable and pleasing. Each
verse of the Psalm, by and large, constitutes a poetic unit and
is interrupted or pointed by an asterisk. The asterisk signals
not only the poetic break in the verse but also the point at which
the chanter is to raise his or her tone one note. That raising
occurs on the last accented syllable nearest to the asterisk. At
the end of the second half of the verse—i.e., the sequence
of words after the asterisk—the chanter lowers by one note
the final, accented syllable. Pronouns like “me, he, thee,” etc.,
are never elevated or lowered. The ear and the throat will soon
show the new chanter as well that many English words are trisyllabic,
having their accent on the first syllable. When such a word is
the last one before an asterisk or a verse end, the first unaccented
syllable goes up or down a note or half note as the case may be,
and the second unaccented syllable goes up or down another similar
From such basic premises, the intrigued or impassioned chanter
will discover rather quickly ways to elaborate the office to a
rendering pleasing to him or her. Such elaborations, the chanter
should be assured, have probably already been tried through the
centuries by other Christians and may well be in full, current
use by many of them. So also is there a range of options for rendering
the prose or unpointed portions of each office. Readings or appointed
prayers, for example, if chanted, are normally offered in a monotone
with a lengthening of the final syllable of each breath-pause or
sentence unit. The Our Father is frequently the exception to this
principle, being offered silently by many worshipers.
The only necessary
principle, in fact, is really to remember the words of St. Augustine, “Whoever sings, prays twice.” In
so saying, Augustine spoke to the attitude as well as the benefit
of chanting the Psalms: That which deepens the observant’s
contemplation and that which increases the beauty of our devotion
are, by definition, appropriate and good.
Phyllis Tickle. From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by
Phyllis Tickle. Reprinted with permission of Doubleday Books.
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