The 1662 BCP is available in many formats. Perhaps most obviously, you can acquire it through Amazon.com; I have both an Everyman’s and an Oxford pew version, both of which I bought online for under $20. You can also acquire it through the (English) Prayer Book Society for £8.30 or about $14. You can also access the 1662 BCP through the Church of England’s website and through their Daily Prayer site. If you’re tech savvy, you can also get it on your iPhone through the app, iPray BCP.
Cambridge has also recently released a combination volume of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and The Authorised Version (KJV). It is a nice volume, albeit a bit more expensive than other editions.
It can be daunting to begin to pray the Office, because it seems a monumental task. Calm down! The 1662 BCP was designed to be easy! Once you get the structure down, it becomes a bit second-nature to know how to pray the Office. The 1662 BCP is largely invariable, so many of the same things are said every day. Some practical suggestions will help you to enter into this time of prayer and from it to benefit spiritually.
(1) Try to say the Office around the same time every day. This helps you become accustomed to saying it daily.
(2) Try to say it at a desk or a table. Do not hunch over, but sit up straight. Posture is important in prayer, and a good posture helps the mind focus on the prayers.
(3) Reduce distractions: turn off the TV and music to focus on prayer.
(4) Reflect on the psalms and readings. Particularly if reading alone, allow 2–5 minutes between each reading to meditate on the meaning of the Scripture for you.
(5) Don’t worry! The Prayer Book is a guide to prayer, not the only way to pray! If you mess up, so be it; you will learn, but the important thing is that you pray, not how you pray. Likewise, if you forget a day, it’s okay: come back tomorrow.
The introduction of the Office into the parish church can be a bit harder to accomplish. In theory, it should be rather easy, considering that the priest is to say Morning and Evening Prayer already, but providing a public service twice daily could cut into the priest’s other pastoral or family duties. It is best to start off with one or two services in the week to gather support for the idea. Subsequently, lay readers can be trained to read services without the clergy present.
Introduction - Sentences, Exhortation, Confession, and
The 1662 BCP only provides penitential sentences to be said before the Exhortation at the beginning of daily services.
Some authors have attempted to divide these into seasonal sentences, but this seems to go against the rationale behind their use. Nevertheless, Dearmer divides the sentences in this fashion:
1. Repent ye in Advent;
2. Hide Thy Face in Lent;
3. The Sacrifice in Passiontide;
4. I acknowledge on ferias.
A simple selection will suffice. Then the Exhortation is read and the Confession said. Modern rubrics direct laymen to read, instead of the Absolution, the Collect for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity; original usage, however, did not require this. It is better to skip the absolution in the absence of an ordained minister.
The Lord’s Prayer and Preces follow. The Lord’s Prayer is said by the minister and people together, after the first phrase “after him”.
The Venite is appointed to be said every day in the 1662 BCP, except on Easter Day, when instead the Easter Anthems are appointed.
On the nineteenth day of the month, the Venite is read in the Psalter (i.e. not read twice).
The Psalter is appointed to be read through each month in the 1662 BCP. Here is the monthly scheme provided:
(If a month has 31 days, repeat the psalms for Day 30.)
The Gloria Patri is said after each Psalm and Canticle.
The First Lesson follows the reading of the Psalms. At this point, I will mention the matter of lectionary. Most current printings of the 1662 BCP provide two lectionaries. The first is the 1871 Revised Lectionary. This follows the form of the original but has been slightly revised. It follows the civil calendar year, so for today you would look under the month of July to find the readings for the day. The other lectionary is that of 1922, which follows the church year, so you would look under “Third Sunday after Trinity” to find today’s reading. There are editions of the Book of Common Prayer bound with either lectionary and other publications which print the daily lessons.
The superior lectionary is the original 1662 Lectionary, which allows one to read the majority of the Bible each year. As the 1871 Lectionary has replaced it in published versions, this lectionary must be downloaded from various on-line sources.
In reference to public recitation of the Office, the Lessons should be announced like this: “Here beginneth the twentieth verse of the first chapter of Genesis.” The titles of the books in the Authorized Version should be used.
A canticle follows each reading, serving as a response to it. The Prayer Book offers four canticles per Office, giving precedence to the first canticle printed. For instance, the canticles at Morning Prayer are Te Deum laudamus, and Benedicite, omnia opera, which follow the first lesson and Benedictus and Jubilate Deo following the second lesson. The canticles at Evening Prayer are Magnificat and Cantate Deo following the first lesson, and Nunc dimittis and Deus misereatur following the second.
The rubrics are a bit vague as to which canticle is to be said. It seems that the option to use either is perfectly acceptable. There seems to be an indication that the Te Deum and Benedictus should normally be said. The Jubilate replaces the Benedictus when the latter is read in the lessons or in the Gospel on St. John the Baptist’s Day. A custom associated with the first Prayer Book was the substitution of the Benedicite for the Te Deum in Lent, which seems an acceptable custom, but not required.
There is less direction for the canticles at Evening Prayer. The choice is likely up to the reader, with preference for the Gospel canticles.
To summarize the scheme, it is as follows:
At Morning Prayer
(1) First Lesson
Te Deum (or Benedicte in Advent/Lent)
(2) Second Lesson
Benedictus (or Jubilate Deo when appropriate or St. John the Baptist's day)
At Evening Prayer
(1) First Lesson
Magnificat (or Cantate Domino when appropriate)
(2) Second Lesson
Nunc Dimmittis (or Deus misereatur when appropriate)
The Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and versicles follow the readings and canticles.
The Collect for the day and the two collects proper to Morning and Evening Prayer follow; they should not be omitted.
There is some ambiguity relating to the final prayers printed in the Prayer Book after the Third Collect. I will summarize Percy Dearmer’s approach to the matter in The Parson’s Handbook.
The Prayer Book’s rubrics for Morning Prayer seem to indicate that the five prayers (for the Queen, for the Royal Family, for the Clergy and People, the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, and the Grace) are only invariably used in “quires and places where they sing”. There are, however, for Morning Prayer, a number of other rubrics that affect the number of prayers to follow.
First, the Litany is ordered to be read on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, thus ending Morning Prayer at the Third Collect and moving to the Litany at that point. On these days, the Office will be necessarily shorter.
Second, when the Litany is not read, the Prayer for All Conditions of Men is required by the rubrics to be said, before the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Grace.
Third, other occasions require the use of additional collects; such occasions include Ember Days, when the collect for them is used before the Prayer for All Conditions of Men, the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, and the Grace.
This means that Morning Prayer should always end with the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Grace, either in the Litany or after the Prayer for All Conditions of Men.
Evening Prayer is quite different: there is no rubric requiring that the final prayers be read at all. This means that Evening Prayer can lawfully end at the Third Collect. Dearmer suggests, however, that the General Thanksgiving be said at Evening Prayer, which calls for the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Grace to follow, according to the rubric.
Here follows a simple summation of what has been written, in relation to the scheme of prayers after the Third Collect:
Morning Prayer (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), by rubric:
(1) Prayer for All Conditions of Men
(2) Prayer of St. Chrysostom
(3) The Grace
Evening Prayer (every day), by custom:
(1) General Thanksgiving
(2) Prayer of St. Chrysostom
(3) The Grace
It is to be noted that the Ember Day collect is said before these prayers on its appointed days, at Morning and Evening Prayer, and in the Litany.
It is also to be noted that the prayers following the Communion service may also be said at this point, before the Prayer of St. Chrysostom.
It is to be noted besides that the final prayers are all required in “quires and places where they sing,” i.e. cathedrals and collegiate chapels.
In public services, a sermon might follow the service. Dearmer indicates the best place for this is after the service, after the Grace. The Prayer Book requires, however, that Catechism take place after the Second Lesson and before the Nunc Dimittis on Sundays and Holy-days.
The BCP directs that the Litany is to be read on Sundays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays, after Morning Prayer. On Litany-days, the Office ends
at the Third Collect and the Litany commences. The Litany is not to be said at Evening Prayer.
The Litany should be read kneeling. It is also not to be forgotten, on Ember Days and other occasions that require specific collects be said, that these collects are also said in the Litany, before the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Grace.
Another forgotten rubric is that of the Athanasian Creed
which directs, "Upon these Feasts; Christmas Day, the Epiphany, Saint
Matthias, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, Saint John Baptist, Saint
James, Saint Bartholomew, Saint Matthew, Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Saint
Andrew, and upon Trinity Sunday, shall be sung or said at Morning Prayer,
instead of the Apostles' Creed, this Confession of our Christian Faith,
commonly called the Creed of Athanasius, by the Minister and people
Therefore, the Athanasian Creed is to be said on these
(1) Christmas Day
(2) The Epiphany
(3) St. Matthias
(4) Easter Day
(5) Ascension Day
(7) St. John the Baptist
(8) St. James
(9) St. Batholomew
(10) St. Matthew
(11) St. Simon & St. Jude
(12) St. Andrew
(13) Trinity Sunday
Why Use the 1662 BCP?
One may wonder, why use the 1662? Don’t we already have a “classic” Prayer Book in America (the 1928)? While I don’t condemn the use of the 1928, I feel it lacking in many ways. For one, it has been influenced significantly by the 1689 Liturgy of Comprehension, which has influenced all American BCPs through the 1786’s reliance on it. Through Latitudinarian and Anglo-Catholic influence, the 1928 also reduces the penitential aspect of the 1662 BCP, diminishing the character of the Reformed rite. The 1662 BCP is a great place to start praying the Office every day. It is both a catholic and a reformed rite which shows the ethos of Protestant High Churchmanship. I hope all those who read this article will consider using the 1662 BCP in their daily prayers.