Dean’s Letter: The Bible, Day by Day

Hello St. Paul’s,

As you may know, our Anglican identity rests upon a triple foundation of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. We bring together, uniquely among Christian denominations, the ancient and continuous witness of the Bible with the historic traditions of the church and our individual God-given gifts of discernment and intelligence. We refer to this trio of influences as the three-legged stool of Anglicanism.

Of the three, Scripture is the longest and most important leg. We honor the witness of both the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament and the Christian New Testament, remembering that Jesus was himself an observant Jew for whom the Hebrew Scriptures formed his Bible. I’ve written before about how we make extensive use of Scripture in our Sunday worship, with four Bible passages assigned for each service: Hebrew Scripture or Old Testament, a portion from the Psalms, something from the Epistles or Revelation, and a passage from one of the Gospels. Our Prayer Book services are soaked in Biblical language and references.

But, if the only exposure we have to the Bible is on a Sunday morning, we are missing out. There are great swaths of Scripture that you never hear at our Sunday Eucharists, and the passages we do hear are often isolated and fragmented from one week to the next. If you want to really get to know Scripture, I recommend forming the habit of saying the Daily Office: that is, Morning and/or Evening Prayer, on a daily basis. There you will encounter Scripture laid out in an intentional and relatively uninterrupted pattern, following a lectionary or reading schema that repeats every two years.

The Daily Office lectionary is found at the back of our Book of Common Prayer. Unlike the ecumenical Sunday lectionary, the Daily Office one is peculiar to the churches of the Anglican tradition, and the Episcopal Church has its own version. In the course of two years, saying the Office Monday to Saturday, we read the vast majority of the Hebrew Scriptures, much of them in sequence, moving through a book almost continuously from beginning to end over the course of days or weeks. We also read almost all of the Gospels in the course of a year. Similarly we read from the Epistles every day, from beginning to end. We also read from the Psalms in a seven-week cycle.

Year One of the daily office lectionary starts at the beginning of Advent in years ending in an even number and Year Two conversely in Advent of years ending in an odd number. So this liturgical year which started in November 2021 is Year Two, and we will start Year One again on November 27. In Year One we typically read the Hebrew Scriptures and Epistle passage at morning prayer, the Hebrew Scripture again and Gospel at evening prayer; in year two we switch the Epistle and Gospel. So, this year, we have been reading from the Gospel each morning. This is all laid out on page 934 of the Book of Common Prayer

Our Morning and Evening Prayer groups which meet regularly via Zoom enjoy the day to day drama of Scripture. Sometimes we will be in the middle of a dramatic tale and we can hardly wait for “tomorrow’s exciting episode.” As an added bonus, we pause after the final reading and invite questions, comments and discussion on what we have read.

As we prepare for the holy season of Advent and the start of a new church year, I invite you to join us for Morning or Evening Prayer whenever your schedule allows: the Zoom link is on the cathedral calendar, and over time you will enjoy a much higher level of Biblical literacy.

See you on Sunday!
Your sister in Christ,

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2 thoughts on “Dean’s Letter: The Bible, Day by Day”

  1. I love reading Dean Penny’s posts.
    Informative, spirited, professional, inclusive and most important; I can just hear her Irish accents transcend to my ears.


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