Daily Liturgical Prayer: Origins and Theology

By Meyers, Ruth A. | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Daily Liturgical Prayer: Origins and Theology


Meyers, Ruth A., Anglican Theological Review


Daily Liturgical Prayer: Origins and Theology. By Gregory W. Woolfenden. Liturgy, Worship and Society series. Aldershot, Hampshire (UK), and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2004. xii + 326 pp. $29.95 (paper).

Woolfenden begins this study, originally a Ph.D. thesis, by acknowledging his indebtedness to Robert Taft, whose 1986 study The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West has been the standard scholarly treatment of the divine office, and Paul Bradshaw, "who has shown that we have little concrete evidence for what we would now recognize as a daily office before the fourth century" (p. xi). In light of these earlier works, one might question the need for a new study. Woolfenden explains that his intention is to develop a theology of daily prayer from the rites themselves.

Throughout the study, Woolfenden's theology is evident. He argues that the liturgical day is reckoned from evening to evening and that the evening and morning offices, along with nighttime vigils, have a strong paschal emphasis as they mark the passage from darkness to light. In the evening, the congregation begins the night enlightened by the light of Christ, seeks God s protection through the coming night, and anticipates the eternal light. Vigils during the night await the return of light, and the morning office then gives thanks for the new light of day, resurrection, and new creation.

Woolfenden explores these themes in each chapter, surveying biblical and patristic symbolism, then evidence from ancient church orders. The remainder of the book, save a final summary chapter, takes a historical and geographical approach, with six chapters devoted to offices in the Christian East and three examining Western offices. Each chapter shows the historical development of offices in a region, considering structure as well as Scripture, other texts, and the symbols and ritual actions that comprise the community's prayer. Prayer at evening, through the night, and in the morning is Woolfenden's primary interest; he also touches on the minor hours during the day. …

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