The Daily Office and “the Fear of the Lord”

by The Rev'd Dane E. Boston

In a few hours, I’ll leave Columbia for a week in Newport, Rhode Island. My dear friend The Rev’d Fr Blake Sawicky and I will be serving as chaplains to the 2014 Newport Course of the Royal School of Church Music in America. Blake is the Curate of S Stephen’s Church in Providence, and also serves as Chaplain to both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design—a busy man!

I’m looking forward to a wonderful week of beautiful liturgies and phenomenal music. I’m excited to share teaching duties with Blake, whose knowledge of and passion for the worshipping life of the Church is singular. I’m eager to get to know the other talented members of the course staff.

But most of all, I can’t wait to live the rhythms of daily prayer in company with a great group of choristers, adult singers, and other musicians. We will pray Morning Prayer and Compline each day, in addition to singing two choral Evensongs (on Wednesday and Friday) and a choral Eucharist (on Sunday). This means that all of the good music and thorough training of a very full week will be anchored and oriented by the solid framework of Anglican prayer. What a gift to the participants, and what a privilege to be taking part in it all!

Below is a little blurb I wrote for the inside cover of our Morning Prayer bulletins. The theme of the course this year is “Wisdom,” and my goal was to show how the Daily Offices are the best means the Church has devised for becoming wise—for growing in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.

“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?”

Those questions were posed many thousands of years ago in the Book of Job. In that same book (in that same chapter, even) they find an answer:

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

“Fear” is not a word we usually associate with God. But the first thing to realize is that “the fear of the Lord” does not mean the feeling we get from “ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night.” Rather “the fear of the Lord” means reverence and awe: the humble recognition of who God is, coupled with joy and wonder in all his mighty works.

And when we see it that way, we find that our Daily Offices are all about wisdom. At Morning Prayer, Evensong, and Compline, we grow in “the fear of the Lord.” We learn who God is through reading or chanting Psalms and hearing Holy Scripture. We praise him in canticles. We proclaim God’s self-revelation in Jesus our Lord by the words of the Apostles’ Creed. And all this, in turn, leads us to prayers of repentance and petition and thanksgiving—of joy and wonder, of awe and reverence.

So welcome, you who hold this little book in your hand, to the place where wisdom shall be found. Welcome to the place of understanding. As we sing and read and pray and enjoy fellowship together this week, may we find ourselves growing in the love and fear of the Lord. By God’s grace, may we depart from evil and walk before him in holiness and righteousness all our days. “Behold…that is wisdom.”