Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Would Cranmer recognize (or better yet acknowledge) the 1979 Prayer Book?

I think that the climate in which we find ourselves, this is a fair question. I also think a follow-up question would also be in order. What agendas did the framers of the '79 book bring to the table as they drafted a revised Book of Common Prayer?

To address the original question, I think we must first look at what Cranmer was doing and what his intentions were in the composition of the 1549 and 1552 BCP's. First and foremost, the Church of England was striving to have the liturgy and the Bible in the vernacular for all Christians. The bulk of the 1549 Book was a fairly close translation of the Sarum Rite into English. The 1552 revision was certainly a move in a much more Protestant direction than 1549, but it still retained the common shape of 1549. There was one service of Morning Prayer, one service of Evening Prayer and one form for the Order for Holy Communion. There was not a buffet line of choices of Eucharistic Prayers for the Minister's choosing.

Was this intentional, or was he just keeping with what he had? I firmly believe that this was clearly intentional. Cranmer's concept of 'common prayer' was something that he felt was a crucial component of our Anglican style of worship. When Christians prayed they prayed as a communion of believers, lifting a unified voice toward heaven.

In Episcopal Churches across this country today, there is nothing less than a cacophony of prayer that may or may not be lifted to God alone. Even within our National Cathedral at the installation of the Samuel Lloyd as Dean, the Liturgy of the Word contained a reading from the Quran. There is no way that anything within the rubrics of any versions of the Book of Common Prayer that Cranmer would have authored or supported would have allowed for atrocities such as this.

We have desperately slipped into murky waters if this is even remotely possible. This was obviously deemed acceptable by the Bishop of Washington since he was the presider at the service. I realize I am not saying anything special by thinking that +Chane would do anything that resembled orthodoxy. How did we come so far? This seems unfathomable to me.

Where do we go from here?

There are clearly some things within the '79 book that were good additions. I definitely like the fact that the printed liturgies for Ash Wednesday ('28 does have a service, but I do like the self-contained liturgy for this day as seen in the '79 book), Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are there for our use. A very nice addition is the service for the Reconciliation of the Penitent. The addition of the service of Compline is also welcomed in my humble opinion.

Where is '79 flawed?

The catechism is abysmal, especially the 10 Commandments. How anyone bought off on those, I'll never know. The complete removal of penitence and the nature of sin within the Daily Office and Eucharist. The move toward a gender inclusive Psalter has changed the meaning of some altogether. See Psalm 1 and Peter Toon's argument:

Also, the use of "inclusive language"” in the translation of the Psalter so as to make women of a particular political outlook feel at home in using it. Thus the "man-centered"” nature of the psalms is toned down and modified. However, when the word "“man" is changed to "“they"” (as in Psalm 1), the traditional use of the Psalter as the prayer of the Church in and with Christ, united to him as the Head of the Body, and as the prayer of Jesus Christ within His Body, becomes impossible for, according to the Fathers, the "“man"” in Psalm 1 (as elsewhere) is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. To pray the Psalms as the Church has prayed them over the centuries, the text must read, "Blessed is the Man"not "“Happy are they."” The inspired text, as God has given it to be written down, is already inclusive of every faithful human being, man or woman.


I know that some people believe that the 1979 Prayer Book is a done deal, and why is anyone still talking about this? I for one think that as Anglicanism in North America begins to take on a new shape true, honest, and orthodox thought needs to be taken into accout regarding a new Book of Common Prayer. I believe as Christian believers in the Anglican Tradition we have an obligation to look at our history and iron out a liturgy that will stand a new test of time like our forerunner the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

There is a very good reason that this is still the official Prayer Book for the Church of England and everything else is contained within their Alternative Service Book. I would strongly advocte keeping the traditional language component as a centerpiece, but also a carefully crafted liturgy in contemporary language for those parishes who chose that style for their mode of worship. An enlarged Catechism similar to 1979, but orthodox this time around, and a Psalter that would still make King David proud!

These are just a few items on my mind as I type this post. I know there are more things to discuss, but I save room for your suggestions.

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