Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Instructed Eucharist

Editors Note: You are welcome to use this script for an instructed Eucharist, but we would appreciate it if you would sign in the comments section (at the bottom of this posting, just click) telling us how you used it, where you are from, and how it worked for you. Any suggested modifications would be most appreciated.

This script for an instructed Eucharist was written by the people, clergy and staff of All Souls Episcopal Parish, Berkeley, Calif., the Rev. Canon Grant S. Carey, Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento, Calif. and the Rev. James Richardson, priest-in-charge at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, Calif., and former rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church, Charlottesville, Virginia. The script has been updated several times. Feel free to post suggestions.

You are free to use this script, but please give proper credit when using. AND please sign at the bottom of this posting to let us know you used it.


NARRATOR I: Today we are doing something out of the ordinary. Tonight in our worship service, which is called “the liturgy,” we are going to pause and explain what we are doing and why we do it the way we do it. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people,” so please consider this teaching exercise as the work we will all be doing together. We are going to give you a tour of the liturgy, pausing at key moments to explain. Consider this the Interstate tour of our liturgy. We will be going fast, and we will be getting off at several off-ramps – not all of them – but enough of them to look around a bit before we get back on the highway. I will remain to answer any questions.

So settle back, and enjoy the ride.

MUSICIAN: The first act of our worship is the gathering of the people at prayer. In fact, the word “church” means “the gathering.” And we gather in a special way, through music. The procession also reminds us that the people of God, through time and history, are moving toward God's Kingdom – following the Cross of Christ – and bringing the Light of the Gospel into all the world.

NARRATOR II: We bring to our worship our whole being. We pray not just with words, but with our every sense. We pray silently and we pray out loud, and we pray through music. We pray with our bodies through our stances of sitting, standing and kneeling. We pray by sight through the visual symbols that surround us. And we pray even with our sense of taste and smell through the bread and wine we will soon share.

So we begin by standing as a sign of respect, and standing is the best way to sing. And so let us gather as we sing…


NARRATOR I: For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have come together Sunday after Sunday, and often during the week. They have come to offer themselves to God and to communicate with God in a very special way. We call this our “Holy Eucharist,” and Eucharist is a Greek word for “Thanksgiving.” Eucharist is only one name for this service.

In the Greek Church it is called the Divine Liturgy which refers to God's people worshipping together. Sometimes it is called the Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, and sometimes the Mass. But whatever name we call it, our Sunday Eucharist is the centerpiece of our worship and life together as a faith community.

Here in the Episcopal Church, our liturgy comes from the Book of Common Prayer. The first English prayer book was written in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury. The prayer book has undergone numerous revisions. The first American Book of Common Prayer was written in the 19th century, and the last full revision was in 1979, and our liturgy today is based on that book.

NARRATOR II: There are two halves to the Eucharist which we should keep in mind as we experience our worship together. The first is “the Liturgy of the Word,” sometimes called the Ante-Communion (“ante” means “before”). The “Liturgy of the Word” includes several parts: (1) the opening prayers, which come from the Book of Common Prayer, (2) lessons from the Old and New Testaments appointed for the day, (3) the sermon, (4) the Church's statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, and (5) the intercessions or the prayers of the people.

The second half of the liturgy is called the “Great Thanksgiving,” during which the fruits of our labor, and the bread and wine are offered, consecrated or set apart, and then received by God's people with thanksgiving. It is the heart and culmination of our worship. We will talk more about that a little later. For now, we proceed into the Liturgy of the Word:


ALTAR GUILD DIRECTOR: The clergy, acolytes and choir members wear vestments. In the Episcopal Church, there are no such things as “robes.” Rather, all of the vestments have names. Vestments remind us that the Church belongs to no particular time or place because it is both universal (in all places) and historic, (belonging to no specific time). It also keeps us from paying undue attention to what people are wearing, whether their clothing is new or old, the latest style or out of date.

You will also notice that today we are using the color [COLOR]. We have colors that mark each church season. In Advent, we use blue or purple. Epiphany is white or green. Lent is purple. Holy Week is marked by red, the color used for martyrs and Pentecost, the time of the Holy Spirit. In Easter, we use white. In the long season after Pentecost, called "Ordinary Time," we use green.  Again, think of this as praying with all of our senses, including with our eyes.

The Altar guild also prepares all of the chalices, containing the wine of Communion, and the plates – called “patens” – and other utensils that will be used in our liturgy. The Altar Guild does a myriad of other tasks, including preparing the bread and wine for our use. And, by the way, we can always use new members of the Altar Guild, both women and men.

NARRATOR II: Next we hear lessons from the Bible, but I’d like you to transport yourself back in time for a moment. Before the time of Jesus, before the time of Moses, before the Bible, before written word, the people of God sat around the campfire, shared a meal, and they told The Story – they told The Story of how God, or “the Great Power,” saved their ancestors and brought them out of crisis and calamity and saved them, brining them into new life. What we do next is an echo of that very ancient human endeavor – we are sitting around the campfire – the candlesticks – and we are about to share a meal, our Eucharist, and hear the ancient story of our ancestors and how God saved them. Those stories were recorded by the Jewish people in what we now call the Bible, or Holy Scriptures. The word “Bible” comes from the middle English word that means “book.”

LECTOR: We will hear four passages from the Bible. The passages are assigned for each Sunday in a three-year rotating cycle called the “Revised Common Lectionary.” We hear the same biblical passages that are read this morning in other Episcopal churches, and in Lutheran, Roman Catholic and other churches as well. Hearing the same passages is part of our connection, or communion, with those other people in other places. We are currently in the third year of the cycle – “Year C.” Each year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is usually around the first of December.

First we will hear a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians call the “Old Testament.” We will also hear a psalm, or a canticle which is usually an adaptation of an Old Testament song of praise. We then hear from one of the New Testament letters. The New Testament was written in Greek, which was the common language of the Roman Empire at the time it was written.

At the end of each lesson, the reader will declare: “The Word of the Lord,” By saying “word” we do not mean that God wrote the words, but that these sacred texts reflect the mind of God, or in Greek, “Logos.” Another common ending for the lesson is “Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people” – that is a biblical phrase taken from the Revelation of John, the last book in the Bible. Our reply is “Thanks be to God.” And the fourth lesson is from the gospel.


DEACON: The gospel is a Greek word meaning “good news” and that is the title given to the first four books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the biographies of the life of Jesus. The Gospel lesson is always read by a member of the clergy, and if possible, it is read by a deacon, as a sign of respect for the Gospel. On special occasions, the Gospel may be sung or chanted.

On most Sundays, there is a Gospel procession into the center of the congregation, signifying that the Gospel is at the center of our life as a faith community. The Gospel Procession is led by a cross and candles. Wherever we are seated in the church, it is appropriate for us to stand up and turn to face the Gospel book and reader as a sign of respect.


DEACON: Our gospel procession echoes the Jewish practice of carrying the Torah – the scrolls containing the Law – into the congregation.

The Gospel Procession does one more thing – it reminds us that we are to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ into all the world.

Making the Sign of the Cross with your thumb on the forehead, mouth and chest at this time asks God's blessing “in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.” This way of making the sign of the cross is one of the earliest known symbols of the Church, dating from the Second century.




DEACON: Following the sermon, we take a few moments of silence to let the words dwell with us. Then we recite together the Nicene Creed, which was written in the fourth century to state the Church's Trinitarian belief in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was written as a loyalty oath for bishops, but has since evolved into a central part of our worship.

The Creed expresses the faith of the whole Church in all times and places. Although the meaning of some of the phrases are not clear, think of the Creed as a prayer that you share with everyone today who is reciting this creed in their church. And think of it as a prayer you share with everyone who has gone before us who will recited this, and everyone who will come after us. The Creed is part of our communion with all Christians in all times and places.

Some people make the sign of the cross at the end of the creed to remind us that at our baptism we were signed with the sign of the cross and made Christ's own forever. Such acts of reverence are ways in which we show outwardly what we believe inwardly.


INTERCESSOR: We now turn our attention to Christ's Church and the world. Together, we pray for the Church, for ourselves, and for the departed. The whole church, past and present, is united together in prayer. The names of persons who are in need of our prayers are added at this point, and there is usually an opportunity for us to speak out loud the names of people for whom we especially want to pray. These prayers are called “Prayers of the People” because they represent our deepest longings as God’s people at prayer.


DEACON: Now we ask God's forgiveness for the wrongs we have done collectively as the people of God. Confession is an important part of prayer whether we do it privately or in church with others. After the confession is announced, there is a time of silence for private, silent individual confession. Then we recite together the words of confession. Please notice that when we say these words out loud that we are confessing our sins as a the gathering of God’s people and not as individuals; it is another way we pray together as the people of God.

After we have made our confession, the Priest says the words of ABSOLUTION, or forgiveness, assuring us that God has forgiven all of us.


NARRATOR II: The first part of the service is now completed. We greet one another joyfully in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation and in the love of God, exchanging the PEACE with one another. It is way for us to heal from our grudges and wounds before coming to the table of Communion.

The “passing of the peace” is a very ancient way for people to greet one another. Jesus taught us that we should love one another as sisters and brothers. The apostle Paul taught that we should forgive one another as God forgives us before we come to the table to share in the bread of Communion.

When the celebrant says: “The Peace of God be always with you,” everyone responds: “And also with you.”

Then we share God's peace with one another.



NARRATOR I: We now begin the second part of the Eucharist. There are four parts to this part of the service. The first is our offering of money, food for the poor, and the bread and wine we will use at Communion. The second part of the Eucharist is the prayer of thanksgiving and the consecration of the bread and the wine. The third is the breaking of the bread. The fourth is the receiving of communion.

The Great Thanksgiving begins with the offertory sentence which reminds us that all our possessions are really God's gifts. The reason we take an offering of money in this part of the service, rather than at some other juncture, is because the fruit of our labor is a part of our Great Thanksgiving. And so we begin with an offertory sentence…


DEACON: In the early days of the Church, worshippers brought their own bread and wine to the service. The deacons chose what was needed for the consecration, and the rest was set aside for the poor. Today we have lay people who bring the bread and the wine to the altar. The bread and the wine, along with the money collected for the work of the church, are the offerings that will be presented to God.

The bread and wine are called OBLATIONS. Bread, wine and our gifts of money represent our lives, our work, our recreation, our families and our community. In other words, we offer to God all that we have and all that we do. This is called STEWARDSHIP.

NARRATOR II: The deacon “sets the table” by laying first a corporal, a white linen cloth, upon which are placed a chalice, a cup for the wine, and a paten, a plate for the bread. The purpose of the corporal is to hold any crumbs which may come from the bread. Next, wine is poured into the chalice and a little water is added. Adding a little water to the wine was a sign of hospitality in the Middle East in the time of Jesus.

DEACON: Before the priest begins speaking the Eucharistic prayer, it is the custom in many churches an acolyte pours a little water over the priest’s fingers. The receptacle for this purpose is called a “lavabo bowl.” This reminds us that we should all come to God's altar with clean hands and pure hearts. It has long been the custom for the head of the Jewish household to wash his or her hands in a similar way before the prayers at the Passover meal. Jesus probably did this at the Last Supper.



The prayers we use follow an ancient format written by Hippolytus in the Second century. They are based on the accounts of the Last Supper primarily found in the Gospel of Luke and the letters of Paul.

We are doing two basic things in the Eucharistic prayer: We are remembering the ancient story, and sharing in the blessing through the blessing of bread and wine. The prayer remembers the story of the people of God and makes it our own story; and we ask God’s blessing on us through the blessing of the bread and wine in our Communion.

These prayers invite us into four actions:
By thanking, we Remember
By remembering, we Offer
By offering, we Invoke
By invoking we Pray

MUSICIAN: The Holy Table or Altar having been prepared, the Eucharist continues with “Lift up your heart” – the “Sursum Corda.” The words follow the format of an ancient Jewish table blessing. The format was adopted in the earliest known Christian Eucharistic prayer by Bishop Hippolytus in the Second Century.

The Eucharistic prayer is interspersed with music of praise and blessing: the “Sanctus,” the ancient hymn: “Holy, Holy, Holy,” followed by the Benedictus: “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord...” reminding us that our God does come to us in the Holy Communion, and is made known to us in “the breaking of the bread.”

NARRATOR I: In the Eucharistic prayer, we thank God for the many ways God is present in our lives and for the many graces given to us. This leads us into a time of remembering—remembering God’s love for us, remembering how we turned away from God, remembering that God came to us as Jesus Christ to share our human nature so that we might be brought back to God. We remember Jesus’ last meal with his friends and the words he spoke over the bread and the wine and we remember his death on the cross.

Once we have remembered the ancient story as our story, we offer our gifts of bread and wine as well as ourselves and our lives to God.

It is our offering that prepares us to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit, asking that both the bread and wine and we ourselves be sanctified, that is, that we are made holy.

Once the invocation has taken place, we are called to pray together. Our first act of prayer is the Great Amen—that final Amen we say together as the priest holds up the bread and wine.

This AMEN, printed in all capital letters in The Book of Common Prayer, is the most important part of the entire service. It is not some magic in the priests hands that make this meal we share holy, it our coming together as a family to affirm the thanking, remembering, offering and invoking with a resounding AMEN that makes our bread and wine, and us too, something more than before. Our prayer is completed when we recite together the Lord’s Prayer.

In a very real way, the Holy Eucharist is a drama. Together we reenact the offering of Christ to make it real in our lives.


The gifts we gave at the offertory, the bread and the wine, are now returned to us. Because God has accepted these gifts, they are changed. They are for us the Body and Blood of Christ: they become for us love, grace and strength.

NARRATOR I: You may have been receiving Communion your whole life, or this is new to you. So let me remind you again how to receive the Bread and the Wine of Communion. For the bread, cup your hands and hold them up chest high so that the priest can easily place the bread on the palm of your hand. You may then consume the bread, or dip it in the wine and then place it in your mouth. If you wish to receive the chalice, please guide it to your lips by holding the bottom of the cup – and not the top. If you do not wish to receive the wine, cross your arms over your chest and the chalice bearer will give you a prayer. After you have received the Bread and the Wine, it is appropriate to say “AMEN.”

Some churches also offer prayers for healing during the time of communion in a chapel or side transept. Those offering these prayers will make the sign of the cross on your forehead with oil that has been blessed by our bishop. The oil for healing is another sign of the communion we share together not only in this parish, but throughout our diocese and the world.


ALTAR GUILD: After everyone has received Communion, the Bread and Wine are reverently removed to the sacristy where the chalice and paten cleaned and put away. Unused wine is poured into the ground outside. In some churches there is a special basin, called a “piscina,” which allows the consecrated wine to go directly into the ground. Some of the consecrated Bread and Wine is reserved for the sick and those who are unable to come to church. It is kept in the Ambry, or cabinet.


We also take Consecrated Bread to the sick and shut-in members of our congregation so that they might share with us in Holy Communion. Since they cannot come to Church, we take Church to them. And please let us know when circumstances are such that you would like us to bring communion to you.

DEACON: It is almost time for us to go, but we should not leave before we say together the prayer of thanksgiving. After this, the priest will give us God's blessing.


MUSIC: We now prepare leave. The procession leads us out into the world around us so that we may do the work that God has called us to do, wherever we may be: in our homes, in our schools, in our work and in our play. We have been fed with spiritual Food. God has given us the strength to live our lives as faithful followers of Christ.


DEACON: We have concluded the Eucharist where we began, in the midst of life, in a world where there is suffering and need. But we are centered, as Christ was, in a life to be lived and shared. The Eucharist is the work of the people of God together. It is not a service confined to Sunday morning. Rather, it is a way of life. It is the essence of life itself.

The word “mass” comes from the Latin word for dismissal. We are not allowed to linger; we are called to get back out into the world and do the work we are given to do.

NARRATOR I: Finally, the Deacon will send us forth to do the work that God has called us to do, and we all respond by saying with gusto: “Thanks be to God.”


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Join us Wednesday for an instructed Eucharist

Tomorrow April 8 will be our final class in this exploration of the Book of Common Prayer. I will be offering an instructed Eucharist at noon and again at 7 pm. We will go step-by-step through our Eucharist and hopefully pull together all we have talked about these past few weeks. I will post the script on this site later in the evening. Blessings to all.

New Eucharistic prayers

Last week we looked at the new Eucharistic prayers from Enriching Our Worship. See what you think. Here is No. 3:

Eucharistic Prayer 3 from Enriching our Worship

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

All thanks and praise are yours at all times and in all places, our true and loving God; through Jesus Christ, your eternal Word, the Wisdom from on high by whom you created all things. You laid the foundations of the world and enclosed the sea when it burst out from the womb; you brought forth all creatures of the earth and gave breath to humankind. Wondrous are you, Holy One of Blessing, all you create is a sign of hope for our journey; and so as the morning stars sing your praises we join the heavenly beings and all creation as we shout for joy:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Glory and honor are yours, Creator of all, your Word has never been silent; you call a people to yourself, as a light to the nations, you delivered them from bondage and led them to a land of promise. Of your grace, you have Jesus to be human, to share our life, to proclaim the coming of your reign and give himself for us, a fragrant offering. Through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, you have freed us from sin, brought us into your life, reconciled us to you, and restored us to the glory you intend for us.

We thank you that on the night before he died for us Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, gave to his friends and said: “Take, eat, this is my Body, broken for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper Jesus took the cup of wine, said the blessing, gave it to his friends and said: “Drink this, all of you: this cup is the New Covenant in my Blood, poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

And so remembering all that was done for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and ascension, longing for Christ’s coming in glory, and presenting to you these gifts your earth has formed and human hands have made, we acclaim you, O Christ:

Dying, you destroyed our death.
Rising, you restored our life.
Christ Jesus, come in glory!

Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts of bread and wine that they may be to us the Body and Blood of your Christ. Grant that we, burning with your Spirit’s power, may be a people of hope, justice, and love. Giver of Life, draw us together in the Body of Christ, and in the fullness of time gather us with [blessed , and] all your people into the joy of our true eternal home.

Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, we worship you our God and Creator in voices of unending praise.
Blessed are you now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is liturgy? Bringing what happened alive now

I came across this gem today from Barbara Crafton, who is an Episcopal priest working in Florence, Italy. She says our liturgy is an act of remembering, and remembering in a certain way:
In fact, all liturgy is just that: the recapturing of something that once happened, bringing it alive again and amplifying its meaning in the present moment, where we are now. The endless debate about "what's really happening" in a sacrament is fruitless, by and large: they are not rational occurrences, and they cannot be reduced to reasonable explanation. It is one of the saddest parts of being rational beings, this sterile insistence of ours that everything make sense, our grumpy suspicion of mystery. It cuts us off at the knees. Human beings are more than brains with legs. We are hearts, too. Many things can reach us, through many doors other than the door of our understanding. We owe it to ourselves to open all the doors, and throw open a few windows, too, while we're at it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tip on lectionaries

I spent a bunch of time in our course explaining the complicated lectionaries in the back of the prayer book. Here is a tip for the web savvy: Look at the right side of this page. You will find links to on-line lectionaries that will save you the trouble of divining the charts in the prayer book.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Surrounding Eucharist with Prayer: The Daily Office

The flowering of Christian spirituality and its echoes in our prayer book

Most of our church history is Medieval history. We cannot escape it – it is a single era that lasted more than 1,000 years in our collective memory as Christians. While much of that history is ugly – the Crusades against Muslims and Jews for example – there was considerable development of Christian spirituality and mysticism in those centuries. The incubators for Christian spirituality were the monasteries and convents of Europe.

The Rule of St. Benedict is the model upon which all monastic orders and structured, and Benedict had a cycle of work and prayer. The monks and nuns prayed the “offices” or “hours” each day, in three hour increments. We still live in the echo of their prayers.

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, author and editor of the first two BCPs (1549 and 1552) retained the monastic offices, hoping that regular Christians would adopt the monastic practice in their daily lives. But to make this practical, he simplified this into two offices, Evening Prayer and Morning Prayer. And he took it out of Latin and put it into English.

However, by the 19th century, Morning Prayer had become the primary worship on Sunday, with Communion occasionally celebrated once a month or maybe once a year. That was far from Cranmer’s intention, nor the practice of the Early Church. If you recall, Cranmer wrote his prayer books with the idea of elevating the Eucharist as a weekly celebration for all the faithful (and not just for the clergy). Cranmer’s idea was that the prayers of the offices would lead to the Eucharist.

The offices are by definition not Sunday worship.

1979 Prayer book offices

The 1979 prayer book brought Communion back as the centerpiece of our worship, and it returned the monastic offices to their classic place in a life of prayer.

Morning Prayer (Rite I p 31, Rite II p. 75) and Evening Prayer (Rite I p. 61, Rite II p. 115) should be seen as part of a daily practice of prayers and scriptural readings leading up to the full celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday. The idea of MP and EP, joined by noonday prayers and Compline, is that these offices provide a daily rhythm of prayer through the week. Sunday’s worship of the Eucharist therefore becomes the weekly celebration of the Resurrection (a mini-Easter) and it is surrounded through the week by the prayers of the offices.

The 1979 book sought to return to that rhythm of prayer, and to enhance the rhythm, added additional offices: Noonday prayers (p.103), and Compline (p. 127), or night prayers.

The 1979 book also added a calendar, or lectionary, of biblical readings in a two-year cycle, seven days a week, to go with the MP and EP (p. 934-1001); the idea was to enrich the meaning of the offices and give them their proper place as the prelude and postlude to the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. The daily office lectionary is listed as Year One and Year Two, not be confused with the eucharistic years A, B and C.

You will notice that the shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer is used in the noon prayers and Compline.

Morning and Evening Prayer are really quite simple, beginning with salutations, prayers, and a psalm. One of my liturgics professors once noted all that is really needed to make it Morning or Evening Prayer is a candle and a psalm.

The Eucharist, by definition, is done in community, not individually. But Morning and Evening Prayer can be practiced individually, in private or silent prayer.

Let’s walk through the offices:

Morning Prayer

There is a formula to Morning and Evening Prayer, which you can follow or shorten. Instructions for the formula can be found on p. 934.

Morning Prayer Rite II: Begins with the invitatory, p. 80. It can also begin with opening sentences for the season, beginning on p. 75, and confession p. 79. Note the absolution on p. 80 can be changed from “you” to “us.”

Then it moves to the one of the invitatories on p. 82, followed by the the psalms. The psalms assigned to the day are in the lectionary.

Then to the assigned biblical readings. The assigned readings for each day begin on p. 936, following the church calendar. Please note that the left page is for Morning Prayer, the right page for Evening Prayer. This lectionary goes in a two-year cycle, and this is NOT the same lectionary as the Eucharistic lectionary which is in a three-year cycle (and the readings seldom, if ever, overlap).

Between each reading is another canticle, look the chart of pps. 144-145 to see the canticles for each day of the week. Hymns can be substituted.

It is also common to do the first two readings as Morning Prayer, and the gospel reading as the only reading for Evening Prayer. In that case, the canticles of Evening Prayer (p. 145) would be done before and after the single gospel reading.

Note: There is no sermon after the readings. This is prayer, and the readings are for meditation. Not quite the same thing as our concept of amnesis, or remembering with the Eucharist. As you meditate upon a specific reading, consider how that reading reflects the presence of the holy; where is the prayer in it? We call this practice of personal reflection on Scripture: Lectio Divina.

After the readings comes the Apostles Creed (remember baptism here), the Lord’s Prayer, and then a series of “suffrages” or responsory prayers. The Lord’s Prayer can be done in 19th century language or 1970s language. If you are doing Morning Prayer daily it can be refreshing to alternate between the forms of the Lord’s Prayer and the suffrages.

Following the sufferages is the Collect of the Day, which if it is not a saint or special day, would be the collect from the previous Sunday (Sunday collects begin on p. 211), followed by more prayers on pps. 99-101. Note the rubric allowing for the free offering of prayers, or intercessions.

The Office ends with either The General Thanksgiving on p. 101, or wrapping all of our prayers together in “A Prayer of St. Chrysostom.” Then a word of blessing (though it is not a blessing) and a benediction (not a dismissal).

Evening Prayer

Begin on p. 109 – this is an optional “Order of Worship for the Evening.” You can do this as its own office, and leave it as a shortened version of Evening Prayer. Or you can use this as the introduction to Evening Prayer.

When using the Order of Worship for the Evening, it is appropriate to begin in dim light with no candles lit. After moving through the first series of prayers, go to p. 112. It is appropriate here to light the candles while reciting “O Gracious Light.” You may also substitute Hymn 25 which is easy to sing a cappella. The service can end here, or move into Evening Prayer p. 115.

It is appropriate to begin Evening Prayer (or Morning Prayer) in Lent with the Confession on p. 116. You may omit this at other times, and begin with the Invitatory on p. 117.

Similar to Morning Prayer, this office then moves into the assigned psalm for the evening, and then the canticles. After the first canticle comes the first reading, and so on.

One difference here from MP: You can use one or both of the canticles on pps. 119-120 (The Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis) or you can use the canticles listed on the chart on p. 145 (which are often the same). Essentially, Evening Prayer is to be simpler.

If you are only hearing the gospel reading, then do a canticle before and another after the reading (surrounding it with canticles). And, again, there is no sermon. This is prayer, not eucharistic remembering (amnesis).

Next is the Apostles Creed, p. 120, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the suffrages on p. 121.

In Anglican tradition, the suffrages are sometimes chanted, called “Evensong.”

Collects and final prayers end the evening office.


Compline ( p. 127) is an English word, with roots from the Latin completorium which means, as the word suggests, completion of the day. It harkens to the earliest of the Benedictian offices.

Compline is a series of prayers and antiphons. It is simple, and based primarily on the Song of Simeon from the Gospel of Luke. The theological idea is that as we go into the darkness of night the light of God will still shine (see Psalm 139 – darkness and light are both alike). Compline can be prayed by a group or used as individual contemplative prayer.

Compline begins with Confession p. 127, then moves into psalms. There are four psalms available on pps. 128-131 (you don’t need to look anything up), and you can alternate from night to night which psalm you can do.

There are no lectionary readings for Compline, but there are four short passages of Scripture on pps. 131-132 to select from, and again, you can alternate.

This is a contemplative service; sermons and commentaries are not appropriate.

Verses-responses on p. 132, then the office moves into the Lord’s Prayer (note the shorter ending), followed by collects. It is appropriate for all of those prayers to move seamlessly together without pause.

Intercessory prayers on p. 134, followed by the antiphons of the Song of Simeon.

Individual prayers

Beginning on p. 136 are short versions of the Daily Office convenient for use by individuals or in a family or small group setting. They are self-explanatory.

Holy Week

Let’s have a look at the special services for Holy Week.

Note on p. 264 begins a series of “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” beginning with Ash Wednesday and then moving to Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week (please note: the week before Easter is NOT Easter week – it is Holy Week, the week of the Passion).

A major goal of the 1979 book was to restore the integrity of the three days of Easter, or Easter “Triduum” which begins on the night of Maundy Thursday and is completed on Saturday night and the Great Vigil of Easter. The First Sunday of Easter follows in the morning.

Notice something: We are moving with the Hebrew calendar, where the day begins at sundown. The three days of Easter are therefore starting Thursday night and finishing Saturday night.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, p. 274, marks the night of the Last Supper, and uses John’s version where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Jesus is truly lowering himself to their feet. Being the Last Supper, it is the last time we celebrate the Eucharist before the Resurrection of Easter, so it is appropriate to strip the Altar. It is also appropriate reserve consecrated bread for use on Good Friday. The reserved Sacrament is usually kept in a place of reverence, and in many churches people will hold an all-night vigil in the “place of repose” of the reserved sacrament.

Good Friday

The day of crucifixion is marked by a series solemn collects and anthems beginning on p. 276. It is not appropriate to celebrate the Eucharist on Good Friday, but we are still in an act of remembering, so it is appropriate to distribute the reserved Sacrament from the place of repose.

The gospel maintains that Jesus hung on the Cross for three hours beginning at noon, so many churches hold a three hour vigil beginning at noon and concluding with the Collects.

Holy Saturday

This is the most neglected of the three days – the day Jesus descends to the dead, or into Hell, to open the gates and free sinners. Without Holy Saturday, the Resurrection doesn’t include us. With Holy Saturday, Jesus goes to the grave and takes us with him.

The 1979 prayer book restored Holy Saturday’s rightful place in the Triduum, p. 283, but unfortunately removed the Collect written by Cranmer for that day and substituted a new prayer that emphasized rest and sabbath on Saturday. The old collect was moved to Burial Rite I, and shortened, on p. 480. The key words of the original collect say the purpose of Holy Saturday: “through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection.”

Great Vigil of Easter

This is the grandest most oppulant service of the year. See the instructions on p. 284. It begins in darkness with the lighting of a fire, and from the fire a new paschal candle is lit. The procession moves into the church with chants, and then commences a lengthy series of Old Testament readings telling of God’s creation and Covenant with the people; the readings are done in the darkness.

The prayer book foresees a sermon preached in the darkness after the Old Testament, or in the light after the gospel and the declaration of Easter. I’ve experienced both ways and prefer the second.

The lights come on for the declaration of Easter and the Gospel. It is appropriate to have baptisms and confirmations (when the bishop is present), and then the first Eucharist of Easter. The Great Vigil of Easter is designed to be over the top just as the Resurrection is over the top. I hope you come!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update on what we do when

As this class has moved along, I've discovered I need to change the order of how I present the themes on the prayer book. So the order of topics has changed from the course outline I gave at the beginning of this course, and posted below on this blog. Here's how the remainder of the course will look.

March 25 - We will look at the Offices (Morning, Evening and Noonday Prayer and Compline) and how the offices fit with our Sunday worship. We will also look at how to use the prayer book in daily individual devotion.

April 8 - We will look at the newer Eucharistic prayers in "Enriching Our Worship" and we will look at eucharistic prayers from other churches in the Anglican Communion.

April 9 - Instructed Eucharist, which will hopefully pull together most of what we have discussed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Eucharist: A Window into the Holy

We are going to talk about sacraments as we understand them in the Episcopal Church and in most mainline churches. I start with a disclaimer – it is this passage from Paul:

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

The disclaimer is this: We understand this, at best, only dimly. All of the arguments over the centuries about the meaning and efficacy of sacraments really should start there: We see this only dimly. We get it, but only partially. Notice though, Paul says this has something to do with love. We are called to see all this through the lens love. Hold that thought So let’s get started:

The basic definition of a sacrament:

An outward sign of an inward grace.

We are physical, material beings. We understand things physically. We need to touch things. God gets that, and shows his actions physically for us. The church word is incarnational. The ultimate act of incarnation is God come to earth as fully human in the person of Jesus. God continues to be with us incarnationally through the sacraments.

Again, to keep this simple: The sacraments should be thought of as windows to the Holy, as tangible, physical places to touch God. The sacraments can get overly complicated, but really that is their purpose – as gifts from God allowing us to touch God.

The sacraments are not magic acts; they are ways for us to live fully into the life of grace.

The sacraments, as they have been long recognized by the church are:

Holy orders, or ordination
Reconciliation, or confession
Unction, or anointing the healing
Eucharist, or Holy Communion

The Episcopal Church has its roots in the English Reformation, as does the Methodist Church. And from our roots, we consider two sacraments to be the most important, to be the sacraments from which all else flows, and it is those two sacraments I am going to focus on: Baptism and Eucharist.

The other sacraments are optional for leading a Christian life. Baptism and Eucharist are not optional to live into the fullness of being a Christian.

Last week we looked in depth at baptism; this week we look at Eucharist:


1 Corinthians 12: 12-14
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Eucharist is an outward extension of our baptism. You will notice in that passage from Paul, one seems to flow from the other, Being washed in baptism into drinking from the Spirit. Does this sound mystical? You bet it is.

In our baptismal covenant, we pledge to share in the bread and wine of Eucharist.

The word “Eucharist” is Greek for “Thanksgiving.” It is also known as “Communion” or Holy Communion. It is the ritual meal we share remembering the Last Supper.

Some churches use only real bread and real wine, while others use a cracker and grape juice, while others use a combination of those items. The early church used bread wine, cheese, milk and olives, fish, and whatever other foods people brought.

By whatever words you call it, and by whatever food you use, that is what I am talking about now. And like the argument over how much water makes a baptism, let me suggest that arguments over whether to use wheat bread or grape juice also miss the point of the Eucharist. So let us go a little more deeply into this…

To really understand the Eucharist, we have to get really, really basic again. We start with a meal, but not just any kind of meal.

To get this, I want to start by reaching far, far back to a time before Jesus, to a time before Moses, to a time before the Bible, to a time before the written word. Long ago, tens of thousands of years ago, I think people would sit around the campfire, and share a meal, and they would tell stories.

They would tell the OLD stories of people long ago and how God had saved them despite the odds. They told the old stories and by telling them, the old stories came alive for them, and the old stories became their stories, too. The ancient people didn’t listen for entertainment, they listened to remember the stories because the stories were about them.

Think about it: What are we doing in church. We are sitting around the campfire – the candles – and we are hearing the old stories – the Bible – and we are making those stories our own story. We are remembering in the same way the ancients remembered the stories of salvation of old.

We don’t read the Bible in church to worship the bible, We read the stories to make the stories of God’s saving grace our story. That is the point of a sermon, by the way – to help illuminate the old stories – to make the stories come alive.

This way of remembering is underneath everything about the Eucharist. This way of remembering, in fact, is a gift we get from the Hebrews. The Jewish way of remembering is not just a mere recitation of old facts to be filed away. Rather, this kind of remembering – this Jewish way of remembering – has everything to do with our Eucharist.

For Christians, the ultimate story is the story of Jesus going to the Cross, dying, and then coming back to life among his disciples – the Resurrection -- Easter. We tell that story in our Eucharist and we sit at the table at the Last Supper by our remembering at the Eucharist. It is not just any ole’ meal; it is the meal before the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the meal of Easter.

Our Eucharistic prayers are generally based on the version of the Last Supper found in Luke, and whomever the writer of Luke may have been, he or she was a follower of Paul (and yes there is a theory that Luke was written by a woman, a topic for another time). Let’s look at Luke’s version of the Last Supper:

Luke 22: 14-20
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Jesus uses the word remembering and he means it in this very Jewish way that I’ve been using the word. And by remembering it the way we do, in our Eucharist, the story of Easter becomes our story.

By our remembering, the Resurrection of Jesus becomes ours. That is why the Eucharist is the cornerstone and the culmination of our worship on Sunday. Every Sunday is a remembering of Easter, and we become Easter people again and again by remembering Easter every Sunday through our Eucharist of bread and wine, shared again and again.

Think of the Eucharist as a window that opens, if only for a few moments, a way for you to touch these ancient events and make them your own. Recall I said earlier that the sacraments are incarnational? That we pray with our whole being? Well, in the Eucharist we are remembering with our whole being, we are remembering in an incarnational way – through the words of the ancient story, and through the sight and smell and taste of the bread and wine. We remember with our whole physical being. We become part of the story through our remembering.

When we come to share the bread and wine of communion, we are not just consuming as individuals, we are also sharing in this remembering meal with each other. We share it with everyone who joins us in church; and we share in the meal with everyone in every church on that particular day. That is the meaning of communion – to be in community with all the faithful.

And guess what? We are sharing in this meal not just with each other, but with everyone who came before us and everyone who will come after us. Let me say that again: It isn’t just a handful of people in this room today, but everyone who ever has been is at the table with us, and everyone who is to come.

The Eucharist is a sign of how profoundly interconnected we are. Everyone we love who is no longer physically with us is at the table in our Eucharist. We are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses” every time we come to the Table.

We say that God’s kingdom is here now but not yet fully here. The Eucharist is a sign of that. We get a taste of the Kingdom in our Eucharist, and sure sign of the heavenly banquet yet to come. Some say the Eucharist is an appetizer of the banquet; I think the word “appetizer” sounds a bit trivial, but you get the idea.

And this gets more interesting. Go with me a little further:

Thomas Aquinas, the great Medieval scholar and saint, put it this way: Aquinas said we are not souls inside of a body, but bodies inside of a soul. We are not souls inside of a body, but bodies inside of a soul. Our souls extend beyond ourselves and they are connected to each other and to everything in the universe.

So when we share this Eucharist, we share it with all creation and we share in a tangible way the fact that we are interconnected.

We are remembering not just any meal; we are remembering the Last Supper before the death of Jesus Christ – we are recalling the terrible suffering of Jesus. We are remembering the pain humans inflicted upon God, and we are remembering that we are all connected to each other through that pain.

So go another step with me. The Eucharist brings not just food for our own journey of life, but a challenge as well. We share in the pain of the world, the hunger of the world, and we are challenged to do something with that. The world’s hunger becomes our hunger through the Eucharist.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori puts it this way, “God’s body is pained and when we get that we might understand how to bless the whole world.”

Much blood has been spilled over the centuries by Christians fighting other Christians about what happens in the Eucharist – is the bread chemically changed into Jesus or is it a mere symbol. All of those arguments miss the point.

Richard Hooker, the great reformer of the English Church in the 15th Century explained that the point of the Eucharist is NOT how the bread and wine is changed; the point is how WE are changed by sharing in the bread and wine. And as we are changed, we can be the hands and feet and heart of God blessing the world.

Basic structure of Eucharistic prayers

Look up Eucharistic prayer A p. 361

Eucharistic prayers all follow roughly the formula of remembering that the first eucharistic prayers of the early church with much variation. The eucharistic prayers, to be eucharistic prayers, contain:

Table Grace – “The Lord be with you” – and an acclamation of God’s glory and our faith in it – “Lift up your hearts…” It is a way of thanking God and bringing us to the Table, making us a part of what comes next. It is based on a Jewish table grace; it is typical of the oldest known Jewish table blessings which were dialogues like this one. Think of the Eucharist as your entry into the Jewish Shabbat, the Day of Sabbath. That is how this is intended.

Amnesis – The general remembering of God’s creative acts, our part in it, our falling away from God, and Jesus’ coming to save us. This remembering is also specific by putting us at the table at the Lord’s last supper with his disciples. We are there at the table as disclipes.

Epeclesis – The blessing of the bread of wine, or “words of institution” where the priest asks Jesus through the Holy Spirit to be with us in the bread and wine – “sanctify this bread…” Notice also in Prayer A the priest says “sanctify us also…” – we ask Jesus to be in us to make us holy. As we go on, you may notice some Eucharistic prayers have a weak epiclesis, or none at all (some of the African Anglican prayers have none).

Please note a few wrinkles in all of the Eucharistic prayers: Each Eucharistic prayer (except C) contains a blank space for what is called the “Preface.” The preface is inserted after the first responses, and changes by the season or special occasion (baptism, marriage, death etc.). Look at p. 377-382 for the prefaces.

Now let’s look at each of the eucharistic prayers in the 1979 book:

Rite I – The older Elizabethan language

The Rite I Eucharistic Prayer begins on p. 323. The opening salutation is more elaborate than Rite II, and it contains the Jewish shema, on p. 324 (which I rather like). The eucharistic prayers begin on p. 333. Eucharistic Prayer I is longer, wordy, and the emphasis at the end is on our “manifold sins.”

Eucharistic Prayer II is shorter, a bit more to the point, and echoes Prayer B in Rite II. There is no mention of “manifold sins.” This prayer emphasizes that “the whole church may be made one body with him.” The nuance is a bit more the church as corporate and not just composed of individuals; The word “testament” is replaced with “covenant.”

Note that both have the “Prayer of Humble Access” on p. 337, where we again declare we are sinful. This is generally done in Lent.

Rite II – Contemporary (for the 1970s) language

Begins on BCP p. 355. There are four distinct prayers in Rite II:

Prayer A, p. 361, is the briefest and most to the point; it is written as a contemporary and succinct version of Prayer I. The emphasis in Prayer A is “the mystery of faith.”

Prayer B, p. 367, contains language including prayers for saints, and the emphasis is more on the church and the people of God in this together, as in Prayer II. The language about saints is meant to expand our understanding of our communion to include all those at the Table including those who have died. The prayer is the closest to the Prayer of Hippolytus, and was written primarily by the Rev. Frank Griswold, who later became Bishop of Chicago and then Presiding Bishop of the United States.

Prayer C, p. 369, which was written especially for the 1979 book by Capt. Howard E. Galley, emphasizes God’s creation and uses a call-and-response similar to Eastern churches. Prayer C has no preface. It also has the epicelesis in the wrong place.

Prayer D, p. 372, the longest, is an adaptation of an Eastern Orthodox rite dating from the time of Basil the Great (d. 379); and the emphasis is on service. This prayer is also authorized for use in the Roman Catholic Church, hence it is the most widely used eucharistic prayer in Christianity. Eucharistic Prayer D, on p. 375, contains spaces to include the Prayers of the People in the middle of the Eucharistic prayer (so you would not do the Prayers of the People in the ordinary place in the service if doing Prayer D).

Please also notice that Rite II contains two versions of the Lord’s Prayer, p. 364, the more traditional “Our father, who art in heaven,” and the newer “Our father in heaven…”

In truth, neither is completely true to the original Greek (the newer version is closer), but we can save those issues for another time. The argument can be made that we ought to be doing a Rite II Lord’s Prayer with Rite II, and Rite I Lord’s Prayer with Rite I. But the drafters of the 1979 BCP bowed to the reality that for some people the Lord’s prayer was not the Lord’s unless the Father “art in heaven.”

A deeper question than style should be why the Lord’s prayer is in this place in the Eucharistic prayer. Remember I mentioned to you that the Lord’s prayer in the Early Church was used most frequently as an exorcism prayer. It’s placement here in the Eucharist is, arguably, to ward evil away for just a little while, long enough for us to share in the bread and wine of our Communion meal before the realities of the world come rushing back at us.

The Lord’s prayer, as it is repeated in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, do not contain the final benediction “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours…” Those words come from 1 Chronicles. The Lord’s Prayer really ends with “deliver us from evil.” Period. And that emphasizes its purpose here in the Eucharist.

You will find the Lord’s Prayer that way with the shorter ending in some of the “offices,” and it is to those places we now turn…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We meet again Wednesday

Tomorrow we will explore the Eucharist in depth, and the meaning of its remembering and blessing. We will look at all six eucharistic prayers in the Book of Common Prayer, and I have at least one spooky surprise for you! We will also talk about how Morning and Evening Prayer are integrated into our rhythm of Eucharist. See you at noon and 7 pm, with notes to follow on this blog in the evening. Before we meet, please read the following three passages from Scripture:

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Luke 22: 14-20
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Walking through the 1979 Book of Common Prayer

I hope you will never hear from me any such phrase as our ‘excellent or incomparable Liturgy’ … I do not think we are to praise the Liturgy, but to use it.”

Frederick Denison Maurice

“There have been at least two major attempts within the Anglican Church to restore the quality of life which characterized the church at the beginning. One took place in the sixteenth century. One is taking place in our own time.”

Charles Price and Louis Weil, Liturgy for Living, 1979

“Liturgy celebrates the mystery that is God. This is the fundamental truth on which the celebration of all the Church’s rites depends… Other forms of prayer exist as devotional aids, but only in common liturgical worship can the People of God respond to the command, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ ”
Dennis G. Michno, A Priest’s Handbook, 1998


Today/tonight we walk through our current Book of Common Prayer, adopted for use by General Convention in 1979 after more than a decade of experiment and drafts. When I was a teenager, we had in church what became nicknamed the “zebra books” because the books had stripes on the covers. They were the drafts of the various forms of the “new” prayer book.

When the new book came into use, it felt odd, strange, to many who were accustomed to the graceful poetry of the 1928 prayer book, even if many of us didn’t quite understand the words. It was a hard start for the new book, and a number of congregations broke away from the Episcopal Church (sound familiar?).

The story here at St. Paul’s is that a parishioner chained his 1928 book to his pew rack. The book was buried with him. I’ve think that it would have been nice to preserve the chained prayer book as a reminder that not everyone likes the changes we bring and that somehow we need to live together despite our differences.

So let’s get into the book. How? We could go chapter by chapter, page by page. But that might be a bit dull, and not very illuminating. Let me propose that we explore some of the larger themes contained in the book, and then go into select sections of the book that illustrate these themes.


The first overarching theme of the 1979 BCP to grasp: It is really two prayer books combined, plus a new appendix of various items meant to assist us in our common life of faith. The 1928 book is 611 pages; the 1979 prayer book is 1,001 pages.

The 1979 book contains: (1) much, but not all, of the contents of the 1928 prayer book and (2) an updated contemporary language prayer book with additional “offices” that were not in the earlier prayer book and (3) an appendix containing psalms, extra prayers, historical documents foundational to the Church; an instructional “Outline of the Faith” in a Q&A format; and calendars showing what biblical lessons to read on Sundays, ordinary weekdays, and saint days.

The inclusion of the 1928 prayer book consists primarily of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Eucharist (two versions), and burial of the dead. Like the 1928 book, it is in Elizabethan English, using words like “thee” and “thou,” and “Holy Ghost.”

The contemporary language prayer book contains Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Eucharist (four versions), and burial of the dead. Added were Compline (night prayers), and newer versions of baptism, confirmation, marriage, celebration of new ministry, and the ordinations of deacons, priests and bishops. Also added were “pastoral offices” that were not in the 1928 book, most notably “Ministration to the sick” and “Ministration at the Time of Death.” There was another huge addition: liturgies for all three days of Easter, particularly an opulent Great Vigil of Easter celebrated on Saturday night before Easter Sunday. We will talk about these liturgies closer to Easter.

On the surface, many of the differences appear to be about language: Look at BCP p. 333:

The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
It is meet and right so to do.
It is very meet, right and our bounden duty…

Now look at BCP p. 361:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to him (God) thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing…

The differences in language are subtle and not just stylistic. For example, Look at BCP p. 66, Rite I, at the Apostles Creed. Jesus descends into Hell in this version (closer to the original), symbolizing that Jesus opens the gates of Hell to free sinners. That language is softened in the contemporary version: BCP page 120, Jesus descends to the dead. Arguably, the 1979 got this one wrong.

A major difference between the 1928 and 1979 books came with baptism, and to that we now turn:


The emphasis of the baptismal rites in earlier prayer books had been around curing human depravity; baptism had become something of a vaccine against it. Culturally, baptism had become “Christening” and was done often in private. What had begun in the early church as an elaborate initiation rite had become what was described by some as “the arid ten words” in the 1928 book.

The 1979 prayer book, while not purporting to fully bring back the elaborate baptismal rites of the Early Church, brought the emphasis of baptism to the gifts of the Spirit and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (and that the Resurrection has something to do with us). Baptism also now includes a challenge to us in how we live out our life in a faith community.

Turn to BCP p. 299, note the opening salutation: “One Lord, One faith, one baptism.”

Those words encapsulate the meaning of baptism: that there is One God, that baptism is once, for all time, and includes the baptized fully into the Christian faith everywhere and forever. The whole thing is right there.

BCP p. 302 – The baptismal examination: Harkens back to the Early Church practice of lengthy preparation and then exorcism before baptism. The idea here is that baptism requires the renouncing evil, and pledging to live a new life. You might say these short words are a pale imitation of the ancient rites. The new rite deemphasizes human sinfulness without completely dispensing with the theology behind it. Human depravity is still there, but baptism moves beyond that by moving into the baptismal covenant.

Baptismal Covenant

BCP pps. 304-306 – This is the heart-and-soul of the baptismal pledge and challenge. First asks us to recite the ancient Apostles Creed, which is the basic baptismal creed, as a statement of the faith. Look at the creed as joining in the same words as the earliest Christians would have said, praying the same prayers, walking with them as symbolic of there being “One Faith, one baptism.” We join with them in their baptism, bringing us in communion with all Christians in all times and places.

The covenant then moves to a pledge on how we will live out our life together in faith. We pledge to love our neighbor as ourselves and to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Those are tough words to live by, and we pledge “I will, with God’s help.” The emphasis is that our living out our baptismal covenant is a gift of the Spirit and we can’t do it without God’s help.

The 1979 prayer book added a new prayer to the baptismal rite: the “Thanksgiving over the Water” BCP p. 306; notice the amenesis – the remembering – that is in the prayer; water is remembered as symbolic of how the oppressed out of bondage “through water” from Egypt, and water is remembered as symbolic of the baptism, death and resurrection of Jesus. The water is a physical outward reminder that we are part of this story.

Finally, the 1979 prayer book included the blessing of the baptized, or “sealing” with Holy Oil. The oil used is blessed by the bishop during Holy Week, and then taken to all of the parishes. The oil is a reminder, again, that it is “one baptism” and we are all connected to each other through our baptism; bishops and their blessings are an outward symbol that we share in this baptism. Holy Oil was used in baptism in the early church, and the baptized were drenched in oil. Now we get only a dab on the forehead.

One of the theological changes brought about by the 1979 prayer book was the realization that baptism represented a full entry into the membership of the Church. From that flowed the idea that baptism was full entry to the Lord’s Table. That shift was huge; previously only the confirmed were allowed to come to Communion. Confirmation was now understood as an adult affirmation of the faith, but it conferred no particular special rights. With the 1979 prayer book, all the baptized were included at the Table, no matter their age. 

Sunday worship

A major reform represented by the 1979 prayer book was to return the Eucharist, or Communion, to being the principal service of Sunday. I will say more on why a little later.

Our Sunday worship can be seen as two liturgies: (1) The Liturgy of the Word (the biblical readings), and (2) The Liturgy of the Table, or the Eucharist.

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer provides six formats for the Eucharist; two are in Rite I, with the Elizabethan-style language. Four more are in contemporary language, called Rite II. All of these prayers, in some manner, are based on the Prayer of Hippolytus in the 3rd century.

The 1979 prayer book also needs to be seen as part of the larger ecumenical liturgical reform movement of the 1960s, arising from Vatican II in the Roman Catholic Church. Eucharist was to be made by the people, not the priest alone, hence the Table was moved to the center of the church. Moving the Table to the center also symbolized the centrality of Eucharist in our walk of faith.

In both Rite I and II, the Sunday service maintains Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s practice of beginning each worship service with a series of gathering prayers, called the “collects.” The word “collect” is an English word that means – wait for it -- collect. The idea is that we collect the common longings of our hearts and souls into a single prayer representing the common prayer of that week.

We start with the “Collect for Purity,” p. 355, “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open…” The prayer is meant to center and focus us for our time of worship together.

Then comes the “Collect of the Day.” Each Sunday has its own collect, and most were written or adapted by Cranmer. The traditional versions, with Cranmerian language, begin on p. 159, or on p. 211 with contemporary language. Note that the first collect is the First Sunday in Advent; that marks the beginning of the church year, and all of the lectionary cycles begin on that Sunday.

The collects bring us to the biblical readings – the Liturgy of the Word. The point of the sermon is to connect the old story – the remembering – to our story. The sermon is not a lecture or a pep talk, but part of our common amnensis.


The 1979 BCP contains another major innovation: calendars for biblical reading throughout the year, beginning on p. 888. The calendar of readings is called “the lectionary,” and each reading is called a “lection.” The 1928 and earlier prayer books had assigned readings for each Sunday, and the readings never varied from year to year.

The 1979 adopted the practice of the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and other churches by assigning biblical lessons to be read in church in a three-year cycle. Each Sunday has its own set of biblical readings; the lectionary is another practice of the early church, and ours parallels the earliest known lectionaries.

The idea of the lectionary was to put the Episcopal church in synch with other churches, hearing the same lessons each Sunday, and to give the faithful more biblical readings than they had ever had before.

An Episcopal lectionary was first used in 1969 and modified several times before adoption into the 1979 book. It was a major innovation at the time, however, the Episcopal lectionary also stood alone among all other churches in the specific assignments for each Sunday. Although many of the readings were the same, or similar, we were still doing our own thing.

The Episcopal Church in 2006 adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, the same as in the Catholic, Lutheran and other churches. The idea here is that we are hearing the same biblical lessons in our church as those in other churches, across denominational lines, giving us a connection with those churches despite our differences.

The Sunday lectionary is marked as Year A, B, or C, and each year emphasizes a particular gospel. We are currently in Year B, the year of Mark. Year A is the year of Matthew, which the early church considered the first-among-equals of the gospels (hence it is also first in the New Testament). Year C is the year of Luke. The Gospel of John is interspersed in all three years.

Following the sermon is the Nicene Creed, written in the 4th century as a loyalty oath for bishops and to solve issues of orthodoxy. Following that are the Prayers of the People, p. 383, an innovation of the 1979 book designed to foster more lay involvement in the leading of the worship.

Thence to The Peace, p. 360, echoing Paul’s admonition that we should not come to the Table for communion until we have forgiven each other and “made peace.” The ancient liturgies ordered people to leave the church and not return until they had done so.

It is to the Eucharist we turn next week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reminder - we meet again Wednesday

Just a quick reminder that our second class meeting is Wednesday at noon and 7 pm. Childcare is provided for the noon meeting, and each class goes about 90 minutes.

Tomorrow we will explore the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and discuss some of the liturgical and theological themes developed in the book. I hope it opens a few windows on the breadth and depth of the book.

I will post on this blog the notes from the class tomorrow evening after about 9 pm EDT.

See you then!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome St. Stephen Episcopal Church

We are delighted to learn that members of St. Stephen Episcopal Church, Oak Harbor, Washington, are joining our class via this blog. St. Stephen, in the Diocese of Olympia, is a congregation remaining loyal to the Episcopal Church after a split with a faction that kept the main church building. We are honored to have you join us here on-line, we pledge to support you in any way we can, and we pray you enjoy many blessings in the years ahead.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Introduction to the Book of Common Prayer

Before we dive into the book, we begin here:

The opposite of amnesia is anamnesis – remembering. That is the theme we will explore throughout this course. Remembering, in a particular way, is the central purpose of the Book of Common Prayer. Marion Hatchett, who has written the definitive commentary (670 pages):

“A person with amnesia has lost identity and purpose. To know who you are, to whom you belong, and where you are headed, you must remember… A Christian is one for whom, through anamnesis, the death resurrection of Jesus Christ is a present reality, and one who has already entered the Kingdom, though it is not yet realized in its fullness.”

That is the purpose of the Book of Common Prayer. To remember; and not just any kind of remembering, but remember as a community living in common.

That makes it more the collection of prayers or a guide to worship, though it is all of that.

Our prayer book contains much Holy Scripture; by some estimates, two-thirds of the book is from the Bible. It is sacred text imbedded in sacred text; and that makes the BCP a document that is alive and breathing, as a vessel of our sacred remembering, and a foundation upon which to form as a beloved community.

We call this liturgy, and the word means “the work of the people.” It is in our work together that our sacred remembering takes place. Those are themes we will explore together, and here is how:

The history of the book.

The earliest Christians had no liturgical books. They used Jewish forms of worship, and adapted, and remodeled those forms for their own use. There are many echoes of Jewish worship in our BCP today, and we will explore those as we go along.

By the second century, as Christianity moved away from Judaism, and as it sought to adapt in language and culture to the larger Roman world, church ordos, or orders, began to be written.

The most important is the Prayer of Hippolytus (215) with its distinctive and familiar call-and-response format at beginning, and its formula for remembering the creation of the Old Testament and how the saving acts of Jesus fit into the Creation story. All of our eucharistic prayers are based on this 3rd century formula.

The Medieval church went through a long history of rise and fall and rising again. It is worthwhile noting that when the Roman Catholic Church was wiped out on the European continent, the surviving liturgical books, or missals, were in England. When Catholicism was replanted in Europe, it was the English or Sarum rite that was brought back to Europe. All Roman Catholic rites are based on the English rites, and so when we reach the English reformation, it is a re-discovery of a very old English way worship. And that is where we now turn.

Bishop Otis Charles, one of the architects of our current prayer book (1979) in an email to me earlier this month, pointed out a principle that is true of all our prayer books through the ages:

“Much of the 1979 BCP is corrective of the 1928 BCP. I suspect that the next revision of the BCP will be corrective of our work. Each generation responds to it's own perceptions of the needs of the Church even as it seeks to express the best extant understanding of the Church and Liturgy.”

Keep that in mind as we walk through this history.

The English Reformation

Henry VIII broke from Rome over his divorce. That had less to do with lust than it had to do with finding a wife who could give him an heir that would not deliver England to Spain. His first wife, Catherine, was Spanish, and the Pope favored absorbing England into this holy of holiest Catholic countries – Spain. So the divorce was refused, the Pope badly miscalculated, and Henry broke with Rome.

Henry’s lawyer in Rome, Thomas Cranmer, was recalled to London and appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury to head the new Church of England. It fell to Cranmer, a scholar of considerable talent, to write a worship book that would unite England into a single church.

At the time of the Reformation there was no single unified book of worship. Local custom and local practice ruled, and the unruly English were not so easily persuaded to use a common prayer book.

You may recall from your history books that a major bone of contention in the Reformation was Luther’s insistence that worship and Scripture should be done in the local language so that people could access for themselves without the control of the Church. The Vatican resisted. Cranmer was much influenced by the Lutheran and Calvinist reformation ideas; in his travels had negotiated with Lutheran princes and saw the Lutheran translations.

Cranmer did more than translate the Latin mass into English. Cranmer borrowed heavily from Martin Luther’s litany and Myles Coverdales’ English translation of the New Testament.

Cranmer did something more revolutionary: His prayer book emphasized that the faithful should regularly receive the Eucharist. By then the Latin mass made no provision for the people to receive communion (only the priests and monks were receiving).

Cranmer also set out the offices, with public baptism, matrimony visitation of the sick. He borrowed from many sources, especially German Lutherans, and he adapted older prayers for the sick into newer prayers for the preparation of receiving communion. He also took much from the theology of John Calvin of Geneva, particularly around the Eucharist.

Processions were banned; the ban was a bow to Calvinistic Protestantism which saw processions as adulation of the saints. The elevation of the host and the manual acts (gestures) were forbidden, again as too Catholic.

The first book was deeply unpopular amongst the faithful who sought a return to processions. There was wide-spread resistance to the weekly celebration of communion; much of the reason had to do with the extra expense for parishes of purchasing bread and wine. There was still considerable loyalty toward the Catholic church, the king’s martial and succession issues notwithstanding.

Cranmer’s rite was called a “counterfeit mass.” A number of English bishops remained loyal to the Vatican, chief among them Stephen Gardiner, who would later become Cranmer’s chief inquisitor.

Cranmer also wrote a stripped down memorial for the dead, removing the more elaborate requiem mass; again, it was in opposition to the Catholic theology of purgatory.

Vestments were banned as too Catholic. Yet Cranmer’s prayer book was seen as too conservative by many continental reformers, particularly the Anabaptists. They would never embrace the book.

Most enduringly, Cranmer simplified the monastic “hours” or “offices.” Where there had a been prayers every three hours in Catholic practice, Cranmer simplified it to Morning and Evening Prayer. He also set a calendar for biblical readings for MP and EP; it is here where he was most successful, and these offices and readings remain in current prayer books. And Cranmer wrote a prayer, or “collect” for each Sunday, and we continue to use those prayers.

Cranmer assumed throughout the book that the people would participate in the worship rather than have worship performed for them. Ironically, that first book, written in 1549, was an abject failure. Riots broke out (stirred up by bishops who saw their power threatened by the new prayer book).

Cranmer revised the book in 1552 in the reign of Edward VI. He rewrote a fuller Eucharist and mended what were seen as flaws in his eucharistic prayers. It was a bigger, fuller book.

Bloody Mary

Edward VI died in 1553, and Mary took the throne. She was the Catholic daughter of Henry’s first wife, and she sought to re-institute Catholicism in England. Cranmer and other bishops were arrested, put on trial by Bishop Gardiner, and Cranmer was burned at the stake in Oxford. Queen Mary won the nickname “Bloody Mary.”

Elizabeth I

Mary soon after died, and Elizabeth took the throne, bringing back Cranmer’s prayer book in 1559. Elizabeth, whose personal piety was Catholic in style, eased up on some of the more austere aspects of Cranmer’s earlier prayer books. Vestments were back in even if purgatory was out. The emphasis on weekly communion also remained.

Elizabeth reached a political settlement that is crucial to our understanding of the importance of the prayer book as a political document. She appointed herself the “supreme governor” of the church, not exactly pope but still in charge. In what became known as the “Elizabethan compromise” she insisted that English churchgoers could believe what they wanted to believe – Catholic or Protestant – but they must worship out of a “common” prayer book, hence the import of the name.

She also got the bishops and Parliament to agree to a statement of religious principles, the “Articles of Religion,” which came to be known as the “39 articles.” The statement was notable by its brevity in comparison to the ponderous and windy “confessions” in the Protestant continental Europe. The 39 articles are to be found p. 867 of the American prayer book. One notable item: Article XX which limits the authority of the Church to dictate doctrine or interpretation of Scripture. The authority of the church was limited primarily to the practice of worship (p. 871).

English Civil War

The Elizabethan compromise collapsed in the reign of Charles I. England was polarized between the Puritan protestants and the royalist Anglicans. The English Civil War erupted in 1640, and the Book of Common Prayer of Elizabeth’s time was banned.

The war eventually ended, and monarchy restored in 1660; the prayer book came back in 1662. There were some 600 changes from the 1559 book, mostly minor. Manual acts were back, and the people got to say “Amen” at the end of the eucharistic prayer. Kneeling, banned in the Puritan era, was allowed again, with a specific rubric stating that it was not for the “adoration” of the eucharistic elements.

The 1662 version remains the official prayer book of the English church to this day. You might say that the English were loath to change it, fearing civil war lurked behind any change. That anxiety may help explain our own difficulties in embracing change to the book; other churches more easily change their “Book of Worship” because their books do not contain the baggage of civil wars and Bloody Mary.

The American Church

Remember the idea from Bishop Charles that each generation must fix the problems of the last in their prayer book? The Americans had a doozy of a problem. They chose order over innovation.

With the end of the American Revolution, the Church separated from England in 1789. The nation’s founders wished to retain their English form of worship, but the prayer book posed problems, for example, the prayers for the king and the oaths of allegiance by the priests to the English monarchy.

The new American prayer book of 1789 declared the changes would be small. The preface stated: “this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline or worship… further than local circumstances require.”

The Americans did add elements of the eucharistic prayer from the Scottish prayer book, an epiclesis, or blessing, of the elements. The first American bishop, Samuel Seabury, was consecrated a bishop by the “non-juring” bishops of Scotland when the bishops in London refused. In 1688, James II fled, and William of Orange became king. William was a Calvinist, and a group of bishops refused to validate his monarchy, and had fled to Scotland. The Anglican bishops in Presbyterian Scotland were known as “bookies” for their adherence to the English-style prayer book.

By the 1770s some of the “non-juring” successor bishops had made it back into the Church of England, hence the consecration of Seabury was valid in a round-about sort of way.

The Scottish bishops had consecrated Seabury, and they insisted the Americans adopt a prayer book that was, if not more Catholic, less Protestant. Seabury himself was against the new American prayer book but his objections were overridden.

The new American prayer book added some prayers from popular sources, including Jeremy Taylor’s “Holy Living and Holy Dying,” and Bishop Edmund Gibson’s “Family Devotions.”

The American prayer book was revised in 1892 and in 1928. Various proposals rejected in 1892 were adopted in the 1928 book.

In the years after World War I there arose a “liturgical movement” with an explosion of scholarship into early church worship practices and theology. The result was the 1928 book, but broader reforms were rejected.

By 1958, General Convention agreed that a major revision of the prayer book was in order. It took another 20 years. Again, as Bishop Charles points out, the work of the new prayer book was to correct the old so that it would be relevant to a new generation.

Vatican II

Liturgical reform came full circle. In 1963, Pope John XXIII convened the Vatican II council. In effect, he declared that it was time to end the Reformation fights and modernize the church. Theologians and liturgical scholars from around the world convened, and the impact was far reaching beyond the Roman Catholic church. The scholarship around early church worship reached full blossom, with a momentum to finally dispense with as much of the medieval barnacles as possible.

Vatican II caught up to the Reformation with scriptures and worship forms in local languages, and then moved a good deal past the Protestant world. Vatican II took seriously that liturgy is the “work of the people” and moved the altar out and had the priest face the congregation.

Other churches took note. The impact on the American Episcopal Church was enormous. Our next prayer book, adopted in 1979, probably would not have been possible without the Vatican II reforms in the Roman Catholic Church.

The new prayer book – the one we use today – retained most of the forms of the 1928 prayer book but then added alongside the older forms contemporary language. You’ll find the older forms in what now was called Rite One, in Morning and Evening Prayer, the Eucharist and the burial office. The traditional collects remained.

The 1979 book added the same rites and collects in contemporary English, and that was called Rite II. The prayer book brought back the early church liturgies of Holy Week and the three days of Easter. Historical documents were added in the back of the book.

Next week we will walk through the 1979 prayer book.

Besides language, the 1979 book brought one major reform: bringing the Eucharist out from the back wall and into the assembly of the people. We will talk more about importance and symbolism of that another day.