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.

Outline of our course

March 4

Introduction: The purpose and history of the Book


March 11

What’s inside: the offices, psalms, rubrics, special services, historical documents of the church, calendars and more.


March 18

Praying daily life with the Book of Common Prayer, bringing it alive for our age


March 25

The supplemental prayer books of the Episcopal Church

Other prayer books in the Anglican Communion


April 1

The Sacraments: What are they, how and why celebrate we celebrate


April 8

Instructed Eucharist

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Treasures for Life: Exploring the Book of Common Prayer

Join us each Wednesday at noon or at 7 pm in Lent as we explore the Book of Common Prayer. Did you know that it is more than a Sunday worship book? Our prayerbook holds treasurers for living every day of the week and every time of the day. And embedded in the history of the book is the foundation for a church with a broad range of theological beliefs and practices. Come learn about this amazing resource for living.