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Archive for October, 2010

Some thoughts about the daily office by Bishop Anthony Burton:

Prayer is a participation in the priestly ministry of Christ and is not a consequence of some external rule but springs from the very nature of our vocation as Christians. It is not the preserve of the clergy but is a vocation common to clergy and laity alike.  This is a Biblical teaching which the Reformers understood well: it underlies Cranmer’s insistence that the daily work of prayer be taken out of the monastery and placed in the parish church.

Its daily character also underscores this high view of the priesthood of all believers. Time itself is ordered, sanctified and offered through Christ to the Father.  Hooker had this to say:

“Now as nature bringeth forth time with motion, so we by motion have learned how to divide time, and by the smaller parts of time both to measure the greater and to know how long all things else endure.” (Laws, V, lxix.2)The whole Prayer Book is designed to enable the laity to fulfil their priestly vocation of prayer: the responses are to be returned by the people and not by the choir only; the prayers are generally short and contain one thought; they are in a language that all can understand; the laity are exhorted to receive their communion; the rubrics demand audibility and visible ceremonial…

and this:

The offices of the Prayer Book proceed from the belief that baptism issues in a vocation to pray in two ways. As a member of the Church, the body of Christ, we are to pray the prayers of the whole Church, publicly if possible, otherwise privately.

We are not members of the Body only at “The Gathering of the Community”. As an individual Christians, we should also have a domestic prayer life, which pertains to the particular needs and circumstances of our life as individuals and, if we have one, as part of a family. No amount of extemporary petition, barked from the back of the Church on Sundays can substitute for this. The distinction between public and private is a problem for the modern world generally. The Prayer Book tradition can help us recover the distinction.

The Prayer Book as a system of spiritual discipline is invaluable in helping us to grow to maturity in Christ. It continually reminds us that the good of the Kingdom of Heaven lies not in the devices and desires of our own hearts but in living in and by the Word of God. And it helps us to grow in community in the Body of Christ by enabling us to pray and adore in the Gospel in common.

Charles Simeon wrote that “The finest sight short of heaven would be a whole congregation using the prayers of the liturgy in the true spirit of them.” The recovery of that spirit has never been needed more than today, and yet if conferences like these are any indication, we have reason to hope that the golden age of Anglican spirituality lies not in the past but in, God willing, His the future.

Read it all here.

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From Bishop Alan Wildson in Book of Common Prayer (Part 7): The Joy of Beign a Miserable Sinner:

The Book of Common Prayer is rooted in the litany. In 1544, preparing to invade France, Henry VIII ordered processions throughout the land. Thomas Cranmer took the opportunity to translate the traditional litany, prefacing it with an exhortation. He trimmed the text and, echoing the traditional response people knew, “miserere nobis”, and the commendatio for the sick, called on God to “have mercy upon us miserable sinners”.

The Book of Common Prayer is full of miserable sinning. When, from the 1960s on, use of Cranmer’s eucharistic rite began to fail, the reason often given was distaste at the way he went on about sin. What relevance could such gloom possibly have to a world that was not on the brink of damnation, but a cheerful future built of tower blocks, holidays on Mars and driving to work in your own personal hovercraft? Congregations did not care to think they were miserable sinners once they had twisted to the hit parade, tasted instant mash, feasted off Formica and actually seen Wombles and hot pants.

As people entered various forms of the space race, Cranmer’s book was a discrete cough in the background, a reminder of what he would see as the Augustinian facts of life, grace and original sin. The latter term in particular is guaranteed to produce apoplectic rage from people who have never read Augustine, indeed Richard Dawkins himself has recently described it as “disgusting”.

It is not easy in the age of the soundbite, to convey what original sin actually meant to Augustine or Cranmer. Christians have sometimes isolated it and turned it into a form of designer self-loathing. Original sin is only a component in Augustine’s bigger narrative around baptism. Glass-half-full people will point out that in his scheme of Grace and Salvation, all you actually have to do to deal with the worst of original sin is dunk the baby.

What remains thereafter can be rather positive. Societies based on Augustinian theology have, in fact, cheerfully accomplished all kinds of technical and aesthetic lovely things. What remains after original sin has been dealt with, in Augustine’s scheme by baptism, is a pervasive awareness of imperfection and fallibility, with the humility to say “there but for the grace of God go I”. Paradoxically, some of the highest achieving societies in the world have Augustinian roots, Lutheran or Catholic.

However gloomy and distasteful it is to drive by a motorway pile-up, a degree of honest fear, combined with acknowledgement that a car is perpetually crashable, not perfectly invincible, seems to make drivers better not worse. It characteristically enhances rather than inhibits performance.

Read it all here.

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