Introduction to Baruch

One of the greatest blessings about the Bible’s contents is that it provides us with multiple accounts and perspectives on a large portion of the major events, stories, and people within.  There are four Gospel books, each telling the story of Jesus in a different way.  Echoes of several events recorded in the book of Acts can be found throughout the New Testament Epistles.  And in the Old Testament there are a number of books that overlap with one another in their historical coverage.  Sometimes this can be seen as a problem, for there are a number of instances that don’t seem to match.  The exact sequence of events at the last supper, at Paul’s life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and the lifespans and reigns of several Israelite kings are difficult to reconstruct with the conflicting information found in different accounts throughout the Bible.  Many, if not most, of these issues can be harmonized with more careful study of the text, and an attentive eye to the writing style and emphasis of the particular authors.  But even as some of these challenges remain, it is a source of blessing for us.  It keeps us honest about the human element in the authorship of the Sacred Scriptures; it reminds us that the Bible exists to communicate Christ, and not to quibble over minor and inconsequential details like how long a particular Old Testament king lived in Jerusalem.

The book of Baruch, with appended Epistle of Jeremiah, is an offering of further perspective to the ministry and book of the Prophet Jeremiah.  The prophet Baruch is mentioned several times in the book of Jeremiah as his scribe and assistant (cf. chapters 32, 36, 43, 45).  For the most part this book serves as an answer to some of Jeremiah’s instructions to those who were going to Babylon in exile.  Chapters 1 and 2 in particular match up with Jeremiah 29, suggesting that some of the exiles were indeed beginning to live in faith and penitence, respecting their new masters in their temporary exile home.  The Epistle of Jeremiah, sometimes treated as chapter 6 of Baruch, is a further treatise against idolatry.

Those are what I tend to consider the major features of the book of Baruch, but oddly enough the ACNA Daily Lectionary only gives us two chapters of this short book to read, and it’s none of the above!  Instead we are to read chapters 4 and 5 which speak words of comfort to the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  As chapters 1 & 2 indicate, there were some among the exiles who did come to understand that the destruction of Jerusalem was God’s punishment for their idolatry, and they repented of their sins.  To such penitent believers, hope and comfort could be preached: God had a future for his faithful people.  These chapters are like the “Words of Comfort” in our Communion liturgy that follow the Confession and Absolution.

As you delve into these chapters this evening and tomorrow, think of this as the “light at the end of the tunnel” that Jeremiah yearned for in his long and painful prophetic ministry and his assistant finally gets to see.

The Pre-Lent Mini-Season

This coming Sunday, as some liturgical calendars indicate, is (or was) known as Septuagesima.  This is the beginning of a distinct mini-season in the traditional calendar.  Although the ACNA calendar no longer retains or authorizes these three Sundays, it can be beneficial to know about them.  They are part of the treasure of Church Tradition that reaches back well past a thousand years, and, rightly received, can be of great benefit to our spiritual formation as we work with the Church’s calendar to learn and grow in Christ.

The three Sundays before Ash Wednesday were known as “the -gesima Sundays.”  -gesima is a Latin partial word, from Septuagesima and Sexagesima and Quinquagesima and Quadragesima.  These mean 70 days, 60 days, 50 days, and 40 days, respectively, and they refer to the approximate amount of time remaining until Easter.  Quadragesima is a Latin name for Ash Wednesday, when Lent officially begins, but the three Sundays before it (with increasingly ‘rounded’ approximations of the Easter countdown) form a sort of Pre-Lent season.

These three weeks were a transitional period: the Lenten spiritual disciplines had not yet begun, but some of Lent’s liturgical features were put in place, like the “burial of the alleluia” and the wearing of purple vestments.  Those who practiced especially severe fasting during Lent would use these three weeks to begin the fast in stages, giving their bodies time to adjust safely to the austere self-denial that awaited.

The Gospel lesson on the first Sunday (Septuagesima) was the Gospel of the Landowner paying his workers the same, even to the 11th hour (Matt. 20).  This prepared the Church for the labor of Lenten disciplines.  The second Sunday (Sexagesima) proclaimed the Parable of the Four Soils (Luke 8).  This reminded us of right reception of the Word of God.  The third Sunday (Quinquagesima) recounted Jesus’ announcement that he was going to Jerusalem where he’d be arrested, killed, and rise again (Luke 18:31ff).  This was an apt sort of announcement that the penitential season of Lent was about to begin.

As it happens, our Collect for the “Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany” is essentially the same as the Collect for Sexagesima Sunday, so on the very rare occasion that we get to use that 8th Sunday, we’ll have the historic Pre-Lent Sunday Collect with us, even on the correct date in relation to the beginning of Lent.

Why have the Roman Catholics and most Anglicans abolished this part of the liturgical calendar?  Perhaps some people think it redundant with Lent.  Perhaps others wanted to lengthen the Epiphany season.  Perhaps its function in the larger scheme of the calendar was not properly appreciated by the revisionists.  Whateverso it is a tradition largely gone from the Church today, observed only in the Eastern Orthodox traditions and the relatively few Anglicans who continue to use traditional prayer books.

If you want my personal opinion, which I suppose you probably already tolerate since you’re reading this article, I hold the third theory above: I believe the demise of Pre-Lent was a poorly-considered decision.  Yes, it simplifies the calendar, but I don’t think such simplification was necessary.  Some localities (and even the whole province of the Church of England and those influenced by their liturgical revisions of the past couple decades) have developed a sort of pre-Advent season, sometimes called Kingdomtide.  Why Advent can get a new pre-season and Lent cannot is beyond me, apart from the slightly-cynical observation that modernists don’t like penitential material.

In my own congregation, I had the liberty to use the traditional calendar for three years before the ACNA calendar appeared and we conformed to it.  Some people asked me about the Pre-Lent Sundays: “isn’t it redundant?  If Lent is about preparation for Easter, doesn’t that make Septuagesima (et al) a preparation for the preparation?”  My answer to that is a rejection of the assertion that Lent is primarily about preparation.  It points and leads to Easter, yes, but it is a season in its own right.  Lent focuses on penitence, purification, sin and death.  Only in its final two weeks did it traditionally start sliding toward Easter.  Lent, therefore, understood on its own terms and in relation to the rest of the calendar, is perfectly entitled to a three-week lead-up.  And that practical consideration of having some “warning” before it starts actually helps, too.

Sadly, this probably doesn’t help much with the liturgical planning for your congregation.  But if you have a regular weekday worship service, perhaps there you can make use of the Pre-Lent Sundays.  Or you can always just pray an Antecommunion service with these traditional Sundays!  They may be gone from the general life of the church, but that doesn’t mean that can’t live on in our private devotions.

 

This article was adapted from “Learning from the Liturgy: The Pre-Lent Sundays” on leorningcnihtes boc, originally posted on 4 February 2018.

Looking Ahead: St. Matthias Day

February 24th is the date our calendar holds for celebrating Saint Matthias.  One could say Matthias was the “second twelfth apostle.”  The Collect for his day makes this explicit:

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Some modern calendars appoint his feast day for May 14th, landing him close to when Ascensiontide takes place.  That’s a modern change that actually makes some good sense: his only story in the Bible is in Acts 1 – he was elected and chosen by lot to replace Judas in the 10-day period of time between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  But the ACNA’s calendar is holding onto his traditional date February 24th.

This year that puts his feast day on a Sunday, which (many people need to be reminded) is now explicitly permitted, if not also suggested, in our calendar that we can celebrate the feast day right then and there on that Sunday in place of the regular Sunday-after-Epiphany.  The relevant rubrics have been cited here before.

Now, if Lent started earlier, this wouldn’t be an option; Sundays in Lent cannot be overridden by major feast days.  If you are using the traditional calendar, this also would not be an option, as the three Pre-Lent Sundays cannot be overridden either.  But for the majority of us in the ACNA, using the modern calendar, it’s a regular Sunday which therefore can give way to an other prayer book major feast day such as St. Matthias.

So, despite what a lot of the popular Ordo Calendars and online daily office algorithms suggest, feel free to let loose this Saint’s Day on his proper day this month, Sunday February 24th!

Book Review: Common Prayer 2011

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

This weekend I’ve got something perhaps a bit more obscure for you: Book of Common Prayer 2011.  This book was self-published by the Rev. Keith J. Acker in 2011, and has stuck around for the past 8 years in (I assume) very limited circles, probably seeing more private use than congregational use.  It was (and perhaps still is) primarily one person’s effort to propose a modern-language Prayer Book that retains the historic content and order.  The Reformed Episcopal Church (in which he is a minister, and which is a subjurisdiction of the ACNA) already does have a modern-language version of their Prayer Book, so I’m not sure if the purpose of this book has any longevity at this point.

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Most of this Prayer Book is in line with the 1928 Prayer Book‘s order and content.  Its Daily Office is more in line with the English books (such as the 1662).  In accord with the spirit of the newer additions of 1979, though, this book also has a liturgy for Confession, a Healing Service, shorter Family Prayers, and special liturgies for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday.  All of this is in modern English, even the Psalter is the ESV translation (with the verse numbers fixed to match the traditional Coverdale versification).  The “translation” style is a bit clunky for the modern reader, though careful use of punctuation can help one navigate the long compound sentences.  For example, the Prayer of Consecration begins this way:

ALL glory be to you, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for you, of your tender mercy, gave your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death on the cross for our redemption; Who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; And did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of his most precious death and sacrifice until his coming again.

So it is very traditional in its content, preferring faithful adherence to original words over contemporary readability.  Some will like this, some may not.

Another feature of this book that is common to modern Prayer Books is that it has explanatory notes at the beginning or end of most sections.  For example, between the liturgy for Admitting of Catechumens and the liturgy for Holy Baptism, there is this note:

On Initiation into the Body of Christ

We are initiated into a relationship with the Body of Christ by God’s grace in the Sacrament of Baptism.  God has supplied us with a fellowship of disciples, his Church, in which we are to live out that relationship with him.  The Church is God’s family and the household of Faith into which we are adopted, receiving the gift of being born anew and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Converts are instructed in the Christian Faith.  Catechumens (Greek for instructed) are taught the need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and the practices of prayer, devotion, and fasting in preparation for Baptism.

In general, this book leans high church.  Confirmation, Confession, and Matrimony are referred to as Sacraments, the 1549 Prayer Book is expressly named as the primary foundation underlying this book, and (in line with REC polity) Holy Orders are explained as a male-only ministry.

Now, between the fact that it has only been authorized for use by one or two bishops in the ACNA, that its translation style is slightly different from what the 2019 Prayer Book is going to be, and that it doesn’t really supply anything that we don’t already have in the 2019 or 1928 Prayer Books, it has to be admitted that from a functional point of view this book isn’t really all that useful.  I will probably never use its Daily Office or its Communion liturgy, much less its pastoral services.  The fact that is retains the historic Communion lectionary is nice, and its suggested additional (usually Old Testament) reading to match the traditional Epistles & Gospels is excellent, but ultimately it’s a redundant book on my shelf.

However, it has something going for it that pays untold dividends in my understanding of the liturgy: it’s ANNOTATED!  Check it out:

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The rubrics are in red (as was traditional back in the day) and its annotations are in blue.  So you can look at a Collect or other prayer or exhortation in this book and see some of their origin from the Bible (or occasionally other sources).  This is immensely useful for a student of the liturgy.  It does make the book a little more complicated to use, because in the ordinary course of prayer your eyes have to ignore those blue reference notes.  It also makes the “Sundays and Holy Days of the Christian Year” a bit more complicated to navigate, as in the picture above – Matthew 4:1-2 is an annotated reference for the Collect for Lent I, but (in black text) Matthew 4:1-11 is the actual Gospel lesson for that Communion service.

Further, looking at this picture some more, there is a handy reference line under each Collect.  The first two blocks are the two traditional lessons for the Communion service on that day.  The second two blocks are the traditional Introit and Gradual (usually psalms) for that day, and the last block on the right is the recommended “third” lesson to add to the traditional two.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
It’s not really any more complicated to use than the 1662 or 1928 Prayer Books, which I rated as 4, but the visual formatting of this book (mainly due to the annotations) make it a little harder to follow.  There’s also the practical challenge of getting a physical copy.  Mine is from the first printing, which had notoriously horrible quality – I’ve barely used it and the front cover has almost torn off!  But there are nicer prints of it available now, apparently.  Its official page is here: http://www.bcp2011.com/node/1.

Devotional Usefulness: 5/5
If one can get past the issues of authorization, visual accessibility, and translation style, the spirituality of this book is almost perfect.  It pretty much fits the bill of my personal opinion of an ideal Prayer Book.  My only actual complaint about its content is that its Daily Office Lectionary seems a bit too scatter-brained.

Reference Value: 5/5
Even though very few people in the world use this, and it will probably be forgotten in a couple decades, the fact that it is similar in content to the 2019 Prayer Book makes it annotations extremely relevant for cross-comparison.  If you want to explore the Scriptural basis for part of our liturgy, you can look it up in this 2011 book and find out.  Unless someone makes an annotated 2019 book, this volume will be a precious asset to me for the rest of my life.

So, final recommendation… if you want to study the Prayer Book liturgy, and don’t have another annotated Prayer Book already, this is worth getting.

 

Pairing: a Collect & a Hymn

Our Collect of the Day from Sunday, the fourth in Epiphanytide, is the first Sunday Collect this season that matches the old Prayer Book tradition.  The first three Sundays have modern Collects to reflect the modern Epiphany emphasis on missions, and now this fourth one takes us back to the original Epiphany tradition.  Here it is:

O God, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and grave dangers that in the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through every temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

What I thought we’d do with this Collect today, rather than analyze it or link to a Scripture reading, is match it up with a hymn.  And, rather than dig up a lesser-known song as we’ve done a few times already, let’s pair this classic Collect with a classic hymn: O worship the King.

According to hymnary.org this song appears in nearly 1,000 different books, and probably hundreds more that aren’t compiled on that site.  The lyrics were written by Robert Grant in 1833, loosely based on Psalm 104.  It has been set to a couple different tunes, so I’ll let you readers fight over if LYONS or HANOVER is best, or if one should vote third party.

It is the 5th verse that especially links up with the Collect for Epiphany IV.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In thee, Lord, we trust, nor find thee to fail;
Thy mercies, how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and friend!

Both the prayer and the hymn consider us in terms of frailty.  We are “set in the midst of so many and grave dangers”, we need God’s “strength and protection” that, unlike us, are “firm to the end!”  It seems appropriate to consider this hymn a sort of response or follow-up to the Collect: we pray for God’s promised protection, and then we sing joyfully of his steadfast love, his covenant faithfulness, by which we know that our maker, defender, and redeemer is also our friend.

 

Last Christmas Hymn: From East to West

Tomorrow is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, or, the Purification of Mary, celebrating the events of Luke 2:22-40.  As I’ve suggested and explored here before, using these 40 days from Christmas Day until tomorrow is a great way to crawl through the massive collection of Christmas songs in our hymnals.  A good choice for the last of these hymns is From East to West, from shore to shore.

This is an ancient hymn, its text written in Latin by Coelius Sedulius around the year 450.  As often is the case with ancient hymns, its English translation has been set to several different tunes, so I’m not going to include a YouTube link this time; the lyrics will have to suffice.

From East to West is a good choice for the end of this extended run of Christmas hymns because its lyrics touch upon some thematic material that makes it fitting for this point in the calendar:

  1. The appeal for “every heart”, “from East to West, from shore to shore,” to awake and sing about the newborn Christ, is very Epiphany-appropriate.  The song starts immediately with that world-wide invitation to worship Jesus.
  2. The epiphany theme of revealing the divinity of Jesus is also prominent in this song, which identifies him with godly epithets such as “the everlasting King” and “the world’s Creator” and “the Lord most high.”
  3. Mary plays a relatively prominent role in these lyrics, anticipating her prominent role in the feast of the Presentation tomorrow.  Here she is celebrated, “a maiden in her lowly place,” who becomes “the chosen vessel of his grace.”  In the doxology, the final verse of the hymn, Jesus is named as the “Virgin-born.”

In all, this is a fantastic hymn that works for Epiphanytide almost as well as for Christmastide.  I wouldn’t be afraid to pull it out almost any time of year, come to think of it, if I knew I’d be preaching or teaching Christology.  It plays out the dual reality of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, his lowliness and his exaltation, marvelously.

Perhaps you can read or sing it at the Daily Office or other time of devotion today?

From east to west, from shore to shore Let ev’ry heart awake and sing
The holy child whom Mary bore, The Christ, the everlasting king.

Behold, the world’s creator wears The form and fashion of a slave;
Our very flesh our maker shares, His fallen creature, man, to save.

For this how wondrously He wrought!  A maiden, in her lowly place,
Became, in ways beyond all thought, The chosen vessel of His grace.

And while the angels in the sky Sang praise above the silent field,
To shepherds poor the Lord Most High, the one great Shepherd, was revealed.

All glory for this blessed morn To God the Father ever be;
All praise to You, O Virgin-born, And Holy Ghost, to thee.  Amen.

February Psalms: old-school!

Archbishop Cranmer’s 30-day cycle of Psalms applies to each month of the year, but it works out differently according to what month you’re dealing with.  Several months have 31 days, and his appointment was to repeat the 30th day’s Psalms on the 31st day.  February has 28 or 29 days, though, so presumably that means you don’t quite finish the psalter that month, right?

Right, the 1662 Prayer Book (and all thereafter) state that you get to the 28th or 29th day, and leave it at that.

However… this seems to be a simplification of a slightly different approach that came before.  I picked up a facsimile edition of the 1611 “King James” Bible some years ago, and it has a number of Prayer Book rubrics in it, including the table of daily lessons throughout the year and the order of the Psalms.  I expect these reflect the then-current 1559 (Elizabethan) Prayer Book’s order.

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Check out what it says about February (and I’ll update the spelling for you)…

And because January and March have one day above the said number, and February, which is placed between them both, hath only 28 days; February shall borrow of either of the months (of January and March) one day : and so the Psalter which shall be read in February, must begin at the last day of January, and end the first day of March.

In other words, once you finish the 30-day cycle in January, start the cycle at the beginning on the 31st (today!) and carry it through to March 1st.  That means you’ll be a day off between the Psalter and the calendar date throughout February and March, but on the upside you’ll get through all the Psalms three times without repetition or omission in the first three months of the year!

The fact that the Prayer Books after this point don’t include this rubric indicate to me that this proved too complicated in actual practice, and so the powers that be gave up on it and simplified it when the next Prayer Book was produced (in 1662).

The latest draft of the 2019 Prayer Book doesn’t look as flexible about the Psalms as its predecessors, but the fact that it authorizes two different Psalm cycles plus allows the option of further shortening and simplification indicates that our liturgists care more that we pray the Psalms regularly and in an orderly fashion than about total conformity to one system.  Therefore, consider yourself well within your rights to give “old-school February” a try, if you want!  Start with day 1 today, finish with day 30 on March 1st, and carry on through March a “day off” from the norm until we all meet back together with day 1 on April 1st.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter a ton which system you use, as long as you do use one.  It’s just nice to know (and sometimes try out) the ways of our forebears.

Lectionary Convergence: 1 Corinthians

This week we’ve got a somewhat rare event: the Daily Office Lectionary and the Sunday Communion Lectionary are crossing one another’s paths.  The Epistles in Evening Prayer started us in on 1 Corinthians a week and a half ago, and this evening is reaching chapter 12.  Yesterday and the Sunday before, the Communion lectionary has also been taking us through chapter 12.

This sort of double exposure probably happens a few times a year, at different times depending upon which year in the 3-year cycle it is.  This can be an excellent opportunity to get a perspective check on the Communion lectionary readings.  That lectionary, by default, is unable to be as comprehensive as a daily lectionary; it has to cut corners, it has to summarize books of the Bible and move on.  It is the function of the Daily Office to slog through virtually everything and put it all in context.

Having Evening Prayer take us through the bulk of 1 Corinthians in the past ten days, and finishing the book in the coming week, will be a helpful overview to remind us of the larger context as we listen to the 1 Corinthians lessons at the Sunday Communion services for the next few weeks until Lent begins.

Book Review: the 1662 BCP

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re going to look at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

We’re starting with the 1662 Common Prayer Book, a very good place to start.  As I have mentioned before, this is my “second” prayer book in terms of the order and extent that I got to know a prayer book.  It was preceded by three: those of 1549 (under King Henry VIII), 1552 (under King Edward), and 1559 (under Queen Elizabeth).  The 1662 is most like the 1559, for the most part being a re-issue of the Elizabethan Prayer Book after its temporary suppression by the Puritan government which deemed the book not sufficiently reformed and “purified” from Papist influence.  For the modern reader and pray-er accustomed to variety and choice, the 1662 Prayer Book is frustratingly short on options.  On the other hand this makes it one of the thinnest and simplest Prayer Books of them all.

Some of the distinctions that mark this Prayer Book from its successors include prayers for the monarch royal family, and a cultural expectation that weekly Communion will not be received by the people, or even celebrated by the priests.

As an English book, and the Church of England being a state church, the Prayer Book quite naturally appoints quite a few collects and prayers for the reigning monarch, the royal family, and the welfare of the country at large.  Outside of the British Commonwealth this has to be “translated” into more generic prayers for the state or government leaders.  And, apart from rewriting those specific words, there is also the question of mentality – what is the more subtle influence in a Prayer Book of a national church, and how should prayers for the state be approached where the government is not a patron of the Church?

The practical pastoral issues surround the frequency of Holy Communion also marks the 17th century from the 21st.  The Communion service begins with the following rubric:

So many as intend to be partakers of the holy Communion shall signify their names to the Curate, at least some time the day before.

Imagine having to register with the clergy every week!  Clearly times and expectations have changed.  Also, in the middle of the Communion service stand three lengthy Exhortations: one announcing the celebration of Communion on an upcoming Sunday or Holy Day, one for when he sees people are negligent about coming to the Communion table, and one for the day the Communion is actually being celebrated.  Only the last of these has survived into modern prayer books – the expectation of a weekly Eucharist and the peoples’ participation therein is a surprisingly recent achievement in Anglican practice.

Comparing the lengths of liturgies between the 1662 and the common modern rites can also be jarring.  This book has shorter Communion prayers but longer prayers of the people.  Its Baptism and Confirmation services are brief affairs, but its Daily Office is robust, especially with the use of the Athanasian Creed 13 times a year and the Litany 3 times a week.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
I’m not sure if a 5/5 Prayer Book exists; they all have some sort of learning curve.  But the lack of options and variations go a long way to making this book as usable as it is.  The typeface and blocky filling of space is also strange to the modern eye, as prayer books today tend to have a lot of blank space between sections.  Necessary page-flipping is minimal, and the rubrics are usually very specific about what you’re supposed to do next.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
The biggest winner in this book is the Daily Office.  The original lectionary covers more of the Bible than pretty much any of its successors.  The prayers and canticles and collects, creeds and litany, really make Morning and Evening Prayer the heartbeat of the life of worship in this volume.  If you’re of a high church sort, you may find the Communion prayers a bit frustrating.  Some have observed a lack of evangelistic or missional emphasis in the older prayer books such as this one.  And the 17th century English can be a bit of a stumbling block to those not used to it.

Reference Value: 4/5
This is kind of tricky.  On one hand, early prayer books like the 1662 didn’t go out of their way to pepper their pages with scriptural citations.  It’s constantly quoting and paraphrasing the Bible but you don’t always get to see where it’s coming from.  It simply is what it is, and if you don’t notice where it comes from then you’ll just have to ask someone else.  On the other hand, this is, historically, the quintessential prayer book; others are measured according to this one.  So the 1662 BCP is of reference value simply on its own merits; you can compare liturgies and prayers from other books to this one, knowing this is the “standard” most Anglican provinces recognize as the common baseline.

All in all, this is a significant book.  I wouldn’t say that every Anglican ought to have and study it, but anyone who cares about Anglican tradition and history definitely should.  And that, by definition, should include all members of the clergy!

Confession of St. Peter at Morning Prayer

As is often the case, today’s holiday, the Confession of Saint Peter, has a special reading for the Morning Office: Matthew 16:13-20.  As our new ACNA daily lectionary likes to do, this lesson is a repeat of the Gospel lesson at today’s communion service.  So if you’re saying the Daily Office but have no Eucharist to attend today, you still get the primary story of the holiday.  The downside is that if you do attend today’s Communion, you hear the same passage twice rather than hearing something different to deepen and enrich the day with further scriptural insight.

As we noted last week, this feast day is an excellent “epiphany moment”, revealing the divinity of Jesus through the words of Peter.  This feast day is actually a modern addition to the Prayer Book tradition; it first appeared for us in 1979.  And this seems a good contribution to the calendar, in my opinion, reinforcing the traditional epiphany theme.

If you haven’t been doing so, perhaps this is a good day to pull out the Surge illuminare as the first Canticle at Morning Prayer, too.  If you have, then perhaps bring back the Te Deum in honor of the major feast!