The Summary of the Law

After the Collect for Purity comes what may be termed the Penitential Rite, consisting of either the Decalogue (BCP 100) or the Summary of the Law.  The Summary of the Law entered the Prayer Book tradition in 1790 as an option to follow the Decalogue, basically offering a New Testament summary of the Old Testament Law.  The Kyrie followed the Summary of the Law.  Later editions of the American Prayer Book allowed for the Summary of the Law and Kyrie to be said without the Decalogue, provided that the Decalogue was read at least once each month.  The following collect also came to follow the Penitential Rite:

O ALMIGHTY Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The 1979 Prayer Book reduced the entire Penitential Rite to the Kyrie only (in line with the Roman Rite) and even that was optional.  The present volume has restored the integrity of the Penitential Rite, making the Summary of the Law the standard text and offering the Decalogue as an option in its place, albeit without the former rubric requiring it monthly.

Here what our Lord Jesus Christ says:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Either on its own or (as in earlier Prayer Books) as a follow-up to the Decalogue, this Summary confronts the worshiper with the fundamental moral demand upon all Christians: to love God and neighbor with every aspect of one’s being.  Like as in the case of the Decalogue, this is a penitential moment: our unworthiness is called to mind, and we rightly respond with the Kyrie or the Trisagion.  This brief Penitential Rite does not, however, come to the worshiper as a new subject or focus within the liturgy, but actually serves as an answer to prayer: in the Collect for Purity we pray for the cleansing of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which the Penitential Rite immediately addresses.  If we are to “perfectly love” God and “worthily magnify” his holy Name, we must confront ourselves with the Law of Moses, or Christ’s Summary of the Law, and cry out “Christ, have mercy upon us.”

On the Collect for Purity

Before the Reformation, this was a vesting prayer said by the celebrant before the Mass began. Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the second prayer of the Communion liturgy (following the Lord’s Prayer) in the Prayer Books.  The celebrant was to pray this kneeling at the Altar Table.  When the Communion liturgy was substantially re-ordered in the 1979 Book, this collect was rendered optional, but was still the second prayer (now following the Acclamation).  The present edition has retained the position of this prayer in the liturgy, returned it to a required piece of the liturgy, but opened it up to be a prayer said also by the congregation rather than only by the minister on their behalf.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

When reception of Holy Communion was less frequent, greater efforts were taken by the typical church-goer to prepare for its worthy reception.  Special acts of self-examination and other devotions on the holy mysteries of God’s grace toward sinners were standard fare for Christians of many stripes and traditions.  In this age of weekly Communion as the standard practice, the strictness of preparation and the depths of eucharistic piety have waned.  This prayer, when said by the congregation with the celebrant, reclaims an aspect of historic devotion in preparation for the Sacrament.

The Collect for Purity also provides for the worshiper both instruction and a model concerning right preparation for worship in general.  When we come to worship the Lord, we do not invite God’s presence among us, but rather seek his aid in preparing “the thoughts of our hearts” to enter into his.  God is already with us by virtue of his Word and Spirit; it is we who must be invited and aided to love him perfectly and worthily magnify his holy Name.

On the Decalogue

In the classical Prayer Books these commandments were the first words the priest spoke to the congregation in the Communion liturgy (although Communion at that time would almost never be celebrated alone, but typically after Morning Prayer with the Litany). The inclusion of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in the Prayer Book began in 1552.  After praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for Purity, the priest would stand and turn to the congregation, reading each commandment, and the people responding “Lord, have mercye upon us, and encline our heartes to kepe this lawe.”  Apart from the 1979 Prayer Book, these responses have remained unchanged.

The anomalous change to the responses in 1979’s Rite II to “Amen.  Lord have mercy” expressed godly sorrow but not the full resolution to the amendment of life.  Proposed improvements included the phrase “give us grace to keep this law”, but even this was an ironic misappropriation of the doctrine of grace: we need not only grace or assistance to live holy lives, but our very hearts need to be “inclined” or redirected by the Holy Spirit.

As for the text of the commandments, the first American Prayer Book added the option of reading the Summary of the Law after the Ten Commandments (“Here also what our Lord Jesus Christ saith”), and in 1892 a rubric was added permitting the Decalogue to be skipped entirely, in which case the Kyrie should follow the Summary of the Law.  It was stipulated that the Decalogue should still be read at least once per month.  In 1928, the very text of the commandments was given an option to be shortened, which then became the normative text for the Decalogue in 1979 and the present edition.

Although the Decalogue remains optional in modern liturgies, it is a significant part not only of our history but of the Communion Rite in the Anglican (and broader reformation) tradition.  It is not only the biblical standard which the Summary of the Law only summarizes, but it is one of the three definitive texts of Christian catechesis alongside the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.  It is vital that our tradition uses all three of those texts in the course of regular worship – putting the foundational words of belief (Creed), spirituality (Lord’s Prayer), and ethics (Decalogue) upon the lips and ears of every worshiper.

On Prayers for the Departed

“Why would you pray for the dead? They’re already with Jesus!”

Such is the common well-meaning retort from most Protestants today when they hear us pray for the faithful departed. This is an ancient practice of the Church, but it seems that the Romans have cornered the market when it comes to explanation. They, famously, believe in Purgatory, wherein the souls of ordinary Christians are purged of their lifetime of sin before beholding the fullness of the Beatific Vision, or (more crassly), going to heaven. While this doctrine could be interpreted in a benign fashion – simply the clearing of our spiritual eyes after a life of sin and darkness – it has typically been presented in very penitential terms: the soul is tortured, exposed to the pains of hell for a period of time depending upon how much sin went unconfessed, lightened by indulgences and prayers and masses on their behalf.

Anglican prayers for the departed has no place for that.

Actually, some say that Anglicans have no place for any prayers for the departed. We had some in the first Prayer Book, and got rid of them a few years later, only to see the extreme Anglo-Catholic wing bring them back in the 20th century and the liberals tolerating it under the guise of “tradition.” But this explanation is not strictly true. The Prayer Books have always included prayer for the departed.

If we look at what our reformed liturgy, 1549 to the present, actually says, we will find that our practice is quite far from Roman superstition.

The Prayers of the People in the 1549 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy prayed for

all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us, with the sign of faith, and now do rest in the sleep of peace: Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy, and everlasting peace, and that, at the day of the general resurrection, we and all they which be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: ‘Come unto me, O ye that be blessed of my Father, and possess the Kingdom, which is prepared for you, from the beginning of the world’.

This was dropped from subsequent Prayer Books until the American book of 1928, which prayed

for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.

In between, the 1662 Prayer Book contained a similar, if more subtle, prayer for the departed in the penultimate prayer of the Burial rite:

Almighty God… we give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory

The final Collect in the 1662 Burial service reuses some of the material from the 1549 Prayer Book quoted above, acknowledging the future consummation of the Christian hope of resurrection unto eternal life.  This is the common acknowledgement throughout the Prayer Book tradition – that God’s will, or plan, for his people has not yet reached its conclusion.  We pray for the departed no longer with the fear or urgency of late medieval piety, which errantly believed in the departed souls’ need to move through Purgatory, but instead with personal affection and biblical hope that all is not as it yet should be.

The Prayers of the People in the 2019 Prayer Book summarize it this way:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, that your will for them may be fulfilled

The 2019 Litany offers a more specific explanation of this will:

To grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace, We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Thus the prayers for the departed in the Prayer Book tradition is drawn from biblical doctrine rather than from later superstitions.

On Canticle 10: Benedicite, omnia opera Domini

This Canticle has been an alternative to the Te Deum since the first Prayer Book.  In 1979 it was instead recommended to be used as the first Canticle in Evening Prayer on Wednesdays.  In that book it was also shortened, simplified, and partitioned, and this Prayer Book has largely retained those edits.  A notable wording change is in the doxology: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is now “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” – providing a more robust, if subtle, trinitarian clarification. 


Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I.  T H E  C O S M I C  O R D E R

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, * O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *   all winds and fire and heat,
Winter and summer, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, * drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, * O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I I.  T H E  E A R T H  A N D  I T S  C R E A T U R E S

Let the earth glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills, and all that grows upon the earth, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, * O whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, * and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I I I.  T H E  P E O P L E  O F  G O D

Let the people of God glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.


Let us glorify the Lord: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Due to its length, this Canticle is given sub-headers within its text.  In the 1979 Prayer Book the idea was that the worshiper could use any of its three parts, with the Invocation and Doxology.  No such indication of this use exists in the present edition, so the sub-headings serve instead as aids for the worshiper to follow the train of thought throughout the Canticle.  The organization is logical and similar to the order of creation in Genesis 1: the angels and the powers of nature are called upon first to “praise him and highly exalt him for ever.”  This is in accord with the biblical doctrine that all creation proclaims the goodness of God in its own particular ways (Ps. 19:1).  The land, sea, and their respective creatures follow, and then the human race: God’s people and clergy, the living and the dead, we “that are holy and humble of heart.”  The doxology is an addition to the original text, updating the pre-Christian text in light of the revelation of the Holy Trinity, similar to how the Gloria Patri is normally said at the end of each Psalm.

On Canticle 9: Deus misereatur

Psalm 67 has been an alternative Canticle since 1552, serving alongside the Nunc Dimittis as the second Canticle in Evening Prayer.

The Gloria Patri is omitted from this Canticle, in line with the American Prayer Book tradition, though those who prefer the English-Canadian tradition are certainly free to add it back in.

May God be merciful unto us, and bless us, * and show us the light of his countenance, and be merciful unto us.
Let your way be known upon earth, * your saving health among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; * indeed, let all the peoples praise you.
O let the nations rejoice and be glad, * for you shall judge the peoples righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.
Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, * and God, even our own God, shall give us his blessing.
God shall bless us, *and all the ends of the world shall fear him.

Psalm 67 has become a popular psalm in modern liturgy.  Part of it is found amidst the Good  Friday anthems, it is one of the additional Psalms for Midday Prayer, and it has been an alternative to the Nunc dimittis in Evening Prayer since 1552.  The emphasis on peoples and nations rejoicing in God and praising him gives it an evangelistic or missional tone; and the language of God being merciful, blessing his people, and showing us his light provides another thematic context akin to the several prayers associated with Evening Prayer and Compline, especially when judgment is brought into the picture.  This Psalm, thus, pairs well with several Evening and Compline collects and prayers, especially the tone and emphasis of the prayers for mission.

On Canticle 8: Ecce, Deus

This canticle was introduced in the 1979 Prayer Book and recommended to be used as the first Canticle in Morning Prayer on Mondays, and the first Canticle in Evening Prayer on Saturdays, the former being drawn from its use in the Mozaribic rite.

Surely, it is God who saves me; * I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, * and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing * from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, * Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; * see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, * and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, * for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The hymn of praise in Isaiah 12 does not point explicitly to any particular act of redemption or work of God.  Rather, it is more general in its concern.  The first few verses express trust in God’s salvation, defense, and provision.  Even if there is trouble, the believer need not be afraid, and will be seen through every danger to “give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name” on the day of deliverance.  Based on that, the worshiper is exhorted to share the news with others, and “see that they remember.”  We always can (and should) give thanks ring out our joy because God is in the midst of us.

On Canticle 7: Cantate Domino

Psalm 98 has been an alternative Canticle since 1552, serving alongside the Magnificat as the first Canticle in Evening Prayer.

O sing unto the Lord a new song, * for he has done marvelous things.
With his own right hand, and with his holy arm, * he has won for himself the victory.
The Lord declared his salvation; * his righteousness he has openly shown in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his mercy and truth toward the house of Israel,* and all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God.
Show yourselves joyful unto the Lord, all you lands; * sing, rejoice, and give thanks.
Praise the Lord with the harp; * sing with the harp a psalm of thanksgiving.
With trumpets also and horns, * O show yourselves joyful before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea make a noise, and all that is in it, * the round world, and those that dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, * for he has come to judge the earth.
With righteousness shall he judge the world * and the peoples with equity.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; * as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 98, along with Psalms 95 through 100, is a hymn of praise that easily finds a home in the “Call to Worship” liturgical function.  Joyful feast days, especially Christmas Day, showcase this and similar psalms in their Communion services.  In the context of the Daily Office, especially its historical role as an alternative to the Magnificat, Psalm 98 serves as a sort of template for how to praise and worship God in light of his works and revelation.  The first two verses identify singing as an appropriate response to God’s marvelous works, and verse 3 expands this to be a response to God’s declaration also.  This, with the Magnificat and other Gospel Canticles, shows us that it is right to give God thanks and praise even simply after hearing his Word proclaimed  The singing of a “new song”, in particular, suggests the appropriateness of using not just the ancient Psalms but also the Canticles of the New Testament when responding to the Lesson in the Daily Office, and, by extension, the continued creation of sacred music throughout history into our own day.

On Canticle 6: Dignus es

This canticle, drawn from Revelation 4 and 5, was introduced in the 1979 Prayer Book, recommended to be used as the second Canticle in Morning Prayer on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Gloria Patri is omitted, not because this is a penitential hymn like Canticle 3, but because the whole text is already purely doxological.

Splendor and honor and kingly power * are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, * and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, * for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, * a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, * and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, * for ever and for evermore. Amen.

An amalgamation of heavenly worship reported of chapters 4 and 5 of St. John’s Revelation, this Canticle focuses heavily on the accomplishments of Christ’s death and resurrection.  It praises not only God’s work of creation but particularly of his redemption of the peoples of the world by his blood.  By addressing this hymn to God “who sits upon the throne, and to Christ the Lamb”, it is rendered especially appropriate (per the rubric) for Ascensiontide, when the session of Christ at God’s right hand is a particular theological emphasis. The imagery of “every family, language, people, and nation” is well-known, and reminds the worshiper of the global universality of the Church – we praise Christ not only in our own congregation but with untold multitudes in all times and places.  And we are united together under one king, to whom “worship and praise, dominion and splendor” belongs forevermore.

On Canticle 5: Cantemus Domino

Exodus 15 is one of the classical Prayer Book lessons for Easter Day.  Although its shortened form has been a Canticle for the Daily Office since only 1979, it has served as a Canticle for the Great Vigil of Easter since the early centuries of the Church.  The Song of Moses has also been appointed for several similar roles over time – Sundays in the Ambrosian rite, Lauds in Easter Week in the Mozaribic rite, and in Lauds on Thursdays in the Roman rite.  The 1979 Book, thus, suggested a combination of those ancient uses: the first Canticle in Morning Prayer on Thursdays, as well as on Sundays during Eastertide.

I will sing to the Lord, for he is lofty and uplifted; * the horse and its rider has he hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my refuge; * the Lord has become my Savior.
This is my God and I will praise him, * the God of my people and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a mighty warrior; * The Lord is his Name.
The chariots of Pharaoh and his army has he hurled into the sea; * the finest of those who bear armor have been drowned in the Red Sea.
The fathomless deep has overwhelmed them; * they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in might; * your right hand, O Lord, has overthrown the enemy. 
Who can be compared with you, O Lord, among the gods? * who is like you, glorious in holiness, awesome in renown, and worker of wonders?
You stretched forth your right hand; * the earth swallowed them up.
With your constant love you led the people you redeemed; * you brought them in safety to your holy dwelling.
You will bring them in and plant them * on the mount of your possession,
The resting-place you have made for yourself, O Lord, * the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hand has established.
The Lord shall reign * for ever and for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

One who is new to the liturgical tradition may not recognize this immediately, but this Canticle screams “Easter” in every way possible.  Exodus 15 was a Lesson for Easter Day in the classical Prayer Books, the Exodus has always been interpreted by the Church as a type of Christ’s deliverance on the Cross, and the crossing of the Red Sea a type of Holy Baptism.  The celebration of God’s people following their deliverance from Egypt becomes our celebration following our deliverance from sin and death.  Christ is a mighty warrior, the Lord is his name; the chariots of Satan and his army has he hurled into the sea!  He will lead the people he redeemed to a place of safety, to his holy dwelling where he has gone to prepare a place for us; he will plant us on his holy mountain, the eternal sanctuary where he shall reign for ever and ever.