Regular Occasional Prayers

Early this year we had a post here about making the “Occasional Prayers” in the new prayer book a regular feature of one’s recitation of the Daily Office.  I won’t link you back to it though because that was built on the penultimate draft of the prayer book, and a few of those prayers have been dropped, merged, added to, and moved around, throwing the numbers off between the late 2018 draft and the 2019 final copy.

Instead, I’m providing a fresh shiny new upload here of this Customary’s Order for the Occasional Prayers!  Click that link to download it.

Some of the backstory to this can be found in the file – the Daily Office in the classical prayer books (before 1979) included a number of prayers and thanksgivings and collects after the Office (perhaps mainly just Morning Prayer if I recall) which were authorized-but-optional, to be added after the the required Three Collects toward the end of the Office.  It’s a mixed blessing having lost that feature in modern prayer books – on one hand people it’s nice to have a larger and more comprehensive appendix of prayers to draw from, but being place so far back in the book will make them less likely to be noticed by the average prayer book user.  That’s why this suggested order is put forth.

Let’s look at why this scheme is recommended the way it is.

Sunday, being the principle day of worship for the church gathered, has the section of prayers labeled At Times of Prayer and Worship as well as the prayers on Death, the Departed, and the Communion of Saints, as that is when most of the saints on earth are gathered.  The assigned prayers skip around, numerically, in order to avoid prayers that are too similar from being read at the same Office.

On Monday the prayers start at the beginning of the list, covering the section For the Church.  In general, the prayers for the morning are more specific and the prayers for the evening are more general or topical.

Tuesday morning covers the next section, For the Nation, again arranging the prayers so that too-similar collects aren’t prayed on the same day.  Depending upon which country you hail from, certain prayers along the way will be appropriate to omit (mainly in the USA versus Canada distinction).  In the evening, one day dips into the Personal Devotions list and the other starts the For Society section.

Wednesday morning is omitted, because that’s a traditional time for saying the Great Litany.  The evening finishes the For Society section and begins the next section, Intercessions For Those in Need.

Thursday morning skips ahead to more of the Personal Life and Personal Devotions sections, while Thursday evening (in light of the day’s traditional Eucharistic theme) covers most of the Thanksgivings.

Friday morning (like Wednesday morning) is omitted so you can focus on the Great Litany.  The evening covers the rest of the prayers For Those in Need where Wednesday left off.

Saturday covers the prayers about Creation and Family Life, as well as Personal Life and Devotion.  The creation theme matches the Morning Prayer Collect recommended for Saturdays (Collect for Sabbath Rest), and the family section is chosen to match the fact that Saturday is often a “day off with the family” for much of the working world.  The remaining personal devotions also serve as a sort of introspective preparation for corporate worship on the following morning.

For sake of simplicity, “Week I” should line up with odd-numbered weeks in the liturgical calendar, and “Week II” with even-numbered weeks.  For example, this is the week (in modern reckoning) of Proper 13, so this week should be considered an odd-numbered week.

Collect for Proper 13

With the Transfiguration over, the Collect of the Day in the Daily Office returns to this past Sunday’s Collect – for Proper 13.

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What we see at work in prayer is a biblical principle from verses like 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”  This humbling reality, that all good things that we’ve got come from God, applies even to our worship and service.

This reality is a balance between two extremes.  On one hand is an error more often made by Roman Catholics: the assumption that ordinary Christians are just too sinful and ignorant to offer God any “laudable service”, and so we entrust the clergy and the ‘religious’ to offer God more perfect praise on our behalf.  Go to church, hear Father celebrate mass, and we can say that we vicariously offered something to God too.  On the other hand is an error more often made by evangelicals: the assumption that if we just worship God with heart-felt enthusiasm that he will be truly honored, and so we dive in to a string of worship songs with the mad assertion that our feelings of sincerity are more significant to God than the actual content of our words and actions.

Countering both these extremes is the biblical reality: we can offer worthy worship to God, but only by his grace.  Grace then precedes worship and works.  Because of grace, we offer laudable service to God and strive to “run without stumbling” to attain to God’s heavenly promises.  As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews put it, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:11-12).

So when you sit down to pray (or kneel, or whatever), remember not to be overconfident in your own worthiness, verbosity, or sincerity; and remember not to be embarrassed, discouraged by your bumbling ways.  God gives you grace to approach his throne with boldness.  We find that grace in confessing our sins to a merciful Lord; we find that grace in praying prayers that God himself provided us to pray (especially the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms); we find that grace in an order, a liturgy, provided by his Church, to assist us not only to form our prayers into coherent sentences but also to unite our prayers with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And underlying all of that, of course, is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Every baptized person has God the Spirit within, it’s not a matter of elitism or ordination status or what-have-you.  Be not afraid, when your prayers are bumbling and crude, the Spirit will “translate” your intentions to the Father; and when you think you’ve got it just right and perfect on your own wit, the Spirit will ask the Father for the mercy and humility you omitted.  Let us learn from one another how to pray, how to worship.  Think of the Prayer Book as the compilation of centuries of insight in this matter!  Rather than asking advice in prayer from one or two friends or pastors, why not turn to the collective wisdom of millions as represented in the Common Prayer book.

Let’s pray Morning Prayer together right now!

Okay, we’ve got a daily hymnody plan available, an order for using the Occasional Prayers, and some advice on the use of Canticles so far.  Let’s put it all together and see what Morning Prayer can be like. Listen and pray along!

Order of service (so you can get your books ready)…

  1. Opening Sentence (BCP 11)
  2. Morning Hymn (#229) *
  3. Invitatory with the Venite (BCP 13-14)
  4. Psalms 79, 80, 81 (BCP 373-377)
  5. 1 Samuel 7
  6. Canticle 8 Ecce Deus (BCP 85-86)
  7. 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
  8. The Benedictus (BCP 18-19)
  9. The Apostles’ Creed (BCP 20)
  10. The Prayers (BCP 21-24)
  11. The Anthem (Hymn #439)
  12. Occasional Prayers #25, 35-37
  13. The General Thanksgiving (BCP 25) **
  14. Closing Sentences (BCP 26)

* The first rubric on page 31 allows for the Confession and the Creed to to be omitted in one Office provided it is said in the other that day.  On my own I tend to say the Creed in the morning and the Confession in the evening.

** I tend not to pray the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom when alone, as the rubric on page 25 indicates it’s optional, and because its language of being gathered for corporate prayer is not exactly fulfilled in private.

Book Review: A Manual for Priests of the American Church

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.

One of the most useful supplementary liturgical texts on my shelf is A Manual for Priests of the American Church by Earl H. Maddux.  Originally produced in 1944, it reached a fifth edition in 1968.  Its subtitle is “Complementary to the Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer” (paired with the 1928).  After the 1979 Prayer Book was released, I don’t believe this book had a successor.  This is partly because the 1979 Prayer Book added to its pages a few things supplied in this book, and partly because what remained useful in this book didn’t really need any updating for those who were disposed to its it.

The book consists of three sections: Offices, Blessings, and an Appendix of extra material.

The “Offices” supplement what’s in the 1928 Prayer Book, adding some instructions for emergency and conditional baptism, admitting catechumens, sacramental confession, communion from the reserved sacrament, blessing civil marriages, ministry to (including anointing of) the sick, prayers for the dying and departed, particular situations for Burial services, and the like.  Much of this is found in the 1979 Prayer Book in one form or another.  The 2019 Prayer Book provides a form of most of this material too.  If you’re a 1928 Prayer Book user, this part of the book is still immediately practically useful; for the rest of us it’s informative reference material to see how some of the “new” parts of our prayer book were previously rendered.

The “Blessings” section is the part that I don’t know if can be found in any newer books.  It begins with a set of rubrics about how priests and bishops are to handle priestly blessings, how to vest, what sort of contexts and permissions are necessary, and starts the list with the blessing of holy water, as that is what’s typically used in blessing nearly any other object or locale.  If you are open to this line of tradition, this collection is invaluable, as it represents an Anglican adaptation of traditional Western liturgical material.  My congregation is not particularly high-church in their devotion and piety, but there have been times when they’ve asked me to bless new crosses, bibles, and the like.  Rendering some of this book’s blessings into contemporary English has been a handy resource for me!  It’s got blessings for advent wreaths, vestments, pictures, pregnant women, children, books, candles, houses, other types of buildings, prayer beads, vehicles, even including…

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you know… just in case you’re the chaplain to NASA or something.  Clearly the star-gazing 60’s had an impact on the later editions of this book!

The Appendix section of this book is a sort of catch-all for various bits and bobs.  More blessings and offices, including the Asperges, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday, and large pile of additional blessings and prayers, fill another 70 pages of the volume.  A few of these features (like ashes for Ash Wednesday) have found their way into modern prayer books, and therefore make for interesting comparative liturgical study as we consider how mid-20th-century highchurchmen sought to restore ancient traditions such as the imposition of ashes into the Anglican context.

The book closes with a set of indexes, making its rather scattered contents much easier to find, especially if you find yourself “is there a blessing/prayer for this?”

As you can probably tell from a number of the features listed in this book by now, this is a decidedly highchurch, Anglo-Catholic, resource.  It is to such a degree that many would consider this in violation of the Anglican formularies by (re-)introducing prayers for the departed, traditions that suggest a “sacerdotal” priesthood, and so-called Roman superstitions concerning the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  A lowchurch or charismatic Anglican may find elements of this book useful on a careful pick-and-choose basis, but on the whole this book is unashamedly Anglo-Catholic.  However, before you dismiss this book entirely on theological-party grounds, it should be noted that this book is presented as complementary to the Prayer Book; nothing in here replaces the authorized Prayer Book.  So let us not regard this book as representing a divisive element who wanted to replace the Prayer Book; that is an extreme to be found elsewhere, not here.

The Saint Aelfric Customary, apart from its primary role of parsing out the execution of the 2019 Prayer Book liturgy in a traditional manner, also aims to provide some supplemental liturgical material, and many of the blessings in this book will be drawn upon, adapted into contemporary English to match our new Prayer Book’s style.  If you are priest with even just a little bit of high-church interest, I recommend this book very highly; it is a useful resource to have around, even if it’s only practically useful once in a blue moon!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Because it’s been through a few additions, some of its sections, especially the Appendix, aren’t as logically ordered as one might wish.  But the index section in the back is simple, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  The fact that its material is in traditional English may also be a slight deterrent for those unused to it.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this book on this scale.  If you’re an Anglo-Catholic Priest, in a high church 1928 Prayer Book parish, then this book is probably a 4.  For the rest of us priests, though, this is much more of an occasional resource.  If you’re not ordained, this book will almost never be “useful” to you at all.

Reference Value: 3/5
From the standpoint of the History of Liturgy, or liturgiology, this is a really cool text.  You get see, here, several examples of Anglo-Catholic recoveries of traditional liturgical material before it gets appropriated the Liturgical Movement of the 1960’s as represented in the 1979 Prayer Book.  In this sense, then, this book is a fascinating study to anyone interested in the subject.

By way of a last word, this is a book that I think all Anglican priests should know about, most should have, even if only a few will use.

Praying the Collect for Purity

One of the most famous prayers in Anglican liturgy today seems to be “The Collect for Purity” which is found near the beginning of the Communion service.  It seems like every “introduction to Anglicanism” article or series of articles eventually turns to this prayer as a quintessential example of a collect, and the enduring nature of liturgical prayer and worship.

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.

So I probably don’t need to tell you that this was originally a “vesting prayer” said by the celebrant alone before the actual Mass began, and that Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the beginning of the Communion liturgy itself when he first wrote the English Prayer Book.  Besides, you don’t need me to harp on about the history of liturgy too much, lest you think I’ve lost my edge when it comes to giving practical advice 😉

Ye who are used to modern liturgies (1979 Prayer Book and newer) are probably accustomed to praying the Collect for Purity with the whole congregation.  For many people, this is the one Collect they definitely have memorized.  You may be surprised to learn, though, that before the modern era of liturgical revision, this Collect was still said by the priest alone.  The first directional rubric in the 1662 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy, for example, concludes with this sentence:

And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.

It is interesting to note that in our own (2019) Prayer Book the rubric attached to this Collect reads:

The Celebrant prays (and the People may be invited to join)

which indicates that the “primary” fulfillment of this rubric is that the Celebrant says it, and the “secondary” option is that the congregation might be invited to say it too.

If you take that rubric prioritization along with the historic rubrics – that the Priest prays it alone at the holy table (or altar, as many commonly say today) – this gives us a suggestion for how we should go about praying this Collect in our worship services today.

The people were standing for the Acclamation immediately before this, so what if we all kneel to pray this prayer?  That would make sense, especially with the Summary of the Law or Decalogue following, to hear those spoken over us by the priest while we kneel.  If you’re the celebrant, you too should consider (with the historic prayer books) turning toward the altar and kneeling for the Collect for Purity.  Even if the congregation remains standing for it, the extra time and motion involved in you kneeling for the prayer and then standing up to address them in the following penitential rite will be a significant action that reinforces the message of this prayer – namely, that we need cleansing in our hearts by the Holy Spirit in order to love God perfectly and magnify his holy name in a worthy manner.

Worshiping God is kind of a big deal.  Praying that he would help us to worship, even enable us to worship, is not a prayer we should take lightly.  Go kneel before the altar, use your body’s posture and motion to express the seriousness of this prayer!

Two Collects for Peace

In the prayers of the Daily Office, there were traditionally three Collects in a row: the Collect of the Day followed by two set Collects according to the time of day (Morning had two, Evening had two).  In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two Collects got expanded to seven choices, plus a choice of a Prayer for Mission.  Among the original Collects, still found among the modern choices, are two Collects entitled “For Peace.”  Let’s take a little comparative look at these two prayers today.

Collect for Peace (Morning)

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Peace (Evening)

O God, the source of all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

Naturally, both of these prayers address the trouble of enemies.  Perhaps the first question is who are our enemies?  Like several of the Psalms, this is a nebulous concept, a fill-in-the-blank opportunity, and we should take care how we treat it, even in the silence of our hearts.  In a bad mood you might throw your annoying boss into that “enemies” category, or your misbehaving kids, or the noisy neighbors, or members of the wrong political party, or those gosh-darn terrorist foreigners from that other country somewhere else.  The scriptures teach us that the enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Those are the forces that turn us away from God; those are the real threats against whom we need protection, and against whom we must fight.

And I say “must fight” on purpose, for as these prayers express, Peace is not found in avoidance of conflict, but in steadfastness despite conflict.  Through “the might of Jesus” we pray for God’s defense “in all assaults”, not from all assaults.  The goal or purpose of these prayers is that we “may not fear,” and “pass our time in rest and quietness.”  With our trust placed in God’s defense and our hearts set to obey his commandments, we find ourselves on the solid ground of God’s Word, in the footsteps of Jesus, in cooperation with the Spirit.  There, we can withstand the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil; there can be found peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

So whether you pray these prayers every day (as in the old prayer books) or every week (as in the new), take care to note what we’re really praying here.  In this life, the peace of God is found amidst the spiritual war, not as an escape from it.

Book Review: A Time to Pray

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.

A Time to Pray is a pocket-sized devotional book, in the same supplementary category as Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, just with less stuff, simpler content, and broader churchmanship appeal.  Its purpose, as I understand it, is to introduce people to Prayer Book worship without dropping the whole BCP on them right away.  Perhaps for children not yet ready to push through the whole daily office, or adults who are intrigued by the liturgy but not yet convinced.

Unlike the aforementioned Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, very little of this book is original content.  The first 75 pages reprint the Family Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Order for Evening Worship, Compline, and Reconciliation of a Penitent services right from the 1979 BCP.  After that follows a collection of prayers, a few of which are not found in that Prayer Book, a selection of Psalms and Canticles, and some Bible readings.  In short, this could serve as a miniature Prayer Book & Bible combination for simplified Offices of worship.  If someone, for whatever reason, is unable to handle an actual Prayer Book and Bible, this is a neat resources of basics to get them started.

Because of its brevity and simplicity, there isn’t really any room for significant theological bias, so the fact that it was produced by the Episcopalians is not an issue.  Liturgically, though, it is somewhat incompatible with the 2019 Prayer Book tradition; our Psalm and Canticles have updated translations, our Family and Minor Offices are a little different.  Yes, the content and wordings are very similar, but if this is meant to be a stepping stone toward a prayer book, it’s a step towards a prayer book different from our own, and will result in some awkward little shifts that tend to annoy people once they’ve “learned” one version of a particular piece of liturgy.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
It’s small and simple.  The only point against its usability is the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is only printed on pages 42 and 43, so whatever liturgy you’re using you have to flip over there if you haven’t memorized it.  I mean, I’m sure you‘ve memorized it, but the newcomer might not, or at least not the version we use.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
The most you can get out of this book are extra (or Minor) Offices of worship with a limited list of Scripture lessons.  It’s a baby step toward Anglican spirituality, rather than an actual expression of Anglican spirituality.  And because of that it is of extremely limited use to us.

Reference Value: 1/5
As mentioned above, there is almost nothing in here that isn’t already in the 1979 Prayer Book.  One or two particular prayers may be unique here, so it’s worth looking through them briefly.  Otherwise, there’s nothing new to learn or draw from this book.

In short, this isn’t a book worth getting.  I only have a copy because someone had a small stack of them and wanted to hand out extras.  It’s a neat idea, and could be the inspiration for a new Office booklet in the ACNA’s 2019 BCP context, but in itself is not particularly remarkable.

Book Review: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

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.

Are you an Anglo-Catholic?  Or do you have high-church leanings?  If yes, then this is a book you’ll probably appreciate: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.  Despite the name, it’s not a Prayer Book in the sense of the Common Prayer Book; this little volume does not deal with liturgy as such.  In the three-fold rule of prayer scheme of things, this deals primarily with personal or private devotion and prayer.

Note: This review pertains to its 2014 edition; it has predecessors which may be rather different.

The Table of Contents give you a good idea of what’s inside here.

  • The Christian’s Obligations
  • Daily Prayer
  • Penitence and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • The Holy Eucharist
  • Eucharistic Devotions
  • Devotions through the Christian Year
  • Topical Devotions
  • Litanies
  • The Holy Hour

The Daily Prayer and Holy Eucharist sections contain prayers and explanations of the primary liturgies of the Prayer Book tradition, approximating or summarizing the Daily Office in short form and providing devotional aids for following along in the Communion service.  The Penitence section includes a re-print of The Reconciliation of a Penitent, found in the 1979 Prayer Book.

The Eucharistic, calendar-based, and other topical-based devotions and prayers are drawn from a wide swath of Church history and are unashamedly catholic in outlook.  I wouldn’t say it’s so Papist as to be un-Anglican, though some of its content definitely would be rejected by the more ardent low-churchmen, and it does admittedly slightly stretch the boundaries set out in the Anglican formularies (an issue that virtually all ‘parties’ of modern Anglicanism are guilty of in one way or another, to be fair).

As a parent, I have enjoyed the prayer for one’s children.  As a priest, I have enjoyed the “Nine Days of Prayer for One Deceased” both for my own grieving and for being ready to help others in theirs.

There are two cautions I must raise regarding this book, however.

  1. It is written to integrate with the 1979 Prayer Book.  As we’ve seen in a previous review, the 1979 Prayer Book is not the best representative of Anglican tradition by a long shot.  For most of my readers that book is also now completely obsolete, if you ever used it at all.  That makes some features of this book, especially its walk-through of the Communion service, rather out of date (if not just plain incorrect).
  2. It shows signs of current Episcopalian liberalism.  Because this is offered as a source of traditionalist devotional material, it does have an inherent liturgical conservatism to it, but certain issues like sexual morality in the examination of conscience end up reading a bit oddly.  Theological precision has long gone out the window in Episcopalianism, too, so one cannot count on the content of this book being well-tethered, to the Anglican formularies or otherwise.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This is a very user-friendly book.  It’s meant for quick & easy use, without training; you don’t have to know your way around the Book of Common Prayer.  It has explanations and introductions in each chapter or section, much of which is useful to non-Episcopalians.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This is where mileage may vary.  The fact that it’s conformed to the 1979 Prayer Book is an inconvenience for us in the ACNA.  The fact that it’s specifically Anglo-Catholic may take it down a notch or two if you’re opposed to Anglo-Catholicism (making it a 1 or a 2).  But if you’re comfortable with that tradition, there are plenty of things in here one can still enjoy and use.

Reference Value: 2/5
Again, the 1979 connection decreases its reference value outside of Episcopalianism.  But if you want to look at some classic catholic devotions (like devotions to Mary and the Saints, prayers for the departed, stations of the cross, etc.) through some sort of Anglican filter then this can still be pretty educational.  It’s primarily a devotional book, though.

All in all, I’m happy to have received a copy, and was happy to pass along another copy to someone else.  It’s nice to pick up every now and then.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy or recommend it to others at this point, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a revised edition compatible with the 2019 Prayer Book being made someday.

Pray for others’ dioceses

The Anglican Diocese in New England just held their annual clergy conference a few days ago.  The Diocese of CANA East is holding the annual synod in the coming week or so.  The ACNA provincial assembly is about a month away.  It strikes me as likely that other dioceses are having significant events around this time of year also.

Hearing about these events can (or should!) help spur us on to further prayer for one another.  It may be “too late” for me to pray for my diocesan events, but I can always pray for others.  We’ve got some lovely and thoughtful prayers in our Prayer Book that probably lie fallow much longer than they ought.  Think about what others are up to, and lift up these prayers for them!

  1. FOR A PROVINCE OR DIOCESE

O God, by your grace you have called us in this Diocese to be a good and godly fellowship of faith. Bless our Bishop(s) N., and other clergy, and all our people. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  1. FOR A PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN CONVENTION OR SYNOD

Almighty and everlasting God, by your Holy Spirit you presided in the council of the blessed Apostles, and you promised, through your Son Jesus Christ, to be with your Church to the end of the world: Be with the council of your Church assembled [here] in your Name and presence. Save us from all error, ignorance, prejudice, and pride; and of your great mercy direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; that the order and discipline of your Church may be maintained, and that the Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed in all places, breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till all your scattered sheep, being gathered into one fold, become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

  1. FOR A PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN CONVENTION OR SYNOD

Gracious and everliving Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with the Holy Spirit’s grace and presence, the Bishop(s), Priests, Deacons, and all the Laity who assemble in your Name; that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill the will of him who loved her and gave himself for her, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who now lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

  1. FOR VESTRY AND CHURCH MEETINGS

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel [in ______] for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

  1. FOR THE SELECTION OF A BISHOP OR OTHER MINISTER

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a Bishop for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor who will preach the Gospel, care for your people, equip us for ministry, and lead us forth in fulfillment of the Great Commission; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Praying with St. Julian of Norwich

Today’s entry in the calendar of commemorations is St. Julian of Norwich.  Two quick clarifications are in order.  First, Julian is (in this case) a woman’s name.  Second, the W in Norwich is silent, so pronounce it ‘norrich’.  (Sorry, I had an history professor in college who heavily pronounced the W all the time, and it was ridiculously embarrassing.)

Saint Julian of Norwich was an ordinary medieval woman of some social status and means.  She was born in England around 1342, and had a severe illness at thirty in which she received last rites and had a series of sixteen visions of Christ.  She wrote about her visions, Revelations of Divine Love, shortly afterward, and near the end of the century wrote a longer treatise explaining them in greater detail.

For most of her life, after her near-death experience, she lived as an anchoress.  An anchorite (male) or anchoress (female) is sort of a cross between a monastic and a hermit.  As the name suggests, one is anchored to the spot, living in a small cell block attached to a church.  As an anchoress, therefore, she lived simply, singly, on the charity of others.  She had a window into the church building through which she could hear Mass and receive Communion, and a window to the outside through which she could speak with visitors and offer spiritual wisdom and advice.  Near the end of her life she was visited by another medieval woman who came to be remembered as a Saint, Margery Kempe.

You can read more of about her life here.

Apart from her name appearing in our calendar, St. Julian shows up in one other place in our Prayer Book: the Occasional Prayers section.  There, prayer #92 on page 673 reads:

O God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I can ask for nothing less that is completely to your honor, and if I do ask anything less, I shall always be in want. Only in you I have all. Amen.

In this Customary’s recommended rotation of praying these Occasional Prayers every two weeks, I came across this prayer on the day after Ash Wednesday, and immediately took a liking to it.  In my own emotional and spiritual life at that point, I badly needed to refresh a sense of satisfaction in Christ alone.  Words like “for you are enough for me” and “Only in you I have all” are expressions of faith and trust and reliance that I needed to meditate upon, and so this little prayer became a quiet theme for me throughout Lent.  It wasn’t seasonally appropriate one way or the other, it had no connection to the liturgy as such, it was simply a piece of my private devotions for a few weeks.  This is legitimate and good; the classical three-fold rule of worship identifies private devotions as necessary to the Christian life alongside the daily office and the sacraments.

And yet, common prayer, or at least a Prayer Book, can aid us in our private devotions.  The 123 Occasional Prayers offered near the back of our Prayer Book include over 20 labelled as being for Personal Life or Devotion.  This means that 1, they aren’t meant for common worship as such, and 2, some will befit your prayer life better than others.  There are some in there that I actually rather dislike.  But my opinions will change with my mood and spiritual condition over time, I’m sure, and St. Julian’s prayer may not minister to me as profoundly in another year.

So I encourage you to explore these prayers for your own prayer life, and explore the people commemorated in our calendar.  You never know who and what the Holy Spirit will use to minister to you both within and apart from the liturgy!