Monday, February 20, 2012

BCP at 350

Hmm.  I just learned from The American Spectator's Jonathan Aitken that this year, only a year after the King James Bible celebrated its 400th anniversary, the Book of Common Prayer is celebrating its 350th.  Actually, it's a little older than that, but the 1662 edition was the edition for a very long time. Anyway, do give Aitken's piece a look.

I don't know about you, but I've always preferred my religion (if I may, for just a moment, distinguish it from my faith) grand.  I wanted that what I, along with others, actually do in church, and especially on Sundays, be something altogether different (otherworldly?) from what I do outside the building and on other days.  I longed for robes and rhythmic ritual.  I wanted the moment to be solemnized and sacralized.

I noticed this attraction in myself even as a kid.  While I was reared in informal protestant evangelicalism, I was always drawn, through film and television mostly, to Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian trappings and pageantry.  Those people, I thought, may not have their theology quite right, but man do they know how to do church.

I knew full well the dangers of compartmentalizing my religion and my faith, one at the expense of the other.  But, as I saw it then, and still do now, serious ceremony is just as likely to reinforce one's faith as it is to dilute it.

At any rate, I remain securely within informal protestant evangelicalism--can't get over the theological hurdles--but am nevertheless heartened when our pastor includes in our church bulletin/order of worship from time to time the "General Confession" from the Book of Common Prayer.  (Although, alas, it's usually the more contemporary version.)   From the 1928 version, consider (pray?), these words and then tell me they're not sublime.
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen. 

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