Monday, March 3, 2014

Pardon me, Madam, but have you bothered to read your own Prayer Book?

Few would argue that Anglicanism's most significant contribution to the wider Christian community is The Book of Common Prayer. Many a believer, Anglican or otherwise, has been enriched by its profound and theologically rich prayers and liturgy. First compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549, it underwent several revisions until 1662. The expansion of the Anglican Communion around the world necessitated different editions, but the 1662 edition has remained the theological standard.

The most obvious advantage of having a Prayer Book is that Anglican Christians can always be ready in season and out to offer a prayer or devotional exposition, not because they have a pre-written script, but because they have been steeped, or at least should have been, in a grand tradition of theologically rich prayer and spirituality. There should never be any need to "wing it," or to make something up as you go along. So, it is more than a little bizarre that the "Presiding Bishop" of the former American province of the Anglican Communion has so much trouble in this video, posted on her denomination's website, explaining the Christian holy season of Lent.

While some have criticized the 1979 American edition of the Prayer Book as lacking in some of the finer points of theology, it nevertheless includes a rather succinct explanation of the meaning of Lent in its Ash Wednesday liturgy.
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
So one is left to wonder if Madam Oven Mitt has even read her own Prayer Book!