Friday, June 8, 2012

The Spirituality of the Prayer Book

The Book of Common Prayer stands at the center of the Anglican world-view. It is arguably our great contribution to Christianity (arguably, because some is bound to say that it's the King James Bible). Of course, there are many different Books of Common Prayer, but within the diversity of cultural (con)texts, there is a core that is shared by all the BCPs around the world.
Books of Common Prayer are a system of spirituality. They are not merely a collection of prayers or prayer services. They are not a grab bag of elements from which enterprising clergy cobble together worship. The Prayer Book is a tool-chest filled with all the components needed to draw the Christian into deeper and deeper fellowship with God.
Derek Olsen has written about this at his blog. A couple of key points leap out to me. First, Derek reminds me of the importance of the Kalendar as a framework of the spiritual life. It does matter that we revolve within the same wheel of the year, moving through liturgical seasons, feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, and commemorations of the saints. There is perhaps no greater way to measure progress in the spiritual life than to return to the same place (in space, or in time) and to observe how you are different. 
Second, the Sunday eucharist and the Daily offices complement, enhance, support, and reinforce each other. They approach and nurture slightly different aspects of our spiritual life. Working in concert, the kalendar, the offices, and the mass become a sort of tripod with a stable and wide base, which allows us to clamber to the top to see God.
My favorite quote:
The Mass, then, as it rolls through the seasons, offers us not only a weekly or more frequent experience of the grace of God but allows us to hear and experience the Good News in several major modes: expectation, joy, enlightenment, penitence, celebration—the principle Christian affections. If the Office is primarily catechetical, the Mass is primarily mystagogical. That is, it leads us by experiences of grace into the mystery of God and the relationship that God is calling us into with him and with the entire created order through him.

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