"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Praying with Saints and Angels on Michaelmas

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
~Collect for Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

A short excerpt from Opening the Prayer Book, by Jeffrey Lee.  In Chapter Seven: Liturgy in Action, Lee writes about the intention behind the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to more fully realize the very reality proclaimed by the prayer book's title: namely, that the work, worship, and prayer of the church is to be primarily communal, not private.  It is certainly true that we are often less than resoundingly successful at living truly communal Christian lives, and Lee acknowledges that we often miss the mark.  I myself am aware of critics (and have to an extent shared in their concern) who allege that the variety of options in the current prayer book actually serves to undermine the unity of the church, that the diversity means we are in fact no longer a church of common prayer.  For this reason, I find Lee's assessment fascinating and helpful.  He writes that the 1979 prayer book "may look like prayer books from earlier times, but it is actually a resource library for pastoral liturgy", with the attendant necessity that every individual parish must be actively involved in determining how they will live into that liturgy.  The worshiping community does not simply open to a certain page and read straight through a single, standard set of prayers, hymns, and offerings.  Rather, the format, or "shape" of the liturgy is standard, while many details remain to be determined at the parish level.  Thus, we might say, the local community comes to have a sense of meaningful ownership in the liturgy.  Here is Lee writing about the communal reality of prayer.
We gather for common prayer.  In the last several decades, liturgical reformers within Anglicanism and among Christians in general have sought to reclaim a more vigorous understanding and practice of the communal dimension of Christian prayer.  For the Christian, in a real sense, there is no such thing as private prayer.  In fact, the word "private" shares a root with "deprivation" - privatio in Latin is to deprive.  This is not to deny the importance of times of personal prayer; but even personal prayer is fundamentally ecclesial in nature.  When Christians pray, they do so with the church, not in isolation, even if they are alone:  we pray always "with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven" (BCP 362). 
Peace, and happy Michaelmas!


No comments:

Post a Comment