I have a strange habit of collecting liturgies. Right now I’m house-cat-dog-sitting for my parents while they’re out of the country. For this trip, I brought both the Book of Common Prayer and Celebrating Common Prayer. Back home in Toronto, I have an older BCP with the text of 1662, the Book of Alternative Services, and The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints John Chrysostom. I used to own the Roman Lauds, Vespers, Compline, but I found that it was just modern translations of things for which I had better, more beautiful translations in the BCP. I think that is all the books of liturgies I own.*
In a file folder I also have liturgies borrowed and pilfered from various churches and events, including at least one I composed myself. On this computer, I have a folder called “Medieval Liturgy,” in which you can find “Tridentine Vespers” (a translation of the same cut and pasted from www.breviary.net), “OE Benedictine Office” (containing prefaces for Morning and Evening prayer in Old English from a Benedictine breviary), and “A Mediaeval Vespers” (my personal translation and tweaking of the Sarum Vespers for Tuesdays). Lying on my desk at home is a liturgical reflection on the Trinity from a mediaeval English prayer book waiting to be taken from Latin into English.
Today I was quite pleased to receive in the mail more liturgies!
These are those used by an Anglican priest of my acquaintance in Cyprus. They are “A Service of Scripture and Prayer for Morning and Evening,” “Canticles,” and two different versions of “A Service of Morning Prayer.” Just before writing this I used “A Service of Scripture and Prayer for Morning and Evening.” I liked it! Since I’ve been using the BCP lectionary for my personal Bible readings, I just slipped them in for the lessons!
I like liturgical prayer for various reasons, some of them noted in my post on the Daily Office. Sometimes I feel a bit bewildered by the array of liturgies available for use these days — for the office, for the Eucharist, for specific occasions, for use by families, for all sorts of reasons, times, and places. However, there is some comfort in it. The regularity of the BCP is strong, sustaining, comforting, rooted.
But sometimes . . .
Sometimes, you want new words, and not necessarily your own. Raised evangelical/charismatic, I’m well-acquainted with extemporaneous prayer. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to try out new words that aren’t your own. Words or structures of prayer that you haven’t seen yet. Or a new version of an old thing. These arrays of liturgies now pouring out into the world since the liturgical “renewal” of the sixties/seventies can be a blessing to those things.
Nevertheless . . . nevertheless, with all my liturgies, I’m still rooted to and with the BCP with its beautiful Elizabethan language and strong Reformation theology. Were I stranded on a desert island and could have only two books, one would be my travel-sized NKJV (you need something portable on those desert islands) and the other would be my aged, weatherworn BCP.
*I have other books of prayers, though, such as A St. Francis Prayer Book, and a book of prayers for men, and Sr. Benedicta Ward’s translation of The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm. Plus, of course, the Hymn Book.