Rooted and Built Up in Christ

Rooted and Built Up in Christ (Col. 2:6-7):
The Prayer Book Path

By J. I. Packer

(This address was given at St. Paul’s Church, Toronto, on May 1, 1999 at a special event organized by the Toronto Branch of the PBSC, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the first Book of Common Prayer.)

My task is to celebrate the Prayer Book, not to talk about myself, and I intend to keep to my agenda. But I think I need to start by telling you straight out that I am speaking to you as one of those rare birds who over the years has found the historic Anglican Prayer Book to be a source of increasing delight and excitement (I choose my words; I mean them), so that now in my eighth decade I find myself valuing it more than at any earlier time in my life. I was brought up on the Prayer Book, in the sense that I was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England and attended church regularly with my parents till I went up to Oxford at age eighteen. Throughout those years, however, the Prayer Book bored me stiff, simply because Christianity bored me stiff. I was an intelligent, introverted, isolated boy who lived, I suppose, respectably but conventionally. I knew God was real, and that Christianity was no doubt true, but I had no interest in knowing God relationally, and I hated the pilgrim perspective of the Prayer Book and the hymns, which told me that the supreme significance of this present life is as preparation and training for a more important, endless life that Christians will live in God’s immediate presence. After Jesus Christ made himself known to me and claimed me, however, and once I had got beyond my resentment of the Church of England for never having clearly explained the gospel to me, I began to value the Prayer Book as what others have often called it, namely the Bible arranged for worship, and to see its two-world, grace-oriented, Christ-centred outlook as the highest wisdom. I began to discover how as you use it pulls you into its own world (which is, of course, what Karl Barth once called the strange new world of the Bible). I began to find out how it expands you emotionally and relationally as a person, and how at every turn of the road it highlights and honours our Lord and Saviour Jesus. I came to see that the root problem with the Prayer Book (if “problem” is the right word) is not that its language is ceremonial in an old-fashioned way, but that it is a spiritual book for spiritually alive people, and you cannot expect anyone to be other than bored with it until Jesus Christ renews their hearts and the Bible itself begins to open up to them. So. now, in my eighth decade, I am more of an enthusiast for the Prayer Book than ever, I am increasingly grateful for what it gives me, I find that during the past ten years I have spoken and written more on its behalf than ever before, and it is as an enthusiast that I move at this moment into my announced subject.

As good Christians, and Anglicans among them, should always do when matters of spiritual significance arise, let us begin with the Bible. In Colossians 2:6-7 Paul focusses the message of the entire letter by writing as follows. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” I want to make three observations regarding these words.

First observation: this text speaks about Jesus Christ, calling him the Lord and declaring him to be in the most literal sense central to Christian existence. Our lives are only Christian, Paul implies, as we live them “in him,” “rooted and built up in him” – the word “in” evidently carries a great weight of relational meaning. But now, who is this Jesus Christ? When Paul wrote to the Colossians he needed to spell out the answer to that question, for some after being taught it were losing their grip on it, and with the current prevalence among us of liberal theology, which always starts by diminishing the stature of Jesus Christ, we today need to pay specially close attention to what Paul says. Just as Paul’s understanding of justification by faith permeates all his writings but is most fully set out in Romans, so Paul’s understanding of who and what Jesus is permeates all his writings but is most fully set out in Colossians. What Paul has to tell us about him may be stated thus:

First, Jesus is the man of Calvary. Paul speaks explicitly of his cross in 2:15-16, that is, of Jesus’ execution as a condemned criminal. The cross, so we find, is the place where Paul’s thinking and teaching about Jesus regularly starts.

Second, Jesus is the Son of God, “his beloved Son” (1:13), “the image of the invisible God” (1:15). The one whom Paul calls “God” is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3). Jesus is the human name for the Son of God incarnate, and Paul uses the word “fullness”, which had evidently become a code-word among the unorthodox Colossians to express the fact of incarnation – “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (1:19); “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (2:9). That present tense, “dwells”, points to the fact that the incarnate life of the Son continues for ever – continues, therefore, now, as at this very moment we contemplate his reality and his role. He, says Paul, is “the first-born from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything” (1:18). That is the Jesus with whom we have to do today.

Third, Jesus is the Lord of creation: such was the Father’s will for the Son who was his co-creating agent. “All things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1:16-17). As he brought everything into being, so he sustains it, or it would cease to be: that, of course, includes you and me. Paul calls Jesus “the Lord Jesus” (3:17), “the Lord Christ” (3:24), and “the Lord” simply (3:18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 4:7, 17), in addition to saying that Christians receive “Christ Jesus the Lord” in the verse from which we started (2:6). Lordship signifies ownership, dominion, and authority. Scholars agree that “Jesus is Lord” was in effect the first Christian confession of faith. Paul insists that Christians must relate to Jesus Christ as their Lordby obeying his commands, acknowledging his control of their circumstances, relying on his power to enable them to serve him loyally, and seeking to please him in all that they do.

Fourth, Jesus is the Christ of Scripture, that is, the predicted Messianic king whose coming into the world would mean peace and well-being – shalom, to use the Hebrew word for all in his universal kingdom. A whole philosophy of history is wrapped up in the title “Christ” (which means, “the anointed one”). Jesus, the Davidic descendent to whose reign the prophets looked forward, is now on the throne of the universe, and will in due course reappear for the final glory of his own people and the final judgment (“wrath”) that is in store for our unbelieving and disobedient world (3:1-6).

Fifth, Jesus is the sacrifice for sinners, the one through whose blood-shedding on the cross reconciliation and peace with God became realities for Christian people (1:20). Six verses on from our passage Paul explains this as follows: “God … forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands” – that is, cancelling the death-warrant that his law had become to us through our failure to fulfill it. “He set this aside,” Paul continues, “nailing it to the cross” (2:13-14). Do you see what that means? If you and I had been among the spectators at Calvary, we could have read on the notice nailed to the cross declaring the crime for which Jesus was being put to death the words Pilate wrote to identify him as a political subversive – “The King of the Jews”. But had we looked at the notice then, or if with our mind’s eye we look at it now, with spiritual understanding, what each of us would see written there is the ghastly computation of all our own sins. “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the punishment that made us whole … the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:5-6). Or, as Paul puts it in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. Or, as Jesus himself stated it, “The Son of man came … to give his life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Paul’s picture of the record of our sins nailed to Christ’s cross says it all, in an unforgettably vivid and poignant way.

Sixth, Jesus is the life of believers – “Christ who is your life” (3:4). To see what this means., we must begin by noting that for Paul those who have not yet come to a life-changing faith-fellowship with Jesus are, as he puts it, “dead in trespasses”, that is, totally unresponsive to God in their hearts, just as the physically dead are totally unresponsive to any form of stimulus that we might apply to them. By contrast, however, those with faith, who are alive in Christ and whose life Christ is, have been brought into a condition in which the Christ who rose and reigns calls, draws, welcomes, pardons, corrects, strengthens, upholds, and encourages them, so that they are able to testify that Jesus is known to them as the friend who loves them and walks with them and as the focus of their worship and service and as the fountain of patience, persistence, and hope in their hearts whatever their outward situation. “To me, living is Christ” said Paul elsewhere (Phil. 1:21), and all believers learn to say the same as they realise what Christ’s entry into their personal existence has involved.

Clearly, Christ who is our life, will make us and keep us different from those around us, and that leads on to our next major point.

Second observation: this text speaks of persons linked with Jesus Christ – citizens of Colossae in the first instance, but by parity of reasoning all those who in our day or any other share the faith of which Paul is speaking. These are they who have “received Jesus Christ the Lord” – that is, received him as their personal Lord and Saviour and committed themselves to follow him in personal repentance for past godlessness and personal loyalty and obedience for the future. The key phrases pointing to their link with Christ are “walk in him” (which is the literal rendering of Paul’s main verb), and “rooted and built up in him”. “In him”, as I said earlier, is a weighty phrase pointing to union, communion, and solidarity – togetherness, we may say, in all thinkable ways. And truly, as every Anglican needs to see (some, I fear, are not seeing it as yet), togetherness with Christ, here and hereafter, is what Christianity in every age is all about.

The verbs Paul employs to express this togetherness are pictures. Walking is the Bible’s apt and vivid picture of the living of a life: the thought is of a steady, purposeful, energetic, rhythmical, usually unspectacular exertion, expressing itself in this instance in what Eugene Peterson, in one of his memorable book titles, called “a long obedience in the same direction”. Rooted is the picture of a tree drawing all its nourishment for growth and fruitage from a single source, namely the soil in which its roots are anchored: the thought this picture expresses is of constant dependence on Christ at a conscious level and constant forming and transforming of us by Christ in ways of which we will not always ourselves be aware. Built up is Paul’s recurring picture of a new building being erected, or of a broken-down and non-functional building being renovated; this picture points to Christ’s ongoing work through the Holy Spirit of conforming believers to himself in mind, heart, character, and conduct. The pictures, as we see, overlap, but all point to the same reality – a life in which, as the hymn puts it, Christ is our life, and our love, and our path, and our prize.

Paul’s thought is amplified and safeguarded by the next two phrases. “Established in the faith, just as you were taught” is a warning against drifting away from the authentic apostolic emphasis on the centrality, sufficiency and glory of Christ to notions which, like the Colossian unorthodoxy of angel-worship, relativize him to non-Christian forms of religious expression treated as absolutes – a warning that is much needed in these days in which multifaith and syncretistic ways of thinking are so widespread. “Abounding in thanksgiving” reminds us that in Paul’s view mankind was made for thankfulness to a generous Creator as a life-activity (see Rom. 1:21), and that one divinely intended effect of our renovation in Christ is to return us to that activity, with more to be thankful for now than was the case before the Fall. The thought of thanksgiving as a basic and constant exercise of the Christian life often appears in Paul (see 1:12, 3:15-17; Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:4, 20; 1 Thes. 5:18), and thanksgiving as a way of life is modelled for us over and over again in the Psalms.

Here, then, is Paul’s outline of the life of fellowship with Jesus Christ for each believing individual. That is not quite all, however, that our text sets before us.

Third observationbriefly – this text speaks of a people linked with Jesus Christ. The frame of corporateness, within which the plurals of our text should be set, was established in 1:18, where the incarnate Son is declared to be “the head of the body, the church”. In Ephesians, which should, I judge, be read as a companion piece to Colossians, Paul greatly enlarges this perspective, displaying the church as both the body and bride of Christ and also as the new man and the temple of God, and declaring: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6). Our individuality in Christ, as converted and born-again persons living consciously in fellowship with him, must never become “lone ranger” individualism, which devalues the congregation and its discipline out of spiritual self-indulgence and turns our personal faith into what is sometimes called “a flight of the alone to the Alone”. That sort of Christianity is badly out of shape. Instead, we must recognize the unity and solidarity of all Christ’s people with him and in him, and learn to see our separate congregations as so many local outcrops and small-scale manifestations of Christ’s one church universal, and therefore make it our habit to express our adoration of and communion with and commitment to the Son and the Father through the Holy Spirit by doing things together. That is the way we are to go.

And now I have reached the point where I can say with clarity what I want to say about our Canadian Book of Common Prayer, set against the background of its 450-year history: namely, that it has been, still is, and will continue to be a marvellous means, under God, for achieving the goal of personal and corporate fellowship with the holy Trinity in the rootedness, faithfulness and thankfulness of what the General Confession calls “a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of (God’s) holy name”. In other words, the Prayer Book comes to us as a stellar source of help for fulfilling Paul’s summons to us in Colossians 2:6-7. Let me spell out what I mean.

Put yourself for a moment in the shoes of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the year 1547. Henry VIII has just been succeeded by the boy-king Edward VI, and at last all systems are “go” for the reformation of the Church of England. The first task has to be the production of a God-honouring, life-enhancing set of services in English that all congregations will use, and that will involve all the worshippers in a way that advances their personal discipleship to Jesus Christ. The project is ambitious and demanding, but Cranmer has resources for it. Over and above his access to like-minded colleagues, he is himself a learned man, familiar with the liturgical and theological legacy of all Christendom since it began; he knows the writings of the Fathers, the Medievals, and the Reformers; he is a brilliant producer of poignant prayers for public use, as he showed in his Litany of 1544; and he is a Bible-man to his fingertips, totally committed to the Reformation ideal of Bible truth irradiating every Christian’s head and heart and shining forth in every Christian’s attitudes and actions. On what principles, now, was he to proceed? The two versions of his Prayer Book, those of 1549 and 1552 respectively, show him implementing the following five.

1. Services must be congregational.

Cranmer’s goal was a book of Common (that is, communal) prayer. Before the Reformation the priest had said Mass in Latin, and the congregation, not understanding, spent the time saying private prayers, or else did nothing. Cranmer, however, drafted services in the vernacular, writing into them set parts for the congregation to say (prayers, psalms, responses), and he looked forward to the day when all worshippers would be able to read and would have a copy of each service open before them, so that they could follow with their eyes as well as their ears, and so be completely involved in what was going on. In his preface to the 1544 Litany he had written: “And such among the people as have books and can read may read them quietly and softly to themselves; and such as cannot read, let them quietly and attentively give audience in time of the said prayers, having their minds erect to Almighty God, and devoutly praying in their hearts the same petitions which do enter in at their ears, so that with one sound of the heart and one accord God may be glorified in his church.”1 “One sound of the heart” – that was Cranmer’s ideal of congregational worship, and surely there can be no argument that in this he was right.

2. Services must be simple.

Cranmer’s Prayer Books reject the studied ornateness of thought and ritual in older worship forms in favour of studied simplicity and, as we have just seen, “inwardness”, meaning that involvement of heart to which complexity and elaboration are always hostile. Cranmer sought to reduce ceremonial to the minimum consistent with full reverence and decency, and to simplify the flow of his services as drastically as the substance and thrust of the biblical truth being expressed would allow. His sixteenth-century ceremonial language, to which Prayer Book users have always had to adjust, masks for some today the essential simplicity which marks all Cranmer’s services, but it is there, as I shall illustrate in a moment, and Cranmer’s achieving of it has milestone status in Christian liturgical history.

3. Services must edify.

As we saw from Colossians, Christians are to be “built up” in Christ; and Cranmer’s 1549 preface “Of Ceremonies” states explicitly that edification is the end “whereunto all things done in the Church (as the Apostle teacheth) ought to be referred”. Recognizing that edification comes through the teaching and applying of biblical truth, Cranmer gave a major place in his drafting to Scripture readings and set exhortations, and prescribed a sermon at each Holy Communion service. Already he had sponsored the writing of the Homilies, a set of sermons to be read from pulpits to guarantee that Christian basics would be properly presented to all congregations. (Thus, the first four were on personal Bible reading, human sinfulness, justification through Christ’s death, and saving faith.) And Cranmer’s Lectionary, used for daily worship, would take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice every year. Thus Cranmer, Bible-man and gospel-man that he was, sought to advance Anglican edification.

Involved here was a long-term educational ideal. Facing a laity deeply ignorant of basic Christianity, it was central to Cranmer’s plan to construct services of proper theological fullness and depth and then teach people to use them. The Prayer Book as we have it today still sets the same high standard. It has never been possible to enter properly into Prayer Book worship without some prior acquaintance with the essentials of the Christian message, plus some concentrated mental effort, requiring some preparation of heart beforehand.2 The payoff, however, if I may so express it, is that the profound simplicities of Cranmer’s liturgical forms have infinite power to feed the soul, as Anglicans for four and a half centuries have been discovering. One grows into the Prayer Book, one never outgrows it.

The principle that services should have a didactic quality, so that they may both instruct and edify, is rarely stressed (you will agree) in modern liturgical discussion. The quest today is for services that will express what people have in their hearts at the moment, rather than put into their hearts what they need to grasp if they are ever to grow in grace and please God – that is one reason why today’s alternative service forms are so shallow and flat. The plea for reducing the theological content of services so that they will never outstrip any participant’s present understanding gets a hearing today that Cranmer would not have given it. Train up the people, he would have said, rather than water down the faith! Surely this is the true wisdom, which we need urgently to recover. It is never right to buy simplicity at the cost of shallowness.

4. Services must unify.

One aim of Cranmer and his colleagues was to unite the local congregations of England, some ten thousand of them as it seems there were, in a common faith, a common worship, and hence a common sympathy of a kind that cannot exist where patterns of belief and worship diverge. The 1549 Prayer Book was enacted as an all-England liturgy, just as our 1962 book was intended to function as an all-Canada liturgy. Uniformity historically, whatever its political significance at different times, has always been valued by church leaders as a means of realizing the ideal of unity, and it seems to me that this pastoral argument for uniformity in the essentials of worship is as strong today as it ever was. Agreement in the use of a liturgy that is biblical, evangelical, and worthy of God (which is the only uniformity I argue for, as it is the only uniformity that English and Canadian Anglicans have ever had) has three beneficial effects. First, it keeps the church’s standards of worship at the highest level. Second, it brings all worshippers face to face with the gospel and keeps them there. Third, it maintains a sense of oneness and solidarity within the church as a whole. In today’s discussions of the historic Anglican ideal of uniformity, only two points are usually made: first, that uniformity is not the same as unity, which can exist without it; second, that more flexibility than the Prayer Book prescribes would sometimes be an advantage. True, no doubt, yet the deeper truth lies in the balancing points: first, that godly uniformity is a potent means of expressing and deepening unity in Christ, and second, that in enlarging the area of allowed variation we should hold to the principle that as there is one gospel, and only one, so the actual worship of churches within the same diocesan and provincial networks should be seen and felt as one, and only one. Too much variety makes this impossible.

5. Services must express the gospel.

Cranmer saw that a good service is not a set of unconnected bits and pieces, like a club concert – it is an integrated unit, having an overall “shape” and a clear, planned “route” along which worshippers are led. Cranmer “routed” Anglican public worship via the gospel, so that it might have a fully evangelical “feel” and “shape”. How did he do this? By giving his services an inner structure consisting of a sequence of three themes: sin., detected and confessed; grace, proclaimed and celebrated – and faith, focussed and expressed. In the proclaiming of grace Jesus Christ the Mediator must be central, so we may formulate the sequence as, first, facing our utter need of Christ; second, acknowledging God’s merciful provision of Christ; third, expressing our trustful, thankful response to Christ. Thus Cranmer’s services first make us face our present badness; then they tell us of the new life of grace; finally they lead us into the right response, which is multiple – prayer and praise for pardon; joyful trust in God’s promises of mercy; learning of God from his Word; asking for help both for ourselves and for others, professing our own faith, and giving ourselves directly to God out of gratitude for all he has given to us. Since this point about the structure of Cranmer’s services is not always appreciated, I propose now very briefly to illustrate it, firstfrom the “Bible” services of Morning and Evening Prayer and then from the sacramental service of Holy Communion.

What “route”, now, do Morning and Evening Prayer follow? In the Cranmerian form in which we are familiar with them, the first step is a penitential sentence and declaration leading to a confession of our sins. Then comes step two, the proclamation that God pardons and absolves penitent believers, so that we pray with confidence for “true repentance, and his Holy Spirit”. This prayer is the beginning of step three, faith’s response to the gospel, and all that follows – the Lord’s Prayer, the doxology, psalm-singing, listening to God’s voice in Scripture, confessing our belief, making intercession – appears as the further action of those who by faith have laid hold of God’s pardoning mercy in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thus the sin-grace-faith sequence is basic to the whole service, just as it is basic to the Christian experience that the service expresses and deepens.

Now we look at the service of Holy Communion, the sacrament of continuance and strengthening through faith in the living Christ and his atoning death. What is the “route” here? A detailed answer to this question would be complicated by the fact that Cranmer produced two versions of Holy Communion, that of 1549 and that of 1552, and complicated also by the further fact that while England’s 1662 Prayer Book, to which the Solemn Declaration of 1893 refers, follows 1552 very closely, Canada’s 1962 Communion service does not fully correspond to either of Cranmer’s forms.3 But a general answer to our question does not require discussion of these specific differences, and it is a general answer that I offer now. The general answer is that the ground-plan of the Communion service consists of the sin-grace-faith sequence repeated three times, like successive turns of a screw – the first time in an introductory way, in the Ante-Communion; the second time with specific application to those who plan to communicate, and the third time by administration of the sacrament itself, confirming the grace proclaimed in the comfortable words.

To be more precise: the first cycle consists of (1) recognition of sin, in the prayers “cleanse our hearts” and “Lord, have mercy upon us”; (2) proclamation of grace in the New Testament readings, epistle and gospel; and (3) four responsive exercises of faith – testifying (“I believe”), learning (the sermon), giving (the collection), and interceding for the church on earth.

The second cycle involves us in (1) acknowledging personal sin in the confession, (2) being assured in the Comfortable Words of the grace of Christ to sinners; and (3) actively embracing that grace (by the Prayer of Humble Access in 1549,4 by the Sursum Corda thanksgiving in 1552).

In the final cycle we come as self-identified sinners to “God’s Board”, as 1549 calls it: we are given the elements with words that assure (“the body … given for thee”, “the blood … shed for thee”), we receive them with faith in the redemptive reality they signify, and we express that faith in further gratitude for grace in our post-communion praying.

Whether the consecration prayer (the canon) is best made part of the second cycle, as in 1549, or the third, as in 1552, England’s 1662, and Canada’s 1962, and whether 1962’s other differences from 1549, 1552 and 1662 are defects or improvements, is of no consequence or relevance in this analysis, and I mention these questions only to dismiss them.

Time forbids further exploration of the way Cranmer used his threefold sequence in constructing his services, just as it forbids us to confirm our results so far by theological analysis of the Collects, those profound prayers that Cranmer provided for each week of the year. That will have to wait for another occasion. But I hope I have said enough to indicate, at least in a preliminary way, how by observing the five principles under review Cranmer was able to mastermind a Christ-centred liturgy that marvellously matches and furthers God’s plan for the church as Paul set its out in Colossians 2: 6-7. Now to my conclusion.

The conclusion can be formulated as follows. As biblical Christians who are also, in the providence of God, trustees for the Book of Common Prayer, this precious aid to biblical godliness, we are under obligation to commend and defend it in the church, and to give credibility to our advocacy of it by making full use of it ourselves. The Prayer Book path of disciplined life in Christ is one that we must ourselves learn to follow – which means, to start with, taking seriously the paragraph with which the Canadian expansion of Cranmer’s catechism closes:

Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for himself a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the church where in he may consider the following:

The regularity of his attendance at public worship and especially at the Holy Communion.

The practice of private prayer, Bible-reading, and self-discipline.

Bringing the teaching and example of Christ into his everyday life.

The boldness of his spoken witness to his faith in Christ.

His personal service to the Church and the community.

The offering of money according to his means for the support of the work of the church at home and overseas.

This sets us on the road – and, may I add, none of us will ever find a better pattern for private prayer and Bible-reading anywhere than that offered by the Prayer Book’s own daily offices. But this, again, is a tempting theme that time does not allow me to develop.

One of the weightiest last-century authorities on walking in Christ and being rooted and built up in him was the evangelical patriarch and churchman Charles Simeon. I conclude my conclusion with a quotation from him with which I, for one, resonate at a very deep level:

“I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful but humbled in thankfulness before my God and Saviour continually. This is the religion that pervades the whole Liturgy, and particularly the Communion Service, and this makes the Liturgy inexpressibly sweet to me. The repeated cries to each Person of the ever-adorable Trinity for mercy, are not at all too frequent or too fervent for me; nor is the Confession in the Communion service too strong for me: nor the Te Deum, nor the ascriptions of glory after the Lord’s Supper, Glory to God on high, etc. too exalted for me … this shows what men of God the framers of our Liturgy were, and what I pant, and long, and strive to be. This makes the Liturgy as superior to all modern compositions, as the work of a Philosopher on any deep subject is to that of a schoolboy who understands scarcely anything about it.”5


  1. From An Exhortation unto Prayer, and a Litany with Suffrages – Private Prayers from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1851), p. 570.
  2. As Bishop Colin Dunlop frankly declares: “Perhaps there is no system of public Worship which makes such heavy demands upon the attention of the humblest worshipper as does the Book of Common Prayer”, in Anglican Public Worship(London: SCM, 1961), p.40.
  3. In 1549 Cranmer kept the traditional pattern of the Great Eucharistic Prayer (the Canon), including intercession, thanksgiving, consecration of the elements, commemoration of Christ before God, and self-oblation by the worshippers, prior to the communion itself. In 1552 Cranmer broke up this prayer, eliminating the Godward commemoration and postponing self-oblation till after the communion. Canada 1962 restores some of the 1549 Canon to what since 1552 had been called the Prayer of Consecration, thus giving two acts of congregational self-oblation, one before communion and one after; though it remains clear that, as in Cranmer’s 1552 and England’s 1662, and indeed, according to Cranmer’s own estimate, in 1549 as well, the essential act of the Eucharist is not offering either Christ or ourselves to God, but thankfully receiving the bread and wine that commemorate Christ’s sacrifice for us.
  4. There is a rich meditation on the Prayer of Humble Access by Desmond Scotchmer in The Lamp(bulletin of the Ontario branches of the Prayer Book Society of Canada), no. 13, Lent 1999, pp. 2-3.
  5. H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon (London: Methuen, 1892), pp. 214f.
Rooted and Built Up in Christ