Monday, February 18, 2008

All My New Springs Are in Thee

That phrase occured in the reading of the psalms last Sunday. It is one of those memorable phrases which almost spring from the page as you are reciting (or singing) the psalter. From my teen years I have always appreciated such phrases and have spent a good deal of time meditating upon them. I write them down; they show up in my doodles and they become central to my short prayers from the heart which I have attempted to learn from the desert fathers.

In reard to this particular phrase, it occurs to me that it is our only path back to orthodox Anglicanism, to orthodox Christianity. We can not put our faith in the writers and theologians of the past and what we might learn from them if we do not first put our faith in Him, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob and hopefully of ourselves. That, to me, means that we should not so much attach ourselves to the writings and theology of Luther and Calvin neither of whom are Anglicans or in their lives and writings the inspiration of anything like the spiritual life which the classical Anglican prayer books set forth, as we should to Holy Scripture itself. How can we know the God who revealed himself to the patriarchs and prophets and finally to us in the person of Jesus, if we do not know the texts of the Old Testament and the New. Even the writings of the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers, as important as they were to the framers of the prayer book tradition, should be less important to us than the Bible itself. And I write this as one greatly influenced by those writers. But as much as I have been influenced by them, the words that have become central to my personal prayers are those taken from Holy Scripture itself.

In this time when we find classical prayer book Anglicanism almost destroyed by the very bishops, priests and deacons to which we have entrusted it, the large question which faces every Anglican is how do we recover the tradition? My answer is a simple and straight forward one: by useing it faithfully in accordance with its own presuppositions. The Preface of the first American prayer book, that of 1789, states of the book itself, "In which it will also appear that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or futher than local circumstances require." To me, this requires that we know and follow the English prayer book tradition as it is to found in the rubrics and prescriptions of the books of 1559 and 1662. These were omited from the American book as they have been omited from Peter Toon's recent 'translation' because of their reference to England's royal history and the American church's reaction to their recent independence from England and the English Church. But when they, as we, had to answer the question of who they were and what they believed and why, they had to turn back to the English Church and the prayer book tradition. And this is what we are going to have to do as well.

This does not mean that we should look to the current Church of England and what it is doing at the moment. Instead, we should attach ourselves to the heart of the prayer book tradition itself and to its most faithful adherents and practitioners. In short, we must become faithful Anglican Christians who are neither low church 'Evangelicals' or Roman imitating Anglo-papists. We must look to the last authentic and legitimate American prayer book as illuminated by the English prayer books of 1559, 1662 and 1928 as well as the Scots' books descending from the non-juroring tradition of liturgical scholarship. This means that our bishops, priests and deacons must recite the daily office as it is found in the American prayer book and make every attempt to celebrate the eucharist on all those occassions for which it provides propers or in its rubrics indicate a celebration is appropriate. That will be very difficult, but it is better than pretending in one form or another to be something which we are not.

And then we must wait on God! And we must do so with faith - not in ourselves or even in our tradition, but in Him.

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