On the need for revision of liturgical texts

"Nevertheless, while writing this book, I happened at one point to be reading a compilation of a few [Thomas] Cranmer collects. On the very first page of the first collect, the editor—a well-known, current writer in his own right—felt the need to explain the meaning (with several words constituting a parenthetical phrase for that purpose) of a rather archaic word, which Cranmer had utilized for a particular prayer book collect. This moment confirmed again the reason I had suspected for many years that neither "original" Cranmer nor "original" [Myles] Coverdale would work in the sanctuaries of most churches today. Good, if not superb, though ancient, writing, of course, serves the needs of some, but clearly not all, especially those who know more about Facebook than they do about the Book of Common Prayer. Any words that require further explanation simply add one more opaque layer through which language must travel to penetrate the hearts and minds of those searching and seeking profundity beyond their own uncertainties."

J. Chester Johnson, Auden, the Psalms, and Me (Church Publishing, 2017), p. 33


  1. What is easy and easily accessible is not always what is helpful. As many of us have learned there are many Facebook members who the establishment thought needed praise music in order to find themselves in meaningful services. That has not been my experience. Mystery, whether in incense, chant, hymns or prayerbook is meant to invite prayer, instruction, (and heaven forbid, silence) a deepening of immersion in the love of God through these avenues. The need to explain doesn't necessarily mean it's not relevant or beautiful or mysterious even today. I give you "that He may dwell in us and we in Him" and the Prayer of Humble Access, almost always left out of Rite I Eucharist. I first experienced BCP as a 24 year old. It's taking me a lifetime to live in the words, and I hope to be perpetually puzzled by, and searching in, them as life gives them new meaning every day. Until the day I die.


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