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Book of Common Prayer - The Episcopal Church


I n anticipation of English prose after the Commonwealth, I had initially found the temptation to include Robert Hooke’s extraordinary Micrographia (1665) next in this sequence almost overwhelming. This, after all, was a Restoration publishing sensation described by Samuel Pepys as “the most ingenious book that I ever read in my life”. But, with this series approaching its conclusion, space is at a premium and Hooke must join my list of regrets. Besides, The Book of Common Prayer is, arguably, the most influential and widely read book in the English literary tradition, from Cranmer to the Beatles.

The Book of Common Prayer emerged from medieval religious practice as a vernacular aid to devotion. The first prayer books with the Litany in English (probably the work of Thomas Cranmer) appeared in 1544, with decisive new editions in 1549 and 1552, both largely owed to Cranmer. In the words of one commentator, this book “has one of the most complicated textual histories of any printed book anywhere in the world... There were more than 350 different imprints before the date often referred to as the ‘first’ edition of 1662.”

This, the definitive version of Common Prayer , which established uniformity of worship and also renewed the old liturgical tradition, occurred with the restoration of Charles II and was widely seen as an integral part of the Stuart settlement, an assertion of the vernacular traditions of the common man. From this moment on, the magnificent cadences of this simple volume became indistinguishable from the expression of the English language, wherever in the world it took root.

Over more than four centuries, countless millions of English-speaking people – believers and unbelievers – have been baptised, married or laid to rest to the sound of its sonorous periods: “… we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself”.

The vernacular prayer book also sponsored a new confessional spirit: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done: And we have done those things we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.”

By some estimates, such passages have enjoyed a wider, and larger, audience even than the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps The Book of Common Prayer ’s only rival is the King James Version of the Bible (1611). Like the Bible, this prayer book was scattered far and wide by empire, trade and Anglicanism through a process that we would now describe as “soft power”. Its most famous lines have reverberated round log cabin, quarterdeck and field of battle:

The book used in worship by the Anglican Communion ; it has had several revisions since the Reformation , and different versions exist for different countries.

The book used in worship by the Anglican Communion . Its early versions, from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were widely admired for the dignity and beauty of their language.

Book of Common Prayer , liturgical book used by churches of the Anglican Communion . First authorized for use in the Church of England in 1549, it was radically revised in 1552, with subsequent minor revisions in 1559, 1604, and 1662. The prayer book of 1662, with minor changes, has continued as the standard liturgy of most Anglican churches of the British Commonwealth . Outside the Commonwealth most churches of the Anglican Communion possess their own variants of the English prayer book. The Book of Common Prayer has also influenced or enriched the liturgical language of most English-speaking Protestant churches.

Since 1789 the Episcopal Church in the United States has used its own prayer book. The book’s fourth revision, in both traditional and modern language, was published in 1979.

…the lord protector introduced The Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and an act of uniformity to enforce it. Written primarily by Thomas Cranmer, the first prayer book of Edward VI was a literary masterpiece but a political flop, for it failed in its purpose. It sought to bring into…

…that English worship should follow The Book of Common Prayer —defined the nature of the English religious establishment. In 1571 the Convocation of Canterbury, one of the church’s two primary legislative bodies (along with the Convocation of York), defined standard doctrine in the Thirty-nine Articles, but attempts to reform the prayer…

…of the Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer in Welsh was essential for the promotion of the faith and the vitality of the language. A petition to the Privy Council led to an act of Parliament in 1563 that required the translation of the Bible and the Book of…

…John Phillips translated the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in 1610, using an orthography based on that of English. This orthography makes Manx difficult to understand for readers of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, to whom it is of considerable interest because it represents a dialect entirely free of literary influences.…

I n anticipation of English prose after the Commonwealth, I had initially found the temptation to include Robert Hooke’s extraordinary Micrographia (1665) next in this sequence almost overwhelming. This, after all, was a Restoration publishing sensation described by Samuel Pepys as “the most ingenious book that I ever read in my life”. But, with this series approaching its conclusion, space is at a premium and Hooke must join my list of regrets. Besides, The Book of Common Prayer is, arguably, the most influential and widely read book in the English literary tradition, from Cranmer to the Beatles.

The Book of Common Prayer emerged from medieval religious practice as a vernacular aid to devotion. The first prayer books with the Litany in English (probably the work of Thomas Cranmer) appeared in 1544, with decisive new editions in 1549 and 1552, both largely owed to Cranmer. In the words of one commentator, this book “has one of the most complicated textual histories of any printed book anywhere in the world... There were more than 350 different imprints before the date often referred to as the ‘first’ edition of 1662.”

This, the definitive version of Common Prayer , which established uniformity of worship and also renewed the old liturgical tradition, occurred with the restoration of Charles II and was widely seen as an integral part of the Stuart settlement, an assertion of the vernacular traditions of the common man. From this moment on, the magnificent cadences of this simple volume became indistinguishable from the expression of the English language, wherever in the world it took root.

Over more than four centuries, countless millions of English-speaking people – believers and unbelievers – have been baptised, married or laid to rest to the sound of its sonorous periods: “… we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself”.

The vernacular prayer book also sponsored a new confessional spirit: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done: And we have done those things we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.”

By some estimates, such passages have enjoyed a wider, and larger, audience even than the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps The Book of Common Prayer ’s only rival is the King James Version of the Bible (1611). Like the Bible, this prayer book was scattered far and wide by empire, trade and Anglicanism through a process that we would now describe as “soft power”. Its most famous lines have reverberated round log cabin, quarterdeck and field of battle:

The book used in worship by the Anglican Communion ; it has had several revisions since the Reformation , and different versions exist for different countries.

The book used in worship by the Anglican Communion . Its early versions, from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were widely admired for the dignity and beauty of their language.

I n anticipation of English prose after the Commonwealth, I had initially found the temptation to include Robert Hooke’s extraordinary Micrographia (1665) next in this sequence almost overwhelming. This, after all, was a Restoration publishing sensation described by Samuel Pepys as “the most ingenious book that I ever read in my life”. But, with this series approaching its conclusion, space is at a premium and Hooke must join my list of regrets. Besides, The Book of Common Prayer is, arguably, the most influential and widely read book in the English literary tradition, from Cranmer to the Beatles.

The Book of Common Prayer emerged from medieval religious practice as a vernacular aid to devotion. The first prayer books with the Litany in English (probably the work of Thomas Cranmer) appeared in 1544, with decisive new editions in 1549 and 1552, both largely owed to Cranmer. In the words of one commentator, this book “has one of the most complicated textual histories of any printed book anywhere in the world... There were more than 350 different imprints before the date often referred to as the ‘first’ edition of 1662.”

This, the definitive version of Common Prayer , which established uniformity of worship and also renewed the old liturgical tradition, occurred with the restoration of Charles II and was widely seen as an integral part of the Stuart settlement, an assertion of the vernacular traditions of the common man. From this moment on, the magnificent cadences of this simple volume became indistinguishable from the expression of the English language, wherever in the world it took root.

Over more than four centuries, countless millions of English-speaking people – believers and unbelievers – have been baptised, married or laid to rest to the sound of its sonorous periods: “… we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself”.

The vernacular prayer book also sponsored a new confessional spirit: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done: And we have done those things we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.”

By some estimates, such passages have enjoyed a wider, and larger, audience even than the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps The Book of Common Prayer ’s only rival is the King James Version of the Bible (1611). Like the Bible, this prayer book was scattered far and wide by empire, trade and Anglicanism through a process that we would now describe as “soft power”. Its most famous lines have reverberated round log cabin, quarterdeck and field of battle:


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