Our liturgy has seen chaos before

At St Denys this past Sunday, I looked upon these fragile plaster ribs with worried eyes after a service of Matins. Their form mimics that of the Union Flag. It reminds me of the great strain the constitution of theses island is under. The liturgy of Matins has a worryingly fresh colour in the light of current struggles between the executive and parliament.

Plaster vaulting ribs in the form of a Union Flag

I am suddenly glad that the Book of Common Prayer remains ‘A permanent feature of the Church of England’s worship’. Matin’s or Morning Prayer’s persistent reminder of human sinfulness, the awesome majesty of God and need for God’s peace in tumult seems suddenly uncomfortably relevant. This liturgy was forged out of chaos reminds us that the preservation of peace and unity is not to be taken for granted.

Liturgy both written, and oral (as found in many new churches), is a peculiar thing to which more attention should be paid. This Book of Common Prayer was forged out life in an England which was torn by recent civil war and the effects of Henry VIII’s acrimonious separation from the Church in Rome. Ministers were bound to the use of the Book of Common Prayer by force of law – and those who could not accept this new order – deprived of their livings. It was a brutal time which England took generations to recover from.

The Church has seen Parliament have a hard time doing justly and mercifully before: Here’s the relevant prayer from the Book of Common prayer. The language may be unfamiliar but the meaning is deeply relevant:

MOST gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for this Kingdom in general, so especially for the High Court of Parliament, under our most religious and gracious Queen at this time assembled: That thou wouldest be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of thy glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her Dominions; that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These and all other necessaries, for them, for us, and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and Mediation of Jesus Christ our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

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