I don’t know if today’s readings from Acts and the Fourth Gospel were in the minds of Thomas Cranmer and the other compilers of the First Prayer Book in 1549; but the sentiments expressed in those readings must certainly have been in their thinking—devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; the breaking of bread and the prayers—worship in spirit and truth.
Once the independence of the Church of England was established, it became apparent that the worship of the Church should be in the language of the people. A few years earlier a litany in English had been published. The First Book of Common Prayer was completed and put into use on The Feast of Pentecost June 9, 1549.
Since that first Prayer Book was issued it has been revised a number of times. It has been said that many of the recent revisions have looked to the pattern of the 1549 Prayer Book for guidance.
The Book of Common Prayer has been translated into many different languages for the different peoples and cultures that make up the Anglican Communion. More than the primacy of honor accorded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Book of Common Prayer has been the common unifying force in the Anglican Communion.
In my own life and travels I have found the Prayer Book pattern, or “Shape of the Liturgy”, has enabled me to follow services in other languages and cultures.
When I was in the Navy visiting Japan in the early 1950s, my familiarity with the Prayer Book enabled me to participate in the Eucharist without knowing a word of Japanese. Later, living in Japan as a member of the SSJE, familiarity with the Liturgy helped me as I began to take services in Japanese. More recently that same familiarity was useful when I needed to preside in Cantonese in Boston.
On this anniversary of The First Book of Common Prayer give thanks with me for the shape of the Liturgy given to us by Thomas Cranmer and the other compilers in 1549!
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