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Reforming liturgical language

Reforming liturgical language

The Washington Post reviews a new prayer book published by the Jewish Reform Movement, commenting on the range of language and options offered for personal and public prayer. A variety of images of God are included, and even doubt is a possible approach to prayer:

Page 181 reads: “I speak these words but I don’t believe them.” Opposite, on page 180, a more traditional prayer appeal sounds more certain, referencing a creator God who is “slow to anger, quick to forgive.”

Calling the Reform Movement a “pioneer” in adapting ancient texts to embrace new realities in the way that people approach their faith, the Washington Post also recognizes work in this area from the Episcopal Church:

“We’re trying to see ourselves as in continuity with historic tradition, but worship is always changing because the world around us changes and people change and theological understandings shift,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, who chairs the liturgy and music committee for the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church last updated its prayer book, the Book of Common Prayer in the 1970s. But last year, it came out with a supplement: Daily Prayer for All Seasons, which trims a thick series of traditional daily prayers to a couple pages of prayers organized into categories with more general, contemporary names: praise, wisdom, love, forgiveness.

“This prayer book presents a variety of images of God,” the book’s introduction reads.

The Reform Movement updated its weekly liturgies in 2007, but this new release covers the High Holidays and might be expected to be used by more people, considering weightier themes.

“The themes and challenges of the High Holidays are different than they are in the regular weekly prayer book. On the High Holidays we think about things on a much grander scale,” Person said. “We’re dealing with the really big issues of life, death, forgiveness, eternity — things we might not necessarily think about when we go to synagogue on a weekly basis, if we go.”

Have you used the Episcopal Daily Prayer for All Seasons supplement referenced in the article? What do you think of its approach to the language of prayer?

Posted by Rosalind Hughes


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Peggy Powell Dobbins

Returning, after 50 years “a fallen away Episcopalian,” I turned to Frances Hartzog, and asked, “do they still say the Lord’s Prayer?”

Personally I like retaining the old words, words I do not agree with as composed, or as I think intended when composed. I like them because they are limbic, I can recite them without thinking, or thinking my own thoughts, and be at one not only with my referent for the word G d, but with my fellow humans whose referent for the word G d, Lord, Spirit, and while I remember not liking “holy ghost” in my youth, often evoked in the old BCP, I like the words now, and wish more frequently heard.
I would probably like even better a liturgy in Latin, but of course for us, English is the native tongue of the Bible and the BCP. I have chanted with Buddhist friends syllables that sometimes helped keep my mind still, and other times imparted meaning into.
On the other, non aesthetic hand, it is mete and proper to meditate on the referring of the word”progress”by hearing words like “father” and “lord” were so interchangeable with the word, God, back when the creeds, the statements of shared belief, were agreed by the Anglican Catholic Christian Church, and those before all the what back to Nicea

Ann Fontaine

Old words? Like the original Greek? or in Latin? or Elizabethan English?

Fr. Gregory Tipton

“but worship is always changing because the world around us changes and people change and theological understandings shift,”

The error committed here is that it assumes the object of worship is us, instead of The Trinity. Second, it never defines “understanding,” whereas our Tradition especially found in the writing of St. Anselm the Archbishop of Canterbury once said we have faith seeking understanding, where by “understanding” he means the fulfillment/end/purpose of reasoning. If understanding is the fulfillment of reason, and its object is The Trinity, then understanding requires full communion with God in order to truly “understand.” While none can fully grasp God but Himself, human understanding hits its fill at some mark. E.G. a river may flow forever but a cup dipped into is filled.

Such a fulfillment means our nature has reached its purpose. This means our “understanding” changing suggests our nature has changed, a metaphysical claim. This would entail we are no longer human. Or by “understanding” they mean “our perception” of God has changed. If this is the case, it begs the question — are those perceptions correct? Let us not conflate the Order of Knowing and the Order of Being, and even worse is if we begin to conflate those with the Order of Seeming. Just because something seems a way to us, doesn’t mean it is.

But this is what we do when we suggest, “adapting ancient texts to embrace new realities.” Only God is Real is the truest since of that word. The rest of us are but puffs of wind, fleeting shadows, as the Psalms say. We are contingent, here today, dead tomorrow, and have no being nor righteousness in ourselves for it is in Him in which we live and move and have our being. To suggest there is a “new reality” is to suggest God has changed. But as we pray in Compline, we seek to rest in His eternal changelessness. A second reading is that by “new reality” they simply mean “humans are thinking differently in the 21st c.” If this is the case, it begs the question, yes, but are we thinking well?

To this question I have yet to see a truly good answer, but yells for reform that are either circular arguments are emotive assertions as to what people like disguised as reason.

This is because, as prior stated, God is the object of worship, not us. The question is, is our language TRUE and fitting (that is Just) about what it says about the Trinity. Not whether or not I fully understand it. As rational animal we are in the state coming to understand, but that is a life-long project only fulfilled when we rest in Him. To try to change the language of prayer to make us understand now is to try the shortcut, and from what I’ve seen out of alternative services, often is full of new ideas, which are old heresies, or “contradictions” as we say in logic.

Betsy S ivey

I regularly use the Daily Prayer for All Seasons and love how an alternate language of prayer, poetry and hymnody expresses ancient liturgy.

G. G. Flucke

I am using Daily Prayer for All Seasons. The language of the prayer for the liturigical seasons of the year are remarkable, intertwing the Biblical with remarkable insights of past, present, and current people.

Victoria Mayor

I have used Daily Prayer for All Seasons and I find the language of the prayers evocative and moving.

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