In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for help, but you, O Lord, who for our sins are justly displeased?The Committal, ACNA Book of Common Prayer, 2019, page 260
The selected quote may also be found in the Anthem to the Holy Saturday service, on page 579 of the same prayer book. It is fitting that we should proclaim together those words heard at every Anglican funeral on Holy Saturday so that we may remember that our God, our Lord, our King, went to His own death so that He may “trample down death by death” as the ancient Eastern Paschal chant puts it so beautifully. Times such as we find ourselves – a time of pandemic, plague, and pestilence – should make us turn to prayer and therefore to our prayer books. But alas, the prayer book people have deserted their prayer books for far too long.
The time is now to correct this failure in spiritual formation of Anglicans in America. If you don’t own a copy of the Book of Common Prayer then purchase one or use one online. Here is the text of the 1928 BCP and here is the text of the ACNA 2019 BCP. Take up and read, kneel down and pray. Regardless if you are watching the live-streaming services, you should be engaged in regular daily devotion and prayer both individually and corporately as a family.
One of the unintended results of COVID-19 is that it has made us all monks. Frankly, were always called to the monastic vocation within our daily lives and routines but it is far easier to live life distracted and to limit our spiritual formation to an hour or two on Sunday instead of a daily practice. No wonder we North Americans make for lousy Christians (much less lousy Anglicans). Do we really expect to be disciples of Jesus Christ if we do not discipline ourselves by reading His Word and praying for His will daily? You don’t diet and exercise for only a couple hours during the week and then wonder why you haven’t lost any weight. Why then do we expect anything different if we do the same with our worship and spiritual disciplines? If we are not people of the book (the Bible first, and then the prayer book), then how do we expect to disciple to all nations – much less our neighbor whose-name-I-forget living across the street?
Yes, I realize many of us are simply transferring work venues from the office to the home, but guess what my fellow busy American? You just terminated your daily commute for the time being. Fill it up with prayer and reading the Scripture with your family. Rethink how you live your day and remember that the #QuarantineLife is an opportunity to live the #MonasticLife – or dare I say, The Benedict Option?
Anglicanism has always had a built-in Benedict Option. But as all things in life, it takes just a wee bit of discipline to actually pick up the book and get started. Friends, I have good news. It is easy to start the habit.
Start off your day (and end it) with someone reading the Daily Office to you. It’s as easy as clicking this link and listening to beautiful cantors sing the canticles to you. Cradle of Prayer uses the 1928 BCP so remember to use the link above or buy yourself a copy to follow and pray along. Should you prefer the updated language of the ACNA 2019 BCP, then head over to Daily Office 2019 where it automatically updates the daily office based upon the time of day. Additionally, you can customize (according to the rubrics) your daily prayer experience. Friends, you won’t even have to turn a page or crack open the Bible to find the Old Testament or New Testament lessons.
Feeling guilty? Don’t. Just get started. Take up and read, kneel down and pray. Lead your family by taking a knee to humble yourself before the Lord. Starting a family prayer time does not require going all in through the entirety of the prayer book’s depths nor does it require an ornate family altar (but they are a wonderful focal point). What it does require is you. You need to start and start today.
We are nearing the end of Lent. Spring is in the air and we sit on the eve of Holy Week. But it is a Holy Week in which many of us will be unable to hearken the doors of a church as they will be closed. Many sit in exile by the waters of Babylon. It feels like a Spring without Easter and reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ description of Narnia before Aslan’s return: “Always Winter, but never Christmas.” *Shudders*
What better time to start the daily offices than now? Don’t give into slothfulness and shirking Sunday worship – it would pleasure the powers of darkness nothing more than to see Christians simply behave like Sunday is just another day. No, instead gird up your loins and make worship a daily practice. Pray the daily prayers of the church and be united with the church across the globe and across eternity by joining together mystically in prayer. What irony would we see a revival of daily prayer and Scripture reading in Anglicanism at a time when many cannot attend a Sunday service!
Individually, start off with one of the daily offices. Set yourself up a proposed schedule to keep this new discipline. Create a reminder for the phone, watch, or e-mail calendar to set up an alarm when it is time to stop what you are doing for a few minutes and be refreshed by the Scriptures and crying out in prayer to the Lord. Pray for your loved ones, pray for the healthcare workers on the front lines (page 661), pray for those suffering with illness (page 663), and pray from the Great Litany (page 92): “From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine, Good Lord, deliver us.”
Then start your family off on one of the shorter family prayer offices (page 67 in the ACNA 2019 BCP; page 587 in the 1928 BCP). It is perfectly okay to simply start with the abbreviated form of Compline in the Family Prayer section on page 72 (ACNA 2019 BCP). This new monastic habit will grow and your family in turn shall grow because of it. Iron sharpens iron, prayer books improve praying, and discipline creates disciples.
Finish this Lent strong. Keep the fast, pray the prayer book, sing the canticles, devour the Scriptures, and love thy neighbor as any good monk would. Remember to serve the elderly, the sick, the housebound, and others who cannot leave their shelter to obtain groceries or necessities.
May the end of Lent and this Holy Week without church services be a storming of hell. Remember, its gates shall not prevail over the church (Matt. 16:18). Make your home your family chapel and let’s charge the ramparts of Satan’s realm through steadfast prayer and devotion to the One who conquered hell, defeated sin, and is victorious over death. When the time comes for us to leave quarantine may we be better formed by the riches and depths of the knowledge of God. Then let us take up our crosses and live for the sake of the Gospel and not for ourselves.
Until then, may we be united in one voice praying:
Let us pray to God the Father Almighty, that he would cleanse the world from all evil; deliver it from pestilence and famine; set free those who are in captivity; restore the sick to health; and bring those who travel to a haven of safety.Good Friday, ACNA Book of Common Prayer, 2019, page 569
And let us also take courage from, of all places, the office of the Burial of the Dead:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb. The Sun of Righteousness is gloriously risen, giving light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.The Burial of the Dead, ACNA Book of Common Prayer, 2019, page 257