Tract VIII: Anglican Spirituality Diagram

In Tract 7, I outlined both a skeleton of Anglican spirituality (that the Prayer Book is the Anglican Rule of Life) and enfleshed this skeleton (by providing a list of characteristics of Anglican Prayer Book spirituality). In Tract 8, I will provide both a diagram for how all the parts of Anglican spirituality fit together as well as this written explanation of the diagram.

My Anglican Spirituality Diagram begins at the top, with my definition of all Christian spirituality: “the life of Christ communicated to the Body of Christ by the Spirit of Christ.” This biblically-based definition of spirituality means that Christian spirituality is necessarily an ecclesial spirituality. It is primarily the corporate spirituality of the Church since the Church is the Body of Christ into which we are baptized.

For this reason, the shape of the Anglican Spirituality Diagram is that of a Church. We should not imagine that any part of our Anglican spirituality (a species of Christian spirituality) is outside of the Body of Christ, which Christ fills with His Spirit. Everything we do as Christians and Anglicans, we do in Christ, which means in His Body: we do not have a separate relationship with Christ other than as members of His one Body.

At the very top, right under the title, comes “Baptism,” for baptism is our incorporation into the life of Jesus, by which we are made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.[1] If Christian spirituality is the life of Christ, which He communicates to us and which we live out corporately as the Church, then baptism is the entrance into this life. It is the New Birth or regeneration by which we die to self and live in and for Christ. Everything else we do as Christians, we do in Christ as members of His Body.

Beneath the general head of Spirituality, which I take to be the totality of our life and experience with God through Christ, is the first way the body of spirituality is broken down into its constituent members. When we conceive of our spirituality, there are two main ways we live out our spirituality, what I have called Special Spirituality and General Spirituality.[2]

On the left side is the category of Special Spirituality or Worship. While all of the life of a Christian is a life in Christ and His Body, some of the ways we live out our life in Christ involve conscious acts of worship (Special Spirituality), while others that may be called acts of worship are less conscious and intentional. You’ll notice that in parentheses I’ve included some phrases the General Thanksgiving from the Daily Office of the traditional Prayer Book: “with our lips” (worship) and “with our lives” (holy living).

Usually, we reserve the word “worship” for our special acts of reverence we offer to God. Worship itself, in this sense, is a conscious offering of self to God in prayer, Scripture, and meditation in which we praise and adore God, offer Him thanks for His gifts, confess our sins, and make our requests known to Him.

For Anglicans, this Worship or Special Spirituality takes the special shape of Martin Thornton’s Three-Fold Rule of weekly Holy Communion, daily Morning and Evening Prayer (Daily Office), and private devotions. Holy Communion and the Daily Office are structured, corporate worship, which may be called Liturgy. Because these are well-known and laid out with precision in our Prayer Books, I won’t discuss them in this particular Tract, except to say that Liturgy is a “special” form of worship because it is specifically ordered both in terms of the worship service and the times this worship is offered.

While Thornton’s Three-Fold Rule includes Holy Communion and the Daily Office, in terms of what I am calling Worship, we need to add to these two primary liturgies the Occasional Services, which are also parts of our life in Christ. Among these Occasional Services which are liturgical are: confirmation, marriage, ordination, Good Friday observances, Easter liturgies, and other services that, unlike Holy Communion and the Daily Office, are not celebrated regularly but only occasionally.

Private Devotions are “general” acts of worship, like Liturgy, but because they are neither corporate nor definitively structured, they may be considered more “general.” These private devotions have always been a part of Christian spirituality but are not prescribed by the Prayer Book. These may take many forms but at the heart of each of them is prayer and Bible reading and meditation. The Daily Office happens to combine these two acts of piety, and so the Daily Office is suited for private devotions, when attendance at the local parish is not possible. The Daily Office in this context may be said in full or adapted in various ways. For example, at the back of traditional Prayer Books is a section titled “Family Morning Prayer” and “Family Evening Prayer.” These are much shorter forms well-suited to busy modern people.

One of the joys of Private Devotion, reflected in my Diagram, is the large menu of spiritual acts of worship available to the one engaging in Private Devotion. Unlike Liturgy, the precise forms and structures of the worship are not prescribed. You may do any of the following and even things not on this list: the Daily Office, Bible reading, Bible study, Bible meditation (a lost art), prayer using any of the myriad methods Christians have devised over the centuries, the study of theology, and the reading of devotional or spiritual literature.

The other half of the Anglican Spirituality Diagram is devoted to General Spirituality, which I take to be equivalent to Holy Living. In Holy Living, we don’t commit specific, conscious acts of worship but instead live out in the world (and not the church, chapel, cloister, or closet) the life of Christ. In essence, Holy Living involves everything a Christian does that is not Worship or Special Spirituality. Nothing a Christian does is outside of his life in Christ.

The right side of my Diagram is composed of a long list of ways in which we live out this Holy Living of the life of Christ. I didn’t have room for everything because – well, because everything we do could potentially be on this list! The important thing is to realize that the things that are not specific acts of worship are still important because they remain part of our life in Christ and should be seen this way.

Finally, the greenness that forms the ubiquitous background of the entire church building, which represents our life in Christ, is labeled Practicing the Presence of God or Habitual Recollection. The phrase “The Practice of the Presence of God” is taken from an outstanding devotional classic by Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century Carmelite friar. The term “Habitual Recollection” is taken from the works of Martin Thornton, for example, English Spirituality. I take these two terms to be equivalent and would add that I also believe this is what St. Paul has in mind when he commands us to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Habitual Recollection involves the constant awareness and remembrance of God in our lives. Thornton defines Habitual Recollection as “a continuous, even subconscious, awareness of the divine presence everywhere.”[3] While it might seem that Habitual Recollection is a nice accessory to add to our spirituality repertoire, it’s almost as if Habitual Recollection is the real purpose for which all else exists.

So, there’s my Anglican Spirituality Diagram. I hope it’s useful to some of you in comprehending the entirety of our life in Christ and how the parts relate to the whole. In the next series of Tracts, I hope to describe each of the major components of this Anglican Spirituality.

  1. Answer to the 2nd Question in the traditional Prayer Book Catechism.
  2. In my Give Us This Day devotionals, I call these Erlandson’s General and Special Theories of Spirituality.
  3. English Spirituality, 18.

Charles Erlandson

Fr. Charles Erlandson served as rector of St. Chrysostom’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Hot Spring, Arkansas. In 2009, God called him back home to Tyler and Good Shepherd Church and School, to teach high school and serve as assistant rector. He teaches at Cranmer Theological House and is the Church History Department Head. Fr. Erlandson also writes a daily Bible devotional, available online or through e-mail subscription, called Give Us This Day. He has written several recent books: Orthodox Anglican Identity, Love Me, Love My Wife, and Take This Cup.


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