The Book of Common Prayer

I was only going to write when I got new books, but then I started searching the inter webs for gospel facsimile’s and got excited. Sadly I didn’t have 5500 dollars left lying around so I’ll have to make do with what I’ve got.

Of course as a religion and books fan the Book of Common Prayer or ‘BCP’ for short deserves a proper spot here. As a liturgy fanatic I have approximately 50 prayer books in my collection and 8 of them are BCP’s. A selection of my favourite BCP’s:

bcp 1762

The Cambridge university 1762 edition. I am particularly proud of this one because it is the same edition wikipedia uses on their front page. I don’t actualy remember how I acquired it, but it’s a sweet little thing, and one of the older books in my library.

The BCP was originally published in 1549 and written by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII.   He revised it in 1552 but after a few months Queen Mary restored the Catholic Church and Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake. In 1559 Queen Elizabeth re introduced the book with some of her own modifications and it became the main form of worship in the Church of England. As a result of the English civil war another major revision was made in 1662. This 1662 edition remains the first port of call for liturgy in the Anglican Communion today. And it is that edition (albeit printed a hundred years later) which I have in my collection.

bcp 1928

But in the 1920’s tensions between Anglo-Catholic’s and Evangelicals began to rise. The Anglo Catholics wanted more liturgical freedom. So revisions were made and in 1927 a new edition was approved by general synod of the Church of England. But, the C of E is the state church of England, as such it had to go through parliament and despite widespread support from the church, it was never passed in the House of Commons. As such it was never completely allowed to be used and never formally replaced the BCP of 1662. Despite this it was widely used in the 1960’s and 1970’s since most diocese allowed its use in churches themselves.

My edition, of which the front page is shown above, is a beautiful large edition with a leather cover and large print. It was designed to sit on a lectern on the altar so that the priest could read from it while still holding his hands up in prayer.

 

favourite bcp

But of course my favourite edition. As I was talking about facsimile’s earlier.

Quarter-bound in goatskin leather, blocked with matt gold foil on spine and sides, binding design by Chris Waddon, paper sides hand marble, printed on Cordier Wove paper, illustrated with beautiful neo-classical borders and devotional woodcuts from designs by Dürer and Holbein.

This facsimile volume is based on the edition published in 1853 by William Pickering and Charles Whittingham the Younger, as part of the ‘Caslon Revival’. William Caslon (1693-1766) was the first English type-founder to produce types of international quality and his elegant, deliberately old-fashioned faces were perfectly suited to the 16th and 17th-century texts so beloved of Pickering, a distinguished London publisher, and Whittingham, his printer.

I have to stop writing now, I am drooling over my own book.

(fun fact, At some stage I had three of these facsimile’s in my collection. I gave two of them away but for some reason they just kept coming, anyway, one will do)

Re-initiating my Blog

Dear People,

Yes indeed, I have a blog, and I’ve had one for years. Haven’t used it for years either, therefore I have decided to revamp my blog and go about it in a different direction. Blogging about my library books and whichever new book I may acquire. Because I love my library, and its better use of my time then staring at the television all day long.

So, whoever reads this (probably only me) as you will notice if you read my older posts, this used to be a blog about my brilliant theological revelations. But I didn’t have very many so it’s time to change. I am however not giving up on my idea of pretending to be a monk as is reflected in my new name. The library is named after the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life whose ideas keep inspiring me every day.

The Brethren of the Common Life were a quasi monastic community founded in the 14th Century.  Without taking up vows, the Brothers and Sisters banded together in communities, giving up their worldly goods to live chaste and strictly regulated lives in common houses, devoting their live to attending divine service, reading and preaching of sermons, manual labour, and taking meals in common that were accompanied by the reading aloud of Scripture: “judged from the ascetic discipline and intention of this life, it had few features which distinguished it from life in a monastery” (Hans Baron)

This movement was often active outside the structures church and has many similarities to the modern ‘New Monasticism’ movement. The brothers and sisters grew out of the Devotio Moderna movement which was s spiritualist movement in the Catholic Church which became famous for Thomas A Kempis and The Imitation of Christ. One of the most influential books ever to be written in western Christianity. The Order of Canons Regular are a modern day community whose roots go back to the Brethren of the Common Life. And both Martin Luther and Erasmus were very much affected by the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life.

So I think it would be appropriate if the first books I present from my library are

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

The Imitation of Christ was originally published in 1470 and it is a devotional book, a handbook for spiritual life. It is considered to be the most read book in the world after the bible, and apart from the bible no other book has been translated into more languages then this one.

Thomas A Kempis was a German Priest (and a Canon Regular) who encountered the Brethren of The Common Life when he lived in the Netherlands as a monk. And it was there that he wrote his Imitation of Christimitation of christ

My edition is the Folio Society edition which was printed 2002

The second book I am going to pop in here is Sisters and Brothers of the Common Life; the Devotio Moderna and the world of the later middle ages by John van Engen.

I haven’t read it yet but it sounds good

common life book

Christ’s perfection?

I have been watching a video in which Stephen Fry, a well known and very intelligent British atheist, argues against the church. Not against religion, just the church. And I must say that I, whom I consider a deeply religious person, agreed with everything he said. Very very sad. Anyway, all that stirred me up quite a bit and I came to think about the idea of the perfect Christ. I recall my parents telling me once, many years ago, that they believed that Jesus never did anything wrong, and actually only just recently I was in a Christian study group in which that very question of perfection came up. The actual question was, what is the difference between a public nursing home and a Christian one? Do they both not do the same thing, does the public nursing home not try and offer a good life to its inhabitants just as the Christian one does. One of the people attending said that his so called “Christian” colleagues no longer went to church because they didn’t think it was necessary. They were living a moral and good life, what else was there to it? Somebody else said, ‘it is not good enough, we are made in the image of God and so we strive to be perfect like Christ.’ Perfect like Christ I thought. But is he truly perfect? I always imagine the entire earth inhabited by “perfect” people, it sounds disgusting to me. And why would Christ be perfect, we say he was fully divine and fully human. How can you be fully human and be perfect, without flaw. It is an absolute contradiction. No, in fact, if we humans are made in Gods very own image aren’t we already perfect? We are already perfect, and why strive for perfection. So the question remains, what is the difference between a public nursing home and a religious one? As a Christian (or Muslims, or Jews) don’t we essentially strive to be in God’s presence. Isn’t the difference that we Religious people strive not to be good or even perfect people, we strive to be whole. To be complete to be wholly human. To be Holy.

To question or not to question?

We are all full of life’s questions, and one of the most central questions is “What is the meaning of life?” We are all challenged to seek an answer to that question. But very few do. ‘Why not?’ is my question. Because you know the answer will never be found. And so to seek the answer is to journey forever. And travelling is scary. To travel is to move, and to move is to move on and leave behind. You are vulnerable when you travel. You prefer to be safe, surrounded by securities. A job, a stable relationship, a house and so on. You bury yourself alive in securities. But to understand life you must question. A student who doesn’t ask questions does not make for a very good student. And in life you are always a student.

Science and faith

I have been picking up my bad habit of quickly checking Wikipedia again lately, resulting in hours of reading senseless pages on every possible subject imaginable. But today while I was reading pages about the galaxy, stars, space and super massive black holes I had some interesting thoughts. Theology is considered a science. And when I read all this stuff about space I realise that it is all just a bunch of thoughts and theories, very interesting thoughts, definitely worth studying and investigating, but no different from theological thoughts and studies. In fact I described it to my partner as a whole bunch of bullshit really, no different from theology (which is also a whole bunch of bullshit really). When we study space we study God as well, there is no difference between the two. I have exactly the same feeling reading about space as I have when reading about theology. A feeling of interest, a feeling of excitement, something I would love to study and something that deeply fascinates and inspires me. But it is with astronomy just as it is with theology, we should not forget what truly matters. All the theological theories are great but what truly matters is your personal relationship with God. Studying astronomy and the way nature works is very interesting, but what truly matters is what not what is going on far away out in whatever you study but what is happening around you right now. That is why it is called ”faith”. It does not really matter what science says, no matter how fascinating and how true it is. If you love astronomy then it is the love that matters, not the astronomy. I love theology and I love science, but my life is not about science and theology, my life is about the love for it. What truly matters is that you enjoy and love your life and to share that with those you love. For the rest it doesn’t matter, just have faith

There was once a man walking down the street wondering what to do in his life. He met a homeless on the way and thought he should let his heart speak for once. So he flipped a coin in the homeless persons’ hand and continued on his way.
Later on another man passed by, he was not happy about his life and when he saw the homeless man he decided he wanted to rapidly change his life from this moment onwards. So he did something he never did before in his life; he opened his purse, pulled out a coin, and flipped it into the homeless man his hands and then continued on his way.
Later on a third man passed by. He saw the homeless man and thought; ‘oh no, not him again. If he would just have worked a little bit in his life he would not be sitting here. But still he is sitting there, being present and annoying other people by his mere presence, not adding anything to society. Who does he think he is really?’ And so he walked in a big circle around him doing everything in his power to make sure he would not look at him, which was a challenge, and continued on his way as quickly as he could.
Later on a little child passes by, she looked at the homeless person and she smiled and waved at him. And the homeless man smiled back.

What does the homeless man ask for actually?

The paradox of human divinity

 

This is one of my most favourite paradoxes. I think that it is the most clear and obvious one if you are a Christian, but I also think it is what makes Christianity a whole being. This paradox is what makes Christianity exist and it is a very simple one. It does not need a lot of explanation it does not need a lot of feeling, it just needs a bit of listening. It is Jesus’ paradox in fact. It is already paradoxical to say that we are all children of God and that he is the only son. But these paradoxes which you find all over the bible is as well what make Christianity complete. Without these things standing opposite of each other it would not be about real life now would it. And the bible is therefore a very realistic book, as long as you have the ability to put it into context.

Jesus says in the bible that when you get hit on one cheek you should turn the other. And then Jesus gets really hit, but instead of turning the other cheek he asks; ‘Why are you hitting me?’

You should put both of these texts into a context. People can hit you in many ways, the physical way is just one of them. But how often did I not get hit by people because I was absolutely one hundred percent sure of my personal actions, and people all around me hit me by giving very strong arguments against what I said and I did not have anything to bring up against it. Still I am sure. It makes you incredibly sad, but the only thing you can do is surrender, and if they do not stop, let them speak. ‘Smile and wave.’ That is a true ordeal you know. But this is where you have to listen to yourself again, to your heart that is not your mind, and if you don’t have any arguments just turn the other cheek, for it is not about words that you came to your vocation, but about silence and stillness.

And this is also told in this simple little paradox. Jesus is God making himself human, so going down. So God is then equal to humans, and humans are equal to God as well. We are lifted up to divinity. And if we want to get closer to God we have to make ourselves more human, or humane. We have to go down as well; we have to make ourselves equal to the people around us. But since most people are not even equal to themselves, it will look as if you end up lower than them. But it is not about the level you are on, it is not about the words that you speak, it is not about how well you can listen. It is about the heart, the temple of God in you. For still, you are divine, and so God dwells within you. And that is only a feeling, and there are no words for that so do not bother seeking them.

This is the body of our church, going down to get up; the highest trees have the deepest roots.

And it is a marvellous thing to go down really. Imagine you would have to try to go up.  It is an impossible thing, and the only way to get there is to climb up the ladder, and you try to catch up on people who are also on the ladder, it is almost impossible. And once you think you are on the top you have to maintain your position, you have to ensure yourself of what you are by using harsh words to yourself and the people around you. And at the top it is so lonely.

But going down is much easier, a bit dark sometimes, but so much easier. And in the valleys are much more nice fields and village as well. On the top of the mountain it is just cold. You may have a grant view all around you on the top, but you cannot really see what is going on now can you?

And in the valley you know exactly what is going on around you.

The paradox of human divinity; the more human a person is, the more you will find God in him.