This past Sunday, I attended the early service at my church.
And by early, I mean 7:45am. Yes that is very early to me, but the two reasons I went is because that service is done in Rite I form. And because Mrs. RVFTLC was away on a church retreat, I went alone because I really like that service over the more contemporary service we both attend later on Sunday mornings.
Before I go one, a little Anglican/Episcopal primer.
The current BCP is known at the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It all but has replaced the 1928 BCP. While I do not have objection to more contemporary language, I just find the 1928 BCP to speak to me more. In a compromise that probably will go the way of the buffalo in the next BCP revision in the Episcopal Church, and there will be one more than likely in my lifetime, A lot of the 1928 BCP was put in the 1979 BCP. Hence, there are two rites, Rite I and the contemporary Rite II.
Essentially the 1928 BCP is the last one that uses the traditional, Elizabethan language. It really does not fit in the Politically Correct modern Episcopal Church. But some, like my own parish, realize that there is still a significant number that love the old language and the overall flow of the service.
In the current 1979 BCP, as in the 1928 version, there is a prayer right before the congregation proceeds to the altar to receive the Holy Communion. It is known as the Prayer of Humble Access and this is it:
WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, O
merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great
mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.
But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us
therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and
to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and
our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell
in him, and he in us. Amen.
It is totally Politically Incorrect.
Why is that?
Because it reminds the Christian that we can not and should not trust in our own ways but to trust God. It also is a stark reminder that even when one accepts Jesus Christ into their life, no matter what tradition, we are sinners.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.
Left to our own devices, the above is true. When we turn away from God, we are not worthy. But there is hope.
But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.
Yes, God is merciful. And the point of the above prayer, as I come to understand it, is because of our own ways, we usually get into trouble of some kind. The opportunity is to ask God, through Jesus Christ, to have mercy. It is an invitation to repent of the bad things that we have done and or not done quite yet.
The Prayer of Humble Access is a reminder that we are sinners. And a reminder of my favorite Christian bumper sticker:
Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.
And it offers a chance of repentance before one partakes of the Holy Communion. To me it is serious stuff.
The sad part is that there is nothing quite like this in the Rite II forms. And of course it is by design. Because this prayer to many in charge even then, this kind of prayer is rather "judgemental". I mean, it basically tells us that we are not worthy to even eat the crumbs of bread from the altar. Yet what seems to be ignored is that the prayer is all about repentance and redemption. But without acknowledging our sinful nature, there can not be the chance for the communicant to repent and seek God's redemption.
It is sad that the current leadership in The Episcopal Church does not realize how powerful this prayer is and should be used, with contemporary language and not unisex, meaningless drivel, in all forms of the Holy Communion prayers.
As the current 1979 BCP still has some semblance of the appreciation of tradition and traditional language, there is always a chance to worship at a Rite I service and to say such a powerful prayer as the Prayer of Humble Access is. To fully appreciate the meaning of the Holy Communion, that is another reason that the Book of Common Prayer is the greatest Christian worship book ever written.