Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"If I swell against Thee..."

I have acquired a new edition of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, my earlier copy having been damaged. It is identified as "The Elizabethan Prayer Book" because it was adopted early in the reign of Elizabeth I. It has been the basis for every edition of the prayerbook since. This edition includes a "History of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer," which explains Elizabeth's role in its adoption, including information about her Christian convictions. She was a rather learned lady who was able to read and write in English, French, Latin, Greek and Italian and apparently read from Erasmus's Greek New Testament every day. She wrote prayers in all of those languages. One of the English ones is quoted:
O Lord God Father everlasting, which reigneth over the Kingdoms of men, and givest them of Thy pleasure: which of Thy great mercy hast chosen me Thy servant and handmaid to feed Thy people and thine inheritance: so teach me, I humbly beseach Thee, Thy word, and so strengthen me with Thy grace, that I may feed Thy people with a faithful and a true heart; and rule them prudently with power.

O Lord, Thou hast set me on high, my flesh is frail and weak. If I therefore at any time forget Thee, touch my heart O Lord that I may again remember Thee. If I swell against Thee, pluck me down in my own conceit.

Create therefore in me O Lord a new heart and so renew my spirit that Thy law may be my study, Thy truth my delight: Thy church my care: Thy people my crown.

[John E. Booty, editor, The Book of Common Prayer 1559: The Elizabethan Prayer Book, University of Virginia Press, pp. 332-333.]

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