It’s been a while since the BCP Quiz back in January, but the answers are in, better late than never (my fault entirely, sorry, Rene).
In case you didn’t get a chance to take it yet, take it now!
For those of us who did, let’s read on…
Answers: ‘Praying by the Book’ Quiz
Question 1: In which year did the Book of Common Prayer first come into use in the Church of England?
When England broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533, Henry VIII commissioned Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to create and English language book for use in the Church of England liturgy. Cranmer’s first effort in 1534 was a fairly conservative effort, still very Catholic in form, and was merely a translation from Latin into English of books already in use (Cranmer could be accused of plagiarism!) In 1539, after meeting with a Lutheran embassy, Cranmer produced the first original English-language book, the Exhortation and Litany, for use in the Church of England. Henry VIII was not impressed with the book – it was too Protestant for his taste – and sent Cranmer back to the drawing board. Henry died in 1547, and it was under the aegis of the boy king Edward VI that Cranmer’s masterpiece, the Book of Common Prayer, was produced.
Question 2: Who compiled the Book of Common Prayer?
As you can see from the answer to question 1, the palm goes to Thomas Cranmer. It may come as something of a surprise to most Anglicans that the BCP (that’s Anglican shorthand for the Book of Common Prayer) is not an entirely original work. Cranmer drew from several different sources, The Roman Catholic Missal forms the basis for the liturgy for Holy Communion, and the Roman Catholic Manual for Occasional Services provided the bulk of the liturgies for Baptism, Marriage and Burial Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline are all drawn from the Monastic Offices. Cranmer used The Pontifical as the source for those liturgical offices presided over by a bishop, i.e. Confirmation and Ordination. All other liturgies in the BCP are based on the Sarum Rite, which was widely used in southern England, the most heavily populated region of England. The revised edition of the BCP that Cranmer produced in 1552 shows the influence that the German reformer Martin Bucer, the Italian reformer Peter Martyr, and even his own chaplain, Thomas Becon, had on Cranmer’s churchmanship and theological understanding.
Question 3: How many liturgies for use in worship are there in the BCP?
If you checked off 21, you’re right!The Book of Common Prayer includes liturgies for all services, with special liturgies for the High and Holy Days like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The BCP covers all stages of Anglican life, from the cradle to the grave. In addition to liturgies for use in worship, the BCP contains a complete psalter, readings for every Sunday of the year and for the aforementioned High and Holy Days, a Calendar of Saints, a Table of Kindred and Affinity (so that one knows which family
member one may legally marry), a Catechism, the 39 Articles of Faith, prayers for private use, graces to be said before meals, and so on. The BCP contains three creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is ordered for use at Morning and Evening Prayer, the Nicene Creed is to be used during the liturgy for Holy Communion and on High and Holy Days, and the Creed of St. Athanasius. The latter is rarely used these days, but if you have trouble sleeping, you’ll find that it’s a dandy soporific!
Question 4: On which text is much of the BCP based?
Cranmer based most of the BCP on the Sarum Rite. The Latin Sarum Rite was used throughout the See of Canterbury, which was – and still is – all of England south of the Midlands (the Midlands and the north of England are in the See of York). As I said earlier, most of the population lived in the south of England, and the Sarum Rite was familiar to the majority of the English. It was not just one book, but several. The English language BCP was the first all-in-one prayer book used.
Question 5: Was the BCP universally accepted throughout England when it was introduced?
No, not at all! The Book of Common Prayer was introduced on Whit Sunday (now called the Day of Pentecost), in 1549, after a long and thorough debate – and some revision – by Parliament. It met with strong opposition in Cornwall and Devon, and in the north of England. People particularly resented the fact that commissioners were being sent out to ensure that the new Prayer Book was being used. Parishes were not pleased with the idea that Holy Communion was to be part of regular worship (it had
previously only been used at wedding ceremonies and in times of illness), and that the whole congregation was to receive the bread and wine, which would be paid for by the individual parishes!
Question 6: Is it true that the Book of Common Prayer has never been revised?
Heavens, no! The first revision came about in 1552, and a second in 1559 after Elizabeth’s accession to the throne (the BCP had been mothballed during the reign of her Catholic Majesty Queen Mary I, of course).
In 1604, changes were made to the Catechism and then from 1649 to 1660, the BCP was not used because the Puritan Parliament of the Commonwealth, under Oliver Cromwell, banned it because it was “too Catholic!” When Charles II came to the throne in 1660, the BCP was put back into circulation, and underwent revision again in 1662. There were some 600 revisions at that time, but they were mostly minor, and no further revisions were made until the twentieth century.
It’s a good thing that Cranmer, in the 1549 version of the Book of Common Prayer, wrote a preface which began with these words, “There was never anything by the wit of man so well devised , or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted…” Had Cranmer not written that, Anglicans would never have stood for any revisions at all!
Question 7: The original Book of Common Prayer required the writing of a new liturgy for use in the Church of England. Which one was it?
If you answered the liturgy for Holy Communion, go to the head of the class. Prior to the establishment of the Church of England, the congregation did not participate in Holy Communion. Reception of the bread and wine was reserved for priests only. In 1548, the Convocation of the Church of England determined that all the baptised were to receive Holy Communion “in both kinds” (i.e. The bread and the wine) Cranmer wrote the liturgy for Holy Communion based on the Sarum Rite for Communion to the Sick.
Question 8: Is it true that the BCP has been influential in developing liturgies in other denominations?
Absolutely true. Even though polity, praxis and theology differ in the many Christian denominations, many of them have drawn on the language and forms of the BCP. Chief among them are the Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Unitarian Churches. Even the Roman Catholic Church, following Vatican II instituted an English language mass, and used Cranmer’s translations of the prayers from the Missal, the Manual, and the Pontifical. How’s that for an example of “What goes around, comes around!”
The marriage and burial services of the BCP have been adopted by other denominations, and also by Hollywood. Most Hollywood movie weddings begin “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony…” and Hollywood movie funerals usually use BCP language.
John Wesley, an Anglican priest whose revivalist movement in the eighteenth century led the way to the establishment of the Methodist Church, wrote, “I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England.” Perhaps this is why the Methodist Church in England continued to use the BCP Holy Communion (with a few slight revisions) until well into the twentieth century. Phrases from the BCP have become part of the language – “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from the funeral liturgy, “Till death do us part”, “Speak now or forever hold your peace” and “With this ring I thee wed” from the marriage service, “Read, mark and inwardly digest (the scriptures” from the Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent, and “From all the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil” from the Great Litany.
One literary analyst – obviously a person with too much time on his hands – found 200 allusions to the BCP (mostly from the psalter) in the works of William Shakespeare.
Question 9: Do Anglicans throughout the world use the same BCP?
No. While the basic BCP remains intact and preserves the stately Cranmerian phrasing and language, each part of the Anglican Communion (and there 37 national Anglican Churches around the world) has revised the BCP at one time or another to accommodate local needs. Some of the revisions have been barely noticeable, while many have been sweeping.
Question 10: Are the readings for use in worship and the psalms found in the BCP taken from the King James Version of the Bible?
No. The readings, psalms and canticles prescribed for use throughout the church year are taken from the Great Bible, translated by Miles Coverdale under warrant from Henry VII, and first published in 1538. It was the Bible authorized for use in the Church of England from 1538 to 1611, when it was replaced by the King James Version.