The Reverend David Curry’s informative article on the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962 in the most recent number of The Anglican Way was marred by one major error.  Father Curry asserts that the Canadian book ‘is unique’ as the only modern (post-World War II) Prayer Book revision which ‘stands self-consciously and intentionally within the classical Anglican tradition of Common Prayer.’  Both the 1954 Prayer Book of the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA) and the 1960 Prayer Book of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon (CIPBC), however, are also classical, conservative revisions, at least as much within the mainstream Prayer Book tradition as is the 1962 Canadian Book.

All three of these books have forms for the ‘common prayer’ usually called the Daily Office along the basic lines established in the first Prayer Book of 1549 and modified later by addition at the beginning and end of the offices of opening sentences, a penitential rite, and prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, and supplication.  All three books contain a Eucharistic rite which modifies the 1662 English book mainly by a conservative use of the 1549 book and by the omission of the lengthy exhortations.  All three books contain Ordinals and forms for the occasional offices which draw mainly from the 1549-1662 English Prayer Books.

While all three of these modern books contain variations from the 1662 book, in general the bulk of texts provided are the same.

The full Psalter is printed in all three books and in all three cases it mostly is the same as the Coverdale Psalter found in the 1662 book.  But the South African and Indian books meddle less with Coverdale’s translations than does the Canadian book, which bowdlerizes some of the so-called ‘cursing psalms’ and frequently alters others.  The Psalter is probably the weakest feature of the 1962 Canadian book, though, in its defense, it does reflect in many places improved knowledge of the Hebrew Psalter.

Unlike the Episcopal Church’s current book of devotions, the Canadian, Indian, and South African books all print out the epistles and gospels for the Sundays and major feasts, and so contain a much larger proportion of Scripture and of what is actually said or read in worship.  The 1549, 1662, 1954, 1960, and 1962 books, as well as the 1928 American book, all in general follow the ancient Western Eucharistic lections in a one year cycle.  Insofar as these books differ from the medieval lections, they all tend to do so [following] Cranmer.

In all three cases the modern Prayer Books in question are sufficiently different from each other that a person moving from the use of one of them to another will initially notice many small differences.  But in all such cases also the reader or worshipper will find broad similarity in the basic structure of rites, in the Sunday lections, and in the translation of the principal and most familiar prayers and texts.  Someone familiar with the 1928 American book or with the South African, Canadian, or Indian book, can easily and quickly become familiar with any of the others.  Even when the South African book is used in one of its many non-English translations (Zulu, Xhosa, Sepedi, etc.) or when the Indian book is used in Hindi or another Indian language, someone familiar with the classical Prayer Book tradition can follow easily using an English book.

All three of the modern books provide for more variable elements than 1662, such as alternative second canticles in Morning Prayer, festal and seasonal antiphons for the Venite, exultemus, conditional permission for the shortening of the daily offices, and more proper prefaces before the Sanctus.  ‘May’ is used in the rubrics for all three books more than in 1662.  The modern books all are much more flexible than is 1662.

The South African book was clearly produced under Anglo-Catholic influence.  A number of ceremonies not found in the 1662 English book are permitted such as the giving of the chrysom and of a lighted candle at baptism, anointing at confirmation, and unction of the sick.  Proper collects and lessons are provided for all the weekdays in Lent and for many more feast days.  Seven commons of saints are provided along with propers for a number of occasions such as burials, Rogation days, and votive intentions such as the Unity of the Church.  The South African book is so much augmented in its provision of Eucharistic propers as to eliminate or much lessen the need for missals or supplementary books where frequent or daily Eucharistic celebration is common.

The Canadian, South African, and Indian Prayer Books are all fine examples of the classic Prayer Book tradition, sensibly augmented or revised in minimal ways.  In all three cases modifications from the previous books in use – mainly the English book of 1662 – were made sensitively and with still older Prayer Books and forms taken as their models.  If Prayer Book reform limits itself to such conservative, modest efforts, all will be well.

5 thoughts on “Three modern Prayer Books

  1. Your Grace, I was really interested to read your opinion that ‘[t]he Psalter is probably the weakest feature of the 1962 Canadian book’. I’ve been looking into the Canadian Prayer Book and have been really impressed with it. However, that makes me all the more disappointed by the extent of the extent of the omissions and renumbering of verses in the Psalter, especially since the Prayer Book system traditionally placed such an emphasis on the monthly recitation of the Psalter. The imprecatory aspect of some of the Psalms is challenging — almost by definition — but surely the answer is meditation and instruction, not ‘cutting the knot’ in such a way that users of the Prayer Book (laypeople especially) might never know there is a ‘knot’! Any thoughts on this would be appreciated, especially since 1962 Prayer Book is authorised in the ACC. Are you aware if ACC clergy who use the 1962 Book use the Psalter as printed, or an alternative?


    1. I think ACC clergy who use the Canadian book use its psalter also, but I’ve not asked. Of course pretending the difficult biblical passages don’t exist is fundamentally dishonest. The difficulties need to be faced and dealt with. The hard passages of the Bible can usually be dealt with in one or more of three ways. First, they can be allegorized. Saint Augustine does this in his commentary on the psalms as in, say, his consideration of (BCP) Psalm 137. Babylon is evil. The children of Babylon are our sins. The rock is Christ. Dashing the children of Babylon against the rock is dashing our sins against Christ, preferably when those sins are baby sins, not full grown habits. And so forth. Allegory has its limits but also its uses. Secondly, we can historicize: ancient Israel lived in a rough neighborhood whose idolatry was a constant temptation. And ancient Israelites had little sense of an afterlife. Therefore, rewards and punishments tended to be placed in this life, and enemies were dealt with in a fashion we would not favor now. This approach also has its value, though it can easily lead to a sense of superiority and a dismissal of things we don’t like in, say, Saint Paul. Thirdly, sometimes we do best just to say that we don’t understand a passage and don’t have to be able to explain everything.


    1. Thank you and Audre. My main goal, though, is served by these posts. I wanted to help readers troubled by the cursing psalms in particular by noting the allegorical and by giving a few examples of its application. Also, directing readers to S. Augustine’s commentary, the Neale/Littledale volumes, C.S. Lewis’s little book, and Robert Alter gives others better guides than me for detailed study. On a personal note, I hope the Mojave is not too hot!


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