October 15, 2006

Reflections on Thomas Cranmer's "The Book of Common Prayer"
Last week I had a personal half-day retreat by reading the Thomas Cranmer’s prayers, daily and night offices enlisted in the “The Book of Common Prayer”.
One of the fist challenges that I had was to silence my heart and, as I was in the middle of different papers and projects, stretching to meet deadlines, such thing was not easy. My mind was overflowing with words and daily activities flashes, but I wanted to approach the spiritual exercise with silence, focusing on God. Gradually, as I continued to wait upon God, I came to understand that the issue of silence –ie, absence of words– is more than taking a break, or just not speaking. It was a matter of surrender, letting go the wordiness of the heart and trying to set myself in a position were I could hear my own heart and God’s very words to me.
Starting to focus on “The Book of Common Prayer”, I sought to be driven to contemplate God through the words that I was reading. I was impressed by the multitude of prayers, for every occasion and every moment of the day and the depth of feelings expressed. Many of Cranmer’s prayers were a very good reflection of my own very inner feelings. In the same time, I realized that I am learning to pray things I would probably never have thought to say on my own.
Thomas Cranmer prayed: “And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days”. I have reflected for while about the awareness of God’s mercy in my prayer life. Recollecting the memories of my long prayer lists did not help. This is an important place were I need to improve: awareness by giving myself to His service, in holiness, in righteousness… this is more than challenging. Yes, surprisingly written prayers are helping.
Paradoxically, written common prayers have helped in finding my own individuality and defining myself before God. This could be a paradox for all spiritual disciplines; what at first looks like a straightjacket turns out to be a set of wings.
I was also impressed by the various occasions when the Lord’s Prayer is mentioned. Reading and re-reading it, focusing on many aspects of this prayer it kindled my prayer life in another important way. It not only tought me what I should pray about, but also frees me to find my own voice in the choir of the generations of the Christians who prayed this prayer. Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer may sometimes look rigid, but it is the rigidity of a backbone; it allows me to run to God.
The retrat was done - Praise the Lord, the wonderful Father! I had a real adventure: I've discovered more of Him and more of me. Thank you, Thomas Cranmer.