by Jean Mayland
from Signs of the Times No. 59 - Oct 2015

In The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (ed F L Cross 1957), it is stated that ‘Adoration, thanksgiving, penitence and petition are acts directed to God ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord,’ or made ‘in the Spirit’.

This was the principle followed by the writers of the Prayer Books of 1549, 1552, 1662 and the Alternative Service Book of 1980. In particular it was followed in all the collects in the Prayer Book of 1662 except two:

  1. The Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent was addressed to Jesus and began ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare the way before thee…’ In 1980 this was changed to ‘Almighty God, who sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people for the coming of your son….’. In Common Worship (probably at the insistence of the Prayer Book Society) this was changed back to ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger…’
  2. The Collect for the first Sunday in Lent was addressed to Jesus and began ‘O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights’,…In 1980 this was brought into line with the other collects and began ‘Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness and was tempted as we are yet without sin…’ In Common Worship this was left.

The rest of the intercessions in Common Worship as first published in 2000 followed the same principle. But since then, in the new material by successive Liturgical Commissions, there has been a steady movement towards prayers addressed to Jesus.

In the book of Services for Lent, Holy Week and Easter prepared by the Liturgical Commission in between the ASB and Common Worship and first published in 1986 there is an ancient prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrament. It begins ‘Almighty and Heavenly Father, we thank you that in the wonderful sacrament you have given us the memorial of the passion of your Son Jesus Christ…’ In the material eventually prepared after Common Worship this now reads ‘Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament you have given us the memorial of your passion…’

As more and more additional alternative material for the Eucharist was produced, agreed and published, this trend continued.

In Hexham Abbey we are provided with different books for the seasons of the year, and in these the material addressed to Jesus continues to grow - e.g. introduction to confession, absolution and intercessions all addressed to Jesus. When I celebrate, I feel obliged to change these and make them addressed to God - Creator or Father. There are various reasons for this:

  • I think this is correct according to Anglican theology and liturgical process
  • I have to admit that I personally find it more and more difficult to think of Jesus as God. What exactly do we mean by ‘Son of God? In a way the title ‘Son of Man ‘ is more significant in the NT as there is a real sense in which we are all sons and daughters of God
  • What do we mean by describing Jesus as ‘the image of God’? In one sense I have no problem. We are all made in God’s image but Jesus I recognise as possessing the fullness of the image of God more than any other human being but does this make Jesus God.

In an odd way, as I struggle more with this, so the church moves in the opposite direction and prays directly to Jesus in a way that I cannot accept in public worship.

I remember, some years ago, a Muslim speaker at annual conference said one of our contemporary problems was that Mohammedans had made Mohammed into a God and thought of him much more than Allah, and Christians had done the same by making Jesus into a God and this made inter-faith dialogue more difficult. As the Church prays more and more direct to Jesus, this problem now increases, and dialogue is needed more and more.

A few weeks ago our Reader (an ex Roman Catholic) finished some excellent intercessions by saying that he would now sum up the intercessions in a prayer of the Church of England. He began ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ and I thought ‘That is NOT a prayer of the Church of England’.

I do not know how much this tendency is going in other Anglican Churches but I know it is there in the New Zealand Prayer Book of 1989, for example:

  • ‘Jesus our inspiration, you come in the evening as our doors are shut…’
  • ‘Jesus friend of sinners, you call us to love our enemies….’
  • ‘Ruler of the everlasting Kingdom, prince of peace, champion of the despised, you are the king, you make a cross your throne, you wear a crown of thorns………’

What do the rest of you in MC think?

Part 2 follows in the next issue.