If You Want to Know What Episcopalians Believe…
The following letter from Wallace+ appears in the June/July 2011 Epistle newsletter:
My Dear People,
If you want to know what Episcopalians believe, short of asking one, all you have to do is pick up the Book of Common Prayer. And, if you really, really want to know what Episcopalians believe, then flip to the Eucharistic Prayers, which are the beating heart of the Prayer Book:
Lord God of our Fathers [and Mothers]: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; [God of Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel]; God and Father of Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.
Yes, what we pray is what we believe. Or, to put it in the Latin that has carried through the centuries, Lex Orandi, lex credendi. It is a theological formulation that has been around since ancient times. The loose translation is usually given as, “The law of prayer is the law of belief.”
And, if we look at, or, better yet, prayerfully meditate upon, the passage above, from Eucharistic Prayer C, we can see there, even in those few words, a potent summary of what we believe: that we are members of a living community of the faithful, stretching across the ages; and that we gather at the Eucharistic table, for our own sake, yes, but, we pray, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the whole world. (Yes, truth is, the strength and renewal we pray for each Sunday is radical, world-changing stuff.)
Of course the particulars of the Church’s prayers evolve over the years; otherwise, it’s no exaggeration to say, we’d still be praying in Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, even while speaking 2011 American English in ordinary conversation. It is, however, the content of our prayers, the shared faith of the Church embedded in those prayers—better yet, it is the relationship with God and with one another that is borne by those prayers—that remains constant over the centuries, even, again, while the specifics of language (word choice, style, etc.) will change.
Of course our hope—and, surely, God’s hope as well—is that what we pray shapes not merely what we believe but how we live. That is the real measure, isn’t it?
Indeed, the Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi!!!!!
May what we pray shape what we believe. And, yes, how we live.
For our own sake, and for the sake of the world.
I’ll see you at the Table.
Your brother in Christ,