Why Does the Prayer Book Matter?
   By H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
   An Address on the 25th Anniversary of the Prayer Book Society of the
   Church of England
   Lord Charteris, ladies and gentlemen:
   I am deeply conscious that I am here in the presence of experts of
   all kindsnot least the spiritual, theological and scholastic. I am
   particularly touched that so many people, like Dr Spurr, have come
   from as far away as Australia; others have come from Canada; and I
   was particularly glad to see the Bishop of London.
   So I hesitate to speak with any learned authority on a subject as
   important and central as the Book of Common Prayer. But I hope you
   will forgive a few thoughts which I think you might suspect come
   from the heart, rather than from the pen of a scholarly individual.
   I was struck, when turning some of the less familiar pages of the
   Prayer Book the other day, by the poignant way in which Cranmer and
   the church fathers so succinctly understood the problem of
   preserving the integrity of literature and liturgy in a turbulent
   and changing world.
   I am sure you will all recall how the second Preface begins: There
   was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure
   established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.
   In a speech I made, which Lord Charteris mentioned, before some of
   you at S. James Garlickhythe seven-and-a-half years ago, I described
   the Prayer Book as a most glorious part of our heritage, and a book
   of prayer for the whole community. Due in no small part to the hard
   work of you all and your Society over the last two-and-a-half
   decades, I am delighted to say that the Prayer Book remains today in
   cherished use in many more churches across the country than might
   otherwise have been the case.
   So, why does the Prayer Book matter, together with the numinous
   mystery of its language? Because, as its very survival over the
   centuries has shown, its language and liturgy are sensitive to the
   profound human need for continuity and permanence, and have shown
   themselves not of an age, but for all time.
   But, ladies and gentlemen, what is it about tradition and
   traditional values that, at the mere mention of these words,
   normally intelligent people go into paroxysms of rage and
   indignation, even vilification, as I have discovered? Is it because
   they feel threatened? It is as if tradition represented the enemy of
   man's lofty ambition; the primitive force which acts as an unwelcome
   reminder deep in our subconscious of the ultimate folly of believing
   that the purpose and meaning of life on this earth lie in creating a
   material form of Utopiaa world in which technology becomes a
   virtual-reality God, the arbiter of virtual-reality ethics, and thus
   the eventual murderer of the soul of mankind.
   To my mind, tradition is not a man-made element in our lives, it is
   a God-given awareness of the natural rhythms and of the fundamental
   harmony engendered by a union of the paradoxical opposites in every
   aspect of nature. Tradition reflects, in my opinion, the timeless
   order, and yet disorder, of the cosmos, and anchors us into a
   harmonious relationship with the great mysteries of the universe. 
   Some scientists claim to have discovered the origins of the universe
   and explain it all quite confidently in terms of a Big Bang. If it
   was a Big Bang, then I suggest it was a controlled explosion.
   Likewise, I believe that man is much more than just a biological
   phenomenon resting on the bottom line of the great balance sheet of
   life, where art and culture and religion are increasingly in danger
   of becoming optional extras.
   While appreciating that so much of the simple innocence of our lives
   has been destroyed, I do believe that the survival of civilised
   values, as we have inherited them from our ancestors, depends on the
   corresponding survival in our hearts of that profound sense of the
   The genius of Cranmer's Prayer Book, in my humble opinion, lies in
   the conveyance of that sense of the sacred through the power and
   majesty of the language of the Prayer Book, so that, in the words of
   the collect, Among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our
   hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.
   The Orthodox Church, for example, has never lost, abandoned, or
   diminished the sacred beauty and symbolism of its liturgy. The
   great, overwhelming sadness for me, and I am sure for you, too, is
   that we seem to have forgotten that for solemn occasions we need
   exceptional and solemn language: something which transcends our
   everyday speech. We commend the beauty of holiness, yet we forget
   the holiness of beauty.
   If we encourage the use of mean, trite, ordinary language, we
   encourage a mean, trite, and ordinary view of the world we inhabit. 
   Many people look in dismay at what has been happening to our
   language in the very place where it evolved. They wonder what it is
   about our country and our society that our language has become so
   impoverished, so sloppy, and so limited; that we have arrived at
   such a dismal wasteland of banality, cliché, and casual obscenity.
   For many, it has been an absolute tragedy to witness the abandonment
   of the idea of English as something really to be learned by effort
   and application, by long and careful familiarity with those who have
   shown how to clothe thoughts in the most precise, vivid and
   memorable language. We have ended up leaving ourselves open to the
   terrible accusation once levelled by that true master of the banal,
   Samuel Goldwyn: You've improved it worse!
   However, there are signs of encouragement in that the last 25 years
   do seem to have brought about a slight change of atmosphere in this
   debate; and in particular that the Church of England Liturgical
   Commission is now making more effort to honour the Prayer Book
   tradition than in the past, and is proposing to include the Book of
   Common Prayer in its new prayer book, so that it will be much more
   available to everybody. There is no doubt in my mind that the Prayer
   Book Societys work to commend the Prayer Book to the next generation
   through the Cranmer Awards scheme matters a great deal.
   So, the Prayer Books survival is, I believe a touchstone of our
   ability as a society to value its spiritual roots, its liturgical
   continuity, and its very identity as a nation of believers. This is,
   therefore, not the moment to relax your efforts, but to encourage
   them even further. I look forward to your next 25 years of endeavour
   and success. Your work could not be more important to the
   rediscovery of tradition, as the Bishop of London has so succinctly
   put it.

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