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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  May 2004

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION May 2004

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Subject:

Re: Prayer of humble access

From:

Terrill Heaps <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 25 May 2004 06:42:11 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Wyn Thomas wrote:

> I should be grateful for information on the 'Prayer of Humble Access' from
> the Book of Common Prayer. Is the text older than the Book of Common Prayer
> or am I correct in thinking that Thomas Cranmer is the author. I'm
> particularly  interested in the last phrase and the theme of the indwelling
> of God/Christ in the believer. This theme occurs in Patristic theology,
> following John 6:56 and John 14:23, but I don't have any precise
> references. Any help would be greatly appreciated. The text of the prayer
> is as follows:
>
> We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord,
> trusting in our own righteousness,
> but in thy manifold and great mercies.
> We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.
> But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy;
> Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
> so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood,
> that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
> and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
> and that we may evermore ever dwell in him, and he in us.
> Amen

See Massey Shepherd's _Oxford American Prayerbook Commentary_:

The Prayer of Humble Access

"The Prayer of Humble Access is an original composition of Archbishop
Cranmer’s, though phrases were suggested to him by familiar medieval Collects
and some passages in the Greek Liturgy of St. Basil.

 "The prayer is a searching and vivid confession of our utter unworthiness of
God’s gifts from the Lord’s Table ? forgiveness, nourishment, and union with
Christ. In the first half of the prayer there is an allusion to the two
incidents in Our Lord’s life, recounted in the Synoptic Gospels, of acts of
mercy to Gentiles ? the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt. viii. 5-13;
cf. pp.114-15) and of the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matt. xv. 21-8; cf.
p. 128). The Messiah and Saviour, Whom Israel in its pride of ‘righteousness
which is of the Law’ rejected and despised, the Gentile in humility and faith
received. The centurion and the Canaanite woman foreshadow God’s adoption of
new sons into the stock of Abraham, the new Covenant of those who come to Him
trusting not in their own righteousness but in God’s manifold and great
mercies.

 "The second half of the prayer recalls Our Lord’s teaching as recorded in
John vi.53-6—one of his His ‘hard sayings,’ that we must eat His flesh and
drink His blood if we would have eternal life. Our Lord explained that this
‘flesh and blood’ was not that of His physical body, but that of His ascended
and glorified body, when, to use St. Paul’s phrase, He should be ‘a quickening
spirit.’ The nature of this glorified ‘flesh and blood’ we cannot conceive,
but we apprehend it by faith as a spiritual Reality."

Hope this is useful,

Terrill

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