2 May 2018

Chesterton on the Anglican liturgical tradition (1)

(ht to Professor Tighe)

" ... why has the old Prayer-Book a power like that of great poetry upon the spirit and heart? The reason is much deeper than the mere avoidance of journalese. It might be put in a sentence; it has style, it has tradition; it has religion; it was written by apostate Catholics. It is strong, not in so far as it is the first Protestant book, but in so far as it was the last Catholic book. 

As it happens, this can be proved in the most practical manner from the actual details of the prose. The most moving passages in the old Anglican Prayer Book are exactly those that are least like the atmosphere of the Anglicans. They are moving, or indeed thrilling, precisely because they say the things which Protestants have long left off saying; and which Catholics still say. Anybody who knows anything of literature knows when a style lifts itself to its loftiest efforts; and in these cases it is always to say strongly what we [Catholics] still endeavour to say, however weakly; but which nobody else ever endeavours to say at all. Let anyone recall for himself the very finest passages in the Book of Common Prayer, and he will soon see that they are concerned specially with spiritual thoughts and themes that now seem strange and terrible; but anyhow, the reverse of common."

More of this tomorrow; it comes from a collection of his pieces published in 1935, the year before he died (he had converted in 1922). When you read my next instalment, you will grow, I suspect, more and embarrassed about .... modern Catholic culture.

3 comments:

Jon Kabel said...

I've looked in the past for Chesterton's reflections on some element of Anglican faith and culture apart from criticisms of clergy, and always found little. This was nice to read.

Tom Broughton said...

I am waiting for the punchline.

Unknown said...

Which prayer book is the one Chesterton is referring to? There were several early ones.