how C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot redrafted the Anglican Book of Common Prayer

Words-and-the-Word-Eliot_Le-600x364Miranda France at Granta:

Alan Jacobs identifies World War I as the time when moves to reform the prayer book gathered pace. Chaplains returning from the Front pushed for a liturgy that soldiers could understand. Cranmer had written at a time when people’s lives were so different. Seventeenth century men and women feared the dark and the malign effect of the moon or night air. They worried with good cause that none of their children would survive infancy. Not only had ordinary life changed beyond recognition, but the language was now too arcane to be understood by many in the congregation, or no longer meant what it once had. It made no sense to use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ in church when you didn’t use it anywhere else. It felt so much worse to call yourself a miserable offender in the twentieth century than in the sixteenth, when ‘miserable’ had simply meant ‘deserving of mercy’.

How could Cranmer be revised, though, except with writing that was equally beautiful and on which both Church and state could agree? It proved – and continues to prove – to be an impossible task. When the Church of England tried to make very small adjustments to the Book of Common Prayer, the House of Commons voted against them in 1927, and again in 1928, in chaotic scenes that made the front pages. It was another forty years before the Church found a way around the political impasse with the Alternative Service Book, so called because it made no claim to be the official prayer book and therefore did not require parliament’s approval.

more here.