Blame/Guilt in the Liturgy

Damn thing tears me up every time. EVERY TIME.

When I was growing up in the AME Zion church, there was a part of the liturgy called the Prayer of Humble Access, which we said every time we had communion; in our church, that was the first Sunday of the month. The prayer has long Anglican roots; the 1662 revision, which is at least a century after the original, reads: 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 dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. I have to say that that line about the crumbs under the Table always bothered me as a child. It’s supposed to be a humble prayer, not a groveling one.

Conversely, there’s a good Lenten hymn called Ah, Holy Jesus. The second verse: Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee! ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I was denied thee; I crucified thee. Damn thing tears me up every time. EVERY TIME. I have to wonder if it’s the music that makes it more moving for me, whereas I find the prayer pedantic.

Probably. We do a lot of music in our current service, such as the psalter, and while I’m quite fond of it, at least one woman in the congregation finds it stressful because she’s trying to get it right.


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