Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/276

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262
PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD

clergy was thrown into its present shape, referring back not to 1604 or 1559 or 1552, but to the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. in 1549 for the rule to be followed.

The above are the important alterations, among numerous others of minor significance, introduced into the Prayer Book in 1662. Their general trend is obvious. It is not in the Puritan direction, but intended to emphasize and to make more clear church doctrine and discipline, which in recent years had become obscured or decayed. No substantial alteration has been made in the Prayer Book since 1662, but two alterations must be chronicled as having obtained the sanction of the Convocations of Canterbury and York, and also legal force by act of parliament. In 1871 a new Lectionary was substituted for .the previously existing one, into the merits and demerits of which it is not possible to enter here; and in 1872, by the Act of Uniformity Amendment Act, a 'shortened form of service was provided instead of the present form of Morning' and Evening Prayer for optional use in other than cathedral churches on all days except Sunday, Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Ascension Day; provision was also statutably made for the separation of services, and for additional services, to be taken, however, except so far as anthems and hymns are concerned, entirely out of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. In the year 1907 letters of business were issued by the Crown to the Convocations inviting and enabling them to make alterations in the Prayer Book (afterwards to be embodied in an act of parliament). These letters were issued in compliance with the second recommendation (1906) of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline, viz.: that “ Letters of business should be issued to the Convocations with instructions: (a) to consider the preparation of a new rubric regulating the ornaments (that is to say, the vesture) of the ministers of the church, at the times of their ministrations, with a view to its enactment by parliament; and (b) to frame, with a view to their enactment of parliament, such modifications in the existing law relating to the conduct of Divine Service, and to the ornaments and fittings of churches as may tend to secure the greater elasticity which a reasonable recognition of the comprehensiveness of the Church of England and of its present needs seems to demand.”

A few words are added in conclusion about the state services. Until the year 1859 they were four in number. 1. A Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving to be used yearly upon the Eifth Day of November, to commemorate the happy deliverance of King James I. and the Three Estates of England from the Gunpowder Plot in 1604.

2. A Form of Prayer with Fasting to be used yearly on the Thirtieth Day of January, to commemorate the Martyrdom of the Blessed King Charles the First in 1649.

3. A Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving to be used yearly on the Twenty-ninth Day of May, to commemorate the Restorationto the throne of King Charles the Second in 1660.

4. A Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving to be used yearly on the Day of the Accession of the reigning Monarch. The first three of these services were abolished in 1859 by royal warrant-that is to say by the exercise of the same authority which had instituted them. The fourth form of service was retained in its old shape till 1901, when a new form, or rather new forms of service, having been prepared by Convocation, were authorized by royal warrant on the 9th of November. (F. E. W.)


PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD. Wherever there is a belief in the continued existence of man's personality through and after death, religion naturally concerns itself with the relations between the living and the dead. And where the idea of a future judgment obtains, prayers are often offered on their behalf to the Higher Powers. Prayers for the dead are mentioned in 2 Maccabees xii. 43–45, where the writer is uncertain whether to regard the sacrifice offered by Judas as a propitiatory sin-offering or as a memorial thank-offering, a distinction of great importance in the later history of the practice. Prayers for the dead form part of the authorized Jewish services. The form in use in England contains the following passage: “Have mercy upon him; pardon all his transgressions . . . Shelter his soul in the shadow of Thy wings. Make known to him the path of life.” The only passage in the New Testament which is held t.o bear directly on the subject is 2 Tim. i. 18, where, however, it is not certain that Onesiphorus, for whom St Paul prayed, was dead. Outside the Bible the proof of the early use of prayers for the dead has been carried a step farther by Professor Ramsay's discoveries, for it is now impossible to doubt the genuineness of the copy (contained in the spurious acts of the saint) of the inscription on the tomb of Abercius of Hieropolis in Phrygia (see Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, pt. ii vol. i. p. 492 sqq.). The 19th line of the inscription runs thus: “ Let every friend who observeth this pray for me” i.e.. Abercius, who throughout speaks in the first person: he died in the latter part of the 2nd century. The inscriptions in the Roman Catacombs bear similar witness to the practice, by the occurrence of such phrases as “ Mayst thou live among the saints ” (3rd century); “ May God refresh the soul of . . . ”; “ Peace be with them.” Among Church writers Tertullian is the first to mention prayers for the dead, and that not as a concession to natural sentiment, but as a duty: “ The widow who does not pray for her dead husband has as good as divorced him.” This passage occurs in one of his later Montanistic writings, dating from the beginning of the 3rd century. Subsequent writers similarly make incidental mention of the practice as prevalent, but not as unlawful or even disputed (until Aerius challenged it towards the end of the 4th century). The most famous instance is St Augustine's prayer for his mother, Monica, at the end of the 9th book of his Confessions.

An important element in the liturgies of the various Churches consisted of the diptychs or lists of names of living and dead who were to be commemorated at the Eucharist. To be inserted in these lists was an honour, and out of the practice grew the canonization of saints; on the other hand, to be excluded was a condemnation. In the middle of the 3rd century we find Cyprian enjoining that there should be no oblation or public prayer made for a deceased layman who had broken a Church rule by appointing a cleric trustee under his will: “He ought not to be named in the priests' prayer who has done his best to detain the clergy from the altar.” Although it is not possible, as a rule, to name dates for the exact words used in the ancient liturgies, yet the universal occurrence of these diptychs and of definite prayers for the dead in all parts of the Church in the 4th and 5th centuries tends to show how primitive such prayers were. The language used in the prayers for the departed is very reserved, -and contains no suggestion of a place or state of pain. We may cite the following from the so-called liturgy of St James:—

“Remember, O Lord, the God of Spirits and of all Flesh, those whom we have remembered and those whom we have not remembered, men of the true faith, from righteous Abel unto to-day; do thou thyself glive them rest there in the land of the living, in thy kingdom, in the delight of Paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our holy fathers, from whence pain and sorrow and sighing have fled away, where the light of thy countenance visiteth them and always shineth upon them.”

Public prayers were only offered for those who were believed to have died as faithful members of Christ. But Perpetua, who was martyred in 202, believed herself to have been encouraged by a vision to pray for her brother, who had died in his eighth year, almost certainly unbaptized; and a later vision assured her that her prayer had been answered and he translated from punishment. St Augustine thought it needful to point out that the narrative was not canonical Scripture, and contended that the child had perhaps been baptized. Similarly, a medieval legend relates that Gregory the Great was so struck with the justice of the emperor Trajan, that he prayed for him, and in consequence he was admitted to Paradise (cf. Dante, Purg. x., Parad. xx.).

As time went on, further developments took place. Petitions to God that he would hear the intercessi ons of the departed became direct requests to them to pray (Ora pro nobis); and, finally, the saints were asked themselves to grant grace and help. Again, men felt difficulty in supposing that one who repented at the close of a wicked life could at once enjoy the fellowship of the saints in Paradise (St Luke xxiii. 43), and it seemed unfair that they should be made equal With those who had borne the