1. EVERYBODY’S GOT A HUNGRY HEART
When I was twelve, my mother told me she, “Gave her heart to Jesus.” I wondered about what that really meant for a long time. Shortly after her conversion, I was dragged to the Clove Valley Bible Fellowship Church where I heard the words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”1 strummed on an acoustic guitar week after week. After repeated exposure to these words, I found myself involuntarily humming the tune throughout the day; somehow, it had gotten stuck in my head. Being fairly disinterested in church at this age, it was not long before I was looking for a way to replace the church songs that were buzzing in my head with something that I could put in my “heart.” I soon found Bruce Springsteen. To my liking, he sang:
Everybody needs a place to rest, everybody wants to have a home, Don’t make no difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody like to be alone. Everybody’s got a hungry heart, Everybody’ got a hungry heart, Lay down your money and you play your part, Everybody’s got a hungry heart.2 I memorized Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics. It wasn’t long before songs about clean hearts were replaced with ones about hungry hearts.
By the time I was thirteen, I had had my first experience with having my “hungry heart” broken by Barbara Amodeo on the grounds that good Catholic girls like her should not be hanging around with rough irreligious boys like me. Shortly after this, my own sense of morality began developing in a way that brought me to the realization that, even though I was just entering adolescence, I had willfully filled my hungry heart up with several packs of lies that had left me feeling soiled. For the first time in my life, my heart was aching. I truly realized at this time that I was deeply in need of God. It was then that I embraced the words, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me” and invited Jesus into my own heart; God had rescued me.
2. THE HEART OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
After being a Christian for nearly twelve years, I entered the Episcopal Church. One of the things that I immediately noticed was the plethora of references in the Book of Common Prayer to the heart. It seemed to be everywhere I looked. As you can see, my own spiritual growth has been greatly influenced by the language of the heart; hungry, dirty, broken, and cleaned. Thus, I have always taken an enormous interest in how references to the heart throughout the Prayer Book, but more specifically the Eucharist, affect the worship of those who call themselves Episcopalians or Anglicans.
A quick survey of the Book of Common Prayer yields an amazing assortment of references to the heart, largely based upon Scripture. It has been said that more then 85% of the BCP is taken directly from Scripture. When we look at references to the heart in Scripture we see the heart mentioned more then 950 times in the Old & New Testaments.3 Conversely, in the 1979 BCP the heart is referenced 353 times with 163 of these occurrences coming from the Psalms.4
From Morning Prayer to the Burial Office, the heart is called upon with a great variety of uses and meanings. In Morning Prayer, our hearts are Rent5 and bend their knees to God.6 In the Service for Compline, we are asked to speak to our hearts in silence upon our beds.7 In Evening Prayer our hearts are called upon to teach us.8 When we offer our prayers to God as a corporate body, we pour out our hearts to God.9 And, when someone we love is crushed by death, we are given solace when we cry out, “Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts; shut not your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord.”10
In the Psalter the heart is alive. Its shapes and depths are astounding. We hear the Psalmist describing the heart as hot within 11 or as melting wax.12 In the Psalms the heart given to God can be purified and made right. It can be knit to God.13 It can dance, 14 be cleansed, and created anew.15 The heart is also a place that can be cold and hard and can wither like grass.16 Within our hearts, there can be destruction, 17 duplicity, 18 and a massive collection of false rumors.19 The heart is complex and deep and the Prayer Book draws greatly from the Psalms to offer up a full spectrum of metaphors and meanings, which show many sides of the heart.
With such an array of references to the heart in our culture, our literature, our music, and within the Scriptures, it is not surprising that the place of the heart would also play a central role in our central act of worship, the Eucharist.
3. ALMIGHTY GOD, TO YOU ALL HEARTS ARE OPEN
It was quite amazing for me to hear for the first time the opening words of the Eucharist in an Episcopal Church. The priest stood in front of the people. His intention: to deliver the Word of God to the people and then to act it out with those gathered in the Holy Communion. In the words of the opening acclamation he held up a Prayer Book and read,
“Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.”
The whole congregation responded,
“His mercy endures for ever.”20
Then he spoke out among everyone gathered saying,
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.21
I have ever-since reveled in this prayer, known as the Collect for Purity, where we are told that God knows our hearts. Moreover, though they may hold secrets that the world cannot see, our hearts are open to him. In this collect, we are also told that our hearts need to be cleansed. The obvious implication is that our hearts are soiled, dirty, and in need of work. They have been stained by the troubles of the week and the turmoil’s of our fallen world and need to be “serviced” in the Eucharist.22
4. THE HEART AND ITS JOURNEY THROUGH THE EUCHARIST
As the Word of God continued to be presented, the service moved us ever closer toward the Holy Communion with the full intention of dealing with the secrets of our hearts and their need for cleansing. At the time, I was unaware of other rites. I did not know, for instance, that there was a rite based largely on a 1928 Book of Common Prayer known as Rite One Eucharist. Later, however, I saw that in this service, there was a common expectation that the Ten Commandments or a Summary of the Law 23 would be rehearsed after the Collect for Purity. The effect of such a reading would highlight God’s expectation that we be given to him with our whole hearts with the reality that we cannot and have not entirely done so since we last communed with him in the Eucharist. Hence, we have a dire need of a savior to reconcile us to Him. Thus, a certain tension mounts as we are brought ever closer to communion. The summary of the Law states:
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.24
In the Rite Two Eucharist, we move directly into giving God the glory he deserves by offering Songs of Praise.25 The service then takes our hearts on a journey through prayer and through the hearing of God’s Word. The celebrant and people call out in the salutation, based on the meeting of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:4), saying,
Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Let us pray.26
Passages from the Word of God are then read, and a sermon is offered up to all gathered. The hope of the liturgy is that as we feed on the Word it will do its work on our hearts. We then rehearse together the Nicene Creed followed by prayers for the Church and the world. At this point, the hope of the liturgy is that all the ‘hearts that are open to God’ will have been softened, and searched and prepared for a confession to Him. The whole movement of the liturgy brings us to the moment where we confess that we have sinned against God in “thought, word, and deed”26 both by our actions and our inaction with an eager anticipation that we will in fact be forgiven. Within the prayer of confession, the heart which was admitted to God for cleansing in the Collect for Purity, is now purged of sin and ready to be given up to God. In the Rite Two Confession, we cry,
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.28
The Rite One Eucharistic liturgy states things even more boldly, offering several options for all preparing for Holy Communion, to examine themselves. An option for an exhortation is also provided. The exhortation which has evolved since its first appearance in the 1548 Prayer Book warns that:
For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord. 29
Stephen Sykes, commenting on Thomas Cranmer’s concern with proper preparation of the heart in approaching the Lord in Holy Communion says:
In due course, we shall see how pivotal has become the liturgical instruction to ‘lift up your hearts’ in the ritual process of pilgrimage to the Lord’s table devised by Cranmer. But, the start of the journey, the exploration of the depths of the heart, show that the metaphorical process is full of hazards and demands the closest attention. The Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552 strongly emphasize to potential communicants that it is spiritually and physically dangerous to receive the sacrament unworthily. Repentance and restitution
are needed before hand, and a promise given to God that one’s life will be amended. 30
Prayer book revisionists seem to have failed to recognize the importance of identifying the need for the heart journeying to the Holy Communion to be examined and purged of its sin. Instead, there is a definite shift in newer liturgies to move more quickly into praise without considering the need for the searching, softening, and setting apart of deceitful, duplicitous, and hardened hearts on any given Sunday Morning. No one articulates this shift more clearly then Charles Price, who, in his Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer, says
This theory of atonement (“he is the propitiation for our sins.”) dominated Christian theology and liturgy in the Middle Ages and during the 16th century reformation. It is not now very appealing, although it does emphasize the seriousness of sin and the reality of God’s wrath. However, it should not be the sole expression of God’s reconciling work, but it is appropriate that it should appear as a sub-theme (cf. Rite I Eucharistic PrayerI; Evening Prayer Rite I; Collect for Friday in Easter Week; Proper 22, Proper 26; Great Vigil of Easter). 31
For Price and many other modern liturgists, the emphasis has been shifted to creation, redemption, freedom, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Hence, says Price, ‘a fuller array of words dealing with Christ’s work on the cross are employed.’ However, one must question if this is completely healthy for persons seeking to reform their hearts in a liturgy designed to bring the heart on a serious journey from the darkness of a fallen world to the heights of heaven. Price defends himself saying,
It has been said that as assurance of immortality was the acute spiritual need of the early Church, and assurance of forgiveness the acute need in sixteenth century Europe, community is the acute need in our time. Some critics of the Services for Trial use (1970) and the Authorized Services (1973) have felt that the accent on the “horizontal” dimension of worship has threatened to supplant the “vertical.” 32
In reflecting on Price’s comments, I am convinced that he is seriously mistaken in his attempt to lodge the need for forgiveness in the slot of history we call the sixteenth century. A deep need for forgiveness has been felt across the church from its inception. Yes, the postmodern church may need community. We are desperately alone. However, removing the penitential aspects of the Prayer Book and simply replacing them with affirming words will not cure the human heart or its isolation in sin. Only a serious view of the human condition which relies on Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin sick hearts can cure us and bring us into authentic communion with others. The problem has been the same from the time of Cain to the present. Positing a deep need for forgiveness, only at the end of the Middle Ages does not solve our community problems, it creates new ones.
The great Carolinian Divine, George Herbert, who was nurtured in Prayer Book spirituality, seems to have had a wonderful grasp at what Cranmer was attempting to do in the Prayer book. Like Cranmer, Herbert took the human dilemma seriously. He saw the heart as a closet with many rooms that held drawers, that held boxes, which held tills or lock boxes, which held secret sins that were meant to be hidden from God. He shows in his poem confession how God is able to search the heart and bring us to a place where we are able to purge our sins and be free of all guilt and shame. Rather then being irrelevant or a product of the reformation, the idea of freeing the heart from guilt and shame is as relevant and needed for people living today as anything I have ever encountered. Herbert says:
Oh what a cunning guest,
is this same grief.
In my heart I made closets,
and in them many a chest.
And like a master in my trade,
in those chests boxes,
in each box a till;
yet grief knows all
and enters when he will.
Only an open breast doth shut them out,
so that they cannot enter,
and if they enter
but quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts
no handles have;
does give hold and handle to affliction.
Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord I acknowledge,
take thy plagues away.
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day.
The clearest diamonds
let them do their best
they will be thick and cloudy
(compared) to my breast.33
In the Eucharist, the heart has journeyed through the liturgy of the Word’s Collect for Purity to the confession of sin, the offering of the peace of reconciliation, and the absolution given by the celebrating priest. Now cleansed, offerings of praise and thanksgiving are appropriately made to God. As the celebrant begins to prepare Holy Communion our hearts are now ready to be offered to as pure and spotless gifts. Standing before the Lord, the celebrant then ushers the congregation into the presence of God in the Eucharistic Prayer, saying:
Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give him thanks and praise.34
Finally, in the Holy Communion, which is for us a great moment of praise and thanksgiving for the redemptive work done for us on the cross of Calvary, we lift up our hearts to God. What is so important for us to see when looking at the subject of the heart in the Prayer Book, and in the Eucharist, is that the heart has needed a great amount of servicing in order to come to a place where it can rightly be offered to God.
The act of lifting our hearts to God is wrought with danger. Hopefully we have journeyed well. Yes, much of the time it is a dramatic journey. Some of the time we are better to walk away from the Holy Communion, if we have been unable to truly offer our hearts to God for forgiveness. Nonetheless, when we do come and offer our hearts fully, we share with him and all the community of believers, a heavenly banquet. The Galasian Collect for Ascension Day adapted by Cranmer to reflect the journey of the heart, sums up this thought with great beauty:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.35
5. FROM HIGHWAY BILLBOARDS TO THE BREAD OF HEAVEN
Almost everyone will agree that we are a people who are living in an age where information has run rampant. It has been said that we see more information in a month then the average person saw in the Middle Ages in an entire lifetime. Our hearts and minds are constantly being bombarded with information. The late Henri Nouwen made the following observation:
"Recently, I was driving through Los Angeles. Suddenly, I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Wherever I looked there were words trying to keep my eyes from the road. They said, "Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, eat me, smell me, touch me, kiss me, sleep with me."36
It does not take long for even the strongest and most disciplined of saints to be deeply affected by the noise, the constancy, and the sheer volume of information that is running through our lives. For pastors, and for parishioners, we are in desperate need of having our hearts searched, softened, and purged of all of the stuff that attaches to our hearts from day to day in our postmodern culture.
If there was any time in our life as a Church that we needed to take our hearts on a journey through the Eucharist to have them softened, forgiven, and then offered up to God it is now. Rather then encouraging the faithful to drive to church (while being assaulted by billboards) and then jump right into praise and thanksgiving, we would do well to recover the idea that our hearts are rarely prepared to encounter God on his throne or to have our hearts ascend to him in heaven. Just as Christians for centuries have known, we need to prepare our hearts by taking them on a redemptive drive through the Eucharist. Then, after we have fed on the Word, confessed our sins, and offered ourselves to one another as a reconciled community, can we say with boldness,
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give him thanks and praise
6. END NOTES
1. Create in Me a Clean Heart. Contemporary praise song based on Psalm 51 and very popular in the 1970’s.
2. Bruce Springsteen. The River (NewYork: CBS, Inc.). The Song is titled “Hungry Heart.”
3. A word search using Logos’ New American Standard Bible, heart and hearts.
4. Galen Bushey, The Prayer Book Concordance (New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1988), p. 230-231. References are to heart and hearts.
5. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1979), p. 38. From Morning Prayer Rite One. This is a Lenten prayer taken from Joel 2:13 which says, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”
6. “BCP”, p. 91. Taken from Morning Prayer Rite Two, the 14th Canticle; A Song of Penitence. The line reads, “And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart, and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.”
7. “BCP”, p. 128. This is the first of a selection of Compline prayers, Psalm 4:4 known as Cum invocarem reads, “Tremble, then, and do not sin; speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.”
8. “BCP”, p. 115. One of a selection of opening sentences for evening prayer, the reference to the heart teaching us comes from, Psalm 16:7, 8; “I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall.
9. “BCP”, p. 471. From the Psalm used within the Burial right, known as Quemadmodum, it reads, “Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself; for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God.”
10. “BCP”, p. 492. An Anthem for the Burial of the Dead: “Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts; shut not your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord. Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.
11. “BCP”, p. 638. Taken from Psalm 39:4, known as Dixi, Custodiam, it reads, “My heart was hot within me; while I pondered, the fire burst into flame.”
12. “BCP”, p. 611. From the Psalter, Psalm 22:14, “I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.”
13. “BCP”, p. 710. From Psalm 86:10; “11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
14. “BCP”, p. 619. From Psalm 28:8; “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I have been helped; Therefore my heart dances for joy, and in my song will I praise him.”
15. “BCP”, p. 657. From Psalm 57:11; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
16 “BCP”, p. 731. From Psalm 102: 4: “My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so that I forget to eat my bread.”
17. “BCP”, p. 589. From Psalm 5:9: “For there is no truth in their mouth; there is destruction in their heart.”
18. “BCP”, p. 597. From Psalm 12:2. “Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor; *
with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.
19. “BCP”, p. 642. From Psalm 41:6: “Even if they come to see me, they speak empty
words; their heart collects false rumors; they go outside and spread them.
20. “BCP”, p. 323, 355. These opening words of acclimation where used during lent.
See also Marion Hatchet, Prayer Book Commentary p. 318 for further comments.
21. “BCP”, p. 323, 355. The phrase, “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts” is also used in the following services: 323 HE RI, 337 HE RI, 355 HE RII, 512 Ordination of a bishop
22. Stephen Sykes, Unashamed Anglicanism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), p.24-25.
Sykes says, “It is common biblical, patristic and catholic thought that the heart is open to God.” He goes on to show how the collect can be traced from the Catholic rite used when the priest was vesting to a public confession during the opening of the service.
23. Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), p. 319. The Summary of the law in the BCP is based on Matt 22:37-40.
24. BCP. The Summary of the Law is found on p. 324.
25. Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), p. 319-322. The Kyrie, The Trisagion, and the Song of Praise or offered as choices in the BCP; see 324-325, 356 .
26. “Hatchett”, P. 322. This commentary on the salutation gives a good explanation of the evolution of the salutation and biblical sources.
27 “BCP”. The statement, “we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed is found in both RI 331 and in RII 360.
28. “BCP”, 359-360. Confession of sin.
29. “BCP”, p. 316. The exhortation has a long history. It was first required to be used seasonally as Holy Communion was not taken weekly. It was designed to be said the week before communion. It use is now not required. See Hatchett, p. 309-310.
30. Sykes. p, 31. His treatment of the open heart and it journey through the Eucharist is excellent.
31. Charles Price, Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer ( New York: The Seabury Press, 1977). p. 39
32 . “Price”, p. 44.
33. George Herbert, George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple (Ramsey: Paulist Press 1981), 248-249. The complete poem is quite spectacular.
34. “BCP”, p.361. Taken from Rite Two, though the phrase is used in all Eucharistic Prayers in the Prayer Book.
35. “BCP”, p.174. For more on the history and commentary on the Collect for Ascension day, see also Marion Hatchet, p.226 and Stephen Sykes, p. 40 as listed above.
36. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 94.Henri Nouwen quoted.
The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church. (1979). New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation.
Bushey, Galen (1988). The Prayer Book Concordance. New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation.
Guinness, Os. (1994). Fit Bodies, fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Hatchett, Marion J. (1979). Commentary on the American Prayer Book. New York: The Seabury Press.
Herbert, George. (1981). George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple. Ramsey: Paulist Press.
Price, Charles (1977). Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Seabury Press.
Sykes, Stephen. (1995). Unashamed Anglicanism. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Toon, Peter (1993). Proclaiming the Gospel Through the Liturgy: The Common Prayer Tradition and Doctrinal Revision. Largo: The Prayer Book Society Publishing Company.
Wilson, Marvin (1989). Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Grand rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company.