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Inwardly Digest

Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life by Derek Olsen

I am delighted to review this wonderful book. For two reasons.

One. I think there is something really precious in cradle-to-grave common prayer – the distilled traditions of daily prayer, a disciplined reading of the scriptures, the centrality of the Eucharist,… these have, for centuries, been bound together in different editions of the Book of Common Prayer.

Two. I’m thrilled that Derek quotes a post from this website! [Phew! I’m really relieved there aren’t clangers in what I wrote: ‘The bidding… The community makes the collect its own by a strong “Amen” – “so be it”.’ Inwardly Digest pp.130-131]

The basic principles of liturgical spirituality are explored: adoration, formation, repetition, variation, continuity, stability. These are followed by the disciplines for liturgical worship. Then, in three sections, the sanctification of time is explored: the Calendar (annually), the Daily Office (daily), the Holy Eucharist (weekly).

On this journey, there are reflections on seasons and saints, psalms and readings, and the shape of the Eucharist and the way it shapes us – as the Body of Christ.

Dr Derek Olsen has written and contributed significantly around scripture and liturgy. He created the St Bede’s Breviary – one of the resources on this site’s Chapel.

Reading this book, I find my own insights confirmed, and my spirituality challenged to keep growing. This book is not merely for those in The Episcopal Church, its principles of spirituality and community worship apply to other Anglican provinces and even beyond Anglicanism.

The Book of Common Prayer and the Christian liturgical traditions provide spiritual disciplines and frameworks that we can grow into but not out of. If you are looking for understanding of this, I cannot recommend a better single volume than Derek Olsen’s Inwardly Digest.

It is ironic that “inwardly digest”, a quote from possibly the most famous of Cranmer’s collects, is the one collect that is most obvious for being left out of my Church’s prayer book: A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa.

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