The Benedictine Roots of Anglicanism
I just returned from the first class meeting of a course that I’ve been teaching for four years at the School for Deacons called “Christian Social Ethics in the Anglican Tradition.” Today we discussed the Benedictine roots of the Anglican moral tradition. The first Archbishop of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk named Augustine sent by Pope Gregory the Great to King Ethelbert in Kent (Southeast England) back in 597 AD. Although the Benedictine monasteries were closed when the Church of England broke with Rome in the 1530s, a Benedictine spirituality has remained integral to Anglicanism. Like the monastic communities, the English Book of Common Prayer structured worship in terms of a daily office of worship. Instead of seven offices there were two: Morning and Evening prayer. The first assignment for my students was to try keeping a practice of at least 20 minutes of prayer a day, using the Book of Common Prayer. Through this daily practice of prayer, we not only deepen our roots in the Anglican moral tradition we also deepen our relationship with Christ, who alone can make us holy and virtuous. Without a commitment to prayer, Christian Morality remains a mere intellectual exercise. If you don’t already have a daily prayer practice, I encourage you to give it a try for a few weeks and I commend to you the Book of Common Prayer, which is a rich spiritual resource, steeped in the ancient wisdom of Benedictine spirituality.