Devices and desires

By Ruth Gledhill, CEN

‘We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts

And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name.’

How this confession speaks to me! Not since I was about nine have I had to attend two Prayer Book services on a Sunday, every Sunday, week after week. When I was a child I knew it by heart, and now it is coming back, erasing traumatic memories of Series One and Two, those frightful shiny-covered monsters of linguistic barbarism that manifestly propelled me from the Church I loved into a world of awful banality. The loss of the Prayer Book seemed to take away my faith. Thus began my own terrible journey down the road of those ‘devices and desires’ that took so long to turn back from.

Now, though, I really do try and live the godly, righteous and sober life, and have done for many years, although my attempts do fail from time to time. We have started attending the chapel at Hampton Court Palace. This was where in 1540 the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prayer Book author Thomas Cranmer gave King Henr y VIII the evidence against his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who had many affairs before and during her marriage. She was beheaded at the Tower of London at the age of just 21. Three of her lovers, including her former music teacher, were tortured and executed. Henry loved her deeply but she was brought down by gossip at court. Those in danger of being accused of unchastity today, who hold positions of power or influence, have recourse to the super injunction. But still they suffer torture by Twitter.

Maybe ‘monsters of linguistic barbarism’ is too strong.  After all, that leaves insufficient superlatives to describe the true horror of what happened next. And I must confess to enjoying the 1928 marriage service at the Royal Wedding that was authorised in Series One and is now back again in Common Worship.

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