A Book of Common Prayer "Done Those Things Which We Ought Not To Have Done"

Joan Didion

"Done Those Things Which We Ought Not To Have Done"

Context: The Order for Daily Morning Prayer is the first service in the Book of Common Prayer and is a direct descendent of a system of worship in practise during the Middle Ages known as the Canonical Hours, which in turn were developed out of Apostolic times from customs of daily instruction, praise, and prayer in use in the early Church. Morning Prayer, evolved principally from the longest of the Canonical Hours, the service of Matins, begins in a penitential mood. After a series of opening sentences which set the theme and tone of the service, there follows the Exhortation in which the congregation is reminded that no converse with God can be fitting or profitable until the worshiper, in all honesty, lays bare his disobediences to God's Holy Will, and, in all sincerity, seeks reconciliation with His Love. The minister urges the people to accompany him, with pure hearts and humble voices to the very "throne of the heavenly grace" and join with him in a confession of their sins. There follows then the General Confession, called "general" because it is said by the minister and all the people and is a confession not only of individual shortcomings but of the corporate guilt of the whole community of worshipers, who have "strayed . . . like lost sheep" from God's holy ways.

Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. 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. Amen.