"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." "All the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil." "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest."
Shakespeare? The King James Bible? Close -- the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical and literary masterpiece that (next to the previous two sources) has helped shape the English language and marks its 350th anniversary this year.
St. Paul's Cathedral in London celebrates the occasion on 2 May with a special service of evensong, or evening prayer, from the 1662 volume, often shortened to the BCP or Prayer Book. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is to attend, along with members of Prayer Book societies in Australia, Canada and the U.K. that are dedicated to keeping the work alive.
"I hope and pray that people in Britain and around the English-speaking world realize the importance of this great work," Prudence Dailey, Chair of the Prayer Book Society in the U.K., told ENInews.
The service is the flagship of a nationwide series of events that includes an exhibit at Lambeth Palace Library that also acknowledges the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, looking at the relationship between the monarchy and the Prayer Book. It includes a copy of the first Prayer Book, published in 1549, and the copy used at Queen Victoria's wedding.