Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.
For the next several weeks, both the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharists will include at the beginning of those liturgies the recitation of the Ten Commandments from the Book of Exodus. They are also known as the Decalogue (i.e., Ten Words) and are often divided into two “tables of the law,” the first oriented toward God and the second oriented toward other people. One can hear in that an echo of the words of Jesus when he summarized “the law and and the prophets” by commanding us to love both God and our neighbor. In his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, the late Professor Marion J. Hatchett recalls the history of the liturgical use of the Decalogue in the Church of England and post-Revolutionary Episcopal Church:
In the 1552 Book [of Common Prayer] the decalogue replaced the ninefold Kyrie of the 1549 Prayer Book. The revisers may have wished to include in every Sunday rite the three things which were to be known by every child before confirmation — the Lord’s Prayer, the [Apostles’] Creed, and the Ten Commandments. From Elizabethan times it was required that the three texts be displayed prominently before the people in every church, a custom which [fell] into disuse only in [the mid-twentieth century]. . . . The 1892 revision [of the American Prayer Book] allowed omission of the decalogue, “provided it be said once on each Sunday,” and the 1928 revision altered the requirement to “at least one Sunday in each month.”
— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector