This last Whitsunday/Pentecost marked the 460th birthday of the Book of Common Prayer; first penned in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Traditional Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian prayer books have borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer, and the marriage and burial rites have found their way into those of other denominations and into the English language. Like the Authorized King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare, many words and phrases from the Book of Common Prayer have entered popular culture.
Five hundred years before the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s called for Catholic Mass to be said in the native language of its faithful, Thomas Cranmer translated the Bible and Holy Communion celebration so that the educated and uneducated alike could comprehend God's words.
The Thomas Cranmer explained why in the Book of Common Prayer's preface:
"And moreover, whereas s. Paule (St. Paul) would have suche language spoken to the people in the churche, as they mighte understande and have profite by hearyng the same; the service in this Churche of England (these many yeares) hath been read in Latin to the people, whiche they understoode not; so that they have heard with theyr eares onely; and their hartes, spirite, and minde, have not been edified thereby."
The Book of Common Prayer became one of the most influential works ever written in English, preceeding the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare by six decades.