altered book of common prayer

 I’ve decided to create my own book of common prayer from a psalter my mother gave me when I was nine. It was hers when she was a child, in Hawaii, in the 50’s. I’m painting over everything I don’t believe in, and adding poems. I can believe in poetry.
 
 (In these pictures you can see poems by Hirsch and Roethke. Other poets/ writers I’ve included are Rilke, Julian of Norwich, Whitman, and a host of others.)
 
I’m tired of sitting silent during church services. I don’t want my atheism stopping me from a transcendental moment. I want to participate in my own fashion. I want to be in great cathedrals and let the choir scourge my soul till it rings true, and passes through my lips as song.
 
Trouble is, the lyrics in the psalters put me off immensely. I could never mouth such hateful bullshit. The most beautiful of all, Psalm 139, begins in wonder:
 

You have searched me,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16241A" data-link="(A)”> Lord,
    and you know<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16241B" data-link="(B)”> me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16242C" data-link="(C)”>
    you perceive my thoughts<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16242D" data-link="(D)”> from afar.
You discern my going out<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16243E" data-link="(E)”> and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16243F" data-link="(F)”>
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely

 
…and ends in bloodshed:
 

“Wilt thou not slay the wicked, O God?”

 I paint over the blood stains and blood wishes with white. Titanium White reflects over 97% of light. That’s what I want my book of common prayer to do: to reflect light.

 
 
 I’m in good company defacing a holy book. Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson both cut out the bullshit and left the passages that resonated with them. It’s a wonderful tradition; carving out our own truths, finding our own spiritual family, whatever spiritual may mean to us.
 
Jefferson’s Bible is truly a thing of beauty:
 
 
I’m a fan of altered books in general. Tom Phillips’ a Humument, Foer’s Tree of Codes

 
Here my little book is drying its wings…
 

I love flicking my filbert brush across the page and obliterating fire and brimstone in a swipe. I love the tabula rasa, I love wondering what words will deepen the texture, the atheist’s palimpsest.

On the Feast Day of St. Francis I attended Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The sermon explored the Latin roots of the words to care, to shepherd, etc. It was beautiful. I’ll bring a pen to services from now on, in case the sermons are anywhere near as inspired.

Of course I may write my own prayers too.

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