The Very Reverend Eric Milner-White, Dean of York from 1941 until his death in 1963, was one of the most remarkable and accomplished Anglican clergymen of the last century. A committed Anglo-Catholic, he founded the Oratory of the Good Shepherd at Cambridge in 1913, and as Dean of King’s College from 1918 to 1941 he skilfully adapted Bishop Benson of Truro’s Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols for use in the college chapel. That festal service, with its familiar structure of well-crafted and chosen prayers, lessons, choral music, and congregational hymnody, is now a firm fixture in the liturgical and musical calendars of Anglican parishes and cathedrals the world over. But it is also a much cherished part of Anglican liturgical and pastoral patrimony that those who have entered the Ordinariate now seek to preserve - and promote - within the Catholic Church, as a version of it included in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham bears witness.
Dean Milner-White authored several collections of prayers and, in my experience, their use in the context of public worship - at the Offices, and at Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, especially - has always greatly enriched and deepened the dignity and character of the extraordinary encounter with God in Christ in prayerful intercession and adoration. Milner-White’s words speak engagingly and fervidly and, in the best tradition of the Book of Common Prayer, to heart, mind, and soul, whilst avoiding any hint of sentimentality. As one biographer put it, ‘He filled a great need for occasional prayers, and their literary quality is what it is because of their author's deep understanding of Anglican spirituality’.
That spirituality shines brightly in this Lenten prayer, composed at York in 1954, from Milner-White's collection My God, My Glory: Aspirations, Acts and Prayers on the Desire for God.
Lord, bless to me this Lent.
Lord, let me fast most truly and profitably,
by feeding in prayer on thy Spirit:
reveal me to myself
in the light of thy holiness.
Suffer me never to think
that I have knowledge enough to need no teaching,
wisdom enough to need no correction,
talents enough to need no progress,
humility enough to need no repentance,
devotion enough to need no quickening,
strength sufficient without thy Spirit;
lest, standing still, I fall back for evermore.
Shew me the desires that should be disciplined,
and sloths to be slain.
Shew me the omissions to be made up
and the habits to be mended.
And behind these, weaken, humble and annihilate in me
self-will, self-righteousness, self-satisfaction,
self-sufficiency, self-assertion, vainglory.
May my whole effort be to return to thee;
O make it serious and sincere
persevering and fruitful in result,
by the help of thy Holy Spirit
and to thy glory,
my Lord and my God.
Fr Lee Kenyon