One of the most important Church leaders of the second millennium was undoubtedly Thomas Cranmer. He served as Archbishop of Canterbury during the English Reformation, and was martyred on this date in 1556 by the delusional Bloody Mary, Queen of England.
Archbishop Cranmer's finest achievement was the writing and initial editing of the first Book of Common Prayer, the official worship book for the Church of England. This book is without question the best English language liturgical resource ever put together. In the history of the English-speaking world, only the King James Version of the Bible and the writings of Shakespeare have had a more significant influence on language and culture. John Wesley said of the prayer book, "I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England." I use the Book of Common Prayer quite often when preparing for worship; usually, I utilize it each week. In fact, my own personal prayer order is largely adapted from the orders for daily prayer found in this wonderful book.
It is miraculous that 458 years after its initial publication, the words, prayers, and orders in Archbishop Cranmer's masterpiece are not only still elegantly powerful, but are among the most relevant liturgical pieces in the contemporary Church. In fact, I urge everyone to read through the Psalter as found in the Book of Common Prayer; the version found in the prayer book remains the most beautiful ever translated (though the 2004 publication of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which contains a truly lovely Psalter, gives Cranmer a run for his money).
At any rate, I'm thanking God today for the ministry of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who left a rich missional legacy which continues to bless the Church and, through the Church, the world. If you don't own a copy of the Book of Common Prayer (shame on you), you can order a relatively inexpensive copy here, or read it online here.