On the subject of “bowdlerized collects” in the BDW, I have not conducted a thorough investigation. But taking the collect for the Epiphany as an example, we can see that, while it is hardly “bowdlerized” (in the sense of having offensive words removed — though “peoples of the earth” is a pretty PC adaptation of “Gentiles”), the BDW’s version is at quite a distance from the Prayer Book.
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead.
BDW = 1979 American BCP
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy onlybegotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face.
Deus qui hodierna die unigenitum tuum gentibus stella duce revelasti: concede propitius ut qui iam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tue celsitudinis perducamur.
My woodenly literal translation:
O God, who on this day revealed, with a star as guide, your only-begotten [Son] to the nations: mercifully grant that we, who now perceive you by faith, may be guided even unto the contemplation of a face-to-face vision of your grandeur (or perhaps “of the comeliness of your grandeur”).
As you can see, the BDW can perhaps claim to be closer to the Latin original (though it is still rather free). But I think that Cranmer’s version (only one word of it was changed in 1662, namely “who” for “which”) is all the happier for venturing out beyond the source to envisage not just contemplation, but fruition, which, at this early date, has the sense of “enjoyment, pleasurable possession, the pleasure arising from possession”. Stella Brook comments on this collect in her Language of the Book of Common Prayer (London: Deutsch, 1965), pp. 142-3: “In modern English, fruition tends to be misused and given the sense of `coming to fruit’, that is `to maturity’. The basic stem of the noun is, however, the Latin deponent verb frui `to enjoy’. The fruition of the `glorious Godhead’ is the enjoyment of the glorious presence of God. The word is used in its etymological sense in the Book of Common Prayer, as it is used by Thomas Starkey, who speaks of `the fruytyon of your natural frendys’ or by Hakluyt, who speaks of `the fruition of our bookes”. (The OED gives another pertinent example, taken from a passage of Bishop Latimer dated 1554: “If we live by hope let us desire the end and fruition of our hope.”) As Fr. Hunwicke put it a while ago, “Where Cranmer has rendered a text (e.g. the Sunday collects per annum) his versions should be used even when he has slightly mistranslated the Latin. Their 450 year use is now itself part of the history and reception of these texts. They evolved and mutated in the early Latin Sacramentaries and in many cases were changed, not always wisely, by the post-conciliar Roman revisers; their post-reformation evolution in Anglicanism should not be dismissed out of hand.”
Mostly, though, if you’ve grown accustomed to the BCP version, the BDW version will irritate the ear by its lack of rhythm. The spacing of the stresses in “the fruition of thy glorious Godhead” is so much more pleasing than the strictly iambic “behold thy glory face to face”, and it is probably one of those instances of Cranmer’s tendency (well documented by Brook) to attempt recreate not just the meaning but also the rhythmic “feel” of a Latin original (which usually requires added words in uninflected English) — a tendency that has led some to speculate that Cranmer tried deliberately to recreate the patterns of the “rhythmic cursus” that were a deliberate stylistic element of formal Latin prose. Ian Robinson, in his The Establishment of Modern English Prose in the Reformation and the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 207, judges that the compilers of the BCP did this “out of their common sense of English and liturgical rhythm, rather than deliberately.” Would it be catty of me to suggest that modern liturgical writers (through no special fault of their own) possess a sense neither of English nor of liturgical rhythm?
I’ve placed my order for the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, which I gleefully await. The English Ordinariate seems to have retained the BCP Collects in their pristine integrity in their online “Ordos” so far (where they are listed as an appendix). I expect the Customary will follow a similar policy (or so the screen shots lead me to believe). That leads me to hope that the Prayer Book collects may likewise appear in the forthcoming Eucharistic liturgy for the Ordinariates too.