Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is the Interim Rite Recoverable?

I earlier blogged on the so-called "Interim Rite" - the Anglo-Catholic use of the B.C.P. Prayers of Consecration and Oblation (including the 1549 anamnesis) back-to-back to create an "Anglican Canon" of the Mass.  Now, with the T.A.C. in negotiations about corporate reunion with the Holy See, and with the already-existing Anglican Use parishes in the U.S. using The Book of Divine Worship, containing many Anglican prayers but no such Anglican Canon, only the Roman Canon (and its Novus Ordo brothers), is there any possible adaptation of this quaint prayer, dear to those coming from an Anglican background, so that it would pass muster at Rome in the hallowed halls of the C.D.F. and C.D.W.?

The main concerns centre on the epiclesis and anamnesis.  However, various derivative B.C.P.'s have made sundry improvements to the exordium of the Prayer of Consecration, by adding various versions of the Eucharistic phrase "All blessing and glory and thanksgiving be to thee" before its opening address to God, both linking the Prayer to the preceding Sanctus and Benedictus, and defining the Prayer as above all worship and thankgiving of our God.  Similarly, the phrase "for that thou" replaces the relative pronoun "who", emphasising that our thanks are given because of Christ (becoming incarnate and) dying to save us - the Canadian B.C.P. of 1962 (just about the last in traditional language) added the phrase "to take our nature upon him and" precisely to emphasise Our Lord's salvific Incarnation as necessary foundation of His Sacrifice.  The Scottish Episcopalian forms of the Communion Office further highlighted the objective nature of the Eucharist by changing the subjective expression "memory of that his precious death" to "memorial of his that his precious death and sacrifice".

The epiclesis of the second B.C.P. of 1552, maintained in the 1662 is frankly not Catholic; that of 1549 would be better, but still better is the later Scottish Episcopalian formula based on the latter, which expressly prays that the elements "become" Christ's Body and Blood.  This is a change that must be made for such a prayer to be acceptable as Catholic.  (The Scots, by the way, in their eighteenth century Communion Offices, the "wee bookies" that eventually grew into the Scottish B.C.P., had moved the epiclesis until after the words of institution, because of their attention to following the Eastern liturgies, especially that which dazzled them and the Nonjurors, the Clementine Liturgy - now known as an archaizing semi-Arian forgery probably not actually used at any altar.  Rome will not accept a Western rite using a post-consecratory epiclesis, lest it cause doctrinal confusion among the faithful, while of course honouring the Eastern rites which have such epicleses since time immemorial.)

The Scots likewise substantially improved the 1549 anamnesis by inserting the phrase - which they even had printed in small capitals - "which we now offer unto thee" after mention of the "holy gifts" with which "the memorial" that the Lord "willed us to make" is made.  I would suggest, to make it utterly explicit (following Eucharistic Prayer IV), that the oblation being offered is not mere bread and wine or verbal praise and thanksgiving, but the Lord's very Flesh, that the Cranmerian phrase "his most blessed Body and Blood" from the 1552 and later B.C.P.'s should be inserted into the anamnesis after "holy gifts" and before "which we now offer", always remembering, as Jungmann (or was it Parsch?) noted, that the oblation is the principal clause to which the remembrance of what Christ hath wrought to save us is the subordinate clause: remembering, we offer.  The Scottish B.C.P. also introduced to wrap up the anamnesis an eschatological clause like unto those later included in the new Roman Eucharistic Prayers: "and looking for his coming again with power and great glory".

The portion of the Prayer of Oblation asking for the fruits of Holy Communion is best rendered in its fuller 1549 form, again as the Scottish - and its daughter the American Episcopalian - liturgy included in return to its font.  But what of the phrases in the portion of that Prayer that seem to beseech "all... benefits of his passion" "by the merits and death of... Jesus", made present in our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, being therefore the one all-availing sacrifice acceptable to God?  How to ensure that this not be interpreted in entirely subjective terms, as a mere memory of Calvary?  Yet of course the Mass and its sacrifice is precisely no other propitiation than that of the Cross made present in all its effulgent power: I remain unsure as to how to make this more explicit.  At least to insert after "thy whole Church" the words "living and dead" does make it evident that the whole Church, on earth, in purgatory and in heaven, the faithful, the faithful departed and the very saints are all sanctified, purified, honoured and glorified by this mighty offering.

There is a further consideration: the Scottish orders of service for the Holy Communion next inserted the Prayer for the Church, that is, the great intercession (which in the parent 1549 B.C.P. had been directly before the Prayer of Consecration, but in the 1552 and all subsequent B.C.P.'s had been transferred to the end of the offertory, divorcing it and its intercessions from the Eucharistic prayer), which further came to include explicit petitions for the bishop by name (expressing communion with him), for the dead, and a commemoration by name of the Blessed Virgin and saints.  By calling upon God to "accept our... oblations" this intercession can be considered as making explicit the earlier general petition, in the Prayer of Oblation, to accept the sacrifice offered up for the benefit of all.  

In the period immediately after the reform of the Roman liturgy, not just the four standard Eucharistic Prayers but also others were approved for use, and various national episcopal conferences proposed further ones - Rome in the end approved some (most notably, the Swiss prayer, albeit reedited to make it more orthodox, and christened "for various needs and occasions"), but made it a general requirement that all such prayers have amongst other things an explicit epiclesis, an anamnesis with oblation, naming of the supreme Pontiff, and commemoration of the saints - which elements are present if the Prayer for the Church is conceived of and used in the Scottish Episcopalian manner given above; or again, as in the Mozarabic Rite, it may be considered sufficient to use that prayer in close proximity to the Canon, but before it, since of course the whole Eucharistic rite forms one complex unity.

I must admit that, given the way that various phrases in these prayers are almost fatally ambiguous as to their interpretation, and how moreover these prayers need all manner of additions, omissions and alterations from the various versions of the B.C.P. used here and there in the Anglican Communion, above all from Scotland, whose special usages were unique to that country, it seems all too likely that, rather than embark upon any cutting-and-pasting to create quite literally a "dream Canon", Rome will simply prescribe the Roman Canon (either alone or in conjunction with its Novus Ordo brothers), as was done in The Book of Divine Worship

That said, herewith I present this dream, a Catholicized "Anglican Canon" (omitting for the moment any appending of the Prayer for the Church), with parts from 1549 highlighted, and later (mainly Scottish) or otherwise desirable additions or changes in italics:

All blessing and glory and thanksgiving be to thee, Almighty  God, our heavenly Father, for that thou of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one* oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memorial of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again; Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and with thy Holy Spirit and word, vouchsafe to bl+ess and sanc+tify these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may become the Body and Blood of thy most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ: who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took Bread; and, when he had blessed and given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me. Amen. 

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants do celebrate, and make here before thy divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, his most blessed Body and Blood, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial which thy Son hath willed us to make, having in remembrance his blessed passion, mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension, rendering unto thee most hearty thanks, for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same, entirely desiring thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church, living and dead, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that whosoever shall be partakers of this holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ: and be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction and made one body with thy Son Jesu Christ, that he may dwell in them and they in him. And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.

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