Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Perspective at Last

My friend Robert, himself studying for a doctorate in history by researching eighteenth-century Anglican laymen, alerted me to an online history of the Scottish Episcopal Church by one Gavin White, which proves most illuminating. It turns out that the much-vaunted Scottish Liturgy - the ne plus ultra of homegrown Anglican rites that were not transparent copies of the Roman Missal - was used only by a minority of a minority.

Finally, I've found some statistics about the Scottish Episcopalians: their latest membership figures give their adherents as numbering 44,280. That's about 0.9% of all Scots.

By comparison, there are 850,000 Catholics in Scotland, or about twenty times more. Furthermore, I assume that, as is the wont of Anglicans, the practice rate of Episcopalians is less than that of Catholics...

I now quote at length from White's chapter on Worship, trusting that that gentleman will be happy about this:

And yet there was a Eucharistic liturgy, or succession of such liturgies, of quite a different tradition. It was used in the Diocese of Aberdeen where most Episcopalians were to be found, and occasionally elsewhere. Bishop Gadderer of Aberdeen, who had brought the English Jacobite or "Non-Juring" episcopal succession into the Scottish Episcopal Church, published an office for Holy Communion in 1724, with pen and ink alterations. In 1731 there was a Concordat to use either Scottish or English, but some thought the former meant Gadderer's rite, and some the virtually forgotten book of 1637. There was another printing in 1735, and in 1743 a final Gadderer version which spread, and in 1744 Bishop Rattray's studies favoured either a liturgy of 1718 or that of 1735. There was then a version of 1755 and finally that of 1764, but with alterations to the Invocation of the Holy Spirit which was vital to all these productions.


But just having an Epiclesis raised all sorts of new problems. Was the prayer asking that the Holy Spirit fall upon the communicants, or upon the elements of bread and wine ? If the latter, did this consecrate them, and if so, did that downgrade the Words of Institution ("This is my body...") ? Which were the critical words, or should the whole prayer be taken in its entirety without any critical point ? And should the Epiclesis be before the Words of Institution or after ? And if the elements were consecrated by the Epiclesis, should there be a phrase guarding against abuse by saying they were consecrated for the benefit of the faithful who received them ? In Aberdeenshire a few clergy became studied in the art of liturgy, and favoured eastern practices, which were opposed by others. The 1764 liturgy was thus something of a compromise, with the Epiclesis after the Words of Institution. This allowed those who wished to believe that the consecration was effected by the Words of Institution to regard the Epiklesis as an optional prayer for an effective use of the consecration. The 1764 form had, however, become so widespread in the north that the 1911 Scottish Book of Common Prayer, which seemed to limit the Epiclesis to its effect on the congregation, "to the end that all who shall receive the same may be sanctified in body and soul, and preserved unto everlasting life", was somewhat resented. It was in fact an attempt to make the old Scottish Liturgy more widely acceptable, and in this it succeeded.

But in the 1920s eastern theories of liturgical development were all the rage, and in the theological college the priest knelt at the Epiclesis, while no "special significance" was given to the Words of Institution. Furthermore, it was proposed to put an "Amen" after the Epiclesis. Of such things are revolutions made; an observer complained that, "An attempt is being made to commit the Scottish Church to an Eastern theory of consecration and no other", while "even the 1764 Liturgy was at pains to preserve the Western theory of consecration", by using heavy print for the Words of Institution. But belief in eastern antiquity ceased to dominate liturgical scholarship, and the Epiclesis was preserved as a relic of penal days in the north rather than a theological proposition. Yet all this argument about the Epiclesis was rather unreal; most of the students of the college would never use the Scottish Liturgy anyway, but only the English Communion Office.

But the Scottish Liturgy in the 1929 Prayer Book was marred by an historically correct but hopelessly impractical section in which the Prayer of Consecration, the Prayer of Oblation, the Epiclesis, and the lengthy intercession of the Prayer for the Church Militant, stretched on and on with no congregational participation. As was remarked of this book, "among frequent worshippers moments of sleepy oblivion are quite common during the Canon until they are roused to attention by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer." ... [ROTFL!]

Yet all of this passed over the heads of the majority of Episcopalians who never used the Scottish Liturgy in any of its forms. Those who had come into Scottish Episcopalianism from Qualified chapels after 1788 were guaranteed the right to continue to use the English Communion Office, and in the more southerly dioceses even those of Jacobite ancestry were accustomed to the English Prayer Book and had never known the Scottish Liturgy. Throughout the nineteenth century there was a constant see-saw as the balance tipped one way or another - - the Scottish was paramount, but the English was protected, the English was paramount and only those congregations which already used the Scottish could continue to do so, then the Scottish - - but with the 1970 liturgy both the older forms were cast into the shade, and everyone used a liturgy with an Epiclesis whether they knew it or not.


That the 1929 Prayer Book went wrong in ordering the prayers of the Eucharist in such soporific fashion was seen when certain clergy in Glasgow initiated a revision which led, after an opinion poll, to the 1970 Liturgy or Grey Book. This placed the intercession before the offertory, rather on the lines of the English Series 2. It became very widely used, and the 1929 book only lingered on amongst the most suspicious. Then came a temporary Orange Book of 1977, and finally the 1982 Liturgy, or Blue Book, rather on the lines of the English Alternative Service Book Rite A. 

It turns out a little learning is a dangerous thing: all I've known of the Scottish Liturgy is from liturgical books and commentaries thereon!

Portraying the 1982 book as any good is quite ridiculous; it is a violent break from the organic development still found in its very latest, 1970 edition. (Perhaps the Piskies simply imitated Rome's unfortunate Reform a decade or so later.)

I will note, however, that the long Scottish Canon (the three prayers of Consecration, of Oblation and of Intercession placed back-to-back) is only 13% longer than the Roman Canon as Englished in the current Book of Divine Worship of the Anglican Use. It does seem unkind and frankly pretty ignorantly smug to condemn it as "correct but yawn-inducing"... this is precisely the demon of modernism, which replaces doctrinal theology with (lazy navel-gazing) subjective experience.


Anonymous said...

Glad to be of service. I actually have a print copy of White's work, which he kindly gave me.

Rob A

Anonymous said...

'moments of sleepy oblivion' - sounds like a caricature of Georgian Anglican worship.

Rob A

Joshua said...

I will post some quotations directly opposed to this from the celebrant's perspective; as it as, as you say, what on earth's wrong with some shut-eye during the service? I rather think many of the laity would appreciate it...