Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Canadian Anglican Use? – II: The Canon

If – and that is a big if – the current liturgy used by those Canadian Anglicans just about to reunify with Rome is to be adopted, suitably adapted, as their ongoing rite of Mass, then the biggest question within this query is whether or not their "Anglican Canon" or Prayer of Consecration will be included therein.

Famously, the only existing Anglican Use within the Roman Rite, the Book of Divine Worship used in the United States, while adapting almost the whole order of service and prayers from the Episcopalian form for celebrating the Eucharist, did not adopt any of the Eucharistic Prayers thereof, but instead inserted the Roman Canon (and made available also the other modern Roman E.P.'s).

North of the 49th parallel, within the Dominion of British North America, what will Her Canadian Majesty's loyal subjects, these incoming groups of Anglicans, soon be praying, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome?

First, seeing as all these Anglicans-become-Catholics, "Anglican Catholics" in the truest sense, will be counted as part of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, whatever their unique privileges to maintain their valid patrimony, ipso facto it would seem meet and right that they use at Mass the Roman Canon.

But, that admitted, can their own current Prayer of Consecration be found worthy of continued use also?

It will be useful now to cite in extenso that prayer:

BLESSING and glory and thanksgiving be unto thee Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to take our nature upon him, and 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, until his coming again.
Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood; who, in the same night that he was betrayed, a took Bread; and, when he had given thanks, b he brake it; and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat; c this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper d he took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all, of this; for e this is my Blood of the new Covenant, 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.
a Here the Priest is to take the Paten into his hands:
b And here to break the Bread:
c And here to lay his hand upon all the Bread:
d Here he is to take the Cup into his hands:
e And here to lay his hand upon every vessel (be it Chalice or Flagon) in which there is any Wine to be consecrated. 
Wherefore, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, we thy humble servants, with all thy holy Church, remembering the precious death of thy beloved Son, his mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension, and looking for his coming again in glory, do make before thee, in this sacrament of the holy Bread of eternal life and the Cup of everlasting salvation, the memorial which he hath commanded; And we entirely desire 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 may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion; And we pray that by the power of thy Holy Spirit, all we who are partakers of this holy Communion may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction; through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. 

What to make of this?  Of course, if a validly ordained priest used these words at Mass, unquestionably he would consecrate the Eucharist, confecting the Body and Blood of Christ, and offering up the Supreme Sacrifice.

But is every phrase holy and catholic?  By no means!  Most gravely, the epiclesis (the prayer that the bread and wine become Christ's Body and Blood) is defective, and savours of the Receptionist heresy, since it says that "we receiving these gifts and creatures of bread and wine" – see, the bread and wine are conceived of as still existing after the consecration – "may be partakers of [Christ's]... Body and Blood". This epiclesis would have to be recast into a proper formula, such as:

Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be made (or become) his most blessed Body and Blood; 

Obviously this is but one way to rephrase this prayer – the equivalent formula in several editions of the Scottish Episcopalian Liturgy would be perfectly good to use, for example.

Secondly, the rubrick ordering the priest to break the bread at the word "he brake it" would have to be amended, at the very least (following the Sarum and Carmelite Uses), the rubrick should be changed to read "touch the Bread"; or it could simply be deleted.  For some reason, I don't know why, to actually break the bread at this point is considered Calvinistic!

Thirdly, following recent Roman rulings, the wine may only be consecrated in chalices – not in flagons! – so rubrick e would need amending.

Fourthly, obviously, rubricks ordering the priest to genuflect in adoration after each consecration, and to elevate the Sacred Host and Chalice, would need inserting – but I suspect that High Church Anglicans already do so, in their belief about what they are truly celebrating!

(It goes without saying that the due rites for the Little Elevation at the end of the Canon would also need noting down.)

I wonder, do the words of the anamnesis (the memorial of Christ's saving acts) and the oblation of the Host after the consecration suffice to truly express the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?  In charity I assume it does, but to strengthen it, the words "which we now offer unto thee" (from the Scottish Episcopalians) could very well be inserted after "Bread of... life and... Cup of... salvation".  (This of course very consciously parallels the Roman Canon's Unde et memores.)

Does "our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" suffice to speak of the Divine Sacrifice made truly present?  Well, even the Roman Canon speaks of sacrificium laudis, so I suspect this is alright.

The danger here is to hypercorrect, fearing all manner of Protestant doubletalk at every turn, when the Anglicans who use this liturgy so wholly share Catholic belief that they are clamouring at the gate, asking to be admitted to full communion with the Pope and the whole Church!  The liturgy is not the place for a dogmatic treatise on the Mass.  But it must properly express the Faith of the Church.

The intercession comes next, praying that "by the merits and death of Christ... we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion".  This is good – but I would prefer to insert at least one phrase that was in a draft of the 1662 B.C.P.: after "by the merits and death of Christ", it would be good to say "now represented unto thee" – "re-presented" indeed, in the Holy Mass!

Furthermore, the intercession needs expansion, following the more fulsome intercessions included both in the Roman Canon, and in the other modern Roman Eucharistic Prayers.  For starters, such words as "together with N. our Pope, N. our Bishop", plus (after "Church"), "living and dead, in the fellowship of all the Saints" would be good to add, making it clear that the Sacrifice is being offered up for all.

It ought be noted that the Anglican Prayer of Consecration is significantly shorter than the Roman Canon, and has a much shorter intercessory part in particular – even compared to the other modern Roman Eucharistic Prayers.

At the end of the Canadian Canon, there is a decent communion epiclesis, and a fine doxology, to which a hearty Amen may be said.

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