Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Most Unpleasant Surprise

My friend Robert – who’s visiting from W.A. – and I decided to go along to visit the T.A.C.'s local congregation here in Launceston for their service this morning, in the hope of chatting with Bp Robarts afterward.  (Rob knows Bp Entwistle over in Perth.)

Unbeknownst to us, Robarts is away this Sunday, presiding at the patronal feast of the T.A.C. parish of St Mary’s in Sydney.  Instead, therefore, a Fr Gordon Tyson celebrated…

He apologized to start with for what would be a rough and ready service – as he revealed in his homily, he had unfortunately looked up the wrong readings by mistake.  Only a small congregation was present – we increased attendance by 25%.

The altar was set as usual against the wall, with six candles lit, a crucifix in the centre, a missal (the English Missal) on its stand and a veiled chalice already set up.  In came the celebrant in chasuble…

Most unexpectedly, instead of launching into Psalm 42 (43) and the rest, instead the minister stood at the Gospel side, facing the congregation, and first asked us to place ourselves in God’s presence, then invited us to join him in reciting the Collect for Purity, a three-fold (not nine-fold) Kyrie, and the Gloria in excelsis (all in English, except for the Kyrie of course in Greek).  This was much plainer and less Roman than the manner in which Bp Robarts celebrates.

There was no Dominus vobiscum, just “You might want to sit for this” (we all did!) and “Let us pray” followed by the Collect, which was that for the 12th Sunday after Trinity in the Book of Common Prayer.  (Why on earth do these Anglicans sit for the Collect?  It is really bizarre.)

A reader came to the lectern (on the Gospel side) and read the first two lessons, employing the RSV: Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10 and Hebrews 12:1-4; and saying after each “Here endeth the (first / second) Lesson”.  (These, and the Gospel pericope to follow, were the same readings as those appointed in the modern Roman Lectionary for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.)

The celebrant rather meaninglessly moved the Missal to the Gospel side, but then went to the lectern and himself read the Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 39 (40) – and directly after that the Gospel of the day: St Luke 12:49-53; there was no Alleluia at all.  For the first time, the words “The Lord be with you” were used, but the responses to the title of the Gospel, and at its end, were confused – apparently Fr Tyson is used to a different liturgy than this B.C.P.-type service.  I can only suppose he is a retired Anglican clergyman gone over to the T.A.C. who perhaps celebrates using one of the modern Australian Anglican liturgies...

The sermon was about the teaching of Hebrews chapter 11 as to what living faith is – not mere adhesion to a list of doctrines, but active trust in God issuing in action, even at great personal risk.  The preacher adduced the examples of Barak and Gideon, who had to trust in God that what they were asked to do would succeed, against all human expectation.  He alluded to our need to trust and act likewise; perhaps he was referring to the need to make a “leap in the dark” over the unfinished business of Anglicanorum cœtibus?

We all recited the Creed after that, and then Bruce got up to read the Biddings – that quaint Anglican custom whereby a list of people to pray for are listed without responses!  We prayed for the T.A.C. Diocese of Queenstown in some farflung part of Africa, and for the T.A.C. parish in Sydney now keeping its patronal feast, for the sick and for the dead – at this point only we replied, as we prayed “Eternal rest grant unto them” as a versicle and response.

Next, at the direction of the celebrant, the collection was taken up.  Meanwhile, without saying anything, the celebrant at last went and stood before the midst of the altar, and mixed the chalice (one of the men in the congregation got up, went to the credence and himself poured the wine and water into the proffered chalice!), readied the paten, and washed his fingers (the gentleman server pro tempore ministering the water and towel).  

After this, that favourite piece of Anglican idolatry that frankly horrifies me: the handing to the celebrant the alms-dish, and its solemn elevation, followed by it being placed on the altar table behind the missal!  As Percy Dearmer acidly observed long years ago:

In some churches, however, the alms are ceremonially presented at the altar; and the ceremonies are often of a rather idolatrous nature, the dish being solemnly elevated…
One… even sees the clergy make wave offerings of the alms… as if they were in a conspiracy to rob the Mass of its meaning.
The rubric covers the usual and convenient method of collecting the alms, viz. that the churchwardens, or their substitutes, pass bags or small plates among the people, and then bring the alms thus collected to the chancel step, where a ‘fit person’, i.e. the [subdeacon or] clerk, is ready to ‘receive’ them ‘in a decent bason to be provided by the Parish for that purpose’.  The fit person shall then ‘reverently bring it to the Priest’.  The priest is then to present the bason and place it upon the holy Table: this he is to do, not ostentatiously, but ‘humbly’, slightly raising it: there is no authority for the solemn elevation of the alms-bason…
(Dearmer, The Parson’s Handbook, pages 280 and 374-375)

Without any apparent offertory prayers, the minister then began the Prayer for the Church, which was the version from the 1928 Proposed B.C.P., including prayer for the dead.  His prayer therein for acceptance of the alms and oblations was the only offertory prayer.

Next, the Invitation – the words “meekly kneeling upon your knees” rather shamefacedly omitted, as (apart from at the Gospel and Creed) we all simply sat throughout, right down to the end of the whole service, without any kneeling at all.  Perhaps this was because of the age of the parishioners, or the absence of hassocks…

The General Confession and Absolution followed – the celebrant turned to the people for the latter, and made over them the sign of the Cross.  The Comfortable Words were omitted, and all said together the Prayer of Humble Access, as a sort of Secret I suppose.

The usual preface dialogue and Preface followed, but the minister seemed thoroughly discombobulated by the absence from the Missal of a Sunday Preface, and read the Christmas Preface instead!

The Canon was that of the Interim Rite: Prayer of Consecration plus Prayer of Oblation, including the 1549 Memorial or Anamnesis.  The Cranmerian pseudo-epiclesis, “that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine… may be partakers of [Christ’s] most blessed Body and Blood” was the one certainly and definitely unacceptable and uncatholic part of the liturgy, absolutely demanding removal forthwith: Rome would never accept it, since it teaches false doctrine (Zwinglianism, receptionism or the like).  The celebrant didn’t even elevate the bread and wine high enough to see – such his churchmanship.

The Lord’s Prayer and Agnus Dei followed; there was no “The peace of the Lord be with you…” at all.  The “Behold the Lamb of God” came immediately after this, but most oddly the celebrant remained facing the altar, and instead held up and to either side the chalice and paten, thus displaying them to the people in wondrous wise!  God indeed moveth in mysterious ways.  It really seemed as if he were making up the rubricks as he went along.

The Anglicans then went forward and stood for communion: the formula was “The Body / Blood of Christ keep you in everlasting life”, I think.

After the fellow who assisted the celebrant helped him purify the vessels by pouring water into them, and the chalice was re-dressed, the Prayer of Thanksgiving came next, prefaced with “The Lord be with you” and “Let us pray”.  After that, again “The Lord be with you” plus “Let us depart in peace”, before “The peace of God” and the minister thereby giving his blessing to his flock.  That was it.  A most plain and unadorned B.C.P. Holy Communion service, just slightly catholicized with a longer than usual Eucharistic Prayer.

No hymns were sung; the service took but 45 minutes.

Rob and I said a brief hello afterward to Bruce (whom I know) and to the celebrant (a new acquaintance), as we helped pack things up.

After leaving, we both agreed that it was quite a shock to have gone along expecting some Anglo-Catholic sacred ceremonial, and finding a quite conservative but very plain B.C.P., frankly Protestant service instead.  

It confirms many fears about the big changes the T.A.C. will have to adopt if it is to come into full communion.


Terra said...

Hmm well I'm afraid to say that I think you got what you deserved!

While I'm all in favour of importing the best traditions from high anglicanism in the hope that catholics may yet learn to sing and acquire some taste, and sympathetic to those without access to a reverently performed mass, the TAC are not catholics yet.

And one really should avoid services by unordained ministers that simulate the mass...

Joshua said...

Well, Terra, Robert and I, being rather stiff-neck'd Papists, certainly weren't saying Amen to each and every prayer: we joined in such as our consciences allowed. We had hoped to meet with Bp Robarts afterward in order to discuss with him the great and good work of promoting the corporate reunion of the T.A.C. with the Holy See, which you recall a certain Supreme Pontiff seems to be in favour of.

This is called "extending the right hand of fellowship" and is distinct from any illicit communication in sacris, which you will hopefully be unsurprised to learn was not in fact our intention. Rather, we attended out of politeness in order to learn somewhat of their ways - and certainly learned quite a lot!

We had already fulfilled our Sunday obligation, after all, and by attending, but NOT fully participating, hopefully indicated to the good folk there that Catholics are welcoming but at the present of course are not yet in communion with them, yet we do pray that that day be hastened.

I suspect that in their eyes their minister was ordained - of course, as Catholics, we know that the Pope will require such men to be ordained absolutely, for the avoidance of all doubt.

Joshua said...

What was unexpected and saddening to me was to see how frankly uncatholic it was.

Yet Rob, who was originally an Anglican many years ago, tells me that the service, leaving aside its rough and ready nature, would have struck him as an Anglican as actually being moderately high. To Protestants it would have seemed very catholic! It is instructive to learn how differently these things are perceived.

Hence, Anglicans would not comprehend the Catholic surprise at such rites, whereas in comparison to the Catholic Mass I attended yesterday evening, this Anglican service seemed very Protestant to me.

I think it indicates how the project of the Ordinariates is a very complicated one to bring to fruition.

Terra said...

I certainly understand your desire to be supportive, and their entry to the church is something we should pray for.

Perhaps the degree of disarray in their liturgy is indeed surprising given their origins and claimed destination. Though from my reading, it is problems in their liturgy that have made the process so slow in the first place.

In any case, my point was that your experience really does illustrate the problems of attending non-catholic community services whatever the circumstances and motivations.

Joshua said...

Thanks, Terra.

I have heard it from Bp Robarts himself that the "liturgical anarchy" within the T.A.C. must end, and that of course he will adhere to what Rome approves of for the liturgy of the prospective Ordinariates.

These groups of Anglicans at the moment are in the position of the men of old in the days of the Judges:

There was no king in Israel in those days, and every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)