Monday, August 6, 2012

Fit for Purpose?

Anglicans now coming into full communion bring with them a rich Patrimony, one worthy to share with the wider Church, as the very Vicar of Christ has written in his invitation to them.  One aspect of this – and perhaps the most problematic – is their liturgical Patrimony; and in particular, the form of their Eucharistic liturgies.

I refer now, not to the style of these celebrations – though their solemn chanting, their fine vestments, their beautiful sacred music, their reverent posture and gestures, their eastward celebrations, their kneeling communions and so forth are all excellent and much to be imitated, just as once they developed those practices in holy imitation of Catholic worship in better days – but to the particular texts and prayers used therein.

Now, High Church Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, have often pinched all manner of prayers, rites and rituals from Catholic sources (there are tales of nineteenth and early twentieth century vicars taking holidays in Belgium, scouting out the practices of the churches therein, and promptly putting them into practice back in their parishes, to the amazement of their parishioners); but I will not be commenting on that particular practice, especially as the NLM and the Anglo-Catholic have been discussing the pros and cons of adopting for official Catholic use what is essentially the old Latin Mass put into Cranmerian English – and which was never officially approved for Anglican use in any case, since Anglo-Catholics just did it without authorization.

Instead, I will rehash what I have discussed before, looking at the 1662 English BCP and its descendent, the 1978 (weirdly named) An Australian Prayer Book, to see what if any of their prayers for use at Holy Communion are fit for purpose, if transposed for use as part of a Catholic Mass.  It must be borne in mind that, unlike in Canada or the U.S. or Scotland, the Australian Anglican milieu was more Low Church overall, with the baleful influence of Sydney Evangelicalism outweighing whatever the High Church country dioceses may have wanted (and I have seen, at Wangaratta's Anglican Cathedral, a side altar complete with altar cards in English that were evidently put there for a celebration according to the English Missal, that is, the Latin Mass in English; just as a former Anglican priest, now a Catholic, once showed me his English Missal, which he used in Queensland many years ago).

Let us then turn to the Book of Common Prayer.

The 1662 BCP Holy Communion Service began with the Lord’s Prayer.  Then followed the Collect for Purity (Cranmer’s beautiful Englishing of the ancient Latin prayer Deus cui omne, used in the Sarum Rite and also found amongst the collects in the Preparation for Mass in the Roman Missal).  The Ten Commandments were recited next, with a response after each.  Then came the Collect for the Queen, before the Collect of the Day – it seems awfully Erastian to put her before such topics as the salvation of the world, but the reason that for the Sovereign precedes the prayer of the day is one of mere convenience, to avoid too many turnings to and fro in the service book.

What of any of this is Anglican Patrimony worthy of preservation?

More recent Anglican practice has been to drop the prefatory Our Father, but at all costs to retain the Collect for Purity – I was once in attendance at a Low Church Anglican service which began with that Collect, and then passed at once to the readings!  Reading the Commandments has become unpopular also (particularly given recent Anglican avoidance of the harder of them), except among the staunchest Low Churchmen.  Even in the nineteenth century it was observed that the number of times the Queen was prayed for at Anglican services was rather excessive, so few now read the Collect for her any more.  That leaves the Collect of the Day – Cranmer’s versions of the traditional Latin orations are generally excellent, though they would need correcting in places, and translations of collects left out by him or introduced after his day would need to be added.

As to the readings, maintaining the traditional Epistles and Gospels ought be an option; however, many if not all Australian Anglicans have moved to use some form of the modern three-year Lectionary in any case (including those Continuing Anglicans in the T.A.C., from what I have observed here in Tasmania).

After the Epistle and Gospel comes the Creed (its wording is acceptable if “Holy”, strangely omitted, be replaced as one of the adjectives describing the Church).  Then follow any relevant notices and the sermon or homily. 

The Offertory begins with the reading of one or more Sentences of Scripture, generally relating to the duty of almsgiving and the like.  I suspect those High enough to consider full communion with the Catholic Church omit that as rather too Protestant, not to say Pelagian, turning the Offertory into the oblation of the sons of men rather than the preparation of the Oblation of the Son of Man (as Dix trenchantly put it; Dearmer, too, remarked on the odious idolatry of elevating the alms-dish).  Obviously, if any Sentences ought be read, the old Offertory antiphons would be preferable; also better would be selected passages relating to the offering up of sacrifice.

Next comes the Prayer for the Church Militant.  The words “militant here in earth” would need to be deleted at the outset.  Likewise the antique cast of the petitions for “Christian Kings, Princes and Governors; and specially thy Servant ELIZABETH” would need editing, and – to avoid Erastianism – the petition for “all Bishops and Curates” would need to be placed first after that for the Universal Church, with the Pope included at the head of those clergy prayed for.  At the end, the thanksgiving for the faithful departed would need to be enlarged and changed into a prayer for the dead and a commemoration of the saints.  But all this has been done in various more recent Anglican adaptions of this prayer in any case, together with dividing it up into parts to each of which the people may give some such reply as “We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord” (as the Litany puts it).

The rarely-read Exhortations come next: if used at all, they would need to be reworded to make them fully Catholic in sentiment.

The Invitation, general Confession and Absolution follow.  Some light editing and rewording of these, and in particular the Absolution, changing it from the second to the first person plural (to avoid it sounding like sacramental absolution), would be required.  After these the Comfortable Words ensue: these are perfectly acceptable, though the Book of Divine Worship (containing the currently existing Catholic form of the Mass according to the Anglican Use) wisely extends the last “word” or quotation of I John 2:1 to broaden the context, reminding all that Christ is “the propitiation for our sins” – immediately adding, “and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”

The BDW transposes the preparation of the bread and wine for use at the altar from before the Prayer for the Church to this point, where (somewhat awkwardly) it inserts the Novus Ordo offertory prayers, for some supplementation of the Anglican service is needed here.  Leaving aside the issue of whether or not to use the two modern prayers at the offering up the bread and wine (for all but that pair are in fact to be found also in the Extraordinary Form, more or less), at the very least the Orate fratres and the Secret ought be added – as High Church Anglicans often have in any case.

Next come the Sursum corda, Preface and Sanctus.  As has often been done by Anglicans, to this “The Lord be with you” should be prefaced, and the Sanctus extended with the Benedictus, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord…”.

Here the Anglican service’s greatest, grossest deficiencies manifest themselves: the Prayer of Humble Access – though devout and godly – is bizarrely placed before the Prayer of Consecration, rather than directly before Communion (since Cramner’s Zwinglian view of the Eucharist made him strive to sever any apparent connexion between eating and drinking Christ’s Body and Blood on the one hand, and the mere bread and wine on the other!).

Similarly, the Prayer of Consecration is gravely deficient from a Catholic viewpoint, being unfit for purpose as a proper Eucharistic Prayer.  Anglicans of a Catholic sensibility have historically adopted several methods of remedying the felt lacuna: to use the Roman Canon instead; to read all of the Roman Canon silently, but to omit the central part and substitute the Anglican form of the words of Consecration (the ugly “sandwich rite”); or to fiddle with the Prayer of Consecration by reverting to earlier forms thereof, combining it with the 1549 Anamnesis and Prayer of Oblation (found, truncated, after Communion in the 1662), as the American Episcopalians have long done, and even – as amongst the Scottish Episcopalians – with the Prayer for the Church at the end.  

I have previously argued that if any Anglican Eucharistic Prayer would be allowable, the Scottish version is the only one that comes close; but it is far more likely that none will be allowed, and at this point the Roman Canon (or, optionally, one of the other modern Roman Rite Eucharistic Prayers) will be prescribed instead.

Again most bizarrely, the 1662 BCP at once proceeds to the distribution of Communion, placing the Lord’s Prayer (with doxology) afterward!  This piece of Zwinglian excess committed by Cranmer (as also his addition of “Take and eat / drink this in remembrance…” to the words of administration, which is heretical and ought be deleted) must be reversed.

The BCP Holy Communion service offers either a truncated Prayer of Oblation, or a Prayer of Thanksgiving, to be said after (the Lord’s Prayer and) Communion.  The Prayer of Thanksgiving is usable with light editing.  To round out the service with praise, the 1552 BCP first moved the Gloria in excelsis from the first to the last part of the liturgy, and this the 1662 maintained.  However, I understand that most Anglicans long ago reversed this peculiar (though innocent and arguably fitting) usage.  The service then concludes with the blessing, “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding…” and this beautiful prayer – which in all essentials is already found as an option in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Mass these days – is indeed wholesome and worthy of retention.

So much for the 1662 BCP – now, to the awkwardly-named An Australian Prayer Book of 1978.  Its “First Order” for Holy Communion is a conservative revision of the 1662, with minor improvements: 

  • allowing a psalm, hymn or anthem to be sung at the start of the service (as was commonly done anyway), or a Sentence of Scripture;
  • starting with “The Lord be with you”, and using this at the Gospel also;
  • providing the Summary of the Law as an alternative to the Ten Commandments (or the Kyrie, on weekdays);
  • permitting a psalm, hymn or canticle to be sung between the readings, of which there may be three (as is the modern custom);
  • allowing the sermon to be preached before the Creed (now including “holy”);
  • including a few more fitting Offertory Sentences, plus permitting an offertory hymn;
  • allowing different forms of the words of administration of the Holy Communion, including more Catholic phrases, and again allowing for hymn-singing and the reading of a relevant Sentence of Scripture (i.e. a Communion Antiphon).

As to the 1978 Second Order, it allows for the Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis to be sung at the start of the service, together with a general Confession and Absolution; it also provides other forms of intercession in place of the Prayer for the Church (though these new forms are hardly Patrimony, being closer and closer approximations to contemporary Roman intercessions ad lib.); likewise, a place for “The peace of the Lord be always with you” is provided, before the Eucharistic Prayer, and even a prayer for the presentation of “the gifts of the people”, transparently copied from the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is provided.  Other changes are simply moves in the direction of the format of the modern Roman Mass, while remaining quite Protestant in character; none of its suggested “Thanksgivings” (Eucharistic Prayers) would be suitable for Catholic use, nor are they even specimens of traditional Anglican piety.

I pass over the still more recent revision of Australian Anglican liturgical worship, with its multitude of options, and its limited approximation to some Roman forms (including use of the Benedictus at last, the Agnus Dei and of a form of the Domine non sum dignus) – primarily because liturgy amongst Anglicans here has become more and more variable, disintegrating into a liberal Protestant mishmash; as mentioned, I once was constrained to be present at a very Low Church service, which seemed degenerate and incoherent even in comparison to the official Anglican forms I have just critiqued.

So, of all this, what remains as fit for purpose?

The Collect for Purity and the Prayer of Humble Access, above all.

For those who retained a greater amount of love and affection for Anglican forms, as opposed to an adoption more or less enthusiastically of either traditional or modern Roman ones, further items can be rescued and recycled:

  • the Commandments or Summary of the Law, with response;
  • the Anglican wording of the Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis;
  • the Collects in traditional language;
  • the traditional system of readings (for such as still use them);
  • the Anglican wording of the Creed;
  • the Prayer for the Church, amended;
  • the Penitential Act, comprising a lightly edited Invitation, Confession and Absolution (non-sacramental, of course);
  • the Anglican wording of the Sursum corda, Preface, Sanctus and Benedictus;
  • the Catholic first half of the words of administration of the Sacrament (though this is all but identical to that found in the traditional Roman Mass);
  • the long Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion;
  • the final blessing, “The Peace”.

Unsurprisingly, all this, barring the traditional one-year cycle of readings for such as want it, can already be found in the current Book of Divine Worship for the Anglican Use, albeit in the particular wording found in the U.S. Episcopalian tradition, drawing on the U.S. 1928 and 1979 B.C.P.’s.

The BDW incorporates all these elements into the general structure of the modern Roman Mass, with some more traditional features, such as "The Lord be with you" immediately before the Collect, not at the start of the Mass as in the Ordinary Form.

It is reported that the forthcoming new edition of the BDW will be updated to conform to the new translation of the Prayer over the Gifts (now called the Prayer over the Offerings) for each Mass, the Offertory prayers, the Memorial Acclamations, and above all the new phrasing of the words of consecration; this should take away that most unpleasant feature of the BDW, the clunky fashion in which the language used slips from sacral to banal and back again.

Finally, what portions of the BCP's Communion service, though theoretically desirable if thoroughly Catholicised, are unlikely to ever be permitted?  The problematic Prayer of Consecration and Prayer of Oblation, which are found conjoined in the Scottish and American Episcopalian traditions, but which have not been found worthy.


Matthias said...

Last month I was serving breakfast to homeless people in the Hall of the Anglo-Catholic church opposite St Patrick's here in Melbourne. I usually go to Mass at The Cathedral but I was asked to go to Mass at this church . I am sure that it was according to the English Missal,complete with bells at the Consecration of the Eucharist. I thought for a minute I was at St Aloysius but the lady sacristan changed that.

Joshua said...

Unfortunately, I know that one of the clergy there leads an "alternative lifestyle" (almost as shockingly, he believes in the 39 Articles); and a friend of mine, who once went to a service at St Mark's, Fitzroy (a daughter church of St Peter's, Eastern Hill, I am given to understand), found that the milieu at the latter was rather different - as a woman of normal inclinations, she felt quite out of place by reason of gender and orientation, if you get my meaning! While it is good for all to be at church, neither should church be the refuge of "old women of both sexes".

Matthias said...

Ah yes and the mileu at the Fitzroy church is entrenched in the very nice but very noticeableness (?) 'old woman of manly stock" of the incumbent . Except the choir has some of the most drop dead gorgeous young ladies to ever grace a choir-and i do not mean this in a cheap way ,and their voices as well as that of the male members are excellent. Just a bit put off by old men kissing each other- yuck