Welcome to Saturday Book Review time! On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value. Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.
The first companion volume to Common Worship (reviewed last week) is entitled Festivals. In the Church of England’s terminology, a Festival is what we’d call a Major Feast Day, or Major Holy Day, or a Red-Letter Day: these are the prayer-book-prescribed days of devotion that fill out the liturgical calendar with specific commemorations beyond simply following the seasons. This volume also contains a more detailed explanation of the calendar set out in Common Worship, and lists the “Lesser Festivals”, or minor feast days or black-letter-day commemorations.
One might wonder how these features might merit its own volume. What more is there to be said about them than what’s already in the Prayer Book or the primary volume of Common Worship? In the spirit of modern liturgy – which has an insatiable appetite for variety and occasional-specific liturgical features – this book provides special prayers for each holy day. Instead of simply just a Collect and set of lessons, as Prayer Book tradition has appointed, Common Worship: Festivals now provides the liturgical colour, Invitation to Confession, variant on the Kyrie, Collect, lessons, Gospel Acclamation, Intercessions for the Prayers of the People, Introduction to the Peace, Prayer “at the Preparation of the Table”, Preface and Extended Preface for the Prayer of Consecration, Post-Communion Prayer, Blessing, Acclamation, and extra sentences of Scripture for most of the 29 Festivals in the English calendar. Those extra resources alone contribute about 100 pages to the book. The calendar, with detailed rubrics and instructions and liturgical color notes,
It then has a further 50 pages that function similar to parts of the Episcopalian book Lesser Feasts and Fasts, providing a Collect and the occasional specific reading suggestion for the various “Lesser Festivals” or commemorations in the calendar. Similarly, it provides materials for other Eucharistic occasions such as the “Common of the Saints” and “Special Occasions” not unlike the “votive mass” tradition. This book also provides chant music for many of the Prefaces and Communion Prayers, which would be very helpful for the celebrant to have in the same volume!
The remaining pages of the book go on to reprint the “Order One” Communion Service from the primary volume of Common Worship. Why? Because this volume isn’t just a reference book, it’s able to be used as a Mass Book or Missal all on its own. People can show up to church on a Sunday and grab the black book (Common Worship) or they can show up on a Festival Day and grab this dark blue book instead. That makes this book actually functional on its own, which is a smart move.
Of course, outside of the Church of England, there is very little room in our authorized liturgy for additions or substitutions as this volume presents. Perhaps the Acclamations, Blessings, and material for the Prayers of the People may be permitted by our rubrics in the 2019 Prayer Book, and maybe the special Collects & lessons for the black-letter days will be optional too (we have to wait and see what the new book actually specifies about them). That makes this book’s value to us mainly one of a limited reference role in the rare opportunity that we can use some of its contents without having to get permission from our bishop.
The ratings in short:
Functionally, this book is remarkably usable, albeit mostly because it has one “Order” for Holy Communion and no other liturgies included.
Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
Common Worship: Festivals is only for the Communion service; no notes are provided for the Daily Office. As such outside of England, only a priest or other liturgical planner will be able to use this book. Within the C of E, folks in the pew can use it on Festival Days, but there still isn’t really anything “to take home” as it were.
Reference Value: 2/5
Having extra Collects and prayers and things for the major and minor feast days can be handy resource. If that’s all you need this book for, then it’s not worth going out of your way to buy it, and there are a lot of pages therein that you simply won’t need.