One of the most noteworthy features of the 2019 Prayer Book is the fact that it has two Communion Rites: the “Anglican Standard Text” on pages 105-122 and the “Renewed Ancient Text” on pages 123-138.  The former is drawn from the historic Prayer Book tradition, especially from the American 1928 book, the latter is based upon On the Apostolic Tradition attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, which can be read online, and which I commented upon in a recent book review.

What follows is some commentary and comparison on the rites that we have.  If you want to get straight to the “practical advice” portion of this entry, skip down to the end.

As the 2019 Prayer Book introduces these two rites on page 104

The Anglican Standard Text is essentially that of the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and successor books through 1928, 1929, and 1962.   The Anglican Standard Text is presented in contemporary English and in the order for Holy Communion that is common, since the late twentieth century, among ecumenical and Anglican partners worldwide.

The Renewed Ancient Text is drawn from liturgies of the Early Church, reflects the influence of twentieth century ecumenical consensus, and includes elements of historic Anglican piety.

What exactly are the differences between the two rites?  Not many.

  1. The Prayers of the People – the Anglican Standard Text is a modernization of the historic prayers; the Renewed Ancient Text is litany of short biddings to prayer.
  2. The Confession of Sins – the Anglican Standard Text is a modernization of the historic prayer; the Renewed Ancient Text is a shorter prayer taken from the 1979 book.
  3. The Communion Prayers are where the primary differences are to be found.
  4. The words spoken when ministering Communion to the people are different (long and short, respectively).
  5. The Post-Communion Prayer is shorter in the Renewed Ancient Text.

Rubrics permit any of these elements to be swapped out between the two rites.  While some might complain that this adds to the “choose-your-own-adventure” nature of modern liturgy, it also highlights an underlying unity of these two rites.  Their order of service is identical, all the same elements are the there, their theology is meant to be understood as being the same.

Let’s take a look at the Communion Prayers in these two rites, specifically the “eucharistic canon” beginning after the Sursum Corda and Preface.

The Anglican Standard Text has ten paragraphs of text on pages 116-117.  These paragraphs can be summarized as follows:

  1. All praise and glory is yours…”  This is the beginning of the anamnesis, or remembrance, thankfully hailing what Christ has done for us on the Cross.
  2. So now, O merciful Father…” This is the epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit.  You can read more about that here, as it has quite the history.
  3. At the following words concerning the bread…”  This is a rubric, not spoken text, hence the italics.
  4. For on the night that he was betrayed…”  These are the first half of the Words of Institution, speaking the words of our Lord himself, drawn from 1 Corinthians 11 which may be our oldest written record of such words.
  5. Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup…”  These are the second half of the Words of Institution.
  6. Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father…”  This is a return to the anamesis (remembrance), linking such remembrance to “these holy gifts” of bread and wine.
  7. And we earnestly desire your fatherly goodness…”  The vertical bar on the left margin indicates that this paragraph may be skipped.  There used to be a Long Form and Short Form of the Communion Prayers, but they were so similar that the Short Form was ditched in the 2018 draft, and the solution for a “short form” was to render two paragraphs optional.  It should be noted that in the 1662 book, there were no further prayers after the Words of Institution, so this optional omission also could be understood as an option for those who prefer the shorter 1662 prayers over the longer prayers of 1928.
  8. And here we offer and present to you…” This is the oblation, or self-offering, drawing upon the language of Romans 12:1.  Elements of these sentences are also echoed in the Prayer of Humble Access.
  9. And although we are unworthy…”  Here comes the second optional paragraph, and it carries a penitential tone, also similar to the Prayer of Humble Access.  This is an appropriate place for the celebrant to strike his breast too, as it is a sobering moment to remember that even with a Confession and Absolution behind us, we still approach the throne of grace only on the merits of Christ.
  10. By him, with him, and in him…”  You’ve got to end important prayers with a doxology!

Now let’s see how the Renewed Ancient Text does the job, from pages 132-134.

  1. Holy and gracious Father…”  This, too, begins with an anamnesis, or, remembrance.  Instead of going deep to focus on the Cross, it swings wide to encompass more of the overall Gospel story, practically summarizing the Jesus portion of the Creed.
  2. At the following words concerning the bread…” The exact same rubrics as paragraph 3 are printed here.
  3. On the night that he was betrayed…” Same as #4 above.
  4. Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup…” Same as #5 above.
  5. Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith…”  The “mystery of faith” gives the congregation something to say in the midst of the prayers of consecration, which, I’ve heard, was apparently a demand among some in the mid-20th century…?  Whateverso, this is functionally the same as paragraph #6 above, if less wordy about it.
  6. We celebrate the memorial of our redemption…” This paragraph goes across the page flip, taking us from the anamnesis (remembrance) to the epiclesis (invocation, or calling-down of the Holy Spirit).  The fact that this comes after the Words of Institution instead of before is perhaps the most significant theological divergence between our two Rites.  Read more about that here.  This paragraph also hints at a bit of an oblation, though not as extant as paragraph #8 above.
  7. All this we ask through your Son Jesus…” The same doxology above is repeated here, just with a different lead-up text.

Now, the title of this article says Two and a half Communion Rites…. what’s the half?

Let’s return to the introductory text on page 104 again.

The Anglican Standard Text may be conformed to its original content and ordering, as in the 1662 or subsequent books; the Additional Directions give clear guidance on how this is to be accomplished.

The Additional Directions in question are found on pages 142-143, where you will find the 1662 Order spelled out, section by section.  Even printed in the Anglican Standard Text itself are two footnotes in the Communion Prayers to show how those paragraphs change for the 1662 Order.  In short, paragraph #2 may be omitted and paragraphs #6-10 may be moved to the position of the Post-Communion Prayer.  Perhaps we can explore that in detail in a later article.

What’s interesting to note, here, though, is that the introductory text allows this re-ordering for any classical prayer book, not just the 1662.  So if you want to copy the 1928 Prayer Book’s sequence of Gospel, Creed, Sermon, and have the Offertory before the Prayers of the People in order to allow the Comfortable Words to lead right into the Sursum Corda, you can!  All of that theoretical stuff we’ve explored in those past commentary articles can indeed be used licitly, under the auspices of the 2019 Prayer Book.

Seeing the differences between the Anglican Standard Text and the Renewed Ancient Text, when should we use which?

For the purposes of the Saint Aelfric Customary, there are two principles at work here which give conflicting answers.

  1. A classical Anglican approach
  2. A “completionist” approach

According to the former, one set of advice is that we should always and only use the Anglican Standard Text.  Perhaps skip the omitted paragraphs if you need to save time on the liturgy, or want to evoke the shorter English prayers instead of the longer American ones.

According to the latter, there should be “a time for each rite, and for each rite a time.”  In that view, I would recommend using the Renewed Ancient Text for most of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle, and on the occasional incarnation-themed holy day at other times of the year, like the Annunciation.  Then use the Anglican Standard Text in the longer Lent-Easter-Trinitytide cycle of the year.

At the end of the day, we’ve got the historical Anglican option, which is narrow-but-deep in its focus on the Cross, and we’ve got the historic reconstruction option, which is shallow-but-wide in its treatment of the Gospel story.  Both have their value and merits, though you will definitely find people, myself included, with a clear favorite of one over the other.  Let me end it this way: in light of our history, we can overlook the Renewed Ancient Text, and on the same token, we can not overlook the Anglican Standard.  An honest Anglican may either use both, or use just the Standard.

8 thoughts on “Two (and a half) Communion Rites?

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