I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
As is the case in other Sacraments or sacramental rites, the question of fitness for reception is addressed first. (The question of if the children have already been baptized is in all the classical Prayer Books too, though typically in a rubric before the start of the liturgy itself.) In this case, the twin realities of not having been baptized before, and desiring to be baptized now, are the immediate concerns. Those who are baptized in infancy or childhood, are not raised in the faith, and later come to believe in Christ, do not need a repeat Baptism. Indeed, as the Acclamation from Ephesians 4 already affirmed, there is indeed only one Baptism for the Christian. That being true, this does not mean that the church may indiscriminately baptize every child she comes across. When parents (with godparents, or sponsors) present children for Holy Baptism, they are expected to be ready to undertake the work of raising a Christian child.
The celebrant’s follow-up words (provided below) to the presentation of infants and younger children by parents and godparents is a speech that is new to the Prayer Book tradition. This is largely due to the decrease in understanding by the average church-goer regarding the solemn biblical meaning of Baptism, as well as a decreased normalcy in being baptized at all in Western culture at large. This innovation is not without precedent, however, as the American Prayer Book of 1928 contains a similar introductory speech to the parents and godparents before proceeding to the Promises, or Examination, or Profession of Faith.
Today, on behalf of this child, you shall make vows to renounce the devil and all his works, to trust God wholeheartedly, and to serve him faithfully. It is your task to see that this child is taught, as soon as he is able to learn, the meaning of all these vows, and of the Faith that you will profess as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. He must come to put his faith in Jesus Christ, and learn the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and all other things that a Christian ought to know, believe, and do for the welfare of his soul. When he has embraced all these, he is to come to the Bishop to be confirmed, that he may publicly claim the Faith for his own and be further strengthened by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and his kingdom.
As you can see, the Celebrant’s response to the presentation of a child or infant for Baptism is a carefully presented speech. The parents and godparents are responsible for:
Making renunciations and vows on behalf of the child
Seeing that the child is taught the meaning of these vows and the biblical faith
Seeing that the child learns the Creeds, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments such that (s)he may put his/her faith in Jesus
Bringing the child to Confirmation once (s)he has embraced the above on his/her own.
Gosh, nearly two months after I promised I’d start writing about Baptism, I’m finally getting around to putting some of this work online for you. Sorry about that! Expect a series of write-ups on the waters of baptism on “Thirsty Thursday” for the next several weeks, if you can stand the ridiculous play on words involved.
from an analytical perspective
Ephesians 4:4-6 has been adapted as an extension to the regular or seasonal Acclamation. This is drawn from the 1979 Book, in light of the Communion service being the liturgical context for Holy Baptism in this book.
The basic text of the liturgy calls for the Collect of the Day immediately thereafter, followed by the Lessons, but the Additional Directions permit other normal elements of the Communion service including the Penitential Order, which is particularly desirable for the retention of a formal Confession and Absolution of Sin, which otherwise will be omitted.
from a devotional perspective
The fact that Holy Baptism is to be celebrated is reflected in the opening of the Communion service in which it will be embedded. In addition to the seasonal Acclamation are four lines of further call-and-response. This brief phrases succinctly and effectively place the theology of Baptism into its broader biblical context: what the Nicene Creed calls “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” the scriptures also link to unity with the Body of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the hope found in God’s calling or election, the unity of faith, and unity with the Lord God and Father. Even in “mere” words of celebration, the depths of Baptism far beyond mere outward symbolism is proclaimed.
Dearly beloved, Scripture teaches that we were all dead in our sins and trespasses, but by grace we may be saved through faith. Our Savior Jesus Christ said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”; and he commissioned the Church to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Here we ask our heavenly Father that these Candidates, being baptized with water, may be filled with the Holy Spirit, born again, and received into the Church as living members of Christ’s body. Therefore, I urge you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his abundant mercy he will grant to these Candidates that which by nature they cannot have.
This is a form of the opening speech that begins the Baptismal liturgy in all the Prayer Books. It is expanded from the classical versions, adding references to the call to discipleship and mission. Its historic core is fourfold:
All are conceived and born in sin
None can enter God’s Kingdom without regeneration and new birth
Call upon God through Christ to give this person what by nature (s)he cannot have
That (s)he may be baptized and made a lively member of the Church
It should be observed that the primary additions to the present form of this Exhortation are drawn largely from John 3 and Matthew 28, two of the Scripture lessons provided in the 1928 Prayer Book’s baptismal liturgy.
One of several classical addresses to the “Dearly beloved,” this exhortation provides a didactic introduction to Holy Baptism, contrasting yet complimenting the Ephesians 4 Acclamation at the very beginning of the liturgy. The historic Prayer Book opening exhortation is shorter, more focused and succinct; this form is more expansive, as if to explicate the words of the Acclamation.
The first half of this Exhortation is a three-stage summary of the Gospel. First, all are dead in sin and unable to enter the kingdom of God. Second, salvation by grace through faith is offered to us instrumentally through being born of water and the Spirit – that is, through Holy Baptism. Baptism is therefore not a “work” done by the candidate or even by the Church, but is God’s act of grace. Thirdly, in that state of grace, the Church is commissioned to make disciples of all nations, offering God’s gift of Baptism to succeeding generations.
The second half of the Exhortation is the exhortation proper: inviting the people to pray for the baptismal candidates. We pray for those approaching Baptism that they may enjoy its benefits: being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving new birth, and being made living members of the Body of Christ. This is an urgent call to prayer, not simply perfunctory, because none of these gifts can be possessed by nature – that is, these are blessings and gifts that can come only from God himself.
There are a couple inconsistencies in the 2019 Prayer Book that I would like to address, gently, carefully, and with respect. Both involve doctrine and practice that were changed in the 20th century and are accepted by some otherwise-conservative Anglicans today without even batting an eye, yet grumpily condemned by the more traditionalist brethren. And the 2019 Prayer Book, perhaps predictably, has ended up awkwardly with a foot in each camp, so to speak. Is this a feature or a bug?
The issue that I’m going to address here is paedocommunion, the practice of serving Holy Communion to infants and small children, requiring only that they first be baptized. From what I have seen, this practice has been found among some of the more strictly traditional Anglican provinces, not just the ACNA, but there are still people in our midst who are hesitant or outright opposed to this practice. Historically, the Prayer Book tradition has required that one be Confirmed, or at least “desirous to be confirmed” in order to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That loophole exception proved useful in the early years of the Episcopal Church in the USA when bishops were scarce, but that temporary situation soon went away and regular discipline was eventually resumed, as far as I know. Other Protestant (as well as Roman) traditions were all on the same page: receiving Communion requires a confession of faith, repentance of sin, and the desire to commune with Christ. Basically, if you just read 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 at face value, you get the rule that all of Western Christianity observed for over a thousand years.
But there are rumblings concerning the varied practices in the Early Church, and there is the ongoing witness of Eastern Orthodox practice wherein a child is baptized and “confirmed” (properly, chrismated) all at once, and then go on to receive Communion before what Westerners would call the Age of Reason. But we’re not confirming our infants, like they are, so what changed in Western Christian thought that has led so many Anglicans (and certain other traditions) to make such a radical change in practice?
The answer is largely found in the doctrine of Holy Baptism. It is no secret that the 1979 Prayer Book contains a severe shift in baptismal theology compared to the Prayer Book tradition previously. It became less about cleansing from sin and the beginning of the new life in Christ and more about joining the family of God and belonging to the mission of the Church. The Preface to the 2019 Prayer Book, on page 4, even calls this out:
Baptismal theology, especially in North America, was affected by radical revisions to the received Christian understanding, and came perilously close to proclaiming a gospel of individual affirmation rather than of personal transformation and sanctification.
The poster child for this was “The Baptismal Covenant”, which took some traditional elements of the examination of the candidates and set them in a context that shifts the emphasis from Baptism being a gracious gift of God toward Baptism being a commitment that we make as individuals.
All that being said, the question now arises: what does the 2019 Prayer Book do about all this? The Preface expresses clear concerns about the previous baptismal liturgy, and the 2019 Baptism service does a good job of bringing back several elements of historic prayers. There is still a thread of emphasis on “welcome to the family of God”, but that’s fine because it is (first of all) correct, and (secondly) not a theme original to 1979 but already cropping up in 1962 and 1928 alongside the historic liturgical forms. One might quibble over the quality of the balance between “welcome to the family” and “this child is now regenerate”, but it can safely be said that our baptismal liturgy is once again within the bounds of Anglican orthodoxy.
And yet, nearly the entire ACNA communes its not-yet-Confirmed members. And so do some of the Continuing churches who never even adopted the 1979 Prayer Book in the first place. So when you look at the 2019 Prayer Book and observe the utter lack of direction over whether not-yet-Confirmed children may receive Holy Communion or not, one has to conclude that this is a feature and not a bug as such. It is an inconsistency, yes, because we’ve called out the baptismal errors of the Episcopalians since the 70’s and yet we often retain their practice of communing our children on the basis of their Baptism alone. But it’s an inconsistency that we share with others, and therefore one that we cannot simply “solve” in our new Prayer Book alone.
If you or members of your congregation are uncertain about the practice of paedocommunion, I highly recommend you avoid it. If there are scruples or doubts about doing something, then it would be done in fear and not in faith, and therefore should not be done (Romans 14:23).
THE BRENCH BREVIARY 2022 is the product of several years of liturgical tinkering, experimentation, subsequent conformity to the new Book of Common Prayer (2019), interest in Benedictine spirituality, attempts to organize private study and devotion, and a pastoral attention to the spiritual and catechetical needs of others. It is my strong contention that the average Christian today desperately needs two things: a robust life of ordered prayer and Scripture-reading, and the development of an authentically Christian instruction and spirituality. The former is amply supplied in the Book of Common Prayer, if any dare to “take up and read.” The latter can at least be begun with a book such as this.
Honestly, if you poke around this blog site, especially the Customary pages, you’ll find most of the special additional material that makes this book a unique companion to the Book of Common Prayer. But what you get for your money, with this real-life physical book, is clear, neat, organized, and purposeful access to some of the best resources that I’ve produced and put online here – plus a couple things I haven’t!
As for the name, this is the Brench Breviary because it reflects the particular orders, ideals, or devotional practices that I (Fr. Brench) have aspired to, in part or in whole. There may someday be a Saint Aelfric Breviary, but the biggest issue there is how much Prayer Book material would be re-printed. It it more likely, economical, and in line with my educational intentions that a set of bookmarks or leaflets outlining this Customary’s implementation of the 2019 Prayer Book. And don’t worry, the 2022 doesn’t mean I’m going to replace this every year. Like the Prayer Book, this is a book that is intended to be supplemented, edited, and updated on a gentle and rare basis.
The Offices and orders in this book are presented in one idealized form, but individuals are encouraged to make these their own according to need and ability. A maximalist use of this Breviary would look something like this:
For those looking to develop a prayer life with children, the Children’s Lectionary attached to the Family Prayer In the Morning can be used with any of the four “Family Prayer” offices in the Prayer Book.
For those looking to develop their grounding in historic Christianity, the Catechetical Lectionary and the reading of the Homilies can be attached to the Daily Offices themselves.
For those concerned about personal holiness, desiring to take up arms in the work of spiritual warfare, the Personal Devotions at the start and end of the day (which are drawn from the American Prayer Book of 1928) contain valuable prayers to that end, especially with the Examinations of Conscience added therein.
The Catechetical Lectionary, it must be noted, includes two compilations of writings that are not fully listed in this Breviary. The first is Advent With Anglican Poetry, also published by Brench Publications. The second is Lent Readings from The Fathers, published by Oxford, John Henry Parker, in 1852. A reprint of the latter should be forthcoming within the next couple years.
It is my prayer that, however you choose to use this, with family members or a small group or alone, it may be a blessing that enriches your walk with God, your engagement with his Word, and your love for his Church.
My slow and careful study through the Prayer Book has brought me to the Baptism service. In general, followers of this blog may have noticed a lot of entries about the Daily Office in 2020 and the Communion service in 2021. I did have a nice “plan” to work through the Baptismal material in December, Confirmation material in January, and continue on through the majority of the rest of the Prayer Book rites over the course of 2022, but I’m already “behind schedule.” Be that as it may, wherever I am in this process, I’m still sharing snippets of information – insight, encouragement, and advice – online here as I go, so we can all learn together.
Before we get into any specifics of the Baptism service, it’s helpful to take a big-picture view of where this liturgy has been in the past. Sometimes trends over the centuries can shed light on the peculiarities of the present (or any previous) day. Five Prayer Books are standing in parallel here: the English Prayer Books of 1549 and 1662, the American 1928, the Canadian 1962, and the 2019 Book of the Anglican Church in North America.
We begin with the context. One of the stand-out differences here is that the modern tradition is to place the Baptism amidst a Communion service. This was introduced in 1979, and reflects the practical reality that Communion is now the standard Sunday service in the vast majority of Anglican churches. It’s interesting to see, though, that the recommended “home” of the Baptism service has changed before. The 1662 Prayer Book does not make any direct suggestion about the timing of the service, other than that it’d best be on a Sunday or Holy Day so the maximum number of people will be present to witness it. The American and Canadian Prayer Books took their cues from the original: embed the Baptism within Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer!
So, just as the Wedding service begins with the immortal words “Dearly beloved…” so too does the Baptismal liturgy begin. There are several exhortations in the Prayer Book that begin this way, actually. In any case, this short opening speech or exhortation provides a brief outline of the purpose and necessity of Holy Baptism, and why we’re here to celebrate it. The 2019 version is a bit longer than its predecessors, as it’s combining elements from past versions of the liturgy that are not maintained later on.
The Flood Prayer follows in the English Prayer Books, which I’ve written a little about before. It was dropped in North America, but the 2019 Book has actually restored it, just later in the service.
This part of the comparison chart may be the most jarring. The 2019 Prayer Book continues with the Scriptures and Sermon, following a usual Communion liturgy, where the classical Prayer Books provided a special reading and set of preparatory prayers. Some elements here, I think, would be of use to us if we reclaim them in the 2019 BCP context. The short “Explanation of infant baptism” that follows the Scripture lesson in the English and Canadian Books, for example, would make a great starting point for the Sermon. The Prayers, too, are rich resources that the preacher could use, quote, or even teach on.
In defense of the 2019’s changes and losses at this juncture, however, it should be pointed out that the 21st century West is a Post-Christian society. The baptism of adult converts should become increasingly common, and the gearing of the Baptism liturgy toward small children and infants is not especially helpful to that end. It might be more helpful, at this section of the liturgy, to compare the 2019 order to the 1662’s Baptism of Those of Riper Years. Personally I haven’t looked closely at that yet, that’s just an observation that I think would be helpful to look into for those who are concerned about the details.
This is where the 2019 Prayer Book shines more brightly compared to the previous section. The Flood Prayer is brought back to North America, the classical Exhortation & Examination includes the full three-fold renunciation unheard since 1549, and also follows up on those renunciations with an Exorcism, also unseen since 1549 (albeit that Book placed the exorcism earlier in the service). The prayers for the baptismal candidates are thus longer and more robust, and the Flood Prayer serves double duty as a transition from prayers for the candidate(s) toward the actual baptismal act itself.
Last of all, the Baptism itself is where Prayer Books have changed the most over the years. This is where it really pays off to include the Canadian Prayer Book because it more smoothly connects the liturgy to the Daily Office in which it is recommended to abide.
In a strange twist of irony, the so-called “catholic traditionalist” 1549 Prayer Book does not include an explicit blessing of the water, while the “fully reformed protestant” 1662 Book does. (Hence why stereotypical labels like these are unhelpful!) It is interesting to see, however, that the 1549 Book explicitly orders a triple Baptism (right, left, then face-first into the font), where its successors haven’t been so specific. And for those who are squeamish about babies in water, there have always been provisions for the pouring of water instead (which was also normative for adults who can only lean their heads over a typical baptismal font). Another unique change from 1549 is the naming of the child – I think enough ministers complained that they couldn’t remember the name three minutes later that the naming was moved to the baptismal act itself. (I jest! It’s probably mainly for theological reasons: in baptism we receive our Christian name. The 1662 catechism says as much.)
The sign of the Cross is made on the forehead of the newly-baptized, but the use of anointing oil was not mentioned after 1549 until 2019.
Again the 2019 Book has lost some of the traditional material, most notably the post-baptism statement: Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning. However, this is not as great a loss as some might make it out to be, for this statement is a call to prayer, and the actual prayers (labeled “Thanksgiving and Prayer”) that follow are strong equivalents across the board.
Another concern that has been raised about the 2019 Prayer Book is the lack of attention to the doctrine of Regeneration. Where the classical Prayer Books use that word frequently, ours uses it only once. It must be understood, however, that a significant part of this dynamic is conformity to Bible translation. Where older translations say regenerate newer translations say born again (or from above), and that phrase is found several times throughout the 2019 liturgy. The Additional Directions on BCP page 172 clearly assert the biblical and traditional precedent for the doctrine of regeneration, so there ought to be no contention or confusion on this point. Holy Baptism is “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5).
One final note is that this comparative study has ignored the American baptismal rite of 1979. This is because that rite represents too significant a deviation from the historic content, and presents theological emphases too askew from the traditional Anglican position, to make it worth considering alongside the others. The 2019 Prayer Book’s theology of Baptism is to be understood in light of our solid common history, not from our recent errors. The Preface to the Prayer Book on page 4 specifically notes that “Baptismal theology… came perilously close to proclaiming a gospel of individual affirmation rather than of personal transformation and sanctification.” Fruitful comparative study of the 1979 Book may still be had, but it is my (and our Prayer Book’s) opinion that 1979 represents a liturgical-theological dead end from which we have turned back.
One of the most distinctive marks of classical Anglican liturgy is its exhortations. Relatively unknown in medieval liturgy, the English reformers saw fit to add several points of instruction into various worship services, especially Holy Baptism, Matrimony, Burial, and Communion. The opening words of most of these exhortations, “Dearly beloved…” resound in the ears of worshipers of many traditions to this day. The Exhortation to Holy Communion is one of the longer Prayer Book exhortations and certainly the most complex. The first Prayer Book appointed two Exhortations: one to be said when Communion was about to follow, and one to coax people to the Sacrament who have been negligent to participate. Both exhortations were provided within the Communion liturgy itself. The first could be said as rarely as once in a month where there was normally daily communion, but the other was expected to be read every Sunday that Communion was to be celebrated and offered.
Lay people were slow to increase their participation in Holy Communion, however, many having been entrenched in the Easter-only pattern for centuries under the medieval Roman tradition. Subsequent Prayer Books, therefore, took the reality of monthly Communion being normal into account, and provided three different exhortations: the first was to give “warning for the celebration of the holy communion (which he shall always do upon the Sunday or some holy immediately proceeding)”, the second “in case he shall see the people negligent to come to the holy communion”, and the third “at the time of the celebration of the communion, the communicants being conveniently placed for the receiving of the holy sacrament.” These three endured from the 16th century until the Liturgical Renewal in the mid-20th century when weekly Communion truly became the normative pattern across the Anglican tradition.
But the use of the Exhortation was already on the decline. The American Prayer Book of 1892 kept only the third Exhortation (for the immediate celebration of Communion) within the liturgy, moving the first two into an appendix after the service. This perhaps anticipated the trend toward weekly Communion, especially in light of a rubric added that the Exhortation need only be read once in a month. This was taken a step further in the 1928 Prayer Book in which all three Exhortations were moved to an appendix position immediately after the liturgy (in the new order established in 1892), with a further-edited rubric that the now-first Exhortation (for the immediate celebration of Communion) “shall be said on the First Sunday in Advent, the First Sunday in Lent, and Trinity Sunday.” By 1979, the Exhortations had almost entirely disappeared. The American Prayer Book of that year contained only one Exhortation, with elements of all three combined together. It was appended to the liturgy and provided with no rubric guidance on its proper use. Thus the Exhortation has declined in the American use for over a century.
The present Prayer Book proposes to reverse that trend somewhat by providing a rubric authorizing The Exhortation within the text of the Communion liturgy for the first time in the American Church since 1892. One of the Additional Directions notes that the Exhortation is “traditionally read” on the same three Sundays as appointed in the 1928 Prayer Book. Still only one Exhortation is provided here, again combining elements of the traditional three, but it is not identical to the version provided in 1979. The pointed language of self-examination and worthiness to receive the Holy Sacrament, as was traditional, has been more robustly restored.
Dearly beloved in the Lord… The first paragraph corresponds to the first third of the traditional Exhortation At the Time of the Celebration of the Communion (1st in 1928, 3rd in 1662).
Therefore, judge yourselves… The second paragraph corresponds to the second paragraph of the traditional Exhortation That Giveth Warning (2nd in 1928, 1st in 1662).
If you have come here today with a troubled conscience… The third paragraph corresponds to the last paragraph of the traditional Exhortation That Giveth Warning (2nd in 1928, 1st in 1662).
Above all… The fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs correspond to the second half of the traditional Exhortation At the Time of the Celebration of the Communion (1st in 1928, 3rd in 1662).
Much ink has been spilled on the subject of a modern eucharistic canon in an Anglican Prayer Book. Until the mid-20th century there was indisputably one set of Anglican Communion Prayers, in a few minor variations between England, Scotland, America, Canada, and other former colonies of the British Empire. Accusations were leveled, often justly, that Anglican doctrine was being tampered with in the writing and promulgation of so many new alternative prayers. Admittedly, 20th century ecumenism has blurred the borders of many denominations and traditions both for their betterment and their detriment. In light of the great influence of the classical Prayer Book upon Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman liturgies in the English language, traditionalists have a fair point in being wary of the need for such modernist intrusions.
Yet, for better and for worse, the Liturgical Renewal of the mid-20th century has left a lasting mark on the liturgical practices of the Church, and has become a part of the history of Anglicanism. The present Prayer Book, therefore, does not roll back the stone and seal it off forever, but gathers it up and encapsulates it into a single option: the Renewed Ancient Text. Where previous modern Prayer Books offer as many as five, six, or even ten sets of Prayers of Consecration, this one offers two: the standard historic rite and a single representative of the past half-century of liturgical experience and development – the Renewed Ancient Text. It is authorized here with the intent that its theology and doctrine should be understood as fully consonant with the historic Anglican faith.
This set of prayers is derived from a document known as The Apostolic Tradition, attributed to one of the earliest Anti-Popes, Hippolytus. Writing near 200AD, Hippolytus was reacting to a succession of bishops in Rome who were tolerating various heresies such as Montanism and what came to be known as Sabellianism. Tensions grew over the years and eventually sought episcopal ordination himself to set himself up as the truly catholic Bishop of Rome over against Zephyrinus and Callistus. The Apostolic Tradition is his rebuttal to the now-unknown liturgical practices in Rome at the time, and because he wrote in Greek rather than in Latin his liturgical writings have seen influence in Eastern liturgy far more than in Western. The Apostolic Tradition was reexamined in the mid-20th century and became hugely influential in the Liturgical Renewal Movement that guided the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Church and resulted in several new Communion liturgies both in Roman and Anglican churches. Modern rites, such as Prayers A and B in the American Prayer Book of 1979, and Prayer B in the Church of England’s Common Worship (2000), as well as the present Renewed Ancient Text, are inspired by the work attributed to Hippolytus. These prayers most closely resemble Prayer A from the 1979 Prayer Book.
One of the most noticeable differences between the two rites is the theological scope. Where the Standard Text is narrowly focused, delving deep into the doctrine of the Cross, and Christ’s death and resurrection, the Renewed Ancient Text is shallower yet marks of a far larger picture of the Gospel, connecting the dots from Creation to the Last Day. This is most noticeable in the first paragraph, perhaps giving these prayers a particular fittingness to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, or Epiphany.
The first paragraph is the anamnesis. Our creation, the fall, and the incarnation are recalled, specifically naming the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (which is the primary contribution from 1979’s Prayer B). Christ’s obedience unto death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension close the anamnesis, concluding that the worshipers therefore have confidence to approach the throne of grace.
The Words of Institution follow, and are identical to the form found in the Anglican Standard Text.
Then follows a Memorial Acclamation, or “the mystery of faith”, giving the congregation a voice amidst the Prayers of Consecration. Although this has no representative in historic liturgies, this call-and-response element has become popular in modern liturgies, particularly in the several rites offered in Common Worship. This part of the prayers corresponds to the first paragraph of the Oblations in the Standard Text (“Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father…”) in that both introduce the prayers of self-offering with a recapitulation of the anamnesis or remembrance. The Memorial Acclamation doesn’t just give the congregation more lines to read, but also thereby gives common assent to the celebrant’s prayers beyond the final “Amen.”
The Oblation of “these gifts” follows, acknowledging the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, now drawing from the language of historic Anglican liturgy. “We celebrate the memorial… and we offer you these gifts” summarizes elements of the first two paragraphs of the Standard Text’s oblations. “Sanctify them…” is an epiclesis, similar to the placement of the epiclesis in the classical American Prayer Books. “In the fullness of time…” concludes the oblations with a prayer for the final glorification of God’s people. The Prayers of Consecration of the Renewed Ancient Text thus ends as it begins – with a broader scope of the Gospel story than the Anglican Standard Text. This advantage is gained, however, at the cost of the detailed centrality of the Cross.
The epiclesis has already been discussed before. Its placement here amidst the prayers of oblation is both a return to the order of the first three American Prayer Books and a subtle way of de-emphasizing the blessing of the bread and wine, because it continues immediately with an epiclesis of the people: “Sanctify us also”. As in historic Prayer Book piety, there is greater concern for right reception of the Sacrament than for the metaphysics of the Body and Blood in the bread and wine, as the end goal of participating in Holy Communion is not knowledge per se but unity with Christ: the mutual indwelling of he “in us and we in him.” This unity is for eternity: that the worshipers will be so fed unto eternal life that they will enter into God’s heavenly kingdom with all the saints, beholding the face of God.
The final Doxology is the same as in the Standard Text, only with a different lead-up text.
It is popular, across Christian traditions, to read non-biblical devotions as daily devotions. Historically this particularly drew upon the writings of the Church Fathers. (You can see this still in practice today in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours with its Office of Readings.) It was also a practice in some monastic orders to hear a chapter from the Rule of St. Benedict in the course of the daily liturgy. In that vein, I’ve crafted an extra-biblical, or Catechetical, lectionary rooted in the Anglican tradition.
I would like to publish most of this in the coming year or two, but some of it will take a while to prepare. A longer week-by-week summary is below, but here’s the basic rundown.
Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent begin with the Early Church Fathers, common to all Christianity. Christmastide is on topic with On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. The Apostolic Fathers (or several of the earliest Ante-Nicene Fathers) occupy our reading during Epiphanytide, and spill over into the first few weeks of/after Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. For Lent I intend to republish a book of daily readings from the likes of Sts. John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and Cyril of Jerusalem, which is arranged in a largely topical fashion appropriate for that season.
The season of Easter is where the foray into Anglicanism begins. The first 39 days are given to reading the 39 Articles of Religion – one per day. The 40th day, Ascension Day, begins ten days of reading from the “Foundational Documents” and short essays in the Book of Common Prayer.
The majority of Trinitytide (July through November) takes us through the official catechism of the Anglican Church in North America: To Be A Christian. Its tiny Part One, which is a Gospel summary, is actually covered in the few days before Ash Wednesday to fill that space.
Finally, in Advent, with the major Early Church and Anglican material covered, we take time to slow down and meditate on a different form of written piety: the poetry of early Anglican divines such as John Donne and George Herbert. This piece is currently available in print for sale in my bookstore.
While most of this is on my wish-list to arrange nicely for publication in print, there will be some rights issues: the catechism is probably not licensed for commercial re-use, so I will have to find another way to commend that for use without actually reprinting it myself.
Weekly Summary of the Catechetical Lectionary
Advent 1-4 Anglican metaphysical poetry…
Christmas 1 Athanasius On the Incarnation 1-29
Christmas 2 On the Incarnation 30-57
Epiphany 1 1 Clement. 1-30
Epiphany 2 1 Clement 31-65
Epiphany 3 Epistles of Ignatius : Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians
The primary difference between our contemporary wording here and the traditional wording is the word “character”. The classical Prayer Book word is “property” – it is a property of God that he has mercy.
Our Prayer Book also puts this prayer in the mouths of the whole congregation. This is a first in official North American Prayer Book tradition, though alternative liturgies had already leaned in this direction for years. This is an appropriate change for our time because it gets everyone involved in some form of eucharistic piety. In pre-modern times, preparation for receiving Holy Communion was a noteworthy process both for Protestants and Papists alike. Now that Communion is received weekly by the majority of liturgical Christians, it is easy to take it for granted, and many have lost a sense of preparation and piety for the Sacrament. This prayer is a helpful, powerful, and beautiful treasure to that end.
The Prayer of Humble Access is also something of a “wandering prayer” in the history of the Prayer Books. The first Prayer Book placed it immediately between the Words of Comfort and the Ministration of Communion to the people, making it an acknowledge of our unworthiness to receive the Sacrament even in a state of grace. In the Prayer Books of 1552 an after, the Prayer of Humble Access is said immediately between the Sanctus and the Prayer of Consecration, making it a final preparatory prayer before approaching the Altar Table, and dissociating it from the penitential overtones that may have been associated with it in 1549. Finally, the American Prayer Book of 1928 moved this prayer once again, to be read after the Consecration and Lord’s Prayer, immediately before the Ministration of Communion. That is essentially where it is placed in the present volume too, the only visual difference being that where the 1928 book says a hymn may be sung, ours prints the Agnus Dei as an anthem that may be sung or said after this prayer and before the Ministration. So, functionally, 2019 and 1928 are doing the same thing with the Prayer of Humble Access: making it (as in 1549) a final devotion before reception of the Sacrament.
From an ecumenical standpoint, it should be noted that the Roman Rite has a different (shorter, less elegant) sort of prayer of humble access. Its wording has changed over time, but one form reads thus:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.
This prayer draws from the words of the faithful centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus’ word, rather than actual visit and contact (Matthew 8:8, Luke 7:6). And it communicates the same basic premise: we are unworthy of God’s presence (regardless of how recently absolution has been pronounced) and approach him only by his grace.
This is one of the most beloved prayers among traditional Anglicans, yet unfamiliar to many who were formed according to modern liturgies such as that in the American Prayer Book of 1979. Its inclusion here is part of the restoration of properly Anglican devotion and doctrine, though the rubric concedes it to be optional, should a more brief liturgy be desired.
The language of this prayer also took some consideration as it was adopted back into the 2019 Prayer Book. The phrase “whose character is always to have mercy” is an update from the original term “whose property”. This is a better update than a previous draft in Texts for Common Prayer which rendered it “who always delights in showing mercy.” In that draft, mercy is God’s delight, but the original (and now still official) text identifies mercy as a property of God’s very nature or character. It is the same as how we speak of God’s love – God is not simply loving, rather, God is love. God does not just delight in showing mercy, God’s character is to have mercy. Reflection on this should bring the worshiper great comfort and joy.
Apart from that phrase, further challenges may face the modern worshiper who is not yet accustomed to this prayer. One of these is the strong realist language: “Grant us so to eat the flesh of your dear Son… and to drink his blood.” It must be remembered, though, that just as there are different theological interpretations of our Lord’s Words of Institution and of his Bread of Life Discourse, so too will this prayer take on different tones according to one’s theology. A Lutheran can see this as an affirmation of the Real Presence – Christ’s human and divine natures actually present in the bread and wine. A Calvinist an see this as an affirmation of the Real Spiritual Presence – Christ’s body and blood actually communicated to us sacramentally as we receive the bread and wine. So there is no problem with this prayer from either end of the churchmanship spectrum. Its survival through all the pre-modern Prayer Books should be evidence enough of this.
Another question that might also be raised concerns the “effects” of the Body and Blood of Christ. A simplistic reading of this prayer might indicate that Christ’s body cleanses our bodies, and his blood cleanses our souls. But that is not the intention of this prayer – the historic belief has always been that Christ’s body and blood go together, just as with any other real creature. It is like speaking about the Father creating, the Son redeeming, and the Spirit sanctifying – all three Persons of the Trinity actually do all three of those things; there is simply a convenient prominence of different Persons with different roles, but never an actual division between them. Similarly, this prayer affirms, poetically, that the body and blood of Christ together sanctify our entire being – body and soul. A third misunderstanding and mistreatment of this prayer concerns its penitential tone. Some argue that this prayer is extraneous in light of the confession and absolution already offered in the liturgy. Such a claim is to miss the point of this prayer. This is not a confession of sin, this is an acknowledgement of unworthiness. Even with sin absolved the worshiper is still an unworthy participant at the Lord’s Table. Even with the grace of divine forgiveness upon us, “blessed are they who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Furthermore, some of the language in the prayer – “that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us” – is echoed in the 8th paragraph of the prayer of consecration, plus the language of unworthiness is echoed in the 9th paragraph of the same. So this prayer is integrally connected to the rest of the communion liturgy. As the 1549 Prayer Book amply demonstrated by placing this prayer after the Absolution and Words of Comfort, it is not excessively penitential to express our unworthiness before the Lord.
The Fraction, or breaking of the bread, is permitted to take place either at the Words of Institution or after the Consecration and Lord’s Prayer. While the Reformed tradition, with most classical Prayer Books, has preferred the breaking of the bread at the Words of Christ, the summary in the biblical narrative commends a later fraction: taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and then giving it (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19). Thus the Fraction is permitted to take place after the Prayer of Consecration and the Lord’s Prayer, as is the case with the Roman Rite and the 1549 Prayer Book.
In the former case, the breaking of the bread during the Words emphasizes the narrative of the Last Supper, and points the worshiper toward that ancient Passover celebration in which the New Covenant was brokered. In the latter, the breaking of the bread as its own ceremonial moment in the liturgy emphasizes the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, to which this entire liturgy directs us. It is best when the celebrant chooses one pattern or the other, rather than snapping the bread during the Words of Institution and then actually breaking it at this point in the liturgy.
The Fraction Anthem, too, is drawn from the 1549 liturgy, which reads “Christ our Paschal lamb is offered up for us, once for all, when he bare our sins on his body upon the cross, for he is the very lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world: wherefore let us keep a joyful and holy feast with the Lord.” This anthem, drawing largely from 1 Corinthians 5:7 and John 1:29, is parsed out into two options. The first option, using the present tense, highlights the role of Holy Communion in communicating the Sacrifice of Christ to us. The second option uses the past tense, rendering a version of the 1549 text in accord with how 1 Corinthians 5:7 is translated today.
The two versions of the anthem also represent slightly different emphases on the eucharistic sacrifice, often in line with high- and low-church perspectives. The first declares the timeless nature of Christ’s sacrifice by using the present tense – this holy feast makes present to us now the atoning death of Christ. The second uses the past tense to point us back in time, emphasizing the historicity of Christ’s sacrifice. The worshiping community may benefit from using both of these anthems, perhaps appointing the former during seasons of joy and the latter during seasons of penitence.