Customary update: Holy Baptism

Work on the Saint Aelfric Customary continues; we are getting into more “occasional” services now, where there are fewer options to choose from. But options, there still are, and so some sort of customary is needed to assist the decision-making.

One of the biggest things about the Baptism service in our (2019) Prayer Book, along with the 1979 Book, is that it is expected to be a part of the Communion service. The baptism basically takes the place of the Antecommunion, or the Communion liturgy up to the Offertory. In the classical books, Baptism was a stand-alone office, and as a result there are a number of tradition-minded folks who lament this change. Some are concerned that the Eucharist will overshadow Baptism. Some are concerned that the clarity of our baptismal theology will be hidden amidst a longer, less focused, liturgy. Some are concerned that the Baptism will overshadow the Communion. So there are a number of considerations at play here, giving us good reason to say “no thanks” to the Prayer Book’s recommendation of holding Baptisms within Communion services. There are times that’s a fine idea, and times when it may not be.

So you can read more about that, and how these decisions can impact the execution of the liturgy as a whole, on the Customary page here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-for-holy-baptism/

A de-revision: A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time,
with one accord to make our common supplications to you;
and you have promised through your well-beloved Son
that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will grant their requests:
Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us;
granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.

As the name indicates, this prayer’s earliest-known appearance is in the Eastern Orthodoxy Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and Saint Basil, at the end of their Entrance Rites. It first came to Anglican liturgy at the end of Archbishop Cranmer’s Litany of 1544, before the first Prayer Book was compiled. It was removed from the Litany in the American Prayer Books of 1928 and 1979, and the 2019 Prayer Book has followed suit. This prayer was added to the Daily Office in the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, and then the English Book of 1662, where it has remained all subsequent Prayer Books, albeit rendered as optional starting in 1892.

In 1979 several wording changes were introduced. In part this was to align the text with the primary Scriptural reference (Matthew 18:19-20), as well as to conform more closely to the Eastern liturgy from which Cranmer originally drew this prayer. This revised phrase, “you will be in the midst of them” has been rolled back in our present version: “you will grant their requests.” Although the 1979 revision matches the biblical text, the historic Prayer Book wording matches the liturgical purpose of the prayer in its specific context. At the end of a worship service or liturgy, assurance of God’s answering of prayer is more appropriate than assurance of the presence of the Lord.

This ancient prayer draws together two sayings of Jesus: Matthew 18:19-20 (“where two or three are gathered”) and John 14:13-14 (“if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”). Functionally, this prayer is akin to the shorter Occasional Prayers #98, 99, and 100, though its specific appeal to the prayers of the church gathered makes it particularly appropriate for the public liturgy of the Church. In that light, the rubric rendering it optional in American Prayer Books since 1928 is probably a concession for instances where the Office is said by an individual in private.

To offer God “our common supplications” is described here as a gift of grace – liturgy and worship are not so much the efforts of man as they are the power of God in us. And even the power of prayer itself is based on the promises of Christ. In short, this prayer both humbles us and encourages us, as we rehearse the basic theology of prayer: God commands it, God empowers it, God fulfills it. And even when we get it wrong, we simply hope that God will answer “as may be best for us”, which is spelled out as knowledge of his truth and life everlasting. If we come away from the Daily Office remembering nothing else, that desire for divine knowledge and life will be enough.

Singing through Hallowtide

Hallowtide is one of the nicknames for the period of time around All Saints’ Day – perhaps most especially from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) through the Octave of All Saints’ Day. Indeed, we do kind of need a name for the phenomenon of how modern Prayer Books direct that we should observe All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday in November. Last year we looked at that in a brief write-up here, so this year we’re taking a more devotional tack.

There are two groups of hymns to consider when looking at how to sing our way through Hallowtide: hymns about the Church Triumphant and hymns about the Church Expectant (or At Rest). You may be familiar with the Roman pair of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd, honoring the Saints in heaven on the former and praying for the souls in purgatory in the latter. Obviously, the Anglican tradition does not teach the Roman doctrine of purgatory, so we have no need of All Souls Day. But many Anglicans today do observe a Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, looking at the mournful side of death (the other side of the coin in All Saints’ Day where we celebrate victory amidst death). So as we sing through Hallowtide we should consider both of these angles along the way.

Here are the hymns appointed in this Customary’s “daily hymnody” plan, remembering that the hymn numbers refer to Book of Common Praise 2017 or Magnify the Lord:

There are, of course, plenty of other appropriate hymns out there that you could draw in. These are just the ones that I selected from one hymnal for this particular week; there are others are scattered throughout the year on particular saints’ days.

After Hallowtide, you may also wish to consider some national hymns on November 8th through 11th, building towards Remembrance Day (Intl.) / Veteran’s Day (USA).

Customary Update: Communion options!

The Saint Aelfric Customary’s directions through the 2019 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy is complete now. You can read it in full here.

One note of particular interest are recommendations for Communion Hymns based on the liturgical season, drawing from the lovely collection of thirty-seven (!!!) such hymns in the excellent REC hymnal. There is, of course, a lot of argumentation to be found among Christians concerning music, its accessibility, appropriate styles, and theological and biblical content. The subject of Holy Communion (or any sacrament, really) tends to suffer the most neglect in contemporary music, and sacramentology also tends to be something of a partisan battleground among Anglicans already, so making use of a set of lyrics that describe the Lord’s Supper can indeed be quite valuable for our congregations today.

Another feature that may appear somewhat strange here is the implementation of a little rubric in the 2019 Prayer Book’s liturgy authorizing “a sentence of Scripture at the conclusion of the Communion“, immediately before the Post-Common Prayer. Before the Reformation, each Mass had an appointed Communion Sentence. The 1549 Prayer Book reduced this complexity to a simple list of Sentences for the celebrant to choose from, and exploring that list is particularly interesting as it highlights the Reformation doctrine of faith much more prominently than the exaggerated sacramentalism of late medieval piety. Most subsequent Prayer Books have omitted this little piece of the liturgy, but now that it’s authorized again this Customary has seized the opportunity to restore the 1549 list, with a few additions from prior tradition. Check them out!

Which Communion Rite should I use?

The first question a liturgical planner faces when looking at an upcoming service of Holy Communion is which rite to use. Episcopalians have at least six in their Prayer Book, the Roman Rite has several iterations these days, even the Eastern Orthodox have a couple different standard liturgies too. Historically, Anglicanism has had only one rite, locally adapted from Prayer Book to Prayer Book; this range of options is very much a modern phenomenon. But, while the modern and post-modern mentalities will say “variety is the spice of life”, historical wisdom tells a different story: consistency is key. Musicians and other artists will also attest to the value of repetition; it’s how we learn and grow.

And so, the 2019 Prayer Book rolls back the modern cafeteria of liturgies to just two options: the Anglican Standard Text and the Renewed Ancient Text. If you want to explore what’s most different about them, you can read about that here. But honestly, the names give you the gist of it: the Anglican Standard is the standard Anglican liturgy, and the Renewed Ancient is a modern take on an ancient text called The Apostolic Tradition with some controversy behind it. It was either written by Hipollytus of Rome in the 3rd century or compiled from disparate sources by the 5th century, and it may contain a proposed liturgy rather than one that was actually used. In any case, this document’s discovery in the 19th century led to its widespread adoption especially among Romans and Anglicans in the 20th century; two of the four the modern-language Communion rites of the 1979 Prayer Book are based upon it. And thanks to their sheer popularity, a new form of it has been adopted by the 2019 Prayer Book.

Back to the question at hand, there are two approaches to answering this question.

  1. Use our new Prayer Book in a way that is consistent with our classical tradition.
  2. Every option in the Prayer Book has its proper time and use.

It is my conviction, and the aim of this Customary, to present these two principles to my fellow American Anglicans as a better way to stabilize our liturgical formation across the province and provide our congregations with solid and coherent spiritual formation. But this is a case where the two principles diverge somewhat. If you operate primarily under the first principle (historical precedent) then the answer is simple: always use the Anglican Standard Text.

For those who prefer to give every Rite its time, one must consider the strengths and weaknesses, the emphases and assumptions of the options. The language and content of the historic liturgy is unbeatably clear and focused on its dealing with sin and salvation. Yet, although Renewed Ancient Text may be more shallow in that regard, its Communion prayers take a grander sweep of the work of God into consideration, perhaps most notably the incarnation of our Lord. In these distinctions we find the best opportunities to use the Renewed Ancient Text are in “incarnation”-themed times, such as Advent, Christmas, and the Epiphany.

For more specific guidance, check out the Holy Communion Customary page.

When and how should we use the Litany?

One of the most neglected pieces of historic liturgy in the Anglican tradition is the Great Litany.  Steps have been made in the ACNA, and the 2019 Prayer Book, to make it more visible, which is great, but it has a long way to go (and a lot of history to overcome) to return to the average worshiper’s awareness.

The Saint Aelfric Customary is here to help, suggesting ways to use the Litany both in your private prayers and in your church’s Sunday worship.  Check it out! https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-the-great-litany/

A brief history of the Benedictus

This canticle has been a part of the Morning Prayers of the Church (particularly Lauds) at least since the 5th century Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prayer Book tradition has consistently maintained its position as the second canticle – the one read after the New Testament lesson. Its legacy in America, however, has been curious. The 1790 Prayer Book printed only the first few verses, ending with “from the hand of all that hate us.” The 1892 and 1928 Prayer Books included the full text of the Benedictus, but noted that “the latter portion thereof may be omitted”, permitting the short version of 1790. Only in 1979 did the American Prayer Book tradition return to the reading of the full Benedictus without omission.

From the English Prayer Book of 1552 through to the American 1928, the Jubilate (Psalm 100) was offered as an alternative to the Benedictus. This originated from the Puritans’ hesitancy to use anything but the Psalms as hymns and canticles, but by 1662 had settled into an alternative to the Benedictus only when the text of Luke 1 would be found in the New Testament reading on a given morning. The first three American Prayer Books swapped the preferential order between these two canticles, 1979 offered extremely flexible guidance about the choice of canticles, and 2019 has reaffirmed the priority of the Benedictus as the second canticle in Morning Prayer.

Customary update: Family Prayer

I’ve got a new update to the Saint Aelfric Customary online now: it’s some extra materials to help you customize Family Prayer for your own needs!

In a way, this seems like a silly idea; the whole point of liturgy, or common worship, or common prayer, is that we speak with one voice and one mind, as the Scriptures exhort us. So to customize a liturgy is to defeat the purpose, right? Yes, BUT…. family prayer is explicitly not common prayer in the congregational sense; it’s only common prayer within the context of a local household.  There are some devotions and practices that a family might want or need which they’ll best implement in a different way than others.  One example is children: my five year old is still developing his attention span; reading a whole chapter from the Old Testament, as in the Daily Office lectionary, is a bit too much for him to take in right now.  But if I stick with the mini-readings in Family Prayer, he’ll never be stretched to listen to longer readings, so we need something in between.  Thus, one of the resources to be provided in this Customary is a Children’s Lectionary.

Because formatting is difficult to translate onto a webpage (on top of WordPress radically changing its Post Editor into a new system that hate with an alarming hatred), I’m not putting all the actual lectionary-like resources on the page; they’ll wait for the book.  But you can comment on the Family Prayer Customary page to request a copy if you want.

Behold: Customary: Family Prayer

When to skip the Nicene Creed!?

Happy September!  I am finally easing out of a writing hiatus, now that my family’s move is more or less completed and the school year has more or less begun.  We won’t quite be jumping straight into five posts per week, but, as I announced a few months ago, the focus on quality over quantity will continue.

Today we’re tossing another “Weird Rubric Wednesday” into the collection.

wrw

So you’re going along through the Communion service in the 2019 Prayer Book, and you get to page 108 or 126 and you come to this rubric:

On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, all stand to recite the Nicene Creed…

So this is curious.  Most of you are probably used to the Nicene Creed being a static part of the Communion service – always there, unchanged, unchanging.  Indeed that was the pattern set out in 1662: And the Gospel ended, shall be sung or said the Creed following, the people still standing as before.  By that point it was assumed that Holy Communion was being celebrated, at most, on Sundays and Holy Days.  The Roman tradition of Daily Mass was pretty much gone from English practice.  So practically every Communion was a Sunday or Holy Day, and there was no need to mess around with options.  After the Gospel, just say the Creed.  (Yeah, the sermon used to be after the Creed.)

But eventually things got a bit more loose.  The 1928 Prayer Book, usually upheld as the last bastion of traditional Anglican liturgy in America, actually has quite a strange rubric about the Creed – I daresay more worthy of “Weird Rubric Wednesday” than its 2019 counterpart.  This is what it says:

Then shall be said the Creed commonly called the Nicene, or else the Apostles’ Creed; but the Creed may be omitted, if it hath been said immediately before in Morning Prayer; Provided, That the Nicene Creed shall be said on Christmas Day, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, and Trinity Sunday.

You see, in the 1928 Book, people have the option of saying either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed in Morning Prayer, and the same choices at the Communion too.  The “defaults” were still Apostles’ in the Office and Nicene in the Communion, but the expansion of options was such that one could choose either at any time, with only five exceptions.  Omitting the Creed entirely was also an option if Morning Prayer had just been said!

But this isn’t simply wild and crazy liberalism and choose-your-own-adventure liturgy building.  I mean, that could happen, but that’s not the intention.  Rather, this option to omit the Nicene Creed is in line with a retrieval of pre-Reformation tradition that was going on at the time in the growing Anglo-Catholic movement.  In the Roman calendar there are several “classes” or “ranks” of feast days, and they are celebrated with different levels of liturgical complexity.  Among those levels include the saying/omitting of the Gloria, and also of the Nicene Creed.  These options have been codified among traditional Anglo-Catholics, as demonstrated by this Ordo Kalendar put out by a group of the Continuing Churches:

aug-sample

In this picture you can see August 27th-29th, with notes for the daily mass.  St. Augustine of Hippo’s feast day merits both the Gloria and the Creed, whereas the Beheading of St. John the Baptist omits the Creed.  The Feria (or empty) day before them omits both.  So, coming back to the 2019 Prayer Book, when we read On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, this is an opportunity for those who want to follow some sort of “ranking” of feast days to make distinctions in how we celebrate Communion in honor of different saints’ days.