So many Psalms!

There are a lot of Psalms kicking around this time of year.  Today, Good Friday, has quite a few available to us.  In the classical Prayer Books this was one of the very few days in the year that got its own set of Psalms for the Daily Office, interrupting the 30-day cycle.

Morning Prayer: 22, 40, 54
Evening Prayer: 69, 88

Looking at the modern liturgy of our 2019 BCP, it’s not quite as heavy-handed on the Office, but the options still give a similar range:

Friday Morning Prayer: 40
Good Friday Service: 22 or 40:1-16 or 69:1-22
Friday Evening Prayer: 102

Saturday Morning Prayer: 88
Holy Saturday Service: 130 or 88 or 31:1-6
Saturday Evening Prayer: 91

You’ll notice that there is a little overlap between the Psalms offered in the primary service and the Psalms offered in the Daily Office, and a lot of overlap with the traditional Prayer Book Psalms.  Although the execution and placement has changed, it’s nice to see that the contents of our venerable tradition have not been lost entirely.

If you’re a worship planner for your congregation, you should observe that the primary worship service for Friday and Saturday in the Triduum offer three choices of Psalms… and our lectionary has a three-year cycle.  This is not presented as a rule, but it is a logical assumption that we should cycle between those three Psalms year by year.  If you want to cast an eye back to general Western tradition, the Gradual Psalm for Good Friday was from Psalm 54 and Psalm 42 for Holy Saturday, neither of which are appointed in our Prayer Book.  You could, however, add them to the Daily Office Psalmody on their proper days (the former is already there in the classical Prayer Books anyway).

Furthermore, whether you’re a worship planner or not, something anyone can do is add Psalms to the recitation of the Daily Office on one’s own.  Assuming you’re able to know what Psalm the main liturgy at church will use later today, you can fill in the other Psalm options to your recitation of the Office.  So if Psalm 69 is featuring at the Good Friday liturgy today, then consider adding Psalm 22 to Morning Prayer; perhaps you can grab Psalm 54 from the classical Prayer Books also, to add to Evening Prayer.

Same deal with Holy Saturday; take a look at the Psalms appointed, and consider how you might use up ones “left out” this year.  I mean, hey, it’s the Triduum… there’s no such thing as praying too much on days like these!

Hold Your Peace

One Holy Week tradition that does not get a shout-out in the Prayer Book but has a standard following in some places is the practice of omitting The Peace after the Confession & Absolution in the Communion service.  The rubrics of our Prayer Book do not provide for such an omission, so it is a tradition that should only be adopted by the permission of your diocesan Bishop.

Or, if you want to explore this option without breaking the rubrics, keep the verbal exchange of peace (Celebrant The Peace of the Lord be always with you. People And with your spirit.) but halt the further exchange of peace, which the rubric identifies as optional: “Then the Ministers and People may greet one another in the Name of the Lord” (underline added).

The idea behind this practice is that in the Garden of Gethsemane Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matt. 26:48-49, Mark 14:44-45, Luke 22:47-48).  As I wrote to my congregation a couple years ago:

This normal, friendly, even reconciliatory part of the liturgy is such a regular part of the service that its omission can be something of a shock, even a disappointment to some people.  The reason for its omission, though, is significant: in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss.  Normally a sign of greeting and peace, Judas transformed it that night into a sign of betrayal and the marking of a target for the soldiers to arrest.

Thus, on Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week, we also “hold our peace,” as it were.  We remember the wicked deception of Judas, and remind ourselves that we, also, all to easily use signs of peace as covers for internal hatred.  How easily we lie through our teeth to “get along” while harboring ill will towards our neighbor.  Or, how easily we go through the motions of the liturgy while harboring a coldness of heart against our Lord and our God!

It is also worth noting that the exchange or passing of the peace is not an element in traditional Prayer Book worship.  Until the liturgical revision of the mid-20th century, it simply was not a part of the liturgy for us.  Understanding that it is a modern insertion to our liturgy, between the Comfortable Words and the Offertory, may perhaps give us further cause for consideration as to how our liturgy works, what elements are truly needed and important, and hone our interaction with it.

 

Blessing Holy Water

You may have heard the old joke… “How do priests make holy water?  They boil the hell out of it!”  Comedy aside, there is no boiling involved, but getting “the hell out of it”, properly known as exorcism, is actually part of the process.

Below is a liturgy for the blessing of water, adapted from A Manual for the American Priest, originally made as a companion to the 1928 BCP, which underwent several editions.  If you’re a priest, and you want to prepare holy water but don’t know how, consider this your best go-to American Anglican resource in contemporary language!

But first, perhaps a quick introduction is in order.  What is holy water and what is it used for?  Water imagery in the Bible is frequently associated either with chaos (the sea and its mysterious creatures) or with life (usually a fountain or river).  Sprinkling, washing, or cleansing with water is one of the most common images for purification and rebirth.  Holy Baptism is, of course, the Christian’s primary ritual use of water.  Holy water is subsidiary to that concept: the baptismal water is prepared in the Baptismal Rite itself, but water may also be blessed for lesser applications.  When blessing people on special occasions or objects for sacred use, it was customary since ancient times to sprinkle the subject(s) in question with holy water.  It was not a baptism of those objects, nor a re-baptism of the people, but it was a reminder of baptism, an application or enactment of the new life, the redemption of creation, that the Gospel brings.

Two possible uses for holy water are coming up in the next two weeks: blessing the palms for the Palm Sunday procession, and sprinking (or asperging) the congregation at the Easter Vigil or on Easter morning either in a procession or at the Renewal of Baptismal Vows.  Unless you’ve got a baptismal font of water already blessed for use, a separate blessing of holy water will need to be done.

One last note on the liturgy itself for blessing holy water: a second ingredient is used: salt.  Salt is another object used throughout the Bible to denote purification or preservation.  Elisha used salt in 2 Kings 2 to bless a bitter spring.  This was both miraculous and symbolic.  It was miraculous in that a handful of salt obviously wouldn’t make unhealthy water safe to drink (not to mention that salt water is far less good to drink than fresh water!) and it was symbolic in that the salt purified the water to make it clean.  So when holy water is made, first the salt is prepared and exorcised; then the water is prepared and exorcised; then they are mixed together and the whole compound is blessed.

With that introduction, here’s the liturgy (which I’ve adapted into contemporary English).  The + indicates when the priest should make the sign of the cross with his hand over the salt or water in question.  If at all possible, conduct these prayers with people around!  It will both de-mystify holy water somewhat for the hearers, and expose them to some of the rich biblical imagery behind this ancient custom.

BLESSING OF WATER

Salt, and pure and clean water, being made ready in the church or sacristy,
the Priest, vested in surplice and purple stole, shall say:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. The maker of heaven and earth.

And immediately he shall begin the Exorcism of the salt.

I adjure you, O creature of salt, by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by God who commanded you to be cast, by the prophet Elisha, into the water to heal its barrenness, that you become salt exorcised for the health of believers. Bring to all who receive you soundness of soul and body, and let all vain imaginations, wickedness, and subtlety of the wiles of the devil, and every unclean spirit fly and depart from every place where you, O salt, be sprinkled, adjured by the Name of Him who shall come, to judge both the living and the dead, and the world by fire.  Amen.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly beseech your great and boundless mercy, that it may please you in thy loving-kindness to bless+ and to hallow+ this creature of salt, which you have given for the use of man.  Let it be, to all who take of it, health of mind and body; and let whatever that shall be touched or sprinkled with it to be free from all uncleanness, and from all assaults of spiritual wickedness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Exorcism of the water

I adjure you, O creature of water, by the Name of God the Father + Almighty, by the Name of Jesus + Christ his Son our Lord, and by the power of the Holy + Spirit, that you become water exorcised for putting all the power of the enemy to flight.  Be empowered to cast out and send away that same enemy with all his apostate angels: by the power of the same, our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and the world by fire.  Amen.

Let us pray.

O God, who for the salvation of mankind has ordained that the substance of water should be used in one of your chief Sacraments: favorably regard us who call upon you, and pour the power of your benediction+ upon this element, made ready by careful cleansing; that this your creature, fitting for your mysteries, may receive the effect of divine grace. May it so cast out devils and put sickness to flight, that whatever shall be sprinkled with this water in the dwellings of your faithful people may be free from all uncleanness and delivered from all manner of hurt.  Let no spirit of pestilence abide there, nor any corrupting air.  Let all the wiles of the hidden enemy depart from there, and if there be anything that lays snares against the safety or peace of those who dwell in the house, let it flee from the sprinkling of this water: so that the health which they seek through calling upon your holy Name may be protected against all things that threaten it; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Then the Priest shall cast the salt into the water in the form of a Cross, saying:

May this salt and water be mingled together: in the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray.

O God, who are the Author of unconquered might, the King of the Empire that cannot be overthrown, the ever-glorious Conqueror, who dominates the strength of the dominion that is against you, who rules the raging of the fierce enemy, who mightily fights against the wickedness of your foes: With fear and trembling we entreat you O Lord, and we beseech you graciously to behold this creature of salt and water; mercifully shine upon it and hallow it with the dew of you loving-kindness; that wherever it shall be sprinkled, with the invocation of your holy Name, all haunting of the unclean spirit may be driven away; let the fear of the venomous serpent be cast far from there; and wherever it shall be sprinkled, there let the presence of the Holy Spirit be given to all of us who should ask for your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary

Last week we looked at an option of filling out the book of Leviticus in a set of daily readings for Midday Prayer, for those who like to read every last page of Scripture.  You can revisit that post at this link.  Today, however, I am pleased to release the entire Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary.

Here it is in pdf form!

From the introductory and explanatory material:

The following lectionary is offered as a supplement to the Daily Office Lectionary.

Its first priority is to complete the portions of books omitted in Morning and Evening Prayer, including the books omitted in their entirety yet listed in Article 6 of the Articles of Religion (namely, Tobit, 1 Esdras, and 2 Esdras). As much as possible, this lectionary appoints these omitted readings in a manner that is integrated with the Daily Office lectionary – supplying parallel readings between Kings and Chronicles, for example, or appointing omitted chapters promptly after where they would have appeared in the regular lectionary.

The second priority of this lectionary, when possible, is to supply a traditional devotional reading for Holy Days found in previous Prayer Books but not supplied in the present edition.

And in further detail:

Throughout the year there are a number of days left blank in this Supplementary Midday Lectionary. On such days the reader is encouraged to make use of the standard lessons provided in the official liturgy for Midday Prayer.

January begins with the book of Wisdom, continuing where the Daily Office Lectionary left off on the morning of December 31st. The book of Tobit is then read. Because there is ample space remaining in the month, the major feast days (including the Martyrdom of Charles I on the January 30th) are each given an appropriate reading. The lesson is drawn from the 1662 Prayer Book in each case except for the Confession of St. Peter, which is drawn from the 1979 Prayer Book due to it being a feast day first reintroduced in that book.

The last day of January and the bulk of February continues the omitted writings of the Ecclesiastical Books with 1 Esdras, the majority of which is a rewrite of the end of 2 Chronicles and beginning of Ezra. Space is made for the two major feast days of the month, plus a brief interruption to begin the book of Baruch which is then finished in the Daily Office Lectionary’s evening lessons. That finished, the book of 2 Esdras is begun. The leap day, February 29th, is omitted from this plan.

March is occupied with finishing the book of 2 Esdras, breaking only to observe the Annunciation.

The Ash Wednesday lesson is taken from the 1662 Prayer Book. The same is true for the Holy Week and Easter Day lessons, though in that case several of those readings had their traditional day swapped around to accommodate our Daily Office Lectionary which appoints Lamentations 3 on Friday and Saturday instead of Tuesday.

The month of April begins the major fill-in-the-blank efforts with the Old Testament, first completing the book of Leviticus, then settling into Numbers.

May sees Numbers finished, and then proceeds through 1 Maccabees.

Ascension Day and Pentecost days are supplied with readings from the 1662 Prayer Book.

June completes 1 Maccabees and then covers the omitted chapters of Joshua. The additions to Daniel (namely the Song of the Three Young Men and Bel and the Dragon) are covered on narratively-appropriate days in tandem with the Daily Office Lectionary’s coverage of Daniel in the evening.

July sees the end of the book of Judges covered roughly in line with the end of that book in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons, as well as the Greek Old Testament Additions to Esther in tandem with that book’s coverage in the evening. Ezra chapter 2 is also supplied. The two major feast days each receive a special reading – the first from the 1979 Prayer Book and the second from the 1662.

The month of August adds Nehemiah chapter 11 and begins the omitted portions of 1 Chronicles. Only one major feast day had room for a special lesson.

September supplies the end of 1 Chronicles and some of 2 Chronicles in close parallel to its matching material in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons from the historical books. The latter two feast days of the month received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In October, omitted chapters from 2 Chronicles are supplied in the same manner, with omitted chapters from 2 Maccabees filling in the gaps to complement the evening lessons from that book. The latter two feast days of the month, again, received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

November sees the final omitted chapters of 2 Chronicles covered, and supplements the missing chapters from Judith. The omitted chapters from the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) are also begun. Space was made, also, to observe the major feast days of the month: All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed with a lesson each from the 1662 Prayer Book (the two originally appointed for All Saints’ Day); Saint Aelfric’s Day is observed with a lesson chosen from the Commons of Saints; and Saint Andrew with a lesson from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In December, Ecclesiasticus is completed, the major feast days are supplemented from 1662, and The Epistle of Jeremiah (sometimes accounted Baruch 6) is read.

Passion Sunday Coming Up

After Lent’s lighter moment on its 4th Sunday, things really start to ramp up on the 5th Sunday.  This is nicknamed Passion Sunday, even the Passion Gospel itself is not read on this day.

As I introduced this day in a previous post, it is an anticipation of Palm Sunday.  A noteworthy feature of the traditional lectionary was that major Sunday commemorations tended to have a follow-up Sunday to further explicate its meaning, but in the case of Palm Sunday, that follow-up had to be a preview Sunday instead.  Originally, the Gospel was Jesus’ speech about “before Abraham was, I am” – asserting his divinity.  This was paired with a lesson from Hebrews about his priestly sacrifice, so the theological import of his death on the Cross would be better appreciated on the following Sunday.  The modern calendar carries out a similar function using the Gospel stories of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ saying that “the son of man must be lifted up,” and the parable of the wicked tenants.  The traditional Collect was similar to those for the 2nd and 3rd Sundays, with a thematic similarity to the Collect for Good Friday, making it serve as another “preview” of the Passion to come.  The modern Collect, however, is a transfer from what was originally an Eastertide Collect, asking God to fix our hearts where true joy is to be found, despite our unruly wills and affections.  As far as I can see (thus far), this somewhat weakens the traditional Passion Sunday function.

One of the old traditions that typically began with this day is the covering, or veiling, of images in the church building.  All the statues, icons, even crucifixes, would have some sort of shroud or veil obscuring them.  In past days where church buildings were beautifully and vividly decked with visual splendor, this would have been a stark sight to behold.  On one level this tradition is easy to understand as an anticipation of the starkness of Holy Week: the mourning of Christ’s death on account of our sins, the injustice of his conviction, is aptly expressed in the covering of images that normally bring us joy.

But there are also connections to the liturgy of Passion Sunday itself that probably play a role in this.  The traditional Gradual, from Psalm 143, contains the verse

Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: * hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

– a plea that is given an extra layer of personal devotion when the visual depictions of God and his Saints are literally hidden from your face that morning!

The traditional Epistle, from Hebrews 9, also contains a thematic link.  Starting in verse 11, “CHRIST being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands; that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves; but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”  It is fitting, therefore, to cover all the things in the church “made with hands”, to remind people that these images are merely images of the Truth to whom they must ultimately look.

Finally, and perhaps most bluntly, the traditional Gospel for the 5th Sunday ends with the Jews wanting to stone Jesus for claiming equality with God, “but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.”  Sure enough, as you look around the room back then, Jesus has hidden himself; his images are covered.  Suddenly you find yourself in the place of those who would kill Christ – he is hidden from you.  This is very much an anticipation, in tone, of the final rejection of Christ on the following Sunday: “Crucify him!”

Chances are, however, that your church building is not adorned with wall-to-wall pictures, icons, artwork, and lined with alcoves with statues of our Lord and our Lady and the Saints.  Directly appropriating that old tradition may not have anywhere near the usual impact in many church buildings today. So what might we do instead?

  • put a veil over the altar cross
  • print a service bulletin with no cover art
  • silence some or all of the instruments

Be creative!  How else might you ratchet up the experience of Lent?

What about the rest of Leviticus?

The book of Leviticus has started its run-through in the Daily Office this morning, according our daily lectionary.  But if you’re looking at the actual lectionary table rather than just following the entire Office online you’ll notice that tomorrow we’ll skip from chapter 1 to chapter 8.  Then we’ll skip to 10, then 16-20 in a row, then 26, and that’s it for Leviticus.  Of the 27 chapters, we’ll only cover 9 – just one third of the book!  Some of you might breathe a sigh of relief at this news, others might get indignant and ask “what gives?”

The main point of a Daily Lectionary, yes, is to get the “full counsel of God” into the eyes and ears of every Christian.  You could to Morning and Evening Prayer every day and over the course of the year you get through the entire Bible.  Or rather, the vast majority of the Bible.  The fact is, every Prayer Book lectionary is “incomplete” when it comes to biblical coverage.  Although this occasionally can be a cover for revisionist selectivism and overlooking difficult/unliked passages (I’m looking at you, 1979) the usual reason is perfectly harmless: not all parts of Scripture are equally accessible and equally beneficial to the reader.

Yes, all Scripture is “God-breathed” or “God-inspired” and therefore beneficial for instruction and training in righteousness, but not all parts of Scripture will accomplish that as well as other parts.  To that end, different lectionaries at different times have made different omissions, judging by the needs of and expectations for its congregations.  The earliest Prayer Book lectionary included only four chapters of Leviticus: 18-21.  It also omitted 1 & 2 Chronicles, much of Numbers and Ezekiel, and the entire book of St. John’s Revelation (apart from one or two snippets in the Communion lectionary).  The reasons for these decisions generally revolve around:

  1. simplicity of use (rather than weaving the Chronicles material into 1 & 2 Kings like our new lectionary, just skip them entirely)
  2. potential for misunderstanding (the Laws of the Torah and the Apocalyptic visions of Ezekiel and Revelation are too complex or too obscure for the average reader)
  3. constraint of time (there are only so many days in the year, so unless you read multiple chapters at once you’re not going to cover everything on just 2 readings per morning plus 2 per evening)

With these reasons in mind you can glance at different lectionaries from different centuries and perhaps better understand why some omissions were made in the 17th century and different ones are made today.  With public literacy higher, more study resources readily available, and an evangelical background expectation to read “the Bible in a year” already common, the modern reader is better-equipped to tackle more of the difficult and obscure passages of Scripture.  But it will always be true that some parts of the Bible simply need to be taught and preached for the majority of readers to finally “get” them.

That said, if you’re of a completionist mindset, and want to read the rest of the book of Leviticus yourself, something you can do is device a supplementary lectionary of one extra reading per day and use it during Midday Prayer.  The Saint Aelfric Customary will providing just such a lectionary, and here’s how it finishes the books of Leviticus and Numbers:

April

1  
2  
3 Leviticus 2
4 3
5 4
6 5
7 6
8 7
9 9
10 11
11 12
12 13
13 14
14 15
15 21
16 22
17 24
18 25
19 27
20 Numbers 1
21 2
22 3
23 4
24 5
25 7
26 9
27 10
28 19
29 26
30 27

May

1 Numbers 28
2 29
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 33
7 34
8 35
9 36

Commemorating Saints during Lent

Looking at the calendar of optional commemorations, there are four in a row this week: F. D. Maurice yesterday, Henry Budd today, James Lloyd Breck tomorrow, and Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday.  Next week has four such commemorations also.  But should we observe these commemoration days?

The first answer is: it’s up to you / your rector.  These are all optional, and the Prayer Book does not mandate how one must handle a weekday Communion service apart from the Red Letter Days.

But if you want to take longstanding tradition and practice into account, things get a bit pickier.  As a penitential season, Lent is best served by maintaining the tenor of penitence at the public worship services.  If four out of seven days in a week is a celebration of a Saint, then there isn’t really much time left for actually observing Lent.  There are also sets of Collects and Lessons for each weekday in Lent that you can find in Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the Anglican Missal and in the Roman liturgy.  I haven’t studied these sources against one another but I suspect they all represent a very similar tradition.  The idea, simply, is that the Church provides for a Lent-focused Communion service every day in Lent, leaving potentially no room for Saints’ days.

Of course, the “Red-Letter Days” take precedence over these; we celebrated the Annunciation last Monday for example.  But among the optional commemorations, there is room for further consideration.  Roman practice has a complex system of liturgical hierarchies: different sorts of holy days take different levels of precedence.  And although post-Vatican-II reforms have simplified their system somewhat, it’s still more developed than most Anglican sources are on the matter.  When it comes down to it, the Romans expect daily mass in their churches and we don’t, so it’s a matter of priority and emphasis.

So if you’re looking for what to do at a weekday Communion service in your church, or for your own devotions at home, you would do well to consider which of the optional commemorations you would “elevate” to observe during Lent, and which you would leave be in order to keep the Lenten disciplines the priority throughout the week.

Ultimately what this is doing is to create a middle class of holy days – what I would prefer to call Minor Feast Days – to stand between the official Major Feast Days and the Commemorations.  How you decide which saints to so elevate is a big question, and one that is better served on its own.  For now, at least, let us remember that Lent is a time of penitence, and it would not serve us well to get carried away with celebrating every commemoration that comes our way.

Fasting Tips

It’s a Friday, and it’s Lent, that means the Prayer Book expects us to be fasting today.  But, unlike the Roman tradition, we aren’t given strict definitions of what to fast from, or how to fast from things in general.  We’re left to the “spirit of fasting”, in danger of a liberal neglect of the discipline, as opposed to the danger of rote fasting out of merely outward obedience.  That said, it probably helps to have some advice, suggestions, and tips regarding how to implement a fast.

If you are not accustomed to fasting (on Fridays, during Lent, or at all) here are some ideas to try:

  • Skip a meal and replace it with a longer prayer time than usual.
  • Simplify your eating for the day: no fancy spices, sauces, or flavors.
  • Eat less: halve all your normal portion sizes.
  • Cut out the extras: no soda, alcohol, desserts, or snacks.
  • If you normally buy a coffee or a snack on the run, don’t.
  • Quantify the money you saved on food (as far as you’re able) and give it away to a homeless person on the street, or to a charity that cares for the poor.

Remember fasting is not a discipline that ultimately is meant to be pursued on its own, but alongside prayer and alms-giving.  Isaiah 58 has a well-known denunciation of ungodly fasting, and as you read through it you’ll find that it props up alms-giving and prayer as correctives to such abuse.  That chapter was often an Office reading for Ash Wednesday for that very reason.

Just remember, both the Prayer Book and Jesus expect God’s people to fast.  Yes, you’re free to do so in your own way, but just be sure you actually do!

Still using the Ash Wednesday Collect?

During the seasons of Advent and Lent, in Prayer Books before the 1970’s, there was a special tradition of repeating the first Collect of the season on every day throughout the season.  For example, this is what you find in the 1662 Prayer Book:

The first Day of Lent commonly called Aſh Wedneſday.

The Collect.
ALMIGHTY and everlaſting God, who hateſt nothing that thou haſt made, and doſt forgive all the ſins of thoſe who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our ſins, and acknowledging our wretchedneſs, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remiſſion and forgiveneſs; through Jeſus Chriſt our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the day.

(I kept the “long s” typeface in for fun this time; usually I edit them to the regular S.)

Anyway, notice the rubric underneath the Collect: it is to be used throughout the Lenten season in addition to whatever the Collect of the Day normally would be.  For example, yesterday was the Second Sunday in Lent, so we could have read that Collect followed by the Ash Wednesday Collect near the beginning of the Communion service.  You could even be using this extra Collect in the Daily Office every morning and evening!

Now, there is no such rubric in the 1979 or 2019 Prayer Books.  But there is no prohibition against reviving this traditional practice either.  I’ve made a practice of retaining the Collect for Ash Wednesday (sometimes nicknaming it the “Collect for Lent” or “for the season”) on each Sunday in my congregation.  Yes, it does make an awkward break in the rhythm of the liturgy: people are used to sitting down after the Collect but suddenly they have to wait through a second one.

But this can be a good kind of awkwardness.  This Collect is one of the great gems of our Prayer Book tradition, capturing the wretchedness of our sin and the great love and mercy of God in one beautiful little prayer.  It’s a good interruption to receive in the ordinary course of worship.  I can’t say that anybody has ever come up to me after the worship service to comment on it before, but I do think it is a subtle-but-meaningful tradition to hang on to.

Book Review: Common Worship (2000)

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.

In honor of my new Bishop being consecrated today – he’s from England – I thought we’d take a look at an English book today: Common Worship, which is currently the Church of England’s official (and I imagine most-used) liturgical text alongside the 1662 Prayer Book which is still legally their standard text.  Common Worship is not strictly speaking a Prayer Book.  It has over 800 pages of liturgical material for the Daily Office, Holy Communion, Baptism, Thanksgiving for a Child, and other occasional worship services that one may design oneself according to the provided rubrics; it does not have material for Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, Ordination, Ministration to the Sick, or Burial.  However, it does have further volumes that provide more material and fill in those blanks.

common worship

If you thought that the American 1979 book had a lot of choices to choose from, this book will blow your mind.  Where the ’79 had two traditional-language Prayers of Consecration and four more in contemporary language, this book has two “Orders” for Holy Communion (both offered in contemporary and traditional language styles), Order One having 8 Prayers of Consecration to choose from!  Order One is the contemporary order of the liturgy, similar to what we’ve got in the American books since 1979; Order Two is the English (1662) order of the liturgy.

The Daily Office, too, is a bit complicated, offering a different form of Morning & Evening Prayer for Sundays distinct from the rest of the week.  Both in how the Office is presented, as well as the Communion, it seems that the expectation (or the cynic might say “agenda”) is for most churches to use the contemporary liturgies (provided first), while acknowledging the legitimacy of the traditional (provided second).  But at least they’re both there – the American 1979 book barely threw a bone to the traditionalists, which resulted in the creation of supplemental books such as the Anglican Service Book.  Our upcoming 2019 prayer book will provide authorizations and rubrics for more traditional orderings of the contemporary liturgy, which is very good, but it’s not going to be quite as user-friendly as the way Common Worship provides the traditional material straight-up.  And who can blame our prayer book committees?  Just look at Common Worship – it takes over 800 pages to cover only half of the liturgical texts required for a full Prayer Book!

On the other hand, this book is remarkably user-friendly considering its cumbersome collection of liturgies.  As long as someone tells you what type of worship service you’re walking into (i.e. Holy Communion, Order One) you can simply look it up in the table of contents, go to page 166, and actually follow along quite easily.  The primary divergence of options is the Prayer of Consecration (Prayers A through H offer a range of styles and emphases) but the way it’s handled here is actually rather brilliant.  The prayers that are in common are printed in the main text of the Communion service, and the different responses from the various sets of prayers are put into the main text, allowing the person in the pew to respond to whichever Prayer of Consecration is being said without having to flip to the appropriate pages and back!  For those who do want to read along with the Priest’s text, page numbers are provided.  The various options for the Prayers of the People are handled the same way: the responses are provided in the main text, and a page number reference is included for those who want to read the actual text of the intercessions that the prayer leader will be reading.

The calendar has grown rather differently in English tradition than American.  Both were the same up to the early 20th century, but the way modern liturgical revision has impacted us is different.  The American Anglican treatment of the calendar is more like the Roman Catholics: Epiphany season lasts from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, and the season after Pentecost (or Trinity) runs from Pentecost or Trinity Sunday until Advent.  In England, things got a bit more nuanced – perhaps hanging on to vestiges of old custom in a different way.  The Epiphany season set forth in Common Worship lasts from January 6th until February 2nd (the feast of the Presentation), after which comes “Ordinary Time”, counted as the 1st-5th Sundays before Lent.  After Trinity Sunday Ordinary Times resumes with up to 22 Sundays “after Trinity” followed by All Saints’ Sunday and Three or Four Sundays “before Advent”, sometimes nicknamed Kingdomtide.  Although this is largely irrelevant to our American context (and may even end up adding confusion to some readers) it can be handy to be familiar with this style of calendar as there are other Anglican provinces across the world that follow a variation of the modern English calendar.

The biggest surprise, looking at this book, is one glaring omission: it has no daily lectionary!  The Communion & Holy Day lectionary is elaborate, with multiple sets of readings in case a church has two or even three worship services on a given Sunday, and the occasional note for proper readings at Evening Prayer on the “Eve of” a major feast day (termed Festival in this book).  I suppose if one accounts for all of those, and the three-year cycle of lessons, one could draw enough readings together to fill out the week days for the Daily Office.  But that would not be in the spirit of a daily lectionary at all, providing disjointed readings from day to day, and probably not providing very good coverage of the Bible at all.  In short, this is so Sunday-focused that it seems to give tacit assent to the loss of the daily office in the public eye.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Despite the massive collection of optional material and “choose-your-own-adventure” nature to the liturgical planning authorized in this book, it is surprisingly easy to navigate if you’re following along with one service.  (If you’re the liturgical planner using this book to prepare a service then boy have you got some studying to do!)

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
Extra canticles can be great; different forms of confessions and creeds can be interesting from time to time (if not really necessary); having the traditional and modern styles available in one volume is lovely.  The theological precision and accuracy may be an open question for some of the Communion Prayers of Consecration, depending upon one’s point of view.  This could have been a 3, but without a daily lectionary or prayers for funerals and weddings, this book falls to a 2.

Reference Value: 2/5
There is a lot of stuff in here which is interesting, but little that we can use, outside of the Church England.  What is authorized for our liturgy simply is not the same as this book.  What we can glean (or even use) from this book include its wealth of additional Canticles, original confessions and creedal material which we could use for private devotion or even in teaching, and comparative studies in how the calendar and lectionary evolved across the pond.

Before our Texts for Common Prayer started coming together, I knew of a number of ACNA churches that made use of Common Worship to some degree or another, rather than rely solely on the 1979 book.  By this point, we’ve got everything we need such that we don’t need to rely on external sources such as this.  Furthermore, it is our bishops who authorize liturgical texts, not local priests, so must of us probably aren’t even allowed to use Common Worship in our public liturgy.  It’s a neat resource to poke through if you’ve got it, but since its whole text is freely available online, there’s not really any reason to get a hard copy unless you really want to build up a liturgical library.  (I’ve only got a copy because someone else was downsizing his library!)