Book Review: Liturgy for Living

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.

One of the standard introductory texts to Episcopalian liturgy is Liturgy for Living by Charles P. Price & Louis Weil.  It was written in 1979 and revised in 2000.  In it you will find a great deal of insight into the mindset that produced the 1979 Prayer Book and defends its integrity to this day.  Its prologue along is informative reading, and the way it ends says a lot about where this book is going to go:

In the chapters that follow we shall explore worship in the Episcopal Church in the United States as it is taking shape through these years of growth and change. We must recognize both the psychological and historical complexity of the subject.  It bears the marks of a long and varied development.  It is in the process of alteration from one form adequate to the needs of a past age to a somewhat richer and more extensive form, more adequate to the religious hungers and thirsts of the age at hand.  We trust it will be as adequate as the old to express the gracious act of God for us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

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A very bold, perhaps even arrogant, claim is being made here: that the 1979 Prayer Book is a “somewhat richer and more extensive form” of worship compared to the classical prayer book tradition, and that it is equally adequate for “the religious hungers and thirsts of the age at hand” as the old was for the past.  This rests on two seriously questionable assumptions:

  1. that the “needs” of the past four centuries were met by essentially the same liturgy unchanged, but the present half-century is so different as to need a very different prayer book,
  2. that the 1979 Prayer Book represents a “growth” and “enrichment” of worship compared to its classical forebears.

By contrast, we in the Anglican Church in North America affirm:

For nearly five centuries, Cranmer’s Prayer Book idea had endured to shape what emerged as a global Anglican Church that is missional and adaptive as in its earliest centuries…

and that:

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) in the United States and various Prayer Books that appeared in Anglican Provinces from South America to Kenya to South East Asia to New Zealand where often more revolutionary than evolutionary in character.

In short, we expressly reject that the 1979 Prayer Book represented an entirely wise step forward for the prayer book tradition as a whole, and that much of what it represents has had to be rolled back.  Although the ACNA and the 2019 Prayer Book still makes positive use of elements of the 1979 tradition, we have a new-found confidence in the classical prayer book tradition, and use the 1662 book as our “guiding star” for how the late 20th century developments were to be reassessed and, when necessary, undone.

All that to say, for a faithful orthodox Anglican, Liturgy for Living is a book that is built on a premise that we ought not to accept, and therefore should be read more critically than directly educationally.

Let’s get back to the book, please!

Still, let’s be fair and look at what’s actually in this book. In five Parts with nearly twenty chapters in total, this book walks through “The Meaning of Worship”, the history of the Prayer Book tradition, the rites of initiation, the Offices and Eucharist, and the Pastoral and Episcopal Services.

It has a good exploration of the words worship and liturgy, and help the reader discern the larger meanings of these terms, as opposed to the overly-narrow senses in which they’re often used today.  Similar with symbol and mystery, though arguably the authors may get a little too expansive and non-specific in the final analysis.  Their critique of the overly-clericalized liturgy (not just of medieval Roman but also Protestant worship!) may also be somewhat overstated.  And the ecumenical appeal of the 1979 Prayer Book’s newer contents are presented in an extremely optimistic manner – no real fruit of Christian unity has resulted from said content, and the Episcopal Church’s membership and attendance has only shrunk since this book was revised, almost alone demonstrating that these intended enrichments have not breathed new life into that church.

The section on baptism and confirmation should also be read cautiously, with an eye to our own Prayer Book’s response (in the Preface to the 2019 BCP, on page 4).

The authors’ doctrine of biblical inspiration described on pages 95-97 is quite weak, likening inspiration to a more divine version of an inspired artist or preacher.  They apparently reject that the Bible is “absolutely the Word of God” (page 96), which is yet another sign of what makes this book, and the ecclesial setting from which it came, troubling and unhelpful to the orthodox Anglican Christian.

These examples should suffice to give you a taste of this book.  If you want to get inside the head of the progressivism that produced and continues to defend the 1979 Prayer Book, this is the book for you.  With all the brilliant-yet-flawed ideas of the liturgical renewal of mid-20th century, and the modernist mentality that has taken its toll in many Christian traditions, this book shows you why the 1979 Prayer Book is the way it is and how it was/is hoped to function in fueling the spiritual life of the believer.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
This is a very readable book.  It doesn’t assume you know the history and background of liturgy and the Prayer Book, and it has an extensive bibliography (albeit now 19 years old) to further your research and learning.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5 or N/A
In one sense, this is a book about liturgy, not of liturgy, so it’s not something you would use or read devotionally.  But what it does do is teach about liturgy and spirituality, and (in my view) it does so very dangerously.  Modern Episcopalian spirituality is Anglican-inspired, not Anglican, and very easily points its adherents in non-Christian directions.

Reference Value: 4/5
As I’ve said above, this book gets you into the DNA of the 1979 Prayer Book. If you want to know how it ticks, this book will help.  Just don’t confuse that with the classical prayer book tradition or historic Anglican spirituality.

 

Two (and a half) Communion Rites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Maccabean Famine

In Evening Prayer we’re walking through some brief highlights of 1 & 2 Maccabees this week, and I thought that since so many Anglicans today have minimal experience with these books, it would be a good idea to offer a brief homily.  To that end, I present you with The Maccabean Famine: a reflection on the death of Judas Maccabeus in 1 Maccabees 9.  For best effect, save this for during or after Evening Prayer so you’ll have read the story before watching/listening to this.

Readings Review & Planning Propers 10/14

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-3, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Peter 4-5, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 John 1:1-2:6, Malachi 2-4, 1 Maccabees 1-2, 2 Maccabees 6-7, Matthew 25-27:56

This week: 2 Kings 4-9, 1 John – 3 John, 2 Maccabees 8,10, 1 Maccabees 7,9,13,14, Isaiah 1, Matthew 28, Mark 1-3

Special reading for St. Luke’s Day on Friday: Luke 1:1-4

The first hint of the end of the year makes its appearance this coming week: the book of Isaiah begins on Saturday the 19th in Evening Prayer.  In every Prayer Book lectionary (without exception, as far as I’m aware) Isaiah is saved for the end of the year, such that it is the big Old Testament focus in the Daily Office leading up to Christmastide.  Although many of the OT Prophets contain passages that prophesy of the advent of Christ, Isaiah has the most.  It helps that it’s the longest of those books, but even besides that Isaiah does spend an unusual amount of text looking ahead to the Christ, or Messiah, or Anointed One, whom we know to be Jesus of Nazareth, God-with-us.

Before we get there, though, we have to finish our survey of the Maccabean age.  Expect another post on that soon!

In Morning Prayer we have a rapid-fire wrap-up of the Epistles this week.  Having just walked through Peter and Jude’s writings, we’re completing the batch with John’s.  It might seem odd reading them out of order (Jude after Peter, rather than after John), but as I’ve pointed out before, the thematic similarities between 2 Peter and Jude make it very beneficial to read them together.  Plus that leaves us this current stretch of days to focus on John’s final exhortations to love God and keep his commandments, before calling it a day on the year’s second round of epistle-reading.  Acts will be next, followed by the Revelation, to finish off the year in Morning Prayer.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 21 (or 15th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/14 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/15 = Votive or St. Theresa of Ávila, nun and reformer
  • Wednesday 10/16 = Votive or Hugh Latimer & Nicholas Ridley, martyrs
  • Thursday 10/17 = St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
  • Friday 10/18 = SAINT LUKE
  • Saturday 10/19 = Votive

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Book Review: Liturgies of the Western Church

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.

Today we’re looking at Liturgies of the Western Church, selected and introduced by Bard Thompson.  This is a reference book that every student of liturgy should have on the shelf.

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After a short introduction and bibliography (from the perspective of 1961), this book is occupied with introducing and setting out thirteen different liturgies from across Western Christian history (though the first two are not exclusively Western liturgies).

#1 – The First Apology of Justin Martyr (155)

This does not contain a liturgy, exactly, but we find here chapters 65-67 of his Apology, wherein he describes the order of service for the Communion liturgy he knew.  Although it is a brief outline, the basic sequence is clearly discernible, and it is consistent with the liturgical tradition to this day.

#2 – The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (200)

This is an important entry in the annals of history not because of its long-standing influence, but because of its sudden sharp revival in the mid-20th century.  This is the rite from which most of the Rite II Communion Prayers in the 1979 Prayer Book were drawn, as well as the Renewed Ancient Text in the 2019 Prayer Book.  Reading what it actually says, though, allows one to see just what the adaptations are that modern liturgies have made in its name.  I’ll leave it to the reader’s judgment if the term “renewed ancient” is justified or not.

#3 – The Mass in Latin and English (Roman Rite)

The introductory text for this one is particularly lengthy, as befits the long history of the Roman Rite.  What is given in this book was the then-current form of the Roman Rite (as of 1959), making this the Tridentine form Mass just before the reforms of Vatican II kicked in.  The Tridentine Mass is what traditional (Roman) Catholics today really love and yearn for, and what the baby boomer generation stereotypically despises.  This is a useful resource, of course, as it gives insight into one end of Roman Catholic piety.  But its downside is that this is not the form of the Mass that was in use during, or prior to, the Reformation.  So if you want compare & contrast the Prayer Book liturgy with its medieval forebear, this book doesn’t quite provide that.  You’ll have to, instead, rely on Tyndale’s translation of the Mass provided in the Anglican Service Book.  Still, the Latin-English parallels are handy, and the historical introduction gives you a sense of the gradual milieu of change over the centuries.

#4 – Martin Luther’s Masses (1523, 1526)

This is an interesting entry.  The Formula Missa (1523) was in Latin, and Martin Luther intended for it to be used on occasion for educational purposes.  Most of the time, though, the German Mass (1526) was appointed.  Every educated person, after all, learned Latin, and since instructing the laity in the reading of Scripture and promoting education was a Reformation principle, it made sense to hold worship in Latin periodically, so people could connect the familiar vernacular text to the Latin.  The liturgy provided in this book, however, is not a full text of the whole service; it’s a mix of text, rubric, and commentary, so you end up learning more about the German liturgy than digging into its precise text.

#5 – the Zurich Liturgy (1525)

This is the work of Ulrych Zwingli, whose communion theology was, shall we say, problematically radical.  Because he had such a “low view” of Communion, his liturgy is similarly empty when it comes to the Holy Table.  No sacrament, no consecration, just remembering and partaking.

#6 – The Strassburg Liturgy (1539)

This is the work of Martin Bucer, who was a theologian standing somewhere between Luther and Zwingli.  He was respected by John Calvin and finished his life and ministry in England, where he had a particular lasting impact.  His liturgy contains a number of very long prayers (a pattern we’ll see copied later on) but when it comes to celebration of Holy Communion it is suddenly (like Zwingli) quite brief.

#7 – The Form of Church Prayers, Strassburg (1545), and Geneva (1542)

It is John Calvin’s turn, now.  These are two liturgies that are nearly identical, and thus printed in the book with their occasional differences noted in parallel columns.  Again, long prayers precede and follow the Confession, and lead up to the Sermon.  The Communion prayers are also lengthy, quoting 1 Corinthians 11 at length, and exhorting the people to lift their “spirits and hearts on high where Jesus Christ is in the glory of his Father”.  There are further sets of prayers that provide another liturgy that begin to resemble the Prayer Book pattern around the celebration of Holy Communion, but still focused heavily on the words of institution and giving thanks.

#8 – the First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI (1549, 1552)

Now at last we reach the English Reformation.  The 1549 liturgy is the most conservative protestant liturgy in this book; you can follow its similarity to the Roman Rite more easily than any other entry.  Its order of prayers around the consecration of the Eucharist are fairly closely followed in the Scottish and American Prayer Book traditions, all the way down to the 1928 Prayer Book and the Anglican Standard Text in the 2019.  The 1552 liturgy does the re-arranging and clipping of the Communion Prayers that sets the stage more clearly for what would standardize in the 1662 Prayer Book.

#9 – the Form of Prayers, Geneva (1556)

John Knox is now the man of the hour.  This liturgy represents one of the primary influences on the English Reformation party in exile during the reign of Catholic Queen “bloody” Mary Tudor.  It seems a bit of a hybrid between the previous Genevan liturgy and the Prayer Book liturgy, but contains some sharp polemic directed against the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation, revealing its historical context a little too much!

#10 – The Middleburg Liturgy of the English Puritans (1586)

Now we’re getting into the world of Prebyterianism.  The Church of England had restored a Prayer Book similar to where it had left off before Mary’s reign, but the Puritan party was increasingly unhappy with it, and thus this liturgy was born.  The Calvinist, or Puritan, or “Reformed” desire was to simplify, reduce repetitions, and focus more on preaching and quoting Scripture.  This doesn’t mean short though… one prayer for After a Sermon goes on for several pages.  The Communion prayers, of course, are very short, and consciously different from the Prayer Book pattern.  There are also several instances where a rubric directs what the minister is to pray without giving an actual text.  Extemporaneous prayer was another major bullet point on the Reformed agenda.

#11 – The Westminster Directory of the Publique Worship of God (1644)

After the English Civil War, the Puritans had won: the Church of England as previously known was abolished, and Presbyterianism held sway over the country.  Within a couple years, this liturgy was put forth as the new standard.  It’s almost more of a guide than a liturgical text, however, as it mostly tells the order of what is to be done and only provides examples of what the minister is to pray.  Its hostility to the “excesses” of the Prayer Book tradition is clear in its preface.

#12 – The Savoy Liturgy (1661)

When the Interregnum ended and King Charles II returned to the throne of England, the Church of England with its bishops and prayer book also came back out of hiding.  The Puritan party was on the fence about conforming to the Anglican norm, and Richard Baxter, at the Savoy Conference, advocated a more Reformed liturgy in the (vain) hopes that the upcoming 1662 Prayer Book wouldn’t be like its predecessors.  The liturgy found here is an expanded version of what can be seen in the various Calvinist liturgies above, but with more full-text prayers provided, rather than mere examples.  It still falls short of Prayer Book standards, though, providing (for example) no absolution.  Interestingly, its prayers of consecration are the most Anglican of the Calvinist rites so far seen, including this line: “This bread and wine, being set apart, and consecrated to this holy use by God’s appointment, are now no common bread and wine, but sacramentally the body and blood of Christ.”  This indicates a distinction of Calvinist doctrine over again Zwinglian.  Ultimately this barely made a dent in the formation of the 1662 Prayer Book.

#13 – The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America (1784)

Finally, we come to a liturgy left to the American Methodists by John Welsey.  Seeing little or no ordained Anglican clergymen in the fledgling United States, he felt at liberty to jumpstart a new church movement without episcopal authority or assistance.  Despite that rogue element in his work, what he gave to the American Methodist Church was almost an exact replica of the 1662 Prayer Book.  The Morning Prayer and Communion services are printed in this book, and you’ll see they are almost identical.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
The fact that the various liturgies present themselves in a few different ways makes a quick compare/contrast difficult to make.  But on the whole this is a readable book, not overly technical.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is not a devotional book.  Though if it does it’s job, you’ll want to go grab a Prayer Book and worship!

Reference Value: 4/5
Put this next to your copy of the 1662 Prayer Book and you’ll have a fantastic history of liturgy on your shelf.  Or, because it’s not 1961 anymore, you can just go online and probably find each of these texts freely available.  Still, the introductions and footnotes in this book are useful.

How not to use music in church

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a style-bashing article.  Although we have looked almost exclusively at traditional hymnody on this blog, I have always maintained that there is a place for contemporary songs and styles in the liturgy.  There is more work involved when it comes to discerning the value and use of a new song, if at least because no previous generations have already done that work for us, but I don’t proclaim an “inherent value” of one style over another.  Chant is precious, hymnody is precious, and the various culture-specific expressions of worship music are precious too, at least in their home cultural contexts.

Rather, when I come up with a title “How not to use music in church“, I am concerned with the function of music in the liturgy.  The basic worship-related axiom for us as Anglicans must always be this: the Prayer Book is our liturgy.  Everything else, including music, is brought in to support the frame and plan of worship set out therein.  An opening song is not to “get people in the mood,” but to open the door between heaven and earth; an offertory song is not to “fill time during the collection”, but to reflect on the sermon, or the theme of offering, or begin meditation on the Communion; a closing song is not to “go out with a bang”, but to wrap up the themes heard that morning and/or send the people out into the world to do all the good works the Lord has prepared for them to walk in.  We take our cues from the Book of Common Prayer; it shows us how to worship, and keeps the Scriptures at the forefront, provided we don’t drown it in excessive music (or excessive incense, or excessive spontaneous prayer, or anything else).

To this end, I encourage you to read this article that came up earlier this week: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2018/04/20/a-call-to-reject-the-orgasmic-worship-experience-and-return-to-liturgy/

I know not everyone will read it, so I’ll give a brief summary.  The author is critiquing the methodology of popular megachurch-inspired “worship”, which uses music in very powerful ways.  He uses the analogy of a sexual experience, where a standard set of five songs works like this:

  1. Set the mood (while people are still settling into the service)
  2. Musical foreplay (building momentum)
  3. Experience ecstasy (the song that goes big and all-out)
  4. Bask in the afterglow (a quiet, restful, meditative song in which to “linger”)
  5. Get up and make breakfast (last song starting gentle but ends with a bang)

Some call this emotional manipulation.  I’ve called it “addict spirituality.”  Whatever you call it, the problem is this: music is used as a substitute not only for liturgy, but for biblical reflection and intellectual participation.  This is worship according to the doctrine of “Sola Feels” as some, snarkier than I, have put it.

Where the article I linked to above falls short, I think, is setting out the clear corrective to the obvious abuse-with-music problem.  The Prayer Book liturgy does have emotional ups and downs, a rise and relax, high points and lows.  The steps of Collect of the Day, Old Testament reading, Psalm, Epistle, Gradual/Sequence music, and Gospel, form an upward movement leading us closer and closer to Jesus, until we plateau at the Sermon and Creed (in whichever order).  Similarly, the Prayers, Confession, and Great Thanksgiving form another upward movement toward the high point of walking up the aisle and receiving Holy Communion.

These can be emotionally-experienced too, but we needn’t force that like megachurch liturgy does with its music sets.  It can be oh-so-tempting for some evangelical Anglicans to mimic the worship forms of their former church homes, or of the large “successful” church down the street.  But we have to remember that this model of worship they put forth is manipulative, sexualized, and encourages addiction rather than devotion.  We would not do well to try to import such practices into our own.  The liturgy already has ups and downs, highs and lows, variations of intensity, which are much more time-tested, much more biblical in pattern, and contain far more Scripture in its prayers and dialogues than a megachurch music set can ever hope to achieve.

Can some of their individual pieces of music find a home in our liturgy?  Absolutely!  But, just as with traditional hymns, the music minister or priest has to use wisdom and discernment to apply the right pieces of music to the right parts of the worship service such that the liturgy is reinforced, not shaken apart.

Here a Proper Preface is normally sung or said.

Following on the heels of the Sursum Corda, the celebrant comes to the Proper Preface.  Together, this whole sequence forms the “Great Thanksgiving” or prefatory prayers of the Eucharistic Canon.  Make sure you read about the Sursum Corda before reading this, so you have the context settled.

The “Preface” is essentially a single-sentence addition to the Great Thanksgiving.  It specifies a particular reason why it is “right, our duty and our joy always and everywhere to give thanks” to God.  It is called a “Proper” Preface because it is proper to a particular occasion or season.

The 1662 Prayer Book offers five Proper Prefaces:

  1. upon Christmas Day, and seven days after
  2. upon Easter Day, and seven days after
  3. upon Ascension Day, and seven days after
  4. upon Whitsunday, and six days after [that’s Pentecost Week]
  5. upon the Feast of Trinity only

Because there were just five, these were provided directly in the liturgy itself, rather than in an appendix after the main text.  This state of affairs continued until the 1979 Prayer Book brought in a larger number of Proper Prefaces to cover every season of the church year.  I’m assuming these are, for the most part, imported from general Western Catholic practice, and not entirely made up by 1970’s Episcopalian revisionists, though I haven’t personally investigated their history.  Feel free to comment if you know!

Remarkably, the 2019 Prayer Book did not roll back this expansion, but actually added to them.  A few from the 1979 book’s list have been removed, but several more have been added, such that we have 34 Proper Prefaces to choose from!  Before the traditionalists chime in with renewed accusations of choose-your-own-adventure liturgies, however, it should be noted that these are not all “choices”, but Proper to particular occasions.  You can read them in full at this link; here I will just list them:

  1. The Lord’s Day (that is, any Sunday between Trinity and Advent)
  2. At Any Time (these two are for your weekday services not celebrating a saint)
  3. At Any Time
  4. Advent (throughout the season)
  5. Christmas (throughout the season, unless it’s one of the major saints’ days)
  6. Epiphany
  7. Presentation, Annunciation, and Transfiguration (some books nickname this Preface “Theophany”)
  8. Lent
  9. Holy Week
  10. Maundy Thursday
  11. Easter
  12. Ascension (all ten days!)
  13. Pentecost
  14. Trinity Sunday
  15. All Saints’
  16. Christ the King
  17. Apostles and Ordinations (including Ember Days)
  18. Dedication of a Church
  19. Baptism
  20. Holy Matrimony
  21. Burial or Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
  22. Penitential Occasions (because of the reference to the temptation of Jesus, this is a good one to use on the First Sunday of Lent!)
  23. Rogation Days or Thanksgiving Day
  24. Canada Day or Independence Day
  25. Remembrance Day or Memorial Day
  26. Common of a Martyr
  27. Common of a Missionary or Evangelist
  28. Common of a Pastor
  29. Common of a Teacher of the Faith
  30. Common of a Monastic or Religious
  31. Common of an Ecumenist
  32. Common of a Renewer of Society
  33. Common of a Reformer of the Church
  34. Common of Any Commemoration

Those last ones, #26-34, line up with the “Commons of Saints” Collects and lessons.

Now for a big question: How do I know which one to use?

The answer is usually simple: look at the Collect for the Day on pages 598-640.  Underneath each one, it will tell you which Preface to use.  Propers 1 through 28 do not note any Preface, which indicates three things:

  1. You can go with the classical prayer book pattern and not use a Preface at all.
  2. You can use the Lord’s Day Preface if it’s a Sunday.
  3. You can use the “At Any Time” Preface if it’s a weekday.

There, simple, all decided.

Perhaps, on very rare occasions, you may find it appropriate to use a Preface that is not normally appointed.  If the congregation (or greater social context) is experiencing a major crisis or a major celebration, perhaps a more penitential or thankful Preface, respectively, will be appropriate.  But on the whole, the Prefaces are not things to play mix-and-match with; they are Propers, just like the Collects and the Lessons, and are to be used as appointed.  They reinforce the liturgy as it stands; to meddle with them on your own is to seize control of the liturgy beyond your pay-grade, O priest!

And, a word of advice to those who publish service programs or bulletins… don’t make it a habit of including the full text of the Preface.  It’s just one sentence, let the people listen to their priest for ten seconds.  Besides, at certain times of year it changes fairly rapidly, and unless you’re really on top of the liturgy yourself you might make an error with it.  Best leave it in the hands of the celebrant and let him take the blame if something goes wrong! 😉

If you peruse other liturgical books, like the ASB, you will find some more beautiful Prefaces that are not included in the 2019 Prayer Book.  The jury is still out if The Saint Aelfric Customary will recommend any such extra Prefaces.

What happened after Malachi?

It’s a classic Sunday School question in evangelical churches when learning about the books of the Bible – “what happened after Malachi?”  Nearly four centuries pass between the last regular prophet, Malachi, and the forerunner of the Christ, St. John the Baptist.  What happened during that time?  Why is the Bible silent about it?

Well, the Bible isn’t entirely silent.  The Church has always had at least two books specifically devoted to relating some of the key historical events between Malachi and the Gospels: 1 and 2 Maccabees.  They cover only a specific 50-year stretch (roughly 175-135 B.C.) but relate some critical goings-on that provide the social, cultural, historical, and even political set-up for making sense of what’s going on in Judea in the 1st century.  Only in the past couple centuries have these books fallen out of Protestant attentions – the King James Bible (like Luther’s German Bible, and probably others) included these books as an appendix between the Old and New Testaments.  For economic reasons, many publishers started omitting those middle books once mass printing picked up speed in the 18th century, such that by the 20th and 21st centuries now, hardly any Protestant Christian is aware of them, let alone familiar with their contents.

If you want to learn more about those books, I have an introductory video and links to a few written articles here.  For now let’s just focus on 1 & 2 Maccabees, which our lectionary is about to start sampling in Evening Prayer.  1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, but survives primarily in Greek, and gives us a lengthy 50-year history of the struggles between the Hellenistic kingdom and the Jews.  2 Maccabees was originally written in Greek, meant to summarize another source (probably working off of something much like 1 Maccabees), and gives us a closer look at the events surrounding the desecration and purification of the Temple.

In a general sense, 1 Maccabees is more historically-minded, giving more information, covering more years, providing less religious commentary.  2 Maccabees is more religious in nature, summarizing events with an eye to exhortation to faithfulness to God.  They work together not unlike how 2 Samuel – 2 Kings play off 1 & 2 Chronicles: a lot of overlap providing different emphases.  The following table shows how the two books line up.

maccabees parallel

Our lectionary does not walk through the entirety of either book, but steps through a few highlights.  (To read them in full would be a significantly more lengthy process, and, for many readers, a great deal more tedious.)  From October 9th through 18th we cover:

  • 1 Macc. 1 = the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes and his profaning of the Temple (the “abomination of desolation”)
  • 1 Macc. 2 = the uprising of Mattathias and his sons
  • 2 Macc. 6 = the violent suppression of Judaism
  • 2 Macc. 7 = a specific story of martyrdom at the hands of the Greeks
  • 2 Macc. 8 = Judas Maccabeus takes his father’s place and continues the good fight
  • 2 Macc. 10 = the purification of the Temple (origin of Hanukkah)
  • 1 Macc. 7 = the next round of Greek invasion and suppression of Judaism
  • 1 Macc. 9 = the death of Judas Maccabeus and succession of Jonathan
  • 1 Macc. 13 = the death of Jonathan and succession of Simon
  • 1 Macc. 14 = the final peace established by treaty under Simon’s leadership

If you have time, it’s worth exploring these books in full, to get the whole story.  There are a lot of new names and places to keep track of (from the perspective of one unused to this period of history), but the benefits can be great.  The entanglements between Jewish authorities and Rome, for example, find their beginning here.  When you realize that the Romans helped save the Jews from the Greeks, and supported Judean independence, it sheds new rays of light on the relationship between the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate in the Gospels!

Historical Accuracy in the Bible

This evening we reach Matthew 26, including the Last Supper.  This is a very familiar part of the Gospel for many readers, and yet it can also be one of the most frustrating stories to get straight.

When it comes to identifying the betrayer, according to St. Matthew, the disciples ask “is it I?” and Jesus answers to Judas “yes.”  According to St. Mark, the disciples ask “is it I?” and Jesus says it’s someone who’s eating bread from the dish like he is.  St. Luke doesn’t specify Jesus’ answer to the question.  According to St. John, John and Peter ask who the traitor is, Jesus indicates by giving a piece of bread to Judas, who then leaves, but the other disciples don’t know why.  How do you reconcile this? It’s pretty complicated.

There are several places in the Bible where the level of detail and precision leave the modernist’s desire for strict chronology not a little frustrated.  The underlying reality is that, even when a part of the Bible is labeled “historical”, its purpose is not to relate history, but to reveal God, specifically the person of Jesus Christ, to us.  We preach the Gospel, not history lessons; the unfailing authority of the Bible is not based upon what it has to say about science or about history, but about God and mankind.  Some people get overly hung up over this sort of issue, and we have to assure them that even in those little corners where the Scriptures don’t seem to add up historically or archaeologically or whatever, there is no cause for alarm.

If you want to share a whole video on the subject, feel free:

Readings Review & Planning Propers

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 1 Chronicles 16, 1 Kings 15-19, James 3-5, 1 Peter 1-4:6, Zechariah 9-15, Malachi 1, Matthew 21-24

This week: 1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-3, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Peter 4-5, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 John 1:1-2:6, Malachi 2-4, 1 Maccabees 1-2, 2 Maccabees 6-7, Matthew 25-27:56

There’s something appropriate about the convergence of St. Matthew’s Passion this week alongside the reading of selections from 1 & 2 Maccabees.  The suffering of God’s people at the hands of hostile non-believers – that is, martyrdom – is always best understood juxtaposed against the Cross.

You’ll also notice that although Kings & Chronicles are still swapping back and forth from time to time, but less often for the first half of October.  The reason for this is that at the end of 1 Kings and for the first half of 2 Kings there are a lot of stories about the Prophets, rather than of the Kings.  The result of this is that there are more chapters to read from 2 Kings before getting to a period of history where 2 Chronicles has anything to add in.  Of course, if you’re using our Supplemental Midday Lectionary then there are still plenty of “duplicate chapters” in 2 Chronicles to read along the way this month.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 21 (or 15th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/7 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/8 = Votive
  • Wednesday 10/9 = St. Robert Grosseteste or Votive
  • Thursday 10/10 = St. Palinus or Votive
  • Friday 10/11 = St. Philip the Deacon
  • Saturday 10/12 = Votive

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.