Book Review: Ceremonies of the Eucharist

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 my Anglican liturgy course at seminary, there were two books about the ceremonies of the Prayer Book that we were instructed to read and compare.  Both dealt with the 1979 Prayer Book and presented somewhat different approaches to the liturgy.  One of those books was Ceremonies of the Eucharist – A Guide to Celebration by Howard E. Galley, published in 1989.  This book is very clearly and logically arranged:

Part One: Of Churches and their Furnishings (18 pages)
Part Two: Of Liturgical Ministers (22 pages)
Part Three: Of Seasons, Music, and Liturgical Practices (24 pages)
Part Four: Of Preparations for the Service (6 pages)
Part Five: The Service in Detail (63 pages)
Part Six: Synopsis of Ceremonies (40 pages)
Part Seven: The Holy Eucharist with Baptism (10 pages)
Part Eight: Celebrations with Small Congregations (4 pages)
Part Nine: Holy Communion After the Liturgy (4 pages)
Part Ten: Reservation of the Sacrament (4 pages)
Part Eleven: Holy Communion by a Deacon (4 pages)
Part Twelve: The Bishop at Parish Eucharists (16 pages)
Part Thirteen: The Bishop at Holy Baptism (8 pages)
Part Fourteen: The Ordination of Priests and Deacons (6 pages)
Part Fifteen: Appendix: Liturgical Texts (5 pages)

A handy glossary concludes the book.

As you’ll see, the largest portion of this book, by far, is a detailed walk-through of the Rite II Communion Service of the 1979 prayer book, followed by a walk-through of the actions and movements of the various ministers (priest, deacon, acolyte, and “others”).

On the whole, Galley’s approach to the liturgy is principled and measured.  He is not prone to outbursts of strong and (occasionally) quirky opinion like Fr. John-Julian.  He does, however, share his slight disregard for the previously-established Anglican liturgical tradition; they are both 1979 loyalists, one could say.  Galley, at least, however, is aware that things have changed since the 70’s.

Because of this, Galley’s advice on ceremonial can be received with a little more confidence for the user of the 2019 prayer book.  As far as the order of service is concerned, the 2019 and 1979 have very much in common, and the ceremonial of the one will usually work for the other.  Because Galley usually takes his time to reflect and comment upon the liturgy, it is easier for the 21st century Anglican priest to assess what elements of his advice are worth observing versus setting aside.  Galley is very much a part of the “liturgical renewal” movement that the 2019 Prayer Book has taken steps to unravel somewhat, so we cannot assume that ceremonial for the 1979 will be appropriate wholesale for us.

One specific example of ceremonial that I appreciate in this book is on page 90, in the section dealing with the Sermon:

The present Prayer Book deliberately makes no provision for a hymn (or anything else) to intrude between the gospel and the sermon.  This exclusion raises serious questions about the practice, sometimes seen, of singing the opening stanzas of a hymn during the gospel procession, and the remaining stanzas after the gospel – while the procession returns and the preacher goes to the pulpit.  Such a practice also does little justice to the integrity – and frequently to the sense – of the text of the hymn.

Although this is not a liturgical pet peeve of mine, this is something I have seen in a couple place, and is not a feature that I like.  The sequence of lessons, culminating in the Gospel and leading to the sermon, is an ascending-by-steps into the Word of God, and having more singing between the Gospel and the Sermon interrupts that upward movement.  Galley’s thoughtful rebuke of that practice is but one example of liturgical principle leading to sound ceremonial.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
The book is well organized, well labeled and marked, and is written in a clear style.  It references page numbers in the ’79 prayer book, as well as other chapters in this book, whenever necessary.  The glossary is also a helpful feature.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
The ceremonial instructions here are comprehensive for the Communion service; the Daily Office is not in the purview of this book, though.

Reference Value: 4/5
As mentioned above, this was written specifically to explicate the 1979 Prayer Book.  Much of its procedure will translate well to the 2019 Prayer Book, but you have to be attentive to his reasoning at each step of the way to make sure the actions taken in worship match the theology of worship and the proper meaning and function of the liturgy.

Nicene Creed Translation

In our week-by-week Thursday walk-through of the service of Holy Communion, we come now to the Nicene Creed.  Amidst the very many blog posts and articles that cropped up early this summer with the release of the 2019 Prayer Book came one writer who objected to the translation of the Nicene Creed.  This was, in many ways, a very strange complaint, because the new translation in our book was made and approved by our College of Bishops six years ago, in 2013.  It’s been available since the very first Texts for Common Prayer were released, and some churches, like mine, have been using it ever since.  It’s a bit late to complain.  The nature of the complaint, too, in my opinion, is more a questioning of motive than it is of actual substance.

Nevertheless, one should be very attentive to how the Creeds are translated.  Article of Religion #8 places the Creeds on a very high level of authority: they “ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.”  So, just like Bible translation, it’s very important that we get a decent translation of the Creeds before us.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the text, comparing 1662, 2019, and 1979.

  • 1662: I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
  • 2019: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible.
  • 1979: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

The modern we/I switch is one of the main objections the aforementioned critic took issue with.  The functional difference here is that in the context of the Eucharist, our affirmation of faith is corporate (while the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office is our place to say “I believe…”).  There is a fair bit of history behind the I/we translation choices which I’ll let you research yourself if you’re curious.

The other big difference in this opening line is the terminology “visible and invisible” versus “seen and unseen.”  The problem with the latter translation was that it opened the Creed (and thus the entirety of the biblical faith) to the possibility of demythologization.  Among the excesses of modernist thought, this subtle wording change paves the way for the rejection of angels and demons, and the devil, as these are things invisible.  “Unseen” suggests a more empirical approach to reality and metaphysics which can easily be used to “correct” the Bible.

  • 1662: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten son of God, Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made:
  • 2019: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
  • 1979: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.  Through him all things were made.

The repetition of “we believe” is a modern concession to English grammar.  The whole creed is technically one giant sentence, but that’s pretty incomprehensible to the modern reader.  A couple hundred years ago, it was still in practice to make giant compound sentences nearly an entire page long, but readership has changed since then, and thus so have our approaches to dealing with punctuation and repetition.

In terms of actual substance, note that we got “only-begotten” back, omitted in 1979, “eternally begotten” is a theological clarification in the modern translations, “of one substance” is equated to “of one being” (more theological technical terms).  Nothing controversial here, just basic orthodox Christology.

  • 1662: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
  • 2019: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
  • 1979: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

“For us men” became “For us” in contemporary English, as the gender-neutral use of “men” goes on the decline.  At least this is an instance of that word where its omission isn’t a problem, as it is in some verses of Scripture.

The similar language in 1662 and 2019 – “incarnate from/by the Holy Spirit/Ghost of/and the Virgin Mary” – is highly preferable to the 1979’s translation “by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary”.  The latter separates the Holy Spirit from the Annunciation and conception of Jesus by a degree that is neither necessary nor precedented.  “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you”, the archangel Gabriel told Mary, not “the power of the Spirit will descend upon you”.

There is an interesting difference in where to end the sentence/phrase which you can see at the end of this section and the beginning of the next.  It seems to me primarily a matter of logical organization rather than of direct theological import.

  • 1662: He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
  • 2019: he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
  • 1979: he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Apart from language style and punctuation, there’s no substantial change here at all.

  • 1662: And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
  • 2019: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],† who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
  • 1979: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.  He has spoken through the Prophets.

Again, nothing here is of any substantial difference, just language style and translation methods.  Except one… the filioque – the phrase “and the Son”.  This is a bit of a historical-theological bugbear.  The original text of this Creed, on which the 2019 translation is based, does not include that phrase.  A Lambeth Council (representing Anglicans world-wide) decision in 1978 encouraged future liturgical texts to drop the filioque even though it is a constant feature of the entire Western Church.  It (and the way in which the Roman Popes “authorized” it) was one of the wedges driven between East and West, leading to the final split in 1054.  To drop the filioque is a gesture of good will toward the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and (potentially) a return to primitive creedal orthodoxy.  Does this little word really make much difference, theologically, let alone practically?  It can, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.  So our prayer book has bracketed the phrase and included a footnote reference to a longer statement about the issue, written by our bishops in 2013, as an opportunity for further education and learning.

  • 1662: And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen.
  • 2019: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
  • 1979: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

To be honest, the difference between “believe in one… church” and “believe one… church” has always puzzled me.  Go ask some other more educated priest than I.  Or if you, please comment about it, so I can understand it too!

There seems to be a bit of a mixed report about the word “holy”… it is a traditional part of the Creed, one of the “four marks of the Church” – one, holy, catholic, apostolic.  How it got omitted from the Prayer Book tradition until 1979 escapes me.  The legend that it was a printing error that got enshrined in England and American practice is unconvincing.

One can argue that there is a difference between the precise meaning of “remission of sins” and “forgiveness of sins”, but the effect is at least the same.

So there you go.  If you’ve been used to the 1979 Creed, hopefully this has helped you see the improvements we’ve got in our new book.  It’s high time to make the switch if you haven’t already!

Collect for Proper 13

With the Transfiguration over, the Collect of the Day in the Daily Office returns to this past Sunday’s Collect – for Proper 13.

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What we see at work in prayer is a biblical principle from verses like 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”  This humbling reality, that all good things that we’ve got come from God, applies even to our worship and service.

This reality is a balance between two extremes.  On one hand is an error more often made by Roman Catholics: the assumption that ordinary Christians are just too sinful and ignorant to offer God any “laudable service”, and so we entrust the clergy and the ‘religious’ to offer God more perfect praise on our behalf.  Go to church, hear Father celebrate mass, and we can say that we vicariously offered something to God too.  On the other hand is an error more often made by evangelicals: the assumption that if we just worship God with heart-felt enthusiasm that he will be truly honored, and so we dive in to a string of worship songs with the mad assertion that our feelings of sincerity are more significant to God than the actual content of our words and actions.

Countering both these extremes is the biblical reality: we can offer worthy worship to God, but only by his grace.  Grace then precedes worship and works.  Because of grace, we offer laudable service to God and strive to “run without stumbling” to attain to God’s heavenly promises.  As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews put it, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:11-12).

So when you sit down to pray (or kneel, or whatever), remember not to be overconfident in your own worthiness, verbosity, or sincerity; and remember not to be embarrassed, discouraged by your bumbling ways.  God gives you grace to approach his throne with boldness.  We find that grace in confessing our sins to a merciful Lord; we find that grace in praying prayers that God himself provided us to pray (especially the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms); we find that grace in an order, a liturgy, provided by his Church, to assist us not only to form our prayers into coherent sentences but also to unite our prayers with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And underlying all of that, of course, is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Every baptized person has God the Spirit within, it’s not a matter of elitism or ordination status or what-have-you.  Be not afraid, when your prayers are bumbling and crude, the Spirit will “translate” your intentions to the Father; and when you think you’ve got it just right and perfect on your own wit, the Spirit will ask the Father for the mercy and humility you omitted.  Let us learn from one another how to pray, how to worship.  Think of the Prayer Book as the compilation of centuries of insight in this matter!  Rather than asking advice in prayer from one or two friends or pastors, why not turn to the collective wisdom of millions as represented in the Common Prayer book.

The Transfiguration: Living Between Two Worlds

The feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated today, August 6th, is a special holiday to me in the Church calendar.  As a child, the story of the transfiguration was (ironically) utterly veiled to me.  It was a weird story of Jesus glowing on a mountain and confusing the three disciples with him, and it made no sense to me at all.  Only in the liturgical tradition, seeing the various texts of Scripture appointed for this day, did I piece together the biblical significance of the transfiguration, and the way it points to (and prepares for) the Gospel events surrounding our Lord’s death and resurrection.

This holiday also ended up being my wife’s and my second-born’s birthday.  It was a funny story – he was due around the 10th of August, so my last Sunday serving our church before paternity leave for the rest of the month was August 6th, Transfiguration Day.  I was responsible about it, though, and made sure I had my sermon fully written out just in case our baby was early and I would have to hand the sermon to someone else to read in my place.  Sure enough that’s exactly what happened.  I even got some positive feedback on it, so I’ve dubbed it “my best sermon I never preached”.

So now, two years later, I’ve recorded it, so others can celebrate this feast day and begin to put the pieces together too, if you haven’t before.  The Gospel text of the transfiguration event is from Luke 9, which you should probably read before listening to the sermon about it.  If you’ve said Morning Prayer already, then you’ll have read Mark’s account of the transfiguration, which I’m sure should also suffice.

Book Review: Elements of Offering

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.

We turn today to another book concerning ritual and customs, still generally high church yet very, very different from last week’s entry on Ritual Notes.  Today’s book is a much shorter affair, barely passing 100 pages: Elements of Offering by Fr. John-Julian, released by Nashotah House Press.  Despite the similar churchmanship, this book is almost completely different to Ritual Notes.  It’s short, written as personal-yet-principled advice rather than as straightforward rubrics.  This book seems more like a pile of educational church bulletin inserts stuck together into a book – there are more typos than I’m used to seeing, a more casual writing style, and (horrifyingly) no Table of Contents or Index.  You just have page through the book to see what’s there.  Fortunately its contents are arranged pretty logically.  I took the liberty of creating the following list.

  1. The Eucharistic Action (1)
  2. Liturgical Meaning (2)
  3. Liturgical Emotion (2)
  4. Liturgical Novelty (3)
  5. Liturgical Accretions (4)
  6. Division of Labor (6)
  7. Silence (6)
    – – – In the Sanctuary – – –
  8. The Fair Linen (8)
  9. The Candles (9)
  10. The Corporal (11)
  11. The Purificator (12)
  12. The Lavabo Towel (13)
  13. Laundering Linen (14)
  14. Vestments (15)
  15. Posture (20)
  16. Altar Wine (29)
  17. The Altar Breads (31)
  18. The Vessels (32)
  19. Sanctus Bells (35)
  20. The Credence Table (36)
  21. The Eucharistic Action (37)
  22. Uncluttered Altar (38)
  23. Incense (40)
  24. Osculations (41)
  25. Missals and Stands (42)
    – – – Walk-through of the Holy Eucharist – – –
  26. Salutations (43)
  27. The Collect (43)
  28. The Scripture Readings (44)
  29. The Sermon/Homily (49)
  30. The Creed (50)
  31. Passing the Peace (51)
  32. The Offertory (52)
  33. The Consecration (53)
  34. Sign of the Cross in the Lord’s Prayer (57)
  35. Invitation to Communion (58)
  36. Words of Administration (59)
  37. Administering the Chalice (60)
  38. The Ablutions (61)
  39. The Post-Communion (63)
  40. Final Blessing (63)
    – – – The Divine Office – – –
  41. A Literary Liturgy (65)
  42. The Phos Hilaron (65)
  43. The Psalter and Office (66)
  44. Meditative Recitation (68)
  45. The Office Readings (69)
  46. The Suffrages (71)
    – – – Other Liturgies – – –
  47. Advent (73)
  48. Lent (73)
  49. Rogationtide (77)
  50. Holy Unction (79)
  51. Miscellaneous (82)
  52. Clericals (83)

Appendix

  1. Appropriate Forms to announce Scripture Readings (84)
  2. Folding Altar Linens (87)
  3. Concerning Advent (89)
  4. When to Bow (91)
  5. Recipe for Gluten-free bread (92)
  6. Music & Liturgy (96)

Each “chapter” here follows a simple format: PrinciplePractice, and sometimes also Pointer.  The principle sets out a rule or reason or goal, the practice is how to achieve or apply that principle; the pointer is further advice.  On the whole the author is mostly a pragmatist.  He has little patience for the high ceremonial of his more Anglo-Catholic forebears.  He is writing for the 1979 Prayer Book which is quite removed from previous tradition, and he therefore advocates an approach to ritual and ceremony that is also quite simplified and streamlined from previous high church practice.  He also comes down on a view of Eucharistic consecration that is somewhat out of line with traditional catholic belief.

As you may surmise from this description so far, this book is both highly useful for us in the ACNA (as our prayer book liturgy is similar in order to the 1979), but also a little frustrating.  Some of his advice is fantastic:

  • “The Eucharistic liturgy is not a soap opera.  Its purpose is not to produce an emotional jag or an ardent “high” for participants.  Good liturgy is dependably repeatable… to attempt to make it “emotionally satisfying” can destroy its built-in and intended objectivity and universality” (2).
  • “And never, NEVER, NEVER use a person’s name when administering Communion!  It is a communal liturgical act, not a private one-to-one intimacy between priest and communicant” (59).
  • “Watch the introduction to Bible books: “A reading from Galatians” is woefully inadequate and actually inaccurate.  It is “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians”” (70).

Some of his advice is oddly over-specific:

  • “Under NO circumstace is it EVER appropriate to divide a Psalm verse at the asterisk, with one voice taking the first half of the verse, and a different voice the second half” (67).

And some of his advice is (in my opinion) ridiculous:

  • “It always seemed awkward, and in the past it was difficult to provide an apologia for the elevation and genuflection before the epiclesis” (55).
  • “The old fashioned (Puritan) practice of announcing Chapter and Verse before a Reading is absolutely pointless unless the Assembly is following the reading in a Bible and the Celebrant wants them to look it up (vile practice!)” (70).

These last two bad examples are indications that the author is not terribly well-informed about liturgy, Anglican or otherwise, before the radical reforms of Vatican II.  Catholic theology of the consecration of the Eucharist was pretty clear back in the day, and the early Prayer Books did in fact call for the announcement of chapter (and sometimes verse) of Scripture lessons.  It’s as if all he knows is the 1979 book, and he’s projecting his understanding of that book upon all that came before it.  That way of thinking is precisely what this Customary and blog exist to rectify today!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 2/5
This book is very readable; even a ‘newbie’ to Anglicanism will understand what it says and learn a lot.  The below-average rating is due to its lack of index or table of contents; you have to skim the whole book in order find the answer to your question.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
This isn’t a book you pray with, so in a sense this is an N/A answer.  But if you aim to apply the principles of liturgy in this book, you’ll get a formal but essentially-pragmatic style that is common in popular Episcopalianism today, and may be initially attractive to those interested in liturgical worship, but is somewhat shallow and ignorant of actual prior tradition.  The author’s approach to the reading and purpose of Scripture is also a bit weak, in my opinion.

Reference Value: 3/5
If you’re a lay server, like in the altar guild or something, the parts of this book that relate to you are actually really quite useful!  The stuff about the celebrant, though, is somewhat hit-or-miss.  So maybe give this to your lay readers and lay ministers, but not to a new priest.

Over all, it’s a neat book to have, but whenever the author is talking about liturgy and ‘tradition’ straight up, it’s worth double-checking him against actual traditional sources.  And make sure you’re more classical-prayer-book-literate than he is.

The Collect & Lessons – but how many?

After the Acclamation, Collect for PurityPenitential Rite, and the Gloria, we now come to the main Propers of the Communion service: the Collect and the Lessons (or Readings).  Although the page-flipping required to find them is annoying (particularly in modern prayer books), this is functionally very simple: the priest leads us in the collect, and we listen to the scriptures read to us.

So what we’re going to examine today is how many collects and lessons there are.

Those of us used to the modern liturgy often forget (or never knew in the first place) that this was ever different.  We’re used to one collect, an OT reading, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel.  Occasionally a reading from Acts jumps in to replace the OT or Epistle slot.  But the classical prayer book tradition, until 1979 changed it up, was one collect, an Epistle, and a Gospel.  Occasionally a reading from the OT or Acts took that Epistle slot, and on Good Friday the collect was actually three prayers in succession (known as the Solemn Collects, now expanded and relocated into the Good Friday liturgy itself).

I cannot confirm this in any written source, but I have heard of situations, in the context of general western catholic liturgy, wherein additional collects could be supplied after the Collect of the Day.  The purpose of this would be to “memorialize” a lesser feast day that was being overwritten by a feast of greater rank.  For example, a couple weeks ago the commemoration of St. Bonaventure fell on a Sunday.  As an optional commemoration, he could not have been celebrated in place of that Sunday, so we might have had the option to memorialize him by reading the Collect for his day after the Collect for that Sunday.  But again, I don’t remember where I came across this idea, so I can’t commend this as a reliably traditional practice.  Besides, the way modern prayer books have handled the Good Friday collects suggest that we ought to stick to one collect only, at this juncture in the liturgy, and save secondary collects for, say, the Prayers of the People.

As for the number of Scripture readings, the 1979 Prayer Book did offer some commemorations with only two Scripture readings plus a Psalm, matching more closely the traditional format.  But in the 2019 book, all our “common” commemorations and various occasions have the full three readings plus psalm, suggesting that this is now to be the standard number of readings across the board.  In the 1979 tradition, it seemed that Sundays and Major Feasts were to have three readings and lesser feasts on weekdays could have two.  This Customary was going to continue that tradition, but the 2019 Prayer Book seems to indicate that three is to be the norm.

The instructions on pages 716-717 elaborate on this point:

The number of readings on any Sunday or Holy Day may be lessened according to pastoral circumstance, provided the Gospel is always read at Eucharist.

The Bishop of the Diocese is to be consulted where a regular pattern of fewer than four lessons is adopted as the Sunday customary of a Congregation, or when a pattern of alternate readings or a “sermon series” is proposed.

Thus, in isolated events and circumstances, we can drop a reading.  But at the principle services on Sundays, you need your bishop’s permission to do so on a regular basis.  Same for any other form of tinkering with the lectionary: it is not a priest’s prerogative so to do.

Book Review: Ritual Notes (11th ed.)

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.

Ever wondered when and how to make the sign of the cross during the Communion prayers, as the celebrant?  Or what the order of the procession and recession should be?  How do we know when to wear a cope, or which liturgical colors to use.  How do you cense an altar, and when is it appropriate to do so?  These are questions of ritual, and although the Anglican tradition has virtually no official ritual directions whatsoever, there is widespread custom insofar as such rituals are observed at all.  To learn these customs, we turn to books called customaries which attempt to put into words the ritual actions of church tradition.  Among the classical high church Anglican customaries is the book Ritual Notes, originally published in 1894 (available online), though there are a few other classics out there.  Ritual Notes underwent a total of eleven editions, the last being published in 1964.  Once the 1979 Prayer Book came out, the break with pre-established liturgical tradition was too great; either a new or hybridized approach to ritual and ceremony had to be devised, or a Ritual Notes -using parish would have to stay with with the 1928 Prayer Book.  And indeed, many did, including the churches of the Anglican Continuum, who are primarily responsible for the recent re-prints of Ritual Notes, especially its 11th and final edition.  That is the copy that someone gave to me, and thus the copy on which I am commenting.

Written theoretically for the 1662 Prayer Book, its expectations work better with the American 1928 Prayer Book, or better yet, with some sort of Anglican Missal that brings the language and practice of our worship more in line with that of Rome.  This book, therefore, is scorned by many lowchurchmen as a crypto-Papist abberation.  Such an accusation may not be applicable to its earlier editions, but in the 11th edition the Roman language and terminology is used throughout.  Low Mass, High Mass, Solemn Mass, requiem masses, the exposition and benediction of the blessed sacrament, supplemental Kalendar laws that flesh out the Prayer Book calendar with Roman observances, all this and more smacks of Romanism.

Despite appearances and language, however, this book does bring Roman elements into an Anglican context.  Although the Prayer Book is supplemented more than some would like, the Prayer Book remains the center of the ritual and liturgy that Ritual Notes constructs.  The aim is not to make Anglican more Roman, but to promote Western Catholicism in general.  In that spirit, there is quite a lot in this book that can be a useful resource to all Anglicans, regardless of liturgical and theological partisanship.  In that light, let’s take a look at the Table of Contents.

Part I: General Considerations

  • ch. 1 The Church’s Ornaments
  • ch. 2 Vestments
  • ch. 3 Liturgical Colours
  • ch. 4 Ceremonial Actions
  • ch. 5 Concerning the Church’s Worship

Part II: The Holy Mass

  • ch. 6 General Considerations Concerning the Mass
  • ch. 7 The Parts of the Mass
  • ch. 8 Low Mass
  • ch. 9 High Mass
  • ch. 10 Sung Mass
  • ch. 11 The Canons of Certain Provinces
  • ch. 12 Various Modern Adaptations of Ceremonial
  • ch. 13 Mass on Certain Special Occasions
  • ch. 14 Votive and Requiem Masses
  • ch. 15 Certain Ceremonies Associated with the Mass

Part III: The Divine Office

  • ch. 16 General Considerations Regarding the Office
  • ch. 17 The Parts of the Office
  • ch. 18 The Ceremonial of the Office
  • ch. 19 Other Matters Concerning the Office

Part IV: The Christian Year

  • ch. 20 The Kalendar
  • ch. 21 The Church’s Seasons
  • ch. 22 The Ceremonies of Certain Days of the Year

Part V: The Occasional Offices and Other Services

  • ch. 23 Holy Baptism
  • ch. 24 Holy Matrimony
  • ch. 25 Certain Pastoral Offices
  • ch. 26 The Offices of the Dead
  • ch. 27 Exposition and Benediction
  • ch. 28 Processions

Part VI: Pontifical Services

  • ch. 29 General Considerations
  • ch. 30 Certain Lesser Ceremonies of the Bishop
  • ch. 31 Common Pontifical Functions in Full Form
  • ch. 32 Simplified Episcopal Ceremony
  • ch. 33 Some Functions of the Pontifical

As you can see, there are sections that may be extremely useful to reference if you want to have a special solemn service, as well as sections that you and your parish might never touch with a ten foot pole.  I would particularly commend the chapters on Vestments and Liturgical Colours as useful reading for all clergymen.  Even if you end up holding to a different custom, it’s important to know one of (if not the) standard customs regarding these things.

A few pictures help illustrate elements of the service, and when appropriate there are multiple parallel columns to help the reader track through either different prayers of consecration or different groups of servers and assistants working in parallel during the liturgy.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
All the “catholic” liturgical terminology is used, but also defined and explained.  If you’re new to high ceremonial, this book will feel a bit overwhelming.  But it’s not overly-complicated, so it’s a great resource.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
This isn’t a book you pray with, so in a sense this is an N/A answer.  But if you aim to use high church ceremonial in a worship service, this book is invaluable.  Although some elements of it are “out-dated” according to the 2019 Prayer Book (such as the traditional calendar versus our modern one), other features of it which were less compatible with the 1979 book are actually more applicable to the 2019 liturgy once again.

Reference Value: 5/5
Even if you disagree vehemently with its Anglo-Catholic stance, what it provides is an excellent benchmark of Western Catholic ritual and ceremony.  You may find arguments among Anglo-Catholic priests today over which edition is the best (apparently usually between the 9th and 11th), but the failings of individuals aside, this book is a goldmine for learning about “traditionalist” worship.

Project Canterbury has the first edition available online for free; the link is provided near the beginning of this review.  A reprint of the 11th edition is made available for sale online.  I’m not sure I would say this is a book that absolutely every priest should have on his shelf, but instead perhaps every parish church should have in its library.  For some it’s the gold standard of public worship, but for the rest of us it’s still a marvelous reference.

The Gospel lesson is in the evening now?

You may have noticed yesterday that the Gospel according to St. John started its second sequential read-through of the year in the evening, even though for most of the year so far the gospel lesson has been in the morning (and epistle in the evening).  You may be wondering why did it switch to the evening?

If you’re familiar with classical prayer books and their various daily lectionaries, this may be especially jarring.  The traditional pattern, with very few exceptions, is that the New Testament lessons in Morning Prayer are from the Gospels and from the Epistles in Evening Prayer.  If all you’ve know is the 1979, then maybe you’re still adapting from its weird daily lectionary and didn’t even notice that this little switch has taken place.

On one hand, the daily office lectionary in the 2019 prayer book represents a huge stride toward the style of the 1549/1552/1559/1662 daily lectionary.  But this treatment of the New Testament lessons is a surprising exception.  So let’s take a look at the logic behind this.  (I should be a good role model and cite my sources, but I don’t remember where I read all this, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  Or look through the Prayer Book Q&A stuff yourself.)

How the original daily lectionary worked:

  • Most of the Old Testament and about half of the Ecclesiastical Books were read through, continuously, from Office to Office.  This meant you had to read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in order to keep up.
  • The Gospels and Acts were read through three full times in Morning Prayer.
  • The Epistles were read through three full times in Evening Prayer.  (Revelation was omitted.)

How the 2019 daily lectionary works:

  • Most of the books Genesis through Chronicles, plus extracts from three Ecclesiastical Books, is read through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the rest of the OT, and extracts from the Maccabees, is read through the year in Evening Prayer.
  • The New Testament is read once through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the New Testament is read once through the year in Evening Prayer.

The idea here is an accommodation to the reality that many individuals, not to mention churches, do not say the daily offices daily.  In the old lectionary, if you only say MP, or only EP, you’ll be reading every other chapter of the OT, and miss half of the NT entirely.  In the new one, basically the whole NT is covered in both offices, but in opposite orders (Gospels together, Epistles together).  That way if an individual or church has a pattern of only saying one office per day, the morning and evening “halves” of the lectionary can be turned into a two-year cycle to ensure that the most Bible coverage is attained.

The only downside to this plan, as far as I can tell, is that those who do read the whole lectionary in a year has to keep track of four continuous books at a time, instead of three.  But then again, if you’re spiritually disciplined enough and mature enough to be saying both offices every day (or almost every day), I guess you can probably handle tracking four books of the Bible in tandem.  I just hope you’ve got enough ribbons on your Bible! 😉

Praying Psalm 110 with Jesus

The first of this morning’s psalms, Psalm 110, is one of those psalms that confuses a lot of readers who don’t regularly pray the psalms.  Well heck, for all I know Psalm 110 might also confuse some of you, too.  I honestly don’t know the level of erudition among my readership here.  A bunch of you are clergymen, a bunch aren’t, but are astute readers of Scripture, so who knows.  If you already know this then pat yourself on your back and move on with your day happy in the knowledge that you Know The Thing!

Anyway, the Psalm begins with a bit of odd wordplay in the very first verse.

The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, *
until I make your enemies your footstool.

Who is speaking?  Who are the two Lords?  Unless we figure that out, none of the rest of this will have any context, or make any sense.  I once asked a Bible Study group who those two lords are, and got some interesting tentative theories and guesses, but I don’t recall if anyone figured it out.  Perhaps one person did.  Honestly it is a tricky one on its own.  But if you read the Gospels, you’ll find the answer.  From the end of Matthew 22:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

So, according to our Lord, Psalm 110 is prayed in the voice of King David, who begins by speaking of the Lord (God the Father) addressing the Lord (God the Son) to sit at his right hand until victory is complete.  Reading on through the Psalm, the Father invites the Son to “rule in the midst of your enemies” which is certainly seen in the persistence of the Church throughout the world and history.  The offerings described in verse 3 are the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and most especially the celebration of Holy Communion – our most great thanksgiving (hence ‘eucharist’).  In verse 4 God the Father confirms the priesthood of Jesus, which the epistle to the Hebrews expounds throughout its middle chapters.  Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, will also judge, smite kings, and slay the wicked, as the remaining verses describe.

Psalm 110, therefore, is a celebration of Jesus as priest and king.  Around him is gathered his royal priesthood, the Church, who join him in prayer, worship, suffering, and glory.  So when you take up your Prayer Book this morning and pray or chant this psalm, consider the journey with Christ it takes you on as you celebrate, with all prayer-book-users, our glorious Lord and Savior.

Book Review: The ‘Very Pure Word of God’

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.

Does it feel like there’s been a bit more ‘Anglo-Catholic’ content here lately compared to other resources?  Maybe a larger proportion of them write about liturgy than the evangelicals, I don’t know.  But our book today is most definitely of an evangelical perspective.  As the title suggests, the book is about the biblical (and reformed) basis of the 1662 Prayer Book.  More specifically, the title is drawn from a phrase in the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book:

It is more profitable, because here are left out many things, whereof some be untrue, some uncertain, same vain and superstitious: and is ordained nothing to be read, but the very pure word of God, the Holy Scriptures, or that which is evidently grounded upon the same; and that in such a language and order as is most easy and plain for the understanding, both of the readers and hearers.

as reproduced on page 796 in the 2019 BCP

The primary thrust of this book is a four-fold thesis.  Peter Adams argues that the 1662 BCP…

  1. is intentionally formed by Biblical truth, and focused on the gospel of Christ;
  2. is a guard and correction against un-Biblical and anti-Biblical doctrines and practices;
  3. puts forth the Bible as the chief instrument of ministry, to be read and preached intentionally and systematically;
  4. provides responses to God that express Bible truths and use Bible words.

With these points in mind, the author has two primary audiences in mind: those who use the Prayer Book but downplay its reformed protestant nature, and those who are reformed protestants that downplay the Prayer Book.  He, therefore has a few strong words for Anglo-Catholics, Charismatics, and self-professed Anglicans who don’t use the Prayer Book.  Whether you’re on the same specifically ‘Reformed’ page as he is or not, though, there are some good challenges and analyses in this little book.

I’ll get my negative feedback out of the way first.  There is a section, where he deals with the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, in which he basically argues for the Regulative Principle of worship, yet acknowledges the Normative Principle for other liturgies of the Church.  Personally, I sharply disagree with the notion that the regulative principle has any real place in Anglicanism, and I believe our formularies say the same.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the regulative and normative principles debate, I’ve touched on the subject in a commentary on Article of Religion #20.)

On the whole, though, this 70-page booklet (rather more of a pamphlet or a tract, really) is a useful piece of literature.  It’s part of the ‘Anglican Foundations’ series put out by the Latimer Trust, a foundation devoted to promulgating conservative Evanglicalism in England.  It’s peppered with footnotes, yielding a very large bibliography, which is a useful resource in and of itself for the student of Anglican studies.  The book explores the historical context of the Prayer Book tradition (both religious and political), explores the biblical foundation of the Prayer Book, briefly comments on some key parts of the Prayer Book, and is meticulously broken down into clearly-titled sections making it very much like a Q&A catechism.  If you have a question about the Prayer Book, you can basically look at the Table of Contents, and find what you’re looking for.

Being 66 pages long, plus bibliography, though, means that it’s just a surface-level exploration.  That means that if you’ve got a Anglican seminary degree behind you already, you probably know most of the information in here.  This book is really more of a gateway to the subject of Prayer Book history, and primarily functions as an appeal for the reformed protestant faith as expressed in the BCP.

However, lest you get the impression that this is an annoyingly partisan book, and liturgically dogmatic, check out this excerpt:

peteradam

When you kick around Anglican- or Prayer-Book-related groups on Facebook for a while, you will see these tendencies at play: those who worship as if the BCP never existed, and those who slavishly proclaim the perfection of the 1662 or the 1928 or whichever… even if they themselves don’t actually use those books wholesale!  So I appreciate the honesty of the author here, where he’s able to uphold the 1662 BCP as the gold standard, and yet not require slavish adherence to its every letter without taking our contemporary context into account.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This booklet is written with lots of short clearly-marked sections, making it very easy to read through or to peruse at will.  It’s not written for academics, and it assumes no prior knowledge.

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: 3/5
The historical information is a handy introduction to Prayer Book history.  Some of his analysis, and his theological lens, will be questioned by those with different viewpoints; and because this is just short book there isn’t space devoted to counter-argumentation.  Though the bibliography is a great resource for those who want to study more.

All in all, even though I’m not 100% on board with all of his views and assertions, I would still probably loan this book to a parishioner interested in the Prayer Book tradition, especially one coming from a Protestant background who’d most immediately benefit from a protestant-heavy defense of the BCP.  If you’re in a parish with an Anglo-Catholic congregation, however, this may ruffle a few feathers.  Though it’s not bad to see why evangelical Anglicans (should) love the Prayer Book!  It is supposed to be the book that unites the churchmanship parties, after all.