Some history on the Invitatory

The Invitatory

The invitatory dialogue contains four couplets: two verses of Scripture (Psalm 51:15 and Psalm 70:1) the Gloria Patri (glory be to the Father), and third verse (Psalm 135:1a). In the American Prayer Book tradition, the second couplet was omitted, until 1979 when the second couplet returned in place of the first in Evening Prayer. The final couplet was omitted only in the 1979 Book. Our Prayer Book restores the full English dialogue.

The Antiphons

In the American Prayer Book of 1928, nine antiphons were added for use with the Venite on particular occasions. In 1979 that collection was expanded to thirteen antiphons. Our Prayer Book preserves those thirteen antiphons but moves the ten appointed for specific seasons or holy days to an appendix after the Morning Prayer liturgy to keep the primary text less cluttered. Only the three for general use appear here on BCP 14. Furthermore, these antiphons remain optional.

Historically, in Anglican practice, antiphons have not been a feature. They are extremely common in historic Western liturgy, however – the Roman Rite at its height of complexity having multiple antiphons for every Psalm and Canticle according to season and occasion. At their best, they provide unique “book-ends” that color the worshiper’s experience of the Psalm or Canticle according to the occasion, and enrich the Church’s life of worship. The obvious challenge, of course, is the burdensome complexity that ensues which the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book explicitly endeavors to remedy.

By providing some antiphons on page 14 and collecting the other 10 on pages 29-30, our Prayer Book endeavors to strike a healthier balance between historical Western complexity and Anglican simplicity.

 

The Venite

The use of Psalm 95 as the “invitatory”, the invitation or call to worship, dates back at least to the Rule of Saint Benedict: it was to be prayed every morning at Matins. This was preserved in Archbishop Cranmer’s Prayer Book of 1549 and thereafter: it was called to be said or sung at Morning Prayer daily except for the 19th day of the month when it would be read as part of the Psalms Appointed, and on Easter Day when the Easter Anthem, Pascha Nostrum, was appointed instead. Furthermore, in the English Prayer Books the Venite included the “Glory be” at the end.

The American Prayer Book tradition diverged from this pattern. The Venite was now Psalm 95:1-7 followed by Psalm 96 verses 9 and 13. Furthermore, the Gloria Patri was rendered optional here. Again, it wasn’t until 1979 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was authorized for the invitatory psalm, and until 2019 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was printed in this place in the liturgy, albeit with verses 8-11 still labelled as optional outside of the season of Lent.

 

The Jubilate

In the classical Prayer Book tradition, the Jubilate Deo, or Psalm 100, was a canticle offered in place of the Benedictus, until the 1979 Prayer Book when instead it was included as an alternative to the Venite as the invitatory psalm. It was offered without rubrical directions, though one already accustomed to the Prayer Book tradition might most naturally consider the Jubilate to be a substitute for the Venite on the 19th day of the month when the Venite was formerly appointed to be omitted from the invitatory. Our Prayer Book also provides no rubrical guidance on the matter, so the same historically-minded intention may still be assumed.

 

Pascha Nostrum

The Pascha Nostrum, as indicated in its Scripture reference text, is an amalgamation of three New Testament texts strung together. Although this is an example from early Church history, Anglican liturgical practice has yielded several examples of collating multiple biblical texts into an eclectic but coherent whole for the purpose of worship.

This Easter Anthem has always been a part of the Prayer Book tradition, but its location has changed in modern practice. Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; since the 1979 Book it has been placed here within the Morning Prayer liturgy.

Originally this anthem was appointed only for Easter Day. The American 1892 Prayer Book uniquely added the Gloria Patri to it. The 1928 Prayer Book authorized the option of using this anthem throughout the Easter Octave (that is, from Easter Day through the First Sunday after Easter). The 1979 Book expanded this further still, appointing it for every day in Easter Week and making it optional every day until the Day of Pentecost. This has not changed in the 2019 Prayer Book, though the wording of the rubric has been altered.

There is also a custom in some places of using the Pascha Nostrum in place of the Gloria in excelsis Deo near the beginning of the Communion service, under the modern rubrics that allow other hymns of praise to take its place. Especially in church cultures where the Daily Office is not publicly offered, this can be an effective way of introducing elements of the Office liturgies to the congregation. Such points of contact and familiarity will prove helpful when teaching people to pray the Office.

Customary & Commentary ANNOUNCEMENT

By my count, we are past 100 days of ‘Covidtide’ now, and I’ve got to be honest, this season has not been kind to me, or to many others.  But I did my best to keep this blog going because, when it comes down to it, this is about prayer and worship, and the Christian soul is veritably nourished by prayer and worship.  We need to support one another on our knees before the Lord of mercy and grace, and this blog is one small way that I try to help my fellow Christians, especially Anglicans (or at least Anglophiles), to continue steadfast in the life of prayer and hopefully grow in those disciplines too.

But this blog was not meant to be the “main thing” here.  It’s called The Saint Aelfric Customary.  And if you go back to the front page you’ll see that the “main thing” is supposed to be the writing and provision of an actual Customary.  There has also been a statement of intent and purpose on this page since this project’s beginning in October 2018.

My announcement today is that I am beginning to work, in earnest, toward the writing of this Customary as well as some Commentary on the Prayer Book liturgy!

For the time being, this will mean that I will update the Customary page(s) once a week, and also write one blog post per week that commentates on something from the 2019 Prayer Book.  The latter I have been doing informally for over a year now, but I am aiming to be more specific and comprehensive from this point on.

There is also now a shiny new drop-down menu in the Header of this website.  “Customary” still goes to the same Customary index, mostly empty for now, but “Commentary” now has a handy-dandy menu of different pages so you can browse old entries more easily by subject matter.  That, I believe, will make the reference value of this site significantly more useful.

May the Lord bless this work, and all ye who read it, comment, question, and otherwise engage with it as we all journey through the sacred liturgy in the Way of Christ!

– Fr. Brench

Getting through Psalm 78

The 15th Day of the month is here, and that means Psalm 78 dominates the landscape of Evening Prayer tonight. Let’s re-visit this entry from a year and a half ago about how to get through this, second-longest, psalm in the Bible.

The Saint Aelfric Customary

Depending upon your mood and state of mind (or heart) we may have a bit of a Tuesday Terror looming at Evening Prayer: the 78th Psalm.  Assuming you’re using the 30-day cycle of Psalms by Thomas Cranmer that has adorned every Prayer Book for over 450 years, this evening is when we come to Psalm 78, the second-longest Psalm in the book, and the longest that we pray straight through.

In terms of genre, it covers a few bases.  It is a didactic psalm, written with the express purpose of teaching its reader, singer, or pray-er.  It is a history psalm, telling stories of the people of Israel throughout their past.  It is a parable, according to its opening verses, intending to teach us about divine faithfulness and human unfaithfulness through the medium of story.

Something that can help one get through this Psalm attentively and profitably is…

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Ascension Day – Antecommunion

For Ascension Day under the COVID-19 closure, I thought it would be nice to try something different.  Please forgive the box of kid’s toys in the background, and my hair’s a bit of a mess (I’m taking advantage of social distancing to regrow my hair into a ponytail while nobody has to look at it).  This is a reflection of the simple reality that worshiping at home can be difficult.  Nevertheless, whatever the challenges, the prayers of the Church never cease!

If you want a generic outline for Antecommunion, you can view or download one here: Antecommunion leaflet

The hymn I sang after the Peace (in the place of the Offertory) is See the conqueror mounts in triumph, #151 in the Book of Common Praise 2017.

The Easter Anthems – Pascha Nostrum

Remember, this week we should be using the anthem “Pascha Nostrum” in place of the Invitatory Psalm at Morning Prayer. You can read more about its history and use here:

The Saint Aelfric Customary

The Pascha Nostrum is a beautiful set of anthems that Anglican tradition uses at Easter.  It is built upon three scriptural references: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Romans 6:9-11, and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, each bookended with an Alleluia for good measure.

It has always been in Anglican Prayer Books, but its location has changed in modern practice.  Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; in modern books it is placed in the Morning Prayer liturgy.  It’s interesting to note how the rubrics for this canticle have changed over the years.

1662 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Psalm: O Come, let us, &c. these Anthems shall be sung or said.

1928 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Venite, the following shall be said, and may be said throughout the Octave.

2019 BCP:

During the first week of Easter, the Pascha Nostrum, without antiphons…

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The Aaronic Blessing

Even though Easter Week is still a time of special observance, with daily Communion propers, the Daily Office Lectionary goes back to normal. So let’s take a look at something from Morning Prayer, Numbers 6…

Leorningcnihtes boc

As much of a fan as I am of liturgy, I still sometimes get a bit self-conscious, or worried, about using certain identical forms week by week, with my congregation.  It’s not that I’m getting restless with the lack of variation or am chafing for greater liturgical freedom, it’s more that I sometimes worry that those to whom I minister might feel that way – “can’t Father Matt use a different prayer here for once?”

The two experiential assurances for me are, first, that nobody in my congregation has ever complained to me about the repetitive nature of liturgy; and second, that if I deliver my parts of the liturgy with integrity, sincerity, and meaning, then chances are that others will receive them in the same positive light.

But in Morning Prayer today we come to Numbers 6, and there I am given a scriptural assurance about the simple repetitions…

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Celebrating Hope with Psalm 114

Rather than dispensing liturgical advice or insight today, I’m just going to pass along some help for your prayers this evening. Let’s look at Psalm 114…

Leorningcnihtes boc

Evening Prayer on the 23rd day of the month sees Psalm 114 leading the Psalms Appointed for that Office.  It’s a short psalm, which is always helpful for those who are new to praying the psalms, and it explores the theme of hope in a curious way.

It begins and ends with pairs of verses that address something that God has done:

1 When Israel came out of Egypt,
and the house of Jacob from among a people of foreign tongue,
2 Judah was God’s sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water,
and the flint stone into a springing well.

These book-ends frame this Psalm as a celebration of deliverance.  It looks back to the time of the exodus from Egypt, and proclaims…

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Book Review: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006

I recently saw word that the ACNA Liturgy Taskforce, or a subsection thereof, has a couple more books in production, one of which is Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  Whether that is the final title or not, it is clearly a successor to a group of books put out by the Episcopal Church (USA) which finished (I think) with a 2006 edition.  I’ve heard that its first edition is from the 1960’s, but I haven’t seen it before and therefore cannot comment on the history of this volume.  Here I’m just going to introduce you to Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2006.

In a nutshell, Lesser Feasts & Fasts exists to give you more resources for weekday Communion services.  Its primary (and titular) angle is to provide more collects & lessons, covering the entire Sanctoral Calendar – that is, the calendar of optional commemorations.  The 2019 Prayer Book also has a calendar of optional commemorations which differs notably from that in the 1979 book, taking away a number of spurious recent and ‘ecumenical’ commemorations, and adding a few more in their place, both historical and recent.

The way these optional commemorations work in the prayer book itself is that there are a set of collects and lessons for different categories of saints (there are 9, in the case of the 2019 BCP) so you can just match the right set to the commemoration.  In Lesser Feasts & Fasts, a unique Collect and set of lessons is assigned to each and every commemoration, allowing a greater degree of personalization and specificity.

Beside the commemoration of saints are seasonal commemorations.  All the days in Lent and Advent are provided for, giving nice seasonally-appropriate prayers and readings for daily communion services.  Eastertide, too, is provided for, mainly by walking the reader through the books of Acts and John during that season.  Furthermore, there are provided for the green seasons both a six-week set of communion propers hitting upon some rotating topics, and a two-year set of communion propers moving through the gospels in a largely sequential manner.

I have not made a detailed comparison, but I do know that some (if not most?) of this material is in harmony with current Roman Catholic practice, where the practice of daily mass is normalized (if sparsely attended by the laity).

Another handy feature of Lesser Feasts & Fasts, perhaps its most useful feature from a pastoral perspective, is the fact that it provides brief one-page bios of each commemoration or saint.  They’re short and focused enough that you can read them at the beginning of a homily, before launching into the meat of the sermon.  In many cases, the attentive preacher can find a connection from the bio sketch to at least one of the provided Scripture lessons.

The 2006 edition of this book reflects the then-current calendar of the Episcopal Church, which includes a few commemorations that an honest Christian cannot justify.  The names in question are of great historical import for sure: Elizabeth Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Harriet Tubman, J. S. Bach, Florence Li Tim-Oi, Kamehameha, Florence Nightingale… the question is whether we are celebrating them because of their achievements or because of their sanctity of life and doctrine.  The progressive mindset tends to esteem “human flourishing” too highly, and indeed non-liturgical evangelical protestants also tend towards a “great achievers” mindset when it comes to commemoration those who’ve gone before (i.e. Adoniram Judson or William Wilberforce), whereas the traditional definition of a “Saint with a capital S” is someone whose life and orthodoxy are impeccable examples to the faithful.  By definition, therefore, it should be very difficult indeed to honor as a Saint someone who is outside of the theological bounds of our own tradition.  For sure, the names listed in this paragraph are great and wonderful people who ought to be remembered in their own rights… but is the Eucharistic assembly the right place for that?

That is why a new version, to accompany the 2019 Prayer Book, is in order.

For what it’s worth, the commemorations from 2006, with additions from subsequent Episcopalian books, can be found online here.  I would only recommend them for comparative reference, however, as the bias of modern Episcopalianism is not entirely amenable to orthodox Anglican (or indeed Christian) sensibilities anymore.

Podcast Link on Liturgy

This is a quick & easy post today, because I’m still getting my work rhythm back on track this month.  I want to share this podcast link with you all today: https://www.beesondivinity.com/the-institute-of-anglican-studies/podcast/2020/Anglican-Basics-Liturgy

It’s an interview of Fr. Ben Jeffries by Gerald McDermott at Beeson Divinity School.  You’ll hear some quick introductions to liturgy, the Prayer Book tradition, and – perhaps most on point for our purposes – about the 2019 Prayer Book.  I’m not a big podcast guy, so I can’t make larger, sweeping, recommendations, but this particular entry is very informative and I trust that if you’re the sort who’s been enjoying this blog, you will appreciate this podcast too.