Saint Peter (and Paul)

Happy feast of Saints Peter and Paul!

Or is it just Peter? All our prayer books before the liturgical revolution of the 1970’s list this as the feast of Peter only. Yet the idea that this is the commemoration of the martyrdom of both of them can be found in earlier times.

I don’t presume to know the details of how and why these changes came about. I do know that the English reformation had an emphasis on simplifying the calendar and liturgy so it focuses on the main things with fewer distractions. But what I can observe is this:

Whichever prayer book you look at, there is a balance between Peter and Paul. The historic prayer books had one feast for each of them: (the conversion of Paul on January 18 and Saint Peter on June 29). The modernist family of prayer books (like the 1979, Common Worship, and the 2019) has two feasts each:

  • Confession of Peter (18 Jan )
  • Conversion of Paul (25 Jan.)
  • Peter & Paul (29 June)

So there’s your little bit of trivia for the day.

I’m out of state this weekend and preparation for this trip caused me to fail to prepare this entry ahead of time. Back to normal service next week… let us continue to pray for one another.

Anglican Churchmanship

It is no secret that the language of liturgy can be very complicated.  Roman Catholics have their Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, various Rites and orders, and a complicated calendar system with classifications of saints days.  The Eastern Orthodox Church has long and complex liturgies full of things that are named in Greek which they seem stubbornly to refuse to label in English.  Anglicans, although possessing a simpler liturgy since the Reformation, has different ‘parties’ or forms of ‘churchmanship’ that bring expression to Prayer Book worship in different (and sometimes conflicting) ways.

I’ve been asked about the terminology I use in this blog, and it seems only fair to clarify some of it.

During the English Reformation there were essentially two “parties” in the Church of England: Reformers and Traditionalists.  Reformers wanted to see the doctrine and worship of the Church amended, Traditionalists wanted to hold on to the medieval forms and beliefs.  Of course, this was also a sliding scale: there were those who wanted some reform and some tradition retained, all the way to radical reformers who wanted to throw away everything that even vaguely looked like Papism.

By the 1600’s, these two parties found a different definition: the traditionalists became known as ‘high church’ and the reformers (or Puritans) as ‘low church.’  Both parties were committed to the Prayer Book and the Articles of Religion (except for a few extremes, mainly of radical puritans, or separatists, in that century), so the difference between them was a matter of emphasis.  The terms ‘high’ and ‘low’ church reflected primarily a difference in the view of the authority of the traditions of the Church.  Highchurchmen valued continuity with previous tradition, Lowchurchmen did not.  Highchurchmen advocated for retaining clerical vestments and adorning church buildings; lowchurchmen preferred simplicity of externals in order to focus on “spiritual things” like preaching.

The 1700’s saw a revival of evangelicalism, the 1800’s saw a revival of traditionalism.  Both pushed the boundaries of Anglican practice in different ways: the former revolutionized the art of preaching and the latter brought back a number of pre-reformation traditions such as vestments, altar candles, and incense.  For the most part, both of these movements stayed within the bounds of the Prayer Book and Articles of Religion, usually bumping up against canon law.  From these movements we now have Anglo-Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, and although a newfound tolerance of both parties was accomplished in the 20th century, the gap between the two has continued to grow.

In the middle stood the “broad-church” or “latitudinarian” position, which was a sort of precursor to Anglican liberalism.  This attitude can be found among many Anglicans today: happy to dress in chasubles like high-church Anglo-Catholics and preach heartfelt sermons like Anglo-Evangelicals, yet not being fully committed to all of the specific distinctions of either party.  The popular “Three Streams” fad is very much an expression of the “broad-church” tradition, attempting to draw lines of connection across different views.

As far as how all this impacts the liturgy, the Prayer Book used to stand aloof to all this; the 1662 was happily used by both sides for most of English history.  But once Prayer Book revision began, especially in the 20th century, the battles between low and high began.  The highchurchmen sought a return to the material of the more traditionalist 1549 Prayer Book, the lowchurchmen sought to return to the material of the more reformed 1552 Prayer Book.  For much of the 20th century, the high church tradition has held the upper hand on paper (most notably the 1928 Prayer Book and several features of the 1979 and 2019), though not in actual numbers of committed Anglo-Catholic practitioners.

It also should be noted that there is not quite a 1:1 ratio of Anglo-Catholicism and high-church liturgical preferences, or Anglo-Evangelicalism and low-church liturgical preferences.  That’s how it usually divides, but there is a spectrum stretching between them, and individual persons and parishes are not always neatly lined up in just one of two boxes.  Especially with the fracturing of the Anglican scene in the latter half of the 20th century, the various levels of churchmanship have become further divided from one another.  The ACNA has gathered up many broad-church-but-not-quite-liberal Anglicans, many of the few remaining classical low-church evangelicals, and a handful of high-church Anglo-Catholics, but probably most of the American Anglo-Catholics today are in other jurisdictions of the “Anglican Continuum.”

The Saint Aelfric Customary exists to help people use the 2019 Prayer Book with an eye on the long-standing tradition of Anglican practice.  That makes this project inherently conservative, but not explicitly high or low church.  In general, however, it is a highchurch mentality to pay closer attention to liturgical precedent and detail, so the deeper one digs into the formal liturgical options, a greater portion of high church material will be found than low church.  By nature, a lowchurchman is typically going to spend more time fussing about the sermon than about the liturgy.  Nevertheless, it is not the intention of this project to be “Anglo-Catholic,” as such, nor to promulgate Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice.  A number of such options will be offered, explained, and presented, but it is my aim to make this Customary a resource useful to all users of the 2019 Prayer Book.

Mary Thrice-Blessed

I know, two re-blogs in a row, has Fr. Brench run out of ideas that he’s just plagiarizing himself now?

Ascension Day is a major holy day – among the top seven at least. Today, the 31st, is another major feast day: The Visitation. This is when the Virgin Mary visited her relative Elizabeth when they were both pregnant. And this is a holiday that is pregnant with meaning. American evangelicalism invented a “sanctity of life sunday” held each January, but in the liturgical tradition this holiday is our closest equivalent, considering the activity and recognition of two unborn characters here (John the Baptist and Jesus).

But this is also a ‘Marian’ holiday. Like any other Saint’s Day this is an opportunity to draw near to our Lord through the eyes and footsteps of one who has gone before – and in the case of Mary one who was literally closer to Jesus than anyone else who ever lived, past or present. So without further ado, let’s take a moment today to consider Mary Thrice-Blessed.

Leorningcnihtes boc

The feast of the Visitation may seem like an odd holiday at first glance.  It commemorates Mary’s visit to her relative, Elizabeth, recorded in Luke 1:39-56.  That passage is also the Gospel reading for the Communion service that day.  What is so special about this visit?  Three prophecies are recorded in the encounter.

Elizabeth says of Mary “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  The first sentence has been traditionally enshrined as part of the “Hail Mary” prayer popular in Western Catholic piety.  The whole statement reveals Elizabeth’s great reverence for Mary on account of her motherhood of the Lord – God himself in the flesh.  Elizabeth added this a couple verses later: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what…

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Prayers for Mourning

My apologies for not having a post prepared this morning as usual, as you might imagine this is a busy time of year for clerics!

I expect that most people who follow this blog have already heard the news: the great historic and famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is burning. This is, obviously, a tragedy of incalculable proportion – centuries of spiritual life and history dissolving in smoke. I don’t have any special prayers for this exact sort of tragedy, but I thought we could instead revisit something released by our Province in 2014 after a nasty round of violence and martyrdom. Some of it may still find a place in our hearts in the midst of this event.

“Prayer for a time of suffering…”

Names of God

God is known by many names and titles in the Bible.  Yahweh or YHWH or Yah, usually translated as LORD, is the closest we get to a proper name for the invisible God.  Jesus, of course, is the name of the person of God the Son made man.  Sometimes it’s just “God”, or “Lord”, but often there’s an epithet: Almighty, of Hosts (or “power and might”), the Creator, Who Provides, the Comforter, and many others.

It is no surprise, therefore, that we find many different names for God in the liturgy.  The Lord’s Prayer, for example, taken straight from the Bible, contains two different names for God:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thine, Will, be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

So that’s Harold, and Will (surely short for William), right there.  Ergo my wife and I named our two lads after God.  And people thought I was just trying to be quintessentially English!

Consider also this popular worship song of time immemorial, The Garden.

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Andy walks with me and He talks with me,
Andy tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Thus we can add Andy, short for Andrew, to the list.

And let us not forget the Communion prayers!

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is Justin Wright!

I know, I know, it sounds like “It is just and right“, and the ACNA’s liturgy has reverted to the 1970’s version “It right to give him thanks and praise,” but if you stick with the awe-inspiring modern Roman Rite, you will get to celebrate the most proper (and, ironically, quintessentially English) name of God – Justin Wright.

Okay, I’m done.  Happy April Fool’s Day!  Except, well, speaking of April Fools…

Saint Lucia Day

Celebrate Saint Lucia Day, go light your little sister’s hair on fire!  Haha, just kidding… sort of.

Saint Lucia (or Lucy, in English) was a martyr of the Early Church who died in the year 304 during a particularly nasty round of persecution under Emperor Diocletian.  Lucia was betrothed by her mother to be married to a man of some esteem, but Lucia had already pledged herself to virginity and was already beginning to give of her late father’s possessions to the poor.  Discovery of this cause her husband-to-be to scorn her and turn her over to the authorities.  As the story goes, she was sentenced to be defiled in a whorehouse but the soldiers and oxen couldn’t make the cart carrying her to move, and when she was sentenced to be burned to death instead the fire wouldn’t touch her, so the Emperor stabbed her instead.

The candles-on-the-head thing derives from a story that when she carried food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, she wore a wreath with candles on her head so she could carry more food in both hands.  Whether either this or her martyrdom story are accurate reports of history is beyond our ability to know.  But the piety, acts of service, and devotion to Christ displayed in her life are inspirational stories that have endeared Christians the world over, ever since.  Check out the devotion her story can inspire:

Saint Lucia Day, December 13th, is not just any old commemoration in the ACNA calendar.  It also happens to be the anchor date that defines the Advent Ember Days.  You’ll hear more about those next week, but suffice it to note now that the Advent (or Winter) Ember Days are always the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday soonest after St. Lucia Day.  In this year’s case, we’ve got almost a whole week left before the Ember Days begin.

It’s Saint Aelfric’s Day!

November 16th is the traditional date of the feast of Saint Aelfric!
Trouble is, he’s not in the ACNA calendar, so you kind of have to add this day in.  Double trouble: today is already occupied by St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland.  Solution: move her aside, to the 15th, to make room for Aelfric today.  Is this allowed?  Yes, because….

  1. at the official level, all of these commemorations are optional anyway;
  2. moving Minor Saints Days around to make room for more days of higher rank (including other Saints’ Days) is already part of Western tradition;
  3. if you’re a fan of this ministry, then celebrating its patron saint is actually quite appropriate.

Let’s say you even want to commemorate him at the daily Eucharist today, or just in an Antecommunion liturgy on your own.  There are about nine sets of Propers (that is, collects & lessons) for commemorations like these, and Aelfric fits the bill for Monastic, for Pastor, and for Teacher of the Faith.  I haven’t made my own final decision on which Collect to choose for him, but these are the lessons I prefer for his commemoration:

  • Proverbs 3:13-26 & Psalm 119:89-106 (from for a Teacher of the Faith)
  • Acts 2:42-47 (from for a Monastic)
  • Matthew 24:42-50 (from for a Pastor)

Now it should be noted that these Propers are not meant to be mixed and matched like this.  For the optional commemorations, we are meant to pick one, wholesale.  Each set is ordered such that they speak to a common theme, or type of Saint, and if you mix them up you run the risk of creating an incoherent scattering of liturgical bits and bobs.  The reason I’m breaking this rule for the commemoration of St. Aelfric is because I aim to treat this day as if it were a Major Feast Day with a unique set of Propers.

Finally, whether you celebrate Aelfric in the liturgy today or not, you can still read more about him.  I’ve prepared a brief biography of him over at leorningcnihtes boc, and you can also read about why he is the patron of this Customary on this page.

The tea is brewing…

First shared social media post!

But seriously, the launch date for this “liturgical insight & advice” ministry is October 1st. The plan will be to put out one substantial post about the liturgy six days a week (Monday through Saturday). The post will be scheduled for early in the morning and also sent out via email to whoever subscribes* in order that those who want to receive these notes before saying Morning Prayer will not have to wait.


* Email subscription will be entirely voluntary; liking or following this Page will not automatically sign you up for anything. I care about your inbox!


The Saint Aelfric Customary is a work in progress, compiling notes and insights into the use of the Book of Common Prayer (2019) as authorized by the Anglican Church in North America. This project has a three-fold focus: conformity to the authorized liturgical texts, commitment to to the fullest possible execution of the liturgy, and concern for the established traditions of Anglican liturgy before our time. You can read more about that here.

What this ministry is about, however, is not quite so grandiose. Rather than a brute force method like dropping a giant book on people’s heads to “improve” their use of the Prayer Book, this site exists to share snippets of advice and insight into how the liturgy might be implemented that day, or in the near future. We might share preaching aids, reminders of Holy Days or other unusual features of a given day, hymn suggestions, or any number of other liturgical bits and bobs.

It is my prayer that this ministry, and god-willing in the fullness of time, book, will be a blessing and an encouragement in your daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual observances of worship in our beloved Prayer Book tradition.

the Rev. Matthew Brench
Vicar of Fitchburg