“Corpus Christi” Anglican Style

In Western tradition, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the feast of Corpus Christi.  It and Trinity Sunday are, as far as I recall, the only holidays that primarily celebrate a doctrine rather than a person or event.  In its original (and present) Roman setting, Corpus Christi is a celebration of the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is the official Roman explanation for how the Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

It is often incorrectly assumed that transubstantiation is the same as the doctrine of the corporeal real presence; that is incorrect.  The former is an explanation of how the latter works; there are other theological theories that explain the doctrine of the real presence.  If that confuses or surprises you, or you want to look at this in a little more detail, check out this summary.

Anyway, transubstantiation is explicitly ruled out in our formularies, so why would we ever want to celebrate Corpus Christi?  Among the particularly high-church Anglo-Catholics, there have been a number of movements toward both reviving pre-Reformation tradition and aping the Church of Rome in the present.  Corpus Christi was a major holiday in popular devotion as well as the calendar of the church, and in light of how lax many (perhaps most) Protestants treat Holy Communion, it seemed necessary to some to re-emphasize the holiness of Holy Communion with a restored feast day in its honor.  Appropriated into Anglican tradition, one might call it “Thanksgiving for the gift of Holy Communion”, in a manner not unlike last week’s “Thanksgiving for the Promulgation of the First Prayer Book.”

Another angle of how and why Corpus Christi can be re-appropriated in Anglican tradition is the fact that the traditional Collect for this holiday was appointed by Thomas Cranmer to be the Collect for Maundy Thursday, and has remained unchanged ever since.  Seriously, compare the Latin Mass propers in English with ours; it’s the same prayer!  Combine this with the fact that one of the Scripture lessons is the same (Epistle is from 1 Corinthians 11), and you find that Corpus Christi is basically just a reiteration of Maundy Thursday outside the context of Holy Week, just as Holy Cross Day is a reiteration of Good Friday outside the context of Holy Week, and the (modern) Last Sunday of Epiphanytide is a reiteration of the feast of the Transfiguration in a different context.

If you want to commemorate an Anglican-style Corpus Christi, the easiest way to do it under the auspices of the 2019 Prayer Book is to do a Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist according to the Various Occasion Propers on page 733, which instructs you to imitate Maundy Thursday.  That would turn out as follows:

Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 78:15-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26(27-34); Luke 22:14-30

I took the liberty of removing the John 13 Gospel option as that is about the “maundy” and not about the Eucharist per se.

You might also consider other traditional Communion-related Psalms such as 34 or the latter part of 116.  John 6:47-58 is also traditional Corpus Christi material, if you don’t mind applying that text to Eucharistic doctrine.  Don’t forget, also, to grab a hymnal and sing or read some Communion hymns!  Anglican hymnals have some truly wonderful entries in this category that you can’t find in most of the rest of the Protestant world, and a couple of my all-time favorite songs are Communion hymns.  It’s definitely worth celebrating in song, too.

What does the + mean?

You’re reading something churchy and all of a sudden there’s a plus sign on the page.  What does that mean?  Typically it’s one of three things.

#1 Make the sign of the cross on yourself.

In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and high-church Anglican tradition, making the sign of the cross is a common gesture in the course of prayer and worship.  Most often, one crosses oneself when the priest is pronouncing a blessing or absolution, or when the person praying says the triune name of God: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  The opening acclamation of the modern communion service is typically said with the sign of the cross, as is the beginning of the Gospel Canticles (the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc dimittis).  If you’re a regular worshiper in a high-church context, you may be able to identify more points in the liturgy where people do this.

In certain liturgical texts, though not any official Prayer Books, a plus sign or cross is placed alongside or amidst the words to indicate when the worshiper should cross him-or-herself.

#2 The celebrant makes the sign of the cross over something.

During the celebration of a sacrament or sacramental rite, it was traditional for the priest or bishop to make the sign of the cross over the object being blessed or consecrated.  We saw an example of this last week in the 1549 Prayer Book’s eucharistic canon.  When holy water or oils are being blessed, it is customary for the celebrant to make the sign of the cross over those elements also.

I’ve seen occasions wherein people cross themselves while the celebrant makes the sign of the cross over the object(s) being blessed, and it’s frankly a bit comical.  There the bishop is, consecrating oil to be used in the anointing of the sick and whatnot, and there’s half the congregation crossing themselves at the same time!  The reader has to be aware of whether the + is meant for the congregation or for just the celebrant.  Usually context is perfectly clear.  If nothing else, this is a reminder that one must always keep one’s brain engaged in the liturgy. “What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15).

#3 The priest or bishop is conveying a blessing in writing.

When writing a letter (or email, today) a priest or bishop may sign off with a blessing to his recipients by marking a + or † after his name if he’s a priest or before his name if he’s a bishop.  As deacons do not pronounce blessings, they do not sign their name in this manner.

This is by far the most misunderstood use of the sign today.  It’s frequently used as a name marker in internet communication:

Dear Fred+,

I was talking with +William and James\ about the conduct of a member of our vestry, and would like your input.

Thanks,
Lionel+

The only correct use of the sign is in the signature.  Father Fred and Bishop William should just be spelled out; the plus sign is not supposed to be a shorthand for ordination status.  Occasionally people have even used the \ to denote a Deacon, such as Deacon James in this fictitious example.  Yeah it’s kind of cute, imitating the slant of a deacon’s stole, but it’s also incorrect style.  The plus sign or cross with someone’s name in correspondence is meant to be a conferral or wish of blessing on the part of the bishop or priest writing the correspondence.  Hence, Father Lionel’s name is the only correct appearance of the + in the example above.

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.

Two Collects for Peace

In the prayers of the Daily Office, there were traditionally three Collects in a row: the Collect of the Day followed by two set Collects according to the time of day (Morning had two, Evening had two).  In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two Collects got expanded to seven choices, plus a choice of a Prayer for Mission.  Among the original Collects, still found among the modern choices, are two Collects entitled “For Peace.”  Let’s take a little comparative look at these two prayers today.

Collect for Peace (Morning)

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Peace (Evening)

O God, the source of all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

Naturally, both of these prayers address the trouble of enemies.  Perhaps the first question is who are our enemies?  Like several of the Psalms, this is a nebulous concept, a fill-in-the-blank opportunity, and we should take care how we treat it, even in the silence of our hearts.  In a bad mood you might throw your annoying boss into that “enemies” category, or your misbehaving kids, or the noisy neighbors, or members of the wrong political party, or those gosh-darn terrorist foreigners from that other country somewhere else.  The scriptures teach us that the enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Those are the forces that turn us away from God; those are the real threats against whom we need protection, and against whom we must fight.

And I say “must fight” on purpose, for as these prayers express, Peace is not found in avoidance of conflict, but in steadfastness despite conflict.  Through “the might of Jesus” we pray for God’s defense “in all assaults”, not from all assaults.  The goal or purpose of these prayers is that we “may not fear,” and “pass our time in rest and quietness.”  With our trust placed in God’s defense and our hearts set to obey his commandments, we find ourselves on the solid ground of God’s Word, in the footsteps of Jesus, in cooperation with the Spirit.  There, we can withstand the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil; there can be found peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

So whether you pray these prayers every day (as in the old prayer books) or every week (as in the new), take care to note what we’re really praying here.  In this life, the peace of God is found amidst the spiritual war, not as an escape from it.

Book Review: A Time to Pray

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.

A Time to Pray is a pocket-sized devotional book, in the same supplementary category as Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, just with less stuff, simpler content, and broader churchmanship appeal.  Its purpose, as I understand it, is to introduce people to Prayer Book worship without dropping the whole BCP on them right away.  Perhaps for children not yet ready to push through the whole daily office, or adults who are intrigued by the liturgy but not yet convinced.

Unlike the aforementioned Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, very little of this book is original content.  The first 75 pages reprint the Family Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Order for Evening Worship, Compline, and Reconciliation of a Penitent services right from the 1979 BCP.  After that follows a collection of prayers, a few of which are not found in that Prayer Book, a selection of Psalms and Canticles, and some Bible readings.  In short, this could serve as a miniature Prayer Book & Bible combination for simplified Offices of worship.  If someone, for whatever reason, is unable to handle an actual Prayer Book and Bible, this is a neat resources of basics to get them started.

Because of its brevity and simplicity, there isn’t really any room for significant theological bias, so the fact that it was produced by the Episcopalians is not an issue.  Liturgically, though, it is somewhat incompatible with the 2019 Prayer Book tradition; our Psalm and Canticles have updated translations, our Family and Minor Offices are a little different.  Yes, the content and wordings are very similar, but if this is meant to be a stepping stone toward a prayer book, it’s a step towards a prayer book different from our own, and will result in some awkward little shifts that tend to annoy people once they’ve “learned” one version of a particular piece of liturgy.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
It’s small and simple.  The only point against its usability is the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is only printed on pages 42 and 43, so whatever liturgy you’re using you have to flip over there if you haven’t memorized it.  I mean, I’m sure you‘ve memorized it, but the newcomer might not, or at least not the version we use.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
The most you can get out of this book are extra (or Minor) Offices of worship with a limited list of Scripture lessons.  It’s a baby step toward Anglican spirituality, rather than an actual expression of Anglican spirituality.  And because of that it is of extremely limited use to us.

Reference Value: 1/5
As mentioned above, there is almost nothing in here that isn’t already in the 1979 Prayer Book.  One or two particular prayers may be unique here, so it’s worth looking through them briefly.  Otherwise, there’s nothing new to learn or draw from this book.

In short, this isn’t a book worth getting.  I only have a copy because someone had a small stack of them and wanted to hand out extras.  It’s a neat idea, and could be the inspiration for a new Office booklet in the ACNA’s 2019 BCP context, but in itself is not particularly remarkable.

What is an Epiclesis?

If you poke clergymen who are passionate about liturgy, and start asking deep questions about the Communion Prayers (or prayer of consecration, or Eucharistic canon) in different rites and prayer books, sooner or later you’re going to run into a hot topic: the epiclesis.

Also called “the invocation”, the epiclesis (true to its Greek meaning) is a prayer that “calls down” the Holy Spirit.  Some think this is unnecessary, even inappropriate; some think this is important to include; some think it’s absolutely necessary.  Thus, the language of the epiclesis, and even its placement within the prayer of consecration, can be a real battleground among those of passionate theological persuasions.

There are too many Prayer Books and rites to survey here, so let’s just look at some representative examples in groups.

GROUP #1: The Epiclesis is Unnecessary

In the English 1552 and 1662 BCP there is no hint of an epiclesis.  Reformed (particularly Calvinistic) doctrine is generally hesitant to make room for transformation language regarding the bread and wine into body and blood, much less attribute the operation of the Holy Spirit to it.

In the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962, the epiclesis reads thus:

And we pray that by the power of thy Holy Spirit, all we who are partakers of this holy Communion may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction;

This epiclesis is very mild.  The Holy Spirit is called upon as the power whereby the grace and blessing of receiving the Sacrament is applied to we who partake of it.  It reveals a theology of the Spirit’s activity, working in the Sacrament, but makes no particular commitment as to the nature of the consecration of the bread and wine.

GROUP #2: The Epiclesis is Important

2019 BCP, Anglican Standard Rite

And now, O merciful Father, in your great goodness, we ask you to bless and sanctify, with your Word and Holy Spirit, these gifts of bread and wine, that we, receiving them according to your Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.

This epiclesis is a strong one: the Holy Spirit is named alongside the Word of the Father as an instrument of blessing and sanctifying the bread and wine so that we may be partakers of Christ’s Body and Blood.  Contexts of right reception and right remembrance further color and qualify this prayer such that being a “partaker” is not an automatic function of physically receiving the Sacrament.  (One may “eat unto condemnation”, as St. Paul warned, cf. the Exchortation.)  Also noteworthy is that this epiclesis is said before the Words of Institution, which, according to general historic Western theology, is the precise formula that actually consecrates the bread and wine.  The epiclesis in this rite, therefore, is best seen as preparatory for the moment of consecration.

The 1928 Prayer Book has essentially the same epiclesis text as this, but placed after the Words of Institution.  It therefore leaves room for interpretation: are the Words of Institution the moment of consecration?  Is the epiclesis that moment?  Is it both, together, that accomplishes it?  This debate can be pretty heated, depending upon where you poke your nose.  A good explanation of this debate from a Lutheran perspective is addressed here.

The original English Prayer Book, in 1549, and the first Scottish Prayer Book, in 1637, were a little more explicit:

Hear us (O merciful father) we beseech thee; and with thy holy spirit and word, vouchsafe to blSmCross.GIF (76 bytes)ess and sancSmCross.GIF (76 bytes)tify these thy gifts, and creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved son Jesus Christ.

Complete with the priest signing the cross over the bread and wine, this prayer is an example of a high view of the Sacrament.  And because it’s followed immediately by the Words of Institution, this epiclesis can (like the first example in this group) be interpreted as preparatory for the moment of consecration, though also introduces room for the debate that the 1928 Prayer Book also invites.

GROUP #3: The Epiclesis is Necessary 

2019 BCP, Renewed Ancient Rite

Sanctify them by your Word and Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

This epiclesis is explicit (like the 1549 version); God’s Word and Spirit is called upon to sanctify the bread and wine such that they will be Christ’s body and blood.  Furthermore, this is prayed after the Words of Institution, which logically contradicts the historic view that those words are the “true” moment of consecration.  The theology of the Renewed Ancient Rite, therefore, is that the epiclesis is the center of the prayer of consecration.

Most of the rites in the 1979 Prayer Book follow suit with this position.  The Non-Jurors‘ Communion Rite also does the same thing:

…send down thine Holy Spirit, the witness of the passion of our Lord Jesus, upon this Sacrifice, that he may make this * Bread the Body of thy Christ, and this * Cup the Blood of thy Christ…      [* the priest touches the paten or chalice]

What to do about all this…

If you’re a lay person, all this is primarily of instructive value.  Hopefully this gives you insight into the ways that even small changes to the liturgy can suggest or set forth different doctrines, and why some clergymen can get so uppity and argumentative about it, especially the Communion prayers.

If you’re a priest (or bishop, I suppose, if any actually reads this!) who hasn’t thought about this subject a whole lot before, this may be something of a challenge to you.  What do you believe about the Eucharist?

If you believe the Words of Institution “this is my body/blood” is the moment of consecration for the bread and wine, then an explicit epiclesis prayed after those words is errant, even blasphemous.  That means if you hold the traditional view, “consecrationism”, you cannot in good conscience use the Renewed Ancient Rite in the 2019 BCP!

If you believe an epiclesis is absolutely essential to a proper consecration of the Eucharist, you’re in luck, both rites in the 2019 book have a clear epiclesis.  But you have to contend with the fact that the “liturgical standard” of Anglicanism, the 1662 Prayer Book, has stood for centuries with no epiclesis at all.

So whatever your convictions are, there are challenges and consequences to address.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a firm opinion on this (admittedly somewhat minute) point of doctrine, it pays to take note of the rite(s) you typically use, to consider what it is they say, suggest, or refrain from saying, and to think about how these prayers have been shaping your beliefs over time.

So, as the Pentecost Octave begins to wrap up, take this opportunity to think about the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments.  What do you believe?  What do we pray?

Thanksgiving for the First Book of Common Prayer

On the day of Pentecost in 1549, churches across England cracked open a book to engage in common prayer in their own language for the first time in history. That Sunday was when the first Book of Common Prayer was appointed by royal authority to replace the various versions of the Sarum and Roman Mass that previously held sway.  As we noted recently, this is a significant event that can be worth celebrating in our own worship services on Pentecost.  Or, as we hinted a couple days ago, we could celebrate this anniversary today (Thursday) instead.

In the book Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) put out by the Episcopal Church (USA), the following Collect and Lessons are offered for this commemoration:

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 2:38-42, Psalm 96 or 33:1-5,20-21, John 4:21-24

If you are so inclined you could add 1 Corinthians 14:6-19 as an Epistle lesson, as it is a verse that is referenced in the Collect (“to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding“).

Why recommend this for Thursday?  Simply, every other day is taken, according to Anglican tradition.  Monday & Tuesday [used to] have their own Pentecost-themed propers, and Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days; only Thursday is left.

So if you get the chance to celebrate the Eucharist today, or just choose to pray Antecommunion, consider giving this commemoration a whirl!

Pentecost Ember Days

The Pentecost Ember Days are here!  It’s been a few months since we last talked about Ember Days, so let’s hazard some repetition of material.  Although in some places the purpose of these days have changed somewhat, their original purpose was to be a time of fasting and prayer for the clergy, those preparing for ordination, and those discerning a call to ordination.  Positioned fairly evenly throughout the year near the changes of the season, these were often the days when ordinations would take place and people would have a quarterly reminder to pray for their clergymen.

Those who are discerning for holy orders, including transitional deacons awaiting the priesthood, typically write an Ember Day letter to their bishop, updating him on their ministerial progress and how the discernment process has been proceeding.

Each seasonal group of Ember Days is a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after an anchor date.  For Advent (winter) that date is December 13th (Saint Lucia Day): the first Wednesday after that day starts off the Ember Days; for spring it’s in the first full week of Lent, for summer it’s in the Pentecost Octave (starting today), and for autumn the anchor date is September 14th (Holy Cross Day).

It’s a little tricky because the Ember Days appear in threes, yet our Prayer Book only gives us two sets of Communion Propers (Collects on page 634 and Lessons on page 732).  This may be easier to deal with in the Daily Office: choose one Collect of the Day for mornings and the other for evenings.

Although the Ember Day Propers are fixed, the context of Pentecost can afford these days a different teaching emphasis.  Consider the subject of ordination from the perspective of a spiritual gift.  Many Anglicans believe in the “indelible mark” or “ordination character” bestowed upon the imposition of the Bishop’s hands, akin to the baptismal change the Holy Spirit also brings about.  These summer ember days are good opportunities to meditate on (or teach about) that angle of the ministry.

The Pentecost Octave, or, the Whitsun days

A day or two ago I saw a question pop up online, “Why does Pentecost only get one day to celebrate it?”  The questioner went on to insinuate that the liturgical tradition has a bias against the Holy Spirit in favor of the person of Jesus, where there’s Holy Week and Eastertide and Ascension, on top of Christmastide and Epiphany.  Apart from the obvious biblical and long-standing theological answer to why Christians give more overt attention to Jesus, let’s take a look today at the additional fact that Pentecost is not just one day, and never has been.

For well over a thousand years of Western liturgical tradition, most major holy days have what’s called an Octave: a period of eight days beginning on the holiday and running for a week after.  The only octave tradition that directly impacts most Anglicans today is the All Saints’ Day Octave, wherein although All Saints’ Day is officially November 1st, the Sunday immediately following (within the Octave) is typically celebrated as All Saints’ Sunday.  But back in the day, Easter had an Octave (which Prayer Book tradition has always observed in one way or another), the patronal feast of an individual church or diocese would have an Octave, and, among others, Pentecost had an Octave – from Sunday to Sunday ending with the feast of the Holy Trinity.

In current Roman Catholic practice that Octave has been suppressed, though there is the half-joking plan of priests celebrating Votive Masses of the Holy Spirit on the weekdays following Pentecost in order to simulate an Octave.  In the Anglican Prayer Books we’ve never had instructions for a full Octave, but we have had special Collects and lessons for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Older prayer books call this holiday Whitsun or Whitsunday, modern prayer books call it Pentecost.  The reason for the peculiarly English name of Whitsun is a story for another time – I’ll just link you to Wikipedia on that for now.

Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost

The traditional Collect of the Day (which is the second listed in the 2019 Prayer Book for this day) is:

GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

With this would be read Acts 2:1-11 and John 14:15-31 (omitting the last phrase “let us go hence.”).  In the modern lectionary plan, part of Psalm 104 is added, and the OT and Epistle options are Genesis 11:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-13.  It should be noted that, although the 2019 Prayer Book doesn’t specify this, the Acts reading ought to be read.  The OT and Epistle lessons are both offered so that we have a choice of where to place the Acts reading.  Precedent from Eastertide and the 1979 Prayer Book suggest that Acts 2 should be in the OT position, precedent from the next two days of the week suggest that Acts 2 should be in the Epistle position.  So this is a legitimate choice; perhaps swap places every year so people hear all the potential readings most often!

Like Ascension Day, the 1662 Prayer Book appointed special Psalms for the Daily Office on Whitsunday: 48 and 68 in the morning, and 104 and 145 in the evening.

Unfortunately, according to the new prayer book (on page 614), “The Easter Season includes and ends with the Day of Pentecost. …The Collects, lessons, and prefaces for the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday are not used on the following weekdays.”  Previous drafts of our new prayer book included the traditional Monday and Tuesday of Pentecost, but they seem to have dropped away from the final edition.  So it seems, at least officially, we in the ACNA are stuck in the same boat as the Romans, having to resort to appointing the “Various Occasion” propers “Of the Holy Spirit” on page 733 to fill out the old Pentecost Octave a little.  Or you can just grab the following from classical Prayer Books:

Monday in Whitsun Week

The traditional readings were Acts 10:34-end and John 3:16-21; a proposed addition was Numbers 11:24-30 and Psalm 98.  The 1928 Prayer Book added a new Collect:

Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

Together, this day gives us a collection of further teachings about the ministry of the Holy Spirit along with another “pentecost moment” from the book of Acts.

Tuesday in Whitsun Week

The traditional readings were Acts 8:14-17 and John 10:1-10; a proposed addition was Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 98.  The 1928 Prayer Book added a new Collect:

Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

This day got a bit more specific about the work and power of the Spirit unite God’s people.

What about the rest of the week?

The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Pentecost are Ember Days, which occur quarterly throughout the year, so they don’t get special Pentecost-featured propers.  Some proposed Prayer Books (like the 2011 book) provide different Scripture readings for each of the Ember Days throughout the year, and thus provide the Pentecost Ember Days with a particularly Pentecost-appropriate theme regarding Spirit-empowered ministry.  But sadly, no such option is available in the 2019 Prayer Book.

That leaves Thursday yet untouched.  There is a small tradition of using that day to commemorate the Promulgation of the First Prayer Book, as Whitsunday 1549 was when the first Prayer Book was mandated to begin use across England.  We’ll look at that some more on the day.

So yes, sadly, in a way Pentecost is kind of reduced to a single day in the modern calendar.  But there is precedent in previous Prayer Books, both official and proposed, for the continued celebration of this great feast in various ways throughout the week.

Prayer Book Error Correction

An issue that has been brought up across the internet in the past couple weeks is the fact that in the 2018 update to the new Prayer Book’s communion liturgies, the rubric concerning how to handle excess consecrated bread and wine underwent a change that many would consider sacrilegious.

In every Anglican Prayer Book I have read, regardless of high or low churchmanship, the rule for extra consecrated wine has always been that it is to be consumed (drunk) during or after the liturgy.  If special care is taken it can also be reserved for later distribution, though that is less common, less practical, and was not allowed in the early days of the Reformation.

Now, however, the new Prayer Book also lists “reverently poured in a place set aside for that purpose” as a means of disposing of extra wine.  When I first read it, I assumed that this was referring to pouring it into a flagon where it would be reserved for later distribution, but only after the recent internet hubbub did I realize that the rubric implies the pouring of extra consecrated wine into the ground or into a piscina.

piscina is a special kind of sink that drains directly into the ground.  It was used for disposing of ashes (after Ash Wednesday), old holy water, and the washing of the communion vessels lest any particles remain.  Some people have taken to pouring extra consecrated wine there, too, but that has never been permitted by any Prayer Book, much less by the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches.

For a longer, fuller, explanation of the controversial rubric and the background of this issue, check out this page instead: https://timotheosprologizes.blogspot.com/2019/05/whats-wrong-with-2019-prayer-book.html

All I can say here is:

  1. if you’re a priest or deacon or sacristan, never follow that rubric.  Consecrated wine is supposed to be drunk by God’s faithful people, never thrown to the earth.
  2. if this malpractice concerns you, contact your ACNA bishop, and ask him to help vote this error out of our new Prayer Book as soon as possible.