Customary Update: Holy Communion part 1

The first half of the Communion liturgy is now covered by the Saint Aelfric Customary. You may already have seen the prologue on how to choose between the two Communion Rites in the 2019 Prayer Book, and now the first half of the actual worship service is summarized.

There is clarification on the use of the Acclamations at the very beginning, ideas about the Collects, guidelines for including the Decalogue periodically, notes about handling the lessons, and even some of the music around them.

Notes on parts of the liturgy that are often taken for granted or ignored (the Gloria, the Creed, the Prayers of the People, the Exhortation) may also give you pause for thought. And, perhaps most unexpectedly, we’ve got a recommended use of the full list of Offertory sentences. Just think how few of them are normally read, and how many of them sit unused, unheard by the majority of our congregants!

You can read the whole thing here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-for-the-holy-communion/

A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return

If there is a single prayer that summarizes a “theology of Sundays” it is this collect.  The Lord’s Day is associated with many things – God’s reign over all creation, the resurrection of Jesus, and the many spoils and great redemption wrought through that victory.  It is from that resurrection power that Christian derive courage, boldness, and obedience to live for him both today and in anticipation of the last great Day.  The worship on this day therefore leads to the works throughout the week, and in so doing we sanctify time itself (cf. Question 298 in the Catechism, To Be A Christian).

Among this list of collects, this one is the only one that is not the same in the 1979 Prayer Book.  That prayer for Sundays in Morning Prayer was short both in length and in theological and devotional content.  Ironically, the prayer we have appointed instead was written originally for the 1979 Prayer Book, where it was found as Occasional Prayer #69.

O God our King,
by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week,
you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life:
Redeem all our days by this victory;
forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will;
and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect for Grace (Morning Prayer)

The Collect for Grace is rich in Scripture references. After acknowledging the beginning of the day, we pray as in Psalm 43:1 “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause.” The Collect expresses a trust in God’s refuge akin to that described in Psalm 62:7 (verse 8 in the Prayer Book numeration) and Psalm 91:2. We pray this “That we may do what is righteous in your sight” (Deuteronomy 6:18), putting the prayer together in much the same way as part of Zechariah’s Canticle does in Luke 1:74-75.

This Collect is the second of the standard Morning Prayer Collects appointed daily in the classical Prayer Books. It also references the Psalms, and has versions in the Sarum and earlier liturgies that bring it to Morning Prayer in the Prayer Book by way of the minor Office of Prime. The wording of the final phrase shifted from the English to the American Prayer Books: “that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always what is righteous in thy sight” became “that all our doings being ordered by thy governance, may be righteous in thy sight”. This is a subtle shift of emphasis: the English version places God’s ordering of our works as the primary goal of the prayer, with the righteousness of our deeds as a consequence; the American version places the righteousness of our deeds as the goal, assuming God’s ordering of our works as a necessary cause. The difference comes down to whose works are more important in the Christian life: recognizing God’s grace at work in us (English) or carrying out our work in response to God’s grace (American). The phraseology in the 2019 Prayer Book, carried over from the translation of 1979, remains in the American tradition.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God,
you have brought us safely to the beginning of this new day:
Defend us by your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin nor run into any danger;
and that, guided by your Spirit, we may do what is righteous in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect for Peace at Morning Prayer

This prayer, like its counterpart in Evening Prayer, addresses the trouble of enemies. Perhaps the first question is who are our enemies? As in 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. 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. We must fight because 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.” That is where our peace is found.

This Collect for Peace is one of the standard Morning Prayer Collects, appointed daily in the classical Prayer Books. Derived especially from the Psalms and the Gospel of John, and from the meditation of St. Augustine of Hippo, this prayer was used in the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries as a post-communion prayer. In the Sarum Rite it was also appointed for the end of Lauds, whence Archbishop Cranmer carried it over to our Morning Prayer liturgy.

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.

Why the Collect of the Day in the Daily Office?

The first collect after the Suffrages has always been the Collect of the Day. The 1979 Prayer Book made this optional, but ours restores its requirement. The use of the Collect of the Day outside of the Communion liturgy seems to have originated with Archbishop Cranmer himself. This is, in a sense, a Reformation answer to the tradition of Daily Mass: rather than expecting the people to watch the priest celebrate the Sacrifice of the Altar throughout the week, the primary concern was that the people would come and hear the Word of God read throughout the week. The inclusion of the Collect of the Day was therefore an acknowledge of prior tradition both by acknowledging the liturgical calendar in the daily services and by bringing to peoples’ minds the previous Sunday’s prayers and lessons miniaturized in its Collect.

The purpose of using the Collect of the Day here in the Daily Office is either to bring to mind the Communion service on the previous Sunday or the present holy day. The majority of the Office is quite static, unmoved by liturgical season or other occasion; this Collect is its primary link to the sacramental life of the Church.

Although the Collect of the Day no longer relates directly to the readings in the modern Communion lectionary, its repetition from the previous Sunday or present holy day still serves as a tangible link between the Daily Office and the Holy Communion.

The Collects at Morning Prayer

After the short call-and-response prayers of the Suffrages, the worshiper comes to a set of collects: first the Collect of the Day, then at least one from a list of seven, and a Prayer for Mission. The devotional aim is to move from shorter to longer prayers; where the Suffrages summarize, the Collects dig deeper.

So, traditionally, there are three Collects in a row: the Collect of the Day followed by two set Collects according to the time of day (in the Morning it’s for Peace and for Grace, as the rubrics note). By 1662 additional prayers were added to these, though not required in the rubrics. In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two Collects got expanded to the seven choices we have today, plus a choice from three Prayers for Mission.

Which Communion Rite should I use?

The first question a liturgical planner faces when looking at an upcoming service of Holy Communion is which rite to use. Episcopalians have at least six in their Prayer Book, the Roman Rite has several iterations these days, even the Eastern Orthodox have a couple different standard liturgies too. Historically, Anglicanism has had only one rite, locally adapted from Prayer Book to Prayer Book; this range of options is very much a modern phenomenon. But, while the modern and post-modern mentalities will say “variety is the spice of life”, historical wisdom tells a different story: consistency is key. Musicians and other artists will also attest to the value of repetition; it’s how we learn and grow.

And so, the 2019 Prayer Book rolls back the modern cafeteria of liturgies to just two options: the Anglican Standard Text and the Renewed Ancient Text. If you want to explore what’s most different about them, you can read about that here. But honestly, the names give you the gist of it: the Anglican Standard is the standard Anglican liturgy, and the Renewed Ancient is a modern take on an ancient text called The Apostolic Tradition with some controversy behind it. It was either written by Hipollytus of Rome in the 3rd century or compiled from disparate sources by the 5th century, and it may contain a proposed liturgy rather than one that was actually used. In any case, this document’s discovery in the 19th century led to its widespread adoption especially among Romans and Anglicans in the 20th century; two of the four the modern-language Communion rites of the 1979 Prayer Book are based upon it. And thanks to their sheer popularity, a new form of it has been adopted by the 2019 Prayer Book.

Back to the question at hand, there are two approaches to answering this question.

  1. Use our new Prayer Book in a way that is consistent with our classical tradition.
  2. Every option in the Prayer Book has its proper time and use.

It is my conviction, and the aim of this Customary, to present these two principles to my fellow American Anglicans as a better way to stabilize our liturgical formation across the province and provide our congregations with solid and coherent spiritual formation. But this is a case where the two principles diverge somewhat. If you operate primarily under the first principle (historical precedent) then the answer is simple: always use the Anglican Standard Text.

For those who prefer to give every Rite its time, one must consider the strengths and weaknesses, the emphases and assumptions of the options. The language and content of the historic liturgy is unbeatably clear and focused on its dealing with sin and salvation. Yet, although Renewed Ancient Text may be more shallow in that regard, its Communion prayers take a grander sweep of the work of God into consideration, perhaps most notably the incarnation of our Lord. In these distinctions we find the best opportunities to use the Renewed Ancient Text are in “incarnation”-themed times, such as Advent, Christmas, and the Epiphany.

For more specific guidance, check out the Holy Communion Customary page.

The Suffrages in brief

The Suffrages have also been known as the Lesser Litany or the Preces & Responses. The seven pairs in our Prayer Book are adapted from Psalms 85:7, 20:9, 132:9, 28:10, Leviticus 26:6, Psalms 9:18, and 51:10-11. Thanks to the many choir settings for Choral Evensong, the English Suffrages are very well known. But there have been changes in the American Prayer Books. The first in 1790 reduced these only to the first and last pairs. By 1928 all the original six were restored in Evening Prayer. The suffrage “save the King/Queen” was rendered “save the State.” The 1979 Book brought them to Mornign Prayer as well as Evening, substantially edited the translation of some, and inserted the suffrage for the the needy. Our edition retains the addition of 1979 and has a mix of old- and new-style translations of the original six.

I’ve got a lot more detail here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/2019/02/20/the-suffrage-in-the-daily-office/

Short responsory prayers like these (and like the Great Litany) were not favored by the radical reformers. They argued that prayers should have longer phrases and sentences; whole psalms are more appropriate than recombined clusters of individual verses like these. And yet, some of these litanies and suffrages have survived. There is a time for longer expressions of prayer and intercession – the Psalms Appointed for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer give us opportunity to pray those in their entirety throughout the month, and the Prayers of the People in the Communion service contain prose prayers based on scripture of more substantial length than these Suffrages. But, just as the worshiper is free to use extemporaneous prayer in private and non-biblical yet biblically-inspired prayers in the liturgy, so too is the worshiper free to use biblically-sampled prayers like the Suffrages.

These are, in a way, like the Prayers of the People in miniature. We pray for mercy and salvation, for our earthly governors and church ministers, for all Christians, for peace, the needy, and for sanctification. The full “Great” Litany is traditionally prayed three times a week, so this “Lesser Litany” can indeed be considered its simplified form for daily use.

The Lord’s Prayer, especially in the Daily Office

All Christian prayer begins here, with the words of the Lord Jesus. His prayer was given not merely as a pattern or template by which to structure our own prayers but also as a prayer itself to be prayed by his followers. Accordingly, every liturgy of the church includes this prayer, and historic spiritual advice has always encouraged the memorization and use of this prayer among the faithful in their own private devotions. As a result, the classic Prayer Books included the Lord’s Prayer twice – once at the beginning of a worship service and once near the end. The exact location has varied (before or after the Confession in the Office) and the use of the doxology at the end of the prayer has varied, but the “two uses” of the Lord’s Prayer was pretty clear: it was both a personal preparation for participating in the liturgy and a piece of the liturgy itself.

Over the centuries, later Prayer Books drifted towards the use of the Lord’s Prayer only once in a worship service, and in the modern editions it has been the first appearance that has been removed in favor of the second.

Lifted from Matthew 6:9-13 and its counterpart in Luke 11, the Lord’s Prayer has been a staple of Christian worship both private and public throughout the history of the Church. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, they were expecting a prayer like this, as many teachers in that time had a token prayer that encapsulated their spirituality. This tradition of having such a theme prayer can be seen in later times, such as the Prayer Attributed to Saint Francis, and the existence of different schools of spirituality within the Church. By learning a particular prayer the worshiper is gradually conformed to and fed by the spiritual wisdom of the prayer’s author. The Lord’s Prayer, coming from the mouth of God himself, is thus the greatest prayer in the Christian treasury.

Both its order and contents are informative. We address God as Father, as adopted children, and we bless his holy name, seeking the advance of his kingdom and will on earth, as it is already so in heaven. Then we move to our own petitions – daily bread to sustain us in the present moment, forgiveness of our sins, while also committing ourselves to forgiving others. This is followed with the twin petitions for help against temptation and evil, or the Evil One. So the very logic and flow of this prayer is theological, or God-minded.

The doxology at the end is not now typically thought to be in the original text of St. Matthew’s gospel, but it is attested in documents as early as the Didache (ca. 100AD). Between that and its inclusion in the King James Bible (1611) it endures as a standard ending for the Lord’s Prayer. Liturgical use of the Lord’s Prayer often omitted the doxology, but through sheer familiarity and habit it has become standard in all its appearances in this Prayer Book.

The Kyrie in the Daily Office

The Kyrie is an ancient prayer, attested by the fact that it remains in Greek even in Roman liturgy. It is based upon the biblical cry found twice in the mouth of blind men imploring Jesus’ help in Matthew 20:30-31, as well as similar pleas in Matthew 17 and Psalm 123. The Kyrie has endured in the penitential portions of the liturgy, often being sung ninefold (each line being sung thrice) or even in a set of forty (as in Byzantine liturgy to this day) early in the Communion service. Its appearance in the Daily Office has been consistent through the English and Canadian Prayer Books, though it was omitted in the American Prayer Books until now.

It is a simple prayer, its near-identical repetition making it both a challenge and an opportunity for devotion. The obvious challenge is how easy it is for the worshiper to utter the words as a parrot, without meaning or understanding. Such is the case with anything memorized. The opportunities, however, are manifold. This can prayed as a prayer of contrition – have mercy upon my sins. This can be prayed as a prayer of intercession – have mercy on my needs. The words “on us” (in the traditional form of the Kyrie) may be directed toward one’s family, one’s church, community, nation, or the entire world.

It also serves as a lead-in for the Lord’s Prayer. There, we have the boldness to address God as our Father, here, we address him as Lord and Christ. The Kyrie, thus, is directed primarily at God the Son, our only mediator and advocate who can bring us to the Father. In fact, a Trinitarian pattern of prayer can be inferred in teh sequence of Kyrie, Lord’s Prayer, and Suffrages: first we call upon the name of Jesus, then we address the Father, and then we pray in the Spirit with some God-breathed words of prayer.