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.

A Hymn for Holy Matrimony

It is a curious thing that for all our culture’s love of weddings, our hymnals stand remarkably short on hymns for this blessed occasion.  Perhaps people had a tendency to choose other favorite hymns; perhaps weddings were not frequently celebrated with hymnody back in the great hymn-writing centuries; perhaps weddings have long been too secularized (at least in popular mindset) for enough people to dare consider singing a wedding hymn from a hymnal.  Blessed be the ties that bind is the only hymn I can think of that’s even marginally popular for weddings, and some hymnals don’t even put it in that category!  It’s appropriate, for sure, but it’s not specifically (or exclusively) about holy matrimony.

So let’s take a look at a hymn that is specifically about marriage: O Father, all creatingYou may notice that it’s also explicitly trinitarian, verse by verse.

O Father, all creating, Whose wisdom, love, and pow’r
First bound two lives together In Eden’s primal hour,
Today to these thy children Thine earliest gifts renew:
A home by thee made happy, A love by thee kept true.

O Savior, guest most bounteous Of old in Galilee,
Vouchsafe today thy presence With these who call on thee;
Their store of earthly gladness Transform to heav’nly wine,
And teach them in the tasting, To know the gift is thine.

O Spirit of the Father, Breathe on them from above,
So mighty in thy pureness, So tender in thy love;
That, guarded by thy presence, From sin and strife kept free,
Their lives may own thy guidance, Their hearts be ruled by thee.

Each Person of the Holy Trinity is called upon to bless and sanctify the marriage.  As each has been revealed in Scriptures to relate to and interact with us in particular ways, so this hymn prays for their respective forms of presence and guidance upon the married couple.

It is perhaps a “no-brainer” to most of you who follow this blog that a marriage needs the guarding and guidance of God to survive in a holy state and bear spiritual fruit, but it should be observed that the way many weddings are celebrated, even among Christians, often tends to focus upon the marvellous love the couple holds for one another.  This is all too often exaggerated to the point where the binding force and strength of marriage seems to be their mutual love; God is hardly more than a formal afterthought, a patron to invoke for the sake of custom and respect.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say this hymn (or similar songs) should be required at every wedding we officiate, but the prayer and sentiment it puts forth is definitely and sorely needed, not only in the ears of our congregations and wedding-goers, but on their lips as well.

Let’s see how the last verse ends it:

Except thou build it, Father, The house is built in vain;
Except thou, Savior, bless it, The joy will turn to pain;
But nought can break the marriage Of hearts in thee made one,
And love thy Spirit hallows Is endless love begun.  Amen.

Drawing from the language of Psalm 127, this stanza narrows in on the complete dependence of man upon God.  Note particularly that last line, “and love thy Spirit hallows is endless love begun.”  Divine-inspired love between husband and wife is not perfect love, nor love fulfilled, but still only love begun.  The world will not be saved by spousal fidelity, no matter what some false teachers say.  Rather, a holy marriage is only the beginning of a picture of salvation.  When God makes two hearts into one, a glimpse of his divine love is introduced, not consummated.  Only continual reliance upon that strength and foundation will survive the course there begun.  As St. Paul wrote, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

Most of my friends’ and family members’ wedding anniversaries seem to be either in June or August, which is why this Customary appoints the two Matrimony Hymns in the 2017 hymnal in early June and early August.  Feel free to move them around in your own use of this order for daily hymnody, as songs like the one we’ve looked at here are great prayers for your own marriage, or those of your friends and family!

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)


  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 August Major Feasts

As mentioned a little while ago, we’ve got a major feast day coming up next week: the Transfiguration (August 6th).  Hopefully that will adorn your worship of our Lord on Tuesday!

But let’s take this moment, today, to cast our eyes upon the rest of the month.  There are two more major feast days coming up: St. Mary’s on the 15th and St. Bartholomew’s on the 24th.  On the surface these are pretty straight-forward commemorations, honoring the Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord, and Bartholomew (or Nathaniel), one of the twelve apostles.  If you dig deeper you can make further connections to tradition and history.

St. Mary’s Day (August 15th) was not in the classical prayer books.  This was for two reasons: first it was likely considered sufficient to commemorate Mary in the Purification/Presentation (February 2nd) and the Annunciation (March 25th) and having a third holy day for her would be redundant; and second, August 15th was originally a more specific holy day in Western tradition: the “Assumption” of Mary.  The assumption refers to the post-biblical event of Mary being taken up (or assumed) into heaven.  This is different from Christ’s ascension into heaven in a key way: Christ ascended, which is an active verb; Mary was assumed, which is a passive verb.  Like Elijah and Enoch and presumably post-mortem Moses, the original holiday of August 15th was to commemorate when Mary was taken up into heaven like those Old Testament predecessors.  I call this “extra-biblical” because it takes place after most of the New Testament was written, and thus is not preserved for us as a sure doctrine within the Scriptures themselves.  The Reformers, thus, did not typically teach the Assumption of Mary (nor did they necessarily deny it); it’s purely a diaphora from our perspective.  Thus we are free to read the doctrine of the Assumption into the Collect for this day or not:

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For St. Bartholomew’s Day we can also look back at the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, a riot of angry Papists who killed thousands of Protestants across France in 1572.  Feel free to Google it if you want to know about the history, just be careful you don’t end up reading about the Doctor Who story about it!  Or do; Doctor Who’s a cool television show. I review stories from that franchise as a for-fun activity.  Anyway, even though there’s no real logical or thematic link between Bartholomew and the massacre of Hugenots, other than the common incident of martyrdom, it’s worthwhile taking note of how major events in history that concur with church holy days can leave deep impressions in popular memory.  Shakespeare helps us do this with St. Crispin’s Day too, for example.

So consider yourself forewarned for a Thursday and Saturday later this month.  We’ll probably take closer looks at the liturgical observances of these days when they arrive, but it’s important for the worshiper to be aware of feast days before they make their appearance.  We’re invited to anticipate them the same way we anticipate Sundays, after all.

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.

Let’s pray Midday Prayer together!

One of the nice additions of modern prayer books like the 1979 or the 2019 is the recovery of two minor offices – Midday Prayer and Compline.  These are not parts of traditional prayer book liturgy, but they (or at least Compline) have been popular devotions continued by many Anglicans since the earliest times of the Reformation.  They are regarded as “extra” devotions, which is why they aren’t part of our official historical tradition, and so when we see them in modern prayer books we should understand the liturgies for Midday Prayer and Compline as offerings for standardization, not as binding liturgical mandates the way Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion are.  In other words, as you’re building a faithfully Anglican life and parish, MP & EP plus the Communion on Sundays and other red-letter days are what’s required; Midday Prayer and Compline are the optional extras.

That said, let’s take a look at what Midday Prayer can sound like.  If you keep it simple you can zip through it in two minutes tops.  If you take your time, it’s still short.  Here’s today’s service in under 12 minutes:

Order of Service so you can have your books ready:

  • Midday Prayer begins on page 33 of BCP 2019.
  • Psalm: 124 (page 35) set to chant tune #739 (in the 2017 hymnal)
  • Reading: Ezekiel 32 (according to our supplemental lectionary)
  • Brief reflection
  • The Prayers (page 37-39)

Praying Humbly

The Collect for Proper 12 (or, in classical prayer books, for the 12th Sunday after Trinity) is a truly humble prayer.  If you want to see an example of what it means to pray with a humble heart, look no further.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This prayer acknowledges several things that takes our egos down a notch.

  1. God is more ready to hear than we are to pray.
  2. God gives us more than we desire or deserve.
  3. God forgives us the things of which we’re afraid to ask for forgiveness.
  4. God gives us god things that we’re not worthy even to ask for.
  5. We’re only worthy to ask God for things through the merits of another: Jesus Christ our Savior.

If you chase down some Scripture references this one prayer could be turned into a Bible Study, even a sermon!  And why not? let’s grab a few verses right now.

  • Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. – Isa. 65:24
  • God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. – 1 Kings 3:11-12
  • I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

Sometimes in a conservative, confessional, liturgical, or otherwise traditional church setting, we might find ourselves downplaying the prodigal love of God toward us, preferring to take a more severe and sober attitude concerning our sinfulness or concupiscence, pushing back against the excesses of pop-evangelical culture, or worse, the prosperity gospel heretics who go on about bastardized versions of “God’s love” all the time.  It’s important, with prayers such as this one, to maintain that biblical balance between sober awareness of our sinfulness and joyful recognition of God’s loving-kindness.

So enjoy this prayer for the rest of the week, and revel in God’s love for you!  (But if you’re in a classical-prayer-book parish, then I guess you have to wait another month or so for your turn with this Collect!)

A Hymn Old & New

If you follow this Customary’s “Daily Hymnody” plan, using the REC 2017 hymnal, one of the songs you’ll come to today (probably this evening) is #453, Before the throne of God above.  This is a song that I really quite like a lot, and it’s got an interesting history behind it.

It is best known as a contemporary worship song; the music was written (as far as I’m aware) by Vicki Cook in 1997, and it became relatively popular in the CCM world in the 2000’s.  As a music minister in the early 2010’s, it was on my shortlist of contemporary songs that I wanted to use along with the hymnal my church used at the time.  It was one of the only songs I was sad to lose when we went hymnal-only.  (That was mainly for practical and logistical reasons, by the way, not because of any serious push against CCM.)  But the 2017 hymnal has this song in it, so I’m quite happy to have it back again!

Despite its current popular tune only just passing 20 years old, its lyrics go back to the American Civil War period, 1863.  It never seemed to have universally settled on any one tune – perhaps the curse of the Long Meter Double metric is that there were too many possibilities.  Whatever the case, this song remained somewhat obscure until Cook gave it a unique melody, and it has thrived ever since.

A big reason I like this hymn so much is because it explores a critical theological aspect of Jesus that doesn’t get a lot of attention elsewhere: his priesthood.  I’ve addressed its lack of attention before, arguing for a greater place of prominence for it in understanding the atonement, our salvation, and the sacraments.  Let’s take a look:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heav’n he stands,
No tongue can bed me thence depart.

(The modern tune has the last line of this and the following stanzas repeat.)

This is essentially an exposition of Hebrews 7:25 – “[Christ] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” – and its context in chapters 7 through 10.  The second stanza addresses the self:

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.

This is classic reformational soteriology – Jesus paid the price, cancelled the debt, for all sin.  Even in the midst of theological precision, the poetry is striking: “the sinless Savior died / my sinful soul is counted free.”  The final stanza does what the second stanza recommends, it looks “upward” to “see him there.”

Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die;
My soul is purchased by his blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God.

If you are in a hymnal-only church, or just are personally critical of CCM (contemporary christian music), I recommend this hymn as a tasteful example of modern music-writing, and an example that modern settings of classic lyrics is indeed possible!

If you’re a contemporary music kind of person and aren’t usually into hymns, this song is an asset to you, too.  It shows how classic lyrics can still come alive on modern lips, without drastic reworking of lyrics and the addition of bridges and choruses.  If people can enjoy these words, perhaps there are more old hymns that can find their way back into the modern crowd also without doctoring!

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.

Singing of Saint Anne

Here’s another holy day that we noted ahead of time: “The Parents of Saint Mary.”  Tradition remembers them by the names of Joachim and Anne, and Anne in particular has been the recipient of some devotion in certain parts of Europe – to this day it’s not unusual to find a Catholic church named St. Anne’s.

Because the couple celebrated on this day are closely related to Jesus (in this case literally his grandparents) this is one of the few “black-letter days” appointed in the 2019 Prayer Book’s calendar that this Customary acknowledges with a hymn appointed for the day.  In this case it’s #188 (in the 2017 hymnal), “Faith of our fathers“, a well-known classic.  As the title itself suggests, it is a celebration of the continuity of faith from the past through the present into the future.  It is in the All Saints section of this hymnal, though in other sections in previous hymnals, if I recall.

If you’re curious, even skeptical, why this commemoration should be so elevated when the people commemorated are barely (or not at all) known in Scripture, consider the implications of their identity.  As I wrote for my 4-year-old today:

Jesus had a grandma
they say her name was Anne.
So although Christ is God,
he’s also fully man!

I also took the opportunity to include this commemoration in a sermon a few years ago, which you’re welcome to check out.  In that sermon I mentioned a hymn that we’d sung.  It was a traditional hymn that someone translated from Latin, and I re-tuned to the melody of a contemporary praise song: “Lamb of God” by Twila Paris.

Nocti succedit Lucifer, trans. c. 2009 Kathleen Pluth.

The morning star is on the rise
And soon the dawn will fill the skies,
Foretelling of the coming Sun
Whose light will shine on everyone.

The Sun of justice, Christ, true Light,
And Mary, grace’s dawning bright,
And Anna, reddening the sky,
Have caused the night of Law to fly.

O mother Anna, fruitful root,
From you came your salvation’s shoot,
For you brought forth the flow’ring rod
That bore for us the Christ of God.

Christ’s mother’s mother, by the grace
Your daughter’s birth brought to our race,
And by her merits and her prayer
May we her favors come to share.

O Jesus, Virgin-born, to You
All glory is forever due.
To Father and the Spirit, praise
Be sung through everlasting days.

Note in verse 3 (the first refrain the way this is arranged) how Anne (Anna) is addressed: “faithful root, flowering rod” – these are some biblical images in the Old Testament used to point to the Messiah.  The family tree leading to Jesus is often described in root-tree-branch-flower imagery, and is especially appropriate for St. Anne and the Virgin Mary.

However you choose to spruce up your worship of God today, may it be a blessed time!