The Rites of Holy Baptism compared

My slow and careful study through the Prayer Book has brought me to the Baptism service. In general, followers of this blog may have noticed a lot of entries about the Daily Office in 2020 and the Communion service in 2021. I did have a nice “plan” to work through the Baptismal material in December, Confirmation material in January, and continue on through the majority of the rest of the Prayer Book rites over the course of 2022, but I’m already “behind schedule.” Be that as it may, wherever I am in this process, I’m still sharing snippets of information – insight, encouragement, and advice – online here as I go, so we can all learn together.

Before we get into any specifics of the Baptism service, it’s helpful to take a big-picture view of where this liturgy has been in the past. Sometimes trends over the centuries can shed light on the peculiarities of the present (or any previous) day. Five Prayer Books are standing in parallel here: the English Prayer Books of 1549 and 1662, the American 1928, the Canadian 1962, and the 2019 Book of the Anglican Church in North America.

We begin with the context. One of the stand-out differences here is that the modern tradition is to place the Baptism amidst a Communion service. This was introduced in 1979, and reflects the practical reality that Communion is now the standard Sunday service in the vast majority of Anglican churches. It’s interesting to see, though, that the recommended “home” of the Baptism service has changed before. The 1662 Prayer Book does not make any direct suggestion about the timing of the service, other than that it’d best be on a Sunday or Holy Day so the maximum number of people will be present to witness it. The American and Canadian Prayer Books took their cues from the original: embed the Baptism within Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer!

So, just as the Wedding service begins with the immortal words “Dearly beloved…” so too does the Baptismal liturgy begin. There are several exhortations in the Prayer Book that begin this way, actually. In any case, this short opening speech or exhortation provides a brief outline of the purpose and necessity of Holy Baptism, and why we’re here to celebrate it. The 2019 version is a bit longer than its predecessors, as it’s combining elements from past versions of the liturgy that are not maintained later on.

The Flood Prayer follows in the English Prayer Books, which I’ve written a little about before. It was dropped in North America, but the 2019 Book has actually restored it, just later in the service.

This part of the comparison chart may be the most jarring. The 2019 Prayer Book continues with the Scriptures and Sermon, following a usual Communion liturgy, where the classical Prayer Books provided a special reading and set of preparatory prayers. Some elements here, I think, would be of use to us if we reclaim them in the 2019 BCP context. The short “Explanation of infant baptism” that follows the Scripture lesson in the English and Canadian Books, for example, would make a great starting point for the Sermon. The Prayers, too, are rich resources that the preacher could use, quote, or even teach on.

In defense of the 2019’s changes and losses at this juncture, however, it should be pointed out that the 21st century West is a Post-Christian society. The baptism of adult converts should become increasingly common, and the gearing of the Baptism liturgy toward small children and infants is not especially helpful to that end. It might be more helpful, at this section of the liturgy, to compare the 2019 order to the 1662’s Baptism of Those of Riper Years. Personally I haven’t looked closely at that yet, that’s just an observation that I think would be helpful to look into for those who are concerned about the details.

This is where the 2019 Prayer Book shines more brightly compared to the previous section. The Flood Prayer is brought back to North America, the classical Exhortation & Examination includes the full three-fold renunciation unheard since 1549, and also follows up on those renunciations with an Exorcism, also unseen since 1549 (albeit that Book placed the exorcism earlier in the service). The prayers for the baptismal candidates are thus longer and more robust, and the Flood Prayer serves double duty as a transition from prayers for the candidate(s) toward the actual baptismal act itself.

Last of all, the Baptism itself is where Prayer Books have changed the most over the years. This is where it really pays off to include the Canadian Prayer Book because it more smoothly connects the liturgy to the Daily Office in which it is recommended to abide.

In a strange twist of irony, the so-called “catholic traditionalist” 1549 Prayer Book does not include an explicit blessing of the water, while the “fully reformed protestant” 1662 Book does. (Hence why stereotypical labels like these are unhelpful!) It is interesting to see, however, that the 1549 Book explicitly orders a triple Baptism (right, left, then face-first into the font), where its successors haven’t been so specific. And for those who are squeamish about babies in water, there have always been provisions for the pouring of water instead (which was also normative for adults who can only lean their heads over a typical baptismal font). Another unique change from 1549 is the naming of the child – I think enough ministers complained that they couldn’t remember the name three minutes later that the naming was moved to the baptismal act itself. (I jest! It’s probably mainly for theological reasons: in baptism we receive our Christian name. The 1662 catechism says as much.)

The sign of the Cross is made on the forehead of the newly-baptized, but the use of anointing oil was not mentioned after 1549 until 2019.

Again the 2019 Book has lost some of the traditional material, most notably the post-baptism statement: Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning. However, this is not as great a loss as some might make it out to be, for this statement is a call to prayer, and the actual prayers (labeled “Thanksgiving and Prayer”) that follow are strong equivalents across the board.

Another concern that has been raised about the 2019 Prayer Book is the lack of attention to the doctrine of Regeneration. Where the classical Prayer Books use that word frequently, ours uses it only once. It must be understood, however, that a significant part of this dynamic is conformity to Bible translation. Where older translations say regenerate newer translations say born again (or from above), and that phrase is found several times throughout the 2019 liturgy. The Additional Directions on BCP page 172 clearly assert the biblical and traditional precedent for the doctrine of regeneration, so there ought to be no contention or confusion on this point. Holy Baptism is “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5).


One final note is that this comparative study has ignored the American baptismal rite of 1979. This is because that rite represents too significant a deviation from the historic content, and presents theological emphases too askew from the traditional Anglican position, to make it worth considering alongside the others. The 2019 Prayer Book’s theology of Baptism is to be understood in light of our solid common history, not from our recent errors. The Preface to the Prayer Book on page 4 specifically notes that “Baptismal theology… came perilously close to proclaiming a gospel of individual affirmation rather than of personal transformation and sanctification.” Fruitful comparative study of the 1979 Book may still be had, but it is my (and our Prayer Book’s) opinion that 1979 represents a liturgical-theological dead end from which we have turned back.

A Brief History of the Exhortation

One of the most distinctive marks of classical Anglican liturgy is its exhortations.  Relatively unknown in medieval liturgy, the English reformers saw fit to add several points of instruction into various worship services, especially Holy Baptism, Matrimony, Burial, and Communion.  The opening words of most of these exhortations, “Dearly beloved…” resound in the ears of worshipers of many traditions to this day.  The Exhortation to Holy Communion is one of the longer Prayer Book exhortations and certainly the most complex.  The first Prayer Book appointed two Exhortations: one to be said when Communion was about to follow, and one to coax people to the Sacrament who have been negligent to participate.  Both exhortations were provided within the Communion liturgy itself.  The first could be said as rarely as once in a month where there was normally daily communion, but the other was expected to be read every Sunday that Communion was to be celebrated and offered.

Lay people were slow to increase their participation in Holy Communion, however, many having been entrenched in the Easter-only pattern for centuries under the medieval Roman tradition.  Subsequent Prayer Books, therefore, took the reality of monthly Communion being normal into account, and provided three different exhortations: the first was to give “warning for the celebration of the holy communion (which he shall always do upon the Sunday or some holy immediately proceeding)”, the second “in case he shall see the people negligent to come to the holy communion”, and the third “at the time of the celebration of the communion, the communicants being conveniently placed for the receiving of the holy sacrament.”  These three endured from the 16th century until the Liturgical Renewal in the mid-20th century when weekly Communion truly became the normative pattern across the Anglican tradition.

But the use of the Exhortation was already on the decline.  The American Prayer Book of 1892 kept only the third Exhortation (for the immediate celebration of Communion) within the liturgy, moving the first two into an appendix after the service.  This perhaps anticipated the trend toward weekly Communion, especially in light of a rubric added that the Exhortation need only be read once in a month.  This was taken a step further in the 1928 Prayer Book in which all three Exhortations were moved to an appendix position immediately after the liturgy (in the new order established in 1892), with a further-edited rubric that the now-first Exhortation (for the immediate celebration of Communion) “shall be said on the First Sunday in Advent, the First Sunday in Lent, and Trinity Sunday.”  By 1979, the Exhortations had almost entirely disappeared.  The American Prayer Book of that year contained only one Exhortation, with elements of all three combined together.  It was appended to the liturgy and provided with no rubric guidance on its proper use.  Thus the Exhortation has declined in the American use for over a century.

The present Prayer Book proposes to reverse that trend somewhat by providing a rubric authorizing The Exhortation within the text of the Communion liturgy for the first time in the American Church since 1892.  One of the Additional Directions notes that the Exhortation is “traditionally read” on the same three Sundays as appointed in the 1928 Prayer Book.  Still only one Exhortation is provided here, again combining elements of the traditional three, but it is not identical to the version provided in 1979.  The pointed language of self-examination and worthiness to receive the Holy Sacrament, as was traditional, has been more robustly restored.

Dearly beloved in the Lord…  The first paragraph corresponds to the first third of the traditional Exhortation At the Time of the Celebration of the Communion (1st in 1928, 3rd in 1662).

Therefore, judge yourselves…  The second paragraph corresponds to the second paragraph of the traditional Exhortation That Giveth Warning (2nd in 1928, 1st in 1662).

If you have come here today with a troubled conscience…  The third paragraph corresponds to the last paragraph of the traditional Exhortation That Giveth Warning (2nd in 1928, 1st in 1662).

Above all…  The fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs correspond to the second half of the traditional Exhortation At the Time of the Celebration of the Communion (1st in 1928, 3rd in 1662).

The 2019’s “Rite II”

Much ink has been spilled on the subject of a modern eucharistic canon in an Anglican Prayer Book.  Until the mid-20th century there was indisputably one set of Anglican Communion Prayers, in a few minor variations between England, Scotland, America, Canada, and other former colonies of the British Empire.  Accusations were leveled, often justly, that Anglican doctrine was being tampered with in the writing and promulgation of so many new alternative prayers.  Admittedly, 20th century ecumenism has blurred the borders of many denominations and traditions both for their betterment and their detriment.  In light of the great influence of the classical Prayer Book upon Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman liturgies in the English language, traditionalists have a fair point in being wary of the need for such modernist intrusions.

Yet, for better and for worse, the Liturgical Renewal of the mid-20th century has left a lasting mark on the liturgical practices of the Church, and has become a part of the history of Anglicanism.  The present Prayer Book, therefore, does not roll back the stone and seal it off forever, but gathers it up and encapsulates it into a single option: the Renewed Ancient Text.  Where previous modern Prayer Books offer as many as five, six, or even ten sets of Prayers of Consecration, this one offers two: the standard historic rite and a single representative of the past half-century of liturgical experience and development – the Renewed Ancient Text.  It is authorized here with the intent that its theology and doctrine should be understood as fully consonant with the historic Anglican faith.


This set of prayers is derived from a document known as The Apostolic Tradition, attributed to one of the earliest Anti-Popes, Hippolytus.  Writing near 200AD, Hippolytus was reacting to a succession of bishops in Rome who were tolerating various heresies such as Montanism and what came to be known as Sabellianism.  Tensions grew over the years and eventually sought episcopal ordination himself to set himself up as the truly catholic Bishop of Rome over against Zephyrinus and Callistus.  The Apostolic Tradition is his rebuttal to the now-unknown liturgical practices in Rome at the time, and because he wrote in Greek rather than in Latin his liturgical writings have seen influence in Eastern liturgy far more than in Western.  The Apostolic Tradition was reexamined in the mid-20th century and became hugely influential in the Liturgical Renewal Movement that guided the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Church and resulted in several new Communion liturgies both in Roman and Anglican churches.  Modern rites, such as Prayers A and B in the American Prayer Book of 1979, and Prayer B in the Church of England’s Common Worship (2000), as well as the present Renewed Ancient Text, are inspired by the work attributed to Hippolytus. These prayers most closely resemble Prayer A from the 1979 Prayer Book.


One of the most noticeable differences between the two rites is the theological scope.  Where the Standard Text is narrowly focused, delving deep into the doctrine of the Cross, and Christ’s death and resurrection, the Renewed Ancient Text is shallower yet marks of a far larger picture of the Gospel, connecting the dots from Creation to the Last Day.  This is most noticeable in the first paragraph, perhaps giving these prayers a particular fittingness to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, or Epiphany.

The first paragraph is the anamnesis.  Our creation, the fall, and the incarnation are recalled, specifically naming the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (which is the primary contribution from 1979’s Prayer B).  Christ’s obedience unto death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension close the anamnesis, concluding that the worshipers therefore have confidence to approach the throne of grace.

The Words of Institution follow, and are identical to the form found in the Anglican Standard Text.

Then follows a Memorial Acclamation, or “the mystery of faith”, giving the congregation a voice amidst the Prayers of Consecration.  Although this has no representative in historic liturgies, this call-and-response element has become popular in modern liturgies, particularly in the several rites offered in Common Worship.  This part of the prayers corresponds to the first paragraph of the Oblations in the Standard Text (“Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father…”) in that both introduce the prayers of self-offering with a recapitulation of the anamnesis or remembrance. The Memorial Acclamation doesn’t just give the congregation more lines to read, but also thereby gives common assent to the celebrant’s prayers beyond the final “Amen.”

The Oblation of “these gifts” follows, acknowledging the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, now drawing from the language of historic Anglican liturgy. “We celebrate the memorial… and we offer you these gifts” summarizes elements of the first two paragraphs of the Standard Text’s oblations.  “Sanctify them…” is an epiclesis, similar to the placement of the epiclesis in the classical American Prayer Books.  “In the fullness of time…” concludes the oblations with a prayer for the final glorification of God’s people.  The Prayers of Consecration of the Renewed Ancient Text thus ends as it begins – with a broader scope of the Gospel story than the Anglican Standard Text.  This advantage is gained, however, at the cost of the detailed centrality of the Cross.

The epiclesis has already been discussed before.  Its placement here amidst the prayers of oblation is both a return to the order of the first three American Prayer Books and a subtle way of de-emphasizing the blessing of the bread and wine, because it continues immediately with an epiclesis of the people: “Sanctify us also”.  As in historic Prayer Book piety, there is greater concern for right reception of the Sacrament than for the metaphysics of the Body and Blood in the bread and wine, as the end goal of participating in Holy Communion is not knowledge per se but unity with Christ: the mutual indwelling of he “in us and we in him.”  This unity is for eternity: that the worshipers will be so fed unto eternal life that they will enter into God’s heavenly kingdom with all the saints, beholding the face of God.

The final Doxology is the same as in the Standard Text, only with a different lead-up text.

A Catechetical Lectionary

It is popular, across Christian traditions, to read non-biblical devotions as daily devotions. Historically this particularly drew upon the writings of the Church Fathers. (You can see this still in practice today in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours with its Office of Readings.) It was also a practice in some monastic orders to hear a chapter from the Rule of St. Benedict in the course of the daily liturgy. In that vein, I’ve crafted an extra-biblical, or Catechetical, lectionary rooted in the Anglican tradition.

I would like to publish most of this in the coming year or two, but some of it will take a while to prepare. A longer week-by-week summary is below, but here’s the basic rundown.

Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent begin with the Early Church Fathers, common to all Christianity. Christmastide is on topic with On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. The Apostolic Fathers (or several of the earliest Ante-Nicene Fathers) occupy our reading during Epiphanytide, and spill over into the first few weeks of/after Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. For Lent I intend to republish a book of daily readings from the likes of Sts. John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and Cyril of Jerusalem, which is arranged in a largely topical fashion appropriate for that season.

The season of Easter is where the foray into Anglicanism begins. The first 39 days are given to reading the 39 Articles of Religion – one per day. The 40th day, Ascension Day, begins ten days of reading from the “Foundational Documents” and short essays in the Book of Common Prayer.

The majority of Trinitytide (July through November) takes us through the official catechism of the Anglican Church in North America: To Be A Christian. Its tiny Part One, which is a Gospel summary, is actually covered in the few days before Ash Wednesday to fill that space.

Finally, in Advent, with the major Early Church and Anglican material covered, we take time to slow down and meditate on a different form of written piety: the poetry of early Anglican divines such as John Donne and George Herbert. This piece is currently available in print for sale in my bookstore.

While most of this is on my wish-list to arrange nicely for publication in print, there will be some rights issues: the catechism is probably not licensed for commercial re-use, so I will have to find another way to commend that for use without actually reprinting it myself.

Weekly Summary of the Catechetical Lectionary

  • Advent 1-4 Anglican metaphysical poetry…
  • Christmas 1 Athanasius On the Incarnation 1-29
  • Christmas 2 On the Incarnation 30-57
  • Epiphany 1 1 Clement. 1-30
  • Epiphany 2 1 Clement 31-65
  • Epiphany 3 Epistles of Ignatius : Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians
  • Epiphany 4 Ignatius Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrneans, Polycarp
  • Epiphany 5 Epistle of Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp
  • Epiphany 6 Didache2 Clement
  • Epiphany 7 Mathetes ad Diognetus, Justin Martyr 1-4
  • Epiphany 8 Justin Martyr’s First Apology 5-27

As in the Communion lectionary, the last week of Epiphany interrupts the numbered weeks.
Skipped weeks will be picked up after Pentecost.

  • Epiphany Last Catechism Questions 1-17, Lent Fathers Daily Devotional
  • Lent 1-6 Lent Fathers Daily Devotional
  • Easter 1 Articles of Religion 1-7
  • Easter 2 Articles 8-14
  • Easter 3 Articles 15-21
  • Easter 4 Articles 22-28
  • Easter 5 Articles 29-35
  • Easter 6 Articles 36-39
  • Ascensiontide Foundational Documents of the 2019 BCP

Starting on the Day of Pentecost, the “Proper” weeks are to be used for this lectionary.

  • Proper 1 Didache2 Clement
  • Proper 2 Mathetes ad Diognetus, Justin Marty’r First Apology 1-4
  • Proper 3 Justin M. 5-27
  • Proper 4 Justin M. 28-50
  • Proper 5 Justin M. 51-68
  • Proper 6 Athenagorus 1-12
  • Proper 7 Athenagorus 13-22
  • Proper 8 Athenagorus 23-37
  • Proper 9 of the Anglican Church in North America, “To Be A Christian” 18-39
  • Proper 10 Catechism 40-55
  • Proper 11 Catechism 56-75
  • Proper 12 Catechism 76-94
  • Proper 13 Catechism 95-113
  • Proper 14 Catechism 114-133
  • Proper 15 Catechism 134-153
  • Proper 16 Catechism 154-169
  • Proper 17 Catechism 170-187
  • Proper 18 Catechism 188-204
  • Proper 19 Catechism 205-220
  • Proper 20 Catechism 221-236
  • Proper 21 Catechism 237-251
  • Proper 22 Catechism 252-265
  • Proper 23 Catechism 266-279
  • Proper 24 Catechism 280-295
  • Proper 25 Catechism 296-310
  • Proper 26 Catechism 311-324
  • Proper 27 Catechism 325-341
  • Proper 28 Catechism 342-356
  • Proper 29 Catechism 357-prayers

More on the Prayer of Humble Access

The primary difference between our contemporary wording here and the traditional wording is the word “character”.  The classical Prayer Book word is “property” – it is a property of God that he has mercy. 

Our Prayer Book also puts this prayer in the mouths of the whole congregation.  This is a first in official North American Prayer Book tradition, though alternative liturgies had already leaned in this direction for years.  This is an appropriate change for our time because it gets everyone involved in some form of eucharistic piety.  In pre-modern times, preparation for receiving Holy Communion was a noteworthy process both for Protestants and Papists alike.  Now that Communion is received weekly by the majority of liturgical Christians, it is easy to take it for granted, and many have lost a sense of preparation and piety for the Sacrament.  This prayer is a helpful, powerful, and beautiful treasure to that end.

The Prayer of Humble Access is also something of a “wandering prayer” in the history of the Prayer Books.  The first Prayer Book placed it immediately between the Words of Comfort and the Ministration of Communion to the people, making it an acknowledge of our unworthiness to receive the Sacrament even in a state of grace.  In the Prayer Books of 1552 an after, the Prayer of Humble Access is said immediately between the Sanctus and the Prayer of Consecration, making it a final preparatory prayer before approaching the Altar Table, and dissociating it from the penitential overtones that may have been associated with it in 1549.  Finally, the American Prayer Book of 1928 moved this prayer once again, to be read after the Consecration and Lord’s Prayer, immediately before the Ministration of Communion.  That is essentially where it is placed in the present volume too, the only visual difference being that where the 1928 book says a hymn may be sung, ours prints the Agnus Dei as an anthem that may be sung or said after this prayer and before the Ministration.  So, functionally, 2019 and 1928 are doing the same thing with the Prayer of Humble Access: making it (as in 1549) a final devotion before reception of the Sacrament.

From an ecumenical standpoint, it should be noted that the Roman Rite has a different (shorter, less elegant) sort of prayer of humble access.  Its wording has changed over time, but one form reads thus:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.

This prayer draws from the words of the faithful centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus’ word, rather than actual visit and contact (Matthew 8:8, Luke 7:6).  And it communicates the same basic premise: we are unworthy of God’s presence (regardless of how recently absolution has been pronounced) and approach him only by his grace.


This is one of the most beloved prayers among traditional Anglicans, yet unfamiliar to many who were formed according to modern liturgies such as that in the American Prayer Book of 1979.  Its inclusion here is part of the restoration of properly Anglican devotion and doctrine, though the rubric concedes it to be optional, should a more brief liturgy be desired.

The language of this prayer also took some consideration as it was adopted back into the 2019 Prayer Book.  The phrase “whose character is always to have mercy” is an update from the original term “whose property”.  This is a better update than a previous draft in Texts for Common Prayer which rendered it “who always delights in showing mercy.”  In that draft, mercy is God’s delight, but the original (and now still official) text identifies mercy as a property of God’s very nature or character.  It is the same as how we speak of God’s love – God is not simply loving, rather, God is love.  God does not just delight in showing mercy, God’s character is to have mercy.  Reflection on this should bring the worshiper great comfort and joy.

Apart from that phrase, further challenges may face the modern worshiper who is not yet accustomed to this prayer.  One of these is the strong realist language: “Grant us so to eat the flesh of your dear Son… and to drink his blood.”  It must be remembered, though, that just as there are different theological interpretations of our Lord’s Words of Institution and of his Bread of Life Discourse, so too will this prayer take on different tones according to one’s theology.   A Lutheran can see this as an affirmation of the Real Presence – Christ’s human and divine natures actually present in the bread and wine.  A Calvinist an see this as an affirmation of the Real Spiritual Presence – Christ’s body and blood actually communicated to us sacramentally as we receive the bread and wine.  So there is no problem with this prayer from either end of the churchmanship spectrum.  Its survival through all the pre-modern Prayer Books should be evidence enough of this.

Another question that might also be raised concerns the “effects” of the Body and Blood of Christ.  A simplistic reading of this prayer might indicate that Christ’s body cleanses our bodies, and his blood cleanses our souls.  But that is not the intention of this prayer – the historic belief has always been that Christ’s body and blood go together, just as with any other real creature.  It is like speaking about the Father creating, the Son redeeming, and the Spirit sanctifying – all three Persons of the Trinity actually do all three of those things; there is simply a convenient prominence of different Persons with different roles, but never an actual division between them.  Similarly, this prayer affirms, poetically, that the body and blood of Christ together sanctify our entire being – body and soul. A third misunderstanding and mistreatment of this prayer concerns its penitential tone.  Some argue that this prayer is extraneous in light of the confession and absolution already offered in the liturgy.  Such a claim is to miss the point of this prayer.  This is not a confession of sin, this is an acknowledgement of unworthiness.  Even with sin absolved the worshiper is still an unworthy participant at the Lord’s Table.  Even with the grace of divine forgiveness upon us, “blessed are they who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).  Furthermore, some of the language in the prayer – “that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us” – is echoed in the 8th paragraph of the prayer of consecration, plus the language of unworthiness is echoed in the 9th paragraph of the same.  So this prayer is integrally connected to the rest of the communion liturgy.  As the 1549 Prayer Book amply demonstrated by placing this prayer after the Absolution and Words of Comfort, it is not excessively penitential to express our unworthiness before the Lord.

The Fraction & its Anthems

The Fraction, or breaking of the bread, is permitted to take place either at the Words of Institution or after the Consecration and Lord’s Prayer.  While the Reformed tradition, with most classical Prayer Books, has preferred the breaking of the bread at the Words of Christ, the summary in the biblical narrative commends a later fraction: taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and then giving it (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19).  Thus the Fraction is permitted to take place after the Prayer of Consecration and the Lord’s Prayer, as is the case with the Roman Rite and the 1549 Prayer Book.

In the former case, the breaking of the bread during the Words emphasizes the narrative of the Last Supper, and points the worshiper toward that ancient Passover celebration in which the New Covenant was brokered.  In the latter, the breaking of the bread as its own ceremonial moment in the liturgy emphasizes the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, to which this entire liturgy directs us.  It is best when the celebrant chooses one pattern or the other, rather than snapping the bread during the Words of Institution and then actually breaking it at this point in the liturgy.

The Fraction Anthem, too, is drawn from the 1549 liturgy, which reads “Christ our Paschal lamb is offered up for us, once for all, when he bare our sins on his body upon the cross, for he is the very lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world: wherefore let us keep a joyful and holy feast with the Lord.”  This anthem, drawing largely from 1 Corinthians 5:7 and John 1:29, is parsed out into two options.  The first option, using the present tense, highlights the role of Holy Communion in communicating the Sacrifice of Christ to us.  The second option uses the past tense, rendering a version of the 1549 text in accord with how 1 Corinthians 5:7 is translated today.

The two versions of the anthem also represent slightly different emphases on the eucharistic sacrifice, often in line with high- and low-church perspectives.  The first declares the timeless nature of Christ’s sacrifice by using the present tense – this holy feast makes present to us now the atoning death of Christ.  The second uses the past tense to point us back in time, emphasizing the historicity of Christ’s sacrifice.  The worshiping community may benefit from using both of these anthems, perhaps appointing the former during seasons of joy and the latter during seasons of penitence.

The Lord’s Prayer at the Holy Communion

As the name implies, this prayer was authored by our Lord Jesus Christ.  The doxology “For thine is the kingdom…” is found in certain manuscripts but is largely understood to be a liturgical addition to the original prayer.  Exactly as with the Daily Office, the classical Prayer Book tradition appoints the Lord’s Prayer twice in the Communion service: once at the beginning (said by the priest alone), and again toward the end (said by all).  Which iterations of the Lord’s Prayer includes or excludes the doxology has varied from one Prayer Book to another, resulting in its near-universal inclusion in the present volume, for sake of simplicity and familiarity.

The English Prayer Book of 1549, with the Scottish and American Prayer Books, placed the Lord’s Prayer immediately after the Oblations, soon before the reception of the Sacrament.  The English Books thereafter, and of most other provinces, appoint the Lord’s Prayer immediately after the ministration and reception of the Sacrament.

The celebrant announces the Lord’s Prayer as one “we are bold to pray.”  This is not an historical commentary, referring to the people praying in their own tongue against medieval Roman malpractice, but a spiritual commentary: although we are unworthy sinners, boldly we approach the throne of grace, by faith (cf. Hebrews 4:16).

The Lord’s Prayer, being composed, taught, and commended by Jesus himself, is an integral component of any liturgy; no official service of the Church omits it.  Its specific placement at this point, however, does have significance.  The Prayers of Consecration have been completed, the holy food is on the holy table, and God’s family is gathered.  The first (and classically, only) thing the congregation says aloud in this holy moment is the prayer that their Lord taught them.  And, in the context of Holy Communion, many lines of this prayer take on particular meanings and tones.  God “in heaven” doesn’t feel quite so distant for a moment.  That his will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” is actually about to take place in our hands, mouths, bodies, and souls, momentarily.  “Our daily bread” is already before us in Word and Sacrament.  The promise of forgiveness and call to forgive others has already been addressed in the liturgy.  The lofty ideals and hopes of this Prayer are, in this glorious moment, nearer than they normally seem.

Consecrationism, Receptionism, and the Epiclesis

There are long-standing debates, especially within the classical Protestant churches, over the “when” and “how” of the consecration of the bread and wine.  On one side there is consecrationism, championed by Martin Luther and his early followers.  This view asserts that the Words of Institution, being the very words of Christ, are the moment in the liturgy when the bread and wine are properly consecrated to be the Body and Blood of Christ.  In competition with this rose a view called receptionism, championed by 17th-century Lutheran scholastics and John Calvin’s Reformed tradition, which asserts that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ only in the reception, or even only the faithful reception, of the communicants.  The Articles of Religion and the Prayer Book were written early enough that both views are encompassed within our prayers, thus allowing the debate to survive within the Anglican Church throughout these five centuries.

Differences both practical and devotional result from these competing views.  A consecrationist will consider the Words of Institution the most central, necessary, and holy part of the eucharistic canon, where a receptionist will emphasize prayers that speak of the worshipers’ faith and participation in Christ.  Furthermore, the consecrationist will consider bread and wine left over from the liturgy still consecrated and holy, where the receptionist will consider them ordinary bread and wine.  Most Prayer Books have included rubrics mandating the consumption of leftover bread and wine immediately after the liturgy, thus appeasing (though not directly affirming) the consecrationist view.

In the course of the 20th century, through increased contact with Eastern and Early Church liturgies, the epiclesis rose in prominence, especially among pentecostal or charismatic-minded Anglicans who naturally emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit.  Although this emphasis was largely absent from Western Christianity beforehand, a variant of consecrationism has arisen which asserts that it is the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, that consecrates the bread and wine.  The impact of this theology is reflected in the Additional Directions of the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books, in which an Epiclesis is included with the Words of Institution in the rubrics for consecrated additional bread and wine during the Ministration of Holy Communion.

Book Store now open!

I am pleased and excited to announce that I’ve got an online book store open now, where I can put some of my work here into print so people can purchase real-life actual physical copies! Devotionals, resources for liturgical studies, materials about the Christian calendar and holidays, and even some more doctrinal/instructional books and booklets are on the way.

Check out my 100% scripted and Very Professional introductory video:

Oh, yes, and please do actually check out the Book Store: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/book-store/
I’ll keep you up to date when new projects are going to be added to the list!

Entering Hallowtide

October 31st begins a stretch of time known informally as Hallowtide – an Old English word for “Saints Season”. One way to understand this holy moment in the Church Calendar is call it a Triduum, a three-day period.

Image pulled from Facebook

October 31st, Halloween, is the opening celebration in which we acknowledge the thinning of the barrier between the living and the dead. Some say this derives from the language of Celtic Christianity, but it’s very difficult to discern fact from fad when it comes to referencing the belief in practice of the early Church in the British isles, so let’s not take that too seriously. In any case, this evening, All hallows eve, is the liturgical start of All Saints Day itself, and the party begins.

All Saints Day, November 1st, is when we particularly celebrate the church triumphant – that victory over sin and death itself that God’s people have in Christ and even now enjoy in paradise, even though they have not yet tasted of the general Resurrection of the Body.

All Souls Day, November 2nd is when the Roman Church remembers those who are still in purgatory, and have not yet attained to the beatific vision of the Saints in heaven. This is not an Anglican take on the holy day, obviously, and so the optional commemoration on this day in our prayer books now typically turn it the commemoration of the faithful departed. So rather than talking about those in heaven and those in purgatory, as the Romans erroneously do, we celebrate two different aspects or realities that the Saints departed presently experience. November 1st is the day of joy in triumph, we give thanks to God for their victory in him, and we are stirred up to follow their good examples that we might share in that eternal inheritance with them. November 2nd is the day of rest and mourning, where we lament the ongoing present reality of death, acknowledge the pain of losing people to that death even temporarily, and are comforted in the knowledge that they are at rest with the Lord.

Beyond this triduum one could also identify hallowtide as an octave. An octave is a stretch of eight days, which is represented in our prayer book by the fact that when All Saints Day is not on a Sunday we are allowed to celebrate it on the first Sunday in November. This results in a span of 7 days (November 1st through 7th) in addition to the evening of October 31st bringing us to a total of eight different days in which we could be celebrating the hallowed ones continuously!

One way this can be observed is by singing. This customary has proposed the following recommendations for observing the All Saints / All Souls dynamic throughout the octave:

  • 31st: Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
  • 1st: For all the saints, and, Lord who shall come to thee
  • 2nd: Behold a host arrayed in white, and, O Lord my God I cry to thee
  • 3rd: Who are these like stars appearing
  • 4th: I sing a song of the saints of God
  • 5th: The saints of God! their conflicts past
  • 6th: Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
  • 7th: I fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds