Book Review: Celebrating the Eucharist

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.

Alongside Ceremonies of the Eucharist which we looked at last week, my seminary class on Anglican liturgy was also given a newer “practical ceremonial guide” entitled Celebrating the Eucharist, by Patrick Malloy.  The idea was that, together, they’d give us two slightly different approaches to the liturgy.  In retrospect, they aren’t all that different from one another.  Galley’s book was billed as the more specific and prescriptive (perhaps old-fashioned) writer in mindset, where this one by Malloy is more broad and theological, less interested in telling us how to do the liturgy, in favor of telling us how to think about the liturgy so we can make good decisions.

In our day of wide variation in local custom and architecture and circumstance, it would seem that Malloy’s approach here in Celebrating the Eucharist is the best way to go.  Unfortunately, the success of the endeavor is entirely reliant upon the principles of the writer, and Patrick Malloy is a 21st-century Episcopalian… this book was written in 2007.  So, apart from the problem shared with Ceremonies of the Eucharist and Elements of Offering (that these are all written for the 1979 Prayer Book with almost zero regard to prior tradition), Celebrating the Eucharist has the added problem that it literally comes from the very setting that we Anglicans are explicitly not a part of.  Many of you left TEC; I never joined them in the first place, so I don’t carry that experiential baggage myself, but on principle I know that there is little point on looking to their resources from recent times for good advice and perspective.

One example of what makes this book very much suspect is the author’s deconstruction approach to the liturgy.  Rather than dealing with the Eucharistic service as a cohesive whole, he looks at it from a utilitarian or practical perspective: “what are the most important parts?”  This American reductionism may be good for business and industry (though even that’s debatable) but it is terrible for liturgy.  A liturgical service is not a string of interchangeable ingredients like beads on a necklace, but more like a living body: yes bodies can look different from one another, but there’s a reason that every part is where it is.  To some extent Malloy knows this, and some of his liturgical principles spelled out in chapter 3 are spot on.  But in chapter 9 “The Greater and the Lesser” he succumbs to the temptation to deconstructing the liturgy into a set of “core essentials”, which don’t even line up with pre-1979 Prayer Book liturgies, giving away the game that he’s not espousing Anglican liturgical theology, but Modernist Episcopalian liturgical theology.

One brief example of this can be found on pages 163-164, where he talks about the Confession of Sin in the Eucharistic liturgy.  Oddly enough he sees this as one of the expendable parts of the service:

The Confession may be omitted “on occasion” (BCP 359).  The Council of Nicea (325) forbade kneeling during the entire Fifty Days of Easter, and so the Easter season could well be considered an appropriate time for omitting the Confession.  Other great feasts are similarly appropriate.

Such advice flies in the face of every Anglican Prayer Book before the 1979 book, and (I would argue) defies the spirit of the rubric in the 1979 book.  Every Sunday from Easter Day through Pentecost is not an “occasion.”

At risk of making you think that this book is total trash, I will point out that some of his advice is still useful.  After all, the external form of the 2019 Prayer Book liturgy is very similar to that of the 1979, so some of his more practical lines of advice remain applicable to our context.  Things like ordering a procession, the communion vessels on the Credence Table, the artistry (as opposed to “bill-board” effect or costume mentality) of vestments, advice against a “sequence hymn” intruding between the Gospel and the Sermon, and insight regarding the different styles of thuribles, are all worthy reminders for us.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
The book is well organized, and is written in a clear style.  Much of its contents are in essay, or prose, rather than step-by-step walk-throughs of the liturgy, so it takes a lot more reading than other customary or ceremonial books to find all the advice and direction you might be looking for.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
The insights of this book are almost exclusively for the Communion service; the Daily Office is not in the purview of this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
As mentioned above, this was written specifically to explicate the 1979 Prayer Book.  Much of its procedure will translate well to the 2019 Prayer Book, but you have to be attentive to his principles at each step of the way, as both his liturgical and his theological perspective is suspect according to traditional Anglican standards.

Overall, it’s neat book to have, and to compare with other Episcopalian commentaries on liturgy, but it’s not one I’d recommend you go out and buy.

Book Review: Ceremonies of the Eucharist

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.

In my Anglican liturgy course at seminary, there were two books about the ceremonies of the Prayer Book that we were instructed to read and compare.  Both dealt with the 1979 Prayer Book and presented somewhat different approaches to the liturgy.  One of those books was Ceremonies of the Eucharist – A Guide to Celebration by Howard E. Galley, published in 1989.  This book is very clearly and logically arranged:

Part One: Of Churches and their Furnishings (18 pages)
Part Two: Of Liturgical Ministers (22 pages)
Part Three: Of Seasons, Music, and Liturgical Practices (24 pages)
Part Four: Of Preparations for the Service (6 pages)
Part Five: The Service in Detail (63 pages)
Part Six: Synopsis of Ceremonies (40 pages)
Part Seven: The Holy Eucharist with Baptism (10 pages)
Part Eight: Celebrations with Small Congregations (4 pages)
Part Nine: Holy Communion After the Liturgy (4 pages)
Part Ten: Reservation of the Sacrament (4 pages)
Part Eleven: Holy Communion by a Deacon (4 pages)
Part Twelve: The Bishop at Parish Eucharists (16 pages)
Part Thirteen: The Bishop at Holy Baptism (8 pages)
Part Fourteen: The Ordination of Priests and Deacons (6 pages)
Part Fifteen: Appendix: Liturgical Texts (5 pages)

A handy glossary concludes the book.

As you’ll see, the largest portion of this book, by far, is a detailed walk-through of the Rite II Communion Service of the 1979 prayer book, followed by a walk-through of the actions and movements of the various ministers (priest, deacon, acolyte, and “others”).

On the whole, Galley’s approach to the liturgy is principled and measured.  He is not prone to outbursts of strong and (occasionally) quirky opinion like Fr. John-Julian.  He does, however, share his slight disregard for the previously-established Anglican liturgical tradition; they are both 1979 loyalists, one could say.  Galley, at least, however, is aware that things have changed since the 70’s.

Because of this, Galley’s advice on ceremonial can be received with a little more confidence for the user of the 2019 prayer book.  As far as the order of service is concerned, the 2019 and 1979 have very much in common, and the ceremonial of the one will usually work for the other.  Because Galley usually takes his time to reflect and comment upon the liturgy, it is easier for the 21st century Anglican priest to assess what elements of his advice are worth observing versus setting aside.  Galley is very much a part of the “liturgical renewal” movement that the 2019 Prayer Book has taken steps to unravel somewhat, so we cannot assume that ceremonial for the 1979 will be appropriate wholesale for us.

One specific example of ceremonial that I appreciate in this book is on page 90, in the section dealing with the Sermon:

The present Prayer Book deliberately makes no provision for a hymn (or anything else) to intrude between the gospel and the sermon.  This exclusion raises serious questions about the practice, sometimes seen, of singing the opening stanzas of a hymn during the gospel procession, and the remaining stanzas after the gospel – while the procession returns and the preacher goes to the pulpit.  Such a practice also does little justice to the integrity – and frequently to the sense – of the text of the hymn.

Although this is not a liturgical pet peeve of mine, this is something I have seen in a couple place, and is not a feature that I like.  The sequence of lessons, culminating in the Gospel and leading to the sermon, is an ascending-by-steps into the Word of God, and having more singing between the Gospel and the Sermon interrupts that upward movement.  Galley’s thoughtful rebuke of that practice is but one example of liturgical principle leading to sound ceremonial.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
The book is well organized, well labeled and marked, and is written in a clear style.  It references page numbers in the ’79 prayer book, as well as other chapters in this book, whenever necessary.  The glossary is also a helpful feature.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
The ceremonial instructions here are comprehensive for the Communion service; the Daily Office is not in the purview of this book, though.

Reference Value: 4/5
As mentioned above, this was written specifically to explicate the 1979 Prayer Book.  Much of its procedure will translate well to the 2019 Prayer Book, but you have to be attentive to his reasoning at each step of the way to make sure the actions taken in worship match the theology of worship and the proper meaning and function of the liturgy.

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)

Appendix

  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.

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.

Book Review: The ‘Very Pure Word of God’

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.

Does it feel like there’s been a bit more ‘Anglo-Catholic’ content here lately compared to other resources?  Maybe a larger proportion of them write about liturgy than the evangelicals, I don’t know.  But our book today is most definitely of an evangelical perspective.  As the title suggests, the book is about the biblical (and reformed) basis of the 1662 Prayer Book.  More specifically, the title is drawn from a phrase in the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book:

It is more profitable, because here are left out many things, whereof some be untrue, some uncertain, same vain and superstitious: and is ordained nothing to be read, but the very pure word of God, the Holy Scriptures, or that which is evidently grounded upon the same; and that in such a language and order as is most easy and plain for the understanding, both of the readers and hearers.

as reproduced on page 796 in the 2019 BCP

The primary thrust of this book is a four-fold thesis.  Peter Adams argues that the 1662 BCP…

  1. is intentionally formed by Biblical truth, and focused on the gospel of Christ;
  2. is a guard and correction against un-Biblical and anti-Biblical doctrines and practices;
  3. puts forth the Bible as the chief instrument of ministry, to be read and preached intentionally and systematically;
  4. provides responses to God that express Bible truths and use Bible words.

With these points in mind, the author has two primary audiences in mind: those who use the Prayer Book but downplay its reformed protestant nature, and those who are reformed protestants that downplay the Prayer Book.  He, therefore has a few strong words for Anglo-Catholics, Charismatics, and self-professed Anglicans who don’t use the Prayer Book.  Whether you’re on the same specifically ‘Reformed’ page as he is or not, though, there are some good challenges and analyses in this little book.

I’ll get my negative feedback out of the way first.  There is a section, where he deals with the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, in which he basically argues for the Regulative Principle of worship, yet acknowledges the Normative Principle for other liturgies of the Church.  Personally, I sharply disagree with the notion that the regulative principle has any real place in Anglicanism, and I believe our formularies say the same.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the regulative and normative principles debate, I’ve touched on the subject in a commentary on Article of Religion #20.)

On the whole, though, this 70-page booklet (rather more of a pamphlet or a tract, really) is a useful piece of literature.  It’s part of the ‘Anglican Foundations’ series put out by the Latimer Trust, a foundation devoted to promulgating conservative Evanglicalism in England.  It’s peppered with footnotes, yielding a very large bibliography, which is a useful resource in and of itself for the student of Anglican studies.  The book explores the historical context of the Prayer Book tradition (both religious and political), explores the biblical foundation of the Prayer Book, briefly comments on some key parts of the Prayer Book, and is meticulously broken down into clearly-titled sections making it very much like a Q&A catechism.  If you have a question about the Prayer Book, you can basically look at the Table of Contents, and find what you’re looking for.

Being 66 pages long, plus bibliography, though, means that it’s just a surface-level exploration.  That means that if you’ve got a Anglican seminary degree behind you already, you probably know most of the information in here.  This book is really more of a gateway to the subject of Prayer Book history, and primarily functions as an appeal for the reformed protestant faith as expressed in the BCP.

However, lest you get the impression that this is an annoyingly partisan book, and liturgically dogmatic, check out this excerpt:

peteradam

When you kick around Anglican- or Prayer-Book-related groups on Facebook for a while, you will see these tendencies at play: those who worship as if the BCP never existed, and those who slavishly proclaim the perfection of the 1662 or the 1928 or whichever… even if they themselves don’t actually use those books wholesale!  So I appreciate the honesty of the author here, where he’s able to uphold the 1662 BCP as the gold standard, and yet not require slavish adherence to its every letter without taking our contemporary context into account.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This booklet is written with lots of short clearly-marked sections, making it very easy to read through or to peruse at will.  It’s not written for academics, and it assumes no prior knowledge.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is not a devotional book.  Though if it does it’s job, you’ll want to go grab a Prayer Book and worship!

Reference Value: 3/5
The historical information is a handy introduction to Prayer Book history.  Some of his analysis, and his theological lens, will be questioned by those with different viewpoints; and because this is just short book there isn’t space devoted to counter-argumentation.  Though the bibliography is a great resource for those who want to study more.

All in all, even though I’m not 100% on board with all of his views and assertions, I would still probably loan this book to a parishioner interested in the Prayer Book tradition, especially one coming from a Protestant background who’d most immediately benefit from a protestant-heavy defense of the BCP.  If you’re in a parish with an Anglo-Catholic congregation, however, this may ruffle a few feathers.  Though it’s not bad to see why evangelical Anglicans (should) love the Prayer Book!  It is supposed to be the book that unites the churchmanship parties, after all.

Book Review: Liturgical Theology

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.

Let’s start with a confession: I didn’t read all of the books in seminary that I was supposed to read.  But I did start catching up immediately after I graduated.  One of those books was Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan.  I was already a confirmed Anglican and in the discernment process for Holy Orders, and it was only then, in reading this book, that I began my deep love for the liturgy which has continued with me to this day.  I was so impressed by this book (and still in a note-taking mode like a seminary student) that I actually made outline notes of each chapter of the book.  So if you want to go into greater depth you can look at those notes here:

As you can see there, the first four chapters lay the foundation for a liturgical theology, and the last three set out concrete practices by which that liturgical theology can be expressed.  This is very helpful for those who are not familiar with liturgical worship, and need to see “why liturgy matters” before they can be bothered to learn about liturgy itself.  And even if you are familiar with liturgical worship, sometimes it’s helpful to go back to examine the foundational purposes for this way of life we share.

It should be noted, too, that Simon Chan is not an Anglican.  He’s not even from a liturgical tradition himself; he’s an Assemblies of God Pastor.  This has the disadvantage that this book doesn’t really deal with particularly Anglican liturgical practices, but it does have the advantage of a common-ground approach to liturgical worship that highlights the similarities across several particular traditions.  When he does give a walk-through of the Communion service, it is largely identical to the shape of the 1979 Prayer Book and the modern Roman Mass, not the Tridentine Mass or the classical prayer book tradition.  This may be a let-down for the traditionalist reader, but more relatable to the modern-liturgy fan.

I’ve noticed that the website for an ACNA diocese actually has a review of this book, which you may find useful for reflection on the nature of the Church.  There’s also a review of this book on the well-known The Gospel Coalition blog which makes a number of unfounded criticisms (such as that Simon Chan does away with sola scriptura and promulgates the doctrine of transubstantiation!) which I can only tell you to disregard.  I think that reviewer either had a chip on his shoulder against the liturgical tradition, or didn’t read the book very carefully.

On the whole, I would still recommend this book quite happily.  It won’t give you an Anglican education, but its principles are sound and its commentary is insightful.  In fact, the fact that this is a pentecostal author arguing for historic liturgy makes his exhortation all the more earnest and significant.  This is no patronizing Anglo-Catholic telling the evangelical world how to fix their problems, as we often imagine liturgical theologians to be!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Although this book was an assigned text for one of my seminary courses, it is not a dense scholarly read.  It is intended, I think, for pastors, worship leaders, and interested laymen who do not necessarily have any higher education.  It’s clearly organized, logically written, and peppered with citations for further reference.  (Except they’re endnotes, yuck!)

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is a book to read, not pray.

Reference Value: 3/5
If you’ve never read a book about liturgy and liturgical worship before, this is probably the best place to start.  It’s informative, covers a lot of ground, and gets you connected with plenty of biblical and Early Church quotations.  It won’t really improve your knowledge and understanding of the Prayer Book tradition, or English spirituality, but you can save that for another book.  From analyzing the Creed to outlining the three-year catechumenate, this is a great place to begin your foray into liturgical studies.

Book Review: A Manual for Priests of the American Church

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.

One of the most useful supplementary liturgical texts on my shelf is A Manual for Priests of the American Church by Earl H. Maddux.  Originally produced in 1944, it reached a fifth edition in 1968.  Its subtitle is “Complementary to the Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer” (paired with the 1928).  After the 1979 Prayer Book was released, I don’t believe this book had a successor.  This is partly because the 1979 Prayer Book added to its pages a few things supplied in this book, and partly because what remained useful in this book didn’t really need any updating for those who were disposed to its it.

The book consists of three sections: Offices, Blessings, and an Appendix of extra material.

The “Offices” supplement what’s in the 1928 Prayer Book, adding some instructions for emergency and conditional baptism, admitting catechumens, sacramental confession, communion from the reserved sacrament, blessing civil marriages, ministry to (including anointing of) the sick, prayers for the dying and departed, particular situations for Burial services, and the like.  Much of this is found in the 1979 Prayer Book in one form or another.  The 2019 Prayer Book provides a form of most of this material too.  If you’re a 1928 Prayer Book user, this part of the book is still immediately practically useful; for the rest of us it’s informative reference material to see how some of the “new” parts of our prayer book were previously rendered.

The “Blessings” section is the part that I don’t know if can be found in any newer books.  It begins with a set of rubrics about how priests and bishops are to handle priestly blessings, how to vest, what sort of contexts and permissions are necessary, and starts the list with the blessing of holy water, as that is what’s typically used in blessing nearly any other object or locale.  If you are open to this line of tradition, this collection is invaluable, as it represents an Anglican adaptation of traditional Western liturgical material.  My congregation is not particularly high-church in their devotion and piety, but there have been times when they’ve asked me to bless new crosses, bibles, and the like.  Rendering some of this book’s blessings into contemporary English has been a handy resource for me!  It’s got blessings for advent wreaths, vestments, pictures, pregnant women, children, books, candles, houses, other types of buildings, prayer beads, vehicles, even including…

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you know… just in case you’re the chaplain to NASA or something.  Clearly the star-gazing 60’s had an impact on the later editions of this book!

The Appendix section of this book is a sort of catch-all for various bits and bobs.  More blessings and offices, including the Asperges, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday, and large pile of additional blessings and prayers, fill another 70 pages of the volume.  A few of these features (like ashes for Ash Wednesday) have found their way into modern prayer books, and therefore make for interesting comparative liturgical study as we consider how mid-20th-century highchurchmen sought to restore ancient traditions such as the imposition of ashes into the Anglican context.

The book closes with a set of indexes, making its rather scattered contents much easier to find, especially if you find yourself “is there a blessing/prayer for this?”

As you can probably tell from a number of the features listed in this book by now, this is a decidedly highchurch, Anglo-Catholic, resource.  It is to such a degree that many would consider this in violation of the Anglican formularies by (re-)introducing prayers for the departed, traditions that suggest a “sacerdotal” priesthood, and so-called Roman superstitions concerning the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  A lowchurch or charismatic Anglican may find elements of this book useful on a careful pick-and-choose basis, but on the whole this book is unashamedly Anglo-Catholic.  However, before you dismiss this book entirely on theological-party grounds, it should be noted that this book is presented as complementary to the Prayer Book; nothing in here replaces the authorized Prayer Book.  So let us not regard this book as representing a divisive element who wanted to replace the Prayer Book; that is an extreme to be found elsewhere, not here.

The Saint Aelfric Customary, apart from its primary role of parsing out the execution of the 2019 Prayer Book liturgy in a traditional manner, also aims to provide some supplemental liturgical material, and many of the blessings in this book will be drawn upon, adapted into contemporary English to match our new Prayer Book’s style.  If you are priest with even just a little bit of high-church interest, I recommend this book very highly; it is a useful resource to have around, even if it’s only practically useful once in a blue moon!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Because it’s been through a few additions, some of its sections, especially the Appendix, aren’t as logically ordered as one might wish.  But the index section in the back is simple, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  The fact that its material is in traditional English may also be a slight deterrent for those unused to it.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this book on this scale.  If you’re an Anglo-Catholic Priest, in a high church 1928 Prayer Book parish, then this book is probably a 4.  For the rest of us priests, though, this is much more of an occasional resource.  If you’re not ordained, this book will almost never be “useful” to you at all.

Reference Value: 3/5
From the standpoint of the History of Liturgy, or liturgiology, this is a really cool text.  You get see, here, several examples of Anglo-Catholic recoveries of traditional liturgical material before it gets appropriated the Liturgical Movement of the 1960’s as represented in the 1979 Prayer Book.  In this sense, then, this book is a fascinating study to anyone interested in the subject.

By way of a last word, this is a book that I think all Anglican priests should know about, most should have, even if only a few will use.

Book Review: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

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.

Are you an Anglo-Catholic?  Or do you have high-church leanings?  If yes, then this is a book you’ll probably appreciate: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.  Despite the name, it’s not a Prayer Book in the sense of the Common Prayer Book; this little volume does not deal with liturgy as such.  In the three-fold rule of prayer scheme of things, this deals primarily with personal or private devotion and prayer.

Note: This review pertains to its 2014 edition; it has predecessors which may be rather different.

The Table of Contents give you a good idea of what’s inside here.

  • The Christian’s Obligations
  • Daily Prayer
  • Penitence and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • The Holy Eucharist
  • Eucharistic Devotions
  • Devotions through the Christian Year
  • Topical Devotions
  • Litanies
  • The Holy Hour

The Daily Prayer and Holy Eucharist sections contain prayers and explanations of the primary liturgies of the Prayer Book tradition, approximating or summarizing the Daily Office in short form and providing devotional aids for following along in the Communion service.  The Penitence section includes a re-print of The Reconciliation of a Penitent, found in the 1979 Prayer Book.

The Eucharistic, calendar-based, and other topical-based devotions and prayers are drawn from a wide swath of Church history and are unashamedly catholic in outlook.  I wouldn’t say it’s so Papist as to be un-Anglican, though some of its content definitely would be rejected by the more ardent low-churchmen, and it does admittedly slightly stretch the boundaries set out in the Anglican formularies (an issue that virtually all ‘parties’ of modern Anglicanism are guilty of in one way or another, to be fair).

As a parent, I have enjoyed the prayer for one’s children.  As a priest, I have enjoyed the “Nine Days of Prayer for One Deceased” both for my own grieving and for being ready to help others in theirs.

There are two cautions I must raise regarding this book, however.

  1. It is written to integrate with the 1979 Prayer Book.  As we’ve seen in a previous review, the 1979 Prayer Book is not the best representative of Anglican tradition by a long shot.  For most of my readers that book is also now completely obsolete, if you ever used it at all.  That makes some features of this book, especially its walk-through of the Communion service, rather out of date (if not just plain incorrect).
  2. It shows signs of current Episcopalian liberalism.  Because this is offered as a source of traditionalist devotional material, it does have an inherent liturgical conservatism to it, but certain issues like sexual morality in the examination of conscience end up reading a bit oddly.  Theological precision has long gone out the window in Episcopalianism, too, so one cannot count on the content of this book being well-tethered, to the Anglican formularies or otherwise.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This is a very user-friendly book.  It’s meant for quick & easy use, without training; you don’t have to know your way around the Book of Common Prayer.  It has explanations and introductions in each chapter or section, much of which is useful to non-Episcopalians.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This is where mileage may vary.  The fact that it’s conformed to the 1979 Prayer Book is an inconvenience for us in the ACNA.  The fact that it’s specifically Anglo-Catholic may take it down a notch or two if you’re opposed to Anglo-Catholicism (making it a 1 or a 2).  But if you’re comfortable with that tradition, there are plenty of things in here one can still enjoy and use.

Reference Value: 2/5
Again, the 1979 connection decreases its reference value outside of Episcopalianism.  But if you want to look at some classic catholic devotions (like devotions to Mary and the Saints, prayers for the departed, stations of the cross, etc.) through some sort of Anglican filter then this can still be pretty educational.  It’s primarily a devotional book, though.

All in all, I’m happy to have received a copy, and was happy to pass along another copy to someone else.  It’s nice to pick up every now and then.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy or recommend it to others at this point, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a revised edition compatible with the 2019 Prayer Book being made someday.

Book Review: The Bay Psalm Book

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.

Today we’re stepping outside the Anglican tradition and looking at a gem of American history.  The first book ever published and printed in North America was The Bay Psalm Book in 1640, a mere twenty years after the pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.  It has gone through many re-printings since then, and probably has some more legible successors in recent times, but I happened upon a facsimile print of the first edition, complete with blocky type and funny 17th century spelling.  On its own, it’s a cool historical curiosity.  But its actual contents have proven useful to me, and even found their way into my church’s worship from time to time.

The Bay Psalms Book is basically a psalter: all the psalms are re-translated such that they conform to common poetic meters in English such that they can be set to hymn tunes.  This book does not assign any tunes, it’s simply the text of the metric psalms.  What I have done, then, is take up some of a psalm from this book, fix up the spelling (and modernize the grammar a little if possible) and pick a tune that my congregation will know.

Psalm 67, for example (odd spelling and italics included), reads thus:

God gracious be to us & give
his blessing us unto,
let him upon us make to shine
his countenance alſo.*

That there may be the knowledg of
thy way the earth upon,
and alſo of thy ſaving health
in every nation. **

O God let thee the people prayſe,
let all people prayſe thee.
O let the nations** rejoyce,
and let them joyfull bee:

For thou ſhalt give judgement unto
the people righteouſly,
alſo the nations upon earth
thou ſhalt them lead ſafely.

O God let thee the people prayſe
let all people prayſe thee.
Her fruitfull increaſe by the earth
ſhall then forth yeilded bee:

God ev’n our owne God ſhall us bleſſe.
God I ſay bleſſe us ſhall,
and of the earth the utmoſt coaſts
they ſhall him reverence all.

* The “long s” – ſ – looks like an lowercase f, but if you look carefully it doesn’t have the horizontal line through the center.  There was a general rule when to use ſ or s, but it doesn’t seem to be strictly followed in this book.

** Twice in this psalm you have to pronounce “nations” with three syllables: na-ti-ons.  This kind of thing happens with similar words throughout the book, making it rather difficult for the modern reader to pick up on.

Now try singing that to the hymn tune AZMON (popular with the song “O for a thousand tongues to sing“).

Pretty cool, huh?  What you can do with a book like this is look up the Psalm for the Communion service on a given Sunday, check if its verses are readable and singable for your congregation, and then bring them into the worship service set to a tune they know… then they’ll both read/pray the Psalm and sing a paraphrase of it!

A note on Psalm-singing: in liturgical worship, Anglican or otherwise, the text of the liturgy is very important.  It matters what we say, and why we say it.  To mess around with the wording or translation, therefore, is not good practice.  So I would never recommend metric psalms as a replacement for the Psalmody in the Daily Office or Communion services.  Let the official psalter translation do its work.  Metric versions such as in The Bay Psalms Book can be refreshing and interesting and even beneficial at times, but should never replace the actual text of our liturgy.

The ratings in short…

Accessibility: 5/5
This book is nice and simple; there’s an explanatory introduction, the text of 150 psalms, and nothing else.  The header tells you what psalm(s) are on the page below, so you can thumb through the book quickly and easily as you search for the one your want.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
You have to supply the music.  You have to be able to read the imperfect print (if you get a facsimile edition) and ignore the funny spellings.  You have to figure out how to pronounce some of the words like a 17th century British colonist.  It can be done, and it can be beneficial, but much of this book just “won’t do it” for worshipers in the 21st century.  Whenever I’ve used it in my church, it’s always been limited in scope and edited for clarity of language.

Reference Value: 3/5
There are modern metric psalm translations out there, so you don’t really need to seek this one out.  This is great if you like colonial American history, or the history of bible/psalm translation, or the history of Christian worship.  The introduction provides a little insight into puritan theology of worship, too.

Book Review: Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter

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.

One of the more unusual music volumes in my collection is Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.  It was kindly bought for me as a Christmas gift by my parents-in-law a couple years ago, which was quite a surprise (though considering the vast length of my Amazon Wish Lists, it’s pretty easy for me to be surprised by gifts).  There was brief concern on my part, as I had just purchased stack of old books of chant, mass parts, choral services for the Daily Office, and so forth… would this book be redundant?

It turns out no, what this provides is a little different, and a lot more organized.  The title indicates that this book contains the Psalms marked for plainchant, but it has so much more inside.  It has some information and history of plainchant, including instructions on how to read and sing it.  It also provides chant settings (and text) for the entire Morning and Evening Office according to classical Prayer Book tradition!  With the resources in this single volume, you can chant the entire Morning Prayer (Matins) or Evening Prayer (Evensong) service, including the Scripture lessons.

It includes a walk-through of the ritual/ceremonial for a solemn chanted Office, and provides several chant tones for several Canticles that could be used at the Morning and Evening Office, even including the Athanasian Creed, and some Marian Anthems for those who want to high-church it up at the end of Evensong.  At the back, there’s a table of tones – an index of chant tunes, basically – which is a helpful study resource both for one who wants to learn to sing the chants regularly, and for one who wants to study this fascinating corner of music history.

It’s also worth noting that the plainchant tunes for the Psalms are not quite the same as in the traditional Roman Rite, but reflect the British variants that developed over the course of history.  So although this is a very “old-fashioned” traditional book, it is not crypto-Papist, but celebrates our Anglican heritage.

Of course, all the worship text is in traditional Prayer Book English.

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The ratings in short…

Accessibility: 3/5
With all the resources and explanations in this book, it is inevitably a bit tricky to navigate at first.  If you want to sing an Office, you need a bookmark in the Psalms section, in the Office liturgy section, and in the Canticles section.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
If you want to chant some or all of the Office, and don’t know how, this book will both teach you and provide everything you need for it.  All you need besides this is the Collect of the Day and Scripture readings appointed in your Prayer Book.  I give it a 4 instead of a 5 only because of all the explanatory text that makes the book a bit unwieldy… a more “professional” chorister or chanter would use a more streamlined book with fewer helps.

Reference Value: 5/5
If you don’t want to chant the Office, then this book is of purely academic value.  But its academic value is superb.  The history of chant, the application of chant in English practice, how to arrange and order a solemn Daily Office service, all make this book quite handy on your shelf even if you never intend to chant the Psalms in your church.

Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter is available from Lancelot Andrewes Press.