Customary Update: Communion options!

The Saint Aelfric Customary’s directions through the 2019 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy is complete now. You can read it in full here.

One note of particular interest are recommendations for Communion Hymns based on the liturgical season, drawing from the lovely collection of thirty-seven (!!!) such hymns in the excellent REC hymnal. There is, of course, a lot of argumentation to be found among Christians concerning music, its accessibility, appropriate styles, and theological and biblical content. The subject of Holy Communion (or any sacrament, really) tends to suffer the most neglect in contemporary music, and sacramentology also tends to be something of a partisan battleground among Anglicans already, so making use of a set of lyrics that describe the Lord’s Supper can indeed be quite valuable for our congregations today.

Another feature that may appear somewhat strange here is the implementation of a little rubric in the 2019 Prayer Book’s liturgy authorizing “a sentence of Scripture at the conclusion of the Communion“, immediately before the Post-Common Prayer. Before the Reformation, each Mass had an appointed Communion Sentence. The 1549 Prayer Book reduced this complexity to a simple list of Sentences for the celebrant to choose from, and exploring that list is particularly interesting as it highlights the Reformation doctrine of faith much more prominently than the exaggerated sacramentalism of late medieval piety. Most subsequent Prayer Books have omitted this little piece of the liturgy, but now that it’s authorized again this Customary has seized the opportunity to restore the 1549 list, with a few additions from prior tradition. Check them out!

Customary Update: Holy Communion part 1

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

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

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

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

Why the Collect of the Day in the Daily Office?

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

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

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

Which Communion Rite should I use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About that Salutation…

It’s a classic standard across the liturgical-church world:

“The Lord be with you.”
“And with your/thy spirit.”

This exchange, well known today, was used only sparingly in the classical Prayer Book tradition. The 1549 Prayer Book used it twice in the Communion service (before the Collect of the Day and the Post-Communion Prayer), once in the Baptism service, and once in the Daily Office immediately before the three Collects. By 1559 this arrangement had been drastically reduced: the salutation was not to be found in the Sacramental services, and only at the beginning of the Prayers in the Daily Office. By contrast, a Low Mass before the Reformation would include this salutation as many as seven times!

The origin of this salutation is likely an amalgamation of several biblical blessings. “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Timothy 4:22) is a primary example; some other variations include Ruth 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, and Galatians 6:18.

In the 1979 Prayer Book and similar contemporary liturgies the response was re-translated to read “and also with you.” It was thought, at the time, to be a fair translation of the ancient liturgies, if more dynamic. Recent revisions in both Roman and Anglican liturgy have tended toward the restoration of the more literal translation, “and with your spirit.”

The salutation has come under fire, in recent times, concerning its theological implications. Some argue, in line with Roman tradition, that the language of “and with your spirit” is a reference to the indelible ordination character bestowed upon the priest, thus highlighting the sacredotal character of the ordained ministry. The reduction of the use of this salutation in the first Prayer Book and its near-total disappearance in subsequent versions may be cited as evidence in favor of this interpretation, especially when seeing that the liturgies of the Anglo-Catholic movement increase this salutation’s use.

This is not the only way to understand the salutation, however, nor is it the sole explanation for its disappearance in the more “reformed” Prayer Books. A 17th century commentator, the Rev. Dr. John Boys, observed that the Puritan party at the time was opposed to this and other suffrages and short exchanges and prayers, seeing them as “short cuts, or shreddings” rather than as actual blessings or prayers. Puritan (and other then-radical reformation) liturgies preferred longer, extemporaneous prayers, and this salutation was out of line with their doctrine of worship. John Boys also observed that “the people cannot make a fitter reply than ‘with thy spirit.’ For (as Plato divinely said) every man’s soul is himself.” There was no apparent concern at the time of any sacerdotalism or Romish doctrine of priesthood in this salutation; its real controversy was its brevity. Thus, we ought not today to assign it a meaning more narrow than its simple words merit.

Who was St. Cyprian of Carthage?

There are several names that refer to early Christian Saints – John, Augustine, Clement, Theodore, Gregory, Basil, to name a few – so we generally have to give them suffixes to their names in order to distinguish them. Today’s commemoration in the calendar is one such example: St. Cyprian, from Carthage.

In many ways, Cyprian is the Augustine before Augustine. He was a Berber, a Roman African, born to a wealthy Pagan family, and he converted to Christianity at age 35. After his conversion he was ordained quickly, becoming the Bishop of Carthage roughly four years later. This was, perhaps understandably, a little controversial, but his actions in the ministry soon proved his sanctity-in-Christ. A wave of government oppression of the Church, called the Decian Persecution, swept through in the early 250’s, and Cyprian saw a lot of his flock cave in to the Roman demands to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. Cyprian himself rode out much of that persecution in exile, believing it God’s will that he survive to shepherd his flock from a temporary distance, and be present to pick up the pieces when it was over, much like how the Apostles fled Jerusalem after the death of St. James, and how many Christians fled Jerusalem during the Roman-Jewish War culminating in the sack of 70 AD.

Needless to say, there was a controversy waiting for Cyprian when the dust settled: what do you do with the lapsi – the lapsed, who burned sacrifices to other gods? Cyprian’s initial demand was that they undergo public penance before being readmitted to Holy Communion, but a number of his earlier opponents thought this was too strict, and many priests took it upon themselves to invite people back under much more liberal conditions. As this controversy was brought to a local council, another party cropped up: a stricter group who argued that the lapsed could not repent and rejoin the church at all! The council stood with Cyprian, in between the too-liberal Novatus of Carthage and the too-strict Novatian of Rome.

As a pastoral and liturgical aside, this is insightful for us today, because we, too, see many lapsed Christians coming in and out of our churches these days. Do we admit them to Holy Communion without question? Or should we, as St. Cyprian ruled, call for public repentance of their wanderings from the Gospel before reinstating their place at the Holy Table? This is worth considering carefully, and we have resources in our Prayer Book to help us.

  • The Ash Wednesday exhortation explicitly mentions the ancient practice of public repentance.
  • The Exhortation in the Communion service warns us against unworthy reception of the Sacrament.
  • The Confirmation liturgy includes a variant for “Reaffirmation”, particularly for those who were previously confirmed, fell away, and have since returned.

It may well be that we have become too lax in our ministration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and need to re-learn, from the likes of St. Cyprian, what good Eucharistic discipline looks like.

This wrestling with the implications of the Gospel for those who fall away under persecution would return for St. Augustine of Hippo and the Donatists nearly 150 years later, though then it would be about the purported need for re-ordination, rather than readmission to Holy Communion. Cyprian was like an early Augustine in other ways too: his Latin writings were influential and beloved, his handling of controversy and good accord with other bishops was laudable. And they both saw disaster at the end of their lives. For Augustine, of course, it was the news of the sack of Rome and the arrival of barbarians at the gate of his own city. For Cyprian it was another round of government persecution, leading to his execution on 14 September 258.

The date of his commemoration isn’t so straight-forward, because 14 September has been taken by Holy Cross Day, forcing the Church calendar to shift St. Cyprian of Carthage to another day. Most Anglican calendars place him on an adjacent day – the 13th or 15th. The Roman Church has another observance (Our Lady of Sorrows) on the 15th, so they celebrate Cyprian on the 16th, and some other traditions follow suit.

When to skip the Nicene Creed!?

Happy September!  I am finally easing out of a writing hiatus, now that my family’s move is more or less completed and the school year has more or less begun.  We won’t quite be jumping straight into five posts per week, but, as I announced a few months ago, the focus on quality over quantity will continue.

Today we’re tossing another “Weird Rubric Wednesday” into the collection.

wrw

So you’re going along through the Communion service in the 2019 Prayer Book, and you get to page 108 or 126 and you come to this rubric:

On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, all stand to recite the Nicene Creed…

So this is curious.  Most of you are probably used to the Nicene Creed being a static part of the Communion service – always there, unchanged, unchanging.  Indeed that was the pattern set out in 1662: And the Gospel ended, shall be sung or said the Creed following, the people still standing as before.  By that point it was assumed that Holy Communion was being celebrated, at most, on Sundays and Holy Days.  The Roman tradition of Daily Mass was pretty much gone from English practice.  So practically every Communion was a Sunday or Holy Day, and there was no need to mess around with options.  After the Gospel, just say the Creed.  (Yeah, the sermon used to be after the Creed.)

But eventually things got a bit more loose.  The 1928 Prayer Book, usually upheld as the last bastion of traditional Anglican liturgy in America, actually has quite a strange rubric about the Creed – I daresay more worthy of “Weird Rubric Wednesday” than its 2019 counterpart.  This is what it says:

Then shall be said the Creed commonly called the Nicene, or else the Apostles’ Creed; but the Creed may be omitted, if it hath been said immediately before in Morning Prayer; Provided, That the Nicene Creed shall be said on Christmas Day, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, and Trinity Sunday.

You see, in the 1928 Book, people have the option of saying either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed in Morning Prayer, and the same choices at the Communion too.  The “defaults” were still Apostles’ in the Office and Nicene in the Communion, but the expansion of options was such that one could choose either at any time, with only five exceptions.  Omitting the Creed entirely was also an option if Morning Prayer had just been said!

But this isn’t simply wild and crazy liberalism and choose-your-own-adventure liturgy building.  I mean, that could happen, but that’s not the intention.  Rather, this option to omit the Nicene Creed is in line with a retrieval of pre-Reformation tradition that was going on at the time in the growing Anglo-Catholic movement.  In the Roman calendar there are several “classes” or “ranks” of feast days, and they are celebrated with different levels of liturgical complexity.  Among those levels include the saying/omitting of the Gloria, and also of the Nicene Creed.  These options have been codified among traditional Anglo-Catholics, as demonstrated by this Ordo Kalendar put out by a group of the Continuing Churches:

aug-sample

In this picture you can see August 27th-29th, with notes for the daily mass.  St. Augustine of Hippo’s feast day merits both the Gloria and the Creed, whereas the Beheading of St. John the Baptist omits the Creed.  The Feria (or empty) day before them omits both.  So, coming back to the 2019 Prayer Book, when we read On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, this is an opportunity for those who want to follow some sort of “ranking” of feast days to make distinctions in how we celebrate Communion in honor of different saints’ days.

The Gloria may be omitted

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On pages 107 & 125 of the Book of Common Prayer, 2019, the following rubric is found:

The Gloria or some other song of praise may be sung or said, all standing.  It is appropriate to omit the song of praise during penitential seasons and days appointed for fasting.

This in itself is not a particularly strange rubric.  The 1979 Prayer Book renders the Gloria optional, and it is already a widespread custom (rooted in Western liturgical tradition) that the Gloria should be omitted during Lent, Advent, and on other occasions of similar tone.

You can read more about the use (and even placement) of the Gloria in this article from last year’s series on the Communion liturgy.  You will also find there some notes about evaluating songs to replace it which are worth re-stating here:

  • If it is Advent or Lent, this is an excellent point at which to sing a hymn specially appointed for that season.  Or just let the Decalogue stand on its own strength!
  • At other times of the year, be sure it truly is a “song of praise”, as the rubric twice describes it.  A song of praise does NOT talk about me/us, but sings only of God – his character and his works.  The Gloria barely glances at “us”; let that set the standard for whatever replaces it.

What’s so weird about this, though?

I submit this under the banner of Weird Rubric Wednesday not because the rubric itself is weird, or even the reasons behind it are weird, but because some common executions of this rubric are pretty weird.  And it’s on a sliding scale from “okay” to “weird” to just plain “bad”.

Okay?

One approach to replacing the Gloria is to not simply put in one “song of praise,” but a whole set (say, three on average) of contemporary worship songs.  Singing multiple songs here stretches the language of this rubric – “song” is in the singular, after all – but it’s not necessarily an outright violation.  Besides, a lot of contemporary worship songs are shorter than hymns (in terms of word-count through the lyrics) so it’s not necessarily a bad idea to stack up two or three contemporary songs to form a substantial substitute for the Gloria or other single hymn of praise.

Weird?

Sometimes that “okay” idea gets taken a step further: it’s a contemporary “worship set” of three-ish songs in a row, but they’re not brief. Instead they repeat their refrains multiple times and include interludes within or between the songs for people to sing or pray extemporaneously.  This is popular evangelical worship practice, and has made its way into the practice of many Anglican churches.  If you’re going to import other traditions into the Prayer Book tradition, this is probably the least disruptive point in the Communion liturgy in which to do it, though it is worth observing that many Anglicans find contemporary pop-evangelical worship theology incompatible with historic Protestant (as well as Catholic) theologies of worship.  So music ministers and clergy alike should give careful thought to the use of music in the liturgy before stretching the rubrics this far.

Bad?

It is not normally the purpose of this blog to call out bad liturgy; there’s enough grumpy negativity on the internet already.  But occasionally problems in worship (just like problems in doctrine) do need to be confronted.  Moving from “okay” to “weird” to “bad”, the next step in this descent would be to add the excesses of Pentecostalism: speaking in tongues, inviting “words of knowledge” to be shared, and other extemporaneous expressions of charismata according to 20th-century Pentecostal theology.  Much of this runs in the face of St. Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 14, let alone an historic liturgical theology, but this has been known to happen in some Anglican churches today.

So what do you suggest?

When in doubt, keep it simple and consistent.  Say or sing the Gloria for every Communion celebration on Sundays and Holy Days.  For a short mid-week service, perhaps skip it entirely.  During Lent, replace it with a Lent Hymn; during Advent, replace it with an Advent Hymn.  Or just don’t sing anything at all after the Decalogue during those seasons – there’s a lot to be said for stark simplicity in worship, especially in our culture that is over-drenched with activity and sound.

Ascension Day – Antecommunion

For Ascension Day under the COVID-19 closure, I thought it would be nice to try something different.  Please forgive the box of kid’s toys in the background, and my hair’s a bit of a mess (I’m taking advantage of social distancing to regrow my hair into a ponytail while nobody has to look at it).  This is a reflection of the simple reality that worshiping at home can be difficult.  Nevertheless, whatever the challenges, the prayers of the Church never cease!

If you want a generic outline for Antecommunion, you can view or download one here: Antecommunion leaflet

The hymn I sang after the Peace (in the place of the Offertory) is See the conqueror mounts in triumph, #151 in the Book of Common Praise 2017.

Anglicanism’s ONE Manual Ritual

Liturgically speaking, Anglicanism is remarkably simple.  Sure, the Prayer Book requires something of a learning curve, especially modern Prayer Books with all their options and possibilities and multi-year lectionaries.  But when you compare the historic Prayer Book tradition to the other great liturgical traditions, particularly Rome and the East, ours is greatly simpler to follow, understand, and implement.  This is, I believe, part of the Reformation principle: paring down the extraneous developments that clogged up the system to unveil the Biblical and Patristic core of historic Christian worship.

This doesn’t mean Anglicanism cannot be complex and beautiful – many rituals and traditions, both ancient and medieval, have been re-appropriated in our context.  We can have incense and chasubles, altar candles and art, icons and organs… but when it comes down to it the “smells and bells” are optional.  These beautify worship but are not integral to it.

And yet, amidst our grand simplification of Western liturgical tradition, there is one rubric – only one – that has survived every Prayer Book revision, dealing with the gestures (or manual actions) of the Priest.  The 1549 Prayer Book had a couple other gestures directed which are often used today, but only one survived through the course of the Reformation and is fixed in every Prayer Book since the beginning.  Here it is, according to the wording of the 2019 Book:

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it, and here* may break the bread; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing the wine to be consecrated.

There are other rubrics, too, that deal with movement and location, standing and kneeling, but these are the only instructions left that deal with the manuals, the hands.  The celebrant MUST touch the bread or the vessel(s) containing it; the celebrant MUST touch the flagon or chalice or other vessel containing the wine.  These are the only requirements, amidst the many traditional gestures and symbols that prior tradition demanded.

Why is this so?  There may be different answers to this question.  Perhaps it’s as simple and practical as to indicate to all gathered what is to be consecrated.  Perhaps it’s part of a larger system of sacramental theology in which the celebrant has to indicate the intent to consecrate particular elements.  Perhaps there’s something incarnational in the celebrant’s imitation of Christ, or service in the place of Christ, in physically handling the elements in the same way our Lord did on the night that he was betrayed.  The explanation may be different according to whom you ask, but the rule or rubric is the same.

One of the important realizations that we must take from this, today, is the fact that we are NOT permitted to consecrated bread and wine via the internet.  There are a lot of simplifications and extraneous traditions that were removed during the Reformation, but physical contact between the minister and the elements is the one thing we’ve made a point of keeping.  Sadly, a number of priests, and even bishops, have advocated a sort of “remote consecration”, where the congregation has bread and wine in front of their TV or computer screen and the priest or bishop they’re watching live “consecrates” them for the recipients at home.  This is not permissible according to the Prayer Book tradition.  And, depending upon one’s theological explanation of this rubric, it’s probably also not possible or valid.

So I urge you, dear readers, not to hold or participate in such liturgies involving “remote consecration.”  These are, admittedly, extraordinary circumstances; but that does not mean we can abandon our beliefs and godly authorities.  Whether we like them or not, the Prayer Book already has resources for this sort of situation: pray the Daily Office, pray Antecommunion, ask the parish priest to deliver Communion house to house after celebrating with a small group.  Use the prayer of Spiritual Communion; it’s #106 in the 2019 Prayer Book.  True, none of these are quite replacements for the regular participation in the liturgy of Holy Communion, but these measures exist precisely to keep the people of God fed and nourished, even in times of infrequent reception of the Sacrament.

We can get through this.  We don’t need to violate our beliefs, practices, or rubrics.  We certainly don’t need to introduce strange, novel , and illicit inventions as “remote consecration.”  Honestly, to do so reveals a surrender to worldly conditions and a lack of appreciation (let alone understanding) of the beautiful and robust tradition we already have.