The Summary of the Law

After the Collect for Purity comes what may be termed the Penitential Rite, consisting of either the Decalogue (BCP 100) or the Summary of the Law.  The Summary of the Law entered the Prayer Book tradition in 1790 as an option to follow the Decalogue, basically offering a New Testament summary of the Old Testament Law.  The Kyrie followed the Summary of the Law.  Later editions of the American Prayer Book allowed for the Summary of the Law and Kyrie to be said without the Decalogue, provided that the Decalogue was read at least once each month.  The following collect also came to follow the Penitential Rite:

O ALMIGHTY Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The 1979 Prayer Book reduced the entire Penitential Rite to the Kyrie only (in line with the Roman Rite) and even that was optional.  The present volume has restored the integrity of the Penitential Rite, making the Summary of the Law the standard text and offering the Decalogue as an option in its place, albeit without the former rubric requiring it monthly.

Here what our Lord Jesus Christ says:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Either on its own or (as in earlier Prayer Books) as a follow-up to the Decalogue, this Summary confronts the worshiper with the fundamental moral demand upon all Christians: to love God and neighbor with every aspect of one’s being.  Like as in the case of the Decalogue, this is a penitential moment: our unworthiness is called to mind, and we rightly respond with the Kyrie or the Trisagion.  This brief Penitential Rite does not, however, come to the worshiper as a new subject or focus within the liturgy, but actually serves as an answer to prayer: in the Collect for Purity we pray for the cleansing of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which the Penitential Rite immediately addresses.  If we are to “perfectly love” God and “worthily magnify” his holy Name, we must confront ourselves with the Law of Moses, or Christ’s Summary of the Law, and cry out “Christ, have mercy upon us.”

On the Collect for Purity

Before the Reformation, this was a vesting prayer said by the celebrant before the Mass began. Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the second prayer of the Communion liturgy (following the Lord’s Prayer) in the Prayer Books.  The celebrant was to pray this kneeling at the Altar Table.  When the Communion liturgy was substantially re-ordered in the 1979 Book, this collect was rendered optional, but was still the second prayer (now following the Acclamation).  The present edition has retained the position of this prayer in the liturgy, returned it to a required piece of the liturgy, but opened it up to be a prayer said also by the congregation rather than only by the minister on their behalf.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

When reception of Holy Communion was less frequent, greater efforts were taken by the typical church-goer to prepare for its worthy reception.  Special acts of self-examination and other devotions on the holy mysteries of God’s grace toward sinners were standard fare for Christians of many stripes and traditions.  In this age of weekly Communion as the standard practice, the strictness of preparation and the depths of eucharistic piety have waned.  This prayer, when said by the congregation with the celebrant, reclaims an aspect of historic devotion in preparation for the Sacrament.

The Collect for Purity also provides for the worshiper both instruction and a model concerning right preparation for worship in general.  When we come to worship the Lord, we do not invite God’s presence among us, but rather seek his aid in preparing “the thoughts of our hearts” to enter into his.  God is already with us by virtue of his Word and Spirit; it is we who must be invited and aided to love him perfectly and worthily magnify his holy Name.

On the Decalogue

In the classical Prayer Books these commandments were the first words the priest spoke to the congregation in the Communion liturgy (although Communion at that time would almost never be celebrated alone, but typically after Morning Prayer with the Litany). The inclusion of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in the Prayer Book began in 1552.  After praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for Purity, the priest would stand and turn to the congregation, reading each commandment, and the people responding “Lord, have mercye upon us, and encline our heartes to kepe this lawe.”  Apart from the 1979 Prayer Book, these responses have remained unchanged.

The anomalous change to the responses in 1979’s Rite II to “Amen.  Lord have mercy” expressed godly sorrow but not the full resolution to the amendment of life.  Proposed improvements included the phrase “give us grace to keep this law”, but even this was an ironic misappropriation of the doctrine of grace: we need not only grace or assistance to live holy lives, but our very hearts need to be “inclined” or redirected by the Holy Spirit.

As for the text of the commandments, the first American Prayer Book added the option of reading the Summary of the Law after the Ten Commandments (“Here also what our Lord Jesus Christ saith”), and in 1892 a rubric was added permitting the Decalogue to be skipped entirely, in which case the Kyrie should follow the Summary of the Law.  It was stipulated that the Decalogue should still be read at least once per month.  In 1928, the very text of the commandments was given an option to be shortened, which then became the normative text for the Decalogue in 1979 and the present edition.

Although the Decalogue remains optional in modern liturgies, it is a significant part not only of our history but of the Communion Rite in the Anglican (and broader reformation) tradition.  It is not only the biblical standard which the Summary of the Law only summarizes, but it is one of the three definitive texts of Christian catechesis alongside the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.  It is vital that our tradition uses all three of those texts in the course of regular worship – putting the foundational words of belief (Creed), spirituality (Lord’s Prayer), and ethics (Decalogue) upon the lips and ears of every worshiper.

On Prayers for the Departed

“Why would you pray for the dead? They’re already with Jesus!”

Such is the common well-meaning retort from most Protestants today when they hear us pray for the faithful departed. This is an ancient practice of the Church, but it seems that the Romans have cornered the market when it comes to explanation. They, famously, believe in Purgatory, wherein the souls of ordinary Christians are purged of their lifetime of sin before beholding the fullness of the Beatific Vision, or (more crassly), going to heaven. While this doctrine could be interpreted in a benign fashion – simply the clearing of our spiritual eyes after a life of sin and darkness – it has typically been presented in very penitential terms: the soul is tortured, exposed to the pains of hell for a period of time depending upon how much sin went unconfessed, lightened by indulgences and prayers and masses on their behalf.

Anglican prayers for the departed has no place for that.

Actually, some say that Anglicans have no place for any prayers for the departed. We had some in the first Prayer Book, and got rid of them a few years later, only to see the extreme Anglo-Catholic wing bring them back in the 20th century and the liberals tolerating it under the guise of “tradition.” But this explanation is not strictly true. The Prayer Books have always included prayer for the departed.

If we look at what our reformed liturgy, 1549 to the present, actually says, we will find that our practice is quite far from Roman superstition.

The Prayers of the People in the 1549 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy prayed for

all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us, with the sign of faith, and now do rest in the sleep of peace: Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy, and everlasting peace, and that, at the day of the general resurrection, we and all they which be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: ‘Come unto me, O ye that be blessed of my Father, and possess the Kingdom, which is prepared for you, from the beginning of the world’.

This was dropped from subsequent Prayer Books until the American book of 1928, which prayed

for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.

In between, the 1662 Prayer Book contained a similar, if more subtle, prayer for the departed in the penultimate prayer of the Burial rite:

Almighty God… we give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory

The final Collect in the 1662 Burial service reuses some of the material from the 1549 Prayer Book quoted above, acknowledging the future consummation of the Christian hope of resurrection unto eternal life.  This is the common acknowledgement throughout the Prayer Book tradition – that God’s will, or plan, for his people has not yet reached its conclusion.  We pray for the departed no longer with the fear or urgency of late medieval piety, which errantly believed in the departed souls’ need to move through Purgatory, but instead with personal affection and biblical hope that all is not as it yet should be.

The Prayers of the People in the 2019 Prayer Book summarize it this way:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, that your will for them may be fulfilled

The 2019 Litany offers a more specific explanation of this will:

To grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace, We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Thus the prayers for the departed in the Prayer Book tradition is drawn from biblical doctrine rather than from later superstitions.

Bringing Communion to the Sick or Homebound

The contexts in which people are unable to attend church services may have changed somewhat since the early prayer books, but the need remains: sometimes there are those who are sick, elderly, or otherwise incapacitated who need the visitation of their pastor (or other authorized minister) bring the ministry of the church to them. The Communion of the Sick, in the 2019 Prayer Book, is our template for such home or hospital visitations.

If people are unable to attend church due to, say, a global pandemic in progress, elements of this liturgy might help parish priests work out how to make door-to-door Communion visits also!

The full Saint Aelfric Customary entry for this rite can be found here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-the-communion-of-the-sick/

There you will find guidance for selecting Psalm and Scripture according to the situation, notes about the need for recurring visits, and even insight and advice on how to handle preaching and prayers.

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.