Two (and a half) Communion Rites?

One of the most noteworthy features of the 2019 Prayer Book is the fact that it has two Communion Rites: the “Anglican Standard Text” on pages 105-122 and the “Renewed Ancient Text” on pages 123-138.  The former is drawn from the historic Prayer Book tradition, especially from the American 1928 book, the latter is based upon On the Apostolic Tradition attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, which can be read online, and which I commented upon in a recent book review.

What follows is some commentary and comparison on the rites that we have.  If you want to get straight to the “practical advice” portion of this entry, skip down to the end.

As the 2019 Prayer Book introduces these two rites on page 104

The Anglican Standard Text is essentially that of the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and successor books through 1928, 1929, and 1962.   The Anglican Standard Text is presented in contemporary English and in the order for Holy Communion that is common, since the late twentieth century, among ecumenical and Anglican partners worldwide.

The Renewed Ancient Text is drawn from liturgies of the Early Church, reflects the influence of twentieth century ecumenical consensus, and includes elements of historic Anglican piety.

What exactly are the differences between the two rites?  Not many.

  1. The Prayers of the People – the Anglican Standard Text is a modernization of the historic prayers; the Renewed Ancient Text is litany of short biddings to prayer.
  2. The Confession of Sins – the Anglican Standard Text is a modernization of the historic prayer; the Renewed Ancient Text is a shorter prayer taken from the 1979 book.
  3. The Communion Prayers are where the primary differences are to be found.
  4. The words spoken when ministering Communion to the people are different (long and short, respectively).
  5. The Post-Communion Prayer is shorter in the Renewed Ancient Text.

Rubrics permit any of these elements to be swapped out between the two rites.  While some might complain that this adds to the “choose-your-own-adventure” nature of modern liturgy, it also highlights an underlying unity of these two rites.  Their order of service is identical, all the same elements are the there, their theology is meant to be understood as being the same.

Let’s take a look at the Communion Prayers in these two rites, specifically the “eucharistic canon” beginning after the Sursum Corda and Preface.

The Anglican Standard Text has ten paragraphs of text on pages 116-117.  These paragraphs can be summarized as follows:

  1. All praise and glory is yours…”  This is the beginning of the anamnesis, or remembrance, thankfully hailing what Christ has done for us on the Cross.
  2. So now, O merciful Father…” This is the epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit.  You can read more about that here, as it has quite the history.
  3. At the following words concerning the bread…”  This is a rubric, not spoken text, hence the italics.
  4. For on the night that he was betrayed…”  These are the first half of the Words of Institution, speaking the words of our Lord himself, drawn from 1 Corinthians 11 which may be our oldest written record of such words.
  5. Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup…”  These are the second half of the Words of Institution.
  6. Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father…”  This is a return to the anamesis (remembrance), linking such remembrance to “these holy gifts” of bread and wine.
  7. And we earnestly desire your fatherly goodness…”  The vertical bar on the left margin indicates that this paragraph may be skipped.  There used to be a Long Form and Short Form of the Communion Prayers, but they were so similar that the Short Form was ditched in the 2018 draft, and the solution for a “short form” was to render two paragraphs optional.  It should be noted that in the 1662 book, there were no further prayers after the Words of Institution, so this optional omission also could be understood as an option for those who prefer the shorter 1662 prayers over the longer prayers of 1928.
  8. And here we offer and present to you…” This is the oblation, or self-offering, drawing upon the language of Romans 12:1.  Elements of these sentences are also echoed in the Prayer of Humble Access.
  9. And although we are unworthy…”  Here comes the second optional paragraph, and it carries a penitential tone, also similar to the Prayer of Humble Access.  This is an appropriate place for the celebrant to strike his breast too, as it is a sobering moment to remember that even with a Confession and Absolution behind us, we still approach the throne of grace only on the merits of Christ.
  10. By him, with him, and in him…”  You’ve got to end important prayers with a doxology!

Now let’s see how the Renewed Ancient Text does the job, from pages 132-134.

  1. Holy and gracious Father…”  This, too, begins with an anamnesis, or, remembrance.  Instead of going deep to focus on the Cross, it swings wide to encompass more of the overall Gospel story, practically summarizing the Jesus portion of the Creed.
  2. At the following words concerning the bread…” The exact same rubrics as paragraph 3 are printed here.
  3. On the night that he was betrayed…” Same as #4 above.
  4. Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup…” Same as #5 above.
  5. Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith…”  The “mystery of faith” gives the congregation something to say in the midst of the prayers of consecration, which, I’ve heard, was apparently a demand among some in the mid-20th century…?  Whateverso, this is functionally the same as paragraph #6 above, if less wordy about it.
  6. We celebrate the memorial of our redemption…” This paragraph goes across the page flip, taking us from the anamnesis (remembrance) to the epiclesis (invocation, or calling-down of the Holy Spirit).  The fact that this comes after the Words of Institution instead of before is perhaps the most significant theological divergence between our two Rites.  Read more about that here.  This paragraph also hints at a bit of an oblation, though not as extant as paragraph #8 above.
  7. All this we ask through your Son Jesus…” The same doxology above is repeated here, just with a different lead-up text.

Now, the title of this article says Two and a half Communion Rites…. what’s the half?

Let’s return to the introductory text on page 104 again.

The Anglican Standard Text may be conformed to its original content and ordering, as in the 1662 or subsequent books; the Additional Directions give clear guidance on how this is to be accomplished.

The Additional Directions in question are found on pages 142-143, where you will find the 1662 Order spelled out, section by section.  Even printed in the Anglican Standard Text itself are two footnotes in the Communion Prayers to show how those paragraphs change for the 1662 Order.  In short, paragraph #2 may be omitted and paragraphs #6-10 may be moved to the position of the Post-Communion Prayer.  Perhaps we can explore that in detail in a later article.

What’s interesting to note, here, though, is that the introductory text allows this re-ordering for any classical prayer book, not just the 1662.  So if you want to copy the 1928 Prayer Book’s sequence of Gospel, Creed, Sermon, and have the Offertory before the Prayers of the People in order to allow the Comfortable Words to lead right into the Sursum Corda, you can!  All of that theoretical stuff we’ve explored in those past commentary articles can indeed be used licitly, under the auspices of the 2019 Prayer Book.

Seeing the differences between the Anglican Standard Text and the Renewed Ancient Text, when should we use which?

For the purposes of the Saint Aelfric Customary, there are two principles at work here which give conflicting answers.

  1. A classical Anglican approach
  2. A “completionist” approach

According to the former, one set of advice is that we should always and only use the Anglican Standard Text.  Perhaps skip the omitted paragraphs if you need to save time on the liturgy, or want to evoke the shorter English prayers instead of the longer American ones.

According to the latter, there should be “a time for each rite, and for each rite a time.”  In that view, I would recommend using the Renewed Ancient Text for most of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle, and on the occasional incarnation-themed holy day at other times of the year, like the Annunciation.  Then use the Anglican Standard Text in the longer Lent-Easter-Trinitytide cycle of the year.

At the end of the day, we’ve got the historical Anglican option, which is narrow-but-deep in its focus on the Cross, and we’ve got the historic reconstruction option, which is shallow-but-wide in its treatment of the Gospel story.  Both have their value and merits, though you will definitely find people, myself included, with a clear favorite of one over the other.  Let me end it this way: in light of our history, we can overlook the Renewed Ancient Text, and on the same token, we can not overlook the Anglican Standard.  An honest Anglican may either use both, or use just the Standard.

Readings Review & Planning Propers 10/14

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-3, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Peter 4-5, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 John 1:1-2:6, Malachi 2-4, 1 Maccabees 1-2, 2 Maccabees 6-7, Matthew 25-27:56

This week: 2 Kings 4-9, 1 John – 3 John, 2 Maccabees 8,10, 1 Maccabees 7,9,13,14, Isaiah 1, Matthew 28, Mark 1-3

Special reading for St. Luke’s Day on Friday: Luke 1:1-4

The first hint of the end of the year makes its appearance this coming week: the book of Isaiah begins on Saturday the 19th in Evening Prayer.  In every Prayer Book lectionary (without exception, as far as I’m aware) Isaiah is saved for the end of the year, such that it is the big Old Testament focus in the Daily Office leading up to Christmastide.  Although many of the OT Prophets contain passages that prophesy of the advent of Christ, Isaiah has the most.  It helps that it’s the longest of those books, but even besides that Isaiah does spend an unusual amount of text looking ahead to the Christ, or Messiah, or Anointed One, whom we know to be Jesus of Nazareth, God-with-us.

Before we get there, though, we have to finish our survey of the Maccabean age.  Expect another post on that soon!

In Morning Prayer we have a rapid-fire wrap-up of the Epistles this week.  Having just walked through Peter and Jude’s writings, we’re completing the batch with John’s.  It might seem odd reading them out of order (Jude after Peter, rather than after John), but as I’ve pointed out before, the thematic similarities between 2 Peter and Jude make it very beneficial to read them together.  Plus that leaves us this current stretch of days to focus on John’s final exhortations to love God and keep his commandments, before calling it a day on the year’s second round of epistle-reading.  Acts will be next, followed by the Revelation, to finish off the year in Morning Prayer.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 21 (or 15th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/14 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/15 = Votive or St. Theresa of Ávila, nun and reformer
  • Wednesday 10/16 = Votive or Hugh Latimer & Nicholas Ridley, martyrs
  • Thursday 10/17 = St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
  • Friday 10/18 = SAINT LUKE
  • Saturday 10/19 = Votive

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Here a Proper Preface is normally sung or said.

Following on the heels of the Sursum Corda, the celebrant comes to the Proper Preface.  Together, this whole sequence forms the “Great Thanksgiving” or prefatory prayers of the Eucharistic Canon.  Make sure you read about the Sursum Corda before reading this, so you have the context settled.

The “Preface” is essentially a single-sentence addition to the Great Thanksgiving.  It specifies a particular reason why it is “right, our duty and our joy always and everywhere to give thanks” to God.  It is called a “Proper” Preface because it is proper to a particular occasion or season.

The 1662 Prayer Book offers five Proper Prefaces:

  1. upon Christmas Day, and seven days after
  2. upon Easter Day, and seven days after
  3. upon Ascension Day, and seven days after
  4. upon Whitsunday, and six days after [that’s Pentecost Week]
  5. upon the Feast of Trinity only

Because there were just five, these were provided directly in the liturgy itself, rather than in an appendix after the main text.  This state of affairs continued until the 1979 Prayer Book brought in a larger number of Proper Prefaces to cover every season of the church year.  I’m assuming these are, for the most part, imported from general Western Catholic practice, and not entirely made up by 1970’s Episcopalian revisionists, though I haven’t personally investigated their history.  Feel free to comment if you know!

Remarkably, the 2019 Prayer Book did not roll back this expansion, but actually added to them.  A few from the 1979 book’s list have been removed, but several more have been added, such that we have 34 Proper Prefaces to choose from!  Before the traditionalists chime in with renewed accusations of choose-your-own-adventure liturgies, however, it should be noted that these are not all “choices”, but Proper to particular occasions.  You can read them in full at this link; here I will just list them:

  1. The Lord’s Day (that is, any Sunday between Trinity and Advent)
  2. At Any Time (these two are for your weekday services not celebrating a saint)
  3. At Any Time
  4. Advent (throughout the season)
  5. Christmas (throughout the season, unless it’s one of the major saints’ days)
  6. Epiphany
  7. Presentation, Annunciation, and Transfiguration (some books nickname this Preface “Theophany”)
  8. Lent
  9. Holy Week
  10. Maundy Thursday
  11. Easter
  12. Ascension (all ten days!)
  13. Pentecost
  14. Trinity Sunday
  15. All Saints’
  16. Christ the King
  17. Apostles and Ordinations (including Ember Days)
  18. Dedication of a Church
  19. Baptism
  20. Holy Matrimony
  21. Burial or Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
  22. Penitential Occasions (because of the reference to the temptation of Jesus, this is a good one to use on the First Sunday of Lent!)
  23. Rogation Days or Thanksgiving Day
  24. Canada Day or Independence Day
  25. Remembrance Day or Memorial Day
  26. Common of a Martyr
  27. Common of a Missionary or Evangelist
  28. Common of a Pastor
  29. Common of a Teacher of the Faith
  30. Common of a Monastic or Religious
  31. Common of an Ecumenist
  32. Common of a Renewer of Society
  33. Common of a Reformer of the Church
  34. Common of Any Commemoration

Those last ones, #26-34, line up with the “Commons of Saints” Collects and lessons.

Now for a big question: How do I know which one to use?

The answer is usually simple: look at the Collect for the Day on pages 598-640.  Underneath each one, it will tell you which Preface to use.  Propers 1 through 28 do not note any Preface, which indicates three things:

  1. You can go with the classical prayer book pattern and not use a Preface at all.
  2. You can use the Lord’s Day Preface if it’s a Sunday.
  3. You can use the “At Any Time” Preface if it’s a weekday.

There, simple, all decided.

Perhaps, on very rare occasions, you may find it appropriate to use a Preface that is not normally appointed.  If the congregation (or greater social context) is experiencing a major crisis or a major celebration, perhaps a more penitential or thankful Preface, respectively, will be appropriate.  But on the whole, the Prefaces are not things to play mix-and-match with; they are Propers, just like the Collects and the Lessons, and are to be used as appointed.  They reinforce the liturgy as it stands; to meddle with them on your own is to seize control of the liturgy beyond your pay-grade, O priest!

And, a word of advice to those who publish service programs or bulletins… don’t make it a habit of including the full text of the Preface.  It’s just one sentence, let the people listen to their priest for ten seconds.  Besides, at certain times of year it changes fairly rapidly, and unless you’re really on top of the liturgy yourself you might make an error with it.  Best leave it in the hands of the celebrant and let him take the blame if something goes wrong! 😉

If you peruse other liturgical books, like the ASB, you will find some more beautiful Prefaces that are not included in the 2019 Prayer Book.  The jury is still out if The Saint Aelfric Customary will recommend any such extra Prefaces.

Readings Review & Planning Propers

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 1 Chronicles 16, 1 Kings 15-19, James 3-5, 1 Peter 1-4:6, Zechariah 9-15, Malachi 1, Matthew 21-24

This week: 1 Kings 20-22, 2 Kings 1-3, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Peter 4-5, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 John 1:1-2:6, Malachi 2-4, 1 Maccabees 1-2, 2 Maccabees 6-7, Matthew 25-27:56

There’s something appropriate about the convergence of St. Matthew’s Passion this week alongside the reading of selections from 1 & 2 Maccabees.  The suffering of God’s people at the hands of hostile non-believers – that is, martyrdom – is always best understood juxtaposed against the Cross.

You’ll also notice that although Kings & Chronicles are still swapping back and forth from time to time, but less often for the first half of October.  The reason for this is that at the end of 1 Kings and for the first half of 2 Kings there are a lot of stories about the Prophets, rather than of the Kings.  The result of this is that there are more chapters to read from 2 Kings before getting to a period of history where 2 Chronicles has anything to add in.  Of course, if you’re using our Supplemental Midday Lectionary then there are still plenty of “duplicate chapters” in 2 Chronicles to read along the way this month.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 21 (or 15th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/7 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/8 = Votive
  • Wednesday 10/9 = St. Robert Grosseteste or Votive
  • Thursday 10/10 = St. Palinus or Votive
  • Friday 10/11 = St. Philip the Deacon
  • Saturday 10/12 = Votive

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Book Review: The Lutheran Service 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.

It’s been a couple weeks but we left off with a couple non-Anglican liturgical books, and today we’re picking that trend back up again with The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which is basically the official liturgical text for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

This book is basically a Prayer Book and Hymnal in one, which is super handy.  What’s strange about it, from an Anglican perspective, is the ordering of its contents.

Introductory Contents:
Church Year, Sunday & Holy Day lectionaries, Dates of Easter, Glossary, instructions for chanting psalms

Most of this makes sense to us, the only oddity is that the Sunday / Holy Day lectionaries are placed up front with the calendar – historically that’s where we would have the Daily Office Lectionary, though the 2019 BCP has all its lectionaries toward the back instead.

Interestingly, this book includes two choices for the Calendar and Sunday lectionary: one is their version of the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary (essentially the same as ours, only minor differences), and the other is the traditional one-year calendar and lectionary (essentially the same as in the classical Prayer Books).  Although I’m not surprised the 2019 Prayer Book didn’t provide both calendar & lectionary options, I kind of wish it had.

The chanting instructions make sense here because the first primary section of this book is:

The Psalms

Yes, all 150 are here, and they’re even pointed for chant!  For example, from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn | in your tent? *
Who shall dwell on your | holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does | what is right *
and speaks truth | in his heart.

So that’s pretty useful.  The chant style is very similar to Simplified Anglican Chant, which is great.  Functionally it’s strange that the psalter should be put first like this: this means that you “have to know” where the right worship service starts in the book, increasing the necessary page-flipping.  But in another sense, giving the Psalms place of preference is a theological statement: this is where our worship begins.  Virtually every worship service in the liturgical tradition utilizes the psalms, and biblically they are our greatest model for faithful prayer.

The Divine Service

The next nearly-60 pages are taken up with five “Settings” of the Divine Service, or Holy Communion.  “They have five different eucharistic texts!?” you ask.  Yes.  But they are all extremely similar to one another.

The primary difference between the order of service here and in the 2019 Prayer Book is that this starts with a confession and absolution, rather than placing it after the Prayers of the People.  Setting One’s confession prayer in particular is clearly based upon our confession in the Daily Office.  For the Creed, both the Nicene and Apostles’ are offered.  Two sequences of Communion Prayers are typically offered, one placing the Words of Institution before the Lord’s Prayer, and the other after.  In general, the style and wording of the prayers – particularly the Communion prayers – progress from traditional to contemporary as you look through from Setting One to Setting Five; the last of which sounds the most like the 1979 Prayer Book.

Another fascinating, and consistent, feature of the Lutheran liturgy is the use of the Canticle Nunc dimittis as a Post-Communion praise, just like how the classical Prayer Books employed the Gloria in excelsis.  This has prompted and encouraged me to explore different Canticle options after the administration of Holy Communion in my own church’s worship services, rather than always simply employing a Communion Hymn.

Another curiosity, perhaps marking the most obvious distinction between the five Settings, is the music.  Settings One through Four each have a particular collection of Service Music printed right into them.  This is useful for those who desire to use them, though a bit odd from my observing perspective, as it ties you to particular combinations of musical settings with the variations of prayers.  I assume it’s permissible for them to mix and match text and music, but it just seems an odd way of printing it.  Whateverso, the range of styles are interesting: different forms of chant (some like plainchant, some like Anglican Chant, including the Old Scottish Chant of the Gloria in Setting Three).  Setting Five has no music printed in it, though, preferring the simplicity of spoken liturgy, and indicating a few hymns to sing in place of the standard Kyrie and GloriaSanctus and Agnus Dei.

The Daily Offices

Where the Daily Offices hold pride of place in Anglican Prayer Books, the Lutheran Service Book starts them on page 219, after the Communion settings.  These, too, include musical settings of various Canticles and Psalms right in the text, as well as other chanted parts for the dialogues and blessings and whatnot.  Five Offices are provided: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Payer, and Compline.  Again this is a “huh?” moment for Anglicans, as Matins & Vespers are the Morning & Evening Offices.

As it turns out, Matins and Morning Prayer are very similar in this book, containing largely the same elements.  Like the Communion Settings, the music and chant is the most obvious difference between the two,   Matins is the most like the Prayer Books’ Morning Prayer; the Morning Prayer in this book lacks the Te Deum and rearranges the prayers after the Canticle.

None of these offices include Confessions or the Apostles’ Creed, which is another difference between this book and our tradition.

Vespers and Evening Prayer are similar to one another, but start markedly different: Vespers more resembling the Prayer Book tradition, and Evening Prayer starting off with that curious “Service of Lights” thing in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Compline is very similar to as it is found in modern Anglican Prayer Books.  I assume, since it was not taken up in most Protestant liturgical books during the Reformation, that it saw the least amount of editing and change in unofficial use, such that when it started to reappear in the late 20th century it had undergone the least amount of denominational divergence.

Other Services and Resources

From here the book includes a collection of other liturgies that a Prayer Book would be expected to have: Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral Service, Responsive Prayers, a Litany, Corporate and Private Confessions & Absolution, Daily Prayer for Families, a Daily Lectionary, table of Psalms for the Offices (though not covering the whole psalter or the whole year), Occasional Prayers, the Athanasian Creed, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this is comparable to what one would expect in an Anglican Prayer Book, and much of its contents are recognizably similar to our own.

The first “Other Service”, however, does not have an Anglican counterpart (unless you delve into England’s controversial Common Worship).  It’s called Service of Prayer and Preaching, and it seems to be a what-to-do-on-a-Sunday-morning-when-the-ordained-minister-is-away sort of service.  Opening Verses, an Old Testament Canticle (known to us as #8 Ecce Deus), Scripture readings, dialogued responses, a congregational reading from part of the catechism, Sermon or Catechetical Instruction, (Offertory) Hymn, several Prayers, a New Testament Canticle (known to us as the Pascha Nostrum), and a closing Blessing.

The Hymns

636 hymns follow, arranged by Church Season, Person & Work of Christ, the Christian Church, the Christian Life, other Times and Seasons, additional Service Music, and National Songs.  Naturally there are quite a lot more German Chorales here than in a typical Anglican hymnal (though the 2017 hymnal has quite a few!), and several hymns well-known to us with different arrangements – occasionally entirely different tune settings.  For example Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face is set to FARLEY CASTLE instead of PENITENTIA, and At the Lamb’s high feast we sing is set to SONNE DER GERECHTIGKEIT instead of SALZBURG (ALLE MENSCHEN).

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Page-flipping within a particular worship service (especially the Sunday Communion) is minimal.  The main challenge is making sure you know what service you’re actually doing (five Communion rites, remember).  If you’re trying to use this for the Daily Office then things are rather more complex as you have to hunt for the lectionary and psalms with rather more vigor than a typical Anglican Prayer Book.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This book is not the sum total the LCMS expression of Lutheran worship, but all the basics are here.  As Anglicans we could use this book and find a faithful approximation of our own liturgical tradition.  The Communion Prayers are all significantly shorter than ours (even shorter than what’s in the 1662 Prayer Book), but on the whole theologically compatible with ours.  The lack of clarity regarding daily psalmody would be a loss, however.  This book also has a nice collection of hymns that could supplement our own hymnals.  And to be fair, if I was a Lutheran, I’d rate this as either a or a 5, depending upon what I’d thereby know of the historic liturgies before this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this score.  For most of us, we have no reason to pick up the liturgical text of a different tradition, even one so closely-related as the Lutherans.  The similarities of English-language Lutheran worship with Prayer Book worship also makes it clear that they have taken several queues from us.  As such, this Lutheran Service Book is probably best understood as an expression of historic Lutheran worship using the Anglican Prayer Book as a useful filter from time to time.  If you really want to explore historic Lutheran liturgy, you probably have to pick up the Book of Concord or something to that effect.  But I haven’t done that yet.

The Sursum Corda

When it’s time to begin the Communion Prayers, our liturgy begins with a dialogue usually called The Sursum Corda, which is Latin for “Lift up your hearts,” since that’s the first line of the dialogue.

Except it isn’t anymore, is it?

Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.

Yeah, we actually preface the preface dialogue with this salutation.  It’s interesting to note that this is not how it’s always been.  The classical Prayer Books barely ever use that exchange; the preface of the Communion prayers is not one of those places.  It is there in the Roman Rite, and that’s one reason why it’s in our modern liturgies too: a move to return toward general Western liturgical practice.

Another reason for bringing back that salutary exchange is a functional issue: the modern liturgy has a lot of starting and stopping leading up to this point, and a new “start” is needed.  The confession and absolution ended with the Peace, which is often a huge interruption to the liturgy.  Announcements often take place there, which is an interruption to the liturgy.  The offertory is often drawn out with music and the presentation of the elements and all that… the interaction between priest & people in a worship-minded context is all but lost.  “The Lord be with you…” is practically needed to “restart” the worship service at this point.

Classically, the offering would be taken, then the Prayers of the People, Confession, and Absolution followed.  Then the Comfortable Words were read, after which the Priest shall proceed saying, Lift up your hearts.  There was a direct link from the comfort of divine forgiveness to the Communion: “You are fully pardoned and forgiven and Christ, so lift up your hearts and let us give thanks…!”  That context is lost in the modern arrangement of the liturgy.

Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.

This, the actual sursum corda, is where the eucharist, or Great Thanksgiving, begins.  We lift our hearts to God, pursuing a sort of ascent from earthly to heavenly matters.  The ministry of the Word has done its work and the ministry of the Altar, or Table, is setting in.

Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Initially, I was heartbroken when the final BCP text was released, and this was the last response from the people.  Clasically that line read “It is meet and right so to do” and our draft liturgies for most of the past few years read “It is just and right so to do“, which I thought was an excellent modernization of the traditional text.  Why did this matter to me?

It is just and right so to do. / It is right to give him thanks and praise.

The message is the same but the emphasis is reversed.  The old way emphasized the properness, fittingness, rightness, that we ought to give thanks to God.  The new way emphasizes the thanks and praise we are to offer.  Look at what the priest says next:

It is right, our duty, and our joy, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator and heaven and earth…

There we see the rightness of giving thanks to God spelled out clearly.  So between the priest’s two lines (let us give thanks and it is right) the whole message is present.  What falls to the people is to repeat and reinforce one or other part of that whole; the old way emphasized what the priest was about to say next; the new way emphasizes what the priest just said.  In that light, my initial sense of indignation over the last-minute change has been somewhat ameliorated.  In the 1979 Prayer Book, the whole section almost completely lost the “rightness” aspect of giving thanks to God, leaving only joy and love – which is still biblical, but incomplete, as worship is not just invited but commanded in the Scriptures.

Anyway, all this is just the beginning, what follows next is the Proper Preface, which is basically a sentence of purpose – a reason why we should give thanks to God.  The classical Prayer Book tradition had just a few Prefaces for certain holidays, and most of the year would skip it, but modern liturgies have promulgated ever-larger collections of Prefaces that may be used.  We’ll look at those next week, but I mention them now because they complete the thought that is begun here.

Readings Review & Planning Propers 9/30

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 1 Kings 12-14, 2 Chronicles 12-15, Hebrews 11-13, James 1-2, Zechariah 2-8, Matthew 16-20

Next week: 1 Chronicles 16, 1 Kings 15-19, James 3-5, 1 Peter 1-4:6, Zechariah 9-15, Malachi 1, Matthew 21-24

The “crazy visions” of Zechariah are drawing to a close and we’re getting to the second half of the book, populated by oracles – messages from God to various contemporaries of Zechariah.  The visions of chapters 1-6 in particular were apocalyptic in nature, functioning on one level to encourage the then-leaders of Jerusalem to continue rebuilding the Temple (much like Haggai did in the previous book), and on another level providing pictures of judgment that would only find their proper fulfillment in the ministry of Christ Jesus.  The oracles of Zechariah, primarily in chapters 9-4, speak against the oppressive regimes of foreign powers such as Persia, foretell the coming Christ (or Messiah), and look forward to when God’s people will be perfectly cleansed and united under their Good Shepherd.

Appropriately, our readings from the Gospel of St. Matthew are also reaching an apocalyptic section as the coming week unfolds: our Lord’s parables after his triumphal entry in Jerusalem become increasingly focused on the Kingdom of God and the day of judgment.  At the end of the week we’ll read through chapter 24’s famous discourse about the destruction of the Temple (which was fulfilled about 35 years later).

The Old Testament lessons in Morning Prayer, meanwhile, continue through the much more mundane writing style of Israelite history.  As the kings of Israel and Judah get increasingly apostate from the true worship of the Lord, the narrative spends less time with them and more time with the prophets, especially Elijah, who were faithful to Him.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 21 (or 15th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 9/30 = St. Jerome or Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/1 = St. Remigius or Votive
  • Wednesday 10/2 = Votive
  • Thursday 10/3 = Votive
  • Friday 10/4 = St. Francis of Assisi or Votive
  • Saturday 10/5 = Votive

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Happy Michaelmas!

On this special occasion of celebrating the feast of St. Michael and All Angels with the whole congregation on a Sunday morning, I thought it would be fun to share our liturgy here.  The Communion rite we’re using is the Anglican Standard Text, as usual.

OPENING HYMN: Christ the fair glory of the holy angels

ACCLAMATION: Worthy is the Lord our God: / To receive glory and honor and power.


GLORIA IN EXCELSIS sung to the setting #784 in the Book of Common Praise 2017


  • Revelation 12:7-12, followed by a 1-minute Children’s sermon
  • explanation: my church has two children, ages 2 and 4, so they spend most of the liturgy playing in a separate room.  I’m a big believer in including young children in the liturgy, but sometimes they need space to move around, and our context is so small that it wouldn’t work so well at the moment.  Soon the older will be able to sit/draw/play/read quietly in the worship space with the adults, and this addition to the liturgy will be removed.
    Normally, this ministry moment includes a few-verse Bible reading followed by a one-minute teaching, but on this occasion the short reading is actually the same as the Epistle Lesson, so it’s just being moved up here wholesale.  Yes it’s a strange way to tinker with the liturgy, and no I’m not crazy about it, but I’ve got to minister to everyone I can with the very limited resources and manpower available.

HYMN: Ye holy angels bright


PSALM: 103, SEQUENCE HYMN: Life and strength of all thy servants

GOSPEL LESSON: John 1:47-51



OFFERTORY HYMN: Bread of heav’n on thee we feed

THE SURSUM CORDA, leading to the Preface for Trinity Sunday




POST-COMMUNION CANTICLE: #6 Dignus es (from page 84)


CLOSING HYMN: Ye watchers and ye holy ones


The Offertory Sentences

One of the stranger experiences for someone accustomed to the 1979 Prayer Book (or similar resources), going into the 2019 book, might be the Offertory.  It’s handled pretty much the same in this book as the 1979: the prayer over the offering is hard-wired into the main text of the liturgy, which is a minor change, and probably not too jarring to adapt to.  But when you flip the pages over to the list of Offertory Sentences, that’s where things might get weird.

You see, the 1979 Prayer Book has a reputation for being absolutely drowned in choices.  Several Eucharistic Rites, contemporary and traditional language versions of the Offices and Collects, countless “_ or _” prayers, you name it, the 1979 book is full of options.  And its list of 8 Offertory Sentences and 1 “bidding” to choose from for the Celebrant to read at the beginning of the Offertory seemed like plenty of choices (page 376-7 of that book).  But turn to page 149 in the 2019 Prayer Book and you find twenty Offertory Sentences to choose from, spanning three pages!  What gives, 2019?  We thought the liturgy was getting more streamlined and simple, why so many choices?  And why for such a paltry moment in the liturgy?

As usual, the answer can be found with quick consultation with the classical prayer books.  Take up the 1662 Prayer Book, flip to the appropriate portion of the Communion liturgy (page 241 in my Cambridge Press copy, I don’t know how standardized they are), and you find that the Communion Sentences are printed right into the primary text of the service, not in an appendix after.  And there are twenty of them!  (Interestingly, not quite the same twenty.)  The 1662 rubric for their use is as follows:

Then shall the Priest return to the Lord’s Table, and begin the Offertory, saying one or more of these sentences following, as he thinketh most convenient in his discretion.

This sounds rather like the handling of the Opening Sentences in the Daily Office, which also have undergone a radical re-purposing since at least 1928.

The 2019 Prayer Book, meanwhile, calls for only “one of the provided sentences of Scripture.

Chances are that most celebrants will continue saying one of the three or four that they’d memorized from the 1979 Prayer Book’s shorter list, and not give this any more thought.  And that’s okay.  But it’s worth exploring this renewed list of Offertory Sentences.  Like the Comfortable Words they may feel redundant in function, but when taken seriously they can provide an excellent “bible study” on giving, generosity, and charity.  Our rubrics technically don’t permit us to read more than one, not that I can imagine any bishop telling us off for violating that, so perhaps the best way to go about exploring these with the congregation is using them on a rotation, week by week.  These sentences exist in our liturgy, after all, not just to “kill time” or warn people that the money plate is coming, but actually to teach them about the spiritual discipline of charity, alms-giving, or tithing.

Just for kicks, let’s make a text-based Venn Diagram comparing the 1662 and 2019 lists:

1662 only: Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, Tobit 4:7b, Luke 19:8, 1 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Corinthians 9:11, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Galatians 6:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

1662 & 2019: Tobit 4:8-9, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 7:21, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Galatians 6:10, Hebrews 6:10, Hebrews 13:16*.

2019 only: Deuteronomy 16:16-17, Psalm 50:14*, Psalm 96:8*, Matthew 25:40, Luke 10:2, Acts 20:35, Romans 10:14-15, Romans 12:1*, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 5:2*, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:17.

The 1928 Prayer Book has sixteen Sentences, not simply a reduction from the 1662 list, but supplying new verses – some of which are preserved in subsequent books, and two which are unique to it but are now found in our post-Offertory prayer: 1 Chronicles 29:11* & 14.

* These are the eight listed in the 1979 book, in addition to the following: Matthew 5:23-24, Revelation 4:11.  Interesting that that book had only one Sentence in common with the 1662 list.

If at all possible, take up a copy of the 1662 Prayer Book, though, and read through its Offertory Sentences in its printed order.  It’s not just a list thrown together (which I think is likely the case with ours), but the progression from one to the next is logical, ideas building from one to the next.  With only a little finesse, you can make the whole “list” into a coherent Exhortation!

The Comfortable Words

After the Confession and Absolution in the Service of Holy Communion follow The Comfortable Words.  In my planning notes, this entry was to be entitled “The Comfortable Words (old & new)” which I can only assume was a joke to myself, as the comfortable words are always the same four quotes from Scripture.  Both their function and their content are the same in the classical Prayer Books and in the 2019 Prayer Book.  All that differs are what the rubrics say.  Also, for the many people who are used to the Roman Rite, or the 1979 book, or similar liturgical revisions, the Comfortable Words may be a “new” feature of the liturgy to them.

This lovely graphic explanation of the Comfortable Words made the rounds on Facebook last month, and it’s worth sharing here:


I’ll let the commentary there stand for itself.  What we can explore from a liturgical perspective is the question of what these “words” do, and how we use them.

Classically, all four of these statements were read by the priest after the Absolution, and were introduced individually: “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith… hear also what what St. Paul saith… hear also what St. John saith…”  But in the 2019 there is one introduction: “Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.”  This is matched with a rubric that states The Celebrant may then say one or more of the following sentences.  Basically, this means that the rubrics allow us to skip any or all of these Words.

It is the recommendation of this Customary that you go all-or-nothing on this.  The Comfortable Words have always been the same group of four ever since Thomas Cranmer first appointed them in 1549, and the logical progression they form together makes the omission of one or more a loss to overall coherence.  Besides, if you just read one, then it runs the risk of just being a “random Scripture reading” floating out there, whereas if you read all four it makes a more bold and clear statement about the forgiveness of sins.  The liturgy will survive without them, so either embrace them as a whole or leave them be entirely.

Their function is to stand as a sort of reassurance of pardon.  Beyond the Anglicans and the Lutherans (the only two Protestant traditions that retain any sense of sacramentality of Absolution from a minister) an “assurance of pardon” is about all a minister can give, after a confession, and quoting the Bible is the best way to go about it.  For us, then, who do have an Absolution pronounced, the Comfortable Words serve as a sort of biblical seal upon the priest’s word of absolution.  This emphasizes that the ministry of the Church is grounded upon the authority of the Word of God written.

Priest, if your congregation already has a high view of Scripture, and a clear understanding that your ministry is derived therefrom, then the function of the Comfortable Words has been fulfilled whether you read them or not.  This does not make them extraneous, however.  The Word of God is living and active, arguably even more alive and active than you are.  Therefore we should not treat the Comfortable Words as “extra add-ons”, but words of great significance and comfort.  The rubrics permit us to skip them, but tradition and wisdom together exhort us to make regular use of them.

Anecdotally, I find myself using them throughout Advent, Lent, and Easter, and only occasionally reading them through the rest of the year.  Like many priests, I feel pressed for time: so-and-so wants to get home on time for the Patriots game, the kids only have so much attention span left, and wasn’t the sermon already long enough?  Perhaps there are good reasons for omitting the Comfortable Words from time to time.  But as a norm, we probably ought to be reading them far more often than we omit them.