Book Review: Celebrating the Eucharist

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ratings in short:

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

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

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

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

How to celebrate St. Mary today

Today is the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord, or in the language of the ecumenical councils, the Theotokos (God-bearer).  Sticking with the liturgy that we have, and not violating any rubrics, let’s look at some ways we can mark this holy day in the course of our formal worship today.

Morning Prayer

For the Opening Sentence, consider Habakkuk 2:20, from among the extended provision on page 28.  It’s from a lesson that tends to show up around Christmastime, albeit not in the spartan daily lectionary of our new prayer book.  Let all mortal flesh keep silence, an awesome hymn from an Eastern eucharistic liturgy, is also drawn from this verse, and in many protestant hymnals is considered a Christmas hymn.  Granted, the biblical appearances of Blessed Virgin Mary are not limited to the Christmas story, but it is her most prominent placement.

For the Venite (the invitatory psalm) use a seasonal antiphon.  There are two that work well for this holy day: the one on page 29 for the Presentation & Annunciation (which are both Marian feasts to some extent) and the one on page 30 for All Saints’ & Other Major Saints’ Days.  As the rubric on page 14, above the Venite, explains, an antiphon is used both before and after the psalm or canticle in question.  Time and time again I’ve seen people misuse antiphons… think of them as book-ends to start and finish the song.  Or if etymology is your thing, look at the word itself: anti-phon… opposing sound: use the antiphon on opposing sides of the psalm.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Te Deum and the Benedictus.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the added bonus that the Te Deum actually does mention Mary briefly (Christ “humbly chose the Virgin’s womb”).

The second lesson for Morning Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is Luke 1:26-38, which is the story of the Annunciation.  ‘Nuff said there, I think!

The Collect of the Day, starting at Evening Prayer last night, is on page 631.  As discussed previously it may be read in light of the traditional (but not official) doctrine of the Assumption if one is so inclined.

Evening Prayer

The Opening Sentence could be drawn from the extra one suggested for Christmas (on page 54) or perhaps one of the standard options – Psalm 26:8 – noting that St. Mary herself was a notable place where God’s “honor dwells”.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the obvious bonus that the Magnificat is itself the Song of Mary.

The second lesson for Evening Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is John 14:1-14, which although simply part of the lectio continuo (continuous reading) of Scripture from day to day, proves fitting closure to this holy day in Jesus’ proclamation that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, as do all saints of the Church, ultimately points us to Christ.

Holy Communion

Chances are that most of us don’t have the opportunity to host or attend a celebration of Holy Communion today, but you can always resort to Antecommunion.

The Opening Acclamation should be the last seasonal one on page 146 from the song of the saints in heaven (Revelation 4:11).

As this is a festal occasion, not penitential, the Summary of the Law with the Kyrie is a more appropriate choice than the full Decalogue.  The Gloria in excelsis should follow, as this is a major holy day.

The Collect of the Day has already been commented upon.  The Propers from Scripture are:

  • Isaiah 61:10-11 (typologically, Mary is the garden from which Christ springs)
  • Psalm 34 (“let us magnify the Lord” akin to Mary’s Song)
  • Galatians 4:4-7 (Christ’s birth points to our own adoption in Christ)
  • Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat itself)

The Creed should be said, as per the rubric on the bottom of page 108/126.

The Blessed Virgin Mary should be mentioned in the last “N.” in the last petition of the Prayers of the People on page 111.

If there’s an Offertory, consider Galatians 6:10 for the Offertory Sentence (on page 149), since a Saints’ Day (especially Mary!) is an excellent opportunity to reference “the household of faith“.

For the Proper Preface, I’ve seen some lovely Mary-specific ones out there, but since we’re trying to get used to our new prayer book let’s not introduce anything new yet.  The official Preface appointed for this day on page 631 is the one for Christmas (on page 152).

Other Resources & Opportunities

The fourth collect in Midday Prayer (on page 38) references Mary.

Occasional Prayer #125 on page 683, the Thanksgiving for the Saints and Faithful Departed, also lists Mary among its several commemorated holy ones.

This Customary’s Order for Daily Hymnody appoints hymn #178 God himself is with us for today (check the index to find its number if you don’t have this hymnal).  Surely there are other hymns for Christmas or the Annunciation (and so forth) that will also be appropriate to adorn this feast day.

Antecommunion: What, Why, and How?

Something we’ve touched upon here before is the subject of the service of Antecommunion. I figured it’s about time we revisit that idea with a more direct address of its identity, purpose, and execution.

What is ‘Antecommunion’?

The prefix ante- means ‘before’, so the service of Antecommunion is the Service of Holy Communion before, or leading up to and excluding, the actual celebration of Communion.  Basically from the Introit to the Offertory, this is the non-sacramental part of the Communion liturgy.  The only difference is that this is done on purpose, and ends with a few different prayers, making this specifically the Service of Antecommunion rather than the Service of Holy Communion Except We Stopped Short Just Before The Important Bit.

Why would anyone do this?

Antecommunion is a uniquely Anglican practice; I’m not sure if any other tradition has ever had a liturgy on the books like this.  In the Prayer Book tradition, provision was made for the celebration of Holy Communion every Sunday and major Holy Day of the year, but, people were not used to such frequent reception of Communion, and despite the Reformers’ best efforts, the average English believer still only came to the Holy Table once a month at best.  The priests, however, were still expected to fulfill the liturgical demands of the Prayer Book, and so provision had to be made for situations in which there was a Service of Holy Communion offered but no communicants prepared to receive Holy Communion.

The 1662 Prayer Book has, at the end of the Communion liturgy, a handful of collects, and a rubric or two, for that very situation.  I’m not aware what, if any, subsequent Prayer Books contained similar instructions for that situation.

Now that Anglicans almost the world over are accustomed to weekly Communion, this “need” for Antecommunion is no longer common.  If your parish priest is unexpectedly sick on a Sunday morning, then a Deacon or Lay Minister could lead an Antecommunion service instead, since it’s almost identical to the regular Communion service.  This leads us to two possible scenarios in which the Antecommunion service may still be relevant for our needs and interests:

  1. A group of people, lacking a priest, want to participate in the eucharistic liturgy as much as they’re able.
  2. A priest, lacking a congregation, wants to participate in the eucharistic liturgy as much as he’s able.

The former situation is rare – normally when people want to worship together they should be saying the Daily Office.  Antecommunion should always and only be an addition to the Office, not a substitute.

The latter situation is perhaps more common, especially among those clergymen with high church sensibilities.  Roman priests, for example, were (if not still are) bound to celebrate Mass daily, much like how Anglican priests were (if not still are) bound to say the Office daily.  If you’re a priest and you feel like you “ought to be” celebrating Holy Communion daily, or at least ought to be celebrating it more frequently than just Sunday mornings, then Antecommunion is the compromise.  It is extremely rare to find, among Anglicans, anyone who approves of a priest saying Mass entirely alone – Prayer Book tradition requires at least two other people gathered with the celebrant, so only the most Romanized clergymen would ever opt for a ‘private’ mass.  So if you are alone, Antecommunion is the closest you can get to the devotion of the so-called private mass.

How does the service of Antecommunion work?

The whole point of this liturgy is that it’s a stand-in for the full Communion service, so it’s essentially identical from the start until the Confession.  After that, you say the Lord’s Prayer, and a few additional prayers, and then you’re done.  For a bookmark-style guide using the 2019 Prayer Book, download this Antecommunion leaflet.  Plus, if you want, you can check out this walk-through video.

As a bonus, I even provided a quick summary of how to do this with the 1928 Prayer Book, since I know some of you are users of that book, rather than the 2019.

Book Review: Ceremonies of the Eucharist

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

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

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

A handy glossary concludes the book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ratings in short:

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

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

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

Nicene Creed Translation

In our week-by-week Thursday walk-through of the service of Holy Communion, we come now to the Nicene Creed.  Amidst the very many blog posts and articles that cropped up early this summer with the release of the 2019 Prayer Book came one writer who objected to the translation of the Nicene Creed.  This was, in many ways, a very strange complaint, because the new translation in our book was made and approved by our College of Bishops six years ago, in 2013.  It’s been available since the very first Texts for Common Prayer were released, and some churches, like mine, have been using it ever since.  It’s a bit late to complain.  The nature of the complaint, too, in my opinion, is more a questioning of motive than it is of actual substance.

Nevertheless, one should be very attentive to how the Creeds are translated.  Article of Religion #8 places the Creeds on a very high level of authority: they “ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.”  So, just like Bible translation, it’s very important that we get a decent translation of the Creeds before us.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the text, comparing 1662, 2019, and 1979.

  • 1662: I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
  • 2019: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible.
  • 1979: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

The modern we/I switch is one of the main objections the aforementioned critic took issue with.  The functional difference here is that in the context of the Eucharist, our affirmation of faith is corporate (while the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office is our place to say “I believe…”).  There is a fair bit of history behind the I/we translation choices which I’ll let you research yourself if you’re curious.

The other big difference in this opening line is the terminology “visible and invisible” versus “seen and unseen.”  The problem with the latter translation was that it opened the Creed (and thus the entirety of the biblical faith) to the possibility of demythologization.  Among the excesses of modernist thought, this subtle wording change paves the way for the rejection of angels and demons, and the devil, as these are things invisible.  “Unseen” suggests a more empirical approach to reality and metaphysics which can easily be used to “correct” the Bible.

  • 1662: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten son of God, Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made:
  • 2019: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
  • 1979: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.  Through him all things were made.

The repetition of “we believe” is a modern concession to English grammar.  The whole creed is technically one giant sentence, but that’s pretty incomprehensible to the modern reader.  A couple hundred years ago, it was still in practice to make giant compound sentences nearly an entire page long, but readership has changed since then, and thus so have our approaches to dealing with punctuation and repetition.

In terms of actual substance, note that we got “only-begotten” back, omitted in 1979, “eternally begotten” is a theological clarification in the modern translations, “of one substance” is equated to “of one being” (more theological technical terms).  Nothing controversial here, just basic orthodox Christology.

  • 1662: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
  • 2019: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
  • 1979: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

“For us men” became “For us” in contemporary English, as the gender-neutral use of “men” goes on the decline.  At least this is an instance of that word where its omission isn’t a problem, as it is in some verses of Scripture.

The similar language in 1662 and 2019 – “incarnate from/by the Holy Spirit/Ghost of/and the Virgin Mary” – is highly preferable to the 1979’s translation “by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary”.  The latter separates the Holy Spirit from the Annunciation and conception of Jesus by a degree that is neither necessary nor precedented.  “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you”, the archangel Gabriel told Mary, not “the power of the Spirit will descend upon you”.

There is an interesting difference in where to end the sentence/phrase which you can see at the end of this section and the beginning of the next.  It seems to me primarily a matter of logical organization rather than of direct theological import.

  • 1662: He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
  • 2019: he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
  • 1979: he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Apart from language style and punctuation, there’s no substantial change here at all.

  • 1662: And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
  • 2019: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],† who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
  • 1979: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.  He has spoken through the Prophets.

Again, nothing here is of any substantial difference, just language style and translation methods.  Except one… the filioque – the phrase “and the Son”.  This is a bit of a historical-theological bugbear.  The original text of this Creed, on which the 2019 translation is based, does not include that phrase.  A Lambeth Council (representing Anglicans world-wide) decision in 1978 encouraged future liturgical texts to drop the filioque even though it is a constant feature of the entire Western Church.  It (and the way in which the Roman Popes “authorized” it) was one of the wedges driven between East and West, leading to the final split in 1054.  To drop the filioque is a gesture of good will toward the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and (potentially) a return to primitive creedal orthodoxy.  Does this little word really make much difference, theologically, let alone practically?  It can, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.  So our prayer book has bracketed the phrase and included a footnote reference to a longer statement about the issue, written by our bishops in 2013, as an opportunity for further education and learning.

  • 1662: And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen.
  • 2019: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
  • 1979: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

To be honest, the difference between “believe in one… church” and “believe one… church” has always puzzled me.  Go ask some other more educated priest than I.  Or if you, please comment about it, so I can understand it too!

There seems to be a bit of a mixed report about the word “holy”… it is a traditional part of the Creed, one of the “four marks of the Church” – one, holy, catholic, apostolic.  How it got omitted from the Prayer Book tradition until 1979 escapes me.  The legend that it was a printing error that got enshrined in England and American practice is unconvincing.

One can argue that there is a difference between the precise meaning of “remission of sins” and “forgiveness of sins”, but the effect is at least the same.

So there you go.  If you’ve been used to the 1979 Creed, hopefully this has helped you see the improvements we’ve got in our new book.  It’s high time to make the switch if you haven’t already!

The Collect & Lessons – but how many?

After the Acclamation, Collect for PurityPenitential Rite, and the Gloria, we now come to the main Propers of the Communion service: the Collect and the Lessons (or Readings).  Although the page-flipping required to find them is annoying (particularly in modern prayer books), this is functionally very simple: the priest leads us in the collect, and we listen to the scriptures read to us.

So what we’re going to examine today is how many collects and lessons there are.

Those of us used to the modern liturgy often forget (or never knew in the first place) that this was ever different.  We’re used to one collect, an OT reading, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel.  Occasionally a reading from Acts jumps in to replace the OT or Epistle slot.  But the classical prayer book tradition, until 1979 changed it up, was one collect, an Epistle, and a Gospel.  Occasionally a reading from the OT or Acts took that Epistle slot, and on Good Friday the collect was actually three prayers in succession (known as the Solemn Collects, now expanded and relocated into the Good Friday liturgy itself).

I cannot confirm this in any written source, but I have heard of situations, in the context of general western catholic liturgy, wherein additional collects could be supplied after the Collect of the Day.  The purpose of this would be to “memorialize” a lesser feast day that was being overwritten by a feast of greater rank.  For example, a couple weeks ago the commemoration of St. Bonaventure fell on a Sunday.  As an optional commemoration, he could not have been celebrated in place of that Sunday, so we might have had the option to memorialize him by reading the Collect for his day after the Collect for that Sunday.  But again, I don’t remember where I came across this idea, so I can’t commend this as a reliably traditional practice.  Besides, the way modern prayer books have handled the Good Friday collects suggest that we ought to stick to one collect only, at this juncture in the liturgy, and save secondary collects for, say, the Prayers of the People.

As for the number of Scripture readings, the 1979 Prayer Book did offer some commemorations with only two Scripture readings plus a Psalm, matching more closely the traditional format.  But in the 2019 book, all our “common” commemorations and various occasions have the full three readings plus psalm, suggesting that this is now to be the standard number of readings across the board.  In the 1979 tradition, it seemed that Sundays and Major Feasts were to have three readings and lesser feasts on weekdays could have two.  This Customary was going to continue that tradition, but the 2019 Prayer Book seems to indicate that three is to be the norm.

The instructions on pages 716-717 elaborate on this point:

The number of readings on any Sunday or Holy Day may be lessened according to pastoral circumstance, provided the Gospel is always read at Eucharist.

The Bishop of the Diocese is to be consulted where a regular pattern of fewer than four lessons is adopted as the Sunday customary of a Congregation, or when a pattern of alternate readings or a “sermon series” is proposed.

Thus, in isolated events and circumstances, we can drop a reading.  But at the principle services on Sundays, you need your bishop’s permission to do so on a regular basis.  Same for any other form of tinkering with the lectionary: it is not a priest’s prerogative so to do.

When to sing the “Gloria in excelsis”

After the penitential rite at the beginning of the Communion service follows this rubric:

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.

Placement of the Gloria…

For those who grew up accustomed to the Roman Rite or the 1979 Prayer Book, this is expected – the Gloria is the standard historic hymn of praise following the Kyrie, signalling the movement from penitence to absolution, from abjection to joy, from unworthiness in God’s sight to worthiness, from fear to perfect love.  What many don’t realize is the peculiar tradition of the classical Anglican Prayer Books in placing the Gloria after the Communion and Post-Communion Prayer!

Thus, when we read in the rubric on page 107 & 125 that the Gloria “may be sung or said”, what we ought to see here is the permission to save it for its traditional placement near the end of the liturgy.  The reason for saving the Gloria for that point in the liturgy is that there it functions as an expression of unadulterated praise to God in light of his saving work on the Cross that we have just memorialized in prayer and received in the Sacrament.  So the flow of penitence-to-praise at the beginning of the service doesn’t really apply, but the celebration post-communion is certainly much grander.  It’s also interesting to note that in Lutheran tradition they tend to keep the Gloria in its traditional (Roman) position near the beginning after the Kyrie but also have a special post-communion canticle like the Prayer Book tradition, though in their case the Nunc dimittis.  Now that’s a much more sober (or sobering) way to reflect upon the reception of the consecrated elements!

Instead of the Gloria…

I know lots of congregations that have a contemporary “praise and worship set” in place of the Gloria.  Although this provokes the ire of hymns-only traditionalists, this can rightly capture the spirit of the modern prayer book (and traditional Roman) rite, as the Gloria is a song of pure praise.  Indeed, in my own church, we long had a hymn or contemporary song of praise in addition to the Gloria.  As long as you find lyrics that are very God-centered, they’ll fulfill the same function as the Gloria.  But keep in mind, how many times does the Gloria mention “us” or “me”?  If you’re appointing songs in its place, try to make sure that they live up to that standard of pure and undistracted adoration.

During Advent and Lent, though, it is customary to omit the Gloria, whether you’ve got it near the beginning or the end of the liturgy.  The 1940 hymnal even has, in its liturgical index, suggestions for which hymns could replace the Gloria during those seasons.  This is an excellent place to use a season-specific hymn, as they typically capture the tone and mood of the season in a very appropriate manner, and thus support the shift of emphasis that the liturgical calendar is meant to convey to us.

Singing the Gloria…

Last of all, it’s worth noting that the rubric states “sung or said“, as if to imply that it’s more appropriate to sing the Gloria than to read it.  This is where the otherwise-bloated 1982 hymnal can be a valuable resource, as it provides a number of musical settings for the contemporary translation of the Gloria that our new Prayer Book continues to use.  The Book of Common Praise 2017 has only one setting in the contemporary language, which is original to that edition, I believe, and has worked pretty well with my own congregation.  But sometimes it’s nice to have options.

You could even take a page out of medieval tradition and change the musical setting of the Gloria for different times of year or occasions!  For example, my congregation sings it on major feasts and high Sundays, but just says it on ‘normal’ Sundays.

The Penitential Rite in the Communion liturgy

Early in the Communion liturgy, on page 106 and 124 of BCP 2019, we come to the “penitential rite” portion.  The rubric there states:

Then follows the Summary of the Law, or The Decalogue (page 100).

The Kyrie or the Trisagion follows.  A “vanilla” use of this page of the liturgy would therefore go as follows: Collect for Purity, the Celebrant reads the Summary of the Law, the Kyrie follows, then on to the Gloria.  But with this option of the Decalogue (or Ten Commandments), what should we do?

We should begin with a little history.  This part of the original Prayer Books contained the Decalogue only.  And it wasn’t a shortened version with congregational responses; it was the full text of the Decalogue in Exodus 20 plus congregational responses.  That was the norm, every Communion.  By 1928 in the US, more options had arisen.  The Decalogue was still the default, but shortened versions were suggested, so it wouldn’t be quite so belabored.  The Summary of the Law was added as an option after, and the Kyrie was to follow the Summary of the Law if the Decalogue was omitted.  So there were three primary choices for the penitential rite in the 1928 Prayer Book:

  1. Decalogue (full text or shortened)
  2. Decalogue (full or short) + Summary of the Law
  3. Summary of the Law + Kyrie

A rubric also noted that The Decalogue may be omitted, provided it be said at least one Sunday in each month.  There was also this optional prayer that concluded 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.

Proponents of the historic prayer book tradition often complain that modern books have too many choices and options… this is one area where a classic book actually has more options than the 2019 prayer book!

With this background in mind, we should acknowledge that even though The Summary of the Law is implicitly the default penitential rite in the two 2019 Communion services, we should continue to make use of the Decalogue, conveniently provided on the pages immediately before the Communion liturgy begins.  It would be wise to adopt at least the rule of thumb of the 1928 prayer book: that we use the Decalogue at least one Sunday a month.  This Customary would add to that the weekly (and weekday) use of the Decalogue throughout the seasons of Advent and Lent, and on other appropriate times such as feasts of St. John the Baptist (a very Law-heavy preacher), or other penitential occasions.

One other observation that should be made is the text of the congregational responses in the Decalogue.  As I observed in January of last year, “The Decalogue has undergone some significant rewording.  Instead of asking God to “give us grace to keep this law” we ask for him to “incline our hearts to keep this law”, which is (again) more faithful to the old Prayer Books, and is more theologically specific.  We don’t just need “grace” to do better, but our hearts need reorientation.”  If you’re accustomed to the language of the 1979 prayer book, make sure you take note of this improvement, and perhaps point it out to your congregation (which I believe I did by the beginning of Lent that year).

The Trinity Acclamation

For most of the rest of 2019, our Thursday posts will be walking through the Communion service of the 2019 Prayer Book.  Today we’re starting at the beginning, the Opening Acclamation.

We’ve looked at these once before during Advent, and have noted how the Opening Sentences of the Daily Office have taken on a similar role in modern liturgy.  So let’s look at the Acclamation that occupies the majority of the Church Calendar Year.

The people standing, the Celebrant says this or a seasonal greeting.
Celebrant
 Blessed be God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
People   And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever.  Amen.

Besides this, the Prayer Book has about eight other Acclamations to choose from, according to the season or occasion.  Most of them are quotes from or references to Scripture; a couple of them (like this one) are not.

Functionally, these are what one might entitle “The Call to Worship”, and is very similar to the beginning exhortation in the Office right before the Confession, or the Invitatory dialogue and psalm.  A traditionalist might look down his nose at these Acclamations, however, for they are not a part of Prayer Book tradition before 1979.  But there is more background to them than meets the eye.

In Western liturgical tradition, the introit is a “proper” – a text that is paired with the Collect and lessons of the Mass.  It’s usually a few verses from a psalm, though sometimes other Scriptures or texts comprise an introit.  It usually ends with a Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father).  Each Sunday and holy day (and, I presume, minor saints day and votive mass) would have its own introit.  These Acclamations in modern tradition is actually a reduction and simplification – instead of having a particular introit for each mass of the year, there are just these nine or so Acclamations.  The Roman Catholic Church has done something similar with its liturgy; some of their Acclamations are very similar to ours.

An attentive reader or worshiper may notice that this Acclamation is different than it was in the 1979 Prayer Book.  That book rendered it:

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We, meanwhile, have added “the” to each person of the Trinity.  Why?

It’s more explicit about trinitarian theology.  The previous format can leave one with the unconscious impression that God is a nebulous entity with three aspects, and fall into the heresies of sabellianism or modalism.  But stating, instead the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we subtly emphasize that these are three distinct persons, not just modes of being that God can switch between.  Yes it’s subtle, and yes it’s implicit, but that’s one of the important things about worship and common prayer: little things repeated enough times can have a huge impact.

Did this phrase along cause the catastrophic descent of the Episcopal Church into theological chaos in the latter quarter of the 20th century?  No, probably not.  More likely it was a symptom of pre-existent trends.  But it is a phrase that we found we could adopt and improve for a clearer proclamation of the identity of the God we are gathering to worship that day, and every day.

“Corpus Christi” Anglican Style

In Western tradition, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the feast of Corpus Christi.  It and Trinity Sunday are, as far as I recall, the only holidays that primarily celebrate a doctrine rather than a person or event.  In its original (and present) Roman setting, Corpus Christi is a celebration of the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is the official Roman explanation for how the Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

It is often incorrectly assumed that transubstantiation is the same as the doctrine of the corporeal real presence; that is incorrect.  The former is an explanation of how the latter works; there are other theological theories that explain the doctrine of the real presence.  If that confuses or surprises you, or you want to look at this in a little more detail, check out this summary.

Anyway, transubstantiation is explicitly ruled out in our formularies, so why would we ever want to celebrate Corpus Christi?  Among the particularly high-church Anglo-Catholics, there have been a number of movements toward both reviving pre-Reformation tradition and aping the Church of Rome in the present.  Corpus Christi was a major holiday in popular devotion as well as the calendar of the church, and in light of how lax many (perhaps most) Protestants treat Holy Communion, it seemed necessary to some to re-emphasize the holiness of Holy Communion with a restored feast day in its honor.  Appropriated into Anglican tradition, one might call it “Thanksgiving for the gift of Holy Communion”, in a manner not unlike last week’s “Thanksgiving for the Promulgation of the First Prayer Book.”

Another angle of how and why Corpus Christi can be re-appropriated in Anglican tradition is the fact that the traditional Collect for this holiday was appointed by Thomas Cranmer to be the Collect for Maundy Thursday, and has remained unchanged ever since.  Seriously, compare the Latin Mass propers in English with ours; it’s the same prayer!  Combine this with the fact that one of the Scripture lessons is the same (Epistle is from 1 Corinthians 11), and you find that Corpus Christi is basically just a reiteration of Maundy Thursday outside the context of Holy Week, just as Holy Cross Day is a reiteration of Good Friday outside the context of Holy Week, and the (modern) Last Sunday of Epiphanytide is a reiteration of the feast of the Transfiguration in a different context.

If you want to commemorate an Anglican-style Corpus Christi, the easiest way to do it under the auspices of the 2019 Prayer Book is to do a Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist according to the Various Occasion Propers on page 733, which instructs you to imitate Maundy Thursday.  That would turn out as follows:

Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 78:15-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26(27-34); Luke 22:14-30

I took the liberty of removing the John 13 Gospel option as that is about the “maundy” and not about the Eucharist per se.

You might also consider other traditional Communion-related Psalms such as 34 or the latter part of 116.  John 6:47-58 is also traditional Corpus Christi material, if you don’t mind applying that text to Eucharistic doctrine.  Don’t forget, also, to grab a hymnal and sing or read some Communion hymns!  Anglican hymnals have some truly wonderful entries in this category that you can’t find in most of the rest of the Protestant world, and a couple of my all-time favorite songs are Communion hymns.  It’s definitely worth celebrating in song, too.