Book Review: Liturgies of the Western Church

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

Today we’re looking at Liturgies of the Western Church, selected and introduced by Bard Thompson.  This is a reference book that every student of liturgy should have on the shelf.

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After a short introduction and bibliography (from the perspective of 1961), this book is occupied with introducing and setting out thirteen different liturgies from across Western Christian history (though the first two are not exclusively Western liturgies).

#1 – The First Apology of Justin Martyr (155)

This does not contain a liturgy, exactly, but we find here chapters 65-67 of his Apology, wherein he describes the order of service for the Communion liturgy he knew.  Although it is a brief outline, the basic sequence is clearly discernible, and it is consistent with the liturgical tradition to this day.

#2 – The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (200)

This is an important entry in the annals of history not because of its long-standing influence, but because of its sudden sharp revival in the mid-20th century.  This is the rite from which most of the Rite II Communion Prayers in the 1979 Prayer Book were drawn, as well as the Renewed Ancient Text in the 2019 Prayer Book.  Reading what it actually says, though, allows one to see just what the adaptations are that modern liturgies have made in its name.  I’ll leave it to the reader’s judgment if the term “renewed ancient” is justified or not.

#3 – The Mass in Latin and English (Roman Rite)

The introductory text for this one is particularly lengthy, as befits the long history of the Roman Rite.  What is given in this book was the then-current form of the Roman Rite (as of 1959), making this the Tridentine form Mass just before the reforms of Vatican II kicked in.  The Tridentine Mass is what traditional (Roman) Catholics today really love and yearn for, and what the baby boomer generation stereotypically despises.  This is a useful resource, of course, as it gives insight into one end of Roman Catholic piety.  But its downside is that this is not the form of the Mass that was in use during, or prior to, the Reformation.  So if you want compare & contrast the Prayer Book liturgy with its medieval forebear, this book doesn’t quite provide that.  You’ll have to, instead, rely on Tyndale’s translation of the Mass provided in the Anglican Service Book.  Still, the Latin-English parallels are handy, and the historical introduction gives you a sense of the gradual milieu of change over the centuries.

#4 – Martin Luther’s Masses (1523, 1526)

This is an interesting entry.  The Formula Missa (1523) was in Latin, and Martin Luther intended for it to be used on occasion for educational purposes.  Most of the time, though, the German Mass (1526) was appointed.  Every educated person, after all, learned Latin, and since instructing the laity in the reading of Scripture and promoting education was a Reformation principle, it made sense to hold worship in Latin periodically, so people could connect the familiar vernacular text to the Latin.  The liturgy provided in this book, however, is not a full text of the whole service; it’s a mix of text, rubric, and commentary, so you end up learning more about the German liturgy than digging into its precise text.

#5 – the Zurich Liturgy (1525)

This is the work of Ulrych Zwingli, whose communion theology was, shall we say, problematically radical.  Because he had such a “low view” of Communion, his liturgy is similarly empty when it comes to the Holy Table.  No sacrament, no consecration, just remembering and partaking.

#6 – The Strassburg Liturgy (1539)

This is the work of Martin Bucer, who was a theologian standing somewhere between Luther and Zwingli.  He was respected by John Calvin and finished his life and ministry in England, where he had a particular lasting impact.  His liturgy contains a number of very long prayers (a pattern we’ll see copied later on) but when it comes to celebration of Holy Communion it is suddenly (like Zwingli) quite brief.

#7 – The Form of Church Prayers, Strassburg (1545), and Geneva (1542)

It is John Calvin’s turn, now.  These are two liturgies that are nearly identical, and thus printed in the book with their occasional differences noted in parallel columns.  Again, long prayers precede and follow the Confession, and lead up to the Sermon.  The Communion prayers are also lengthy, quoting 1 Corinthians 11 at length, and exhorting the people to lift their “spirits and hearts on high where Jesus Christ is in the glory of his Father”.  There are further sets of prayers that provide another liturgy that begin to resemble the Prayer Book pattern around the celebration of Holy Communion, but still focused heavily on the words of institution and giving thanks.

#8 – the First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI (1549, 1552)

Now at last we reach the English Reformation.  The 1549 liturgy is the most conservative protestant liturgy in this book; you can follow its similarity to the Roman Rite more easily than any other entry.  Its order of prayers around the consecration of the Eucharist are fairly closely followed in the Scottish and American Prayer Book traditions, all the way down to the 1928 Prayer Book and the Anglican Standard Text in the 2019.  The 1552 liturgy does the re-arranging and clipping of the Communion Prayers that sets the stage more clearly for what would standardize in the 1662 Prayer Book.

#9 – the Form of Prayers, Geneva (1556)

John Knox is now the man of the hour.  This liturgy represents one of the primary influences on the English Reformation party in exile during the reign of Catholic Queen “bloody” Mary Tudor.  It seems a bit of a hybrid between the previous Genevan liturgy and the Prayer Book liturgy, but contains some sharp polemic directed against the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation, revealing its historical context a little too much!

#10 – The Middleburg Liturgy of the English Puritans (1586)

Now we’re getting into the world of Prebyterianism.  The Church of England had restored a Prayer Book similar to where it had left off before Mary’s reign, but the Puritan party was increasingly unhappy with it, and thus this liturgy was born.  The Calvinist, or Puritan, or “Reformed” desire was to simplify, reduce repetitions, and focus more on preaching and quoting Scripture.  This doesn’t mean short though… one prayer for After a Sermon goes on for several pages.  The Communion prayers, of course, are very short, and consciously different from the Prayer Book pattern.  There are also several instances where a rubric directs what the minister is to pray without giving an actual text.  Extemporaneous prayer was another major bullet point on the Reformed agenda.

#11 – The Westminster Directory of the Publique Worship of God (1644)

After the English Civil War, the Puritans had won: the Church of England as previously known was abolished, and Presbyterianism held sway over the country.  Within a couple years, this liturgy was put forth as the new standard.  It’s almost more of a guide than a liturgical text, however, as it mostly tells the order of what is to be done and only provides examples of what the minister is to pray.  Its hostility to the “excesses” of the Prayer Book tradition is clear in its preface.

#12 – The Savoy Liturgy (1661)

When the Interregnum ended and King Charles II returned to the throne of England, the Church of England with its bishops and prayer book also came back out of hiding.  The Puritan party was on the fence about conforming to the Anglican norm, and Richard Baxter, at the Savoy Conference, advocated a more Reformed liturgy in the (vain) hopes that the upcoming 1662 Prayer Book wouldn’t be like its predecessors.  The liturgy found here is an expanded version of what can be seen in the various Calvinist liturgies above, but with more full-text prayers provided, rather than mere examples.  It still falls short of Prayer Book standards, though, providing (for example) no absolution.  Interestingly, its prayers of consecration are the most Anglican of the Calvinist rites so far seen, including this line: “This bread and wine, being set apart, and consecrated to this holy use by God’s appointment, are now no common bread and wine, but sacramentally the body and blood of Christ.”  This indicates a distinction of Calvinist doctrine over again Zwinglian.  Ultimately this barely made a dent in the formation of the 1662 Prayer Book.

#13 – The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America (1784)

Finally, we come to a liturgy left to the American Methodists by John Welsey.  Seeing little or no ordained Anglican clergymen in the fledgling United States, he felt at liberty to jumpstart a new church movement without episcopal authority or assistance.  Despite that rogue element in his work, what he gave to the American Methodist Church was almost an exact replica of the 1662 Prayer Book.  The Morning Prayer and Communion services are printed in this book, and you’ll see they are almost identical.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
The fact that the various liturgies present themselves in a few different ways makes a quick compare/contrast difficult to make.  But on the whole this is a readable book, not overly technical.

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

Reference Value: 4/5
Put this next to your copy of the 1662 Prayer Book and you’ll have a fantastic history of liturgy on your shelf.  Or, because it’s not 1961 anymore, you can just go online and probably find each of these texts freely available.  Still, the introductions and footnotes in this book are useful.

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.

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.

What does the + mean?

You’re reading something churchy and all of a sudden there’s a plus sign on the page.  What does that mean?  Typically it’s one of three things.

#1 Make the sign of the cross on yourself.

In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and high-church Anglican tradition, making the sign of the cross is a common gesture in the course of prayer and worship.  Most often, one crosses oneself when the priest is pronouncing a blessing or absolution, or when the person praying says the triune name of God: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  The opening acclamation of the modern communion service is typically said with the sign of the cross, as is the beginning of the Gospel Canticles (the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc dimittis).  If you’re a regular worshiper in a high-church context, you may be able to identify more points in the liturgy where people do this.

In certain liturgical texts, though not any official Prayer Books, a plus sign or cross is placed alongside or amidst the words to indicate when the worshiper should cross him-or-herself.

#2 The celebrant makes the sign of the cross over something.

During the celebration of a sacrament or sacramental rite, it was traditional for the priest or bishop to make the sign of the cross over the object being blessed or consecrated.  We saw an example of this last week in the 1549 Prayer Book’s eucharistic canon.  When holy water or oils are being blessed, it is customary for the celebrant to make the sign of the cross over those elements also.

I’ve seen occasions wherein people cross themselves while the celebrant makes the sign of the cross over the object(s) being blessed, and it’s frankly a bit comical.  There the bishop is, consecrating oil to be used in the anointing of the sick and whatnot, and there’s half the congregation crossing themselves at the same time!  The reader has to be aware of whether the + is meant for the congregation or for just the celebrant.  Usually context is perfectly clear.  If nothing else, this is a reminder that one must always keep one’s brain engaged in the liturgy. “What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15).

#3 The priest or bishop is conveying a blessing in writing.

When writing a letter (or email, today) a priest or bishop may sign off with a blessing to his recipients by marking a + or † after his name if he’s a priest or before his name if he’s a bishop.  As deacons do not pronounce blessings, they do not sign their name in this manner.

This is by far the most misunderstood use of the sign today.  It’s frequently used as a name marker in internet communication:

Dear Fred+,

I was talking with +William and James\ about the conduct of a member of our vestry, and would like your input.

Thanks,
Lionel+

The only correct use of the sign is in the signature.  Father Fred and Bishop William should just be spelled out; the plus sign is not supposed to be a shorthand for ordination status.  Occasionally people have even used the \ to denote a Deacon, such as Deacon James in this fictitious example.  Yeah it’s kind of cute, imitating the slant of a deacon’s stole, but it’s also incorrect style.  The plus sign or cross with someone’s name in correspondence is meant to be a conferral or wish of blessing on the part of the bishop or priest writing the correspondence.  Hence, Father Lionel’s name is the only correct appearance of the + in the example above.

Anglican Churchmanship

It is no secret that the language of liturgy can be very complicated.  Roman Catholics have their Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, various Rites and orders, and a complicated calendar system with classifications of saints days.  The Eastern Orthodox Church has long and complex liturgies full of things that are named in Greek which they seem stubbornly to refuse to label in English.  Anglicans, although possessing a simpler liturgy since the Reformation, has different ‘parties’ or forms of ‘churchmanship’ that bring expression to Prayer Book worship in different (and sometimes conflicting) ways.

I’ve been asked about the terminology I use in this blog, and it seems only fair to clarify some of it.

During the English Reformation there were essentially two “parties” in the Church of England: Reformers and Traditionalists.  Reformers wanted to see the doctrine and worship of the Church amended, Traditionalists wanted to hold on to the medieval forms and beliefs.  Of course, this was also a sliding scale: there were those who wanted some reform and some tradition retained, all the way to radical reformers who wanted to throw away everything that even vaguely looked like Papism.

By the 1600’s, these two parties found a different definition: the traditionalists became known as ‘high church’ and the reformers (or Puritans) as ‘low church.’  Both parties were committed to the Prayer Book and the Articles of Religion (except for a few extremes, mainly of radical puritans, or separatists, in that century), so the difference between them was a matter of emphasis.  The terms ‘high’ and ‘low’ church reflected primarily a difference in the view of the authority of the traditions of the Church.  Highchurchmen valued continuity with previous tradition, Lowchurchmen did not.  Highchurchmen advocated for retaining clerical vestments and adorning church buildings; lowchurchmen preferred simplicity of externals in order to focus on “spiritual things” like preaching.

The 1700’s saw a revival of evangelicalism, the 1800’s saw a revival of traditionalism.  Both pushed the boundaries of Anglican practice in different ways: the former revolutionized the art of preaching and the latter brought back a number of pre-reformation traditions such as vestments, altar candles, and incense.  For the most part, both of these movements stayed within the bounds of the Prayer Book and Articles of Religion, usually bumping up against canon law.  From these movements we now have Anglo-Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, and although a newfound tolerance of both parties was accomplished in the 20th century, the gap between the two has continued to grow.

In the middle stood the “broad-church” or “latitudinarian” position, which was a sort of precursor to Anglican liberalism.  This attitude can be found among many Anglicans today: happy to dress in chasubles like high-church Anglo-Catholics and preach heartfelt sermons like Anglo-Evangelicals, yet not being fully committed to all of the specific distinctions of either party.  The popular “Three Streams” fad is very much an expression of the “broad-church” tradition, attempting to draw lines of connection across different views.

As far as how all this impacts the liturgy, the Prayer Book used to stand aloof to all this; the 1662 was happily used by both sides for most of English history.  But once Prayer Book revision began, especially in the 20th century, the battles between low and high began.  The highchurchmen sought a return to the material of the more traditionalist 1549 Prayer Book, the lowchurchmen sought to return to the material of the more reformed 1552 Prayer Book.  For much of the 20th century, the high church tradition has held the upper hand on paper (most notably the 1928 Prayer Book and several features of the 1979 and 2019), though not in actual numbers of committed Anglo-Catholic practitioners.

It also should be noted that there is not quite a 1:1 ratio of Anglo-Catholicism and high-church liturgical preferences, or Anglo-Evangelicalism and low-church liturgical preferences.  That’s how it usually divides, but there is a spectrum stretching between them, and individual persons and parishes are not always neatly lined up in just one of two boxes.  Especially with the fracturing of the Anglican scene in the latter half of the 20th century, the various levels of churchmanship have become further divided from one another.  The ACNA has gathered up many broad-church-but-not-quite-liberal Anglicans, many of the few remaining classical low-church evangelicals, and a handful of high-church Anglo-Catholics, but probably most of the American Anglo-Catholics today are in other jurisdictions of the “Anglican Continuum.”

The Saint Aelfric Customary exists to help people use the 2019 Prayer Book with an eye on the long-standing tradition of Anglican practice.  That makes this project inherently conservative, but not explicitly high or low church.  In general, however, it is a highchurch mentality to pay closer attention to liturgical precedent and detail, so the deeper one digs into the formal liturgical options, a greater portion of high church material will be found than low church.  By nature, a lowchurchman is typically going to spend more time fussing about the sermon than about the liturgy.  Nevertheless, it is not the intention of this project to be “Anglo-Catholic,” as such, nor to promulgate Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice.  A number of such options will be offered, explained, and presented, but it is my aim to make this Customary a resource useful to all users of the 2019 Prayer Book.

Prayer Book Error Correction

An issue that has been brought up across the internet in the past couple weeks is the fact that in the 2018 update to the new Prayer Book’s communion liturgies, the rubric concerning how to handle excess consecrated bread and wine underwent a change that many would consider sacrilegious.

In every Anglican Prayer Book I have read, regardless of high or low churchmanship, the rule for extra consecrated wine has always been that it is to be consumed (drunk) during or after the liturgy.  If special care is taken it can also be reserved for later distribution, though that is less common, less practical, and was not allowed in the early days of the Reformation.

Now, however, the new Prayer Book also lists “reverently poured in a place set aside for that purpose” as a means of disposing of extra wine.  When I first read it, I assumed that this was referring to pouring it into a flagon where it would be reserved for later distribution, but only after the recent internet hubbub did I realize that the rubric implies the pouring of extra consecrated wine into the ground or into a piscina.

piscina is a special kind of sink that drains directly into the ground.  It was used for disposing of ashes (after Ash Wednesday), old holy water, and the washing of the communion vessels lest any particles remain.  Some people have taken to pouring extra consecrated wine there, too, but that has never been permitted by any Prayer Book, much less by the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches.

For a longer, fuller, explanation of the controversial rubric and the background of this issue, check out this page instead: https://timotheosprologizes.blogspot.com/2019/05/whats-wrong-with-2019-prayer-book.html

All I can say here is:

  1. if you’re a priest or deacon or sacristan, never follow that rubric.  Consecrated wine is supposed to be drunk by God’s faithful people, never thrown to the earth.
  2. if this malpractice concerns you, contact your ACNA bishop, and ask him to help vote this error out of our new Prayer Book as soon as possible.

 

Book Review: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ratings in short:

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

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

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

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

Learning from the Liturgy: Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day, everyone!
Here’s what I wrote for my congregation last year about this holy day:

Leorningcnihtes boc

Ascension Day is perhaps the most under-celebrated important holiday in the calendar.  Representing one of the lines of the Creeds (“he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”), this holiday marks a significant turning point in the Gospel story and sets the stage for how the Christian’s relationship with God is defined.  We often think of it as an awkward point between the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter) and the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), but even in itself the Ascension is a major event.  What I’m setting out to do in this post is draw from the various Scriptural and traditional resources of the Church’s liturgy to explore some of the basic teachings and implications of this great and underappreciated day in the year.

The Event of the Ascension

Christ’s ascension is described in three books: Mark, Luke, and Acts.

In Mark’s Gospel…

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No Friday Fast Yet

Hey, TGIF y’all! I’m sure you’re all excited for the weekly Friday fast. I hate to disappoint you, but I’ve got to remind you, there is no fasting on Fridays this season. (Unless some extraordinary circumstances arise, I suppose.) As it says in the calendar section of our prayer book, on page 689:

The weekdays of Lent and every Friday of the year (outside the 12 Days of Christmas and the 50 days of Eastertide) are encouraged as days of fasting. Ember Days and Rogation Days may also be kept in this way.

Fasting, in addition to reduced consumption, normally also includes prayer, self-examination, and acts of mercy.

So, during the 50 days of Eastertide (which includes the mini-season of Ascensiontide) we are not to fast: this is a season of feasting! Keep finding and enjoying that discount Easter chocolate and candy! Don’t be skimpy with that bottle of single malt or gin that your new favorite parishioner* bought you for Easter! Choose that nicer meal at the restaurant, give that server a bigger tip, and if you’re feeling really counter-cultural keep saying “Happy Easter!” to people.

Because, as we keep saying in church, Christ is risen; the Lord is risen indeed! It’s not just a church thing, it’s a liturgical thing, and that means we all can be involved. Remember how Ebeneezer Scrooge learned to keep Christmas in his heart every day of the year? If he could do that, surely you can keep Easter in your heart for 40 or 50 days!

(Okay, yes, some of you readers might be getting up-in-arms about whether Easter is 40 or 50 days long. We’ll deal with that later, I promise. For now, hush up and go eat more chocolate.)

* Sadly, this is purely a hypothetical situation. Oh well, there’s always next year, haha!

The Triduum as a single liturgy

An interesting interpretation of the modern liturgies for the Triduum is to consider all three as one single worship service that happens to be broken up across three days.  Before I get into the full explanation, this merits breaking down a bit:

  • By “modern liturgies” I mean what we’ve got essentially in the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books.  They’re new, or modern, to the Prayer Book tradition.  If you take a longer view of history, they can also be seen as restorations of pre-reformation liturgical tradition, conformed to the Prayer Book ethos and style.
  • The Triduum, in case it needs clarifying, is the three-day sequence of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  (The Great Vigil of Easter is not part of the Triduum; it’s the beginning of Easter.)

So, since this sequence begins tonight, let’s look at how these three services can be understood as a single worship service.  I encourage you to take a look at them for reference.

Part One: Maundy Thursday

The Maundy Thursdayservice begins like most any Communion service: with the Holy Week Acclamation, though the Entrance Rite’s usual progression of penitence & praise (that is, the Summary of the Law/Kyrie/Decalogue and the Gloria in excelsis) is replaced with a special address, the fourfold “This is the night…”  The Collect & Lessons & Sermon follow, as normal.  Things really diverge from the norm after that, though.  Instead of the Creed we get the option of the Foot-Washing.  It might be a little pretentious to say this, but the priest(s) washing the feet of the congregation is a bit like an enacted Creed, demonstrating the servanthood of Christ in his own ministry.  The liturgy continues as usual with the Prayers of the People, through the Holy Communion, after which point the next big shake-up takes place: the Stripping of the Altar.  In this ritual (which is not broken down in any great detail in the Prayer Book), the holy table is denuded of its vessels, candles, linen cloth, and anything else upon it, and perhaps also “washed” with palm branches.  It’s a symbolic act that points to a few different things – the stripping of Christ before his crucifixion, the abandonment of Christ by his friends, the rejection of God by the world he created.  This is emphasized further by the lack of Blessing and Dismissal at the end.  Instead, “The Congregation departs in silence.

But wait, there’s more!  The Additional Directions note:

Consecrated elements to be received on Good Friday should be kept in a place apart from the main sanctuary of the church. They may be carried to that place at the end of Communion on Maundy Thursday, prior to the stripping of the Altar. An appropriate hymn or anthem, such as “Now my tongue the mystery telling,” may be sung.

This sets us up for the Good Friday portion of the Triduum liturgy, where the celebration of the Eucharist is specifically not appointed.  The altar will remain in its stripped state for the rest of the Triduum liturgy; the bread and wine consecrated on Thursday will have to last for Friday as well.  Also, the fact that the Maundy Thursday service doesn’t really “end” kind of indicates that there is more to come.  The Stripping of the Altar and the departure of the clergy without a word rather implies that things are not as they should be.  Christ is in custody – will we not keep watch just one hour?

Building upon that, there is also a tradition of a Vigil at the Altar of Repose.  It is not mentioned or directed in the Prayer Book, mainly because it does not strictly speaking qualify as “common prayer”.  Basically, it’s a time of constant prayer throughout the night, giving a liturgical-devotional expression to St. Peter’s waiting outside the gates while Jesus was tried before the High Priest and Herod and Pilate.  It also fills in the gap between Part One and Part Two.

Part Two: Good Friday

Where the Maundy Thursday doesn’t really end, the Good Friday liturgy doesn’t really “start” either.  Check out the initial rubrics:

On this day the ministers enter in silence.

All then kneel for silent prayer.

The Officiant rises and may say All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way,

People And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

If you ignore the fact that a night and a morning has passed, one could easily see this as “the next scene” of the story where the Maundy Thursday liturgy left off.  The Collect & Lessons that follow conform to the normal pattern, as does the sermon, but then come the Solemn Collects.  In the historic Prayer Books, Good Friday had three Collects of the Day, which sort of encapsulated the idea that got expanded into the Solemn Collects we have today.  What we’ve got here is a repeated sequence of bidding, silence, collect.  There are 10 iterations of this pattern, covering prayer for unity of the Church, the Bishops of the Church, the Clergy and People, leaders of government, those who are preparing for Holy Baptism on Easter, deliverance from evil and suffering, for the repentance of heretics and schismatics, the conversion of the Jewish people, the conversion of all peoples, and grace for a holy life in each of us.

Then follows the Devotions before the Cross.  This is comprised of a series of Reproaches and Anthems, the former set in the voice of God accusing (“reproaching”) his people for their history of unfaithfulness, and the latter taking up words from the Scriptures to express our faith in Christ’s work of redemption upon the Cross.  As I mentioned the other day with regard to the book of Lamentations, this is an opportunity to approach the crucifixion and death of our Lord from a penitential angle one normally perhaps would not consider on one’s own.

After all that, the Confession & Absolution follow, with the Lord’s Prayer, and the distribution of Holy Communion which was reserved from the evening before.  But then, instead of the usual thankful Post-Communion Prayer, we get this Collect (which is to be used at the end of the Good Friday service no matter what elements of the service are used or omitted).

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, Cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; peace and rest to the dead; to your holy Church unity and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If there is one statement that could summarize Good Friday, it is this prayer – “set your passion, Cross, and death between your judgment and our souls“.  At least, that’s my opinion.

But still, the liturgy doesn’t really end… the rubrics state “No blessing or dismissal is added.” and “The Ministers and People depart in silence.”  The Triduum hasn’t worked itself out completely yet.

Part Three: Holy Saturday

Just like Good Friday, this day’s worship service doesn’t have a proper beginning either.  Literally, this is how it starts:

The Officiant says Let us pray.

It’s the Collect of the Day.  And it’s followed by the lessons; the Gospel recounts the burial of Jesus.  Even the homily is optional.  In the context of the Triduum, there isn’t really anything left to be said; Christ has said his piece, been abandoned, arrested, tried, and crucified.  In the liturgical re-living of those days, there isn’t really much left to “do” on Saturday, we’re just sort of milling around wondering and waiting for something to happen.

After the homily comes one of the most moving anthems in the Prayer Book, Man born of woman has but a short time to live.  It has four stanzas, the first three of which are originally from the Committal in the historic Prayer Book funeral rite.  (Our own burial rite also makes use of this anthem.)  After the anthem comes the Lord’s Prayer and – finally – the closing sentence, or grace, or blessing, from 2 Corinthians 13:14.  This is the traditional verse that concludes the Daily Office, and signifies the end of the the Triduum liturgy, an ending that neither Maundy Thursday nor Good Friday provided.

In Sum…

The Triduum thus has much to commend itself when conceptualized as a single worship service broken up across the three days.  It begins in a solemn, but still familiar and normal manner, but then takes a dramatic turn in the Foot-Washing and a sudden downward pitch in the Stripping of the Altar.  After a pause, Good Friday brings us back together with Jesus only to hear him crucified in the Gospel, prompting us to turn to serious and considered prayer and to face God’s reproach for our many evils that brought about the Lord’s death.  Despite being fed with the reserved Sacrament one more time, we still come to an abrupt and awkward silence in which we plead the Cross of Christ and await an answer… an answer that does not come, for when we regroup on Saturday, Jesus is still dead and in the tomb.  All we can do is lament and mourn, though the Scripture readings do hint at what he is doing in his death.

The Triduum, therefore, is a liturgy like no other.  Rather than leading us upwards and onwards into the love of God and sending us out into the world rejoicing to do his will, the Triduum leads us downwards into the depths of our sinfulness, all the way to the grave.  The Triduum shows us the dead end of earthly life without Christ.

It will take something different, something completely new – a new fire – to bring us back out of the pit where the Triduum leaves us…