Make the Daily Office Unrecognizable

wrw

One of the big concerns among traditionalists when it comes to modern Prayer Book revision and the proliferation of options and substitutions is that our liturgical heritage will get so muddled in “local preferences” that all semblance of Anglican heritage, or even any sense of common prayer, will be lost.  Personally, I think that overlooks the vast array of tweaks and changes that many priests and parishes have gotten away with even under the classically-minded 1928 Prayer Book in recent decades – in some cases drastically re-writing the Communion service so it looks more and more like the pre-Vatican-II Roman Mass and no longer actually an Anglican Prayer Book service.  But let’s not fight.  It’s Weird Rubric Wednesday!  So let’s humor those who complain about the 2019 Prayer Book and see just how far we can destroy the Daily Office without actually breaking the rubrics.

Ahead is Wednesday evening, and the parish is getting together for a special ‘Evening Prayer’ worship service.  But this is what happens:

  • The Officiant reads something short from the Bible.
  • The Invitatory dialogue (BCP 43) is exchanged.
  • The congregation sings a song like Nate Hale’s Psalm 13.
  • Another, slightly longer, reading from the Bible follows.
  • Someone comes up front and gives a brief testimony of faith, referring to his or her favorite Bible quote which is found in that previous reading.
  • A couple more songs are sung.
  • Now it’s prayer time (starting on BCP 47) – the Kyrie, the Lord’s Prayer, one of the sets of suffrages, a Collect commemorating someone in the calendar that day, and one of the Prayers for Mission (BCP 51).
  • The congregation then launches into a time of prayer and song lasting as long as the Spirit leads (so, about fifteen minutes).
  • The Officiant reads Ephesians 3:20-21 (BCP 53) to conclude the service.

If you know the Office pretty well, you can probably discern here what was done.  It’s actually not quite as mangled as I expected it to turn out; the “myriads of options” in the 2019 Prayer Book aren’t all-encompassing.  So here’s what happened:

  • The Opening Sentences can be anything “appropriate”.
  • The Confession may be omitted, once per day.
  • The Phos Hilaron is optional, and therefore skipped.
  • The Psalm(s) Appointed can be shortened “according to local circumstance” (BCP 734), so a sung version took its place.
  • Only one Scripture lesson is permitted (BCP 44).  Rubrics don’t seem to allow deviation from the lectionaries, though if you take the option of drawing the Communion readings into the Office then quite a few choices are possible.
  • A “sermon may be preached after the lessons” (BCP 56).
  • The Canticles can be replaced by other songs (BCP 45).
  • The Creed may be omitted, once per day.
  • The beginning of The Prayers are not optional, and the Collect of the Day is the only explicitly required Collect, but you can choose a black-letter-day commemoration to fulfill that role.  The Prayer for Mission is also required.
  • After that, there is technically free reign to pray and sing (BCP 51) although the rubric does technically indicate only one hymn or anthem.
  • The final prayers are optional, but the list of three closing sentences is not (BCP 52-53).

Yes, this is satire, I do not recommend this for healthy, proper, regular Anglican worship.

However, there are extraordinary circumstances in which such freedom may actually be advantageous.  Say you’re planning an ecumenical prayer service with another church… as the Anglican host you are bound to the authority of the Prayer Book as our rule of worship, but to be a gracious host you want to find room to incorporate elements of worship from your “guest church” also.  Perhaps you’re commemorating one of the ecumenical figures in the calendar together, or perhaps it’s Thanksgiving Day or some other holiday – in such cases you can draw Scripture lessons from the Communion Propers instead of the Daily Office Lectionary.  Perhaps they have their own prayers or canticles, or just particular translations thereof, that you can substitute in the place of our own.  The confession with full introductory exhortation may be a good idea to retain, as it puts forth a fantastic theology of worship, but perhaps circumstances would benefit from side-stepping that instead.  The flexibility of when the sermon is placed (BCP 56) also can be helpful in “shaping” the worship service in a manner appropriate to the occasion.

The good news, for those concerned about the integrity of Anglican tradition, is that the simplest by-the-book service of Evening Prayer with the least amount of page-flipping is going to be solidly traditional.  It takes more effort to deviate from the standard norm, and that alone is enough to steer most folks in the right direction.

The Gloria may be omitted

wrw

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

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

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

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

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

What’s so weird about this, though?

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

Okay?

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

Weird?

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

Bad?

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

So what do you suggest?

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

FOUR versions of the Lord’s Prayer!?

Did you know that there are four versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the 2019 Prayer Book?

You may be aware of two already.  In just about every rite in the book, a traditional-language and contemporary-language rendition of the Lord’s Prayer are offered in parallel columns.  But how do we get four versions, then?  On pages 39 and 65, the following rubric can be found:

Either version of the Lord’s Prayer may be ended with “deliver us from evil.  Amen.” omitting the concluding doxology.

You may find that confusing – why would one opt for the shorter version?  Don’t just the Romans do the short version?

This rubric has some interesting history behind it; welcome to “Weird Rubric Wednesday”.

If you look at various Prayer Books before our own you’ll find a pretty clear pattern: the doxology is often omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Let’s list it out:

  • Beginning of Morning Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Morning Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of Evening Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Evening Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of the Lord’s Supper:
    1662 No, 1928 No
  • At the reception of Communion:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Baptism & Confirmation:
    1662 No, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes

You can see a slow trend from a fairly even split of using or omitting the Lord’s Prayer’s doxology toward uniform use of that doxology.  A further detail in this sequence in the 1979 Prayer Book’s introduction of Noonday Prayer and Compline, in which the doxology is omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Thus, only in the 2019 Prayer Book has the doxology become ubiquitous.  These “weird rubrics”, however, note the two Offices in which we are formally invited to consider using the short form of the Lord’s Prayer, and it is the same two (Midday and Compline) as appointed in the 1979 Book.

In ordinary practice, the average lay person who doesn’t use the Prayer Book religiously is going to default to the one version he or she knows from Sunday mornings: what is said at the Holy Communion.  If certain Offices omit the doxology, many such people are going to have a big trip-up moment.  So from that practical perspective, one of the factors aiding this slow shift was merely simplifying things so there were fewer things for newcomers to mess up!

Anyway, in your own prayers and use of the 2019 Prayer Book, it is not going to be this Customary’s business to regulate which version of the Lord’s Prayer you ought to use at which points.  It is traditional to use the short version in most Offices and the long version at the Communion.  But if you’re praying all the Offices every day, plus other devotions like the Family Prayer mini-offices, then you’ll be saying the Lord’s Prayer many times a day, and it might be good to change up which version you use just to help avoid turning into a parrot!

Sometimes you should change the biblical text

wrw

Now there’s a title that will get just about any serious Christian a little worried… “sometimes we should change the biblical text”?  What mad heresy is this?

So let’s get straight to the Weird Rubric of the week.  It’s on page 737.

When a Lesson begins with a pronoun, the reader should substitute the appropriate noun.

Yeah, so the title of this article is kind of click-bait… the change to the biblical text here is actually just a swapping out of a pronoun with a noun.  For example, today at Morning Prayer we’ve got a Gospel lesson from Luke 22, starting at verse 39.  “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”  This is a great example because you can read the entire paragraph and still never find out who “he” is.  Obviously it’s Jesus; it usually will be in the Gospels.  But sometimes it’s not immediately obvious, so it is prudent (and canonical, or rubrical) to replace the first “he” with “Jesus” so the congregation understands what’s being read.

Some who are especially zealous for the integrity of God’s Word may still not like this, so I should point you to another precedent for this practice.  Bible translators already do this!  In the Greek, the New Testament uses pronouns even more often than we do in English, such that in order to render the text more clearly there are plenty of instances where the Greek text says “he” but the English puts in the person’s name.  For example, slightly earlier in Luke 22, you’ll find verse 33 is a quote from Peter and verse 34 is a quote from Jesus. Now, it’s part of a dialogue, so it’s not too confusing to repeat “he” for both speakers, but it’s more clear to put the names in.  Thus does the ESV.

A similar practice, not directly mentioned in the rubrics of the 2019 Prayer Book, is to omit a proposition or connecting word (such as “therefore” or “for” or “but” or “then”) if one is placed at the beginning of a reading.  The length and contents of a lectionary reading, especially at the Holy Communion, has been evaluated already.  It presents a full and complete thought, such that having a connecting word at the beginning can prove more distracting than helpful.  Yes, these connectors remind us that the passage belongs in a larger context, but that is always going to be the case whether there is such a word there or not.  So it’s usually best to drop such words when found at the top of a reading, to allow the text to stand on its own so the hearers can receive it more easily.  Let the preacher deal with the context if and as necessary.

For the most part, this advice is more pertinent to the readings at Holy Communion than in the Daily Office. This is because the Daily Office Lectionary is continuous – nearly every reading picks up where the previous day’s reading left off.  Connecting words and pronouns are thus less distracting, because the previous chapter or passage has already been heard the day before.  In the service of Holy Communion, we almost never have that advantage; and even when we do, there’ll typically have been a whole week past since the previous contiguous lesson, so having those pronouns replaced will still be a helpful reminder.

If you find this a little tricky to keep track of, consider this instruction on page 716:

The public reading of Scripture in the liturgies of the Church is among the most important features of any act of worship. No one should be admitted to this high privilege who has not thoroughly prepared the passage to be read, so that the lesson can be read with clarity, authority, and understanding.

Make sure you practice at public reading!  A smooth reading experience makes a smooth listening experience possible. Today’s “weird rubric” is there to help you make that happen.

Weekly exorcism of a rented worship space

In this age of small churches, church plants, and sharing worship space with other institutions and even businesses, we’ve got an unusual situation.  You see, churches and chapels and the like are usually consecrated or dedicated for the holy purpose of divine worship.  This doesn’t mean we are unable to worship anywhere else, but there is something very Gospel-proclaiming about setting aside a physical space or structure for the sole use of the Kingdom of God.  There is also the spiritual world to consider: a place of worship is a place where angels minister among us, and thus it is appropriate to expel first the evil angels, or demons.  This is, of a sort, an exorcism.  And those who meet for worship in a space that is used for non-church purposes during the week are advised to carry out such an exorcism before each worship service.

Says whom? The Book of Common Prayer (2019), on page 523, states:

Shared-use facilities like school auditoriums or community centers are not consecrated and dedicated, but weekly preparation for worship should include spiritual cleansing (exorcising) of any forces of darkness that may have entered, invited or uninvited.

Yup.  Welcome to Weird Rubric Wednesday!

wrw

A number of the “weird rubrics” we’ve looked at in the past are instances of what might feel like loopholes for strange practices or mucking about with the liturgy in strange ways.  This kind of weird rubric, however, is one that is probably more of a surprise to the average reader followed by a huge question mark – how should a church community go about exorcising its worship space every weekend?

There probably are other sources out there, perhaps even historic ones, that provide guidance to this scenario.  The main challenge here is that it is an extremely rare situation for a church to share sacred space with a secular institution, so a rite for our present need is not going to be prominently known from history; I highly doubt that there is a standard official rite for this even among Rome’s massive collection of medieval liturgies.

And so I made one up.  But that sounds sketchy and proprietary, so allow me to explain it properly, yet briefly.

In the confrontation of spiritual evil, there are (up to) seven movements a liturgically-minded devotion or Office might go through:

  1. Adoration of the Holy Trinity (to start with the fundamentals of worship)
  2. Celebration of the Communion of Saints (because we are not alone here)
  3. Veneration of the Cross (where God and the earth did meet in full power)
  4. Confrontation of Evil (now we’re ready to “speak truth to power” as it were)
  5. Confession and Absolution of Sin (where we send evil back to the Cross)
  6. Comfortable Words (let the Word of God speak peace into the situation)
  7. The Peace (close with a blessing or other word or prayer of finality)

This outline is generally in conformity with Deliverance ministries, exorcists, reconciliation of a penitent, and other similar ministries of prayer that deal directly with sin and evil powers.

How you spell this out for the purpose of cleansing/exorcising a worship space, well, may look different depending upon your specific situation and your churchmanship or theology.  As a generally-pretty-loyal-Prayer-Book-Anglican, I see it as right and proper that what I provide is entirely derived from the Prayer Book tradition.  It is not my place to introduce too many new and different intrusions to the life of the Church from what has already been established by canon law.

So here is how I would flesh out this summary into a Rite of Cleansing.

  1. Invocation of the Holy Trinity expanded from the beginning of the Ministry to the Sick
  2. Invocation of the Communion of Saints with Psalm 113, which is traditionally used in liturgies for Marian feast days
  3. Anthem of the Cross from the (2019) Good Friday Liturgy
  4. Prayers of Confrontation, again taken from the Good Friday Liturgy
  5. Sentences against Sin from the Scriptures (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  6. Collect from Evening Prayer and Compline for God’s angelic presence (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  7. The Grace from the end of the Daily Office

I made this short and simple so that anyone can use it, though added the option for a priest to use the Oil of Catechumens if desired.  The assumption is that a congregation’s first time in a shared-use space would do something like this on a larger scale together, and then this short Rite would be used privately by a smaller number of people on the weekly basis during set-up for the worship service.

Obviously there are a lot of factors that might color this situation rather differently.  If your church is meeting in a Lodge or a Synagogue or other religious or quasi-religious building, you’re going to want to be a lot more direct or “aggressive” in your opposition to spirits of deception and lies.  If your church is meeting in a building used by a Christian organization, you probably don’t need to be quite so confrontational.

Here is the described Rite in full:

 

INVOCATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Peace to this place, and all who enter it, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

INVOCATION OF THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.  Sing praises, you servants of the Lord; *
     O praise the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, *
     from this time forth for evermore.
The Lord’s Name be praised *
     from the rising up of the sun to the going down of the same.
The Lord is high above all nations, *
     and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who has his dwelling so high, *
     and yet humbles himself to behold the things
     that are in heaven and earth?
He takes up the lowly out of the dust, *
     and lifts the poor out of the ashes,
That he may set them with the princes, *
     even with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home to dwell in, *
     and makes her to be a joyful mother of children.
     Praise the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.  Amen.

ANTHEM OF THE CROSS
Psalm 67 with Antiphon

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

PRAYERS OF CONFRONTATION

O God of truth and love, who desires not the death of sinners but rather that they should turn from their wickedness and live: Look with mercy on those who are deceived by the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that the hearts of those who have gone astray may be restored to wisdom and return to the way of truth in the unity of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you are you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

SENTENCES OF SCRIPTURE AGAINST SIN

One or more of the following sentences is read.

When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”  Jude 9

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.  Psalm 143:2

When a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Ezekiel 18:27

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Matthew 3:2

Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  Joel 2:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Daniel 9:9-10

COLLECT FOR CLEANSING

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Priest may use the Oil of Exorcism, applied at the doorframe of the entrance to the worship space.

CLOSING BLESSING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.  Amen.

 

Psalms for the Daily Office on the 31st of the month are not clearly defined.

wrw

One of the more curious features of the 2019 Prayer Book’s handling of the Psalter in the Daily Office is this rubric on page 735:

If there is a 31st day of the month, psalms are chosen from among the Songs of Ascents (120 to 134).

If you want to know more about the Songs of Ascents, I wrote about them a couple weeks ago here.

But today we’re looking at this Weird Rubric.

The 31st day of the month has always been a monkey wrench in Thomas Cranmer’s arrangement of the Psalms, which is a 30-day rotation.  The solution in Prayer Books before ours was that the 31st day of the month would simply repeat the Psalms from the 30th day.  There was at first a more complicated exception to this rule to account for the shortened month of February, but that faded from the Prayer Book tradition.  But in the 2019 Book we now have this murky instruction to choose the Psalms from a particular range.  What this, in effect, does is make the 31st day a repeat of the 27th day or 28th morning.

Now there are two “outs” if you (like me) find this rubric a little too weird.  Your first alternative is to use the 60-day cycle of Psalms, which is printed along with the Daily Office Lectionary.  This has the advantage of begin easy to look up, and perhaps the shorter psalmody will be a welcome “break” if you struggle to keep up with the 30-day standard.  The other solution is to take advantage of this text on page 734:

For any day, the psalms appointed may be reduced in number according to local circumstance, provided that the entire Psalter is read regularly.

This could be interpreted as a “Lazy Clause”, authorizing practically anything.  For example, you could literally read one Psalm, or half a long Psalm, each Office, and take a quarter of a year to get through the whole psalter!  If you do that “regularly” then you’re obeying the rubric here.  And, hey, if you’re new to liturgical prayer and new to the psalms, or you’re helping a child learn to pray, that may be a good idea.  But a seasoned Christian should not use this rubric as license for simply being lazy.  However, the license afforded here does mean that on “any day”, such as the 31st day of the month, you can deviate from the chart on page 735, provided you are covering the entire Psalter regularly.  In short, this is your “out” for praying the Psalms the traditional way, repeating Day 30’s psalms on Day 31.

But if you want to turn Day 31 into a grab-bag of Psalmody, replicating Day 27 and the morning of 28 in some fashion or another, go for it!

When you have to re-write the Burial Service

wrw

So you’re going through the 2019 Prayer Book, making sure you’ve got a handle on how this book operates and how it differs from its 1979 predecessor and how it relates to the classical 1928 Prayer Book and the editions before it, and you get to the Burial Service.  I mean, let’s face it, we’re living through an epidemic right now, and we may see a larger number of calls for the Burial Service than usual, depending upon your circumstances, region, and “luck”.  You’re reading through its initial directions on page 248 when you come to this weird rubric:

This Burial Office is intended for those who have been baptized and profess the Christian Faith.  Portions of this Office may be adapted for other circumstances.

In short, if you’ve been asked to hold a funeral for a non-Christian, you’re going to have to re-write the liturgy.

Is this a bug or a feature?  Why are there no further directions for how to handle this scenario?  How does this comport with our Anglican heritage?  Why can’t we just use the Burial Office as-is for someone outside the Church?

the Principle at work

Let us compare this with a rubric at the end of the Burial of the Dead in the 1928 Prayer Book, page 337.

It is to be noted that this Office is appropriate to be used only for the faithful departed in Christ, provided that in any other case the Minister may, at his discretion, use such part of this Office, or such devotions taken from other parts of this Book, as may be fitting.

This, in turn, is an adaption of a rubric at the beginning of the 1662’s Burial of the Dead, page 326.

Here is to be noted, that the Office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptised, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hand upon themselves.

One can see a clear line of commonality through the tradition; the Burial Office is a Christian service, and its readings and prayers reflect that expectation.  This is how to bury a Christian.  When burying a non-Christian we obviously cannot speak of the hope of Christ within him or her, and therefore if for some reason the Church is sought for the dignified burial of one outside her fold, we have to adapt our language accordingly so that we don’t speak untruly either of the deceased or of God.

oddities

It is interesting to note that the reference to suicide was dropped by the 20th century.  In Roman theology, suicide is typically considered a “mortal sin” and therefore one who commits suicide (psychological impairment aside) dies in a state of condemnation.  I haven’t examined this subject deeply, but it appears that 17th century Anglicanism retained some sense of that view that we do not as explicitly hold ourselves to today.  We, after all, do not have an officially codified definition of mortal versus venial sin in our formularies.

The 1979 Prayer Book, meanwhile, is an anomaly in this area.  Its directions on page 490 are very similar to that of the 2019 Book except it omits the rubric about treating non-baptized or non-confessing persons’ burials differently!  Instead, on page 506 it offers An Order for Burial, “When, for pastoral considerations, neither of the burial rites in this Book is deemed appropriate”.  The implication is that the Order there presented is for those outside the church, but the inclusion of the possibility of a Communion (in step 8) rather undermines that and muddies the waters.  The 2019 Book has clearly removed us from that confusion and restored the traditional Anglican way.

how, then, to bury the non-Christian

We have always had to look to supplementary liturgical texts for guidance in burying the non-baptized or the non-confessing person.  The best example that I know about is in A Manual for Priests of the American Church, which was paired with the 1928 Prayer Book.  You can read about that manual here, if you like.  Citing the rubric on page 337 of the 1928 Book, this Manual sets out The Burial of Persons for whom the Prayer Book Service is Not Appropriate, and it cites the Occasional Offices of the Church of the Province of South Africa as what this order was adapted from.  I won’t copy the whole thing, but present it in outline.

  • Psalm 130 De profundis.
  • Lesson: John 5:24-30
  • Anthem: “Man that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live…”
  • The Committal: “We commit the body of our dear brother to the grave…”
  • Kyrie & Lord’s Prayer
  • A prayer from the Litany: “Remember not, Lord, our offenses…”
  • Collect for Advent I: “Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness…”
  • Collect: “Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask…”
  • Prayer from the Burial: “Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of all comfort…”
  • “O Savior of the world, who by thy Cross and precious Blood hast redeemed us; Save us and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.”
  • The Grace (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Pretty much all of this can be found in the 2019 Prayer Book, and, given the additional possibilities for Scripture readings, we could flesh out this order to be something a bit longer and more substantial if we wanted.  But of course, one has to be very careful with handling the funeral of a non-believer.  When the Church speaks, we must proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it can be rather unhelpful, to say the least, to announce the damnation of the departed!  And it would be irresponsible (and probably a lie) to claim a secret Christian faith in the name of the departed for which there was no verbal evidence in life.  So we must proclaim our faith in Jesus prudently, “in season and out of season” with all the wisdom and sensitivity and attentiveness to the context that we can muster.

Betrothal, or Engagement, has a liturgical reality now

wrw

Many of life’s great milestones are covered by liturgical services: birth – thanksgiving for a church (or “churching of women” in the old days), baptism, confirmation, getting married, being sick, death.  The 2019 Prayer Book introduces a new one: betrothal, or getting engaged to be married.

On page 200 of the 2019 Prayer Book we find this statement:

The text of the Declaration of Intention, to be signed and dated by both parties prior to the marriage, reads as follows:

A robust statement summarizing biblical marriage follows, and it largely draws upon the language and content of the traditional marriage liturgy itself.  Then it states:

It may also be appropriate to conduct the signing of the Declaration of Intention during a public liturgy, to signify that the betrothal has taken place and that both parties have agreed to be prepared by the Church for Holy Matrimony, and to bid the prayers of the Congregation.

A brief liturgy for the signing of the Declaration of Intention appears on page 213.

Those who are liturgically conservative and skeptical of changes and introductions to the Prayer Book may initially shake their heads at something like this.  Also, those who are not particularly liturgy-minded may also find this strange.  Surely “getting engaged” is too personal and too picky of a point for the church to “intrude” in the couple’s life and “liturgize” it.

HOWEVER, take a look at the state of marriage in our country.  Take a look at the Christian marriages that take place.  What is said and taught at them?  How are the couples prepared?  How well do they really know what they’re getting in to, not just logistically but also spiritually?  I get the general sense that although marriage preparation was deplorably fluffy and light for a while, things are tightening up at last.  In a predominantly church-going culture there is a clearer understanding of what Christian marriage is: there are more positive examples, there are fewer people who flout or reject our doctrine, there is an implied cultural support system to help make marriages succeed.  But we don’t have a predominantly biblical Christian culture anymore, and so the Church has to take up the role of marriage preparation and support that the culture used to do for us for over a thousand years.

And so here we are, with something new.  And yet, it’s not entirely new.  The “archaic” tradition of publishing “The Marriage Banns”, which is the in-church trice-announced intention of a couple to marry, has been reemphasized in the Directions for Holy Matrimony, and piggybacking off of that is this new Liturgy for the Signing of the Declaration of Intention, wherein the parish priest announces that a couple has decided to get married and are now seeking the prayers of the congregation and preparatory counseling by the priest.  The Declaration is read, the couple sign it in front of the congregation, and the priest prays for them right then and there.

Because, let’s face it, people who want to get married need all the help they can get.  There are competing definitions of marriage all over our culture.  And it’s not just the same-sex marriage thing, but also the intentional childlessness and the no-fault divorce and the prolific online pornography and so on and so forth.  There is a lot that opposes Christian marriage, and there are a lot of lies that many otherwise-committed Christians have uncritically swallowed wholesale.  The Church must take up the mantel both of teacher and of encourager if her children’s marriages are to survive healthy and intact.

So page 200 may have some “weird rubrics” that may well be historically unprecedented, but this is absolutely the sort of change or addition that the Church today needs.

If you want to read more about the 2019 book’s marriage rite and preparatory material, definitely check out the essay “Holy Matrimony Explained” which is on the ACNA Prayer Book Resources page.

World Mission Sunday: it doesn’t have to exist

wrw

You know how it goes, haters gonna hate, complainers gonna complain, the overly-picky will never be satisfied.  Actually, being excessively choosy in one’s tastes is a form of the sin of gluttony, so their reward will be in their bellies… or something like that.

Anyway, one of the more nit-picky criticisms of the Texts for Common Prayer and the resultant 2019 Prayer Book was the introduction of a new commemoration: World Mission Sunday.  It has been branded as the Second-to-Last Sunday of Epiphany since its first appearance, if I remember correctly, though the rubrics (such as on page 604) state that it may be observed on any Sunday in that season, except for the first and last Sundays.

This shows us two things:

  1. The first and last Sundays are noteworthy over against the Sundays in between.  This is perhaps why many modern Anglican calendars appoint white for them, and green for the Sundays in between.  It also stands in line with the tradition of being able to celebrate major saints days (or “red letter days”) on the “green” Sundays but not the first or last in Epiphanytide.
  2. World Mission Sunday itself is not fixed.  It’s the 2019 Prayer Book’s default for the penultimate Sunday before Lent, but it doesn’t have to be!

In fact, when you look at the numbered Sundays “of Epiphany” you’ll find that there still are eight, which means that you can live like 2015 never happened and World Mission Sunday doesn’t exist.

So there you go, if you don’t like it, fine, you’re not required to use it!

What if I’m not grumpy about it, one way or the other?

I’ll tell you a secret, since this is Weird Rubric Wednesday where I’ve given myself permission to be a bit silly-yet-sincere.  I have never observed World Mission Sunday with my congregation.  They probably don’t even know it exists.  And it’s not because I’m opposed to world missions, or think it’s not worth celebrating or preaching about.  I’m not even one of the aforementioned grumpy critics.  Though I have been grumpy and critical about things in the 2019 Prayer Book before… but this isn’t one of them.

Initially I had two reasons for ignoring World Mission Sunday in my tiny parish.

  1. It used the exact same Collect as the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany and all its Scripture lessons are already found elsewhere in the lectionary, so it added nothing really new to the calendar on its own.
  2. More importantly, I had decided to preach through as much of 1 Corinthians as possible through Epiphanytide in Years A through C, so WMS would have interrupted that series considerably.

Since then, World Mission Sunday has gotten its own unique Collect, which is great, though its scripture lessons are still generally duplicated elsewhere in the lectionary.  So if you’ve got a preaching series through the lectionary readings going on during Epiphanytide, you too may want to opt for giving WMS a miss.  But in general, it’s not a bad tradition to introduce, and the Epiphany season is probably the best part of the year to place it.  Epiphanytide is already one of the most-changed seasons when you compare the historic and modern calendars, so it’s not as though further tinkering is going to make it any more or less like its original form.

If you want to learn more about World Mission Sunday in the context of the Epiphany season, here are some links to check out:

Reinvent the Benedictine Monastic Offices with Family Prayer

wrw

Normally “Weird Rubric Wednesday” is about strange and silly things that you can do with (or to) the liturgy without technically breaking the rules in the 2019 Prayer Book.  Although today’s entry is a little strange, I’m taking a more serious and straight-forward tone.

You see, by my count (and I know different people are accounting it differently) we’re on day 31 of social distancing.  I’ve barely seen my church members, I’ve been home almost 24/7 with two children under six, and my usual musical and table-top gaming outlets have been seriously curtailed.  And now that a month of this has passed, the anxiety and depression is beginning to creep in.  But there is something that is (mostly) holding at bay that is absolutely share-worthy for Weird Rubric Wednesday: Reinvent the Benedictine Monastic Offices with Family Prayer.

First, some background

For those who don’t know, the Rule of St. Benedict is a short little book that undergirds virtually all of Western Christian Monasticism.  What’s more, the liturgical tradition it codified and perpetuated is the primary source for the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican Prayer Books.  An elaborate system of monastic prayer, seven times a day, plus at night, was whittled down to two offices so ordinary folks – both priests and people – could say them daily.

7-times[1]

Modern Prayer Books have “added” Midday Prayer and Compline, but with the Benedictine tradition in mind one would better say that modern Prayer Books have “restored” Midday Prayer and Compline.  But there are more “minor offices” throughout the day.

  • Matins & Lauds were the primary base for our Morning Prayer
  • Prime is the first hour (roughly 6am)
  • Terce is the third hour (roughly 9am)
  • Sext is the sixth hour (roughly noon), recovered as our Midday Prayer
  • None is the ninth hour (roughly 3pm)
  • Vespers is the evening office, together with Compline forming our Evening Prayer
  • Nocturns, well, I still don’t know much about it, other than that the Holy Week Nocturns are the source of the now-popular Tenebrae service.

Incidentally, this is why (in modern Prayer Books) Compline repeats a lot of material from Evening Prayer – the Prayer Book tradition had combined Vespers with Compline into Evening Prayer.

The “crazy” idea

I got a silly idea a while back – what if I re-purpose the four “Family Prayer” offices to fill in the gaps to cover the rest of the Benedictine system of minor offices?  It started as a theoretical idea, exploring things just for fun.  (Okay, yes, I have strange ideas of fun.  But if you follow this blog then I guess it has paid off, right?)  The “Family Prayer” offices in the 2019 Prayer Book are basically miniaturized versions of the regular Daily Offices; you can find them on pages 66-75.

As their opening introduction states, they “are particularly appropriate for families with young children.”  This is how I started using them: Family Prayer In The Morning is what I taught my 4-year-old (who is now 5).  We say the opening verse, we chant three verses of a psalm, I read him a Scripture lesson, explain it briefly and address questions if he brings anything up, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, usually the Collect provided, and end with the grace from 2 Corinthians 13:14.  A year before, I had devised a “Children’s Daily Lectionary”, providing short readings for every day of the year.  Here’s the link if you’re interested.

So that took care of Prime, the first hour; what about the rest?  Here’s what I ended up outlining:

  • Matins/Lauds = Morning Prayer
  • Prime = Family Prayer in the Morning
  • Terce (9am) = Family Prayer at Midday
  • Sext (12pm) = Midday Prayer
  • None (3pm) = Family Prayer in the Early Evening
  • Vespers = Evening Prayer
  • Nocturn (or extra vespers) = Family Prayer at the close of day
  • Compline (bedtime) = Compline

If you look at the rubrics on page 66, guiding what can be done with Family Prayer, you’ll find that you can change almost everything about them according to your particular needs.  One of the key sentences for my purposes is this one: “The Psalms and Readings may be replaced by…. some other manual of devotion which provides daily selections for the Church Year.”  That means, if there’s a daily devotional you happen to like, a good context for using it is in Family Prayer!  This is what got me started with the Children’s Daily Lectionary, and then I just kept going…

Terce.  For Family Prayer at midday I put together a plan of devotional readings intended to ground the reader in the historic Anglican tradition.   This means reading from the Apostolic Fathers in Epiphanytide and the early summer, other great Church Fathers during Lent, the 39 Articles during Eastertide, other Anglican Foundational Documents during Ascensiontide, and the ACNA catechism for the bulk of the summer and autumn.

None.  For Family Prayer in the evening I added no lectionary, but instead prayers.  It started on Saturdays, setting up our worship space at 3pm, when it made sense to pray for my flock when I was finished.  Now for none I have prayers for church, family, ministers, and non-believers, that I can cycle through over the course of the week.

Nocturn.  When I say Evening Prayer earlier, like at 5pm, there can be quite a gap if I stay up late, so having a mini office between Evening Prayer and Compline can be good, and that’s what I’ve tried out with Family Prayer at the close of day.  For this I appointed a mix: two days a week use Scripture readings from the 1662 Daily Office Lectionary and the other five days are from the Book of Homilies, an under-appreciated piece of Anglican tradition.

Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!

I think, during Holy Week, I actually said every one of these Offices every day.  But apart from that I always miss something.  And that’s okay – extra offices are extra, and should not be enforced unless you have good reason to put yourself through that.  Nevertheless, having all these extra offices available both encourage me to pray more often, as well as provide with a guide for doing so.

Now perhaps you’d rather just use an actual Benedictine Breviary and use versions of the actual monastic offices.  Perhaps you’d rather use a sourcebook of private devotions such as Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.  Perhaps you’d prefer to offer spontaneous prayers without any liturgical framework at all.  Once you’ve got the Daily Offices down that our tradition expects (or even mandates) – Morning and Evening Prayer – you are free to expand your prayers however you see fit.  The flexibility of the Family Prayer offices just seemed to me ideal places to start.