Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Lutheran Catholic and Ecclesiology

As I write a short piece on a unity that points not toward itself but breaks open to Christ in iconic fashion, I found this fine lecture by the current ABC on one of the theologians who has most influenced my thinking on Christ and Church, Michael Ramsey. Like Ramsey, Luther has played a vital theological influence in my own life especially through our Articles as well as through Maurice and Bonhoeffer.

I note this as vital in our current discussions about ecclesiologies and Covenants wherein I sense a tendency to do precisely that against which Luther, Maurice, and Ramsey warn, making our ecclesial ontology something separate and of its own self from rather than rooted in utter dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit and too often captured by an over-against-the-world way of thinking that threatens to cut off a sense of God's at-work-ness in the ordinary things of human life:

There is an obvious misunderstanding which Ramsey is well aware of and which he attempts to guard against. It is to think that because the model of a reasoned choice of a philosophy of life doesn't fit belonging in the Church, the Church as a visible structure is thereby given rights over the particular person in a way that denies individual freedom and enshrines unaccountable authority. When Ramsey writes about the mediaeval Church, this is the kind of misapprehension that seems to be most clearly in his sights. The mediaeval Church, he argues, failed in faithfulness to the gospel because it defined itself increasingly as a system of institutionalised order or control, comparable to the other systems around - or rather, in the early Middle Ages, providing such a system because no other power was able to. And because of this, the primitive notion of a community of unique solidarity defined by God's act was replaced by a society which guaranteed to 'broker' good relations with God: Ramsey has some tantalising but suggestive remarks about the way in which sacrificial language changed its register in the Middle Ages (pp.168-9), so as to obscure both divine initiative and corporate human response. Whatever he is supporting, there can be no doubt that he is criticising any institutional framework that suppresses human liberty by executive force.

But Christian commitment demands a transformation of how we understand that liberty. It cannot be imposed, but the ethos of the Catholic Church, in Ramsey's sense, nurtures and deepens another sort of freedom - freedom structured around the freedom of Christ to offer himself to the Father and to human beings, that freedom which Ramsey so often writes about in relation to the glory of Christ (there is a good brief critique of some modern theological accounts of freedom in GCW, pp.34-8, and a summary of what is to be learned from Christ's freedom in FFF, pp.11-14). A proper Catholic identity, he implies, is one in which the absorption of what Christ's freedom means is daily sustained by a climate of exposure to the full radical reality of Christ incarnate embracing the cross - in scripture and sacrament and contemplative prayer as well as the reality of that kind of service in the world that does not look for success or fashionable reputation but simply does what Christ does (see, for example, the comments on the 'servant Church' ideal in FCC, pp.55 ff.). And this is different from a supposed Catholic identity for which what matters is that the Church should be a plausible competitor in the struggle for ideological dominance, power over individuals or societies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Core Doctrines, Living Relationships

Our core doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity as found in the Creeds are not about mere intellectual assent or dogged adherence to formulae, they are about professions of the living relationships between persons and Persons in which we find ourselves by sheer gift not only in our Redemption but in our Creation through the Word and by the Spirit, that is, from the beginning, acknowledged or not.

After all, no one existing is outside of Creation, and as both St Maximus and long after him, F.D. Maurice, remind, and the Lux Mundi school also. Because this is so, no one is ever outside of Christ though they may not know this is so or may refuse to acknowledge their dependence. This recognition and profession of dependence, what Maurice calls the heart of conversion and repentance, sits at the heart not only of our Creeds, but our classic Canon and the Dominical Sacraments . By no merits of our own are we created, redeemed, sustained, by only for His Love's sake. Our life is utter gift always and each moment. Turn and believe in He who loves us so. Only in Him do we find life eternal. Outside of Him is no thing.

These doctrines tells us, this is Who God is and we know this is so by how God has been for us and to us and with us in his self-communication through Creation, through His relationship with Israel in guide, prophets, and wisdom, and definitively in Jesus Christ, His very self in the flesh who in His Ascension raises all of Creation into God's own life, "that He might fill all things." To confess these is not merely to give assent to some dead-letter or offer adherence to a set of words not easily understood, but to admit our utter dependence upon and need for the One they proclaim who creates, saves, and sustains us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This One who makes Himself known to us and yet remains more than we can ever comprehend.

The late William Temple better than I writes in this regard in describing Anglicanism in the relationship of doctrine and life in God:

Our special character and, as we believe, our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic Church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches especially bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby the correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected. (Temple, Encyclical, Lambeth 1930)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pattern Formation: Dog-eared Prayer Book and Tatty Writ

As you might well imagine, several editions of the Prayer Book line my shelves. In addition, several copies of the 1979 edition float around our house. One is falling apart on the spine, another is so dog-eared that you would think the pages came rounded on the edges. And some of our bibles are so worn as to be almost embarrassing. Indeed, I've had to retire a few over the years.

In his essay, "The Anglican Spiritual Tradition," Martin Thornton writes of this phenomenon:

Symbolic of this emphasis on the unity of the Church, with its domestic spirituality, is the extraordinary weight of authority given by the Caroline Fathers to the Book of Common Prayer, from 1549 onward, and further up to 1928. It It is customary for Benedictines to read selections from the Rule at silent meals, the Ignatian exercises still form the heart of Jesuit spirituality; but no school of prayer has been so firmly tied to a book as the Caroline Church of England. "Bible and Prayer Book" were the twin pillars of this spirituality, with the latter given almost equal status, and subjected to the same kind of systematic study as the former. The Book of Common Prayer was subjected to annotation and commentary with not a rubric, colon or comma regarded as insignificant.

It is again necessary to look at the historical setting, for the Book of Common Prayer is derived from a long line of ancestors, ultimately from the Benedictine Regula, with which, ascetically, it has much in common: both are designed to regulate the total life of a community, centered on the Divine Office, the Mass, and continuous devotion as daily, domestic life unfolds. Both are concerned with common, even "family" prayer. Neither are missals, breviaries or lay manuals, because here the priest-lay division does not apply: they are common prayer, prayer for the united Church or community.

The vital principle, tragically missed by both modern liturgists and their critics, is that, like the Regula, the Book of Common Prayer is not a list of Church services but an ascetical system for Christian living in all of its minutiae.

To the seventeenth--or indeed nineteenth--century layman the Prayer Book was not a shiny volume to be borrowed from a church shelf on entering and carefully replaced on leaving. It was a beloved and battered personal possession, a life-long companion and guide, to be carried from church to kitchen, to parlor, to bedside table; equally adaptable for liturgy, personal devotion, and family prayer: the symbol of a domestic spirituality--full homely divinitie. [1]

As I have previously written elsewhere:

The Prayer Book is a Rule of Life. The saints formed and community maintained looks quite Benedictine in its aspirations. Something like this from another previous post:

Anglican Common Prayer is an understated concrete expression of this christological-soteriological life together. Rather than emphasize the heroic ascesis of the desert or the monastery, we have tended to opt for a moderate, communal discipline in prayer and lifestyle focusing on daily praise and weekly Communion. In such a moderated offering, holiness may not often dazzle on pylons or in caves, but it shines through in the ordinary ways of life, in how we go about business, order family life, do justice, work for the common good. And yet, we do dazzle, and it is precisely in our praising sense, our poetic sense both in prayer and in sermons, devotions, and poetry that the particular beauty of Anglican holiness shines. And it shines precisely by seeing in the ordinary, the light of Tabor. As the late Fathers recognized, having to deal with ascetical nutjobs, they made firm that the heart of our life together and of holiness is rooted in Holy Communion, that is, life together through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. It is the heart of Patristic christology that grounds our ecclesiology and understanding of holiness.

Perhaps if there is a unifying thread that runs through the distinctive pieties of those younger calling for reverence
it is this: The Prayer Book is our Rule.

In fact, the Prayer Book is a distinctive enfleshment of a moderate, generous, gentle, common, and above all else, awed way of being together in the world that insists that we are
homo adorans and asks that because we praise God, we reverence one another and creation by making our own contribution in daily life ("Contribution" is a term I shamelessly borrow from Dr John Booty who describes Anglican response to awe of God in this way as we go about daily life.).

In other words, our Prayer Book is the heart of St Benedict's instruction: Prayer above all else. And prayer in everything. It is in many ways the fleshing out of Chapters 8-20 for us in parochial, homely, daily life.

And we recommend it stay that way.

I often toy with personal liturgical expressions. After all, my shelves are littered with resources and I want to play with them. And often because I get irritated by our current BCP. It was designed for enrichment and resource rather than pattern-formation. But Anglicanism is not a resource tradition. We are a common prayer and Prayer Book tradition. What this requires in practice is that I pattern any actual personal liturgical expressions within the "may" rubrics of the Prayer Book or use an authorized expression (A Monastic Breviary, for example). Fortunately, that isn't terribly difficult as there is flexibility.

Just as the Rule of St Benedict has never been fleshed out the same in every monastery, we might find similar particularities and peculiarities in a Province, the equivalent of a monastery in our ecclesiology. And how Morning Prayer is prayed in the average home versus a cathedral is likely to differ. Those of us who are uebers tend to conflate the two and in doing so turn many away who might do with something more fitted to home use.

What all of this recommends, in my opinion, for any future Prayer Book revision in our province is something different than more resources and more enrichments.

It requires setting patterns. That is why I have resorted to A Monastic Breviary. It gives a clearer pattern even though I end up usually saying "slowly and reflectively" only one section of the Psalms for the day and reading only one Lesson.

One of the great frustrations I have with the 1979 BCP is that it is not user friendly, by which I mean it does not set out a straight-through and obvious pattern. Before everyone's feathers get ruffled and we get into that huffy Episcopalian "well those people just need to be shown how" mentality, let me illustrate how we could do better in terms of pattern-formation. In favor of resource approach, pattern is undermined. I'll take Morning Prayer and how it might be done better. Instead of making the resource approach normative, I would make pattern formation normative correlating a basic pattern that cuts across parish and home but that could be filled out in the parish. This way, we maximize a basic praying in the parish as well as the home. The goal is all Episcopalians at prayer twice a day. Keep that goal in mind, especially those with expertise, ueber sensibilities, etc. This also pulls in some traditional monastic enrichments as part of the pattern, while leaving others as enrichments. Others might have better ideas, so take these with a grain of salt. But again, remember the goal: Pattern-formation of all (not satisfaction of ueber or party sensibilities of some):

Morning Prayer


-rubric noting Sentences and Confession of Sin in Resources pp. following (the pattern) the Daily Office perhaps also noted in Seasonal Propers with a particular Confession of Sin for Advent and Lent in each?

-Lord open our lips...

-Monday Sentences with rubric to Seasonal Propers pp. and Resources pp.

-Glory be...

-Monday Invitatory Antiphon with rubric noting seasonal Antiphons in Seasonal Propers pp. following (the pattern) etc.

-Venite with rubric noting Jubilate and Pascha nostrum distributed in Seasonal Propers pp.

-Monday Invitatory Antiphon

-Monday Psalms Antiphon

-Monday Psalm(s) or portions of Psalms with rubric to see a full appointed selection in the Lectionary pp. and Psalms pp. (noting also Psalms for use for particular moments in our lives--for this is what we do in a fully homely divinity--we sometimes do pray the Psalm speaking to our need; they're good for that). I recommend two Psalms or portions thereof, one a praise and another a confession in the pattern of 67/51.

OR recommend a pattern of saying one (or portion of one) Psalm from the Psalter everyday as found on pp. while pointing to a full Lectionary on pp. and Psalms pp. I know this won't satisfy the ueber among us, but we want all following a pattern that can be enriched rather than an enriched following after a pattern. Imagine all Episcopal homes and parishes praying a basic (that can be fleshed out with enrichments) pattern of MP in the Episcopal Anglican tradition...

-Glory Be

-Monday Psalms Antiphon

-Lections as well as the possibility of (Short) Monday Lesson(s) with rubric pointing to seasonal options set out by day in Seasonal Propers and a full appointed selection in the Lectionary pp. and Psalms pp. Again, this is modifying the desert approach melded with the "cathedral" approach in another direction than traditionally Cranmerian, but it is Benedictine and provided for even in our current Prayer Book (when traveling, the Sentences function for me as the Lesson and I use them in the Lesson position at those times). Hence my use of desert rather than monastic in describing the tradition we have. Will it get us through the entire Scripture in a year. No. Does it make that a possibility. Yes. Should our parishes be doing more in the way of Lectio and Bible Studies to supplement this. Yes. Again, keep sight of the goal, which was Cranmer's goal, modified to our times and place.

-rubric noting the possibility of silence for reflection/meditation on the Lesson(s).

-Monday Hymn with rubric pointing to Seasonal Propers pp. Set the text/music directly in the BCP. If necessary, use settings no longer copywritten to make these available in a public manner. Or make arrangements to pay artists/publishers to allow for public domain option.

-Monday Benedictus Antiphon with rubric noting seasonal options in Seasonal Propers pp.

-Benedictus with rubrics noting other Canticles either in Seasonal Propers or in Resources. OR have two short Monday Lessons. The first followed by the Te Deum on Sundays (except Lent, etc.) and a portion of the Benedicite (to be distributed among the six other days); the second followed by the

-Glory Be

-Monday Benedictus Antiphon

-Apostles' Creed

-Short Kyrie

-Our Father without doxology (Using A Monastic Breviary, I have figured out why I have found the current BCP use clunky at this spot. The doxology breaks up what otherwise is a smart flow right into the Suffrages, which are in essence a Litany or Prayers of the Church and continuation of the Lord's Prayer).

-Monday Suffrages with rubric to pp. for Prayer Forms for enrichment in parish settings, etc.

-Monday Collect with rubric to pp. for Collects appointed (include in those Collects those for all who are on the Calendar to stop book juggling for those of us who do want a minimal acknowledgement of the Sanctoral)

-Let us bless the Lord...

-2 Cor 13:14

Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.

A basic pattern is set up that can be enriched, rather than enrichment is set up that can be patterned. That is one of the deficits, any ways, to my mind with the current BCP, something that A New Zealand Prayer Book begins to reckon with but provides again more resources than a shared pattern.

The structure of the Prayer Book would be helpful if arranged something like:

Table of Contents


Office Lectionary
Morning Prayer: Sunday-Saturday
Noon Prayer
Evening Prayer: Sunday-Saturday
Seasonal Propers: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Trinity (Pentecost)
Enrichment Resources


Prayer Forms


Mass Lectionary

[1] Martin Thornton, "The Anglican Spiritual Tradition," in The Anglican Tradition, ed. Richard Holloway (Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow Co., Inc., 1984), 86-87.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rite III Additions

Though there is really quite little in Prayer I that is entirely impossible to understand and the poetry in its cadence and sounds are shifted by slight changes in wording, why not a slightly updated version for Rite III:

All glory be to you, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for you, of your tender mercy, gave your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again:

For on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat: this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of your dearly beloved Son our Savior Jesus Christ, we, your humble servants, do celebrate and make here before your divine Majesty, with these your holy gifts, which we now offer to you, the memorial your Son has commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering to you most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same.

And we most humbly beseech you, O merciful Father, to hear us; and of your almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with your Word and Holy Spirit, these your gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to your Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.

And we earnestly desire your fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching you to grant that, by the merits and death of your Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all your whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.

And here we offer and present unto you, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto you; humbly beseeching you, that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ, be filled with you grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto you any sacrifice; yet we beseech you to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses, through Jesus Christ our Lord:

By whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory be to you, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In Defense of Rite One, Prayer I

At my defense, my committee members were astonished that I gave such a thorough defense of and plug for the Rite One Eucharistic Prayer in its composition and christology as well as for its regular use.

Was it because I reject Rite Two?: No. Actually, I am rather fond of Rite Two.

Was it because I reject theories of the Atonement other than a reformed Anselmian notion: No. As I explained drawing on David Bentley Hart and others, Anselm--and thus, Cranmer's, Atonement theory has more in common with Patristic Incarnational (and also, Creedal) notions of Atonement than has often been recognized. Many scholars in revisiting St Anselm have noted that his "theory," for Anselm's work is deployed by many in ways he would not recognize or own, could be read as a short version of classic Patristic christologies with their emphasis on the Incarnation. It is a shorthand for such. Remember, as I argue again and again, we cannot divide out the Incarnation from the Crucifixion in Patristic modes of thinking. The latter is supreme highlight of the former, especially in the mind of St. Cyril of Alexandria from whom we inherit the communicatio idiomatum. At any rate, I recognize that the Church catholic has never promulgated one theory of Atonement as the theory.

Was it because I reject contemporary English: No. I in fact reject notions that suggest somehow that present language is incapable of the divine because too ugly, etc. To suggest that contemporary language is incapable of the divine is to reject our own reformed history. But I will suggest that liturgical contemporary English need not be the same as the way I speak on the street. Nonetheless, I am aware of the resonance required for understanding English literature. To not know the Authorized Version, the Book of Common Prayer pre-1979, and Shakespeare among others is to be at a grave disadvantage. My Lutheran high school English teacher taught me that, and because of her insistence that we know these, I can read English literature with a depth others may not be able to do.

I was born in 1974 and not raised Episcopalian, though my mother flirted with our becoming so when I was age nine. I have never known 1928 except as a book of prayers. And remember, I have only ever experienced Rite One once in my entire life, and that botched by the removal of the Prayer of Humble Access, one of those superb Cranmerian compositions.

So perhaps it is nostalgia?: No. It is because I recognize christological motifs in the prayer that are vital to retain and because to sideline Prayer I is to sideline a vital piece of our inheritance of the reformed Sarum.

My first concern is that there are a number of priests in The Episcopal Church committed to never using Rite One with all of its Anselmian, and therefore, radically Benedictine and feudally-subverting as well as Cranmerian christological riches. Remember the Enclosure controversies were still an issue in Cranmer's time. Economic feudalism still a reality. Prayer I testifies to Christ quite powerfully within its context and at heart is this Anselmian notion that reforms and subverts abuses of feudal relations--Christ's merits alone save. This is an important part of our inheritance and one that resonates with Archbishop Tutu's own context when he resists Apartheid by declaring we need produce nothing to be loved by God. Prayer I subverts our consumerist notions as much as it subverts feudal abuses.

Being the Body, our ancestors in the faith bequeath to us a criticism of ourselves that we dare not ignore. Thus, to refuse to use Rite One at all is hardly a Common Prayer spirit in which all, priest and people, are guardians of our liturgical life and pray-ers of its riches and its criticisms of us. Indeed, to remove this prayer from use altogether is to rob pewsitters and impose a form of clericalism that is rejected by the Common Prayer spirit.

My second concern is canonical. In other of our prayers, other riches of christology are to be found, from the East, from our debates over the Word as Creator (think Maurice and Lux Mundi), Apostolic Tradition, Julian inheritance, etc. What we have developing in the 1979 Prayer Book (and EOW) then is a canon-in-the-making, by which riches of our christological arguments are to be found in holding together all six (nine if we count EOW) of the Eucharistic Prayers. To pull out Prayer I, for it is this prayer that receives most villification, is to cut off a corrective to the others. It would be like pulling out James and Revelation from the Scriptural Canon, something we Anglicans rejected though other Reformers tried to do just that.

My third concern is christological and thus corrective. The Rite One prayer is very honest about God's mercy in Christ and of our being sinners. I suspect that it is the latter point that receives most objection--we are sinners. Given what I see around me daily and in myself reflectively, that we are sinners seems a fairly honest assessment of who we are before God. Yet, underlying the seemingly penitential thrust on our part is actually an incredibly generous foundation, a Deity who not only names us sinners but calls us children and friends. Think Lancelot Andrewes' sermons on sacrifice and George Herbert's "Love (III)" with recommendation that all read Stephen Syke's analysis of the piety of that poem in light of classic Anglican Canon(s) of which Prayer I is a descendant. The prayer begins in mercy and ends in mercy. We find ourselves held by a merciful Father in Christ. The reason, I explained to the committee, that I so strongly defended Rite One is that this "hard-nosed" anthropology names our times and what my generation and those younger see. It names sin squarely without denigrating either creation or us. Here is what we see: Environmental degradation, greed, poverty, etc. My own christological (and thus, theo-anthropological) sense must attend to the reality of all creation at praise with the wonder of the thought of such things as dolphins being considered by researchers as non-human persons and at the same time to the sewage spilling in the creek in park near our home, must attend to the wonder of Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Maximillian Kolbe and to the hell of Bergen-Belsen.

The point is this, Prayer I is very clear that God saves, and that God does so through means of Himself, namely, Jesus Christ. That God bears our sins and undoes sin. That we cannot save ourselves. And this all goes counter to some of current christological tendencies in our Church that want to understand Jesus Christ as only teacher whom we follow (which implies the possibility of our saving ourselves through moral behavior--left or right, or enlightened spiritual practices. In short, does not want to deal with sin.); a human child (and thus, person) who was enlightened (and thus, so can we be) rather than a Divine Person become human being who enlightens the whole world by means of Himself; and a God who changes us primarily or only by drawing us to himself and thus by our own efforts rather than He who is Salvation once-for-all and works out that Salvation in us by grace through faith in Him. These tendencies cropping up bend toward the boogies Pelagianism, a version of Arianism, and finally Moral Influence as a singular soteriology rather than a theory appropriate to our appropriation of Christ who has saved once-for-all in His Person. These tendencies do not want to deal with a Person outside ourselves--i.e., objective Reality and Presence, and the intersubjective relationship of God-with-us. Instead, they tend to the subjective and focus on ourselves.

All of these subtly twist emphases Anglicans have maintained as reformed yet catholic: that as Logos, Christ is Teacher because He is the Pattern for all existence and for human life as brought into conformity with God's will and is particularly so for us as revealed God in the flesh; that God's self-identification with us in the Incarnation dignifies human persons, creation, and all flesh such that though sin goes all the way down (affects every bit of us) we are wounded rather than depraved and thus redeemed by Him and able to be healed in Him (not of ourselves); that salvation (and growth in God) is rightly about our participation by pure gift in God's own life and thus we are called to live in the relational/personal way of that Life who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My analysis is this: I believe the 1979 revisions made a mistake in not providing for a contemporary translation of the prayer in Rite Two, which would not have been without precedence. After all, updating of the language of the prayer has occurred before our time. The last changes were minor, but English has changed a lot since then. Leaving the prayer and others only in Elizabethan-Jacobean-esque English made more easily the sidelining of what comprises a sizeable inheritance from our ancestors in faith.

Hence, the suggestion, as Derek rightly espies that Rite One was for those who could not get with Rite Two. Rite One was largely relegated to the early morning service with the hope of its dying. That may have been the original intent, but as Derek reminds thirty years out, Rite One is ensconced as ever and beloved of many of the younger.

Further, Rite One should not be relegated to the early service in such a way that Episcopalians have no experience of its riches. To avoid Rite One altogether is to pray less than Common Prayer. Pewsitters should be in riot over this as much as Maurice reminds us that The Apostles' Creed is our defense against clerical theological tyranny.

From the close of my dissertation:

The scuttlebutt I have heard ever since I became Episcopalian ten years ago has been about retiring Rite One and moving beyond Rite Two. Enriching Our Worship represents in part how this might be fleshed out. This runs counter to the canonical method that is our strength as provided for in 1979. I would argue that retiring the former and moving beyond the latter without paying careful attention to what each teaches us will leave us the poorer. Such a decision will leave us unable to offer the sort of critique that is not only prophetic but practicable, not only joyous but critical. We need both movements, that of Rite One and that of Rite Two, that of utter dependence on God and emboldened thanks, if Episcopalians are to honor who Christ has been and is for us. Together these, and I would argue that portion of EOW that takes up creation as Christ’s work, provide firm ground upon which to not only criticize society, but our own grasping after satisfaction through production and consumption. To not only set ourselves apart from “out there,” but to recognize where we too are often worldly-captured. To downplay any portion leaves us unprepared for our ecological age.

Maybe it is my Benedictine formation or my love of the subversive theology of St. Anselm of Canterbury and appreciation of Thomas Cranmer’s catholic concern, but I do not want us to lose the substance of the old prayer-tongue. Rite One has found some favor among those my age and younger if anecdotal remarks have even some modicum of accuracy. The sense of transcendence and language somewhat ancient and tradition long-tested surely draws. But I would suggest it is something more than this. We, who see these looming crises not as something future but as something we are already inheriting, recognize that another orientation and new practices rooted in this are needed. What better place to begin than on Christ’s merits alone or in modern idiom, “God’s unearned love in Christ”? This frees us to question a sociality and society based in exploitation, production, and consumption for meeting the gaping maw of unending dissatisfaction.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reformer or Commoner?

Whatever setting of the proper chosen on this day, it is a more fitting way to begin Mass than with a people's hymn that is designed for popular and not liturgical occasions. (Novus Motus

Change will appear straightforward if history is reduced to a sequence of reforms, ignoring reactions, reversals, alternatives, and contexts. Change will seem easy if its opponents are left out of the story, or treated as silly old fogeys destined for defeat. But such distilled history is an illusion; it is not how the past was.[1]

I went searching for the Introit for The Feast of the Epiphany yesterday and happened upon this piece from Novus Motus Liturgicus: The Introit is Not “We Three Kings.”

Reformers always want some sort of purity. Purity of liturgy and of church often go hand in glove. As Derek smartly observes this sort of purity and the culture wars are very much in operation in the Roman Church. But liturgy and church are rarely pure, and I would argue that this is a good thing. As Anglicans, we are committed to common prayer, that is prayer for all comers not just prayer that suits the expert and the elite (terms themselves that can misrepresent, for most considered such are also very much shaped by the tastes of the so-called “popular” even if not that of this century). Self-selecting to liturgy that only fits my tastes is likely to isolate me from the Body. It runs contrary to the parish model. As I have discovered liturgical tastes are as various and numerous as persons. If we are to pray together, we will have to live with bits of which we are not fond.

So, I was not so much troubled by recommendation of the Introit over “We Three Kings” as I was by the underlying hostility toward the hoi polloi, that is the common crowd, among whom I count myself and toward any expressions produced or beloved by "them". Simply because the Introit would be best does not mean that “We Three Kings” is unworthy or of not value at all for liturgical use. Common prayer runs against the grain of this reforming impulse and acts as a long-term corrective to the zeal of reformers. Push to hard and the people will dig in their heals. You may get us to give up our beads, but we will still mumble off our Hail Mary until after you are long dead and survived by our children and our children's children who do the same—because we trained them at home. You may remove "We Three Kings" but we will continue to sing it at our desk. Historian, Christopher Haigh, observes:

The title of this book has been chosen quite deliberately: it is English Reformations. It is not The English Reformations. That would claim that the only English Reformations which ever were took place in the Tudor period, and suggest that they formed a complete and effective process. But the various (and varied) Reformations in sixteenth-century England were haphazard and had only limited success, at least by comparison with Protestant aims: they did no make Church or people emphatically Protestant, and there remained much still to be done….Rather, it examines some English Reformations, some of the campaigns to change the constitution of the national Church and the beliefs of its people….Nor is the title The Reformation in England. That would assert that what happened in England was simply a local manifestation of the wider European movement, an integral part of ‘the Reformation’, in which Martin Luther’s personal rebellion became a widespread revolt against the authority and superstition of the Roman Church….These English Reformations took some ideas from the Reformation; they could happened as they did because they coincided with it….Whatever such English Reformations had in common with Reformation on the Continent, they were not the same thing: not the Reformation, declared by reformers and demanded by the crowds….In England, such events did not come in swift and orderly sequence, as consecutive steps of a pre-planned programme or a protest movement: they came (and went again) as the accidents of everyday politics and the consequences of power struggles.[2]

I think F.D. Maurice is right that sometimes in spite of themselves, what resulted from the Reformers was for all, that is, common. That is, to some extent the reformers were successful, and to some extent, they failed:

I claim it as the first and noblest distinction of our Prayers, that they set out with assuming God to be a Father, and those that worship him to be his children. They are written from beginning to end upon this assumption; every other makes them monstrous and contradictory. It confronts you in the first words of the Service; it is so glaring that you almost overlook it; but the further you read the more earnestly you meditate, the more truly you pray, the more certain you are that it is not only on the surface, but reveals the nature of the soil below. That God is actually related to us in his Son, is the doctrine which is the life of the Prayer Book, and apart from which it becomes the idlest and profanest of documents.

And there in no opportunity for special pleading about the word “us.” The compilers of these Prayers knew not who would frequent the Churches in which they were to be used. I do not believe they decoyed men into these Churches by unfair arts, but I do believe that they expected men of all kinds to be there—Pharisees and Publicans, decent people and conscious sinners—and they provided a language for each and all of them. And this language was, “Almighty and most merciful Father.” It was a very bold step to take. There was that in their own minds, and in the minds of all about them, which must have been revolted by it. But they did it. Not a vulgar calculation, which lowered them to a level beneath that of their ordinary lives, but a wisdom which carried them above themselves—above their own schemes, notions, and theories—led them to feel—“We have a right to do this: we are honouring God and his covenant by doing it.” But most of all this thought must have possessed them, “We are not Reformers unless we do it.—We cannot assert the truth of an accomplished salvation, of a perfect Mediator, unless we do it. We cannot put an end to the idolatry into which men have fallen, through ignorance that they can draw nigh to God as a reconciled Father, unless we do it. If there are to be Prayers at all, there is positively no course open but this. And if there are not to be Prayers, and Common Prayers, we are bearing no real practical protest against false worship.[3]

I find it somewhat ironic and insulting then to read this in the comments at Novus Motus Liturgicus:

So now its just a matter of changing their expectations! If we could only inform them, in a way that doesn't offend them, that although these vernacular hymns are all well and good, the actual propers have already been selected hundreds of years ago and are integral to the its only a matter of gradually changing the introit from We Three Kings to Ecce Advenit and so on.

Why? Because the Mass is so ever rarely a purity. I would say to NML, the zeal of youth clouds your love for God's people. For God's people are rarely without formation of some kind, and some of the most holy of pageant songs were those to mock an overly self-important clericalism. Most importantly, it comes across as if these experts have not set themselves alongside their fellows in the pews. I am not opposed to expertise, after all, I am an expert, but I am not so willing to dismiss “them” so haughtily as if they know nothing of the faith. A peasants’ song may become a high holy hymn given time. A desert poet may become all the rage. A pageant song, no matter how simple, may capture the heart and will be sung in the street or at my desk as it were. A desert poem may change the course of a church. We Three Kings captures because it is simple and has an interesting, singable melody. To divorce street piety from sanctuary song so readily shows a failure to understand that formation is a whole life affair and that most will be singing hymns over Introits when at their work or in their play.

What is most ironic, to my mind, however, is that this is precisely the opposite attitude found in the works of the likes of Eamon Duffy, who acclaim the populus against the Reformers to serve Roman Catholic interests no matter if theological heavy-weights of the likes of Nicholas Lash point out that the late Medieval understanding of the Mass had some theological problems. It seems the people can be right, that is useful, when they agree with me and my liturgical tastes or theological proclivities. In either case, however, I’m afraid reformers and purists will find themselves frustrated or clipped to some degree by the people and time. Cranmer did. So will Novus Motus Liturgicus. The zeal of reform is always softened by the stubbornness of long established practice, the seal of purity (liturgical, moral, or otherwise) will be tested by common sense.

Both called in their own way also for us to line up with a pure church, that is, one that agrees with the reforms whole cloth. Just as the reforms of Cranmer were not completely divorced from the interests of the state, current reforms of the reform are not completely divorced from the interests of certain portions of the Church. Nor reforms (Enriching Our Worship et al) of the reforms (Liturgical Movement) of the reforms ad nauseum in our own Church. Nonetheless, given the softening agent of the pewsitters and of time, what results may be liturgy more beautiful, yet vernacular, enriched, yet common.

What reformers never understand is that the people are never merely a tabula rasa upon which they can impose their reforms. The Reformers learned that the hard way, and hence, it is in some part that we have a via media and a reformed catholicism because the people would not be wholly reformed.

And those people are not only those in the pews, often times they are also clergy and even liturgical experts. For the same reasons. Common prayer, prayer in which the affections of all, not just the monastically or liturgically inclined, has been unleashed with its goods and ills. Just as the Reformers learned this the hard way, these liturgical purists may as well. The Roman Rite will never be the same post-Vatican II, just as it has developed many times over many centuries taking in the worthy from wherever it may be found, from peasants’ revelries or from monastic chants.

Reform comes in fits and starts and will only be received in pieces and parts. In the mean time, I remain less interested in choosing or obtaining pure liturgy or pure church, and content to offer my expertise where we God’s people are at prayer in such a way that respects formation of hearts in multitudinous and complex fashion. I am happy to recommend the traditional Introit and still also sing "We Three Kings." That prayer may not always be fully to my taste, may indeed sometimes be in need of reconsideration, and still, I will continue to worship alongside my fellows as we work it all out together:

Perhaps they may be called ‘parish anglicans’: ‘parish’, because they stressed communal values of village harmony and worship and objected to the divisiveness of the godly; ‘anglican’ (but not yet ‘Anglican’), because they stressed Prayer Book rituals and objected to the nonconformity of the godly.[4]


[1] Christopher Haigh, The English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 16.

[2] Ibid., 12-13.

[3] Frederick Denison Maurice, “Introductory,” in The Prayer Book (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1966), 5-6.

[4] Haigh, English Reformations, 291-292.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Antiphon

For the duration of Christmastide, I've kept to the Christmas antiphon for the Magnificat. Like the O Antiphons as Advent shifts into the days before Christmas (Sapientiatide), Christmastide might be better served with a series of Hodie antiphons at a time when After Christmas sales are already happening on December 23!:

Today the Christ is born; today has a savior appeared; today on earth angels are singing, archangels rejoicing / today the righteous exult and say, Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia.
(A Monastic Breviary)