Prayer Book Thoughts

I. The Anglican Missal
Due to one of the parishes where M is assisting, we broke down and ordered a copy of the Anglican Missal. For those unfamiliar with it, the Missal is the mass-book par excellence for Anglo-Catholic clergy. If you have dealings with liturgists on the Romish wing of the church, you will need to know of this book and a knowledge of its contents is never a bad idea if you can lay your hands on one. While I had known of it for some time, purchasing one was my first opportunity to really read one and to assess what it was about.

I found it a very interesting text. Ultimately, though, I found it more thought-provoking than useful. At the end of the day, it will not be my preference for a core mass-book if and when I ever become ordained. (That is, would I celebrate according to it? Perhaps–but only on a very occasional basis; certainly not for daily or Sunday use.)

The Missal starts from the major premise that the 1549 Prayer Book is not only a legitimate prayer book but the legitimate prayer book. As *Christopher has reminded us on occasion, the 1549 is the most Catholic of the early prayer books, and it was speedily replaced by a more Protestant form in 1552. I find it fascinating that the Missal does root and establish itself within the prayer book tradition though creating a direct alternative to it.

The Missal’s second major premise is that the 1549 book was a minimalist work that conformed strictly to the idea of its name–*Common* Prayer–and therefore left untranslated and uncollated the private prayers and ceremonies that pious priests and congregants would use in the proper celebration of the Mass. It therefore provides the various personal and other prayers that were in use at the time.

The result of these two premises is–and correct me if I’m wrong *Christopher and others who know these matters better than I–that the Anglican Missal attempts to construct continuity with a late medieval yet pre-Tridentine form of the Mass for use in English. From what I can tell it achieves it. What would be fascinating, though, is to see research on how it exemplifies the Victorian *idea* of what the late medieval Mass was like. It seems like a straight-forward collection of translated and collated prayers but anyone who has done work with manuscript transmission and the editorial ideology knows that editors have an astonishing power to create completely new and different works in their own image while still retaining every jot and tittle of the original text.

So, in fine, I see what the Missal is trying to do and think it an interesting project. I suppose my biggest issues with it are less in its conceptualization than with its end result. When I read through it–and on the occasions when I have witnessed full celebrations of it–I have found it to be florid and over-wrought. Liturgical action is piled on top of liturgical action, it lacks a clarity of line and is drenched in piety of a certain sort which is not mine. I find it a bit *too* POD (“pious and overly devotional” for the non-Anglo-Catholics) for my tastes.

What is particular? Remember that this comes from my impressions rather than a true in-depth study; a careful examination of all the collects and prayers might prove me wrong BUT–I find it too stuck in Scholastic categories and obsessive on the notion of the utter worthlessness of humanity. Don’t get me wrong here–I’m a big fan of the prayer of humble access. I think the most recent reforms went too far in eliminating language of sin and unworthiness from the current liturgies; certainly Americans of my generation need to be challenged in our sense of entitlement and to be reminded of our true place in the world. Nevertheless, the overwhelming emphasis seems a little too overwhelming and, for me, crosses the line from true humility into a spiritual arrogance over one’s outstanding humility.

I also missed seeing the exhortation to godly virtues so common to the early medieval collects that I have been working in recently. Again–it may well be there if I keep looking, but my initial impression was that this language does not predominate in this missal in the way it does in other earlier traditions.

II. The Value of the Missal
So–where’s the value of the Anglican Missal for me? It opens up my thinking and makes me consider what I do, why I do it, and what kind of sensibilities I am most familiar with and which I look for in the Tradition. For instance, it raises again the issue of what book to use: do we, should we, use the BCP or some other book based on our personal preferences and style? This missal represents a replacement of the BCP and legislates a worship style of which I overall approve. However–it is not the BCP. and once again I return to the importance of *common* prayer. Another question is: what era should be adopted as a liturgical norm? The Anglican Missal chooses the late medieval; the most recent liturgical renewal the fourth. My preference is for the early medieval–but why and what rationale should be offered for its adoption? (That’s the subject for another post.) Finally–but certainly not lastly–how are the elements authentic to the Tradition to be deployed in speaking to our own age?

This is, I believe, one of the most important issues that I have heard discussed least. The true and authentic Tradition of the Church is voluminous and reflects a great diversity of thought, theology, and piety. I am absolutely convinced that resources within the Tradition can communicate the Gospel effectively and powerfully to this generation. And I believe that our best creative work is done not when we strike out on our own into new territory but when we intelligently and sensitively recycle and adapt elements already within the Tradition.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that all manifestations of the Tradition do communicate the Gospel with eloquence, conviction and power to all times. That’s why we need developments and renewals. Some pieties effective in a previous age either water down the proclamation or actively undermine it in different circumstances. This is where the real battles over tradition do and should happen–determining what breathes the Spirit into our age and what simply echoes what the age already proclaims.

III. Where Do We Go From Here?
I don’t see the need for liturgical works that serve as replacements to the BCP–I’m more interested in supplements or things that make me think about and see the existing liturgies in a new light. And, to be completely honest, that’s also one of the ways that I’ve seen the Anglican Missal used–as a supplement rather than a replacement. That’s how M’s rector uses it, and my opposition to it is diminished greatly when it is viewed and used in this light.

What makes the most sense to me is digging into the Tradition to find things that supplement and enhance what is in the prayer book and adding them in but not to the degree that the overburden or skew the existing liturgies. Prayer Book modification, not replacement. My personal adaptations include physical gestures not indicated in the BCP, customs from previous prayer books that I think serve a godly function, and principles of variation that help me keep up the rota of Offices without getting bored but still aid in the work of memorization and internalization. As personal adaptations, most of these do refer to my own *private* use; *common* prayer is thus maintained.

Major shifts are occurring in the liturgies of the mainline denominations. The will happen whether we notice them or discuss them or not. For people who value historic liturgies–be we Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics (even the odd Methodist)–we need to think and be vocal about what happens both in our sanctuaries and in our prayer-closets. This isn’t just a matter for clergy–it’s a matter for anyone who uses and who comes to love the liturgy. In fact, don’t be fooled. Most clergy have only taken one course in liturgy which was, most likely, a drive-by through their current service book. There’s no reason why interested and informed lay people can’t teach their clergy a thing or two about good liturgy.

I guess, ultimately, this is what I’m heading towards. People who use liturgies should become passionate about them because good liturgy is good proclamation of the Gospel. If you’re not passionate about your liturgy, why not?

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About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
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20 Responses to Prayer Book Thoughts

  1. Caelius says:

    “If you’re not passionate about your liturgy, why not?”

    Hypothetically speaking…

    1. It changes excessively from week to week.
    2. It is increasingly divorced from Anglican or even broadly catholic roots.
    3. The general atmosphere is that of entertainment and performance more than that of worship.
    4. I now think there’s such a thing as too much inclusive language, especially when it ruins the lyric of the original work.

    “My personal adaptations include physical gestures not indicated in the BCP, customs from previous prayer books that I think serve a godly function, and principles of variation that help me keep up the rota of Offices without getting bored but still aid in the work of memorization and internalization. As personal adaptations, most of these do refer to my own *private* use; *common* prayer is thus maintained.”

    Well, this certainly resonates. My father’s 1928 BCP is marked up with a variety of instructions. (Next time, I’m home I should transcribe them).

    Your observation on the use of the Anglican Missal as supplementary material is right-on in my opinion.

  2. texanglican says:

    I find it interesting that a parish using the Anglican Missal would have a female clergyperson on staff. Down here in Fort Worth AM parishes are the ones most steadfastly opposed to women’s ordination (even to the diaconate), and frequently are the most gung ho for reunion with Rome. I wonder what the story of M’s parish is? Have opinions there on the question of WO shifted in the relatively recent past, but they kept the Missal out of local custom? Or has that parish long been pro-WO?

  3. Emily says:

    I grew up in a Missal parish, and found the atmosphere stultifying, for many reasons.

    It’s interesting that it take the 1549 prayer book as the legitimate one, because doesn’t adding all those collects/prayers/actions violate the spirit and the letter of the Preface to the 1549 book?

  4. LutherPunk says:

    I purchased a copy of the missal some months back, and have spent a little time with it. There are several aspects I like (I especially like the inclusion of the 1549 canon), but share your reservations.

    The most attractive thing to me about the Anglican tradition is the concept of common prayer. We Lutherans have done a poor job of this and are getting worse with the number of localized theologically-silly liturgies popping up all over the place. I wish we had a worship standard to refer to as “normative”, but I am growing to see that this is not going to happen.

    With that said, I think the issue of private vs. common prayer is one that we must wrestle with across confessional lines, especially as churches are in the process of replacing worship resources with new (but not improved) resources. I find our provisional liturgies revolting and flirting with modalist heresies. As a pastor, do I then encourage the use of something that puts the souls of my parishioners in danger, or do I refer back to the tradition to find something more consistent with our traditional teachings? To me, this is more than personal clerical piety imposed upon a congregation.

  5. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Caelius, My BCP and Office Book are all marked up and have quite a number of supplemental pages–but mostly additional prayer book material. I.e., my Office book now has the Great Litany and Supplication (particularly appropriate for this season), the Advent & Lent seasonal collects, and a more readily accessible set of sanctoral collects facing my own version of the kalendar.

    Texanglican, You’re certainly right about Anglican Missal parishes. This one isn’t–but the Rector grew up with it and incorporates a fair amount of the more private prayers into how he celebrates. As M deacons for him, she needs to know them and learn them as well.

    Emily, I’ve been to far too many High Church/Anglo-Catholic churches that are that way and it’s a real shame because they don’t have to be… Luckily, the ones that I am connected with now are not that way and all–I’m still trying to figure out how they do it! Liturgical awareness and devotion without snobbishness seems to be the key… 😉
    And yes, it certainly does violate the spirit of the 1549 book, and a host of the 39 Articles as well (not that the latter bothers me much…).

    • Troy Scott says:

      Sorry if this is off-topic. I have been searching in vain for a simple index of the minor propers
      Introit
      Alleluia Verse or Tract
      Gradual
      Sequence
      Offertory
      Communion Verse

      that go with the proper readings for Sundays and Feasts. The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary are available from numerous sources, but the minor propers are never, at least in my experience, listed with the readings. For example, where is the index of which minor propers go with Proper 5, which is the set of readings for June 10, 2012?

      Regards,
      Troy Scott, organist-choirmaster for St. John’s Episcopal Church, Laurel, Mississippi
      tscott1217@gmail.com
      http://www.stjohnslaurel.com
      6014985541

      • bls says:

        You might try JoguesChant or CCWatershed, two Catholic online sources. A community of monastics in Brazil also posts all the year’s propers online. Those are all the Ordinary Form; the propers are sometimes different in the Extraordinary Form (you can find that list here).

        There are no official Anglican “minor propers”; if something doesn’t occur in the Prayer Book (or, I suppose, in the Canons), there is no rule about it. The Catholic Church does assign the minor propers, officially – although I’m not sure where the “official” listing is, now that I think of it! The websites above are volunteer efforts, as far as I can tell.

        And, BTW, as far as I can see the minor propers are not keyed to the Lectionary. (Some of us have been trying to work out the answer to this question for years now, actually!) Of course, the RCL is a Protestant lectionary anyway, so….

      • bls says:

        While the sources above are great, you might also be interested in two others, from Musica Sacra. The Gregorian Missal is available for download as a PDF here. Everything for the whole year is there (I think!), but in Latin; the page says that the book “provides the sung propers attached to the 1970 Missal.” I’m not sure if anything’s changed since then; I sort of doubt it, though.

        There is also this newer book called Simple English Propers, also downloadable as a PDF. It only gives the Introit, the Offertory, and the Communio, though.

        But to me, online is actually better – there are sound files, and content is easy to update.

  6. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Well, lp, you know that a lack of protect and concerted erosion of the historic liturgy is one of the things that led me away from the Lutheran Church. Article 7 legislates nothing–do the ELCA canons? I always fantisized about what positively could be done with regard to that. I.e., is there any good reason why a Lutheran parish can’t or shouldn’t use the BCP for public worship, church council willing?? Hell, why not a Lutheran church plant that just starts with it?

  7. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Oh–lp–I *would* like to hear your thoughts on the Anglican Breviary too…

  8. *Christopher says:

    derek,

    This is a great analysis. Thank you. I’m in the middle of looking at the Benedictine Breviary edited by Maxwell Johnson.

    Your analyis of the 1549 BCP is correct. Since we in the U.S. have used a recension of Laud’s Book (Scottish 1637 based and expanded on 1549) until 1979, we’ve always tended a bit more toward the catholic, but you’re right to point out the diversity of the Tradition and how various bits of it best serves (or do not serve) the Gospel in a given context and are thus recycled accordingly.

    I think that the floridness of the Missal you describe sounds in-line with Sarum and other usages of the pre-Reformation period in England actually. The 1549 BCP is a cut version in many instances and recommends a return to the solemnity and brevity of Benedictine/Roman practice.

    Being somewhat florid myself, it sounds like I would appreciate this Missal as offering an alternative development. Given that texts are recycled in our tradition repeatedly, I do wonder about the view through Victorian eyes and what is kept, cut out, etc. I’ll have to take a look for myself.

    On the other hand, like you, I do not use other books for my personal prayer (note, I refuse to call prayer at home or in the office private) at home/office because my personal prayer should be that of the Church in a given locale–in this case TEC (the context within which I’m becoming a person), and I’m very careful and sensitive to what has bound us as Anglicans (and which if we lose sight of, will be our undoing)–common prayer. We are a broad lot, and not all of us are as florid as I and I’m respectful of that. I may use these other works as supplements, however. And sometimes do. The Roman Breviary, or local monastic breviaries, like that of Mount Angel Abbey, for example, are occasionally good resources as well. Many of my gestures are influenced by those from Mount Angel.

    A fine phrase that captures the spirit of my own work (I hope):
    And I believe that our best creative work is done not when we strike out on our own into new territory but when we intelligently and sensitively recycle and adapt elements already within the Tradition.

    Also, I think ++Cranmer’s balanced understanding of sin in the PoHA and 1549 Canon generally prevents the “pride of humility” of which you note in the Missal. That’s as dangerous as really believing oneself complete cr*p. Neither are humility, but flipsides of pride because both do not properly see one’s place in the world.

    I do wonder about supplements and the extent to which they are used however when so many parishes do not even embody the BCP on a regular basis anymore. Supplements and creativity seem to have replaced the BCP, and I’m disturbed by this.

  9. LutherPunk says:

    Derek – I think the BCP is one of the best representatives of the historic liturgy. I use it on an occasional basis during weekday liturgies, and of course the BCP (1928) serves as my personal prayerbook.

    There is nothing that says we can’t use it in the ELCA. I too would be curious about a church plant that starts off using it. It could work, as it is more adaptable than the LBW, though the green book has its charm.

    I am still trying to figure out why we ELCA’rs are getting the short end of the stick with article VII. Last time I checked, that allowed for local variation, but wasn’t carte blanche to do whatever the hell we wanted. Of course, it seems I am in a defintive minority with that one.

    Funny thing is that I seriously consider becoming Anglican from time to time (no secret there) for the very reasons you list. But I go back to the fact that I would just be jumping from one ghetto to another.

    I may formulate a little something about the Breviary. I like some parts, dislike others. It may be a couple of weeks though…I still have to get something together for the new blog carnival LC is putting on.

  10. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Well, lp, what the green book doesn’t have is singable harmonies… (friggin’ piano harmonies not vocal harmonies…)

  11. LutherPunk says:

    LOL – esp for the offices! We are doing Vespers right now and it is painful!!!

  12. Pingback: Anglican Missal Download « haligweorc

  13. Objectivity, orthodoxy and Godwardness – I love ’em.

    But you already knew that.

    I’m more familiar with the Knott Missal so I appreciate the in-depth look… and understand your trying to work within the Episcopal system liturgically (using the 1979 book)… very consistent with that church historically (hence the American Missal, even more Prayer Booky than this).

    It’s an interesting bit of speculation, entirely believable… priests in 1549 probably did a lot of Sarum Roman things out of habit in addition to reading from the new book out loud.

    That said…

    You knew we’d disagree on some things. 🙂

    …florid and over-wrought. Liturgical action is piled on top of liturgical action, it lacks a clarity of line and is drenched in piety of a certain sort which is not mine. I find it a bit *too* POD (“pious and overly devotional” for the non-Anglo-Catholics) for my tastes.

    What in particular? Remember that this comes from my impressions rather than a true in-depth study; a careful examination of all the collects and prayers might prove me wrong BUT–I find it too stuck in Scholastic categories and obsessive on the notion of the utter worthlessness of humanity.

    Except for the Scholasticsm (which I don’t dislike) you could have been describing the Orthodox Liturgy.

    (I know you’re writing on behalf of and for Episcopalians but what of ecumenism? Do you really want to Novus Ordo-fy the Orthodox?)

    The Anglican Missal chooses the late medieval; the most recent liturgical renewal the fourth.

    Which Pope Pius XII criticised in Mediator Dei back in 1947.

    If one wants to really do ‘early church’ go for it – have altars facing east in westward-facing churches so the congregation have their backs to the priest during the Canon, have the sexes stand apart like the Orthodox, have public confession of sins to the bishop and years of canonical penance and going without Communion for sins we hardly give a second thought to…

    What’s that? The bad old mediæval versions of the rites don’t sound so bad? 😉

  14. Pingback: Tradition–And Lutheran Stuff Again « haligweorc

  15. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, YF; here are some responses:

    (I know you’re writing on behalf of and for Episcopalians but what of ecumenism? Do you really want to Novus Ordo-fy the Orthodox?)

    No, I don’t want to “Novus Ordo-fy” them–but neither do I want to be one.

    …bad old mediæval versions of the rites

    I find that most historical-looking liturgies and liturgists seem to fix themselves in a particular time and place and I sometimes wonder if their criteria for selecting them make sense. We’re *not* the Christian historical society. We don’t do stuff because it’s old, we do it because it proclaims the Gospel. Our liturgies are the way they are not because we like dress-up and pretty smells but because it is the natural kinetic expression of the gathered assembly’s theology. Or it should be.

    And the last is the link that church people are the absolute worst at. If that is truly what we believe, we need to do a much better job of teaching both new-comers and cradle Christians what it is we believe and how those beliefs are expressed in the liturgy.

  16. Michael S says:

    It is my impression that the Anglican Missal purports less to be pre-tridentine and English, than that it’s a adaption of the then-current roman missal into conformity with the BCP. All of the Sunday collects, and major feasts are straight out of the BCP.
    Florid and over-wrought? Yes, definitely (which I like). But then, the BCP is too. The BCP collects, even when they are clearly translations of the latin, are often twice as wordy.
    I would also agree that it’s a bit heavy on the worthlessness of humanity – but again, I’d say that’s BCP and Roman, rather than mediaeval or English. Cranmer seems really heavy on that in his adaption of the collects and litany for the BCP. According to my “Sarum Missal in English”, one of the main mediaeval English uses didn’t even have the “Non sum dignus.”

  17. John-Julian, OJN says:

    Derek:

    In my early years church life was always liturgically old-line ritualist Anglo-Catholic. I grew up in a Knott Missal parish – until Holy Cross came out with the American Missal (date?). And for two years I was liturgist for the Diocese of Fond du Lac (than which there was no whicher!).

    My personal preference was always the Anglican Missal (actually a lot of it was the book’s appearance – the American Missal seemed “cheap” with its bare white pages, ugly font, and curved corners while the Anglican Missal was on elegant ivory paper with bordered pages, etc.) I used the Anglican Missal from ordination (1957) until the experimental developments of the BCP in the mid 70’s.

    Just recently I was present (for the first time in over twenty years) at a Solemn High Missal Mass – lacking only the Last Gospel. And the fussiness of it took me wholly by surprise. I was amazingly struck with the non-participatory aspects of it — something I never noticed during the twenty years when I used it myself. It seemed “operatic”: a theatrical piece to be observed appreciatively from a relative distance, a “heavenly production” (replete with MC as stage manager).

    And I was struck with what I can only call the “unnecessarity” of it. It was well and smoothly done, and when it was finished I even felt the inclination to applaud, but it seemed a bit like a good drag queen’s performance. Just a little “too much”, just a bit “over the top”, just a “frill too far”. And in a very real sense it seemed strangely like a diminishment of the Eucharist. There was so much “else” going on that what I can only call the “clarity” of the Eucharist got submerged.

    This is all very subjective, I know, and it does not involve a scholarly study of the texts such as you wonderfully always provide, but it did gave me a rare “outsider’s” view and I was truly surprised at my reactions.

    We unapologetically do Solemn Masses at the monastery (ridiculed for it by some) – all generally BCP-faithful – but they seem to flow, not flutter. No censing of the altar at the Introit (does anyone else know that that was originally a censing of all the walls of the whole building, not the altar?); Graduals and Sequences chanted by the whole Assembly not the choir, no Gospel-kissing by the Celebrant, no ranked censings of everyone individually, no torches and incense at the Words of Institution, only one elevation – at the end of the Great Thanksgiving, etc., etc.

    Well, now, I realize that I have been reflecting not on the RITE, but on the ceremony, so this is probably a bit off-theme for this thread, but, what the heck….

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