Monthly Archives: July 2007

Busy Night: Normal Life

We’re doing some short-term elder-care right now for a colleague’s aunt who has mild Alzheimer’s. M and the girls have been there all day for the past week plus. It’s a rough schedule and fairly exhausting. I help out when I can in evenings and weekends–so I was there all day today. (It’s like dealing with three toddlers instead of two–one of whom has the same conversation with you every fifteen minutes or so.)

Now, M is at the desk behind me finishing up a sermon for tomorrow’s supply gig; I’m trying to figure out how to install Oracle on my test server since it turns out that my side-job’s web host is discontinuing MySQL support. What fun…


I had a “Duh–obvious” moment this morning–you know, one of those moments where something that you’ve always known bubbles up in a new and interesting way and makes a bunch of connections that you’ve never quite seen before…

My recent thinking about the sacraments–especially Baptism and Eucharist–has been moving very much to their communal nature and the importance of the covenant community both signified and enacted through these rites. What struck me this morning is how much the Confiteor participates in these same ways of ritual sense-making in ways that the more usual Anglican forms of general confession don’t.

For those unfamiliar with the Confiteor, it is a form of general confession that within the old (pre-Vatican II) liturgical paradigm would be used at least three times a day: at Prime, at the prayers at the foot of the altar prior to Mass, and at Compline.

My first point is that in its normative form, it’s a conversation between the principal (priest, abbot, or other) and the congregation that goes beyond the basic dialogue format found in most modern confessions. That is, it establishes communal patterns up front.

Even more than that, though, the text is redolent with community. It functions by naming elements of the community, bringing them to the attention of those gathered, reminding them of the constitution of the assembly that includes the invisible as strongly as the visible. Here’s the text:

First, the person of the greatest dignity (technically known as the Foremost or Prelate, ie. not a Bishop only, but in a Choir of layfolk any Priest who happens to be present, or in a Choir of Priests, the Superior, etc.) says the Confiteor, thus:

I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, * to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brethren, * that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, (he strikes his breast thrice, saying:) through my fault, through my own fault, through my own most grievous fault. * Therefore I beseech Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, * the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you brethren, * to pray for me to the Lord our God.

And the choir answers with the Absolution, thus:
Almighty God have mercy upon thee, forgive thee thy sins, and bring thee to everlasting life.

To which the Foremost responds:
R. Amen.

After which the Choir says the Confiteor, thus:

I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, * to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to thee, Father * that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, (they strike their breasts thrice, saying:) through my fault, through my own fault, through my own most grievous fault. * Therefore I beseech Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, * the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and thee, Father, * to pray for me to the Lord our God.

And the Foremost then says the Absolution, thus:
Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life.
R. Amen

And then he signs himself with the holy Sign (as does the Choir) as he says:
The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, † absolution, and remission of our sins.
R. Amen.

In the full form, then, the sequence of the communion of the saints all the way from the Trinity, the angels, down to the local community is not invoked once but four separate times. In doping so, the liturgy grounds our action—here our sinful action—in terms of the whole. In what we have done, we have reflected badly upon all, not just on ourselves. However, then we affirm the care, concern—mercy, really—and intercession of the whole on behalf of the individual.

Compare now the Anglican version, first in the classical form:


DEARLY beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry
places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we
should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly
Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to
the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and
mercy. And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before
God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to
render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set
forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those
things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.
Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me
with a pure heart and humble voice unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying
after me:

A general Confession to be said of the whole Congregation
after the Minister, all kneeling.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred and
strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and
desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left
undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things
which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord,
have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess
their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent, According to thy promises
declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: And grant, O most merciful
Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober
life, To the glory of thy holy Name.

The Absolution or Remission of sins to be pronounced by the
Priest alone, standing: the people still kneeling.

ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his
wickedness and live; and hath given power and commandment to his Ministers, to
declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and
Remission of their sins: He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent
and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel. Wherefore let us beseech him to grant
us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which
we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and
holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ
our Lord.


And now a current form:

The Deacon or Celebrant says: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Silence may be kept.

Minister and People: Most merciful God,we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,by what we have done,and by what we have left undone.We have not loved you with our whole heart;we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,have mercy on us and forgive us;that we may delight in your will,and walk in your ways,to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

While the texts are in the first person plural—“we”—it could just as easily be “I” with no change of meaning or theology… In contrast with the Confiteor, these come across as very, well, individualistic. It’s me and Jesus and while there might be a bunch of other people kneeling around, it’s still pretty much just me and Jesus…

I’ll have to chew on this a bit more to draw out the implications. My initial thought, however, is that the Confiteor seems to do a much better job of placing action, repentance, and forgiveness in view of the whole gathered covenant community, integrating it all much better in the context of the Body of Christ.

(Sources: Confiteor, 1662 MP Confession, and ’79 Eucharistic Confession.)

Saving the Planet–through Conspicious Consumption

Lee has a great post up on the “green consumerism” phenomenon. I think he’s absolutely right. In the part of town we live the the preferred mode of transportation is now the Lexus Hybrid SUV. The bus routes are still minimal, infrequent, and regarded with disdain.

M and I feel strongly about the environment and have been transitioning to more environmentally friendly cleaning products and post-consumer recycled products.I think more people generally are doing this and, as is the case, there is more discussion about means and motives. Perhaps the silliest thing I’ve seen was a shocked and horrified article (I don’t remember where) that people and companies who were pushing buying green and organic were making money off it! …Apparently still in the mindset that if you’re making money on it, then it can’t be a real “cause”…

Lee’s point and the article it cites are important warnings. Being environmentally friendly isn’t just about buying a whole bunch more things. After all, when it comes to “green” cleaning products, it’s amazing how much you can do with vinegar and lemon juice… ;-)

CWOB Continues at the Cafe

My latest post on CWOB is up at the Episcopal Cafe.

It seems like all I’m posting over there recently is material on CWOB… That certainly wasn’t my original intent. I was brought on to write primarily “spirituality” stuff like my posts on the canticles and psalms and on the place of liturgy in the Anglican life.

After a series of comments on a post there I had conceived a three post series that turned into four–this current item is the next to last. So, one more post then I’m moving on to other topics…

Eight Plainsong Masses (OJN)

I now have posted eight plainsong masses that Fr. John-Julian arranged, setting the words of the Rite II BCP to medieval settings. Please feel free to not just reference these but to use them as well.

The graduals, sequence, and tracts mentioned on the title page coordinate with the old BCP calendar; with the change to the RCL they are now out of date. Replacements are in the works but will not be available for quite a while…

One hindrance to the use of the masses may be that they—like the other files on the page—are in square-note plainsong notation. While square-note is (and should be) considered normative for writing plainsong, it clearly requires a congregation familiar with it—and few these days are. If anyone has the software and capability to transcribe these masses into the modern form of stemless notation used in contemporary hymnals to write chant (like the material in the front service music section of the ’82 Hymnal), please do so that these masses may be more broadly used and known.

As far as use goes, this material (and everything else here) falls under the Creative Commons license that appears on my side bar: you can use it and adapt it but must give attribution to Fr. John-Julian and the order, and you can’t sell the material or your adaptation (without contacting the author and making arrangements). Given the nature of the material, if you do use it I think it would be only fitting to include a prayer for the order in your Prayers of the People as well…

St Brendan the Voyager and the Offices

Michelle at Heavenfield has a fascinating post up summarizing an article on the Liturgy of the Hours in the voyage of St Brendan. As I read it, the author argues that the Life of St Brendan is a means of arguing for and presenting an ideal monastic implementation of the Offices. St Brendan is one of the Celtic saints that I recognize, but have never read any of the literature about him. So–for the edification of us all, here’s a link to his Life.

OJN Liturgical Materials

Fr. John-Julian has graciously allowed me to post some of the Order of Julian of Norwich‘s liturgical materials on my Trial Liturgies page.

At the moment, I have put up the order’s Offices of the Dead (which also includes a procession) and their use for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

There is much more great material–much of it freshly translated and arranged by Fr. John-Julian himself–to go up, but it will appear in bits and pieces due to my rather full current schedule. I’ll let you know as items appear.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks to Fr. John-Julian. Please keep the order in your prayers and, if you are able to do so, consider a contribution to assist them in their work.

Update: I’ve already changed things around… Upon reflection I decided that it would be more fitting for the Materials from OJN to have their own page since they really aren’t “trial” liturgies—they’re “actual” liturgies in continuous use. So, for these liturgies, please visit my new Liturgies of the Order of Julian of Norwich page. (I’ll try and transfer the pertinent comments there too but haven’t tried doing that before…)

Dissertation Distraction Project N+4

I’ve been having an interesting discussion with Fr. Knisely in the comments of this post at the Cafe on major and minor doctrines and the authority of the Ecumenical Councils.

Add to that the recent thoughts from Fr. Jones on teaching the doctrines we hold

So what doctrines do “we” hold? Or, what are the chief sources of authority for deciding doctrinal issues?

Folks who’ve been here a while know that I love to go back to Lancelot Andrewes on this one: 1 Canon, 2 Testaments, 3 Creeds, 4 Councils, 5 centuries and the Fathers who taught therein. And yet, as I look this list over, I find myself embarrassed by my general ignorance of the teachings of those four Ecumenical Councils. I know our major Christological definitions are in there–but what else? Furthermore, according to the classic Elizabethan Settlement,an Anglican heretic is one who contradicts these four Councils, making them a pretty important touchstone for what “we” believe.

So what do we do about this? There’s an ancient solution–or at least a big step in the right direction–for those who slept through the Ecumenical Council class in seminary or who didn’t have one altogether (yours truly among them). There’s a summary of the canons of the first seven councils (those recognized by the Romans, Orthodox, and Anglo-Catholics) called the Ancient Epitome which gives a line or two to indicate what each canon is up to. And–these are both contained and translated in the NPNF volume on the Councils.

It would be a relatively easy task to:

  1. Download the flat file of this volume from
  2. Write a macro/VBA script that would search for the text “ancient epitome” and then copy the paragraph where that was found and the next paragraph (i.e., the title, then the contents)
  3. Proofread for accuracy and clarity
  4. Add “new” epitomes for the ones that are unclear
  5. Format for ease of reading and reference
  6. Construct a thorough index/cross-reference
  7. Distribute as a PDF/Lulu Press publication

On the other hand–such a thing may already exist and I just don’t know about it…