Daily Archives: January 30, 2009

Continuing Theses on the Liturgy

Clearly, these begin where I left off last time

Thesis 4:  The logic and methods of the Western Liturgical Cycle were uniquely preserved and promulgated in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and its successors in a way not found in the other Reformation movements nor in the Roman Catholic Church until recently.

  • First, we recognize that the Mass/Office/Liturgical Year appear in the 1549 BCP are are intended to function together. Furthermore, in the preface to that book, contained in the historical documents of our current BCP and coming in large part from Cranmer’s first attempt to reform the Office, Cranmer explicitly cites not only what appears to have been the practice of the churches of Agustine and Chrysostom but to early medieval practice. First, a general reference that seems to fit much patristic preaching:

There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted: as, among other things, it may plainly appear by the common prayers in the Church, commonly called Divine Service: the first original and ground whereof, if a man would search out by the ancient fathers, he shall find, that the same was not ordained, but of a good purpose, and for a great advancement of godliness: For they so ordered the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over once in the year, intending thereby, that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers of the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation of God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth. And further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.

Now—while the evidence suggests that the Scriptures were read in course in various times and places within the patristic period, there seems to be no scheme that we know of that connects the readings of certain books to specific times. Indeed, the first record we have of such a scheme is Ordo XIII. This text in the form we have it seems to have been written down in the first half of the eighth century. This is the ideal cited by Cranmer later in his preface:

But these many years passed, this godly and decent order of the ancient fathers hath been so altered, broken, and neglected, by planting in uncertain stories, Legends, Responds, Verses, vain repetitions, Commemorations, and Synodals, that commonly when any book of the Bible was begun, before three or four Chapters were read out, all the rest were unread. And in this sort the book of Isaiah was begun in Advent, and the book of Genesis in Septuagesima; but they were only begun, and never read through. After a like sort were other books of holy Scripture used.

While recognizing this shema, though, we must note that in a fit of protestantism, Cramner neither enacts it nor includes it in his work, preferring to begin the Office lectionary in January with Genesis and to procede in biblical order without regard to the liturgical seasons. Certainly we who have played in more missals and breviaries than can easily be counted appreciate the truth of Cranmer’s words : “Moreover, the number and hardness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the service, was the cause, that to turn the Book only, was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times, there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.” …even when we don’t agree with his solution.

  • In contrast, no other Reformation group attempted to hold Mass/Office/Liturgical Year together to this extent. Nor has the Roman Catholic Church promoted the observence of the Office to the laity to the same degree that the Anglican intention did.
  • I do think there has been forward progress in this matter recently within the Roman Catholic Church with the allowance of the vernacular and the creation of the Liturgy of the Hours, but the Daily Mass culture, I think, obscures and displaces a Daily Office culture.
  • That having been said, Anglican practice has never measured up to Anglican intention. In the main, one is hard-pressed to find a consistent Daily Office culture within the Episcopal Church. There are pockets of practice, but it is not widespread nor as widely known as it ought to be.

Thesis 5: The logic and methods of the Western Liturgical Cycle because of its central place in our normative texts—the Books of Common Prayer—describe the heart of authentically Anglican Christian Formation.

  • I see that “Western Liturgical Cycle” has become a technical term to refer to the complex of Mass/Office?Liturgical year. This is handy but may become problematic—it’s current use is provisional…