Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Congregation and The Ministers

bls is asking some good questions on the previous post so I’m starting a new post to keep the conversation moving. Her questions are around the various parts in worship. What I’m suggesting is that each set of liturgical participants should, as much as possible, be consistent in what they do and how they do it. In particular with reference to the previous post, I’m suggesting that priests should be consistent in either singing or speaking their parts and not switch back and forth.  That led to a variety of other topics include which parts are assigned to which people—particularly the congregation—and bls noted that in composed Masses, the choir sings the part of the people.

This is true. And it’s one of the chief ambivalences that I feel against such services. Yes, they can be quite beautiful, but her point is precisely my objection—they’re stealing the congregation’s part…

To sort all of this out, I think it’s helpful to go back to principles. And while I mean “principles” generically, I also mean it’s time to go back to W. H. Frere’s Principles of Religious Ceremonial, the third chapter, which is entitled “Congregation and Ministers.” Frere begins by railing against the notion of a service as a duet between a priest and clerk who do the talking and doing while everybody else eavesdrops.  After talking about the Office a bit, he then turns to the Eucharist:

With regard to the Holy Eucharist the case stands differently; for here, from the nature of the case, there has always been a distinction between the ministerial and the congregational part of  the service. This rite, however, was not in early days a duet, for the whole company of the faithful took its part in the Holy Mysteries in graduated order. The celebrant had necessarily his ministers to attend on him, some sharing with him in the recitation of the service, some ministering in the ceremonies accompanying the rite, some singing the music which alternated with the lessons and the prayers; while the congregation itself, in the days of heathenism and under the system of church discipline, had its own gradations, and took a greater or a smaller part in the service accordingly.

. . .

Here again, then, there is little or no sign of the idea of a duet with which are familiar: all is co-operative. For example, in the due performance of the Latin rite, as seen before the great period of liturgical decadence had set in, the Liturgy was everywhere normally the work of the whole Christian community, worshipping God in its several grades. The celebrant had the solemn prayers to say, the variable collects and the fixed forms as well, including of course the actual consecration. The deacon had the Gospel to read and subdeacon the Epistle; while the former also was responsible for the leading of the people, though this duty soon shrank to very small dimensions in the West as compared with the East. These two sacred ministers, or two groups of sacred ministers, were also in attendance upon the celebrant; they both waited upon him themselves, and also served as intermediaries between and the lesser grades of ministers, such as thurifers, taperers, etc., so far as their ministry concerned the celebrant. Again, besides these ceremonial attendants must be reckoned the singers or Schola cantorum, who were not concerned with ceremonial, but had their own part of the rite; they were responsible for the more elaborate and variable part of the music and such chants as employed soloists, especially the Introit and Communion with their psalms, the Gradual, Alleluia, and Offertory. Lastly, the congregation had its part both in the psalmody and in the prayers of the rite. At first the Kyries and Sanctus, and then later the Agnus Dei and Creed, and lastly the Gloria in excelsis, represented the popular element or congregational parts of the singing, while the responses to the celebrant, and especially the solemn Amen after consecration, represented their share in the prayers.

One can hardly fail to see, even in the dim obscurity which surrounds all early liturgical history, that the tendency to deprive the people of their part of the service, by making it so elaborate that it was of necessity confined to the choir, was one which showed itself at very early stages. The simple psalmody which once went on between the lessons or during the ceremonies of the Offertory became ousted by the elaborate chants of the Graduals or of the Offertories. Next, the psalmody that still survived at the
Introit and at the Communion was cut down, and became also uncongregational. Meanwhile the congregation was making its voice heard in new ways instead, and was singing the Agnus Dei at Communion, or on occasions the Creed. It managed for the time to retain its rights over these parts of the service and to acquire rights over the Gloria in excelsis, which at first was a purely sacerdotal element in the service; but, on the other hand, to a considerable degree it lost the Kyries, as these ceased to be the simple responses to a litany and became the elaborated melodies of the later mediaeval period.

Yet, in spite of all such changes, the old ideal still remained, viz. that all should contribute their share to the corporate Christian worship; and it is not too much to say that without any doubt this is the only true ideal of Christian worship.

It survived, however, down to the end of the mediaeval period only in a shrunken and a steadily shrinking form. A baneful process of decay was all the time in growing operation, which eventually reduced the oratorio to a mere duet, if not to a monologue, for the ordinary Latin Low Mass became little more than that. The congregation forfeited much of its share, partly through coldness and carelessness, but more still through the changes by which Latin ceased to be a tongue understood of the people. Simultaneously all the ministerial parts were also being cut down, and the co-operative principle was being lost. The Mass was said instead of being sung; so at one blow the whole of the functions of the Schola cantorum were gone, and the musical texts were transferred to the celebrant’s part. Or it was said without the attendant ministers; thereupon the celebrant took into his own hands so much of their functions as could be, or must be, managed, and the rest dropped out. So again at one blow the co-operative principle was obscured and almost lost. Then the relics of the Liturgy which remained were conglomerated into the hands of the celebrant and formed the Missal, or compound sacerdotal book; the participation of the faithful disappeared, and the resultant service was rightly called ‘Low Mass,’ for it represents the low-water mark of eucharistic service, and is a painful contrast to the true but almost lost dignity of the old celebration of the Holy Mysteries, with the full and intelligent co-operation of all the faithful, each in their several spheres and grades taking their own proper part in the adoration of Almighty God.
(Principles, 34-7)

While Frere gets pretty harsh here on the change, he acknowledges that there were several factors that led to it and that several of them are positive even if their impacts on the liturgy weren’t so great. So—the establishment of daily worship, Office and Mass in cathedrals and other large foundations where a sizable daily congregation wasn’t a reality was a factor. So too was the proliferation of village churches. This is the real culprit in his eyes:

For in practice, as the Church grew, and small churches and parishes belonging to special shrines or connected with landed estates took their place in the Christian economy side by side with the town churches, the materials were not available for the old solemnity of the Liturgy. For choir and ministers the parish had to make the best shift it could with whatever materials were available; and when it became necessary to define the lowest terms which should be considered possible for a celebration of the Eucharist, the minimum requirement was fixed at two persons, the priest and a clerk to serve him. And so we come to the duet. What wonder if the people soon came to regard the service as something done for them instead of something done by them? (Principles, 39-40)

Frere does say that the English had an advantage over other groups because of the way that their liturgical books were normed:

The character of pre-Reformation Service-books in England was especially calculated to keep up a good deal of the old ideal. While continental mass-books very constantly contemplated nothing better than Low Mass, the English books always had High Mass in view. Indeed, this is so much the case that it is a matter of great difficulty to reconstruct what an English Low Mass was like before the Reformation, since the Service-books make little or no provision for it. Moreover, many of the Service-books, both for the Eucharist and the Divine Service, incorporated as rubrics large sections of the ceremonial and ritual directions of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury. By this means there penetrated even to the village churches some echo of the dignified and corporate worship of that illustrious cathedral body; and the smaller bodies were encouraged to do their best to maintain the same ideal, and to resist as far as possible the progress of liturgical degradation and decay.

While what he says is true, we must resist the temptation to triumphalism—the retention of the old pattern probably had less to do with a consciousness of theological principles than the scribal habits of the Salisbury book trade.

There was an opportunity to restoring the old pattern at the Reformation, but it was neither recognized nor seized (as they were too busy seizing other things…):

This failure to restore the ancient ideal of worship was probably not so much a matter of design as of accident. The reformers no doubt wished to reduce the elaborateness of ceremonial, to simplify the services and make them more congregational. They objected to the ceremonial partly because it seemed to men of that age, as the result of bad traditions, to be in itself an un-spiritual thing, and partly also because it was intimately bound up in the popular mind with doctrinal views which they wished to eradicate. They did not see that, in abolishing the provision for it so much as they did, they were destroying good as well as evil, and were robbing a number of the people of the privilege of a share of their own in the worship. Nor did they perceive that, while attempting to abolish the sacerdotalism which they had seen so much abused, they were in fact, so far as service went, erecting a new barrier between clergy and laity, and a sharp line of demarcation between priest and people, such as had not existed previously in the days when priest, deacon, subdeacon, acolyte, clerk, incense-boy, and congregation still had each his appointed share, and ministered in his several degree. (Principles, 43-4)

As has happened so many times, the old clericalism simply gave way to the new clericalism… Frere closes the chapter with his recommendations on the matter which, though lengthy, are totally worth recounting in full:

Liturgical worship must be co-operative and corporate. It is a false sacerdotalism that seeks to comprehend as much as possible in the one pair of hands of the priest or celebrant. It is always a gain that, with due regard to structure and liturgical principles, the services should employ many persons in divers functions. The clergy and other ministers, servers, clerks, and choir, all have their own part. The different parts of the ceremonial action must be harmonious; but, so long as this is the case, it is no harm, but only good, that different people should simultaneously be doing different things. A good deal is needed to get rid of the false idea of the duet of parson and clerk, or parson and choir, or even parson and congregation. For example, it is far better that the psalms, when read, should be read as they are sung, from side to side, and not as a duet; that the lessons at Divine Service and at the Eucharist should be assigned to different persons; that the first part of the Litany should be sung by clerks; and that many other survivals of the old ideal be retained. And most of all it is desirable that the true ideal should be so clearly set before the congregation that it may become less of a cold critic of a ceremonial which it does not understand and perhaps dislikes, and more of an active and hearty participant in a great act of corporate and co-operative worship.

For this purpose it is necessary that the musical parts of the service which ought to be congregational, should be kept so simple that the congregation can, if it only will, take its part in them; and of such moderate pitch that the men’s voices can sing as well as the women’s. All elaborate harmonised music is out of place for these parts of the service, except in those churches, which, though rare, do yet exist in England, where a large section of the congregation is able to take the various vocal parts, and is not confined merely to singing the melody.

The Kyrie and Creed at the Eucharist, and the psalms in Divine Service, are the special parts which both can be made, and ought to be kept, congregational; and where psalms are congregational there is great gain in singing them for ‘Introit’ and ‘Communion,’ as well as the best possible authority for doing so.

But when the congregation has its own part it must not grudge others their part, nor expect to follow or share in all that others are doing; such an expectation is a very common cause of complaint on the part of the laity, and it results from the misconception of the idea of corporate worship. No one expects or demands that on the stage only one actor should move at a time; and if this is not expected on the stage, where all is done for the benefit of the audience, and adapted to the spectator’s capacity for taking in the situation, far less is it to be demanded in religious ceremonial, which is done not for the benefit of the congregation, but for the honour of Almighty God; and where, therefore, there is no need, as in the other case, that it should be adapted to the congregation at all, except so far as to be decorous and uplifting in its general effect.

Each person in his own sphere has taken his due part in the public worship if he has contributed his own quota, be it great or small, according to his responsibility and place, to the general sum; and if at the same time he has followed generally the whole of the action. This is the ideal whether for the Eucharist or for Divine Service. These two differ widely in their general character, and therefore differ widely in the nature of their ceremonial. The Eucharist is one homogeneous and continuous action, and goes forward, if one may so say, like a drama; it has its prelude, its working up, its climax, its epilogue. The Divine Service has no such unity; it has a series of different actions which are not necessarily closely connected, and might almost equally well be placed in any other order as in their existing order. If the Eucharist may be called, in regard to the nature of the structure of the service, a dramatic action, the Divine Service may be called by contrast meditative or reflective. But, great as is this difference of nature between the two, they are alike in their ideal of corporate worship, and alike in requiring that the whole body of the faithful should as far as possible, and in very various degrees, co-operate. And in both cases this work of worship done by the Church on earth is a work in co-operation with the heavenly hierarchies in their celestial worship, whether it is the definite sacrificial climax of the Eucharist or the subsidiary work of preparation and thanksgiving, which, properly speaking, is the essence of the Divine Service.

So, that having been said, Frere puts forth strongly the fundamental principle that worship should be as communal and as corporate as possible—each group having and knowing its own roles and appreciating the roles of the others. It’s therefore on the strength of that recognition and understanding that I think we should parse the distinction between the priest’s roles and the other roles and try to maintain proper consistency within them. Of course it’s not the only way to do it, but I think it helps us better understand and keep the corporate ideal alive.

On Sung (And Other) Masses

Let’s clarify some terminology, shall we?

There are, fuctionally, three chief kinds of masses done in modern Episcopal Churches:

  • High Mass
  • Sung Mass
  • Low Mass

Let’s go through these.

Low Mass: This is a service where the priest and deacon say their parts. There’s no singing. It’s purely a said mass. However, this doesn’t preclude the use of hymns. There can be Low Masses with hymns as well as Low Masses without hymns. Your typical 8 AM service (whether Rite I or Rite II) tends to be a Low Mass without hymns; your typical Low Church service also tends to be a Low Mass (whether they’d refer to it as such or not) no matter how many hymns or praise songs get crammed into it.

There also aren’t a whole lot of servers in a mass of this sort, generally only one or two. Incense is not used; it doesn’t make much sense to have a Solemn Low Mass (Liturgically, “Solemn” = Incense).

Sung Mass: Now, when I use the term “Sung Mass” I mean the same thing as a missa cantata. I know that some authorities—particularly those in the earlier part of the 20th century—use “Sung Mass” as a term for a Low Mass with hymns. (This is the position of Ritual Notes, 9th edition.) However, in our current situation, saying “Sung Mass” makes more sense for two reasons: 1) using the Latin term seems a bit too precious, and 2) the literal meaning of the English means “a mass that is sung” not “a mass that is said where  some hymns are stuck in.”

In a Sung Mass, everything that would normally be said by the priest is sung. (Hence the note “Where rubrics indicate that a part of a service is to be ‘said,’ it must be understood to include ‘or sung,’ and vice versa.” on p. 14 of the BCP.) This category is the point of the post so I’m going to stop here and revisit this in a moment.

Generally there are at least two servers, often more. A choir is a nice thing but not essential. It does make sense to have incense here; a Solemn Sung Mass is not uncommon among Episcopal Churches that use incense.

High Mass: High Masses aren’t terribly common around the Episcopal Church and are only seen at some Anglo-Catholic parishes. High Masses are always sung, not said. The difference between a Sung Mass and a High Mass is personnel. A High Mass has a subdeacon as well as a full deacon; a Sung Mass does not. You can be as tricked-out and smokey as you like but without a subdeacon, you’re doing a Sung Mass not a High Mass.

[subdeacon tangent]

The Episcopal Church has formal ranks for priests and deacons—subdeacons, not so much. In the old days, subdeacon was one of the nine grades of ordination through which one traveled, and was the one in order right before deacon. The Liturgical Renewal Movement and therefore Vatican II didn’t like the nine grade system and tossed it out, officially abolishing the subdeacon.  Since no order for such an ordination exists, a subdeacon in the Episcopal Church can be a layperson but ought to have the training and qualities of life to fit the bill. If it were up to me—which of course it’s not—I’d think that officially licensed lay readers ought to be taught how to subdeacon, that being the closest thing to it these days.

It’s frowned upon but permissible to have a priest function as a deacon in a Sung or High Mass. Where there are deacons, a deacon ought to be used. Nothing annoys me more, however, than seeing a priest serve as a subdeacon. If it can be a lay position, than it ought to be one. In a church that puts a great emphasis on the ministry of the Baptized, a layperson serving properly as a vested sacred minister (i.e., not trying to usurp the priestly or diaconal roles) is a good reminder.

[/subdeacon tangent]

Alright—let’s go back to the Sung Mass again in order to engage this crucial question: What parts of a Sung Mass are Sung?

Let’s start by looking at our resources. The loose-leaf Altar Book edition of the BCP has a Musical Appendix that begins on p. 215 and goes through p. 238. It includes:

  • Opening Acclamations for the various seasons and occasions
  • Salutations  for use before prayers
  • 2 Collect Tones (the first of which is specifically identified for the Collect for Purity)
  • Directions and tones on chanting the “Lessons Before the Gospel”
  • 2 Gospel Tones
  • Prayers of the People, Forms I and V
  • [The Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts) and Proper Prefaces are elsewhere in the book depending on rite, season or occasion]
  • The Christ Our Passover fraction anthem
  • 2 Invitation to Communion Tones
  • Blessings
  • Dismissals
  • Baptism Material

Hey, that’s quite a lot of material. Let’s flip over to the Hymnal now. The Eucharistic service music is found from S76 through S176. The Glorias are found in the Canticle section from S272 through S281. These items include:

  • Opening Acclamations (S76-83)
  • Kyries in Greek and English (S84-98)
  • Trisagion (S99-102)
  • Nicene Creed (S103-105)
  • Prayers of the People: Forms I, III, IV, and V (S106-109)
  • The Peace (S110-111)
  • Rite I Eucharistic Prayers
    • Sursum Corda (S112)
    • Sanctus (S113-117)
    • Conclusion of Prayer and Amen (S118)
    • Lord’s Prayer (S119)
  • Rite II Eucharistic Prayers
    • Sursum Corda (S120)
    • Sanctus (S121-131)
    • Memorial Acclamations (S132-141)
    • Conclusion of Prayer and Amen (S142)
    • Amen (S143-147)
    • Lord’s Prayer (S148-150)
  • Fraction Anthems (S151-172)
  • Episcopal Blessing with Responses (S173)
  • Dismissals (S174-176)
  • Glorias (S272-281)

Between the Hymnal and the Altar Book, the clergy and congregation have music for basically every part of the service except for the Confession of Sin, the middle parts of the Canon of the Mass, and the Post-Communion Prayer (both of which could be monotoned if you had to).

What I’ve seen in practice and what makes sense is to have a few different levels in the Sung Mass:

  • One where everything singable is sung except for the Lessons which are read
  • One where everything singable is sung on the Simple Tones
  • One where everything singable is sung on the Solemn Tones

These seem like good differences to distinguish between various parts of the liturgical year.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’ll notice an option that I don’t list here. In fact, one of the most commonly encountered Episcopal services isn’t found here. That’s the one where the service is said up until the Sursum Corda, then the Sursum Corda and the Proper Preface are sung and everything else is said.

This way of proceeding is common. It is also legal according to the rubrics of the prayer-book. But logically—theologically—what is this arrangement saying? That the Eucharist is a completely different kind of thing than what preceded it? Is this something that we want to be saying?

Galley is of the opinion that this is fine:

It is . . . important to point out that it is fully legitimate to sing [the Gloria and the Sanctus], or at least the Sanctus, even at celebrations at which there is no other music whatever. (It is also appropriate to sing the Sursum corda dialogue and the preface in such circumstances.) (Ceremonies of the Eucharist, 46)

Really? Why “appropriate”? To use my terminology, Galley is making the argument that the Gloria and the Sanctus should be considered songs and that, as in a Low Mass with hymns, they can be dropped in. I see his point here. In point of fact, these two parts of the Ordinary are angelic hymns in ways that the rest of the Ordinary is not. What does not make sense to me is the approval to then sing the Sursum corda and the Proper Preface that lead into the Sanctus without singing anything else. Again, what makes this appropriate? If the priest sings these parts, why not the rest? If the congregation can handle singing the Sursum corda dialogue and the Sanctus, then why not the Amen and other parts as well?

You wouldn’t usher in a subdeacon at the Offertory to switch a Sung Mass to a High Mass in the middle of a service. You wouldn’t sing the mass through the creed, then start speaking everything. So why speak until the Sursum corda and only then begin to sing?

Important Cafe Piece

I have a new piece up today at the Episcopal Café. It’s a response to Jim’s challenge that we start confronting the problems facing the Episcopal Church head on. In this piece, I focused on what I see as not negotiable. Clearly, the thing that I identify—the prayer-book—will be no surprise to regular readers.

The reason that I call this “important” is because I’ve done a couple of things here that I think are significant.

First, I’ve presented in a nutshell what I understand to be the animating spirituality behind the prayer-book system. This isn’t something that we talk about much. In most presentations that I’ve heard where clergy present the prayer-book to their congregations (when such a thing is even done), this is the biggest piece left absent.

Second, I’ve tried to be systemic and show how our Anglican spirituality ties to our liturgical practice and how that, in turn, identifies directions that we should head in. Now—if our chief goal is  revitalizing the Episcopal Church as a local political action committee, then my suggestions will be quite unhelpful. If we’re interested in revitalizing it as a prayer-book people, then these thoughts may be of more use. As other people write responses or posts of their own, this is the kind of thinking I hope we will see. Not just narrow suggestions on how to tweak organization or structure, but attention to the whole system going back to our first principles and an interest in how attention to these principles will help us develop a leaner but fitter body.

‘Cause, folks, “leaner” is coming whether we want it or not; our decision is whether we want it to be “fitter” and what that looks like.

Rising Spiritual Honesty?

Fr. Bryan Owen comments on a USA Today news story that’s been making its way around the religion blogs. It’s on what appears to be rising spiritual apathy among the young.

What struck me in this post was a quote from a guy who had written a book on the topic named Kinnaman:

Kinnaman himself says this: “‘Spiritual’ is the hipster way of saying they’re concerned with social injustice. But if you strip away the hipster factor, I’d estimate seven in ten young adults would say they don’t see much influence of God or religion in their lives at all.”

I think that what he says here is probably true for a certain segment of that group. But an even more important point is that we don’t all mean the same thing when we say “spiritual.”

But here’s the thing: I think it’s always been that way. I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. Rather, I think society is more permissive about people expressing what they think on these matters. Church is no longer one of the main social glues in American life. You won’t be missing out or harming yourself socially or professionally if you don’t go to church. Without church being one of required elements of conformist culture, there’s a new freedom to just say what you truly think on these things and to act on it.

I believe that people come hardwired with differing levels of religiosity. Some people seem to be just fine with the hour a week on Sunday morning thing. Others seem to be ok with even less than that. Questions about meaning, purpose, what it’s all about are just on different places on their radar screen. Some, like myself, think that these are some of the most important questions that we can ask and are continually wrestling with them.

On the other hand, I think that our culture is also getting better at dulling us to the import and impact of these questions. My evidence would be the tremendous growth of the entertainment and mass media industries over the past century. Humans have always had news, sports, music, entertainment—but never at levels like this before, and never so closely aligned and coordinated around a global consumer culture.

Fr. Owen is right; the church has a hard row to hoe. But these are my take-aways:

  • Just know that different people are looking to satisfy different levels of apparent religious need. Not everybody is going to be hardcore church people (We sometimes forget that.)
  • However, there can be a real difference between perceived religious need and actual religious need. Crises—whether societal or personal—are often the great drivers that make people sit up and take notice and realize that there actually is a gap between their perception and their true reality (but crises usually only provide a short window after which they go back to sleep).
  • We need to be providing a clear understanding of what “spiritual” really means (or “religious” for that matter) and encourage people to figure out what they think they mean when they say it. That’s an important part of developing an honest and authentic spirituality.

Preaching Polls

Ok—I need your help.

I’ve got some questions that I’d like some completely honest (and completely anonymous) answers to. I’m wondering about the process of preaching—particularly in terms of sermon composition—both from the clergy and the lay perspective. As a result, I’m going to put up a couple of informal, unscientific polls in order to get a sense of where things are for the clergy and the laity in the audience.

Like I said, this is completely anonymous. please don’t try to second-guess the questions, just lay it out there. I’d love some follow-up comments as well if you’ve got them or want to clarify an answer or add a more precise one. Again—be as public or as anonymous as you want to be.

If you’re wondering what this is for, it’s more coming out of my own curiosity as much as anything else. Folks who’ve been around for a while know my background–for those who haven’t hitting a few biography points may be helpful. I have a Ph.D. in New Testament but my main interest in the field is how the New Testament gets applied congregationally, particularly in preaching and the liturgy. Homiletics (the upscale term for preaching) was my outside area (secondary specialty) in my Ph.D.  I served a Lutheran congregation for a year as a pastoral intern and preached at least twice a month, often more, and did supply work before my move to the Episcopal Church. So I know what it’s like to write a sermon in the midst of a busy clergy schedule. I’ve also been a clergy spouse for 6+ years; I’ve seen my wife juggle sermon-writing with all of her other duties. I’ve taught 6 semesters of preaching n seminary in addition to my academic work so I know what’s taught and what pitfalls preaching teachers are trying to help their students avoid. I’ve also sat in congregations for 30+ years as a regular pew-warmer and listened to (and analyzed and judged) sermons from that perspective. All in all, I think I have a pretty well-rounded experience around the process. So—I know what I did when I preached; I know what my wife does when she preaches. What do you do? Or what do you want to hear?

(I’d also appreciate links to this post so I can get a wider set of responses!)

Please be honest—this is for posterity… :-)

For the Clergy…


For the Laity…

Chant Book Internet Reference

If you have any interest at all in Gregorian chant, then you must MUST visit this site: Gregorian chant books for the Roman Catholic liturgy. It’s the best source that I’ve seen anywhere that pulls together not only the massive corpus of chant materials but links to where such things can be found on the web.

In terms of medieval material, the editor only skims the top, pointing out the key manuscripts of the San Gall library and does not connect to the many other chant manuscripts in many other digitized collections around the web, but this does not at all diminish the vast volume of work that has gone into this.

They say that to the man who has a hammer the whole world looks like a nail. I’m more than guilty of this myself, but—as a database guy—I can’t help thinking that supplementing this long tabular format with a basic database interface for easy access would make it that much more useful.

h/t to Jeffrey Tucker and the good folks at the Chant Cafe.

Dates and the 7-Week Psalm Cycle

Alright, this post is more for my reference than anything else. I.e., this is a collection of a few random liturgical facts that are more necessary than important.

The Daily Office lectionary contained in the ’79 BCP has a 7-week psalm cycle.

The cycle begins on a Sunday when the psalms are 146, 147 (Morning) and 111, 112, 113 (Evening).

The cycle moves as follows:

  • It begins on the Week of 1 Advent.
  • It’s interrupted on the weekdays of Advent 4; Sunday is normal but the rest of the week is not. Some of the normal psalms of that course appear, but other ones are introduced not normally seen in this portion.
  • The numbered days after Christmas don’t follow the scheme either, but the psalms appointed for the First and Second Sundays after Christmas do replicate the next two Sundays from the psalm cycle.  (Actually, the evening of 2nd Chr doesn’t though the others do.)
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 1 Epiphany and moves through its completion at the end of  the Week of 7 Epiphany. Because it’s moving through Ordinary time with no intervening special events, this is the first full repetition of the unbroken cycle provided that we get to the Week of 7 Epiphany.
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 8 Epiphany. Note that it continues into the next printed week—the Week of Last Epiphany. Thus, even though the cycle is printed in continuous form, in years when Easter falls early—and thus when there are fewer weeks of Epiphany, both the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of this next one will be truncated in actual use.
  • Ash Wednesday receives proper psalms but other than that, the cycle rolls into Lent with no change.
  • Thursday of Lent 4 has a break in the cycle: 69 and 73 replace the two halves of 105, presumably because 105 ends with “Halleluiah.”
  • The Monday of Lent 5 likewise places 31 and 35 rather than the two halves of 106. Where normally we’d expect 140 & 142 on Friday Morning of Lent 5, they’ve been shifted to the evening before replacing 134 & 135. Ps 22 takes their place on Friday morning. The Eve of Palm Sunday (Saturday of Lent 5) ends the cycle with Pss 42, 43 replacing the usual 104.
  • Palm Sunday morning receives 24, 29—a standard Sunday morning set—but the rest of Holy Week and Easter 1 are proper.
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 2 Easter.
  • There is a minor interruption as the Eve and Day of the Ascension receive proper psalms.
  •  Both the Eve and Day of Pentecost follow the cycle, thus receiving standard Sunday cyclic psalms but not proper psalms.
  • At this point we do a little dance… Pentecost begins the last week of the cycle. The next printed day is the Eve and Day of Trinity but we’re going to ignore them for just a minute. The next day logically after Pentecost (pretending that Easter falls at its earliest point) are the week days of Proper 1 (recall that neither Propers 1 nor 2 have Sundays as in the years when these readings are used, Pentecost and Trinity would take the place of their Sundays). The psalms for the last week of the cycle are used to fill in the weekdays of Proper 1. Flipping back now to the printed order we see that Trinity receives the initial set and the weekdays for Proper 2 pick up the successive order meaning that…
  •    The cycle begins anew with Trinity Sunday & Proper 2 and runs through the Week of Proper 8. As with the end of the Time after Epiphany, though, the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of this cycle will likely be truncated in use depending on where Easter falls.
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 9 and runs through the Week of Proper 15. Depending on how the fall of Easter has affected things, this may be the first full cycle that you experience in some years!
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 16 and runs through the Week of Proper 22.
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 23 and finishes on the last day of the liturgical year on the Saturday of Proper 29.

One of the psalms every Wednesday is a part of Ps 119. It’s cut into seven portions which are read, alternating between morning and evening, through the body of the cycle.

The cycle repeats, either partially or completely, 8 times. The last three of each year are guaranteed to be complete (except, of course, for the psalms potentially skipped as detailed in the previous post…).

While it’s an interesting way to do it, I’d still rather stick with Cranmer’s 30 day scheme.

Squeamishness in the Psalter

I’m proof-reading lectionary tables again.  I must say it’s one of the worst parts of maintaining an electronic breviary…

However, I do have interesting things pass before my eyes. At the moment, I’m considering the pieces of the psalter that the ’79 BCP doesn’t want you to hear in public worship. The way I’m assessing this, is calling out all of the passages that are marked as optional and therefore skippable.

Parts of Psalms

  • Ps 21:8-14: “8   Your hand will lay hold upon all your enemies; *
    your right hand will seize all those who hate you.
    9     You will make them like a fiery furnace *
    at the time of your appearing, O LORD;
    10     You will swallow them up in your wrath, *
    and fire shall consume them.
    11     You will destroy their offspring from the land *
    and their descendants from among the peoples of the earth.
    12     Though they intend evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, *
    yet they shall not prevail.
    13     For you will put them to flight *
    and aim your arrows at them.
    14     Be exalted, O LORD, in your might; *
    we will sing and praise your power.”
  • Ps 110:6-7: “6     He will heap high the corpses; *
    he will smash heads over the wide earth.
    7     He will drink from the brook beside the road; *
    therefore he will lift high his head.”
  • Ps 63:9-11: “9     May those who seek my life to destroy it *
    go down into the depths of the earth;
    10     Let them fall upon the edge of the sword, *
    and let them be food for jackals.
    11     But the king will rejoice in God;
    all those who swear by him will be glad; *
    for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.”
  • Ps 139:18-23: “18     Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God! *
    You that thirst for blood, depart from me.
    19     They speak despitefully against you; *
    your enemies take your Name in vain.
    20     Do I not hate those, O LORD, who hate you? *
    and do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
    21     I hate them with a perfect hatred; *
    they have become my own enemies.
    22     Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
    try me and know my restless thoughts.
    23     Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
    and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”
  • Ps 68:21-23: “21     God shall crush the heads of his enemies, *
    and the hairy scalp of those who go on still in their wickedness.
    22     The Lord has said, “I will bring them back from Bashan; *
    I will bring them back from the depths of the sea;
    23     That your foot may be dipped in blood, *
    the tongues of your dogs in the blood of your enemies.””
  • Ps 69:24-30: “24     Let the table before them be a trap *
    and their sacred feasts a snare.
    25     Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, *
    and give them continual trembling in their loins.
    26     Pour out your indignation upon them, *
    and let the fierceness of your anger overtake them.
    27     Let their camp be desolate, *
    and let there be none to dwell in their tents.
    28     For they persecute him whom you have stricken *
    and add to the pain of those whom you have pierced.
    29     Lay to their charge guilt upon guilt, *
    and let them not receive your vindication.
    30     Let them be wiped out of the book of the living *
    and not be written among the righteous.”
  • Ps 109:5-19: “5     Set a wicked man against him, *
    and let an accuser stand at his right hand.
    6     When he is judged, let him be found guilty, *
    and let his appeal be in vain.
    7     Let his days be few, *
    and let another take his office.
    8     Let his children be fatherless, *
    and his wife become a widow.
    9     Let his children be waifs and beggars; *
    let them be driven from the ruins of their homes.
    10     Let the creditor seize everything he has; *
    let strangers plunder his gains.
    11     Let there be no one to show him kindness, *
    and none to pity his fatherless children.
    12     Let his descendants be destroyed, *
    and his name be blotted out in the next generation.
    13     Let the wickedness of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, *
    and his mother’s sin not be blotted out;
    14     Let their sin be always before the LORD; *
    but let him root out their names from the earth;
    15     Because he did not remember to show mercy, *
    but persecuted the poor and needy
    and sought to kill the brokenhearted.
    16     He loved cursing,let it come upon him; *
    he took no delight in blessing,
    let it depart from him.
    17     He put on cursing like a garment, *
    let it soak into his body like water
    and into his bones like oil;
    18     Let it be to him like the cloak which he wraps around himself, *
    and like the belt that he wears continually.
    19     Let this be the recompense from the LORD to my accusers, *
    and to those who speak evil against me.”
  • Ps 108:7-13: “7     God spoke from his holy place and said, *
    “I will exult and parcel out Shechem;
    I will divide the valley of Succoth.
    8     Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine; *
    Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my scepter.
    9     Moab is my washbasin,
    on Edom I throw down my sandal to claim it, *
    and over Philistia will I shout in triumph.”
    10     Who will lead me into the strong city? *
    who will bring me into Edom?
    11     Have you not cast us off, O God? *
    you no longer go out, O God, with our armies.
    12     Grant us your help against the enemy, *
    for vain is the help of man.
    13     With God we will do valiant deeds, *
    and he shall tread our enemies under foot.”
  • Ps 143:12: “12     Of your goodness, destroy my enemies
    and bring all my foes to naught, *
    for truly I am your servant.”
  • Ps 137:7-9: “7     Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD,
    against the people of Edom, *
    who said, “Down with it! down with it!
    even to the ground!”
    8     O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, *
    happy the one who pays you back
    for what you have done to us!
    9     Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, *
    and dashes them against the rock!”

Whole Psalms

  • Ps 53
  • Ps 59
  • Ps 58
  • Ps 60
  • Ps 70
  • Ps 79
  • Ps 83
  • Ps 100 (ok—this is understandable if the Jubilate is used as the Invitatory)
  • Ps 95 (I suppose here the concern is over-repetition of the Venite is the usual Invitatory)
  • Ps 120
  • Ps 127
  • Ps 133

Funny true story on one of these… On one of my first nursing home visits as a pastoral intern, the senior pastor and I went to one of the elderly women of the congregation. The pastor introduced me to her and said, “Oh, this guy’s great, you’ll love hearing him read you the psalms. Let’s see, your favorite is Ps 109, right? Derek–why don’t you read that one for her. “

So I did as I was told. That’s the one with that terrific cursing section in it and I remember thinking to myself as I was reading it: “Man, it sounds like we’ve got some *serious* end-of-life issues to deal with here around forgiveness!”

When I finished, there was a long pause, and she tactfully said, “Ah, I don’t actually think that was it…” as my senior pastor attempted to sink through the floor in embarrassment.