In pondering two volumes on my shelves, it occurs to me that they are taxonomically distinct. The first is the Deposited English 1928 BCP from Canterbury Press containing the Office readings (affectionately known as “the brick”); the other is my standard American 1979 BCP.
The Deposited ’28 is a missal/breviary combination with an affixed ordinal and ritual.
The ’79 BCP is a sacramentary/expanded psalter combination with an affixed ordinal and ritual.
I wonder what the significance of this is…
To expand on this briefly, a missal is itself a combination of books: a sacramentary (which contains the ordinaries and proper prayers of the Eucharist) + an evangeliary (the Gospel readings for the Mass) + an epistolary (the Other biblical readings from the Mass classically taken from the Epistles) + a gradual/mass antiphoner.
All English BCP and American BCPs before the ’79 have included the first three, and it’s worth the redundancy to underscore that the Gospels and Epistles for all Masses in the year were printed in the prayer book. The American 1979 BCP is the first to contain a lectionary list rather than the texts themselves.
The first English BCP made an attempt at a restricted protestant gradual but the second reduced it to a tiny vestige in the Offertory sentence and the pretense rather than the substance thereof has been maintained since. Where the ’79 BCP goes a step farther—arguably a large step farther—in regard to the gradual is in the clear recognition of its absence. At each point where an element would be sung from the gradual it provides permission for a “hymn, Psalm, or anthem” (with the exception of the readings where it suggests a “Psalm, hymn, or anthem” clearly intending the use of a gradual Psalm from its lectionary). Rather than pretend that the space has been filled or that no space exists, it draws attention to the space within the service.
A breviary is likewise a combination of Office books: a psalter (which contained a kalendar, the psalms, the canticles, and some of the commons of the hours) + a legendary (which gave the readings and, in some taxonomies, itself incorporates the homiliary, Bible, and Martyrology from which these readings are drawn) + a collectar (which gave the collects both proper and ordinary—and sometimes a sacramentary was used instead as it already had the collects) + an antiphoner (which had the propers) + a hymnal.
BCPs have always contained an expanded psalter with an integral collectar thanks to the repurposing of the Mass collects; the antiphoner was largely dropped at the Reformation. Both readings and hymns appear in some printings and not others.
The conclusion that I draw is that the ’79 BCP appears to present itself as a more taxonomically primitive rite whose historical analogs flourished in the early medieval period of the Western liturgy.
So—what are the take-aways here? I don’t know, I’m still working through them. I can think of two, however:
- The text of the ’79 BCP requires more supplementary material and books in order to create a complete rite. At the very least, a valid rite whether Mass or Office cannot be performed without a Bible or a lectionary book of readings whereas at least Mass could be said with no other sources in the past.
- As we see in the early medieval rites, the lack of incorporation of more elements gives a greater flexibility—which is sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes neutral. We can’t fail to observe that this flexibility has already been significantly leveraged: the mass lectionary originally printed in the ’79 book has already been removed and the Revised Common Lectionary put in its place.
I’m still thinking—what are your thoughts?