The Carrow Psalter: At the Beginning

It started out a grey and rather yucky day in Baltimore. I decided we needed some pretty pictures. So—here are some pretty pictures. They’re from the Carrow Psalter. It’s a psalter written in East Anglia, the Norfolk/Suffolk/Cambridgeshire area part of England that used to be the heartland of the old Danelaw. Written in the mid-thirteenth century, it appears at Carrow Abbey (near Norwich—still within East Anglia) at some point in its fairly early history. And, yes, this is abbey where Julian of Norwich was said to have received her training. (Indeed, if a certain expert on Julian wants to weigh in further, that would be much appreciated!) Could she have seen or even used this psalter? Who knows. I’d like to think so!

In addition to the Julian connection, I like this book because of one of the saints who figures prominently in it is St. Olaf. Here we’re likely seeing some of the old cultural connections from the Anglo-Scandinavian character of the Anglian area. It’s significant to me as I’m an alum of St. Olaf College.

Finally, I picked it because this book’s shelfmark is W. 34. The “W” signifies that it is one of the holdings of the Walters Art Museum, meaning that this book currently sits 1.7 miles away from my house…

Here’s the url linking to the full manuscript from the Digital Walters: W.34, Carrow Psalter.


PeterAndPaul

The psalter opens with this full page spread of Peter and Paul with facing collects. Following traditional iconography, Peter has the keys, Paul has a sword and is bald on top. The collects are relatively straightforward. The Early Church knew of the dust-up between the two described in Galatians 2, but the tradition describes them patching up their difficulties and the story is told of their joint martyrdom in Rome. Liturgically, the two are connected because whenever a feast of one was celebrated, the collect of the other was included as a commemoration immediately thereafter. That’s basically what we have here—the collect from the Chair of St Peter followed immediately by the commemoration of Paul.

BarnabasAndJohn

Here’s the next full page spread. If you can see up at the top above the figures, they are labelled St. Barnabas and John the Evangelist. However, if you look very carefully at the second collect, you may notice something odd. It mentions “gemini” (twins) and names both John and Paul (beatorum iohannis et pauli). Yeah—it’s the wrong John and Paul… Somehow the scribe has inserted the collect for the 4th century martyr brothers John and Paul who have an ancient titular church in Rome built over their tomb (which was also one of the “stations” where papal masses were held), and who are celebrated on June 26th. Not John the Evangelist.

After these two there are four more full-page spreads each having two saints—mostly apostles—and a collect. The sense you get is that the psalter begins with the 12 apostles (2 saints, 6 pages, sure, why not?). Except that Barnabas was a companion of Paul, not an apostle, and the last pair includes a very generic and surprisingly well-groomed John the Baptist. Luke’s list of disciples is being followed but we’re missing Philip and the second  James (and, of course, Judas Iscariot would round out the Twelve count but Paul is in his place. No Matthias either.)

So—there are some pretty pictures from interesting manuscript that raise a variety of questions! Hopefully we’ll dip back more into this psalter in the future.

 

Posted in Liturgy, Medieval Stuff, Saints | 3 Comments

Thinking about the SCLM

I received a fairly annoyed note today from a regular reader and correspondent; in a nutshell, the message expressed a deep concern about whether the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) was actually listening to what the church wants or needs. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked something like this.

Indeed, M sometimes tells me that much of the work of the SCLM that I do seems like a waste of time as most people within the church ignore what it produces.

In a certain sense, this is generally not an issue. That is, in most triennia, it appears that we on the SCLM offer resolutions that create work for us to do, then we go and do that work that we have decided ought to be done and—as M points out—most of the church yawns and goes on with their usual business.

But things are changing.

Thanks to two resolutions, (A169-2015 and D060-2015) we are now considering both hymnal revision and prayer book revision at the same time.

As a result, the way that we listen to the church, hear the church, and seek to implement the will of the church becomes much more important with regard to these two areas than, say, when we decide that liturgies for creation need tweaking.

What are your thoughts? What is the best way for “the church” writ large to interact with the SCLM? What’s the best way for us to communicate with you? What would help you have an authentic voice in the process and to help us hear what the body of the church is asking for? The SCLM does have a blog—is that useful? Is it sufficient? Let me know. I can’t promise anything, of course, but I would like to hear your thoughts…

Posted in Anglican | Tagged | 10 Comments

Back to the Keys

I’ve been occupied with quite a number of things over the last several weeks, but I’m on my way back to regular blogging.

For those of you who read The Anglican Digest, the Autumn issue opens with a piece from me. Naturally, I’d urge you to read it!  (I don’t see it up yet at their main site, but you can see the Autumn issue on their Scribd feed.)My piece may be familiar to long-time readers, it’s an edit of something I originally published several years ago at the Cafe, and I still regard it as one of my favorite essays.

While you’re there, definitely check out the rest of the issue as well. There’s a very interesting line-up of people with content ranging from the devotional to the pastoral to the theological; this issue has a particular focus on the Communion of the Saints. I used to be a faithful reader of TAD but dropped off a while ago; it’s under new editorial management now by two solid folks who should be well known to Episcopal blog readers, Fr. Anthony Clavier and  Catherine Salmon (verger extraordinaire and daughter of Retired Bishop Salmon). They’ve been at the helm for about a year now, and are breathing new life back into it.

Duty calls—more later!

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Thoughts on the Creeds

A dust-up over the use of the creeds in worship is circulating on Facebook again connected to this post on Fr. Arnold’s blog (now joined by this post by Fr. Hendrickson). I do think that discussion about the creeds is useful and ought to be done quite a lot particularly because I think a lot of people aren’t exactly clear on what they’re for and why we have them.

I address the creed in a couple of different ways in my book on the spirituality of the prayer book that the folks at Forward Movement tell me will be coming out by the end of the year (yay!). In particular, I talk about how the creed serves as a set of hermenetuical boundaries for reading Scripture, but that part of the real genius of our liturgical system is that the Christian Year itself is a slow-motion meditation on the creed. Here’s my first draft of that discussion.

Truthfully, though, that was my second go-around on that topic. A decade ago (!!)  one of the first prolonging things that I wrote on this blog was a two-part discussion of the creeds that works through reading practices in Christian Antiquity, Origen, the place of the creeds in a clash of worldviews, and even some wrestling with (famous 20th century biblical guy) Rudolf Bultmann! You can find them here:

The Creeds I

The Creeds II

(These are the sort of posts that make me think I may want to troll through my old posts and craft some of them into essays…)

Posted in Anglican, Theology | 1 Comment

On the Identity of the Ungodly

As I was praying Morning Prayer, I was briefly distracted going through the psalms because I couldn’t remember for the life of me what Cassiodorus and Augustine had said about Psalm 10. Psalm 11 was no issue—actually, I’ve got a post lurking in my brain dealing with the opening lines of Psalm 11—but 10 was a blank until I finally figured out what was ging on…

Here’s the start of Psalm 10 as I read it from the ’79 BCP:

  Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, *
and hide yourself in time of trouble?
  The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor, *
but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.
  The wicked boast of their heart’s desire; *
the covetous curse and revile the LORD.
  The wicked are so proud that they care not for God; *
their only thought is, “God does not matter.”
  Their ways are devious at all times; your judgments are far above out of their sight; *
they defy all their enemies.
  They say in their heart, “I shall not be shaken; *
no harm shall happen to me ever.”
  Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; *
under their tongue are mischief and wrong….

Now—here is the start of Psalm 10 as found in the psalter of the ’28 BCP:

   WHY standest thou so far off, O LORD, *
and hidest thy face in the needful time of trouble?
   The ungodly, for his own lust, doth persecute the poor: *
let them be taken in the crafty wiliness that they have imagined.
   For the ungodly hath made boast of his own heart’s desire, *
and speaketh good of the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
   The ungodly is so proud, that he careth not for God, *
neither is God in all his thoughts.
   His ways are alway grievous; *
thy judgments are far above out of his sight, and therefore defieth he all his enemies.
   For he hath said in his heart, Tush, I shall never be cast down, *
there shall no harm happen unto me.
   His mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and fraud; *
under his tongue is ungodliness and vanity….

See the difference? It’s the difference between the plural and the singular.

For the Church Fathers, Psalm 10 was not really Psalm 10, but the second part of Psalm 9. Following the Septuagint (the 2nd century BC Greek translation), the Vulgate retained the acrostic structure lurking in the Hebrew and kept the two parts together; the Hebrew manuscripts and our English versions following the Hebrew separated them into two different psalms.

Augustine starts off his interpretation of Psalm 9 with a twofold indentification. The psalm starts in the “voice of the Lord” and therefore the “enemy” referred to in VgPs 9:4 (inimicum meum) is identified as Satan particularly since Augustine connects “retrorsum” with the “get behind me” of Jesus in Matt 16. But Augustine also says, “If, however, we prefer to understand the phrase, my enemy, more generally as a sinner or pagan, that will not be out of line” before concluding that the phrase “is more fittingly understood as spoken in relation to the devil.”

(Jerome, in his very brief Homily 4 on the Psalms, also brings the devil into it, noting VgPs9:29 thus: “Notice what the psalm says about the devil, he lurks in ambush with the rich. It is almost impossible for the rich man to be rich without robbing the poor.”)

 

At verse 19 and 20 (the end of our Psalm 9) Augustine brings in the Antichrist as the one who will be set over the heathen as “lawgiver” (a term not in our version/translation; here’s the Douay-Rheims for comparison). The Antichrist is that “lawgiver” and Augustine brings in the Antichrist a few more times as he considers the “ungodly” in the rest of the psalm.

Cassiodorus takes the hints that Augustine drops and develops the second part of the psalm as a prophetic narrative concerning the Antichrist and the unfolding of the last days. In his reading, the “ungodly” is not a singular noun collectively pointing to bad people but is pretty clearly the Antichrist. Within the psalm, then, Cassiodorus finds a fairly detailed account of the rise of the Antichrist and his actions against the poor and righteous which he bolsters by tying verbal details from the psalm into other passages across both the Old and New Testaments.

(At the same time, though, Cassiodrus insists on a historical reading at the start of the psalm, and, while Augustine brings in the devil at verse 4, Cassiodorus goes in a *completely* different direction: “Though David had many enemies, here we appropriately think only of Saul.”)

So—singular and plural terms in the psalms (or other Scriptures) can lead us in very different directions. The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin use the singular term (impius)  which leads the Fathers down one particular road. Yes, impious can be a collective noun, and Augustine reads it like that at points, but the use of the singular also moves them in the direction of a singular figure. Even though the BCP retains “wicked” as a collective, the use of plural verbs and then plural pronouns would never lead us in that direction.

What’s my point, then, to touch off a screed against inclusive language? No. Simply to make the observation that textual details matter. Certain textual features enable, suggest, or recommend reading in certain ways and close off other lines of interpretation. The shifting of grammatical number (from singular to plural) alters the way that we encounter the psalms. Psalm 1 and Psalm 10 are central examples. The Church Fathers identified the singularly evil person in Psalm 10 as the Antichrist; similarly, they saw the singularly blessed man in Psalm 1 as Christ.

We don’t.

Posted in Patristics, Scripture | Tagged | 5 Comments

A Great Slog of Witnesses

A few days ago I finally pushed “send” and A Great Cloud of Witnesses (GCW) went off to the chair and co-chair of the SCLM for them to steward along the path to publication.

You have no idea how happy I am to have that out the door… Over the years, I’ve begun categorizing the various projects that I have agreed to do. The most difficult are those I refer to as “tar babies.” These are the projects that I’m not particularly fond of, but must do, and that seem to soak up a disporportionate amount of time and emotional energy, preventing me from working on anything else. GCW was one of these. But the bulk of the work is now complete as it moves on to other stages.

A few thoughts at this point in the process…

1. I’m still not particularly happy with GCW, but I do think that it was the best we could do at this time. As I’ve said before, if it were up to me, the calendar would consist largely of martyrs, monks, mystics, and Marian feasts (the 4M kalendar….). But it’s not up to me, and it’s not my calendar. Starting from Holy Women, Holy Men and the responses we received from that, I think this was the best possible option, though, given where the church is.

2. I’m more convince than ever that “first” is not a theological category. Indeed, “first-ness” may well be a good litmus test for determining if a given calendar is eschatologically-oriented or historically-oriented. GCW, like HWHM before it, is primarily oriented towards history. Is that in keeping with the classic Christian conception of a sanctoral calendar? No. Is that in keeping with where the Episcopal Church is right now? Well—yes… But hopefully this will change at some point in the future.

3. I think the use of expanded commons will be a true benefit for two reasons. First, I think we had some fairly tortured readings in HWHM because we didn’t want to re-use readings and we wanted them to be appropriate. When you’ve got 287 lesser feasts to work with this becomes quite challenging! Giving a good range for local communities to select from makes far more sense. Second, it becomes much more clear that these readings are not now (and have never been!) intended for use with the Daily Office. The readings for Lesser Feasts & Fasts have always been for Eucharists, not for the Office.

4. There are a lot of really interesting people and true saints in GCW. I am glad that the church is being exposed to them. It is a decent starting place for exploring our history as Episcopalians and Christians as well as a means for getting to know those who are presently interceding with and for us.

5. We’ll see how the tags get used. There are two different kinds of tags in the resource–liturgical use tags and biographical tags. The liturgical use tags are those that indicate what liturgical materials to use for Eucharistic celebrations; these are balanced between the sanctoral commons and the Propers for Various Occasions. I do hope we’ll begin to see an expanded awareness and use of the later. The biographical tags are tags intended to help readers categorize and connect figures and groups of figures together. These identify things like ordination status, church community, time, place, and also charisms and virtues represented by the variou figures. Clearly, these will be more useful in an electronic version of the resource than a print publication—we’ll see what comes of that.

Hopefully, posting will become more regular now that this is done!

Posted in Anglican, Saints | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Repeat Performance: Talking Mary with the Collect Call

When Brendan and Holli invited me to appear as a guest on The Collect Call podcast, they were recording a double-header. The first was on the collect for the Eucharist, the second was on the collect for the Feast of St. Mary which is now up in time for the feast today.

I did have to bail early to deal with some familial turmoil, but before that point had a great chat with them.

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Talking Eucharist with The Collect Call

We just returned from the summer’s second major trip; M was doing the triathlon national championships in Wisconsin. I’d hoped to see some blog folks while we were up there, but between race preparations and managing children very little of that actually happened…

However, others were busy while I was gone and I returned to find that the new episode of The Collect Call is up—and I’m on it! I’m talking about the collect for the Holy Eucharist with Brendan and Holli, and stray off into other topics as well. Communion without Baptism, alien abduction, the usual… Check it out!

Posted in Administrative, Sacraments | Leave a comment

Another Name for Essentialism

When I saw this post, “Secular holiness, or how to be happy in the zombie apocalypse,” over on Covenant, I knew I had to pick up and read the book to which it was referring. The book is called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. The review on Covenant and conversations that M and I have been having for months made it a no-brainer.

M gave me the book yesterday for my birthday; according to my Kindle I’m 53% through it at the moment, and it is—indeed—what I expected and hoped for so far.

M and I have diagnosed the situation that we live in as one of constant and tragic over-commitment. Indeed, looking at our lives and the lives of our friends and family, we think that this is the condition of most folks in our general situation. Stated succinctly, middle-aged, middle-class parents have more going on than we can handle; busy-ness, anxiety, and turmoil are defining features of our mental and spiritual landscapes.

McKeown’s book offers a philosophy—Essentialism—to address this situation. It doesn’t offer a coping mechanism to help you handle it all better but advocates a complete shift of habits and intentions to root out the problem altogether: less but better.  The reasons why I feel so attracted to what he is saying in this slim volume is because, in the review above and in the brief sample I read, I recognized that McKeown is not saying anything new. Indeed, he’s been saying something that we in the church have had in our bag of tricks for a very long time.

“Essentialism” is business-speak for “simplicity.”

Christian simplicity and teachings about it—and even some of its secular variants like the Minimalism movement—often focus on “stuff:” specifically, having less of it. But that’s not what it’s really about. Simplicity isn’t about stuff, it’s about focus. You put your energy and your resources on the correct focus and pare away the distractions and irrelevancies that take up so much of our time and space. Yes, at the end of the day there’s less stuff and you’re better off for it—but you can’t get stuck in the stuff or even the lack of it lest you miss that the point is focus!

I haven’t said a whole lot about my Lenten project, in part because I’m still mulling it over—and this book and the lines of thought associated with it is helping me with concepts and vocabulary to better understand it. For instance, I realized this morning that when I added categories to to my time-tracker I did so on an ad hoc, as-needed basis. That is the perfect illustration of letting external people and projects define and claim my time! I’m thinking the far better way is for me to define my time and categories—and if something doesn’t fall within those pre-defined sections, it’s something to decline…

Church often presents itself as anther institution vying for my time and attention amidst the host of other demands. Too, often we as church people present and push it in this way and with this language. Just think—part of our accepted wisdom (likely through the channels of The Purpose-Driven Church and books of its ilk) is that once a person or family starts attending, you need to get them on a committee or plug them into a small group to keep them engaged. Really? I recognize the intention and it does make sense. I think the intention is good, but too often the language or application is off:  where I’m standing, this is precisely another demand on time, my most limited resource. If the option is to accept the time-demand or go away, many will choose (or are choosing, or have chosen) the easier of the two options and just go away…

McKeown makes a point fairly early in the book, “What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?” The society never will; these things are the grease that make it all go, the bedrock of a consumer-driven materialism.

But the church must.

I think this is part of where I’m heading with all of this. For people in my situation, the church can’t simply be one more demand on my time. Instead, it must offer a profoundly different vision of what the world is and what our place within it can look like. This is a central spiritual undertaking for our time: How do we conceive and communicate Christian simplicity as a workable means of focusing on what truly matters while yet addressing the fundamental practicalities of embodied existence?

Posted in Holistic/Regular Life, Spirituality | 2 Comments

Rite III EP for the Young: A Modest Proposal

Background

The ’79 Book of Common Prayer has two formal “rites.” “Rite I” uses traditional language and retains a direct connection with the classical Anglican liturgies of the earlier Books of Common Prayer; “Rite II” uses contemporary language and reflects the influence of the 20th century Liturgical Renewal Movement. In addition to these, though, sometimes the informal label of “Rite III” is given to the Eucharistic Prayer material under the heading “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” on pages 400-405. Not truly a separate rite, this collection of materials offers even more flexibility in the celebration of the Eucharist. The idea here is that this section gives a general framework and requires only certain given texts that nail down parts of the Eucharistic prayer. The presence of these elements is intended to ensure that even in its widely permissive flexibility there will be some core elements that align with our understanding of Episcopal common prayer.

Now—I’ve written quite a bit before about the Book of Common Prayer as a contract within the congregation. In a sense, the book protects the laity from the whims of the clergy. The text is the text and we’ve all agreed together that this is the material we’re going to use. Given that perspective, I’m not a huge fan of “Rite III” because it alters that balance of power; clergy, in their eagerness to be fresh and relevant, can do what they like without the input of the laity upon whom it is being inflicted.

The Rite III material has two brief rubrics directing its use on the top of page 400:

This rite requires careful preparation by the Priest and other participants.

It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

One of the actions of General Convention that I watched with great trepidation was D050: Authorizing “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” as a Principal Service. In its original form, it would have essentially nullified the second rubric above and made the Rite III option equal with the other two. This was not to be, though, and the version passed by Convention was altered to include some ecclesiastical oversight. Here’s the current text that passed:

Resolved,  the House of Deputies concurring, That a bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority may authorize a congregation to use “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” (BCP pp. 400-405) at a principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, if the Eucharistic Prayer is written and submitted in advance of its use to the Bishop; while the BCP states that the rite “is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist,” the BCP does not forbid its use in such contexts.

If we were going to do this, this is a good way to do it. Its chief thrust is to ensure that a Sunday/principal Rite III prayer is a written text, not something ad libbed off the top of the priest’s head. (That can be done on weekdays and non-principal liturgies, though.)

As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” so—in that spirit—here’s my own Rite III liturgy. Bishops, feel free to give this your ecclesiastical blessing… In particular, I’m orienting this towards the young, defined generally in the Episcopal Church as any one below the age of 55.

The Rules

Rite III provides a general pattern, a “shape of the liturgy” if you will, then two forms (Form 1 or Form 2). You can either use the Eucharistic Prayers from Rite One or Rite Two or you can use one of these two forms both of which are a combination of set texts and flexible general directions for what sort of material ought to appear in what order.

I’ll also note the presence of  the permission on page 14 of the BCP permitting that “the contemporary idiom may be conformed to traditional language.” Too, I’ll also agree with the editors of the Anglican Service Book that conforming liturgies to traditional language involves more than swapping in “thees” and “thous.” Word order, syntax, and cadence are also important and need to be considered as well.

That having been said, here’s my version utilizing Form 2

The Prayer Itself

Celebrant: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you all.
People: And with thy spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.

Celebrant: It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.

[Incorporates or adapts the Proper Preface of the Day.]

…Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

Celebrant and People
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord most High.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Celebrant: 

Almighty and everliving God, which by thy holy Apostle hast taught us to make prayers and supplications, and to give thanks for all men ; We humbly beseech thee most mercifully to receive
these our prayers, which we offer unto thy divine Majesty; beseeching thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord: and grant, that all they that
do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love.Most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, and we ask that thou accept and bless these gifts, these presents, these holy and unspoiled sacrifices. We offer them unto thee, first, for thy holy catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep it in peace, to guard, unite, and govern it throughout the whole world; together with thy servant N., our Bishop and all the faithful guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith.Remember, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids [N. and N.] and all who here around us stand, whose faith is known unto thee and their steadfastness manifest, on whose behalf we offer unto thee, or who themselves offer unto thee, this sacrifice of praise; for themselves, and for all who are theirs; for the redemption of their souls, for the hope of their salvation and safety; and who offer their prayers unto thee, the eternal God, the living and the true.United in one communion, we venerate the memory, first of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ; of Joseph her spouse; as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddaeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Xystus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and of all thy Saints: grant that by their merits and prayers we may in all things be defended with the help of thy protection.

O God, heavenly Father, which of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world ; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to celebrate a perpetual memory of that
his precious Death, until his coming again:

We beseech thee then, O Father, graciously to accept this oblation from us thy servants, and from thy whole family: order thou our days in thy peace, and bid us to be delivered from eternal damnation, and to be numbered in the fold of thine elect through Christ our Lord.

On the night in which he was betrayed unto suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks unto thee, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink ye all of this: For this is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it for the remembrance of me.”

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants do celebrate and make here before thy divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, the memorial which thy Son hath commanded us to make: having in remembrance his blessed Passion, mighty Resurrection, and glorious Ascension, we await his coming in glory: rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumberable benefits procured unto us by the same; entirely desiring thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, this memorial of our redemption; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the Merits and Death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his Blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his Passion.

Vouchsafe to look upon these gifts with a merciful and pleasant countenance; and to accept them, even as thou didst vouchsafe to accept the gifts of thy servant Abel the Righteous, and the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham; and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate victim, which thy high priest Melchisedech offered unto thee.

Vouchsafe, O God, we beseech thee, in all things to make this oblation blessed, approved and accepted, a perfect and worthy offering: Sanctify it by thy Holy Ghost that it may become for thy people the Body and Blood of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.

Remember also, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids, [N. and N.], who have gone before us sealed with the seal of faith, and who sleep the sleep of peace. To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech thee to grant the abode of refreshing, of light, and of peace through the same Christ our Lord.

To us sinners also, thy servants, who hope in the multitude of thy mercies, vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship with thy holy Apostles and Martyrs; with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and with all thy Saints, within whose fellowship, we beseech thee, admit us, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses; through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create all these good things; dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us;

By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. AMEN.

What is this?

It’s a proper Rite III prayer that follows the rules as I understand them. It’s a mash-up of the Tudor-era canon of the Mass attributed to Miles Coverdale (though likely not by him), the Eucharistic canon of the 1549 prayer book particularly as adapted in the current Rite I, and the required texts laid down in Form 2.

Is this some kind of a joke?

Well, maybe some kind… But for the most part—no.

Here’s the thing. Those who champion Rite III and its ilk assume that what the church needs is to become more informal. Take a look at the broader culture. Things are far more informal in our dress and in our speech than we were in prior decades. We watch Downton Abbey and marvel at the array of clothing for each meal, occasion, and time of day, the intricate codes of what was appropriate at one moment, season, or gathering but not for another. We’re not like that anymore. Only a few places exist in our everyday world where I can’t go in a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of sandals.

But is the inherent corrollary of this movement that the liturgy of our churches should necessarily become more informal?

For one thing, I’m developing a suspicion of the notion of “liturgical evangelism”—that a (if not “the”) primary function of our liturgy ought to be not scare off newcomers. We must be welcoming and hospitable—absolutely—but what does that mean and what does it look like? Are we being hospitable, truly welcoming stangers and vistitors to something, if we suppress or jettison altogether our identity and integrity?

For another there’s a difference between informality at church and informality in the language of the liturgy. The language of this liturgy does not care if you are slumming it in flip-flops or rockin’ a three-piece. That has far more to do with, once again, practices of hospitality within the gathered community.

For yet another thing, I perceive among myself and my circle of friends a reaction against some of our current culture’s informality. In my house we call it the Mad Men effect.  There is, particularly on the part of younger Gen-X and Gen-Y folks a desire for some of the structure—and style—that we think we see in Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and other perceptions of the Time Before the Sixties. There was a clarity there in roles and responsibilities we find lacking in today’s world. I’m very sensitive that this is a nostalgia for something we never actually experienced. That’s a whole other topic that we’ll get into some other day. The point I’m making here is that those looking for depth and authenticity increasingly hard to find in a shallow consumer-centered culture may be looking for something else. Perhaps language redolent of long-lived experience that actually is in direct contact with over a thousand years of Christian tradition is what they’re hungering for.

The line I’ve heard most frequently since prayer book revision was announced is: I hope they keep Rite I. And it’s not been old people saying this either.

Our culture has informality—but it lacks transcendence. A liturgy of this sort has transcendence in spades.

Surprise!

One last observation before wrapping up. I’d argue that this Eucharistic Prayer actually does a better job of representing baptismal ecclesiology than some in the ’79 prayer book. Note the two lists of saints and the references to the local community, both living and dead, imaged in the prayer. This prayer sketches the Body of Christ more fully by naming specific people and categories with whom we gather when we pray not named in our current prayers.

Bottom Line

Prayer Book revision is coming. Rite 3 approval has occured. We will be entering into a time of experimenting with liturgy and liturgical patterns. I urge us to be broad and diverse in our experimentation. My fear is that we will only think about experimentation and diversity in narrow ways–things that are more informal and less structured. But that’s only one direction out of a host of others. Exploring the riches of our past has got to be a part of the picture as well.

Posted in Anglican, Sacraments, Trial Liturgy | 10 Comments