Fr. Griffiths at Hypersync presents a call for Prayer Book Anglicans at the same time that a very thoughtful post by Fr. Haller makes the rounds and shows up on the Cafe. There’s an interesting, inevitable and contructive tension between these two reflections. One polarity is the call to continuity, consistency and stability in the call back to prayer book faithfulness. The other polarity is the recognition of basic reality: there is no monolithic prayer book that contains and describes the whole of the Anglican Way; while the English 1662 BCP has a special claim given its long-standing status and its role during the era of imperalistic evangelism, the Laudian prayer book (Scottish 1637 BCP) and its American offspring should not be denied their proper place. Furthermore, not all the changes motivated by the broad Liturgical Renewal following Vatican II (contained in the American 1979 BCP and other recent national variants) should be excluded as aberrations as some of these changes put far firmer historical footing on the intentions signalled by Archbishop Cranmer in the preface to the 1549 BCP.
Between these polarities, I believe there is a constructive tension that can responsibly be called Prayer Book Anglicanism that is not static but holds within itself possibilities including my preferred position–Prayer Book Catholicism. I would suggest that this position can best be staked out by a set of indispensible liturgical texts from which Anglicans draw their core theology and identity. Here’s my thesis–I’d love to hear your thoughts and disagreements…
Central Thesis: The heart of all Anglican Books of Common Prayer and thus the heart of the Anglican Path of Spirituality is the complimentary use of the Mass and the Office within the structure of the Liturgical Year.
Common crucial Mass texts include:
- The Collect for Purity
- Gospel and non-Gospel Reading(s) keyed to the mysteries of the Liturgical Year
- the Nicene Creed
- The Canon of the Eucharistic Prayer (This last is, historically, the most problematic, as Christopher and others more knowledgeable than I can attest. However, I believe that a general precis of characteristics can be identified including the distinctive double epiclesis where the Holy Spirit is invoked upon both the eucharistic elements of the bread and wine and the echaristic element of the gathered congregation [[yes–I know it’s not in all books–it’s still characteristically Anglican…])
Common crucial Office texts include:
- Regular constant repetition of the Psalter as the heart of the Office
- A lectionary that attempts to cover a vast amount if not the whole of Scripture within a set period
- Regular if not daily repetition of: the Te Deum, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis
- The Apostles Creed
- A seasonal pattern that leads us to reflect upon the mysteries of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of our Lord through the lenses of various aspects of our Lord’s words and works. I.e., minimally Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter
- a yearly recollection of a handful of stars that form the great and brilliant constellation of the Communion of the Saints including saints from the Scriptures and through the scope of Christian history
- A body of collects, mutable though rooted in historical precedents, that bind both Mass and Office to the framework of the year
Wanna be a Prayer Book Anglican? Then I’d suggest that these are the materials we need to be mastering. Not just using, but reflecting upon, digging into, and embodying as we attempt to live our faith. Mastering–as we offer and present unto the Lord our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice in order–not to live into a label, even as one as great as “Anglican”–but into the life in which we are hid with Christ in God.