There’s more discussion emerging on the blogs about the proposed replacement for Lesser Feasts & Fasts—Holy Women, Holy Men.
Christopher’s latest post points to both Mark Harris and Dan Martins and their debate on the issue. I made some initial comments on it here. Too, I had this work much on my mind when I wrote my recent post on the saints for the Episcopal Cafe. In that post I talked two issues primarily. The first—on whether saints needed to be baptized and conscious followers of Jesus—was directed toward Donald Schell’s previous posts. The second—on the meaning of sanctity itself and the notion of eschatological power—was directed as much if not more to the issues raised by HWHM than to Donald.
I’ve been wrestling much with this issue. The that end, I’ll tak out some of my concerns as as we move forward.
First, what are the directly theological consequences?: I’m concerned about what this document says about how we consider the dead. Do we simply have the dead we remember, the dead we emuylate, or do we still believe in the Blessed Dead? The question is equal parts Christology, ecclesiaology and pneumatology. Are those who sleep in Christ still active on our behalf or can they function and assist us only as we remember them and their deeds? Out of curiosity, I looked at one of the “new” feasts—the re-inclusion of St Cecilia—and the collects appointed. The Tridentine and Anglican Missal collects are functionally the same:
O GOD, which makest us glad with the yearly
festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and
Martyr : grant, we beseech thee ; that as we do
venerate her in our outward office, so we may follow
the example of her godly conversation. Through.
A few notes… First, despite some protestant concerns, the prayer is not directed to the saint but to God. However, it does note that we “venerate” her as well as “follow the example of her godly conversation (piae conversationis; ‘godly life’ works too…)” Furthermore, the collect offers two reasons why we venerate her: she was a virgin who dedicated her life to the service of God rather then men (literally); she was a martyr who took the faith seriously enough that she died for it.
Now the new collect:
Most gracious God, whose blessed martyr Cecilia didst sing in her heart to strengthen her
witness to thee: We thank thee for the makers of music whom thou hast gifted with
Pentecostal fire; and we pray that we may join with them in creation’s song of praise until
at the last, with Cecelia and all thy saints, we come to share in the song of those
redeemed by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and
reignest, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
A quite different collect with a different emphasis and theology. “Martyr” remained in (I’m pleasantly surprised…), “Virgin” did not (no surprise). The heart of the collect, though, is to use Cecilia as a particular example of a general group: “the makers of music”. The collect is really about these and not Cecilia. No veneration, no example, rather a hope that we join with makers of music now and “at the last”.
Skipping down a couple of days to St John of the Cross (I don’t understand Friar John’s compaint—this date is the Tridentine one) we see a similar thing. Here’s the old collect:
O GOD, who didst give to thy blessed Confessor
Saint John, grace to shew forth a singular
love of perfect self-denial and of carrying thy
Cross : grant, we beseech thee ; that we, cleaving
steadfastly to his pattern, may attain to everlasting
And now the new:
Judge eternal, throned in splendor, who gavest Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and
mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed thy light
on all who love thee, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy
Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Once again, Juan de la Cruz becomes a particular example of a general group (“all who love thee”) and neither his intercessions nor example are asked for us.
To summarize: In these collects selected at random there’s no intercession and even the idea of following the saint’s example is not explicit. Rather, the saints are particular instances of a general group upon whom we ask God’s favor. Thus, the saints are not isolated as examples but highlighted as specific instances of general groups.
Second, what is the direct liturgical effect of these additions?: The sanctoral cycle, its size and scope, has always been an issue in Christian liturgy. Saints continue to be made in every age. As a result, the ever-growing company constantly impacts our celebrations and meditations upon the temporal cycle. The Reformation answer was clear and reflected a backlash against the late medieval cult of the saints. In most places they were abolished entirely in others, cut back severely. However, moves like this had already been afoot in the Roman church. The principle of local kalendars had always ensured that local folks were venerated and certain unconnected foreigners were always dropped or lowered in rank. Too, at every major Roman liturgical change—starting at Trent— the sanctoral has been pruned back, most recently at Vatican II.
One of the ways that the growth of the Sanctorale was managed was by using ranks. Some saints were doubles having certain liturgical implications, others were semis or simples, having other and lesser liturgical implications. Practically, this meant that saints could be added or retained and the greater shape of the Temporale would be less severly impacted. That’s not the case in HWHM, however; we have egalitarian sanctity:
Other provinces of the Anglican Communion have gone to laddered options within their calendars – Red Letter days, Black Letter days, and collects referred to common propers. For nearly half a century our pattern has been one of more equality, with collects and propers for all. We did not presume to break this Church’s traditional pattern.
8. Levels of Commemoration: Principal Feasts, Sundays and Holy Days have primacy of place in the Church’s liturgical observance. It does not seem appropriate to distinguish between the various other commemorations by regarding some as having either a greater or a lesser claim on our observance of them. Each commemoration should be given equal weight as far as the provision of liturgical propers is concerned (including the listing of three lessons).
One of the reasons why Cranmer cut back the Sanctorale was because it so greatly complicated the praying of offices and masses. You had to work out the liturgical calculus as to what bits to use for which folks on which days—especially if there were occurrence or concurrence issues.
Well, with this multiplication of the Sanctorale those begin coming back, except without the range of options for handling them. How are we supposed to use and celebrate these saints? It’s not clear and the book doesn’t give us guidance. I’ve always argued that, following the Cranmerian path, the biblical lessons provided are to be used at masses, not offices. Anything else breaks too severely the Daily Office lectionary’s (already abbreviated) pattern. Using these as office readings would destroy it entirely. I argue, therefore, that the collects alone be used in the Office and sometimes even as commemorations as occasions warrant (i.e., an additional collect after the Collect of the Day).
Third, are we venerating those who we believe are in the Church Triumphant, the company of the Blessed Dead, or are we remembering famous (or “oughta-be” famous) Christians?: I won’t say much more on this but to refer you back to my Cafe post.
Fourth, where are the Martyrs?: As Christopher notes, “the major lay category is now ‘Prophetic Witness'”. This concerns me because historically the largest lay category has been the Martyrs. A church that honors and remembers the martyrs is a church that remembers that its faith is both serious and sacred. Our ancestors died for it. They gave themselves to the flames, the sword, and the lions rather than desert it or alter its essences. How seriously do we take it? How willing are we to change it and, if change it we do, do we hold trust with the blood that has been shed in its defense?
To put a finer point on it, what doe s it say about the aims and theologies of our church where “prophetic witnesses” are multiplied—that a central function of the church is to change society, especially through its external fabric (laws, policies, etc.). I don’t disagree that this is a task of the church, to serve as the conscience of a society, but I see an insidious either/or that equates holy change with political action. To get all H. Richard Neibuhr on it, it would seem that the dominant paradigm is “Christ transforming culture” and that it occurs pre-eminently on the political level.
I’d remind us that the transformation of Roman society was not begun, supported nor achieved through primarily political means. The martyrs, their witness, their fidelity also transformed it profoundly. Tertullian is correct: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.
Fifth, What is a Prayer Book Catholic to do?: I’m not happy. With all due respect to those assembled in this resource, I don’t believe that all of them are members of the Church Triumphant. Furthermore, I don’t believe that these collects direct us appropriately to the life in Christ as the Western Historical Liturgy has traditionally done. My “Prayer Book” and my “Catholic” are in conflict. That is, as a “Prayer Book” Anglican I confess that our current authorized prayer book really does stand in continuity with and participates in an authentic and legitimate expression of the Historic Liturgy of the West. I have real doubts about this supplement, though, and its implementation of both the historic liturgy and the catholic faith. On one level, it’s really not a problem. Looking at the prayer book itself, all of these observances fall into kalendar section 5: “optional observances”. IOW, we’re allowed to pick and choose. This makes my “Prayer Book” happy. But it doesn’t make my “Catholic” happy.
I’m considering retaining all official Prayer Book feasts and observing the Roman Universal kalendar as my category 5.