Not the Venite for Morning Prayer

When one thinks of flagrant examples of wacky liberal liturgical revisionism in the history of the Books of Common Prayer, the mind is naturally drawn to the 1789 American BCP and its scandalous predecessor, the 1786 Proposed Book. (That’s totally what you were thinking, right?)

When writing up my thoughts on the Venite I saw a minor side-note in Hatchett of something I’d forgotten about.

Our current option-happy prayer book says the following about the choice of invitatory materials at Morning Prayer: “Then follows one of the Invitatory Psalms, Venite or Jubilate.” (BCP, p.80) After the Venite we do receive a permissive “or Psalm 95, pages 724” (BCP, 82). Then, after the Jubilate we see: “In Easter Week, in place of an Invitatory Psalm, the following is sung or said. It may also be used daily until the Day of Pentecost” (BCP, 83). So—you only have four legit options and that’s only in Easter; the rest of the year you have three.

But check out what those crazy kids were up to at the end of the 18th century… It has been said that the Proposed Book of 1786 was functionally an attempt to overthrow the outcome of the (conservative) Savoy Conference which made the 1662 book what it was, and an inducement for the fledging American Church to march to the beat of the English Proposed 1689 Book. In that spirit, Proper Invitatories were appointed for Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, and Whitsunday (Pentecost). All of these were centos (psalm-mashups) and can be found at the end of a set of selected psalm-mashups and before the Psalter proper in the 1789 book. (Pages 236-238 of the pdf from Chad Wohlers’s site.)

For your reading pleasure and liturgical edification, here are the historical invitatories.

Christmas Day

From Psalms xlv. lxxxix. ex.
THy seat, O God, endureth for ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity ; wherefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
My song shall be alway of the loving kindness of the Lord; with my mouth will I ever be shewing thy truth, from one generation to another.
For I have said, mercy shall be set up for ever ; thy truth shalt thou stablish in the heavens.
The Lord is our defence, the holy one of Israel is our king.
Thou spakest sometime in visions unto thy saints, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
I will set his dominion in the sea, and his right hand in the floods.
And I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Sion ; be thou ruler, even in the midst among thine enemies.
In the day of thy power shall the people offer thee free-will offerings with an holy worship ; the dew of thy birth is of the womb of the morning.
The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedech.

Ash Wednesday

From Psalms xxxii. xxxviii. cxxx.
BLessed is he, whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man, unto whom the Lord imputeth no sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Put me not to rebuke, O Lord in thine anger; neither chasten me in thy heavy displeasure :
For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thine hand presseth me sore.
My wickednesses are gone over my head, and are like a sore burden, too heavy for me to bear.
I will consess my wickedness, and be sorry for my sin.
Haste thee to help me, O Lord, God of my salvation.
Out of the depth have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Good Friday

From Psalms xxii. lxix. xl.

MY God, my God, look upon me; why hast thou forsaken me? and art so far from my health, and from the words of my complaint?

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despided of the people.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn ; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted in God, that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, if he will have him.
The counsel of the wicked layeth siege against me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Thy rebuke hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness; I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me.
They gave me gall to eat ; and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.
Sacrifice and meatoffering thou wouldest not, but mine ears hast thou opened.
Burnt offerings and sacrifice for sin hast thou not required: Then said I, Lo, I come;
In the volume of the book it is written of me, that I should fulfil thy will, O my God: I am content
to do it; yea, thy law is within my heart.

Ascension Day

From Psalms xxiv. xlvii.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.

Who is the King of Glory? the Lord strong and mighty; even the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.
Who is the King of Glory ? even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.
O clap your hands together, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great king over all the earth.
God is gone up with a shout; the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham; for the
shields of the earth belong unto God. He is greatly exalted.

Whitsunday

From Psalms ii. lxviii.
I Will declare the decree : the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.
Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Be wise . now therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Sing unto God, sing praises to his name : extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah, and rejoice before him.
Thou, O God, sentest a gracious rain upon thine inheritance, and refreshedst it when it was weary.
The Lord gave the word ; great was the company of those that published it.
Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.
Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits; even the God of our salvation.
Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth : O sing praises unto the Lord;
To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which were of old: Lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.
Ascribe the strength unto God; his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places; the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power
unto, his people. Blessed be God.

As someone who thinks a lot about liturgy, the theology behind it, and the interprettion of the Psalms, I find these to be a fascinating window into how late 18th century Anglicans read and understood the psalms within the context of their theology of the church year. The Pentecost text, in particular, is an interesting one to me.

In any case, while the 1892 BCP retained the permission to use an anthem on appointed days, all of these went missing; the Pascha Nostrum was retained amongst the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels alone with nary a trace of the others.

12 Replies to “Not the Venite for Morning Prayer”

  1. Interesting – both the Canadian prayer books (1918, and 1959) appoint mashup invitatory “anthems” to take the place of the Venite on four days: Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Day, and Whitsunday; in 1918, there was also one for the Ascension, now curiously dropped. Only the Pascha nostrum for Easter Sunday was inherited from 1662: the rest were apparently new additions. An Anglican old enough to remember regular sung Morning Prayer once told me how much he missed singing the Christmas morning anthems.

  2. Very interesting, Derek. I noticed that the Church of England’s COMMON WORSHIP: DAILY PRAYER assigns a variety of substitute invitatory psalms at Morning Prayer, especially in its seasonal provisions. For Advent, the suggested invitatory is Psalm 24 and for Christmas it is a canticle based on selected verses from Isaiah 61 (“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord …”). There are similar choices in place of Venite exultemus for all of the seasons and for many of the days of the week in ordinary time. There are similar provisions at Evening Prayer. I had thought this was largely a taking up of the scheme used by the Franciscan CELEBRATING COMMON PRAYER. What you have posted makes me wonder if this may be rooted in something much earlier, say the English proposed book of 1689.

  3. I find it interesting that the 1789 and 1892 US Prayer Books refer to the Venite as an anthem. Anthems in their various forms are certainly more flexible texts than Psalms, and maybe that was the point of changing the terminology. I wonder how deliberate the compilers were in making that decision.

  4. Speaking of ‘options’ at Morning Prayer, the Rite 2 canticles are one of the more interesting features of the ’79 book, but they frustrate me. For one thing, the translations of the Gloria in excelsis and Te Deum are simply unacceptable. The Gloria opens with a double-dactylic disaster; it’s just painful—and it’s barely a translation. Then we have the Te deum, re-imagined as an inner-office memo to the CEO Divine: “You are God: we praise you.” Really?

    But I’m also frustrated by the selection of canticles and by the way the material is presented.

    Three of the OT canticles are well-known from their inclusion at (medieval) lauds of Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Why, then, not also include the canticles from the other days of the week? And why not include a little rubric like, ‘especially appropriate for Xday’?

    Many of the canticles of Western lauds (along with the Gloria in excelsis, Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc), are among the 15 Odes compiled in antiquity in the Greek Church. Why not go ahead and include the rest of these canticles, too? And again, why not provide some guidance for using them?

    Organization and guidance really are lacking in the current Rite 2 arrangement. Apparently, the compilers decided to put the canticles in the order in which the original text was written, but liturgically, there is nothing helpful in that whatsoever. The first canticles should really be the traditional ones. And I see no reason for ignoring centuries of liturgical norms by adding the Magnificat and Nunc to the morning service.

    There are at least four other OT canticles that could also be included in a nice list. Perhaps a comprehensive selection like I’m talking about (with at least 21 canticles) is just too much for the Prayer Book. But what qualifies as ‘too much’? These canticles would seem to be the sorts of ‘options’ that would enrich the PB, tying it to ancient tradition, while also introducing the sort of variety (seasonal, daily, or otherwise) that the Prayer Book somewhat lacks.

  5. If the Rite II Gloria and Te Deum translations are “unacceptable,” it’s strange that a whole lot of people have been praying them as given since 1977. I’d say that makes them “acceptable,” even if they do leave room for improvement. :)

  6. The Gloria is “unacceptable” in the sense that it is not a translation, though it is routinely referred to as such. That sort of intellectual sleight-of-hand is common in a lot of liturgical “scholarship”, and it is indeed unacceptable. The phrase “And also with you” is also not a translation; it’s also not contemporary English, since no one I know or have ever known would use that line in an actual conversation. But if people like that sort of stuff, they should use it, of course. I just believe in recognizing things for what they are.

    I would like some proof, though, that the “modern” Te deum has ever been used, outside of the National Cathedral and other “flagship” parishes. I have personally never heard it anywhere. At the few Morning Prayer services I’ve attended, the liturgy was Rite 2, but the Te deum was Rite 1.

  7. Not to belabor the point, but it bears noting that the ICEL of the RC church finally turned against these versions themselves. I’m hardly along in criticizing them. I’m also not the only one to notice that the “modern” translation is just short of being a limerick. Not good.

    Glory to God in the highest,
    And peace to His people on earth
    Lord God, heav’nly King,
    The Father Almighty,
    We praise you, Most High, for your glory.

  8. I’d like some proof that the modern Te deum is actually being used at the National Cathedral. In many years of following the place, I have *never* seen or it used. I’m always open to correction

  9. Canticle 21, the modern Te Deum, is said on non-Lent Sundays and holy days at the Church of the Ascension in Chicago. It’s also been in the breviaries of the Order of the Holy Cross, Community of Saint Mary, and Order of Julian of Norwich, among others, for decades. For starters.

  10. I only mentioned the National Cathedral because I thought I heard it there long ago, maybe when the ’79 book was newer. It could have been some other church in DC, but I did hear it one time—and one time only.

  11. A couple of centuries (or even decades) ago, in the Anglican churches, the psalms were sung without antiphons. So, those mashups at least provided the feasts with proper verses.

    But we can see that also in the Byzantine rite of Romanian and Ruthenian sorts: at feasts, at the third nocturn, the two psalms of praise (common of all the feasts) are followed by mashups of psalm verses which relate to the feast, and which are framed by an antiphon «Come, O faithful». Those mahups were compiled in the 15th century by the monk Philotheus of the Cozia Abbey.

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