Alteration as Correction or Corruption?

Here’s an interesting T19 post

I really am all for using original wordings and texts and complete texts. It’s amazing how many of our hymns in standard hymnals have been abridged or altered and we don’t even know it…

Speaking of things being changed, how many realize how much the Great Litany and the Collects have been altered? I rarely use Rite 1 for personal devotions because 1) it’s no longer the common prayer of the Church no matter how much I love the language but also because 2) it’s the modern version in traditional dress. I go back and forth on modern alterations of the Prayer book’s liturgies. Especially the excising of things that baby boomers didn’t like.

13 thoughts on “Alteration as Correction or Corruption?

  1. Caelius

    I’ve done the 1549 Litany in both Latin and English. I’ve never noticed any major differences. What I do notice is that individual parishes continue to excise more and more of it.

    As for Rite I, that change has come so quickly that I must have missed it:

    1. It’s the common prayer of most of the rest of Communion (and strongly influential on the Scandinavian Lutherans).

    2. My former Broad parishes in your present diocese used it within the last five years for Evensong or in my childhood for Morning Prayer on Sundays. St. John Chrysostom in Chicago still uses it for that purpose if I remember rightly.

    3. My college chaplaincy alternated between Rite I and Rite II, mostly because the students were fairly split. I forget if we prayed Rite I with the Roman Catholics when we were having ARCIC Testbed Meetings.

    4. It’s also been used at Provincial retreats within my memory.

    You likely have more examples than I have counter-examples.

    As for the hymns, I’ve heard some whoppers. There’s a hymn (135 in the 1982 Hymnal), whose verses end “God in man made manifest.” It’s been changed to “God in flesh made manifest.”

  2. Caelius

    It occurs to me that “major” is rather vague. I mean nothing which made me think of it afterwards as being anything but evolutionary progress rather than the result of someone’s almighty marking pen.

  3. *Christopher

    Given my first experience of Rite I, I’d say that I’m suspicious of baby boomer excisions. No Prayer of Humble Access? Often the language of sin and conversion of life are the first to go. And I’m for retaining them. I think if we were a little more mindful of our own sinfulness we might be a little less mindful of everyone else’s splinters.

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    Rite I does maintain a presence in many parishes–but it’s usually relegated to the 7:30 or 8 AM Sunday service where the avergae age is 70+. Effectively we’re training people out of it.

    I guess at the root of my question is the niggling question–what’s historic about the historic liturgy? Is it just the ordo as Lathrop would have us believe, or is it a mix of ordo and content. How do we continue conversation with our culture, stay true to our heritage and retain the catholic and evangelical forms that have formed the Church into who she is?

  5. LutherPunk

    Lathrop is a liar! We should start a group blog with that name. (Ok, maybe I should be more charitable and say that he is mistaken).

    Content will change over time, we all understand this. But to take that to mean that content doesn’t matter is absurd.

    Words matter folks!

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    I was caricaturing Lathrop’s position, of course; I doubt he’s really that simplistic. Actually, one of the posters here had him as a student if I remember right so I await correction from an informed source.

    Yes, words matter. A lot. And wha seems really important to me is about the historic liturgy is that it is the fundamental set of patternings that has shaped the Church’s concsiousness and imagination. *But* even that is somewhat complicated. Was the Latin Mass shaping the religious consciousness of your average 10th century Anglo-Saxon who didn’t understand Latin? The answer is still yes–but *how* it was shaping it is different from our modern notions…

  7. LutherPunk

    Of course he isn’t, but he is a favorite whipping boy of the new movement to “restore” the liturgy. I have taken a few swipes at him myself after reading some of his stuff.

    The exchange between church and culture is something that needs to be acknowledged and discussed, especially since it is a two way street. It seems to me that liturgical revisionists want to claim theological grounds for their changes rather than cultural grounds, and this is dishonest at best.

  8. Derek the Ænglican

    Hmmm. That’s complicated, lp. Cultural changes require theological changes–or at least re-phrasing–in order to address the new cultural situation, nicht wahr?

  9. LutherPunk

    So i typed a long response to your last post, and blogger lost it. I blame the dominant culture!

  10. *Christopher

    One of my comp questions addressed this matter at least a start at it. I’m posting it now.

  11. David B.

    I don’t see how this is any different than orthodox medieval scribes “correcting” texts to not offend their preconceived ideas. The only difference I see is that the preconceived ideas have changed from medieval orthodoxy to modern politically correct orthodoxy.

    Granted, hymns are not the Bible, so changing them causes fewer issues, but the real problem I think is when this principle is applied to our lectionary and scriptures.

  12. Derek the Ænglican

    Well DavidB, the difference is clear…in a scribal manuscript culture it’s far harder to determine that any changes have been made at all! ;-) They could at least claim that they were fixing what was obviously a corrupted text; we have no such excuse.

    But yes, as discussed previously the tradition reflects quite a variety of changes of religious thought and editorial changes are a significant part of that process.

    You’re very right to bring up the medieval materials and that gives me pause especially when thinking about things liturgical and the historic liturgy. Of the dozens of liturgical manuscripts that survive from the early and mid medieval periods, there are virtually no exact duplicates. Even manuscripts in the same liturgical family exhibit variations, sometimes significant.

    I’m also reminded of the Pope–one of the Clements perhaps?–who made major changes to the “poor” Latin of the liturgy to bring it into accord with Renaissance Latinity…

  13. The Anglican Scotist

    it seems talk of order and content, or form and matter, is analogical; one might think Aristotelian form (=essence) or even of the order as a Platonic Form, reifying the order out of the analogy.

    fine–indulge an ontology; this sort of thing is done in aesthetics (what is Mozart’s 40th, really?). But liturgical form is betrayed if pictured merely from aesthetic (e.g. disinterested, disengaged) point of view.

    what is the essence of the liturgical piece in question–what is it and how does or must it function as part of the whole to which it belongs? are there stable essences in liturgical praxis?

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