My brother in the priesthood Fr Jonathan Munn has written some reflections on the Prayer Book in Why I don’t use the Book of Common Prayer. That is certainly a provocative subject, especially with our American brethren identifying as Anglicans, Anglican Catholics, etc. We need to unpack things somewhat, since both of us are English, and have emerged from a particular tendency within Anglicanism that finds an insoluble problem with some aspects of the the Prayer Book (officially the 1662 in the Church of England) that are none other than aspects of the Reformation and the historical war against “popery”.
At the same time, we identify as Anglicans because this is our spiritual background as cradle Anglicans. We are not Swiss Calvinists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics with that Church’s polemical Counter-Reformation patrimony. We are not Old Catholics, since we have never been concerned with the problems between Jansenists and Jesuits in the early eighteenth century, or German-speaking university professors and historians protesting the aberration of papal infallibility in 1870. We grew up in a Church that evolved in history from the Reformed / Roman Catholic polemics, and this history involved Romanticism and its effect on religion in the nineteenth century. There was a movement in the wake of the Oxford Movement seeking the possibility of using pre-Reformation western rites like Sarum or revising the Prayer Book like the proposed book of 1928 that did not make it through the British government.
The English 1928 did get a certain amount of use, since Anglo-Catholic vicars were rarely in complete obedience to their Evangelical bishops, and did their own thing. The 1960’s and 70’s brought us Series I and II, and Series III was the first set of services in modern languages with the abandonment of the archaic Prayer Book style with thees and thous. After that came the Alternative Services Book in 1980 and now there is Common Worship which represents the kind of generic watered-down Christianity that fails to attract many of us.
The Continuing Anglican Churches tend to define their identity by fidelity to the Prayer Book, qualifying this idea with a reference to the Affirmation of St Louis and various authorised Eucharistic rites like the English Missal and the Anglican Missal, substantially the Roman rite of Pius V with the use of the Prayer Book cycle of Sunday collects, epistles and Gospels which came from the Norman / Sarum tradition. In a discussion with my Bishop, he expressed the notion that I could be justified in using Sarum because it is an Anglican rite, the official one during the time from the break from Rome of Henry VIII to the first Prayer Book of 1549. My using Sarum remains a tolerance and has had absolutely no influence in the Diocese to which I belong. I respect my Bishop and fellow priests, and let things be.
For the Office, my usual custom is one of three easily used books, especially when travelling. The Monastic Diurnal with the Prayer Book translation of the psalms, the collects and cycles of Sundays after Trinity (not after Pentecost), The Hours of Prayer (…) compiled from the Sarum breviary and other rites (Mowbray 1933) likewise containing the Coverdale Psalter, or the English Office Book, which is the official Prayer Book Office requiring the lectionary, usually the 1922 one in a separate book.
I usually say Mass in English using the Warren version of 1911, inspired by the Prayer Book style of translation from Latin, but sometimes I use the Latin Dickinson version which is a little more awkward to read from the facsimile book I have (even with my oculi de vitro cum capsula). However, the edition is carefully done and contains the biblical readings.
That is about all I ever do as a priest, since I have no stable congregation in the place where I live. So, in practice, I use parts of the Prayer Book like the Coverdale Psalter and parts of the Eucharist which are straight translations from the Sarum Missal like the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, etc. There is a general and constant reference to the Prayer Book even though my liturgical practice is essentially pre-Reformation and pre-Counter-Reformation. As I mentioned in a comment in Fr Jonathan’s post, we cannot refuse the current of history and live in the past, but we can find our reference and inspiration and bring them to life in our own time.
I don’t like discussing these things very much on Facebook, since there are many emotional and aggressive reactions. The same can happen on a blog, but comments are more likely to be reflected and less polemical. This blog has arrived at this maturity given its age and constancy. Those who don’t agree with me have the option of not reading my articles or expressing themselves with kindness and courtesy.
Fr Jonathan is more “Roman” than I am, but he is inspired by the monastic patrimony as I am. It is safe to say that he and I are “northern” Catholics, less concerned with “devotions” than with the liturgy of the Mass and the Office. Spiritual reading and meditation are important, and the Rosary is a part of our western tradition without the more dire warnings and systematisation of nineteenth and twentieth century Roman Catholic piety.
Reformed liturgical rites always depend on imperfect scholarship and are sometimes influenced by ideology as happened in the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church alike. My use of the Sarum missal and office symbolise for me the idea that I have invented nothing and have nothing to invent. It represents a weight off my shoulders. For me, experimenting with the Novus Ordo and the Prayer Book, arranging things at my own initiative, represents an eternal dissatisfaction and instability. Is it our liturgy, or that of the Church?
Fr Jonathan and I are cradle Anglicans, but other influences made a staunch Prayer Book and nothing but the Prayer Book attitude impossible. I was a convert to Roman Catholicism for about fifteen years and had a “pre-conciliar” training at Gricigliano after being in some other places and university. To paraphrase Léon Bloy, we can transcend our experience but we cannot erase it. The Prayer Book essentially gives us our Psalter which is gradually committed to memory in the manner of the monastic way, and it gives us our musical tradition. As Fr Jonathan observes, I found it a book that pointed outside itself, as you would expect a book of prayer to do.
The Protestant polemics inherent in the 39 Articles and the mutilated Eucharistic rites represent a brick wall. Brick walls can be demolished, climbed over or gone round. The genius of the Prayer Book is its expression in early modern English with all the idiosyncrasies of a culture that is not our own, reflected in the deeper recesses of the legal profession and our Englishness. It is a cultural monument in that sense, and influences the translation of the Roman Canon in the Anglican Missal.
I read something a few days ago about the Continuing Churches lacking an academic tradition. Since the 1970’s, we have been more concerned with survival in the face of criticism and ideology from our adversaries. Priority has been rightfully given to the foundation of parishes. Less was given to the systematic training of priests by means of seminaries than in the traditionalist Roman Catholic world. Perhaps people like Fr Jonathan and I, not living in a situation where we would be occupied in pastoral ministry, would begin to emerge as researchers and writers. Neither of us depend in any way on a university and academia, but the internet has enormously facilitated our access to books without travelling to major cities to consult libraries. Academic work requires considerable self-discipline and asceticism, rather like the contemplative monk – and such a vocation is difficult to reconcile with family life especially when there are children. The priest-scholar is an important vocation in the Church, and those of us so called can bring a whole new dimension to the Church we serve as priests.
The work being done on reviving the Sarum Use is perhaps more active now than even the mid nineteenth century. I particularly salute Dr William Renwick, who is primarily a musicologist. I have a group on Facebook – Use of Sarum, which now has 689 members. Few are liturgical scholars, and most are curious lay Christians, but I get several new members each week. Something is happening, and the flame is being kept alight. Perhaps the time has not yet come for Sarum to be of pastoral relevance in parishes presently using the Prayer Book and the Anglican Missal. I am confident that it will become an option when there is a feeling of “something missing”, of dissatisfaction and instability. Already, our Continuing Church has shown enough tolerance and breadth to create this potential. In the meantime, we need to continue our studies, research and editing work to produce books in both Latin and English (Prayer Book influenced).
We also need to know more about the reality of the English Church in the early sixteenth century. Can we trust Eamon Duffy’s evaluation expressed in his The Stripping of the Altars, or was there more corruption and superstition eroding monotheistic orthodoxy? Popular religion in Latin countries continues to give English and other northern Europeans a lump in the throat – with things like the Santa Muerte in Mexico and the wild excesses of Palmar de Troya in Spain. Fatima also takes some swallowing, when people are seen walking on their knees in heroic penance. I would not want to stop people doing what they believe to be right, but would I do it?
We certainly need to work on this dilemma of the Prayer Book being a monument of Anglican identity, but that we need to recover the pre-Reformation rites. In the past I have written on retro-futurism and things like steam-punk. Is it legitimate to speculate what might have happened had Cranmer contented himself with translating the missal, the manual, the breviary and the pontifical into the English of his era? Can we imagine monastic-inspired parish religion without the excesses of dripping devotion? In terms of academic history, anachronism is a serious sin. On the other hand, if it is a way out of a dilemma often exploited by Roman Catholic polemicists and “true church” fanatics, what bad can come out of it in pastoral and missionary terms?
I will do my best to contribute what I can, knowing my own limitations in academic terms. I pray that the movement will continue and develop, and draw a new Romantic movement to Christ and worship in the beauty of holiness.
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Following the publication of this article, another priest of our Diocese, or rather of our European Deanery, has posted his own input in To use or not to use …? It is very important to think of those of us who are not native British like Fr Jonathan, myself or our Bishop. Alongside Fr Gregory Wassen who is Dutch, we have in our Diocese Fr Jeen Thomas who is Indian. He had been a priest of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of India (Part of the Roman Catholic Church) and joined the ACC quite recently. He has learned to use the Anglican Missal rite for Mass and now serves our parish in Rochester. Like Fr Wassen, I have a chaplaincy outside England, but only very occasionally minister to French people. Fr Wassen, with his small congregation in the Netherlands, would presumably be celebrating in Dutch unless they are happy with worshipping in English. The liturgical language represents a huge cultural difference, and I have never been satisfied with any attempt at translating the liturgy into French. Is Anglicanism more than a thin veneer, as our Roman Catholic and Orthodox critics often suggest to render our position precarious. Fr Jeen came to us from Eastern Rite Roman Catholicism and Fr Wassen had been ordained in Western Rite Orthodoxy in the USA.
This fact suggests that the ACC is large enough to go beyond the limits of ethnical Englishness or Americaness! What makes the Anglican Catholic Church Anglican? When we are in English-speaking countries or ministering to English expatriates in another country, the kind of language we use is archaic and to some extent taken from the Prayer Book or formulated in the same early modern English idiom. In a way, it is our “church slavonic”, being closer to our modern vernacular than old Greek or Latin. What do we do when ministering to people of languages with no long tradition of vernacular liturgy? The Germans have Luther’s language and translations, and high-church Lutheranism is something quite special. The French and Italians have no vernacular tradition, and Roman Catholics in those countries have their liturgy in modern language translations. The only music that goes with those translations is of modern composition of good or poor quality. The culture is vastly different when only the language is considered.
How about using Latin? It is not exactly something you can do with people who are not used to it. Roman Catholic traditionalists usually come from a pre-conciliar background and have consciously refused the reforms of the 1960’s. Then, is Anglicanism outside the English-speaking world nothing more than Old Catholicism? What is Old Catholicism? This is an idea that could appeal to the Dutch. In that country, it isn’t a matter of German and Swiss Liberalism and university professors protesting against theological novelties. It is essentially Jansenism in the most positive meaning of that word. In the early eighteenth century, the See of Rome left the Archdiocese of Utrecht without an archbishop for many years as a punishment for harbouring French Jansenists fleeing persecution in France under Louis XIV. Jansenism was not merely a kind of “Catholic puritanism” interpreting Saint Augustine in a similar way to Calvinism, but sought to recapture the Church of the Fathers and the early medieval period. The Archbishop of Utrecht in 1725 was consecrated uncanonically by a French missionary bishop by the name of Dominique Varlet (1678-1742) and that little Church found itself in isolation until it united with the Swiss and German Liberals in 1889, thus forming the Union of Utrecht. Using a little “retro-futurism”, I don’t see why an Anglican mission in the Netherlands could not be inspired by the early ideas and practices of the exiled French Jansenists of Utrecht. The Dutch notion produced “Old Roman Catholicism” coined by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew from his consecration in Utrecht in 1908. Also see the less positive evaluation by Peter Anson in Bishops at Large for a balanced view. There was a certain collusion in England in the early twentieth century between some Anglo-Catholics and the Old (Roman) Catholic movement. Unfortunately the Old Roman Catholic movement proved to be extremely unstable like some moments in Continuing Anglican history and in more marginal traditionalist RC circles. In England, Archbishop Jerome Lloyd seems to be doing very good work in Brighton in a humanitarian context, undeterred from being daring and unusual. I am not opposed to there being some collusion between Anglican Catholicism and Old Roman Catholicism. Apart from the names, there is little more than a difference between early sixteenth-century England and eighteenth-century France. Culturally, in spite of the difference of language, the two are based on Northern French Catholicism rather than Latin Ultramontanism. That is a start.
There is the monastic dimension, but we should not forget that Henry VIII deep-sixed the monasteries in England and, after 1549, there were no monks involved in the formulation of the Prayer Book in its less radical and more radical versions of 1549 and 1552. Benedictine monasteries in France (Solesmes Congregation) use the Roman rite (1962, 1965 and / or Novus Ordo) and the Monastic Office. The order of psalms is much better than the buggered-up 1911 Roman Breviary of Pius X. Perhaps, the Prayer Book Office is a little “monastic” in that it has preserved the Office in cathedrals and parish churches whilst Roman Catholics only know Sunday Vespers and Benediction, which has been increasingly rare since the baroque era. That is little to go on to call the Prayer Book “monastic”. What it has going for it is the beautiful translation of the Psalms (Coverdale).
Our identity seems essentially to be Norman Catholicism that entered England via the Conquest of 1066, and that is a shared root between the Old Roman Catholic idea and Continuing Anglicanism. The alternatives are Counter-Reformation / Novus Ordo Roman Catholicism based on Jesuit influence, the Western Orthodox experiment that has known little success except in a few places (especially in the USA) and Protestantism. Perhaps high-church Lutheranism can find things in common with the Norman Rotomagus / Sarum based tradition living in small Old Roman Catholic and Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. I hope this tradition will be further studied and understood in affirming our identity in relation to the alternatives I have just mentioned. Fr Wassen has unknowingly guided my thought along these lines.
It is for this reason that I would love to see a gradual return to the French and Norman tradition rather than the Franciscan-Roman-Germanic tradition which is foreign to both Anglicanism and Old Roman Catholicism – even if many of us are using what is substantially the Pius V Roman liturgy. I respect what I find in my Church, and I am grateful to have a spiritual home in it – but my idea stands for any who would like to study it and develop its meaning for our Church and others with which we are very close.
There is also a question of pastoral relevance. We would be hard-pressed to find ordinary English people interested in Sarum or ordinary Dutch people interested in Dutch Old Catholicism of before the Union in Bonn of 1889 and the débâcle that repelled Archbishop Mathew. We need to develop these themes and help ordinary churchgoers to understand something about them, and thus to build their sense of identity on something as solid as the Byzantine tradition for Greeks and Russians. It is a long shot, and I believe that Christian tradition has evaporated. It is gone and our Churches and aspirations will dwindle and die. We are incredibly marginal, but an idea keeps us alive.
Why not bite the bullet and go Roman Catholic or modern Anglican? The reason is simple. There is more to Christianity than belonging to this or that mainstream church that is more or less emptied of its meaning. The only real alternative left is atheism or the quest for some kind of “spirituality” by which we dispense ourselves from any allegiance to an institutional Church of any kind. Does it have to be all-or-nothing?
This is something we have to decide for ourselves, as did the Romantics in their time when faced with the evils of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Something was revived by the bookworms of Europe’s university libraries and priests living a quiet contemplative life away from the polemics of the ignorant. We can do the same thing today and plant the seeds for those who be on this earth long after we are gone. If we have done something, then we have hope…
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There is a precious dialogue on Facebook, which I would like to preserve, given the fleeting nature of anything written on Facebook. This is quite fascinating.
Gregory N Blevins: Interesting pieces all around. They do raise the question of the extent to which the products of the Reformation, especially classical Prayer-Book Anglicanism, are actually products of the Western Roman Catholicism as opposed to being rooted in the universal tradition from which the Western Church separated itself in the 11th Century.
Or is that a bridge too far?
Gregory Wassen: I do not think the case for the Prayer Book being rooted in Western Roman Catholicism is a strong one. A case could be made insofar as Cranmer smashed up the Old Liturgy and used the pieces to create his own liturgy. So the the building blocks of the BCP are “Catholic” but the edifice Cranmer constructed with it is not necessarily so. Though I would immediately want to add that the BCP can and is being forced into Catholic service by many Anglo Catholics.
Anthony Chadwick: For me it is clear that Protestantism has its roots in the Franciscan movement against the obscene wealth of the clergy in the 13th and 14th centuries, especially in the various groups like the Dolcinites and the Fraticelli. Then there were Wycliffe and Hus, perhaps some remote influence from the Cathars. Philosophically, we are looking at Nominalism that refuses the Universal Idea of Plato and sees only the reality of the particular. That carries a lot of consequences. It went very deep, and the reaction against the corruption of Rome and the bishops was understandable. Unfortunately, Catholicism has always been a balance between monotheistic orthodoxy and a kind of Paganism that “inculturates” the purity of the Judeo-Christian faith on the ground. Therefore the need for a liturgical, symbolic and sacramental life. There was good and bad in “unreformed” Catholicism, but I think it was preferable – in hindsight – to anything that was reformed either by the “Taliban / ISIS” of the time or the Jesuits! If left alone, things can “heal” themselves, but being under a corrupt bishop musn’t have been anything pleasant especially with his Inquisition littering things up with their torture chambers!
Gregory N Blevins: Much of classical, confessional Protestantism is, I think, a REACTION to the Western Catholic tradition. But as Khomiakov reminded us, both X and -X are still “X” in Algebra. I see this also with regard to Arminianism vs. Calvinism. (Or Abelard vs. Anselm on the question of how the death of Christ saves us.)
I think one fundamental issue, liturgy perhaps aside (as if that were possible), is that the question of the human will never became problematic in the East.
Gregory Wassen: Suppose X is the West and -X is the East? 😉
Gregory N Blevins: Gregory Wassen LOL. Is that demonstrable or is the West “X” and the East “Y”? I think the latter is more likely. Augustine seems to have been pretty cut off from the Fathers of the East that came before him, and, of course, for good or ill, Western theology since Augustine since is “a series of footnotes on Augustine”.
And where do you think Origen fits here?
Anthony Chadwick: Talking of Origin and St Clement of Alexandria, they were inspired by Gnosticism but did not go to the excess of Valentinian. Some have tried to find traces of Gnosticism in early forms of Protestantism, but I think it is something of a stretch. Protestantism was fundamentally anti-clericalism without atheism – get rid of bishops and priests, and you get back to the Acts of the Apostles. Yeah…
Gregory Wassen: I think Augustine is awesome. He and I disagree at times, but I think basically he is not at all as far removed from the Eastern Fathers as some have claimed. Quite the opposite. I would even want to suggest that the East is in dire need of some more Augustine ! Origen – whose homilies were read in the Octave of the Holy Name – and for some Marian Feasts in the west fits in well ! I also think that Origen ought to be read as combating heretical gnosticism and I think it can be demonstrated that Nicene Orthodoxy and Capapdocian Orthodoxy are dependent on him. Iow I think there are some basic agreement between Origen and Augstine. But Origen is the better exegete and theologian.
Gregory Wassen: I mean the Nicene “consubstantial” is found in Origen as well as the emphasis on the “Persons” of the Trinity.
Gregory N Blevins: Somebody has recently suggested that Augustine was “awesome” in his early years and later, not so much when his primary activity became the battle with Pelagianism.
It is not always easy to what problems come from where (was Nestorius really a Nestorian?).
Gregory Wassen: Well … Yes. About Nestorius that is 😀 I think Augustine needs to be read as a Neoplatonist. It puts different spin on things. But essentially the Augustine engaging Pelagius is the Augustine I find myself disagreeing with ….
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To that last question about Nestorius, I remember my dogmatic theology professor, Fr Jean-Pierre Torrell OP, asking the same rhetorical question.I do know that many problems were resolved between the Coptic Church and Rome by giving a better analysis of some of the Greek theological terms used by the Council of Chalcedon. Many problems are caused by bad use of language!
This article has become very long, and perhaps I should carry some themes forward to future postings. St Augustine’s theology is indeed complex, but reflect a certain pessimism about human nature. Bitter experience of life and age do that to many of us! In spite of our desire to be optimistic and humanist, we find the old theme coming back about the three sorts of humans: spiritual, intellectual and materialist. No one is fixed in any “category”, because there is divine grace and the fruits of self-knowledge, but many people we come across in life leave us without much hope. There were excesses in Jansenism like the “pure” nuns of Port Royal, but I do think there was something very positive set in the context of the Counter-Reformation and the laxism of the Jesuits. A sin is a sin, and we have to face it square on, not beat about the bush. There is the element of integrity, but also the notion of having something cleaner and tidier than the busloads of Italians and Spaniards in Fatima and Lourdes among other places. We can debate these these things forever, but we need to reflect and read, get beyond the stereotypes and prejudice which I too suffer when I am ignorant about something.
To be continued in future postings.