The chief problem

The chief problem of any Breviary is the Kalendar. Inasmuch as the Prayer-Book is based on a greatly simplified Kalendar, Anglican tradition may be said to favour those conservative Uses of the Breviary (such as the Monastic) which do not follow the Universal Kalendar in its entirety. This latter is the most inclusive, and therefore the most elaborate and complicated Kalendar of any liturgical usage today. For which reason a committee of priests has drawn up a simplified Kalendar for Anglican use, to follow which in this Breviary, one should keep only those Feasts marked with a star (*), and should begin at the beginning of the Proper of Saints with the mark SK and disregard everything marked UK.

The Anglican Breviary, Liturgical Note, p. E1 (1021).

Being myself inclined toward liturgical (and theological) conservatism the Simple Kalendar (SK) has a very strong pull for me. I appreciate the ability this usage provides for the Seasons of the Church more clearly to teach us the Catholic Faith as we pray our way through the months of the year. I also appreciate that the selections of Psalms, readings, prayers for the Saints are not practically annihilated as it was done in (especially) the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer (compare the 1559 Kalendar here with the 1928 American here). It would seem that the SK of the Anglican Breviary attempts the same sort of balancing act attempted with the Roman kalendar reforms at Trent (see here). In itself such a reform seems to be necessary every few decades or perhaps centuries.

The question with such reforms is, as one might expect, what are the criteria for reforming the kalendar? The 1928 BCP celebrates biblical figures only on its kalendar with the notable exceptions of Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day which are two secular (inappropriate) intrusions into an ecclesial kalendar. The principle of celebrating feasts of saints is an ancient Christian one and it is to be commended that it was upheld – if marginally – in the 1928 American Prayer Book. Much more to be commended is the kalendar of 1559 where biblical figures and extra biblical figures are given recognition as saints (even if propers to celebrate them were often not provide for). To celebrate biblical and extra-biblical saints makes the kalendar a vehicle to promote sanctification. By means of the kalendar we are taught that holiness (which is achieved by sanctification) is not a prerogative exclusive to scriptural figures. Holiness is not an ideal safely locked up in an old religious text, but is a live issue throughout the entire history of the Church (as testified by new saints entering the kalendar even today). Even today we are supposed to hear and obey the words “be ye holy” (1 Peter 1, 16).

The kalendar, as we can also read in the People’s Anglican Missal (PAM), teaches the faith (p. B21-25):

Thus the liturgical year developed into three main cycles, in honour of three central mysteries of the Catholic religion. A moment’s thought makes clear that all Catholic doctrine is focused in three concentric mysteries, (a) the mystery of God (namely, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity), (b) the mystery of the Incarnation (which is the manifestation of God to us), (c) the mystery of the Church or of Sanctification (which reveals to us how we are to attain God and his holiness).

People’s Anglican Missal, p. B22

Though the PAM is mostly concerned with the seasons of the ecclesial year (Temporale), I am here mostly concerned with what is called the Kalendar of the Saints (Sanctorale). There are different categories of saints addressing different aspects of holiness. This is not arbitrary. The different categories give texture and concreteness to what holiness is and what it looks like in our lives. A “Martyr” shows us that our common Christian call is to be faithful to Jesus Christ even of that should cost us our lives. That requires a total and unrelenting dedication to Jesus Christ. That is not an ideal for biblical figures only (such as St. Stephen the First Martyr) but it is an ideal for Christians throughout history (martyrs are made even today as Christians suffer persecution for their faith). However, martyrdom is not the sole ingredient of holiness. Another aspect of holiness is, for example, doctrine. A “Doctor of the Church” shines a light on the growth in sanctification of our minds. Long ago, Origen, pointed out that the mind doesn’t grow by bodily foods but by knowledge. Indeed The Song Zacharias (sung at Lauds):

… thou shalt go before the face of Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins, …

Whatever the precise relation may be between preparing the way of the Lord, knowledge, and salvation it is clear that they are! Origen was on to something. But what is the food by which our minds grow?

Mind certainly needs intellectual magnitude, because it grows in an intellectual and not in a physical sense … by being cultivated through excercises in learning.

Origen, On First Principles, Bk. I, Chap. i, 6.

By the inclusion of doctors of the Church we are directed to their teachings as food for our minds so that digesting their teaching our minds may grow in spiritual magnitude. The same could be said for the other categories of saints and how they illuminate what holiness looks like in our lives. So even though we don’t necessarily need to follow the Universal Kalendar (UK) it is a good thing to have a more inclusive kalendar than that provided by the 1928 BCP popular among continuing Anglicans in the United States. As it is stands the 1928 kalendar fails to teach the faith as cleary as does the 1559 BCP kalendar, or the SK suggested for Anglicans on the Anglican Breviary (AB). An advantage of the AB over any BCP is the fact that it includes samples of the saint’s lives and teachings to interpret and guide our understanding and application of the Scripture readings as they are distributed over the ecclesial year.

The chief problem of any Prayer Book is indeed its kalendar for by it the Church distributes Scripture over the seasons and feasts and by it the Church makes that same Scipture relevant to our lives today.

Gregory +



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Made ready to hear (ii)

Receptivity to God

I have described de Vogüé’s insight at some length because it seems to me that it is important to realize that “saying the Psalms” or Psalmody has two characteristics. It is our prayer to God, but it is so only because it is first word of God: Scripture. As word of God the Psalm speaks to us, “ploughs the soil of our hearts” to paraphrase St Caesarius to prepare us for prayer as such. The Scripture directed at us – and our meditative reading/singing of it – enables us to actually pray and commune with God the Trinity in the most intimate (Evagrian) meaning of the word “prayer.”

What is it, therefore, that Psalmody (as Scripture directed at us) does in us? “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you (John 15, 3).” It seems to me that our Lord is not referring to our physical appearance but rather concerning the condition of our hearts. Our hearts must become receptive of God. This is what the continuous flow of the words of Scripture and our trained attentiveness are to accomplish: receptivity to God. St. Isaac the Syrian wrote:

When a man’s thoughts are totally immersed in the delight of pursuing the wisdom treasured in the words of Scripture by means of the faculty that extracts understanding from them, then he puts the world behind his back and forgets everything in it, and he blots out of his soul all memories that form images embodying the world. Often he does not even remember the employment of habitual thoughts which visit human nature, and his soul remains in ecstasy by reason of those new encounters that arise from the sea of the Scripture’s mysteries.

St. Isaac the Syrian, “Ascetical Homilies,” I.

The mysteries of Scripture (especially as contained in the Psalms) draw our thoughts in with an incredible power – provided we let it. Attentive hearing of the word pushes out the thoughts, memories, concepts, and other distractions of the world from our thoughts. Whatever thought-world exists in our thoughts it is built up by the concepts, memories, etc. of things we have seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt in the world in which we live. Attentive hearing/reading of Scripture provides concepts and memories from Scripture so that the “memory of God” could be firmly planted in our minds. “By establishing the memory of God within the mind, prayer makes one’s thinking ‘become heaven’; in this way, prayer activates the mind’s function of being the ‘temple of God’. This, it seems to me, is what Jesus was talking about when He said that we are clean because of the word He has spoken to us.

Scripture is given to us first as God addressing us. Scripture, even in the Anglican Breviary, comes to us as a given. As such it impacts us. Cleanses us. It transforms the cluttered pagan temple that our minds are into the Temple of God. Praying the Psalms and Scripture by means of the Breviary (in sharp contrast with such derivative and minimalist things as the Book of Common Prayer) is first God’s addressing us by Scripture. Furthermore the way Scripture is itself read according to the lectionary (or in antiphons, responses, graduals, etc.) narrows the exegetical possibilities. In other words Scripture is not just given as a book, it is given as distributed over the seasons and feasts of the Church so that we might rightly interpret it. Though reading Scripture from cover to cover is commendable, it is not understood in that way. Scripture is to be understood as given in the context of liturgy. Viewed in this way, we do not lose the Psalms (or any other parts of Scripture) as reading of Scripture where it addresses us, rather there is a double movement. From God proceed His words addressing us. Being God’s words they remain His and return to Him but bringing those of us who have accepted the address with it. So that as we are addressed by God via Scripture (reading Scripture as Scripture), we are (re) united with God via Scripture (Scripture as prayer).

It seems to me that de Vogüé’s lament above, is inaccurate. By gaining the Psalter as prayer, we have not lost it as Scripture directed at us. Rather the Psalter remains Scripture addressed to us, but by gaining the Psalter as prayer we have a means to pray according to the will of the Father (John 14, 13-14) which is the same as praying in the name of Jesus (John 16, 23-28). In this respect it is interesting to note that in vs. 28 Jesus – who is the Word of God – came from the Father and returns to Him. Notice the dynamics here: the Word of God proceeds from the Father > addresses us > returns to the Father. What is Jesus? is he not the Word become flesh ? (John 1, 14) Who is Jesus addressing? and to whom is He returning? What does His coming and return mean in the context of praying in His name ?  I find it impossible to believe that there is no significance in Jesus framing prayer in His name in the very context in which He speaks of His coming and return to the Father – especially since we know that He is in fact the-Word-of-God-made-flesh. The Word of God comes to us, addresses us. The word of God returns to God. Praying in Jesus’ name, it seems to me, is to pray as Jesus would. The Word of God addresses us in the Incarnation, having become flesh (human) the Word returns to the Father. The Word does not return empty but brings humanity with Him (Isaiah 55, 11). When asked to teach us to pray Jesus gave us the Our Father. We pray the words the Word gave us. Surely the Our Father is both Scripure addressed to us, as well as prayer addressed to God. The word is given to us and retuns to Him who gave it. The opening of John’s Gospel the Word was with God contains a sense of orientation of the Word toward God (more noticeable in the Greek). It is that orientation toward God that the addressing of the Word accomplishes in us, and is expressed by us when we pray. Our (re) connection with the Father is in Christ and that is very well seen in how Scripture is both directed at us and used as prayer directed back to God who sent it. Because Jesus Christ is the Word of God addressing us, while simultaneously being oriented toward the Father.

Scripture makes us ready to hear. Makes us receptive to God (if we let it). Having become receptive to God Scripture orients us to God because the Word of God is so oriented. Psalmody is therefore hearing and praying. Not one or the other.

Gregory +

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Often have I heard/seen the filioque discussed, debated, and fretted about. Not often have I seen it explained clearly, cogently, succinctly and accurately. Stephen Holmes has the distinct advantage of doing precisely this in only a few words:

filioque“Within the bounds of classical Trinitarianism, the filioque debate was, in retrospect, inevitable: two relations of origin are proposed, the generation of the Son and the spiration of the Spirit. There are thus four relational terms: generating; being generated; spirating; and being spirated. These four terms then need to be divided between three hypostases. Two options appear natural and obvious: to identify the One who generates with the One who spirates [the Eastern Orthodox option], thus teaching the Father as sole cause and denying the filiqoue; or, following Thomas Aquinas, to affirm the filioque[the Western Catholic option] by making spiration a joint action of Father and Son, and so a non-hypostatic causal principle.”

The Quest for the Trinity, Stephen R. Holmes, (Kindle edition at 58%).

Putting it that way there seems to be no problem as far as theology is concerned with the filioque. Both “options” remain fully and undoubtedly within the patristic trinitarian framework. Neither “from the Father and the Son” nor “from the Father alone” are mandated by the Creed of Nicea-Constantinopel. But here the question must turn to the authority of the Creed as an expression of the mind of the Church (and thereby the voice of the Holy Spirit). Can the Creed be changed? Re-interpreted? and if so who has that authority? First and foremost authority in the Church is God’s. But who or what is God’s “organ” of speaking and acting authoritatively in the Church? The papal addition of the filioque to the Creed of Nicea-Constantinopel asserts that the Pope of Rome is that organ since the official addition to the Creed of the filioque was a papal act not a conciliar one. This is what should be controversial about the filioque. Not the theological content of the doctrine itself. Underneath the filioque lies the issue of papal authority and its limits. The Eastern Orthodox rightly question – nay strongly object to – the assertion that papal authority is not limited by tradition (including Scripture) but that tradition is (apparently) subject to papal authority. Clergy, especially bishops (including the Pope), should understand that they are “guardians of the tradition” not its inventors or innovators. It seems reasonable to me as a Western Catholic that the filioque be dropped from the Creed. This constitutes a clear message concerning authority in the Church and, it cannot be denied, an acknowledgment that in this the Eastern Orthodox are (and have always been) correct. It can also not be denied that the theology of filioque is simply classical, patristic trinitarianism and does not conflate hypostases, and certainly does not constitute a heresy. In that much the Western Catholics are (and have always been) correct.

In other words the solution to this problem, which has surfaced on my facebook feed several times in the past few weeks, is relatively straight forward. It is also as simple as it is straight forward. Drop filioque from the Creed (with its implications for papal authority) stop bitching about it being heretical (with its implication that filioque falls well within classical, patristic theological borders).

It will never happen though.

Gregory Wassen +

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Made Ready to hear

To pray is to be made ready to hear. This book [Worship as a Revelation] springs from the understanding that praying is a kind of hearing – not a mere opening of the ears, but a trained attentiveness in a habit acquired over years, even decades; a directedness towards in a particular manner. ‘I pray you …’ is a construction now rarely heard in contempoary speech, but once it meant a gracious form of address, attempting to draw towards one the attention of one greater than oneself, and an openness for them to speak, to act, to direct their attention to the one uttering the request.

Layrence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 1.

Adelbert de Vogüé and saying the Psalms

Even though prayer is indeed a divine conversation it is also an act of us listening to God – our conversation partner. The content of prayer is structured around the Scripture and the Psalter. It has been observed by the great Benedictine scholar Adelbert de Vogüé that “like the other books of Scripture, the psalter is chiefly the word of God, inspired writing. It is on this ground that the psalm precedes the prayer at the office. Before man addresses the word of prayer to God, he listens to the word which God says to him (“The Rule of St. Benedict: A Doctrinal and Spiritual Commentary,” p. 142-3).” This observation refers to the Egyptian (4th century) monastic form of Psalmody. Psalms or as, St. John Cassian says, about ten verses of a Psalm would be recited after which a silence and – a brief – prayer followed. Evidently the Psalm is not considered as actual prayer but as preparatory to prayer. The Psalm, read by one monk alone, is God addressing us by means of Scripture. The Prayer which follows the Psalm is the fruit of having read/heard it. De Vogüé makes the point with a quote from St. Caesarius: “Saying a Psalm is like sowing in a field: praying (orare) is like burying seed and covering it over by ploughing (arare) a second time (p. 143).” The word play can, sadly, not be translated. It stands to reason that the prayer following the Psalm is a reaction to the Psalm. The Psalm engenders prayer and it seems likely (we have no written records of those Psalm-prayers) that the prayer would be structured by images, concepts, even words of the Psalm itself (p. 144). De Vogüé observes that “this law of dialogue, in which God always takes the initiative, is the same which governs the most ancient prayer of the Church: the readings of the liturgical assembly precede the prayer of the faithful and priestly Eucharist (p. 143).”

That is certainly an interesting observation, and likely to be quite correct. But de Vogüé also observes that many Psalms have the character of man’s prayer to God. The Psalms evidently have a double function: 1. they prepare for prayer; 2. they are prayer. “To have said the Psalms is already to have prayed (p. 144).” This is why the Psalm-prayer eventually disappears from the Office and its place is now (in the West) occupied by the Gloria (Glory be to the Father. etc.). The conception of Psalmody as prayer prevails and is predominant – writes de Vogüé – in the Rule of St. Benedict and would eventually almost entirely crow out the understanding of Psalmody as God’s address to man (p. 148). Though I sympathize with de Vogüé as it concerns losing an important aspect of the Divine Office (Psalmody as word of God directed at us), I do not believe things are quite as dark as he seems to suggest. In my post concerning “Prayer as entering a divine conversation” I have spelled out quite clearly that prayer is not created by us, but is given to us. To view Psalmody as prayer does not necessarily eliminate the aspect of Scripture addressing us. A Psalm is simply both the word directed at us, and our prayer directed to God. Prayer is a conversation consisting of two-way traffic. We need to be made ready to hear.

(to be concluded)

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The Manifestation of Christ …

“Theology – contrary to common definitions – is not speech about God. It is reflective deliberation on the work of faith, the opus Dei, as St. Benedict calls it in his Rule, is the practice of worship, the sacred liturgy itself, and nothing less. It is through the sacred liturgy that the joining of heaven to earth comes to be understood, and culminates in making present who the Christ is by giving us understanding and experience of him. We do not pray in order to speak to God, but so that God can address us. In worship we return to God the love once offered to us and on our behalf through the sacrifice of his beloved Son. Worship, grounded in atonement, is therefore primarily toward God and only secondarily for us. The worship of the Church is divinely instituted: in Old Testament and New, God establishes not only that we should worship, but how. God establishes the Church for the sake of making manifest who for us God is: ‘it is to the holiness of the faithful that the hierarchical structure of the Church is totally ordered.’ This manifestation takes place through the cycle of the sacred liturgy: its work is to make us fit for heaven, to enable God to make saints of us, adopted, divinized, sons and daughters: brothers and sisters to the only-begotten who is not adopted but is Son by right. Prayer is first and foremost the prayer of the Church, and it i offered in her precincts. Central to every prayer and every text employed in the sacred liturgy of the Church is its soteriological meaning – its capacity to save us – and its anagogical meaning. ‘Anagogical’ means ‘capacity to lift up,’ literally, in this case, to raise us to the heavens, to the dwelling place of the saints on high and to the God who stretches out his hand to rule from his cherubim throne.”

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a revelation, p. 1-2.

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Prayer: entering a Divine Conversation

The Divine Office as contained in the Anglican Breviary begins with Matins (p. B1 for Sundays). In spite of the impression that perhaps Matins is the first Office of the liturgical day it is in fact not so. The first Office of Sunday is the 1st Vespers of Sunday (p. B27). The first Psalm of the Divine Office is not Psalm 1 (as given in Matins for Sunday) but in fact Psalm 110. The same is true for the Divine Office according to the Rule of St. Benedict which also begins with the 1st Vespers of Sunday and with the same Psalm.

The introductory versicles are our plea to God for His divine help in being able to pray at all. The plea itself is not a plea “made up” by a committee of Bishops or experts, but is in fact a quote from Scripture – the word of God. “O Lord open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” The versicle and its response are taken from Psalm 51: 15. The other opening verislces from Scripture are, of course, taken from Psalm 70: 1. The latter begin all the Hours except Matins which begins with Psalm 51:15. They are in the singular (me) and not, as the Prayer Book distorts it, in the plural. The message of the opening versicles is in fact that “prayer” is an already established given, not something we create or make up. Prayer happens on God’s initiative, not ours. What may seem a small change in the 1552 Prayer Book is in fact a negation of the “givenness” of prayer and an (unintended ? ) assertion of the malleability of prayer by human subjects. It asserts our initiative and control in rivalry to God’s. The better practice therefore – in spite of the Anglican Breviary’s apparent concession to “strict Prayer Book usage” (p. A3) – is to follow the traditional and scriptural usage. The very words of Scripture “given” to us by God are the gate through which we enter prayer. It literally fulfills St. Pauls words to us in Romans that:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.

Romans 8, 26

The comment accompanying this verse on informs us that: “The Spirit is said to ask, and desire for the saints, and to pray in us; inasmuch as he inspireth prayer, and teacheth us to pray.” Prayer is clearly on God’s initiative and he teaches us by giving us the Scripture itself as the building blocks for our prayer. Spontaneous extemporaneous prayer is not necessarily to be the preferred mode for prayer in spite of many assertions to the contrary heard today. Again what is assumed by so-called spontaneous or extemporaneous prayer is that prayer is malleable. It presumes that I am (or we) doing prayer and God first comes in as the One who listens to our prayer (rather than as the One who first initiated it). Prayer is treated as first and foremost as a human and not a divinely given activity. Such an approach is fundamentally in error. Prayer, such as traditionally given to us, is first and foremost a divine activity into which we are graciously allowed to enter.

This point is made very clear in the first Psalm used for the Divine Office: Psalm 110:

The Lord said unto my Lord …

The Psalm presents to us a divine conversation between Father and Son which is already ongoing. The human subject does not begin prayer and does not create the content for prayer either. God the Divine Trinity does. The Divine Spirit – as we saw above – is the means by which we are inserted into the conversation. Prayer is, to quote St. Evagrius, the mind’s conversation with God (On Prayer, 3 The Psalm which opens the “Psalmody” (liturgical recitation/singing of the Psalms) reinforces that prayer is a “given” and specifies what kind of “given” it is: an entry into the divine conversation. Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity provides an interesting possibility for visualizing this message. The faces of the “Angels” are turned inward, and in particular we see the Angel on (the viewers) left hand turned toward the middle Angel and the middle Angel turned toward the middle Angel. This could be understood as the conversation between Father and Son. The third Angel is turned toward both the others and in between the left hand Angel and the one on the right hand (the third Angel) stands a Chalice which is visible due to an “open spot” at the Table (or Altar). That open spot is the “place” where we are let into the conversation. It is the Holy Spirit (here understood as the third Angel) who lets us into that conversation. Note that all three persons are “open” towards the open spot at the Chalice. If we follow Paul Evdokimov’s “reading” of this Icon a clearly Eucharistic aspect comes to the fore. The Priest and congregation gathered for the Sacrifice of the Mass are all facing “East” in other words are all oriented towards the Father. This is so because the Canon of the Mass (where the Sacrifice is offered) is addressed to the Father. There are, of course, other readings of this Icon (for example Leonid Ouspensky’s that disagree with Evdokimov’s but we will not engage that further at this time). The important thing to take away from all this right now is that prayer is “given” to us and not created by us.

The “Our Father” is not an invitation to freestyle out life of prayer but a clear teaching of that prayer primarily addresses the Father, in Jesus Christ actualized through the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus gives us (hence prayer is, again, a “given” ) a pattern for prayer addressed to the Father. He, the very Word of God become flesh, is teaching what prayer is and how to do it. The Bible, as word of God, is intimately linked to the Word of God (Jesus Christ). In a sense the Bible contains the Word of God clothed in words. Using Scripture as the building blocks of prayer is therefore to almost literally “pray in Jesus Christ. Our prayers are drawn from out of the Scriptures, or perhaps we could say, prayer (insofar as it depends on Scripture) draws us into the world of Scripture and so into the Word of God: Jesus Christ.

It seems, to me, an inescapable fact that prayer is a given (to us) and not something we create or do (other than in a derivative sense). Prayer is God’s initiative to let us share in His divine triune life. Prayer is not therefore something for us to change in accordance with our – or my – theological and cultural opinions (or lack thereof). Prayer is the means of our transformation. We are formed in and by prayer. It – prayer – changes us, not we it. Even a seemingly small deviation, such as the one asserted by the Prayer Book, is at least an assertion of our initiative in prayer in rivalry of God’s initiative. It puts the human subject first. In this assertion the human subject let’s God into its life rather than the Divine Trinity letting us into His. The world as it is constituted by the human ego makes some (limited) room for God in it, a process which is essentially idolatry insofar as it seeks to shape God in such a way as to fit into the world created and governed by our ego. Prayer – in its liturgical sense – is given to us so that we may enter God’s world and so that He may shape (re-create us in the Image of God to use Pauline terms) us to fit into His world. This kind of prayer means entering a Divine Conversation which we did not start, do not choose the subject, and do not conclude. The conversation is there, independent of the human subject, but open to the human subject to enter into and so be a participant.

Gregory Wassen +

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Prayer does not bring God to us …


Prayer does not bring God or the divine presence to us. We have seen already that the liturgy’s fundamental definition of prayer is Christ the High Priest’s self-sacrifice which he pleads eternally before the Father for our sake. Rather, therefore, through prayer are we moved to enter the divine conspection. We, by uttering God’s name are moved to the blessing presence in which the name can be heard: this is what liturgy as performance and performative does. Most of all: by virtue of our having been moved by God’s having opened our mouth to make our own the prayers of his Son, the one single sacrifice of Christ is through the Holy Eucharist (and by analogy the offices and all our other prayer devotions) extended in its presence and effects to where we are now, and in fact to all times and all places.


Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 57

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