To use or not to use …?


The Book of Common Prayer that is.

In his recent blog post Why I don’t use the Book of Common Prayer Father Jonathan Munn gave his thoughts regarding his own customs for Mass and the Divine Office. This sparked a post named Reflections on the Prayer Book by Fr. Anthony Chadwick on his Sarum Use blog. Both articles are written by Anglicans that have roots in the culture and religious world created by the Book of Common Prayer (= BCP). The article to follow is written by an Anglican Catholic Priest, and fellow ACC member, who does not have any roots the culture and religious world created by the BCP. Though I sympathize with my brothers in the Priesthood, I do not share their relationship to the BCP. I am a stranger to the “Prayer Book Wars”, I do not have any emotional or spiritual investments in the “classic” BCP’s either. The BCP has never been positive factor in my entry into the Anglican Catholic Church. The opposite is, in fact, true. The BCP and the 39 Articles have been significant bumps in the road for me, and as will become clear, to some extent they still are.

 

Protestanism – “The brick wall of the Reformation

Fr. Munn mentions running into the “brick wall of the Reformation” and it is to avoid that same wall why I do not even own, nor desire to own, a Book of Common Prayer. My first encounters with Christianity were decidedly anti-liturgical in the form of Pentecostalism and Evangelical Protestantism. From these barren forms of Christianity I eventually moved to the Orthodox Church. The latter is a deeply liturgical Christian community so that obedience to the liturgy can be simplified as obedience to God. For the Liturgy – as much as Scripture – is a gift of God to His people. God is known in both there is no either/or here. The work of God – as St. Benedict calls it – does two things at the same time: it allows us to know God and worship Him, and through it the worshiper is deified. To change the liturgy – in any revolutionary sense – is unthinkable almost (but not quite) as much as it is unthinkable to radically change the Scriptures.

Such a respect for liturgy creates a very big problem when one is seeking to enter a Anglican Christian community. Even one as overtly Catholic as the Anglican Catholic Church. The trouble is precisely the liturgy. Namely: the Book of Common Prayer which is undoubtedly a work by Protestants for Protestants, facilitating Protestant worship and a Protestant spiritual formation. Any Catholic use of the BCP – though possible with great difficulty and some feats of mental and spiritual gymnastics – comes to it from the outside as something not natural to it. The Reformation on the European Continent and the BCP share the same (Protestant) DNA. It was the realization that the ACC contained the following important qualification to its use of the BCP that eventually convinced me that the ACC was serious about its catholicism:

OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. The Book of Common Prayer in its 1549
English, 1928 American, 1954 South African, 19 and 1962 Canadian editions, and the
1963 edition of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon as well as The
Supplement To The Book of Common Prayer (C.I.P.B.C.) of 1960 shall be the Standard of Public Worship of this Church, together with The Anglican Missal, The American Missal, The English Missal, and other missals and devotional manuals, based on and conforming to those editions of The Book of Common Prayer.

Constitution of the Anglican Catholic Church, Article xiv, 1.

The above clearly states that the Anglican, American, and English Missals conform to the mentioned BCP’s mentioned and are therefore “the Standard of Public Worship of this Church.” Also mentioned are (unspecified) “other missals and devotional manuals” that conform to the BCP’s mentioned in the way that the specified Missals do. This easily applies to the English Office Book, the Monastic Diurnal & Breviary, and the Anglican Breviary. Also included should be a “manual” no longer in print (except on lulu.com) compiled for the Community of St. Margaret over a hundred years ago by St. John Mason Neale (completed by members of the community after Neale’s death): the Night Hours of the Church (three volumes), and the Breviary Offices: Lauds to Compline.  Iow the thrust of the ACC is away from the Protestantism that gave birth to the BCP – while, paradoxically, paying lip service to BCP conformity. The “brick wall of the Reformation” is what the ACC wishes to avoid running into – but, preferably, without giving up on the BCP all-together.

 

Monastic Patrimony

Both Fr. Munn and Fr. Chadwick mention the monastic tradition and their shared respect for it. The ACC has a Benedictine and Franciscan tradition both of which Orders have strong (but often ignored) liturgical implications.

Fr. Munn mentions that “the genius of the BCP is Benedictine” and I have heard similar statements on the BCP more times than I am able to count. Only once have I seen an attempt to sustain that assumption with argument by John Bede Pauley OSB. I remain entirely unconvinced that there is a Benedictine quality to the BCP in any sense. The liturgical thought as we find it in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict is diametrically opposed to the liturgical thoughts expressed in the BCP. I cannot see how anyone familiar with the chapters on the Divine Office (which take up a significant number of chapters in the Rule 1 ) could find their “spirit” or “genius” reflected in Cranmer’s Prayer Book. Cranmer and Benedict were operating on very different principles. To mention just two examples:

  1. Cranmer’s Prayer Book is a vehicle for reading Scripture. The BCP is oriented toward the reading of Scripture and only Scripture. Benedict conceives of the Divine Office as “work of God” where the reading of Scripture has secondary place in the Divine Office (much like it did for John Cassian) and “psalmody” comes first. If Scripture is read, it is to be placed in the context of interpretations provided by “orthodox and catholic Fathers.” The latter was entirely absent from Cranmer’s mind. Scripture interprets itself and has no need of such authoritative “Fathers.” To Benedict such interpretative context is essential to reading Scripture whereas to Cranmer (and Prayer Book) it is beneficial and in no way essential.
  2. The Office consists of 7 day offices and 1 night office so that prayer may conform to the scriptural pattern (Psalm 119 & Rule xvi). The night and day offices together count eight offices and point to the “eight day”. It is not by accident that ancient baptismal fonts and baptisteries are built to have eight sides, that Sunday is traditionally counted as the first and the eights day, and that babies were named on the eight day etc. The eight day is the “time beyond nature” the “reality of the Risen Christ.”  The 8 fold Office as we find it in the Holy Rule is deliberate and is not open to change. The distribution of the Psalms over the 8 hours is open to change, not the structure of the Office itself. Cranmer fails to see the point of the traditional Hours of Prayer and constructs Morning and Evening Prayer out of them. Destroying an essential aspect of the traditional Office in the process.

This is but simply to touch on two issues, much more could be said. Even about these two issues. The Prayer Book is not Benedictine and, as far as I can see, reflects no specific Benedictine themes. Anglican Benedictines, it seems to me, are bound to follow the directions of the Holy Rule and naturally gravitate to using the Office as specified by St. Benedict.

The secular Office, used by the “mendicant Orders”, counts only seven Hours in the liturgical day, combining Matins and Lauds into one. But again these seven Hours are christologically and scripturally grounded as the following ancient rhyme makes clear:

At Matins bound, at Prime reviled, condemned to death at Tierce; Nailed to the Cross at Sexts; at Nones His blessed side they pierce; They take Him down at Vesper-tide, in grave at Compline lay; Who henceforth bids His Church observe these seven hours alway.

The number seven is symbolic. They remind us of the seven virtues & vices, the seven words from the Cross, the seven sacraments etc. The structure of the  traditional Divine Office is an essential feature not accidental as it is in the BCP. The number seven grounds the Office in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work and the Scripture which speaks of Him.

The mendicants active in the ACC are – to my knowledge – primarily Franciscan. It may therefore be expedient to read what St. Francis has to say about the Divine Office:

III. CONCERNING THE DIVINE OFFICE AND FASTING; AND HOW THE BROTHERS OUGHT TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE WORLD.

Clerics are to perform the divine office according to the rite of the Roman Church, except for the Psalter, and they can have breviaries for that purpose. Laymen are to say twenty-four “Our Fathers” at matins; five at lauds; seven each at prime, terce, sext and none; twelve at vespers; and seven at compline. They should also pray for the dead. They should fast from the feast of all saints until Christmas. Those who voluntarily fast at Quadragessima, those forty days after Epiphany which the Lord consecrated with his own holy fasting, will themselves be blessed by the Lord; yet they are not required to do so if they do not want to. They must fast during Lent, but they are not required to do so at other times except on Fridays. In case of obvious necessity, however, they are excused from bodily fasting.

Franciscans, it seems to me, are bound to obey their founder’s rule as much as are Benedictines. The “rite of the Roman Church” at this time is the pre-Tridentine Divine Office of which Sarum and the Office Books which Neale provided for St. Margaret’s are representatives. The Psalter St. Francis wants his friars to use is the older of the two Psalters in vogue at the time. The Gallican and Roman Psalter of which St. Francis – as most of his contemporaries – assumed the older was used and given by St. Peter the Apostle. In other words Anglican Franciscans, it would seem, have little wiggle room here. Whatever wiggle room there is, it does not fit the BCP. A very tight opening exists for the Anglican Breviary here since it is based in the Franciscan tradition and it could be convincingly argued that it is a reformed version of the Roman Rite.

 

Non-British

Fr. Chadwick refers to emotional attachment to the BCP by many Anglicans and he touches on the idea that Anglicans could derive their identity as Anglicans from this book. That is certainly true. He also mentions that his own use of the Sarum Use for Mass is justified by claiming it as “Anglican” be it pre-reformation Anglican. Fr. Chadwick and Fr. Munn are both British and have roots in the religious culture created and sustained by the BCP. My background is different. I have no spiritual investment in the BCP at all. The BCP does not have an emotional grip on me either. I am a native Dutchman and insofar as I have pre-Reformation roots they are Tridentine Roman or post-Reformation Calvinist.

There is little, if anything, Catholic to be found in Calvinism. Whatever is Christian in Calvinism is the little it has retained from Catholicism. Whatever is original to Calvinism is simply of non-Christian origin and of no concern to me as a Christian.

The English and Anglican Missals are, as Fr. Chadwick notes, of Roman inspiration rather than Sarum. As a Dutchman my interrest in Anglican Catholicism – and my investment in it – lies here. Catholic first and Anglican second. The English Missal or Missale Anglicanum is authorized for use in the ACC and it contains the Sundays after Pentecost and the pre-Reformation Collects of the Roman Rite. This fits very well with the Catholic tradition of the Netherlands and is what I am invested in and have roots in. I have no need, nor any desire for the BCP.

That said – I do understand that “Prayer Book Catholicism” is a real thing and that many Anglican Catholics use the BCP for Office and Mass and are entirely Catholic in their faith. I do not intend to deny this reality, nor do I intend to deny their practice of Anglican Catholicism. I believe they are using the Prayer Book in a Catholic sense and I would not want to deprive them of it. At the same time I wish to explain why, like Fr. Jonathan I do not use the BCP. Though our reasons may differ, I think we can agree that the BCP Office and the traditional Divine Office can coexist in the Church. The Breviary and English Missal provide for the practice of a Catholic faith in the Netherands. The Anglican Catholic Church, though based on the BCP in its Catholic use and interpretation, is not limited to the BCP but extends into Missal and Breviary and is therefore relevant to a reformed (though not Protestant) Dutch Catholicism and I am quite content to have found my spiritual home in it.

Gregory Wassen +

 

 

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Nativity of the BVM (at Lauds)


The Diurnal as edited by St. John Mason Neale has some remarkable deviations from the Office as we know it from the Anglican Breviary. Comparing the two, as we did with Vespers, may enrich our understanding of what it is we are celebrating today:

    Versiculus Sacerdotalis

V. The Lord shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool. R. Even as the drops that water the earth.

Many Medieval uses began Lauds by adding a V. & R. before the opening versicles. The Versiculus Sacerdotalis serves a similar function to the Invitatory verse at Matins: to set the tone of the Office to follow. 

    Antiphons

  1. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning: fair as the moon, clear as the sun?
  2. My dove, my undefiled is but one: she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.
  3. The daughters saw her and blessed her: yea, the queens, and they praised her.
  4. Arise, and come away, O my dove: let me see thy countenance.
  5. How fair and how pleasant art thou: O love, for delights.

    Chapter     Baruch v

For God will shew thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever, the peace of righteousness, and the true glory of God’s worship.

    Ant. Ben. 

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee.

The antiphons on the Psalms again identify the Blessed Virgin Mary (as at Vespers last night) by making scriptural allusions. In Neale’s Diurnal it is a  ery beautiful feature that for the Psalter of last night the Psalms used for the Vespers of Christmas Day was used. Thereby making a liturgical connection between the Blessed Virgin and her Son. The Virgin’s privilege is rooted in Him whose Mother she is. She therefore derives “her” Palms from her Son (Christmas ranks as a higher feast than the Nativity of the BVM ! ).

Likewise, at the second antiphon, when the BVM is names as “undefiled” such a privilege is derived from her Son. Those following the dogmatic definition proclaimed in the Roman Church concerning the immaculate conception of the BVM will, perhaps, find a connection between the new dogma and this antiphon here. Such a privilege is also derived from her Son. It seems that even the commemoration of today, St. Hadrian and his wife Natalie give symbolical expression of the Blessed Virgin’s loyalty to her Son as He hung dying on the Cross (like holy Natalie stayed by her husband’s side as he suffered his martyrdom). But there is more! Lesson ix, for St. Hadrian, tells us that because of  “[Natalie’s] share in his sufferings, she also is accounted as a Martyr, and was buried amongst the relics of those who were martyred at this time, albeit she herself died not the martyr’s death of violence.” Prefiguring, perhaps, the “piercing of Mary’s heart” as she co-suffered with her Son.

Much to meditatively chew on!

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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Nativity of the B.V.M.


nativitybvm

The Diurnal in the edition based on the work St. John Mason Neale directs one to use the propers from the feast of the Conception of the BVM. There we find the following propers for tonight:

Antiphons

  1. There shall come a Star out of Jacob: and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.
  2. The Ark went upon the face of the waters: and the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth.
  3. The Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold the Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.
  4. When she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
  5. The same is the woman: whom the Lord hath pointed out for my Master’s Son.

Chapter. Jeremiah XXIII

BEHOLD, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign, and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

R. Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb: I will pour My Spirit upon thy Seed, and My blessing shall be upon thine Offspring. V. That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. R. I will pour My Spirit upon Thy Seed, and My blessing upon thine Offspring. V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. R. Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb: I will pour My Spirit upon thy Seed, and My blessing shall be upon thine Offspring.

V. This is God’s hill, in the which it pleaseth Him to dwell. R. Yea, the Lord will abide in it forever.

Ant. Magn. The work is great, for the palace is not for men: but for the Lord God.

Though there is nothing wrong with Common II as used in the Anglican Breviary it yet seems that these above propers really do cover both the Conception and the Nativity well. It also establishes and celebrates their connection. In the Anglican Breviary – which follows the new propers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – the connection of the feasts has not disappeared. Though both feasts could* have their own propers taken from Common I of BVM (Imm. Conc. of BVM) or from Common II of BVM (Nat. of BVM).

Fr. Gregory Wassen

* See the rubrics at the top of p. F193.

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Beheading of St. John Baptist & Commemoration of St. Sabina


Lessons selected from the II & III Nocturn:

Lesson iv: We must not hurry past the record of blessed Baptist John.  We must ask what he was; by whom he was slain; and why and how.  He was a righteous man, murdered  icon_of_john_the_baptist_yaroslavl_16cfor his righteousness by adulterers.  He was a judge, who suffered condemnation to death by the guilty ones because he had justly judged their guilt.  He was the prophet whose death was a fee paid to a dancing-girl for a lascivious dance.  And lastly a thing from which even savages would shrink his head was served up as a dish at a banquet.  For the order to commit the atrocity was given amid the merriment of a dinner-party; and the servants of the murderer introduced the murder amid the courses of the meal, running from banquet to prison, and from prison to banquet!  See how many infamies are contained in this one crime.

Lesson v: Who is there that, on seeing the messenger hasten from the dinner-table to the prison, would not have forthwith concluded that he carried an order for the prophet’s release?  If anyone had heard that it was Herod’s birthday, and that he was giving a great feast, and that he had offered a damsel the choice of whatever she wished, and that thereupon a messenger had been sent to John’s dungeon―if anyone, I say, had heard this, what would he have supposed?  He would have concluded that the damsel had asked and obtained John’s freedom.  What hath merry-making in common with cruelty? or pleasure-seeking with death-dealing?  While the banquet was in progress, the prophet was hurried to his doom, by an order from the reveller whom he had not troubled even by a prayer for release.  He was slain with the sword, and his head was served up in a charger.  This was the new dish demanded by a cruelty which the banquet had been powerless to glut.

Lesson vi: Look, O cruel king, and see a decoration which suiteth well thy banquet!  Stretch forth thine hand, and touch the head of death at thy feast.  So as to lose no part of the luxury of cruelty, let the streams of his sacred blood run between thy fingers.  Thine hunger the dinner hath been unable to satisfy; thy cups have not been able to quench thine inhuman thirst; drink the blood still flowing from the palpitating veins of this sacred head.  Look at the eyes!  Even in death they remain the witness of thine uncleanness, albeit they have made haste to close themselves upon the spectacle of thy pleasures.  Those eyes are closing, but, as it were, not so much from death, as from horror at thine enjoyment.  That golden mouth, whose bloodless lips are silent now, can repeat no more the denunciation which thou couldest not bear to hear!  But even yet thou art afraid of their unspoken judgments!

Lesson ix: St. Sabina, Holy Woman & Martyr. Sabina was a Roman lady, the wife of a distinguished nobleman named Valentine.  The Christian faith was taught to her by a maiden named Seraphia.  After the martyrdom of this holy virgin, Sabina gathered together her relicks, and buried them with godly service.  For this cause she was in a SabinaSeraphialittle while arrested, under the Emperor Hadrian, and brought before the Judge Elpidius.  Art thou, said he, the same Sabina who is so distinguished for her blood and her marriage?  She answered: I am; but I give thanks to my Lord Jesus Christ for having delivered me through the prayers of his hand-maiden Seraphia from the troubling of the devils.  Divers attempts were made to make her change her mind, but when they proved in vain, the Prefect passed sentence of death upon her for despising the gods.  The Christians laid her body in the same grave in which she had herself laid that of Seraphia, her teacher in the faith.

 

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St. Symphorian & Autumn


St.SymphorianToday: the Octave Day of the Repose of the Blessed Virgin Mary & the Commemoration of Sts. Timothy, Hippolytus, and Symphorian.

Liturgy tells time. St. Symphorian, in previous times, indicated the end of summer and the beginning of autumn according to an old verse:

“Winter goes off, and skies grow fair,
When Simon Peter fits in Chair [Febr. 22]:
Saint Urban bids the spring be gone [May25]:
Symphorian calls the autumn on [August 22]:
Saint Clement’s day [November 21] wind and rain
And cold of winter brings again.”

The cycle of the liturgical year “incarnates” the presence of God in Jesus Christ into the very fabric of our daily lives. If only we would let it.

 

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On the Psalter in the Western Church


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The Divine Office in pdf (Roman Breviary)


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