Example Lessons

Simple Change

Still contemplating the idea of broadening the range of Scripture and Patristic commentary. In one of the comments on this blog a very good point was raised concerning simplicity. Currently the Book of Common Prayer – strictly speaking – requires but one additional volume to be used along with it: the Bible. A Hymnal is not necessary, neither is a Martyrology, nor an Antiphonary, etc. etc. This gives the BCP the enormous strength of simplicity, which is a great tool to help create unity of mind for the one using it. Multiplication of books to be used in the Office tends to distract and distraction diversifies the mind and this diversity of the mind means that attention is divided over different things and “God” becomes merely one of the things that attention is given to. This in its turn prevents the mind from really praying. Simplicity is a great virtue and is neglected at our peril.

The Simple Kalendar of the AB is precisely that: simple. But those new to its use are still challenged significantly. Yet this would be true for even the BCP itself. After all the rubrical guide at the beginning of the Book and the further rubrics in the Offices and the Mass also need to be learned. Rubrics and some complexity are not necessarily an evil, since time and effort must be spent on learning, a greater sense of success and of value is also gained. Prayer should not be cheap or easy in the negative sense!

A suggestion I would make therefore is to keep it simple, while also broadening the Scriptural and Patristic base of the AB. Perhaps this could be a way to do it:

The only change made to the Lessons will be in Matins, all the other Hours will remain unchanged.

The Sunday Matins will remain entirely unchanged. It will therefore conform to the BCP as the editors of the AB intended.

The only Lessons replaced are the ferial Scripture Lessons.

Instead of having 3 Readings on ferias there will only be two.

To encourage simplicity the Responsories could be dropped. But if they are retained the use of them should be adapted to fit the Lesson read.


The example

Yesterday was a feria according to the Simple Kalendar. No feast, no complications. I will use it as an example below.

Invitatory & Hymn ~ of the feria (no change)

I Nocturn, ferial Antiphons & Psalms from the Psalter (no change)


Readings 1, 2, 3 from Genesis are replaced by 2 Readings the first from 1 Cor 11: 17-34, the second from Bd. Columba Marmion. Which could have be done something like this:

From the Former Epistle to the Corinthians

Lesson I

17Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.33Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us. Thanks be to God.

Short but clearly present silence

From Christ in His Mysteries by Bl. Columba Marmion

Lesson 2

No Mass is celebrated, no communion made without our being enabled to remember that Jesus delivered himself up to death for the redemption of the world. For, says St Paul, as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He come. Thus is perpetuated, living and fruitful, until the end of time, the remembrance of Christ among those whom he came to redeem by his immolation.

The Eucharist is then truly the memorial that Christ has left to us of his Passion and his Death: it is the testament of his love. Wherever the bread and wine are offered, wherever the consecrated Host is found, there appears the remembrance of Christ’s immolation: do this for a commemoration of me. The Eucharist recalls to us above all the memory of the Passion of Jesus. It was on the eve of his death that he instituted it; he left it to us as the testament of his love.

But it does not exclude the other mysteries. See what the Church does. She is the Bride of Christ, none knows better than she the intentions of her Divine Head; in the or­ganisation of the public worship which she renders to him, she is guided by the Holy Spirit. Now what does she say? Directly after the Consecration, she first of all recalls the words of Jesus: As often as you do these things, you shall do them in remembrance of me. And at once she adds, to show how closely she enters into the sentiments of her Spouse: ‘Wherefore, O Lord, we your servants together with your holy people, in memory of the blessed Passion of the same Christ Our Lord, and of his Resurrection from hell, also of his glorious Ascension into Heaven offer unto your most excellent Majesty the holy bread of eternal life, and the chalice of everlasting salvation.’ After the mention of ‘the Ascension to the right hand of the Father’, the Greeks likewise add, ‘that of the second and glorious coming of Christ’.

So then, although the Eucharist recalls the Passion of Jesus, it does not exclude the remembrance of the glorious mysteries which are linked so closely to the Passion of which they are, in a sense, the crown. Since it is the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive, the Eucharist supposes the In­carnation and the mysteries which are founded upon or flow from it. Christ is upon the altar with the divine life which never ceases, with his mortal life of which the his­torical form has doubtless ceased, but of which the substance and merits remain, with his glorious life which shall have no end.

All this, as you know, is really contained in the Sacred Host and given in Communion to our souls. In communicating himself to us, Christ Jesus gives himself in the sub­stantial totality of his works and mysteries, as in the oneness of his Person. Yes, let us say, with the Psalmist who sings in prophecy the glory of the Eucharist, the Lord has made a remembrance of His wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord, he has given food to them that fear him. The Eucharist is like the synthesis of the marvels of the love of the Incarnate Word towards us.

But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us. Thanks be to God.

And here would follow the Collect if Lauds is not said immediately.

I have obviously omitted the Responsories in the interest of simplicity. But I can imagine that the two lessons could be split into three so that the ferial Responsories that go with the AB readings from Paul (see p. C143-145) might be inserted.

I have used the Two Year Patristic Lectionary from the Benedictine Abbey at Pluscarden, Scotland. The “Patristic Reading” above is, of course, not patristic in the sense that it is an ancient text. Bl. Columba Marmion is a relatively recent author. But such near contemporary readings – from Bl. Columba Marmion, the Catholic Catechism, Vatican II etc. – could easily be replaced with readings from the Anglican tradition. This would integrate the AB even more into a specifically Anglican context – especially if, following the example of Canon Winfred Douglas – we tone down some Romanizing tendencies in feasts such as the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by replacing the modern collect with a more ancient one as given in the Monastic Diurnal.

If – make that IF – all of this works out, perhaps these propers could be printed together with the Scripture readings in one volume using such services as provided by LULU.com. That way we would only need one extra volume together with the AB and follow the worthy trail blazed by the BCP. Simplicity, brevity, and yet a comprehensive exposure to Scripture and the way to understand it. Of course we would still need to find a way to deal with the different ranks of feast to include them in this, but I think it is entirely possible.

To conclude: in the AB – as it is – much good is already to be found and I would want to add that changing the Lectionary and Kalendar are not strictly necessary. But perhaps for some of us appropriate.

Fr. Gregory Wassen +

One thought on “Example Lessons

  1. Once again, excellent article! Actually, one may use only two books and keep the full BCP office, including hymns and antiphons. I personally use an edition of the 1662 BCP with a full daily Lectionary of the 1922 revision included. Added to this, I add the antiphons et cetera from the “English Office.” When I travel, I use only the single volume containing the BCP and the lectionary. I once saw an edition of the American BCP with a full lectionary as well, I had been told that it was published by the Anglican Catholic Church, but I have been unable to find a copy or even to find when and where it may have been printed. What I think that we do need is a single volume, for those of use using the BCP office, that has a full, daily lectionary, the BCP offices of Mattins and Evensong, and the office hymns, antiphons and invitories as found in the “English Office.”

    I agree with Fr. Gregory that we really need the Patristic lessons as well…especially for Mattins. One of the editions of the “Short Breviary” published by the Benedictines of Collegeville did have patristic readings, as well as an expanded lectionary in the back of the book. I had a copy many years ago but gave it away as an ordination gift simply because it was in really dreadful newspaper English so popular amongst American Romans.

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