Reflections on the 2009 BCP (LAP) and BCP Reform(s)

The 2009 Book of Common Prayer

Lancelot Andrewes Press published a version of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which like the English Office Book restores the BCP to a more decidely Catholic form. It contains the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer as well as the Offices of Prime, Sext, None and Compline. The Office of Terce is not included because one of the models that was used in this revision of the BCP (the 1928 Proposed Book) also did not include it. Other than that the daily cycle of Prayers is restored. If so desired the Office of Terce could simply be recited from the Anglican or Roman Breviary.

The way the English Office Book and the 2009 BCP restore Catholicity is done in slightly different ways. Where the former seeks to restore such propers as Antiphons and Versicles, the 2009 BCP has mostly looked at other projects of revising the Prayer Book and selected the most Catholic options from those. A point in case is the Venite and Invitatory verse. In the English office the Venite and Invitatory are restored to Breviary useprecisely whereas in the 2009 BCP the Prayer Book use is retained but transformed to unyielding Catholic use and interpretation.

The 1552 Departures

The point of the Venite Psalm and its Invitatory verse are to set the tone for the entire Office to follow. This is its function in the Breviaries. The Venite Psalm is of course none other but the 95th Psalm which is included in the continuous 30 day Cycle of the BCP for the morning of the 19th day. The 95th Psalm also occurs in the Breviary Office as the first Psalm of the IIId Nocturn for Epiphany in the Anglican Breviary. The Annglican Breviary here agrees with a very ancient use. This is the only time that this Psalm is included in the cycle of the Nocturnal Psalms and when it does so it isnot said at the beginning of the Office as is also directed in the BCP use. Unlike the BCP, however, the 95th Psalm is said with its Invitatory verse even when it occurs as the first psalm of the III Nocturn of Epiphany. The BCP, in its very first appearance, got rid of the Invitatory. A most un-Catholic decision not unlikely contributed by Abp. Cranmer.

In 1552 a kind of substitute appeared for the Invitatory verse: the Sentences of Scripture as well as further departures and charicatures of Catholic use were introduced in this travesty of Prayer Books. The Sentences are entirely Protestant in derivation and purpose. But what Abp. Cranmer intended for heresy has been claimed for Catholic interpretation by Catholic Anglicans of all ages. It should not be forgotten that the 1552 BCP was introduced as a form of worship whilst the official doctrine of the Church of England was still that contained in The King’s Book and was not yet thrown into confusion by the adoption of the 39 Articles of religion. The latter, not being statements of faith per se but merely articles to prevent divisions to be subscribed to by the clergy only cannot be interpreted to have supplanted a deliberate statement of the faith of the Church of England directed at all the faithful such as we have in The King’s Book.

Restoring the (1552) Damage

The articles – whatever their status may be – are subjected to the higher authority of The King’s Book and when they are ambiguous The King’s Book provides the guide to interpret them in accordance with the traditionalAnglicanism. Reformed Catholicity is not to be found in the Articles, but inThe King’s Book since the articles are not doctrinal propositions to be held by the whole Church but merely as propositions the agreement upon which ought to prevent division between clergy and thus prevent the Church form falling apart into factions. In a sense the 39 Articles are an attempt to secure the Elizabethan Settlement where Catholicism and Protestantism are forced to co-exist in one body. The articles are proposed as the glue to keep Catholicism and Protestantism together. As such the Articles have failed miserably and they are not accorded any independent authority in the Anglican Catholic Church.

The American branch of the Church of England soon discerned the need to revise the Prayer Book yet again. Revisions in an orthodox and Catholic direction ended with the 1928 BCP. One such reform involved the Venite and its Invitatory verse. The 1928 (American) BCP restores the Invitatory to the Venite Psalm by providing Invitatories (p. 8 ) to be said immediately preceding and following the Venite Psalm. The Invitatories provided are for certain occasions and optional. For the rubric specifies that they may be sung or said not must. This is an approximation of the ancient practice and in that sense a restoration. The Sentences, Confession and Absolution are also somewhat revised. These are changes that tend toward a more Catholic interpretation of the Prayer Book Office. Most of these Prayer Books are equipped with a lectionary which is also a return to the principles of the Breviary. The lectionary often found in 1928 (American) BCP’s is the revised lectionary of 1943. This lectionary does not aim at mere immersion in Scripture – which presumes the independence of Scripture from tradition – but selects passages from Scripture on the principle of providing material for contemplation on Scripture. The selections deliberate and short, and function in the same way that the Scripture passages of the (Anglican) Breviary do. This trend of return to a more Catholic Office is the trend discerned in all revisions of the Prayer Book following the 1552 book.

Non-Catholic Prayer Book Changes

Even though some of the revisions made in the 1928 (American) BCP were decidedly Catholic, other changes were equally decidedly liberal. The Athanasian Creed is not part of the Office nor has it been restored in this Prayer Book, the Apostles Creed is provided with an optional change to the wordings of the Creed to soften traditional teaching on hell (and I say that while being an adherent of the apokatastasis doctrine as found in Origen,. Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius Ponticus, Isaac the Syrian, William Law etc. ), the Sentences are equally softened, the Scripture readings avoid “hard passages” of Scripture, the Psalms selected for optional use (replacing the 30 Day cycle) leave out the “hard Psalms,” etc. all of which open the Prayer Book up for a liberal interpretation. The 1928 (American) BCP accommodates not just Protestantism, and Catholicism, but it also (deliberately) accommodates latitudinarianism. The Catholic changes are to be welcomed, but the liberal changes are to be lamented for it is this trend which is continued in the 1979 (American) BCP and renders it useless for catholic Anglicans.

The American Prayer Book of 1928 is – on the one hand – far superior to its English 1662 parent, where catholicity is concerned. At the same time the 1662 BCP is far superior to the American (1928) BCP where the exclusion of liberalism is concerned. Both Prayer Books are able to carry Catholic meaning and both are capable of Catholic use, but neither are simply Catholic. There are other revisions of the Prayer Book I have not (yet) considered here, but so far as I can see the story is very similar. Revisions are deliberately more accommodating to Catholic and Latitudinarian Anglicans. The point made clearly and consistently by the Roman Catholic Priest Aidan Nichols that Anglicanism seems to consist of three quite separate religions called by a singular name (The Panther and the Hind) is confirmed by our Prayer Books themselves. Another revision of the Prayer Book, it seems to me, is necessary to accomplish two things:

  1. once and for all restore Catholicity by undoing the damage done to the Divine Office in 1549/52
  2. once and for all exclude liberalism

Prayer Book Catholicity

This can be accomplished in different ways. The Anglican Breviary/Monastic Office could  receive official recognition as including in the ancient structures all the truly necessary reforms that can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, or by restoring those elements to the Prayer Book Office which were added to push the so-called New Learning. The latter is the path chosen by the editors of the English Office Book and the editor of the 2009 Book of Common Prayer published by Lancelot Andrewes Press. The only draw back in the 2009 BCP (LAP) is that it is geared toward use in the Orthodox Western Rite and has some peculiarities which could not be used in an Anglican Catholic context. The English Office Book has the great inconvenience of being poorly edited and some of its rubrics ought perhaps to be revisited (restoring I Vespers to all Doubles for example).

On the whole it seems to me that since the Directorium Anglicanum and the Manuale Clericorum, and the Ritual Notes the maximum has been done to squeeze every drop of Catholicity out of our BCP Office (Ritual Notes even pushing beyond the strict BCP confines) and a revision may be in order to prevent any Protestant or Latitudinarian abuse. This will not abolish the BCP but bring its reform to completion such as is already the case for the BCP Mass as represented by the various (Anglican) Missals. A Prayer Book Office which actually corresponds to the Mass we celebrate is not an innovation nor an abandoning of Classical Anglicanism – if by the latter we understand the English (Anglican) Faith before the Protestant distortion – but the full implementation of it. It is allowing the Prayer Book to express its catholicity in such a way that it is no longer capable of liberal or Protestant abuse.

Gregory +


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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19 Responses to Reflections on the 2009 BCP (LAP) and BCP Reform(s)

  1. Dale says:

    Wonderful commentary on the BCP. I especially apprecate your opinions of the 1928 BCP as incorporating liberal elements. This is very interesting, and upon reflections, I do believe that you are correct. My only real question would be to know what you would consider in the Orthodox BCP (not by the way actually approved by any competent Orthodox authority) to be contrary to the Anglo-Catholic Faith and practive? I do have a copy of the Orthodox BCP and have found it to be excellent, especially as a pew prayer book since it contains both the office as well as the Mass. It is also very inexpensive, this is especially important for small missions.

    • Father Gregory says:

      I am mostly thinking of it as a Priest. The Pastoral Offices of Baptism and the reception of converts would have to be adapted to fit Western practice. For all users of the Anglican variety the Eastern Paschalion is quite useless. The Mass also has some peculiarly Eastern adaptations, such as the devotion before Communion from the Divine Liturgy (p. 506), or even the Epiclesis (p. 503) – I know Cranmer added an Epiclesis in his first Prayer Book but regardless it is still a mutilation of a Roman rite Mass (and the Sarum/BCP are Roman in origin – the Kalendar of Saints emphasizes the East in a way an Anglican Kalendar of Saints wouldn’t, the Filoque (a traditional Western doctrine) is excluded from the Nicene and Athaansian Creeds. These are the things which are deliberately adapted to make the Prayer Book acceptable to Eastern Orthodox. This is a very clever strategy because many Eastern Orthodox will not condone anything as truly Christian unless it is somehow Eastern Orthodox. Even the Western Rite is still a vehicle carrying Eastern doctrine and spirit rather than Western. The 2009 BCP does a good job of making the Prayer Book as Eastern looking as possible without becoming entirely un-Anglican. Yet it is these adaptations that would need to be restored to Western traditional use to be usable for actual Anglicans rather than Eastern Orthodox seeking to worship with an Anglican like liturgy. I do not mean to diss the 2009 Prayer Book at all! I think it is a work of art and that it is much preferable over any other Prayer Book known to me, but for implementing it in actual Anglican Parishes I believe it would need to ne de-Orthodoxized and re-Anglicanized.

      Gregory +

  2. Br. Benedict Andersen, OSB says:

    Fr Gregory and Dale:

    I wonder what you all think of the fact that the rites of Baptism and Confirmation (though not their being joined together) come from the old Roman Ritual. I’m assuming (though I don’t know for sure) that most Continuing Anglicans would use the BCP here.

    The joining together of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion is, to my mind, less an “Eastern” thing than a primitive Christian thing. I could see (and would applaud) a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction reverting to the more primitive practice.

    The sanctoral kalendar in the back of the book is quite idiosyncratic. It is not the calendar of the Vicariate, and was not compiled by myself but by a parishioner of St Mark’s Denver. It’s more generous than the Vicariate calendar, in that it does include some post-schism Western saints who are not known to have been anti-Orthodox.

    The eucharistic epiclesis is, arguably, an authentic element of “Anglican patrimony.” Cranmer’s original instinct was developed by the English and Scottish Non-Jurors, inspired by the ancient Eastern liturgies. So I suppose that “Anglican patrimony” does already assume a fair degree of “Easternization” already, many centuries before the Antiochians got to it.

    • Father Gregory says:

      Brother Benedict,

      You are quite correct of course about the Office of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. My point is practical usability. These pastoral Offices have not been performed correctly for centuries and I don’t see much chance for that to change (yet). In that sense it is not usable. The Eastern Church still performs these Offices correctly, but it not so in the West. I know the West is in error here, but this is a fight I am not (yet) willing to pick.

      The point with the Eucharistic Epiclesis is that it is not Roman and the Sarum/BCP are of the Roman family. I am not sure what Abp. Cranmer’s instincts were, but getting away from Cranmer’s instincts is (usually) a good idea. But I would have to concede that you are quite correct about the “Easternization” being part of post-Reformation Anglican History. My instinct is to look at before the Reformation and to Rome rather than the East. But your observations are correct and I should have been a bit more nuanced. But if I had been more nuanced, I would not have had your involvement here and that is worth it to me. That is to say – I cannot think of any friend I know whose thought on this subject is more valuable to me.

      Iow please do not stop correcting me when my thoughts are not deep and informed enough.

      Gregory +

      • Benedict Andersen, OSB says:

        I certainly don’t think it’s my place to correct you or anyone else. I just really enjoy the shop talk. 🙂

      • Father Gregory says:

        Dear Brother – howabout this: I positively seek your correction if I can have it!

        Gregory +

      • Benedict Andersen, OSB says:

        Fr Gregory, given what you say above about emphasizing the Western/Latin/Roman origins of Anglicanism, would you prefer the Roman Canon over an Anglican one?

      • Father Gregory says:

        Indeed I would. The BCP canons – as such – I would not like to use. The Canon as given in the 2009 BCP I would use, or the ones given in the available (Anglican) Missals. The Roman Canon is – in my mind – better than any Prayer Book Canon of the Mass (especially those dependent upon the 1552 BCP). Though the Canon as given in the BCP you edited is perfectly acceptable and suitable I still prefer the Roman one. I can live quite happily with the different options of the English or American Missal.

      • Father Gregory says:

        Hm. Perhaps I should further nuance that … I do appreciate some aspects of the BCP reforms. I like the ability to use the prayer “ALMIGHTY and everliving God …” found where the Secret Prayers should be. This prayer – as suggested in the Ritual Notes – could function in the place of the lost litany. The emphasis on the Cross as the Sacrifice once offered prevents misunderstanding the Sacrifice of the Mass as a repetition of the Crucifixion and a re-offering of Jesus Christ to the Father, etc. I am sensitive to preventing the Medieval abuses (even if they were not as bad and widespread as the Reformers implicated) but it is Protestantism which is the worse abuse in that it could potentially do away with the Sacraments.

  3. Br. Benedict Andersen, OSB says:

    P.S. Does the ACC have an official sanctoral calendar?

  4. Dale says:

    This has indeed been an interesting conversation. Regarding the “easternizations” in the 2009 BCP, I am afraid that the only one that I am really opposed to is the introduction of the prayer before communion. I do believe that if we are going to have a descending invocation in the canon of the Mass, I beleive that the 2009 BCP has done followed through with a more direct invocation of the Holy Ghost; although I do question why use a Byzantine one? The eastern influence on the American and Scottish BCP was that of the more ancient Syriac rite, and it is perhaps this form of an invocation that should have been used (BUT, I must be also be honest in admitting a very strong distaste for the Byzantines anyway). The other sacraments, using the Roman rite, is just what I had been raised with as an Anglo-Catholic, so in this sense, I find them completely normal; and I do support a return to the ancient tradition of combining baptism and confirmation, as well as the communion of children. I do not consider this to be an easternization, but a return to our more ancient Catholic practices.

    Since St. Louis, it was posited that the faith of Anglicanism would be the faith of the seven ecumenical councils, hence, there should be no place for the insertion of the filioque in the Creed; once again, not an easternization, but a return to an older practice of the Catholic Faith.

    As far as the Kalendar is concerned, it is what it is! I can understand the need for the publishers to have a Kalendar that incorporated eastern saints not normally found on English Kalendars, in this I can only posit this is perhaps not such a bad thing!

    • Father Gregory says:

      I agree that IF we should have a descending epiclesis the one the 2009 BCP uses is as tasteful as they get. I suppose my objection remains that the BCP Mass is of Roman not Eastern origin and I am not sure that the descending epiclesis was introduced by Cranmer for Catholic or even Orthodox reasons. It occurs to me that he sought to simply create more distance between the Prayer Book and the Roman Canon. He may have been aware – for he was considerably informed about liturgics – that the epiclesis would be able to weaken the focus on the consecration at the “words of institution” which besides implying “Real Presence” also imply real Sacrifice (if unbloody/sacramental). Of course the epiclesis itself implies “Real Presence” which may have caused Cranmer some more cause of concern. The non-Jurors liturgy, I would agree, is a definite attempt to restore Catholicity to the BCP Mass.

      I am also plagued by a strong distaste for things Byzantine (or Russian for that matter) and it may very well cause an allergic reaction the 2009 BCP does not deserve. Surely the Baptismal Office as given in the 2009 BCP is a radical improvement to any BCP in existence today. And I agree that ALL baptized (by that rite) Christians SHOULD be allowed to commune – obviously including children. In my move from Orthodox to Anglican Catholic Church my son (almost 5 yrs old) was suddenly deprived of Communion by order of the Bishop. That was very disturbing to him – he did not understand why he was no longer allowed whereas he was before – and it created some significant resistance on his part toward going to Church. I am sure he does not understand Real Presence, but he does very much understand rejection from Communion. Yet partly because of this experience I do not think the ACC – or indeed the West in general – is willing to return to ancient (and correct) practice.

      As far as the filioque is concerned, there are other additions in the Western form of the Nicene Creed that the East never complained about. Filioque is a mere excuse for bashing the West. The “God of God” is a Western change to the Creed, and so is the formula was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary whereas the Creed originally said: was incarnate
      of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
      both reflecting Western use. The filioque is originally present in the Athanasian Creed and the formula showing up in the Nicene Creed is therefore simply a widespread liturgical and doctrinal standard of the West. It often escapes Orthodox that Photius’ alone is not in the Nicene Creed either. And on top of it all is the fact that the original Creed of Nicea was unilaterally altered in and by the East in 381-2 and only much later did it find entrance in the West as Vladimir Solovyov pointed out long ago. I am afraid that my being in Orthodoxy has immunized me for any sympathy with their position on the filioque. St. Louis did of course accept the Seven Councils, but the ACC does so selectively (as does the Church of Rome). If not we would all re-baptize schismatics, heretics, and apostates (by virtue of Trullo accepting the Cyprianite canons as binding), none of us would be able to use Christ the Lamb imagery in our ecclesial art (Trullo forbids it), there would be no kneeling on Sundays, and so on and so forth. St. Bede the Venerable despised Trullo for a good reason it has a decidely anti-Western ring to it. It is also good to remember in this context that filioque has been part of the Western tradition since the 5th century even if did not find official endorsement util the 11th century.

      As far as the Kalendar is concerned I suppose I must fess up that I really don’t like an elaborate Kalendar of Saints which overrules the Feria. I am rather sympathetic to the Prayer Book revisions in that respect and I would like to see most Feasts as simple memorials and only very few of them as high-ranking doubles. The best Kalendar I have seen that holds the balance very well is that of the Simple Kalendar in the Anglican Breviary.

      In the end though I think that this conversation has brought me to the point that I will admit that the 2009 Prayer Book is a very reasonable and Catholic way for Anglicans to go. But I still prefer the English Office if for no other reason that its Psalms have not been tinkered with as the ones in the 1928 American BCP have been. Now if the un-tinkered-with-Psalter of the English Office would be the ones of the 2009 BCP I would not hesitate to use the 2009 BCP with complete satisfaction for private or even public use if I could get the necessary permissions. The 2009 BCP is a work of art, and it is not too hard to tweak it for Anglican use. After all Anglicans have a looooong history with BCP’s 😉

      Gregory +

  5. Dale says:

    “In my move from Orthodox to Anglican Catholic Church my son (almost 5 yrs old) was suddenly deprived of Communion by order of the Bishop.” I must say that I am rather disheatened to read this. Since your son, like my own, was baptised and confirmed in the eastern tradition, is your bishop insinuating that their confirmations were not valid? Even Rome will accept, from eastern rite Catholics and even some Roman rite Catholics who still retain the tradition of combining communion and baptism, the right of such children to receive, in the Roman rite, communion. This seems a rather bewildered concept of both communion as well as validity.

    • Father Gregory says:

      I have no reason to think that the Bishop believes invalidity is involved. I was accepted in my Orders without anythink being absolutely or conditionally repeated. I have met the Bishop – of course – and he is a warmhearted and kind man. I rather suspect the issue is the unusualness and rarity (if at all) for toddlers to receive Communion. It is my impression he is a good Anglican and is acting on his pastoral instincts. I don’t think he wants to create an unusual situation but rather “normality” in everyone’s best interest. It is our privilege to disagree with our Bishop but also our duty to follow his decisions. Again I think it is the fact that children’s Communion has for centuries been so alien to the West that he is unwilling to do something which goes against the received tradition and wisdom. Personally I do sympathize with such hesitation toward taking liberties with tradition. This situation is more to be blamed on the Western Church pulling apart Baptism, Confirmation and Communion than on a 21st century Anglican Bishop of good will. After it is the Bishop’s job (part of it) to safeguard the traditions. I am convinced it is that which he is doing.

      Gregory +

  6. Benedict Andersen, OSB says:

    I am very sad to hear about your son being barred from Holy Communion, Fr Gregory! I guess the ACC follows RC canon law on this point? It seems to me that the decision to admit a child to Communion should be between the child’s parents and his parish priest (in this case, his priest and his dad are one and the same!). Surely your son can receive reverently, and distinguish the Eucharist from ordinary food. As I recall, these are the minimum requirements for the communion of children in the Roman Rite.

    • Father Gregory says:

      Having communed many kids – including my own – I am not sure I would necessarily the describe the process as ‘reverent.’ I would describe it as applying the medicine of eternal life to one that needs it even it will be an involved and somewhat complicated process. Communing children is not necessarily reverent but – I believe – it is a great good to commune them. I am not completely up to date with ACC canon law, but it seems reasonable to me that the Rector of our Parish consulted his Bishop on what to do in a situation he has never dealt with before. Orthodox priests – sometimes – do the same thing. Unusual things they are not sure how to handle are passed on to the Bishop. Entirely legit I think.

      As far as reverence goes … Children cannot usually kneel nicely with hands folded piously and correctly for much longer than 30 seconds. The process of communing them will take a bit longer than they are able to maintain one position. If reverence is measured for kids as for adults they do not stand a chance of being reverent. But if reverence is measured relative tot heir age I think they can be taught and can be prepared to receive.

      Gregory +

  7. Dale says:

    Just another question: When will your son be able to commune? Will he have to go through another confirmation service? What will be the criteria to qualify?

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