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:
- once and for all restore Catholicity by undoing the damage done to the Divine Office in 1549/52
- 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.