Epiphany (ii)

“We make this assertion because this is what the liturgy itself tells us, in the very acts of making us manifest and like to Christ. The manifestation and full meaning of Christ to the world is given in the Christmas cycle of the liturgy, beginning with the feast of the Nativity, the Incarnation itself. This feast was originally kept on January 6th, but probably following the arguments of Sextus Julius Africanus (supposedly relating the records of the Roman censuses to the birth of Christ), the actual birth of Christ was redated to December 25. Gueranger reports that the Holy See ‘obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on this date [nevertheless] the Sixth of January was not robbed of its glory.’ So important was the date of the feast on the 6th of January, however, that the established feast on that date remained, in both the East and the West. We might say that the historical considerations were subordinated to their anagogical and theological significance, but this would not be quite correct, for the keeping of the Nativity as the actual birth of Christ was already subordinate to two other significations of the feast (so much so, that it gets no mention in the liturgies of the East) is the appearance of the wise men or Magi from the East, the so-called ‘three kings’.”

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 164.


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Epiphany (i)


Today’s feast is about God revealing (manifesting, disclosing) Himself in Jesus Christ. He reveals Himself in the liturgy He has given the Church and unites us to Himself in that same liturgy.

“What is the right path for understanding the liturgy? The liturgy performs its meaning, which means: makes its meaning available such that it is what it signifies. The liturgy is not a sacrament as such, but it has the same underlying structure of intelligibility that the sacraments possess. The ‘subject’ of the liturgy is Christ, which means the liturgy both discloses who Christ is, and in this disclosing, inscribes those to whom the disclosure is made into the very being of the one disclosed. This unfolding disclosure does not happen all at once: precisely not. It happens cyclically, through the constant repetition, both within the day, and daily, and in its annual repetition, across a lifetime of faithful engagement and prayer. In the liturgy the ones participating are made present to Christ, as ones whom he receives as Bridegroom and High Priest in the Temple of the New Jerusalem.”

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 163.

This is why we ought to be so careful not to introduce “alien fire which the Lord has not enjoined upon us” (Lev. 10). The liturgies devised in committees by reform minded people to replace the traditional (traditioned, given or  enjoined unto us) and given liturgy is very much such an “alien fire” the Lord has not enjoined. This applies to recent reforms, yes, but it applies to Cranmer’s extremes as well such as we find in the first Book of Common Prayer (and those that followed it).

The Anglican Breviary (and Missal) are therefore necessary  restorations in the life of Anglican Catholicism. If it is to be Catholic.

Gregory Wassen +

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O wondrous interchange … !

This Collect says much about the season of Christmastide.

In Neale’s Breviary the translation reads:

“O wonderful exchange ! The Creator of mankind taking to Himself a living body, vouchsafed to be born of a virgin: and, proceeding forth as man, made us co-heirs of His Godhead.”

The Anglican Breviary (AB), ever concerned with allowing moderns to be opened up to the ancient (transforming) message, has:

“O wondrous interchange ! the Creator of mankind, taking upon him a living body, vouchsafed to be born of a pure Virgin: and by his Humanity, which was begotten in no earthly wise, hath made us partakers of his Divinity.”

Clearly the same antiphon, but the one from the AB is a paraphrase rather than a direct translation. From the AB paraphrase it is more clear what the antiphon is saying and how the festal season is to be interpreted. The AB’s paraphrase is aimed at the “total kiss” (“The Love of Learning and the Desire for God,” Jean Leclercq, OSB, p. 283-286) with the lips of understanding and experience. The kiss symbolizes the intimacy of unity with God. The AB strives to facilitate this union, this kiss.

This does not mean that Neale’s Breviary does not aim for the same, lofty, goal! It certainly does. But the AB deliberately takes into account the fact that moderns suffer from a  forgetfulness which causes them to misunderstand “mystical interpretation” (Anglican Breviary, p. viii). Neale may have higher expectations from those using his translation.

Gregory Wassen +

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Destruction of Advent

Advent. The season of great and ancient spiritual resources. a season of expectation and preparation. And for me, … a season in which The Book of Common Prayer fails me the most. It has removed a great many of the propers which give this season its exceptionally rich spiritual content. It is not just the “collect of Advent II” which transforms Advent II into “Bible Sunday.” The Book of Common Prayer departed from universal and catholic tradition by the adoption of a new and radically different set of propers – especially collects. In particular the Collect for “Bible Sunday” (named after the collect for the Second Sunday in Advent) provides an example of how a change of worship shows a change of doctrine. We have here a “double whammy” of revolution in doctrine and worship.

The ancient tradition, by (among other things) the passage of time, has been ripened by the Holy Spirit and is now replaced with the newly invented doctrines and liturgies of man. Man moves to the center of worship rather than God. A similar sort of revolution has taken place in the Roman Catholic world. A change of worship coincided with a change in doctrine (and morals).

In The Episcopal Church the 1970-ies saw the introduction of a new Book of Common Prayer (1979) which continued the man-centered worship and doctrine first introduced by Thomas Cranmer. The new Prayer Book differs in significant ways from its 1928 predecessor in degree, but not in essence. Though this will not be easily admitted by may an Anglo Catholic. The difference between the 1549 Prayer Book and its ancient predecessor are exponentially larger than the differences between the 1928 and 1979  Books of Common Prayer. The latter are differences along the same spectrum whereas the ancient Liturgy and the new Liturgy of Thomas Cranmer differ not simply in degree but in essence. Hard truths for some, but easily verified. The resources on Sarum Liturgy are ever increasing and can be consulted by anyone connected to the internet. The changes in the liturgies signal changes in doctrine. Or to be more precise: the new liturgies teach new doctrines.

The English Missal and the Benedcitine Office Books contain a full, traditional, and catholic liturgy for Advent. These salvage from the Book of Common Prayer what can be salvaged without sacrificing anything important. It is these sources I intend to reflect on more deeply this coming Advent Season, and from these I will supplement what is lacking from even the Anglican Breviary.

Gregory Wassen +

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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:


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.



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. 


  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.


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:


  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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