8 September 2008

Anglican Liturgy

I found myself wondering the other day (this won't be of interest to non-anglicans) whether it is factually accurate to regard the Prayer Book Eucharistic Rite as somehow normative; the original rite to which others are optional alternatives or johnny-come-lately substitutes.

What I mean is this. We believe that the C of E was founded in 596. Between then and 1549 the Roman Rite was used, exclusively, daily.

After 1559, The Eucharist very quickly slipped out of use in the majority of Anglican churches. The Prayer Book Eucharist was the rite enforced by Parliament, but it was very rarely used because the Eucharist was very rarely celebrated.

Whenever some movement got under way that recovered Patristic and Catholic sacramental and liturgical theology, and the Eucharist began to be celebrated frequently, almost instantly the Prayer Book rite was found to be not fit for purpose and was discarded or transformed.

Rather than regarding the Prayer Book rite as our base-line liturgy, I wonder if we should not instead frankly acknowledge that it is an eccentric rite which has never been central to the life of the Church.

For example: rather than bullying Principals of seminaries to expose their charges at least occasionally to this rite, I wonder if it would not be sounder to encourage exposure to the Roman Rite; either in the form it had reached by 1558, or in the 'Extraordinary Form'. Perhaps it could be in English and done from the good old English Missal.

This would give our students for the priesthood a far more historically accurate notion of where we come from.

Don't get me wrong. The Prayer Book Eucharist is a de facto part of our faith-experience as Anglicans. It nourished and sanctified Charles Stuart, William Laud, the Tractarian Fathers. It created a hieratic idiom of liturgical English which I regard as a precious treasure. I am a member of the Prayer Book Society.

But I wonder whether we shouldn't regard it as even more important to have, say, an English Missal Society or - what about this - a Priestly Fraternity of S Gregory (FSSG) for the practical experience of the Roman Rite in the Anglican context.

And it would help us when RCs ask that dodgy question 'What exactly is it that you want to bring with you into Full Communion?'

5 comments:

BillyD said...

The 1662 rite is certainly eccentric, but what about the one in the 1549 BCP?

William Tighe said...

Well, since Dr. Cranmer explicitly formulated the 1549 rite to correct the "errors" of the Roman Canon, it seems to me that no Catholic (Anglican or otherwise) ought to have anything to do with a rite so odious in its origins. Then, too (as Fr. Hunwicke himself posted some months ago) there is the blessed memory of those who shed their blood, in Cornwall, Devon, and also Oxfordshire, to resist its imposition in 1549.

So far as I am concerned the only possible historically Anglican rite that might even possibly be adapted for Catholic purposes is the Scottish Communion Office of 1764 (or the Nonjuror Rite of 1718).

BillyD said...

Thank you for your response, Dr. Tighe. After reading your post I read Fr. Hunwicke's posts to which you referred; it was enlightening. Although I was aware of the chronology involved (break with Rome under Henry, first BCP under Edward) it never really occurred to me to think of those involved in the Western Rising as Anglicans, Catholic or otherwise. I had always thought of them as Roman Catholics opposed to the CofE.

johnf said...

I presume Father, that when you talk about the form of the Mass in 1558, you refer to the Sarum Rite.

I read somewhere that the only reason that the Sarum did not get a derogation from the Pope's decree of conformity to the Roman Missal in 1570 was that it had fallen into desuetude after Mary's death.

Otherwise as a distinct rite with a pedigree of over 200 years, it would have met the conditions for preservation, in the same way as the Dominican Rite is preserved alongside the Tridentine Rite.

The Sarum Rite is quintessentially English. Maybe you should focus on this as the norm.

Geoff said...

I tried to start an English Missal Society on Facebook, but only one other individual (a priest of a latitudinarian persuasion, as it happens) deigned to join.