At Walsingham I indulged myself a completely novel experience: a Communion Service in the Reformed Tradition held in the lovely little Methodist Chapel. The Sermon was by Fr Norman Wallwork, a Methodist minister, and was notable for its elegant explanation of why our Lady has to be seen as Co-Redemptrix (why are RCs so uneasy nowadays about this rather obvious inference from Scripture?). But the URC service itself:
This, again, was cleverly and intelligently put together, and among other things included formulae including the word "offer" which Anglican Evangelicals would undoubtedly have vetoed in the Church of England's General Synod. But I had a problem with the service. It appeared to require to be followed by keeping an eye upon a duplicated order of service. There were very nice responsories, for example, which could only 'come off' if they were followed textually.
I tend to feel that the People ought to be able to follow their service without published props. Their traditional interventions in both word and action should be known instinctively, off by heart, by long and inherited deep internal appropriation; they ought not to be the enacting of a photocopied sheet which they were given as they walked into church that morning. Worshippers ought to be at home in worship, not function like actors reading their parts in an early rehearsal. Come to that, I don't know that I much like the leaflets common in RC churches with the readings on them. Why can't the people simply listen with profound submission to the word of God proclaimed ... to the airwaves which have been transubstantiated into the very Word of the Incarnate Word? Am I not right in thinking that for our society reading happens in contexts associated with weighing up and judging rather than with hearing and obeying? (And, by the way, the one thing I thought really bad about the URC service was that we sat for the Holy Gospel. There is a risk that we might sit to be entertained; standing to hear a Word of Authority is so rare in our culture that its preservation during the proclamation of the Gospel must be held very precious.)
The invention of printing made it possible for the English government of 1549 to impose, overnight, a novel liturgy and then, a couple of years later, a profoundly different version of it. Bugnini, after the Council, had the same dangerously effective weapon at his disposal. That, in itself, represented a corruption of the organic and traditional quality of Worship. But at least the printed book, in a culture where books were a comparatively rare phenomenon, offered a degree of stability during the lifetime of the use of that book (and remember that for some generations after 1549 the officiant was very probably the only person to be holding a copy). The advent in our own time of the disposable duplicated sheet offers the probability of an even more profound disruption and destabilisation of Liturgy.
We ought to keep this medium for just long enough to enable the new ICEL version of the Roman Liturgy in English to bed down. Then we should proscribe it for ever.