During the Walsingham Pilgrimage, we had to vacate the Shrine Church on Thursday morning because of the Inauguration as Administrator of Bishop Lindsay. The Parish Church offered us hospitality; this was the Anglican Mass and I was to be celebrant; which way to face? which altar to use: the one in more-or-less the medieval place, or the newer versus populum one under the Rood? I rather inclined to the first; but wondered if that might make a point too bluntly. Also, the new altar looked a bit heavy and cumbersome to shift. So: the new altar. But versus whom? Why not strike a blow for the Benedictine arrangement? But is not that explicitly a second-best for the versus Orientem as devised by a pastoral Pontiff unwilling to promote too great a discontinuity with the last two generations? So I asked the Parish Priest if he would mind if I shifted candles and crucifix so as to face East. He looked at me in amazement: "Just how old are you?", he enquired. [68 is the answer.] Well, he had been very kind to us, and it seemed impossibly ungracious and massively ungrateful to make some chirpy aggressive reply like "Sunshine, you're the one behind the times; haven't you read anything written in the last thirty years about the theoretical and practical reasons for versus Orientem?" So I murmured a few confused words about how I was indeed tremendously old, and shifted the furnishings.
Rite? Well, no concelebration nowadays. We Anglicans are all too confused about who is in what-degree-of-impaired-communion with whom. But what about the Eucharistic Prayer? One authorised by Rome or a Common Worship formula? You will not be surprised to learn that I do not like the latter. But which prelates to name or not to name, which Roman Prayer to use, in which language?
My solution was nothing short of brilliant, although most readers will deem it barking mad. It was to use the old Anglo-Catholic custom of saying the Canon Romanus secretly to the end of the Quam oblationem; then Dr Cranmer's Consecration Prayer aloud [not that he called it that; the title is part of the recatholicising of Anglicanism in the generations after Cranmer]; then the Canon from Unde et memores onwards, secretly, and while the congregation sang the two-verse hymn Wherefore, O Father which gives the gist of the Oblatio of the Canon. I discovered that whoever devised this expedient did get the timing right; I was just concluding the per ipsum as the people ended the hymn. "Throughout all ages, world without end", I informed the congregation. "Amen", they responded with conviction.
For the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus, I used the Prayer Book versions as slightly tidied and corrected by Common Worship. The happy point about this is that they are very close indeed to ... yes! you're right! the newest Roman translations. The hilarious thing is that the abortive ICEL versions dumped by Vatican instruction in the nineties will live for decades in the 'modern' options of Common Worship, which adopted them in the certainty that they were thereby promoting liturgical convergence. Quis dubitare possit Providentiam iocosissimam esse dominam?
I also included Cranmer's post-Communion prayer so as to affirm, in the spirit of the Book of Divine Worship, elements which are not heretical in the Anglican liturgical heritage.
How did the congregation react? I only heard kind comments; not least from a very dear Scottish Presbyterian minister whom the liturgical idiom reminded of his early years using the Book of Common Order. And from a charming Ukrainian Greek Catholic who told me that my homily was the highpoint of the entire Pilgrimage ... well, I would view him as charming, wouldn't I? The only criticism that was uttered for me to hear was from a distinguished Orthodox participant who, having convincingly assumed the sumbebekota of deep sleep during the second paragraph of my homily, was alert enough a little later to be able to complain afterwards that the Creed had included the Filioque.
Ah well. We all have our shibboleths.