Monday, December 8, 2008

The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

While the American prayer book has no black letter holy days, the English and Scots books abound in them. Elizabeth's Latin prayer book almost had one for every free day in the year. And while that might be just a little excessive, it is good to have them as they remind us of our history and that others before us have succeeded in the path which we attempt to follow.

But today is a little and maybe a great deal more of that. The red letter feast days of our Lady in the prayer book, the Purification and Annunciation, are really feasts of our Lord, but the black letter holy days are as uniquely hers as possible. Today, the feast of her conception, according to some liturgical scholars originated with the English in the eighth century. True or not, it has remained in the English calendar since the reign of Elizabeth I. I am particularly fond of it because of a story regarding my first real mentor and spiritual director in the faith. She found the feast delightful because in the Sarum missal the gospel for this day is the genealogies from St Matthew. It was wonderful, she thought, that God saw fit to have his divine son's human descent be from such a list of scoundrels. I share her view.

But in modern times, the feast has another point. It reminds us that the Church has always regarded life to have begun with conception and this is one of the two feasts in the calendar which point this out. If as Christians we are intended to choose life over death, then we must choose it for the truly innocent as well and regard all abortion not only as a sin but as a crime. The Christian life, the Biblical life demands sexual purity both in and outside of marriage. The very institution has as its end the protection of the children which are one of its major intentions. Civilization fall when they forget or ignore this. Ours, such as it is, may be on its way. Remembering the purpose of this feast and celebrating it just may be a step in preventing that.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


"The Canon of Scripture is perfect, and most abundantly of itself is sufficient for all things." St Vincent of Lerins

I am not now and never have been a big fan of "Bible Sunday." It has always been my conviction that the two parts of the historic liturgy most misunderstood of the reformers were the season of Advent and the Ember Days. That being said, it becomes apparent that classical Anglicans like all truly orthodox Christians can in no way under estimate their importance for keeping us individually and as tradition and Church from wandering off like lost sheep. Consequently I find myself turning to something which I wrote almost twenty years ago for the tiny Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of the Americas parish for which I was ordered deacon and priest. I have made some tiny edits, but it is essentially just what I wrote out one Sunday morning to go inside the bulletin for the purpose of deepening our folks appreciation of just who they were by baptism and how they were supposed to respond.

"Since the Scripture being of itself so deep and profound, all men do not understand it in one and the same sense, but divers men, diversely, this man and that man, this way and that way, expound and interpret the sayings thereof so that one's thinking, so many men, so many opinions almost may be gathered out of them . . . for the avoiding of error, the prophets and apostles must be expounded according to the rule of the ecclesiastical and catholic sense." Against Heresy, chapter ii.

"Within the Catholic Church, we hold that which hath been believed everywhere, always and of all men: for that is truly and properly Catholic, which comprehendeth all things in general after an universal manner. And that we shall do if we follow Universality, Antiquity, Consent.

"Universality shall we follow thus, if we profess that One Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world acknowledgeth and confesseth.

"Antiquity shall we follow, if we part not any whit from those senses which it is plain that our holy elders and fathers generally held.

"Consent shall we likewise follow, if in this very Antiquity itself, we hold the definitions and opinions of all, or at any rate almost all, the Priests and Doctors together."
Against Heresy. chapter ii.

The above passages from Against Heresy by st Vincent of Lerins are critical for understanding the true Anglican approach to the Catholic Faith. The English or Anglican Reformation, unlike that of the Continent, was essentially conservative. It was an attempt to do that thing which we are currently told in so many ways can not be done - to turn back the clock. The point of the Anglican Reformation was to return to the faith and practise of the earliest Church and not to invent a new faith, even one based upon a modern (to them) reading of the Holy Scriptures themselves. This can be seen in the Book of Common Prayer which, while it might have been compiled by Cranmer and his famous committee, was essentially a collection and translation as well as simplification of the same worship that had gone on in English parishes, cathedrals and monasteries from the time of the arrival of the earliest Christian in Britain.

John Jewel, the famous bishop of Salisbury in the reign of Elizabeth I, took largely the same tack in his defense of the Church of England. In a sermon preached at St. Paul's Cross on 26 November 1559 he stated that "if any learned man of our adversaries be able to bring any one sufficient sentence out of any old doctor or father, or out of any old general council, or out of the Holy Scripture, or any one example out of the primitive church for the space of six hundred years after Christ, in proof of the specifically Romish doctrines and practices, I will go over to him." This was the basis for his opus, the Apologia pro Ecclesia Anglicanae which achieved a theological status almost on a par with the Thirty Nine Articles. Archbishop Parker endorse a proposal for binding the Apology with the Catechism and the Articles and authorized as authoritative.

Queen Elizabeth I herself wrote and spoke in a similar manner. When writing to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand in reply to his letter thanking her for seeing to the safety and comfort of Queen Mary's bishops , she put her position plainly: "We and our people - thanks be to God - follow no novel and strange religion, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consentient mind and voice of the most early Fathers."

The similar opinion and expression can be found in almost all of the lights of the Anglican Reformation. Hooker, Andrewes, Laud all reflect a view that is directly related to the teaching of St Vincent as to the nature and content of the Catholic faith. And what they believed, we should also believe and allow our thinking processes to be shaped by it. Certainly that Anglican giant of the twentieth century, C. S. Lewis, did so. His introduction to St Athanasius's 'de Incarnatione' is a model of the same type of thinking. If we are going to be truly christian or truly Anglican, we must work ourselves around until we have the same habits of mind that we find in St Vincent seeking the ancient faith rather than modern error.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Fifth Columns

"This Protestant fifth column is still with us. Declarations are constantly being made that the Church of England comprehends many points of view and that all of them have an equal right to exist within its borders. We are told that extreme "Evangelical" Churches are as much "Church of England" as "Anglo-Catholic" ones, perhaps even more so. But this is simply not true. This is proved by the one authoritiative document which the Church of England has issued -- the Book of Common Prayer. Doctrines which are contrary to it are disloyal. Churches which do not obey its directions represent disloyal and rebellious elements."
J. C. L. Dart, The Old Religion

But it is equally true that churches, priests and bishops who imitate the Church of Rome either in doctrine or ceremonial are equally disloyal. I am in the process of reading The Very Rev'd Vernon Staley's Studies in Ceremonial and he made it very clear that most of what those who call themselves Anglo-Catholics are not only being disloyal to the basic Anglican position, but to that of the whole Western Church before the Council of Trent. Look to see some of his work on this blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

St Martin of Tours, Bishop & Wonderworker

The following material about St Martin is tattled from Celtic Saints. It is or should be important to Anglicans in that the Church which St Augustine used in Canterbury was that of St Martin just as the Church which St Ninian built in Whithorn was also dedicated to St Martin.
------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --
Born in Sabaria in Upper Pannonia (Hungary), c. 316; died November 8,

Most mortals only have to deal with a collective devil (or so they
think)--the devil of communities and families, the occult force which
appeals to the lowest parts of our nature, the dark god of the city at
night. To have a personal devil seems to be a "privilege" reserved for
saints. The greatness of a saint is measured by the greatness of the
temptation he has to overcome because the life of the saint stands out
in contrast with the work of the devil.

Martin was the son of a pagan army officer who moved with his family to
his father's new post in Pavia, Italy. Martin had placed himself in the
catechumenate at the age of 10 against his parents' will. He took
lessons at the local church and, by the time he was 12, his love of God
was so ardent that he wanted to retire to become a hermit. At 15, as the
son of an army veteran, he was compelled to join the army against his
will. Although Martin had not formally become a Christian, he had lived
more the life of a monk than a soldier for several years.

While stationed at Amiens in France in 337, a semi-naked beggar
approached him in bitterly cold weather. Martin's name became immortal
at that moment, for he sliced his military cloak in two and gave half of
it to the starving man. That night in a dream he saw Jesus wrapped in
the half of the cloak that he had given away. Jesus said to him,
"Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with this garment." Following
this dream, he "flew to be baptized," according to his biographer.

When he was about 20, barbarians invaded Gaul. He was presented to
Julian Caesar with his companions to receive a donative, but Martin
refused it saying, "I have served you as a soldier; let me now serve
Christ. Give the bounty to these others who are going to fight, but I am
a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight."

Irritated by this stance, Julian accused him of cowardice. Martin
replied that he was willing to go into battle unarmed and stand between
the opposing parties in the name of Christ. He was thrown into prison,
but that night the barbarians demanded and obtained an armistice. Martin
sought and received his discharge c. 339.

Thereafter he lived for some time in Italy and Dalmatia before he went
to Poitiers, and Bishop Saint Hilary took him as a disciple. Martin
sought him out knowing that in serving this holy man he would be serving
God. Hilary recognised Martin's extraordinary merit and would have
ordained Martin a deacon, but he could not overcome Martin's humility.

To keep Martin in his diocese, Hilary assigned him the duties of
exorcism--so it was in that official capacity that Martin first made the
acquaintance of the devil. It was still only the general devil, for he
did not yet have his own private one. Martin, however, learned how to
ward off evil spells and parry thrusts from the devil's horns, a lesson
that would always be useful.

Martin had a dream that called him home, and he returned to Pannonia,
converting his mother and others, including a group of bandits who would
have killed him, during the visit. Shortly thereafter the devil appeared
to him in human form and told him that no matter where he went or what
he did, the devil would oppose him.

In Illyricum his vocal opposition to the Arians led to his being
publicly scourged and exiled by Auxentius, the Arian bishop. Returning
to Italy, Martin found that Hilary had been exiled. He retreated to a
place near the walls of Milan, where he entered the monastic life.
Auxentius, when he seized the see of Milan, caught up with Martin and
drove him from the diocese. Martin then joined company with a virtuous
priest. The duo retired to the deserted island of Gallinaria in the gulf
of Genoa where he lived as a recluse until 360, when the banished Saint
Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers.

It was true for Martin as for most saints that the more Martin grew in
holiness, the more his private devil became differentiated from the
collective devil. More and more the devil clung on to his soul, forcing
him to be ceaselessly on his guard. It was like the scientific principle
of communicating vessels: as Martin rose like mercury towards
saintliness, the devil hastened to fill the empty space behind him.

One day while he was still living in seclusion on the island, Martin ate
a poisonous plant that almost killed him. The chronicles call this plant
'hellebore' which is doubtless a mistake, since hellebore is no more
fatal than it is a cure for madness, and, according to herbalists,
contains nothing worse than a drastic purgative.

Perhaps the plant wasn't there by chance? There is a variety of
hellebore called 'Christmas rose' that is a mandrake. Nevertheless, when
Martin felt the poison at work, he began to pray--which proves that he
realised that there was nothing natural about his sickness--and God
cured him.

Martin's devil was capable of transforming himself into many different
shapes. He was particularly fond of taking the form of the gods and
goddesses of mythology, appearing sometimes as Jupiter, sometimes as
Mercury. But though Martin was always alarmed by Mercury, he dismissed
Jupiter as 'a stupid animal' and 'a fool.'

The devil also liked to disguise himself in the form of women. One day
he appeared as Venus, the next as Minerva, always exuding a strong smell
of sulphur and always being put to flight by the sign of the cross.

After learning that Hilary was returning to Poitiers, Martin travelled
to Rome to meet him en route and accompany him back to his see. As
Martin wished to live as a solitary, Hilary gave him some land, now
called Liguge, where he was joined by other hermits--and thus the first
monastic community in Gaul was founded. It was a famous monastery until
1607, and was revived in 1852 by the Solesmes Benedictines. He lived
there for 10 years, preaching and reputedly performing miracles in the
area, including raising a catechumen and a hanged slave back to life.

Soon matters with the devil began to get worse. One day while the saint
was at prayer in his cell the devil came in without knocking, holding in
his hand a horn covered with blood. "I've just killed one of your
people," he told the saint, and in fact the monastery's carrier had just
been gored by a bull. Thereupon Martin resolved to fight the surrounding
devils by destroying all the pagan temples in the district. He was soon
given the gift of perceiving devils, and this enabled him to keep out of
the way of his own devil.

Around 371, Tours chose him as its third bishop. He was unwilling to
take the office; the people tricked him into visiting a sick person in
the city and then took him to the church. His poor appearance did not
impress the bishops who had come to assist at the election, but the
people overruled their objections and Martin was consecrated on July 3,

He lived in a cell by the church but soon retreated from the city and
its distractions to a place that would become an abbey at Marmoutier,
which became another great monastic centre. It was a desert, with a
steep cliff on one side and a river on the other. Before long, eighty
monks had joined him. The hermit monks engaged in no art or business.
The older ones were engaged solely in prayer, while the younger ones
were deputed to write. Many bishops were chosen out of this monastery
because every city wanted a pastor who had been bred under the
discipline of Saint Martin.

Here Martin lived privately as a monk, while publicly he devoted himself
with burning zeal to the discharge of his episcopal duties. Every year
he visited each of his parishes in rural regions, travelling by foot, by
donkey, or by boat. He was an innovator in that he worked to convert
rural regions, to which he introduced an incipient parochial system.
Previously, Christians had been confined primarily to urban areas.

His biographer and friend, Sulpicius Severus--reported that he extended
his apostolate from Touraine to Chartres, Paris, Autun, Sens, and
Vienne. Although he is said to have ruthlessly destroyed pagan temples,
his reputed miracles did much to aid his progress: he cured Saint
Paulinus of Nola of an eye disease, healed lepers, and raised a dead man
to life. Martin experienced visions and revelations and was gifted with
the ability to prophesy. As an exorcist, Martin did not threaten the
demons, rather he would prostrate himself on the ground and subdue them
by prayer.

He was one of the greatest pioneers of Western monasticism based on the
models of Eastern monasteries in the Holy Land and Egypt and Syria, and
in this manner he came to have an effect upon the type of monasticism
which was established in Ireland, Scotland and Wales This was before
Benedict--who had a particular veneration for him.

During this time, Priscillian, the leader of a Gnostic-Manichean sect,
was attacked by Ithacius, the bishop of Ossanova, who accused him of
sorcery and urged the emperor to put him to death.

Martin, together with Pope Saint Siricius and Saint Ambrose, stood
against the capital punishment of Priscillian and other heterodox
Spaniards by the civil authorities including Ithacius and Emperor
Maximus. He believed that the state should not intervene in an
ecclesiastical matter. Martin pleaded with Maximus not to execute the
heretics but to simply allow them to be excommunicated.

Ithacius then accused Martin of heresy. Maximus told Martin that he
would execute no one, but after Martin left him in Trier, Maximus was
prevailed upon to remand the case of the sect to the Prefect Evodius.
The sect was found guilty and the members were beheaded, marking this as
the first judicial death sentence for heresy. Both Maximus and Itacius
were censured by Pope Siricius for their roles in the affair.

Martin encountered a good deal of opposition in his later years, one of
his chief critics being the firebrand Saint Brice, who succeeded him as
bishop. But his awe-inspiring spiritual power was too much for the
'unspeakably bloody ferocity' of Count Avitian, who refrained from
intended barbarities in Tours.

He became ill at rural Candes in Touraine. As he lay dying, stretched
out on his bed of ashes, ready to draw his last painful breath, while
the bells were already tolling to mark his passing, he asked his
disciples, "Leave me, my brothers, so that I may fix my eyes on heaven
rather than on earth and set my soul on the path which leads to the

But the devil was waiting at the bedside of his old enemy. He knew only
too well the subtle workings of the death agony. He knew just where to
put his hand at that last moment when the soul, white-hot with the heat
and effort to tear itself away from the body, has become as soft and
malleable as molten glass; and the devil was waiting to seize the soul
at that moment and carry it off to the fires of hell. He was much too
busy to talk, and besides he had long ago used up his stock of wiles.
And so, heavy, black, and watchful, he worked in silence on the body of
the dying man.

Then Saint Martin, rousing himself from his death throes, confronted the
monster with these words: "What are you doing here, savage beast? You'll
find nothing in me that belongs to you, accursed one, for I shall soon
be in the bosom of Abraham!"

And having exorcised the demon from his body, Martin turned his face to
the wall and gave up his soul to God. Such, since the beginnings of the
world, have been the relations between the saints and the devil.

Martin is buried at Tours. His successor Saint Brice built a chapel over
his grave, and it was later replaced with a basilica. He was one of the
most popular saints of the Middle Ages, and his shrine was and still is
a great site of pilgrimage where many miracles are wrought.

As an evangelizer of rural Gaul and the father of monasticism in France,
Saint Martin of Tours was a figure of great importance. His fame spread
from Ireland to Africa and east. In England, Saint Martin's Summer is a
spell of fine weather that sometimes occurs around the time of the
feast. Many churches in England were dedicated in his honour, including
Saint Martin's at Canterbury and Saint Martin-in-the- Fields in London.

Although the saint longed to be a hermit, the church forced him to lead
the life of a loving, energetic Bishop of Tours (Attwater, Benedictines,
Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Husenbeth, Monceaux, Severus, Walsh,
Watkin, White).

Saint Martin is most generally portrayed as a young soldier on horseback
dividing his cloak with a beggar, but sometimes he is shown as a bishop
with a beggar at his feet or near him, or in armour, with episcopal
symbols. His emblems are a globe of fire over his head as he says Mass,
or a goose, whose migration often coincides with his feast (Roeder).

Saint Martin is venerated at Tours. He serves as patron of armorers,
beggars, cavalry, coopers, domestic animals, France, geese, girdlers,
glovers, horses and horsemen, infantrymen, millers, innkeepers,
soldiers, tailors, wine growers and wine merchants (because his feast
falls just after the vendange), and wool-weavers (because he divided his
cloak) (Roeder). He is invoked against drunkenness, storms, and ulcers

Webpage of our friend Jean-Michel
Several picture of Tours cathedral, the abbey, icons,
reliquaries and tomb of Saint Martin
(Scroll down the page about one third)
http://www.amdg. be/sankt/ nov11.html

Also the complete Septimus Severius writings on Saint Martin, in French.

"Martin of Tours: The Shaping of Celtic Christianity"
Christopher Donaldson, Canterbury Press, 1997
ISBN 1-85311-157- 0

A rather special icon of Saint Martin: orthodoxe. com/images/ stmartindetours. jpg
Painted in the monastery opf Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai in the 12th
century. It represents three Saints venerated in the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem - Saint Paul, Saint James the brother of the Lord, Saint Stephen
the Protomartyr. And another three Saints of the West - Saint Laurence the
Archdeacon who was born in Spain and martyred in Rome, Saint Martin the
Merciful of Tours and Saint Leonard a hermit of Noblat in the Haute-Vienne
(also known as the Liberator)

Icons of Saint Martin:
http://www.allmerci fulsavior. com/icons/ Icons-Martin. htm##1
http://htmadmin. phpwebhosting. com/images/ a-194.jpg

Lives kindly supplied by:
For All the Saints:
http://www.saintpat ss/ss-index. htm

Saturday, November 8, 2008


With this Sunday, the third before Advent, being two days before the feast of the great St Martin of Tours, we begin St Martin's Lent. Generally the weather is strangely Spring like just before the advent, the coming, of the coldest part of Fall and Winter, and in the medieval period, as St Martin's feast generally came at the beginning of it, it received his name. For American Anglicans it should have another significance. The last revision of the reactionary of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer added propers for the three weeks before Advent Sunday which serve as a restoration of the old extended Advent of the Gallican and Celtic Churches. This allows us to work are way in to the thematic material of Advent before it actually arrives. And they are wonderful lections indeed, a real treat for those who read the daily offices. You will find them on page li and lii of the American Book of Common Prayer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"The Curse of the English Church,

and indeed of the whole Anglican Communion has been the individualism of its members. They have been a law unto themselves; and yet this individualism has seldom had the justification of originality: sometimes it has been Geneva that was copied, and sometimes Rome. The result has been that our Church has failed to make herself recognizable: foreigners know almost nothing about her, have no idea what she is like, would not recognize her when they saw her."

Percy Dearmer, The Present Opportunity

The above quotation from the works of Percy Dearmer may have been written some time ago but is yet particularly appropriate to the situation of the Anglican Continuum and the controversies of the moment. We should all be aware of the struggles with the Church since the Accession of Elizabeth I between those who were willing to obey the Church's rules and those who wished to substitute for them those of Geneva. These latter folk were joined in the late nineteenth century by a new party, growing out of the Church revival generally known as the Oxford Movement which wished to substitute the rules of the Church of Rome for those of historic Anglicanism and Churches of the British Isles. The result was the mass confusion satirized by the saying: "High and crazy, Broad and hazy, Low and lazy" used to characterize the three parties which the Church seemed to contain in an abnormal tension.

But there were not three prayer books or three sets of rules to be followed so which of them represented real obedience to the rules of the Church to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, the Canons and the Thirty-Nine Articles? Each party, of course, insisted that it was itself. And how do we find the answer? They cannot all be right.

The answer is right in front of us. Indeed, right in our hands for it is the Book of Common Prayer itself even if it is not always immediately obvious to the questioner. A party that is at war with the prayerbook itself, either in terms of Geneva or Rome, simply cannot represent the intent of the Church which gave us the Book of Common Prayer. To be ordained deacon or priest, one must promise 'conformity to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the . . . Church: and where are they to be found if not in the prayer book itself. And not just in our 1928 American prayer book but also the English prayer book of 1662 which was used by American Anglicans before our Revolution and without which the rubrics of the American book are sometime not quite understandable.

The question then is what sort of practise recognizably conforms to what we find in the text of our prayer book and the English books which preceded it? Is it one which habitually uses language that is at variance with that of the Book of Common Prayer? Is it one which constantly provides services which are not to be found in the prayer book, i.e., Morning Prayer and Sermon, or which fails generally to provide those services ordered to be daily, i.e., "Daily Morning and Evening Prayer?" I could offer my opinion and in a way am doing so. But more importantly, the priests and deacons of the Continuum as well as the wider Anglican Communion are making their own answer in what they do day by day and week by week. The question is whether by the example of their actions they are teaching what is in the Book of Common Prayer or that which is grounded in another set of assumptions? When you "read the priest" you should find nothing but what you would find in the Book of Common Prayer and in the greater prayer book tradition.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Speaking of reading the Rubrics of the prayer book, most people, and that includes most priests and even bishops, don't. By not doing so they miss a great deal of the positive teaching of the Book of Common Prayer for the Rubrics are not just for telling us how to perform the service, a task for which they are insufficent, but they are also to tell us what the service is about and what the teaching of the Church is in various areas. Read the Rubric at the top of page 321. It tells us a great deal of what the Church expects of us in terms of regular receiving of the Lord's Supper and how, in time of sickness, we are expected to notify the priest so that the priest may bring the sacrament to us, either by celebrating in our homes or by carrying the reserved sacrament to us from the regular service of the Church.

Likewise, it is a rubric on page 313 in the Visiation of the Sick that reminds us that arricular confession is a regular part of the teaching and practise of the Church.

Therefore we should know, that just as we are not intended to read only portions of our Bibles, we ought also to read all of the Book of Common Prayer so that we can know the teaching therein. And knowing the teaching of the prayer book, we should hold it as the standard against the performance and teaching of our priests and bishops. They have promised "conformity" - and in the case of the bishops, "obedience" - to it. If they don't give that in the fullest, without any mental reservation or evasion, then you have good reason to question their faith and their performance. If they try to twist it into something which it is not, you have even better reason to question their honesty. The Book of Common Prayer is a minimum standard and most of us, honestly, don't make that minimum standard. Churches and missions in the Anglican Continuum from a lack of their own buildings are generallyincapable of offering publicly the DAILY offices. They also fail in their ability to celebrate the communion office on all those ocassions for which the prayer book provides propers or implies by ribric that it should be celebrated. But we make no secret of the fact that we know that we are falling short and that more, much more, ought to be done to keep the faith and practise of the Book of Common Prayer.

Godparents in the baptismal office are asked to promise that the child will learn the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as well as "all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health". Other than the whole of the Bible, where are we to find those things save in a large and particular knowledge of the Book of Common Prayer? Consequently we ought to read the Rubrics of the prayer book, but not just them. It is all of the prayer book which we ought to know and use to our soul's health.

How well do YOU know the Book of Common Prayer?

Friday, October 31, 2008

English Use is the Real Anglican Use

First we must use the services of the Prayer Book, obeying its rubrics. Among the latter is the Ornaments Rubric, which refers us to the church arrangements and ceremonial adjuncts of the older tradition, as they were used either on the eve of the introduction of the First Prayer Book or immediately after it had been introduced. Then we must find out what that tradition was, and follow it, except where it is inconsistent with the later and living authority of the Prayer Book. For this tradition, the Sarum books are the principal, though not the only source. That is the English Use.
Francis C Eeles, "Prayer Book Revision and Christian Reunion"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old School Ties - Someone Else's

The English have a charming custom of creating school and regimental ties which serve as signals to those who have attended the same school or served in the same regiment. It is pretty much the equivalent of the sports paraphernalia of which Americans are so fond, but much more discrete and elegant. You don't have to wear your own school or regimental ties, but you are really not supposed to wear the tie of a school or regiment of which you were never apart. It is considered very bad form, rather like pretending that you were a veteran of service in Korea or Vietnam when you were never in the military.
I have a habit, probably sinful, of surfing the web looking at photos of famous Anglican churches, especially those of famous Anglican architects such as John Ninian Comper, my very favorite. But I also go back and look for the websites of churches I once attended or had to which I had other connections. This can be very bad for you especially when you find how far from grace they have fallen. For instance there is one in London of which I was very fond and which still advertises itself as being in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, but whose new assistant (I am not going to call her a priest) is Mother Mary Elizabeth. Bishop Gore is probably spinning in his grave.
But the one which caught my eye recently was the New York parish whose one time rector became the bishop of Springfield and the chief bishop at the Denver consecrations. Needless to say, its present condition would be a shock to Bishop Chambers as it has taken on the full burden of late Baroque Roman bad taste." Yes, they have taken to the wearing of fiddlebacks and very skimpy ones at that. And worse, the albs are now of lace and the cottas of the servers lace trimmed. In Chamber's day lace albs were never used and the lace cottas we had at that time were only used when the very wealthy woman who donated them decided to show for a very ocassional Sunday service. And that would have been like one every two years or so.

I know that these "Latin" vestments are supposed to be the very highest proof of Anglo=Catholicism because they were what Roman churches came to use from the late Renaissance through the Baroque right up to the modern age when suddenly they realized that they were dead ugly. Indeed, the last few popes seemed never to have touched them, but here was one more formerly Anglican church of good reputation wearing the discards of another and lesser tradition. This is especially galling as that church has already abandoned them. Oh, Rome will still wear the lace albs and the rochets and cottas dripping with lace, but the tablard imitations of real chasubles, dalmatics and tunicles is almost completely a thing of the past which is something which Rome's greatest liturgists would certainly have applauded.

So why do some who think themselves Anglicans keep it up? Frankly, I don't have a real answer, but I think it has to do with the spirit of rebellion that infused the most leftist, effeminate, pinko wing of Anglican high churchmanship in the early twentieth century. Among those who entered the priesthood in England and the North Eastern United states there was a spirit of rebellion against the establishment by those who were the most visible sons of same. It was as if they would and did do anything which would embarrass their families and their class while pretending (and maybe even believing) they were more Christian than the rest of us. And while some of them were quite saintly indeed, many of them helped to make both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England into much the moral and sexual cesspools which they became in the last century.

The greats of the Tractarian Movement were not ritualists. They believed that it was more important to preach, teach and practise the faith rather than make a show of it. Even the very blessed Dr Pusey only begin to wear the traditional eucharistic vestments at the end of his life and then only in the chapel of the religious community which he was instrumental in founding. The classical prayer book tradition by means of the Ornaments Rubric requires them and so all who are ordained should wear them. But, and this is a very big one, they should be worn in the Anglican tradition which is and should be one of "antiquity, antiquity, antiquity." We should not be imitating the debased traditions of the Church of Rome. What we should do and have done, is to teach even Rome what is right. Our liturgical tradition in vestments and ceremonial should be based upon that of the English Church just before the first prayer book and that would mean upon the tradition of the Use of the great church of Sarum as all of the other English uses had been suppressed in 1541 in its favour. If we do so we will have an Anglicanism which is everywhere instantly recognizeable and vastly attractive while shedding the false tradition which lost the moral high ground in Anglicanism all over the world in favour of the too sweet smell of lavender and old lace.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Elizabeth I: Protestant or Catholic?

David Loades in the latest edition of BBC History Magazine has this to say about Elizabeth I: "She was clearly a Protestant theologically; there is no doubt about that at all." However, even though the former professor at the University of Wales, Bangor has written a biography of Elizabeth, one is entitled to question his judgment. Elizabeth herself wrote to the Emperor Frederick "“We and our people-Thanks be to God-follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the early Fathers." That letter was written 1563 and expressed a view of what the queen intended the English Church to be and teach. In 1571 the canons passed by the Convocations of Canterbury and York and approved by the queen express the same view when it said "See to it that you teach nothing. . .which you would have religiously held and believed by the people, save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine." This doesn't sound like the doctrine of either Zwingli or Calvin. In fact it sounds a good deal more like what the whole Church, East and West, believed and taught for the first five centuries. And, that I believe, was real Catholicism.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A comment made by Matthew Nelson to a previous post made me go looking for something by The Rev'd Dr Claude Beaufort Moss, D.D., who was one of the most perceptive and loyal Anglican theologians of the last century. I found it in an address which Moss gave to The Anglican Society which he entitled "English Catholicism." In it Moss sat forth the position of those Anglicans who were entirely loyal to the English Book of Common Prayer as written and had no desire to pretend to be either Papists or Presbyterians but merely Anglicans and unashamed. This, of course, seems a very difficult thing for many Anglicans to do. They are either attempting to pretend that the text and the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or simply not there so they can do exactly as they please which is to skirt as closely to the ideas and ideals of Calvin, Luther and Zwingli as they think possible or they try to act as if Pius V had never excommunicated Elizabeth I and the English Church while acting as if they and we are bound by papal authority and the Council of Trent.

It is a very old division and basically dishonest to the core. But you have to take only the shortest trips on the Internet to see that one party or the other represents the largest portions of Anglicanism to the non-Anglican public. And then they wonder why we are unable to bring in the numbers which they (and I) feel should be ours.

But let me allow Dr Moss to explain it all.

We of the Anglican Society stand, first of all, for the Catholic Religion. We are Catholics, not only in the strict sense, in which all members of the Church of England are Catholics, but also in the popular or party sense. We accept the Creeds, we obey the laws, we use the sacraments, of the Church Universal, and of the Anglican Communion in particular. We are trying to live the Catholic life as it is everywhere understood. For instance, we believe ourselves bound to assist in the offering of the Holy Eucharist on all Sundays and chief Holy Days: and though we do not want to enforce our practice on our fellow Churchmen, we do, ourselves, make our confession to a priest. We hold that the Church's marriage law is of Divine command. We keep the feast and fast days, and the other rules of the Church. If anyone can claim the title of Catholic, we can.

This is where our position differs from that of the "Westminster Group." There is no opposition between us and that party; some of us, probably, are members of it. But the Westminster Group is composed, and is intended to be composed, of people of different views, agreeing to put "Church before party." We are not a combination of people of different views. We are agreed about our "views," and we are out to propagate them. Also, the Westminster Group is a party, with its own candidates for the Church Assembly. Our work does not lie in that field. We are not out to promote any special legislation, but to promote a particular outlook, a particular way of carrying out the existing laws. That is another difference between us and the Westminster Group. We are not the same kind of society.

But if we are Anglo-Catholics, why are we not content with the other Anglo-Catholic Organizations, the Church Union, S.Y.A., C.B.S., and so on. Why form a new society?

Because we think that there is a great deal in the Anglo-Catholic Movement which is neither Catholic nor "Anglo." We are inside the Anglo-Catholic Movement, not outside, and our aim is to maintain and to propagate its true principles, and to fight against, and if possible destroy, certain errors which have been foisted into it.

To explain clearly what I mean, I must go back into history four hundred and twenty years.

At that period, the eve of the Reformation, Western Christendom (let me beg you, incidentally, never to allow the phrase, "the Western Church" to pass unchallenged; there is not, there never has been, one Western Church: there is one Catholic Church, and there are local churches, some of which may be called Western)--Western Christendom, I say, was admittedly in a very bad condition. All men of good will were demanding "reform of the Church in head and members." And there were three ways in which that reform was carried out, three ways incompatible with one another, because starting from different principles.

There was the way of Luther, which was Revolution. The existing Church was done away with, the new national or sectarian bodies, without any claim to historic connexion with the old Church, were set up in its place. The standard of doctrine was the Bible as interpreted by each individual: which meant, in practice, by the great Reformers and their successors.

There was the way of Loyola, which was Counter-Reformation. The most scandalous of the abuses were removed; the existing doctrinal system, with its medieval additions to the original faith, was re-affirmed and declared irreformable: the standard of faith was asserted to be Scripture and Tradition, interpreted by the Pope: the central authority of Rome was enormously strengthened, and at the same time purified; great efforts were made to educate the clergy, to raise their spiritual level, and to identify the Catholic and Roman religion with the best learning of the time. At the same time, intellectual and political freedom were severely restrained, and the Church became identified with obscurantism and autocracy, with all that is associated in our minds with the Pope, the Jesuits and the Inquisition.

All over Europe, these two camps faced one another, as they do still, Luther and Loyola, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Bible and the Mass. We believe that both were wrong; that though each produced great saints, and though there is still much to be learned from both, both were one-sided, and therefore false, and that the lamentable state of Christendom to-day is chiefly due to these two great aberrations from the primitive faith.

But there is a third way, which the Church of England, half-consciously, with much stumbling and inconsistency, pursued in isolation. Here the ancient Church remained, with many of the ancient abuses: but there was no irreformable Council, and no bolstering up of medieval accretions. The standard of faith was the Bible, as interpreted, not by the individual, but by the ancient undivided Church, and, within those limits, by the Church of England. Hindered by all kinds of obstacles of which her isolation was not the least, and by the presence in her midst, and even among her rulers, of many who did not accept, or did not even understand her principles, the English Church, by the special providence of God, preserved for the modern world the Catholic Faith without medieval accretions or irreformable decrees; the Mass and the open Bible; the sacramental system with intellectual freedom.

The Oxford Movement was the late breaking into flower and fruit of what the English Church had always been meant to be, but had been hindered by too close connexion with the increasingly secular modern State.

Now it is this that we stand for: the principles, the outlook of Anglicanism, as it was developed by the Caroline Divines, as it reached its full development in the Oxford Movement, as it cams to terms with the modern world in the "Lux Mundi" group. We stand for the inheritance of Andrewes and Laud, of Bramhall and Ken, of Keble and Pusey, of Church and Moberly and Scott Holland: and our principles may be summed up thus:--

1. The supremacy in matters of faith of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Councils of the Undivided Church.

2. The right and duty of the Church to accommodate its teaching to modern knowledge, within the limits of the Catholic Faith.

3. The right of national churches to govern themselves, and to decide, for their own members, all questions of doctrine and discipline, without interference, within the limits set by Holy Scripture, the doctrinal decrees of the Councils based upon it, and the necessity of preserving the validity, or universal recognition, of Sacraments.

In saying this, we do not ignore the faults of our Church: of which the gravest is, that she has lost the English people. Historically, that loss was the consequence of the 18th century, not of the 16th: the result, not of Anglican principles, but of the fact that the Church has never had a fair chance to develop those principles on a large scale, and with freedom from political control.

The Oxford Movement is the starting point of Anglican Church life as we know it. What was the Oxford Movement? James Anthony Froude, M. Thureau-Dangin, and Mr. Spencer Jones alike assure us, that it was the belated appearance in England of the Counter-Reformation. The best authorities, however, from Dean Church to Canon Ollard, have shown clearly that the Oxford Movement had nothing to do with the Counter-Reformation, but was based on completely different principles. And what we are here to fight, by every means in our power, is the invasion of the Anglican Churches by the influence of the Counter-Reformation, founded as it is on the Council of Trent.

That Council is the basis of nearly all we call Romanism as distinct from Catholicism. It introduced a new principle, contrary to the teaching of the Fathers, when it set Tradition, as an independent source of dogma, alongside Holy Scripture, and gave Rome the right to decide what is true tradition. On this foundation it proceeded to make a number of new dogmas necessary to salvation, none of which can be proved from Scripture, and some of which are contrary to Scripture: and to settle questions of discipline irreformably, so as to limit the liberty of local churches and of individuals. It declared itself infallible, and consequently has been ever since an insuperable barrier to re-union. Our three principles which I mentioned before are all contrary to the decrees of Trent: for it has

1. set Tradition alongside Scripture as an additional source of dogma;

2. given the Pope the power to limit intellectual freedom, a power used by Pius IX in the Syllabus Errorum (1864), which declared war on all modern thought, and by Pius X in the anti-Modernist Oath, which enforced Fundamentalism in the Roman Communion;

3. made all local churches and hierarchies the slaves of Rome, so that all their affairs, even to the minutest details, are controlled from the centre.

Gallicanism became confined to the maintenance of special privileges for national churches in certain countries, and so was a mere survival after Trent, and was only kept in being by the power of the Kings of France; it was finally destroyed by the Vatican Council. The Infallibility and Universal Episcopate of the Pope, decreed by the Vatican Council, are the logical corollaries of Trent; the Old Catholics, when they rejected them, were compelled to reject the authority of Trent too, and this alone is what has made re-union between them and us possible.

Therefore, if I wanted to give you a slogan, in the best General Election manner it would be


Our repudiation of Trent, and of Tridentine principles, methods, and atmosphere, in doctrine, discipline, and devotion, must have an outward and visible sign. This we find in the English Use.

Let me be quite clear about this. We are not medievalists. We do not advocate all the ceremonial used in Salisbury Cathedral in the 14th century, still less the re-introduction of the Sarum Rite.

I have the greatest respect for the ancient and illustrious Church of Sarum in whose cathedral, I am happy to say, the vestments are worn and the altars are all arranged according to the English Use: but it is Sarum of the 20th, not the 14th century!

The English Use is the Book of Common Prayer, with such ornaments and ceremonies as were in use in England when it was first made, and are capable of being used with it. We ardently maintain the right of the English Church to develop her rites, ceremonies and ornaments, as she chooses, and for that and other reasons most of us welcome the Liturgy of 1928: but we insist that the point at which to begin is the point which our development had reached when it was interrupted by Calvinism, namely 1549, and not any later developments in the Churches of the Counter-Reformation.

The reason that we insist on the English Use is not only that it is our duty as Catholics to obey our lawful superiors, who are in our case the Synods of Canterbury and York, or other Anglican provinces: nor only because it is far more beautiful, as well as on the whole more practical, than the ill-fitting ceremonies and ornaments borrowed from foreign models; (some of which even Father Adrian Fortescue calls "eighteenth century bad taste," and which the most intelligent Roman ritualists are trying to get rid of); but also, because the English Use is the outward and visible sign of our principles. When I see an "English Altar" with riddels and two candles on the mensa, my thought is not, "This is correct," or even "This is beautiful," but "Here they evidently believe in the principles of the Oxford Movement and not in those of the Counter-Reformation."

Is this insular, or schismatical? Only if you believe, as I fear great numbers of Anglo-Catholics do believe subconsciously, that Romanism is "the real thing," and that outside the English-speaking world all Christians worth mentioning are Romanists.

I do not want to bring re-union into our domestic controversies, but we who have friends and fellow-workers in the cause of re-union in every country from Sweden to Syria can hardly be called insular in our outlook or schismatic in our aims.

This is the way of looking at things which I think we should be propagating; and it is very different from a great deal that can be read in Anglo-Catholic literature. We have got a difficult task before us, because our opponents have got a long start; and yet I believe we are really in a majority, but the majority is unorganised, whereas the other side is highly organized and enthusiastic.

I will conclude with a few suggestions as to the lines on which we should work.

First, I think we should not lay too much emphasis on aesthetics. If people get to think we are "arty," they will never take us seriously; and if we are just a set of people who want to substitute albs for cottas and riddels for retables, we shall be justly accused of fiddling while Rome is burning. The times arc far too serious for folly of that sort. No one is keener on the English Use than I am, or more certain that we need an outward sign, a banner as it were: but we must recognise that those who hold our principles and will fight for them are on our side, even if they have six candles, yes, even if they wear birettas!

Secondly, we must fight on the field of psychology, not merely of reason. Our arguments seem to us unanswerable, yet they don't always convince; because people are very seldom convinced by argument. We have got to create an atmosphere for our arguments, and to bear in mind the psychology of the particular persons we want to convert.

Thus it is generally useless to appeal to Anglo-Catholics on the ground of obedience to rubrics. English people in general have no great love for law, except when it is a safeguard for their own liberty, or a means of restraining somebody else! In particular the Anglo-Catholic Movement, ever since the P.W.R. Act, has had in it a large revolutionary element. The men who have had most influence in it, Stanton, Holland, Bishop Weston, have been men of strongly radical outlook. Therefore, most Anglo-Catholics, unlike foreign Catholics, are progressives, if not revolutionaries, and we must not try to convince them on grounds which only appeal to conservatives.

Neither Anglo-Catholics nor Romanists carry on their propaganda by addressing the reason. It is the imagination and the herd instinct by which people are caught. We must be constantly teaching, positively not controversially, the greatness and the splendour of the Anglican position, the romance of Anglican history; we must never suffer the contempt of anything as only Anglican, which is only too common; we must use the word Catholic to mean that which is primitive, Eastern, and Anglican, and not Tridentine, in opposition not only to what is Puritan but to what is Romanist. We must be always suggesting that our principles and our practice are both Catholic and up-to-date. It is really rather Late Victorian to have six candles on the altar, and to fill your sanctuary with knick-knacks, like those in a French church, the ecclesiastical analogues of the antimacasser and the aspidistra!

We have got to make it "the thing" to follow the English Use, and to suggest that anything else is not so much disloyal or heretical, as ridiculous and rather dowdy.

Thirdly, we must take steps to meet our opponents in a region where hitherto they have had all their own way. There is a large number of people whose interest in religion is not doctrinal but devotional and mystical. These people have very little to satisfy their needs but what is Roman or pseudo-Roman. The use of foreign devotional books, even more than foreign ceremonial, gives people a Counter-Reformation background. I have, for instance, read an otherwise admirable book on mental prayer, written by a member of an Anglican Religious Order. The author's whole mind and doctrinal background was entirely Romanist: of the books which he recommended, and said every priest should possess, about eighty-five per cent, were post-Tridentine Roman, to about eight per cent. pre-Reformation, and seven per cent. Anglican. Great numbers of our more devout people are given, or buy for themselves, devotional books which are either frankly Roman, or if Anglican, teach Roman doctrine. One most popular book, with a circulation of hundreds of thousands, teaches explicitly the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is not only quite meaningless to the modern theologian, but which our Eastern and Old Catholic friends condemn as formally heretical.

We have got to do something to fight this flood of foreign devotion, which we can only do by providing something better. This is where our Russian friends can help us: there is, I believe, an enormous devotional literature in Russian, which we must get translated. If we do use Roman devotions, we must adapt them, as the Tractarians did. Now-a-days, as is well known, the older Roman devotional books are not Roman enough for some Anglican publishers! We must study the mystical side of our religion in order ultimately to produce mystical literature free from the doctrinal errors, and the often obscurantist outlook, of the Roman books studied in our parishes and still more in our convents.

Fourthly, if we have any doubt that in doing this work we are really working for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, and not merely propagating our own opinions, let us remember that we are fighting for God's Truth: truth revealed in Holy Scripture; truth more fully shown to us in modern discovery; and for the liberty of the sons of God; liberty ecclesiastical, political, intellectual. The Anglican Communion, and the Anglo-Catholic Movement which is its spearhead, its only consistent manifestation, are the only hope for the re-union of Christendom and the reconciliation of the modern world to Christianity. Roman propaganda, both inside and outside the Church, is an effort to pervert and ultimately to destroy that movement. I have avoided making accusations, but I cannot but warn you, that there are very sinister elements in what we are fighting against. If there is a "Protestant underworld," as we are sometimes told, there is also an Anglo-Catholic underworld, and a very queer region it is. The use that is being made of the confessional and of the retreat movement in certain quarters, may lead to very disastrous results; and some of our smaller religious communities need watching carefully. Again, I am sure that not only the lawlessness, but the frivolity, the contempt for other Christians, and the love of intrigue, which are to be found in certain quarters, would have horrified the saints in any age of the Church. We don't want timidity, moderation, or laxity of principle, but we do need more of the seriousness, the self-control and the common-sense which were characteristic of the great Evangelicals and the great Tractarians as well as of the great Catholic saints in all ages.

Finally, I think we must always bear in mind that the principles for which we are fighting, if they are true, are true universally. We are not out to propagate a specially English version of the Faith, our principles are as true at Rome or at Geneva as they are at Canterbury. We do not want to make the whole world Anglican, or to impose the English Use on other countries: the same principle which maintains the English Use in England would welcome an Indian liturgical Use in India. But we do want to make the whole world Catholic, as we understand Catholicism, Catholic and not Tridentine, and we believe that such Catholicism is what the world needs. If then we make our boast of the Anglican name, it is not out of any Jingoistic spirit, but because we believe that the Anglican Churches, in spite of all their faults and defects, have been given, with others, the task of propagating that which the world needs. And it is in this spirit that we venture to use the lines of George Herbert on the British Church:--

"But dearest Mother, what these miss,
The mean Thy praise and glory is,
And long may be.
Blessed be God, Whose love it was
To double-moat thee with His grace,
And none but thee."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, 1235-1253

Today is the anniversary of the death of Robert Grosseteste, reforming bishop of the diocese of Lincoln and probable forerunner of the English reformation. Rather than relate the whole of his history I am going to refer readers to where they can get something of a more complete picture of the stature of this great English bishop and possible saint. The reason that I am doing this is because the very good bishop had a very great influence in my own life and I am going to attempt to bore you with the story.

Many, many years ago when I was at university we had a new professor of philosophy arrive from Hungary of all places. He was selected to teach a course in medieval philosophy and I rushed to be among the first who signed up. At the first class meeting I noticed the resemblance between he and my fencing master who was also an Hungarian. They looked alike and had much the same way of speaking - something like sabre slashes. It did not take him very long before he had developed a great disdain for our lack of intellectual preparation and he was not silent about it. When he assigned papers on certain medieval philosophical works, he got a complain that there were no English translations and that they were all in Latin. His response: "So, learn Latin, but make sure that you get your papers in on time." Strangely, most of us did. On another ocassions he was railing on about our general ignorance of European and even English history which led to an agonized cry that he was sure that no one in the class had the slightest idea of who Robert Grosseteste was or his importance.

That led me to raise my hand. When permitted to speak this fledgling Anglican told he and the class that Grosseteste was a thirteenth century bishop of Lincoln and probably the greatest intellectual of his time. I carried on about the diversity of his scientific writings, his conflicts with Henry III and support for Simon Montfort and the reforms which he brought to the diocese of Lincoln. I even went on about his eventual conflict with the pope over the provision of livings for Italian clerics who never showed to do the work. I guess I just went on and on.

When I finished the professor looked at me and said, "Get out; you've got your A." I replied, "I am not leaving a class where the professor knows about Grosseteste." And I didn't.

The Episcopal Church now counts him as a saint as his own diocese did for fifty years after his death. He never made it into the official Roman calendar of saints, probably for his challenging of the papacy on their corruption and the corruption which they were inflicting upon the English Church. So he was left to be forgotten, but how can you forget the man who is probably the father of the scientific method and the English intellectual tradition?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Can You Claim

To be a classical prayer book Anglican when your parish's schedule of services says otherwise? Anyone who reads the rubrics and other directions in any of the classical prayer books knows that those who put them together intended that every parish would have daily services of Morning and Evening Prayer. In addition the English prayer books direct that the Litany should be used on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while they also provide propers for the celebration of Holy Communion on every Sunday of the year as well as a series of saints and fast days. This means that what you should find in a parish or mission loyal to the prayer book on a Sunday is the reading of Morning Prayer followed by the Litany and Holy Communion. In late afternoon Evening Prayer would be read or sung. When you don't find this in a parish or mission then it doesn't matter what they say about being loyal to doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church because their actions or lack of same speak far more loudly and powerfully than their words.

I have recently been surfing the web for parishes which claim to be orthodox Anglican. I have also not a very large number of churches which claim to be traditionally 'Anglo-Catholic' and they as well as the others show by their published schedules that they don't accept or practise what the Book of Common Prayer teaches. And the amazing thing is that this schedule is simply that of the Catholic Church in England as evidenced by Walter Langland's Vision of Piers the Plowman.

Some Catholics; some prayer book loyalists!

Monday, September 29, 2008

St Honorius of Canterbury, Archbishop

Born in Rome, Italy; died at Canterbury, England, on September 30, 653.
Saint Gregory the Great (f.d. September 3) chose the monk Honorius to
evangelize England because of his great virtue and learning. Honorius
succeeded Saint Justus (f.d. November 10) as archbishop of Canterbury,
was consecrated at Lincoln by Bishop Saint Paulinus (f.d. October 10).
He received the pallium sent from Rome by Pope Honorius I, together with
a letter by the Pope's hand stating that whenever the sees of York or
Canterbury became vacant, the surviving archbishop should consecrate
the duly selected successor of the other.

During Honorius's episcopacy, the faith spread throughout the island and
took root in many hearts. He carefully selected and trained his clergy
to ensure their commitment to the Gospel (Bonniwell, Husenbeth).

Having missed the feast of St Michael and All Angels - the 'all angels' being an addition suggested by Bishop Cosin at the time of 1662 revision - it seemed fitting to remind all that there are many saints of the English Church and of Anglicanism in general that are not in the calendars of any of the classical prayer books. Should we forget these worthys? Certainly not. But a calendar can get over stuffed with saints days and there are many things more important than remembering them at the altar, the more especially when many of our churches are unable to provide the daily services, the daily offerings of Morning and Evening Prayer.

So what are we supposed to do? First, after the most important task of teaching Holy Scripture, we need to teach the history of the Church. Both we and our children and our children's children need to know what happened when and who did what. They and we need to know who occupied the important sees and which of those occupants were saints and why. And we need the example of the saints to encourage ourselves and others to seek a like path of holiness. Many of us seeing the example of Jesus in the scriptures know that we could never be him, but we can all aspire to follow the example of the saints in being His servant and soldier until our lives end.

Friday, September 26, 2008

St Marks, Regents Park, London

One of my very bad Internet habits is going to various church sites to look at the architecture and decoration. Among my particular favorites are those churches designed or refurbished by Sir John Ninian Comper. They have a beauty which is almost breath taking. St Mark's, Regents Park is one of those. Both the high altar and the Lady altar were designed by Comper who also did a number of the stained glass windows. If you want to see what it is like go to and enjoy.

However the point of this particular post is to object to a desecration of Comper's marvelous design for the high altar. It is reported in the parish history, also on their site thus: "Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the congregation grew – by 1977 the membership was over one hundred. The Vicar continued to make all sorts of improvements to the church to enhance the worship. The two candlesticks on the high altar (a number favoured by Comper) were increased to the traditional six, a thurible was made for the incense, new altar rails were installed and further candlesticks commissioned to replace those stolen from the All Saints’ Chapel. It was in the early 1970s that the sad decision was first taken to keep the church locked when unattended."

My objection is to the phrase "the traditional six" because they are not traditional. Rather it is two candles which are traditional as Comper knew from extensive studies in medieval illuminations. The six candles are taken from Roman usage coming from the use of Pius V. So you have the choice between Anglican usage which reflects the tradition of the centuries as against a Roman innovation of the 16th century. In short, the choice is between something which is really Catholic, according to the whole, as against something which is merely Roman and a relatively recent innovation.

Please go to St Mark's website and enjoy the pictures of the stained glass windows and the various altars. Simply don't accept the idea that things particularly Roman are Catholic.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Struggle

"The Puritan party from the days of Elizabeth to the present time have never honestly accepted the Prayer Book : its members have been too much of Churchmen to leave the Church, but too little of Churchmen to value its principles: They have remained in a false position, attempting to subvert the system to which they nominally conformed. It has been pointed out how openly the attempt was made in Elizabethan times; and, though it has in God's good Providence failed all along to win any substantial recognition, it has been able at times to establish an evasive and false tradition of Prayer Book interpretation which has practically popularized and sought even to justify a system of disloyalty to the Prayer Book. The party has had its conflicts with more loyal and wholehearted churchmanship, and the issues have hitherto not been finally decisive. The failure of the Elizabethan attempt to puritanize the Church inaugurated the period of loyalty of the early Stuart times: the success of this recovery was too rapid and too injudicious, and so the revenge came speedily; for a while sectarianism and even puritanism had their way, until a short experience of their results under the Commonwealth produced a fresh reaction. The failure of the Puritans at the Savoy inaugurated another period of loyalty under the later Stuarts, but, when Church life was systematically crushed in the 18th century by Whig politicians and Latitudinarian bishops, the reign of the false tradition and the evasive, disloyal or merely torpid attitude to the rules of the Church's worship again set in; and those who tried to be loyal to the Church system, whether early followers of Wesley, Clapham Evangelicals or Oxford Tractarians, were all alike in turn charged with innovation, disloyalty and even with Popery. The contest still survives; the Puritan party still works for a system, which is not the system of the Catholic Church or of the English Prayer Book, and defends its disregard of plain rubrics (e.g., as to fasting or daily services), and its want of sympathy with the system (e.g., as to the frequency and discipline of Communion by appealing to the evasive tradition, which in the dark days of the history it has been able to form, and would like to fasten permanently upon the Church. Thus there is no feature more marked in the history of the Prayer Book than this contest between the Church system of worship expressed in the Prayer Book and the false interpretation which has grown up through a continuous tradition of evasion and rebellion."

This quotation, taken from Proctor and Frere's New History of the Book of Common Prayer, is still as true as the day it was written and published. The Continuum has been repeatedly split by this fight which has been made the worse by those who should have been the best of Churchmen adopting and practising a tradition equally at varience with the Prayer Book and the Church, i.e., an imitation of the very worse of what even Roman authorities have labeled as "Roman bad taste." The result is that those who know and actually practise the Anglican tradition seem to have become fewer every year. But it is that tradition, the way of the classical Prayer Book Catholic, which this blog has embraced and will continue to do our best to set before all those who call themselves Anglicans and the world at large.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

St Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist, Martyr

St Matthew is one of my patron saints. The twist here is that I did not choose him; he chose me. Very important things in my life began happening on his feast day or in and around churches and other places named for him and thus under his patronage. In a way I suppose that I ought to feel honoured, but most what I feel is a bit scared. This is the twenty-first century and things like this are not supposed to happen and continue to happen.

Nonetheless I am happy that this year his feast fell upon a Sunday. That means that I can pay a little more attention to it and celebrate it with a little more splendour than normal. The ancient custom of the feasts of the greater saints as well as the feasts of dedication and title displacing the proper of the Sunday during lesser liturgical seasons seems a more than fitting way of celebrating what Jesus the Annointed can do in the lives of quite ordinary people when they fully surrender and commit themselves to Him.

Unfortunately the number of us doing that for St Matthew and those other of the apostles whose feast fell upon a Sunday this year is going to be a great deal fewer that in past years and centuries. Why? Because the modern liturgical movement, rejecting tradition instead of explicating it. This means that those still in TEC and in the new Anglican lite groups who fail to understand that the 1979 book is heretical will be doing a Sunday after Trinity - excuse me, a Sunday after Pentecost - as they have broken with the ancient tradition of the English Church and classical and orthodox prayer book Anglicanism for something invented almost yesterday. This is not only a denial of Anglicanism; it is a rejection of Biblical principle which tells us to keep to the old paths, the ancient ways.

St Matthew wrote his gospel for the Jewish people and quoted extensively from the Old Testament so that they would know that it was all about the Messiah, his coming and his mission. Eusebius says that he wrote his gospel originally in Hebrew before translating it into Greek. He wanted the Jews, his people, to know that Jesus was the Lord for whom they waited and that he had come at last to same them and us from our sins. And this, above all things, is the reason that we should honour him this day because in honouring him we actually honour the one who was his Lord and Saviour and, hopefully by his gospel, ours as well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

English Use


It is a term used to denote obedience to the living rules of the English Church. In other words, it is the 'administration of the Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church according to the Use of the Church of England.' It involves the straightforward fulfilment of a contract solemnly made--not exactly like a business contract in which unforseen risks may have to be faced, but a contract in which all the evenualities are clearly stated and accepted at one of the most solemn moments of a priest's life, namely his ordination.

In essence, the term 'English Use' has no geographic significance, but is a reference to the title-page of every Prayer-Book. It is not merely the preserving of insular eccentricities, a sort of archaeological craze, but a deliberate desire to carry out the directions in force in that part of the Lord's vineyard in which our lot is cast. In other words, to do what we are told instead of what we like. In the Catholic outlook obedience has spiritual value because of its sacrificial character. It is indeed entering the mind of Him Who said, 'I am come to do Thy will, O Lord.'


1. If the Church of England has power to make a priest, it has power also to tell him what kind of service to perform; how exactly, for instance, he shall celebrate the Holy Eucharist.
2. It has power also to say what feasts and fasts are to be observed, how its churches are to be furnished, and what clothes its minsters shall wear during public worship.


The are embodied in the Book of Common Prayer.
For instance, an individual clergyman might be quite right in supposing a certain order of prayers at the Consecration of the Eucharist to be more beautiful than that which is prescribed by the Church that made him a priest. He is entitled to think that, but if eh follows his own preferences when he is celebrating the Eucharist, he is not celebrating according to the English Use--which he has sworn to do.
So the services, exactly as set down in the Book of Common Prayer, or within the variations allowed by the Revised Book of 1928, words and rubrics, are the English Use, the living rite, and to speak of the ceremonial rising out of it as 'the old English Use', or as 'Sarum Use' is to misunderstand the very foundation on which the term rests.


Instead of making a list and description of all the permissible 'ornaments' (which means things worn and used in worship), the Church of England gives a clear but broad pointer in a date when the ornaments of a church and its ministers set the desired standard. That pointer is the 'Ornaments Rubric', and the date to which it points is 1549.
That was an age when the word 'catholic' was still prized, but when the word 'primitive' was weaving a new spell, when scholarship was respected, intelligibility craved, and liturgical adventure not shirked. It was also an age of intolerance, and it is a lasting tribute to the divines of the Church in England that they drew their definitions skilfully and widely enough to achieve a simplification yet to leave room for variety of style and of elaboration.
It is thus possible for an extremely simple celebration of the Holy Communion to be as compatible with our Ornaments Rubric as a much fuller ceremonial with the three 'Sacred Ministers', clerk, taperers, and incense.
The other directions of the Book are clear, but generally they are not minute or exhaustive. When they were compiled, they were sometimes designed to correct the then current practice; but in the absence of direction, the old familiar ceremonial background might be assumed. (It is to this extent that Sarum customs--as one might say, the 'English' customs of that day--have a claim on our serious attention.) What could not have been assumed, and should not be now, is ceremonial behaviour incongruous with the rite itself.



1. You will hear the whole of the Communion service. No part of it is secret; all the prayer belong to the people and it is not according to the mind of the English Church that any of them should be inaudible (see the Communion rubrics, 1928) : the faithful must be 'praying with the Church'. Certainly, too, the Prayer Book does not require an elevation, or a bell, or incense, during the Prayer of Consecration.
2. Vesture. Our rubric gives us the chasuble, dalmatic, tunicle, and cope. It points to a period when vestments were still dignified and ample. The 'cotta' was not known at that time; then, assistants round the altar wore either albe, or surplice, or rochet. If one could bear the inadequacy of the short cotta one might argue that it is cheaper, or easier to wash than the longer rochet or surplice. That may be so, but that is not the point: our directions indicate something else. Mercifully our rubric comes from an age of beauty, and the graceful folds of an ample garment are ours by right.
3. The Altar Upon its surface may stand two lights and perhaps a cross. The desire to multiply ornaments on the altar is contrary to age-long tradition and the precise number of six candles is purely a papal direction. Other lights may strand around. Sometimes the altar is surrounded at its ends by enshrining curtains (perhaps suspended between columns which may or may not bear tapers), or surmounted by a canopy, both features reminiscent of the shrouded altar of the undivided Church.
The front of the altar is covered by an altar cloth (that is, a 'frontal').
Many of these features are in themselves aesthetically attractive and intrinsically beautiful, and it is interesting to notice how many of them are being adopted or revived in the Roman Communion under the influence of the Liturgical Movement. But in themselves, though they are according to the English Use, they do not constitute the English Use.
We come back to the starting point: the English Use is the Book of Common Prayer in its wholeness, and the keynote is obedience to the spiritual authority of the Church of England, which 'hath power to decree Rites and Ceremonies'.


It is not necessary to be elaborate: the sternest simplicity may be within the term. But whether the plain or the rich be desired, it will rest upon the principle, not of individual preference, but of honest obedience, from whence is born, perhaps almost unexpectedly, fruit of great beauty and joy.

The above is taken from a series of Alcuin Leaflets published as Liturgy in the Parish. What is in the above called 'English Use' should now be called 'Anglican Use' because its principles extend beyound the Church of England to the whole of classical Anglicanism. Those who take their Anglicanism and the classical prayer books seriously must choose how they look, how their services look and even how they sound if they and we are going to be taken seriously and regain the reputation and credibility which Anglicanism once had and which for the good of all 'who call themselves Christians' it needs to regain.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Reminders of What Anglicanism Means

“We and our people-Thanks be to God-follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the early Fathers." Queen Elizabeth I, 1563 A.D.

"See to it that you teach nothing. . .which you would have religiously held and believed by the people, save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine." The Canons of the Church of England, 1571

"Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church." Bishop John Cosin (d. 1672)

I die in the holy catholic and apostolic faith, professed by the whole church before the division of East and West; more particularly I die in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all papal and puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the cross." Bishop Thomas Ken, 1711

[A]ntiquity [is] the true exponent of doctrines of Christianity and the basis of the Church of England. John Henry Newman, 1947

We have no doctrine of our own. . .We only possesses the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these Creeds we hold without addition or diminution. We stand firm on that Rock. Geoffrey Francis Fisher Archbishop of Canterbury 1945-1961

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth . . .The First, That Is.

Yes, today, the seventh of September, is the birthday of Elizabeth Tudor who upon the death of her half sister Mary became the queen of England. Having survived her sister's reign, she set about also restoring the Book of Common Prayer which she saw amended in a Catholic fashion from the changes made not by Church and parliament, but by her brother's Council to the book of 1549. Historians, not understanding the religious questions of the time, call her a Protestant, but she thought of herself as being "as good a Catholic prince as any in Europe." Without her what we think of as classical prayer book Anglicanism would only be a very small footnote to the history of England. Because of her the world was remade and political freedom and science was given a new birth.

So, a very happy birthday, Your Majesty! May you and the faith and practise of the classic Anglican prayer books have many happy returns of this day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Lambeth Once Taught!

"We do here solemnly record our conviction that unity will be most effectually promoted by maintaining the faith in its purity and integrity, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds, and affirmed by the undisputed General councils."

At least this is what they said at the Lambeth Conference of 1867. It would be wonderful if they could have reaffirmed this at the one just ended. St Luke's version of it, recorded in Acts 2:42 goes "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer." But this is the teaching and the practise of the classical prayer books when followed closely and exactly, both in the letter and in the spirit which is why the evil one so seeks to destroy us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Use

And where hertofore there hath been greate diversitie, in saying, and singyng in churches within thys realme, some folowing Salisburye use, some Herford use, some the use of Bangor, some of Yorke, and some of Lincolne: now from hence furth, all the whole realme, shall have but one use. Preface, 1559 prayer book.

And although the kepyng or omitting of a Ceremonye (in it selfe considered) is but a small thyng : yet the wilfull and contempteous transgression, and breakyng of a common ordre, and discipline : is no small offence before God. " Of Ceremonies, 1559 prayer book.

The Morning and Evening praier shalbe used in the accustomed place of the churche, chapel, or Chauncell, except it shalbe otherwise determined by the ordinary of the place: and the chauncels shall remain, as they have done in tymes past.

And here is to be noted, that the Minister at the time of the communion, and at all other tymes in hys ministracion, shall use suche ornamentes in the church, as wer in use by aucthoritie of parliament in the second yere of the reygne of king Edward the .VI. according to the acte of parliament set in the beginning of thys booke."
The Order for Morning Prayer, 1559 prayer book.

And (to the ende the people maye the better heare) in suche places where they do synge, there shall the lessons be songe in a plaine tune after the maner of distinct readinge: and likewise the Epystle and gospell.

The above extracts and rubrics from the restored Book of Common Prayer of Elizabeth I are here quoted to show the Church of England's intent in what the Church and services were intended to look and sound like.
The purpose of this blog was to both inform and persuade. First it was to inform Anglicans and those thinking of becoming Anglicans about what it actually meant to be a classical prayer book and Biblical Anglican. Actually, I don't believe that there are truly any other kind. The others, high, low or broad, are not to my mind really Anglicans but folks who have infiltrated the Church for the purpose of subverting its faith and practise and using it for their own ends. That means that they feel very little and possibly even not the slightest obligation to believe what the Catholic Church (there really isn't any other) teaches in terms of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the creeds, the general councils and the writings of the fathers or to obediently participate in the worship of the Church as set forth in the classical Books of Common Prayer.

It was our purpose to persuade those who wanted to be know as Anglicans that they had to look Anglican, smell Anglican and sing Anglican. It short, it is the old duct test, i.e., if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's a duck. But Anglicans have always had a great deal of difficulty of understanding that. A great deal of the problem was, as Bishop Cosin wrote, "those who came back from Geneva." They may have wanted positions in the Church of England under Elizabeth I and been willing to accept them, but what they did not want and did their best not to do was to look, walk and sound like an Anglican. Instead, while taking the Church of England's bread, they wanted to remake said Church in the image of Calvin and his Geneva. And in spite of those who would attempt to persuade us that the Church of England was greatly influenced and intellectually, spiritually and morally in debt to certain of the continental "reformers," what was ordered in Elizabeth's Book of Common Prayer was a great deal different from the type of church they wanted to create. The result was a running battle with Elizabeth and those who served her and the Church of England for the entire duration of her reign. Unfortunately Elizabeth never entirely won the day and the battle spilled over into the reigns of James and Charles where it finally resulted in the English Civil War. The Puritans and their allies won, the Church of England was abolished, the prayer book outlawed while outright Calvinist congregationalists intruded themselves into the ancient parishes of England and Wales.
It was fortunately not a victory that lasted forever because Charles II was called back to the British throne in 1660 and the Church and the prayer book returned with him. But the recovery was not complete because the destruction done during the days of the Cromwellian interregnum was never going to be erased and has not been to this day. Yes, the prayer book (slightly revised) was restored, the intruders in the parishes forced either to conform or to go their way, but there were rubrics in the prayer book that would never be enforced again by the bishops and only partially come to be obeyed after the beginning of the Church revival that we know as the Oxford Movement. Part of the reason was that the king, Charles II, was financially beholden to the French king who had hopes of him converting to the Roman Church and bringing the Church of England back under the rule of the bishops of Rome. And Charles did convert, but only upon his death bed. Having no legitimate heirs the throne went to his younger brother, James, who had already become a papist who only too soon made the people realize the danger to their liberties of a papist king. The bishops revolted and went to the tower only to have James back down and free them. However when his second wife gave birth to a male heir, the whole country rose up and James, wife and baby fled to France while Parliament called his eldest daughter and her Dutch husband William to the throne.
This in its own way was another disaster for the Church. William who outwardly conformed to the church was actually a Calvinist. The result was the best bishops and the best clerics in the country were not able to deny that they had taken an oath to James II and that such an oath precluded them not taking one to William (and Mary). The result was that they were forced from their sees and benefices which were given over to political place seekers while the Church of Scotland was entirely dis-established and Presbyterianism made the established church in that country. William tried to have the prayer book entirely rewritten in such a latitudinarian direction that it offended no one and everyone but the lower houses of convocation rejected it. Eventually William also died and Mary's sister Anne came to the throne. She tried as best she could to undo the harm that first James and then William had done to the Church. But she had too little time and when she too died without a direct heir, Parliament called George I from Hanover rather than accept another descendant of James II. That gave the English the four Georges and Victoria plus time and reason for the American colonies to declare their independence and secure it by war.

That independence left the American church in a terrible place. It had been the established state church in a number of the colonies and where it was it was disestablished. That generally meant that it was left without income and the clergy departed, some for England and some for Canada. But they were gone and could not be replaced because the English Church had never appointed bishops for the American Colonies and now, because of the matter of allegiance to King George and the British throne, it would be illegal to ordain deacons and priests for the new American states or consecrate bishops for them. So without clergy some of the churches sat empty or were claimed by others where one merely had to proclaim oneself a preacher. This was what happened to the parish church where my Virginia ancestors worshiped.

The recovery began with the consecration of the Rt Reverend Samuel Seabury by the bishops of the non-juroring Church of Scotland, but it is not finished yet. Nor will it be until those who are ordained to minister to Anglicans and in the Anglican manner consistently and obediently use the Book of Common Prayer as it was intended and give up all practises that would set either papal or puritan innovations above the directions of the Church.

"Just what is the Book of Common Prayer"

Sometimes when you are bouncing around the Internet you find something so excellent that you simply want to bring it to the attention of everyone possible. This is the case with "Just what is the Book of Common Prayer" which I found on the under the heading of BCP(2). It is the work of Father Robert Hart who is in my opinion one of the star theologians of the Continuum. Please go there and read it and the comments as well. It is a superb piece which I thing should be brought to the attention of every sound Anglican churchman. It is a priviledge to comment it to anyone and everyone.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Other Book

I found this in an old note book of mine. It was something which I said in a sermon about the first step in converting our neighbors and the world was in being as completely open as we were able to ourselves being converted to the fullness of the Christian faith.

"The Book of Common Prayer is a real school of Practical Christianity: it teaches the Catholic Faith, provides Orthodox Worship, contains Apostolic Order and it is true Evangelical Witness."

It is as simple as that and as complex and mystical. It embodies the via media. Like the Benedictine Rule it is neither too severe nor too lax, but it always - if we will but permit it - leads us to Jesus as Risen Saviour and Lord.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Why Christians Sing

In doing the previous blog I forgot to include two details which I believe to be very important in terms of why Christians and especially Anglicans are intended to sing. Beyond the joy and the emotions which music adds to the tone of worship, there are some things which I suspect primitive peoples knew almost instinctively but which we moderns have had a tendency to forget. The first of these is that anything which we either sing or hear sung we tend to remember when other things will be forgotten. That is why that tune from the thirties which was playing when you confessed your love for the four year old next door still haunts you without giving you a clue as to why. Advertisers know this which is why they set their silly jingles to music so whether you want to or not, you will remember them. Consequently when we sing the creeds either to a monotone or to the ancient tune, we set them in our memories like concrete, hard wired into our brains forever.

The second is that when we sing or our attentively listening to singing is the only time that both sides of our brain are working at the same time. In the case of anything else it is either left brain or right brain with the electrical stuff flashing at speed beyond our ordinary comprehension. But when we are singing both sides of the brain light up on the neurologists machines. Who knew?

Beyond this, we need to understand that when we stand singing or simply listening to others sing, we begin to breath in unison with the singers which tends to lengthen our breath intervals. This cuts off oxygen to the brain and creates a very mild form of oxygen starvation known as nitrogen narcosis. It is something also experience by deep sea divers where it can be far more serious and dangerous. But for those singing the psalms to either Gregorian or Anglican chant, it is simply the brain creating its own natural high. It allows the brain to focus on what is being sung and cut out distracting events and information which I think is a good thing.

Of course these things are among the reason why some folk, such as my late mother-in-law hate and fear music. It overwhelms their rational minds and frees parts of them which they would rather keep under control, enslaved perhaps. But they also allow the serious worshipper to focus on God and come one step closer to the true purpose of worship, an offering of ourselves in all of our parts to God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

QUIRES and places where they sing . . . .

The title is the beginning of a rubric from the 1559 prayer book of Elizabeth I. It required that in places with a sung service the lessons in morning and evening prayer as well as the epistle and gospel of the communion service should be sung. While this may seem very strange to many present day Anglicans, it represents a continuation of a practise which goes back to the days of our Lord when Holy Scripture was deemed to holy to simply be read and should be sung instead. This applied not merely to Scripture in services but also those occasions when an individual was reading scripture privately. He was required by tradition to "sing" it if for no other reason to remind him of its holiness.
In an age where we do little to remind ourselves or anyone else of the holiness of God or the reverence with which we should approach him, the ancient ideal of singing the lessons be it in the offices or at the Eucharist is one to which we should give much thought. I agree that to most Americans, even to most American Anglicans the idea is one that strikes us as strange. We are a culture where read means "read" and not "sing." We are used to singing hymns, the canticles, but have difficulty with the psalms, the creeds, the 'our father' and prayers. And, yet, a close reading of what Cranmer did with having Merbecke prepare "A Prayer Book Noted," the development of Anglican chant and what the rubric in Elizabeth's first prayer book required indicates that the ancient ideal of the full sung service was not rejected by the English Church at the time of its reformation.
And still we as Anglicans and Christians find singing difficult for us. Why?
When I first came upon an Anglican Church it was one that sang and sang passionately. The psalms in particular were sung to a wide number of Anglican chants at which the congregation never balked. Instead they managed them with an ease that astounded as they never had chant books and sang them with as much strength as others I knew sang common hymns. They also sang the Venite, the canticles, the vesicles, the creeds, the Our Father and the 'Amens' to the sung prayers. It was a revelation and one which has stuck with me especially as this was in a small town in Oklahoma in a church that was hardly as large as a side chapel in your average small cathedral.
Later when I was at university, the Canterbury Club was responsible for Sunday evensong. When we began it was merely read, but as we went along we gained access to the organ and began singing the versicle's, the canticles, the creed, the Our Father and the collects. A short time later, with the aid of the Sarum Psalter, we pointed the psalms and with a little practise, added those to what we sang. Finally we reached the point where two of us with much fear and trepidation sang the two lessons. As we went from a very simple read service to more and more singing the congregation climbed from a core of about twenty regulars to an every Sunday ninety to one hundred or more. And this was done without any publicity at all as we were much afraid that the rector or the vestry would shut us down. High church and all that sort of thing, you know. We occasionally had speakers, priests from the diocese and others, and they were always surprised both at our numbers and at our singing, I think the more so because their was no priest pushing us to do what we were doing.
After I was out of school, married and with children, we always attended a parish where the Eucharist was sung, including the epistle and gospel. Unfortunately in those parishes the offices were generally a dead letter and never read publicly, but sometimes on very great occasions, evensong was sung. Looking back that always seemed very strange because it was such an isolated addition to the worship of the parish. We were sometimes urged to read the offices on our own but a public common office was outside the normal worship of the parish. Of course, there were also those parishes where the Sunday worship was normally Morning Prayer with sermon and the solemn elevation of the offertory basins. But they didn't keep the daily offices either. A full prayer book Anglicanism seemed only available at cathedrals such as St John the Divine's in New York City or Grace in San Francisco. There may have been others but they never came to my notice.
So what actually am I saying? I believe it is that the worship which the framers of the prayer book intended and as pointed to by the rubrics of the books such as Elizabeth I's prayer book seems to have disappeared almost entirely among those who call themselves Anglicans. We have Anglo-papists who relish doing things more Romano which means something as close to a Tridentine high mass as they can manage on Sundays and major holy days but who almost never read much less sing the office publicly. And we also have the low-churchmen who also fail in replicating the prayer book pattern, but they do so by elevating the office of Sunday instead of Daily Morning Prayer to a place it was never intended to have while celebrating the Eucharist either very early on Sundays or on a once a month or quarterly basis as the main worship of the congregation. In neither tradition is the Book of Common Prayer presented as it was intended to me or the prayer book pattern given incarnational status. Real Anglicanism is simply absent from us. What we have, with the exception of some very rare parishes and missions, is two made up religions, neither of which begins to express the "doctrine, discipline and worship . . .of the Church" as intended by any of the classical prayer books from 1559 through 1929. We may occasionally be singing, it is not the Lord's song in way in which the prayer book intended. We have to do better than this.