Monday, November 30, 2009

Lambreth Conference of 1867

I found this quote in F. W. Puller's The Continuity of the Church of England Before and After It's Reformation in the 16th Century. London, Longman's, Green and Co., 1913. Since I very much agree with it because it sets for the classical Anglican position, I thought it worthwhile to pass it on.

"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 afirmed by the undisputed General Councils."

Would it not be a great thing if the current Archbishop of Canterbury, establishment Anglicanism, and all those who call themselves Anglican were equally of that opinion. Instead we have folks who have another faith and attempting to cause us to believe that It is Anglicanism and Christian.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent Comes Again!

Tomorrow is the Advent Sunday and in accordance with the old usage we will be blue again. That will take us away from those to whom Ritual Notes is the authority for Catholicity, and will set us apart from even those who think themselves Anglicans but would never bother to consider obeying the Ornaments Rubric. They now that they have compromised their principles by using stoles over their surplices almost universally do so with the Roman colours.

Advent is one of those strange seasons which I long ago decided that essentially eluded the comprehension of those who gave us our prayer book. I know that some of their reasoning was based upon economics. England had been made poor by a hundred years of civil war and needed to get back to work. The liturgical system of the medieval church was beyond the comprehension of what we would think of as "the man in the pew" because it was in a language which he didn't understand and about a subject that was open to him only by the pictures painted on the church's walls. And the climax of the season was the feast of Christmas which seemed to be about the nativity of Jesus - until you started reading the appointed scriptural lessons and the prayers which accompanied the service.

That is not to say that the Sarum liturgy or those of Lincoln, York or Bangor were not beautiful. As one who spent too much of my late teen years reading through the volumes of the Henry Bradshaw Society how marvelous, how incredibly beautiful they were and were intended to be. But be cause of the language issue they were open and understood only by an intellectual and educated elite while the ordinary Christian knelt on the floor of his or her parish church and said their beads. They had been present at mass; there duty had been done but they were really at a closed door.

The first Book of Common Prayer opened that door for them. I am not sure that they appreciated it. Kneeling there and saying their paters and aves was easier. Now they were being assaulted by a load of Scripture that was almost more than they could take in and digest. The psalms, the Old Testament lessons, the Gospels and more; and then there were the clerical fights over just how it was to be done and how much they would be allowed to actually participate. The change was too quick and too radical for most of them to comprehend or make their personal piece with. Indeed we have seen the same thing with the Roman Church when they switched their liturgy from the old Latin rite of Pius V for the Novus Ordo of Paul VI. They went from full churches to ones almost as empty as those of the Episcopal Church after thirty years of their version of the new Roman liturgy.

And us? Well, we have more than four hundred years of it now and we still can't seem to get it right. High and crazy; low and lazy, broad and hazy with each insisting that they are the real Anglicans. And then we enter the occasional church which seems to be praying of itself. When the services begin the majority of the people seem to know what they are doing and refer only to the service sheet for the number of the hymns. They know where they are and what they are doing and do it well. They do not seem to be noticing each other but are all focused on something, somewhere beyond themselves and the present moment. If it were not for the sense of joy and peace which prevails we might think to be frightened.

And so it begins again, the new liturgical year replacing the one just past. We have said or sung the same songs, the same canticles and heard the same prayers, the same lessons and the same gospels for all of our Christian and Anglican lives - and yet it is always new, taking us almost by surprise. What we once said in our innocence is now said with tingling anticipation it has become so intense, so quietly thrilling. Are these not in the most the same people who have always been here, but how has it become greater, sharper than the last time that we were here and saying these words. Didn't we understand then; do we now? And when will we know? And why is our body responding so strangely? Is it because we know that He is coming and that we must be ready?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

INCENSE: A Word from Dearmer

When I first read the Introduction to Dearmer's Parson's Handbook, I was very strongly struck by the following passage. It seemed to me that those who claimed to be Bible Christians should immediately be asked about their use of incense in church services. When they admit, as they will have to do, that it is not used among them, then one is free to ask if they have actually read and understood the Bible. Personally I have always felt that those who were uncomfortable about the use of incense probably didn't really believe there was a God or that Jesus was divine. There is something about waving a censor at an altar that makes you aware that you couldn't or wouldn't do it if you didn't believe in God. It would be just too embarassing.

The use of incense is a good test as to the continuance of ceremonial under the New Covenant; because it is now regarded, even by some Bishops, as a mark of extreme ritualism. Its use is mentioned in the last prophetic book of the Old Testament[4] as [9] one of the signs of the New Covenant. The birth of the Fore-runner was announced to his father when ‘his lot was to burn incense,’[5] a singularly inopportune moment from the Puritan point of view. One of the three significant gifts offered to our Lord at His birth was incense.[6] In the Revelation an account is given of the ideal worship of the redeemed, by one who, more than any other man, had opportunities of knowing our Lord’s mind upon the subject. Now the worship he describes is again ritualistic; and the use of no less than twenty-eight ‘bowls’ of incense is mentioned.[7] It is mentioned again three chapters further on[8] in a manner that is significant; for it is then used ceremonially at the altar. The angel stands ‘at (or over) the altar, having a golden censer,’ he is given ‘much incense,’ to ‘add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar.’ ‘And the smoke of the incense, with (or for) the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.’ The Sarum Missal itself hardly gives a more complete description of the ceremonial use of incense.

Friday, November 20, 2009


This posting is going to be extremely simple. It will consist of a few paragraphs of wisdom from Percy Dearmer's introduction to Illustrations of the Liturgy. I am putting them up because they seem especially appropriate at the present moment. What is left of orthodox prayer book Anglicanism is being assaulted by the Roman Church and even its strongest theological defenders have been seduced by the missals and by Roman ornaments not invented until well after the English Reformation and religious settlement under Elizabeth I. The result is a chaos but it also presents an opportunity if we are only wise enough to seize it.

"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, sometimes Rome. The result has been that our church has failed to make itself recognizable : foreigners know almost nothing about her, have no idea what she is like, would not recognize her when they saw her."

"You cannot enforce a system of worship. Even the iron-bound system of Rome has failed here. Since she has attempted to dictate uniformity, she has found herself obliged to follow the last popular fashion, however puerile or however effeminate, far more than in the comparative freedom of the late middle ages.

"What then can you do? Just what is done in literature, in art, in science, in politics, in every branch of human activity. You can educate. You can search out the facts, you can spread knowledge, you can establish principles. You can show men the beauty of the right way. You can also remove the remnants of autocratic ignorance which still unhappily linger among some of our bishops, or at least you can secure that the young men who are now learning shall know and understand when some of them come to such positions of authority; and you can spread the spirity of loyalty among clergy and layfolk alike, if only on this ground - that the spirit of individualism has proved a failure

"Antimony has been tried and has failed in every form. Every man has done what was right in his own eyes; with the result that every man has done wrong. This was disastrous; but if every man will now be content to learn, to think, and to carry out his appointed duty, if every priest will use the great opportunity which the Prayer Book offers, and if every bishop - true to that "sound learning" which Bishop Creighton described as the keynote of our part of the Church Catholic, and which is as necessary in public worship as in public speech - if every bishop will wisely lead, using the crook of a shepherd and not the driver's whip which disperses and does not direct, then we may in the future be true to ourselves, and of service to a world which is much distracted by the follies of Christians and their moral failures."

There is more to be added, but I shall not do so now. Some of this is best taken slowly and thought through bit by bit. It has taken us a long time to get ourselves into our present mess and we shall not be out of it quickly. We must learn to want to be what we are supposed to be. It may not be as exciting as adopting the role of another, but it will not make us play either false or the fool.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Service of the Church

"The Order for Holy Communion, the Order for Morning Prayer, the Order for Evening Prayer, and the Litany, as set forth in this Book , are the regular Services appointed for Public Worship in this Church, and shall be used accordingly;" except this has not been the case in the American Church and most of the other national churches in Anglicanism, either in the establishment communion or the parishes of the Continuum. If one were to ask why, the answer is not a difficult one. Up until the beginning of the Tractarian Movement the normal Sunday worship in an Anglican Church was one very long service of Morning Prayer, Litany, and Ante-communion followed by a sermon. English cathedrals and some very rare parish churches obeyed the rubric and actually proceeded to a celebration of Holy Communion every Sunday and Holy Day for which their Book of Common Prayer provided a proper. The others for reason which most of us will probably never be able to really understand felt that while the Book of Common Prayer devotes most of its pages to the Holy Communion service did not really intend that the sacrament should be offered to their parishioners every Sunday and Holy day. They seemed to believe that the purpose of Christian worship was to hear the Scriptures read and then explicated by a long and hopefully learned sermon.

With the beginning of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement, old fashioned high churchmen began to celebrate the Holy Communion service every Sunday. When these celebrations began to be celebrated in the vestments ordered in the Ornaments Rubric, low and broad churchmen responded by dropping the reading of the Litany and ante-communion service and placing the sermon directly at the end of Morning Prayer. This meant that a secondary service was given preference over that ordered by our Lord and considered central to the Church for its first fifteen hundred years. But low and broad churchmen seemed to believe that looking and acting in a way that reflected their view of the Reformation was much more important that actually keeping the obligation which they took freely when they were ordained. This meant that the Church became divided by parties which were specifically forbidden by St. Paul.

The major purpose of this blog (too long neglected, I know) is to urge all churchmen to keep the whole of the Book of Common Prayer in the manner in which it was intended. That means doing it in accordance with the English or Anglican usage and with pre-Reformation ceremonial. That will have the effect of making Anglicanism recognizable in a manner in which it is not now.