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.


Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand the proper use of the services in the BCP. Morning & Evening Prayer should be said each and every day. The Litany should be said often, especially at times of great need. And the Lord's Supper should be celibrated each and every Sunday and Holy Day that there is a Collect for it. Is this a fair understanding?

Benton H Marder said...

Yes, Anonymous, this the bare minum. If we turn to 1662, we finf that the Litany is to be said/sung on Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays. If the priest thinks it advisable to celebrate more frequently, he may use the Proper for the Sunday OR he may use Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
I agree that the old accumulated service in overly long; it can be broken up with a pause between the individual services, but they should be said/sung in proper order.
A reason for the infrequent celebrations in former times was that Baptism was much more often celebrated. To use an analogy, Baptism is a knitting in of new materiel; Communion is a knitting together of the whole
We also are reminded that, in former times, people took very seriously the need of due preparation for Communion. The manuals suggest a full week of prayer, penance, fasting, meditation. All too often, we take the Communion for granted; we may take it so much so that we often received unworthily. We do need to learn from the past practice of the Church, even when it is not our present practice.
In +, Benton