There is a very interesting article on Psallite Sapienter about the liturgical situation in the Anglo-Catholic world. I already touched upon this subject here on this blog some time ago when I quoted Adrian Fortescue:
I think the habit of making up new liturgies could easily grow on a man, like dram drinking. It must be quite fun to spread out before one translations of all the best liturgies, and then to pick out and string together the prettiest snippets from each. Orchard has not the ghost of a sense of liturgical style; he understands nothing about the historic development or the inherent build of the rites he plunders. He just takes the pretty bits and strings them together anyhow. Lots of people have done this sort of thing. The Irvingite Liturgy is another famous example; so are all the High Anglican combinations of their Prayer book with the juiciest morsels from the Roman Mass. To me all this is silly and ugly. It is like a man with no sense of construction or style who tries to make a new architecture by jamming together all the pretty details of all the buildings he has seen. I admire the dome of St Peter’s and the windows of Chartres and the Propylaia at Athens and the columns of Karnack; but I should not like to see them all jammed together.
The problem is simple. We have a sublime Office that has been made beautiful through its noble simplicity and centuries of musical talent in England’s cathedrals and college chapels. On the other hand, we have a crappy Eucharistic rite in the 1662 Prayer Book, which has been somewhat improved and made more Catholic in the American and Scottish Episcopalian Churches. If I seem excessive, don’t forget I am English and have the 1662 English Prayer Book in mind. Despite the wonderful classical English idiom, the content is even more artificial and contrived than Monsignor Bugnini’s rite which is still the “ordinary” Roman rite. It is not a primitive liturgy, and it is not Catholic. It has been imposed for centuries on the English clergy on pain of severe punishments including imprisonment!
So what do you do? Leave the Church of England and “pope”? Conform? Dress it up as a Mass and justify yourself by the Ornaments Rubric? Add bit and pieces here and there and make sure the congregation is singing a hymn and won’t notice what you’re doing? Alternatively, you violate the law and use a Cranmer-pastiche English translation of the Roman Rite with or without old favourites like the Prayer of Humble Access. Since the 1960’s, the obligation of using the Prayer Book was relaxed, and we had a quasi-official use of the 1928 English BCP, Series I, Series II, and the modern-language Series III. Then we had the Alternative Services Book and so forth. All the national Anglican Churches were bringing in their own modern liturgies. The problem is knowing what these liturgies are based on? Tradition? The personal whim of some bland and simpering cleric who thinks he knows best? Why else are many Anglican priests using the “ordinary form” of the Roman rite? It is a set rite, in English, relatively simple, and essentially Catholic.
It is all terribly unsatisfying that we, like our counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church, are looking to Tradition and the rites of the mainstream Church. I do think – for the rite of the Eucharist, the Mass – that we should look beyond the Prayer Book and look to Tradition. Many Anglicans have been using the Roman Rite (and since 1969, the Novus Ordo) for years, illegally, but in a way that supports their spiritual life as Christians. A very few have thought of going beyond the Reformation altogether and reviving the Use of Sarum. Some find the idea cranky, since 1549 is a heck of a long time ago! The Dominicans use their own rite, as do the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Milan. Sarum is simply a local medieval diocesan use, a variant of the Roman rite, which became generalised in England before Cranmer’s first “novus ordo” came in. I am only repeating what I have already said.
What we need is a point of reference. The Prayer Book just won’t do for the Mass. It is the cause of all the anarchy we have known in England and elsewhere, because only a low-church man can use it as it stands. As a priest, I like to follow a rite, not invent. As Fr Z would say, I like to say the black and do the red. The liturgy is not our property or something to be continuously re-invented. It belongs to the Church, and we are only tenants, not owners.
When I propose the Use of Sarum as a point of reference, I mean that there can be certain simplifications in some circumstances and pastoral needs. This is what we find in Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II – a firm intention to keep and preserve the Roman rite and all the traditional liturgies of the Church, but to allow pastoral adaptations like the use of the vernacular or the simplification of certain ceremonies. One criticism men like the present Holy Father and Msgr Klaus Gamber made of the Bugnini rite was that it is not a simple adaptation of the traditional Roman rite, but is a new invention, based on many of the same eclectic notions Fortescue was criticising in the early twentieth century!
For example, we can use English, cut down on the required “crew” at High Mass, omit the Sequences, celebrate the Holy Week ceremonies at the times given in the Pius XII reform. What Vatican II had in mind for the Roman rite was in the missions in far-away lands and simple faithful in poor parishes in Europe and America. Pastoral adaptation is necessary, and the full solemnity of the liturgy needs to be kept in the cathedrals, colleges, monasteries and major parish churches.
Another cause of liturgical anarchy is a combination of ignorance and aestheticism – doing something because it is beautiful but not knowing why – the rationale of the liturgy. One thing we’re going to have to do in the Ordinariates is to establish seminaries for the training of priests, and I already have verbal assurances of help from leaders of French priestly communities of the Summorum Pontificum movement. Nothing must be taken for granted, from practical ceremonies, the objects of worship, vestments, liturgical music including Gregorian chant, history of the liturgy, liturgical theology and the rationale / symbolism of the liturgy.
I really hope and pray Rome will give us norms that we can follow as Catholics and Anglicans. Perhaps the Sarum Use will not be retained, and we must all follow the Roman “extraordinary” or “ordinary” forms. If that is so, I for one will obey, though – like in 1850 – this is an opportunity to revive a very beautiful and noble tradition that nurtured English Catholics up to the mid sixteenth century. Perhaps the Congregation of Divine Worship is working on a mixed rite with bits from the Prayer Book, the Roman rite and Sarum. The CDW, employing men who have done extensive liturgical studies, would be an improvement on the average Anglican parish priest!!! However, this would be a pity if an eclectic rite has to be the reference point. If we get a botched liturgical standard, many of us might just decide to use the Roman rite. Again, that would be a pity.
We can but wait and see…
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