I was ordained an Anglican priest in Adelaide, South Australia in 1970. I served as an Anglican priest in Australia and the UK for 17 years before being received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. I know what it is to have celebrated the Anglican liturgy in its various forms. The official form, when I was ordained, was that of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. As far as I know, almost nobody celebrated Holy Communion according to the text and rubrics of the Prayer Book.
The variations included something like the Prayer Book, the interim Rite (the Prayer Book service rearranged so that it expressed the Sacrifice of the Mass and so that it looked more like the Roman Rite), the English Missal (the Roman rite of the time, mostly in English), and the service from the 1928 Prayer Book. By and large these liturgies were celebrated with dignity and reverence.
In the 1970s new Eucharistic liturgies began to be used in the ‘experimental phase’ that went on for many years. These new liturgies were as protestant as the Book of Common Prayer, and accompanied by the usual liberal political correctness (eg so-called ‘inclusive’ language).
Many Anglo-Catholics were completely blind-sided by the advent of the Missal of Paul VI. It was not what they were expecting from Rome and challenged liturgical developments in Anglicanism which, since the late nineteenth century, they had fought hard to reclaim from England's Catholic past. Some celebrated the new Roman Rite, some stayed with the English Missal in one of its many possible variations, some stayed with the Prayer Book in one of its many variations, while others adapted to the new liturgies celebrating them using the rubrical directions of the new Roman Rite.
There was not, as far as I am aware, the same extent of liturgical madness as in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless one Anglican priest I knew had barbecue Masses, bikies’ Masses, animal Masses and so on.
The liturgical chaos in Anglicanism from the 1970s onwards was a problem. But the problem was more to do with the text of the liturgy and women priest celebrants than the way in which those liturgies were celebrated.
Anglicanism, with its rich tradition of hymnody and its deeply ingrained sense of dignified worship, continued to enjoy beautiful music in most places while Catholic liturgy in Australia was too often accompanied by hymns or songs which were musically inferior and whose words were often trite beyond measure. Even worse the music set to the Mass texts was trivial, superficial pop. The effect of this was a debasement, a desacrilisation of the Eucharistic liturgy in many if not most Catholic parishes in Australia. This in turn led to a lack of reverence at Mass with the emphasis more on people celebrating themselves as a community than the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass as the actual liturgical texts clearly indicate. Reverence to the Blessed Sacrament waned, with the tabernacle often banished to far away corners of the Church building.
Given a (forced) choice between sound liturgical texts and better music, many Anglo-Catholics preferred style to substance, while others did their best to retain both. For some Anglicans it was a sad case of “salvation by good taste alone”! Yet protestantised liturgical texts are not corrected merely because the rite is beautifully celebrated.
The best of Anglicanism has been retained in the conservative Anglo-Catholic parishes where substance and style are both respected. The Ordinary Form is celebrated beautifully. So is the Extraordinary Form via the English Missal. A reconstituted Book of Common Prayer Mass (using the insights of the interim rite and perhaps also the Coverdale translation of the Roman Canon) has also been laudably retained and celebrated with dignity and beauty.
There is, though, nothing to be gained by Anglo-Catholics imagining a cultural superiority to Latin Rite Catholics. That Traditional Anglicans have much culturally, religiously, and spiritually that is distinctive and that ought to be retained in the new Ordinariates is clear and Rome has recognised that. But priests in the Ordinariates will also be able to celebrate both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. And who can doubt the beauty of the new translation of the Ordinary Form soon to be universally available for English speaking people.
My point is that we should all abandon the unfair generalisations that have often got in the way of mutual respect. Anglicans need a liturgy that is fully Catholic and fully Anglican. It is the first bit which has always been a problem for Anglicans as evidenced by the various Prayer Books of 1549, 1552, 1559 and 1662. Anglo-Catholics always knew they had to find ways to Catholicise their liturgy and it was to the Roman Use they typically looked. In the aftermath of the liturgical madness that gripped many priests and religious communities following the Second Vatican Council, many Catholics have looked back into their Old Tradition to find liturgical renewal. The Pope has encouraged this with his liberation of the Extraordinary Form. And the example of Traditional Anglicans in their liturgical celebrations should be appreciated and welcomed by all Catholics as the Ordinariates come into existence.
Now a Latin Rite priest I happily celebrate both the Ordinary form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. And if I were to be asked to celebrate whatever is decided to be the form of the Anglican Rite in the Ordinariate I would happily and proudly do that as well. And I certainly look forward to being reunited with my Anglican brothers and sisters at the altar of God and to once again experience the beauty and solemnity of Anglican Catholic worship.
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