Fr. Aidan Nichols has made available the text of the talks he delivered at the Anglicanorum coetibus Conference in Canada. They appeared first on the Ordinariate Portal, and are offered here for your interest and discussion.
Part I may be found here.
Part II may be found here.
Here is the text of Part III (or read it on the Ordinariate Portal):
But when they come, how will they worship? Here we must treat of the Ordinariates and the question of the Liturgy. Most (suitably informed) people when they hear the phrase ‘the liturgical patrimony of Anglicanism’ will think among other things of robed choirs, harvest festivals, change-ringing, and the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge. Above all, however, they will think of Thomas Cranmer. But precisely this causes a problem, not merely because Queen Mary’s judiciary had him burned as a heretic but also (and more especially) because, for recent scholarship, Cranmer belongs firmly in the camp of the Protestant Reformers not least when it comes to his liturgical creations. Cranmer wrote masterly prose, solemn, though with a tenderness the more poignant for being occasional. Many of his phrases have passed over into the common treasury of the English language, and his better known prayers, or echoes of them, have come to mind for thousands of English people at critical moments of life. But the transposition of his work into a Catholic setting is deeply problematic, above all in what concerns his Order of worship for the Eucharist, since it is in the Eucharistic Order, as I’ve already had occasion to mention in connexion with Pope Benedict’s theology, that the heart of Christian Liturgy consists.
There can be little doubt that the Order of Holy Communion in the English Prayer Book tradition – starting with 1549, and moving through 1552 to 1559 where some slight recovery of Catholic ground was modestly extended in 1662 – is hostile to ideas of Eucharistic Sacrifice and even Eucharistic Presence. At the high point of radical Protestant influence, under Edward VI, it appears to have been because Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester, a conservative on the Edwardine bench of bishops, argued that the First Prayer Book was susceptible of a Catholic interpretation that Cranmer determined to embark on making a more thorough job of it in 1552. The great Anglo-Catholic liturgiologist Dom Gregory Dix describes in the final chapter of his The Shape of the Liturgy his own dismay on looking into the context of the two Edwardine Prayer Books in Cranmer’s other theological writings. ‘[I]t is only painfully and with reluctance that have brought myself to face candidly some of the facts here set out, and I cannot but fear that they will bring equal distress to others’. The benign view of Cranmer’s liturgical revision taken by most High Churchmen (though isolated critical voices had never been completely lacking), and, after the Oxford Movement, by ‘Prayer Book Catholics’, was, so Dix concluded, historically unsustainable. For Cranmer the Eucharist was instituted by Christ not so that his death might be offered to the Father but with the simple aim of its being remembered by us. The Second Prayer Book is the Eucharistic counterpart of the magisterial Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone: in Dix’s words ‘the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to [that] doctrine’. Or as the then bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham, writes in his highly appealing study of the Liturgy, Heaven and Earth in Little Space, Cranmer was concerned to ‘consecrate the congregation and not the eucharistic elements’.
All this explains the rise of the Anglo-Catholic demand for the supplementation of the English Prayer Book and indeed its quasi-replacement by some version of the Western Missal. As to its content, the demand was doctrinally motivated, though it often took the form of a legal argument – namely, that the proper authorities of the two provinces of the mediaeval Church which formed the Ecclesia anglicana, the Convocations of Canterbury and York, had neither initiated the Prayer Books nor even authorized them except in the sense that they advised the clergy to make use of what was sometimes referred to as ‘the Parliamentary book’.
The problem was not the Divine Office, the daily offices of Mattins and Evensong, which were generally regarded as successful adaptations to congregational worship of the ancient Offices of Matins and Lauds, on the one hand, Vespers and Compline, on the other: offices that had become in the mediaeval period mainly the occupation of monastics and cathedral canons. Nor were the ‘occasional offices’ a difficulty, except in so far as the Burial Service omitted any explicit intercession for the souls of the departed (admittedly, not a minor matter). The stumbling-block was the rite of Holy Communion, but since this was absolutely central in the Tractarian programme for a reinvigorated Church life, it became in time not a hurdle to be surmounted but a road-block requiring a diversion from the route. Doubts intensified as to whether the original Tractarians had been right in regarding the Prayer Book as fit for use when considered as a manual of Catholic prayer. After the anti-ritual legislation of the mid-Victorian era – the 1874 Public Worship Regulation Act, which saw the imprisonment of Catholic-minded clergy convicted of so-called ‘ritual offences’, for periods lasting from four months to a year – Anglo-Catholics sat ever more lightly to the Prayer Book regime. They were increasingly willing to import prayers from the Sarum Missal, or even the Roman Missal as used by Latin Catholics of their own period, especially sections of the Roman or – as they sometimes termed it, with reference to its putative early history – the ‘Gelasian’ or ‘Gregorian’ Canon. In this way they hoped to make good the deficiencies of the Prayer Book liturgy seen as an instrument for celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice with, as the fruit of the consecration, the Real Presence. Where congregations might grow restive on hearing hitherto unknown and technically illegal adjustments to the Book, the added prayers were recited silently, or at any rate in a low voice.
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