Supreme Rulers

Mr. John Wesley

Though the American Prayer Book has granted various civil offices different emphases in its state prayers, it’s been asked if a hasty substitution of the Presidency for Monarch might upset older notions of an Ordered Society? The potential problems invoked by such swapping has been discussed in several places, especially with respect to the Litany(1). Nonetheless, students of American church history are probably mostly familiar with John Wesley’s Sunday Service. Further discussion on the development of American state prayers allots Wesley a candidate for influence upon the United States BCP. While not comprehensive regarding the question, this post aims to open some discussion.  Continue Reading »

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Common Prayer Day

Common Prayer  Initiative 2012

Though past, St. Bartholomew’s Day marked the 350th anniversary of the 1662 BCP’s issue for public use. The 1662 BCP is understood as the ‘gold standard’ for Anglican worship, being the sealed text backed by English statute law. However, the retreat of the British Empire (and the Acts of Parliament which accompanied it) precipitated an ecclesiastical vacuum that gave opened doors to significant local variety, starting with prayer books that have historical lineages to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Can such variant liturgies be better related to the 1662 standard or the principle of ‘common prayer’? Continue Reading »

A number of times the question of the state prayers in American Morning office has been brought up as if this somehow invalidates certain points made criticizing the 1928 litany (see the Litany’s Faldstool— especially the comment section). The 1928 inserted a petition for the US President where the Crown and royal seed formerly stood. The problem with this insertion is it equates the US Presidency to Christian kingship.  Christian kingship not only is rooted in the king as ‘first’ member of the local church, but in the English tradition, it possesses a sacramental and ministerial character that the modern Presidency repudiates.  For classical high churchmen, there are further considerations regarding the order of the church under the dignity of Supremacy, and if this same dignity ought to be given to an office that constitutionally rejects duties in the local church and rendering it more or less unitarian in nature. Consequently, the 1892 litany was suggested as a correction to the 1928.  However, the MP/EP state prayers was not addressed.

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Ascension Day

Christ's Rapture

When the Common Prayer Book is affirmed as a standard for Anglican faith, it is usually understood as including the short catechism, divine offices, sacraments, and preface. But, often passed over is the lectionary. The lectionary, especially when coupled with the collects and readings) is perhaps the richest fount for Anglican doctrine as it provides the verses by which we are to understand or unlock scripture. In otherwords, the lectionary is a hermeneutical compass unlike any other, and it is often overlooked.

However, with every prayer book revision, the lectionary has also been modified, yet rare are the studies on successive lectionaries as an evaluation would require consideration of an enormous volume of material. The reintroduction of the ecclesiastical year (even with most readings organized in an expository framework) especially makes this project formidable. That said, the problem is significantly reduced if the lectionary of various BCP’s are considered for those Holy Days historically found in the ‘Table of Feasts’. That leaves a sample of about thirty readings each taken one-by-one. My hope is to cover these thirty festivals over a casual course of three years, starting with Ascension Day as the first of many micro-studies which, once added together, can perhaps evaluate the good behind our several lectionary revisions, especially what the 1928 BCP contributed.

Ascension Day: Morning and Evening prayer selections experienced no great change between the 1549 and 1662 lectionaries other than the omission of John 14. In 1662, J14 appears to have been replaced by the more historical gospel, Lk 24. However, the theme remained the same, namely, “I go away, and come unto you” (v.28). The gospel and epistle readings for the communion, as with the collect, also remain the same, Acts 1 & Mark 16. The latter illuminate in what sense Christ returns to the apostles left in Jerusalem, and this is by the Holy Spirit, imparting many gifts and signs of ministry (Mk 16:16-17). Thus, a dual message is conveyed: First, Christ’s ascension or leaving of the apostles to therefore be crowned/enthroned in heaven. Second, Christ’s return by means of the Spirit which culminates by judging of the world.

Hence, two advents are described. The first-Advent coming to a conclusion with the ascension, but followed closely with the second-Advent that starts with the investment of the Holy Ghost at Jerusalem. Ascension roughly marks a transition in the calendar between two major themes or basic seasons, namely, between the mission of earthly Christ-incarnate, designated from Christmas to Ascension, compared to the Reign of heavenly Christ-glorified, celebrated between Pentecost to All Saints. NT Wright rightly recognizes the redundancy of such Roman Catholic festivals like Christ the King, especially at the fore of Advent, or the Methodist ‘kingdomtide’ introduced to reduce the extraordinary length of Trinity season. If there is a Kingdomtide (which there is not), it seems Pentecost to All Saints would best fit the description. As it is the ascension theme of “taken up, and sending down” is a portal between seasons, and it might be added the ascension collect belongs to the kingdom’s “rapture” said in the Sursum Corda.

Anyway, getting back to the BCP lectionary, we have no major change to it until the American. Even here the American makes no alterations until 1928. The 1789 and 1892 BCP’s both carry forward the older EP/MP selections for psalms, old testament, and new testament reading. Ditto with the communion reading. But the 1928 cuts out 2 Ki 2:1-16 and, very curiously, Mark 16. Also removed by the 1928 American revision are three psalms: Ps. 8, 15, 21, 108. These are replaced with Ps. 93, 96, and 99. Also, added was Is. 33:5-7, 20-22 and, strangely, verses 39-37 from the KJV Apocryphra’s Song of Three Children.

Omitted Parts: What did the 1928 American revision thus accomplish with its Ascension readings? The upside was more controversial verses were replaced with what might be considered safe scripture. The older readings made use of rather elusive passages regarding the crowning of the son. In some respects these passages from the book of David were unclear if man or Christ was spoken. Speaking of man’s creation, psalm 8 then says “Thou madest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands; and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (v.6). Likewise, the twenty-first says, “for thou shalt meet him with the blessings of goodness, and shalt set a crown of pure gold upon his head” (v.3). However, given their relation to Ascension, the calendar makes it clear these passages are speaking of the Father crowning the Son and sitting Himself upon the right-side of God, “Set-up thyself, O God, above the heavens” (Ps.108:5).

It might also be noted that following these general descriptions of heavenly crowning, the psalter selections usually proceed to describe the resulting rule and judgement of the Lord. However, Daniel 7 remains for the matins reading, so an apocalyptic references remains albeit not as frequent as with the 1892 and earlier. The last interesting point is perhaps a concern over charismatic gifts as suggested in Mark 16 and 2 Ki 2. While Mark talks about snakes, healings, and exorcisms, 2Ki describes Elisha receiving the spirit of Elijah who thence exorcises water with salt, “I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land” (v.21).

While more likely 2 Ki2 was omitted due to Elijah’s “taking up”, it’s unfortunate the readings dealing with signs were omitted because they tell us how Christ returns, namely, by the gifts imparted by His Spirit. Mark 16 could also be read in context of Acts 1, “that you will baptize by the Spirit”, with the signs of healings, casting of demons, and treading of snakes being the inner workings of holy baptism. Furthermore, 2 Ki gives us a picture of Christ leaving the apostles by the rapture of Elijah leaving Elisha. However, Elijah leaves behind his mantle as a sign by which Elisha continuous the prophet’s miracles. These miracles curiously are the parting of the Jordan, much like the Red Sea, and the exorcising of water to impart life; thereby we too can “ascend”. In light of Mark 16 and Lk 24 these are pretty obvious allusions to new testament baptism.

Conclusion: While the 1928 offers ‘safe’ readings, the role a second advent plays seems diminished by select doxologies which often do little more than praise powers of creation. Lost also is the benefit that a lectionary normally bares by providing relevant cross-references to illuminate scripture’s dark areas. In this case how to read the rapture of Elijah in 2Ki2? How to understand the gifts promised in Mark 16 and their significance to baptism? Or what about the wider theme of apocalypse as found in Daniel 7, the omitted psalms, and 2Ki? As if often the case with the 1928, the book remains fairly orthodox, but a watering down process is yet detectable. Ascension Day not only culminates in the Kingship of Christ, but implicit with His heavenly enthronement is a promise for the church to be given the authority and power cast away evil and subdue in His Name. This latter half does not come out as clearly in the 1928 as it does with the 1892/1662 versions for Ascension. The positive is the 1928 annexes an Eve and Octave to the day.

A very good exposition on the Ascension of our Lord that uses 2 Kings 2 can be read here.

Charles Bartlett lives and works in Northern California. He is a member-at-large in the UECNA, worshiping in the REC by bishopric dispensation. His blog, Anglican Rose, explores the nature of adiaphora in England’s Church with an emphasis on late-Henrician standards.

The Holy Kiss

the "peace plate"

One of the many liberal modifications to the 1979 prayer book was the liturgical reinsertion of the Kiss of Peace. For about six months I worshiped in an Episcopal church which often made use of the more conservative Rite 1. No matter how similar Rite 1 was to the 1928 communion office, the kiss of peace always seemed to ruin that sense of tradition. Even before I knew anything about liturgics, the kiss of peace always felt  “hippie”. At the former TEC parish, the priest and entire congregation would mingle, hug, make small talk, too often turning the Pax into an intermission. At times people would even leave to catch coffee or make a phone call outside the church. It’s only redeeming quality in my mind was its potential to provide a time to bless and usher out possible catechumens. Anyway, the Pax seemed odd, and I had to ask if it was indeed an ancient practice of the church. This also required some digging into the prayer book.

The 1979 BCP seems to throw a bone to each type of churchmanship. The Kiss of Peace appears to be something that might satisfy the catholic. By placing the Holy Kiss at the offertory, the ’79 appears to defer to the ancient Eastern practice, dating back to the second century. The “Western Pax” appeared a bit later, roughly the fifth century, in Rome and North Africa. Instead of being done before the anaphora, it would have followed the end of the Latin canon where the Paster Noster is found. This is also where the 1549 BCP and Sarum Mass locate the Pax. So, the ’79 bcp had at least two options, and TEC revisionists apparently favored the more “ancient” location.

Not What it Seems: However, what is not said about the Holy Kiss is the rather sober manner which the primitive church administered it. Throughout the history of the Pax a fear of indecency or indiscretion is expressed. Thus, there is a certain restraint in its use. The Apostolic Constitutions confine the Kiss to estates within the christian assembly, namely, exchanging it between clerics in the chancel while laity pass it on to each other. But even amongst the laity the Kiss was carefully confined to gender: men exchanging amongst men, and women amongst women. Thus, the Kiss was never a “free-for-all” that bordered upon an intermission in the midst of the liturgy.

As time passed, though the Kiss remained part of the liturgy, it was gradually substituted for less disruptive devotions. By the middle-ages a variety of alternate forms for the Pax existed both East and West– e.g., kissing the altar, sacred elements, a relic, the bishop’s hand, or a stole. A limited Holy Kiss is found in the marriage rite, e.g., “you may kiss the bride“, and originally it was an oculation that passed from the priest to the groom to the bride. The Peace was also abbreviated by confining it between priest and deacon, most likely leaving the laity to conduct their own private reverences separately in the nave.  By the 13th century, osculatoriums, i.e., the “pax-board” or “pax-brede”, became common in England. Pax-boards were small plaques decorated by crosses that were kissed by the celebrant and then given to the congregation while at the altar rail. But even this practice gradually passed away.

In the Sarum rite the Pax is said at the end of the canon, exchanged between deacon and priest with the celebrant kissing the altar spread. The 1549 likely continued this practice, but the Latin location of the Pax finally disappeared upon Edward’s second prayer book where it becomes a preface to the benediction (A New History, p. 487). What’s interesting about the 1549 vis-a-vis later BCP editions is how the Pax is said specifically to the clerks, reading:

Then shall the Priest say, The Peace of the Lord be with you. The Clerks. And with thy spirit”

If working from the Sarum, the Priest is assumed to be facing  ‘choir-side’ while addressing these “clerks”. But in high mass ‘the clerks’ would naturally include the Deacon, acolytes, and perhaps cantor/choir. The Pax is not the only salute given between “clerks” and Priest. Unlike later BCP versions (1552/9, 1662 1789), the 1549 preserves the privilege of lower orders acting as a chorus, giving the “the clerks” more exclusive roles such as chanting the Gloria in Excelsis, Kyries, and the Angus Dei. This seems to give a more prominent role to assisting clergy that somewhat disappears after 1552, giving over to the ‘general priesthood’.

The Pax Today: Even in more recently ‘conservative’ revisions, such as in the Anglican Missal, the Pax is normally addressed to the people. However, the 1979 takes the Pax to a new level. Rather than make opportunity to genuinely restore an older liturgic, the 1979 appropriates what might appear an apostolic Pax, but uses it as pretext to expand the realm of ‘democractic’ worship. Furthermore, if the 1979 had actually continued the catholic direction that inspired earlier revisions like the 1928, the 1549 BCP (closest to the English Sarum) would have been the natural and more organic starting point rather than leaping back to mirky apostolic custom. If revisionists had started from the Sarum as the Anglican Missal had done, the newer BCP might have enlisted the Pax as a embankment to Anglican ecclesiology, emphasizing the special dignity once held between deacon and priest. Instead, the Pax is made a liberating gesture that frees the people from the mediative roles of priest-deacon, of which self-conscious ecclesiastical society breaks down for three to five minutes after the offertory. The 1979 appears to advance catholic ceremony but instead manipulates antiquity to make headway for democratizing movements in the liturgy. When praise music is added, there remains very little of Rite 1 that’s traditional.

If  Ordinaries permit the Pax (and some do with the 1928 BCP), they might consider the 1549 BCP’s application which favors the celebrant facing the deacon along “choir” or “clerk-side”. Liturgically, the 1549 might be treated as an opportunity to better highlight the function of the deacon as a second representative or leader of the people. This point was  made earlier at RTBP while writing on the possible benefits of keeping northside celebrations (as understood by Dearmer). Not only might we continue certain customs peculiar to earlier 1662 (northside) and 1549 (the pax) prayer books, but Anglicans can also use less well-known rubrics to slowly weaken the democratization of liturgy that has occurred over the last forty years, starting with a greater prominence to those lesser offices often acting in the chancel. The way we pray is the way we believe, etc..

As Lent passes and Easter is entered, Anglicans might consider how the law and gospel work together not only after church but in worship. When the faithful are dismissed from the communion, dismissal is not given to live as “hearts see fit” (sneaking in a coffee break before the end of divine worship, creating an intermission for small talk and short flirts, leaving the altar in the midst of public liturgy, etc.), but the Mass is given to live in Christ by His will and commandments. This ‘third use’ of the law ought to regulate even the Pax, not given licence to disorder but to enter Christ’s humility, thereby glorifying the Father.

Charles Bartlett lives and works in Northern California. He is a member-at-large in the UECNA, worshiping in the REC by bishopric dispensation. His blog, Anglican Rose, explores the nature of adiaphora in England’s Church beginning with late-Henrician standards.

The Litany’s Faldstool

(A similar article dealing with the Daily Offices was also written: Supremacy in Offices) The faldstool in English ceremony was the movable seat otherwise reserved in the chancel as the chair for the visiting Bishop. From the faldstool, an Ordinary passed authority by laying on hands of both confirmed laity and clergy. But the faldstool also doubled as a prayer desk upon pentitential occasions where the bishop rested his arms upon the faldstool’s cushion while kneeling before it. The idea of the bishop’s faldstool representing a throne of authority in the church is embedded the BCP’s litany. From it we learn the peculiar order of authority within the Church of England.

Though today the prayer desk has replaced the faldstool, nevertheless, in the Parson’s Handbook the Rev. Dearmer explains the Litany is to be be given in the old position of the fladstool, namely,  in the midst of the church. According to Dearmer, the Litany should be recited regularly, normally Wednesdays and Fridays as well as between morning prayer and ante-communion on Sundays. But it is especially said upon penitential seasons.

However, these many details likely escape the majority of parishioners who rarely recite the Litany, and, perhaps they never do unless it be at Lent. Infrequent exposure to the Litany probably leaves more specifically Anglican features to pass unnoticed. The prayer book Litany differs from the Latin in a number of places. But perhaps the most conspicuous difference is the absence of heavenly saints of whom Romans and Eastern Orthodox commonly invoke. Instead, the Anglican emphasis is upon an earthy kingdom, or church militant. This ought to be an interesting point for Anglicans since our suffrages beg the Church of England instead of the heavenly hosts. The 1559 version of the litany lists the estates of the church [in bold] which are thus mentioned:

“We synners do beseche the to heare us (O Lord God,) and that it may please the to rule and governe thy holy Churche universally, in the right way…That it may please the, to kepe and strengthen in the true worshipping of the in righteousnes and holynes of lyfe, thy servaunt James our most gracious Kyng and governour…That it may please the, to rule his harte in thy faith, feare, and love, that he may evermore have affiaunce in the, and ever seke thy honoure and glory. That it may please the, to be his defender and keper, geving him the victory over al his enemyes. That it may please thee to bless and preserve our gracious Queen Anne, Prince Henry, and the rest of the King and Queen’s Royal issue… That it may please the to illuminate all Byshoppes, Pastours, and ministers of the Church, with true knowledge, and understanding of thy words, and that both by their preaching and livinge, they may sette it furth and shewe it accordingly…That it maye please thee to endue the Lordes of the Counsayle, and all the nobilitie, with grace, wisedom, and understanding…That it may please thee to blesse and kepe the Magistrates, geving them grace to execute justice, and to maynteyne truthe… That it may please the to blesse, and kepe al thy people.”

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