Dr. Roberta BayerI read this article in the Anglican Way Magazine and reprinting it here with Dr. Bayer’s kind permission…………

The “Deep Churchman” – Commentary on “C. S. Lewis, 20 Years After”

By Roberta Bayer

C. S. Lewis described himself as a “deep churchman,” in the passages quoted by Roger Beckwith. His avowed intent was to remedy misconceptions about the Christian past; he taught the mere Christianity of historic Christendom, considered in its unity, rather than parsed for disparities. “We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom”, Lewis wrote. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age.”

What does Lewis mean by ‘going out of one’s own age’? Despite the gaps and discontinuities found within Christian theological and liturgical history, Lewis’ approach illustrates a certain unity within Christianity that is not only visible from the outsider’s broader historical perspective, but also is worthy of our attention in attempting to reconcile contemporary differences between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic traditions through a “deeper” perspective cultivated by wide reading. Furthermore, Lewis

suggests that contemporary controversies between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic may share a good deal more in common than they realize. Of historical ecclesiastical divisions, he writes;

“Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now          absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united— united with each other and         against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.”

Lewis suggests that the only safety against blindness to the unity of assumptions that bind even the most opposed ecclesiastical groups today is to recall “a standard plain, central Christianity (“mere” Christianity as Baxter called it) which puts such controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.”

One way in which controversies of the moment can be put in their proper perspective is to read not only modern books, but also old books. “If [a man] must read only the new or the old [books], I would advise him to read the old,” wrote Lewis. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” The old book puts the new book in perspective, he says, because every age has its own unique outlook. Every age is “specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.”

In this way, ‘going out of one’s own age’ leads to a realization of the characteristic assumptions that shape contemporary discourse. Once soaked in the teachings that have been held in common throughout Christian history, Lewis writes, you will have an amusing experience if you then venture to speak. “You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks

so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.” Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical disputants need a greater acquaintance with Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Baxter, Taylor and Bunyan, Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante to afford greater knowledge of the kinds of arguments which allow one to uphold supernatural religion and the teaching of salvation (always of primary importance to Lewis), against liberal modernity.

From the ‘deep’ perspective, even the divisions of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation could be seen in a different light. Despite their deadly disagreement about the

merits of a vernacular Bible, William Tyndale and Thomas More were men of a particular age. In retrospect, Lewis wrote, William Tyndale and Thomas More had more in common than they realized and “though they were deeply divided in temper as well as by doctrine, it is important to realize at the outset that they also had a great deal in common.” “They must not,” Lewis says, “except in theology, be contrasted as representatives respectively of an old and a new order.” Both were Grecians, as he puts it, advocates of the new scholarship, and both were “arrogantly, perhaps ignorantly, contemptuous of the Middle Ages.”  Yet their age, which held to divisions that looked irreconcilable to them, in retrospect appear less than church dividing. How can, one might ask, such differences appear church dividing in light of the challenge presented to the common historical faith by the liberal theology of a Harvey Cox in Secular City?

But the object here is not to resolve the problems raised by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, but to note what Lewis has said about contemporary divisions within Anglicanism. It is obviously wrong to suggest that Lewis belittled real theological dispute. Lewis would not suggest that Thomas More, William Tyndale, John Fisher, and Richard Hooker or the Tractarians and Evangelicals of the 19th century are unworthy of reading. Rather, his point is that they ought to be read so to better understand ourselves and our age. This is touched upon by Roger Beckwith when he urges Anglo-Catholic priests to appreciate the Reformation Formularies, the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, just as Evangelicals should drink deeply of the teaching and theology of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Patristic and Medieval metaphorical and allegorical Scriptural commentaries.

In his Letters to Malcolm, Lewis remarked that the key to Christian unity is not to substitute religion for God. He defended the 1662 Prayer Book against the liturgical reformers who had contracted the ‘liturgical fidget,’ yet at the same time he said that matters of liturgy or ceremony are not of central importance. Rather, changes are bad because disruptive to the person praying, and prayer is what matters. “A good shoe is the shoe you don’t notice. . . . The perfect church services would be one we were almost unaware of. .  . . But every novelty prevents this.” Words should be the means to facilitate a knowledge of God. “For me”, he wrote, “words are in any case secondary.” If liturgical changes keep the stream of prayer from flowing, they are a stumblingblock for the prayerful. What is primary is nothing but God Himself.

As Roger Beckwith has noted, if Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic both willingly defend what Lewis calls supernatural religion and the message of salvation found in the church catholic, they have no reason to take issue with the historic prayer books. The eight points of disagreement noted by Beckwith are easily resolved from the standpoint of the common theological inheritance of western and English-speaking Christendom. Anglo-Catholics need to recognize the

importance of Beckwith’s first point—the ‘catholicity’ of the Protestant reformation, as church bishop Christopher Wordsworth declared, just as Evangelicals must accept that the Church of England did not come into existence in the sixteenth century. This would be a lesson for Anglicans as to the true and proper teaching of the Reformation, which established in the Church of England both the primacy of Scripture and the central historical teachings of the

Church, in a way that avoids the errors of our age.

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 »

RTBP on Facebook

Things have been slow here on the blog, but we also have activity on our Face Book Page.

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.

Continue Reading »

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.


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