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Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

Percy Dearmer on the effect of Edward VI’s reign on the Church of England

Chapter 7 of Dearmer’s book states that the Second Prayer Book, which came into effect on November 1, 1552, was influenced by Calvinistic and Zwinglian attitudes which prevailed among the powerful clergy and politicians of the day (emphases mine below):

In 1552 Parliament passed the Act above mentioned, which stated that the First Prayer Book was agreeable to the Word of God, but that doubts had arisen (through curiosity rather than any worthy cause), and it would therefore be explained and made perfect. The “explanation” turned out to be the Second Prayer Book, which neither explained nor perfected the First Book, but very seriously altered it.

Oddly, the Church of England never approved the 1552 edition:

This book was therefore thrust upon England under false pretences; nor had it received any sanction from the Church of England.

Dearmer states that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had lost any influence he had had on the Prayer Book to the zealous John Knox, whose star was rising at the time.

In support of that claim, Dearmer points out that the hated, later removed, Black Rubric was hastily pasted into all copies of the Second Prayer Book before it appeared in churches around the nation. The Black Rubric:

denied any real presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Cranmer could control the party in power no longer. The man who had triumphed at the end was John Knox.

There were other changes that came about in the prayers and various rites, which showed the influence that Knox and his followers had:

Exorcism was omitted from the Baptismal Service but most unreasonably the Scriptural practice of anointing the sick, and the primitive practice of reserving the Sacrament for them at the open Communion, were omitted from the Visitation; and the provision of a special Celebration was omitted from the Burial Service, while the prayers for the departed were made vaguer, largely in the interests of Calvinism.

These men were particularly interested in removing any aspects they considered ‘Romish’ or ‘Mass’-like:

the outward character of the services, in the churches which the Commissioners were fleecing, was most affected by the disappearance of the former rubrics and notes ordering the historic vestments, and by a new rubric stating that neither albe, vestment, nor cope should be worn, but that the bishop should wear a rochet and the priest a surplice only — the innocuous hood and scarf thus sharing the fate of the other vestments.

A rochet — see here and here — is a simple linen outer garment which might or might not have sleeves.

Dearmer says:

Really, the despots of the Anarchy seem to have gone a little mad.

Along with this went another change, an increase in the number of Articles of Religion, done dishonestly:

Already, in May, 1552, the Privy Council had published Forty-two Articles which endeavoured to enforce Zwinglian doctrines upon the English Church. As in the case of the Second Prayer Book, the English Church was not invited to sanction these Articles; but the Council had the effrontery to state on the title-page that they had been agreed upon by the bishops in Convocation.

That number was later reduced to the current Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

The following year, the Queen Mary began her reign and, as Dearmer explains in Chapter 8:

The Latin services had of course been used in Mary’s reign. She had restored the Sarum rites: the Roman ritual was not introduced among the English Papists till early in the 17th century.

Her half-sister Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, when Protestantism was restored and, soon afterwards, a Third Prayer Book introduced, more about which in the next instalment.

Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

The last entry explained the political and ecclesiastical turmoil going on during Edward VI’s reign. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first Prayer Book, which was approved for lawful use in the Church of England in January 1549, pleased neither some congregants nor some clergy, especially Reformers from the Continent who had settled in England. Among the Reformers were Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr.

As Dearmer noted of June 1549 (emphases mine below):

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Churchgoers thought the Prayer Book too Protestant. Continental Reformers thought it was too Catholic.

Another aspect which made the Church of England’s foray into Protestantism contentious was the fact that Edward VI was a boy king. He died at the age of 15. That meant there were powerful men behind him trying to further their own agendas.

First Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’

In Chapter 6 of his book, Dearmer wrote that Cranmer’s First Prayer Book was ‘too fair-minded’ for such a violent era. Interestingly, subsequent revisions after the Second Prayer Book of 1552 incorporated more of the First Prayer Book of 1549 (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Dearmer describes what made the First Prayer Book so exceptional for public worship and administration of the sacraments. Indeed, it exemplifies the best characteristics of the English people:

It is indeed throughout an examplar of what we proudly claim as one of the best elements in the English character: alike in ritual, that is, in the wording of the services, and in ceremonial, it endeavours to avoid the extremes of bigots and fanatics, seeking to establish what is true and right without regard to prejudices, reactions, and the cruel generalizations so characteristic of the period. Catholic conservatism there is, but it is the conservatism which is not afraid of new ideas ; Protestantism there is, but it is the Protestantism that will not throw away the gold with the dross compromise there is, but it is the compromise which honestly accepts truth from both sides. It is positive, constructive, practical ;

The Second Prayer Book was nothing like it, which later generations of clergy recognised, as they returned to the First for subsequent revisions:

and we may safely say that, ever since it was so roughly altered at the end of Edward VI’s reign, the opinion of the whole Anglican Communion has been steadily coming back to the principles of the First Prayer Book, and that every subsequent revision has restored something which the Second Book took away. In fact, as is stated in the very Act which substituted the Second Book for it, the First Prayer Book was “a very godly order for common prayer and administration of the sacraments, . . . agreeable to the word of God and the primitive Church”; but there had “arisen in the use and exercise . . . divers doubts for the fashion and manner of the ministration of same, rather by curiosity of the minister, and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause.”

Ultimately:

The First Prayer Book was indeed too fair-minded for the violent and bitter spirit of the age.

Wikipedia explains that the tumult surrounding the First Prayer Book and the call for a Second Prayer Book were influenced by Reformers, both Continental and British, who wanted no semblance of Catholicism in the services, particularly that for Holy Communion:

The new changes were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and the Scot John Knox, who was employed as a minister in Newcastle upon Tyne under the Duke of Northumberland and whose preaching at court prompted the king to oppose kneeling at communion.[132] Cranmer was also influenced by the views of the continental reformer Martin Bucer, who died in England in 1551, by Peter Martyr, who was teaching at Oxford, and by other foreign theologians.[133] The progress of the Reformation was further speeded by the consecration of more reformers as bishops.[134] In the winter of 1551–52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer in less ambiguous reformist terms, revised canon law, and prepared a doctrinal statement, the Forty-two Articles, to clarify the practice of the reformed religion, particularly in the divisive matter of the communion service.[135] Cranmer’s formulation of the reformed religion, finally divesting the communion service of any notion of the real presence of God in the bread and the wine, effectively abolished the mass.[136] According to Elton, the publication of Cranmer’s revised prayer book in 1552, supported by a second Act of Uniformity, “marked the arrival of the English Church at protestantism”.[137] The prayer book of 1552 remains the foundation of the Church of England’s services.[138] However, Cranmer was unable to implement all these reforms once it became clear in spring 1553 that King Edward, upon whom the whole Reformation in England depended, was dying.[139]

I disagree that the Prayer Book of 1552 remains the foundation of Church of England services, as Dearmer, closer to the matter, says there was a return to the First Prayer Book. Furthermore, we have only Thirty-Nine, not Forty-Two, Articles of Religion. We also kneel for Communion and many parts of the later 1662 service, still in occasional use today. Therefore, the 1552 Second Prayer Book did not have much staying power.

Note that Edward VI was dying in 1553. Succession was controversial. Edward was firmly committed to the Protestant religion. He did not want his Catholic half-sister Mary to succeed him. Nor did his advisers want that.

Edward considered Mary and his other half-sister Elizabeth to be illegitimate daughters of their father Henry VIII, and as Edward had no children of his own, he designated that his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, succeed him.

Edward was very ill for the first six months of 1553. He had a severe fever in January and, as the months progressed, coughed up blood and sputum. By the end, his legs had swollen to such an extent that he could only feel comfortable lying down. Even today, no one is sure exactly what ailed Edward, as his symptoms were so diverse. He died on July 6 but was not buried until August 8. Archbishop Cranmer performed the burial rite.

At the time, conspiracy theories abounded as to the real cause of his death. Some people thought the unpopular Duke of Northumberland had the young king poisoned. Others suspected Mary had him poisoned so that she could restore the Catholic religion to England.

Lady Jane Grey became Queen of England on July 10, 1553. She, too, was only an adolescent, two or three years Edward’s senior. Her last day as queen was July 19. She was executed in the Tower of London on February 12, 1554, on charges of treason for usurping the throne.

During Jane’s brief reign, Mary started her trip from Hunsdon in Hertfordshire and travelled to East Anglia where she gathered her supporters as reinforcements in case of battle. The Duke of Northumberland set out from London with troops for the same reason. In Northumberland’s absence, the privy council shifted their allegiance from Jane to Mary.

The privy council proclaimed Mary queen on July 19, but she did not make a public appearance in London until August 3. She had the Duke of Northumberland executed on August 22, 1553.

Of course, a Catholic queen was bad news for the Reformers — and for Archbishop Cranmer (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia). On the day of Edward VI’s funeral, he told his friends from the Continent, including Peter Martyr, to return home. A few weeks later, on September 14, 1553, he was sent to the Tower of London along with his fellow English theologians, Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley on charges of treason. Martyr was still in England. Cranmer and he bade each other farewell that day. Martyr left for Strasbourg.

On March 8, 1554, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were also charged with heresy. They were sent to Bocardo Prison in Oxford to await trial. Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake on October 15, 1555. Cranmer was forced to watch from a nearby tower.

In December 1555, Cranmer was transferred out of prison to the house of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. There, a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia, and perhaps other clergy persuaded Cranmer to recant the Protestant religion. By February 1556, he had done so, but it meant being defrocked and returned to Bocardo Prison to await execution.

According to Canon Law, Cranmer should have been spared execution because he recanted. However, Queen Mary wanted to make ‘an example’ out of him.

Cranmer was buried at the stake on March 21, 1556, in the same spot as Latimer and Ridley met their deaths. Interestingly, he was given the final opportunity to make a further public recantation of the Protestant religion. He did no such thing. In the end, he recanted his recantations and declared the pope to be ‘Christ’s enemy and Antichrist‘.

John Foxe wrote about the three in his 1563 volume Book of Martyrs. Since then, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley have been known as the Oxford Martyrs.

I got ahead of myself here, however, this is to further illustrate what a tumultuous and violent period in history this was.

Next time, with the aid of Percy Dearmer’s text, I would like to return to Edward VI’s reign and demonstrate that, possibly without his knowledge, it was even more destructive than his father Henry VIII’s ransacking of the monasteries.

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

In Chapter 5 of his book, Dearmer outlines the importance of the Reformation and royalty on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was instrumental in writing.

He tells us that the BCP developed over a century, from 1544 in the time of Henry VIII and concluding with Charles II in 1662. The 1662 BCP is still in use today, although, sadly, much less so than in previous decades.

The introduction of the printing press led to availability of a Bible in English. If you visit an Anglican or Episcopal church, you will see that a Bible is always open on a lectern outside of times of public worship. Dearmer explains:

The Bible was in 1536 ordered to be set up in every church, so that it might be read aloud out of service time … Thus the Lectern may remind us of the first stage in reform.

Several years later, another new item at the altar was installed, a litany-desk, equipped with a kneeler:

The Litany-desk tells of the second stage; for, though the Litany was not sung kneeling till three years after, that beautiful service itself was produced by the genius of Cranmer, and ordered to be used in 1544.

Dearmer lists the main events in the development of the BCP. Below are the major highlights (emphases and explanatory notes mine below):

1534 (Henry VIII). Convocation petitions the King for an authorized English Version of the Bible.

1535. Coverdale’s Bible.

1536. The Bible ordered to be set up in every church. New edition of the Sarum Breviary, in Latin, but with the name of the Roman Pontiff and other things omitted.

1543. The Lessons in English. A chapter of the Bible to be read after Te Deum and Magnificat.

1544. The English Litany.

1544-7. Experiments. The Rationale, or explanation of the Ceremonies to be used in the Church of England. First and Second Drafts of reformed services in Latin. Cranmer attempts a translation of the Processional.

1547 (Edward VI). August. Beginning of more radical changes by means of the Injunctions (without the authority of Convocation or Parliament) :— Book of Homilies to be read; At High Mass, Epistle and Gospel to be read in English; New form of Bidding Prayer ; and some changes in Breviary services.

November. Convocation meets (at the opening Mass, Gloria in Excelsis, Creed, and Agnus sung in English), and approves Communion in both kinds.

1548 March. The Order of the Communion, drawn up by sundry “grave and well-learned prelates,” provides for Communion in both kinds, and is to come into use at Easter by Royal proclamation. This Order consists of the following, inserted before the Communion in the Latin Service :— First Exhortation, Second Exhortation, “Ye that do truly,” the Confession, the Absolution and Comfortable Words, “We do not presume,” [which is the Prayer of Humble Access,] the Words of Administration in both kinds (first part), “The Peace of God ” (without the Blessing) [at the end], a Note that the bread is to be as heretofore (round wafers) and each wafer is to be broken for Communion, and a Note that if the Chalice is exhausted the priest is to consecrate afresh, beginning Simili modo postquam coenatum est, “Likewise after Supper,” “without any elevation or lifting up.”

Dearmer notes that congregants were so upset about these changes that preaching was forbidden in April and September 1548.

Also in that year:

May. St. Paul’s and other churches “sung all the service in English, both Mattins, Mass, and Evensong”: it therefore appears that these services of the First Prayer Book were already drafted, at least in some experimental form, the choir services being reduced to two, Mattins and Evensong.

Those who do not know much about English history will be surprised to know that Edward VI ascended to the throne in 1547, at the age of nine. He died when he was only 15.

This was a tumultuous period, given his tender age. Dearmer explains:

At the accession of the boy-King, it is clear that the whole atmosphere was changed: the power passed into the hands of the knot of men — and history shows them to have been despotic and evil menwho ruled in King Edward’s name. From this gang of robbers — who were five years later to ransack the property of the people in the guilds and parish churches, robbing the poor for the sake of the rich — Archbishop Cranmer stands apart, trying to steer his own uncertain course.

Although Cranmer did not work in isolation and had pious Anglican clergymen known as ‘divines’ helping him with the Prayer Book, he spearheaded its creation. He was also Edward VI’s foremost spiritual adviser.

In 1549, the first Prayer Book was passed into law and published for church use:

1549. January 21st. First Act of Uniformity. The First Prayer Book becomes law.

March 7. First Prayer Book printed and published.

June 9th. Date fixed by the Act for the Book to be everywhere used.

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Yes, people were that upset!

The following year, the liturgy was set to music — ‘noted’:

1550. The Book of Common Prayer Noted, by John Merbecke, published. This is Merbecke’s famous musical setting, which is still so largely sung.

March. The English Ordinal issued, containing the Ordering of Deacons, the Ordering of Priests, and the Consecration of Bishops. The essential parts of the Latin rite were carefully retained, but the ceremonial rather ruthlessly cut down.

1549 – 1551. The Foreign Reformers (Bucer, Peter Martyr, etc.) criticize the First Prayer Book.

1551. Third Edition of Old Version of metrical psalms, seven psalms by Hopkins being added to Sternhold’s.

Dearmer does not say why the Reformers on the Continent disliked the First Prayer Book. However, one thing can be said: the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is like no other in its beauty and biblical faithfulness. It is an enduring pleasure from which to pray in church and to read privately at home.

Next time: the unique character of the first Prayer Book

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

In today’s entry, still from Chapter 4, we look at Dearmer’s explanation of how liturgy came to be better defined and codified from the 7th century to the Reformation.

In Dearmer’s time, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was the only Anglican book in use for communal worship, administering Baptism and Holy Communion, along with special rites such as Confirmation, Matrimony and Ordination.

In the 7th century, books were handwritten and paper was expensive. This situation existed until the printing press eight centuries later. Even then, the price of books was still prohibitive until the 19th century.

From the 7th century until the Reformation, liturgical rites had to be handwritten. Therefore, priests and deacons had small books with only their prayers and incantations. Furthermore, there were books for each type of liturgy:

the Divine Service, the Sacraments, and the Occasional Services, these latter including all the services used upon occasions such as Marriage, Ordination, and the Reconciliation of Penitents.

The Divine Service involved three different books, again, one for each role (e.g. priest, deacon) in that liturgy: the Psalter, the Legend and the Antiphoner. The Legend had the Scripture readings, lives of the saints and sermons. The Antiphoner had the musical accompaniments to the service.

The ancient Anglo-Saxon service for Holy Communion entailed a Missal, a Gospel book and an Epistle book. The Normans had a Missal but their other books were a Gradual and a Troper. Dearmer explains:

The Gradual contained the portions of the Psalter sung between the Epistle and the Gospel, and also those sung for the Introit and at other places in the Mass … The Troper consisted of interpolations into the chant: these additions to the traditional music became very large, but after the twelfth century little except the Sequences (sung after the Gradual and Alleluya, between the Epistle and Gospel) was left of them.

In the late Middle Ages — 13th century — different rites in Britain emerged in the cathedral cities and surrounding areas:

From the 13th century till the Reformation the use of Salisbury Cathedral was followed in the greater part of England (excluding Hereford which had a use of its own, and parts of the North which followed the York use), and also throughout the mainland of Scotland and in parts of Ireland and Wales.

The books used largely remained the same, although another book emerged for the Divine Service, e.g. liturgies which do not feature Communion, such as what we know today as Morning Prayer. The new book was called a Collectar. It had all the Collects (the emphasis is on the first syllable, as in ‘college’)  to be used on particular Sundays and feast days.

Collects are short petitioning prayers. In Morning Prayer, for example, three come at the end of the service. In the Communion service, one Collect is said after the introductory prayers, just before the Epistle is read.

Archbishop Cranmer, who first developed the first Book of Common Prayer, translated the collects from Latin. Dearmer tells us these had been in use for centuries and were in the priest’s liturgy book, the Sacramentary:

The majority of our Prayer Book collects are from three Old Roman Sacramentaries — the Leonine (6th century), the Gelasian (early 8th century), and the Gregorian (c. 800).

For centuries, Communion services used to have an Introit, a Collect and a Gradual. These were particular to specific Sundays and feasts. The Introit (Introitum means ‘entrance’ in Latin) is now called the Entrance Antiphon in Catholic Masses. The Gradual (possibly from gradus, the priest’s mounting the steps to the altar for the Gospel reading) was sung between the Epistle and the Gospel. Today’s liturgies no longer refer to a Gradual. In Protestant services, it is the Psalm for the day. Catholics call it the Responsorial Psalm.

By the late Middle Ages, the church service situation was such that it began to make more sense for these various books to be combined into one. A variety of Masses and other services took place at churches in cities. On the other hand, rural areas had fewer clergy. From this emerged the Breviary, still used in monasteries today, for daily services other than Communion; Missals for Communion services and three books for occasional rites.

The Antiphoner, for the sung parts, was still separate. From it, the hymnal emerged.

Dearmer’s book explains that the Reformation and the printing press in the mid-15th century brought an opportunity to make Protestant worship more communal. Instead of a priest and deacon reciting most of the prayers in Latin, people could worship in their own language and recite more prayers together.

It is also worth remembering that the Bible had been translated into English in the late 14th century, so the pathway was clear for church services to go the same route.

Until then, Latin was used because it was the lingua franca of Europe. All the educated people could speak, write and read it. It was the language of not only the Church but the professions (e.g. law) and diplomacy. People across Europe, including Britain, still had so many local and regional dialects, that it was sometimes difficult for citizens of a nation to understand someone else from another region in their own homeland:

and therefore it is no wonder that learned people wrote in Latin, which was for them a kind of Esperanto amid the babel of tongues.

Dearmer takes us to 16th century England, which led to the proliferation of the English Bible but also the introduction of the English prayer book (emphases mine):

It was therefore possible at the beginning of the 16th century not only to print the services, but to print them in an English which Englishmen all over the country could understand. Before the middle of that century the Bible had been printed in English, and thus became universally accessible and intelligible ; and just before the middle year— in 1549 — the First English Prayer Book was printed. It was no longer necessary to have but short extracts from the Bible in Divine Service; for the whole Bible — now a comparatively cheap book — could be used side by side with the Prayer Book; and these two volumes would supply every one’s need. Formerly the lay folk had only been able to follow the services in little simplified books of their own, and even these were an expensive luxury; but now every one could follow the services word for word, and those who knew their letters could read them in their own books. So the old books that we have described were further condensed into two, the Bible and the Prayer Book.

The last major revision of the Book of Common Prayer was done in 1662. Smaller revisions have been made since then. Most Anglicans probably did not notice much difference. During Dearmer’s time:

The last Lambeth Conference (1908) decided not to recommend the Unction of the Sick, but to allow its use, expressing a hope that the other apostolic act for helping the sick, the Laying on of Hands, might be used with prayers for the restoration of health. Those who are inclined to press the importance of Unction should remember that in the New Testament, and for long afterwards, the Laying on of Hands was used at least as much as Unction for helping the sick. It is therefore rightly to be regarded as an alternative form of the Sacrament of Healing; just as we administer Confirmation by the Laying on of Hands, whereas in the Eastern Church, and in most of the West, Confirmation is administered by anointing.

Dearmer points out that the various hymnals used in Anglican churches have denominational authorisation. To them have been added a few newer hymns from each generation so that the tradition remains, with continuing relevance:

they still keep us in touch with the thought and feeling of our own age, besides having the happy result of enabling Christians of other denominations, Protestant and Catholic, to contribute to our services. Closely allied to hymns are the modern anthems, which in cathedral and collegiate churches are collected in Anthem-books, thus adding a fourth to the volumes required for Divine Service each day. Hymns and anthems together place every form of sacred vocal music at the service of the Church. Nor are they unauthorized additions: the existence of these collections of hymns and anthems which provide Anglicanism with so precious an element of freedom has been sanctioned by authority ever since the 16th century (see pp. 65, 96, 97, 136), and the latter are mentioned in the twice repeated rubric, “In Quires and Places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem.”

Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to find an Anglican church that offers any type of 1662 BCP service.

A new prayerbook superseded it in 1984 and Common Worship replaced it at the turn of the Millennium.

Although Common Worship’s traditional language liturgies are very close to that of the BCP, nothing compares to the 1662 book. One really feels as if one is worshipping with the many generations that went before us, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

Thus are the needs of each generation brought within the scope of our common intercession and devotion.

I couldn’t agree more.

Next time: how the Reformation and royalty influenced the Prayer Book

This post continues the series on Percy Dearmer and his 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

It concerns the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) used in the Church of England.

My first post was on the value of liturgical prayer and the second was about the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.

The third discussed how Anglican theology influenced the wording on the title page of the BCP.

This post explains more about the title page of the BCP, from Chapter 3 of Dearmer’s book. Excerpts and a summary follow, emphases mine below.

Dearmer breaks the BCP into five parts, or books:

(1) The Book of Common Prayer
(2) And Administration of the Sacraments,
(3) And other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England
(4) Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches
(5) And the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.

He describes the first book as being one of choir services:

Book 1. THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. The “Common Prayer” is the name for those services which are conducted in the choir, (10) Morning Prayer and (11) Evening Prayer, which are therefore called choir services. There were formerly eight such services (see p. 150), and together they are called the Divine Service. Common Prayer also includes (13) The Litany, which is a service of Intercession after Morning Prayer, preparatory to the Holy Communion.

N.B.: Dearmer uses Mattins for Morning Prayer and Evensong for Evening Prayer below.

The second book concerns the sacraments. He explains how two — Baptism and Holy Communion — were decided upon:

Book 2. ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS.(16) Holy Communion at the holy Table or altar, and (17, 18) Baptism, at the font. In these Sacraments— outward signs bringing an inward gracesomething is done: at the altar Christians are fed with the spiritual Body of their Master; at the font non-Christians are admitted into the Catholic or Universal Church. There are other outward signs in which something is done, as Confirmation, Matrimony, and Orders (the Ordination of Ministers); but there was much disputing at the time when the Prayer Book was produced as to the number of the Sacraments, and the English Church therefore contented herself with laying stress on the two great Sacraments of the Gospel, Baptism and Holy Communion, leaving the “five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction,” in a separate category. There can be little doubt that this was the wisest way of settling an unhappy dispute; and it leaves us free either to include the “lesser Sacraments,” as they are sometimes called, under this head or to class some or all of them among the other Rites of the Church. (See pp. 45, 47.)

A selection of prayers for special occasions follows.

Then comes the section of Scripture readings. That section precedes the rite for Holy Communion:

The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels to be used at the Ministration of the holy Communion, throughout the year,” as they are described in the Table of Contents; the Collects, however, are used also at Mattins and Evensong.

Those readings are the ones which were traditionally used in the earliest Christian denominations until the two- and three-year Lectionaries came into widespread use in the 1970s. It is rare for the celebrant to read them now.

Following the rite for Communion are those for the lesser sacraments and other rites. Note that a small catechism is included, which precedes the liturgy for Confirmation:

Book 3. OTHER RITES AND CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH. It will be noticed that both the Gospel Sacraments and the “other” Rites, are described as “of the Church,” services, that is to say, not of the Anglican Communion only, but of the whole Church; though their ritual (i.e. the manner of saying) and their ceremonial (i.e. the manner of doing) are according to the English Use. Furthermore, the Title-page does not say “All other Rites”; there are some which are not in the Prayer Book (pp. 47-52), such as the Coronation Service, or the Form for the Consecration of a Church, which are used under episcopal sanction.

These Rites consist of certain of the “five commonly called Sacraments,” namely (20) Confirmation, to which is prefixed (19) the Catechism, which is the preparation for Confirmation, and was only separated from it at the last Revision ; (21) the Solemnization of Matrimony; and (22) the Visitation and Communion of the Sick. Those who, like our brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church to-day, look for seven Sacraments, will find on p. 45 how two of the lesser Sacraments come under this head, while the seventh is given in Book 5, the Ordinal.

Then follow other Rites, (23) the Order for the Burial of the Dead, (24) the Churching, or Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth, and (25) the Ash Wednesday service called A Commination.

I wrote about the significance of the Churching of Women a few years ago. The ceremony disappeared in the 20th century because modern women disliked the idea of supplication and spiritual purification. A new ceremony replaced it: Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child.

Sadly, people complaining about the Churching of Women overlooked the general tenor of the rite which is largely a joyful one, giving thanks for the mother’s health and her return to the congregation.

Back now to Dearmer. After the other rites comes the Psalter:

Book 4. THE PSALTER. The complete Book of the Psalms (26) which form the most essential part of Mattins and Evensong; they are arranged to be “read through once every month,” by grouping them under Morning and Evening Prayer for thirty days.

Two more rites follow. They are for special circumstances:

At the last Revision (1661) two sets of services were added— the Order of Baptism for those of Riper Years (18), and the Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea (27). The latter were inserted after the Psalter: it was doubtless felt that these sea services could not in the main be classed under “Other Rites,” and would be too prominent if printed after Mattins and Evensong. None the less their present position is a strange one, since they cannot be classed under Book 4 or Book 5. It would be better, perhaps, if they were printed among the Appendixes at the end.

Regarding the Order of Baptism for those of Riper Years, it now comes after the Order of Baptism both Publick and Private. Three amendments were made to the BCP: in 1964, 1965 and 1968, one of which no doubt accounts for the move.

The fifth book concerns ordination services:

Book5. THE ORDINAL (28) consists of three services, which were originally printed as a separate book, and published after the First Prayer Book was issued. These still have a Title-page (or half-page) of their own, in which they are described with definiteness and solemnity as ” The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons according to the Order of the Church of England.”

I’m learning a lot from reading Dearmer’s book and hope that my fellow Anglicans are, too.

Next time — after Easter — we’ll look at Chapter 4, concerning the wider Church history of liturgy and prayer books for public worship.

This post continues the series on Percy Dearmer and his 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, first published by Mowbray in 1912.

My first post was on the value of liturgical prayer and last week’s was about the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.

Before I go into Dearmer’s breakdown of the title page of Book of Common Prayer (image courtesy of Wikipedia), I wanted to point out a very important paragraph of his which relates to it.

First, carefully note the wording on the title page of the 1662 BCP.

Dearmer rightly points out (emphases mine below):

A truly admirable description! What a mass of ignorance would be removed if only people knew the Title-page of the Prayer Book! The notion, for instance, that “Priests” are a Roman Catholic institution, and the still common impression on the Continent of Europe that, the Anglican Church at the Reformation gave up the priesthood and is indifferent to Catholic order: the common idea, too, that “Sacramentalism” is a “high-church” idea foisted on to the Protestantism of England: or the notion that our proper use should be the Genevan Use, or the Roman Use, instead of that English Use which the Title-page orders. Certainly many widespread mistakes would never have come into existence had people but read the words that stare us in the face on this Title-page.

That is an excellent point, well made. All Anglicans — especially those who align themselves liturgically with Presbyterianism — should remember it.

The Anglican Church was never intended to be Presbyterian in liturgy or ritual. There is a small but vocal contingent of conservative Anglicans who say it was and would like to make it so even today. Those people point to the Puritans, who adopted a Calvinistic form of Anglicanism.

Bible Hub explains Puritan theology:

It is not too much to say that the ruling theology of the Church of England in the latter half of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century was Calvinistic. [1154] The best proof of this is furnished by the ‘Zurich Letters,’ [1155] extending over the whole period of the Reformation, the Elizabethan Articles, the Second Book of Homilies (chiefly composed by Bishop Jewel), the Lambeth Articles, the Irish Articles, and the report of the delegation of King James to the Calvinistic Synod of Dort. [1156]

This theological sympathy between the English and the Continental Churches extended also to the principles of Church government, which was regarded as a matter of secondary importance, and subject to change, like rites and ceremonies, ‘according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word’ (Art. XXXIV.). The difference was simply this: the English Reformers, being themselves bishops, retained episcopacy as an ancient institution of the Church catholic, but fully admitted (with the most learned fathers and schoolmen, sustained by modern commentators and historians) the original identity of the offices of bishop and presbyter; while the German and Swiss Reformers, being only presbyters or laymen, and opposed by their bishops, fell back from necessity rather than choice upon the parity of ministers, without thereby denying the human right and relative importance or expediency of episcopacy as a superintendency over equals in rank. The more rigid among the Puritans departed from both by attaching primary importance to matters of discipline and ritual, and denouncing every form of government and public worship that was not expressly sanctioned in the New Testament.

The Bible Hub essay goes on to explain the differing views of episcopacy — governing the denomination through bishops — that Anglican clergy had at that time. In short, the Puritans opposed episcopacy, which would have given the Anglican Church a Presbyterian polity.

Bible Hub cites an American Episcopalian, the Rev. Dr. E. A. Washburn, of New York, describing him as a modern-day ‘divine’ (esteemed, very learned theologian), therefore, highly knowledgeable in this subject:

‘The doctrinal system of the English Church, in its relation to other Reformed communions, especially needs a historic treatment; and the want of this has led to grave mistakes, alike by Protestant critics and Anglo-Catholic defenders …

‘The Articles ask our first study. It is plain that the foundation-truths of the Reformation — justification by faith, the supremacy and sufficiency of written Scripture, the fallibility of even general councils — are its basis. Yet it is just as plain that in regard of the specific points of theology, which were the root of discord in the Continental Churches, as election, predestination, reprobation, perseverance, and the rest, these Articles speak in a much more moderate tone …

‘We may thus learn the structure of the liturgical system. The English Reformers aimed not to create a new, but to reform the historic Church; and therefore they kept the ritual with the episcopate, because they were institutions rooted in the soil. They did not unchurch the bodies of the Continent, which grew under quite other conditions. No theory of an exclusive Anglicanism, as based on the episcopate and general councils, was held by them. Such a view is wholly contradictory to their own Articles. But the historic character of the Church gave it a positive relation to the past; and they sought to adhere to primitive usage as the basis of historic unity. In this revision, therefore, they weeded out all Romish errors, the mass, the five added sacraments, the legends of saints, and superstitious rites; but they kept the ancient Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene in the forefront of the service, the sacramental offices, the festivals and fasts relating to Christ or Apostles with whatever they thought pure. Such a work could not be perfect, and it is false either to think it so or to judge it save by its time. There are archaic forms in these offices which retain some ideas of a scholastic theology. The view of regeneration in the baptismal service, decried to-day as Romish, can be found by any scholar in Melanchthon or in Bullinger’s Decades. We may see in some of the phrases of the communion office the idea of more than a purely spiritual participation, yet the view is almost identical with that of Calvin. The dogma of the mass had been renounced, but the Aristotelian notions of spirit and body were still embodied in the philosophy of the time. The absolution in the office for the sick, and like features, have been magnified into “Romanizing germs” on one side and Catholic verities on another … The satire, so often repeated … that the Church has a “Popish Liturgy and Calvinistic Articles,” is as ignorant as it is unjust. All liturgical formularies need revision; but such a task must be judged by the standard of the Articles, the whole tenor of the Prayer-book, and the known principles of the men. In the same way we learn their view of the Episcopate. Not one leading divine from Hooper to Hooker claimed any ground beyond the fact of primitive and historic usage … The Puritan of that day was as narrow as the narrow Churchman of our own.

‘… Lutheranism and Calvinism did each its part in the development of a profound theology. The English Church had a more comprehensive doctrine and a more conservative order. It placed the simple Apostles’ Creed above all theological confessions as its basis, and a practical system above the subtleties of controversy …’

The beginning of the Bible Hub essay summarises Anglicanism well:

The Reformed Church of England occupies an independent position between Romanism on the one hand, and Lutheranism and Calvinism on the other, with strong affinities and antagonisms in both directions

The Reformation in England was less controlled by theology than on the Continent, and more complicated with ecclesiastical and political issues. Anglican theology is as much embodied in the episcopal polity and the liturgical worship as in the doctrinal standards. The Book of Common Prayer is catholic, though purged of superstitious elements; the Articles of Religion are evangelical and moderately Calvinistic. [1142]

In closing, the essay has this gem on the English:

The English mind is not theorizing and speculative, but eminently practical and conservative; it follows more the power of habit than the logic of thought; it takes things as they are, makes haste slowly, mends abuses cautiously, and aims at the attainable rather than the ideal.

Well said. Such characteristics gave us the Church of England and other churches in communion with her around the world.

Last week, I introduced Percy Dearmer and his 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, first published by Mowbray in 1912.

I mentioned Dearmer was an avowed Socialist. He seems to have been a bit to the left theologically, too.

In Chapter 3 of his book, he introduces the title page. This alone is worth about three posts, so I shall focus on Dearmer’s dislike of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, painstakingly written and agreed upon in 1563 by a convocation of Anglican bishops.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Archbishop Cranmer (1489 – 1556) wrote most of the Articles, the number of which varied depending on the monarch. Under Henry VIII, there were ten, then six. Under his successors, they increased to 42, then decreased to 39 in 1563, under Elizabeth I. She subsequently removed Article XXIX, which denounced transubstantiation. She did not want to offend her Catholic subjects.

In 1571, Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I. Article XXIX was reinstated.

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are the official positions of the Church of England. Dearmer might have objected to them because they state particular things that could offend Catholics (the nature of Holy Communion) and Anabaptists (no mandate for commonly-held property).

You can read the full list here, along with the introduction. Today’s Anglican clergy downplay them a lot and actually discourage people from even reading them. Yet, they are still obliged to affirm at ordination that they accept the Articles.

However, as the Church Society notes:

the wording of the declaration is now such that many feel able to say it without meaning what a simple reading might suggest. 

The Thirty-nine Articles have their basis in Holy Scripture. I have no problem in affirming them, although I will never be asked to do so. Wikipedia states:

the Articles are not officially normative in all Anglican Churches …

Now on to Dearmer, who points out that the Thirty-nine Articles are not on the title page of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, although they are included in it:

It makes no mention of the Thirty-nine Articles; for they form no part of the Prayer Book. They are bound up with it …

Their inclusion bothered him, because they are not binding on Anglican churchgoers:

it is a mistake of the printing authorities to compel us to buy the Articles whenever we buy the Prayer Book; and it gives Church folk the impression that the Articles are binding on them, which is not the case — for a layman is perfectly free to disagree with the Articles, if he chooses.

However, I found them helpful when I was converting. I wanted to know what this denomination believed and why before I made a commitment. It took me some time and reading to understand what a few of the Articles meant and why they were included.

Dearmer was of the impression that they were a living document and should have been updated to reflect the times:

Nothing has been done to improve them. The needs of modern thought have indeed been partly met by altering the terms in which the clergy (and they alone) have to give their assent; but this does not help the average Briton, who, moreover, is without the assistance of the learned commentaries which alone can prevent serious misunderstandings ; while in other countries, both East and West, the presence of the Thirty-nine Articles in the Prayer Book continues to do grave harm, by giving to other Churches a false idea of the Anglican theology.

Whilst I agree that the average Briton does need learned commentaries, I just did my own research. Anyone interested in doing so can. Clergy in Dearmer’s day could also have held classes on the Thirty-nine Articles so that the congregation could better understand them.

Where I disagree with Dearmer is that the Articles could be somehow improved. He could not have been more wrong! An Anglican who follows the Thirty-nine Articles will end up much further along the road to sanctification in thought, word and deed.

I much prefer what the Church Society says about them in fewer words (emphases in the original):

Officially the Church of England accepts the full and final authority of Holy Scripture as the basis for all that it believes. Some of these beliefs were summarised in the historic creeds, and at the time of the Reformation the Church adopted the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as giving a concise and systematic statement of the teaching of Scripture.

It’s a pity that more Anglicans do not understand the Articles or believe, as clergy are wont to say, that they are ‘historical artifacts’.

For decades, Anglicans have believed anything they want. Some of them are more Quaker, Baptist or Methodist than Anglican.

Dearmer did have excellent insights on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer, more about which next week.

The other day, I ran across an old link to Percy Dearmer‘s Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, first published by Mowbray in 1912.

Percy Dearmer was an Anglican priest who lived between 1867 and 1936. He was a High Church Anglican, although one who championed the English Use rite used before the Reformation over Roman Catholic rubrics.

Dearmer was an avowed Socialist (unfortunately). That said, he served in various London parish churches and wrote several books about the Book of Common Prayer, liturgy as well as a history of King Alfred and a travel book about Normandy. In later years, he was a canon at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes are interred.

Dearmer was also a lecturer in ecclesiastical art at King’s College, London from 1919 until his death at the age of 69.

He was also interested in composing and compiling hymns. He and Ralph Vaughan Williams published The English Hymnal in 1906. Two more hymnals followed: Songs of Praise in 1926 and the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.

Incidentally, when Songs of Praise was expanded in 1931, Dearmer wanted a hymn of daily thanksgiving, which is how Morning Has Broken (made famous 40 years later by Cat Stevens) first became known:

In Songs of Praise Discussed, the editor, Percy Dearmer, explains that as there was need for a hymn to give thanks for each day, English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon had been “asked to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune”. A slight variation on the original hymn, also written by Eleanor Farjeon, can be found in the form of a poem contributed to the anthology Children’s Bells, under Farjeon’s new title, “A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)”, published by Oxford University Press in 1957. The song is noted in 9/4 time but with a 3/4 feel.

“Bunessan” had been found in L. McBean’s Songs and Hymns of the Gael, published in 1900.[3] Before Farjeon’s words, the tune was used as a Christmas carol, which began “Child in the manger, Infant of Mary”, translated from the Scottish Gaelic lyrics written by Mary MacDonald. The English-language Roman Catholic hymnal also uses the tune for the James Quinn hymns “Christ Be Beside Me” and “This Day God Gives Me”, both of which were adapted from the traditional Irish hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Another Christian hymn “Baptized In Water” borrows the tune.

Dearmer, his wife Mabel and their two sons all served in the Great War. Dearmer and his wife were stationed in Serbia where he was a chaplain to a British Red Cross Ambulance unit. Mabel served as a nurse with that unit and died of enteric fever in 1915. Their younger son Christopher died in battle that year. However, their elder son, Geoffrey, survived and died at the age of 103, and, at that age, was one of the oldest surviving war poets.

Dearmer remarried in 1916. He and his wife Nancy had three children: two daughters and a son. Sadly, their son died in active service with the RAF in 1943.

The reason Dearmer’s book Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book caught my eye is that the second chapter is called ‘The Question of Set Forms of Prayer’.

One of my personal bugbears is going to a traditional liturgical service and hear a priest substitute his own improvised prayers for the special intentions which precede the prayer of consecration. If he (or she) simply prayed them out of the Prayer Book, he would find that all his prayer needs were satisfied outside of names of national leaders or the sick and dying.

Their waffling — ‘uhh, mmm’ — and their poor prose has me praying for patience and calm just as we are about to reach the apex of the service with Holy Communion.

This is what Dearmer had to say about that and also dispensing with set prayers altogether. Remember, he wrote this in 1912, so this is somewhat surprising (emphases mine):

It is worth while, therefore, asking ourselves at the outset, Is liturgical worship a good thing, or ought the minister to make up his own prayers?

Now, there is very much to be said for extemporaneous worship in church; it is often a most useful instrument in mission work, it is an indispensable way of bringing the idea of worship to the ignorant, it secures the necessary element of freedom; furthermore, it may bring spontaneity and vitality into a service, and be a good corrective to formalism …

Nor is there anything alien to Church ways or wrong in principle about extempore services. Indeed in the earliest days of the Church the celebrant at the Eucharist used to pray thus. The service went on certain general lines, but the “president” filled it in according to his own ideas, and offered up “prayers and thanksgivings with all his strength,” the people saying “Amen” (as is told on p. 185). it was only by degrees that the prayers thus offered became fixed. Those, therefore, who argue that everything which was not done in the first two or three centuries must therefore be wrong, should logically include liturgical worship among the things they condemn. But perhaps sensible people in the 20th century no longer argue thus.

Well, often, that was because the celebrant could not read very well. Also, parchment was highly expensive and there were no printing presses until much later, in 1439.

Dearmer then mentions John Milton, an irregular churchgoer. Milton was all for extemporaneous prayer. Dearmer points out:

Milton’s mistake, was, in fact, a very simple one. He thought that every minister, would be a Milton. He did not realize what a deadly thing average custom can be, what a deadly bore an average man can make of himself when compelled to do continually a thing for which he has no natural gift. He did not foresee the insidious danger of unreality and cant. We should all, of course, flock to hear Milton praying extempore, if he were to come to life again ; but there are many mute, inglorious ministers whom we would rather not hear.

To put the prayers as well as the sermon in the hands of the officiating minister is indeed a form of sacerdotalism which the Church most wisely rejected many centuries ago. We know what a joy and help it would be to hear an inspired saint, with a genius for rapid prose composition, make up prayers as he went along; and opportunities for extemporization do exist outside the appointed services. But the Church has to provide for the average man, and has to guard against that form of clerical absolutism which would put a congregation at the mercy of the idiosyncrasies and shortcomings of one person. For extempore services, which should be a safeguard for freedom, can easily degenerate into a tyranny.

Indeed!

Before defending a set liturgy, Dearmer points out the importance of a sensory church service, one which will escape people who worship in plainly:

history and a wide knowledge of Christendom show us that good ceremonies are a great preservative against Pharisaism. The reason for this is that action, music, colour, form, sight, scent, and sound appeal more freely to the individual worshipper, and more subtly, relieving the pressure of a rigid phraseology, and allowing the spirit many ways of rising up to God, unhampered by the accent of the workaday voice of man. It is only thus that the wonderful intensity of devotion among the Russian people, for instance, can be accounted for: we have no popular religious affection in the West which can compare with the evangelical spirit of this hundred million of Christians, who yet have used nothing but their very ancient forms of prayer during the thousand years since their race was first converted.

Precisely. This is what old school churchgoers refer to as the mysterium tremendum, which is very rare in our time.

Although he allows for some extemporaneous prayer, Dearmer concludes:

we may be confident that liturgical worship is the best of all. There is some loss in the use of printed words; but there is a greater gain. We have in them the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the Christian Church, the garnered excellence of the saints. We are by them released from the accidents of time and place. Above all we are preserved against the worst dangers of selfishness: in the common prayer we join together in a great fellowship that is as wide as the world; and we are guided, not by the limited notions of our own priest, nor by the narrow impulses of our own desires, but by the mighty voice that rises from the general heart of Christendom.

Our Lord had the ancient forms of the Church in which he lived often on his lips, and in the moment of his supreme agony it was a liturgical sentence, a fragment of the familiar service, that was wrung from him— “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We have a richer heritage, for it is a heritage dowered by his Spirit; and from our treasure-house come things new and old …

… there is a place and a real use for extemporary prayer, and a still greater use for the silent prayer which is above words altogether. These very things will keep fresh and sweet for us those old set forms, in which we can join so well because we know beforehand what they are about, and in which for the same reason all the people can come together in the fellowship of common prayer.

My advice — and my hope — for clergy improvising their own prayers is to sit down and write out the text in full, revising and perfecting it for however long it takes.

I was a member for several years of a large Episcopal church which had perfect prayers. The curates wrote them themselves or read them from books by other ministers. They were beautiful prayers, worthy of God. The congregation also listened and silently prayed intently. You could hear a pin drop.

Here in the UK, things are different. I blame it on the seminaries. However, if they feel it so necessary to express themselves, Anglican priests should take up the challenge to have an outstanding set of prayers of their own that fit with the language being used in the liturgy.

Jesus is our friend, but let us not forget the many Bible verses about our rightful awe we owe to Almighty God. This is the second part of Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV):

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

This post on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer concludes a study of Church liturgy and Communion polity from the first century through the Reformation.

Past posts — all of which are available on my Christianity/Apologetics page under Church history and miscellany — are as follows:

Church history: early form of liturgy still followed

Church history: Eastern liturgy in the 4th and 5th centuries

Church history: Western liturgy between the 5th and 9th centuries

Church history: how mediaeval Mass led to the Reformation

Church history: early Lutheran liturgy

Church history: Zwingli’s rite in Zurich

Church history: the German rites in Strasbourg (Martin Bucer)

Church history: Calvin’s French rites

Church history: early Reformed rites in Scotland

Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Background to Anglican liturgy and practice

The Church of England is a via media — middle way — between Lutheranism and Calvinism (p. 144).

Doctrinally, it is similar to Calvinism. Liturgically, it is closer to Lutheranism.

However, it is less prescriptive and proscriptive than Calvinism. It also has liturgical distinctions all its own.

During Henry VIII’s reign, although the English Church broke with Rome, Mass remained a constant. However, small changes occurred with regard to church services. In 1536, the Mass in Latin was explained to the people so that they understood what was happening in the liturgy. In 1542, the Convocation of Canterbury decreed that all churches in England should have a morning and evening reading — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — in English every Sunday and holy day. This included the main Sunday Mass. The litany was first said in English in 1544 (p. 145).

An English liturgy took shape during Edward VI’s reign. The First Book of Homilies, which contained 12 sermons in English, was issued in 1547.

In March 1548, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued an English Order of Communion to be incorporated into the Mass (p. 145). These new parts of the liturgy included an exhortation to prayer, fencing the Table, invitation, public confession of sins with absolution, comfortable words (verses from the New Testament) and a prayer of humble access (expressing unworthiness to approach the Lord’s Table).

Cranmer incorporated these rubrics into the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which appeared in 1549 (see illustration above, courtesy of Charles Wohlers’s site). He, along with a group of clergymen, including Nicholas Ridley (p. 146) and Martin Bucer, wrote and compiled the prayers.

Maxwell describes the BCP as follows (p. 146):

It preserved a rich treasure of liturgical material, the whole rendered in an English style singularly felicitous, dignified and chaste. The character of the collects was retained, the English style equalling the Latin, while the style of the Canon far surpassed that of the old rite.

Just as important (emphases mine):

The achievement was unique in that the Book of Common Prayer, in contrast with the other vernacular rites of the sixteenth century, survives in use to this day.

The current Church of England service book is Common Worship, issued about 15 years ago, replacing the 1984 Alternative Service Book. Since the mid-1980s, our clergy have been trying to eliminate BCP services. However, vicars who occasionally use the BCP find their churches fuller than when they use the modern liturgy.

Communion policy

Doctrinally, the Church of England forbids either extreme belief about the nature of Communion. Specifically, church members are not allowed to believe in Catholic transubstantiation nor in Zwinglian symbolism (p. 144). We believe in an undefined Real Presence.

Those receiving Communion were to kneel once they approached the Table. However, some early Protestants were concerned how communicants and those in the pews would consider this posture.

Therefore, John Knox’s Black Rubric appeared in the 1552 BCP. It disappeared from the 1559 edition and was reinstated as an advisory notation in the 1662 edition, still used today. It reads as follows:

WHEREAS it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.

A Communion liturgy was stipulated as being the norm. In the early days of the Reformation, churches mandated that at least some of their congregation receive the Sacrament on every Sunday and holy day (p. 146). In addition to the celebrant, a minimum of three or four persons was required (p. 149). Acknowledging that this might be more difficult at Wednesday and Friday services, the Church directives specified that clergy could truncate the service accordingly, omitting the parts of the Liturgy of the Upper Room which concerned the elements, consecration and Communion.

The reason for mandating that certain members of the congregation receive Communion at each service originated from the requirement to receive the Sacrament at least once a year (p. 150). This was stated in the 1549 BCP. In the next edition, which appeared in 1552, the directive for minimum reception stated that congregations must receive Communion three times a year, one of these occasions being Easter.

The 1662 BCP allowed Morning Prayer to become a standard Sunday and holy day liturgy. In practice, it became the standard as most parishes began to hold a Communion service only three or four times a year (p. 151).

Until the late 20th century, Morning Prayer continued to be the norm on Sundays which did not involve a major Church feast. Today, however, nearly every Church of England service is one of Holy Communion. It is very unusual to find Morning Prayer on a Sunday.

Liturgical highlights

It is difficult to reproduce everything from the 1549 ‘Supper of the Lorde and the holy Communion, commonly called the Masse’ (pp. 147, 148). So much changed in the liturgy between then and 1662. Certain parts were omitted, reinstated and rearranged during that time. My notes follow in italics.

Liturgy of the Word:

– Introit, consisting of a Psalm appointed for the day (replaced by a hymn);

– Lord’s Prayer, said by the celebrant;

– Collect for Purity, said by the celebrant;

– Repetition of the Introit (replaced by either a full responsorial recitation of the Ten Commandments or a truncated summary thereof);

Kyrie, ninefold (omitted by 1662);

Gloria (repositioned between the post-Communion prayer and the final blessing);

– Salutation and collect of the day;

– Collect for the King (or Queen);

– Epistle;

– Gospel;

– Nicene Creed;

– Sermon.

Liturgy of the Upper Room:

– Exhortation to receive Communion worthily and with a clear conscience (nowadays no longer read);

– A selection of Scripture verses;

– Offertory and collection of alms;

– Procession of communicants to the sanctuary, men on one side and women on the other (discontinued — people queue and walk to the altar rail when the celebrant is ready to distribute Communion);

– Celebrant prepares the elements;

– Intercessions for the living and dead;

– Comfortable words (New Testament verses);

– Salutation and Sursum corda;

– Prayer of Consecration;

– Lord’s Prayer (moved to post-Communion);

– The Peace (omitted);

Christ our Pascall Lambe (a version of the Agnus Dei, omitted);

– Invitation to Communion (part of Cranmer’s ‘Order of Communion’, omitted);

– General Confession and Absolution (repositioned to take place after the Intercessions);

– Prayer of Humble Access (repositioned to be recited before the Prayer of Consecration);

– Holy Communion, with clergy and assistants receiving the Sacrament before the congregation, and ‘clerks’ or choir sing the Agnus Dei (Agnus Dei omitted) ;

– Post-Communion Scripture sentences (omitted);

– Salutation and post-Communion thanksgiving (the Gloria follows);

– Peace and blessing (a possible reference to ‘The peace of God which passeth all understanding …’).

21st century developments

The new liturgical book, Common Worship, has a traditional service which has reinstated the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. The Gloria has been moved to follow the Kyrie. The Prayer of Humble Access is said immediately before Communion.

Sadly, the Peace was restored in the 1980s, which is a shame in the 21st century;  some churchgoers are, quite frankly, unattentive to hygiene. A Methodist told me that his church’s policy is to allow for a discreet tucking of hands into one’s sleeves to indicate non-participation. Only one person did that in his church, but the congregation respected it.

The new traditional service is a great improvement on the one in the 1984 Alternative Service Book.

However, no liturgy anywhere will ever top that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is a pity so many of today’s Anglican clergy refuse to use it more frequently. Such a refusal can only be considered some of Satan’s finest work.

End of series

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has the following readings for the first Sunday after Christmas. (Photo credit: Anglicans Ablaze)

The Collect addresses our regenerate nature in Christ Jesus, without Whom we would still be under divine law alone:

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

The first reading is taken from the fourth chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Galatians beginning at the first verse:

NOW I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

In his sermon on these verses, John MacArthur (not an Anglican, by the way) says that when He was among us, Jesus grew up much like any other child, being educated practically and religiously. He was brought up to obey, as a servant would have been. Then, God the Father appointed a perfect time for Him to be with us and conduct His earthly ministry whereby Jesus assumed His sonship as referred to in Genesis:

The bondage was long and hard. When God said way back in Genesis 3:15 that there was one coming who would bruise the serpent’s head, it was a long time before He came. A long time, but when the fullness of time came, when it was the right time, when it was the perfect time, when it was God’s time

MacArthur lists the historical reasons in the ancient world as to why this was a perfect time but is careful to emphasise that God’s holy plan does not derive from manmade events:

… the Babylonian captivity had purged Israel from idolatry and at least they were focusing on the true God and looking for the Messiah, and so Israel, the people to whom the Messiah first must come, were not engulfed in idolatry but were looking at the true God even if through their own skewed vision and were looking for the Messiah. The canon of the Old Testament had been well-established; the prophecies were laid down; the synagogues had been established so there would be places to go to preach the Gospel to people who at least ostensibly were seeking to know the true God in Israel. Furthermore, and thinking beyond that, Alexander the Great had spread the Greek language over the whole known world, certainly the Biblical world, so that everybody spoke Greek, so that the Scriptures could be in the New Testament, written in a language that would be understood by everyone. And also the Romans with their powerful Pax Romana had brought peace out of diverse cultures and built roads everywhere so that easy access both from the standpoint of travel and from the standpoint of authority would be available for missionaries spreading this Gospel. Maybe from that perspective that’s significant, but more significant than that is that in God’s mind and from God’s viewpoint, the time was right for whatever reasons God has in His eternal understanding.

Note that Paul describes our Lord’s birth on earth as being of a woman and being under the law. MacArthur explains:

Mary had that child conceived by the Holy Spirit when she was a virgin and remained a virgin, the Scripture says, until the child was born … God sent forth from the presence of God man made out of the loins of a woman. In order to save us He had to be God, for only God can overpower sin and death and hell. In order to save us he had to be man because only man can substitute for man and die man’s death. He had to be God and man, God to give His sacrifice infinite value, to bear our sins in his own body. Then it says He was not only born of a woman but born under the law. That’s a marvelous statement. Like any other man, He was responsible to the law of God. He was born under it, born with a responsibility to obey it. Like every man, He had the responsibility to obey God’s law; like no man, He obeyed it perfectly. He obeyed it perfectly. He kept it perfectly. He knew no sin. He was without sin says Scripture.

Paul goes on to say that our Lord’s sonship enabled Him to bring us into the same sonship with God the Father. He freed us from the law’s bondage and offers us eternal redemption. MacArthur tells us:

This is talking about status. This is the status of a son. No longer in bondage to the law, no longer in bondage to the flesh, no longer gritting your teeth trying to perform, now all of a sudden what happens is instead of being under the bondage of works and law and trying to salve your conscience and please God with your human fleshly effort, you are a son. And by decree and declaration of the father-provision through Jesus Christ, you enter into the freedom of being a son and you receive your inheritance. Many as receive Him, it says, God gave the right to be called the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name. So there is the realization of son-ship.

The law could only crush us, kill us, make us guilty, show us our sin. We couldn’t keep it; we couldn’t perform; we couldn’t salve our conscience; we couldn’t earn our salvation. We were always slaves even though we were destined to be sons. Until Jesus came and purchased our salvation which then being applied to us lifts us out of the childhood of slavery into the maturity of son-ship.

Paul tells the Galatians that, because of our Redeemer, we, too, can consider God our loving Father. The name Abba is a familiar one; whilst designating ‘father’ it is a more intimate one, akin to ‘Dad’ or ‘Papa’. It is a name, MacArthur says, which:

pulls me back into intimacy with God and I experience that son-ship. My own heart cries, God, you’re my father. God, I feel intimate with you in person. That’s the word Abba. The spirit witnesses to us that we are the sons of God, Paul said in Romans 8.

We, then, as Paul’s letter states, are truly sons of God thanks to Jesus Christ.

The Gospel reading is taken from the first chapter of Matthew beginning at the 18th verse (emphases mine):

NOW the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

It summarises the Nativity story, including Joseph’s inner conflict about Mary’s situation, resolved once the angel appeared to him in a dream.

The verses I have emphasised are the fulfilment of Scripture, hence the reasons for the O Antiphons from the Old Testament, upon which many meditate in the week preceding Christmas Day.

In a December 2014 entry on his Grace To You site, ‘Born to Die’, MacArthur tells us:

The important issue of Christmas is not so much that Jesus came, but why He came. There was no salvation in His birth. Nor did the sinless way He lived His life have any redemptive force of its own. His example, as flawless as it was, could not rescue men from their sins. Even His teaching, the greatest truth ever revealed to man, could not save us from our sins. There was a price to be paid for our sins. Someone had to die. Only Jesus could do it.

He goes on to say:

Don’t think I’m trying to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Far from it—for Jesus’ death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory over evil anyone has ever accomplished.

He concludes:

It’s appropriate to commemorate the birth of Christ. But don’t make the mistake of leaving Him as a baby in a manger. Keep in mind that His birth was just the first step in God’s glorious plan of redemption. Remember that it’s the triumph of Christ’s sacrificial death that gives meaning to His humble birth. You can’t truly celebrate one without the other.

We often forget this when Easter comes. We tend to sideline Easter, the greatest of the Church’s feasts, when we should be truly thankful for our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead and power over sin so that He can save us and bring us into everlasting communion with our heavenly Father.

Perhaps we tend not to think of Easter as warmly as we do Christmas because there is no adorable Child to think of — and no presents for us to open.

Christmas is, rightly, a huge celebration, but, as MacArthur says, it was but the first step in God’s divine plan accomplished through His only Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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