Sunday, August 26, 2007
Prayer Book revision
One thing that is inevitable (except in England, where Parliament makes it impractical) is ongoing revision of the Book of Common Prayer. The most recent, and most drastic, American revision is from 1979. It has its problems, as did the previous revision from 1928. While it is not around the corner, the current edition will be revised again at some point. Here are some of my suggestions for when that day comes.
“And with your spirit.” The mistranslation of Et cum spiritu tuo as “And also with you” comes from the English text of the Roman Missal. Now that Rome is correcting it’s translation, it should follow that we would correct ours. I believe the Lutheran Church already uses “And with your spirit.” I’m sure that other churches will make the most as the corrected translation becomes commonplace through Rome’s usage. It would also serve well for Anglicans in making the discrepancy between a mixed group of Rite One (“And with thy spirit”) and Rite Two (“And also with you”) Episcopalians much less distracting.
New Prayers and Blessings. In many parishes, it is common to have blessings for birthdays and wedding anniversaries. The 1979 Prayer Book has two prayers for a birthday (#50 and #51 on page 830) and no prayers for a wedding anniversary (although #50 would fit any kind of annual celebration). Some clergy have substituted an entirely inappropriate prayer—the nuptial blessing from the marriage rite. There are two main problems with this. First, it should only be given once in a lifetime. Second, there may be people who are not eligible to be married in the church and thus should not receive this blessing at all. I have used the collect for the marriage liturgy reworded for the past tense (“vows they have made”), but it is not rubrically correct to do so. A prayer should be supplied in the next revision to meet this need.
Likewise, many parishes have pet and animal blessings on the feast of St Francis of Assisi, but there is no form for this in either the Prayer Book or the Book of Occasional Services. A form should be provided, both for the sake of convenience, and for preventing doctrinal irregularity in praying extemporaneously about this sensitive subject.
The Prayers in Morning and Evening Prayer. I would add the Kyrie just before the Lord’s Prayer and I would change to the shorter and more ancient form of the Lord’s Prayer (i.e., without the doxology). This usage would return to the 1549 Prayer Book and pre-Reformation forms. It would also bring the pattern into alignment with the form in the minor offices and the Litany.
Apostles’ Creed in Matrimony and Burial. The rubric already says it may be used, but I would go ahead and add the text of the Apostles’ Creed to Burial: Rite One and to The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage. These are two occasions where many visitors will normally be present and having every one flip back to the creed and then back to the other liturgy seems unnecessary. It is certainly not a user-friendly approach, and it has the side effect of discouraging the use of the Apostles’ Creed on these occasions.
The Reconciliation of a Penitent. I would remove the newly composed absolution, (worded “absolve you through my ministry”). It is based on the passive Eastern Orthodox pattern, but is not the active wording familiar to many through film and television. It leaves the uninitiated feeling like they are still waiting to be absolved. I would also provide a list of penitential psalms, perhaps useful for penances. The dismissal should remove the option, which is unnecessary, and simply state “Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner.”
I would also take away the text for the declaration of forgiveness to be used by a lay person or a deacon after hearing a confession (“Our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself to be sacrificed for us to the Father, forgives your sins by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”). Instead, I would replace it with: If the ministrations of a priest cannot be obtained, a deacon or lay person hearing the confession may respond by encouraging them to make this confession before a priest a soon as possible and by saying “God is ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in kindness. He does not forsake those who are truly penitent.” The old sentence sounds too much like an absolution, which may lead someone to thing that they no longer need to seek a priest. The new sentence is modeled after Nehemiah 9:17.
The Ministration to the Sick. The scripture selections are already noted in the Prayer Book, but I would add the text of the readings themselves. This is for the sake of convenience. The priest will already be bringing a number of items on this occasion, and needing one less book is very helpful.
At the section for the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, I would add a rubric stating that no one may be anointed by proxy (I have encountered this abuse in some charismatic circles). Also, the conditional rubric in the middle of page 457 should be changed to simple read, “It is suitable to administer the reserved sacrament outside the Church in one kind only.” This conforms with common practice. I have never encountered the reserved Sacrament being administered in both kinds in the home or hospital. Indeed, in many places the Sacrament is only reserved in one kind to begin with.
Communion under Special Circumstances. This rite is essentially for administering Holy Communion to shut-ins. Since most of the people to whom this ministry now applies are elderly and were formed under the Rite One or 1928 Prayer Book tradition, it is appropriate that a Rite One form should also be provided. I would add the same rubric as above about administering the Sacrament in one kind.
An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist. This is commonly known as “Rite Three” and is not often used. In my view, such self-composed liturgies stand far outside the tradition. Even in the early centuries, liturgical forms quickly crystallized into set patterns, modeled after the uses in the patriarchal sees. As it encourages personal creativity in composing liturgical forms, it also discourages conformity and is thus alien to the spirit of liturgy. I would eliminate this section entirely.
Prayers of the People. I would return some mention of the duty of civil servants to punish wickedness and vice and to maintain virtue and freedom of religion to the “Prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church and the world” in Rite One. There is also one change that I would make in Form I. There is one petition, the second to last on page 385, which neither ends in the concluding for nor the standard form of “let us pray to the Lord.” Because it changes from speaking to the people to speaking to God, this one petition ends in, “by thy grace.” Every time that I’ve heard this used, it has ended up being a train wreck. I would rewrite it so that it is directed toward the people like each of the other petitions and keeps the standard ending.
The Holy Eucharist. There are a number of changes that I would make here, though mostly concerning options and titles. I would change the title of both parts to “The Liturgy of the Word of God” and “The Liturgy of the Holy Communion.” This seems more natural to me, while the shortened form seems too elliptical.
The Post-Communion Prayer. I would have only one post-communion prayer per rite. To me, this is one of those prayers that one should ideally be able to recite from memory. I would eliminate one of the options for the post-communion prayer in Rite Two. I would probably keep the first one, which begins “Eternal God . . .” because the other is more similar to the wording of Rite One and the subtle differences would trip up someone who normally worships in the other rite. I would also eliminate the proper post-communion prayers for marriages, ordinations, and burials. I think they are simply unnecessary and the less flipping around in the book at this moment of the liturgy, the better. Also, the post-communion prayers should be modified to reflect the fact that not everyone will normally receive Holy Communion, particularly when it is a wedding or funeral. The 1928 version of the prayer might be a guide, which had the qualifier, “who have duly received these holy mysteries.” It would also be helpful to print Canon I.17.7 as a rubric: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”
The Invitation to Communion. The invitation to communion in the 1979 Prayer Book (“The Gifts of God for the People of God”) is based upon the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (“Holy things for the Holy”, to which the people respond, “One is Holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen”). To me, the latter has the lingering thought of holiness and is God-focused. The former has the lingering thought of the People of God and is human-focused. I would simply use the original version from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom as is done in the new Common Worship for the Church of England.
Having some alternative invitations seems appropriate to me. The most obvious choice would be the invitation from the Roman Rite and Common Worship, from Jn 1:29, Rev 19:9, and Mt 8:8 (V. “Behold the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world. Happy are those who are called to his Supper.” R. “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.”). It should be familiar to many as it was often borrowed from the Roman Rite and used prior to the 1979 Prayer Book because the 1928 Prayer Book had no invitation to communion.
I think some other sentences would be appropriate, such as Mt 25:34 (“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”), Rev 19:7 (“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to God: for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”), and Rev 19:9 (V. “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” R. “These are the true sayings of God.”). What I like about these verses is that they emphasize the eschatological character of the Holy Eucharist.
The Breaking of the Bread. First, I would reprint the text of the Peace, since it may be said in this place if it has not been said earlier. Second, I would add a rubric specifying that only one of the anthems should follow the breaking of the Bread and the Peace (either the Agnus Dei or the Pascha Nostrum). I have often heard both used, which is redundant. Third, I would add the text of the requiem version of the Agnus Dei in both rites (“grant them rest” in place of “have mercy upon us”). Fourth, I would restore the longer version of the Prayer of Humble Access, as it is in Common Worship. I would also add the title, since those unfamiliar with our liturgy will see that title in the service leaflet, but look for it in vain in the book. The italicized portion was deleted in the 1979 revision: “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink his blood that our sinful bodies made be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.” It was deleted because it was said the wording suggested a dualism of body and soul. I think this is an overstatement, and that people recognize that it is poetic language employed to state a powerful truth—that communion with God is only possible through Christ’s atonement and our forgiveness. It is also beautiful, and prayer ought to be beautiful.
The Eucharistic Prayer. I have a bias when it comes to liturgical prayer—no newly composed prayers unless absolutely necessary. Surely, when it comes to the anaphora, the tradition is rich enough to suffice. This means I would drop Prayer II of Rite One. It is essentially a shortened version of Prayer I, but it is not really that much shorter—certainly not enough to justify a new composition. Plus, since the wording is so similar, it comes off sounding like someone who is reciting Prayer I from memory, but didn’t quite get it right.
I would also drop Prayer B and Prayer C from Rite Two since they are new compositions. Although they are also new compositions, I would retain Prayer A and Prayer D because they are both based on ancient texts. Prayer A is a revision of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Prayer D is a revision of the anaphora of the Liturgy of St Basil. Indeed, I would suggest simply using these ancient orthodox texts in place of their revised forms of Prayer A and Prayer D. They are both certainly more beautiful than the revisions. Some would object that the anaphora of the Liturgy of St Basil would be too long for an Anglican liturgy, and I can understand that. But it sure is a beautiful prayer. As a second-best solution, I would say Prayer D should be brought more in line with (or perhaps made the same as) Eucharistic Prayer IV of the new Roman Rite, which is also based upon the Liturgy of St Basil. This would at least be a strong ecumenical gesture.
Finally, to Prayer I and Prayers A and D, I would add the eucharistic prayer from the Roman Rite, the “Gregorian Canon” in a good translation that utilizes customary Prayer Book phraseology. This anaphora from the Western liturgy, which is also beautiful and orthodox, served Anglicans well for over a thousand years. Why not continue to use it?