Monday, June 7, 2010

Liturgical latitudinarianism and the Anglo-Catholic aspiration

In the interval between the Catholic Revival and the Liturgical Movement, Anglicans of a Catholic identity wrestled with the perceived inadequacy of rites derived from the 1662 tradition. This question was less problematic in provinces such as Scotland, the United States, and to a certain extent in Canada from 1959. However, books like Ritual Notes, the English and Anglican Missals, and the English Hymnal, represent a way of wrapping the traditional "Western Rite" round Archbishop Cranmer's texts.

Many parishes and clergy, including many we would not consider "extreme" today, made use of these resources to greater or lesser extents. A little cosmetic surgery fashioned a somewhat more satisfactory Canon, and the complete Sanctus and Agnus Dei could be inserted. Others might make use of the "minor propers" or at least an introit and/or gradual. On the far end of the spectrum, there was the sort of parish, of which S. Clement's Philadelphia is perhaps the last true surviving specimen, in which the Tridentine Mass was constructed with more diligence than is typical in the Roman Catholic Church, albeit largely in the vernacular. Yet even "middle of the road" parishes would resort to these books at least in Holy Week.

Arguments about the canonical status of these alterations were at times a bit strained. Today, on the other hand, the 1979 prayer book and its virtually identical rubrical cousin the Book of Alternative Services provide for traditional language services in the Western Catholic shape, with the Gloria At Beginning, explicitly sacrificial Eucharistic Prayers with sound epicleses, and the full rites of Holy Week. The rubrics allow for the interpolation of psalms or anthems in all the right spots, allowing for the use of the Anglican Gradual and Sacramentary. Those desiring completely traditional language including psalmody may avail themselves of the conforming texts in the Anglican Service Book. In Canada at least, even the traditional Eucharistic lectionary is still authorized, if officially discouraged, and to this day as a lector I regularly wrap up with what I will always the find the anticlimactic "Here endeth the Epistle."

Now that full communion with the Lutherans is established, we may hope that we benefit from their sound democratic polity of episcopacy and they from the restoration of certain ecumenically positive aspects of episcopal ministry. In my opinion, on the other hand, amid all the buzz on the episcopate, the (I think) far more pressing dialogue on the diaconate has not commanded such attention. Unlike bishops, deacons in the ELCiC are still not ordained. On the other hand, their own texts are not only pretty much wide open, but only "commended" rather than authorized. Even in the more conservative Missouri Synod and its neighbour the Lutheran Church - Canada, the parameters are broad enough to permit the similarly outlying example of Zion Detroit, essentially a "Lutheran Missal" parish.

Other Anglo-Catholics have more recently found ways to accomplish what has always been a great dream of a large segment of Anglo-Catholics: reunion to Rome or Constantinople (my apologies to the Orthodoxen for the shorthand) without loss of the Anglican liturgical and spiritual identity.

It has been said that Anglo-Catholics won the battles but lost the war, but I think that this is a glib characterization of what is a really a highly promising situation. Anglo-Catholics of all tendencies have found canonical means of accomplishing their goals. Except, perhaps, the English Use enthusiasts, who are long due for a renaissance, but some faithful souls have never ceased quietly toiling.

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