Fr Christopher Phillips: BDW – a Catholic claim to Anglican patrimony

5 10 2011

Fr Christopher Phillips, a Pastoral Provision priest in the United States, first delivered this paper at the recent International Symposium: “Council and Continuity” which took place in Phoenix, Arizona. It contains some of his own observations about the place of The Book of Divine Worship as a foundational document in any future Ordinariate liturgy. It was published on the Anglo-Catholic.

The Book of Divine Worship is one of the results of the implementation of the Pastoral Provision of Blessed John Paul II, which he approved in 1980, and which opened the way for Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining worthy elements of their Anglican heritage. In this brief presentation, we are looking particularly at the Book of Divine Worship as it contains many of those elements, and as part of the Church’s response to requests which had come from various corners of Anglicanism, but most especially from some Episcopal clergy in the United States.

The initial appeal made to the Holy See included a request for the Catholic ordination of Anglican clergy, with the possibility of dispensations from celibacy for married clergy, which was granted. It included also the request for some sort of parish structure to which the laypeople could belong, which was granted. And it included a request for elements of our Anglican liturgical heritage to be incorporated into a fully Catholic liturgy. This, too, was granted. It is this liturgical aspect of the Pastoral Provision which interests us for the purposes of this presentation.

When we made the request for “elements of our liturgical heritage” to be approved, those of us who asked knew very much what was in our minds. In addition to the daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, it was a request for what would be needed for parish life, not only such things as the Rite of Baptism, Matrimony, and Burial of the Dead, but especially it was a request for a fully Catholic rite of the Mass.

The liturgical life which had formed us, and which had nurtured in us the desire for full unity with the Catholic Church, had always found its expression in the traditional Missals found in Anglo-catholicism – whether the English Missal (known as the Knott Missal) or the Anglican Missal, or the American Missal – all of which are variations based upon the same principle; namely, the supplementing of the Book of Common Prayer to make it a more Catholic expression of our faith. Although the various Anglican Missals had been developed while we were in a state of separation from the Holy See, nonetheless these developments tended to focus and define our desire for Catholic unity, and so our request was based on our desire to bring this enriched form of Prayer Book worship into the fertile soil of full Catholic communion.

In 1983 a special committee was established by the Holy See, under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship (as the CDW was called then), in conjunction with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The task of the committee was to propose a liturgical book to be used by the parishes and congregations being established under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. I was privileged to serve on that committee. Then-Archbishop (later Cardinal) Virgilio Noe served as chairman, and there were various liturgists and theologians taking part. I was the only member of the committee who would actually be using the liturgy we were to discuss.

As we began our deliberations, it became evident the members of the committee did not all have the same agenda – and that, of course, would not be unexpected. The majority of the membership did not share an Anglican background, and so had not been formed by an Anglican liturgical life – again, that would be expected, and it was perfectly reasonable that the committee membership would be comprised of people from different backgrounds.

Within a short time after beginning our work, it became clear that there were three positions developing within the committee. There was the position (certainly my position) that all of the Anglican Missal tradition should be approved; there was the position that none of the Anglican Missal tradition should be approved; and there was the position that we should pick and choose, incorporating bits and pieces of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Book of Divine Worship which resulted shows much of the strain we experienced within the committee. It is marked by evidence of necessary compromise and committee decisions. There is some evidence of the Missal tradition; however, there is even more evidence of the desire by many on the committee to jettison that tradition, and to make this a liturgy more contemporary in its style, which meant that much of the source material was taken from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer – a version of the Prayer Book which none of us who had made the initial request had ever even used.

In some ways, the Book of Divine Worship is an unsatisfying book, easily criticized by those on both banks of the Tiber. In some important instances, it is incomplete. There is a jarring mixture linguistic styles within it. It has the feeling of being a “cut and paste” document, because, in a very real sense, it is exactly that. Bits of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer have been joined with pieces of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The Offertory Rite from the modern Roman rite has been inserted. The Gregorian Canon has been lifted out of the traditional English Missal, and inserted as an alternate form of the First Eucharistic Prayer, but it bears the marks of some ICEL adaptations in the words of institution, and with the Mysterium Fidei separated from its tradition place. Even such things as the magnificent Prayer of Humble Access – so much a part of our traditional preparation before receiving Holy Communion – is in a truncated version, quite different from its more traditional and familiar form.

A list of the shortcomings of the Book of Divine Worship could go on at some length, but to what end? Its importance is not so much in what it contains; rather, it is important because of what it is. The existence of the Book of Divine Worship, as a fully-approved Catholic liturgy, means that it is – at the very least – a place-holder, a “foot in the door,” if you will. For the first time, because of the approval given to the Book of Divine Worship, the mellifluous English translations of Thomas Cranmer were fully incorporated into a liturgy of the Catholic Church. What Dr. Cranmer would think of such a thing, we cannot know; however, although his heretical theology has no place here, his brilliant skills as a translator most certainly do. It is this “Cranmerian” or “Prayer Book” style of English which is perhaps one of the greatest treasures of our Anglican patrimony, and it is what defines the traditional versions of the Anglican Missal. It is what moves the Anglican Missal away from simply being the Extraordinary Form in English, and transforms it into a liturgy which is firmly grounded in the traditional Catholic rite of the Mass, but expressed in a particularly Anglican way, with specific Anglican enhancements. It is this “Prayer Book” style of expression which is basic to the Book of Divine Worship. In fact, the “cut and paste” sections of the Book of Divine Worship are immediately evident, because there are portions of it which depart from this traditional style of English.

We should make a special note that it is not simply a matter of including “thee” and “thou” in the text. There is something else about the soaring phrases and time-proven sentences which make them so memorable and so pleasing to the ear. Consider, for instance, the Collect for Purity, one of the opening prayers of the Mass, which has its roots in an ancient collect, but which has been superbly translated by Cranmer:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or, even lovelier I think, the Prayer of Humble Access, said just before Holy Communion:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. 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 may 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. Amen.

Certainly, the sentiments expressed in these and so many of our traditional prayers make them memorable. But there is more to those prayers than just the thoughts contained in them. There are principles having to do with the particular rhythm of the words, and the cadence of the phrases, which were put into practice and perfected by those who compiled the prayers found in the Book of Divine Worship, and which we consider to be an important part of our patrimony.

There is an excellent essay titled “The Prayer Book as Literature,” written by Dr. W. K. Lowther Clarke in 1932 and included in his larger work, Liturgy and Worship. In his essay he discusses possible reasons for the beauty of some of the phrases we use in our worship. In part, he says, “A particular theory has recently been propounded to account for the literary qualities of the sixteenth-century Prayer Book, namely, the survival of the cursus, or flow of the cadence in prose. The beauty of Latin prose depended on the arrangement of long and short syllables, especially at the end of the sentence… The cursus had three main forms: planus, with the accent on the second and fifth syllable from the end; tardus, on the third and sixth; and velox, on the second and seventh.”

Just as music follows certain rules to achieve a beautiful end, so it is with literature. Excellent writing does not consist simply of stringing words together. It involves a rhythm. It shows sensitivity to the zenith of a phrase. It allows for a cadence. In the liturgy, when we think of a prayer as being “beautiful,” it describes not only the sentiment it contains, but also the way in which the thought is expressed. This is why so many contemporary prayers are unmemorable. The ancient principle of cursus has been put aside because of the mistaken notion that ignoring it would somehow make prayers clearer.

The “Prayer Book style” (if I may call it that) has survived in the Book of Divine Worship, and it is part of the very patrimony being referred to by Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. In the third section of that Constitution, the Holy Father says,

III. Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

We should notice an important statement within that section of Anglicanorum coetibus, where it refers to “…the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See…” One of the principles expounded by some members of the 1983 committee was a requirement that the only material that could be used in the Book of Divine Worship was material which could be found in a Prayer Book which had been approved by an official Anglican body. It was this (mistaken, I believe) requirement that kept out liturgical material from the traditional Anglican Missals, which had not received such authorization, even though such material was very much a part of Anglican tradition. But Anglicanorum coetibus states clearly that the Ordinariates may use elements of the Anglican tradition “which have been approved by the Holy See,” with no reference to previous official Anglican approval.

Now that we are entering the era of the Anglican Ordinariates, we have a unique liturgical opportunity. In fact, although the title of this short presentation is “The Book of Divine Worship: A Catholic Claim to Anglican Patrimony,” I think that title might be backwards. In light of what Anglicanorum coetibus is calling for, a more accurate title might be “An Anglican Claim to Catholic Patrimony.” In other words, we want – indeed, we need – a fully Catholic and historic liturgy, which can be expressed in a particularly Anglican way. We need a liturgy with its own integrity – not a “cut and paste” effort which attempts to put an “Anglican veneer” on an invented liturgical use. The Book of Divine Worship was a necessary first step towards an authentic Anglican Use liturgy. At the press conference on the day Anglicanorum coetibus was announced to the world, Archbishop DiNoia held up a copy of the Book of Divine Worship and stated that it would be a “template” for the Ordinariate liturgy. But we should not stop with a “first step,” nor should we consider a “template” to be a finished product. This liturgical chapter in the Church’s history must have its place in the hermeneutic of continuity.

Some of us have been using the texts of the Book of the Divine Worship in public worship for a generation. Because our spiritual and liturgical lives were formed by the Anglican Missals of the past, so we have attempted to uphold that important hermeneutic of continuity by conforming the Book of Divine Worship to those Missals as completely as the rubrics would allow. Our efforts are now confirmed by the words of Anglicanorum coetibus itself: that the members of the Ordinariates are “to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”

The various editions of the Anglican Missals are undoubtedly part of Anglican tradition, since their very purpose was to enhance and enrich the Prayer Book liturgy, moving it in a more Catholic direction. These Missals were used by Anglo-Catholics within the Anglican Communion throughout the world. Those of us who entered into full communion through Blessed John Paul’s Pastoral Provision a generation ago, were using some version of the Anglican Missal up until the time of our reception, and those Anglicans awaiting their reception into the Church through the Ordinariate continue to worship according to a traditional Anglican Missal.

Certainly, the Ordinariate Catholics who wish to use the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite – or even the Extraordinary Form – have full permission to do that. It is stated very clearly in Anglicanorum coetibus, and in fact that is presently the preference in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England.

However, for those who will enter the Ordinariate in the United States, or Canada, or Australia, there is a clear preference for a liturgy which exhibits a hermeneutic of continuity with the historic Missals which have been foundational to the spirituality which has brought us home to the Holy Catholic Church.

The Church has called for an Anglican Ordinariate liturgy. We know this liturgy is to have the Book of Divine Worship as its starting point. The Book of Divine Worship is now poised to be enriched and completed by what we have known in the various editions of the Anglican Missal. Therefore, to ignore the Missals in the development of a global Anglican Use liturgy for use in the Personal Ordinariates would be not only a rupture with the past, but it would miss the clear expectation expressed in Anglicanorum coetibus, to maintain those good things from our Anglican heritage which have nurtured our faith.


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