Nicholas Sagovsky: Is there an ‘Anglican patrimony’?

2 04 2011

The Revd Professor Nicholas Sagovsky is a former Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, and a member of ARCIC II and ARCIC III. He writes in Centro, the news bulletin from the Anglican Centre in Rome:

Is there an ‘Anglican patrimony’ which members of the Personal Ordinariates will take with them? Those who drafted the Complementary Norms to Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution which announced the setting up of Personal Ordinariates, obviously thought so as they used the phrase twice. Anglicanorum Coetibus itself speaks about permitting ‘the use of 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’ – in short, the Anglican patrimony – ‘within the Catholic Church’.

The most striking feature of any Anglican patrimony is the use of the English language. If the patrimony originated at the Reformation (which is debatable), from the first it emphasised the use of language ‘understanded of the people’.

Continuance of this tradition would mean that the official texts used within the Personal Ordinariates would be crafted in English, or the appropriate vernacular.

Nothing could be more important for Anglican patrimony than the Bible in English. The greatest treasure of Anglican tradition has to be the King James (authorised) Version. It would be highly significant if in the year when we are celebrating its four hundredth anniversary, the KJV and its lineal descendants such as the Revised Standard Version were commended for liturgical use by former Anglicans.

Another priceless Anglican treasure must be Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. If they were authorised for use within the Ordinariates, this would reintegrate a characteristically Anglican pattern of daily prayer within the Catholic tradition from which it has become separated. It would also give access to a treasury of Anglican chant and Anglican choral settings which are beloved throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond.

Coverdale’s translation of the psalms, Cranmer’s collects, and in England, prayers for the monarch and royal family, are, of course, integral to this tradition of worship.

From a Roman Catholic point of view, Anglican eucharistic liturgies are distinguished as much by what they don’t say as by what they do. Slipping the Comfortable Words or the Prayer of Humble Access, whether in their original or in a modern form, into a Roman Catholic liturgy, or allowing the Peace to be brought forward before the Eucharistic Prayer, would represent trivial gestures towards ‘the Anglican patrimony’. More significant would be an insistence on communion in both kinds from elements newly consecrated (and not from the reserved sacrament), together with the communion of priest and people from one cup.

Since Anglican Pastoral Offices have been re-written to be celebrated within a eucharistic context, it should be possible to integrate Anglican liturgies for baptism, marriage and for funerals into Roman Catholic eucharistic liturgies.

In two important respects, however, it is difficult to see how significant components of the Anglican patrimony could be integrated within the worship of those who belong to the Personal Ordinariates. One is the liturgical commemoration of Anglican saints like Andrewes or Herbert, Ken or Keble, even though each of them would have seen their faith as an expression of authentic Catholicism.

The other is participation of the laity in the decision-making (including decision-making about liturgy) of the Church. The constitution of the Governing Councils of the Ordinariate sound depressingly clerical. To be faithful to their ‘Anglican patrimony’ the Pastoral Councils of the Personal Ordinariate would have to give real power to the laity.

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