Mgr Andrew Burnham: What is Anglican Liturgical Patrimony?

9 07 2011

This paper by Monsignor Andrew Burnham was made available during this week’s Anglican Use Conference in Texas, and is reproduced here with his permission.

The vigorous discussion of ‘Anglican Patrimony’, a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum cœtibus, has established two things for sure.  One is that it is not only a liturgical tradition which former Anglicans bring into the Catholic Church: there is a sense in which ‘patrimony’ is far wider than that, and includes a whole cultural mindset and experience which is no less real for being hard to define.  The other thing that the discussion has established is that, whatever it is, ‘Anglican Patrimony’ certainly does include a liturgical tradition, a tradition which is powerfully Benedictine, in its continued celebration of the public office, often within buildings that were abbeys and priories. It is also a tradition which, somewhat self-consciously, has adopted the Eucharist as its mainstay.   This we all owe to the Oxford Fathers as much as to the Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement, which has influenced us all.

The trouble starts when we see some of the divergent directions in which the Anglican tradition has followed.  One, undoubtedly, is that of the Ritualists, those nineteenth century Anglo-catholics who, believing that the Provinces of Canterbury and York had become separated from the Holy See by secular wickedness, believed that they should adopt as much of continental faith and practice as they could, living as if they were Roman Catholics.  There is a whole history here, at times moderate and at times extreme and its liturgical footprints are found in the more moderate Anglican Missal and the English Missal, more ultramontane as time went on, compromising to a greater or lesser extent with the requirements of the Anglican rubrics as they celebrated what was, at its extremity, the Tridentine Mass in the vernacular. Another whole tradition, much more obedient to the Anglican heartland, could be called Prayer Book Catholic.  Not so long ago, it seems, almost everyone was a ‘Prayer Book Catholic’.  One endeavoured to profess the Catholic Faith but sought to express it in ways loyal to the Prayer Book.  This deep loyalty to the texts characterised much Anglo-catholicism in the States.  High Church Episcopalians have almost always looked askance at English Anglo-catholics and their anomalous liturgies.  But many English Anglicans have also looked askance at Anglo-catholic anomy and sought to work synodically, at least from the mid-1960s, to bring about those structures and texts and emphases which more appropriately express a Catholic eucharistic understanding.  Here things have been helped, as well as complicated, by the ecumenical consensus of the Liturgical Movement and we have been bewildered as much by Scottish Presbyterians lighting candles on cuboid stone altars as by Jesuits saying Mass in mufti over a coffee table.  Throw into this mix the strong movement and longing, a century and more ago, for the lost age of the Sarum Use.  Whether it was Percy Dearmer and the Parson’s Handbook or various editions of plainchant, there was the feeling that the English Church needed as much to recover what it had lost in a golden age of mediæval praxis and piety as to look for the reunion of Christians.   Remember, in those heady days – until, really the Church of England re-invented itself as one denomination amongst many in the 1970s – ‘the Church’ in England meant ‘the Church of England’, whatever ‘the Romans’ or ‘the non-conformists’ thought about things.

The problem about all this history –  and I must apologise for the rough and ready way I have laid it out, preparatory to what comes next – is that it becomes problematic to discern quite what the Pope would mean by ‘Anglican liturgical patrimony’.  Ironically, he probably means not least what he witnessed in Westminster Abbey, in September 2010, and what he knows, as a good musician, of the English choral tradition.  I say ‘ironically’ because this is probably the least accessible part of the Anglican tradition in terms of his ecumenical initiative in Anglicanorum cœtibus.  We are not expecting a cœtus to form in Westminster Abbey nor in any English cathedral nor indeed from any major parish church.  Ironically too, as our friends on the North American scene have often remarked, the English Anglo-catholics who have responded and are likely to respond to the Pope’s offer are the successors of the Ritualists, those who for many years have used the Roman Missal in English and used the Divine Office for their formation and daily devotion.  But it isn’t entirely like that: a small but significant percentage of our groups are from a more avowedly Anglican liturgical background and they are looking eagerly to see what it is from Anglican sources that the Holy See will authorise for use in the Ordinariates.  Watching them are others from congregations in the Church of England who are embedded in the Common Worship tradition, that is making full use of the Catholic-style ceremonies and texts which have increasingly become a feature of English Anglican worship, albeit often under-laid with a far from satisfactory doctrinal understanding of ecclesiology and sacramental theology.

A word now about the Book of Divine Worship.  We in England pay tribute to the visionary nature of this book.  It was, to a considerable extent, the transplanting of the Episcopalian 1979 Book of Common Prayer into Roman Catholic diocesan life, bringing in not just the texts but much of the ceremonial dignity and infrastructure which has given such beauty to American Anglo-catholicism.   The careful mixture of a ‘Catholic’ richness and obedience to official formularies had made North American Anglo-catholicism distinctive and this mixture was now being brought into the full Communion of the Catholic Church.  No wonder the parishes – though small in number – flourished so wonderfully.  These parishes will surely be at the heart of the new American Ordinariate.  But everybody knows that the Book of Divine Worship will not quite do now.   I can’t speak about elsewhere in the world, but we know that it is too North American for England, which has a different Anglican tradition, especially as regards modern liturgical revision.  We also know that, with the coming on-stream of the new English texts of the Roman Liturgy, the contemporary language stream in the Book of Divine Worship would create a cacophony.  And, a generation on, everyone would like a new look at the Book of Divine Worship and what should be in it.

In order to prepare for the next stage, the emergence of the Ordinariates and their worshipping life, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith convoked a working party, under the chairmanship of Mgr Andrew Burnham, one of the former Provincial Episcopal Visitors, to advise on some of these issues.  The focus has been mainly on preparing for the first of the Ordinariates, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, in England and Wales, but there has been some work on the wider questions.  It is not yet entirely clear whether the highly desirable objective will be achieved of establishing an international English liturgical provision for the Ordinariates. It may be that the histories are too different, the expectations and experiences too.  But it is worth continuing to strive for that.  Some of the work, though painstaking, is quite straight forward.  No one wishes to see the disappearance of the Coverdale Psalter.  Everyone seems keen to make sure that that gem of Anglican practice, Evensong, is available to the Ordinariates, to enrich the Catholic Church.  There is an expectation too that, in England, something like the marriage and funeral liturgies, broadly as revised in 1928, and reappearing as ‘Series One’, should be available to the Ordinariate.  These beautiful liturgies are so in-grained that, along with Evensong, they will be a powerful tool of outreach and evangelism, in a context where something at least of Anglican Patrimony is to do with the way pastoral work is done in neighbourhoods and amidst communities.  There is also an enormous wealth of English spiritual writing, hardly explored as yet in the liturgical life of the Catholic Church, which may enrich a more distinctively English Calendar.  Some of this – quite a bit of it – will also be there for Ordinariates elsewhere in the world, whose Anglican origins have been informed by the liturgy and spirituality of the English Church.

You will appreciate that I am not quite in a position to unveil where the working party has got to.  For one thing, it was meeting only a few days ago and its deliberations will have to be fed back to the Holy See before too much is public.  What I can do is mention some of the directions in which we are heading.  I think we can assume that distinct liturgical provision for the Ordinariates will be almost entirely in traditional language.  That heads off the emerging difficulty of more than one idiom of contemporary liturgical English in the Catholic Church.  I think too that we can assume that there will be an interim stage, when material from the Divine Office and for the marriage and funeral liturgies will be further tried and tested, with the expectation that Congregation for Divine Worship will substantially endorse and make permanent what is being done.  I think we can assume too that the infrastructure of Calendar and Lectionary – in respect of the Lectionary perhaps a bit closer to the Roman Rite than that in the Book of Divine Worship, which is essentially the Episcopalian one.   I think we can assume too that the Initiation rites – Baptism and Confirmation – and the rites of Ordination will be those of the Roman Rite.  These are important, unitive moments and none of the corresponding rites from the Anglican Communion can adequately convey the understanding of what it is to belong to, and be an ordained minister within, the full Communion of the Catholic Church.

There are one or two lesser questions, upon which little progress has yet been made – such as ministry to the sick and dying – but the main area of work outstanding is, of course, the Mass.  It is not that work has still to be begun in this area.  Rather it is that the Congregation for Divine Worship, to whom the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has entrusted this task, needs to take time to study the issues carefully.  Let me just remind you of what some of these issues are.  One issue is the Sarum Use.  At the Reformation, the Sarum Use was the predominant Use in England and, like the Ambrosian and Mozarabic liturgies, had not only local importance but also, as viewed by the criteria established by the Council of Trent, a long enough history to be regarded as having a permanent place within the Latin Rite.  Now, as we know, the Sarum Use was suppressed not by the Catholic Church but by the Henrician Reformation.  Broadly, does the Catholic Church regard that suppression as a final and fatal piece of iconoclasm or, in more propitious times, should something like the Sarum Use re-emerge after a long sleep?  There are momentous consequences, including pastoral ones, in encouraging the adoption de novo of a liturgy largely unfamiliar to the worshippers.  Then there is a second issue.  What should be done about that rich Anglo-catholic tradition of using the Anglican Missal or English Missal?  Here we are looking at the preferences of Continuing Anglicanism which, appalled by some of the trends in twentieth century liturgical reformulation and doctrinal revisionism, has found its liturgical life in these missals.  What view should the Congregation for Divine Worship take of these missals, neither of which has been an authorised liturgical book in Britain, America or Australia, despite their frequent use in these territories.  Thirdly, there are the Anglican liturgical books and resources which are authorised and used.   This was broadly the area that the Book of Divine Worship has explored, taking the 1979 Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer and, essentially, dropping in the Liturgy of the Eucharist of the Roman Rite in place of the Protestant provision.   That could be done with the Church of England’s Common Worship.  There are no doubt similar strategies that could be adopted with regard to Australia and for former Anglicans in Africa and India.   There are some obvious complications: just as the American Book of Divine Worship is often strange from an English vantage point, so Common Worship would seem strange in some other parts of the world.   Or, rather, it may seem confusingly similar to the emergent English translation of the Roman Rite.

As you will see, these three issues – the Sarum Use, the Anglican and English Missals, the contemporary versions of Anglican liturgy – take us back into the early history of the Oxford Movement.  There were strong arguments then for restoring the Sarum Use.  There were strong arguments then for aligning faith and practice with the contemporary Catholic Church.  There were strong arguments then too for attending loyally to the agreed Anglican texts and for seeking to revise them to strengthen their ability to convey Catholic teaching.   The working party began work with the last two of these three issues dominant in the minds of its English members.  Surely something should be built on the close co-relation of the contemporary language Eucharist in Common Worship with the Mass of Pope Paul VI: after all, here was the nexus explored and exploited by Anglo-catholics.   Here was the opportunity at once to build on the Anglican liturgical experience and to align faith and practice with the contemporary Catholic Church.  As became clear, however, the very similarity of eucharistic orders would lead to muddle and to the cacophony referred to earlier.  It was decided also that the place of the Anglican and English Missals tradition, particularly in relation to North America and Australia, needed further study and consideration.  Meanwhile the first tranche of texts submitted by the working party incorporated substantial elements from the Use of Sarum.  Imagine liturgical history, so the conceit goes, had the emerging vernaculars of the Renaissance period not been vehicles of theological polemic.  Imagine how things would have emerged had Dr Cranmer been a loyal servant of the Church, the Annibale Bugnini of his age.  At worst, this conceit is a harmless game.  At best, it might yet lead to the emergence of a fine Ordinariate eucharistic rite, including, after five hundred years’ torpor, some of the jewels of traditional Catholicism as found in the Use of Sarum.