Sunday, August 29, 2010

The English Liturgy

The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is the creation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Its first appearance was in 1549 with the first publication of the BCP, preceded earlier by the publication of the Litany (1547) and the Order for Communion (1548). The 1549 BCP was a conservative reform of the Sarum Rite. It was a transitional rite in which Cranmer issued as a "first edition" while preparing the second draft of the Prayer Book. The 1549 retained many traditonal elements of the Mass and other rituals associated wtih medieval Catholicism. Three years later the 1552 BCP was released. Although not used in public worship it became the base structure for the 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books (substantially the same liturgy with significant minor changes).

The 1662 BCP opens up with the Lord's Prayer said by the minister followed by the Collect for Purity, from the Sarum Rite, which reads as follows, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be 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." In the traditional rite, the Kyries and Confession followed but Cranmer altered the Kyries and introduced the Decalogue with the congregational response, "Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law," which became the Anglican "Kyrie". Cranmer felt that the liturgy could be transformed to teach the Gospel to the people. In the English book, a collect for the soverign follows before the Collect of the Day, Epistle, and Gospel, without provision for graduals, tracts, or salutations at the Gospel. The Creed follows the Gospel before the sermon with the notable scribal error, "And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church..." omitting the word "holy." After the sermon, there is the offertory, of both the people's gifts and the elements. Then the "Prayer for the Church Militant here in earth" although a self-contradictory prayer because the 1662 revisers added this intention, "And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples..." Beginning the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we have Cranmer's "Order for Communion" beginning with a long exhortation to repentance, followed by an invitation to confession, the prayer of confession, the Comfortable Words (Matt. 11:28, Jn 3:16, 1 Tim. 1:15, and 1 John 2:1,2), and the absolution. The "Prayer of Humble Access" is transferred till after the Sanctus.

What follows is the beginning of the Prayer of Consecration, as it is titled in the 1662 BCP. The salutation, "The Lord be with you -- and with thy spirit," is removed from the Sursum Corda ("Lift up your hearts...") because of its association with the doctrine of transubstantiation. The same fate happened to the "Benedictus" i.e. "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." The BCP only provides five propers, Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Penecost, and Trinity, and for their octaves. Then follows the Sanctus sans Benedictus and then one of Cranmer's most memorable prayers, the Prayer of Humble Access. "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." The actual prayer of consecration is very brief in the BCP:

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming again; Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood: who, in the same night that he was betrayed, (a) took Bread; and, when he had given thanks, (b) he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, (c) this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he (d) took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this (e) is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me. Amen."

At this point the people receive communion with the words of distribution of the bread, "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving," and of the wine, "The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful," thus combining the 1549 and 1552 forms.

The service resumes with the Lord's Prayer and either prayer of oblation or prayer of thanksgiving, the Gloria, and the Prayer Book blessing, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen."