Sunday, December 29, 2013

GRACE NOTES ON THE ACNA COMMUNION LITURGY


Not long ago, the Anglican Church of North America published its “Texts for Common Prayer” http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/675.  These texts, except for the Ordinal, are “working texts” “awaiting response from the experience of their wide use in the Church.” The following “grace notes” are my initial response to one of the Texts, the Holy Communion Liturgy.

I might note that as a long-serving priest, I studied under Dr. Massey Shepherd, a prime architect of liturgical revision in the Episcopal Church from the 1950s through the 1970s, which produced the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer. Unlike some conservatives, I have never considered the 1979 BCP to be a camel’s nose of revisionism within the Episcopal Church. I have led worship using the 1928 Prayer Book, Services for Trial Use, and 1979 BCP, in addition to liturgies in the Church of England and Africa.

As a GAFCON theologian, I was involved in producing the Jerusalem Declaration, which states: We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture. It is not clear how precisely this standard is intended as there is a variety of liturgies and worship cultures among the GAFCON churches.

I hope it is clear that my overall response to the ACNA liturgy is positive, and the “grace notes” are just that, minor observations that may be of use as the review goes forward.

Opening Acclamation


“Blessed be God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Peter Toon will be smiling from heaven on this one, identifying the Triune Persons with the proper article “the.” While I don’t have a problem with the comma (1979 the colon) between “God” and “Father,” I would note that “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” is a biblical phrase (e.g., 2 John 1:3); the Father is the “head” of the Trinity who most logically bears the name God.

Gloria in excelsis


“you take away the sin [singular] of the world”

This was a change in Rite II 1979. Both singular and plural have important meanings, but in light of John 1:29 I think the change is right.

The Lessons


“A Reading from _____”

“The Holy Gospel… according to _____

I think it is far preferable to make the citation of chapter and verses mandatory, even if they are printed in the bulletin or on a screen. In East Africa, it is customary for Christians to carry a Bible to church to follow the readings. In general, giving chapter and verse emphasizes that it is the words of Scripture, not just some abstract “Word” in Scripture, that are authoritative. 

Secondly, I wish they would include “St. ____” at the Gospel. Somehow Rite II always sounded too familiar, almost like “Good News from Johnny.”

Nicene Creed


“all things visible and invisible”

I am smiling on earth and the angels are rejoicing in heaven because of this change. There is a real difference between things “not seen,” e.g., the galaxies in the cosmos, and not seeable (unless they choose to make themselves visible). “Not seen” risks reducing the spiritual world to the abode of the “God of the gaps.” 

“for us and our salvation”

The omission of “men,” against the original text and following ICET and 1979 Rite II is unfortunate. Along the same line, the most abominable single revision in the 1982 Hymnal is to Wesley’s “pleased as man with man us to dwell.” There is a theological connection between “men” here and “made man” later. Christ is the second Adam. In a more general sense, I hate to see revisers deprive women of their manhood (see Vernard Eller, The Language of Canaan and the Grammar of Feminism).

Prayers of the People


“and so guide and direct their leaders, especially N, our President/Prime Minister/Sovereign”
Praying for the national leader first (1 Peter 2:17) and then world leaders following seems a better order. Furthermore, I do not care for personalizing the prayers for national leaders, especially as many national leaders are non-, nominal, or anti-Christian. It is the office not the personal spirituality of the rulers we are praying for. 

“now and forever.”

The Prayers here and at the end of the Consecration prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Post Communion prayer use this form of Trinitarian doxology. Fine. But there is confusion with the Daily Offices, which have restored the awkward phrase to the “Gloria Patri”: “… as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.” “World without end” was one of Cranmer’s few tin-ear translations, of saecula saeculorum. We are not talking about this world continuing forever but continuity with the coming age or ages. The best solution is to drop “ww/oe” altogether.

Confession and Absolution


“All who truly and earnestly repent…”

I agree with the turn away from archaic second-person pronouns, but something doesn’t sound right here. I think “All you…” would sound better.

Comfortable Words


“Come to me, all who labor”

See comment just above. 

“If anyone sins..”

No problem here with “anyone,” following indefinite pronoun in 1 John 2:1.

Sursum Corda


“We lift them [gulp] to the Lord”

Put the up back in the Sursum! I don’t like gratuitous sex and nudity in movies, and I don’t like gratuitous omissions in the 1979 BCP. Shades of John Robinson’s God who is not “up there” but down on the ground of being. The only way to lift something is up 

“It is just and right so to do.”

Tough call to find the right wording. If I had a ’druther, I might prefer “It is right and proper so to do.” “Just” just has too many political and legal penumbras in contemporary English.

Prayer of Consecration


One of the innovations of Rite II that I like is the opening reference in Prayer A to creation and sin and the fairly strong statement “become subject to evil and death.” I think ACNA is too “traditional” here.

The Fraction


“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us once for all upon the Cross.”

Sigh. Not wrong but unnecessary. Given the liturgical context of entering into the spiritual presence of Christ, I do not think this alternative is necessary. One should simply explain to people that “is sacrificed” is a past progressive tense, by which a once-for-all past event is recollected efficaciously in the present.

Prayer of Humble Access


“our sinful bodies may be made clean… and our souls washed…”

Give ACNA a shout-out! Great to see it back. The gratuitous omission of this synecdoche in 1979 showed a huge lack of literary sense.

Ministration of Communion


“Take and eat this [Drink this] in remembrance that Christ died for you…”

Make both clauses normative. It seems to me it gives the true Anglican balance. As a practical matter, I have found that one can use the longer sentences while administering to about four communicants.

Post-Communion Prayer


“good works as you have prepared for us to walk in.”

Shout-out again! Another case of gratuitous omission in 1979 BCP restored.

General Instructions


Question: Is there a rubric or canon that says HC will be the principal service of the Lord’s Day? I note in the Instructions of the Short Form it implies this. Does this mean that it is not appropriate to have Morning Prayer and Sermon for the main Sunday service?

Filioque


I appreciate the decision by the College of Bishops to appeal for international consultation concerning the filioque clause, and I am concerned that GFCA has not followed through on this matter. I’m not sure it is a good idea to omit the filioque even optionally until there is further consultation.

Short Form


The Short Form of the Communion service appears to mix elements of the 1979 liturgy with the new ACNA liturgy. Question: Is there anything inherently wrong or heretical about the 1979 service? If not, why not simply allow by canon that the 1979 BCP can be used on occasion. This would also help churches that are transitioning in to ACNA.  

Equally important, the ACNA Prayer Book seems not to provide any liturgy like the 1979 “Communion under Special Circumstances” or “Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” for occasions such as hospitals, homes, and retreats. While I think it is important to have “common prayer” as the norm for worship, I also think the liturgy should be adaptable to the various venues that arise in today’s church.


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