I am sure I will one day find another nickname for the little trio comprising Fr Gregory Wassen, Fr Jonathan Munn and your humble (or not humble enough!) servant. Perhaps we might one day organise a little seminar where people interested in it would do some preparatory research, give a little lecture and then have a question and answer session. It is a marvellous method of teaching in universities, and I really found them very useful.
I have just read Fr Jonathan’s newest posting Thank God for Continental Priests! It shows real progress being made in our reflection. I drew his attention to my old article on the Anglican Office and the way Fr Louis Bouyer compared it with the Quiñones Breviary of the 16th century. Quiñones and Cranmer. For my university work on the Roman Missal, I consulted Dom Suitbert Bäumer’s Geschichte des Breviers: Versuch einer quellenmässigen Darstellung der Entwicklung des altkirchlichen u. des römischen Officiums bis auf unsere Tage, Freiburg i. Breisgau, Herder 1895; French translation, R. Biron, Paris 1905. Unfortunately, no one seems to have translated this work into English. Bäumer’s work was particularly germane for questions of the calendar, since the same rules govern the calendar of the Breviary as for the Missal. This book was as important to me as Jungmann’s Missarum Sollemnia and the many secondary references, books and articles I found in Fribourg University Library (no internet in those days!).
I quoted extensively from Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) in my article mentioned above, because there was an aspect to Cranmer’s work that was not purely influenced by Protestant ideology, but constituted a movement parallel with that of the early Counter-Reformation, that of the Quiñones Breviary, rejected by Pope Pius IV in 1558. The Prayer Book Office was unique in the reformed world, in that it retained many of the essential elements of Matins and Lauds, and Vespers and Compline. It has points in common with the Monastic Office, but also with the Cathedral Office of Sarum. The versicles and responses (after the Benedictus or Nunc dimittis are much more prolix than the Kyrie and the Pater noster of the Benedictine offices. There is nothing wrong with that, and several centuries of these Offices have given the Church of England a choral tradition that is unique in the world.
For the frequency of saying the whole Psalter, St Benedict showed moderation in allowing monks a week to say the Psalms rather than a single day as in the former monastic tradition. Cranmer divided the Psalter into thirty days, morning and evening, and no Psalm was repeated during that time. In the monastic and Sarum breviaries, the Miserere is sung each day at Lauds as are the three Laudate psalms (148, 149 and 150). The Quiñones office had its own system of avoiding such repetitions, like at Compline or the Day Hours. Pius X in 1911 adopted a similar plan to lighten the load – since the 1568 Roman Breviary was really heavy going (I have a copy in my library from the Leo XIII era). The real problem was imposing an obligation of the entire Office on each cleric rather than on each cathedral, collegiate or parish church where clerics were expected to attend to their duties as corresponded with their prebendaries. Frankly, the breviary that appeals to me most is the monastic on account of its being light during the day and more intense in the very early morning. This sense of moderation in St Benedict and attempts to reform the office in line with Tradition and pastoral concern are a highly cogent point.
I make no pretence at intellectual eminence or scholarship sublime, but I enjoy reading and learning about things, going into them in depth. I do believe that our Church needs to work towards a certain academic standard, not for all clerics and priests, but for the sake of making progress in furthering our essential purpose of surviving the “bullshit” being hurled at us by “mainstream” churches. Fr Jonathan has read more than he will let on. He is also a talented musician and composer. His advanced education in mathematics gives him a logical rigour that is certainly less developed in my own mind.
Indeed, how do we maintain the standard given by the Prayer Book and not use it purely and simply? Is this not “cafeteria religion” taking out the bits we don’t like. What made the Prayer Book office is the English choral tradition that came down to us through Purcell, the many organists and composers of the Georgian era, and particularly from S.S. Wesley up to Stanford, Bairstow and our own time. Cathedral worship was always set apart from the parish religion of the preaching barns with an old chancel that was almost ashamed of its existence. Without that musical tradition, it is more difficult to make something of the Prayer Book Office. It can be said, or sung to simple plainsong. It is what the Prayer Book most has going for it. The additional material from the English Office Book and the English Hymnal bring something extraordinary to an Office which would fall flat on its face if taken only from the Prayer Book.
The Mass is something else. With his acid wit, Dom Gregory Dix (The Shape of the Litugy) remarked that Protestant Eucharistic rites tended to keep the medieval “accretions” and discard the parts that truly came from the early Church like the so-called Gregorian Canon. The translation of the Kyrie, Gloria, Nicene Creed and Sanctus is sublime. I can understand the Agnus Dei being chopped out, since the Holy Week rites reflect some of the most primitive forms of liturgy. The Gregorian Canon we have in the Anglican Missal is attributed to Miles Coverdale, the same who gave us our glorious Psalter. It is not a part of the Prayer Book, but comes from the same era and humanist culture. What has been done since the end of the nineteenth century is to reconstruct an Anglican Mass from these translations and new translations from the Latin missals in the same style of early modern English. Call it a pastiche if you will, but the Anglican Missal and the translation of the Sarum Missal by Canon Warren give us something that is both Anglican and Catholic.
I have often thought of sessions on the Sarum liturgy, but I have no idea about logistics and organisation, how to get establishment Anglicans, Continuing Anglicans and Roman Catholics under one roof without problems. Also, someone needs to come up with the money and sort out a venue. If it remains purely academic, it might not get people too excited, or even if only the Office is sung together – but Mass, communicatio in sacris, the priest not being recognised to be in valid orders by some? Oh dear! It is something I can live without… I am also realistic enough to know that such a rarefied subject will be of no interest to most Anglicans and Roman Catholics. I believe that the best way is research and writing, doing our own work and then sharing it with the world – as I do with my blog. I would like Sarum to attract more attention, since material is becoming available thanks to the Internet and copies of books we would only be able otherwise to borrow from a library. There is nothing wrong with using the Roman rite as is contained in the Anglican Missal and English Missal, like in the “neo-Gallican” missals of the eighteenth century in France, but Sarum would better express our own spiritual identity. It is no more difficult to learn, and Dr Renwick and I, among others, are working towards making all the books and music available.
Essentially, what the Prayer Book means is the language, a classical and archaic form of English that is our equivalent of Church Slavonic in the Russian Orthodox Church. We are very fortunate to have these texts and translations, a basis that has inspired centuries of sublime music, our literary heritage and English culture. The Germans have Luther’s vernacular, which is not what is now spoken on Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Mass in French nauseates me, since the oldest translations from the eighteenth century were only ever paraphrases, and they contrast with the the sober Latin by their flamboyance and exaggerated expressions. Actually, one of the better translations of the RC Novus Ordo is French, based on a lot of work done in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Mass in modern English has only been slightly improved by Benedict XVI’s version – which might be short-lived given the news about Pope Francis giving Cardinal Sarah a public dressing down! The kind of language we have leaves us stability and beauty, rivalled only by the Latin texts. Anglicanism has always had the wisdom to keep some Latin, especially for musical settings.
I think I have the essential of the issue of Anglican identity. It is in our language and culture, but also our share in the northern French heritage that goes back to the Conquest of 1066. We have progress to make in the Continuing Churches and the ACC. None of us three would point any fingers at anyone. It is simply our responsibility to do the reading and writing for the education of our brethren. That is our positive contribution.