The Pastoral Use of the Prayer Book
The Substance of Plain Talks Given to His Students and Younger Clergy
By William Paret
Bishop of Maryland
Maryland Diocesan Library Baltimore, Md., 1904
[By date this applies primarily to the 1892 American edition of the book of Common Prayer. The principles apply as well to the 1928 edition.]
2 The Daily Prayers
3 The Litany and Holy Communions; How often?
4 Hymns, Anthems, Music
5 The Lessons and Calendar
6 The Manner of Reading
7 About Reading (Continued)
8 The Order for Holy Communion
9 Repelling From Holy Communion
10 The Holy Communion – The Administration
11 The Holy Communion (Continued)
12 Holy Communion – The People’s Part
13 The Creed and offertory
14 The Payer of Consecration
15 The Administration
16 Holy Baptism
17 Private Baptism
18 The Catechism
20 The Confirmation Class
21 The Marriage Service
22 Pastoral Visiting
23 Visitation of the Sick
24 The Burial Service
Among the very pleasant and very restful parts of a Bishop’s work, I count the times of free and affectionate meeting and counsel with students for Holy Orders, Deacons and others of the younger clergy. I recall especially the Friday morning hours when, during several years, eight or ten would be gathered about my study table while I talked to them about the pastoral use of the Prayer Book. Many requests have come to me for the publication of these counsels. But though the substance of them was carefully thought out, they were never written. They were very familiar, very informal, entirely conversational; and while that conversational character made them, I think, more helpful, it makes it very hard to reproduce them. But I yield to the urging and make the attempt.
1 – Introductory
I have been following very closely, young gentlemen, the course of your instruction and study in the Maryland Class of Theology. Besides the special subjects for which I meet you personally, I have, myself, marked out the whole course, and have very closely watched your progress under the others who have so kindly helped by their learning and their patience. But in addition to those more formal lectures and recitations, and as a way of applying them all and bringing them to practical results, I have wanted to bring you together for some more free and informal conversation, some hints and lessons from myself about your future work, about the way in which your knowledge is to be applied in the pastoral life. And for this purpose our talks will be about the Pastoral Use of the Prayer Book. Not about its history, nor about its deeper principles of liturgics; only the question which each one of you will be consciously or unconsciously asking, “How am I going to act, what am I going to do in the services and the pastoral work which are before me?” I shall try to keep very closely to this, and to speak very simply and freely; and I hope that if in anything I am not clearly understood, you will feel at full liberty to ask questions at any time.
Remember, then, it is not the Prayer Book about which I am going to talk, but only the way of using the Prayer Book.
There are very few books, indeed, which contain in themselves instructions for their own use so minute and careful and helpful as those which we find in the Book of Common Prayer. From beginning to end, on almost every page, we find interspersed through the more solid substance or body, most minute directions as to the precise way in which the services are to be held, the devotional acts done, and the words of prayer and teaching spoken. We call those special rules and directions the “Rubrics”. No matter now about the derivation and history of that word; it is not liturgical theory or history, but practical pastoral work about which we are now to speak and think. We meet (not often, but sometimes) clergymen who take pleasure in treating the rubrics as of very little importance; who seem to be annoyed by them as if they were fetters on our lawful liberty; who want to treat them as suggestions rather than as positive laws; who do not feel themselves really governed by them, evade them when they can, and are glad to speak flippantly about them, or to find occasion for disregarding them.
I recall one incident at a public meeting where certain rubrical questions came under discussion, and one enthusiastic speaker said, “Oh, these rubrics! they worry me, they fret me, they choke me.” And as he accompanied these last words with an expressive gesture, clutching at his throat, if I had not been restrained by my position as presiding, I wanted to quote for him,
“No thief e’er felt the halter draw,
With good opinion of the law.” –
Or the same principle as told by St. Paul, “The law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.” Laws, whether divine, civil, or ecclesiastical, are not fetters on liberty. They are helps to liberty, and protection for it. The rubrics are like the fences by the road side. They mark out the safe, broad path, and help to keep it safe; and they protect private rights from the incursions of the unruly. A man can, if he be willful, rush against them and take pleasure in breaking them. But the wise man will gladly accept their guidance and protection.
If I were walking over the Niagara suspension bridge, I would feel a great deal safer and keep the right line better, for a good fence on either side, and I am very sure that I should not be fretting against them or trying to break them.
The rubrics are the accumulation and careful record of the eighteen centuries of the Church’s experience. You will find careful obedience to them, yes, minute obedience, your truest liberty and your best safety from your own fancies or willfulness, and from the fault-findings of others.
A few words about the Preface to the Prayer Book, but remember, not historically, but only as it bears upon our pastoral use. You will note the statement towards the end of the Preface, that “this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline or worship; or further than local circumstances may require.” It is important that we should know just what that means. Some have argued (and acted on it) that it gives them very large liberty to go back and use things in the Church of England Prayer Book which are not found in ours. If, for example, in our Prayer Book something has been omitted (though not distinctly prohibited) which was in the English Book, but which in their opinion involves something very important in doctrine, discipline or worship, they act on their own judgment of that importance, and say, “The Church did not mean to depart from the Church of England in this important respect and we are at liberty therefore to continue the use in our Churches here.” Or in some matter of very little comparative importance, involving no essential or even great question of doctrine, discipline or worship, they in their private judgment can see no “local circumstances” which required that it should have been omitted or changed. They argue, “the Prayer Book says it was not intended to change further than local circumstances require; but we can see no such local circumstances, and, therefore, we may assume that no change was here intended, and may act as if it had not been made.”
I want to show you that such argument and action are not sound or fair.
In taking the Church of England Prayer Book as a foundation, and on that and out of that providing and enacting a Prayer Book for the Church in America, this Church did not continue in use the English Prayer Book, but put another in its place. The Preface expressly distinguishes between “this,” and “the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.” In making changes the Church acted upon and asserted the claim to “alter, abridge, enlarge, amend, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people.” If then, in enacting her own Prayer Book, this National Church has in any instance altered (by change of language or direction), abridged (by omitting), enlarged (by adding), or amended, we are bound in honor and truth not to say, “I can see no reason of ‘expediency’ or ‘local circumstances,’ and therefore I am free to act as if no such alteration or omission had been made.”
The sound, fair argument is rather this: “Here is a change actually made by the Church’s authority (by altering, abridging or enlarging). But the Church declares that it makes no change involving any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship. However important to me, therefore, this particular thing, I must accept the Church’s decision that there is no breach of essentials in conforming myself to the change so made; and I must obey.”
And on the other hand the very lack of importance in certain changes is urged as a plea for doing as one pleases. And here the wrong argument would be, “The Church did not intend to depart from the Church of England further than ‘the edification of the people’ or ‘local circumstances’ require. But I see no such ‘local circumstances,’ and I think it would be much more to edification to go back to the English rule, and I will do so.”
The right argument will be, “The Church did not make any change, unless required for ‘edification’ or by ‘local circumstances’. But the Church did omit, alter or add in this instance; whether I see it or not, then, the Church has decided that these changes were required for edification or by local circumstances. And as a loyal Churchman, I yield my private opinion to that decision.”
Young men, be Americans, I beg you. You are none the less Catholic, you are none the less Anglican, because you hold strongly to the ancient, Catholic, and always Anglican principle of the independence of National Churches.
2 – The Daily Prayers.
Referring to page vii of the Prayer Book, whose title is “Concerning the Service of the Church,” I want to speak to you today on what we commonly name as “the Daily Service,” including Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. I want you to have some clear idea of your own obligation and duty in this respect, and the purpose and intention of the Church concerning it.
First of all, in our American Prayer Book there is no distinct and absolute command that every clergyman must every day say those services. There is such a distinct law of the Church of England, that every clergyman, not hindered by other duties or important hindrances, must say the Morning and Evening Prayer every day; in the church if he has pastoral charge, and in private if he has no such charge. But in the change made from the English Prayer Book, the Church in this country left out that rubric. What was the intention and effect of that change? Plainly it was not to prevent the daily service in Church, nor was it to prohibit or censure the private saying, but only to take away the absoluteness of the obligation; to leave larger discretion to the minister. It is not now said “you must;” but the provision remains for doing it, and the Daily Service stands as the general appointment, as in the Church’s idea desirable. The Prayer Book in its entireness gives us the high ideal of full worship. There are parishes and churches where that full ideal is possible and practicable; in institutions and seminaries, in the strong, permanent work of a city church, for instance. But in the poorer parts, in the country, among people widely scattered, and in missionary work, it is often impossible to gather a congregation in church with any such regularity. And the clergyman, keeping the Church’s full ideal always before him, must use his own discretion in his practical work. That ideal of full worship is the Morning Prayer and the Evening Prayer daily; the Litany every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday; the Holy Communion on every Sunday and Holy Day, and at other times. Work towards that ideal; lead your people up to it as you can. But do not say or teach that it is the people’s duty to come to the daily service, nor reprove them if they fail to do so. Even the English law does not make it an obligation for the people. It makes it the minister’s duty to say the Service, and directs him to say it in the church, if he has a church, and then to give notice by the ringing of the bell, that “the people who are so minded may attend. It is a privilege for the congregation, an opportunity, a blessing. Persuade them to love it, to use it, but do not make it a law. And do not give it up because only a few attend. Do not make that fearfully common mistake of measuring the value and blessing of a service by the size of the congregation. Our Lord meant it when He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is poor faith in Him to doubt it. I have heard of a clergyman’s saying, “Brethren, I find only two of you here today, and I will omit the services.” It was shameful! I have heard persons sneer at a clergyman’s saying the service with only one or two, or at his praying alone in his Church. Don’t be ashamed of God, nor ashamed of praying to him. Pray for your people, if you cannot pray with them. We are beginning to boast of having a working Church. But when I see the churches with their doors fast locked on week days, I ask myself whether the Lord does not want a praying Church also.
And if you cannot yourself say the Morning and Evening Prayer in church, let me enjoin upon you the habit of saying it (praying it, rather) in private. If you do it in earnest it will not be a formality. It will not check your longer and free devotions. It will help to their constancy and fervor and fullness. Thousands of clergymen have found and are finding the power of these Daily Services in keeping up the prayerfulness of their daily lives. Some of the greatest examples of fervent private prayer grew to that fervor by the help of the prayers of the Church. Andrewes, Herbert, Bishop Wilson, Ken, John Wesley, are but a few of those who are great patterns of fervent private prayer; and all of them were helped to that by the unbroken daily worship of the Church.
In our own day, alas! in the hurry and whirl and din of Church business and organization and work, many a clergyman finds his prayers almost crowded out. Believe me that if you form the habit of saying the Daily Service in private, the prayerful habit and prayerfulness will form around it.
“The Order for Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, are distinct services, and may be used either separately or together; provided that no one of these services be habitually disused.”
Looking back about fifty years, to the time when my own work in the Holy Ministry began, I cannot remember that I ever at that time on a Sunday heard the Morning Prayer, unless in immediate connection with the Litany, and what was called the Ante-Communion. It seemed the imperative tradition or unwritten law that they must go together. It would have been counted a serious breach of good Churchmanship to have separated them and said them at different hours. It seemed like a mutilation and the old-fashioned people would have been horrified. The three services, it was thought, must be joined in one. Even so late as the first year of my own Episcopate, when on a very hot Sunday morning, I suggested to the Rector that I would omit the Litany, hoping to have it said later, and put the Confirmation Service in its place, I was met by a protest almost indignant, that it was the custom of Maryland, and of all my predecessors in the Bishopric, to give the people the full service. The people would think it an innovation. I yielded, but that same clergyman is wiser now and gladly accepts the permission which this rule of separation seems to give. I say “seems” to give, because the liberty already existed. There was no law of the Church which required them to be said in immediate connection. So far as the rubrics were concerned, one was just as free then in this respect as now. It was the power of an almost cast-iron custom fastened upon the rubrics; an unwritten law more rigidly observed than the written law.
We will think a little about the force of custom, the measure of obligation in unwritten usages, and your own practice with regard to them. These old customs, these long-established unwritten laws, though not obligatory, deserve very careful respect. If you find any such in a parish where you are placed, and they be not in violation of the Prayer Book, be slow about disturbing them. Some of your people may magnify them into matters of conscience, and so prove their consciences unenlightened and weak. But we are expressly commanded to have patience with weak consciences and not needlessly offend them. Be very slow and careful in making changes in old parochial usages. Do not force them upon your people, however wise it may seem to you. I remember an instance where it had been the settled usage in a large church to have the Holy Communion only at the midday Service on the first Sunday of the month. A new rector earnestly wished to have it on every Sunday and every Holy Day, as the Prayer Book suggests and almost appoints. Knowing that the parish had been divided by some sore party questions, he felt the ground carefully, and found in some of his best parochial advisers grave fears that the new custom would awaken again the differences which seemed to be dying. So, important as the change seemed to him, he waited; alluded in occasional sentences in his sermons to the Apostolic customs; added line to line and precept to precept on the subject; till at last, in a sermon on the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, he said: “Dear friends, if those early Christians in the days of first fervor and miracles needed the grace which they received in the frequent reception of the Holy Communion, surely the Christians of today need it quite as much. If those inspired Apostles needed that blessing every week to strengthen them in their great work, surely the uninspired ministers of this day must need it more. I need it. I feel the need. I want in my work all the grace I can gain. So without making a law for you, I intend hereafter to administer and receive the Holy Communion every Sunday, and every Holy Day. Some of you (they may be few) will feel the same need, and I invite you to come. Some of you may not feel the need, or like the change from your own old usage. Such need not come. Let there be full liberty. Let each do as his or her own conscience bids, and let none judge another’s conscience. This frequent Communion I mean as a privilege and not an obligation.”
You almost laugh at the thought of such carefulness in these days; but those were times of tinder and powder, when a spark would make an explosion. There are old-fashioned parishes still; there are still some extravagantly conservative people; but their views, if not always the best, have a right to be considered. Don’t force your people into even necessary changes, but lead them.
Permission to use separately the Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the office for Holy Communion is limited by a condition: “Provided that no one of these Services be habitually disused. What is “habitual disuse?” It is not easy to answer. The Prayer Book does not define it exactly, and we can therefore only suggest and advise. Now the use should, so far as possible, conform to the ideal of the Church, obeying strictly as to times and frequency wherever, as in a strong parish, strict obedience is possible; and under the conditions of a very scattered and feeble parish or in missionary charge, keeping the ideal always in mind and coming as near to it as it may be. That standard of the Church’s ideal of worship is plainly given in the Prayer Book. As to the Morning Prayer, its very title is “Daily Morning Prayer,” though some seem to read “Sunday Morning Prayer,” or “Occasional Morning Prayer.” The Calendar gives the table of “lessons for every day in the year.” It is written, “The Psalter shall be read through once every month.” This then is the law, to be fully obeyed where obedience is possible; the ideal to be aimed at where full obedience is not possible. And in my opinion the clergyman having a Church where a few, if not more than the two or three, would generally come, who, not hindered by necessary duties, fails to give them the blessing which the Church provides for them, and substitutes for the constant round the weekly or occasional prayers only, such an one would be “habitually disusing” the Daily Morning Prayer.
3 – The Litany and Holy Communion; How often?
The Litany is appointed “to be said on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.” There are churches now where the Litany is very rarely used, and omitted for very light reasons; some, where it is said; even on Sundays, only three or four times in a year, and where on Wednesdays and Fridays it is never heard. There may be special conditions which would call for an occasional omission on these days, but occasional omission should have very strong reason, and not grow into general omission with only occasional use. The Litany may now be said not only in connection with the Morning Prayer, or by itself, but in connection with the Evening Prayer; and we wish that usage would grow. It would lighten our Evening Services and be very attractive to the strangers who come at such times. Nor is its use confined to Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. It may be used on any day. And the clergymen who are sometimes asking for a third Service or something for a special occasion, might find in this all they need. I wish we might often have the Evening Prayer in the afternoon with the children, as introducing the Sunday School or Catechism, and a strong preaching at night introduced by the Litany. Try it sometimes. At the meetings of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, lasting for a month, the Litany was used daily at the opening of every business meeting, and all felt its fitness and its power.
But while it may be said every day, the Prayer Book certainly implies that it should be said on the three days named, and habitual breaking of that rule, willful or careless, or unnecessary departure from the standard of frequency which the Prayer Book gives, would, in my opinion, be “habitual disuse”.
And as to the Holy Communion, while there are no words which command a definite measure of frequency, there is something almost approaching it. The provision of a Service for the Holy Communion with distinct Epistle and Gospel for every Sunday or Holy Day, very clearly shows the Church’s intention and wish. The provision of special Prefaces to be used on Easter day, and seven days after; on Christmas day, and seven days after; these and other like appointments come very near to a requirement. True, provision is made and direction is given in certain rubrics, for cases where the Holy Communion is not administered on those days; but the language is such as to imply that these cases are exceptional and it is commanded that “upon the Sundays and Holy Days, though there be no sermon or Communion, there shall be said all that is appointed at the Communion, unto the end of the Gospel, concluding with the Blessing.” This is the warrant and command for using, when thus necessary, what is familiarly, but wrongly, called the Ante-Communion Service. There is no such Service known to the Prayer Book, and I hope you young men will conform to the Church’s own language. It is a part of the office of Holy Communion, and distinctly so named; and it is commanded that even if for some good reason the Holy Communion be not fully celebrated, it shall be kept before the minds of the people by the use of certain parts of the Service.
I grant, then, that it is not always possible to have it with the frequency for which the Church has provided; but I am sure that the general usage could come far nearer to it than it does. When you have put upon you that solemn responsibility, the pastoral care of souls, remember that the Holy Communion is a blessing which your people need, not fitfully and rarely, but regularly and often. The Lord provides it for them. Think of it not as a service to be performed, but as a Grace to be administered. And think seriously of two words in the Prayer for Christ’s Church Militant, where we ask for ourselves, and for all Bishops and other Ministers, that they may “rightly and duly” administer the Holy Sacraments; “rightly,” that is, as Christ has commanded, and with the fullness of reverent order which this Church has set forth; and “duly,” that is, at due time, in due frequency, with due regularity, so often and so regularly that no needy soul may lose its blessing.
Perhaps, young men, all this may seem to you like being particular about little things; but the Holy Communion is not a little thing. No part of God’s worship is a little thing. Punctuality, time, order, reverence, are not little things in God’s sight. It was God himself who commanded and established in His earlier worship the law of an unbroken round of earnest worship, the temple doors never shut, the everyday morning and evening Sacrifice. We do not have the same forms, but we should have the same or greater fidelity of earnest worship. Do not leave these appointments to your own fancy and convenience, nor to the people’s whims. Do not let even the modern hurry of what is called “Church Work” interfere with them. Your Church work will be best done and most effective when it is constantly “Sanctified by the Word of God, and by Prayer.”
SPECIAL SERVICES come next, i.e., Services for which no forms are provided. Note two things: the freedom given, and the limits or restrictions to that freedom. Freedom defined and protected is real liberty. Freedom undefined is lawlessness. If you use the liberty, be sure to observe the conditions, and be very slow to institute or multiply Special Services. Be sure they are really needed. Nowadays almost every guild, or circle, or society, wants its own peculiar services and forms. In most cases it would be far better to ask them to come to Morning or Evening Prayer or Litany, and be content with that. They will find enough to meet all their needs, and it will help them to see and feel that their work is not separate from, but part of the grand work of the Church. It will help to keep our Church work a unity instead of breaking it into little portions. I have already spoken of such use of the Litany by the Lambeth Conference; and if this body of one hundred and fifty Bishops, studying and praying for all the diversified relations of the Church in all the world, found that they needed no special prayers, that the Prayer Book, as it is, met all their needs, surely our smaller or parochial societies might helpfully do the same. I know I have sometimes given offence because I refused permission for special services when it had been asked. Bring your organization into parish unity by drawing them to the regular Church Service, and do not have weak substitutes to please their fancy.
Yet, needs do come; a third or fourth Service, perhaps, where the Morning and Evening Prayer, and Litany, and Holy Communion have all been held. But why not sometimes repeat one of these services? Churches now sometimes have even three or four distinct Celebrations of Holy Communion. Why not Evening Prayer twice? Not twice with the very same congregation, but if said at four or five, with one set of worshippers, why not again at eight, with another set? Try it.
And to help you to see how sufficient the ordinary services are, the freedom for special services is limited by the condition that the Morning and Evening Prayer are to be used the same day. Not till you have fully used what the Church has appointed, may you pass to something else. I need not dwell upon the other conditions, so clearly stated, that unless the Bishop provides and approves other forms, you are limited to what is contained in the Bible and the Prayer Book, and that even for that you must have the Bishop’s approval. Do not hesitate to ask it, if necessary. But do not run to him for unnecessary things. Do not ask for a form for blessing an altar, or a font, or a pulpit, or vases, or candlesticks. The best dedication of them will be in their right use in holy things.
4 – Hymns, Anthems, Music.
We come next to the rubric about the use of Hymns and Anthems; the use of music in the Services. Taking rubrics and canons together, both the authority and the duty of the minister are made very clear. He is to appoint the hymns or anthems. He is commanded to give direction concerning the tunes to be sung, and especially to repress all light and unseemly music. The offertory, hymn or anthem must be, it is written, “under the direction of the minister.” And it is but right that he should have this full authority, since music is so important an element in public worship, so helpful to true devotion if wisely used, so unhelpful and harmful otherwise. Please note that it is not the minister’s right, or his privilege, but his duty so to use authority. It is not that he “may,” but he “shall”. All the responsibility for the right and helpful rendering of the worship is laid on him. I urge you, when you may have parochial charge, to recognize that duty and not to shirk the responsibility. But remember, authority here, as in other cases, may be used helpfully and healthfully and pleasantly, or harmfully and ungenerously. The best exercise of authority is that which is least noticed, which makes itself effective by its gentleness and wins acceptance instead of compelling it. If yourself thorough in the knowledge and practice of music, keep the ability in the background. Let it be felt, not seen. You can have all the control you need by your relations and influence with organist and singers, apart from the time of service but avoid being conspicuous in the music in time of service. I have seen a clergyman pass outside the rail and take his seat at the organ, going back to the prayers; or going down in like manner to stand with the singers and take one of the parts in an anthem. Don’t do it. Good music is indeed desirable, but fussiness is harmful, and reverence in prayers is more important. Do not let any action of yours make your congregation think that you lack confidence in organist or singers. Uphold their delegated authority during the service. Advise them, if you will, elsewhere. Perhaps you have, like myself, no special musical ability. Whether you have or not, I think the true secret is that rector and organist and choir leader be trustful and loyal to each other. A loyal organist will do anything that a reasonable rector wishes. Again, do not pass over your duty and responsibility to a committee of the vestry or a single member of it. It always ends in trouble. When I became Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, in Washington, the vestry, in organizing after the first Easter election, proceeded to appoint a music committee. My voice and manner indicated surprise and one of them at once explained, saying: “Do not be alarmed, our music committee is to uphold the rector, not to interfere with him. We always choose two persons who know nothing at all about music, and our first direction is that they do not meddle with the music.” “What do they do then?” I asked. “Why, our music has two relations: its musical and devotional side, and its business side. It is with this business side that the committee has to do. Besides, there do come little frictions, and the rector may ask sometimes to have a committee come in between and save him some trouble.” That committee was indeed very helpful. So I sum up. You have a sacred duty and responsibility for the music as part of the worship. You have corresponding authority. Use it, but use it lovingly and with common sense, and you will not have much trouble.
Some of you have asked my advice about the Choral service. It is certainly lawful, but some things lawful are not always expedient. In England it is almost universal, in the smaller churches and in the country, as well as in the larger churches of the city. And there I have almost always found it helpful to devotion, even when, as being no singer myself, I could take my part only almost inaudibly. And it was helpful because it was thoroughly congregational, because it was not taken out of the mouths of the people by the appointed singers. Everybody sang. The same pointing of canticles and Psalter was almost universal, and all were familiar with it. The chants and tunes were simple and well known. But I must say that in this country the choral service seems quite different. Practically, the appointed singers do take it away from the people. Even in the churches where it is best done, very few of the people do more than listen. There is no generally accepted dividing of words. One parish has one division, and another a different one. And the chant tunes are not so simple as in England, and are continually being changed. The aim seems too often to be excellence in musical art and skill rather than earnestness and unity of devotion.
My advice then is, first, be slow to change in either way. If in authority where the choral service is already established, do not give it up on account of your own preference or prejudice. The worship is not for your satisfaction, but for your people’s use and benefit. Consider them. If not helpful to congregational worship, try to make it so. Get your organist with you; convert him to your wishes and you will succeed.
If the question be as to introducing it where not in use, again I say, be very careful. If well convinced that it will help to heartier worship, it may be well; provided, first, you can find persons skilled in music to help you effectively. (I know few things more unhelpful than a weak and unskilled attempt at a choral service, and I have heard such.) And provided, second, that you have your people with you. Old usages and ways must be considered. Prejudices, even unreasonable prejudices, must be dealt with tenderly. The best choral service imaginable would be dearly bought at the cost of parish strife.
But whether you have choral service or not, do not turn your churches into concert halls. Do not advertise “musical attractions”. Do not make the music the chief thing. I have seen churches with grand organs and costly choirs and cultivated voices, where the richness of the music obtruded itself conspicuously, overloaded the worship, and kept devotion in the background. The Church for worship; the concert room for musical display.
5 – The Lessons and Calendar.
About the lessons. As you study the calendar you will see that while exact appointment seems to be made for every Sunday, every Holy Day, every day in the year, yet ample provision is made for deviating from that strict routine, when necessary or desirable. There is not a day in the whole year in which, under the rubrics, some departure from the appointed lessons would not be permissible. Let me urge you, however, to be very sparing in your use of such liberties. There is something grandly helpful in the continuity of Holy Scripture; not only in the succession of thought and teaching in each distinct book (which was included in the inspiration), but even in the order and collocation of the books, which was not inspired, but in which, I feel assured, the wisdom of the Church was divinely guided. The Church in the Lectionary has taken pains for “rightly dividing the Word of Truth;” yet I have known clergymen, instead of keeping to that helpful continuity, to press their liberty to extremes and give their people lessons taken haphazardly. Let me remind you then of another important word used in these rubrics of permission. I mean the word “discretion;” “such devotions as he shall at his discretion select from this book;” “such lessons as he shall think fit in his discretion.” I think that sometimes in his mind and action the minister understands by that word “discretion” his fancy, whim, impulse, wish. But discretion implies consideration, thoughtfulness, careful examination. Do not leave anything, I beg you, to the impulse of the moment. Study all beforehand.
Do not abandon the Psalter for the day just as you come to it, because it is long, and take a haphazard selection because it is short. I was once at a service where the minister (who had not read his lessons beforehand, as I urge you to do) turned to the first lesson, glanced at it a moment, suddenly opened the book at another place and read one of the very familiar chapters from Isaiah. After service I asked the reason. He said: “I saw at a glance that the appointed lesson was not very helpful, only something about the wars of Israel; I like Isaiah better.” One of the congregation afterwards said to me, “Our Rector must think he has a dry congregation, for he gives us ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth’ ten or twelve times a year.” Do not let your “discretion” become indiscretion. Be careful in the use of your liberties. Let the “shall” of the rubrics express to you the Church’s clearer and fuller purposes and will; and the “may” indicate only occasional possibilities, to be used with very careful “discretion,” and for valid reasons.
In answer to your questions about the use of the special lessons for Lent and for the Rogation days and the Ember days, I give not decision but advice. Those, though called “Proper Lessons,” are not obligatory as the other proper lessons are. The head line says, not “they shall,” but “they may be used instead of those appointed in the Calendar.” If it were my privilege to serve in a parish where the daily service was maintained, I am sure I should not interrupt the grand continuity by which almost all of Holy Scripture is in order brought before us. I would hold fast to the regular Calendar. But if in a Church which had no daily service throughout the year, that argument of continuity would not hold, and I would by all means use the proper lessons permitted for those special seasons. The Calendar of Lessons looks to some much like an Almanac, and they treat it as of little more value. But to some it is a guide to daily devotion, and a help to the continuous, thoughtful, Christian life. Perhaps I can best here answer a question asked by one of you. “What shall we do about the black letter Holy Days?” I do not find any such days. Remember it is the Prayer Book of this American Church we are studying, not that of the Church of England. And there are no “black letter days” at all in its Calendar. They were not even in the English Calendar of the Prayer Book of Edward VI; none at all in the first of King Edward; four only in the second. They were then deliberately stricken out from the observance and worship of the Church, and those which now stand in the English Prayer Book were put there later in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, but with no observance of worship appointed for them. For this reinsertion, Wheatley well gives the reasons, as follows:
“The reasons why the names of these Saints’ days and Holy days were resumed into the calendar are various. Some of them being retained upon account of our Courts of justice, which usually make their returns on these days, or else upon the days before or after them, which are called in the writs, Vigil, Fest, or Crast, as in Vigil. Martin; Fest. Martin; Crast. Martin, and the like. Others are probably kept in the calendar for the sake of such tradesmen, handicraftsmen, and others, as are wont to celebrate the memory of their tutelar Saints; as the Welshmen do of St. David, the shoemakers do of St. Crispin, etc. And again, churches being in several places dedicated to some one or other of these Saints, it has been the usual custom in such places to have Wakes or Fairs kept upon those days; so that the people would probably be displeased if, either in this, or the former case, their favorite Saint’s name should be left out of the calendar. Besides, the histories which were writ before the Reformation do frequently speak of transactions happening upon such a holy day, or about such a time, without mentioning the month; relating one thing to be done at Lammas-tide, and another about Martinmas, etc., so that were these names quite left out of the calendar we might be at loss to know when several of these transactions happened. But for this and the foregoing reasons our second reformers under Queen Elizabeth (though all those days had been omitted in both books of King Edward VI excepting St. George’s Day, Lammas Day, St. Laurence and St. Clement, which were in his second book) thought convenient to restore the names of them to the calendar, though not with any regard of being kept holy by the Church. For this they thought prudent to forbid, as well upon account of the great inconveniency brought into the Church in the times of Popery by the observation of such a number of holy days, to the great prejudice of laboring and trading men, as by reason that many of those Saints they then commemorated were oftentimes men of none of the best characters. Besides, the history of those Saints and the accounts they gave of their other holy days, were frequently found to be feigned and fabulous.”
And so, dropped deliberately in the two Prayer Books of King Edward, and restored (not for worship, but for business convenience and local usages) in the time of Queen Elizabeth, they were again deliberately cut out by this National Church in adapting the Prayer Book to our American uses. We have no need of them; no court or business usages requiring them as dates; no local usages dependent on them. Look again at the preface to our own Prayer Book. In these changes there is no departing from the Church of England in any essential point, but “only as local circumstances may require.” Local circumstances made those “black letter days” unhelpful for us, took away the need for them, and required the change. If you would be loyal to your own Church, and true to your Ordination promise, “to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States,” keep the days you find in our own Calendar and let the English Calendar alone. We do not need King Charles or King Edward or St. Chad or St. Dunstan in our American Calendar, nor do we need the fantasies and of ten unsound traditions which some other names recall. As for Corpus Christi and All Soul’s Day, they are not even on the English list, but taken bodily from Rome. Let them all alone.
Certain sentences at the beginning of Morning Prayer are marked for special seasons or days, Advent, Christmas, etc. You are not bound to use them. Note that they are marked off from the other sentences, before and after, which were in the Prayer Book before its recent revision. I have never used one of them myself; I do not think I ever will. They seem to me like a patch of new cloth on an old garment. The tone is entirely different. What follows them at once is confession of sin. The old sentences invited to confession, to approaching God in humility. It seems to me incongruous to say, “Awake, awake, put on thy beautiful garments,” and at once, “Let us humbly confess our sins.” You may use the new ones if you wish, but I hope you will not wish it very often.
6 – The Manner of Reading.
It is a good place here to say something about the manner of reading. Let it be so that the people can hear and understand and follow; therefore, with full voice, distinctly, not too rapidly. In the English Prayer Book it is commanded to be “with a loud voice;” “distinctly” is the word used in another rubric. It was a protest against the habit prevailing before the Reformation, when priests “pattered” and “mumbled” the prayers, gabbling them over hurriedly as if they were a mere formal service to be rendered by the priest for the people. With our Prayer Book it is for priest and people together, the priest leading the people, but the people accompanying and doing their part. It is not that simply the priest offers his prayers to God; the people are to pray, and any reading so indistinct, or so hurried, that they cannot follow both with mind and voice will be wrong. But there is an opposite error of theatrical or bombastic reading; some describe it as declaiming or preaching the prayers, with very marked changes of tone and emphasis. You may avoid both by remembering and observing one or two things. The prayers are to be read for yourself and for the people. Put your own soul into them; mean them; feel them; let the honest reverence and devoutness of your own heart speak out, and there will be neither the haste and lifelessness of mere formality, nor the artificial seeking for effect. And it will be easy by habit to combine with your own full devoutness the remembrance that you are also leading the people, helping them to pray. Very rarely indeed is the service said too slowly. Very often indeed it is said too fast, especially in those parts which, like the Confession and the Creeds and Lord’s Prayer, are to be said in concert. Note that such parts have a special manner of printing. The capital letters are used not by the ordinary rules, but for the purpose of breaking the words into marked clauses like the bars in music, to keep the voices together. I often find these said so rapidly and continuously that I am almost out of breath in trying to keep up with the reader. Study to separate these clauses by a distinct pause, and you will soon have a fuller and clearer responding.
Another help to right reading will be found in very exactly observing and marking the punctuation as given in the certified editions. A great many in reading, run over commas and semicolons, and make their own pauses chiefly by their own capacity for breathing, or by the monotony of equal length divisions without regard to the meaning. Shut yourself in your study sometimes and practice a few of the prayers or collects deliberately, with exact observance of punctuation. Try the first exhortation, “Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us,” etc. Read the opening sentence down to the word “wickedness,” as it is commonly read in a single unbroken breath, and then read it again and put in the three commas as they are given. You will see the difference, and a little such practice will help you greatly.
There are different methods of using the Gloria Patri, when it is said instead of being sung. In some churches minister and people together say the whole of it. In some, when the Psalm ends with a verse of an odd number, and so is said by the minister, the people at once begin the Gloria. I wish we had a uniform usage, and it seems to be suggested where the Gloria appears in the Litany. It is plainly indicated there that the first portion should be said by the minister and the second part by the people.
The Te Deum is now almost always turned over to the organist and choir; far too often, in my judgment. The Prayer Book says it is to be “said or sung”. I plead for a little less singing and a little more saying. There are musical renderings to the Te Deum, which are not only musically rich, but grandly expressive of devotion and helpful to it. And I hear a great many renderings which are merely musical (often music bad in conception and in rendering), with the devotion forgotten. I do not like to have people say after a service, “What beautiful music!” A good critic in such matters wrote that he had heard and enjoyed the grandest choir music in England, but he never knew the real devotional power of music till at the opening of the Vatican Council he heard the Te Deum given by six or eight thousand male voices in unison, with one of the simple Gregorian tunes. Try reading the Te Deum sometimes, even with a large congregation, and see how the power of that great Creed of Praise is brought out.
Before leaving the subject of Church music and the minister’s duty with regard to it, there are some other points which deserve our notice; for under the head of music we must include not only the sounds but the words and their meaning. And this is the point in which not only is the minister’s absolute authority most strongly affirmed, but in which the real exercise of that authority is a sacred and imperative duty. After direction from the minister as to the general character of the tunes, avoiding florid display, and studying harmony with the tone of the services for the season and day, and devotional helpfulness rather than sensuous satisfaction, the music as to details may be largely left to a competent organist, or leader, who understands and is loyal to the minister’s wishes. Yet careful watchfulness as to words is needed here. Even good music may help or harm right devotion. I have heard more than once a Te Deum chosen by a good choir leader, which instead of the three-fold “Holy,” repeated that word four times, by soprano, tenor and bass separately, and then a strong fourth “Holy” in full chorus. It was good perhaps in mere musical effect, but it robbed the very heart, and destroyed the grand meaning of that sublime hymn of faith and praise to the Blessed Trinity. But the selection of the words ought never to be left to the choice or fancy of leader or choir. For general soundness in doctrine the Church has provided safeguards, effective safeguards, if only the rules of rubrics and canons be exactly obeyed. Those rules command that nothing be sung in church unless in the words of the Bible, or of the Prayer Book, or of the authorized hymns. And the duty of strictly maintaining those safeguards is expressly laid upon the minister. For failure to fulfill this duty, things are of ten sung as offertory anthems which would be absurd if they were not so irreverent. I have heard as an offertory anthem a sentimental love ditty, without a word or suggestion of love or faith or praise to God. I have heard even at a service for the consecration of a bishop a battle song taken from a popular opera which could have been sung by a heathen as well as by a Christian. I have heard false teaching sung, and words absolutely in opposition to the tone of the day’s worship and to the sermon just preached; all taken without much regard to the words, merely because the musical rendering was “sweet,” or pleasing. More wrong ideas of religion are sung into people’s minds than many sermons could preach into them. Watch your anthems then, and see that the words are first, and the sound subsidiary to the sense. Let me repeat that you will find strict obedience to the Church’s wisdom in rubrics and canons about music your very best safety.
And I beg you, announce your anthems; read the words, so that the people may know what is being sung. Very of ten as I stand in the chancel, with no way of knowing what the anthem or hymn may be, St. Paul’s words about an unknown tongue came back to me with a little change (1 Cor. 14): “Except ye utter words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is being sung? For ye shall sing into the air. For if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that singeth a barbarian, and he that singeth shall be a barbarian unto me. ... I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” It may be very rich music, but St. Paul seems to think it barbarism, unless the music is fitted to and helps to bring out the meaning of clear words and thoughts.
I like to hear hymns also announced in the old-fashioned way, by reading at least the first two lines. I am sometimes at services where the hymns are not announced at all, but the people are thought to be sufficiently informed by a glance at the hymn board or tablet; or they are given out merely by the number. But there are old eyes and weak eyes among the people, which cannot read the board, or cannot turn to and read readily even in the book. And a few lines of some familiar hymn would be grateful to them. What a power full congregational singing was among the early Methodists! What a power it still is among them and others! But how sadly are we losing it by studying rather for the stately dignity of worship than for its kindling enthusiasm. St. Paul had kindly thought for those whom he called “unlearned,” as he asks, If we speak (or sing) in an unknown tongue, and one unlearned (or unfamiliar with our ways and words) come in, how shall he that is unlearned be able to give the Amen of his assent to what we are doing? Do not be afraid of helping the people to understand, by giving notices and explanations. There may be, and always ought to be, strangers present. For their sake break up sometimes this cold, machine-like regularity. Get near to your people; get them near to you. There may be excess and too great familiarity in such announcements, yet I have seen services so stiff that the rector resented, almost as a violation of rubrics or canons, the few words which a Bishop would speak in gentle direction to those whom he was about to confirm, as to their attitude and behavior during the service.
7 – About Reading (continued).
There is a break in the order where, after the prayer for the President, certain prayers shall be omitted when the Litany is said, and may be omitted when the Holy Communion is immediately to follow. So far as it relates to the Holy Communion it is a new usage, and neither clergy nor people seem fully to understand it. When we stop at that point to begin the Litany, the custom is universal not to put in “the grace of our Lord,” but either with or without a hymn, to pass at once to the first sentence of the Litany. But I find that when, instead of the Litany, the Order for Holy Communion is then to be taken up, most clergymen mark the pause by saying, “The grace of our Lord,” etc. It is wrong. That is one of the prayers which the rubric directs us there to omit. And there is no reason why the same method should not be followed both for Litany and Holy Communion. If at first it seems awkward because your people are not expecting it, by the third or fourth time they will have learned it. And do not put in there your own “Amen”. The printing plainly shows that it is for the people alone.
A little more about the “Amen.” There is a rule to govern its use. When it is printed in the same type with the prayer, it is to be said by those, and those only, who say the prayer, whether it be minister only, or minister and people together. When printed in different type, it is a response. So, in the Confession, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, etc., the printing shows that the “Amen” is to be said by all; after the Absolution and after all ordinary prayers, by the people only; after the Gloria Patri, when used responsively, by the people only; after the sentence of Baptism and the reception with the Sign of the Cross, by the minister only; after the sentence of Confirmation and the sentence of Ordination, by the Bishop only. All this is, as I said, very plainly indicated by the printing. It is a wrong usage, but a very common one, for the minister to put his own emphatic “Amen” at the close of a service, or at some marked pause, like a spoken period, a signal, saying to his people, “There! it is done.” Avoid it.
But shall we say “Ay-men,” or “Ah-men?” Little as the point seems, I have known it to disturb consciences (or fancies) and almost wreck a congregation. In singing, no one objects to “Ah-men,” but in my own youth, save in singing, I never so heard it, and I confess it cost me a little trouble to change. But remember, the “Ay-men” is found only among English-speaking people. All other people give it the broad sound. The broad sound was in the original word. When the Apostles used it, when our Lord Himself spake it, it was “Ah-men.” Not more than one in a hundred, take all the world, says it otherwise now; and in Heaven I think the usage will be that of the ninety-nine, rather than of the one. Do not magnify the difference, but do not be afraid of it.
Some years ago there seemed to be a fancy for having the General Thanksgiving said like the Confession, in concert, by minister and people together. In some few places (I am glad in none in Maryland) it still prevails. Soon after the beginning of my Bishopric, I found the usage just taken up in two or three congregations, but they at once kindly yielded to my request and abandoned it, that unity of usage might prevail in the Diocese. It was, I think, a Gladstonian fad; if not suggested by that statesman, at least pushed into prominence by some letters of his expressing his approval of it. But not only does the printing in the Prayer Book clearly distinguish it from the things to be said in concert like the Confessions, Creed, etc., but there has been almost a decision. In the General Convention of 1889, when changes of the Prayer Book were under consideration, a memorial was read in the House of Bishops asking a decision as to the propriety of reading the General Thanksgiving and the opening sentences of the Litany by minister and people together. The question was considered, and the opinions expressed were almost unanimously against the proposed usage. And in the House of Deputies the rejection was quite as positive. In my own judgment, it is not permissible.
What I have said with regard to the service for Morning Prayer leaves little to be said about the Evening Prayer. One point of importance deserves our notice. In the rubrics providing for what is popularly called the “Shortened Form,” the minister is permitted to close after the Collect for aid against perils, “with such prayer or prayers taken out of this book as he shall see fit.” Let me ask you not to let this permission grow into habitual usage. Use it only when there is real need. Have the service in full at least every Sunday. It is a mistake to suppose that the people are “eager” for short services. Some time ago a delegation from one of our large congregations came to me to protest against their Rector’s usage of giving them only, or almost always, the “Shortened Form.” They said, “It is the clergy who get weary of the praying, not the people.” If you do shorten it, keep in, I beg you, the prayer for the President. I count it almost an essential part of public worship, and St. Paul seems to make it specially important, when he says, “I exhort, therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers ... be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority.” Neither will you often, I hope, omit that helpful prayer for clergy and people.
A few words more about the Litany; first to repeat and emphasize very strongly my conviction that it ought to be used, either in connection with other services, or as a distinct service by itself, much more often than it is. Its thoroughly responsive structure adapts it to heartiest congregational use.
And next, to remind you that whenever it is said as a service by itself, it should be used in its entireness. In England, it is never abbreviated; in this country the full use is the exception. But you will observe that whenever, using the Litany alone, you use the privilege given by the rubrics, for omitting the part beginning with the ejaculation, “O Christ, hear us,” you omit the Lord’s Prayer; and in doing so you violate one of the great principles of liturgical use, which counts no service complete and sufficient without the Lord’s Prayer. Study all the other services in the Prayer Book and note how that rule is everywhere observed, and I think you will see the importance of my advice. It is a common but wrong usage to call the omissible portion “The Lesser Litany”. In careful liturgical language, the Lesser Liturgy consists only of the three ejaculations beginning “O Christ, hear us.”
This advice about the Lord’s Prayer gives opportunity for some fuller study about its use in the Prayer Book. Where it first occurs in the Morning Prayer, it is directed that the people shall say it with the Minister, “both here and wheresoever else it is used in Divine Service.” No exception is made. Yet it has become a very general custom for the minister alone to say it, where it stands at the beginning of the Order for Holy Communion. Looking back some fifty years to the beginning of my own ministry, this latter custom was in this country almost or quite unknown. I always heard the Lord’s Prayer said there as well as elsewhere by the whole congregation. But the usage of silence has grown. It is not universal, and I doubt whether it has the majority, but it is common. Some of your number recently asked my advice about it. In England silence of the people is the almost or quite universal rule. Yet it is so clearly in contradiction to the rubric as to require some ingenuity in defending it. I will not take time here to consider the arguments urged and to show why they have failed to convince me. But I do feel strongly that the rubric commanding that the Lord’s prayer be said by both minister and people, “wheresoever it is used in Divine Service,” covers and rules its use in the Service of Holy Communion. And that rubric seems to me to enunciate and emphasize an important and almost divine principle. Our Lord gave that prayer not for the priest alone, but for the constant use of His people. Every Christian has full right and inheritance in it. It is the divinely appointed common prayer for all; and if, in certain places of the Prayer Book, it is directed that the minister shall say it, no mention being there made of the people, this is to be interpreted by the rubric that says the people are to unite in it “whensoever it is said.” In like manner at the beginning of the Morning Service, it is commanded once for all, “the people shall answer here, and at the end of every prayer, Amen.” In neither case does the rule need incessant repetition. Yet in the Service of Baptism, of Confirmation, of Matrimony, of Burial, where the Lord’s Prayer occurs, the rubric directs the minister to say it, but makes no mention of the people. And affected by that wrong usage of the Communion office, many are uncertain as to their duty in the other services. I have seen a whole congregation mute at the Lord’s Prayer in the Baptism Service, where it ought to be the whole Church’s welcome to the soul new-born in Christ; and mute when it was spoken at a burial. Yet, where could those words that in the common Fatherhood acknowledge the common brotherhood, and the “Forgive us, ... as we forgive,” have deeper meaning and power than over the closing grave? And so, because whatever special customs may prevail in places, I find no rule in the Prayer Book which forbids my saying it in Holy Communion, and because I do find a rule bidding me say it everywhere, I shall continue to claim the free use of it as part of my inalienable Christian birthright, and will never keep silent when it is said. And as to the intention of the Church on this point, I ask you to notice that both in the English and in the American Prayer Book, the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the Communion office is printed with that peculiar marking of the clauses by capitals which is used only in those words which, as I have before shown, are to be said by minister and people together.
We come now to the “Prayers and Thanksgivings for Special Occasions.” The present rubric tells how to use them at services where the General Thanksgiving is not said. And it seems to me to give touching force and helpfulness to have them said just as the service of Holy Communion is being ended and immediately before the Benediction there. When, therefore, the Holy Communion follows, as the Litany does, immediately after the shortened Morning Prayer, do not put these special supplications, as some wrongfully do, immediately after the Prayer for the President, but reserve them for the final Benediction.
I am sorry that the Prayer for Congress is so little and so irregularly used. It has divine sanction and command. We are directed to make “supplications and prayers ... for all that are in authority ... that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” And our prayer is built on those words, as we ask that “all things may be so ordered and established by their endeavors, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us.” The Prayer Book here is the very echo of the Bible. You have asked me how often it should be said. I answer every day so long as Congress is in session, or at least every Morning or Evening Prayer. Some have excused themselves for habitual omission by saying that they did use it once or twice during the session, and that was all the rubric required. If it had been so meant, it would have read “to be used sometime during their session.” But put it in the Latin form, “durante sessione,” and you will see the real meaning, “so long as the session lasts.” Any good dictionary will confirm this. And “continuing in prayer” will not only help to bring this blessing, but will also be a constant reminder of the dependence of the Nation upon God’s favor, and of our own duty to Him as citizens.
And I ask also for a more faithful use of the prayers “for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders.” The Ember weeks are the times specified; the Sundays following being by canon law and long usage the “Stated times for Ordination”. Begin with the Sunday before, use the prayer at every service of that day and at every service of the week. When urging this lately a clergyman said to me, “I thought you were to have no ordinations this time.” Yes, I am sorry to say it, none in Maryland; but the Church is one the world over, and your prayers are not limited to your own Diocese. Wherever in all the world any are to be rightly admitted to Holy Orders, your prayers for every one of them will reach God’s ear. Our ordinations are sadly too few in this land; but in the Church of England every regular Ordination Day counts its new priests and deacons by hundreds. Read the prayers thoughtfully and you will see that we pray not only for those who are to be ordained, but for the Bishops who have the ordaining responsibility, and for the whole Church, that by having true and faithful pastors it may “set forward the salvation of all men.” Young men, when the time for your own ordination shall be at hand, it will be a comfort to you to think that prayers are going up for blessing on you, not from one congregation, or one diocese only, but from all the Church of Christ. And when later you may have your own pastoral charge, do not fail to give your part of the like comfort and blessing to those who may then be standing where you are standing now.
One more caution. Do not use these special prayers lightly; I mean not without real and urgent need. The prayer for rain pleads by the words, “in this our necessity”. A temporary light drought, which might be inconvenient without bringing sore necessity or danger, would not warrant our so praying. The prayer for fair weather asks God to “restrain those immoderate rains wherewith for our sins Thou hast afflicted us.” In the prayer for “time of death and famine,” we ask Him “to behold the afflictions” of His people, and we speak of “the scarcity and death which we now most justly suffer for our sins.” In, “times of war and tumults” we plead “save and deliver us, we humbly beseech Thee, from the hands of our enemies.” All these suppose real deep need and urgent danger, and they are meant to be used only under such conditions.
Note, too, the still stronger language of the thanksgiving: “in our great necessity,” “visitation of immoderate rains and waters,” “deliverance from those great and apparent dangers wherewith we were encompassed.” And since unity and agreement in prayer have promise of special efficacy, might it not be well to wait till the necessity shall become so clear as to be generally recognized? And then, perhaps, a diocese, or a section of it, might pray in unison at the call of the Bishop. Very fervent prayers can come only from deep and deeply felt need.
8 – The Order for Holy Communion.
As we reach now the Collects, Epistles and Gospels, we remember that they are a part of the highest and central service of worship, the service of the Holy Communion. Of some things concerning them we will speak more fully when we reach the mention of them in the “Order of Administration”. But just now, some general considerations, and a few special notes. The days and seasons of the Christian year are indeed marked out in the Calendar at the hymns of the Prayer Book; but if that were all, the people would know little about them. It is in the public use of these Collects, Epistles and Gospels that the grand continuous teaching of the Christian year is made effective. And I ask you, my dear young brethren, to carry out in your parochial work this ordering of the Church consistently and thoroughly. Taken in its entireness the Church year is a divine drama of the life work of our Lord and of its fruits. Any break in its continuous and full succession enfeebles and mars it. The Saints’ days are as necessary to its full teaching power as the Sundays. I have in my earlier talks with you, urged you earnestly to keep up the daily prayers as part of the full ideal of worship. I plead now for the full ideal of festival and fast and holy day succession. One of you has asked whether I count it an obligation that every Church should be open on all the Saints’ days as well as on the Sundays. For the full ideal of worship, I say yes. I wish it could be always practicable. But we recognize that, even for the Sundays, necessity sometimes brings interruptions; that there are sometimes overworked clergymen; sometimes, in country parishes, stress of weather, or difficulties of distance that make the gathering of a congregation almost impossible. But if we grant the difficulties of absolute completeness, still we must aim at it. Unhappily, there are churches where, while the Sundays and what are called the greater holidays are observed, the Saints’ days are counted as unnecessary and are omitted. But the Prayer Book makes no such distinction. The command then is explicit and full that “upon Sundays and other holy days (though there be no sermon or Communion), shall be said all that is appointed at the Communion unto the end of the Gospel.” This ordering is for St. Luke’s Day or St. Matthew’s Day just as much as for Advent Sunday. In the Holy Gospel as written in the New Testament, woven all through and linked with the life and work of our Lord Himself, are the stories of the holy men whom He chose to be closely associated with Himself. And the Church’s year of worship would not truthfully set forth that Gospel if it did not also find place and mention for them. Keep the Saints’ day services.
But a question is asked. One says: “My church stands out in the fields, not a house within half a mile, the rectory a mile away. My people are all farmers and so poor that every working day and hour seems necessary for them. If I appointed a Saints’ day service no one would come. How am I to observe the full Church year, or teach them to observe it?” I answer that unhappily there are churches where the only mention of the Church’s seasons to the people is when the clergyman, in announcing the Epistles, names the Sunday. Recently I suggested to a clergyman that I did not name the Sunday at that time, but said simply as the Prayer Book directs, “The Epistle is written.” He said, “Why, if I did not do so, the people would never know what Church season it was.” But the Prayer Book directs, immediately after the Creed in the Communion office, or after the Gospel of the Creed be then said, “then the minister shall declare unto the people what Holy days, or fasting days, are in the week following to be observed.” It is a mistake to think that means only those to be observed by public worship in the Church. It is a reminder to the people that if they cannot come to the Church, they should observe them in their private and their family prayers. I am sorry to say that I very rarely hear this announcement in our churches. But I am glad to hear occasionally something like this: “The days to be observed this week are (thus and thus), the services on those days will be as follows: and if any of you cannot be at the church, remember those days in your private and family prayers.” I am sure there is no single soul, there is no household whose life will not be nearer to Christ if they thus follow the counsel of His Church.
One asks, “Will not the use of the colors in hangings and stoles and decorations for the different seasons be helpful?” It may be helpful, or it may be unhelpful. If you magnify them, treat them and speak of them as things essential, or of very great importance, they will be very unhelpful. I have heard a sermon on “the Church colors.” It was worse than absurd, it was harmful, irreverent, trifling. Do not talk about such things. Let them speak for themselves; quietly and sensibly used they will speak. But never force them on an unwilling people, or make them occasion for strife. Some consciences may seem to you very weak or sensitive, but God commands us not needlessly to wound them.
One point more; the wise authority of the Church has ordered and named the Sundays and Holy Days in their succession, and given to each its own place and tone and lesson. Do not let other things break up that order. There is a growing tendency for designating certain Sundays for preaching and prayers on certain subjects. We are asked to have a Purity Sunday, and a Temperance Sunday, and a Peace Sunday; and a Flower Sunday, and a Children’s Sunday, and recently I was asked to appoint the observance of a Bird Sunday to gratify those interested about cruelty to animals. All these are matters well deserving our thought; but if for them we remodel our Calendar and frame it practically not on the Gospel story of Redemption, but on special virtues, or special sins, or special societies or enterprises, we will lose one of the best and most beautiful bonds of the Church’s unity in life and work.
In speaking about “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion,” I use the title exactly as given in the Prayer Book, and I will ask you presently to study that somewhat closely. There is no service or office which is more of ten marred by individual fads and fancies; and none from which individual fads and fancies ought to be more severely shut out. The Church has concentrated upon it, as its central and highest act of worship, her most studious carefulness. In no other service are the instructions and rubrics so full, so positive, and so precise. The Church, this National Church, profiting by all the light and by all the errors of the past, has here embodied in words, every one of which has been most carefully chosen, very clear directions as to the way in which the Holy Communion is in this Church to be administered. If you will receive them in their plain, straightforward meaning, and put them in action just as they are, you will have no trouble in “so ministering the Sacraments as this Church hath received the same.” Only be thoroughly honest in their use. Do not try to twist and turn and carve and add to them in the hope of making it more like what Rome does, or what Sarum did, or what was done 1500 years ago. Our rule is, not just as Ephesus did, or as Sarum did, or as Rome does, but as “this Church hath received the same.” And “this Church” does not here mean, as some would twist it, “the Holy Catholic Church.” It means that part of the Holy Catholic Church which is called “the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” If you have any doubt on that point, see how the words “this Church” are applied in the preface to the Prayer Book, as distinguishing this National Church from all other Christian Churches. Read also the first paragraph of that preface.
“It is a most invaluable part of that blessed liberty wherewith CHRIST hath made us free, that in his worship, different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people, ‘according to the various exigencies of times and occasions.’”
Acting upon the right thus asserted, “this Church” has deliberately and with authority, entirely given up and abrogated some things in worship which were rightly in use in the early Church, and some it has greatly changed. Let me illustrate. It was an early usage required by one of the Canons of the Council of Nice, that there should be no kneeling on the Lord’s day, but that all should pray standing. And if the traditions and usages of the Eastern Church can be trusted, infants were confirmed and received the Holy Communion. Now, if it be true, as some have contended, that all early Catholic usages have authority still, and that every clergyman has the right to add them to what is directed in the Prayer Book, then “this Church” has no right to forbid them. But they were among the things, not essential, which might be “changed for edification, etc.;” and this Church has with authority annulled and forbidden those usages for its own people and their worship. Do not, I beg you, think that everything that was medieval or ancient was therefore Catholic; or that everything that may have been both ancient and Catholic was of permanent obligation. It is through “this Church,” this National Church, that we are brought into relations with the Holy Catholic Church, and its ancient laws and usages, as authoritatively modified and applied to our own times and needs. Be fully true to the Book of Common Prayer, as set forth by this Church, and you will be true to all things essential or important in true Catholic doctrine and ritual.
We come back now to a more careful study of the title of this service. It is “the order for the administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.” I want to emphasize here that word administration. That is the purpose, the essence of the service. The terms exclude the idea of a celebration except for the purpose of administering. And in this all the tenor of the service, its whole structure, its language, its rubrics and positive directions fully agree with the title. It does not provide for a celebration without Communion; either for a celebration when there is no one present but the priest, or when others are present, but none to receive. From the first important opening rubrics throughout, the presence and partaking of the people is assumed and required. In one place it is expressly commanded; but everywhere it is taken for granted so clearly as to shut out thought of the opposite. And unless by omitting parts of the service, where no permission to omit is given, or by using them in a non-natural and untruthful sense, the practice of celebrating without administering is not possible. Imagine the priest saying the exhortation, “Ye who mind to come to this Holy Communion,” when he knows that none will come; or saying, as he is required to do, “Draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort,” when he has before made it distinctly understood that he does not want or expect any to draw near or take. As I said before, this Church does not appoint, or provide for, or recognize any celebration of the Holy Communion except for administering, and there must be someone to whom the administration is made. Indeed, so strictly is this condition held that even in the extreme case of one in immediate danger of death, the want of persons to receive with him is distinctly declared in the service for the administering to the sick, to be a “just impediment” to having the service. And if in that urgency the actual Communion of others is made so necessary, much more must it be a necessity in the more ordinary cases. Putting together the tone and positive directions of the public administration, and those of the “Communion of the sick,” two great principles stand out clearly; no celebration without a Communion, and no Communion without a celebration. I may speak to you again on these points.
9 – Repelling From Holy Communion.
At the very beginning of “the order for the administration of the Holy Communion,” we find some most important rubrics which bear directly upon the main subject of all these plain talks; i.e., the pastoral use of the Prayer Book. I ask one of you to read aloud the first rubric, slowly and distinctly.
If among those who come to be partakers of the Holy Communion the Minister shall know any to be an open and notorious evil liver, or to have done any wrong to his neighbors by word or deed, so that the Congregation be thereby offended; he shall advertise him, that he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he have openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former evil life, that the Congregation may thereby be satisfied; and that he hath recompensed the parties to whom he hath done wrong; or at least declare himself to be in full purpose so to do, as soon as he conveniently may.
They are almost or quite the first words in the Prayer Book which recognize or declare any authority of the pastor over the people; and certainly the first words to recognize or declare that the priest has power of pastoral censure. And they are not only the first words, but almost the only words of the kind in the Book of Common Prayer. There are others, and many, which tell his pastoral authority and power in blessing, guiding, teaching, helping, comforting; but these, almost the only ones which imply power to censure or punish. I have heard it said that these were the only “rubrics of discipline;” but that is not correct. It is wrong to use that word discipline as if it necessarily implied severity, or censure, or punishment. I know, and I am sorry for it, that it is so used in the Digest of Canons of the General Convention, where the title “Canons of Discipline” covers only the rules relating to offences, trials, penalties and the like. But this is not the usage of the Church in the Prayer Book, nor is it the correct use of the English language. The preface to the Prayer Book tells us that “what cannot be clearly determined to belong to doctrine, must be referred to discipline.” All the rules then which govern the organization and organized action of the Church, which direct the methods of proceeding in General Convention or other duly constituted bodies in the Church, all the rubrics directing the order of worship, whether in daily prayer, or sacraments, or ordination, or in visiting the sick, or teaching the children, all these are parts of the discipline of the Church. Discipline may sometimes have a side of severity, or punishment, or correction; but it has far more largely its kind and loving side. And when I think how that word discipline grew out of the word disciple, and the loving discipline in which our Lord trained and guided the twelve, I cannot consent to give up that word to its harsher meaning. Your dictionary will give you as the first and foundation meaning “the treatment suited to a disciple or learner; education; development of the faculties by learning and exercise; training, accustoming to systematic and regular action.” The discipline of an army is not found chiefly in the guard house, or in sentences of severity; but in the drill, the order and system of life, the rules for the camp, the uniform, the march, the obedience to officers. One of you recently asked me concerning a certain clergyman, whether he were “under discipline,” and I answered, “I hope so; not under censure, but under discipline, as you and I are. Every clergyman, deacon, priest, or bishop, is under discipline, and ought to love it; bound to conform to the rules and methods of the Church. I wish we are all as faithful and carefully obedient to the discipline of the Church as the officers and soldiers are to the discipline of the army. When you promised conformity to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church, you did not promise only submission to such censures as it might impose, but conformity to all its order and method, whether in constitution, canons, rubrics, or the authority exercised under them.”
But coming back to the rubric itself, it is necessary, in order to get its true meaning, to understand that the purpose of the severe action commanded is not vindictive, but lovingly corrective. The end in view is the reformation and recovery of the wrong doer. It is not to vindicate the Church and protect its honor and reputation before men. In all our Saviour’s actions of any such kind as the reproving of offences, the reputation of the Church seemed not to be in His thought at all. His aim was to win back and save the offender. The good name of the Church could take care of itself, but He was seeking to save an endangered soul. You need only think of His dealing with Peter’s sin to see this proved. “Treat him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” was the rule. And you, my dear brethren, must act in His spirit. When there comes (and there will come) in your pastoral life the necessity for enforcing this painful instance of pastoral authority, kindness for the offender must be uppermost. All, even the severest thing, must be done in love; with such tears, if not in your eyes, yet in your heart and soul, as I think there must have been in the eyes of the Lord when He “turned and looked upon Peter.” And it is because even the censures and severities of the Church are so ruled by this principle of love, that this action is not made public, but kept almost sacredly private between the pastor and the soul with which he is dealing. It is not to satisfy public sentiment, but to save the soul.
Continuing study of the first rubric in the Order for the Administration of the Holy Communion you will note that it is not permissory, but obligatory. It does not say that the minister may forbid of fending persons to partake, but under certain circumstances he “shall” do so. No false tenderness, no dread of giving pain, no fear of offending friends should make Christ’s minister fail in this sacred duty. He is under the Great Physician, a physician of the soul. The medicine may be bitter, the knife may be painful, but it would be false kindness to withhold them when they are needed. We are the Lord’s watchmen; and faithfulness in warning is the watchman’s great duty. Here the method of warning is set forth. I think no minister of God should ever forget God’s charge to us in our office: “When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked man from his way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hands.” Be faithful in warning, if you would say with St. Paul, “I am pure from the blood of all men.”
But the best faithfulness is consistent with very great carefulness. This act of corrective discipline is a very severe one, and must be guarded by all the restrictions which the Church has given. You may not act upon your own unfavorable impressions, however strong they may be. You may not act on popular ideas or rumor. Even when these seem very strong they may be very unjust. The rubric does not say, “If the minister think,” or if there be rumor, but “If the minister shall know.” There must be certainty as to the facts.
Again, note how carefully the character and degree of the offence which calls for this severity are described. I have known more than one zealous young priest, who, like those whom our Lord restrained and rebuked, were very eager for “gathering out the tares”. I remember one as saying to me, “There is a man in my parish, in general respectable, but whose life is not consistent with what might be expected of a communicant. He comes to Church very irregularly, to the Holy Communion only twice a year, drinks at times and somewhat freely, though not to intoxication; occasionally, I think, uses a pro fane expression, and people say he is not scrupulously honorable in business. I think I ought to repel him from the Holy Communion.” And I answered, “My dear Brother, he has a right to come to the Holy Communion if he has been baptized and confirmed, so long as he does not come actually under the conditions which the Church prescribes for refusing him. Suppose him to be all you say, not deeply devout, not always consistent, sinning in special instances from time to time. Are you always deeply devout? Always consistent? Always, or ever, without sin? Remember the exact words, “If he shall know any to be an open and notorious evil liver.” That indicates, not defective holiness, not occasional lapses, not a low standard of duty, but positive and persistent habitual evil living. Or the minister must know that he has done wrong to his neighbor, so clear and great as to make it a public scandal, “so that the congregation is thereby offended.” As I have always said, every baptized and confirmed person has the right to Holy Communion, except under conditions made by the Church’s authority. It is a very, very serious matter to hinder one in that right. The minister is himself an offender if he does so, without full reason as specified by the Church. Repelling is not indeed excommunication, and I hope you will never call it by that name. To excommunicate is to annul and take away the right. To “warn not to come” is only a temporary suspension of its exercise. But even for that, clearly assured and great and grievous cause is necessary. I have known of persons being told not to come to Holy Communion unless they came fasting, and of others told not to come unless they had first been to private confession. In those cases the minister was the offender. He went beyond his rightful authority. When the Church has made conditions for receiving the Holy Communion, no minister has a right to add to them.
These same principles hold also for the second rubric, which commands like action in the case of those who are at enmity; though here special wisdom of treatment is required. Not all disagreements call for such action. The words are, “those betwixt whom he perceiveth malice and hatred to reign.” Malice and hatred are very strong words. They imply the positive ill will, or wishing evil to a person. Persons of tender conscience have sometimes said, “I cannot go to the Holy Communion, because there is a misunderstanding between such an one and myself, and she will not speak to me.” And my answer was, “Do you hate that person?” “No, but I dislike her.” “Are you willing to speak to her?” “Yes, but I do not want to associate much with her.” “Do you wish her evil? Would it give you pleasure to know that harm had come to her?” “Oh, no!” “Can you pray for her? Will you pray for her tonight?” “Certainly.” “Then come to the Holy Communion without fear. You may be ‘in love and charity’ with one whom you do not like, whose character and conduct you cannot approve; and even with one who is not “in love and charity’ with you. The Pharisees were not in love and charity with our Lord, but He, though He did not like them, nor approve them, nor take them for His associates, had true love and charity for them.”
Note also the important direction that in every case of so repelling, the minister is “obliged to give an account of the same to the Ordinary” (in this case, the Bishop) “within fourteen days after, at the farthest.” It should be very strictly obeyed, since it is meant to protect the right, to Holy Communion from possible mistake or injustice. And it should be more than a mere formal notice. The words are not “give notice,” but “give an account of the same.” But the fact that during the sixteen years for which I have been Bishop I have received only seven such notices or accountings, must come from one of three things, either from a most marvelous standard of integrity and purity among the communicant members of the Church; or from a low appreciation of the need of pastoral fidelity in this instance, and dread of giving offence or pain; or from an oversight of the obligation to give account to the Bishop. But I beg you do not, for fear, shrink from pastoral faithfulness. Plain dealing, if it be loving, will draw souls nearer to you. In my own parochial work for some thirty years, I had in nine instances to do this painful duty. And in only one of them did the offender fail to seek the Lord’s Altar again, in humble penitence.
10 – The Holy Communion: The Administration.
The third rubric before the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, appears to turn from things of very deep spiritual importance, to some points which seem to be of arrangement of material things and of ritual precision. But if the Church has thought these directions of importance enough to warrant their insertion in her carefully ordered ritual law, our careful observance of them becomes a matter of reverence and sacred duty. In later parts of the Service other directions are given as to position and bodily actions. Make yourselves familiar with them and obey them carefully, and you will soon see the reasons for their enactment, and find them helpful to true reverence. If you are tempted and think them little things which may be disregarded, remember that the dignity of the sacrament act, so solemnly instituted by our Lord, lifts even the smallest things really connected with it into dignity and worth.
It may be well that I should speak more fully now about the true reverence of clergymen in their conduct in public worship. There are two extremes to be avoided. One of them is slovenliness or carelessness. Even in so little a matter as the manner of entering this may be evident. I have seen clergymen come into the chancel with the very same brusqueness or nonchalance with which they would enter any ordinary public resort. “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the House of God,” was not meant for the people only. If we expect reverence from them, we should give them the example. When your preparatory prayer has been said in the vestry room, let the spirit of it go with you, and begin the Service with reverent solemnity. Remember you are to speak for God, and in His Presence. It is painful to see clergymen lounging or sprawling on their seats, or doing anything to draw the notice of the people away from prayer. Be sure to have all your preparations made fully before the Service is begun. Know what the Service is to be, and have all the places found and marked. Know what the Lessons are to be, and read them thoughtfully beforehand, that you may be able to give the true meaning to the people. It is painful, it annoys the congregation, it disturbs the solemnity of worship to see a clergyman go to the lectern and draw out the almanac he has hidden under the Bible, to find out at the last moment what the Lessons are to be. And in making these preparations before Service, do not let it be done in the sight of the people. Do it before they come. Be in your vestry room long enough before the Service to do everything deliberately. It does not help to reverence to see some one corning in to arrange the altar or find the places after the people are gathered. Let the people see that you count the Service an act of sacred solemnity, and they will be helped to do the same. I am speaking not only of the Holy Communion, but of all the Services. I lately saw the formal protest of a vestry against the way in which their clergy, while overloading and prolonging the Service of Holy Communion with ceremonies unnecessary, belittled and dishonored the Morning and Evening Prayer and the Litany, by saying them irreverently and so rapidly and inarticulately that the people could not intelligently follow them.
But there is an opposite extreme. It is possible for one with the idea of being very reverent indeed to overload the Administration of the Holy Communion with multiplied ceremonial acts, not only not required nor suggested by anything in the Prayer Book, but absolutely out of keeping with the grand simplicity and directness of the Service as it stands in the Liturgy. Be content with the directions there given for conducting that solemn act. True, they do not prescribe every movement or position or turning; they do not tell you when and how to join your hands, or to lift them up, or to stretch them out; they do not call for bowings, or genuflections, or osculations. But they do give you very clearly the few very important points of manual action and attitude and position; and the rest may well be left to your own reverence and common sense. Beware of the books put forth without authority, claiming to give, with much show of learning, the innumerable minutiae of precision for almost every line and instant They substitute for the solemnity of grand directness, the littleness of ceremonial trivialities. And many of them bring in from the Roman usages things absolutely contrary to our own usages and unlawful. The priest has no right under cover of calling them his Secreta, or private prayers, to bring in the Roman “Confiteor” addressed to Saints and Angels, or the Roman responsive acts between himself and his attendants. Be content with the straightforward simplicity of the Service for Holy Communion as it is in the Prayer Book, as our English reformers purified it from the unhelpful accretions of Roman usage and restored it to something like its primitive grandeur.
We find ourselves now at the last of the three rubrics at the beginning of “the Order for the Administration of the ... Holy Communion.” The two former rubrics had to do entirely with some very important spiritual requirements and conditions. The third seems to speak only of some particulars of material ceremony; the position of the Priest at the holy table or altar, and the preparation of the altar by covering it with “a fair white linen cloth.” These directions are so very positive and clear, that they would not call for any special consideration from us now, were it not that in both points the real intention and commands of the Church have been set aside by mere personal fancies, for which I can find no better word than one I have already used, i.e. “fads.” Now the Priest’s position at the altar and the covering of the altar may seem, because they have no directly spiritual character, matters of trifling importance. But the Church counts them of importance sufficient to warrant positive law about them; and even if some would treat them as mere “mint, anise and cummin,” remember that even of those our Lord said the command must not “be left undone.” Like all the other rubrical directions of the Prayer Book these were meant to help to reverence, by taking away uncertainty and the distraction that might be caused by individual fancies, and securing reasonable uniformity.
First, as to the priest’s position: What is meant by the “right side of the table?” I am not referring to the difference between side and end, but to the difference between right and left. I am glad that as I go to all the churches in this Diocese, I find only two or three affected by this novelty, and having the book-rest and books on the Epistle side. Only a few years ago there was not one. I have seen published defenses of the novelty, asserting that by “the right side,” this Church really meant the Epistle side, or the side on the right hand of the minister, as he stands facing the altar. In the English Prayer Book it reads: “the north side”. That is beyond question the Gospel side, the chancel by English usage being at the east end. The argument urged is that since a change was made in the rubric, it must have been to change not merely the word but the position. But in this country where the eastward chancel is practically not the general usage, “the north side” lost its definite meaning and “right side” was used to express the old position more definitely. And that “the right side” was not on the right hand of the priest facing the altar, but of the altar facing the people is clearly shown by the fact, that in heraldry the right side of a shield or coat-of-arms on paper is the right side of the drawing as it faces the beholder, and that, when in Lutheran and Roman Churches there is a crucifix over the altar, the right side of the figure defines the position.
And further, by the fact that if the change from “north” to “right” was made to affect a change of position, the persons who made it did not know it or act upon it. Bishops White and Seabury were in the House of Bishops. Bishop DeLancey, Assistant Minister to Bishop White, was my own teacher in preparation for the ministry. He always began the Holy Communion at the Gospel side and told us he followed Bishop White. I have proof that Bishop Seabury did the same. And their Dioceses, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, taught by them, until within a few years clung unanimously to the old usage and knew nothing whatever of this new fad. It may seem a little thing, but a needless disturbance of long settled usage, even in little things, may, like a fly in the ointment, be very annoying. You may be sure that by “the right side of the table,” our American Prayer Book means exactly what the English Prayer Book means by “the north side,” i.e., what we familiarly call the Gospel side.
And now for the second ceremonial direction: “The table, at the Communion time, having a fair white linen cloth upon it.” The meaning here is that the fair white linen cloth is to be used “at Communion time” only, as peculiar to that special use; not as a habitual decoration of the altar, but as making and preparing it for its highest holy use at the time. Not very many years ago this was the invariable use. If one entered the Church and saw the white linen on the altar or holy table, he knew that the Holy Communion was to be administered at that service. But some one thought it was pretty, or “Catholic,” to leave it on a little longer; and without any real reason or argument for it the idea grew as a pretty novelty. I well remember how, when I first saw it, I asked the reason, and was told that it was a commemoration to show that the Holy Communion had been administered that day. And where there were daily celebrations, of course the white linen remained continually. And now that the fad has become an unmeaning fashion, the reason of previous “Communion” at first given has been forgotten. And not only in the churches which have very frequent administrations, but even in some of the very moderate school I find the new usage. I have no hesitation in saying it is wrong. I have been looking into the older rules and usage, and I find them almost unanimously clear in confirming the position I have taken. I will not cite them all. One or two will be enough. The Canon of the Church of England, A.D. 1604, says “It shall be covered in time of divine service with a carpet of silk, or other decent stuff (thought meet by the ordinary of the place if any question be made of it), and with a fair linen cloth at the time of ministration.” Bishop Cosin’s rule and the rubric (A D. 1637) of the Scottish Prayer Book, agree in directing that “the table ... being at all times covered with a carpet of silk, shall also have at the Communion time, a fair white linen cloth upon it.” An English Bishop (1638) in his visitation questions asks, “Have you a carpet of silk, satin or damask, or some more than ordinary stuff to cover the table at all times, and a fair, clean and fine linen covering at time of administering the Sacrament?”
Other authorities might be given, but these are enough to show that Staley, one of the generally accepted authorities on the Ceremonial of the English Church, writes with good reason when he says, “The modem custom of leaving the fair linen cloth on the altar at all times, out of celebration time ... is not in accordance with the rubrics and the canon, or with more ancient precedent.”
I would not have spoken so fully on these merely ceremonial points, were it not that ceremonial points when commanded by Church authority are thereby made important. And further, I wished from so discussing these points to warn you against the harmfulness of letting our private fancies and ideas of prettiness in any way disturb well settled usage, or the express law of the Church, even in little things. And so, I do affectionately give my advice that you will best conform to the real meaning of the Church law in these matters by beginning the service of the Holy Communion at the Gospel side, and by having the linen cloth only at the times of administration.
11 – The Holy Communion (Continued).
Before considering any other special points in the order of Holy Communion, I have a few words of general advice to give, touching the service as a whole, and your general bearing and conduct in it. Reverence and reality must rule; and for these, he who officiates must do it not as a perfunctory duty in mere routine, but with his own soul intent upon the deep spiritual meaning and power. If his manner be careless, or if it seems to say that he is merely going through a ceremony appointed, it will be hard for the people to be deeply reverent and earnest.
There are two things to be avoided: the irreverence which comes from carelessness and the irreverence which comes from the over minuteness of ceremonial acts; which exaggerates the outward form at the expense of the deep spiritual meaning. For there may be an irreverence of excess, as well as of defect. The Minister needs only to follow with his own soul’s earnest devotion, the plain straightforward directions given in the Prayer Book. And there would be no need of explanations and cautions, if it were not that men have marred the grand beauty of that simply solemn service by their unauthorized and of ten unlawful additions. Use the Prayer Book honestly and earnestly, and you will need no other guide. Avoid the many books which seek to graft back again into our worship the multiplicities and niceties of ceremonial usage which prevailed in Roman use, and in middle age English use, but which were discarded purposely when in the Reformation, the Book of Common Prayer was set forth. If you would see what I mean, examine the Canon of the Mass in the Roman Missal, and that in the Sarum Missal. Put them side by side with the “Order for Administration” in our Prayer Book, and see how the Church of the Prayer Book has stricken out all the minute rules for bowings, and kissings, and genuflections, and position and use of hands, and eyes uplifted or downcast, and incense and ablutions. And then see how in published books and in practice, some are reintroducing the very things which were thus cast out.
I know it is argued that “Omission is not prohibition.” And I say it is not always prohibition, but it is sometimes; and especially when the authorities which made the omission expressly declare that it was for the purpose of prohibiting. And the Preface to the English Prayer Book so asserts. It begins, by stating the need for revision in the fact that “The Common prayers in the Church, commonly called Divine Service” had been corrupted. It says “The godly and decent order of the ancient fathers hath been altered, broken and neglected by planting in uncertain stories, legends, responds, verses, vain repetitions, commemorations and synodals.” It says that “The number and hardness of the rules ... and the manifold changings of the Services was the cause that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out. ... “Here” (i.e. in the Prayer Book) “is set forth an order whereby the same shall be redressed. ... Yet because there is no remedy, but that of necessity there must be some rules, therefore certain rules are set forth which, as they be few in number, so they be plain and easy to be understood. So that here you have an Order of Prayer, ... a great deal more profitable and commodious than that which of late was used. It is more profitable, because here are left out many things, whereof some be untrue, some uncertain, some vain and superstitious.”
Can any words say more plainly that in this case omission is prohibition? That the things stricken out from the former service books, were put out for the very purpose of stopping their use. Yet we find men either in books or in their practice bringing into the services of the Church, on the plea that they were of Sarum, or early English, or so-called Catholic, things that were rejected in the formation of the English Prayer Book: the multitudinous and minutely ordered bowings, and genuflections and prostrations and elevations, and kissings of altar and book and additional prayers and confessions and absolutions, and incense and the like. These things were in the service books just before the Reformation times. In the reforming of services which had been corrupted, these things were left out, and they do not appear in the book of Common Prayer. That Book declares they were left out with the express purpose of so simplifying the worship. And until the Church shall by authoritative action permit it, no clergyman or combination of clergymen is at liberty to bring in again the things that were thus excluded. My good friends, I beg you, do not follow after the things that are Roman-like, or medieval, or all those which boast themselves as “Catholic.” Be loyal to the Prayer Book as that is loyal to the Bible. Be content with that: with its spirit, with its words, with its rules and directions. In them you have the real Catholic truth and worship set forth for our guidance. And in earnestly conforming to the grand dignity of their simplicity, you will find the best help for reverence in yourself and those to whom you minister.
A few words about the times for administering the Holy Communion. I do not mean how often it should be done. You will remember that I have already spoken to you quite fully on that question of frequent administration, urging you to have in mind and work toward the full Prayer Book ideal of at least every Sunday and Holy Day. I am thinking now of the best hours of the day. What will be the best arrangement for accomplishing what we are sure was our Lord’s own wish; the frequent reception by all of His people. Early celebrations at seven, or half past seven o’clock, have become very general in the cities and towns. It may be, and often is, a helpful arrangement; yet it may be by exaggeration and misuse made wrong and harmful. In the purely rural parishes, where many of you may find your work to lie, this question can hardly arise. Where the farming families are far scattered, the miles of distance from the church will make the early attendance impracticable. The Holy Communion was ordained by our Lord, that it might be received by His people, and it should be at an hour when it is possible for the people to come. The midday Communion seems the only thing for the country parishes. In the cities and towns there is not this difficulty, and it is about them I wish to speak. In determining the point for your own usage, ask what will best help the Lord’s purpose that all His people should be able readily to receive the blessing He would give them in that most holy feast. Any regular ordering which helps to that will be good; any ordering which works against that will be wrong. Do not make a fad of the early celebration; do not force it upon your people, as if it were the only right thing, or in some way more sacred and holy than the service at a later hour. Do not give the impression that it is an obligation or a law of the church. There is no such law; indeed the opposite is true. For many centuries the canon law of the Western church forbade the celebration before nine o’clock.
If in your congregation there are some who can come at a very early hour, and cannot come later, by all means, if your health and your other duties will permit, make provision for their needs. But there will certainly be also many who could not come at that very early hour, and for their receiving the Lord’s gift you must also take care.
I have been asking from a number of clergymen their reasons for having the early service. One said, “Many of my people prefer that hour, and say they enjoy their Communion better.” But if those same people could come to the later service, why should their preference and enjoyment require from the minister, probably already heavily loaded with services and appointments, an unnecessary burden? There are city churches with several assistant ministers, where the burden could be divided by several celebrations on the same day. But even in the city there are clergymen doing hard work, single handed, where one Communion service on Sunday ought to be all that is expected from them; and to put the services always, or generally, at a very early hour, would be to rob many souls of their sacred right and blessing. The multiplication of services is sometimes a fad, a fancy, or a fashion which may prove to be tyrannical. Church fashions grow sometimes to be very exacting. Dare to resist them, when necessary, if they be only fashions, and not requirements of plain church law. I see no reason why a clergyman, whose Sunday is crowded with hurried duties, and who is to administer the Holy Communion at a later hour, should tax his already overtaxed strength, by having an early administration for the two or three, or the eight or ten, who prefer an early service, but could come at the later appointments.
Another clergyman said to me, “I earnestly advise my people to receive the Holy Communion fasting; many of them love to do so, and they cannot wait until eleven o’clock.” I have very little respect for the reality of such fasting as that. It is a caricature, a sham. It is not at all the same as that which is called fasting in Holy Scripture. That was not simply the postponing of a meal for a half or three quarters of an hour, or the doing something just before meal time. It was the going without a meal, or several of them, as an act of positive devotion. Think of the fasting of Moses, of Daniel, or our Lord, or of His first Apostles; think of any of the instances given in Holy Scripture, and then compare them with this fasting made easy. One rises a half hour, perhaps, before the usual time, hurries into clothing, hurries to church, receives the Holy Communion, leaves perhaps, before the service is fully ended, and reaches home in time to take breakfast at the usual hour of eight. And this is dignified with the name of fasting Communion! There is no fasting in it. No meal was omitted or delayed. It was not a spiritual condition at all, but a merely bodily condition or accident of not having yet eaten; when the hour for eating had not come. It substitutes a bodily condition for a spiritual act. It does dishonor to the real Scriptural fasting to have the word so used. It is written of the Apostles in their Ordination that “when they had fasted and prayed they laid hands on them.” Does that mean that they had the services just before the usual first meal time? Or does it mean that they had purposely abstained from usual meals as a special act of devotion? I honor true fasting. I cannot honor this fasting made easy; this so-called fasting which does not at all interfere with one’s regular eating. If one wants real fasting Communion, let him come at the later service, and fast with spiritual purpose up to that hour, and I will honor his sincerity.
Another clergyman said to me, “I am quite sure that by having an early as well as a later administration, I reach more of my people, and more of them receive.” That is a valid and good reason. If you think the same as to your flocks, have early Communion, if you can, as well as later ones; but not merely to gratify fancies or fashions, or as if there were any special or greater sanctity or blessing in them.
12 – Holy Communion: The People’s Part.
There are yet one or two more points for counsel upon the order for the administration of the Holy Communion, as a whole, before we consider special portions of it. There is, in a few churches, a harmful, unauthorized, and erroneous custom of discouraging, and in some instances, of even forbidding the people to receive at what is called the midday celebration. It is done under claim of special reverence for what is called “the high celebration”. I hold it to be not only unauthorized, but to be absolutely opposed to the law and order of the Church, and therefore I give you my very earnest warnings against it. And without going into the full argument and history, I will venture to give a few reasons, which, I hope, may be sufficient.
First, it is not only utterly without warrant in Holy Scripture, but it is directly at variance with the practical teaching and example of our Lord and his first Apostles. Read the story of its institution, which is our best guide as to real meaning. Its first purpose, and so far as appears, its only purpose, was, not that they, the Apostles, were by it to worship Him, but that He, by it, might give, and they might receive and partake of a most sacred and helpful gift. The taking and eating and drinking are made the most prominent things. They come first. St. Matthew who was an eye witness, and St. Mark (taught by an eye witness, St. Peter), tell us that it was not till after He had said “Take, eat,” that He said “This is My Body: this do in remembrance of Me.” The order of the words is striking and emphatic. He blessed and brake and gave for that definite purpose, that they might “take and eat,” and in doing so receive a great blessing. The idea of getting the blessing, or any part of it, without taking and eating, or of omitting the taking and eating, and making it only an act of worship, seems to have had no place in the minds either of our Lord or of His Apostles. Try to imagine our Lord speaking those solemn words, and then withholding from them the actual participation. The idea of a celebration for worship only is absolutely inconsistent with what our Lord then said and did. And the Church, keeping true to the Lord’s purpose and example, has so framed her Service, that unless by a perversion of words from their real meaning, or an evasion, which I find it very hard to reconcile with what is right, the people, some others besides the officiating Priest, are to be not only present but partakers. From the very first line of the first rubric, all through, the Service so presumes, and in some places so commands. Certain parts of the Service are specially addressed, not to God, but to the people, and to the people as intending to receive. Consider the two addresses of invitation: the Priest must say one of them, and the second will serve for illustration, “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent, etc., etc., draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort.” I have heard those words said in a full Church when the Priest did not expect any to draw near and do what he invited them to do, and did not wish them to do it, and had even advised and taught them not to do it. Take the prayer, “We do not presume to come to this, Thy Holy Table, etc. ... 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 with His most precious blood.” How can the Priest truthfully say it, when he knows, and has so advised, that none will receive? And how can the people, under such conditions, appropriate that prayer for themselves? Read the Prayer of Consecration, and see how, if frankly used, it absolutely rules out the thought of the reception by the Priest alone. It is throughout in the plural form: not the plural of dignity, but that of actual plurality. Consider the words, “We offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies”; “We and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion.” The next rubric after commanding the Priest to receive for himself bids him “deliver the same to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons (if any be present), and then, to the people also,” without any doubt expressed, but in assured expectation of their presence.
The English Prayer Book, from which our Service, with very slight change, is taken, makes not only the presence, but the actual partaking of the people an indispensable necessity: saying “There shall be no celebration of the Lord’s Supper, except there be a sufficient number to communicate with the Priest, according to his discretion. And if there be not above twenty persons in the parish, of discretion to receive the Communion, yet there shall be no Communion, unless four, or three at least, communicate with the Priest.” It is true that these particular rubrics are not in our American Prayer Book, yet the requirement is even more positively affirmed elsewhere. For even in the administration to the sick, a case more urgent than the regular public administration, our Prayer Book commands that there must be two at least beside the sick one and the Minister: and it declares “the lack of company to receive with him,” a “just impediment” for not administering. And it excepts only from this clear, strong rule, the “times of contagious sickness or disease, when none of the Parish or neighbors can be gotten to communicate with the sick for fear of infection.”
I am glad to find that representative and leading men in that school of the Church which has gone to extremes in such things, are now drawing back and urging others to do so. I quote only one of them; Canon Gore, in his recent valuable work on “The Body of Christ,” says: “We must not be content with restoring as our chief act of worship a Eucharist of which the Communion of the people does not form an important part. It cannot be said too strongly that any practice which divorces Eucharistic worship and Sacrifice from communion, or which rests content at the ‘high service’ with the communion of the Priest alone, really represents a seriously defective theology.”
I think it will be clear to you, as it is to me, on a careful comparison and joint study of the order for administering the Holy Communion publicly, and that for private administration, that the intention of the Church on these points may be concentrated into a brief statement: No celebration without a communion, and no communion without a celebration at the time.
The minuter things in administration of the Holy Communion are so clearly told in the rubrics that it would seem that one who really tries to follow them could hardly make mistake. Yet men sometimes grow careless, or grow into habit of little irregularities, or try to enrich what may seem to them too plain, or feel that they have the right to bring in anything that is not expressly forbidden. And so some diversities of usage have grown up, not always very harmful, but sometimes seriously so. About some such greater or smaller diversities I wish to speak to you now, chiefly by way of advice, rather than of authoritative decision.
I have already spoken about the saying of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the service. By general usage in England it is spoken aloud at this place only by the priest. In our own country the usage is almost equally divided between the silence of the people and their speaking. For myself, I always claim and take my right in the Lord’s Prayer as the only prayer set forth by our Lord Himself as the common prayer for all Christian people. If I am not myself officiating, and find the people saying it, I lend my voice clearly. If the usage of that congregation is otherwise, I still say it, but in a low tone, so as not to disturb others.
“Then shall the minister, turning to the people, rehearse distinctly the Ten Commandments.” One would think there could be no room here for diversity. Yet here are found two opposing irregularities. The direction to turn at this point of the service plainly implies that the minister was not so “turned to the people” before; and that the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect following are not to be said with the face toward the people. There is a difference of attitude between words of prayer addressed to God, and words of exhortation or instruction addressed to the people. And on the other hand I have been at a service where the minister said the Commandments with his back to the people, and his face to the Altar, and so rapidly and in so low a tone that I am sure the people could not hear the words. When, after the service I called his attention to this fault, he answered, “I did turn to the people, but there is nothing to say how long I should stay so turned.” To which I could only say, “An answer worthy of a Jesuit, but not of a clergyman of this Church.” And in answer to my allusions to the word “distinctly,” he said, “I am sure God heard it, and the service is an act of worship addressed to Him, and not to the people.” I will not tell my answer to this now, for I fear I was moved to speak very sharply.
Note that it is not the choir but the people, who, after every Commandment, are to ask for mercy and grace. If these responses are sung (and they may be), be sure that they are so sung as not to rob the people of their part, and make the Church’s purpose void. The simpler the music, the better.
“The Decalogue may be omitted, provided it be said once on each Sunday.” It is possible to comply with that literally, by saying it always at the early administration when but few are there; but habitual omission at the midday service deprives the majority of this reminder of their moral duty. I think that one reason for the higher conception of honesty and of all moral duty in England, as above that prevailing in France and Italy, may be this continual upholding, in public recitation, of the great divine law of morals. Do not let it be thrust into a corner.
I alluded to having heard the Commandments read by the priest facing the altar, as if he were reading them to inform God and not the people. The same unwarranted custom has been taken up in a few places (I am glad they are very few), in the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel, and in the saying of the offertory sentences. And the plea in all these cases is the same, that they are parts of an act of solemn worship addressed to God. But this is not entirely true. Parts of that service are, as direct worship, addressed immediately to God; but parts of it are most certainly addressed directly to the people. It might with as much truth be said that the Morning Prayer is a service of worship to God; yet the exhortation; the absolution and the Scripture lessons are addressed to the people. Neither the Scripture lessons of Morning Prayer nor the Epistle and Gospel are read for God’s information, but for the instruction of the people. The Gospel and the Epistles were inspired of God for the instruction of the people, and their whole framework and tone express that purpose. There are parts, indeed, like the inspired hymns, and certain devout expressions which may be used as anthems, which may so be turned into form of praise. But the Epistle and Gospel have been chosen and appointed for the very purpose of “preaching the Gospel” to the people. The special, great truths which are to rule the tone of the day are expressed in them more strongly than in the morning or evening lessons. They who turn their backs upon the people when saying them, and claim to speak them to God alone, are, for the sake of imitating a corrupt past, robbing God’s flock of the spiritual help He has provided for them. The rubric directing the use of Epistle and Gospel is so clear on this point that it must tax ingenuity to avoid its meaning of certain parts of the service, like the confessions and Lord’s Prayer and Creed, etc., the Te Deum, and other sacred hymns or canticles, and direct prayers and the Psalms, it is directed in the rubric that they be “said”. Of other things, like the morning and evening lessons, the exhortations in the order for Holy Communion, and other parts meant for the hearing of the people, it is directed that they be “read”. And the direction that the Epistle and Gospel be “read” is distinctly given, and so emphasized by contrast of the two expressions as to make it very positive. See on the same page where the rubric about Epistle and Gospel is given; immediately before it, “The minister may say O Almighty Lord, etc. ... Then shall be said the Collect for the day, and immediately after the Collect for the day, the minister shall read the Epistle, saying, (to God? or to the people?) the Epistle is written in the chapter, etc.” And the Epistle and Gospel having been “read,” immediately comes the direction, “Then shall be sung or said.” And if any other proof of the Church’s intention in this respect is needed, you can find it in the office for Ordination to Priesthood, where immediately after the Gospel the Bishop says, “Ye have heard, brethren, as well in your private examinations as in the holy lessons taken out of the Gospel and the writings of the Apostles.” So that Epistle and Gospel are holy lessons for the hearing and instruction of the people.
Does it seem to you that I have given a great deal of argument to a small matter? But the misuse of the Prayer Book and the misuse of Holy Scripture are not unimportant matters.
And in this seemingly little matter some very important principles are involved. One of the worst forms of irreverence is found in evading or twisting the plain English sense of the Church law to please our individual notions. The truest reverence is in straightforward obedience.
13 – The Creed and Offertory.
Most beautifully the Creed, as the great summary of Gospel truth, comes, in the office of Holy Communion, immediately after the reading of the Gospel for the Day. And the permission to omit it at this point, under certain conditions, is so given as plainly to imply a preference for not omitting ... “Here shall be said the Creed, ... but the Creed may be omitted, if, etc.” I advise that it be always said, even if Morning Prayer has been said immediately before. It is no unnecessary repetition. And note the preference expressed as to the order. In the Morning Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed is named first with the Nicene Creed as a permitted alternative, in the Holy Communion, the Nicene Creed first, and the Apostles’ Creed a permitted alternative. The suggested use is, the Apostles’ Creed for the Morning Prayer, and the Nicene Creed for the Holy Communion.
what holy days or fasting
the week following.”
to the parochial
appointments for services
in the Church on
is not the