The American Prayer Book
Its Origins and Principles
Edward Lambe Parsons and Bayard Hale Jones
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955
[Footnotes have been moved into their places of citation.]
Thru Litany, this page below
Holy Communion thru Bibliography
Part One – Introductory
1. The Meaning of Worship; 2. Common Worship
Part Two – General Literary History of the Book
II. The Ancestry of the Prayer Book
1. Liturgical Life and Growth; 2. The Forming of Orders of Worship; 3. The Fixation of Regional Rites; 4. Medieval Service Books; 5. At the Reformation
III. The Forming and Fixing of the English Prayer Book
1. The Reformation; 2. The General Movement for Ritual Reform; 3. Preliminary Moves; 4. The First English Prayer Book; 5. The Second Prayer Book, and the Elizabethan Settlement; 6. The Jacobean Prayer Book; 7. The Scottish Prayer Book of 1637; 8. The Great Rebellion; 9. The Restoration
IV. The Prayer Book for the Life of Today
1. Revisions; 2. A “Broad Church” Draft; 3. The Nonjurors; 4. The Scottish Church; 5. The First America Prayer Book; 6. The Nineteenth Century; 7. The Twentieth Century; 8. The American Prayer Book of 1928; 9. Other Recent Anglican Revisions
Part Three – Sources and Rationale of the Offices
V. The Calendar and Lectionaries
1. The Christian Year; 2. The Moveable Feasts; 3. The Immoveable Feasts, (a) Christmas and Related Feasts, (b) Saints’ Days; 4. The Sunday Cycle; 5. Anglican Calendars; 6. The Lectionaries of the Daily Offices; 7. The Psalter
VI. Morning and Evening Prayer
1. “Common Prayers”; 2. The Development of the Hours; 3. The First Prayer Book of 1549; 4. The Second Prayer Book of 1552; 5. The Revision of 1662; 6. The First American Prayer Book of 1789; 7. The Prayer Book of 1892; 8. The Revision of 1928; 9. Rational and Use; Note on the Te Deum
VII. The Litany and Other Supplications
1. The Origin of the Litany Form; 2. Western Litanies; 3. Cranmer’s English Litany; 4. Revisions of the Litany; 5. Structure and Character of the Litany; 6. Primitive Notes; 7. Homologues of the Litany; 8. Other Forms of the Litany; 9. The “Lesser Litany” and the Lord’s Prayer; 10. Collects; 11. Special Intercessions; 12. The Penitential Office; Note on the Use of the Occasional Offices
VIII. Holy Communion:
I. Development of the Historic Rites
1. In the Primitive Church; 2. The First Description; 3. The First Text; 4. The Eastern Liturgies; 5. The Western Liturgies; 6. Subsequent Elaborations; 7. Note on the Lord’s Prayer and the Fraction; Note on the Sanctus and the Benedicus Qui Venit
IX. Holy Communion
II. Anglican Rites
1. The First English Liturgy; 2. The Second Prayer Book; 3. Subsequent English Revisions; 4. American Rites
X. Holy Communion
III. The Present American Rite
1. Structure; 2. The General Order; 3. The Devotions of the Faithful; 4. The Canon of the Consecration; 5. The Canon of the Communion, (a) Structure, (b) Music
XI. Occasional Offices:
Baptism, Instruction, and Confirmation
1. The Baptismal Liturgy; 2. In the New Testament; 3. The Third Century; 4. The Seventh Century; 5. The Sarum Rite; 6. Anglican Services before the Last Revision; 7. Private Baptism, and Other Makeshift Orders; 8. The American Baptismal Rite of 1928; 9. Rubrics and Use of the Baptismal Service; 10. The Offices of Instruction; 11. Confirmation
XII. Other Occasional Offices
1. Marriage; 2. The Thanksgiving after Childbirth; 3. Visitation of the Sick; 4. Communion of the Sick; 5. Burial of the Dead
XIII. The Ordinal
1. Origins; 2. The First Text; 3. The Fourth Century; 4. Western Rites of the Seventh Century; 5. Syntheses f the Latin Ordinal; 6. Anglican Ordination Services; 7. The Genius of the Anglican Ordinals
Part Four – Conclusion
XIV. Ritual and Ceremonial
1. Rites and Ceremonies; 2. Development of Ceremonial Law; 3. The Nature of Ceremonial Law; 4. The Authority of Rubrics; 5. “Jus Liturgicum”; 6. Discretion of the Minister; 7. The Authority of Custom; 8. Appropriate Ceremonial
Index (omitted for web)
This book was first planned and undertaken by the late Bishop Slattery, to whose memory we have dedicated it. He had written but a few fragmentary sections when his early death brought irretrievable loss to the Church. Later, his papers were turned over to me, to complete the work he had projected. With the help of the Reverend Doctor John W. Suter, the distinguished Secretary of the Joint Commission during most of the long process of revision, and now filling the same office for the Liturgical Commission, the work was outlined and begun. From that point, I have had the collaboration of the Reverend Bayard H. Jones, without whose diligent labors and thorough liturgical scholarship it could not have been completed. The book rightly appears as the product of our joint effort, since it contains hardly a page that has not felt the hand of each of us; [The discussions of the history of Christian worship, and especially the detailed accounts of the several offices, through much of Part II and nearly all of Part III of this book, represent the contributions in the first instance of my collaborator.] but I am making myself responsible for this preface in order to put on record this appreciation of my collaborator.
The reason for the publication of the book is obvious. The American Revision of 1928, and the contemporary revisions in other parts of the Anglican Communion, were not only literary revisions. They brought into use again much that in the controversies and crises of the past had been lost. They were influenced by new understanding of the ancient sources; and on the other hand they introduced much that was thoroughly modern into the worship of the Church.
There was no book of convenient size which treated these old and new factors in a way available to theological students, the clergy, and the interested laity. “Proctor and Frere,” for seventy-five years the standard English work of its kind, has had no revision since 1905. The Book of Common Prayer by the late Doctor Samuel Hart, which for twenty-five years has been the familiar and admirable textbook of American students, could no longer be sufficient. Doctor Chorley’s interesting and accurate study of the 1928 Prayer Book was intended to be only an introduction for the general reader. Something of the scope of Doctor Hart’s book was needed. We have followed in the main his plan, but have dealt somewhat more fully with the sources.
This last has seemed necessary in view of the new light which the studies of the last twenty years have thrown upon the earliest periods of the history of Christian worship, and which has involved a general revision of received opinions throughout the whole field of Liturgics. In these as in later periods, we have drawn heavily upon the independent studies of my collaborator. Although limitations of space have made it necessary for him to state his conclusions in the briefest compass, without such documentation and discussion as I trust he will later publish, it is hoped that their value will appear as a rational solution of some immemorial enigmas of liturgical studies.
We have three general comments to make:
(1) It is impossible to combine in one volume the general literary history of the Book of Common Prayer, and the study of the various Offices with their history and rationale, without some duplication. We have felt however that the historical background is of such importance as to warrant some measure of repetition, and that for intelligent appreciation of the Prayer Book, the literary history is even more important than the detailed exposition.
(2) It is equally impossible to deal with the Prayer Book and its offices without coming constantly upon controversial matters. We have attempted to treat them as objectively as possible. Although here and there our own views are apparent, the fact that we have approached these questions from rather different starting points has helped, we believe, to make the book available for all schools of Churchmen. We send it out with no label either ancient or modern.
(3) And finally we would wish to record here our belief that in Worship we have one great and essential factor in the movement towards the reunion of the Christian Churches. Worship is after all the supreme function of the Church. Whatever contributes to the better understanding of its nature, whatever reveals the essential unity of the worship of the Christian ages, whatever helps to make worship more worthy of God, must have its place in drawing Christians closer together. The comprehensiveness, the variety, and the unity, which constitute the real Catholicity of our faith, are nowhere more adequately illustrated than in worship. We trust therefore that our work may make some contribution to the great cause of Unity.
We wish to make special acknowledgment of the generous kindness of the Reverend Doctor Burton S. Easton for a careful reading of our manuscript, in order not only to check our statements against the most recent conclusions of the literature of the subject, but to contribute freely many able suggestions from the riches of his own profound scholarship.
The number of others to whose work we are indebted is too large to make it possible to mention names; though some attempt has been made to give credit to primary authorities in the footnotes throughout the volume. To the saints and scholars of the past, and to our fellow workers of today, we offer our grateful appreciation, hoping that our modest effort may serve the great cause of Our Lord and His Church.
Edward L. Parsons.
San Francisco, California. June, 1937
Part One – Introductory
A. C. Apostolic Constitutions.
A. T. Apostolic Tradition.
BIB. Bibliography. (N.B.: Footnote citations refer to the classified Bibliography by serial number, for exact edition used.)
B. C. P. Book of Common Prayer.
CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum. Vienna: Vienna Academy, in progress.
DAL Cabrol, F.: Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie. Paris: Letouzey, 1903—.
Eisenhofer Eisenhofer, L.: Handbuch der katholischen Liturgik. 2 vols. Freiburg: Herder, 1932–3.
E. R . Brightman, F. E.: The English Rite. 2 vols. London: Rivingtons, 1915.
Funk Funk, F. X.: Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1905–6.
H. E. Historia Ecclesiastica.
Heraeus Heraeus, W.: Silviae vel potius AEtheriae, perigrinatio. Heidelberg: Winter, 1929.
J. T. S. Journal of Theological Studies.
L. & W. Clarke, W. K. L., and Harris, C. (eds.): Liturgy and Worship. N. Y.: Macmillan, 1932.
LEW Brightman, F. E.: Liturgies Eastern and Western. Oxford, 1896.
McClure McClure and Feltoe, The Pilgrimage of Etheria. London: S.P.C.K., 1921.
P. G. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus. Series graeca.
P. L. Migne, Patrologiae, cursus completus. Series latina.
Proctor and Frere. Proctor, F., and Frere, W. H.: A New History of the Book of Common Prayer. N. Y.: Macmillan, revision of 1905.
Wordsworth Wordsworth, J.: Bishop Sarapion’s Prayer Book. London: S.P.C.K., 1899.
I – WORSHIP
1. The Meaning Of Worship
Much has been written of late concerning worship, its philosophy and psychology, its meaning and implications for the larger question of the relation of religion to life, and its bearing as a social and communal activity on individual or private prayer. Into the detail of such studies we need not go. This book is concerned only with the development and interpretation of one expression of corporate worship, the Book of Common Prayer. It will be helpful, however, to carry into that study some of the more important conclusions of these investigations. [See especially Evelyn Underhill, Worship (Harpers, N. Y., 1937).]
It is hardly necessary to say that we are considering the whole matter from the point of view of the Christian faith, and assuming the truth of that faith.
Our life begins and ends with God. Worship is the conscious recognition of that relationship. If it is to be adequate in any sense it must have two aspects, or rather, must include two characteristics. The first is the emotional response to the background of mystery in which we conceive the power and majesty of God. All life is enveloped in mystery, and the sense of mystery lies behind all religion. Otto calls it the numinous, [Filled with a mystic recognition of God’s presence and response to man’s acts of religion; R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy, Eng. tr. (Oxford, 1926), passim.] coining a word which since the appearance of his Idea of the Holy no writer on worship or indeed on religion would venture to omit from his discussion. The word, with Otto’s development of its idea, has been of great service. It has illumined many factors in the making of religion. In particular, it has made clear the inadequacy of the purely intellectual evaluation of religion, and emphasized the source of its purely emotional expression. In a very real way it has shown how worship must arise as man realizes this mysterium tremendum that surrounds him, intangible, indefinable, but awe-inspiring. He must do something about it. What he has done is exhibited in the manifold and varied religious practices of the race from primitive ages to the present day.
Now while his response to the mystery is in the first instance essentially emotional, and what he does is done that he may ease his feeling of awe, there must – since life is more than feeling – be some intellectual and moral content associated with his emotion. Even primitive man figures out some conception of the reality to which he devotes his worship, and takes some sort of action in accordance with that conception. In Christianity, God is not only Creator, eternal background, mysterious and awful power: he is Father, sustaining a personal relationship to each of his children, and is, if we may use the term, concretely revealed in Jesus Christ as the goal of life.
The second characteristic of worship therefore is the recognition of God as controlling life in thought and action. In Christianity, that control is so obvious that there have been times when, for instance, worship has seemed to be exhausted in intellectual formulas, like the chanting of the Athanasian Creed, or to be chiefly concerned with directing conduct, as in some of the Puritan services. Yet Christianity is always ethical. It always intends to guide conduct, as well as thought and emotion. God is mystery; God is Eternal Idea: but God is also a hard practical concrete reality. He sets a goal and requires standards. No Christian worship is complete unless it brings the whole life into this recognition of God’s place in it.
We must make a distinction here between true worship and complete worship. It is true worship to slip into the nave of some great Cathedral, and, as the light fades to dusk, to kneel and let the strange and awful mystery of God flood one’s soul. It may be true worship on the other hand to believe that in reciting the Creed or in listening to the Decalogue one is doing something pleasing to God. Yet either such phase of worship, however sincere, is inadequate. The soul cannot grow on that alone. Christian worship is never complete unless the entire personality shares in it.
If, then, worship for the Christian is the conscious recognition of God as the ultimate source of life, and its controlling power and goal, it is apparent that in all real worship there is a double movement – upward to God, and downward again into human activity. The whole person is lifted into God’s presence, in a spiritual happening whose method is hinted in the prayer, “Lift us, we beseech thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God.” There is, or may be, the moment of suspense, the “being still,” the pause of the soul; and then out of the depths of the unseen the touch of God’s love with its appeal caresses the soul. But having won it, the divine love’s driving force toward the goal of life impels us again into the world of men. The will to live righteously, to do, to be, hardens into action. The whole man is involved.
It follows that all worship to be thoroughly adequate must endeavor to include these characteristics. It must reach the whole personality of the worshipper. And it must possess this double movement, lifting the worshipper to God, but also making him thereby the more effective in the conduct of life.
The history of liturgical worship in the Christian faith is the story of the way in which the Church sometimes consciously, more often through the spontaneous response of Christian experience to God, has tried to meet these fundamental requirements. The special purpose of one office or another will change the balance of emphasis, but the essential objectives remain unchanged. The Catechism is framed as an educational or intellectual exercise, but the Offices of Instruction in the 1928 Prayer Book are worship, because, while their content remains in the intellectual apprehension of religion, their method is that of a personal approach to God.
If worship may be described in some such way as we have attempted, it becomes apparent that the more definitely religion takes possession of life, the more life becomes one continuous exercise of worship. The frequently expressed thought that the end or purpose of life is worship finds its meaning in this fact. Yet, because of our human limitations, there must be a distinction. Though all life might ideally be an unbroken act of worship, practically we must limit the use of the term to those times when the exercise is not only conscious and purposive, but conscious and purposive in the attempt to exclude all the lesser ends of life, and fix the attention upon God alone. Brother Lawrence could worship as he cooked: but few men can worship when they are using an adding-machine in an office which echoes to the clatter of typewriters and the babble of voices.
The answer to those (and they are many) who think that if we are moving toward this ideal of the influence of God in all life, we do not need set exercises of public worship – perhaps not even of private worship – lies just here. It is a practical answer, If we do not learn to find God definitely somewhere, we shall soon lose the capacity to find him anywhere. It is true that God is everywhere available; but it is a fact of experience that we find him more available to us at one time or place than another.
This difference in the subjective capacity of the worshipper may be illustrated by our relation to the air in which we live and move and have our physical being. We can continue to exist without having to think about it. But fully to realize the possibilities of our life we must think about the air: get out into it, on the mountains or by the sea, expand our starved lungs to the measure of their unused capacities.
Precisely the same is true of the normal religious life. God is available everywhere; he is the universal spiritual atmosphere in which our souls live and move and have their being. We cannot exist without him; but we can exist, with some sort of meager apathetic spiritual life, without thinking of him and reckoning with him. We may say that God makes himself more available to us at certain times and places and in certain ways. If we are to develop our spiritual life, and realize it fully, we must meet God at those times and places. We must meet him when and where every other object of thought and emotion can be banished, and he alone can fill our minds, strengthen our wills, and set our hearts throbbing.
Worship, to sum it up, is the conscious recognition of God as the beginning and end of life. As such, it is in a sense coextensive with religion. But in our study of its history, we are concerned with it only in the meaning of a conscious recognition, when and where we have, so far as we are able, banished all else, and are determined to set heart and mind on God alone.
2. Common Worship
The Prayer Book, like all other liturgical uses, rests upon the underlying fact that private worship of God is inadequate, for the fundamental reason that all man’s life is social. Now we may consider religion, in Whitehead’s phrase, as “what a man does with his solitariness.” [A. N. Whitehead, Religion in the Making (Macmillan, N. Y., 1926), 16.] This is true in the sense that, if it is genuine, it means man’s ultimate stripping of his soul bare before God, and learning what values really control his life. This he cannot do in public: and yet the test of those values which he sets is itself the question of his relation to other persons. His life is a social thing; hence religion, which is his life at his deepest level, must likewise be social. He must share. He cannot possess what is worth while alone. He needs the contagion of the crowd, the help of fellowship, to lift his life out of its own small interests.
This has always been true of all religion; but for Christianity anything else is inconceivable, because of the basic belief of Christians that they constitute a family of God. Their life as Christians is a fellowship. They are bound together by God in Jesus Christ. Therefore worship cannot be a mere desirable addition to their Christian life: it is its supreme moment. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that in the mind of some, worship is not merely the supreme moment, but the supreme end of the Church’s function.
The life of the Church began with worship. The disciples met to pray. The subsequent experience of the Church has revealed the intimate and necessary interrelation of public worship with the power of religion in life. The Sacraments are social. When one turns to the New Testament, one realizes that many of the questions concerning the Sacraments which divide modern men could never have entered the head of an early Christian. The thing he sought was to meet with his fellow Christians, the living Body of Christ, before God. In those days “community worship was the very breath of life to a believing Christian.” [A. B. Macdonald, Christian Worship in the Primitive Church, 198. [For further bibliographical details see item 58 of Bibliography, references hereafter will be indicated in the form “Bib. 58.]]
This brings us to the last point of this brief introduction. If Christian worship is necessarily communal, the development of liturgies is inevitable. This development in the beginning was a mere natural process. There were no Liturgical Commissions or Congregations of Rites in the ancient Catholic Church. But minds move in ruts, utterances become habits. In the least liturgical congregations of today there is an order both of the structure of the service, and the content and expression of what is called extempore utterance. “The consciousness of the presence of God,” says Heiler, [F. Heiler, Prayer, Eng. tr. (Oxford, 1932), 307.] “and the effort after mutual edification by common prayer, demands some order in the conduct of worship.” First, as we shall see later, an “order” appears. Afterward, this order or framework is clothed, and the great liturgies take form.
The resulting liturgical forms possess weighty values for the life of the Church. They bring to public worship a dignity and uplifting quality which could be realized in any other way only occasionally. They preserve for the average man, and put into the hands of the average priest, orders and prayers which have stood the test of time. Whatever its deficiencies, the Prayer Book is a repository of the best of the past. It represents not the passing mood of the moment, but the deep experience of the Church of the ages.
Liturgical worship makes available for all at any time the beauties of ritual and ceremonial. It releases the congregation from the affliction of individual idiosyncrasy. It affords prayers for all kinds of persons, and for all the manifold issues of life, because it has grown from the common experience of all. It is balanced, stable, conveying by its very form the sense of the changeless strength of God.
Finally, liturgical worship puts the congregation of the day into immediate contact with the Church of the past as well as of the present. In ecclesiastical terms, it keeps fresh the faith in the Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church. The worshipper who is bid to prayer “for the whole state of Christ’s Church” can never, if he thinks at all, think of his Christian life as bounded by some small or partial group; nor can he who from week to week repeats the Creed forget that his faith is rooted in the experience of ages.
No actual book of worship wholly fulfills all these ideals. None is perfect in the eyes of every or perhaps any man. Yet each historic liturgy is a product of the same universal Christian experience; each has endeared itself to an innumerable company of the faithful, who have found in it a veritable ladder of heaven; and each has made some characteristic contribution toward the development of a yet more perfect expression of adoration of God’s infinite majesty, and of greater confirmation of man’s faith, love, and resolution to righteousness of life.
In the light of these principles we turn to the story of the development of the American Book of Common Prayer, and to some comment on the history, meaning, and use of its offices.
Part Two – General Literary History of the Book
II. The Ancestry of the Prayer Book
1. Liturgical Life And Growth
The Book Of Common Prayer is the product of a long evolution. Its roots reach back into both Jewish and pagan worship. It carries marks of every age of Christian history. It gathers up much of the best of the past, and adapts it to the present needs of Christian worship.
But it has achieved its present form through no mere eclectic method. It is not a manufactured article, but an organic growth. For any adequate understanding of the Book, it is therefore necessary first to see it in relation to the whole process of liturgical development. Only then can we rightly appraise its distinctive characteristics, and the principles that have made it what it is.
2. The Forming of Orders of Worship
Early Christian worship must have been quite spontaneous in origin and method. There were at first no formal order, no settled prayers, nor any fixed place of meeting. The Christians gathered in private houses; they met in the synagogues with other Jews; they used the Temple as a place for prayer and preaching. But it is clear from the accounts in Acts that it was not long before their distinctive needs began to separate them more and more from their Jewish brethren. The beginning of that distinction is indicated in Acts 2:46, where it is stated that they “continued daily with one accord in the temple,” and also “breaking bread from house to house”.
The process of creating any kind of formal order must have been very gradual. The New Testament picture of the Christians gathered for worship, as we find it for example in Corinthians, shows us a most informal and at times almost disorderly group. All took part as they were moved. Some prayed; some preached; some spoke with tongues. They sang hymns; [Acts 16:25 (R.V.); Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16. Forms which may have been so employed occur in Rom. 13:11–12; Eph. 5:14; I Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:11–13.] they transacted what business had to be done. It was a family gathering: and like a family, the chief sign and symbol of their unity was the Breaking of Bread, and the friendly meal or Agapé [I.e., “Love Feast;” cf. Jude 12.] which accompanied it. Neither the Temple nor the Synagogue could be used for such worship. There were also wonted ceremonies for the initiation of new adherents into their fellowship, and for the commissioning of new leaders in their community; and a little later there is some trace of a systematic care of the sick. [James 5:13–16.] Marriage also, in the light of the words of the Lord, was accepted as a divine institution; and the Burial and Resurrection of Christ had given an added significance to the burial of the dead: but both, in Jewish practice, were necessary actions rather than religious rites; the New Testament gives us no information that they were treated otherwise by Christians in apostolic times; and it was much later when the Church adopted and adapted Roman customs of marriage, and evolved its own rites for the burial and commemoration of the dead.
Two factors molded the early forms of Christian worship. On the one hand was the ordinary synagogue worship in which all had been trained, and which contributed the idea of an ordered liturgical service, and the use of the Jewish Scriptures, hymns, and prayers, as a model for their own. On the other, were the ideas and actions necessitated by their new religious experience.
The forms of the synagogue service of the first century are not certainly attested; but the rabbinical writings of the first to the third centuries probably represent them with sufficient accuracy for our purposes. From the great storehouse of the Mishnah, modern scholars have inferred some such outline as this: [Paul V. Levertoff, “Synagogue Worship in the First Century,” in L. & W. 60 ff., esp. 76 ff.] (1) the Shema, an extended profession of faith in the words of Deut. 6:4–9, 11; 11:13–21; and Num. 15:37–41; (2) the so-called Eighteen Benedictions, a chain of prayers comprising a very comprehensive General Intercession, both in scope and detail offering striking coincidences with the Christian “Prayers of the Faithful,” whose parent it unquestionably was; (3) readings from the Law, and the Prophets; (4) a benediction; and (5) a sermon.
But when we compare this scheme with the early Christian “Common Prayers,” whether used separately, [Apostolic Constitutions viii. 36–39 (P.G. I. 1137 ff.; Funk I. 543 ff.); Pilgrimage of Etheria 24 (Heraeus 28 f.; McClure 45 f.).] or as a Pro-Anaphora introductory to the offering of the Eucharist, [See below, Holy Communion, ... Description] we see that though the Christian service covers substantially the same ground as the Jewish, it is not a copy in either content or order. For centuries the Pro-Anaphora did not include a profession of faith; on the other hand it did include the use of psalmody, [Ibid.] which was no part of the Synagogue ritual, though it was a feature of the daily services in the Temple. And the order of parts was quite independent. The fact is that all these elements are really inevitable in any general service in any religion: and it seems that the Church evolved its own devotions out of this accustomed material, but freely and creatively under the inspiration of its own religious impetus.
The distinctively Christian elements in this common worship were the Lord’s Prayer, [The use of the Lord’s Prayer in private devotion is attested early in the second century by the Didaché (c. 8); but it was not used in the eucharistic Liturgy until the fourth century: cf. p. 173 below.] and the Lord’s Supper, called in the Acts the “Breaking of Bread.” [Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7.] The probable nature of the latter observance in primitive use, and the manner in which a meal of fellowship was converted to a sacrificial action, will be discussed in Chapter VIII.
Congregational worship, however, necessarily settles down to some sort of agreed order of procedure. This tendency was perhaps accelerated by the fact that from the first the Christian observances were rites as well as services; they were actions, in which something was done as well as said. During the first two centuries, as Dr. Fortescue remarked, the dominant characteristic of the Liturgy (we may add, of other rites as well) was “somewhat free improvisation on fixed themes in a definite order.” [Art. “Liturgy,” in Catholic Encyclopedia, IX. 308.]
But striking devotional phrases have the quality of lingering in the mind, and of being used again, both by the author and by his hearers. From the first, there was a tendency to settle upon a form of words, as well as upon an order of thought. St. Clement of Rome at the end of the first century concludes his first letter to the Corinthians with a long prayer perfectly exemplifying the solemn style of the historic liturgies, [C. 59–61: Quasten, Monumenta [Bib. 14], 331 ff.; quoted in translation, Warren, Liturgy of the Ante-Nicene Church [Bib. 16], 168.] and some of his very expressions survived in later use.
Another very early example, now dated about the second quarter of the second century, was the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, [Discovered 1873 by Metropolitan Bryennios, who first published it in Constantinople, 1883; translation in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (N. Y., 1890), VII. 377 ff. Usually cited as the Didaché.] in Syria. This prototype of the “Church Orders” was a tractate of instruction, chiefly along ethical lines, for initiates into the Faith – a sort of primitive “Confirmation Manual”; – but incidentally it gave definite forms for Baptism and the Communion, as we shall see.
About the year 148, we have a careful and objective description of the same two rites in the First Apology of St. Justin Martyr, a reasoned explanation of Christian faith and practice addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius. [Justin was a Gentile, born ca. 100 near Sychem in Syria, converted to the Christian faith about 130; a trained professional philosopher, and a Christian priest.] This description is sufficiently accurate and comprehensive as to apply quite recognizably to any historic form of the rites down to the present day; the essential order and detail are all there. Justin implies a Trinitarian form for administering Baptism, and a liturgical narrative of the Institution of the Eucharist: but he does not quote any of the other words of the latter rite, intimating that the Thanksgiving was made “at length,” [ευχαριστίαν ... επι πολυ ποιειται, c. 65 (P.G. 6. 428).] and “according to the ability” of the celebrant. [όση δύναμις αυτω, c. 67 (P.G. 6. 429).] Evidently in his time the service was not a settled form of words, though it was an established procedure; though extempore, it was not aimlessly spontaneous.
In the Early Church, therefore, we have the formative stages of a process which has endured throughout Christian history. For one lifetime after another, men brought the best powers of their minds to the worship of God, “to render thanks for the great benefits they had received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, ... and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.” By the principles of survival in an organic evolution, the simplest, most universal, and most affecting thoughts and expressions became established in wonted use, and lived on after the death of those who first gave them utterance, until they became fixed Liturgies – which, long before they were inscribed upon rolls of parchment, were written in the hearts of the faithful.
3. The Fixation of Regional Rites
One important influence in the fixing of ritual texts appeared in those interesting circular letters covering questions of discipline and worship known as the “Church Orders”. The precursor of these was the Didaché. Subsequent examples eliminated the didactic element of the Didaché, and enlarged the scope of the treatise to cover the whole internal regimen of the Church, including Holy Orders. The “Church Orders” were thus a sort of “consuetudinary” of their times, recording the formative stages of customary regulations and ritual in days before Canons were enacted, or the Liturgy fixed.
The first systematic and measurably complete of these treatments was the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus, leader of the Greek-speaking party in Rome, and eventually their schismatic bishop; pupil of Irenaeus, and, as Dr. Cheetham aptly says, “the most remarkable man of letters produced by the Church of Rome in the first three centuries.” [Church History: Early Period (Macmillan, London, 1905), 83.] He was martyred probably shortly after his exile in 235. His liturgical writings may be dated about the year 217. [Easton, Apostolic Tradition [Bib. 7], 25, 63.] Coming toward the end of the period when Greek was used as the language of the Roman Church, his voluminous writings fell into neglect, and have been largely lost. But the Apostolic Tradition was circulated throughout the Church, and, as we shall see, exercised a formative influence on the rites of many centers. The end of its pilgrimage was in Abyssinia, which it reached about the tenth century in a translation from a secondary Arabic version, where it was incorporated in the Ethiopic Synodos or Book of Canon Law, and where its Liturgy eventually ousted the parent Alexandrian order as the normal liturgy of the Church. Thus it was the strange and romantic destiny of this earliest standard liturgical text to have survived in constant use in the heart of Africa to the present day!
The Apostolic Tradition exists in five versions, Latin, Bohairic, Sahidic, Arabic, and Ethiopic, besides some important fragments of the original Greek embedded in the Apostolic Constitutions; and by the revolutionary researches of Dom Connolly [The So-Called Egyptian Church Order and Derived Documents [Bib. 6].] and Dr. Schwartz [Ueber die pseudoapostolische Kirchenordnungen (Strassburg, 1910).] it has been identified as the lost work of Hippolytus. [Translated in a critical text with admirable introduction and notes by Burton S. Easton, The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (Cambridge, 1934).]
The Apostolic Tradition contains not only detailed rubrical and quasi-canonical directions, but specimen texts, for Baptism, Ordinations, and the Eucharist; as well as some valuable information for the development of the Church’s Common Prayers. Hippolytus intimated that the forms of prayer are still free – using Justin’s exact phrase, that they should be “according to the ability” of the celebrant: [§ 10.3–6; Easton, op. cit., 39.] – and he gives his liturgical forms as examples of the manner in which he himself was accustomed to conduct the rites; perhaps by implication of the way he considered they ought to be conducted.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these texts for the study of Christian rituals. They are properly basic, for they furnished the crystallizing center around which all the national rites “froze” into their definitive forms. The whole of liturgical history has had to be rewritten in the light of them; and such a reconstruction is offered in the present work.
In the matter of the baptismal rites, the witness of Hippolytus for this period is corroborated by that of Cyprian and Tertullian; but for the Eucharist and for Ordination, the Apostolic Tradition is indispensable, standing alone in the third century, which is the most obscure period of liturgical history. In this formative epoch, when the Christian services were in general settled as orders, but not yet fixed as texts, definite allusions in the Fathers are exceedingly scant.
About the middle of the fourth century, however, the fullest and most elaborate of all the “Church Orders,” the Apostolic Constitutions, furnishes us with a complete text of the Eucharist as celebrated in the region of Antioch, very amply confirmed, in manifold detail by the writings of St. Chrysostom and St. Cyril of Jerusalem; as well as orders of Baptism and prayers of Ordination slightly elaborated from the actual text of Hippolytus; some notes on penitential discipline, and the Christian Year; directions and forms for Common Prayer; the blessing of the Oil for the Sick, and an account of the Burial and Commemoration of the Dead.
From about the same time, we have the Sacramentary or Book of Prayers of St. Serapion, contemporary of St. Athanasius, and Bishop of the rural diocese of Thmuis in the Nile Delta. Serapion’s work is not a “Church Order,” as it contains no canonical matter, and a minimum of rubric. It consists of the text of the officiant’s prayers for much the same rites and services as those of the Apostolic Constitutions. Certain peculiarities of arrangement just disqualify it from the status of an official “Sacramentary”; it looks more like the notes of an interested visitor. [Ed. F. E. Brightman in J.T.S. I. I, 2; F. X. Funk, Didascalia [Bib. II], II. 158 ff.; Quasten, op. cit., 48 ff.; tr. Wordsworth, Bishop Sarapion’s Prayer Book [Bib. 12].]
As we shall see later, it was during this fourth century that the texts of the great families of eucharistic liturgies took the definite forms which they still maintain. There were a few types, and not as many liturgies as there were individual congregations: because any rural town looks toward some larger center which it calls “The City”; and though no autocratic organization existed at this period, and though also throughout history there has been surprisingly little attempt on the part of the great sees to impose conformity in the matter of rite, yet the suburban churches showed themselves eager to copy the usage of outstanding and influential centers. Hence the growth of the historic liturgies has always been on a regional basis, in provincial types.
The tendency to differentiation was, however, counterbalanced to a considerable extent by the free exchange of ideas, expressions, and ceremonial between the various provinces by the agency of individual churchmen as they traveled back and forth, so that a particularly poignant phrase or edifying custom originating in one part of the world might be readily incorporated into the still elastic order of a number of other rites. This influence indeed has never altogether ceased, and probably never will, though subsequent conditions have much restricted its operation. But it was particularly active throughout the first four centuries, while the communion of the Church remained unbroken, and while Greek was alike the universal language of the intelligent classes throughout the Empire, and the common medium of the Church’s worship everywhere.
But though in the formative period every center showed itself ready to welcome desirable new features, and to utilize luminous new phrases of devotion, yet both were incorporated into the already established framework of the local order, which from the first obstinately preserved its own genius by resisting modification of its essential structure and arrangement.
It was in the fourth century also that the Church first came forth into the light of day, as first a permitted and then an established religion. It ceased to be a secret and persecuted association, hiding under the cover of night, or in the everlasting darkness of the Catacombs. For the first time it built churches, and developed public ceremonials, which became increasingly elaborate, incorporating many survivals from the ancient pagan world. [Limitations of space in this book have precluded our discussing the influence of the Mystery Religions, which unquestionably contributed many terms and ritual details to the Christian orders of worship, but which in the opinion of both authors had no formative effect upon the fundamental ideas of the Christian sacraments.]
Yet already in the fourth century this tendency to enrichment of the worship of God, which has remained one of the formative forces in liturgical growth, encountered the opposite principle of simplification, which was necessarily evoked by the inordinate lengthening of the services which unrestricted enrichment entails. We shall see later how this was effected in the case of the eucharistic liturgy; how the two chief surviving rites Eastern and Western, the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom and the Roman Mass, prevailed over their rivals because they were the briefest forms in use; and how in our time these contrary tendencies for enrichment and simplification have been harmonized and made to work together by the application of a third principle of flexibility, in the form of free choice between prescribed alternative forms, which was unknown in the early ages of the Church.
4. Medieval Service Books
By the beginning of the fifth century, the fixation of the texts of the great liturgies was virtually complete. The many subsequent elaborations were in unessential details, and did not affect the fundamental characteristics of the rites.
From our earliest knowledge of them, after this fixation of the text, the service books of all branches of the Church were on an entirely different basis from anything with which we are now familiar. There was no such thing as a complete Prayer Book, comprising all the public offices of the Church, since the great elaboration of the services then in use made that a physical impossibility. Indeed, that remains true in the Greek and Latin communions to this day. But before the invention of printing, the sheer bulk and cost of manuscript volumes prevented even the supplying to each of the numerous participants in each service of a complete text of that service: and like the actors in a play, they were provided with “part books,” containing their own portions in full, and the “cues” for the place of those parts in the whole. In other words, there were no comprehensive books for a given service, but instead there were books for a given officer in one or even all services.
Thus the “Sacramentary” contained the bishop’s prayers, not only for the Communion, but for the other Sacraments and rites. The deacon, subdeacon, master of ceremonies, and choir, had their supplementary books for the various offices.
In the West, the landmarks are the three oldest Sacramentaries. The “Leonine” Sacramentary, [Ed. C. L. Feltoe, Sacramentarium Leonianum [Bib. 22].] discovered in 1735, is a fragmentary and badly arranged collection covering three-quarters of the year, containing the proper prayers for the Eucharist, ordinations, requiem and nuptial masses, but lacking the Canon of the mass, and the baptismal services. It is purely Roman, and in its present form dates from the early part of the seventh century.
The “Gelasian” Sacramentary [Ed. H. A. Wilson, The Gelasian Sacramentary [Bib. 27].] represents the original use of Italy outside of Rome; and is the form in which the Roman type of services first invaded Gallican territory. It is a comprehensive collection, covering all the offices of the Church. It is arranged on a different basis from the pure Roman books, for it divides the moveable from the immoveable feasts in the use of the Liturgy, and segregates the “occasional offices” from both, instead of fitting all together with some considerable awkwardness into the dates of the secular calendar. It belongs to the end of the seventh century.
The “Gregorian” type [Ed. H. A. Wilson, The Gregorian Sacramentary [Bib. 28]; H. Lietzmann, Sacramentarium Gregorianum [Bib. 23]; K. Mohlberg, Die älteste erreichbare Gestalt des Liber Sacramentorum der römischen Kirche [Bib. 25].] dates from the pontificate of Hadrian (784–791), who at the request of Charlemagne sent his official book as a pattern for the French churches. Its Calendar was on the same old Roman basis as the Leonianum; and it contained only the solemnities observed by the Roman court. For parochial use, it needed much supplement; and it is therefore found combined with varying appendices drawn largely from the “Gelasian” books, in the “Mixed Sacramentaries” of the next two centuries. Ultimately, it was the “Gelasian” order of text and Calendar which prevailed in the modern Missals.
Beginning in the ninth century, however, a different arrangement of service books began to appear, giving complete texts of given offices, instead of part books for particular officiants. The first of these were the Bishop’s services, segregated into the “Pontifical”. Before the year moo, the medieval multiplication of celebrations of the Communion, particularly as requiems, had brought about the invention of the new rite of “low mass” – utterly unknown in the early ages, and still regarded as a radical impossibility in the Eastern Churches – with the celebrant as the only minister: and for his use, all the part books for the performance of the Liturgy were consolidated into the “Missal”. By the eleventh century, the missionary travels of members of the monastic orders made it frequently impossible for them to participate in the rendition of the Divine Service in the chapter; and the demand for a portable book containing a shortened but complete version of the Offices resulted in the “Breviary”. By the thirteenth century, the occasional offices for parochial use were brought together into the “Manual” or Hand-Book (modern, Rituale.) The choir books, directories of service, Epistle and Gospel books, and the like, maintained a separate existence for use as needed.
5. At the Reformation
The English service-books at the time of the Reformation were exactly of the type then prevalent in Northern Europe. They represented the result of a long process of mutual assimilation between the distinctive Roman use, and that of the rest of Europe.
As we shall see more particularly in the case of the Communion, it appears that the Western churches early developed a characteristic form of the services, marked by variability of parts in accordance with the Christian Year; and that in the fourth century Rome brought this process to a sudden end by fixing the greater part of its rites absolutely in invariable form, and by discouraging innovations thereafter; while outside the vicinity of Rome ritual elaboration went on unchecked. This was the origin of the conflict between the historic Roman and “Gallican” uses. The latter is found in a “pure” form and in fullest development in the essentially identical rites, the Gallican proper in France, and the Mozarabic in Spain.
But as the influence of Rome increased, there was a voluntary movement in “Gallican” regions to conform to Roman standards. Of their own motion France and Spain adopted the Roman order, to the complete extinction of the ancient French use, although the Mozarabic still exists as an endowed survival in a few churches. It appears that originally the “Gallican” rite prevailed in the British Isles, and in North Italy, from the existence of “mixed” books of the Celtic and Ambrosian rites and the Sacramentary of Bobbio, in all of which a “Gallican” framework is adapted around the Roman Canon of the Mass. [See Chapter VIII, notes 29 to 33.] This general adoption of the Roman rites was much facilitated by the liberal incorporation of impressive ceremonies and eloquent devotional forms from the “Gallican” orders into the once rigid and meager outlines of all the Roman offices.
The original British and Irish churches drew their Christianity from Gallican missions, and unquestionably derived their liturgies from the same source. The Roman mission came to Britain with no purpose to impose their own rites upon the British and Celtic Christians with whom they would inevitably come into contact. “Take,” said Gregory to Augustine, “whatever you may find which would be pleasing to God, and good, religious, and right, and use it.” [Bede H.E. i. 27. 2 (P.L. 95. 58 f.).] Yet in the competition of the two types, the same influences of the simplicity and practicality of the Roman service, and the prestige of the Apostolic See, operated in England as in other “Gallican” regions; and at Whitby (664) and Cloveshoo (747), the Celtic missionaries had to yield.
But Gallican influences were not dead. Intercourse with North Europe continued to be more frequent than that with Rome: and though the services of the various English uses at the Reformation were Roman in fundamental order and content – just as were the German rites, for example – yet they belonged to the North-European type as distinct from the Italian, in the matters of the Calendar, the liturgical Lectionary, and many surviving “Gallican” ritual details which had never been adopted at Rome.
There was, however, no national uniformity in England, but instead a system of diocesan “Uses,” of which Salisbury (better known under its old Latin name of Sarum), Hereford, and York were the chief. Of these Sarum was by far the most important. From the time of Bishop Richard Poore three centuries before the Reformation, that great cathedral foundation had led the way in liturgical matters, until it was the standard almost throughout England, Wales, and Ireland.
In addition to the official service books to which allusion has been made, there had gradually come into existence many books of private devotion. The Psalter, the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, schemes of Hour Services following in the main the plan of the Breviary, were used in varying ways. These books were called Primers. They were first in Latin; later, with English supplements, they were popular and widely used, had great educational value, and afterward exercised considerable influence in the formation of the English Prayer Book. [Cf. W. H. Frere, Edwardine Vernacular Services before the First Prayer Book, in J.T.S. I. 2 (January, 1900), 229.]
III – The Forming and Fixing of the English Prayer Book
1. The Reformation
The Ecclesiastical Revolution which we call the Reformation was only the expression in the field of religion of the general social movement which began modern times. The breakdown of feudalism, the rise of nationalities, the revival of learning, the invention of printing, the discoveries of new continents and of new ways to the old, all had their share in the making of a new world. It was to be a world in which individualism was the dominant note, and freedom – spiritual, political, and social – the dominant ideal. It was a world in which the change in the ideals controlling men’s conduct is comparable only to that through which we are living today. The times cried for reform and readjustment; but sadly enough the official Church, entrenched in age-old power, was unready. Men like More and Erasmus were voices crying in the wilderness. The reformation for which they had worked and prayed became in fact a revolution.
In this trying time England was fortunate. The break with Rome was primarily political; and political motives continued largely to control the extent and the manner of such doctrinal and liturgical changes as were authorized. Though this attitude has often been challenged from the standpoint of both extremes alike, whose eager proponents were unable to see anything but a mere time-serving in its middle position of moderation, the fact remains that this despised method of “practical politics” enabled the Church of England to accomplish a rational reformation, without such radical sweeping away of the past as occurred on the Continent or in Scotland. The Church kept its Catholic order, the substance of its Catholic liturgies, the continuity of its Church life in parish and diocese, while embracing a deep conviction that the new age must discard outworn superstition, and seek simplicity and genuineness in its worship, and scriptural authority for its teaching. The alterations were made with conservative deliberation. It was a generation after the break with the papal authority before the liturgical reform was measurably complete in the Elizabethan Prayer Book, and a century more before all the contrary tendencies received a definitive stabilization in the English standard Book of 1662.
2. The General Movement for Ritual Reform
The demand for a reformation in the field of worship, as well as in those of doctrine and discipline, was active everywhere in the sixteenth century, within as well as without the Roman Communion. The Missals and Breviaries had assumed formidable proportions, immensely elaborate in detail, and proportionately difficult of use; moreover they varied from diocese to diocese, over two hundred different Missals having been printed before the Reformation. There was obvious need of greater simplicity, uniformity, and the fixing of comprehensive standards to eliminate quantities of complicated and unnecessary detail, and to clarify the essential meaning of the various offices, which had been obscured by their innumerable subsidiary and often superstitious accompaniments.
One such attempt was made with papal authorization in the revised Breviary of the Spanish Cardinal Quiñones, General of the Franciscans. His first draft of 1535 appeared in six editions, and his second in 1537 enjoyed a hundred more in the next thirty years. Both forms were a drastic simplification of the Hours, ostensibly for the private use of the clergy, but actually embodying a stringent criticism of the medieval offices. Quiñones’ chief objective was the restoration of the continuous recitation of the Psalter, and the reading of Holy Scripture, uninterrupted by the incidence of festivals of the Saints, and the suppression of the cluttering of anthems, responds, hymns, etc., which broke up and obscured that prime purpose of the offices. Cranmer’s Preface to the First English Prayer Book, dealing as it does almost exclusively with the Choir Offices, is little else but a free translation of Quiñones’ preface to his work; indeed the Cardinal enunciated all of Cranmer’s guiding principles, and even enumerated the examples of detailed abuses which are such a striking feature of Cranmer’s Preface. [E.R. 1. 34 ff.]
Rome considered that Quiñones’ revision was too sweeping, and too close to Reformation standards. Moreover, it was threatening to supplant the public offices, and actually for a time made its way into choir in Spain – a use for which it was never contemplated or authorized. It was therefore suppressed at the promulgation of the Breviary of the Council of Trent in 1568. Its underlying principles, however, as to the use of the Psalter and Scripture were finally incorporated in the Breviary of Pius X in 1913.
The Protestant groups on the Continent made a much more radical breach with tradition. Their tendency was to supplant rather than to revise the ancient services. In Luther’s orders, his Litany was a really magnificent composition, collecting much of the greatest value in the rich “Gallican” tradition of Northern Europe; his offices for Baptism, Marriage, and Burial were also intelligently conservative, though much simplified; but for the Eucharist, while he kept the unessential framework of the rite, he abolished the essential Canon, substituting the reading of the scriptural narrative for the vital Prayer of Consecration; and the daily offices as such, with very little regulation or even suggestion, were remitted to the discretion of the minister. The Calvinistic orders were similar in character, but even slighter in prescribed content. In both, the celebration of the Sacraments tended to be overshadowed by the preaching of the Word. In the sketchy outlines of the general services devised for the latter purpose, some few features were salvaged from the Breviary, but the required order of use of Psalter and Scripture was abandoned: and the services for the most part replaced the old Hours with a plan based on the so-called “Prone” or vernacular devotions formerly customary at High Mass. Both Calvinistic and Lutheran services added many hortatory and penitential elements.
The Calvinistic orders affected the English revision through the liturgies of refugee congregations in England, and the influence of visiting divines from the Continent. Cranmer also during his stay in Germany had acquired some firsthand acquaintance with the regional Lutheran schemes; and besides Luther’s writings, he took some suggestions from the Consultation of Archbishop Hermann von Wied of Cologne. Hermann espoused the cause of the Reformation, and his book was a draft scheme for the revision of the Liturgy, composed in conference with eminent men of like mind, and published in 1542. For services within the Roman Communion, it was of course an impossibility, and Hermann was removed from his see in 1547; but as a Protestant document it was learned, able, and moderate, and such portions as Cranmer adopted were a real contribution to the English rite.
3. Preliminary Moves
In England itself reforms of various kinds were slowly accomplished. Coverdale’s translation of the Bible was authorized in 1535. Special Injunctions were issued as to the teaching of the people. The “Bishops’ Book” of 1537, and its amended successor, the “King’s Book” of 1543, furnished doctrinal instruction. The reading of a chapter of the Bible in English [The version was Coverdale’s “Great Bible” of 1539; which still remains the underlying liturgical version of the Scriptures in the Prayer Book.] was required at Matins and Evensong in 1543. Sentiment was growing against many accompaniments of the services which were deemed superstitious.
In 150 the Litany, the first complete office in English, the work of Cranmer, was set forth under royal authority. Other changes were in the making when the death of Henry VIII and the accession of Edward VI in January 1547 gave an opportunity for a more rapid and comprehensive dealing with the whole matter. The boy King was definitely Protestant. The Reform party was in control. Royal Injunctions were put forth, requiring among other things the reading of the Epistle and Gospel in English at High Mass, with curtailment of the Hour Services.
In 1548 a Royal Proclamation set forth the Order of Communion. This Order directed that after the Priest’s Communion in the Latin service, “without the varying of any other rite or ceremony in the Mass (until other order be provided),” the Communion be administered to the people in both kinds, with appropriate devotions in English. [See below, Holy Communion, First English ...] This was a quite illogical but typically English way of moving forward.
4. The First English Prayer Book
A complete Prayer Book in English was issued in 1549. Imposed by act of Parliament, it has been much debated whether it was authorized by the synods of the Church. While the records are defective and the evidence somewhat conflicting, it seems undeniable that the Church approved it in some form. [Proctor and Frere, 50 ff.]
Much of the services had appeared in English in tentative use during the period of change; [Ibid., 40.] recourse was had to the English versions of the Primers; [Notably for the peculiar form of the Apostles’ Creed in the Baptismal Office.] and a group of bishops and other scholars conferred and assisted in the draft: but the plan and most of the execution were unquestionably Cranmer’s. His was the guiding and deciding hand, his the consistent mold of doctrine, his the masterly distinction of style which no subsequent pen has been able to equal, and which ranks his Prayer Book with the greatest liturgies of all time.
Except for the Ordinal, which was published separately the following year, the First Prayer Book gathered into one volume all that Cranmer and his assistants felt was essential in the various medieval offices, and the less complete revisions already undertaken. Thus the new ritual had the cardinal merit, perhaps the primary purpose, of availability, in simplicity of use by the clergy, and intelligibility to the people. For the first time in a thousand years in the West, all the services were in a language understood by the laity, for whose benefit they were originally composed; and they were so designed as to enlist once more the people’s participation in their performance, as had been the case in the primitive days of the Church – thus giving liturgical expression to the Reformation movement to revive the New Testament teaching of the priesthood of all believers.
In the matter of doctrine, the services were perhaps not so much reformed as clarified. The reading of the Scriptures in English was given a primary place in worship, affording a greatly broadened basis for the Church’s teaching. The Sacraments and other rites were divested of such ceremonies – whether medieval or ancient; Cranmer did not have the data to discriminate – as tended to distract the mind from the essential meaning of the rites. The ritual language was minutely and, on the whole, most intelligently censored to preserve true Catholic doctrine, and to remove medieval accretions and misconceptions of the primitive and universal faith. [Cf. below, Holy Communion, Second Prayer Book.]
Finally, the First Prayer Book led the movement for uniformity of rite, against the chaos of medieval local customs, setting the precedent afterward followed by the Council of Trent. “Now from henceforth,” says the Preface to the Book, “all the whole realm shall have but one use.”
The creators of the new book were aware of the significance of their work. Yet they could hardly have realized all that it would mean for the future in England, and in wide lands of which they had heard but fantastic rumors, and in nations yet unborn; “for in its purification of doctrine, in its simplification of the services, above all in its use of the English tongue, it was and is the fons et origo of all subsequent versions of the Book.” [F. T. Woods, The Prayer Book Revised (Longmans, London, 1927), 19.]
5. The Second Prayer Book, and the Elizabethan Settlement
Changes of such magnitude could hardly be accepted without disturbance. Looking back upon those turbulent times, it is now clear that Cranmer correctly interpreted the mind and the needs of that day, in that the great inarticulate majority of the English Church accepted his work without protest, and tacitly adopted its basic principles as a finality of English worship for all future generations. In only one quarter of the country was there any organized conservative opposition: in Devon a protest was fomented which bears the stamp of reactionary clerical leadership, since it hotly espoused some abandoned details which were least defensible, least valuable and intelligible to the lay mind. And this movement actually broke out into armed insurrection, and was firmly put down by force. Cranmer expected and had nerved himself to deal with opposition from that side: indeed, he was all too ready to act at the first hint of such antagonism, and remorselessly silenced and removed conservatives of great ability and excellent spirit, who might have given him reluctant but valuable support. But he was totally unprepared for the unwillingness of the members of his own party of reform to stop short of any extremes, to abide by any settlement, or to submit to any control.
Such a situation, however, seems to be inherent in the progress of all revolutions. Not only the renunciation of former rulers, but also the breach with established custom, for a time completely upsets the prevailing equilibrium between the eternally opposed principles of authority and liberty, and between the conservative and the progressive spirit. It is extremely easy to condemn the blind obstinacy of the partisans of the old order, the heady excesses of the enthusiasts of the new, the follies of both in their treatment of each other. It has not proved easy at all for historians to assay the various periods of conflict without a sympathetic bias and animus of their own, to discern permanent needs of the human spirit under the extravagant expressions of particular controversies, and to draw from them the lessons which we need today for our still unsolved problems of conciliation and comprehension.
The restiveness of the English leaders of reform was further incited by Genevan influences, notably by Bucer and Peter Martyr, Continental divines who had sought refuge in England, and had been honored by chairs of divinity at Cambridge and Oxford. Both pressed for a further revision in the direction of Calvinistic standards.
The Second Prayer Book accordingly was passed by Act of Parliament in 1552, and imposed by another Act of Uniformity. Convocation seems to have had little to do with authorizing it, beyond considering some minor points in desultory debate. Cranmer claimed in his Preface that the First Book had been all that any reasonable person could desire, and that the objections to it had arisen from the contentiousness of unreasonable men. This seems to represent his settled conviction; certainly to an extent that has not been at all realized, he avoided making real modifications of doctrine in the Second Book.
The greatest controversy centered around the Communion: and Cranmer’s manner of handling that problem is typical of his objectives in the whole book. As we shall see later, [See below, Holy Communion, Second Prayer Book.] the very extensive alterations which he made in the order of that service to render it more conformable to Protestant views of the Sacrament are not less striking than the minute pains which he took to ensure that no element of value was actually removed from the rite.
Some further externals and accessories were dropped, notably the eucharistic vestments, and the exorcism, anointing, and chrysom in Baptism. For the rest, all prayers for the dead were abolished; and new penitential beginnings of the daily offices and the Communion seem designed further to supplant the use of private confession.
The new book was no happier than the old in quieting controversy. It was a hot, heady, intolerant time. The new wine was still in ferment, and declined to be confined by any bottles, new or old: many men were in a mood to quarrel with any ordinances of worship whatever which were imposed and required. Indeed, great issues were at stake, of which these liturgical and doctrinal disputes were only symptoms. Men fought with bitter recrimination over such seemingly unessential questions as kneeling at Communion or the use of the sign of the Cross. They were really fighting to establish the principles which should guide the Church and people of England as they moved on into the new age.
The frail young King died. Mary, who had successfully resisted every attempt to detach her from her divorced mother’s religion, came to the throne. There was a swift overturning of the Protestant regime. There were persecutions and martyrdoms. There was the unpopular Spanish marriage. The nation breathed more easily when Mary’s short reign ended and Elizabeth came to the throne.
It was fortunate for England that the new Queen was no zealot. Her ability as a moderator between warring factions appears in the fact that to this day there remains uncertainty as to her exact religious opinions. She had an open and independent mind. It is clear that she was a sincere Protestant, definitely rejecting papal claims, and disliking distinctively papal ritual. [Proctor and Frere, 97.] Her personal preference inclined her to the dignity and even splendor of the historic traditions of worship. Political considerations drove her increasingly to the new ways. She held the two in balance, determined to enforce uniformity, but realizing that both sides must find at least a measure of satisfaction.
The Elizabethan Prayer Book of 1559 adopted the Second Book of Edward VI as its practical basis, with some additional provisions for the Lectionary, and with the significant compromises with the First Book of combining the Sentences of Administration of the Communion of the two books to their present forms, and of appending the “Ornaments Rubric” authorizing the ornaments of church and minister which were allowed in the second year of Edward VI. [E.R. I. 127.] Thus the Queen and her advisers opened the way for that policy of comprehensiveness which, in theory if not always in practice, has ever since been characteristic of the Church of England.
The “Elizabethan Settlement” made its way rapidly. The people were apparently ready for it; and only a small number of clergy were deprived because of unwillingness to accept it. The persecutions of the Marian reaction had definitely fixed the Protestant position of the nation; and this was confirmed by the Pope’s order in 1562 prohibiting Roman Catholics from attending the services of the Church of England, followed in 1570 by his Bull of Excommunication and Deposition against Queen Elizabeth. The separation of England and Rome was now complete.
6. The Jacobean Prayer Book
Though the sobering experiences of the days of “Bloody Mary” had disposed all parties to accept the formal Elizabethan “Settlement” as a measure of peace for the time, there remained the ineluctable conflict between liberty and authority, independency and uniformity. During the following century, this conflict was cast in the mold of a struggle for domination between Genevan and English ideas of the Church. The Calvinistic system of belief and worship had swept the field in Scotland; and Scottish Presbyterian influence fed the fires of discontent in the sister nation.
On the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603 as James I of the United Kingdom, the Calvinistic party assumed that a great victory lay within their reach. They presented to the King the pretentiously styled “Millenary Petition,” so called from its supposed thousand signers, alleging grievances against the worship, ministry, support, and discipline of the Church. The King appointed a conference at Hampton Court. Like practically all Scotchmen, he was a keen amateur theologian; but he had conceived a personal dislike for the contentious spirit of the churchmen of his native land, and had resolved to espouse the Episcopal side. The Conference gave him exactly the opportunity which he desired to assert his royal prerogative to the English hierarchy, and to put his unruly countrymen firmly in their place. Under his own resolute presidency, the deliberations were not allowed to get out of hand for a moment, but were strictly confined to the announced agenda. The Presbyterians’ hope had been to turn the first concessions into a vantage ground for the general reorganization of the Church. This died at the opening of the Conference; and thereafter they argued their points perfunctorily, and accepted the resulting relaxations without gratitude.
The “Jacobean” Prayer Book of 1604 was issued by royal Letters Patent, and passively accepted by Convocation, whose Canon 80 of the same year ordered the book provided for use in the parish churches. The results of the Hampton Court Conference were represented by a slight reduction in Lessons from the Apocrypha; the withdrawal of Lay Baptism in emergency; an explanatory “or Remission of Sins” appended to the title of “The Absolution,” and a like gloss to the title of the Confirmation Service; and the addition of the matter on the Sacraments to the Catechism. [Generally attributed to Bishop Overall, then Dean of St. Paul’s, but largely derived from the Catechism of his predecessor, Dean Nowell.] The supplications for the Royal Family in the daily offices and the Litany, and four Special Thanksgivings, were also inserted in this book.
7. The Scottish Prayer Book of 1637
In Scotland itself, a temporary use of the Second English Prayer Book beginning in 1557 was halted after the return of John Knox from exile in 1559; and Knox’s form of Calvin’s directory of worship under the title The Book of Common Order became the Scottish standard. King James restored the lapsed episcopate to Scotland in 1610, and began forceful endeavors to bring the country into line with England in the matter of rite. A halfhearted attempt toward compliance was made in a draft of 1619, inserting a few English forms in Knox’s Order; but it was not printed. Under Charles I the matter was revived in 1629, with conferences between Bishop Maxwell and Archbishop Laud. Laud at first was not interested, wishing the Scotch to have the English book; but the Scottish bishops proceeded with the English book as a basis, modified in a Presbyterian direction. In 1635, with the work virtually complete and partly in print, Laud suddenly awakened to the liturgical opportunity, and reopened the matter vigorously, with the able assistance of Maxwell and Wedderburn.
The resulting book was authorized by Royal Warrant, Act of the Scottish Privy Council, and Royal Proclamation, in 1636, for use the following year. Undoubtedly it would now be known as the “Laudian,” rather than the “Scottish,” Prayer Book – since it perfectly expressed Laud’s churchmanship, and the Scotch at that time would have none of it; attempts to use it were broken up by rioting – if it were not for the fact that the process of its making had founded a Scottish school and tradition of liturgical scholarship which to this day has not ceased to be one of the most eminent and respected in the Anglican Communion. Also, the Episcopal Church of Scotland subsequently adopted the Book of 1637, and, as we shall see, has continued to improve upon it to the present time.
Frequent reference will be made hereafter to the Book of 1637 in the history of the various offices. It may suffice here to say that in many respects this Book revived unwisely abandoned excellencies of the First Prayer Book of 1549; in many more it adorned the services with judicious enrichments, and made them more available with exact and illuminating rubrics. This Book has been the prime fount of inspiration for all subsequent Prayer Book revisions to this day. Not only did it contribute a great deal of valuable detail to the Book of 1662: it was sufficiently in advance of its age that there remained many more matters whose essential rightness was recognized only recently, and which were adopted into all the revisions of the last decade.
8. The Great Rebellion
Meanwhile in England affairs in Church and State were approaching a crisis. King Charles I carried to their logical extreme the Tudor tendencies to autocracy, attempting to govern the realm in the manner of a modern dictator, rather than as the constitutional monarch of a free people. Laud, his Primate, reflected the same spirit, pouring oil on the flames of discontent by compelling conformity with a high hand.
The convening of the Long Parliament at the end of 1640 saw the battle joined. The Lords tried a backfire, by appointing a committee to consider concessions as to the “Innovations,” as the Calvinistic party called all the ritual details to which they took exception. The list is interesting because of the real indifference of the matters complained of: about two-thirds of them have been subsequently authorized in some form in later Anglican books, without appreciably altering the “proportion of the faith.” [Proctor and Frere, 153 f.]
But it was now too late for concessions. Determined demands were made for the abolition of altars, organs, vestments, the hierarchy, and the imposition of any rites and ceremonies. Episcopacy was abolished in 1643; in 1645 the Primate was executed, and the Book of Common Prayer was outlawed under severe penalties.
For the next fifteen years the only permitted form of prayer was the “Directory of Public Worship,” an abridgment of Knox’s Genevan scheme. It was an Order, not a Prayer Book, offering skeleton suggestions for the conduct of the services, with a few model forms of prayer. [In one respect the Directory was actually superior to the current Prayer Book rite, in that it provided for a clear Invocation in its proper place after the Institution at the Communion; cf. Proctor and Frere, 160.] In this interim the loyal clergy got the Prayer Book formula; by heart, and used them in substance if not in form, or devised equivalent services for themselves. The latter course was taken by Sanderson and Jeremy Taylor. [Cf. E.R. I. cxc.] Their rituals contributed the use of Psalms 39 and 90 to the Burial Office of 1662; and Taylor’s recourse to the Liturgy of St. James was a precursor of the move to conform to some primitive features of the Eastern rites which eventually has had important effects upon the structure of most Anglican liturgies.
9. The Restoration
After Cromwell’s death, the reaction of the English people from the dictatorship of the Commonwealth made inevitable the restoration of Charles II as King, and equally so the restitution of the Church of England. Both Church and State turned with relief to constitutional order as the only possible safeguard of the people’s liberties.
As soon as negotiations began with the exiled Prince, the use of the Prayer Book was spontaneously and very generally revived. Five editions of the Book of 1604 are known to have been printed in 1660. [Blunt, Annotated B.C.P. [Bib. 125], 28.] The Presbyterians fought a losing battle, first against any official restoration of the Book, next against its imposition as required without alternative, last against detailed forms and expressions. The King was sympathetic, and issued general declarations of amnesty, and an interim declaration of toleration; and every opportunity was given for the defeated party to be heard.
The Savoy Conference brought the issue to its conclusion. This consisted of forty-two divines, evenly representing the two parties, in session for nearly four months in 1661 at the residence of the Bishop of London at the “Savoy Hospital”. Under Baxter’s leadership, the Presbyterians presented a long list, known as the “Exceptions of the Ministers,” comprising every extant objection to the Book of 1604. The “Exceptions” were carefully considered but firmly dealt with by the Bishops. Many amendments in detail were conceded: and indeed credit should be given to the penetrating lucidity of the Presbyterians, a legitimate inheritance from Calvin himself, which pointed out many expressions which fell short of being just and apposite. But their really substantive objections to any required Liturgy, or to what the Bishops held to be essentials of the historic faith and worship of the Universal Church, were refuted and disallowed in no conciliatory spirit. [Proctor and Frere, 172 ff.]
Whatever views one may hold of the points at issue, whether liturgical or doctrinal, one cannot but sorrow that at that critical moment these two groups of able and Christian men could find no way of agreement. Hitherto, both parties were within the communion of the Church: and it surely seems as if that Church could and should have been kept or made broad enough to continue to contain them. But after this failure of mutual adjustment and understanding, it must be recognized that the Church of England was no longer the Church of all the English people. Something was wrong then, which we to this day have still to set right.
Meantime, proceedings for a new Prayer Book were begun in Parliament, and Convocation appointed a committee of bishops, of which Cosin, Wren, and Sanderson were the guiding spirits. The work was done in a month; which is not quite so surprising as it seems, as the committee consisted of only seven, and the three bishops named had long been students of the liturgy, and had systematic drafts of changes which they had been accumulating for years. The work was passed by both houses of both Convocations; received further modifications in Parliament; and was again adopted as amended by the Convocations. This therefore was the first Prayer Book which had the fullest and most unquestioned synodical authorization. A committee of Convocation supervised its printing; some copies of this edition were corrected by hand and certified under the Great Seal; and these Sealed Books were the first examples of an authenticated Standard Book of Common Prayer.
In the Book of 1662, there were some 600 changes; of which the most important will be noted under the history of the respective offices. It embodied six new prayers, four new Collects, new offices for Adult Baptism [This was necessitated by the accumulated neglect of that Sacrament under the Commonwealth, and was also prompted by an awakening sense of responsibility for missionary work among the natives in the American colonies.] and for use At Sea. [This was a result of the founding of the British Navy by Cromwell, and the consequent rise of England’s illustrious Merchant Marine.] The Bible quotations, except for the Psalter, the Decalogue, and the Comfortable Words and some Offertory Sentences, were according to the Authorized Version of 1611. The detailed changes in text and rubric of the services were all with the object of greater clarity and practicality, ignoring on the one hand Puritan demands for changes in fundamental sense and use, and on the other not going beyond the Book of 1604 to revive more ancient features, save as they were brought to the attention of the revisers in the Scottish Book of 1637 – and even that was conservatively employed. In filling in details, and making explicit an inadequate rubric, they naturally suffered at times from too brief a perspective of historical knowledge.
All this minuteness effectively brought the Prayer Book of 1662 up to date, and made it adequate for the needs of a modern age. It has remained the standard in continuous use for over 270 years in England. It may be noted that in the matter of language, it has been the greatest of all conservative forces to stay the natural degeneration of the English tongue – even more than the Bible, because of its constant corporate use, and that in spoken form. Thus although Shakespeare, and even later authors, used many words which are now obsolete, so that at times they actually speak in a dead language, there are not over two or three words in the Prayer Book which are of doubtful meaning to the ordinary user today.
IV – The Prayer Book for the Life of Today
We have treated the story of the Prayer Book through 1662 as one of arriving at a stable “Reformation Settlement” of a Protestant liturgy. Developments since have had the purpose of adapting that liturgy to contemporary needs, under changing conditions, with a growing knowledge of liturgical history and principles, and with a continually increasing desire to make the Church impartially comprehensive. These developments are essentially a history of the Revisions. This division of time is not altogether accurate, since one of the greatest founts of inspiration for what we may call modern modifications of worship was the Scottish book of 1637. There were forward-looking moves before 1662. But after 1662, the liturgy has been fixed in its parent country; while the American books, which we now approach, began with a revision, and have twice improved that revision, – leading the way which has been followed by most other branches of our communion in the last decade.
2. A “Broad-Church” Draft
Six years after the establishment of the standard of 1662, the heads of the Church of England, under the leadership of Archbishop Tillotson, were moved to seek a greater relaxation, in order not to drive out of the Church altogether those whose consciences would not permit them to accept the Prayer Book as it stood. Parliament, however, would have none of the proposals. Further attempts were defeated on account of the threat of Romanism under James II, who attempted to play off Romanists and Dissenters against the Church, so that concession in any direction was regarded as dangerous.
After the accession of William of Orange, the project was revived; and a commission in 1689 drafted 598 alterations – virtually as many as in 1662. But the clergy and laity united against the Bishops, in sympathy with the voluntary sacrifices of the “Nonjurors,” of whom we shall speak presently; so the matter was never even submitted to Convocation. Then from 1717 to 1852 the Convocations were silenced by royal authority; during which time nothing of any kind could be done with the Prayer Book.
This draft of 1689 was made in the form of an interleaved Prayer Book. There is record of only two copies of this book. One of them was lost by lending, and the other disappeared for many years. Finally discovered in the Lambeth library, it was printed as a parliamentary document in 1854. Perhaps the lost copy made its way to America, though of this there is no information, and no such copy is now extant. Yet in some manner it seems to have been known to the makers of the first American Prayer Book, as the Preface then adopted, and still retained, alludes specifically to “this great and good work.”
Some features from these proposals of 1689 which were embodied in the first American book exactly a century later, were the removal of lessons from the Apocrypha on Saints’ Days, the use of the Gloria Patri at the end of the whole portion of Psalms, the substitution of Psalms for the Canticles at Evening Prayer, the placing of the Psalm Jubilate before the Benedictus, and a shortening of the Litany before the Communion.
3. The Nonjurors
At the British “Revolution” of 1689, which peaceably deposed the Roman Catholic King James II and called to the throne the Protestant Prince William of Orange by parliamentary authority, many of the Tory party, most unfortunately for themselves and for the good of the realm, took the narrow view that their oath of allegiance to the King bound them to the individual, rather than his office. Archbishop Sancroft, eight bishops, and 400 priests, refused to take a new oath to the new King, and were ejected from their benefices. This exiled the heart of the conservative party, and, as it happened, those most loyal to the Church itself, and gave control to the “Erastian” faction, which tended to conceive the Church as a subsidiary function of the State.
After Sancroft’s death, the schism was perpetuated by the ordination of new bishops and clergy, and endured for more than a century. Soon some of them availed themselves of their freedom from State control to revert to the use of the Communion Office of 1549. In 1718 they published their own office, based upon the First Prayer Book, but modified from a study of the Greek liturgies. The book of 1718 embodied some ancient ceremonies known as The Usages, namely the Mixed Chalice, Prayers for the Dead, and prayers of Oblation and Invocation, in the Communion. Other distinctive Usages of the Nonjurors which began to be current about this time comprised triple immersion at Baptism, the use of chrism at Confirmation, and the Unction of the Sick. This group issued virtually a complete Prayer Book in 1734, which continued to be printed to the end of the century.
4. The Scottish Church
Similar conditions to those of the Nonjurors faced the “faithful remnant” in Scotland. At the time of the Revolution, the Episcopal following in the northern kingdom was practically as strong as the Presbyterian. The former indeed was actually the Established Church of the land, though it remained non-liturgical. King William offered the Episcopalians his support in exchange for their allegiance; this being refused, the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1689, and its members treated as “Nonjurors.”
After the Disestablishment, the Church gradually turned to liturgical forms of prayer. Their own book of 1637 was hard to obtain; but quantities of the English book were sent by sympathizers in the southern kingdom. The Scottish Communion Office of 1637, however, was increasingly printed separately from 1724 on; it was adopted by the Bishops in 1731, and successively revised in 1735, 1755, 1764, 1911, and 1929. The example of the English Nonjurors encouraged its use, and eventually effected modifications toward conformity with their own rite. This movement was reinforced by the publication of Bishop Rattray’s Ancient Liturgy of the Church of Jerusalem in 1744, bringing a direct knowledge of the Greek standards. These influences made available a better understanding of the organic order and significance of the primitive Christian Liturgy than Cranmer had possessed, and made it possible actually to improve upon the rite of 1549; so that the Scottish Consecration Prayer has been freely acclaimed by many English liturgiologists as the most perfect in Christendom.
5. The First American Prayer Book
The birth of the new American nation made inevitable a radical correction of the State Prayers. It also raised questions of the whole canonical and disciplinary position of the Church, including those of its formularies of worship, and presented a challenge to review the fitness of those formularies for its missionary needs in the New World.
The representatives of seven “southern” States (i.e. those outside New England) met at a “General Convention” of the nascent American Church, and issued a draft of a Prayer Book, “as revised and proposed to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church, at a Convention of the said Church in the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, held in Philadelphia, from September 27th to October 7th, 1785.” [The authors of this Book were Dr. William White of Pennsylvania, Dr. William Smith of Maryland, and Dr. C. H. Wharton of Delaware.]
This revision followed closely the lines of the English project of 1689, whose principles were discussed in much detail in its Preface. It has been fashionable to deprecate the “Proposed Book” of 1785, and to minimize its possible use, and its influence upon the Prayer Book of 1789. It is true that this draft fell rather under a cloud. The English Bishops were frightened at the prospect of giving the Episcopate to the American Church if this book were to become its standard, for it eliminated two of the historic Creeds, and mutilated the third. It does, no doubt, represent a sort of low water mark of churchmanship, bearing marks of Puritan and even Unitarian influences. A century later the Reformed Episcopal Church found it accorded perfectly with their views, adopted it in 1873 as their first Liturgy, and reissued it just as it stood. Yet the book of 1785 fairly enough represented the state of liturgical knowledge at the time; it was animated by a spirit of comprehensiveness which was wholly admirable; and it contributed several valuable features to the First American Book of four years later. Besides those mentioned below, these comprised the admission of parents as sponsors, and the omission of the sign of the Cross if desired, at Baptism; the abridgment of the Marriage Service; the Visitation of Prisoners, taken from the Irish Book of 1711; the curtailing of the Commination Service; and an office for Thanksgiving Day. Indeed, as Dr. Huntington pointed out, the Proposed Book was in some points more “churchly” than that finally adopted: giving the Venite and the Benedictus in full, and retaining the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. [A Short History of the B.C.P. [Bib. 79], 53.]
The first authentic General Convention met in Philadelphia on October 2, 1789. Bishop Seabury had been consecrated at Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, and White and Provoost in London on February 4, 1787. With these Bishops, Convention was organized in its two Houses, adopted a Constitution, and set to work on the Prayer Book. The task was completed in two weeks! However, it had the advantage of the thorough discussions of the draft of 1785; and it represented the judgment of experienced men, who had long had under consideration the changes which would be desirable for the work of the Church in America.
The Prayer Book of 1789 carried out a quite minute revision of the Book of 1662 to remove obsolete words and improve smoothness of phrase. In this, as in major matters, the aim was not doctrinal, but practical. The only changes of any possible doctrinal significance were the dropping of the “Athanasian” Creed, and perhaps the adoption of the Scottish Prayer of Consecration. The latter was the result of a Concordat between Bishop Seabury and the Scottish bishops at the time of his consecration, he undertaking if possible to secure the adoption of the Scottish Canon in the American Church. He had issued a Communion Office for his diocese of Connecticut in 1786, differing only slightly from the Scottish of 1764; and the Consecration Prayer from this form was adopted unanimously in 1789, although the question of the Scottish order of the rest of the Canon does not seem to have been raised. [I.e., the Prayer for the Church and the Confession, Absolution, etc., following the Prayer of Consecration in the Scottish rite; cf. p. 210 f.]
The old unaccountable Puritan prejudice against the use of the Gospel Canticles in the daily offices was allowed to have effect. For the rest, there were a few new special prayers, and a new Lectionary making for the first time full proper provision for the Sundays; and the rubrics throughout were made more exact and flexible, especially for the abbreviation of services used in combination. Other variants of a like practical aim will be discussed under the several offices.
An American Ordinal was issued in 1792; in 1799, an office for the Consecration of a Church, from Bishop Andrewes’ order of 1620, and a Prayer for Convention added, taken from a paragraph in the Homily for Whitsunday; an office for the Institution of Ministers, composed by Dr. William Smith of Connecticut, was authorized in 1804 and revised in 1808; thirty-eight of the Thirty-nine Articles were adopted in 1801.
In 1811, the Church established the present system of amending the Prayer Book by the action of two successive General Conventions. The only change so made before 1892 was the alteration of “north” to “right” side of the Table in the rubric immediately before the Communion, which was effected in 1835.
6. The Nineteenth Century
The nineteenth century saw a worldwide industrial revolution, accompanied by profound changes in the social order, and in the mobility, complexity, and rapidity of living of all peoples. In both England and America, these changing conditions came more and more into conflict with an Anglican order of worship which was only too complete, and too inflexibly lengthy. The “accumulation” of Morning Prayer, Litany, and Holy Communion, originated by Archbishop Grindal in 1571, had come to be regarded as of universal obligation; and its two hours of unbroken attention, tolerable perhaps in the sixteenth century, proved an impossible handicap for the work of the Church in the nineteenth. A routine adapted to a settled population in established parishes was wholly unsuitable for the use of Sunday Schools, of missions to Negroes and Indians, or the evangelist on the frontiers of civilization or in the city slums. These varied needs were more urgently felt in America, and the pressure for adaptation of the liturgy began earlier than in England.
In 1826, Bishop John Henry Hobart, who with Griswold of Massachusetts and Meade of Virginia was bringing new life to the Church, proposed and carried through one General Convention provisions for shortening the services; but the following Convention failed to ratify the action.
Others, however, were thinking along the same lines: how could the Episcopal Church be better equipped to meet the needs of a rapidly developing nation? In 1853, under the leadership of the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg, a group of forward-looking men deeply concerned with the cause of Christian unity, and with the immediate purpose of making the Church more comprehensive, presented to the House of Bishops a notable Memorial advocating greater flexibility and variety in liturgical use. The Memorial was ahead of its time. It fell before the wall of satisfied conservatism. The only substantive result was a “Declaration” by the Bishops, that Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Holy Communion were distinct services, which might be used separately or together; and that on special occasions the clergy might use any parts of the Bible or Prayer Book, or the Bishops might prescribe particular forms of service.
The only other change before the revision of 1892 was a slight modification of the Lectionary in 1877. In England, the Lectionary was revised in 1871, and shortened services were allowed by the Act of 1872.
Meantime, another important factor had been at work in both countries – the revival known as the “Oxford Movement”. This movement, which was in fact complementary to the Evangelical revival which preceded and continued parallel to it, contemplated neither subverting nor supplanting the current doctrinal and liturgical formularies of the Church. It aimed to restore to the Church of England a realization of its living continuity with the Catholic Church of the ages, and to develop the real meaning of its standards in the light of history. Inevitably, this historical method gave new life to the neglected study of Liturgics.
Most of the old Anglican books on the subject were homiletical and polemical, circumscribed by a lack of any real knowledge of any liturgy but their own. The genetic and comparative researches which began with Palmer’s Origines Liturgicae (1833–41) changed all that, and opened up a wide field of ecclesiastical scholarship which even yet has hardly begun to be explored, and which yielded rich returns throughout the nineteenth century. It began to appear that there was much to be learned from the worship of other Churches, and that not all the changes in our own at and since the Reformation had been undeniable improvements. Such revision of the Liturgy as might best adapt it to those qualities of human nature which are changeless, was seen to involve in some cases a return to ancient landmarks.
“Who once hath seen how far above
The sought-for is the foregone store,
Should haste him to his earlier love,
And seek again what he foreswore.” [Horace Ep. i. 7. 96–7.]
To a considerable degree the fruits of these learned labors were advertised, dramatized, and popularized by the bitter controversies over ceremonial. Just as in the Reformation and other periods of rapid change, trivial matters (such as the Eastward Position, or the eucharistic candles) came to symbolize deep divergencies of view, unreasoning fears on the one hand, and unreasoning faiths on the other. The late sixties and early seventies saw this ceremonial controversy reach and pass its culmination. [Cf. S. D. McConnell, History of the American Episcopal Church (Whittaker, N.Y., 1899), 390 ff.] The time came when sober second thought set itself to consider what permanent use could be made of what had been learned; and the task of revision could be undertaken with greater liturgical knowledge than any former revisers had ever possessed.
In 1877 Dr. William R. Huntington moved in General Convention to appoint a Joint Commission to consider “what changes, if any, are needed in the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer to remove difficulties of interpretation, to amend the Lectionary, and to provide by abbreviation or otherwise for the better adaptation of the services of the Church to the wants of all sorts and conditions of men.” This eminently rational and practical proposal was tabled; but three years later Dr. Huntington introduced a resolution equipped with a certain sentimental appeal, proposing a Joint Commission to consider “whether, in view of the fact that this Church is soon to enter upon the second century of its organized existence in this country, the changed conditions of national life do not demand certain alterations in the Book of Common Prayer, in the direction of Liturgical enrichment and increased flexibility of use.”
The Commission was appointed; and began its labors by adopting these significant resolutions:
Resolved, That this Committee asserts, at the outset, its conviction that no alteration should be made touching either statements or standards of doctrine in the Book of Common Prayer.
Resolved, That this Committee, in all its suggestions and acts, be guided by those principles of liturgical construction and ritual use which have guided the compilation and amendments of the Book of Common Prayer, and have made it what it is. [Huntington, op. cit., 135 f.]
This undertaking not to alter doctrine, and an assurance which Dr. Huntington had given General Convention while his original resolution was being debated, that the Communion Office would not be revised, [Ibid., 135.] ensured that the changes would not be great. Those proposed were exhibited in the Book Annexed of 1883 and 1886, showing how the entire Prayer Book would appear if all were adopted. Partisan suspicion [Ibid., 159.] and the intense conservatism of the Church slowed up consideration of the matter so that the revision was not completed until 1892, and limited the alterations to a somewhat meager list.
The gains in flexibility were confined to some shortening of Morning and Evening Prayer and the Communion on occasion; the adoption, in a general rubric, of the Bishops’ Declaration of 1856 as to the separate use of the services; a revised Lectionary with some options as to its use; and further roper Psalms and Selections of Psalms. The enrichments included provision for the festival of the Transfiguration, and for early celebrations of the Communion on Christmas and Easter; the restitution of a Penitential Office; the restoration of the Gospel Canticles, and of the full list of Preces at Evening Prayer; additional forms for the Occasional Prayers, and the Burial Office; and a presentation of candidates and a Lesson at Confirmation.
The real achievements of this revision were the partial destruction of the fetich of Uniformity, [McConnell, op. cit., 409.] and the better education of the whole Church in liturgical principles through the comprehensive discussions during the twelve years that the work was in the making. And as soon as it had been demonstrated that such a revision could be achieved without realizing any of the fears which had attended its progress, and indeed with an increased harmony and efficiency of the Church, it became inevitable that some of the “unfinished business” of 1880–92 should be taken up again in a further adaptation of our standards of worship to new knowledge and new needs.
7. The Twentieth Century
While the nineteenth century opened to the eyes of our Church the great field of a comparative knowledge of the texts of the historic liturgies of the world, the twentieth set itself with increasing success to the evaluation of the enormous mass of that material. The process is still far from complete. Hitherto, the study has fallen in the lines of the ancient conflict between Eastern and Western standards of doctrine, discipline, and worship. What has been needed is a complete account of the origin and evolution of Christian worship, in order to find its essential meaning in its ultimate sources, and to make it possible to assay the value of competing forms symbolizing historic “positions” by assigning them a place in a comprehensive scheme of historic evolution which shall account for them. In the battle of East and West, Scotland, America, South Africa and most other missionary regions, and finally England, have espoused the Eastern side. But the reluctance of the Catholic party in England to accept the new alternative Communion Office of the Deposited Book is evidence of the great importance of a definitive solution of the immemorial enigma of the Roman Canon, in particular.
It is only very recently that the identification of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, and the assimilation of the perplexing testimony of the Didaché, have furnished us with the primal starting point for such a general reconstruction of the evidence: a brief outline of which, to the best of present knowledge, is sketched in this book. Even this was not generally available for the several revisions completed in the last decade; though some portions of it had their effect, especially in England and her overseas missions: and it may be fairly said that America was intuitively on the right track, and has none of its work to undo.
8. The American Prayer Book of 1928
Many factors combined to set in motion the revision of 1928. The work of 1892 was obviously incomplete; but even so it had made the Church realize that the Prayer Book was not absolutely unchangeable. Many new emphases had appeared in the life and thought of Church people. They looked at the problems of health, the social order, international relations, missionary work, and the interpretation of the Bible, in a way greatly different from that of previous generations. They were surer of God’s love, and less dogmatic about his wrath. They were increasingly eager to make worship more beautiful, and thus more worthy. They were equally determined to make their Church’s worship available for “all sorts and conditions of men,” and in all kinds of places. They wanted enrichment – a constant spring of liturgical growth throughout history – and they wanted its contrary, brevity, even to the point of making mere skeletons of some of the offices upon occasion.
To satisfy these demands, revision had to turn to the past as well as to the future: fearlessly restoring elements of beauty and indeed of faith, which had been lost through the bitterness of controversy, as well as framing or finding new prayers for new needs; and pressing to the utmost the peculiarly Anglican principle of flexibility, which entrusts the minister with large discretions of choice in the conduct of the services.
The actual process of revision began in 1913. A Memorial from the Diocese of California [In the 1912 Convention of the Diocese of California, on motion of the Rev. Clifton Macon a committee had been appointed, and had worked for more than a year sounding Church sentiment and collating suggestions which came from all over the country. In consequence, at the nest session the Diocese addressed this Memorial.] resulted in the appointment of a Joint Commission of bishops, presbyters, and laymen, to report on the “revision and enrichment of the Prayer Book,” with express instructions, copied from the procedure of the Commission of 1880, “that no proposition involving the Faith and Doctrine of the Church be considered or reported.”
In a strict sense, this stipulation was quite impossible of fulfillment, since one cannot so much as alter the punctuation of the Lord’s Prayer without affecting the “proportion of the faith”: and a narrow adherence to this restriction would have limited the revision to as purely a literary significance as that of 1892. Dropping a prayer which intimated that disastrous weather was a direct divine retribution for sin, was certainly quite as much an alteration of doctrine as was the insertion of a prayer for the Departed. Yet the Commission proposed, and Convention approved, exactly these changes, and many others: wisely interpreting the “Faith and Doctrine of the Church” as referring to the permissible bounds of Anglican orthodoxy, and consequently exploring and developing our inherited liberties in every direction – to the great enlargement of the inherent comprehensiveness of the Church.
The Commission was appointed in 1913.* The work was completed in 1928. At four General Conventions, the reports (which were so considerable as to be issued in book form) were debated with thoroughness, and with varying fortunes. The appointment of the Commission had met with no serious objection; but its recommendations at once met not only criticism in detail for doctrinal reasons (e.g. in the case of prayers for the Departed), but also conservative unreadiness to make any change at all. Yet steady progress was made. The Deputies took the lead in 1916 and 1919; the Bishops in 1922, when they devoted a whole week preceding the opening of General Convention to a consideration of the Revision Commission’s Report. In that year also, mere conservative inertia seemed to cease. Action on the Report went rapidly forward. The work was finished at the Convention of 1925, and final ratification took place in 1928. In order not to delay further putting into the hands of the people a Prayer Book containing the changes adopted, final minutiae were entrusted to the Commission under a grant of general editorial discretion. [The only important exercise of these powers was the amendment of the Prologue to the Lord’s Prayer following the Prayer of Consecration to a traditional form, in lieu of the weak and unliturgical phrase previously sanctioned by Convention.]
[*The Commission as appointed in 1913 consisted of: Bishops Whitehead of Pittsburgh, Walker of Western New York, Sessums of Louisiana, Nelson of Atlanta, Williams of Nebraska, Burgess of Long Island, and Johnson of Los Angeles; the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Hart, Edward L. Parsons, John W. Suter, H. R. Gummey, L. M. Robinson, H. B. St. George, and J. R. Moses; and Messrs. G. W. Pepper, T. W. Bacot, C. G. Saunders, H. W. Mabie, R. H. Gardiner, F. J. McMaster, and E. P. Bailey. During the fifteen years of the life of the Commission there were many changes of its personnel. It may suffice to mention that Bishop Whitehead served as Chairman until his death in 1922, succeeded by Bishop Slattery of Massachusetts, who had been appointed to the Commission while still a presbyter; and that the Rev. Dr. Hart, first Secretary, resigned almost immediately, and was succeeded by Dr. Moses, who served until his death in 1916, when the Rev. Dr. Suter was elected in his place and served continuously until the work was completed.]
Many enrichments were made: a new Canticle, Prayer for the President, and proper “Invitatories” to the Venite, in Morning Prayer; an alternative Absolution in Evening Prayer; suffrages in the Litany; three new Proper Prefaces in the Communion, and intercessions for the Departed in the Communion and the Burial Offices; an entirely new service for the Burial of a Child; new devotions, with a prayer for the Anointing or Laying on of Hands, in the Visitation of the Sick; added questions at Baptism and Confirmation; sections on the Church and the Ministry in the Offices of Instruction, which were to take the place of the Catechism; supplementary prayers at a Marriage; many new Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for liturgical days old and new; and a doubling of the number of Occasional Prayers. A supplement of new prayers was added to the offices for Family Prayer, which were also provided with brief alternative forms, and the whole moved to the back of the book, thus making it technically out of the Prayer Book, so that additions or alterations might be made at any General Convention.
New flexibility was given by a new Lectionary, with further options as to its use, and by far greater liberty as to the Psalter, now specifically adapted in an optional table to all Sundays as well as other festivals, supplanting the aimless dictation of the day-of-the-month in the Sunday offices. There was an almost too complicated freedom in the use of the Daily Offices and the Litany, separately or in combination with other services, varying from the baldest brevity to the utmost elaboration. There were some further provisions for shortening the Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and Ordination services. The rubrics throughout the book were minutely revised for both definiteness and liberty. The Baptismal orders were consolidated, and vastly simplified in use.
Liturgical amendments included the optional restoration of the Lord’s Prayer to its proper place in Morning and Evening Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer and the “Humble Access” were appended to the Consecration of the Communion – though the revision rightly rejected the liturgically faulty position of the Intercession and the Confession in the Scottish Book, and did nothing to review the Consecration Prayer, or to adjust the somewhat unsatisfactory use of some elements at the beginning and ending of this Office. The system of Proper Sentences in the Daily Offices was extended; and a consistent policy adopted as to the manner of printing and using the Lord’s Prayer. [See below.] The Offices for those At Sea and for the Visitation of Prisoners were eliminated.
Space has not permitted us to follow in detail the interesting process of revision, making a comparison of the four Reports with the Convention’s completed work. But two observations seem pertinent.
During the period of revision, there was constant criticism of the method required by the Constitution of the Church. It was asserted that General Convention was incompetent to judge in these matters, that its criticism was futile, and that the only proper way to deal with liturgical revision was to leave it in the hands of experts. The 1928 revision, so it seems to these writers, throws a good deal of light on this matter. If the Church wants rapid revision, or if it wants chiefly what may be assumed to be “historically” correct, the experts can do it. If it wants on the other hand a Book which will commend itself to the great bulk of Church people, which is practical, and therefore liturgically correct, the method followed was thoroughly sound. A comparison will, we believe, show that the finished Book of 1928 is better than any of the Reports, if adopted in full, could have made it. Some minor proposals of value were lost; but widespread study and discussion saved the Church from some grievous mistakes.
The other observation has to do with the future. The Church has now at last recognized that while it cannot issue new books for its entire membership every few years, liturgical change is inevitable. General Convention has constituted a permanent Liturgical Commission, not to impose changes, but to collate and appraise proposals for revision, to bring them before Convention when the time seems appropriate, to recommend or prepare offices for special occasions not provided for in the Prayer Book, and to experiment and to guide in liturgical development. This Commission prepared the Lectionary which is now being tested throughout the Church. It has in preparation a Book of Offices for special occasions. But perhaps its chief value is that its appointment is recognition of the fact that worship is an ever-growing, ever-changing thing. Further revision is inevitable. There will be provision for a shorter Communion Service, and for the elimination of some of the phrases in that great Office which grow less and less congenial to our modern ears. There will certainly be less emphasis on eschatological conceptions and phrases which few people now accept, and greater emphasis upon the process of salvation in this world – including the responsibility of the Church for the Christianizing of the whole social order. [See C. C. Morrison, The Social Gospel and the Christian Cultus (Harpers, N.Y., 1933), for an illuminating discussion of the relation of the Church’s social responsibility to its orders of worship.] Along these and other lines, the careful study and consistent criticism not only of liturgical scholars, but of clergy and laity, is most important. Worship concerns us all.
9. Other Recent Anglican Revisions
The last two American revisions may legitimately be credited with having helped to inspire like movements in all other branches of the Anglican Communion (save conservative Australia and New Zealand): though on the other hand the latest American book owes much to the indefatigable efforts especially of English and Scottish scholars, who assembled a great mass of available material during the concurrent process of their labors.
The Canadian revision from 1911 to 1922 was very conservative, and resulted in a Prayer Book essentially comparable to our Book of 1892: concerning itself chiefly with the Daily Offices and supplemental prayers, and leaving the Communion almost entirely untouched. [Cf. W. J. Armitage, The Story of the Canadian Revision of the Prayer Book [Bib. 71].]
The Episcopal Church of Scotland revised its Communion Office in 1911, and from 1918 to 1929 reviewed the whole Prayer Book on lines of flexibility and enrichment. [W. Perry, The Scottish Prayer Book [Bib. 81].] This recension originated many of the features adopted in the English Book of 1928.
In England, the process of revision went on from 1906 to 1920 in Convocation. After this, the erection of the new Church Assembly necessitated submission of the results to that body. Groups of scholars representing parties in the Church offered books of further suggestions. The work was finally completed in 1927 and submitted to Parliament. There it was defeated after debates largely concerned with the matter of Reservation. The English “Deposited Book” of 1928 is in general comparable with the American Book of the same year, the order of whose consecratory Canon at the Eucharist it adopts; though in some respects it represents a still more advanced stage of development, a fuller liturgical knowledge, and a larger liberty. In the last particular indeed it is peculiar, permitting the new offices as alternatives to the old in any parish. Though rejected by Parliament, many parts of it are widely used in the English Church, with consent of the Bishop and the Parochial Councils.
The missionary dioceses of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, free from State control, and exempt from constitutional inflexibilities, have tried a great many experiments toward fitting the Anglican tradition to local requirements. Some exceedingly interesting moves have been made to assimilate native customs and ceremonial, exactly as the historic liturgies did at their inception, and indeed through much of their history. Many of these regional rites, fostered by “High-Church” societies, are strongly Romanized, accommodating Latin private prayers and subsidiary ceremonies to an Anglican public order and framework. In spite of this, it is interesting to note that virtually all the missionary “Uses,” with hardly an exception, have adopted or approached the Scottish-American type of an “Eastern” Canon of the Eucharist. [L. & W. 796 f., 816–833.]
Part Three – Sources and Rationale of the Offices
V – The Calendar and Lectionaries
1. The Christian Year
The Christian Year is a most valuable possession of a teaching Church. The recurrent pattern of seasons and festivals rehearses and dramatizes the doctrines of the faith. The definite plan for the reading of Holy Scripture in the accompanying lectionaries furnishes a broad and balanced foundation for the word of exhortation, above individual predilections.
The Church Calendar is composed of the interlacing of two systems of commemorations: the one fixed to the dates of the Roman solar year; the other movable according to the weeks and months of the Hebrew lunar cycle.
2. The Movable Feasts
The root-stock of the Hebrew religion seems to have been a worship of a moon-god. [Cf. Gore, A New Commentary of Holy Scripture (Macmillan, N.Y., 1928), I. 48b.] The Sabbaths consequently denoted the quarters of the moon: at first roughly determined by observation, but soon conventionalized to every seventh day. At the time of our Lord, the second and fifth days (Monday and Thursday) were kept as fasts; [Cf. Luke 18:12.] the seventh as a day of rest and worship. The annual feasts were the Passover, the night of the full moon nearest the spring equinox: agriculturally, distinguished by the sacrifice of unleavened bread (the firstfruits of barley) and a spring lamb, and historically identified with the deliverance out of Egypt; Pentecost, marking the end of wheat harvest; and Tabernacles, at the final ingathering of wine and olives in September.
From the beginning the Apostles observed the first day of the week [Cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10.] as the distinctive bond of their fellowship, in addition to their accustomed devotions in the Synagogue; but as the inevitable schism became complete, the Sabbath was dropped, while the Sunday remained, in conscious opposition to the Sabbath. [Cf. Ignatius Ep. ad Magnes. 8, 10 (P.G. 5. 669).] The weekly worship of Christians was readily acceptable to Gentile converts, because of the prevalence throughout the Empire of the astrological or planetary week (itself of Syrian origin) with the days dedicated to the influence of sun, moon, and five planets, whose names still survive in all modern European tongues. As early as the Didache the midweek days of fasting and special devotion were transferred to Wednesday and Friday – again in deliberate competition with the Jews. [C. 8.]
We hear of Easter as early as the year 115 (Xystus I); and Irenaeus († 202) [Eusebius H.E. v. 23, 24 (P.G. 20. 489 ff.; Schwartz 488 ff.).] and all the first of the Church Fathers bear witness to the annual observance of the Passion, Resurrection, and Pentecost, as already of immemorial antiquity in their day: there seems little doubt that they had been celebrated from the beginning. The disputes as to the date of Easter were eventually settled by the adoption of the Alexandrian computations, which reckoned it as the Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox. These ecclesiastical rules may show a maximum variation of three days after the astronomical full moon, but correct themselves in their cycles, and display an approximate accuracy through the centuries. [In 1582, when the Calendar Reform was adopted under Gregory XIII, a fixed Easter was considered, but not adopted. Recently the League of Nations has revived the project; and for England an anticipatory enabling Act of Parliament was passed in 1928.]
The season of Lent [The English term is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning simply Spring. The Greek Τεσσαραχοστη and the Latin Quadragesima (> French Carême) mean literally Fortieth (day), formed on the analogy of Πεντηχοστη = Quinquagesima – Fiftieth; in both instances however the expressions were applied to the whole season included within their termini.] leading up to Easter developed gradually. The first notices in Irenaeus, [Eusebius, H.E. V. 24 (P.G. 20. 502 f.; Schwartz 490 ff.).] Tertullian, [De Jejunio 2, 13, 14 (P.L. 2. 1006, 1023, 1024; CSEL 20. 275, 291, 293); De Oratione 18 (P.L. I. 1284; CSEL 20. 192).] and Hippolytus [§ 29, ed. Easton, 52.] speak of a commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday and Easter Even, in a fast which might occupy some forty hours. During the third century this fast was extended to the whole of Holy Week in many places. [Funk, Die Entwicklung des Osterfastens, Kirchengeschichtl. Abh. I. 250.]
The Council of Nicaea (Canon 5) is the first witness for a Lenten period of forty days. This in the beginning was not a fast, but primarily a season of special devotion before Easter, particularly associated with the intensive preparation for the Easter Baptisms. [Duchesne, Christian Worship, 242, 244 n. 1; Proctor and Frere, 329.] But the scriptural analogy of the forty-day fasts of Moses, Elijah, and of Christ in the wilderness, brought in the idea of a fast throughout the period. This, however, did not become universal until late in the fifth century.
The reckoning of the Forty Days, and their relation to the original Fast of the Passion, were sources of much diversity. In general the East counted Lent as exclusive of Holy Week, and began it on the Monday before the first Sunday in Lent; the West, as exclusive only of Good Friday and Easter Even, and extending from I Lent to Maundy Thursday. But when Lent had everywhere come to be regarded as a fasting season, the demarcation between Lent and the Passion Fast disappeared. Then, as Sundays were not fasted in the West, and in the East Saturdays also (save Easter Even) were exempted, the whole period before Easter comprised only 36 actual fasting-days in both regions.
Accordingly, various expedients were attempted to fill up the supposed measure of due devotion. Etheria toward the end of the fourth century found a Lent of eight weeks at Jerusalem. [27:1 (Heraeus 34; McClure 57).] The Council of Orléans in 541 discountenanced the custom of some to prolong the “Quadragesima” to a “quinquagesima” or “sexagesima.” [Canon 2; Duchesne, op. cit., 245.] It is only a conjecture that there was ever a nine-weeks’ Lent, extending back to Septuagesima. [Proctor and Frere, 330 n. 2.] Nevertheless, when about the end of the sixth century both Rome and Constantinople added the present three pre-Lenten Sundays as a sort of “penumbra of Lent,” it was by way of reconciling divergencies, and retaining a reminiscence of the former extreme extensions of the season, after the manner of the prehistoric beaches above the Great Salt Lake.
In Rome, the pre-Lenten Sundays acquired a particular color as wartime supplications, having seemingly been inserted shortly after the invasion of the Lombards in 568. [Grisar, Das Missale im Lichte römischer Stadtgeschichte [Bib. 90], 10.] Rome also made up a precise term of forty fasting days, by adding the four days beginning with Ash Wednesday, probably toward the end of the reign of Gregory the Great († 604). [Grisar, Geschichte der Päpste, I. 773.]
The “Easter Holidays” are as old as the Apostolic Constitutions, which decreed a rest for slaves through the Octave. [A.C. viii. 33 (P.G. I. 1133; Funk I. 538).] This book also mentions a week of rejoicing after Pentecost. [Ibid., v. 20. 14 (P.G. I. 900; Funk I. 299).] But for both these festal seasons a liturgical commemoration is not provided beyond the middle of the week in our earliest sources.
The time between Easter and Pentecost was kept from the first as a festal season; but the explicit commemoration of the Forty Days of the Risen Life was not in evidence before the fourth century; and in the West the Sundays after the Easter Octave were not provided with proper services before the seventh century at the earliest.
Some of the observances connected with Easter were added at Jerusalem in the fourth century, in the form of local pilgrimages to the Holy Places on the anniversaries of the events; namely the procession with palms on the Sunday opening Holy Week, the Institution of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, the veneration of the Cross and Three Hours’ devotions on Good Friday, and the festival of the Ascension on the fortieth day after Easter. [30–42 (Heraeus 38–46; McClure 64–85).] These spread promptly to the rest of the Church; except the Palm Sunday ceremonies, which were welcomed in Gaul in the eighth century, and incorporated in the Roman rite in the ninth; and of course the Three Hours, which were reinvented in the seventeenth century, and are still a popular, not a liturgical, devotion.
The Rogation Days, which supply a sort of three-day Lent before Ascension Day, were introduced in Gaul about the year 468 by Mamertus of Vienne as times of solemn litany supplications against calamity. They were first recognized by the Council of Orleans in 511, and adopted at Rome under Leo III (795–816) [Grisar, Das Missale, 90.] in a form modeled on the petitionary procession of the already existing Roman day of the “Greater Litanies” on April 25 [Eisenhofer I. 556.] – i.e., as a vernal supplication for the harvests of the ensuing year.
The Ember Days [From medieval Quatember < Quattuor tempora.] of the four seasons are now the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after I Lent, Whitsunday, September 13, and III Advent. Of these, the December, Whitsuntide, and September days are ancient, [Tradition attributes them to Callistus († 233): Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis (Paris, 1886–92), I. 141.] assimilating former pagan agricultural festivals in Italy, marking respectively the times of winter sowing, summer reaping, and autumn vintage. Influenced by the precedent of the fourfold system of Jewish fasts, as recorded in Zech. 8:19, Leo the Great (440–61) added the Lenten days. [Sermo 19. 2 (P.L. 54. 186).] Since the time of Gelasius (†496) the Ember Days have been appropriated to be the stated times of ordination. There was considerable variation as to the precise time for observing these seasons, especially the Whitsuntide set; the present dates being finally settled by Gregory VII in the year 1078. [Eisenhofer I. 484.] The three days in each season are a special development of the liturgical days once kept every week: the Friday fast being prolonged over the following day, and the Saturday service being a solemn Vigil leading to the Eucharist on the early hours of the Sunday – leaving the Sunday without other liturgical observance until the eighth century.
The Octave of Pentecost has been celebrated by the Eastern Church from early days as the commemoration of All Saints. Our present Epistle for Trinity Sunday has in fact survived from a temporary adoption of this Eastern custom in the West. [Frere, Studies in Early Roman Liturgy [Bib. 88], III. 30.] The Gospel however is that chosen for the Octave of Pentecost; the earlier Epistle being retained as sufficiently in harmony with it. Beginning at Liege in the tenth century, this service was celebrated as the festival of the Holy Trinity. England and northern Europe numbered the following Sundays until Advent after Trinity, not Pentecost – as do the Dominicans and Carmelites, and the Lutherans, to this day. Trinity Sunday was adopted at Rome in 1334, in such a way as to extinguish the first Sunday after Pentecost, and to dislocate the entire sequence. [Although all Sundays of the year belong to the sequence of movables, the dominical office as such was of such late development that its treatment is deferred to §4 below.]
3. The Immovable Feasts
The days assigned to fixed dates of the civil year have various origins. The earliest of them to appear were the anniversaries of the death of the martyrs. [The establishment of the first such festival to be recorded is found ca. 158 in the Martyrdom of Polycarp 18 (P.G. 5. 1044).] After the Peace of the Church, we have the days of the dedication of churches and of the translation of relics. Some festivals, for which there was obvious need and popular demand, were filled in by precarious speculation and far-sought inference; others, in which the people have never displayed the faintest interest, like the lesser Apostles, were supplied in the course of time for the sake of logical completeness. Lastly, the chronologists and calendar-makers, who were disposed to regard a blank space in their lists as a professional affront, succeeded in finding some authority somewhere for the missing dates: and some of these were eventually adopted into liturgical use.
(a) Christmas and Related Feasts
The outstanding example of the inferential method is in the assignment of the Nativity of our Lord. Of the actual date not a particle of evidence has survived. But in the first half of the fourth century we find the West celebrating December 25, and the East January 6. [Christmas is recorded in the Philocalian Calendar in 336; January 6 or 10 as the festival of the Baptism of our Lord among certain Basilideans is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria († ca. 220), Stromata i. 21 [145.6–146.1] (P.G. 8. 888; Stählin 90), and by the end of the third century was established among the orthodox: cf. L. & W. 210.] Whence were they derived?
It is true that the Romans kept December 25 as the midwinter solstice under the name of “The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”; and also that January 6 was celebrated at Alexandria as the birthday of Osiris. It is scarcely conceivable that these pagan festivals could have been the prime origin of these dates for celebrating Christ’s Nativity – though once the Christian dates had been suggested independently, a desire to supplant the heathen observances might have been a potent influence for their adoption.
A brilliant speculation of Duchesne’s offers a possible explanation of the source of the divergent dates on an identical basis. It appears that at the beginning of the third century March 25, which was the official (though no longer the exact) date of the Vernal Equinox according to the ancient Roman reckonings, and which was commonly reputed to mark the date of the creation of the world, was conceived to have been the date of the Crucifixion. This is attested by Tertullian [Adv. Judaeos 8 (P.L. 2. 656).] and Hippolytus, [In his Paschal Table: cf. Duchesne, Christian Worship, 262.] and eventually spread throughout the world. [Ibid.] It seems also that the Montanists, [Sozomen H.E. vii. 18 (P.G. 67. 1472 f.).] starting likewise from a supposed creation on the Equinox, which they accounted to be March 24, figured that the first paschal full moon after the creation fell on April 6; and (assuming a mystic cycle which had brought all things back to a new beginning) adopted that date for their commemoration of the Crucifixion.
Duchesne then offers the pure assumption, to which indeed no ancient author bears witness, but which is in accord with the “symbolical” considerations underlying all these computations, that the men of that time may have further identified the commencement of the Incarnation with the day of the Lord’s death. Certainly nine months from these known observances of March 25 and April 6 would furnish precisely the dual celebrations of the Nativity on December 25 and January 6 which are in question.
By a characteristic compromise, East and West eventually accepted each other’s festivals, both agreeing to keep the Nativity on December 25, and with January 6 devoted to the visit of the Magi in the West, and to our Lord’s Baptism in the East. The Epiphany is attested in the year 361 in Gaul, [Ammianus Marcellinus Hist. xxi. 2.] and by the end of the century was observed throughout the West. Christmas was advocated in the Apostolic Constitutions about the middle of the fourth century, [A.C. V. 13 (P.G. I. 857; Funk I. 269); cf. LEW xxix. 23.] and adopted at Antioch before 380, [St. Chrysostom In diem Natal. 1 (P.G. 49. 351).] though not received at Jerusalem until about 430. [Eisenhofer I. 566.] The Armenians, whose schism occurred ca. 365, keep January 6 as their commemoration of the Nativity to this day.
The feasts of St. Stephen and St. John the Evangelist may have been fixed before Christmas was, since they are kept by the Armenian Church, which rejects Christmas. It does not appear that they have anything to do with the celebration of the Nativity; though medieval authors sought ingenious justifications for these commemorations of what they called these “Companions of Christ”. The Innocents’ Day, on the other hand, was certainly suggested by the Nativity; being first attested in the Carthaginian Calendar in the fifth century.
The Nativity of St. John Baptist, fixed six months before Christmas by inference from Luke 1:36, was known to St. Augustine in North Africa at the end of the fourth century.
January 1 was originally observed at Rome as the Octave of Christmas, with a special commemoration of the Blessed Virgin. Through the eighth century it was still known only as the “Octave of the Lord”. As late as the seventh it was kept as a fast, in protest against the license – which indeed still exists – of the pagan celebration of the New Year. Its Gospel was originally Luke 2:21–32; emphasis upon the Circumcision first appearing in Spain in the sixth century, through the detaching of Luke 2:23–32 for use with the new festival of the Purification.
The Purification on the fortieth day after the Nativity [Luke 2:22; cf. Levit. 12:21 4.] was celebrated at Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, [26 (Heraeus 34; McClure 56).] established by Justinian for the Eastern Church in 542, became current in Gaul, and made its way to Rome through the “Gelasian” tradition of central and southern Italy [Frere, op. cit., I. 94.] at the end of the seventh century.
Although the Annunciation appears as a potential date early in the third century, and though, as we have seen, it may have been the parent of Christmas itself, yet it was the latest of four liturgical festivals of the Virgin to come from East to West. It likewise entered by the “Gelasian” door; the “Gregorian” books did not give proper scriptures for it until the time of Alcuin’s revision at the end of the eighth century. [Ibid., II. 65; III. 39.]
The Lenten precedent of a season of preparation for a great festival was applied to Christmas in the sixth century in Gaul, eventually taking the form of the so-called “St. Martin’s Lent,” comprising six Sundays [Both the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic rites still retain these six Sundays in Advent.] following his feast on November 11. In the seventh century the observance of Advent is traceable in some of the Roman lectionaries in the form of five Sundays, counted backward from the Nativity. [Our last Sunday after Trinity is still properly the fifth Sunday before Christmas, and entitled to the term The Sunday next before Advent applied to it in the American book of 1892, and adopted in the recent English and Scottish revisions.]
(b) Saints’ Days
In commemorating individual Saints, the Early Church by no means began with those mentioned in Scripture, but with the anniversaries of local Martyrs, kept at the shrines of their tombs. Thus it has been truly said that the early Roman Calendar was “the sanctorale of the cemeteries.” [Dowden, The Church Year and Kalendar [Bib. 86], 24.] Its original purpose was to indicate the place where an official service was to be held on a given day. Subsequently, as Dr. Frere points out, the services at the cemeteries were gradually abandoned, and the Calendar became a guide to what service to say in a parish church, and thus “the Curia’s directory became the parish priest’s Calendar.” [Frere, op. cit., I. 29.]
In the early Roman martyrologies and sacramentaries alike these commemorations were few, usually those of outstanding and citywide significance. But as time went on, the extensive blank spaces of the liturgical Calendars were filled up with great numbers of early martyrs from the current books of acts of the Saints; and the extension of the Roman rite carried these commemorations of obscure Roman martyrs throughout the world. The English books had over a hundred such, many of whom the modern Roman use has displaced by later worthies and expunged without a trace.
After the days of the Persecutions, other heroes of the faith were remembered. And a few Saints of world-wide celebrity were adopted in the various regional Calendars; though it is only in modern times that the great communions have made any real point of giving a comprehensive view of the length and breadth of the Universal Church, and seeing that all nations were represented by their outstanding saints.
It is interesting to note how slowly the list of those “scriptural” commemorations was filled up, which the Anglican Church has retained, under the apparent impression that they were primary and primordial. SS. Peter and Paul were attested by the Philocalian Calendar of 336 as having had their relics translated in the year 258. We have seen that the feasts of the two Saints John and of the Holy Innocents appeared in the fourth and early fifth centuries. The cult of St. Andrew dates from the dedication of his church under Simplicius (468–83); [Duchesne, Christian Worship, 283.] that of SS. Philip and James from a rededication about 561; Michaelmas also from a dedication of the sixth century, attested in the “Leonine” Sacramentary. St. Thomas first appears in the “Gelasian” Sacramentary at the end of the seventh century. All Saints supplanted the festival of the obscure St. Caesarius, [Frere, op. cit., I. 136 ff.] which had hitherto occupied November 1, through the dedication of the oratory chapel of All Saints in St. Peter’s Basilica by Gregory III (731–41). [The pseudo-Bedan Martyrology of ca. 780 mentions the festival, which may have been current in England from that time. Gregory IV secured its adoption for the Holy Roman Empire under Louis the Pious in 835.] The Mixed Sacramentaries of the ninth century contributed SS. Mark, James, Bartholomew, [Note that Christmas, Annunciation, and St. John Baptist gave a precedent for putting important days on the 24th and 25th of the month, which was followed for Saints’ Days in five other months of our Calendar.] Matthew, Luke, and Simon and Jude, as well as the Conversion of St. Paul, which had been kept in Gaul from the fifth century. St. Matthias appears in the lectionaries of the eleventh century. [Frere, op. cit., II. 187, 202, 219; III. 70.] St. Barnabas, whose “Invention” at Cyprus had been observed in the East since 478, was not commemorated at Rome before the twelfth century. [A reference to this day had been inserted in Florus’ addition to Bede’s Martyrology in the eighth century; so the eventual observance of the festival probably illustrates the influence of the calendar-makers upon liturgical use.] The Transfiguration of our Lord was an Eastern festival in the time of St. John Damascene in the eighth century; but it was not officially adopted at Rome until the year 1457.
4. The Sunday Cycle
The old Roman services began as essentially a festal cycle, in which Sundays as such were not considered or supplied with proper services, but were left to an ad libitum use of prayers and lections.
The cardinal festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday first acquired Octaves, and afterward by successive stages certain associated seasons. The “Leonine” collection in the early seventh century (mutilated for the early months, including Easter) gives no Sundays but Whitsunday and its Octave. As late as the end of the eighth century, when Hadrian sent his official service book to Charlemagne as a model for the churches of France, this usage of the papal court provided only for the Sundays on the Octaves of Easter and Whitsunday, and in the seasons of Advent, Pre-Lent, Lent, and the Embertides (our present Trinity IV and XVIII); none were prescribed for the seasons following Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Whitsunday.
The development of the Sunday cycle is to be traced in the Epistle and Gospel books from the seventh to the eleventh centuries, in the “Gelasian” manuscripts from the end of the seventh century, and in the varying combinations of the latter with the “Gregorian” tradition in the “Mixed” Sacramentaries after the eighth century.
This evolution began by providing undesignated masses and lections in blocks, for use at need and discretion. Thus the “Gelasian” Sacramentary, with no proper masses for any Sundays after Epiphany or Whitsunday, supplied eight after Easter, and sixteen for unspecified Sundays. In the earliest known lectionaries of the seventh century, the Gospel list [The Rheims Capitulary: Frere, op. cit., II. 2 ff.; Klauser, Das römische Capitulare Evangeliorum [Bib. 93], 13 ff.] gives ten Sundays following Epiphany – too many to be a survival from the sixth century, before Pre-Lent was instituted – obviously with the intent that the overplus should be employed where required; while the Epistle list, [The Würzburg Epistles, in Revue Bénédictine XXVII. 41–74, and D.A.L. VIII. 2285 ff.] with four lections in sequence from Rom. 12–13 after Epiphany, [These seemingly were at first for days within the Octave, as the Würzburg list gives them without title, while later lectionaries appropriate them to the Sundays: cf. Frere, op. cit., III. 29 §3.] similarly furnishes ten Sundays after Easter, with lections chosen from the Catholic Epistles, and has no Sundays at all after Whitsunday, but instead offers no less than forty-two selections of “unappropriated” Epistles arranged in regular scriptural order. [Frere, op. cit., III. 33 ff.]
When in the ninth century this ad libitum material began to be assigned to the Sundays of the year, the “Gregorian” tradition in both sacramentaries and lectionaries followed the old Roman use as found in the “Leonine,” and did not treat the Sundays in a separate section of movable feasts, but, true to its fundamental and original character as a festal cycle, interwove them as best it could with the Calendar of immovable commemorations – precisely as we still do with the feasts and Sundays from Christmas to Epiphany. The whole latter portion of the season after Whitsunday was tied to outstanding festivals, with one Sunday before and six after “The Apostles” (SS. Peter and Paul, on June 29), five after St. Lawrence (August 10), and six after St. Cyprian (September 14). Thus the variation of Sundays added because of an early Easter did not come at the end of the series, as at present, but at the beginning, between the Octave of Whitsunday and June 29, and avoided displacing the services of half the year with the same wide swings as Easter.
The archetype of the “Gelasian” books, [Eisenhofer I. 64.] on the other hand, on reaching France toward the end of the seventh century, had there undergone a rearrangement which segregated its components roughly into three sections of the Temporale or movable feasts, the Sanctorale or fixed days, and the masses for special occasions. When the Sundays after Whitsunday were added to these books, they were divorced from the Saints’ Days which had dated them, and naturally were numbered in an unbroken sequence. This “Gelasian” numbering eventually prevailed over the “Gregorian” arrangement in the “Mixed” Sacramentaries; and the whole “Gelasian” classification, adopted in the Franciscan Missal, was accepted at Rome early in the fourteenth century, and so became standard in the Missal of Pius V in 1570.
The older material was utilized for this new sequence by adding Trinity I–III before the “Ember” Sunday, Trinity IV, [The Whitsuntide Ember Days were late in acquiring a definite relation to the Church Year, having originally been celebrated the first week in June, and North Europe being very reluctant to admit them to the Octave of Whitsunday, and hence interposing the new Sundays before the “Ember” Sunday.] intercalating the autumnal “Ember” Sunday at Trinity XVIII, and interposing Trinity XX and XXI. In the Gospel list, the old Epiphany IX was used for Trinity XX; Trinity II was new; the others were appropriated from former ferial use. In the Epistles, Easter VII–IX were used for Trinity I–III, and Easter X for Trinity V; and Trinity VI–XVII and XIX–XXIV were taken from the first part of the former “unappropriated” list of Epistles – giving something approaching a system of reading in course.
Such was the evolution which produced our present order of liturgical worship through the Sundays of the year, and the assignment of those salient passages of Scripture read at the Eucharist which we now regard as basic to all other lectionaries. There is no plan of the whole; and the attribution of the liturgical lectionary to St. Jerome was a myth of the ninth century. [Frere, op. cit., III. 73 ff.] The fact is that the Celebrant, the Epistoler, and the Gospeller were three different functionaries, using three separate books: and the Sacramentary, the Epistle-Lectionary, and the Gospel-Capitulary pursued three independent and not even simultaneous lines of development. Hence apart from the great days and seasons, there is no connection between the Epistle and the Gospel, save such as might exist between any two portions of Scripture; and none between either and the Collect of the day.*
[*In very few cases are the reasons now discoverable for the assignment of the Scriptures on any ordinary day or Sunday. E.g. Sexagesima had its “Station” at St. Paul’s basilica, and to the present day the Roman rite preserves a mass of St. Paul on this occasion; though 1349 removed the particular reference from our Collect. Trinity V retains the service before the festival of June 29, and is equally a mass of St. Peter. III Lent was a “Mass of Scrutiny,” with emphasis on the instruction of the Catechumens in its Epistle, and upon their exorcism in the Gospel. IV Lent had its “Station” at the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme; whence the beautiful reference to “Jerusalem which is above” in the Epistle. Passion Sunday recalls a time when the Lenten preparation for Easter was only a fortnight long, and devoted entirely to a commemoration of the sufferings of our Lord.]
In view of the almost haphazard manner in which the Sunday lectionary grew, it is surprisingly adequate. But it is not perfect. To this day our Gospel for the Sunday before Advent, St. John’s “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” duplicates that of the fourth in Lent (though the modern Roman has removed this repetition), and is further paralleled in a “concord” of St. Mark’s “Four Thousand” on Trinity VII. Another concord exists between St. Luke’s “Great Supper” on Trinity II and its doublet of St. Matthew’s “Marriage Feast” on Trinity XX; and yet another between St. Matthew’s “Centurion’s Servant” on Epiphany IV and St. John’s version of the same incident, under the title of the “Nobleman’s Son,” on Trinity XXI. Epiphany VI parallels Advent II.
Some selections both of Epistles and Gospels which seem less happy have been emended in various recent Prayer Book revisions, as we shall see. While such changes are sentimentally regrettable, as putting sister branches of the Anglican Church out of step with each other, and with the Western traditions of some eleven hundred years, on certain occasions, yet plainly there is nothing in the history of our liturgical lectionaries which entitles them to more respect than their intrinsic merits deserve; and it is quite within the competence of any National Church to make such further improvements as may be demanded in the lections for our cycle of Sundays. [So Dr. Klauser remarks: “[A knowledge of the origins of the liturgical lectionary] may show the ways on which a perhaps necessary further development and revision of the present [Roman] system of lections should proceed.” (Op. cit., xxiii.) – A better selection of Gospels for the prime festival of Easter, as well as for its Octave on Low Sunday, would seem to be imperative; cf. Easton and Robbins, The Eternal Word in the Modern World [Bib. 87] 127 f., 132.]
5. Anglican Calendars
The Calendars of the regional English uses at the time of the Reformation were very full, embodying the old Roman list in a most ample form, together with their own commemorations of English saints, a considerable number of Gallican names, and a very fair representation of the outstanding figures of the Universal Church, ancient and medieval. [Thanks largely to Bede’s early interest in the Calendar, the pre-Reformation commemorations of the English Church were more comprehensive than those of any other down to very recent times.]
The first Prayer Book reduced the number of fixed Holy Days provided with a proper liturgical observance to twenty-five, all scriptural – five festivals of the Incarnation, [The two festivals mentioning the Virgin were originally so accounted, and in fact so remain.] fourteen of Apostles and Evangelists, the Precursor John Baptist, the Protomartyr Stephen, the Holy Innocents, Mary Magdalen, All Angels, and All Saints. A number of the lections of these feasts, which had originally been drawn from the “common” of various classifications of saints, were reassigned for more specific appropriateness.
In the rest of the list, there was preserved a sort of outline of the riches of the Church’s history, by retaining in black letters in the tables of the Calendar the names of a certain number of the pre-Reformation commemorations. This selection (which is far from satisfactory historically) seems to have been made roughly on the basis of picking out those days which had nine lessons at Matins in the Sarum Breviary.
The assignment of Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and other variables in 1549 closely followed the Sarum order, [I.e., the older and more lucid North-European sequence of the “Gallican” regions, avoiding later Roman confusions.] with some lengthening or shortening of the selections. All services were made uniform with two lections, dropping the ancient third “prophetic” lesson which had survived on Ember Wednesdays, Good Friday, and two other Wednesdays in Lent; likewise the plural lessons of the Ember, Easter, and Whitsun Vigils. The three communions on Christmas were reduced to two; on the other hand Easter was provided with an extra celebration. Easter Even, following Gallican and Ambrosian precedent, was transformed from the Easter Vigil to a commemoration of our Lord’s Burial. The proper services of Easter and Whitsun weeks were curtailed to the first two days. Rogation and Ember Days, and Vigils, were not mentioned at all.
The Prayer Book of 1552 eliminated St. Mary Magdalen, and the first communion on Christmas and the second on Easter. 1662 added a Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, with a service portraying the final and supreme Epiphany of the Second Coming, yet equally suitable to a Second Sunday before Advent – in which place indeed it is used with twelve of the possible dates of Easter, while it is needed at Epiphany VI with only four dates. This book also restored the Rogation and Ember Days, and the Vigils of sixteen festivals, to a kind of “black letter” status, by enjoining their observance, but omitting to supply proper services for them.
The American books since 1785 have had a special service for Thanksgiving Day. Our revision of 1892 restored the extra celebrations on Christmas and Easter, and added the festival of the Transfiguration. 1928 provided for an Octave for the feasts of Epiphany and All Saints, a Second Sunday after Christmas, an added celebration on Whitsunday, the festival of the Dedication, and the observance of Independence Day; gave a single service each for use in the Rogation and Ember seasons, and a Common of Saints; and supplied a Eucharist at a Marriage or a Burial.
The recent English and Scottish books comprise all these American services except the added service for Whitsunday, and of course that of Independence Day, and carry these principles much further, providing, with almost the condensation of lectionary tables, proper Scriptures, and in some cases Collects, for each of the Rogation Days, more of the Ember seasons, every day in Lent, the remainder of the Easter and Whitsun weeks, and several classes of the Common of Saints; as well as four minor festivals of the Virgin, St. Mary Magdalen, St. John at the Latin Gate, the Beheading of St. John Baptist, Holy Cross, All Souls, the Name of Jesus, an Octave of All Saints’ dedicated to the Saints, Martyrs, Missionaries and Doctors of the Church of England, and the Vigil of Christmas; votive services for a Patronal, Missions, Synods, and the Institutions of Baptism and Holy Communion. For all these, the lections in general follow Sarum, but with considerable freedom.
All the latest revisions – though it is possible that their sponsors were still laboring under the delusion that they were tampering with the work of St. Jerome – have effected some necessary alterations in the traditional liturgical lectionary. All have offered substitutes or alternatives to the Epistle on the Circumcision; have displaced the Epistle of St. Jude, assigned in 1549, from SS. Simon and Jude, since few modern scholars believe its authorship is rightly attributed; and given the “Prodigal Son” in lieu of the “Unjust Servant” on Trinity IX. The English book offers an alternative to the Epistle for Trinity XIII. The American gives a new Gospel, St. Mark’s account of the Baptism of Jesus, on Epiphany II, and transfers the Gospels for Epiphany II and III to Epiphany III and IV, so as eliminate the unedifying “Gadarene Miracle” on the last-named day; offers the old Sarum Gospel as an alternative on Maundy Thursday; and removes the “Tribes of Israel” from the Epistle on All Saints’, continuing the lection to the end of the chapter.
6. The Lectionaries of the Daily Offices
According to Cranmer’s Preface to the Prayer Book of 1549, the systematic and comprehensive reading of the Holy Scriptures to the people was a prime objective – even the chief raison d’être – of the book. That this system has greatly fostered the assimilation of the intellectual and moral implications of the faith in the Anglican churches, is beyond question.
In the First Prayer Book, the Lectionary for the choir offices was essentially a system of reading in course, not by topic, following the secular Calendar throughout the year. Sundays, as such, had no Proper Lessons. Only five Holy Days had their full set of four Proper Lessons; Easter had three; twelve feasts had two, and four had one. All other days took the lessons appointed for their date, in a sequence wherein the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha, was read straight through at Mattins and Evensong in alternate chapters (with Isaiah however occurring out of course beginning November 28 to coincide with Advent), and with the New Testament read through thrice, the Gospels and Acts at Matins, the Epistles at Evensong.
In 1559, proper First Lessons were added for all Sundays and Holy Days, [Except, strangely enough, Ash Wednesday, and Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week, which therefore had no propers whatever until the first American Prayer Book.] and a few other propers were added. The assignment of this new Sunday course was by the traditions of the old Sarum use, where Isaiah was begun at Advent Sunday, Genesis at Septuagesima, the Kings after Trinity, Ezekiel after October 28. The 1559 Lectionary however did not stop the reading of Isaiah with the end of Advent, but continued it through the Epiphany season; Genesis was carried on with the rest of the Heptateuch in order to Trinity II; the four books of Kings from Trinity III to XIII were succeeded by a selection of Prophets, including Ezekiel begun on Trinity XVI; and from Trinity XXI the year was concluded with readings from Proverbs. The First Lessons for Saints’ Days were selected chiefly from the Wisdom literature – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Job – assigned seriatim as the days occurred in the Calendar.
This schedule of 1559, unaltered in 1662, formed the basis of the Lectionary of the first American Prayer Book of 1789. This book for the first time filled in complete sets of four Proper Lessons for all Sundays and Holy Days. It followed its English forbear in the Advent through Epiphany reading of Isaiah, the conclusion of the Trinity season with Proverbs, and the Wisdom literature lections for Saints’ Days; but between Septuagesima and Ascension it substituted selections from the Prophets in a rough order, and began Genesis on Trinity Sunday.
The Second Lessons at Morning Prayer from Advent to Easter were chosen from the Gospels to bring out the teaching of the day. The method of reading in course was resumed with the book of Acts from Easter I to Trinity X, and salient chapters from the Four Gospels in order from Trinity XI. At Evening Prayer throughout the year, selected chapters from the Epistles were taken in strict sequence.
The ferial scheme of 1789 was virtually the same as 1559, except that the Gospels and Acts were read through only twice.
The revision of 1892 kept the plan of 1789, except that on the Sundays of Advent the first chapters of St. Luke were read at Morning Prayer, and selections from Revelation at Evensong; and the Saints’ Day lessons were reassigned for appropriateness of subject, abandoning the course from the Wisdom literature, and eliminating all but three lessons from the Apocrypha. The ferial schedule of 1892 read the entire New Testament through both morning and evening, save that beginning December 14, Revelation was read at both services alternately. And there was an entirely new course of optional lessons on a new plan, assigned to the ecclesiastical rather than the civil year, for the Forty Days of Lent, and the Rogation and Ember seasons.
This book also incorporated two provisions adopted by General Convention in 1877, which allowed the minister to take either morning or evening lessons in a church which did not have both services; and also to substitute the lesson from the Gospels on the same day of the month for the invariable selections from the Epistles at Sunday Evening Prayer. In form, this last was an outright reversion to the standards of the Church of England, which had no Second Lessons for Sundays. The motive may have been that the closely reasoned passages of the Epistles make difficult reading, and still more difficult sermon topics, for tired clergy on Sunday evenings; as well as that a peaceful evening congregation is hardly the most suitable audience for the more intellectual phases of the faith. In any event, “too many Epistles” has been a frequent complaint of the clergy against every Lectionary from that day to this.
All the recent revisions, American, Scottish, and English, have revised the Lectionary on a new basis, abandoning outright the structure of the secular year which had prevailed since 1549, and returning to the pre-Reformation practice of following the Church Year.
A chief object of this move was to prevent the regular weekday course of Bible reading from being superseded on too many occasions. By the old method, the fixed Saints’ Days were excluded from this ferial course, which flowed around them without omission; but the Scriptures assigned to the calendar days were subject to being set aside by the incidence of all Sundays and movable feriae, which, in America, included the new Lenten sequence, and amounted to no less than 109 days of the year. By the new system, the daily course is fitted into the framework of these movables, and can conflict with less than twenty-five immovable feasts in any year.
In 1877 it was established that the Lectionary, though in fact an integral and indispensable part of the Prayer Book, is considered to exist, and legally may be modified, by the authority of a single General Convention. Accordingly, during the long process of the last American revision, many ambitious schemes of reading were tried out. For the round of Sundays, a plan published by Bishop Slattery in 1925 was in use from that year, and was adopted into the book of 1928.
This Sunday schedule entirely abandoned the former methods of reading in course, in favor of the “topical” principle, utilizing the office lessons to illuminate the liturgical Scriptures of the day with subtle sidelights and ingenious applications – all executed with such delicacy and finesse as to be rather beyond the comprehension of many of the clergy who used it. Its faults were duplications and omissions – too much secondary “history,” too many minor passages from the Gospels, many of them repeated over again in parallel form, the smallest representation from the Epistles of any modern lectionary* – in other words the lack of the very sort of comprehensive plan which is at the basis of the method of reading in course. It proved inadequate in scope; and as a result of persistent objections, in 1934 General Convention again threw the matter open to the use of trial lectionaries, beginning in 1936. Further analysis of details would therefore be futile; it must suffice to discuss a few principles.
*The shift in the proportion of emphasis will be clear from this table:
Heptateuch and Historical Books
Prophets and Wisdom Literature
Selections from the Gospels
Remainder of the New Testament
(The latter lectionary provides for two less possible Sundays than that of 1892.)
All systems recently proposed and now under the test of use are alike in offering separate courses for Sundays and movable feasts, and for other days. This recognizes the underlying fact that few people can attend weekday services; few more perhaps read the Bible systematically for themselves; and not many habitually attend more than one service on Sundays. The lessons at Sunday Morning Prayer are probably heard by twice as many people, on the average, as even those at the Holy Communion; by at least four times as many as those at Evening Prayer; and the weekday course can supplement any deficiencies of the Sunday schedule in the case of perhaps one individual in a thousand.
Therefore it is desirable to choose the most valuable sets of lessons in all Scripture for the Sunday mornings, in a series balanced and complete in itself; with a similar course of second choices for Sunday evenings. The Sunday morning series should not duplicate any passages preempted by the Epistles or Gospels at the Communion Service which supersedes Morning Prayer at least once a month in the average parish, and whose lections are therefore brought into the same sequence. If it may seem superfluous to insist that both the scope and value of a given series are impaired by duplicating the same lesson at different dates – even in the form of a “concord” of parallel passages from different Gospels – it may be pointed out that this is a fault from which no lectionary since the seventh century has been entirely free.
One of the questions to be settled by experiment and experience is to what extent it is desirable that a Sunday lectionary be on a “topical” basis, and to what “in course”. The latter method has the merits of continuity of interest and cumulative effect. But these values are readily lost if the passages are not strictly consecutive – and within the compass of a Sunday series there must be much omission. Such schemes are very readily constructed; but all offered hitherto have been distinctly wooden, and have included much indifferent matter because their aim was historical sequence and completeness rather than edification.
In the liturgical lectionary, the Scriptures are chosen topically in the seasons from Advent to Epiphany, and Septuagesima to Trinity, which embody the great Christian commemorations of the events of our Lord’s life; but the “green” Sundays after Epiphany and Trinity are still essentially what they were at their origin – common Sundays: they carry no distinctive note and proclaim no indispensable message; and they take their Epistles in course. The English lectionary of 1928 follows exactly this precedent for all the office lessons. [The English list has one excellent feature, in that almost every Sunday service provides an alternative of a selection from the Gospels for each from the rest of the New Testament.]
The determination of an official Lectionary is an important task, which bespeaks the cooperation of the members of the Church. The reading of prescribed Scripture, reflecting the Church Year, is the groundwork of the Church’s teaching. This feature of our services has added a lex legendi no less important than the lex orandi to the attaining of a just and full lex credendi. Upon those mathematical-looking tables depends quite as much of the intelligent well-being of the Church as upon the text of the Prayer Book itself. The assignment of the Lessons of Scripture “appointed to be read in Churches” is in fact a supreme function of the Teaching Office, whose importance cannot be overstated.
7. The Psalter
Just as English hymns did not exist before the Reformation, so the forms of Greek poetry had never been introduced into the services of even the Hellenistic synagogues. But the Church found the Jewish Hymnal of the Psalter ready to its hand at the beginning, and has used it throughout Christian history. Later, the Church developed its own hymns, which acquired fixed positions in the Offices, and even at times invaded the text of the Eucharist; they supplemented but never supplanted the use of the Psalter.
It is remarkable that these songs of from two to three thousand years ago are still so adequate to Christian worship. The Hebrew religion, however truly the “Mother Church” of the Christian confession, was both theologically and ethically undeveloped. The Psalter does not contain full expression of some Christian ideas, and it does contain passages incompatible with Christian ideals. The Imprecatory Psalms voice a justifiable moral indignation in such terms of a primitive hatred and vengeance as we hesitate to use. The Psalms entirely lack an adequate expression of the faith in immortality: there is no sufficient psalm for the burial of those departed in the faith of Christ, nor for the feast of Easter. Yet the appropriateness of those assigned to Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, and Ascension Day is almost startling. They contain a genuine prophetic element, in that the Jews’ anticipations of the figure of the Suffering Servant, and of the Anointed King, were wonderfully fulfilled in Christ; so that to a Christian some psalms mean not less, but far more, than they could to any Jew. Whatever their shortcomings, they can never be displaced, because they are great religious literature, and they have said some things once for all.
In the Sarum Breviary, the entire Psalter was, in theory, recited every week. Fixed psalms were assigned to all the Hours but two; those undesignated were said in course, Psalms 1–110 at Matins, and 111–150 at Vespers. Practically, however, Saints’ Days, with their Proper Psalms, interfered so often that the weekly recitation was seldom accomplished.
Cranmer desired to restore the complete and systematic recitation. Accordingly, the First Prayer Book appointed the Psalms in order in alternate selections to Mattins and Evensong during the thirty days of the month. This ignored appropriateness: it apportioned every one of the old Compline Psalms to Mattins, imported some incongruous notes into such fixed festivals as Epiphany, Purification, and All Saints’, and made it equally probable that a given group of psalms might be read on Good Friday or on Trinity Sunday. There were Proper Psalms for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsunday; but all other days whatever took those assigned to the day of the month.
The revision of 1662 added Proper Psalms for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These six occasions were carried into the first American book of 1789. 1892 added ten festivals, and 1928 six more days and seasons, as well as ten lists for Special Occasions, and extended the use of Propers to eves and octaves, and in some cases apparently to seasons.
All the American books also have striven for a more flexible and appropriate use of the Psalter on other occasions. There were ten “Selections” for optional use at any time in 1789, and twenty in 1892; and 1928 further provided that the minister might choose “one or more” of the psalms appointed for a feast, or of the day, or from the Selections, and might moreover use a section or sections of any psalm now so divided. This now arms the officiant with large discretion to fit the Psalter into the rest of the service. Psalms, or parts of psalms, considered to be undesirable, may be entirely eliminated from use. A single short psalm or division of a long one will suffice; reducing the portion from the Psalter, if desired, to the dimension of the other Canticles.
The latest revision also offered a new optional Table of Psalms for the Sundays of the Church Year. This was adopted, virtually without examination, from the original proposal of the Convocation of Canterbury. [The one point where the English origin of this Table shows an actual conflict with American standards is in the reading of the “Creation” Psalms on Septuagesima, whereas the American Church has never begun Genesis until Trinity.] Considerably modified versions of the same scheme are in the latest English and Scottish books.
All forms of this Table divide the year into two portions, taking the Psalms by topic to fit the teaching of the day from Advent to Trinity, and reading them in course in an only slightly modified numerical order on the Sundays after Trinity. There are many duplications, the American Table using thirty-eight psalms twice, fifteen thrice, two four times, and one five times. Fifteen are omitted altogether. Nine of the eighteen psalms which the Roman Breviary of 1913 assigns to Compline with some appositeness, are allotted to Morning Prayer. The 119th Psalm at Evensong on five Sundays of Lent is nothing less than a blight on evening congregations which are perhaps larger than at any other time of the year. The portions average twenty-four verses for Morning and thirty-four for Evening Prayer, as against forty-two in the course for the days of the month. These might with advantage be still further shortened by a general reassignment which would eliminate duplications. The problem of the very long psalms, of which eight exceed forty verses, might be met by using them in sections, as our general rubric provides in principle, and as they are employed in the new Roman Breviary.
A system of Proper Psalms for Sundays, closely coordinated with the corresponding course of lessons, is certainly desirable. And when the Church shall have been enabled to settle upon a Lectionary which meets with enough general satisfaction to be made permanent, then this Sunday Table should be revised to correspond.
VI – Morning And Evening Prayer
1. “Common Prayers”
The Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer represent the Church’s provision for devotional services which do not include the celebration of the Sacraments. They are called the “Choir Offices” precisely because they are not performed at the Altar. They are “Common Prayer” – social public worship – in the strict meaning of the term. The rubrics allude to them as “Divine Service” in a special sense, implying that their purpose is to offer the aspirations of the participants to God, rather than to confer some specified benefit upon a recipient.
Such “general” services exist in all religions, and consist of the same inevitable elements – hymns, lessons, instructions, and prayers. There is no necessary sequence of these constituents, [Cf. p. 15 f.] although there are inherent principles of rhythm and climax which govern all forms, from the services of the ancient Hebrew Synagogue to the present day “Morning Worship” of the “Free Churches”.
All such services in any particular Church constitute an Order rather than a Rite: that is, while their congregational character requires an agreed framework, virtually every part may vary with the occasion within that framework. Hence they have never displayed such fixed ritual forms as those which in the case of the eucharistic liturgy furnish so many historical landmarks through quotations by contemporary authors. The whole question of the origin and development of the “Hours of Prayer” is therefore obscure; and it is possible only to give an account of the present state of opinion as to their probable evolution.
2. The Development of the Hours
The ultimate inspiration of these services was the already established custom of private devotions among the Jews. Prayers morning, afternoon, and evening were fundamental and have so remained throughout the history of Judaism. No specified hours were set for these prayers, but the third, sixth, and ninth – especially the last – were particularly favored. [Acts 2:1, 15; 3:1; 10:3, 9, 30. On Jewish prayer customs see Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum N.T. aus Talmud und Midrasch, v. 2. 696–702 (Munich: Peck, 1924).] Prayer at midnight [Acts 16:25.] or seven times a day (Psalm 119:62, 164) was most unusual among the Jews but – perhaps under the influence of Psalm 119 – soon became a Christian rule. The Didaché, to be sure, contented itself with the Jewish custom, [Didaché 8:3.] but the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus definitely commanded the observance of the seven-fold schedule as of obligation upon all Christians individually. [Easton, Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus., 54–6. Note the association of the third, sixth and ninth hours with the events of the Lord’s Passion.] It is also indicated that a morning assembly for instruction in the church was held on occasion. [Ibid., § 36. 1, p. 54.] A passage in the Ethiopic version speaking of a daily meeting of the congregation for the Agapé and vesper prayers seems to be an early addition to Hippolytus’ text. [Ibid., 58 f.]
This “Church Order” was very widely circulated, and enjoyed a profound influence throughout the Church. It is very probable that as a result of this influence at least the larger congregations everywhere increasingly came to observe some of the “Hours of Prayer” together and in common. Certainly by the middle of the fourth century the latest “Church Order,” the Apostolic Constitutions, shows the evolution complete, with daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and with other Hours also observed in church. [A.C. viii. 34 ff. (P.G. 1. 1136 ff.; Funk I. 541 ff.).]
This rereading of the evidence in the light of the recently identified Apostolic Tradition removes the old accusation that the Hours were “invented by the monks”; it now appears that they were rather a legitimate growth in the Church as a whole. It is true however that from the time that the ascetics banded together in communities, they held a leading place in the observance and development of this form of worship.
Even in monastic use, the morning and evening services always held a place of primary importance. The Egyptian monks of the fourth century had no other services. Those of Palestine however added a midnight service and the three Day Hours to form a cycle of six. John Cassian at Bethlehem (ca. 388) saw the introduction of the new dawn office of Prime – perhaps following St. Basil (†379), whose “Rule” for the monks of Pontus and Cappadocia had added Prime and Compline to the Palestinian six to form the schedule of eight Hours which the Eastern Church still observes.
In the West, there is no clear evidence for any public offices in the fourth century except the Vigil services – expanded forms of the Pro-Anaphora used on the eves of the great days to usher in solemn celebrations of the Eucharist after midnight. This custom began with Easter, and soon spread to other Sundays and festivals. [Proctor and Frere, 348.]
By the beginning of the sixth century however the Roman Church seems to have acquired the six hours which had already been in use in Jerusalem in the time of Etheria (ca. 385), i.e. the Vigil or Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, Nones, and Vespers. Of these however the Day Hours were used only on Sundays and festivals.
The plan and material of this Roman “secular” use, embodying the weekly recitation of the Psalter, seem to have been the basis of the monastic Rule of St. Benedict, composed ca. 530. Benedict required Terce, Sext, and Nones every day, and filled up the Eastern cycle of eight Hours by adding Prime and Compline on a mutually parallel plan, designed respectively for the daily Chapter or business meeting of the monks, and for the hour of retiring. Lauds and Vespers were still Benedict’s principal services, again on a homologous basis.
The subsequent history of the Hours is of action and reaction between monastic and secular uses, and Roman and “Gallican” spheres of influence. The Benedictine cycle was adopted by the Roman clergy, and provided with a systematic musical setting of the Gregorian chant. Thanks largely to the excellence of this music, the Roman use spread over western Europe, combining with the simpler forms already in use there, and undergoing considerable abbreviation in the process. The Gallican shortening of the services in turn made its way to Rome. In the eleventh century the first attempts were made to gather the whole services, formerly in many books for the various participants, into a single volume, the first Breviary. By the twelfth century, the Roman clergy, under the pressure of administrative duties, instituted a further curtailment, especially of the Lessons, in what was known as the modernum officium.
The active order of the Franciscans in 1223 adopted this Modern Office. Their revision of 1241 saw a still further shortening; and finally in 1277 a Franciscan pope, Nicholas III, established this ultimate recension for the Roman court, and imposed its use on the Roman obedience throughout the world. [For further details of this development, cf. E. C. Ratcliff, “The Choir Offices,” in L. & W. 257 ff.]
In the resulting form of the Hours before the Reformation, the Psalter was – in theory – rehearsed every week, the Psalms being sung in course from day to day at Nocturns and Vespers, but being invariable at all other Hours. However, the course was continually broken into by the multiplied “double” festivals and their octaves. The Holy Scriptures were still read systematically at Nocturns; in the other hours the lesson, though still called a “Chapter,” had been reduced to a single text, usually taken from the Epistle of the mass for the day. Prime and Compline had a fixed “Chapter,” and a fixed Collect.
The principal hours [The “Little Hours” of Terce, Sext, and None, consisted of little else but Psalms and Collect.] were alike in that most of their substance was devoted to the Psalter, rising to the climax of the service in a proper Canticle – the Te Deum at Matins, Benedictus at Lauds, Quicunque Vult at Prime, Magnificat at Vespers, and Nunc Dimittis at Compline. Lauds and Vespers displayed their primordial and central character in that on weekdays, when the most ancient form of these offices was preserved, they concluded with Preces or petitionary responsive versicles of a special and historic type, constituting nothing less than an extended litany of general intercession. The likeness is striking with the morning and evening prayers of the Apostolic Constitutions, [viii. 35–39 (P.C. I. 1137 ff.; Funk I. 543 ff.).] which in turn undoubtedly represent a separate use of the Pro-Anaphora of the Liturgy.
By the time of the Reformation in England, the principal hours were accumulated and recited continuously at two periods of the day: the Nocturns of Matins, together with Lauds and Prime, in the morning, and Vespers and Compline in the evening. These two services were actually attended to a considerable extent by the laity, and were popularly called “Matins” and “Evensong”. The formation of the two Anglican offices from the existing materials thus offered no innovation in fact, or even in name.
3. The First Prayer Book of 1549
The dominant objectives of Archbishop Cranmer in dealing with the voluminous and complicated matter of the medieval Breviary were these: to set forth services which should be the common possession of all the people, instead of a monopoly of the monks and clergy; to preserve the two public services to which the people were accustomed; to restore the systematic singing of the Psalter and reading of the Scriptures, by assigning the Psalms in sequence to the days of the month, and the whole Bible in course to the dates of the civil year; to shorten and simplify the elaborate and lengthy “accumulated” services by eliminating an infinity of minute details varying with the occasion; and to retain the most outstanding and inspiring features of the old services.
Hence in consolidating the old offices of Matins, Lauds, and Prime to form the new order of “Mattins,” and of Vespers and Compline to make “Evensong,” the following elements were omitted: the concluding passages of Matins and Vespers; the introduction, Psalms, and conclusion of Lauds, Prime, and Compline; the Invitatories which had been used in a complicated manner to interpolate the Venite; all Antiphons of Psalms and Canticles; all Blessings and Responds of Lessons; and the proper Office Hymns in each Hour. The remaining materials were combined, or rather interwoven, as follows:
The introductory Lord’s Prayer, with which all the Hours began, but now said aloud and in full.
“O Lord, open thou my lips,” etc., proper to Matins alone.
“O God, make speed to save me,” etc., common to all Hours.
“Praise ye the Lord,” [Perhaps suggested by the “Laus tibi Domine Rex aeternae gloriae” used in Lent.] (without response), or “Alleluia” [Formerly appended to the Gloria Patri except in Lent.] in Paschal Time.
Ps. 95, Venite.
The Psalms, sung in course.
The First Lesson.
The Te Deum, formerly festal, now for use except in Lent.
The Benedicite, from Sunday
Lauds, for use in Lent.
The Second Lesson.
The “Athanasian” Creed Quicunque vult, now for use on six feasts.
Kyrie Eleison, Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Suffrages. [The actual text of these Suffrages was not that of Prime nor even the ampler form of ferial Lauds, but that of the Bidding Prayer used every Sunday before High Mass, and therefore the version best known to the people.]
The Collect of the Day.
A “memorial” Collect for Peace.
The Collect for Grace (the Fixed Collect at Prime).
Mattins ended abruptly here without conclusion of any sort.
The introductory Lord’s Prayer.
“O God, make speed,” etc.
“Praise ye the Lord” or “Alleluia,” as in Mattins.
The Psalms, in course.
The First Lesson.
The Second Lesson.
The Nunc Dimittis.
Kyrie, Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Suffrages; as in Mattins.
The Collect of the Day.
A “memorial” Collect for Peace.
The Collect for Aid against Perils (the Fixed Collect at Compline).
Evensong also ended without conclusion.
4. The Second Prayer Book of 1552
In the Second Prayer Book, the titles “Mattins” and “Evensong” were changed to Morning and Evening Prayer, except in the Lectionary, where the old designations remain in the Prayer Book of the Church of England to this day.
In this book, the penitential introduction to the two services now appeared, consisting of one of eleven penitential Sentences, [Chiefly derived from familiar “Capitula” of the various Hours in Lent.] followed by the Exhortation, General Confession, and Absolution.
A mutual confession and absolution had occurred amid the Preces toward the end of Prime and Compline in the Sarum service. Both versions of Cardinal Quiñones’ revised Roman Breviary removed them from that place, and inserted them at the beginning of Matins only. Cranmer undoubtedly had this precedent in mind; but it is probable that he was also influenced by the Liturgia Sacra of Valérand Pullain, [Pullain came to Glastonbury in 1550 with his congregation of French Protestant refugees. His Liturgia Sacra was published in Latin in London, February 23, 1551.] whose structure of Exhortation, Confession, and Absolution was identical with that now adopted.
The text of these forms represents a fusing and recasting of material from many devotional sources – Pullain, Laski, and Hermann on the Protestant side; and on the Catholic, St. Florus of Lyons, St. Avitus of Vienne, and the staunchly orthodox manuals, the “Bishop’s Book” or Institution of a Christian Man of 1537, and the “King’s Book” or Necessary Doctrine of 1543. [E.R. I. 130 and clviii.]
The Alleluia in Paschal Time, and the restriction of the Benedicite to an alternative in Lent, now disappear from this and all subsequent Anglican books. After all, there is nothing distinctively penitential about the Benedicite – its Sarum use was festal; – and on the other hand, the exclusively festal use of the Te Deum was a very late development: in monasteries, preserving the most ancient uses, it was sung the year round; and Quiñones assigned it to all feasts, even in Advent and Lent.
As the Puritans objected to the use of the Gospel Canticles, Psalm 100, Jubilate Deo, Psalm 98, Cantate Domino, and Psalm 76, Deus misereatur, were offered as alternatives to the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis respectively.
The place following the Benedictus which the Quicunque Vult or “Athanasian Creed” occupied on the six festivals when it was used, as well perhaps as the analogy of the Communion Office, were responsible for rescuing the Apostles’ Creed from its awkward position after the Kyries in 1549, where it had been said kneeling together with the Lord’s Prayer, and placing it after the Benedictus, to be said standing. The minister was directed to stand up for the Collect of the day, with its preceding preces and following memorials – i.e. to take the same posture as at the Collect in the Communion, to which this was a sort of liturgical reference.
Evening Prayer was further assimilated to the morning office by adding the Versicle, “O Lord, open thou our lips,” formerly peculiar to Matins. [Originally this Versicle had a particular significance at Matins, since in monastic use these were the first words spoken aloud at that service, breaking the “Great Silence” observed since the previous Compline.]
The rubric to the Quicunque Vult added eight Saints’ Days to the occasions on which it was to be used, ensuring that it would be repeated practically every month in the year.
5. The Revision of 1662
Most of the changes in 1662 were adopted from the Scottish book of 1637. These were the addition of the scriptural doxology to the introductory Lord’s Prayer, and of the response, “The Lord’s name be praised,” after “Praise ye the Lord”; rubrics requiring the Priest to stand at the Absolution, and for all to stand at the first Gloria Patri; and the major feature of rounding out Morning and Evening Prayer as complete services of worship by appending the so-called “Five Prayers” – for the King, the Royal Family, the Clergy and People, the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, and the Grace – after the Third Collect, with permission to intercalate an Anthem before them: all to be used when the Litany was not said after Morning Prayer, and always at Evening Prayer. [The Prayer for the King appeared in the Litany in 1559, and was a condensation of a form in a private collection of devotions printed in 1545; that for the Royal Family was in the Prayer Book of 1604; that for the Clergy and People, first in the Litany of 1544, was a translation of a “Gelasian” collect; the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, also in the 1544 Litany, translated a Latin version of the Byzantine rite published in 1538 (see E.R. I. lxvii); and the Grace first appeared in the Litany of 1559.]
The suggestion for this last addition lay in the petitionary Preces or Suffrages after the Creed; [See “Litany” § 7–8 below.] its effect was to bring the Offices into line with their primitive form in the early Church, [See “Holy Communion: § 2 below.] by supplying a sort of General Intercession logically indispensable to the Church’s Common Prayers. [See “Litany” § 7–8 below.]
The book of 1662 further extended the scheme of this Intercession with the Prayer for All Conditions, [Composed by Dr. Peter Gunning, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, and later of Ely.] which was printed in the section of Special Prayers, with a rubric indicating it was “to be used” when the Litany was not said. This rubric, probably meaning “which may be used at discretion,” has in fact been interpreted as mandatory. The prayer is modeled upon the Prayer for the Church in the Communion, omitting matters already covered in the “Five Prayers,” giving a special turn to the supplication for the Peace of the Church in view of the unreconciled elements of Dissent which the Church of the Restoration had inherited from the recent days of the Commonwealth, and supplementing the formal petitions of the “Five Prayers” with some intimate and touching supplications for those in distress of whatever sort.
A corresponding General Thanksgiving in the section of Special Thanksgivings, [Attributed to Edward Reynolds, a conforming Presbyterian, Bishop of Norwich.] with no special rubric, also made its way into general use as providing a distinctively eucharistic note, and satisfying a religious instinct that no order of worship is complete without this highest, purest, and most acceptable form of prayer.
Beside these major matters, there was a good deal of dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s in the rubrics – some of it more meticulous than intelligent. And Bishop Wren was responsible for a tiny but mischievous change in the last sentence of the Absolution. Originally this had read with reference to what preceded: “He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent. ... Wherefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance,” etc. But Wren’s “Wherefore let us beseech him,” etc., seems to point forward, as if to some further and future action: which unhappily is apparently supplied by the first Lord’s Prayer, which follows here, but which originally began the service, said by the officiant alone, in as purely private and purely prefatory a use as the corresponding prayer in the Communion. Bishop Cosin seems to have taken Wren’s alteration in this sense, for he sponsored the rubric directing the people to repeat the first Lord’s Prayer with the minister.
The effect of this upon the structure of the Church of England service was perhaps too slight to be perceptible. The real consequence ensued in the next century, when the makers of the first American Prayer Book wished to eliminate one of the two occurrences of the Lord’s Prayer: and because the first one seemed to them so anchored in its context, they sacrificed the second from its central and climactic place at the heart of the concluding prayers.
6. The First American Prayer Book of 1789
The abortive English draft of 1689 contributed these features to the Daily Offices of the first American book a century later: the use of the Gloria Patri at the end of the whole portion of Psalms instead of after each Psalm; the substituting of Psalms for the Canticles at Evening Prayer; and the printing of the Psalm Jubilate before the Benedictus.
The equally fruitless American experiment of 1785 proposed the following, also incorporated in our first national rite: Proper Second Lessons for Sundays and Holydays; the principle of Selections of Psalms; “general” Sentences prefixed to the penitential list; the Gloria Patri or the Gloria in Excelsis at the end of the whole portion of Psalms; an evasion of the “hell” clause in the Apostles’ Creed; shortening of the Suffrages after the Creed, and elimination of the Lesser Litany and the Lord’s Prayer at this point; and an avoidance of repeating the Collect for the day twice in combined Morning Prayer and Holy Communion.
The Prayer Book of 1789 displayed a number of alterations of the parent English book of 1662. The most obvious of these, and the ostensible reason for an American book, was the prayer for civil rulers. In this prayer, which, as in the English service, was the same at both Morning and Evening Prayer, “the President of the United States, and all others in authority,” was substituted for the King; with some little toning down of “royal” epithets.
Incidentally, the rubric directing the omission of the concluding prayers if the Litany was to follow, was put after this prayer instead of before, in Morning Prayer. It is said that at this time George Washington, who lived eight miles from a church, did not attend evening service; and the Litany being habitual after Morning Prayer, it was in response to his expressed desire to hear the Prayer for the President read that the rubric was given this position: so that until 1928 this irregularity in the morning service bore witness to the fact that the first President of the country was a Churchman.
Further alterations were made of phrases in the Te Deum, the Third Collect in both services, and the prayers for Clergy and People, and for All Conditions. With few exceptions, these were judicious and demonstrable improvements.
Throughout the rubrics of both services, “Minister” was substituted for “Priest” wherever it occurred, save at the Absolution, to permit the recitation of the services by a Deacon or Lay Reader, with the exception of this one sacerdotal element.
The Venite was amended from Psalm 95 to Psalm 95:1–7 and 96:9 and 13. On Easter, and six other occasions, it was to be supplanted by proper Anthems. [These latter were centos from the Proper Psalms for their days, and necessitated the use of a neutral Selection with them.]
The “hell” clause in the Apostles’ Creed might either be omitted, or supplanted by the paraphrase “He went into the place of departed spirits,” if “any Churches” desired to do so. While canonists are of the opinion that the latter expression means not any local congregations, but a unit not less than a diocese, the mere existence of the explanation and permission was enough to quiet objection, as was the case with the Sign of the Cross in Baptism; and the matter seems never to have been tested.
There were also a number of omissions: of the introductory versicles, “O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us”; [This once began all the Hours; eliminating it left only the Versicle once proper to Matins alone.] of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, and of all but the first four verses of the Benedictus; of all Suffrages after the Creed except the first and last, in both services; of the Anthem after the Third Collect; of the interpolation for special intercessions in the prayer for All Conditions and the General Thanksgiving; and of the Lesser Litany and Lord’s Prayer after the Creed. This last was a somewhat serious liturgical blunder: it omitted the proper congregational Lord’s Prayer from its central and climactic place, such as it occupies in all other prayer book offices, in order to retain the form which was and is merely prefatory. It was, however, the logical sequel of the mistakes made by Wren and Cosin in 1662.
On the other hand, the book offered several additions and alternatives. Three “general” Sentences were prefixed to the exclusively penitential group. The germ of the present Proper Sentences for the Christian Seasons appeared under the Thanksgiving Day service. The shorter Absolution from the Communion was given as an alternative to the one already in the offices; and the Nicene Creed to the Apostles’. [The Proposed Book of 1785 had eliminated the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds entirely, and confined the Apostles’ to Morning Prayer to avoid duplication in the combined services. In response to strong objections from the Church of England, the book of 1789 reinstated the Nicene Creed both in the Offices and the Communion, as a sort of disclaimer of heretical intent; but refused to restore the Athanasian Creed even to a place in the book.] Psalm 92:1–4, Bonum Est, was supplied for choice instead of the Cantate, to make up for the excision of the Magnificat, and Psalm 103:1–4 and 20–22, Benedic, Anima Mea, was similarly added to the Deus Misereatur, in lieu of the Nunc Dimittis. The prayer for All Conditions, and the General Thanksgiving, were transferred from the Special Prayers and Thanksgivings, and added to both services.
Further flexibility in combination with other services was introduced by rubrics providing for the omission of the Collect for the day from Morning Prayer, and of the introductory Lord’s Prayer and the Creed from the Communion, when the two services were used together.
7. The Prayer Book of 1892
Although it was a desire to bring the daily offices into harmony with the needs of the modern age which was in the forefront of the objectives of the revision sponsored by Dr. Huntington, the actual changes in these services effected in 1892 were few and conservative.
The only new matter adopted was the system of “Proper” Sentences for festivals and seasons at the beginning of both services – carrying out the idea of those supplied for Thanksgiving Day in 1789; – and a new Prayer for the President [Adapted from the first Collect for the King at the Communion in all the English books.] at Evening Prayer.
There were however several enrichments in the form of restorations of matter eliminated in 1789 from the English original. The Benedictus was again printed in full, but with provision for omitting all but the first four verses except upon the Sundays in Advent, and once more followed, not preceded, by its alternative, the Jubilate; and at Evening Prayer the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, and the Suffrages after the Creed, [With two small changes of phrase.] were restored, as was the original form of the Third Collect, and the permission for an Anthem after it. The permission to omit the “hell” clause in the Creed was dropped. The optional commemorations were reinstated in the prayer for All Conditions and the General Thanksgiving.
The principle of flexibility was much extended. At Morning Prayer, when the Holy Communion was to follow, the minister might omit the Exhortation, Confession, and Absolution, passing directly from the Sentences to the Lord’s Prayer, intercalating “The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit. Let us pray.” On any weekday, the new short Invitation, “Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God,” might be substituted for the Exhortation; and the service might end with the Grace after the Third Collect. At Evening Prayer, the Invitation might be used instead of the Exhortation on any day; and on weekdays the Invitation, Confession, and Absolution might be omitted; and at any time the service could be concluded after the Third Collect with any “Prayer or Prayers taken out of this Book.”
Further proposals of this revision which failed of adoption in 1892, but were successful in 1928, include the short alternative Absolution at Evening Prayer; the permission to omit the Venite on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; the Benedictus es, Domine as an alternative to Te Deum or Benedicite; and the change of the break in Morning Prayer to the place after the Third Collect instead of after the prayer for the President.
8. The Revision of 1928
At our last revision, a careful recension was made of the opening Sentences of both Morning and Evening Prayer. Nine of these were omitted, eight added, and five transferred. The scheme of Proper Sentences adapted to the Christian Seasons, adopted in 1892, [The latest English and Scottish books have incorporated this use of Sentences for the seasons.] was carried to its logical conclusion by reducing the ten penitential Sentences which had survived in 1892 to three each in Morning and Evening Prayer, and absorbing them under the season of Lent; and those in the service for Thanksgiving Day, which, as we have seen, pioneered in this development, were now transferred to this portion of Morning Prayer.
The Seasons may now be further emphasized by the optional use of Invitatories [They are more in the form of medieval Antiphons. The old Invitatories had preserved in this place a very ancient form of Antiphon, whereby the whole and the half phrase were interpolated between successive verses of the Venite.] prefixed to the Venite.
The Canticle Benedictus es, Domine, [Dan. 3:52–56 (Vulg. and LXX), Song of the Three Holy Children 29–34 (English Apocrypha), preceding our Benedicite. Benedictus Es is sung daily in the Mozarabic office.] is offered as a further alternative after the First Lesson. There is still nothing penitential at this point; but its simplicity makes it an excellent substitute at any time for the length of the Benedicite and the musical difficulty of many settings of the Te Deum.
At Morning Prayer, a new Prayer for the President is given as an alternative to the old slightly altered Collect for the King, in which the Church prays for the temporal and eternal welfare of the President in personal terms still reminiscent of royalism. The Prayer Book Commission proposed this prayer as a substitute, not an alternative; but it is understood that the sympathies aroused by the tragic collapse of President Wilson, which had occurred shortly before the time this portion was before General Convention for action, influenced the Convention to retain the old prayer, precisely because it was personal.
At Evening Prayer, in lieu of the old alternative borrowed from the Communion, a new Absolution is given from the Sarum rite. [This short Absolution, as well as a simplified Confession, is offered as an alternative at both Morning and Evening Prayer in the English and Scottish revisions.] Perhaps by contrast with Cranmer’s fullness, it seems somewhat abrupt, especially in its conclusion. This might be remedied by appending “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” to elicit the people’s Amen.
There were also a number of alterations in the rubrics affecting the details of the services.
The Venite may now be omitted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, to which its joyful note is not appropriate. [The English Deposited Book allows the omission of the Venite on any day except Sundays and Holy Days.] Psalm 95 may be used instead of the Venite at any time, instead of “when it is used in the course of the Psalms, on the 19th day of the month.” The “course of the Psalms” having fallen into tacit desuetude in many quarters as the base of the Sunday services, it is nevertheless desirable to substitute Psalm 95 for the Venite whenever it is followed by Psalm 96, two of whose verses it borrows. Psalm 95 may also be used to provide a penitential ending for the Venite in Lent, as the Book Annexed of 1886 proposed.
The rubric before the Suffrages after the Creed has been changed to read “the People [instead of all] devoutly kneeling.” This legalizes the following of the custom of the Church of England, where the Suffrages and the Three Collects are said by the priest standing.
The change of the break in Morning Prayer from after the Prayer for the President to after the Third Collect, brings Morning Prayer into symmetry with Evensong, and into conformity with the services of the rest of the Anglican Communion, at the sacrifice of that interesting peculiarity of the First American Prayer Book, [See above.] whose value, however, was apologetic rather than liturgical.
The rubric permitting the congregation to say the General Thanksgiving with the minister was a concession to an already established and increasing parochial custom. [Such a rubric first appears in the Irish Prayer Book of 1878. The English Book of 1928 adopts a like provision.] It was a hopeful sign that the people desired to take a corporate vocal part in this “eucharistic” element of the service, in the same manner in which they had been required to participate in the “penitential” portions. The principle of self-activity in a truly congregational service, in which all have their share, which had been so nearly eliminated by the use of a dead language, and almost extinguished in the days of the “duet of parson and clerk,” is again a living influence in this spontaneous initiative of a devout and intelligent laity.
But the most important changes in 1928 were in the general rubrics, whereby the offices were made far more flexible, and adaptable to particular purposes.
At Morning Prayer, the Exhortation may be replaced by the short Invitation at any time, instead of only on weekdays. The outright omission of Exhortation, Confession, and Absolution, formerly permitted when the Communion was to follow, is now extended to use when the Litany follows, and also, without these restrictions, to “any day, save a Day of Fasting or Abstinence. [By definition, this exception does not apply to any Sunday, even in penitential seasons.]
Under the last-named conditions, an entirely new option is introduced, of going absolutely from the Sentences to “O Lord, open thou our lips”; it being provided that the Lord’s Prayer, thus eliminated here, is to be inserted in the Suffrages after the Creed; or may be completely omitted from Morning Prayer, if the Litany follows.
The salient point of this option is more than a shortened service: it is a tentative and experimental approach at the discretion of the minister toward undoing the blunder of 1789 which eliminated the wrong occurrence of the Lord’s Prayer, and restoring that prayer to what is unquestionably its rightful place in the service. [The English book specifies that the minister shall kneel for the Lord’s Prayer, and stand up for the following Suffrages and Collects. Our rubric not covering this question, there is some conflict of usage at this point.]
Both these permissions at Morning Prayer – simply to omit the Confession, etc., or also to transfer the Lord’s Prayer – are open at any time without restriction at Evening Prayer. And authority to close the Office at any time in any manner after the Third Collect, which 1892 granted for Evensong, is now extended to Morning Prayer.
Combining these rubrics at the beginning and end, it appears that on any Sunday morning it is possible to say the office with the same brevity, and on almost exactly the same lines, as in 1549. Whether it is advisable to do so at a principal service, is another matter. The minimum outline of Morning Prayer has assimilated to itself elements – penitential, intercessory, and eucharistic – indispensable to a complete service of worship; and eliminating them all, as the rubrics allow the minister to do, has been known to provoke the comment on the part of the laity: “That isn’t Church; it’s just a short service!”
The provision of the so-called “Shortened Services Act” of 1872 of the Church of England, permitting the use of any one Lesson followed by any one Canticle, is now applied to our Evening Prayer by a rubric before the Magnificat. A similar rubric before the Te Deum allows the minister to pass at once to the Holy Communion, after any one Canticle of Morning Prayer has been said following the First Lesson.
The combination of all the rubrics referring to the permissible management of Morning Prayer when the Communion is to follow gives the following minimum schedule: a Sentence; “The Lord be with you,” etc.; the Lord’s Prayer and Preces; the Venite and a Psalm; an Old-Testament Lesson; and a Canticle serving as an Introit to the Holy Communion. [Rubric, Prayer Book p. 10: “The Minister ... after any one of the following Canticles ... may pass at once to the Communion service.”] This furnishes the Communion with a full choral introduction, supplementing the rather abbreviated and slighted Pro-Anaphora of modern times with the ancient Prophetic Lesson and further psalmody.
The 1928 rubrics for the first time make optional instead of mandatory the use of the “Ante-Communion” with Morning Prayer when there is no celebration. The custom had indeed fallen into general disuse, there being few churches where Morning Prayer is the normal principal service which do not also have an early celebration, which sufficiently fulfills the requirement. But mission churches in charge of a Deacon seldom get a celebration oftener than once a month – perhaps still more infrequently in sparsely settled regions. To preserve even a framework and a reminder of the fundamental sacramental worship of the Church, it seemed desirable to permit the use of the “Ante-Communion” by a Deacon; and this was done in 1928.
In using the “Ante-Communion” with Morning Prayer, the various alternative rubrics must be strictly constructed. The permissions available “when the Holy Communion is immediately to follow” do not apply to the “Ante-Communion”: and any attempt to cut corners will result in a mutilated service. Morning Prayer must be said intact through the Collects, the only possible omissions being the Exhortation, and the Confession and Absolution except on penitential weekdays, and the Collect of the day; the position of the Lord’s Prayer of course being optional. The service should be terminated with the Blessing immediately after the Gospel. [A Deacon should of course substitute the Grace, or the concluding supplication of the Penitential Office.]
9. Rationale and Use
All the recent revisions of Morning and Evening Prayer are outstanding in their reconciliation of the immemorial but antithetical desires for enrichment, and for brevity, by applying the peculiarly Anglican principle of flexibility. This principle, signalized by the words may and or in the rubrics, has been increasingly characteristic of the Anglican books since the beginning. The officiant may now choose among a wealth of alternative forms, to adorn the offices with dignity and splendor, or to conform them to the season or the occasion; or by omission he may reduce them to their briefest essentials, and make them available “when two or three are gathered together” in a mission service, as well as appropriate for the solemnities of cathedrals.
The services begin with a Sentence appointed for the season, which gives a sort of keynote to the office, such as formerly the Antiphons did to the Psalms. Then follows a preparation of humility and contrition. This is optional save on penitential weekdays; but perhaps should hardly be habitually omitted from principal services on Sundays.
The heart of these offices consists of the reading of Scripture and the singing of canticles of praise, alternating in an inevitable rhythm. In this part, a selection from the Hymnbook of the Jewish Church leads to a portion from the Jewish Scriptures; and this is followed by a canticle glorifying God the Creator, and either expressly or by a natural Christian interpretation leading our minds on from the Old Covenant to the New. Then a reading from the Christian Scriptures is succeeded by a song of praise for the mercies of the Redemption. All this teaching of the Word of God is summed up in the Creed.
The services are concluded with the Prayers, in three divisions: first, the commemoration of the central liturgical worship of the Church, in the Collects of the day; then a general Intercession, which may be as comprehensive or as specific as desired; finally a corporate act of Thanksgiving, and a Blessing. Intercession and Thanksgiving are optional; but, as has been suggested, their omission does not leave a complete service of worship, and is hardly advisable unless this lack is to be made up by a following Litany or Communion.
The Prayer Book assumes that the Communion Office shall be the central service of the day, by directing that announcements, sermon, and offertory shall occur at that time. Yet it explicitly indicates (p. 73) that offerings may be received at other services, providing for the collection and presentation of the alms with the use of the Offertory Sentences and Anthems. The general rubrics (p. xi) also allow hymns before and after services and sermons. It is taken for granted that sermons and announcements may be used where needed. From these permissions, express and implied, custom, without explicit direction, has evolved the familiar structure of hymn, announcements, sermon, offertory sentence and anthem, and presentation of alms; to which the analogy of the English use of the Ante-Communion has appended the concluding “Table Prayers,” Benediction, and recessional hymn.
In their fullest form, therefore, Morning and Evening Prayer are complete services, embodying every element of worship – penitence, instruction, praise, intercession, thanksgiving, exhortation, oblation, and benediction. These services are contemplative rather than dramatic, forms of words rather than actions. They claim a genuine exercise of the mind and heart; they have shown themselves particularly expressive of the characteristic Anglican spirit of active personal participation, with none of the phase of passivity which accompanies the administration of the Sacraments: they have no ex opere operato quality at all.
In time past, it has been regrettable that Morning Prayer so largely tended to supplant the Eucharist, which it so adequately supplements. But it would be a pity if in our day it should in turn be wholly supplanted as far as the general congregation is concerned. The extreme flexibility in length and content of the Choir Offices, their adaptability to congregations and occasions, their variability in almost every part, responsive to the notes of the Christian Year, and especially the very comprehensive repertory of Holy Scripture which they present to the people, make them invaluable media for the Ministry of the Word.
Note on the Te Deum
The Canticle Te Deum Laudamus merits a detailed note. Formerly attributed by tradition to SS. Augustine and Ambrose, its authorship is now, following Dom Morin, commonly ascribed to Niceta, Bishop of Remesiana in Dacia in the fourth century. Its order and ideas are Eastern, but its language is Western, resembling early Gallican forms. Its latinity is very archaic, contemporary with the Canon of the Roman mass. It embodies a quotation from St. Cyprian. [Proctor and Frere, 381 n. 2.]
Originally it consisted of the first two sections, as now printed in the Prayer Book; which some MSS, and the oldest musical settings, actually preserve. In these sections the Scripture citations are from the Old Latin version, before Jerome. [Ibid., 383 n. 1.]
The third section consists of Suffrages, taken from the Psalter and the Eastern liturgical litanies. This part seems to have been written originally in Greek, and appended to the Gloria in Excelsis. Such a form of the Gloria, with the Suffrages added, appears in the Alexandrine Codex of the Scriptures in the fifth century. The Scripture citations of this portion in the Latin version are from the Vulgate.
About the beginning of the sixth century, both Te Deum and Gloria in Excelsis were sung in the morning office of Caesarius of Arles. But in that century, the Gloria was admitted to the mass – but shorn of the Suffrages which had accompanied it in the Office. Not unnaturally, these were now added to the end of the Te Deum.
This Hymn, by common consent the climax of devotional inspiration outside Holy Scripture, is nothing less than a paraphrase of the Liturgy. As far as mere impassioned words can go, apart from the sacrificial action of the Eucharist, it is a Liturgy in itself. Following the order of the early Eastern Church, it contains a Preface and Sanctus; a Post-Sanctus praising God for his revelation under both dispensations, leading to an account of the Incarnation and Redemption; and in conclusion, properly liturgical Intercessions for the benefits thereof.
On occasion, the Te Deum is used as an independent service complete in itself, being sung at celebrations of national rejoicing as a most solemn and exalted expression of thanksgiving to God.
VII – The Litany, and Other Supplications
1. The Origin of the Litany Form
All Public prayer is a cooperative act between the appointed minister who voices aloud the Church’s supplication on behalf of all, and the attendant congregation who make those supplications their own. There is a real problem of “leading in prayer,” so as to secure and maintain the participation of the people, that with heart and mind they may follow in the path wherein the minister directs their steps. The two methods most effective for this end have been, first, to offer some kind of “Bidding,” proposing the particular “intention” or subject of the petition; and second, to encourage some sort of response from the hearers.
The simplest form consists of a prayer or chain of prayers, each voicing a single petition, each preceded by a “Bidding” which serves as its announced title, each followed by the assent, “So be it,” by the people. This method is native to the Egyptian, Roman, and “Gallican” rites. It is admirably illustrated by the Orationes Solemnes of the Roman Good Friday Intercessions. It has left its vestige in the habitual “Let us pray” before Collects.
A more elaborate form arose in Syria, probably in the first part of the fourth century. [St. Basil of Caesarea †379 in his Ep. 207 (P.G. 32. 764), attests that diaconal litanies were in use in his time, though they had not been employed in the days of St. Gregory “Thaumaturgus” (†254). The first description of such litanies is in Book II of the Apostolic Constitutions (Funk I. 165; LEW 30.19); the first complete texts in the Liturgy of Book VIII (Funk I. 478 ff.; LEW 3 ff.).] Instead of the simple parallelism of Biddings and Collects, it offers an essentially periodic structure, the Deacon proclaiming the entire series of suffrages of a General Intercession, the whole being summed up at its conclusion by a compendious Collect by the Bishop.
Perhaps in the beginning this Syrian order was like the “Gallican” form known as the Bidding Prayer, such as that on p. 47 of the present Prayer Book, where the proclamations addressed to the people are not interrupted by any response. But such responses naturally arise from the fervor of enthusiastic worshippers, and are spontaneously interjected into the course of a long supplication. The Byzantine rite to this day has such ejaculations, “To thee, O Lord!” “Grant it, Lord!” as well as those more familiar to us, “Lord, have mercy!” and the primordial “Amen,” in a manner identical with those heard in a modern revival service.
It seems that the early development of responsorial psalmody at Antioch furnished a pattern whereby this voluntary participation might be adopted and regularized, reduced to a definite ritual order and rhythm, by directing the response, Lord, have mercy, after each suffrage announced by the Deacon, like the recurring answer, “For his mercy endureth for ever” in Psalm 136. This transformed a mere Bidding Prayer to a Litany.
2. Western Litanies
From Syria, the device of liturgical litanies spread to other rites where it was not native – the Ethiopic, Gallican, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Celtic, and Roman.
In France the litany form must have been in common use for some time before Mamertus in 468 instituted the Rogation Days for its solemn performance.
At Rome, a litany was employed at the exordium of the eucharistic liturgy in the century preceding Gregory the Great. In 529 the Council of Vaison attested the litany response of Kyrie Eleison as being already in use in Italy. And Gregory (590–604), speaking of the Kyries, said that they were employed in the ferial services (in missis quotidianis) to the exclusion of some other form which, he implied, included them, which would otherwise be found at this point. [Fortescue, The Mass [Bib. 68], 233 f.; Eisenhofer I. 198 d).] This other matter can hardly have been anything but a Litany. We know that at this time the festal use was to sing a litany in solemn procession to the church where the papal mass was held on the days of the “Stations”; [The Liber Pontificalis first mentions the Station Days in the pontificate of Hilary (461–8).] and a litany prefatory to the Eucharist has continued to be used on the Vigils of Easter and Whitsunday, at ordinations, [The Litany still occupied that position as late as the end of the seventh century: cf. Wilson, The Gelasian Sacramentary [Bib. 27], 22; though it has since been transferred to a later part of the service.] and at the dedication of churches.
The early Roman litany was probably very much of the form of that still sung at Milan [Probst, Liturgie des vierten Jahrhunderts (Münster, 1893), 243.] on the first Sunday in Lent, and the closely parallel form entitled Deprecatio S. Martini pro populo in the Stowe Missal. [Warren, Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church [Bib. 35], 229.] This primitive Gallico-Roman form represents a slightly confused arrangement but a literal translation of an unmistakably Antiochene original. The Celtic version is as follows:
With our whole heart and our whole mind, let us all say: Lord, hearken and have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
For the peace which is from above, and the tranquility of our times;
(Response to each Suffrage: Lord, have mercy.)
For the holy Catholic Church which is from one end of the earth to the other;
For our Bishop and Pastor N., and all bishops and priests and deacons, and all the clergy;
For this place and those that dwell therein; for our most pious Emperors, and all the Roman army;
For all who are in authority; for virgins, widows, and orphans;
For pilgrims, and those who travel by land or by water, and penitents and catechumens;
For those who bear the fruits of mercy in the holy Church;
O Lord God of hosts, hear our prayers.
Let us be mindful of the holy Apostles and Martyrs, that through their prayers we may merit pardon.
Let us pray that the Lord will grant us a Christian and peaceful end.
And let us beseech the Lord that the holy bond of charity may remain in us.
Let us beseech the Lord to preserve the sanctity and purity of the Catholic faith.
With our whole heart and our whole mind, let us all say: Lord, hearken and have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
This Litany does not have the structure of that known later in the West, consisting as it does of nothing but Intercessions. Both the Celtic and Ambrosian forms are uncertain as to order, both displacing – differently – the petition for Rulers from its original Syrian location, as we shall see later in §6. The Ambrosian version lacks the last section of the Celtic petitions; but embodies the following primitive Syrian suffrages:
For the peace of the churches, the calling of the Gentiles, and the quiet of the people; ...
For temperateness of the weather, and abundance of the fruits of the earth; ...
For those in captivity, ... in prisons, in bonds, in mines, and in exile;
For those who are detained by divers infirmities, and those vexed with unclean spirits.
It also concludes with Kyrie eleison; Kyrie eleison; Kyrie eleison.
At the end of the seventh century some such form as these was supplanted at Rome by a rudimentary version of the present Litany of the Saints. [Versions in the Stowe Missal (Warren, op. cit., 226, 238 f.), and in Alcuin Officia per ferias (P.L. 101. 522 ff.).] But this also was of Syrian provenance. Sergius I, to whose pontificate (687–701) it is attributed, was a Greek-speaking pope from the region of Antioch. He is known to have advocated two cults at Rome, that of the Cross, and that of Christ as the Lamb of God. [He introduced the Agnus Dei into the mass; see below, Holy Communion, § 6.] Now both of these originated at Jerusalem, and left their mark on the local rite of that center, the “Liturgy of St. James,” which was subsequently adopted at Antioch. This Sergian Litany accordingly offered the innovations of the special deprecation, “By thy Cross, Deliver us, O Lord,” – the only “obsecration” in this form, and the germ of those we now have – and the inclusion of the Agnus Dei, as in the Liturgy.
A collation of the earliest sources, as quoted by Alcuin and the Stowe Missal, yields the following common matter, which is offered as representing the primordial form of the Litany of the Saints:
Spare, O Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed, O Christ, with thy blood; be not angry with us for ever.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy.
[Invocations of SS. Mary, John Baptist, Peter and Paul, and other Apostles; of St. Stephen, and a list of Martyrs; of lists of Confessors and of Virgins.]
Spare us, O Lord.
Deliver us, O Lord.
From all evil;
Deliver us, O Lord.
By thy Cross;
Deliver us, O Lord.
Beseech thee to hear us.
That thou wilt grant us peace;
We beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God;
We beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
[The Lord’s Prayer, Suffrages, and Collect.]
This germinal form shows the Western litany form quite complete in character and structure, but consisting of only the barest possible outline. Subsequently that outline was filled in with rich detail, for the most part drawn from the Syrian sources that gave it birth, both directly, and through the “Gallican” litanies that were current in the West before it appeared. As an essentially popular and extra-liturgical devotion, its growth was unregulated by any central authority, but everywhere developed local texts, displaying an immense variation in detail, yet preserving a rather remarkable fidelity to the structural principles displayed in the earliest forms, and a retention of some most primitive phrases. Conservative Rome, beginning with the austere simplicity of the Sergian scheme, lagged far behind Northern Europe in the fertility of this development, so that the present Roman Litany seems bald and meager beside other medieval exemplars.
The Syrian origins of the Sergian Litany clear up many problems of the constitution of the surviving Western type. They show that the invocations of the Saints were not a mere medieval corruption, but an accustomed feature of the conclusion of Syrian litanies. One MS of “St. James” [The Messina Roll (Graec. 177), in Swainson, Greek Liturgies [Bib. 21], 224. The corresponding Litany in St. James Presanctified (Cod. Sinait. 1040, printed LEW 495) contains a nearly identical list.] enumerates the Blessed Virgin, the Archangels, St. John Baptist, Apostles, Prophets, and Martyrs, St. Stephen, and All Saints – obviously the framework that gave rise to the present Roman categories.
Likewise the outstanding theological peculiarity of the Western litany is that its body, between the present initial invocation of the Holy Trinity and the final Kyries, is distinctively a Prayer to Christ. This also is true of the Syrian sources, which typically conclude with some form of the bidding, “Let us commend ourselves and one another and all our life to Christ our God” [LEW 40.1, 59a.7, 363.21, 365.3, 391.16.]
Even the Deprecations, sometimes considered a Western peculiarity, echo the Syrian “For the forgiveness of our sins and remission of our transgressions, and for our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, necessity, and uprising of enemies,” [LEW 34a.27.] with a later mention of “bitter death.” [LEW 37a.7.]
The concluding triple Kyries are likewise Syrian. [LEW 48a.22, 38.1, 373a9.] And of course, like all Syrian litanies, the Western form invariably leads toward and concludes in some sort of summary Collect. [Cf. above.]
3. Cranmer’s English Litany
The Litany had been found in English in the Primers since about the year 1400. Cranmer put forth an official version in 1544: so that the Litany was the first constituent of the English Prayer Book to appear – as it was also the only one to remain in continuous use through the Marian reaction. which interdicted the rest of the Prayer Book.
The relative bareness of the official Roman form was amply filled up by the fact that Cranmer’s Litany was an unusual assimilation of rich material from many sources. These were chiefly the Sarum processional litany, the special form for the dying, the particular supplications inserted in time of war, and some details from the uses of York and Westminster; Luther’s Latin Litany of 1529, itself a most admirable composition gathering up many valuable features current in northern Europe; the Roman, whether through Luther or Quiñones; and the Byzantine liturgical litanies. [E.R. I. lxv ff., 174 ff.; II. 936 ff.]
Besides details, the Greek forms had an important influence upon the style of the Litany. The Latin form proposed each suffrage singly, and extremely briefly – eight of them consisted of only three words, two of two, and one of one! Logically, this taking of one thought at a time, like the beads of a rosary, has its merits; but the rhetorical effect is very fragmentary, and resembles a skiff tossed on a choppy sea. Cranmer, with his sensitive ear echoing with the fuller music of the ampler Greek rhetoric, expanded the jejune terms of the Latin, and combined sometimes as many as five cognate petitions into a single suffrage, with a magnificent vocal result, like the onward roll of ocean surges.
4. Revisions of the Litany
The great number of Invocations of the Saints in later medieval times, which had been reduced to three summary groups in 1544, were eliminated altogether in 1549. In 1559 the uncharitable Deprecation against “the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities” was removed; and the Litany concluded with “The Grace”. In 1662 the original Lutheran phrase, for “Bishops, pastors, and ministers of the Church,” was made definite as “Bishops, Priests, and Deacons,” as against recent Presbyterian usurpations; and to the Deprecation beginning “From all sedition” was added “rebellion” and “schism,” in feeling remembrance of all that the Church and realm had lately suffered from both.
The first American book in 1789 emended a few phrases; substituted a suffrage for Christian Rulers and Magistrates for those for King and Royal Family; and gave permission to abbreviate the Litany by omitting the old wartime supplications: but in unfortunate ignorance of the historical structure of the service, made the cut come before the Kyries, which robbed the shortened Litany of its proper conclusion and Lord’s Prayer. The revision of 1892 contributed the single new suffrage, “That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest,” from Hermann’s Litany and the Primer of 1535.
The 1928 book brought the Invocations of the Holy Trinity nearer their Latin originals, dividing them between minister and people instead of repeating them entire, and eliminating the appended “miserable sinners”. It added “from earthquake, fire, and flood” to the Deprecation beginning “From lightning and tempest”; and the words “or by air” to the suffrage for those who travel by land or by water. A new Petition for the President was set before that for Rulers generally. The missing Amen was supplied after the prayer “O God, merciful Father”; [Its omission was a pure inadvertence of 1662, which attempted to print the Amen after all prayers, some of which, like this, had previously taken it for granted.] and the misunderstood and misapplied structure of the following Psalm verse with repeated Antiphon was clarified by rubrics directing the manner of its recitation.
The text of the Litany now comes to an end with the prayer “We humbly beseech thee,” as had been the usage in the Ordinal since 1662 – omitting the Prayer of St. Chrysostom appended in 1549, the Grace of 1559, and the General Thanksgiving of 1789.
The break for shortening the service by omitting the wartime supplications has now been put after the Lord’s Prayer. This is excellent for the use of the Litany as a separate service, and the English revision of 1928 does the same. The English book however takes a further step toward clearing up the historic structure by terminating the Litany with the Kyries when the Holy Communion is to follow. The triple Kyrie Eleison in fact marks the conclusion of the litany form as such: whatever comes next is of the nature and purpose of the Litany Collect. The Lord’s Prayer may indeed be used in that capacity, and in fact no more universal a supplication could be devised. But though it had this place in the independent use of the Litany, it does not belong to the liturgical connection of this office, where the proper summary prayer toward which it is directed is none other than the Collect of the day.
Fully to restore the ancient and organic articulation of the Litany used as prefatory to the Eucharist would therefore involve going one step beyond the recent English book, and providing for the omission of the introductory parts of the Communion before the Collect when the Litany precedes. This was advocated by Dr. Frere twenty-five years ago; [Some Principles of Liturgical Reform [Bib. 131], 157.] nor is it mere theory, since exactly this arrangement was in use at the Ordering of Deacons from 1550 to 1662, and since to this day the Latin order preserves substantially [Except for the later interpolation of the Gloria in Excelsis, which now interrupts the original order as given above.] the primitive structure of the use of liturgical litanies, by directing, on the occasions noted above when the Litany is used as a part of the mass, that the final Kyries of the Litany shall be solemnly sung by the choir, coinciding with the Kyries of the mass; during which the celebrant goes to the altar, and simultaneously completes the Litany and commences the Eucharist with the Collect of the day.
5. Structure and Character of the Litany
The structural divisions of the Litany have now been made clear in our book by paragraphing and capitals. The Invocations of the Holy Trinity are a theological paraphrase of the Western form of Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, with which the Litany formerly began and ended. “Remember not” comprises the old penitential Antiphons; though its latter portion is much more ancient, being embodied, as we have seen, in Alcuin’s version of the Sergian archetype. The Deprecations are supplications for deliverance from dangers and afflictions; and include two groups of Obsecrations, i.e., adjurations to Christ to spare his people by invocation of the mighty acts of his Redemption. The long section of Intercessions forms the main body of the office, and represents the essential contents of the Greek sources. It concludes with invocation of Christ as Son of God and Lamb of God, and the final solemn Kyries. At this point the original liturgical Litany proceeded at once to the Collect of the day; the independent form interpolated the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers and suffrages before the concluding Collects. In the Anglican books, this interpolation contains the solemn supplications in time of war. [These are again a prayer to Christ, though confused by an interpolated Collect and psalm verse addressed to the Father.] These last may well be omitted when the Litany is used before the Communion, and in normal times; but they voice a moving heartfelt cry of the faith of Christ’s Church out of great tribulation, and are of deep significance at penitential seasons and occasions.
The extraordinary power and appeal of the Litany as a form of words is not approached by any other service. It is a pure flight of the spirit, unaccompanied by any ceremonial or dramatic action. The tenor of its supplication is unique to the Christian religion. Ancient faiths cried for mercy to gods whom they feared: they had no solution of the problem of suffering but avoidance, by the propitiation of dread divinities who inflicted or withheld it by their own caprice. Their despairing petitions contained none of the trust in the prevailing goodness of God’s providence which inspires the Litany. On the other hand, popular modern cults attempt to evade and ignore suffering; but they must needs shrink to silence in the presence of irremediable disaster. Christianity alone accepts the fact of suffering as enshrined in the heart of God himself, lifts it up in sacrifice to him, and nails it to the Cross of Christ. The Christian religion alone has power not only to scale the heights, but to descend into the depths; alone among religions, it dares to pray: “In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, Good Lord, deliver us!”
6. PRIMITIVE NOTES
Some of the incomparable force of the Litany is due to its reflection of the great distress of nations in the Dark Ages which gave birth to the modern world; more, perhaps, to the direct unaltered tradition that has brought us the very words of the cry of the persecuted Primitive Church.
One of these mintmarks of primitive expression is the interpolation of suffrages for Rulers between that for the Universal Church and those for the Clergy and People. This is not a later “Erastianism,” nor a mere following of the scriptural pattern of 1 Tim. 2:1, 2. Later liturgies indeed commemorated “our most religious and Christ-loving,” [LEW 55.12.] “divinely preserved, orthodox” [LEW 45a.8.] Kings; but the earliest age prayed for Rulers of the pagan State, not as grateful supporters and nursing fathers of the Church, but as potentially its chiefest enemies and the most deadly dangers to its very existence. The petition for Kings was therefore a vital part of the supplication for the peace of the Church. “That they may be peaceably disposed toward us” is the keynote of this suffrage in the earliest available form in the Apostolic Constitutions, [LEW 21.25.] and appears in effect in the Alexandrian rite, [I. Ap. 17 (P.G. 6. 353).] in Justin Martyr, [LEW 114.27; cf. 166.2.] in the letter of St. Clement of Rome, [1 Cor. 59–61 (Quasten, Monumenta [Bib. 14], 331 ff.); quoted in translation, Warren, Liturgy of the Ante-Nicene Church [Bib. 16], 168.] and is implicit in 1 Tim. 2:2 and elsewhere in the New Testament.
Another primitive note is the petition for Prisoners and Captives. The Apostolic Constitutions makes it clear that this was originally a prayer for those in bonds “for the Name of the Lord”. [LEW 11.19.] The Middle Ages kept it alive because of the perils of travel and commerce from pirates, highwaymen, and slavers; and to this day it is sometimes thrown into poignant relief by the activities of bands devoted to criminal violence. It is a strange and dramatic fact that the same suffrage in our Litany includes the earliest as well as the latest thing in the history of the Christian Church, and carries our minds back through the entire perspective from the days of air transport to the days of the Persecutions!
Our tender and touching petition for “fatherless children, and widows,” is historically a vestige of a primitive list of All Estates within the Church, wherein Widows and Orphans were included together with Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Subdeacons, Readers, Singers and Virgins, [LEW 10.16–32.] as persons enjoying an organic official standing in the Christian community, and as entitled to its support.
7. Homologues of the Litany
Such primordial features help to give the Litany the incisive, vivid, concrete character which distinguish it from the six other forms of Intercessory Prayer in the Prayer Book.
The Prayer for the Church in the Communion Office, originally identical with the matter of the Litany, is an old coin that has passed through many hands, and been abraded by the attrition of the ages, till it has been worn smooth and dim, while the Litany still shines sharp from the die.
The Bidding Prayer is another doublet, which at times may profitably be substituted for the Litany, as covering the same cycle of thought, but without any penitential color, and indeed with some positive “eucharistic” notes. It has the incidental advantage that it may be heard sitting instead of kneeling, and the disadvantage that it enlists no cooperation until the final Lord’s Prayer. As it stands, it is a little copious and rhetorical; but it is offered as a model and a framework for free individual lines of supplication, with an unlimited opportunity for pastoral intercession, and creative liturgical experiment.
The sequence of prayers after the Third Collect of Morning and Evening Prayer is also molded upon the structure of the Litany, with successive petitions for Rulers, Clergy and congregations, and All Conditions, especially the afflicted. These prayers indeed were arranged, and in part composed, to cover the ground of the Litany when that office is not said, and are omitted when it is to follow.
Likewise it is not accident that the Suffrages after the Creed at Evening Prayer constitute a brief but perfect Litany in themselves, with petitions embracing a paraphrased Kyrie Eleison, the State, the Clergy, the People, the Peace of the Church, and the sanctification of all. These Suffrages are the survivals of a much longer series, whose structure was clearly devised to fill the office of a litany intercession. [Proctor and Frere, 392.]
Family Evening Prayer also has an Intercession, copied after those in the Communion and the daily offices. And “A General Intercession” in the supplement to Family Prayer offers an interesting version, wherein the supplications for the ancient categories of the Faithful are adapted and extended with the widest charity and the most developed social conscience to the needs of all those who suffer inequality in the complexities of the modern industrial State.
8. Other Forms of the Litany
A brief specialized Litany for the Dying, along the lines of the Sarum Commendatio Animae, is found in the Visitation Office. It includes a literal rendering of the Kyries – Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.” This is the form in the English Alternative Order of the Communion of 1928; and Bishop Dowden had recommended it thirty years before to restore “the large indefiniteness of the original?” [The Workmanship of the Prayer Book [Bib. 75], 71.]
The Litany and Suffrages for Ordinations is a new composition, and an entirely specialized form, containing only appropriate Intercessions between the abbreviated Invocations and the Kyries, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, suitable Preces, and a summary Collect. The structure is excellent, the choice of ideas nearly equally so, but the expression is distinctly prosaic.
9. The “Lesser Litany” and The Lord’s Prayer
The Litany has also a special historical relation to the manner of the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in all the offices of the Church, through its final Kyries, known as the “Lesser Litany,” which precede the Lord’s Prayer in the Litany itself, and originally served to introduce it in every other place where it was used congregationally, save in the Communion, where it had a special Prologue.
This clear-cut use of 1549 was gradually modified in successive editions by a number of adventitious changes, the chief of which was the appending of the “scriptural” doxology in three places in 1662. The resulting situation in the first American Prayer Book was that the Lord’s Prayer, concluding with the doxology, appeared in the Morning and Evening Prayer, the Communion Office, and Family Prayers; and introduced by the Lesser Litany, with no doxology, in the Litany and the Visitation of the Sick and of Prisoners. While the remaining instances of the Prayer possessed neither Kyries nor conclusion, these prominent examples served to suggest an entirely new rationale, which became widely accepted after 1892 added Burial and the Penitential Office to those provided with Kyries – namely, of two separate uses of the Lord’s Prayer: one in a “eucharistic” sense, marked by the final doxology; and the other “petitionary” or “penitential,” distinguished by the Lesser Litany and the absence of a doxology.
This theory is strictly modern, and peculiar to the Church in America. Yet it is not inappropriate, and has sufficed to bring order out of a considerable confusion and diversity of use in the later Anglican books. It was made “official” and uniform in 1928 by adding the doxology in all places where the Prayer was not preceded by the Lesser Litany. [With the inadvertent exception of the Churching Office. In this place 1662 had added the doxology to a form prefaced by the Kyries; 1789 had cancelled both doxology and Kyries; and 1928, to carry out its plan for “petitionary” uses of the Lord’s Prayer, should have restored the Lesser Litany here. In this one place the Lord’s Prayer now lacks both introduction and doxology.]
It is significant that after all the changes the primitive reverence for these verba Verbi has been preserved, and the principle maintained that the Lord’s Prayer should never be used abruptly and without some sort of dignified introduction in congregational worship. It is prefaced by some form of the traditional Prologue in the Communion, the Bidding Prayer, the Offices of Instruction, and the Office of Institution; by the Absolution (whose revision in 1662 made it bear an apparent reference to the following Lord’s Prayer) in the normal place for its occurrence in Morning and Evening Prayer; by the special Bidding, “Seeing now,” in Baptism; by “Let us pray” in Confirmation, Marriage, and the optional place in Morning and Evening Prayer; and by the Kyries in the three Litanies, the Penitential Office, Visitation, and both Burial Offices. Only in Family Prayers is the principle ignored; though it is not quite obvious why liturgical propriety should not be observed even in a “private” service, where two or three are gathered together.
As has been intimated, every Litany looks forward to a concluding Collect as its terminus ad quem, and the necessary final resolution of its essentially “periodic” structure. This Litany-Collect strictly fulfills the original meaning of the Gallican term, Collectio or Collecta, for this type of prayer, in that it gathers up or collects the accumulated suffrages of the Litany’s Biddings to Prayer and the resultant secret “intentions” in the hearts of all, in a sort of generalized conclusion.
Yet Collects existed as a characteristic Western and Egyptian form of prayer before the Syrian litany-form was imported. In this use they “collected” the intentions of a pause for silent prayer after their individual Biddings. Especially was this the use, and the term, throughout the “Gallican” orders. The word Collect was never really naturalized in purely Roman regions, and when for a time it was adopted, it was given another sense, in the phrase Oratio ad collectam, that is, “the Prayer over the people gathered together” to go in procession to the church of a papal Station.
As we shall see later, it appears that throughout the West the Eucharist was originally celebrated in the form which has survived in the “Gallican” rites, in that the whole Liturgy consisted of a definite series of Collects, each with its proper subject and purpose, but each variable with the occasion. About the middle of the fourth century, however, the Roman rite transformed its sequence of Consecration Prayers into an invariable “Canon,” consisting still of a chain of Collects, but no longer, with some small exceptions, subject to change or substitution. Outside this Canon four prayers were left as typical “Gallican” variables, before the Lections, at the Offertory, after the Communion, and at the final benediction of the people. [The Oratio, Secreta or Super oblata, Postcommunio, and Super populum.]
Of these, the most significant was the first, which the Roman rite calls simply Oratio – The Prayer – of the mass, and which we know as the “Collect of the day”. This prayer is much older than Litanies, and corresponds to Serapion’s “First Prayer of the Lord’s Day,” [J.T.S. I. 1. 99.5; Funk II. 158; Wordsworth, 80.] and an equivalent Collect of the later Alexandrian group. [LEW 113.14, 147.20, 202.20.] But this Collect of the day was assimilated to be the concluding Collect of the introductory Litany of the sixth century in Rome. This is the reason why most of our present liturgical Collects are such very general prayers for God’s mercy and grace. For modern use, it might be desired that more of them were more distinctive and incisive.
When, however, the prefatory Litany fell into disuse, the Collect was again in a position of particular prominence, and received considerable emphasis as carrying a sort of keynote of the particular service in relation to the Christian Year. The English Church went a step further. Inheriting the term “Collect” from the “Gallican” tradition of Northern Europe, it invented the idea that the purpose of the Collect was to “collect” the import of the liturgical scripture of the day, especially the Epistle, which it immediately precedes. Indeed, many post-Reformation Collects were deliberately written to do so.
Some fifty-seven liturgical Collects were translated from the Latin in the First Prayer Book, as against twenty-four newly composed. Of the latter, thirteen were for Saints’ Days – on the whole, an extremely competent and edifying piece of work, replacing a mechanical and uninspiring ringing of changes on the theme of the merits and prayers of the Saints. As in the Litany and the Communion Office, the translations were more liberal than literal; while retaining much of the simplicity and directness of the originals, theft dry bones were clothed upon with the lineaments of life.
While only one new Collect was composed in 1552, one in 1637, four in 1662, one in 1789, and one in 1886, the revision of 1928 furnished no less than fifteen – for Eucharists on the Second Sunday after Christmas, the first four days of Holy Week, an early celebration on Whitsunday, the Ember and Rogation Days, Independence Day, the feast of the dedication of a Church, a marriage, and two each for Burials and for any Saint’s Day not provided with a proper service. 1928 also revised the Third Collect of Good Friday, and the Collect of St. Luke’s Day.
It is coming to be realized that a Collect, presenting a single profound and universal petition within its brief compass, is as exacting an art-form as a sonnet. It is free poetry, where thoughts, instead of words, rhyme in definite strophe patterns. It has underlying principles of prose-rhythm, which are beginning to be explored. [Cf. L. & W. 808 ff.] To be sure, some of the original exemplars, Latin and English, have rhetorical awkwardnesses which only devotional familiarity has made tolerable to our ears. New Collects, or other short prayers, certainly should not imitate their defects. [E.g. the last-minute addition of a modifying participial clause in the apodosis, which ought to offer a clear-cut conclusion. This infelicity, not unknown in the older prayers, was especially numerous in the new matter of 1928.] Indeed not a little of the new matter in all recent Anglican revisions leaves something to be desired toward the attainment of the Collect’s difficult but indispensable ideal of a balance of force and facility, emotion and restraint.
11. Special Intercessions
The now considerable collections of special prayers are an outgrowth of the Collects devised before the Reformation for “votive” offerings of the Eucharist for the needs of current occasions or particular individuals. Even funeral Eucharists, which survived in 1549, were eliminated in 1552, to be restored only in 1928, along with provisions for a celebration at a marriage. Otherwise, votive intercessions have existed only as “commemorations” inserted into the public offices.
Even these have been of slow growth. The First Prayer Book had prayers only for Rain and Fair Weather. 1552 added supplications for times of Dearth, and War and Plague. 1604 temporarily balanced the account with four corresponding Thanksgivings. 1662 contributed prayers for Ember Days and Parliament, as well as “All Conditions” for Morning Prayer without the Litany, with a parallel General Thanksgiving, and a thanksgiving for Restoring Public Peace at Home. The first American Prayer Book brought in prayers for a Sick Person and Sick Child, Persons going to Sea, those under Affliction, and Condemned Malefactors; and thanksgivings for Delivery from Childbirth, Recovery from Sickness, Safe Return from Sea. The Prayer for Convention dates from 1799. 1892 added prayers for Unity, Missions, and Rogation-tide, and a thanksgiving for a Child’s Recovery from Sickness.
This entire accumulation was exactly doubled in number in the 1928 book, which added eighteen new prayers, as well as a Collect to the section of Occasional Collects (now transferred to this division of Special Prayers), the Bidding Prayer, and twenty-three more new forms in the appendix after Family Prayers.
All this evidences a spirited and determined attempt to bring the worship of the Church up to date, and adapt it to current needs – with perhaps the hope that these prayers might also serve to guide and inspire the devotions of the people, and make the Prayer Book not only an official ritual of public worship, but a really popular manual for personal use.
The new material displays a significant reflection of the problems and aspirations of the time that brought it forth. A developed political conscience and a democratic idealism speaks in the prayers for a State Legislature and for Courts of Justice, and in the really magnificent general supplication For our Country. A new social purpose is expressed in the prayers for Christian Service, for Social Justice, and for Every Man in his Work; as well as the intercessions in the appendix, for Those in Mental Darkness, for a Blessing on the Families of the Land, for all Poor, Homeless, and Neglected Folk, and “A General Intercession”. The growing sense of international fellowship appears in the prayer for the Family of Nations. Interest in education, religious or secular, is voiced in the supplications for Schools, Colleges, and Universities, for Religious Education, for Children (with another in the appendix), and for Those about to be Confirmed. Primarily religious objectives appear in Laud’s forceful prayer for the Church, a new alternative prayer for Missions, [The admirable conclusion of this prayer in the Second Report of the Prayer book Revision Commission (1919) was regrettably abandoned in favor of that adopted.] and one for the Increase of the Ministry; as well as the general intercession of the Bidding Prayer, and the Roman Collect for Unity. Wartime influences are shown by the prayers in Time of Calamity, for the Army, for the Navy, and for Memorial Days.
Most of the remaining devotions in the appendix are largely for spiritual graces, and are personal and mystical in tone. Some however are of great value for landmarks and emergencies in individual lives, such as those for One about to undergo an Operation, for the Absent, for a Birthday, and for an Anniversary of One Departed. This last is one of the finest of the prayers for those who have entered into life eternal, whose inclusion was a notable contribution of the revision of 1928; and, together with other vital petitions for Christian Stewardship (“for Faithfulness in the Use of this World’s Goods”), and for Joy in God’s Creation, should make an occasional telling appearance in public worship, and should by no means be suffered to slumber unused in the appendix. [Such prayers, however, should not be adopted as an invariable constituent of any service. See below.]
It would be desirable that the second of the votive Collects on p. 49 (“Assist us mercifully”) should have restored to it the title and use of a prayer “For Those about to Undertake a Journey” – it was in fact the Collect of the old Mass for Travelers.
For the place and manner of the use of the occasional Prayers and Collects, see the Note appended at the end of this chapter.
12. The Penitential Office
From medieval times the Latin Church has had a Penitential Office for occasional use, consisting of the recitation of the Seven Penitential Psalms, with appropriate prayers. The Sarum rite employed this form as a preface to the Liturgy on Ash Wednesday, beginning with a sermon, and after the Psalms presenting the Lesser Litany, Lord’s Prayer, suffrages, seven collects, and a solemn Absolution of the people; then proceeded to the Blessing of Ashes and the mass.
Cranmer rejected “sacramentals” (the blessing of inanimate things, outside the actual celebration of the Sacraments), such as candles on Candlemas, ashes on Ash Wednesday, palms on Palm Sunday, holy water on Easter Eve. But though this elimination of other seasonal ceremonies reduced the Liturgy to a dead level of uniformity throughout the year, the beginning of Lent was too pivotal to be left unmarked by some special office: and for it he devised the Commination Service still in use in England.
For the sermon of the Sarum use he substituted long homily exhortations, and appended the “Comminations,” a chain of denunciations in Old Testament terms of the wrath of God against violators of the moral law. Then followed the penitential Psalm 51, the Lesser Litany, Lord’s Prayer, suffrages, a collect, the summary prayer “O most mighty God,” and “Turn thou us” to be sung as an Anthem. Since 1552 the last-named has been recited congregationally.
The First American Prayer Book eliminated the Commination Service, but directed the three last prayers to be said at the end of Morning Prayer on Ash Wednesday. 1892 reconstituted the Penitential Office as at present, beginning with Psalm 51. 1928 removed such expressions as “vile earth and miserable sinners”; thus liberating this telling act of penitence from morbid preoccupations with a supposed vitiation of human nature or futile luxury of grief over an irrevocable past, and brought it into line with the Church’s teaching in the General Confessions and elsewhere as to the essentially constructive and forward-looking value of penitence, in renouncing past errors in order to embrace and enable the righteous future.
Note on the Use of The Occasional Prayers
There has been a good deal of confusion in the use of the occasional prayers, which has not come to an end in our book of 1928.
The Occasional Collects (p. 49) were offered in 1549 to terminate the “Ante-Communion” service when there was no celebration. To this use they were perfectly adapted, consisting mostly of just the sort of universal summary and benedictory supplications as constituted the ancient Collect Super Populum at the end of the Liturgy. [See below.] 1552 added the permission to use them after the Collects of Morning or Evening Prayer (i.e., after the “Third Collect,”) or the Communion (the Collect of the day), or the Litany (“We humbly beseech thee”): that is, as votive “Memorials.” The American books do not use them with the “Ante-Communion,” and do not mention the Litany. As a matter of fact, these prayers are well known and widely used – as choir prayers, and sermon prayers, and to open meetings, and sometimes as so-called Postcommunions [Such a use is explicitly authorized in the latest Scottish book, and permitted in the English.] – but in their rubrical place as “Memorials” they are not needed, and practically never used. 1928 moved these Collects from the end of the Communion Office to a place after the Special Prayers, where they could more easily be found for particular uses; but omitted to provide them with a more constructive rubric.
The Special Prayers were appended to the Occasional Collects in 1549. 1552 inserted its four occasional prayers in the Litany, before “St. Chrysostom,” for optional use “if the time require”. 1662 constituted the present separate section, with the rubric “to be used before the two final prayers of the Litany, or of Morning and Evening Prayer.” Now in 1662 “the two final prayers ... of Morning and Evening Prayer” were counted as “St. Chrysostom” and “The Grace”; so that this book simply extended the existing use of these intercessions from the Litany to the daily offices.
The first American Prayer Book kept this rubric unaltered; but it inserted “All Conditions” and the General Thanksgiving in the text of Morning and Evening Prayer. And as popular interpretation had come to regard “The Grace” not as a prayer, but as a blessing, it became customary to insert Occasional Prayers not before “St. Chrysostom,” but before the General Thanksgiving! Accordingly the presence of special prayers after the general Intercession was justified by saying that “generals should come before particulars” – an entirely fictitious and absolutely erroneous rationale, since in fact the particular prayers for Rulers, and for Clergy and People, come before the final compendious prayer specially composed to gather up all the rest of the matter of the universal intercession of the Litany.
1892 however adopted this mistaken convention into law, by directing the Occasional Prayers “to be used before the General Thanksgiving, or, when that is not said, before the final Prayer of Blessing or the Benediction”; and in like manner the Special Thanksgivings after the General Thanksgiving.
1928 corrected this for the Special Prayers, specifying that they were “to be used before the Prayer for all Conditions of Men,” etc.; but left the rubric for the Special Thanksgivings unaltered.
It will be noted that 1892 gave the further alternative “before the final Prayer of Blessing or the Benediction” – which in 1928 was made to read “before the final Prayer of Thanksgiving or of Blessing, or before the Grace.” This action of the earlier book adopted the popular interpretation of the rubric of the last prayer of the ordination services, [See below.] as justifying the use of so-called “Postcommunion Collects,” and sanctioned the use of the Occasional Prayers at that point in the service. Special Intercessions, however, are not proper matter for either Postcommunion or Super Populum Collects; the conclusion of the Communion Office is an entirely irrational and inorganic place for them: and the rubrics of the 1928 communion service directed specifically that they should come after the Creed. The change of rubric before the Special Prayers, altering “the Benediction” to “the Grace,” was intended to effect the same end of abolishing this illegitimate use of intercessions in lieu of “Postcommunions”; but the rubric is not lucid and definitive, and under cover of it some clergy still persist in the now outlawed customs of 1892.