Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Small Thing?

Look carefully at the following liturgical texts, with their accompanying rubrics.

Friday, 3/2/07 Morning Prayer

Chad of Lichfield, 672

[one voice] Where can I go from your spirit 0 God? [Psalm 139.7]


Be still and aware of God’s presence within and all around.

[one voice] We awake this morning

[all] in the presence
of the holy angels of God.
May heaven open wide before us above us and around us that we may see
the Christ of our love and his sunlit company
in all the things of earth this day.

Please offer your prayers of thanksgiving.

Our Father

Psalm 23 (BCP translation)

A reading from Luke [14:1,7-14]

Please offer your reflections on the gospel.

[one voice] At Friday. dawning, a moment to ponder today’s spirituality: Penance? Discipline? Our connecting to the Cross?

Celts knelt in cold water!
We are in hot water!
Hot tempers, frayed nerve, feverish consumption.
We pray, yet go!
At work’s crossroads, cross-bearers all around, hurting ones we meet today,
also sick and suffering, all pierced by life’s wounds.
The spaces between cross and hospitality are measured very thin.
Good thief from the cross, banquet entered in!

Please offer your prayers for the coming day and the Church throughout the world.

The Anglican Cycle of Prayer: Missionary Area of Macau (Hong Kong) The Revd Dr. Michael Poon

[all] The love and affection of the angels be with us
The love and affection of the saints be with us ,
The love and affection of heaven be with us
To lead us and to cherish us this day.

[one voice]
(Collect for St Chad’s Day from Lesser Feasts & Fasts)

Where do you think this came from?

A group of liturgically-minded Presbyterians? A new form authorized by the ELCA? A Jesuit retreat center? (You know...the kind that still features shag rugs and macramé plant hangers and glass communion vessels.) A subcommittee of the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music? My own feverish liturgical mind?

(cue music from Jeopardy)

Bzzzzz. Wrong on all counts.

This is the form used this past Friday by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Is it full of rank heresy? No. Not that I can immediately spot, at any rate.

It is plausible Christian liturgy? Uhhh....maybe. That is, if you're from a Protestant tradition for which the very idea of a normative liturgical text is an exotic concept, so you have to kind of make things up as you go along. Or a cutting-edge Roman Catholic community--which is to say, one for which the very idea of a normative liturgical text is an exotic concept, and you're trying to stay under the radar.

Is it Anglican? Well, it does mention Celts kneeling in ice water, so it must be, right?


Is it a big deal? In one sense, not really. As long as no one is making me use this form for the morning office, it's not a big deal.

But in another sense, yes, it's a big deal. Why? Not for what it is in itself, which is ultimately harmless. If not exactly inspiring, neither will it keep anybody out of Heaven. It's a big deal because of what it says about the leadership of the Episcopal Church. As Anglicans (for the time being, at least), we have a liturgical tradition. It "sounds" a certain way (even when the Elizabethan idiom is not being used). It draws on a certain reservoir of language and idiom and image. One may not be able to define it, but an experienced ear knows when it hears it. This rite is not it.

More to the point, though, not only does the Episcopal Church partake from the Anglican liturgical tradition, it also has an authorized liturgical form for the morning office--namely, Daily Morning Prayer, from the Book of Common Prayer. It's one thing for gatherings of Episcoaplians who don't know any better (some Cursillo events come to mind) to ignore the fact that we have authorized rites for certain occasions. And the members of the SCLM--bless their innovative hearts--have a kind of mandate to push the envelope.

But we're talking about the Executive Council here, the very essence of the establishment. When even they feel the need to jettison the Prayer Book for one of their regular meetings, the message that goes out is that the church itself is loosed from its moorings. (Of course, many would say--and I might agree--that that much is fairly obvious anyway, but cut me some slack here.) It says that our leaders are not formed, and not willing to continue to be formed, by the discipline of the tradition that helps give us our identity. At the very least, it says they are simply bored with being Episcopalians, bored with being Anglicans.

This is troubling. And it's not a small thing.


Anonymous said...

This is an example of how are we going to know which church to worship in when we are out of town?? It is already a problem and becoming more so....

Anonymous said...

I made this suggestion elsewhere:

Between her mis-understanding of both the Transfiguration and today's Gospel where Christ laments over Jerusalem and His desire to take it under his wings, which she interprets as criticism of the chicks that won't join under the wings, I think maybe KJS needs an actual Bible.

Maybe she doesn't have one, so she has to keep going back to the Cliff Notes that she got when she was at the seminary of the Pacific.

So, I think we should all send Katherine a Bible. Her address is 815 2nd Avenue, NYC, 10017.

Let's flood 815 with Bibles. They won't know what to do with them.

Now, maybe we should also send 815 the BCP (even the 1979 version would be an improvement over this) or better the Anglican Service Book.

Maybe these guys on the Executive Committee have never seen them.

How would you know?