Liturgical Considerations for the Future Ordinariates
by Fr. Christopher Phillips,
Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church
When the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus
was released, there was the expected flurry of excitement, after which
came serious discussions about the many practical issues which would
need to be addressed. One of the most important questions, and the
topic which seems to generate the most interest, has to do with the
In any discussion of the liturgy for future
Ordinariates, the Sarum Use inevitably enters the discussion. This is
understandable. The Sarum Use is rooted in England’s Catholic history,
and its adoption would mean that a venerable liturgy could be rescued
from obscurity. To have it live in circumstances other than on dusty
library shelves is an interesting possibility, even a noble goal.
Employing the Sarum Use would give the Ordinariates an immediate
identity by linking them with a “golden age” of English spirituality,
and there could be no doubt in anyone’s mind of the catholicity of the
liturgical use. These all are positive reasons for embracing the Sarum
However, in every discussion about Sarum there come
proposals for adaptations, and the debate is based on the simple fact
that we do not live in the late Middle Ages. Every liturgical rite
exhibits organic development, something which was denied to the Sarum
Use because of the 16th century break with Rome. It has been frozen in
a particular time, and most of those who advocate for its revival
acknowledge the need for its revision.
Those who would become
part of an Ordinariate, when considering the possibility of
resuscitating the Sarum Use, are quick to propose modifications.
They would want to retain the normal Western practice of genuflecting,
since the “Sarum bow” came to signify a more protestant practice.
The more familiar sequence of liturgical colors would be favored,
rather than the Sarum liturgical colors, especially since we cannot be
absolutely certain of what those colors were, or exactly when they were
• The Sarum Use was celebrated exclusively in the Latin
language, whereas most of those in an Ordinariate would expect the
liturgy to employ hieratic English. Those who support the Sarum Use
point out that such a translation exists, and could easily be adopted.
Those in an Ordinariate would want to use the rich tradition of hymnody
which developed within Anglicanism, along with familiar musical
settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, Anglican chant, etc.
these proposals (and the list could be expanded), the question needs to
be asked: “When does it cease being Sarum?” In fact, if things got to
be so “adapted” that what resulted would be a Mass using hieratic
English, six candles on the retable, the Roman sequence of liturgical
colors, and genuflections at the appropriate places, how would that be
different from the way in which Anglo-catholics celebrate when using
the Book of Common Prayer, especially when most of them already
substitute an English translation of the Gregorian Canon in place of
the Prayer Book Canon?
In Anglicanorum coetibus and in the Complementary Norms,
the Holy Father refers to our Anglican Patrimony as a “precious gift
nourishing the faith…” and as “a treasure to be shared.” Wherever else
this patrimony is to be found, it certainly is reflected in the various
editions of the Book of Common Prayer. For that reason, any
future liturgy for the Ordinariates must likewise grow out of that
source. While the Prayer Book has some elements from Sarum (the Collect
for Purity comes to mind), the Sarum Use itself is not really part of
the Anglican patrimony to which Pope Benedict XVI refers.
are some things that say “Book of Common Prayer,” no matter what
version – the Collect for Purity, the Summary of the Law, the
Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access, the Prayer of
Thanksgiving and the list could be expanded. It would be fair to say
that most of us would want these familiar elements included in a
liturgy for the Ordinariates, and it would be equally fair to say that
this would best reflect the expectation expressed in Anglicanorum coetibus. An attempt to accomplish this was made with The Book of Divine Worship, but (as we all know) it falls far short because of the constraints that were placed upon it as it was being compiled.
there still be a place for the Sarum Use in the Ordinariates? Perhaps
making it available as an “Extraordinary Form” could be a possibility,
with the Ordinariate liturgy being the “Ordinary Form.” Those decisions
are not ours, of course, but are proper to the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, requiring the approval of
the Holy Father. But considering the purpose of the Ordinariates as
outlined in Anglicanorum coetibus and the Complementary Norms,
whatever ultimately is decided about our liturgy will almost certainly
bear the image of the Book of Common Prayer.