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Overall reactions to Divine Worship

posted Nov 11, 2013, 7:21 PM by Rochester Ordinariate   [ updated Nov 11, 2013, 7:49 PM ]
In this series of posts, I have gone through the detailed changes, and the reasons for them, provided by the liturgical instruction given to our clergy, as well as some personal observations.  I am somewhat surprised that more public discussion of this revision has not taken place, considering the fact the changes will go into force in about three weeks.  While I understand the revised use is not to be made public in full at this time, there is no request not to discuss the changes that are being made that I am aware of.

Let me first comment on some criticisms that I have heard that this is "committee liturgy".  Of course!  What else would it be?  Unless the liturgical texts descend from heaven, or are written by a single individual, they arise from a group of people.  Remember that the King James Bible came from a committee!  

What I have been impressed by is the fact that the liturgical committee did not try and create anything.  What they did is to make a careful survey of the existing materials - the prayerbooks, and missals from history, and made a sensible compilation of them that respects the integrity of the liturgical forms.  While some may object to this "stitching together" of different elements, I must point out that this is exactly what Anglo-Catholics have historically done with the missals.  They started with two basic starting points - the prayerbook and the Traditional Latin Mass, and found a way to bring them together.  They took the best of the Anglican prayers, many of which come from the pre-reformation Sarum use anyway and incorporated them into an English translation of the mass.  Indeed, I would say that Divine Worship is squarely in the tradition of the Anglican Missal, and thus is in some sense a vindication of that historical development.  Interestingly, it is the Catholics who have done this at the highest level - no Anglican authority ever approved of the missals.

What is fascinating to me is the fact that most of the changes are restoring the prayers to the older Anglican forms.  The committee was dealing both with the issue of ensuring a Catholic mass, as well as ensuring the Anglican patrimony was kept intact as much as possible - which ironically meant taking an axe to much of the 1979 U.S. BCP.  

There has been the question of the possibility of an Anglican Eucharist Prayer, with "Catholic vitamins", as discussed, e.g. by Prof. Tighe.  The decision taken to avoid this entirely is, I think, a wise one considering the fact that the Eucharistic prayers in the prayerbook have been the weak link in the Anglo-Catholic project, which prompted the missals in the first place.  Rereading Prof. Tighe's 2010 piece, "Thoughts on an Anglican Use mass", he manages to correctly anticipate the broad strokes of what we now have in Divine Worship - ditching the '79 U.S. prayerbook as a basis for a worldwide Use, using the Roman Canon, making the language consistently in the Prayerbook tradition, and ditching the modern language version "Rite II".

The other fascinating part of this revision is its relationship with the other two authorized forms of the Roman rite.  On one hand, it adds in beloved elements of the old mass many of us know from our Anglo-Catholic days: the Prayers at the foot of the altar, the Asperges, the old Offertory prayers, the Last Gospel; as well as cutting the other eucharistic prayers of the Ordinary Form - except E.P. II for weekdays only.  On the other hand, most of the postures and ordering of the service are taken from the modern rite, as well as the words of institution, the "memorial acclimations", the 3 year lectionary (with 3 lessons), etc.  Consequently, I think the changes put forward in this revision can definitely be classified as "reform of the reform".  The question I have is what - if any - implications our Use has for the larger Roman rite world?  Is this a harbinger for the Ordinary Form, with an English accent?  I would like to think it can help to bring the two uses together as an example of a third way.

So, to sum up - I'd like to thank the folks in the liturgical committee who worked on this Use, and the Vatican staff who approved it.  It is very easy to criticize from the outside.  All in all, I think they did a great job, and I am looking forward to serving at this mass.   I would call the work they did "restoration" rather than "creation" - referring to both the Anglican and Roman Catholic liturgical tradition, and that is a great compliment.  One commentator called this the "Anglo-Catholic dream mass". While I don't think I'd have come up with that expression myself, it is not far off.  Does this mean further improvements could not be made?  By no means!  One obvious point is the Use is now consistently (thank God) in prayerbook "Tudor" English, except for the scripture readings, which are taken from the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition, Second Edition - which is modern language!  Still, I am quite enthusiastic about the future, both for the Ordinariate and for our group.  Glory to God for all things.