Monthly Archives: August 2018

How Anglicans Worship – Part 3

Parish Mass – Neither Low nor High

After receiving some private comments by email, I think I should pause the walk through the Mass and share a couple notes about the project.  As I had said, this is not intended to be descriptive, as there is far too much variation and sloppiness, not to mention simple personal idiosyncracy out there.  These blog posts are meant to be, insofar as possible, prescriptive.  That is, this is what ought to be done.

Now with that out of the way, let me address a question I was sent, “is this for Low Mass or High Mass.”  Frankly, my answer has to be neither.  Now,  I am familiar with the traditional distinction here, but perhaps I ought to appropriate the term “Parish Mass” to use in place of either of the traditional terms.  Here’s my reasoning.  There aren’t many places that can mount a proper High Mass, with three Sacred Ministers and a fully trained acolyte corps, but that doesn’t mean that the laity should be deprived or the clergy should get lazy.  On the contrary, places that cannot mount a full High Mass will need to try even harder, because the glory of Christian worship is that it is directed to God, not ourselves.  We owe him the best we can manage, and if that means tweaking it up a bit more than is strictly comfortable, then so be it.  God forbid any parish be satisfied with just squeaking by.  Shame on them!  Better to stay home and watch TV than to do a bare bones or the least common denominator and call it worship.

So by “Parish Mass” do I mean some sort of hybrid?  Well, no to that, too.  I don’t mean mix and match.  Let’s look at particulars.  If there is a Deacon available, by all means, he should take his proper ministry–and all of it.  Any text that can be sung, should be, and if that means extra work to do it and do it right, by all means, sing it!  And I don’t mean just the dialogues or the major propers, I mean the minor propers, and the Creed, and the Our Father.  He who sings prays twice.  I also think a proper Parish Mass needs to have incense.  Our Orthodox brethren are absolutely right that there is no such thing as Divine Liturgy without incense. I know the modern Roman Rite allows parts to be sung and incense to be used in any places without regard to whether other parts are sung or incense is used, and I think that valuable, so long as the rubric isn’t used in a minimalist way.  Don’t try to figure out what the least is one can get away with, but rather maximize the Mass!  Sing everything you possibly can.  Offer incense at every point in the liturgy you can.  And not just on high holy days, but on every Sunday.  Every Sunday is a festival of the Resurrection, so every Sunday Mass should be our maximal Parish Mass. Ring the bells, light the candles, fire up the thuribles, tune the organ, and give to God the glory he revealed in the Revelation to St John the Divine!   If your parish doesn’t have a Subdeacon, why not?  I would go further and suggest that every parish should have a Deacon as well.  Look around and see who may have a calling he doesn’t know he has.  You may be surprised how God will bless your worship if you give up getting by and give him the best!

How Anglicans Worship – Part 2

The Opening Rite (continued)
The rest of the opening rite, after the preparation, starts with the Introit.  This is one of the so-called minor propers, that change for the day and match the readings and prayers.  The Introit begins with the celebrant ascending to the altar, kissing it in reverent recognition of its holiness and sign of Christ’s presence with his people, and then going to the epistle side of the front, that is, the right as you face it, making the sign of the Cross on the book and reading the antiphon, a psalm verse, and the Gloria Patri, finishing with the antiphon again.  In places where they sing, which should be everywhere, the Introit is sung by the cantor or choir.  I have seen parishes where the music is printed in the bulletin and the people sing along with the choir, a practice I heartily commend, as the tunes are easily learned and sung by anyone.  It was customary for the preparation to be said by the celebrant while the choir sang the Introit, but I discourage the practice.  Multitasking is for computers, not God’s people in his worship!

After the conclusion of the Introit, the celebrant goes to the center of the altar and offers the first salutation (as commented on in the previous post by Fr. Fodor.)  Then he prays the Collect for Purity.  The word “collect,” emphasis on the first syllable, is a prayer of specific form, more about which below.  This collect is really a remnant of the priest’s private prayers, and in some places may be prayed quietly, but never silently.  Then the priest reads the short Summary of the Law, or in penitential seasons may be substituted the Decalogue in litany form.  The Book of Common Prayer prescribes the Decalogue once a month, but it seems to me a logical and more salutary practice to use it only on purple Sundays–when the Gloria in Excelsis will not be sung.

The Kyrie Eleison follows.  Again, the tunes are simple and the people should sing this.  I favor singing it nine-fold, that is, each trope thrice, on Sundays and feasts where the Gloria in Excelsis will not follow, and singing it three-fold, that is, each trope once, at any Mass for which the Gloria is appointed.  The kyrie, although it sounds like it in English, is not really a penitential lament, but was originally a greeting that was given the Emperor, taken over by the Church and addressed to the great Ruler of all.

Immediately following is the Gloria in Excelsis.  The Book of Common Prayer prints it at the end of Mass, but that was the result of wicked protestant influences on the second Edwardine Book, 1552.  This song belongs where Christendom has traditionally placed it, here, and where it is found in the Anglican Missal, English Missal, and American Missal, and naturally all the great Western liturgies, including the Anglican liturgies of the first BCP of 1549, the Scottish BCP (1929, and their 1970 Eucharist), South African BCP (1954), West Indies BCP (1959), and Nigerian BCP (1996).  All stand for this great hymn, of course, and the celebrant stands in the center of the altar.

After the Gloria, the celebrant turns to the people and offers the second of seven salutations in the Mass, then returns to the book at the epistle corner and prays the Collect of the Day, followed by the two collects appointed for the season.  A collect is a prayer in a specific form, almost the sonnet of prayers, in that it always consists of an invocation, an address to God mentioning one of his attributes or actions, follows with a petition, and then closes with the trinitarian formula.  In Latin, the collect was always one single sentence, and in English, collects composed with taste and good form are as well.

The Collect is the last act of the openng rites, and was originally the opening itself.  Over time, things tend to be added to the liturgy, usually at the “soft” points, the beginning, the end, and transitions.  When the Church began to worship openly in public, it was found that the Collect should have an opening song, so the Gloria was added.  Soon that began to be considered part of the Mass, and another opening was needed: the Kyrie.  As you can see, things kept being added to the beginning until now, a parish could have four opening songs: a hymn, the Introit, the Kyrie, and the Gloria!

There is another rite that in some modern circles has supplanted the opening: the Asperges, or Sprinkling with Holy Water.  I’ll be looking at the Asperges in a later post, after we have finished the whole Mass, but I will note that traditionally the Asperges precedes the primary Sunday Mass, a practice I think should be commended to all.

Next time we will look at the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, also called the Mass of the Catechumens.

How Anglicans Worship – Part 1

I thought it might be a good time to begin a new series of blog posts, walking through the liturgy as it were, and focusing on things as they come up.  We’ll come back later to talk about private preparation prayers, and instead we’ll begin with the public part of the service.  What I hope to do in this series is more prescriptive than descriptive, that is, not trying to cover all the different ways you might see things done–and misdone–but trying to walk through an ideal Anglican Mass the way it ought to be done everywhere and by all.

The Opening Rite
Some places will do the preparation privately, in the sacristy, but properly it ought to be done publicly in front of the people.  I think it best if the people pray along with the servers’ part, but in places where an opening hymn is sung that could be difficult unless the preparation is deferred until the opening hymn is finished, which is probably best.
The clergy halt at the foot of the altar, uncover (remove birettas, more about those in another post), and the celebrant begins the entire Mass with the Trinitarian invocation: “In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” to which all answer “Amen.”  This act is not really a greeting, as some modern scholars assert, but rather a dedication that places all that follows in context: we are beginning the worship of the Almighty God in the way he has revealed himself, One God in Three Persons.  Immediately we know that we are not Arians, Moslems, Mormons, or modern trendy heretics, but we are Christians in the great tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. In responding “amen,” the people agree, and, as is the case everywhere the word appears, make the prayer their own.
Next, except in Masses of the Dead or in Passiontide (more about seasons later), follows Psalm 43 (42 in the LXX), with antiphons: “I will go unto the altar of God,” to which comes the answer “Even unto the God of my joy and gladness.” The antiphon frames the psalm, puttting it in context. The psalm is recited responsively, priest and people alternating verses. In the psalm we pray to approach the altar of God devoutly, we express our confidence in God (confidence given by him), and finish with our adoration of the Most Holy Trinity in the Gloria Patri. The antiphon is repeated, which closes the frame around the psalm.
The celebrant then moves on by acknowledging our unworthiness: “Our help + is in the Name of the Lord.” The people agree: “Who hath made heaven and earth.” Now we each prepare our hearts by confessing our sins, praying the ancient prayer called by its first word in Latin, Confiteor. The priest prays it first, “I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed (striking the breast thrice), through my fault, through my own fault, through my own most grievous fault. Therefore I beg Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, brethren, to pray to the Lord our God for me.” All reply “Almighty God have mercy upon thee, forgive thee thy sins, and bring thee to everlasting life.” The priest agrees: “Amen.” Then comes the people’s turn: “I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to thee, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed (striking the breast thrice), through my fault, through my own fault, through my own most grievous fault. Therefore I beg Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and thee, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.” The priest replies “Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life.” The people agree: “Amen.” (Note that “thee” is singular and “you” plural.) The confession is completed with the priest praying that the confessions be accepted: “Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life.” All reply “Amen.” Then the priest grants absolution: “The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, + absolution, and remission of our sins.” Again, all agree “Amen.”
The preparation concludes with verses and responses. Our setting has been established. Next we will look at the Introit, Collect for Purity, Summary of the Law, and the Kyrie Eleison, more preparatory prayers!