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!

1 thought on “How Anglicans Worship – Part 1

  1. Fr. Patrick Fodor

    Two other things are also especially noteworthy, here. One is that the word “Amen” is actually an oath term (the emphatic form being “Amen, Amen,” which then means something like I swear to you the absolute truth,” when used as a prefix to statements, as Jesus does in the Gospels). Also, the language for the salutation is also technical. It is not some kind of “holy howdy,” a mere pleasantry to fill space or be polite, but an expression of God’s Presence and work in the midst of His people. The priest declares that the LORD, Jesus Christ, is with the people, in their midst. It is Christ Who is speaking in the Gospel and in the Words of Institution, and through Whom the Spirit is sent on the Holy Gifts and on the people. It is Christ Who prays for His people, the priest acting in persona Christi. The people, in response, pray for the deacon or priest –specifically referring to the Gifts of the Spirit given in ordination, and asking that the clergyman may be an effective instrument through whom God will act. (This why a layman does not use this salutation- ever). The reference is to 2 Timothy 1:6, with its very vivid language. Literally, speaking to Timothy, Paul says, “Wherefore I put you in anamnesis [an experiential remembrance] so that you rekindle God’s gift in you, which is in you by the laying on of my hands [i.e. “my ordination”].” In effect, we are praying, “Lord, let him not screw up what he is about to do, but lead him by stirring up the gifts put in him by ordination.”

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