How Anglicans Worship – Part 5

The Offertory
Here we reach a part of the Mass about which many have written much, usually intensely polemical, about the prayers to be used by the celebrant.  Rather than tread through that minefield I will simply say that I don’t see that it really matters whether one use the prayers based on the Jewish berakah prayers that were used by the Church for five or so centuries and in the Ordinary Form today, or the prayers of sacrifice that were used by the Church for fifteen or so centuries and in the Extraordinary Form today.  As far as I’m concerned, I think they are equally valuable for different reasons, and it is actually a shame we can’t use them both, but can you imagine how long that would stretch out the offertory?   (A private email pointed out to me that I didn’t discuss on which side of the altar the celebrant stands, and I admit I left that out intentionally.  It should be clear that I write for those who celebrate eastward, leading the prayers of the assembly, not slipping in behind the altar like a bartender.)
All I want to say specifically about the Offertory is this: pick up Lamburn or Fortescue and follow it as much as you can.  The directions are perfectly clear, and I cannot improve on them at all.
I will add a word about the volume of prayers.  The tradition for at least fifteen or more centuries (and still, in the Extraordinary Form) has a number of prayers said in what was called the mystic voice, that is, not quite silent, yet audible only to the celebrant and the Almighty.  At the time of the deformation, anything that was said this way tended to disappear from protestant rites, as if nothing mattered that the congregation didn’t hear.  Now, I am not a fan of the incorrectly labeled ‘silent canon’ but neither do I think that the post-Vatican II notion of bellowing everything in one volume an improvement.  I have not come to any conclusions about a good middle way here, and am open to suggestions.  Perhaps if everything that used to be in the mystic voice were to be said softly (yet audibly) and everything else in a normal (yet not loud) voice, that would work best.  Please let me know what you think.

1 thought on “How Anglicans Worship – Part 5

  1. Fr. Patrick Fodor

    As far as the eastward position, a good amount of solid scholarship, including work by Klaus Gamber and Benedict XVI, has demonstrated that the worship facing East is the historic one, the exceptions being cases in which the people also faced westward (so they were still not examples o fthe scenario of clergy facing the people over the “Communion Table”) It strikes me that the image of slipping in behind the bar like a bartedned would go along perefectly well with the use of little shotglasses for the distribution of God’s Blood (what a parishioner of mine once referred to as “kicking on back for Jesus”). The whole scenario degrades reverence and is mistaken about numerous matters of both theology and the message communicated by the Liturgy (which should be focused on Christ, not us).

    The distinctions of voice seem to be connected originally with the distinction of prayers said by the celebrant for himself (such as the prayer to not look on the faith of the priest, but the faith of the Church), and those for the people. This holds in the Eastern rites, too, as Schmemman explains in several places. In addition, I often think that we have to be very careful about restricting ourselves to two options (avoiding the black and white fallacy). Often in Liturgy there are mutiple things going on at the same time, or multiple levels of meaning to the same rites and ecermonies. For the Canon, I would suggest that it is A) the Prayer of the whole Church in union with Christ, and B) the Act of Christ Himself, the priest acting in persona Christi, and that this includes both God’s action- Christ speaking His Words and by His Words causing what He says, especially both in the Verba and the Epiclesis, the Son sending the Spirit from the Father on both the Gifts and His people for worthy reception of them- and also Christ, by His Word and Spirit at the same time engaging in Kerygma, speaking Himself and faith in Him, into the ears and hearts of His people. Of course these are organically related. It is both public and intimate at the same time, both something to bring necessary faith into His people by clear proclamation (the Verba creating that faith which enables worthy reception, and also being a form of catechesis), and also being an expression of intimate communion, in anamnestic form, of the Trinity (the Son with the Spirit and the Father, the Father with the Son and Spirit, etc.). If we follow the structural parallel between the Verba and Epiclesis as the highpoint of the Canon and the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, in parallel with the Gospel as the highpoint of the liturgy of the Word, the aspect of catechesis and procalamtion is central. But there is more than this going on. Having it both in a mystic voice and a voice of proclamation at the same time, is, of course, not possible. Where do we place the emphasis? The most common practice in the Eastern Rite is, I think, to leave many prayers mystical, but to have the Verba and Epiclesis in a voice loud enough to be heard, and for responses to be given by the people, whether verbally or ceremonially or both (especially with prostration after the Epiclesis).

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