Friday, January 22, 2016

Discussing Holy Communion and the Introits Collects Epistles and Gospels

Usually I only discuss part of the proposed book when I have posted it. But in this instance, I wanted to discuss the Mass and the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels together, since they go together.

First, looking at the Order for Holy Communion it is that of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with a few additions from the 1549 BCP.  The first such addition is the rubric calling for the singing of the Introit after the collect for purity.

Why the Introits? I strongly believe that chanting the psalms is an important part of our Anglican heritage and of the tradition of the church catholic. Further the Blessed Thomas Cranmer appointed Introits in the 1549 BCP. Since this book is trying to express the fullness of our Anglican tradition of worship, it makes sence to include them.

While it is not a change from the 1928 BCP, those only familiar with the ’79 book may not have come across the recitation of the Decalogue.

The next change is to move the greater doxology, (the Gloria in excelsis Deo), from after the Lord’s Supper where it appears in the 1928 BCP to after the kyrie, where it appears in the 1549 BCP and where according to the broader western liturgical tradition it belongs.

The Rubric regarding the Collects has been modified to allow for the seasonal collects, commemorations etc. and to limit the total number to seven, in accordance with the sarum rule.

A change for those who only know the post conciliar and ’79 BCP pattern of having an old testament lesson before the epistle, is that there is no such reading (with the exception of the votive mass for the faithful departed).

While it is not a change in the text of the order, the rubric, “Here may be sung a Psalm, Hymn or Anthem.” takes on additional meaning from the fact that all Sundays and many Feasts have appointed Graduals, Alleluias, or Tracts in this book.

The prayer for the church militant will be change for those who only use Rite II of the ’79 book.

One thing that I have left unchanged from the 1928 BCP where the ’79 book was arguably an improvement is the proper prefaces. But this is a proposed revised BCP so it can be fixed.

The Agnus dei and communion verses and the rubrics regarding them are from the 1549 book.

Now I should turn to what the forgoing hinted at about the mass readings. This book abandons the various modern three year mass lectionaries and returns to the traditional one year western lectionary.

There are two arguments against this and I want to deal with them one at a time. The first argument is that the three year lectionary allows us to read more scripture in our public worship. The second is that the traditional lectionary leads to an unbalanced Old Testiment poor public reading of the scriptures.

In a certain sense the answer to both of these arguments is the same, the daily office. But before explicating that, I want to make what is to my mind an important argument in favor of the one year lectionary.

To the degree that mass lections have a didactic roll, an assumption that both arguments implicitly make, a one year lectionary is better in that it allows people to become more familiar with the parts of the scripture that are read. This is important, given that the basic gospel message is in the readings of both lectionaries, because if we want to teach that message it helps to get the important readings into people’s heads. Repetition is not vain for this.

Take for example a young person whose parents start taking him to mass at age 6 and continue to do so every Sunday until his 14th birthday. That is he comes to Mass every Sunday for 8 years.  Under the three year system he hears 2/3s of the readings three times and 1/3 of the readings twice.  In contrast under the one year lectionary he hears all the reading 8 times.

And that is a best case scenario, what if as is more likely his family only comes to church every other Sunday, or even monthly. Then under the three year system he is likely to only hear the majority of readings once, but under the one year system he will on average hear all the readings twice. Which system is more likely to teach him what we want him to know?

But the real answer both arguments is that if a parish follows the teaching of the prayer book, it will not be reading less scripture, but more. To see why that is so, let us turn to, “The Introits, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels with the Graduals, Alleluias, and Tracts, for Holly Communion and the proper readings and antiphons for Matins and Evensong on the Sundays and other Feasts and Fasts of the Church Year.”

Look at the First Sunday of Advent. If a parish has Matins, Mass, and Evensong on Sunday they will hear the following scripture readings: at Matins Ps. 8 & 50, Isa 55, Luke 1:55-80 (not to mention the Benedictus which is Luke 1:67-79); at Mass Ps 1, Rom 13:8-14, Ps 85:4-7, Matt 21:1-13; at Evensong Ps. 86 & 97, Isa 60, John 1:15-28 (not to mention the Magnificat and Nunc). That is five whole psalms and part of another, two chapters of the Old Testament, parts of two epistles and parts of two Gospels, plus the three gospel canticles. Against this the slow mass (parish communion) gives you a psalm or part of one, an OT lesson, an epistle, and a gospel, times three for the three years. That is twelve readings vs. fifteen. And under the one year lectionary system they are being heard more often.

Now you can say that this is not a fair comparison, after all under current system the daily office lectionary gives another three reading every year in its two year schedule plus the psalms and canticles, but the fact is the mass under the post conciliar, RCL, '79 BCP  system is so long that it is hard to get people to come early for Matins or come back for Evensong.

That anyway should be our goal, Matins, Mass, and Evensong every Sunday. Ideally with the services kept at or under an hour in length with Christian Education between Matins and Mass. There is no excuse for a parish that shall remain nameless that regularly offers mass four times on Sunday and no office.

So on to the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels!

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