A liturgical review
Tuesday’s liturgy was rubricly flawless. I’ve been called a “prayer book fundamentalist” and I’ll take that as a badge of honor. So when things are done by the book — by the prayer book, that is — it gladdens my heart.
Alas, Wednesday’s liturgy was not so tightly done. To be sure, the text that was printed in the leaflet was rubricly flawless. The Presider, Bishop Bruno of Los Angeles, did several things that were not “by the book.” I’m sure most people thought it was great. I, however, do not tend to be the kind of presider who injects my own personality into liturgy when I can help it.
- Bishop Bruno made up something for the offertory sentence (the book says to use one of the sentences provided, or another sentence of scripture).
- He made up a communication invitation (the book says you have to use “The Gifts of God, for the People of God…” in Rite II). On the latter point, I sympathize. I don’t much like the communication invitation, preferring a closer translation of the Santa sanctis “The holy for the holy”. But every Sunday, I say what’s in the book, since there’s no provision for another invitation.
- There was not silence at the fraction. That wasn’t the Presider’s decision, I suppose. Everyone likes to trample that one, but the book clearly says after the Fraction, “Silence is kept.” It is not optional. We are meant to have a moment to contemplate the enormity of what we are doing.
- Finally, Holy Communion was not distributed the way the prayer book says to do it. First, the presider should receive in both kinds. Then the other clergy at the table. And then the people care communicated. Again, I don’t much like this, but we do it that way every Sunday, because I don’t think I have the right to change these things.
Why do I mention all this? Not because I take particular or gleeful pleasure in finding errors. Mostly because one day was just right, and the next day had some “issues.” Both days could have been done precisely according to the forms appointed by the Book of Common Prayer. None of the errors particularly detracted from the liturgy for most of those in attendance, I suspect. Many people who were there probably even enjoyed some of the things Bishop Bruno added, and may have even found them more spiritually edifying than the words in the prayer book. But in a world in which the church is accused of coming off its moorings, I wanted a few people to know that at least one blogger noticed these things and lamented a tight, prayer book liturgy.
I am quite liberal on social matters, but my ecclesiology and liturgical sense are quite catholic. I do not see it as within my realm or my right — or even a bishop’s realm or right — to innovate on Sundays, principal feasts, and these major occasions. (Experimental communities, non-principal services, academic communities, and many other contexts may be suitable for this kind of approach, so long as it is thoughtful, well articulated, and consciously related to the Anglican stream of liturgical life.)
It should be noted that the music has fantastic again — nicely varied and very well done. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon was thought-provoking, well delivered, and compelling. Mostly, this was a good liturgy where the Word was proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly celebrated.
Let’s hope that future liturgies here are as good as the first two days!