14 February 2014

G G Willis and the Roman Canon

Apologies to those of you who get tired of reading me thrusting down your throats the inherited wisdom of the Anglican Catholic tradition; but I can't help being what I am. Today, something written in 1969 by one of our greatest liturgical Anglican scholars, Dr G G Willis. He praises a translation of the Canon which is more or less what the Ordinariate Rite contains ('superb translation ...superlative style ... outstanding ...'*) and advises its adoption rather than that of a Hyppolytean* Canon. "In liturgical quality, both of language and structure, it excels all other eucharistic rites ...the only rite known to Englishmen for nearly a thousand years ... It says what many people want to say at the altar, and its use would draw the Church of England closer to countless other Western Christians, and would therefore have great value in knitting together the splintered unity of Christ's Church. Such a suggestion is worthy of serious consideration. ... the Roman Canon is the best one available, .. falling into three clearly defined stages, the offering of the gifts of bread and wine to God, their consecration by the recital of the dominical Institution, and their offering to God as the Body and Blood of Christ. It is time for the Church of England to forsake inveterate prejudices derived from Reformation Protestantism, and to accomplish something in liturgical revision which would give unity and peace on the basis of an ancient and well-tried form of prayer".

The poignancy of these words, written at just the moment when disaster was about to strike the Roman Rite, surely increases their force. In a paper written two years later in 1971, Willis wrote: "nothing is clearer to the student of liturgical history in the whole of Christendom than that the best and most enduring liturgy arises out of the past experiences of worshippers. This suggests that revision should arise, and should be seen to arise, out of what went before". This is almost a paraphrase of that paragraph in Sacrosanctum Concilium (23) which was so strikingly contradicted when Rome authorised alternative Eucharistic Prayers.

Learn from the Anglican Patrimony; follow the Ordinariates. The Roman Canon is the only Eucharistic Prayer for right-thinking Latin Clergy to use.
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** We now know that it was not by Miles Coverdale, but by an anonymous Anglo-Catholic. And, of course, since 1971, Hippolytus has metamorphosed into Pseudo-Hippolytus.

4 comments:

austin said...

Please do say more, Father, about what we know about the liturgical English translation of the Roman Canon. I have been defending it from accusations of being "cod Tudor", "suburban Tudorbethan", and so on by saying that it was, if not by Coverdale, at least of the period.

If we know definitively that it is a recent production, I have some apologies to make.

The elegance of the rendering is a healthy reminder of how steeped in Authorized Version English were clergy and scholars of an earlier generation. I knew a Baptist minister who could extemporize very creditable prayers in full Cranmerian mode, with clausulae. Being Welsh (and Welsh speaking)perhaps gave him an unfair edge.

austin said...

Ferreting about, I found this 1967 piece. http://archive.catholicherald.co.uk/article/16th-june-1967/4/a-tudor-translation-of-the-canon

Jesse said...

I too would like some clarification about which translation of the Canon is not Coverdale's.

As is also pointed out in the article linked by austin, there is a translation of the Canon printed in Foxe's Acts and Monuments that is described as having been found among Coverdale's papers. I recall that Mgr Burnham suggested that this translation, if it is Coverdales, must have been made for polemical purposes. (And Foxe's marginal notes to it are hilariously polemical.)

But we find a number of references early in the reign of Edward VI to the celebration of the Mass "in English" well before Cranmer's Order of Communion of 1548 and BCP of 1549. It therefore seems to me just as probable that Coverdale prepared a translation for liturgical use. Even if he didn't like the Eucharistic doctrine of the Roman Canon, praying it in English would at least give him the delicious satisfaction of irritating adherents of the Old Religion.

Paulusmaximus said...

I am currently reading Willis's Further Essays in Early Roman Liturgy. An excellent book!