16 February 2014

The ROMAN CANON: Fr Hugh Ross Williamson; Dom Gregory Dix

In 1955, an Anglican Catholic priest, Hugh Ross Williamson, wrote a book (The Great Prayer) on the Canon of the Mass, the First Eucharistic Prayer. Here is an extract from the Introduction.

"To know the prayer which accompanies the action is to know the Faith. And the Faith is the faith of the whole, undivided Church, before schisms had sundered it. The ... 'Canon of the Mass' ... has not varied since the end of the sixth century. Its final form was given to it by Gregory the Great, the Pope who sent Augustine to England. The Prayer as Augustine prayed it in that first Communion he celebrated in the ruined church of St Martin in Canterbury in 597 is, word for word, the same prayer as has been said this particular morning at every Catholic altar all over the world.
    "Thus the Canon today is not only the prayer of unity within the Church itself. It is the potential point of unity for all those separated from the Church. The sects which have sprung up since the Reformation could all unite in saying the Canon ... There is in the Canon only the teaching of the the primitive Church (for, of course, Gregory the Great only put the final touches to prayers which had slowly developed or hardened into particular forms from apostolic times) and nothing whatever of 'late medieval accretions' against which the Reformers inveighed. The Canon had already been in use, in its present form, for six hundred years before Transubstantiation ' was defined in 1215.
     "In praying the Canon we unite ourselves with all fellow-christians 'throughout all ages, world without end'. In knowing the Canon, we become grounded in the teaching of the primitive Church ...."

I wouldn't have expressed everything in precisely this way myself; I would have acknowledged, for example, the existence of Byzantine Christianity! I print it simply to enable you to lie back and enjoy it!

Williamson had as his spiritual director Dom Gregory Dix, and the first paragraph above is undoubtedly influenced by Dix's words:
"[There is] a certain timelessness about the eucharistic action ... This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which had not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he had landed. Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it."
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REVEREND; RIGHT REVEREND; MOST REVEREND; EMINENT FATHERS: CAN YOU REALLY IN GOOD CONSCIENCE USE 'ALTERNATIVE EUCHARISTIC PRAYERS'?

1 comment:

df said...

REVEREND; RIGHT REVEREND; MOST REVEREND; EMINENT FATHERS: CAN YOU REALLY IN GOOD CONSCIENCE USE 'ALTERNATIVE EUCHARISTIC PRAYERS'?

Reverend Father; no, I cannot! Thankfully my conscience (at least in this matter) remains clear.