23 October 2010

The Voice of Evangelicalism

I find in the journal of the Prayer Book Society an article on the liturgical year by a well known (and much loved) Conservative Evangelical, Roger Beckwith. A critic might pick holes in the details; Roger is apparently unaware of the currently favoured theories about why March 25 is Lady Day; and he seems to think that some commemorations have acquired their dates as a result of careful calculation rather than by (what we would call) Chance (if John Paul II had not instructed us that there is no such thing as Chance). But going through a lot of stuff like that would be unfriendly pedantry. I think many of my readers will be interested that an evangelical cares about the liturgical year; and rather intrigued by some of his points. Ex. gr.:

The Common Worship calendar introduces many changes derived from the modern form of the Roman calendar. Thus it changes the titles of Sundays, so that the First Sunday after Easter becomes, confusingly, the Second Sunday of Easter, and the Sunday next before Advent (Stir up Sunday) becomes Christ the King, a recent Roman duplication of Advent [JWH interrupts: surely, of the Ascension?]. It moves the dates of festivals, so that St Thomas's Day is no longer on 21st December, nor St Matthias' Day on 24th February ... If one compares the Prayer Book calendar with its new rival, one cannot fail to see that the Prayer Book calendar is a reform and simplification of the old Roman calendar, which reflects a true understanding of the structure of the Christian calendar and brings it out with considerable clarity. It draws on the resources of the Bible to strengthen true teaching and to correct error, which are things a good calendar can do. By contrast, the new calendar shows a lack of understanding of the structure of the historic [JWH adds: Western] Christian calendar and a lack of appreciation of the Prayer Book form of it. It knows only the modern form of the Roman calendar, and makes rather pointless concessions to it. A church with two conflicting calendars is on the way to becoming two churches, and one of the aims which the Prayer Book Society could direct its present day efforts towards is to persuade the C of E to treat the Prayer Book calendar as normative for its life once more, and not the misguided modern substitute.

Well, Fr Roger, here at S Thomas's we are now in the Sundays after Trinity ...


Rubricarius said...

How refreshing!

One of the things which irritates me the most about CW is the abandoning of the venerable English practice of having O Sapientia on December 16th. OK, its not ancient, but it is both venerable and delightful to have O Virgo on the 23rd.

Restore the BCP now!

Joshua said...

Why did the C of E adopt Christ the King and these other very recent Roman changes? Surely, apart from Anglo-Papalists, there was an understandable aversion to slavish copying of all things Roman?

Anonymous said...

Much of what Mr. Beckwith here writes are valid observations on the new Roman Calender even from a Roman-rite Catholic perspective. The new calender has no raison d'etre. When compared to the old Roman Calender, the new one offers no advantages whatsoever: it seems to have been invented merely for the sake of inventing something new, as all that was 'old' - the Calender, Martyrologium, Missale, Rituale, Pontificale, Breviarium, Graduale, Vulgata, etc - far from being considered untouchable Tradition as formerly, was now, after Vatican II, considered old trash to be thrown out. Why The Church of England adopted the Novus Ordo Calender, Anti-Liturgical languange, Lectionary, etc., is incomprehensible to me. THe Old Catholic Church of the NEtherlands -which otherwise rather hates Rome - did preciesly the same thing. They shamelessly adopted more or less the whole Novus Ordo, together with as many of the post-conciliar abuses as they could. What Mr. Beckwith writes about two calenders creating two Churches - is coming true for the Church of Rome as well. Two calenders within one Rite, like the proverbial House divided against itself - cannot be justified (if one can give credence to the present Supreme Pontiff that the traditional Rite and the NOvus ORdo are merely two forms of the same Rite!) I see no reason for the modern feasts of Christ the King, St. Joseph the Worker and the Holy Family. THey were forced artificially into a fully matured and full! calender, and, as the Novus Ordo's moving them around shows, proper places for these politically motivated feasts simply cannot be found within the Roman Calender. Poor SS. Pillip and James were the most illustrious victims of papal violence wrought upon the Calender.

Anonymous said...

I find myself (as often) in full agreement with Dr. Beckwith. I remember my old professor, the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, making similar points. It is interesting that there is a certain kind of Anglican "Evangelical" (although I suppose many of them would have been considered High Churchmen in previous days) whom I generally find right on target about, surprise, even matters liturgical, whilst there are many Catholics who just do not get it.

Steve said...

Well, it seems to me that:

(1) Dr Beckwith is at least 20 years too late with his comments about two calendars leading, perhaps, to two churches. There was the ASB calendar.... (PS - if you apply this to the RC Church, it would be VERY peculiar to standardise according to the Extraordinary calendar rather than the Ordinary!)

(2) The change to the Revised Common Lectionary was made to insert more scripture into the Church of England's Sunday worship. Reverting to the BCP lectionary would reverse that process with a vengeance (that is, if you want your main Sunday service to be the Eucharist every Sunday; Dr Beckwith almost certainly doesn't!)

(3) We have Christ the King because it's an integral part of the RCL (and I personally enjoy it as another excuse to have a bit of a party, for what that's worth). As far as duplication is concerned - and I'm sure JWH is right to say it's a duplication of Ascension Day - how many conservative Evangelicals in the C of E actually go to church on Ascension Day anyway, and/or how many conservative Evangelical Vicars even have a service for them to go to?

(4) I won't comment on St Matthias, but I would have thought that the rationale for moving St Thomas away from 21st December was blindingly obvious!

(5) Albertus - happily the C of E did not introduce the feasts of St Joseph the Worker and the Holy Family; CW still has SS Philip and James on 1st May!

(6) Rubricarius - as a user of the (four-fold) CW daily office, I am delighted that the Great Advent Antiphons are provided for use with the Magnificat at Evening Prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Given that, I don't think there was any way that "O virgo" could realistically have passed muster with the C of E authorities (and I wouldn't have been frightfully happy with it either).

Yes, believe it or not, I'm personally happy with what we've got in the C of E (and I'm happy to leave what's availably in the RC Church to the RC's.....)