2 April 2014

Cranmer redivivus

I have a copy - it was a kind gift from Professor Bill Tighe - of a sermon preached in 1949 by my predecessor as the Parish Priest of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford, the great patristic scholar Trevor Jalland. In it, Jalland wrote about the 1549 Mass of Thomas Cranmer. The sermon is full of the acid, satirical, and sharply-observed comments which made Anglo-Catholic Sacristy Humour what it was (we were a catty lot). This is how it ends:
[Cranmer was] always, from first to last, dependent on an imperfect text of Scripture, on a narrow range of patristic material, as yet but partially understood in relation to its true historical character, and above all on 'the latest thing from Germany'. It is hardly surprising that his laboriously fashioned structure proved to be, doctrinally and liturgically speaking, a house of cards. But it is ever to his credit that in his command of English and above all of the rhythm and melody of words, he bequeathed to us a treasury out of which may yet be fashioned in the end 'a manner of the holy communion' far more 'agreeable with the institution of Christ, St Paul and the old primitive and apostolic church' than ever was his own.

Jalland might so easily have been talking about the Ordinariate liturgy. Have you taken the opportunity - either in Warwick Street or Oxford - to experience it?

A similar much earlier post on this subject elicited the comments on the appended thread.


Adam Mitchell Bond said...

It is certainly worthy, though I'm not sure how you'll convince the English Bishop Conferences and, of course, Rome that they are worthy of the honour.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Rome has already been convinced...the Book of Divine Worship used in Anglican Use parishes in the USA is proof of that. See the Mass of the BDW at the web site of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Adam Mitchell Bond said...

I clearly aware of of the book of Divine Worship, I have a copy of it on my bookshelf, my point is that unlike the forma extraordinaria it isn't influencing the 'Roman' vernacular texts in the forma ordinaria. The Anglican Use is a great blessing to the English Church, but it has minimal influence, and its credibility is diminished because unlike the forma extradordinaria it is often seen as a compromise to Anglicans. I don't agree with that, but I doubt the Vox Clara commission is going to take pointers from a heretic like Cranmer any time soon, even if his English is beautiful. I pray that they do, but I remain a cynic.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Below are a couple of excerpts from a talk given at the annual Anglican Use Conference, at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2007. The speaker is Monsignor Bruce Harbert of the ICEL. I think Msgr.'s talk shows that the translators are in deed taking into consideration the English of the BCP and the BDW. In fact, some of the complaints I've heard about the new translations we'll be seeing is that they're too hard to just read without preparation, because of all those subordinate clauses.

Granted, we won't be getting the antique, but more accurate (and I think more reverent) thou, thee, thy and thine, but the structure of the prayers, and some of the language will reflect the translation history represented in Cranmer's work and subsequent Anglican compositions.

"Let's look at a single prayer, which is first found in a manuscript of the early 9th century, and was for many years before Vatican II used at the end of the Mass of Wednesday in Holy Week and Cranmer adopted it for his liturgy for Good Friday. This prayer, which I'll read to you in a moment, belongs to a class of prayers called Prayers over the People, (Orationes super Populum)...

Well, the earliest translation of this prayer that I know is Cranmer; I think you'll be familiar with it.

"Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously
to behold this thy family,
for the which our Lord Jesus Christ
was contented to be betrayed and given up
into the hands of wicked men
and to suffer death upon the Cross."

The priest prays for God's family. And The Book of Divine Worship has retained this translation with a few modifications. I'm going to go through a few translations now, just to illustrate to you the change that has happened in the 20th century, that I really want to draw out.

The earliest translation of this prayer, from a Catholic venue, is from an anonymous, 18th century Holy Week manual, which says this:

“Look down, we beseech thee, O Lord,
on this thy family,
for which our Lord Jesus Christ
was pleased to be delivered into the hands of the wicked
and to suffer the torment of the Cross.”

I thought when I first opened The Book of Divine Worship that I would find the Coverdale version of the Roman Canon, but I see that it's not. This is how the so-called Coverdale version goes:

Remember, Lord, thy servants and handmaids
and all that stand here round about
whose faith and devotion to thee is known and manifest,
for whom we offer unto thee, or which themselves offer unto thee,
this sacrifice of praise for them and theirs,
for the redemption of their souls,
for the hope of their salvation and health,
and render their vows unto thee the eternal, living and true God.
Communicating and worshiping the memorial
first of the Glorioius and Ever Virgin Mary,
the mother of our God and Lord Jesu Christ;
And also of thy blessed apostles and martyrs and of all thy saints
By whose merits and prayers grant thou that in all things
we may be defended with the help of thy protection.

Coverdale's translation uses “they” and “them”, where our modern translation uses “we” and “us”. And Coverdale is the accurate translator, though I get into terrible trouble when I suggest this."

Adam Mitchell Bond said...

Thank you for that, it does give one hope. I suppose even a cynic can be converted.

Sue Sims said...

Ah well, it's all irrelevant now. Damian Thompson has broken the news:


Alas, he doesn't link directly to the document he refers to (Aprilis Stulte Dies*), but hey, no one's perfect.

*I believe its subtitle is Piscis Aprilis...