12 July 2017

Cranmer, the Ancient Fathers, and the Ordinariate Missal

The Anglican Patrimony is and was a strange thing ...

Most of the Reformation ecclesial bodies took as normative the Bible, the Early Church, and, to provide a 'hermeneutic' (after all, both Bible and Early Church can be differently interpreted by different people) a normative theological interpreter: it might be Luther; or there is always Calvin; or whoever. But the Church of England never had a hermeneutic; we have no Reformation guru (like Luther for Lutherans) who, if you can find evidence in his werke , trumps all arguments. So we were left with just Bible and Early Church and, if you will forgive me for saying so, the Grace of God..

When poor Dr Cranmer composed his Liturgy there was not a lot of evidence about how the Early Church actually did worship. Despite his threefold appeal to 'the auncient fathers' in the preface to the 1549 book, we now know that in that and subsequent books a lot of primitive baby got thrown out and a lot of medieval bathwater got retained. This became clear over the next 200 years. And, as early liturgical texts gradually emerged from the presses, those who kept their reading up-to-date became aware that Cranmer's Liturgy fell far short of what could be shown to be the'godly order of the auncient fathers'.

This left two possibilities: the Protestant option: Cranmer's Liturgy may not be primitive but it is scriptural and that rules, OK; the Catholic option; his Rite must be reformed in accordance with what is now known about the worship of the Early Church, if we are to be faithful to what he himself set as his gold-standard. So, in the 1630s, Laud's Scottish colleagues gave Scotland a Prayer book revised in accordance with 'primitive' precedent; and in the 1660s some bishops did the same in England by restoring the'Prayer of Oblation' to immediately after the 'Prayer of Consecration'. Edward Stephens  went much further. Arguing that the Cranmerian Liturgy was imposed by Parliament and had never had approval from the Church [just as the twentieth century papalists like Fr Alban Baverstock were to argue], he asked 'Whether .. one having knowledge ... ought or may use this imperfect and disordered Form, or comply with it, by reason of any Humane Law, or of his own Subscripton .. '. To his own question he gave a decidedly negative answer: 'all, who have any regard to their Baptismal Covenant and Renunciation therein of the Devil and all his works [he had come to regard Cranmer's texts as an opus Diaboli].... if they be Priests , must celebrate this Holy Sacrifice ... in the compleatest form they can procure ...'. And in his own liturgical forms he did just that: using Eastern material to supplement Cranmer's texts.

The later eighteenth century Anglican Catholic ritualists, such as the Non-Jurors (those ejected from the C of E for refusing to swear allegiance to the Orange Usurper after the Dutch Invasion of 1688) did the same; during that century there was an assumption that the newly discovered early Eastern liturgical forms were 'more primitive' than Western forms such as the Canon of the Roman Mass. The Victorian Ritualists knew better, and a succession of Altar Books increasingly supplemented Cranmer with Roman material (sometimes diplomatically described as 'Sarum'). This tradition of Altar Books culminated in the English Missal, which dominated Anglo-Catholicism until, after the Council, it lost its nerve and aped the progressive liturgical corruptions adopted by 'Rome'. Our Ordinariate Missal is, of course, the final and splendid product of the English Missal tradition.

Is there any other of the 'Reformation' ecclesial bodies which has had such a succession of theologians and liturgists, since the 1630s, who assented to papal primacy, discarded Reformation texts or supplemented them with ancient liturgical texts, believed in the full reality of the Lord's presence in the Eucharist, believed in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, offered it daily or weekly?


Stephen Barber said...

You often praise the English Missal but never comment on the Anglican Missal. What do you think of that?

Little Black Sambo said...

Or the Altar Missal (the Cowley Missal)?

pueblosw@gmail.com said...

Cranmer was a deeply conflicted man, always twixt and tween God and King. The present Ordinariate appears to have repaired most of the damage done over the centuries and I wish and pray for them the best in their holy endeavors.