Saturday, November 9, 2013

Revisiting "Moderate Ceremonialism"

In the effort to re-protestantize our Church, it is necessary to evaluate things as they are, not as we wish them to be. In the spirit of this idea, I am re-evaluating an earlier concept of mine "Moderate Ceremonialism" as providing a way to evaluate the current practice of the Church. What can be retained? What should be retained? These sorts of questions are the ones which guide the present discussion.

On this blog, I have intended to revive the spirit of an earlier age.  The Protestant High Churchmanship of men such as Laud, Taylor, Cosin, Waterland, Van Mildert, Hobart, Seabury, and Hopkins has sadly been displaced by a newfangled mishmash of poor, medieval theology and an unnatural affinity for lace.  The Prayer Book, Articles of Religion, Homilies and the Authorized Version form a core by which the Anglican spirit is derived.  We believe these things to be an honest summary of the doctrine contained in Holy Writ and the Fathers of the Church and faithful representations of the same.

This post is rather different, in that it intends to explore the ritual and ceremonial expression of that faith, once delivered to the saints.  While the theology of a movement is crucial, it is its ritual manifestation that affects the average layman.  Indeed a rector can suddenly change his theology and perhaps only the more astute layman will acknowledge it.  But the addition of a Sanctus bell or incense on Sunday morning will be noticed by most of the laity present.  The intent here is not to return to the customary of the past but, rather, to evaluate the changes which have occurred in Anglican worship since the late 19th century and determine which of these is consistent with our theology.  The choice of words in the title "moderate ceremonialism" is also deliberate in relation to Ritualism which was extreme in all senses of the word and exceeded the limits of Anglican belief and practice. This is not meant to be a guide to the celebration of Holy Communion such as Percy Dearmer's "The Parson's Handbook," but rather a guide to overall ceremonial which will guide the minister in the application thereof.  

A Brief History of Ceremonial in the Church of England

During Henry's reign, the process of reform was slow but there was steady momentum for reform, often correlating with the pace of the various German cities undergoing reformation at the same time. Many people claim that Henry did not support reform but there is evidence that he was cautious and looking to the Germans for guidance. But the German reformation was happening at different paces in each city and the definition of "protestant" hadn't really crystallized yet. However, regardless of the historical interpretation, liturgy and vestments stayed the same until nearly the end of Henry's reign when various things began to be prohibited. The first prayer book was issued in 1549 under Edward VI, however, it allowed the traditional vestments and followed the structure of the Latin Rite and Canon. However, the 1552 BCP would be revolutionary because it abolised all vestments except the surplice for priests and rochet for bishops. It also departed from the structure of the Roman Canon and applied biblical principles to worship and reformed the service to be more in line with the teaching of the Fathers. Most of the ceremonial which was used under the old rite was now abolished. For instance, the stone altar was replaced with a wooden table, which was to be brought out from the chancel at Communion-time and placed "table-wise" facing east/west so that the priest stood at the north side of the table and the communicants kneeld around the table for the Communion.

However, the reforms of 1552 would be shortly lived for in 1553, Mary Tudor ascended the throne and reverted the nation back to Romanism. Therefore the old vestments and ritual came back. But the Marian reign was short enough and Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 and republished the Book of Common Prayer in 1559, mostly the structure of the 1552 text but with a few alterations to make the 1552 text more catholic. One infamous rubric included in the revision of 1559 is the "Ornaments Rubric," which deals with the ornaments of the church and the vestments of the minister, it reads:

"The Morning and Evening praier shalbe used in the accustomed place of the churche, chapel, or Chauncell, except it shalbe otherwise determined by the ordinary of the place: and the chauncels shall remain, as they have done in tymes past.
And here is to be noted, that the Minister at the time of the communion, and at all other tymes in hys ministracion, shall use suche ornamentes in the church, as wer in use by aucthoritie of parliament in the second yere of the reygne of king Edward the .VI. according to the acte of parliament set in the beginning of thys booke."

There has been endless debate about the intended meaning of this text, and I am not going to spend time on hypothetical intentions behind the text but to appeal to history and see how real Anglican ministers vested for divine service. I have referred to various works on ceremonial of the time but chiefly, "Hierurgia Anglicana." It appears from a glance reading of the rubric that it was intended to revive vestments as they were under Edward VI and the 1549 BCP, yet, if that was the intention, it was not obeyed by nearly any of Elizabeth's subjects. There are at least three theories for this discrpeancy: 1) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be brought back but no one obeyed; 2) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be worn as a temporary measure until a futher injunction was released; 3) Elizabeth did not intend old vestments to be worn at all. The first theory does not have much merit, considering the later Injunctions promulgated by Elizabeth. The third is more likely, yet, it seems that vestments were worn for a brief time, therefore, I propose the second option as the most likely. The old vestments were to be worn until further instruction was provided, which it was in the form of the Injunctions, which led to the classical definition of Anglican vestiture in the 1604 Canons.

For various reasons, the Ornaments Rubric was deleted from the first American Prayer Book. This was not to allow provision for the wearing of Mass vestments, but, rather, an attempt to make legal the custom of wearing the Geneva gown in Anglican services instead of the surplice. In a strictly literal sense this means that the wearing of Mass vestments is not "illegal" in America, in the sense that it is in England, that being illegal under secular laws.  That does not mean, however, that the wearing of such garments is right or intended for Protestant Episcopal clergy.  In fact, as already mentioned, the historical norm for Episcopal clergy was the black gown, not the surplice, the latter which only was revived in the years preceding the Oxford Movement.  

Whatever the case was, the old vestments died out. The universal dress was the surplice for parish clergy. The academic hood is allowed to be worn by clergy with degrees and the cope to be worn at cathedral and collegiate churches by the minister as well as by the "epistoller" and "gospeller" in the 1571 and 1604 canons. The latter canons also require a coif to be worn by the clergy and later the tippet was also worn by clergy.  While the occasional alb shows up at a cathedral or two throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, however never stoles or chasubles. Likewise, the vesture of bishops was set at the rochet and chimere and also a tippet. Sometimes bishops wore mitres and had crosiers but only rarely and most often they were buried with those items.  Samuel Seabury was a notable exception, in that he routinely wore a miter in his ministrations.

The Prayer Book cannot be regarded as ceremonially deficient. It permits a decent number of ceremonies and visible actions to aid the believer. In comparison with other Reformed service books, it permits a great deal more ceremonial, for instance the manual acts in Holy Communion, kneeling to receive the elements, and the sign of the cross in baptism. A few other actions became very popular (and even codified in canon law), the most popular being the bowing at the name of Jesus. The authorized vestments, as we have seen, were the old choir dress: cassock, surplice, tippet for deacons and presbyters and cassock, rochet, and chimere for bishops. These were probably chosen as an appropriate distinctive dress for the clerical office because they were not associated with the Mass in the Roman Rite. The Caroline Divines are an excellent example of moderate ceremonialism embraced for worship. The example of Durham Cathedral served as the exemplar of Laudian worship. It should be noted that Cathedrals were expected to have a higher degree of pomp and circumstance for their position in the diocese but, nonetheless, examples for dignified worship for parish churches too. The Psalms were chanted and also they had beautiful altar basins, patens, and chalices, as well as fine linens on the altar. The normative practice for the Church of England was to have wooden, communion tables. However, the general principle was not to tear apart churches, hence, some cathedrals maintained stone altars. In association with other sacraments, the font for baptism was placed in the "ancient place" at the door of the church. There is also evidence for a number of "incense pots" which were used to burn incense as a perfume (no censing). Some of the actions of Bishop Cosin and the Cathedral were beyond the norms for Anglican worship at the time, such as facing east during the prayer of consecration and the bowing to the holy table.

Moderate Ceremonialism Today

While the historical information provided above many be entertaining to certain ears, I believe it can provide a framework for ceremonial today. In addition to the practice of the Caroline Divines, I also will refer to Cranmer in his treatise, "Of Ceremonies" contained in the Book of Common Prayer.

In the spirit of Anglican history, we see that, while the Prayer Book is normative and authoritative in worship, some ceremonial actions have been added, such as bowing at the name of Jesus. This principle will allow us to consider maintaining other actions not specifically allowed in the Prayer Book. However, these must not be contrary to the teaching of Scripture and, moreover, we should keep the principle of simplicity at heart. Some things have lost their original connotation and can be retained at the present moment, provided that catechism is provided and the laity are properly instructed in the faith. Catechism is necessary to teach the laity what we are doing in worship and why we are doing it. This will prevent the laity from fostering unbiblical notions of Christian worship.

Firstly, the ornaments of the church must be discussed, while the ornaments rubric exists, a clear interpretation of it has never existed. In all things, we must remember that we wish to give to the Lord that which he is due. The Laudians often speak of the "beauty of holiness," and the church on earth is compared to the heavenly throne and the earthly liturgy with the heavenly. For this reason, Anglicans have always been open to having precious items in worship. The standard is a fair linen cloth to cover the table and another to cover the paten after communion, the paten itself, the chalice, a flagon to hold extra wine, an offertory basin to collect the offerings of the people, the communion table itself, a Prayer Book and Bible or Epistle book and Gospel book, a lectern, pulpit, and pews or a place for the people to sit. These things are required for Prayer Book worship, however, there are things which can be added which are not specifically mentioned in the Prayer Book. Ancient custom calls for two candles to be on the table to symbolize the light of Christ, this seems a harmless custom, although the preference is for simplicity and the removing of them to some other place in the sanctuary. The custom now is to place a cross or crucifix on, above, or near the holy table. A plain cross is preferred to the crucifix and it would be better to do without but they can remain if need be. Often times other linens are placed on the table as well, such as reflecting liturgical season and color. This also seems a harmless custom. The lavabo was practiced by Lancelot Andrewe's and it has become very popular. The preference would be to refrain, for simplicity's sake, but if it is practiced it should be done decently, without provoking superstition. Many churches had incense pots to burn incense as a fragrance for the church but there is no indication they were used in censing things.

The vestments, that being the dress of the minister, historically, the authorized vestments were, cassock, surplice, tippet, and the cope in cathedral and collegiate churches, although, the expectation was that the cathedrals would be imitated by parish churches. However, the Mass vestments have been reintroduced into our Protestant Church and the sight of Protestant ministers in alb, stole, and chasuble is too common. In this regards, it is important to catechize the people about the true nature of Holy Communion and not to hold to an unbiblical notion of sacrifice in relation to the Eucharist. If the minister should wear such vestments, it is crucial that he catechize the people. If this practiced, the mere wearing of them is not contradictory. Yet, the identification of classically Anglican dress is more appropriate and should be the priority.

Gestures at Holy Communion, much is made of the actions of the priest during the Holy Communion, however, I do not intend to list a series of acts that the priest needs to do because these are already listed in our Prayer Book and are confined to the manual acts at the consecration and the sign of the cross at baptism. The custom of bowing to the table has become increasingly popular. It has been advocated by various divines, yet, I cannot advocate such a gesture. This seems a contradiction of our theology that Christ is not confined to the elements and there is no substantial change to them. However, I am willing to agree to disagree on this matter. The bowing at the name of Jesus is a decent practice that should be retained. There really is one thing we have to avoid, that of elevating the Host at the consecration, which is specifically condemned in the Articles and it also implies an objective presence of Christ in the elements, which the Articles also condemn. Many people today make the sign of the cross at other points in the service, both laity and clergy, this is not objectionable but the key here is simplicity. I think obsessive signings promotes superstition but at the same time this ancient custom cannot be counted as objectionable.

Cranmer is of some value here because he adds two valuable qualifications for a ceremony, that it must be edifying to the people and not contrary to the teaching of Scripture. In addition, he believes in the simplicity of worship, therefore a multiplication of rites is wrong in his eyes because it it is unedifying to the people. I hope clergy and laity listen to Cranmer and promote the Gospel in their congregations and not focus on the details of ceremonial.

Ceremony is good and necessary as human beings but as the English Reformation taught us, it is important to limit ceremonial with the teaching of Scripture. I advocate "moderate ceremonialism" instead of ritualism as a guide to the rites and ceremonies of the Church. As always, the Gospel is the focus, ceremonies only help us see the truth of the Gospel and this should be our focus.


Anonymous said...

One must look specifically at the movement here in the United States, not just in the Episcopal Church, but in other mainline bodies as well as the Roman Catholic Church. In the spirit of 'ecumenism' Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are all looking 'the same' in worship and ceremony. It is probably safe to say that from a 'lay' point of view and for many clergy as well, that not just ceremony, but theology is also the same at this time. However, one fact remains, the historic understanding of what occurs at worship, mostly dealing with the elements of bread and wine during the celebration of Holy Communion, is vastly different in the history of each movement. With the 'blending' of worship came a drastic shift in theology as well, which has left most Episcopal clergy looking and sounding like Roman Catholic clergy, and I have seen this in the UMC and ELCA as well. "Offering the Sacrifice of the Mass" is a common expression heard throughout PECUSA today, surprising as it is that many of those very people reject the Divinity of Jesus Christ!

Perhaps what is most sad about this entire movement of 'blending' our traditions is that all seemed to follow the lead of Rome following Vatican II, when, for a time, it was the Book of Common Prayer that attracted other parts of the Body of Christ to our ceremony, worship and theology.

I am not saying that we should be looking for ways to repair and heal divisions within the Body of Christ, but I don't feel that we should throw out that which historically makes us unique, especially at the thought of going back to a more medieval understanding of Church, worship and clergy.

Of course, this is a reflection on the seminary process as well in the US. You have Nashotah which teaches one how to be a Roman Catholic priest with 'Anglican' trimmings. And the traditional Protestant Anglicanism that once was the method of training at Virgina Theological has been replaced by modern liberal theology that, and rightly so, finds no interest in worship and ceremony, because they deny the basic tenets of the faith!

Anonymous said...

my last comment should have said; "I am not saying that we shouldn't be looking for ways to repair and heal divisions within the Body of Christ"