Traditional Prayers for Anglican Catholics


The wandering patriarch's exclamation at Bethel, "This is none other than the House of God; this is the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:17), so often used as a text for parish dedication festivals, sums up the instinctive response of generations of Anglican Catholics to the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which our worship is merged with that of the whole Church in heaven and on earth.

With the baptized of every time and place we "enter into the movement of our Lord's self-offering", (ARCIC 1 Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine, 1971) in which the boundary between this world and the other is blurred, and we find ourselves swamped by the whole company of heaven, the angels and the saints, "the great multitude that no man can number" (Revelation 7:9), the gathering before the Throne, of which our Mass is the earthly manifestation.

We come before the Father by his grace alone, forgiven, cleansed from our sins by the Precious Blood of Jesus, and made his people by faith and baptism; we gather in the unity of the Holy Spirit who fills us with his love and power, constantly renewing us and the whole of creation.

We express the fulness of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith in the kind of worship that most Christians who have ever lived would regard as mainstream. At Sunday Mass, joining with the great heavenly choir, we raise our voices in triumphant song, acknowledging the Lord's presence and our utter dependence on what he has done to save us; we are splashed with holy water recalling our baptism when we became part of his priestly people; we allow the reading and preaching of the Word to pierce the dullness of our minds and to challenge our stubborn wills; we gaze at the sacred Mysteries surrounded by flickering candles just visible through incense clouding the altar; we enter into the Lord's intercessory prayer joining those on our hearts - and, indeed, the Church, the world, and creation itself - to the one perfect Offering of Jesus (who is both "priest and victim in the eucharistic feast" (cf Chatterton Dix's hymn Alleluia, sing to Jesus); we receive Jesus in the miracle of Holy Communion so that his life and love may be renewed in us; we are thus empowered to live to the praise of his glory and participate in the transformation of the world.

Echoing the language of the great tradition, Pope John Paul II called the Eucharist "heaven on earth," explaining that

"the liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy." (Angelus Address, 3rd November, 1996)

These words in turn relate to the document of the Second Vatican Council dealing with liturgy and worship, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Dec 1963), which says that

"The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10)

Our gathering at the Altar is a supernatural encounter with the living God. For as Sacrosanctum Concilium points out:

"Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his Word since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.'" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7)

In Hebrews 12:22-24 we read:

". . . you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant . . ."

Reminiscient of this passage, Sacrosanctum Concilium describes the heavenly dimensions of the liturgy we celebrate together:

"In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too shall appear with him in glory." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8)

This way of thinking about worship belongs to the shared heritage of East and West, as Metropolitan Kallistos Ware reminds us in The Orthodox Church:

"Worship . . . is nothing else than 'heaven on earth.' The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the Liturgy is one and the same - one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the 'heavenly places;' in every place of worship when the Holy Sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation are present, but the Church universal - the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself." (See The Orthodox Church pages 264-266)

It is not surprising, then, that the idea of the Eucharist joining earth and heaven should be found at the heart of Anglican catholicism. Indeed, at its most authentic, the Anglican tradition has emphasised that the Eucharist takes us into the past and into the future at the same time . . . into the past to Calvary, and into the future to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The same truth is affirmed when we say that both past and future become present in the timelessness of the precious anamnetic moments of the Eucharistic celebration.

Related to this is the other theological point that has been of particular importance for us - the three way relationship between our great High Priest's sacrifice of love, his ongoing intercessory ministry, and the Church's Eucharist. Nowhere is this clearer than in the words of Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore:

"… whatsoever Christ did at the institution, the same he commanded the Church to do, in remembrance and repeated rites; and himself also does the same thing in heaven for us, making perpetual intercession for his church, the body of his redeemed ones, by representing to his Father his death and sacrifice. There he sits, a High Priest continually, and offers still the same one perfect sacrifice; that is, still represents it as having been once finished and consummate, in order to perpetual and never-failing events. And this, also, his ministers do on earth; they offer up the same sacrifice to God, the sacrifice of the cross, by prayers, and a commemorating rite and representment, according to his holy institution. And as all the effects of grace and the titles of glory were purchased for us on the cross, and the actual mysteries of redemption perfected on earth, but are applied to us, and made effectual to single persons and communities of men, by Christ's intercession in heaven . . . As Christ is a priest in heaven for ever, and yet does not sacrifice himself afresh, nor yet without a sacrifice could he be a priest; but, by a daily ministration and intercession, represents his sacrifice to God, and offers himself as sacrificed: so he does upon earth, by the ministry of his servants; he is offered to God, that is, he is, by prayers and the sacrament, represented or 'offered up to God, as sacrificed'; which, in effect, is a celebration of his death, and the applying it to present and future necessities of the church, as we are capable, by a ministry like to his in heaven. It follows, then, that the celebration of this sacrifice be, in its proportion, an instrument of applying the proper sacrifice to all the purposes which it first designed. It is ministerially, and by application, an instrument propitiatory; it is eucharistical, it is an homage, and an act of adoration; and it is impetratory, and obtains for us, and for the whole church, all the benefits of the sacrifice, which is now celebrated and applied; that is, as this rite is the remembrance and ministerial celebration of Christ's sacrifice, so it is destined to do honour to God, to express the homage and duty of his servants, to acknowledge his supreme dominion, to give him thanks and worship, to beg pardon, blessings, and supply of all our needs." (The Great Exemplar in Works, Vol. 1, p. 308)

Taylor's teaching reflects the mainstream view of the Caroline Divines, which, in turn, became the dominant understanding of the Eucharist in the Anglican tradition. Indeed, it is in this context that, nearly two and a half centuries later, Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Maclagan, Archbishop of York, felt it necessary to write their famous letter, Saepius Officio, to Pope Leo XIII, responding to Leo's denunciation of Anglican orders on the basis of the Church of England's supposed lack of intention to ordain priests to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. They declared:

". . . we truly teach the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice and do not believe it to be a 'nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross' . . . But we think it sufficient in the Liturgy which we use in celebrating the holy Eucharist – while lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and when now consecrating the gifts already offered that they may become to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, - to signify the sacrifice which is offered at that point of the service in such terms as these. We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ, who is our Advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our sins, according to His precept, until His coming again. For first we offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; then next we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord's Passion for all the whole Church, and lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things which we have already signified by the oblation of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the Priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic Sacrifice."

It has been observed that Anglican Catholic worship helps us to experience the timelessness of the Mass in the fullness of Catholic tradition with the particular blend of dignity and homeliness which is the cultural ethos of historic British spirituality. This is the context in which so many have come to know God's love; this is the worship of the heavenly Mount Zion in which we have glimpsed his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

So, the present volume was compiled as a means of passing on our historic tradition and liturgical language to future generations, while taking into account some recent liturgical developments. It follows the centuries old arrangement of the Prayer Book Mass eventually enshrined in The English Missal, The Anglican Missal and The Altar Missal (popularly known as The Cowley Missal) - altar books used in many Anglican parishes since the early 20th century. Because those books occasionally attract criticism, the reader is reminded of the defence of The English Missal made by the late Lionel Renfrey, sometime Dean and Assistant Bishop of Adelaide, and a prominent member of The Prayer Book Society:

" . . . those who believe the Church of England to be Catholic see the Book of Common Prayer as steeped and grounded in the Catholic faith, and to be interpreted accordingly. Ours is not a religion of a book, but of Christ our Lord, and of that living organism, His Church, which He founded and which He continually infuses with His life. The Book of Common Prayer is Catholic because it belongs to the Catholic Church, and, in using it the Church clothes it, where it is bare, with the prayers and ceremonies of the past. Our loyalty is to Christ's Church, and to the Book of Common Prayer only as it belongs to this Church. It does not stand alone, apart from the Church from which it derives. What it asserts is Catholic: what it is silent about is supplied from Catholic tradition." (In Catholic Prayers for Members of the Church of England in Australia , Adelaide, 1980)

This book, then, is based on The English Missal, the following modifications and revisions having been made :

1. The current Western Calendar is used.

2. The Three Year Cycle of Scripture readings provided by the Catholic Church and embraced in essence by most churches and ecclesial communities in the West, has replaced the old cycle of Epistles and Gospels. All the readings are printed here, enabling the Three Year Cycle to be used when celebrating a Low Mass entirely at the altar, without the need of extra books.

3. The particular arrangement of the Book of Common Prayer Collects follows that which was suggested in An Australian Prayer Book (Anglican Church of Australia, 1978) so as to match up (where possible) with the themes of the three year cycle of readings. The advantage of this for Anglicans is that throughout the year all the BCP Collects are used. The Prayers Over the Gifts and Prayers After Communion are mostly those that correspond with the particular Collect for the Day in The English Missal, with some taken from The Anglican Missal and The Cowley Missal when those books provide more worthy translations; a few have been retranslated from the Latin with the help of expert friends.

4. The Entrance Antiphons, Gospel Acclamations (Gradual and Alleluia or Tract), Offertory Sentences and Communion Antiphons are mostly from The Anglican Use Gradual, produced by David Burt of the Anglican Use, St Athanasius' Community, Boston, U.S.A. for use with The Book of Divine Worship, being traditional language translations of the propers from The Missal of Paul VI. These very often reflect the themes of the Sunday Readings.

5. Following the manner in which the liturgy was formally and canonically adapted in numerous Anglican provinces influenced by the Catholic Revival, mention of our Lord's resurrection and ascension have been restored to the anamnesis, and the ancient phrase "the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Cup of everlasting salvation" has been restored to the oblation in the second Eucharistic Prayer.

This project began in 1995 and it has evolved slowly over the years. The English Missal format has been followed. It will be noted, however, that special celebrations include suggested hymns and devotions in order to assist in the adaptation of traditional rites in classical Anglican language to contemporary circumstances, especially in far flung rural parishes and other places lacking large numbers of clergy and musicians. Everything suggested here has been found to work well in practice. In particular, the Easter Vigil gives a choice between the English Missal Exsultet and the shorter version from the Missal of Paul VI. For pastoral reasons this is also true of the baptismal rite in the Easter Vigil. Suggested supplementary prayers and hymns for Christmas, Ash Wednesday, the rest of Holy Week and Corpus Christi are included. These are merely suggestions to help those who find themselves under-resourced.

Traditional Anglican language is no longer in use in the worship of most Anglican parishes. It is hoped that this volume will encourage the minority to continue, but in such a way as to "pray with the rest of the (Western) Church". It is also hoped that for generations to come the traditional Anglican form of the Western Rite will continue to be celebrated with love and reverence for our risen Saviour and great High Priest, who leads us through the Eucharistic veil in the worship of the heavenly Mount Zion.

The Rt Rev'd David Chislett SSC

"The Eucharistic rite, which is the source and centre of the Church's life, is both a symbol and a foretaste of the gathering of the human race into Christ and the transformation of the material world in him. The conversion of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the symbol and foretaste of the transformation of the material world; the feeding of Christ's Body the Church with the Eucharistic gifts is the symbol and the foretaste of the gathering of the human race into Christ, for in communion, as St. Augustine says, we are what we receive. But here we must recall a truth . . . namely that, although from one aspect the Church is the ark of salvation in which the saved are protected from the flood outside, from another aspect the Church is not sealed off from the world at all, but is the source from which grace flows into the world to heal and transfigure it. Every time the Eucharist is celebrated, the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction which Christ offered throughout his life and on Calvary, and which is now a perpetually efficacious reality in the heavenly realm, is made a present and active power of redemption and sanctification in our world of time and space, and by their sharing in it the members of Christ's Body the Church are sent out to their life in the world renewed and strengthened for their share in the work of the world's transformation."

- E.M. Mascall The Christian Universe
(Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1966) p. 163