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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In Praise of the English Missal

The estimable Shawn Tribe, proprietor of the New Liturgical Review, has posted an appreciation of the English (i.e. Anglican) Missal, an appreciation that is well placed. First published in 1912, at the height of the Anglo-Catholic movement in England and America, the English Missal is, to over simplify perhaps, an Anglican adaptation of the 19th century Missale Romanum and is used in place of the Book of Common Prayer by A-C parishes desiring to worship in Catholic manner but within the Anglican tradition. The Missal's creators took as much as possible from Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer and added, in Tudor-style English, those things Cranmer and other reformers left out, e.g. the propers. Not surprisingly, the language and liturgy are uncommonly beautiful and combined with the rich musical tradition of Anglican worship, make for a celebration of the Mass that is much admired, even by Catholics, from the Pope on down.

Tribe makes the praiseworthy suggestion the English Missal be used in the Anglican Ordinariate. He also suggests, however, that since the Missal has only been used by Anglo-Catholics, thus is not familiar to other Anglicans who may come to Rome, it should not be the "sole liturgical book of the Ordinariate," rather be "made available as an additional option, a kind of 'Extraordinary Form.' There I disagree.

The Church needs fewer, not more, English versions of the Mass. Neither of the present ones with which I am familiar, the Novus Ordo and Book of Divine Worship (which is presently used by the Anglican Ordinariate) are satisfactory. The N.O., although undeniably improved by its new translation is still fatally defective, in English, Latin or any other language, because of its baleful protestantism. We're stuck with it for now, I suppose, but I have fond hopes it might someday be suppressed.

The Book of Divine Worship is also flawed, even with its employing what appears to be language of Thomas Cranmer's Prayer Book. The sad reality, however, is it is based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, a horrendous revision that in many ways marked the beginning of the end for the Episcopal Church. As I understand it the Episcopalians rewrote the entire 1928 Prayer Book using banal modern English (and, worse, banal modern theology). Then, as a sop no doubt to "reactionaries" offended by their vandalism, "retro-translated" parts of it back into Cranmarian English, resulting in a clunky and ungainly hybrid. A poor choice to use as its model, the Book of Divine Worship suffers mightily as a result and is best replaced.

It seems to your Bloviator there ought be but one English Mass in use by the Church, one that is fitting and beautiful. That is found in the English Missal. The Church should use it, making whatever necessary changes so to conform with Catholic practices (starting with the prayers for the Pope, I should think) and require its use in all Anglican Use parishes. Perhaps, in a distant future, it might be required in all churches where the Mass is celebrated in English, Anglican Use or otherwise.

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