Saturday 29 November 2014


Tomorrow in Bournemouth we begin celebrating Mass according to the Ordinariate Use. We shall do so for a month, to immerse ourselves in its words and actions. In part (the better part) this Use derives from the Book of Common Prayer - devised by Dr Cranmer and amended in the reign of Charles II. So there are great translations of ancient Latin collects. Just look for example at the one appointed for the week before Advent.  "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people, that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded". Compare that with the clumsy version in the most recent Roman Missal translation: "Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that, striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows". No contest.

So I have nothing against the language of the Book of Common Prayer. The prayer of humble access (moved to follow the Agnus in the Ordinariate Rite, instead of breaking up the Canon as Cranmer did) is a fine prayer. So too is the thanksgiving after Communion (albeit a little wordy for daily use). What I do find hard to take, though, is the god-wottery of the American Book which has been imported into the Ordinariate Use. For those unfamiliar with the word, god-wottery is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as 'an affected quality of archaism, excessive fussiness and sentimentality'. These, I fear, are the very things which many English members of the Ordinariate find so unhelpful.

First the archaism; we have been happy saying "and with your Spirit". Is it helpful to change this to "thy" spirit, last used by some of us half a century ago - and to younger ones totally unknown? Perhaps in remoter parts of the Pennines people still 'thee' and 'thou' one another, but for most of us this is just archaism for its own sake. Now some would argue that this is hieratic language and to put everything into the "you" form would be to treat Almighty God with too much familiarity. But that is exactly what Our Lord taught us to do! It is retained in the Latin of the Lord's Prayer (qui ES is coelis .. ES being the singular, informal address.) French and Italian and all those languages which make a distinction between the second person plural and the second person singular invariably address the Almighty in the familiar 'tu' form. That is what the prayer book did by speaking to the Lord as "Thou". By reverting to this usage, long dead in England, we now put an artificial distance between us and him which neither Our Lord not the Prayer Book intended.

Then, the excessive fussiness. Why have a threefold repetition of "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed"? The phrase 'vain repetition' comes to mind. And why introduce multiple kissings of the altar? Or duplicate genuflections?

As for sentimentality, I leave it to others to look through the Propers of the Book of Divine Worship. Perhaps we shall be spared some of its mawkishness when our own Propers are produced. Even so, I'm afraid that the Ordinariate Use has missed a great opportunity for finding beautiful and accessible language for today's worship. It might have begun by excising the most obvious archaisms; what is wrong with "Stir up, we beseech you, Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they, plentifully bringing forth the fruit of good works may by you be plentifully rewarded"? But we will try to use the rite we have been given to the letter, and by the time Advent ends perhaps I shall have been persuaded of its beauty and charm. We can only hope.


  1. Archaism and vain repetition are the best things about the Ordinariate. You can get yer bog standard mod at any other papist franchise. Why rain on our parade?

    More seriously, I have never heard a good explanation why the Prayer Book and Cranmerian pastiche (often very well achieved) were absolutely fine in 1950, or 1890, or 1790 but suddenly became offensive and anachronistic in the 1970s.

    I was a convert to Anglo-Catholicism in my teens (in the 1970s) precisely because I found a classical form of worship that did not innovate or sound blokeishly familiar. I have worshipped in the Prayer Book/English Missal idiom ever since (except for some EF Latin). Nothing about it seems contrived or precious to me, and a great deal of Common Worship, TEC Prayer Book, and the Novus Ordo seems faked, clumsy, and as trendy as Gary Glitter.

  2. So we did it to the letter on Sunday; and even those who "love the old prayer book" (there are two of them in our Mission) found 'handmaids' a bit twee and hard to take. The rest, even the few who could remember the Prayer Book, found it very hard going. Dear Austin, I know the USA is absolutely bowled over by Beefeaters and Morris Dancing and Olde Englysshe, but whereas I am happy with the genuine BCP bits (especially the collects) the wording of the much else, especially the Canon (all that "vouchsafing") is hard to swallow. I think what Our Lord said about that wise householder who brings out of his treasures things old and new should be borne in mind by liturgists. For instance, we have long been accustomed to mixing two styles in the same act of worship (think especially of the language of hymns contrasted with that of the Sermon). Or would you only permit homilies in Shakespearian blank verse?
    I would love to be able to introduce Coverdale's version of the psalms, or the collect for purity, into the novus ordo. I think we are agreed in disliking the fake; it is just that we don't agree where fake begins and authentic stops. Any rite is fine if it is celebrated prayerfully - and any rite or use which is self-conscious is hopeless. It's still true, it is not so much what you say,as the way that you say it,,,

    1. Good on yer, mate, as they say. The return to the rank protestantism of Cranmer's "Lord's Supper" rite outweighs any re hash of the 'Made in Chicago'rite supposedly akin to Cranmer's beautiful language. We in the USA , of course, argued in the dark because it was said that anyone publishing the Chicago rite would be killed. Not exactly the correct sentiments... The Book of Divine worship, cumbersome but at least with good translations and correct order could be used in such a way that those used to the Missal could keep the beautiful propers and some prayers.Sadly I hear they have quite literally been sent to the local trash dump. Now the Ordinariates are back to a rite that most people under 70 are not familiar with and those raised in the 'Papalist' tradition in England will never in their lives have heard it. It was always said by those same Anglo Papalists that it was impossible to defeat The Establishment. What we have now is merely the final capitulation to The Establishment.They have won. End of story and all the martyrs of The Anglo Catholic movement in the C Of E must be weeping at a result they knew was only a matter of time.

  3. I say "Behold the handmaid..." every single day. And I married one (thy servant and thy handmaid, who put their trust in the thee). I don't find the Mother of God or the wife especially twee.

    By the way, I am not American, though I happen to live there now, and I have found almost no recognition here of (let alone bowling about) Beefeaters, Morris Dancing, or Old English (do you mean Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, or Early Modern?). There are some Episcopalians who are very Anglophile in the way many Russian Orthodox are fervently Russophile. They mostly stayed in TEC, as far as I have seen.

    There is in the USA however, as there is also in various parts of the Commonwealth, a smallish group of people who never bowed the knee to Bugnini and for whom the idiom of sacral English is entirely natural.

    Of course we are not opposed to the new. But in its proper place.

    We want the liturgy to be all of a piece. Not the hymns (though note how few hymns in contemporary idiom work at all) or the sermon (most I have heard could certainly have done with a stronger sense of dramatic prosody) but the ordinary and propers that are the actual liturgy. You know, with the maniple ON. Sometimes that means having to add a bit that fits in with the rest, like a new gargoyle on Westminster Abbey. An aluminium outlet would not do.

    In the older Book of Divine Worship, the Novus Ordo offertory texts stuck out like sore thumbs. I personally find the RSV readings aesthetically out of place in the Ordinariate Rite. (See Saintsbury on the poor sense of clausulae.).

    I don't get the argument that the Missal tradition, the Nine Lessons, the Priest's Book of PD, St Augustine's PB etc. are fake because they used an older idiom in a later age. Legal documents do this every day. Indeed, the Latin of the Roman liturgy (according to Christine Mohrmann) was in an especially legalistic sacral style, since that was the idiom of pagan Roman prayer.

    We had a tradition of admirable integrity -- talk to God in the way Thomas More or William Shakespeare might have, had they been using the vernacular. The language was from the most virile, interesting, innovative, and dignified period English has seen. Constant use made the style and register natural to multiple generations, and many people could speak in it extemporaneously (a Welsh minster I know could pray this way for half an hour to great effect). Others could write it, and created a creditable version of the Roman Missal in English.

    A couple of decades ago, the whole tradition was replaced, like cotton shirts when polyester came in or butter when margarine was supposed to be better for you.

    Now the marge and poly people have got used to what they are used to.

    All we are saying is that 1) we never got used to it because we never used it 2) it was never particularly good anyway and 3) there is nothing especially Anglican about the recent mess of pottage when one has a continuous 450-year-old tradition hanging about and waiting to be used.

    In time, perhaps, the Ordinariate may come up with a dignified style for public declamation that is more modern. Not much over recent years was especially promising -- even Mgr Burnham's careful book -- and much was disastrous and destructive. Did anyone ever come up with a tolerable replacement for PB Evensong?

    As the Latin Mass Catholics cling to the 1962 books, I think we should cling to something relatively solid, stable, and backward-looking for a while, for fear of finding something worse. I would have preferred wholesale adoption of the English Missal, myself, but I see the argument for allowing other shades of churchmanship in.

    And, really, that canon translation has been around for ages, may even derive from period sources, and has not especially offended several generations. There is an easy solution to end the offence to tender ears -- canon either silent or sotto voce, as was done in most of the parishes I belonged to.

    Please keep up the good work of the blog. Most enjoyable.

    1. Thanks Austin; very helpful; I think if you were to worship with us (generally Novus Ordo with RSV and English Hymnal and no Polyester) or we with you (maniples and all) we'd probably get on fine; because it's still not what you say so much as the way that you say it. Pax - and have a good Christmas.

  4. I'm not sure, Monsignor, that Austin's way of saying it is any more problematic than your own use and exposition of "God-wottery", and your patronising comments on North American Anglo-Catholicism; or, for that matter, my own suspicion that those involved in the English Anglo-Catholic move to the new Roman Missal will always find it difficult to accept that they thereby deprived their people of the linguistic element of their patrimony. I thank God that this brief cultural aberration (rooted as it is in archaic attitudes and assumptions) looks set to be a thing of the the past.

    1. Don't worry, Ian; my colleague in Bournemouth is a Texan and he will ensure that we preserve the 'linguistic element of the patrimony'. Sorry if I've sounded patronising; I thought Yorkshiremen might be even more offended.

    2. The cavalry to the rescue again!

  5. Hello Mgr,
    Would you mind advertising the blog of St Agatha's, Portsmouth?
    It is
    We'd be very appreciative

  6. Apart from the issue of the Tiber, not sure why the Ordinariate couldn't have just taken the BCP with them if they wanted Anglican patrimony?

    And I'm pleased to say that the BCP is in faithful use twice or thrice weekly in our middle of the road, faintly Catholic Anglican Parish in North Kent, dependent upon Evensong being the chosen Sunday evening worship.

    We're always happy to meet those who like the language of the BCP, but we stopped using it outside the actual services 150 years ago, as you probably well know.

  7. It's not just BCP which is Anglican :Patrimony- see earlier posts on the issue. And we bring it with us because a) the Holy Father asked us to do so and
    b) it is in our DNA - we can't help bringing our history with us.