Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Conservative Reformation - Part III

The two key pieces of the Elizabethan Settlement were the 1559 revision of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles of Religion. The two of them set the theological tone for the English Reformation by providing the Liturgy by which the church prayed daily, and the doctrinal standard to which the clergy were expected to subscribe and adhere.

Of the two, the BCP is ultimately the more important in terms of the daily lives of ordinary English Christians. They heard it Sunday by Sunday and at Holyday, market day, and weekday services throughout their lives. By such frequent hearing and repetition it slowly carved its way into the language and culture of England, so much so that even in the last twenty years, an English Novelist (P.D. James, I think) has written a series of novels that used phrases from the BCP as their titles - for example "Devices and Desires" which comes from the General Confession. Slightly revised in 1604, and again more extensively in 1662, but in essence the 1552/59 Prayer Book remains the official, if sometimes hard to find, liturgy of the Church of England.

In his liturgical methodology Cranmer seems to have preferred the "invisible mending" of the Lutheran Church Orders. Thus is revision of the Breviary into Morning Prayer (Matins) and Evening Prayer (Evensong) was more along the lines of an abridgement than a radical reworking, with the legendary material and short Scripture Readings of the old Rite being replaced by roughly four chapters of the Bible each day. Cranmer's 1549 Lectionary starts with Genesis 1 and Matthew 1 at the beginning of January and works through the Old Testament and much of Apocrypha once; the New Testament, except for Revelation three times, and Revelation was read once. The old Canticles were retained, as were some of the Preces - responses - that were so much a feature of the old Office.

The original 1549 BCP "Order of Holy Communion commonly called the Mass" was even more conservative than Luther. Although the offertory and private prayers of the celebrant where removed in accordance with Lutheran think, the old Roman Canon was replaced by a new Canon, or Prayer of Consecration incorporating both the actual consecration, but also the Prayer for the Church and a Prayer of Oblation. This was composed to replace the Gregorian Canon of the Roman Mass, which seemed very disjointed when translated into English. A translation of the Gregorian Canon survived from c. 1548 which has been attributed to Miles Coverdale, which may have been a working draft for the 1549 BCP. However, it seems inconceivable that Cranmer ever intended to use the Old Canon in the new "Mass."

Even with Cranmer's reworking of the Canon into the Prayer of Consecration, the Communion service of the 1549 BCP received some unfortunate friends, and some stinging criticism. Stephen Gardiner (1500-55), Bishop of Winchester under Henry VIII, who was a non-Papal Catholic in theology, said that it preserved the essentials of the Latin Mass; an assertion that led to a lengthy pamphlet war between he and Cranmer. Martin Bucer, the moderate Reformed former Pastor of Strassburg, criticized it strongly in his "Censura." Many of Cranmer's revisions seem to have been made in answer to Bucer's criticism, but it is clear that in any case, if Diamaid McCulloch is correct, the 1549 was intended as only an "interim rite" anyway.

Cranmer's rearrangement of the Order for Holy Communion was pretty radical, and when finished it lay somewhere between Luther's 1526 "German Mass" and the Reformed orders of Strassburg and Geneva in format. The running order of the 1549 service had been:

Lord's Prayer
Collect for Purity
Introit
Kyrie
Gloria
Collect of the Day
Collect for the King
Epistle
Gospel
Creed
Sermon
{Offertory}
Sursum Corda
Preface
Sanctus-Benedictus
The Canon - consisting of the Prayer for the Church, the Prayer of Consecration, and the Prayer of Oblation
The Lord's Prayer
Fraction and Peace
Short Exhortation
General Confession
Absolution
Comfortable Words
Prayer of Humble Access
Agnus Dei
[Communion]
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Blessing

Cranmer modified this to eliminate any impression that there was any "oblation or sacrifice" in the Lord's Supper. This was mostly achieved by breaking up the Canon of the 1549 BCP. Therefore the 1552 Lord's Supper had the following running order:

Lord's Prayer
Collect for Purity
Ten Commandments interspersed with the Kyrie eleison
Collect of the Day
Collect for the King
Epistle
Gospel
Creed
Sermon
Scripture Sentences whilst the alms are collected
Prayer for the Church
Exhortation
General Confession
Absolution
Comfortable Words
Sursum Corda
Preface
Sanctus
Prayer of Humble Access
Prayer of Consecration ending with the Words of Institution
[Communion]
Lord's Prayer
Prayer of Oblation, or
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Gloria in Excelsis
Blessing

More radical still was what Cranmer did to the physical setting of the Eucharist. The 1549 service was still celebrated facing east with the priest in alb and chasuble or alb and cope. In 1552, Mass vestments were swept away and replaced with the surplice. The wooden table set up like an altar of 1549 is moved out into the middle of the chancel, set lengthways with its ends east and west, and the communicants knelt around it. Even this radical rearrangement was too conservative for some.

The revised form of the Prayer of Consecration consisting of just a brief explanation of why we celebrate this service and the Words of institution is still more Lutheran than Reformed in feel, but on the other had the words said to the communicant when given the Bread and Wine indicated that Cranmer was now in the "true presence" camp of Bucer, Bullinger, and Calvin, rather than the "real presence" camp of Luther, Melancthon, and his uncle by marriage Osiander. In place of the traditional formulars used in 1549, Cranmer orders the following "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving" and "Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee" speak of a concept of the Eucharist where the presence of Christ is not in the elements but rather in the celebration. However, the eleventh hour intervention from Hooper and Knox resulted in the assertion of the so-called "Black Rubric" which denied that there was any "real and essential" presence of Christ in the elements, and made it clear that kneeling was a sign of thankfulness(!) for the Christ's work. Cranmer's final change was to put the Gloria in Excelsis after Communion; a move probably inspired by St Matthew 26.30.

This rather long diversion is necessary in order to better explain what happened to the 1552 BCP when Elizabeth and her advisors got hold of it in 1559. It is pretty clear from what happened to the BCP that Elizabeth and her advisors intended to draw back a little from the Religious Settlement of 1552. For a start, Morning Prayer was now prefaced by two rubrics (instructions) the first of which commanded that "chancels shall remain as in times past" and the second required that the ornaments of both churches and ministers should be those allowed "by authority of Parliament in the second of the reign of King Edward the Sixt." This effectively authorized altar-like Communion Tables and Eucharistic vestments, but stopped short of allowing holy water, ashes on Ash Wednesday, and the old procession of Palms on Palm Sunday all of which had been abolished in 1548. The legislation also restricted the use of candles to two placed on the altar.

The next piece of invisible mending came in the Communion service where the words of administration for the Bread are altered to "The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving." The words said for the administration of the the Chalice now said, "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee and be thankful." This resulted in a formular which was much more Lutheran or Philippist than Reformed. The other important change to the Communion service was the removal of the "Black Rubric" which was offensive to Lutherans, and indeed anyone else who believed in the real present of Christ in the Eucharist. It was not restored until 1662, and even then it is significantly modified.

The other changes were mainly a minor importance. The lectionary was modified so that the New Testament was read twice not thrice, and the petition against the Pope was removed from the Litany, so as not to offend those who might have a lingering affection for the Papacy. There was also quite a large number of minor corrections to the Epistles and Gospels which were then largely drawn from "The Great Bible" of 1538.

Had the ceremonial provisions of the 1559 BCP not become dead letters within eighteen months of the book's publication the services of the Church of England would have possessed a certain resemblance to those of the Lutheran Churches of northern Germany, Denmark and Norway. As it was, there was a fairly widespread rebellion against the vestments required by the new BCP. As usual the flashpoint was London where a lot of the Protestant exiles who had waited out Mary's reign in Zurich, Strassburg, and Geneva accumulated.

An early sign of the trouble that vestments were to cause had been the attitude of Parker's consecrators. Only Barlow, the principal consecrator was properly vested. Hodgkin wore a surplice, and Coverdale a grey gown! The bishops soon found that parish clergy lately returned from Germany and Switzerland were no more receptive than Hodgkin and Coverdale. Parker had to fight hard to enforce the use of the surplice, and so far as London was concerned Eucharistic vestments were a dead letter. On the other hand there is a little evidence that in some rural parishes they may have continued in use for some years until the Puritanism or age caught up with them, and there are occasionally records of albs being used down to the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Even with the later concessions with regards to the use of vestments, the 1559 revision of the Book of Common Prayer placed the Church of England between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in its liturgical practice. The BCP had some strong resemblances to the Lutheran Church Orders, but there had been far more Reformed influence on the Communion Service than one would find in most of Germany. On the other hand, the daily Offices had a far more important role in the life of the Church of England than they had in Germany or Scandanavia. Here the English retention of "choir obligation" with its consequent duty for deacons, priests and bishops to say Matins and Evensong daily, if possible in public, led to daily public services in the cathedrals and larger parish churches. The preservation of full-time professional choirs and organs in the great churches soon ensured that large scale church music was produced for the daily Office. This led to that peculiarly Anglican achievement the daily choral offices of Matins and Evensong.

In the next installment I propose to spend some time looking at the Thirty-nine Articles, and how they tread a middle course between Wittenberg and Geneva.

5 comments:

  1. Looking forward to this one
    Ron+

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent summary.

    But, of course, what matters is not what sense Cranmer's libretto and Merbecke's music meant to the authors, but rather in what intent the C of E received the same following Pius V's Bull of 1570.

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  3. I have another question:

    Wasn't the black rubric merely an assurance the eucharistic rite could not be mistaken for 'transubstantiation'? If read in full, it only condemns the bread as his 'natural body'. Both Lutherans and Calvinists could agree with this I believe? However, the insertion neither pleased reformers (since kneeling continued) nor realists (since it was not explicitly localized 'under' bread until much later, Art. 29 in 1571), and thus satisfied no one in particular. What divines could say from the Rubric's insertion is the CofE clearly rejects the annihilation of the bread's substance for the natural body of Christ.

    Please correct me if I am wrong. I just don't see the Black Rubric as being a victory for the Calvinist party. If anything it simply maintained the earlier consensus between Lutheran and Swiss thought. ?

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  4. The Black Rubric in its original (1552) form denied any "real and essential presence" - a point of view that best reflects a receptionist view of the Eucharistic Presence. It was dropped in 1559, but reinstated in 1662 in a modified form which condemned the "corporal presence." This - to all intents and purposes - was aimed specifically at the doctrine of transubstantiation.

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  5. What happened to the 1549 fraction in 1552 and
    its location to the heart of the canon in 1559

    ReplyDelete