Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Good Friday Liturgy

The Book of Common Prayer devotes quite a large amount of space to Holy Week and Easter. There are no less than 36 pages given over to the lessons for this time of the year, and if a parish is able to follow the BCP closely there should be, at the very least Morning Prayer, Holy or Ante-Communion, and Evening Prayer daiuly from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday. This is only fitting, as Holy Week culminates in that greatest of all feast - Easter.

Surprisingly, however, many Anglican parishes tend to rather shine off the Prayer Book provision for Holy Week and substitute non-liturgical devotions such as "the Three Hours" and "the Seven Last Word from the Cross" for the apointed liturgy. When one remembers that the former started with the Jesuits, and the latter, if I remember correctly with the Redemptorists, as supplements to the appointed order in the Roman Catholic Church, then one might see why one might thing them a little inappropriate as a substitute for the appoint liturgy of the Church. Back in the days when the Three Hours became popular, the Good Friday Liturgy culminating in the Mass of the Presanctified was required to be celebrated in the morning. This made it impossible for working men to attend the liturgy, hence the creation of this popular devotion to assist their devotions. However, Anglicans did not labour under such severe rubrical restrictions.

From my point of view, Litany and Ante-Communion as part of the Good Friday obervance has a lot going for it. The Litany is a beautiful form of intercession, and one that most parishes do not use enough. The Ante-Communion for Good Friday revolves around the two traditional readings from the Good Friday Liturgy from Hebrews and the Gospel of St John, and should culminate, it seems to me, with either the bidding prayer, or better still the nine solemn collects, which are to be found in several Anglican sources, and a sermon on the Passion. Braver souls might even want to add the veneration of the Cross and the reproaches which are given in the 1933 edition of the English Hymnal which is allowed in most Continuing Churches.

It seems to me that Good Friday is one day when we should resist the temptation to substitute 'a hymn and a thing (repeat as often as necessary)' for the appointed liturgy of the Church.

5 comments:

  1. I was very pleased to see you mention the Solemn Collects as I believe these to be the original form of the peoples prayers in the Roman liturgy before the Roman Canon (Syrian in origin) swallowed those petitions. They should be brought back into the Book of Common Prayer for Good Friday Liturgy. Since the Reproaches consist primarily of passages from Holy Scripture I don't see how anyone can object to them when Morning Prayer in full, the Litany and Ante-Communion had been (preferably) sung. Nor do I have objections to the Veneration of the Cross since I know that it was valued by C. S. Lewis who attempted to persuade J. B. Phillips of its value.

    Very well done, Your Grace.

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  2. If I recall correctly the Jesuits (wisely) dropped the 3-hour soon after inventing it - leaving it to the Anglicans as a study in nebulous and directionless pseudo-liturgy

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  3. The parishes which brought me into Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church as it seemed to be in the '50s a;; agreed with Your Grace and the Good Friday liturgy was precisely Morning Prayer, Litany, Ante-Communion and Evening Prayer with a few hymns and occasionally addresses set between the various portions of the liturgy. Indeed, this was also true of the parishes in which I raised my family although these were now more ritualist and missal because the earlier sort were going over to the heresies that would eventually result in the apostasy of the Episcopal Church. So I am now back to the way I saw things at the beginning, a very comfortable (and strengthening) place to be.

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  5. Where in Anglican sources do we find the Nine Solemn Collects?

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