Thursday, March 13, 2008

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): The Order for the Holy Communion—Part I

In this third article of my series on An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) I examine the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion.

When reading the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion, the first thing that really caught my attention is An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) has retreated from the biblical concept of the celebration of the Holy Communion as the action of the whole people of God. One of the positive developments of the liturgical renewal of the 20th century was the recovery of the ministry of the members of the congregation. This ministry is expressed through their active participation in the liturgy, and by some of them reading the Lessons, leading the Prayers, assisting at the Lord’s Table, and distributing the Communion. It gives tangible expression to the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) goes back to the practices of the 1950s when only licensed lay persons were permitted to perform these functions, acting as assistants to the priest instead of ministers of the worshiping assembly. Instead of giving the laity a greater role in the liturgy, which, after all, is the work of the laos, the people of God, An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) reduces their role.

The second thing that caught my attention is that An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), like the trial services, takes the view that "the public, expressive form of ‘passing of the peace’" is not really appropriate in a celebration of Holy Communion because there is no provision for the practice in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, 1928 American Prayer Book, and 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. While drawing attention to the presence of the late Medieval Roman form of the Peace in the 1926 Canadian Prayer Book, which is a verbal exchange between the priest and the people, An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) neglects to mention that a more expressive form of the Peace was a part of earlier liturgies and has a Scriptural warrant in the Peace salutations and the "holy kiss of peace" in the New Testament. It must also be noted that the lack of a precedent in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, 1928 American Prayer Book, and 1962 Canadian Prayer, however, has not prevented the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) from incorporating other practices and doctrines into the services of the book. They give appearance of seeking to discourage the "passing of the peace" for other unstated reasons. This is evident in the reluctant tone of the provision that they make for the exchange of the Peace.

"If the people are used to a modern, expressive form of ‘passing of the peace,’ and desire it, then the Minister may at his discretion add this to begin the Service or at the notices."

At the beginning of the Ministry of the Sacrament, before the Consecration and the Communion, would be a much more appropriate place for the exchange of the Peace than at the notices. This is where it is found in the early liturgies. The exchange of the Peace at this juncture in the Service enables those who are preparing to receive Communion to demonstrate in the presence of their brothers and sisters in Christ that they are indeed "reconciled and at peace" with their neighbors. It provides an opportunity for the newly reconciled to share a gesture of reconciliation and peace to cement their restored reconciliation.

In his First Epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul articulates an important biblical principle for the conduct of public worship: Let all things be done for edification (1 Corinthians. 14:26). The expressive form of the Peace and the warmth, friendliness, and acceptance shown to strangers has greatly impressed visitors and newcomers to churches that enthusiastically exchange the Peace at the beginning of the Ministry of the Sacrament. It has made tangible to them the love that our Lord would have us show each other and even our enemies. It serves as a visible sign of God’s power to heal, reconcile, and transform. I fail to see the wisdom of doing away with this practice at a time when a growing number of non-liturgical churches are discovering the Peace and incorporating a similar practice into their worship gathering in which the people greet each other in the name of the Lord with a handshake, a hug, or some other appropriate gesture.

The third thing that caught my attention is the particular interpretation that An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), like the trial services, gives to the salutation "The Lord be with you" "And with your spirit". Both the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion in the trial services and An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) describe these words as being "more like a prayer, where the presence of the Lord with his people is being affirmed by the Minister, and in turn, the people pray that the spiritual gift is given to him in ordination will be aroused, so that the Celebration will be in spirit and in truth, and thus acceptable to the Lord." This raised a red flag in my mind when I first read it in the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion in the trial services.

First, the view expressed in this description is not Scriptural. Worshipping God in spirit and truth is not dependent upon the arousal of the priest’s "spiritual gift" but upon the state of the worshiper’s hearts. In a discussion of the merits of "Lord be with you" "And with your spirit" an Anglo-Catholic Canadian priest of my acquaintance offered this explanation of the words:
"It is more than a mutual salutation, though that is the name we have given it; it is a mutual prayer best appreciated in English when presented in the Southern dialect: ‘The Lord be with all y'all...’ ‘And with your (singular) spirit,’ which essentially means that the people are praying that the Lord may dwell in the soul of the priest, sanctifying him and enabling him to do the work of his office. For it is through him that the Holy Spirit works to affect the miracle of the Eucharist, and of Baptismal regeneration. So while ‘And also with you’ is a nice salutation, it does not convey the Spirit-filled holiness of the moment."

What he is saying is what the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion in the trial services and An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) says but in less specific terms. This raises questions as to whether the words "Lord be with you" "And with your spirit" should be used in The Order for Holy Communion, much less this particular interpretation of them be given in the Introduction to The Order for Holy Communion. All Anglicans do not share this sacerdotal view of the priesthood, which ascribes to the priesthood the power to confect bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and historically is associated with the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It has been a point of heated dispute between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.

The New Testament also teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells all believers and not just the priest. While the Holy Spirit may impart to them different varieties of gifts, they all share in the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4). All manifestations of the Spirit are given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) The one and same Spirit empowers them and apportions them to each one individually as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Second, this salutation is not used in the Communion Service in the 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books and the 1789 and 1892 American Prayer Book because of its association with the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which classical Anglicanism rejects. In looking through my copies of the 1552 Prayer Book and 1559 Prayer Book, I find the salutation used only once—before the Lesser Litany at Morning and Evening Prayer. In the 1669 Prayer Book it is used before the Lesser Litany at Morning and Evening Prayer and before the Lord’s Prayer at the Confirmation Service and in the 1789 and 1892 American Prayer Books after the Apostles’ Creed at Morning and Evening Prayer and before the Lord’s Prayer at the Confirmation Service.

Third, in its Proposed Constitution the Anglican Mission in Americas affirms Thirty Nine Articles of Religion of 1562 and The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and The Ordinal annexed thereto as its standards of faith and worship. The Anglican Mission in Americas as a Common Cause Partner agreed to accept "The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship." The AMiA also agree to "accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief." With the Bible the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal provide a yardstick against which we can measure the theology of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008).

As we will see in future articles, all kinds of theology have crept into An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) so that the book does not really conform to these standards.

Do the words "Lord be with you" "And with your spirit", you may be wondering, have a more Scriptural interpretation?

The apostle Paul uses the phrase "The Lord be with your spirit" in a parting words of one of his letters:

"The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you." (2 Timothy 4:22 ESV)

When the apostle Paul dictated this words to his follower or scribe, I doubt that he was thinking of the priest at Mass. As a Pharisee, learned in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, he in all likelihood had such passages as Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15; and Isaiah 66:1-2 from the Old Testament in mind. Certainly the Biblical teaching of God being with certain individuals and people groups would not have been far from his mind--Genesis 39:2,3 Numbers 14:43; Deuteronomy 20:2; Deuteronomy 31: 6,8; Judges 6:16; and 1 Samuel 3:19.

Other passages that likely came to his mind are Genesis 39:2,3; 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 18: 12,14,28; 2 Kings 18:7,25; 2 Chronicles 25:7; and 2 Chronicles 32:8. And the related teaching that God is among his people, dwells among them, dwells in their midst--Exodus 17:7; 29:46; Numbers 35:34; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 23:14; and Joshua 22:31. And is near to his people--Leviticus 10:3; Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalm 119:151; Psalm 145: 18; and Isaiah 50:8.

Undoubtedly he also had our Lord’s promise in mind.

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 ESV)

I find nothing in Paul’s letters that comes even close to the meaning that the compilers of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) and my Canadian friend are reading into the words.

Paul’s prayer that the Lord be with Timothy’s spirit appears to be related to the charge that he has given Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Paul is praying for Timothy in the diligent and conscientious discharge of his work and office as an evangelist. The charge that Paul gives to Timothy is one that all ministers of the Gospel should take to themselves. This includes deacons and licensed lay readers as well as bishops and priests.

If we incorporate Paul’s prayer into the liturgy, Paul’s use of the prayer must determine how we use the prayer and what explanation we offer for its use. Only in this way will our use of the prayer and our explanation for its use be agreeable to Scripture. We are therefore limited to using the prayer to pray for the priest or other minister as an evangelist, as Paul prayed for Timothy. This is also the sole explanation we can offer for its use. Such an explanation, however, belongs in a commentary upon the service book and not in the service book itself.

At the same time we must draw to the attention of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and laypersons that the ministry of evangelist is not solely that of the priest. Indeed the primary evangelists of the congregation are the members of the congregation themselves. The role of the priest is to mobilize the congregation in the cause of the gospel--to equip the members of the congregation for evangelism, model evangelism for them, and lead them in evangelism. If the priest himself does not engage in evangelism, the congregation is not likely to engage in evangelism either. Paul speaks of being partners in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). If we are to reach the growing segment of the population in the United States that is spiritually disconnected and unchurched, this partnership needs to be something more than members of the congregation praying and giving money. They need to assume an active role as the primary evangelists of the congregation. Too many congregations expect the priest or other minister to do the evangelism when they should be doing it themselves.

In my next article I will examine the first half of the Communion Service, the Ministry of the Word.

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