By Robin G. Jordan
In this second article of my series on A Modern Language Version of the Reformed Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, I examine the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or the Holy Communion in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version from the beginning of the service to the rubrics immediately before The Celebration of Holy Communion. The Communion Office in the latter not only uses a contemporary form of English but it also contains a number of alterations and additions. A Modern Language Version of the Reformed Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was authorized for use at the 53rd General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church. It is not yet in print.
The opening rubric of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal Communion Office is taken from 1928 Book of Common Prayer, with three alterations. “Holy Table” has been changed to “Table;” presbyter” has been substituted for “priest.” “…standing reverently before…” has been changed to “…standing reverently facing…” As in the 1928 BCP the first Lord’s Prayer may be omitted at the discretion of the priest.
The rubrics at the beginning of the 1662 Communion Service direct that the Table “shall stand in the Body of the Church, or in the Chancel…, and the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer, with the Collect following, the people kneeling. The rubrics at the beginning of the 1662 Communion Service make no provision for the omission of the first Lord’s Prayer.
The Scottish Bishops replaced “Priest” with “Presbyter” in the 1637 Scottish Prayer Book, hoping to gain Scottish Presbyterian clergy’s acceptance of the book. The introduction of the book at St. Gile’s Cathedral in Edinburgh caused a riot. The Scottish Bishops withdrew the book.
It is noteworthy that the rubrics at the beginning of the 1637 Scottish Communion Office direct the Presbyter to stand at “the north-side or end” of the Table. They also make no provision for the omission of the first Lord’s Prayer.
The optional omission of the first Lord’s Prayer of the Communion Service has been a feature of the American Prayer Book since the 1789 BCP. The Communion Office of the 1785 Proposed BCP, which was used in the REC after its founding in 1873, the first Lord’s Prayer is omitted altogether.
The opening rubric of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal Communion Office permits the president to take the eastward position, facing the table, his back to the congregation, at the very beginning of the celebration of the Holy Communion. This is the position of a sacrificing priest and is associated with the Medieval Catholic doctrines of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence.
A second rubric at the beginning of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal Communion Office permit the singing of a Psalm, hymn, or anthem during the entrance of the minister. This rubric also permits the minister to say a Sentence of Scripture, followed by the Salutation. As I noted in my first article in this series, the frequent use of the Salutation is one of the characteristics of unreformed Catholic liturgies. Medieval Catholics believed and modern day Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics continue to believe that the Salutation is more than a greeting or an introduction to a call to prayer but is a prayer for the priest, in which the congregation ask God to arouse the special grace given to the priest in ordination so that God will accept the offerings that the priest makes on the behalf of the people, at the Daily Offices, in the form of prayers and intercessions, and at the Mass, in the form of the representation or reiteration of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.
This interpretation of Salutation is closely tied to the Medieval Catholic view of the sacerdotal character of the ministry of the priest who acts as an intermediary between the faithful and God, and is intimately associated with the Medieval Catholic doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence. This special grace is believed not only to infuse the water in the baptismal font with power to remove sin when the priest blesses the water but also to transmogrify the bread and wine of the Holy Communion into the substance of the body and blood of our Lord when the priest recites the Words of Institution over the elements. Having brought Christ into being in the bread and wine in this manner, the priest extinguishes Christ by eating the bread and drink the wine, thereby by repeating Christ’s death and sacrifice for the remission of sin for the living and the dead. Before consuming the elements priest elevates them for the faithful to adore.
For this reason Archbishop Cranmer did not use the Salutation at all in the 1552 Communion Service. The Scottish Bishops, following Cranmer’s example, did not use the Salutation in the 1637 Scottish Communion Service. Nor did the Restoration Bishops use the Salutation in the 1662 Communion Service.
As early as the 1930 Reformed Episcopal BCP the Salutation was used at the beginning of the Reformed Episcopal Communion Office as the first versicle and response of an opening set of versicles and responses. It is quite evident that the editors of the 1930 Reformed Episcopal BCP were not familiar with Anglo-Catholic beliefs regarding the Salutation; otherwise, at that particular time in the history of the Reformed Episcopal Church they most likely would not have included it. The Reformed Episcopal BCP, however, at that stage was already showing the influence of the 1928 BCP and other High Church Anglo-Catholic liturgies. It raises questions about liturgical scholarship in the REC in the opening decades of the twentieth century.
The rubrics that follow the Collect for Purity are taken from corresponding rubrics in the 1928 BCP, except in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP recension “minister” is substituted for “priest.” As in the 1928 Communion Office the Decalogue may be shortened by the omission of the indented passages. As in the 1928 Communion Office the Decalogue is required only once a month; our Lord’s Summary of the Law and the Kyries may be used in their place at other times. As in the 1928 Communion Office the Summary of the Law may be said in addition to the Decalogue.
In the 1662 BCP the full Decalogue must be “rehearsed” at every celebration of the Holy Communion or, when there is no Communion, at every service of Ante-Communion. The rehearsing of the Ten Commandments is an important Reformed feature of the classical Anglican Prayer Book. Its optional omission, whatever the rationale, represents a significant departure from the 1662 Prayer Book’s Reformed theology. It also contributes to the dilution of the classical Anglican Prayer Book’s doctrine of sin.
The Collect for grace to keep the Commandments has been a feature of American Communion Office since the 1789 BCP. It was originally taken from the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office, as was the Summary of the Law as a permissive addition to the Decalogue. It is redundant if the Decalogue is used since the people have prayed for grace to keep that Commandment after each Commandment. While the use of the Collect of the Commandments is optional in the Communion Office of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP, the rubric permitting the optional use of the Collect has been omitted in the Communion Office of its Modern Language Version, and permission to dispense with the Collect has been withdrawn.
The rubric that follows the Collect of the Commandments in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP prescribes the use of a Prayer for the Queen and All in Civil Authority at celebrations of the Holy Communion in Canada. This represents an innovation particular to the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP since the rubric after the Decalogue in the 1662 Communion Service requires the use of one of two Prayers for the Queen and the rubric after the Summary of the Law in the 1962 Canadian Communion Office permits the optional use of the first of these two Prayers. While the first of these two Prayers contains a brief supplication for the Church, the chief concern of the two Prayers is the Queen, or the reigning English monarch. The inclusion of supplications for the Governor-General, Lieutenant Governors, and all in authority are an innovative feature.
The 2003 Reformed Episcopal Church BCP’s Modern Language Version contains a second innovation peculiar to that book. The rubric after the Collect of the Commandments prescribes the use of A Prayer for the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority at celebrations of the Holy Communion in the United States. This Prayer elevates the President of the United States to the level of a reigning monarch, which is unusually in a republic that has a democratic government. A survey of Prayer Books of Anglican Provinces supports the conclusion that this Prayer is indeed an innovation and represents a major departure from Anglican practice. A number of these Anglican Provinces are republics with state presidents. None of them, however, substitute a prayer for the state president, much less the state president and all in civil authority, where the 1662 BCP prescribes a prayer for the reigning English monarch. The rubric that follows the Collect of the Commandments in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP’s Modern Language Version also prescribes the use of a Prayer for the Queen and All in Civil Authority at celebrations of the Holy Communion in Canada.
The inclusion of these innovations in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version raise questions regarding not only the liturgical scholarship of the REC Standing Liturgical Commission but also their understanding of the political systems in Canada and the United States.
A Prayer for the Queen, or reigning English monarch, is included in the 1662 BCP because the Queen is not only the head of state, she is also supreme governor of the Church. She is no longer the supreme governor of the Anglican Church of Canada and therefore a Prayer for the Queen is optional. In a number of Anglican Provinces in which the Queen is the titular head of state, a petition for the Queen may be included in the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant or its equivalent in the Communion Office.
In any event the Prayer for Queen and All in Civil Authority in the Communion Service of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Day Version and the Prayer for the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority in the Communion Office of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP’s Modern Day Version are redundant since the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant contains a petition for Christian rulers in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and for those in authority in its Modern Language Version. The required use of the Prayer for the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority in the Communion Service of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP’s Modern Day Version also unnecessarily politicizes the Communion Office and may create problems of conscience like the prayer for the King did at the time of the American Revolution.
A better provision is found in the rubrics of the 1926 Irish Prayer Book. It permits one or more additional Collects or Prayers to be said after the Collect of the Day, or before the Blessing at the discretion of the minister.
A rubric following the Collect of the Day permits the optional reading of an Old Testament Lesson. The rubric prescribes how the Old Testament Lesson should be introduced and concluded and gives the reader the option of concluding the reading with these words, “This is the Word of the Lord,” to which the people respond, “Thanks be to God.” These two optional provisions are found in a number of the more recent service books. The rubrics of the 1662 Communion Service make no provision for an Old Testament Lesson since it was assumed that the Holy Communion would never be used separately from Morning Prayer, which had an Old Testament Lesson.
A second rubric after the Collect of the Day requires that if an Old Testament Lesson is read, a Psalm or canticle must said or sung after it. This rubric further requires this Psalm or canticle must end with the Gloria Patri. This provision also raises questions regarding the liturgical scholarship of the REC Standing Liturgical Commission. The Gloria Patri is traditionally omitted with Gradual Psalms. This ancient custom would also apply to canticles used in place of a Gradual Psalm. The rubric regrettably makes no provision for the omission of the Psalm or canticle, which would be desirable on occasion. It also makes no provision for the optional use of a metrical Psalm or canticle, an anthem setting of the Psalm or canticle text, or another appropriate hymn or anthem in this place. Such flexibility is desirable especially in a modern language service for use on the North American mission field.
A third rubric following the Collect of the Day prescribes how the Epistle should be announced and concluded. It gives the reader the option of concluding the reading with these words, “This is the Word of the Lord,” to which the people respond, “Thanks be to God.” This optional provision is also found in a number of the more recent service books.
The rubrics that follow are taken from 1928 BCP. They permit the singing of a hymn or anthem after the Epistle. They prescribe the use of the Gloria Tibi before the Gospel and the Laus Tibi after the Gospel. They give permission to omit the Creed from the Communion if said before in Morning Prayer, and allow either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed, except that the Nicene Creed must be said on at least the five great festivals. The Nicene Creed is printed in the service.
The preceding rubrics make no provision for the singing of an alleluia or another suitable acclamation, a Psalm, or a canticle before the Gospel. A number of more recent service books permit the ancient practice of greeting the proclamation of the Gospel with the singing of an alleluia or an alleluia and one or more verses of Scripture. In Lent they allow the singing of a Scripture verse in place of the alleluia. New or small congregations with limited musical resources may easily learn a number of alleluias and acclamations to sing before the Gospel.
A number of the more recent service books permit the singing of a Psalm or canticle in place of a hymn or anthem after the Epistle when two Lessons are read. When three Lessons are read, they also permit the singing of a canticle after the Epistle in recognition that a celebration of the Holy Communion will be the only service on Sunday morning for most congregations and these congregations will otherwise have no opportunity to sing a canticle.
One of the major drawbacks of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version is that they allow very little flexibility in the use of music and as a consequence their usefulness on the North American mission field is limited. They appear to assume that the congregation using their services will be worshiping in a traditional setting with good acoustics and will have abundant musical resources and strong musical leadership.
Three rubrics follow the Nicene Creed. The first two sentences of the first rubric is adapted from the rubrics of the 1928 BCP; the last sentence of the first rubric is adapted from rubrics of the 1662 BCP. Why this last provision was included in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Variation is questionable as the reason for its inclusion in the 1662 BCP was political.
The making of announcements at this place in the service contributes to a lengthy delay between the reading of the Lessons and their exposition in the Sermon. A number of more recent service books permit the making of announcements at various places in the service, leaving which place to the discretion of the priest officiating at the service. They also permit other persons beside the officiating priest to make the announcements.
The second rubric permits the singing of a hymn or anthem and is a concession to a longstanding parochial custom in churches that use the 1928 BCP. A criticism of this practice is that it further separates the Lessons from their exposition in the Sermon and if poorly chosen, may draw attention away from the major themes of the Lessons.
The third rubric is adapted from the rubrics of the 1928 BCP and directs that the Sermon should following Announcements (and the hymn or anthem if one is sung) and that after the Sermon the Presbyter to return to the Table and begin the Offertory with one or more Offertory Sentences.
The Offertory Sentences are used in the Communion Office of the following Prayer Books: Acts 20:35 (1928), Matthew 5:16 (1662, 1928), Matthew 6:19, 20 (1662, 1928), Matthew 7:12 (1662), Luke 19:8 (1662), 1 Corinthians 9:11 (1662), 1 Corinthians 9:13,14 (1662), 2 Corinthians 9:6,7 (1662, 1928), Galatians 6:6,7 (1662), Galatians 6:10 (1662, 1928), 1 Timothy 5:6,7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Hebrews 6:10 (1662, 1928), Hebrews 13:16 (1662, 1928), 1 John 3:17 (1662, 1928); Proverbs 19:17 (1662), Psalm 41:1 (1662), Deuteronomy 16:16-17 (1928). Space does not permit me to analyze these Offertory Sentences for strengths and weaknesses.
The first rubric that follows the Offertory Sentences is adapted from a rubric in the 1928 Communion Office. It permits the singing of a hymn or anthem during the gathering of the people’s offerings.
The second rubric following the Offertory Sentences directs that the Presbyter “prepare the Table arrange such Bread and Wine on the Table as he shall think sufficient.” While this rubric does not prescribe the offering of the bread and wine before it is placed on the Table as do the rubrics of the 1928 Communion Office, it does not prohibit this practice. The rubrics of the 1662 Communion Service are more specific: “And when there is a Communion, the Priest shall then place upon the Table so much Bread and Wine, as he shall think sufficient.” The “Minor Oblation” has no place in a 1662 celebration of the Holy Communion.
The third rubric following the Offertory Sentences is an adaptation of a rubric in the 1928 Communion Office. The 1928 rubric refers to “the alms for the poor and other offerings of the people” in contrast to the 1662 rubric which refers to “the Alms for the Poor and other devotions of the people.”
The fourth rubric following the Offertory Sentences countenances a number of practices that the best liturgical authorities characterize as placing an undue emphasis on the Offertory, a secondary rite in the Communion, and as giving a triumphalist Pelagian cast to the Offertory. This includes the practices of dedicating the congregation’s offerings with the singing of Thomas Ken’s doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” the elevation of the alms basin before the Table, in imitation of the wave offering of the Temple, and similar practices. These practices are not part of a 1662 celebration of the Holy Communion. They are not consistent with the spirit of the 1662 rubric that directs the priest to “humbly present and place” the alms basin upon the holy Table. They are countenanced by The Hymnal (1940) and earlier Episcopal hymnals.
The practice of dedicating the people’s offerings is traceable to the late nineteenth century. The 1892 BCP permitted the singing of a hymn or anthem at the presentation of the people’s offerings; at that time a Presentation Sentence was added to the end of the Offertory Sentences, “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee. The presentation of the people’s offering was featured in various other ways.
During the early part of the nineteenth century Communion was infrequent and the typical pattern on Sunday was Morning Prayer, Litany, Ante-Communion, and Sermon. A collection was taken before or after the Sermon and a number of these practices sprang up around the presentation of this collection. Later in the nineteenth century Morning Prayer would be separated from Communion and the pattern on Sunday in a number of Episcopal parish churches would become Morning Prayer and a Sermon with a collection taken before or after the sermon. Whatever became the customary practice in a parish church on Ante-Communion or Morning Prayer Sundays was also followed on Communion Sundays. The rubrical provision for a Presentation Hymn and the addition of a Presentation Sentence to the Offertory Sentences in the 1892 BCP were concessions to what by then were established parochial customs. Non-Episcopal, non-liturgical churches followed similar practices during the same period. Whether the Episcopal Church influenced them or they influenced the Episcopal Church may be a question like “What came first—the chicken or the egg?” The singing of a doxology at the presentation of the people’s offerings is a distinctively American practice.
The only historic Communion Office that contains a Presentation Sentence is the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office in which the rubrics direct the presbyter to humbly present the basin, with the oblations in it, before the Lord and to set it upon the holy table, saying:
Blessed be thou, O Lord God, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine: thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all: both riches and honour come of thee, and of thine own do we give unto thee. Amen .
The presbter was then directed to “offer up and place the bread and wine prepared for the sacrament upon the Lord’s table.” In the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office the Sursum Corda immediately follows the offering of the bread and wine. The Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church is said after the Prayer Of Consecration and before the Communion.
In the 1662 Communion Service and the 1789 Communion Service General Intercession—the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant—follows the Offertory and contains a supplication in which the priest asks that God accept the people’s alms and oblations. Dedicating the people’s offering is unnecessary.
The Offertory is one of three places in the Communion Service that is prone with the passage of time to accumulate a clutter of redundant devotions. The other two places are the opening and the close of the service. As in the 1928 BCP and its predecessors, the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant follows the Offertory in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal Communion Office. The inclusion of a rubric countenancing these practices at the Offertory again raises questions about the liturgical scholarship of the REC Standing Liturgical Commission.
The Offertory Sentences are followed by seven rubrics that are titled “Concerning the Celebration.”
¶ In the absence of a Presbyter, a Deacon may say all that is before appointed unto the end of the Gospel.
¶ Lay persons appointed by the Celebrant shall normally be assigned the reading of the Lessons which precede the Gospel.
¶ It is the Bishop’s prerogative, when present, to be the principal Celebrant at the Lord’s Table, and to preach the Gospel.
¶ At all celebrations of the Liturgy, it is fitting that the principal Celebrant, whether Bishop or Presbyter, be assisted by
other Presbyters, and by Deacons and lay persons.
¶ It is appropriate that the other Presbyters present stand with the Celebrant at the Lord's Table and join in the consecration of the gifts, in breaking the Bread, and in distributing Communion.
¶ A Deacon shall read the Gospel and shall also serve at the Lord’s Table, preparing and placing on it the offerings of Bread and Wine, and assisting in the ministration of the Sacrament to the people. In the absence of a Deacon, these duties may be performed by an assisting Presbyter.
¶ Here, in place of all that follows, may be used the ALTERNATE FORM FOR THE CELEBRATION OF HOLY COMMUNION.
These rubrics with the exception of the first and last rubric are taken from the notes, titled “Concerning the Celebration” that precede The Holy Eucharist: Rite I and the Holy Eucharist: Rite II in the 1979 BCP. The first rubric comes from the General Rubrics at the end of the 1928 Communion Office. The final rubric appears to be an adaptation of an unidentified rubric or an original composition of a combination of the two. The location of these notes in 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version is unusual.
A number of more recent service books have similar notes, usually preceding the Communion Office. In these more recent service books it is not unusually to find provisions that permit deacons and lay readers to say all that is appointed through the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant in the absence of a priest and that allow lay readers and other lay persons to read the Gospel and to offer the General Intercession, to assist at the Lord’s Table, and to distribute the Communion. It is also not unusual to find provisions that permit deacons and lay readers who are licensed to preach to give sermons during celebrations of the Holy Communion or in the absence of a priest and which allow lay persons with the permission of the rector or priest in charge of the congregation to make addresses. They exhibit much greater flexibility than does the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version, and give a much larger role to the laity in not only celebrations of the Holy Communion but also other services. In a service book in a mission field like North America such characteristics are highly desirable.
As we have seen, to this point the Communion Offices of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version owe much more to the 1928 BCP and its predecessors—the 1789 BCP and 1892 BCP, and even its successor, the 1979 BCP, than the 1662 BCP. In the third article in this series I will be examining the Form for the Celebration of Holy Communion and the Alternative Form for the Celebration of Holy Communion in the Communion Offices of the 2003 Reformed Episcopal BCP and its Modern Language Version.