It is interesting that the Archbishop says that the Anglican liturgies will be “a more traditional form.” Does he mean “more traditional” than the current Ordinary Form? He may mean no more than that they will use so-called “traditional language” (or he may be referring to some of the imports from the ceremonial of the Extraordinary Form that Mgr Burnham has mentioned, like the genuflection in the Nicene Creed). But it would be exciting if this also meant retention of concrete traditional elements that are (a) genuinely Anglican, and (b) predate the 1970s.
If that is going to happen, then the traditional lectionaries for Mass and Office should get a look-in. Without disparaging the scholarly achievement of the 1969 Ordo Lectionum Missae (likewise the RCL), or of the various lectionaries for the Divine Office that have been designed according to similar principles, may we not say that this is an opportune moment to consider just how far these systems take us from some undisputed elements of the much-discussed “Anglican Patrimony”? I’m thinking in particular of John Keble’s collection of poems The Christian Year (1827). I call its patrimonial status “undisputed” because if Keble’s 1833 Assize Sermon on “National Apostasy” was the birth of the Oxford Movement, The Christian Year was its mother’s milk (and not just for the Tractarians: it was a national phenomenon that went to over 100 editions by Keble’s death).
If you are unfamiliar with it, it is worth your time. Keble provides a poetic reflection on every Sunday and Holyday in the Book of Common Prayer, linked more or less closely to one of the scripture readings appointed for the day — either from the Holy Communion (Epistle and Gospel derived from Sarum provisions, lightly revised by Cranmer), or from the proper Lessons for Mattins or Evensong, which in Keble’s time were still those that had been selected by Archbishop Matthew Parker shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s accession (a selection that Keble explained and defended in one of the Tracts for the Times: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Tracts_for_the_Times/Tract_13). As I read these poems week by week and year by year, I find myself longing to be nourished directly by the liturgical framework that first animated them. As it is, I have to do my best to forget what I hear at church and journey in my imagination back to Eastleach Martin or Hursley to hear Keble read the services. A great deal (if not rather too much) has been written by way of commentary on the 3-year Mass lectionary cycle. But nothing, I dare say, to match The Christian Year.
Would it not be glorious if these lectionaries were to find fresh life in the liturgies of the Personal Ordinariates, at least for optional use? Would this not put us in immediate contact with the same materials that formed and inspired the men who strove to discover and expound a Catholic faith within the Church of England? My hope and prayer for the Ordinariates is that they will give us the secure doctrinal foundation against which we may, as Newman urged, “catalogue, sort, distribute, select, harmonize, and complete” our “vast inheritance” of “treasures.” I count the lectionaries as apt material for such reappraisal.
Of course the lectionaries as found in a copy of the 1662 BCP are not perfect. For instance, I rejoice in the twentieth-century abandonment of Cranmer’s principle of daily Office lessons keyed to the civil calendar, and the restoration of a lectionary based on the movable ecclesiastical calendar. The judiciously enriched version of the 1961 one-year BCP Office lectionary published in Fr. Hunwicke’s annual Ordo would serve admirably as the basis for the daily lessons in the Ordinariates, not least because it retains connections with the earliest Roman Office lectionaries (as preserved in Ordines Romani XIII and XIV of the seventh and eighth centuries) — connections that are obscured, or completely lost, in, for example, the two cycles offered in the modern Liturgia horarum. The 1922/1961 BCP Office lectionaries’ departure from earlier Anglican practice establishes a good rule of thumb, namely that revision of the traditional Anglican sources ought to proceed in the first instance by a process of ressourcement, not innovation.
(Here perhaps I may register my view that the Office lectionary included in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham seems to have been designed for the convenience of priests who will most often be praying their daily Office from the Liturgia horarum. The effect of having the One-Year, Year-1, and Year-2 options included at various points every day is to disrupt continuity of reading, which is the defining characteristic of Anglican Office lectionaries. One suspect that this lectionary is intended mainly to provide extra lessons for Choral Evensong as an “occasional celebration.” That is doubtless the short-term reality, but shouldn’t be the long-term goal. If it is deemed absolutely necessary that the Ordinariate’s Office lectionary include the one-year or two-year cycle of lessons from the Liturgia horarum – and there is a case to be made for that, not least to allow the use of the wonderful selections of Patristic readings that have been devised for these cycles – it would be far better to design an independent Evensong lectionary such that either the one-year or the two-year LH cycle could be used in the morning, and a separate, self-contained scriptural lectionary could be used in the evening, designed on “ancient” principles. Furthermore, theCustomary‘s exclusion of readings from the Gospels in the daily Office represents a major rupture from Anglican precedent going right back to 1549, which is also continued in theBook of Divine Worship. Use of the traditional Anglican Eucharistic lectionary, which I am encouraging, would almost demand a daily Gospel lesson in the Office, since the Gospels would otherwise not be read out in full. The Customary is concerned that the Gospel should only be read by someone at least in deacon’s orders, and therefore restricts Gospel lessons to optional “vigils” of Sundays and feasts. It is hard to imagine that public celebrations of the Office will often take place without an officiant in Holy Orders. But if we need a non-Anglican precedent for a layman reading the Gospel at the Office, we could look to the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict’s requirement that the Gospel at Sunday Nocturns be read by the abbot, who is not presumed to be in Holy Orders. But cannot the reading of the Gospels in course at the daily Office, by laymen if necessary, be grandfathered in regardless as a venerable part of the Anglican liturgical heritage?)
If I were able to address the Anglicanae traditiones commission, I would wish to urge upon them that this is precisely the moment when we can pause to evaluate with fresh eyes what the past has bequeathed to us, and, when appropriate, choose continuity (or restoration) as a better course. To make Anglican “tradition” mean merely the post-Conciliar Mass and Offices performed with old-fashioned words and Ritualist ceremonial would be most unfortunate. The liturgies published so far (orders for Marriages and Funerals) are very encouraging. I’m holding my breath, though, for the official daily lectionaries for Mass and Office. To reiterate, I would be overjoyed if the Ordinariate’s lectionaries included, even in a revised form and for optional use, (1) the BCP Epistles and Gospels, (2) the proper Office lessons of 1559-1662, and (3) a one-year daily Office lectionary based on early Roman patterns, such as that in Fr. Hunwicke’s Ordo.