The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Saturday, January 4, 2014


...Whatever Thomas Cranmer became, at the time that he first translated the Latin Mass into English, drawing from Eastern sources as he did, he was a liturgical and linguistic genius. His pioneering creation, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, was a work of beauty, and even subject to close analysis, Catholic understanding. His principal source for this work was, of course, the Sarum Rite, combined with a Benedictine spiritual worldview that he drew from the landscape of England itself. In saying so, I am in no way apologising for the theological, political, and historical travesty that led to the Prayer Book in the first place; I am only saying that, in spite of things, the resulting work could hardly have been surpassed. And it is this Book, together with its deeply flawed and wholly inadequate successor books that – for better or worse – spoke to, and for, the British people until at least the early twentieth century: from England to Wales and, to a lesser extent, Scotland...

Read the rest of this post that summarizes the liturgical roots of today's Ordinariate and the potential for the future at Symposium, the blog from a Ukranian Catholic priest in the UK.


  1. This is a lovely romantick notion of what dear Dr Cranmer was about in giving us a liturgy 'understanded of the people'. Linguistic genius he might have been - but liturgical? He did his best to wreck the Canon of the Mass - nothing after the dominical words, and the prayer of humble access (aka the plea of Uriah Heep) directing our attention from the Almighty to us, just when we should be looking at Him. As for answering the needs of present-day English and Welsh men and women, who are these people so wedded to 'olde-tea shoppe'* mock-mediaeval English? I am aware of none in our congregation, nor among Anglicans still hovering on the brink. Certainly many of Cranmer's collects are quite brilliant translations - but in the 1662 Prayer book they are just appendices to the Prayer for the Monarch's Majesty. The Confession is over-the-top navel gazing, and even the comfortable words pall with weekly repetition - as does that prolix Prayer for the Whole Estate of Christ's Church. I suffered all this as a child and young man, and liturgical revision with all its faults came as a great relief.
    Our new rite has done the best it can within the limitations set by some Ordinariate Groups who believe the only way to approach God is in "thee" and "thou" language,(and worse still "wouldst" and suchlike). No doubt in England we will try to make it work, in deference to our Ordinary. But this is not going to bring about the Conversion of England - faithful pastoral care, and the liturgy (whether in English, Latin, or Tudorbethan) celebrated sincerely and prayerfully with good congregational hymnody are what we should be seeking.

    (*Olde tea-shoppe is the name given by one of our best Liturgical Scholars in the Ordinariate to language of our approved rite - language not so different from to the architectural language of the half-timbered houses which littered England in the 1930's - pure pastiche.)

    1. "tea shop" mock medieval English?Sorry. Medieval English is Chaucer. And after two semesters of it I had had quite enough.The language we use now speaks of mystery and respect. Majoring in English literature with a concentration in Elizabethan lit. I find no fault with it.

      And who, pray tell, is this paragon of Liturgical wisdom of which you speak?

      The prayer of humble access places us in exactly the position we should be in prior to confronting the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent creator of everything .... on our knees.

      Mayhap you should grab a tambourine and find a nice, casual service where the music floating about would be "God loves me, me, me, me, meeeeeeeeeeee ....

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    3. I grew up with, and love, the South African Prayer Book and the English Missal. I sang Prayerbook Evensong twice or more a week for many years. The mass that formed me was Catholic in ethos but presented in the liturgical language Cranmer and the biblical translators created for English worship.

      This experience made me a proud Anglo-Catholic. I have watched in horror over the last decades to see this heritage thrown out for the miserable version produced by contemporary liturgy fans. When the doctrinal collapse of Anglicanism took me to Rome, I suffered through more Novus Ordo masses in Catholic churches than I care to recall.

      What inspired me to be part of the Ordinariate was a chance to reclaim these treasures of the past and bear them proudly into the future in full communion with Rome.

      I think I know a little about language. I studied English to the doctoral level, and taught the subject (and translation from Latin) at the University level. Somehow students still find Shakespeare riveting. And I manage to find Cranmer and Tyndale masterful writers of prose, to admire the massively dignified style of the Authorized Version, and to find the facility of those who deployed this liturgical English in later years entirely admirable. I find them no more anachronistic than the language of the law, or nursery rhymes, or the Scots my grandparents used -- and some of their grandchildren still use.

      To have this heritage abused in the snarky, wiser-than-thou fashion Mgr. Edwin deploys is deeply distressing. If the senior members of the very tiny Ordinariate cannot bring themselves to respect traditional preferences, why should people like me bother to stay or support the enterprise?

      Since there is no Ordinariate group where I live, I attend mass mostly in the Vetus Ordo. Nobody complains about the over-egging of the elaborate Latin prose or sneers at the first-century fakery and Baroque antiquarianism. People just pray reverently and concentrate on God. I suppose this is where I should stay, and leave the Ordinariate to be all cool and mod and sarcastic all on its own. But it would feel like another grave loss, and stinging defeat.

  2. The above comment has been responded to here:

  3. Sorry, but I didn't realise the above link would not appear live. I am pasting my comment below:

    Fr. (Edwin), thank you for your comment. I read what you had to say [on Anglican Use News], and while I certainly accept much of what you say about the 1662 BCP, I also believe that you miss my general point. I tried to distinguish very clearly between 1549 and what developed afterward, describing everything that followed in England ‘deeply flawed and wholly inadequate’. You proceed, by contrast, to base your suggestion that the BCP heritage holds little resonance for Catholics interested in the Anglican Patrimony on repeated criticism of 1662. I guess you could say that I don’t really care about the specifics of that Calvinist book, because I am trying to talk about the BCP heritage more broadly, and this extends well beyond 20th century English Anglo-Catholic dissatisfaction with the 1662 BCP. In conversations I have had with Orthodox theologians over the 1549 book, as well as the Canadian 1962 and the American 1928 books, there is little that would have required changing in their minds to make them conform to Orthodox liturgical requirements. At the same time, the intellectual and spiritual legacy of those Anglo-Catholics (such as the late Prof. Robert Crouse) that dedicated a great deal of their lives to illuminating the deeper value of the BCP treasury, means that anyone with a genuine interest in liturgical theology and history can now look beyond dismissive, polemical criticisms to more substantial meaning in both text and structure. Ultimately the position I advanced and which you take issue with, I admit, will hardly be flawless; it is laid out, after all, in a mere 800 word blog entry. I can assure you, however, that it is something more than a ‘lovely, romantick notion’. I only hope that, for the sake of our shared evangelical purpose in Britain, all things good and holy that Anglican Catholics have to give to the Church may be embraced and deployed in the most beneficial and fruitful way for all concerned.

  4. I have tried to express myself more clearly in the latest post at and would welcome further comments there. I do believe that former Church of England members of the Ordinariate have a distinct and different view of the Prayer Book (in all its versions) from those outside England.