Thursday, October 11, 2012

Enheresying Our Worship

So I was trapped into participating in what I can only assume was a rite more or less from Enriching Our Worship. I mean, I haven't seen a physical copy of the current round of revision, but, for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that this has some vaguely canonical source, rather than being something that someone just made up. And it seems largely consonant with the faults of the proposed same-sex blessing rites. But taking that as a given, let us count the deviations and heresies.

And we can start with the first sentence, because while there is nothing obviously heretical about saying "Blessed be the one, holy, and living God," it isn't what the BCP prescribes for ordinary time, or any other season. Why not? Well, the next change shows that quite plainly. For whatever reason we got a mashup of two different rites, one of which was baptism without a baptism. Therefore we started with the series of versicles and responses which opens the 1979 baptismal rite, but with a change: the response to "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" was not "one God and Father of all," but was instead "One God, Creator of all". OK, the opening sentence is not necessarily an issue, but this change is, because the passage is a direct quotation of scripture. This V&R exchange is taken from Ephesians 4:5-6, and every version I can find quickly translates it exactly, word for word, as it appears in the 1979 BCP. And if you can puzzle out Greek at all, you can see that "εις θεος και πατηρ παντων" can hardly be translated any other way. What's the problem? Well, the F-word, obviously: "Father".

We also seem to have some degree of trouble saying "Lord", if not to the same degree: the lectors were made to say "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" rather than "The Word of the Lord". I would disagree that scripture is intended to speak only to the church, but I also note that the new version is, rhetorically, less punchy. The 1979 book, at its strongest, either simply updates the older language, or speaks boldly and concisely. We seem incapable of that any longer, and every new rite is plagued with a puffy, precious style.

And it gets a lot worse. We were subjected to a litany which I didn't recognize, and which began as follows:

Holy God, in whom all things in heaven and earth have their being,
Have mercy on us.

Jesus the Christ, through whom the world is reconciled to the Father,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Spirit, source of both unity and diversity,
Have mercy on us.

Athanasius would have had a fit; Nicholas would have been moved to pugilism. Can we not begin with a straightforward and orthodox trinitarian formula?

We then moved on to "Eucharistic Prayer 2 from Enriching Our Worship 1". I'm so used to the mucking with the Sursum Corda that I hardly notice anymore what they've substituted for "him" in the third response, and since we sang the Sanctus, it was impossible to make the alteration prescribed, so at least that went off according to the BCP. At any rate, since "the one who comes in the name of the Lord" is Jesus, the aversion to "he" is hard to justify.

But then it is all hard to justify, except perhaps the attempt to fix Prayer C, which this prayer does not do convincingly. However, I have not come to talk about the (lacking) poetry of the text, but to complain about its errors. And here, in the institution narrative, we hit another. Now, I see no reason to deviate at all from the 1979 text on this, but I can see a certain wiggle room given that this is a scriptural composite. But there's no justification for misquoting Jesus! These people have inflicted upon us the old "pro omnis" error of the now-rejected RC novus ordo translation, saying:

This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins.
OK, folks, the second clause of this is taken from Matthew and Mark, and they both say "poured out for many". Universalism may be very nice, very cozy, but it isn't what Jesus is recorded as having said.

And that's the running theme here. It isn't just that we have what seems to me to be an unnecessary and badly written addition to an already fat prayer book, but that they specifically are making changes that the church fathers would loudly and justly condemn. Our liturgists can't stick to the Nicene formulas; they edit scripture to suit their theological taste. And furthermore, the setting of this was, in my opinion, extremely questionable. This was a unified, special occasion service for the entire parish at once. We already have a guitars-vs.-organ problem in doing one of these to begin with, but to use such an occasion as an opportunity to push theological novelties on the congregation is unfair. I took communion with qualms, only because I couldn't see how not to make a scene; at least one other person told me they abstained. If you want unity, you use what is common, not what is novel; you use the BCP text, Rite II straight up, and with no emendations to fit your personal theological quirks.

As I've said before, I'm not utterly opposed to revision. It would be really nice to fix up Prayer C, and it would nice to make the ordinal less, well, wimpy. What I oppose is the theological revisionism. Scripture is what it is, and there is no license for altering it. The Nicene formulas are, well, were, the one unifying principle of Protestants, Catholics, and the Orthodox; they are not up for unilateral modification. I'm not inclined to ever take communion under these rites again, and if they start showing up regularly at my parish, I guess I'll have to work out some permanent means of avoidance.


Frair John said...

I'm feeling some better about my reticence to go to the service in question. While the pseudo keyrie would have bothered me, the rest would have driven me insane.

The only change to the Creed I know about was decided upon at General Convention and is accepted by Lambeth and most of our Ecumenical Partners. That would be the deletion of the filioque.

Jon in the Nati said...

There is much I can say about the purpose and vision of the BCP, and its associate canons, but it has all been better said by you and others. I could say much about the virtues of some level of liturgical uniformity, the silliness of inclusive language, and all the rampant heresies here, but again there is little new that I could add.

It is fascinating to me how the status of the 79BCP has changed in the last 10-15 years. It used to be the thing the traditionalists hated. It was suspect both liturgically and theologically. Nowadays, "doing the red and saying the black" as it is written in the BCP makes you just about as traditionalist as they come in TEC. Whatever faults it may have, the 79 book is largely orthodox, recognizably within the BCP tradition, and is staightforward and minimalist. The same cannot be said for these new materials. The 'puffiness' of the new materials is the result of a conscious effort by the writers insert their own Heck, even prayer C sounds downright poetic and orthodox compared to the garbage that is churned out by SCLM.

On an unrelated note, what in the world does deleting the Filioque have to do with anything? I am consistently baffled by Anglicans (and sundry other Protestants) who try to ingratiate themselves to the Orthodox.

Jon in the Nati said...

Edit: "The 'puffiness' of the new materials is the result of a conscious effort by the writers insert their own heretical ideas and denials of traditional theology in as obvious a way as possible."

C. Wingate said...

Sadly, I think that the main reason for the puffiness is nothing more than that they have bad taste in English. Some of it may come from an aversion to doing actual theology, which vagueness slops over into a love of vague language.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the Episcopalian or more general Anglican take on "for all".

That translation in the Catholic Mass was inaccurate from a wording standpoint, but considered correct from a theological one, in that the Catholic Church considers Christ'a atonement to be universal (though this is distinct from salvation, which can be accepted or rejected-- the Church is not therefore "universalist" in the usually understood sense). Some Protestant churches, particularly in the Calvinist tradition, teach a more limited atonement.

Historically, have the Episcopalian or Anglican churches in general come down on one side or another on the scope of the Atonement? Or have they generally tried to make room for either position?

[John Mark Ockerbloom]

C. Wingate said...

Oh, John, you must know the answer to this one, which is "we don't have a specific answer to that one." There are a lot of more recent Anglicans who want to be universalists and therefore have to assume that somehow it is "for all" (and given the push to commune the unbaptized, that "all" seems to be being extended to communing as well as atonement), but we as a rule don't take positions on this kind of issue.

The Archer of the Forest said...

The Book of Common Worship series that is being used in the Church of England these days has a very nice adaption of Prayer C that you might like. It keeps the good stuff without the hokey Star Wars junk...and it maintains theological integrity.

Allen Lewis said...

@ Archer of the Forest:

In that case, it would not be welcome in TEC, as TEC does not give a rosy rats rosary for theological integrity, only the Integrity of San Francisco!

Fr. Chip, SF said...

Personally, give me that old-time religion (1928) or Rite I. The political correctness and star wars tripe have no place in solemn liturgy, even tho' the powers that be harp on liturgy as the 'work of the people' now.