Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Prayer Book Revision: Why Bother?

Few in the pews are aware that General Convention has activated the prayer book and hymnal revision machinery, which means that we could be stuck with a new proposed book six years from now. Really, everybody who knows it's coming(Matt Marino for one) knows what this is about: completing the triumph of modernist and radfem revisionism. Oh, I assume the new book is likely to leave enough in it so that the moderates and traditionalists can talk themselves into believing that they can still have an orthodox liturgy (my bet would be that they keep Rite I almost unaltered), but the long term intent is clearly to deny parishioners the use of orthodox, "sexist" language. Oh, the program is described in the usual progressive coded language, but anyone who has been following this isn't deceived. All one has to do is look at Enriching Our Worship and the more recent proposed supplements.

As for the hymnal, the survey data is out there that revision is largely unwanted, and especially so by the young. The hymnal definitely has its problems, largely brought on in the last revision: too much musicology, not enough material suited to the typical congregation. But again, nobody seriously thinks that this is what will be addressed. The purpose again will be social engineering, with a dollop of pandering to the young with "contemporary" style— where "contemporary" will continue to mean "in the style of Catholic guitar music of the 1970s that was written by people who are now retirement age."

But then, why wait? If you live in a big coastal diocese, it may already be hard to find a parish where the letter of the prayer book is followed. Your chances of getting stuck with EoW are pretty high, and a high profile city parish (especially one that advertizes its inclusiveness) may largely be done with "Father" altogether.

And this Sunday, for the second time in a month, the supply priest mucked with the words of the institution narrative, editing Jesus' word as recorded by Matthew and Mark. I have no idea where the Catholic translators of the Novus Ordo got the idea to translate pro multis as "for all" but you know, it wasn't from the Greek. This is one of the places I have to draw the line: if liturgy quotes scripture, it has to quote scripture, not "fix" it because it supposedly offends someone. So for the first time, in my own parish, I stayed behind at communion. choosing instead to catch up on some praying, on my knees (a posture little loved by progressives, in my experience).

There is some hope that, if revision be held up long enough, sufficient old-time modernists and radfems and other relics of my college years will have aged out of control of the process to where a new generation can belie those fogies' claims about "What Youth Want". But I don't see it. At my age, as a layman, I'm now reduced to having little recourse other than to look for priests who can say the words right, and abandoning parishes when they are staffed with priests who won't say the words right. I cannot count on bishops keeping their clerics in line. Indeed, it seems that the bishops are worse than the priests; one need only look at thirty years of bad House of Bishops votes. The whole thing replies upon the average parishioner not understanding what is at stake, until they eventually discover that the church that they remember is gone, replaced with the celebration of the community in which all difficulties of religion are diluted to homeopathy.

What is a layman to do? Well, I am almost in despair. After all, I am lay, and a man: more damning, I am the father of children, and White and (mostly) Anglo-Saxon, and middle-aged. I thus have no actual privilege of race or gender or sexuality or age to use as political leverage. Yet I write, and pray.

As the book yet says: "Pray for the church."


Anonymous said...

The Episcopal Church has called the bluff of the prayerful layman. 50 years of Biblical, liturgical, and social degeneracy in addition to twiddling the knobs of the Bible and the classic BCP rites and Episcopal praxis has nearly turned to mush.

One certainly can put the majority of the blame on the unholy bishops and clergy who decided the sacred rites were their playthings, but eventually the laity who dutifully ceded to "pray, pay, and obey" are going to have to come to grips that by supporting all this utter nonsense they were complicit in the bonfire of the sacristies. TEC is little more than American civil religion in fancy dress. One may as well join up to the Unitarian Universalists.

underground pewster said...

I wonder if there will be anyone left in the pews to test drive a new Prayer Book six years from now.

C. Wingate said...

Even if the annual decline increases to 4% a year, there will still be close to 80% of present attendance to subject to the new rites.

rick allen said...

"I have no idea where the Catholic translators of the Novus Ordo got the idea to translate pro multis as "for all" but you know, it wasn't from the Greek."

The Greek has "pollon" and the Latin is "multis," neither of which normally means "all." And there are perfectly good words for "all" in Greek ("pan") and Latin ("omni").

But even in English "many" can mean, in context, "all." "Government should serve the many, and not the few."

Now in fact the Catholic Church is on record that Jesus meant "all." We have pretty decisively rejected the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. So I'm sure it was thought, if "multis" can bear the meaning of "all" (as it surely can), and if the Church teaches unambiguously that Jesus meant "all" (as it does), then that's a good reason to translate "multi" as "all."

So it's a little surprising to me that Rome in 2010 insisted on substituting the less precise term for the theologically congruent one. But I think it was the right choice. Catachesis and translation should be kept separate. If "pollon/multis" are translated "all," that rather obscures the reason for the Calvinist/Catholic split. It papers over a difficulty with translation, which is never a good practice. And I tend to think that, when a word in one language is ambiguous, the better practice is to translate it into a comparably ambiguous term in the new language, rather than by making a choice for the reader.

My only concern is that, though "many" makes perfect sense, it is being heard after thirty-plus years of "all," and the handful of Catholics not conversant with Greek and Latin might think that someone's changing doctrine, which is decidedly not the case.

Anyway, just an attempted answer to your question. I don't think it was the contemporary insistence on "inclusivity" so much as trying to translate consistent with Catholic doctrine.

But on two things I strongly agree with you.

For the reasons noted above, I think "for many" the better translation, and am confident that one day we will get past the suspicion of doctrinal tampering. I consider the 2010 English translation marginally better than the 1970.

I also agree that the priest's job is not to improve the liturgy for us, but to pray the prayer the Church has authorized.

C. Wingate said...

Rick, you and I are operating from much the same principles here. I don't insist on "for many" because I deny universal atonement, but because scripture must be stated and then exegeted.

I do actually have an email from a priest in which he says that he's doing it to be exegetical and inclusive, so I really have to doubt that the NO Roman rite is any sort of input to this. My impression of the sort of people who monkey with the text of the liturgy is that they are ignorant both of the text and current liturgical praxis in American Catholicism.

Unknown said...

Amen, preach it, Brother.
We worshiped this past Sunday at Chapel of the Cross, in Chapel Hill, my alma mater -- first time I had been to Sunday worship there in 45 years. I was surprised to find a Rite II, Prayer A service by the book, no liturgical flights of fancy, not even free-lancing Alleluias at the dismissal. And this on a "progressive" college campus. (And as the rector has requested, we brought back the worship bulletin, signed by the rector of the visited church. It always impresses the locals when we ask the rector to sign the bulletin -- how "tough" we are in the Diocese of Maryland.) dick mitchell

Cuthbert Stephenson said...

Those interested in Prayer Book Revision, and those opposed to it, might want to check out my blog on this topic.