Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Howlingly Bad Liturgy

It's garbage like this that keeps me posting.

Courtesy of this thread at StandFirm, we have a series of Advent liturgies for Year C. You may read them here, if you wish:

Advent 4 isn't up yet, but frankly, I'm not all that interested; it's probably just about as bad as the others.

Here's some points I observe:

  • What is at the point where we should have a eucharistic prayer isn't a prayer at all. It barely manages to brush against orthodox liturgics by including the institution narrative, but God isn't addressed directly, and there's no epyclesis.

  • There's no confession and hardly any prayer. The Lord's Prayer is made to substitute for the normal prayers, and it is repeated (in Maori) as the post-communion prayer. The only other prayer is the collect of the day, and even it isn't always a prayer. It's hardly worth remarking on the significance of omitting the confession during a penitential season.

  • The Epistle reading is omitted. In pre-Protestant days it was the OT reading that was omitted; here it is kept, but there is no reading from the epistles. Why is this significant? Well, it ties into the omission of the confession: the epistles are the section which particularly contains readings concerning the life of the community, so it has all that nasty stuff about personal (and sexual) purity. The OT readings, however, especially at this time of the year, tend to be taken from the prophets; their warnings can be heard as directed outside the church walls, without threat to the assembled parishioners.

  • There are lots of readings from non-Christians. Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lin Yutang... At least Helen Keller was baptized.

  • The hymns are bowdlerized. Let's go to the opening hymn of Advent 1, whose last line should read: "Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone." And I hardly know where to begin with the horrible mess they've made of the sanctus. At least, to their credit, they have resisted the push to expunge the Father.

  • They've dropped the creed. And thereby they've all but proclaimed their heterodoxy.
All of this is against a background of language which is vacuous, wordy, limp, and nice:

From the beginning, life has been shaped by despair, struggle, and triumph. Oppressive forces have time and again tried to destroy the hope of the marginalized and vulnerable. The forces of wealth and privilege, armies and theology, have beaten down upon the poor. Yet hope is never extinguished. When all seems lost the embers stir back into life, and the light of justice ignites again. For this we give deep and heartfelt thanks.
Well, that inspires me. It inspires me to find a church which, if it is filled with the wealthy and privileged--and what America east coast parish isn't?--at least pays lip service to some other hope besides the social justice which would put these mighty from their seats, and send these rich empty away. The notion that the people in the pews who say and hear these words might have something to repent of is kept at a vast distance. As one Joshua says, it's the perfect realization of H. Richard Niebuhr's summary of bad modernist theology:
"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."
This parish has a page explaining why they are doing this. And here's the first sentence: "St Matthew-in-the-City is attempting to step out of the box of the Book of Common Prayer into Liturgical Renewal." Well, yeah, and that's the end of common prayer. There's no "renewal" here, because it's all new-- well, it's the same old "new", but you get the idea. They can't pray with the rest of us, so in essence, they are schismatics, or revolutionaries. The obvious reason why they find the BCP a "box" is because, for all its latitude (and if I recollect correctly, the NZ version allows a lot more of that than 1979, which is saying something) it requires them to actually believe in stuff which they apparently reject, because otherwise, they would say it.

Such, apparently, is the doom of Anglicanism. No creed, no sin, no redemption; no order but hierarchy, and no faith, but in other enlightened people. We don't need renewal to bring us this; we need renewal to rid the church of this international apostasy.