Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's not that I Hate Prayer C

I came across this post which if it doesn't link to my thoughts on the datedness of Eucharistic Prayer C, might as well be written as a response to it.

And actually, on one level I like the prayer a lot. The way it moves from the glory of creation through the history of sin and redemption is most highly to be commended, at least in principle. It fairly cries out to be the liturgy of choice for Trinity Sunday. My problems it are in the way of tune ups. Responsive liturgy was the thing back when it was written, but in this case I think it doesn't gain us anything, and indeed immediately presents the problem that the prayer cannot be sung, because getting the congregation over the responses is just never going to work. I also find the final section awkward. Never mind how the invocation of the patriarchs has to be messed with (and I think the solution to that is to work Mary into the mix): the juxtaposition between that and the prayer is jarring. They just don't fit with each other. And that second paragraph: whatever we say, we need to find something better than "this fragile earth, our island home."

I think all of these things are fixable, and if they were fixed, we would end up with a prayer for the ages. But the force driving us to revision is, from what I can see, utterly uninterested in any of this. That's why I wrote the other article: I think that, unless there is a huge change of heart or the balance of power is way off from what I and I think most people sense, the specific purpose of the revision will be to make a book even more attuned to the progressive politics and social milieu of the present. Prayer C only hints at the early 1970s; you almost had to be there to fully read it. Enriching Our Worship is unmistakably the product of turn-of-the-century academic progressives, and that is the direction we are intended to take.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Embarassment of the Revised Common Lectionary

I have complained before about the peculiar way the Revised Common Lectionary omits parts of readings, and particularly so in the psalter. So tonight, on the feast of the Epiphany, we have yet another peculiar psalm passage. Both the BCP and RCL appoint some or all of Psalm 72 for this feast, regardless of the year. The BCP gives the option of using all nineteen verses or allows skipping from verse 2 to verse 10. I would guess that it is this latter verse which was felt germane to the feast: The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute,* and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts. And given the length of the psalm it's not surprising that the BCP offers a "cut to the chase" option.

The RCL, however, gives only one option, which is to omit the last five verses along with verses 9 and 10. It is the latter omission which is the more striking because it's decidedly peculiar to skip over just two verses. And here they are:

8 He shall rule from sea to sea, * and from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 His foes shall bow down before him, * and his enemies lick the dust.
What could possibly be wrong with this? Well, I have to think that it is verse 9 which offends someone's tender sensibilities. But when the Great Litany rolls around and we are beseeching God that we "may finally beat down Satan under our feet," I really can't see the problem with a great deal of grovelling on the part of Christ's enemies, or rather, The Enemy. But apparently someone saw enough of an issue that we were made to skip a pair of verses, so that once again reading the text straight out of the BCP is made difficult, to no particularly good end.

Some liturgist I once read said that part of the purpose of cycling through the psalms was to put the words of scriptural prayer and praise in our mouths whether we wanted them there or not. It would appear that this principle was foreign to the compilers of the RCL readings.