Dislocation of the Canon: Address Delivered by Viscount Halifax at the Annual Meeting of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Tuesday, 27th June, 1916.
By Charles Lindley Wood.
London: Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, 1916.
THE object of the following paper is to discuss the Dislocation of the Canon in our present book:
First, in relation to the doctrine of the Church on the Eucharistic Sacrifice;
Secondly, in reference to general liturgical principles; and
Thirdly, how far, in view of the obligation imposed upon the clergy to “use in the ministration of the sacraments the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer and none other,” a transposition of some of the parts of our existing liturgy, or even the use of the liturgy as set forth in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI, are methods open to any individual priest for bringing home more effectually to the minds of his people the teaching of the Church of England.
To take the first point, the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “Sacrifice and burnt offering for sin thou didst not require, but a body hast thou prepared for me. Then said I, ‘Lo, I come, to do thy will, O God.’” It is the offering of the Body and Blood of Christ by Death on Calvary that constitutes the Sacrifice of the Cross: it is the offering of that Body and Blood, identified by Christ himself with the sacramental forms of bread and wine, that constitutes the Sacrifice of the Altar, and it is for the continual “showing forth of Christ’s Death till he come,” and for obtaining for ourselves and those for whom we pray all “the benefits of his Passion “that the Holy Sacrifice is offered. Why was the Sacrifice of the Lord’s Supper ordained?” For the continual remembrance of the Sacrifice of the Death of Christ.” Where is this sacrificial remembrance before God and [1/2] man of the Death of Christ made? where and when is the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, who offered bread and wine, exercised? Where, except at the Altar? When, except in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the one service of our Lord’s appointment? Or, to quote the words of Bishop Challoner, for none can be clearer: “In this most holy sacrament and sacrifice, the death and passion of the Son of God is in a lively manner represented to us, and all the mysteries of our redemption are solemnly celebrated; inasmuch as, by the separate consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, presents himself to his Father upon our altars, under the figure of death, that is, under the sacramental veils, which represent his Body as delivered up, broken and slain for us, and his Blood as shed for us. So that here the whole passion and death of Christ is solemnly acted as a most sacred tragedy, by himself in person; here that death, which is the fountain of all our good, is shown forth in such a manner as not only to be kept up in our remembrance, but also to live in us, and bring forth always in us the fruit of life; here the blood of Christ most powerfully pleads and intercedes for us. Here not only the passion and death, but also the victorious resurrection and triumphant ascension of our crucified King are solemnly commemorated.”
That is the teaching of the Catholic Church, that is the teaching of the Church of England as to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and I ask, what proportion is there amongst us who so look on the Holy Eucharist? Do people hasten to church that they may themselves kneel before the Cross and offer to God that one acceptable sacrifice offered by their Head on their behalf? Is it not rather that most, even of the devout, go to Mass in order to meet our Lord, to worship him? and delight themselves in possessing him as their own? And yet, blessed beyond words as that possession is, and constituting as it does the support and happiness [2/3] of our lives, has not this aspect of the Eucharist to do with Its relation to us rather than Its relation to God? It is the Cross which has won for us all that constitutes the joy and support of our life in the use of the Sacraments, and it does so because it is the Cross which creates and establishes a new relation between us and God. Surely, it is this aspect of the Holy Eucharist— Its Godward aspect—that ought to be emphasized, it is Its relation to the Cross that ought to be insisted upon. “I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” How, if there is no adequate consciousness of that “lifting up,” no clear perception that here and now in the Eucharistic Mysteries the “Lamb as it had been slain” is the one Offering that satisfies all human needs and the cry of human souls? Surely, if there is any lack here, this is the point which most demands attention, surely here is the supreme object towards which all our efforts at improvement should be directed.
In this connection I cannot help also thinking that there has been a tendency amongst us to lay too great a stress upon the relation of the Eucharist to our Lord’s present action in heaven in proportion to that which is laid upon the relation of the Eucharist to the last Supper and the Cross. One result of this has been that it has increased the difficulty of bringing the Evangelicals into line with ourselves; it has made them suspicious that we are teaching something inconsistent with the fact that the Sacrifice of the Cross is the one, full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, expiation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and to come; whilst, in regard to ourselves, that stress has had a tendency to confuse and obscure the apprehension of the reality and nature of the sacrifice offered in the Eucharist, and this again, in its turn, has led to the disposition, to which I have already alluded, to attend Holy Communion chiefly with the object of worshipping and receiving our Lord rather than with the object of pleading before God the continual remembrance of “the sacrifice of [3/4] the death of Christ.” The consequence has been that the object of the Mass as a constant reminder in the eyes of God and man of the atonement made on the Cross —the central fact of Christianity—has been obscured, with the result, as I think, that not merely in regard to the Mass, but in regard to the doctrine of the Atonement generally, the stress laid upon the doctrine of the Incarnation and its extension to us, e.g. in the Eucharist, has been out of proportion to the stress laid upon the doctrine of the Atonement, and for this I think the dislocation of the Canon in the Book of Common Prayer is partly, if not greatly, responsible. Of course, I know that there is no real opposition between the matters of which I am speaking: they are to be reconciled at once if we bear in mind, when speaking of them, their relation to Time and to Eternity, but for all that, I think there is truth in what I am saying. Considerations such as these make me feel how greatly the dislocation of our Canon is to be deplored, and that to help to remedy this dislocation is one of the things which, in the interests of the Faith, we should most wish to see taken in hand. It is not a question of doctrine, but of the expression of doctrine. Where there is a valid consecration there, in all its reality, must be that Offering by which Christ our Lord set himself apart as the Victim for our salvation on the night of his Passion, that Offering which he completed on Calvary, which has constituted the one great and abiding Sacrifice of the Christian Church since the Day of Pentecost, and which is offered in all the plenitude of its power and efficacy wherever there is a priest to make the oblation of Christ’s Body and Blood. It is this fact, in the interests of the truth the Church of England is pledged to teach, which needs drawing out.
I turn now to my second point—the dislocation of the Canon in its liturgical aspect. You will remember what occurred in regard to this in Convocation last summer. The Bishop of London, though in favour of a proposal made by the Bishop of Oxford for [4/5] remedying the dislocation of the Canon, opposed any such action on the ground that it would “displease both the extreme parties,” such persons, for example, as ourselves on the one side and the Evangelicals on the other. The Bishop of Oxford, in regard to ourselves, went a great deal further than the Bishop of London, and said: “Make no mistake about it, if you do this” (that is, remedy the dislocation of the Canon) “you are not doing a thing that would please the extreme Churches. You will find you are doing something they will resist.”
I doubted the accuracy of that statement at the time, and I have been making it my business ever since last July to ascertain how far it was true, what, so far as my friends were concerned, was really the fact, and what it was possible to do with their general goodwill and assent in the direction indicated.
Four conferences of representative clergy of different shades of opinion and of all ages have been held at Hickleton since last July—from twelve to fifteen clergy have been present on each occasion. Others who could not attend have been written to, and it is the result of those conferences and what might develop out of them that I want to bring before your consideration to-day. To do this, however, with any completeness, I must make a digression.
At present it is a very general custom, in order to remedy the dislocation of the Canon, for many of the clergy—I should put their numbers at some two thousand, though I believe I might safely put it at three thousand—to treat the prayer for the Church Militant as the “Orate Fratres,” to say the first part of the Latin Canon (silently of course) before the prayer of consecration in the Prayer Book and to complete the prayer of consecration with the rest of the Latin Canon, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. The ablutions would then be taken in what I am sure is their historical position, i.e. after the communion, after which would be said in its proper place the prayer of thanksgiving, “Almighty and everliving God, [5/6] we most heartily thank thee, etc,” or sometimes, though less frequently and quite improperly, the prayer of oblation in the Prayer Book, beginning, “O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants, etc,” a practice which is surely indefensible, since it is, in fact, repeating what has already been said in the Latin form, and using as a prayer of thanksgiving what is in reality a part of the Canon. Such a practice could only be justified by the assertion that what is a portion of the Canon, though out of its place, is only a post-communion collect, which is not only contrary to the fact, but is also to do a great injustice to the “Ecclesia Anglicana.” It follows then that if the ablutions are taken in the proper place, and where they must have been taken by all priests who were willing to use the first liturgy of Edward VI, i.e. the great mass of the then English clergy, the prayer of oblation, unless it is said immediately after the consecration as in Edward’s First Book, can never be said at all, which is to put entirely on one side an important feature of the English liturgy, and, moreover, to neglect the use of what is valuable for teaching the Faith and maintaining a right belief in the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
I now go back to what passed at the conferences at Hickleton. We have been allowed for a great many years to use the liturgy of the First Book of Edward VI in our chapels; it has also sometimes, not infrequently indeed on weekdays, been said in the Parish Church. At these conferences clergy were present who had previously insisted that they never could say Mass in any other way than that which I have just described. After hearing the liturgy of the First Book sung as we sing it, and after themselves celebrating in accordance with it, all, or nearly all, and some of those who had at first been most opposed to the idea of any such change, entirely altered their minds and said that they would be glad to follow the use of the First Prayer Book or something analogous to it. In other words, that if it were rightly possible to use the liturgy [6/7] in Edward VI’s book as we use it, or to obtain tacit acquiescence for such a transposition of the prayers in the Communion Office of the present Prayer Book—as practically comes to much the same thing—they would be prepared to say the whole Mass as set out in Edward’s First Book, or to use the prayers in the present Prayer Book transposed as in the First Book instead of using portions of the Canon taken from the Latin Service. There are many besides those who were at Hickleton who I know would be glad to do the same thing, and I cannot conclude this portion of my subject better than by quoting again the Bishop of Oxford, who, speaking recently on this subject, said: “There was a great mistake made at the Reformation in the way of leaving out of sight the whole ancient structure of the liturgy. We went to the very verge of destroying the continuity of our liturgy because of overmuch reaction from error. Ever since we had had grave cause to regret it. What was wanted was to bring certain features of the service much more into accord with the ancient liturgies. It was a reasonable reform . . . which, on liturgical and theological principles, was rightly demanded.” Mr Keble says exactly the same thing.
Let me now, in order to make the matter quite clear, say something about the Mass in itself and then compare the arrangement of the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer with that of the First Prayer Book of Edward VI in some detail.
High Mass is historically the norm of Low Mass. The latter is merely the way in which the former, in process of time, for a variety of reasons, largely reasons of time and convenience, has come to be said. It is to High Mass you have to go if you want to know how the Church intends Mass being said.
Now, what is the order of High Mass which prevails in the West—(I am not talking of High Mass in its elaboration of minute ceremonial, but in its main features)—the order generally accepted, the order we should like to see prevail amongst ourselves and towards [7/8] the attainment of which all our efforts for the improvement of our present liturgy should be directed? Its features are simple and intelligible: Preparation of the celebrant (in consequence of its general adoption I assume the use of the later Roman Form), during which the Introit and Kyries would be sung by the choir. Then the Gloria, Collects, Epistle, Sequence (or hymn in lieu of Sequence), Gospel, Creed, Offertory with hymn, to give time for the celebrant to do what has to be done (Lavabo, Censing altar, etc., etc.), followed by the Sursum Corda, the Preface, Sanctus and Benedictus. Next, the Canon made up of the Prayer for the Church Militant, the Prayer of Consecration and the Prayer of Oblation, separated in the Book of Common Prayer, but which ought to be said consecutively, completed by the “Amen” of the people, and succeeded by the Lord’s Prayer, sung by the celebrant and finished by the response, “But deliver us from evil.” Then the “Libera” and the fraction, during which and during the “Domine non sum dignus” and the communion of the celebrant the Agnus would be sung, preceded by a verse or two, for example, of the “O Salutaris,” or the “Pange Lingua.” At the “Domine non sum dignus” the bell would ring for the communicants, if there are any, to come up to the altar, when the confession, absolution, comfortable words and prayer of humble access would be said and the people given communion. (If there are no communicants, as would generally be the case at High Mass if late, these prayers would be omitted.) The priest would then take the ablutions, as they must certainly have been taken by the priests who used the First Book, the interval, if any, being filled up by the “Communion” and “Post Communion” sung by the choir. After the ablutions the celebrant would say the prayer of thanksgiving and the other collects, give the blessing and dismiss the people, and then say the last Gospel, during which the short Psalm, “Praise the Lord, all ye nations, for His merciful kindness, etc.,” or a hymn might be sung.
 The above order is largely disregarded in the present form of the Book of Common Prayer. That book substitutes the commandments with their responses for the simple Kyries, and places the Gloria at the end instead of the beginning of the service. It puts the Sanctus out of its proper place, which should come immediately before the beginning of the Canon, and interpolates the confession, absolution and comfortable words intended for those going to make their communion between the prayer for the church militant—which is really the beginning of the Canon—and the prayer of consecration. It again interpolates the communion of both priest and people between the prayer of consecration and the prayer of oblation which is the end of the Canon, displacing the Lord’s Prayer from the conclusion of the Canon and inserting it after the communion of the people which has already taken place. But in the first liturgy of Edward VI the order I have before described is followed and observed—a liturgy (the original form of our present book), which, be it noted, still has authority, largely determining as it does the ritual of the present Prayer Book, and which was directly commended as “a very godly order” by those who were responsible for Edward’s Second Book, the norm of the book adopted by Elizabeth and of our existing Prayer Book.
Not again to revert to the dislocation of the Canon and the linking together of its several parts, of which I have already spoken, the importance of which is obvious, a general restoration of the Kyries, and of the Gloria to its proper place in the beginning of the service instead of leaving it where it now is at the end, would be an advantage. It would be a still greater advantage to have the Sanctus restored to its original position, and the prayers for the communion of the people put after the completion of the Canon and the recital of the Lord’s Prayer, instead of coming as they now do in the middle of the Canon. This would facilitate their omission when there happened to be [9/10] no communicants and avoid the obvious incongruity which forces itself upon us at every High Mass when said late, of the use of prayers for communion when no communions are made, while an opportunity for communion for those who wished it would still be retained by the recital of the words “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, etc.,” after the priest’s communion.
Other advantages might be enumerated: it would be again to revert to a liturgy which retained its old name of the Mass, which, in the commemoration of the dead, preserves the distinction between the Blessed Virgin “the Mother of our Lord and God,” Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and the general company of the faithful departed for whose peace and acceptance at the Last Day prayer is made; a liturgy, further, which historically was used by Bishop Gardiner, Bishop Bonner and others, who, however indifferent they might have been to the maintenance of the Papal Supremacy in Henry VIII’s reign, were equally determined in the reign of Edward VI not to depart from Catholic practice and tradition.
And here I come to the third point I want to discuss: What, having regard to existing ecclesiastical obligations, can be done now, and at once, to remedy that dislocation of the Canon which, for so many reasons, is so much to be deplored? Is there anything we can do, and if so, on what principles can such action be justified?
There are two things which it seems to me might be done. The place of the prayer of oblation, together with the Lord’s Prayer, might be transferred from its present position after the communion and said immediately after the consecration. Such a transference would only involve saying two prayers in the communion office instead of one, and a slight change in the position of the Lord’s Prayer. None could think such a change disloyal to that “Ecclesia Anglicana” we all love and desire to serve. It is a practice which already prevails in many churches and might be [10/11] followed in a great many more. Or, and this I believe would be the better course in every way, and a course more likely to commend itself to ecclesiastical authority, we might revert to the use of the liturgy in the First Book of Edward VI, in which the dislocation of the Canon finds no place, in which the Gloria in Excelsis and the communion of the people are maintained in their original positions, and which resembles in its arrangement more nearly than our present Prayer Book the existing Scotch and American Uses.
I speak with some knowledge on this subject, for the “Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass,” as printed in the First Book of Edward VI, as I have said, has long been used in our chapels in Yorkshire with the consent of ecclesiastical authority, and I know how much more teaching the arrangement of that liturgy is than the way in which the same prayers are arranged in the Prayer Book. It is also, not infrequently, said on weekdays in church, and I ask myself whether such use might not be extended in other places. The difficulty, of course, is how to reconcile such action with strict ecclesiastical principles. On this point opinions may differ, but I would submit the following observations on the subject as worthy of consideration.
First, as to the liturgy of the First Prayer Book in itself: Its general arrangement is much more in accordance with the ancient and present Use of the Western Church, a fact which should surely make it welcome to us all, while it has behind it the weight of an Anglican Tradition largely dissociated from the German and Swiss influences which affected the Second Prayer Book, and therefore, indirectly, the existing Book of Common Prayer. Some of the greatest and most accredited Divines of the later Church of England —Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man, for example, “clarum et venerabile nomen”—have left it on record how much they desired its use. Bishop Cosin, one of the Revisers of 1662, would, we know, have [11/12] liked to proceed in the same direction (it is recorded that he used the prayer of oblation in the way suggested), and there is no liturgical scholar who would not welcome such a change in itself, as an improvement in the arrangement of our own existing liturgy. We know that it was due to the influence of German and Foreign Reformers that the liturgy in the First Prayer Book was given up in the last few months of Edward VI’s reign, the Second Act of Uniformity declaring that “the first Prayer Book was a very godly order in the mother tongue, ‘agreeable to the Word of God and the primitive Church’; and that such doubts as had been raised in the use and exercise thereof proceeded rather from the ‘curiosity of the ministers and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause.’” Whether the Second Prayer Book was ever generally used is extremely doubtful; what is certain is that it had no ecclesiastical authority, that it received no such authority when it rather than the First Book was restored on Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, through the influence of Reformers who during Mary’s reign had again been thrown into the arms of German and Swiss Divines, and that it was only in 1662 that our present Prayer Book, which is Elizabeth’s Prayer Book with certain important alterations, together with the revival of the ornaments and vestments prescribed by and used under the First Book, obtained ecclesiastical sanction.
It is not for me, nor have I any wish, to belittle those sanctions. I will only point out that the Prayer Book of which the Prayer Book of 1662 was the revival had no ecclesiastical sanction, that the ecclesiastical history of England from the accession of Elizabeth until well on into James I’s reign was largely, if not wholly, a chaos (we know that the whole influence of the Episcopate during that time was employed in the endeavour to coerce the Puritans into some sort of order, an effort that made anything like a general return to Catholic practice at the time difficult), and that the Puritan regime, under which [12/13] the clergy were banished and the Prayer Book suppressed during the time of the Commonwealth, was the destruction of such Catholic Tradition as was beginning again to assert itself. The result was that under Charles II the Bishops who were called upon to undertake the Revision of 1662 found themselves hopelessly hampered by the history of the past, by the then state of things, in fact, by the whole course of events, and the consequences of what had been done in the times preceding them. We know indeed, as a matter of fact, that they were by no means at liberty —in view of the then state of the country—to do all that they desired. It is difficult, therefore, I think, when we consider the history of our present Prayer Book, to dissociate it from the consequences inseparable from the circumstances of its birth, or to think that, in view of them, it can be invested with that plenitude of ecclesiastical authority some are inclined and might wish to attach to it.
Are we not also entitled to consider the history of the past? How has all that we have won been gained? Has it been by the intervention of ecclesiastical authority in the first instance, or by that authority accepting what has been done by others after it had gradually approved itself to the mind of the Church? How, in our own day, has the eastward position, the use of the Agnus and the Benedictus, the use of the vestments prescribed by the Ornaments Rubric, how have all these and many other similar things been secured? Has it been by the direct action of ecclesiastical authority or by the action of individual clergy? Has it not been by a restoration often in apparent disobedience to ecclesiastical authority? Why, if various exhortations and other portions of the Prayer Book may be rightly left out, may not certain transpositions of the prayers in the Prayer Book be rightly adopted? Why may not what is in reality the First Edition of our existing liturgy, the form of the “Lord’s Supper” or “the Mass” as given in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI, be [13/14] adopted in its entirety? Would not, in fact, such an adoption be in all respects better than the transposition of certain parts of the present liturgy, and better again than the absolutely unliturgical attempt to roll two liturgies into one?
To sum up: We want no Revision of the Prayer Book which would, directly or indirectly, subject the Prayer Book to discussion in Parliament, but we do want such tacit and informal acquiescence for things acknowledged to be good in themselves as may make their realization possible in the present, and prepare the way for a formal sanction of them in the future when they have justified themselves to the religious sense of the Church at large, and been shown by experience to be such changes as are really demanded by the religious needs of our people.
What I have been suggesting has practically received a large amount of assent, some of an important character, and I believe the more it is considered the more it will obtain general support. I am not urging any collective or immediate action—the circumstances of each parish and of each incumbent differ widely— but I should like to see such a line of conduct as I have tried to indicate taken up and adopted as the general policy of churchmen, as an end for which they might work, and as an object to put before those who are considering a forward movement in the interests of the Church. If in any case what I am suggesting can be adopted, in whole or in part, with the goodwill of all concerned, let it be adopted. None, I am quite sure, who do adopt it will regret their endeavour, and in this connection I would ask one other question: Why should it be supposed that the authorities of the Church would think such action disloyal, and insist that because its adoption may be irregular therefore it is to be condemned? I do not believe they would do anything of the sort. If rigid rules are to be applied, why are they not to be applied all round? Why are the Bishops themselves not to observe them? How can they justify their disregard of the Ornaments [14/15] Rubric and their use in Divine Service of their ordinary habit, such as they wear in the House of Lords or in Convocation? Everyone who knows anything about the state of the Church of England at the present time knows that any rigid application of some, even of the plainest, rules is out of the question. The truth is that our history does not lend itself to any such rigorous theories or exercises of authority; the facts do not admit of it. We have to do the best we can, that which will conduce most to bring the English people back to the Faith of Christ, that which will best remedy evils admitted by all, and while we have to insist on certain broad principles, inseparable from the maintenance of Catholic discipline in its essential features, we have to be generous in our application of them and to be largely guided by results. A regard for what the needs of the Church require, rather than a rigid and altogether impracticable observance of rules, must determine our conduct. Our faith and practice do not depend upon Rubrics or on a rigid interpretation of Rubrics. They are based upon something much deeper and more fundamental—the general teaching and laudable customs of the Catholic Church—of which Rubrics are necessarily and avowedly only an imperfect and incomplete exposition.
It is said that such a change as I am advocating would necessitate another Prayer Book. I speak from experience and I say that I do not believe there would be any such necessity. The slight difference between the Canon in the First Book of Edward VI and the prayers in the present Prayer Book can disturb no one, the change hardly amounts to more than the transposition of prayers already quite familiar to those who use them, and after the first two or three Sundays, if it were explained to any congregation what it was proposed to do, I believe it would be found that the necessity for another Book was purely imaginary. In any case it would be easy to print copies of the liturgy of Edward VI for general use, which might be bound [15/16] up with the Prayer Book, though I have never heard that any such necessity has been found to exist in regard to the American and Scotch Uses.
The last thing I have to say is that it is the Mass that signifies, that signifies a great deal more than anything else, much more than any practice which however edifying in itself might create obstacles in the way of the perpetual Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in Church for the sick, and of all which makes a church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved so different from one where it is not. I believe that it is both legitimate and possible to restore Edward VI’s First Liturgy in its entirety in churches where the congregations are agreeable to such a change, that it can be done without opposition, and that at no distant time its general acceptance could be secured—a fact which if accomplished would be of the utmost possible advantage to the whole Ecclesia Anglicana. I am further persuaded that if what has been shadowed out in this paper could be generally adopted it would do much to bring home to our people the true Catholic doctrine of the Mass, and so to hasten that reunion of Christendom which is the desire of all our hearts, the object of all our prayers and the need for which was never more apparent than it is at the present time.