Project Canterbury

Some Vindications of the Book of Common Prayer appearing in Unexpected Quarters

Gathered by Dr. J. Wickham Legg.

London: SPCK, 1916.

It will hardly be denied that of late years the Book of Common Prayer has met with much criticism on all sides. It has fallen from the estate that it filled in men's minds in the eighteenth century. Speaking of it, most likely after a service, Dr. Johnson says, "We have been listening to the sublimest truths, conveyed in the most chaste and exalted language throughout a liturgy which must be regarded as the genuine language of piety impregnated by wisdom." In the twentieth century, on the contrary, every kind of fault has been found with the Book of Common Prayer, not merely from the Latitudinarian and Evangelical side, but from those who have considered themselves descendants of the old Tractarians. Some of these latter have done so far as to adopt the policy of Revision, and to ask for an amended Book, which is apparently to be brought nearer to the modern Roman Rite.

But there is a reverse of the shield to be seen. Let is surprise us as much as it may, there have appeared within the last few years, or even within the limits of the present century, researches by eminent Roman Catholic students of liturgy, which tend to justify some of those parts of the Book of Common Prayer against which exception had been taken by some of the more ardent minds among us. Doubtless this result, to lend countenance to the Book of Common Prayer, was no part whatever of the intention o these Roman Catholic scholars, and was wholly unforeseen by them. But to the Churchman it is not the less welcome because unintended by the authors.

The So-Called Dislocation of the Canon.

One feature in the Eucharistic Service of the Book of Common Prayer which has caused the loudest lamentations [1/2] is what is called the dislocation of the Canon. The Roman Prayer of Consecration, as it appears in the oldest manuscripts that have come down to us, is a long, unbroken prayer indeed, but its confused arrangement certainly gives rise to the suspicion that it now shows a very different structure from that which it first had when it came from the pen of the Scholasticus who is said to have written it. In certain quarters this document is looked upon as the formula which we should copy. But the formula which we are told we should imitate is itself in a high state of dislocation, so that any attempt to rearrange the English Communion Service after its pattern would be retrogression, not advancement. The Great Intercession, a feature common to Eastern and Western Liturgies, is broken up; the intercession for the living comes near the beginning of the Canon, while the intercession for the dead is towards the end. Roman Catholic writers declare the construction in other parts also to be crabbed and inconsequent. So that numerous attempts have been made in our time by Roman Catholic scholars to piece together the various sections of the Canon, and they have produced curious results in mosaic work in the hope of lighting upon a rearrangement that may command universal assent. [See the article "The Roman Liturgy and its Roman Critics," in the Church Quarterly Review, January, 1916, p. 308.] But until a manuscript shall have been found with the Canon in a new order, personally I venture to think that sober persons may be allowed to suspend judgment. But this does not make it the less interesting to Church of England people to observe that one of these new distributions of the Canon is wonderfully like the order, in which in the Prayer Book, the Offertory, Prayer for the Church Militant, Preface, Sanctus, and Prayer of Consecration follow one another. Dom Paul Cagin's new distribution of the paragraphs of the Canon seems to have met with an unusual amount of support in his own communion, and so cannot be put aside as a wild hypothesis favoured only by Protestants.

In this re-arrangement certain paragraphs of the Canon, which may be named by the incipit, are ejected from the Canon altogether, and placed immediately after the Offertory: they are Te igitur, first Memento (for the living), [2/3] Communicantes, second Memento (for the faithful departed) and perhaps Nobis quoque. It will be seen at once how like this arrangement is in contents and position to the prayer for the Church militant which comes immediately after the Offertory in the Book of Common Prayer. [Dom Paul Cagin, L'Eucharistia, Canon primitif de la Messe, Desclée, 1912, p. 8, and Antiphonarium Ambrosianum in Paléographie Musicale, Solesmes, 1896, t. v. p. 77.]

Te igitur asks that "haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata," may be accepted and blessed, just as the Prayer Book asks that "our alms and oblations" may be accepted. The Roman Canon then proceeds to pray for the Church, the Pope, and King, and, in Memento for the living, for rest for the faithful; just as the prayer for the Church militant prays for the Church, Kings, Magistrates, Bishops, and Clergy, and all the faithful people. Communicantes is not represented in the Prayer Book; but the analogue of the second Memento, that for the faithful departed, appears in the paragraph beginning "And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed," etc.

In this reconstruction of the Roman rite, the prayers after the Offertory are followed immediately by Sursum Corda, Preface, Sanctus, and Consecration, which is not unlike the order in which these portions of the service follow in the Book of Common Prayer. In the Roman Liber Sacerdotalis of 1537 it may, perhaps, be noted that the confession and absolution followed the Offertory; but there appears no evidence at present that this precedent influenced the English reformers in placing the confession and absolution in the place in the Prayer Book which they now occupy.

The resemblance between this outcome of a free manipulation of the Roman Canon by Roman Catholic scholars, and the place of the prayer for the Church militant in relation to the preface and consecration in the Book of Common Prayer is striking. In this respect may be remembered the likeness, long noticed by liturgical scholars, of the order of the Communion Service of the Prayer Book to the Old-Gallican or Mozarabic Liturgy, which so many Roman Catholic scholars of ability now hold to be almost identical with the Roman Rite before the fourth century.

From the well-founded, if severe criticism which the Roman Canon now in use has undergone at the hands of these Roman Catholic students, one point, however, becomes clear: namely, that a reform of it was much needed; the reconstruction supposed to have taken place [3/4] before the sixth century must have been entrusted to most incapable hands, and the result is that the Canon, treated for so many hundred years with the greatest respect, and considered so sacred that it was almost sacrilege to criticise it, is really in a state of chaos. Roman Catholics can no longer claim such great antiquity for their liturgy. The Canon needs to be put together again on lines which follow the unanimous example set by other liturgies, and the "harsh" and inconsequent phrases and other discordant passages should be made smooth and less awkward. Thus those who attempted a reform of the Liturgy in the sixteenth century in England were not altogether so blameworthy. Certainly they do not deserve the hard words given them by some writers among ourselves.

The New Distribution of the Psalter in the Roman Breviary as Authorised by Pius the Tenth

In the estimation of the devout Roman Catholic, the Canon of the Mass and the distribution of the Psalter in the Breviary were almost on the same footing as regards the impossibility of either being changed, amended, or re-arranged. They were the sacred ark of the Liturgy which no man might touch. [See Dom Bede Plaine, Revue Anglo-Romaine, Paris, 1896. t. iii. p. 645.] The Canon of the Mass has not yet passed under the revision of the Curia, its hands being quite full with the work on the Breviary which it has within the last few years undertaken. In this reform it has already accomplished what can only be described as an astounding liturgical revolution, a thorough-going redistribution of the Psalter, in place of an old distribution, which can claim the most venerable antiquity; which Benedict the Fourteenth and his consultors in their proposed reformed of the Breviary had not dared to touch, for they could not find that the Church of Rome had ever used any other. Yet this most ancient Psalter, and, be it remembered, the Psalter is the backbone of the Breviary, disappeared fro those who use the Roman Rite only a few years ago, in 1911. Who, then, can accuse the English reformers in the sixteenth century of a lack of reverence for antiquity in changing the distribution of the Psalter, when the Holy See itself has accomplished the like overthrow, only [4/5] lagging behind in the time of its execution? In fact the Roman claim of antiquity for the Breviary is gone; their new Breviary is a thing of yesterday. And Pius the Tenth in the Bull Divino Afflatu, which authorised the new book, promised yet further changes.

Antiquity and Universality of "Table Prayers"

Of no practice directed by the Prayer Book has stronger language been used than of what have been contemptuously called "Table Prayers," that is, the reading of some part of the Liturgy, but without Offertory, Consecration, or Communion, a rite called by the Latins missa sicca. The English practice has been styled "a sham rite, unfortunately peculiar to the modern Church of England": "a shocking abuse;" and like expressions of condemnation have been freely employed.

But this language may possibly be found somewhat exaggerated. Abbot Cabrol, the head of the Community of Benedictins settled by the Empress Eugénie at Farnborough, published some years ago a research in which he pointed out that the primitive Christian assemblies showed two distinct kinds of service. [Fernand Cabrol, Revue du Clergé Français, 1900, août, p. 561 and sept., p. 5. Cf. p. 25.] Very often, he holds, the one preceded the other, but not always; but later on in history the two became fused, and the Christian Mysteries invariably followed the first office, which Dom Fernand Cabrol is inclined to believe was of the nature of a choir office. Be this as it may, it is held by competent judges that he has made out that originally the missa catechumenorum was divided from the missa fidelium by a distinct interval. Many instances were found in the early Church of the celebration of the missa catechumenorum without any Offertory, Consecration, or Communion.

This Missa Sicca was also universal in the later Church until the time of the Reformation. In the East it continues, and is widely practiced. In the West the Council of Trent refused to condemn it, but in fact rather approved it. [Vera Concilii Tridentini Historia, pars iii. Sfortia Pallavicino et J.B. Giattino, Antverp. 1670, lib. 18, cap. 6 and 18 ad A.D. 1562, p. 143.] But after this period in the West, it became less and less [5/6] frequently practiced, and now it may still be found indeed, but only in out-of-the-way places.

It thus becomes apparent that instead of "Table Prayers" being a sham rite peculiar to the modern Church of England it has, on the contrary, about as high liturgical authority as there can be.

The history of the rite is more fully set out in Three Chapters in Recent Liturgical Research, published by this Society in 1903, where references, too, are given.

Nor is this matter without some practical importance. We have been told by no less an authority than the Rev. Father Waggett that in Holy Week the chief exercise in devotion should be the reading of the Gospels of the Passion. "There must be, in the first place, always the great work of memory, the work of reading, and hearing, and knowing the sacred record of the Lord's death." [P.N. Waggett, The Heart of Jesus, first edition, S.P.C.K., 1902, p. 12] Now there are many parishes which are served by only one priest; in Holy Week he celebrates early in the morning, and towards midday his people come, by an old tradition, in existence long before the Tractarian Movement, to hear the reading of one of the Gospels of the Passion. This is satisfied if we have "Table Prayers," but not if "Table Prayers" be under a ban, for thus we lay aside an exercise of great value and importance. Some will say: we will read the Gospel alone; but the reading of a single Gospel by itself is said by opponents to show the worst and most decadent form of missa sicca, even as we see it in the Second Gospel, In Principio, added to the end of the Mass by Pius the Fifth.

Besides, it is quite unhistorical to condemn "Table Prayers." They go back almost as far as we can trace anything; they are still universal in the East, and were universal in the West until after the Council of Trent.

Supposed Absence of Epiclesis.

The critics of the Prayer Book do not often complain that in the Prayer of Consecration there is no epiclesis after the Recital of the Institution. That was left to the liturgical scholars who followed Dr. Neale in looking to the East as the quarter from which we should seek guidance. These were inclined to look upon the absence of an epiclesis [6/7] after the recital of the Institution as a decided defect, for no Oriental Liturgy known to us was without an epiclesis. It must be owned that the defect was felt to be a serious one, to which some could be reconciled only by the thought that the Roman Canon had no epiclesis after the Recital of the Institution. But this comfort was taken away when the publication of Monseigneur Duchesne's Origines du Culte chrétien made it more widely known than before that it was claimed for the Roman rite that an epiclesis existed in the paragraph of the Canon beginning with the words Supplices te rogamus. Thus some anxiety was felt in certain quarters where the authority of the Eastern rite was held to be most imperative, lest the consecration of the Eucharist should be hardly valid when performed with Anglican rites. They might have consoled themselves with the teaching that a valid consecration is not tied to any particular formula; it is sufficient that the Church has the Eucharistic thanksgiving. They might have remembered the clause in the prayer of consecration which begins, Hear us, O merciful Father, and which is a prayer for a valid Eucharist. But, happily, at this moment a fragment of a Greek liturgy, of the seventh or eighth century, was found in Egypt, and it was given to the world by Dom Pierre de Puniet, a Benedictin of Solesmes. [Dom Pierre de Puniet, Frafments inédits d'une liturgie égyptienne in the Report of the Nineteenth Eucharistic Congress, held at Westminster from 9th to 13th September, 1908. London: Sands, 1909, p. 367.] In this fragment the epiclesis, that is a prayer which asks that the Holy Ghost may descend upon the gifts lying on the altar, and make the gifts the Body and Blood of our Lord, and the faithful worthy communicants, is found immediately after the Sanctus and before the Recital of the Institution; that is, much in the same place, at all events, before the Recital of the Institution, which the prayer for a valid Eucharist holds in the Book of Common Prayer. Now it is remembered that the clause Quam oblationem in the Roman Canon stands in the like place with the epiclesis in the liturgical papyrus; and this Roman form is claimed as a true epiclesis.

The critics of the Canon often say that this clause Quam oblationem should be joined on to the clause Supplices te rogamus from which it has been separated in early times. [7/8] The Roman Canon would then have a complete epiclesis. It is not for me to discuss these opinion, for they are occupying at this moment far more learned heads than mine: and final judgments need not be expressed until the matter has been very thoroughly threshed out, and, as far as human knowledge can ever go, all the facts of the case have become known to us.

Before St. Gregory the Great the Lord's Prayer was not Said before Communion.

Another fault has been found with the Prayer Book: that the Lord's Prayer is not said as part of the Consecration Prayer, before Communion, as it is in so many liturgies, always excepting that of the Apostolical Constitutions; but that in the Prayer Book it is said after Communion. Dr. Adrian Fortescue, however, points it out as "clear" that at Rome, before the time of St. Gregory, the Lord's Prayer was not said before, but after Communion. [Adrian Fortescue, The Mass, Longmans, 1912, Ch. ix. § I, p. 363.] He finds that St. Gregory moved the Lord's Prayer to the place it now has, at the end of the Canon, where it is commonly thought to be an immediate preparation for Communion. Thus Dr. Fortescue holds that before the time of St. Gregory the Lord's Prayer was not said over the Blessed Sacrament, and thus it could not be part of the Consecration.

If this view of the ancient place of the Lord's Prayer be accepted, it becomes an important precedent for the moment at which it is now said in the Communion Service of the Prayer Book.

Only Two Sacraments Universally Necessary to Salvation.

Much sarcasm or petulance is expended on the teaching of the English Catechism that there are only two Sacraments generally, that is universally, necessary to salvation: Baptism and the Supper of the Lord; while the rest of Christendom taught that there were seven, neither more nor less. At the present moment we need not dilate upon the undetermined number of the Sacraments in ancient times, whether twelve or twenty-four or the like, for they [8/9] were only limited by the schoolmen to the mystical number of seven; but we may remember the teaching of Hugo of St. Victor, which is singularly like that of the Catechism, when he speaks of the two Sacraments, Baptism by water, and of the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ, as those in which salvation mainly consists, and by which it is received; while he speaks of numerous other sacraments not necessary to salvation, but which convey grace. [Hugo de S. Victore, de Sacramentiis, lib. i. pars ix. cap. vii.]

In like manner Monseigneur Battifol opens his paper on the Eucharist by pointing out that wherever the Gospel has been preached, two ritual observances have accompanied it: one is Baptism, the other is the Eucharist. [Pierre Battifol, L'Eucharistie dan le Nouveau Testament, in Etudes d'histoire, 2e Ed. 2e Serie (Paris: Lecoffre, 1905), p. 1.] And in some pages lower down he sums up the doctrine of St. Paul as asserting that Baptism and the Eucharist are equal in their importance (affirme avec une égale solennité le Baptême et l'Eucharistie). There is thus a pre-eminence given to these two Sacraments beyond the other Christian institutions which justifies the expression Sacraments of the Gospel, above all others, because the others, as Hugo of St. Victor says, are means of grace, but not necessary to salvation.

Disuse of Chrisma in Confirmation.

There is one omission in the Book of Common Prayer which has been unfavourably commented upon by people who are sober and knowing; and this is the disuse of cream (Chrisma) in Confirmation. Cream is at the present moment universally employed in administering Confirmation in all Churches in communion with Rome and Constantinople. Impatient persons have been prepared to cry out that the laying-on of hands by the Bishop ought to be supplemented by the use of cream in Confirmation, if we are to be consistent with our appeal to antiquity.

But are we so sure of the ancient and universal use of cream in Confirmation? In 1915 the Rev. Michael O'Dwyer, of Maynooth, published a considerable study of the history of Confirmaion and a careful examination of the custom followed, as to the matter used in Confirmation [9/10] from the time of the Apostles. He has formed the opinion that in the first ages the matter of Confirmation was only the laying-on of hands, and that the use of chrism comes in later. In his preface he gives the results of his inquiry thus:

"The history of this sacramental rite is of exceptional interest; and the writer has found it none the less interesting because it has forced him, against his wishes almost, to the conclusion that Christ determined the matter and form of the Sacrament merely to make specific changes in the sacred rite." [Michael O'Dwyer. Confirmation: A Study in the Development of Sacramental Theology. Dublin: Gill, 1915, preface, p. vi.]

A reviewer in the Dublin remarks of Father O'Dwyer's book:

"He believes that consignation has been substituted for the Apostolic imposition. This is not a view with which every theologian will agree. But the author's learned and skilful argument demands serious attention, and his conclusion will perhaps be more readily accepted, in spite of its difficulties, by historical students." [Dublin Review, January, 1916, p. 196.]

Then, again, a member of the Company of Jesus, Father Galtier, published in 1912 an elaborate study of the question whether the use of cream formed part of the sacrament of Confirmation in the first ages in the West.

In reply, he is able to assert that cream was in all churches employed in a ceremony supplementary to the administration of Baptism. But, on the other hand, he cannot find at Milan, or in Spain, or in Gaul, any trace of the use of cream in the rite which conveys the gift of the Holy Ghost. He concludes that the laying-on of hands, with prayer, is the only necessary constituent of the rite that imparts to us, after Baptism, the Sacrum Septenarium. Father Galtier finds that in the West this use of cream in Confirmation appeared first in Rome in the fourth century, and thence it spread over the Latin Community, until it has become there the universal custom that it is now. [R.P. Galtier, La Consignation dans les Eglises d'Occident, in Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique, Louvain, 1912. Année 13, p. 301.]

This origin at Rome may be noticed as contrary to the usual law that governed the progress of ceremonial customs in the Middle Ages; Rome did not begin them; they were [10/11] adopted from without. For example, at the Mattins and Lauds of the last three days of Holy Week there is now the custom of putting out a candle at the end of each Psalm, whence, from the darkness caused thereby, the two offices are called Tenebrae. Amalarius in Gaul, writing to an Archdeacon in Rome, asks if they have thus custom there. The Roman Archdeacon writes back and says: Nothing of the kind is done at St. John Lateran (the Cathedral Church of Rome) or at the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (which is not far from the Lateran). The customs at both these churches are arranged according to reason: a polite way of saying they had nothing half so silly. [Amalarius, de ordine antiphonarum, cap. 44]

So with the Paschal candle; the origin of that is traced from beyond the Alps, most likely from Gaul, and some even fancy that it began in the North of Ireland, in the neighbourhood of Belfast. It is the same with a large number of ceremonies which Rome only adopted long after they had come into use elsewhere. An important rite, even, the saying of the Nicene Creed in the Mass, was only adopted in Rome in the eleventh century, at the bidding of the Emperor. [Berno Augiensis apud M. Hittorp, de divinis Catholicae Ecclesiae Officiis, Parisiis, 1610, col. 700. Cf. Henry Marriott Bannister, Monumenti Vaticani di Paleografia Musicale Latine, Lipsia Ottone Harrassowitz, 1913, p. 29]

Supposed Erastianism

Another feature in the Book of Common Prayer misliked even now as savouring of Erastianism are the supplications for the Sovereign, who is prayed for twice in the Communion Service as well as in other parts of the Prayer Book. An unpleasant sort of jest was made: the King was prayed for so much because he so very greatly needed it. No attempt was made to examine the Christian tradition and find out if the Prayer Book had only conformed to this, but it was condemned because these prayers for the King were thought to be the work of the Reformation and to be tainted with the notions brought in by Henry the Eighth. The mention twice of the King by name--once in the collect and once in the prayer for the Church militant--is by some thought superfluous, but it has its precedents in the Russian Liturgy as well as in the [11/12] earlier mediaeval missals, where a collect for the King is said after the collect for the day, and he is also prayed for by name (El rege nostro N.) in the Canon immediately after the Pope.

But with a little trouble, frequent prayers for the sovereign may be found to go back farther than Henry the Eighth or Edward the Sixth. There is a distinguished ritualist named Pelliccia, who flourished in the eighteenth century, and of whose work so much was thought when it was even a hundred years old, that his chief book was translated into English, and it appeared in 1883 with many recommendations from the advanced High Churchmen of the time. Pelliccia also brought out a smaller book at Naples in 1778 with the title: De Christianae ecclesiae tum publica, tum private prece pro principibus: on the private and public prayer which the Christian Church offers for Princes. In this work he reviews the Christian practice in the Liturgies, Eastern and Western, from the earliest times down to the age in which he was writing, and finds that all the Liturgies contain prayer for the sovereign and that such prayers are recommended by the Fathers. In England he notices an early Liturgy, written before the Norman Conquest, in which the King and Bishop, clergy and people of England are prayed for. In the Mass, Pelliccia notes that the Pope, king, and Bishop are universally prayed for, toto orbe terrarium, he says. Since Pelliccia's time liturgical research has done much to strengthen his position. It may be remembered that Pelliccia was not a Protestant or an Erastian, but a Neapolitan Roman Catholic of great learning and orthodoxy.

The Bull Apostolicae Curae Opposed to the Sacramentary of Serapion.

The publication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae was shortly followed by the discovery of the Sacramentary of Serapion, and it was said that the Fathers were coming out of their graves to refute the dicta contained in that Bull. It is interesting to contrast the requirements for a valid ordination demanded by the Bill with the forms in the Sacramentary of Serapion.

In the Bull we are told that the grace and power of the Order of Priesthood are chiefly the power of consecrating [12/13] and offering the Body and Blood of the Lord, and that this must be expressed in the form of Ordination to make it valid. Serapion, who lived in the fourth century, and who was the friend of St. Athanasius, expresses himself otherwise in his form for the ordination of a priest. There is no mention whatever in his form of any of the Sacraments or of the office of a priest, but the gift of the Holy Ghost is that chiefly asked for. Who is likely to be the safer guide, Pope Leo the Thirteenth in the nineteenth, or a Primitive Bishop of the fourth, century?

The Essential Element in the Consecration of Churches.

It is not apparent if any Anglican writer consider the burial of relics in the altar as of the essence or substance of the consecration of a church. Such burial is not to be found in any of the English orders for the consecration of churches since the sixteenth century. But Mon signor Giovanni Mercati, when working in the Chapter Library at Lucca, found there an Ambrosian Order for consecrating churches, in a manuscript of the eleventh century, which contained no directions for the inclusion of relics in an altar about to be consecrated. [The whole of this Ordo Ambrosianus ad consecrandam ecclesiam et altaria is edited by Monsignor Giovanni Mercati in his Antiche reliquie Liturgiche, Roma, tipografia Vaticana, 1901, p. 21.] This is, of course, an unusual thing, for the Second Council of Nicæa, towards the end of the eighth century, had forbidden the consecration of altars without relics. Yet the examination of mediæval canons and pontificals shows that the consecration of churches and altars without relics was no rare matter, for we see the directions given to meet those cases where relics could not be had. Such directions are to be found not only in England, but in Germany, France, and Italy; and in a liturgical tracts called Indutus planeta, which may be found in many prae-Pian Mass books, the allusion to the relics when first approaching the altar is to be omitted if there be no relics enclosed in that altar. [See Tracts on the Mass, Henry Bradshaw Society, 1904, p. 181.]

Thus in the Middle Ages substantial permanent dispensations were made with the rule that relics are necessary [13/14] for the consecration of altars. Quite recently, too, Roman Catholic writers have welcomed the idea that relics are not essential for consecration. Abbé Paul Lejay looks upon it as a decided advantage in the early Ambrosian rite that it did not include the burial of relics in its form for the consecration of altars. In Germany, also, Dr. Franz Wieland holds that the idea of making the altar the tomb of the martyr was alien to the thoughts of the days before Constantine. [See English Orders for Consecrating Churches, Henry Bradshaw Society, 1911. Introduction, p. xx. note.]

The English Bishops, when they began to consecrate churches early in the seventeenth century, also seem to have had no thought of restoring the inclusion of relics as part of the dedication. But they did what was much wiser. They turned to the practice of celebration of the Eucharist as the main feature of the consecration of churches. They remembered the old Christian opinion that a building is consecrated to be a church when the Bishop celebrates the Eucharist in that building as part of the consecration of it, and that this celebration is the essence of the rite of consecration.

Turning to the East at the Creed not Peculiarly Anglican.

The custom of turning to the East at the Creed has come down to us in England from the seventeenth century at least. Yet about five-and-twenty years ago some began to give up this harmless ceremony. They could find no authority for it in the Roman books. The practice has also been frowned upon by Dr. Frere. [W. H. Frere, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer, Macmillans, 1901, p. 391.] But Mr. Beresford Cooke has pointed out that turning to the East at the Creed was practised in France in the seventeenth century. Raymond Bonal, who is the witness to this custom and who founded an order of the Priests of St. Mary, was the author of a course of moral theology which went through at least twelve editions, or thirteen, if we count a Latin one. He published also in 1672 a volume with this title: Explication litterale et mystique des rubriques et ceremonies du [14/15] Breviare et du Missel. Instruction is given by way of question and answer, and in the thirty-third lesson on the Breviary the question is put: Why do we turn to the altar when we say the Creed? The answer, being a mystical one, does not interest us. The point is the mention of the turning to the East.

Thus the custom is not so particular to England, not so purely Anglican, as some would have us think.

Those who discontinued the saying of the Creed while turning to the East, also bid their people not to bow their heads at the sacred Name. The reason for making this reverence given in the old English seventeenth and eighteenth century books is this: that we thereby show our belief in the divinity of our Lord; but why in the twentieth century, when the belief in the divinity of our Lord is so much attacked, should the moment be chosen to discontinue the practice of bowing because it is Anglican? The direction to bow at the sacred Name persists in the Roman Missal of Leo the Thirteenth, and may be found in almost every book of Roman ceremonial. Yet because the uninstructed Roman layman no longer practises it, we are told that the custom must be given up by our people.

From the foregoing items there is one lesson which lies on the surface, and this is that the greatest caution and circumspection are needed in the making of liturgical changes. We may otherwise incautiously fall into the very errors and blunders from which those around us are endeavouring to escape.

Secondly, that we should not look upon the Roman ritual books as masterpieces of excellence. Contentment with the Book of Common Prayer may be more of a virtue than is sometimes thought. The revolution which has taken place in the Breviary in our days is a sharp criticism of it at the hands of those who know the Breviary best. And the storm which has burst upon the Canon of the Mass may be the herald of more revolutionary changes again. Antiquity and immutability are ceasing to be the notes of the Roman liturgy.

Thirdly, some years ago the late Dean Church bade us Anglicans remember the proverb: "Spartam nactus es; hanc adorna." Sparta is your portion, do your best for Sparta. It might be a good thing nowadays to bear this advice in mind.

Project Canterbury