Sunday, March 17, 2019

St. Patrick’s doctrine of the Trinity

Today is both the second day of Lent and the (lesser) feast of the great 5th century Irish missionary St. Patrick. For Americans making some effort at lenten discipline, it fortunately falls on a Sunday.

It is not a red-letter saint’s day in the American prayer book, and in fact is not even mentioned in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer at all. However, Eucharistic readings were later provided in the 1963 Lesser Feasts & Fasts, as well as (for the 1979 prayer book) the 1980 Lesser Feasts & Fasts.

Of these, there are only two overlaps. One is the collect
O ALMIGHTY God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be an apostle to the people of Ireland, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through the merits of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen. 
The collect is not mentioned in the Daily Office of, but (as with other lesser feasts) is included in the daily worship of AnglicanHours.

The other is the Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2:2-12, which includes this relevant except from St. Paul’s letter to Thessalonica:
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.”

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

For Anglicans, the mandatory hymn is “I bind unto myself today” (St. Patrick’s breastplate), adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams for The English Hymn in 1906. The hymn has three main features
  • The lyric is a catechetical text that teaches the doctrine of the Trinity and is attributed to Patrick, translated by Cecil Frances Alexander. The hymn is thus normally recommended for Trinity Sunday (and of course St. Patrick’s feast day).
  • For the hymnal, Vaughan Williams combined two Irish folk tunes — St. Patrick arranged by C.V. Stanford, and Deirdre, which he arranged for the hymnal. The second tune adds a complexity and difficulty for newcomers.
  • It is a long hymn: nine verses in the 1906 original, but “only” seven verses as introduced to America in Hymnal 1940.
In my interviews on church music practice last fall, it was a (slightly) controversial hymn: everyone loved the doctrine and the memories it evokes. However, the parishioners were split: most loved the complete hymn, but a minority complained that it was too long. (IIRC only one music director regularly abridged the hymn).

The hymn as printed in Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982 has verses 1-5 (with verse 1 shorter) in unison to St. Patrick, verse 6 (in four parts) to Deirdre, and verse 7 in St. Patrick. has page scans of many of the printed versions, including 
Not included in the page scans are two others that (like the LSB) use a single tune:
  • Worship II (a popular unofficial Catholic hymnal from 1975): verses 1,2,4,5,7 (with one tune)
  • New English Hymnal (1986) #159: verses 1-5 and 7. It includes the comment that “Hymn 278 may be inserted after verse 5 if desired"; while 278 has the words of Verse 6, it’s to Gartan, another Irish tune arranged by Stanford
Thus, this day, it will be American Protestants who carry on Vaughan Williams’ original vision and testimony to the patron saint of Ireland.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Faithful Saint Matthias

The red-letter feast of Saint Matthias is designated for February 24 in every American Book of Common Prayer, the same date designated by the Church of England from 1549 to 1662. This year it is transferred from Sunday to Monday (February 25).

Since 1789, the American Book of Common Prayer has used this (lightly) modernized version of the 1549-1662 collect:
ALMIGHTY God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles; Grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Through the 1960s, the Catholic church celebrated February 24 but today the US Catholic Church celebrates May 14. Today the Church of England celebrates on  May 14 (or February 24 as an alternate).

Naturally, the Epistle reading is Acts 1:15-26, where the apostles choose Matthias (over Joseph Barsabbas) to replace Judas. From 1549-1928, the Gospel is Matthew 11:25-30 (“my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”), but the 1979 BCP uses other readings.

What is an appropriate hymn? The Catholic Culture website suggests stanzas from the Menaea (Eastern Breviary) and includes these verses
O blessed Mathias! spiritual Eden! thou didst flow, like a full river, from the divine fountain; thou didst water the earth with thy mystic rivulets, and make it fruitful. Do thou, therefore, beseech the Lord that he grant peace and much mercy to our souls.

O apostle Mathias! thou didst complete the sacred college, from which Judas had fallen; and by the power of the Holy Ghost, thou didst put to flight the darkness of idolatry by the admirable lightnings of thy wise words. Do thou now beseech the Lord that he grant peace and much mercy to our souls.
It attributes it to a translation by John Mason Neale’s Hymns of the Eastern Church, but I can’t find it in my 1882 edition. So instead, I kept digging to other sources.

Hymnal 1982

Hymnal 1982 has a unique (and I would say admirable) solution to minor feast days: Hymn #231, “By all your saints still striving.” It includes two fixed verses, and a variable middle verse for one of 12 days (St Andrew, St Thomas, St Stephen, St John, Holy Innocents, Confession of St Peter, Conversion of St Paul, St Matthias, St Joseph, St Mark, St Philip/St James, St Barnabas).

The tune is King’s Lynn by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an English folk tune adaptation first published in The English Hymnal. It was originally used with “O God of Earth and Altar,” by GK Chesterton (TEH #562), which is also in Hymnal 1940 (#521) and H82 (#591).

The hymn is adapted from an 1864 text by Horatio Nelson, editor of the Salisbury Hymn-Book (1857), later the Sarum Hymnal (1868) — perhaps the most successful of the Hymnal Noted knock-offs. Nelson’s 19-verse hymn was originally titled “For all thy saints in warfare,” but that was too militaristic for H82. His original text
From all Thy saints in warfare,
For all Thy saints at rest,
To Thee, O blessèd Jesus,
All praises be addressed;
Thou, Lord, didst win the battle,
That they might conquerors be;
Their crowns of living glory
Are lit with rays from Thee.
became verse 1 of Hymn 231:
By all your saints still striving,
for all your saints at rest,
your holy Name, O Jesus,
for evermore be blessed.
You rose, our king victorious,
that they might wear the crown
and every shine in splendor
reflected from your throne.
H82 preserves almost intact Nelson’s final, doxological verse:
Then praise we God the Father,
And praise we God the Son,
And God the Holy Spirit,
Eternal Three in One;
Till all the ransomed number
Fall down before the throne,
And honor, power, and glory,
Ascribe to God alone.
The middle part of Nelson’s hymn makes direct (but unnamed) reference to major NT saints, including John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and the gospel writers. Hymnal 1982 seems to keep many of the original Nelson verses — including Holy Innocents, Peter, Paul, Mark, Barnabas — but explicitly adds their names for the less Biblically literate 20th century.

The Nelson’s text for St. Matthias was
Lord, Thine abiding presence
Directs the wondrous choice
For one in place of Judas
The faithful now rejoice.
Thy Church from false apostles
Forevermore defend,
And by Thy parting promise
Be with her to the end.
which Hymnal 1982 made into
For one in place of Judas,
the apostles sought God's choice
the lot fell to Matthias
for whom we now rejoice
May we like true apostles
your holy church defend
and not betray our calling
but serve you to the end.

Tune: St. Matthias

Finally, William Henry Monk (1823-1889), music editor of Hymns Ancient & Modern, wrote a tune St. Matthias, one of more than 70 that he composed. Naturally, it appeared first in Hymns A&M for
  • #28 (2nd tune): “Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we go”
  • #191: “Jesu, my Lord, my God, my All”
  • #348: “Behold us, Lord, before Thee met”
  • #357: “How blessèd, from the bonds of sin”
#28 survives as an evening hymn in Hymnal 1940 (#182). However, neither the hymn nor any version of the tune appears in The English Hymnal, the New English Hymnal, Hymnal 1982 or Book of Common Praise 2017.

19th Century Hymn for St. Matthias

Perhaps more intriguing in A&M is #408, the only hymn in this most Anglo-Catholic of hymnals specifically for St. Matthias the Apostle. To the tune of Sherborne (also by Monk), the text explicitly links the Matthias story to that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-19):
Bishop of the souls of men,
When the foeman’s step is nigh,
When the wolf lays wait by night
For the lambs continually,
Watch, O Lord, about us keep,
Guard us, Shepherd of the sheep.

When the hireling flees away,
Caring only for his gold,
And the gate unguarded stands
At the entrance to the fold,
Stand, O Lord, Thy flock before
Thou the guardian, Thou the door.

Lord, whose guiding finger ruled
In the casting of the lot,
That Thy Church might fill the throne
Of the lost Iscariot,
In our trouble ever thus
Stand, good Master, nigh to us.

When the saints their order take
In the New Jerusalem,
And Matthias stands elect,
Give us part and lot with him,
Where in Thine own dwelling place
We may witness face to face.
The tune is unfamiliar but has straightforward voice leading. The words are completely appropriate. So for an evensong on St. Matthias’ day, this would be my first choice.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Amen! to the plagal cadence

There were four papers related to Anglican music at this week’s annual conference of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music, held at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. One paper looked at the metrical psalm translation of Abp. Matthew Parker, another the BBC’s weekly broadcasts of choral evensong.

A third paper was my ethnographic study of hymn singing at six Episcopal/Anglican parishes. At the beginning of my session, Jason Terry of Bradley University presented the other Anglican paper — a summary of his 2016 doctoral dissertation, “A History Of The Plagal-Amen Cadence.

Dr. Terry only had time to present about 10% of his 133-page dissertation. However, a sense of it can be seen in the beginning of his dissertation abstract:
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, most hymns in the Anglo-American tradition ended with the congregation singing amen following the original stanzas, almost always framed within a plagal cadence. Helping this tradition take root was Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861), an Anglican hymnal that published the “amen” cadence after every modern hymn. This practice was heavily adopted among other denominational hymnals throughout England and the United States, peaking around the turn of the century. By the middle of the twentieth century, a decline in the number of hymnals including this cadence was noticeable; however, it would take until the end of the century for the plagal-amen cadence to disappear from hymnals.
In his talk, he traced both the origin of the “Amen” and then the plagal (IV-I) chord progression for the Amen.

Historic use of “Amen”

The oral presentation skipped over the text of his dissertation that summarizes the use of the “Amen” in the first 1500 years of Christianity:
In contemporary worship, amen is most frequently heard as a closing to a prayer. … Interestingly, no prayer in the New Testament Gospels concludes with amen, including the recorded prayers of Christ. Neither is it suggested anywhere in the New Testament that worship leaders added amen to their own prayer except after a doxology. Rather, when the prayer finished with “through the Lord Jesus Christ,” the response was amen.

Thus in New Testament writings, amen was used more commonly as an approval or confirmation of the leader’s prayer, not as a concluding word to the prayer itself. This convention was altered some centuries later when communal prayers with their established texts included the congregational amen as a part of the text. Such formulae were loved by early Christians and they “used them as an expression of greeting, a token of union, a sign of recognition, almost as a password.

The practice of concluding prayers with amen has become so popular in Church history that, since the standardization of worship elements (i.e., collect prayers, spoken formulae, etc.), it was quite rare to hear a prayer without a prominent amen. By the time the Reformers decided to alter worship templates, it would have been unlikely that they would alter the place of amen within worship.
Which is the hymn which authentically requires an “Amen”?
Ambrosian hymns—hymns in the style of Ambrose, though not necessarily penned by him—have continuously been sung by the Church since their conception. While all of the hymn’s text would have been important to the worshipers, the part most relevant to the present research is the doxological endings. The template of Ambrosian hymns was to end with a Trinitarian doxology (and consequently a concluding amen). Erik Routley assumes the custom to have been that most Christians “within earshot of the hymn being sung would shout out amen.”By this, the shouters would affirm their belief in what had just been sung and implicitly repudiate the heretical doctrines of the day 

The Plagal Cadence

For the plagal cadence, a key antecedent was John Merbecke’s Book of Common Praier Noted (1550), as in this collect from page 60 of Merbecke (p. 16 of Terry’s dissertation):
Since I decades removed from my last composition class, Terry had to remind me that the plagal cadence assumes that the melody of the “Amen” remains on the root, as opposed to a rising half step (ti-do) or falling step (re-do) would typically resolve V-I (“authentic” cadence).

Two decades later, Thomas Tallis’ Preces and Responses (1570) [a musical setting of key texts in sung Morning Prayer] includes both plagal and authentic cadences.

A Plague of Amens

To understand the trend in the use of the “Amen,” Terry told the conference that he spent 3.5 years looking at more than 1,000 hymnals. In short form, what happened was
  • Thomas Helmore adopted plagal cadences, both in his Manual of Plainsong (1850) and as music editor of Hymnal Noted (1851)
  • As in so many other aspects of 19th century hymnody
    • Hymns Ancient & Modern copied/adapted Hymnal Noted
    • English hymnody quickly copied Hymns A&M assuming the Anglicans were the liturgical experts
  • In the mid- to late-20th century, the Anglicans started phasing out Amens
  • Eventually most hymnals followed suit


The dissertation includes discussion of the use of “Amen” in the ancient and medieval period. In his talk, Terry also alluded to the various alternate theories of transmission that he investigated (and ruled out) between 1570 and 1850.

It still is a complicated story. Because this is such a common area of confusion (or at least interest) by Anglican laity, I am hoping that he will publish a summary version in a form that is suitable for a church adult education class.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Jesus is my NOT my boyfriend

An ongoing challenge of Contemporary Worship Music is the “Jesus is my boyfriend” problem.

In so many contemporary praise music songs, the lyrics emphasize a love of Jesus (or by Jesus) in words so vacuous and atheologic (or a-Christological) that the references to Jesus could be replaced with the name of one’s boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse.

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, on Friday Jonathan Aigner of Ponder Anew posted a blog entry entitled “Turning Modern ‘Worship’ Song Lyrics into Valentine’s Day Cards”. He takes a dozen CCM songs and adds clip art to bring out the Valentine’s Day romance motif.

One excerpt is from “Fierce” by Jesus Culture:
Like a tidal wave
Crashing over me
Rushing in to meet me here
Your love is fierce 
Meanwhile, “Your Love Never Fails” by Newsboys says
And when the oceans rage
I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me 
Clearly these and other “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs don’t belong on Sunday morning. I’ve only briefly worshipped at CWM (or blended) churches, but it appears that the more theologically serious leaders of these churches are aware of this phenomenon and seek to avoid it.

The risk is that parishes may have musicians with more or less theological background, and clergy who are less attuned (or to busy) to head off these problems. This is exactly the problem that a denominationally approved hymnal solves. Of course, making a new hymnal every 40 years is directly contrary to the goal of performing on Sunday morning the latest song off the CCM bestseller list.

There is the separate issue that many CCM songs have an emotive, manipulative nature of the lyrics and music that emulates contemporary pop music. But that’s a topic for another time.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Is the Psalter the most lasting impact of Book of Common Prayer 2019?

As expected, earlier this month the ACNA College of Bishops approved the final version of its 2019 liturgy. The printed copies of what used to be called “Texts for Common Prayer” will be distributed in June at the ACNA’s biennial synod, this year at Christ Church Plano.

Its new name will be Book of Common Prayer 2019, marking 30 years since ECUSA’s Book of Common Prayer 1979 that so influenced the language and form of the ACNA’s efforts.

The New Prayer Book

As noted earlier, the new liturgy
  • Keeps almost all the language of the 1979 Rite II liturgies for Holy Communion, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer services, while dropping Rite I.
  • For Sunday, uses a lightly modified version of the three-year lectionary instituted after Vatican II and used in the 1979 prayer book, rather than the historic 1-year lectionary of 1549-1928
  • For Daily Office, reinstitutes a 1-year lectionary that more closely follows that of 1549-1892 than the American 1928
  • Is most dramatically changed from 1979 in its ordinal
The committee had more ambitious goals, but kept the Rite II language at the request of many ACNA pastors who had worshipped (and led worship) with Rite II before and since leaving TEC. 

It also shared many of the assumptions of the 1979, including wide latitude for selecting canticles in Daily Office, and two Holy Communion liturgies. However, unlike the Daily Office variants, each HC has only one form of prayers of the people — rather than multiple POP variants in 1979 BCP or the 2000 Common Worship from the Church of England. It’s not clear whether the (prolific liturgist) late Peter Toon would call this a Book of Common Prayer or term it an “Alternative Service Book”. The English do not call their updated liturgy a BCP, but it’s about practical legislative reasons (rather than theological ones) after to the fiasco of its failed 1928 BCP revision

I personally lament the decision of the 2019 liturgy to follow the 1979 in two aspects of Morning and Evening Prayer: omitting “miserable offenders” from the General Confession, and dropping the 1662 “Conditions of Men” prayer that structures petitions for those in need using a theologically humble approach. Both seemed important aspects of the penitence of the 1928 and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Psalter

While the ACNA liturgy might influence other GAFCON provinces, it’s not clear how much influence it will have on other Anglicans left (i.e. TEC) and right (i.e. Continuing Anglicans) in the U.S., let alone other denominations.

However, of broader relevance is the updated Coverdale Psalter. It didn’t get a lot of visibility (or meaningful feedback) because it wasn’t complete until the very end. However, from my limited use, it seems to largely succeed on its goals of retaining the poetry and cadence of the Coverdale while (mostly gently) sanding off the rough edges of archaic vocabulary. When Nashotah House eventually makes its chanted version, presumably it can leverage the pointing from the 1549-1928 Coverdale sung psalters.

I have the full 258 page PDF on my laptop and iPad and try to use it for Daily Office at least a couple of times a week. I am curious to see how much use it gets outside the ACNA.

Official Announcement

Here is the complete text of the official announcement

The Book of Common Prayer 2019
After six years of the use of draft liturgies, submission of extensive comments from across the Church, and significant revisions and refinements, we have approved the Book of Common Prayer (2019)! The last wave of liturgies in their final form was approved this week for our new Prayer Book, which will be available at Provincial Assembly this June in Plano, Texas. One of the documents approved was the Preface, which includes this helpful introduction to worship in the prayer book tradition: 
At the beginning of the 21st century, global reassessment of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 as “the standard for doctrine, discipline and worship” shapes the present volume, now presented on the bedrock of its predecessors. Among the timeless treasures offered in this Prayer Book is the Coverdale Psalter of 1535 (employed with every Prayer Book from the mid-16th to the mid-20th centuries), renewed for contemporary use through efforts that included the labors of 20th century Anglicans T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis, and brought to final form here. The Book of Common Prayer (2019) is indisputably true to Cranmer’s originating vision of a form of prayers and praises that is thoroughly Biblical, catholic in the manner of the early centuries, highly participatory in delivery, peculiarly Anglican and English in its roots, culturally adaptive and missional in a most remarkable way, utterly accessible to the people, and whose repetitions are intended to form the faithful catechetically and to give them doxological voice. 

Rites that were finalized at this meeting include: 
  * The Ordinal
  * Consecration and Dedication of a Place of Worship
  * Institution of a Rector
  * Occasional Prayers
  * The Psalter
  * Calendar of the Christian Year
  * Sunday, Holy Day, and Commemoration Lectionary
  * Propers for Various Occasions
  * Calendar of Holy Days and Commemorations
  * Daily Office Lectionary
The BCP texts as now finally approved will be put online at by mid-February under a new Book of Common Prayer tab.
At the conclusion of the liturgical approval process, we stood in unison to praise God and to thank Archbishop Duncan and the Liturgy Task Force for their sacrificial work on this historic resource.