Sunday, February 8, 2009

Capturing the sublime

As quoted in today’s sermon:

These are only hints and guesses
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

--T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages, 1941

It seems to me that this captures the essence of what we’re trying to do every Sunday: convey some small measure of His glory. Or as Paul admonished the church in Colassae:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. — Colossians 3:16

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blessed is He

One of the Lutheran blogs I follow is Brothers of John the Steadfast, the organization that worked hardest to save Issues. Etc. Tuesday’s post is entitled “Note on Liturgy #17 — Sanctus.” I spotted an interested difference in worship, specifically regarding the Benedictus.

I grew up on 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and now (usually) attend a 1928 BCP parish. On my p. 77 of my first prayer book the Preface and Sanctus are rendered as
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name; evermore praising thee, and saying

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.
Rite I of the 1979 PECUSA prayer book has this, and also adds the Benedictus
Here may be added
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Because of the 1928 BCP, in Hymnal 1940 the Sanctus doesn’t include the Benedictus until the 2nd Supplement (1981), which adds a new version of the Santcus (Hymns #796-801) with the Benedictus for all 8 communion services.

Among the LCMS hymnals, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) is the oldest in my collection. Page 26 reports “The Sanctus” complete with the Benedictus:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth
Heav’n and earth are full of Thy glory;
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He, Blessed is He,
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
Lutheran Worship (1982), as with PECUSA’s 1979 prayer book, offers old and new words. Divine Service I is similar to TLH, except “thy” becomes “your” and the refrain is “Blessed is he” not “He” — hopefully signifying a change in style, rather than in theology.

Rite II in PECUSA has the new words
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
and sure enough, Divine Service II of LW is the same, except it says “pow’r”.

However, “God of power and might” will be gone under the newly approved Catholic version of the Sanctus, reverting to a more faithful translation of the Latin text returning to original English text with this text:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
The 1928 BCP (sans Bendictus) matches the 1662 COE prayer book — lacking the Benedictus found in the 1549 BCP. Although both the 1549 and 1552 prayer books were edited by Archbishop Cranmer, the Benedictus was removed in the 1552 BCP and apparently not restored until the 20th century.

Last year my Lenten discipline was reading about the history of the English prayer book. From that, I gathered that the four revisions of the prayer book during this turbulent century-plus (1549, 1552, 1559 and then 1662 after the Puritans were deposed) all centered on the inherent contradiction of how the Church of England was first defined: “Catholic and Reformed.” Henry, Edward and especially Elizabeth sought compromises that pleased everyone and no one to hold the church (and the country) together.

Dropping the Benedictus in 1552 was obviously a win for the Reformed (Calvinist) side. In his seminal The Story of the Prayer Book (1933: 71), Percy Dearmer (editor of The English Hymnal) notes that the Holy Communion service of the American BCP combines both the 1549 and 1552 approaches. He then wrote (p. 71) approvingly of the 1552 change to the Sanctus:
Proud are we of the First Model [1549], there is no less cause for pride in the Second, when we remember that its purpose is to provide a liturgy that is Apostolic rather than Patristic. The omission of the Introits, the Benedictus, and the Agnus is an advantage in which the First Model in its present use now shares (for they are no longer anywhere compulsory.). It was a good change; and even those who like to use these forms in the place of anthems or hymns, as is generally allowed to be legitimate, would not desire to have them all made compulsory again.
Somehow I never thought of the Lutherans as patristic, so I'd be curious to learn more about why they used the Benedictus during all these years that many (most?) Anglicans did not.