Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Since the ACNA released its new liturgy in October, I’ve wanted to go through and systematically analyze what the task force did. Defining its liturgy helps reveal what the ACNA does (and does not) stand for. It's a sizable task, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.

Liturgy is what distinguishes the worship of the liturgical Protestant churches (Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Methodist) from the more freeform denominations (Assembly of God, the various Stone-Campbell movement churches). For centuries, many have remarked that the Anglican faith is defined more by a shared BCP than by any particular doctrine or theology.

Finally, there is the principle of “lex orandi, lex credendi,” attributed by Wikipedia to a 5th century Augustinian theologian. Since the liturgy is corporate worship — how we pray together — it is statement of what we believe, both by the fact that we say it — but also because by saying it every week, the members of the congregation commit these ideas to memory.

Since October, the new ACNA liturgy has been slightly updated to fix typos. The ACNA website also makes clearer the status of the new liturgy:
The Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force is pleased to announce that the the following Texts for Common Prayer are now available in PDF and Microsoft Word format:
  • Morning & Evening Prayer
  • Holy Eucharist
  • The Ordinal
Reception Process
With the exception of The Ordinal, which has been authorized and adopted, and is The Ordinal of the Province, the other materials offered in Texts for Common Prayer are “working texts” approved for use by the College of Bishops. These working texts are not yet finalized, awaiting response from the experience of their wide use in the Church. With that in mind, these rites are commended as appropriate forms for worship in the present season. The Archbishop’s instruction to the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force was the production of rites that were “so faithful and attractive that the Church would want to use them.” The hope in making Texts for Common Prayer available now is to give evidence that the assignment is well underway, and to invite the whole Body of Christ into the process of receiving and perfecting.
Much as I’d love to analyze Morning Prayer, nowadays it’s the communion service that shapes the weekly lives of American Anglicans. Given I have limited time, I’ll focus on the mass.

Contrasting Liturgies

I can think of two ways to systematically analyze the new liturgy. One is by comparing it to its antecedents. This includes the ECUSA, CoE, the Edwardian and the Cranmer original in English, as well as the Sarum and other pre-reformation Latin texts.

However, since the explicit goal of the new liturgy was modernization — without the theological aberrations of the 1979 prayer book — I think it’s also fair to compare the new texts to other modern translations from those who are theologically orthodox, notably the RCC Roman Missal (2010) and the LCMS Lutheran Service Book (2006). For the latter, the LSB has five different settings (rites), but many of the specific passages (such as the Lord’s Prayer) are common across all settings.

It should be noted that Cranmer was the first to put the Latin mass into English. Even if they had differences with his theology, English (and American) liturgical Christians — Catholic, Lutherans, Methodists and others — started with Cranmer’s text (or some derivative thereof) when creating their own liturgies. So when comparing ACNA to other 20th (or 21st) century English texts, we are comparing various attempts at modernization of the original Cranmer original.

Parts of Service

The other way to analyze it to break it down by parts, such as to look the first half of the service (Word) and then the second half (Sacrament).

I think it’s more useful to break it down as
  1. The corporate (congregational) prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, Confession and Prayer of Humble Access. I’m also going to include the Nicene Creed here — theologically it’s not a prayer, but in terms of length and usage, it is more similar to the Lord’s Prayer than to (say) the Gloria.
  2. The Ordinary of the Mass: Kyrie, Trisagion, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. (The classification of the Ordinary normally includes the creed)
  3. Misc. responsorial sentences, e.g. Sursum Corda
  4. Clergy prayers, e.g. Prayer of Consecration
  5. Other texts, such as the Prayers of the People.
Due to limited time, I probably won’t be able to get to #4 and #5., because they are not part of the corporate worship (the laity listen rather than participate in these prayers). Also, it seems to me that #5 (especially the Prayers of the People) have varied the most over the centuries, so a claim of “normal”, “historic” or “ecumenical” norms would be hard to make.

For #3, today I’ll contrast the Sursum Corda of 2013 with earlier texts.

Sursum Corda

For the Sursum Corda, the Sarum rite lists this as the text:
Dominus vobiscum.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
Sursum corda.
Habemus ad Dominum.
Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
Dignum et justum est.
Below are the comparisons of the early (and most influential) Church of England prayer books, the last three ECUSA prayer books, two ecumenical texts and the ACNA text. (Here I use “P” for priest and “A” for answer, although the books might say “minister”, “celebrant”, “congregation” etc.).

1549 BCP
1552 BCP
1662 BCP (CoE)
1892 BCP (ECUSA)
1928 BCP
1979 Rite II (ECUSA)
2006 LSB (LCMS)
P: The Lorde be with you.
A: And with thy spirite.
P: Lift up your heartes.
A: We lift them up unto the Lorde.
P: Let us give thankes unto our Lorde God.
A: It is mete and right so to do.

P: Lift up your hearts.
A: We lift them up unto the Lord.
P: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
A: It is meet and right so to do.

P: The Lord be with you.
A: And also with you.
P: Lift up your hearts.
A: We lift them to the Lord.
P: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
A: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

2013 ACNA2011 Roman Missal
P: The Lord be with you.
A: And with your spirit.
P: Lift up your hearts.
A: We lift them to the Lord.
P: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
A: It is just and right so to do.
P: The Lord be with you.
A: And with your spirit.
P: Lift up your hearts.
A: We lift them up to the Lord.
P: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
A: It is right and just.

As indicated, from 1662-1928, the Sursum Corda was not preceeded by the dominus vobiscum (but the original “with thy spirit” is found elsewhere in the liturgy).
A few observations:
  • The 2013 liturgy (as does the latest Roman liturgy) fixes the most egregious Protestant error of the late 20th century, by now translating “cum sancto spiritu” to be “and with your spirit”, the only plausible contemporary translation.
  • On the fourth and fifth phrase, the ACNA seems unduly deferential to the 1970s modernization. 
  • In the final phrase, the task force changed just one word, “meet” to “just”, and eliminated the other egregious error of the 1970s translation (“thanks and praise”).
  • On two of the four phrases where Cranmer’s text is changed, the ACNA changes match the Roman Catholic changes.
Given the goals of modern , the choices seem reasonable. The one tweak I would be inclined to make is to match the RCC text for the fourth phrase — “We lift them up to the Lord” — both for greater continuity with 400 years of Anglican worship, and ecumenical compatibility.

In future postings, I’ll look at the Ordinary and the main congregational prayers.

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