Traditional liturgical language will be part of the Anglican patrimony; and one day, we might be able to use it, too
Shawn Tribe has written an interesting piece on his New Liturgical Movement website about the possible contribution of the Ordinariate to the development of the vernacular liturgical tradition in the Catholic Church.
He points out the growing interest in the use of Latin in the liturgy, both in the Extraordinary form and in the Novus Ordo. But, as he says, the vernacular is here to stay, and we have to address what has been one problem over recent decades: “our experience with the vernacular”, as he says, “has been rather lack-lustre at best and banal at worst”.
The problem has been addressed, he says, IN PART in the new translation of the liturgy. I would have thought it had been addressed fairly thoroughly by the new translation: but Mr Tribe thinks we can go further, and I have to say that I find his argument compelling. “Enter”, he says, “the Anglican Ordinariate”:
“Within the context of Anglican liturgical patrimony one cannot fail to be stirred by the hieratic English liturgical tradition found there. This hieratic tradition presents a majestic and liturgical form of English that very clearly sits outside the day-to-day world and day-to-day speech. In this regard, it might be understood as similar to the early Latin liturgical tradition itself.
“This aspect is not only worth pursuing and preserving as part of the Ordinariate, but here the Anglican Ordinariate can bring something to the table for broader liturgical consideration within the Roman rite. Indeed, I think it is no exaggeration to say that it can be a tangible, living witness as to how to approach and pursue vernacular liturgical forms in a way which is eminently liturgical and sacral.”
Part of the trouble with that is that most Anglo-Catholics in England today use the Novus Ordo in modern English, both in solidarity with Rome and because, banal though it often is, it is nevertheless, unlike the Anglican modern rite, which is equally banal, undeniably orthodox. This is something they care about (there are Anglo-Catholics so called who don’t and just like a nice service, but we Anglo-papalists—I was one of them — don’t/didn’t have anything to do with them).
So the predominant use in the Ordinariate here will be of the new translation of the Mass (though we English should understand that Anglicanorum Coetibus is addressed to Anglicans throughout the word, and that many of them prefer traditional Anglican liturgical English).
That of course raises the question: what, then, in Parishes which use the Novus Ordo IS the “Anglican patrimony” they are bringing? Well, I’ve addressed that question elsewhere in a series of posts; it isn’t just about liturgy.
But it’s certainly, in part, in the great CARE taken over the liturgy, and in the reverence which characterises its celebration (something not, I fear, always evident in Roman Catholic churches, where often, before Mass, the congregation chatters away without any apparent notion that preparatory prayer for the reception of Holy Communion is necessary).
Despite the fact that the predominant use among converting Catholics is the language of the novus Ordo, what Shawn Tribe calls “hieratic” (roughly “priestly”) English does have its place in the Anglican patrimony—and let’s face it, we’re mostly talking here about the English of Thomas Cranmer, who although a heretic and apostate was nevertheless a master of the English language, and who formalised a style of liturgical English which is still unsurpassed: we recognise that every time we say the Our Father at Mass—in Cranmer’s translation (with one or two minor adjustments) because, frankly, nothing else was good enough.
But Cranmer wasn’t the only master of liturgical English: arguably greater (and himself a clear influence on Cranmer) was Miles Coverdale, translator of the Book of Common Prayer’s very beautiful psalter, and author (in his days as an Augustinian canon) of a majestic pre-Reformation English translation of the Roman Canon, which was authorised for the first time by Pope John Paul over 4 centuries later for use in traditional language parishes of the Anglican Use jurisdiction in the U.S. (a kind of forerunner of the Ordinariate).
I don’t know how many Ordinariate Parishes of this kind there will be in England: but they should be catered for (their liturgical traditions certainly fall under the rubric of “Anglican patrimony”), and when the Ordinariate publishes its liturgical books, the traditional language Anglican Catholic liturgy already in use in America should appear in it.
So that you can see how majestic this language is, here is the Miles Coverdale translation of the Roman Canon, which I now reproduce entire and unabridged (ah, the wonders of the internet) and without any further comment, except to say that if you can read THIS without being moved, you have a heart of stone:
Most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.
[He joins his hands and, making the sign of the cross once over both bread and chalice, says]:
and we ask, that thou accept and bless + these gifts, these presents, these holy and unspoiled sacrifices.
[With hands extended, he continues]
We offer them unto thee, first, for thy holy Catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep it in peace, to guard, unite, and govern it throughout the whole world; together with thy servant N., our Pope and N., our Bishop and all the faithful guardians of the Catholic and apostolic faith.
Commemoration of the Living
Remember, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids [N. and N.]
[He prays for them briefly with hands joined. Then, with hands extended, he continues]
and all who here around us stand, whose faith is known unto thee and their steadfastness manifest, on whose behalf we offer unto thee, or who themselves offer unto thee, this sacrifice of praise; for themselves, and for all who are theirs; for the redemption of their souls, for the hope of their salvation and safety; and who offer their prayers unto thee, the eternal God, the living and the true.
United in one communion, we venerate the memory, first of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ; of Joseph her spouse; as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddaeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Xystus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and of all thy Saints: grant that by their merits and prayers we may in all things be defended with the help of thy protection.
[Through Christ Our Lord. Amen]
[With hands extended, he continues]
We beseech thee then, O Lord, graciously to accept this oblation from us thy servants, and from thy whole family: order thou our days in thy peace, and bid us to be delivered from eternal damnation, and to be numbered in the fold of thine elect. [Through Christ our Lord.]
Vouchsafe, O God, we beseech thee, in all things to make this oblation blessed, approved and accepted, a perfect and worthy offering: that it may become for us the Body and Blood of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
[He joins his hands].
Who the day before he suffered, [On Maundy Thursday he says:
Who the day before he suffered to save us and all men, that is today],
[He takes the bread and, raising it a little above the altar, continues]:
took bread into his holy and venerable hands,
[He looks upward]
and with eyes lifted up to heaven, unto thee, God, his almighty Father, giving thanks to thee, he blessed, broke and gave it to his disciples, saying:
[He bows slightly.]
Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.
[He genuflects, shows the consecrated Host to the People, places it on the paten, and again genuflects in adoration. Then he continues]:
Likewise, after supper,
[He takes the chalice, and, raising it a little above the altar, continues]:
taking also this goodly chalice into his holy and venerable hands, again giving thanks to thee, he blessed, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
[He bows slightly.]
Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
[He genuflects, shows the Chalice to the People, places it on the corporal, and again genuflects in adoration].
[Then with hands extended, the Priest says]:
Wherefore, O Lord, we thy servants, and thy holy people also, remembering the blessed passion of the same Christ thy Son our Lord, as also his resurrection from the dead, and his glorious ascension into heaven; do offer unto thine excellent majesty of thine own gifts and bounty, the pure victim, the holy victim, the immaculate victim, the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
Vouchsafe to look upon them with a merciful and pleasant countenance; and to accept them, even as thou didst vouchsafe to accept the gifts of thy servant Abel the Righteous, and the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham; and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate victim, which thy high priest Melchisedech offered unto thee.
[Bowing, with hands joined, he continues]
We humbly beseech thee, almighty God, command these offerings to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in sight of thy divine majesty; that all we who at this partaking of the altar shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of thy Son,
[He stands up straight and makes the sign of the cross, saying]
may be fulfilled with all heavenly benediction and grace. [Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.]
Commemoration of the Dead
[With hands extended, he says]
Remember also, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids, [N. and N.], who have gone before us sealed with the seal of faith, and who sleep the sleep of peace.
[The Priest prays for them briefly with joined hands. Then, with hands extended, he continues]
To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech thee to grant the abode of refreshing, of light, and of peace.
[Through the same Christ our Lord.]
[The Priest strikes his breast with the right hand, saying]
To us sinners also, thy servants, who hope in the multitude of thy mercies,
[With hands extended, he continues]
vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship with thy holy Apostles and Martyrs; with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and with all thy Saints, within whose fellowship, we beseech thee, admit us, not weighing our merit, but granting us forgiveness;
[He joins his hands and continues]
through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create all these good things; dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us;
[He takes the Chalice and the paten with the Host and, lifting them up, sings or says]
By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.
The People respond: Amen.