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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Post-Vatican II Liturgy and Anglican Liturgy
Created by John Eipper on 08/21/18 4:00 PM

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Post-Vatican II Liturgy and Anglican Liturgy (David Duggan, USA, 08/21/18 4:00 pm)

I have been asked to comment on whether the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic clergy bridled at the use of Anglican liturgies because "they sounded too old-fashioned or because they sounded too Anglican."

I hazard to answer because 1) I am not a liturgist and know little of the Roman Catholic forms; 2) I do not know all the differences between the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer (often referred to as the 1662 book) and the Book of Common Prayer used in "The Episcopal Church" (formerly the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, but renamed because churches in Honduras and the Virgin Islands fall within the USA's "province" for purposes of governance under the world-wide "Anglican Communion"); and 3) the differences seem to be based on theological issues that have largely been cast aside in the Church's never-ending quest to seem relevant to the modern age. This much I can say, however, based in part on my near life-long worship in Episcopal parishes in this country (never abroad, I have to confess), in part on my curbside research into the various forms, and in part on my undoubted preference for the language of the archaic prayer books.

First, a primer on liturgies. So far as can be determined, the early church did not have a common (i.e., adopted throughout the several churches) form of liturgy, i.e., an order for worship to be followed by priest and people. But thanks to Jesus' words recounted in the synoptic Gospels (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14: 22-24; Luke 22: 19-20; curiously not in John, but see John 6: 53-56), the early church remembered Jesus' last supper with the words, "Take, eat, this is my body given for you," and "Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you and for many." See also I Corinthians 11: 23-26, Paul's exhortation to Christians to do as the Lord commanded. In the 4th century CE, St. Basil wrote out a form of liturgy for the Eucharist which, at least in its current English translation, sounds familiar. Among other things his prayer of consecration includes an "oblation" by which the elements (bread and wine) are asked to be blessed for our use, and that we be dedicated to be a "holy and living sacrifice" unto God.

Fast forward some 1200 years, and in 1549, Thomas Cranmer, Henry Tudor's last Archbishop of Canterbury concocted the first modern prayer book, incorporating an order of worship for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion to be used throughout the realm (and not just by nobles or literates). Apart from the collects (prayers for each week of the liturgical--or church--year) it is impossible to know how much Cranmer actually wrote, and there are signs that he incorporated aspects of the Sarum (Salisbury) Rite, along with Lutheran rites on the continent (his wife was a German whom he had met as Henry's ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire). Still, the prayer of consecration, particularly that said when the host and wine are presented to the believer, bears undoubted allegiance to the continental reformers who were opposed to the "hocus-pocus" (a corruption of "in haec corpus," in this body) idea of "transubstantiation," that the priest's incantation converts the bread and wine to literal flesh and blood: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and be thankful."

For 100 years, there were wild gyrations of the English prayer book, as the faith oscillated between being governed by the reformers, and those who would establish an English papacy. But in 1662, two years after the Stuart Restoration, a new prayer book was adopted which is in substantial form with that in use today. As I read the English liturgy, gone are the elements of oblation: that we are offering these gifts of bread and wine in remembrance of Christ's "blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension...," along with the invocation that we "may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood." For whatever it is worth, most forms of the liturgy in use in the Episcopal Church USA omit both of these recitations (although it is preserved in one of the six). The Episcopal BCP, significantly revised in 1976 from the 1928 version which I learned and committed much to memory, was up for revision at this year's General Convention of the church body. Perhaps remembering the backlash which accorded the last prayer book revisions 40 years ago, the bishops demurred.

On two personal notes, despite Enrique Torner's suggestion that I must be very familiar with the Roman Catholic Church's canons regarding indulgences, I confess that I was unaware of them. But as I read them, it seemed that nothing had changed since 1517, except that no exchange of money is prescribed for their grant. Particularly suspect is the notion (Canon 994) that one can be "appl[ied] to the dead by way of suffrage." Martin Luther must be spinning in his grave some 500 years after Tetzel shamed the Germans into buying indulgences so that their dead relatives could be sprung from purgatory. And I have recently been to Roman Catholic masses (after an absence of some 20 years). Though there is no way to follow the priest's words (the missal in the pews does not contain the prayers), I have listened intently and heard nothing which I could not abide. Having been invited to partake as a "Catholic" (Roman not specified), I received communion. The host was the worst I ever tasted.

JE comments:   How many of you knew the etymology of "hocus-pocus"?  Only in WAIS, my friends.  And David, in your mass you sampled what the Spaniards would call "mala hostia"--bad host, although in Spain this is an extremely vulgar way to say you're in a bad mood.


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  • Hocus-Pocus! An Etymology (Edward Jajko, USA 08/23/18 6:50 AM)
    Ah, John, not so fast. I said that I have corrected the Latin of priests. Now I offer a correction of an Episcopalian's (David Duggan, August 21st).


    The old corruption "hocus pocus" does not come from "in haec corpus." The latter is an impossible form that does not exist. (If it did, it would be "in hoc corpore," but those words were not found in the Latin Mass.) "Hocus pocus" is a corruption of the Latin words of Jesus in the Consecration of the Mass: "Hoc est enim corpus meum"--For this is my body. "Hoc est ... corpus" morphed into "hocus pocus." Why "pocus" and not "copus"? It's possibly easier to say, it rhymes, and in any event it's for the same reason that Latin "periculum" became Spanish "peligro."


    JE comments:  Yes, "periclo" and "periglo" are hard to pronounce.  Spanish does have "película" (film), however.  Languages are fond of metathesis.  Spanish-speakers often say "ariopuerto" instead of the correct mouthful aeropuerto.  And don't forget "relators" and George W's beloved "nucular."

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