Friday, April 27, 2012

“. . .but is it a Catholic parish?”

There will always be complaints about the parishes we find ourselves in. Many people will desire to transform “what is” into what they experienced during their youth, or into what they experienced at their last parish. “You know we really ought to be doing this, that, or the other. . .” Often times it is asserted that we “really ought to have a crucifix” (or not), or that we “really ought to have incense” (or not).

The parish might be critiqued as being “too high” or “too low.” Erroneously, it is often assumed or explicitly stated that if a parish lacks the use of incense, a large central crucifix (in contrast to a cross without a corpus or with a Risen Christ), or perhaps a statue of the Blessed Virgin, it is not a “Catholic parish.” Conversely, it is assumed that if these things are not present the parish is “protestant,” which is then assumed to be “anti-Catholic.”

Again and again, I find myself coming back to Bishop Cosin’s admonition that Anglicanism is to be “protestant and reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church.”

What then makes the parish a Catholic parish?

Well, first and foremost it needs an orthodox liturgy, one that rightly proclaims the Catholic Faith (for we have no such thing as “an Anglican faith”—what we have is the Catholic Faith expressed in the Anglican Way). For Anglicans then, this means that the parish uses a classic Book of Common Prayer, rather than a modern liturgy which may teach something other than the Catholic Faith of the Scriptures and the Creeds. The liturgy of the Prayer Book might be supplemented by other sources (or by other classic editions of the Prayer Book), but I think that in keeping with the very notion of “Common Prayer” the supplementary material should not supplant nor contradict the text of the Prayer Book.

Also, what is the primary service of worship in the parish church? If there is a priest to be had, then the Prayer Book assumes that the service will be Holy Communion. Indeed, it may be preceded by Morning Prayer, but any casual observer of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer will be able to see that the Epistles and Gospels laid out for the year are for the service of Holy Communion: This is the only service of worship appointed by the Savior “for the remembrance of” Him. If the parish wishes to keep the “Morning Prayer tradition” alive, it should do so by preceding the Eucharist with Morning Prayer, not replacing the Eucharist with Morning Prayer. In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, is the text of the Prayer Book followed for the prayer of consecration, or is it replaced by something else? Again, while the Prayer Book may be supplemented, it ought not be supplanted or else we are no longer following the Anglicanism of old, but "doing a new thing."

If the Eucharist is the primary focus of corporate Sunday morning worship, is it being celebrated decently and in order, with reverence? Is the priest decently appareled in a manner of vesture traditionally accepted in the Anglican Church? The rubrics of the 1928 Prayer Book of the Church of England assume that the priest is to wear either a surplice and stole or an alb and chasuble or cope (this is defensible in that both the chasuble and cope derived from the same ancient vestment).

A “pulpit robe,” a suit and tie, or some other novel manner of dress is not the traditional “uniform” of an Anglican priest for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The celebrant is a priest in the Church, not simply an individual performing a task. A surplice with stole or alb and vestment are the normal modes of apparel for the Anglican priest, and ones that place the emphasis on the office of the priest and not the whims of taste of the individual filling that office.

Questions of incense, statuary, and ornaments are largely superficial questions in determining whether a parish is “Catholic.” It is a Catholic parish in the Anglican Way if it keeps the Lord’s Day as the Church Catholic has always done from ancient times, with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ with and under the signs of Bread and Wine. If a parish is not living up to this Anglican ideal as set forth in the Prayer Book, then it is right for people to “protest” and be rightly “protestant” in the manner in which Bp. Cosin describes. However, quarrels over other things will usually result in discord and discontent with both clergy and laity focusing on minor elements of the service instead of the corporate sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving performed in union with the rest of the Body of Christ.

"In necessasariis, unitas; In dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas."


Anonymous said...

Good piece.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I would agree with that as well, but I don't fault people (or parishes) for having a free standing statue of the Virgin (or for having a carved crucifix--this is something that has become so common in Anglican, Roman, and some Lutheran churches that it is hard to change, indeed it is now seen in the canonical Western Rite Orthodox parishes), but I do fault the choosing of the type of statue or crucifix. In the East the BVM is never shown without the Christ Child in order to emphasize the importance of the Incarnation. Too often in the West she is alone and presented as the focus of attention. An Our Lady of Walsingham statue (or icon) would be more appropriate than the white and blue Virgin statue seen in many churches.


Paul Goings said...

It is a Catholic parish in the Anglican Way if it keeps the Lord’s Day as the Church Catholic has always done from ancient times, with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ with and under the signs of Bread and Wine.

I think that it is also important to ask whether Christ's people are returning in the afternoon or evening to further sanctify the Lord's Day with Evensong or Evening Prayer, as is taught both in the Prayer Book, and in the disciplines of the undivided Church? Or are they forsaking Divine Service in order to watch football or go to the mall? It seems that the latter is more generally true, at least in my experience.

I am also a little surprised by the claim in the comments box that there was no free-standing statuary in the West prior to 1054. I'm not an art historian, but I believe that this is incorrect.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent piece with which I largely agree. On the matter of vestments 1662 and the classic prayer books beginning with that of 1559 require both that the church and its furniture look as they did before the first prayer book was issued but also that the ministers were the ancient vestments associated with the same. We should all do the same. The vesture at an ordination I recently attended was all modern Roman and horribly ugly with the exception of one priest who was wearing a Wareham Guild surplice he had purchased in seminary. The rest were all in "cassock-alb" and very wide stoles.

Secondly, I believe that a true prayer book parish should have both daily morning and evening pryaer with the former always preceding the eucharist when the Anglican calendar, prayer book propers and the rubrics indicate it should be celebrated. This is the pre-Reformation pattern as indicated by the passage in The Vision of Piers the Plowman,
"Lewed men to labour, lords to hunt, And on Sundays to cease, God's service to hear, Both mattens and mass . . . .And after meat, evensong in church every man ought. . . ." Whether the service is simple or sung, it should be recognizeably Anglican.

And, by the way, what has happened to The Patristic Anglican. I miss it terribly!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you posting again. Hope to read more from you.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Our faith stands upon anti-Catholicism; thus the problem with the postmodern. Also please capitalize P in Protestant.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

You are revisionist and deconstructing the faith. Please pack your bags to Rome.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Mr. McGranor,

Thank you for your comments, but as you can probably tell by what I've already written on these pages I heartily disagree.


Mr. Mcgranor said...

I understand the Anglo-Catholic contribution, and the distinct Anglican faith of Protestantism.
However the former is traitorous, and the latter wondering... Although i do not shun the eccentric Anglican tradition that is largely found in the high church.
Is it clearly your call for a fantasized Catholicism --and the Anglo-Catholics move to such an Ecumenism with Rome-- that should be shunned.
I do not adore a dangling in agony Lord, as a matter of principle. I would rather see a cross without a corpus...or a risen Christ.