Wednesday, October 14, 2015
14 October 2015 A.D. A MUST-READ: The Wealth of Classic Anglican Liturgy: Concluding Comments (4)
The Wealth of Classic Anglican Liturgy: Concluding Comments (4)
Salter, Roger. “The Wealth of Classic Anglican Liturgy: Concluding Comments (4).” Virtueonline.org. 14 Oct 2015. http://virtueonline.org/wealth-classic-anglican-liturgy-concluding-comments-4. Accessed 14 Oct 2015.
The Wealth of Classic Anglican Liturgy: Concluding Comments (4)
By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
October 14, 2015
It is amazing as to how some candidates for Anglican ministry have never had firsthand contact with Cranmerian liturgy either in public worship, trainee leadership of worship, or private devotion.
There is a kind of popular move towards Anglicanism through the attractions of incidentals, of ritual and raiment rather than the realities of biblically reformed faith. Some are averse to the adoption of a pattern of worship in their daily spiritual discipline and even impatient with the regular use of liturgy in corporate gathering (although a pattern usually emerges in the worship of non-liturgical churches and it is often non-participatory).
In personal use the issue of liturgy or guided devotion comes down to the choice between our own circuitous mental ramblings, erratic emotional states, and introspective sludge, or a summons to an objective consideration of God, self-examination before his majestic perfection, and clear-eyed encounter with our spiritual and practical obligations to the world. In our times before the Lord we are not to curl up in the pious posture of snuggling into a self-cosseting coziness and contentment with soothing feeling. Liturgy braces us for concentration, connection, and commitment i.e. an intelligent grasp of the text, linkage to the Lord and his folk, firm resolve in Christ's cause. It prevents us from stepping into a mental jacuzzi. Liturgy is the Christian soldier's parade-ground preparation for daily conflict.
Liturgy is often alleged to be routine and restrictive. Its capacity to increase faith's vitality and the breadth and depth of spiritual awareness is not recognized. The range of thought in active prayer, reflection, and communion with God presented through liturgy far exceeds the devotional resources of a single mind however fertile, and in our fluctuations of mood and mental fitness sound liturgy possesses a content that ignites wonder, worship, adoration of God, and intercession for the world and wellbeing of others.
Our spiritual weakness, ever-clinging ignorance, and self-preoccupation warrant the providential aid of the best supplications and contemplations of the church militant filtered through the minds of skillful spiritual and theological composers and compilers (recollection suggests that it is worth searching out the views of C. S. Lewis on liturgy- as to how it facilitates a sense of reverent repose and absence of distractedness that enables worship and prayer "to go deep").
The work required in liturgy is daunting and in low periods of spiritual wellbeing strenuous; the benefits are inestimable. Liturgy ensures that we are praying with the church universal and enjoying the Lord's gifts of insight, invocation, and inspiration to his people.
BCP 1662 (including, as is now customary - we don't need to be pedantic - Ordinal and Articles) affords us a richness of expression and experience. It is an arrangement of divine revelation and human rumination that nurtures and develops the Christian soul in a manner that is unequaled. Only shallowness causes us to shy away from it and to fail to plunge into its spiritual wealth and worth (one remembers a past inclination to abolish Cranmer!). In an age of short attention span and instant gratification its merits are not acknowledged. But on every page, because of its sources, striking truth and spiritual counsel seizes the mind. It exhibits spiritual architecture of enormous and ravishing grandeur through which the soul delights to wend and oftentimes linger.
Some entertain the notion that the 1662 introductory Scripture sentences for Morning and Evening Prayer reduce the worshipper to a groveling carriage before the Lord that is demeaning and dour. Many Christians are offended that our first thoughts in the presence of God are to do with the matter of sin. We have become soft and over-sensitive concerning sin, judgment, and conviction of conscience. Hence our appreciation of mercy is shrunken and grace is cheap.
There are many sentences from Scripture suitable for the inducement of worship, such is the many faceted revelation of God and the variety of his attributes and acts, but to begin with our ever-current state before God is an apt commencement and admission in our approach to our thrice holy Supreme Being. Other statements from Scripture are often appropriate and seasonal introductions are valid and refreshing, but never have the acknowledgements of the righteous loftiness of the Lord and the defilement of man been more necessary than in these days of marked turpitude and deviation.
Somewhere the distinguished theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, followed by lesser voices, has deplored the readiness of Christian thought to turn to the topic of sin at the outset and not to a theme more congenial and inviting, but the penitential sentences put us on the ground of candid discourse with God and the assurances of his instantaneous mercy upon appeal. It is always right to rectify our relationship with God and get things straight with a clean bill of health at every opportunity.
The BCP's array of terms with reference to our evil nature and awful plight is widely deemed to be excessively severe and discouragingly legalistic - a deterrent to coming to God e.g. "our manifold sins and wickedness", "there is no health in us", miserable offenders" (Daily Offices), "those evils that we have most righteously deserved' (Litany), "We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness . . . we do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable" (Holy Communion).
Such expressions of shame and horror are elicited from our perception of divine holiness and our cognizance of offenses committed against a God of such excellence, immense benevolence, and fervent love. The joyous marvel is that the blood-washing of Jesus Christ secures pardon for the vilest person and foulest crimes. The strains of mercy sound louder than the chimes of condemnation.
Complaints levelled against the force and impact of Cranmerian language betray a lack of self knowledge and a stunted appreciation of grace. William Grimshaw, the Anglican awakener and reformer of the 18th century declared that the liturgy of his church was the best in the world and he would have appreciated its intent as being consonant with the sentiment he expressed to William Romaine: I think, we are both agreed to pull man down, and when we have the proud chit down, to keep him down. For this is the main. - And never let him recover so much as his knees, till with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the dear REDEEMER raise him.
An unfortunate deprivation in modern times is the general lack of exposure to the pleas and power of the Litany. Its collation of petitions is comprehensive and astute - the text sufficient in itself as a form of prayer but admirably suggestive of profound gospel principles and extemporaneous calls upon God in requests and realizations of his goodness. The Litany is a vigorous cross-country run for the spiritually athletic believer. It encourages muscular prayer and realism of perception. Its converting power is considerable as is seen in the famous incident in 18th century Wales when Daniel Rowland and his parishioners were stirred to spiritual renewal through his reading of the lines "By thine Agony and bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Ghost, Good Lord, deliver us. It was an electrifying experience for all present and one of the triggers of national revival.
The Cranmerian tradition is the root and mainstay of authentic Anglicanism. Every development ought to be in the nature of an offshoot that conserves the original identity and which expands it in accurate consistency. There is yet to be a denominational entity that faithfully adheres to the genuine Anglican way.
The REC, by and large, seems to have lost its nerve, and in many instances has nestled comfortably into the ways of thought and practice its founders found abhorrent.
The fiction and formation of "three streams Anglicanism" was merely an attempt to combine the unmixable - if true to their respective natures (Reformed Protestantism, Puseyism, and Pentecostalism). Classic Anglicanism exposes the needlessness of the "three streams" fiction. As with other well-structured mainline bodies, Anglicanism in its constitution and confession, its Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies, encompasses and exhibits deference to the word, dependence upon the Spirit, and devotion to the sacraments. There was never any need to tout the novelty and triumph of merging the streams. Each element, Scripture, Sacrament, and Spirit, has always been present to Anglican consciousness and observance as a perusal of the BCP will divulge. The current or flow of Anglicanism has always conveyed the coalescence of revelation, symbolization, and the effusion of the Spirit, whose prime ministry is described soberly in the Collect for Pentecost: God, who as this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit (Illumination): Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things (discernment), and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort (strengthening and protection). No leaning to sensationalism.
The Ancient/Future presentation of Anglicanism is also an alien species. From personal survey of its founding theses Cranmer and the Reformation are scarcely cited or to be seen. The tenets and tone are inherited from association with the TEC in milder times. Within it is the making of another denomination which began to emerge in the AMiA. The so-called "Canterbury Trail" bears nothing analogous to the track that traversed the fields and forests of the south of England, and it certainly did not enter and cross the spiritual terrain of Augustinianism.
A further departure from classic Anglicanism is to be noted in the view that the definitive interpretation of Anglicanism is to be derived from the liturgy and not from the Thirty-nine Articles. The liturgy and articles of Anglicanism are by no means at variance. The character of Augustinianism is apparent in each, but their purpose is to emphasize different aspects of the walk of faith. Liturgy is experiential - the church at worship (devotion). The Confession of Faith is intellectual (doctrinal). Intellect and experience overlap into both aspects and are fully functional, but it is the role of doctrine to determine and define the content of worship and the meaning of its language (It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know him as he is. Stephen Charnock). Doctrine's stated role is to inform and unite so that head and heart harmonize in truth and Spirit (the One who enlightens and enlivens). It is patently wrongheaded to elevate the language of celebration over the exactitude of statements of truth which announce the convictions that compel worship and community.
The BCP 1662 is a harmonious handbook in the celebration of sovereign grace. Writing against Arminian "free-will" merit William Grimshaw notes, "This notion of doctrine . . . is utterly contrary to the Holy Bible, 39 Articles, Catechism and Liturgy of the Church of England".
This tendency to virtually oppose the Liturgy to the Articles is a method of detaching the practice of Anglicanism from its grounding in the faithful interpretation of Scripture and the insights of the Reformation, which restored ancient Catholicism to its purity and confirmed its primitive system of belief (the Reformers were well-versed in the Fathers and the Creeds, more so than their opponents). It is a sad drift from Anglican origins that misleads many enquirers and enervates Anglican witness.
That giant of Scottish Christianity in the 19th century, Thomas Chalmers, had immense respect for the Reformational foundation and character of Anglicanism and had a significant role in ensuring the preservation of Evangelical parishes in neighboring England through the selection of suitable clergy.
Fully aware of the Augustinian and Reformational stance of the Established Church below the border Chalmers writes, concerning his northern theology of sovereign grace, "There are many, even the saintliest and most devoted among the clergymen of England, who talk with the sincerest horror of our gloomy and repulsive Calvinism" (Extent of the Remedy, Institutes of Theology, page 375). Chalmers hints at the forgetfulness of other Christian bodies and their clergy as to their original confessional foundation shared by their birth in the Reformation period.
Many clergy and scholars of opposing churchmanships labor to eliminate Calvinism from Anglican belief and teaching. In The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, the author contends, "Inasmuch as the articles are but one part of the Prayer Prayer Book, it is important to remember that the doctrine of the Anglican Communion is enshrined in the Prayer Book as a whole. The Articles should be interpreted in the light of the teaching of the entire Prayer Book. They are not a norm by which the rest of the Prayer Book must of necessity be judged and explained" (Massy Hamilton Shepherd, page 601). In order to assess the veracity of this statement it necessary to bear in mind the historical context of the composition of the Articles and the easily ascertained theological views of the authors, advisers, and revisers (principally Cranmer, Ridley, and Jewel). There is not a shred of contradiction between liturgy and confession, and the more acquainted one becomes with the liturgy (largely rearranged Scripture) and especially the content of the Collects the more aware one becomes of the underlying Augustinianism of Anglican thought and worship.
The true position of the liturgy in relation to the Articles is stated by W. H. Griffith Thomas: "If, moreover, there should be any question as to the meaning of the Prayer Book on matters of doctrine, the Prayer Book is to be judged by the articles rather than the articles by the Prayer Book. The language of the Prayer Book is that of devotion; the language of the Articles that of doctrine, and for exactness, balance, and fulness we naturally look to the latter rather than to the former"(The Catholic Faith, Page 300, Longmans 1929).
It would imperil the integrity of Anglicanism to forge any form of union or close co-operation with Eastern Orthodoxy. This is the movement that eschews Reformational theology in any form and indulges spirituality derived from the teachings and practices of very dubious saints and mystics hardly consistent with Holy Scripture. There are many admirable individuals in the ranks of Orthodoxy (John of Kronstadt, Metropolitan Anthony, etc, but we recall, still, the harsh measures taken against Cyril Lucar (1572-1638), Patriarch of Constantinople and friend of the Reformation, and the stringent criticisms of Augustine and Calvin in current Orthodox apologetics. Orthodoxy is less attractive than Romanism which still retains an element of Augustinianism which comes to prominence in the thought of some Roman Catholic theologians (Johannes Baur, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Herder and Herder).