Monday, July 30, 2012

THE ANGLICAN RITE, In Historical, Theological and Ecumenical Perspective


The word Eucharist comes from the Greek and means thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper is often called the Holy Eucharist because when Christ instituted it he gave thanks, “For I [the Apostle Paul] have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner he took the cup...”1 

Following the tradition of the Apostles, the Church has assembled on the Lord’s Day week after week for nearly 2,000 years for the Breaking of Bread, another name for the Holy Eucharist, and for prayer. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This Service is called by a number of names in the Holy Scriptures and by the early Church: the Lord’s Supper, the Breaking of Bread, the Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Mass and the Divine Liturgy. 

Due to violent persecution, the Eucharist was a sacred secret in the early Church. Therefore the prayers and ceremonies of the Liturgy are only mentioned in passing in the writings of the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers or in brief and rather general descriptions by the early Apologists. Very little detailed information on the liturgical life of the first three centuries of the Church has survived, with the late second or early third century Apostolic Tradition by St. Hippolytus of Rome being a notable exception. All that changed however in the fourth century. 

With the end of persecution we begin to see the various ways that Christians celebrated the Eucharist in different regions of the Church. Four primary ways or rites for celebrating the Eucharist emerged. These were known, and are still known today, as the Alexandrian and Antiochene Rites in the East, and the Roman and Gallican Rites in the West. The Byzantine Rite, which is the most commonly celebrated rite in Eastern Christendom, grew out of the Antiochene Rite. The Anglican Rite grew out of the Western liturgical tradition in general and the Roman Rite in particular, but was also influenced by the Eastern rites.


In early Western Christendom there were two primary liturgical rites: the Roman which was used in and around the city of Rome and in Roman North Africa, and the Gallican which was a family of rites used in the rest of Western Europe. The Gallican included four principle forms:The Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Celtic and the Gallican of the Frankish Kingdom. 

The Ambrosian Rite, named after St. Ambrose of Milan, evolved in the Archdiocese of Milan in Italy, and owing to its close proximity to Rome early took on Roman features, including the Roman Canon, which obscured its identity as a Gallican Rite. It’s identity was so obscured that many considered it merely a variation of the Roman Rite.

The Mozarabic Rite is the ancient Visigothic Rite of Spain, and was used by those Christians who kept their faith after the invasion of the Moors in AD 711. It survived the encroachments of the Roman Rite in Spain until the eleventh century, and continues to be used in a Romanized version in a chapel of the Cathedral in Toledo and in a few parishes of that Archdiocese. Interestingly, the Mozarabic Rite is also used by the indigenous Anglican Church in Spain, the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church.

The Celtic Rites were used throughout the British Isles in the early centuries of Christianity, and in Ireland and Scotland until the eleventh century. They were also used by the Celtic missionaries who carried the Faith to much of Western Europe during the early Middle Ages, and who collected prayers, devotions and ceremonies from many different sources, including the Eastern Rites, and incorporated them into their liturgies. The Celtic Rites were therefore eclectic and varied widely from place to place. 

The Stowe Missal, which derives it name from the Stowe library of the Dukes of Buckingham, comes from the Lorrha monastery in Ireland and is a surviving example of Celtic liturgy. The Stowe or Lorrha Missal dates from approximately AD 750, and was compiled at Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland, by Culdees associated with St. Maelruain and St. Aengus the Culdee. The Eucharistic Liturgy combines elements from both the Gallican and Roman Rites, and includes prayers or phrases from the Coptic, East Syrian and Ethiopian Rites, and has been influenced by the Mozarabic Rite of Spain. Although the Nicene Creed did not enter the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Roman Rite until early in the eleventh century, it is found in the Stowe Missal with the filioque clause inserted by a later hand in the margins above the line of text. The Stowe Missal does not represent “the” Celtic Rite as there was no single Celtic Rite, but is merely one local  Use of a Rite that varied widely from place to place among Celtic Christians and their far-flung missions.

The Gallican Rite was used in the Frankish Kingdom until the time of Charlemagne, when it was deliberately suppressed by royal command in favor of the Roman Rite. Unfortunately, there are no surviving copies of this once widely used Liturgy, although a great deal of information about it is available in the writings of St. Gregory of Tours, St. Germain of Paris, and in other texts from the era in which it was in use.

The Gallican family of Rites could not withstand the tide of ecclesiastical history. The Gallican Rite “had no regulating center and, consequently, no controlled development; but it spun out diverse forms that suffered by comparison to the sober and orderly character of Roman worship. In fact, elaboration was the chief temptation of the Gallic type everywhere. The liturgies were more symbolic, dramatic, and diffuse than the Roman rite - copious in music, rich in ceremonial, overflowing with words. Moreover they abounded in variable elements to such an extent that virtually every feast day was fitted with its own distinctive formulary.”2


The renowned English Roman Catholic liturgical scholar Edmund Bishop (1846-1917) described the “genius of the Roman Rite” as marked by simplicity, sobriety and dignity.3 

Dr. Bard Thompson writes, “The core of the Roman Mass must have been fixed at the beginning of the fifth century, and certainly no later than the end of that century... [W]e may conceive of the Mass at the close of the fifth century. It commenced with the introit psalm, which was sung at the entrance of the clergy. Following the Kyries, the celebrant said the collect and readings were given from the Scriptures, interposed by a psalm. At the Offertory, the gifts of the people in bread and wine were presented at the altar, while the choir sung another psalm; and presently the celebrant commended them to God by a collect, now called the Secret. And then, having engaged the people in the ancient Eucharistic dialogue, the celebrant said the Preface, which terminated in the singing of the Sanctus. Thereupon he commenced the Canon, which embodied the Consecration and the sacrifice. When the Kiss of Peace had been given, the people received the Communion under the forms of bread and wine, saying ‘Amen’ as they received. At length, having offered the collect of thanksgiving, the celebrant dismissed the congregation. Edmund Bishop was impressed by the simple dignity of this service, by its care for order, gravity and sobriety. In a frequently quoted phrase he described the chief characteristics of the Roman rite as ‘soberness and sense’ and protested that those sensuous qualities popularly conceived to be ‘Romanism,’ did not come from Rome at all.”4

When one understands that the psalter is a hymn book of the Church, and that psalm and hymn are really interchangeable, this description of the Roman Rite in the fifth century sounds much more like the Liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer than it does the Tridentine Roman Rite. But this should be of no surprise to Anglicans who are aware that the Anglican Reformers sought to restore the Church to the beliefs and practices of the undivided Church in general and the first five centuries of Christianity in particular.  

After the late second or early third century Hippolytean Anaphora or Canon, the oldest known form of the Roman Canon is found in a work De Sacramentis, written by St. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397). The Canon then in use, which shows close verbal agreement with the Alexandrian Anaphora of St. Mark, still lacked the intercessions for the living and the dead, with which the later Gregorian Canon begins and ends.

By late in the sixth century the Roman Rite began to undergo changes. Most important was a “complete recasting of the Canon,” a term used for the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer, “the Eucharistic Prayer was fundamentally changed and recast.”5 The Prayers of the Faithful were omitted, leaving however the “Oremus” that once introduced them, and these intercessions were incorporated into the Canon of the Mass. The Anglican Church would later restore the intercessions or Prayers of the Faithful to their ancient place in the Liturgy as the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church.

When Charlemagne ordered the Roman Rite to be used exclusively in his Kingdom late in the eighth century, Pope Hadrian sent copies of the Roman Sacramentary to him in AD 788, to be copied for use by the Church there. “Although Charlemagne received the Roman books in fidelity and gave them authority throughout his dominions, he was not disposed to preserve them inviolate. When they crossed the Alps, they entered a realm that did not altogether appreciate ‘soberness and sense’ but possessed a religious temperament all its own, which had been given expression in the Gallican rites. Thus the Franks did not scruple to make alterations - sometimes profound - to the Roman liturgy over the years. And, as we have seen, this process was begun at the very outset by Charlemagne and the members of his palace school. The Gallic delight in drama produced what [Josef A.] Jungman called ‘the dramatic build-up of the Mass-liturgy.’ Copious use was now made of incense... Moreover, the prayers of the liturgy were multiplied so that the clean structure of the Roman rite became overlaid with a profusion of items... Not a few were cast in the singular, designed to be said inaudibly by the priest... The most respected authorities on the Mass judge that the silent recital of such prayers was alien to the Roman spirit... Another Gallican peculiarity derived from earlier struggles against Arianism [revived in Spain], when orthodoxy was riveted into the liturgy by prayers addressed to the Holy Trinity (suscipe sancta Trinitas being a case in point) and by carefully contrived endings to the collects, which labored the equality of the three Persons. Both of these devices now appeared in the Romano-Frankish rite, the latter being obvious alongside the crisp Roman conclusion, ‘through Christ our Lord.’ Aside from these alterations, which are readily identifiable as the marks of Gallic piety, the Mass underwent a profound transformation... as Latin became ever more remote to the people, the Mass took on more accoutrements of a mystery, and presented itself as something performed exclusively by the clergy on behalf of the people... Already in the ninth century, Walafrid Strabo expressly justified the celebration of Mass without communicants.”6

Toward the middle of the tenth century, during the reign of Otto the Great (d. 973), this mixed Romano-Frankish Rite was introduced into Rome under the influence of the Holy Roman Emperors who succeeded Charlemagne, and eventually displaced the older liturgical books. It was Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (c. AD 1014) that insisted that the Nicene Creed be recited in the Mass with the filioque clause inserted into the text, which increased tensions between Eastern and Western Christendom and a generation later would precipitate the Great Schism. 


All liturgical rites grow and develop organically over time. The Anglican Rite is sometimes criticized because the Book of Common Prayer has been revised over the centuries, and adapted by various national Anglican Churches, but until the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book by the Episcopal Church and similar modern Prayer books by other provinces of the Anglican Communion, which represent a break with Anglican tradition rather than mere revisions, these revisions have always represented organic development. 

The Eastern Rites, whether descending from Antioch or Alexandria, have also grown and developed over time, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is no exception. “But it is also certain that the modern Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has received considerable modifications and additions since his time. In order to reconstruct the rite used by him we must take away from the present Liturgy all the Preparation of the Offerings (Proskomide), the ritual of the Little and Great Entrances, and the Creed. The service began with the bishop’s greeting, ‘Peace to all’, and the answer, ‘And with thy spirit.’ The lessons followed from the Prophets and Apostles, and the deacon read the Gospel. After the Gospel the bishop or a priest preached a homily, and the prayer over the catechumens was said. Originally it had been followed by a prayer over the penitents, but Nektarios (381-397) had abolished the discipline of public penance, so in St. Chrysostom’s Liturgy this prayer is left out. Then came a prayer for the faithful (baptized) and the dismissal of the catechumens... [T]he present ceremonies and the Cherubic Chant that accompany the Great Entrance are a later development... The ceremonies performed by the deacon at the Words of Institution are a later addition... Communion [was given] under both kinds. In Chrysostom’s time it seems that people received either kind separately, drinking from the chalice. A short prayer of thanksgiving ended the Liturgy.”7

Theological controversies influenced the development of the Liturgy in the East just as they did in the West. The Trinitarian controversies of the early centuries are reflected in the numerous ekphonies glorifying the Holy Trinity that are found in the Byzantine Rite. The early Christological controversies in the East, especially Nestorianism, are reflected in the increased use of the term Theotokos and the development of the Theotokian in the Liturgy. Neither the Liturgy of St. Basil  or the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as they are known today, are celebrated as they were by these Church Fathers. All liturgical rites grow and develop over time, but the controlled development and organic growth of the Byzantine Rite is remarkable. The Byzantine Rite is generally uniform throughout the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Greek, Slav and Middle Eastern Christians celebrate the Byzantine Rite with only minor national and local variations more than half a millennium after the fall of Constantinople and more than twelve centuries since the last Ecumenical Council met.

Not only did the mixed Romano-Frankish Rite displace the old Roman Rite by early in the second millennium of Christianity, but the new Roman Rite quickly succumbed to the temptation of the Gallican Rites for elaboration. Although Rome tried to exercise some control over the development of the Rite, various “Uses” of the Roman Rite developed in many different dioceses and among the various Religious Orders, with new ceremonies and prayers being added. While the dioceses and Orders did not alter the fixed shape shape of the liturgy, they did incorporate into it a great variety of ceremonies, as well as prayers and silent devotions of the priests. Some of these elaborations are as follows:

The Gloria in excelsis had entered the Eucharistic Liturgy after the Kyries around the year 600, and was first used only for pontifical Christmas Masses celebrated by a bishop. It was used on Christmas Day because the Gloria in excelsis is an elaboration of the song of the angels announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds. After 1100, priests began to use it as well, and gradually the use of the Gloria was extended to feasts and non-penitential Sundays. 

The Gospel began to be read from the north side of the altar and the epistle from the south side at the time of Ivo of Chartres (d. 1117). The division of the altar into Gospel and Epistle sides may account for the extension of the altar lengthwise.

Offertory prayers and ceremonies of French Origin, sometimes called the minor canon, entered the Roman Rite in the thirteenth century. Originally, the bread and wine were offered together and there was only one short Prayer over the Offerings known as the Secret.

Elaborate incensing was introduced late in the eleventh or early in the twelfth centuries. Before that time, incense was used in the Roman Rite only during the entrance and Gospel processions.

In the late twelfth century  Archbishop de Sully of Paris (d. 1208) ordered the elevation of the Host after the Words of Institution, and the practice began to spread through the Western Church. The elevation of the Chalice did not come into the Liturgy until around 1400. The elevations were incorporated into the Liturgy so the laity, who were no longer communicating frequently, could at least gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament. The problem of infrequent Communion became so serious that the Fourth Lateran Council decreed in 1215, that the faithful must receive Holy Communion at least at Easter.

The ringing of the Sacring bell began around 1200. Since Latin had become a dead language the use of bells alerted the congregation to particularly important parts of the Liturgy. 

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the chalice was withdrawn from the laity, and Communion in one kind became the Western practice. This was of course contrary to the ancient and universal practice of the Church.

Finally, in 1570, Pope Pius V added to the Roman Rite the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, genuflections, and everything that now follows the Ite missa est. Genuflections (dropping to one knee) are a very late development that did not enter the Roman Rite until the pontificate of Pius V. As in the East, the customary means of showing reverence in the West had been to bow. There was the bow of the head at the Name of Jesus, and the profound bow (low enough to touch the knees) to the altar and the Blessed Sacrament. To genuflect originally meant to kneel on both knees. Dropping to one knee is very late in origin, and was never used in the ancient Church or in the British Isles before the Reformation.

The Roman Missal issued by Pope Pius V at the request of the Council of Trent abolished all diocesan and monastic Usages that were not at least two hundred years old and brought liturgical uniformity to the Counter Reformation Roman Church. The Roman Rite took the form of what is now commonly called the Tridentine Roman Rite. 


“The Church of England, before the Protestant Reformation in the first half of the sixteenth century, was accustomed to use in celebrating the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, slightly varying forms of the Latin Mass, which England, along with the rest of Western Christendom, had received from Rome. What little remained of the still older British or Celtic rites had all but vanished after the mission of Augustine, who brought with him from Pope Gregory I the Roman Canon of the Mass, substantially as we know it today.”8

Like in the rest of Western Europe, there were various diocesan and monastic Uses of the Roman Rite in England. Diocesan Uses were those of Salisbury, Hereford, Bangor, York, and Lincoln. Of these Uses, the most important was Sarum (Salisbury). Established at Salisbury by St. Osmond about 1085, it closely resembled the Use of Rouen, and because of its connection to Normandy it retained Frankish or Gallican features. From Salisbury the Sarum Use spread until it came to dominate the south of England, including Canterbury and London.


“It was therefore, natural that when the English Reformers, under Archbishop Cranmer, undertook to revise and rewrite the services of the Church in English, they should turn first to the Sarum Use as their chief model, a form which they, as well as the English people, were most familiar. Their task, as they saw it was to bring back the traditional formularies of the Church to what the principles of the Reformation had taught them to regard as scriptural and primitive, discarding those elements which they considered to be medieval accretions, alterations, and superstitions. Their appeal in matters of liturgy as well as theology was to that which was Catholic as opposed to Roman, and to the early Fathers as opposed to medieval scholasticism.

“For his age Cranmer was a liturgical expert of great knowledge and even greater insight,... The new learning of the sixteenth century, especially the knowledge of Greek, had made the Reformers better acquainted with non-Roman liturgies, particularly those of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.”9

The English Church carried out its reformation slowly and carefully. In 1534, the Convocation of Canterbury petitioned the Crown to authorize a translation of the Holy Scriptures into English. Their request was approved, resulting in the publication of the Great Bible.  In 1543, Convocation required the Holy Scriptures to be read in English after the Te Deum and Magnificat in the Divine Office on Sundays and holy days. In July 1547, the first Book of Homilies was published. The English Reformation was proceeding very cautiously, with the intention of giving everyone access to the Holy Scriptures and to encouraging sound preaching. In August of 1547, injunctions were issued requiring every parish to have an English Bible and a copy of Erasmus’ Paraphrase of the Gospels, and directed that the lessons at Mass were to be read “in English and not in Latin.” Finally, in December of 1547, legislation was enacted requiring the sacrament of Holy Communion to be administered in both kinds, according to the practice “of the Apostles and the primitive Church.”

In preparation for the administration of Holy Communion in both kinds and for what the bishops hoped would be an increase in the frequency of the reception of the sacrament of the altar, a Commission of “prelates and other learned men in the Scriptures” met at Windsor Castle over the winter and prepared “The Order of the Communion”, which was issued by royal proclamation on March 8, 1548. This new Order was to be inserted into the Latin Mass immediately after the celebrant received Communion, and included an Exhortation to self examination, an Invitation and General Confession, the Absolution and Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the words of administration of the sacrament in both kinds (Body and Blood) in English. 

While new to the Church of England, such an Order was no innovation and had a long history on the Continent. A vernacular Order, commonly called “Prone,” had been inserted into the Latin Mass on Sundays and holy days for centuries in France and Germany.  References to Prone can be found in documents going back to the ninth century, and it was fully developed no later than the era of Honorius of Autun (d. 1150). The Order varied from place to place, and the Order adopted in England seems to be based on the one authorized by the reforming German Archbishop Hermann von Wied for use in Cologne.


The next step in the English Reformation was to publish the rites and ceremonies of the Church completely in English. The work was undertaken by a group of scholars known to history as the Windsor Commission. Archbishop Cranmer said they were well representative of the thinking of the Church, “some favoring the old, some the new learning,” Yet all were in agreement “that the service of the church ought to be in the mother-tongue.” While the details are not known, evidence suggests that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury was assisted by bishops Ridley of Rochester; Holbeach of Lincoln; Thirlby of Westminster; Goodrich of Ely; and possibly by Skip of Hereford and Day of Chichester; and by doctors William May, Dean of St. Paul’s; Simon Heynes, Dean of Exeter; Thomas Robertson, Dean of Durham; John Redman, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge; and possibly by Richard Cox, Chancellor of Oxford and later bishop of Ely; and John Taylor, Dean and later bishop of Lincoln.

Some Anglicans have expressed unease over the idea of Archbishop Cranmer reforming the Liturgy and therefore have suggested a return to the Sarum Use or some other long disused rite, or even simply adopting the Tridentine Roman Rite; but reforming the liturgy is nothing new, nor is it unique to Anglicanism. For instance, both St. Basil the Great (d. 379), Metropolitan of Caesarea, and St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Archbishop of Constantinople, reformed the Liturgies of their day. 

“It is certain that St. Basil made a reformation of the Liturgy of his Church, and that the Byzantine service called after him represents his reformed Liturgy in its chief parts, although it has undergone further modification since his time. St. Basil himself speaks on several occasions of the changes he made in the services of Caesarea. He writes to the clergy of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus to complain of opposition against himself on account of the new way of singing psalms introduced by his authority (Ep. Basilii, cvii, Patr. Gr. XXXII, 763). St. Gregory Nazianzos (Nazianzen, d. 390) says Basil had reformed the order of prayers (euchon diataxis - Orat. xx, P.G., XXXV, 761). Gregory of Nyssa (died 395) compares his brother Basil with Samuel because he ‘carefully arranged the form of Service’ (Hierourgia, In laudem fr. Bas., P.G., XLVI, 808). Proklos (Proclus) of Constantinople (d. 446) writes, “When the great Basil...saw the carelessness and degeneracy of men who feared the length of the Liturgy - not as if he thought it too long - he shortened its form, so as to remove the weariness of the clergy and assistants’ (De traditione divinae Missae, P.G., XLV, 849).”10

“The next epoch in the history of the Byzantine Rite is the reform of St. John Chrysostom (d. 407)... The tradition of his Church says that during the time of his patriarchate he composed from the Basilian Liturgy a shorter form that is the one still in common use throughout the Orthodox Church. The same text of Proklos (Proclus) quoted above continues: ‘Not long afterwards our Father, John Chrysostom, zealous for the salvation of his flock as a shepherd should be, considering the carelessness of human nature, thoroughly uprooted every diabolical objection. He therefore left out a great part and shortened all forms lest anyone...stay away from this Apostolic and Divine Institution’, etc. He would, then, have treated St. Basil’s rite exactly as St. Basil treated the older rite of Caesarea... But it is also certain that the modern Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has received considerable modifications and additions since his time.”11

In the Roman Church, in answer to the request of the Council Trent, Pope Pius V, issued a reformed Roman Missal. “We decided to entrust this work” writes the pope, “to learned men of our selection... When this work had been gone over numerous times and further amended, after serious study and reflection, We commanded that the finished product be printed and published.”12 

St. Basil the Great, acting as Metropolitan of Caesarea, reformed the Antiochene Liturgy then in use. St. John Chrysostom, acting as Archbishop of Constantinople, did the same. Thomas Cranmer, acting as Archbishop of Canterbury and Metropolitan of all England, did likewise. All three of these men reformed the Liturgies of their day, as did Pope Pius V in the standardized edition of the Roman Missal issued in 1570, at the request of the Council of Trent. The Roman Missal of Pius V added the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and everything after Ite missa est; redefined genuflection and replaced bowing as a form of reverence with dropping to one knee, and canonized such medieval  practices as elevations, communion in one kind, private Masses, and more. 

On Pentecost Sunday, 1549, the Latin Mass with its new vernacular Order of the Communion, was replaced in the Church of England by the Book of Common Prayer which retained the structure of the Sarum Use of the Roman Rite, and preserved much of the traditional English usage. Even the title of the new Prayer Book demonstrated that the Church of England was carrying out a reform rather than a revolution: “The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church: After the Use of the Church of England.” The Church of England which had five Uses of the Roman Rite, plus various monastic Uses, would now have one national Use, but the new Prayer Book was still recognized as a “Use” of the Roman Rite. 

The Eucharistic Liturgy was titled, The Supper of the Lord, and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass. “[T]his title gives an excellent idea of Cranmer’s recension, which was to return to what were believed to be the standards of the Primitive Church, and the intent of her Founder, regarding the rite and purpose of this Sacrament; and at the same time to retain, actually and recognizably, the traditional and immemorial use of the Church of England.”13  As Dr. W. H. Frere put it, “The aim of the Reformers was to make an intelligible English Mass.”14  Stephen Hurlbut adds, “They had no intention of composing a new or novel Eucharistic rite, or one outside the stream of Catholic tradition.”15 

The Eucharistic Liturgy of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was a conservative revision of the Medieval Sarum Use of the Roman Rite then in use in the Church of England, as were all of the reformed rites and ceremonies found in the Prayer Book.   The most striking change was that of language. The entire Liturgy was now to be celebrated in English. Archbishop Cranmer was not only a liturgical expert, but he had a wonderful grasp of the English language which enabled him to reproduce the rhythm of liturgical Latin, and to produce an English Liturgy that is reverent, uplifting and beautiful. With the new Prayer Book, the laity ceased to be spectators merely “hearing Mass,” and became worshippers, participating in “common prayer.”

The Book of Common Prayer no longer required the movement of the altar book back and forth from the north and south sides of of the altar, which was not a primitive tradition at all, but merely a custom going back only to the beginning of the twelfth century. However, neither was this custom suppressed by rubric. The elaborate Offertory prayers and ceremonies of French origin that had entered the Roman Rite in the thirteenth century were eliminated, and the bread and wine were offered together as was the original practice in the Roman Rite. With a renewed emphasis on receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion rather than merely gazing upon it as had become the medieval practice, the elevations after the Words of Institution were abolished by rubric. The elevation of the host dated back only to the late twelfth century, and the elevation of the chalice to around the year 1400. The ringing of bells during the Liturgy was no longer necessary because worship was now in the vernacular; however, bells were still used to summon the congregation to worship. Most importantly, preaching was now required as well as the administration of the sacrament of Holy Communion in both kinds. “Thus, the Book was a reverent adaptation of the Latin rite, possessed of liturgical fitness and a deep Eucharistic piety.”16  


The 1549 Book of Common Prayer was a first step in the reform of the Anglican Liturgy, but the Sarum Use, which was the model for the Prayer Book, was not an English Use of the ancient Roman Rite, but of the mixed Romano-Frankish Rite which had been brought to England with the Normans. Although the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was a “very godly Order”, Archbishop Cranmer himself indicated that it was merely a temporary arrangement and that further reform was necessary.

The Book of Common Prayer had come into use in the Church of England on Pentecost Sunday 1549, but in October the government of Somerset fell from power and was replaced by a government led by Warwick. Warwick was heavily influenced by the Reformation in Geneva and was determined to push for a more radical Reformation in England. By the beginning of 1551, both Canterbury and the government were committed to a revision of the Book of Common Prayer, but they had different goals.

During this time visitations were being conducted to determine the level of religious knowledge among the clergy, and the results had a depressing effect on the leaders of the Church. The results of a similar visitation in Germany had filled Luther with horror, but the results were even worse in England. Following the rule of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, Archbishop Cranmer was determined to harness the teaching power of the Liturgy to catechize the Church. Knowledge of the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer had always been considered to be the bare essentials of the Christian Faith, so Archbishop Cranmer decided to incorporate the Decalogue into the Liturgy of the Church where it would be joined to the Creed and Lord’s Prayer in worship. This action is believed by many to be an innovation, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It was actually a restoration of an ancient practice.

The early Church in general, and the primitive British Church in particular, used the Decalogue in worship. In his book, The Celtic Church in Britain, Dr. Leslie Hardinge writes, “while the Celtic theologian was keenly interested in the whole of Scripture, his preoccupation with the Ten Commandments was even deeper. The earliest Christian service included a recitation of the Decalogue. It might well be that Pliny’s statement that Christians bound themselves by an oath not to kill or steal reflected his understanding of the meaning of the repetition of the Ten Commandments in the Christian liturgy. If this be granted, then ‘this will explain both the sudden decision of the Jewish authorities to omit the Decalogue from their daily services and the great prominence accorded to it in early Christian literature.’ The Christianity practiced by Patrick’s parents and introduced by him into Ireland was characterized by a profound respect for the Ten Commandments. Antinomianism and anti-Semitism had not succeeded in banishing the Decalogue from Britain.”17 

While it is disputed by scholars as to whether the early Church understood the Kyries to be shouts of praise like the Hebrew Hosanna, or were seen as a penitential cry for mercy, there can be no doubt that the Medieval Church saw them as penitential. The Gloria in excelsis had only entered the Eucharistic Liturgy when celebrated by priests in the twelfth century, and grew into regular Sunday use only gradually. With the Kyries seen as penitential, the Gloria in excelsis broke up the natural progression of the Liturgy, so it was removed from the ante-communion (Liturgy of the Word) and used instead as a fixed post-communion anthem. 

The other major reform was to remove the intercessions from the Prayer of Consecration and to restore them to their original place in the Liturgy.  By late in the sixth century the Roman Rite had begun to undergo changes; most important, as we have already seen, was a “complete recasting of the Canon,” a term used for the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer. The Prayers of the Faithful were omitted, leaving however the “Oremus” that once introduced them, and these intercessions were incorporated into the Canon of the Mass. The intercessions or Prayers of the Faithful were now restored to their ancient place in the Liturgy as the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church. The Prayers of the Faithful are similarly joined with the Offertory in the Mozarabic Rite.

Another return to ancient practice was the restoration of Communion in the hand. Receiving Holy Communion in the hand was described by St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his fourth century work, On the Eucharistic Rite: “Make thy left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is on the eve of receiving thy King. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ…" The Quinisext Council (AD 692) states that "if anyone wishes to be a participator of the Immaculate Body in the time of the Synaxis [Eucharist], and to offer himself for the communion, let him draw near, arranging his hands in the form of a cross…" St. John of Damascus (d. AD 750) in De Fide Orthodoxa (On the Orthodox Faith) urges communicants to "draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands in the form of a cross, let us receive the Crucified One." 

The distinguished Coptic author, Fr. Tadros Malaty, recounts an event in the life of Pope Peter I of Alexandria (AD 302-311), that implies that administering the sacrament of Holy Communion into the hands was the normal practice in his time: “There was a man in the city whose hands were crippled (twisted so that he could not straighten them at all). As there was a service, he went to the church and desired to receive the holy mysteries from the hands of the Pope, and because his hands were crippled he opened his mouth to receive them. The Pope said to him, ‘My son, stretch forth your hands and take for yourself.’ Immediately his hands became straight and he stretched them forth and received the holy mysteries, and glorified God.”

These were all positive reforms based on early Christian liturgical practice, but the government was now dominated by men under the influence of Geneva and determined  to move the Church in that direction. “The Archbishop feared agitation for a total abandonment of all ritual. He asked the extreme group to respect ceremonies at least for their antiquity and to avoid ‘innovations and newfangledness, which (as much as may be with true setting forth of Christ’s religion) is always to be eschewed.’”18 

With pressure mounting from abroad, from radical “Reformers” at home, and from the government, innovations were also incorporated into the Liturgy. The Prayer of Humble Access was moved to a place just before the Prayer of Consecration, and the Prayer of Consecration was broken up with the sacrament administered immediately after the Words of Institution. Perhaps most importantly, the words used in administering the sacrament were changed to emphasize the memorial aspect of the Eucharist.

The Prayer of Oblation was moved from the Canon to after the administration of the sacrament, and the priest was given a choice of saying it or the Prayer of Thanksgiving. The government even wanted to eliminate the reception of the sacrament of Holy Communion kneeling, but Archbishop Cranmer stood his ground on this issue. In response, the government inserted the infamous “Black Rubric” at the last moment as the Book was going to press.

The revised Prayer Book was completed in the Spring of 1552, and annexed to a new Act of Uniformity on April 14th. It’s use was required as of All Saints Day, but it was never approved for use by Convocation and was therefore never an official Liturgy of the Church of England. “The Book made its deadline in London, but it is uncertain how far it supplanted 1549 in the countryside. When Bishop Ridley officiated at the first Service in St. Paul’s, his young King and the Communion Service itself had eight months to live.”19 


With the death of King Edward VI, his half sister Mary ascended the throne. A dedicated Roman Catholic, she restored the Church of England to Roman obedience and to the unreformed Latin Services. With the death of Queen Mary after only five years on the throne, Elizabeth I became queen. Queen Elizabeth was committed to renewed reform.  She would have liked to have returned to the Liturgy of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer as a starting place, but her sister had martyred nearly 300 Christians during her short reign, including an archbishop, bishops and other clergy, hallowing the unauthorized 1552 Prayer Book with their blood, and she inherited a religiously deeply divided nation. 

“Aware of conservative and advanced currents of thought within her realm, Elizabeth evolved a Communion Service that most citizens could abide by, at least for the present. Only Roman Catholics would be wholly displeased. Advanced thought as reflected by Geneva was too strong for a return to 1549 or before. Therefore, Elizabeth settled on the Lord’s Supper of 1552. But  it was 1552 with three important changes.”20  

The changes were the restoration of the words for administering the sacrament from the 1549 Liturgy, combined with those of 1552; the elimination of the Black Rubric; and a new ornaments rubric: “And here is to be noted, that the minister at the time of the communion, and at all other times in his ministration, shall use such ornaments in the church as were in use by authority of parliament in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI, according to the act of parliament set in the beginning of this book.”

Most English citizens were able to abide by the Elizabethan 1559 Book of Common Prayer, “at least for the present,” but the reform and restoration of the Church was to continue. Revisions of the Book of Common were made in England in 1604 and 1662, culminating in the English Proposed book of 1928. All of these revisions reflected organic development in the Anglican Liturgy, and each reform was in the direction of the undivided Church of the first millennium. More rapid advances in liturgical reform were made in Scotland and among the Non-Jurors in England, with the Scottish 1637 Book of Common Prayer, followed by the Non-Juror Prayer Book of 1718, and the Scottish Prayer Book of 1764. 

From 1607, until after the American Revolution it was the English 1604 and then the 1662 editions of the Book of Common Prayer that were used in the New World. But in 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated in Scotland as the first bishop of the now self-governing American Church. Seabury had signed a very important Concordat with the Scottish Church, agreeing to do his best to get the Scottish Eucharistic Liturgy adopted for use in the new Republic.

Bishop Seabury kept his word, and on October 14, 1789, the American Church had a Eucharistic Liturgy based on the Scottish Liturgy. That Liturgy was revised in 1892, and then again in 1928, always moving in the direction of the primitive Church. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer marks the summit of the Anglican Reformation and the restoration of a Western Rite Liturgy that fully reflects the beliefs of the undivided Church and the liturgical practice of the first five centuries. The Anglican Rite has undergone organic development over the centuries, but so have all liturgical rites Eastern and Western. The development of the Anglican Rite though has always been in the direction of the primitive Roman Rite, of which it is a Use.


The Book of Common Prayer has a history of more than four and a half centuries of daily liturgical use, and is in direct and organic continuity with the beliefs, practices and liturgies of the undivided Church in the West. It is now time to take an in-depth look at this Liturgy.  

The Eucharistic Liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer opens with the Collect for Purity. This Collect was part of the celebrant’s preparation in the Sarum Sacramentary (c. 1085), but its use dates back to at least AD 804. In the Sarum Sacramentary it appears in  Latin: “Deus Cui omne cor patet, et omnis voluntas loquitur, et Quem nullum latet secretum, purifica per infusionem Sancti Spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri; ut Te perfecte diligirere, et digne laudare mereamur. Per Chrustum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

The Collect is found in the sacramentary of Alcuin (c. 735-804), the prime minister of Charlemagne, and the reviser of the Roman Rite in the Frankish kingdom. It is unknown whether Alcuin composed the Collect himself or took it from an earlier Service book that is no longer extant, but we know that it has been used for more than twelve hundred years. The Collect for Purity continues to be a prayer of preparation in the Book of Common Prayer. It remains as part of the preparation for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries and is said before the altar.

The Decalogue entered the Book of Common Prayer in 1552, and has remained in the Anglican Rite ever since. However, as we have seen, its use was no innovation. The Ten Commandments were used liturgically in the early Church in general and in the British Isles in particular, so there is precedent for its use. “It is certain that Cranmer accepted the Medieval view that the Kyrie was penitential... It may be that he was desirous of including in the liturgy the regular recitation of the commandments, along with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, as one of the three things Christians ought especially ‘to know and believe to their souls health.’”21

Blessed Charles Grafton (AD 1830-1912), bishop of Fon du Lac, Wisconsin wrote, “The recitation of the Decalogue in this place is a peculiarity of the Anglican rite. Let us not therefore disparage it, but rather glorify it; for may we not humbly believe that in the development of the Liturgy each portion of Christendom bears its own witness to the faith and has its own special liturgical glories? Our Liturgy, beginning with the Decalogue and omitting the Gloria in Excelsis, is in striking contrast with the Roman... and there is something very beautiful in beginning the drama of Christ’s life and death with the angel’s song in Bethlehem. But yet it is a grand idea - a grander one, we venture to think - to throw the mind first of all back behind the scene of Bethlehem into the eternal counsels themselves and into the presence of the ever-blessed Trinity. The Decalogue does this. It places us before the awful grandeur of God Himself, and enshrines us in the splendour of His glory” (The Mystical Meaning of the Liturgy).

The Summary of the Law is taken from Holy Scripture, and was first used in the Non-Jurors Prayer Book of 1718. It is found in the Scottish Liturgy of 1764, was part of the first American Prayer Book in 1789, and remains in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It is also found in the English 1928 Proposed Book and in the Scottish 1929 Book of Common Prayer, among others. The Summary of the Law may be used in addition to the Decalogue or as a substitute for it, provided that the Decalogue is used at least one Sunday in each month.

The Kyries may be used in the three-fold form as found in the Book of Common Prayer or in the nine-fold form as found in the 1940 Hymnal, which is also an authorized liturgical book of the American Church. “The number of repetitions of the Kyrie [in the early Church] was not constant, though three seems always to have been the most usual, and the ninefold Kyrie now familiar in the west was a natural and obviously symbolic number.”22 

The Gloria in excelsis had only come into use by priests on Sundays in the twelfth century, and with the understanding of the Kyries as being penitential, it broke up the natural progression of the Liturgy. The ancient Roman Rite did not include the Gloria in excelsis, and when the Gloria first made its appearance in the Roman Rite it was used only in pontifical celebrations by bishops at Christmas. To avoid breaking up the natural progression of the Liturgy, and in order to return to primitive liturgical practice, the Gloria was removed from the ante-communion (Liturgy of the Word). Not wanting to eliminate this ancient hymn of praise that had come into the West from the Eastern Liturgy of the Hours, the Anglican Church moved it toward the end of the Liturgy where it serves beautifully as a fixed Post Communion Anthem.  

The Collect of the Day, along with other Collects, and the Epistle and Gospel lessons follow the Kyries.  The term “Collect” is a survival in the Anglican Liturgy from the ancient Gallican Rites. In the Roman Rite the word used is simply Oratio: the Prayer. “The collect is therefore the first variable prayer of the mass. It is strictly a western feature, and in its pure form is direct and brief, consisting of an address, a petition and an adjuration.”23 

“This section of variable prayers [collects] and lessons used at the Holy Communion on the several Sundays and holy days of the Church Year is called the ‘Propers’ of the Eucharist; and, with the few Proper Prefaces..., they carry on in our Prayer Book the tradition of the Western Church, developed in the fourth century, of relating significant portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to the seasonal themes of the movable and immovable feasts and fasts.”24 They are for the most part identical to what is found in Sacramentaries and Missals that had been in use throughout the Western Church for centuries, and were still being used at the time of the Reformation. “In the case of the Collects the Prayer Book substitutions were all designed to eliminate from the liturgy certain offensive doctrines of the medieval Church - notably those enshrined in the Saints’ Days Collects respecting the ‘works of supererogation’ of the saints whose merits might be applied to our benefit by their intercession.”25 

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed follows the reading of the Gospel. After hearing the readings from the Scriptures the people of God confess their faith. “Our earliest record of the creed said during the liturgy tells that it was introduced by the Patriarchs Peter the Dyer at Antioch (470-488) and Timothy I of Constantinople (511-518)... In the west the creed first appeared in Spain as a protest against the Arians. It was said after the consecration, before the Our Father, where it remains in the Mozarabic rite. Rome, ever as conservative in liturgical matters as radical in matters of polity, received it cautiously. Leo III (795-816) permitted it to be used in Gaul where it had been imported from the east; but he forbad the addition of the filioque... In 1014 when Henry II was crowned in Rome he noted the absence of the creed and persuaded the pope, Benedict VIII, to impose it upon his church. Now the creed is found in all rites, in the liturgy of the faithful, but at varying places.”26 

After the Creed, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer has a rubric that says, “Then followeth the Sermon.” The Liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer restores the ancient balance of Law and Gospel, and of Word and Sacrament. The sermon was restored as an important part of the Christian Synaxis.

The Offertory follows the sermon. In the primitive Roman Rite the Bread and Wine were offered together with one short prayer called the Secret. The practice of offering the bread and wine separately and the use of the Offertory Prayers found in the Tridentine Roman Rite are all much later. The Offertory of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer restores ancient Western liturgical practice.

Next follows the restoration of the Prayers of the Faithful or Intercessions, called in the Prayer Book, “The Prayer for the Whole [healthy] State of Christ’s Church.” The Prayers of the Faithful had been found early in the Liturgy of the Faithful in the primitive Roman Rite, but had later been moved to the Canon, leaving only the Oremus, but no Intercessions. In the Mozarabic Rite the Intercessions are also separate from the Canon and placed near the Offertory. The Liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer restores the Intercessions to their ancient place in the Western Liturgy.

After the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ Church comes the Exhortation (used thrice each year), the Invitation, General Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words. These devotions in preparation for receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion are an English version of the French and German vernacular preparation called Prone that had long been inserted in the Latin Mass on Sundays and holy days. References to Prone can be found in documents of the ninth century, long before the Great Schism.

With the General Confession and Absolution, the faithful are now prepared for the Consecration of the elements and the reception of the sacrament Holy Communion. The Prayer of Consecration (Anaphora or Canon) is introduced by the Sursum Corda. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer has Proper Prefaces for ten holy days: Christmas, Epiphany, Purification, Annunciation, Transfiguration, Easter, Ascension, Whitsunday (Pentecost), Trinity Sunday and All Saints Day. The Gregorian Sacramentary (c. seventh century) also had ten.

The Sanctus varies in wording, but is found in all living liturgies. The Liber Pontificalis ascribes its use in the liturgy to Pope Sixtus I (AD 119-128). The Bendictus is a hymn found in the 1940 Hymnal, an authorized liturgical book of the Church, and is commonly used in both High and Low Masses immediately following the Sanctus.

Following the Sanctus and Benedictus, the Prayer of Consecration continues: “All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son...” (1928 BCP, p. 80). The Eucharistic Liturgy is offered to the Father through the Son, and the gifts are offered as an Oblation to the Father: “we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee...” (1928 BCP, p. 80).

“The first paragraph [of the Prayer of Consecration] takes up the theme of ‘glory’ from the Sanctus, in thanksgiving for the supreme gift of God’s mercy in the perfect and all sufficient sacrifice of His Son upon the Cross for the redemption of the whole world from sin... These words do not commit our Church to any one of the various theories about the Atonement wrought by Christ, but simply safeguard the doctrine that He alone is the ‘Propitiation for our sins’ (I John ii. 1-2). The Eucharist is the perpetual memorial in the Church of that redemption made once for all, and the continual presentation and pleading by the Church before God of its ‘full, perfect, and sufficient’ accomplishment... Cranmer had both the Eastern and Western forms [of Prayers of Consecration] before him. He followed the order of the Latin Canon and the phrasing of the Greek prayers... Moreover the Non-Jurors removed the Invocation to its present (Eastern) position, immediately following the Oblation.”27 

Early editions of the Book of Common Prayer accepted the then generally held Western view that the Consecration was effected by the Words of Institution, and there is patristic support for this view. In De Sacramentis, St. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) discussed the Consecration which he attributed to the Words of Institution: “Thus the word of Christ consecrates this sacrament.” And St. Augustine of Hippo taught, “Accedat verbum ad elementum, et fit sacramentum” - ”If the word be joined to the element, it becomes a sacrament.” 

However, as the Anglican Reformation (really Restoration) continued, the Church embraced the practice of the Eastern Churches. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer follows the Scottish Order with the Invocation (Epiclesis) after the Words of Institution and the Oblation. The English Proposed book of 1928 and the Scottish 1929 Book of Common Prayer have also followed this Eastern liturgical practice. Apostolic Tradition by St. Hippolytus demonstrates that the use of an Epiclesis after the Words of Institution was the ancient Roman practice as well. Scholars are unsure when or why the use of an Epiclesis was discontinued in the Roman Canon.  It has been said that Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the Holy Spirit has been constantly leading the Anglican Church (in the days of its orthodoxy) in the direction of patristic Christianity.

Where the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is somewhat unique is in its use of “Word and Holy Spirit” rather than just “Holy Spirit” in the Invocation (Epiclesis). However, once again this was no unhistorical innovation. The Invocation of the Word, Christ Himself, was sometimes used in the primitive Church in the Eucharistic Liturgy. For instance, Bishop Serapion of Thumis in Egypt (c. 339-363), an important mid-fourth century source, prays in his Liturgy that the Word come upon the elements that they become the Body and Blood of Christ: “O God of truth, let your holy Word come upon this bread, that the bread may become the body of the Word, and upon this cup, that the cup may become the blood of Truth.”  “Again, after its first edition, the American Prayer Book capitalized ‘Word’ as well as ‘Holy Spirit,’ to prevent any misunderstanding that the ‘Word’ referred to is the Words of Institution rather than Christ the Word Himself.”28  

The Words of Institution in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer follows the Eastern pattern rather than the Western. “The Gallican and Roman [Rites] introduce the words of institution with the phrase ‘Who, the day before he suffered’ instead of the eastern (and Mozarabic) formula ‘Who, the night in which he was betrayed...’”29  The 1928 Book of Common Prayer has, “For in the night in which he was betrayed.” 

A comparison of the Prayer of Consecration of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with that of the primitive Roman Rite as given by St. Hippolytus (c. 215) of Rome, in his Apostolic Tradition, will demonstrate that the similarities are striking. Both are offered to God the Father through the Son, both begin with with a Thanksgiving for redemption, then pass to a narrative of the Institution, followed by an Oblation and Invocation (Epiclesis), and end with a Doxology. The Canon of St. Hippolytus is actually shorter than that in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Neither of these Canons have any intercessions for the living or the dead because the Prayers of the Faithful (Intercessions), as we have seen, are offered earlier in the Liturgy; and neither Prayer contains commemorations of the saints as they did not begin to enter the Liturgy until the end of the fifth century. It is interesting to note that St. Hippolytus of Rome wrote in Greek and lived at a time before Latin became the liturgical language of the Roman Church.

Following the Prayer of Consecration is the Lord’s Prayer, exactly where it was fixed in the Roman Rite by St. Gregory the Great. Next follows the Prayer of Humble Access. The rubrics call for the celebrant to pray this prayer in behalf of the congregation, but it is common practice today for the entire congregation to say it together. The rubrics originally called for the celebrant to say this prayer alone in order to avoid having the Liturgy disrupted by the silence of those in the congregation influenced by the more radical “Reformation” on the Continent, and later by the Puritans. 

The Prayer of Humble access is an Anglican counterpart to the prayers said just before Communion in the Byzantine Rite that begin, “I believe  O Lord and Confess...” and “Of thy Mystic Supper...”

The Prayer of Humble Access is normally followed by the Agnus Dei. This hymn was introduced into the Roman Rite by a Syrian pope, Sergius I (687-701), and is found in the 1940 Hymnal.

Following the administration of the sacrament of Holy Communion, the Liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer has a fixed Post-Communion Collect, the Prayer of Thanksgiving. Both variable and fixed post-communion prayers are common in the liturgies of Christendom, with the Anglican Rite having a fixed prayer. Other liturgies with a fixed prayer corresponding to the Anglican Prayer of Thanksgiving would be the Liturgy of St. James and the Celtic liturgy of the Lorrha (Stowe) Missal (c. 750).

The Liturgy of St. James has this prayer: “We give thee thanks, Christ our God, that thou hast vouchsafed to make us partakers of thy Body and Blood, for the remission of sins, and eternal life. Keep us, we beseech thee, without condemnation, because thou art good, and the lover of men. We thank thee, God and Saviour of all, for all the good things which thou hast bestowed on us; and for the participation of thy holy and spotless Mysteries... “

The Celtic Liturgy of the Lorrha (Stowe) Missal has this prayer: “We give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty eternal God, who hast fed us with the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ thy Son; and we humbly implore thy mercy, O Lord, that this sacrament may not be to us for judgement to condemnation, but for pardon through the intercession of the Saviour, May it be a cleansing of sins, a strengthening of the weak, a support against the perils of the world; May this Communion purge us from sin, and make us partakers of the heavenly joys it gives. Through...”

The similarity of these prayers with the Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Anglican Liturgy is self-evident. After the Prayer of Thanksgiving comes the Gloria in excelsis as a Post-Communion Anthem, corresponding to Matthew 26:30. The Last Supper had just ended, “And when they had sung an hymn they went out...” The celebrant then dismisses the congregation with a Blessing. 


Beginning in the mid-19th century there arose insecure Anglicans who viewed post-Reformation Roman Catholic liturgical practice as the Catholic norm, and came to believe that the Liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer was valid but inadequate. With this view in mind they began to “enrich” the Liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer with elements from the Tridentine Roman Rite. In an attempt to “restore” to the Liturgy that which had been supposedly “lost” in Anglicanism, they began to compose unauthorized missals. In these missals they incorporated prayers and ceremonies that only came into the Roman Rite in 1570, such as the prayers of preparation at the foot of the altar, everything after Ite missa est, and dropping to one knee (genuflection) as a sign of reverence, rather than bowing. Late Frankish Offertory Prayers were restored; as were intercessions to the Canon, with the elimination of the prayers of the faithful (the Prayer for the Whole state of Christ Church) sometimes allowed as an option. Elevations after the Words of Institution returned to the Liturgy which were a late innovation due to the growing non-communicating Mass attendance; and the Gloria in excelsis was restored to the place it had taken in the 12th century, once again breaking up the natural progression of the Liturgy. Medieval private priestly prayers and ceremonies were restored that obscured the clean structure and nobel simplicity, sobriety and dignity of the Rite. While the Eucharistic Liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was unmistakably patterned after the primitive Roman Rite of which the Anglican liturgy is a Use, the missals were an attempt to bring Anglican worship in line with the Tridentine Liturgy of AD 1570.


The Anglican Rite has beautifully adapted the ancient Benedictine daily Offices, in the form of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, for use by busy parish priests and for use in local parishes. By praying the daily Office, Anglicans pray through the entire psalter every month, and read (lectio divina) through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice every year. Ancient Benedictine spirituality has always permeated Anglicanism, with the Divine Office serving like a setting for a jewel: the Holy Eucharist. 


The 1928 Book of Common Prayer, along with the English 1928 Proposed Book, the 1929 Scottish Book of Common Prayer, and similar national editions of the Prayer Book, are a restoration of the Liturgy and spirituality of the primitive Western Church. Could they be improved? Of course. But they could more easily be made worse as can be seen in some of the unauthorized missals and devotional books, as well as in modern “trial rites” and “revisions” of the historic Book of Common Prayer such as the 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church. The Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of Anglican spirituality, and the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer are the daily prayers of the Church. The historic Book of Common Prayer and the Authorized (KJV) Version of the Bible are two jewels of the English language and of Catholic devotion, and are the Anglican Church’s gifts to the world.  

Roman Catholic liturgical scholar, Fr. Edward Echlin, S.J. wrote in 1967, “The rite of the Episcopal Church [the 1928 Book of Common Prayer] is as susceptible as the Roman [Tridentine] Mass to interpretation in terms of propitiatory sacrifice and perduring Real Presence. In fact, there is one component of the Episcopal canon - the Invocation insisted on by Seabury - that possibly teaches Real Presence more explicitly than the Roman Mass.”30

Today, both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches recognize the beauty, spirituality, orthodoxy and value of our Anglican patrimony, as do a growing number of Evangelical Christians that are finding their way back to Catholic Christianity. The Book of Common Prayer may yet serve as a liturgical bridge to help reunite separated Christians. In 1943, Anglican Dean William Palmer Ladd wrote, “Ours is the responsibility and the duty to make the most out of our Prayer Book Eucharist as a living, spiritual tradition. Thus it would attract far-flung and unsuspected loyalties, and... might witness its development into an increasingly effective instrument for the promotion of unity among all churches of our sadly divided Christendom. May it not be the special vocation of our Church to make that contribution to the fulfillment of our Lord’s great eucharistic petition ‘that they all may be one’?”31

1. I Cor. 11:23-25
2. Liturgies of the Western Church, Bard Thompson, Meridian Books, 1961, pp. 29-30.
3. Liturgica Historica, Edmund Bishop, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1918, pp. 1-19.
4. ibid, Thompson, p. 32, 34-35.
5. Catholic Encyclopedia, “Liturgy of the Mass.”
6. ibid, Thompson, pp. 40-43.
7. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Byzantine Rite.
8. The Liturgy of the Church of England, Before and After the Reformation, Stephen A, Hurlbut, St. Albans Press, 1950, p. 1.
9. ibid, Hurlbut, pp. 1-2.
10. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Byzantine Rite.
11. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Byzantine Rite.
12. Quo primum, by Pope Pius V.
13. The American Prayer Book, Parsons and Jones, 1937, p. 180.
14. The Anaphora, W. H. Frere, 1938, p. 195.
15. ibid, Hurlbut, p. 2.
16. ibid, Thompson, p. 236.
17. The Celtic Church in Britain, Leslie Hardinge, TEACH Services, Inc., 2005, p. 48.
18. The Anglican Eucharist in Ecumenical Perspective: Doctrine and Rite from Cranmer to    Seabury, Edward P. Echlin, S.J., Seabury Press, 1968, p. 67.
19. ibid, Echlin, p.88.
20. ibid, Echlin, p.93.
21. The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., Oxford University Press, 1950, p. 68-69.
22. A Short History of the Mass; Orthodoxy, Vol. VII, Number 1, Spring 1956.
23. ibid, A Short History of the Mass; Orthodoxy, Vol. VII, Number 1, Spring 1956.
24. ibid, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, Massey Hamilton Shepherd Jr., Oxford University Press, 1950, p. 90.
25. ibid, Shepherd Jr., p. 89.
26. ibid, A Short History of the Mass; Orthodoxy, Vol. VII, Number 1, Spring1956.
27. ibid, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, Massey Hamilton Shepherd Jr., Oxford University Press, 1950, p. 81.
28. ibid, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, Massey Hamilton Shepherd Jr., Oxford University Press, 1950, p. 81.
29. ibid, A Short History of the Mass; Orthodoxy, Vol. VII, Number 1, Spring 1956.
30. The Anglican Eucharist in Ecumenical Perspective, Edward P. Echlin, S.J., Seabury, 1968, p. 237.
31. Prayer Book Interleaves, New York, 1943, p. 157.

Fr. Victor E. Novak is a priest of the Diocese of Mid-America and the rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Omaha, Nebraska. His parish websites are: and Fr. Novak can be reached by e-mail at: or by phone at: (402) 573-6558.