Tuesday, March 07, 2006

St. Tikhon's Liturgy: The "Cranmerian Rite"?

Certain critics of St. Tikhon's Liturgy use this "logic":

St. Tikhon's Liturgy is in some way related to the Book of Common Prayer;
The Book of Common Prayer was written by Thomas Cranmer, who was an heretical Protestant; therefore
St. Tikhon's Liturgy is an heretical, Protestant, "Cranmerian Rite."

In addition to being condescending toward our Holy Mother the Church -- do these critics think the Holy Synod of Russia, the Patriarch of Antioch, the Patriarch of Alexandria, ROCOR, and others did not thoroughly investigate the rite before setting out guidelines and approving its celebration within Orthodoxy?? -- this "reasoning" is also just plain wrong. Our friend The Continuing Anglican Churchman points out the second premise is completely false:

I am almost finished reading the MacCulloch's biography on Thomas Cranmer...My thoughts on Cranmer after reading this have changed. I guess I do not see him as a great liturgical genius. He did not write the BCP from scratch. It is better to say that he compiled it, as he borrowed from ancient, medieval, and contemporary sources. To be sure, he did write certain parts of it - certain prayers here and there...but much of the rest of it was borrowed from other sources. I don't think there is anything wrong with that, mind you, but it only goes to show that he was not some "fountain" of fine liturgy in and of himself.
The Book of Common Prayer was never simply "Cranmer's Rite"; he drew from ancient practices, particularly the Sarum Use the BCP displaced in 1549. He did not even complete the 1549 BCP by himself but had the assistance of others who did not share his views and did not allow him to have a free hand in the resultant liturgy.

Most importantly, St. Tikhon's Liturgy is not simply the "Book of Common Prayer" rite. The Orthodox Church adapted this material in accordance with the Russian Observations Upon the American Prayer Book to bring it into liturgical and theological conformity with Holy Orthodoxy. Not only were these necessary changes made, but the liturgical commission of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate added rich ceremonial and prayers expressing the Church's liturgical heritage, especially reverence for the Real Presence. Similar to the Anglo-Catholic movement of the day, it incorporated the Western structure of the Mass. Asperges, Introits, graduals, alleluias, tracts, sequences, offertory prayers, prayers at the foot of the altar, communion verses, post-communion prayers, Agnus Deis, Non Sum Dignuses, Last Gospels, and other devotions reappeared where the Protestant Reformation had done its damage, and the Gloria returned to its traditional position: following the Kyrie on most Sundays (outside certain penitential seasons). This was a full, glorious, comprehensive, catholic, Apostolic, and Orthodox liturgy.

No honest human being could describe this as "The Book of Common Prayer." Although Anglo-Catholics would recognize it, and most Western Christians feel an instant and familiar sense of worship while praying it, St. Tikhon's Liturgy far exceeded any edition of the BCP, whatever Cranmer's role in drafting any particular rendition thereof. In other words, describing the Liturgy of St. Tikhon as "Cranmer's Rite" is like describing the United States of America as "Jamestown."

Much less could it be called "Protestant." It is a liturgy compiled according to the instructions of the Orthodox Church, at the behest of Orthodox saints, by distinguished Orthodox theologians, blessed within the Orthodox Church, and celebrated within multiple patriarchates of the Orthodox Church for decades. No Protestant would be comfortable with the liturgy's fervent supplication of the saints and the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. He would not appreciate its commemoration of Orthodox hierarchs. He would find no "Zwinglian" content in its outspoken profession of the Real Presence. And no Calvinist -- the British variety of which paid thugs to smash church pictures and stained glass windows with a hammer -- would feel comfortable in a church that visibly expresses its acceptance of the seventh ecumenical council.

In giving its approval, the Church adoped the liturgy's every word and turn-of-phrase -- whatever its provenance -- as Her own. One is inescapably led to believe as the Orthodox Church does about this liturgy, and the Western Rite in general: that it conveys the fulness of Orthodox faith, worship, and devotion to those, of whatever ethnic background, privileged to share in its celebration.

These facts will not pacify our implacable detractors, most of whom have little or no experience worshipping in an actual Orthodox Church -- and some of whom may have an "improved" missal to promote (usually at a modest price). However, the average catholic-minded onlooker, exploring the often confusing world of Western Rite Orthodoxy, can readily judge this cause.

Remember the fallacious logic, the faulty premise, and the blatant misrepresentation the next time you hear St. Tikhon's Liturgy described only as "the Cranmerian Rite," a charge born either of historical ignorance or ecclesiastical envy.

(Am I seeing double based on the post before? Click here for an explanation.)

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3 Comments:

Blogger Paul Goings said...

But what Canon was used? This is what needs to be adddressed, far more than whether the Asperges, Introit, and Last Gospel were added on to the B.C.P. communion service.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

"The Cranmerian Rite" refers to a specific truncation and arrangement of English liturgical life, which Abp. Cramer -- and others -- compiled in the various editions of the BCP by shortening the late medieval Sarum Use in England and inserting additional material.

The point is what the Western Rite celebrates is not this "Cranmerian Rite," and to call it such is more to confuse the matter than to elucidate it.

As for the canon, when appropriate modifications were made, our Holy Mother the Church recognized it and adopted it as Her own.

For the record, I'm told some priests use the Gregorian canon in St. Tikhon's Liturgy. Naturally, the Liturgy of St. Gregory had been approved by Russia in 1870 and was the AWRV's exclusive usage until the late 1970s.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Collin Michael Nunis said...

Judging from the texts I've read and studied, I find both the "Thikonian" and "Gregorian" liturgies to be beautiful, even though I have yet to attend one.

However, as time passes by, I think it would be good to develop a new liturgy based on both the Thikonian and Gregorian in both traditional and contemporary English (ala 1979 BCP, minus theological/doctrinal compromises), ensuring that the "best of both the Western-Rite worlds (Roman and Anglican)will be found in this liturgy.

I do not know what others would think, but I believe that a fairly good place to start would be expanding the Roman Catholic Book of Divine Worship's (RC equivalent of BCP) Rite I and Rite II. I do not know how kindly this will be looked upon but if it is possible, that would be great.

By doing this, I think that we will not be selling out to anyone or be "pleasing" to anyone, but rather, make room for the younger generation to understand the depths and beauty of Orthodoxy. With the Western Rite, not only has it recaptured something it "lost", but has made Orthodoxy more accessible. I'm just hoping to take the accessibility one step further.

Besides, while I am aware of your defence of the rites, just as I appreciate it, we should relook the Eucharistic anaphoras and correct any deficiency existing there so that it will coincide with our theology that the Eucharist is indeed a sacrifice.

While it is noted that the Orthodox will not agree on transubstiantion, but heart of the Eucharistic prayers in both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches will be the same. In fact, it would be wonderful if the Byzantine Anaphora is used as the Eucharistic prayer of the Western Rite. Theological correctness for the Eucharistic part of the liturgy is the most important. We should never compromise that.

While I am aware that Met. Philip promised no Byzantinisation of the Western Rite, I do not think that using the Byzantine Eucharistic prayer will make the Western Rite less Western.

Till then, God bless. Great blog by the way. Al-Maseeh Qaam!

10:59 AM  

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