Over the years as an Anglican I waited for the publication of each new round of services. I took part in anguished discussions with fellow Anglo-Catholics as to how to make the best of these new rites. I read (and occasionally wrote) articles which tried to assess how much the Anglo-Catholics had got through the Synod, and what the Evangelicals had blocked or removed.
None of that happens in the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago we received the text of the Ordinariate Use, and last Thursday Mgr Newton, the Ordinary, celebrated it at the Assumption, Warwick Street. It is now one of three forms of the Mass which Ordinariate priests may legitimately celebrate, using it as it stands, and knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the Catholic Mass which has been celebrated for 2,000 years.
I had forgotten just how deeply the texts of the Book of Common Prayer have sunk into the memory of people of my age. Although the Sunday Communion Services of my childhood were very definitely low-church, they were conducted with a gravity and reverence which has all but gone from that section of the Church of England. So taking part in the Mass last Thursday I found my lips moving with the words. In the preparatory prayers which we recited with the Celebrant while the Entrance hymn and chant were being sung, I was transported back to side-chapel of St Paul’s Weymouth, early on a Wednesday morning, when I served Fr Henry Maude each week.
At the heart of the new Use all controversy has been removed: and of that I am very glad. Cranmer’s prayer, which the 1662 revisers called the Prayer of Consecration, to which from the 1960’s onwards was joined the Prayer of Oblation – and all in an attempt to construct a ‘valid’ Eucharistic Prayer – all this has gone. The Anglicanae Traditiones group which prepared our Mass rite has reached back before the break with Rome, and placed the Roman Canon at the heart of the liturgy. This also places the rite firmly with the current worship of western Catholics throughout the world, the use of 16th century English notwithstanding.
Within the Ordinariate Use as we have been given it, it is possible to discern at least three ‘forms’ which may be quite properly used. It is my hope that careful and thoughtful reflection, which will need some considerable time, will allow us to see how and when the Use may be most fruitfully used. Liturgical discussion has its place, but only to serve the worship of the living and true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ himself gave us the Eucharist as the perpetual memorial of his suffering, death and resurrection until the end of time. There may well be time given to legitimate discussion about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of worship – but only so that we may enter humbly prepared into the mystery itself and find ourselves with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy.”