The season of Advent has been marked by many Ordinariate groups in the UK beginning to celebrate Mass according to the Ordinariate Use. We were no exception in the Ordinariate Parish of the Most Precious Blood at Borough, in South London. The Ordinariate Group has sung Evensong and celebrated Mass for some time on Thursday evenings, and it seemed therefore a most appropriate time for the new Mass.
Fr Christopher Pearson, our parish priest, presided, and Fr Peter Andrews and I concelebrated with him. We left the sanctuary as it was, with the Celebrant facing the people across the altar. The ceremonial followed the GIRM except where the rubrics of the new Use specifically state another practice. One example would be the Celebrant’s genuflexion both before and after the Elevation of the Host.
For those of us over a certain age the language and the texts of those prayers from the 1662 Prayer Book which have been included are all familiar: one has to watch out for the slight changes! But even for me it involves reaching back quite a long way. By the time I left home to train for the priesthood in 1968 Series 2 was in use; apart from a year and a half at the beginning of my second curacy when we still used a book called the English Missal I have experienced only modern English rites; from 1994 – along with most Anglo-Catholics – I used the modern Roman Rite of the 1970 missal (very occasionally in latin).
I struck me forcibly that I had never imagined using these prayers within the Catholic Mass. In the 1960’s it was the Prayer Book liturgy which united Anglicans across the spectrum, but which divided us most clearly from the Catholic Church of the West.
After the Introductory Rite (we avoided the option for the lengthy Prayers at the foot of the altar) the readings followed from the Catholic RSV. I doubt if any of the laity noticed as it was a weekday. The Penitential Rite included the clear direction ‘meekly kneeling upon your knees’, together with the long confession composed by Archbishop Cranmer when English was first introduced into the Mass in the reign of King Henry VIII, and after the break with Rome. For the Offertory the familiar prayers slightly recast into traditional English, and then the Eucharistic Prayer. A traditional language version of Prayer Two in the Missal is provided, but for this first celebration we used Prayer One – the Roman Canon. In traditional language it sounds rather fine (one person suggested better than in the Ordinary Form of the Mass). The Agnus Dei we sang to Merbecke’s setting, recited the Prayer of Humble Access and said ‘Lord, I am not worthy’ three times before Communion. A little uncertainty about whether the people should answer ‘Amen’ to the longer Communion formula, ‘The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee…’.
Communion over, we then prayed together what was the alternative prayer after Communion in the Prayer Book. One person praised it as a profound thanksgiving, though I do wonder if it will bear repeating at every Mass and said by all together; one wonders what was in the minds of those who devised the liturgy at this point. We did not use the option of the Last Gospel.
We celebrated with modern ceremonial, a moderately conservative and careful use of the Roman Missal rubrics, such as has been common among Anglo-Catholics for a generation. I wonder whether this quite fits? I know that there are some who would like to see the Use celebrated as a sort of ‘Ordinariate-Extraordinary-Form-in-English’, to give it the look of ‘Pictures of the English Liturgy’ with the Travers drawings. My own feeling is that this is now a bit decadent, with its faded baroque vestments and furnishings. In its heyday in the 20’s and 30’s of the last century it was designed to make the Anglican Communion Rite look as un-Anglican as possible! Is that what we are trying to do now?
So perhaps a third way is what is needed, with dignified ceremonial, vestments and furnishings drawn from the English tradition, as might have been seen in the cathedral and parish churches up until the 1970’s. We shall see.