Like many former English Anglican clergy of my generation I grew up at a time of liturgical change. I can still recite by heart some of the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer which I learnt as a child. By the time I went to Theological College we were moving through Series 2 (different ‘shape’ but traditional language) to Series 3 (modern ‘you’ form English). I was taught to celebrate the Anglican Eucharist in conformity, as far as possible, with the rubrics of the 1970 missal, and I recited the Divine Office with its 5-fold daily pattern. Even when, as an incumbent in the C of E, I felt obliged to use authorised forms, I stretched this to include the four-fold daily office published by the Society of St Francis (the Anglican Franciscans) as I found the provision of only two, albeit substantial, services a day to be inadequate.
As for language, I had never been a particular lover of the 16th century English is which the Book of Common Prayer is written. And although I thought the 1980 Alternative Service Book rather ‘thin’ in its language, I admired the attempts (often successful in my opinion) in Common Worship to develop a rich and resonant liturgical language. If only its theology of the Eucharist and the life of the world to come had been as good! But that, as they say, is history.
One of the features of the Ordinariate has been the compiling of a distinctive liturgy, as part of the family of Roman rites. The decision was made early on to use traditional English (in the thee/thou form) and to include prayers written or translated by Archbishop Cranmer, and the Psalter of Miles Coverdale. There have been some Ordinariate congregations who have found this liturgy to be exactly what they want and need, and others who have not. But we have been encouraged to use these forms, and they are part – though my no means the only part – of our patrimony, our inheritance as Anglicans who have been reconciled into the wider Church. How might a former Anglican find his or her way into the Ordinariate liturgy, without just abandoning the way of praying which has become spiritually ingrained. I came up with an idea while at Douai Abbey on retreat.
There the monastic community uses a five-fold Office, but continues to sing latin Vespers from the old Breviary every day. And that is what I am trying with Evensong i.e. The Divine Office for Readings, Lauds, Prayer during the Day, and Compline – but Evensong in place of Vespers. It is permitted to use the four week psalm-cycle of the Divine Office in the Ordinariate Office, in the Coverdale version, and the New Testament Canticle(s) in place of the Nunc Dimittis which is part of Compline. The advantages of this pattern are not insignificant. For a retired priest two Offices plus the Mass means a substantial start to the morning, and Evensong with two Scripture Readings, Creed and Collects in addition to psalms and Canticles, provides a fuller time of prayer in the evening, while still leaving Compline as night prayer on going to bed. In addition it is compatible with the rest of the Daily Office. Disadvantages? You need several books instead of one, which makes it impossible to say the Evensong while travelling. But here the internet is invaluable, and it is not difficult to down-load psalms and collects – in fact most of the variables. Yes, it means loose-leaf-folder liturgy, but in this time of change that is unavoidable.