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Chapter 4



The seventeenth-century liturgists held very strong convictions on the subject of order in the Prayer Book rite. The meaning which they attached to the word is best expressed in Beveridge’s famous sermon on the Prayer Book which he preached at the consecration of Saint Peter’s, Cornhill, in 1681. He is anxious for his flock to miss nothing of the Church services; for in missing a part they in some measure lose the meaning of the whole. ‘All the parts of it’, he says, ‘being linked together in so excellent a manner and method that they influence and assist each other; so that nothing can be omitted either by minister or people but the whole will suffer by it and lose something of that virtue and efficacy which otherwise you will find in it.’ [Works, VI, p. 396-7.]

Beveridge means that the Prayer Book services are not a meaningless series of exhortations, Bible-readings, psalms, hymns, and prayers, strung together for the sake of making a service. Each service is an ordered structure; each element is in a certain place because it means something in that place, and through its position there bears a relation to the whole. The daily services and the Eucharist too are related to each other through the lectionary and the collects, epistles, and gospels. The full meaning of the structure is not apparent until the Prayer Book is viewed over the whole length of the Church’s year.

In old-fashioned circles in the Church of England the Eucharist is often called the second service. This title came into use in the seventeenth century and expressed the belief that the Eucharist logically followed on Mattins by way of the Litany as a second separate service. Through Mattins and the Litany the movement of the Sunday liturgy of the Church reached its climax in the Eucharist and was brought to a quiet close with Evensong. In this movement it was joined by a certain link and rhythm with what preceded or followed it.

Cosin thought that the clause ‘the beginning of this day’ in the third Collect at Mattins made six in the morning the most appropriate hour for the service. [Works, V, p. 66.] Sparrow regarded nine as a suitable hour for the Eucharist on the ground that it was possible to come fasting at that time and that the hour was the traditional one both for the beginning of Our Lord’s passion and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. [op. cit., p. 157.] The interval between Mattins and the Eucharist was valued as an opportunity for the priest to receive the names of intending communicants and give them absolution or spiritual help and advice. [Wheatly, op. cit., ch. 6.] The practice of joining the two services together, or that sanctioned by the Revised Prayer Book of beginning the Eucharist immediately after the Benedictus or Jubilate would have been regarded as a grave disturbance of the essential structure of the Prayer Book.

On the principle that there is a rational order on which the Prayer Book services are built up, it becomes a gross piece of vandalism to destroy the order by altering the service, substituting prayers, psalms, and Bible-readings of the minister’s own choice for those laid down in the rite; in fact such alterations render the rite quite meaningless. This sense that the Prayer Book services formed a beautiful and ordered structure made the classical liturgists nervous of any changes and revisions unless they were carried out with a deep reverence for its underlying structural unity. Jebb speaks of such changes as producing ‘the present disfigurement, and eventual ruin, of a goodly fabric; till at length the divinely suggested outline of the Temple itself is lost for ever.’ [op. cit., p. 5.] In a comparison of the Prayer Book with Saint Paul’s Cathedral Wickham Legg writes: ‘Both have something of a medieval basis; neither belongs to the golden age of liturgy or architecture; yet no one has ever touched either of them without spoiling it.’ [The Principles and Services of the Prayer Book considered, p. 130.]

But where did this order come from? The idea of such an order did not figure largely in the minds of the reformers when the Prayer Book was compiled. The seventeenth-century liturgists shirk the issue; they are content to read an order into the rite as they found it, without bothering about its origins. Keble faced the possibility that the present shape of the Prayer Book services is due as much to chance and the personal prejudices of the reformers as any definite plan of arrangement. He deals with the question in Tract XIII. The Tract is on Archbishop Parker’s table of first lessons for Sundays. Keble thinks it no longer possible to ascertain whether Parker in drawing up the table had any definite scheme in mind, nor does it much matter. The question of order and meaning is not affected by origins; the table can acquire an order and meaning which it did not have at first, by a process of what he calls spontaneous evolution. [Tracts for the Times, No. XIII, p. 7.] To Keble liturgy is not a dead, mechanical thing; it is something living. As centuries have gone by, its constant use by the faithful, their ever-increasing understanding of its implications, has given it an order and meaning which it may not have possessed at the beginning; in much the same way as age gives a pattern and order to human life. This principle of spontaneous evolution is true of all liturgies; the constant meditation of the faithful has given the canon of the Latin rite an order and meaning which it did not have to begin with. Nobody for one moment believes that the liturgy of Saint Chrysostom was in its early years thought to reveal that order and structure which Gogol describes in his Meditations on the Divine Liturgy. Liturgy only comes to perfection slowly and gradually; it is not made in a day.

Comber and Beveridge were the two seventeenth-century liturgists who paid particular attention to the order and structure exhibited by the Prayer Book services; much of what Comber says is embodied almost word for word in Wheatly’s rationale. They are fully aware that there are antiquarian and historical reasons for the places occupied by the different elements in the services; they discourse on them with their usual ponderous learning. But their main interest is concentrated in seeing each service as an ordered structure with a beginning and an end, with each part following on what has gone before and leading to what follows in a logical sequence.



They think of the daily offices as centring in the recitation of the psalter and the reading of scripture in a regular course. This part extends from the versicles to the Creed and is held to be particularly concerned with praise. To it is prefixed an introduction, and it is followed by petitionary and intercessory prayer. The introduction which extends from the Sentences to the Our Father is concerned with preparation for the main feature of the office, the praise of the second and central part. The offices fittingly begin with sentences from scripture, God’s own words; in the Exhortation the congregation are reminded of what they are going to do in the office and are then led to prepare for the opus Dei by confessing their sins and receiving absolution. [Cosin: Works, V, p. 444; Thorndike: Works, I, p. 370; Beveridge: Works, VI, p. 382; Wheatly, op. cit., ch. III, 1.] George Herbert used to tell his people at Bemerton that until they had begged and obtained pardon for their sins, they were neither able nor worthy to offer their praise to God. At the consecration of the church at Abbey Dore in 1634, the introductory and preparatory nature of this part of the office was marked by one of the clergy, the chaplain of the consecrating bishop, taking it kneeling in the middle of the chancel facing east; he moved to his stall at the end of the Our Father when the office proper can be said to begin. [Wickham Legg: English Orders for Consecrating Churches, p. 163.]

The Our Father, since it is the foundation on which all prayer is built, forms the transition to the main part of the service [Sparrow, op. cit., p. 17], the recitation of the psalter and the reading of scripture, what Wheatly calls ‘the office of praises’. It opens with the versicles which are petitions to God for help to praise Him; then with the Gloria the note of praise is struck which is carried right through this part of the service to its close in the creed. Its structure is explained by reference to Canon XVII of the Council of Laodicea which forbade the reading of numerous psalms together at the synaxis before the Eucharist. Psalms, hymns, canticles, and lessons are intermingled to provide variety and to prevent weariness on the part of the congregation. [L’Estrange, op. cit., pp. 114-15.] In the lessons the people are provided with food for meditation which they turn into praise in the hymns and canticles. [Sparrow, op. cit., p. 27.] Hooker, in giving the classical exposition of the part played by the lessons in the offices, speaks of ‘the riches of the mysteries of heavenly wisdom continually stirring up in us correspondent desires towards them’, desires which the Church expresses in the hymns and canticles that follow. [Hooker, V, 34.] The lessons are not intended primarily for instruction; their purpose in the liturgy is to inspire and help the faithful in the work of praise.

To emphasize the importance of the psalms in the structure of the office, it was customary in the seventeenth century to hold up the action of the service by the playing of an organ voluntary before the First Lesson. [Jebb, op. cit., p. 317.] The praise offered in the psalms has made the people ready to hear God speaking to them in the lessons. Stress is laid on the fact that there are two lessons, one from the Old Testament or Apocrypha and one from the New. They show the harmony of God’s action in history, first through the law and then the gospel; they lead us from the imperfect revelation of the old covenant to the unveiled glory of the new; by hearing of the darkness of the law our minds are made ready for the light of the gospel. [Beveridge: Works, VI, p. 385; Wheatly, op. cit., ch. III, 10.]

For the First Lesson on ordinary days the Church began the year with Genesis and continued through most of the Old Testament and a few books of the Apocrypha. Isaiah was left till the end of the year as a preparation for Christmas. There was a separate table of First Lessons for Sundays, Saints’ days, and Holy days. That for Sundays began on Septuagesima and ended on the sixth Sunday after Epiphany; the lessons were so arranged as to exhibit God’s former dealings with Israel in such a way that from them the faithful could learn of His present dealings with the individual soul and the response the latter should make. [Keble: Tract XIII, p. 2.]

The psalms and First Lesson have been prophetic of the Incarnation. In the Te Deum, the Benedicite, and the Magnificat the Church expresses its joy at seeing, as Comber puts it, ‘all those types verified, all those predictions completed, and allthose promises made good, which are contained in the law and prophets concerning Christ’. [op. cit., p. 116.] The Magnificat comes fittingly after the First Lesson at Evensong because it expresses Our Lady’s joy as she reflected on the promises of the Old Testament to be fulfilled in Our Lord’s birth. In the Te Deum or Benedicite at Mattins, in the Magnificat at Evensong, is the climax of this part of the office, ‘the office of praises’. Here the Church passes from the preparation for the Gospel to the Gospel itself. To express its joy incense was used in some places at this point, the clerk having got it ready during the reading of the First Lesson. [Andrewes, Minor Works, p. xcviii.]

At the Second Lesson, to mark its importance usually read by the most important cleric present, the Church contemplates the Incarnation. The New Testament was read through three times in the course of the year. No proper lessons are provided except for the greater festivals. Keble saw in this a valuable testimony to the fact that the Prayer Book was built up round the daily services of which those on Sunday were but a continuation and expansion. He also delighted in the endless variety of mutual combinations between the Old and New Testaments which the system presented. [Keble, op. cit., p. 9.] At Mattins the lesson was taken from the Gospels or the Acts, at Evensong the Epistles. The Benedictus follows the Second Lesson at Mattins as an act of thanksgiving for the Incarnation; at Evensong the Nunc Dimittis is the Church’s response to the vision of Our Lord and the Christian character which has been presented to it in the Epistles. [See Wheatly, op. cit., ch. III, and for what follows.]

The seventeenth-century liturgists found nothing shocking in the provision of alternative psalms for the Gospel canticles. They argue that they relieve those Puritan consciences which had scruples about the canticles; they make for variety and do not disturb the structure of the offices. Psalm 98 follows very suitably after hearing a First Lesson containing an account of a great temporal deliverance. Psalm 100 leads us to thanksgiving for the Gospel proclaimed by the Second Lesson at Mattins; Psalm 67 expresses our desire that all nations may be illuminated by the doctrine we have heard read in the Second Lesson at Evensong. [Hooker: V, 40; L’Estrange, op. cit., p. 116; Comber, op. cit., pp. 113, 121, 128.]

The Creed forms the transition from the second to the third part of the office. It looks back to the lessons; the faithful after hearing the Word of God declare their belief in it. It looks forward to the prayers; for we cannot call on Him on whom we have not believed. The third part is devoted to prayer and intercession. It is important to notice two things about its structure.

Firstly, the modern idea that the office ends with the third Collect finds no support in the thought of the seventeenth century. The liturgists who write after 1662 unanimously speak of the office ending, except when the litany is said, with the Prayer of Saint Chrysostom and the Grace. It is devoted to two kinds of prayer: petition and intercession, with the anthem coming between. In churches which did not possess a choir capable of singing an anthem, it was usual to have a metrical psalm. The anthem or psalm served the double purpose of marking the division between petitionary and intercessory prayer and preventing the congregation finding the prayers too long. It was intended to be short.

Secondly, the section is intended to form a prayerful close to a service whose main feature is the recitation of the psalter and the reading of scripture. It is not meant to be stressed at the expense of the central section or to be lengthened out so as to appear the most important part of the service. This is emphasized by Dr. Thomas Bisse; he points out that the prayers, supplications, and intercessions, in the Collects and Litany, though necessary duties, are only appendages to the nobler work of praise and thanksgiving, the chief element in the Church’s daily public worship. [op. cit., pp. 12-13.]

The Our Father forms the chief point in the section. The Church prepares for it by a mutual prayer of minister and people that God will help them in the work of prayer, and by pleading for mercy in the Kyries. The seventeenth-century liturgists love to dilate on the suitability of the second and third Collects; in the morning the Church prays for outward peace in converse with the world and for preservation from the dangers and temptations that beset it; in the evening for that help which comes from a good conscience and for help against the terrors of darkness. There is a logical order in the intercessions; first comes the Prayer for the King owing to the peculiar relationship between the Crown and the Church, then the prayers for the Royal Family and the Clergy and People; special prayers follow in cases of bad weather, plague or war, if it is embertide or Parliament is sitting; on days on which the Litany is not said, the intercessions are concluded by the ‘Prayer for all conditions of men’. The latter was intended as a general intercession at Mattins in place of the Litany; it was not supposed by the more rigid liturgists to be used at Evensong, though the custom of the age sanctioned the practice. The intercessions, it is well to notice, are general and impersonal in their tone; they reflect the needs of a community and have little individual appeal; and as such they are fittingly included in the liturgy. At the conclusion of the intercessions the office ends with the prayer of Saint Chrysostom and the Grace in which the Church professes its faith in Our Lord’s perpetual intercession in heaven and asks that its prayers may be heard in accordance with His will.



The seventeenth-century liturgists regard the structure of the Eucharist as built up round various parts of the Eucharistic action itself into which are worked the preparation of the Church for taking part in the action and its response afterwards. [For this section see Comber, op. cit., pp. 417-578; Wheatly, op. cit., ch. VI.] These elements are interwoven to form a unity. In spite of the frequency of Altar Prayers they treat the rite as a whole from the Our Father to the Blessing without any decisive break in its movement, not even at the Offertory; they are fully aware of the distinction between the Missa Catechumenorum and the Missa Fidelium, but it plays no part in their conception of the structure of the Anglican rite. It was customary to speak of the whole service as a ‘holy action’. [Cf. Bishop Simon Patrick: The Christian Sacrifice, Part II.]

It begins with the Our Father, not only as in the case of the offices because it is the basis of all prayer, but also because of the immemorial tradition that ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ refers to the blessed food of the Eucharist. The preparation for the Eucharistic action extends from the Collect for Purity till the end of the Prayer of Humble Access, though it is broken into by the first part of the action itself, the offering of the elements. It is made up of what Comber calls ‘holy desires’ by which the faithful are made ready for the Eucharistic action [op cit., p. 416]; Comber also likens it to the ‘abstinence, patience, and many labours’ which preceded initiation into the mystery religions of antiquity. [op cit., p. 491.]

In the Collect for Purity the Church prays for a clean heart to worship aright and that the faithful may recognize their faults when they hear the Commandments. The commandments are both a means of self-examination helping to make the General Confession more sincere, and an act of contrition and a cry for mercy on the part of sinful humanity. The Collect for the King and that of the day are acts of prayer for the country, the Church, and ourselves. Wheatly thinks the position of the Collect for the King far superior to the one it occupied in the Te igitur in the medieval rite – he seems to have forgotten that the petition for the King in the Prayer for the Church is the Anglican counterpart to the latter – for the King is the defender of both tables of the law; and it is therefore fitting to pray for him after the Commandments. The Church’s outward prosperity depends on good government; before praying for spiritual graces in the Collect for the day, it seems logical to pray first for the good government of the country.

The preparation is continued in listening to God’s Word in the Epistle and Gospel, and in making an act of faith at the recital of the Creed, so that, as Sparrow puts it, ‘those who approach these holy mysteries may be purified with a true and right faith’. [op. cit., p. 160.] Jebb sees in this section a logical sequence, the apostolic scriptures and Our Lord’s words are followed by the teaching of the Church in the Creed and by instruction from its ministers in the sermon. [op. cit., p. 490.] Cosin thought the sermon should fit into the liturgy by being on the lessons or Epistle or Gospel for the day. In his own sermons, to show their connection with the liturgical theme for the day, he usually began with a few remarks on the liturgical significance of his subject; he then recited the Bidding Prayer and Our Father; after this came the text and sermon proper.

But faith without charity is dead; so to the exercise of faith succeeds one of charity expressed in a practical way in the offering of the alms and then in an act of intercession in the Prayer for the Church. Wheatly, connecting it with Our Lord’s work as intercessor, says we cannot hope to intercede more effectually ‘than just when we are about to represent and show forth to the divine majesty that meritorious sacrifice, by virtue whereof our great High Priest did once redeem us, and for ever continues to intercede for us in heaven’. The school were careful to point out that the words ‘militant here on earth’ did not exclude the charitable practice of praying for the dead; they held that the words only emphasize that in the Prayer for the Church we chiefly pray for the living because amidst the trials of this life they are in greater need of our prayers than the faithful departed. An anonymous pamphlet which appeared in 1723 speaks of ‘our petition for their consummation as well as our own, tho’ chiefly for our own, who are always, while in this life, in hazard of coming short of so inestimable a blessing’. [Two Discourses, 1723, p. xiii. This pamphlet betrays certain Non-juring sympathies.]

At this point comes the first stage in the Eucharistic action itself; the elements are solemnly placed on the altar, and in the Prayer for the Church they are offered to God as the first fruits of His creatures and as an acknowledgment that He is our sovereign lord and benefactor. [Hickes: Treatises, Lib. of A. C. Theol., II, p. 120.] Thorndike calls it the setting apart of our goods for the service of God. [Works, IV, pp. 106-7.] Wheatly says the action corresponds to Our Lord’s giving of thanks and blessing at the Last Supper. The thought of the Eucharistic action which is now approaching is brought out in the phrase ‘give thanks for all men’ at the opening of the Prayer for the Church. Since the phrase had become meaningless by the omission in 1552 of the thanksgiving for the saints, Cosin refers it to the action of celebrating the Eucharist. [Works, V, pp. 466-7.]

At the close of the Prayer for the Church the sacrificial action begins to draw near; the celebrant warns the communicants in the Exhortation of the dangers of unworthy reception and the dignity of the action in which they are about to take part. To symbolize the drawing near to the moment of sacrifice, the faithful at the Invitation leave the body of the Church and kneel in the chancel. The Confession follows since human frailty and sin were the cause of the Lord’s passion now to be set forth. The faith of the Church in Our Lord’s sacrifice is confirmed in the Absolution and Comfortable Words. Lifted up above the world by its faith the Church is able to join with the heavenly host in an act of praise and thanksgiving. [Beveridge: Works, VI, p. 34.] The Eucharistic action is about to be accomplished; the long preparation is brought to a close by an act of humility in the Prayer of Humble Access, or as it was frequently called in this period the Approach. For it is only in intense humility that the Church dares to celebrate the Eucharist, a humility symbolized by the celebrant kneeling before the altar.

A certain rhythm and pattern runs through the preparation; it reads almost like a commentary on Pascal’s epigram that man is ‘le glorie et le rebut de l’univers’. The changes are rung on what man is by virtue of the divine supernatural life given him at baptism, and man in all his frailty and sin. In the Epistle and Gospel the Church proclaims to man what his life should be as a son of God; in the Creed, the Offertory, and the Prayer for the Church, he is led on to that faith and charity which makes him here and now a sharer in eternal life. Yet in the collects, the confession, and the Prayer of Humble Access, he is never allowed to forget either his need of divine grace or that sin and frailty which threaten to shut him out from the heavenly vision.

The break in the movement of the service at the end of the Prayer of Humble Access, the ending of the preparation – the continuation of the Eucharistic action begun at the offering of the elements, comes out in the ceremonial of the period. Those priests who were in the habit of taking the ‘eastward’ position would at this point in the service move from the north side to the centre of the altar. Their position at the north side up till this point symbolized that what had hitherto been done was of a preparatory nature. Here Andrewes placed the bread or wafers on the paten, and poured the wine with a little water in the chalice; he then took the lavabo, repeating the customary verses from Psalm 26. [Both the mixed chalice and lavabo were also practised by the Presbyterians in the seventeenth century: W. M. McMillan The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church, pp. 188, 204.] Andrewes regarded the lavabo as an act of civility before the Consecration. [Minor Works, p. 31.] The rubrical direction in the 1662 Prayer Book on ordering the elements, an action which breaks the movement of the service, witnesses to a sense that at this point the rite moves to another stage. The preparation for the sacrifice is ended, the sacrifice itself is now to be offered.

Before the Consecration Prayer the priest arranges the elements, symbolizing, as Beveridge puts it, ‘God’s eternal purpose, and determinate counsel, to send His Son into the world, and to offer Him up as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind’. He stands alone before the altar, an action symbolic of the loneliness of Calvary [Works, VI, p. 35], and in the opening words of the Consecration Prayer commemorates the actual sacrifice on Calvary and the institution of a perpetual memorial of that sacrifice. At the words ‘Hear us, O merciful Father,...’ he implores the blessing of God the Father on the great action now to be performed. [For this analysis of the Consecration Prayer, vide Cosin: Works, V, p. 106; Hickes: op. cit., II, pp. 121-2. The best rationale of the whole action is to be found in Thorndike: Works, IV, pp. 106-19, 134-5.] Wheatly thought there was nothing out of place in making the sign of the cross over the elements at these words, though the practice had been discontinued in 1552, since it symbolized the connection between the Cross and the Eucharistic action, or as he puts it, ‘that it is performed in honour of a crucified Saviour’.

The central point of the Eucharistic action has now been reached. Every word and action is big with mystery; Comber warns the celebrant to say the words of institution with ‘great deliberation, and the profoundest reverence’ [op. cit., p. 537]; for he is speaking in the person of Christ. In Wheatly’s words he is performing to God ‘the representative sacrifice of the death and passion of His Son’, or our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, as the liturgists usually call it. Andrewes likens the fraction, and the pouring of the wine into the chalice, to what was done on Calvary [Sermons, II, p. 304]; but it is not just a symbolical action. Something is actually happening; it is a representation, a renewing, a bring back of the sacrifice of Calvary. [Thorndike: Works, VI, p. 112.] Andrewes calls it an action, carrying us not only up to Christ, but also back to Him, ‘as He was at the very instant, and in the very act of His offering’. [Sermons, II, p. 306.]

The Eucharistic sacrifice on the earthly altar is offered as a sacrifice, ‘propitiatory and impetratory’, for the needs of the whole Church, living and departed. [Thorndike, Works, IV, pp. 107-8.] Andrewes speaks of the sacrifice of Christ’s death as available ‘for present, absent, living, dead (yea for them that are yet unborn)’. [Minor Works, p. 20; cf. Cosin: Works, V, pp. 119, 351-2.] The Church is setting forth its peace offering, ‘the body whose hands were here shewed, and the side, whence issued sanguis crucis, "the blood that pacifieth all things in earth and heaven; that we, in it and by it, may this day renew the covenant of our peace’. [Andrewes, Sermons, II, p. 254.]

The Eucharistic action is brought to a close by the act of communion and the offering of the faithful, soul and body, to the Father, in union with Our Lord’s offering in the sacrifice. The liturgists made much of this element in the Eucharistic action, as something apostolic and primitive, and prided themselves on the way it is emphasized in the Prayer Book, compared with the scant notice it receives in the Latin Mass. To Thorndike the Eucharist is a renewing of the covenant of grace established on Calvary and a tendering of its blessings; the offering of ourselves is our share in the covenant, the condition on which the promises of the Gospel depend for their fulfilment. [Thorndike, Works, IV, pp. 118, 135; L’Estrange, op. cit., pp. 271, 325.]

The act of Communion brings to the faithful through the Eucharistic sacrifice all the benefits of Christ’s death. Beveridge tells his people that at the administration of Communion they are to fix their faith on Christ Himself offering to them His Body and Blood and all the benefits of His passion. [Works, VI, p. 36.] Comber bids his readers consider that when the priest approaches them, ‘the sound of his Master’s feet is behind him’. They are to behave as if ‘Jesus were visibly present with a train of glorious angels’; they are advised to say with the primitive church ‘Lord, I am not worthy, etc.’ [op. cit., p. 546.] In devotional books of the period, communicants are advised to say this and the Agnus Dei before Communion. [Wickham Legg: English Church Life, pp. 58-60.] But the act of Communion not only brings the faithful all the benefits which Our Lord has won for them on Calvary; it is a true fruition of the Body of Christ, making the soul really and truly one with its Lord. The union is a foretaste, a preparation for the beatific vision; it is the ‘highest perfection we can in this life aspire unto’. [Andrewes, op. cit., I, pp. 152, 284.]

The liturgists differ as to the exact moment when the sacrifice is pleaded for the living and the dead. Thorndike [Works, IV, p. 135] and Sparrow [op. cit., p. 181] refer it to the appropriate phrase in the Prayer of Oblation: ‘we and all Thy whole church may receive remission of our sins and all other benefits of His passion’, said of course after the Communion. Others such as Hickes [op. cit., II, pp. 120-2] and Johnson [The Unbloody Sacrifice, pp. 399-401] speak as if it is inherent in the words of institution; the words in the Prayer of Oblation only make explicit something which has already taken place. This is due to a difference of view on what the Prayer of Oblation is meant to be. Wheatly treats it as a post-communion, coming after the Eucharistic action has been completed. But Thorndike speaks as if it is part of the Eucharistic action, and Sparrow in his Rationale treats the whole section from the beginning of the Consecration Prayer to the Gloria in Excelsis as the whole. [op. cit., p. 155.] This is quite understandable when we remember that before 1662 there was no ‘amen’ at the end of the Consecration Prayer; in consequence it looked as if the sacrificial action was carried on to the end of the Prayer of Oblation.

With the exception of Sparrow and possibly Thorndike, the liturgists treat the section from the Our Father to the Blessing as the response of the faithful, their thanksgiving for the action in which they have taken part. They attach no meaning or importance to the Consecrated Elements remaining on the altar till the Blessing. It was usual to liken the close of the service to that of the Last Supper, a habit of thought which they inherited from Cranmer. But whatever Cranmer himself believed, the seventeenth-century liturgists show no trace of the erroneous belief that the Eucharist is a repetition of the Last Supper.

The thanksgiving begins with the Our Father, as it is fitting that after Communion the Church should pray in the words of the Lord who now lives and speaks in the faithful. The communicants can now most properly say Our Father; for in receiving Christ they have received power to become the sons of God. It is also a declaration of their union one with another in Christ after Communion. The two prayers that follow are alternatives, as sometimes the Church wants to make its thanksgiving an expression of love and duty, in which case the Prayer of Oblation is used, and sometimes one of thankfulness for the benefits of communion, in which case the Prayer of Thanksgiving is most suitable.

Modern Anglicanism is inclined to be on the defensive about the position of the Gloria in Excelsis; it is looked on as something which needs an explanation. The classical liturgists know no such qualms. Jebb sums up their views on the subject when he says that it is difficult to conceive a more glorious termination to a service. [op. cit., p. 512.] It is looked on as an imitation of Our Lord’s action after the Last Supper. It position is considered to be much more suitable here than at the beginning of the service since it provides the faithful with a fitting form in which to express their sense of joy and comfort at what Sparrow calls ‘the heaven which they see in themselves’. To Sparrow nothing could be more suitable than the song of the angels after communion; for Christ is made one with us in communion, as He was made one of us at His birth. [op. cit., p. 181.] Andrewes is at his most typical on the position of the Gloria in Excelsis; if ever we are fit to sing the song of the angels, it is when we draw near to the state of angels by Communion. [Sermons, I, pp. 214-15, 232-3.] L’Estrange was apparently the only liturgist who was aware that there is a good deal to be said against the position of the Gloria in Excelsis in the Prayer Book. But he dismisses the objections on the curious ground that since the hymn is addressed to Christ as the Lamb of God, it is improper to refer to Him in such language until the Eucharistic action is passed; for the Eucharist ‘is a sacrifice, wherein Our Saviour Christ is considered as an immaculate Lamb, offered upon the altar to God for the remission of our sins’. It looks as if L’Estrange’s views were influenced by the thought of the Consecrated Elements remaining on the altar; if this is the case, he is the only one of the school to betray such an influence. The order they found in the rite is not disturbed by taking the ablutions after the Communion instead of at the close of the service.

After the Gloria in Excelsis, which brings to a close the post-communion or thanksgiving, the communicants were accustomed to leave the chancel and return to their original places in the nave, thus symbolizing their return to the world from the heavenly action in which they have been taking part. [Andrewes: Minor Works, p. 158.] They are then dismissed with the Blessing. The school are full of admiration for the latter. To Sparrow it recalls Our Lord’s words in the upper room on the first Easter night; presumably he thought it a fitting close to that service in which the Risen Lord has come to His own. [op. cit., p. 182.] Jebb speaks of the service reaching its climax in the ‘peace of God’, since it is the consummation of the blessings which Christ has promised to the faithful. To him there is no ritual on earth which ministers so effectually to a glad serenity of mind and temper as that of the Church of England, and so brings with it a peace rooted in the wisdom and charity belonging to the eternal world. [op. cit., p. 513.]



The rational order, which the seventeenth-century liturgists found in the daily offices and the Eucharist, is emphasized by the ceremonial of the period. It was made up of the traditional ceremonial accompaniments of Christian worship, vestments, the mixed chalice, the lavabo, incense, the usual liturgical actions; but they were all employed in a scheme of ceremonial which had very little in common with that of the Latin rite. The seventeenth-century liturgists realized the importance of ceremonial in the liturgy; they felt that the reformers had made a great mistake in discarding so much in the preceding century; they even apologized for them by saying that they had been led astray against their better judgement by continental protestantism, or that they had done it purely as a temporary measure to wean the people from medieval superstitions. In the liturgical revival which dawned with the Jacobean period, it was felt that it was time to complete the real intention of the reformers by giving the Prayer Book a magnificent ceremonial.

In this ceremonial the old usages found a place, but they were employed in a new way. The liturgists realized that the Prayer Book rite had a structure and meaning of its own, and that it would merely obscure them to graft on it a scheme of ceremonial which belonged to another rite. So they evolved a ceremonial which is something sui generis; it embodies the traditional ceremonial acts and usages of Christendom; but they are employed in such a way as to provide an intelligible accompaniment to the movement of the Prayer Book rite, to mark the transitions from one stage to another, to emphasize the important moments, to teach its lessons through material things and bring out its content and meaning.

The features of this ceremonial can be studied in Hierurgia Anglicana, and they are discussed in the introduction and notes in Wickham Legg’s English Orders for Consecrating Churches [pp. lii-lxiv, 338-42, 353-8. For a description of a service according to this ceremonial, vide W. H. Frere: The Principles of Religious Ceremonial, ch. XIII.]. It appears to have originated in Andrewes’ private chapel; but where Andrewes obtained it remains a mystery. It was propagated by Laud and eventually became the customary ceremonial in those churches which had come under the influence of the liturgists. It was an eclectic thing, partly based on medieval precedents, with borrowings from the East and customs of Andrewes’ own invention. Its use of incense at the offices as a fumigatory and in processions, its two candles and alms bason on the altar, can claim medieval precedent. The small altars and the numerous prostrations which the school practised are reminiscent of the East. The movement of the communicants to the chancel at the Exhortation presumably grew out of an attempt to carry out the purpose of the Elizabethan Injunction ordering the altar to be placed in the body of the Church for the Eucharist. This purpose, enabling the congregation to take a greater share in the service, was held to be fulfilled by the communicants moving up to the chancel at the Exhortation. The Lavabo before the Prayer of Consecration can be paralleled by the Lavabo before the Te igitur at Mainz and before the Qui pridie in the Ambrosian rite. [Ibid., p. 340.] But the actual movements and gestures of the ministers in the sanctuary, the preparation of the elements and making the chalice immediately before the Prayer of Consecration, would seem to be usages evolved by Andrewes himself.

This ceremonial, whose authority rested as much on customary usage as on positive law, lasted in a somewhat decayed state till the Oxford Movement. The Tractarians at first were disposed to revive it; in 1838 Dr. Bloxam, Newman’s curate, gave a pair of candlesticks and a Bible bound in two parts in crimson velvet for use on the altar at Littlemore; the altar also had a frontal falling in folds at the corners, worked by Miss Anne Mozley, J. B. Mozley’s sister. [R. H. Middleton, Magdalen Studies, pp. 35-41.] Unfortunately the nineteenth-century ritualists would have none of it, either because it was not medieval or Latin, or because it reminded them of that deadness from which they were trying to rescue the Church. The ceremonial revival in the Victorian age was on medieval lines, with the result that the Laudian ceremonial was swept away. The ceremonial in Anglican churches today, even in those which pride themselves on their moderation, is based on medieval or Latin models. The movement of the rite is obscured and its real meaning hidden. The rite is made to look like a vernacular edition of the pre-Reformation or modern Latin rite. But this is exactly what the Prayer Book is not; it is a rite with a structure and meaning of its own, and needs its own scheme of ceremonial. That used in the seventeenth century, though neither medieval nor Latin, had at least the merit of providing an intelligent accompaniment to the Prayer Book, which seldom can be said for the ceremonial prevailing in the majority of our churches today. The High Church ceremonial tradition, as Jebb remarks, provided it does not ‘contradict any fundamental or really Catholic law, deserves as much reverence as the traditions of Rome or Constantinople’. [The Ritual Law and Custom of the Church Universal, p. 29.]

To become intelligible the Prayer Book order needs not only its traditional seventeenth-century ceremonial; it needs also churches either built or restored in the style of the period as an appropriate setting. For its full meaning and beauty to become apparent our liturgy has to be celebrated in such buildings as the chapel of Trinity College, Oxford, which Newman said he loved more than any other building, the churches of Wren, or those restored under the inspiration of Cosin and Granville in County Durham, all of which were planned in accordance with the liturgical principles of the period. Since, as Mr. Somerset Maugham says, we are all getting a little tired of Gothic, it is to be hoped they will receive the attention they deserve. It was a thousand pities that in the last century they were so often allowed to be spoilt by Gothic enthusiasts. Anglicans should feel a special affection for these buildings designed for the celebration of the liturgy in its full and native splendour.



The rational order which we have found exhibited by the daily services and the Eucharist presupposes a faithful laity living the life of the Church, steeped in its truths, more particularly those concerning the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ, and conversant with the principles of liturgical worship. These services are not likely to mean much to the uninstructed and nominal Christian. The seventeenth-century liturgists realized this; the order which they found in the Prayer Book inspired the liturgical sermons of such divines as George Herbert and Beveridge. People cannot be expected to make much of the liturgy unless they have been given some idea of what it means. The modern Church of England laments its diminished congregations; often it is due not to lack of spiritual zeal but to the fact that people do not understand what the liturgy is meant to be; they have never been given an idea of the glory of liturgical worship. It is a short-sighted solution of the problem to scrap the liturgy and to attempt to win people back by made-up ad hoc popular services. A full and mature Christianity needs liturgical worship; without it Christianity declines into the second-rate.

The order which the liturgists found in the daily offices shows that the main element is constituted by the psalms and lessons. The psalms are par excellence the chief vehicle of the Church’s praise here on earth: the Church’s children are to be fed daily with the written word of God. [Wickham Legg: The Principles and Services of the Prayer Book, pp. 135-6.] In the two lessons the Church is led in contemplation from the darkness of the old covenant to the full unveiled glory of the new. Each lesson is vital to the service, and it is related to the lesson which precedes and that which follows it in the lectionary. The meaning of each lesson does not become apparent until it is viewed in relation to the whole series of lessons appointed for the year. The psalms and lessons are preceded by a penitential preparation and concluded by dignified petitions and intercessions, reasonably short in comparison with what has gone before. The practice of beginning the service with a hymn destroys the penitential character of the introduction; the habit of only having one psalm robs the service of one of its chief elements, while omitting one of the lessons or choosing them to suit the sermon destroys the purpose which the psalms and lessons are intended to fulfil. Ending the service with lengthy personal and emotional prayers destroys its balance and turns it into an intercession service. Too often the Sunday services (which are quite wrongly announced as Mattins and Evensong) lack body and meaning on account of what is omitted, and are chaotic in structure; they are most certainly not Mattins and Evensong in the sense understood by our classical liturgists.

Modern Anglicanism can learn a salutary lesson from the order which the liturgists read into the 1662 Eucharist. The service is constantly criticized because the position of the prayers is not that of the corresponding ones in the Latin Mass, or in those Anglican rites which continue after the consecration with an anamnesis, epiklesis, the Prayer of Oblation, and the Our Father, and place the Prayer of Humble Access either before the Preface or immediately before the Communion. It is said to be a liturgical muddle, that the canon has been dismembered, that without such things as an anamnesis or epiklesis it is lacking in an essential.

The seventeenth-century liturgists would have hotly rebutted all this. To them the 1662 Eucharist was not an adapted vernacular version of the pre-Reformation service, nor just a mangled liturgy which the Scottish Episcopalian Church had succeeded in putting right, but which the English Church was compelled to tolerate owing to its connection with the State. The Prayer Book Eucharist had its own order and structure; but since they did not happen to be the same as those of the Latin rite or the Scottish Communion Office, it was quite illegitimate to criticize them for their dissimilarity. They would have agreed with Archbishop Benson that we have a very good mass; but they would have added that its order does not happen to be the same as that of Rome or Aberdeen.

Although the 1662 Eucharist is composed of elements derived from what had gone before, it is built up on a structure of its own and has its own meaning. It begins with the Our Father, setting the tone for the whole service; it works up to the Eucharistic action through a preparation, summed up by Beveridge as giving continual matter and occasion for the exercise of the Christian virtues of repentance, faith, and charity [Works, VI, pp. 29-30]; it is brought to a close by the post-communion and the blessing. The Eucharistic action itself moves on a perfectly coherent plan. It begins with a recitation of Calvary and Our Lord’s institution of a ‘perpetual memory’ of that act; it brings Calvary back into space and time so that it may be pleaded for the living and the departed, and that its benefits may be communicated to the faithful in Communion; in it the whole Church is offered in and through Calvary to the Father.

It is consequently wrong to speak of a dismembered canon; for the canon in the 1662 rite does not begin till the Prayer of Consecration. Elements which in the Latin rite are part of the canon, in the 1662 service serve as a preparation before the Eucharistic action or a thanksgiving after it has taken place; they enjoy a different position in the 1662 rite from what they do in the Latin rite, not because the Church of England has been compelled to put up with a liturgical muddle, but because they serve a different purpose.

It is equally wrong to lament the absence of an anamnesis or epiklesis. The Scottish Communion Office and the rites which it has inspired reflect the influence of Greek liturgical thought, popular in High Church circles at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries; here an anamnesis and epiklesis are both essential to the movement of the Eucharistic action. In the Scottish rite there is an emphasis which is eastern, on the whole of Our Lord’s redemptive action, in which Calvary is a chief element, but which is completed by the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The 1662 rite sees redemption in terms of Calvary; not of course Calvary viewed purely as a death, but Calvary as it is seen to be in the light of the Resurrection and Ascension, a Calvary victorious and triumphant, the culminating act of God in history, that which alone gives meaning to life, suffering, and death. In this interpretation the Resurrection and Ascension do not complete the redemption achieved on Calvary; they demonstrate the victorious nature of Calvary itself. In the words of consecration Calvary is brought back, but it is a Calvary whose glory is attested by the Resurrection and Ascension; these are brought back too in the words of consecration. An anamnesis adds nothing to the movement of the rite; at the most it does but make explicit what has already happened.

For much the same reasons an epiklesis after the words of consecration is out of place in the 1662 rite. In the consecration the Eucharistic action reaches its central point, the perpetuating for all time of the one sacrifice on Calvary. A special invocation of the Holy Spirit after this merely confuses the movement of the action; it asks God to perform something which has already taken place. It is possible to criticize the 1662 rite for its lack of emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist; but to this the liturgists would have replied that the whole action is done in the power of the Spirit, and that in the 1662 order the only suitable place for a prayer to the Holy Spirit is in the Collect for Purity, at the beginning or immediately prior to the words of consecration as in the 1549 Prayer Book; it was not uncommon in some High Church circles to speak of the words ‘Hear us, O merciful Father....‘in the Prayer of Consecration as a kind of epiklesis. On the principles underlying the 1662 order, the prayer in the 1928 epiklesis asking God to bless and sanctify with the Holy Spirit not only the elements but the congregation is too late; for the congregation are already in the middle of doing that action for which they specifically need the blessing of the Holy Spirit and which they dared not have begun without His help. There is no epiklesis in the technical sense of the word in the 1662 rite, partly because the order of the rite allows no room for it, and partly because in the thought of the seventeenth-century liturgists the very celebration of the Eucharistic action was in itself a manifestation and demonstration of the power and glory of Pentecost.

It can be said with some justice that the seventeenth-century liturgists in their anxiety to find a coherent and logical order in the Prayer Book threw into the background the parts played by the different elements in the services in previous liturgies; the Church was allowed to forget that its prayers had a background and history long before Cranmer came on the scene. On the other hand the order which they found in the Church services had one significant result. Anglican worship finds its centre in Calvary. In their Eucharistic piety the seventeenth-century liturgists were incurably medieval; the Eucharist in their eyes meant Calvary, and in a way not much dissimilar to their Roman brethren, once the difference in terminology and their emphasis on the corporate nature of the service has been taken into account. [Cf. Ratcliff, op. cit., in K. E. Kirk: The Study of Theology, p. 449.] Jeremy Taylor, who links the Eucharist with the Resurrection, is quite an exception. It is often forgotten that in the religion of seventeenth-century High Churchmen the cross was their joy and hope. Laud on the scaffold asks God to have mercy on him; ‘but not’, he goes on to pray, ‘till Thou hast nailed my sins to the cross of Christ; not till Thou hast bathed me in the blood of Christ; not till I have hid myself in the wounds of Christ; that so the punishment due unto my sins may pass over me’. [Laud, Works, IV, p. 436.] They love the daily services because their order leads to and from the Eucharist; they love the Eucharist because it is rooted in Calvary, because it flows from Calvary, because it applies Calvary. The order which they read into the liturgy makes it culminate in the perpetual memory of Calvary till the end of time; in the light of this order our liturgy is one of the most evangelical things in the world; its glory is the glory of the cross.


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