10 November 2012

Liturgy (Part-Time) 5.1, Baptism and Eucharist, liturgical renewal in the 20th and 21st centuries, dialogue and inculturation

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

10.15 a.m., 10 November 2012:

This mornning:

Part 1: Baptism and Eucharist, liturgical renewal in the 20th and 21st centuries; the contemporary life and mission of the Church; Part 2: Baptism and Eucharist: the contemporary life and mission of the Church; worship and inculturation.

5.2: Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.

5.1: Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical renewal in the 20th century; the contemporary life and mission of the Church.

This morning, we are going to briefly trace the developments in worship forms from the Reformation to the present, look at the Eucharist in the light of the Liturgical Movement and as an issue in inter-church relations, and .


(a) Introduction to the modern liturgical movement and recent liturgical revisions
(b) The impact of this movement on Anglican liturgical revisions
(c) Key figures in the liturgical movement

Tasks, learning outcomes, comments:

● To become familiar with the principal ideas and key figures in the modern liturgical movement;
● to understand the impact of the modern liturgical movement on recent liturgical revisions within the Anglican Communion;
● to discuss the theological implications of these changes;
● to become familiar with some of the key theologians involved.


Gregorian Chant setting of Magnificat from Solesmes (1949);
2, Troparion of the Veneration of the Cross from Chevetogne.

Both sung by Nóirín Ní Riain and the Monks of Glenstal Abbey (Vox de Nube).

What is the Liturgical Movement?

Many of us are familiar with the diversity in liturgy we can experience in different churches in the Anglican Communion. Yet there is a common feeling, quite often, that there is something distinctively Anglican in many liturgies – despite those diversities. And it is also becoming increasingly commonplace that liturgy, no matter where or by whom it is celebrated, has a feeling of familiarity no matter where we go – similar actions, similar architecture, similar robing, similar readings, similar rites, similar liturgical texts … prayers for the government, and always the Lord’s Prayer.

The Liturgical Movement is an informal movement without structures, but with overlapping committees, working groups, interest groups and societies. It is the single most influential part of the modern ecumenical movement. It has strongly influenced Anglicanism, but has also been strongly influenced by Anglicans.

The Liturgical Movement as a movement of scholarship and the reform of worship has been working over the last century and a half in the Roman Catholic tradition and in many Anglican, Protestant and Reformed Churches, including the Church of England and other member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mutual influences of different traditions on each other goes back long before Vatican II, and the Liturgical Movement has been one of the major influences on the processes of the Ecumenical Movement, playing important and significant roles in healing the divisions which we have inherited since the Reformations. As the Methodist liturgical scholar James White asked back in 1980: “Why teach ecumenism when you can teach worship?”

From its beginnings, the Liturgical Movement had a number of facets:

1, It was an attempt to recover and rediscover the liturgical texts and thinking of Patristic times and the worship of the Middle Ages.
2, It became a scholarly exercise in examining the history of worship.
3, It broadened into an examination of the nature of worship as a human activity.
4, It became an attempt to renew worship so it could be more expressive for worshippers and an instrument of teaching and mission.
5, It has been a movement of reconciliation between the Churches on both sides of the Reformation.

At the Reformations in the 16th century, all Churches revised and reformed the liturgy and public worship. The divisions were exacerbated because, with the development of written European languages, a Latin liturgy became something one would primarily see and secondarily hear, while in a vernacular service, one in the language of the worshipper, the worshippers were supposed to understand and were expected to take part.

But language was only one of the dividing issues. The revision of the Roman liturgy provided a single use for the whole Church. In opposition to the Reformers, the sacramental principle was restated alongside a doctrine expressing the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. But in subsequent centuries, the Liturgical Movement would bring changes that affected all the main Church traditions. In both the Catholic and Protestant traditions – but for different reasons – frequent communion was unusual and all traditions sought to remedy this.


The Council of Trent (1545-1563) adopted the Tridentine Mass as the standard liturgy for the Western rites of the Roman Catholic Church

With the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) adopted the Tridentine Mass as the standard liturgy. From then on, the Latin Mass remained substantially unchanged for almost 400 years.

Meanwhile, the liturgies of the churches of the Reformation traditions – including Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists – changed too. The Reformers wanted to return to the Biblical foundations of liturgy and to the authority of the early Church Fathers. However, the Reformation churches often became “Churches of the Word”: the language of the people was used, but in addition the focus generally shifted away from the sacraments and onto the word of Scripture and the word of preaching.

In the Church of England, the changes introduced in The Book of Common Prayer, as we have seen, were relatively conservative, and after the 16th century were not substantial. The notable exceptions were the Scottish and Nonjuring liturgies, through the influence and insights of Patristic studies. For the vast majority of Anglicans, though, the practice of Holy Communion became less frequent and was replaced in many churches by the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

In many parts of the Lutheran tradition, not much more was retained in the liturgy apart from the so-called “Words of Institution” (“This is my Body ... this is my Blood”), and it became common practice to make the service of the day, the ante-communion, into a preaching service.

The first stirrings of interest in liturgical scholarship (and in liturgical change) begin with the collection and study of ancient and mediaeval liturgies in the 18th century. The ancient liturgies of the Eastern Church, especially the Jerusalem Liturgy of Saint James and the Syrian Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII), were important in the work of notable 18th century Anglican liturgical scholars such as Hamon L’Estrange (1674-1767), Edward Stephens, Thomas Rattray, Bishop of Brechin and subsequently Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (1739-1744), and the Nonjuror Thomas Brett, author of the Dissertation on the Ancient Liturgies (1720).

Rattray’s great work on the Liturgy of Saint James was published posthumously and served as the basis of a Communion Office that was used in the Scottish Episcopal Church from 1764 to 1911 and again when revised in 1912. This, in turn, shaped the liturgy of the American Episcopalians.

In the early 19th century, there was a renewed in interest in patristic and mediaeval studies among Anglican scholars, including EB Pusey, JH Newman and other members of the Oxford Movement in the 1830s and 1840s.

The Benedictine Abbey at Solesmes was re-founded in 1833 ... the liturgical movement among Roman Catholic scholars can be traced to the recovery of Benedictine monasticism and Gregorian Chant there

About the same time, the liturgical movement among Roman Catholic scholars can be traced to the recovery of Benedictine monasticism and Gregorian Chant at Solesmes in France. The Benedictine Abbey at Solesmes was re-founded in 1833 under Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875). For a long time after, Benedictines were the pioneers in restoring Roman liturgy to its original form.

At first, Guéranger and his contemporaries focussed on studying and recovering Gregorian Chant and the liturgical forms of the Middle Ages, seen as an ideal, and in revising the Christian Year. Other scholars investigated the origins and history of the liturgy, although the practical application of this learning was often lacking.

The 19th century also saw the discovery of new liturgical texts. Jacques Paul Migne published editions of various early theological texts in two massive compilations: Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca.

In addition, the Didache, one of the earliest manuals of Christian morals and practice, was found in 1875 in a library in Constantinople, and the Apostolic Tradition, often mistakenly attributed to Hippolytus (3rd century), was published in 1900. The Apostolic Tradition, a church order containing the full text of a Eucharist, proved to be highly influential. Other discoveries at this time included the 4th century travel diary of Egregia and a 5th century Armenian Lectionary for Jerusalem. These sources were important in developing an ecumenical consensus on liturgy.

Anglican scholarship also had a major impact on the recovery of patristic and mediaeval sources for liturgy, with contributors such as FE Brightman (Liturgies: Eastern and Western, 1896), WH Frere (The Use of Sarum, 1898-1901), Cuthbert Atchley (Ordo Romanus Primus, 1905), and J Wickham Legg (The Sarum Missal, 1916).

Pope Pius X ... provided real encouragement for liturgical reform

The first real encouragement to reform came from Pope Pius X, who took on board many of the insights from Solesmes in his liturgical reforms, which became the necessary spark for the liturgical movement. Shortly after his election in 1903, he issued a motu proprio on church music, inviting the laity to take part actively in the liturgy, which he saw as a source of the renewal of Christian spirituality, and calling for more frequent communion by the laity, particularly the young.


The Liturgical Movement had a number of elements:

● Liturgical Scholarship,
● Pastoral Theology,
● Liturgical Renewal.

Pastoral considerations played a major part in all of these developments, and lay behind the tone of the papacy of Pius X, who also appealed for the restoration of Gregorian Chant.

A conference in 1909, the Congrès National des Oeuvres Catholiques at Malines in Belgium, is the beginning of the Liturgical Movement proper. Liturgy was to be the means of instructing the people in Christian faith and life; thus the Mass would be translated into the vernacular to promote active participation by the faithful.

Dom Lambert Beauduin ... emphasised out that worship is the common action of the people of God and is not solely performed by the priest

One of the leading figures in the conference was Dom Lambert Beauduin (d. 1960), a Belgian priest who had become a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Mont César in Louvain three years earlier in 1906. In his book, La Pieté de l’Eglise, Beauduin he points out that worship is the common action of the people of God and is not solely performed by the priest.

He was the first Roman Catholic theologian to speak about the full, conscious and active participation of the worshipping assembly, which becomes the hallmark of the 20th century Liturgical Movement. He stressed the intimate relationship between liturgy and society – the liturgy presents the world the way God wishes it to look, and the “liturgical world” is a profound critique of a dehumanising culture.

The joint Roman Catholic/Byzantine monastery at Amay-sur-Meuse, near Chevetogne in Belgium, became a leading centre of liturgical reform

A major project for Beauduin was a popular monthly missal with a translation of the Mass and popular articles for ordinary members of the laity. He was also committed to ecumenism, and in 1925 founded a joint Roman Catholic/Byzantine monastery at Amay-sur-Meuse, near Chevetogne in Belgium.

The Abbey of Maria Laach ... a centre of liturgical studies and reform from 1914 on

At the same time in Germany, Abbot Ildefons Herwegen of the Benedictine Abbey of Maria Laach convened a liturgical conference in Holy Week 1914 for lay people. Maria Laach became the centre of great liturgical scholarly research and activity. Herwegen promoted research that resulted in a series of publications for clergy and lay people during and after World War I, and he founded the Institute of Monastic and Liturgical Studies in 1931.

One of the foremost scholars at Maria Laach was Dom Odo Casel. Casel began by studying the Middle Ages, and looked at the origins of Christian liturgy in pagan cultic acts, understanding liturgy as a profound universal human act as well as a religious one. In his Ecclesia Orans (The Praying Church) (1918), Casel studied and interpreted the pagan mysteries of ancient Greece and Rome, discussing similarities and differences between them and the Christian mysteries. His work, arguing that the mysteries of Christ’s life are made present in the liturgy as it is celebrated, had a profound influence on later theologians and especially on Vatican II’s Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosantum Concilium).

Meanwhile, Maurice de la Taille argued in an influential book, Mysterium Fidei (1921), that Christ’s sacrifice, beginning from his self-offering at the Last Supper, completed in the Passion and continued in the Mass, were all one act. There is only one immolation – that of Christ at Calvary, to which the Last Supper looks forward and to which the Mass looks back.

Although Taille was not a liturgist, his work created a huge controversy about the form and character of the Mass. In a major ecumenical advance, his arguments removed the Reformation objection that each Mass was a separate and new “immolation” of Christ, a repeated and thus efficacious act.

Through the influence of Herwegen and Casel, the Mass in Maria Laach was revised, and from 1921 on it included the praying in common of the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Casel’s influence spread. In Austria, Pius Parsch (d. 1954), an Augustinian monk at Klosterneuburg, applied Casel’s principles when he took over the little church of Saint Gertrude in 1919. There with laymen, Parsch worked out the relevance of the Bible to liturgy. He argued that the Eucharist is a sacrifice offered by the entire parish community and is a meal eaten in common by the entire parish community. Similar experiments later took place in Leipzig during World War II.

In France, practical experiments in the liturgy began through contact with the German and Austrian movements. But these mostly came after World War II. In 1943, the Centre National de Pastorale Liturgique was founded and the magazine La Maison-Dieu was first published. The centre was closely associated with the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie, an important centre for liturgical research.

Pope Pius XII ... warned against what he saw as false innovations, radical changes and “Protestantising” influences in the liturgical movement

The idea of liturgy as an inclusive activity was an exciting subversion of individualism. But it also raised anxieties in Rome. In 1947, Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical Mediator Dei et hominum warning of false innovations, radical changes and “Protestantising” influences in the liturgical movement. At the same time, he encouraged the “authentic” liturgical movement that promoted active participation of the congregation in chant and gestures. Pius XII also relaxed the rules of fasting before receiving Holy Communion, approved a new Latin Psalter based on the Hebrew Psalms (1945), allowed the use of the vernacular in certain rituals (though not in the Mass or at the Divine Office), and restored the rites of the Easter Vigil (1953) and Holy Week (1956).

The Second Vatican Council

Vatican II introduced major liturgical changes in 1963, including the use of the vernacular language and the emphasis in the liturgy on anamnesis

The Latin Tridentine Mass remained the standard Eucharistic liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church in the West until the Second Vatican Council. The exceptions to that were found in the changes made to the Holy Week ceremonies in 1953-1956 by Pope Pius XII, who allowed the Easter Vigil to take place in the evening.

Vatican II adopted the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy in 1963. For the first time, the vernacular liturgy was permitted. In addition, the emphasis in the liturgy was now on anamnesis, as Taille had advocated. The influence of Hippolytus was evident in the form of the Eucharistic Prayers. Accompanying this was the encouragement for liturgies to express local culture, subject to approval from the Vatican.

A number of features of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy appeared to validate insights from the Reformations, including:

● The introduction of the vernacular (#36).
● The call for the treasures of the Bible be opened up to include a richer portion of the Scriptures (#24, #51).
● An insistence on the centrality of Sunday as the Lord’s Day (#106).
● A renewed emphasis on the importance of preaching.

This key Vatican document also vindicated those who understood the liturgy as the common action of the believers. It grounded participation in the Eucharist in the baptismal status of Christians:

“[The] Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Peter 2: 9, 4-5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.” [Constitution on Sacred Liturgy #14, see #30.]

Pope Leo the Great: “what was visible in the Redeemer has passed over into the sacraments”

The constitution also supported the controversial theological work of Odo Casel, reflecting Casel’s oft-cited quotation from an Ascension Day sermon by Pope Leo the Great, that “what was visible in the Redeemer has passed over into the sacraments.” Appreciation of this theology enabled ecumenical progress on difficult issues like Eucharistic memorial and sacrifice.

Anglican, Protestant and Reformed churches

The Revd Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) ... to the fore in the revival of patristic studies

Meanwhile, what about the churches of the Reformation traditions?

Modern Anglican interest in liturgy begins with the work of the Oxford Movement, which drew attention the church's history and continuity with the Catholic Church.

Pusey, Newman and other members of the Oxford Movement were to the fore in the revival of patristic studies. John Mason Neale, Benjamin Webb, and their associates in the Cambridge Movement were interested in a recovery of many aspects of mediaeval liturgy. The short-lived Camden Society (1839–1863), originally formed to study ecclesiastical art and architecture, generated an interest in liturgy and the use of liturgical space that led to the ceremonial revival of the later 19th century.
Later in the 19th century, Brightman, Frere, Atchley, Legge and others were publishing important works on patristic and mediaeval studies in liturgy.

This revival brought Anglican scholars into conversation with their Roman Catholic colleagues, freer to take part in public life in England since the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829).

The Revd Robert Dolling (1851-1902) ... the “slum priests” understood that the corporate dimension of worship is intimately linked with a critique of a dehumanising society

At the same time, social and political changes were influencing those who were interested in liturgical recovery and development. There was a growing sense of disenchantment with the industrialised society that had developed in northern Europe in the later 19th century. Nowhere was this context clearer than among the Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, especially Arthur Henry Stanton of Saint Alban’s, Holborn, and his Irish-born friend, Robert Dolling of Saint Saviour’s, Poplar.

These “slum priests” understood that the corporate dimension of worship is intimately linked with a critique of a dehumanising society. And so, it is no surprise that much of the impetus for the revival of the liturgy came from northern Europe – among Anglicans in England, among Roman Catholics in Belgium and northern Germany, and among Lutherans in Sweden.

The Henry Bradshaw Society, founded in 1890 to publish liturgical texts, was followed in 1897 by the Alciun Club, which had a significant impact both on later Anglican revisions of The Book of Common Prayer, for example through Cuthbert Atchley’s work on the epiclesis, and on Roman Catholic scholarship.

By the 20th century, the Anglican Churches saw quite radical changes in ceremony and ritual. The Tractarians and the Oxford Movement were interested in liturgy and, in particular, in the Holy Communion or Eucharist. Gradually, dress and ceremonial were borrowed from past, historical practices, including the use of stoles, chasubles and copes; candles multiplied; incense was burnt; priests genuflected and bowed.

Gradually, the Eucharist (or the Mass, as Anglo-Catholics called it) became more common as the main Sunday Service. The English Missal, first published in 1912, conflated Holy Communion in The Book of Common Prayer and the Latin rites in the Roman Missal, including rubrics indicating posture and manual acts. Long before its publication, these practices had been widespread for many years. But the changes caused controversy, opposition, hostility and legal action. For some, liturgical change was not a reform or revival but a retreat to mediaeval models and was seen by many bishops and clergy as “Popish.”

A new direction

Bishop Charles Gore ... an advocate of weekly communion in Anglican parish churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The classical shape of Sunday morning Anglican worship from the 16th century to the 1890s was Morning Prayer, Litany and Ante-Communion, with Holy Communion once a quarter. Then, from the 1890s to the 1970s, there were various models, although a typical one was Morning Prayer three Sundays a month and Holy Communion once a month.

The Roman Catholic Liturgical Movement influenced many leading Anglican thinkers, such as WH Frere, in the 1920s and 1930s. From the 1920s many Anglican voices were speaking of the need for weekly communion. These include WH Frere, Bishop Charles Gore (1853-1932), author of The Body of Christ: an enquiry into the institution and doctrine of Holy Communion (1901), Bishop Henry de Candole (1895-1971), and AG Hebert (1886–1963). The other major influential Anglican figure in liturgical change was Dom Gregory Dix (1902-1952).

One of the most significant contributions to the reform and renewal of the liturgy within Anglicanism was the idea that the Eucharist is primarily an action and that it belongs at the centre of the Church’s life of worship. These ideas were first advanced within the Church of England by Bishop Henry de Candole, who had been influenced by Benedictine pioneers such as Beaudin, Herwegen and Casel. He first developed the Parish Communion while he was working at Saint John’s, Newcastle (1926-1931).

The Parish Communion Movement inspired major changes in England in the 1930s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Major change began in the 1930s in England with the Parish Communion Movement, led by Gabriel Hebert, an Old Testament scholar and a monk of Kelham (the Society of the Sacred Missions). Hebert was a notable English theologian and was instrumental in mediating the influence of the continental Liturgical Movement. His two most influential works were Liturgy and Society (1935), and a symposium he edited, The Parish Communion (1937).

Hebert was strongly influenced both by the continental Roman Catholic liturgical movement – especially the monks at Mont César and Maria Laach, whom he visited in 1932, and by the Scandinavian liturgical movement – especially by Archbishop Yngve Brilioth, and he translated Brilioth’s Eucharistic Faith and Practice: Catholic and Evangelical.

Hebert’s Liturgy and Society (1935) is one of the most significant books of 20th century Anglican liturgical reform. Its publication marks the beginning of the real debate within Anglicanism on the relationship between worship and the world. The themes in his book include:

● his protest against individualism;
● his understanding of liturgical formation;
● a theology of liturgical mystery;
● a theology of the whole people of God;
● a theology of offering in liturgy.

Hebert interpreted the liturgy on wider social principles, and in the process he pointed out that the idea of the Eucharistic fast was impractical.

His second book, The Parish Communion (1937), gave its name to the Parish Communion Movement and helped to make the Holy Communion or the Eucharist the principal Sunday service in many parishes throughout the Church of England. Unlike later Anglican contributors to the Liturgical Movement, Hebert sought to work with The Book of Common Prayer, rather than replacing it, and the ideas of the Parish Communion movement were in advance of English Roman Catholic scholars.

Apart from de Candole and Hebert, a key figure – and perhaps the most influential – was Dom Gregory Dix (1902-1952), author of The Shape of the Liturgy (1945). His theory of the four-shape action in the liturgy has had an immeasurable impact on Anglican liturgical thinking for more than 60 years.

“The Lord’s People at the Lord’s Table on the Lord’s Day” ... the emphasis of the Parish Communion movement … (Last Supper, by Sieger Köder)

The Parish Communion movement wished for more frequent communion, not merely attendance at Mass. It sought to relate the Eucharist to the world of ordinary life. And through its influence the offertory was restored, though not without protracted controversy.

The Parish Communion movement in Anglicanism grew from the 1930s on. After World War II, de Candole was instrumental in founding the Parish and People movement, which shifted the emphasis to “the Lord’s People at the Lord’s Table on the Lord’s Day.” This led to Anglican churches of all shades of churchmanship making Holy Communion their central act of Sunday worship, with the majority of the congregation receiving communion. As a result, the service of Holy Communion has become the central act of worship in the average parish in the Church of England, with the Parish Communion, or Family Eucharist, on Sunday morning becoming a part of the lives of most Anglican parishes in England.

By the end of the 1960s, a mid-morning Sunday Eucharist was a fixture in most Anglican parishes throughout the English-speaking world. It included music and a sermon and was attended by adults and children who sat together as families. There were Church school classes, often for the whole family … and the obligatory coffee hour.

The appeal of weekly communion included:

● It helped overcome wars of churchmanship
● It sought to unite people liturgically
● It clarified the office of the clergy and the ministry of the laity
● It offered a highly integrated theology of Church, liturgy, and ministry

The criticisms of weekly communion included:

● It made communion a little too comfortable;
● the discipline of conscientious self-examination came to be lost;
● the daily offices were seldom used afterwards
● the danger of drifting towards Pelagianism

The Church of South India in its liturgy brought together in a creative way the needs for ecumenical convergence, the insights of the Liturgical Movement and the influence of Gregory Dix

Meanwhile, Anglican Churches outside these islands were increasingly aware of the need for liturgical reform and to move beyond the heritage of The Book of Common Prayer. The most dramatic changes came from the Church of South India, where the needs for ecumenical convergence, the insights of the Liturgical Movement and the influence of Gregory Dix all combined in a most creative way.

The Church of South India was formed in 1947 by Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians. A year later, in 1948, the CSI began work on a new liturgy; the end result had a monumental effect on Anglican and other liturgical revisions that followed. Those who worked on this new liturgy were influenced by:

● The Eastern Orthodox Liturgy of Saint James, which had been strongly influential on the Nonjurors and in Scotland, but was familiar in India through the Syrian/Indian Orthodox tradition.
● Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy (1945).

Although the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church of South India is Anglican in its basic structures, its central distinctive features – which many of us now take for granted – were innovative when they were first published in the 1950s. These were:

● The priest/presbyter should face the people.
● The Trisagion (Holy, Holy, Holy) is one of the alternatives for the Gloria at the beginning of the Eucharist.
● Three Scripture readings were provided (Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel).
● The intercessions could be extempore.
● A congregational peace – the first in post-Reformation liturgy, and in the position noted by Justin Martyr.
● The shape of the liturgy followed the shape described by Dix.
● For the first time, the Eucharistic prayer was called the Thanksgiving rather than the Consecration.
● A phrase was introduced from the Mozarabic liturgy: “Be present, be present, Lord Jesus, our great high priest, and make yourself known to us in the breaking of the bread” (c.f. The Book of Common Prayer (the Church of Ireland, 2004), p. 208).
● Two sets of congregational responses were introduced from the liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church: remembering Christ’s death and resurrection and looking for his kingdom – placed after the institution narrative; and giving thanks, praise and glory – placed after the anamnesis.

The impact of the Liturgy of the Church of South India on Anglican Churches has been enormous. Its wider impact began at an early stage when it was introduced to the ecumenical movement the WCC Assembly in Evanston in 1954.

Archbishop Leslie Brown at an ordination in Namirembe ... he facilitated Lambeth Conference debates on liturgical change

Leslie Brown, a key figure in this process, became Bishop of Uganda in 1953 (and later Archbishop), facilitated the Lambeth Conference debates on liturgical change in 1958, and was the principal person involved in drafting A Liturgy for Africa in 1964.

Archbishop Brown went so far as to say the Church of South India Liturgy influenced the changes introduced after Vatican II. Whether this is true or not, we should remember that the Church of South India liturgy came more than a decade before the liturgical changes ushered in by Vatican II.

The liturgical movement influenced Anglican revisions throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Within the Church of England, the Alternative Service Book (1980) showed the continuing influence of Gregory Dix’s work of the 1940s. This had a profound influence on the Church of Ireland though both the Alternative Prayer Book (1984) and The Book of Common Prayer (2004). The latest product of the process in the Church of England is Common Worship (2000).

Liturgical architecture

Saint Philip’s, Cosham (1938) ... the free-standing altar, designed by Ninian Comper, is the first in the Church of England

The liturgical movement also raised questions about “sacred space” – about the way we use our church buildings, and the way our use of them reflects our priorities in liturgy and worship.

From the 1930s on, other aspects of the continental liturgical movement also affected worship in the Church of England. Under the influence of works such as Der Christliche Altar by the Jesuit J. Braun, it became more usual for altars to become free-standing. The first that can be traced in the Church of England is that at Saint Philip’s in Cosham, Portsmouth (1938), which was designed by Sir Ninian Comper.

With the new emphasis on the “full, conscious and active participation” of the people in the liturgy, a new approach was needed if congregations were to move from being audiences or spectators to being participants in the liturgy.

By the 1950s and 1960s, new altars were designed for west-ward celebrations and many older churches adapted their furnishings to the change of approach.

Many Evangelicals adopted the westward position introduced in the CSI revisions, along with most of the other Anglican clergy, lessening the differences inherited from previous years.

Coventry Cathedral ... criticised by Peter Hammond for relying on 19th century concepts of liturgical space

A major landmark publication was Peter Hammond’s Liturgy and Architecture (1960), in which he argued that architecture should be shaped by what goes on in worship. He was dismissive of the new Coventry Cathedral, saying it still relied on 19th century concepts of liturgical space.

The chapel in the Church of Ireland College of Education in Rathmines, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

He might have said the same about most of the new churches being built in the Church of Ireland in the 20th century.

Saint Paul’s, Bow Common ... “a true domus ecclesiae, planned from the altar outwards”

On the other hand, Peter Hammond pointed to Saint Paul’s, Bow Common (1960), designed by Robert Maguire, as “a true domus ecclesiae, planned from the altar outwards.”

Churches have continued to be reordered, and a more recent seminal book on this topic has been Richard Giles’s Repitching the tent: Reordering the Church Building for Worship and Mission (1999).

Generally speaking, what has happened architecturally since the 1960s is that the altar has been moved out from the east wall, so that the presiding priest can stand behind it, facing the people, and – sometimes – with the whole congregation standing around it; the roles of the lectern, pulpit and font have been rethought; and the presiding priest’s chair has become another important item of furniture.

The Liturgical Movement and the Lutheran Church

Equally dramatic in some places has been the change in some of the Lutheran churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, for example, has been heavily influenced by the movement in its vesture and ritual. Black gowns have been replaced by coloured vestments, with their shape conforming to the modern pattern. This is less true in its ceremonial: the liturgical action, in which movement takes place during the liturgy to express its different parts, is largely lacking.

In Sweden, two key figures in introducing the liturgical movement to the Lutheran Church were Archbishop Yngve Brilioth (1889-1959) and Dr Gunnar Rosendal (1897-1988).

Archbishop Yngve Brilioth was one of the key figures in Sweden in introducing the liturgical movement to the Lutheran Church

Archbishop Brilioth’s Eucharistic Faith and Practice: Catholic and Evangelical was translated by Hebert. He was Bishop of Växjö (1938-1950), Archbishop of Uppsala (1950-1958), and the author of a history of the Oxford Movement, written to coincide with its centenary in 1933.

Father Gunnar Rosendal of Osby ... his liturgical theology and his example in Osby became a model for liturgical piety and practise for the Eucharist and the daily office in Sweden

Dr Rosendal – known popularly as Father Gunnar of Osby – was the parish priest of Osby. Through his books promoting liturgical Lutheran theology and spirituality, especially through Kyrklig förnyelse (1935), he became a leading liturgical figure in the Church of Sweden. His other influential books include Den apostoliska tron (2 vols, 1948, 1951), and Vårt katolska arv (Our Catholic Inheritance, 1956). He popularised his liturgical theology through his own example in Osby, which became a model for liturgical piety and practise for the Eucharist and the daily office.

Dr Rosendal had many contacts to the liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Benedictine monasteries, and knew many of the theologians of the liturgical and ecumenical movement, including Pius Parsch and Paul Couturier. He also had plenty of contacts with the key Anglican liturgists of the time, especially Dom Gregory Dix.

Dr Rosendal was rooted also in the theology of 17th century Lutheran orthodoxy, which he knew well. He was one of the theologians who worked for the foundation of the International League for Apostolic Faith and Order (ILAFO), which later became the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. In Sweden, his influence can be seen in the foundation of the organisation arbetsgemenskapen Kyrklig Förnyelse (aKF), inspired by his book Kyrklig förnyelse.

In Germany, the excising of the Eucharistic Prayer by Martin Luther in his Kirchenordnungen, was one of a number of factors that contributed towards infrequent communion. This was reversed in the decade after World War II with new service books and subsequently by the challenge of Vatican II.

In the US, the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) draws considerably from Roman Catholic sources.

Five profiles: key influential figures

Dom Gregory Dix (1902-1952):

Dom Gregory Dix ... argued that it is not the words of the liturgy but its four-fold ‘shape’

Dom Gregory Dix was a monk of Nashdom Abbey, an Anglican Benedictine foundation. He was lecturer in modern history at Keble College, Oxford (1924-1926), was ordained priest in 1925, entered Nashdom the following year, took his final vows in 1940, and was elected Prior in 1948.

Dix’s work was primarily in the field of liturgy. He produced the first critical edition of the Apostolic Tradition (1935). But his most influential book is The Shape of the Liturgy (1945). In this book he argued that it was not so much the words of the liturgy but its ‘shape’ that matters. This was, he believed, even more fundamental than the inclusion of the Words of Institution (“This is my Body ...This is my Blood”), which he pointed out had not always been included.

Dix argued that the origins of the Eucharistic meal lay not in the Passover Seder but rather in the Jewish fellowship meal, the chaburah.

For Gregory Dix, the entire liturgy of the Eucharist constitutes anamnesis – a commemoration and re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ. His study of the historical development of the liturgy, as seen in the writings of Justin Martyr, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Syriac Liturgy of Addai and Mari, among others, led him to formulate the “Four-Action Shape of the Liturgy”: Offertory, Consecration, Fraction, Communion (Take, Bless, Break, Give). Dix believed this was even more fundamental to the rite than are the Words of Institution, which the Liturgy of Addai and Mari does not include, and which may not have been part of the earliest celebrations of the Eucharist.

Dix argued that this four-action shape had been rearranged in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and parts of it omitted in other revisions of liturgy, betraying the universal tradition of the Church.

Dix’s work heavily influenced liturgical revision both in the Church of England and in related rites of the Anglican Communion, along with that of the Church of South India.

Some recent scholars, however, have criticised Dix, claiming he lacks historical accuracy in places, although the Alternative Service Book and Common Worship in the Church of England and the Alternative Prayer Book and The Book of Common Prayer (2004) in the Church of Ireland show his continuing influence.

In particular, Dix’s claims for the shape of the liturgy, and his emphasis on the significance of the Offertory, are said to rest on weak evidence historically. He has also been criticised on the theological ground that the Offertory was in danger of Pelagianism: that is, it suggests a natural goodness in humanity that could give God anything.

This objection originated in a comment by Archbishop Michael Ramsey about the dangers of a “shallow and romantic sort of Pelagianism,” but which was taken up by Evangelical liturgical scholars, not as a warning but as a prohibition of offertory processions of any sort.

On the other hand, Dix’s thesis was defended by members of the English Parish Communion movement, such as Gabriel Hebert and Donald Gray, who saw the offertory as representing the bringing of the world into the Eucharistic action. (This is also the traditional Eastern Orthodox perspective of the offertory. See Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 2:7). Dix’s thesis was also defended by scholars who noted ancient ideas of sacrifice particularly associated with the work of Saint Irenaeus.

Either way, Dix’s fourfold shape has influenced every subsequent reform of the liturgy within the Anglican Communion. This pattern is clear, for example, in the second order of Holy Communion in A Prayer Book for Australia (1995), and Order One in Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England. Some even argue that this shape can be observed in the post-Vatican II Mass of Pope Paul VI, which can be attributed to the consensus created by Dix.

Arthur Gabriel Hebert (1866-1963):

Gabriel Hebert (1866-1963) ... in The Parish Communion (1936), he set out the case for the centrality of the Eucharist in Sunday worship

Gabriel Hebert, a monk of Kelham (Society of the Sacred Mission) was an influential Anglican writer on liturgical and biblical theology. In Liturgy and Society (1935), he declared that liberalism was theologically bankrupt and, against propositional dogmatism, argued that Christian doctrine was enshrined in the worship forms of the Church, and that the corporate activity of worship was the touchstone of Christian life and prayer.

His collection of essays, The Parish Communion (1936), arguing for the centrality of the Eucharist in the Sunday worship on the basis of the educational model of the Church as the Body of Christ, was the most singular influence on the worshipping patterns of the Church of England in the second half of the 20th century.

Father Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983):

Father Alexander Schmemann ... acknowledges the influence of Gregory Dix, so that Anglican and Orthodox liturgical thinking have influenced each other

Father Alexander Schmemann was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian priest, teacher, and writer. Schmemann was born in Tallinn, Estonia, to Russian émigrés. His family moved to France, where he received his university education. He completed his theological studies at the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saint Sergius, Paris, where he studied with the great Russian theologian, Sergei Bulgakov, and was ordained priest in 1946.

Schmemann taught church history at Saint Sergius from 1946 to 1951. He was invited to join the faculty of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, then in New York City, where he taught from 1951 onwards. When the seminary moved to Crestwood, New York, in 1962, Schmemann became dean, a post he held until his death. He was an Orthodox observer at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.

Much of his focus at Saint Vladimir’s was on liturgical theology. He published many books and articles. For the Life of the World, a popular volume on Christian faith as reflected in liturgy, has been translated into 11 languages. The Eucharist was finished just before his death. This and several collections of his writings were published posthumously. In many places, Schmemann acknowledges the influence of Dix, so that Anglican and Orthodox liturgical thinking have had surprising influences on each other.

Brother Max Thurian (1921-1996):

Taizé has given rise to a unique style of worship and music that reflects the meditative nature of the community

Brother Max Thurian from Geneva was the Sub-Prior of Taizé, the Ecumenical monastic community in France, from its inception in the 1940s. Taizé has given rise to a unique style of worship and music that reflects the meditative nature of the community. Taizé music emphasises simple phrases, usually lines from Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, repeated and sometimes also sung in canon. The repetition is intended to aid meditation and prayer.

In 1969, Max Thurian said he was satisfied with the reforms of Vatican II, believing that Protestants could receive Holy Communion along with Roman Catholics.

His influence as a liturgist was particularly seen in the Lima Liturgy, which reveals his intimate interests in both French Reformed and Orthodox liturgy.

In 1988, Max Thurian became a Roman Catholic and was ordained a priest. In a complete turn of events on 24 July 1996, he said in L’Osservatore Romano that he was actually dissatisfied with conciliar reformation, and that the Mass “has lost its character of mystery.”

Dean Richard Giles (b. 1940):

Richard Giles ... one of the leading innovative and controversial Anglican liturgists

Richard Giles is one of the leading innovative and controversial Anglican writers on liturgy, with numerous books on liturgy, worship, the use of liturgical space and the design of church buildings. His best-known books are Repitching the tent: Reordering the Church Building for Worship and Mission (1999/2004); and Creating Uncommon Worship: A handbook on bringing the Liturgy to Life (2004). His latest book, published two years ago, is At Heaven’s Gate: Reflections on leading worship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2010).

He is both a qualified town planner and a theologian. He trained for ordination at Cuddesdon College, and served in a number of parishes before becoming Canon Theologian in Wakefield Cathedral (1998-1999), and was appointed Dean of Philadelphia in 1999. He recently retired and now lives in Tynemouth.

Re-pitching the Tent is, perhaps, the most influential and most controversial book by an Anglican theologian in recent decades on how we use, can re-evaluate and can adapt our worship spaces.

It is challenging if you are used to and attached to our traditional arrangement of sanctuary, chancel, choir and nave. He shows how we can make our spaces count, how we can arrange for worship in such a manner that we express a theology that highlights the participation of the people in the congregation while still showing we have very distinct president of the assembly to lead the Liturgy.

Not all traditionalists warms to his ideas at once, but he relies on patristic authorities, and has produced a practical, informative and inspirational guide to creating beautiful places of worship, to revitalising the way we regard church buildings, to enabling us to see them afresh as a vital component of our worship and mission.

Creating Uncommon Worship takes a new look at how worship is both conducted and experienced. Too often liturgy is all too often about words and is led from the front, but he introduces ideas on how to enrich the liturgy by creating a context of action, movement and symbolic expression involving the whole assembly.

In At Heaven’s Gate, published two years ago, Richard Giles tells us how worship too often is a duty rather than a joy, a gathering of the like-minded rather than an encounter with the living God. For those who lead worship, the liturgy can all too easily be reduced to a steady progression through a service book, instead of drawing forth the gifts and ministries from an expectant assembly engaged in an enterprise that joins earth to heaven.

Richard Giles is convinced that “the Sunday gathering of God’s people is the sacrament of their transformation,” and that they deserve nothing less than “worship that takes us to the threshold of heaven,” our own little “tradesmen’s entrance into the kingdom of God.” But, all too often, it falls short of that, and we need to award worship “first, second and third place in our agenda,” to get it right.

Giles wants liturgy to be as good and as creative as possible, “something beautiful for God,” something that will “inspire, engage and transform.” He has a lot to say about the necessity for strong leadership and Presidency, but recognises how easily that can be misunderstood: “Fruitful leadership emerges from the community, and is not set over against it.”

He asks: “What makes really good worship?” – and he then examines the chief components of worship and liturgy that engage, inspire and transform. He recalls us to the wonder of worship, and reminds us that when the people of God gather, we come to the very gate of heaven, touching the eternal mystery.

How does a visit to the local gate of heaven appear to most people today?

Is the welcome warm and genuine?

Is there a sense of expectancy?

Do the surroundings speak of transcendence or are they full of clutter?

Is every minute taken up with words and music?

Or are there spaces when we can listen for God?

Is the coffee afterwards worth staying for?

I hope we can look at these and other questions next week when we look at Baptism and Eucharist in the context of the contemporary life and mission of the Church, and in the context of worship and inculturation.

The ‘U2Charist’ in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church, Dublin ... what do we mean by the inculturation of the liturgy?

Part 2:
Baptism and Eucharist: the contemporary life and mission of the Church; worship and inculturation

What is liturgical inculturation?

And what does inculturation mean for the contemporary life and mission of the Church?

The term “inculturation” is used to speak about “the incarnation of the Gospel in autonomous cultures and at the same time the introduction of these cultures into the life of the Church.” [see Varietates Legitimae – Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, the Fourth Instruction for the Correct Application of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy (Nos. 37-40), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 March 1994, §4.]

Inculturation signifies “an intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the implementation of Christianity into different human cultures.”

We have inherited a rich and deep liturgical heritage from the Church of Ireland, the wider Church experience in Ireland, the wider Anglican Communion, and through twenty centuries of Church history.

But we also have a cultural heritage that needs to integrate that liturgical heritage, to express that liturgical heritage, and that is expressed in and interpreted in our liturgy. And yet the Church is different from all other gatherings and communities in every culture and every age.

1, The Church is not gathered together by a human decision, but is called through Christ by God in the Holy Spirit and responds in faith to this gracious call.

2, The Church Catholic is called to gather all peoples, to speak all languages, to penetrate all cultures.

3, The Church, as a pilgrim people on this earth, and in this Advent time bears the marks of this present time in its sacraments, its liturgies and its institutions and structures as we await the coming of Christ in hope.

The Church universal, the Church Catholic, finds its particular expression, is made present and signified, in particular Churches. As the 39 Articles remind us, the Church is visible in “a congregation of faithful men” (i.e., faithful people gathered together in the diocese), “in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered ...” (Article 19).

Every particular expression of the Church is united with the universal Church, across the barriers of time and of space, not only in belief and sacramental life, but also in those practices the Church has inherited down through the generations, dating back to the Apostolic tradition.

What are some examples of these universal Church practices?

They include, for example, daily prayer, the sanctification of Sunday and the rhythm of the week, the celebration of Easter and the unfolding of the mystery of Christ throughout the liturgical year, and the sacraments.

What about the Liturgy?

We have talked over the past few weeks about Liturgy as the place where Christians meet God in Christ.

Christian worship finds its most fundamental expression when every Sunday, throughout the whole world, Christians gather around the altar or the table in word and sacrament, listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Eucharist, and recalling the death and resurrection of Christ, while awaiting his coming in glory.

As The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland (2004) says:

“All Sundays celebrate the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.” On Sundays and eight of the nine Principal Holy Days (Christmas Day, Easter Day, the Day of Pentecost, The Presentation of Christ, Maundy Thursday, the Ascension Day, Trinity Sunday and All Saints’ Day, but not Good Friday), “it is fitting that the Holy Communion be celebrated in every cathedral and in each parish church or in a church within a parochial union, or group of parishes … The liturgical provision for the above days may not be displaced by any other observance” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 18).

The Liturgy is both the action of Christ the Priest and the action of the Church which is his body. In the Liturgy, the Church, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, gives the Father the worship which is pleasing to him.

There is an unchangeable aspect of the Liturgy. But the Church adapts that the Liturgy, according to the constraints of time and space, for the good of the people, for the good of the people who are the Body of Christ, according to circumstances, times and places.

But how do we strike the balance between inculturating the sacraments that Christ has instituted, and emptying them of their substance? What is essential when it comes to liturgical change?

Our agreements on the Liturgy ensure orthodoxy of worship, not only because we must avoid errors, but because we must pass on the faith in its integrity. There is theological maxim that “rule of prayer” must correspond to the “rule of belief” – lex orandi, lex credendi.

But what about the different needs of the Church in particular places, at particular times? How are these to be addressed?

For example, what about a place that does not have a Christian tradition?

Should missionaries who bring the Gospel with them also bring their liturgical traditions with them?

And how do they modify, adapt or inculturate those liturgical traditions?

Other places have a long-standing Western Christian tradition, where the culture is already embedded with the language of the faith and the expresses of the liturgy. If the liturgy is changes, does it lose its cultural relevance and its ability to speak to the people?

In some places, several cultures coexist. How then is it possible to inculturate liturgical practices?

Any adaptations, modification and changes must bear in mind the need for people to understand the Liturgy with ease, to take part fully, and to relate it actively to their lives and the society in which they live.

For example, there is no point in making adaptations that then need numerous explanations in order to be understood.

How far can we go with inculturation?

The missionary tradition of the Church has always sought to bring the Christian faith to people in their own language. The translation of the Bible and the Liturgy are the first steps in the process of inculturation.

The first significant measure of inculturation at the Reformation was the translation of the Bible, liturgies and liturgical books into the language of the people.

But each translation both shaped and respected literary genres without altering the content of the texts. The translated works had to be understandable by those for whom they were being translated. So, The Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible were translated into the English of the 16th and 17th centuries, but they also shaped the English language of the time.

In English, to talk about being saved by the “skin of my teeth” is inexplicable without a glimpse of the Book of Job in the Authorised Version. Phrases like “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” from The Book of Common Prayer have passed into common parlance.

How many of you remember old traditions when you recall that Sunday fortnight [25 November 2012], the Sunday before Advent, was “Stir-Up Sunday” before we started to celebrate the Kingship of Christ on that Sunday?

‘God so loved man (humanity)’ ... a sign above the entrance Guizhou Theological Training Centre in Guiyang Province in central China. Chinese Christians have been divided by the words they use for God (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For example, on my visits to China with the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, I became conscious of how the differences between the “Protestant” and “Catholic” traditions, in their various forms, is exaggerated for non-Christian Chinese when they see that Catholics and Protestants cannot agree on a common translation of the Bible, or even on the same word for God, so that they are seen by many as two completely different religions.

The Catholic Church historically favoured Tīanzhǔ (literally “Heavenly Lord,” or “Lord of Heaven”), and so “Catholicism” is most commonly rendered Tīanzhǔ jìao, although Chinese Catholics also a literal translation of “catholic,” Gōng jiào.

The earliest Protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison, arrived in 1807. Before this time, Bibles were not printed for distribution. Protestantism is colloquially referred to as Jīdū jìao (“religion of Christ”) but this term can sometimes refer to all Christians, so Xīnjìao (“new religion”) is also used to distinguish Protestants as a group separate from Roman Catholics. Their translators, coming to China later and separately, chose to use the older terminology “Shangdi,” apparently believing “Shangdi” was a valid or preferable representation of the “Most High God.”

In addition, the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter pronunciation of the name of God from the original Hebrew often rendered as YHWH, is rendered in different ways. Catholics have translated this into Yǎwēi (“Elegant Powerful”). Protestants originally rendered it as Yéhuǒhuá (“[old] Gentleman of Fiery Magnificence”). A modern Protestant usage is Yēhéhuá. Some versions translate this term as Shàngzhǔ (literally “Above Lord”), similar to the translation decision to use a capitalised “LORD” by both Catholics and traditional Protestants.

To complicate matters, Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans particularly use Shàngzhǔ in their Eucharistic Prayers.

If people are going to listen to the Gospel being proclaimed, to join in the Canticles, Psalms, responses and hymns, they must be in a language that they can understand and that is culturally pertinent.

And that language is not merely words. The late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston once spoke of Anglican liturgies in Africa that were translated into the words of African languages by CMS, SPG and UMCA missionaries, but were not successful because they retained the Anglo-Saxon and English rhythms and cadences that are part and parcel of The Book of Common Prayer.

And all peoples and cultures have a religious language that is suitable for expressing prayer, and a liturgical language that has its own special characteristics.

Words like liturgy, mystery, ecclesia, evangel, sacrament, Baptism and Eucharist pre-exist Christianity. But they took on a new meaning when they were adapted to the needs of the Church and the liturgy.

Even at the level of liturgical words, translations are always inculturated or they fail to have sign, significance.

Each society and each culture, in the languages of their day, have literary qualities that relate to the living language of the people.

What about newly-created texts for liturgy?

The qualities needed for liturgical translations apply too to new liturgical compositions.

The principle of The Book of Common Prayer is that we share a common liturgical life. But how do new liturgical translations or new liturgical compositions move beyond what is shared, and in their efforts to be inculturated become so localised, so particular, that they are no longer part of the shared, common liturgy of the Church?

And to what degree is The Book of Common Prayer in its various and previous editions over the centuries, the benchmark or standard by which all other liturgies are to be judged?

In its report, Renewing the Anglican Eucharist, the Fifth International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, which met in Dublin (1995), says that as Anglicans “we have until recently identified our liturgical unity in a more or less uniform set of texts derived from the historic Books of Common Prayer. Today that unity is to be found in a common structure of eucharistic celebration.”

Last week, we looked at how the Church of South India had created a new Eucharistic rite, drawing on elements of Anglican, Orthodox, Indian and Mozarabic Liturgies, and in turn how the that Liturgy of the Church of South India has influenced the liturgies of Anglican Churches throughout the world.

The Anglican Church in New Zealand and, nearer to home, the (Anglican) Church in Wales, have lived liturgically for some decades acknowledging and giving liturgical expression to the cultural realities, differences and diversities in their dioceses.

But at what point does diversity sacrifice or even lose unity?

Are there any general principles to help or guide the inculturation of liturgies and rites?

How do we maintain the orthodoxy of the faith while respecting celebrating diversity in culture?

How do we even assess or discern whether a particular culture or tradition should be celebrated and calls for diversity?

Liturgical inculturation includes satisfying and respecting the needs of traditional culture, and at the same time taking account for the needs of those in new cultural settings.

These include the needs of urban and industrial cultures, of post-Christian as well as pre-Christian cultures, the needs of modern and post-modernist cultures, the needs of local people and immigrants too.

Was the introduction of inclusive language in the liturgy enough to eradicate exclusivism? Are there other ways in our language (both verbalised language and body language, as well as our choices of music, symbols, &c) that serve to make the Church appear exclusive rather than inclusive?

The Discovery services in inner city Dublin ... “Anglican liturgies with African flavours”

I have taken part in many of the “Discovery” liturgies in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in Inner City Dublin – described as Anglican liturgies with African – and sometimes Indian – flavours. Some years ago, I was also invited to preside at what was called a “U2Charist” in the same church.

In preparing for it, I was helped by the writings of two Episcopal priests in the US: Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard, Get Up Off Your Knees, preaching the U2 catalog (Cambridge MA: Cowley, 2003).

It was obvious to me, as people came forward to receive the Eucharist, that many of those who took part had not been to Communion, had not been to church at all, for a long, long time. But this Eucharist spoke to them in their modern and post-modern language.

Liturgy cannot just borrow but adapt and find meaning in the social and religious rites of a people, and their culture can positively enrich their understanding of liturgical actions.

But are there negative elements of a culture should not be incorporated into the liturgy?

Of course, there are dangers of reductionism or being trite and there are the dangers of syncretism. There are times when we need to make a break with the past. There are times when we can have layers and layers of meaning and nuance, and there are times we need to avoid ambiguity to avoid a process of inclulturation that stoops to politicisation of the liturgy, to superstition, to vengeance or to sexual connotations.

How is the unity of Anglicanism expressed in the liturgy?

True inculturation does not create new traditions beyond Anglicanism. Instead, it responds to the needs of a particular culture and leads to adaptations that still remain part of our tradition and communion.

But they need to take account of the historical, anthropological, exegetical and theological character of the expressions of faith of the people and culture with whom the liturgy is being adapted.

They need to be attuned to the pastoral experience of the church and of the people where the changes are taking place.

It is not just about the hymns and the music.

Many cultures have a great collection of wisdom in the form of proverbs and stories. This literature is a store of wisdom set in a cultural context that people understand very well. The proverbs of the people may be more familiar to them than the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. But while this literature is full of wisdom, it can never be a substitute for the inspired word of God in the liturgy, and certainly not in the name of inculturation.

On the other hand, we one can use it to explain the word of God, for instance in the sermon, or outside the liturgy in teaching. But the liturgy of the word within the context of liturgical celebration is irreplaceable.

For example, the story is told that it had been observed that in some African traditions before people dined at an important meal they poured libation to the ancestors. Drawing on this observation, it was suggested that it would be appropriate to pour a libation of the consecrated wine before the Eucharistic meal. But this is a total misunderstanding of the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, reducing Christ’s presence in the Eucharist to mere drink. It also raises questions about why people think the dead need material nourishment.

Colours and postures all have different significance in different cultures. White is associated with death in China. What about blue, purple, pink, green, orange? In some cultures it is only acceptable to kneel for prayer, in others to stand, but in many it is rude to sit for prayer. Other culturally-charged language and body language includes standing for the Gospel. But what about having your hands in your pockets?

Who welcomes and who dismisses are culturally-charged tasks. An illustration from the Gospel is found at the meal Christ has in the house of Simon the Pharisee. The woman anoints Jesus, but Simon failed to greet him properly, to offer him the opportunity to wash his feet and hands before sitting at the table.

What about:

● The texts of the opening dialogues?
● The ways in which the altar and the Book of the Gospels are venerated?
● The exchange of peace?
● Who brings up and who receives the offering?
● Who prepares the altar/table?
● The words and actions at the preparation of the gifts and at the communion?
● The type of bread and wine we use?
● The materials for the construction of the altar/table and liturgical furnishings?
● The material and form of sacred vessels – pottery or silver?
● The shape, texture and colour of liturgical vestments?
● The way in which we distribute the Holy Communion – who distributes and what words do we use?
● Who dismisses? Who sends out?

And the questions we ask about the Eucharist should be asked too the rites of Christian initiation (Baptism and Confirmation), marriages, funerals, the blessings of persons, places or things, and the liturgical calendar?

And when we do change and inculturate the public worship of the Church, to what degree do we need to exercise prudence and discretion so we avoid breaking up of the local Church into little “churches” that become closed in on themselves?

When the Church introduces changes, those changes need to be gradual, and adequate explanations must be provided with good and sensitive teaching so that we avoid the danger of rejection or simply an artificial grafting on to previous forms.

Of course, there must be innovations when the good of the Church and the needs of the people genuinely demand them.

But care must be taken too to ensure that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

What do you think are some of liturgical actions that might be adapted?

Many elements may be open to adaptation, including language, music and singing, gesture and posture, art and images, and popular devotions.

Liturgical language must express the truths of the faith, and the grandeur and holiness of the mysteries which are being celebrated. But it must be language that is both sacred and culturally relevant for people, not merely in its vocabulary but also in its cadences, rhythms, poetry and drama.

Music and singing should have pride of place in the liturgy. A text that is sung is more deeply embedded in our memories when it is read. We must be demanding about the biblical and liturgical inspiration and the literary quality of the texts we want sung.

The liturgy is not merely words: it is work, which means it is actions and movements too. Gesture and posture are especially important. Gestures are culturally embedded, yet they express the attitude of humanity before God and our attitude to one another.

For example, the gestures and postures of the celebrating or presiding priest at the Eucharist have to express his or her special function: He/she presides over the assembly both in the person of Christ and on behalf of the people. The gestures and postures of the congregation are signs of our unity, express our active participation, and foster our spiritual attitudes.

What about liturgical dance, for instance?

Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand-clapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements. These are valid liturgical expressions, not simply performances, and they can express true communal prayer, adoration, praise, offering and supplication.

To summarise:

Basically there are three principles of liturgical inculturation:

● compatibility with the Gospel;
● union with the Church;
● localising the faith and worship of the Universal Church in the incarnational situation of the local church.

The Church is called to overcome the barriers that divide humanity. By baptism, we all become children of God and form in Christ Jesus one people where “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28).

For inculturation this means that whatever measure is taken, while it helps Christianity to penetrate in a particular culture, it should not on the other hand alienate others, and so divide the unity that is essential to the Church.

Appendix 1:

In its report, Renewing the Anglican Eucharist, the Fifth International Anglican Liturgical Consultation in Dublin (1995) asked what is important in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist and suggested a scheme that should be varied in keeping with liturgical seasons and special seasons and occasions.

The following table indicates the relative importance of the various elements in the Eucharist:

1 = indispensible.
2 = integral, but not indispensable.
3 = would not be omitted in principle, may be limited or varied in accordance with liturgical seasons or special occasions.
4 = not necessary but may be desirable at times.

* An asterisk indicates elements of the liturgy that may appear at one point or another in the rite. Their placement, however, has significant implications and requires careful attention.

I, The Gathering of God’s People:

Greeting [1]
* Penitential Rite [3]
Song / Act of Praise [1]
Opening Prayer (Collect) [1]

II, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:

First Reading [1]
Psalm [2]
Second Reading [2]
Gospel [1]
Sermon [1]
Creed [3]
* Silence, songs and other responses [2]

III, Prayers of the People:

Prayers [1]
* The Lord’s Prayer [1]
* Penitential Rite [3]
Peace [1]

IV, Celebrating at the Lord’s Table:

Preparing the Table [1]
Prayer over the gifts [4]
Eucharistic Prayer [1]
* The Lord’s Prayer [1]
Silence [1]
The Breaking of the Bread [1]
Invitation [2]
Communion [1]

V, Going out as God’s People:

Silence [1]
Hymn [4]
Prayer after Communion [2]
Blessing [4]
Dismissal [1]

Compare this with the headings and structures for the Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 201-221.

Supplementary bibliography, Part 1:

The ARCIC reports.

R. Arguile, The Offering of the People (Jubilee 1989).
JF Baldovin, “The Liturgical Movement and Its Consequences,” pp 249-260 in Heflin and Shattuck (eds).
JF Baldovin, “An outsider’s view of Anglican Worship,” pp 152-169 in Spinks and Stevenson (eds).
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No 11 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982).
LW Brown, Relevant Liturgy (London: SPCK, 1965).
C. Buchanan, ARCIC and Lima on Baptism and Eucharist (Grove Worship Series No 86, Bramcote: Grove Books, 1983).
C. Buchanan, The End of the Offertory (Bramcote: Grove Books, 1978).
C. Buchanan, “The legacy of the Church of South India,” pp 244-248 in Heflin and Shattuck (eds).
O. Chadwick, The Victorian Church (vol 2).
P. Bradshaw, The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (London; SCM Press, 2002).
G. Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (London: Dacre Press, 1945).
I. Ellis, Vision and Reality: a survey of twentieth century Irish inter-church relations (Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, QUB, 1992).
A. Flannery (ed), Vatican Council II: the conciliar and post-conciliar documents (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1981 ed).
TS Garret, Worship in the Church of South India (1958).
Richard Giles, Repitching the Tent: Reordering the Church Building for Worship and Mission (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1999/2004).
Richard Giles, Creating Uncommon Worship: A handbook on bringing the Liturgy to Life (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004).
Richard Giles, At Heaven’s Gate: Reflections on leading worship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2010).
Donald Gray, Earth and Altar (Norwich: Canterbury Press/Alcuin, 1986).
AG Hebert, Liturgy and Society (London: Faber 1935).
RCD Jasper, The development of the Anglican liturgy 1662-1980 (London: SPCK, 1989).
J. Jungmann, The Early Liturgy (London: DLT 1960)
T. Klauser, A Short History of the Western Liturgy, trans. J Halliburton (1969)
EB Koenker, The Liturgical Renaissance in the Roman Catholic Church (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954).
A. Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology (1975).
A. Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (1988).
A. Schmemann, The World as Sacrament (London, 1966).
JF White, “Prayer Book Architecture,” pp 106-115, in Heflin and Shattuck (eds).

Supplemental bibliography, Part 2:

Tissa Balasuruya, The Eucharist and Human Liberation (London: SCM Press, 1979).
Paul Bradshaw and John Melloh (eds), Foundations in Ritual Studies: A reader for students of Christian worship (London: SPCK, 2007).
Stephen Burns, Living the Thanksgiving: exploring the Eucharist (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2006).
Nell Challingsworth, Liturgical Dance Movement, a practical guide (London and Oxford: Mowbray, 1982)
Patrick Comerford, ‘The Reconstruction of Theological Thinking – implications for the Church in China,’ Search 29/1 (Spring 2006), pp 13-22.
Vivienne Faull and Jane Siclair, Count us in – inclusive language in the liturgy (Bramcote: Grove, 1986, Grove Liturgical Study No 46).
Richard Giles, Creating Uncommon Worship, transforming the liturgy of the Eucharist (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004).
David R. Holeton (ed), Renewing the Anglican Eucharist (Cambridge: Grove, 1996, Grove Worship Series 135).
Graham Hughes, Worship as Meaning, A Liturgical Theology for Late Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge Universty Press, 2003, Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine series).
Kevin W. Irwin, Models of the Eucharist (New York/Mahwah NJ: Paullist Press, 2005).
Harold Miller, Making an Occasion of it (Dublin: Church of Ireland Literature Committee, 1994).
Michael Perham (ed), The Renewal of Common Prayer (London: SPCK, 1993).
Varietates Legitimae – Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, the Fourth Instruction for the Correct Application of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy (Nos. 37-40), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 1994.
Raewynne J. Whiteley, Beth Maynard (eds), Get Up Off Your Knees, preaching the U2 catalog (Cambridge MA: Cowley, 2003).


5.2: Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.



Next teleconference Theology of the whole people of God; the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 10 November 2012 was part of the MTh Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality with part-time students.

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