Monday, 23 November 2015

Liturgy 7.2 (2015-2016): Seminar: homiletics
in liturgy and homiletics in history

The sermon (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

Patrick Comerford

TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

23 November 2015


7.2: Seminar: homiletics in liturgy and homiletics in history: readings may include Saint Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.

Sermon Illustrations (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

1, Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo

For Saint Augustine of Hippo and his sermon, ‘John is the Voice, Jesus is the Word,’ see here.

2, Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

For Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) and his Sermon on the Knowledge of Scripture Part 2 (The Second Part of the Sermon of the Exhortation to Holy Scripture Against Fear and Excuses), see here.

3, Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes ... TS Eliot describes him as ‘the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church’

For Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) and his ‘Christmas Day Sermon, 1622’ see here.

4, John Wesley

John Wesley, by William Hamilton

For John Wesley (1703-1791), and his ‘Sermon 101: The Duty Of Constant Communion, from The Sermons of John Wesley,’ see here.

5, Martin Luther King

The Revd Dr Martin Luther King … ‘How Long? Not Long!’

For the Revd Dr Martin Luther King (1929-1968) and his sermon, ‘Our God Is Marching On!’ (25 March 1965. Montgomery, Alabama), see here.

Next week (30 November 2015):

8.1: Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.

8.2: Theology of the whole people of God; the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These briefing notes were prepared for a seminar on 23 November 2015 on the Module TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 7.1 (2015-2016): Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical
renewal among Catholics and Protestants in the 20th century


Patrick Comerford

TH 8824:
Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 7: 23 November 2015

This week:

7.1: Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical renewal among Catholics and Protestants in the 20th and 21st centuries.

7.2: Seminar: homiletics in history: readings may include sermons by Saint Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.

1: Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical renewal among Catholics and Protestants in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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

Content:

(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.

Listening:

1,
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 Reformations.

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.

Origins

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.

Development

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 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 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)

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 ... a carving at the workshop of R Bridgeman & Sons in Quonian’s Lane, Lichfield (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 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 Syrian Orthodox liturgy: 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, 2015)

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 Re-pitching 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 five 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 now lives in retirement 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 warm 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, Richard Giles tells 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.

Supplementary bibliography:

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).
P. Bradshaw, The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (London; SCM Press, 2002).
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).
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 (1999/2004).
Richard Giles, Creating Uncommon Worship: A handbook on bringing the Liturgy to Life (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).

Next:

7.2: Seminar: homiletics in history: readings may include sermons by Saint Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.

Next week (30 November 2015):

8.1: Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.

8.2: Theology of the whole people of God; the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is an expanded version of a lecture on 23 November 2015 on Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Spirituality: an introduction
to the Jesus Prayer (2015)

An icon of Christ seen in an antique shop in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

9 a.m., 23 November 2015


Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ,
ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλό

Opening Hymn:

583:
Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all (Henry Collins).

Reading:

Luke 18: 9-13.

Introduction:

The Jesus Prayer ... an image from Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ,
ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλό

There is a dictum in The Philokalia, ascribed to the Desert Father Evagrios the Solitary (Evagrios Pontikos), that says: “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian” [Treatise on Prayer, 61].

To pray truly, we can learn from the traditions of others. There are rich treasures in each and every Christian tradition that we can draw on without compromising our own Christian tradition, experience and spirituality. The Orthodox insights into and traditions about prayer have influenced many Anglicans, including Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Archbishop Rowan Williams and Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward. Many in the Western world have been helped to pray through the books of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.

To pray does not mean to think about God to the distraction of thinking about other things, or to spend time with God in competition with spending time with our families and friends. To pray means to think and live our entire life in the presence of God. The Russian theologian, Paul Evdokimov (1900-1969), the biographer of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, remarks: “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer – prayer incarnate.”

The practice of the Jesus Prayer (Η Προσευχή του Ιησού) is one of the rich treasurers of the Orthodox tradition that can help each of us to develop our own practice of prayer.

The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is one of the best known traditions within Orthodoxy. Its words say simply:

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ,
ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλό

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me the sinner
.

The Jesus Prayer is a short, simple prayer that has been widely used, taught and discussed throughout the history of Eastern Christianity.

In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to come to grips with the Scriptural challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox tradition offers the Jesus Prayer – which is called the “Prayer of the Heart” (Καρδιακή Προσευχή) by some Church Fathers – as a means of concentration and as a focal point for our inner life.

The exact words of the prayer have varied from the most simple possible involving the name “Jesus,” or “Lord have mercy,” to the more common extended form: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

For the Eastern Orthodox, the Jesus Prayer one of the most profound and mystical prayers and it is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice.

Theology and practice

‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’ … the Jesus Prayer is recommended by Saint John Klimakos

The practice of repeating the prayer continually dates back to at least the 5th century. A formula similar to the standard form of the Jesus Prayer is found in a letter attributed to Saint John Chysostom, who died in 407. In this Letter to an Abbot, he mentions two prayers being used as ceaseless prayers: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy,” and “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”

However, the earliest verifiable mention of the Jesus Prayer is in the writings of Saint Diadochos of Photiki (400-486), a work found in the first volume of The Philokalia (Η Φιλοκαλία), a collection of texts on prayer compiled between the 4th and the 15th centuries. In that collection, Saint Diadochos ties the practice of the Jesus Prayer to the purification of the soul. He also teaches that repetition of the prayer produces inner peace.

The Jesus Prayer is also described by Saint John Cassian (died 435) in his account of the repetitive use of a passage of the Psalms.

The use of the Jesus Prayer is recommended by Saint John Klimakos (Ἰωάννης τῆς Κλίμακος, 525-606), a monk of Mount Sinai, in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, and in the work of Saint Hesychios (?8th century), Pros Theodoulon, found in the first volume of The Philokalia.

Later, the theology of the Jesus Prayer was most clearly set out by Saint Gregory Palamas (1296–1359). Its practice became an integral part of Hesychasm, and the subject of The Philokalia. Today, Mount Athos is a centre of the practice of the Jesus Prayer.

Introduction to the West

The life of an Orthodox Christian is one of prayer ... inside the monastery church in Arakadi, south of Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The use of the Jesus Prayer according to the tradition of The Philokalia is the subject of the Russian classic, The Way of a Pilgrim. The Russian pilgrim in The Way of the Pilgrim discovers the Jesus Prayer and with it finds the answers to many of his questions in that key compendium of Orthodox spirituality and prayer.

In The Way of a Pilgrim, the anonymous pilgrim recounts his desperate longing “to pray without ceasing.” He wanders, with Bible in hand, in search of someone who can teach him. Eventually, the pilgrim finds a wise monk who becomes his spiritual father or staretz (стáрец). This monk instructs the pilgrim in prayer, and gives him The Philokalia to read.

The pilgrim recalls the conversation: “Read this book,” he said. “It is called The Philokalia, and it contains the full and detailed science of constant interior prayer, set forth by 25 Holy Fathers. The book is marked by lofty wisdom and is so profitable to use that it is considered the foremost and best manual of the contemplative spiritual life …”

“Is it then more sublime that the Bible?” I asked.

“No, it is not that. But it contains clear explanations of what the Bible holds in secret and which cannot be easily grasped by our short-sighted understanding.”

The staretz compares the Bible to the Sun and The Philokalia to a small piece of glass that allows a person to view its rays, and he reads to the pilgrim instructions from Saint Simeon the New Theologian quoted in The Philokalia:

“Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently, and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Carry your mind, that is, your thoughts, from your head to your heart. As you breathe out say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ Say it moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently.”

At first, the pilgrim is bored, is sleepy and is distracted by other thoughts. The staretz encourages him to persevere, gives him a prayer rope (Greek κομποσχοίνι, komboschini; Russian чётки chotki), and tells him to use it as a counter as he repeats the Jesus Prayer. He tells him to repeat the Jesus Prayer 3,000 times a day, “quietly and without hurry … without deliberately increasing or diminishing the number. God will help you, and by this means you will reach also the unceasing activity of the heart.”

After the first few days, the pilgrim no longer finds that he has been set a hard task, but soon finds that he is praying again, both “easily and joyfully.” His spiritual father increases the number to 6,000 and then to 12,000, so that the pilgrim reaches the point where the prayer wakes him up early in the morning. Now his whole desire is fixed on saying the Jesus Prayer and he is filled with joy.

The use of the Jesus Prayer is the subject of the Russian classic, ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’

The Pilgrim, the anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim, reports that the Jesus Prayer has two very concrete effects upon his vision of the world:

1, Firstly, it transfigures his relationship with the material creation around him. The world becomes transparent, a sign, a means of communicating God’s presence. He writes: “When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvellous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise.”

2, Secondly, the Jesus Prayer transfigures his relationship to his fellow human beings. His relationships are given form within their proper context: the forgiveness and compassion of the crucified and risen Lord. “Again I started off on my wanderings. But now I did not walk along as before, filled with care. The invocation of the Name of Jesus gladdened my way. Everybody was kind to me. If anyone harms me I have only to think, ‘How sweet is the Prayer of Jesus!’ and the injury and the anger alike pass away and I forget it all.”

The Scriptural foundations

This story in The Way of the Pilgrim became familiar to many readers in the west in the 1960s through the popularity of JD Salinger’s novel, Franny and Zooey, when the distressed young woman describes the Jesus Prayer to her boyfriend over lunch in a restaurant.

But what are the Scriptural and theological foundations of the Jesus Prayer?

Saint Paul preaching in Thessaloniki ... a fresco in the Cathedral Church of Saint Gregory Palamas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Apostle Paul urges the Christians of Thessaloniki to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5: 1). In his letter to Rome, he instructs the Christian community there to “be constant in prayer” (Romans 12: 12). He not only demands unceasing prayer on the part of the Christians in his care, but he practices it himself. “We constantly thank God for you” (I Thessalonians 2: 13), he writes, and he comforts Timothy with the words: “Always I remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1: 3).

Whenever the Apostle Paul speaks of prayer in his letters, two Greek words repeatedly appear: πάντοτε (pantote), which means always; and αδιαλεπτος (adialeptos), meaning without interruption or unceasingly.

Prayer, then, is not merely a part of life which we can conveniently lay aside if something we deem more important comes up. Prayer is all of life, must be all of life. Prayer is as essential to our life as breathing. But how can we be expected to pray all the time? How can we fit more time for prayer into our already overcrowded lives?

The Jesus Prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures, and its words are based on:

● the cry of the blind man at the side of the road near Jericho, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18: 38);
● the cry of the ten lepers who called to him, “Jesus, Master, take pity on us” (Luke 17: 13);
● the cry for mercy of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18: 14);
● and the sentiments of the cry of the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23: 42).

Listening:



Let us listen to a similar theme in The Cry of the Thief Crucified by the Russian composer Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (1877-1944), who suffered greatly under Stalin – when the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where he was the last choirmaster, was torn down, he stopped writing altogether. The tenor singing here is the Russian Evgeny Akimov (1910-1949).

Play: The Cry of the Thief Crucified by Pavel Chesnokov (Track 13, Authentic Russian Sacred Music).

Three levels of praying the Jesus Prayer

Saint Theophan the Recluse … distinguishes three levels in the saying of the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a prayer in which the first step taken on the spiritual journey is recognising my own sinfulness, my essential estrangement from God and the people around me. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer in which I admit my desperate need of a Saviour. For “if we say that we have no sin in us, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1: 8).

In order to offer some broad, general guidelines for those interested in using the Jesus Prayer to develop their inner lives, Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894), a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, distinguishes three levels in the saying of the Jesus Prayer:

1, It begins as oral prayer or prayer of the lips, a simple recitation which Saint Theophan defines as prayers’ “verbal expression and shape.” Although it is very important, this level of prayer is still external to us and is only the first step, for “the essence or soul of prayer is within a man’s mind and heart.”

2, As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction. Saint Theophan remarks that at this point, “the mind is focused upon the words” of the Jesus Prayer, “speaking them as if they were our own.”

3, He describes the third and final level as prayer of the heart. At this stage, prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer is a gift of the Spirit, and is to return to the Father as the Prodigal Son did (Luke 15: 32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries that cries ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4: 6).

This return to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit is the goal of all Christian spirituality. It is to be open to the presence of the Kingdom in our midst.

The practice of the Jesus Prayer

The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Tolleshunt Knights … the Jesus Prayer is a communal practice for four hours each day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There is a very great emphasis on humility in the practice of the Jesus Prayer. There are many warnings about the disaster that will befall those who would use it in pride, arrogance or conceit. And in many texts, it is said that those who use the Jesus Prayer must only be members of the Orthodox Church in good standing.

When it is practised on a continuing basis, the Jesus Prayer becomes automatic.

In the Eastern tradition, the Jesus Prayer is said or prayed repeatedly, often with the aid of a prayer rope (Greek κομποσχοίνι, komboschini; Russian чётки, chotki). It may be accompanied by prostrations and the sign of the cross, and sometimes it is integrated into the liturgical life of monasteries.

I try each year to spend a day in prayer at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist at Tolleshunt Knights, near Maldon in Essex. It involves an early start, catching a bus from Cambridge at 6 a.m. to be there in time for the Divine Liturgy.

The community was founded in an old Anglican rectory in 1958 by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov (1896-1993), with the help of Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom). When he was founding the monastery, Father Sophrony wanted to be sure his community would not just have outward conformity, but also focus on inner asceticism. The typikon of the monastery consists of the repetition of the Jesus Prayer about four hours a day (from 6 to 8.30 a.m. and 5.30 to 8 p.m.), as well as the serving of the Divine Liturgy three or four times a week.

The monastery was founded by is found inspiration in Elder Sophrony, and he was inspired to introduce this practice of the Jesus Prayer from his experiences as a monk on Mount Athos monk, and by the lives of Saint Silouan, Saint Nicodemus and Saint Paisius Velichkovsky.

The American Orthodox blogger and writer, Frederica Mathewes-Green, gives a vivid and realistic example of how the person who uses the Jesus Prayer constantly prays throughout the day and deals with ordinary, everyday thoughts and distractions.

The person praying the Jesus Prayer never treats it as a string of syllables whose “surface” or overt verbal meaning is secondary or unimportant. He/she considers a bare repetition of the Jesus Prayer as a mere string of syllables, perhaps with a “mystical” inner meaning beyond the overt verbal meaning, to be worthless or even dangerous.

While s/he maintains this practice of the Jesus Prayer, which becomes automatic and continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, s/he rejects all tempting thoughts, paying extreme attention to the consciousness of his/her inner world and to the words of the Jesus Prayer, not letting his/her mind wander in any way at all.

The practice of the Jesus Prayer is in the mind in the heart, free of images. The stage of practice known as “the guard of the mind” is a very advanced stage of ascetical and spiritual practice. But attempting to accomplish this prematurely can cause very serious spiritual and emotional harm.

To pray does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God in contrast to spending time with our family and friends. To pray means to think and live our entire life in the Presence of God. The practice of the Jesus Prayer is one of the rich treasurers in the Orthodox tradition offers to those who would pursue the task of developing their own practice of prayer.

As Paul Evdokimov (1901-1970) says: “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer – prayer incarnate.”

In his Ages of the Spiritual Life, Paul Evdokimov wrote: “In a special manner the invocation of the name of Jesus makes the grace of his Incarnation universal, allowing each of us our personal share and disposing our hearts to receive the Lord … When the divine Name is pronounced over a country or a person, these enter into an intimate relationship with God … The ‘prayer of the heart’ frees and enlarges it and attracts Jesus to it … In this prayer … the whole Bible with its entire message is reduced to its essential simplicity … When Jesus is drawn into the heart, the liturgy becomes interiorised and the Kingdom is in the peaceful soul. The Name dwells in us as its temple and there the divine presence transmutes and Christifies us…”

Here, as with Saint Seraphim of Sarov, the prayer of the heart is much more than an arcane spiritual practice. Rather, its genius is that it summarises all that the scriptures say, the whole of life is to be “in Christ” and the Spirit.

A note on the Hesychast tradition

The shrine of Saint Gregory Palamas in the Metropolitan Cathedral Church in Thessaloniki … he defended the practice of the hesychasts (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The practice of the Jesus Prayer is integrated into the mental ασκήσεις (ascésis) undertaken by the Orthodox monk in the practice of Hesychasm. This mental ascesis is the subject of The Philokalia.

Monks often pray this prayer many hundreds of times each night as part of their private cell vigil. Under the guidance of an Elder (Greek γεροντας, gerontas; Russian starets), the monk aims to internalise the prayer, so that he is praying unceasingly, thereby accomplishing the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.”

And so, perhaps, a brief note on the Hesychast tradition may be helpful.

Hesychasm (Greek ἡσυχασμός hesychasmos, from ἡσυχία hesychia, “stillness, rest, quiet”) is an eremitic tradition of prayer in Eastern Orthodoxy, practised (Greek: ἡσυχάζω, hesychazo, “to keep stillness”) by the Hesychast (Greek: Ἡσυχαστής, hesychastes).

The tradition dates back to both the Cappadocian Fathers and the Egyptian anchorites in the Western Desert, although the traditions strongest roots can be traced from the 6th to 8th centuries and The Ladder of Divine Ascent written by Saint John of Sinai (523–603).

The term Hesychast is particularly associated with the integration of the continual repetition of the Jesus Prayer into the practices of mental ασκήσεις (ascésis) already used by hermits in Egypt. By the 14th century on Mount Athos, Hesychasm refer to the practices associated with the Jesus Prayer. The books used by the Hesychasts include The Philokalia, a collection of texts on prayer and solitary life written from the 4th to the 15th centuries; The Ladder of Divine Ascent; the collected works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022); and the works of Saint Isaac the Syrian (7th century or 8th century).

Hesychastic practice may involve specific body postures and be accompanied by very deliberate breathing patterns. However, these bodily postures and breathing patterns are treated as secondary both by modern Athonite practitioners on Mount Athos and by the more ancient texts in The Philokalia, the emphasis being on the primary role of Grace.

Hesychasts are fully inserted into the liturgical and sacramental life of the Orthodox Church, including the daily cycle of the Divine Office and the Divine Liturgy. However, Hesychasts who are living as hermits may have a very rare attendance at the Divine Liturgy and might not recite the Divine Office except by means of the Jesus Prayer, which often happens on Mount Athos.

The Hesychast practices acquiring an inner stillness, ignoring the physical senses and rejecting tempting thoughts. In solitude and retirement he repeats the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He prays the Jesus Prayer “with the heart” – with meaning, with intent, “for real.” He never treats the Jesus Prayer as a string of syllables whose “surface” or overt verbal meaning is secondary or unimportant. He considers bare repetition of the Jesus Prayer as a mere string of syllables, perhaps with a “mystical” inner meaning beyond the overt verbal meaning, to be worthless or even dangerous.

While he maintains his practice of the Jesus Prayer, which becomes automatic and continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Hesychast rejects all tempting thoughts, paying extreme attention to the consciousness of his inner world and to the words of the Jesus Prayer, not letting his mind wander in any way at all.

The practice of the Jesus Prayer is in the mind in the heart, free of images. The stage of practice known as “the guard of the mind” is a very advanced stage of ascetical and spiritual practice, and attempting to accomplish this prematurely can cause very serious spiritual and emotional harm to the would-be Hesychast. “The guard of the mind” is the condition in which the Hesychast remains as a matter of course throughout his day, every day until he dies. It is from the guard of the mind that he is raised to contemplation by the Grace of God.

The Hesychast usually experiences the contemplation of God as light, the Uncreated Light of the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas. The Hesychast, when he has by the mercy of God been granted such an experience, does not remain in that experience for a very long time, but he returns “to earth” and continues to practise the guard of the mind.

The Uncreated Light that the Hesychast experiences is identified with the Holy Spirit. Experiences of the Uncreated Light are allied to the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit.” The highest goal of the Hesychast is the experiential knowledge of God. In the 14th century, the possibility of this experiential knowledge of God was challenged by a Calabrian monk, Barlaam, who asserted that our knowledge of God can only be propositional. However, the practice of the Hesychasts was defended by Saint Gregory Palamas.

It must be said that there are many warnings that seeking after unusual “spiritual” experiences can itself cause great harm, ruining the soul and the mind of the seeker. Such a seeking after “spiritual” experiences can lead to spiritual delusion in which a person believes himself or herself to be a saint, has hallucinations in which he or she “sees” angels, Christ, etc. This state of spiritual delusion is in a superficial, egotistical way pleasurable, but can lead to madness and suicide, and, according to the Hesychast fathers, makes salvation impossible.

A note on the Athonite and monastic tradition today

The Monastery of Vatopediou on Mount Athos … Mount Athos is a centre of the practice of Hesychasm, and the most important centre of monastic life in the Orthodox world today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mount Athos is a centre of the practice of Hesychasm, and the most important centre of monastic life in the Orthodox world today. There has been a recent revival in the fortunes of many of the monasteries on the Holy Mountain, with new monks arriving from Cyprus, Romania, Russia and Australia.

But the mountain is loved among the Orthodox for nurturing great writers in spirituality and on the life of prayer. Three of the better known of these writers in the 20th century were Saint Silouan (1866-1938), his disciple Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993), and Father Joseph (died 1959).

Although some of these great writers also lived the lives of hermits, they gathered many followers, and were particularly known for their practice of the Jesus Prayer.

Additional notes of the prayer rope:

A prayer rope is often used as an aide to praying the Jesus Prayer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A prayer rope is a loop made up of complicated knots, usually made of wool, used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics to count the number of times they have prayed the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Historically it typically had 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 50 or 33 knots can also be found in use today – with the number 33 signifying the years of Christ’s earthly life. There is typically a knotted cross at one end, and a few beads at certain intervals between the knots. Longer prayer ropes frequently have a tassel at the end; its purpose is to dry the tears shed because the deep sorrow for one’s sins.

It is said that the Prayer Rope has its origins from the Father of Orthodox monasticism, Saint Anthony. He started by tying a leather rope for every time he prayed his Kyrie Eleisons, or Lord have Mercies, and the Devil came and would untie it to throw his count off. He then devised a way, inspired from a vision by the Theotokos (Mother of God), of tying the knots so that the knots would constantly make the shape of the cross. That is why Prayer Ropes today are still tied by seven little crosses being tied over and over. The Devil could then not untie it because the Devil is vanquished by the sign of the Cross.

Others attribute its origin to Saint Pachomius in the 4th century as an aid for illiterate monks to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations. Monks were often expected to carry a prayer rope on their left wrist almost constantly, to remind them to pray constantly in accordance with the Apostle Paul’s injunction in I Thessalonians 5: 17: “Pray without ceasing.”

In some Russian Orthodox service books, certain liturgies can be replaced at need by praying the Jesus Prayer a specified number of times, anywhere from 300 to 1,500 times, depending on the service being replaced. In this way prayers can still be said even if the service books are unavailable for some reason. The use of a prayer rope is a very practical tool in such cases, simply for keeping count of the prayers said.

In the Silence

Christ Pantocrator in the dome of a church in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the silence, we have an opportunity to:

1, pray, using the Jesus Prayer, or adapting it to our needs.

2, there is some reading at the door that you might like to take with you for your own use;

3, you may want to sit silently and meditate on some of the Scripture passages I have referred to.

Closing Prayers:

1,
The Collect of the Day:

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
Keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

2, The Lord’s Prayer.

3, The Jesus Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Selected readings:

(Metropolitan) Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer (Springfield IL: Templegate, 1966), pp 84-88.
Paul Evdokimov, Ages of the Spiritual Life (Crestwood NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998).
RM French (translator), The Way of a Pilgrim (London: SPCK, 1977).
(Father) Lev Gillet (‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’), The Jesus Prayer, with a foreword by Kallistos Ware (Crestwood NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987).
Frederica Mathewes-Green Facing East (San Francisco: Harper, 2006), pp 144-145.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, The Jesus Prayer: the ancient desert prayer that tunes the heart to God (Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2009/2010).
E Kadloubovsky, GEH Palmer (eds), Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart (London: Faber and Faber, 1992).
GEH Palmer, Philip Sherrard, (Metropolitan) Kallistos Ware (eds), The Philokalia (London: Faber and Faber, 1979, 4 vols).
(Brother) Ramon SSF, Praying the Jesus Prayer (Basingstoke: Marshall Pickering, 1988).
JD Salinger, Franny and Zooey (various editions).
(Father) Sophrony, On Prayer (Crestwood NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998).
(Bishop) Simon Barrington-Ward, The Jesus Prayer (Oxford: BRF, 2007 ed).
(Bishop) Simon Barrington-Ward and (Brother) Ramon SSF, Praying the Jesus Prayer Together (Oxford: BRF, 2001).
(Metropolitan) Kallistos Ware, The Power of the Name: the Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989).



(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture in the institute chapel on Monday 23 November 2015 was part of the Spirituality programme within the Pastoral Formation modules for Year I and Year II MTh students.