02 July 2012

Protestants Praying Like Episcopalians

Prior to the new liturgical books in North America -- attempting to speak in a contemporary idiom spoken by no one and contemporary to none -- the various Protestant liturgies, service books, and hymnals borrowed heavily from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Prayer Books.  

On a Sunday morning in 1959 at an American Lutheran Church, the Sunday liturgy would be conducted with almost identical texts and within a very similar ethos of sober reverence as that found in the Episcopal Church.  In an Evangelical and Reformed Church congregation on a bright Sunday morning in 1954, the Order of Holy Communion was beautiful, biblical, and in several ways more Catholic than the Episcopalian Order of 1928:

Minister The Lord be with you.
Congregation And with thy spirit.
Minister  Lift up your hearts.
Congregation.  We lift them up unto the Lord.
Minister  Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God.
Congregation  It is meet and right so to do.
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Everlasting God, who didst create the heavens and the earth and all that in them is, who didst make man in thine own image, and whose tender mercies are over all thy works.

For all thy mercies and favors, known to us and unknown, we give thee thanks.  But most of all we praise thee, the Father everlasting, for the gift of thine adorable, true and only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who by his appearing hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.  We bless thee for his holy incarnation, for his life on earth, for his precious sufferings and death upon the cross, for his resurrection from the dead, and for his glorious ascension to thy right hand.  We bless thee for the giving of the Holy Spirit, for the institution of the Church, for the means of grace, for the hope of everlasting life, and for the glory which shall be brought unto us at the coming, and in the kingdom, of thy dear Son.

Thee, mighty God, heavenly King, we magnify and praise.  With patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, with the holy Church through all the world; with the heavenly Jerusalem, the joyful assembly and congregation of the firstborn on high; with the innumerable company of angels round about thy throne, the heaven of heavens, and all the powers therein, we worship and adore thy glorious Name, joining in the song of the Cherubim and Seraphim:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory;
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!

[The Words of Institution would follow at this place in the liturgy. After which the Minister then continues:]

Wherefore, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, to send thy Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these elements of bread and wine, that the bread which we break may be to us the Communion of the Body of Christ, and the cup of blessing which we bless, the Communion of the Blood of Christ.  And be pleased now, O most merciful Father, graciously to receive this memorial of the blessed sacrifice of thy Son which we here offer unto thee, in union with the sacrifice of our thanksgiving and praise,  consecrating ourselves in soul and body,  property and life,  to thy most blessed service and praise.  Look upon us through the mediation of our great High Priest.  Make us accepted in the Beloved, and let his Name be as a pure and holy incense, through which all our worship may come up before thee, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee, and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Then followed the Intercession concluding with the Lord's Prayer. Then follows,

Minister  O Christ, thou Lamb of God, 
Minister  that takest away the sin of the world,  
Congregation  have mercy upon us.
Minister  O Christ, thou Lamb of God, 
Minister  that takest away the sin of the world,  
Congregation  have mercy upon us.
Minister  O Christ, thou Lamb of God, 
Minister  that takest away the sin of the world, 
Congregation  grant us thy peace. Amen.

Minister  The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Minister  Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The follows the Communion, the communicants presenting themselves before the Lord's Table.  After the People have communicated, the Minister shall say,

May the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ keep and preserve you, each one, in body, soul, and spirit, unto everlasting life.   Amen.   

Minister  Depart in peace.

I won't go into the historical particulars that explain why the E & R Church -- as it was called -- had such an advanced liturgical order printed in its Hymnal, but it shows what that common sacred language once was in the USA, how close the orders were to Episcopalians, and how great the tragedy that the groups of protestants and Anglicans could not see beyond their borders and prejudices toward a concrete unity back when it would have been so much easier to achieve.  

What if we were now to fully embrace that grand vision of being the Via through which the Protestants come home to Rome, to see in Anglicanorum coetibus the open door through which all Protestants could and should come home?     I imagine many of you can see that vision and do think of that great and glorious possibility.  Would that not be the final sanctification of the myth of the Via Media that this Via Anglicana would become the 'road between' to carry home those who would from the Protestant hinterlands to the Eternal City, Rome ...
 +Ut omnes unum sint