Friday, September 26, 2008

Leave it out

Interesting exchange of emails with a local clergy colleague follows. Can any of my ancient evangelical chums throw any further light on this?

Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 5:41 PM
Subject: Help with understanding liturgy please!

An appeal to those of you in the LMG (Local Ministry Group - ed) and beyond who know me and can spare my blushes to see if any of you can give me a (preferably simple) answer to a thought that struck me again recently, and which a church member asked me about a few weeks ago and is still awaiting a comprehensive reply!

In the Eucharistic prayer we have the Sanctus - Holy, Holy, Holy - then the bit in square brackets, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest'.

Now, what I remember from when I was lad, and went to things like Diocesan or Deanery Eucharists, or even clergy conferences, part of the divisiveness of worship, and an essential badge of who was and wasn't 'sound' or an evangelical or a catholic was whether or not they joined in with these words.

So, 20 - 25 years ago in Lichfield Diocese, the small and beleaguered Evangelical group would tend to sit together and very pointedly and loudly NOT say the phrase - which for a while I went along with, without understanding why. And of course I never used the words myself 'because you didn't do that'.

I've long since given up being too bothered, and cheerfully always use them when presiding.

But I still don't understand why, or why not! Can anyone explain in simple terms?

I suspect it was because someone somewhere in ecclesiastical history (Oxford Movement?) was taking the words very literalistically to imply / state that the person saying the words was a Priest in the place of Jesus?

I note with relief that all sorts of things that used to be 'not done' (e.g. wearing stoles) are now not even given second thoughts! Is this something else that has ceased to have any weight or significance? Or are there still churches / Dioceses where to say or not say would lead one into hot water?


Sent: 26 September 2008 12:12
Subject: Help with understanding liturgy please!

Good question. I became a Christian in a church that didn't say those words. Never really knew why except that the liturgy said they were optional so I guessed we were opting out. I think you are right about misunderstandings that arose. The ASB (Alternative Service Book -ed) separated the anthem from the proper preface and I think that solved it.

I've just read through the communion section of Anglican Worship Today (which you may recall Colin Buchanan published as a commentary to coincide with the ASB launch in 1980). Nothing there. With your permission I'll put this on my blog and see if any of its readers has an answer.



Mike Peatman said...

I think our sound brothers would see it as a greeting to Jesus entering the bread and wine, and hence not to be said.

Of course if you don't actually believe that is what's happening just then, you could just see it as a quote from Scripture acknowledging the general presence of Christ, which we can all agree on.

Andy said...

No wonder people see the church as irrelevant...

dmk said...

My vague memory is that the 'holy holy holy' bit was an either/or with the 'blessed is he' bit, so I often didn't join in with the 2nd one because I thought the silly worship leader wasn't paying attention, or was just putting us through more liturgy for the sake of it.

And to be honest it probably was explained at theological college, but I wasn't really that interested.....

Mike Peatman said...

Andy: you're dead right, the church really ought to have better things to worry about. I should leave at this point.

Church nerds and trivia pursuers: The sanctus (holy holy bit) is always in (even in the allegedly child-friendly prayer H) whereas the benedictus (the bit Steve is referring to) is not always present.

Still haven't looked up the history, but the catholic encyclopedia online thinks it was originally a greeting for the Bishop, and only later devotionally used for the Mass

RuthJ said...

I think Mike is right. I was certainly taught that it was heretical to use these words, as they implied a belief in transubstantiation - that the bread and wine literally and physically became the body and blood of Christ. (That which is carnally pressed with the teeth, as the 39 articles so beautifully put it ...)

I always thought it a bit odd, because I took the words as referring to John the Baptist not Christ. But I see that Matthew 21.9 specifically applies them to Christ, so clearly I was wrong.

Mr Gnome said...

Yoo hoo!

Re stoles and preaching scarves - and people being a wee bit cooler about such matter these days.

I could a plain unvarnised tale unfold about a stole, a preaching scarf, a sex change and a gay vicar - dating from as recently as 2001.

But you'd have to contact me 'off site' - sensitivity etc....

Anonymous said...

Does it really matter?????

Emma said...

I have wondered in the past why those words were optional when we always did say them... didn't even know that there was people in the world who adamantly didn't say them, so there you go.

Emma said...

or that there were people. Sorry about that grammatical error there.

Mike Peatman said...

Dear Anon,

Nope - getting your knickers in a twist about this stuff is straining gnats / swallowing camels territory

Dear Emma

They miss it out at St T's - I know because I started into it once at a communion service soon after we moved to Lancaster!

St said...

Can we just stop worrying here about whether things matter or not please. Not everything that is interesting matters; not everything that matters is interesting. I posted this because it matters to me. If it doesn't matter to you then, as Mike said, read no further.

But if you arrived at a reading group and they missed out a sentence of the set book without saying why I'm sure you would, at minimum, wonder why. If you accepted it without curiosity you'd be unusual, I'd venture.

That's what we're talking about here. And the fact that we can't be sure why we started doing something, yet some carried on doing it, is a good sign that it was right to question it.

Mr Gnome said...

Knickers, gnats and camels....

Great title - who's going to write the book?

So agree regarding St's remarks about 'does it matter?'

Pip pip

Mike Peatman said...

Even mindless chatter is fun, and I think we may have risen just a tad above the mindless threshold!

Matthew McMurray said...

I was always confused when I moved Churches (Charismatic Evangelical to Liberal Catholic to put it crudely and not universally accurately) why people made the sign of the cross during the Benedictus.

I reasoned in my head that it was to do with celebrating the real presence in the Eucharist and so it became part of my usual practice to make the sign of the cross during the Benedictus as my eucharistic beliefs started to become more established. My logic came from the story of the Triumphal Entry (i.e. that we are acclaiming the arrival of Christ).

The other way I understand it (perhaps wrongly) is that we all come to the altar in the name of the Lord to celebrate our redemption in Christ whose presence and sacrifice we at least commemorate at the altar. This interpretation could of course apply to most churchmanships I think. We are blessed by coming in the name of the Lord who sent his son to redeem us. Thus, the anthem accompanied by the sign of cross can be a way of marking or claiming that blessing.

I think that's how I look at it. It is clear that historically there is lots of tension about its use but I am sure that with a new and fresh understanding its use can be quite nice and interpreted in a number of ways.