The Communion of Saints

Most of us are familiar with the Apostles Creed that is used during Eastertide, at Baptisms, and also Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays. The longest clause is about our Lord from his conception to the Resurrection and the expected return at the end of time. By contrast, the in the third clause about the Holy Spirit and the Church is very brief: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting’. However, these statements are actually all one as they are a development about the activity of the Holy Spirit within the Church. As our Lord has taught us, the Holy Spirit is the one who abides with the People of God and leads into all truth about our Saviour. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we make effective today the words of Christ in Baptism, the Mass and the forgiveness of sins. However, the phrase about the Communion of Saints was not in the first edition of the Apostles Creed and it read, ‘I believe …of the Holy Ones’, which was actually a reference to the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. It is mentioned because the Church throughout the world is made one by this feast of unity. The Church is not defined by its administrative structures – its office holders and synods – but by its worship of God, gathered by Christ and with the Holy Spirit. This is the concept that was developed into the Communion of Saints. For it is by the assembly around the altar that the community is created and made holy. This community is not just here and now but embraces all the faithful who have ever lived – and this community extends beyond the boundary of death – the very reason we commemorate them – ‘so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 11. 36ff). So what about those we call the Holy Ones today? Well, they are still members of the same community we belong to, but their witness to us is that the promises and gifts of Christ are effective to change human beings into his Image and Likeness, ‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:7), ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of this indicates we are on a journey to the fullness of life, which we can see is true in the lives of all the Saints.

Praying for Faithful Departed

All Soul’s Day is close, the mutterings are about praying for the dead.

When we come to church for the Mass or Rosary we pray for the departed as a normal part of worship. However, that was not always the case. The reason goes back to the Reformation when the Church of England rejected praying for the dead, but the reasons were sound and reasonable, as the practice had become corrupt. The Church of the 14th & 16th Century starting to charge for the prayers to raise money. Pope Julius II (1503 to 1513), raised huge amounts of money to build St Peter’s in Rome by selling indulgences. For your donation, you obtained a certificate that pardoned the sins of your departed family. It raised money, but it was selling God’s free grace, which is outrageous. Luther protested this practice, hence the term, protestant was launched. The ban on praying for the dead and funerals became grim affairs that gave no comfort to those who mourned. Our first Prayer Books had a reasonable funeral service, but it was not widely used, and after the time of Oliver Cromwell, hardly at all. This was a case of throwing baby out with the bath water. Along with this was a teaching that salvation and damnation had already been decided by God – so need for prayer!

As usual, banning something causes problems and it caused personal problems for those who had no avenue to express grief and love by prayer. So, other avenues are also sought and by the end of the 17th Century it was common to consult occult means of contacting the dead and the rise of spiritualism in the 19th Century.

The Crimean War (1853-56), with 21,000 casualties started to change things as the Church had no means to deal with a nationwide grief. This was when crucifixes came back into the churches; the image of the God who died our death. In 1873 the Guild of All Souls was founded. Their goals were, to change barbaric funerals! They promoted proper and dignified funerals, to educate and promote the Church’s teaching regarding the departed, and intercessory prayer for them and the dying. The Guild was successful, as their goals have now become a normal part of Anglican parish life.

The understanding of these tasks was based on the life and teaching of Christ. We see this is in our Lord’s compassion to the Widow of Nain and his teaching at the raising of Lazarus. Our understanding of Christ is that all life is in his hands, yet it is through our prayerful cooperation with his will, and our desire for healing, wholeness and forgiveness for others, especially the departed, that accomplishes it.

The Shape & Order of the Mass III

This is the third and last muttering about this subject. The object was to explain how the Mass has developed over the Christian centuries and how that effects our worship today, and our new worship book. Nothing of the prayers is being omitted but reordered into a more logical sequence. From the beginning of the Mass up to Creed remains the same. If you note in both columns Offertory you can see the reorderng, which now conforms more to the Early Church, the Anglican 1549 Prayer Book, and the changes in modern worship since 1970 in the Anglican Roman Catholic traditions.

English Missal 1958 Divine Worship Missal 2015
Creed Creed
Offertory Intercessions
Intercessions Confession and Absolution
Confession and Absolution Comfortable words
Prayer of Humble Access Offertory
From hereon the mass remains the same in both Missals until
Lord’s Prayer Lord’s Prayer
Breaking of the Bread Breaking of the Bread
Agnus Dei – Lamb of God Agnus Dei – Lamb of God
Invitation to Communion Prayer of Humble Access
Invitation to Communion

Apart from a return to the Church’s original order of the mass, it is also the order adopted for the reforms of modern worship since 1970. Anglicans who do not know our style and language or worship, will at least understand the order of Mass and be able to participate with us.

The Shape & Order of the Mass II

Last week I wrote about how the shape of the Mass evolved from the time of the Apostles up to AD 600.From that time that shape continued up to around 1540. This was when the liturgy was translated into English.

In 1549, the first Anglican Archbishop Canterbury published the first Book of Common Prayer. He basically translated the Catholic Missal that was in use at that time. It was an achievement to translate the Latin into a beautiful form of English. He also introduced some new features: The Confession, the Prayer of Humble access (We do not presume…), and n expanded form of intercessions. He did these additions because there was no form of confession in the Mass, as everyone was supposed to go to private confession first. People would go to mass, but rarely to take Holy Communion. Cranmer wanted to change that, so a general confession, which we still use, was added. In addition, the Prayer of Humble Access was to encourage the receiving of receiving Holy Communion. The Latin Missal the intercessions had become minimal. Cranmer developed two editions of the Prayer of the Church, and we use the second edition today. Cranmer’s problem was where to put these new elements. His first attempt was to have the Confession and the Prayer of Humble Access just before receiving Communion. However, he shifted it in his next Prayer Book, but this has never worked very well. He was also not sure where to have the intercessions and he placed it where it is today, after receiving the bread and wine and preparing the altar – but this was a mistake, as the Early Church had it after the Sermon and Creed – but he may not have been aware of this.

In the many subsequent editions of the Prayer Book there have been attempts to adjust this. By 1970 there was a consensus of how this should be done. The editions English Missal that we use has been a part of this process in its use of 1549 Prayer Book. Now there is a new edition, called the Divine Worship Missal, which has adopted these new arrangements. I have presented in detail to the Parish Council the history of our Prayer Book and the reasons to adapt this new edition of the Missal, which they have agreed to. All the prayers we now use are still there but in a better order of sequence.

One of the advantages of these changes is that we have a service that is in the same sequence and order of Communion that is used by Anglican parishes that use the modern services. In future, when we have a visitor from another parish, they may not know the traditional prayers and the language we use, but they will understand what is happening because of the same sequence and order that they know. I experienced this confusion on two occasions. First, with newly ordained priests, whom I was teaching how to say Mass. They attended our Thursday Mass first, but as far as they were concerned they could have been on another planet. Most Anglicans under the age of 50 have never heard the Book of Common Prayer, nor is it explained as the theological college!! The other occasion was some visitors from Wynnum. They enjoyed being with us but queried about the order, which confused them. In adopting the Divine Worship Missal we will overcome this problem whilst enriching our own understanding of the mass and lose nothing of our heritage and tradition.