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.