The Pray Tell blog has a post up about an Orthodox scholar andformerAnglican David Frost who is critical of importing Cranmerian language into Orthodox liturgy. Then the blogger takes a swipe at the Ordinariates’ Divine Worship.
The Book of Common Prayer liturgy, in Frosts’s view, is theologically corrupt; it has an unbalanced and juridical view of sin and guilt, and it was heavily motivated by terror of ‘the uneducated, uncivilised mob’. It understates what Frost calls ‘the mighty acts of God’, especially the resurrection. It was, he says, unduly influenced by Calvinism.
And not only the implicit Calvinism but also the language he objects to!
He also criticises what he calls ‘sub-Cranmerian English’.
Despite being a lover of Renaissance literature, I have argued throughout my working-life that to create a special language for religion akin to ancient Hebrew or Sanskrit is the characteristic of cults — and the Christian faith should not be turned into a cult. It is contrary to the practice of the Apostles, for the gospel was communicated in the Greek koine, an international trading language whose counterpart today might be internet computer English.
To have a substantially different language for worship would seem to contradict the basic message of divine incarnation. When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again, and the barrier goes up imperceptibly as language grows old-fashioned and unfamiliar.
The greatest danger presented by imitation of Cranmerian English among the modern western Orthodox is that it may become yet another hierarchic, archaic language for worship that can protect and insulate one from its content, just as much as colourful ceremony and fine chanting.
The relevance of Frost’s lecture for Catholicism is slightly complex. After all, we are not Orthodox. Some of the texts that he attacks appear in the older Latin missal. Some of the texts that he cites as missing are also missing in the Tridentine Mass – the explicit epiclesis, for instance.
Nonetheless, I think he makes many good points. It is not at all clear that Thomas Cranmer’s heavily Calvinistic theology should be ‘cut and pasted’ into a post-conciliar Catholic Mass. His critique of ‘sub-Cranmerian English’ rings true to me. Even setting Catholic and Orthodox differences aside, I found his lecture a damning criticism of the new Ordinariate liturgy.
Well, most interesting.
I think some of Ordinariate members in England might be more sympathetic to this point of view. I would love to hear from you in the comments section.
As for me—the post-Vatican II view among progressive Catholics that we are “Easter people” and thus we stand before the Lord and can have all the fruits of the Resurrection without repentance of sin and crying out for mercy seems to me to miss the fact one has to go through a process of deep conversion to experience the renewal and regeneration that does make one able to walk by the Spirit. Only walking by the Spirit and not the flesh makes us truly Easter people. I see a lot of carnal Christians acting like they’ve got it made when I wonder if they have ever had an experience of meeting the Living God—and developed a healthy fear of Him. Also, I think we can skate along thinking in our comfortable lives we pretty much are doing okay—humming along here being quite patient and loving and all that—until! we get some neighbor who plays loud music late at night, or someone annoying starts attending our church services.
I dunno. Try breaking a bad habit, even a small one, such as overreating. Try introducing new spiritual disciplines into your life. See how quickly you realize how powerless you are, what a “miserable offender” totally dependent on God’s grace you are. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are left in that place—but you have to experience that in order to receive what only comes to a contrite and humble heart. And even having a contrite and humble heart—well, you can’t even give that to yourself. You need grace. We are so, so presumptuous! So, a little reminder in our confession at Mass not to be so, is a good thing.
I think many of the “We are Easter people!” crowd have made metaphors of the Bible. ‘Oh, we’re adults now, we can see the Resurrection was symbolic. All that sin and dying to self stuff, that was for a more immature and superstitious age.
H/t to the Anglican Ordinariate Informal Discussion group on Facebook for the piece.