Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland

Adult Ed Lecture 25th September 2012

September 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Adult Education

The text from Rev David Jaspers talk on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is available as a download PDF, 20120925-Adult-Ed-SacredLiturgy, or in full below.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Vatican II and Liturgical Ecumenism

You must forgive me if I begin these few words with some autobiographical remarks. I am an Anglican priest of the kind that might be described as of a “postmodern, if old fashioned, Anglo-Catholic” variety. My father was also an Anglican priest, but, unlike me, he was a liturgical scholar – indeed for many years, and during the time of the Second Vatican Council, was Chairman of the Church of England Liturgical Commission. I grew up in a household that was saturated in liturgical discussion and the business of liturgical revision. When I became a student of English literature at Cambridge and then, in due course, lecturer in English literature and theology at Durham University, my father would try out new prayers on me to see if they ‘worked’. I was also made very conscious of his journeys to Rome in the 1960s as an Anglican Observer at the Second Vatican Council, and most specifically, of course, in the processes which led, on 16th February 1964, to the implementation of Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium)
As the first of the several documents (schemata) of the Vatican Council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy set the pattern for the entire work of the Council, and was a promise of things to come. Not that it appeared ex nihilo, for it was the result of already some four decades of liturgical reflection, from which, as has been pointed out by Yves Congar, the celebration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Word were brought together into a coherent whole. Archbishop Bugnini, the secretary of the preparatory commission on the liturgy at the Council was perfectly well aware of the reforming nature of what was being done. He wrote:
The participation and active involvement of the people of God in the liturgical celebration is the ultimate goal of the reform…. This involvement and participation is not limited to externals but reaches to the very root of things: to the mystery being celebrated, to Christ himself who is present. (The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 [1990], p. 5)
In his address at the conclusion of the first session of the Council, Pope John said that it was not by chance that it was the sacred liturgy that was the first schema to be considered. Furthermore, it was not only an inner liturgical and pastoral renewal that was sought, for the ultimate hope, the Pope stressed, was nothing less than “the great mystery of unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice” – and this unity, in the words of Massey Shepherd, an Anglican Observer of the Pope’s speech, writing in 1967, was not only among Catholics themselves, but a unity among separated Christians who serve one common Lord; “unity in esteem and respect between Christians and those who follow non-Christian religions; and finally among all men.” (Massey Shepherd, in Bernard C. Pawley, The Second Vatican Council [1967], p. 152.)

It is not my purpose, neither would it be appropriate here, for me to rehearse the material of the Constitution. My aim is to reflect upon some of the ecumenical consequences of it. Massey Shepherd, an Anglican who was Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California (and a close personal friend of my father), states that there is “little or nothing in the Constitution, so far as theology is concerned, which is unacceptable,” its tone being theologically constructive and open. Indeed, he suggests, “the Constitution removes what Pope John once called one of the ‘old quarrels’ that has divided Anglicans and Roman Catholics since the Reformation” – that is in its affirmation of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharistic species” but without specific reference to Transubstantiation. As an Anglican Observer in Rome, Shepherd could affirm now that
….we [Roman Catholics and Anglicans] have both set first and foremost always in the obligation of Christ’s Church, the public and corporate worship of God by his faithful people. We have both affirmed and experienced through the liturgy that unity of faith in the bond of peace which is the peculiar treasure of the Missal and Breviary on the one hand, and of the Book of Common Prayer on the other. Now it seems possible to envisage a reconciliation in worship, which derives not only from a common origin, but from agreement in basic principles. (p. 159)
In conclusion Shepherd notes further concerns of the Constitution which “will evoke both enthusiastic response from the Anglicans, and also, it is hoped, a careful searching by Anglicans of their own traditions.” First, he remarks of the Constitution, there is the principle of simplicity, or more precisely a “noble simplicity”; second, the use of the vernacular and of, in the words of the Constitution, “more reading from Holy Scripture [in the] proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation [and] the mystery of Christ”; third, plans for lectionary revision; and the final emphasis on the pursuit of beauty and the fostering of piety in matters of religious and liturgical art.

The hospitable and open tone of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has had profound ecumenical consequences. I can do little more than allude to some of these from a somewhat personal and Anglican perspective. In a work to which I have already referred, Archbishop Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, the Archbishop states that “some members of the Anglican Communion who were involved in the revision of the Church’s liturgy had let it be known by indirect channels that they would be interested in following the work of the Consilium at close hand.” The Consilium in question, or to give it its full, as Bugnini himself described it, “somewhat baroque title”, Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, was the body that was charged with the task of working out the practical consequences of the Constitution of the Vatican Council. I can just remember the excitement at home when my father set out for Rome in the Spring of 1966, in the company of, among others, Massey Shepherd, Pastor F W Kunneth of the Lutheran World Federation, Brother Max Thurian of Taizé and the Revd A. Raymond George of the Methodist Church. It was the last who wrote of this journey that “I think we all had a sense of making history.” Of their meetings he went on to say that “we had a strong feeling that liturgists in all churches are faced with the same questions and are finding largely the same answers. The zeal, however, with which our Roman brothers are pursuing their work should act as a stimulus to other churches.” These words have, in a way, been proved to be prophetic.

My father’s own work at the time was particularly related to the revision of the lectionary, and the meetings in Rome which continued until 1970 were a vital element in the much later production of the Common Lectionary. But it is another aspect of the work being done that I wish here to bid remembrance, lest it be forgotten. There existed in the Roman Catholic Church a body known as ICEL, or the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, whose task it was “to achieve an English version of liturgical texts acceptable to the interested countries….bearing in mind the ecumenical aspects.” Some English-speaking observers from other churches were invited to attend the meetings of ICEL, among them my father, who described their atmosphere in these words: “Here, when texts such as those of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creeds were being discussed we were treated as collaborators rather than observers, and we soon reached tentative agreement on new translations of the Gloria in Exclesis and the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.” In the Church of England, the Liturgical Commission produced for the Lambeth Conference of 1968 a series of what it called Modern Liturgical Texts, and the upshot of all of this work was the establishment of what became known as ICET, or the International Consultation on English Texts which first met in 1969. By 1971 they were able to publish a work entitled Prayers We Have in Common, containing English versions of The Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Sanctus and Benedictus, the Goria Patri, the Sursum Corda, the Agnus Dei, the Te Deum, the Benedictus, the Nunc Dimittis and the Magnificat. The Foreword to the slim volume which contains these texts modestly expresses the hope that “ the Christian Churches of the English-speaking world will be prepared to use these experimentally over an extended period…. It is our earnest hope that all the texts now available will be found acceptable for use both in public worship and in private prayer and that they will make a modest contribution to the cause of Christian unity.”

But now we must turn, if very briefly, to the radical implications of the principles of the Constitution for what it describes as the Paschal Mystery, and the Eucharist. First of all, and generally, it is a primary thrust of the Constitution that the corporate, responsible participation in the liturgy by the entire assembly, laity as well as clergy, be restored, provision being made for “communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the people.” (III B 27). This emphasis has characterised modern liturgical renewal in all the churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant. Once again to turn to Massey Shepherd to well describe the Constitution’s “new principle and concept [in the Eucharist] that opens creative perspectives to theology in all its biblical, historical and philosophical inter-relationships.” He writes:
It suggests a new foundation for both the theory and practice of Christian worship – expressed in the familiar phrase lex orandi lex credendi – that bypasses and transcends so much of the sterile polemic between Catholics and Protestants concerning the exact number of the Sacraments, the distinction of Sacraments of the Gospel and of the Church, the separation of Word and Sacrament, the contrast of cultic and spiritual worship, or the respective internal and external authority of the liturgy. It gives us a biblical and dynamic principle, affording flesh and blood to the dry bones and skin of scholastic and abstract arguments. (p. 161)
Historically, ecumenical discussions proceeded through a body known as A.R.C.I.C, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission under the joint chairmanship of the Rt. Revd Alan C Clark (Roman Catholic) and the Rt Revd H. R. McAdoo (Anglican), which issued in 1971 An Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine. An earlier Lutheran-Roman Catholic statement, The Eucharist as Sacrifice had been published in 1967 in St. Louis, Missouri. Also in 1971, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches produced The Eucharist in Ecumenical Thought. And in 1972, a meeting of Roman Catholics and Protestants at Les Dombes in France published Towards a Common Eucharist Faith. The effect of all such work and publications was further felt in the new liturgies of the younger world-wide churches. To give one example, the new South African rite that was drafted from Autumn 1972 to May 1973 drew deeply upon the new Roman Ordo Missae, and yet also included verbatim one of the proposed Anglican forms of intercession that finally found its place in the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book (the ASB) of 1980.

Such a dry rehearsal of dates, meetings and publications merely presents the surface of a remarkable sea-change in the theology and forms of Eucharistic worship that followed from the Second Vatican Council, such that, in practice if not in governance, the form of Eucharistic celebration in the English-speaking world was becoming perhaps more unified than at any earlier moment in the history of the Western Church. I dare to make such a statement, for it was clear that the debates of centuries were being overcome by a scholarly, theological, practical and actual return to the practice of the Early Church, and above all as we find it in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus as used in the Church in Rome as early as 215 CE. One of the most widely used textbooks on the prayers of the Eucharist cites most frequently as its sources two books, one Roman Catholic and the other Anglican: the first is Louis Bouyer’s great work of 1970, Eucharist, and the other a work which, though it predates the Vatican Council, remains one of the standard texts of liturgical scholarship in the twentieth century, the Anglican Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy (1945), a work which firmly connects the church’s worship with the forms and practices of the early, apostolic Church, and anticipates the Council in many remarkable ways.

Bouyer is quite clear. Acknowledging that although from the early Middle Ages until the sixteenth century there was only one Eucharistic prayer used in the Western Church, the Roman Canon, which, despite the hundreds of textual and rubrical variations documented by Joseph Jungmann, was essentially inflexible until, in the words of one scholar, “the promulgation of the reformed Roman Mass after the Second Vatican Council” (Frank C. Senn, New Eucharistic Prayers [1987], p. 1), yet Bouyer has a whole chapter of his great work entitled “The Eucharist Buried Under Untraditional Formularies and Interpretations.” What he returns to, essentially, is the essential simplicity of the liturgy of St. Hippolytus in which “there has been brought together everything…in regard to an evocation of the work of creation and redemption.” (p. 449). It is to this ‘shape’, which finally emerged as the pattern of the anaphora generally known as the ‘West Syrian’ by the end of the fourth century, that the post-Vatican II liturgies within the ecumenical energies and horizons that I have briefly described very largely conformed – a liturgy which is at once catholic and apostolic.

Writing in 1970, Bouyer writes of the twentieth century and in particular of the period after the Vatican Council.
Throughout this whole period in which the churches of the Reformation were engaged in the slow task of rediscovery, what happened with the eucharist in the Catholic Church? Here, obviously, with the eucharistic canon and its retinue of prefaces, the ancient eucharist still subsisted. However, even though it was not necessary to retrieve it, a pressing need still existed to divest it from much incongruous veneer, and to return it to an intelligent manner of being observed. (p. 443)
This “intelligent manner of being observed” is based, writes Bouyer on three ancient ‘formularies’. The first is the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. The second returns to the formulas of the Mozarabic and Gallican tradition. The third is directly inspired from the great Eastern formularies, in particular the Apostolic Constitutions, St. James and St. Basil. Behind all of these are the great Jewish prayers in which they have their liturgical origins. What all this means for ecumenical developments after the Second Vatican Council is that, first, churches began together to conform more closely in their Eucharistic practice and theology to the ancient, apostolic liturgical traditions of the early Church both East and West. Second, they did this together – for the Protestant churches not looking back to the debates and schisms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but recognizing a new apostolic commonality in faith and practice which, finally, as Pope John envisioned in his summons to the Council pursued the “great mystery of unity” in Jesus Christ – among Catholics, among separated Christians, among Christian and non-Christian religions and among all people.

Before I begin to draw to a conclusion mention must be made of one more body within the English-speaking world. On 10 – 11 October 1963 – almost coterminous with the opening of the Vatican Council, there met in London for the first time a new working party called the Joint Liturgical Group. It membership was comprised of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Church, the Congregational Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church of England. It had no formal authority, but it was within a few years to produce an important series of booklets, the first being entitled The Renewal of Worship in 1965. By 1966, in a collection of essays on The Calendar and Lectionary, there was a Roman Catholic ‘observer’ on the JLG, Canon R. Pilkington, who was also present for the 1968 booklet on The Daily Office. From then on the Roman Catholic Church took a full part in the work of the Joint Liturgical Group when the produced collections on essays on Holy Week Services (1971) and Initiation and Eucharist (1972). In 1975 membership was further increased by the presence of the Churches of Christ in the booklet entitled Worship and the Child. Actually the real initiative for formal Roman Catholic participation in the work of the JLG came from no less than the Consilium Liturgicum in the Vatican itself – the body set up to develop the principles set out in the Constitution, at the meetings of which my father and others had been observers since 1966. JLG’s work was also closely associated with the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and ICET, which I have already alluded to, as well as liturgical developments in the Anglican Church world-wide, most notably in South Africa.

The language of the joint statement made by the JLG in its publication entitled Initiation and Eucharist is worthy of note and echoes directly the language, message and tone of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II. This publication of the JLG was not, like most of the others, a collection of essays by individual members. It was a joint essay, owned by all members, including the two Roman Catholics present, now not as observers but as full members of the Group. Here is the opening paragraph on the Eucharist. (We must bear in mind that this is 1972, before the question of inclusive language became an issue in liturgical renewal – an ever evolving process.)
Christian worship is the beating heart of the Church’s life. It is in liturgical assembly that the People of God is formed, renewed, and equipped for mission, as week by week she is set under the cross and resurrection of her Lord and summoned to recapitulate the strange journey from baptism through the Word to the Table and out once more into the teeming life of men. It is in the Eucharist that the inalienable unity of the Church is disclosed. Yet it is here that her existing divisions are most starkly revealed. The search for‘intercommunion’ at one level reflects the instinctive understanding that here the stakes are highest, and everything is hazarded, lost, or won.
Theological problems remain. The quest for theological agreement continues and must continue.

As the essay continues, the emphasis on theological understanding is continued, but alongside a further emphasis on praxis – what is done in worship, and how it is done. The essential place of the Liturgy of Word and Supper is emphasized and one phrase is employed a number of times – “unity in distinction”. In conclusion, the essay offers what it calls “ample room for diversity.” I quote: “National and cultural setting may rightly be expected to have its effect. Uniformity is not to be prized… Yet in the present situation in Britain everything suggests the overwhelming desirability of a simplicity of structure that will clearly reveal the essential pillars of the Liturgy.” On the final page of the booklet the ‘West Syrian’ pattern of the anaphora, established by the end of the fourth century, and to which I have already alluded, is rehearsed.

The word ‘simplicity’ as used by the JLG takes us straight back to the Constitution and its clear statement that “rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity.” The Constitution had expressed the urgent need for the revision of the “liturgical books” of the Church – and it is noteworthy how this task was quickly one that involved not simply the Roman Catholic Church itself. In short, the first Constitution of the Second Vatican Council to be promulgated at the end of its second session on December 4, 1963, opened a door which was to have the most profound ecumenical consequences. Setting liturgy and Christian worship at the very centre of the Church’s life and work, it enabled a greater actual unity to be experienced in worship than had been possible in the West since the beginning of the sixteenth century, as well as within the newer churches in Africa, East Asia and beyond. It was far from perfect. Some of you may feel that my lecture this evening has been too preoccupied with official meetings and bodies with the usual tedious names and acronyms. But underlying these processes within the formal life of churches was a genuine spiritual life drawing together that which history and the foolishness of human beings had driven apart. And if I may end, as I began, on a personal note regarding my father, whose small part in all of these discussions during and after the Council made such an impression on me as a boy and young man. His official biographer, Donald Gray, concludes his biography of my father with these words: “over and above everything else Ronald had a profound concern for the high dignity and purpose of Christian worship. So that at every time, and in every place, it might be worthy of God in Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Donald Gray, Ronald Jasper: His Life, His Work and the ASB (1997), p. 142.). May the same be said of all of us.

Abbot, Walter M. SJ, The Documents of Vatican II (Geoffrey Chapman: London, 1966)
Bouyer, Louis, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer (University of Notre Dame: Notre Dame, 1968)
Bugnini, Annibale, Archbishop, The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975 (The Liturgical Press: Minnesota, 1990)
Congar, Yves, “Sacramental Worship and Preaching,” Concilium, Vol 3, No 4, March 1968, pp. 27-33.
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Trans. Clifford Howells SJ. (1963)
Dix, Dom Gregory, The Shape of the Liturgy (Westminster: 1945)
Gray, Donald, R. C. D. Jasper: His Life, His Work and the ASB (SPCK: London, 1997)
Initiation and Eucharist. The Joint Liturgical Group, Ed. Neville Clark and Ronald C. D. Jasper (SPCK: London, 1972)
Jasper, R. C. D., The Development of the Anglican Liturgy, 1662-1980 (SPCK: London, 1989)
Modern Liturgical Texts. The Church of England Liturgical Commission (SPCK: London, 1968)
Prayers We Have in Common. Agreed Liturgical Texts proposed by The International Consultation on English Texts. Revised Edition (Geoffrey Chapman: London, 1971)
Senn, Frank C., Ed. New Eucharistic Prayers: An Ecumenical Study of their Development and Structure (Paulist Press: New York, 1987)
Shepherd, Massey H. Jr., “The Liturgy”, in Bernard C. Pawley, Ed. The Second Vatican Council: Studies by Eight Anglican Observers (Oxford University Press: London, 1967), pp. 149-174.

David Jaspers (September 2012)

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