Radical ecumenism – the Ordinariate’s new Catholic Missal (Fr Ramsay Williams).

FR RAMSAY WILLIAMS

On the First Sunday of Advent this year (November 29 2015) a new Missal of the Catholic Church will be used for the first time in parishes of the Ordinariates in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States and Canada.

It will be an historic occasion with radical ecumenical implications.

The Missal, called Divine Worship – The Missal, is remarkable in that its texts are largely drawn from The Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican tradition or ‘patrimony’.

It contains the Order for the Mass, and the variable prayers and other scriptural texts, instructions and rubrics and music, and the liturgical calendar for Ordinariate congregations.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI established the Ordinariates by Papal Constitution in 2009.

Anglicanorum Coetibus was his response to requests from Anglicans worldwide wishing to return to the rock from which Anglicanism was originally hewn, without losing their identity or liturgical heritage, but accepting all Catholic doctrine and moral teaching.

It was a pastoral and ecumenical initiative, building on, although separate from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on unity, established in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

The new Missal stands alongside the Roman Missal of 1970 (current third edition) and the 1962 version of St Pius V’s Missal (the ordinary and extraordinary rites) as an officially authorised liturgical use of the Latin or Roman rite.

(Anyone in communion with the Holy See may receive Holy Communion at celebrations of the Ordinariate Mass, and fulfil their Sunday obligation. Any member of the Ordinariate may receive Communion at any other authorised Eucharistic rite of the Catholic Church.)

The new Ordinariate Altar Missal is being published by the Catholic Truth Society in the United Kingdom.

This will be the second liturgical book published by the Holy See for the Ordinariates.

The first, called Divine Worship – Occasional Services, was published last year. It contains the pastoral services of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Funerals.

All these draw on traditional Anglican sources, and are in classical English.

The Scriptural readings are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (second Catholic edition), the officially authorised version of Scripture for the Ordinariates.

This version is also used with the new Missal for the Three Year cycle of Sunday readings for Mass, the daily readings and those for Holy Days and other special commemorations.

Pope Benedict’s Anglicanorum Coetibus sought to recover the specific English Christian heritage, culture and patrimony largely lost to the Catholic Church from the time of the Reformation.

As the Papal document says: “… the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”

In other words, the life of the Catholic Church is to be enlarged and enriched by the finest liturgical and spiritual traditions specific to Anglicanism.

This is the first time in history that distinctive elements of an ecclesial community established at the Reformation have found an honoured place in the life of the Catholic Church.

Earlier in the papal document, in referring to the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict concedes that “many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside her visible confines. Since these are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”

The new Missal is the work of an international liturgical committee set up in 2012 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and the Congregation of Divine Worship).

The committee is known by its Latin name, “Anglicanae Traditiones”. Its members include canon law experts, liturgists, and prelates with both Anglican and Latin rite backgrounds, including Bishop Peter Elliott, an Auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, who was brought up as the son of a Vicar.

According to the explanatory notes of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Divine Worship Missal “gives expression to and preserves for Catholic worship the worthy Anglican liturgical patrimony, understood as that which has nourished the Catholic Faith throughout the history of the Anglican tradition and prompted aspirations towards ecclesial unity …

“The Anglican liturgical tradition draws on the English monastic tradition and develops entirely out of the context of the Roman Rite.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist expressed by Divine Worship is at once distinctively and traditionally Anglican in character, linguistic register, and structure, while also being clearly and recognisably an expression of the Roman Rite.”

The texts are broadly representative of the classic tradition of ‘sacral’ English which is found already in the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Angelus, the Act of Contrition and other traditional Catholic prayers.

God is addressed, for instance, as ‘Thou’ rather than as ‘You’. The English is liturgical English, as opposed to everyday English.

Two Eucharistic Prayers are authorised. These are the traditional Roman or Gregorian Canon (in Prayer Book English) which must always be said on Sundays, and a second Eucharistic Prayer which may be used on weekdays and other occasions, but not on Sundays.

This Prayer is based on the second Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Missal, which is in turn a variant of the oldest known Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon of Hippolytus (c. 210AD).

The liturgical Calendar of the Ordinariate is the universal Calendar of the Catholic Church, but with the addition of certain commemorations with an English or Anglican “flavour”, such as – for instance – Our Lady of Walsingham, St Alban the first English martyr, or St Edward the Confessor, St Aidan of Lindisfarne, and various canonised Archbishops of Canterbury, including of course St Augustine of Canterbury.

More recently recognised holy persons, such as St Elizabeth Seton, St Margaret Clitherow, St Edmund Campion and Blessed John Henry Newman, converts from Anglicanism, are also found in the Ordinariate calendar.

The Sunday cycle follows that of the older Anglican tradition.

Sundays are numbered “after Trinity” as in the Book of Common Prayer, rather than as that of ‘Ordinary Sundays’ in the Roman Missal and the later revised Anglican Prayer Books.

The establishment of the Ordinariates by the Papal Constitution, and the production and authorisation of liturgies for use within the Catholic Church with a distinctive Anglican identity, is a remarkable if not radical historical and ecumenical development.

Certainly, it is a situation which both Catholics and Anglicans, even in the recent past, would hardly have dreamed about, let alone considered.

Who would have thought that the sacral English of The Book of Common Prayer and many of the liturgical traditions of post Reformation Anglicanism would find an honoured place in the life of the Catholic Church in the 21st century?

These developments have not occurred without difficulties on both sides of the fence – centuries old prejudices are not easily bypassed. Nor will they suddenly disappear.

But thanks to the workings of the Holy Spirit, the vision of Pope Benedict XVI in the spirit of the seventeenth chapter of St John’s Gospel, and with the ongoing support and involvement of Pope Francis, that unity for his followers for which Christ prayed is a little bit nearer than ever before.

Fr Ramsay Williams, a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, was formerly a priest of the Anglican Church of Australia for 38 years.

He is Parish Priest of the Ordinariate Parish of St Edmund Campion for Melbourne’s Bayside/Peninsula regions; and Associate Priest of the Parish of Mentone/Parkdale in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.