The Anglican Ordinariate: what impact on Catholic worship?

The Anglican Ordinariate: what impact on Catholic worship?

Shawn Tribe

How and to what extent the Anglican Ordinariate will become manifest in the life of the Church is a question which can only be answered with the passage of some time.

However, it strikes me that the Ordinariate, with its corresponding intent to retain certain aspects of the Anglican liturgical patrimony, brings with it some interesting potentialities, potentialities not simply for the Ordinariate itself but also for the reform of the reform - most particularly within English-speaking regions.

What I am suggesting is that I believe the potential exists for it to contribute to the broader conversation going on within the Church about the sacred liturgy, particularly in the light of certain, oft-discussed points of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

To be clear, it is not that I believe these potentialities and aspects are absent from the conversation without the Ordinariate, but rather that the Ordinariate, bringing with it its own lived experience, history and "culture", brings another and additional dimension to the conversation, a dimension that, importantly, will be a lived one able to be referred to and consulted equally by Catholics within and without the Ordinariate. Let us then briefly consider some of these aspects.

Expressions of worship

Within the context of the English-translation of the Roman rite, it is no secret that our experience with the vernacular has been rather lacklustre at best and banal at worst. Further compounding this problem is that fact that, despite the clear directives of Vatican II, Latin has been virtually supplanted within parish liturgical life. Accordingly, many rightly and laudably pursue the recovery of the use of Latin within Latin rite worship (and should most certainly continue to do so).

That said, there can also be a rejection, avoidance, or laissez-faire disposition which can be taken by some of those interested in continuity and re-enchantment toward the vernacular question, and this seems to be conditioned by these aforementioned accidents of post-conciliar history and a reaction to them.

While understandable, this is not particularly desirable since it is reasonable to suppose that vernacular is not going away at this point. As such, the question must be thoroughly addressed, and indeed, it has been addressed in part by virtue of the recent re-translation of the English edition of the Roman Missal. There are some other aspects to consider however.

Enter the Anglican Ordinariate. Within the context of Anglican liturgical patrimony one cannot fail to be stirred by the hieratic (sacred) English liturgical tradition found there. This hieratic tradition presents a majestic and liturgical form of English that very clearly sits outside the day-to-day world and day-to-day speech. In this regard, it might be understood as similar to the early Latin liturgical tradition itself. This aspect is not only worth pursuing and preserving as part of the Ordinariate, but here the Anglican Ordinariate can bring something to the table for broader liturgical consideration within the Roman rite. Indeed, I think it is no exaggeration to say that it can be a tangible, living witness as to how to approach and pursue vernacular liturgical forms in a way which is eminently liturgical and sacral.

Sacred music

In addition to these purely textual considerations, another dimension of this is certainly the English polyphony and chant found within the Anglican tradition. From the vernacular compositions of the renaissance, to modern composers such as Healey Willan, or the "Englished" Gregorian style chant of the like of the Anglican gradual, not to mention Anglican chant proper, all offer examples of both the richness of this musical patrimony and also the potentialities that can exist for vernacular forms of liturgical music generally.

In my view these examples better approximate what the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it considered developments in the area of liturgical music. They certainly stand above much of the vernacular liturgical composition that has more typically accompanied the Roman rite since the time of the Council, composition which has been characterised more by stylistic rupture than by organic development.

The foray into vernacular liturgical music that has been experienced within the context of the post-conciliar Latin Church has, of course, been stylistically shaped by imbalanced notions of participatio actuosa on the one hand (which is its own issue and a broader one at that), but also by the general zeitgeist of the time from whence these compositions have come, times marked by a greater spirit rupturism, a certain anti-formality and folksiness, as well as elements of secularity and even anti-sacrality.

By contrast, the vernacular musical patrimony of Anglicanism has had the benefit of arising in other times and other climates and thus its own vernacular liturgical compositions came out quite differently, having the benefit of these different climates and influences. As a result, these English forms of chant and polyphony, by comparison, are noteworthy for their continuity and sacrality.

This historical and cultural difference presents the reform of the reform with options today. The example and experience of such by its use within the Ordinariate, and, by extension, its consideration as part of the broader reform of the reform, should certainly present an important alternative and inspiration which can serve the broader cause of the re-enchantment of the sacred liturgy.

Shawn Tribe is the founder and editor of the excellent Canadian New Liturgical Movement website. This article is published with his kind permission.

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