Monday, January 18, 2016

Ordinariate Rites

In the last year or so the Ordinariate has made great sense to me, the finalization of the Oxford Movement and a cultivation of constant, sound liturgical practice. It did not make so much sense when I witnessed the erection of the English Ordinariate in 2011, with Msgr. Burnham—a fine man—celebrating a Paul VI Mass on Sunday nights at St. Aloysius. The Ordinariate was not yet using the Anglican Use liturgy, just the reformed Roman rite. To my surprise, while rummaging for my passport (need to escape Texas) I happened upon the booklet for what we were told was the first ever unique Ordinariate liturgy.

It was on a Wednesday and a friend was accompanying me to a lecture on quantum physics. We noticed a mutual acquaintance enter Blackfriars and decided to follow him. No sooner had we greeted him than he shoved this slim volume into my hands, re-assured me it was a "short" service, and turned to the next guest. The church was packed with an unfamiliar crowd. The bell rang and the servers escorted Msgr. Burnham with his two assistants, wearing vestments from the Oratory, to the sanctuary.

What followed was an English-language service of Vespers and Benediction which I am unsure has survived into the observed Ordinariate liturgy.

Msgr. Burnham delivers the sermon. Lots of booklets like the one above. Rad Trad needed a haircut,
but wouldn't get one for another month,
The service began exactly as old rite Roman Vespers, with five psalms, the Veni Creator as the hymn for this votive Evensong of the Holy Ghost, and the Magnificat. A long reading from Exodus replaced the chapter, unless such is the Anglican tradition. Jarringly, there were no antiphons of any sort to frame the service. Another Biblical reading, extracted from Corinthians, followed the Magnificat, then the Nunc dimittis, the Creed, the Our Father, and some versicle prayers.

Then came the collects of the day, for peace, and against perils. Anyone who prays the pre-Pius X Office should recognize the English version of the prayer Deus, a quo sancta.

Then came Benediction, which I did not see, but I did hear in the form of a recording later. Tantum ergo should not be sung in English. My friend, a convert from Anglicanism, felt uncomfortable and wanted to go; "I feel like a protestant again," he whelped. The first half of the service bothered me greatly, in my naivete, for I disliked hearing familiar words in another tongue sung to vulgar melodies.

I had forgotten about the entire service for years until stumbling upon this booklet. After praying Evensong with the Houston Ordinariate I cannot say I recognize much of the service here except for the Nunc dimittis and readings. This clearly was an experimental rite, perhaps one that did not greatly influence what the Ordinariates eventually accepted as their liturgy.

I am happy the Ordinariate exists. I recall many cradle Catholics, especially traditionalists, holding a great deal of resentment back then. We should remember that in the parable of the prodigal son, the good son who never left home was the bitter one. The prodigal returned for less than noble reasons, but the father did not care, for his son is home and making good liturgy.


  1. Unfortunately, the American tradition influenced the Ordinariate’s liturgy. The end looks like the modern Episcopalian rite.

    They also moved the Ember Day liturgies to the 1st week of Advent, and they follow the new calendar and lectionary, but it seems at least some of the old Mass ceremonial survives. They can even have subdeacons per the missal.

    1. There is also wide variation of use among different parishes. I have witnessed 4 different churches in my state alone and the results were:

      1. A mixture between American Episcopalian use (1970's prayer book) and the Roman Rite post-Trent.
      2. Highly Roman practices with Anglican prayers and twists (for instance, the Asperges Me is sung before Mass but in English). 1962 goers would feel at home but be surprised that deacons are being put to liturgical use.
      3. Elaborate High Church Anglicanism combined with Roman Solemn practice with a highly medieval aesthetic.

    2. Some combination of 2 & 3 is what I expected. In fact, they should have just used the missals they used as Anglicans... But, no, that was not to be. For those parishes which are particularly Pauline, it must be pointed out they used the Novus Ordo, thinking it ought to be used out of obedience and thinking the older missal was indeed suppressed.

      It’s a tragedy they adopted a uniform rite which precludes much of that. Even the English Ordinary is favorable towards the Roman practice used by Mgr. Burnham and Fr. Hunwicke. In America, the outgoing Ordinary and the bishop-elect wear the maniple and face the east.

      Of course, Solemn High Mass is the norm...

    3. There is also wide variation of use among different parishes.

      Oh, absolutely. But that merely reflects the very diverse background of parishes that came into the U.S. Ordinariate - even from the Episcopal Church.

      In Baltimore, you have, just five miles from each other, one of the best known old high Anglo-Catholic parishes with a history of celebrating the old English Missal and which chooses the most traditional options in the Ordinariate missal, and a parish of charismatic ex-Episcopalians which (at last check) uses only the Novus Ordo.

      The diversity is likely to persist. But it will be interesting to see where they wind up 20 years from now.

  2. Did the deacon have any role in the medieval liturgies that he does not have in the Tridentine? And how exactly does the deacon's function differ in the Byzantine rite?

    1. I don't believe so. It's just that the standard practice in many Trad churches (i.e. 19th century American praxis) has little use for Deacons. At an Ordinariate Mass you may see Deacons read the gospel, give homilies, distribute Communion, clean the chalices, assist the priest on the altar, etc.

      I'm not sure about what "differs", but the Deacon in the Byzantine Rite announces the readings and events ("Wisdom! Be attentive!"), leads the litanies, may proclaim the gospel, give the sermon, distribute Communion, incense everything, and receive Communion in the hand. Also there are Deacon-specific prayers at certain points (one point being the Consecration).

    2. I have been thinking of late of what might be the relevance of medieval rites for us today. I think this topic would do for an interesting post should anyone think to pick it up ;-)