Often one may wonder how the Prayer Book’s liturgy may be added to when occasion calls for it. The important thing to consider is that every occasional addition should be integrated both theologically and ritually, and never either belie the doctrine of the normal service or undermine its structural integrity. One good example is given by Bishop Andrewes, worth following closely.
Andrewes gives a form (generally used when a building is set apart for worship) for consecrating vessels, useful for impressing upon the people the high dignity of their purpose, yet avoiding the implication that the vessels are things of magical sanctity. It is true, of course, that Moses sanctified with priestly oil the objects used in the Tent of Meeting; but equally that the truest vessels of Christ’s body and blood are the sanctified souls and bodies of believers. So it is fitting that, during the Offertory, this simple declaration should be made by those presenting the vessels upon their knees: ‘I offer this unto thee and thy holy service, O Lord God Almighty.’ Again, the bishop’s prayer afterward is also very clear as to the vessels’ significance:
O Lord, heavenly Father, we most humbly beseech thee favourably to accept these holy offerings now presented unto thee: Thine, O Lord, be all the glory in all our approaching unto thee, the honour thine alone in all our service of thee. Grant, most gracious Lord, that what we have now faithfully offered unto thee in the uprightness of our hearts, may be religiously preserved from all profane and secular uses, and may ever continue in that holy service whereunto they are now dedicated, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The prayer leaves no room for superstition. The vessels, presented as they are during the Offertory, are unequivocally part of the whole offering made by the people, and this fact is affirmed by the prayer. Nor is there a murky articulation of blessing, but instead the bishop asks God to preserve the communion plate from all profane and secular uses. The point is not that the objects are any holier than others, but rather that they serve an eternal purpose as instruments of the sacrament whereby God delivers eternal life to those who partake in faith. In good order, therefore, they are to be preserved from all other uses, that they may serve God singly and not be used instead to confuse Holy Communion with a common meal.
Thus Andrewes teaches the dignity of the sacrament without investing inanimate objects with supernatural properties, which to do would ascribe to these things the glory due to God. The objects therefore teach us not superstition but due reverence to the Lord who gave the sacrament. Therefore the bishop has said in good faith, ‘Take away the stony heart out of the midst of us, and give us hearts truly sensible of thy Divine Majesty.’ The way the order is constructed does not distract us from God, but points continually to him and urges us to consider his Divine Majesty. In doctrinal propositions, then, it has nowhere offended, but only strengthened what the Prayer Book services teach, the doctrine of the Bible and the Thirty-Nine Articles.
As for structural harmony with the Holy Communion service, this point too is well-considered. It is plain to anyone who knows the Prayer Book that the consecration of altar plate should be strongly tied to the Offertory, for that is when the people present to God what is qorban, sanctified from profane and secular uses (Mt 23.16–17). One might have thought of consecrating the altar plate after presenting the money, but this would separate the money too much from the Prayer for the Church Militant and the rest of the preparation for the sacrament. One might also have thought of consecrating the altar plate before the Offertory, but this would seem a random intrusion. Both choices would also leave the impression of two separate offerings. Happily, what Andrewes chose was to consecrate the altar plate immediately after one of the accustomed Offertory Sentences, with another Offertory Sentence to resume the ordinary offerings. The result is that the consecration of altar plate has become part of the Offertory itself.
This example, then, like those of Baptism or catechizing after the second lesson, shows us how to consider an occasional addition to the normal service, not forgetting either doctrinal or ritual integrity in the liturgy. The care taken by Bishop Andrewes to avoid either promoting superstition or interrupting the service is an example well worthy to be followed.
Pingback: On Superstition | Anglican Rose
Pingback: Send Thy Holy Spirit | Cogito, Credo, Petam