Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holy, Holy, Holy,...what?

I followed the recent changes to the Roman Missal with some interest.  This was in part because I read that one blogger said the new missal wording brought the Roman Catholic English translation more in line with the English wording in the Book of Common Prayer:  “And with your spirit,” and “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.”  I think that the Roman Catholics can be excused for messing up after the fervor of excitement resulting from Vatican Two.  But I am not sure as much grace should be accorded to the avant garde liturgists of Anglican stripe who somehow deemed the Roman mistranslations (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might) needed to be incorporated into the Anglican liturgies under the premise of ecumenism.  And that is the only reason I can seem to find for the corruption of the Sanctus.  An excellent article on the mistranslation of the Sanctus in the Roman Missal after Vatican Two, and the importance of correcting it, from a Roman Catholic priest can be found here: 

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I cannot read Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, but I can read the Scriptures.  And in those Scriptures, if the translators of the KJV, ASB, RSV, etc  are correct, then the scriptural source for opening of the Sanctus, Isaiah 6.3 is “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts.  This is a far cry from the rather inaccurate translation of “God of power and might.”  

Two things stand out for me. 

One is the thought that for the sake ecumenical uniformity we are willing to almost unthinkingly depart from our own rich heritage, a heritage well rooted in the ancient Church.  Secondly, we are willing to disengage the Scriptural witness from our liturgy, which seems to be a most un-Anglican thing to do.  I can cite other examples of this disengagement of the use in Scripture for our worship such as one bishop here in Canada who has authorized a ‘special rite’ wherein the proclamation of the Word actually allows for the opting of an appropriate secular reading to be used instead of an appropriate Scripture reading.   Imagine having a part of the service called “the proclamation of the Word,” and not having any Scripture read.  But I digress. 

The point I want to make here is that we have clearly made a mistake in allowing Ecumenical fervor to sway us in embracing erroneous wordings in our divine Eucharistic liturgy.  Comments on the adoption of the Ecumenical Lectionary (The Revised Common Lectionary) might also fall into this category.  Let’s be honest here, if we were truly interested in embracing ecumenical relations with the Romans and the Greeks then there are many innovations we simply should not have embraced so quickly.  By all appearances we have wanted to eat our cake and have it too, and we know that that does not work.  Instead, I feel that we have lost much of our Anglican Identity, which is directly tied to our liturgy.

I am left with the following question: Within the Anglican milieu, how does one ‘back up’ once a mistake is realized?  The Romans, with their hierarchy of authority were able to very easily redact their liturgy.  We Anglicans appear to entirely lack any mechanism for this.  I fear it is up to our ‘chief liturgical officers,’ and again I fear few really don’t seem to care.

To this sad reflection I invite my readers to have a look at the idea being brought to the forefront recently for the need of a “New Oxford Movement, “ by a priest in Ireland blogging under the heading Catholicity and Covenant.  The post is called, “a Retrieval of Riches – the potential of a New Oxford Movement.”  

I like to call it, “the de-newal of Anglican Liturgy.”  Done right, such a de-newal, such a new Oxford movement, might just bring us back to the most holy God, in truly holy worship where we joyfully declare with the angels and archangels, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory!!

Lord have Mercy,  Brian


  1. This Sunday being the first Sunday of the month, at our church (Christ Church, Port Stanley, Ontario) we used the 1962 version of the liturgy found in the BAS. I have to admit that I prefer the older liturgy, although I do find I get confused as to why the Filioque is included in the older liturgy and not the newer. I especially appreciated the "we are not worthy" portion after reading your post about it recently.
    I also was not aware of the mistranslation you mentioned. Thanks for bringing these things to our attention. I read the post about a new Oxford Movement at Catholicity and Covenant and I think it sounds exciting.

    1. Thanks for the reply Ian. I too, enjoy the 1962 Eucharist in the BAS. As for the Filioque confusion we have to credit our liturgists who felt its removal would show unity with the Eastern Orthodox, and its non-removal in the BCP would keep happy the traditionalists. Edith Humprey, in her book, "Grand Entrance," comments about this..."It is very odd, however, that twelve centuries of debate between East and West have been obscured by Canadian generosity, which has seen fit to incorporate both versions as if it were a matter of chocolate or strawberry ice-cream for dessert. The substance of the matter seems unimportant, only the form of accommodation and diversity. Sometimes, then, outside traditions have been adopted without the necessary examination of the implications of the 'alien' or new element, and the result is an incoherent theology." Or as I wold say, "Bad liturgy!"

  2. That's a great quote by Edith Humphrey! I think it is very telling about Canadians. I'm glad at least, that she describes us as generous! I have read a bit about the Filioque controversy. What is your opinion on it? Should it be there or not? I listened to an Orthodox priest talking about why it is wrong, and he was quite convincing I thought.

    1. Perhaps 'generous to a fault.' Regarding the Filioque, I think it should go. I agree with you that the arguments from history and theology so well laid out by the Eastern Orthodox Church point to the inappropriateness of the phrase in question. If we give credence to earlier definitions of Anglican identity such as Lancelot Andrewes summary statement: "One canon, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of the Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith," then the Filioque needs to go. Why Cranmer and subsequent revisers of the BCP especially up to the 1662 BCP did not correct this seems odd to me.