XXI. The Blessed Sacrament
XXII. Extra-Liturgical Devotions
XXIII. Worship and Ceremonial
XXIV. The Sacrament of Marriage
THE Holy Eucharist should be the central dynamo in every parish: the source of power and holiness and inspiration for the clergy and workers; the chief act of worship for all who are in earnest about their religion; the bond of fellowship, unity and peace for all sorts and classes of people, and the divinely established means of feeding them daily with spiritual and heavenly food. If it is not thus made central, but pushed off unceremoniously into an obscure corner of parochial activities, we may reasonably conclude that the parish is suffering from a malignant disease which, if it is not speedily cured, will ultimately prove fatal. No parish can long remain a Christian parish, much less a Catholic parish, which does not accord to our Divine Saviour the first place in its affections, devotions and activities. Ever since our Lord's ascension into heaven the Blessed Sacrament of the altar is the Body through which His divine Spirit as well as His human heart and mind and will now function among His faithful disciples. For us who are still making our pilgrimage on earth this Sacrament is for all practical purposes the only Christ we know. This is now the sacred Body through which He dwells in our midst and ministers to our needs. Even though we had once known Christ in the flesh we know Him so no more, for now we know Him almost exclusively in His sacramental manifestation. Therefore under the dispensation of the Spirit in which we now live, if we are to put our Lord first in our interests, whether as parishes or as individuals, we must put the Blessed Sacrament first.
The Mass should be the chief act of worship on every Lord's Day, as well as on the principal Holy Days of obligation. It is desirable whenever possible that there should be a High Mass. If a deacon and subdeacon cannot be secured to assist the celebrant, then at least there may be a sung Mass or Missa Cantata, with incense, processional lights, sanctus bell and eucharistic vestments--of a color proper to the season--worn by the officiating priest. If such a rendering of the Mass is not possible, it should be the ideal toward which the priest is trying to lead his people. It is desirable that the people should not communicate at this later Mass and for several reasons. First, they should have received fasting at an early hour. This is practically the only way of training our people in the ancient practice of fasting communion. Secondly, it makes the Mass too long if there are many communions. Thirdly, the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist is more convincingly brought out if only the celebrant communicates. Fourthly, there are always sightseers present at a late Mass, many of whom are not even baptized. It is hardly to be supposed that all those present would be in a spiritual condition to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, if they see numbers of the congregation going forward to receive many of them will follow their example and make their communions. In the early Church all un-baptized persons, those living in mortal sin, and those undergoing penitential discipline were dismissed at a point in the Mass corresponding to the beginning of our Prayer for the Church. Only the faithful were permitted to remain for the Canon of the Mass. To a superficial observer it would seem that some of our fashionable parishes still conform to this rule on the first Sunday in the month.
In every healthy parish there ought to be a large number of communions made at the early Masses. In large cities some parishes are so situated that many of the regular parishioners find it more convenient to receive Holy Communion at churches nearer their homes. There is no objection to this practice. Many urban parishes meet this difficulty by serving breakfast at a small cost in the parish house to all who come to the early Mass from a distance. Is it too much to hope that some day our city parishes may have the facilities to provide breakfast and luncheon for those who come from far, and perhaps also a library and smoking room so that those who have made the long journey from a suburb or the country may spend the day at the church either as a day of retreat or in pleasant converse between services with fellow members of the Body of Christ? Whenever possible it is desirable that there should be a Sunday Children's Mass at nine or thereabouts. The music should be simple so that the children may sing their part of the Mass, together with a few familiar hymns printed on a card. There ought to be a ten minute instruction or sermon to children, and if the music is not too elaborate the whole service should be over in three quarters of an hour. A light breakfast could be served to the children who make their communions, and then from ten to ten thirty there could be classes of instruction for the children of the Church School, and a Bible class for adults. This would seem a better arrangement than to attempt to bring the children out again for the Sunday School in the afternoon.
If there are several priests in a parish there ought to be two or three daily Masses, one of them at an hour early enough to provide for workers in shops and offices, school teachers and pupils and early risers generally, and another at a later hour such as nine or nine thirty for women who do their own housework or people of leisure. If the church is in a district where there are many night workers it might be found possible to have a daily Mass for them at midnight or at two or three in the morning. This is done in several Roman Catholic parishes in New York City and meets with splendid response from many classes of night workers such as those in the offices of the great daily papers. Perhaps a midnight Mass every Saturday night might supply the needs of those who like to sleep all day Sunday. This, however, is only a tentative suggestion, and is not to be taken too seriously.
As it is the pastoral duty of every parish priest to feed all his people frequently with the Bread of Life, if they are rightly disposed, he must not lose sight of the sick and shut in members of his flock. The countless demands upon the time of a busy priest will make it impossible for him to celebrate the Holy Communion privately for every such parishioner. Therefore it is well nigh essential that at all times the Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in the tabernacle of one of the altars so that the priest may take It without delay to the sick or the dying. This is not a question of rubrics; it is a duty implicit in his pastoral office. No priest would hesitate to carry the Blessed Sacrament down into the body of the church to communicate an aged person or a cripple who could not approach the communion rail. The rubrics, however, make no provision for any such procession. It is justified by the rubric of common sense. The reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the sick is also justified by the rubric of common sense--in addition to the fact that it has been sanctioned by the immemorial usage of the Catholic Church in the East and in the West.
If the Sacrament is reserved this should not be done in some hole in the basement, but in a place of honor and beauty on an altar openly in the church. There is also something to be said for reserving the Blessed Sacrament in a hanging pyx before the altar. The reserved Sacrament is not something to be ashamed of, unless we are ashamed of our Blessed Lord! He is to be blessed, praised and adored wherever He is, whether on His throne of glory in heaven or in the most holy Sacrament of the altar. We are warned by some timid souls within the Church that it is dangerous to allow such devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Dangerous for whom? It is quite possible that it may be dangerous for Satan and for all enemies of our Lord, whether inside or outside of the Church. It is inconceivable that it could be dangerous for faithful and loving disciples to spend a few moments whenever possible praying to their Lord there in the tabernacle in the dimly lighted church, with the flickering sanctuary lamp reminding them of the throbbing love of His Sacred Heart.
A form of eucharistic devotion which has proved extremely helpful to many souls is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. A large Host is placed in a monstrance before or above the tabernacle, the altar is brilliantly lighted with candles, and if possible made beautiful with flowers. The exposition may continue for a half hour or an hour. People will come and go and some of them will remain throughout. There is no better way of practicing the fellowship of silence of which we have heard so much from certain modern mystical writers. It is a splendid opportunity for affective prayer and the prayer of contemplation. The attention of silent worshippers thus intensely concentrated on the focal point of the divine Presence often produces marvelous effects in the depths of the unconscious self. Those of us who have tried such prayer will testify that it is difficult work, but it is the kind of work that abundantly rewards our efforts. Perhaps at no other times do we enjoy such intimate and conscious communion with our divine Lord, when He speaks so convincingly to our souls. Nevertheless, Exposition is not for everybody; it is too exacting a form of devotion for those who have not had considerable spiritual experience.
A more popular form of eucharistic devotion is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A large Host is exposed on the high altar in a monstrance and hymns are sung to our Lord in His sacramental Presence, including the O Salutaris and the Tantum Ergo. Thereupon the priest, with a humeral veil over his shoulders, takes hold of the monstrance and with it makes the sign of the cross, thus enabling our Lord to give benediction to the assembled faithful. Then the monstrance is replaced on the altar, the Divine Praises are said by the priest and repeated by the people. The Psalm Benedicite is sung and the devotion is brought to an end. The whole service does not last longer than a quarter of an hour. It may be preceded by a Litany of the Saints or a Litany of the Blessed Sacrament, or it may immediately follow Vespers or the sermon after Vespers. It forms an admirable climax to Vespers on Sunday and adds the sort of devotional element that Vespers needs to give it a popular appeal. Preceded by a Litany and an address, Benediction makes an excellent form of popular devotion for a week day evening service.
The service of Benediction is frankly borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church. That is no argument against it. The same thing is true of the Three Hour Service which is now almost universally in use among Anglicans on Good Friday. The justification for borrowing such devotions that are not in our Prayer Book is simply that they promise to be spiritually helpful to our people. If in the event they do not prove to be helpful there is nothing to prevent their being discontinued. It is not like borrowing something that we wear out by using and then feel ashamed to return. If, on the other hand, Benediction should prove to be suitable and should meet a long felt need in many of our parishes it could ultimately be sanctioned by General Convention and officially included in the Prayer Book.
Sometimes a priest is asked how many communicants he has listed in his parish. That is a very embarrassing question. In a large parish it is impossible to give an accurate answer. Perhaps one hundred or five hundred or one thousand are reported in the annual statistics. That is what the parish register shows. The parish register however contains the names of those who have lapsed or who have moved away and never been transferred to another parish. Perhaps some of them have died since moving away and their names have not been erased from the list. The Canons of the Church require that we report all those as communicants who have been listed the year before unless we know that they have died or have been formally transferred to other parishes. Obviously this is a very imperfect method of counting communicants. Something ought to be done to correct it. That however is the business of General Convention or the diocesan conventions. For practical pastoral purposes the clergy must rely on a carefully kept card catalogue of actual communicants. They are the spiritual backbone of the parish. A zealous priest will endeavor to keep in close personal touch with them and will often mention them by name in his daily intercessions. It would of course be impossible in an extensive parish to pray daily by name for all his communicants, but they might be grouped for each day in the week. This is a great deal to ask a busy priest to do, but if he prays for them by name it will help him to preserve the right relationship to his people.
ANY parish priest of parochial experience has speedily found that the authorized services of the Book of Common Prayer are not adequate to the needs of parish work. Just as the rubrics of the Prayer Book afford a minimum of direction and remind one of the fragments of wreckage which have chanced to survive some great catastrophe, but are quite insufficient for the performance of any work, so the services of the Book of Common Prayer are a survival of the liturgical treasures of the pre-Reformation Church. No doubt the parts which have survived have been selected for survival and 'may be said to be a survival of the fittest; yet it is true that the discarding of all services but such as seemed to the reformers of the Sixteenth Century absolutely necessary has thrown succeeding generations which find them inadequate on their own resources. It has imposed upon them the necessity of in some way making good the deficiency which they so acutely feel.
Every parish priest, according to what he feels to be the need of his work, sets himself to supplement the Book of Common Prayer. This may be in a very simple way, by Sunday School and guild services, services of admission to the various societies he organizes, and the like; it may be in the way of extra services, popular vespers, services of song and so on; or he may institute days of intercession and other purely devotional services. Something the active priest will do, and in so doing he is very likely to arouse criticism of his action. Owing to the conservatism of human nature, the new is commonly opposed; but after it ceases to be new, it is treated as though it were by law established. We are so used to special services for Sunday School and for guilds and so on that we should be surprised if any one were to criticise them as unauthorized or requiring episcopal sanction. The unusual services, on the other hand, are at once subject to criticism by those who do not like them, as a thing unlawful.
Inasmuch as extra-liturgical services have long existed and will no doubt continue to exist (as in fact the very life of a parish demands that they shall exist), it is desirable that we should, if possible, reach some general principle which shall govern the introduction and use of them. As things are at present, any one seems to think himself at liberty to write to the papers denouncing a parish priest for introducing into his parish some service or form of devotion which is distasteful to the complainant. He usually denounces the service as unlawful, though he neglects to quote any law that it violates. If the service is of a certain type, it is denounced as Romish. There are still, it would appear, a considerable number of persons to whom that adjective is the equivalent of an argument.
Can we reach any consistent principle of action in this matter? Certainly not, if we are to be governed by the prejudices of ecclesiastical politics. If my neighbor is to denounce Benediction as Eomish and I am to denounce Prayer Meetings as Protestant, we shall create unnecessary antagonism, but shall not arrive at any principle of action. There is, however, a principle which seems to me to be adequate to determine conduct in this matter. I would state the position as follows: The parish priest, when by due ecclesiastical authority cure of souls is committed to him, receives of necessity, as an inherent element in that charge, the authority and obligation to provide for the spiritual needs of the people who are committed to him. He supplies those needs in measure by the proper use of the authorized services of the Church, as set forth in her formularies; but, if and when he finds need to provide further, it must be held that the authority committed to him at his institution authorizes him to use his own judgment in the selection of the services and devotions which will be of benefit to his people. If this freedom be denied him, he is helpless as the administrator of the parish. He is, of course, limited in his action by the Catholic Faith, which he has promised to believe and to teach, but he is not limited by the tastes and preferences of his neighbors. He is commissioned to deal with a certain group of souls and the commission given him, after trial and examination, implies that the Church trust him to deal with the situation in which it places him. It implies too that the power so to deal is committed. His only limitation is that he shall act within the limits of the Catholic religion.
This seems to be stated, or clearly implied, in the Office of Institution of Ministers into Parishes or Churches. "We do by these Presents give and grant unto you, in whose Learning, Diligence, sound Doctrine, and Prudence, we do fully confide, our License and Authority to perform the Office of a Priest, in the Parish of E. And also hereby do institute you into said Parish, possessed of full power to perform every Act of sacerdotal Function among the People of the same: you continuing in communion with us, and complying with the rubrics and canons of the Church, and with such lawful directions as you shall at any time receive from us."
The question will of course be raised, "How can these powers of the parish priest be reconciled with the authority of the bishop? Does not the power and right to set forth special services reside in him, and ought not an extra-liturgical service to be submitted to him for authorization before it can be used?"
To answer the last question first, I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to submit such services. The rector to whom the bishop has given "License and Authority to perform the Office of a Priest," and who has been put in possession of "full power to perform every Act of sacerdotal Function among the People" confided to him, may certainly assume that it is within his power to institute special services which do not displace or interfere with the services set forth by authority. The limitation imposed upon his action is that he shall comply "with the rubrics and canons of the Church, and with such lawful directions as you shall at any time receive from us."
The question undoubtedly narrows down to this--that the necessity and right of initiation rests with the parish priest, as the judge of the spiritual need of his cure. His action, however, is subject to review by the bishop. If, in the judgment of the bishop, he has exceeded the limitations of his power, the bishop may intervene and review his action. That seems to be the meaning of the Institution Office and is also the meaning of all pertinent legislation. Provision that the bishop may authorize special services cannot be construed to mean that the parish priest cannot institute such without reference to the bishop. The important question is how far and under what conditions the bishop has power to interfere with the acts of the parish priest.
There seems to be an impression in many minds that the power of the bishop is an arbitrary and irresponsible power. This, we infer, is a theory held by certain members of the Episcopal Order. There are bishops who presume to forbid this or that act or service, purely on the ground that they don't like it. These acts are almost exclusively, if not quite, directed toward Catholic practices, as they are called. One bishop forbids the use of servers, another forbids eucharistic devotions, a third objects to vestments, and so on and so on. Is there any theory of the power of the episcopate that makes such actions legitimate?
Whatever may be the powers originally inherent in the episcopate, the office as it at present exists and is exercised is a conditioned office. It is limited in all sorts of directions by the creeds, the constitutions and the canons of the Catholic Church and of the particular Church which has confided to the bishop a special jurisdiction. His power is a strictly constitutional power, limited as is the power of the parish priest. To keep to the point, when the bishop institutes the parish priest, he tells him that he is bound to comply "with the rubrics and canons of the Church, and with such lawful directions as you shall at any time receive from us." The only question, therefore, that can arise between the rector and the bishop is whether a service instituted by the rector violates any positive law of the Church. The bishop, as against the rector, has no arbitrary power and no legislative power. He has only the power to administer the legislation of the Church. In case of difference of opinion between bishop and rector as to what this power is in a given case, the recourse is to the ecclesiastical courts. Any rector instituting services which are not approved by his bishop should be willing to withdraw the services at the bishop's request or to submit to trial. He should be utterly submissive to the lawful authority of his bishop. He is under no obligation to submit himself to the personal taste of his bishop.
It is complained that the present state of things in the matter of the introduction of special services is a state of anarchy; that, if there be no power in the episcopate to govern in the premises, there should be legislation enacted to cover the case. Such complaints are gravely exaggerated and are instigated by dislike of certain services of devotion which have been introduced. At present at least, it seems to me that any legislation is undesirable. The difficulties which now exist are probably much less than the difficulties that would be raised by legislation. The situation, no doubt, is not ideal. It is amusing and perplexing to hear those who denounce attempts to enforce the meaning of the creeds, and demand freedom for those who deny the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, denounce the "illegality" of Benediction and the Rosary and demand that they be suppressed. Let us have the liberty that the Church allows. So far from diversity in parochial uses, within legal limitations, being objectionable, it is to be desired and is in any case inevitable, as clergy and their conception of the needs of their parishes will always differ. Absolutely uniformity, so far from being desirable, is a disease of the Latin mind.
At present the episcopate seems inclined to stand aside and avoid trouble, and wisely. We can only desire episcopal guidance when we have an episcopate in whose wisdom as guides we can have confidence. At present the American episcopate is predominantly composed of men who have made commendable records as parochial administrators, who have avoided strife by avoiding any definite ecclesiastical position, but who, as a body, are innocent of any knowledge of theology in any of its branches. Their ambition is to carry on the diocesan work with a minimum of friction and to raise money to keep the machinery going. They cannot afford to stir up controversies, and the last thing they want is an ecclesiastical trial. We cannot expect from them unbiased decisions based on Catholic doctrine and tradition, but only decisions based on public policy. This compels in the parish priest an even larger measure of self-determination than he commonly desires; but he must make the best of the situation and, in the development of his parish work, be content to be guided by the wisdom and experience of the past, while not neglecting anything that promises to be helpful in his work, either because of its modernity or of its provenance.
We who are Catholics are reproached from both the Roman and the Protestant side with being mere imitators of Rome. I suppose we shall have to submit to the reproach in a certain degree. The Anglican Church during the mediaeval period of its life shared with the rest of the Catholic Church in the possession of a rich devotional literature and practice. The most of this treasure was abandoned at the Reformation, for reasons that we need not here discuss. We, who claim the inheritance of the whole past of the Church and especially of the Church of England, while recognizing the inevitability of the abandonment, do not recognize the finality of the Reformation action. What was for the time dropped may be resumed, when the conditions which led to the Reformation action have passed away. These conditions have now passed and we are asserting our right to our inheritance. We repudiate the position that all the riches of the mediaeval Church, all the manifold devotions which its experience created--because the Sixteenth Century reformers dropped them and because succeeding Anglican generations acquiesced in this action--are therefore to be classed as anti-Anglican and Roman. We insist that the Church to-day is essentially identical with that of the past and that the heritage of the past belongs to us. We repudiate the assertion that, as descendants of the Reformation, all the rich past is alien from us. We resent the Roman claim to the exclusive ownership of the mediaeval treasures.
And therefore we do not seek the revival of mediaeval devotions, eucharistic devotion, the Rosary, devotions to our Lady and so on, as imitators of Rome; we are merely recalling to use what our Reformation fathers abandoned and our immediate predecessors had forgotten. If our claim to historic continuity is good, these devotions are ours. If they are not ours to revive and use, it is a very severe criticism of our theory of continuity. I am not asserting that the Middle Ages were always right in whatever they did and therefore to be imitated; I am simply claiming, as an Anglican, the right to use all of the mediaeval developments which have been approved by the great body of Catholic teaching and experience since they came into existence.
There is very little in the way of extra-liturgical devotions which Catholics are to-day putting into use that is without justification in the mediaeval past and which, therefore, can be charged with being borrowed from Rome. It remains true that devotional developments which stopped in England at the Reformation went on unchecked in the Latin Church. It seems to me the part of wisdom to study the results of these post-Reformation centuries of experience in the Roman Communion and to learn what we can from them. It seems to me at once ungenerous and uncharitable to criticize us for so doing; and, from the side of any criticism of "Romanizing tendencies," it is a noteworthy fact that it is precisely those later Roman developments which are post-Reformation and modern which have been widely accepted by our very Anglican critics. Those who criticize us for the use of eucharistic devotions and the Rosary, which are mediaeval and English, are themselves using missions, retreats, the Three Hours' Service, and so on, which are Romish and modern. I think, therefore, we may go on as we have begun and use all that we can find useful.
The Prayer Book provision of stated services fails to provide for the cultivation of the devotional life of the people. We limit this statement, of course, by the recognition of the central nature of the Mass in the growth of the spiritual life, but experience shows that that is not all that is needed. I am more and more convinced that one of the causes, perhaps the chief cause, of our failure to develop souls more eager for spiritual growth, who grasp the notion of holiness and are ready to pursue it, who are utterly unsatisfied by a religion of "morality touched by emotion," is due to the abstract nature of our teaching. The average person needs constant aid and stimulus in the pursuit of spiritual ideals. There is constant need to bring theory to practice, to translate the abstract into the concrete. Nothing does this as well as devotions of one kind or another, and the practical wisdom of the Church has been evidenced by the favor it has shown to the development of such.
I know of no reason why we should hesitate to avail ourselves of the wisdom and experience of the past in such matters. Those who have so availed themselves will be ready to give evidence to the benefit that has been derived by the use of devotions. There are, to be sure, many within the Church whose rejection of Catholic theology carries with it of necessity a rejection of Catholic practice; but these, if they will experiment in their own direction and give the Church devotional practices which will aid souls to grow in grace, will perhaps confer a great benefit upon us. We who believe the whole Catholic teaching of the Church must go our own way in the application of that. It is unimportant to us that a devotion is not primitive. Our conception of the Church is that of a living organism, the mystical Body of Christ. It has the same authority to-day that it has always had, it brings out of the treasures of its inexhaustible life things new as well as old. Its life constantly expresses itself in the creation of the new, as well as in the preservation of the old. The date, therefore, of a devotion is of no importance. What is of importance is that it be a practical application of the Incarnate Life to the needs of God's children.
I think it will be agreed by those who have experience in this matter that the most useful class of devotions are those which grow out of the eucharistic Presence, such as Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I have never understood what is meant by saying that Benediction is illegal in the Anglican Communion. I can understand that it is unauthorized in many Anglican dioceses (that is, that it has not received episcopal sanction), but that is quite a different thing. In many dioceses in this country it has received implicit sanction--it has been instituted by parish priests in the carrying on of their work for the edification of their people and has called out no episcopal protest. This is all that is needed, the implicit recognition of the right of the priest to provide for the needs of his people.
It is unfortunate that those who have no experience of the value of eucharistic devotions in the development of the spiritual life of a parish should constitute themselves critics of such devotions on purely theoretical grounds. That they do not themselves believe in the Real Presence or do not believe that the Sacrament should be used for anything other than the purposes of its institution may very well govern their own action; but it is quite useless for them to attempt to impose what, from a Catholic point of view, is at once a defective theory of the Eucharist and a defective theory of the Church upon those who accept in its fulness Catholic theology and tradition. These will insist upon carrying into effect their beliefs, whatever may be the consequences, and it is inconceivable that a Catholic Communion should ever commit itself to any legislation which will exclude them from its fold.
It would seem that any one who feels that the great need of the time is increase in personal piety and religious experience would have only to go into a church where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and watch the many who come and remain through the time of Exposition, who kneel in adoration, who pass their time in intercession and then go quietly back to their business, in order to realize, whatever be his theology, that here at any rate is an operation, a means, which these many find helpful in their lives. The critic may think them mistaken in their theology; he cannot think that their action leads to other than the best results.
To the Catholic there is no greater blessing or privilege conceivable than this of constant access to the Divine Presence, mediated by the sacramental species. To him it is joy unspeakable and full of glory to be able to come whenever he has leisure time and kneel before his Lord, enshrined in the Tabernacle. The priest finds that his people come gladly to Exposition and Benediction, come with a real devotion to our Lord, and go away gladdened and comforted. He finds that such services as the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament attract devout crowds, whose faith is made definite and strengthened by their participation in such rites. Once the obscuring veil of prejudice is torn away, people find their joy in expressing their love and devotion before the Presence. The way has now been well prepared by pioneers and it is much to be hoped that the next few years will see a vast increase in the use of eucharistic devotions.
Beside those forms of devotion which center about the Tabernacle, there are many others which are helpful. The devotion which to-day has perhaps most prejudice to overcome is the Rosary. There seems to be a very real hatred of any devotion which includes our Lady. This is of course intelligible, in view of the polemical literature of the past and of the very real ignorance of the place that Catholic theology assigns to the Blessed Virgin. That only the more makes it our duty to labor unceasingly to vindicate our Lady's place in the devotional life of the Church. We Anglicans have the right to claim the use of the Rosary as a part of our ancestral inheritance, unless we are to assume that the Reformation cut us off permanently from all that it did not preserve--a theory which would ultimately land us in the baldest kind of Protestantism. Devotion to our Lady and the use of the Rosary were deeply characteristic of English mediaeval life.
And the Rosary has much to be said for it as a flexible mode of devotion. It adapts itself to the simplicity of the child, it is able to express the spiritual experience of the saint. When people speak scornfully of it as childish and trivial and fit only for the ignorant, they would do well to recall the fact that for centuries the greatest saints of the Catholic Church have found it a practical and useful form of devotional experience. It is of great educational value. The Fifteen Mysteries which are the basis of it keep before the mind the essential facts of the Christian religion. No one who says the Rosary constantly can be ignorant of these. The child learns these in an unforgettable way. The adult who constantly meditates upon them is assimilating the essence of the Gospel story. The Rosary can be said simply and quickly, with special intention; it can be meditated slowly and devoutly, that the Mysteries of the Gospel may saturate the soul. Its elements, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria Patri, and the Hail Mary, bring before one the primary elements of Christian belief and practice. Are those who object to its use, as a matter of fact, teaching any form of devotion which can compare with it in educational value?
THE two chief means for the presentation of the Catholic religion are instruction and worship. As to the latter I think we may frankly say that the traditional method in use in the Protestant Episcopal Church is not a success. I say the traditional method because I do not believe that it is the method necessarily imposed by the Book of Common Prayer. There is nothing in the Prayer Book which demands or suggests the exaltation of Morning Prayer into the place of the chief act of worship of the week. It is our misfortune that formularies and offices which are perfectly Catholic in their form and meaning were soon deflected from their intention by the wave of Protestantism which swept over the Church soon after they were published. The consequence was that a Protestant interpretation soon became imposed upon the language of the formularies and that this interpretation has been largely taken for granted as their necessary meaning. This interpretation is very difficult of reconciliation with the language of the formularies themselves; yet, even after a century of struggle to vindicate the Catholicity of the Anglican Communion, a majority of the membership of the Church clings obstinately to the Protestant tradition, as against the true meaning of the formularies.
One result of this has been the unnatural exaltation of Morning Prayer to the place of the chief act of Sunday worship. Whether from a practical or from a theological point of view, there is nothing to be said for this emphasis upon Matins. All that can be said for it is that people obstinately cling to it, not because of its proved excellence, but because they are used to it; and to replace it the parish priest has to battle with the intrenched prejudices of generations, prejudices which are strengthened by fear and dislike of anything Catholic. If, however, the advance of the Church in the direction of intelligent Catholicity is to continue, the sine qua non is the displacement of Matins by Mass. The Book of Common Prayer provides, putting it in the lowest terms, for a daily Mass, and requires a weekly Mass at lowest. The whole theory and history of Catholic worship requires the Sunday Mass as the chief act of worship of the congregation. This theoretical and traditional requirement is not met by the Sunday low Mass. That Mass is provided, not to meet the obligation of the worshipping congregation, but to afford opportunity for communion, such as the circumstances of modern life require. It cannot be claimed that parochial requirements of worship are, met by the low Mass. We have to face the facts, and the facts are that the congregation of Christ's Church in this place is not and will not be at the early Mass; and that they are not expected to be there is shown by the provision of a later service where they are expected to be. This later service is the principal service of the day, the corporate act of worship of the congregation; but by all Catholic tradition this corporate act of worship ought to be the Mass, and in the meaning of the Anglican formularies the Mass it should be.
No doubt the authors of the Anglican formularies intended that Mass should be preceded by Matins and Litany, but experience soon showed that this was an unworkable ideal. The Protestant party complained that the service so ordered was "longsome," and the result was that the Mass was in time practically discarded, until it became a rare event in parochial life and Matins and Litany took its place. This, of course, could not have happened unless people had ceased to believe in the Mass as the chief act of worship and come to regard it as a means of occasional approach to God. In consequence, with the spread of Protestant influences, there was a loss of belief in the Real Presence and a consequent loss of the sense of the value of communion; and the end was the eighteenth century laxity, and celebrations of the Holy Communion in most places not oftener than three times a year.
It was from this degradation of the notion of worship and this abandonment of the Catholic ideal that the Oxford Movement started to rescue us. It based itself upon a belief in the continuity of the Anglican Church, as reformed, with the Church of the past--on the essential identity of its teaching with the teaching of the Church in all ages, and on the essentially Catholic character of the Anglican formularies. It held that the laxity in belief and practice which it found dominant in the Anglican Communion was due, not to loyalty to the Anglican Reformation, but to a misunderstanding of the formularies and a failure to carry their meaning into practice. In the matter of worship, it could not be that a Church which provided for a daily Mass was other than grievously misrepresented by a communion three times a year.
The first step of the Oxford Movement in this matter was the attempt to restore frequency of communion; it being felt, and rightly felt, that what was urgently needed was a stimulus to the spiritual life. It was soon seen that this was only a step forward, that the needs of the Church demanded the full restoration of Catholic worship; that the one service which our Lord had commanded could not rightly be displaced by a merely human service, but must be made the chief service of the Lord's Day. This remains the Catholic ideal, though imperfectly asserted by many Catholic priests for reasons which we have not to discuss in this place.
What to me at present seems to need emphasizing is the obligation of congregational worship, the fact that the members of a given parish constitute a unit in the Body of Christ and are a worshipping whole, that from them as a body is due a united act of worship. Naturally, this is not recognized by Protestants; unnaturally, it is not recognized by many Catholics. On analysis it turns out that Catholics seem as little to recognize parochial obligation in this matter as Protestants. They content themselves with a parochial routine that gives opportunity for communion but leaves the chief act of worship Matins. Such a parochial system one must consider far from ideal. It may, no doubt, be said that under modern conditions we cannot have the ideal--that a parochial High Mass with a communicating congregation is impossible, unless the obligations of proper preparation are sacrificed. That is no doubt true, but we can approximate the ideal, we can have the Solemn Mass as an act of parochial worship, while communions are made at early Masses. We can insist upon a parochial obligation, as something over and above the obligation of the private Christian, and that this obligation involves the obligation of corporate worship. One cannot look with favor upon the growing tendency to find one's whole Sunday obligation fulfilled in twenty minutes at a Low Mass, and often not even communicating. I know it will be insisted that attendance at Mass does fulfil one's obligation. One's obligation as a private Christian, possibly; but one's obligation as a member of a parish? And is it really the teaching of the Catholic Church? Is the twenty minutes at Mass on Sunday morning all the meaning that Sunday has for a Christian?
No doubt the more Masses there are in a parish, the better. It is desirable to give every one in the parish an opportunity to communicate as often as he wants to. This need is at the back of the Prayer Book provision for a daily Mass. There is also the need, a need that I think is growingly felt among us, for votive Masses of one sort and another. The increasing desire for Requiem Masses is one of the most promising signs of our Church life, and the desire to offer the Holy Sacrifice with special intention indicates an increasing understanding of the meaning of the Sacrifice among our people. This increasing appreciation of the Mass is undoubtedly making it easier everywhere to introduce the late Mass; but ought we to wait until it is easier? There are many things in parochial administration which are matters of expediency, but our Lord's command, as understood by all Catholic Christendom, can hardly be considered such. A priest entering upon the work of a new parish may not be bound to introduce the late Mass on the first Sunday of his rectorship, but is he not bound to make it clear that he is going to introduce it? Certainly he may not go on year after year, ostensibly preparing for something that never takes places. One knows of parishes which have been prepared for the late Mass for a great many years, without any realization of their ideal.
As an act of parochial worship and as the principal spiritual event of the day, the late Mass is properly presented with an elaboration that is not desirable at the early Mass. In the one case, simplicity and brevity are desirable; in the other, we may assume ampler time and the desirability of the use of the full traditional ceremonial of the Mass. We are conceding altogether too much to modern spiritual sloth in assuming that we must limit the morning worship of Sunday to an hour or an hour and a quarter. What we should aim at is, not to make the service as short as possible, but as interesting as possible. People are not restless at the theater or opera, though the entertainment last for three hours. They will remain through the presentation of a play or a picture because they are interested. If a sermon is dull and a service utterly unattractive, less than an hour will wear out the patience of the congregation; but with an interesting sermon and a properly presented Mass the congregation will stay any reasonable length of time quite gladly. There is no reason why people should be bored in church. If they are bored, there is something the matter either with their religion or with what goes on in the presentation of it.
It would be amusing, if it were not tragic, the enormous stress that, during the last century, has been laid upon ceremonial in the Anglican Communion--a stress out of all proportion to the importance of the subject. Ceremonial is good manners in worship and ought to be taken for granted, as good manners are in other departments of life. In social intercourse it is never a question of good manners or no manners, but of good manners or bad. So in the conduct of public worship it is not a question of ceremonial or no ceremonial. Ceremonial of some sort there must be--the only question is what sort; and the most ardent anti-ceremonialist has fixed habits in the conduct of services, usually the habits of the Church circle in which he grew up. He is as much a ritualist as his advanced brother. The true question about ceremonial is, "How much, and what sort?"
It is not as though we had some degree and sort prescribed. The formularies of worship of the American Church obviously proceed upon the assumption that the clergy know how to conduct public worship, unless we are to assume that the framers of our services thought it of no importance how they were conducted. The minimum of liturgical direction contained in these formularies is insufficient to guide one through any service set forth. If the service is to be performed, certain things must be done, certain garments must be worn, certain positions must be taken; but what these shall be cannot be fully known from the rubrical directions. Yet priest and people must in some way determine what they are to do. The direction in the English book pointing back to what was done at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI is valuable to this extent, that it assumes the existence of a traditional ceremonial which was to go on and to be applied to the new Prayer Book offices, as far as it could. Under Protestant influence, ancient ceremonial (like many other things ancient in the Church) went by the board and was more and more forgotten, until you arrived at the slovenliness of the eighteenth century. No directions were given at any time as to ceremonies. For nearly four centuries now the Churches of the Anglican Communion have made no attempt to order services. The clergy have been left to their own devices, with the naturally-to-be-expected anarchical results. Authority has occasionally intervened, not intelligently to order services, but to complain of this or that thing done by individual priests, as "disloyal" or "Romanizing." Possibly, under the circumstances, this is not altogether to be regretted. One is afraid that a Congregation of Bites set up at any time in the last century might have led to results in the way of ceremonial that are awful to contemplate.
What, then, is the much perplexed priest to do? It has been held that, assuming the Ecclesia Anglicana to be a self-sufficient part of the Church Catholic and taking seriously its claim to continuity with the pre-Reformation Church, we should go back and try to establish what was the ceremonial in England at the time of the Reformation, and that we should strive to revive this as the distinct Anglican use. Laudable attempts have been made to discover what was the "Sarum Use" and to apply this to our present needs.
I think we must confess that the attempt has something to say for itself in theory, but is a failure in practice. The logic of events has made it impossible. If the ceremonial revival which marked the second stage of the Oxford Movement had consciously and intelligently based itself on the revival of ancient English ceremonial, it might have succeeded in such revival; but it did not. For one thing, there was no adequate knowledge of ancient English ceremonial available, and the earlier ceremonial adventures of the Oxford leaders show a strange and indeed pathetic ignorance of ceremonial detail--a fact that could be illustrated by the Anglican adventures with the stole. In consequence, we have had what we might expect, strange ceremonial activities which principally evidence zeal without knowledge. We have had what is worse, Churchmanship tested by ceremonial. A priest who said to a friend of mine, "I am High Church, I wear a colored stole," was perhaps an extreme case, but in principle frequent enough. So we have had demonstrations of Churchmanship running the whole gamut from colored book-marks up to fiddle-back chasubles.
Without rubrical directions which make it possible to carry on the stated services, without a traditional ceremonial as guide, without the aid of any sort of authority directing, what is the parish priest to do? Even the most convinced anti-ceremonialist is to-day a good way off from the practice of his Early-Victorian ancestors of a century ago. I think without exaggeration we can say that he has accepted Catholic ceremonial in the degree in which he is convinced that it is not "Catholic."
My own feeling is that, whatever may be said theoretically for a special Anglican use (and it can be said that such a use would probably arouse less antagonism than what is understood to be Roman), it is wholly impracticable. The fact is that the early Oxford men who began the ceremonial revival made individualistic selection from the contemporary Roman use, with the result that such ceremonial as prevails at present is Roman or, to use a perhaps less irritating word, Western. Their action was individualistic and, under the circumstances, could hardly be other. The result is that hardly do any two parishes agree in ceremonial detail. There is nothing very serious about this, though it irritates those who are endowed with the Latin temperament, which places uniformity and order before all else. The most serious effect of this diversity of use is the consequent perplexity of the laity, who are wont to assume that there must be some ceremonial which is right and other that is wrong, not understanding that in these matters there are no absolute values.
The chief objection, to my mind, against any attempt to go back to a traditional English use, apart from the difficulty of finding such use, is the fact that ceremonial (like other worth-while things) is living. Study and experience lead to constant changes. Ceremonial develops because it is a reflection of a devotional experience. The drama of the Mass remains essentially unchanged from century to century; its great moments are fixed. This is true of any use, ancient or modern; but in detail changes are from time to time made which are intended to emphasize expression or to facilitate effective rendering. This change of detail is the mark of a living ceremonial, the reflection of a conscious experience. It is such variations in rendering, such improvements, if you will, of ceremonial that a Congregation of Rites concerns itself with. With us, each priest is his own Congregation of Rites. The results are not all that can be desired. Is it not, therefore, the part of common sense to make use of the living experience of the Western Church, to adopt and adapt to our present conditions what it has found useful and desirable? This, no doubt, exposes us to criticism from all sides, but there are worse things than that to support. We would recommend, therefore, the study of Western use and its frank adoption as far as the circumstances admit. This gives us a definite rule, and has the advantage of following the simplest rite. It would be helpful if a congregation of priests could be formed to agree upon a uniform use, so that, whatever amount of ceremonial was used, it should--as far as it went--be of a certain type.
Here we meet the practical difficulty of our peculiar circumstances. How much ought one to press ceremonial and how much ought one to introduce? There is, of course, a certain minimum of ceremonial that any Catholic priest will insist upon: such matters as vestments, mixed chalice, ablution, etc. belong to the decent and orderly rendering of the Mass and will be introduced in any case. How far beyond necessary things the priest shall go will depend upon local circumstances. My own feeling and experience is that most of the ceremonial of the Mass can be introduced without much difficulty and without arousing opposition of a serious nature. I am not concerned so much with the amount as with the sort of ceremonial introduced. That is where we need the standard, that we shall all travel the same road in ceremonial development. To try to get rid of individualism and to conform to some type is the ground for the adoption of Western ceremonial.
The attempt at uniformity as far as we go need not carry us to any extremes. It is not necessary to worry as to whether a chasuble is of a particular shade of red or purple. There are no "ecclesiastical colors," in this sense. The number of lights is not fixed. Things of that sort remain open. Color and light are the important things. It is to be desired, however, that positions should be uniform, as they impress the congregation, and variations in these matters are perplexing.
A different parochial question, which can only be decided by local conditions in the individual case, is the amount of tolerance we are to show toward ignorance and prejudice. How far are we bound by the law of charity? Certainly not so far as to give up a service our Lord commanded, because certain ignorant members of a congregation object to the late Mass. A period of instruction, no doubt, preparatory to the action, but no more than that. In unessential things one may go a little farther, always guarding lest one be governed by timidity and sloth in one's conduct, rather than by charity. I do not think that in most cases there is very much difficulty in introducing into a parish all that is essential in Catholic teaching and practice. I myself have never known a case in which a priest who gained by his personal qualities the confidence and esteem of his people was unable to carry them with him in the ceremonial presentment of the services. It takes a little time to win confidence in one's leadership, but that gained one can go on.
As little should be made of ceremonial as possible. It should not be constantly put forward and emphasized and talked about. Its devotional value should be stressed. If the emphasis all through one's conduct of parish life is placed where it belongs, on devotional and spiritual values, if it is evident that these are what is sought in all the priest does, he may count on the loyalty and support of his congregation as a whole; and when the parish as a whole is loyal it will be difficult for one or two persons to make trouble. The "Parish Pope," I fancy, is a rare character. I have often read of him, but I never have in experience encountered him. If he really exist, it ought not to be very difficult to eliminate him.
AS WE look out upon the present plight of marriage and family life in the modern world, we are inclined to ask ourselves the question, Why should the Church have anything to do with marriage? Apparently hundreds of marriages have not the remotest connection with the Christian religion or with any religion. Why should they be solemnized in a church by a priest, rather than in a municipal building by a justice of the peace? It is not immediately obvious why the Church should concern herself with marriages any more than with business partnerships, clubs, lodges, railroad trains, or transatlantic liners. The reason becomes evident however as soon as we ask a further question, Why should the Church take any interest in human beings'?
The answer to this question is simple enough. The Church is not some sort of an ossified organism which is being preserved in a vacuum. The Church is indeed a divine organism, the mystical Body of Christ, but it is an organism which is alive. It functions in the midst of the world of men and women primarily for their sake. The Church endeavors to bring all human beings within her sacred inclosures as early in their lives as possible, for the purpose of regenerating them in the waters of baptism, strengthening them with spiritual gifts, nourishing them with spiritual food, protecting them from error, filling their minds with truth, and guiding their feet into the way of peace. The Church seeks to sanctify and save all who come within the sphere of her influence. She claims them for God, along with their possessions, interests and ambitions. The Church knows by divine instinct that human life without God is empty, feeble and futile.
For the same reason the Church is ever ready and eager to bless and sanctify all human relationships and activities. Like the ancient Roman writer, she can say humani nihil a me alienum puto. Some of the transatlantic liners have been christened and blessed by the Church, and employ regular chaplains who say Mass on board every day. On most British ships the Church of England Office of Matins is rendered by officers and crew on every Lord's Day. Would that they had a chaplain to say Mass! It would not be wholly unsuitable for a business corporation, if composed of real Christians, to open its business every morning with prayer. Its official staff might attend Mass in a body once a month to ask for God's guidance and blessing on all their undertakings. In the Middle Ages the guilds of the various crafts and the merchant guilds were largely religious organizations. Their members often attended a Mass which was offered for the guild, and each guild had a chaplain.
On the same principle, the Church is abundantly justified in bringing the institution of marriage and the whole marriage relationship within the range of her jurisdiction. Under the Czarist régime in Russia, a Russian bishop who objected to a royal marriage on the ground that it was contrary to God's law, was told to mind his own business. He replied that that was what he was doing. Marriage is a relationship sanctioned and commended by Christ. Indeed, He appeared to depart from His usual practice by laying down definite requirements and restrictions to be observed by His followers in the matter of marriage. It was to be indissoluble except by death. No true follower of Christ was to marry one who had been divorced. Those whom God had joined together no. man was to put asunder. From the beginning the Church taught that Christian marriage was a sacrament. This meant that when a baptized man took a baptized woman to be his wife, an indissoluble spiritual bond was created by God and this new spiritual relationship was to be a means of grace for both husband and wife. In this case the man and the woman were the ministers of the sacrament. The priest who officiated did not perform the sacrament; he simply gave the blessing of the Church upon their union. The Church does not bless all marriages--those between unbelievers, for instance, or those between divorced people--but only those of baptized people which are contracted as God's Word doth allow.
Another reason why the Church concerns herself with marriage is that she is supremely interested in the creation of a Christian home, because that is the best milieu ever devised for the birth of children and their proper training and development into future citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Christian family supplies the most promising material for the increase and building up of the Body of Christ. The Church regenerates all infants brought to her to be christened, and makes them thereby partakers of the divine nature. But this new life is likely to come to nothing unless children are nurtured in a Christian home and grow up under the influence of Christian teaching and example from both father and mother. The ideal Christian home is a far more useful adjunct to the Church than even a perfect Christian school, for the first six years in the life of a child will largely determine his whole future character and destiny.
It is not only because marriage is a sacrament that the Church is able to reach out and bless the marriage relationship, but also because as a result of the Incarnation, conjugal love has become a new thing. A new principle of life entered into the world when Jesus Christ was born of Mary. As a consequence of this principle of life permeating human nature, love could no longer remain mere physical passion nor sentimental fancy. Wherever the Spirit of Christ rules, love is a sacred and mysterious relationship between two spiritual beings which enables them not merely to live together, but to form a new social unit of an otherworldly character, and to be God's instruments for bringing new lives into the world and fitting them for eternity. The dominant principle of this new union is self-sacrifice, for it can be a success only in so far as the husband and the wife can by the grace of God learn to decentralize themselves. We must not make the mistake of supposing that marriage was originated by the Christian Church. As an institution it is as old as the human race, but it was taken over by the Church and immeasurably spiritualized and exalted.
One of the most valuable contributions that Christianity has made to the life of the race is this spiritualizing of human love. It is a process that has been continued through the centuries since Christianity became a force in the world after the conversion of Constantine. Aside from the gift of grace in the sacrament of marriage and the broad influence of the teachings of Christ upon the relations of men and women, we may attribute this spiritualizing of human love to three main causes. First came the exaltation of virginity and motherhood which followed everywhere from the widespread veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reverence paid to her as the Mother of God by the converted citizens of the Roman Empire and also by the newly converted barbarian races did unquestionably bring about a higher estimation of women in European civilization. Someone has said that if the worship and veneration of the young nations of Europe, instead of being directed to Christ and His Blessed Mother, had been given to Bacchus and Venus, the future history of Europe would have been quite other than it was.
The second cause is the rise of chivalry during the ages of faith. Under the influence of chivalry the love of ladies became magnified almost into a religion. Although it was accompanied by much irregularity and license, yet in the main it led to the refinement of sexual passion and lifted it to a higher plane than the physical. Many a chivalrous knight of the Middle Ages learned by experience that the true joy of love consisted not in physical gratification, but in the loyalties and idealisms which were generated in his soul by devotion to his lady.
The third cause is Christian asceticism. The fact that all through the centuries there have been multitudes of men and women who have thoroughly controlled their bodies by means of ascetic discipline and have consecrated themselves to spiritual interests, has had an incalculable effect in spiritualizing the relations of men and women in the married state. The vowed celibate was a living witness to his brethren in the world that it was possible to keep the desires and instincts of the body in complete subordination to the higher purposes of life.
If the Catholic Church has been right all through the ages in treating marriage as a means of conveying grace, then marriage should be prepared for by faith and repentance on the part of the recipients of this sacramental grace. They should not be encouraged to enter into it lightly, but "reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God." They should receive instruction from their priest as to the meaning of the gift of grace which is about to be bestowed upon them. They should cleanse their souls by receiving the sacrament of penance. They should make their communions together, if not at a nuptial Mass, at least at a Mass on the morning of the day on which their marriage takes place.
When we compare with this minimum of reasonable requirements the actual state of mind and soul in which many men and women approach Holy Matrimony, we are compelled to admit that our actual practice falls far short of the Christian ideal. Many so-called society marriages, which take place in fashionable churches, are little more than acts of sacrilege. They profane not only the church in which they take place and the altar before which they are solemnized, but they are also an insult to the Holy Spirit who conveys the grace of the sacrament.
The clergy have much to repent of in this matter. What should we say of a priest who would admit people' to Holy Communion regardless of their spiritual and moral attitude? They might be unbelievers or living in habitual sin. Would he invite them with a laugh and a joke on his lips to approach the altar and receive the Bread of Life? Obviously this would be a sacrilege. Yet if marriage is a sacrament the clergy are often guilty of profanation and irreverence of almost as serious a character. What shall we say of those who maintain on a large scale a center for dispensing the grace of matrimony and reap an immense annual revenue from their sacrilegious acts?
Perhaps the fact that so many marriages are sacrilegious and an offense against the Holy Spirit, supplies the explanation of the falling away from religion that is so often noticeable in newly married couples. Those who make unworthy communions, not discerning the Lord's Body, will, according to St. Paul, suffer spiritual harm and ultimate loss of faith (or perhaps physical death) unless they repent. Surely the same dangers are in store for those who receive the sacramental grace of marriage without a proper moral and spiritual disposition. What wonder that they rarely appear in church and that they give little heed to any of the obligations of religion until later in life when children come, or when serious trouble descends upon their homes.
If we are to continue to treat marriage as if it were a civil ceremony, would it not be better to give up having marriages in our churches and advocate state marriages? It is really a function that properly belongs to the state. The Church should have nothing to do with uniting people promiscuously in marriage bonds which they have no intention of observing. That is a prostitution of the Church's powers. It would be far better to have the state perform all marriages and then permit those who are Christians to come to the Church for an ecclesiastical marriage in order that they may make their vows before the altar, and that their union may receive the blessing of God.