« AnteriorContinuar »
the Russian Revolution began have given to the Church a better appreciation of its ideals. On the other hand the hostile intelligentsia, tried in the balance and found even more utterly wanting in their humanitarian dreams of it is reported, coming to see in part at least, the imposan earthly paradise without the shackles of religion, are, sibility of many of their positions and are being reconciled with the Church. If so, there is hope that the new period of Russian literature will not be marked by the same disregard for religion and its influence on human affairs; worthily represent a restored and revivified Holy Russia. and that the post-Revolutionary Russian literature will
Undoing the Reformation
REV. H. BAXTER LIEBLER
ROM time to time in the course of the Church's life, and especially when projects for Prayer Book revision or enrichment are under discussion, there arises the cry that the ritualists are trying to undo the Reformation. Under the stress of the excitement attendant upon meetings of Convention, people are likely to take up such a cry without thinking out thoroughly just what it involves. I am convinced that there is a tendency in the Church to undo the Reformation. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that many of the common practices tolerated today in parishes of the Episcopal Church are clean contrary to fundamental principles deliberately adopted by the Reformers. But it is not at all clear that the ritualists have been the prime movers in bringing this condition about.
The Reformation in England, as a movement, covered nearly a century and a half. Its principles, as distinguished from the personal opinions of individual reform
ers, are laid down in the Prefaces, and worked out in the Prayer Books published from the year 1549 to 1662.
Without now raising the question of the fallibility or otherwise of the Reformation, it must be apparent that any principles contrary to those there promulgated, are, consciously or unconsciously, rightly or wrongly, attempts to "undo the Reformation." Let us briefly compare these principles with some tendencies that have made themselves felt in the Church in more recent times.
THE DIVINE OFFICE.
The Divine Office as used in the pre-Reformation Church of England was the outgrowth of the parochial and monastic custom of reading the Psalms and other Scriptures as acts of praise, supplementary to the Church's one great act of worship, the Eucharist. In the course of the ages these services, eight in number, had grown very long and complicated, so that it was with difficulty that even a learned man could follow the devotions. The regular recitation of the Psalter had been interrupted, the Scripture lessons interspersed with or replaced by legends of doubtful value and historicity, and a most confusing custom had been introduced of adding Commemorations at the end of each office, prolonging it almost indefinitely.
The following was, roughly, the plan adopted to remedy these undesirable features.
The Psalter was divided into sixty, instead of seven, parts, one to be said in the morning and one in the evening of each day in the month. This was felt to be rather radical, but the underlying principle, that the Psalter ought to be read through regularly from beginning to end, was considered of sufficient importance to justify the departure.
All lessons not from Holy Scripture were deleted, and an order set forth whereby, without vain repetitions, the
whole Old Testament should be read through yearly once and the New Testament twice.
The offices were reduced to two in number, and ended with the collect for the day and two other collects.
How far are these fundamental principles of reform carried out among us today? In nine out of ten parishes the "Psalms for the day" are in reality the "Psalms for the Sunday," and perhaps only one-seventh of the Psalter is read "and oft repeated, and the rest utterly omitted."* The permission to use "Selections of Psalms," and the proposal of the Revision Commission to allow "one or more" of the Psalms for the day is a further departure from the primitive and godly rule for the recitation of the Psalter.
In spite of the "Plea for an Extended Lectionary” in a recent number of the Atlantic Monthly, there has been but little sentiment in favor of reading anything except Holy Scripture in the lessons. But not so conservative are we with regard to the avoidance of "vain repetitions." write in the middle of July; and in the past two months we have read of St. Paul's conversion no less than four times. Last Sunday night we read of Samuel's initiation to the mystic life, and, as if to guard against any mistake having crept in, we proceded to read it over again to our people Monday morning. Again and again this hangover appears.
The Reformation idea of returning to primitive practice and making the Offices end with a few collects died before the movement itself was complete. The early reformers took off responds, commemorations and synodals; and the late reformers, the Fathers of 1661, added the Prayers for the King, the Royal Family, the Clergy and People, and that "of St. Chrysostom"; and our own Church has transferred to this place the long Prayer for all Conditions of
*Quoted from the complaint of the Reformers, in the Preface of the Prayer Book of 1549.
Men, and the General Thanksgiving-enough to make the Reformers feel their labours utterly vain!
The multitude of Canticles in the mediaeval offices were felt to be a burden, so the reformers reduced them to four at Matins and two at Evensong. We have to content ourselves with five at Morning Prayer and six at Evening Prayer, of which three and two, respectively, are to be used at a given service. No wonder visitors "can't find the place!" We have been undoing the Reformation.
THE EUCHARIST AND COMMUNION.
The service par excellence, that of the people for Sunday worship in the mediaeval Church of England, was the Mass. Unfortunately, however, the communion of the people, except at Easter, was unusual. The reformers felt this to be an abuse of Christ's institution, and desired to substitute as the main service of every Sunday a vernacular Mass, at which some person or persons in addition to the priest should receive Holy Communion. To this end the Church relaxed her discipline regarding confession, somewhat as the Roman Catholic Church is doing at the present time. She allowed the faithful to receive Holy Communion without previous confession, if they were certain that they had not, since their last confession, committed mortal sin. That the Mass, and not Matins, was intended as the main service of every Sunday, should appear from the fact that it was there that the notices of holy days and fasting-days, the banns of matrimony, and the sermon or homily were to be given.
The result of this policy was two-fold. First, the idea that some one should receive at every mass led to the idea that if no one wished to receive there should be no mass at all. The people did not want to receive frequently, so instead of substituting mass with communion for mass without communion, they lost the mass altogether. As the
people wanted some service, and a sermon, Morning Prayer was adapted to this need, the sermon and notices (unofficially, of course) transferred to that office, and we have today the absolutely Counter-Reformation phenomenon of the "regular Episcopal Service" of Morning Prayer with sermon. Could the undoing of the Reformation go further?
The second result was that the people, being permitted, under certain circumstances, to go to Communion without previous confession, lost sight of the obligation of making their confessions at all. As a result, many of those who are the first to cry against the ritualist's "undoing the Reformation," not only would not accept the Reformation's discipline regarding confession, but stoutly maintain that "the Episcopal Church does not believe in confession."
Not only in rites, but in ceremonies, do we hear the cry. The restoration of the surplice in the pulpit, lights and vestments at the altar, bowings, crossings, and knockings, have all been greeted and fiercely opposed as undermining our Reformation heritage, and furnishing wedges for the reinduction of Papal power. The Reformation ruling on the subject is briefly contained in the Rubric of the present Church of England Prayer Book, to the effect that "such ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and had in use, as were in this Church of England, by the authority of Parliament in the Second Year of the Reign of King Edward the Sixth." As the year in question ended January 27, 1549, more than four months before the appearance of the first English Prayer Book, it can only have reference to the ornaments used in the preReformation Church. Consequently the restoration of