It seems that the inter-generational cultural war over what constitutes Tradition has reached the pages of New Directions. Fr Alan Cooke raises some interesting points in his letter in the May issue, responding to the feature on ‘The Young Tractarians’ the previous month. As a fellow old’un, I beg to differ with Fr Cooke, and am delighted to see a renewed emphasis on the best of our Anglican Liturgical inheritance, that is, the Prayer Book and English Missal, taking its place within the richness of the wider western tradition.
If the authors of the BCP and the Tridentine Rites were mistaken in claiming early Christian precedence for their Liturgies, then so, we are coming to understand, are those who claim the same for our contemporary rites, whether the Roman Missal or sections of Common Worship. The search for the text of an ideal pure early Eucharistic rite ignores linguistic and geographical variations; and is as fruitless as the search for a lost pure Gospel behind the Synoptics. To describe the BCP as lacking a coherent Eucharistic Prayer not only risks cutting off the Branch on which we have been sitting since 1549, but also creates an idealised, somewhat ahistorical notion of what such a prayer should be, and ignores Augustinian and Thomist understandings of what actually constitutes a Eucharistic Canon.
Many of us too have rediscovered the Prayer Book Offices, whether stretched into the Anglican Breviary, or enriched in the form published by St Stephen’s House, to be a refreshing and solidly rooted approach to Daily Prayer, that avoids the triviality, stale language and bewilderingly unhelpful range of options of more recent versions. While I suspect the Prayer Book stream will remain a minority tradition alongside contemporary Rites for our constituency, nonetheless, to the question, ‘Is this really a help to Catholic Christians in the twenty-first Century?’, the answer, most definitely, is Yes.
The Rev’d Canon David Burrows SSC
Rector of St Mary’s and All Saints, Elland
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