"The standpoint of Ritual Notes, ever since its first publication in 1894, has been the clothing of the services of the Prayer book with the ceremonial taken from that of the Roman Church, and their embellishment with additional features taken from that same souce."
So writes the author of the venerable reference to generations of Anglo-Catholics - Ritual Notes.
When we talk about liturgy in the Great Anglo-Catholic Tradition, the restoration of Catholic worship, dignity, theology, and practice to the spartan protestant leaning tendency of that which afflicted Anglican worship for several centuries, those of us who embrace and cherish this worship tradition are often criticized for having somehow abandoned the Prayer Book tradition, and by implication the long continuity of worship tradition in the British Isles, going back to either St. Augustine of Canterbury or even the fanciful and un-provable allegations of St. Paul's visit to England.
The reality is that the so-called Prayer Book tradition was in itself an innovation. A decided new item in terms of worship in the British Isles, and unlike what existed before. Anyone who has ever attended the Sarum Mass can clearly attest that the Prayer Book Holy Communion seems a profoundly distant cousin. Worship in pre-reformation England was much more similar to the Mass promulgated by the Council of Trent than to the BCP.
As we continue on our current path, waiting expectantly for the canonical erection of the Ordinariate for the US, and seeing it up and running, we continue on our current path of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in parishes with a rich and vibrant Missal tradition, we do so with greater connection and continuity with the rest of the Catholic World, through the various Missals in use.
In addition to serving as Senior Warden of our parish, I am the normal Master of Ceremonies for our parish.
When I first came to our parish, I had the common misconception of many who look from a distance at the glorious intricacy of worship in the best Anglo-Catholic tradition as somehow being a "put on" where people were more concerned about what was done, than they were about worshipping God.
I quickly came to realize that type of concern can indeed afflict any type of liturgy, but does not, per se, infest "high church" worship.
What I have found is that if the people are well grounded spiritually, then there is a remarkable amount of freedom to be found in not having to "craft" liturgy. To simply "do the red and say the black" and flesh out the motions with venerable resources such as Fr. Fortescue'sCeremonies of the Roman Rite Described or Ritual Notes allows the focus to be properly directed.
One of the greatest benefits I find, is that following an objective standard, takes the individuality out of the Mass. It is no longer Father Smith's Mass, but Father Smith, by following the objective standard of how to say Mass, does not express his individuality, but rather simply becomes a central figure in the great drama that is the Mass, the re-presentation of Calvary, where the priest stands not as himself, but in the person of our Blessed Lord and lends his voice to Christ.