The "English Use"


Fr. Bartus recently wrote about the importance of the English Baroque style of liturgics in Anglo-Catholicism and Ordinariate worship.  To many traditionally minded Catholics this liturgy looks a lot like the Extraordinary Form and they wonder what place it has in the Ordinariate.  As Fr. Bartus pointed out, this liturgical style is a legitimate form of Anglican Patrimony, celebrated and loved by many of the men and women who paved the way for Ordinariate.

I, however, would consider myself part of the Gothic or "English Use" Anglo-Catholic tradition that relied heavily on the traditions of the Sarum Use liturgy used until the middle of Edward VI's reign when the Book of Common Prayer replaced it in 1549. I prefer a simple(r) altar with two candles and bright colors and fabrics surrounding it.  I prefer gothic vestments over roman (fiddlebacks).  I am more interested in what the Sarum missal has to say about the music and proper liturgies of feast days than the Tridentine Missal.

Yet, despite this preference, I have a background in the English Baroque Anglo-Catholic liturgy.  The parish that played a large part of my formation in seminary was The Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes in Washington D.C.  This parish used the Anglican Missal, which borrowed heavily from the Roman Missal as it stood before the Holy Week reforms.  Our vestments were made in France and you could tell that by looking at them.  We referred to either Ritual Notes or Fortesue's Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described more than any ancient English manual.
ASA on Easter Sunday

In the midst of the ceremonial  I was mentored by the associate priest, the late Fr. Ronald Conner, who dismissed almost everything that happened in continental Europe after the Counter-Reformation.  He could tell you off the top of his head what the Sarum Missal said to do in every circumstance, and to fill in the holes, he studied Eastern liturgies under Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  The Sarum Missal contained much of the cross pollination of the Eastern Rites before the fall of Constantinople .  Procession after procession, long litanies and troped everything was almost as common in Sarum as it was in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  A working knowledge of the Byzantine rites helps you understand how to put some of the strange rubrics of the Sarum missal into practice.

Yet despite (or perhaps because of) this mixed background I emerged as an Ordinariate priest just as comfortable with the English Baroque liturgics as with the "English Use" style.  My love of the Eastern liturgies has only grown with time and I was blessed to be able to concelebrate the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at a Ruthenian parish on my third Sunday as a Catholic priest.

Given the prevalence of the English Baroque style in the Ordinariate, I have made a conscious attempt to preserve the "English Use" in my Ordinariate community along with many of the distinctive "low church" elements of the Anglican Patrimony such as tippets and academic hoods.  You will, however, find elements of the Baroque in our worship.  I have plenty of fiddlebacks, because on a limited budget you can get traditional looking fiddlebacks with ancient  symbols or some pretty ugly gothic chasubles.  I have altar cards because I need all the help I can get keeping the words straight switching between the Book of Divine Worship and the Roman Missal on a daily basis.

We are at work on building up our chapel.  We look like this now:
St. Gregory the Great Ordinariate Chapel on Christmas Eve

but we are on our way towards making the altar look like this:
 

We will be one of the few "English Use" groups around, but that doesn't make us the most Anglican of the Ordinariate parishes, it just means we are a different side of the same coin that was the Catholic revival in Anglicanism.

 

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