February 8, 2013

Liturgical Note

It is helpful to note that the 1662 BCP marriage service, while making reference to the "cause" of procreation in its opening exhortation, when it comes to the couple actually marrying, directs that the collect bidding that the couple "may both be fruitful in procreation of children" "shall be omitted, where the Woman is past child-bearing."

Thus the 1662 liturgy explicitly recognizes that while procreation is a "cause" for the creation of the institution of marriage, it need not be a reason for the particular marriage of a all real couples. This represents a healthy movement from idealism to realism.

The first American BCP was even more realistic, and omitted any reference to procreation, focusing entirely on the couple. It wasn't until 1928 that an optional prayer for "the gift and heritage of children" appeared in the Episcopal liturgy. And, to my mind to its detriment, a revised version of the 1662 preface on the "causes" of the institution crept back into our liturgy with the 1979 book.

Make of this what you will, but the liturgical history clearly demonstrates that capacity for procreation has not been a limiting factor in Anglican marriage for centuries.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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