May 2, 2016

Great Cloud of Confusion

There is a good deal of confusion in some quarters concerning the status of the commemorations in Holy Women, Holy Men and the forthcoming Great Cloud of Witnesses. This confusion stems in part from the commendable desire felt by many clergy obediently “to conform to the ... Worship of the... Church,” and uphold the principle of common prayer. The confusion enters in due to the habit of General Convention of authorizing various liturgical resources for trial use over the years, and Great Cloud of Witnesses has not been presented in that way.

That need not be a concern. The reason commemorations listed in Lesser Feasts and Fasts went through “trial use” was their inclusion on the Calendar of the BCP (only alternatives or revisions to the BCP actually require trial use; the Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and even single diocesan bishops, can authorize additional liturgical resources as they will, per both the Constitution and the BCP). HWHM was originally to be an extension of Lesser Feasts, and so was offered for trial use due to the changes in the Calendar it would have presented, but GCoW is offered as a resource for congregations to do what the BCP already allows; it does not need “trial use” because the rubrics of the BCP already "authorize" such commemorations, for which GCoW supplies proper collects and readings. The resolution enabling the publication of GCoW states this clearly: “That the 78th General Convention make available for publication and distribution by individuals and in congregations and other church groups for devotional or catechetical use, or use in public worship subject to the provision for optional commemorations on page 18 of the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical resource entitled, ‘A Great Cloud of Witnesses...’” (emphasis mine). The language is a bit tortured, but “use in public worship subject to... the BCP” is crystal clear.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


thomas bushnell, bsg said...

The trouble here is that if we look at what page 18 actually says, we find two relevant things:

1) Commemorations listed in the Calendar
2) Other Commemorations, using the Common of Saints

It is clear, then, that for a commemoration which is not listed in the Calendar, the propers must be from the Common of Saints.

Or, in accord with page 13, the bishop may of course provide propers for a commemoration not listed in the Calendar (and can use GCOW to find suggestions), but that's up to the bishop, not the individual priest.

Tobias Haller said...

Thomas, I believe that is an overly constrained reading of the rubric. The governing rubric, which precedes the list you cite, refers to the use of "the Collects, Psalms, and Lessons duly authorized by this Church." At the time of the publication of the BCP 1979, the only authorized collects, psalms and readings for commemorations not on the calendar were those in the Common of Saints. HWHM and GCoW provide a large collection of propers for those many additional commemorations not (yet... if ever) on the calendar.

It is true that the resolution regarding GCoW does not use the term "authorize." However, the direction to publish and distribute these propers for use in "public worship" must indicate authorization even absent the term. (I note in passing that the direction to publish and distribute is almost exactly the effect and meaning of Imprimatur.) The resolution's reference to the rubric you cite is nonsensical if that wasn't the intent, and effect; that is, to authorize these propers for use.

As I note, the language of the resolution is rather tortured.

John-Julian, OJN said...

Yes, I would buy your understanding of it, Tobias.

But HWHM is such a perfectly awful document! It is such a slur on sanctity—and a sign, for me, of the lack of spiritual sensitivity in the ruling corridors of the Church in general.

I mean, we surely don't require a Devil's Advocate and two certified miracles fora canonization, but it seems we ought to require SOMETHING—and the Commission is just barely beginning to get around to defining what that "something" might be. I haven't looked of GCoW, but I've heard it is an improvement.

You know, as a very old man (84 come fall) I have seen the gradual evaporation of a concern for sanctity. I shake my head over the massive over-kill of "MISSION"—when no one seems interested in describing hat it is we are "missioning" people into—a book reviewing society? a social work institution? An architectural gallery? A library? A musical concert? In my experience, to entice people into the spiritual desert of most parishes is probably sinful, rather than commendable. And I think HWHM is symptomatic of that spiritual poverty. I mean, there are people whose names are in HWHM who would probaably be offended to be so included.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Fr. John-Julian, for this observation, with which I resonate. I did not mean to imply approval of the approach taken in HWHM, but only to address the status of such commemorations as are not on the calendar. The approach taken in building the list seems to have taken scant account of the very guidelines supposed to guide it. A few folks are included whose contributions to the life and mission of the church seem minor, and rather far from "heroic" -- and it is beyond my pay grade to determine actual sanctity of life! At the same time, many names are missing that surely deserved some notice, such as Francis de Sales, to name but one.

I do think note was taken of such criticism, and the results in GCoW will bear close examination.