Cranmer’s language considered unorthodox and harmful

David Frost is the head of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge. He is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Newcastle (Australia) and a former Fellow in English at St John’s College, Cambridge.

While an Anglican, he was heavily involved in the development of the modern Anglican liturgies, including the 1980 Alternative Service Book. He eventually ‘came over’ to Orthodoxy.

Frost recently gave a lecture at ‘An Ecumenical Symposium to Celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the 1662 Prayer Book’, on ‘The Influence of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer on the Orthodox’. But his views are highly relevant to the Catholic Church, especially given the new Ordinariate liturgy. The talk can be read here. Or, you can listen to Frost reading a slightly expanded version, in a sonorous voice, on Ancient Faith Radio, here.

By way of background: in search of a de-nationalised ‘Western Rite’ Orthodox liturgy, some Orthodox drew heavily on the 1892 American Book of Common Prayer, importing not just its style of language but also almost all of the ‘classic’ texts of the 1662 Anglican liturgy, including the Prayer of Humble access, the General Confession, the Comfortable Words, etc. Versions of this – some incorporating ‘Tridentine’ elements such as the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel – came into use, especially in Antiochian Orthodox communities in the USA. A quick internet search (try “Liturgy of St Tikhon”) will yield many examples – here is just one.

Frost’s argument – his view is shared by a number of prominent English-speaking Orthodox, including Metropolitan Kallistos – is that use of the Prayer Book texts in Orthodox liturgies was a major mistake. The 1662 language, says Frost, has led to a liturgy that is ‘a halfway house for those not yet ready to be Orthodox’.

The essay unpacks this claim. The Book of Common Prayer liturgy, in Frosts’s view, is theologically corrupt; it has an unbalanced and juridical view of sin and guilt, and it was heavily motivated by terror of ‘the uneducated, uncivilised mob’. It understates what Frost calls ‘the mighty acts of God’, especially the resurrection. It was, he says, unduly influenced by Calvinism.

He doesn’t pull any punches in his condemnation of Cranmer’s work – for example, in describing the General Confession (‘we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.’), he writes

A side of me still thrills to that. Brought up in a guilt-culture, I still want to binge on self-abasement, followed by the ‘high’ of unmerited, almost magical release. But long before I became Orthodox, I began to have doubts, especially in an Anglican parish that encouraged frequent communion. How could the sacrifice of Christ be failing to create that serving and pleasing of God in ‘newness of life’ for which I pleaded each Sunday? Why did I have to come back week after week, making the same old complaints of bad memories and intolerable burdens? When would I, ‘reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord’, be ‘transformed’ (as St Paul said happened to all Christians) ‘into the same image from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 in the Revised Version)?

It is not only the content of the texts that Frost attacks. He also criticises what he calls ‘sub-Cranmerian English’.

Despite being a lover of Renaissance literature, I have argued throughout my working-life that to create a special language for religion akin to ancient Hebrew or Sanskrit is the characteristic of cults — and the Christian faith should not be turned into a cult. It is contrary to the practice of the Apostles, for the gospel was communicated in the Greek koine, an international trading language whose counterpart today might be internet computer English.

To have a substantially different language for worship would seem to contradict the basic message of divine incarnation. When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again, and the barrier goes up imperceptibly as language grows old-fashioned and unfamiliar.

The greatest danger presented by imitation of Cranmerian English among the modern western Orthodox is that it may become yet another hierarchic, archaic language for worship that can protect and insulate one from its content, just as much as colourful ceremony and fine chanting.

The relevance of Frost’s lecture for Catholicism is slightly complex. After all, we are not Orthodox. Some of the texts that he attacks appear in the older Latin missal. Some of the texts that he cites as missing are also missing in the Tridentine Mass – the explicit epiclesis, for instance.

Nonetheless, I think he makes many good points. It is not at all clear that Thomas Cranmer’s heavily Calvinistic theology should be ‘cut and pasted’ into a post-conciliar Catholic Mass. His critique of ‘sub-Cranmerian English’ rings true to me. Even setting Catholic and Orthodox differences aside, I found his lecture a damning criticism of the new Ordinariate liturgy.

The whole piece is well worth reading, or listening to.

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30 comments

  1. Two things in this post struck me as applying to the Roman Liturgy as well:

    A side of me still thrills to that. Brought up in a guilt-culture, I still want to binge on self-abasement, followed by the ‘high’ of unmerited, almost magical release. But long before I became Orthodox, I began to have doubts, especially in an Anglican parish that encouraged frequent communion. How could the sacrifice of Christ be failing to create that serving and pleasing of God in ‘newness of life’ for which I pleaded each Sunday? Why did I have to come back week after week, making the same old complaints of bad memories and intolerable burdens?

    I think the Confiteor and penitential rite were mistakes. Essentially they seem to want to place us into a pre-baptismal state as if we were not members of a holy people. As Karl Rahner says in regard to the canonization of the saints. Christ didn’t just give us the means of salvation. He fashioned a holy people.

    In the west we seem to want to pretend in Advent that the Incarnation has not yet taken place. And in Lent we pretend that the Resurrection has not taken place, and that we are catechumens in need of conversion. Byzantine Lent does not cease to sing Alleluia. It begins with mutual forgiveness in light of Resurrection by singing the Paschal Hymn “Let us be enlightened by this Feast and let us embrace one another! Let us call “Brethren” even those who hate us, and in the Resurrection, forgive everything” And now in Ordinary time we seem to have forgotten we live after Pentecost!

    To have a substantially different language for worship would seem to contradict the basic message of divine incarnation. When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again, and the barrier goes up imperceptibly as language grows old-fashioned and unfamiliar.

    The Byzantine liturgy seems to take the incarnation (and all the mysteries of salvation) seriously as ongoing events not only in the liturgy (i.e. not simply historical celebrations) but also in the life of the Christian. Western liturgy seems to place them at an historical distance in either the past or the future, or as mediated very sparingly during the liturgy (the consecration, communion), or to be understood and experienced by means of religious education.

    I think Vatican II brought us real change to make us more like the East (importance of the Incarnation, Resurrection) but that we still have some way to go (the Orthodox observers suggested a treatise on the Holy Spirit).

    I am hopeful that Francis will lead us there. His emphasis upon joy and mercy certainly seems very Eastern, as well as experiencing the wounds of Christ in the poor, and his devotion to Mary.

  2. My objection to the new translation of the Confiteor fits in here. The injection of grief to describe our sin parallels the remarks here about guilt. Mea maima culpa does not mean “my most grievous fault” in any literal way.

    If the recent translation were meant to be an inculturated translation, expressing the meaning of the text in a way accessible to English speaking people, perhaps grievous would be appropriate. But for a literal translation like LA demanded, it is a grievous error.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #2:
      One definition of “grievous” (admittedly not the first) is simply “serious of grave.” This certainly could be a translation of “maxima.”

      I also think Richard Malcolm is correct in saying, “what frightens Frost is not the presence of Calvin in these prayers, but Augustine. Which is to say: a common Orthodox bugaboo.” While I prefer the more sober language of the Confiteor, I don’t really see anything in the Anglican confession of sin in the liturgy of Holy Communion that goes beyond what one might read in the penitential psalms. Even the line “there is no health in us” from Morning Prayer, which Fr. Frost reads as putting forth the Calvinist notion of total depravity, seems to echo Psalm 32.

      As for the line from the Baptismal liturgy that he sees as problematic — “I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that thing which by nature he cannot have” — a more benign reading of this is simply as an affirmation that the grace of baptism is a supernatural gift and in no sense something that is owed to us by nature.

      I’m not normally one to spring to the defense of Anglicans, but in this case I think at least some of the charges Fr. Frost makes are unwarranted.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #12:

        While I prefer the more sober language of the Confiteor, I don’t really see anything in the Anglican confession of sin in the liturgy of Holy Communion that goes beyond what one might read in the penitential psalms. Even the line “there is no health in us” from Morning Prayer, which Fr. Frost reads as putting forth the Calvinist notion of total depravity, seems to echo Psalm 32.

        Actually, I thought that the words “and there is no health in us” is not found in the texts Rome approved for our worship, precisely because those words are incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of justification.

        I plan to double check that against our copy later today, however.

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #18:

        Just to clarify, Dcn Fritz: The new Missal does not contain morning and evening prayer at all, only the order of the Mass – not even the collects are ready yet (they will come later). So we don’t know what those will look like, but my understanding is that this passage has been removed in our current celebration of these prayers.

      3. @Richard Malcolm – comment #16:

        Actually, I thought that the words “and there is no health in us” is not found in the texts Rome approved for our worship, precisely because those words are incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of justification.

        I suppose that the following prayer said after the Holy Communion must also be omitted from the Ordinariate Mass for the same reason.

        O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants entirely desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy Communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction. And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.

        [my emphasis]

        One could argue that this prayer, though certainly beautiful, is also not compatible with the Catholic view of the Holy Sacrifice of the altar. I think that this prayer could be justified as orthodox, given that the Mass is not just an atoning sacrifice but also a sacrifice of thanksgiving. In any event I suspect that the framers of the Ordinariate Mass would try to steer clear of any ambiguity that might kerfuffle Rome.

  3. I am struck by the saints’ awareness of their own sinfulness throughout their lives. This appears to be the typical experience of those who draw especially close to God, who encounter His holiness in a way that goes beyond the experience of the rest of us. The Confiteor is there because God is holy and, as we approach Him, we can only respond as Isaiah did in chapter six. (I have wondered if this the reason that the Sanctus of Isaiah 6 is part of the Holy Mass.)

    A greater emphasis on the Resurrection in the Liturgy would be a wonderful blessing, but not at the expense of thinking that St. Paul’s teaching about our position in Christ has already been achieved by most of us in the pews. The Church has had its try at minimizing the existence of sin (compare the original NO Confiteor, as well as the experimentation with general absolution). A better alternative would be to help us lay folks to grasp the awesome holiness of God. In that way, we would come to our own conclusions, as the saints did, about our own, present sinfulness. The result would be a growth in faith, motivated, not by the generation of Calvinistic guilt, but rather by the beauty of God in all His glory as we approach Him.

  4. “When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again”

    I think this misses the point of the drama of liturgy, and indeed religion, entirely.

    There is not this stark contrast, for the individual, between pre- and post-Christ spirituality.

    The Old Testament Saints had a “Christian” spirituality and grace by anticipation. But, likewise, Christian souls all must individually undergo the drama of salvation history too.

    The barrier between sacred and profane that Christ destroyed, indeed, MUST be erected again (if only in order to tear it down again in each age, in each soul’s spiritual development). The liturgy does not start “after the fact.” It takes each of us through the whole process.

    “In the west we seem to want to pretend in Advent that the Incarnation has not yet taken place. And in Lent we pretend that the Resurrection has not taken place, and that we are catechumens in need of conversion.”

    Yes, exactly! And that makes perfect sense! But it’s not “pretending,” really. It’s leading us through the Paschal Mystery in the manner of Passover reenacting the Exodus so that each generation may undergo, spiritually, what their fellows did back in time.

    This is not at all a bug, it’s a feature.

  5. Hello Jonathan,

    The relevance of Frost’s lecture for Catholicism is slightly complex. After all, we are not Orthodox.

    To put it mildly.

    Some of the texts that he attacks appear in the older Latin missal.

    And there’s the rub, yes?

    As an Ordinariate commentator here…look, I appreciate that there’s some dislike for the new Anglican Use Missal at PTB. But I’m perplexed to see the resort to something as out of left field as a resort to an Orthodox assault (by an English professor) on the presumed Calvinism of Cranmerian language adopted in parts of the new missal. Apparently ecumenical impulses don’t venture into as many neighborhoods as I thought.

    Professor Frost is on the prowl for any ingress of creeping Calvinism in the liturgy, and that is certainly laudable. But it is difficult to see what he finds in the General Confession or the Prayer of Humble Access that is not already found, theologically, in the Confiteor of the Roman Rite – which is not surprising, since both prayers are largely drawn from older Latin missals, not fashioned out of whole cloth by Cranmer. Indeed, if there’s a concern here, it might be a certain redundancy, presumably the same concern that led to the dropping of the second confiteor in the 1962 Missal (never mind that it is possible to commit mortal sin between the first and the second, but…I digress). But Frost’s concern seems to go beyond that.

    I can’t help but feel that what frightens Frost is not the presence of Calvin in these prayers, but Augustine. Which is to say: a common Orthodox bugaboo. And yet I wonder if he is fully aware of the Eastern origins of the Confiteor.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #4:

      I will be the first person to say and defend statements such as “the Prayer Book is a pillar of the modern English language” and “Thomas Cranmer was one of the most poetic Latin translators of the modern era”. I believe that Jonathan has already mentioned the attraction of the Prayer Book as literature for many persons, both with or without religious conviction. If anything, the literary quality of the Prayer Book is a cultural nexus for anglophones, both native and by acquisition.

      Professor Frost is on the prowl for any ingress of creeping Calvinism in the liturgy.

      As someone who was a practical and theological Jansenist for many years and still is to some degree (I’ve whittled TULIP down to TU), I never considered the sociocultural “Jansenism” to be anything more than an inordinate level of guilt within societies which are intrinsically inclined towards guilt as a social disposition. Even though some societies are more guilt than shame and vice versa, guilt and shame in proportions regulate society both within and without beliefs.

      As Jonathan writes of Prof. Frost, “The Book of Common Prayer liturgy, in Frosts’s view, is theologically corrupt; it has an unbalanced and juridical view of sin and guilt, and it was heavily motivated by terror of ‘the uneducated, uncivilised mob’.” I will concede that the Prayer Book funeral service is very bleak indeed. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, and handfuls of earth thrown over the coffin. God’s election unfolds relentlessly, deaf to our hope and yearnings. Anglo-Catholic theology has introduced an understanding of theosis and intercession to the Prayer Book funeral. And yet, a clean read of the text suggests that human beings are alone under a mute and vast sky.

      Even so, the perhaps excessive level of guilt in the Prayer Book is not necessarily an indication of a society obsessed with penance and guilt. Rather, perhaps liturgy merely amplifies dispositions already present in culture in a more muted and fluid nature.

  6. It won’t do, Richard. Cranmer added quite a bit to the text of the Confiteor, which is fairly lean. Its characterisation of sin – in the Latin – is close to what Frost terms “an obvious statement of fact.” No grievous memories or intolerable burdens; certainly no wrath and no indignation against us. Or am I missing something? I do not have the text of the second Confiteor to hand, though I thought it was very similar to the first. Maybe the memories, burdens, wrath and indignation are all there.

  7. I was very pleased with Frost’s presentation of himself as an Orthodox:

    Though we are said to be the largest Church world-wide after the Roman Catholics, we have no Pope and no Curia to make pronouncements. Our doctrinal unity is through our acceptance of the ‘mysteries’, the sacraments of the ancient Church, of the Nicaean-Constantinople Creed and of the decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils – and there an end. Every other pronouncement has only local validity or is theologoumenon – opinion.

    While I have long found myself sympathetic to Orthodoxy, e.g. their more optimistic view of life, it has always seemed to me that I was not very orthodox because I am not very concerned about “right” beliefs or “right” worship. However that is probably a 20th century Roman Catholic rational bureaucracy view of traditional orthodox belief which like all traditional beliefs is very decentralized. My faith is certainly grounded primarily on the “mysteries” as present in both the Liturgy and Christian life. I tend to think of everything else as opinion.

    As for organization, there is a joke that is popular among the Orthodox: ‘If you are sick of organized religion – join the Orthodox Church!’ What links one section of the Church to another is, as it was in the earliest days, the mutual recognition of one bishop of another as being orthodox. Churches are grouped on geographic lines which for historical reasons have tended to be national

    My own faith is very much grounded in the faith of my parents, family and friends in the parishes, dioceses and various Catholic institutions. The Pope and bishops (except for the Vatican Council) have been far distant. So perhaps I have more in common with the Orthodox than I had previously thought since I locate my religious identity in the liturgy and in local relationships.

  8. The following are Orthodox qualities which Frost mentions for which I have great sympathy and see in poor evidence in the Roman liturgy:

    But God as ‘the Lover of mankind’ is not the dominant image, tone or flavour of BCP – and there lies the problem.

    The down-playing of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Common Prayer is a further deficiency in its image of God, as the Pentecostals like to remind us…

    as the ancient Orthodox liturgies summed it up, that great plan of God from the beginning that anticipated our falling-away and estrangement after our glorious creation in his image, and so designed from the outset a remedy to make all things new by the death but also by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, ‘trampling down death by death’,

    Congar’s work on the Holy Spirit contains a whole chapter in the West’s downplaying of the role of the Holy Spirit. Of course at Vatican II, Octavini said we have no need of the Holy Spirit because we have the hierarchy, and the Orthodox observers said their document on the churhc would have been a document on the Holy Spirit.

  9. Perhaps Frost’s most interesting point in this article is his location of the denial of the dignity of the people of God as a class issue rather than just a clerical issue. I suspect this may be true throughout history. Augustine and the Church Fathers had to deal with the mob in their preaching.

    Where is the Holy Spirit given them at baptism? Is there no presence of Christ within the human soul? Is there not even a spark of regeneration remaining? The truth is that on this matter the authors of the Book of Common Prayer are not thinking as theologians. They are part of the two per cent of the upper classes whose views we know something about, terrified of the uneducated, uncivilised mob – a terror evident even in so humane a dramatist as Shakespeare.

    As a psychologist and sociologist I find tackling the problem of human evil (original sin) to be very complicated.

    I think the “original sin” theory has in practice been, as Frost implies, a social control mechanism which the upper classes have used to control the lower classes, parents have used to control their children, and the clergy have used to control the laity. This theory in practice ignores the great amount of social evil present in our institutions.

    On the other hand, imputing “innocence” to children is as much a myth as imputing “original sin” to them.

    We are all influenced in very complex ways by our genetic background, our prenatal experience, our early childhood experience as well as our adult experience after the age of the use of reason. So theories of “spiritual development” need to be very complex.

  10. I have only the USA’s BCP 1979 and The Roman Missal Third Edition before me here, but does not the differing tone of the conclusion of their respective Good Friday liturgies speak to the points of this discussion?

    BCP 1979 Concluding Prayer
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever.

    Roman Missal Third Edition
    Almighty ever-living God,
    who have restored us to life
    by the blessed Death and Resurrection of your Christ,
    preserve in us the work of your mercy,
    that, by partaking of this mystery,
    we may live a life unceasingly devoted to you.
    Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

    May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray,
    descend upon your people,
    who have honored the Death of your Son
    in hope of their resurrection:
    may pardon come,
    comfort be given,
    holy faith increase,
    and everlasting redemption be made secure.
    Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

  11. It was said that the governing metaphor of the new (American) Prayer Book of 1979 was the exodus from Egypt: deliverance from sin nd death and raised to new life.
    The dominant metaphor, wags said, in the older Prayer Book tradition was the court of Chancery in Dickens’ Bleak House. You plead, and you plead and there is much moving of paper, and in the end,m there is no money left.

    As a devoted Anglican, but very ecumenical, I applaud a recognition of the Cranmerian legacy of Reformation bleakness, which is often a direct reaction to late medieval western Catholicism. And that wasn’t Orthodox either.
    MY problem with Rite One in the 79 Book is the Eucharistic Prayer, not the style of language.

    1. @Mark Miller – comment #13:
      I can’t seem to edit the above comment of mine.
      1. “in the end, there is no money left” needs a stray letter removed.

      2. I should say, the Reformation, as a reaction to Catholicism, was often not simply its opposite, but a recasting of the dominant legalistic and penitential themes:
      sacrifice is retained full force, but radically restricted to Calvary and not each mass, for example.

  12. Grief, and grave, come from the Latin gravis, = heavy, troublesome, hard, grave, serious. “mea gravissima culpa” or something like that is how our Confiteor would translate into Latin. (under LA) Grievous is formed from grief, like famous from fame or glorious from glory. It is not a matter of definition, but of root. Not always determinative, but forever present.

    The Latin maxima is spare, unemotional even. Grievous pushes our version toward the Calvinist ethos mentioned above. Greatest guilt is burdened with images of the grave. Perhaps it is Augustinian. Perhaps it is appropriate even. Still it is not a literal translation of the Latin, but a reworking of it that emphasizes the burden of guilt.

    And then there is “O Felix culpa” to set beside “our most grievous fault.”

  13. Thank you for posting this, Jonathan. I find Frost’s reference to sacral language in terms of a cult very thought-provoking. There are plenty of examples of vocabulary and syntax in our current translation of MRIII which fit the bill.

    1. @Gerard Flynn – comment #17:
      I found the criticism of a “sacral language” bewildering coming from an Orthodox – I was very much under the impression that a large portion of the Orthodox use Tudor English when the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in English.

      The only Orthodox liturgies I’ve been to were in Greek, though, so I can’t speak from experience.

  14. Yes, the Hapgood Service Book which is still found in Orthodox churches was compiled by an Episcopalian lady and reads like the BCP.

    A gentleman has recently released a revision of Coverdale suitable for use in the Orthodox Church.

    Oddly enough I do like the New Skete books, but they seem to be too radical for most Orthodox churches. Perhaps they are too inundated in the language of the prayer book.

  15. It seems terribly unecumenical for PrayTell to publicize the smears against our Anglican brethren by one of their disgruntled ex-members. I am confused as to the entire point of this. This sort of attack is not in any way ecumenically helpful.

  16. One great flaw in this article is that in detecting trace calvinism in aspects of Cranmer’s translations and additions to them is that it ignores the actual history of Anglicanism which shows a church that is not actually calvinistic – even if we are judging it from a post-Wesleyian point of view. Coupled with the fact that the Scots, who mostly did embrace Calvinism, and, apart from the few who became Episcopalian, rejected the prayerbook – in one of its incarnations violently. So if Cranmer’s collects etc are tinged with Calvinism how can it be that they don’t apparently lead anyone into Calvinism?
    On the note of the previous two comments it may be unecumenical but one of the chief purposes of this post as I read it seemed to be to take a swipe at the Ordinariate – the last paragraph sees this as a “damning indictment” of their recently published liturgy. Perhaps it would be nice if praytell commentators extended the ecumenical courtesy to their co-religionists. I doubt, for example, anyone would dare to say of an Orthodox or Lutheran liturgical form that they couldn’t imagine saying the words without bursting out laughing.

  17. Apparently some think that posting Frost’s article was ecumenically inhospitable. I don’t buy that.

    David Frost was an Anglican who worked on contemporary language liturgies. For Anglicans.

    There is no evidence in the article that he was ‘disgruntled’, or ‘slagging off’ Anglicanism as a whole. The article is not a criticism of Anglicans or Anglican liturgy. It is critical of using 1662 Prayer Book language for modern liturgy. I would guess (though we have no direct evidence) that Frost would scowl on the ‘Anglican Missal’. But lots of loyal Anglicans do that too. Would the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrate with that Missal?

    As Fritz said, an article can be quoted without endorsing everything it says.

    As for the Ordinariates: yes, I think it was a mistake to adopt a textual hodgepodge, tricked out in faux-Tudor language. The Book of Divine Worship looked far more promising to me.

    It looks as though some of the English-speaking Orthodox, hearing the sonority and majesty of Cranmer’s language, decided to adopt it for their liturgy. Frost thinks that this was a theological mistake. So does Metropolitan Kallistos, and other prominent Orthodox. The “Book of Common Prayer Divine Liturgy”, they say, is ‘a halfway house’. A mistake.

    Communities make mistakes, just as even a good singer will now and then hit a false note. As has been said more than a few times here on Pray Tell, the current English translation of the Catholic Mass is a colossal mistake, far worse than anything the Ordinariate liturgists have done. If a Lutheran were to point that out, I certainly wouldn’t take it as either an unecumenical ‘swipe’ or as an expression of disloyalty.

    By the way, I think Cranmer’s language is beautiful in many ways. It has inner complexities that emerge only after closer study. In this regard it utterly surpasses the ham-fisted “English” of the new translation. But – I think Frost makes a good case for this – beautiful language doesn’t guarantee good liturgy.

  18. Undoubtedly, early reformation Anglicanism owed more to the “reformed” tradition (Calvin), than to the “protestant” tradition (Luther).
    These words do not appear in the Book of Common Prayer.
    Calvin, moreover, has a good deal of resemblance to Aquinas in his theology. HIs followers were often more extreme.

    Cranmer’s excessive use of the language of contrition reflects the age in which he lived — on both sides of the Reformation controversies.

  19. I’ve known of this article by Professor Frost for some time and have been baffled by the argument, especially as it comes from a worshipper in the Byzantine Orthodox tradition. One need only glance at the pre- and post-communion prayers (official/liturgical, not merely devotional) to find that the Byzantine tradition embraces language such as

    “Defiled by misguided deeds, wretched as I am, I am unworthy…” “Whirled about in the abyss of sin … ”
    “wholly yielded myself to sin … ”
    “lips defiled, a vile heart, an impure tongue, a soul defiled … ”
    “I have sinned more than the harlot … ”
    “the multitude of my evil … ”
    “evil thoughts and reasonings and intentions, fantasies by night, brought by dark and evil spirits …”

    Perhaps Professor Frost also finds these prayers of his own tradition unorthodox and harmful. That would be at least consistent.

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