Friday, August 06, 2010

Patrimony illustrated: altars

With a nod to Pugin’s Contrasts.

This is not a Continuing (but very much their style) or even an Anglo-Catholic parish, just a conservative style of middle-of-the-road Episcopal:


And here, the bare minimalism hip 50 years ago — perfect for Don Draper’s office (makes a good dry bar) but not for church — which Pope Benedict’s trying to fix:


Thomas Day explained why this became the American Roman Catholic standard with the new Mass: the Irish didn’t like high churchmanship because of the English, plus mid-century style and Modernism on top of all that. (So you got the opposite of what the liturgical movement wanted: you ended up with a service at which devotional junk hymns for example took over.)

Patrimony through the ordinariates, to the rescue!

More about Anglican history and ceremonial, and me, than you probably wanted to know:

Some readers see the big historical irony; it’s liturgical “Trading Spaces.”

Although an editing oversight left an instruction in the Book of Common Prayer to keep most of the old Catholic ceremonial, something the Anglo-Catholics used starting in the mid- to late 1800s, when Tractarian high theology naturally hooked up with the Gothic Revival starting ACism, this was suppressed — violently — in the mid-1500s.

The first original Anglican setup for Communion (after politically motivated tinkering with the Catholic stuff under Henry VIII) was church in the round with a plain table, covered with a white cloth for the service, set lengthwise in the middle of the old chancel with the people sitting in the choir stalls on either side of it and the priest in his old choir habit of cassock, surplice and scarf (and academic hood?) celebrating standing on one long side of it (which explains the instruction telling him to stand at the north end, the old altar, now hacked away, being “east”). Like this (here he’s handing part of the Communion loaf to the recipient; he’s even wearing his old choir hat through all this):


A hundred years later along with high theology you saw some high-churchifying with the table put where the old altar was and set off by the Communion rail (which was also rather new to Catholic churches). The priest kept standing at the north end of that, facing sideways to the congregation. Also in a lot of places the pulpit, sometimes elaborate, was front and center (with the table below it, the Georgian/colonial American way), like a lot of other Protestant churches today.


The ACs began, with strong opposition including jail in England, doing the sensible thing and face the table like the old altar. The other Bishop Robinson has explained that, thanks to ACism’s influence (a whole swath of Episcopal dioceses in the Midwest), the Episcopalians outside it started high-churchifying from the 1930s to the early 1960s. An imitation of an imitation of Roman Catholic practice from the 1800s. Which was great!

Like how the Pope wants to high-churchify the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo: reform of the reform. Wunderbar!

Episcopalians are very different from Catholics in principle — for them everything is subject to change by majority vote (quotation attributed to Bishop Bennison: the church can change scripture) — but something they have in common with Arturo’s natural traditionalists/folk Catholics and not with the American Catholics that Thomas Day describes is they are not afraid to live with the past (a European attitude that Americans often think the English are like) so no more wholesale iconoclasm unlike their English ancestors 450 years ago. So these Episcopalians up top didn’t rip apart their fine altar. As somebody who likewise lives with the past (not the same as living in it) as you can see from my picture to the right of course I appreciate that. That tendency in modern Anglicanism (including Cranmer’s sonorous, Godward prose but not his theology: patrimony) — part of my childhood in a parish that didn’t go along with 1970s changes; it was still the 1950s really (the ’80s were culture-shock city; I was like a young Rip Van Winkle: New services! Spong! Women’s ordination (WO)! Whoa! No! ... Adding insult to injury, much of the new services came from modern Roman Catholics and you had Roman Catholics everywhere imitating the liberal theology as well) — helped make me the liturgical person I am now. So thanks!

The Western Rite Orthodox already have brought this with them where it’s a natural fit in their new church.

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