Friday, June 10, 2011

William Oddie on Evensong and Benediction

Having just quoted Newman's prayer from Evensong on the post about Sister Mary Christopher Luddens, I was happy to see William Oddie cite it in his Catholic Herald column:

O LORD, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A brief quote about that prayer:

You may retort, of course, that that’s not an Anglican prayer at all, it’s by Cardinal Newman, and that therefore I can’t claim that as part of the Anglican patrimony the ordinariate is bringing over the Tiber! Well, sorry, but it is an Anglican prayer: just like some of Newman’s greatest hymns (to this day sung just as much by Anglicans as by us) it was written not only when Newman was an Anglican, but also at a time when he was still quite clear in his mind that he could never become a Catholic. Its origins are in the splendidly oratorical final paragraph of a sermon he preached as vicar of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford (they don’t preach sermons like this any more):

But for us, let us glory in what they disown; let us beg of our Divine Lord to take to Him His great power, and manifest Himself more and more, and reign both in our hearts and in the world. Let us beg of Him to stand by us in trouble, and guide us on our dangerous way. May He, as of old, choose “the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”. May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in His mercy may He give us safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last!

Earlier in the article he reminds us of the sources Thomas Cranmer used to compile the Book of Common Prayer:

What the Pope, God bless him, has actually done is to re-appropriate a liturgy whose origins were in the first place entirely Catholic. As the Anglo-Catholic liturgist and divine Percy Dearmer (a friend of G K Chesterton) pointed out, the first Anglican Prayer Book “was not created in a vacuum, but derives from several sources. First and foremost was the Sarum Rite, or the Latin liturgy developed in Salisbury in the 13th century, and widely used in England. Two other influences were a reformed Roman Breviary of the Spanish Cardinal QuiƱones, and a book on doctrine and liturgy by Hermann von Wied, Archbishop of Cologne.”

The Eucharistic liturgy which emerged was, of course, entirely defective from a Catholic point of view, simply invalid, and deliberately so: it was made brutally clear that this was not the sacrifice of the Mass. But Cardinal QuiƱones’s attempt at streamlining the Breviary was adopted virtually in its totality. The Morning Office – a conflation of Lauds and Matins, and the Evening Office, and Evensong – a conflation of Vespers and Compline (thus containing both the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, both of course in wonderful Tudor English) – were thus irreproachably Catholic in their origins and content.

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