Friday 22 May 2009

The Old Rite

I hope that a good Ascension Day was had by all. Whenever I hear the word ascension, the first image that pops into my mind is the Ascension chapel in the Shrine Church at Walsingham, of that little moulding on the ceiling of two feet taken up into cloud. The reredos of that chapel is gilded wood and the impression is one of movement upwards, guiding the heart to what is above, beyond the low ceiling of the chapel to the heavens above, where Christ reigns in glory.

I love the Ascension, because it’s imagery and readings are so physical, so personal. Just like Christ showing his wounds to the disciples, and inviting them to touch them, the Ascension was a tangible, real event, with the resurrected body of Christ on full view. Like Easter, the Ascension is also the fulfilment of a promise, and invites us to trust in Christ, and to be a friend to Him.

At S. Magnus, we kept the Feast with an evening Low Mass from the English Missal. Although every Sunday we use the Anglican Missal for Solemn Mass, we do not employ all of the ceremonial of the ‘Western Use’. However, during Lent, we started offering Low Mass from the English Missal and celebrated precisely according to the rubrics of the rite. This has meant many hours poring over Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, specifically the 1958 edition which corresponds to our edition of the English Missal. I’ve also spent hours on youtube and google video watching recordings of Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. As a server, I’ve also availed myself of countless small booklets and guides to serving the Tridentine Mass, and I often wonder why the information doesn’t stick in my mind, especially since most of those guides were written for children of about twelve years old.

So far, this has been a success. Although I do panic slightly before Mass that I might forget where I am supposed to be at a certain point, or that I might mess up the ablutions or miss a response, but yesterday’s Mass was very moving, especially as we were lucky enough to have a member of the choir chant the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Gradual, Offertory and Agnus Dei unaccompanied. It is very humbling to know that the prayers of the canon are the same prayers, unaltered over the ages, as were uttered by S. Augustine when he said his first Mass in England, and humbling too to know that this rite is the one with which so many of the saints would be familiar. It is truly the Mass of Ages, the unique heritage of the Church.

We all know that the Tridentine Rite of the Roman Catholic Church is increasingly in demand these days, but in our own Communion, the interest in ‘traditional liturgy’ has been somewhat more vaguely attached to the general visual aspect of the Liturgy, the indices of Anglo-Catholicism for the uninitiated: Birettas, incense and that sort of thing. Still, it seems there are plenty of people who are interested in doing things properly, and appreciate the timeless and transcendental quality of the Old Rite, offered with the complete and correct ceremonial directed in the rubrics.

It has long seemed to me, especially since a post on Anglican Wanderings about the use of the American Missal in Nashotah, that we would benefit greatly from an Old Rite Society, parallel to something like the Latin Mass Society, to promote the use of the various Anglican Missals (without preferring any particular one) and to provide listings of Old Rite Masses offered regularly or on Solemnities. You’ll notice I’ve been using the term Old Rite quite vaguely, and it’s basically a catch-all term I’ve settled on. I think the term Usus Antiquior belongs specifically to the Roman Missal and Extraordinary Form belongs to the Roman Communion. Our Missals are a much more diverse grouping of books incorporating various amounts of the Book of Common Prayer, which as we know, exists in various manifestations in different parts of the world. Still, what I believe constitutes an Old Rite Missal, is anything based on or translated from the Roman Missal in its various editions between 1570 and 1962 and incorporating any amount of Sarum or BCP material. I suppose that would include, apart from the Missale Romanum, which I know some people use, the English Missal, the Anglican Missal (published by the SSPP) and the American Missal among others.

To that end then, I would like any priests who offer public masses according to any Old Rite, or people who know of such celebrations, to email me Mass times to be published every Thursday or Friday (for the weekend) and at least two days before any Feast or Solemnity. I know of some parishes in the US who regularly use the English Missal, and I know of one in the UK, but please help by letting me know who I can contact for confirmation before advertising the Masses.
Either post the regular Mass times in the comments box of this post, or email me if you know of a particular celebration coming up. There are many people who would love to attend an Old Rite Mass, but who simply don’t know which parishes offer them, so with your help they’ll be able to attend the Traditional Liturgy as they wish.


  1. There used to be an English Missal Society ... I don't know if any of its members are still around but they might have some interesting comments to make.

    The Anglican Missal (peoples Edition) is currently being reprinted by the Anglican Parishes Association ( soon there is to be a reprint of the Altar Edition (although I don't have a date on either of these).

    With regard to Mass times of the English and Anglican Missal ... are you only interested in Churches within the Church of England or does your invitation extend to the Anglican Catholic Church?

  2. Ex Fide,
    I completely agree with your thoughts and hope you will share your discoveries with us.
    I was at the mass yesterday and thought it a very beautiful and devotional atmosphere - and your serving was excellent, the study must have paid off! Is this mass offered on a regular basis during the week?

  3. Happy Ascension! Sorry I haven't been on Skype lately, we'll have to catch up soon!

  4. Bishop Mead,

    I'll happily publish your Mass times, but seperate from the main EM listings. The idea is to advertise EM Masses within the Anglican Communion, and for the same reason I won't be listing Masses said by Roman Catholic priests in the EF.


    Thanks for your lovely comments, you are most welcome any time in S. Magnus. We do not regularly offer Old Rite Mass but we tend to for the evening Mass of a solemnity, whereas the lunchtime Masses during the week are generally Novus Ordo.


    you must have been busy, speak soon.

  5. Many thanks.
    I shall make sure that I keep things nice and simple and just mention my own Chapel in Canterbury that you have already (kindly)mentioned on you blog.
    Anglican Catholic Church of St Augustine
    Best Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2JB
    Sundays 11am Sung Mass
    Weds: 12 noon Low Mass
    Major Holy Days 12 noon Sung Mass
    Holy Days of Obligation 7pm Sung Mass (if falling on a Wednesday 12 noon Sung Mass)
    All according to the English Missal 5th Edition (1958).
    Blessings for Happy Acensiontide

  6. Ex Fide, your words about traditional worship certainly speakl to me, though perhaps from a different perspective. My personal experience is not very widespread but from what I have personally seen in different parishes over the past three or four years and from what I have gleaned from personal conversations and from internet discussions, there does seem to be something of a liturgical renewal going on in many Orthodox churches, and that renewal seems to be largely in the form of a great faithfulness to the typikon.

    I welcome this. my little parish is traditional in its worship and some of the omissions from our Liturgy are purely due to the space constraints of our chapel, which will be resolved by later nin the summer when we move, at which point we hope to restore some things that are currently omitted or adapted. Having been formed in this situation, it really grates on me when I see large portions of the Liturgy abbreviated or even omitted entirely, protestant insertions into the Liturgy or a protestant, extreme clericalist mindset influencing the way the Liturgy is served. These things have no place in our worship and they.must.go.

    Good on you and your parish for restoring to your people some sense of the sacred to their worship - a sense of continuity and communion, and of that which has been handed down to us.

    As it happens, the term Old Rite means something completely different to me and I am tempted now to post about it on my own blog. :-)

  7. I'm not sure if you wanted U.S. listings or not, but, in case you do:

    S. Clement's, Philadelphia, uses the English Missal for all Masses; full western ceremonial is employed and Prayer Book interpolations are minimal.

    Resurrection, New York, and Mt. Calvary, Baltimore, also use the English Missal, but the ceremonial is more eclectic and much more of the Prayer Book is used.