The Anglican Liturgy follows the seasonal patterns of the church year.
While Covid-19 has disrupted our worship, it has also given us an opportunity at
St Catherine’s to broaden what is on offer in terms of service styles.
This comes because some now join in from across the world-wide
St Catherine’s family.
It comes because many are still more comfortable worshipping in the safety of their own homes.
It comes because our Return2Church services are on Saturday evenings and there are limitations around celebrating a full Eucharist.
From earliest times Christians gathered at regular hours during each day and night to respond to God’s word; with praise on behalf of all creation and with intercession for the world. By the fourth century, morning and evening prayer had emerged as the pre-eminent hours for this. They have remained so ever since, especially on Sundays when the Church commemorates both the first day of creation and the day of Christ’s resurrection. When this service comes in traditional (1662) language it’s name is Matins.
This is the common name for a Christian church service originating in the Anglican tradition as part of the reformed practice of the Daily Office or ‘Canonical Hours’.
It is roughly the equivalent of Vespers in the Roman Catholic Church although it was originally formed by combining the monastic offices of Vespers (Evening Office) and Compline (Night Office). Although many churches now take their services from Common Worship or other modern prayer books, if a church has a choir, Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer, which is still the only official prayer book of the Church of England, often remains in use because of the greater musical provision available.
Services of Evensong are centred around readings from the Bible, singing the Psalms and the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimmitis. The language is approximately ‘Shakespearean’. The theology is much more penitential than Common Worship.
When we have Evensong at R2C, it may need simply to be listened to (and enjoyed) as a cultural experience and joined in when it begins to feel less foreign.
This service is also part of our Online provision and as such is a very different experience, moving from communal worship, to private prayer.
The ancient office of Compline derives its name from a Latin word meaning ‘completion’ (completorium). It is above all a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day. It is most effective when the ending is indeed an ending, without additions, conversation or noise. If this serves as a service in church, those present depart in silence; if at home, they go quietly to bed. Online we have offered both the Traditional and the Contemporary language options.
Many people in the Anglican Church recall the time when Morning Prayer (Matins) was the main Sunday morning act of worship, with the celebration of the Eucharist happening either early in the morning at a quiet, said service, or else after the main morning act of worship for those who wished to stay and make their communion. At the time of the Reformation, reformers like Luther and Calvin were concerned to restore the weekly reception of Holy Communion to the Church. They realised this had been the practice of the Early Church and yet by the Middle Ages, the Mass had become so elaborate and removed from the congregation that most people received communion only once a year, at Easter. Many people attended Mass weekly, but only the priest received communion.
As with most radical shifts in practice, receiving Communion weekly was strongly resisted by many people, and, since the Prayer Book forbade the celebration of the Eucharist without everyone being offered the opportunity to receive communion, the celebration of the Eucharist became less frequent, monthly, or even quarterly. On the Sundays on which there was no Communion, the presider stopped after the Prayers of Intercession; this was called Ante-Communion. In the 19th century, in the interest of shortening the service, the Litany and Ante-Communion were omitted and the sermon and the collection tacked onto Morning Prayer, creating the new service of Morning Prayer and Sermon. On Communion Sundays, Morning Prayer and the Litany were omitted.
The Catholic revival associated with the Oxford Movement in the 19th century restored the weekly celebration of the Eucharist as normative in Anglicanism, but this frequently took the form of an “early Communion service” without music or preaching, attended by “the devout”, early risers, and those determined to avoid music, preaching or both. The usual worship experience of Anglicans was choral Morning Prayer (Matins). The Liturgical Movement in the middle of 20th century restored the Eucharist as the main Sunday morning act of worship.
In some periods, such as the Middle Ages, the Church has emphasized the Sacramental presence of Christ and largely ignored the proclamation of the Word. In others, such as the 17th and 18th centuries, the pendulum swung in the other direction, the Word and the sermon were emphasized and the Sacraments celebrated only occasionally.
Today we attempt to strike a balance and follow the example of the earliest Christian centuries and of the great Reformers, as we obey Christ’s command, “Do this for the remembrance of me.”
A service of Ante Communion affords space in worship to recall the broader tradition of which we are part. It can offer the faithful a pause in their Eucharistic worship, to allow the lay leadership of worship and to resist the temptation to slip into ‘communion with everything, with or without a priest.’