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Source: (consider it) Thread: Curtains around the holy table
leo
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In Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, cursor down to the last quotation Eamon Duffy writes that protestants at the time of Edward 2bd curtained off the table when it was lengthwise in the chancel to stop people adoring the host.

Might this be the origin of Percy Dearmer’s mistake in advocating ‘English altars’ wit riddle posts as being in accordance with the Ornaments Rubric (about chancels remaining as they were in Edward’s reign)?

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Angloid
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I'd never realised before that the reformers wanted to outlaw non-communicating attendance in that way. I just though they had wanted to ensure that there were sufficient (in their view) communicants at every mass. I must read this book.

A few years ago I attended an Armenian Liturgy in Istanbul. It was the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced, and the altar (and its ministers) were hidden behind a curtain for a good long part of the service. I was unable to understand which part of the liturgy was which, and after about an hour when we appeared to have got no further than the gospel (though I may be wrong), we escaped!

(NB it was only bizarre to my Western eyes, and I intend no disparagement in the above comment.)

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L'organist
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A clerical friend being asked to take a service at a neighbouring church was bemused to find that projecting from about 7 feet above the altar on either side were metal rods from which hung some very tatty, unlined, damask curtains.

Thinking he was being helpful (!) he pulled them back as far as they would go, feeling mighty pleased with himself, only to be told by the sacristan the curtains are here to stop the candles blowing out. Perhaps not all accoutrements in a sanctuary have a mystical meaning? [Frown]

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Zappa
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No, perhaps, but one day they will have accrued mystical meaning. I have a theory that in 500 years time a large white screen will be lowered from the roof every time hymns are sung, as a symbol of epiclesis and a command for all present to raise their hands ... [Razz]

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Golden Key
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Z--

LOL. And, of course, scattered congregants will make shadow puppets.

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Golden Key
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L'organist--

Eeek! The candles might catch the curtains, and put *them* out.
[Eek!]

--------------------
Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
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Enoch
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Curious. I'd always thought they were there so that back in the days when a lot of clergy adopted the 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble' style of celebrating, they could say, 'well having the curtains there means we've got to do it that way'.

They're rather rare these days. If they survive at all, I tend to associate them with side altars that are hardly ever used. Apart from most churches celebrating facing across the altar towards the congregation, which means they would get in the way, I'd imagine moths have done for most of the curtains by now.

Does anyone who knows more about these things than I do, know where they came from? Despite Leo's suggestion, I suspect they don't go continuously back to the C16, but are much more recent, say 1910-1930?

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Bishops Finger
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Our Lady Chapel certainly had riddel posts and curtains until comparatively recent times (the remnants of the posts are still in the boiler-room [Eek!] ), but I think they were removed when the altar was brought forward for westward-facing celebration. The church dates from 1908, so yes, that sort of thing might well have been coming into vogue in A-C circles round about then.

(BTW, the altar has since been put back against the wall for eastward-facing celebration, which (a) gives a bit more space for priest and server, and (b) means that the rather lovely tester above the altar does its proper job of bouncing the sound of the priest's voice back towards the people. When we first moved the altar back against the wall, our Devoted Old Gentleman, known to all as Uncle Harold, remarked that he could now hear the Eucharistic Prayer much better! The first part of the service is taken from a lectern facing the people, the priest moving to the altar after the intercessions.)

IJ

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
... and (b) means that the rather lovely tester above the altar does its proper job of bouncing the sound of the priest's voice back towards the people. When we first moved the altar back against the wall, our Devoted Old Gentleman, known to all as Uncle Harold, remarked that he could now hear the Eucharistic Prayer much better! ...

That really surprises me. My objection to what I describe as 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble' is as much, if not more, to dismal memories about how in the congregation you couldn't hear properly (or, for that matter, see) what was going on, as to any of the more arcane bits of ecclesiantics about where the celebrant stood.

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Bishops Finger
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Well, that's how it seems to work at Our Place, but I expect other places will naturally differ acoustics-wise.

The chapel in question is quite small - it seats a dozen or so, plus priest + server.

IJ

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Higgs Bosun
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I'm confused by the OP. There were no protestants at the time of Edward 2nd who reigned 1307-1327, over two hundred years before the first properly protestant monarch, Edward 6th (Henry 8th does not count).

Or did these curtains date from the early 14th century, and so were part of Medieval church furniture, which was then removed when the "altars were stripped?"

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leo
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Whoops! Edward 6th. You can tell that I am an anti-monarchist.

Ornaments rubric

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
In Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, cursor down to the last quotation Eamon Duffy writes that protestants at the time of Edward 2bd curtained off the table when it was lengthwise in the chancel to stop people adoring the host.

Might this be the origin of Percy Dearmer’s mistake in advocating ‘English altars’ wit riddle posts as being in accordance with the Ornaments Rubric (about chancels remaining as they were in Edward’s reign)?

Well maybe. But the use of altar curtains appears to predate Edward VI and to extend outside England - though with the usual caveats about Wikipedia.
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L'organist
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So it could be back to the argument about shielding candles from draughts after all!

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american piskie
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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
So it could be back to the argument about shielding candles from draughts after all!

I don't think so. In this C16 image the altar candles are much taller than the curtains. And as for the tapers!

The image can be found by googling

Adriaen Ysenbrandt (Netherlandish, active 1510 - 1551) - The Mass of Saint Gregory the Great - Google Art Project.jpg

but the system won't allow me to post the link as it has brackets....

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Nick Tamen

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Here you go.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
... Does anyone who knows more about these things than I do, know where they came from? Despite Leo's suggestion, I suspect they don't go continuously back to the C16, but are much more recent, say 1910-1930?

Does it strike anyone as odd, that even on this board, which is regularly frequented by people who know about these things, nobody seems to have been able to answer this one?

People have shown late medieval paintings with them in. It's fairly clear though, that as far as England and Wales are concerned, modern adoption of them seems to date from the period I suggested. But nobody has answered the questions why, or where did the idea come from? Without an explanation, it just looks like a peculiar antiquarian fad. Does anyone know?

[ 19. September 2017, 06:45: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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BroJames
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Well it appears to have been introduced (or revived) by Ninian Comper (1864-1960). Here is Percy Dearmer's take on it in his introductory note to Some English Altars in 1928.
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Baptist Trainfan
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In his "Guide to English Parish Churches", John Betjeman wrote of a typical church "in some newish suburb of a provincial town". He mentions "the tall nave ... filled with chairs", the "Devonshire-styled chancel screen" through which we glimpse "a huge reredos painted green and red and gold, with folding doors". The high altar has "riddel posts with gilt angels on them - the famous ‘English altar’ introduced by Sir Niman Comper in the nineties - (which) hold curtains round the north, south and east".
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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Well it appears to have been introduced (or revived) by Ninian Comper (1864-1960). Here is Percy Dearmer's take on it in his introductory note to Some English Altars in 1928.

I can't pin this on them directly off the top of my head, but it strikes me as fitting the general ethos of the Cambridge Camden Society too, who were particularly influential in other aspects of church architecture and ordering.
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Bishops Finger
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Comper may indeed be partly responsible. The tester in our Lady Chapel, plus the altar cross and candlesticks, are reputed to be by him (or copied from his designs), and it is possible that the Vicar responsible for introducing these furnishings - which originally included riddel posts and curtains - knew Comper personally.

Although the posts and curtains are no longer in situ, we do still have the four carved wooden angels which formerly adorned the posts. They sit calmly and serenely on one of the windowsills in our Vestry, and are noteworthy for being individually designed and carved - no identical twins or quadruplets here!

IJ

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
... Does anyone who knows more about these things than I do, know where they came from? Despite Leo's suggestion, I suspect they don't go continuously back to the C16, but are much more recent, say 1910-1930?

Does it strike anyone as odd, that even on this board, which is regularly frequented by people who know about these things, nobody seems to have been able to answer this one?
No, it doesn’t because

a) only half of the tatmongers support Percy Dearmer (the other half support Ritual Notes and they’re split between modern and trad. and between Anglo=-catholic and ordinariate

and

b) Percy Dearmer was also Percy Dreamer – he imagined or invented half of his ‘British Musuem Religion’ so the only answers lie on his head.

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Enoch
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So apart from Dearmer and Comper both thinking they look nice - as it happens I don't. The ones I remember and the ones in those pictures look a bit twee and very much of their period - is there any other reason for having them?

Is there anything in the suspicion I expressed earlier that they more or less force whoever is presiding to 'turn their back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble'?

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Sorry, Leo, I realise you've posted while I was writing my response. That's helpful.
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[ 19. September 2017, 15:36: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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Bishops Finger
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I think that riddel posts and curtains tend to look rather untidy and 'cluttered', and our chapel IMNSHO certainly looks (and works) much better without them. As I have said before, in our particular case, having the priest face east for the Eucharistic Prayer does seem to work better than having him facing west, given that space is limited.

How it would work with a 'High Altar', I cannot say, never having attended a Eucharist at a church furnished in this manner...

IJ

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leo
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# 1458

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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
I think that riddel posts and curtains tend to look rather untidy and 'cluttered', and our chapel IMNSHO certainly looks (and works) much better without them. As I have said before, in our particular case, having the priest face east for the Eucharistic Prayer does seem to work better than having him facing west, given that space is limited.

How it would work with a 'High Altar', I cannot say, never having attended a Eucharist at a church furnished in this manner...

IJ

English altars are supposed to be very long and only have one missal cushion and 2 candles (maybe 4 on finials above) so look uncluttered.

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Augustine the Aleut
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I suspect that the Edwardian reformers wanted the altar (sorry, Holy Table) curtained off to prevent any untoward focus on it. After all, often locally important images or statues were set up as part of the reredos, or as single points of focus behind the altar.

The riddel posts popularized by Saints Percy & Ninian were late mediaeval, and likely had to do with protecting the officiant from the howling winds of drafty northern European churches. After all, surplices found their origin in the necessity of making enough under-alb space for the furs and wooly coats needed to preserve clergy health in winter.

Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
... Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

And folk such as me prefer congregation-facing celebration for the reason I've already given on this thread.

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Divine Praises
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
In Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, cursor down to the last quotation Eamon Duffy writes that protestants at the time of Edward 2bd curtained off the table when it was lengthwise in the chancel to stop people adoring the host.

Might this be the origin of Percy Dearmer’s mistake in advocating ‘English altars’ wit riddle posts as being in accordance with the Ornaments Rubric (about chancels remaining as they were in Edward’s reign)?

Well maybe. But the use of altar curtains appears to predate Edward VI and to extend outside England - though with the usual caveats about Wikipedia.
I believe the use of altar curtains, with or without riddle posts, may be a throwback to the ancient custom of having a ciborium over the altar. Most of these ciboria have since disappeared but a few remain and most of them still have their iron beams going from pillar to pillar.

In my ignorance, I thought these beams were a later addition to strengthen the stonework. But the sacristan of one of the ancient churches in Rome (sorry, I forget which one) assured me that the ironwork was original and there to carry the curtains. These curtains would have surrounded the altar on all four sides although the one in front of the altar would have been pulled back at certain points during the Mass.

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Forthview
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In fact the curtains were traditionally made from silk from Baghdad - called in older Italian Baldacco.From this we have now the word Baldacchino which is much the same as Ciborium.
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The Scrumpmeister
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# 5638

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
... Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

And folk such as me prefer congregation-facing celebration for the reason I've already given on this thread.
If I might be forgiven for saying so, that reason seems much like a sort of clericalism that doesn't sit well at all.

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
... Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

And folk such as me prefer congregation-facing celebration for the reason I've already given on this thread.
If I might be forgiven for saying so, that reason seems much like a sort of clericalism that doesn't sit well at all.
Since Enoch's principal given reason for preferring congregation-facing celebration was that as a member of the congregation he found that he could neither hear what was said nor see what was being done with a back-to-the-congregation celebration, I am struggling to see how that is any kind of clericalism.
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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Forthview:
In fact the curtains were traditionally made from silk from Baghdad - called in older Italian Baldacco.From this we have now the word Baldacchino which is much the same as Ciborium.

Thank you for that little bit of knowledge, now tucked away in its own corner of my mind.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
[qb]... Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

And folk such as me prefer congregation-facing celebration for the reason I've already given on this thread.

If I might be forgiven for saying so, that reason seems much like a sort of clericalism that doesn't sit well at all.
Since Enoch's principal given reason for preferring congregation-facing celebration was that as a member of the congregation he found that he could neither hear what was said nor see what was being done with a back-to-the-congregation celebration, I am struggling to see how that is any kind of clericalism.
Yes, as the person who made that comment, I'm a bit puzzled as to why that might more clerical than 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble'.

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Augustine the Aleut
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To Enoch- I think the idea behind interpreting westward-facing as clericalist is that it highlights the separateness and separate role of the cleric. The tendency of some clergy in treating the congregation as an audience supports this interpretation. I'm not suggesting that this is inevitable, but it has been known to happen, as has the mumbling approach by clergy facing east.
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BroJames
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Yes I can see that temptation for clergy, particularly since (a) there is an element of 'performance' about any up front role, and (b) church architecture tends to suggest that dynamic.

Personally, I prefer to think of it as the people of God gathered round the holy table, one of whom has the authority on behalf of the wider church and that gathering to speak for them all. There is (to use a directional analogy) both a vertical attention to the divine, and a horizontal attention to the "very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy dear son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people".

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The Scrumpmeister
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# 5638

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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
... Folk such as myself like them as they are an obstacle to attempts at congregation-facing celebrations.

And folk such as me prefer congregation-facing celebration for the reason I've already given on this thread.
If I might be forgiven for saying so, that reason seems much like a sort of clericalism that doesn't sit well at all.
Since Enoch's principal given reason for preferring congregation-facing celebration was that as a member of the congregation he found that he could neither hear what was said nor see what was being done with a back-to-the-congregation celebration, I am struggling to see how that is any kind of clericalism.
[Confused]

It seems like clericalism precisely for the reason that you have stated.

Perhaps this is one of those occasions where the same thing, viewed by two people, looks radically different to each due to their respective backgrounds.

I remember when a parish to which I once belonged had been operating for years out of a private home, with much of the services curtailed both in content and ceremonial. The unwitting result was a division in the congregation, between those who knew that this was "Orthodox-lite" and longed for the day when we could do things properly, and those who had not visited anywhere other than our mission parish, and knew nothing different. When the time finally came that we outgrew our domestic chapel, started to use a building that was more ostensibly a church, and were able to perform the services more fully, what seemed to some of us as a long-awaited breath of fresh air - a liberating ability finally to offer the services more fully, free of the constraints of our previous circumstances - seemed to others of our sisters and brothers to be the unwelcome stench of unnecessary and unsettling change.

We hadn't realised this division existed until we were confronted with its effects, and it took us a while to work pout how to walk forward together and get on with the business of the Church in our new circumstances. So I kind of get that the same thing can look very different to different people.

Laying my cards on the table, then... I'm Orthodox. We pray towards the east, both in public and private prayer, and there are ancient and established scriptural, traditional, and liturgical reasons why we do this. Our icon corners are against an east-facing wall, and we are buried facing towards the east. In our public services, priest and people jointly face east to pray, with no single earthly person being the focus of the worship. While we do that, many different groups of people within the church have their part to play in the Church's worship of God:

The priest prays for, with, and on behalf of the people, and offers the sacrifice. The deacon exhorts the priest and the faithful in his practical instructions, proclaims the Gospel, performs the censings, and serves as a link between the earthly realm and the heavnely realm. The subdeacons and altar servers perform practical duties to facilitate the worship of God by his people. The choir leads the people in singing their parts of the vocalised prayers and hymns of the worship. The laity join in with the hymns, prayers, and psalms with the choir, as well as presenting their offerings, making their customary bows, crosses, and prostrations to facilitate their prayers. Even children, who might not be able to understand the theology of the Eucharist, can be seen venerating the icons and relics at certain times during the services.

In that context, each group of people would not for a moment consider themselves to have a lesser part in the Church's worship of God due to not being able to see or hear what any other group is doing, for we all have our part to play in the communal offering.

To somebody steeped in a tradition such as my own, for someone to suggest that not being able to see and hear everything that the priest is saying or doing equates to some sort of exclusion from the Church'd worship suggests a highly exalted and disproportionate view of the role of the priest/minister in the individual's participation in the Church's worship, and it is alien to our tradition.

I do not mean to disparage the customs of others - I truly don't - but the suggestion that a lay worshipper is somehow being excluded from the worship just because they can't see or hear the priest/minister (and it's difficult to come to a different reading of the presumably intentionally disparaging caricature of "turn your back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble" as suggesting anything other than this) seems to me to be clericalism in its most extreme form.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
Perhaps this is one of those occasions where the same thing, viewed by two people, looks radically different to each due to their respective backgrounds.

This. Very much this.

quote:
To somebody steeped in a tradition such as my own, for someone to suggest that not being able to see and hear everything that the priest is saying or doing equates to some sort of exclusion from the Church'd worship suggests a highly exalted and disproportionate view of the role of the priest/minister in the individual's participation in the Church's worship, and it is alien to our tradition.

I do not mean to disparage the customs of others - I truly don't - but the suggestion that a lay worshipper is somehow being excluded from the worship just because they can't see or hear the priest/minister (and it's difficult to come to a different reading of the presumably intentionally disparaging caricature of "turn your back on the congregation, huddle over the altar and mumble" as suggesting anything other than this) seems to me to be clericalism in its most extreme form.

It’s only difficult to come to a different reading, I’d suggest, if you apply the tradition you are steeped in to the comments of someone steeped in a different tradition and understanding. I can understand how Enoch’s complaint seems like clericalism to you; but I can also understand how what you’re used to seems like clericalism to Enoch.

As you say, the same thing can look radically different to people of different backgrounds.

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BroJames
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Yes. I can see, given your explanation of orthodox thinking, that from that perspective it could seem like clericalism.

The Anglican tradition from its inception however views it differently with a strong move towards there being nothing which the priest does which is hidden from the body of worshippers, whether by language, volume or posture.

From within this tradition, if what the priest says cannot be heard or cannot be understood by the congregation then it diminishes their participation. And broadly speaking that is what is reflected in the final paragraph of my post immediately preceding yours.

From within this tradition 'clericalism' in a liturgical setting is about an attitude of 'it doesn't matter whether the laity can see or hear what is going on so long as the right thing is being done by the priest in right relationship to God' because, from within this tradition, lay people being able to see hear and understand what is going on is a key part of their full participation in worship.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
lay people being able to see hear and understand what is going on is a key part of their full participation in worship.

I think I prayed harder back in the days of the silent canon because I read the prayers of consecration and oblation 'to myself' during it.

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The Scrumpmeister
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
The Anglican tradition from its inception however views it differently with a strong move towards there being nothing which the priest does which is hidden from the body of worshippers, whether by language, volume or posture.

From within this tradition, if what the priest says cannot be heard or cannot be understood by the congregation then it diminishes their participation.

Thanks to you and Nick Tamen, for your responses.

I've been very careful about my wording in what follows as the discussion has been eirenic and I don't wish to offend.

I was raised Anglican, and I know a little of the development of Anglican worship from the Catholic forms before it, which were themselves related to the ancient western Orthodox forms that my own church uses today. Although it's fast approaching 12 years since I've been Orthodox I'm familiar with the development of the rites - with their rubrics and ceremonial - that eventually gave birth to the BCP in its various incarnations, and I see the shift that took place, expressing the understanding that I think you voiced in your reply above, and even looking at them from a purely historical perspective, removed from the subjective experience of years of Orthodox worship, it is still difficult to see this approach as anything other than clericalist, even if it is unintentionally so because it seems to normal due to the length of time that has passed.

There were many changes in the Anglican rites to reflect this but perhaps the most striking was that the priest's prayers that he said while putting on his vestments, which had previously been prayed as a matter of private devotion, now had to be said aloud in the hearing of the people. The overall effect is a degree of dependence on seeing and hearing the priest that had never until that point been part of the understanding of Christians at worship at any time or in any place that I know of.

Eventually, this has come to manifest itself in our own day in the fact that being able to see and hear the priest takes precedence over other elements of ancient Christian worship, such as our communal facing east. We see a negative view of priest and people together facing east, with proponents and opponents alike within the same Anglican church using disparaging terminology of each other's customs: so we hear people talking about the priest with his "back to the people", or on the other side retaliating with talk of Mass "over the counter". Rood screens are definitely out, as are the traditional prayers offered quietly. Rows of seats of have been introduced - not intrinsically a bad thing but they do help to facilitate the mindset of "view the action up at the front".

I just cannot view that as a separate tradition in which this mindset is not clericalist, because I am well acquainted with its development as part of the wider historical Christian worship, and I know that clericalism is precisely the reason why the liturgical reformers introduced these changes. It is difficult for me to hear the majority of justificatons for these elements without seeing those reasons shining through. Meaning ni disrespect, I had the same feeling when I read your reference to things being done by the priest being "hidden" from the body of worshippers. This term itself suggests a motive of wilful concealment of actions that simply might not need to be seen by everyone.

I don't know - the memory of getting agitated about this seems almost dream-like to me now, much like a flashback scene in a film. Perhaps I've made a little spiritual progress now that I am no longer directly confronted with its effects in my regular worship. However, I do recall there was a time when I felt increasingly stifled by not just the reality of it but also by the disparagement by those who felt differently, and I suppose a certain description of the eastward-facing Mass used on this thread acted as a sort of trigger for those memories.

[ 06. October 2017, 01:05: Message edited by: The Scrumpmeister ]

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If Christ is not fully human, humankind is not fully saved. - St John of Saint-Denis

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Albertus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
...There were many changes in the Anglican rites to reflect this but perhaps the most striking was that the priest's prayers that he said while putting on his vestments, which had previously been prayed as a matter of private devotion, now had to be said aloud in the hearing of the people.

I have never, ever heard a priest pray while putting on his- or her- vestments, unless I happened to be in the vestry myself, robing, at the time- and even then the prayers were said sotto voce. Has any other Anglican shipmate? I won't say that it has never happened- but how? Does the priest vest in the body of the church? Is the microphone deliberately, as opposed to accidentally, switched on so that it comes through the sound system- but if it has, to suggest that it is in any way a 'striking' feature of the Anglican liturgy seems to me to be so far removed from reality that I can only conclude that the Scrumpmeister has misunderstood or misremembered something.

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BroJames
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The initial Lord's Prayer in the BCP service of Holy Communion, and the Collect for Purity were originally part of the priest's private devotions in preparation for the eucharist (although not, I think, vesting prayers as such).

In the catholic tradition in the Church of England vesting prayers are still very much in use, but said in the vestry, and not in the presence of the wider congregation.

Returning to Scrumpmeister's helpful post, I would happily rephrase my paragraph to avoid the word hidden, as follows
quote:
The Anglican tradition from its inception however views it differently with a strong move towards there being nothing which the priest does which is not witnessed and understood by the body of worshippers, whether because of language, volume or posture.
I appreciate the eirenic tone of this discussion too, and I will try and maintain it in what follows. My starting point is from a very different place in that although I have been a regular worshipper in the Church of England for thirty years (and occasionally for nearly twenty years before that), my background before my regular participation in the CofE was initially Presbyterian/URC and then latterly Baptist. Neither of those traditions is particularly comfortable with the word "priest".

Both in different ways put a strong emphasis on the active and informed participation by the whole people of God in worship together, where there are distinct roles within the worship, but not necessarily any role which cannot in principle be fulfilled by any member of the worshipping community duly authorised. In the Baptist church, the authorising body is the local congregation.

From this perspective clericalism tends to be defined in terms of there being things which only clergy are allowed to do or to witness.

It seems to me then that 'clericalism' in relation to worship is a word which we are using in different ways according to the perspectives from which we come.

On the one hand it is avoided by not placing an undue focus on the words and actions of the priest, on the other hand it is avoided by making the words and actions of the priest accessible to the whole congregation.

Am I getting near the mark here?

[ 06. October 2017, 17:14: Message edited by: BroJames ]

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The Scrumpmeister
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
quote:
Originally posted by The Scrumpmeister:
...There were many changes in the Anglican rites to reflect this but perhaps the most striking was that the priest's prayers that he said while putting on his vestments, which had previously been prayed as a matter of private devotion, now had to be said aloud in the hearing of the people.

I have never, ever heard a priest pray while putting on his- or her- vestments, unless I happened to be in the vestry myself, robing, at the time- and even then the prayers were said sotto voce. Has any other Anglican shipmate? I won't say that it has never happened- but how? Does the priest vest in the body of the church? Is the microphone deliberately, as opposed to accidentally, switched on so that it comes through the sound system- but if it has, to suggest that it is in any way a 'striking' feature of the Anglican liturgy seems to me to be so far removed from reality that I can only conclude that the Scrumpmeister has misunderstood or misremembered something.
It's as BroJames said. The Sarum Mass has no individual prayers for the donning of each vestment as in the Roman use, but there is a set of private devotions said by the priest during the vesting. This includes the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, the prayer now commonly known as the Collect for Purity, and Our Father, among others. In the revision of Sarum that became the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service, most of these private prayers and devotions of the priest were excised. Those that remained were directed to be said no longer in the vestry, but at the altar, and the understanding (and reality) is that they were to be done aloud. They are still there in the 1662 Prayer Book, although by that point the association with the vesting had been lost (presumably because I imagine the Mass vestments had ceased to be worn).

quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
It seems to me then that 'clericalism' in relation to worship is a word which we are using in different ways according to the perspectives from which we come.

On the one hand it is avoided by not placing an undue focus on the words and actions of the priest, on the other hand it is avoided by making the words and actions of the priest accessible to the whole congregation.

Am I getting near the mark here?

Yes. I think you absolutely are, and I agree. I can certainly look at some thoughts that I have heard expressed by some Eastern Orthodox people - Russian Orthodox in particular - that have perhaps been born of a desire to maintain a healthy reverence for the sacred but taken to the extreme of being what can only be termed theological nonsense.

For instance, I remember serving in the altar and seeing my priest's tears during Lent when we used the anaphora of St Basil. So I went and looked up the text myself and found it incredibly beautiful and a real means of actualising the exhortation "Let us lift up our hearts". When I tried to share it with some people at church via email I was berated by some Russian ladies, and told quite sternly that lay people - and women in particular - should not read the texts said by the priest.

The laity not hearing some of the priest's prayers during the Liturgy because they are singing their own prayers and hymns is one thing; developing a superstition that they are forbidden from knowing the content of the prayer to which they are giving their "Amen" is quite another. It is indeed clericalism and simply bad theology, not to mention a grave loss of a wonderful catechetical opportunity. That is not Orthodox teaching as I have come to understand it but I have to confess that the thought does seem to exist among some Orthodox people.

quote:
Returning to Scrumpmeister's helpful post, I would happily rephrase my paragraph to avoid the word hidden, as follows
quote:
The Anglican tradition from its inception however views it differently with a strong move towards there being nothing which the priest does which is not witnessed and understood by the body of worshippers, whether because of language, volume or posture.
I appreciate the eirenic tone of this discussion too, and I will try and maintain it in what follows. My starting point is from a very different place in that although I have been a regular worshipper in the Church of England for thirty years (and occasionally for nearly twenty years before that), my background before my regular participation in the CofE was initially Presbyterian/URC and then latterly Baptist. Neither of those traditions is particularly comfortable with the word "priest".

Both in different ways put a strong emphasis on the active and informed participation by the whole people of God in worship together, where there are distinct roles within the worship, but not necessarily any role which cannot in principle be fulfilled by any member of the worshipping community duly authorised. In the Baptist church, the authorising body is the local congregation.

From this perspective clericalism tends to be defined in terms of there being things which only clergy are allowed to do or to witness.

Thank you for sharing something of your own journey and background as well, BroJames, and for your considered rewording. That's really helpful.

I think that there is something great value in the ideal of participation being informed, as you say. It is simply good sense for Christians to know what it is that they are praying, insofar as they are capable, and the theology that the prayers and worship are expressing. Our worship forms us and our aids what my tradition would call our deification, and our minds are no less part of us than any other.

quote:
'Virtually all know the words of this psalm and they continue to sing it at every age, without knowing, however, the sense of what has been said. This is not a small charge, to sing something every day, putting forth words from the mouth, without searching out the meaning of the thoughts residing in the words.'
- St John Chrysostom

not claiming any lack of bias (after all, I;m where I am for a reason) I do think that, at its best, Orthodox liturgical life does strike the right balance informed, active, and actual participation, on the one hand, and the avoidance of undue focus on a single person or group, on the other. However, as with anything good, it relies on the people making it happen to ensure that this balance is maintained, and it often doesn't come out in the wash well. This is largely because the ancient services have many accretions that have attached themselves over the centuries. For that, I think one of the ordination prayers sums up well my approach to such things, where it refers to the divine grace, "which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking".

I belong to the Western Orthodox Church now. I ended up there due to difficult circumstances, and while my personal situation is somewhat unusual (my "parish" is in another country - a long story), the form of the Divine Liturgy that we use is free of these accretions, and the meaning is refreshingly clear.

Perhaps one day, should God will it, there might be a communal presence of our church more local to me.

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If Christ is not fully human, humankind is not fully saved. - St John of Saint-Denis

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