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Liturgy + water = forgettable

April 13, 2009

Priest. Christ our Paschal lamb is offered up for us, once for all, when he bare our sins on his body upon the cross, for he is the very lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world: wherefore let us keep a joyful and holy feast with the Lord.

Priest. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Answer. Therefore let us keep the feast.

The 1549 phrase had disappeared by the advent of the 1552 Prayer Book, and it is not found in the 1764 Scottish Communion Office, which heavily influenced the American Prayer Book of 1789. The Scottish bishops had agreed to consecrate Samuel Seabury in 1784 on the condition that he study the Scottish Rite in the formation of the American communion service. It is therefore unsurprising that the line should not have appeared initially in the American book.

Nevertheless, one is disappointed that its latter-day reintroduction should give us a phrase of such flat sentiment. Keeping a “joyful and holy feast with the Lord” sounds exactly that: joyful and holy; exuberant, transporting, worthwhile. “Let us keep the feast” puts us in mind of the rote duty that tends to be the general state not of faithful Protestants, but of woebegone American Roman Catholics everywhere. It is small wonder that many think of the contemporary Episcopal Church as “RC-lite,” when we present so much of the sacred mystery as elementary school call-and-response.

Next week…
“Praise to you, Lord Christ.” (Top-40 Country Gospel hit?)
“Praise be to thee, O Christ.”

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