Celebrating Mary with Common Worship

Jeremy Haselock provides an overview of developments in the Church of England’s provision for Marian feasts

At the risk of being a bore, I would like to begin with a reminder of the Church of England provision for Marian feasts with which many of us grew up. The calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer contains six days which its compilers regarded as feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin on 2 February, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 25 March, the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 2 July, St Anne, Mother to the Blessed Virgin Mary on 26 July, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 8 September, and the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 8 December. For these, proper collects, epistles and gospels were provided only for the Purification and the Annunciation, both days we might consider today to be feasts of Our Lord rather than of Our Lady.

In 1928 the B CP provision was enriched somewhat with a full setofpropers forthe Visitation, collects for theNativity and Conception and a new proper preface to  serve for both the Purification and the Annunciation. In this period, perhaps the heyday of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England, ‘advanced’ parishes would have supplemented the authorized material from Roman sources, mediated through the Cranmerian English of the English Missal and the Anglican Missal.

Becoming more mainstream

Looking back, I think the Alternative Service Book 1980 reflects to a certain extent both the degree to which devotion to Our Lady had become more mainstream and the ecumenical climate in which liturgical renewal was taking place post-Vatican II. It changed 2 February to the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, added St Joseph of Nazareth, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Festival on 19 March, moved the Visitation to 31 May in line with the revised Roman Calendar and raised 8 September to be the principal feast of Our Lady with the rank of Festival and a full set of propers, calling the day simply the Blessed Virgin Mary. The price for this, however, was the continued ignoring of 15 August and the removal of the Conception from the calendar altogether. Nevertheless, a beautiful proper preface appeared which exemplifies the scriptural foundation of classical Anglican devotion to Mary:

‘And now we give you thanks because in choosing the blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son you have exalted the humble and meek. Your angel hailed her as most highly favoured; with all generations we call her blessed, and with her we rejoice and magnify your holy name.’

The ASB collect for 8 September is marked by similar moderation:

‘Almighty God, who chose the blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your only Son: grant that we who are redeemed by his blood may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom.’

It hints at ecumenical agreement yet to come: ‘that Mary was prepared by grace to be the mother of our Redeemer by whom she herself was redeemed and received into glory’ (ARCIC, Mary – Grace and Hope in Christ). Finally, Advent 4 in the ASB calendar was given a Marian emphasis and marked by a collect adapted by the Joint Liturgical Group from an original by Frank Colquhoun:

‘Heavenly Father, who chose the Virgin Mary, full of grace, to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour: fill us with your grace, that in all things we may accept your holy will and with her rejoice in your salvation.’

A different world

With the Common Worship project we enter a rather different world. I have said before that liturgical revision in the Church of England is ‘the art of the possible’, given the constituency and the standing orders that govern the General Synod’s approval processes. Nevertheless, the Liturgical Commission on which I was privileged to serve, along with Andrew Burnham, succeeded in providing the Church of England with arguably the most ‘catholic’ eucharistic liturgy it has had since 1549 and certainly the most lavish provision for the celebration of the saints.

Useful resources

The ground for CW had been prepared by the publication, first of Lent. Holy Week. Easter. in 1986, then, in 1991, The Promise of His Glory and finally, in 1993, Michael Perham’s compilation, Enriching the Christian Year. This latter had a useful set of liturgical resources for use on feasts of Mary, notably a proper preface suitable for Our Lady of Sorrows:

‘And now we give you thanks because your eternal Word took our nature upon him in the womb of Mary the Virgin. The sword of sorrow pierced her heart when he was lifted high on the cross, and by his sacrifice made our peace with you.’

The CW calendar contains some changes Catholics have found helpful: the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary is moved to 15 August (but with the same veiled, ‘let the reader understand’ type of collect as the ASB employed on 8 September), 8 September is once again the Birth of the BVM and the Conception is restored to 8 December. An amendment proposing the inclusion of Our Lady of Walsingham on 24 September was narrowly defeated in Synod because too many members of the Catholic Group were absent from the chamber, taking afternoon tea!

ICEL material

The ‘core volume’ of the Common Worship project was published in 2000 and the altar book, entitled euphemistically ‘President’s Edition’, followed hard on its heels. When we were drafting the seasonal material to go in this volume, Andrew Burnham drew my attention to the draft ICEL

Sacramentary, a major piece of work destined ultimately to be ‘binned’ by the Congregation for Divine Worship, and suggested we might profitably make use of some of its Mass texts. Of most immediate use were a number of the eucharistic prefaces which, with very little adaptation, significantly improved the way the Church of England structured its Eucharistic Prayers. It is perhaps ironic that some of this excellent ICEL material has only survived as ‘Anglican Patrimony’ in CW. Amongst the limited seasonal provision in the core volume, the Extended Preface for the Annunciation found favour as a useful resource for votives of Our Lady on Saturdays.

The Festivals volume

CW: Times and Seasons has little or no specifically Marian material, though the Advent Wreath prayers for the fourth Sunday of Advent are Marian in theme. CW: Festivals, however, published in 2008, has the largest concentration of useful Marian Masses and prayers of any volume in the project. This collection
has propers for the Annunciation which could be used for a Votive of our Lady on Saturday with an appropriate collect substituted for that of the Principal Feast. The propers for the Visitation are first rate and include a new Extended Preface based on the Magnificat which could find wider use – the music for these prefaces is included in the volume which is itself laid out for use as an altar book. Most significantly there is a large Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary where all this material is helpfully brought together. I have no room here to discuss the abundant lectionary material but it is easy to find and parallels the Roman provision pretty closely. The Marian cycle of feasts is well catered for, the common is useful and votive Masses can easily be put together. Particularly rich are the four Extended Prefaces which deserve to be widely used. All we need now is for someone to bring all the material together in a handy
CW: Marian Missal. Volunteers? ND

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