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Sarum and Me

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I now have two brothers in the priesthood for whom the Sarum Rite is very much “in their blood”. Of course, in the ACC, we don’t have explicit provision to use the Rite – it is not one of the Rites prescribed by our Canons. And so, my brothers have to restrict their usage of the Rite in order to be obedient to that Canon. This is something that marks out Anglican Catholicism, and indeed all true Continuing Anglicans (i.e. those that are derived from the Congress of St Louis in 1977) from many other independent bodies and jurisdictions. We are bound by Canons so that we do truly continue and faithfully preach the Faith once delivered unto the saints. Occasionally, this means that we come up against things that ought to be allowed but aren’t. The way forward is not rebellion or political machination but prayerful obedience, reasoned discussion, and humble waiting. Canons can be changed but not without the discerned will of God Almighty.
I have been brought up on the English Missal and the use of the Gregorian Rite. I’m not a big fan of the 1549 Canon of the Mass and I leave the Eucharistic Canon of the 1928 BCP to my American brothers for whom it has greater resonance and importance. Yet, the question ought to be asked, “what do you think about Sarum?”
I am not familiar with it, but I am beginning to look at it and study it through Pearson’s translation of the Sarum Missal. This has already introduced me to hidden gems such as the verses by St Augustine on the Priesthood which I have quoted in a separate post below. In many ways it is the Gregorian Rite but with marked differences such as liturgical colours, hanging pyxides, and vesting prayers. There is a rather rude joke bandied about by afficionadi of the English Missal that any deviation from Catholic practice is labelled “Sarum”. This is rather unfair. Of course to learned hands such as Fr Chadwick, I am a mere novice, a babe in arms as I gaze at the Rite with fresh eyes.
Already I am struck by the fact that it ought to be allowed by our Canons, and I pray that this may be a decision that the whole Church agrees in due course. It is very much the basis of the Prayer Book in its prayers and conventions, although Archbishop Cranmer and his team were clearly trying to make prayer common and thus unify all of the different Rites such as that of Hereford, York, Bangor et al. It is a Rite that is certainly influenced by British prelates such as St Anselm and Archbishop John Peckham who is responsible for, among other things, restricting the Eucharist to those who have been confirmed in a council of 1281. If the Sarum Rite is that which is being celebrated in 1543, then Anglican Catholics have good grounds for taking it for their own.
Would I ever celebrate using the Sarum Rite? Not until I had permission to do so. My duty is to my Church and her good before my own philosophical considerations. I remember saying the Hail Mary for the first time at University and I remember feeling a bit naughty for doing so because I was going against my upbringing and culture. Yet, it became more natural as I thought about it and now it is as daily a prayer as any other one might expect. I suspect I would feel the same with the Sarum Rite. I am unfamiliar with it but I do want to encourage its study and usage among those who can. My hope is that its essential Englishness would mark it out as being precisely the Anglicanism that we wish to Continue.

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