Sunday, November 26, 2006

Anglican Traditions

I've been asked twice in the past week about Anglican traditions, as they relate to Advent and to house blessings.

Guess what? There are no distinctly Anglican traditions. Just about everything Anglicans do is explained and accessible on about a zillion Catholic websites.

(Except for house blessings. I googled on that phrase and came up with precious little that looked Christian, and few details on the ones that did. Lots of pagan rituals out there for house blessings though. Hmmm, a project for Papa Rooster?)

So why are there no distinctly Anglican traditions? That's because the Church of England never jettisoned the good stuff from the Catholic Church. Like Luther and the other Reformers, they wanted to purge the church of excesses--but when they were at their best, they managed not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. They kept those prayers and traditions which had been handed down from the first apostles. In fact, they wrote them down in a more accessible form than the Latin mass (that is, in English, and in one volume instead of seven)--and the Book of Common Prayer was born. I suppose you could call the BCP the one "tradition" that is distinctive to Anglican worship!

This week I happened to run across this post by John H (a Lutheran) at Confessing Evangelical in which he said:

But just because something is done in the Roman Catholic Church doesn't mean it should be cast aside by evangelicals ...I've found the following words from the Swedish Lutheran bishop Bo Giertz particularly helpful in setting out what truly distinguishes evangelical Christianity from Roman Catholicism:

Such external things as confession, bowing our knees, making the sign of the cross mark no distinction between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Luther himself went often to confession, he bended his knees both at home and in the church, and in his little catechism he suggests that a Christian should make the sign of the cross both morning and evening. In such matters there is no difference between the pope and ourselves except that we consciously remove all ceremonies that are unscriptural, but make use of all others in evangelical freedom, when they serve the edification of believers. (bold type in original)

Papa Rooster, as an Anglican priest, owns, studies and borrows from Catholic and Orthodox liturgies because they date back to the earliest days of the church. He reads the "Church Fathers"--the earliest Christian writers--to learn those things which have been believed and practiced by all Christians at all times in all places --"quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est" ("what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all"). That was the now-famous maxim of St. Vincent of Lerins (434 AD). While Scripture was his ultimate source of Christian truth, this test was what he and many have used to distinguish between true and false tradition.

And there are so many rich traditions--and some good theology--that were completely lost in the reactionary decisions of the Reformation. No disputing that a reformation was needed, but even Luther didn't want to leave Catholicism. Mark Sides at Stones Cry Out says this is his "almost daily lament: the sad absence of grandeur, pomp and circumstance, pageantry, beauty, tradition, and sense of history that so characterizes, and so impoverishes, the Evangelical church in America.... It is possible that we have gone well beyond what Luther, Calvin and other early Protestant leaders intended."

Since Protestantism rejected church traditions that they believed were not directly rooted in Scripture, other traditions arose to fill that void which are even less Scriptural. Christmas, for example, is a season in the liturgical year that has become filled with secular, consumeristic traditions; in the liturgical year, the season of Christmas doesn't even begin until December 24--no trees, no gifts, no parties or Christmas carols before that date (if we followed church tradition only). The traditional focus of Advent is on waiting--not only for the baby Jesus, but for the second coming of Jesus--and so it is a penitential season, like Lent, as we examine and prepare ourselves for his comings. (And Easter.... There are so many beautiful symbols and services that the church needs to resurrect during that season--but I'll save that for later.)

Bottom line? For Christian family traditions, borrow freely from our Catholic and Orthodox brethren! They're generally rooted in the earliest traditions of the church.

Tomorrow I'll outline some of our family traditions as well as some we're considering.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeanne,

I really appreciated this post : ) It wasnt until I "came out" as a Christian blogger that I saw just how much anti-Catholism is out there. As someone raised and rooted so much in the Catholic tradition (not to mention very drawn to the Orthodox), that has been incredibly hurtful. And before, I tried a purely evangelical path for awhile and it felt like it had its heart ripped out, no truly sacred art, depth, beauty, ritual, not even a true honoring of our Blessed Mother. So my Catholic roots resurfaced of their own accord quite naturally, helping bring the heart back.

I've never been a big fan of the reformation (particularly Henry VIII's part) and have had my own prejudice to heal against protestantism. Bloggers like yourself and like Plain and Simple are really helping me to do that. It's been a new treat for me to realize that there are Anglican communities so rooted in depth and tradition and beauty. I'm curious to explore the book of common prayer now : )

Blessed Week : ) Wendy

At A Hen's Pace said...


I'm so glad to hear a little bit of your story! I'm all for breaking down prejudices. There is so much to learn and recover from one another.

I'm sure you'll love the BCP. There are many online links to it--I'm planning to get them into my sidebar soon. Confessing Evangelical had links to Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and a few more in his sidebar--you might check them out. (The link is in the post above.)

Thanks, as always, for visiting and commenting--

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to exploring the BCP. And you're so right, there is so much to learn and recover from one another : )

Blessed Week : ) Wendy

Laura said...

Well, I'm egregiously late offering my hear! hear! to this post, but after you left your comment over at my place, I wanted to check your site. Great stuff about embracing the full body of Christ in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. And I'm eager to have our house blessed too. Wish I could pack Papa Rooster up for a quick Qatari house blessing! :)