Today, the curate and I tried to revise the Lent liturgy. When I presided on Ash Wednesday, I realised that the eucharistic prayer felt fine for that night, but I didn’t want six weeks of it. So, we started experimenting with legal combinations, looking for a prayer that would would feel stripped back and bare — and utterly lovely. The conversation went like this:
‘What if we used a shorter preface with B instead of A?’
‘Have you read the shorter prefaces?’
‘OK. Extended preface — but B is shorter.’
‘Did you turn the page?’
‘What about the one that’s gone out of fashion — could we cut the refrain…’
[silence. we both knew it was illegal]
We can’t use that one — we use it at Christmas.
We can’t use that one — the double epiclesis is Easter joy.
Why on earth have they put an epiclesis ‘on us’ but not on bread and wine in that one? Stupid, stupid liturgy!
And so, after all that, we returned to the extended preface with prayer A — and agreed that even that would be better if we could cut a paragraph of theologically insignificant exhortation. (We also agreed that we had never had this conversation should one of us ever accidentally omit said paragraph.)
A friend on facebook asked, ‘what do you want?’ So here is my liturgical wish list.
I would like:
— proper seasonal prayers that fill the imagination, gladden the heart, and surprise with their poetic form
— a stable structure for the prayers, following the Western Rite (ideally as held in SEC and TEC). I don’t mind if there is one option that follows BCP order, but I shan’t use it.
— at least one ‘year round’ prayer that is simple, elegant, and short.
— a prayer for occasional use that will work for dinner church — something simple, with the possibility of blessing bread and wine separately, at different points of the meal.
— a double epiclesis in every prayer. Since this is England, I don’t mind if half of it is optional and in italics, but let it be possible for us to be doubly blessed.
— prayers that are written by a small group of people with a clear theological vision. Let there be a very catholic prayer (that the charismatics will never use) and a very evangelical prayer (that the liberals will ignore), but let there be coherence and integrity in each, rather than the carnage of liturgical warfare.
None of that is hard. None of that is radical.
But it is not (yet) what we have.