As a convert from Anglicanism I have been curious since Benedict XVI paved the way for the creation of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham about what particular aspects of ‘Anglican patrimony’ – as the Pope emeritus put it – might be introduced into Catholic worship. Last night at the Little Oratory, Brompton Road, an Evensong and Benediction was celebrated that gave a strong indication.
If any of the upwards of 200 people crowded into the beautiful chapel had any doubts about the workability of the combined liturgy, few can have been in any doubt at the end.
The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are treasures at the very heart of Anglicanism, even though some would say they are not always appreciated as such. They were given their proper place here. But I had not realised how firmly the responses following ‘O Lord, show they mercy upon us’, had been set down in my own psyche, until I found myself praying them again after a gap of more than eight years. ‘Give peace in our time, O Lord, Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only, thou, O God’, rings true with force, just as ‘O God, make clean our hearts within us, And take not they Holy Spirit from us’ equally but in a different way expresses our complete dependence.
But what about, ‘Oh Lord save the Queen. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee’. I joyfully pray for the Pope at Mass. This prayer for the Queen, surely, takes us right back to the Reformation, and affirms our secular monarch as head of the Church. I asked the Ordinary and last night’s presider, Mgr Keith Newton, whether any difficult issues were raised here. ‘Not at all,’ he said. He was delighted to keep the prayer for the Queen, because it showed the confidence of Catholics as full and equal members of British society. To omit this seemed to him to make the Church too peripheral. And of course Pope Francis was prayed for too.
So what do Anglicans have that Catholics don’t? How about lines like: ‘O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give … ‘?
And what do Catholics have? Well, the Real Presence of Christ, of course. At Benediction: ‘Therefore we before him bending this great sacrament revere … ‘; The Divine Praises: ‘Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name …’ and afterwards the ‘Salve Regina…’
Mgr Newton told me that his Anglican services, at least, had been no stranger to these Catholic elements. But when one looks at the separate agonising and bitterness that has been in evidence in the compilations of new Missal translations and prayer books, one cannot help thinking that – on the evidence of last night – the opportunity for a powerful cross-fertilisation, based on a genuinely creative tension, has been there all along.
And is it not the case that, if ecumenism is to make progress, it will be first of all on the basis of deep common prayer? And if the Holy Spirit is not taken from us, the common doctrine will follow.