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Enriching Our Worship: A reading of its Trinitarian theology (2)

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of considering the Trinitarian theology of Enriching Our Worship volume 1, especially if it provides a picture of a rite or rites to come in the Episcopal Church. I recommend that readers start with that post, before diving into this one. Tomorrow, I shall consider the volume’s eucharistic prayers. (See here for part 3.)

The way I have decided to provide a picture of the revised eucharistic rite as a whole in the first volume of Enriching Our Worship (henceforth, EOW1) is to outline a summary of the ways in which it changes and edits the Rite II communion service in the current 1979 BCP. One of the things that makes an evaluation like this difficult is that one’s response is colored by the context. Were the texts to have appeared out of the blue, they would likely be read in a different way. But they are consciously meant to be alternatives to the 1979 BCP and thus they must be read as and within a conversation with this authority for worship in the Episcopal Church.

The summary:

  • Acclamation: the Trinitarian acclamation for Ordinary Time (“Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”), which was borrowed from the Byzantine Rite, is changed in such as way as to remove any references to the Persons or to the Trinity: “Blessed be the one, holy, and living God” or simply “Blessed be God.”
  • The Collect for Purity and the “Kyrie eleison/Lord, have mercy” have been removed. Thus, any sense of a posture other than praise (such as humility or penitence) is removed from the Preparation Rites.
  • The rubrics helpfully clarify what the compilers of the 1979 BCP clearly intended: the “Song of Praise” that can be sung in place of the Gloria in excelsis is ideally a biblical canticle or an ancient construction like the Te Deum.
  • The Salutation is changed from “The Lord be with you” to “God be with you.” This is the first of many places where the term Lord is excised completely.
  • An option is provided during Ordinary Time (the seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost) to replace the Prayer Book collects with those from a list of new collects. I will not attempt a summary of the alternative collects; but as it concerns Trinitarian issues, I note the following characteristics, which are similar to the approach of the entire rite:
    • Father is never used;
    • Jesus is never referred to as Son, neither as a proper name nor in terms of his relation to God the Father;
    • The relationship between the Persons is unclear: how the Father relates to Jesus, how the Spirit relates to Father and Son, and many similar questions, remain opaque.
  • The Response after the lessons is changed from “The Word of the Lord” to “Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people/the churches” (cf. Rev 2:29).
  • The Gospel proclamation changes in three ways:
    • The acclamation preceding the Gospel changes Lord to Savior (e.g. “The Holy Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ according to _________”)
    • The response to the acclamation (“Glory to you, Lord Christ”) is removed
    • The acclamation following the Gospel (“The Gospel of the Lord / Praise to you, Lord Christ”) disappears altogether.
  • The translation of the Nicene Creed is altered in a number of ways from the “We believe” translation in both Rite I and Rite II of the 1979 BCP:
    • Language regarding the Incarnation now more accurately reflects the conciliar language so that the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary are both the object of the preposition ἐκ (“of”): σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίαςτῆς παρθένου is translated as “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”
    • “and was made man” has become “and became truly human” (the purpose for this, Ruth Meyers explains, is to emphasize “that it is not the maleness but the humanity of Jesus that is significant in the redemption of humanity”
    • The masculine pronouns for the Holy Spirit in the third section of the Creed are able to be removed by the judicious use of relative pronouns (which makes it more like the Rite I form of the Nicene Creed)
  • The Confession is rewritten with a number of changes: the clarification about sin “in thought, word, and deed” is removed; the parallel of not loving God and our neighbor (cf. Luke 10:27) also disappears; we repent “of the evil that enslaves us,” the meaning of which continues to elude me; and “Son” is changed to “Savior”
  • In the Absolution, “through our Lord Jesus Christ” becomes “through the grace of Jesus Christ”
  • “The Peace of the Lord be always with you” becomes the “The Peace of Christ
  • B. The eucharistic prayers will be addressed in Part 3 of this article
  • The Lord’s Prayer simply disappears from its place between the Eucharistic Prayer and the Breaking of the Bread/Fraction (note that the Lord’s Prayer is also removed from its normal place after the salutation in Morning and Evening Prayer)
  • The two Postcommunion prayers of thanksgiving are written in the vein already noted about language changes (no Father or Lord, nor Jesus as Son)
  • All the blessing options are possibly Trinitarian in their implication but are nonetheless rather vague:
    • In one, the Father is the “Eternal Majesty” and the Son the “incarnate Word
    • In another, the Father (presumably) is “the God of Abraham and Sarah,” the Son is “Jesus Christ born of our sister Mary,” and the Spirit is the one who “broods over the world as a mother over her children”
    • Still another speaks of “God’s blessing,” “Christ’s peace,” and “the Spirit’s outpouring”
    • And still another of “the Wisdom of God,” “the Love of God,” and “the Grace of God,” a construction that also does not appear to make a direct correspondence to particular Persons

How might be categorize these changes?

  • All language that carries with it any notion of gender has been excised or replaced — mostly notably, Father and Son
  • The use of the term Lord is radically reduced. It is retained only in two places: (a) in the Nicene Creed (“Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord” and “the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life”) and (b) in the Dialogue of the Sursum corda that begins the Great Thanksgiving (“The Lord be with you / We lift them up to the Lord / Let us give thanks to the Lord our God;” if the Gloria in excelsis is used, the term Lord also appears).
  • If the materials from EOW1 are used as an entire rite (and not just as a supplement for a few parts of the rite as given in the 1979 BCP), the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are not required to be said. Since the Gloria in excelsis is already optional in the 1979 liturgy, this means that all the places in the liturgy that articulate the received scriptural teaching as explicated by the early councils is entirely absent.
  • Outside of the Gloria and the Nicene Creed, there is no reference to God as Trinity (the word Trinity appears only in an optional collect). The liturgy speaks of God; the liturgy speaks of Jesus; the liturgy speaks of a (Holy) Spirit. But how each is related to the other is not clear. And certainly any sense that their relations (or processions) have any bearing on the identity of God is simply unaddressed.


  1. Thank you for this summary of changes in EOW relative to the BCP 1979. Having been in communities that use these resources regularly, I would add a few notes.

    1. On the Trinitarian greeting: it is true that the EOW options do not explicitly mention the Trinity. It’s worth noting that this is also true of the Easter and Lent greetings in Rites I and II.
    2. The focus on the Eucharist in this piece has left out the Trinitarian wordings of Morning/Evening Prayer, (“Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God.” EOW1 20) and the Litany (“Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, One God”, as in the BCP).
    3. One further change in the Nicene Creed not noted above is the reversion to the original Niceno-Constantinopolitan version of the creed by removing the later “Filioque” clause. This is relevant to your conclusion with regard to the early councils, as EOW in fact restores an earlier conciliar text in this case.
    4. I have never seen anyone literally “develop an entire liturgy using
    the supplemental texts,” to the exclusion of ANY texts from the BCP. I have always seen each of the headers treated as an alternative or alternatives to the BCP texts. EOW morning and evening prayer illuminate this fact well. Morning prayer includes only the salutation and suffrages after the Apostles’ Creed. This is clearly NOT meant to exclude the Lord’s Prayer, other intercessions, the dismissal, etc. I have never seen or heard of EOW Morning Prayer being used to exclude these pieces.
    4a. This has clear implications for the impression that EOW eucharists omit the Lord’s Prayer. There was no alternate text of the Lord’s Prayer given; therefore it is not included. Again, I have never heard of or been present at an EOW Eucharist that did not include the Lord’s Prayer.
    5. It’s worth noting that God-Christ-Spirit, whatever one’s other feelings might be about it, is not “possibly Trinitarian” but “rather vague”—it’s a Trinitarian frame that’s shared by the New Testament (2 Cor. 13:14 etc.) and the early Church.

  2. Greg, thanks for your comments. Many of the things you raise are quite true and as I mention in part 1, I chose to limit the scope of the examination in order to keep the word limit of an already-large essay as short as possible.

    While I think it’s a good thing that EOW1 isn’t being used as an entire rite, I’m just working from the text of EOW1 itself and how it describes its use. It clearly states that one of its two uses is as a complete rite. And while I think that your reading is a very generous one – namely, that all the rubrics of the BCP should be assumed in the EOW1 rite – EOW1 never states this. And as I quoted, “The entire eucharistic liturgy can be designed with only the collect of the day from the BCP being added” (EOW1, p. 14). The point is that if the assumption of the ’79 BCP rubrics is the intention of EOW1, the text does never actually states this, and thus one would be free NOT to follow the BCP rubrics, based on the text itself.

    I would push that and argue that the God-Christ-Spirit language is only possibly Trinitarian. The scriptural appeal cannot be to just one verse but the whole NT witness. And, for instance, as the excellent essays by the scripture scholars in the new Oxford Handbook on the Trinity demonstrate with great clarity, a classical trinitarian theology is assumed in the NT, even though there is no explicit defense or explication of it in the way that later theologians would speak about it. The question is really what one ‘means’ by particular language. And, of course, we can never ask people of an earlier era to use language that was not used until a later era.

    Also, just because the word “trinity” is used, it doesn’t mean that this is a trinitarian theology that is in concord with conciliar teaching. Praise to “the Trinity” without corresponding language that says what we mean by this term raises its own concerns.

    Thanks again for your comments, Greg.

  3. You don’t use the word “egalitarian” (well maybe you do and I missed it), but the word hangs in the air around my head as I read this.

    And there are at least two ways to take egalitarian. One is with regards to men and women. Hence the is a kind of language that brings men and women back on a equal footing (“My family” rather than “brothers”). I strongly support such efforts.

    There is another way that relates to questions of sociology (not unrelated to the prior questions of gender, etc). The word “Lord” seems to get caught in the web surrounding these sorts of questions. In a patriarchal culture, the Lord was always male. And in a culture with lords, there is hierarchy. We don’t like hierarchy (unless we are talking about an hierarchy of skills, because I want the best doctor I can get).

    There are good reasons to try and end the first set – Lord and male are not synonyms. God is not male, etc.

    But are there not good reasons to retain a certain kind of hierarchy when thinking and speaking about God? It needs to be a different kind of hierarchy then we normally think of; God is not simply “above” me in the chain of authority. God is totally other than I.

    The word lord helps to point back to this fact in the original cultures, especially considering LORD is the replacement for the name of God. Jesus takes on the title lord because of his connection with God (I mean of one substance!). If you remove Lord, you risk losing that association.


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