THE Catholic Church has clearly a powerful influence on at least a part of the Anglican Church.
The reverse — though frequently and angrily insisted upon by Tridentines — cannot be true in a Church which finds its in tellectual leadership in Germany and France and its authority in Rome. Our new forms of the Rites were not made to placate Anglicans — as the more heartbroken Latin Angries insist.
Indeed, in the increasing use of vestments, in the celebration of the Eucharist facing the people, in the erosion of the popularity of the noble services of Matins and Evensong by the Parish Eucharist, there is a move in our direction — not a slavish one, not a jealous one, but induced by a growing respect for the Sacraments.
Not so long ago it was the custom to celebrate the Eucharist in an Established parish church once a month.
Today they are having one of those rows about the liturgy with which we are already too sadly familiar. It is not a row about the same subject but it is the same sort of row.
Now, just as wine has great vintage years, so does language "When you're listening to Father O'Donovan's brogue, the question of celebrating Mass in English or Latin becomes purely academic." have vintage generations. Up to Henry VIII, the English language, such of it as is intelligible to non-scholars, seemed to be pretty rude and work-a-day, though not without a period charm, like some ancient and angular oak chair which offered a straight back and little ease.
Then, under the Tudors, there was a slow explosion into glory. And it was at the peak of this time that Archbishop Cranmer produced the Book of Common Prayer.
I remember once in Henley-onThames, on a weekday, going into the parish church where the vicar, all alone in his surplice, was reciting with exquisite good manners in a side chapel the Evensong to his God. It was rivettingly beautiful.
What marvellous phrases this little book contains — "0 God who art the author of peace and lover of concord ..." or, "to have and to hold" ... or, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon the earth; where the rust and moth doth corrupt, and where theives break through and steal ..." It was a time when an ordinary rich man writing to his tailor wrote as if for an anthology.
And then in the same book there is this beautifully rounded phrase: "Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it was commonly said that the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits."
That was, of course, part of Article 31 of the Thirty Nine Articles which a lot of very good Anglicans accept and ignore in the way that, to be honest, the Catholic Church does some old and frightening Papal — not excathedra — pronouncements. (We are all caught like flies on the fly paper of our history and should accept this dreadful fact.)
But undoubtedly the beauty of the Book of Common Prayer does enclose some 16th century Protestant ideas, especially in the administration of Sacraments, which are somewhat less than of universal application.
So the Anglicans, who no longer have to have recourse to Parliament in such matters, have
produced Series II and Series III in their attempt to adapt their liturgy to their attitude to God and His worship. Their choice of titles for this modification is about as impressive as for ours the "Missa Normative".
But our generation is plonk, not Vintage. Our journalism is splendid. Our prose is positively and purposefully ante-numinous. In poetry it is the mere bottom of a cloudy bottle of red wine left open too long. And it is not merely us.
Belloc produced, experimentally, a translation of the Creed. No good. Ronnie Knox slaved over a civilised version of the Testament. He only really succeeded with St Paul with whom he had a realy affinity. But then St Paul was the first English convert. And it shows.
Those very great poets, Pope and Dryden, were both, at least technically, Catholics. Dryden did some of the Latin hymns and sequences into English. And very decent they are too. But in this respect he was the last elegant fall-out of the Tudor explosion.