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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Liturgical Geek Moment

Caution: OCD Episcopal liturgical jots and tittles to follow. Proceed at your own risk.

I had occasion today to look up some history about the liturgical use of the Creeds in the Episcopal Church. A commenter on this post over at Mark Harris' Preludium asked when they are used (or not) in worship. This was my reply:

Nestled in the Eucharistic rubrics is the following instruction for the Nicene Creed: On Sundays and other Major Feasts there follows, all standing (BCP pp. 326 and 358).

I take this to mean that when one is celebrating the Eucharist on a day other than Sunday or a Major Feast (these are listed in the BCP, p. 15), one may omit the Creed.

Since use of the "Rite III" Outline form on p. 400 and following is specifically intended for a particular occasion apart from Sunday or regular weekly celebration, it would not be out of line to use an alternative profession of faith (such as is found in the New Zealand Prayer Book), or to skip the profession entirely.

The omission you note pertains to use of the daily offices, where one is permitted to skip the Creed if one has already said Morning Prayer. This was also a caveat allowed in the 1928 BCP.

(Interestingly enough, the 1928 not only allows a choice between the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, but permits changing the words of the Apostles' Creed to avoid mention of hell--see p. 15. But I digress.)

Saying the Creed is clearly intended to be a regular habit, but it is true that provision is made for its omission now and again.

I find myself bemused by that 1928 rubric:

¶ Then shall be said the Apostles’ Creed by the Minister and the People, standing. And any Churches may, instead of the words, He descended into hell, use the words, He went into the place of departed spirits, which are considered as words of the same meaning in the Creed.

Let's recap: this is not a "new innovation," or something suggested by a modern-day "reappraiser;" this is a rubric contained in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer-- still the preference of a small but vocal and decidedly liturgically conservative group. I can only imagine the hue and cry that would arise if such an option were proposed at our General Convention this summer...


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