The Congregation of Saint Athanasius
The Anglican Use: How are we different?
"What does it mean that you're "Anglican Use?"
Why are you different?"
Sometimes, people are thrown by the old-fashioned phrase,
"Anglican Use". What does it mean? It simply means, the
liturgy celebrated in the way Anglicans are accustomed to -- are
USED to, as we would say. This is an old-fashioned English
Sometimes, people are surprised by the notion that a
congregation could be Catholic, yet not be using the liturgy with
which most other Catholics are familiar. But, there has NEVER
been just one liturgy for the whole Catholic Church. From the
very beginning, different cities became centers of Christian life
in the ancient world, and the customs of distinct liturgies grew
up differently in various places.
There are, for example, the Eastern Rites of the Church. In
cities such as Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, fully
developed liturgies emerged, every bit as venerable as the Roman
liturgy. The Roman liturgy spread throughout the west, but the
eastern rites held sway in the east; here in America one often
runs across Eastern Orthodox churches which are not in communion
with the Pope, yet use these eastern liturgies, and also Eastern
Rite Catholic Churches, fully in communion with the Pope and yet
using the eastern liturgies daily. Every morning millions of
Catholics stand before the altar and offer the Eucharist in rites
different from the Roman Liturgy used by the Pope and most
Catholics in our country.
Even in the western church, where the Latin Rite or Roman
Rite held sway, there were variations. In France there were the
"gallician" rites, basically the Roman Rite but with
many changes, a different calendar of feasts, etc. The
Archdiocese of Lyons, for example, had its own missal or Mass
book up to modern times. In England in the Middle Ages there were
no fewer than five "Uses", five variations on the basic
Roman Rite: the Sarum Use, the York Use, the Hereford, Bangor,
and Lincoln Uses.
So, there has never been complete uniformity of worship
within the Catholic Church -- nothing like it. Today, the Roman
Rite with which most Catholics are familiar is one of almost
twenty different rites of the Church, each of which is equal in
dignity with the Roman Rite. In the variety of the worship of
these rites the Church believes that God is glorified as the
heritage of piety of different places is preserved.
The Anglican Use is not at all a full-fledged rite of the
Catholic Church, and may never be.
Anglican Use exists as a privilege granted by the Holy See.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers openly
deplored the scandal of disunity among the Christians, and
expressed longing for the unity which was our Lord's prayer for
His followers on the night he was betrayed. The Council Fathers
also taught that there were genuine helps to salvation,
authentically graced structures within the life of Christian
communities not in communion with the Catholic Church, and that
in the future reunion of Christendom it would be possible for
"worthy elements of the patrimonies of piety" of these
other Christian bodies to find a home in, and enrich, the
The Anglican Use in the Catholic Church is a modest step
towards realizing that ideal.
After the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries in England, when the life of the Anglican Church
settled down to an uninterrupted routine, the church's life was
regulated by the Book of Common Prayer. Like the King James
Bible, its richness of language permeated and enriched English
wherever it was spoken. The Prayer Book provided for an
uninterrupted round of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and
Eucharist as the pattern of the Church's praise. While the ideal
was often not realized, it was there, set forth in the Prayer
Book. The devout used it faithfully in their devotions.
The psalms and canticles of the Prayer Book inspired a wealth
of great music, not the least being the wonderful treasury of
English hymnody. Anglican hymns, like the traditional hymns of
the Roman Liturgy found in the Divine Office, are deeply
Scriptural and liturgical -- in an Anglican Church you would not
be surprised, on a Feast like Feb. 2nd, the Presentation, to find
yourself singing two or three hymns written especially to
commemorate the feast.
You would find, as well, an entirely different approach to
the hymns. Each hymn is an act of worship in itself; it is sung
in its entirety, and prayed as it is being sung -- it is never
used as a mere "filler" to cover something else going
on. In fact, in Anglican worship there is a deliberate quality to
everything. The hymns are chosen with care, to augment the feast
or complement the readings; the rite is celebrated with care,
unhurried, with reverence, so that we can be nourished by the
liturgy as the Church would wish. The vestments, the sacred
vessel are of the best possible quality. Sacred Scripture, as one
would expect given the history of the Anglican tradition, had a
central place in Anglican worship and piety, and the preaching of
the Word of God is emphasized.
None of these characteristics of our worship in the Anglican
Use is foreign to the Roman Rite at all. However, since
historically the Anglican Tradition developed an unusually rich
tradition of worship within the context of smaller parish
communities than was usual in Roman Catholic parishes, what a
visitor typically will notice is that the worship of an Anglican
Use congregation is more deliberate, unhurried, marked by
enthusiastic congregational participation. The fullest use of the
rites, of incense, and other expressions of prayer help the
worshipping community enter into the liturgy. The congregation's
sense of itself as a family finds expression in the full joining
by everyone in the liturgy, and afterward -- well, it wouldn't be
Anglican without the coffee hour!!
The Anglican Use: how are we different??
Certainly not in Faith, from our fellow Roman Catholics! What
we have is a heritage which celebrates the same inheritance all
Catholics possess; but we celebrate a bit differently. It takes
us a bit longer, it's true; and there's a good bit of smoke, and
lots of bells. And there's lots of joy, too -- the joy of the
Gospel! Come, and join us for Mass!! Find out what we're really
all about! For Sunday and feast day Mass times click, or call us at click.