In his paper to the annual festival of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in London on Saturday 19 September 2015, Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia OP, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented what might be understood to be the primary theological rationale for the liturgical provision of the personal ordinariates erected under the auspices of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus. Archbishop Di Noia is well placed to make these observations, both as one who was intimately involved in the evolution of the personal ordinariates (even before they came into existence) and latterly as the Chairman of the Interdicasterial Working Group Anglicanæ traditiones, which was formed in 2011 to compile the liturgical provision mandated by Anglicanorum cœtibus III.
His paper, which will be published together with other writings on this subject in a forthcoming edition of Antiphon and is available to listen to above, makes a number of significant points. I wish here to deal with the first, which I consider to be the most pressing and which, in a certain sense, must be addressed before all others. Subsequent points include the pastoral significance of the liturgical provision of Divine Worship as a sign of the Church’s solicitude and concern for the salvation of souls. We are also presented with the historical weight that must be given to the promulgation of liturgical texts forged in the crucible of the sixteenth century, by the Apostolic See, and the ecumenical importance of the Anglican patrimony, as it is to be lived out in the personal ordinariates. But before these can be effected and realized, a first principle—the subject of this post—must be understood.
This is the fundamental and intrinsic connection which exists between the structural provision of personal ordinariates, and the liturgical patrimony which has been codified and promulgated for use by their members. As the archbishop says in his talk, the publication of Divine Worship: The Missal is “an immensely important event”. Indeed its importance is twofold: internal and external. Internal, because it establishes the true identity of the communities of the personal ordinariates, and external, because it places these structures in their appropriate context in the wider Church and offers the distinctive Anglican liturgical patrimony as “a treasure to be shared” (AC III).
With regard to this internal importance, Archbishop Di Noia says, “Just as it would be unthinkable to describe the Catholic Church without reference to its liturgical and sacramental life, so too it would in some sense be for every ecclesial body. The manner in which an ecclesial community worships uniquely expresses its inner life.” This is important. Although there are certainly other elements of the Anglican patrimony, other than liturgical, it is this liturgical patrimony which provides the starting point for the consideration and authentic implementation of these other concerns. It is in the actual liturgical texts promulgated in Divine Worship that the personal ordinariates reveal their true purpose, and fulfil the desires expressed in Anglicanorum cœtibus. If this is so, we must ask with real honesty if an ordinariate community or parish which does not celebrate the liturgical rites of Divine Worship as the very heart and soul of its existence, can be said to be living, in an authentic way, the ecclesial existence and vitality so generously extended to us by Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum cœtibus. Indeed, as I have suggested before, the provision of personal ordinariates as ecclesiastical circumscriptions, seems to make sense only with the full and unswerving embrace by their members of the Anglican liturgical patrimony, now codified and approved and promulgated by the Apostolic See in Divine Worship.
Furthermore, as Archbishop Di Noia points out, “The institutional importance of Divine Worship for the ordinariates is considerable. More than simply giving the ordinariates an outward distinctiveness that creates a profile for their parishes in a sea of Catholic parochial life, Divine Worship gives voice to the faith and tradition of prayer that has nourished the Catholic identity of the Anglican tradition”. In other words, whilst other elements of the Anglican tradition are by no means insignificant, it is only possible to make sense of these if first we have attended to the liturgical life given us. If the liturgical life of an ecclesial structure “uniquely expresses its inner life”, how can it make sense, on the one hand, to downplay the proper liturgical rites attributed to the personal ordinariates whilst, on the other hand, seek to promote other elements of the Anglican patrimony? The liturgical rites and texts are a priority. Divine Worship is an essential element.
Archbishop Di Noia’s important paper gives a clear roadmap for the successful establishment and growth of the personal ordinariates, according to the mind of the Apostolic See, and its starting point is Divine Worship. The liturgical books approved for the use of the personal ordinariates are the first principle in this project, and the source of all other elements of the life of the ecclesial communities which these structures embody. This provision will be available to the parishes and communities of all three personal ordinariates from the First Sunday of Advent this year. Let us commit ourselves anew to living to its fullness the gift of ecclesial vitality given us by the “prophetic gesture” of our beloved Pope Emeritus in Anglicanorum cœtibus, both “as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” (AC III).