Philip Freeman.

The principles of divine service; an enquiry concerning the true manner of understanding and using the order for morning and evening prayer, and for the administration of the Holy Communion in the English Church (Volume 1) online

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and the preceding ordinary Office. The gradual was
never so used ; the Capitulum was : wuth its verse
and response, it discharged the precise function of
the prolieimenon.

It does not seem difficult to discern how it was
that the Epistle more particularly came to be thus
projected upon the ordinary weekly Offices of the
Church, probably even in primitive times. The
Epistles were from the first, and by the express
tenor of some of them, designed to be recited in the
churches". And they would in the first instance be
read, not exactly as Scripture, but as the living voice
of apostolic authority and teaching. It is probable
that as such they obtained a place in the Communion
Office at an earlier j)criod than the Gospels did ;
which may be the reason of the Epistle's universally
taking the precedence. In the very earliest times,
then, when as yet there were no Gospels to read, or
the custom of reading them had not come in, the
Epistle would be the only kind of " Scripture of tlu;
Kew Testament" which the Eucharistic Office had to
lend to the ordinary Services. And the fact of our
finding the Epistle, and nothing else, comlanlin coni-

' Col. iv. 10; 1 Tlicss. V. 27.


luemorated, and that too in the evening hour, which
was primitively associated with the Eucharist, seems
to furnish a strong pi'esum})tion in behalf of the pri-
mitive date of the existing Eastern Vespers ^

The English Church at the Revision nominally and
in form rejected the Cajntalum altogether ; — a serious
loss, indeed, had not the principle of it been essen-
tially retained, and in one respect largely developed.
First, as to the ordinary Capitulum. The principle of
it clearly was, that at evening the apostolic teaching
by means of the Epistles should be in some way
brought before the mind ; and so a touching memory
preserved, not of that only, but of the original even-
ing Institution, and time of celebration, of the Eu-
charist. And surely never was a traditional habit,
justly dear to the Church, more faithfully developed,
than when the single and almost unvarying verse
from a single Epistle was expanded into the reading
at large in the Evening Office, thrice in the year, of
the whole body of the apostolic Epistles.

It is perhaps to be regretted that the Capitulum,
in its Sunday and Festival aspect, was not retained in
the Revision of our Offices. Its value, as impressing
on the eve, by anticipation, the mind of the next day's
Epistle, is considerable; nor does it appear but that

' It is an interesting circumstance, that the fixed weekly Capitulum
at Vespers in the English Church was verse 5 of 2 Thess. iii. ("The
Lord dii'ect your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient
waiting for Clirist ;") for, as is generally admitted, the Epistles to the
Thessalonians were the eai-liest written of any, and they were specially
ordered to be read in the Church, (1 Thess. v. 27 : comp. 2 Thess. iii.
17). And it is at least conceivable that the habit, as at first formed,
of thus commeraoratively fulfilling the apostolic injunction at the ordi-
nary OiEces, passed over from St. Paul's favourite Church of Ephesus
to Gaul, and so reached our shores. The verse of 2 Thess. iii. occurs
in the Roman Prime as " a short lection."


it might, no less than the Collect, have survived with-
out involving much of that complexity, their dread of
which our Revisers sometimes carried to excess. Hap-
pily, in the Collect itself, such anticipative reference is
in almost all cases, though less distinctly, involved.
And in one respect our Revision has, accidentally,
perhaps, but most effectively, restored a feature of this
part of the ancient Greek Vespers to its original posi-
tion and function. The Nunc Dimittis had a peculiar
fitness in that Office, coming as it did after the cele-
bration of the True Light, and the reading of the
summary of the Epistle, and so giving thanks for the
"Light to lighten the Gentiles." It was Avith some
disadvantage, therefore, that it was allotted to Com-
pline in the Western schemes ; and with propor-
tionate fitness that it was made to succeed, with us,
the eventide reading of the Epistles.

The origin of the AVestcrn Collect^, to which
allusion has just been made, may be traced with
almost equal certainty to the Eastern formularies. Li
the sense in which I now speak of it, it may be de-
fined as a prayer for some grace or blessing in con-
nection with the ]^]pistlc or Gospel for the day, or
with both of them. Rut it is a further peculiarity of
the Collect, that it is transferable, or communicable
rather, to the ordinary Office of the day, including
the eve. Now the pr'mcip/r of this kind of jn-aycr,
and of this particular aj)plication of it, may not only
be clearly discerned in the i'lastern ritual, but is
there carried out with much greater fulness than in

' ^Ir. I'alincr says, 'If I were to hazard a conjecture on the origin
of Collects, I should say that they were introduced from Alexandria,"
i.e. from its liturgy, (I. iii.) This may aceouni for the Collect for the
king, &c. ; but of the Collect proper no Eastern Communion OQicc
contains anv trace.


the West. It is true that in their Comni union Office
the Orientals use no such prayer. The current and
variable Epistle and^Gospel are not allowed to colour
the Eucharistic rite by being made the basis of a
prayer introduced into it, but only by means of the
2)rokeimenon hymn epitomizing the Epistle. The
Gospel, the principal lection of the Office, is thus de-
prived of a function which we of the West expect to
see it exercising almost as a matter of course, and as
a part of our idea of it. But in compensation for
this, it imparts its character, in a very great degree,
at least on the more notable Sundays and on Festivals,
to the preceding Vespers and Morning Office ; to the
latter more especially. The variable hymns at Ves-
pers, — the " odes," the lection after the sixth of them,
and the other hymns, at Lauds, — all give expansion
in various ways to the theme of the Gospel". Here,
then, is the principle of the Collect, exhibited on a
large scale. Further, not a few of these hymns are
scarcely, if at all, distinguishable in character from
our Collects. Take the following short hymns, intro-
duced at Lauds on Easter-day : —

" Thou, O Lord, that didst endure the cross, and didst abolish
death, and didst rise again from the dead, give peace in our life,
as only Almighty."

" Thou, O Christ, Who didst raise man by Thy resurrection,
vouchsafe that we may with pure hearts hymn and glorify

Here we have the invocation and petition, grounded
upon the topic of the Gospel, which are the charac-
teristics of the Western Collect. As a general rule,
however, these hymns, &c., are not prayers, but acts

" For specimens translated at length, see Neale, p. 857 — 867, and
877—887; see also note D.


of praise and meditation ; nor would it be very na-
tural, or easy to be accounted for, that the Western
ritualists should have given such prominence, by
means of the Collect, to a somewhat occasional fea-
ture of the Eastern system. But there is one par-
ticular kind of hymn in the Greek Office, which,
could we be assured of its possessing the requisite
antiquity, would have a strong claim to be considered
as the actual prototype of our Collects. It is called
the Exaposteilarion ; a name which has been vari-
ously explained, but seems to refer to e^aTroaTeiXov,
" Send down from above," a characteristic word of
frequent occurrence in these hymns : " the aim of
which seems originally to have been a kind of invo-
cation of the grace of God"^ ;" with the same refer-
ence, as in the other hymns, to the Gospel of the day.
These more uniformly prayer-like hymns occur, too,
very nearly at the close of the series at Lauds ; so
that to any one taking up the Service-books in which
they are found • , they would appear but little removed
from the Epistle and Gospel, and might very well
suggest the position which was assigned to the Collect
in the Western Comnumion Offices,' Add to this,
that when there was a saint's-day cxapoHleilarion to
be used, as well as a Sunday one, there was a fixed
rule for the precedence of the latter in ordinary cases ;
while on some great Festivals, as e.g. in the coin-
cidence of the Annunciation with Palm Sunday, the
order was reversed, exactly as in the case of the
Western Collects ^ The Collect, too, was assigned

- Ncalc, p. 84

Online LibraryPhilip FreemanThe principles of divine service; an enquiry concerning the true manner of understanding and using the order for morning and evening prayer, and for the administration of the Holy Communion in the English Church (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 33)