A living Church, not a museum
All Saints contains enough items of exceptional interest to stock a decent museum. But it is very far from being just a museum. It was built over 1000 years ago for the Christian worship of God. It has been used for that purpose without interruption ever since. And it is still so used. Its worship is within the catholic tradition of the Church of England.
In common both with most Christian denominations, worship at All Saints is centred on the Eucharist. This is the rite given by Jesus to his Church, to be life-giving and capable of so transforming people’s lives that they can change the world.
The Eucharist is a two-fold operation.
- Through offering bread and wine the Church enters into Jesus’ offering of himself to God the Father for the sake of the world.
- And through receiving back the bread and wine the Church receives the Father’s loving gift of himself in Jesus, who is the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation.
The Eucharist goes be various other names—the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Liturgy, the Holy Communion. At All Saints we tend to use the term ‘Mass’, to emphasize that the worship today is essentially the same as it has been for most of the thousand-year history of All Saints. Worshippers from 500 years ago would have no difficulty in recognizing the experience of worshippers today, except perhaps for two big changes: there are pews to sit in (500 years ago they had to stand) and the service is in English not Latin. Otherwise the general layout and appearance of the building is the same, as is the way the Eucharistic actions are performed.
The worship at All Saints is often called ‘traditional’. It uses stately language, richness of ceremonial, impressive congregational plainchant singing, and extended periods of deeply prayerful silence. For those who respond to this style, these features add up to authentic worship that is joyful, penitential and life-giving.
The word ‘Mass’ is connected to the ‘mission’ for which God equips his Church through worship.
The liturgy at All Saints – The English Missal
The Mass is celebrated according to The English Missal. This is a book that was ﬁrst produced in the mid-19 th century in the Church of England. It was made in the wake of the catholic revival which stemmed from the Oxford Movement in the 1830s, the latter being chiefly associated with the names of John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey.
Catholic-minded anglicans had become increasingly dissatisﬁed with the eucharistic liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer, the official anglican liturgy produced by Archbishop Cranmer in 1552 (revised 1662). The dissatisfaction was focused around a perceived lack of variability and of provision for adequate celebration of seasons (particularly Lent and Holy Week) and of saints’ days and other holy days. To counter these they produced a translation into English of the Missale Romanum, the then current expression of the ancient Western Rite. This was The English Missal. It was updated many times and was widely popular in catholic parishes in the Church of England up to the Second World War.
Parishes that used The English Missal by and large saw themselves as loyal anglicans rather than crypto-Romans. They used The Book of Common Prayer’s English translations of Mass and other texts where these were available, such as the Gloria in excelsis, the Nicene Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and a great many of the Sunday collects. English translations made specially for The English Missal were all in a style conforming to the ‘early modern’ English of The Book of Common Prayer. They took over from the Missale Romanum, and valued, such practices as the silent Canon (the eucharistic prayer recited sotto voce by the celebrant) but frequently augmented it by interpolating, aloud, the Prayer of Consecration from The Book of Common Prayer. They used The Book of Common Prayer wherever they could, but re-cast the Mass into its ancient traditional shape rather than the highly idiosyncratic shape adopted by Cranmer in 1552.
The English Missal fell out of use in many parishes in the post-war period of liturgical change. This crystallised around the issuing of a new Missal Romanum after the second Vatican Council in the 1960s. An English translation of this for Roman Catholics came out in 1969. In the Church of England, liturgies in modern English were issued from the same time, in a stream which continued up to the Alternative Service Book of 1980.
However, by the late 1990s liturgical dissatisfaction had re-emerged In both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. There was a good deal of feeling that, in the quest for a modern liturgical idiom with relevance to life today, the baby had been thrown out with the bathwater. Pressure built for a recovery of liturgical language that was more numinous and poetically allusive, and for a style of celebration that used time-honoured ceremonial.
In the Church of England these aims or something like them were explicitly adopted by Common Worship, a series of liturgical texts issued from the late 1990s. These drew on a great deal of research into early liturgies, and also on the experience of churches like All Saints which had continued to use the older style all through the post-war changes.
Common Worship authorizes for Church of England use almost all the features of worship familiar to users of The English Missal – BCP-type language, greatly improved provision for liturgical seasons and saints’ days, the traditional shape of the Mass, inclusions from other sources (the rubrical formula ‘In these or similar words’ occurs frequently) – the want of which led to the production of The English Missal in the first place.
All Saints, in persevering with use of The English Missal, thus aligns itself with the aims of Common Worship and continues to offer loyally anglican worship, conﬁdent that its liturgy has preserved something of immense value for the Church as a whole.
The Use of York
The late medieval period in the Western Church (that which recognized the authority of the Pope in Rome) saw a wide variety of local liturgical variations on the basic Western Rite. These were known as ‘uses’ or ‘customs’, customary sets of rules and texts. Before the invention of printing in the late 15 th century there was little point in anybody’s trying to insist on uniformity. All ‘uses’ shared a family likeness and a common language (Latin), but ﬁner details could and did vary a lot.
In medieval England the dominant ‘use’ became that of ‘Sarum’ or Salisbury, the pre- eminence of which was possibly due to the building of the new Salisbury Cathedral on a virgin site in the 13 th century (the cathedral and city of Old Sarum were abandoned) and the consequent issuing of very detailed liturgical texts for the use of the new Cathedral. Other ‘uses’ were those of Lincoln, Hereford, and especially York.
The Use of York was dominant throughout the Province of York, that is the dioceses of the north of England. There were only three of these dioceses: Durham, consisting of County Durham and Northumberland; Carlisle, very small in area around the city of that name; and the immense Diocese of York. The Diocese of York covered the three historic Ridings of Yorkshire, all of Nottinghamshire, all of Lancashire north of the river Ribble, and over half of Cumberland and Westmorland (modern Cumbria) south of Workington and including the Lake District and surrounding fells.
Walter de Grey, archbishop of York from 1215 to 1255, required each parish church in his diocese to have eight service books for the proper celebration of the liturgy in its different aspects. Some of these books have familiar names—Psalter, Lectionary, Missal. Others are less familiar—Antiphonal, Manual, Gradual, Troper, Ordinal. To them was added a Processional as liturgical processions grew in popularity over the next century. The rites in these books, with their liturgical texts, music and instructions, together constitute the ‘Use of York’, the local embodiment of the general pattern of worship of the western Church. These books were all hand-copied, the invention of printing being still over two centuries in the future.
Our knowledge of the Use of York is based on surviving liturgical books. There are not many of these. In the course of the Reformation, the hard-line advisers of the boy king Edward VI in 1550 required all churches throughout England to surrender their liturgical books for destruction. Today we view this as an appalling act of cultural vandalism. At the time its effect was cataclysmic. The rites and texts familiar to an entire population from the continuous use of centuries were suddenly erased and replaced with newfangled services in a language – English – that for many parts of the kingdom was foreign and incomprehensible (including Wales, forcibly annexed by Henry VIII not long before, and Cornwall).
The destruction of the old service books was mandatory and heavily enforced. To resist was treason. Hardly any manuscripts of the Use of York survive. There are a handful of Missals, one single Gradual (sung Mass texts for every Sunday and holy day), one single Processional, a few Breviaries (convenience books to use away from church and containing liturgical bits from various books), and almost none of the others. On the whole we have mainly secondary sources, especially printed books (not manuscripts) produced in the 16 th century for exiled northerners on the Continent.
All Saints has sponsored research into the Use of York and has so far published The York Processional (2018). The York Gradual (3 volumes) is projected for 2024. These two are transcriptions and translations of the one surviving manuscript of each type of book. Both manuscripts are held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The Processional is from the second half of the 14 th century and was probably copied for use in the parish church of Thornton-in- Craven near Skipton. The Gradual is from the first half of the 15 th century and was used in the parish church of East Drayton in north Nottinghamshire. They contain all the music for the extensive sung parts of the liturgy. The music is entirely unaccompanied plainchant, all of which is transcribed in the modern volumes for the first time, and all of which is translated and set to the same music in English, also for the first time. These books can be ordered from the shop on this website.
Research into the Use of York has also resulted in the holding in All Saints of reconstructed medieval liturgies of that Use from time to time.