The English Use

"While you stick to the old Church of England ways you are respectable—it is going by a sort of tradition ; when you profess to return to lost Church of England ways you are rational ;—but when you invent a new ceremonial which never was, when you copy the Roman or other foreign rituals, you are neither respectable nor rational. It is sectarian."—J. H. Newman to Henry Wilberforce. Life of  J. H. Cardinal Newman, by W. Ward. 1912. I. 235.

An interesting essay which was No. XI of the Alcuin Club Tracts. Defends the English Use against the Anglo-Roman party of the times. Note how the objections some made at the time sound like the 'usual suspects' criticism of the Orthodox English Divine Liturgy.

"English or Roman Use?" by E. G. P. Wyatt, MA [A. R. Mowbray and Co. Ltd. London; Milwaukee, U.S.A.: The Young Churchman Co., 1913] transcribed by Mr Allan R Wylie AD 2000

"Objection 1.—The reproach is made against the upholders of the English Use that they have "divided the Catholic camp" by breaking in upon a tradition which had been held by all within that "camp" for half a century. But this does not agree with the facts. There can be no doubt that those who first accepted Roman usages in the early days of the Church Revival did so in the belief that these were identical with those that prevailed in the English Church before the Reformation, and when the progress of liturgical and ecclesiological learning showed that this belief was mistaken, some, at least, sought a remedy by resorting wholesale to Sarum usages, or what were thought to be such, thirty years ago, or more.

Objection 2. —Then we are told that a "living" use ought to be preferred to a "dead" one. This idea seems to spring from a misunderstanding of what is implied by the English Use. It does not consist in reviving a rite which has passed out of use and become obsolete. On the contrary, it is the living rite of the Prayer Book, and if reference is made on any particular point to a custom which has been disused, it may be, for a very long time, there is no meaning in calling it a "dead" custom. At one time Ascension Day seems to have completely passed out of observance in England: would it have been any answer to those who wished to revive its observance to say that it was "dead" and therefore could not be revived?

Objection 3. —The English Use is "antiquarian" and has its origin in the "British Museum." If these phrases have any meaning they are really complimentary, and not the reverse, for they imply that the English Use is based on sound learning. Those who repeat this little jest seem to be unaware that the British Museum is not a collection of Mediaeval Church antiquities, but is the home of scholars because it contains the largest library in the world. Like everything else in religion, the English Use has its roots in the past, and is based on precedent. Can the secret of the objectors’ reverence for the Papal Congregation of Sacred Rites be that its decisions are thought to be "up-to-date," and based on "common sense" only, and to have nothing to do with either learning or precedent?

Objection 4. —The English Use is "artificial." This apparently means that it starts from the directions in the Prayer Book as a basis, and merely supplements them by the authoritative customs to which the Prayer Book explicitly or implicitly refers us, instead of adopting a whole system bodily from another rite, and omitting only so much of it as is necessitated by the fact of the rite being different from our own.

Objection 5. —The English Use is "uncertain." This sometimes takes the form of asking which of the old English rites abolished by the Prayer Book, Sarum, York, etc., we are to adopt. But the English Use does not imply the wholesale adoption of any rite but that of the Prayer Book. Sometimes, however, the objection is made that there is no certain knowledge about the former customs to which we are referred, contrasting this method with the easy resort to a ready-made system, which every one can find for himself in the Roman books. But, as a matter of fact, owing to the researches of the "antiquarians" in the available records, there is no difficulty at all in getting any information that is necessary with regard to the old customs in question, and wonderfully little difference of opinion about them. And among the English churches that are supposed to follow the Roman Use, is there one that follows it exactly, or any two that are alike?

Objection 6. —It is objected that the English Use sets up "national" against "Catholic" customs. But this has no meaning in the mouth of anybody, but an Ultramontane. It is true that for some centuries the Papacy has, in Western Europe, been endeavouring to abolish national rites and in other ways to introduce a rigid uniformity in rites and ceremonies. But it has never completely succeeded, and even in Roman Catholic countries a good many of the old national customs exist, and of course the Uniat Churches of the East have their own rites. The Eastern Churches have always been national. But formerly in the West there were diocesan rites and ceremonies as well, and there still are at Milan.

Objection 7.—The English Use is "insular"; and it is further objected that the old English customs were themselves foreign in origin. For this objection to have any relevance, it would have to be shown that it was in old times open to any parish priest in England to introduce into a parish church on his own authority any ceremonial that struck his fancy, if he happened to travel abroad. But the whole objection is based on a misunderstanding. The English use is not advocated because it is "English" and not "foreign," but because it is authoritative."

Even more so because of the English Use (based upon English traditions in ROCOR) is authoritative according to the Holy Synods of ROCOR, Russia, and others.

"... the plea practically ignores the existence of the Eastern Churches. The adoption of Roman Catholic customs would certainly not help on Reunion with them; on the contrary, it might be a serious hindrance. And Reunion without the East would not be Reunion at all."

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