Using the Sarum Rite today

Many people ask how the Sarum Rite can be used today.  The Sarum Rite is a rich and diverse tradition of worship that escaped the alterations and revisions that have been witnessed by other rites since the reformation; it has much to offer in recapturing historical traditions and connecting with earlier Christian practices.  Although the Sarum Rite ceased to be practised in Britain following the ‘troubles’ that began with the reign of Edward VI, and on the continent as a result of the counter-reformation revisions of the 16th century, it has remained a valid and authorized Rite of the Roman Catholic Church since it was one of continuous custom for two hundred years or more before the promulgation of Quo Primum.

Summorum Pontificum’s revival of the preconciliar Roman Breviary is a further application of Benedict XVI’s general principle: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place” (Letter to Bishops, July 7, 2007).

The Sarum Rite has been of great interest to both Anglicans and Roman Catholics since the days of liturgical revival in the mid-nineteenth century. This page provides suggestions for using the Sarum Rite today.

D. H. Frost provides a useful perspective in ‘Interpreting a medieval church through liturgy‘.

Priests would do well to first learn and use the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass as found in the Latin Breviary (A-23, p. [920].) (or in the English translations of Pearson or Warren).  Votive propers (see below) and the Mass for the Dead (A-23:[958].) are appropriate for daily said masses.  Notes on Ceremonial will be found to contain much practical assistance in adapting the Sarum Rite to the Anglican tradition.  According to the Sarum Missal, 1526, the following is the normal weekly cycle of votive masses (see Dickinson ed.:735*):
Sunday: The Holy Trinity (A-23:[937].)
Monday: The Angels (Dickinson ed:738*.)
Tuesday: Salus populi (Dickinson ed:741*.)
Wednesday: The Holy Spirit (A-23:[940].)
Thursday: Corpus Christi (Dickinson ed:746*.)
Friday: The Holy Cross (A-23:[943].)
Saturday: The Blessed Virgin (A-23:[951].)

Deacons can learn the Tones for proclaiming the Lessons and Gospel, and take every opportunity to sing those proclamations at Mass.

Church Choirs might begin by selecting items from the Music of the Ordinary–Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and using these on a regular basis (in Latin or English).  The Latin Music of the Ordinary is now available, but the English version is not yet published.  All of the choral music of the mass (in Latin) is now available in book form here.   The English Gradual, while still only available in a draft version, provides Introits, Graduals, Alleluyas, Offertories and Communions for the whole year.

Antiphons and Responsories can be used independently as short choral pieces.  The resources of this site can be used to sing a Sarum Vespers service in Latin or English, or individual items from the Sarum repertoire, such as the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis could be incorporated into a more typical Anglican-style Evensong.   Select items of Sarum repertoire can also be included in choral concerts.

Congregations might be interested to learn some of the simpler hymns from the English translation of the Office Hymns (see under ‘More Documents’).  Congregations can also be taught to sing some of the items of the ordinary (Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in particular).

Individuals, small groups and religious communities might follow the suggestions below to partake of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Sarum ceremonial is extensive and complex.  Charles Walker,  An Order for Matins and Evensong.  London: J. T. Hayes, 1877. (available for free on the internet) contains a ‘Brief Ceremonial’ (pp. 58-79) which, while not necessarily being definitive, and representing Anglo-Catholic practice within the Church of England, may be of considerable help in developing a practical application of Sarum ceremonial practices.

The Experience of Worship/Enactments under the direction of Prof. John Harper provides a beautifully prepared and most useful series of videos of the Sarum liturgy.

Praying the Office

The following suggestions are intended to help those who would like to be introduced to praying the office, whether alone or in a group. The Sarum Office may seem overwhelming unless it is approached in manageable portions.

An excellent place to begin is Compline, the evening office. One might make use of both the Latin and the English versions side by side (the Latin is Part A-11; the English is Part EPA-11). The material of Compline does not require reference to any other parts of the Office. It can be sung directly from the one file throughout the year.  All of Compline is now available in convenient book form in Latin or in English here.  Compline can be sung ideally any time between 3 pm and bedtime.

Once Compline is understood and manageable, one might turn to Lauds and Vespers. One might approach Lauds by singing the antiphon to the Benedictus, and the Benedictus itself, followed by the appropriate prayer, as found in the Temporale or Sanctorale. Likewise, one might become accustomed to Vespers by simply singing the antiphon to the Magnificat and the Magnificat itself, followed by the appropriate prayer. Once the pattern of these has become well understood, one might include also the chapter and hymn at Lauds and Vespers, as well as the Preces which close the service on ferias.  Sarum Vespers Latin (3 vols.) is now available for purchase in book-form hereSarum Diurnal Latin (3 vols.) is also now available in book form here.

At the same time, one might become familiar with the structure of the Psalter, firstly by incorporating the psalmody that pertains to Lauds and Vespers.  If you are singing the office by yourself, you may consider saying the alternate verses of the psalms silently to avoid fatigue.

The offices of Terce, Sext and None have few changeable portions, and can be introduced by simply singing Part A-3 (Latin) or Part EPA-3 (English).  If time is short, these little hours can be abbreviated by singing only one of the three parts of psalm 118 at each office.  These day hours are available in book-form in the Diurnal Latin here.

Having got this far, one should be able to fill out the rest of the cycle at will. Matins is the largest and most demanding of all the offices. It requires considerable patience and perseverance, but its many treasures are well worth the effort.

The Office of the Dead.  It is appropriate to sing the Office of the Dead at any time (Breviary, part A-13, Latin or English), in honour of one or more deceased persons.  If the time is short, Matins may use only one Nocturn.

The Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is appropriate to sing (or say) this Office every day (Breviary, part A-14, Latin or English).

The Kalendar.  Regular users of the Sarum Rite will want to consider the form of Kalendar that is most appropriate for their local situation.  In the Temporale, the Feast of Corpus Christi may be observed as a full octave, or as only a feast day, or indeed it may be omitted entirely.  In the Sanctorale certain saints day may be better omitted or kept only as memorials, to allow for a fuller use of the temporale.  Among those that might be conveniently omitted are St. John of Beverley (May 7), the Translation of St. Edmund (June 9), the Translation of St. Richard (June 16), the Translation of St. Edward (June 20), the Translation of St. Thomas (July 7), the Translation of St. Benedict (July 11), the Translation of St. Swithun (July 15), the Feast of Relics, the Translation of St. Osmund (July 16), St. Mary of the Snows (August 5), the Translation of St. Cuthbert (September 4), the Translation of St. Etheldreda (October 17), and the Eleven Thousand Virgins (October 21).  (Feasts of translation are first and foremost proper to the churches where the saint was buried, to churches named for the saint, and to churches in dioceses where the cathedral had (or has) a shrine to the saint.)

The following feasts, which appear to be problematic on historical grounds, may also be appropriate for omission: St. Juliana (February 16), St. Potentiana (May 3), St. Margaret (July 20), St. Praxedes (July 21), St. Felix (July 29), Sts. Timothy and Apollinaris (July 23),  and St. Katherine (November 25).

Those wishing to use the older form of the Kalendar may consider omitting Corpus Christi,  St. John of Beverley (May 7), the Translation of St. Edmund (June 9), the Visitation (July 2), the Translation of St. Richard (June 16), the Translation of St. Thomas (July 7), the Translation of St. Osmund (July 16), St. Anne (July 26), St. Mary of the Snows (August 5), the Transfiguration (August 6), the Most Sweet Name of Jesus (August 7), St. Cuthberga (August 31), St. Thecla (September 23), the Translation of St. Edward (October 13), the Translation of St. Etheldreda (October 17), the Deposition of St. Frideswide (October 17), St. Wenefrede (November 3), St. Hugh (November 17), and the Deposition of St. Osmund (December 4).  The Feast of Relics may then be celebrated on September 15, and the Octave of the Nativity of the Virgin omitted.

Saints days and other observances introduced into the western kalendars since the reformation may also be included as appropriate, in particular St. Patrick, St. Dominic, and St. Francis.

This site includes Sarum Perpetual Kalendars which may be used as a basis for liturgical planning. See under ‘More Documents‘.