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Preface to At The Lord's Table: Directions for the use of the Celebrant at the Holy Eucharist
by V.G. Shearburn
“This lies behind all the seemingly profuse detail … that priest and people may worship with undisturbed recollection, and that the ways of the minister may help, not hinder, the devotion both of the congregation and of himself.” -VGS
The manifold variety of custom and detail that exists at our altars to-day has behind it a multitude of reasons. Not least of these is the wholesome fear of being merely mechanical at a time of greatest devotion. And so variety has come about by individual choice here, borrowings there, liturgical study elsewhere, coupled often with little detailed training before ordination to priesthood on this important part of ministry. Behind all the variety lies a common desire for reverence, and it is in this belief that what follows has been set down-in no sense of condemnation or intolerable superiority. Still more clearly is it realized how hard it is to change even a small habit of long standing in the actual performance of the Eucharist.
Thanks be to God, in more and more of our churches the Holy Sacrifice is being offered with increasing frequency. People to-day move from parish to parish more easily than their fathers: they do not expect to find uniformity, but, more especially where they have been brought up to seek supernatural religion after the ancient ways, they justifiably desire such a manner of reverence and order as they can recognize and rejoice in. This lies behind all the seemingly profuse detail in which, for example, the actions of the offertory are described below—that priest and people may worship with undisturbed recollection, and that the ways of the minister may help, not hinder, the devotion both of the congregation and of himself.
Clergy are still left very much alone from the day of their ordination to shape their time-table and their habits and customs. On this account it is hoped that the calling of attention to things like the dusty minutia of the sacristy will not be taken amiss.
There has not been space in a book of this size to discuss the reasons for every method and action urged. Larger studies exist for this. Nevertheless, the writer hopes that whoever is willing to work through this book will find therein a reasonable and reliable setting forth of the good manners of the Table of the Lord.