Funeral Liturgies of the British Monarchy: The death of Queen Elizabeth one year on

The Society for Liturgical Study is delighted to host a one-day Study Day on Saturday, 9 September 2023 (9.30am–3pm, followed by Evensong). One year after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, this special Study Day offers a timely opportunity to reflect on the liturgies used to mark this momentous occasion.

The Study Day will include a visit to Westminster Abbey, allowing participants to visit one of the
central “sites” in the Queen’s staged funeral rites, and there will be an opportunity to hear first-hand reflections from Abbey clergy involved with the funeral service.

A selection of short research papers hopes to encourage discussion on:
o the role of funerary liturgies in the public and private, national, local and international
mourning of the late Queen;
o the design of such liturgies; as well as the considerations, practical and theological, which
guided their construction;
o the challenges and opportunities posed for parochial practice by such public liturgies.

Presenters include:

Dr Natacha Tinteroff
The Liturgy of the State Funeral of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II: Representations and Images of Common Prayer in the 21st Century

Dr Rob Barward-Symmons and Dr Rhiannon McAleer (Bible Society):
Ritual, Liturgy and Perception: Public Attitudes towards the Role of Religion and the Bible in the Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

Revd Adrian Dorrian
Broadcasting Grief: Mediating the Late Queen’s Funeral on the Radio in Northern Ireland

Andrew Robinson, MA
Words of Faith and the Music of Comfort

Up-to-date information about the Study Day, including a draft programme, and registration form can be found on SLS’s website HERE.

Transubstantiation: What vs. How vs. Why


This past February, I was invited by the Southwest Liturgical Conference Study Week to give a virtual workshop presentation on classic eucharistic hymns. Thanks to SWLC and to GIA Publications, the video of that session “Singing on the Shoulders” is now available through GIA’s YouTube™ channel. In this post, I share a few items that came to the forefront as I researched and prepared for the workshop.

One of the initial things I noticed was how often, in Roman Catholic circles, the terms “transubstantiation” and “real presence” seem to be understood—perhaps understandably, though imprecisely—as interchangeable. An occasional (sometimes unintentional, sometimes not) consequence of this is the misperception on the part of Roman Catholics that they are the only ones who believe in Christ’s real presence in the communion elements and/or that transubstantiation is the sole way within broader Christian doctrine that this presence is expressed.

To presume that other Christians—one thinks particularly of our Orthodox sisters and brothers—do not believe Christ to be truly present is an extremely limited view of those other rich faith traditions. There are many Christians who believe Christ to be truly and fully present in the eucharist, even though they do not use the particular term “transubstantiation” to convey how this occurs. Among the Protestant reformers there was a range of approaches, from using a different term (consubstantiation/Luther) to proposing that the presence of Christ, while real, is spiritual in nature (Calvin). The fact remains—then, as now—that various Christians do believe in the real eucharistic presence of Christ in varying ways.


All of this led me to toy briefly with including a Protestant eucharistic hymn in the workshop; I am admittedly lacking in knowledge of these hymns, so I received recommendations from Protestant liturgical music colleagues. (Since no hymns from these sources have entered common Roman Catholic repertoire, I decided not to.) One of the primary realities that emerged was that many texts had a rather studied avoidance of saying humans could know how the communion elements are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood. Their focus often is on the mortal inability to bridge the gap between us and infinite mystery, and so they turn instead to expressions of an adoration beyond human knowledge or language, in a posture of reverence and awe before the mystery of Christ present in the sacrament. (Yes, other Christians refer to eucharist as a sacrament too.)

Though Roman Catholicism uses the term “transubstantiation” confidently, it has never claimed that the term exhaustively communicates the wondrous mystery. From Trent’s use of aptissime (it is the “most apt” term) to the current Catechism (“This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” [1376, quoting Trent]), the language around transubstantiation and the real presence of Christ is consistently and humbly aware of our mortal limitations.

Sometimes the current Roman Catholic discourse surrounding these matters can seem a bit smug, if not outright condescending. I can’t help but speculate that we might benefit a bit from a healthy dose of the humility and awe present in eucharistic hymns’ language outside our own heritage (those of the Wesley brothers come to mind). If our earthly eucharistic banquet is truly a foretaste of the celestial banquet to come, perhaps it would be to our benefit to apply Charles Wesley’s “lost in wonder, love, and praise” of eternity to the here and now.


The “here and now” purpose of the eucharist always takes me back to Alexander Schmemann’s Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom.

“The purpose of the Eucharist lies not in the change of the bread and wine, but in the partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ.”

Schmemann also explains that the focus on partaking is largely why the churches of the orthodox East—for all the liturgical reverence the communion elements are shown—didn’t really turn them into their own topic of theological discourse, much less attempt to go into the mechanics of the mystery, as happened in the West.

The same way that Roman Catholicism hasn’t been a sola scriptura denomination, the Eucharist shouldn’t be turned into a solum transsubstantiationem event. Transubstantiation, of course, is at the heart of the mystery, but any kind of co-identification unnecessarily impoverishes the many other facets of the sacrament and can even set our faces in the direction of idolatry, in which the event of transubstantiation itself is worshiped, and not the Christ made present.

Augustine’s insight is relevant here: at the eucharistic celebration, we receive what we already are—the Body of Christ—so that we might become what we receive—Christ present in and for the life of the world. At the end of the SWLC workshop I offered my own view that the next major frontier for eucharistic hymns might be a more regular and explicit connection made between the eucharist and the Church’s mission for peace and justice. As Godfrey Diekmann stated: “What difference does it make if the bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ and we don’t?” We could likewise ask what difference it makes how we express the manner in which that change is described, if it does not also help us to be changed.

Take and eat the Body of Christ broken for you.
Take and drink the Blood of Christ shed for you.

We are living in “The Era of the Holy Spirit”

The following reflection on Pentecost comes from Fr. Gerard Austin, OP, scholar in residence at Barry University in Miami, Florida. Father Austin was one of the co-founders of the liturgy program at Catholic University; he is a teacher of countless students, and an esteemed scholar of the liturgy. His writings continue to inspire and enlighten those who seek to understand the liturgy’s history and its meaning today for the life of faith. This passage first appeared in the newsletter of the Dominican province of St. Martin de Porres, New Orleans, LA. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.


For the first generations of Christians of the early Church, the liturgical year consisted of only a weekly celebration of the Resurrection: the Day of the Lord, the Sunday. At this celebration all the various elements of the Paschal Mystery were recalled. God was blessed, thanked, and praised for all the wonderful works of creation and redemption – especially for the wonder-of-God par excellence, God’s only-begotten Son, who gave of himself for us.

By the end of the second century, we see attestations of an annual celebration as well. It was modelled upon the weekly celebration, but it lasted for a period of fifty days, thus being referred to by St. Athanasius as the “Great Sunday.” Thus our present “Norms Governing Liturgical Celebrations” state: “The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful expectation as one feast day, or better, as one ‘Great Sunday’.” This fifty-day period has its roots in Jewish tradition, sharing for example, in the notion of being a “seal,” a completion.

At first, no particular day or days of the fifty-day period was privileged; rather, during the entire period was celebrated: the death, the resurrection, the later appearances, the ascension, the sending of the Spirit, and the waiting for the final coming of Christ. Nevertheless, before the second half of the fourth century, certain churches and certain Fathers of the Church did emphasize different aspects of the Paschal Mystery on particular days (as the Ascension on the fortieth day, the sending of the Spirit on the fiftieth day), but never destroying the notion of whole as whole. This approach was called the “global view of the Great Sunday,” and during this time the notion of “Pentecost” extended to the entire fifty days. The entire period was a “period of the Spirit.” Jesus had promised his followers that he would not leave them orphans; he would stay with them but in a new way: through his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, which he would leave to them as his departing Gift.

Thus, one can well argue that the entire period from the Ascension of Christ to his Final Coming at the end of time is the “Era of the Holy Spirit.” This era, in which we are now living, is an era where Jesus is no longer with us in bodily form, but in a new way— in the presence of his Spirit. We have been assured the Gift of that Holy Spirit, but still down through the ages the Church never ceases to cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit, come”- not just on Pentecost but each and every day.

I think my favorite book on the Holy Spirit is I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT by Fr. Yves Congar, O.P.  I find it significant that the final chapter of that highly respected three-volume work is entitled “The Life of the Church as One Long Epiclesis” (the Greek word meaning ‘invocation’ of the Spirit). We know that Jesus ‘promise not to leave us orphans is true, but still we pray each day that the Holy Spirit who already abides within us (and among us), might penetrate even more deeply into every fiber of our being! Yes, Pentecost is not just a once-for-all event of history; it is an ONGOING MYSTERY OF FAITH.

Let us allow the global view of the Great Sunday, the view that contains all the multiple aspects of the ‘Paschal Mystery’ to be reflected in our own private prayer as well. In conclusion, may I suggest your praying slowly the following trilogy of mantras:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

“Lord Jesus, Crucified and Risen Lord, send me your Spirit.”

“Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

Book Review: Unruly Saint

Unruly Saint:
Dorothy’s Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Time
By D.L. Mayfield

D.L. Mayfield is a writer as well as an activist. Raised in a conservative Christian church, her childhood years were ones of her family moving around in a van as her father helped small congregations get started. The dream of missionary work she acquired while in bible college brought her into contact with Muslim refugees and this experience took her out of the confines of evangelicalism. She’s worked with immigrants and refugees for over a decade. Her writing has appeared in Sojourners, the Washington Post, Christianity Today and Vox among other outlets. She maintains a podcast, “The Prophetic Imagination,” and earlier books include Assimilate or Go Home (HarperOne, 23016) and The Myth of the American Dream (IVP, 2020).

Is it any surprise then, that she would produce the present volume on Dorothy Day and her radical vision and its relevance for us in the 21st century. Mayfield draws substantially on Day’s own sizable body of writing, the books and numerous periodical articles as well as The Catholic Worker columns and her letters and diaries, edited by Robert Ellsberg. She follow a chronology which essentially is Dorothy’s biography. All of the early radical activities and journalism are examined. So too Dorothy’s open, radical lifestyle and perspectives. She hung out with writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, socialists and Communists and anarchists, writing for their publications. Mayfield covers Day’s personal life as well, her political and activist connections and her complicated sexual relationships with colleagues, lovers and the occasional husband. Dorothy as parent also looms large in this book, as grandmother too.

The cover art is a sketch of the young Dorothy drawing hard on a cigarette. Not kneeling in a chapel, or hands joined in prayer. This is precisely Dorothy’s hidden holiness. She was reputed to curse like a teamster, this same daily Mass-goer and prayer of the Office. She walked into the archdiocese of New York’s chancery and defended the title of her publication against the charge it sounded almost Communist. She would write to people discouraged by the seeming absurdity of bishops and priest by assuring her correspondent that it had always been like this in the church. And that Christ surely was at work and present, despite this lamentable behavior.

Likely there would have been a bottle and glass on the table in from of her. For many years the cigarette would remain there, along with the coffee cup and the daily psalms, from the breviary. Her houses of hospitality gathered for evening prayer together, and where there was one to celebrate, there would be daily or when possible, a celebration of the Eucharist. Every day she would be soaking in the writings of Dostoevsky or Teresa of Avila or some other holy one. She corresponded with and published Thomas Merton for years, welcome Daniel Berrigan to speak and preside at Eucharist, among many other contemporary teachers and activists, not the least of which was Jim Forest. Mayfield chooses to call her an “unruly” saint which of course Dorothy was, from her youth till her last years as an eighty year old. And at the same time, her faith and her prayer life were remarkable, solid, without pretense or artificiality. She was unruly. She was passionate. She saw through all the myth of the American Dream to the capitalist and militarist and racist systems that tried to control the country, using the churches much of the time. But her own life, as Mayfield shows quite vividly, was one of protest against and resistance to this kind of state and culture. She was the real thing.

There are other fine overviews of Dorothy Day’s life and work. Jim Forest’s All is Grace (Orbis , 23011) is my favorite. Her granddaughter Kate Hennessy’s is another, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty, (Scribner’s, 2017) and Rosalie Riegle, Dorothy Day: Portrait by Those Who Knew Her (Orbis, 2006). However, the great contribution of Mayfield’s book is its constant attention to what Dorothy Day means to our mangled world now. There is an immediacy, an urgency to Mayfield’s narration of Dorothy’s life and thinking. She gets Dorothy exactly right and she does not avoid the unpleasant, difficult, even sometimes nasty details. She listens to Dorothy’s daughter Tamar’s side of things in her relationship to her mother. Tamar came to detest the rigidity of Fr. Hugo, the regular retreat master for the Catholic Worker communities, his arrogance, his extremes in deeming most everything worldly, an obstacle to holiness and thus to be given up or at least avoided. Fine, Tamar said, it got her mother to stop smoking in her early 40s. But the priest took issue with listening to opera and classical concerts on the radio, to reading the newspapers, to being engaged with the racism and protectionism of government for big business, a deadly reality in the Great Depression. Tamar also recognized the uncharacteristic submission her mother made to this priest, also to the questionablye emotional health of Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, though it would never have come into being without Dorothy’s organizational and journalistic tools. Mayfield brings to life the fierce passion of Dorothy for the starving, homeless suffering people tossed out of jobs and into the street by corporations. She lauded the efforts of FDR to alleviate the massive dislocation and pain of millions of Americans, even when this brought her attacks from fellow Catholics for drifting toward Communism.

This is perhaps one of most passionate accounts of Dorothy’s great love for Christ and for the suffering sister and brother before us. Only someone similarly impelled to work with the dislocated and suffering as D.L. Mayfield could have pulled this off and we should be grateful to her for this powerful story of a powerful soul, a most unruly saint.

Mayfield, D.L. Unruly Saint: Dorothy’s Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Time. Minneapolis MN: Broadleaf/1517 Media, 2022. 256 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9781506473598.

REVIEWER: Michael Plekon
Michael Plekon is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Religion,
The City University of New York, Baruch College,
and has been a priest in the Western and Eastern Churches.
Community as Church, Church as Community
 (Cascade, 2021) is his most recent book.

Book Review: Vocātiō: Imaging a Visible Church

Vocātiō: Imaging a Visible Church
By C. Andrew Doyle

We do not ordinarily expect fresh, even provocative and challenging books from bishops. Here and there, of course there are exceptions. Pope Francis of course, comes quickly to mind, Archbishop Rowan Williams is continually impressive in his scholarship. I also recall Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s writings not just as he courageously lived to his death but when he sought a “common ground” for divided Catholics some years ago.

Andrew Doyle has put forward a provocative set of images of not only the parish moving forward but, in particular, for clergy. He is a bishop in the Episcopal Church in Texas, has written before of keeping the tradition of the church while allowing it to be living, changing, both returning to roots and moving across boundaries. What is Doyle’s basis for reimagining church is to return church to a missional status rather than a more institutionalized form, the one in which the model comes from the temple or imperial organizations, with their codes, laws, hierarchies and stratified layers of officials and members. He calls for more non-stipendiary clergy, that is, pastors not dependent upon a parish for their income, neither career and professional employees of the local church of the parish, nor of the diocese or national church body. At least one critic wonders whether Doyle’s liberationist view of the clergy may be shaped by the substantial wealth and endowment of his diocese. Be that as it may, Doyle is courageous and free enough to think boldly and share his vision here.

In addition to wanting clergy freed from financial ties to parishes, he calls for a de-professionalizing of their training and identity, a moving away from the clerical establishment that grew after the first three-four centuries, as Nicholas Afanasiev documents in his writings, especially The Church of the Holy Spirit. Drawing on Roman and Byzantine imperial models, clergy became virtually a stratum or caste separate from and above the non-ordained. There is nothing sacred about this later shape, imperially derived, a shape not found in the New Testament among the diversity of ministries and communities.

Bishop Doyle is not at all an iconoclast, rather a lover of the tradition and not wed to any specific historical period which often is the plague of try to assess where the church should be. He also strives to look at the whole of the church, hence the book’s title, since all baptized Christians are called to put the Gospel into practice. One cannot just focus on the clergy and reform and renewal without considering the whole of the people of God.

Hearkening back to the beginnings, he sees bishops as area ambassadors or consuls, presbyters the ones embedded in local communities to witness to the Gospel and social justice, deacons more connected with practical concerns such as food, housing, education and more. All are working not as heads but fellow servants with the rest of the community. Doyle’s point is that clergy need to be allowed out of the parish structure as we have known it for over a thousand years, also out of a two-tiered, that is clergy-lay institutional church structure. All the ordained have ministries particular to both their ordination and their specific local setting. What would be the real change is that the ordained retake their place among the whole baptized people of God. They would equip and support the mission work of the community, whether as a body or through the individual activities of members. And all of the community would take upon themselves the call to give thanks, hear the Word, feed each other and those around them with the bread of life. This would be a splendid book for retreats, adult classes not to mention seminary and undergraduate courses. It is clear, accessible and strong.

Doyle, C. Andrew. Vocātiō: Imaging a Visible Church. New York: Church Publishing, 2018. xxix +177 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 9781640651173.

REVIEWER: Michael Plekon
Michael Plekon is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Religion,
The City University of New York, Baruch College,
and has been a priest in the Western and Eastern Churches.
Community as Church, Church as Community
 (Cascade, 2021)
is his most recent book.