Thees and Thous:
Anglican Usage’s Familiar God

St. John the Baptist HC

Our mission is particularly experienced in our celebration of liturgy, which features Anglican traditions of worship while conforming to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. Through “Divine Worship: The Missal” — the liturgy that unites the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world — we share our distinctive commitment to praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English.—The Mission of the Ordinariate


I have been blessed to attend occasional Mass and Evensong celebrations at a not-so-nearby Anglican Usage Parish, St. Thomas More (Scranton, PA). Blessed, in that the liturgy leads me closer to our Lord.  It is a return to traditional liturgy, an escape from “inclusive language” and liturgical elevator music, those elements that hide the true message of the liturgy, communion with our Lord, the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.

How did the Ordinariate come about?  In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI established the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. and thereby enabled Anglicans and Episcopalians who wanted to “swim the Tiber,” but were loath to forsake the beauty of their liturgy, to come into the Church. Many priests and their congregations did so. Most of these priests (some married) were ordained into the Roman rite after a training period.

Rather than discussing the history and organization of the Ordinariate, I’ll focus on the differences between the Novus Ordo and Anglican Usage Liturgies. My account will be personal and biased (as you might perceive from the first paragraph).  Those readers who would like to learn more about the Ordinariate can go here to learn about its history and here to learn about the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the “diocese” for Anglican Usage parishes in the U.S. and Canada.


Below is an example of the difference in language, taken from “Divine Worship, Pew Missal” (missal for Anglican Usage liturgy).  Rather than being given at the beginning of the Mass, as in the Novus Ordo,  the Anglican Usage Penitential Rite is said after the Prayers of the People, just before the liturgy of the Eucharist.


Facing the People, the Deacon or Priest says:

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: draw near with faith, and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.

The People kneel. Silence may be kept, and then the Priest, facing the altar, begins as follows and the People join in saying:

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all men:

We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.

We do earnestly repent,
and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable.

Have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life,
to the honour and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Priest says:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him, have mercy on us, pardon and deliver us from all our sins, confirm and strengthen us in all goodness, and bring us to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then, facing the People, the Deacon or Priest may rehearse one or more of the following sentences:
“Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.
Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” Matthew 11:28….

What struck me at the first Anglican Usage Mass I attended, was the difference in language: the thees, thous, verbs ending with “th.”   (Refer to the quote above from the Anglican Usage Missal.)   This Elizabethan flavor reflects the origin of the “Book of Common Prayer,” (BCP), from which the liturgy of the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church and thence that for the Anglican Usage are derived.  Since 1549, when Thomas Cramner, Archbishop of Canterbury and architect of the English Reformation, composed the  BCP,  it has undergone many changes.  But despite these changes, the beautiful Elizabethan language, that of Shakespeare, remains largely intact.

If you read the quote for the Penitential Rite carefully you’ll see that there  are “you, your” besides the “thees, thous, thys.”   Why the difference?  “You” in its various forms can refer to the plural, so that form is appropriate when the priest is addressing the congregation as a whole.  What about the “thees, thous and thys?”   To many of us it seems excessively formal, but a historical analysis shows that shouldn’t be so.   The usage is archaic informal, which is to say that the address is for the second person singular and informal, as between friends. In archaic English, after the Norman Conquest and up to Elizabethan times and a little later, this was the familiar form used, as in the French “tu” and the German “Du.”   In olden times upper classes addressed themselves as “you” and expected that form from the lower classes.  Now isn’t it wonderful that we can address Our Lord in a familiar form, as to a friend?


Another difference in liturgical language is the use of “Holy Ghost” for the third person of the Holy Trinity, rather than “Holy Spirit.”   I’ve discussed the difference (if there be one) between the two terms at length in another article, so I won’t repeat those arguments here.   However, I should note that this use of “Holy Ghost” is not universally applied:  for example, at the beginning of Mass in the  “Collect for Purity” there is “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,..”   Some argue that using “Holy Ghost” rather than “Holy Spirit” endows the third person of the Trinity with a more personal character.   Judging from comments to the article linked above, I conclude that most of those who could be classed as “liturgically conservative” favor “Holy Ghost” over “Holy Spirit.”


There are other differences in the liturgy: perhaps the most significant being the reception of Holy Communion.  The congregation, row by row, in turn, go up to the altar rail.  (See the featured image taken from The Personal Chair of St. Peter website, St. John the Baptist album.)  Each recipient kneels to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, with intinction—the host is dipped into the Precious Blood.  Those who cannot kneel because of infirmity receive Holy Communion standing or the priest will come to them if they’re unable to move to the altar rail.  I can say that receiving Holy Communion is an experience in itself, whatever the manner of reception.   (Older Catholics may recall this as the usual practice before Vatican II.)

Nevertheless, I find that it easier to maintain a reverent attitude while kneeling, not worrying about “is that person in front of me in the line going to the priest or one of the extraordinary ministers, do I have room to bow, will the priest be able to give the Host on my tongue, etc.”    I am fortunate that at 88 I can still kneel, although it is uncomfortable verging on painful.  But, posture leads to an attitude.  Thus, the kneeling, the waiting for the priest and the final reception helps me to focus on what is happening: I am receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord, who gave Himself up for me.


If you go through the Anglican Usage Missal you can see many other differences from the Novus Ordo liturgy.   For example, in the Nicene Creed, in the “Prayer of Humble Access” (“Lord, I am not worthy…”), in the Concluding Rite—and not only in the language but in the form or the requirement for the congregation to kneel or stand.  One other important difference is that the priest faces the tabernacle, “ad orientem,” for most of the liturgy except when directed by the rubric to face the congregation.

I’ve found one other difference, which I do not suppose to be imposed by the form of the liturgy: the liturgical music.  At St. Thomas More Parish, the Anglican Usage parish where I have attended Mass, the music is inspiring.  The Choral director there has an undergraduate degree from the Westminster Choir College  (the Harvard of Choir schools) and a Master’s from Indiana School of Music. Since other choir directors may not be this well trained or capable, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the liturgical music at every Anglican Usage Parish will be as magnificent as that at St. Thomas More.   Nevertheless, I doubt that those who find the Anglican usage liturgy rewarding will favor instrumental drums and guitars or the banal hymns we hear so often at the Novus Ordo Sunday Mass.  And this is important:  as St. Augustine has said, music is a way to greater devotion, even if it isn’t essential:

I realize that when they are sung these sacred words stir my mind to greater religious fervor and kindle in me a more ardent form of piety than they would if they were not sung…St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 33.


One hears the lament that younger people are leaving the Church.  Attending a Mass at St. Thomas More, I see lots of young families with many children.  This is the liturgy that will bring people back to the Church.

My wife, after we attended our first Anglican Usage Mass, commented: “this is what the Mass should have become after Vatican II.  I hope the Ordinariate will be a source of renewal for the Church.”  Let’s pray that this comes to pass.

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1 thought on “Thees and Thous:<br> Anglican Usage’s Familiar God”

  1. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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