It used the readings and collects from the Book of Common Prayer, most of which were of Sarum origin anyway, then took the prayers of the Missale Romanum and rendered them into Cranmerian English. It also included the Prayer Book Canon (or the 1928 canon) for those who wished to use it. (Anyone interested in a more detailed account should read Anglican Missals and Their Canons: 1549 Interim Rite and Roman, by Mark Dalby and published by Grove Books. Anglican Papalism by Michael Yelton, published by Canterbury Press, also contains some fascinating history of the various rites used through the years of Catholic renewal in the Church of England.)
Hundreds of parishes used the English Missal. It was the rite of choice for many Anglo-Catholic, and most Anglo-Papalist, parishes. To many people it was known as the Knott Missal, after the publishers of the volume, who printed a number of editions in the first half of the 20th century.
But liturgical reform was to spell the end of its widespread use.
When Rome changed its rites, many Anglo-Catholic parishes felt they should carry on that tradition and use the revised Roman Rite to preserve recognisability between sundered, sister, churches. Others felt that their eucharistic aspirations were now being met by the Church of England's revised services, culminating in the Alternative Service Book 1980, and now Common Worship.
Of course, Roman Catholics had no choice. The Tridentine Rite was all but suppressed, altars moved, statues, vestments, church buildings all discarded to accommodate the new rite. I am being polite: it was nothing more than an iconoclasm of a kind the Church in England has experienced only too much of in her post Reformation history.
Then in 2007, Pope Benedict issued his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, in which he said that "it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church.'"
As a result of that motu proprio it became possible for parish priests to celebrate what is now known as the Extraordinary Form without the permission of their ordinary, and for the laity to petition their parish priest to celebrate the EF.
Ever since, the interest in and practice of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass of the Latin Rite has grown.
There are now many websites which support and encourage that growth, and it is to be hoped that faithful, traditional, Anglo-Catholics will begin to see the same shoots of new life begin in the Church of England. After all, there has been as much liturgical abuse visited on Anglican Christians as there has been on Roman. And many Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians simply do not understand how or why the noble liturgy of the West has become so debased.
Even members of the Church of Rome have spoken of the desirability of restoring The English Missal. One wrote, "The English Missal is one of the finest vernacular liturgical books ever produced; it brings together the genius and beauty of the Anglican liturgical dialect with the genius and sober beauty of the ancient Roman liturgical texts."
The rite is used in other parts of the Anglican Communion, where it is known as the Anglican Missal.
Doubtless it will be said by many, 'why on earth try to resurrect a dead rite?' Many brother priests of the Latin rite will have heard the same thing.
Here are some things to think about.
Firstly, celebrating the EM Mass puts the priest in continuity with our forebears in the faith of the pre-Reformation Church of this land. The Roman Rite is very ancient, emerging in the 3rd or 4th century and going through many changes before it solidified into its current form. It is the rite which was celebrated in the churches of this land for more than a thousand years (albeit not exactly in the form of The English Missal), and when a priest celebrates it, he stands in continuity with them.
It also means he stands in continuity with our forebears in the movement for Catholic renewal in the Church of England. Of course, not all Anglican Catholics used the EM: some used the Book of Common Prayer, others the English, or Sarum, use. But many others did not and we stand with them in the continuing work of renewal in our Church.
This is summed up very neatly by the Priestly Fraternity of St Martin, a fraternal society based in Australia, which reminds us in its constitution that, "It is important that all catholics, whichever form of worship they choose for themselves, have an awareness and respect for the way in which their predecessors in the Communion of Saints worshipped. In this regard, the presence of the historical forms of worship is an invitation to filial piety, and an opportunity to learn in humility."
Then there is a beauty and reverence and air of contemplation around the EM Mass which is unsurpassed. For me, it is impossile to worship at a High Mass surrounded by the beauty of the language of the English Missal, plainchant, silence, clouds of incense, and not exclaim, "we no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth." (Yes, I know, they were commenting on the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia!)
Finally, priests can then take that into their celebration of the novus ordo/common worship.
There is no reason why a priest should not recite psalm 42/3 as they process in to Mass, or psalm 140/1 whilst censing the altar, or some of the other secret prayers of the priest contained in the EM. After all, this is probably how such prayers became part of the liturgy in the first place, and certainly how they re-emerged into the liturgical life of the Church of England in the 19th century.
It is my hope and prayer that the devotion and beauty of worship using the Englsh Missal may bear fruit in the modern rites for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, the greater good of the Church, and the glory of the All-Holy Trinity.
Until the liturgical revolutions of the West in the mid-20th century, for many Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, and the wider Anglican Communion, Mass meant the English Missal.
In the words of Fr John Hunwicke, "The English Missal is a very fine vernacular version of the classical Roman Rite, in a very fine liturgical, hieratic, dialect. When the great Christine Mohrmann lamented that modern European vernaculars did not possess a hieratic form, she had not met the English Missal." As described by Fr Colin Stephenson in his book Merryily on High, it was "a curious volume - much in evidence in the churches where I worshipped".
In the Church of England, it began life in the 1920's when the Missale Romanum was translated into English by Fr Henry Kenrick, parish priest of Holy Trinity, Hoxton, in east London.
Once the Latin Rite was translated into English, many Anglo-Catholic parishes began to use the Novus ordo. After all, one of the touchstones of Anglo-Catholicism before Vatican II was that English Catholics worshipped in just the same way as their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, only in the vernacular: we were hewn from the same block.
In the Church of England the use of the EM has all but disappeared. Some parish priests still use the rite for the 8 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning. Older priests may use it to celebrate Mass privately, and one seminary, St Stephen's House, has begun to celebrate it regularly. A visitor to any Anglo-Catholic parish with an older priest on the staff may still see that priest making many of the manual actions of the EM as an almost autonomic reflex. I once saw a priest trying desperately to find a crucifix to bow to on the command, "Let us pray". Old liturgical habits die hard!
The English Missal Society