In the Prayer of Consecration [or The Eucharistic Prayer] there is after "Sursum Corde" ["Lift up your hearts." etc.] a Proper Preface which is related to the time in the Christian Year.
In the BCP (1549) Archbishop Cranmer provided for The Feast of the Trinity the following (based on the Latin Preface which had been in use in England in the Sarum Rite):
It is very meet, right and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, gives thanks to thee O Lord, almighty everlasting God, which art one God, one Lord, not one only Person, but three Persons in one substance. For that which we believe of the glory of the Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference, or inequality: whom the Angels and Archangels laud and magnify..
It will be noticed that this Preface is addressed to the Trinity as a Unity , the One God & Lord who is Three Persons in One Substance [Deity/Godhead/Divinity]. As such it accords with the Collect for Trinity Sunday which is also addressed to the Trinity as a Unity, the One God who is a Trinity of Persons.
The Preface in the Sarum Rite is actually addressed to the Father and in translation [*The Sarum Missal in English* (no author; anon.); London, 1868; The Church Press Company, pp. 301, 305-306] reads:
It is very meet, right, just, and our bounded duty that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O Lord Holy Father Almighty, everlasting God, Who with Thy only Begotten Son and The Holy Ghost art one God, art one Lord, not one only Person, but three Persons in one substance. For that which we believe of Thy Glory which Thou hast revealed, the same do we believe of Thy Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without difference or inequality: that in the confession of a true and everlasting Godhead both Distinction in the Persons, and Unity in Being, and Equality in Majesty, be worshipped: which Angels and Archangels praise, Cherubim also and Seraphim, Who cease not to cry with one voice, saying, ...
In the BCP (1662) follows Cranmer's 1549 rendering.
Thus in 1549 & 1662 the logic is as follows for Trinity Sunday: From "Lift up your hearts" until the end of the "Holy, Holy, Holy" the Prayer is addressed to the Holy Trinity as One Divinity, while the rest of the Prayer is addressed to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost. In the Sarum Rite the whole is addressed to the Father but with a theological doxology to the Trinity added.
The Council of Trent
In the Eucharistic Prayer of the Council of Trent ("The Tridentine Rite") from the sixteenth century, the Preface is much the same as Sarum and is addressed to the Father in these words:
It is very meet, right and profitable for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee, holy Lord, Father Almighty, Everlasting God: who together with thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by thy Revelation of thy glory, the same do we believe of thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or inequality. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in Persons, unity in Being, and equality in Majesty may be adored, which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim do praise.
[It will be noticed that there is a switch to the third person from "so that." in order to acclaim the dogma of the Trinity as a Mystery for doxology.]
The American BCP
The American edition of the BCP of 1928 makes certain changes in order to make the Preface for Trinity Sunday accord with the address to the Father through the Son which is found in the rest of the Prayer of Consecration. Thus it reads:
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto thee O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God, who, with thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Substance. For that which we believe of thy glory, O Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference of inequality. Therefore with Angels..
We may claim that both the 1549-1662 Preface and the 1928 Preface are faithful to the received dogma of the Holy Trinity, but in different ways. Each of them teaches us - in the modern church climate where there is great confusion as to Who is God - important truths.
The Preface of 1549 clearly warns us against modern "Modalism", the doctrine that God is One Person with Three Primary Names and Modes of Being. God the LORD is not one Person!
The Preface of 1928 clearly reminds us of the divine order in the Trinity as we find this revealed in the New Testament --- the Father together with His only Son and His Holy Spirit.
1979 & 2001
In the American 1979 Prayer Book, the Preface is addressed to the Father and is as follows:
For with your co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit, you are one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Substance; and we celebrate the one and equal glory of you, O Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
[Of this Preface Hatchet writes: "The new translation is better adapted for use as a proper preface" because the earlier ones were "more like doctrinal formularies than eucharistic Prayers". And he claims that "it set forth more clearly than the old the unity, equality and co-eternity of the Triune God." The translation is from the Latin in the Gelasian Sacramentary, no 680, and the Gregorian no 1621.]
In the latest Church of England Prayer Book, "Common Worship" of 2001, the Preface addressed to the Father reads:
And now we give you thanks because you have revealed the glory of your eternal fellowship of love with your Son and with the Holy Spirit, three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one God, ever to be worshipped and adored.
[I am not sure whether this is a creation especially for this Book or that it is a free translation or adaptation of some earlier text. It would have been better to keep to the word "communion" so that it is an eternal communion of love rather than fellowship.]
Reflections on the 1979 Preface
The 1979 Preface appears to have two important shifts from that of 1928. First, the shift from "believe" (which is connected to the idea of a "saving faith") to "celebrate" (which can be taken more metaphorically and avoids any specific, objective statement of belief). The second is a shift from the via negativa (without any difference of ["or" in 1549] inequality), which leaves room for mystery and the contemplation of the divine order, to the via positiva, so that a simply positive statement is made ("celebrated,"
really) of "the one and equal glory."
Probably most people will not take notice of this second shift. What it permits in the long term is the "communal" and "egalitarian" "Trinity" that we encounter in the application of the rights agenda to theology. The statement does not necessitate a communal Trinity, but it does make it more possible, since the more hesitant "lack of difference" is ever so much more cautious than the plain statement of "equality" (the highest of all modern "values"). This new statement is certainly much more confident before the Mysterium Tremendum.
Returning to the 1549 Preface we may claim that, to what extent Cranmer recast the content of the Latin Sarum Rite, as usual, his instincts about the need to protect major dogmas were better than those of his successors. His objective Trinity is a bulwark against the subjectified or house-broken Trinity that so many heretics have taught before and after his time. One should always remove safety devices with great caution, especially if one is not completely clear about what is being guarded against. The only good argument for the 1928 adjustment to the 1549 version is the consistency of the address to the Father. On the other hand, a special, once a year exception has its merits precisely because of its being unusual and startling.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon