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Holy Communion stained glassCorpus Christi Sunday is celebrated this year on June 18.

It is most widely known in the Catholic Church, but some traditionalist Anglicans and Lutherans also celebrate this important feast day, which may include a procession of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance (pictured at right).Monstrance stisidore-yubacityorg

Corpus Christi means ‘Body of Christ’ in Latin. The feast dates back to the Middle Ages and became a mandatory feast in 1312. It parallels the Last Supper on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, but is a more joyous celebration and one of thanksgiving, as Christ’s prophecies of His death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven have been fulfilled. He also sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the Holy Trinity was revealed to mankind — all as He promised.

You can read more about the feast of Corpus Christi in my 2010 post, which also includes the Scripture reference from St John’s Gospel.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return next week.

Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

The last entry described the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. All three — the Oxford Martyrs — were burned at the stake in that city during the reign of Mary I.

Mary I succeeded Edward VI after nine days of Lady Jane Grey, deemed to be an unsuitable successor to her cousin Edward.

However, there is more to say about Edward VI’s reign. As we know by now, Edward was only 15 when he died, having ascended to the throne at the age of nine in 1547. As such, he had several powerful adult advisers to guide him. These men were driven by their own agendas and the opportunity to exercise power not only in the civil sphere but also in the religious one.

Although most of us, even Britons, think that Henry VIII was the principal ruler who ransacked the monasteries and churches, Edward VI’s advisers went even further.

Percy Dearmer gives us the highlights in Chapter 7 of his book.

Excerpts and a summary follow. Emphases mine below.

Of this vandalism under Edward VI, Dearmer wrote:

All this is still but little known, but we cannot appreciate the liturgical changes of Edward VI’s reign unless we know it.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour was Edward VI’s first Lord Protector (image courtesy of Wikipedia).

At the time, a Lord Protector exercised an individual regency over a monarch who was too young to rule independently.

The context and role of Lord Protector changed with Oliver Cromwell during the Interregnum (years between the rule of Charles I and Charles II) in the 17th century.

Seymour’s sister was Jane, Henry VIII’s third wife and Edward’s mother. Although Henry VIII did not specify a Lord Protector, but rather 16 executors who were to serve as Edward’s Regency Council, somehow Seymour managed to get himself at the top of that group. It is likely that he made deals (e.g. land) with the other members of the Council to allow him this power in 1547, the first year of Edward’s reign.

As Lord Protector, he then had the arrogance to create a title for himself, Duke of Somerset. Even today, that is the only dukedom not to have been created by a monarch.

Somerset, as he is known in historical parlance, had grand ambitions and wanted his own palatial home in London: Somerset House.

Dearmer describes the egregious method of how Somerset went about having it built beginning in 1549. There is a sense of divine justice that he never lived to see its completion:

The first Protector, Somerset, had endeavoured, with Cranmer and Latimer, to redeem the miseries of the poor; but even Somerset was a great robber, as the name of Somerset House should remind us. To build this palace (which he did not live to enjoy) he destroyed three bishops’ houses and one parish church, as if they had been so much slum property; and he pulled down the cloister of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Clerkenwell Priory for further building materials. He had actually intended to build his palace on the site of Westminster Abbey; and the Dean only averted the destruction of the Abbey by bribing him with the gift of more than half its estates. Somerset was sent to the Tower in the year of the First Prayer Book, to be beheaded two years afterwards.

Wikipedia says that Somerset also had an old Inn of Chancery and adjacent houses pulled down for his palatial project.

Although it remained unfinished for many years, it was still habitable. The future Elizabeth I lived there during her half-sister Mary I’s reign.

Somerset House was not completed until the 18th and 19th centuries. Several government offices were based there, but by the 20th century most had moved out and various art collections moved in.

Now onto Somerset’s fall from grace. As mentioned in the previous two posts, the Prayer Book Rebellion took place in 1549, and armed mercenaries had to quell it. There were also a variety of important property disputes between landlords and farmers taking place at that time.

On October 1, 1549, word reached Somerset that his time was up. Somerset responded by abducting Edward VI and taking him to Windsor Castle. Meanwhile, the members of the Regency Council got together and made public Somerset’s failures, emphasising that his power came from them. On October 11, the Council had Somerset arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Edward VI was taken to Richmond temporarily.

In 1550, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was appointed head of the Council. Somerset was released and restored to the Council soon afterwards. However, in 1552, Somerset was beheaded for plotting against the Earl of Warwick.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley (Knole, Kent).jpgIn 1551, John Dudley became the Duke of Northumberland (image courtesy of Wikipedia).

Dearmer describes him as follows:

Northumberland, was a villain unmitigated. The misery of the poor increased, the character of the clergy declined, because the cures [curate positions] were filled with “assheads” and “lack-Latins,” as the immortal sermons of Latimer bear witness.

Northumberland did not take the title of Lord Protector but that of Grand Master of the Household. Through it he controlled the other men around Edward VI as well as the surroundings of the young king.

Northumberland did his best to ensure that, as Edward VI matured, he received more complete briefs on what the government was doing. By the time Edward turned 14, the Council no longer had to co-sign on government documents.

After Edward VI died, Northumberland was unprepared for the Council supporting Mary I’s ascending the throne. He was executed in August 1553, during the first few weeks of her reign.

Interestingly, he recanted his Protestant religion around that time. Dearmer mentions:

the brigandage of men like Northumberland, who had no zeal for Protestantism — indeed, Northumberland professed himself a Papist on the scaffold.

Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London

Although Nicholas Ridley was one of the Oxford Martyrs and is remembered in the Anglican Communion on October 16, his behaviour was not always saintly.

Ridley was responsible for the ransacking of a number of churches in London. Ridley was worried that elaborate altarpieces and chalices were too reminiscent of the Catholic Church and would hamper the Reformation in England.

As Dearmer says:

it was illegal, as well as barbarous and unreasonable (the Lutherans were sensible enough to spare the beautiful altars of Germany and Scandinavia, and their Protestantism did not suffer thereby) …

Unconscionable, wanton destruction

This is what happened on a grand scale in England:

But now Commissioners were sent all over England to make inventories, “forasmuch as the King’s Majesty had need presently of a mass of money”; and before the end of poor little King Edward’s reign there had been a clean sweep of all that was worth stealing: the churches, their chests, their treasuries had been ransacked, and nothing but the bare walls remained of the ancient beauty which Englishmen had so loved — which the poor had looked upon as part of their birthright. Even the walls were suffered to decay.

Also:

all over the country the churches were looted simply for the sake of plunderthe organs were sold for the price of their pipes, even the melting of the bells was begun ; the priceless church plate, which had been the treasure of the people for centuries, was pillaged, so that, a generation later, there were still some churches with nothing but a single chalice. The parish churches, as well as the benefit clubs and guilds (which were the trade unions of the time), had belonged to the people, had been enriched by the people, and managed by them.

Now the people had nothing. The churches fell into disrepair:

In the Second Book of Homilies, issued nine years after King Edward’s death, we read — ” It is a sin and shame to see so many churches so ruinous and so foully decayed, almost in every corner. . . . Suffer them not to be defiled with rain and weather, with dung of doves and owls, stares and choughs, and other filthiness, and as it is foul and lamentable to behold in many places of this country.”

The churches were not the only structures being ransacked:

The hospitals and almshouses were destroyed ; the universities only just escaped. “To the Universities,” says that staunchest upholder of the Reformation, J. A. Froude, “the Reformation brought with it desolation. . . They were called Stables of Asses. . . . The Government cancelled the exhibitions which had been granted for the support of poor scholars. They suppressed the Professorships and Lectureships. . . . College Libraries were plundered and burnt. The Divinity Schools at Oxford were planted with cabbages, and the laundresses dried clothes in the School of Arts.”

It’s truly unbelievable.

Dearmer concludes:

It was not the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry that created English pauperism, but the Disendowment of the Parishes under his son.

Furthermore:

The bulk of the money went to enrich the gang of ruffians who tyrannized over England; while thirty “King Edward VI Schools” were set up here and there, to hoodwink the public of that and succeeding generations.

On the subject of King Edward VI Schools, they are very prestigious for those who choose not to enrol in well known ‘public’ [private] schools. Many offer day and boarding options. I worked with someone who graduated from one. He was very pleased to have gone there.

Oddly enough, there is no one page with a history of how all of these schools developed. Hmm.

Ultimately:

The old parish community was destroyed; “an atmosphere of meanness and squalor,” says Dr. Jessop, still pervades “the shrivelled assemblies” of the 17th and 18th centuries ; and the Parish Councils Act has not yet succeeded in restoring its ancient spirit.

Another period of wanton destruction took place under Cromwell. With those two periods in history in mind:

We have done our best, not often wisely, to restore them but we can never bring back the priceless works of art which were scrapped for a few shillings and melted down for the value of their metal.

Very true. I suspect this will come as news to many of my English readers, just as it would have with Dearmer’s readership.

Next time we will look at Dearmer’s explanation of why the Second Prayer Book did not succeed.

Over the past few months I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

The last entry explained the political and ecclesiastical turmoil going on during Edward VI’s reign. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first Prayer Book, which was approved for lawful use in the Church of England in January 1549, pleased neither some congregants nor some clergy, especially Reformers from the Continent who had settled in England. Among the Reformers were Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr.

As Dearmer noted of June 1549 (emphases mine below):

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Churchgoers thought the Prayer Book too Protestant. Continental Reformers thought it was too Catholic.

Another aspect which made the Church of England’s foray into Protestantism contentious was the fact that Edward VI was a boy king. He died at the age of 15. That meant there were powerful men behind him trying to further their own agendas.

First Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’

In Chapter 6 of his book, Dearmer wrote that Cranmer’s First Prayer Book was ‘too fair-minded’ for such a violent era. Interestingly, subsequent revisions after the Second Prayer Book of 1552 incorporated more of the First Prayer Book of 1549 (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Dearmer describes what made the First Prayer Book so exceptional for public worship and administration of the sacraments. Indeed, it exemplifies the best characteristics of the English people:

It is indeed throughout an examplar of what we proudly claim as one of the best elements in the English character: alike in ritual, that is, in the wording of the services, and in ceremonial, it endeavours to avoid the extremes of bigots and fanatics, seeking to establish what is true and right without regard to prejudices, reactions, and the cruel generalizations so characteristic of the period. Catholic conservatism there is, but it is the conservatism which is not afraid of new ideas ; Protestantism there is, but it is the Protestantism that will not throw away the gold with the dross compromise there is, but it is the compromise which honestly accepts truth from both sides. It is positive, constructive, practical ;

The Second Prayer Book was nothing like it, which later generations of clergy recognised, as they returned to the First for subsequent revisions:

and we may safely say that, ever since it was so roughly altered at the end of Edward VI’s reign, the opinion of the whole Anglican Communion has been steadily coming back to the principles of the First Prayer Book, and that every subsequent revision has restored something which the Second Book took away. In fact, as is stated in the very Act which substituted the Second Book for it, the First Prayer Book was “a very godly order for common prayer and administration of the sacraments, . . . agreeable to the word of God and the primitive Church”; but there had “arisen in the use and exercise . . . divers doubts for the fashion and manner of the ministration of same, rather by curiosity of the minister, and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause.”

Ultimately:

The First Prayer Book was indeed too fair-minded for the violent and bitter spirit of the age.

Wikipedia explains that the tumult surrounding the First Prayer Book and the call for a Second Prayer Book were influenced by Reformers, both Continental and British, who wanted no semblance of Catholicism in the services, particularly that for Holy Communion:

The new changes were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and the Scot John Knox, who was employed as a minister in Newcastle upon Tyne under the Duke of Northumberland and whose preaching at court prompted the king to oppose kneeling at communion.[132] Cranmer was also influenced by the views of the continental reformer Martin Bucer, who died in England in 1551, by Peter Martyr, who was teaching at Oxford, and by other foreign theologians.[133] The progress of the Reformation was further speeded by the consecration of more reformers as bishops.[134] In the winter of 1551–52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer in less ambiguous reformist terms, revised canon law, and prepared a doctrinal statement, the Forty-two Articles, to clarify the practice of the reformed religion, particularly in the divisive matter of the communion service.[135] Cranmer’s formulation of the reformed religion, finally divesting the communion service of any notion of the real presence of God in the bread and the wine, effectively abolished the mass.[136] According to Elton, the publication of Cranmer’s revised prayer book in 1552, supported by a second Act of Uniformity, “marked the arrival of the English Church at protestantism”.[137] The prayer book of 1552 remains the foundation of the Church of England’s services.[138] However, Cranmer was unable to implement all these reforms once it became clear in spring 1553 that King Edward, upon whom the whole Reformation in England depended, was dying.[139]

I disagree that the Prayer Book of 1552 remains the foundation of Church of England services, as Dearmer, closer to the matter, says there was a return to the First Prayer Book. Furthermore, we have only Thirty-Nine, not Forty-Two, Articles of Religion. We also kneel for Communion and many parts of the later 1662 service, still in occasional use today. Therefore, the 1552 Second Prayer Book did not have much staying power.

Note that Edward VI was dying in 1553. Succession was controversial. Edward was firmly committed to the Protestant religion. He did not want his Catholic half-sister Mary to succeed him. Nor did his advisers want that.

Edward considered Mary and his other half-sister Elizabeth to be illegitimate daughters of their father Henry VIII, and as Edward had no children of his own, he designated that his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, succeed him.

Edward was very ill for the first six months of 1553. He had a severe fever in January and, as the months progressed, coughed up blood and sputum. By the end, his legs had swollen to such an extent that he could only feel comfortable lying down. Even today, no one is sure exactly what ailed Edward, as his symptoms were so diverse. He died on July 6 but was not buried until August 8. Archbishop Cranmer performed the burial rite.

At the time, conspiracy theories abounded as to the real cause of his death. Some people thought the unpopular Duke of Northumberland had the young king poisoned. Others suspected Mary had him poisoned so that she could restore the Catholic religion to England.

Lady Jane Grey became Queen of England on July 10, 1553. She, too, was only an adolescent, two or three years Edward’s senior. Her last day as queen was July 19. She was executed in the Tower of London on February 12, 1554, on charges of treason for usurping the throne.

During Jane’s brief reign, Mary started her trip from Hunsdon in Hertfordshire and travelled to East Anglia where she gathered her supporters as reinforcements in case of battle. The Duke of Northumberland set out from London with troops for the same reason. In Northumberland’s absence, the privy council shifted their allegiance from Jane to Mary.

The privy council proclaimed Mary queen on July 19, but she did not make a public appearance in London until August 3. She had the Duke of Northumberland executed on August 22, 1553.

Of course, a Catholic queen was bad news for the Reformers — and for Archbishop Cranmer (pictured at left, courtesy of Wikipedia). On the day of Edward VI’s funeral, he told his friends from the Continent, including Peter Martyr, to return home. A few weeks later, on September 14, 1553, he was sent to the Tower of London along with his fellow English theologians, Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley on charges of treason. Martyr was still in England. Cranmer and he bade each other farewell that day. Martyr left for Strasbourg.

On March 8, 1554, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were also charged with heresy. They were sent to Bocardo Prison in Oxford to await trial. Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake on October 15, 1555. Cranmer was forced to watch from a nearby tower.

In December 1555, Cranmer was transferred out of prison to the house of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. There, a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia, and perhaps other clergy persuaded Cranmer to recant the Protestant religion. By February 1556, he had done so, but it meant being defrocked and returned to Bocardo Prison to await execution.

According to Canon Law, Cranmer should have been spared execution because he recanted. However, Queen Mary wanted to make ‘an example’ out of him.

Cranmer was buried at the stake on March 21, 1556, in the same spot as Latimer and Ridley met their deaths. Interestingly, he was given the final opportunity to make a further public recantation of the Protestant religion. He did no such thing. In the end, he recanted his recantations and declared the pope to be ‘Christ’s enemy and Antichrist‘.

John Foxe wrote about the three in his 1563 volume Book of Martyrs. Since then, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley have been known as the Oxford Martyrs.

I got ahead of myself here, however, this is to further illustrate what a tumultuous and violent period in history this was.

Next time, with the aid of Percy Dearmer’s text, I would like to return to Edward VI’s reign and demonstrate that, possibly without his knowledge, it was even more destructive than his father Henry VIII’s ransacking of the monasteries.

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

In Chapter 5 of his book, Dearmer outlines the importance of the Reformation and royalty on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was instrumental in writing.

He tells us that the BCP developed over a century, from 1544 in the time of Henry VIII and concluding with Charles II in 1662. The 1662 BCP is still in use today, although, sadly, much less so than in previous decades.

The introduction of the printing press led to availability of a Bible in English. If you visit an Anglican or Episcopal church, you will see that a Bible is always open on a lectern outside of times of public worship. Dearmer explains:

The Bible was in 1536 ordered to be set up in every church, so that it might be read aloud out of service time … Thus the Lectern may remind us of the first stage in reform.

Several years later, another new item at the altar was installed, a litany-desk, equipped with a kneeler:

The Litany-desk tells of the second stage; for, though the Litany was not sung kneeling till three years after, that beautiful service itself was produced by the genius of Cranmer, and ordered to be used in 1544.

Dearmer lists the main events in the development of the BCP. Below are the major highlights (emphases and explanatory notes mine below):

1534 (Henry VIII). Convocation petitions the King for an authorized English Version of the Bible.

1535. Coverdale’s Bible.

1536. The Bible ordered to be set up in every church. New edition of the Sarum Breviary, in Latin, but with the name of the Roman Pontiff and other things omitted.

1543. The Lessons in English. A chapter of the Bible to be read after Te Deum and Magnificat.

1544. The English Litany.

1544-7. Experiments. The Rationale, or explanation of the Ceremonies to be used in the Church of England. First and Second Drafts of reformed services in Latin. Cranmer attempts a translation of the Processional.

1547 (Edward VI). August. Beginning of more radical changes by means of the Injunctions (without the authority of Convocation or Parliament) :— Book of Homilies to be read; At High Mass, Epistle and Gospel to be read in English; New form of Bidding Prayer ; and some changes in Breviary services.

November. Convocation meets (at the opening Mass, Gloria in Excelsis, Creed, and Agnus sung in English), and approves Communion in both kinds.

1548 March. The Order of the Communion, drawn up by sundry “grave and well-learned prelates,” provides for Communion in both kinds, and is to come into use at Easter by Royal proclamation. This Order consists of the following, inserted before the Communion in the Latin Service :— First Exhortation, Second Exhortation, “Ye that do truly,” the Confession, the Absolution and Comfortable Words, “We do not presume,” [which is the Prayer of Humble Access,] the Words of Administration in both kinds (first part), “The Peace of God ” (without the Blessing) [at the end], a Note that the bread is to be as heretofore (round wafers) and each wafer is to be broken for Communion, and a Note that if the Chalice is exhausted the priest is to consecrate afresh, beginning Simili modo postquam coenatum est, “Likewise after Supper,” “without any elevation or lifting up.”

Dearmer notes that congregants were so upset about these changes that preaching was forbidden in April and September 1548.

Also in that year:

May. St. Paul’s and other churches “sung all the service in English, both Mattins, Mass, and Evensong”: it therefore appears that these services of the First Prayer Book were already drafted, at least in some experimental form, the choir services being reduced to two, Mattins and Evensong.

Those who do not know much about English history will be surprised to know that Edward VI ascended to the throne in 1547, at the age of nine. He died when he was only 15.

This was a tumultuous period, given his tender age. Dearmer explains:

At the accession of the boy-King, it is clear that the whole atmosphere was changed: the power passed into the hands of the knot of men — and history shows them to have been despotic and evil menwho ruled in King Edward’s name. From this gang of robbers — who were five years later to ransack the property of the people in the guilds and parish churches, robbing the poor for the sake of the rich — Archbishop Cranmer stands apart, trying to steer his own uncertain course.

Although Cranmer did not work in isolation and had pious Anglican clergymen known as ‘divines’ helping him with the Prayer Book, he spearheaded its creation. He was also Edward VI’s foremost spiritual adviser.

In 1549, the first Prayer Book was passed into law and published for church use:

1549. January 21st. First Act of Uniformity. The First Prayer Book becomes law.

March 7. First Prayer Book printed and published.

June 9th. Date fixed by the Act for the Book to be everywhere used.

June 10th. Armed rebellions against the Act begin, especially in the West of England. The insurgents demand the old ceremonies— Holy water, Images, Ashes, Palms, etc., and the service in Latin. They are suppressed by foreign mercenaries.

Yes, people were that upset!

The following year, the liturgy was set to music — ‘noted’:

1550. The Book of Common Prayer Noted, by John Merbecke, published. This is Merbecke’s famous musical setting, which is still so largely sung.

March. The English Ordinal issued, containing the Ordering of Deacons, the Ordering of Priests, and the Consecration of Bishops. The essential parts of the Latin rite were carefully retained, but the ceremonial rather ruthlessly cut down.

1549 – 1551. The Foreign Reformers (Bucer, Peter Martyr, etc.) criticize the First Prayer Book.

1551. Third Edition of Old Version of metrical psalms, seven psalms by Hopkins being added to Sternhold’s.

Dearmer does not say why the Reformers on the Continent disliked the First Prayer Book. However, one thing can be said: the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is like no other in its beauty and biblical faithfulness. It is an enduring pleasure from which to pray in church and to read privately at home.

Next time: the unique character of the first Prayer Book

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

In today’s entry, still from Chapter 4, we look at Dearmer’s explanation of how liturgy came to be better defined and codified from the 7th century to the Reformation.

In Dearmer’s time, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was the only Anglican book in use for communal worship, administering Baptism and Holy Communion, along with special rites such as Confirmation, Matrimony and Ordination.

In the 7th century, books were handwritten and paper was expensive. This situation existed until the printing press eight centuries later. Even then, the price of books was still prohibitive until the 19th century.

From the 7th century until the Reformation, liturgical rites had to be handwritten. Therefore, priests and deacons had small books with only their prayers and incantations. Furthermore, there were books for each type of liturgy:

the Divine Service, the Sacraments, and the Occasional Services, these latter including all the services used upon occasions such as Marriage, Ordination, and the Reconciliation of Penitents.

The Divine Service involved three different books, again, one for each role (e.g. priest, deacon) in that liturgy: the Psalter, the Legend and the Antiphoner. The Legend had the Scripture readings, lives of the saints and sermons. The Antiphoner had the musical accompaniments to the service.

The ancient Anglo-Saxon service for Holy Communion entailed a Missal, a Gospel book and an Epistle book. The Normans had a Missal but their other books were a Gradual and a Troper. Dearmer explains:

The Gradual contained the portions of the Psalter sung between the Epistle and the Gospel, and also those sung for the Introit and at other places in the Mass … The Troper consisted of interpolations into the chant: these additions to the traditional music became very large, but after the twelfth century little except the Sequences (sung after the Gradual and Alleluya, between the Epistle and Gospel) was left of them.

In the late Middle Ages — 13th century — different rites in Britain emerged in the cathedral cities and surrounding areas:

From the 13th century till the Reformation the use of Salisbury Cathedral was followed in the greater part of England (excluding Hereford which had a use of its own, and parts of the North which followed the York use), and also throughout the mainland of Scotland and in parts of Ireland and Wales.

The books used largely remained the same, although another book emerged for the Divine Service, e.g. liturgies which do not feature Communion, such as what we know today as Morning Prayer. The new book was called a Collectar. It had all the Collects (the emphasis is on the first syllable, as in ‘college’)  to be used on particular Sundays and feast days.

Collects are short petitioning prayers. In Morning Prayer, for example, three come at the end of the service. In the Communion service, one Collect is said after the introductory prayers, just before the Epistle is read.

Archbishop Cranmer, who first developed the first Book of Common Prayer, translated the collects from Latin. Dearmer tells us these had been in use for centuries and were in the priest’s liturgy book, the Sacramentary:

The majority of our Prayer Book collects are from three Old Roman Sacramentaries — the Leonine (6th century), the Gelasian (early 8th century), and the Gregorian (c. 800).

For centuries, Communion services used to have an Introit, a Collect and a Gradual. These were particular to specific Sundays and feasts. The Introit (Introitum means ‘entrance’ in Latin) is now called the Entrance Antiphon in Catholic Masses. The Gradual (possibly from gradus, the priest’s mounting the steps to the altar for the Gospel reading) was sung between the Epistle and the Gospel. Today’s liturgies no longer refer to a Gradual. In Protestant services, it is the Psalm for the day. Catholics call it the Responsorial Psalm.

By the late Middle Ages, the church service situation was such that it began to make more sense for these various books to be combined into one. A variety of Masses and other services took place at churches in cities. On the other hand, rural areas had fewer clergy. From this emerged the Breviary, still used in monasteries today, for daily services other than Communion; Missals for Communion services and three books for occasional rites.

The Antiphoner, for the sung parts, was still separate. From it, the hymnal emerged.

Dearmer’s book explains that the Reformation and the printing press in the mid-15th century brought an opportunity to make Protestant worship more communal. Instead of a priest and deacon reciting most of the prayers in Latin, people could worship in their own language and recite more prayers together.

It is also worth remembering that the Bible had been translated into English in the late 14th century, so the pathway was clear for church services to go the same route.

Until then, Latin was used because it was the lingua franca of Europe. All the educated people could speak, write and read it. It was the language of not only the Church but the professions (e.g. law) and diplomacy. People across Europe, including Britain, still had so many local and regional dialects, that it was sometimes difficult for citizens of a nation to understand someone else from another region in their own homeland:

and therefore it is no wonder that learned people wrote in Latin, which was for them a kind of Esperanto amid the babel of tongues.

Dearmer takes us to 16th century England, which led to the proliferation of the English Bible but also the introduction of the English prayer book (emphases mine):

It was therefore possible at the beginning of the 16th century not only to print the services, but to print them in an English which Englishmen all over the country could understand. Before the middle of that century the Bible had been printed in English, and thus became universally accessible and intelligible ; and just before the middle year— in 1549 — the First English Prayer Book was printed. It was no longer necessary to have but short extracts from the Bible in Divine Service; for the whole Bible — now a comparatively cheap book — could be used side by side with the Prayer Book; and these two volumes would supply every one’s need. Formerly the lay folk had only been able to follow the services in little simplified books of their own, and even these were an expensive luxury; but now every one could follow the services word for word, and those who knew their letters could read them in their own books. So the old books that we have described were further condensed into two, the Bible and the Prayer Book.

The last major revision of the Book of Common Prayer was done in 1662. Smaller revisions have been made since then. Most Anglicans probably did not notice much difference. During Dearmer’s time:

The last Lambeth Conference (1908) decided not to recommend the Unction of the Sick, but to allow its use, expressing a hope that the other apostolic act for helping the sick, the Laying on of Hands, might be used with prayers for the restoration of health. Those who are inclined to press the importance of Unction should remember that in the New Testament, and for long afterwards, the Laying on of Hands was used at least as much as Unction for helping the sick. It is therefore rightly to be regarded as an alternative form of the Sacrament of Healing; just as we administer Confirmation by the Laying on of Hands, whereas in the Eastern Church, and in most of the West, Confirmation is administered by anointing.

Dearmer points out that the various hymnals used in Anglican churches have denominational authorisation. To them have been added a few newer hymns from each generation so that the tradition remains, with continuing relevance:

they still keep us in touch with the thought and feeling of our own age, besides having the happy result of enabling Christians of other denominations, Protestant and Catholic, to contribute to our services. Closely allied to hymns are the modern anthems, which in cathedral and collegiate churches are collected in Anthem-books, thus adding a fourth to the volumes required for Divine Service each day. Hymns and anthems together place every form of sacred vocal music at the service of the Church. Nor are they unauthorized additions: the existence of these collections of hymns and anthems which provide Anglicanism with so precious an element of freedom has been sanctioned by authority ever since the 16th century (see pp. 65, 96, 97, 136), and the latter are mentioned in the twice repeated rubric, “In Quires and Places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem.”

Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to find an Anglican church that offers any type of 1662 BCP service.

A new prayerbook superseded it in 1984 and Common Worship replaced it at the turn of the Millennium.

Although Common Worship’s traditional language liturgies are very close to that of the BCP, nothing compares to the 1662 book. One really feels as if one is worshipping with the many generations that went before us, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

Thus are the needs of each generation brought within the scope of our common intercession and devotion.

I couldn’t agree more.

Next time: how the Reformation and royalty influenced the Prayer Book

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

That last post referenced Chapter 4 of Dearmer’s book. That chapter has so much information in it that it will be the subject of my next few Sunday night posts.

In today’s excerpt, Dearmer provides the various elements of Christian worship documented in the New Testament.

Last week’s entry discussed elements 5 and 6 (below) — prophecy and tongues, respectively — in a biblical context.

The others are listed below. Please note that not all of the following are part of Sunday worship services (emphases mine):

We find, in fact, many elements of Christian worship in the New Testament—(1) Praise, as in 1 Cor. xiv. 26, and in these canticles and hymns; (2) Prayer, as in 1 Cor. xiv. 14 – 16, and of course in many other places; (3) Lessons, as the reading of Epistles in 1 Thess. v. 27 and Col. iv. 16, and doubtless also the reading of “memoirs” of Christ as well as of books of the Old Testament; (4) Sermons, as in Acts xx. 7, 1 Tim. iv. 13 (5) Prophecy, probably resembling the utterances and prayers which break the silence of a Quakers’ meeting (or of those “quiet meetings” which are now happily being revived in the Church of England), as it is mentioned in 1 Cor. xiv. 1, 29, 1 Thess. v. 20, and in 1 Cor. xi. 4, where we learn that women took part in the praying and prophesying, because St. Paul rebuked some for doing this unveiled. This passage is interesting because it shows that the Apostle’s injunction, “Let your women keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor. xiv. 34), did not mean that they were not to take any part in the service, but referred to a habit which had grown up amongst the women, of chattering during service time: the men, it seems from the context, interrupted by babbling with “tongues,” or by all prophesying at once, and then the women increased the confusion by asking questions about what they meant — which is not to be wondered at; (6) Tongues, which we see by 1 Cor. xiv. 23-39, were already becoming somewhat of a babel, and are unfavourably compared by St. Paul with Prophecy; (7) Almsgiving [the Offering], 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2 Cor. ix. 1 – 15; (8) The Agape (see p. 178), called by St. Paul a dominical supper, or Lord’s supper [it was not the Eucharist but a more informal sharing of food], kyriakon deipnon, in 1 Cor. Xi. 20-22; (9) Unction, in Jas. v. 14, besides Exorcism (Acts xvi. 18) and the manifold ministry of healing.

There are other rites, including home worship:

All these elements are in addition to or contained within the central Rites (to be dealt with in our concluding chapters) of (I) Baptism, (II) the Laying on of Hands (after Baptism [Confirmation]), (III) the Breaking of the Bread [the Eucharist], (IV) the Laying on of Hands for consecration to the Ministry, as well as (V) the daily worship at home, or at first in the Temple, or the gathering for prayer and exhortation in the synagogues.

Therefore, even during the Apostolic Age, certain rites were already regularly adhered to, although in a less formal way. Christians took their cues from their worship leaders and certain elements — prayers, the hearing of Scripture, the offering, the sermon and the Supper — were standard.

Next time: How service books developed

Over the past few weeks I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

That last post referenced Chapter 4 of Dearmer’s book. That chapter has so much information in it that it will be the subject of my next few Sunday night posts.

What caught my eye — and is the subject of today’s entry — is Dearmer’s sound interpretation of St Paul’s instruction regarding prophecy and tongues from 1 Corinthians 14. (I use the ESV.)

Dearmer defines both terms for us.

Prophecy:

probably resembling the utterances and prayers which break the silence of a Quakers’ meeting (or of those “quiet meetings” which are now happily being revived in the Church of England), as it is mentioned in 1 Cor. xiv. 1, 29, 1 Thess. v. 20, and in 1 Cor. xi. 4 …

Tongues:

which we see by 1 Cor. xiv. 23-39, were already becoming somewhat of a babel, and are unfavourably compared by St. Paul with Prophecy …

For each, Dearmer went on to explain what St Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 14:34:

the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

This passage is contentious, especially today with the contrast between certain fundamentalist notions of ‘federal’ (‘male’) headship and women’s active participation in church services, particularly those who have been ordained in certain denominations.

Dearmer provides suitable historic explanations, particular to the Corinthians.

With regard to prophecy (emphases mine):

This passage is interesting because it shows that the Apostle’s injunction, “Let your women keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor. xiv. 34), did not mean that they were not to take any part in the service, but referred to a habit which had grown up amongst the women, of chattering during service time

The men then joined in with tongues:

the men, it seems from the context, interrupted by babbling with “tongues,” or by all prophesying at once

One exacerbated the other:

and then the women increased the confusion by asking questions about what they meant — which is not to be wondered at

Paul gave the Corinthians specific instructions on both in 1 Corinthians 14.

Paul valued prophecy over tongues (verse 5), because prophecy built up, encouraged and consoled the whole congregation (verse 3).

He told those speaking in tongues that they needed to be ready to interpret what they had just uttered, so that the rest of the congregation could understand (verses 13-17).

This is interesting:

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Remember that, in Acts 2:12-13, about which I wrote in December 2016, the 70 who received the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost began speaking in foreign languages — tongues. Some of the Jews ridiculed them because they did not understand the languages spoken. They said these holy followers of Jesus were intoxicated on new wine.

With that in mind, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be mindful of what they say and how they say it (verse 23):

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?

Paul made a clear distinction between tongues and prophecy. Each was for a different audience. Tongues, he said, were for unbelievers’ ears (verse 21, citing Isaiah 28:11, Deuteronomy 28:49). Prophecy was for the believers. Paul says that both, done properly, would have a dramatic effect on the listener:

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

That is what happened in the early chapters of Acts and what Paul wanted the Corinthians to achieve.

He wanted them to speak in an orderly fashion and maintain silence rather than speak idly (‘Oooh, I wonder what that was about?’):

27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

1 Corinthians 14 also gives us an idea of the worship of Paul’s converts:

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

From these early practices — ‘done decently and in order’ — a liturgy began developing which became fuller and more structured as the Church matured. An orderly worship benefited everyone in the congregation.

Next week’s post will describe New Testament Christian worship in more detail.

This post continues a series about Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

In Chapter 4 of his book, Dearmer discusses the development of service books for public worship.

There is a lot of material to cover, so today’s post will look at what he wrote about the earliest Christian worship, from the time of the Apostles to the 2nd century AD. Emphases mine below.

The earliest Church services were:

unfixed in character … and largely extemporary.

Once services became more fixed, they were written down. That said, there were no prayer books like the ones we have today. What was written were likely to be short formularies, which were important to say or to pray during worship. Unfortunately, only a few have survived:

None of the very earliest books (so far as we yet know) have survived; for one thing, as must always be remembered, the last great Persecution of the Christians by the Emperor Diocletian (303) included a systematic destruction of Christian literature ; but an early book by Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis, in Egypt … of about the year 350, was discovered at Mount Athos in 1894, and it is quite possible that scholars may discover something yet earlier. Little service books, or liturgical notes, may have been written in the md [first?] century, or even in the time of the Apostles; for it is probable that there were some fixed formulas in the earliest services, and sentences which look like quotations of these exist in the Epistle of St. Clement (c. A.D. 96), and in the 2nd century Didachè.

I wrote about the Didache in 2009. It included more on Christian practice for non-Jewish peoples who were converting. For example, abortion was unknown in Jewish society at that time but was common among the ancient Greeks. Abortion was not part of Scripture because it was unknown to the Jews. The Didache covers social practices that were not part of Scripture but practised by non-Jewish converts.

It is possible that some books of the New Testament, outside of the Gospels, contain verses that were part of the earliest public worship:

A baptismal creed is given in Acts viii. 37, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”: it is only in some of the texts, and may also belong to the 2nd century. Many scholars think that some verses from St. Paul are really liturgical formulas, e.g. “Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. v. 14); and “He who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. iii. 16), which latter looks very like a quotation from what came to be called the Anaphora or Canon of the Eucharist, and may have been part of the words which St. Paul used himself when he celebrated, just as “The grace of our Lord,” in 2 Cor. xiii. 14, was perhaps a form of blessing which he was in the habit of using.

Verses from the Book of Revelation were used in early Christian hymns:

The reader will find it interesting to look these out for himself— Rev. iv. 8-11, v. 9, 10, 12, 13, vii. 12, xi. 17, xii. 10-12, xv. 3-4, xix. 1, 6-7, 2 Tim. ii. 11 – 13; and, besides Eph. v. 4, perhaps i. 3 – 14, and the prayer in Acts iv. 24-30.

Below is Revelation 4:8-11. I’ve highlighted the relevant verses, which are part of a hymn sung today — although it is much more recent than the early Church — Holy, Holy, Holy, which dates from 1826:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Gospels had their part to play in providing content for canticles, which are generally sung, and the Gloria:

There are also the great Canticles given us by St. Luke in the first two chapters of his Gospel— Magnificat, Benedictus, Gloria in Excelsis, and Nunc Dimittis

Anglicans still use canticles in traditional services, such as Morning Prayer.

Next time: how worship developed in the Apostolic Age

For Easter 2012, I wrote about George Herbert (1593-1633), an Anglican priest who was also a poet.

I found out about him thanks to Llew of Lleweton’s Blog, where you can read more about what our green and pleasant land is really like in the springtime. He brings Robert Browning’s ‘Oh, to be in England now that April’s there’ to life.

Llew sent me Herbert’s poem ‘Easter’, reproduced on The Spectator blog in 2012. It is from Herbert’s work The Temple.

This is Herbert’s ‘Easter’:

Rise heart: thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Herbert also published another poem for this day entitled ‘Easter Wings’. It was printed as intended:

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
    Though foolishly he lost the same,
          Decaying more and more,
              Till he became
                  Most poore:
                  With thee
              Oh let me rise
          As larks, harmoniously,
     And sing this day  thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My  tender  age  in  sorrow  did beginne:
    And still with sicknesses and shame
        Thou  didst  so  punish  sinne,
             That  I  became
               Most thinne.
               With  thee
          Let me combine
     And feel this day thy victorie:
   For,  if  I  imp  my  wing  on  thine
Affliction shall  advance the  flight in  me.

At the time, I knew very little about Herbert other than from Wikipedia and the George Herbert website.

Although Herbert’s mother was desperate for him to enter the priesthood, he did not do so for many years.

Recently, I ran across a December 2013 copy of The Oldie, a British monthly which is perfect for anyone over the age of 40. It’s everything one would want from a print magazine.

On pages 69 and 70 was a review of a book called Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert by John Drury (Allen Lane, £25).

So I looked the book up to see if there were any online reviews. The Guardian has one from August 15, 2013. There are several more online.

The Very Revd Dr John Drury is the chaplain of All Souls College, Oxford. His book, The Guardian says, gets:

inside not only Herbert’s mind but his craftsmanship, to introduce his readers to the work as well as the man.

Although his father died when Herbert was three years old, young George had a privileged upbringing. His branch of the family was a minor one of the greater aristocratic Herbert line. When George was still a boy:

his mother moved to London, where she ran a household distinguished for its hospitality towards intellectuals. John Donne addressed some poems to her, and was to preach her funeral sermon. George was sent to Westminster School at the time when the great preacher and linguist Lancelot Andrewes was in charge. One of the translators of the King James Bible, Andrewes was a master of style, especially of the “terse and urgent” short clause. TS Eliot was an admirer (“A cold coming [they] had of it … ” is lifted from one of his sermons); Drury demonstrates too how much Herbert could have learned from him.

The Oldie tells us that he also knew Francis Bacon well (p. 70). Bacon, we discover:

died after stuffing a chicken with snow in the interests of scientific investigation.

The Oldie describes his upbringing (p. 70):

Herbert, in his youth, was a bit of a dandy, intent on wearing what was immediately fashionable. He was born into the aristocracy, but not of the unthinking kind. His mother, Magdalen [pron. ‘Maudlin’], was immensely cultivated and attractive, maintaining a welcoming salon in Chelsea and giving money and aid to the poor. The family was connected to the Pembrokes and could therefore move in the highest of high society. Magdalen’s second husband, Sir John Danvers, was the best surrogate father any son could have, being a ready source of cash whenever George needed to buy books.

Herbert had a distinguished career at Trinity College, Cambridge, and wanted to be appointed Orator at Cambridge University. He achieved his ambition in 1620.  However, The Guardian says, not everything went as expected:

The post required him to be the public face of the university, in charge of its formal Latin correspondence and orations. It was a role that could have led to a good position in royal service. Instead, he allowed his deputy to take over much of the work, while he himself withdrew, perhaps because of his recurrent ill health, perhaps to try to resolve his increasingly urgent personal dilemma as to whether to pursue a career that would satisfy his worldly ambitions, or to enter the priesthood.

He married Jane Danvers in 1629, a union which The Oldie (p. 70) describes as:

brief but contented.

Shortly after his wedding, Herbert went into ministry full time. He became the parish priest in Bemerton, Wiltshire, in the West Country. The village is close to Salisbury and the city’s cathedral. Herbert loved cathedral music, so that was a positive point, however, The Guardian says that he lived much too far away from Cambridgeshire — in East Anglia — to enjoy:

the Anglican community that his friend Nicholas Ferrar had founded at Little Gidding.

Herbert spent only four years in Bemerton. He died there at the age of 39. However, The Oldie assures us (p. 69):

His last years were devoted to the welfare of his parishoners, with a steady round of baptisms, weddings and funerals. He was never happier, because his allotted time on earth was now making fruitful sense to him.

Although as a youth, he described death as:

an uncouth hideous thing —

Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing

when his time came, his faith was much increased and he accepted death with a sanguine pragmatism.

Both publications looked at words Herbert used most often in his poetry. The Guardian honed in on ‘bright’ and The Oldie ‘love’.

I particularly enjoyed this observation from The Guardian:

Herbert … can positively look forward to the Day of Judgment as a time for the reuniting of friends.

That is the best outlook to have.

Lent ends on the evening of Holy Saturday, generally timed around the first Easter Vigil service.

Many Christians enjoy attending Easter Vigil services to see the blessing and lighting of the Paschal Candle, which is lit at services for the next 40 days, until Ascension Day.

New holy water is blessed in Catholic and High Anglican churches. (Chrism Masses would have been held on Wednesday of Holy Week, at which time bishops bless the oil used in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and the Anointing of the Sick and Dying for the next year.)

Traditionally, catechumens — newcomers to the faith — are baptised at this service.

The following post has more information:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

During the day, families are busy purchasing and preparing festive dishes for Easter Day. A popular custom among Polish Catholics is to have their food blessed at church.

(Image credit: annhetzelgunkel.com)

The following post, with the help of the aforementioned website, explains the importance of these traditional ingredients:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Every Christian culture has certain food traditions. In 2016, Mary Berry, the doyenne of English home cooks, presented a two-part programme for the BBC in which she explored different Easter treats from around the world. Find out more below:

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

A French cooking site has an interesting article on Easter food in Europe and Algeria. ‘Gâteaux de Pâques traditionnels’ has excellent close-up photographs by way of illustration. A summary of the article follows along with my own commentary.

France

In Alsace, the traditional Easter cake is made in the shape of a lamb. It was originally called Osterlammele — Easter lamb — suggesting its German origins.

Easter cakes in other European countries are also in lamb shapes, using special moulds. Polish lamb cakes are elaborately iced and decorated.

The one from Alsace is plainer, lightly dusted with icing sugar. Traditionally, it was wrapped in fine paper in the colours of Alsace or the Vatican.

Regardless of decoration, lamb cakes are rich in eggs, which were traditionally forbidden during Lent.

Wherever it is used, the lamb shape reminds us of the goodness of Christ and that we should follow His example.

All Recipes provides the instructions. The video below might not be the most expert, but I did enjoy watching the two young lads make a lamb cake:

Italy

Pasteria Napoletana is a popular Easter tart.

Its origins go back to pagan times, when a special bread made from spelt was offered to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, in springtime.

Wikipedia says that it is possible that early bread evolved into a ritual bread made of honey and milk which catechumens received after their baptism on Easter Eve during the reign of Constantine.

In the 18th century, one of the nuns at the convent of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, which still exists today, was responsible for the version eaten today. She wanted to create a tart that symbolised the Resurrection, including orange blossom water from the convent’s garden.

The symbolism is as follows: wheat for rebirth, flour for force and strength, eggs for infinity, white ricotta for purity and orange blossom water — along with dried fruit, spices and sugar — for richness.

Wikipedia says that the nuns were ‘geniuses’ in preparing these tarts, which had to be made on Maundy Thursday in order to set properly for Easter. They were then given to wealthy benefactors for the Easter table.

Although variations exist — sometimes with pastry cream added — each must have wheat and ricotta to be considered authentic.

Laura in the Kitchen has a recipe and a video:

Portugal

At Easter, the Portuguese eat folar, bread which can be sweet or savoury.

Sometimes folar is wrapped around whole eggs (before baking) to symbolise new life.

Other variations include chorizo or other charcuterie.

Traditionally, this bread is given to priests, godparents or godchildren as a symbol of happiness and prosperity.

The lady in the video below makes a savoury folar in the most traditional way — in a bread trough. The film is in Portuguese, but you can check it for consistency and shaping while you follow a recipe, in this case from Pocket Cultures:

Austria

Austrians celebrate Easter by including on their tables a rich brioche called Osterpinze or Pinza. (Oster means ‘Easter’.)

This brioche originated in southern Austria. It is shaped into three petals — no doubt to symbolise the Holy Trinity — and sometimes has a coloured Easter egg — the Resurrection and new life — in the centre. Orange blossom water is used in the dough. Some variations also include dried fruits for extra richness.

The Austrians adapted this recipe from pannetone. Italy borders the southern part of the country.

The Bread She Bakes has a recipe in English. Although the video below is in German, watch this gentleman’s techniques:

Algeria

Although Algeria is primarily Muslim today, it is important to remember that North Africa was the cradle of the early Church. One could certainly put forward a case for Christianity being an African faith, because it spread to Europe later.

Christians in Algeria ate Mouna Oranaise at Easter. La Mouna — a mountain — is situated outside of Oran, Algeria’s second largest city. Christians from Oran went to this mountain to celebrate Easter and to break bread.

Although the French article does not say, it seems likely that the bread developed into a brioche when the French arrived and took its present-day form.

All good brioches take time, and the Mouna takes six hours to rise: four initially, after which the dough is divided into two and left to rise for another two hours.

The Mouna has a rich egg glaze and is topped with pearl sugar.

Today, people of all faiths eat Mouna. A Muslim included the recipe on her Pinterest page. A YouTube video appears on the Sephardic (Jewish) food channel.

Christian pied-noirs brought the Mouna recipe to France as an Easter speciality. Make a brioche dough and include orange flower water or lemon zest. Knead the dough well — or use a food processor with a dough hook — to ensure the dough is nice and light:

I am sure that some of these Easter treats cross borders. I am particularly interested in hearing from others with regard to breads and pastries. Feel free to comment below!

In the meantime, I hope that everyone’s Easter preparations go well!

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