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Percy Dearmer was an Anglican priest who lived between 1867 and 1936. He was a High Church Anglican, although one who championed the English Use rite used before the Reformation over Roman Catholic rubrics.
Dearmer was an avowed Socialist (unfortunately). That said, he served in various London parish churches and wrote several books about the Book of Common Prayer, liturgy as well as a history of King Alfred and a travel book about Normandy. In later years, he was a canon at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes are interred.
Dearmer was also a lecturer in ecclesiastical art at King’s College, London from 1919 until his death at the age of 69.
He was also interested in composing and compiling hymns. He and Ralph Vaughan Williams published The English Hymnal in 1906. Two more hymnals followed: Songs of Praise in 1926 and the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.
Incidentally, when Songs of Praise was expanded in 1931, Dearmer wanted a hymn of daily thanksgiving, which is how Morning Has Broken (made famous 40 years later by Cat Stevens) first became known:
In Songs of Praise Discussed, the editor, Percy Dearmer, explains that as there was need for a hymn to give thanks for each day, English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon had been “asked to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune”. A slight variation on the original hymn, also written by Eleanor Farjeon, can be found in the form of a poem contributed to the anthology Children’s Bells, under Farjeon’s new title, “A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)”, published by Oxford University Press in 1957. The song is noted in 9/4 time but with a 3/4 feel.
“Bunessan” had been found in L. McBean’s Songs and Hymns of the Gael, published in 1900. Before Farjeon’s words, the tune was used as a Christmas carol, which began “Child in the manger, Infant of Mary”, translated from the Scottish Gaelic lyrics written by Mary MacDonald. The English-language Roman Catholic hymnal also uses the tune for the James Quinn hymns “Christ Be Beside Me” and “This Day God Gives Me”, both of which were adapted from the traditional Irish hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Another Christian hymn “Baptized In Water” borrows the tune.
Dearmer, his wife Mabel and their two sons all served in the Great War. Dearmer and his wife were stationed in Serbia where he was a chaplain to a British Red Cross Ambulance unit. Mabel served as a nurse with that unit and died of enteric fever in 1915. Their younger son Christopher died in battle that year. However, their elder son, Geoffrey, survived and died at the age of 103, and, at that age, was one of the oldest surviving war poets.
Dearmer remarried in 1916. He and his wife Nancy had three children: two daughters and a son. Sadly, their son died in active service with the RAF in 1943.
The reason Dearmer’s book Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book caught my eye is that the second chapter is called ‘The Question of Set Forms of Prayer’.
One of my personal bugbears is going to a traditional liturgical service and hear a priest substitute his own improvised prayers for the special intentions which precede the prayer of consecration. If he (or she) simply prayed them out of the Prayer Book, he would find that all his prayer needs were satisfied outside of names of national leaders or the sick and dying.
Their waffling — ‘uhh, mmm’ — and their poor prose has me praying for patience and calm just as we are about to reach the apex of the service with Holy Communion.
This is what Dearmer had to say about that and also dispensing with set prayers altogether. Remember, he wrote this in 1912, so this is somewhat surprising (emphases mine):
It is worth while, therefore, asking ourselves at the outset, Is liturgical worship a good thing, or ought the minister to make up his own prayers?
Now, there is very much to be said for extemporaneous worship in church; it is often a most useful instrument in mission work, it is an indispensable way of bringing the idea of worship to the ignorant, it secures the necessary element of freedom; furthermore, it may bring spontaneity and vitality into a service, and be a good corrective to formalism …
Nor is there anything alien to Church ways or wrong in principle about extempore services. Indeed in the earliest days of the Church the celebrant at the Eucharist used to pray thus. The service went on certain general lines, but the “president” filled it in according to his own ideas, and offered up “prayers and thanksgivings with all his strength,” the people saying “Amen” (as is told on p. 185). it was only by degrees that the prayers thus offered became fixed. Those, therefore, who argue that everything which was not done in the first two or three centuries must therefore be wrong, should logically include liturgical worship among the things they condemn. But perhaps sensible people in the 20th century no longer argue thus.
Well, often, that was because the celebrant could not read very well. Also, parchment was highly expensive and there were no printing presses until much later, in 1439.
Dearmer then mentions John Milton, an irregular churchgoer. Milton was all for extemporaneous prayer. Dearmer points out:
Milton’s mistake, was, in fact, a very simple one. He thought that every minister, would be a Milton. He did not realize what a deadly thing average custom can be, what a deadly bore an average man can make of himself when compelled to do continually a thing for which he has no natural gift. He did not foresee the insidious danger of unreality and cant. We should all, of course, flock to hear Milton praying extempore, if he were to come to life again ; but there are many mute, inglorious ministers whom we would rather not hear.
To put the prayers as well as the sermon in the hands of the officiating minister is indeed a form of sacerdotalism which the Church most wisely rejected many centuries ago. We know what a joy and help it would be to hear an inspired saint, with a genius for rapid prose composition, make up prayers as he went along; and opportunities for extemporization do exist outside the appointed services. But the Church has to provide for the average man, and has to guard against that form of clerical absolutism which would put a congregation at the mercy of the idiosyncrasies and shortcomings of one person. For extempore services, which should be a safeguard for freedom, can easily degenerate into a tyranny.
Before defending a set liturgy, Dearmer points out the importance of a sensory church service, one which will escape people who worship in plainly:
… history and a wide knowledge of Christendom show us that good ceremonies are a great preservative against Pharisaism. The reason for this is that action, music, colour, form, sight, scent, and sound appeal more freely to the individual worshipper, and more subtly, relieving the pressure of a rigid phraseology, and allowing the spirit many ways of rising up to God, unhampered by the accent of the workaday voice of man. It is only thus that the wonderful intensity of devotion among the Russian people, for instance, can be accounted for: we have no popular religious affection in the West which can compare with the evangelical spirit of this hundred million of Christians, who yet have used nothing but their very ancient forms of prayer during the thousand years since their race was first converted.
Precisely. This is what old school churchgoers refer to as the mysterium tremendum, which is very rare in our time.
Although he allows for some extemporaneous prayer, Dearmer concludes:
we may be confident that liturgical worship is the best of all. There is some loss in the use of printed words; but there is a greater gain. We have in them the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the Christian Church, the garnered excellence of the saints. We are by them released from the accidents of time and place. Above all we are preserved against the worst dangers of selfishness: in the common prayer we join together in a great fellowship that is as wide as the world; and we are guided, not by the limited notions of our own priest, nor by the narrow impulses of our own desires, but by the mighty voice that rises from the general heart of Christendom.
Our Lord had the ancient forms of the Church in which he lived often on his lips, and in the moment of his supreme agony it was a liturgical sentence, a fragment of the familiar service, that was wrung from him— “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We have a richer heritage, for it is a heritage dowered by his Spirit; and from our treasure-house come things new and old …
… there is a place and a real use for extemporary prayer, and a still greater use for the silent prayer which is above words altogether. These very things will keep fresh and sweet for us those old set forms, in which we can join so well because we know beforehand what they are about, and in which for the same reason all the people can come together in the fellowship of common prayer.
My advice — and my hope — for clergy improvising their own prayers is to sit down and write out the text in full, revising and perfecting it for however long it takes.
I was a member for several years of a large Episcopal church which had perfect prayers. The curates wrote them themselves or read them from books by other ministers. They were beautiful prayers, worthy of God. The congregation also listened and silently prayed intently. You could hear a pin drop.
Here in the UK, things are different. I blame it on the seminaries. However, if they feel it so necessary to express themselves, Anglican priests should take up the challenge to have an outstanding set of prayers of their own that fit with the language being used in the liturgy.
Jesus is our friend, but let us not forget the many Bible verses about our rightful awe we owe to Almighty God. This is the second part of Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV):
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
The season of Advent means the beginning of a new Church year, which, in 2016, starts on November 27.
Those churches following the three-year Lectionary will be using readings for Year A.
The Vanderbilt Divinity Library maintains a helpful page of Sunday Lectionary readings by season. It is useful for both personal and teaching purposes.
One of my readers, Boetie, a Catholic living in Germany, sent in a thoughtful comment by way of response. He has kindly given me permission to use it as a guest post on the differences between Catholic and Anglican worship.
What he says closely parallels my own experience in the early 1980s and caused me to convert to the Episcopal Church and continue worshipping in the UK as an Anglican. I should emphasise that my conversion came through low church, which also had quite a lot of ritual, rather than high church. That said, I have occasionally enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to revisit ancient traditions and vestments.
Without further ado, Boetie discusses his results and his own worship journey:
I came out “top of the flame” – not that I was in the least surprised, though. But this liturgical and at the same time humorous approach is what first attracted me to the Anglican Church in her High Church / Anglo-Catholic tradition ever since I was an 11 or 12 year old lad from Germany coming to Britain for the first time in the very early 1970s. Quite visibly the Anglican Church had not been through the devastations Vatican II had brought about in my own church (I’m a “Roman”). Sadly, the Anglican Church has more than made up leeway since.
But for the first time in my life I saw priests who looked like priests with their dog collars and their cassocks/soutanes, who spoke like priests and who acted like priests. Our own RC priests at the time had opted for the “social worker” chic, loathed to be addressed as “Father” and were delighted when you told them: “I would never have guessed you were a priest”.
And, of course, in England I gained an insight into what “liturgy” meant – while in Germany they had already come up with that brilliant idea of happy-clappy services with do-gooder homilies. I had never heard e.g. an “Angelus” prayer in my home parish – the first in my life was in an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.
So, for many years in my youth, the Anglican Church shaped my own Catholic faith.
I noticed differences though, even at an early age.
Right from day one I was impressed by the style of hearty hymn singing – as opposed to many RC churches where people often can’t be bothered and where the singing is lacklustre. Also, I found traditional Anglican services solemn but ultimately more serene than traditional RC Masses. And the difference of the quality of style and language was stunning: introducing the vernacular after Vatican II into RC services didn’t work well: e.g. in Germany it was modern day German while in the Anglican Church the wonderful traditional English had been retained. (Doing away with Prayer Book English I regard as a a major flaw in today’s Anglican worship.) Not least of all, to this day I appreciate the humour that is never far from the surface with High Church priests – which makes it a pleasure to listen to their sermons and homilies.
The demise of the Anglican Church (namely the CofE) I find deeply saddening and I wonder whether the Catholic faith in her Anglican tradition will have a future within the Anglican Communion or whether in the long run it will be just “catholic” in name and maybe ritual but no longer in essence – with lesbians and feminists in fiddleback chasubles and birettas swinging the thurible – during a same sex marriage.
But I do not want to end on a sombre note. If you appreciate the type of humour of the quiz I am sure you will also like the cartoon figure of “Father Jolly” created years ago by the American Anglican priest Fr. Tom Janikowski during his formative years in the seminary. He is now Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island, Illinois (an ACNA parish). Unfortunately there are only few of his cartoons on the net: the first 4 pictures here:
Here is another one: http://www.thescp.org/documents/jollylovejoy.jpg
Should you come across more in the vein of that quiz – please let us know in your blog. I am sure I’d be not the only one to appreciate this.
You can bet I will, brother!
Thank you very much, Boetie, for your excellent contribution and for the witty (and realistic) Father Jolly cartoons.
It would be edifying if others sharing the same experience as Boetie’s and mine would kindly comment below.
In that sermon, MacArthur describes Jesus’s return to the synagogue in Nazareth to teach the congregation. They were no more receptive than they were the first time, but at least they did not try to throw Him off a cliff again.
MacArthur described the ritual involved. The Church shares a few parallels.
Call to worship
Every Friday, there was the call to stop work for the Sabbath. The ancient Jews sounded:
two trumpet blasts. Those blasts would have come from the trumpet in the hands of the minister of the synagogue, who climbed up onto the roof of his house and just as the sun was beginning to set on Shabbat, Friday evening, he would blow two blasts to warn of the beginning of the Sabbath. A little time would intervene, and he would blow a second time, this time one blast. At that blast, all work halted. Then there would be a little space of time, and he would blow another single blast, and instantly put his trumpet down, lest he should defame and dishonor the Sabbath now that the third blast indicated it had begun. He would not defile the Sabbath.
Jesus would have heard the trumpet blasts and with the people, and gone to a place to partake in the Sabbath activity.
For Sabbath worship the following day, a synagogue leader used a shofar (translated as ‘trumpet’ in the Bible) to alert the congregation it was time to gather together. This would have been a long blast with one or two notes.
Churches have bells. In the Middle Ages, these were rung not only before Mass but at the time of the Elevation of the Host during the prayer of consecration, when everyone had to be at church. Some Christians used to wait for the second sound of the bells coming from the sanctuary, enter to hear the prayer, then leave afterwards. Many felt that it was sufficient to be present only at that point, as W D Maxwell explained in his 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form (p. 65).
Today’s bells, where used, generally are rung 15 minutes before the start of the service or Mass. They are still rung at the time of the consecration at Catholic Mass and some High Anglican services.
MacArthur says that everyone had an assigned seat in the synagogue:
They sat in a very prescribed manner in a very prescribed place; it was very routine, with familiar faces, activities, and events.
Until the mid-19th century, it was common in some Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian congregations to rent or purchase a pew for one’s family. Those who could not afford to do so were relegated to lesser pews — on the side, in back or upstairs. Because of pew allocations some churches only allowed in members of their congregation, effectively prohibiting outsiders from attending. As congregants’ disputes rose over pew designations and clergy realised that they were restricting other Christians’ ability to worship, the practice was abolished.
Standing for the readings
MacArthur tells us that the Jews of Jesus’s time stood to hear the readings:
The standing posture was indicative of the authority of the Word of God.
Christians also stand for the Scripture readings.
Sitting for teaching
When a rabbi or guest teacher, such as Jesus, gave an address, the congregation sat down to hear it:
lest the people think that man’s teaching had the same authority as God’s Word. They stood to read, and sat to teach.
Similarly, Christians sit to hear a sermon.
Our Christian services follow time-honoured and ancient traditions.
The season of Advent means the beginning of a new Church year, which, in 2015, started on November 29.
Those churches following the three-year Lectionary are using readings for Year C.
The Vanderbilt Divinity Library continues to maintain a helpful page of Sunday Lectionary readings by season. It is useful for both personal and teaching purposes.
Past posts — all of which are available on my Christianity/Apologetics page under Church history and miscellany — are as follows:
Church history: the German rites in Strasbourg (Martin Bucer)
Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.
Background to Anglican liturgy and practice
The Church of England is a via media — middle way — between Lutheranism and Calvinism (p. 144).
Doctrinally, it is similar to Calvinism. Liturgically, it is closer to Lutheranism.
However, it is less prescriptive and proscriptive than Calvinism. It also has liturgical distinctions all its own.
During Henry VIII’s reign, although the English Church broke with Rome, Mass remained a constant. However, small changes occurred with regard to church services. In 1536, the Mass in Latin was explained to the people so that they understood what was happening in the liturgy. In 1542, the Convocation of Canterbury decreed that all churches in England should have a morning and evening reading — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — in English every Sunday and holy day. This included the main Sunday Mass. The litany was first said in English in 1544 (p. 145).
An English liturgy took shape during Edward VI’s reign. The First Book of Homilies, which contained 12 sermons in English, was issued in 1547.
In March 1548, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued an English Order of Communion to be incorporated into the Mass (p. 145). These new parts of the liturgy included an exhortation to prayer, fencing the Table, invitation, public confession of sins with absolution, comfortable words (verses from the New Testament) and a prayer of humble access (expressing unworthiness to approach the Lord’s Table).
Cranmer incorporated these rubrics into the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which appeared in 1549 (see illustration above, courtesy of Charles Wohlers’s site). He, along with a group of clergymen, including Nicholas Ridley (p. 146) and Martin Bucer, wrote and compiled the prayers.
Maxwell describes the BCP as follows (p. 146):
It preserved a rich treasure of liturgical material, the whole rendered in an English style singularly felicitous, dignified and chaste. The character of the collects was retained, the English style equalling the Latin, while the style of the Canon far surpassed that of the old rite.
Just as important (emphases mine):
The achievement was unique in that the Book of Common Prayer, in contrast with the other vernacular rites of the sixteenth century, survives in use to this day.
The current Church of England service book is Common Worship, issued about 15 years ago, replacing the 1984 Alternative Service Book. Since the mid-1980s, our clergy have been trying to eliminate BCP services. However, vicars who occasionally use the BCP find their churches fuller than when they use the modern liturgy.
Doctrinally, the Church of England forbids either extreme belief about the nature of Communion. Specifically, church members are not allowed to believe in Catholic transubstantiation nor in Zwinglian symbolism (p. 144). We believe in an undefined Real Presence.
Those receiving Communion were to kneel once they approached the Table. However, some early Protestants were concerned how communicants and those in the pews would consider this posture.
Therefore, John Knox’s Black Rubric appeared in the 1552 BCP. It disappeared from the 1559 edition and was reinstated as an advisory notation in the 1662 edition, still used today. It reads as follows:
WHEREAS it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.
A Communion liturgy was stipulated as being the norm. In the early days of the Reformation, churches mandated that at least some of their congregation receive the Sacrament on every Sunday and holy day (p. 146). In addition to the celebrant, a minimum of three or four persons was required (p. 149). Acknowledging that this might be more difficult at Wednesday and Friday services, the Church directives specified that clergy could truncate the service accordingly, omitting the parts of the Liturgy of the Upper Room which concerned the elements, consecration and Communion.
The reason for mandating that certain members of the congregation receive Communion at each service originated from the requirement to receive the Sacrament at least once a year (p. 150). This was stated in the 1549 BCP. In the next edition, which appeared in 1552, the directive for minimum reception stated that congregations must receive Communion three times a year, one of these occasions being Easter.
The 1662 BCP allowed Morning Prayer to become a standard Sunday and holy day liturgy. In practice, it became the standard as most parishes began to hold a Communion service only three or four times a year (p. 151).
Until the late 20th century, Morning Prayer continued to be the norm on Sundays which did not involve a major Church feast. Today, however, nearly every Church of England service is one of Holy Communion. It is very unusual to find Morning Prayer on a Sunday.
It is difficult to reproduce everything from the 1549 ‘Supper of the Lorde and the holy Communion, commonly called the Masse’ (pp. 147, 148). So much changed in the liturgy between then and 1662. Certain parts were omitted, reinstated and rearranged during that time. My notes follow in italics.
Liturgy of the Word:
– Introit, consisting of a Psalm appointed for the day (replaced by a hymn);
– Lord’s Prayer, said by the celebrant;
– Collect for Purity, said by the celebrant;
– Repetition of the Introit (replaced by either a full responsorial recitation of the Ten Commandments or a truncated summary thereof);
– Kyrie, ninefold (omitted by 1662);
– Gloria (repositioned between the post-Communion prayer and the final blessing);
– Salutation and collect of the day;
– Collect for the King (or Queen);
– Nicene Creed;
Liturgy of the Upper Room:
– Exhortation to receive Communion worthily and with a clear conscience (nowadays no longer read);
– A selection of Scripture verses;
– Offertory and collection of alms;
– Procession of communicants to the sanctuary, men on one side and women on the other (discontinued — people queue and walk to the altar rail when the celebrant is ready to distribute Communion);
– Celebrant prepares the elements;
– Intercessions for the living and dead;
– Comfortable words (New Testament verses);
– Salutation and Sursum corda;
– Prayer of Consecration;
– Lord’s Prayer (moved to post-Communion);
– The Peace (omitted);
– Christ our Pascall Lambe (a version of the Agnus Dei, omitted);
– Invitation to Communion (part of Cranmer’s ‘Order of Communion’, omitted);
– General Confession and Absolution (repositioned to take place after the Intercessions);
– Prayer of Humble Access (repositioned to be recited before the Prayer of Consecration);
– Holy Communion, with clergy and assistants receiving the Sacrament before the congregation, and ‘clerks’ or choir sing the Agnus Dei (Agnus Dei omitted) ;
– Post-Communion Scripture sentences (omitted);
– Salutation and post-Communion thanksgiving (the Gloria follows);
– Peace and blessing (a possible reference to ‘The peace of God which passeth all understanding …’).
21st century developments
The new liturgical book, Common Worship, has a traditional service which has reinstated the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. The Gloria has been moved to follow the Kyrie. The Prayer of Humble Access is said immediately before Communion.
Sadly, the Peace was restored in the 1980s, which is a shame in the 21st century; some churchgoers are, quite frankly, unattentive to hygiene. A Methodist told me that his church’s policy is to allow for a discreet tucking of hands into one’s sleeves to indicate non-participation. Only one person did that in his church, but the congregation respected it.
The new traditional service is a great improvement on the one in the 1984 Alternative Service Book.
However, no liturgy anywhere will ever top that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is a pity so many of today’s Anglican clergy refuse to use it more frequently. Such a refusal can only be considered some of Satan’s finest work.
End of series
So far, we have read about early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy, Zwingli’s rite in Zurich, the German liturgy in Strasbourg and Calvin’s rites in Strasbourg for the Huguenots and later in Geneva.
Today’s post takes a brief look at John Knox’s Reformed rites for the English speakers in Frankfurt, Geneva and, later, the Scots.
Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.
John Knox in brief
Space prohibits a full account of John Knox’s turbulent life and times.
A few descriptive terms about the man come to mind which I shall suppress.
Knox supporters in North America find it inexplicable why those of us who are not Presbyterians could not admire him. Yet, the facts show that he was contentious and disagreeable from the start. No doubt he was very nice to his family, friends and followers.
However, for the English, he goes against what they appreciate as moderation in spirit and personality.
Even Calvin advised him in Frankfurt to
Calvin carefully chose his battles — principally about Communion frequency — even if he fell foul of the Geneva city council. However, Geneva invited him to return from Strasbourg in 1541.
Knox, on the other hand, was a firebrand at every opportunity. Sadly, a few lay Presbyterians and their supporters have adopted Knox’s unfortunate manner in their online discourse. Look to Calvin, friends. He was much more measured in his speech and relationships.
Knox’s litany of self-imposed trouble included many episodes.
His first sermon to the garrison at St Andrews pronounced the Pope as the Antichrist.
Two months later in June 1547, Mary of Guise (Queen Mother and Regent to Mary, Queen of Scots) asked the French to intervene at St Andrews. The French took as prisoners a group of Protestants, including Scottish nobles and Knox. They all became galley slaves. Knox was freed in February 1549.
Knox settled in England where he became a chaplain to Edward VI in 1550. Prior to that, as a licensed minister in the Church of England, he was sent to Berwick upon Tweed, where he promptly modified the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to make it a more Protestant rite. He met his first wife Margery Bowes at this time and, although he married her, he did so without her family’s consent.
Knox’s fiery preaching was highly popular among influential English Protestants. His clerical star continued to rise in subsequent parish appointments in England. When Mary Tudor succeeded Edward VI, Knox’s allies told him to flee the country.
In 1554, he sailed for France and continued his travels until he reached Calvin’s Geneva. Calvin gave non-committal replies to his contentious questions about female and ‘idolatrous’ rulers, referring him to Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich. Bullinger gave him no quarter. Undeterred, Knox published a diatribe in July of that year verbally attacking Mary Tudor, her bishops and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
In September 1554, a group of English exiles invited Knox to Frankfurt to be their minister. Calvin encouraged him to go. Knox found a congregation torn between using the BCP and those who favoured a more Protestant version of it. It was about this controversy that Calvin advised Knox and his colleague William Whittingham to avoid contention. A new group of refugees arrived, including Richard Cox, who had substantial input to the BCP. Cox informed Frankfurt’s authorities of Knox’s pamphlet attacking Charles V. The authorities told Knox to leave the city, which he did on March 26, 1555.
Knox returned to Geneva, where he was put in charge of a new church.
Meanwhile, his mother-in-law wrote him asking him to return to his wife, who was living in Scotland. He went home in August 1555.
Knox’s warm welcome home by Scottish Protestant nobles saw off opposition from the Scottish bishops who found him deeply worrying and arranged a hearing with him in Edinburgh. Accompanied by his powerful allies, he appeared in front of them on May 15, 1556. The bishops cancelled the hearing and granted Knox the freedom to preach in Edinburgh. Knox’s friends among the nobility persuaded him to write to Mary of Guise, the Regent for Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox wrote a letter calling for her support of the Reformation and deposing her bishops. Mary of Guise ignored it.
Meanwhile, his new congregation in Geneva called. They had elected him their pastor on November 1, 1555. He returned to the city in September 1556. This time, he took his wife and mother-in-law with him.
The next two years were blissful for Knox. He felt at home in Geneva. Life and spirituality were unsurpassed.
But that wasn’t good enough.
In the summer of 1558, unbeknownst to Calvin, Knox anonymously published a diatribe called The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. Even given the general misogyny of the time, Knox went way over the top in attacking women rulers to the point where he could have been charged with sedition. He took strong issue with Mary I of England and Mary of Guise. Wikipedia says:
In calling the “regiment” or rule of women “monstruous”, he meant that it was “unnatural”. The pamphlet has been called a classic of misogyny. Knox states that his purpose was to demonstrate “how abominable before God is the Empire or Rule of a wicked woman, yea, of a traiteresse and bastard”.
A royal proclamation banned the pamphlet in England.
The pamphlet came back to bite him when Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne. Geneva’s English speakers felt comfortable returning home now that they had a Protestant Queen. Knox left Geneva in January 1559 for Scotland. He should have arrived long before May 2 of that year, but Elizabeth I, aware of the pamphlet and deeply offended, refused to give him a passport to travel through England!
Not long afterward, Scottish authorities under Mary of Guise pronounced Knox an outlaw. He and a large group of Protestants travelled to Perth because it was a walled city they could defend in case of a siege. Once there, Knox preached an inflammatory sermon in the Church of St John the Baptist during which a small incident sparked a riot. The result was a gutted church. Not only that, but the mob went on to loot and vandalise two nearby friaries.
Later, safe in St Andrews, Knox preached there. Another riot broke out which resulted in more vandalism and looting.
Knox cannot be personally blamed for the Protestant uprisings occurring all over Scotland that year, but did he ever appeal for calm and godliness? Hmm.
On October 24, 1559, the Scottish nobility deposed Mary of Guise of the Regency. She died in Edinburgh Castle on June 10, 1560. The Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, which resulted in French and English troops returning home.
During the rest of that year the Scottish Parliament, Knox and a handful of fellow clergymen devised the Book of Discipline for the new Protestant church. Knox’s wife Margery died in December 1560. He was left to care for their two little boys.
Mary Queen of Scots returned from exile on August 19, 1561. She and Knox had several personal confrontations over his inciting rebellion, her right to rule as a woman and her impending marriage. He told her he owed her no allegiance. He continued his fiery sermons in the pulpit of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
On March 26, 1564, Knox married a 17-year old member of the nobility, Margaret Stewart. He was 50 years old. She bore him three daughters.
Near the end of the decade a complex civil war broke out involving nobles from both sides of the religious question. Knox moved around Scotland during this time, although he returned to Edinburgh as and when he could. He wrote his History of the Reformation in Scotland during these years.
In July 1572, he was able to freely preach once again at St Giles. However, he had grown progressively weaker. He died on November 24, 1572, surrounded by his family and friends.
Knox is the founder of Presbyterianism.
The following is taken from Maxwell’s book and describes a typical Knox liturgy from his book The Forme of Prayers (p. 123, 124).
Knox largely borrowed from Calvin but Maxwell notes a BCP influence as well. As with Calvin’s liturgy, there is no Peace.
The format is as follows for a Communion service, still divided into the Liturgies of the Word and the Upper Room:
– Confession of sins;
– Prayer for pardon;
– Psalm in metre;
– Prayer for illumination;
– Scripture reading (only one, although there were sometimes separate Scottish Readers Services before the Liturgy of the Word which included more Psalms as well as Old and New Testament readings [p. 124]);
– Sermon (lengthy, as was the Scripture reading; together, they could last over an hour [p. 124);
– Collection of alms;
– Thanksgiving and intercessions;
– Lord’s Prayer;
– Apostles’ Creed, spoken;
– Offertory, including presentation and preparation of elements and a sung Psalm;
– Words of Institution;
– Prayer of Consecration which included adoration, thanksgiving, anamnesis and Doxology;
– Ministers’ Communion;
– People’s Communion, apparently given by assistant ministers because the celebrant read the account of the Passion of Christ during this time;
– Post-Communion thanksgiving;
– Psalm 103 in metre;
– Aaronic or Apostolic blessing.
The readings appear to have been through one book of the Bible at a time until concluded — ‘in course’. The sermons were always about the readings given (p. 124).
The Forme of Prayers was never intended to be used as uniformly as England’s BCP was. Knox allowed for local variations on prayers and parts of the rite.
Although Knox sought to abolish kneeling and feasts of the Church calendar, these seem to have continued in some Scottish churches.
Communicants walked to the Lord’s Table where a separate Communion Table with chairs was installed (p. 126).
The people took their places and sat down to receive the Sacrament.
An Act passed by Scotland’s General Assembly in 1562 indicated that the Sacrament was received quarterly in the large towns and less frequently in the countryside (p. 125). Clergy were fewer outside of the former. Furthermore, people at that time were still used to infrequent Communion, perhaps only annually.
This custom of the Communion Table disappeared in the early part of the 19th century, when English Nonconformist procedure was adopted. This is reminiscent of the Zwinglian practice of receiving Communion in the pews, although people remained standing for this in Britain.
Introduced to Scotland in 1560, Knox’s The Forme of Prayers — or Book of Common Order — was used for over 80 years, despite attempts to revise it (p. 127). It was replaced in 1645 by the Westminster Directory.
This series has been examining liturgy and Holy Communion from the Church’s earliest days through to the Reformation.
Source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.
Yesterday’s post looked at the German rite in Strasbourg which Martin Bucer revised further in the 1530s making it more Protestant and more austere.
By the time he invited John Calvin to Strasbourg in 1538, Bucer’s liturgy had changed considerably from that of the late 1520s.
Calvin and the Supper
It should be noted that, at the time he went to Strasbourg, Calvin was at odds with Geneva over the frequency of Communion.
Calvin had always advocated weekly Communion, but he had to acquiesce to the city council in this matter.
Even when he returned to Geneva in 1541, Calvin could not change local government’s mind. Their Zwinglian policy of quarterly Communion was practically set in stone.
Calvin came up with a plan whereby Communion Sundays could be staggered in Geneva’s churches, which would have allowed communicants to receive the Sacrament more often. However, the council turned down the suggestion (p. 117).
Calvin was diligent about advocating frequent Communion, not only in his Institutes but also in personal correspondence. In 1555, he wrote to the magistrates of Bern whose policy was for the Sacrament to be given only three times a year, versus Geneva’s four (p. 118):
Please, God, gentlemen, that both you and we may be able to establish a more frequent usage. For it is evident from St Luke in the Book of Acts that communion was much more frequently celebrated in the primitive Church; and that continued for a long time in the ancient Church, until this abomination of the mass was set up by Satan, who so caused it that people received communion only once or twice a year. Wherefore, we must acknowledge that it is a defect in us that we do not follow the example of the Apostles.
In 1561, he expressed his dissatisfaction with Geneva’s Communion policy:
I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.
Calvin’s time in Strasbourg
Bucer invited Calvin to minister to the French Protestants — Huguenots — seeking refuge in Strasbourg, which was German-speaking.
Calvin lived in the city from 1538 to 1541, at which time he returned to Geneva.
He approved of Bucer’s liturgy, which a friend had translated into French (p. 113). Calvin adopted most of it for the Huguenots.
His French Communion liturgy for Strasbourg (pp 114, 115):
– Introduced a Scripture verse at the beginning of the service: Psalm 124:8;
– Replaced the standard Kyrie and Gloria with sung Kyrie responsorials to a metrical version of the Ten Commandments;
– Retained the Gospel reading (Bucer’s only Bible reading);
– Added a paraphrased Lord’s Prayer whilst retaining the standard Lord’s Prayer (before and after the Consecration Prayer);
– Moved the sung Apostles’ Creed just before the Consecration Prayer;
– Added the Nunc Dimittis just before the final blessing;
– Retained the Aaronic Blessing at the dismissal.
The Peace had disappeared from Bucer’s liturgy. Calvin did not reinstate it either in Strasbourg or, later, in Geneva.
The Geneva liturgy
Upon his return to Geneva, the city council asked Calvin to simplify his liturgy further (p. 115).
In 1542, he made the following changes (pp. 114, 115):
– Removal of the Absolution after the Confession of Sins;
– Replacement of the Ten Commandments with a metrical Psalm;
– Omission of the Nunc Dimittis.
Communicants approached the Holy Table where they stood or knelt to receive the Supper (p. 119).
Calvin’s Genevan rite spread to other Reformed churches on the Continent. Even with minor local variations, the rite was recognisably his.
Tomorrow: Early Reformed rites in Scotland
So far, my series on liturgy and Communion from the early centuries through the Reformation has included early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy and Zwingli’s rite in Zurich.
Today’s post looks at the Protestant liturgy in Strasbourg, which, during the Reformation, was one of the free imperial cities in the Holy Roman Empire. This meant that the city council had more sway over local government than the Catholic emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
This was also true of smaller princedoms scattered throughout this vast tract of Europe, and, although the Empire was designed to ensure Catholicism remained the principal form of Christianity, in reality, the devolution of power enabled the Reformation to flourish.
Strasbourg, like other free imperial cities, developed its own form of Protestantism. Strasbourg was close to the Swiss cities which had broken away from the Holy Roman Empire. Its leading Protestants not only borrowed both from Martin Luther and Zwingli in Zurich, they also knew the two Reformers personally. Later, they invited Geneva’s Calvin to the city to help integrate French-speaking Huguenots. More about this later in the post.
Strasbourg’s German liturgy
Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.
A year before Zwingli finalised his rite for Zurich, in Strasbourg, Diebold Schwarz (Theobaldus Niger, in Latin) developed a German liturgy. (Alsace was then part of Germany.) He celebrated it for the first time on February 16, 1524 in St John’s Chapel in the Church of St Laurence (p. 88).
Schwarz and Zwingli were the first two Reformers to include public confession of sin in church services.
Schwarz retained much of the ceremonial aspects of Catholic Mass — e.g. the celebrant’s washing of hands (Lavabo) during the Liturgy of the Upper Room — which made it a meaningful rite compared with Luther’s pared down effort (p. 88).
The format was as follows (p. 89, 90):
Liturgy of the Word —
– Invocation at the altar steps;
– Public confession of sin (a revised Confiteor);
– Scripture sentence (Psalm 124:8), retained from Mass;
– Salutation and response;
– Introit, spoken not sung;
– Salutation and Collect;
– Epistle reading;
– Gospel reading;
– Nicene Creed, spoken, retained from Mass.
The Liturgy of the Upper Room —
– Offertory, with preparation of the elements and the Exhortation taken from the Orate Fratres in the Mass;
– Salutation and Sursum Corda, also from the Mass;
– Preface and Proper;
– Sanctus and Benedictus, from the Mass;
– Lavabo and related Collect, the former from the Mass;
– Canon — Prayer of Consecration — said with hands upraised. It included intercessions (prayers of the people); a prayer for quickened life; Words of Institution — consecration — and Elevation, concluding with the Anamnesis. It did not include the Epiclesis: the prayer requesting God’s blessing over the elements but Maxwell says it was commonplace for the time ‘in contemporary Western use’;
– The Lord’s Prayer with Matthean doxology;
– The Peace;
– Agnus Dei;
– The Communion Collect, from the Mass;
– Communion, with celebrant receiving first, then the congregation, which had the choice of one or both elements;
– Two post-Communion Collects;
– Salutation and response;
– Final blessing, from the Mass.
A young Reformer, Martin Bucer, arrived in Strasbourg seeking refuge after his local diocese in Germany excommunicated him.
Wikipedia says that Bucer came up with the aforementioned liturgy, but Maxwell’s research indicates that, even with alternative prayers and subsequent publications (p. 90):
The text there [in the Canon] differs only in the slightest degree from Schwarz’s …
During the years 1524-5 nine or ten printed editions of the German mass appeared at Strasbourg, each differing from the others, but all closely related in form and substance.
Bucer largely led a subsequent move in replacing Latin names with German ones for parts of the liturgy and the sanctuary. Eventually, words and terms such as ‘Lord’s Supper’, ‘Minister’ and ‘Holy Table’ became commonplace (p. 91).
Bucer also made the service more Protestant (p. 91):
– The Apostles’ Creed could be substituted for the Nicene (a nod to Luther and to Zwingli);
– The Epistle and Gospel readings no longer followed the Catholic prescriptions; Maxwell says they were ‘in course’, however, I am uncertain whether this points to following Zwingli’s lectio continua, which covers one book at a time from Sunday to Sunday;
– The two readings were considerably longer than before;
– Sermons held greater importance. It was not unusual for the minister to preach a separate sermon for each reading;
– The ceremonial aspects were simplified or, as in the case of the Elevation, eliminated;
– The Holy Table was brought forward to give the minister more room when celebrating the Supper and also allow him to be seen by more of the congregation;
– He developed various versions of certain prayers, any of which could be used (p. 99): three confessions of sin, three prayers of consecration and four post-Communion prayers.
Communicants had to approach the Lord’s Table in an orderly queue to receive the Sacrament. They either stood or knelt for this. The minister distributed the Bread and an assistant minister followed with the Cup (p. 111).
By 1537, the Liturgy of the Upper Room was celebrated weekly only in the Cathedral; churches held a Communion service monthly (p. 100).
Another Bucerian innovation — multiple service attendance on Sunday
After the service concluded, the congregation ate Sunday lunch.
Those who worshipped at the Cathedral returned ‘immediately’ after lunch for another service of psalms, communal prayers and a sermon (p. 110). A children’s service followed to provide them with a knowledge of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed and the local catechism.
In the parish churches, Vespers followed the Cathedral’s afternoon services. Vespers consisted of psalms, prayers and a collect.
The parish churches also had four annual day-long periods of instruction in facts about Christianity, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments and how all of these related to the believer’s daily life and practice.
It could well be that from these multiple services that we have the Protestant traditions — obligations? — of returning to church later on Sunday. Many Reformed churches have this policy.
What to remember about Martin Bucer
Bucer’s influence extended to four areas of the Reformation:
1/ He was the first ecumenist, seeking unity in essentials and ignoring doctrinal differences, which had mixed results;
2/ He attempted to mediate between Luther and Zwingli at the famous Marburg Colloquy in October 1529. This discussion — dispute? — involved the nature of the Sacrament. By then, Bucer began to adopt Zwingli’s view that the bread and wine were only symbolic. Luther was aghast, concluding:
It is obvious that we do not have one and the same spirit.
Between 1534 and 1538, Bucer also tried to achieve Protestant unity in the German and Swiss churches. The German representatives signed the Wittenberg Concord, but the Swiss churches never did, principally because of the words used to describe the nature of the Sacrament.
3/In 1538, Bucer invited John Calvin to Strasbourg to lead a congregation of Huguenots who had sought exile in the city. The two became lifelong friends. Calvin adapted Bucer’s liturgy for later use in Geneva.
4/ Bucer eventually had to leave Strasbourg when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V attempted to reimpose the Catholic Mass throughout the Empire. In 1549, the people and the city council considered him more of a liability than an asset, as he attempted to preserve the Protestant church there. He was relieved of his responsibilities on March 1, 1549.
He had several invitations from other Reformers for resettlement and accepted Thomas Cranmer’s. He arrived in England on April 25, 1549, and accepted the post of Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.
His remaining two years in England were notable for the following:
a/ He shied away from controversies about the nature of Communion and whether clergy should wear vestments;
b/ He promoted charity to the poor via the Pauline practice of sending deacons to exercise that responsibility. He also wrote the controversial De Regno Christi [On the Kingdom of Christ], addressed to Edward VI, although it was never printed as the authorities considered it too controversial. Bucer advocated 14 reforms of both church and state. These included a plea for divorce decrees, his reason being that marriage was a social contract, not a sacrament. The document was a step too far for the Church of England. It ended up being published in Basel in 1557, six years after Bucer’s death.
c/ Scholars of Church history say that Bucer’s greatest influence was on the early editions of the Book of Common Prayer, at Cranmer’s request. By 1551, the year of his death from tuberculosis, he submitted his response to the Archbishop, advocating a simplified liturgy, a removal of non-essential feasts and practices as well as suggestions for making the service more meaningful to the congregation. Anglicans who know the Book of Common Prayer might wish to read Bucer’s Strasbourg prayers (p. 102-110), some of which are similar in style and content.
Martin Bucer is buried at the Church of Saint Mary the Great in Cambridge.
The previous post in this series on Christian liturgy looked at Martin Luther’s liturgy in German, which appeared in 1526.
Those who missed the previous instalments on early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages and Mass during the Middle Ages might find them helpful in understanding the services which emerged during the Reformation.
Before we go into Maxwell’s text, however, what follows are some facts about Zwingli, some of which demonstrate the influence he has had on Protestant churches to this day.
Zwingli had the same vehement complaints against the Catholic Church as the other early Refomers: questioning aspects of the Mass, forbidding remembrance of the saints and criticising corrupt clergy.
1/ Was the first to use and develop lectio continua, which consisted of preaching on one book of the Bible at a time, disregarding the Church calendar. In 1519, during his early ministry, he began with Matthew’s Gospel — still pre-eminent at the time — then did the same with Acts, the Epistles and the Old Testament. This continuity provided the congregation with a greater understanding of the Bible. A number of independent churches do this today. My Forbidden Bible Verses series follows this format, too.
2/ Vehemently opposed Lenten fasting and food restrictions. On the first Sunday of Lent in 1522, he and a dozen followers cut up two smoked sausages and distributed the meat in Zurich. This is known as the Affair of the Sausages, considered to be the beginning of the Reformation in Switzerland. Zwingli also maintained that there was no scriptural support for food restriction of any kind at any time.
3/ He opposed celibacy on the part of clergy. In fact, he had secretly married widow Anna Reinhard in 1522, after the Affair of the Sausages. They were publicly married in 1524, three months before the birth of their first child.
4/Believed the Sacrament and the Liturgy of the Upper Room were symbolic of Christ’s body and blood and the Last Supper. He did not believe in the Real Presence, arguing that Christ gave His greatest sacrifice for us once and for all time. Therefore, it must not be re-enacted in a sacrificial or mystical way but in the manner of a memorial.
5/ Took issue with Anabaptists, radical reformers who did not believe in paedobaptism and did not hesitate to rebaptise people they felt had not received this sacrament properly as Catholics or Protestants. It was Zwingli and the Zurich City Council — not John Calvin — who condemned Felix Manz, the first Anabaptist martyr, to death by drowning.
Now to Maxwell’s chapter on the Zwinglian rite, developed in 1525, at the same time Luther was devising his service in Germany.
Because Zwingli held that the Sacrament was but a memorial, he said that his followers should be able to receive it only four times a year: Easter, Pentecost, one Sunday in the autumn and Christmas (p. 84).
Although Luther and Calvin promoted weekly Communion, as their denominations and other Protestant churches evolved, people received Communion only a few times a year. A shortage of clergy accounted for this as did the requirement for communicants to meet with the celebrant the week before the Communion service. That said, even at four times a year, these Protestants probably received the Sacrament more frequently than Catholics; it was only in 1905 when Pius X encouraged Catholics to receive Communion at every Mass.
Zwingli’s communicants sat together in church, and deacons brought the elements to them. The communicants remained seated during this time.
The paten — plate for the bread — and cup were made out of wood to avoid any ostentation.
Public confession of sin
Zwingli’s was the second liturgical rite to incorporate a public confession of sin. The first was Diebold Schwarz (Theobaldus Niger, in Latin) who modified the Confiteor for Protestants in Strasbourg in 1524, one year before Zwingli’s services began (p. 88).
This came after the sermon (p. 84).
Today, nearly every church — including the Catholic Church — has incorporated a public confession of sin into its liturgy.
Characteristics of the Zwinglian rite
Although Zwingli’s rite of 1525 differed from Martin Luther’s, it was equally as pared down.
Zwingli rearranged aspects of the Liturgy of the Word. It was a combination of Mattins and the Prone, a Catholic service without Communion, spoken largely in local language. The Prone was popular in Germany and France.
The main characteristics were as follows (pp. 84 – 86):
– The sermon was given in the first part of the Liturgy of the Word during the Mattins part of the service;
– The Offertory — preparation of the elements — occurred after the public confession of sins;
– The Invocation — prayers of the people — followed the Offertory;
– After the Offertory came the readings for that Sunday: the Epistle and the Gospel. In between the two, the congregation — men on one side, women on the other — recited the Gloria antiphonally.
– The Apostles Creed concluded the Liturgy of the Word;
– During the Liturgy of the Upper Room, the minister and deacons faced the people and prayers were said audibly so that everyone could hear them. Zwingli’s deacons had an active participation in line with early Christian liturgies;
– Although Zwingli considered the Sacrament to be a memorial, his fencing of the table made it clear that no one unworthy was to receive it;
– The congregation then knelt for the celebrant’s recitation of the Lord’s Prayer;
– Zwingli might have been the first Reformer to write a prayer of humble access — expressing man’s unworthiness and giving thanks for the Sacrament — which the celebrant said. The congregation also knelt for this prayer.
– The congregation then sat whilst the minister briefly consecrated the elements;
– The deacons allowed people to take the unleavened bread from the paten and to take the cup in their own hands;
– The service concluded with a psalm, a collect and a brief blessing.
– Zwingli did not allow any music initially, although he relented a few decades later.
Maxwell thought that Zwingli’s rite was ‘the least adequate of all the Reformation liturgies’ (p. 87), accusing it of:
– lack of content;
– no sense of communion or continuity with the Church ‘on earth and in heaven’;
– the separation of the Lord’s Supper from the Lord’s Day.
Yet, albeit unintentionally, Zwinglian principles entered into other Protestant denominations to the point where present day Reformed pastors and elders wonder whether their congregations think of the Supper as a mere memorial, symbolic in content and nature.