Thinking allowed

Centenary of the WW1 Armistice

Over the last few years the Church of Eng­land has pub­lished vari­ous litur­gic­al resources for com­mem­or­at­ing the cen­ten­ary of sig­ni­fic­ant moments in the First World War.

It has now added to that col­lec­tion a set of resources for the cen­ten­ary of the Armistice on 11 Novem­ber, and entitled ‘Steps towards Recon­cili­ation’: a mono­logue inter­spersed with words and music.

How are we to mark the end of a War in which so many lives were lost and dam­aged? We will cer­tainly remem­ber, but we must also com­mit ourselves afresh to work­ing togeth­er for peace. Recon­cili­ation requires an hon­est ‘truth telling’, and the text that fol­lows seeks to respect the fact that we may only be able to take steps towards that goal.

This is an ima­gin­at­ive and thought­ful resource that can be used in a num­ber of set­tings on and around 11 Novem­ber 2018. It has been com­piled by mem­bers of the Litur­gic­al Commission.

The text is avail­able as a pdf file here.

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Remembrance resources

Church House has released this pic­ture and video to mark Remembrancetide.

The video can be viewed here on YouTube


John Keble

John Keble’s litur­gic­al impact, like that of Bene­dict, is indir­ect but sig­ni­fic­ant. It was on this day in 1833 that Keble preached a ser­mon at the Uni­ver­sity Church in Oxford. It was a fairly obscure ser­mon to the Assize Judges on what we might regard as an obscure top­ic (the sup­pres­sion of a num­ber of Irish bish­op­rics by Par­lia­ment), but it was regarded by John New­man as the begin­ning of the Oxford Move­ment — a recov­ery of the sense that the Church exists inde­pend­ently of the State. That Move­ment was sub­sequently respons­ible for a con­sid­er­able litur­gic­al enrich­ment and diver­si­fic­a­tion of the life of the Church of Eng­land, lead­ing to a renew­al of the Euchar­ist­ic life of the Church and an increased aware­ness of ritu­al and sym­bol­ism. Keble did not play a sig­ni­fic­ant part in these later devel­op­ments, liv­ing instead the life of a coun­try par­son, schol­ar and poet. His poetry con­tin­ues to be greatly val­ued and sev­er­al of his poems are still sung as hymns.

Keble was born in 1792, the son of a priest, and stud­ied at Oxford where he became a Fel­low of Ori­el Col­lege at the age of nine­teen. His col­lec­tion of poems, The Chris­ti­an Year, was publsi­hed in 1827, and he was elec­ted Pro­fess­or of Poetry at Oxford in 1831. In 1836 he left Oxford to became a par­ish priest at Hurs­ley near Winchester, and he served there until his death in 1866. In his memory, his friends and sup­port­ers foun­ded Keble Col­lege, Oxford.

Fath­er of the etern­al Word,
in whose encom­passing love
all things in peace and order move:
grant that, as your ser­vant John Keble
adored you in all creation,
so we may have a humble heart of love
for the mys­ter­ies of your Church
and know your love to be new every morning,
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.


Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism

Benedict’s interest to liturgy is indir­ect. As the author of the mon­ast­ic Rule that bears his name, he did much to encour­age the spread of mon­ast­i­cism in the west­ern Church, and con­sequently was a major influ­ence on daily litur­gic­al pray­er down to the present day.

He was born in Nur­sia in cent­ral Italy around the year 480. As a young man he was sent to study in Rome, but was soon appalled by the cor­rup­tion in soci­ety and with­drew to live as a her­mit at Subiaco. He quickly attrac­ted dis­ciples and began to estab­lish small mon­as­ter­ies in the neigh­bour­hood. Around the year 525 he moved to Monte Cas­sino with a band of loy­al monks. Later in life Bene­dict wrote his Rule for Monks, based on his own exper­i­ence of fal­lible people striv­ing to live out the gos­pel. He nev­er inten­ded to found an ‘order’ but his Rule was so good that it was dis­sem­in­ated and widely fol­lowed, becom­ing the mod­el for all west­ern mon­ast­i­cism. Bene­dict died at Monte Cas­sino in about the year 550, prob­ably on 21 March, but he is gen­er­ally commme­or­ated on 11 July in Anglic­an and oth­er Calendars.

Etern­al God,
who made Bene­dict a wise master
in the school of your service
and a guide to many called into community
to fol­low the rule of Christ:
grant that we may put your love before all else
and seek with joy the way of your commandments;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.


Thanksgiving for the institution of Holy Communion

Today is appoin­ted in the cal­en­dar as a day of thanks­giv­ing for the insti­tu­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion. Appen­ded to that descrip­tion are the Lat­in words by which the Thursday after Trin­ity Sunday is more com­monly known among those who actu­ally cel­eb­rate it — Cor­pus Christi, the Body of Christ.

The fest­iv­al day has been over­laid with all sorts of rite and cere­mo­ni­al that emphas­ise a par­tic­u­lar aspect of some beliefs, namely that the ele­ments of bread and wine, after the priestly pray­er of con­sec­ra­tion really are the body and blood of Christ, and there­fore are to be adored in the same way that we might adore Christ or a rel­ic of Christ. For Anglic­ans this kind of beha­viour has to con­tend with Art­icle 28 which con­tains these words

The Sac­ra­ment of the Lord’s Sup­per was not by Christ’s ordin­ance reserved, car­ried about, lif­ted up, or worshipped.

The his­tory of this day is that it com­mem­or­ates the Last Sup­per. Maun­dy Thursday also com­mem­or­ates the Sup­per, but com­ing in Holy Week and begin­ning the great Three Days of the paschal feast, there are oth­er things that rightly take pri­or­ity. So with the three paschal days com­plete, and the fifty days of East­er­tide com­plete, and the old week (or octave) of Pente­cost com­plete, this is the first Thursday avail­able for the com­mem­or­a­tion. Pente­cost no longer has an octave of its own, being regarded as the last day of East­er­tide rather than primar­ily a feast in its own right, but the Thursday after Trin­ity Sunday is too well-estab­lished to move the com­mem­or­a­tion a week earlier.

After the Reform­a­tion the feast ceased to be cel­eb­rated in the Church of Eng­land. Not until New­man wrote Tract 90 of the Oxford Movement’s Tracts for the Times was a ser­i­ous argu­ment made against the inter­pret­a­tion of Art­icle 28. New­man argued that the Art­icle did not for­bid the reser­va­tion of the Sac­ra­ment, it just said that it was not cre­ated by ‘Christ’s ordin­ance’. This argu­ment led many Anglo-Cath­ol­ic par­ishes to restore Reser­va­tion of the Sac­ra­ment, and to intro­duce Cor­pus Christi pro­ces­sions and adoration.

So what, as Anglic­ans, should we cel­eb­rate this day? 

The clue is in the title giv­en the day in Com­mon Wor­ship: a day of thanks­giv­ing for the insti­tu­tion of Holy Com­mu­nion. We give thanks for the exist­ence of Holy Com­mu­nion. In his book Din­ing in the King­dom of God (Arch­diocese of Chica­go, 1994), Roman Cath­ol­ic priest Eugene LaVerdiere argues that rather than focus­ing on the Last Sup­per as the insti­tu­tion of the euchar­ist, we would do bet­ter to remem­ber that the ori­gins of the euchar­ist lie in a long and com­plex series of events that has the Last Sup­per … as their cli­max. LaVerdiere recog­nises that we may not con­sider all the meals in the gos­pel to neces­sar­ily be cel­eb­ra­tions of the euchar­ist, but ‘they all have some­thing to say about the eucharist’.

Sadly, the euchar­ist, and our under­stand­ing of it, can be a very divis­ive thing. One does not have to look very far to find some who find it largely unne­ces­sary (or at least, that it is unne­ces­sary to cel­eb­rate it very often), and on the oth­er hand some who think that a priest say­ing par­tic­u­lar words over bread and wine is the essence of the Church. No doubt I para­phrase each pos­i­tion a little unfairly — if so I apo­lo­gise. But my point is that even if this is an unfair rep­res­ent­a­tion of what each believes, it is how the oth­er per­ceives them.

How do we escape from this? The view expressed in this blog is that the euchar­ist is indeed fun­da­ment­al to our life as Chris­ti­ans; that where the euchar­ist is, there the Church is; that the fre­quent cel­eb­ra­tion of the euchar­ist is giv­en us as a means of growth and nur­ture. But it is also our view that this does not neces­sar­ily mean the euchar­ist as we have come to know it; how it exists today as a ritu­al­ized, ves­ti­gi­al meal, almost sep­ar­ated from real food and drink, in danger of sep­ar­a­tion from a real under­stand­ing of the pres­ence of the liv­ing Christ. Our devo­tion to the euchar­ist com­pels us to con­sider a third way, in which we look for a real bible-based sac­ra­ment­al­ity, com­bin­ing it with a tra­di­tion­al focus on its cent­ral­ity (envis­aged of course by that Arch­bish­op whom Anglo-Cath­ol­ics love to hate, Thomas Cran­mer), and bring­ing to bear our God-giv­en reas­on to try and recon­cile these views. 

And as we have said before, our euchar­ist­ic joy com­pels us to go out unto the world and share that joy by help­ing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and free the oppressed.

That said, I shall, with slightly grit­ted teeth, be swinging a thur­ible later today in a Cor­pus Christi pro­ces­sion, com­plete with rose petals, can­opy et al. Hmmm.

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Alcuin of York, Abbot of Tours, 804

Today the Church of Eng­land com­mem­or­ates the dea­con Alcuin who rose to high office in the court of Char­le­magne, and who is par­tic­u­larly remembered in the Church for his litur­gic­al work. The Alcuin Club was foun­ded in 1897, to pro­mote and pub­lish litur­gic­al scholarship.

Alcuin was des­cen­ded from a noble Northum­bri­an fam­ily. Although the date and place of his birth are not known, he was prob­ably born in the year 735 in or near York. He entered the cathed­ral school there as a child, con­tin­ued as a Schol­ar and became Mas­ter. In 781, he went to Aachen as adviser to Char­le­magne on reli­gious and edu­ca­tion­al mat­ters and as Mas­ter of the Palace School, where he estab­lished an import­ant lib­rary. Although not a monk and in deacon’s orders, in 796 he became Abbot of Tours, where he died in the year 804. Alcuin wrote poetry, revised the lec­tion­ary, com­piled a sac­ra­ment­ary and was involved in oth­er sig­ni­fic­ant litur­gic­al work.

God of Wis­dom, Etern­al Light,
who shone in the heart of your ser­vant Alcuin,
reveal­ing to him your power and pity:
scat­ter the dark­ness of our ignorance
that, with all our heart and mind and strength,
we may seek your face
and be brought with all your saints
to your holy presence;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Gregory Dix, Priest, Monk, Scholar, 1952

Gregory DixToday the Church of Eng­land com­mem­or­ates Gregory Dix, whose name was added to the Cal­en­dar in 2010.

Excit­ing Holi­ness con­tains this bio­graph­ic­al information:

Born in 1901, George Dix was edu­cated at West­min­ster School and Mer­ton Col­lege, Oxford. After ordin­a­tion to a Fel­low­ship at Keble Col­lege, Oxford, he taught his­tory before enter­ing the noviti­ate of the Bene­dict­ine com­munity at Per­shore, tak­ing the name Gregory. Shortly after­wards the com­munity moved to Nash­dom in Buck­ing­ham­shire, where Dix even­tu­ally made his life pro­fes­sion and was appoin­ted Pri­or. Dix was one of the most influ­en­tial fig­ures of a gen­er­a­tion of Anglo-Cath­ol­ics who worked enthu­si­ast­ic­ally towards reunion with Rome. A gif­ted and pop­u­lar preach­er and spir­itu­al dir­ect­or, Dix is best remembered as a litur­gic­al schol­ar whose monu­ment­al work, The Shape of the Liturgy, has had an unpar­alleled influ­ence over litur­gic­al study and revi­sion since it was first pub­lished in 1945. He died on this day in 1952.

We plan to include occa­sion­al anniversar­ies of sig­ni­fic­ant litur­gic­al events or people. Text of this entry is from Excit­ing Holi­ness and is repro­duced by per­mis­sion of the editor.