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.