Friday, May 30, 2008

A Poem by Elizabeth I

Those who think of Anglicanism as the creation of Thomas Cranmer forget that without the prompting of Henry VIII who was originally trained for the Church we would never have had the English reforms. They also seem to forget that everything that was done in the reign of Edward VI was done away with on the ascession of Mary and that if Elizabth I had assented to Mary's death bed request to maintain the "Roman faith" prayer book Anglicanism would never have had another chance. But Elizabeth looked backwards to the reforms which her father desired and set the limits of the Book of Common Prayer fairly much at his limits. And she fought for obedience and conformity to the prayer book throughout her own reign.

But what of her personal faith? What did she herself believe? We have, of course, access to her personal prayers written out in her own hand but unknown to her contemporaries. Many of them are to be found in Elizabeth I, Collected Works edited by Marcus, Mueller and Rose for the University of Chicago Press, 2000. It is a work which Anglicans should know because without Elizabeth's action and support the prayer book would be an historical footnote instead of the basis of a living faith. It covers things which she wrote and spoke over the length of her life and reveal the depth of her own faith. But among the many excellencies, the poem which follows has particular charm for me because, although early, it marks the path she set for herself and the Church.

"'Twas Christ the Word that spake it.
The same took bread and brake it,
And as the Word did make it,
So I believe and take it."

The question it raises for us all is whether we believe that the Word which created and sustains the world is able to make the bread and wine of the eucharist His own sacramental body and blood. Do you believe and take it?


Alice C. Linsley said...

I had read this somewhere before and was struck by its simplicity and truth.

Canon Tallis said...

Elizabeth's personal faith has always been an interest of mine and many years ago I read a book called "The Nature of the Lion." She seems to have been something quite close to a mystic and the prayers she wrote for herself are excellent.
In "Elizabeth and the English Reformation" the writer says that she came to the throne with a complete religious policy from which she never diviated during her long reign. Unfortunately for classical prayer book Anglicans, those who would have rather seen the English Church remade after the model of Zurich or Geneva put their all into negating the rubrics of Elizabeth's prayer book and the intent of her church polity.

Anonymous said...

Does canon tallis = lee poteet by any chance?