Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Elizabeth I, March 24, 1603, R.I.P.

As she came into the world on the eve of the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, so Elizabeth I died on the eve of the feast of the Annunciation in 16o3. Without her and her own vision of the Christian faith and the Church, there would be no Anglicanism. With what her half sister Mary had done in terms of her Spanish marriage with the introduction into England of the Spanish inquisition, any lingering sentiment for the Roman See and the Roman faith was largely vanished. But without Elizabeth's policy of re-introducing the Book of Common Prayer and supporting the English Church, it would have been overwhelmed by the doctrine of either Geneva or Zurich. Instead she returned it as close as it was humanly possible to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church as she herself put it of "the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers."

There have been many who have attempted to portray her as a person largely without religious faith. If that had been true it would have been much easier for her to have retained the Roman religion in England. But her actions, and chiefly those kept from the scrutiny of the world, reveal her as a person of deep faith. She attended daily morning and evening prayer in her own chapel. And there the Eucharist was celebrated with her bishops, largely against their will, acting as priest, deacon and subdeacon (to quote one of them) "in the golden vestments of the papacy" with music provided by Byrd and Tallis. In addition it was her practice to read a chapter of the New Testament in Greek and a chapter of the Old Testament in Hebrew every single day while the book in which she wrote prayers of her own composition remained a secret until her death.

Many Anglicans know of the quote which once graced the newletter of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen and has appeared in many Anglican blogs including this one, But let me conclude this post with another. "There is one thing higher than Royalty: and that is religion, which causes us to leave the world, and seek God." Elizabeth could not leave the world because she saw her rule as an act of service to her people, but in her very first interview with the Spanish ambassador after she became queen she told him that her colours were black and white, those of a vowed religious. I doubt if he understood but he reported everything she said faithfully to Philip, his master. And we, from the long view of history, have a much better chance of knowing that she meant every word so that in the end, she, more than any other, deserved the title of "Defender of the Faith."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some Verses to Consider

As we near the end of Lent, and indeed we are already in Passiontide, I would like to give those who read this blog three verses from the New Testament to consider prayerfully. We all know them, but how often to we isolate them and apply ourselves to them and them to our own lives as Christians and Churchmen. I am not going to do more than give you book, chapter and verse so that you have to look them up yourselves.

The first is Matthew 18:3.

The second Luke 9:24.

The third Luke 17:10.

These should be your preparation for Holy Week and your Easter communion - if you dare.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Anglican Passiontide

Passiontide begins with tonight's evensong. Because of that I though I should post what the second edition of the second volume of the Alcuin Club's Directory of Ceremonial has to say about its observance. This is important in that we, in the Continuum, need to let people know that we are neither Papists nor Episcopalians, but that we are indeed the old Church believing in the old Religion and keeping it in the old ways. As the Council of Nicea said, "let the ancient customs prevail."


Passiontide begins with the first Evensong of the fifth Sunday in Lent. The altar frontals should be changed to red, and red vestments are worn. The remainder of the Lenten array continues as before. The red need not be dull or dark (the symbolism is, of course, the precious blood of our Saviour), but the materials should be simple, e.g. linen, with apparels of blue or black.

Red-letter days falling between Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday are celebrated as usual, but those occuring in Holy Week are transferred to the week after Low Sunday. Black-letter days fallin in Holy Week are omitted altogether for that year. If, however a black-letter saint is the patron of the place, the day is treated as a red-letter day, and transferred to the first free day after Low Sunday, but this cannot be earlier than Tuesday if the feast is to have a first Evensong, since the second Evensong of Low Sunday must not be displaced.

While in recent years, there are some who have adopted the custom of using the dalmatic and tunicle even during these period, in ancient times that would not have been done. Instead the dalmatic of the deacon and the tunicles of the sub-deacon and clerk would have been given up for the more ancient use of the folded chasuble. According to the rules of Sarum, Wells and Exeter, these would have been used daily until Maundy Thursday while York and Hereford wore them on only the Sundays in Lent and Passiontide. Maundy Thursday would have been kept in dalmatic and tunicle as would have been the case on Holy Saturday. Good Friday would have been kept in albs only. As one who believes that the chasubles proper to the Ornaments Rubric were the ancient conical ones as the surviving example from the Elizabeth I's Chapel Royal was before being cut down, it would seem appropriate for the same to be used during this period.

The most important thing to remember is that until all of the services appointed for this period in the Book of Common Prayer are used, it is very inappropriate to do anything else liturgically. The prayer book services must come first.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saint Kessog's Day

Saint Kessog was an Irish missionary of the mid-sixth century active in the Lennox area and southern Perthshire. Kessog was Scotland's patron saint before Saint Andrew, and his name was used as a battle cry by the Scots. Son of the king of Cashel in Ireland, Kessog is said to have worked miracles, even as a child. He left Ireland and became a missionary bishop in Scotland. Using Monks' Island in Loch Lomond as his headquarters, he evangelized the surrounding area until he was martyred, supposedly at Bandry, where a heap of stones was known as St Kessog's Cairn. Kessog was killed in 520 AD.

The St McKessog's church in Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond is named after Kessog and in the church resides his effigy. Kessog is claimed to have brought Christianity to the area around Luss in 510AD and 1500 years of continuous Christian presence in the area will be celebrated in 2010AD.

Those of us who have Celtic or Scots' ancestry should regard this as a great day. Indeed, as the patron saint of Scotland before Rome saw that he was replaced by St Andrew as evidence of the native church's submission to Rome. It should be especially important to American Anglicans in that we received the apostolic succession from the Catholic remnant of the ancient Church of Scotland.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Anglican Lent

We are already too late in Lent with next Sunday being the fourth, Mothering Sunday, but I hope to make up for my failures by posting just a bit about how the true prayer book Anglican approaches the fast. First, we should all know that Lent was originally the period in which people were prepared for the sacrament of baptism. While they were previously allowed into the Church for the first part of the Eucharist, but were expelled before the prayers of the people. When they determined that they were ready to make the step of becoming Christians they were invited to give in their names on Septuragesima Sunday. On Sexagesima Sunday they were given what they pretty much already knew, the bad news about just what might happen to them if they were actually Christians. This was in those days 'Exhortation Sunday,' as even with the bad news they were exhorted to make good in their intent to be baptized. Quinquigesima Sunday was 'Commencement Sunday,' and the process of their training as Christians would begin.

That should tell us that what we who are already baptized should be doing with Lent is engaging in the process of re-newing our own Christian commitment, reminding ourselves of what we are supposed to know, believe and do not only as Anglicans, but as classic Catholic Christians because in this world we need constantly to be renewing our own baptismal vows. The first and best way of doing this is pointed out in the collect for the second Sunday in Advent in which we are urged to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Scriptures themselves. That means that we not only need to attentively hear them in the offices of the Church and in the Communion Service, but to actively meditate upon what we have heard in our private prayers. It is there that we need to apply them to our own lives, own failings and falling from grace, our own need for grace and salvation in Jesus.

Lent is also a period in which we are expected to fast with the two most important fast days being Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But after that the Book of Common Prayer also reminds us that "The Forty Days of Lent" are all fast days with the Ember days which occured on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the First Sunday in Lent. Now the Church does not tell you what you must do in terms of fasting because it does not believe that any Christian should injure their health by extemes of austerity, but this is a matter which each of us need to be reminded should be worked out either with our parish priest or spiritual director and adviser.
We should also remember that the money we have saved by fasting should be used for purposes of charity either through the church or of our own choosing.

There is also another thing which we should know and expect as Anglicans. And that is what the Ornaments of the Church and of its ministers are supposed to look like. Most of us know that in the Roman Church Lent is marked by the use of purple. The altar frontal is purple as are the vestments of the priest and attendant ministers. But this was not the case with the English church or indeed most of the Church in Northern Europe prior to the Reformation and the Counter Reformation in Trent. Then things were different. Rather than attempt to list them myself, I am going to give you what the Alcuin Club's Directory of Ceremonial has to say about was done and should be continued in Lent.


During Lent is is desirable to express the spirit of the season by as complete a transformation of the interior of the Church as possible. This can be achieved by adopting a practice at one time widely prevalent on the Continent and which in England survived in some places until the nineteenth century. The custom was to cover all crosses, pictures, statues, and other decorative work with veils of whitish linen or light holland, and the effect was to make these objects sink, as it were, into the background of th church's whitened walls. These veils were often marked with crosses or emblems of the Passion or other symbols relating to the object covered, in red or blue. In addition the leaves of triptychs were kept closed. This gives the church a quiet devotional aspect suitable to a pentitential season, while avoiding the gloom produced by purple or black hangings.

The colour prescribed by the older English Cathedral sequences was usually red, but in practice in parish churches the altar-frontal and vestments were universally of the same material and colour as the veils, up to Passion Sunday, when in fact the red came into use for vestments and frontals. It is desirable to emphasize the change of teaching between Lent and Passiontide by some such outward sign as this.

This whole arrangement is often referred to as the 'Lenten Array.' A special processional cross of wood, painted red, was often reserved for use in Lent and Passiontide. Three silver nails were sometimes painted on this processional cross.

To mark this season albes may be worn unapparelled. Deacon, Subdeacon and Clerk will dispense with dalmatic or tunicle, though maiples will be worn and the stole by the Deacon.

In addition it is an old and wholesome custom that unaccompanied singing should, so far as possible, be the rule during Lent, except on Refreshment Sunday, Palm Sunday (during the Procession only), and at the Eucharist on Maunday Thursday, and on any festivals (such as the Annunciation or a Patronal festival) which may occur during the season.

For those who would like to see what this looks like, I would ask readers to Google "Lenten Array," and follow the wonderful photographs which they are going to find on sites featuring medieval church art and on Flikr. You will find a beauty which is now particularly Anglican and which should be part of the tradition of any parish or mission which calls itself Anglican.