Friday, October 16, 2009
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Today we celebrate Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1556).
Cranmer was the major force in the English Reformation, and the person to whom thanks is due (in Christ!) for the Book of Common Prayer (in its variety of forms). Cranmer was primarily responsible for the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and its first revision in 1552. In his development of the BCP, Cranmer followed closely the medieval forms of worship, especially the Old Sarum rites.
The 1662 BCP, which is still in use in the Church of England, as well as other Anglican churches, and which is considered the standard by which all other Prayer Books are gaged, was a revision of Cranmer's previous work.
In the preface to his own edition of the 1662 BCP (viz., The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America), John Wesley says, "I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it, not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree."
Thomas Cranmer was born in Aslockton, Nottinghamshire on July 2, 1489. He earned his B.A., M.A. & a Fellowship from Jesus College, Cambridge, and became a Doctor of Divinity, a lecturer in the same school. Cranmer was highly influenced by the Lutheran reformers. King Henry the Eighth, with confirmation from the Pope, appointed Cranmer to the See of Canterbury, and he was consecrated Archbishop on March 30, 1533.
When Queen Mary the First took the throne, as a staunch Roman Catholic, she had Cranmer arrested. On March 21, 1556, Thomas Cranmer, along with other church leaders, was burned at the stake.
Today, in honor of Thomas Cranmer, I varied my normal practice (i.e., the use of Wesley's Sunday Service), and prayed Matins ( i.e., Morning Prayer) and the Litany using Arthur James' 1999 printing of The First English Prayer Book.
Thomas Cranmer has and continues to influence countless Christians in their spiritual formation and lives through the Book of Common Prayer.
For more information on Thomas Cranmer, I commend to you the Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997 and the "Introduction" to James' printing of The First English Prayer Book. You can also read the article I posted on this blog, last year by clicking here.