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Thomas Cranmer Liturgical Agenda

Thomas Cranmer Liturgical Agenda

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Published by Fr Diego Galanzino
This is a short (undergraduate) essay about the reforming liturgical agenda Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the publication of the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer. Interests may include Liturgy, Church History, History of the Tudor period, Church of England use, and Anglicanism.
This is a short (undergraduate) essay about the reforming liturgical agenda Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the publication of the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer. Interests may include Liturgy, Church History, History of the Tudor period, Church of England use, and Anglicanism.

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Published by: Fr Diego Galanzino on Aug 19, 2013
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11/25/2013

 
Fr. Diego Galanzino
Cranmer’s liturgical agenda
 
1
What was Thomas Cranmer’s
liturgical agenda?
The Church of England and several other Churches in the Anglican Communion owemuch of their liturgical language, structures, and general inheritance to ThomasCranmer and to the reforms he made in the Sixteenth Century at the courts of HenryVIII and his immediate successors
. The chief example of Cranmer’s work is the
 Book of Common Prayer 
with its three consecutive editions
 – 
i.e. AD 1549, 1552 and 1662.
Indeed, the Stuart’s edition of the Prayer Book preserved most of Cranmer’s originalwork, enshrining it as the backbone of Church of England’s liturgy
until the liturgicalmovements of the twentieth century.
Cranmer’s liturgical agenda
was carried out through a series of dramatic reforms of themedieval and post-medieval English rites. However, because of the gradual
introductions of these reforms it is difficult to understand whether or not Cranmer’s
 programme was a premeditated act, or whether it was part of a continuing processcharacterised by a series improvements and tweaking which would better suit hisdeveloping theological ideas. Even to this day different scholars have differentopinions on the matter.According to Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer 
died at the stake for his hatred  for the Mass
1
 
and arguably this ‘
hatred 
could be considered as the driving force behind reforming agenda of the archbishop. This interpretation would depict the 1549
 Prayer Book 
just an
interim
edition preceded by the distribution of English Bibles inevery parish from 1538 and succeeded by the final 1552
 – 
more protestant
 – 
edition.However, it is difficult to envisage Cranmer as a calculating opportunist whodistributed his reforms over decades in order to achieve a better result especially giventhat some documents point towards a gradual change of heart
2
which took place in
Cranmer’s own theology and understanding of the sacraments.
This latter interpretation
of Cranmer’s work highlight
s the gradual shift from an essentially Catholic way of worship to an Anglicised model of Calvinist spirituality and thus it should not betotally overlooked.
Liturgical developments
Cra
nmer’s concerns about the liturgy were
largely inspired by the protestant thought heencountered on the continent. Particularly, his first concern was to promote a type of worship which could be understood by the people. This essentially meant breaking
with the Church’
s traditional use of Latin and cutting back the more complex ritualismwhich was deemed unscriptural and the source of popular superstitions. Nevertheless,this type of reforms neither implied a complete change in sacramental theology nor inthe understanding of ecclesiology.
1
Diarmaid M
AC
C
ULLOCH
(2003) 383
2
cf. D.E.W. H
ARRISON
and Michael C. S
AMSON
(1982) 40
 
Fr. Diego Galanzino
Cranmer’s liturgical agenda
 
2The Litany and the English BibleCranmer first attempt to reform the liturgy in this way came as the religious responseto a political crisis under the reign of Henry VIII, when the King was engaged inconflicts with both France and Scotland
3
. Thus, in 1544, Cranmer convinced the Kingto allow for the publication of 
the Litany
in English, in order to encourage popular devotion and prayer to support Henry. The Litany
 – 
which closely matches the
 Litanyof the Saints
in the use of 
Sarum
 
 – 
was published in 1544 in a version which notablyshortened the invocation of saints
4
, without wiping them out completely. As a result of this, the first official liturgical text in English was introduced. It followed just a fewyears after the introduction of the English Bible in every parish; an innovation for which Cranmer was largely responsible
5
together with Thomas Cromwell.The 1549
 Book of Common Praye
  Nevertheless, a full-scale reformation had to wait until the reign of Edward VI (1547
 – 
 1553). Thus is 1549 Cranmer promulgated the first
 Book of Common Prayer 
. Thisvolume had very ambitious aims, among which was to introduce one single liturgicaluse for the whole land
6
; to make all rites of the Church accessible to the people; tosimplify the daily pattern of prayer 
7
whilst also making it available to the laity; andalso to provide the faithful with Scriptural teaching within the context of worship.The 1549 edition was
a single man’s effort and it
tried to mediate between contrastingtheological thoughts of the time. Thus, although this first edition was clearly a fruit of the Reformation, it preserved nonetheless a very strong conservative flavour. For example some key elements of its structure followed
 – 
perhaps too closely for other reformers
 – 
the use of Sarum.Before moving on to consider the second Cranmerian edition of the
 Prayer Book 
it isworth noting two intermediate events that remain often overlooked and which took  place between 1549 and 1552.First, towards the end of 1549 a new wave of iconoclasm spread throughout Englandwith an intensity only surpassed by the Civil War. Not only images, but also holy relicswere destroyed; whilst many invocations to the Saints were blotted out
8
of Primiersand artefacts. Cranmer was probably largely responsible for the royal directives whichcommanded all churches to destroy all images, not just the ones of saints
9
. However,the archbishop seemed not to be involved in the first iconoclastic frenzy thataccompanied the dissolution of the monasteries under the reign of Henry VIII.Therefore, one could speculate that Cranmer 
’s theological
stance on the matter mayhave become more puritan during the time since that first incident which cost Englanda great quantity of devotional artefacts, relics, shrines, and all monastic houses.Secondly, 1550 Cranmer completed the first set of reformed liturgies with the publication of the
Ordinal 
. The archbishop did not include the ordination rites in thefirst edition of 
 Prayer Book 
but kept them as a separate provision following the
3
cf. ibid. 41
4
cf. ibid. 41
5
cf. ibid. 39
6
Notably, the Roman Church only achieved near-total uniformity of use only with the ApostolicConstitution
Quo Primum
which promulgated the 1570 edition of the
 Roman Missal 
.
7
both in terms of 
 Kalendar 
and of Daily Office.
8
Remarkable examples of this are found in Eamon
Duffy’s
The Stripping of the Altars
. The author showshow, where destruction of images proved too difficult, the artefacts were just defaced to prevent devotions.
9
cf. D.E.W. H
ARRISON
and Michael C. S
AMSON
(1982) 42
 
Fr. Diego Galanzino
Cranmer’s liturgical agenda
 
3customs of the medieval Ceremonial of Bishops
10
. Notably, in the ordination of prieststhe explicatory rites were amended to reflect the new emphases placed on priestlyministry; thus the rite prescribed the giving of a Bible to the priest as well as theEucharistic vessels.The 1552
 Book of Common Praye
and further developments
The second stage of Cranmer’s reform came with the redaction and publication of the
second edition
 Prayer Book 
between 1551 and 1552.By the end of 1550 the Church of England had assumed many of the characteristics of a continental Reformed church; however the formal and largely conservative style of worship imposed by Cranmer in the previous year created unrest on both side of thewidening religious divide. On the one hand, those more influenced by Protestant ideaswished to remove any sort of ritualism from the
 Prayer Book 
; whilst on the other hand,the traditionalist struggled to adapt to the new regime and criticised Cranmer for hisambiguous theological stance. The archbishop thus found himself caught between theextremisms expressed by the continental Reformers
and the ‘
 sheer weight of religiousconservatism
11
. Up to this point Cranmer had cut back the ritualism of the Church inorder to establish a liturgy which could be understood by the people thus preventingthem from falling into superstitious practices. However, it seems that Cranmer did notset himself to amend drastically the sacramental theology of the Church. Indeed, hehad been responsible for the publications the
Ten Articles of Faith
during the reign of Henry VIII, but these appeared
 – 
on the whole
 – 
only moderately influenced by theReformation
12
. Nevertheless, during the brief period in between the editions of the
 Prayer Book 
Cranmer theology about priesthood, the Eucharist and the other sacraments appear to change radically, giving rise to a new quasi-Calvinist way of worship.
Three things could be seen as shaping Cranmer’s
actions at this time: (a) he recognisedthat the 1549
 Prayer Book 
was a compromise and did not please anyone with itsambiguous positions; (b) Cranmer became more involved in Protestant circles forming
a
 Protestant Council 
13
with people such as Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr; (c) heresponded forcefully
 – 
almost impulsively
 – 
to the criticisms raised by theTraditionalist party and in particularly by Stephen Gardiner 
14
, bishop of Wincheste
15
.These factors were pivotal
in Cranmer’s decision
to publish another Prayer Book withthe aid of Bucer and Martyr. The end result was the 1552
 Book of Common Prayer 
inwhich all sacrificial language was removed, together with any invocation of saints and prayer for the dead
16
. Perhaps even more significantly, this edition incorporated the
Black Rubric
aimed to catechise the believers about the Protestant understanding of 
“presence” in the Eucharistic elements.
The introduction of this rubric wasaccompanied by the breaking up of the Canon
 – 
which now featured the Communionin the middle of it
 – 
and the introduction of new words for the communicants which
10
cf. ibid. 42
11
ibid. 41
12
Cranmer did not support the change from
the Ten
to
the Six
Articles towards the later reign of HenryVIII.
13
D.E.W. H
ARRISON
and Michael C. S
AMSON
(1982) 44
14
cf. ibid. 45
15
Gardiner held the wealthiest bishopric in the Country and a senior status in the
Church’s hierarchy. He
criticised Cranmer for his dubious positions about the Eucharist. More specifically he claimed that the1549 rite preserved elements of sacrificial offering and hinted towards a real presence of Christ in theelements by means of transubstantiation.
16
 
Martin Bucer’s influence is visible in the
Censura
. cf. E.C. W
HITAKER 
(1974) 52

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