16 June 2009

Cranmer, Dix, Sarum, 1549 ... (2)

Unfortunately, that plan to celebrate a Sarum Votive of the Five Wounds of Jesus came to nothing; the energetic and enthusiastic priest who was organising it discovered that, to his dismay, the resurgent Cornish Nationalists whom he expected to rally round were mostly antipathetic to Christianity; those who were not, tended to regard Methodism as the authentic native religion of Cornwall. But I have not lost faith with the Votive of the Five Wounds; I made the discovery that this votive is in fact very nearly the same votive which appears in the Missale Romanum of S Pius V as the Votive de Passione Christi; with two or three phrases pencilled into the margin, one more or less has the English medieval Votive. It used to be said on Fridays; I sometimes use it as an alternative to the Sacred Heart Votive.

Wills and tombstones make clear that this Votive was one of the most popular in late Medieval England (see Duffy's 'Stripping of the Altars'). Dr Thomas Cranmer clearly knew it off by heart: in the Prayer Book he composed in 1549 the Intercession ends with most of the Collect of that Votive, translated so closely that we can almost decide which edition of the Sarum Missal Cranmer knew it from.

In his Shape of the Liturgy, Dom Gregory Dix notoriously fantasises about what was going through Cranmer's mind during the last minutes of his life in Marian Oxford. It's a fine piece of Dixian rhetoric (if my RC readers have not read Dix, I suggest they do so: written in 1944, the book is still in print and will do nothing at all to weaken their Catholic Faith). Naturally, the train of thought Dix reconstructs neatly confirms the reconstruction Dix has just done of Cranmer's theology. I would dare to reconstruct a different sequence of reflections that might have passed through the old man's mind as he hurried of his own accord out of S Mary's and along the Turl to where the stake sood in the middle of the Broad. I suspect that as he struggled to sustain in his Protestant heart that Faith, that feeling, that fiducia, which alone, according to Reformation Protestantism, stands between the soul and eternal damnation, he prayed that, the other side of the stake, he might find not Balliol College but his Lord, and that at the day of the generall resurreccion he might be set on Christ's right hand, and heare that his most ioyfull voyce: Come unto me, O ye that be blessed of my father, and possesse the kingdom.

Poor old gentleman. What an enormous amount of harm he did. But how superb his liturgical English. The older editions of the English Missal (in which Cranmer's texts, and the Authorised version of the Bible, are reproduced and supplemented by translations of those Missal texts Cranmer failed to translate, done into an English which is a very creditable attempt at the liturgical dialect he created) is in my view the finest vernacular liturgical book ever produced and deserves to be given a new lease of life. It is certainly getting one here in S Thomas's, where in liturgical use it takes pride of place immediately after its Latin original.


ex_fide said...

which is the finest vernacular liturgical book? the BCP or the EM?

I think many catholic priests are starting to rally around the English Missal, being as it is, the best of both "worlds" that we Anglo-Catholics inhabit.

Paul Goings said...


I think that you'll find that the Mass for the Feast of the Ss. Five Wounds can be found in most editions of the Missale Romanum, in the pro aliquibus locis section.

Little Black Sambo said...

Coverdale's translation of the Canon is the best one in English; different editions of EM vary in how much Coverdale is incorporated.
I think the Cowley Missal has generally more elegant and succinct translations of the propers, but as a liturgical book it is not so convenient, so your judgement is probably right. It is funny that so few Catholics in the C of E have any time at all for that whole tradition.

george said...

When you say the Cowley Missal which one are you referring to. Excuse my ignorance.