6 December 2013

Whatever happened to Genesis? (2)

Even when Cardinal Quinones published, with papal approval, his very radical revision of the Breviary in 1535, he retained the association of Genesis with Septuagesima, although he gave more space to the reading of greater sections of this book than had the traditional Breviary. In England, an already theologically compromised Archbishop of Canterbury eagerly read the Spanish cardinal's reworked Office, despite the fact that the King's Great Matter put him on the opposite side from Quinones in European politics. There survive a couple of liturgical drafts by Thomas Cranmer from the same period showing that he, too, was working along the same lines as ... er ... well, actually, the similarities are so many and exact that is clear that Cranmer's drafts are closely indebted  to the Spanish Breviary which had emerged under the patronage of Pope Paul III. The two drafts have been variously dated, but it is pretty obvious that Cranmer was devouring Quinones as volumes rolled off the presses and flew across the Channel. And, in one draft, Cranmer follows Quinones in preserving the ancient link between Septuagesima and Genesis and building on it to provide an in-depth reading from the same Book through Lent.

However, Cranmer was obsessed by the need for simplicity. Medieval clerics did not have an ORDO; they had to work things out for themselves. The raw materials were to be found in a Directorium called Pie. Cranmer, notoriously, observd that "the number and harshness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the Service, was [sic] the cause, that to turn the Book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out". So, lamentably, in his other draft Cranmer went instead for a lectionary based entirely on the civil year's Calendar; Genesis started at the beginning of January and marched inexorably on, ignoring
the Ecclesiastical year. And this was the model which he followed in his first English Prayer Book of 1549.

That was a shame.

To be continued

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