16 January 2022

Latin Liturgy at Oxford

The University of Oxford not only begins each term with a celebration of a Holy Communion Service in the Latin Tongue (vide this blog last week); it also offers, on the First Sunday of the Hilary Term, a Latin Litany and a Latin Sermon. Is it the only university in the UK to do such stuff? When I preached the Sermon, I complained about the fact that the University had not welcomed Professor Ratzinger during his recent Apostolic Visitation to our country; and spoke critically about a Professor Dawkins (who, sadly, was not present to hear me).

An hour spent browsing in Bodley through old University Calendars reveals the following about the history of these latinophile practices.

They are not, as one would have loved to believe, a survival from Medieval Oxford, but a piece of Tractarianism. By the start of the nineteenth century, each of Oxford's four terms [our modern Trinity term in the summer is historically a conflation of the old 'Easter Term' and the old 'Trinity, or Act, Term'] began with Latin Litany, Latin Commemoration of Benefactors, and Latin Sermon, apparently at about 10.00 in the morning in the University Church [the S Mary's where S John Henry Newman was Vicar, and with the baroque porch and statue of our Lady which became part of the indictment leading to the martyrdom of Archbishop William Laud]. In 1862 "and Holy Communion ... also in Latin", was added. I suspect this was a result of the Oxford Movement aka the Catholic Revival. So things continued until 1901, when the Holy Communion was separated from the Litany and Sermon and was now to be "Earlier in the day". I put this down to either or both of the following: the preference of Anglican Catholics to communicate fasting; and the growth in numbers of non-Anglican or non-communicant dons. In 1920, the Latin Litany and Sermon were reduced to once a year - on the first Sunday of the Hilary Term, when they still happen - but the Latin Communion was and still is three times a year. 

I rather relish the recollection of having both preached and celebrated in S John Henry's Oxford patch, the old Newmanopolis ... but not half so much as I relish having celebrated and preached in the new Newmanopolis, his Birmingham Oratory!

The Proctors, representing formally the body corporate of Chancellor Masters and Scholars, attended until 2008, when they decided that it was invidious for them thus to privilege [by getting out of bed for an 8.00 service!] one religion and a fortiori one sect of one religion.

I have reproduced an old thread upon the same subject.


Joshua said...

How ridiculous of the Proctors! - the C of E is the religion by law established (false sect though it be)…

Is the Latin Communion according to Bright and Meade's version of the BCP?

And, what of Latin Mattins and Evensong?

Patrick Sheridan said...

I was aware, although I am staggered that, in these dark times, it still continues. I was not aware, however, that it was a Tractarian thing. I assumed it had continued at Oxford since Elizabethan times. Queen Elizabeth preferred Latin liturgy. And Latin was, until quite recently, the language of lore and scholarship.

My alma mater (Heythrop College) has no such tradition. In 2007, I can't think why, I wrote to the Principal requesting Latin liturgy once a week and his reply was that there was no demand for it, and that it would become divisive.

Duarte Valério said...

Which translation of the service is used?

Paddy said...

Truly fascinating, Father. Any idea where one might get a copy of this liturgy?

RichardT said...

When I was up, and expressed surprise at the Church of England having Latin services (this at a time when one could not find a Catholic Latin Mass in Oxford), I was told that it was perfectly in accordance with the 39 Articles because in Oxford Latin is a "tongue understanded of the people".

RichardT said...

See here for a letter from John Hind, then Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar, making the same point:

Formendacil said...

Forgive my North American ignorance, Father, but I am now curious: is the Latin of this service a translation into Latin of the English Prayer Book texts or does it derive anything wholesale from the Latin texts of Rome (and, if so, are there significant points of contact--for example: solely from before Trent or things that can only be after). Finally, if it is a translation from the Prayer Book, does it ossify a particular edition or has the Latin been updated as the English has been updated?

Oliver Nicholson said...

Latin is expressly permitted for services at Oxford, Cambridge and schools such as Winchester and Eton in the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer. I was told by our former college chaplain that the translation was changed sometime in the 20th century and that previously it had been a very literal translation of the Prayer Book, including, for instance, the exhortation "Levate cordes vestra".

Andrew said...

I was present this morning, and can report that both Proctors, and a Pro Vice-Chancellor were present also --- in sub fusc, surplice and hood!

William Tighe said...

"Queen Elizabeth preferred Latin liturgy."

I am unaware of any evidence for her purported preference.

Puzzled! said...

The Book of Common Prayer in Latin was first published in 1560, so it is not a translation that was made within the last hundred years. I am in possession of a copy of the said book which would make interesting reading to those who denigrate the Anglican Church.
Yours Aggrieved!

Oliver Nicholson said...

Latin is expressly permitted for services at Oxford, Cambridge and schools such as Winchester and Eton in the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer. I was told by our former college chaplain that the translation was changed sometime in the 20th century and that previously it had been a very literal translation of the Prayer Book, including, for instance, the exhortation "Levate cordes vestra".

William said...

It is many years since I last attended, but I was given to understand that the translation was the official one initiated by authority of Convocation in 1662 and completed in 1670 by John Durel, which translation was also used for the Latin Litany. If so, then it was not used exactly: for example, I remember the sung response "Te rogamus, audi nos" in the Litany, whereas 1670 adds "Domine" each time (as do Bright & Medd). I'd be interested to know if it's another translation entirely, or just a tweaked version of 1670.

Besides the general principle enunciated in Article 24, Canon B42.2 gives more explicit permission:
"Authorized forms of service may be said or sung in Latin in the following places –
Provincial Convocations;
Chapels and other public places in university colleges and halls;
University churches;
The colleges of Westminster, Winchester and Eton;
Such other places of religious and sound learning as custom allows or the bishop or other the Ordinary may permit."
The last line is splendidly imprecise: aren't all parish churches places of religious and sound learning? They should be, anyway! And who defines what constitutes "custom"? (Implicitly, not the Ordinary!) Who knows, there may even be some C of E clergy who would decide that a "custom" is established by the simple expedient of doing it and then decreeing, on that basis, that it is henceforth customary. (Do you think that's ever happened, I wonder?)

Doodler said...

Since my time at Selwyn College, Cambridge, (1962-65) I have always understood that Latin liturgy was quite lawful at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford since all matriculating at that time were 'supposed' to have demonstrated some degree of competence in Latin.

William said...

Well, it couldn't be "Levate cordes vestra", simply for grammatical reasons. Even allowing for that, was it ever that crudely literal? Since posting my last comment, I've remembered I have a third translation on my shelves, this one (by Samuel Bagster) published in 1821 but claiming to be almost identical to Bowyer's of 1720. Anyway, all three (Durel, Bagster and Bright & Medd) render it, as one would surely expect, as "Sursum corda".

Joshua said...

Apologies for misspelling Medd's name.

I have before me Bright and Medd's 1865 Liber Precum Publicarum, which, before the BCP title page, has the following title and their preface "Ad Lectorem":

Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ

Londini, Oxonii, Cantabrigiæ.

Of course, it doesn't contain the Accession Service, nor the 39 Articles, nor the Table of Kindred and Affinity - none of which are strictly parts of the BCP.

Best of all, it contains the old, pre-1871 Lectionary. How can one understand Newman, or Keble, or any others who preached after and prayed the daily Offices, without knowing what passages were read? I contend that the Old Lectionary, in use 1662-1871, and (but for the Cromwellian hiatus and Marian restoration) in essentials for a century beforehand, is far more Anglican than the 1871, the 1922, and all the other Lectionaries that have successively been introduced - none of which has remained in use for anything like the same length of time, and whose only common thread has been the ever-shortening length of the readings, and the consequent omission of ever more Scripture.

John Nolan said...

What Latin pronunciation is used? The English pronunciation favoured by Mr Chips or the new-fangled pronunciation in which "vicissim" becomes "we kiss 'im"?

John F H H said...

It was Archbishop Michael Ramsey (having celebrated in Latin at Nashdom) who is alleged to have replied to complaints from the Protestatnt Truth Society, "But my dears, it is a language understanded by the people".

@ William Tighe:
My understanding had always been that copies of the Liber Precum Publicarum1560 reached Rome with a view to showing how orthodox was the English prayer book (with its use of sacerdos rather than presbyter to the annoyance of the Puritans and inclusion of a mass at funerals: however the discussion in William Keatinge Clay's preface to the Parker Society's Liturgical Services: Queen Elizabeth (1847) in which the Liber is re-printed would seem to preclude this.
The Liber was set forth by the Queen's own Letters Patent: perhaps this gave rise to a feeing she preferred Latin? I think she was keen to encourage Latin's use amongst her clergy.
Clay notes that in 1615 a second, abridged, edition of the 1560 book appeared Liber Precum Publicarum ad usum Ecclesiæ Cathedralis Christi, Oxon. (Morning & Evening Prayer, Collects, Psalter and additional prayers only) and that it was still(1847) in daily use there.

John F H H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Sheridan said...

An Anglican priest once shewed me his Greek edition of the Prayer Book from the reign of George III. I rather brazenly asked once if he might leave it to me in his will! My own Latin version is that published in 1865 by Bright & Medd. Much of the Latin matches the Roman liturgy, with a few "tweaks" here and there, such as the use of the plurals "nostrum" and "nos" at the invitatory for the offices (well, I suppose it is "common" prayer). It's a curious libellus.

As to Queen Elizabeth's putative preference for Latin liturgy, I did not mean the Roman liturgy (in case that is what people assume I meant) but the Prayer Book services in the Latin tongue, which she knew better than most. As to the details, I am not sure. I have written to a friend of mine who is an expert in the period for his impressions. It's one of those things that I committed to memory years ago and forgot the source. It wouldn't surprise me if she did prefer Latin liturgy. The liturgy at the Chapel Royal cannot be compared to what went on in most parishes, even in the 1630's. Queen Elizabeth, much like her Stuart successors, understood the importance of visual continuity and aesthetics in ceremony. Queen Elizabeth's altar may have been a table, but set against the east end of the chapel, with a crucifix, two candles and even a cushion for the Prayer Book it LOOKED like an altar. Much like the bishops, all those Marian exiles brought back and forced to wear rochets and chimeres despite their complaints. They looked like bishops.

Rubricarius said...

So where does this version fit in the scheme of things? Clearly far older than Bright & Medd.

E sapelion said...

The Book of Common Prayer in Latin was certainly needed in the Isle of Man, since few natives, and not all of the clergy, were fluent in English. As late as 1698 the Vicar General conducted the installation of Bishop Thomas Wilson in Latin because his English was inadequate to the task. Three cheers for a European lingua franca!
The BCP was not published in Manx until 1775, and the Bible came out in dribs and drabs between 1748 and 1775, and of the complete text only 40 copies were printed and circulated to the clergy. However it is thought that many clergy conducted the services mainly in Manx, translating in their heads.

Walter said...

For William Tighe's question, the following link shows a kind of Raccolta published during Elizabeth I's reign: it is from www.books.google.ca here in Canada. The title of the book is Private Prayers put forth by Authority during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Cambridge Press 1851.


PseudonymousposterJohn said...

William Tighe questions, ‘Liking for latin liturgy’.
That makes it easy. She did so like. And more besides. The whig historians (= the liberal establishment of those jours…) had to include this to explain away because it was so well attested. The line about crammer’s wife is well known. Did she like the liturgy that went with such an attitude?
Fr H has alerted us to Professor Tighe’s scholarship. One hopes he is just being a harsh voice-of-Wikipedia in demanding better in line citations. Like Patrick Sheridan, I assumed we all knew this. Tho perhaps we SHOULD seek better evidence. Perhaps Prof Tighe’s rigour trumps received wisdom here
Actual evidence? – I am not a Tudor/ ecclesiastical / musical historian with direct access to primary sources, sadly. There’s the story of ‘Spem in alium’. Better historians than I suggest it was written for Elizabeth’s 40th birthday to please her. It isn’t in English.
I assume the records of the Chapel Royal HAVE been gone through thoroughly in the twentieth century and that this has passed into common knowledge among non-historians. I THINK I can remember singing Latin pieces from post-reformation times, but this was a long time ago.
Sheridan writes “As to Queen Elizabeth's putative preference for Latin liturgy, I did not mean the Roman liturgy” – tho perhaps he should. “It wouldn't surprise me if she did prefer Latin liturgy”.
But to address the harder question than just aesthetic preferences, I read where she wanted the Ecclesiastical polity of her father. It is well known she identified with him. So, the western rite except for S Thos the Martyr and the operation of the papacy.
I suppose the question is where I read it. Loades is the last thing I recall reading about all this and that was some time ago. Perhaps I got it from Starkey, and perhaps not.
You might say the Marian burnings put people off the Church. John Fox would tell you so, but he was a liar. It didn’t put most people off the Church.
Or that she needed the exiles’ to help her run the country. No one needed them, not even Cauvin. Everyone could have got on fine without them except that Cecil needed them, to help him CHANGE the country. (Though Cecil never exiled himself – he was too keen on running the country).
I used to believe in the whig line about her being personally protestant except for the too well-known line against celibacy, and a weakness for candles and latin; because nobody who was truly a catholic at heart would Allow themselves to be deprived of valid sacraments, right?
The last editor of the wiki page on this declared that Elizabeth “was a protestant” but forgot to eliminate : “Elizabeth relied primarily on her chief advisors, Sir William Cecil, as her Secretary of State, and Sir Nicholas Bacon, as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, for direction on the matter…” –
Depended for direction on.... So no, “I’m in charge: do as I say...”
Perhaps the clincher – if talking of what Elizabeth liked - is the wiki entry on Tallis. He wrote english music for Edward (quoting wiki a lot. It’s great, you can paste straight in...) latin for Good Queen Mary and both for Elizabeth. It reads, “Composers resumed writing English anthems, although the practice of setting Latin texts continued among composers employed by Elizabeth's Chapel Royal..” No in line citation there. It is merely what we have always understood.
…eleven of eighteen Latin-texted pieces by Tallis from Elizabeth's reign were published, "which ensured their survival in a way not available to the earlier material."[45]

PseudonymousposterJohn said...
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PseudonymousposterJohn said...

My apologies for returning to this matter late in the day, but I do feel that in the interests of truth I may have to register, for the record, a change of view or at least emphasis about what Elizabeth i liked. And your blog does stand as a record.

Inasmuch as I read something that seemed to say Ann Boleyn’s illegitimate offspring Elizabeth wanted to have her father’s sacramental order I said so. I said I could not remember the source. Perhaps I should not have been able to read that. And, perhaps there was some confusion in that writer’s mind over the meaning of following her father’s policy on supremacy, without an understanding of the gigantic difference in church order, though that would really be unpardonably cavalier for a scholar.

I have since then read what I found available online and it seems most probable that she intended a thoroughly protestant order. Unless Cecil really had taken her aside and coerced her into adopting her brother’s policy instead of her father’s, she was first cowed into submission, but then, they never talked about it again, and there was no record kept...

Christopher Haigh says that brought up with Catherine Parr and taught by John Cheke, she was protestant. So he is explicit.

Can we learn more by analyzing the situation for ourselves?
By simply doing nothing, and continuing her sister’s policy she could have had peace with the major powers. It was a serious problem that simple expediency would have dictated she handle otherwise. After that start, she spent the rest of her reign fire fighting the issue.
Pursuing the novel protestant line brought only trouble so she must have believed in it. It was a line not in keeping with Geneva or the then state of the art protestant thinking and practice.

She did however have fancy ornaments in her chapels and it is known there was Latin music. People have studied the chapel records and this is established scholarship. One presumes she didn’t hate those things. But I don’t think the use of Latin meant then what perhaps it does now.
Having picked protestantism as her side, Elizabeth needed to keep Catholics quiet and part of that was the marriage game; no one could possibly have believed she might return to the Church, having first rejected it, but the ambassadors seem to have advised against outright opposition because, after all, she had to marry one day. Didn’t she? (“playing upon the virginals” – those great scholars, Sellar and Yeatman nailed it eighty years ago) She also needed a conservative parliament to pass the reformation. Again. So a few concessions were made on paper before anyone saw them happen. The Christians in the country deprived of the sacraments were hardly considered.
So was the use of Latin (and the physical ornaments) mere window dressing for the foreigners who saw the court? Could be.

Most probably, the language made no difference to her and I think she just didn’t care about it as an issue. Educated people spoke Latin. That was that. And perhaps it is no more than the truth to say she preferred it. [Lancelot Andrews certainly did; you couldn’t stop the man spouting Latin, though he was certainly a protestant too.]

PseudonymousposterJohn said...

Was Elizabeth simply clinging to the religion she remembered from her adolescence without policy OR principle? There is an argument that though of course he WAS one, Edward VI was not so VERY extreme a protestant; it was just that he had lots of relations who were so VERY keen on having more money.

It seems likeliest she did want a nice, reasonable religion, and in her educated but isolated, renaissance mind, the new learning pointed to the conservative protestantism of her little brother’s time. She presumably experienced none of the trouble it caused outside palace walls. I don't know if she had the misfortune to read Fox’s propaganda.

And so thanks are due to Professor Tighe for forcing me to re-examine these issues.

The only other thing I would draw from any of this for a modern audience is that the determination to invent a nice, new, nicer, newer, responsible, reasonable form of your inherited religion, based on human reasoning and involving a revolution of all the ancient forms that only goes so far (we hope) and no further thank-you very much, leads mostly to the desire for permanent revolution in some and loss of allegiance in others. That I fear is something that may have some continuing resonance for us.

William Tighe said...

On the religion of Edward VI one should read these:



jaykay said...

A really interesting post, Father. Thank you. And a fascinatingly erudite thread below. Hoc dicto: returning to John Nolan's post on 12/1/2017 - what pronunciation is used?

Unknown said...

How fascinating, thank you all for your comments. Just to add, this ceremony WAS attended by the University Proctor (or at least myself as one of the current Pro-Proctors). I wish I had known about this blog beforehand though to have understood the complex and fascinating history of the service. Thank you Father Hundwicke for presiding so eloquently.

michael woolgar said...

As drafted, do the Traditiones Custodes prohibitions delegitimise the Ordinariate, Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites? Michael Woolgar mwoolgar63@gmail.com