28 March 2018

Cranmer and the Five Wounds (1)

When Western England erupted in rebellion in 1549, outraged at the alien religion being imposed upon them, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was very short with them. His answer to their pleas was less than honest; as Gregory Dix observed, "This is a beautiful clean and sinewy piece of English Prose, but there are some things in it which are grotesquely ... misstated. Cranmer in scholarly controversy ... was prepared to reveal a juster knowledge ... with which he apparently did not think it necessary to confuse simple men who might not know of these things for themselves". Yet those Western Rebels carried before them the Banner of the Five Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds was something which most late medieval English clergy probably knew off by heart. It was a very popular Votive often ordered to be said for the departed in late Medieval wills; it was associated in the minds of many with the corporate duty of prayer for the Church Expectant. Cranmer, dear old Zwinglian that he was, clearly still had the cadences of that Mass resonating in his mind. And conceivably he thought he could offer it as an element of familiarity to those whom he hoped gently to wean from popery.

How do I know? When Cranmer came to compose his 1549 Prayer Book, he included in his 'Eucharistic Prayer' extensive echoes of the Collect of that Mass (mostly in the prayer for the departed at the end of the intercessory section).

I offer below, mainly to demonstrate how inferior an English stylist I am to Cranmer, a translation of that Collect: The parts in ordinary type are by me; those in heavy type are collected from Cranmer's 'Eucharistic Prayer'.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who descendedst from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and on the wood of the cross didst endure five wounds; and didst pour out thy precious bloud for the remission of our sinneswe beseche theethat, at the day of the judgement*, we may altogether be set at his right hand, and merit to heare that his most sweet* voyce: Come o ye that be blessed into the kingdom of my father.

The rest of the Mass is not very different from the Friday Votive in the Vetus Ordo Missal, Humiliavit (with the psalmus of the Introit Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo).

If you spent a few weeks doing a church crawl in the West Country you would find all this iconographically represented; in one church Misericordias domini in aeternum cantabo carved onto a choir stall; in another Venite benedicti in regnum Patris mei painted as part of a Doom on the tympanum behind the Rood; carved bench ends in church after church, and fragments of medieval glass, with the Five Wounds represented upon them.

Or, if you want to be more adventurous, go North and look at a fragment surviving, beautifully carved on the very eve of the Reformation, from the Norman Cathedral at Kirkwall in the Orkneys, showing the wounded hands and feet with the Crown of Thorns circling the pierced Heart of the Redeemer in the centre. The Arma Christi, indeed. Here we have the very essence (in its insistence upon Redemption through the Sacrifice of Christ) of that late Medieval Catholicism which Eamon Duffy demonstrated was so healthy and so virile until poor Cranmer and his friends put an end to it.
*For 'judgement' Cranmer substituted generall resurreccion; for 'sweet' he wrote ioyfull.

1 comment:

Colin Spinks said...

Worth mentioning that the cultus of the five wounds survives to this day in the tradition of the Hot Cross Bun, where the currants placed inside represent the wounds of Christ. Sadly, many are ignorant of even the symbolism of the cross let alone the wounds, but at least when tradition survives there is a chance to re-educate.