6 March 2018

The Precious Blood

I published this on Sunday March 6 2011, Quinquagesima Sunday, our last Sunday in the Church of England at S Thomas the Martyr. I repeat it here out of nostalgia.

Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains, Poured for us the life-blood From his sacred veins.
I really felt unusually affected at Mass this morning. Three hymns: Praise to the Holiest ..., which Pam and I had at our Wedding: suitable also because in 1828 Mr Newman contributed to raising the floor-level of S Thomas's above the flood-level of the Thames - and his scout John Hayworth was a life-long worshipper at S Thomas's. And Sweet Sacrament Divine. And, at the end, Glory be to Jesus (Viva! Viva! Gesu!), a hymn I particularly love. I had it at my Licensing to S Thomas's, unaware as I made the choice that it is painted on the roof-beams of the church ... probably during the incumbency of Fr Roger Wodehouse, who very much loved it (he was also the priest who put in place the baroque High Altar). Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood: Louder still and louder Praise the precious Blood.

After the Angelus, we polished off, as Canon Law required, a quick Vestry Meeting before the Churchwardens, staves of office in their hands, led us to the Shrine of S Thomas; for the last time we did the devotions traditional here on festivals of S Thomas, this time in thanks to our Patron for his gifts of grace in bringing us to where we now are. These devotions end with the Antiphon ad Magnificat in the Sarum Breviary: Salve, Thoma, virga justitiae, mundi jubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae: Salve, gregis tutor egregie; salva tuae gaudentes gloriae. Then, in what I found a most moving gesture, the Churchwardens laid down their staves and left them at the feet of S Thomas. Vale, beate Thoma.

In my view, Churchwardens are a crucial element in the Anglican Patrimony, inherited from a medieval Church in which each of the innumerable guilds had its own Wardens, all under the ultimate control of the "High Wardens". As an indication of lay dignity and of the intricate corporate communal life of a medieval parish, they should be one of our most important contributions to the Wider Church.

Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind. Deo gratias.


  1. God bless and keep you all in his loving care.

  2. Godspeed. We'll be waiting on the shore.

  3. And from another Hymn...

    "Shall not we your trial share and from worldly joys abstain, fasting with unceasing prayer glad with thee to suffer pain?"


  4. Where sky and water meet,
    Where the waves grow sweet,
    Doubt not, Reepicheep,
    To find all you seek,
    There is the utter East.

  5. Deo gratias indeed. You will be in my prayers, father.

  6. Wishing you all every blessing and joy.

  7. A moving account of an historic moment. Godspeed, and like the Last Knight I shall be waiting on the shore. May St Thomas pray for you all.

  8. I hope you have an Ausonius who can give you the verse epistle you merit, Father. Godspeed.

    -Dr. Lee Fratantuono

  9. "And further, a debt of gratitude to that particular branch of the Church Catholic through which GOD made us Christians, through which we were new born, instructed, and (if so be) ordained to the ministerial office; a debt of reverence and affection towards the saints of that Church; the tie of that invisible communion with the dead as well as the living, into which the Sacraments introduce us; the memory of our great teachers, champions, and confessors, now in Paradise [...] bind us to the English Church, by cords of love." [Tract 71]

    Thank you Father - your sacrifice is a witness to us all. And may all your Loss turn to Gain

  10. I do so agree about churchwardens. Cannot the Ordinariate find some way to retain this office (doubtless with duties re-defined)?

  11. Dear Fr Hunwicke,

    Congratulations yet again, on this leap of faith in the midst of so many trials and triumphs both foreseen and unexpected (as the title of an apposite book has it, "Come On In - It's Awful", illustrating the same with a becassocked and lacy-surpliced person leaping into the murky Tiber, St Peter's half-visible in the distance). Who could have predicted what came to pass, and who knows what trials and triumphs still lie ahead, while the whole Church groans in astonishment at matters unimagined?

    May I ask, did your good wardens and others follow you into Full Communion, and - God grant it! - have they prospered, are they still bearing up? Onward Christian soldiers... but as St John of the Cross reminds us, up, up, up Mount Carmel, nada, nada, nada, and, at the very summit, todo nada.

  12. I remember this post and being deeply moved and resolving to keep you and your wardens in my prayers until you were safely home.
    The Immaculte Heart of Mary always triumphs!

  13. May Christ reward you a hundredfold in this life for your service to the illumination of others and the growth of our knowledge and spirit. And may He grant you and your loved ones Eternal Life with and in Him in the next. But please don't hurry there. Like St Martin, delay your departure, and remaining in good health say, "Non recuso laborem" for our sake. My poor prayers for you too. I approve your choice of hymns, which themselves stirred long-neglected memories.

  14. Dear father, your mention of those three hymns reduces me to tears. Some of the current theological discussions in the church are beyond me - I'm not very bright - but I try my best to learn and discern and keep praying. That said, when I go to Holy Mass I don't usually recognise the hymns (songs?) anymore and I'm sad. Certainly the music and words seem cheap to my ear, but I'm growing old and possibly am set in my ways, so too old to change. But rarely do I hear those great voices teaching me the faith of my youth in those wonderful, clever, beautiful hymns any more. So sad they've gone now. I think, sometimes, it's time for the Lord to call me so that I might hear those great and beautiful words still sung in heaven. I really hope the angels sing 'Sweet sacrament of peace, dear home of every heart...'.

  15. Introduce archdeacons as well and watch the stampede of recruits.