6 July 2020

Departed Worlds??? (1)

A Patrimonial friend once passed on to me a dear little volume called Euchologium Anglicanum; and, if that very title isn't an echo of an Anglican culture which has passed away, what is? It was printed in 1963. Could one imagine, in 2015, such a name being given to such a book anywhere in this solar system? But stay: let me tell you how it came into existence, and what it contains.

John Eyre Winstanley Wallis, sometime Scholar of Brasenose College in this University, and from 1945 Canon Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral (d.1957), had begun to compose devotions for use after the Third Collect at Sunday Evensong in his Cathedral. "It seemed to me that the early Sacramentaries supplied the very models that I wanted, Christian but not technical. I set to work first to translate prayers from these, but I was driven in time to write prayers."

And at the beginning of 1957, Wallis proposed to a friend (and undergraduate contemporary), F C Geary, Fellow of Corpus 1928-1952, that he, Geary, provide Latin versions to accompany the English prayers Wallis had been "driven ... to write": "The Latin ... will be used mainly by the Vicar and his educated laity at their prayer desks, where the work of engaging the mind with the heart in its devotions is very greatly assisted by the use of Latin ...". In his Foreward, Geary remarks that Wallis's own English compositions were "based ... on the language and rhythms of the early Sacramentaries, which from long study were familiar to him".

If all that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, O ye hard of heart, nothing will. It conjures up a picture in which the parson knows the Roman Sacramentaries and his 'educated laity' understand how Latin would enrich their life of private prayer; a picture in which gentle and scholarly priests make their way across the Cathedral Close as formidably learned spinster ladies critically dissect last Sunday's sermons after collating manuscripts in the Chapter Library. Whatever happened to all that? Is it not a Departed World??? And, while that world had its lacunae, are we the better off or the worse off for its demise? For those of us with age and memories, it is perhaps suggestive ... and chilling ... to think how different the 1970s were from the 1950s. Yes ... you see what I mean! Just suppose the 1960s had never happened! And Euchologium Anglicanum wasn't the only little book to be published in 1963, was it ... ? But more of that later.

You want to know about F C Geary? You want to read examples of these prayers? And so you shall!


Oliver Nicholson said...

Once those bells, those Exeter bells
Called her to praise and pray
By pink, acacia-shaded walls
Several times a day
To Wulfric’s altar and riddel posts
While the choir sang Stanford in A.

william arthurs said...

... I was delighted to discover that this volume was reprinted in 2016 by Wipf & Stock -- who also published in the same year the late Geoffrey Kirk's Without Precedent.