Tuesday, March 21, 2006

450 Years Ago Today!

O Almighty God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of all thy Saints, and especially of thy servant Thomas Cranmer, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we, with them, attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 258)

On this day in Oxford, England, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for his defense of the reformed Catholic faith in the Church of England. His position as a supporter of reform, and opposition to the reign of Queen Mary led to his imprisonment and later martyrdom.

His contributions to the Anglican Church are almost unsurpassed by anyone in the fact that his work in developing the Book of Common Prayer 1549 & 1552 are the benchmark standards for our liturgy to this day. Even though much of his work has changed over the past 400+ years, many of his collects (in traditional language), and the form and structure of Morning and Evening Prayer remain somewhat in tact from what he first proposed.

Even though Cranmer has critics on both sides of the aisle, mainly due to his Eucharistic theology, one cannot ignore his contributions in encouraging large quantities of scripture to be read as an integral part of the liturgy, and that those readings, and the liturgy itself, were to be read and heard in the common tongue.

Whatever one thinks of Cranmer and his theology, it is with joy that we celebrate his life, and the life he gave in defense of the faith. One cannot help but respect someone who stays firm in their convictions, even to the point of death. Here is the quotation from Cranmer as he breathed his last, "...forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall first be burned." (Book of Occasional Services 2000, p. 399)

In joyful thanksgiving for The Most Rev. Thomas Cranmer (July 2, 1489 - March 21, 1556)
Archbishop of Canterbury March 30, 1533 - February 14, 1556

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