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This article originally appeared in Volume I, Issue 5 of Anglican Embers without …. and simplicity in 17th century Anglicanism Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as though the Carolines …
The Monastic Quality of Anglicanism
by Br. John-Bede Pauley, OSB
Brother John-Bede is a monk of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN. A former Episcopalian who converted to Catholicism in 1986, he is presently pursuing a Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. This article originally appeared in Volume I, Issue 5 of Anglican Embers without ascription. We now know who the author is, and we thank Brother John-Bede for submitting this article to us. C. DAVID BURT, EDITOR NE has to wonder just how anti-monastic Caroline England really was. The semi-monastic community at Little Gidding, though it did not survive the death of its founder, Nicholas Ferrar, was peacefully tolerated if not admired by many. And John Bramhall, 17th century Archbishop of Armagh, admitted that covetousness was a "great oar in the boat" of the reform, "and that sundry of the principal actors had a greater aim at the goods of the Church than at the good of the Church…. I do not see why monasteries might not agree well enough with reformed devotion." (Bramhall 118-120) Another Caroline divine, Herbert Thorndike, is less reticent. "It is certainly a blot on the Reformation when we profess that we are without monastic life." (Thorndike 571) The BCP continued the basic monastic pattern of the Eucharist and the divine office as the principal public forms of worship. (Though it has to be said that the Eucharist was celebrated less frequently than some of the Caroline divines desired.) Anglicanism has been unique in this respect. Continental Catholicism developed a devotional pattern centered around the Eucharist, with extra-liturgical devotions such as the rosary and benediction filling the spiritual needs of most of the laity. The office was, in most places, considered the business of the clergy and religious, and the fact that it, in its full canonical form, could only be recited in Latin meant that it tended to disappear from popular use except in some forms of a "Little Office." Continental Protestantism, which celebrated the Eucharist infrequently, developed a truncated form of the Eucharist (Lutheranism) or a more informal worship service, retaining some elements of the office. (Mudge 507) Daily celebration of Mattins and Evensong (in the non-parochial structures of the church, at any rate, such as schools, colleges, Chapels Royal, and of course cathedrals) is fully documented from the late 17th century onwards. (Guiver 116) And statistics indicate that the daily celebration of the hours in many parishes continued independently of the Oxford Movement (which nonetheless did much to restore the hours to prominence after the late 18th-century hiatus). (Guiver 120-2). Anglicans have been a people of the Office. This, of itself, does much to explain the "monastic" quality of Anglicanism. To have retained Mattins and Evensong would have been, in itself, no more than most Christians, both monastic and non-monastic, would have expected in the early patristic era an era quite familiar and appreciated by the Caroline divines. The fourth century Egyptian monks had two main synaxes during the day just as the 4th century cathedrals had morning and evening prayer which were attended by the laity as well as the clergy. But Cranmer seems intuitively to have understood something of the distinction between "monastic" prayer and "cathedral" prayer, and seems to have opted, to a significant degree, for the "monastic." Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Cranmer’s love for the Bible led him naturally into a more monastic understanding of the hours and the use of Scripture in the hours. Just as the "monastic" understanding of liturgical prayer in early monasticism was to emphasize listening to, and being formed by, the words of Scripture rather than singing and speaking them primarily in an attitude of praise, so too, Cranmer believed that the Bible was the living word of God and that if "his fellow countrymen could be induced to read the word of God, or, if illiterate, to hear it read, it would in course of time make its way into their hearts." (Neill 54) While Luther rejected the hours as an "officium", a "work", and therefore unnecessary because of justification by faith, the BCP retrieved the "monastic" quality of the hours. (Bradshaw 39) Basically, Cranmer and the
¶ Reprinted from Anglican Embers Vol. I, Issue 5, Lent 2005, p 109-115. All rights reserved.