Cranmer’s Anglican Book of Common Prayer

Original article:

The Anglican use …..another view…Anglicans who do not want an ordinariate or a revised Cranmerian Prayer Book.

The establishment of an Ordinariate for converts from the Anglican Communion has little if no attraction to some Anglicans. As a former Anglican from the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, and some one who was very familiar with the theology of Thomas Cranmer, I find it very difficult to accept a regurgitated and rehabilitated Cranmerian Prayer Book, as The Book of Divine Worship is.

I fully accept the the Catholic Church has maintained the validity of the Mass, by insisting on the Roman Canon in place of Cranmer’s heretical Holy Communion “consecration “ prayers. However other things left in the Book of Divine Worship ( henceforth BDW) disturb me.

For instance Cranmer regarded the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass , as the weed that “choketh the Gospel. “In 1549 he was instrumental in having 19,000 consecrated altars throughout England,Wales and later in Ireland destroyed. They were replaced by shabby wooden tables or trestles, and the broken up altar stones used for Church paving. It was in the same year that he composed his first Book of Common Prayer , which included his Holy Communion service ( stripped of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass ) and which included his prayer of Humble access.

The prayer opens with the words “Lord we do not presume to come to this your table trusting in our own righteousness….” Whilst the word table can be used to describe the altar of the Lord and is used so legitimately in Scripture, the word table in Cranmer’s prayer book and context is deliberately worded to exclude the idea of an altar on which a propitiatory sacrifice is offered. In his critique of Cranmer’s 1549 Prayer Book, the Protestant reformer Martin Bucer pushed Cranmer to revise the Humble access prayer and the words “ in these mysteries “ were removed from the revamped prayer in his 1552 revised Payer Book. Ironically the Anglican use has retained this Protestantised revision. It would choke me to use this prayer in the context of the Mass, as I know it was meant to refer to the communion tables that Cranmer replaced the altars with in the Parish Churches.

Another example of Cranmerian error is the inclusion of his phrase in the BDW of “our only Mediator and advocate. “Whilst the lord Jesus Christ is our mediator and advocate, Cranmer used this expression to exclude the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, and the fact that in catholic teaching, the Saints can share in Christ’s mediation and advocacy.

Furthermore in the context of a funeral trite in the BDW, it includes Cranmer’s phrase, “ In sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life. This is said at the graveside and is totally inappropriate for a Catholic Requiem as it reflects Cranmer;’s skewed view of salvation, based on the false doctrine of justification by Faith alone. Here is absolute assurance of salvation.

Also in the funeral service prayers are included from the modern Episcopal Prayer Book which
includes the phrase, “ Grant we beseech , to the whole Church in paradise and on earth thy light and peace. “ This specifically excludes the Church suffering in purgatory as paradise is not purgatory. For if the souls of the departed in paradise, why should we pray for them. In catholic theology purgatory is never described as paradise.

Another problem I would have in using the BDW is that the thanksgiving prayers after the Mass is taken from the very words that Cranmer used to replace the propitiatory oblation in the Roman Canon of the Mass. A Catholic using the BDW recites prayers which were used by Cranmer to substitute,where the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice had occurred, with a self offering of the faithful.

The keyword here is “spiritual food”. Yes the Eucharist is our spiritual food, but Cranmer uses the word , as he describes , “ For figuratively he is in the bread and wine, and spiritually he is in them that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine, but really carnally and corporally he is only in heaven , from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. “ Thus a person attending an Anglican Use Mass, is giving thanks using prayers which Cranmer devised to express his belief in a real absence and receptionism. Granted that the BDW foes take out the Cranmerian receptionist phrase, “having duly received. “

For as Cranmer asserted to Bishop Gardiner“ I teach not, as you do, that the body and blood of Christ is contained in the sacrament, being reserved, but in the ministration thereof we receive the body and blood of Christ, where unto it may please you to add the word spiritually. “It should also be noted that most modern Anglican revisions ( like The Church of England Common Worship) leave out the adjective spiritually in the thanksgiving prayer, but the BDW retains it!

There are other serious errors which I document in my pamphlet, The Book of Divine Worship, a Catholic critique, but my rejection of the BDW is because, I am aware of the historical and theological context of these prayers. I feel their retention mocks the Holy sacrifice.

In Catholic theology a person cannot be divorced from their works. Cranmer’s shadow haunts these prayers. However is it legitimate to overturn his theology and adapt it for Catholic worship. As Anglican liturgist Gregory Dix commented on the Cranmerian Communion service.. “ it is the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of justification by Faith alone. “

It was the Catholic Church who handed Cranmer offer to the civil authorities to be burnt. For the very heresies which are now still included within the BDW. Whilst the BDW has been a failure in winning American Anglicans ( considerably less than one tenth of one percent of US Anglicans), the rite attracts many cradle Catholics. It is sold to them as one Anglican use priest describes in this manner…”Thomas Cranmer published the first edition of his book of Common prayer, a rite in the vernacular to serve the Church of England ( note no mention of his hatred of the Mass.. reading this one would imagine it was just a vernacular translation of the Mass)….. Cranmer’s work seemed to mould the piety and spirituality of Anglican Christians and for that reason the preservation of this liturgical tradition is an important part of the life of the Anglican Use. “

Another advocate of the BDW states, “Archbishop Cranmer wrote lovely prose.. the familiar cadences of the Book of Common prayer served as a vehicle for beautiful worship for generations of English speaking Christians. “

Yet it was the same Cranmer who robbed them of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the priesthood, the Apostolic succession, prayers and veneration of the Saints, ( How ironic that one Anglican use parish is named our Lady of Walsingham, when one considers Cranmer had the original statute of our lady Of Walsingham burnt at Smithfield.)prayers for the dead and the sacrament of Extreme Unction. No worship that excludes the Sacrifice of the Mass and the gift of Our lord in the Blessed Sacrament is in reality true worship. matter how beautiful the language!

It was Thomas Cranmer who said of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass that it was , “The greatest blasphemy and injury that can be against Christ , and yet universally used through the Popish Kingdom, is this that the priests make their Mass a service propitiatory, to remit the sins as well of themselves as others, both living and dead,..”

Knowledgeable Therefore as a former Anglican, of the English reformation I find it hard to use the BDW as it is at best a a hotchpotch of Cranmer and the Mass.. It is essentially like mixing oil and water. It is neither authentic to ancient Catholic liturgy or the Protestant theology of Cranmer’s Prayer Book. It is a re-hash of Cranmer, who never intended his liturgy to be used in a “Popish” context, and cannot certainly be described as Anglican liturgy. For if the Patrimony of Cranmer is so good, why has it had to be so mutilated to fit the Holy Sacrifice of Mass? The real patrimony of Anglicanism is surely not in the heresies of Cranmer, but in men such as Keble, CS lewis and a host of others, who through no fault of their own found theselves out of Communion with the Cattholic Church, and tried to live out Christian lives according to their lights?

Robert Ian Williams MTH , University of Wales

My replies:

Fascinating article! “Sure and certain HOPE” is a striking oxymoron. Cranmer seems like an evil fellow. I think I will google on Cranmer.

Here is something interesting in wiki:

A study of Cranmer’s marginalia reveals an early antipathy to Martin Luther and an admiration for Erasmus.

Here is some interesting trivia about the Reformers growing beards: Cranmer mourned Henry’s death and it was later said that he demonstrated his grief by growing a beard. The beard was also a sign of his break with the past. Continental reformers grew beards to mark their rejection of the old Church and this significance of clerical beards was well-understood in England.

It is so wild! After 1054, the West shaved. After the Reformation, the Protestants grew back their beards! David Christie-Murray, an Anglican, spent 20 years writing “On the History of Heresy.” He vaguely refers to “something” which Henry the VIII did which may well have broken the link of Apostolic succession, but he would not … See Morespecify exactly what. Now I think I understand. David Christie-Murray was so transformed by his study that he became a Quaker. I see Cranmer as in error.

The Korean Buddhists REVERSED the direction of the Hindu Swastika. Prophet Mohammad commanded that the Kaaba be circumambulated in COUNTER-CLOCKWISE motion which is the reverse of Hindu and Buddhist clockwise circumambulation of a holy site, mountain or stupa. There are similar reversals of the hand mudra for Jain meditative figures vs Buddhist meditative figures (left hand underneath right vs. right hand underneath left). The reformers always strive to be different from those they reject.

Here is an interesting article on Cranmer from The Anglican Journal

The enigma of Thomas Cranmer
Ron Csillag
Dec 1, 2003… See More

Believing it is the King, not the Pope, who is head of the church, Cranmer came to see papal authority as false. “He thought God was clearly on Henry’s side,” Mr. MacCulloch said. “That meant the Pope was not the Holy Father. Sometime around 1529 or 1530, Cranmer turned away from the Pope. The Pope was now the enemy of the church.”

It is inaccurate to label Cranmer a Protestant. Rather, he was an “evolving evangelical” along Lutheran lines. And like fellow reformer John Calvin, said Mr. MacCulloch, he believed in predestination and in the need to rid the church of its corruption and opulent excesses.

“He had no concept of a Church of England, but of an international Protestantism. He was the reverse of an Anglican.”

He also altered his view of the Eucharist, from belief in the real or true presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine, to its spiritual presence experienced only by the believer.

Besides translating liturgy into the vernacular and abolishing superfluous saints’ days, Cranmer reduced the Offices of the Church from eight to two: Mattins and Evensong.

In the end, said Oxford professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Cranmer had soured on royalty, believing that “ultimately, we are the custodians of our own conscience.”
49 minutes ago

Notice in Cranmer’s bio (above) that in his early days he
disliked Luther and favored the Humanist, Erasmus.

This is an interesting read:
… See More
Life-bringers: the Protestant Reformation

James Atkinson
(obviously from a Protestant viewpoint)

Luther had been taught that God was far from mankind, and that by dint of intellect, good works and spiritual exercises men and women must struggle to him. He discovered that it is quite the other way. Mankind is far from God, and in love and forgiveness God came all the way in Christ, and continues so to come. No one has ascended to heaven, but God in Christ came from heaven to earth.

[remember that Augustine was seen as laying the foundations for the Reformation. And Augustine said regarding the Eucharist “BELIEVE and you have ALREADY EATEN.”]

Zwingli brought new life into the church. He preached against tithes supporting an excess of clergy, against his countrymen fighting other people’s wars as mercenaries. There soon followed attacks on purgatory, the invocation of saints and monasticism.

The papists resisted, but Zwingli called them to two public debates in 1523, where they were ignominiously silenced and routed. The sole basis of truth was the gospel, and once this was granted, the authority of the pope, the sacrifices of the mass, the invocation of saints, times and seasons of fasting, and clerical celibacy were rejected.

Calvin settled in Basel, a city peopled by learned HUMANISTS and theologians of the reformed persuasion, such as ERASMUS, Myconius and Bullinger.

When Calvin came to formulate an evangelical doctrine of the church there were three views abroad. The Roman view was hierarchical: to be a Christian was to be in communion with Rome, the guardian of truth and morals. Luther saw the true church as the elect of God: a community known only to God, though manifest in the worl(l nevertheless, and which had for its head Christ alone. The Anabaptists conceived of the church as a society of the redeemed, gathered out of the world, and keeping itself pure by excommunicating the disobedient. An important aspect was how these three views saw themselves in relation to social authority. The Roman position was rather ill-defined; its authority was closely allied with the civil authority, but in fact superior to it. Luther rested authority not in the church but in the prince: there were two kingdoms, never to be confused. The Anabaptists repudiated any and every relation with the state or with secular society.

It was not until the reign of Edward VI (1547-53) that the great change took place. Cranmer’s Homilies appeared, ERASMUS’ Paraphrases were set up in the churches, and further Injunctions issued to the clergy, and Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer. Many other changes were made such as the dissolution of chantries, the setting up of schools and hospitals, the destruction of images and the abolition of catholic devotional practices. Cranmer was clearly looking to reform Catholicism.

In 1556 Cranmer was ordered to make his recantations public prior to being burned at the stake. Before his execution, however, Cranmer announced to the gathered crowd that he would not recant, declaring again his rejection of transubstantiation and labeling the Pope an antichrist. His death by burning made him an early Protestant martyr.
(end excerpt)

So, how can one hope to use services written by an enemy of Rome in the Mass and not have problems with theological, doctrinal implications of those prayers.

Rome has always bent over backwards to allow many and various “orders” such as Augustinian, Trappist, Marian Brothers, Mother Teresa’s order, etc. permitting flexibility in exchange for obedience to Papal supremacy (and the Eastern Rite Catholics was just such a compromise). The Eastern Orthodox, by contrast allow ONLY ONE order of monasticism, and there is constant tension between Russians and Greeks over minor differences in the expressions of that monasticism (Athonite vs. Russian; little schema vs great schema). The Eastern Orthodox have always preferred to split rather than to compromise, while Rome has always preferred to compromise rather than split.

I know one RC monastery which alternates and Masses on certain days of the week USE the filioque while Masses on other days of the week OMIT the filioque. Obviously this is done with the intention to please all rather than to appear self-contradictory.

At some time after Vatican II, some Encyclical was written which “tips its hat” to Lutheran notions of “sola fides” (by faith alone) as a gesture of compromise and political correctness. Hans Kung sees the Vatican II encyclical Nostra Aetate as a 180 degree about face over the Council of Florence which stated that there IS NO salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church (and Kung speaks at length about this in Ch. 3 of “On Being A Christian.”)

One cannot have their cake and eat it too. Every gesture of compromise is going to lead to doctrinal and liturgical ambiguity. Every struggle at strictness of doctrine and liturgical practice will invite discord and schism.

Here is the way I see it, and I may well be mistaken. When Martin Luther first broke with the Catholic Church, Luther was very much inclined towards Marian devotion and Luther viewed the Eucharist in much he same was as the Roman Catholics. If Luther appealed to kings or princes or government, it was to find some kind of support and shelter and survival and was NOT driven by political motives to subordinate the church to the authority of a monarch. That is why it is important to realize that in Cranmer’s early days he DISLIKED Luther and favored Erasmus. So Luther was not really an enemy of Rome per se but simply sought some manner of reform in a liturgy and theology which he basically accepted. BUT, by the time Henry the VIII came along, there were power advantages to denounce Rome and its prayers and practices as something totally corrupt. This is perhaps the Reformation as driven by political designs of hegemony rather than simply a desire to reform corruption within ancient and acceptable practices. Hence, given this new political motivation, it was advantageous to totally change the language of the Eucharistic service, destroy altars, etc.

Consider the controversy regarding the phrase in the consecration “shed for many” vs. “shed for all.” This following link sums up the controversy nicely:

C.S. Lewis states that he declines to join with the Catholics not because he does not believe what they believe BUT because he cannot consent to believe anything which Catholics might believe in the future based upon Papal decree. (I am paraphrasing what Lewis said from memory).

Evelyn Waugh stated that he chose Catholicism because he saw it as a choice of order over chaos.

The above link ends by stating:

“The pope alone has the authority to introduce and approve new rites. Private individuals even if they be priests or bishops (clerics) have no right to decide for themselves in such matters. In our present situation we have a pope who made modifications to the Mass. He was supported in this by every pope that followed him. On the other hand we have a movement started by a bishop and some priests who say that the popes are wrong. I think it is safe to say that the Traditionalists are clearly in error. When we consider what both “Quo Primum” and “Mediator Dei” have to say, we can easily see that Pope Paul VI acted well within his authority when he promulgated the new mass.”

So each individual must decide in their heart what their priorities are; how much they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the strictness of their beliefs. Most people have families, careers and pastimes which leave no room for deep theological investigations (and perhaps their intellects are not suited to such scholarship.) Hence, those people make some choice about which sort of denomination or house of worship they will attend and how deeply their participation will penetrate into the fabric of their lives. And it seems evident that the majority of the worlds population becomes more secular, syncretistic and pluralist with each passing decade.

Harold blows me away with this post:

It is “meet and right” that we, the Church should be wounded by the departure of our precious separated brethren. We must do penance for them and for the willful blindness to which our failures and vices tempted them.

And so, I think, we should mourn, we should feel their loss. The enthusiasm of Pentecostals, the zeal of Calvinists, the warm piety of Baptists and Methodists, the stolid reliance on God’s grace of Lutherans, these are all lovely in themselves, and made unlovely only in the context and under the consequences of schism. These are our family, part of our very body in Christ. And they have chosen to be separate from us. It as if I lost fingers, or my hearing in the high registers.

When I am especially upset, as I often am, at some dumbed down and politically corrected hymn, I try to remember that if I, in my brethren, had been less of a luxurious scoundrel, had been more patient, had been more thoroughly devoted to Christ and the sheep for whom He was content to die, perhaps this aesthetic abomination would not be inflicted on me…. See More

You know, at SJC the people who made my heart sing were Aquinas and Dante, far more than any other people we read. And yet it never occurred to me that God might be telling me something there.

My own forwardnesss, my own unwillingness to add two and two, these have called down on my head the dreaded Green Gather and the fathers who think that beauty and elegance must cede to gender neutrality.

I have deserved the punishment, and far more. Sure, I enjoy complaining. To me a good complaint is almost a work of art, and one which evokes laughter which is almost always good.

But that fact that our Lord does not strike me dead when I dare to approach Him in the Blessed Sacrament is miracle enough to help me tolerate a thousand banal hymns and Masses.

He is there. He allows me to approach, to touch, to consume, to swallow.

I will not stop complaining. It would be like stopping breathing. But He will know I am smiling through my tears.


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One Response to “Cranmer’s Anglican Book of Common Prayer”

  1. Fr. Ernie Davis Says:

    Thank you. At St. Therese Little Flower in Kansas City we celebrate the Mass from the Book of Divine Worship weekly. Don’t you think that using the BDW within the context of the Catholic Church changes Cranmer’s intended meanings, especially since the Roman eucharistic prayer is included? Anglicanism suffers because the BCP is its doctrine. In the Catholic Church, the BDW cannot but express Catholic doctrine.

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