OREMUS: 6 July 2005

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Tue Jul 5 18:09:56 GMT 2005

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OREMUS for Wednesday, July 6, 2005 
Thomas More, Scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Martyrs, 1535

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, merciful God;
in your boundless compassion,
you gave us your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
so that the human race created in your love,
yet fallen through its own pride,
might be restored to your glory
through his suffering and death upon the cross.
For these and all your mercies, we praise you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever.

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 42

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,*
 so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God;*
 when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,*
 while all day long they say to me,
   'Where now is your God?'
I pour out my soul when I think on these things:*
 how I went with the multitude
   and led them into the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving,*
 among those who keep holy-day.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?*
 and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;*
 for I will yet give thanks to him,
   who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
My soul is heavy within me;*
 therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
   and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.
One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts;*
 all your rapids and floods have gone over me.
The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime;*
 in the night season his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to the God of my strength,
   'Why have you forgotten me?*
 and why do I go so heavily
   while the enemy oppresses me?'
While my bones are being broken,*
 my enemies mock me to my face;
All day long they mock me*
 say to me, 'Where now is your God?'
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?*
 and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;*
 for I will yet give thanks to him,
   who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43

Give judgement for me, O God,
   and defend my cause against an ungodly people;*
 deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my strength;
   why have you put me from you?*
 and why do I go so heavily
   while the enemy oppresses me?
Send out your light and your truth,
   that they may lead me,*
 and bring me to your holy hill
   and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God,
   to the God of my joy and gladness;*
 and on the harp I will give thanks to you,
   O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?*
 and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;*
 for I will yet give thanks to him,
   who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

A Song of the Blessed (Matthew 5:3-10)
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution
for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Psalm 147:13-end

Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem;*
 praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;*
 he has blessed your children within you.
He has established peace on your borders;*
 he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth,*
 and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;*
 he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;*
 who can stand against his cold?
He sends forth his word and melts them;*
 he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,*
 his statutes and his judgements to Israel.
He has not done so to any other nation;*
 to them he has not revealed his judgements.

READING [Song of Solomon 4:1-10]:

How beautiful you are, my love,
   how very beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
   behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
   moving down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
   that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
   and not one among them is bereaved.
Your lips are like a crimson thread,
   and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
   behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
   built in courses;
on it hang a thousand bucklers,
   all of them shields of warriors.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
   twins of a gazelle,
   that feed among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
   and the shadows flee,
I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
   and the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
   there is no flaw in you.
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;
   come with me from Lebanon.
Depart from the peak of Amana,
   from the peak of Senir and Hermon,
from the dens of lions,
   from the mountains of leopards.

You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
   you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
   with one jewel of your necklace.
How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
   how much better is your love than wine,
   and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 

For another Biblical reading,
Mark 7:1-23

Words: Latin, ca. seventh century; trans. John Chandler (1806-1876), 1837
Tune: Metzler's Redhead no. 66 
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Jesus, our hope, our heart's desire,
thy work of grace we sing;
Redeemer of the world art thou,
its Maker and its King.

How vast the mercy and the love
which laid our sins on thee,
and led thee to a cruel death,
to set thy people free!

But now the bonds of death are burst;
the ransom has been paid;
and thou art on thy Father's throne,
in glorious robes arrayed.

O may thy mighty love prevail
our sinful souls to spare!
O may we stand around thy throne,
and see thy glory there!

Jesus, our only joy be thou,
as thou our prize wilt be;
in thee be all our glory now
and through eternity.

All praise to thee who art gone up
triumphantly to heaven;
all praise to God the Father's Name
and Holy Ghost be given.

The Benedictus (Morning), the 
Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

Holy Father,
you have reconciled us to yourself in Christ;
by your Spirit
you enable us to live as your children.

We pray for personal relationships
the home, and family life....
children deprived of home....
friends, relations and neighbours....
relationships in daily life and work....
those who are estranged....
ministries of care and healing...

We pray for the Church, especially the Diocese of Osaka,
The Most Revd James Toru Uno, Primate of NSKK & Bishop...

Holy Father, we give you thanks
for the obedience of Christ fulfilled in the cross,
his bearing of the sin of the world,
his mercy for the world, which never fails....

for the joy of human love and friendship,
the lives to which our own are bound,
the gift of peace with you and each other....

for the communities in whose life we share
and all relationships
in which reconciliation may be known....

Help us to share in Christ's ministry
and to love and serve one another in peace;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who in the unity of the Spirit
is one with you for ever. Amen.

Creator God,
whose life-giving Spirit
wells up with streams of living water,
sustain those whose spirits are heavy
and whose wells have run dry,
through Jesus Christ,
the rock of our salvation. Amen.

God of love, 
who gave your servants 
Thomas More and John Fisher 
a gentleness of spirit and a firmness of faith: 
strengthen us in holding to your truth 
that at the last, we may ever live and love together 
with all your saints in heaven; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. Amen. 
Gathering our prayers and praises into one,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us.

- The Lord's Prayer

Fill our hearts with zeal for your kingdom
and place on our lips the tidings of your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The psalms and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer are from _Celebrating
Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of Saint Francis
1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle and the collect are from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer,
Preliminary Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving is adapted by Stephen Benner from
_We Give You Thanks and Praise: The Ambrosian Eucharistic
Prefaces_, translated by Alan Griffiths, (c) The Canterbury Press
Norwich, 1999.

The intercessions are (c) 2000, The Church of Ireland Central
Communications Board. 

The closing prayer uses a sentence from a prayer in _Opening Prayers:
Collects in Contemporary Language_. Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1999.

 John Fisher was born in 1469, enrolled at Cambridge University in 1483,
ordained in 1491, and in 1502 became chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort,
mother of King Henry VII. With her money and his ideas, they greatly altered
Cambridge, restoring the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, bringing Erasmus
over as a lecturer, and endowing many chairs and scholarships. In 1504 Fisher
was made Chancellor of Cambridge and Bishop of Rochester. In 1527 he
became chaplain to the new king, Henry VIII, and confessor to the queen,
Catherine of Aragon. He stood high in the favor of Henry, who proclaimed
that no other realm had any bishop as learned and devout.

Thomas More was born in London, 6 February 1478, the son of a judge. He
was sent to Oxford for two years, then studied law and was called to the Bar in
1501. He spent four years at the London Charterhouse (monastery of the
Carthusian monks), hoping to become a priest or monk or friar. Leaving the
Charterhouse, he entered Parliament. In 1505 he married Jane Colt, who
eventually bore him three daughters and a son, but died in 1511. A few weeks
after her death, More married a widow, Alice Middleton, with a son and a
daughter of her own. The second marriage produced no offspring, but Alice
made a good home for the six children already there, plus others whom More
took in as students or as foster children. He was noted for giving his daughters
far more education than most women, even in the upper classes, received. His
friends included Desiderius Erasmus and John Colet, and other scholars who
desired moderate reforms in the Church but were set against any break with the
Papacy. Henry VIII, who became king in 1509, recognized More's learning and
integrity, enjoyed his intelligent and cheerful conversation and ready wit,
became his friend, and appointed him to numerous public offices, including
finally that of Lord Chancellor of England.

Henry wrote a book On The Seven Sacraments, a defense of traditional
doctrines against the teachings of Martin Luther. (The Pope rewarded him with
the title, "Defender of the Faith," a title born to this day by English monarchs.)
More, discussing the book with Henry while it was still in rough draft, said, "I
am troubled, because the book seems to me to give too much honor to the
Pope." Henry replied, "There is no such thing as giving too much honor to the

More himself was pressed into service by the Bishop of London to write
pamphlets arguing against the writings of Luther and Tyndale. More undertook
to show that Tyndale's translation of the Scriptures is so full of errors that it
deserves to be suppressed. Tyndale replied, defending the verses that More had
specified, and so on. More and Tyndale exchanged several broadsides, and it
can reasonably be maintained that the attacks on both sides were directed
against positions that the other side did not really hold, that neither really
understood completely the position that the other was defending. (On the other
hand, Tyndale's denunciations of what he took to be the doctrines taught by
Rome would have fallen on deaf ears if they had not in fact described doctrines
that many men believed they had heard from the pulpit, and had found utterly
unacceptable. And, mutatis mutandis, the converse holds.)

Thus, for many years, More and Fisher prospered and enjoyed the King's favor.
Then the political winds changed. Henry (for reasons that I have discussed at
length elsewhere) declared that his marriage to Queen Catharine was null and
void. He was opposed in this, by More and Fisher, by Tyndale, and (less
promptly and vigorously) by the Pope. Henry broke off relations with the
Pope, and proceeded to set Catharine aside and take another wife, Anne
Boleyn. Fisher, as a Bishop and as a member of the House of Lords, was called
on to ratify this decision, and dramatically refused. More, who by this time was
Lord Chancellor of England, resigned his position and retired to private life,
hoping that he would be allowed to remain silent, neither supporting the king
nor opposing him. But the king required him to take a loyalty oath which
recognized the King as the earthly head of the Church in England. This
Thomas could not do. He did not believe that the authority of the Pope was a
matter of Divine decree -- he thought that it was a matter of usage and custom,
and expedient for the unity and peace of the Church. He believed that there
were many practices in the Church of his day that needed to be reformed, but
he did not trust Tyndale, or Luther, or above all Henry, to steer reform in the
right direction. So he refused the oath, and was thrown into the Tower of
London. While in prison, he wrote A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation,
a work still in print, and well worth reading. It is deeply moving to see the
contrast between the generally gloomy atmosphere of some of the devotional
works that More wrote when he had health, riches, honors, high office, the
comfort of a devoted family... and the serene cheerfulness of the Dialogue of
Comfort, written when he had none of these, and had every reason to expect
that he would eventually be executed for treason. (The penalty for treason was
to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. This meant that the convicted traitor was
hanged by the neck (not dropped through a trapdoor as in a modern hanging,
which is supposed to kill instantly, but slowly lifted off his feet) until he lost
consciousness, then taken down and revived, then castrated, then
disemboweled and his intestines burned in a fire, then finally put out of his
misery by beheading, after which his head was placed on a pike on London
Bridge and his body was cut into four quarters to be sent to four parts of the
kingdom and displayed there as a warning against treason. This penalty, though
not always enforced, was on the English law books from 1305 until at least
1805. I seem to recall that it was carried out once and only once in what is
now the United States.) Writing with this fate hanging over him, More faces
the prospect straightforwardly. He does not deny that he is terrified, but he
maintains that God gives strength to those who ask for it and need it, and that,
where the sufferings of martyrdom are concerned, any Christian will be glad
tomorrow to have suffered so today.

We are fortunate to have a biography of More by his son-in-law, John Roper.
A modern play about him by Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons, has been
successful on stage and has been filmed at least twice. (The first film, made in
1966, starring Paul Scofield and an all-star cast, received six Oscars. The
second, made for TV in 1988, starring Charlton Heston and another all-star
cast, was also well received. Both appear on TV from time to time.)

Thomas More was put to death on 6 July 1536. The Roman calendar
commemorates him on 22 June together with John Fisher, Bishop of
Rochester, who was beheaded on that date a fortnight before More, also for
refusing to take the king's oath. Both of them, though convicted of treason,
were simply beheaded (a relatively clean and quick death). In Anglican circles,
More is often remembered on 6 October together with William Tyndale.
Although they disputed bitterly in print, they were in agreement on far more
important matters, and curiously alike in many ways. As C.S.Lewis has pointed
out, both expected death by torture, and both were mercifully disappointed.
Both opposed the anullment of the King's marriage to Katherine of Aragon,
both were disdainful of the Middle Ages and eager partisans of the New
Learning of the Renaissance, both were vehement opponents of the New
Economics, and, most important of all, both of them, while loyal subjects of
the King, were prepared to defy him to the death, in the service, as they saw it,
of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Incidentally, it would be a mistake to
suppose that Henry killed Tyndale in his earlier, Romanist days, and then killed
Fisher and More in his later, Protestant days. Tyndale was killed fifteen months
after More and Fisher. It would also be a mistake to say (as I have heard it
said) that the Church of England killed More. He died, if I may make the
distinction, for religious reasons, but was killed by Henry for political reasons,
and his death was opposed most strenuously by Archbishop Cranmer.

In discussing their writings, Lewis says (p 192):

    What we miss in Tyndale is the many-sidedness, the elbow-room of More's
mind; what we miss in More is the joyous, lyric quality of Tyndale. The
sentences that stick to the mind from Tyndale's work are half way to
poetry--"Who taught the eagles to spy out their prey? even so the children of
God spy out their Father." -- "that they might see Love and love again" --
"where the Spirit is, there it is always summer" (though that last, we must
confess, is borrowed from Luther). In More we feel all the "smoke and stir" of
London; the very plodding of his sentences is like horse traffic in the streets. In
Tyndale we breathe mountain air. Amid all More's jokes I feel a melancholy in
the background; amid all Tyndale's severitites there is something like laughter,
that laughter which he speaks of as coming "from the low bottom of the heart."
But they should not be set up as rivals, their wars are over. Any sensible man
will want both: they almost represent the two poles between which, here in
England, the human mind exists -- complementary as Johnson and Shelley or as
Cobbett and Blake. 

I close this account with Thomas More's closing words to the court that
sentenced him to death.

    "More I have not to say, my lords, but that like as the blessed Apostle St.
Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present and consented to the
death of St. Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet
they be now both twain holy saints in Heaven, and shall continue there friends
for ever, so I verily trust, and shall right heartily pray, that though your
lordships have now here in earth been Judges to my condemnation, we may yet
hereafter in Heaven right merrily all meet together, to our everlasting salvation.
And thus I desire Almighty God to preserve and defend the King's Majesty,
and to send him good counsel." [James Kiefer]

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