OREMUS: 6 July 2006
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Wed Jul 5 20:05:57 GMT 2006
OREMUS for Thursday, July 6, 2006
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.
O Lord our governor,*
how exalted is your name in all the world!
Out of the mouths of infants and children*
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,*
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,*
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them?*
mere human beings, that you should seek them out?
You have made them little lower than the angels;*
you adorn them with glory and honour.
You give them mastery over the works of your hands;*
and put all things under their feet,
All sheep and oxen,*
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,*
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
O Lord our governor,*
how exalted is your name in all the world!
Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;*
I have said to the Lord, You are my Lord,
my good above all other.
All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,*
upon those who are noble among the people.
But those who run after other gods*
shall have their troubles multiplied.
Their libations of blood I will not offer,*
nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;*
it is you who uphold my lot.
My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;*
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;*
my heart teaches me, night after night.
I have set the Lord always before me;*
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
My heart, therefore, is glad and my spirit rejoices;*
my body also shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon me to the grave,*
nor let your holy one see the Pit.
You will show me the path of life;*
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
A Song of the New Jerusalem (Isaiah 60.1-3,11a,18,19,14b
Arise, shine out, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising upon you.
Though night still covers the earth,
and darkness the peoples;
Above you the Holy One arises,
and above you God's glory appears.
The nations will come to your light,
and kings to your dawning brightness.
Your gates will lie open continually,
shut neither by day nor by night.
The sound of violence shall be heard no longer in your land,
or ruin and devastation within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation,
and your gates, Praise.
No more will the sun give you daylight,
nor moonlight shine upon you;
But the Lord will be your everlasting light,
your God will be your splendour.
For you shall be called the city of God,
the dwelling of the Holy One of Israel.
Praise the Lord from the heavens;*
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his;*
praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon;*
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens,*
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord;*
for he commanded and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever;*
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth,*
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog,*
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills,*
fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and all cattle,*
creeping things and winged birds;
Kings of the earth and all peoples,*
princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens,*
old and young together.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,*
for his name only is exalted,
his splendour is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants,*
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
READING [2 Corinthians 11:1-15]:
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I
feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one
husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that
as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led
astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and
proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a
different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the
one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. I think that I am not in
the least inferior to these super-apostles. I may be untrained in speech,
but not in knowledge; certainly in every way and in all things we have made
this evident to you.
Did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because
I proclaimed God's good news to you free of charge? I robbed other churches
by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with
you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by
the friends who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to
refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me,
this boast of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why?
Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity
to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what
they boast about. For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers,
disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan
disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his
ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end
will match their deeds.
For another Biblical reading, 2 Samuel 3:22-39
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.
Foundation of all that is,
you are our dwelling place for all time.
For what you have wrought through the waters of baptism
and your indwelling Spirit:
We praise you, Lord.
For the peace and strength of your surrounding mercy:
We praise you, Lord.
For all the ways your grace has shaped the patterns of our lives:
We praise you, Lord.
Free us and all your church to be at home with you today.
Strong God, hear us.
Make our hearts hospitable to all whom we meet today.
Strong God, hear us.
Steady in us all our choices and encounters.
Strong God, hear us.
Hold tenderly to your Church,
east, west, north, south,
past, present and future for Christ's sake.
Strong God, hear us.
We bless you, Master of the heavens,
for the order which enfolds all things
and that this universe should find its meaning
in a Son of Man through whom and for whom all is made,
Jesus Christ our Lord. 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 are from Celebrating Common Prayer (Mowbray), © The Society of
Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.
The canticle is from Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary Edition,
copyright © The Archbishops' Council, 2002.
The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright © 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, © The Canterbury Press Norwich, 1999.
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 Pope."
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
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."
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