OREMUS: 6 July 2007

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Thu Jul 5 19:51:06 GMT 2007

Visit our website at http://www.oremus.org
There you will find links to each day's Oremus, an archive for the past year,
and the lectionary and calendar we follow. You can access our online
hymnal, collection of liturgical texts and a NRSV Bible Browser at our site.
We also provide links to other forms of Anglican daily prayer
and a site to leave and view prayer requests. An opportunity to support our work
is also now available.

OREMUS for Friday, July 6, 2007 
Thomas More, Scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Martyrs, 1535

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

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 38

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger;*
 do not punish me in your wrath.
For your arrows have already pierced me,*
 and your hand presses hard upon me.
There is no health in my flesh,
   because of your indignation;*
 there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin.
For my iniquities overwhelm me;*
 like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester*
 by reason of my foolishness.
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;*
 I go about in mourning all the day long.
My loins are filled with searing pain;*
 there is no health in my body.
I am utterly numb and crushed;*
 I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.
O Lord, you know all my desires,*
 and my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me,*
 and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me.
My friends and companions draw back from my affliction;*
 my neighbours stand afar off.
Those who seek after my life lay snares for me;*
 those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin
   and plot treachery all the day long.
But I am like the deaf who do not hear,*
 like those who are mute and do not open their mouth.
I have become like one who does not hear*
 and from whose mouth comes no defence.
For in you, O Lord, have I fixed my hope;*
 you will answer me, O Lord my God.
For I said, 'Do not let them rejoice at my expense,*
 those who gloat over me when my foot slips.'
Truly, I am on the verge of falling,*
 and my pain is always with me.
I will confess my iniquity*
 and be sorry for my sin.
Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,*
 and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.
Those who repay evil for good slander me,*
 because I follow the course that is right.
O Lord, do not forsake me;*
 be not far from me, O my God.
Make haste to help me,*
 O Lord of my salvation.

A Song of Solomon (cf. Song of Songs 8:6-7)

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;

For love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave;
its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.

If all the wealth of our house were offered for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

Psalm 147:1-12

   How good it is to sing praises to our God!*
 how pleasant it is to honour him with praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem;*
 he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted*
 and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars*
 and calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;*
 there is no limit to his wisdom.
The Lord lifts up the lowly,*
 but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;*
 make music to our God upon the harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds*
 and prepares rain for the earth;
He makes grass to grow upon the mountains*
 and green plants to serve us all.
He provides food for flocks and herds*
 and for the young ravens when they cry.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse,*
 he has no pleasure in human strength;
But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him,*
 in those who await his gracious favour.

FIRST READING [2 Kings 4:8-17]:

One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a
wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So
whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a
meal. She said to her husband, 'Look, I am sure that this
man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God.
Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put
there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so
that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.'
One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and
lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, 'Call the
Shunammite woman.' When he had called her, she stood
before him. He said to him, 'Say to her, Since you have
taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you?
Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king
or to the commander of the army?' She answered, 'I live
among my own people.' He said, 'What then may be done for
her?' Gehazi answered, 'Well, she has no son, and her
husband is old.' He said, 'Call her.' When he had called
her, she stood at the door. He said, 'At this season, in
due time, you shall embrace a son.' She replied, 'No, my
lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.'
The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due
time, as Elisha had declared to her. 

Words: Latin, ca. seventh century; trans. John Chandler (1806-1876), 1837
Tune: Metzler's Redhead no. 66 
Hit "Back" in your browser to return to Oremus.

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.


We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been
granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their
abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on
their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and
even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this
ministry to the saints  and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first
to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had
already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking
among you. Now as you excel in everything in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in
utmost eagerness, and in our love for you so we want you to excel also in this
generous undertaking.

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

Planting God,
how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those
who bring good news.

Around your table we are bound together as your Body
for the life of the world.
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Deliver us from impatience
that will not wait for fruit to ripen:
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Save us from forcing others to see what we see
and embrace what we embrace:
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Liberate us from anger rooted in self-justification:
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Fix our gaze upon you
so that we are not overwhelmed by the want and failure of others:
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Sow yourself in our words and deeds
that become food for hungry souls:
Grant us a grower's wisdom, O Lord.

Guide and govern your holy Church, O Lord,
that it may walk warily in times of quiet
and boldly in times of trouble;
through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. 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

The canticle is 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 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]

More information about the oremus mailing list