Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John Wycliffe, Presbyter, Translator, Reformer

John Wycliffe (1320-31 December 1384)

John Wycliffe, often referred to as the morning star of the reformation was born in 1320 at Hipswell, Yorkshire in England.  He is known to have been in Oxford by 1345 and was influenced by William of Occam, Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseste.  He studied theology, ecclesiastical law and philosophy.  He became unhappy with the scholastics and the state of the church, especially the clergy in his day.  He supported the king’s power over the church in temporal affairs (and of course we must realise that the King was supposed to be Christian.)  He argued that the scriptures should be the centre of authority for the church, that the claims of the papacy had no basis in history, that monasticism was beyond repair and that the unworthiness of many priests invalidated the sacraments. 

Since he regarded scriptures as being so important, he began translating the scriptures into English, he himself probably translated the Gospels, and it is possible that he translated Acts, the Epistles and Revelations.  The Old Testament was translated by his friend, Nicholas of Hereford.  This translation had a great influence on the English language of the time. 

Wycliffe desired to see the church return to the simplicity of the first three centuries.  He desired to see an end to the hierarchy and replace it with poor priests, bound by no vows, but who would preach the gospel to the people.  He created an order of lolard preachers, who went out, two by two, bare foot, dressed in dark red robes, armed with a staff, who taught his doctrines.  Wycliffe saw the church as Christ’s body, but not necessarily being the same as the Roman Catholic Church.  

Struck with apoplexy, he died rather suddenly on December 31st, 1384 after having written many treatises.  After Richard II’s wife, Anne of Bohemia died, her servants brought many of these tracts to Bohemia, where they were to have a great affect on Jan Huss, whose writings in turn affected Martin Luther.  Wycliffe’s greatest contribution was the English bible.  Wycliffe translators, who translate the Bible into many languages is named in his honour. 

Emanuel, as you raised up John Wycliff to challenge the church to follow Yeshua and to translate scriptures into the language of the common man, raise up for us clergy who will call us to follow you, and who will make scripture clear to all, that we may truly follow Yeshua.  This we ask in the name of Yeshua, whose birth we celebrate.  Amen.  (White)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Thomas Becket: 30 December 2014 (transferred from 29 December)

Thomas Becket was born in Cheapside, about 1118, of parents who were property owners.  One of his father’s wealthy friends taught him to ride a horse and other gentlemanly pursuits.  He began his education at Merton Priory and overseas in France.  He attracted the attention of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who made him Archdeacon of Canterbury as well as Provost of Beverley after demonstrating his abilities in several important missions.  Upon Theobald’s recommendation, he was appointed Chancellor, and as such was truly the King’s man, upholding Henry II in all things. 

In 1162, Theobald died, and Henry II, thinking to consolidate his power over the church and to remove ecclesiastical courts from the land appointed Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. At this time, Thomas became an ascetic, and renounced the chancellorship, and a battle began between him and the king.  The King tried to force Becket to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon reducing the church’s authority, but Becket refused, and facing trumped up charges on his behaviour as chancellor, fled to France.  After several years of exile and negotiations with the Bishop of  Rome and threat of excommunication and interdict, Becket was allowed to return.  After a severe breaching of the prerogatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury (coronation of King Henry III) which resulted in the excommunication of the Archbishop of York, Bishop of London, and Bishop of Salisbury.  The king is said to have said, “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” (This is probably what he said, there are other versions, but this is the most likely)  Four knights upon hearing this went off to Canterbury on December 29th of 1170 and after Becket refused to accompany them to Winchester, returned with their weapons and killed Becket during vespers at Canterbury Cathedral.  As Becket was dying, he said, “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.”  In shorter terms, Becket died for the prerogatives of the church.

Thomas Becket’s death also affected culture in other ways.  A popular pilgrimage to Canterbury lasted for more than 350 years, and in fact the Canterbury Tales were arranged around one such pilgrimage.  We note in passing that King Henry VIII had Becket’s shrine and bones destroyed. 

Emmanuel, you raised up Thomas Becket to protect the church against the authorities of this world.  Help us to remember that the church must be in subjection to you and your word, and not to the authorities or whims of this world:  this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it.  Amen.  (white)


Psalm 125
2 Esdras 2:42-48
1 John 2:3-6, 15-17
Mark 11:24-33
Note:  If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the readings of the day may be used for Matins.

Childermas: 29 December 20015 (transferred from Sunday)

Childermas (transferred from, Sunday)

Childermas is usually celebrated on the 28th of December and commemorates the murder of the children of Bethlehem, usually called the Holy Innocents.  According to the Bible, these would have been all the children of Bethlehem of two years and under, probably two dozen or less children.  .  While there are no independent sources of this event, it is highly consistent with King Herod’s actions, who was quite prepared to kill anyone including relatives who were a threat to his sitting on the throne.

In this day, we remember not only those innocents who died after the first Christmas, but also all Holy Innocents killed for political expediency, especially today the children who died from AIDS in Rumania in the 1990’s and the street children murdered by police in Latin America, and the millions of children killed through abortion.  . 

In an English tradition, in many Cathedrals, a boy bishop was elected on St. Nicholas Day and continued in office until Childermas, conducting all the minor offices of the Cathedral, and often preaching. 

Collect:  Emmanuel, as we remember the lives and deaths of those who died when Herod was attempting to kill you, help us to resist tyrants, and to stand strong against those forces today which would destroy innocent lives, whether through neglect or intent:  this we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach, who took our nature upon himself to redeem it.  Amen.  (red)

Eucharistic Readings:

Psalm 124;
Jeremiah 31:15-17
Revelation 21:1-7;
Matthew 2:13-18

Daily Office Readings:

AM Psalm 2, 26; Isaiah 49:13-23; Matthew 18:1-14
PM Psalm 19, 126; Isaiah 54:1-13; Mark 10:13-16
Note:  If there is no celebration of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic reading of the Gospel is to be used for Matins.  At the discretion of the celebrant other Eucharistic readings may be used for Matins.