Laudian Ceremonial  

Posted by Joe Rawls

One aspect of the turbulent history of Anglicanism in 17th-century England was the so-called "Laudian" movement.  Essentially it was an attempt to reform the Church of England along sacramental, patristic and catholic (emphasis on the small c) lines.  It was the project of men such as Andrewes, Cosin, and Laud; the latter became Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles I and used his authority to promote this agenda.

Laudians strove to recover the spirituality of the ancient and medieval church and to express it liturgically in conformity to canon law and the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.  These norms were widely ignored, especially by those of the Puritan persuasion.  With regard to public worship, Laudianism translated into ornately decorated churches with railed altars against the east wall, use of the Prayer Book for all services, trained choirs of men and boys, and clergy in copes or at least surplices.  These liturgies were actually carried out in a few places, mostly chapels royal and private chapels of sympathetic bishops.  However, they seldom trickled down to ordinary parishes.  The elitism inherent in the movement was exacerbated by the unpopularity of Laud and his king, and things came to a crashing halt when the archbishop was arrested, and later beheaded, by the Puritan-dominated parliamentary faction.  It is interesting to speculate that if Laudianism had become more widely entrenched at the parochial level, it would have preempted the rise of Tractarianism, at least in the form it actually took in the 19th century.

The Hackney Hub, a site advocating a non-Anglo-Catholic type of high churchmanship, has some interesting and comprehensive posts on Laudian ritual which are linked to here and here .  I reproduce below an eyewitness report from a hostile Puritan which nonetheless captures the flavor of Laud's worship.


He does not say the mass indeed in Latin:  but his hood, his cope, his surplice, his rochet, his altar railed in, his candles, and cushion and book therein, his bowing to it, his bowing, or rather nodding at the name of JESUS, his organs, his violins, his singing-men, his singing-boys, with their alternate jabbering and mouthings (as unintelligible as Latin service), so very like popery.

In Praise of Holy Smoke  

Posted by Joe Rawls

A very useful liturgical resource is the Smells and Bells site maintained by Roman Catholic scholar Matthew D Herrera.  It contains a comprehensive article outlining the ways in which incense may be used in Christian worship as well as its scriptural and theological justification.  The article contains some good quotes by Monsignor Romano Guardini which I reproduce below.  As an added treat, I could not resist including a video of extreme censing, the famous botafumeiro in Spain's cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.


The offering of incense is a generous and beautiful rite.  The bright grains of incense are laid upon the red-hot charcoal, the censer is swung, and the fragrant smoke rises in clouds.  In the rhythm and the sweetness there is a musical quality; and like music also is the entire lack of practical utility:  it is a prodigal waste of precious material.  It is a pouring out of unwithholding love...

The offering of incense is like Mary's anointing of Jesus at Bethany.  It is as free and objectless as beauty.  It burns and is consumed like love that lasts through death.  And the arid soul still takes his stand and asks the same question:  What is the good of it?

It is the offering of a sweet savour which Scripture itself tells us is the prayers of the Saints.  Incense is the symbol of prayer.  Like pure prayer it has in view no object of its own; it asks nothing for itself.  It rises like the Gloria at the end of a psalm. in adoration and thanksgiving to God for his great glory.


Wisdom of the Desert Mothers  

Posted by Joe Rawls

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the sayings of the Desert Fathers, those bold spiritual pioneers who protested the increasing coziness of the Church with the Constantinian empire by seeking a more authentic Christianity in the wastes of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.  It is too easy to overlook the fact that this movement included many women, living as solitaries or in monastic communities.  A good antidote to this ignorance is Laura Swan's The Forgotten Desert Mothers (Paulist 2001).  Swan, the prioress of St Placid's Priory in Olympia, Washington, has combed through the patristic literature and has put together a pretty complete catalog of the holy women mentioned therein.  Sadly, the actual words of only a few are preserved, but we can look below for a small sample.  The sayings of Syncletica (pictured in the icon) and Macrina especially stand out; the latter was the sister of both Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, being the actual founder of the community where they received their monastic formation.


Amma Syncletica
In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwards, ineffable joy.  It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by the smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek (as it is said:  "Our God is a consuming fire" [Heb 12:24]):  so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work.
It is good not to get angry, but if this should happen, St Paul does not allow you a whole day for this passion, for he says:  "Let not the sun go down" [Eph 4:25].  Will you wait till all your time is ended?  Why hate the one who has grieved you?  It is not this person who has done the wrong, but the evil one.  Hate sickness but not the sick person.
There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time.  It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of personal thoughts.

Amma Theodora
Another of the old ascetics questioned Amma Theodora saying, "At the resurrection of the dead, how shall we rise?"  She said, "As pledge, example, and as prototype we have him who died for us and is risen, Christ our God".

It is you, O Lord, who have freed us from the fear of death.  You have made our life here the beginning  of our true life.  You grant our bodies to rest in sleep for a season and you rouse our bodies again at the last trumpet.
You have given in trust to the earth our earthly bodies, which you have formed with your own hands, and you have restored what you have given, by transforming  our mortality and ugliness by our immortality and your grace.
May you who have power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may draw breath and that I be found in your presence, "having shed my body and without spot or wrinkle" in the form of my soul, and that my soul may be innocent and spotless and may be received into your hands like incense in your presence.