Exhortation and Litany (1544)

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The "Exhortation and Litany" published in 1544 is the earliest officially authorized vernacular service in English.(TC:328) At that time, the term litany had a specific technical sense and denoted a penitential service in procession used in time of trouble or in a spirit of sorrow for sins committed.(TC:330) It consisted chiefly of very short intercessory phrases said by the priest and a brief standard response from the choir or congregation. On August 20, 1543, Henry had ordered "general rogations and processions to be made" on account of the multiple troubles England was experiencing, but public response was slack. This was attributed in part to the fact that the people did not understand what was being said and sung.(P&F:29f) Therefore an English version was composed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for use in the processions ordered by Henry VIII when England was simultaneously at war with both Scotland and France.(ODCC)

For the litany, Cranmer drew heavily on both traditional and recent sources ranging from John Chrysostom to Martin Luther, the bulk of the material coming from the Sarum Rite;(TC:328) but the traditional invocations of the saints were heavily reduced.(P&F:414) Cranmer also changed the rhythm of the service(ODCC) by grouping the intercessory phrases in blocks with but a single response to the group. Substantially the same rite has continued in use in the various books of common prayer down to modern times.(E&L)

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Bibliography[edit]

  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Thomas Cranmer Yale University Press (1996) = TC 
  • Procter, Francis; Frere, Walter Howard. A New History of the Book of Common Prayer MacMillan: 1902 = P&F 
  • "Litany, The (BCP)" in Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A.(eds.) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church OUP (1974) = ODCC 
  • "Exhortation and Litany (1544)" in Charles, Whorlers(ed.) Society of Archbishop Justus: Resources, ‌http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Litany1544/Exhortation&Litany_1544.htm, retrieved 2013 May 26 = E&L 

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