Gregory Dix

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The Reverend Dom
Gregory Dix
Prior of Nashdom Abbey
Gregory Dix.jpg
Church Church of England
In office 1948 to 1952
  • 1924 (deacon)
  • 1925 (priest)
Personal details
Born 4 October 1901
London, England
Died 12 May 1952(1952-05-12) (aged 50)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England
Buried Nashdom Abbey, Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England
Nationality British
Denomination Anglicanism
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Feast day 12 May
Venerated in Church of England

George Eglinton Alston Dix OSB (4 October 1901 – 12 May 1952) was an English monk and priest of Nashdom Abbey, an Anglican Benedictine community. He was a noted liturgical scholar whose work had particular influence on the reform of Anglican liturgy in the mid-20th century.


Dix was born on 4 October 1901 in Woolwich, south London.[1] He was the son of Mary Jane Dix, a Methodist, and George Henry Dix, a schoolmaster and Anglo-Catholic priest[2] who served as the first principal of the College of St Mark and St John, Chelsea.[citation needed] He was educated at Westminster School and became an exhibitioner at Merton College, Oxford.[3] His modest degree did not reflect his real ability[citation needed] and from 1924 to 1926[citation needed] he was appointed lecturer in modern history at Keble College, Oxford,[4] while studying at Wells Theological College.[citation needed] He was ordained as a deacon on 5 October 1924 and as a priest on 4 October 1925.[4] He entered Nashdom the following year and was sent to the Gold Coast as a novice until his health broke down in 1929.

Returning to Nashdom he became an intern oblate[citation needed] and took his final vows only in 1940.[5] During the Second World War he lived for a while in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, and looked after the Anglo-Catholic daughter church of St Michael whilst his brother Ronald, who was the priest there, served as a military chaplain. With another monk he lived in the parsonage, kept the round of monastic offices and cared for the parish. On his return to Nashdom he was succeeded in Beaconsfield by Augustine Morris, who was to become Abbot of Nashdom in 1948. Dix was elected to the Convocation of Canterbury[citation needed] in 1945 and prior of his abbey in 1948.[6]

Scholarly work[edit]

As a scholar, Dix worked primarily in the field of liturgical studies. He produced an edition of the Apostolic Tradition in 1935. In The Shape of the Liturgy, first published in 1945, he argued that it was not so much the words of the liturgy but its "shape" which mattered.[citation needed] His study of the liturgy's historical development led him to formulate what is called the four-action shape of the liturgy: offertory, prayer, fraction, communion.[7] Dix's work then influenced liturgical revision in the Anglican Communion. More recent scholars, however, have criticised it as lacking historical accuracy. Dix's conclusion that "Cranmer in his eucharistic doctrine was a devout and theologically founded Zwinglian, and that his Prayer Books were exactly framed to express his convictions" also proved controversial.[8]

In particular, Dix's claims for the "shape" of the liturgy, which laid emphasis on the significance of the offertory, have been argued to rest on weak evidence historically. On the other hand, Dix's thesis was defended by members of the English Parish Communion movement, such as Gabriel Hebert and Donald Gray, who saw the offertory as representing the bringing of the world into the eucharistic action. This is also the traditional Eastern Orthodox perspective on the offertory.[9][verification needed]

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Cranmer's biographer, agrees with the thesis that the eucharistic theology of the two prayer books is the same. He does not class Cranmer's theology as Zwinglian, instead placing it nearer to that of Bullinger and Calvin.[10] He therefore differs from understanding Cranmer on the eucharistic action as "a vivid mental remembering of the passion as the achievement of 'my' redemption in the past", which is how Dix summarises Zwingli's thought.[11]

Ecclesiastical politics[edit]

Dix was an Anglican Papalist,[12] who sought reunion with the Holy See and was against any developments which might make such a union impossible. He therefore campaigned against the projected church union in South India, which he saw as a possible model for similar schemes in England, and which in his view equated Anglican and free church ordinations. "If these proposals were to be put into practice, the whole ground for believing in the Church of England which I have outlined would have ceased to exist."[13] A by-product of his campaign was the book of essays entitled The Apostolic Ministry, published in 1946 and edited by Kenneth Kirk with a contribution by Dix.

In 1944 Dix defended Anglican orders against Roman Catholic critics. Believing that "Unless we are 'Catholics' inasmuch and because we are 'Anglicans', then we are not being 'Catholics'", he stated that "For three centuries the C. of E. taught the essentials of the Catholic Faith and ministered the essential Catholic Sacraments to the ordinary English people, when no one else could, or would have been allowed by the state to do. That is her title to exist, and I think a man could and should love her for that, even if he felt that he must leave her now."[14] In explaining his oft-repeated description of the Anglican episcopate as Edwardian, he commented "Strictly Edward VI in theology; strictly Edward VII in mental equipment and strictly Edward VIII in their views on marriage."[15]


Dix died of intestinal cancer on 12 May 1952 at Grovefield House (near Nashdom),[16] described by Kenneth Kirk, Bishop of Oxford, as "my closest and oldest friend, and the most brilliant man in the Church of England".[17] He was buried at Nashdom Abbey.[18]



  1. ^ Bailey 1995, p. 7.
  2. ^ Fuller 2014, p. 13.
  3. ^ Levens 1964, p. 135.
  4. ^ a b Bailey 1995, p. 22.
  5. ^ Bailey 1995, pp. 48, 61.
  6. ^ Bailey 1995, pp. 74, 117–118.
  7. ^ Fuller 2014, pp. 71–72, 76.
  8. ^ Dix 1948, p. 2.
  9. ^ Schmemann, pp. 2:7.
  10. ^ MacCulloch, pp. 614, 629.
  11. ^ Dix 1945, p. 632.
  12. ^ Bailey 1995, p. 92.
  13. ^ Dix 1944, p. 92.
  14. ^ Dix 1944, p. 91.
  15. ^ Williamson 1957, p. 144.
  16. ^ Fuller 2014, p. 13; Jones 2007, p. xx.
  17. ^ Kemp 1959, p. 204.
  18. ^ Jones 2007, p. xx.

Works cited[edit]

Arguile, Roger (1986). The Offering of the People. London: Jubilee Group.
Bailey, Simon (1995). A Tactful God. Leominster, England: Gracewing (published 2002). ISBN 978-0-85244-304-0.
Buchanan, Colin (1978). The End of the Offertory: An Anglican Study. Bramcote, England: Grove Books. ISBN 978-0-905422-35-0.
Dix, Gregory (1944). The Question of Anglican Orders: Letters to a Layman. Westminster, England: Dacre Press.
 ———  (1945). The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press.
 ———  (1948). Dixit Cranmer Et Non Timuit. London: Dacre Press.
Fuller, David John (2014). Homo Eucharisticus: Dom Gregory Dix Reshaped (PhD thesis). Glasgow: University of Glasgow. OCLC 883446226. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
Gray, Donald (1986). Earth and Altar: The Evolution of the Parish Communion in the Church of England to 1945. Norwich, England: Canterbury Press.
Hebert, A. G. (1951). Liturgy and Society: The Function of the Church in the Modern World. London: Faber and Faber.
Jones, Simon, ed. (2007). The Sacramental Life: Gregory Dix and His Writings. Norwich, England: Canterbury Press. ISBN 978-1-85311-717-6.
Kemp, E. W. (1959). The Life and Letters of Kenneth Escott Kirk, Bishop of Oxford, 1937–1954. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Levens, R. G. C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register, 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Thomas Cranmer: A Life. Yale University Press.
Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World.
Williamson, H. R. (1957) [1956]. The Walled Garden: An Autobiography. New York: Macmillan.

Further reading[edit]

Leachman, James G. (1993). Dom Gregory Dix, 1901–1952: An Introduction to His Liturgical Writings on Christian Initiation and the Eucharist (SLD thesis). Rome: Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm. OCLC 30788340.
Spinks, Bryan D. (1990). "Mis-Shapen: Gregory Dix and the Four-Action Shape of the Liturgy". Lutheran Quarterly. 4: 161–177. ISSN 2470-5616.

External links[edit]