PRAYER (traditional language)
Grant unto us, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know thy presence and obey thy will; that, following the example of thy servant Edward Bouverie Pusey, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what thou givest us to do, and endure what thou givest us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
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EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY
PRIEST, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH (18 SEP 1882)
In the early Church, it was the normal practice for every baptised Christian to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion at least once a week. But gradually the practice changed. It was still understood that a Christian would attend a celebration of the Liturgy every Sunday, but attending the Liturgy did not necessarily mean receiving the Sacrament. By the early 1500's, most Christians in Western Europe other than clergy or monastics received the Sacrament once a year, at Easter. The rest of the year, a typical devout Christian would attend the Liturgy every Sunday, but, not understanding Latin, would spend most of his time praying silently or in an undertone in his pew, while the priest read the Liturgy in Latin in an undertone at the altar some distance away. Partway through the service, a bell would ring and the priest would hold up the consecrated bread and wine, and the private prayers would stop for a moment as all eyes focused on what Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had appointed as the vehicle of His abiding presence among His people. Then the private prayers would resume.
It was the hope of the sixteenth-century Reformers to restore the ancient practice of the Church by celebrating the Liturgy in the language of the people, and encouraging the people to participate, not only by listening to the readings and joining in the prayers, but also by reverently receiving the Sacrament at every Liturgy they attended. In England, at least, they only partly achieved their goals.
The English Reformers provided that, at every celebration of the Liturgy, after the prayers and Bible readings and the sermon and Creed, there would be a general confession of sins, and that those intending to receive the Sacrament would come forward and kneel at the altar rail to repeat the Prayer of Confession, while the rest of the congregation would remain in their pews, and recite the prayer along with them. The priest would turn around and see how many worshippers were at the rail. If there were at least three, he would place the bread and wine on the altar and proceed to consecrate them. Unless there were at least three, he was to close the service at that point with a Blessing and Dismissal. The theory was that when the people were thus dramatically reminded that receiving the Sacrament was the reason for having the service, they would flock to receive. Instead, they simply got used to the idea that the Liturgy would be celebrated only a few times a year. On most Sundays, the Sunday morning service in most parishes consisted of Morning Prayer (one Reading from the Psalms, one Old Testament Reading, one New Testament Reading, interspersed with Prayers and Hymns, taking about fifteen minutes), Litany (prayer with responses, taking about eight minutes), and Ante-Communion (first part of the Liturgy, with the Ten Commandments, a reading from an Epistle and another from a Gospel, the Creed, plus a few hymns and prayers, lasting about fifteen minutes). As the years passed, this was reduced in many parishes to Morning Prayer with Hymns and Sermon.
Then, in the 1830's, several lecturers at Oxford University, reading
their copies of the Book of Common Prayer, noticed that this was not the
intended state of affairs. The Prayer Book provided for a sermon at the
Liturgy, but not at Morning Prayer, for the taking of a collection at the
Liturgy, but not at Morning Prayer. In every way it was clear that the
compilers of the Prayer Book had intended the Liturgy to be the principal
service on every Sunday and Feast Day. So the lecturers got busy and wrote
a series of pamphlets explaining this and various related points to their
readers. They called the pamphlets Tracts for the Times, by Residents
in Oxford, and the public referred to them as The Oxford Tracts.
[NOTE: A correspondent reminds me that, almost a century before the Tractarians, the Wesleys were receiving the Holy Communion daily at Oxford. He suggests that the picture of a pre-Tractarian England in which frequent celebrations of the Eucharist were unheard-of smacks of Puseyite propaganda. Point taken. It was wrong of me to state that frequent celebrations were unheard-of. On the other hand, there were many parishes in which celebrations were rare, and the Tractarian movement greatly reduced the number of such parishes.]
Back to the subject of the Oxford Tracts. There were ninety Tracts in all, written over the eight years from 1833 to 1841 -- about one Tract per month. They created a school of thought and action in the Anglican Communion that came to be called the Tractarian Movement, or Puseyism, or the Oxford Movement. (Kindly note that the Oxford Group, or Moral Re-Armament, or Buchmanism, was founded in the 1920's or 1930's by Frank Buchman, and is not at all the same thing). The Tractarians defended what is sometimes called High Anglicanism, or High Churchmanship, which involves emphasis on the continuity of the Anglican Church from earliest times (in the third century or earlier) through the sixteenth century, and down to the present. Part of what is meant by continuity is illustrated by something I have heard from a friend who teaches English history of the Tudor and Stuart period. He has researched the history of a certain small monastery. In the early 1500's, the monks chanted the Psalms in Latin every day from the book called the Breviary, as a part of the monastic routine. When their monastery was abolished by Henry VIII, they were not simply set adrift, but were attached to the choir of a cathedral, where they continued to chant the Psalms in Latin. When King Henry died and Edward succeeded him, they chanted the Psalms in English as part of Morning and Evening Prayer, as found in the Book of Common Prayer. When Mary came to the throne, they switched back to Latin and the Breviary. When Mary died and Elizabeth came to the throne, they returned to chanting the Psalms in English from the Book of Common Prayer. And through all these years, they never missed a day. There is no reason to suppose that they thought of themselves as having turned their backs on one Church or religion and adopted another. (The change from Latin to English was doubtless a jolt for some of them, but no more so than the same change for Roman Catholic monks in our own time.)
It must not be supposed that the Tractarians were concerned only with a renewed emphasis on the sacraments. They were instrumental in stirring up the Church's concern for the welfare, both spiritual and material, of the working classes. The building of factories had flooded many areas with workers who were without churches to minister to them. The Tractarians built churches in these areas, and in slum areas, and staffed them with dedicated priests. The influence of their work was widespread. For example: One disciple of Pusey was R M Benson, the founder of the Society of St John the Evangelist. One of Benson's disciples was Fr C N Field, who came to America and became deeply interested in the housing conditions of the poor in Boston. One of his disciples was Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch. She says that it was Fr Field and the other priests of the SSJE who first taught her to visit the poor. Mrs Simkhovitch is accounted one of the founders of social work. She founded Greenwich House in New York City. One of her disciples was Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor in the New Deal. She and Mrs Simkhovitch went to Harold Ickes and persuaded him to put public housing on the agenda of the New Deal. Thus the American public housing program of the 1930's and after was indirectly a result of the Tractarian movement. [I owe this point to Mr. Robert Rea.]
The leaders of the Tractarian Movement were Richard Hurrell Froude, John Keble, Pusey, and John Henry Newman, all fellows of Oriel College, Oxford.
Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800--16 September 1882) was competent in Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, and was Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, from 1828 until his death. He wrote two of the Oxford Tracts (on Fasting and on Baptism), and preached a sermon on the Eucharist that got him suspended from university preaching for two years. This episode gained publicity for the Tractarian Movement, and greatly increased the sales of the Tracts. In 1845 he helped to found a convent in London, the first Anglican convent since the 1500's. His best-known books defend the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the inerrancy of Scripture (see his Daniel the Prophet, and The Minor Prophets). In the great cholera epidemic of 1866, he did outstanding work in caring for the sick. Two years after his death, his friends and admirers established Pusey House at Oxford, a library and study center.
Although the Tractarians were Anglicans, there is perhaps no Christian
group that has not been in some degree influenced, directly or indirectly,
by their work.
by James Kiefer
[A number of his works, and books about him, are also online thanks to Project Canterbury.]