The 14th century and earlier

How Civil Marriage Became “Holy Matrimony” – Part One

The lone figure spent weeks trekking from his home in mountain-rich northern Italy, along valley roads, through the  rugged terrain of Lyon and the friendly villages of the Loire Valley to the small city of Rheims. He submitted to a few years of academic drudgery until he got the invitation. Paris summoned him. Paris in …

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A Portrait of Heresy

It’s an imaginary scene. It’s the late 4th or early 5th century. It’s the south coast of England,  the Thames-side city of Londinium.  A monk has boarded a Roman ponto. Grasping the spar of its large square sail to balance himself,  he looked back on the Roman settlement. It gave him an odd feeling of …

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Shrove Tuesday – Pancakes or Football?

How should Lent begin, with a Shrove Tuesday no-holds barred football match?  How about beginning with a pancake race? This is how two English communities celebrate Shrove Tuesday, and their celebrations are linked to Church History. It’s the 12th century.   French-born Henry Plantagenet is on the throne of England.  He’s fiery, ambitious, and knows what …

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“…one Holy CATHOLIC and …”

On any given Sunday we might have someone ask us about the phrase in the Creeds which says  we believe in  “one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” The word “catholic” in many minds means “Roman Catholic.”  Of course we could  give the questioner a lesson in the etymology of the word.  “Catholic” from the Greek, …

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Sanctuary – an ancient Church Privilege

They ran for their lives,  scrambling through the Devonshire sheep-paths, the cry of the sheriff’s horn behind them.  Adam, the Miller, his wife Matilda and their two sons grasped every whisper of freedom possible,  Back in the village, Stephen de la Done lay  a grotesque heap on the mill floor.  The miller’s son had delivered …

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The Origin of Maundy Money

They washed, wiped, and kissed the feet of the poor – it was Church tradition.  As early as the 4th century   washing the feet of beggars was part of the Maundy Thursday service.  Popes did it.  Bishops and priests did it.  And so did England’s sovereigns. The monarchs followed a two-part ritual.  They handed out …

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The Origin of our Liturgical Colours

Pope Innocent (1160 -1216 ) could be dogmatic and iron-fisted.  He decreed the doctrine of Transubstantiation, enforced clerical celibacy, launched a crusade, excommunicated errant kings, and outlawed clergy from performing surgery.  The 12th century was a period of artistic transformation.  The “Gothic style” of architecture had been birthed in France, and was quickly becoming the …

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The Shaky History of English Marriage

Does a committed life-long relationship need to be solemnized by the Church to be a valid marriage?  At different times in Anglican history there were different answers to that question. Feudal England was under the authority of the Pope.   In a letter written in 863, Pope Nicholas 1st said it was desirable for a couple …

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“The Peace of the Lord be with you”

The Book of Alternatives Services (BAS) calls it “Exchanging the Peace.” It has also been called “the peace,” “the kiss,” or  “the embrace.” Its origins are ancient and sacred. The New Testament writers encouraged believers to exchange the “holy kiss” or as the Message phrases it, to give “holy embraces all round!” (see Rom 16:16; …

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