June 9 – Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer

On this day in Tudor history, 9th June 1549, in the reign of King Edward VI, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was used for the very first time.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s publication was used at Whitsun services all around England. This was a huge day for the English Reformation as it meant that services were now in English, rather than the traditional Latin.

Let me explain a bit more about this book and why this day was so important.. Watch the video, or scroll down for the transcript.

On this day in Tudor history, 9th June 1549, at Whitsun (Pentecost) services around England, the Book of Common Prayer was used for the first time. This was in the second year of King Edward VI’s reign.

The Book of Common Prayer, or to give it its fill title “The book of the Common Prayer and administration of the Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the church”, was the official liturgy of Edward VI’s Protestant Church and was composed mainly by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was written in English and it replaced the traditional Latin mass. It was revised in 1552.

Beth von Staats, author of Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell calls the book a “literary masterpiece” and writes of how Cranmer’s words became “profoundly embedded into the very cultural soul of the British people, the lyrical vernacular deeply imprinted into every English speaking person worldwide.”

Cranmer’s book was based on other works, such as Salisbury’s Latin “Use of Sarum”, the liturgy of the Reformed Church of Cologne, the work of Martin Luther and the English Great Bible, but he was writing his book in English and for the use of the English people, rather than just the clergy.

It comprised:

  • A table and calendar for Psalms and lessons
  • The order for matins and evensong throughout the year
  • The introits, collects, epistles and gospels to be used at the celebration of the Lord’s supper and Holy Communion through the year, with proper psalms and lessons for diverse feasts and days
  • Holy Communion
  • The Litany and suffrages
  • Services for Baptism, confirmation, matrimony, visitation of the sick, burial, purification of women
  • A declaration of scripture with prayers for the 1st day of Lent
  • And explanatory notes

The book used today in Anglican church services descends from Cranmer’s book, which is wonderful to know.

You can read a copy of the original 1549 Book of Common Prayer on archive.org, and you can also read The Booke Of Common Prayer Its Making And Revisions 1549-1661 on the same site. Here are the links.

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