The Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Other saints: The Carthusian Martyrs|
Saints John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster and fifteen Blessed companions
John Houghton, Prior of the London Charterhouse, was recognised as a man of sanctity even before his martyrdom. Under his rule the community was a model of observance and austerity. Henry VIII was well aware that if the Carthusians could be persuaded to accept first the Act of Succession (1533) and then the Act of Supremacy (1534) others would find it easy to follow their example.
Presented with the earlier Act, the Prior and his Procurator Humphrey Middlemore at first refused to swear, and were imprisoned for a month in the Tower. On advice from learned bishops, they agreed to take the oath “as far as the law of God allows”, and so were released.
The following year (1535) the King assumed his title of Supreme Head of the Church in England. The Treasons Act made it treason “maliciously” to deny this title. Prior Houghton began to prepare his community for the inevitable onslaught. He consulted other priors who were visiting London, Robert Lawrence of Beauvale, Nottinghamshire, and Augustine Webster of Axholme, Lincolnshire. They decided to approach the King’s Minister Thomas Cromwell directly, to ask for a form of the oath which they could accept in conscience. Cromwell’s response was immediately to commit them to the Tower. There they were joined by a Brigittine priest, Richard Reynolds, who was to suffer with them.
Their trial began on 27th April 1535. Cromwell became alarmed that they might be acquitted, threatened the jury with death if they did acquit, and finally went in person to persuade them to bring in the Guilty verdict. On 4th May they were dragged to Tyburn; the Prior was the first to suffer the barbarous execution by hanging, disembowelling and quartering of the body. Lawrence and Webster, undeterred by the dreadful scene, refused to recant and were similarly butchered. They were the first of a long line of martyrs for the Catholic faith in England.
But this was only the beginning of the trials of the London Charterhouse. Within weeks, three more of the Fathers were committed to prison and interrogated. These were Humphrey Middlemore, now the Vicar, William Exmew, the Procurator, and Sebastian Newdigate. These were singled out as being leading members of the Community, and of good birth (Newdigate had been brought up in the King’s household), in the hope of terrorising the others into submission. The three steadfastly refused the Oath, and went to their execution on 19th June 1535.
There followed a year during which the remaining Carthusians were constantly harassed and ill-treated. Then some of them were dispersed to other houses; in particular John Rochester and James Walworth to Hull, from where they were brought to trial and executed at York (11th May 1537). Now some brothers gave way to the continual pressure, and took the oath. Ten continued to refuse, and on 1st June 1537 were imprisoned in Newgate. There they were left, and all but one died of starvation and ill-usage. They were: Richard Bere, Thomas Johnson and Thomas Green, priests; John Davy, deacon; and Brothers William Greenwood, Thomas Scryven, Robert Salt, Walter Pierson, Thomas Redyng and William Horn. The last-named lingered in Newgate for nearly three years, and was finally executed on 4th August 1540.
Some of those who had taken the oath had been promised that if they did so their House would be spared; but within a year, on 15th November 1538, all who remained were expelled and the monastery was desecrated. Other priories suffered a similar fate. The return of the London Charterhouse community to Sheen under Queen Mary (1557) was short-lived; they were finally exiled by Elizabeth, and it was not until 1873 that the Carthusians returned to England, to Parkminster in the parish of West Grinstead.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)|
Augustine was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church early and spent a great deal of time seriously seeking the truth, first in the Manichaean heresy, which he abandoned on seeing how nonsensical it was, and then in Neoplatonism, until at length, through the prayers of his mother and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christianity and baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death.
Augustine had a brilliant legal and academic career, but after his conversion he returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous amount and left a permanent mark on both philosophy and theology. His Confessions, as dazzling in style as they are deep in content, are a landmark of world literature. The Second Readings in the Office of Readings contain extracts from many of his sermons and commentaries and also from the Confessions.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 12:13 ©|
In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Titus 3:5,7 ©|
God saved us by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.
|Afternoon reading (None)||(Colossians 1:12-14) ©|
We thank the Father who has made it possible for us to share in the saints’ inheritance of light. He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves. In him, we gain our freedom and the forgiveness of our sins.
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Office of Readings for 4th Thursday of Easter
Morning Prayer for 4th Thursday of Easter
Evening Prayer for 4th Thursday of Easter
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