Sunday, March 15, 2009

English Use Revisited.

Appareled albs, amices, Gothic vestments, and frontal at the oratory of Ss.Gregory and Augstine, St.Louis Missouri.

An interested Roman Catholic, who I won't name, asked me what this was all about.
Put simply, the English Use was a way of adding pre-reformation Catholic ceremonial to services to the Prayer Book.

Some of these customs were not peculiar to England, such as the so-called 'English Altar' The English altar was an altar that was surrounded on two (If there was a carved reredos) or three sides by curtains. At each corner was a wooden post called a 'riddel', often topped by a carved angel with a candle. (See above)These were found in almost every Flemish, French, and English church
Another example is the hanging Pyx, which as it's name describes, was a ciborium or pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament, that was veiled and suspended above the high altar or a side altar. These were very popular in medeival France as well as England.(See above)
Another example is the appareled alb and amice. The aparelled alb and amice were albs and amices worn by priests and servers that were ornamented with a square of fabric, usually matching the vestments and located on the bottom of te front and back, as well as te cuffs of the alb, and center of the amice. It's seen a small revival under some Roman Catholic groups. (See picture above.) But other ceremonies and distinctives were adapted from the Sarum Use. (Read about it here.)
Such as the Lenten array. Where Rome covered images in violet starting on the Saturday before Passion Sunday, English churches covered all images as well as the altars in coarse white linene, painted with red, black, or blue images of the passion. They did this for all of lent, starting on As Wednesday, only unveiling the cross on the Rood Screen or Rood Beam on Palm Sunday and Wednesday of holy week. (See Photo above.)
Most of this revival got it's popularity from Rev.Percy Dearmer, vicar of St.Mary's, Primrose hill, and author of the rightly famous liturgical guide The Parson's handbook. Dearmer sets out in the book an adaptation of the Sarum Use for the Prayer Book, for example, read the order of mass or the sequence of colors, for example, and compare with Sarum ceremonial.
That, in a poorly researched, quickly put together post, is the English Use.
And I think it's great.

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