PRAYER (contemporary language)
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018 with revised collects.
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BISHOP AND MARTYR (21 MARCH 1556)
Hugh Latimer was famous as a preacher. He was Bishop of Worcester (pronounced WOOS-ter) in the time of King Henry, but resigned in protest against the King's refusal to allow the Protestant reforms that Latimer desired. Latimer's sermons speak little of doctrine; he preferred to urge men to upright living and devoutness in prayer. But when Mary came to the throne, he was arrested, tried for heresy, and burned together with his friend Nicholas Ridley. His last words at the stake are well known: "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God's grace shall never be put out."
Nicholas Ridley became an adherent of the Protestant cause while a student at Cambridge. He was a friend of Archbishop Cranmer and became private chaplain first to Cranmer and then to King Henry. Under the reign of Edward, he became bishop of Rochester, and was part of the committee that drew up the first English Book of Common Prayer. When Mary came to the throne, he was arrested, tried, and burned with Latimer at Oxford on 16 October 1555.
Cranmer was Archbishop of Canterbury in the days of Henry, and defended
the position that Henry's marriage to Katharine of Aragon (Spain) was
null and void. When Edward came to the throne, Cranmer was foremost in
the worship of the Church into English (his friends and enemies agree
that he was an extraordinarily gifted translator) and securing the use
of the new forms of worship. When Mary came to the throne, Cranmer was
in a quandary. He had believed, with a fervor that many people today will
find hard to understand, that it is the duty of every Christian to obey
the monarch, and that "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans
13). As long as the monarch was ordering things that Cranmer thought good,
it was easy for Cranmer to believe that the king was sent by God's providence
to guide the people in the path of true religion, and that disobedience
to the king was disobedience to God. Now Mary was Queen, and commanding
him to return to the Roman obedience. Cranmer five times wrote a letter
of submission to the Pope and to Roman Catholic doctrines, and four times
he tore it up. In the end, he submitted. However, Mary was unwilling to
believe that the submission was sincere, and he was ordered to be burned
at Oxford on 21 March 1556. At the very end, he repudiated his final letter
of submission, and announced that he died a Protestant. He said, "I have
sinned, in that I signed with my hand what I did not believe with my heart.
When the flames are lit, this hand shall be the first to burn." And when
the fire was lit around his feet, he leaned forward and held his right
hand in the fire until it was charred to a stump. Aside from this, he
did not speak or move, except that once he raised his left hand to wipe
the sweat from his forehead.
by James Kiefer