Today in the life of the church we remember and give thanks for Thomas Cranmer, died this day, 21 March, 1556
Thomas Cranmer was a Cambridge scholar who became arch- bishop of Canterbury in 1533 and guided the Church of England through its first two decades of independence from the Papacy.
When he assumed his office he was already committed to protestant views, but political conditions forced him to keep
hissympathies a secret. For over a decade he studied the issues which divided not only protestants from Catholics, but also the protestant movement itself.
His studies bore fruit when the political situation allowed him to begin serious reformation of the liturgy. He had a large hand in drafting The Book of Common Prayer, which was authorized in 1549. Three years later he oversaw a second edition of this Book, which he revised in such a way as to make its protestant doctrine unmistakable.
Soon afterwards he and his Prayer Book were overtaken by events when Queen Mary I came to the throne and restored England to communion with the Pope. Cranmer was imprisoned and endured a long, humiliating trial for heresy, at the end of which he recanted his protestant opinions in hopes of clemency.
The Queen refused to hear his pleas, and he was burned at the stake on this day in the year 1556. As the flames licked around him, he thrust out his right hand — the hand which had signed his earlier recantations — so that it might be the first to be burned; and that was the posture in which the onlookers last saw him, as the fire engulfed his body.
you endued your servant Thomas Cranmer
with zeal for the purity of your Church
and gave him singular ability
in reforming the common prayer of your people. Grant us such courage in our witness to your grace that in our families, communities, and nation
we may become the leaven of your justice and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(From For All The Saints, Anglican Church of Canada Publication)