October 30 – John Wyclif, Priest and Prophetic Witness, 1384
October 30, 2010 5 Comments
Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.
About this commemoration
John Wyclif is remembered as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation.
Born in Yorkshire, England, around 1330, Wyclif was educated at Oxford. Although he served as a parish priest, he spent most of his vocation teaching theology and philosophy at Oxford and was celebrated for his academic achievements.
In 1374, Wyclif defended the position of the Crown during a dispute with the papacy over ﬁnances. Because of this newfound notoriety, Wyclif gathered around him a group of powerful patrons who were able to provide a reasonable level of safe haven and security for him. This meant that Wyclif could begin to test some of his theological views that were at odds with and critical of the positions of the medieval church. Without the support of such powerful allies, Wyclif, a priest and university professor, could never have withstood the discipline that would have come his way.
A number of Wyclif’s radical ideas got worked out in the centuries that followed as the movement toward reformation gained momentum. Wyclif believed that believers could have a direct, unmediated relationship with God, not requiring the intervention of the church or its priesthood. He held that a national church could be fully and completely the church and not have to tolerate the interference and abuse of international, i.e. papal, authority. Believing that the Scriptures should be available to all who could read them, and not mediated through the instruction of the church, Wyclif translated the Vulgate—the Latin edition of the Bible—into English.
The tables turned dramatically when Wyclif questioned the eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation. He believed that the underlying philosophy was problematic and that the popular piety ﬂowing from it led inevitable to superstitious behaviors. He was condemned for his eucharistic views in 1381. Although Wyclif had nothing to do with inciting the Peasants’ Revolt of the same year, he was an easy target for blame. He retired, left Oxford, and died three years later in Leicestershire.
Later reformers, John Hus (July 6) and Martin Luther (February 18) acknowledged their debt to Wyclif.
I O God, whose justice continually challenges thy Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inﬂict on thy Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afﬂict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II O God, your justice continually challenges your Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inﬂict on your Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afﬂict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lessons: Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 43:26–33, Hebrews 4:12–16, and Mark 4:13–20
Preface of God the Holy Spirit
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear automatically.