Richard Hooker, Priest 1600

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 the Commemoration

In any list of Anglican theologians, Richard Hooker’s name would stand high, if not first. He was born in 1553 in Heavitree, near Exeter, and was admitted in 1567 to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, of which he became a fellow ten years later. After ordination and marriage in 1581, he held a living in Buckinghamshire. In 1586 he became Master of the Temple, in London. Later, he served country parishes in Boscombe, Salisbury, and Bishopsbourne near Canterbury.

A controversy with a noted Puritan led Hooker to prepare a comprehensive defense of the Reformation settlement under Queen Elizabeth I. This work, his masterpiece, was entitled Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Its philosophical base is Aristotelian, with a strong emphasis upon natural law eternally planted by God in creation. On this foundation, all positive laws of Church and State are grounded–from Scriptural revelation, ancient tradition, reason, and experience.

Book Five of the Laws is a massive defense of the Book of Common Prayer, directed primarily against Puritan detractors. Hooker’s arguments are buttressed by enormous patristic learning, but the needs of the contemporary worshiper are paramount, and he draws effectively on his twenty-year experience of using the Book. Hooker’s vast learning, and the quality of his style, reveal to him to be a man of moderate, patient, and serene character.

Concerning the nature of the Church, Hooker wrote: “The Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society. For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of the Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions are being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before.”

Pope Clement VIII is reported to have said that Hooker’s work “had in it such seeds of eternity that it would abide until the last fire shall consume all learning.”

 

The Collects

I. O God of truth and peace, who didst raise up thy servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound  reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of the truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II. O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning the great charity of the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Psalm 19:1-19

Lessons:

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 44:10-15

I Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16

John 17:18-23

 

Preface of Baptism

12 Responses to Richard Hooker, Priest 1600

  1. John LaVoe says:

    In the following sentence, remove “to” after the word “reveal.”
    (“Hooker’s vast learning, and the quality of his style, reveal to him to be a man of moderate, patient, and serene character.”)

    Now that the typo is gone, its other flaws are more evident to me:
    1) What in the world does “the quality of his style” refer to? WHAT quality? STYLE of what?
    2) Assuming that part of the sentence can be clarified, HOW does it “reveal to him to be a man of moderate, patient, and serene character”?

    In the collect, which makes sense overall, I just don’t “get” the inclusion of the words “the great charity of.” That sentence would be fine without those words. Including them, however, muddies the exact denotation of the sentence for me.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Collect: The Blue Book of General Convention 2009, page 537, lists a different collect than appears in HWHM. Did General Convention 2009 amend the Blue Book and substitute this collect? I cannot remember.

    Psalm. Interesting. The Lesser Feast and Fasts 2006 Psalm option was 19: 7-11(12-14). Now it is 19: 1-11. I don’t know what to make of the decision to include verses 1-6, and not verses 12-14, or the whole Psalm for that matter.

    • Michael Hartney says:

      I have pored over my General Convention 2009 notes re: HWHM and I don’t seem to find the action that substituted the Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 collect for Richard Hooker for the Blue Book, page 537.

      That collect reads (contemporary version):
      God of peace and truth, you raised up your servant Richard Hook in a time of controversy to be a voice of wisdom and moderation: May his fidelity to your Word, his regard for reason and his respect fort tradition help us in our own day to discern the mind of Christ, who is our truth; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

      Can someone on SCLM clarify this?

  3. Philip Wainwright says:

    It should be ‘Richard Hooker, Theologian’. The fact that someone is ordained ought to be completely irrelevant to all these commemorations. ‘Richard Hooker, Priest’ makes as much sense as ‘Alfred the Great. Layman’.

    If the reference to Hooker’s ‘style’ is to his prose style, I question the accuracy of the statement. He is extremely difficult to read, although well worth the trouble.

    The quote should read ‘which actions being ended’ not ‘which actions are being ended’. Why is this point about the church worth including here? It seems a very minor point to stress in a theologian who made so many major ones.

    The statement ‘positive laws of Church and State are grounded… from Scriptural revelation, ancient tradition, reason, and experience’ is not an accurate summary of Hooker’s arguments. The word ‘experience’ is especially misleading, given the way the word is used in contemporary discussion of doctrine. The statement also fails to do justice to Hooker’s views of Scripture and reason. For Hooker, Scripture over-rode all other sources–he said that he would believe Scripture rather than the evidence of his own eyes, if the two conflicted. When there was legitimate difference between Christians as to what Scripture meant or how it should be applied, reason was the means given by the Holy Spirit for settling such disagreements. Only if reasoning together did not lead to agreement would tradition be appealed to.

    It seems a shame not to use the adjective ‘judicious’, which has been used of him since at least 1675 and is perhaps the best-known epithet associated with him.

    In the collect, the adjective ‘bitter’ is not justified by the bio. He did not see himself as defending ‘the great charity ‘ of the Elizabethan settlement, but the soundness of its basis in Scripture. The phrase ‘middle way’ is not justified by the bio, and if Hooker had used it, it seems likely that it would have been in a very different sense from the way it is usally used by Anglicans. The word ‘compromise’ should not be mentioned even negatively, it is so far from what Hooker was writing to commend. The phrase ‘comprehension for the sake of truth’ is much closer to his own idea, but his understanding of that is still different enough from what comes to the mind of most people today that it could use explanation of some sort in the bio.

    Despite the quote from Clement, no other church is going to commemorate this truly great mind and heart. No effort should be spared to get this one right.

  4. Nigel Renton says:

    In line 6 of the first paragraph, add after “Temple”: (the lawyers’ church)

    Line 7 of the first paragraph is misleading, implying that he served in three country parishes–including the Cathedral City of Salisbury! After “Boscombe,”, add: “near”. Hooker had petitioned Archbishop Whitgift to release him from the onerous work and controversy at the Temple Church, so that he would have time to write “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”. Being appointed sub-dean of Salisbury Cathedral was not inconsistent with being Rector of a nearby small parish.

    Line 3 of the second paragraph: add “Of the” after “entitled”.

    As a final paragraph, I suggest adding “Hooker died at Bishopsbourne on November 3, 1600”.

    Line 7 of the first paragraph: add a comma after “Bishopsbourne”.

  5. Gregory Howe says:

    For Michael Hartney: On the matter of the Hooker collects: The Calendar Comm. of the SCLM commissioned a new collect. During General Convention, Comm.#13 decided they didn’t like it, and substituted the existing one from LFF. Greg Howe

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Thanks, Greg. As I attended only the Committee meetings of Committee #14 (Ministry) I guess I missed this when it came to the HoD from the HoB.

      My notes indicate the HoD only considered changing John Henry Newman’s title (defeated); and then approved the motion to concur with HoB (who apparently had already accepted the Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 collect.

      The vote was a vote by orders (Lay 102: yes, 5: no, 6: divided; Clerical: 103: yes, 3: no, 6: divided).

    • The newly commissioned collect is far, far better than the old one. As a matter of fine tuning, it seems to me to be more practical to pray that we share ‘his fidelity to your Word, his regard for reason and his respect for tradition’ than that they ‘help us’ as we work in our own day to discern the mind of Christ, but that’s a minor point. It really distresses me that this was turned down in favor of the LFF version. I think the SCLM should present it again at the next convention, recruit some silver-tongued orator to make the case for it, and threaten to resign in a body if it is not accepted.

  6. Fredrica Harris Thompsett says:

    A suggestion: In Hooker’s listing and analysis of what later commentators have called the 3 or 4-legged “stool” of authorities that inform the making of laws in the Church of England, Hooker’s original ordering put reason after Scripture. As in this quotation: “Be it in matter of the one kind [of authority] or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is what so ever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church [i.e. tradition] succeedeth.” (Hooker, LEP, V.8.2) By reason he meant a God-given ability to comprehend BOTH what “Scripture doth plainly deliver” and to interpret the traditions and experience of the church. Reason for Hooker involved head and heart. It was not a post-enlightenment view of mere logic or scrutiny. I say this because the change that puts “tradition” second comes from the 19th century editions of Hooker and was not Hooker’s ordering. This is a much more “Roman Catholic” understanding and understates the role of careful examining of church traditions which as Thomas Cranmer stated in the Preface to th e 1549 BCP can be both changed, and not changed and “in both do well.” So at least in Hooker’s biographical notes in HWHM it would be good to refer to his understanding of authority. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Professor Emerita of Historical Theology.

  7. Pingback: Daily Readings Saturday 3rd November Week 30 Year B/2 « Company of Voices

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