December 1: Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, 1637
December 3, 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 the Commemoration
Nicholas Ferrar (1592–1637) was the founder of a religious community at Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, which existed from 1626 to 1646. His family had been prominent in the affairs of the Virginia Company, but when that company was dissolved, he took deacon’s orders, and retired to the country. At Little Gidding, his immediate family and a few friends and servants gave themselves wholly to religious observance. They restored the derelict church near the manor house, became responsible for services there, taught many of the local children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the neighborhood. A regular round of prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer was observed, along with the daily recital of the whole of the Psalter. The members of the community became widely known for fasting, private prayer and meditation, and for writing stories and books illustrating themes of Christian faith and morality.
One of the most interesting of the activities of the Little Gidding community was the preparation of “harmonies” of the Gospels, one of which was presented to King Charles I by the Ferrar family. The community did not long survive the death of Nicholas Ferrar. However, the memory of the religious life at Little Gidding was kept alive, principally through Izaak Walton’s description in his Life of George Herbert: “He (Ferrar) and his family … did most of them keep Lent and all Ember-weeks strictly, both in fasting and using all those mortifications and prayers that the Church hath appointed … and he and they did the like constantly on Fridays, and on the vigils or eves appointed to be fasted before the Saints’ days; and this frugality and abstinence turned to the relief of the poor …” The community became an important symbol for many Anglicans when religious orders began to revive. Its life inspired T.S. Eliot, and he gave the title, “Little Gidding,” to the last of his Four Quartets, one of the great religious poems of the twentieth century.
i Lord God, make us worthy of thy perfect love; that, with
thy deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may
rule ourselves according to thy Word, and serve thee with
our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.
ii Lord God, make us worthy of your perfect love; that, with
your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may
rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with
our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Text 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?
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