Yesterday was the day we Catholic [Anglicans] remembered one of our favourite Protestant saints. Also, no, wait, that doesn't read quite right.
Let's try again. The middle way. Yesterday was the anniversary of Thomas Cranmer's death.
I thank God for Thomas Cranmer.
There are many things we can name about TC with thankfulness: his example, his humility, his ability, his survivability (until that fateful day).
But perhaps one thing stands out with Thomas Cranmer: he had a way with words. Wordsmith. Poet. Liturgist. He did things with words which few have done. Namely, written words which have been used, said, cited, repeated, and, still, in the face of updates and revisions, used, said, cited, and repeated for nearly 500 years.
Here is C. S. Lewis on Cranmer:
First he notes:
"Thomas Cranmer's great achievements as a translator are sunk in the corporate anonymity of the Book of Common Prayer."
Secondly he observes his deficiency, apart from the Prayer Book achievement:
"the finished product, except in the Prayer Book, is so severely utilitarian that we might not have suspected any conscious concern for style in the author."
Thirdly he highlights his clarity:
[Writing about his Homilies] "They aim neither at subtlety nor eloquence. Cranmer's only concern is to state an agreed doctrine with the least possibility of misunderstanding ... there is hardly a single sentence that leaves us in doubt of its meaning."
[pp. 194-95, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (OUP, 1954)]
So Cranmer gave expression to the newly reformed faith of the Church in England as it became the Church of England. Expression through liturgy. Exposition through doctrine. Memorable words, clear sentences.
What is our faith as Christians if not a matter of words, words which tell the truth, words which proclaim good news. Words which tell us both how we might live and what we might die for, without regret or being in vain.
Cranmer gave us Anglicans the words we needed to express our distinctive faith even as that faith was continuous with the faith received through Scripture and the ancient fathers.
I thank God for Thomas Cranmer!