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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Andrewes/Leo XCVI Sermons: A Connection?

Laud and Buckeridge are responsible for the assimilating and publication of what came to be known as the XCVI Sermons of Lancelot Andrewes. There is much debate today among scholars about the ‘avant-garde’ conformists and accusations of Arminian leanings in England amongst those who became known as the Caroline Divines. The latter is something that I would take serious issue with but will leave it for another time. What I want this entry to do is to draw the readers’ attention to something that I read tonight as I was taking a second look at Dr. Peter McCullough’s article on Laudianism and Andrewes’ Works called ‘Making Dead Men Speak: Laudianism, Print, and the Works of Lancelot Andrewes, 1626-1642.’ In this article, Dr. McCullough writes something that really puzzled me and was quite insightful. I offer it for your own thoughts as to what was intended here. It’s very interesting so do read it:
But if Laud and Buckeridge could pick and choose, why ninety-six sermons? Is the title simply descriptive of the random number that the editors claimed they ‘found perfect’? Search for a precedent for their liturgical arrangement may suggest yet another Laudian gloss over them. The absence of any English precedents, with the exception of medieval homiletic collections like John Mirk’s Liber festialis, leaves patristic models as possible exemplars. The only patristic sermons cited by early modern preachers, including Andrewes himself, from collections arranged liturgically were those by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Leo the Great. Is there any connection? Perhaps. For since the middle ages the Leonine canon has consisted of epistles numbering 432, and sermons numbering exactly 96. Is this a crowning gesture in Laud and Buckeridge’s bibliographical effort to place Andrewes, their latter-day ‘Primitive Bishop’, among the ranks of the fathers? The concurrence of both the arrangement and number of Andrewes’s and Leo’s ninety-six sermons seems at least a remarkable coincidence, especially given the sympathies between Leo’s life and works and Andrewes’s own. Leo’s epistles and sermons insisted on the importance of the outward observance of religious customs in the cycle of feasts and fasts. Doctrinally, his nativity sermons in some ways defined the western church’s teaching on the incarnation. As a bishop he combined strict enforcement of uniformity with deference to imperial power. And these hallmarks of Leo’s life and writings match precisely the over-riding concerns in Andrewes that link him with Laudianism: an intense Christocentrism that insisted upon the universality of grace, a strict enforcement of liturgical uniformity, and a high view of the efficacy of prayer, alms, and fasting. Andrewes himself cited Leo regularly in his own sermons to underscore precisely these points. Nothing else in XCVI sermons guides the reader to a possible allusion to Leo’s ninety-six, but there is some evidence that at the least in Laud’s Oxford a ‘Leo’ was a slang term for an avant-garde conformist who rhapsodized about the authority of the ancient Catholic fathers. 413, 414.

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

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