"This solemn Proclamation of Pardon": Secker on the Absolution at Mattins and Evensong

In the days following Quinquagesima Sunday, with Lent close, laudable Practice likes to draw attention to the gift of the Absolution pronounced at Mattins and Evensong, pointing to the robust Old High Church teaching on its efficacy.  (See here and here for previous years.)

This year we turn to Thomas Secker (Archbishop of Canterbury 1758-68). In his Sermon II 'On the Liturgy', Secker contrasts the Absolution at Mattins and Evensong with "Popish absolutions ... given in private", stressing the Prayer Book absolution makes no claim to "sacerdotal Power".  This, however, Secker emphasizes, rather than leading us to devalue the Absolution at Mattins and Evensong, points to its greater power.  In a wonderful line he describes it as a form "which tends very powerfully to comfort Men, but can never mislead them, because it leads them to trust only in God's Mercy".

He continues by expounding the rubric directing that the Absolution is "pronounced by the Priest alone, standing; the people still kneeling"

And as none, but his Ministers, are commissioned to make this solemn Proclamation of Pardon on his Behalf; it is fitly ordered, that none should share with them in publishing it, by repeating it along with them. And you will observe, that wherever in the Service the Congregation are not directed to speak, but the Minister only, their speaking the same Words low, as many Persons inconsiderately do, removes only Part of the Impropriety, and leaves the rest. On this therefore, and the like Occasions, you will remember, that your Business is only to hearken and assent with silent Reverence: of which Reverence, in the present Case, continuing on your knees, in Token of your humble Thankfulness to God, is undoubtedly a suitable Expression.

The "silent reverence" which should greet "this solemn Proclamation of Pardon" beautifully captures the meaning and power of the Absolution at Mattins and Evensong.


Popular Posts