The English Spiritual Tradition on the “Called to be” website

You will remember that the “Called to be” website has brought us reflections on images and texts from the English spiritual tradition at various times in recent years in association with the “Called to be …” projects

  • 2014: Called to be One
  • 2015: Called to be Holy
  • 2016: Called to be Catholic
  • 2017: Called to be Apostolic.

We have now discovered (one month late) that they have resumed their monthly postings under “English Spirituality” and we are reposting them here:



The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – 14 September

Lily Crucifix window, c. 1350, Long Melford, Suffolk

Lily Crucifix window, c. 1350, Long Melford, Suffolk

The Lily Crucifix is a particularly English way of depicting Christ’s cross: this mediaeval stained glass version miraculously survived the iconoclasm of the Reformation. Christ is crucified (the nail in his right hand is especially clearly visible) on a cross which is bursting into flower. The Catechism tells us: “The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything to life” (CCC 1085). Event – singular: Cross-and-Resurrection. To enter fully into the drama of Holy Week, we need to separate the two in time, but today we can celebrate both together, just as the cross here has already become a blaze of Easter lilies (not forgetting, of course, the association of the lily with Our Lady, who stood at the foot of the cross and, according to some ancient traditions, was the first witness of her Son’s resurrection).

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

Some versions of this text read “all things”: the whole of creation, even, as here, the wood of the cross, is redeemed and renewed in the risen life of Christ.

Image credit: Friends of Long Melford Church



St Luke – 18 October

The Healing of Malchus – Eric Milner-White

eric-milner-whiteEric Milner-White (1884 – 1963) is best remembered as a distinguished liturgiologist and writer of prayers. During his time as Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, he introduced the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, first broadcast in 1928 and now a major part of the BBC’s Christmas schedule and an example of Anglican liturgical patrimony beloved around the world. He was Dean of York from 1941 until his death. During this time he directed the replacement of many of York Minster’s windows (he had a great interest in and knowledge of stained glass) and wrote two of his best known collections of prayers, A Procession of Passion Prayers in 1951 (from which this month’s selection comes), and My God My Glory in 1954.

Rather surprisingly perhaps, the small incident of the High Priest’s servant having his ear lobe cut off is included in all four gospels, although only John names the slave as Malchus (and also names Peter as the one who wounded him). Luke the physician, whose feast day this month is a kept as a special time to pray for healing, is the only one to tell us that Jesus healed the slave. In the face of the greater violence to come, this event is what Nicholas King calls ‘an absurd act of resistance’… a ‘fairly trivial (though doubtless tiresome to the slave in question) wound’. And yet the evangelists seem to wish us to learn from it. At a time when we are confronted daily with escalating violence in our world, and when Christians are asking what a right response should be, Eric Milner-White’s prayer is one we might make our own.

whose blessed Son, even in the fierce tumult of arrest,
turned to heal the wounded enemy:
Save us from taking the swords of wrath or hate,
lest we perish by them;
but arm us always with the holy and healing Spirit
of the same Jesus Christ our Lord;
who liveth and reigneth with thee
in the unity of the same Spirit,
one GOD, world without end.

Eric Milner-White, 1951. A Procession of Passion Prayers. York: Morley & Sons, Ltd., p. 53

Image: Eric Milner-White

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