Saturday, January 08, 2022

Sarum Revivalism on the BBC

British friends have been sharing on social media this screen capture from the most recent episode of the BBC’s Father Brown series, based on the famous detective stories by G.K. Chesterton.

Although this is not part of the original stories, with the artistic license usually granted to all things churchy, the title character is now something of a Sarum revivalist, and here we see three of the ancient Sarum customs for funeral liturgies.

– The biretta is worn sideways, so that the gap is at the front.
– The alb is replaced with a surplice, preferably one normally used by the younger altar servers, so that the sleeves will be quite short. (This custom is believed to have originated in the Use of Hereford, and to have been adopted at Sarum only in the reign of Edward V.)
– The maniple is worn around the neck, rather than on the left forearm, as a sign of mourning. This refers, of course, to the words of Psalm 125, “Going forth they went and wept, casting their seeds, but coming back, they shall come bearing their sheaves.” The Latin word “manipulus” means “a sheaf”, but also the vestment called the maniple.
The Sarum liturgy is, alas, so little used and seen that one might forgive people for thinking this was just a dog’s breakfast made by the show’s liturgical advisor, or a carry-over from the most famous role of the actor who plays Fr Brown, Mark Williams, best known to American audiences as Harry Potter’s father-in-law. As a friend of mine observed, “Mr Weasley was always obsessed with Muggle things, but never did know how to use them correctly.”
Many people don’t realize that this custom of the Sarum Use also inspired a feature of the post-Conciliar rite. Since the maniple was made optional, the stole may be worn backwards and outside the chasuble at a funeral, as depicted in 2015 on a fictitious archbishop of Washington DC in the show House of Cards.

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