Feast of John Wycliffe (December 31)   Leave a comment

John Wycliffe

Theologian and Reformer; died in 1384

We owe so much Mr. Wycliffe, truly a pioneer of faith.  To understand what I mean, continue reading.



From the New Zealand Anglicans:

John Wycliffe was an important figure of the fourteenth century, calling for the reform of the church of his day. He was born about 1330 in Yorkshire. He went to Oxford University and was a junior fellow of Merton College in 1356. He became master of Balliol, and then in 1365 warden of Canterbury Hall (later incorporated in Christ Church College). Archbishop Langham forced Wycliffe out of his post at Canterbury Hall in 1367 in favour of a monastic order to run the hall. From this point Wycliffe became increasingly critical of some aspects of church life. Although he was rector of various parishes, the best known being Lutterworth (1374-1384), he lived in Oxford until the last few years of his life.

He was one of the leading philosophers of the day. In opposition to the contemporary distinction between natural and supernatural knowledge, he turned more and more to the Bible and the church fathers for spiritual truth. Wycliffe firmly believed that Scripture should be made available to everyone. However, his role in the production of an English version of the Bible was more by way of inspiration and perhaps supervision than actual translation.

Wycliffe criticised various aspects of the church and maintained the right of the civil authorities to deprive clergy of their endowments for not fulfilling their spiritual duties. He also found little support for papal authority in Scripture and violently repudiated the idea that the religious life had scriptural warrant. He attacked the philosophical basis of transubstantiation and superstitious practices surrounding the eucharist.

These attacks on the church of his day drew sharp rejection from the church authorities and lost Wycliffe much of his support in Oxford. He was protected from undue harassment at first by his work for John of Gaunt and the royal family. His eucharistic teaching was condemned at Oxford in 1381 and by the Blackfriars’ Council in 1382. The occurrence about the same time of the Peasants’ Revolt, erroneously attributed to his influence, meant that he had to leave Oxford. He lived the remainder of his life at Lutterworth and died there on 31 December 1384.

Wycliffe’s followers continued his criticism of the church on a more popular basis. They became known as Lollards and formed a chorus of dissent that continued in England into the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The philosophical basis of Wycliffe’s criticism had a more lasting influence on the continent, particularly among Czech scholars, where Jan Hus (1372-1415) is the best known.

For Liturgical Use

John Wycliffe was born about 1330 and became a leading philosopher at Oxford University. His attacks on corrupt clergy led to further criticisms of the powers of the clergy and the papacy and of the superstitions surrounding the eucharist. He urged the translation of the Bible into English. Although Wycliffe initially had royal protection, he was eventually forced to leave Oxford. He went to Lutterworth, where he died in 1384. He influenced the Lollards in England, and the development of ideas of reform among Czech scholars owes much to him.


Blessed are you, prophetic Holy Spirit, in John the priest, first to press for the Bible in English, champion against corruption in the church; as we enter another year, help us to set our hands to what may need reforming.  Amen.

1 Esdras 4:35b-40

Psalm 48 or Psalm 119:65-72

2 Timothy 4:1-5

John 8:31-36


Posted September 15, 2009 by neatnik2009 in December, Saints of the 1300s

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