Feast of Thomas Traherne (September 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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THOMAS TRAHERNE (CIRCA 1637-SEPTEMBER 27, 1674)

Anglican Priest, Poet, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Thomas Trahern

Feast Day in The Episcopal Church = September 27

Feast Day in The Church of England = October 10

Thomas Traherne comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Church of England and The Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church, my chosen denomination, has two calendars of saints, oddly.  The main one is Lesser Feasts and Fasts, most recently updated in 2018.  Traherne is not on that calendar.  Or is it?  My copy of Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is a PDF.  It lists Traherne on the calendar at the front of the document yet omits his profile, collects, and assigned readings.  These are present, however, on the side calendar, created at the General Convention of 2009, present in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), expanded at the General Convention of 2015, and published in the revised A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).

Traherne was one of the metaphysical poets, along with George Herbert (1593-1633), also an Anglican priest.  However, his poetry remained unpublished until 1903.  His prose was in print, starting in 1673, though.

Traherne, born circa 1637 in Hereford, England, was apparently a son of a shoemaker.  A wealthy and generous relative financed our saint’s education at Brasenose College, Oxford (B.A., 1656; M.A., 1661; B.D., 1669).  Traherne, ordained to the diaconate in The Church of England in 1656 and to the priesthood in 1660, served as the Rector of Credenhill, December 1657-1667).  He became the private chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, the First Baronet of Great Lever, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in 1667.  Our saint held this position until he died in Teddington, Middlesex, England, on September 27, 1674.  He was about 37 years old.  The date of his burial was October 10, 1674.

Traherne was, by all accounts, a devout and bookish man who had a pleasant disposition and led a simple lifestyle.  The largest category of his possessions was books.  He was a minor figure and a relatively obscure man during his lifetime.  Only one of his books, Roman Forgeries (1673), was in print before he died.  Christian Ethics (1675) appeared posthumously.  A Serious and Patheticall Contemplation of the Mercies of God (1699) listed the author as anonymous.

Traherne’s literary legacy nearly wound up (literally) on the scrap heap of history.  Yet The Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne (1903) and Centuries of Meditation (1908) started a period of republication, reconsideration, and discovery.  Identification of other works by Traherns continued through the late 1990s.

Traherne, being a metaphysical poet, had a way of writing in a less-than-direct manner.  Many intelligent and well-educated people have read texts from these poets, understood every word of a passage and not understood what that passage meant.  Others have argued about the meanings of selected passages.

Traherne was an Anglican.  As one, he affirmed the compatibility of faith and reason.  In his case, Christian Neoplatonism fed a particular variety of mysticism.  And, in the wake of the Restoration (1660), he was sharply critical of both Puritanism and Roman Catholicism.  Traherne also affirmed the will of God as the proper basis of human ethics, Hell as the loss of love for God, and Heaven as the “sight and possession” of love for God.  Furthermore, our saint delighted in nature and retained childlike joy regarding it.

Twentieth-century saints who drew influence from Traherne included Thomas Merton (1915-1968), C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), and Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957).  Traherne’s renaissance, although delayed, was worthwhile.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND CONDUCTOR

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH RUNDLE CHARLES, ANGLICAN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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Creator of wonder and mystery, you inspired your post Thomas Traherne

with mystical insight to see your glory

in the natural world and in the faces of men and women around us:

Help us to know you in your creation and in our neighbors,

and to understand our obligations to both,

that we may ever grow into the people you have created us to be;

through our Saviour Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in everlasting light.  Amen.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

Psalm 119:129-136

Revelation 19:1-5

John 3:1-8

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 609

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