Extracts from sermons preached at S Thomas's on the Gesima Sundays this year.
Septuagesima These Gesima Sundays came to England in the baggage of an Italian monk; S Augustine carted them to England in his baggage train. As his monks and his mules struggled through Gaul, they were laden with chalices, vestments, and ... books; including the Altar Books of the Roman Rite, containing as they did the Gesima Sundays which S Gregory the Great had but recently invented. In his little church in Canterbury, S Augustine got them all out and put them to use. Canterbury thus became a decidedly odd place; a far Northern oasis of distinctively Roman Christianity at a time when most of Italy and Gaul used un-Roman forms of worship (a fact which had rather shocked S Augustine, a simple Urban lad, when he discovered it during his journey). So: from the very first, the infant Church of England observed these three pre-Lenten Sundays on which the Bishop, Clergy, and people of Rome met for worship, in turn, in each of the three great basilicas of the three great patron Saints of the City, outside the gates and above the burial places respectively of S Lawrence, S Paul, and S Peter.
And even after the Reformation, the Church of England Prayer Book kept the old Roman readings for these Sundays, reminding generation after generation of Anglican worshippers that the ancient roots of our beloved Church of England and of her worship lie deep in the soil of Rome.