England’s deliverance from a terrorist plot* whose purpose was to bring England back under the authority of Rome was considered worth remembering for centuries, although today it is, for most, just a great night for fireworks, bonfires, and hot drinks. In Lewes, Sussex, and a few other places, its purpose is still remembered; the banner pictured above was photographed in 2003.
The celebration did not spread overseas with the Church of England, and the idea that it is something worth remembering for 21st century Episcopalians will, I don’t doubt, produce hoots of laughter, even if they don’t appear in the comments section. But if the plot had succeeded, there would be no Anglicanism, and thus no Episcopal Church. If the Virginia Company had still been formed in 1607, it would have taken the Roman Catholic church to Virginia, and if a few hardy crypto-Protestants had tried to find freedom of worship in New England a generation later, inquisitors from the south would have been glad of the opportunity to light the bonfires here.
A liturgy of celebration of the deliverance was printed in the Prayer Book from its composition in 1605 until 1859, when the Act of Parliament requiring its observance was repealed. Bishop Barlow of Lincoln wrote two hymns in 1613 to be sung at services of commemoration, one of which is printed below. The celebration became even more significant when James II began to act as though he too wanted to return England to Rome, and English Protestants asked Prince William of Orange to intervene. The troops he sent to remove James from the throne landed on November 5th.
The meter of the hymn is Common Meter (Doubled); the tune St Matthew (1982 Hymnal No 567) works very well. The spelling is modernised.
Shed tears, clap hands, yield sighs, rejoice
our mirth with throbs allay;
The trembling and triumphing voice
do both befit this day:
This day, whose danger dread did make,
whose rescue quit annoy,
Record the one, t’will cause us quake,
th’escape will raise our joy.
The power of hell, the arm of Rome,
combined themselves, ah woe!
This day to make the day of doom,
our State to overthrow:
By bloody men; not men, but fiends,
whose shape and hearts did differ.
Men’s looks did harbor devils’ minds,
our Church and Realm to shiver.
This Realm, which flourished had so long,
with peace and plenty store;
This Church, which truth had kept from wrong,
home schisms, and foreign lore:
Yea, this was it which caused their ruth,
and stirred them to conspire,
T’was England’s peace, t’was Church’s truth
which set their rage on fire.
And rage of fire was their design,
close couched as a net;
When King, Queen, Prince, and Royal line,
Peers, Prelates, Commons met:
One train, one touch, one slash, one blow,
One frush** one hoist, one hour:
Had finished what they did fore-trow,
and crushed the land’s whole power.
Our Realm made headless, void of guide,
our State confusion mere,
Our Land a prey on every side,
the Gospel banished clear:
Our streets with clamor had bin filled,
our streams had run blood red:
Our eyes with tears been thick distilled,
our hearts through horror dead.
Then on this day, this dismal day,
can we sing Psalms of gladness?
Affrighted thoughts, deep sighs, dismay,
this day’s design best witness:
Cease we to sing, let’s quake for dread,
and tremble while we think,
Of their so monstrous bloody red,
who swore our Realm to sink.
And a happy Fireworks Night to all!
* A 2003 study by explosives experts at the University of Wales estimated that the blast would not only have killed everyone in the Parliament building but also in many of the neighboring houses, and would have caused damage up to a third of a mile away from the scene.
** Charge, rush
Check out this link, too: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2013/11/remember-remember-fifth-of-november.html