Thus does John Milbank identify one of the characteristics of Anglicanism. This weekend is evidence of Anglican resistance to the 'facile separation between the sacred and the secular'. Tomorrow is Rogation Sunday and - by happy coincidence this year - Monday is the May Day holiday. Both Rogationtide and the May celebrations were defended by the Anglican settlement against 'godly' critics.
The 1559 Injunctions restored Rogation ceremonies, "common perambulations, used heretofore in the days of rogations":
... for retaining of the perambulation of the circuits of parishes, they shall once in the year at the time accustomed, with the curate and substantial men of the parish, walk about their parishes, as they were accustomed, and at their return to the church, make their common prayers.
The 1618 Book of Sports defended the traditional May Day customs:
And as for Our good peoples lawfull Recreation, Our Pleasure like is, That after the end of Diuine Seruice, Our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawfull recreation, Such as dauncing, either men or women, archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmlesse Recreation, nor from hauing of May-Games, Whitson Ales, and Morris-dances, and the setting vp of May-poles & other sports therewith vsed, so as the same be had in due & conuenient time, without impediment or neglect of Diuine Seruice: And that women shall haue leaue to carry rushes to the Churches for the decoring of it, according to their old custome.
Both practices affirmed a rejection of the separation of sacred and secular. The Injunctions restored Rogationtide, the old ceremonies to seek blessing on the land and labour of the parish. The Book of Sports judged May Day joy in the coming of spring - "honest mirth or recreation" as the Book of Sports describes it - to be "lawfull or tolerable in Our Religion", with no impediments to be placed in its way by the 'godly'.
What is more, the means of restoring Rogationtide and of affirming the old May Day customs was itself witness to a rejection of a facile separation of sacred and secular. To state the obvious, the Injunctions were a proclamation of Elizabeth I, the Book of Sports the work of James I (and reissued by Charles I). In many ways exemplifying Hooker's vision of the Royal Supremacy, the Injunctions and the Book of Sports embodied - both in means and content - that vision of the baptised polity that the Lawes suggested to be a defining characteristic of the reformed ecclesia anglicana.
In his critique of the accusation of the 'godly' that the Book of Common Prayer included too many petitions "for earthly things", Hooker refers to the liturgy "respecting what men are" (V.35.2) - embodied creatures in the midst of the material order. Our prayers for earthly things "taketh therewith the souls of men as with certain baits": the material, then, becomes the means of encountering the Divine.
The Rogationtide provisions of the 1559 Injunctions and the Book of Sports tell us that once there was no secular. Reflecting on how the Church might imaginatively keep Rogationtide in the early 21st century, and sanctify and make space for celebrations of the warmth and longer days of spring, might perhaps aid in piercing the dullness of the secular age with the vision of "all things" manifesting "beneficence and grace in them" (Lawes I.2.4).