On the 14th July the Oxford Movement is commemorated in many parts of the Anglican Communion. Although it commenced as a protest against State interference in Church affairs, it soon would probe deeper into the whole life of the Church and nation. Its beginning is the sermon on National Apostasy preached by John Keble in the University Church, St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford on the 14th July, 1833. He attacked the English government for introducing a bill in Parliament to reduce the number of bishoprics in Ireland. How dare the State meddle with a divine institution, declared Keble.
That same year another fellow of Oriel College, John Newman began to write Tracts for the Times, which continued throughout the 19thC, written not only by Newman, but also by Keble and Edward Pusey from Christ Church College about the Church and her teachings. So numerous were these, that the Movement is sometimes called Tractarianism.
At a time of liberalism, lethargy and laxity in the Church, Tractarians emphasised a return to the traditions and teachings of the Fathers, and therefore to a much holier approach to worship, piety and living. Theologically they therefore viewed the world as sacramental as God is present in all creation. They stressed the significance of the Incarnation (hence genuflecting at the Incarnatus in the Creed) and the Church as the extension of that. Thus the Church is Christ's Body, of which we become a part at Baptism. Important too is the sense of awe in the presence of God, the communion of saints and the army of angels who unceasingly sing their praises to their Creator. They revived the teaching of the three-tiered structure of the church: militant (the living on earth), expectant (the departed) and triumphant (the saints), and the seven sacraments. Included in their sacramental teaching was that on Confession and Unction, often neglected in the past. Here Tractarians helped to restore a healthy approach to auricular confession and the advantages of having a Father Confessor for spiritual growth. They also encouraged the sick to be anointed for healing grace and on their death -bed to receive the Viaticum (the Sacrament). Above all they stressed that the English Church is a true part of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
As Tractarians believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist they revived, the concept of worshipping God in the beauty of holiness as had been practised by the Caroline Divines in the 17thC. Consequently the Eucharist was celebrated as the main service on Sunday, usually as a High Mass with three ministers, Gospel procession and appropriate ceremonial with incense and candles. The congregation was taught how important it was to remember that they were children of God from their Baptism, and to make the sign of the Cross when they entered the Church and at other appropriate times reminded them of this. Important too was to know they were in the presence of God, and to revere Christ in the Sacrament. Equally important was to take Christ with them out into the world and to be Christ to all they met in the course of daily living. Indeed one result of this Movement was the welfare and social programmes undertaken in many slum areas. Many a priest celebrated Mass each morning and then worked with his helpers in East End, London and elsewhere.
Furthermore Tractarians taught the importance of the Christian Year. One of its leaders, John Keble wrote a hymn for every Sunday and Holy Day of the year in a work called The Christian Year. By meditating on the feasts and fasts of the Church Christians adopt the rhythm of the Church into their own lives as well as growing in a deeper understanding of their Faith built on the Trinitarian God and the martyrs, confessors and saints of the Church.
Another revival from this Movement was the Religious Life. Dormant since the 16thC. the first community was established near Oxford in 1841 for women, and some twenty years later in 1865 the "Cowley Fathers" were founded in Oxford. One of the initial Fathers was a young American, Charles Grafton who later became Bishop of Fond du Lac.
So many of the tracts' teachings reiterated that of the Caroline Divines. Consequently a product of the Oxford Movement was to publish the writings and sermons of many of these divines, such as Andrewes, Cosin, Bramhall and Frank.
Undoubtedly the Oxford Movement has had a profound effect on Church life in the Anglican Communion. So much that we take as normal to-day: clean and beautiful churches, reverent worship, music, the Eucharist as THE worship on Sundays, daily Masses, and observing saints and holy days all stem from the teaching of those devout Oxford dons and their followers.
Another contribution that this Movedment gave was the publishing of many of the Caroline Divines sermons and writings such as those of Andrewes, Cosin, Frank, Bramhall, Laud and Thorndike.