Book of Common Order

The Book of Common Order is the name of several directories for public worship, the first originated by John Knox for use on the continent of Europe and in use by the Church of Scotland since the 16th century. The Church published revised editions in 1940, 1979, and 1994, the latest of these called simply Common Order. Gaelic versions have long been available, and in 1996 the Church of Scotland produced "Leabhar Sheirbheisean", a Gaelic supplement to the Book of Common Order.

Genevan Book of Order

The Genevan Book of Order, sometimes called The Order of Geneva or Knox's Liturgy, is a directory for public worship in the Reformed Church of Scotland. In 1557 the Scottish Protestant lords in council enjoined the use of the English Common Prayer, i.e. the Second Book of Edward VI of 1552. Meanwhile, at Frankfurt, among the English Protestant exiles, there was a controversy between the upholders of the English liturgy and the French Reformed Order of Worship. By way of compromise, John Knox and other ministers drew up a new liturgy based upon earlier Continental Reformed Services, which was not deemed satisfactory, but which on his removal to Geneva he published in 1556 for the use of the English congregations in that city.[1]

The Geneva book made its way to Scotland and was used by some Reformed congregations there. Knox's return in 1559 strengthened its position, and in 1562 the General Assembly enjoined the uniform use of it as the Book of Our Common Order in the administration of the Sacraments and Solemnization of Marriages and Burials of the Dead. In 1564 a new and enlarged edition was printed in Edinburgh, and the Assembly ordered that every Minister, exhorter and reader should have a copy and use the Order contained therein not only for marriage and the sacraments but also in prayer, thus ousting the hitherto permissible use of the Second Book of Edward VI at ordinary service.[1]

The rubrics as retained from the Book of Geneva made provision for an extempore prayer before the sermons and allowed the minister some latitude in the other two prayers. The forms for the special services were more strictly imposed, but liberty was also given to vary some of the prayers in them. The rubrics of the Scottish portion of the book are somewhat stricter, and, indeed, one or two of the Geneva rubrics were made more absolute in the Scottish emendations; but no doubt the Book of Common Order is best described as a discretionary liturgy.[1]

It will be convenient here to give the contents of the edition printed by Andrew Hart at Edinburgh in 1611 and described (as was usually the case) as The Psalmes of David in Meeter, with the Prose, whereunto is added Prayers commonly used in the Kirke, and private houses; with a perpetuall Kalendar and all the Changes of the Moone that shall happen for the space of Six Veeres to come. They are as follows:

  • (i.) The Calendar;
  • (ii.) The names of the Faires of Scotland;
  • (iii.) The Confession of Faith used at Geneva and received by the Church of Scotland;
  • (iv.-vii.) Concerning the election and duties of Ministers, Elders and Deacons, and Superintendent;
  • (viii.) An order of Ecclesiastical Discipline;
  • (ix.) The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance;
  • (x.) The Visitation of the Sick;
  • (xi.) The Manner of Burial;
  • (xii.) The Order of Public Worship; Forms of Confession and Prayer after Sermon;
  • (xiii.) Other Public Prayers;
  • (xiv.) The Administration of the Lords Supper;
  • (xv.) The Form of Marriage;
  • (xvi.) The Order of Baptism;
  • (xvii.) A Treatise on Fasting with the order thereof;
  • (xviii.) The Psalms of David;
  • (xix.) Conclusions or Doxologies;
  • (xx.) Hymns; metrical versions of the Decalogue, Magnificat, Apostles' Creed, etc.;
  • (xxi.) Calvin's Catechism; and
  • (xxii. and xxiii.) Prayers for Private Houses and Miscellaneous Prayers, e.g. for a man before he begins his work.[1]

The Psalms and Catechism together occupy more than half the book. The chapter on burial is significant. In place of the long office of the Catholic Church we have simply this statement:

"The corpse is reverently brought to the grave, accompanied with the Congregation, without any further ceremonies: which being buried, the Minister [if he be present and required] goeth to the Church, if it be not far off, and maketh some comfortable exhortation to the people, touching death and resurrection." This (with the exception of the bracketed words) was taken over from the Book of Geneva. The Westminster Directory which superseded the Book of Common Order also enjoins interment without any ceremony, such being stigmatized as no way beneficial to the dead and many ways hurtful to the living. Civil honors may, however, be rendered.[1]

George Washington Sprott and Thomas Leishman, in the introduction to their edition of the Book of Common Order, and of the Westminster Directory published in 1868, collected a valuable series of notices as to the actual usage of the former book for the period (1564–1645) during which it was enjoined by ecclesiastical law. Where ministers were not available suitable persons (often old priests, sometimes schoolmasters) were selected as readers. Good contemporary accounts of Scottish worship are those of William Cowper of Galloway (1568–1619), bishop of Galloway, in his Seven Days Conference between a Catholic, Christian and a Catholic Roman (c. 1615), and Alexander Henderson in The Government and Order, of the Church of Scotland (1641). There was doubtless a good deal of variety at different times and in different localities. Early in the 17th century under the twofold influence of the Dutch Church, with which the Scottish clergy were in close connection, and of James VI's endeavours to justle out a liturgy which gave the liberty of conceiving prayers, ministers began in prayer to read less and extemporize more.[1]

Turning again to the legislative history, in 1567 the prayers were translated into Gaelic; in 1579 Parliament ordered all gentlemen and yeomen holding property of a certain value to possess copies. The assembly of 1601 declined to alter any of the existing prayers but expressed a willingness to admit new ones. Between 1606 and 1618 various attempts were made under English and Episcopal influence, by assemblies afterwards declared unlawful, to set aside the Book of Common Order. The efforts of James VI, Charles I and Archbishop Laud proved fruitless; in 1637 the reading of Laud's draft of a new form of service based on the English prayer book led to riots in Edinburgh and to general discontent in the country.[1]

The General Assembly of Glasgow in 1638 abjured Laud's book and took its stand again by the Book of Common Order, an act repeated by the assembly of 1639, which also demurred against innovations proposed by the English separatists, who objected altogether to liturgical forms, and in particular to the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria Patri and the minister kneeling for private devotion in the pulpit. An Aberdeen printer named Raban was publicly censured for having on his own authority shortened one of the prayers. The following years witnessed a counter attempt to introduce the Scottish liturgy into England, especially for those who in the southern kingdom were inclined to Presbyterianism. This effort culminated in the Westminster Assembly of divines which met in 1643, at which six commissioners from the Church of Scotland were present, and joined in the task of drawing up a Common Confession, Catechism and Directory for the three kingdoms.[1]

The commissioners reported to the General Assembly of 1644 that this Common Directory is so begun . . . "that we could not think upon any particular Directory for our own Kirk." The General Assembly of 1645, after careful study, approved the new order. An act of Assembly on the 3rd of February and an act of parliament on the 6th of February ordered its use in every church, and henceforth, though there was no act setting aside the Book of Common Order, the Westminster Directory was of primary authority. The Directory was meant simply to make known the general heads, the sense and scope of the Prayers and other parts of Public Worship, and if need be, to give a help and furniture. The act of parliament recognizing the Directory was annulled at the Restoration and the book has never since been acknowledged by a civil authority in Scotland. But General Assemblies have frequently recommended its use, and worship in Presbyterian churches is largely conducted on the lines of the Westminster Assembly's Directory.[1]

The subsequent Book of Common Order or Euchologion was a compilation drawn from various sources and issued by the Church Service Society, an organisation which endeavoured to promote liturgical usages within the Church of Scotland.[1]

Twentieth century

The Church of Scotland published revised editions of the Book of Common Order in 1940, 1979 and 1994. There are considerable differences between these three editions. The 1994 edition (now known simply as Common Order) attempts to use inclusive language and has deliberately moved away from the use of archaic language; there is even a prayer for space research. In 1996 the Church of Scotland published "Leabhar Sheirbheisean", a Gaelic supplement to the Book of Common Order.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Common Order, Book of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 778–779.

External links

Bible translations into Scottish Gaelic

The New Testament was first published in Scottish Gaelic in 1767 and the whole Bible (Am Bìoball Gàidhlig) was first published in 1801. Prior to these, Gaels in Scotland had used translations into Irish.

Book of Discipline

A Book of Discipline or Book of Order is a book detailing the beliefs, practices, doctrines, laws, organisational structure and government of many Christian denominations. They are often re-written by the governing body of the church concerned due to changes in society and the church. Books of Discipline belong to a number of organisations:

Book of Discipline of the Church of Scotland and Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland

Book of Discipline for the United Methodist Church

Book of Discipline of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) - each Yearly Meeting (national organisation of Quakers) publishes its own Book of Discipline, which may be titled the Book of Discipline or Faith and Practice or some other name.

Catholic emancipation

Catholic emancipation or Catholic relief was a process in the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and later the combined United Kingdom in the late 18th century and early 19th century, that involved reducing and removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics introduced by the Act of Uniformity, the Test Acts and the penal laws. Requirements to abjure (renounce) the temporal and spiritual authority of the pope and transubstantiation placed major burdens on Roman Catholics.

The penal laws started to be dismantled from 1766. The most significant measure was the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which removed the most substantial restrictions on Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom.

Classical Gaelic

Classical Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic: Gàidhlig Chlasaigeach; Irish: Gaeilge Chlasaiceach) was the shared literary form that was in use in Scotland and Ireland from the 13th century to the 18th century. The language may be thought of as a high-register version of Early Modern Irish.

Although the first written signs of Scottish Gaelic having diverged from Irish appear as far back as the 12th century annotations of the Book of Deer, Scottish Gaelic did not have a standardised form and did not appear in print on a significant scale until the 1767 translation of the New Testament into Scottish Gaelic although John Carswell's Foirm na n-Urrnuidheadh, an adaptation of John Knox's Book of Common Order, was the first book printed in either Scottish or Irish Gaelic.

Directory for Public Worship

The Directory for Public Worship[1] (known in Scotland as the Westminster Directory having been approved by the Scottish Parliament in 1645) was a manual of directions for worship approved by an ordinance of Parliament in 1644 to replace the Book of Common Prayer (and which was denounced by a counter-proclamation from Charles I).

English Madrigal School

The English Madrigal School was the brief but intense flowering of the musical madrigal in England, mostly from 1588 to 1627, along with the composers who produced them. The English madrigals were a cappella, predominantly light in style, and generally began as either copies or direct translations of Italian models. Most were for three to six voices.


For the Book of Common Order, sometimes called The Order of Geneva or Knox's Liturgy, see that entry.The Euchologion (Greek: εὐχολόγιον; Slavonic: Молитвословъ, Molitvoslov ; Romanian: Euhologiu/Molitfelnic) is one of the chief liturgical books of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, containing the portions of the services which are said by the bishop, priest, or deacon (it roughly corresponds to the Roman Rite's Missal, Ritual, and Pontifical, combined). There are several different volumes of the book in use.


Falsobordone is a style of recitation found in music from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Most often associated with the harmonization of Gregorian psalm tones, it is based on root position triads and is first known to have appeared in southern Europe in the 1480s.

Falsobordoni are made up of two sections, each containing a recitation on one chord, followed by a cadence. Their usage was mostly intended for the singing of vespers psalms, but falsobordone can also be found in Passions, Lamentations, reproaches, litanies, psalms, responses, and settings of the Magnificat.

Unlike the etymologically related but largely dissimilar fauxbourdon, falsobordoni have all four vocal parts written out and chiefly use root position triads as opposed to first inversion triads.


Fauxbourdon (also fauxbordon, and also commonly two words: faux bourdon or faulx bourdon, and in Italian falso bordone) – French for false drone – is a technique of musical harmonisation used in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, particularly by composers of the Burgundian School. Guillaume Dufay was a prominent practitioner of the form (as was John Dunstaple), and may have been its inventor. The homophony and mostly parallel harmony allows the text of the mostly liturgical lyrics to be understood clearly.

First Lutheran hymnal

The First Lutheran hymnal, published in 1524 as Etlich Cristlich lider / Lobgesang und Psalm (Some Christian songs / canticle, and psalm), often also often referred to as the Achtliederbuch (Book with eight songs, literally Eightsongsbook), was the first Lutheran hymnal.

Formula missae

Formula missae et communionis pro ecclesia Vuittembergensi (1523) was a 16th-century Latin liturgy composed by Martin Luther for Lutheran churches in Wittenberg.

Formula missae was based on the medieval mass, only replacing the Canon of the Mass. It was not meant to become any rule for Lutheranism in general. Later it was followed by the Deutsche Messe, the German mass, but Luther's Latin mass was still used for some time after publication of Deutsche Messe.


"Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and tune, over a ground either of the form called a romanesca; or its slight variant, the passamezzo antico; or the passamezzo antico in its verses and the romanesca in its reprise; or of the Andalusian progression in its verses and the romanesca or passamezzo antico in its reprise. The romanesca originated in Spain and is composed of a sequence of four chords with a simple, repeating bass, which provide the groundwork for variations and improvisation. British neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote in Musicophilia that the melody of Greensleeves was found to be one of the most common and problematic earworms.

A broadside ballad by this name was registered at the London Stationer's Company in September 1580, by Richard Jones, as "A Newe Northen Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves". Six more ballads followed in less than a year, one on the same day, 3 September 1580 ("Ye Ladie Greene Sleeves answere to Donkyn hir frende" by Edward White), then on 15 and 18 September (by Henry Carr and again by White), 14 December (Richard Jones again), 13 February 1581 (Wiliam Elderton), and August 1581 (White's third contribution, "Greene Sleeves is worne awaie, Yellow Sleeves Comme to decaie, Blacke Sleeves I holde in despite, But White Sleeves is my delighte"). It then appears in the surviving A Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584) as A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves. To the new tune of Green Sleeves.

The tune is found in several late-16th-century and early-17th-century sources, such as Ballet's MS Lute Book and Het Luitboek van Thysius, as well as various manuscripts preserved in the Seeley Historical Library at the University of Cambridge.


In music, homophony (; Greek: ὁμόφωνος, homóphōnos, from ὁμός, homós, "same" and φωνή, phōnē, "sound, tone") is a texture in which a primary part is supported by one or more additional strands that flesh out the harmony and often provide rhythmic contrast. This differentiation of roles contrasts with equal-voice polyphony (in which similar lines move with rhythmic and melodic independence to form an even texture) and monophony (in which all parts move in unison or octaves). Historically, homophony and its differentiated roles for parts emerged in tandem with tonality, which gave distinct harmonic functions to the soprano, bass and inner voices.

A homophonic texture may be homorhythmic, which means that all parts have the same rhythm. Chorale texture is another variant of homophony. The most common type of homophony is melody-dominated homophony, in which one voice, often the highest, plays a distinct melody, and the accompanying voices work together to articulate an underlying harmony.Initially, in Ancient Greece, homophony indicated music in which a single melody is performed by two or more voices in unison or octaves, i.e. monophony with multiple voices. Homophony as a term first appeared in English with Charles Burney in 1776, emphasizing the concord of harmonized melody.

Lutheran hymn

Martin Luther was a great enthusiast for music, and this is why it forms a large part of Lutheran services; in particular, Luther admired the composers Josquin des Prez and Ludwig Senfl and wanted singing in the church to move away from the ars perfecta (Catholic Sacred Music of the late Renaissance) and towards singing as a Gemeinschaft (community). Lutheran hymns are sometimes known as chorales. Lutheran hymnody is well known for its doctrinal, didactic, and musical richness. Most Lutheran churches are active musically with choirs, handbell choirs, children's choirs, and occasionally change ringing groups that ring bells in a bell tower. Johann Sebastian Bach, a devout Lutheran, composed music for the Lutheran church: more than half of his over 1000 compositions are or contain Lutheran hymns.

Protestant Reformers

Protestant Reformers were those theologians whose careers, works and actions brought about the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

In the context of the Reformation, Martin Luther was the first reformer (sharing his views publicly in 1517), followed by people like Andreas Karlstadt and Philip Melanchthon at Wittenberg, who promptly joined the new movement. In 1519, Huldrych Zwingli became the first reformer to express a form of the Reformed tradition.

Listed are the most influential reformers only. They are listed by movement, although some reformers (e.g. Martin Bucer) influenced multiple movements.

For a full and detailed list of all known reformers, see List of Protestant Reformers.

Scots Confession

The Scots Confession (also called the Scots Confession of 1560) is a Confession of Faith written in 1560 by six leaders of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. The text of the Confession was the first subordinate standard for the Protestant church in Scotland. Along with the Book of Discipline and the Book of Common Order, this is considered to be a formational document for the Church of Scotland during the time.In August 1560 the Parliament of Scotland agreed to reform the religion of the country. To enable them to decide what the Reformed Faith was to be, they set John Knox as the superintendent over John Winram, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, and John Row, to prepare a Confession of Faith. This they did in four days. The 25 Chapters of the Confession spell out a contemporary statement of the Christian faith as understood by the followers of John Calvin during his lifetime. Although the Confession and its accompanying documents were the product of the joint effort of the Six Johns, its authorship is customarily attributed to John Knox.

While the Parliament approved the Confession on 27 August 1560, acting outside the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh to do so, Mary, Queen of Scots, a Roman Catholic, refused to agree, and the Confession was not approved by the monarch until 1567, after Mary's overthrow. It remained the Confession of the Church of Scotland until it was superseded by the Westminster Confession of Faith on 27 August 1647. However, the confession itself begins by stating that the Parliament "ratifeit and apprevit [the confession] as wholesome and sound doctrine grounded upon the infallible truth of God's word"; thus, though changes within societies may have diminished its relevance, believers hold that the authority of its statements is rooted not in parliamentary approval but in, as it says, "the infallible truth of God's word". In 1967, it was included in the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.'s Book of Confessions alongside various other confessional standards, and remains in the current Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Book of Confessions.

As the Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560, the Confession remains part of Scots law.


The Souterliedekens (literal: Psalter-songs) is a Dutch metrical psalter, published in 1540 in Antwerp, and which remained very popular throughout the century. The metrical rhyming psalms were - probably - arranged by a Utrecht nobleman: Willem van Zuylen van Nijevelt (d. 1543). For the melodies he used folksongs from the Low Countries (though some have German or French origin). This publication has great value, because the publisher (Symon Cock) not only added the phrase 'sung to the tune of...' but also provided the actual music (melody) with the texts.

Nowadays many of the folksongs can only be reconstructed because of the survival of the "Souterliedekens". Composers like Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Gerardus Mes, and Cornelis Boscoop made polyphonic settings based on the melody of the monophonic "Souterliedekens". The melody often functions as a cantus firmus. The Antwerp printer Tielman Susato dedicated four volumes of his music-books ("Musyck Boexkens") to Clemens' "Souterliedekens" (vol. IV to VII).

Séon Carsuel

Séon Carsuel (Anglicized: John Carswell, modern Scottish Gaelic: Seon Carsuail; c. 1522 – 1572) was a 16th-century Scottish prelate, humanist, and Protestant reformer. Born early in the century, when Carsuel completed his education he joined the service of the Protestant Earl of Argyll, tutoring his son and using his patronage to obtain benefices, most notably becoming Bishop of the Isles in 1565. Standing at over seven-foot in height, Carsuel was an equally large figure in the history of Scottish Gaelic, as in 1567 his Foirm na n-Urrnuidheadh, the Gaelic translation of the Book of Common Order, became the first work to be printed in any Goidelic language.

Thomissøn's hymnal

Thomissøn's hymnal (titled Den danske Psalmebog 'The Danish Hymnal') was a hymnal published in Denmark that received royal authorization in 1569.The hymnal's original full title was Den danske Psalmebog, met mange Christelige Psalmer, Ordentlig tilsammenset, formeret oc forbedret. Aff Hans Thomissøn (The Danish Hymnal, with Many Christian Hymns, Carefully Gathered, Expanded, and Improved. By Hans Thomissøn). The book was published by Lorenz Benedict in Copenhagen in 1569.

Thomissøn's hymnal was the only hymnal allowed in Denmark–Norway after it received royal authorization. After this, churches were required to have it lying on their altars.

Hans Thomissøn was the country's leading hymnologist and he translated many of the hymns from German into Danish. He began his work on the hymnal, which took him twelve years, before he became the parish priest at the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen in 1561. The work was the most important Reformation-era hymnal.

Melodies to accompany Thomissøn's hymnal were printed in 1573 in Niels Jespersen's gradual.The hymnal contains 269 hymns, many of which are still known today, such as:

"Alene Gud i himmerik" (God Alone in Heaven)

"Krist stod opp av døde" (Christ Rose from the Dead)

"Vår Gud han er så fast en borg" (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)

"Et lite barn så lystelig" (A Tiny Child So Full of Joy)

"La det klinge sødt i sky" (Let the Clouds Sweetly Resound)

"Julen har englelyd" (Christmas Sounds like Angels)

"Lovet være du Jesus Krist" (Praise Be to You, Jesus Christ)

"Nå ber vi Gud den Helligånd" (We Now Implore the Holy Ghost)

"Av dypest' nød" (From Deepest Affliction)

"Min sjel, nu lover Herren" (Now Praise, My Soul, the Lord)

"O du Guds lam uskyldig" (Oh Lamb of God, Innocent)

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