The Lessons and Carols service the whole world knows, i.e. the version performed by—and broadcast from—King’s College Cambridge, celebrates its centenary this year.
It is a helpful reminder to many that this service is only one hundred years old, since there are those who identify Lessons and Carols as representing the essence of Anglican worship. Though this service was created only yesterday, as it were, when compared with much, much older liturgical texts, it is characterized by elements that flow directly from Anglicanism’s monastic roots, which thus link the Anglican patrimony as far back as the third- and fourth-century beginnings of the monastic charism. For example, the emphasis on “lessons” (readings from Scripture) is profoundly Anglican and monastic as is the implicit notion that music in liturgy is a form of lectio divina. (Early monasticism was pretty much anti-music, to be honest. But music itself was a different cultural creature than it was to become, even in the Middle Ages and certainly by the time of the sixteenth-century politico-ecclesiastical fits and starts that led to the establishment of the Church of England.)