[Illustration: THE CLERK ACCOMPANYING THE PRIEST WHEN VISITING THE SICK]
[Illustration: THE CLERK ATTENDING THE PRIEST, WHO IS ADMINISTERING THE LAST SACRAMENT]
Occupied with these numerous duties, engaged in a service which delighted him, his time could never have hung heavy on his hands. Faithful in his dutiful services to his rector, beloved by the parishioners, a welcome guest in cot and hall, and serving God with all his heart, according to his lights, he could doubtless exclaim with David, Laetus sorte mea.
THE DUTIES OF READING AND SINGING
The clerk’s highest privilege in pre-Reformation times was to take his part in the great services of the church. His functions were very important, and required considerable learning and skill. When the songs of praise echoed through the vaulted aisles of the great church, his voice was heard loud and clear leading the choirmen and chanting the opening words of the Psalm. As early as the time of St. Gregory this duty was required of him. In giving directions to St. Augustine of Canterbury the Pope ordered that clerks should be diligent in singing the Psalms. In the ninth century Pope Leo IV directed that the clerks should read the Psalms in divine service, and in 878 Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims issued some articles of inquiry to his Rural Deans, asking, among other questions, “Whether the presbyter has a clerk who can keep school, or read the epistle, or is able to sing as far as may seem needful to him?”
A canon of the Council of Nantes, embodied in the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, settled definitely that every presbyter who has charge of a parish should have a clerk, who should sing with him and read the epistle and lesson, and who should be able to keep school and admonish the parishioners to send their children to church to learn the faith. This ordinance was binding upon the Church in this country as in other parts of Western Christendom, and William Lyndewoode, Official Principal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, when laying down the law with regard to the marriage of clerks, states that the clerk has “to wait on the priest at the altar, to sing with him, and to read the epistle.” A notable quarrel between two clerks, which is recorded by John of Athon writing in the years 1333-1348, gives much information upon various points of ecclesiastical usage and custom. The account says: