The following is an excerpt from a short biography written by Mark Earngey. Complementary copies are to be delivered to Sydney Anglican rectors as a Christmas gift from the ACR. If others would like to order copies please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Post tenebras spero lucem. After darkness, I hope for light. This phrase was reportedly etched with a pin onto a wall within the Tower of London shortly before 12 February 1554. The significance of these words arises, in part, because of their author: Jane Dudley, otherwise known as Lady Jane Grey, the so-called “Queen of Nine Days.” She was England’s first female monarch, and her execution at age seventeen remains one of the most moving and mysterious episodes of English political and religious history.
These words are also significant because they were etched within the broader context of that great movement of God five hundred years ago, which we know as the Reformation. The fearless Martin Luther in Wittenberg, the determined Huldrych Zwingli in Zürich, and the patient and meticulous Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in England – all these men, many women, and countless children, took their stand upon the Scriptures against the erroneous teachings of the Church of Rome. They defiantly declared that salvation was by “faith alone” and in “Christ alone.” When John Calvin first arrived in Geneva, this Latin phrase was still the ancient motto of the city, but it was not long before new coins were minted with the simpler version: post tenebras lux (after darkness, light). The expectation, desire, and hope of the light had come. The return of the gospel was as light after a long darkness.
Most of all, these words are significant because they are etched into the Holy Scriptures. Job 17:12 in the Vulgate edition of the Bible supplies this famous phrase and our English Bibles translate it in various ways, such as “in the face of the darkness, light is near.” This expression captures the confident expectation of Job during his prolonged period of pain in which he felt the darkness of death and yearned for the light of life. The innocent man had suffered severely and now, despite the mediocre efforts of his counsellors, he held onto the hope of heaven. “I know that my redeemer lives,” Job later declared, “and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25).
So, at one level, these words reflect the reality of what Lady Jane Grey was facing: a confrontation of mortality with the firm hope of immortality. At another level, these words reflect the robust convictions of the Reformation: a rejection of Roman Catholicism and an embrace of evangelicalism. At the most basic and biblical level, these words reflect reliance upon the Redeemer, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Thus, the aim of this short biography is to tell something of these intertwined stories of Lady Jane Grey, the Reformation, and above all, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2021, Mark Thompson and Mark Earngey from Moore Theological College will be offering the MA unit CT528 After Darkness, Light: Doing Theology with the Reformers. If you would like to enrol for the subject, visit moore.edu.au for more information.
Also in 2021, Mark Earngey will be delivering a paper on Lady Jane Grey at the Priscilla and Aquila Centre conference on 1 February. Details here: https:// paa.moore.edu.au/conference/2021-conference/