Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy 2011!

To all readers of the blog,
Happy New (calendar) Year!

Please also offer prayers for those six Anglican bishops, five from the Church of England and one from the Traditional Anglican Communion, who with the end of the old year lay down their episcopal responsibilities and very early in 2011 will be making the prophetic step of entering into the full communion of the Catholic Church in preparation for the establishment of the Ordinariate.
Our grateful and completely inadequate thanks to them for all they have done for the Catholic Movement in England and beyond, and our hopes and prayers for what they will continue to achieve for us in union with the successor of Peter and in a new, groundbreaking and very exciting context.

Patrimony: I suppose we could say the other 'Faith of our Fathers' -  from the New English Hymnal [479]
I have to say I'm not sure about the video images, perhaps they're meant ironically - just concentrate on the hymn!
The original version, printed in the English Hymnal itself  (544) was, of course, "O Faith of England taught of old." - these are the words found after the video clip. I'm not sure the NEH's geographical inclusivity is an improvement, although it could be regarded as more user-friendly to national susceptibilities this side of the Wye, or wherever. Although whenever I flinch at any of the alterations in the New English Hymnal, I only have to think of the execrable 'Hymns Old and New' to get over it - rapidly...
Anyway, old or newer version, this is a hymn for 2011:



O faith of England, taught of old
by faithful shepherds of the fold,
the hallowing of our nation;
thou wast through many a wealthy year,
through many a darkened day of fear
the rock of our salvation.
Arise, arise, good Christian men,
your glorious standard raise again,
the Cross of Christ who calls you;
who bids you live and bids you die
for his great cause, and stands on high
to witness what befalls you.

Our fathers heard the trumpet call
through lowly cot and kingly hall
from oversea resounding;
they bowed their stubborn wills to learn
the truths that live, the thoughts that burn,
with new resolve abounding.
Arise, arise, good Christian men,
your glorious standard raise again,
the Cross of Christ who guides you;
whose arm is bared to join the fray,
who marshals you in stern array,
fearless, whate'er betides you.

Our fathers held the faith received,
by saints declared, by saints believed,
by saints in death defended;
through pain of doubt and bitterness,
through pain of treason and distress,
they for the right contended.
Arise, arise, good Christian men,
your glorious standard raise again,
the Cross of Christ who bought you;
who leads you forth in this new age
with long-enduring hearts to wage
the warfare he has taught you.

Though frequent be the loud alarms,
though still we march by ambushed arms
of death and hell surrounded,
with Christ for Chief we have no foe,
nor force nor craft can overthrow
the Church that he has founded.
Arise, arise, good Christian men,
your glorious standard raise again,
the Cross wherewith he signed you;
the King himself shall lead you on,
shall watch you till the strife be done,
then near his throne shall find you.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Not even faint praise where it is due?

There's an interesting piece here from Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph on the present U.K. coalition government's attitude towards religious faith. Now I would be the last to suggest that the Church (read that how you will) should be allied to any political grouping whatsoever, or be a cheerleader for any political philosophy or intellectual or social elite, but there are worrying signs that some senior clerics seem to be trying to revive the kind of facile 'anti-Thatcherite' rhetoric in which, no doubt, they first indulged during the 1980s.
That's not to suggest it is somehow unacceptable for clergy (senior or otherwise) to express concerns and anxieties about the range and extent of government cutbacks. Clearly, the Church's concern should be first and foremost for the most vulnerable in our society, particularly at at time of financial restraint, when economic burdens should be shouldered equitably and by those most able to cope with them.
But there should also be some recognition that the present administration is, at least in its public statements so far, more sympathetic to the Christian faith than was its unlamented predecessor.
Moreover, the wider discussion in society about the morality of a welfare system which can easily result for many people  in a culture of state funded dependency is one which we are right to be holding.
There are other means of helping the disadvantaged other than by means of direct government benefits paid from general taxation. In Britain, the result of the downplaying of the need for individuals to take responsibility for the direction of their own lives has been a major factor in the breakdown (meltdown might be more appropriate) of family life and the worrying underperformance of the state education system. This is the political 'elephant in the room;' until recently very few social commentators and even fewer politicians were willing to venture on to this territory at all for fear of offending against the fashionable liberal nostrums of the post-1960s consensus. In fact, since the 1960s there has been a massive social experiment taking place in the construction of a individualistic, self-obsessed, irresponsible and largely values-free society, promoted by those liberal opinion formers who, unlike those who are poorer and less well educated, are themselves financially very well-cushioned against the consequences of the moral and ethical mayhem they have unleashed.
 But one of the most worrying post-war trends has been the collusion of all of us in the assumption not only that the State should be the main and even sole provider of education and social welfare, but that increasingly doctrinaire and secularist public bodies (using the cloak of 'multi-culturalism' to disguise their hostility to the traditional values of the Christian faith) should pose as an impartial arbiter in seeking to control and regulate the efforts of others. There is nothing impartial or detached about the secularist stance; it's just another point of view among many. Secularism does though have the disadvantage of a thorough ignorance of the values, history and development of those institutions on top of which it sits like a parasite sapping the life of the organism upon which it feeds, whilst contributing nothing to its well-being.
The Church herself given her long and impressive history of charitable and educational work should be well aware of the limitations of a statist approach.. If the present government's idea of the 'Big Society' can be criticised it is in its lack of specific, concrete proposals to give substance to its voluntarist philosophy. One might think the Church is better placed than most to put flesh on the bones of this particular proposal and she should do so, not acting as a mere agent of an already over-mighty state but as maintaining, reasserting and developing her own traditional and independent role as educator and friend to the poor, the outcast and the vulnerable.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Becket & Patrimony



It might seem to some odd to claim St Thomas Becket as part of  the Anglo-Catholic patrimony. After all, wasn't 'Anglicanism' founded on the subservience of the Church to the power of the State (or, to be fairer, on the assertion that the one is essentially not distinguishable from the other in terms of the life and governance of the realm)
Yet, Becket died for the rights and independence of the Universal Church over and against the power of the Crown. This was clearly recognised by Henry VIII in his very early despoliation of Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and the suppression of the dedications of those many churches named in honour of the "holy blissful martyr".
Similarly, the Anglo-Catholic movement in modern history can trace its beginnings to Oxford in 1833 as a protest against the arrogation to itself  by the State of powers over the Church beyond its competence. Underlying this, one could argue, was itself an unease, found not uncommonly in Anglicanism's separate history, about the very rationale of a State Church separated from that Western Catholicism and the apostolic see which originally gave it its legitimacy.  In terms of the Tractarians, Hurrell Froude's ecclesiology (at least his view of the reformation) was the more logical and thoroughgoing in its questioning of the entire basis of the sixteenth century schism. In Froude himself we can recognise the father of modern Anglo-Papalism and of the Anglo-Catholic ecumenical imperative.
As this momentous year comes to a close, those of us who regard ourselves as the heirs of the Oxford Movement must ask ourselves what has happened to that ecumenical imperative, to that deep unease about our continued separation from Rome, in the ecclesial bodies to which we are still attached, and which are in thrall, not so much now to the Crown or the State per se as to the contemporary mores and thought patterns common to post-Christian western societies. How exactly, for us, can Catholic ecumenism now be realised, even partially and imperfectly? You may have guessed the conclusion many of  us have now reached. As for those Anglo-Catholics who may have come to another conclusion, in a spirit of genuine enquiry I would be interested to hear how they think the Lord's command 'ut unum sint' can now be followed.

O God, who for the defence of thy Church didst suffer thy glorious Bishop Thomas to fall by the swords of wicked men; grant, we beseech thee, that all who call upon him for succour may rejoice in the fulfilment of their petitions; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. 
[The English Missal]

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Out in the cold this Christmas?


A cold Christmas this year



But a warmer scene inside



                       Some late rays of sunshine on Christmas afternoon

Part of the Christmas morning homily

We are a part of a society which loves to ask questions, just so long as they are the right questions which supply the right, predetermined, answers. Anything which tends to rock the boat in terms of our view of ourselves and our place in the world is very firmly discouraged.
So there is a sense in which those who attend places of worship feel in a cultural sense a little bit like those sad groups of people who are forced to stand in the cold outside office buildings in order to smoke; tolerated but very definitely on the way out, a thing of the past and probably harmful to themselves and those around them. So be careful! What we are doing now at Christmas is a profoundly counter-cultural gesture.

But the problem with the Christian faith and with the Christmas message is that it does ask precisely the kind of awkward questions which on the whole society prefers not to be asked.
O come on, you might say, how does Christmas with its stories of angel choirs, shepherds and wise men, ask difficult questions? Surely, aren’t they just pretty myths to brighten up this dark and cold time of year?

Essentially the Christmas message underneath all the holly and tinsel and pretty packaging is one of salvation. But, as we know the problem with the idea of salvation is that we first have to admit that we need to be saved and to be saved from something. What? Our own human nature which so easily lapses into sin and egoism and alienation. The Christmas message uncompromisingly tells us that Christ saves us by becoming one of us and that he comes to  heal the wounds of sinful humanity. The Christian faith is not meant to leave us as it finds us: it’s about conversion and continual change towards the reality of God. Of course, it has first to find us where we are, but it leads us to the the life without limitation, the life of heaven, the life of God himself.

But ultimately Christmas isn’t about our problems and our sinfulness at all, its about the overflowing of God's love. Because God is God this had to take place. God in Christ comes to save us through love and it‘s through love that we come to him.
But the difficulty with this idea that at the heart of everything is a relationship of love is that it’s so abstract: it can mean what we want it to mean - either a great deal or next to nothing. Christmas tells us that God is love but what does that mean in terms of concrete reality?
The great problem - the scandal - about the Christian message for many people is its particularity - that it refuses for most of the time to talk about abstract things at all. It insists that certain things happened at a particular time and in a particular place which have changed our human destiny, that because a baby was born at Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago nothing can be the same for the human race. Or to put it another way, God has done something concrete and specific to bring about our freedom and liberation from the things which lead to death.
What we are doing is celebrating the birth of a child. Of course, this child is True God of True God, the one who has come to save us from self-destruction, the one who has come to satisfy every good and right human impulse. And the love by which we are redeemed us is the love, that humanly impossible, sacrificial love we see in the scandalous particularity of the cross, the love shown in the the scandalous particularity of the sacrifice which is offered at the altar every time mass is celebrated.
'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...' These words from the beginning of St John's Gospel are part of the most divinely inspired attempt to spell out what happened at Christmas.
This can easily sound rather too abstract again, like celebrating an idea rather than a person. St Luke gives us something rather more down-to-earth, with stable and shepherds, something amazing no doubt, especially when we think of the choir of angels and their message to the shepherds, but something which seems much more concrete. In St John, all those specific details are gone and he tries to bring home to us the universal, significance of what took place.
But, in fact,  far from being an abstract account of things, St John's Gospel is trying to get across this astonishing meeting of the cosmic and the everyday, that God has become a little child. This Word of God, through whom everything was made, has become one of us: 'we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth'.
St John enables us to understand the message of the Gospel as something makes sense of the whole of Our Lord’s life, not only his birth but his life, death and resurrection. And it enables us to see our lives in direct relation to his. Now we are not detached observers of a good man’s life but direct participants in God’s plan of redemption. When we see Jesus, we see God, not disguised and hidden away in human form but revealed to us in the only way we can take in as human beings, so that we can understand and see his glory. We see God as a man among men, vulnerably human in a world of vulnerable, fragile human beings. This is the image that we have, the very surprising image we have been given of the Word of God, through whom everything was made, as the infant Jesus of Bethlehem.
This astonishing revealing to us of the true nature of God in a final and definitive way in Christ has the effect of destroying the distinction between the divine and the human, and making what we regard as abstract and universal identifiably concrete and particular. It makes it our business,; it makes it part of our life. The fact that the Word became flesh doesn’t let us, in some esoteric sense, construct a God in our own image, something comfortable, undemanding, and out there beyond our reach and unconnected with our everyday lives. God has revealed himself - we don’t find him, he finds us. He has found us in Jesus Christ. And above all in a world of violence and inhumanity, of unimaginable suffering, the Incarnation doesn’t allow us to think of God as being somehow impersonally detached and indifferent from the concerns and cries of his people: he has become one of us so that we can become one with him. He shared our life so that we can share his. It’s in the midst of this amazing message of joy and good news that we are always confronted with the realities of the world in which we live - a world in which where violence and poverty and natural disasters often seem to prevail and cause us to doubt the goodness and even the existence of God. We grapple with that seeming contradiction all the time. Yet the message of the Incarnation is that God shares our pain & distress, that redemption for our world comes through the flesh, through divine - human solidarity and compassion. God acts through the power of love and not in displays either of power or of control. Our human nature and the operation of the world itself are not what God intends them to be and are constantly in need of redemption and healing. The Christmas message states baldly and simply that the meaning behind the mystery of human existence in a fractured world lies in God’s becoming man in Jesus Christ.

 The Lady Chapel after the Christmas Day liturgies

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

A holy and blessed Christmas to all visitors to LNYD.
Pope Benedict says everything I could want to say in his radio Thought for the Day this morning.
Not even John Humphries, later in the Today programme, trying his cynical best to beat up (verbally, I hasten to add) an Archbishop on Christmas Eve, could take anything away from the moment.
Listen to the Holy Father's broadcast  here

Given the name of this blog, there is only one Christmas carol I can post here today...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

"Amid the cold, cold winter..."

A frozen water butt and some impressive icicles in the Vicarage garden

The wintry weather continues to take its toll on our round of Christmas services. Two masses were cancelled on Sunday, although the  carol service here at St Arvans did take place on schedule, despite the absence of a number of people who travel in from outside the parish boundaries. Still, a congregation of eighty, plus choir and musicians, wasn't bad, given the snow and the ice.
Last night, another carol service in a much more rural setting, St Deiniol's, Itton, and with even more treacherously icy and snow-bound approach roads to the church, went ahead and was attended by seventy five hardy men, women and children. Things are not quite grinding to a halt as yet. Most of our Christmas masses and carol services will go ahead as planned.
We have had to admit defeat, however, at another of our churches, Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg. The site of the church dates from the eighth century and is at the top of a low hill in the middle of a field about a quarter of a mile from a metalled track. The road leading there descends precipitiously from the ridge into the Usk Valley; even 4x4s are now failing to reach the church and the farmhouse. So no Christmas Eve carol service or Christmas Day mass there this year. Perhaps next year, despite the North Atlantic Oscillation (a natural phenomenon, not man-made climate change in this instance), will see a milder winter.

Some good news from the BBC. Pope Benedict has recorded Radio 4's Thought for the Day for  Christmas Eve. [Details here.] Perhaps they should try to persuade the Holy Father to do this more often; it would be good to have in this slot, on a regular basis, someone actually worth listening to!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A few days early, I know, but 'Joyeux Noel!' to our friends in France, particularly those in the north who are suffering from the same sort of weather as we are and, of course, to those in the Vendee where the weather is (usually) kinder... a bientot!

 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Chaos - not really


The news is full of pessimistic comment and recriminations about Britain grinding to a halt because of the snow. It's not quite that simple. It might well be the case that milder winters (very little snow for almost twenty years) have convinced us that this will be the pattern of the future, and also that our obsession with short-term profit has led to very little investment being made in the kind of technology which will keep our airports open and our railways running in wintry weather. But apart from that, perhaps as individuals (after all, we don't have to rely on government for everything or search around for someone to blame for the consequences of the weather) we need to take responsibility for getting around in less than ideal conditions. My parents' generation had snow chains and even winter tyres when winters were more severe. It's surely not beyond us to take a little extra care whilst driving and even carry a shovel in the boot of the car.
I had an interesting funeral today; because of the weather we were about an hour late starting the liturgy in church and had a very slow trip to and from the Forest of Dean Crematorium (named perhaps because it is equidistant from two towns whose names are perhaps somewhat pastorally inappropriate for a crematorium, Cinderford and Coleford.) Amusingly, my wife - using her professional & maiden name - rang through to the funeral director's office to find out what had happened to cause the delay, and the message was later transmitted as "The Revd Kathryn Price is waiting to start the service at St Arvans, where are you?" Oh dear! What was Eliza Doolittle's famous comment in Shaw's Pygmalion?
But we got there in the end, even through a blizzard.
"In the midst of life we are in death," the Prayer Book funeral rite says - and life does go on, people do what they have to do, despite the alarmist reports in the media. It's just weather, no one is to blame; everything takes a little bit longer in the snow. It looks as if this winter we will have to be prepared for the inconvenience and just get on with it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Just who was it who called atheists 'bright?'

Forget the BBC broadcast of the debate betrween Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens (cynically, I wonder would the Corporation have broadcast it if the former PM had been deemed to have 'won?')
Just read this from Stanley Hauerwas.  Thanks to TitusOneNine
Here's an excerpt:

"Of all the stupid claims that Christopher Hitchens makes in his God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, surely the stupidest is his claim that on account of the commitment of Martin Luther King Jr to nonviolence, in "no real as opposed to nominal sense ... was he a Christian." Wherever King got his understanding of nonviolence from, argues Hitchens, it simply couldn't have been from Christianity because Christianity is inherently violent.

The best response that I can give to such a claim is turn to that wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped King's understanding of nonviolence in his Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and then demonstrate how his Christianity gave these influences in peculiarly Christ-like form...."

There was a video posted here to which some people have objected. I've removed it simply because I feel like avoiding unnecessary controversy for a while. Here's the link for you to make up your own minds.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Then He called

The archangel Gabriel
And sent him to
The Virgin Mary

At whose consent
The mystery was wrought,
In whom the Trinity
Clothed the Word with flesh.

And though Three work this,
It is wrought in the One:
And the Word lived incarnate
In the womb of Mary.

And He who had only a Father
Now had a Mother too,
But she was not like others
Who conceive by man.

From her own flesh
He received His flesh,
So He is called
Son of God and of man.
          St John of the Cross:  
         Romance 8  (The Incarnation)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Walsingham?


Just what is going on at Walsingham? There is plenty of comment around but, it seems, no firm information, other than the statement of the sisters who have left. It's probably best for me not to add too much to the speculation.
However, it would be shameful if the parting of friends were to turn into an exercise in controlling potential 'contagion.'
 If, as we've been told, time after time - ad nauseam, in fact - Anglicanorum Coetibus and the imminent setting up of the Ordinariate is such an insignificant episode in the ongoing life of the Church of England, why is the Establishment getting quite so jittery?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Beloved, do not grumble against one another.



From the latest copy of Province, the house journal of Credo Cymru, it would appear that at least some (rightly) highly respected and prominent traditionalists in Wales don't think the Ordinariate is the right direction in which to be heading.
They and those who continue to explore the possibility of accepting Pope Benedict's offer of full communion will simply have to agree to disagree with, I hope, charity and understanding; what unites us is still stronger than those things which divide us.
But I do worry, too, that those who are rejecting the Ordinariate, or who are hesitant even to consider it, are  doing so because of the blandishments of those who counsel patience and hold out hope (sometime in the indefinite future when "conditions" change) that alternative episcopal provision might be restored in Wales (although not, I suspect, that the province will choose not to proceed to ordain women bishops - so, ecclesiologically, how will the restoration of a PAB be even a partial solution?). I suspect they may have a very long wait indeed, but time will tell.
I still hope that attitudes won't polarise between those inclined to staying put with SSWSH, or whatever its Welsh equivalent might be, and those who, whatever their immediate plans, consider that the Ordinariate will be both the fulfilment of their longing for unity and and the only long term home for Anglo-Catholics, and that doors will be left open, theologically and spiritually and in terms of personal friendship.  Wherever we may end up, we are fighting the same battle, for the same Lord.
Yet, it would be strange to say the least if  ancient disputes over the role and authority of the papacy and misgivings over Rome's stand on Anglican orders (which will, of course, never be re-examined given the contemporary situation) were to blind us to the fact that where Rome stands now in relation to apostolic faith and order and to moral theology is both where she has always stood and also where we believed Anglicanism once stood, consider it should still stand, but know it will never stand again. We have to draw our own conclusions from that as to whether we think there is a  future for "catholic traditionalists"  within the structures of global Anglicanism.
But whatever the cracks in the Anglo-Catholic "coalition," and unfortunately they seem at present to be widening, we shouldn't give up on one another; we may need each another yet.

This morning's second reading at mass, from the letter of St James:

"Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this."


Saturday, 11 December 2010

The end of the Glastonbury Thorn?

Vandals have hacked down the Glastonbury Thorn [here]
Although its story is just a "pious legend," it was a symbol of something greater than we are and a potent sign of continuity, something which past religious and political upheavals could not completely eradicate. Let's hope the tree regenerates, or that someone has a seedling. It's not the first time in its history an attempt has been made to destroy it.
It is particularly symptomatic of the present state of society that the thorn tree should be a target for attack (whether by mindless or drunken idiots, or by those with a more conscious purpose), whereas the town itself is still, despite the recession, littered with shops pandering to the DIY spirituality of crystal waving and other things far less palatable or innocuous, and the ruins of one of the oldest Christian holy places in Britain continue to speak eloquently of the determination of the rulers of a previous age to turn their backs on the living witness of faith.


                                                      The Glastonbury Thorn in happier days

 
A Freebie
The Ordinariate Portal has information here about the availability of a free copy (donations towards P&P) of the Catholic League's latest Messenger - "Anglicans and Catholics in Communion," a collection of writings on the Ordinariate and related subjects. It's an invaluable publication for anyone interested in the Ordinariate project.

A joke?
Click here if you want to see a blue chasuble with a male chicken on it. Bad, bad, bad!

And now for some Advent hope

Friday, 10 December 2010

Protesting too much?



Having shared public transport for a few hours with a group of "student protestors" on Thursday morning (I was heading for a different part of London) I couldn't help noticing how a-political they seemed, certainly compared to the fiercely ideological (that is, rabidly Marxist or Trotskyist) student demonstrators of my own youth. It's a great shame that these mostly decent young people have allowed themselves to be led astray both by violent extremists and perhaps even by their parents, nostalgic for their lost youth and fearing that they themselves may have "sold out," to the materialism of the age, and who now urge their offspring to take part  in a bit of rowdy street theatre of their own.
I can't help thinking that the "glamour" of protest marches loses some of its gloss when the main motivation of those taking part seems not to be solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged but concern over their own future bank balances. Selfless idealism it aint!
But I haven't a huge amount of sympathy either for those politicians who, feeling fairly secure in their role as a perpetual party of opposition, made promises they thought would cost them nothing and who now find themselves faced with the harsh choices of government. The only result of that is a disastrous increase in the already disturbing level of public cynicism about the political process.
Yet the kind of protests we have seen don't help one bit in the necessary and urgent public debate as to how we are best able to fund higher education - and continue to make it available to the less well off -  at a time of financial crisis and austerity and hugely increasing global economic competition.
But what is sure is that urinating on a statue of the twentieth century's greatest prime minister, or attacking the car of the heir to the throne is as silly and vacuous as some of the conversations I overheard early yesterday morning.

"I can ask nothing better than this, to be Thy care, not my own..."


"My Lord, who camest into this world to do Thy Father's will, not Thine own, give me a most absolute and simple submission to the will of Father and Son. I believe, O my Saviour, that Thou knowest just what is best for me. I believe that Thou lovest me better than I love myself, that Thou art all-wise in Thy Providence, and all-powerful in Thy protection. I am as ignorant as Peter was what is to happen to me in time to come; but I resign myself entirely to my ignorance, and thank Thee with all my heart that Thou hast taken me out of my own keeping, and, instead of putting such a serious charge upon me, hast bidden me put myself into Thy hands. I can ask nothing better than this, to be Thy care, not my own. I protest, O my Lord, that, through Thy grace, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest, and will not lead the way. I will wait on Thee for Thy guidance, and, on obtaining it, I will act upon it in simplicity and without fear. And I promise that I will not be impatient, if at any time I am kept by Thee in darkness and perplexity; nor will I ever complain or fret if I come into any misfortune or anxiety."
         Bl John Henry Newman


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

An interesting but flawed argument

There's an interesting post here entitled "Wounding and Grace: A Brief Appraisal of the Roman Catholic Ordinariate, Anglican Christianity, and Modern Ecumenism" by Jared C. Cramer. Read it all, because it throws light on the way Pope Benedict's Ordinariate initiative is being regarded in what has become - now at least - the North Atlantic Anglican mainstream.
The article attempts to explore the implications for ecumenism of what the author, an American Episcopal priest, evidently regards as the mistaken approach taken by those setting up (what he refers to as) the Roman Catholic Ordinariates.
In the course of his argument he makes the following statement:
"Instead, the Ordinariate represents the increasing tendency within modern Christianity to rest content with those who see things the same way as us. It is an approach that allows for some exceptions in Roman Catholic practice, but not in any actual development that acknowledges for the rest of the Roman Catholic Church that these Anglican practices may be a enriching to the whole. The Ordinariate merely winks at some Anglican peculiarities for the purpose of drawing together those who are like-minded on other things. It is not grounded in Christian ecclesiology, but rather is a path to draw together like minds. The Christian Gospel, of course, is about reconciling diverse minds and groups in a unified body."
Well, up to a point.  The author, like the Church in which he serves, fails to recognise that there are limits to legitimate diversity, and makes a clear attempt to alter the historical record. The ARCIC process, which he for the most part praises, proceeded on the basis of recognising those elements in traditional Christian doctrine, ecclesiology and moral theology which the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church had in common, and aimed to build upon them. The major problem with this approach was, of course, that half way through the process of dialogue, one side moved the goalposts. What had been held in common in terms of the apostolic ministry and certain matters of Christian ethics rapidly became sources of fresh disunity, not only between Rome and Canterbury, but also within the Anglican Communion itself, as traditional and scriptural understandings were questioned and rapidly overthrown, mostly not after a process of  considered theological discussion and discernment, but as a result of overtly political lobbying and less than scrupulous manoeuvrings within synodical bodies, and - as we know well - of a pattern of unrestrained provincial unilateralism.
The rest, as they say, is history; but it is against this background of ecumenical irresponsibility on the part of the Anglican provinces that Anglicanorum Coetibus must be seen and judged.
And we should not forget that.

What a friend we have in London!

From the horse's mouth: here, and some comment here
But I'm not sure anyone should be greatly surprised at this turn of events; it seems of a piece with the recent news from Fr Edward Tomlinson in another C of E diocese here 
The only sound advice is that of St David: "Be joyful. Keep the faith!"
And to remember that what is underway is far bigger than atavistic (or do I mean recidivistic?) tribalism.

The Anglo-Catholic Movement was always a very wide 'constituency'; we should not be too worried by the comments of those we perhaps once regarded as friends, who evidently believe that perceived disloyalty to the institution is worse than that institution's own manifest disloyalty to apostolic faith and order and its clear ecumenical bad faith.
For those who even at this stage were expecting a modicum of generosity and understanding from their Christian brothers and sisters (and Fathers in God), after being unceremoniously shown the door by recent synodical decisions, it is, I know, a bitter pill to swallow, but human nature itself and historical precedent were always going to be against the Ordinariates' being seen as anything other than a hostile development.
However, as anyone who cares to read Anglicanorum Coetibus can see, its provisions are far from hostile to Anglican patrimony and can even be regarded as considerably more faithful to the historic vocation of Anglicanism than much of the contemporary Anglican Communion itself, which has gone a-whoring after the strange gods of heterodoxy and relativism.
Yet 'establishment' Anglicans in whatever province of the Communion they happen to be, have to ask themselves this question: having deliberately either engineered or colluded in the ejection of one of their Church's historic traditions, can they quite so glibly and in good conscience regard themselves as other than entirely reponsible for what is happening?
The immanent setting up of the Ordinariates is indeed, as Pope Benedict has said, a "prophetic gesture," but the ways of the prophets  do have a habit of  disturbing those whose consciences are, shall we say, a little uneasy about their own past actions.

St Ambrose: on the Incarnation and the Mysteries



'But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself  was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the sacrament of His Body.
The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration, the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.'

St Ambrose: On the Mysteries IX 53-4  (trans. H. De Romestin)

And, looking to tomorrow's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception:

"Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sara but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin."

St. Ambrose, Commentary on Psalm 118

Monday, 6 December 2010

Colder and colder

The weather has given us an astonishing beginning to Advent this year. We've not had the heavy snowfalls which have affected much of the rest of the country, but only severe and penetrating frosts, making even the shortest journeys, on foot or by car, rather hazardous due to the state of the roads and pavements. Even the warmest of my churches felt like a refrigerator yesterday and, as for the others, .......I'm still thawing out.
Today has been a day of freezing fog, but before it rolled in from the Bristol Channel mid-morning, the countryside was transformed in the brilliant winter sunshine.

Below is a photo of a rime-covered birch tree in the Vicarage garden, seen against the blue of the sky and above the fronds of a distinctly unseasonal palm tree.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Exploring the Ordinariate in South Wales

Some interesting news from Wales today.  A new South Wales-based Ordinariate site aimed at those in Wales who wish to explore the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus has been set up [here]  Those interested in registering an interest can do so by emailing their name and contact details in complete confidence to  the Administrator at WelshOrdinariate@hotmail.co.uk .  
I have added a permanent link to this new site on the right of this blog.

And, in the meantime - Keep the Faith! Some very sensible advice from Fr. Seán Finnegan at the Anglo-Catholic here

Friday, 3 December 2010

Plus ça change...

From the Catholic Herald's article on the unjustly neglected St Ralph Sherwin here

"The following August, Sherwin arrived in Rome, where the English hospice was in the process of becoming the English College – though the Bull of foundation was not issued until May 1579, and only received in December 1580.

During this period there were disputes between the Welsh and the English elements within the college, the former advocating a passive attitude towards events in England, while the latter (of whom Sherwin became a leader) argued for immediate missionary activity. "
...plus c'est la même chose?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Some good news

Most 'religion' bloggers don't usually tend to focus on good news (although I hope we manage to keep the Good News somewhere in the forefront.) Normally, because we live in a time of intellectual, theological and ecclesial upheaval (when, true to historical form, Anglicanism is about its usual business of shedding any zeitgeist-unfriendly "extremes" in an attempt to carry on regardless) we concentrate mostly on the controversy, the division and the sheer madness of what is going on around us.

However, how about these sentiments from a British Government minister? (Report from the BBC here)

"Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said "politically correct Grinches" should not be allowed to obscure the fact the festival marks Christ's birth. He said festivals like "Winterval" - which combined secular and inter-faith elements in 1990s Birmingham - should be consigned to history's "dustbin".
It was not in authorities' interests to "play Scrooge" by cutting back on festivities to save cash, he added. Instead, he encouraged them to draw shoppers in to town centres and enjoy the financial benefits of packed car parks.
"Shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol services and nativity scenes, and councils should not hesitate in supporting them," he said.
"We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ.
"The war on Christmas is over, and the likes of Winterval, [and other alternative names for Christmas festivities] Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history."

Understandably, all politicians play to their power bases, and I know this reads in some ways as an attempt to recruit expressions of Christian faith in order to boost the economy. Yet even the most blatantly commercial of motivations can't destroy the essential message that it is the birth of Our Lord we are preparing to celebrate. As we know to our cost, if people are not surrounded by the symbols and visual reminders of faith, they soon come to forget it, or even hate and despise it.
But can you imagine during the long dreary years of Christianophobic New Labour [see this for the kind of crassness we've come to expect] any Government minister (whatever she - or he -  may have thought privately) saying anything like this?
What a difference a year makes - which, of course, brings us to the other major source of good news.....

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Information - only at a price

The news from Guido Fawkes today that the Daily Telegraph, head and shoulders above other British newspapers in so many ways, intends to charge (incrementally) for their online content is rather sad.  Here 
Is this a tacit admission that they consider the days of the physical, printed, newspaper to be numbered?
The Times, not a friend of orthodox Christianity and a positive enemy of Catholicism, has already made this decision and, personally speaking, I don't consider we are very much the worse for it, so long gone are the days when The Times was the newspaper of record in the U.K..
Of course, we are all aware that in the past newspapers had to be purchased, and that this new trend is only a return to the status quo ante. But the advent of the web was something new and different and potentially far more inclusive in terms of who was able to access information and comment upon it.
We will all suffer (and not only 'parasitic' bloggers like me) should the paywall (a kind of iron curtain to keep information in) comes down around The Daily Telegraph. Someone, an accountant, clearly,  has obviously made the calculation that even cutting their online readership by about 90% will still work out as a profitable trade-off. Advertisers are equally obviously reluctant to part with their money in sufficient numbers to keep the online versions of newspapers free to the reader. But what of the loss of goodwill and the denial of some of the best journalism around to the young and the less affluent? That's probably not something the average accountant can easily comprehend, but one would expect more from professional writers and journalists who stand to benefit from the mere fact that their work is 'out there' and being read, even if it's not directly making money for their employer. One of the most exciting aspects of the internet is its freedom (in all ways) of information, and the valuable contribution that makes to the diversity of society's conversation. It would be a great pity at a time of bewildering change if that social conversation and debate were to be carried on free of charge only by the wackos, the rank amateurs, The Guardian, and the BBC.
Having said that, I'm sure the vacuum will be filled by those who have the imagination and the will to keep online news and comment free.

Here we go again

A snowy St Andrew's Day, it was -6 C outside church after mass this morning. We had just a sprinkling of snow overnight. Compared to much of the rest of the country we have escaped lightly.



The most trying aspect of those who claim to be progressive (I deliberately won't use the somewhat more honourable  term 'reformers'), ecclesially, politically, ethically, is that they never give up, and they are none too scrupulous about their methods. 
In Britain a real head of steam is building behind the 'assisted suicide' campaign. Here is George Pitcher's take from the Daily Telegraph on Lord ('Charlie') Faulkner's not-at-all-Independent Commission on the subject, clearly bankrolled and staffed by those committed to a change in the law.

What is it about the great and the good of the contemporary British establishment  (or is this a more widespread western phenomenon?) that they seem to be at the same time so imaginatively illiterate and place such unshakeable trust and belief in human rationality? It's as if those horrifying tragedies of the twentieth century - which give the lie to those who question both original sin and the existence of evil - had never happened, and we are back in the late Victorian era when the god of progress was firmly enthroned in the minds and hearts of all right thinking people.
God so loved the world that he didn't send a committee.

However, I'm sure we can rely on churchmen of all traditions and ecclesiastical allegiances to stand up and be counted in defence of the law as it stands. Or should I start a book now on who will be the first to break ranks, and on those who will simply keep their heads down and remain silent for fear of appearing to be out of touch and, therefore, irrelevant in the eyes of those who 'matter?'

For St Andrew's Day:
[& please see the comments (below) for another significant anniversary (a cautionary tale from English history?) - thanks to Prof William Tighe]

The Divine Liturgy on the Feast Day of St. Andrew at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul, four years ago during the visit of Pope Benedict.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

Advent begins


It looks like a cold beginning to Advent: the churchyard this morning after a dusting of snow...






I seem to have come to the point where in many ways I prefer the austere longing of the Church's Advent season to the celebrations of the Nativity itself. I suppose this could be a natural reaction to the commercial frenzy which surrounds the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the sentimental artificiality of so much of our extra-liturgical celebration of Christmas itself. On the other hand, the explanation could be that,  psychologically, my preference has been determined by the wilderness experience of ecclesial provisionality of many of us over the last few years. In the words of R. S. Thomas (a poet not entirely to my taste in some ways)  "the meaning is in the waiting."

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. AMEN

Friday, 26 November 2010

For the last time - this year

A worrying trend

The news that a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl has been arrested for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran (BBC report here) is deeply disturbing. Given that the Christian faith is regularly traduced and maligned by so-called 'satirists' on mainsteam, prime time television and radio, and that, to take an example, the Koran itself (outrageously, and in obedience to Muslim tradition) has to be placed on the top shelf in British public libraries, we seem to have reached a point of glaring inequality between the two faiths at least in the way in which they are treated in the media and in the public arena. There is developing a distinct inequality of respect.
This is not a racial issue; it's a matter of religion. It might even surprise some secularists that both Christianity and Islam originated in the Middle East; neither is indigenous, although one has been formative in the establishment and development of our common Western values and representative institutions, and the other has historically been regarded (perhaps with good reason) as inimical to both.

Left-Liberal secularism, enforced under the cloak of a tolerant multiculturalism, has to be one of the most cowardly ideologies ever developed by the human race. It will only confront those who will not fight back, and it cravenly submits to the blackmail of a very small and vocal minority of radicalised Muslims whose cultural and intellectual legacy of fundamentalism predisposes them to violence and the threat of using violence. 'Multiculturalism' (rather like our current crop of 'comedians') only respects what it fears.
Either there is equality in the way laws are enforced, or the law, as Mr Bumble said, is an ass.
It's time that all religions, and their more excitable adherents, learned to be more reasoned in their reaction to criticism. This is not Islamabad, Tehran or the Gaza Strip. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord, meaning just that - it's not ours.

We don't need protection from debate and robust comment, nor even from the unfair and sometimes vile comments of the satirists of the left. If that debate and comment were to overstep the mark and lead to violence or discrimination, there were, and are, adequate legal sanctions already available. Respect, and consideration for the deepest values, beliefs and opinions of others comes (or should come) from a quality of grace and restraint in our social and cultural life which cannot be enforced by heavy-handed legisation. The law against "incitement to religious hatred" (here) is undesirable in terms of political and legal theory and (because of our modern self-hating, inverse cultural cringe) is turning out to be discriminatory in practice. It is a bad law in principle, badly drafted and inconsistently applied. It was always going to be that way, and our legislators were warned.  It is an unnecessary piece of legislation which should be removed from the statute book as soon as possible. Now surely that should be something which all true Conservatives and Liberals ought to be in agreement. No, I won't watch this space.

Of course, this particular law is another product of the cynical and manipulative New Labour years, having more to do with the preservation of Labour majorities in certain parts of the country than with the tackling of any real social problem. As we know well, this was also a period when, despite the Christian credentials of Labour's two (warring) leaders, a concerted attempt was made to drive Christianity from the public square in the name of a radically redefined 'tolerance and equality.'
What better way to achieve that, coincidentally,  than to make all religions equal but, in the unbalanced way this unnecessary law would be enforced by police and prosecutors, through fear of social unrest, racial divisions or the alienation of 'minority' communities, to make one faith seem to be more equal than the others, and that not the 'established' or historic religion of the land?  An object lesson in how to bring the law into disrepute and how to make any inter-faith understanding much more difficult into the bargain.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Short on humour?



An organisation representing (or claiming to repesent) those suffering from dwarfism is extremely upset about  Prime Minister David Cameron repeating (a rather funny) story at Mr Speaker Bercow's expense. Here
Mr Cameron should have known better; someone was always going to take offence; we all have to be so careful in this very political and extremely humourless age.
In any case, I've always  naïvely assumed dwarves in fairy stories  folk tales to be mythical creatures rather than humans with a genetic condition or medical disorder.
Having said that, I'm sure there's an army of angry gnomes, goblins, trolls and ogres, not to mention unicorns, centaurs and dragons out there just waiting to complain should someone make a similar 'gaffe.'

St Catherine


The altar, St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai - photo; The New Liturgical Movement

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr. Most of us of a certain age probably first heard her name in childhood in connection with the popular firework, the Catherine Wheel, although that is now, for some reason, almost universally sold and referred to as a pin-wheel: we seem to be doing our level best to lapse into a culturally suicidal collective amnesia about our history and the things which have formed us.

Tradition says that St Catherine was born in Alexandria, the daughter of a noble family. Having been converted to Christianity through a vision, she denounced the persecution of her fellow believers under the Emperor Maxentius. Offered an imperial marriage if she would deny her faith, she refused and was put to death on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel broke, she was beheaded. She is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers.  Her Catholic Encyclopaedia entry is here
One of the most popular of saints in the medieval period, St. Catherine's was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Our French neighbours tell us that today, St Catherine's Day,  is the best time for planting new trees and shrubs. Not for us this year unfortunately; that will have to wait until early Spring, which will at least give the plants a fighting chance before the heat of the Summer.

 Here in our southeast corner of Monmouthshire this morning we have a heavy white frost, by far the worst of the season so far. Winter begins in earnest...

And for the U.S. A., it's the Thanksgiving holiday- so Happy Thanksgiving to any of you who may be reading this in between the turkey and the rest of the festivities!



Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Social media - for Pete's sake!

L'affaire Broadbent has presented us with the less edifyng side of internet social networking sites. We all have a tendency to shoot from the hip and make comments we may very well regret later on after a few hours' consideration. Facebook, Twitter and all the others, not to mention blogging itself, all tend to lead us into the dangerous area of instant comment with its concomitant lack of charity. It's always a good rule of thumb to say nothing online which we wouldn't be prepared say to a person face to face or which we would have to add to our list for the confessional. But having said that, isn't the heavy-handed suspension of  the Bishop of Willesden looking every bit as ill-considered as the comments which originally got him into such hot water?  It seems Anglican bishops can say what they like about Our Lord and get away with it, but ....... 
It just seems to be a interesting little illustration of the contemporary values and priorities of the Church of England.

My daughter's school seems to spend a great deal of time very sensibly and reasonably warning its teenage girls and boys about the dangers of  posting comments on Facebook and other social media, words which they may wish they hadn't written and which may come back to haunt them, not to mention the terrible damage done to interpersonal relationships within the confines of a relatively small community. Modern communications have made the whole world a smaller place; the 'global community' is increasingly interconnected. Comments made here can be read in the U.S. or Australia (or in bishops' palaces closer to home)  in just a few short seconds. So perhaps there should be similar advice given to mitred members of the (English) Establishment (particularly to those who think they're not really 'establishment' at all.) That's something for Diocesan CME directors to get their teeth into and attempt to justify their existence. 'Responsible Social Networking for Bishops and Clergy'  - should that be a day or a residential course?

But this whole story does raise the more serious question as to how a truly convinced republican could honestly take the oath of allegiance at all. For a Church of England bishop to disapprove of the concept of monarchy itself and (presumably) of the whole Crown/Church connection, could make one wonder what all the fuss has been about since the 1530s.
I've always thought that to believe in the disestablishment of the C of E without also legislating for its dissolution ( involving reunion with Rome for some, and with what used to be called 'Protestant Dissent' for others),  is something of a contradiction, unless one believes there is a coherent and cohesive body of specific Anglican doctrine and practice which is (now - in the contemporary situation) worth preserving in an independent ecclesial entity. No, please, speaking as a 'cleric' of the disestablished Church in Wales [and, remember, disestablished against its will by the State, thereby making us a branch broken from an already severed limb] let's not go there...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More of the same

Thanks to the Ordinariate Portal for this excerpt from the Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential address to the new session of the General Synod of the Church of England:

"As we proceed towards a decision about the ordination of women as bishops, it is important that, here and in the dioceses, we should not be afraid of discussions that clarify the theological issues. It will be a great pity if we come to our final decision without having confidently articulated why women bishops would be theologically in tune with our deepest commitments. As I’ve said more than once before, I believe that the ARCIC Agreed Statement on ordained ministry offers a clear basis for argument and a clear common ground on which we can continue discussion with our ecumenical partners, whatever the tensions. Those like myself who believe women bishops to be a development both good and timely for the Church and wholly consistent with its mainstream understanding of ministry and sacraments should be ready to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made. And those who do not share these convictions have both the right and the responsibility to articulate the theology of the Church and its authority which makes them hesitate, because listening to these points is a necessary part of the whole body’s discernment.

Of course it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England. They remain in our prayers and we continue to give thanks for the ministry they have offered all of us. And I must add that, despite continuing sensationalism about the effect of this on the main work of ecumenical relations, the planning of the next round of ARCIC has been developing constructively; and I was told last week in Rome at the highest level that the membership of the Commission is at last practically finalised. The remit of this next Commission is – appropriately – to look at exactly this question of the authority belonging to the local Church and its relation to the universal Church."
The whole address can be read here

Here's the rub: (the emphasis is mine) "it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England."

For most of those who have made the decision to leave, now or at some point in the near future (and it has hardly been a precipitate decision),  "continuing the discussion" is precisely the problem. A "discussion" can only take place in any meaningful way when both sides are prepared to listen to the needs of the other. General Synod (not to mention the assemblies of other Anglican provinces) and its various committees and working groups have shown very few signs of a constructive engagement with the actual theological, ecclesiological and sacramental needs of those who "hestitate" (sic) to agree to this departure from apostolic order.
But for us, this is not a "discussion;" ecclesially, these are life and death issues, going to the very heart of the sacramental life itself, the nature of the Church, and the future of any ecumenical dialogue which could lead to full and visible unity, the unity for which the Lord prayed on the eve of his Passion. It cannot be a matter of "the whole body's discernment," because we, as Anglicans, are not the whole body.
It may also be reading too much into a general 'beginning of term' address, but these are the sort of diplomatic comments which are made when someone knows there is nothing more to offer, but is reluctant to admit it.
As in all of Dr Williams's addresses, there are several nuanced themes being enunciated at the same time. The encouragement  by the Archbishop of the proponents of women bishops "to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made" can very easily be read as an implicit recognition of the weakness of the case they have so far presented - strong on sociology, weak on theology.
But ultimately this does not bode well for those Anglo-Catholics who wish to remain at all costs within Anglican structures.
It should also make the next round of 'ARCIC'  rather interesting to say the least.

St Clement: Kindness


The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome

It was a great pleasure on Sunday (and indeed, an honour) between masses to meet Fr Seán Finnegan of the blog Valle Adurni and a fellow contributor to the Anglo-Catholic (and very much more besides.)
It's a difficult time for many Anglo-Catholics as we try to discern what it is God wants us to do. What has come as a revelation in the midst of this crisis is the kindness of strangers. Well, perhaps not now strangers exactly, but certainly those from whom we have been divided by centuries of misunderstanding, opposition and, in the early years of our enforced separation, violence and persecution. At times the realisation that we are surrounded by so much prayer is almost overwhelming, and it is certainly sobering to realise that many of us have received recently far more kindness and generosity from those from whom we are at present separated than from many of those (there are exceptions, I know) who form with us part of the same ecclesial community.
The Anglo-Catholic Movement, of which many of us are proud to be a part, even in its dying days, never quite fitted. I'm sure we all have personal anecdotes to substantiate that, in addition to our knowledge of Anglican history. There have always been those more than willing to make the accusation of disloyalty or of cypto-Romanism. We know of the ritualists who were imprisoned under Disraeli's PWR Act; a few centuries before openness to Catholic tradition cost Archbishop Laud his life.   But that was its major strength; it was the grit in the oyster (or the stone in the shoe, depending on your point of view.) I'm glad that after nearly five hundred years, at least part of that movement is being welcomed home with such generous consideration, sympathy and true liberality.

from the Letter of Pope St Clement I to the Corinthians

"Let us, therefore, brethren, be of a humble frame of mind, ridding ourselves of all arrogance and haughtiness and foolishness and passion, and do what the Scripture says; for the Holy Spirit declares: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man of his strength, or the rich man of his riches; but, if anyone boasts, let his boast be in the Lord; thus he will seek and do what is right and just. Especially let us be mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spoke when inculcating gentleness and long-suffering. This is what He said: Show mercy, that you may be shown mercy; forgive, that you may be forgiven; as you treat others, so you shall be treated; as you give, so you shall receive; as you judge, so you shall be judged; as you show kindness, so kindness shall be shown to you; the measure you use in measuring shall be used in measuring out your share. With this commandment and these precepts let us strengthen ourselves, that we may live in obedience to His holy words, with humility in our hearts; for the Holy Scripture says: On whom shall I look but on him who is gentle and meek and trembles at hearing my words? "
And, to end, this strange (but topical) reference to the Phoenix, the mythical bird born again from the ashes of its old existence and, clearly,  an ancient Christian symbol of the resurrection (long before it was appropriated by J.K. Rowling!)
"Let us consider the strange and striking phenomenon which takes place in the East, that is, in the regions of Arabia. There is a bird which is called the phoenix. It is the only individual of its kind, and it lives five hundred years; and when it approaches dissolution and its death is imminent, it makes itself a nest out of frankincense and myrrh and the other spices; this it enters when the time is fulfilled, and dies. But out of the decaying flesh a sort of worm is born, which feeds on the juices of the dead animal until it grows wings; then, upon growing strong, it takes up that nest in which the bones of the former bird are, and these it carries all the way from Arabia to the Egyptian city called Heliopolis; and there, in daytime, in the sight of all, it lights upon the altar of the Sun and deposits them there, and then departs to its former home. The priests then examine the public records, and find that it has come after the lapse of five hundred years."
Do we, then, consider it a great and remarkable thing if the Creator of the universe will bring about a resurrection of those who have piously served Him in the assurance engendered by honest faith, when He uses even a bird to illustrate the sublime nature of His promise? For somewhere it is said: And Thou wilt raise me, and I will give Thee praise: and, I lay down to sleep, and I slept; and I awoke again, for Thou art with me. And, again, Job says: Thou wilt raise up this body of mine, which has patiently endured all these things."



Monday, 22 November 2010

Excerpts from that interview

Sandro Magister  here reproduces some excerpts from the forthcoming book length interview with Pope Benedict entitled "Light of the World."

I'm only going to copy two (and no, not on the issue which is whipping everyone into an unnecessary media-feeding frenzy at the moment). The first is on the nature of priesthood and the ordination of women, perhaps an understandable preoccupation of some of us at present:

"The formulation of John Paul II is very important: "The Church does not have in any way the faculty to confer priestly ordination on women." It is not a matter of not wanting, but of not being able. The Lord has given a form to the Church with the Twelve and then with their succession, with the bishops and the presbyters (the priests). We were not the ones who created this form of the Church, but rather its essentiality comes from him. Following it is an act of obedience, and in the contemporary situation perhaps one of the most burdensome acts of obedience. But precisely this is important, that the Church show that it is not an arbitrary regime. We cannot do what we want. There is instead the Lord's will for us, to which we adhere, even if this is wearisome and difficult in the culture and civilization of today. Besides, the functions entrusted to women in the Church are so great and significant that one cannot speak of discrimination. This would be the case if the priesthood were a sort of dominion, while on the contrary it must be complete service. If one looks at the history of the Church, one realizes that the significance of women – from Mary to Monica all the way to Mother Teresa – is so eminent that in many ways women define the face of the Church more than men do."
As we would expect from this Pope, this is a reflective and thoughtful restatement of the tradition, giving the lie to claims that those who oppose women's ordination on traditional grounds are motivated by prejudice and fear of the feminine. Still, as we know from the Anglo-Catholic perspective in the wake of all the debates and particularly the publication of  'Consecrated Women?',  it won't stop the accusations coming thick and fast. Modern secular understandings of progress and of human nature brook no opposition.
And the second excerpt is in direct relation to that:
"The real threat that we are facing is that tolerance may be abolished in the name of tolerance itself. There is the danger that reason, so-called Western reason, may maintain that it has finally recognized what is right, and in this way make a claim of totality that is the enemy of freedom. I believe that it is necessary to denounce this threat forcefully. No one is forced to be Christian. But no one must be forced to live according to the "new religion," as if it were the only and true religion binding for all humanity."
We should read it all - one for the Christmas list!

Friday, 19 November 2010

An outbreak of realism? Perhaps...

The reality of the situation seems to be striking various actors in the drama unfolding in front of us. The Ordinariate will begin on a relatively small scale, but will gain momentum as the truth of the situation dawns on those at present reluctant to accept it. There will be no stampede and no panic; in fact, it's far better that there shouldn't be. A gradual process of disengagement (as provided for - and envisaged - by Anglicanorum Coetibus itself) seems most likely for sympathetic Anglo-Catholics unable to remain and continue the attempt to square the theological circle. Surely the welcome mat will be left out for as long as it is needed.

Update: The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales issued this statement today setting out the approximate timetable for the establishment of the Ordinariate. There are no surprises contained in it as far as I can see.
Here are links to the Ordinariate Portal and the Catholic Herald which are both running with the breaking news. No doubt comment from all quarters will be forthcoming.

And the 'Anglican crisis' is as far from being resolved as ever it has been.
No surprises there, given that those on opposing sides increasingly seem to believe in radically different deities; a 'common language' increasingly divides them - the words are the same, the meanings attached to them diverge wildly.
I feel most sorry - in some ways - for those theologically 'in the middle' and the wilfully unobservant who think things will stay very much the same. But, then, it's a misty morning and the streets here are thronged with old maids bicycling their way to Holy Communion.......

Here is a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's latest interview in Rome. And here is Vatican Radio's Report with a audio link of the whole interview
And some widely reported comments from the Bishop of Beverley, an honourable man and admittedly in a very different situation to that of the southern flying bishops about whom he had some very warm things to say: 'Not yet, until it's clear the ship is really going down,' he seems to be saying.
I have resolutely no comment to make, only that the water has been lapping our ankles for a while now and shows no sign of receding. Perhaps we notice these things sooner down in third class.

Meanwhile, debate on the Anglican Covenant (a toothless tiger 'by design' if ever there was one) rumbles on and TEC's worshipper figures seem to confirm that the Anglican ship is indeed holed beneath the  waterline. This from the Church of England Newspaper:
"The Episcopal Church continues in its course of a steep decline in the wake of its divisions over doctrine and discipline, with the national office reporting that in 2009 average Sunday attendance (ASA) fell by three per cent to 682,963. As of the end of 2009, the Episcopal Church reported having 2,006,343 active members—at its peak in the 1960s the Church counted over 3.5 million members."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Spots and measles

In a deeply unpleasant piece in The Guardian,  Stephen Bates (self-confessedly, "someone who is pretty lapsed these days"- so yet another 'candid friend' of Christianity a la MacCulloch) raises the old canard about potential recruits to the Ordinariate being little better than misogynists, and repeats that tired liberal prediction about the next- Pope-but-one who will be shocked into WO and any other fashionable nostrums by falling priestly vocations.
Well, speaking personally, if in the more than highly unlikely event of that happening (impossible, given the statements of successive Popes? [see comments]), questions of the validity of WO would then, for me, resolve themselves - at least ex post facto - but not, of course, in any sense as regards the actions of the adherents of the 'new religion' (pace C.S. Lewis) which Anglicans in the west appear to be begetting - or perhaps 'giving birth to' is the better analogy.
But when will these people realise that the issue of authority looms larger and larger for all of us, and has to a great extent changed our view of the Anglican Communion to which we now belong? I'm afraid, such is our disillusionment, that Fr David Houlding's recent re-statement in an interview with Ruth Gledhill here of the C of E as being "the ancient Catholic Church of this land" isn't one which many of us would now be able to recognise as bearing much relationship to reality. Such claims now tend to elicit hollow laughter rather than even emotional agreement.
But 'Factionalism' is something most of us long to be able to leave behind: it doesn't come naturally and, as we know well, one Anglican's 'factionalism' is another's sturdy defence of the Catholic Faith. Accusations of factionalism (even if here they were aimed at us - they're not: I suspect Mr Bates & co have one far more highly placed - and very Catholic - target in mind) only arise out of the utter impossibility of 'Catholics' ever being merely one party in an ecclesial polity which pretends to transcend differences in churchmanship and theology. But in some ways it's hardly an exaggeration to say that factionalism is what Anglicanism is about - it's built into the fabric. There is within contemporary Anglicanism no universally acknowledged source of authority to which one can refer, unless we can bring ourselves to accept the malign and often theologically ignorant and self-contradictory decisions of synodical majorities.  Anglican factionalism goes with the territory and is not the same thing at all as "dissent," in the Catholic sense, from a clearly identifiable magisterium.
As to misogyny, it's an article of faith with them; they simply cannot accept that for us the ordination of women and ethical revisionism are rather like the spots which herald an attack of a contagious disease - not at all the most significant issue for the sufferer.