Tuesday, 23 November 2010

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."

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