Monday, 31 October 2011

Just because something is designed to shock doesn't make it art

See Fr Z's post  here The ' multi-cultural' double standards here are glaringly apparent. An authentic 'secular' approach would say that either all religious traditions ahould be protected or none at all. My own preference would be none at all, and let the real debate - and opportunity for conversion - begin...
But this is just another predictable and culturally self-hating soft target. Just who is the playwright here trying to shock - his parents, or grandparents? Just grow up. This is the problem in a decaying civilisation when beauty itself has come to be regarded as in some way irrelevant or even immoral. We end up with the merely gratuitously offensive, grotesque and the ugly masquerading as meaningful, 'unflinching', 'iconclastic',  human communication.
I certainly wouldn't ban this play but, then, I wouldn't pay to see it either - unlike the perpetual adolescents, in rebellion against a religious culture they haven't really experienced, and whose god is "art." This is another illustration of the uphill struggle which is modern evangelisation. The French bishops' reaction * evades the issue rather than addressing it. A missed opportunity.

* 1/11/11  My thanks to Henri for clarifying the nature of the responses - see comments

Hallowe'en Horror

Far, far worse than the ghoulishly dressed trick-or-treaters trudging the dark, damp streets, or the really quite atmospheric candlelit pumpkins on the garden walls- a decorated Christmas tree in the foyer of a local supermarket. Arrghh!

St Paul's - another resignation

I'm not sure what this unfolding story is saying to us about the relationship between the Church of England and contemporary society, or about internal relationships in cathedral and diocese, but this is an extraordinary development. The Dean of St Pauls, the Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, resigns. Report here from the BBC

"...reflecting back the light with which we have been illuminated"


Fra Angelico: Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven



Monday reflection:  for the Eve of All Saints

“...Compared with the sight of God in heaven, our present glimpses of him seem little or nothing, indeed; and yet they are not altogether nothing. Even today, when we pray, the hand of God does somewhat put aside that accursed looking-glass, which each of us holds before him, and which shows each of us our own face. Only the day of judgement will strike the glass for ever from our hands, and leave us nowhere reflected but in the pupils of the eyes of God. And then we shall be cured of our self love, and shall love, without even the power of turning from it, the face that is lovely in itself, the face of God; and passing from the great Begetter to what is begotten by him, we shall see his likeness in his creatures, in angels and in blessed saints, returning at long last the love which has been lavished on us, and reflecting back the light with which we have been illuminated. To that blessed consummation, therefore may he lead all those for whom we pray, he who is love himself, who came to us at Bethlehem, and took us by the hand.”
Austin Farrer (1904 – 1968) : from the sermon:       The Ultimate Hope  (from A Celebration of Faith)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

"a breath of Celtic Christianity" - NOT

According to this report by George Conger, the diocese of Atlanta (TEC - where else?) has a motion at its annual convention to rehabilitate the theology of Pelagius. Once again,  I didn't believe it at fiirst , but sure enough, here it is on the list of resolutions.
I nearly choked when I read this (comment and italics are mine):
"The proposed resolution has brought mixed responses from the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies chat room, with some ridiculing the notion that the Diocese of Atlanta believed itself capable of redefining church doctrine." [that begs quite a few questions in itself, given TEC's  - and not just TEC's - stance on an increasing number of issues]   "However, other deputies have endorsed the resolution saying it gives a breath of Celtic Christianity to the Episcopal Church and enhances the church’s theological diversity."

Writing from the land of St David, who was above all a vigorous orthodox opponent of pelagianism, it strikes me that whatever this is, it isn't historically authentic 'celtic christianity' (a much abused term over the years in any case.)  
I assume (I could be wrong) the resolution has absolutely no chance of being passed; the real question concerns how on earth it managed to find its way on to the agenda of a Christian diocese at all.
But this being TEC, I suppose it was predictable, some might even ask, how did it take this long?

The thought did occur to me that we should start a competition - 'Vote for your favourite heresy.' The winner (determined by which doctrinal error finds itself 'officially' recognised first) wins a one way ticket to .......... I don't have Atlanta in mind...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ave Maria: Gustav Holst



As we approach All Saintstide, the weather is becoming ever more autumnal - it was a glorious morning yesterday, with the early morning sun cutting through the shifting mist from the Severn estuary and striking the tops of the trees whose leaf colours are changing now day by day. These are the last few hours of British Summer Time, the clocks go back an hour tonight - so, into the darkness of the British winter!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Your prayers on this Feast of SS Simon & Jude, Apostles

For the Feast of the holy apostles Simon & Jude, the Kyrie and Gloria from the 'Missa Aeterna Christi Munera,' by Palestrina:





Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone: grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer)


Your prayers are asked for the new Dean of Monmouth, Fr Jeremy Winston, SSC, who has been  struck down with illness so soon after his installation.
The Diocese of Monmouth's website has this information:
"Please continue to hold the Dean in your prayers. He has been diagnosed as having a brain tumour and is starting a 6-week course of intensive radiotherapy. He is not to have visitors but messages can be left on http://stmarysprioryabergavenny.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/fr-jeremy-winston-update-251011/   
Please remember Fr Jeremy in your prayers and at the altar as he begins treatment.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

"I have handed in my notice:" News links & updates

No, not me, but see who has - below...

More on the St Paul's protest for those following the confusion:
A statement of support from the Bishop of London [here]
Canon Giles Fraser does resign - report from the BBC [here] - something to bring a fleeting ray of sunshine into the otherwise joyless lives of  "narrow-minded puritans" everywhere. [See here]

The Ordinariate liturgy?  Of more than academic interest to everyone on the catholic wing, regardless of their immediate plans and prospects. Actually worth watching for all concerned with 'Anglican' liturgical developments, particularly given the long needed reform of the reform agenda of Rome, evidenced by the new translation of the missal.
Masses ad orientem may be the norm, says Mgr Burnham [here]
And, again, on the wider subject of liturgical patrimony [here]

A reminder, too, of the study day at Belmont Abbey on 5th November (a significant date?) for those wishing to explore the idea of an Ordinariate group in Wales. See here for further details.
This is a crucial development, both for those of us who will go and those of us who will stay, given the ecclesial assisted suicide pact which seems to be the contemporary Church in Wales. For many, though not all, now there is somewhere else to go. One wonders what the response from the Church in Wales hierarchy will be, if any. Common sense, not to mention self-preservation, would seem to suggest that this is a good opportunity for a new spirit of generosity in their attitude towards traditionalists, but my own suspicion is that the Bench's hands are firmly tied by the strength of the equality-at-any-cost lobby ...

Professor Dawkins, the Sheldonian, and the empty chair. [here]
I don't share the author's obvious admiration for the "Oxford Martyrs" (Cranmer & Ridley, that is - since first reading it I've never been able to get Dom Gregory Dix's wicked summation of Cranmer's own eucharistic theology out of my head* Cranmer? Not weak, but perhaps a well-deserved victim of his own doctrine of the Royal Supremacy), but apart from that....

* "Cranmer's prayer of oblation virtually  puts 'These are our bodies' in the place of 'This is my Body' - and that is not the eucharist."
(Dix: 'The Shape of the Liturgy' Chapter XVI - well worth reading in full - and it needs to be in full - to understand where many of us are coming from)
Of course Dix also says (writing in the 1940s) on the same subject:
"The Church of England has officially rejected the most characteristic of Cranmer's doctrinal notions on the eucharist ever since 1559. but it has continuously had to use a liturgy which was quite brilliantly designed to express those particular notions." 

Shocking evidence of the denial of basic civil liberties by the British State
or at least its largest employer, the NHS - from Valle Adurni [here]
One seriously wonders about the sanity of those who make decisions like this.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Silly

It seems as if St Paul's Cathedral will re-open its doors at the end of the week; the health and safety issues presumably having been resolved. The whole episode does no one any credit, neither the protesters who chose such a soft target to make their less than coherent views known (and, according to one daily newspaper, abandoned their tents at night for somewhere more comfortable), nor the Cathedral administration itself which has emerged from this looking, to put things in their most favourable light, a little inconsistent.
The highlight of the whole story seems to be  a seemingly impromptu, 'flash,' outdoor celebration of evensong, a counter-protest in solidarity with the Church. This idea has potential...
There remains the threat of the forcible expulsion of the anti-capitalists by the City of London authorities which, again, would be a completely foolish and counter-productive over-reaction. In fact, the only thing which could be said in its favour is that it would provoke (or, so he says) the resignation of the ubiquitous Canon Chancellor - just kidding!

Hello?

In the Michaelmas edition of Oxford Today there is this delicious put down of a committed atheist:
 "Dismissing as "threatened" those who take a different position from one's own is as effective a way of evading robust intellectual engagement as any."
I couldn't have put it better myself. Christina Rees et al, please note. Although, given the fact that the writer is an ordained woman, I feel as if I woke up this morning in some kind of irony-free parallel universe. Oh well!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

1000 years of history again. Really?

History tells us that Henry Ford said that ‘history is bunk.’ But nevertheless the suspicion that he may have been right always rears its head when our politicians appeal to history to support their cause du jour, in this case a referendum on our continuing membership of the European Union.

That phrase “1,000 years of British history,” heard on the floor of the House of Commons over the last few days, is clearly inexact; those on what we sometimes patronisingly call the ‘Celtic fringes’ will certainly quarrel with it; those Christians to whom these things are important will wish to trace an English identity to the major factor in binding together the newer inhabitants of these islands into a nation, the Faith brought to them by St Augustine in 597 A.D.
Yes, geography has helped to mould us and has separated us from our continental neighbours, although it didn’t prevent us from becoming a province of the Roman Empire. Anyone with even a tenuous grasp of the middle ages, or even of the shifting alliances of ‘modern’ history (to 1815, that is) will know that ‘England’ (Great Britain since 1707) has played its full part in the political  history of Europe, even if culturally, as a result of the peculiar nature of 'our' Reformation, we became somewhat detached.
The myth of a kind of splendid British isolation (our version of U.S. ‘exceptionalism’) reached its apogee in Victorian times with the growth of a world empire which caused us for a short while (in historical terms, if not in terms of popular perception – only 99 years from Waterloo to the sailing of the B.E.F. in 1914, and that's to ignore the Crimean War) to almost forget our geopolitical situation as a medium sized country a few dozen miles or so off the Atlantic coast of western Europe.
Even then, of course, our traditional concern with the balance of power in Europe led us to involvement in that system of alliances which indirectly brought about the outbreak of the First World War. A similar inherent sense of our European identity and responsibilities led us in 1940 to fight on alone against the tyranny of Hitler when a negotiated settlement could (although things would undoubtedly have been very different) have enabled us to concentrate on our imperial and commercial interests in the rest of the world. Our view of ourselves as an independent trading nation free from foreign entanglements is clearly at odds with the historical reality in so many ways.

But the greatest problem of the way the post-Treaty of Rome “European ideal” has been interpreted is its disastrous democratic deficit and the grandiose schemes of its unelected bureaucrats which takes so little account of the cultural and economic differences of all its constituent nations. From the point of view of the Church, of course, the most worrying aspect of modern ‘Europeanism’ (as opposed to the ‘catholic’ vision of its founding fathers) is that it has chosen in the name of multiculturalism to neglect and devalue, and even recently to try to eradicate from its public square, the one factor which over the centuries has bound us together, our faith in Christ and our historical relationship with the apostolic See of Rome. But that’s not just a continental European problem as we know to our cost; it’s simply a symptom of a general western post-christian crisis of identity.

British history is different, but then so is that of every European nation state. The resurrecting of the old Britain versus Europe myth does us all a disservice in that it seriously misrepresents the realities of the past and the present. I’ve heard similarly disillusioned comments about Brussels and the workings of the E.U. in the cafés and bars of the Vendée, and one not undistinguished inhabitant said to me in the summer that the wisest thing Britain has done in recent years was to keep its distance from the euro zone.
I’m sorry, but on this David Cameron is right. Talk of complete withdrawal from the E.U. (as opposed to a necessary renegotiation of the terms of our relationship if the ‘core’ members proceed to full economic and political union) in favour of a kind of undefined Atlanticist or Commonwealth future in what is a dangerous and changing world, would seem to be, to say the least, something of a reckless gamble.

But one thing is sure: the interpretation of history is too important to be left to politicians in search of safe seats and re-election.

Today, as well as being the feast of the Six Welsh Martyrs, is 'Saint Crispin's Day' (the Roman martyrs Saints Crispin & Crispinian here) This is the St Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V - the Kenneth Branagh production.
Undoubtedly politically, culturally and religiously part of the European mainstream at the field of Agincourt, too. One can't help wondering whether, even in this his most 'patriotic' of plays, Shakespeare was making a similar point...

Monday, 24 October 2011

"...but it would be the worse for the world."

Monday reflection

“It is easy enough to exaggerate the practical achievements of the Christian church in these directions during this last generation of the real Roman empire. Social life was only beginning to be christianised. But what was done is not to be discounted. When one understands the sort of things which passed unquestioned in the world of the first three centuries one appreciates better the significance of the christian empire ….
…one sees the vastness of the change the gospel brought to the theory of human life. The unlimited right of power, deliberate cruelty, lust, the calculated oppression of the helpless, these things were accepted motives in pagan life. They did not disappear at the end of the fourth century with the christian triumph; they were not even more than checked in practice. But at least they were now publicly reprobated and challenged in the name of justice, pity, purity and mercy. They were beginning to be generally regarded in practice as sins, and not as the inevitable and natural way in which men may behave when they can.”
"This was the achievement of the church in the fourth century, and it is to my mind a great one, though it is not always appreciated either by christian moralists or secular historians. Our own age has been shocked by the cynical horrors of which its own neo-paganism has proved capable, to the point of determination that the symptoms must be eradicated by force, cost what it may. But I do not see why such things should greatly surprise students of classical antiquity. They are among the familiar fruits of the pagan ideal, the apotheosis of human power. Perhaps modern christians and post-christians alike, weary of the tension of christian belief in a deeply secularised order of society, have been over-anxious to hurry the church back to the catacombs, from which she emerged to put an end to the pagan theory of human life. If she should ever return to them she would survive, as Russia shews; but it would be the worse for the world. That theory in some form is Europe’s only alternative religion, whether men try to set in the place of the Faith ‘our Saviour Adolf Hitler’ or the ikon of Lenin or the inscrutable wisdom and providence of an impersonal L.C.C. The men and women who refuted and smashed that theory of the sufficiency of power were the noble army of martyrs…”

Dom Gregory Dix: The Shape of the Liturgy

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Laetetur cor

Ignorance rules, ignorance coarsens

I had a chance telephone call yesterday from an academic who teaches medieval history. The conversation, as it tends to do more and more these days, came around to a discussion of how little many of today's undergraduates know about their own country's history and culture, specifically in this instance about the architecture and internal design of church buildings - "what's a chancel?" - that kind of thing.
But the really disturbing remark (funny, but disturbing) concerned a university teacher of religious studies, a Muslim, who was told by a first year student that he (or she, I don't know) was unsure about the difference between Jesus and Buddha. "Just think of Jesus as the thin one," was the advice given, I'm told.
While we are playing around with issues of diversity and equality, the world passes by with increasing incomprehension.

On another subject altogether, but perhaps in some ways related to the increasing ignorance of the Christian faith and its values, graphic television footage and gruesome newspaper photographs of the bloodstained body of a dictator being dragged through the streets does nothing to alleviate the undoubted coarsening of our culture and the increasing lack of respect for the human person - every human person. Neither does the general delight expressed at the death by lynch mob of a human being - any human being, however evil his crimes and however deserving of punishment. Gaddafi's death may well have been necessary, but the western gloating is cheap, not to mention vastly hypocritical. And, if that's sanctimonious, according to one commentator (see here), I'm happy to plead guilty.


Meanwhile in the midst of the anti-capitalist protest, and after all the clerical posturing, St Paul's Cathedral closes its doors (including, according to the BBC, for Sunday services) for the first time since the London blitz. The closure has taken place for "health & saftey reasons," reports say. An example to us all.


For Our Lady on Saturday:

Friday, 21 October 2011

That word 'diversity' again

We seem to be having a very 'Anglican' series of posts recently.
Hot on the heels of the comments of the Provost of Glasgow and  rumours about the possible exclusion of the orthodox from ordination training in Wales, comes the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Students of Anglican history will find some small amusement in the fact that his name is Chillingworth.

This is from the Church of England Newspaper:
Writing in the Scotsman on 13 Oct 2011, Bishop David Chillingworth of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane criticized the Catholic Church in Scotland’s condemnation of the SNP government’s consultation on gay marriage. The primus argued that discussion of same-sex marriage was a proper subject of government review, and noted the Scottish Episcopal Church was itself rethinking the issue.

Dr. Chillingworth stated that he believed “the church must and should be an unequivocal supporter of marriage and family life.”
But Jesus did not call the church into being as a citadel of orthodoxy. He was constantly criticised because he spent time with people who didn’t fit the conventional patterns and were deemed unacceptable by others. He told stories about nets and fishing, about lost sheep and banquets where the guests were to be gathered from the highways and byways,” the primus said.
“If there is a mandate for us in the churches, it is to try and build communities of faith which honour the way in which we believe Jesus responded to people in their diversity,” he noted.
I have to say I find disagreeable, and even somewhat disreputable, the arguments repeatedly advanced from those of a liberal theology which seek to equate Christian orthodoxy with the attitudes of the scribes and the pharisees  and, more significantly, at the deliberate blurring of the essential distinction between the unconditional welcome Christ extends to all of us, including those on the margins of society and 'conventional' morality, and the repentance and reorientation towards the values of the kingdom which he also requires of us all.

But, the real sting in the tail of arguments in favour of what people like to call 'diversity' these days is that the concept itself is always defined entirely on liberal terms; traditional Christian faith, order and practice is increasingly excluded from its sacred canon.
The CEN headline is "Orthodoxy an option for Scotland"; we know very well how far that is overstating the case - and I'm not referring specifically now just to Scottish Anglicans - because in reality it soon won't be an option at all.
It's the Neuhaus law again: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.."
It's verifiable - if you can bear it, just wait and see.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wales: new barriers to ordination?

Ancient Briton has these comments in a recent post about a story that a large majority of the Welsh Anglican dioceses will no longer accept for ordination training those opposed to the ordination of women. His sources are undoubtedly better than mine, but the same kind of information has even reached this very beautiful and sylvan corner of ecclesiastical exile.

Is it true? I don't know; but it's hardly surprising that they are in such wide circulation given the Province's unambiguous 'equality' agenda. 
In many ways this is hardly 'news' at all, as a Standing Committee report recommended this policy be adopted as early as 2009 [see here]  But it would be good to hear some authoritative denials of the rumours and, even better, some concrete evidence of its untruth in some three or so years' time, if there are still traditionalists brave enough to offer themselves for ordination to the priesthood in a province whose theological trajectory is now so clearly antithetical both to historically recognisable catholic faith and to contemporary ecumenical realities.

Why is this so important? Surely, as so many people have said, 'the game is over.' Without rehearsing all these arguments yet again, it remains important simply because promises were made to traditionalists in Wales and they should be kept. And to those who are saying that promises were not made, I can only respond that their understanding of the English language is obviously different to this one-time member of the Governing Body who was present when they were made. Perhaps the translation facilities were faulty that day.
On the other hand, we have to accept that these promises, like the continued appointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop, were never formal constitutional guarantees. Yet, it was certainly in the interests of those in favour of change that they should be regarded as binding by those who were opposed. Of course, we know that, to quote Sam Goldwyn, "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on," but it would be a shame if that has become the unofficial motto of the new look Church in Wales.

Regardless of the present agenda and the increasing power and stridency of the women bishops lobby, there is a reason why such morally binding assurances should be honoured. It has something to do with authenticity, honesty and integrity.... things not wholly unconnected with the nature of the God who became man.


1940s GWR travel poster of the Wye Valley.
 Still Wordsworth's "sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods.",




Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Joy, not despair

Perhaps with the onset of autumn - it is now much cooler and the leaves are falling rapidly - the melancholy and celtic part of my genetic inheritance (can we say that?) has come to the fore. Anyone know of a remedy for that: one, that is, which doesn't involve following the example of the swallows in our church porch?
But we all find it difficult when we seem to be surrounded by the the grave illnesses of close family and of friends,  when perhaps we come up against those whose main motivation appears to tear down and destroy rather than preserve, cherish and build up, to be able to hold on to the fundamental Christian virtue of hope.
Pace the quotation from Josef Pieper from a few days ago, it's difficult when faced with what at least feels at the moment still very much like the defeat of many of our earthly hopes for heaven-directed things, to be anything other than filled with a kind of ironic amusement which can, if we don't guard against it constantly in our prayers, simply be a mask hiding - not too successfully - a corrosive inner despair.
We need to hold on to joy, not in the somewhat false, fixed grin, "I know I'm saved" sort of way, but the deep down joy which, even if everything else collapses around us, recognises that the Lord is in control of events, and that when we sometimes question his ways, he is in fact interrogating ours.

Not quite the last rose of summer, but a welcome burst of colour before the first frosts

My thanks to Margaret Zakachurina at the blog  Doves and Pomegranates  for posting this quotation which I came across the other day:

"In lighting a candle, we offer up to him, the one true Light, in love and humility, our poor little lights, confident in the knowledge that in his infinite mercy, somehow, they will merge into the radiance of the Kingdom of Heaven."

(Mother Thekla)

To return to Josef Pieper:
"Love is the prime gift. Whatever else is freely given to us becomes a gift only through love."










Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Second hand bookshops

can be full of surprises. Hay-on-Wye is just close enough to worry the bank balance...
Over the years it's been possible to pick up neglected classics of Anglican / Anglo-Catholic theology - written by those Fr Aidan Nichols has referred to as being recognisably "..'separated doctors' of the Catholic Church" - which are now highly unfashionable and largely out of print, and which have been definitely excluded from the curriculum as far as most centres of Anglican "ministry" training are concerned.
[For that catastrophic development see previous posts. One can't help thinking that this isn't wholly unwelcome in some quarters; the less those training for Anglican ministry actually know about the Christian tradition - as opposed, say, to modern trends in psychology and the sociology of religion - the less likelihood there is of the current theological consensus ever being seriously challenged.]

But as well as what seems to be a privately-bound early 1900s copy of Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditations for a couple of pounds, I recently picked up a curious modern (1992) reprint by the Ebury Press of  the Book of Common Prayer.
I'm  almost convinced the project was the work of an ironic Anglo-Catholic (perhaps a successor of the wicked person who came up with the idea of the Latimer and Ridley votive candlestands for the Society of SS. Peter and Paul in the 1920s), as it is illustrated throughout with some quite good quality images of medieval and later illuminations taken from manuscripts at the Bodleian.
I particularly like the depictions of the Mass complete with elevations of the host and use of the houseling cloth, and of the Burial Rite, with candles, pall and the celebration of a Requiem Mass (pictured below)
To say the illustrations have a distinct tendency to subvert the intentions of those who originally compiled the 1552 text, doesn't do it justice by a long way. I'll regard it as a view of how things should have been and should be still & leave it at that............
But probably worth the fifty pence I paid for it.



Monday, 17 October 2011

"There are two things that kill the soul...."

A meditation for Monday:

"There are two kinds of hopelessness. One is despair; the other, praesumptio. Praesumptio is a perverse anticipation of the fulfilment of hope. Despair is also an anticipation - a perverse anticipation of the nonfulfilment of hope: "To despair is to descend into hell."
By describing both despair and presumption as "anticipation", we disclose the fact that both of them destroy the pilgrim character of human existence in the status viatoris. For they are both opposed  to man's true becoming. Against all reality, they transform the "not yet" of hope into either the "not" or the "already" of fulfilment. In despair as in presumption, that which is genuinely human - which alone is able to preserve the easy flow of hope - is paralyzed and frozen. Both forms of hopelessness are, in the last analysis, unnatural and deadly. There are two things that kill the soul," Saint Augustine tells us, "despair and false hope." And Ambrose says, "He seems not to be human at all who does not hope in God."
from Josef Pieper: Faith, Hope, Love                             

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

For October

.........the month of the holy rosary.


Photo: The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham


From 'A Doorway to Silence' (1986) by Robert Llewelyn:

"In the handling of the rosary - it will seem foolishness to some - we are handling dynamite; not the terrorist variety which blows to pieces flesh and blood, but the more deadly type which wars against the cosmic powers of evil.

Their existence need not unduly alarm us. see the devil (if you allow him) and his angels, not as the opposite number of God, but of Michael and his angels, and you will cut him down to size.

In our everyday actions we are up against symptoms, whereas in the world of prayer we come to grips with the causes which lie behind.

You do not need much medical knowledge to know that rather than pacify the rash it is more sensible to deal with the agent which is bringing it about

We are, of course, powerless to do anything of our own. But I cannot be alone in finding that, in the saying of the rosary, there steals into the consciousness an awareness by faith that one is not alone but in fellowship with Christ and his saints.

In invoking Mary we are calling to our aid the whole company of heaven."

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Unhelpful .... and fully intended to be

We've heard from the Episcopal Provost (Dean) of Glasgow before [see here], over his (as some of us thought at the time) rather ill-judged remarks attacking Bishop Tom Wright's orthodox views on human sexuality - or, actually, and much more worryingly, protesting at the former Bishop of Durham being given a teaching post at a Scottish university: clearly the right to hold a job enabling someone to express his views according to conscience is one which is to be denied to those who transgress against the new orthodoxy. And we thought the Soviet Union was dead and buried....

But those of us who long for some kind of a united witness by the various Christian Churches and ecclesial bodies in Britain against the seemingly unstoppable march of secularism will be dismayed at his latest outburst, this time aimed at recent statements by members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland on the subject of plans to change the marriage laws to allow same-sex 'marriage.' *

[*As opposed to civil partnerships conferring equal legal civil rights with which, again, many of us have no argument whatsoever. However, equal rights before the law seems to be part of yesterday's liberal agenda, now it's just not enough. Any opposition has to be muzzled, misrepresented and demonised as incurably prejudiced, and the traditional language of social institutions, which may be thought to present a problem, if not an insuperable barrier, redefined to mean just what they want it to mean - a fair approximation of totalitarianism, one might think?
Clearly, there are problems ahead for those naïve enough to hold on to the view that 'tolerance' doesn't necessarily involve agreement.]

Thanks to TitusOneNine for this report from The Times:

"A leading cleric has launched a withering attack on the Catholic leaders of a campaign against gay marriage, labelling them “out of touch, arrogant, conceited and rude” and warning that they risk damaging the reputation of the wider Christian community.

In a sermon that exposed the gap between liberal and traditional opinion, the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Glasgow, called the views of senior Catholics on gay marriage “unpleasant and ill-judged”. They “embarrassed” him."

"Embarrassed?" I know the feeling...

Hear and watch it all at this link (am I right in thinking the homily ends up sitting in judgement on the words of the Gospel itself?)
Yet again, words fail me. I'll just go away and bang my head against a wall in sheer frustration.

Monday, 10 October 2011

"We differ in opinion; therefore we cannot all be right..."

For yesterday...



"In these and other ways do men deceive themselves into a carelessness about religious truth. And is not all this varied negligence sufficient to account for the varieties of religious opinion which we see all around us? Do not these two facts just illustrate each other; the discordance of our religious opinions needing some explanation; and our actual indolence and negligence in seeking the truth accounting for it? How many sects, all professing Christianity, but opposed to each other, dishonour this country! Doubtless if men sought the truth with one tenth part of the zeal with which they seek to acquire wealth or secular knowledge, their differences would diminish year by year. Doubtless if they gave a half or a quarter of the time to prayer for Divine guidance which they give to amusement or recreation, or which they give to dispute and contention, they would ever be approximating to each other. We differ in opinion; therefore we cannot all be right; many must be wrong; many must be turned from the truth; and why is this, but on account of that undeniable fact which we see before us, that we do not pray and seek for the Truth?

But this melancholy diversity is sometimes explained, as I just now hinted, in another way. Some men will tell us that this difference of opinion in religious matters which exists, is a proof, not that the Truth is withheld from us on account of our negligence in seeking it, but that religious truth is not worth seeking at all, or that it is not given us. The present confused and perplexed state of things, which is really a proof of God's anger at our negligence, these men say is a proof that religious truth cannot be obtained; that there is no such thing as religious truth; that there is no right or wrong in religion; that, provided we think ourselves right, one set of opinions is as good as another; that we shall all come right in the end if we do but mean well, or rather if we do not mean ill. That is, we create confusion by our negligence and disobedience, and then excuse our negligence by the existence of that confusion. It is no uncommon thing, I say, for men to say, "that in religious matters God has willed that men should differ," and to support their opinion by no better argument than the fact that they do differ; and they go on to conclude that therefore we need not perplex ourselves about matters of faith, about which, after all, we cannot be certain. Others, again, in a similar spirit, argue that forms and ordinances are of no account; that they are little matters; that it is uncertain what is right and what is wrong in them, and that to insist on them as important to religion is the mark of a narrow mind. And others, again, it is to be feared, go so far as to think that indulgence of the passions, or self-will, or selfishness, or avarice, is not wrong, because it is the way of the world and cannot be prevented.

To all such arguments against religious truth, it is sufficient to reply, that no one who does not seek the truth with all his heart and strength, can tell what is of importance and what is not; that to attempt carelessly to decide on points of faith or morals is a matter of serious presumption; that no one knows whither he will be carried if he seeks the Truth perseveringly, and therefore, that since he cannot see at first starting the course into which his inquiries will be divinely directed, he cannot possibly say beforehand whether they may not lead him on to certainty as to things which at present he thinks trifling or extravagant or irrational. "What I do," said our Lord to St. Peter, "thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." "Seek, and ye shall find;" this is the Divine rule, "If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." [Prov. ii. 3-5.]

Bl. John Henry Newman: Parochial & Plain Sermons 8: from Sermon 13 (1843)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

In this atmosphere, who would want public office?

The latest "scandal" to hit the rarefied atmosphere of the Westminster / media village is that of British Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox and his over-close links to a friend (the best man at his wedding, in fact) who has contacts in the defence industry. Foolish, indiscreet, probably; a failure of judgement, undoubtedly; but this is surely not a political hanging offence - or even front page headline material - when we are facing the worst global economic crisis since 1929.

But the really shady part of this story appears to be the unattributed, behind-the-scenes comments being fed to the media by Dr Fox's own colleagues and others. Who would want to hold public office in a culture which is so poisonous and puritanically unforgiving?

Would that this kind of thing were confined to the world of politics.......... the Church isn't exactly immune as, without going into detail, I've found to my cost this past week, having been the subject of some wildly inaccurate but intentionally mischievous speculation about my future.
I grew up in a more innocent world where trolls were confined to the pages of Tolkien and the Nordic myths, and where they could be turned to stone at the flick of a wizard's wand. If only...

We live in a world of over-heated, instant responses, increasingly prone to vindictive witch-hunts and losing our heads and our sense of proportion, not to mention our Christian charity, at the click of a computer keyboard. We are all guilty of this to an extent: our very first response sometimes, if we don't take a deep breath, is to press the equivalent of the nuclear button, skipping all the intermediate stages on the way.
But I've got to the stage where there's only a certain amount of outrage, vituperation and sheer bile I can cope with without wanting to retreat to a hermit's cabin deep in a forest somewhere. If you know of one going, let me know. Although, as they say quite reasonably, if you don't want to be shot at, don't stick your head above the parapet.

It would seem that, having abandoned Christian faith, our society has clung on to the prurience, judgmentalism and sheer nastiness of the very worst aspects of puritanism, whilst paradoxically, and in sharp contradiction, simultaneously promoting a hedonistic cult of individualism - the confusion of the new dark ages indeed.

Friday, 7 October 2011

'Then they came for me...'

It seems that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina in the U.S.A. (TEC) is being hauled up on charges of  'abandoning the Communion of the Episcopal Church.'
See the full report from TitusOneNine here
Revealingly, one of the accusations seems to be that he has refused to instigate litigation against a parish which has voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the Episcopal Church.
Read the list of indictments against him and be appalled at the workings of the totalitarian mind.

It would seem to be high time that the many sympathisers and apologists for The Episcopal Church this side of the Atlantic (some in very high places) asked their friends to call off the attack dogs before it is too late. This latest attempt to crush opposition by Presiding Bishop Shori and her advisors certainly adds, shall we say, a certain piquancy to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent but already notorious comment that women bishops will help in 'the humanising of the ordained ministry.' * [Pause for hollow laughter]
If this attempt is allowed to succeed, the contagion of revisionist-inspired persecution will spread far beyond the febrile atmosphere of The Episcopal Church - with what consequences who can predict?

Those true Anglican liberals (rather than the radical ideologues who appear to be running the show across the pond), who have no wish to be part of a Communion which has effectively expelled those of a conservative and catholic theology from its midst, would do well to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller:
"...Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me"
Because the rate of theological change is such, the retreat from orthodoxy so rapid, that even today's liberals will  end up as tomorrow's conservatives.

[* These are the Archbishop's offending words ending his closing address to - inevitably - a conference on women's ministry; some might think this an extremely dangerous argument if, indeed,  we are meant to take its implications seriously and this wasn't just + Rowan playing to the gallery:
"And above all try and hang on to that sense, that in arguing for and working for the full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry of the church, what we’re after is not simply justice, though that’s not exactly insignificant, but we are after the humanising of the ordained ministry and all that that might mean in terms of mission and the health of Christ’s body."]


On a happier note - for Our Lady of the Rosary, this is the Magnificat by Andrea Gabrieli




Today, of course, as a card I received a few days ago - many thanks - reminded me, was originally the feast of Our Lady Of Victories, commemorating the victory of the Battle of Lepanto .
The card also contained the following highly relevant and necessary prayer (of St John Bosco?) For those who think that, as Twenty-first Century Christians, we should have outgrown such language, see above ......

 O Mary, powerful Virgin, Thou art the mighty and glorious protector of the Church; Thou art the marvellous ‘Help of Christians’; Thou art terrible as an army in battle array; Thou alone hast destroyed every heresy in the whole world. In the midst of our struggles, our anguish, and our distress, defend us from the power of the enemy and at the hour of death, receive our souls into Paradise. Amen.








Thursday, 6 October 2011

There may be trouble ahead........

No,  not breaking news - as far as I am aware - but time for a complete contrast - some 1930s nostalgia.
I had no idea until recently that this Irving Berlin song was born out of the economic recession of the pre-World War II  period; the darker undercurrents are certainly there.
Given our present problems (& I suppose you could extend the context a little to include the non-financial) it seemed somehow appropriate.
This is the original version - hisses and crackles included....... sung by Fred Astaire

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Implacable Certainties

Conservatives, traditionalists, the orthodox, are almost universally portrayed as those who cling tenaciously to yesterday’s certainties whilst rejecting the genuine insights of modernity.
Not so; there are, of course, in all the Christian traditions those of a fundamentalist or Jansenist caste of mind who take traditionalism (there is a liberal equivalent of this, too, of course) to an extreme where, in any sane sense, they cease to follow tradition at all and acquire more than a little whiff of jihadism about them, those who deem themselves to be more Catholic than the Pope, more reliably Orthodox than the Œcumenical Patriarch, and more Anglican than ...... hmmm...
They are those who cannot tolerate any form of disagreement from their (in George Orwell’s memorable if rather unpleasant phrase) “smelly little orthodoxies.”

But conversely, it is tradition, that conservatism, that true orthodoxy, which takes into account the full picture of the ages (we’re back, yet again, to Chesterton’s ‘democracy of the dead’) which is fundamentally distanced both from the complacency of modernity’s temporal insularity, and the unhistorical approach of the ultra-traditionalists (for want of a better term) and, as a result, has much more freedom within which to believe. This is the via media of catholicism and stands in stark contrast to the partial truths and intolerant enthusiasms of the extremes.
Today those purveyors of certainty with the most influence are the liberal revisionists who come with so much ideological baggage, those givens of modern theology which are so unshakeable and which draw their a priori conclusions, not from the Christian consensus of the ages but from the various secular philosophies which trace their origins to the Enlightenment.
The classical ‘Catholic’ position is actually much more open and nuanced than it is given credit for. For example, it has consistently refused to accept the artificial and a-historical division between the ‘Jesus of history’ and the Kyrios, the exalted Lord, of the patristic period. As Aloys Grillmeier pointed out in a lifetime’s study, the catholic creeds, far from being unnecessary and over-restrictive constraints on Christian belief, are essential parameters within which it is possible to live in the freedom of the Gospels.

However, once the accepted boundaries, credal and otherwise, are broken down, and the contemporary church constructs its own narrative under the delusion of having received ‘prophetic’ inspiration, the first casualty is that cautious discernment of the signs of the times which is an essential component of the Church’s task. Within Anglicanism we see this problem writ large; in have come the implacable, secularised certainties and out has gone the 'tolerant conservatism' which should be at the heart of Catholic faith and practice, something which the now dying (and, alas, largely unlamented) Anglo-Catholic Movement at its best was able to display. Yes, we have lived a displaced Catholic life largely in a ghetto, but it has been a ghetto whose spiritual atmosphere and theological ambitions were, paradoxically, bigger and wider than its surrounding ecclesial culture.
I still wonder whether those who lead the Anglican provinces have even now fully appreciated the implications for the life of the church of the ‘constructive dismissal’ of its ‘catholic’ tradition and the consignment of orthodoxy to the unvisited lumber room of its history, or, if they have, whether they are now powerless in the face of their Faustian bargain with the synodical and clerical proponents of 'equality' to do anything much about it.
We’ll see.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Bitter Irony

After the heatwave, Autumn is back.
Today, I even thought I might have gone into hibernation and had woken up on April 1st
Life is full of ironies: some are amusing, others can be very bitter indeed. Here's one which, in a way, somehow manages to be both. I still don't quite believe it - can it really be true?

Francis Phillips at the Catholic Herald writes about Una Kroll, one of the original moving spirits behind the movement for women's ordination in the Anglican provinces of the British Isles. She has, the article says, been a Roman Catholic ( and so, of course, a layperson - apparently as well as ontologically)  for three years. That hasn't, however, prevented contributions such as this intervention [here] last year in The Guardian, supporting women bishops in the Church of England and claiming an insight into God's will for the Church somehow denied to the rest of us, including the Magisterium of her new spiritual home.

This is from Francis Phillips' piece:

"She also had the humility and insight to recognise in her former role “the temptation to potestas”, adding: “That was the moment when I realised that I was called by God to move to a Church where I could not exercise dominion of any sort, but where I could still learn what servant priesthood actually meant when put into practice.”  [read the full article here]
Can I be the only one who finds this bitterly ironic? Of course, one has to respect both Dr Kroll's decision and her own sense of personal integrity, yet having done so much to encourage those who have turned Anglicanism definitively into a liberal protestant ecclesial body and, in the process, effectively scuppered any hopes of reunion between Canterbury and Rome, she has taken the decision to renounce what she has fought for for so long in order to seek full communion with the successor of St Peter - with what aim in mind one should not perhaps speculate (but see here).
It is possible, I suppose, to respect, even applaud, the outcome of her pilgrimage of faith, but at the same time deplore the damage which has been done in the course of that journey.

The further irony, of course, is that she is a stark advertisement for the dangers inherent in the modern secularisation of Anglicanism, and the power of its politicised lobby groups, an urgent warning to the Catholic Church not to jump off the same precipice, and also the vindication (if one were still needed) of the need for Pope Benedict's establishment of the Ordinariate.

I'd laugh if I did not feel so sick at heart......

[Of course, despite my incredulity, the report is accurate - the source of the story, as I should have made clear, is an article by Dr Kroll herself  in The Tablet of 24th September -link here]