Wednesday, 7 November 2012

New off the press - and a few thoughts on the Office

Trending in the press is this from The Telegraph [here] which seems to confirm yesterday's rumours about the new Archbishop of Canterbury - but they say we'll have to wait until Friday (at the earliest?) for it to be officially confirmed.

But hot off the press:
The Catholic & Conservative Evangelical groupings in the C of E's General Synod has produced a booklet entitled 'Women Bishops Legislation:  NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.' 
It can be downloaded here from Forward in Faith
This is from its introduction (although I would again not be so eager as the authors to commend the Church in Wales' approach to legislation which, as we've commented before,  has dangers all of its own for traditionalists): 
"No Closure                                                                                                            Passing this draft legislation in November would be to condemn the Church of England to many more years of bitter infighting over women bishops and provision for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women bishops. The legislation would not provide the robust enduring settlement which would enable all members of the Church to focus our entire time, energy and talents on the mission of the Church.This legislation relies heavily on a Code of Practice to provide for those who cannot accept the oversight of women bishops. The Code cannot be established until the Measure has become law, meaning that the debate over the contents of the Code will not take place until then. Passing the Measure would therefore lead into a further debate about the contents of the Code.The controversy in the summer about the House of Bishops amendments to the draft Measure is a good guide as to the nature of the debate over the Code; it would be like a tug-of-war in which any provision for traditionalists would be vigorously opposed by GRAS, WATCH and senior women priests. Given that the Code has to be agreed by the House of Bishops and the General Synod, the battle over the establishment of the Code could last for years.Even after the initial form of the Code was established, trench warfare would continue. Provisions for traditionalists would be campaigned against, and attacked through various means, including Diocesan Synod motions coming to General Synod. It has already been made clear that WATCH and company are opposed to any provision in the Code of Practice which is not already in the Measure; the situation would not be allowed to rest until that was the case. Passing this draft legislation would not bring closure..."
 Affirming Catholicism has, unsurprisingly, now given its full support for the Measure [here] It has yet to be revealed what possible innovations in the life of the Church Affirming Catholicism would not support....

But perhaps of far more permanent value is the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, the U.K. Ordinariate's recently published traditional language office book. 
My own first reactions are very positive indeed. For those who are not members of the Ordinariate, the volume constitutes an invaluable resource, being an expression of much that is best in the Anglo-Catholic liturgical tradition.  It is largely the kind of office book (containing a version of the day hours and compline in addition to morning and evening prayer)  in the BCP tradition which many Anglican Catholics with a preference for traditional language liturgy would use, given the opportunity and, importantly,  one which has not been hampered by the need to satisfy all schools of theological thought within Anglicanism (as we know, in such a process it is the Catholic tradition in its fullness which is usually left unsatisfied, particularly as regards explicit devotion to Our Lady and prayer for the departed: the Customary, of course, remedies those defects!) 
There is, of course, a wide range of possible choices open to those who wish to pray the Office in the Catholic tradition, from the contemporary Roman breviary, The Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours (which has the huge advantage of simplicity and cuts out the need for a multiplicity of books, even if the English translation, and especially the absence of most of the ancient office hymns of the western Church, leave much to be desired) through such traditional language variations as The English Office Book (containing morning & evening prayer only), The Monastic Diurnal and The Anglican Breviary (essentially the reformed Pius X breviary translated into Cranmerian English, using the Coverdale psalter and the Authorised Version.)

There are two reviews of the new volume from the Ordinariate here and here 

I was struck by this post on the subject of the daily office on the excellent blog Catholicity and Covenant [here]:
"...The practice of praying the Office re-centres the Church day by day.  The other narratives - personal, economic, social, cultural, political - which seek to define us and with which we too often collude, are challenged by the praying of psalms and prophets, gospels and apostolic writings.  Each time the Office is prayed the strange, new word of the Gospel confronts the Church and we are called afresh from the empires of this world (personal, economic, social, cultural, political) into, in the words of Milbank, "Augustine's counter-empire, the city of God".
This points us to the profoundly counter-cultural nature of praying the Office and why, for catholic Anglicans, it should be central to the renewal we seek within Anglicanism.  Forming and shaping new disciples and new ecclesial communities who pray the Office (whether in monastic or cathedral style) should be a vocation particular to the catholic Anglican tradition - a means of bringing the Church "before the constant reality of Christ"."
As secularism gains more and more of a hold on contemporary society, and we find ourselves more and more on the 'losing side'  of the culture wars, the Office will become more and more vital in the survival of the Church (or a part of the Church) both as offering an authentic witness to the reality of the living Christ and as holding before our eyes the real possibility of holiness of life, without which our witness can have no converting power. We are back once again in the territory of Fr Martin Thornton's 'remnant theology', based on the Mass and Daily Office as the focus of the daily lives of God's people.
In an age of anxiety and an increasingly uncertain future for the Catholic Movement within Anglicanism, it is all too easy to succumb to the mood of general depression and let go the essential disciplines of Christian life and priesthood, of which the daily office is an essential part. 
As a friend commented to me recently, quoting Eliot's Choruses from 'The Rock':
"I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing." 

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