Fr Anthony Chadwick has been running a series of thoughtful posts on the subject of romantic utopianism and the contemporary fascination in some quarters for all things retro - not primarily regarding the life of the Church, but clearly applicable to it. I suppose post-modern man ceases to be authentic when he starts to be over-concerned about authenticity... worrying [see here]
"...It seems safe to say that most of us are probably ill at ease with the kind of ultra-modernism that makes us think of dystopian literature and cinema like Orwell’s 1984. Like the generations before us, we begin to fear the future as something we cannot control. We begin to wish the future would be like an idealised vision of the past. It has happened before with the Renaissance and medievalism in the nineteenth century. I can’t remember the quote, but it said something like – first time, great, but second time it is a farce. A Victorian revival in the twenty-first century, when the Victorian era was a romantic revival of the middle-ages combined with modernity? A revival of a revival? In art and music, we are afraid of pastiche, and young composers are only beginning to return to traditional harmony and counterpoint and still come up with something original.
It seems a game not to play in religion, though many of the tendencies will remain with us even if we do not exteriorise them. What should we revive next? Should we continue with ultra-modernism if you want to call it that? Already half a century ago, you had composers making random noises and calling them “music” and so-called artists throwing paint onto a canvas and calling it a masterpiece. The deception can only go on for so long. What we are looking for are not the particular expressions of particular eras but eternal values. I don’t give a damn about a computer keyboard make to look like a Victorian object or a CD player in what looks like a 1930′s wireless set.
What I do care about is grammar and proper use of words in a language, harmony and counterpoint in music, form and colour in painting and sculpture, doctrine and liturgical form in religion. There are eternal laws better observed in some historical periods rather than others. Bringing back these eternal laws and constants would be the greatest contribution to post-modernism...."
Of concern to everyone who sees the necessity for 're-enchantment,' Fr Ray Blake [here] worries about the loss of the sense of the supernatural and the numinous in the Catholic Church - a problem for Anglicans and a source of division and conflict from the very beginnings of our separated existence:
"...To be honest it is what I love about the Mass of Ages, it emphasises the supernatural. To counteract the various Protestant heresies the Counter Reformation emphasised its more Catholic elements: that human beings could approach God in prayer, that God did come and change our lives in the regular use of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. Devotions like the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts took the place of Christ the Terrible Judge, which dominated pre-Reformation Catholic church decor, I find it fascinating that that disappeared almost over night despite being the major western iconography for almost 500 hundred years...."
"...If one reads publications such as The Tablet or listens to their Rome Correspondent or reads the demands of various "Priests Initiatives" from Austria, Ireland or even this country, Catholics like me are left wondering whether there is any sense of the supernatural behind their thought. Do these people really believe that God has been made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and that Christ rose on the third day in the flesh and that we too will rise again and be judged by God and go to Heaven or Hell? Do they really believe God rests in the hands of a priest under the form of bread at Mass? Are they left in open mouthed wonder at the sight of the Lord in a monstrance?..."
The British media needs no encouragement to portray churchmen as goofily irrelevant figures of fun. And George Conger [here] advises the soon-to-be new Archbishop of Canterbury to be very wary indeed of 'hats' - and all that comes with them - for good reason:
"...Justin Welby’s first press conference following the announcement of his appointment leaves me hopeful we won’t see the mistakes of the past continued. I do hope he is able to bring in his own staff and clean the Lambeth stables.* Actually 'bardic,' (It's Welsh & he's a poet - most of the past wearers of the costume would have been protestant 'nonconformists', hence the rather careless symbolism) but who cares? A wimple's a wimple. [Ed]
But there are signs that he may not be ready for prime time. This photo leaves me worried. True, it is not on the order of Rowan Williams’ druidical * wimple, but I would ask what he was thinking..."