Tuesday 31 January 2012

Arise, Mr Goodwin!

So, the banker Sir Fred Goodwin, former Chief Executive of RBS, has had his knighthood taken away.
It's hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for Mr Goodwin (as he is again), who seems a pretty tough, not to say ruthless, cookie but even harder to understand the mind-set of those politicians and commentators who think this makes any difference whatsoever to the mess we are in.
'Sir Fred' (as he was), has done nothing illegal, but 'only' made some utterly disastrous decisions affecting the economic and political future of his country. Perhaps, from his point of view, it's a shame he didn't become 'Lord Goodwin:'  not only would be safely ensconced in the Upper Chamber, but truly in the company of his peers.

The removal of his honour: an important symbolic gesture, or just pointlessly rebarbative populism - a kind of 'official' brick through the window?

The Church in Wales Review

The Church in Wales has issued a press release [here] on the subject of the Review of its life and structures.

"More than 1,000 people across Wales have had their say about the future of the Church in Wales as part of a root and branch review.
They met the three members of the independent Review Group at public meetings held in each of the six dioceses in Wales in November and January.
The Review Group was commissioned by the Welsh bishops and the Standing Committee of the Governing Body last year to address fundamental questions about the role and structures of the Church in Wales as it approaches its centenary in 2020. It is chaired by Lord Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, and also includes Professor Charles Handy former professor at the London Business School; and Professor Patricia Peattie, former Chair of the Episcopal Church in Scotland’s Standing Committee.
As well as the public meetings, the Review Group held separate meetings with senior clergy from each diocese, bishops’ advisers, ordinands and staff from Wales’ theological college, St Michael’s College, Llandaff, and senior staff from the Representative Body. In March they will meet a delegation of young people from across the Church to hear their views. They also took written submissions from those unable to attend the meetings.
At the open meetings parishioners were asked what aspect of both their diocese and the Church they felt most positive about and what changes they would like to see to make its ministry more effective. They were also asked how they would address challenges such as the predicted fall in clergy numbers and financial resources.
The Group will report back in the summer..."

Some of us hope against hope that the review will come up with findings which will be other than a mirror held up to reflect current social fashions and cultural prejudices, although the chances have to be against it, given the necessarily self-appointed nature of the thousand or so people who attended, and presumably the much fewer who expressed their views at the various public meetings.
It might be thought, too, that the witness of Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the ages might be included in the consultation exercise.

There are, of course, already those - theologically trained and even commissioned pneumatologically, one might say - who should be making these kind of leadership decisions about the future....
But then the results of that process would perhaps be even more of a foregone conclusion than those of the "independent" Review Group are likely to be.

Education: Crisis, what crisis?

Cranmer [here] has this post on the difficulties of student Christian societies in our brave new contemporary university culture.

"Honestly, whatever happened to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and of association? This is a university – an English university – in which its student body apparently has no remote understanding of what it is to be educated in the liberal arts tradition, or any appreciation of what it is to live in a liberal democracy."

The real problem seems to be allowing those who are essentially illiterate (but who may have a certain facility in passing increasingly easy and narrowly-based 'A level' examinations) to attend a university in the first place.

Monday 30 January 2012

Do not go gentle.....

"Civilisations which go gently and willingly into extinction, as Winston Churchill once rightly pointed out, disappear forever. Those that go down fighting have some hope of rebirth."

I have to admit after recent conversations with friends that I've changed my mind - if only just a little.
I'm not for one moment rowing back from the point of view consistently expressed in these pages that the Ordinariates (worldwide) offer the best - in reality the only - chance for the long-term survival of an authentic form of Catholic-compatible Anglican patrimony and tradition, and for a theological healing of at least some of the deep rifts of the English Reformation.
But I now think it's also necessary for some to stay and face inevitable defeat with all its attendant risks (not only in terms of financial and employment security, but as regards cynicism, bitterness and loss of faith in anything) just to order to fight, where they are, for what they believe.

The reason? Simply that the theological / cultural 'war' taking place both within the Christian tradition and in the societies in which we live won't come to an end with the triumph of secularist thought in Anglicanism and in the other bodies which trace their independent existence from the upheavals of the sixteenth century. We are clearly deluding ourselves if we think that the proponents of equality at any cost will halt at the banks of the Tiber. The fight will follow us wherever we go.
As we are seeing both in the United States and in Britain, in Church and State alike, nothing is immune from its effects, in ecclesial terms largely because of the massive influence the aggressively secular mass media has on the lives and opinions of the faithful. The limited influence of those who teach and preach the faith is only too clear.
In the Western Church we have been richly blessed with two steadfast and articulate defenders of orthodoxy in the present Holy Father and his predecessor. We have to pray that the ancient highly conservative role of the Papacy and the Roman Church will continue to resist the inroads of liberalism to the end, even at the risk (as Pope Benedict has indicated) of shrinking drastically in terms of size and influence.

Anglo-Catholics were often accused in the nineteenth century of being a kind of 'fifth column' (I'm aware of the linguistic anachronism)  undermining the culture and polity of the Church of England. To court self-conscious irony, this is our last chance fully to embrace that role by resisting the current Anglican trend towards the abandonment of apostolicity and credal orthodoxy even in the face of 'persecution' and ultimate extinction.
The Ordinariates are necessary. I have nothing but admiration for those who have been able to make the move, risking much to help establish something which we hope and pray will be of increasing significance and influence in the years to come. But also necessary, I now believe, is the willingness to face certain defeat - to go down fighting - for the sake of the signal it will send out. Anglicanorum Coetibus plainly states that the Ordinariates are not for this moment or for this generation only.
It's not 'either or,' but 'both and.'
And, at the risk of appearing naïve, the recent signs of mutual antagonism between those who have gone and those who have stayed can only help those who oppose the 'Catholic' faith in all its forms.* Surely, even for those who now wish to make exclusive claims, 'he who is not against us is for us.'
Or, to coin a phrase (!)  'we are all in this together.'

* One very important addition / correction: from a correspondent:
'Surely “the recent signs of mutual antagonism between some of those who have gone and some of those who have stayed”? I can only speak for myself, but I’ve not given up any of my friendships.'

Memo to myself - don't write in the middle of a 'flu bug.

King Charles I

                                                        Van Dyke's celebrated Triple Portrait of King Charles I

By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross

Sombre and rich, the skies;
Great glooms, and starry plains.
Gently the night wind sighs;
Else a vast silence reigns.

The splendid silence clings
Around me: and around
The saddest of all kings
Crowned, and again discrowned.

Comely and calm, he rides
Hard by his own Whitehall:
Only the night wind glides:
No crowds, nor rebels, brawl.

Gone, too, his Court; and yet,
The stars his courtiers are:
Stars in their stations set;
And every wandering star.

Alone he rides, alone,
The fair and fatal king:
Dark night is all his own,
That strange and solemn thing.

Which are more full of fate:
The stars; or those sad eyes?
Which are more still and great:
Those brows; or the dark skies?
Although his whole heart yearn
In passionate tragedy:
Never was face so stern
With sweet austerity.

Vanquished in life, his death
By beauty made amends:
The passing of his breath
Won his defeated ends.

Brief life and hapless? Nay:
Through death, life grew sublime.
Speak after sentence? Yea:
And to the end of time.

Armoured he rides, his head
Bare to the stars of doom:
He triumphs now, the dead,
Beholding London's gloom.

Our wearier spirit faints,
Vexed in the world's employ:
His soul was of the saints;
And art to him was joy.

King, tried in fires of woe!
Men hunger for thy grace:
And through the night I go,
Loving thy mournful face.

Yet when the city sleeps;
When all the cries are still:
The stars and heavenly deeps
Work out a perfect will.

Lionel Johnson (1867-1902 )

The execution of King Charles from the 2003 film 'To Kill A King'

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Ubi Caritas

For the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul and the last day of the Octave for Christian Unity:

The setting of the motet 'Ubi Caritas' by Paul Mealor

Monday 23 January 2012

David Jones

David Jones: 'Hill Pasture: Capel-y-ffin'

Being at a loose end in Cardiff for a few hours on Saturday, I spent some time in the really very impressive National Museum.
Over the winter until the beginning of March there is an exhibition devoted to the drawings and paintings of the Anglo-Welsh artist & poet David Jones, best known perhaps for his major poetic works In Parenthesis and The Anathemata. Following his experiences in the First World War , Jones became a convert to Catholicism and joined the circle of artists around the sculptor Eric Gill, first at Ditchling and then in the former monastery buildings of the eccentric but pioneering Anglican Benedictine, Fr Ignatius at Capel-y-ffin near Llanthony on the Welsh border.

The exhibition shows clearly the overriding themes of David Jones’ work, both in his painting and his poetry, the 'sacramental'  landscape seen through the eyes of a devout Catholic Christian faith and owing much to the ‘romanitas’ of early medieval Welsh / British history and legend. In his disaffection with contemporary culture and with 'modernity' he can increasingly be seen as an important and prophetic figure.

I was introduced to the art and poetry of David Jones as young theology student (and I will always be very grateful  indeed for that life-changing experience) by representatives of those who thought we could have the poetry without the doctrinal orthodoxy, ironically those who have helped bring into the very heart of the Church the destructive tendencies Jones so lamented ; I wonder what he himself would have thought about that.

The Cardiff exhibition? Well worth a visit!

Sunday 22 January 2012

Elgar: Piano Quintet

Prompted by a post at the Stella Maris blog [here] about the composer Edward Elgar and the undoubted difficulties he encountered because of his Catholicism [one only has to think of Stanford's infamous comment about the Dream of Gerontius that it "stinks of incense" to understand very clearly the prejudices commonly in circulation] here is perhaps my favourite work of Elgar's - the Piano Quintet in A minor, performed by Ian Brown with the Sorrel Quartet:

Of course, it wasn't only Roman Catholics who suffered from the Establishment's prejudice. Less than twenty years before the writing of Gerontius, Anglo-Catholic clergy of the Church of England were being imprisoned by the State under the provisions of Disraeli's Public Worship Regulation Act. If to the Establishment of the day, Catholics were the clear and overt enemy, Anglo-Catholics were the sinister and subversive fifth column.

But Fr Abberton is right; the prejudice against Catholicism in any form is still there beneath the surface. Try scratching the veneer of contemporary ecumenical 'tolerance' and you will soon find out. To take a random example, even mention the word ' Ordinariate' in certain circles and .... [light blue touch-paper and retire]

Friday 20 January 2012

A Code of Practice won't do?

By an ironic twist of timing (who says the Lord doesn't have a sense of humour?) during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the Church of England General Synod has produced an Illustrative Draft Code of Practice [here] for further marginalising  addressing the issue of traditionalists who, along with the vast majority of Christendom,  cannot accept the validity of women bishops.
I won't waste my time here writing about something which will have absolutely no relevance in a Welsh Province which, after the arbitrary withdrawal of our episcopal provision, doesn't even have the flimsy fig leaf of  a code of practice. Judge for yourselves whether the C of E's attempt addresses anyone's concerns - even those of the putative female 'bishops,' much less those of the traditionalists who strive to ensure the continuation of an orthodox 'Catholic' tradition within the provinces of Canterbury and York.
The Archbishops have tried to reassure traditionalists [here], but the ball now seems to be firmly in their court in order to ensure that this time their wishes are not treated with utter contempt by General Synod.

Fr Anthony Chadwick at a new blog writes [here] about the PNCC. It seems to allay many of the concerns expressed about its doctrinal orthodoxy.

And thanks to Anglicani,  here is a interesting link to a Orthodox (capital 'O') Western rite - the 'Anaphora of St Gregory the Great' - look familiar?

Monday 16 January 2012

"The abolition of gender"

An alarming piece here from American Thinker about the attempt by elements of the 'social left' in the U.S. A. to deconstruct society's ideas of gender - sex if you prefer.
Now, of course, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is simply the wackier outer fringe of equality politics, were it not for recent rulings on the setting aside for passport and identity purposes [see here] of the original sexual identity of those who describe themselves as transgendered. In effect, here one can now choose whether to be described as male or female for means of official identification regardless of biology, regardless one might say, of the facts. But it is this latter point of respect for truth that is the crucial issue. Otherwise, in a 'free society' who cares about a person's sexual preferences or how someone dresses and describes themselves? But we should care about accuracy and known facts and not seek to alter them out of a misguided respect for subjective feelings. Christians would also add the vital importance of respecting the God-given distinctiveness and complementarity of male and female in the created order.
Tolerance as sentimentality, the elevation of preference as the supreme good and, frankly, pretence are in danger of taking over our social discourse and interaction. But, of course, the developments mentioned in the article taking place in state schools and other institutions have occurred in the U.S.A.. This is Britain; it could never happen here.
Now where have I heard that before?

From Bl John Henry Newman's Verses on Various Occasions


"Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan."

YE cannot halve the Gospel of God's grace;
Men of presumptuous heart! I know you well.
Ye are of those who plan that we should dwell,
Each in his tranquil home and holy place;
Seeing the Word refines all natures rude,
And tames the stirrings of the multitude.

And ye have caught some echoes of its lore,
As heralded amid the joyous choirs;
Ye mark'd it spoke of peace, chastised desires,
Good-will and mercy,—and ye heard no more;
But, as for zeal and quick-eyed sanctity,
And the dread depths of grace, ye pass'd them by.

And so ye halve the Truth; for ye in heart,
At best, are doubters whether it be true,
The theme discarding, as unmeet for you,
Statesmen or Sages. O new-compass'd art
Of the ancient Foe!—but what, if it extends
O'er our own camp, and rules amid our friends?'

[Palermo.  June 5, 1833.]

Sunday 15 January 2012

What price 'vocation' now?

What a complete mess...

Q. Who should definitely not - ever - under any circumstances - be ordained to the episcopate?
A. Someone who would consider suing the Church if his "vocation" were not recognised.

See the report from the Mail on Sunday here
And comment from Peter Ould  here : I agree; this report sounded at first so bizarrely unlikely as to be impossible, even in today's Church of England. However, commentators seem convinced of the truth of it...
No comment from the story's protagonists - from The Guardian here

Whatever the background of this particular story, the whole saga of the modern Anglican approach to human sexuality is an object lesson in how not to do theology. But it's precisely the sort of thing which happens when an ecclesial establishment abandons its intellectual and spiritual traditions and ends up in thrall to the surrounding secular culture.
"Liberals" from other and more ancient Christian traditions who might ever be tempted to follow the Anglican example, please take note before you step into the void...

On the general subject of contemporary ecclesiastical appointments and those who make them......

Friday 13 January 2012

Updates and a new Welsh appointment

From Cramner - why the right to insult - and to put up with being insulted - is vital in a free society (and for the future of the blogosphere):

"This is the New Inquisition: the demand for theological orthodoxy has given way to prohibition of ‘feeling insulted’. And you might be next. Indeed, His Grace’s blog may well be closed down because someone complains to the police that religio-political polemic makes them feel uncomfortable and causes them distress; that they feel ‘insulted’. This blog is, after all, a public space and His Grace is publishing alarming material. He probably not infrequently falls foul of equality and diversity demands, or transgresses the bounds of acceptability for those of other faiths or ‘exotic’ sexual proclivities. His Grace rarely means to insult, but the intention is irrelevant: if the beholder feels offended, His Grace may be reported to the police under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and they are obliged to investigate..."

John Richardson on expectations and Common Tenure [here]

Part two of the excellent post on the ancient origins of the Nativity Scene from the NLM [here]

The new Dean of Monmouth (St Woolos Cathedral, Newport) has been named.
In succession to the resolutely traditionalist Dean Jeremy Winston SSC, whose tragically untimely death took place in November, the appointment of the Revd. Lister Tonge has been announced by the Bishop of Monmouth today.

St Hilary of Poitiers

                                          The Church of St Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers

My first church as a parish priest was dedicated to Saint Hilary. It had started life as a post-war prefabricated building, along the lines of the 'tin tabernacles,' unmistakably 'Catholic' in its interior but architecturally about as far removed from the great church of St Hilary in Poitiers as you could imagine, but nevertheless a living witness to the Faith and the love of God in what had become, to the great distress of its older residents, a run-down and increasingly violent, socially and spiritually impoverished housing estate.

Little did I think that one day, in France, we would be within easy reach (in French travelling terms, anyway) of Poitiers itself.

"When we speak of the reality of Christ's nature being in us, we would be speaking foolishly and impiously - had we not learned it from Him. For He Himself says: 'My Flesh is truly Food, and My Blood is truly Drink. He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in him.' As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly the Flesh and it is truly Blood. And These Elements bring it about, when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue. But He Himself is in us through the flesh and we are in Him, while that which we are with Him is in God."

St Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate [8,14]

 The Shrine of Saint Hilary

Father, keep us from vain strife of words. Grant to us constant profession of the Truth. Preserve us in a true and undefiled faith so that we may hold fast to that which we professed when we were baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we may have Thee for our Father,  that we may abide in Thy Son and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Where did you get that hat?

I've been sent this link to a wonderful, if a little irreverent, post on the subject of ecclesiastical headgear. Having been known to wear a biretta on occasion, what is ridiculous after all? Some secular fashions also leave a lot to be desired, but chacun à son goût and all that ... at least in the Church we don't go in for tattoos. Now that would be something.
But I've always thought the most silly hat of all comes from the Anglican tradition, the Bishop Andrewes Cap *  - like a Christmas tree gone over to the dark side.

* Something which can't quite make up its mind as to whether it's a biretta or an academic cap - the classic Anglican dilemma.

'And I saw a new heaven'

                                       This evening's sunset: colder weather on the way?

For a very slow news day in January at the beginning of ordinary time, here is a video of Edgar Bainton's 'And I saw a New Heaven'  This particular clip is included as much for the visuals - from a Sung Mass at St Paul's, K Street, Washigton DC - as for the music itself:  there are better quality recordings.
But this post was really prompted by something pointed out by Kate, my wife - an admittedly very obscure literary / musical link between the children's author, Elinor M Brent-Dyer (the writer of the 'Chalet School' series), who crossed the Tiber in 1930, and Edgar Bainton himself. He taught her whilst he was the head of a music college in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

A very good statement in so far as it goes

Lest it be thought that I have nothing good to say about contemporary Anglicanism, here is a helpful statement issued on behalf of the Church of England in response to the (essentially bogus) Falconer Commission for Assisted Dying.
As far as it goes. To be slightly critical, one would have expected a statement from the Church to make at least some mention of the Christian respect for the sanctity of life which underlies both this statement and the present law.
I understand the arguments against referring to that: theological arguments are all too readily dismissed in a highly secularised age. But is the Church just another socio-political pressure group among many, or should we dare to say something positive about the spiritual foundations of society, something which makes explicit mention of a 'higher' authority? As I say, I know the arguments........ we have to be be taken seriously by society as a whole........I'm just not convinced by them. The Church should be the Church. It is our failure to be so over the years and to make the case in season and out of season for the reasonableness of the Christian faith, for all kinds of superficially good motives as well as some indefensible ones, which has allowed secularism to proceed largely unchecked.

Here is the statement in full - a welcome contribution to the debate nonetheless:

Statement on the report of the Commission for Assisted Dying (5 January 2012)

The 'Commission on Assisted Dying' is a self-appointed group that excluded from its membership anyone with a known objection to assisted suicide. In contrast, the majority of commissioners, appointed personally by Lord Falconer, were already in favour of changing the law to legitimise assisted suicide. Lord Falconer has, himself, been a leading proponent for legitimising assisted suicide, for some years.

The commission undertook a quest to find effective safeguards that could be put in place to avoid abuse of any new law legitimising assisted suicide. Unsurprisingly, given the commission's composition, it has claimed to have found such safeguards.

Unlike the commissioners, we are unconvinced that the commission has been successful in its quest. It has singularly failed to demonstrate that vulnerable people are not placed at greater risk under its proposals than is currently the case under present legislation. In spite of the findings of research that it commissioned, it has failed adequately to take into account the fact that in all jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia is permitted, there are breaches of safeguards as well as notable failures in monitoring and reporting.

The present law strikes an excellent balance between safeguarding hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and treating with fairness and compassion those few people who, acting out of selfless motives, have assisted a loved one to die.

Put simply, the most effective safeguard against abuse is to leave the law as it is. What Lord Falconer has done is to argue that it is morally acceptable to put many vulnerable people at increased risk so that the aspirations of a small number of individuals, to control the time, place and means of their deaths, might be met. Such a calculus of risk is unnecessary and wholly unacceptable.

Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle

(Lead Bishop for Healthcare Issues)

Roses and primroses for William Laud

Winter Ordinary Time begins today, although we could be forgiven for thinking that spring has arrived several months early. Roses and primroses are flowering together in the garden today. The freezing weather will undoubtedly come at some point, but this comparative warmth is compensation for those of us who hate the cold and have suffered over the last couple of years.

The blog Once I Was A Clever Boy reminds us [here] that Archbishop William Laud was murdered by parliamentary decree (a bill of attainder) on this day in 1645. It's hard to think that the present direction of the Church he once led is anything other than a total repudiation of his heritage and those who have sought to build upon it.
For us, Gladstones's words about Laud seem ironic, not to say tragic:
"Laud as a Churchman has lasted. He lives to-day. His opponents have mostly disappeared from off the earth. They have left consequences, but no representatives. Laud has both."
How times change.

Why incense is good for you by Fr Ed Tomlinson of the Ordinariate [here] with a link to a piece of scientific research on the subject.
For several reasons, probably more theological than medical, its use in the liturgy always makes me feel less depressed. As my old theological college principal used to say - often -  you'll have to get used to one of two smells in the next life, either incense or sulphur, so best prepare for it now...

Not exactly a winter scene

Monday 9 January 2012

Bishop Robert Mercer's reception; a survivor of the Holocaust, and other weekend news & comment

Bishop Robert Mercer C.R. joins the Ordinariate. A long-awaited event. Report at The Anglo-Catholic here from Fr Edwin Barnes and here on his own blog. It's interesting to see the place of his reception, Fr Dolling's old church of St Agatha's, Landport (Portsea) now under the care of the TAC. Could this turn out to be the first church / parish  of the U.K. Ordinariate? Idle speculation on my part only.

Former bishop Clarence Pope, of the Episcopal diocese of Forth Worth (as it was then)  in the U.S.A. has died aged 81 after a long illness. May he rest in peace. Full story here by George Conger

From Bishop David Chislett's blog this homily on the Epiphany by Dr Robert Crouse

Peter Hitchens [here] on the dangers inherent in trying even bad people twice for the same crime (quoting Robert Bolt's take on St Thomas More), and on the populist liberties being currently taken with the fictional occupant of 221B Baker Street. Who reads anymore anyway? Precisely.

BBC Radio 4's Sunday Worship for Epiphany yesterday came from the Vatican Observatory at Castelgandolfo. [Link here]

One of the many reasons (in retrospect) the Second World War had to be fought and pursued to the end - even at such huge cost to Great Britain and her global interests: my neighbour across the church car park in St Arvans, Mady Gerrard's story of her experience in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Belsen [here] The second part will be broadcast in two weeks' time. Unmissable.
This is her life story here  She tells the story of how, before the Holocaust, as a little Jewish girl, Mady Goldgruber, she presented a bouquet of flowers to one Cardinal Pacelli at her town's railway station.
She went on to become a notable dress designer in the United States, making clothes for the wives of presidents and celebrities. Another example of the global village we now live in.

Sunday 8 January 2012

The Epiphany of the Lord

By request!

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes in his Christmas Day Sermon of 1622 said this of the journey of the Wise |Men:
"This was nothing pleasant, for through deserts, all the way waste and desolate. Nor secondly, easy neither; for over the rocks and crags of both Arabias, specially Petra, their journey lay. Yet if safe, but it was not, but exceeding dangerous, as lying through the midst of the black tents of Kedar, a nation of thieves and cut-throats; to pass over the hills of robbers, infamous then, and infamous to this day. No passing without great troop or convoy. Last we consider the time of their coming, the season of the year. It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solsitio brumali, the very dead of winter.”
- words far more familiar to us by being quoted by T.S.Eliot at the beginning of his poem, The Journey of the Magi.
This is Eliot reading it:

Saturday 7 January 2012

For the Eve of the Epiphany

"You know how sometimes on a pitch black night in the country, you see far off one glimmer of light and you follow it and it turns out to be just a candle in a cottage window - but it was enough to assure you of life ahead, to give you the lead you wanted in the dark. In the same way, when the Magi turned from their abstruse calculations in search of heaven and followed a star, they did not arrive at a great mathematical result or revelation of the cosmic mind. They found a poor little family party and were brought to their knees - because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded - before a baby born under most unfortunate circumstances, a mystery of human life, a little living growing thing. What a paradox! The apparently rich Magi coming to the apparently poor child. There they laid down their intellectual treasures - of pure gold to them - and, better than that, offered the spirit of adoration, the incense which alone consecrates the intellectual life and quest of truth, and that reverent acceptance of pain, mental suffering and sacrifice, that death to self which, like myrrh, hallows the dedicated life in all its forms.

The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable simplicity of the methods of God. He is the Light of the World - all of it. He does not only want or illuminate spiritual things. His hallowing touch is for the ox and the ass, as afterwards for the sparrows and the flowers. There never was a less high-brow religion or one more deeply in touch with natural life than Christianity, although it is infinite in its scope. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is no use being too clever about life. Only so far as we find God in it do we find any meaning in it. Without Him it is a tissue of fugitive and untrustworthy pleasures, conflicts, ambitions, desires, frustrations, intolerable pain.”

from Evelyn Underhill: 'Light of Christ'

Peter Warlock's Bethlehem Down sung by the choir of |King's College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Cleobury

2012 Chrism masses - and a few more long term options?

From the See of Ebbsfleet's website

Chrism Masses 2012

March 31st, 11:30am - Holy Nativity Knowle

April 2nd, 11:00am - Pusey House, Oxford

April 3rd, 11:00am - St Martins, Salisbury

April 4th, 11:30am - St James, Wednesbury

Fr Sutter at his blog Anglicani puts forward the available options for Anglicans considering their future [here] It's written from a North American perspective, but largely holds good for the rest of us. There's nothing new there, but it's interesting to see the list of alternatives in black and white:

"...The three options above all consider that apostolic order is secondary to following the spirit of the age in that all three of the above have abandoned the apostolic succession. Anglicans for whom this is not a problem should consider only the first three possibilities above. Anglicans who value apostolic succession should consider only the three possibilities that follow..."

Three Kings

There are no days after Epiphany this year, just the Baptism of the Lord on Monday and then the beginning of ordinary time.
Some more music by way of compensation: Peter Cornelius' Three Kings:

Friday 6 January 2012

L'Adoratione de' Maggi

Like many, here we are celebrating the Epiphany on Sunday, but for the traditional date of the feast, January 6th, this is the early baroque Neapolitan composer Cristofaro Caresana's cantata, L'Adoratione de' Maggi:

There's an excellent post (the first of two) from the NLM on the ancient iconography of the Nativity scene [here]

"...More than one modern writer has failed to grasp or acknowledge the pastoral concerns of men like St. Irenaeus, Origen, or the fathers of the Council of Nicea, when they assailed heresies like Gnosticism or Arianism. In defending the full humanity and the full divinity of Christ, they are also defending the fullness of God’s salvation for the sake of every single person alive, of whatever sort or condition. For the heretics, human nature cannot be saved by the divine nature, because the latter can have nothing in common with it. The faith of the Church can look upon a newborn in a manger and proclaim to all men that in Him, God has made known His Salvation, which is Himself."

Thursday 5 January 2012

A feast for the finches

The storms continue - Atlantic weather along the Severn Estuary and the banks of the Wye. Last night's gales, still blowing strongly but now from a cloudless and cold sky, scattered the seed from one of the bird feeders all over the border underneath; the chaffinches seemed delighted. It's an ill wind...

Of course, the goldfinch is a well-known symbol in medieval art of the Lord's passion and resurrection.
But I think I'm right in remembering that I've read somewhere that the chaffinch, the pinson, a traditional symbol of happiness in France, has been associated with portrayals of St Jerome and has become, as a result, an emblem of celibacy, the 'bachelor bird.'

Who can forget the line about finches from Hopkins' Pied Beauty?

Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow,
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.
illustration - RSPB

Waiting for the barbarians

Sometimes our situation as Anglo-Catholics seems comparable with that of the famous and many-layered poem by C.P. Cavafy - the interminable waiting around for the final cataclysm to happen and for decisions to be made which will determine our futures.
Of course, unlike for Cavafy's Romans, in many ways day-to-day life does go on, the Gospel is proclaimed and the Sacraments celebrated, plans for the future are made albeit tentatively and provisionally, but the unspoken question (actually, several unspoken questions) is always hanging in the air and the sense of waiting is almost tangible.
But, in complete and total contrast to the ending of the poem, there are barbarians (sorry about the analogy, sisters and brothers, but...) and they are on their way.

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard

On the subject of contemporary barbarism of a different kind, even if we could make a good case for their being philosophically related -  the Falconer 'Commission' on assisted dying (reported by the BBC this morning for all the world as if it were what it purports to be) - there's an excellent post here from Ancient Briton about Dame Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement, and notice of a radio discussion from Fr Abberton here
According to one British LibDem euro-politician here , assisted dying is a 'liberal issue.' It's odd that 'liberal issues' now seem to concern death in one way or another, not the enhancement of life. Mr Gladstone must be spinning in his grave.

Wednesday 4 January 2012


I'm still intrigued by an article in the December issue of New Directions in which Bishop Roald Flemestad  of the Nordic Catholic Church urges (soon to be?) unchurched orthodox Anglicans to consider the Union of Scranton and communion with the Polish National Catholic Church in the U.S.A. [here].
I'm particularly intrigued by the suggestion in the light of a recent comment by Fr John Zuhlsdorf  (Fr Z)  that the PNCC rejects the doctrine of original sin [here], famously described by Chesterton as "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”
I must admit that Fr Z's comment did surprise me and alarm me more than a little. Can anyone cast any light on this?

[There is this article on the PNCC, written in the 1950s by the Jesuit, Father John A. Hardon, which makes reference to a 'modern catechism' which states as much, but without any indication as to how authoritative that catechism may have been or may be now]

A duplicitious commission

Cranmer (here) has it about right on the subject of  Lord Falconer's pseudo-commission on assisted suicide. The idea to hand pick the members of the 'commission' in order to produce a predetermined result must have seemed an excellent strategy.  Except for one thing - the process was utterly dishonest and transparently so.
Not for nothing, some might think, was Lord Falconer a member of one of the most duplicitious and downright nasty British governments in modern times, one which, we should never forget, was so desperate to gain and then cling on to office that it took the black arts of political spin to such a level that political life itself has been contaminated for generations.

Winter bugs

No, not the creepy crawly, flying kind, the infectious ones! While a storm outside was battering the village, I spent most of yesterday in bed, feeling dreadful, struck down with aching limbs and dizziness. Winter is really here!
When I was awake, and wondering how the garden in France was surviving the winter, I dipped into a truly original and fascinating book, Jane Mossendew's (of the blog 'Thoughts from a Catholic Oasis' here ) 'Gardening with God, Light in Darkness,' the first of a trilogy covering the whole of the Church's year, which I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone with an interest in both plants and gardens and in prayer and the liturgy.

Some music in honour of Our Lady, not unseasonal - and French: Pierre Villette's Hymne a la Vierge

Monday 2 January 2012

"...what kind of society is it that lets down so many of its young people?..."

asks the Archbishop of Canterbury in his New Year message. [Here]
And, of course, he is right to ask the question.
But how have we let them down?
We have failed them by giving them an inadequate and ideologically warped state education, by selfishly denying them a secure family life, by providing them with poor role models, by patronising them with a ludricrous cult of youth for its own sake, by not giving them safe boundaries within which to live, by cocooning them in an atmosphere of fear masquerading as safety, and circumscribing their freedom as children with absurb regulations of health and safety, by telling them by the way that we live that self-expression, fame and celebrity and money are the things to strive after. Above all, we have failed them by presenting them with a Church which has lost its grip on the things of eternity and is in abject thrall to the zeitgeist which has produced all the foregoing failures.
We could go on.
Perhaps that's not entirely what Dr Williams has in mind.

Indifferent - but to what?

Once again Fr Geoffrey Kirk, writing in the January edition of Forward in Faith's New Directions, has hit the nail on the head. In a particularly trenchant article he challenges the Catholic Movement in the Church of England to recognise that the battle has been lost.
But this is the passage which struck me particularly forcibly, having had the same experience, although a few years later:
"How vividly I remember Denis Nineham celebrating in the college chapel in a chasuble bought by Austin Farrer, behaving for all the world as though he believed in the Real Presence, when he did not even believe in the Incarnation. The virus has proved not only terminal but catching. It was doctrinal indifferentism which allowed the development of the so-called 'Doctrine of Reception' was was embraced by opponents of women priests more or less tongue-in-cheek. It has left its doleful mark."
How very true. We have seen it time after time, accompanied by a 'business as usual' mentality and a refusal or, more charitably, an inability to deliver on our rhetoric in the face of the untrustworthiness and betrayals of our opponents. Nowhere has this been seen more clearly than in Wales where now, because compromise has proved predictably to be a one-way-street, orthodox opposition simply does not count for anything. The sniggering from the sidelines has become almost deafening.

Yet, of course, the doctrinal indifferentism Fr Kirk identifies goes hand in hand with heavy handed sociological prescriptivism. You can be as 'radically orthodox' as you wish in modern Anglicanism just so long as you subscribe to contemporary society's equality agenda, regardless of the damage done to previously shared notions of apostolic faith and order. Doctrine simply doesn't matter any more, the real pariahs are those who are unfashionable enough not only to believe that it should, but that its content should be unchanging. The lack of theological, as opposed to sociological, argument in the debates in synods and governing bodies by the proponents of women's ordination to priesthood and episcopate has spoken for itself and has proved to be an acute and ongoing source of embarrassment to a Christian ecclesial body still engaged, for what it's worth, in ecumenical dialogue with the great Churches of West and East.

The Archbishop of Canterbury can pen as many good wishes to New Directions as he likes, but very clearly and to his lasting regret, with his hands being tied firmly behind his back by General Synod, as things stand now those expressions of prayerful support can mean nothing in terms of active support in favour of Anglican comprehensiveness. [And since when were the followers of the Oxford Movement in favour of that - another sign of indifferentism?] 'Episcopally led and synodically governed' means what it says; bishops, even archbishops, don't make the decisions which count.

Update 05.01.2012:  A link to Fr Kirk's article is now available at the Ordinariate Portal [here]

Sunday 1 January 2012

U.S. Ordinariate set up

For all those who are concerned about the fate of the 'displaced Catholics' of an increasingly heterodox  Anglican Communion (for many of whose provinces even the small fig leaf of the Anglican Covenant is a step too far) today's erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter in the U.S.A. is a welcome development. The Ordinary has been named as Fr Jeffrey Steenson, former bishop of the Episcopal diocese of the Rio Grande.

Over the months this blog has had many things to say in favour of the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus, not the least being that, while seeking to preserve elements of historical Anglican patrimony, it serves to increase the unity of the Church and does not lead to the scandal of any further fragmentation of the Body of Christ.
After centuries of division, mistrust and misunderstanding there will be no 'perfect solution' to the problems of Christian disunity ( that is, a return to unity which is completely painless and acceptable with regard to the desires and sensibilities of all concerned); but those who are able should take advantage of this offer of reconciliation with the Holy See as and when they can.

But for those who can't, if present trends continue (and all the evidence points that way, particularly as regards the doctrinal 'profile' of the ever-increasing number of female clerics - see here for an analysis from Finland) undoubtedly life will be very grim indeed, either for those who try to hang on within the official Anglican Communion structures or for those who struggle to survive outside them, but it is hard to imagine that God will abandon those who, in good conscience, seek to be faithful.
Reports and further links at the Ordinariate Portal [here]