Saturday, 29 September 2012

Christ the Fair Glory of the Holy Angels

Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels,
maker of all things, ruler of all nations,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succour;
peacemaker blessed, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty;
herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals,
drive every evil, watching o'er the temples
where thou art worshipped.

Send from the heavens Raphael thine archangel,
health-bringer blessed, aiding every sufferer,
that, in thy service, he may wisely guide us,
healing and blessing.

May the blest mother of our God and Saviour,
may the celestial companies of angels,
may the assembly of the saints in heaven
help us to praise thee.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessèd, hear our thankful praises;
thine is the glory which from all creation
ever ascendeth.

Rabanus Maurus (776-856)
translated by Athelstan Riley (1858 - 1945)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Breaking News: so that explains it

Breaking news - following a rather cryptic press release earlier this evening [here], reports (including an email alert received from Anglican Unscripted) seem to suggest that the Crown Nominations Commission has failed to agree on who should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
Under the circumstances, that's not entirely surprising, is it?
Also see here  for a brief preview from behind The Times paywall and [here] for a more sober assessment from The Telegraph website

Tell us something we didn't know!

"The Vatican newspaper has added to the doubts surrounding Harvard University's claim that a 4th century Coptic papyrus fragment showed that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married, declaring it a "fake."The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published an article Thursday by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani and an accompanying editorial by the newspaper's editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, an expert in early Christianity. They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment's authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance.
"At any rate, a fake," Vian entitled his editorial, which criticized Harvard for creating a "clamorous" media frenzy over the fragment by handing the scoop to two U.S. newspapers only to see "specialists immediately question it....."
Read it all here (thanks to Fr Smuts' blog for flagging this up)
A reasonably objective report from the rather left-leaning Huffington Post apart from the predictably snarky, ' As such, it's not surprising that the Vatican would challenge the claim.' (aka 'they would say that, wouldn't they?')  
Although, having said that, I fail to see what such a complete bouleversement of Scripture and the Tradition could possibly have to contribute to any discussion about "celibacy for priests and the role of women in the church," as the report suggests.
Sorry - any Christian seeking to be true to his baptism would seek to challenge this absurd claim.

Music & 'Catholic' Culture

There's a typically thoughtful article [here]  - which should be required reading for us all - from Mgr Andrew Burnham on the subject of  music and the Ordinariate. In the article he does much, in passing, to explode many of the pervasive contemporary myths concerning a distinctive 'Anglican Patrimony.'

One of the consequences of the Oxford Movement was a conscious attempt to reclaim for Anglicans, as of right, the patrimony of the universal Church, together with a growing wariness of precisely those things which were 'distinctively' Anglican, in the sense of being derived solely from our separation from the rest of the Western Church. Much of the nineteenth century hymnody, for example,  which we claim as our patrimony was, of course, consciously intended as an aid to the recovery of Catholic truth rather than as a specifically 'Anglican' contribution to the ecclesiastical culture.

A careful reading of the article would also, I think, put into perspective the strange comments of those in other places who believe that the [welcome] advent of the Ordinariate should necessitate a return among Anglicans and even Anglo-Catholics to a pre-Tractarian theology and, most risible of all, ecclesiastical dress-codes...
I suppose we should be grateful that the 39 Articles (that definitively but now anachronistically sixteenth century political gloss on the Creeds * ) have not been set to music!

* It was Richard Hurrell Froude who wrote in a letter [of 25th January 1834] to John Henry Newman, "Laud used to say that subscribing the Articles meant nothing more than declaring that you would not preach or teach against them. Must we come to this? I wish they were swept away and nothing but the Creeds left."

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Magna Carta

Far more important than knowing the literal translation of its title (but can that really be the case - if so, wasn't  that money well spent on a most expensive education? Boris Johnson must be beside himself with glee.) the Prime Minister should perhaps reflect on what the Magna Carta has come to stand for and the rights which have stemmed from and have been developed as a consequence of it - particularly when considering elements of his governments's policy such as 'equality' legislation and opposition to rights of the now Christian minority in Great Britain to advertise their adherence to their faith.
Just saying...
Of course,  most worrying of all is the 'democratic' view that the PM was simply feigning ignorance lest he seemed too clever, surely not... even in this age of spin and yet more spin?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Three Cheers and more

for the newly-consecrated Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Philip Egan, who has had this to say:

Dear fellow pilgrims on life's journey,
we inhabit a remarkable century, the 21st, which despite the current economic distemper, is witnessing momentous advances  in every domain of human knowledge and endeavour, with new discoveries and new applications in science and engineering,  in computing and cybernetics, in medicine and bio-technology,  in the social sciences, arts and humanities, all of which manifest the limitless self-transcending reach of human experience, understanding and judgement and the cloud of burgeoning possibilities for human deciding, undreamt of by those who've gone before. Indeed, even as we speak, Curiosity is roving among the sand-dunes of Mars, in anticipation of a manned space-voyage to the Red Planet.
With all these exhilarating developments, the Catholic Tradition must engage, the old with the new, in a mutually-enriching critical-conversation. Yet the ordination of a Bishop, as Successor of the Apostles, in communion of mind, will and heart with the Pope, as the chief Shepherd, Teacher and High Priest of the diocese entrusted to him,  who, like the Master, must lay down his life for his flock, reminds us that human needs ever remain essentially the same:
the need to love and to be loved,
the need for a purpose and vocation in life,
the need to belong to family and community,
the need for mercy and forgiveness, for peace and justice, for freedom and happiness,
and most profoundly, the need for immortality and for the Divine.
All these fundamental desires, hard-wired into the human heart: theology expresses in the word 'salvation,'
and we profess that every child, woman and man on this planet can find that salvation.
There is a Way – and it's the Truth!
It's the true Way that leads to Life, real life, life to the full, a life that never ends.
There is a Way, and it's not a strategy, a philosophy or a package-deal.
This Way has a Name, because it's a Person, the only Person in human history who really did rise from the dead, a Person alive here and now: Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son Incarnate.
He alone can save us.
He alone can give us the salvation our spirits crave.
He alone can reveal to us the Truth about God and about life, about happiness and humanism, about sexuality and family values,     about how to bring to the world order, justice, reconciliation and peace.
This message of Good News, and the civilisation of love it occasions, we Catholics must now communicate imaginatively, with confidence and clarity, together with our fellow Christians, and all people of faith and good will, to the people of England, this wonderful land, Mary's Dowry.
We must offer this salvific message to a people, sorely in need of new hope and direction, disenfranchised by the desert of modern British politics, wearied by the cycle of work, shopping, entertainment, and betrayed by educational, legal, medical and social policy-makers who, in the relativistic world they're creating, however well-intentioned, are sowing the seeds of a strangling counterculture of death.
My brothers and sisters, today, the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom, of England's Nazareth, let's go forth from this Mass with joyful vigour, resolved in the Holy Spirit, to help bring about the conversions needed – intellectual, moral and spiritual – for everyone-we-meet to receive Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Life....
Please pray for me to the Lord Jesus, whose Heart yearns for us in the Blessed Sacrament, that I might be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous, Bishop of Portsmouth, one fashioned after the Lord's own. 

Would that all our Christian leaders proclaimed the same message - something for the successful 'candidate' for the See of Canterbury (an announcement is expected fairly soon) to ponder perhaps ...

Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia [here]


It's hard to work out who is in danger of seeming more ridiculous, a Conservative / Government Chief Whip who has a clear problem with anger management or the police guarding Downing Street and their representatives who, as one commentator has said, have had a Victorian-style fit of the vapours about being called nasty names.

'Pleb' seems now to be the latest word on the uptight PC (pun intended) banned list; one might have thought other words alleged to have been used were far more offensive...
But is it really any worse to be called a 'pleb' than, say, an 'upper-class twit' or being likened, as the Prime Minister has been, to 'Flashman' (either in Thomas Hughes' or George MacDonald Fraser's characterisation, I don't suppose it matters)
As a pleb myself (and how many policeman are members of the Roman senatorial aristocracy or its English equivalent?) all this hoo ha seems just a little bit overdone. Obviously the country is facing so few problems that it's obvious why this particular story should have dominated the news cycle for days.
In any case, pleb is an honourable enough name - we are all part of the 'plebs sancta Dei' after all...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A few words In defence of the parish...

The latest panacea for the problems of Welsh Anglicanism (sharply falling numbers in many places – interestingly, most acute in some of our urban or post-industrial areas – and the resulting financial crisis) seems to be the introduction of the ‘ministry area,’ a looser and larger geographical area served by a combination of far fewer stipendiary clergy and far more lay ministries of various kinds. In effect, the parish will become a thing of the past; what seems to be envisaged is that the clergy (after a period of retraining - or is it re-education?)  will be largely administrative middle managers, given the unenviable task of being responsible for the coordinating and supervising of the voluntary efforts of lay ministers with all the disciplinary problems, ambitions and interpersonal rivalries this kind of quasi-clericalisation will bring with it, human nature being what it is.
There are all kinds of comments to be made about the proposals now being trumpeted in the Church in Wales in the wake of the Harries Report, one of which is that we should be very wary indeed of the peculiar enthusiasm in ecclesiastical circles in this part of the Lord’s vineyard for yesterday’s secular management solutions.

The parishes, of course, represent in practice, if not in theology, the local church: the difficulties inherent in an ecclesial body which seems sometimes to espouse as many theologies as it has members have meant that historically the Anglican diocese has been largely incapable of fulfilling the role Catholic theology ascribes to it: the advent of the ordination of women and the resulting rupture in apostolic order have simply made the theological fault-lines more  apparent. The very survival of Anglicanism’s orthodox Catholic tradition has largely depended upon the existence of the parish, as often as not opposed to the diocese and its prevailing policies, which is no doubt one of the reasons our inclusive liberal rulers seem so keen to consign the parochial system to the dustbin.
We are all by now accustomed to being harangued at church meetings by those who repeat -  ad nauseam - the truism that ‘the Church is the people not the buildings.’  Yet place and belonging to place are important to the human psyche, ‘place’ in one sense or another is also vital to the existence of a sacramental religion – another aspect, of course,  of Anglicanism's current (and not so current) theological confusion.  The ecclesiastical parish, with the church building at its centre, over the centuries, even in its somewhat etiolated post-reformation life, has been the place where the faith is enfleshed and rooted in human experience, where the unbloody sacrifice of the altar has been offered, where the faithful have been fed with word and sacrament, where the love of God has been made manifest.

The parish in the countryside is a wider and larger entity than the village at its nucleus; it is a place of belonging whether one ever darkens the doors of the church building or not. Some of the parishes in which I serve here have a longer and more settled existence than many of the dioceses in Wales – the first reference to the parish of St Arvans is in 945, when the local bishop was based not in Llandaff, much less in the modern industrial city of Newport as now, but  in the former Roman town of Caerwent, then one of the remaining centres of Celtic monasticism.
Moreover, the parish in the countryside especially (but also to an extent in the towns) has provided a much needed element of stability, presence, and a effective source of instinctive and traditional religious and civic loyalties, not all of which have disappeared with the advent of the  rural commuter or (rather patchy) broadband internet service.
Stability and continuity are important, perhaps particularly important in a society which has largely forgotten their value. The projected destruction of the parish is another instance of the Church conforming itself to the deracinated and fragmented nature of modern society. If the Church is to have a future in the post-Christian West (outside the Catholic monastic orders) it is surely by offering an alternative to our atomised and alienated contemporary secular culture.

It seems to me that the advocacy of the ‘ministry area’ is based on at least two fundamental errors. The first is the assumption that the necessary numbers will be forthcoming to fill the roles envisaged for the new-style ‘lay ministers.’ The reality is that most active members of the laity are already committed fully and beyond, to the point of real sacrifice, in serving in those areas of church life where they can make good use of the talents and expertise they already possess in their lay vocations.
Not only that, but the difficulties in selecting those suitable (and rejecting those who are not) for lay ministry in the event that sufficient do come forward is only equalled by the dangers inherent in a local lay ministry which would almost certainly lack both the appropriate training and psychological and professional (‘priestly’) distance necessary in order to stand above inevitable local animosities and loyalties and preach and teach the Gospel of Christ, rather than the version of it which people want to hear…

The second point is that there is an unwarranted assumption in the proposals before us that the essentially gathered community served by the' ministry area' (a term only relevant and resonant to those ‘doing the ministering’*) will be more evangelistically successful than the wider, more open-ended, parish system presided over, albeit collaboratively, and held together by the sacramental ministry of the traditional parish priest.

I’m aware that the attachment to the parish system with all its structures and relationships doesn’t answer the question being put to us as a result of the present financial and membership crisis. My fear is that sweeping it all away will make matters far worse and be a recipe for the disappearance of the Church in large swathes of the province. If the situation is as grave as we all suspect it to be, then we should be searching for ways in which all the many positive and vital aspects of parish life can be preserved into whatever future lies before us.

 * I'm aware - before someone points it out - that in the Church we all minister to one another. But we do so in different ways and, like it or not, the ministry of the priest is different and it comes from the Lord himself.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

"The rain it raineth every day"

So, back to routine after a long blogging break over the summer. 
While this blog has been inactive there have been significant developments of deep concern to Anglicans in Wales: the 'two-tier approach' taken by the Bishops and the Governing Body in their latest attempt to induce the Holy Spirit to allow women bishops, and several reported statements which, if I am interpreting them rightly, herald the imminent dismantling of the parochial system in the Church in Wales. [here and here]. 
My initial reaction is to be extremely sceptical about those approaching retirement from active ministry (or who have already reached it) who advocate 'radical' change with which they will not have to live.

More comment later,  when time permits, but the following video (of Feste's valedictory song, which ends Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, here in Trevor Nunn's film adaptation) perhaps sums up my current mood fairly well ('But that's all one, our play is done...' in the original text, anyway)  

Although it could just apply to today's very equinoctial weather....