Monday 31 December 2012

For New Year's Eve

Finzi's Nocturne Op 7 (subtitled, New Year Music)
It seems an appropriate way to usher out the old year and welcome the new.
"I love New Year’s Eve" wrote Finzi "though I think it’s the saddest time of the year". Of New Year Music, he added "Here then, are no merry-makings and such-like, but something of the mood which is well suggested by the words of Robert Bridges - "when the stars were shining / Fared I forth alone". From the softest of openings, Finzi conjures an atmospheric picture in sound, climaxing in a broad chorale reminiscent of a carol, before the opening tranquillity returns to this piece of high solemnity. ( from the music publisher Boosey & Hawkes'  repertoire note)

For many of us, the passing of 2012 won't be lamented that much. And 2013?
Predictions for next year (a lot of people seem to be doing this) - more of the same...

Grant, O Lord, that as the years change, 
we may find rest in thy eternal changelessness. 
May we meet this new year bravely, 
sure in the faith that, while men come and go, 
and life changes around us, 
thou art always the same, 
guiding us with thy wisdom, 
and protecting us with thy love; 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
(after Archbishop William Temple)

O Lord Christ, who art both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, 
and whose years shall not fail: grant us so to pass through the coming year 
with faithful hearts, that in all things we may please thee and glorify thy name; 
who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, 
ever one God, world without end.
(adapted from the Mozarabic Sacramentary)

Sunday 30 December 2012

What Child is This?

Thomas Hewitt-Jones' modern bitter-sweet setting of the carol 'What Child is This?'
The Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge under Geoffrey Webber

Saturday 29 December 2012

St Thomas of Canterbury

From the interesting, but flawed, film Becket, directed by Peter Glenville::

For the end of Christmas Week

The Coventry Carol as set by Kenneth Leighton: sung by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge and directed by Stephen Cleobury.

We will be back to full news and comment after the Christmas Octave: in the meantime, below is a quotation from the great G.K. Chesterton - if you were so minded you could take what he says as a kind of commentary on the attitude and pronouncements of members of the contemporary Anglican establishment (the soixante-huitards and their theologically illegitimate offspring) .... or, of course, apply it to anything you want... 
"...Another instance of the same illogicality I observed the other day at some kind of "At Home." I saw what appeared to be a human being dressed in a black evening-coat, black dress-waistcoat, and black dress-trousers, but with a shirt-front made of Jaegar wool. What can be the sense of this sort of thing? If a man thinks hygiene more important than convention (a selfish and heathen view, for the beasts that perish are more hygienic than man, and man is only above them because he is more conventional), if, I say, a man thinks that hygiene is more important than convention, what on earth is there to oblige him to wear a shirt-front at all? But to take a costume of which the only conceivable cause or advantage is that it is a sort of uniform, and then not wear it in the uniform way - this is to be neither a Bohemian nor a gentleman. It is a foolish affectation, I think, in an English officer of the Life Guards never to wear his uniform if he can help it. But it would be more foolish still if he showed himself about town in a scarlet coat and a Jaeger breast-plate. It is the custom nowadays to have Ritual Commissions and Ritual Reports to make rather unmeaning compromises in the ceremonial of the Church of England. So perhaps we shall have an ecclesiastical compromise by which all the Bishops shall wear Jaeger copes and Jaeger mitres. Similarly the King might insist on having a Jaeger crown. But I do not think he will, for he understands the logic of the matter better than that. The modern monarch, like a reasonable fellow, wears his crown as seldom as he can; but if he does it at all, then the only point of a crown is that it is a crown. So let me assure the unknown gentleman in the woollen vesture that the only point of a white shirt-front is that it is a white shirt-front. Stiffness may be its impossible defect; but it is certainly its only possible merit..." 
 GKC: 'Christmas'

Wednesday 26 December 2012

I wonder as I wander

For the Feast of St St Stephen:

The Cambridge Singers with 'I wonder as I wander,'  arranged and directed by John Rutter

Gracious Father,
who gavest to the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:
grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Not afraid to speak of Christian faith.

When so many churchmen seem to shy away from it, and politicians either fear to mention it, or despise it, or - at best - attempt to channel it for their own purposes, it is left to the monarch to speak about the Christian faith and the values which flow from it:
"At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on He has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son 'to serve, not to be served'. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.              The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: "What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part". The carol gives the answer "Yet what I can I give him - give my heart".
from Her Majesty the Queen's Christmas message, broadcast today. [read it all here]

Thank you for that, Archbishop

Having promised myself that Christmas would be kept free of ecclesiastical politics, the retiring  Archbishop of Canterbury makes it impossible. Thank you, Archbishop.
"In the deeply painful aftermath of the synod vote last month what was startling was how many people who certainly wouldn't have said yes to the census question turned out to have a sort of investment in the church, a desire to see the church looking credible."
I wonder how many of them were in church today and how many of them will be there next Sunday... and how many more will be persuaded to flock to our places of worship when Anglicanism finally achieves credibility in the eyes of the world after the women bishops measure is eventually forced through. One can't help but think that it's the kind of 'investment in the church' on the part of these people to whom the ever-hopeful Archbishop is referring (who, according to the census returns have no religion) which will itself result in a zero return.  
The result of the current Anglican establishment's cultural assimilation to the post-Christian culture and their intellectual position of there being 'no enemies on the left' has been to abandon the tradition for the void which is a religionless future.
Only three words of comment: sad and deluded.

I suppose if one Archbishop in a Christmas sermon can try to score points about internal church politics, another can, with much greater justification and credibility,  allude to "political" matters of far wider significance. Genuine thanks are due to the Archbishop of Westminster for this critique of the Government's 'Orwellian' approach to its proposals to redefine marriage [reported in The Telegraph here]: 

"Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, used his sermon at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to accuse ministers of acting to legalise same-sex marriage in defiance of public opinion.
The Coalition has said it will change the law to allow homosexual couples to marry. It says churches that do not wish to hold same sex marriages will not have to, and the Church of England will be excluded from the legislation.
The plans have been criticised by dozens of Conservative MPs, and campaigners opposed to the new law say there is no public support for the change. Roman Catholic leaders have been among the fiercest critics if the plan.
Archbishop Nichols said that the Government consultation on the plan had shown that respondents were "7-1 against same-sex marriage".
He told worshippers that the Government has no mandate for the change and had not followed the proper rules of British democracy.
"There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation," he said.
In an apparent reference to the totalitarian state described in the novel 1984, he added:
"From a democratic point-of-view, it's a shambles. George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre, I think the process is shambolic..."

For Christmas Day - Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Christmas Carols -
Richard Hickox conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with the Choristers of St Paul's Cathedral and Stephen Roberts, baritone soloist.

Monday 24 December 2012

A Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all visitors and friends of LNYD

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

There are several attitudes towards Christmas, 
Some of which we may disregard: 
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial, 
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight), 
And the childish - which is not that of the child 
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel 
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree 
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree: 
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder 
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext; 
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement 
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree, 
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions 
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell), 
The expectation of the goose or turkey 
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety 
May not be forgotten in later experience, 
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium, 
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure, 
Or in the piety of the convert 
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit 
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children 
(And here I remember also with gratitude 
St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas 
(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last) 
The accumulated memories of annual emotion 
May be concentrated into a great joy 
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion 
When fear came upon every soul: 
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end 
And the first coming of the second coming.

T.S.Eliot, Ariel Poems (1954)

Sunday 23 December 2012

O Emmanuel

The antiphon O Emmanuel - sung here by the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, 
Rex et legifer noster, 
exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: 
veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, 
our King and Lawgiver, 
the Expected of the Nations and their Saviour, 
come to save us, O Lord our God.

Dawkins losing the plot: atheist fundamentalism

Professor Richard Dawkins, who Fr John Hunwicke once described rather accurately as 'a Protestant atheist,'  seems to have  finally lost the plot. 
Having spent so much time, energy and what is left of a very decent scientific reputation in putting forward the case for godlessness (literally), he has finally and fatally overstated his case and joined the ranks of the fundamentalists - there is no God and everyone who disagrees with me is a rogue, a liar or a criminal. 
It's all very sad - we must pray for him all the harder.
[Here] and a video (health warning attached in these days beforeChristmas)  here

O Rex Gentium

Delayed - for pastoral reasons...
O Rex Gentium sung by CantArte Regensburg.

O Rex Gentium

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, 
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: 
veni, et salva hominem, 
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, 
Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, 
come and deliver man, 
whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

Friday 21 December 2012

Let's have nun of that...

I recommend this post from Eccles & Bosco in preference to the real Desert Island Discs episode broadcast this morning [here].
Whatever one might think of the responses of the rather engaging Sister Wendy Beckett, why is it that whenever the BBC is confronted by (horror of horrors)  a devout Catholic, or any kind of' 'traditionalist' Christian, it has to ask such political questions? Women bishops & condoms? Sr Wendy is a hermit and an art expert.
I look forward to the next time an observant Muslim is a guest on the programme and invited to express his or her opinion on the amputation of limbs as a punishment for theft, the flogging of adulteresses and the inhumane slaughter of animals.
But then, of course, the questions would only be asked in the first place if the responses were likely to be in agreement with the approved BBC line of 'right on' religion....

O Oriens

The antiphon, O Oriens - today by, contrast, with music composed by  Healey Willan & sung by the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Vancouver, directed by Rupert Lang

An important message from Pope Benedict

This is an extract from Pope Benedict's Christmas message to the Roman Curia.
You can read it all here; and read it carefully...
"...the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man..."

Can't see them yet...

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, woodcut
Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

Now, what was that about the 'Mayan Calendar,' again?
I'm glad now I bought the ordos for next year...

All of which reminds me of a Punch  cartoon I saw in the 1980s, probably in a dentist's waiting room, which pictured a man looking stricken whilst gazing out of a window watching the four horsemen ride past. His wife is saying to him, "What's the matter with you? It's not the end of the world."

Although, to pursue an Advent theme, it could be at any time - for each of us.

But here, today, the low winter sun is shining through the morning mist; it's a beautiful and God-given day. 

Thursday 20 December 2012

O Clavis David

O Schlüssel Davids (O Clavis David) - the fourth of Arvo Pärt's  Advent Magnificat anthems, 
again performed by the Jauna Muzika Choir and Vaclovas Augustinas

O Clavis David

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; 
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: 
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, 
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, 
Who dost open and no man doth shut, who dost shut and no man doth open, 
come and bring forth from his prison-house the captive 
that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Future steps towards unity?

Fr Mark Woodruff, the Director of the Catholic League, writes the following article in the current edition of the League's newsletter, Unitas.  In it he asks some pertinent questions about the relationship between the 'internal ecumenism' within Anglicanism (or rather the growing lack of it) and the 'external ecumenism'  with Rome and Orthodoxy...
"...2012 has seen the continued search of the Church of England to resolve its internal differences and, indeed, for its own internal ecumenism. If the Church of England majority, which sees the admission of women to the presbyterate and episcopate as a legitimate development to the received tradition, cannot allow a place for fellow Anglicans who believe the Church should keep to the Tradition on which all can be reconciled as they were once united; and, given the uncompromising tone with which some of their number have called for the rejection and even exclusion of the minority, it sends a powerful message to the ecumenical partners of Anglicans working with them, beyond ecumenism, towards reconciliation and fullness of communion. If most Anglicans do not want spiritual ecumenism to work within their own ranks, and fullness of communion cannot be achieved within the juridical bounds of the Established Church, how can it seriously engage with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on unity, let alone the other Churches stemmed from the Reformation?
The answer is the same basic “fact of life” that has animated the League for 100 years. There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name that does not take into account communion with the bishop of the See of Peter in Rome, not as the last piece in the jigsaw, but as the destination from the outset of our Christian ecumenical journey. Piecemeal ecumenism – such as the Porvoo agreement between the Anglican Churches of Britain and Ireland with most of the Lutheran Episcopal Churches, or the Union of Bonn with the Old Catholics, or the Leuenberg Agreement with non-episcopal Reformed Churches – is hopeful and should be encouraged. But where it constitutes to all intents and purposes the exclusion of the Apostolic Churches of East and West - most especially communion with the successor of Peter at Rome - there is a risk of “settling for less”, or even an ecumenism that is anti-Catholic. A substantial bloc of Anglicans and Protestants in a staged process of reconciliation that is not taking the Petrine ministry into account as a first principle (and as it is, not as some may wish it to be) is not necessarily a building block to Church union. All too easily it risks standing as a rival to Catholic faith and life; the instinct is for schism.
This is not even true to what the Reformers thought they were achieving by their reform of the Church, and its tradition as they had received it. To employ the terms of Pope Benedict for a different controversy, their thinking was that of a “hermeneutic of continuity and of reform”, and not of “discontinuity and rupture”. Continuity with the rest of the Latin Church has long been part of the Anglican apologetic, even though, along with the other churches of the Reformation, the new direction for the English Church led to rupture, because of the imposition upon it of the boundaries of a nation state. So it is surely a sore in the spirits of all belonging to the League that our Anglican members are seemingly forced by events further from their lifelong hopes for the reconciliation of their Church with the Church of the Apostolic See of Rome, the more faithfully they seek to live by the Common Tradition which has formed us all. As Pope Benedict put it, when he spoke to representatives of all the Christian traditions at Westminster Abbey on his Apostolic Visit, the account of the hope that lies within us that will be convincing to the world does not lie in a facile accommodation to the spirit of the age or theological relativism, but an ever deeper unity in the apostolic faith..."
Read it all here

Pope Benedict: "Inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny..."

Pope Benedict writing - by request of the newspaper according to the Catholic Herald - in the Financial Times: it's a timely and not only a seasonal reminder of the difference between the Christian and secular visions of the world in the light of the Incarnation .....

"...Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all....."
"... Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the past century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated worldview. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.
In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged......."

The full FT article is available here (free registration required) - read it all

The Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage

For the Church of England, indeed for the Anglican Communion, at what point does crisis become catastrophe? And for those intent on peddling the myth of 'business as usual,' at what point does the present become unrecognisable from the perspective of the past? 
At what point does it become clear , in C.S. Lewis' words, that we have "embarked on a different religion?"

This is the letter on the Community's website from the Reverend Mother, CSMV

"Saturday 8 December 2012

Dear Associates and Friends,

I am writing to share with you some developments within the Community. Since 2009, when Pope Benedict issued an invitation for groups of Anglicans to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, sisters have come to speak to me privately and in strictest confidence as Mother, about their individual sense of call to take this route into full communion; to become Catholics as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (‘the Ordinariate') whilst also remaining members of the Community. I allowed each sister time to explore her growing and deepening sense of calling. When it became clear that there was a critical mass of sisters across the board, in more than one house, who were experiencing the same call, I sought the permission of each to share this with the whole Community.

CSMV was born in the Oxford Movement and has always been an Anglican community within that tradition. Some sisters were experiencing a call to remain Anglicans within this tradition, whilst others were experiencing a call to come into full communion with the Catholic Church whilst also continuing this tradition.

What is important is that sisters were experiencing this call as part of a Community - a family - sisters were not simply responding as individuals. There is inherent within this sense of call to full communion, the call to remain together. This is the reason that a number of us, me included, are being drawn into the Catholic Church by this particular route. The Ordinariate has opened the possibility for groups of Anglicans to remain together, and the structures have been specifically created to welcome Religious, Priests, and laity in groups. As a group, we believe that this is the way we are being called to live out our vocation to the Religious Life, that is within the Anglican tradition and united to the Catholic Church.

Naturally, this is broader than the Church of England's decision to ordain women either to the priesthood or the episcopate, and indeed one sister who has received ordination in the Church of England is part of this group. It will be possible to retain much of our Anglican heritage and traditions within the Ordinariate and the Sisters' Anglican roots have been welcomed in this provision. In fact some of what CSMV traditionally do best, our Divine Office and our English Plainchant, is precisely what is being welcomed by Pope Benedict as - in his words - ‘a treasure to be shared' with the whole of the Catholic Church.

The Community as a whole discerned a movement of the Holy Spirit and so decided that it wanted each sister to respond to her calling, but for sisters to stay together as a Christian family sharing a common heritage and, in effect, living together as one Community, helping to set all ‘our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion' (cf. Pope Benedict, Oscott College, 19 September 2010). At this point the Community involved the ecclesiastical authorities of both the Church of England and the Personal Ordinariate to explore how this might be made possible. This has involved a combination of canon and civil law, and necessitated the intervention of specialist ecclesiastical lawyers.

The whole Community had hoped that the two communities - Church of England and Catholic - would be able to worship together in the Divine Office as at present but that there might be appropriate Eucharistic provision for both communities: for all sisters, and all guests. In all other respects, that all sisters would live and serve together as a truly ecumenical community here at Wantage. But after considerable discussion with the authorities of the Church of England and the Ordinariate, it has become clear that this would not be possible. Certainly, those who wish to become part of the Ordinariate always wanted to remain at Wantage, chiefly in order to be able to care for our elderly and frail sisters.

However, it has become clear that two self-governing communities will be required and it has been agreed the Ordinariate Community will eventually relocate from Wantage; a painful decision for the whole of CSMV.

 Of the twenty two sisters who currently live at the Convent at Wantage, eleven of us believe that we are being called into the full communion of the Catholic Church as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This discernment has been reached after constant prayer and in discussion with spiritual advisers. These eleven sisters are in the main, but not exclusively, the able bodied members who provide the work and management to keep the Community going, so, since the Ordinariate Community do have to relocate, considerable time has been spent and will continue to be devoted to ensure that the remaining members of CSMV will be well cared for: spiritually, physically, emotionally as well as financially.

 The sisters who are seeking to enter the Catholic Church, including myself, will be received into full communion on 1 January 2013 by Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and will form a new Religious Community under the auspices of the Ordinariate. This new Community will be known as the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Following reception into the Catholic Church, we will temporarily leave Wantage to stay for six weeks with a Catholic Convent for the opportunity for formation together as this newly formed Community. It is planned that after this we would return to Wantage, temporarily and as guests, whilst we seek out a new permanent home. Even whilst away we will continue to provide support of every kind for those sisters who remain.

Those of us who will now enter into the Ordinariate have always had the care of our elderly and frail sisters uppermost in our minds. It has never been our desire or intention that our fellow sisters who choose to remain in the Church of England should be neglected in any way; quite the contrary. We have been working ceaselessly to ensure that in our absence there will be continuing care for those sisters who remain and who need it and that suitable trustees of the CSMV's charity will be appointed in place of myself and my co-trustees. This has now been put in place. When we return temporarily, we will be able to help provide support and assistance for the remaining CSMV sisters as they make decisions about their longer term future.

 Until all the legal complexities were complete  in this matter, CSMV did not know exactly how the Community would move forward and what implications there might be which is why we have not been able to say anything to you before now.

I was concerned for our Associates and Friends to hear what is happening direct from the Community which is why I am writing to you now. There simply is no other information at this point but I wanted to share with you where things have reached. None of us know quite where God is leading us all but as St Paul puts it, "we walk by faith, not by sight". (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the help which the Bishop of Oxford and Visitor to the Community, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, and the Diocesan Registrar, Canon John Rees have given us in reaching a settlement which will allow the new Ordinariate community, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to continue the founding work of the Community of St Mary the Virgin within the Catholic Church, whilst continuing to support those sisters who remain within the Church of England.

Please continue to pray for all of us as we pray for you, as together we all seek to love and serve the Lord.

Yours in Christ,

Mother Winsome

Reverend Mother CSMV "


Wednesday 19 December 2012

Today's Statement from the Catholic Group

This is today's Statement from the Catholic Group in the Church of England's General Synod in response to the announcement of the membership of the House of Bishop's Working Party:


on the announcement of the Working Group for Women Bishops’ proposals

The Catholic Group in General Synod reaffirms its commitment to engaging fully and positively in the process of achieving fresh legislation for women bishops.

The House of Bishops has already stated that this will need to embrace “ a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference ‘that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans.’ ”

The vital task, then, of the new House of Bishops Working Group is to build a big consensus so that there is no danger of legislation failing again at Final Approval.

To this end, the legislation will need to inspire confidence among those who are opposed to women bishops as well as those who are in favour.


19th December 2012 "


O Radix Jesse

Another of Arvo Pärt's  Advent Magnificat anthems, O Sproß Aus Isais Wurzel,
performed by the Jauna Muzika Choir and Vaclovas Augustinas

O Radix Jesse

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, 
quem Gentes deprecabuntur: 
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, 
before Whom kings shall keep silence, 
and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: 
come to deliver us, and tarry not.

HOB Working Group announced & HOL agenda

The following news release was published today by the Church of England

"The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the membership of the new working group established by the House of Bishops following the defeat of the women bishops' legislation.

The group includes members of all three houses of the General Synod - Bishops, Clergy and Laity - and a senior member of clergy who is no longer on the Synod. 

The members are:

The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (chair)

The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry

The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester

The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester

The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of York

The Ven Christine Hardman,

The Rev Dr Rosemarie Mallett

Dr Philip Giddings

Dr Paula Gooder

Mrs Margaret Swinson

The group's task (see PR 160.12 ) is to assist the House when it meets in February and again in May to come to a decision on the new package of proposals which it intends to bring to the Synod in July. The group has been tasked to arrange facilitated discussions in February with a wide range of people of a variety of views. It is expected to have two initial meetings in January.

Once draft legislation is ready for introduction to the Synod there will be a separate decision, in the usual way, about the membership of a new Steering Committee. That Committee will have the responsibility for the management of the legislation through Synod. Steering Committees are always composed of members of Synod who support the legislation.  

The membership of the Revision Committee is settled after first consideration of the legislation."

See here

Also published todayinformation about the forthcoming meeting of the Church of England's House of Laity which has been called in an attempt to remove its Chairman, Dr Philip Giddings. The agenda is here
The motion of no confidence is to be moved by lay canon Mr Stephen Barney of the Diocese of Leicester, the membership secretary of the Open Synod Group, whose aims and objectives include: 
"listening to the views of others, seeking the truth that lies within every point of view, working for tolerance and understanding, seeking closer working relationships, encouraging dialogue and building bridges where there are divisions so that we become one Church under God."

'Religious pathology' - a threat to liberty in France? And here...?

From LifeSiteNews [here]
"Reuters’ Religion Editor Tom Heneghan reports that France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced the policy at a Meeting on Secularism organized by socialist members of France’s National Assembly, the country’s lower legislative house, on Tuesday. Reuters is the only news agency known to to have reported on the statements, which were left unmentioned in the French press.Valls claimed that that Institut Civitas, a group that socialist legislators have called to be disbanded for its aggressive defense of Catholic values and opposition to the homosexual political agenda, is close to “the limits of legality,” and warned that “all excesses are being minutely registered in case we have to consider dissolving it and defending this before a judge.” Valls claimed at the meeting that “the aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” according to Reuters. “The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology.”“Behold a program of radical secularist extremism, which fraudulently equates choice of life, of convictions, with terrorist and criminal acts,” wrote French journalist and correspondent Jeanne Smits, editor of the French newspaper Present, in response to the statements. France’s socialist education minister has also been under fire for his promotion of “secularist morality” classes for the nation’s schools, which have been compared to brainwashing classes instituted by Vichy France’s pro-Nazi leader Philippe Petain during World War II.  The proposed “Observatory of Secularism” would also be used to institute such classes, according to government officials.“Secularism is not about simple tolerance. It’s not about ‘anything goes.’ It is a set of values that we have to share,” Minister of Education Vincent Peillon told the French press recently. “To be shared, these values need to be taught and learned and we need to rebuild them among France’s children.”
It would seem from the original report that the targets of the new 'surveillance policy' are religious radicals across the spectrum, including potentially violent Islamic extremists. Since the Revolution and its long-unfolding aftermath, laïcité, the upholding of  'secular values,' has become very dear to the French State so it's not surprising that the contemporary apostles of  equality would seek to use what has been (at least recently) a basically neutral concept as  a stick with which to intimidate those who refuse to fall into line with the new dominant western ideology of 'rights.'  Yet in a large and very diverse country of regions, such a policy - one has to say, if followed through - from the French socialist Government will have its attendant political risks...

Britain is different: expect this kind of attack on opponents to come largely through judicial decisions, and through  charity law and its agent the Charity Commission -'public benefit' can be as restrictive as the society which defines it. 
Moreover, on this side of the Channel we do have a political and social elite which is virtually monochrome in its views on 'equality' issues and,  in so many ways, modern Britain is now, in practice, both more centralist and  more instinctively conformist than France will ever be...
As Andrew Brown (or, rather, his newspaper's headline writer) put it so charmingly and revealingly on another, but related, issue  in yesterday's Guardian, those concerned about the restriction of civil and religious liberties are 'running out of hiding places.'  

The original report from Reuters is [here

Tuesday 18 December 2012

O Adonai

Arvo Pärt's setting (in German) of the Magnificat antiphon for December 18th
Lumen Valo Vocal Ensemble of Helsinki: Aaro Haapaniemi & Kari Turunen, tenor, 
Tomi Koponen, barytone, Juha Suomalainen, bass

O Adonai

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, 
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, 
et ei in Sina legem dedisti: 
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, 
Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, 
and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: 
come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

The Cardinal is right

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has written the letter which follows  to The Daily Telegraph. We've said it before, and will keep on saying it: the deafening silence from most Anglican bishops simply heralds the coming attempt to shift the Church of England's position (and of course the Church in Wales') away from traditional Christian moral teaching on sexuality. Or worse than that in some respects, as it seems to be so lacking in courage, they may be either afraid of losing their seats in the House of Lords if they upset the secular establishment too often, or else they fear the usual intemperate reaction of the LGBT lobby groups (and their increasingly dominant feminist allies) who are so hysterically eager to accuse anyone who differs from them of 'homophobia.' 
The old joke about Anglican episcopal consecrations involving the removal of the candidate's backbone has in some ways never seemed more apposite.
However, many bishops, of course, to do them justice, are also concerned not to make statements which could be construed as pastorally insensitive to gay people under their care. But there are surely ways of defending the Church's sacramental theology of marriage and traditional Christian societal norms without being insensitive or insulting towards those who cannot personally experience them. 
Here Cardinal Cormac speaks for many who are not in full communion with the See of Peter:

"SIR – Charles Moore (Comment, December 15) sets out with admirable clarity why marriage is and should remain a unique and binding contract between a man and a woman, open in principle to the possibility of generating children. That in the Christian Church it is also a sacrament gives it a special value for Christian believers; but that in no way detracts from its character as an institution of central importance for the welfare of society as a whole, to believers and unbelievers alike.Redefining marriage as simply a contract between individuals irrespective of their sex, without regard either to its procreative function or to the complementarity of the relationship between man and woman, would be an abuse of language. More important, it would weaken marriage by diminishing its implications and its significance. That, and not homophobia, is why many people outside what Mr Moore calls the culturally dominant "minority" are opposed to the Government's proposal – and why more than 600,000 people have signed a petition against it. The state has the right to oversee the administration and legal aspects of marriage, but it has never been accepted that the state can dictate to individuals and society itself what marriage should mean to us. It is clear that many problems would arise if the legislation as now tabled were to be implemented.      In the run-up to the last election, David Cameron led us to believe that the strengthening of marriage as an institution was one of his important objectives; and the Conservative Party's manifesto, which made no mention of "gay marriage", included a proposed tax break for married couples. Nothing has been heard of the latter proposal, and instead of action to strengthen marriage we have the proposal to abandon the traditional understanding of marriage on the basis of a "consultation" which explicitly excluded the possibility of a negative result. Protestations that this is all fundamentally "conservative" ring a bit hollow.    It is difficult not to wonder how far the Prime Minister is someone whose steadiness of purpose can be relied on.                    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor                                                   Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster        London W4 "

The victory of narcissism

Peter Hitchens [here] on his dawning realisation that liberal ideology may now be triumphant and all-pervasive:
"...For at least 20 years now, the British public have been subject to a stream of propaganda and re-education all the more effective for being subtle. The borders are not closed. It’s not illegal to listen to foreign radio stations. Conservative newspapers, magazines and books continue to be published. There are independent schools. People such as me appear on the panels of discussion shows, though under interesting conditions. Frankly, if the old Communist regimes of Eastern Europe had had the sense to allow such safety valves, they might still be in power. As long as the young were imbued with the regime’s world view, as long as mainstream TV seldom if ever departed from the agenda of equality, diversity, globalism, climate change, as long as comedy, drama and soap operas were all under the control of pro-regime ideologues, not to mention the book review pages and the bookshops,  supporters of the old regime could continue to live in a world of their own, while the government got on with its purposes..."
It's a  fact of life 'conservative' Anglicans have had to live with for years - talking to ourselves in internal exile for as long as  the 'politburo' permits it, followed by, most likely, the not unattractive prospect of physical exile as well - British house prices alone will, in all probability, see to that.
This excellent post from The Vicar of Purgstall [here], prompted by the news of Fr Philip North's appalling experience in Cleveland (and we should all remember Fr Philip in our prayers), spells out the likely future:
"... Others have pointed out that the charge of Donatism, often levelled at Anglo-Catholics, is a charge that could easily be applied to this situation. I would be cautious about crying heresy, but I do think that this situation does mark a precedent in Anglican polity. First of all, this is only the second occasion in modern times (that I know of) that an episcopal candidate has withdrawn from an episcopal nomination (cf. Jeffrey John), and second, I have my suspicion that Philip North's name will be the last of it's kind to be nominated to an institutional see.                      If the provision for traditionalists that comes back to Synod in July looks anything like the Act of Synod, then we need to prepare ourselves. If this incident sticks, it won't be long before traditional bishops will only be found in the persons three of the PEVs. Then, though explicitly voting against it in Synod and decrying the mere idea elsewhere, we shall - by default - have a church within a church. There are those - including my own Diocesan Bishop - who said that 'Respect' was a difficult and loaded concept: without wishing to stoke the fires, I can't help but think (and suggest) that this situation is an unpleasant demonstration of exactly that problem..."
That there is a problem with our atomised and rapidly disintegrating western culture is evident to anyone who takes off the blinkers of the zeitgeist and allows themselves to see it, but following the Sandy Hook atrocity  in Connecticut, Brendan O'Neill [here], writing for The Telegraph, thinks we are barking up the wrong tree if we blame it all on the free availability of guns in the U.S.A.:
"...But look at the photo of Adam Lanza. Or better still watch the videos and manifestos made by the Columbine killers or the Virginia Tech shooter and other recent school shooters. Do you really see Southern-style gun culture in these videos and words and images, or do you see a different, more modern culture at work? I see youngsters raised to consider themselves little gods, who see their self-esteem as king and who believe their angst must always be taken seriously. I see youth brought up in a world where we are increasingly encouraged to cultivate a persona, preferably a dangerous, edgy one, through media like YouTube and Twitter. I see young people so imbued with the narcissistic creed of the politics of identity, where how you feel and what you want must take precedence over any social or communal considerations, that they have been absolutely wrenched from both their own communities and from even basic moral codes.I see the culture of narcissism, taken to its extreme, not the culture of gun worship. Which rather suggests that the supposedly liberal politicians currently wringing their hands over the availability of guns in the US might want to shine the spotlight on themselves instead, and on the dislocated, atomised, self-regarding modern world they have had a hand in creating..."

Monday 17 December 2012

'O come, O come, Emmanuel!'

For the 'beginning of the end' of Advent: 
The English Hymnal translation (which omits today's O Sapientia antiphon!) of Veni, veni, Emmanuel, sung here by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge conducted by Timothy Brown.

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, 
attingens a fine usque ad finem, 
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: 
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Whitby: Archbishop of York expresses 'great disappointment'

The Archbishop of York has expressed his sadness and disappointment over Fr Philip North's decision not to take up the post of Bishop of Whitby [from the Diocese of York website here]
"...Yesterday, Archbishop Sentamu wrote to all clergy and Readers in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland to say, "It is with sadness that I have heard from Revd Philip North of his decision to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby.
"This has come as a great disappointment to me personally and I am sure to many in the wider church, the Diocese and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland.
"Philip North is not a single-issue priest. As a gifted pastor-teacher he is deeply committed to the flourishing of the diverse ministries of all God’s people - lay and ordained. His dynamic vision for making Christ visible in mission and ministry, as well as serving the poor, would have been a great asset to us all..."
However, news is circulating that Fr North's decision may have been partly influenced by highly vocal opposition and  a petition in the Cleveland area protesting at his appointment. 
If this is true (and I very much hope it isn't *) then both traditionalists and the Church itself have grave problems ahead in the face of a ferocious and concerted liberalism which is intent on driving out all opposition from positions of influence in revenge for the failure of the recent synodical legislation. Petitions don't happen by accident: they are organised....

Also a BBC report [here

*Updated: Thanks to this comment received on a previous post for a link from the Church Times confirming the story about opposition to the appointment. Again, my thanks to a further comment on this post for the link to John Bingham's report [here] in The Telegraph which supplies further information. 

Confused responses all round

What those senior Anglican clerics who, because they are theologically unwilling or unable to mount a critique of 'gay marriage' itself, are now expressing public dismay at the Government's (unilateral?) decision specifically to exclude the Church of England and the Church in Wales from its ill-conceived proposals to introduce same sex marriage, are not being completely open about is that without this 'quadruple lock' the rights of clergy and parishes not to officiate at or host such ceremonies will be non-existent - or at least, in the opinion of most constitutional experts -may be open to successful legal challenge.

I cannot believe that the Archbishop of Wales (who, we have to admit, even in disagreement with him,  hasn't taken a vow of silence on this - unlike his fellow primates in the C of E)  and those spokesmen for the Church of England who have  expressed an opinion, are really saying they wish clergy either to be forced into solemnising gay unions (which many believe simply cannot be marriages in a sacramental sense)  or to be hauled through the courts for refusing, or to be driven to resignation over the issue? Perhaps they have reason to disagree with the Government's lawyers over the legal need for such a ban - if so, they should explain in detail the reasons for their disagreement.

However, if this is truly the only way to protect the established Church of England and the quasi-established Church in Wales from litigation, should not the approach be, even from those in the Church who have come to support same-sex marriage, to call for a pause in this rushed and politically motivated process (undertaken largely it seems for internal Conservative Party reasons known best to the Prime Minister) and demand again, in place of the discredited 'consultation,'  a Royal Commission on Marriage * in order to examine all the legal, social and constitutional issues involved? Even better, of course, would be to call a halt in the madness and recognise the advantages of the social and legal status quo; in 'the real world,' however, it's hard to see how that is now possible, so many political reputations having been unwisely put on the line (which, undoubtedly, is itself part of the strategy.)
If a Commission report were to come out in favour of change our politicians may care to include recommendations for changing the law in party election manifestos, so that people could actually express an opinion about it at the ballot box at the next General Election....

So, why is there such indecent haste in trying to push through far-reaching and clearly divisive social change, many of whose implications for civil liberties and religious freedom will only surface after legislation has come into force? The only convincing answer to that seems to be so that the Prime Minister and his coterie of 'progressive' conservatives won't lose face at fashionable dinner parties - hardly a responsible way of governing, one might think.  But, even now, it's not too late for them to assume the mantle of constitutional responsibility and even emerge from this with their reputations enhanced.

[Rather than a succession of anodyne spokesmen , it would be good to hear from the present and future occupants of Lambeth Palace, given their traditional role of seeking to give spiritual and moral guidance to the nation ... or do they really think this issue is going to go away?]

* Calls previously rejected by the Prime Minister, regardless of the wider constitutional issues, on the rather flimsy evidence of opinion polls indicating support for change.

Fr North withdraws from Whitby post

Fr Philip North has withdrawn his name to be the new Bishop of Whitby:

From the Diocese of  London's website: [here
 Father Philip North, who earlier this year was appointed to be the new Bishop of Whitby in the Diocese of York, has announced he is withdrawing from the role. He has notified the Archbishop of York and his current bishop, the Bishop of London, of his decision. He will now remain as Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras in North London.
Philip North commented:
"It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position. However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.
"I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my parish."
The Bishop of London added:
"I can understand the reasons for Philip's decision. He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this Diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town."
" is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity..".
This is a sad commentary on the present state of the Church of England. 

Sunday 16 December 2012

Go to the Quakers or Unitarians? Or ...?

This report from The Telegraph is interesting - if not for the views expressed, then for the precedents it could set:
"....Leading Anglican campaigners have warned that Government plans to exempt the Church from the new legislation will lead to hundreds of homosexual clergy and worshippers marrying in Quaker and Unitarian services and then returning to the Church.
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, dozens of clergy, including Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, today urge homosexual Anglicans to follow this course of action.
“Until the Church of England allows us to solemnise same-sex marriages in our churches, as a matter of pastoral expediency we will counsel lesbian and gay members of our congregations to marry in those churches willing to celebrate faithful same-sex relationships,” the letter, which is also signed by scores of lay members of the Church, states.
The 150 signatories warn: “If the bill is enacted in its present form, in 2014 married lesbian and gay Anglicans, lay and ordained, will be worshipping and ministering in parishes of the Church of England.”
The presence of married homosexual couples, including clergy, in the Church will force its leaders to confront the growing debate over sexuality, the letter suggests...." [here]
In fact, that is not quite what the signatories to the letter seem to be saying - the relevant passages are here:

"...This will raise pastoral and legal questions for the Church. Will married lesbian and gay couples receive the same pastoral care the Church offers heterosexual married couples? Will the Church continue to discriminate against lesbian and gay clergy whether married or in civil partnerships? Will the Church continue to undermine the family relationships of its lesbian and gay members? Parents of gay children long to attend their children’s wedding service in church. Couples starting a family will look forward to the baptism of their children.
The Church of England has to consider how it will offer pastoral care and a generous welcome to married gay couples and their children. It is in crisis because of its failure to approve women bishops and the insistence that it maintain the right to discriminate against LGBT people by exemptions from equality legislation.
The Church needs to relinquish its exemption from the equal marriage Bill and address the expectation of the majority in every parish that it will continue to offer pastoral care to every citizen, including gay married couples and their children.
Until the Church of England allows clergy to solemnise same-sex marriages in our churches, as a matter of pastoral response those of us who are priests will counsel lesbian and gay members of our congregations to marry in those churches willing to celebrate faithful same-sex relationships..."
[read the letter in full  here]
 I can't say I'm that interested in what the signatories seem to be suggesting; in a Church which has, in practice, no doctrinal discipline (apart from the increasing necessity to approve of women's ordination) they will do what they will...

What interests me more is whether revisionist luminaries such as Bishop Harries, or any other serving bishop who would be prepared to turn a blind eye to this,  having presumably encouraged communicant Anglicans to seek a form of marriage ceremony in non-Trinitarian religious bodies (the Quakers and Unitarians obviously spring to mind - presumably liberal Judaism would be out) would be able to denounce - with any credibility at all - Conservative Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic traditionalists within the provinces of Canterbury and York (or, for that matter, Wales) who, also 'irregularly' went elsewhere (to other Anglican provinces or ecclesial groupings, that is) to seek the episcopal provision and pastoral care  denied them by their own provinces' synodical decisions. I can't see they would morally have a leg to stand on. Unless, of course, some people are deemed to be more worthy of a sympathetic 'pastoral response' than others...

Both these options are, of course, a recipe for ecclesial disintegration and mayhem - the very opposite of what is is to be part of the Church - but liberal intolerance and double standards have become such that, in my worst moments, 'throwing all the pieces up in the air and seeing where they land' begins to seem the most appealing, and even orthodox, solution to our problems.