Tuesday 31 December 2013

A very Happy New Year

And, much more importantly, a continuing Merry Christmas!

The Wassail Carol - William Mathias - the Choir of Gonville & Caius, Cambridge

The last day

of  2013 at least .....

But today is also the last day for the reception of written submissions on the type of provision which might be included by the Church in Wales' Bench of Bishops in its planned Code of Practice. If anyone concerned hasn't sent in a submission, now would be the time to do it by email. The details are here 
Nor should we forget to pray for the bishops themselves in this process .... we know their inclinations and there will also be those who will lobby them mercilessly from a 'revisionist' direction to reduce any provision to a bare and unacceptable minimum.

Here is an eloquent video 'submission' made by the Parishes of St German with Saint Saviour in Cardiff - it makes its point very well indeed....

On the subject of endings, there's an interesting report here  from a few weeks ago on Pope Francis' reflections on R.H. Benson's dystopian and apocalyptic  novel Lord of the World : 'adolescent progressivism' is found in more places than one and, as someone famously said (or notoriously, depending on your point of view ) it is the enemy within we should fear the most and which is much more difficult to fight.  

So, to sum up 2013 as regards current trends both in Church and State? La trahison des clercs ..... encore ....
"... If a conservative order is indeed to return, we ought to know the tradition which is attached to it, so that we may rebuild society; if it is not to be restored, still we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilisation escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite" 
Russell Kirk: The Conservative Mind: from Burke to Eliot

Sunday 29 December 2013

The Holy Family

"When Mary laid Jesus Christ upon her knees, when she searched him with her eyes, when she fed him at the breast, she did not study to love him because she ought, she loved him because he was dear: he was her Son. His conception had been supernatural, perplexing, affrighting; it had called for faith in the incomprehensible, and obedience beyond the limit of human power. His nativity was human and sweet, and the love with which she embraced it was a natural growth, inseparable from the thing she loved. She was blessed above all creatures , because she loved her Maker inevitably and by simple nature; even though it needed the sword-wounds of the Passion to teach her fully that it was her maker whom she loved. The Son of Mary is the Son of all human kind; we embrace him with the love of our kind, that we may be led up with mary to a love beyond kind, a selfless love for the supreme Goodness, when we too shall have climbed the ladder of the cross."
Austin Farrer: The Crown of the Year 

Saturday 28 December 2013

The Holy Innocents

'For it is easier, God says, to ruin than to build;
And to bring death than to bring to birth;
And to kill than to create;
And the bud does not resist at all. 
That is in fact because it is not made for resistance, 
it is not commissioned to resist.
It is the trunk and the branch and that governing root 
which are made for resistance, which are commissioned to resist.
And it is the rough bark which is made for roughness 
and which is commissioned to be rough.
But the tender bud is only made for being born 
and is only commissioned to bring to birth.'

from Charles Péguy - The Mystery of the Holy Innocents
(translation by Pansy Pakenham)

Philip Stopford's setting of the Coventry Carol - the 16th Century English carol inspired by the story of the Holy Innocents - Luly, Lulla, Lullay - sung by Ecclesium, directed by the composer 

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his owne sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Friday 27 December 2013

Thursday 26 December 2013

On the Feast of Stephen ....

"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.   
Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together. "
from a sermon (c 500 A.D.)  of St Fulgentius of Ruspe for the Feast of Saint Stephen 

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

 Of the Father’s heart begotten
    Ere the world from chaos rose,
He is Alpha: from that Fountain,
    All that is and hath been flows;
He is Omega, of all things
    Yet to come the mystic Close,
        Evermore and evermore.

 By his word was all created;
    He commanded and ’twas done;
Earth and sky and boundless ocean,
    Universe of three in one,
All that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
    All that breathes beneath the sun,
        Evermore and evermore.

 He assumed this mortal body,
    Frail and feeble, doomed to die,
That the race from dust created
    Might not perish utterly,
Which the dreadful Law had sentenced
    In the depths of hell to lie,
        Evermore and evermore.

 O how blest that wondrous birthday,
    When the Maid the curse retrieved,
Brought to birth mankind’s salvation,
    By the Holy Ghost conceived,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
    In her loving arms received,
        Evermore and evermore.

 This is he, whom seer and sybil
    Sang in ages long gone by;
This is he of old revealed
    In the page of prophecy;
Lo! he comes, the promised Saviour;
    Let the world his praises cry!
        Evermore and evermore.

 Sing, ye heights of heaven, his praises;
    Angels and Archangels, sing!
Wheresoe’er ye be, ye faithful,
    Let your joyous anthems ring,
Every tongue his name confessing,
    Countless voices answering,
        Evermore and evermore.

translated by R.F. Davis

Monday 23 December 2013

O Emmanuel

Another 'alternative' to the Advent Antiphons  - an arrangement of Veni, Veni, 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.

Sunday 22 December 2013

O Rex Gentium

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Charpentier's setting of O Rex Gentium:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,

quem de limo formasti.

Saturday 21 December 2013

O Oriens

O Radiant Dawn, a setting by James MacMillan of today's antiphon: 

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, 
Sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light
For those who dwell in the land of gloom, a light has come
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

O Oriens, 
splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: 
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, 
et umbra mortis.

Friday 20 December 2013

The day the music died ....

Patrick Stewart in 'A Christmas Carol' - 
looking totally someone who could be a member of a certain Cathedral Chapter 

Cathedral choristers  dismissed five days before Christmas - what magnificent timing, what brilliant public relations .....  
"Bah Humbug!"  E. Scrooge

From BBC News here 
Seven professional members of a Cardiff cathedral choir have lost their jobs.
The Church in Wales will save £45,000 as it looks to claw back an expected deficit of £81,000 at Llandaff Cathedral.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) had urged fundraising.
But the cathedral chapter argued that the job losses were the "best and most responsible way" to secure the choir's long term future.
It said it had a "strategy" to address a "significant financial deficit".
But cathedral chorister James Davies told BBC Wales: "The choir for the time being will just consist of the boys.
"The men won't be there unfortunately. Our date of termination is tomorrow."
Start Quote"Relying on constant fundraising for one area of our responsibilities would overshadow or diminish support for other pressing needs”Llandaff Cathedral Chapter Spokesperson 
The cathedral employs professional choristers - or lay clerks as they are known - alongside 16 boy choristers.
The choir will now consist of boy choristers during the week with a budget to pay adult choristers on an occasional basis for weekend services and special occasions.
Five part-time lay clerks, a part-time choral scholar and the assistant organist will lose their permanent contracts.
'Short-sighted decision'The Cathedral Chapter said it had considered all proposals put forward over the past six weeks.
"The new funding arrangement for the choir is the best and most responsible way to secure both its long term future, and the future of the cathedral community as a whole," said a spokesperson.
"We fear that the alternative of relying on constant fundraising for one area of our responsibilities would overshadow or diminish support for other pressing needs, such as the fabric of the building, and even then could not guarantee a sustainable long term solution."
The spokesperson added that the choir would strengthen relationships with other musical organisations and develop the complementary roles of the girls' and parish choirs.
But ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts said: "Making people redundant the week before Christmas and at the choir's busiest time of year is a shocking decision that will do lasting damage both to the musical life and the reputation of Llandaff Cathedral.
"We believe that the Cathedral Chapter should reverse this short-sighted decision."
She said the decision meant the cathedral choir would be without altos, tenors or basses for its Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
The choir, which was set up more than 130 years ago, featured in BBC series Songs of Praise in early November, and is said to be one of the last in Wales to employ professional singers.
ISM helped set up a campaign group called Save Llandaff Choir in which it says: "The importance of choral music to the cultural, economic and spiritual life of the cathedral and wider city is immense and any decision to downgrade the choir in this way would be short-sighted and highly damaging."
Friends of Cathedral Music said the job losses were a "stark warning" the costs of maintaining cathedral choirs can threaten the future of the hundreds of years of heritage.
"The heritage represented by cathedral music is priceless but it comes at a very high price and that is why, if it is to be safeguarded and sustained for generations to come, imaginative leadership and clear long-term sustainable plans for its development are needed at acutely difficult times like this," said professor Peter Toyne."
It would seem that the campaign in high places to make the Church in Wales something utterly different from what it has been in the past is proceeding apace .... and in all kinds of ways.

The link to the ISM website is here and their Save Llandaff Choir site - for messages of support - is here 

Greetings of the Season and all that

Cranmer - with some justification - berates Oxford University for its flippant (or worse) 'Seasons Greetings' message [here
Dominus illuminatio mea, indeed ...

I also had a short, minute-long, video message emailed from my old college - 'Christmas Greetings' - and some beautifully atmospheric music and photography- a vast improvement on the above.
It's unlisted on YouTube so here is the link - enjoy it, even if it is still Advent!

Tim Stanley at The Telegraph has some sane words about the contemporary celebration of Christmas, particularly good for those of us who are liable to become depressed both at the naked commercialism of the season and everyone jumping the gun to celebrate it:
"Western Europe isn't Christian anymore in the sense that we Bible bashers freaking own this place. Nope. It's Christian in history, secular in spirit, disengaged in practice. So I don't expect everyone to get a theological thrill out of this season and I don't think there should be mandated Mass attendance or forced conscription into nativity plays. But it would be nice if everyone approached Christmas with greater curiosity about what it stands for.
... And it's this. Most of the other deities who walked the Earth came as kings or warriors. But Jesus came as a little baby. Soft, pink, vulnerable. This was how God chose to reveal himself to the world, as one of us during a moment that is universal to all our lives. We are all born, we all die – and this Messiah was born with the express purpose of dying. The extraodinary thing about the holy infant is that we are looking at a child that is here for the express purpose of suffering. Not because God is a sadist but because God loves us so much that he would send his son to suffer and die alongside us and on our behalf. When you think of how much right God has to be angry with us, or how he could so easily let us rot, the story is all the more remarkable. It's tangible, historical proof that there is an Almighty and he cares. Friend, you and I are not alone...........  
....But folks get it wrong when they imagine that a religious experience is something that can be induced just by turning up and being there. Maybe if you sit long enough in the pews, they think, God will speak to you and the scales will fall from your eyes.In reality, faith takes a long time to build – it seeps into your personality and, someday, it feels as natural as breathing air. The way to get to that point is to open your heart to religion, to contemplate its wonder. Christmas is a perfect opportunity to do just that ..."
Read it all here

And, not to be left out, there's this to cheer us up in the rather frantic days ahead before Christmas actually begins (one has to keep trying) - although perhaps I should apologise for posting it as it is becoming as ubiquitous as that secular myth, Santa himself. 

O Clavis David

Today, another change of mood - O Clavis David by Marc-Antoine Charpentier 

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

Thursday 19 December 2013

Impending collapse and sacramental 'permeability'?

There's a thoroughly uncompromising article here at Anglican Ink on the situation in the Church of England  as evidenced by the recent Pilling Report. Personalities apart (what we don't know, we won't speak of) his analysis of the fall-out from Pilling is hard to resist. But it's strong meat and (considerable understatement here) won't be to everyone's taste ....

Some contrasting interpretations of the Bishop of Chichester's recent eirenical (?)  statement in response to a Synod representative's  reported words in the ongoing debate about the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in Jamaica can be found here , here and here

Is 'the agenda' moving on - some might think so [here] *

No less controversial, if more subtle and, as we have come to expect, theologically erudite,  is Fr John Hunwicke (continuing his welcome resumption of blogging and in the process showing us all how it's done) who argues that there is potential - in certain instances - for an interpretation of existing Roman Catholic canon law in order to allow a degree of sacramental hospitality from the Ordinariate towards increasingly displaced, unchurched and unshepherded Anglo-Catholics. Now that would set the cat among the pigeons; I can already sense the feathers flying  ..... 
But in the present climate? I can't see it - although it would be practical ecumenism at its best.....

*Update: after being bombarded with criticism, the cleric concerned, the Rev. Danielle Tumminio, has issued this 'clarification' [here] :
"However, Ms. Tumminio told Anglican Ink that she was “not advocating for a change in The Episcopal Church's teaching on marriage to accommodate plural relationships.  'If, for instance, I was asked to perform a plural marriage, I would decline, explaining that it is not in line with the Doctrine and Discipline of The Episcopal Church.' 
[She said] Her support for polygamy was not theological, but based on libertarian principles and a belief in civil religious toleration.
“Like most Americans, however, I do place enormous value on religious freedom, and so I hope that other Americans will be afforded the same freedoms that I am given.  To that end, if plural marriage is a central part of another person's traditions, and if they want to practice plural marriage within the boundaries of their own faith and the limits of the law, then I have no opposition to that.”
So .... that's all right, then ... so there's no inconsistency whatsoever with her previous remarks:
“as a Christian, it makes sense to support healthy polygamous practices. It’s a natural extension for those Christians who support same-sex marriage on theological grounds. But even for those opposed to same-sex marriage, polygamy is documented in the Bible, thereby giving its existence warrant.”  

And that's probably more than enough on the subject:- it's unkind because it's too much like shooting fish in a barrel - not that that has ever stood in the way of the success of the liberal project ... 

Royal intervention on the Middle East

The web is abuzz with these reported words (via Ms Gledhill of The Times [here £] and taken up by Cranmer  and others ) of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales: 
“It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.
“For 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so, and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution, including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
We can only welcome his intervention. The secularised West - in full cultural revolt against its own heritage and all too happy to take on a burden of guilt induced by somewhat unhistorical accounts of the origins of the Crusades, involving  a wilful blindness to the violent military expansionism of Islam - has been silent on this issue for far too long. 
Of course, western support for indigenous Christians in the Middle East has always been a double-edged sword (as, indeed, it was during the latter period of the Crusades - if anywhere, that's where the historical guilt should come in) ; the post-war establishment of the State of Israel  has complicated things immensely for them.
Yet if someone does not speak out clearly, this generation of Middle-Eastern Christians - our brothers and sisters in the faith - may well be the last as they fall victim to the fundamentalist Islamic fanaticism of our own time ... 

O Radix Jesse

Today, a contemporary instrumental ' Antiphon', based around the plainchant melody: O Radix Jesse - Roberto Segato

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

Wednesday 18 December 2013

O Adonai

An English version of today's antiphon set here by Healey Willan:

O Lord Eternal and Leader of the house of Israel,
wo dist appear to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and didst give the Law to him in Sinai,
come to redeem us by Thine outstretched arm.

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.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

O Sapientia

The first of the great Advent antiphons, sung here to a setting by Robert Ramsey ((1595 - 1644)

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

Monday 16 December 2013

In December the pursuit of profit makes whores of us all

My family accuses me of adopting an extreme Scrooge-like attitude at this time of year. They are probably right; I become increasingly hard to live with as the month we used to experience as Advent continues, wincing at supermarket carols and tinselly decorations and having almost to be forcibly restrained when wished a well meaning but premature 'Merry Christmas.' 
All right, I exaggerate - a little; but, frankly, I don't recognise December any more: it has changed utterly. My own childhood memories are of only decorating trees and putting up Christmas cribs on Christmas Eve itself, very often to the accompaniment on the radio of the Ceremony of Nine Lessons & Carols from King's, Cambridge.  Christmas - when it arrived, after the Midnight Mass - was something to be savoured and enjoyed, in church and out.
Now - well, we all know what happens now....
A confession, one more or less guaranteed to offend everyone at this time of year: my current pet hate  is reading 'tweets' and Facebook posts - long before mid-December - by Anglican clergy - and those of all traditionsboasting about how many (non-school or college, we know the end of term deadlines there) carol services and Christmas events they have organised. What fun!  It's the sort of thing we rather pitied the Protestant Free Churches for doing only a few decades or so ago; now we ourselves collude in the virtual disappearance of Advent. We know the parochial pressures and social expectations, but .....
I'm always being asked, 'don't you appreciate that we have to be where the people are?' Up to a point, perhaps; yet I remember only a couple of years ago, the horrified reaction from someone without any kind of 'liturgical' Christian background when, encouraged by the 'secular' spirit of the season, she arrived, with her young daughter, at the parish mass and found no decorations, no Christmas carols and, instead a concentration on watching and waiting and preparation, and on those very 'unseasonal' (but very seasonal) themes of heaven and hell, death and judgement. No amount of 'teaching' left her anything but utterly mystified at the contrast. Do we have to change that, too, in order to be 'where people are?'

What do we gain by ignoring Advent and giving the impression we actually approve of the violence that has been done to one of the major Christian festivals by a cynical process of commercial manipulation? Again, what exactly was the problem with celebrating Christmas for twelve days after December 24th? Well, we know the answer to that - it doesn't tally with the overriding need for a mid-winter boost to the retail trade; our society's commercial requirements have made whores of us all.
Perhaps the time has come for the Church to find some counter-cultural backbone and, once again, advocate and offer a conspicuous alternative to all this - the 'real' Christmas celebration has a lot going for it in the face of an increasingly unaffordable, high octane and destructively stressful month-long orgy of excess and over-spending.

Here's an American take on a common western phenomenon:   
"....It might not be quite so objectionable for society to squeeze out Advent with all its unseasonable Christmasing if it really was about … Christmas. Good tidings of great joy. Peace on earth, and good-will to men. The creator of heaven and earth became flesh and dwelt among us, and all that. We do, after all, need a little Christmas, all day every day.
But it’s not; it’s about merchants selling stuff. People looking for an excuse to have a party, to overindulge in alcohol and engage in gluttony and all sorts of other activities that St. Paul warned against. And all of us thoughtlessly getting caught up in the rush.
Worse, it seems increasingly to be about people who proudly proclaim their Christianity while looking for another reason to get angry, to feel put upon. We have in this country a certain brand of Christians who can’t tolerate the fact that businesses and schools and the talking heads on TV celebrate their insipid “winter break” with “holiday cards” and “holiday trees” rather than wishing them “Merry Christmas” — during Advent......
.... Adding insult to spiritual injury, the assault on Advent crowds out the real observation of Christmas — the one that starts on the evening of Dec. 24 and runs through Epiphany, 12 days later. Try to find a Christmas carol then or, after the new year, anyone who even says “happy holidays,” much less “merry Christmas.”
This morning, I will join 1.5 billion other Anglicans and Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians and a smattering of Protestants in singing Advent hymns and lighting the third of the four Advent candles. We will hear from St. Matthew how Jesus answered questions from the imprisoned John the Baptist about whether he was the long-awaited Messiah. We will hear from the prophet Isaiah and James the brother of Jesus about the Messiah’s return.
And then we will go back out into a world that pretends to need a full month to celebrate the incarnation but that is in fact too fixated on jolly old fat men and toy-filled sleighs and finding the latest gadget to have time for any of that."   [Here]

'An encounter in mystery and in grace'

The image of Advent: 
the famous 13th -14th Century statue of Our Lady in León Cathedral  
- La Virgen de la Esperanza - 

".... We must remain in the real Advent; we should not harden ourselves, not capitulate from horror or from happiness, but keep the authentic attitude of waiting because we know: we are are going out to meet a Goodness, a Benevolence.
However, having to wait means that one is in danger of mental weariness . Therefore [St Paul]  offers the encouragement: 'The hour has come to arise from sleep" (Rom 13:11) Take your head in hand in hand, so to speak, and examine yourself as you are. measure yourself against the great scale to see whether you are alienated by outside influences, or are still rooted in the source of strength. Perhaps you are saying, "What's the use?" If you enter this reflection, you will be rejuvenated and connected with the source. then these jolts will not always be necessary. Then that source will well up within you, like an interior stream flowing  and carrying you onward. Now it begins: Those who genuinely wait on the Lord will not be disappointed. They will grow into this true meeting with God, an encounter in mystery and in grace. It all depends upon our waiting, staying vigilant, and straining toward what lies ahead with a true openness."
Fr Alfred Delp S.J. (1907 - 1945) more from the collection of his writings: ‘Advent of the Heart’ translated by Abtei St Walburg.

Sunday 15 December 2013

"Today there is an ecumenism of blood"

“John Paul II spoke even more explicitly about a way of exercising the primacy which is open to a new situation. Not just from the point of view of ecumenical relations but also in terms of relations with the Curia and the local Churches. Over the course of these first nine months, I have received visits from many Orthodox brothers: Bartholomew, Hilarion, the theologian Zizioulas, the Copt Tawadros. The latter is a mystic, he would enter the chapel, remove his shoes and go and pray. I felt like their brother. They have the apostolic succession; I received them as brother bishops. It is painful that we are not yet able to celebrate the Eucharist together, but there is friendship. I believe that the way forward is this: friendship, common work and prayer for unity. We blessed each other; one brother blesses the other, one brother is called Peter and the other Andrew, Mark, Thomas…”. 
".....Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for. I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism.  After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: “I will continue to deal with the cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s.” This is what ecumenism of blood is. It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptised in. We need to take these facts into consideration.....” 

The full interview with Pope Francis is here  

Saturday 14 December 2013

Santa lives!

Time for the winter silly season stories once again - yet more tactless clergy, upset children and oddly outraged parents. It seems the more our culture loses its grip on the essential truths of the Christmas story, the more we seem to take refuge in complete unreality [here] where the story of the birth of Christ is reduced to the same level or even eclipsed in importance by that of an fat, mythical gentleman squeezing down every chimney on the planet.

However, these same desperately traumatised small children live in homes where, on their parents' television and radio sets, they can hear God denied and blasphemed and the Christian faith (at the licence payers' expense, naturally) traduced at all hours of the day. They may also on the same channels even come across, on occasion, graphic portrayals of random violence and cruelty,  but - we are told - there is shock and horror when a cleric (all, right, admittedly somewhat 'off his game' that day) tells children that the 'real' story' of Father Christmas concerns a third century bishop called Nicholas and goes on to speak about some of the - to the modern ear - rather gruesome traditions surrounding him. *

Of course, context is all and the clergyman concerned apologised - as they do. But one can't help thinking Saint Nicholas himself would have been more .... well ... robust ....

* Although neither as gruesome nor as cruelly without meaning as many traditional children's fairy stories

Friday 13 December 2013

"They can lead to self-righteous schism".

Fr John Hunwicke has recently aired a post originally written in 2010 - before joining the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:
"...We Anglican Catholics know what Intermediate Primacies can lead to if left without a check or a balance. They can lead to the mess that the Anglican Communion finds itself in. They lead to the concept of the Infallible Local Synod whose heretical decisions are irreformable.
They can lead to self-righteous schism....".
In the western Anglican world, without exception, 'The Infallible Local Synod' (not to mention the 'self-righteous schism' it has engendered) is precisely what we have now come to. Can an Anglican claiming any kind of sensus Catholicus owe such a body his (or her) allegiance? It would be hard to argue that the recent development of such a chimera has not, if not altogether negated the vows of 'obedience' we, as clergy, have made to the predecessors of those who are now, seemingly,  happy to regard themselves as merely the executive servants of these bodies, at the very least radically changed the way we in conscience are able to view them.
For many of us, being 'a loyal Anglican' entails such a degree of scepticism and resistance both towards the direction our Communion has taken (irrevocably, it would seem) and the structures now claiming an authority to sit in judgement on both the Christian tradition and Holy Scripture itself - something which, of course, they cannot possess .... or, for that matter, were ever intended to possess when, mistakenly and with such tragic consequences,  they were brought into being. 

Thursday 12 December 2013

An initial Society reaction to Pilling

A somewhat non-committal statement about a forthcoming statement from the Bishop of Pontefract on behalf of the Bishops of the Society:
The Pilling Report: Statement by the Council of Bishops of the Society
The Chairman of the Council of Bishops of the Society has issued the following statement:
The Report of the House of Bishops' Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report) is an important piece of work which deserves careful consideration. We encourage our clergy and people to read it and reflect upon it prayerfully.
We note that the Report proposes no change in the doctrine of the Church of England and that its practical recommendations remain, at this stage, recommendations to the House of Bishops.
Those of us who are members of the Church of England's College of Bishops will be discussing it with other members of the College in January, and we shall also be discussing it at our own meeting in February. We plan to comment more fully after those discussions.
On behalf of the Council
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson

In the event, of course, that The Society's bishops or Forward in Faith itself should wish to distance themselves politely from the Pilling Report's recommendations, they will have a certain diplomatic tightrope to tread, given that the Bishop of Fulham was among the report's signatories.
Look for nuance, however delicate - I hope to be proved wrong, but it's probably now all that can be hoped for.... 

I most likely shouldn't say this, but I'm going to. We are very slow to learn. It is precisely in this way that radical ecclesial agendas are furthered, particularly at a sensitive  'political'  moment when Anglican Catholics are anxious both to remain fully involved in the mainstream of their Church's deliberations and also deeply concerned not to rock the synodical boat: co-opt a honest and highly theologically literate traditionalist and then bind him to a report's 'reformist' recommendations hand and foot. 

A cynical response? No: it's how ecclesiastical 'liberals' operate and it's also, regrettably,  how 'conservative' oppositions are divided.....  time after time - in the U.S. A. , Scandinavia... England .... the list lengthens. 

Monday 9 December 2013

The Immaculate Conception: John Macquarrie

'Without God's Son, nothing could exist; 
without Mary's Son, nothing could be redeemed' 
- St Anselm -

12th Century statue of Our Lady in the Church of Santa Maria la Real, O Cebreiro, Galicia

Part of a defence of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by a notable Twentieth Century Catholic Anglican theologian - best of all, read the whole book...  
"…the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in its official formulation states quite explicitly that Mary’s ‘unique grace and privilege’ in this matter (and we may understand these words as referring to her election and vocation) were granted  ‘in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race.’ It could not be more plainly asserted than it is here that Mary has her significance not in herself but because of her relation to Christ. The latter’s saving work reaches backward in time as well as forward. So Mary is subordinate to her Son. In the language of Christian theology, she is the God-bearer, fully human; he is the God-man, fully human and fully divine." 
John Macquarrie: ‘Mary For All Christians’ *

'There is no rose of such virtue'  - the mediaeval English carol, sung here by Chanticleer

* See also the ARCIC Agreed Statement:  Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ (2005) where, under the heading  'Advances in Agreement,'  the following declaration is made:

"We affirm together......
~  "that in view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One, Christ's redeeming work reached 'back' in Mary to the depths of her being and to her earliest beginnings" 

The language of 'ecumenical dialogue' notwithstanding, if that is not the Immaculate Conception (and - for those who believe they need it - further justification for Anglicans to observe the Solemnity) I don't know what is ... 

Saturday 7 December 2013

GAFCON Chairman's Advent Letter

Significant enough to print in full: 

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya
and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council
Advent  2013

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! Psalm 31:24
My dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
I am so thankful to the Lord for his goodness to us as we met here in Nairobi for GAFCON 2013. It was a great gathering in which we saw unmistakable signs of God’s blessing. Our expectations were exceeded in many ways as 1,358 delegates from 37 nations gathered for what I can only describe as a foretaste of heaven. My prayer was that we would see the glory of God and we did as we enjoyed a wonderful time of worship, prophetic bible teaching and mutual encouragement.  It was truly a mountain top experience in which the Lord Jesus was gloriously present, but we knew we could not stay there. We have to come down from the mountain to face the challenges ahead. 
And so we have. The Church of England has just released what is known as the Pilling Report, the conclusions of a Working Group commissioned by the House of Bishops to report and make recommendations on issues of human sexuality. I am sorry to say that it is very flawed. If this report is accepted I have no doubt that the Church of England, the Mother Church of the Communion, will have made a fateful decision. It will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring. 
The problem is not simply that the Report proposes that parish churches should be free to hold public services for the blessing of homosexual relationships, but the way it justifies this proposal. Against the principle of Anglican teaching, right up to and beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1998, it questions the possibility that the Church can speak confidently on the basis of biblical authority and sees its teaching as essentially provisional. So Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference, which affirmed that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and said it could ‘not advise the legitimisation or blessing of same sex relationships’, is undermined both in practice and in principle. 
The proposal to allow public services for the blessing of same sex relationships is seen as a provisional measure and the Report recommends a two-year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ throughout the Church of England which is likened to the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project. This should be a warning to us because it highlights that the unspoken assumption of Anglican Indaba is that the voice of Scripture is not clear. This amounts to a rejection of the conviction expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles that the Bible as ‘God’s Word written’ is a clear and effective standard for faith and conduct.
As a matter of conscience, one member of the Working Group, the Rt Rev’d Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, was unable to sign the Report. He issued a dissenting statement which I strongly endorse as an alternative way forward which honours the authority of Scripture and expresses a deep pastoral concern for the transforming power of the gospel in a society which is moving into ever greater confusion about sexual morality and identity. 
We should pray earnestly that the English House of Bishops steps back from endorsing this Report, but the developing situation in the Church of England, the historic Mother Church of the Communion, underlines the need for our Global Fellowship to build on the success of GAFCON 2013 and implement our commitments.  As we noted in the Nairobi  Communiqué, the GFCA is becoming an ‘ important and effective instrument of Communion during a period in which other instruments of Communion have failed both to uphold gospel priorities in the Church, and to heal the divisions among us.’ 
As Chairman I am committed to seeing our vital work of promoting and defending the gospel expand. During the coming year we shall be working to increase our organizational effectiveness, set up global networks and improve our communications, but we also need the involvement of every member in prayer, giving and active engagement with our global vision. We are at heart a spiritual movement of renewal, looking to the Lord who graciously revives his Church and this is a reality that flows out of the daily discipleship of each one.
I write with deep gratitude to you all for your prayer and fellowship in this great project which the Lord has called us. This Advent Season is a reminder to live as those who are ready for the Lord’s return in power and glory, as Saviour and as Judge.  So let us be of good hope, confident in the ultimate triumph of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. 
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thess. 2:16,17).
The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala
Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
Posted December 7, 2013

Friday 6 December 2013

St Nicholas

For December 6th: 
From the Cantata, St Nicholas by Benjamin Britten, this is The Birth of Nicholas, performed  here by Philip Langridge, tenor, the Tallis Chamber Choir and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Steuart Bedford

Under 30s?

The Church Times in a leader this week makes great play in its liberal criticism of the Pilling Report of the assertion that anyone under the age of thirty finds the 'conservative' (i.e. traditionally Christian)  view of human sexuality completely incomprehensible. 
Jezebel's Trumpet may well be right about that, yet exactly the same statistical argument could be used about the supposed intelligibility of any of the articles of the Nicene Creed, not to mention the contemporary acceptability of most of the claims of the New Testament itself. 
Now, while this undoubtedly poses a 'missiological challenge' in terms of the Church's evangelisation of our society, it cannot be in itself any kind of argument for changing the content of the Church's proclamation of the Gospel. 
So, for the Church Times and those who agree with its temporally insular analysis, is acceptability to the prevailing culture now the main criterion which should determine the Church's belief, or is this simply more evidence of the intellectual and theological laziness of many of those who are clamouring - and networking - so very effectively for radical change?

Deserving of great praise, but ........all this hysteria?

The tributes to the late Nelson Mandela are flooding in - most of them are richly deserved; although one couldn't suppress a degree of ironic laughter at U.S. President Obama's contribution - what he said was mostly, of course, about himself..
Certain (not insignificant) reservations about his record in office notwithstanding, Nelson Mandela was certainly among the most influential and remarkable statesmen of his and our time and has left a lasting legacy of courage, generosity and a commitment to genuine reconciliation and the healing of memories following the appalling trauma of apartheid, not just in his homeland of South Africa but throughout the world. That by itself is so (genuinely) unique an achievement as to rank him among the very highest.

Yet, of course, to detract from the occasion, the western media is reacting to the clearly not unexpected news of his death with all the hyperbole and hysteria to which we have all now become accustomed [one particularly crass headline can be found here] : hence this delicious piece of satire from Eccles & Bosco: 
"Methuselah dies 
Today the World was in a state of total shock as it was announced that veteran activist and leader Nelson Methuselah had died at the tender age of 969.....". [here]
I particularly like the last photo caption:

"Have YOU left flowers? If not, we know where you live!"

This is the ending of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem: it seems in many ways appropriate:

Thursday 5 December 2013

In Spain - a meeting of minds across the North Sea & the divisions of centuries

My last evening in Santiago de Compostela was spent around the dinner table with a group of delightful Norwegian pilgrims - evangelical Christians in a confessional body, semi-estranged from the established State Church in their homeland. As the evening progressed, it rapidly became clear that, certain 'Reformation issues' notwithstanding, we had more in common that we previously imagined.
The one comment that sticks in my mind was this: ' At first the churches here along the Camino in Spain seemed alien, full of images which went against much of what we were brought up to believe. But when we heard the priests speak, their words were about the reality of God. At home, all we now hear from our own Church is left-wing politics dressed up in the language of environmentalism."
I wish I had had much more time to speak to them....

Good for Cranmer!

Not a sentiment expressed here that often... 
But the Cranmer concerned is the blog [here] and these are his comments on the narcissism currently consuming the West while our brothers and sisters in Syria bear the brunt of the barbarity of Islamic extremism:
"Somewhere around Maaloula, Syria, 12 nuns are cowering in fear of their Islamist kidnappers. They may be being beaten, raped or beheaded one by one. But who cares? We've got Nigella Lawson's coke habit to tickle our itching ears.
Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf and 11 of her sisters were abducted at gunpoint from St Tecla Orthodox monastery and taken hostage by an army of "rebels", along with the orphans who were being fostered and cared for. But who cares? We've got the identity of Tom Daley's handsome new boyfriend to fantasise about.
The international community and world governments are indifferent to the plight of the nuns of the St Tecla convent.
And so are most people in Britain.
Churches, monasteries and convents throughout Syria are being razed, desecrated and pillaged. Maaloula is being cleansed of Christians. But who cares?
We've got celebrity drugs and gay sex to gossip about.
Of course, if these were gays and lesbians being kidnapped, beaten and tortured by Islamists, we'd soon have celebrity declamations and government condemnation. There'd be Twitter campaigns and Facebook pages dedicated to their freedom, and the media would full of Stephen Fry demanding justice.
But these are only nuns.
And no one really gives a shit about Christians.
We've got Nigella's coke and Tom's boyfriend to titillate us."