Friday 29 March 2013

Robert White: Lamentations

For the coldest and, apart from some occasional glimmers of sunshine, the bleakest Good Friday I can remember, music from Robert Whites's Lamentations a 5 sung by Amici Cantores of Milan directed by  Stefano Torelli

Some thought-provoking News about the Turin Shroud

The Holy Shroud of Turin is not, as many thought, a mediaeval 'forgery,' but datable to the first century:
"New scientific experiments carried out at the University of Padua have apparently confirmed that the Shroud Turin can be dated back to the 1st century AD. This makes its compatible with the tradition which claims that the cloth with the image of the crucified man imprinted on it is the very one Jesus’ body was wrapped in when he was taken off the cross. The news will be published in a book by Giulio Fanti, professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at the University of Padua’s Engineering Faculty, and journalist Saverio Gaeta, out tomorrow. “Il Mistero della Sindone” (The Mystery of the Shroud) is edited by Rizzoli (240 pp, 18 Euro). What’s new about this book are Fanti’s recent findings, which are also about to be published in a specialist magazine and assessed by a scientific committee. The research includes three new tests, two chemical ones and one mechanical one. The first two were carried out with an FT-IR system, so using infra-red light, and the other using Raman spectroscopy. The third was a multi-parametric mechanical test based on five different mechanical parameters linked to the voltage of the wire. The machine used to examine the Shroud’s fibres and test traction, allowed researchers to examine tiny fibres alongside about twenty samples of cloth dated between 3000 BC and 2000 AD.

The new tests carried out in the University of Padua labs were carried out by a number of university professors from various Italian universities and agree that the Shroud dates back to the period when Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Final results show that the Shroud fibres examined produced the following dates, all of which are 95% certain and centuries away from the medieval dating obtained with Carbon-14 testing in 1988: the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC  ±250 years. The book’s authors observed that the uncertainty of this date is less than the single uncertainties and the date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross, which historians claim occurred in 30 AD.

The tests were carried out using tiny fibres of material extracted from the Shroud by micro-analyst Giovanni Riggi di Numana who passed away in 2008 but had participated in the1988 research project and gave the material to Fanti through the cultural institute Fondazione 3M."
from Vatican Insider [here

Could this be, indeed, the face of the crucified Lord?

Thanks to Stella Maris for the story

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Welcome to the 'compassionate NGO'

The front page of the Easter edition Monmouth Diocesan Newsletter [here] is entirely taken up by the report printed below [also see here]. The news page from the EFECW website [here] tells you all you need to know:

The Leading Question?
A report which will be shared with churches throughout Europe was launched in Monmouth on International Women’s Day, 8 March. One of the co-authors is a priest in Monmouth group of parishes, Revd Dr Ali Green. Ali is the Welsh delegate to the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women who sponsored the report.
The Leading Question? is the conclusions of the Women in Leadership Consultation and reflects the experience of women with a diversity of leadership experience in churches and ecumenical structures as well as the secular workplace and politics.
The seven recommendations of The Leading Question? suggest ways in which churches can become more aware of key concerns and issues identified and experienced by women, and so develop a deeper understanding of ways in which they can become truly gender-inclusive.."

We must, I suppose, be grateful for the question mark. If this is really the 'leading question' for contemporary Anglicans, our tradition deserves the greater decline into spiritual irrelevancy and even extinction which is waiting for us.  Such reports, and the degree of seriousness, even reverence, with which they are now received  in Anglican establishment circles, inevitably bring to mind the following words from Pope Francis' first homily after his election:

".....we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rock, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency...." 

It also puts into context the most recent of many warnings from Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church [reported here]

"...The Moscow patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system.
"We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department of External Church Relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox churches who attended his enthronement.
The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognizing the church hierarchy of the Anglican church, the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations reported on Saturday. [And see here from 2010]
"I would like you to know about that and take our opinion into account when this issue arises again," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
Metropolitan Hilarion also said he is hoping Justin Welby will firmly defend the traditional biblical understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman "to prevent secular society from forcing on the Church of England the recognition of some forms of cohabitation which were never considered marriage by Christian churches..."
But the message which comes over loud and clear, not in words but in actions, is that the Anglican hierarchy, and those pulling their strings, don't care. The brakes are off; there can be no change of direction. The proponents of heterodox change will tell you it's all about justice. Don't believe them: it's a power thing. The increasingly desperate search for acceptance (and the influence they fondly believe goes with it) by the only culture in which they feel at home takes precedence over anything else, including our Saviour's prayer, in the same night that he was betrayed,  that we may all be one... 

Tenebrae factae sunt

More music for Holy Week: Tenebrae factae sunt by Gesualdo, sung by Nordic Voices

And an interesting video from San Diego of excerpts from the celebration of Tenebrae according to the Roman Rite, with music by Tomas Luis de Victoria, Francisco Lopez-Capillas, Hernando Franco, and Jan Dismas Zelenka.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

My Song is Love Unknown

The passiontide hymn with words by Samuel Crossman and music by John Ireland, sung here by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Cleobury.

Monday 25 March 2013

The Triumph of the Cross?

Canon Giles Fraser, as only he can,  gets it spectacularly wrong about the mystery of the Cross (not his first offence- see here and here) and manages to be extremely sour and nasty (yet again) about evangelicals:
"...Once again, the evangelicals are in the ascendency in the Church of England. Rowan Williams never spoke of Cheesus. He had way too much gravitas. Which was why so many non-Christians respected him. And, to be fair, Justin Welby doesn't do that either – but I worry that he does have a slight weakness in that direction. After all, that is the stable of the church he hails from. And if he does lapse into Cheesus-speak, heaven save him from Rowan Atkinson, whose Red Nose day satire was a little too close for comfort.
Welby, however, does have one important inoculation against Cheesus. He has personal experience of tragedy and Cheesus cannot deal with tragedy. Which is why, for the worst sort of Cheesus-loving evangelicals, the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph. This is theologically illiterate. Next week, in the run up to Easter, Christianity goes into existential crisis. It fails....
The fact that this is not the end of the story does not take away from the fact that tragedy will always be folded into the experience of faith. Even the resurrected Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. A man who has been through something like that will never smile that cheesy smile or think of faith as some sunny suburban upspeak.  Justin Welby is the theological product of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Old Etonian-run church next to Harrods that brought the world the Alpha Course and doubles up as a posh dating agency for west London singles. They are brilliant at PR and have pots of money. And if Christianity is all about success, then you have it hand it to them.

But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That's the problem with Cheesus. He won't really suffer and he doesn't ever die."
[Read it all here]
But as the Roman Catholic priest, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith points out in The Catholic Herald, Dr Fraser is not only indulging in a grossly over-simplistic caricature, but is himself missing the point....     
"...Well, yes, one sees what he is saying, but…If Dr Fraser thinks that there are supposed Christians who have abandoned the faith and replaced it with some sort of self-help doctrine, then there might be some point to what he says. However, the concept of the Triumph of the Cross is by no means theologically illiterate. This Triumph is celebrated in East and West on September 14. Its extremely nuanced theology is expressed in the Anglo-Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood.
Good Friday is a triumph for on this day our salvation is accomplished. Far from failing –though it looks that way – Jesus succeeds. Regnavit a ligno Deus, to quote an ancient Christian hymn, the Vexilla Regis: God ruled from a tree...
....The teaching that comes out of HTB is clear and coherent on the great questions of Christian morality. In other words, when facing temptation, people are not told that these things do not really matter, or that there is no point in resisting their sinful impulses, which are perfectly ‘natural’; they are told, relying on the grace of God, to fight the good fight, and to sacrifice their desires on the altar of the Cross.
This is the crunch moment for all who call themselves Christian. Do we make sacrifices, in our desire to live moral lives? Do we, in other words, believe in the Cross? The trajectory of liberal Christianity (if that is not too great an oxymoron) is to deny sin, and in so doing, to deny the necessity of the Cross. Indeed, as John Paul II observed in his great letter on morality, Veritatis Splendor, to abandon traditional Christian morality is tantamount to emptying the Cross of its power (see I Cor 1:17 and Veritatis Splendor 83). For if we say that the struggle to live the moral life is useless or simply doomed to failure, we are also saying that Christ on His Cross did not win for us the grace by which we conquer our temptations. But the message from HTB is a clear one, I have noticed: you can overcome your faults, through the grace of God, because Jesus has won the victory through His Cross..."
[Read the full article here]
The title of Canon Fraser's piece for The Guardian is "I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus" - obviously not hard enough.

As Fr Lucie-Smith says, the significance of the triumph of the Cross is, indeed, one of the many things which can draw Evangelicals and Catholics more closely together, particularly, perhaps, within a church whose liberal ascendancy (check them out - not that many evangelicals, despite Dr Giles Fraser's assertions - and a mere handful of catholics) affects to despise both traditions in equal measure. In the context of a society whose cultural elites now seek to banish the faith from the public square altogether, Canon Fraser's somewhat ambivalent (if not approving) mention of Rowan Atkinson's now notorious Comic Relief sketch speaks volumes. Theological liberalism (increasingly the secularist Trojan horse in our midst) has a genius for tearing things down and 'ditching' anything it deems to be irrelevant to the modern world. Will it ever learn to build?

The Rule of the Anglican priestly Society of the Holy Cross, Societas Sanctae Crucis, says this:
"The call of Christ invites us to take up the cross, and to follow in the way of the Cross, in faithfulness and obedience to Christ, and in union with him, even to death, and beyond death. The brethren shall therefore endeavour to live out the discipline of the crucified Saviour in every aspect of life and through their teaching and pastoral care, to help others to do the same."

The Prayer of the Society of the Holy Cross:

We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
for he is our salvation our life and our resurrection, 
through him we are saved and made free.

FATHER, your Son showed the depth of his love 
when, for our sake, he opened his arms on the cross; 
and he has commanded us to love one another.
Keep the brothers of the Society of the Holy Cross united in love and in faith. 
Through the saving power of the Cross 
impressed inwardly upon their lives 
and revealed outwardly in their work, 
may other come to know your love and your truth; 
through Christ our Lord. Amen

Sunday 24 March 2013

The video of the century

or of the last 500 years.... or more...

For Palm Sunday

Those were the days...

How times change!
I'm grateful to a friend and brother priest for this link to a short British Pathé newsreel featuring Dr C.A.H. Green, the first Bishop of Monmouth, consecrating a church in his diocese in 1926.
And they tell us now that traditional Anglo-Catholicism is essentially foreign to Anglicanism itself  and, like those who are unfashionable enough to profess it, has no place in the Welsh Church today..... perhaps that is really the future, but the history of the province and the words and actions of its 'founding fathers' would seem rather to agree with us....
Continuity and legitimacy depend upon more than simply occupying the same physical space.

Bishop (later Archbishop) Green, of course, in many ways can lay claim to having been the real founder of the disestablished Church in Wales, as evidenced by his work in framing much of the province's original constitution ( see his The Setting of the Constitution of the Church in Wales,  Sweet & Maxwell, 1937) 
As we've remarked before, it's only with hindsight that it becomes clear that the Constitution contains a fatal, though historically forgiveable and - perhaps - theologically unavoidable flaw (who could foresee in the 1920s Anglicanism's later headlong descent into liberal heresy?), the church life of the province being made wholly dependent for its own continued orthodoxy on the future appointment of orthodox, catholic bishops. 
As we can see, without that, 'things fall apart'..... 


Saturday 23 March 2013

'To win the laughter of thine Easter Day'

As Holy Week begins, Kenneth's Leighton's Solus ad Victimam, a setting of words of Peter Abelard, translated by Helen Waddell - sung here by the Choir of Christ Church Oxford, conducted by Stephen Darlington.

Alone to sacrifice thou goest, Lord, 
giving thyself to Death whom thou hast slain. 
For us thy wretched folk is any word? 
Who know that for our sins this is thy pain? 
For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds. 
Why must thou suffer torture for our sin? 
Let our hearts suffer in thy Passion, Lord,
that very suffering may thy mercy win. 
This is the night of tears, the three days' space, 
sorrow abiding of the eventide, 
Until the day break with the risen Christ, 
and hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied. 
So may our hearts share in thine anguish, Lord, 
that they may sharers of thy glory be; 
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
to win the laughter of thine Easter Day. 

Earlier today, despite the appalling weather,  I was at Bristol Cathedral, with a number of brother priests and deacons (and Bishop David Thomas) from the Province of Wales, for the Mass of the Chrism. An excellent liturgy, glorious music and a very thoughtful address from Bishop John Ford.  

"We are brothers" - the two Popes meet

I wondered if there would be photographs: - extraordinary, moving, without precedent, truly historic...

Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for a report, photographs and a video clip

Friday 22 March 2013

Welby: "It's just not Christian. It's not what we do..."

The new Archbishop of Canterbury speaks to Ed Thornton of the Church Times [here
However sceptical we might be about the desirability or even the possibility of truth and error living in peaceful co-existence, these are to an extent very reassuring words, but the C of E's Synod has ignored the pleas of its Archbishops before. Perhaps a new incumbent will be given a better hearing? If so, the time for a fair, permanent and truly 'inclusive' settlement is now, while there is still good will from all sides towards Archbishop Welby and the exercise of his new primatial ministry.
"....On Tuesday of last week, it was the turn of MPs to make their views known on church affairs. The Labour MP Diana Johnson introduced a Bill into the House of Commons that would amend the law to allow women to be admitted to the episcopate (News, 15 March). She accused the women-bishops working party, which was set up to resolve the deadlock on women bishops, of "lacking urgency".
Did Ms Johnson have a point? "Far from it. I appreciate what she's doing, but she's wrong. It's not showing a lack of urgency - there's a great deal of urgency. . . She obviously thinks that we're not going quickly enough; I think we're working extremely hard on it and as well as we can. We want to get this done."
Asked what sort of package he would like to see brought before the General Synod in July, Archbishop Welby refuses to prejudge the working group's outcome. If the Church of England were a political party, the situation would be more straightforward, "because we'd have passed the Measure by a majority and chucked out everyone who disagreed with us; nice and simple.
"It's just not Christian. It's not what we do. We're bound together by a common baptism through the work of the Holy Spirit, and I don't think we should have the liberty of saying to people: 'This is how it's going to be, and that's just too bad if you don't like it.'
"Now, in the end, we make decisions, but I think, on the whole, that the fact that the Church has existed for as long as it has shows that the way we do it tends to have some virtue."
Soon after moving into Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Welby appointed the Canon Director of Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, David Porter, to his personal staff (News, 22 February). An initial focus for Mr Porter - whom Archbishop Welby describes as "one of the world's major experts" in conflict resolution - has been to facilitate discussions between the different factions in the Synod.
Holding discussions behind closed doors has provided "safe spaces where people can say what they think and listen to each other, and it not all be observed", Archbishop Welby says. "You can't do everything with journalists listening."

Threat to independent blogs in Britain?

Please sign this petition:
The terms of the proposed Royal Charter under which the British press will be subject to a degree of state or state-backed regulation (to those sitting in the politburo in Beijing so often lectured by the west about the need for a free press, the distinction must seem a fairly academic one) also appear to include the much-overlooked aim to regulate any blog that carries news-related material aimed at readers in the United Kingdom [here].
It seems clear, at least likely (although, frankly, I wouldn't want to be too sanguine about it in the long term once the principle of regulation is established) that very small, low-traffic  blogs such as this one, despite commenting upon and relaying news stories, both ecclesiastical and secular, to a largely British readership, would be exempt from the provisions and sanctions of the Charter [see here], others would not.
We are very aware in the fevered atmosphere of politics (both secular and religious) where, increasingly, the litigious apostles of 'equality and diversity' hold sway, of the real possibility of vexatious complaints. It would seem from much of the discussion about the  proposals now being endorsed by our political elite that dealing with such complaints could prove both all-consuming and prohibitively expensive; Cramner's  experience last year with the ASA seems to make that point very forcibly. It could well lead in Britain to the end of high-traffic independent blogging as we know it. Again, we either have a free press and blogosphere, or we don't. There are always those in positions of influence who would prefer we didn't.
If you value free speech and the continued expression of a wide variety of conflicting views both in print and on the internet, please sign the petition below:

Thursday 21 March 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at his Enthronement today

"To each one of us, whoever and wherever we are,  joining us from far away by television of radio, or here in the Cathedral, Jesus calls through the storms and darkness of life and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”.
Our response to those words sets the pattern for our lives, for the church, for the whole of society. Fear imprisons us and stops us being fully human. Uniquely in all of human history Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who as living love liberates holy courage.
“If it is you tell me to come to you on the water” Peter says, and Jesus replies “come”. History does not relate what the disciples thought about getting out of a perfectly serviceable boat, but Peter was right, and they were wrong. The utterly absurd is completely reasonable when Jesus is the one who is calling. Courage is liberated, and he gets out of the boat, walks a bit, and then fails. Love catches him, gently sets him right, and in a moment they are both in the boat and there is peace. Courage failed, but Jesus is stronger than failure.
The fear of the disciples was reasonable. People do not walk on water, but this person did. For us to trust and follow Christ is reasonable if He is what the disciples end up saying He is; “truly you are the Son of God”. Each of us now needs to heed His voice calling to us, and to get out of the boat and go to Him. Because even when we fail, we find peace and hope and become more fully human than we can imagine: failure forgiven, courage liberated, hope persevering, love abounding. For more than a thousand years this country has to one degree or another sought to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God; by the ordering of its society, by its laws, by its sense of community. Sometimes we have done better, sometimes worse. When we do better we make space for our own courage to be liberated, for God to act among us and for human beings to flourish. Slaves were freed, Factory Acts passed, and the NHS and social care established through Christ-liberated courage. The present challenges of environment and economy, of human development and global poverty, can only be faced with extraordinary courage.
In humility and simplicity Pope Francis called us on Tuesday to be protectors of each other: of the natural world, of the poor and vulnerable. Courage is released in a society that is under the authority of God, so that we may become the fully human community of which we all dream. Let us hear Christ who calls to us and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”.
The first reading we heard dates from the time of Israel before the Kings. It is the account of a Moabite refugee – utterly stigmatised, inescapably despised - taking the huge risk of choosing a God she does not know in a place she has not been, and finding security when she does so. The society Ruth went to was healthy because it was based on obedience to God, both in public care and private love.
......Today we may properly differ on the degrees of state and private responsibility in a healthy society.  But if we sever our roots in Christ we abandon the stability which enables good decision making. There can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in our society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ. Jesus calls to us over the wind and storms, heed his words and we will have the courage to build society in stability.
For nearly two thousand years the Church has sought, often failing, to recognise in its way of being that Jesus is the Son of God. The wind and waves divided Jesus from the disciples. Peter ventures out in fear and trembling (as you may imagine I relate to him at this point). Jesus reconciles Peter to Himself and makes the possibility for all the disciples to find peace. All the life of our diverse churches finds renewal and unity when we are reconciled afresh to God and so are able to reconcile others. A Christ-heeding life changes the church and a Christ-heeding church changes the world: St Benedict set out to create a school for prayer, and incidentally created a monastic order that saved European civilisation.
The more the Church is authentically heeding Jesus’ call, leaving its securities, speaking and acting clearly and taking risks, the more the Church suffers. Thomas Cranmer faced death with Christ-given courage, leaving a legacy of worship, of holding to the truth of the gospel, on which we still draw. I look at the Anglican leaders here and remember that in many cases round the world their people are scattered to the four winds or driven underground:  by persecution, by storms of all sorts, even by cultural change.  Many Christians are martyred now as in the past.
Yet at the same time the church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation and of confident declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ. In England alone the churches together run innumerable food banks, shelter the homeless, educate a million children, offer debt counselling, comfort the bereaved, and far, far more. All this comes from heeding the call of Jesus Christ. Internationally, churches run refugee camps, mediate civil wars, organise elections, set up hospitals. All of it happens because of heeding the call to go to Jesus through the storms and across the waves.
There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed."
The full text and report can be found here 

Enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury

On a bitterly cold first day of Spring, our prayers are offered today for the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who will be enthroned this afternoon as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. 
The Enthronement can be watched live here
A video interview with Archbishop Welby can be found here
for his thoughts, written on his new blog, see here

However, David Virtue reports from Canterbury [here] that the deep and bitter theological divisions within the Anglican Communion will be very apparent even at today's enthronement. As we know, these are not 'political' issues over current 'policy' and a contemporary approach to matters of human sexuality, but profound differences about the authority of Scripture, the natural law and the very nature of God's revelation to the human race. It is the failure or refusal of the largely theologically liberal Anglican 'North' (for want of a better term) to appreciate the implications of their current agenda which has made the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity for the whole Communion harder and harder to fulfil as each successive occupant of the throne of St Augustine has discovered.
[Update : see here]

Pope Francis has sent the following message of greeting to the new Archbishop [here

"I thank you for the kind words contained in your message to me at my election, and I wish in turn to offer my greetings and best wishes on the occasion of your Enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral.
The pastoral ministry is a call to walk in fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me.
I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed."
In a message dated February 4th, but only released today, Pope Benedict (now Pope Emeritus) sent his greetings [full text here] to Archbishop Welby:
"...You take up your office at a time when the Christian faith is being called into question in many parts of the Western world by those who claim that religion is a private matter, with no contribution to offer to public debate. Ministers of the Gospel today have to respond to a widespread deafness to the music of faith, and a general weariness that shuns the demands of discipleship. Yet the hunger for God, even if unrecognized, is ever-present in our society, and the preacher's task, as a messenger of hope, is to speak the truth with love, shedding the light of Christ into the darkness of people's lives. May your apostolate yield a rich harvest and may it open the eyes and ears of many to the life-giving message of the Gospel.
Let us give thanks to God that the bonds of affection between Catholics and Anglicans have become firmly established in recent decades, through dialogue and collaboration, as well as personal meetings between our respective predecessors. It is greatly to be hoped that we will continue to build upon that important legacy. The disappointments that have been encountered and the challenges that remain on our journey towards full communion are well known, but there have also been signs of hope. Recognizing that our unity will arise only as a gift from the Lord, let us entrust ourselves to his Holy Spirit, as we renew our determination to seek genuine unity in faith and to engage more profoundly in common witness and mission...."

God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servant  Justin
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

And, thanks to TitusOneNine for this, below is a link to a news report of the enthronement of the great Archbishop William Temple in 1942, the first such liturgy to be filmed.


O God of love, we pray thee to give us love:
Love in our thinking, love in our speaking,
Love in our doing, and love in the hidden places of our souls;
Love of our neighbours near and far;
Love of our friends, old and new;
Love of those with whom we find it hard to bear,
And love of those who find it hard to bear with us;
Love of those with whom we work,
And love of those with whom we take our ease;
Love in Joy, love in sorrow;
Love in life and love in death;
That so at length we may be worthy to dwell with thee,
Who art eternal love.

Archbishop William Temple (1881-1944)

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Press freedom ? You can't be slightly pregnant ...

Perhaps it's a sign of a more compassionate society that we should (rightly) be so concerned with victims of one kind or another - all provided, of course, that they are the right kind of victim
On the other hand, it's undoubtedly true that some 'victims' of press misbehaviour are more victimised than others; those who live by publicity and actively court it to promote their successful and well paid careers are probably worthy of far less sympathy (and protection) than 'ordinary' members of the public who may suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves unfairly catapulted on to the front pages of a tabloid newspaper and be subjected to a frightening degree of  intrusion into their private lives without any real prospect of redress and restitution of their damaged reputations. 
We have nothing to fear from the current proposals to increase regulation of the British press (and blogosphere? - see Cranmer's comments yesterday,)  hatched it seems at an overheated and overnight meeting in the offices of the Leader of the Opposition - warning bells should ring at that information alone-   just so long as we can depend on Parliament and the executive not to misuse the undoubted increase of influence (both overt and behind the scenes) over the press they, or their surrogates, have been handed. 
But what, to take a not so far-fetched example, given the volatility of the public mood, if a deepening economic and social crisis were to hand elected power to the British equivalent of, say, the late Hugo Chavez or a mirror image on the so-called 'right' of the political spectrum? How confident could we be then about the prospects of the survival of our free and independent sources of news and comment?
Even in the absence of such dramatic developments, history teaches us that whereas the State will always make use of such power and influence it acquires, rarely, if ever, does it hand it back.
And, of course, we should remember that those responsible for the recent 'phone hacking' scandals are being dealt with under the existing criminal law. Why, then, is there the current somewhat hysterical clamour for state regulation? 
In terms of civil liberties (including freedom of religion) and their constitutional protections, if for no other reason than the fallenness of  human nature itself we should always think the worst of our current and prospective rulers, however 'democratically' elected,  and legislate (or, more to the point, refrain from enacting legislation) accordingly. We either have a free press or we don't; like pregnancy, it doesn't admit of qualification.

James Delingpole in The Telegraph is right to express concern:
"...Problem is, the moment you try to muzzle the rabid attack dog of the free press, it's not just the reasonably nice guys you protect. It's also, the really bad ones - the people wholly deserving of being torn to bits because if they are not torn to bits by the avenging media then they're going to carry on doing bad, bad things to the rest of us with complete impunity. Is it really a mark of a more civilised society that we have laws in place which make it easier for the rich, powerful and malign to get away with murder? I'd say not. I'd say any form of press censorship – like they have in Australia and like we're about to introduce now – is a retrograde step right back to that ugly era when even reporting on the goings-on in parliament was illegal.
It's amazing that this should need spelling out. (Actually, not so amazing given the last twenty or thirty years' dumbing down in our education system). But since at least the days of John Wilkes until very nearly the present, this was something that most civilised and intelligent people understood: that the reason a free press is so worth fighting for is that is our greatest bulwark against tyranny.
In Britain this issue may seem like a local problem. It's not as Mark Steyn in the US and Andrew Bolt in Australia are among many clued-up commentators to appreciate, this is a global problem indicative of the way all our democracies are slouching towards tyranny. (Weird, isn't it, that some people should be agitating for less press freedom in the week when the EU suddenly decided it was legitimate for governments arbitrarily to confiscate money from people's private bank accounts) ..."

Thomas Ken & local Jacobite sympathies

In some Anglican calendars, today is the commemoration of Thomas Ken, bishop and non-juror (it's strange how Anglicanism - perhaps not only Anglicanism - has a repeated tendency to recognise and value those who, in their lifetimes, it misuses and rejects)

In the isolated churchyard of the church of the Holy Cross at Kilgwrrwg, now part of this parish grouping, there is the tomb of one of the parish's benefactors, William Nicholas, inscribed on which is one of the earliest quotations from Bishop Ken's well-known morning hymn:
What follows is a quotation from an article in a local history journal by a previous parish priest, Fr John Guy:
"...Kilgwrrwg's benefactor, William Nicholas, is buried beneath an elegant and substantial table-tomb in the churchyard. On it, there are two inscriptions worthy of record. Part of his epitaph reads
Here lys a man whose Youthful time was spent In warlike Acts; in riper Years was lent His helping hand to ye distressed Poor & found his wealth thereby increased ye more.In his declinig age he alwais stoodFirm to his friends & to his countrie's goodBut now he resteth in this Sacred groundSecured here till ye last Trump shall sound.The second inscription is perhaps more interesting and significant. It is the doxology from Bishop Thomas Ken's famous 'Morning Hymn' -"Awake my Soul, and with the Sun.' The hymn was not published until 1695, though possibly written years before. This was, of course, after Ken's deprivation of his see of Bath & Wells as a 'non juror’­one who refused to take the oaths to William III and Mary II after the flight of James II in 1688. Does the appearance of this doxology on the tomb of William Nicholas, coupled with the lines 'In his declining age he alwais stood firm to his friends & to his countrie's good' perhaps indicate to us the political sympathies of this old cavalier? It is an intriguing possibility...."   [here]

This is Bishop Ken himself, writing on the subject of  the Communion of Saints 
"I believe, O King of Saints, that among the Saints on Earth, whether real or in outward profession onely, there ought to be a mutual catholick participation of all good things, which is the immediate effect of catholick Love. Thou, O God of Love restore it to thy Church.
I believe, O thou God of Love, that all the Saints on Earth by profession ought to communicate one with another, in evangelical Worship, and the same holy Sacraments, in the same Divine and Apostolical Faith, in all Offices of corporal and spiritual Charity, in reciprocal delight in each others Salvation, and in tender sympathy as members of one and the same Body: O God of Peace, restore in thy good time this catholick Communion, that with one heart and one mouth we may all praise and love thee.
O my God, amidst the deplorable divisions of thy Church, O let me never widen its breaches, but give me catholick Charity to all that are baptis'd in thy Name, and catholick Communion with all Christians in desire. O deliver me from the Sins and Errours, from the Schisms and Heresies of the Age. O give me grace to pray daily for the peace of thy Church, and earnestly to seek it, and to excite all I can to praise and to love thee.
I believe, O most holy Jesu, that thy Saints here below have communion with thy Saints above, that they pray for us, while we celebrate their memories, congratulate their bliss, give thanks for their labours of love, and imitate their examples, for which all love, all glory be to thee.
I believe, O gratious Redeemer, that thy Saints here on Earth have Communion with the holy Angels above; that they are ministring Spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of Salvation, and watch over us, and we give thanks to thee for their protection, and emulate their incessant praises and ready obedience; for which all love, all glory be to thee.
I believe, O my Lord and my God, that the Saints in this life have Communion with the three Persons of the most adorable Trinity, in the same most benign influences of love in which all three conspire; for which all love, all glory be to thee, O Father, Son and Holy Ghost, world without end.
Glory be to thee O Goodness infinitely diffusive, for all the Graces, and blessings in which the Saints communicate, for breathing thy love, as the very Soul into thy mystical Body, that all that believe in thee may love one another, and all join in loving thee."
from The Practice of Divine Love (1685)

© Copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tuesday 19 March 2013

St Joseph: homily of Pope Francis

St Joseph: Georges de la Tour
"....In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions...
From Pope Francis' homily at his Inauguration Mass earlier today [full text here]

O God our Father,
who from the house of thy servant David
didst raise up Joseph the carpenter
to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
give us grace to follow him
in faithful obedience to thy commands;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Monday 18 March 2013

This is really not 'liberalism' - not as we know it here...

Both for those who seem to be increasingly angst-ridden about the new Pope's seeming change of sartorial style (I know one can't dismiss the symbolism entirely, but...) and for those, on the other side of the aisle, who are desperately longing to see in him overt signs of theological liberalism and can't wait for a repudiation of much that has been achieved liturgically and theologically by Pope Benedict,  here is a very sane post from Fr Dwight Longenecker. 
The blogosphere can get very fevered at times: Shawn Tribe at the NLM also has it about right [here]
" interesting as it will be to see how the papal liturgies unfold over the next years, more crucial will be what is happening on the ground at the parish level for it is ultimately there where the new liturgical movement is based at this stage of its life; there and in the writings and researches put forward by the liturgical conferences we have spoken about, the books and periodicals that are put out, etc. As it was in the 20th century Liturgical Movement, so too again now..."
Why am I so interested? This 'side of the Tiber' (not an expression to be used too frequently) we know real liberalism when we see it (pink in tooth and claw, intolerant of Catholic orthodoxy and clothed in stripy polyester if it gets anywhere near an altar)  and, despite not wearing red shoes, mozzetta and cufflinks [another good article by Rocco Palmo here] Pope Francis is not a theological liberal.... he really isn't...

lest we forget....

"Theological sermonising"

From (regrettably, once again) the BBC News website [here]
They simply can't help themselves...
"...The new Pope's tone is very different to that of his predecessor, the BBC's Michael Hirst, in Rome, says. His style is pastoral, he teaches by anecdote and speaks off the cuff with ease, in contrast to the theological sermonising of Pope Benedict, our correspondent says.."
Anyway here's a highly appropriate, well known and pored over example of Pope Benedict's / Joseph Ratzinger's 'theological sermonising;' it is as searching and  relevant to us today as it was in 2005 just before his election. It also helps to explain why he was and is so disliked by the usual suspects, including, of course, a mass media at the same time woefully ignorant and summarily dismissive of the Christian faith:
"...Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.
We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.
We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.
On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).
Let us now look at the Gospel, from whose riches I would like to draw only two small observations. The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: "I no longer speak of you as slaves.... Instead, I call you friends" (Jn 15: 15). We so often feel, and it is true, that we are only useless servants (cf. Lk 17: 10).
Yet, in spite of this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord gives friendship a dual definition. There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us all that he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust and with trust, also knowledge. He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us the tenderness he feels for us, his passionate love that goes even as far as the folly of the Cross. He entrusts himself to us, he gives us the power to speak in his name: "this is my body...", "I forgive you...". He entrusts his Body, the Church, to us.
To our weak minds, to our weak hands, he entrusts his truth - the mystery of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3: 16). He made us his friends - and how do we respond?
The second element Jesus uses to define friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans "Idem velle - idem nolle" [same desires, same dislikes] was also the definition of friendship. "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15: 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with the third request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". At his hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united with the divine will. He suffered the whole drama of our autonomy - and precisely by placing our will in God's hands, he gives us true freedom: "Not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26: 39).
Our redemption is brought about in this communion of wills: being friends of Jesus, to become friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, the more our true freedom develops and our joy in being redeemed flourishes. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship! ...."


Just 'irredeemably' rude

Dr David Starkey, the constitutional historian once known with good reason as 'the rudest man in Britain' and notorious for an intemperate and highly offensive personal attack on Archdeacon George Austin during a radio programme [see here] (something which in a more civilised age would have ended his media career there and then) has done it again, once more courtesy of the BBC, this time describing the Catholic Church as 'irredeemably corrupt' and St Thomas Becket as the 'patron-saint of child abusers.' [here]
Despite posing somewhat arrogantly in the accompanying photograph in The Telegraph article at the back of a church - as if he owned the place - not uncommon these days,  Dr Starkey is, no doubt for the usual twenty first century reasons, no friend of the Christian faith. But there is a more serious point, why is space so often given on the airwaves for those who, rather than offering an intelligent and reasoned critique, simply indulge their vanity in outbursts of, yes, stupid and outrageous invective? It diminishes and demeans the culture for all of us.

Well, in what is sauce for the goose, Eccles and Bosco (in a post which sums things up rather well) has a picture of him (with photoshopped headgear) walking a chocolate labrador. 
So, I thought, he likes dogs, he can't be that bad....ah, hold on a moment...

Sunday 17 March 2013

Moves towards unity?

This is intriguing: there have been a couple of posts on Fr Anthony Chadwick's site 'As the Sun in its Orb & New Goliards' [here] concerning dialogue between the Free Church of England [here] and the Union of Scranton (which, of course, includes the PNCC and the Nordic Catholic Church.)
In his latest post [here] Fr Chadwick writes, 'What comes out of this is that the Free Church of England has been modifying its doctrinal positions and praxis for a long time and that they had become compatible with orthodox Old Catholicism.' [This stems primarily, it would seem,  from close contacts with the Syrian Orthodox Church] 
Recently, of course, the Church of England has affirmed the FCofE as a Church possessing (in Anglican terms) valid holy orders.
This is, of course, not in itself a significant development, if one is thinking only in terms of the numbers of those affected by the dialogue rather than an indication of a dramatic theological shift on the part of the Free Church of England.
 What could be even more  interesting is where it might lead, particularly with the Church of England itself intent on ordaining women as bishops and all that accompanies it, and other Anglican provinces in Britain denying 'orthodox' catholic traditionalists the necessary episcopal oversight in order to survive beyond the present generation or so....

Saturday 16 March 2013

Not 'High Church' versus humility and service of the poor

Here's a message the Ordinariate might usefully make known to the wider Catholic Church, particularly in this period of 'transition.' Humility and service of the poor and sound Catholic teaching, reverently celebrated liturgy and glorious ceremonial are not opposed, but can and are intended to go hand in hand.  There's a whole tradition in Anglo-Catholicism which makes that point very clearly indeed. 
Perhaps the American Cardinal Roger Mahony [here and here] (if it is indeed he and not an imposter) should talk to some 'former Anglicans.'
'Social media' has a lot to answer for: in many ways we were far better off without it, and those who never miss an opportunity to grandstand on it.
Again, as only a 'separated' observer, it's not my concern, but it is extremely painful and very sad to watch this kind of cruel and silly political posturing at the expense of a profound theologian and humble man of God, now in prayerful seclusion and quiet retirement. 

These, however, are the words of Pope Francis [again reported here and here]:

Speaking at times off the cuff, Francis said Benedict had "lit a flame in the depths of our hearts that will continue to burn because it is fuelled by his prayers that will support the church on its missionary path."
"In these years of his pontificate, he enriched and invigorated the church with his magisterium, his goodness, guide and faith," Francis said. Pausing for effect, he added: "His humility and his gentleness."

The end of a very interesting week

Settling the bill...

Some significant news: the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, is to attend the inauguration of Pope Francis [here]  
It seems the Archbishop of Canterbury will not, but will be represented by the Archbishop of York [here] ; his own enthronement at Canterbury takes place only two days later and he will be in retreat or at the end of his 'prayer pilgrimage.'  All change - interesting times indeed.

Perhaps the best reports on the first few days of the new pontificate can be found here

The Ordinariates in the U.K and U.S.A. respond to a reported comment about the new Pope's view of the necessity of their foundation [here] Perspectives may and do change, of course. Advice from an outsider: 'Keep calm and carry on' - always.

It's also amusing to see the most unlikely people scrambling to discover their inner Jesuit... and their inner 'Poverello.' Even those who express publicly  the hope the new Archbishop of Canterbury will serve better wine than his predecessor? Hmm...  Champagne and a certain kind of 'socialism' have never exactly been strangers.

And 'those allegations': the cardinals should obviously have run their choice past the BBC and The Guardian  before making it public .... on the other hand the cardinal electors wanted a Catholic Christian... 
A strong rebuttal from the Holy See Press Office here
Again, it's not so much that the majority of those who work for western news organisations actively hate Christianity; they have simply never questioned their historically and geographically insular left-liberal, secular assumptions*, one of which is the irrelevance of all religion for  the ' modern' world,  and, as they are themselves accountable to no one and have, at least here in Britain, no competitors who offer another view, we hear only the monochrome, negative messages ....

Back to 'my' reality: serving better wine or not, the new Archbishop of Canterbury will have his work cut out to prevent this from being the future on our side of the Atlantic [from Anglican Mainstream]

(* admitted here by a former Director General of the BBC - but it's not so much that the bias, as he implies, is a  matter which belongs to the past)

Friday 15 March 2013

Catholic Group welcomes the election of Pope Francis

from The Catholic Group in the General Synod of the Church of England
The Catholic Group in the General Synod of the Church of England  welcomes with joy the election of Pope Francis.

His Holiness can be assured of our prayers as he starts this new phase of his ministry and as we all seek the unity of the Christian Church across our world.

[Link is here]

Thursday 14 March 2013

'...if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.' Pope Francis' first homily

From Sandro Magister  who adds the footnote: 
'The three readings of the Mass “pro Ecclesia," on which Pope Francis commented, were taken from the book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the first letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19)
The pope delivered the homily in Italian, without any written text. What is reproduced here is the complete transcription of his words.'  [here]
"In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.
To walk, to build up, to confess.
To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.
To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.
Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.
When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone what happens? That happens which happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles, it all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: "He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.
To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the cross.
When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.
I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified. So may it be."