31 October 2008

Whatever happened to the Resurrection?

The other day I went to the funeral of a dear friend, Jack; and came away wondering where God had been. The service seemed so Man-centred. There was no emphasis - as there would have been in a Medieval rite - on the need to pray for the dead lest he end up in Hell. Indeed, white rather than black or even purple stoles were worn by the clergy. But this was not an indication that Resurrection Glory had become the major theme of the celebration. It was barely mentioned except in some of the set Common Worship formulae. There were tributes, there was extensive biography; there was indeed a beautiful singing of the Hail Mary, but it was in Latin which, I imagine, must for most of those present have thrown a veil of opacity over any idea that Mary, sweetest advocate of the departed, was at the heart of the ceremony (this is confirmed by the fact that the tributes were all in the vernacular). Dr Cranmer's own typically late-medieval use of funeral rites as a sort of memento mori ... repent, for you will die too ... was also lacking. In few areas of Liturgy can there be as little of a Hermeneutic of Continuity as in those surrounding Death.

I left feeling very weepy, and grateful that divine grace had moved me to say a Requiem for Jack.

30 October 2008

Concelebration 7

The great Catholic Anglican theologian, Dr Eric Mascall, writing at the time when Concelebration was the new sexy -ation among trendy Western liturgists, put in a spirited defence of the practice of the Private Mass. If, he said, you want to make the point to somebody that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is One Sacrifice ... not a lot of similar sacrifices but the same sacrifice ... the best thing you can do is to take him him into a church with a lot of altars and a priest standing muttering silently at each, and tell him that each of those men is doing the same action. Mascall was probably thinking of the Church of S Mary Magdalene in Oxford, then a great Catholic centre but now sadly most terribly lapsed. It was there that, except when he was on the rota to celebrate in Christchurch Cathedral, he said his daily Mass, old style, Introibo ad Altare Dei through to Et Verbum caro factum est. Not infrequently, every altar was occupied by a priest offering that same eternal sacrifice. One thinks also of the Shrine Church at Walsingham, its twenty or so altars abuzz with sacrifice. Come to think of it, that's probably why the lower basilica at Lourdes has an altar to each of the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary. One can imagine palmy days when priests were queuing up on rotas to say their masses and making, each of them, the customary arrangement with the priest just before him or the one just after, to serve his Mass in return for him serving yours.



And despite the contempt into which the Private Mass fell in the decades after Vatican II, I am convinced that it should be put back into the repertoire of every-day Western Catholicism. Not when there are laypeople needing a Mass: it is obviously the duty of a priest to serve that need (and a desire to say an additional Mass solo would not be a sufficient reason for binating). Nor do I feel that a Private Mass is appropriate when it is not possible to find a layperson to answer it and there is a public Mass which one would be welcomed to concelebrate. But we should remember that Vatican II did preserve inviolate the right of every priest to celebrate a Private Mass, with one or two caveats (e.g.; not during a concelebration within the same church). And subsequent magisterial documents have repeated this right. And successive editions of the Novus Ordo Missal have provided (and, most recently, revised) the rite for celebrating the 'New Mass' privately.



But ... cat-out-of-the-bag ... I do feel that the opportunity to say a private Mass is also the opportunity to return to roots, resourcissement, by saying the ancient Western Rite. The unlatined could use the English Missal which, for decades, was the rite of Catholic Anglicans. It's what those adverts in the Church Times of fifty years ago meant when a church invited you to attend it by flaunting the lovely phrases 'Western Rite' and 'Full Catholic Privileges'.

28 October 2008

Concelebration 6

I have attempted to sketch a background in liturgical theology for what we call concelebration; although I must emphasise the word concelebration is a fairly modern term. What I have tried to do is to draw out of the rich and ancient texts and rituals of the Roman Liturgy the implications of those rites. And what we have found over and over again is the sense of the presbyterium as a corporate body; which acts corporately with its head, the Bishop.



This gives us our first helpful line on Eucharistic Concelebration. It is at its most natural when the presbyterium of a particular church gathers round its bishop for the celebration, with God's people, as a unity, of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. So Ordinations, Maundy Thursday, and perhaps in the context of a small mediterranean-style polis, the Easter Vigil, are occasions par excellence for this practice. One thinks also of Synods and the like (as long as they are not General). Vatican II encouraged this approach.



But the postconciliar period also popularised new sorts of concelebration: that of two or more presbyters without the presence of their Bishop; and mega-events when hundreds of priests and bishops concelebrate without it being a liturgical expression of the unity of Bishop, presbyterium, and laos. One thinks of our great 'Millenium' event in Londom. What are we to make of these modalities of Concelebration?



My own feeling is that they are a lawful development of Tradition, a fertile and imaginative lady who never seems to tire of adding to her wardrobe. When I was at Lancing College, it was a great joy to me to concelebrate each morning with my brother priests. And we Catholic Anglicans do well to remember the perception of our own Eric Mascall, that Concelebration, just like Private Masses, is based on the notion that a priest, when at the Eucharist, behaves most appropriately when he is discharging his liturgical role as priest. Writing at a time when Concelebration was known better in the Byzantine Tradition and the Private Masses were still common among Latin Catholics, Dr Mascall expressed the view that each of these practices seemed theologically closer to each other than either did to the 'middle-of-the-road' Anglican assumption that a priest, whenever possible, ought to mascarade as a layman when at the Eucharist.



But we are now far enough from the reintroduction of Concelebration into Western Catholicism to be able to have a fresh look at it. One recalls the observation of an oriental hierarch, viewing one of the big concelebrations of the new Western era, observing that 'When these Westerners get a new idea, they always carry it to extremes'. And, more divertingly, there is the reported phenomenon in Liberal American Catholicism of Concelebration being regarded as Politically Incorrect because it sets up a great male phalanx in opposition to the sensitive feminists at the other end of the church building.



That, of course, doesn't worry me. Those ladies are just going to get used to great waves of testosterone wafting down churches. But I hope, in my next post, to have a new look at Where We Are.

26 October 2008

Concelebration 5

In the Maundy Thursday Rite in the old Roman Pontifical, the climax of the rite was the Consecration of the Chrism: the oil used to confer the Spirit in Consignation and Ordination; the oil which some Patristic texts see as so Spirit-filled as to be comparable with the Blessed Sacrament. This was performed by the Pontiff; but the Pontiff was not alone. If you have read the previous posts on concelebration, you know what I'm going to say: Yup! the bishop was accompanied by a representative Twelve Priests (a significant number?) dressed in chasubles. At the end of the rite, the Bishop breathed on the Oil of Chrism. Spiritus, Pneuma, is breath; the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God; the Bishop is the Spirit-filled Minister of his Church, the pneumatic organ of the continuance of its sacramental life, in and through the Spirit, through space and time. So, like Jesus breathing forth the Spirit upon the Cross, the Bishop breathes the Spirit upon the Oil. And so does somebody else. Yes: again you've got it: so do those twelve parati (chasuble-clad) sacerdotes. With their bishop (they could not do it without him) they halant, breath, the Spirit upon the Chrism. They are one with him; his presbyterium; his corporate collegial body of ministers who apart from him can do nothing but with him share his Spiritual, Sacramental, fecundity. We have been left, in the newer rites, a pale shadow of this collegiality of action, this concelebration, in the rubric requiring the priests present to join with the Bishop in extending their hands during the Prayer for the Consecration of the Chrism.

24 October 2008

Concelebration 4

Anglicanism is, when it comes to Cofirmation, the most prelatical tradition in Christendom. In Orthodoxy, the presbyter is the normal minister of Sealing or Consignation; in the Roman Catholic Church presbyters, by commission, regularly confirm and in certain circumstances (e.g. the Easter Vigil) law automatically delegates this office to presbyters. But Anglican bishops are disgustingly anally retentive. It is well known that, just as they cannot stomach the idea of any other bishop exercising jurisdiction within the territorial boundaries assigned to them by the Crown, so they cannot tolerate the idea of giving up the role of being the only confirmers (that, of course, is the reason given why over the last half-century there has been such an increase in the number of suffragan bishops: 50 years ago a Suffragan who was not also an Archdeacon was a very rara avis).



Of course, in the ancient churches of East and West presbyters confirm by virtue of the sacramental authority either implicitly or explicitly delegated to them by their Bishop, and their use of episcopally consecrated Chrism is but one sign of this. And that is why, in the modern Roman Rite, presbyters extend their right hands as the Pontiff says the Prayer for the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The priest is genuinely participating with his high priest in the conferring of this Sacrament. He is a concelebrant of the Sacrament. And all this might have a practical usefulness gfor Catholic Anglicans.



Perhaps we may have to go through a period of anomaly and confusion in which we do not have bishops, while we await the acquisition of enough courage by some retired bishops to consecrate new Ordinaries for us in defiance of the the Establishment and its clutch - like the grip of a drowning man - on the mechanisms of Tudor legalism. If so, the Common Law of the Western Church ... of which we claim de jure to be members ... allowing presbyters to confirm at the Easter Vigil and in the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults, may be very useful to us.



The Oil of Chrism ... now there's another example of Concelebration. Watch this space.

23 October 2008

Concelebration 3

They wear chasubles; they join in with the laying on of hands; the presbyters who partake in the ordination of a new presbyter are real participants and not just the bestowers of a chummy blessing. At a mundane level, they can rightly be seen as a club welcoming a new member or, rather, performatively incorporating that new member. But I also venture the opinion - and here I do speculate beyond what magisterial documents explicitly state - that those presbyters are true ordainers. I am not a presbyterian; I do not believe that those presbyters, either individually or collectively, could ordain a new presbyter without their Bishop. He is central; he is essential; he is the Apostolic Man who incorporates new men into the everlasting sacerdotium of Christ. But his presbyters do it with him. What they could not do on their own they can and do perform with him. They are not individuals; they, in and with their Bishop, are a corporate organism functioning corporately.



Incidentally, that is but one reason why a bishop who has 'womenpriests' in his presbyterium (whether he has 'ordained' them or given a commission for their 'ordination' or merely licensed them or given a commission for their licensing) is the unacceptably dysfunctional head of an unacceptably dysfunctional collegium. That is why Eric Kemp, back in 1993, refused not only to ordain but also to authorise the ordination or licensing of women; as he said to me, 'They are not members of my priestly community' and 'What one does through the agency of another, is as good as a thing done by oneself' (he said it in the Latin). The furthest he was prepared to go was to remain Bishop of Chichester while women were 'ordained' and'licensed' to work in the County of Sussex by a bishop outside the diocese acting under a Commission from George Carey.



And that is why we cannot settle for anything less than a system with bishops who are genuinely the heads of presbyteria separate from the sacramental corruptions of the mainstream Church of England. The idea that we can be kept happy as long as some 'pastoral' provision is made to spare us having women bishops to do confirmations needs to be squashed.



And that reminds me ... who is the Minister of Confirmation?

21 October 2008

Concelebration 2

Eucharistic concelebration is not the only type of concelebration in the immemorial tradition of the ancient and venerable Roman Rite (let us never forget its antiquity: Gregory Dix rightly used to emphasise how much older it is than the Orthodox rites which so many people wrongly assume to be older and unchanging). In the Rite of Presbyteral Ordination in the old Pontificals, 'all the sacerdotes who are present' lay on hands, of whom a representative minimum of three ought to be vested in chasubles if at all possible. The same rite was retained in the Church of England at the 'Reformation', where 'the Bishop with the priests present ' impose hands.



A recent complication has been the idea of a few Anglican bishops who, with the best of motives, have claimed that this rite is 'just a blessing'. It is not. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as Anglican Canon Law and ARCIC, make clear that this is a collegiate action; an act of shared ministry. The bishops concerned are trying to square the circle of not letting 'women priests' join directly in a sacramental action while simultaneously not upsetting them by excluding them. So the laying on of hands by the presbyters is to be shifted to later than the laying on of hands by the bishop: 'Look,' these bishops then cry, 'it's not the same imposition. After all, in the Roman Rite they don't have the old Anglican [and Patristic] rugger scrum of simultaneous imposition - the presbyters do it separately. It's only a blessing'. But this is nonsense. The Roman documents which teach that the action is corporate and collegiate are referring to sequential imposition by the presbyters after the bishop, and the Anglican sources treating the imposition of hands as an act of shared ministry by Bishop and Presbyterium do not distinguish between simultaneous and sequential imposition.



So what is happening here? The important fact about the Catholic tradition of Ministry is that, for us, the nodal minister is the Bishop. But, in the tradition of the Latin churches, the Bishop is not a solitary individual. He is the central figure of a corporate entity, the presbyterium. For example, in earlier centuries, the Bishop, while being the Minister of Absolution and of Ordination, was not allowed to administer either sacrament without the assent of his presbyterium. Gregory Dix, with that impish instinct for using scholarship to deflate prelatical pretensions, enjoyed pointing out that in those earlier centuries, while the Bishop was the sacramental minister, the presbyterium exercised what we would call jurisdiction: quite the opposite from what the structures of modern Church life imply .... and quite the opposite of the idea of episcopacy which twentieth century Anglicans have urged Protestants to 'take into their system'.



So what is going on when Bishop and presbyterium lay hands on those being ordained?

19 October 2008

Concelebration 1

Having written a rave review of Laurence Hemming's Worship as a Revelation, and repeatedly urged everybody to read it, I think I am entitled to pick up particular observations and express a contrary view. And I want to question his apparent disapproval of Concelebration. Having summarised the way, in the old Pontifical, that newly ordained priests, in their Mass of Ordination, said the Eucharistic Prayer with the ordaining bishop, he observes 'This has nothing to do with concelebration - it is a formal demonstration of the way in which each priest's future recitation of the most sacred prayer of the Mass is intrinsically linked to, and in concert with, what the bishop himself does, as the one to whom he is hierarchically tied, and so this action is a formal demonstration of how the priest acquires, and exercises, his right to say this prayer and effect the miracle of transubstantiation'.



I have no problems with any of this except with the opening clause. If Hemming is suggesting that concelebration is a modern fad which misinterprets the ritual he describes, then he is wrong. The acid test is 'May a priest accept a mass-stipend for what he does at his Ordination Mass? If so, then it is a Mass of which he is a celebrant. And the answer given before there is any suggestion of modern liturgical faddery is that he may. The most learned pope before our present Holy Father, Benedict XIV, took this view. So did weighty and reliable authorities such as Gasparri and Cappello.

When the post-Conciliar Ritus concelebrandi formally made this into law, it was simply repeating what was already the universal judgement of theologians and manual-writers; what was part of the Ordinary teaching of the Western Church.



This is by no means all that I want to say about this subject, but I do feel the need to establish the authenticity of the notion of concelebration within the practice and teaching of historic Western Chistendom.

18 October 2008

The Eucharistic Fast

The other day, as I was talking to one of the Russian Orthodox clergy here in Oxford, I was interested to hear that the Orthodox, when, during Lent, they receive Holy Communion at an evening Liturgy of the Presanctified, are only nowadays expected to fast from midday (I hope I've got that right). It brought home to me that it is not only the West which, since the time of Pius XII, has felt that a discipline of fasting (which was apparently manageable to a European peasantry that toiled all day beneath the sun at their subsistence agriculture) is too much for our own soft culture.
But enough of grumps. I want to advance, tentatively and nervously, the notion that a Hermeneutic of Continuity might incline us to reconsider our practice of the Eucharistic Fast; which Pius XII first reduced to three hours and then to one hour. And that is one hour before the time of Communion, not one hour before the beginning of Mass. And recent legislation has permitted binating clergy on Sundays to snack between Masses even if that cuts into the one hour. To all intents and purposes, the Fast has been abolished.
When I retired to Devon at the age of sixty, I found myself not infrequently saying three Masses on Sunday morning (trinating! I took it that unreprobated custom and pastoral necessity justified this rather iffy practice). I continued my habit of fasting until after the third Mass ... which meant until about 12.30. And I am one whom gluttony has rendered self-indulgent and unfit. I'm not boasting when I say that I never had any problem with it. And the other Sunday afternoon, while I was talking to the Syrian Orthodox who came to celebrate their Liturgy in S Thomas's, I discovered that they fasted from supper-time the evening beforehand: as, of course, did their priest: who had just driven from Croydon to celebrate a Liturgy that lasted from 12.00 until after 2.00. It can be done.
I do welcome the effective reduction of the Eucharistic Fast from a rigid rule to an option, however horrified our Tractarian Fathers would have been by this. I regard it as one of God's new gifts to his Church. I would never write anything to make others feel guilty or discourage others from going to Mass and receiving the Lord's Body and Blood. But I wonder if some of us could be a trifle more disciplined and Traditionalist.
My own prctice is: when I am de facto observing the old rule that Mass be between Dawn and Midday, I observe the old (Western) rule of fasting from the previous midnight. When I am being modern and saying Mass after Midday, I keep Pius XII's modern rule of a one-hour fast. Is this really so desperately impossible or absurdly illogical? For what it's worth, Pius XII did urge all those capable of doing so to observe the old rule.

14 October 2008

Concordantia Missalis and Pelagius and Smoke

Enormous thanks to the correspondent who revealed the existence and usefulness of the Concordantia Missalis. I could create quite a case out of those references.

But ... am I right? ... it doesn't give the sources of the formulae; whether from a Sacramentary or newly composed. Where would I turn for that information?

On another subject entirely ... what the Pelagians thought about grace can be accessed via the de Gratia Christi et de Peccato Originali.

On another subject entirely ... a friend points me to a blog called Holy Smoke, which appears under the pseudonym 'Damian Thompson'. The writer seems to have a dislike of Catholic Anglicans which, in the comments anonymous others have added to his post, becomes almost pathological. He and they appear to be quite sympathetic to at least some of the features of our Holy Father's agenda but to be totally unaware of the long history of sympathy towards Catholic Anglicans shown by Joseph Ratzinger; and, for that matter, by theologians closely in line with Ratzinger's thought such as Aidan Nichols. It would be a sad day for the 'Thompsons' of this world - but a splendid day for Catholic Anglicans - if papa Ratzinger were to give Nichols the See of Westminster.

'Damian Thompson' is a curious pseudonym. It invites speculation about ... but no; perhaps correspondents can unpack its semiology.

13 October 2008

The Fulness of Grace

There is something that has been nagging at my mind for some years as I have said my Office according to the Liturgia Horarum. It is the word plenitudo, or fulness. I seem to keep on coming across it, but foolishly never make a note. But one example would be the nova Collect for the memoria (happily, a Festum in the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District, God bless it) of the Presentation of our Lady in the Temple, November 21: ... concede ut de plenitudine gratiae tuae nos quoque mereamur accipere (grant that we also may be worthy to receive of the fulness of thy grace).

Now it may be that this collect, and others with similar locutions, are not (as I confess I suspect) novae compositions, but come from the ancient sacramentaries of Western Christendom. Or that there are within the Tradition parallels; although the Concordance s.v. pleroma does not offer anything relevant from the Pauline Corpus. Perhaps someone with more skills than I possess in Information Technology is in a position to resolve this question.

Why does it worry me? To be frank, because I suspect it of arising from a semi-Pelagian mindset. Euchological formulae which are indubitably old ask that we be delivered from our sins; or saved from a very nasy fate; or cleansed from our vices; or be able diabolica vitare contagia. But those fulness phrases seem to me to suggest that we've already got quite a nice lot of Grace or Redemption or whatever, but are turning to God for a useful top-up, or to receive the total works. Which is not so much semi- as fully Pelagian. My suspicion fits disconcertingly well with the devastating critique of the ideology of the novae collects by Lorenzo Bianchi in the 1999 CIEL Redbook (Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal; these Redbooks, now sadly discontinued, were a most valuable resource. But Laurence Hemming's projected Journal will undoubtedly be more than a replacement).

12 October 2008

Clergytalk

What a splendid two-day Forward in Faith Assembly we had in London; how easy to come away on a high. But, as I told my wife about it, I began to wonder whether some of the layfolk present will have understood some of the Jargon. Do we clergy always explain our jargon?

For example: we passed a resolution about how we understand our ecclesiology in the context of ARCIC. What this means is that since the 1960s, we have been glad to remain in the C of E because we were told that the discussion group called ARCIC was sorting out the differences between ourselves and Rome so that we can have Christian unity; full unity with Rome. Have we always explained this to our people? And have we explained our great hope and prayer that we will keep our Anglican traditions, our Anglican way of life, our Anglican churches and shrines ... while having the great joy of being in full communion with the rest of Catholic Christendom.

The last address was given by the S Thomas's Honorary Curate, Fr Jonathan Baker. It was characteristically brilliant. He gave the first reason for being 'cheerful' as the fact that we have such a wonderful Pope now. But have I ... and other clergy ... explained why we are so keen on Benedict? That Benedict is the most Catholic Anglican Pope ever; he has actually explained the limitations of Papal power as no previous pope ever did; how the pope is the guardian of the Ancient Tradition and not some autocrat who can change and innovate according to his own whimsy. And have we explained how Benedict's liturgical programme is exactly what we have gone for and done since 1833; and continued doing even when people have taunted us with the jibe that 'it's all guitars and clown-masses in the RC Church now'.


Perhaps more sermons on all this are called for.

11 October 2008

SSPX

The calendar on my bedroom door - the 2008 SSPX calendar with glamorous pictures of ecclesiastical architecture - showed us, in September, the Chapel of the Anglican Sisterhood of S Peter in Woking; built by J L and F L Pearson. Now, in October, we have an even more splendid former Anglican convent chapel, at Bristol, where the architect was G F Bodley. Each is now a centre for the mission of the SSPX. How admirable that there is someone to take over these places and continue in them the style of liturgy for which they were designed and built; there can belittle doubt that they would otherwise, even if listed, have suffered a dire fate. I know a former convent in Sussex jampacked full of superb glass by Harry Clarke where, of course, the glass is preseved but in a most unfortunate context.

You've never heard of the great Irish maker of stained glass, Harry Clarke? Shame on you. His glass is not in the least like that of Sir Ninian Comper except in that each of them did learned glass with several sermons in each pane. And that the glass of each of them is, at its best, absolutely stunning to look at.

10 October 2008

What's the time of Mass?

The preconciliar Missal lays down that Mass may be said between Dawn and Midday. History isn't, of course, as simple as that . At an earlier period in Western Liturgy, Mass on fasting days was to be said after None ... at a time when None was in the afternoon. This is why the Oratio super populum in Lent is appointed to be also the Collect at Vespers. Celebrant and communicants would be fasting, and no doubt one reason why the times of services otched gradually earlier is the reponse of human frailty to this regimen. I hope to share some thoughts on another occasion about the Eucharistic Fast. For the moment, suffice it to say that Mass in the morning was the general rule until Pius XII permitted evening masses, thereby undermining one of the most insistent campaigns which Catholic Anglicans had been waging since the start of the Catholic Revival.
Of course one accepts that this flexibility has been one of God's new gifts to his Church in the last couple of generations. I do not know if there is any significant body of Western Christian that condemns it; the SSPX certainly countenances evening Masses. But I wonder if we ought to regard it as the norm, so that when arranging the times of Mass in Retreats or pilgrimages we just fix them for any old time. I suggest that, if the Hermeneutic of Continuity means anything to us, we ought to start off with a prejudice in favour of beginning the day with Mass. This doesn't mean getting up at the crack of dawn; on a retreat I can see no reason why Mass should not be at 8.30 and be followed by a comfortable breakfast. We shouldn't let what the catering staff have grown accustomed to providing become a barrier to facing the Lord who comes to us with the rising of the sun so that the Mass is what our entire day springs out of. And on our Lourdes pilgrimage, it was entirely natural for us to meet for Mass in the evening of the Monday of our arrival. But I wonder whether it was necessary to delay the Tuesday's Mass until the evening.
Nor am I suggesting that later masses which suit workers, or those who do not live near the church which they attend, are anything but a Good Thing which should continue. I'm not suggesting anything which would be awkward or uncomfortable or make Mass less easy to attend. I'm simply asking whether some of us could benefit in our own personal discipline from what nearly 2,000 years of Christianity did find to be a manageable norm.

9 October 2008

Any vexillologists out there?

During the marvellous week of our pilgrimage to Lourdes - what a boost it gave to our optimism and self-confidence - there was an interesting phenomenon which I haven't seen commented on elsewhere. In front of the basilicas, there are some flagposts. While we were there, two flags flew: the Cross gules on the argent field, for S George and for England; and the arms of the See of Canterbury: azure an archiepiscopal cross in pale or surmounted by a pallium proper charged with four crosses paty fitchy sable. What a pleasure it is always to see these arms, reminding us of happy days when the Archbishop of Canterbury received the pallium from the Successor of Peter (of whom he was also, I believe, Legatus natus) as a sign that he was a major Archbishop in peace and in communion with the Holy See. What a pleasure just for a moment to be able to forget all that has divided us since 1559; to imagine that one has just woken up from a gross nightmare and that the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury is leading a great Catholic pilgrimage - greater even than September's - from an England which had never been sundered from the rest of Christendom.

Now to come down to earth: what is the convention at Lourdes with regard to those flagposts? Which countries and which prelates normally get to have their flags flown? Despite the crowds of Croats, Italians, and Irish, I didn't see their flags.

7 October 2008

What are we going to hear on Friday?

The Daily Torygraph having leaked the recommendation of the Manchester Group that Catholic Anglicans should continue to have Flying Bishops in the imminent gynaecocracy, we are all wondering what the House of Bishiops will have made of it in their meeting of Monday and today. Any little feelings of amusement we might have at the hilarious fury with which the Chaplain of New College greeted the news is less important than the question of what we shall be told at the National Meeting of Forward in Faith on Friday and Saturday. Whatever the House of Bishops has or has not decided, we need to know about it and to be able intelligently to discuss it. Otherwise either we shall not have the oportunity of informed discussion before the July meeting of General Synod, or we shall have to be recalled: a greater inconvenience for those who live in Devon or Cornwall, Yorkshire or Northumberland, than it is for those of us who live in London or Oxford. It would be very unfortunate if our bishops, out of loyalty to Club confidentiality, were unable to inform us and lead us. If this situation does look like arising, let us hope that some responsible person will blow the gaff to the media so that it can be discussed as something that has been put into the public domain. This, surely, is too critical a situation for us to be the victims of gentlemanly rectitude.

In 1992-3, I remember the fury that many felt because it seemed that the loyalties of the episcopal 'leaders of the Catholic Movement' were more with episcopal collegiality than they were with their fellow Catholics. We can do without those sorts of divisions this time. Another thing 1992-3 taught us was that Right Reverend Fathers do not possess all the wisdom and that mere laity, presbyters and seminarians (not to mention the womenfolk of the seminarians) are entitled to a say in our own future. If we have one.

6 October 2008

The S Thomas's Ecumenical Outreach

Although we are in no real sense part of the Church of England, we at S Thomas's are by no means lonely - quite the opposite. Today Oxford's 'Syrian Orthodox' community celebrated its first Liturgy in our church. It was a jolly and a reverent event; apparently only in the Protestant tradition is worship either a lugubrious tedium or else an even more tedious attempt at informality and withitness. I suppose it's a measure of my own alienation from 'Anglicanism' that I felt at home with the 'Syrians' and yet I feel like a tart in a nunnery on those rare occasions when I can't get out of worshipping in the post-Christian folk-Protestant tradition which pervades most of the Cof E.

And that is despite the fact that I couldn't understand a word of what was going on: although the congregation is in communion with one of the Patriarchs of Antioch, most of its members are from Kerala in South India and the Liturgy was in the the Malayalem language with only a few ecphoneses in Syriac (not, anyway, that I can now remember any of the Syriac that I got a smattering of when I was doing N T Textual Criticism with the late George Kilpatrick). But the Shape of the Liturgy was clear enough and the grammar of its ritual conventions would be familiar to anybody nutured in any ancient Tradition; the way the incense was used; the way blessings were given and received; the way the Blessed Sacrament was treated; the respect shown to God's priest (see the bits in Fortescue/ O'Connell on the solita oscula); the chanting; the versus orientem; even details like flashy tat and lacey albs. If one were on a semi-desert island and this were the only liturgy available - not an EF Mass or a Byzantine Liturgy anywhere on the group of atolls - one could be very comfortable with it.

The 'Jacobite' Patriarch they are are in communion with (there are, I fear, quite a lot of hierarchs with the title Patriarch of Antioch) is the one we used to call 'monophysite'; although I share the common suspicion that it was terminology rather than deliberate heresy that separated the more moderate of S Cyril's followers from Chalcedonian Christianity.

The provisional plan is that this community should worship at S Thomas's on the first Sunday of each month at 12.00. You would be very welcome (but remember to sit, men on the left, women on the right, just as people did in medieval England and still do in many traditions East of the Adriatic). It wouldn't matter if you got taken ill because most of the women seemed to be nurses from the JR. Best of all, come to our Solemn Mass at 10, have coffee and refreshment, then settle down for a Syrian. Plenty of Sunday parking in the grounds of the Old Vicarage next door.

5 October 2008

Hermeneutic of Continuity

Catholic Anglicans can only feel amused sympathy as the Roman Catholic Church grapples with the question of whether Vatican II was a new Pentecost which rejected and put behind it the tradition of the past ('a hermeneutic of rupture') or should be seen - and interpreted - as in unbroken continuity with what went before (the 'hermeneutic of continuity' described by our Holy Father in his most important Magisterial utterance so far, the Christmas allocution to the Roman Curia soon after his Election). How we pray that Benedict's teaching may take hold in the Roman Catholic Church and begin the great enterprise of driving what Paul VI called 'the smoke of Satan' out of the Church.



But I said 'amused', because this debate is the very one which we have been living with - perhaps I should have said 'fighting' - for 450 years. In my College here at Oxford there is a dark and horrible picture showing a group of C16 heretics lurking round a table ... and on the head of each of them, a Pentecostal flame. Consider what happened when Cranmer's first Prayer Book came in. There were, of course, the courageous 1549 Rebels about whom I have several times posted. But there were also those who conformed yet within a hermeneutic of continuity. Bishop Gardiner argued from the actual text of the 1549 Book that it expressed Catholic doctrine. Bishop Bonner, apparently, only occasionally performed new rites in his Cathedral and preserved the old 'Apostles' Mass' and 'our Lady's Mass' in its side chapels as 'communions'. What the parochial clergy did can be discovered from what the Royal Injunctions of 1549 felt it necessary to forbid: 'Item, for a uniformity, that no minister do counterfeit the popish mass, as to kiss the Lord's table; washing his hands at every time in the communion; blessing his eyes with the paten or sudary; or crossing his head with the paten; shifting of the book from one place to another; laying down and licking the chalice of the communion; holding up his fingers hands or thumbs joined towards the temples; breathing upon the bread or chalice; showing the sacrament openly before the distributiion of communion; ringing of sacrying bells; or setting any light upon the Lord's board at any time ...'.



Ever since, this game has been played out among us Anglicans. At the dogmatic level, there have been those who have interpreted the XXXIX Articles in accordance with the teachings of the continental 'Reformers' while others sought their true interpretation in the writings of the Patristic and later periods. The whole point of the Catholic Revival, of course, was to claim both in the Tracts and at the Altar that the Church of England was not a Tudor or Protestant confection but a body in continuity (ministerial, liturgical, doctrinal, moral) with the preceding centuries.



The tragedy has been that as the hermeneutic of rupture gripped the RC Church after Vatican II, many of our people lost heart ... 'What's the point of making a fuss about X and Y and Z when Rome doesn't bother about them any more?' Countless Catholic Anglican clergy have struggled to uphold Catholic Truth in regard to some area of Faith or Morals only to be undermined by the fact that Fr Flannahan down the road is saying the opposite. Every innovation proposed among Anglicans has been advanced on the back of a confident claim that an ever-changing Rome will undoubtedly itself hop onto that particular bandwagon ... just give it a pontificate or two longer. Our adversaries taunt us with this every day with regard to the womenbishops question. Yes, 'Catholics' have been one major factor in the corruption and destruction of everything we had worked for and recovered and built up since 1833!

3 October 2008

A great English Bishop

Mass this morning of S Thomas de Cantelupe, Bishop of Hereford, a Buckinghamshire man who became Chancellor of this University. His sanctity manifested itself in a rigorously ascetic lifestyle combined with enormous generosity towards the poor and a pastoral regimen which was so demanding as to destroy his health. He had a soundly antagonistic attitude towards the great both in Church and State, so much so that he was excommunicated by Archbishop Pecham and died in Italy while awaiting papal judgement upon his appeal.

In the Counter-Reformation period, so one gets the impression, a lot of those canonised were the founders of religious orders sponsored for official sanctity by their orders. But in the Middle Ages, there is a consistent theme of the canonisation of bishops who stood up to the mighty, were benefactors of the poor, and whose cult, after their deaths, sprang up spontaneously in their Cathedral Churches. Such a one was S Thomas de Cantelupe. However, he was not formally canonised until 1320. One suspects that a collateral descendent, a young curial offical called John de Grandisson, may have had a hand in this through his influence with the great Avignon pope John XXII. In his bull of canonisation the pope carefully related, surely with one eye on that embarrassing excommunication, that Cantelupe had received the full last rites of the Church before his death.

Young Grandisson later became Bishop of Exeter, and a very fine one too. Like his great-great uncle, he had no truck with Archbishops of Canterbury. When the primate approached Exeter on Metropolitical Visitation, Grandisson repelled him with military force. S Thomas de Cantelupe was regarded, with Becket, as one of the two great and saintly Thomases of the Middle Ages and is sometimes pared with him iconographically.

2 October 2008

Any Padre Pio experts out there?

Let me explain my problem. I say my Divine Office according to the postconciliar Liturgia Horarum in Latin because that is what Vatican II mandated except in what it anticipated as the very rare exceptions when a cleric did not know Latin. When a new Saint is added to the Universal Calendar, I photocopy the new proper from Notitiae, the Vatican periodical which gives the official texts of the Acta of the Cogregation for Divine Worship and whatever, and gum it in.

This is where my problem starts. The typists who process these documents into print are manifestly a ropey and highly careless lot (presumably this is why, in the Collect for Padre Pio, the word presbyterum is misspelt). There's nothing new in this; indeed, the problem goes back to the 1987 edition of the Breviary, which is full of misprints - sometimes a word misspelt; sometimes an impossible punctuation; sometimes a couple of lines missed out. Some mistakes are easy to handle; for example 'italianisms' like spirito instead of spiritu; misto instead of mixto; ogni instead of omni. Others reduce the text to meaningless gibberish so that the only recourse is to go into Bodley and if possible look up the originals.

But even in this context, the Lectio Altera for S Pius of Pietrelcina is quite outstanding. I've counted five major grammatical errors of the most elementary nature: the sort of howlers I would not have expected my IV Form Latin set to make. What does this mean? That the quality of those who produce the official Latin texts of the Latin Church has plummeted to an even more appallingly low level than before? Or could it be that Padre Pio wrote his letters in Latin and that the mistakes are the Saint's own mistakes? Saintly mistakes, so to speak.

I would love to know.

1 October 2008

LOURDES 5

Back to Archbishop Rowan and the double act he did with Kasper. Correct me, those of you who were there, if I got it wrong, but I have a distinct recollection that he expressed the conviction that Community is more important than Ideas. He got this, with his usual unfailing felicity and elegance, out of the narrative of Luke's Infancy narratives, where the Annunciation sets up Community between Mary and her enwombed God, and the Visitation extends that Koinonia. [[I think he used the Greek word; I thought the less well of him for doing so: I have a rooted aversion to the game of impressing the troops with hellenisms. But I applaud his apparent belief that Luke's Infancy narratives are 'historical', just as I do his definition of the Resurrection: 'Empty tomb and no Body'.]]

Being nasty, however, I did discern within myself an unworthy suspicion that he had in mind the Current Crisis ... Oops, Crises. So did a highly intelligent laywoman sitting beside me, who observed, as I stroked her knee with my left hand, that he shouldn't have brought his problems (and our crises) to Lourdes. Was he saying that we should hang around in the C of E because Community is more important than Ideas?

Because if he was, perhaps there is a question he could answer. Why, if Togetherness is more important than being sure about your intellectual integrity, does the Anglican Community, en bloc, not submit to the See of Rome? And why do his own problems (hinted at in the following debate as they have been in obiter asides over the years) with the Petrine Ministry not merit being set aside in the greater cause of Christian Unity?

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at a meeting of the House of Bishops at which Rowan unfolded a policy, based on blind submission to Vatican I (Pastor aeternus), for Corporate Togetherness with the biggest Christian communion.