Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Patrimony

Although I have not been an Anglican for a significant length of time (6 years, since you ask), I do consider myself to have been very much formed by what I learned there, and how I learned to do things, which continues to effect me, and I affect it at times, as I feel my Catholicism is a major part of who I am. The recent, wonderful, marvellous, stupendous events in places such as Allen Hall, Westminster Cathedral and the illustrious church of St. Aloysius in Oxford, and also the pesterings of people to write more frequently on this blog have been important factors in my deciding to put some thoughts down about how I feel about the Anglican Patrimony.

I must confess, I am slightly puzzled as to where “Anglican” Patrimony begins (I think Fr. “Patrimony” Hunwicke and I are in agreement on that, which is re-assuring); and is it Anglican Patrimony which I am most interested in, or rather Anglo-Catholic Patrimony? Where does one begin and the other end? Alright, what do I think of as Anglican Patrimony? Well...

The English Hymnal (I was reared on it)
The English Missal (the finest work of liturgy never approved by any Ecclesial Community)
the Book of Common Prayer (obviously not the Black Rubric though) and especially Prayer Book Evensong.
The Authorised Version
Cassocks with 39 buttons and 5 pleats
Taking Liturgy seriously.
Sir Ninian Comper.
The Great Fathers (Ancient and Modern- I'm thinking of People like Lancelot Andrewes, Thomas Ken, the Oxford Movement, the slum Fathers such as Fr. Stanton, Dom Gregory Dix, and the monks of Nashdom and many others)
The Parson's Handbook
Ritual Notes
Martin Travers
The Restored Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Moving the hand back to the centre when making the Sign of the Cross (so it goes head, middle, left, right, centre)
The “Catholic” Societies of the Church of England.
National Pilgrimages.

These are just some disorganised jottings, but those things do largely sum up what I feel is/was best about Anglicanism. They do have an Anglo-Catholic flavour to them, but then my Anglicanism always had an Anglo-Catholic flavour to it. I think they are a list of things that I miss about the Church of England; I have not included hymns I miss- most of them are in the English Hymnal anyway. I also think that this list would be slightly different from former Anglican to former Anglican- something which I do not miss about the Church of England, which I think Anglo-Catholicism had a lot to do with: no two churches did things in quite the same way- Gf the poem “Oh it's just the usual thing”. Most of it is transportable to the Ordinariate as well- though I can't see the Parson's Handbook putting in a re-appearance somehow! It would be nice though, if the 39 buttoned, 5 pleated cassock became the cassock of the Ordinariate though, I think- some distinguishing mark. And of course, most right thinking people, both sides of the Tiber, would admit to feeling most at home in Fr. Hope Patten's Chapel of Ease dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, just down from the Friday Market. I can't go in there without feeling utterly overcome with emotion, and I hope I always do: I do think there are very few places which are closer to heaven than that Shrine; especially when you learn something of the characters who were responsible for its establishment, and those who beautified it. But it's atmosphere is one of the most overpowering prayer. But I digress- The Shrine is worthy of at least one post of its own.
None of these things is especially Anglican, it must be said- with the exception of Prayer Book Evensong; but I wonder what percentage of normal parish churches still use it- and how many Anglican Clergy are able to say the Communion service competently.

So I wonder if, instead of the Patrimony being “things” it is more a mentality, and upbringing. Of not reducing everything to the lowest common denominator (something of which the Catholic Church, certainly in this country, seems distressingly guilty of)- of taking pride and time in what is done, and how it is done- preaching for example: the average standard of preaching used to be an awful lot higher in the Church of England than in Rome. I suspect this is changing though- but I always felt that Anglican clergy took it far more seriously than their serperated brethren. Also, and this is one of my great bugbears- liturgy. Doing it as well as possible- taking it seriously and doing it well. There was a very telling picture in the set of the Ordinations at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday- it showed the three ordinands sat next to each other, all bolt upright, looking straightforward, hands on knees, feet planted squarely on the ground- sat smartly, tidily and uniformly. If you look at secular clergy concelebrating it is difficult to find five out of 20 who are sat in the same way- unless its with arms folded and legs stretched out, looking relaxed and comfortable, and not akin to being sat in front of the telly. Alright, this is an exaggeration, but not much of one. But this seemliness in liturgy is something which is very, very Anglican. I wonder if this is part of the reason why there are such strong friendships between the Oratories and Anglicans.

Since writing the above paragraphs, I have listened to the press conference of the first Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady Walsingham (I said she was Patrimony: Fr. Hope Patten & Fr. Fynes-Clinton would be pleased, I'm sure): The Rev'd Fr. Keith Newton. He makes a very good point, which, I must confess, in my narrow-minded and blinkered way I had not considered: Anglican Patrimony is not just liturgical. What does this mean? I'm not sure: Fr. Newton speaks of the Church of England communicating to the unchurched masses, as that oh so important “presence” in the local community, and hopes that the Ordinariate will bring something of the Established Church's respectability with it. So do I- it's another little step towards the conversion of England. However, what is forgotten (or may be not realised) is that yes, the local parish church is a presence in the “community”, but it is a largely irrelevant and ignored one. I strongly suspect that the vast majority of people will not have any idea of the name of their local Vicar, or their Bishop (if indeed they have a local Vicar- they may be in a 6 parish benefice, which sees it's Vicar once in a blue moon, if there's an “R” in the month). Now it is true, these same people probably have not the foggiest who their local chaplain to the Papist Mission is either, but it is not the Established Church.

I must confess, that, when Fr. Newton mentioned non-liturgical patrimony, my thoughts ran to a poem, which oozes patrimony in abundance: the Anglo-Catholic Congresses and a certain verse in particular:
We, who remember, look back to the blossoming May-time
On ghosts of servers and thurifers after Mass,
The slapping of backs, the flapping of cassocks, the play-time,
A game of Grandmother’s Steps on the vicarage grass-
“Father, a little more sherry? - I’ll fill your glass”

You see; I'm too steeped in Anglo-Catholic Patrimony. I'd also like to finish with the last verse of the above poem:

Yet, under the ‘Travers baroque’, in a limewashed whiteness,
The fiddle-back vestments a-glitter with morning rays,
Our Lady’s image, in multiple-candled brightness,
The bells and banners – those were the waking days
When Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze.
I do hope so. I really do hope so.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What is Truth?

By popular acclaim, I have decided to write another post. It has been quite a while.

I might go a bit Patristic on this...

I have been attempting to engage a self-proclaimed “atheist” in debate. This isn't an easy thing to do: without being snobbish (well trying not to), I find it very difficult to engage in debate with anyone who hasn't been taught how to, or indeed, has an Arts degree, where you tend to pick up the basics. It started, as many things do on Facebook: a friend of mine had linked to the Holy Father's recent words on social networking sites, and the care we should take when approaching them: not creating a persona for ourselves, engaging in them in a Christian manner, and so on; much of which he has said in one form or another over the last few years or so of his Pontificate. A friend of my friend then posted a somewhat derogatory comment on the Holy Father's most illustrious words, without any qualification, I think the words were “utterly ridiculous” or something of that nature. I took offence at this on one count, having always been taught “if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all”*, however, it was not so much that she was criticising the Holy Father that irritated me (a great many people do, as well we know), but rather it was the absence of any qualification to the statement: three years of a degree, and a good many years spent in the company of Dominicans have taught me to back up my arguments with evidence, reason and logic: this she did not do.

I therefore felt within my rights to point out that the Holy Father was actually making a few very good points about decent use of the internet. One or two other people, one of whom I did not expect to chime in support for His Holiness, did so. From the comments of the Holy Father's most recent detractor it became apparent that it was not his comments she took issue with (I doubt she read them through to the end) but rather the person who made the comments. She accused him of being na├»ve and out of touch, and that his “opinions” were “outdated”. Each comment she made ignored any previous questions she made, which were answered. She then did the most wonderful thing. She said that it didn't really matter what he or anyone else said, she would not change her opinions. This was something akin to dynamite for myself (less charitable than whom there are not many) and I must confess to a sin against charity by pouncing on it and accusing her of being somewhat narrow-minded and bigoted in her refusal to listen to Truth. She then stated that we had no clue as to what the Truth was. And there it was, shining down the millennia: Pilate's question to Jesus: “what is Truth.”

It was something that had been occupying my thoughts for a while: seemingly that every successive generation of government has played Pilate (and I can't help feeling, especially in the last 100 years) and stood before the Church to ask her “What is Truth?” and then, as Pilate did, not hung around, but gone out to the crowd to ask their opinion instead, who would rather see the criminal released than the Christ.

Why?

Why is it that the secular world will seemingly never listen to the voice of the Church? I cannot help suspecting that it is the voice, rather than what is said. Par example. The Church has said for yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears beyond telling that life begins at conception and that contraception doesn't work overly well in stopping spreading STDs. Now, many trendy lefty types (I use this term advisedly) have scoffed at these out of touch, stuck in the mud celibates. What could they possibly know about sexual morality and human life, and it's beginning and end? Well, as it has turned out, quite a lot, as I'm sure we all know. But this is sadly irrelevant, because morality has overtaken science: it doesn't really matter if life begins at conception and ends at death- quite often life wouldn't be very nice for them, so it's best if we bump them off now, to save us, I mean them, embarrassment and pain.
Talk about a voice crying in the wilderness... However, I do rather suspect that the Church will still be answering the question at the top of this page long after the current political and moral ideas have faded from memory. We always have before.


*And latterly: “if you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come and sit next to me”