Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Both and" and "either or"

Last night, I sat listening to Monteverdi's Vespers of Our Lady written in 1610. It's a piece of music that I've grown up with and I find that what pass for compositions from my mind has been influenced largely from the Renaissance Italian genre. You can always tell this sort of piece as they make great use of space and, given the spacious nature of places like San Marco in Venice and St Peter's Basilica in Rome, you can understand that the architecture influenced the music. Italian Renaissance choral pieces are polyphonic, usually polychoral, and seem to make much use of brass instruments - the famous sagbutts and cornetts.

Having sung in many a choir at Evensong, I've also grown up with the English Renaissance music which is usually on a much smaller scale, more intimate and rather reserved. Even an eight-part piece such as Purcell's "Hear my Prayer" has an intimacy and quiet expression of faith that is no less moving than "Ecce Beatam Lucem" by Striggio. The cultures haven't changed much over the centuries, it is still an English virtue to be somewhat reserved in one's emotive expressions, while the Italians are still passionate and expressive. I know that there are those who tend to bristle when an English countertenor, such as Robin Blaze, sings arias meant for a castrato. Granted that the countertenor voice is not a substitute for the castrato in projection, articulation and range, still there is something objectionable about a man singing notes in the register reserved (these days) for women. It just isn't English.

Yet the English Countertenor sounds glorious when singing Gibbons' "Behold thou hast made my days" or "See, see the Word is incarnate" which tend to be almost academic statements of fact. Of course the Reformations in England did make their mark on music in the Church. Certainly, Tallis and Byrd had to forego the art of melismata (more than one note to a syllable) in order to have their music sung in the Parishes. Yet even so, their Latin work was still tolerated (and possibly encouraged) by Queen Elizabeth. Despite their Catholicism, Tallis and Byrd wrote English music for the English Church and whether in Latin or the vernacular, it was very much a la mode.

Yet, however reserved the exterior of an Englishman, his heart still beats passionately. I am told that Hugh Grant and Colin Firth make the hearts of women flutter despite the fact that they do not race around saving the world from Armageddon.

I listen to these subtly different styles of Renaissance music (the German, French and Flemish schools are just as distinctive) and I wonder about how they might be married. After all, it is quite reasonable to hear Palestrina's Sicut Cervus at an Anglican Mass these days. However, it is less certain to hear Wesley's Hear my prayer or "Sumsion in G" in San Marco and this seems to summarise the attitudes of Anglicanorum Coetibus.

I have said earlier that I applaud the offer shown to Anglo-Catholics by the Holy See, and I still do. I am grateful to them for listening and for thinking how Anglicans can be incorporated into Communion with the Holy Father. However, from what little I understand about the Apostolic Constitution, it seems to me very much an "either or". You can be Anglican, or Roman Catholic - not both.

It seems to me (and I am willing to be corrected) that Anglicanorum Coetibus is to be seen as reclaiming an errant family member who has fallen on hard times and has returned for help. The errant is welcomed back but under conditions for reconciliation given by the richer relatives. It is Rome that is issuing all the conditions, not the Anglicans.

This is not what Traditional Anglicanism is; rather it has a richness of which Rome seems utterly ignorant. Anglicanism is only the poorer relation to Rome in that our communion is suffering from fracture and division by those who are using the tolerant nature of Anglicanism to force their own agenda and fashionable philosophies into her Parishes and others, who have their own definitions of Anglicanism, preventing a meaningful unity to occur. As Christians we have need for Rome, sacramentally so. And Rome, for all her strength, needs us, sacramentally. It is by working, praying and consecrating together that we can go against a spirit in society which cheapens the dignity of the human condition and seeks to numb its members to the suffering of its children.

I am convinced that the "either or" options with which we are being presented do not do justice to the Truth that is yet to be revealed. Our Lord Jesus Christ was one who showed us that "either or" is too restrictive of the Truth but rather incorporates a "both and". He is both Human and Divine. The Christian is (usually) both a saint and a sinner. The "either or"s belong to the Divine Judgment of the Father and demonstrate His Will in the running of the Catholic Church.

I would suggest that, if there is a future for Anglican Papalism now, it is found in the search to become both Anglican and Papal and being true to both natures, even when they conflict. My hope is that those who take up the Constitution will not see themselves as different from the rock from which they are hewn but continue to look for communion with those who choose not to take up the offer. I also hope that those who choose not to take up the offer will look for ways to take up the spirit of that offer.

What we should not be looking for is to make things so complicated as to distinguish between being both "either or" and "both and" and either "either or" or "both and". Let's just be "both and" Catholics, plain and simple. We may not sing the same vocal line, but we are singing from the same hymn-sheet. Surely that makes for a richer, more expressive harmony.

1 comment:

poetreader said...

Hear, Hear! 'Tis the voice of reason and charity in the midst of railings and demands.

Jonathan, you speak with a papalism that a non-papalist can hear, understand, and consider, finding much that neither the RCC as it now stands, nor the Classic Anglicans (among whom I number myself) seem able to see. We NEED each other, and without each other we all limp along in incompleteness. We simply need to find a way to come together without losing what we have been given.