Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rocks and hard places.

I have to admit that crunch time is coming and I will have to weigh up my options shortly as my Parish enters an interregnum, not that I am particularly active within it. I am practically excommunicate from my own parish. My opponents (and there are many) will claim that this is my choice. Indeed it is: I choose to worship Christ at Mass, not have my ego massaged by dumbed-down liturgies, meaningless songs and platitudinous preaching which appears to be the staple of many services [sic] held by the CofE. If our intention is to attend Mass to feed a habit, then that is not a healthy intention for receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

If our intention is to seek the living God honestly and earnestly, in reverence humility, awe and wonder, then we stand a better chance of receiving something far more nourishing when we approach the Altar rail. It doesn't have to be Tridentine High Mass (would be nice though), but it does have to be honest and true to what the Church is. I get more and more infuriated by these folk who try to interpret the Church with their modern "scientific" mindset which they claim to be superior to Scripture and Tradition because it is so "reasonable". Balderdash!

Science is subject to fashion just as much as the High Street. Mathematics is subject to fashion. Worldviews are subject to fashion. Scripture and Tradition are not. They do not change because human beings do not fundamentally change - any glance through the minor prophets would demonstrate that. Of course Traditions grows, but growth isn't change - the roots always remain intact. The old is still there alongside the new, indeed feeding the new, neither rejected as being old-fashioned or newfangled but organically the same substance, indeed inseparable. Not so our Science. Quaternions yesterday, vectors tomorrow. Steady State on Monday, Big Bang on Thursday, D-Branes a week next Thursday. Surplices and tippets the first Sunday in Lent, chasubles and maniples Easter Saturday, but Christ the same yesterday, today and forever. What is reasonable one day will not be so tomorrow.

I limit my ministry to Offices now, mainly from the Anglican Breviary, not that I despise the Book of Common Prayer. I suspect that with my more monastic bent, the Breviary suits me better. The Book of Common Prayer does not contain little hours, or prayers during the day (except, I believe, for the rejected 1928 prayer book). It just seems so incomplete to me, though ask me what needs to complete it and I cannot find an answer for you (other than 6 monastic hours).

When I was turned down for ordination, I was told that the Church to which I was most loyal no longer existed and that I was chasing the past. I wonder how many would-be ordinands were told the same thing. I am suspicious of a form of social engineering taking place within the various boards of ministry. I suppose being rejected from ordination turned out to be the best for me, given the turmoil that exists in the CofE.

Am I waking up to the fact that I have been rather Quixotic in my ideals of trying to salvage what I can from the wreckage of the Church? Elmore is passing away. There are a few good priests, though even of them the majority accept the "priesthood" of women, but I remember that so did Fr Dearmer and so did Dom Gregory Dix - even the greatest minds can be fooled (c.f. Solomon)!

The old buildings still stand but are filled with clutter and emptiness. The CofE is just a pile of rubble which is being robbed like a Roman Villa to build lesser buildings of insipidity and politically correct niceness. In America I hear of Traditionals being forced out of their parish by the Liberal tyranny, their building sold to the Moslems and their projects for the homeless thwarted, but then the smell of brimstone permeates the hierarchy of "E"CUSA.

And the RCC aren't much better - Thiberville as just one instance! Indeed the efforts of a thoroughly traditional (and Anglican) Pope are being stymied by liberals trying to squeeze out the Traditionals. All around the Western World, in Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, Traditionals are being told "You are not wanted" forcing them between rocks (over which they stumble) and hard places (on which they land, nose first). This is another thing that I worry about Anglicanorum Cœtibus - yes we have the love and admiration of the Holy Father, but do we have the love and admiration of the Liberal Bishops when we are more traditional than they?

Is the Continuum the place? It's too divided. Certainly some American Jurisdictions are just so unpleasant and self-satisfied with their own definitions of what it means to be Anglican without the slightest idea of how we English do it (or rather did it). They shout, decry, call themselves prophets, and are so unbelievably rude that I honestly wonder whether any love actually resides in them for all their intellectual puffedness. Besides, I am too papal for most of them anyway.

So to stay CofE albeit nominally, or not? There are just a few embers that need to be extinguished before I decide where to go. However, my decision will have to come soon - rock or hard place. Either will do as long as the rock or hard place is the Rock. I expect to make that decision before Christmass (yes I have put three Ss in Christmass- it's deliberate). Like so many other Traditionals, as it were a monster I have become unto many, but God is my strong helper.


Sir Watkin said...

the majority accept the "priesthood" of women, but I remember that so did [...] Dom Gregory Dix

This may be an overstatement.

An essay was found among Dix's papers arguing that the male priesthood might be only a matter of ecclesiastical discipline (cf. priestly celibacy), but I don't think there is any evidence that this was his settled opinion: it may have been an exercise in thinking aloud, or a deliberately mischievous jeu d'esprit. Without knowing more of its context, it's surely impossible to evaluate the document's significance. To say that Dix accepted female sacerdotal ministry goes beyond the known facts.

Warwickensis said...

Sir Watkin, thank you for commenting so informatively.

I was basing my understanding of Dix's acceptance (or otherwise) from pages 139 and 140 of Bailey's Biography A Tactful God.

As you say, I may have somewhat overstated (I think, perhaps misremembered is better), though it seems quite clear that he was struggling to find reasons against it rather than providing reasons for it.

poetreader said...

All any of us can do is to muddle on as best we can in a very messy wilderness. When Jesus said "The gates of hell shall not prevail," He certainly did not intend to say that mistakes would not be made, nor did he deny that it would often be a close thing. The very nature of the Christian life is a participation in the battering He Himself received. "Take up thy cross," He demanded. So often it is the brethren of one's own household that do one the most harm. "But he that endureth to the end shall be saved." As we struggle on, we do make mistakes, perhaps serious ones, but, if it is our heart, our determination, to follow Him, even those errors become part of the "all things" that "work together for good."

We muddle, we mess up, we stumble and seem to fall, but it is He that picks us up, redirects us, and, at the last, brings us home.


David Gould said...

Your writing of the pain of the rejection of the C of E, losing it's mind, it's values, it's good order and essentially becoming a schismatic ecclesial body fills me with sadness.

As someone who has come to the Continuum of Anglicanism from decades in the wilderness, I urge you to consider visiting Bishop Damian Meade, the ACC Diocesan.

Within the ACC I have found light, fellowship, support and shelter, without smugness or rancour or anything other than a commitment to the unchanging Gospel of salvation.

Warwickensis said...

David, thank you for commenting.

I do know and have met the good bishop. I am even privileged to have him as a Facebook friend.

My trouble is a deep overriding sense of "not yet". Believe me, I'd go tomorrow if there were not this infuriating "not yet" nagging at me.

I am certainly not going to rule out that avenue and the noble Bishop Mead yet.

Nicholas Jackson said...

Thanks for posting this. I continue, as an outsider (a devout agnostic with deep misgivings about organised religion) to try to understand the details of the theological journey you're on. (Although it worries me, as a friend, that it seems to trouble you so much.)

I used to say that I was a "high church agnostic" - I liked there to be lots of ceremony, even though I'm not a Christian and I don't go to church (except on rare occasions as an observer). But I came to the conclusion that wasn't quite the case: at heart, in many respects, I'm a minimalist. The simple thoughtfulness and compassion of the Quakers appeals to me (did you ever get around to reading the copy of "Advices and Queries" I gave you, by the way?) while the ceremonial grandeur of a full Latin mass with clouds of incense, wardrobes full of embroidered vestments, and entire sideboards full of gold crockery looks all very spectacular but I think I'd find it a bit distracting if I were actually participating in it.

This was brought home to me last week when I happened to visit the Vatican (while on holiday in Rome). St Peter's was very pretty and very grand, but I couldn't see quite what it had to do with fostering a personal relationship with God, or inspiring one to spirituality and compassion. The whole thing seemed designed to make God seem much further away, thus justifying the interpolation of an ecclesiastical hierarchy.

But we're all different, and while I see it as a kind of ecclesiastical Versailles, primarily designed to exalt and glorify the higher echelons of the Church rather than the God they represent, I guess others find it awe-inspiring in a way that reinforces and renews their faith.

Warwickensis said...

Good to hear from you, Nick. I'll be back on Facebook at some point next week, Deo volente.

I did read those "Advices and Queries" from the Quakers, and enjoyed doing so. I do understand your concerns about superficiality of religion and you're right that it doesn't matter whether it's a naff music group in a parish church or the splendour of High Mass, it is about the sincerity of worship that matters.

I really rail against the lack of sincerity, especially in my parish. I see in myself both kataphatic elements (the use of externals to stimulate worship) and apophatic elements (the inward search for God). I love minimalism as much as I love the grandeur of High Mass.

I am in a particularly apophatic mode at the moment. I've practically given up singing in Church choirs, though I still sing in the college chamber choir to boost the boy altos' confidence. I do have this "personal relationship" with God which I try to cultivate during my apophatic periods, but then I use my kataphatic periods to remember that this "personal" God is as much God of the Universe as someone who, for reasons that boggle my poor little mind, wants to be interested in me.

Warwickensis said...

Something like St Peter's, if I use it carefully points me to that great God. It points me out of myself. I use the Icons which are more than pretty pictures to relate me with a man who, as I claim in the creeds I hold so dear, died in order that I should not become so utterly self-absorbed that I lose myself to an Eternity with only myself for company.

These great things have meaning for me because I have an idea of their significance in my religion. If I don't know the significance, then I am spurred to try and find out more - to confront my ignorance of things spiritual and things physical. I am just as stimulated by BZ-reactions Mandelbrot sets, Poincare dodecahedral space and quandles, the sigh of an infinity of Galaxies whirling into the vastness of some possibly 4- or 10- ore 11-dimensional manifold as I am by the Mystery of Transubstantiation, the Icon of Christos Pantocrator, and the depth of the word "tetelestai".

The CofE has no place for these things. She has long abandoned them for things that everyone can understand.

poetreader said...

Just so.
I've long believed that, if everyone can understand something, there really isn't much there at all. In fact, if anyone at all can understand what is being presented, most of what is there is being missed. Neither science nor theology is capable of giving real answers to the deepest questions. Both attempt to find. identify, and ask the right questions to point the mind (and the heart) in the right direction, and to eliminate what can be shown to be false.

I too love pomp and ceremony and also silence and simplicity. Richness and complexity point towards the grandeur and majesty of what is unseen, and simplicity leads us deep within where a still small voice speaks what is so simple it cannot be spoken. I need both. I firmly believe we all need both.

For me it's not the beauties of higher mathematics that will grip me. Those beauties seem to lie in a place I can barely glimpse, but let me watch a snail walking across a stone wall, and I am just as rapt as I am at a high Mass with clouds of incense, Baroque music, and sumptuous adornment.