Friday, July 01, 2016

The Precious Blood: Unification through rendering

Only a few weeks ago, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in which we say the Lord's side rent by a spear wielded by a Roman Soldier. Here we see the division of the flesh of the Body of Christ, a hole that does not appear to have healed in the Lord's post-Resurrection body. The flesh is rent apart but not in a way as to separate the holy body into two pieces. It is because of this rent that the consecration of the world comes about. The Blood of Our Lord pours out upon the earth as the Holy Sacrifice is made and through the hole in His side, the earth finds redemption and the way back to God. This is the same single sacrifice that we (re)present in our Masses. Every time we celebrate our Mass, we are here at the foot of the Cross, united by that wound in the Lord's side as well as the other precious scars that cover His body. We, in our schisms and separations are nonetheless reunited by the blood which pours from Our Lord and brings us the same New Covenant. We are united through a tear - another of God's wonderful salvific ironies.

I spoke below about how Continuing Anglicanism has had a tendency to fracture. In recent years, there have been attempts to reunite with increasing success. For me this bodes well as I am committed to the unity of all who hold the Catholic Faith. Last time, I wrote:
within the Continuing Anglican Church, St Thomas Aquinas will need to find how to sit next to St Gregory Palamas. Reason and Philosophy will have to dwell with Mystery and Unknowing. How are we going to agree on the validity or expression of doctrine of Original Sin when the East rejects it and the West affirms it? Can a soteriology based on The Day of Judgement be reconciled with one based upon a break from prison by Theosis? Personally, I believe it can, but it will take more than I could ever comprehend to work out the details. Is the movement a convergence? I pray so.
Personally, I think this is where the Continuing Anglican Movement fits in. If we really are a "Movement" rather than a "Staying-where-we-were-ment" then our movement must be in the same direction as all the Catholic Churches with a view to the visible unity of those Catholic Churches. We may be separate fingers in the Body of Christ, but we should take unity seriously.

In recent years, the ACC has been criticised for its stance on Unity: it has provided a perfectly clear statement on what it means by Church Unity and how it seeks to ensue it. As Archbishop William Temple says, "The way to the union of Christendom does not lie through committee rooms, though there is a task of formulation to be done there. It lies through personal union with the Lord so deep and real as to be comparable with His union with the Father." Unity is ultimately eschatological in nature. We become united to each other as we become united in Christ.

This is where an honest scholarship helps. Both Rome and Constantinople are united in the same Councils and yet one has an Augustinian view of soteriology. the other does not. Is St Augustine of Hippo responsible for the division between Continuing Anglicans? I would not describe myself as an Augustinian in that my views on original sin tend to be more in line with the Eastern than the Western. We inherit an affliction of the human condition caused by the first sin, not the actual guilt of Adam and Eve. Baptism is a regeneration and an incorporation of the soul into the Body of Christ and inoculates the person in the remission of sins. This we see in the outpouring of the blood of Christ. The blood is mixed with water. The Blood of the Covenant is mixed with the water of Baptism. The baptised is grafted into the Vine so that the Blood can flow into it.

The ACC is committed to Church Unity in its quest for union with God. In being Anglican in her culture, it possesses a scholarship which was once respected by theologians of every stripe until the tyranny of the living tried to usurp the democracy of the dead. Thus it does make sense for efforts to be made in this area with a view to finding the root of the divisions between Roman and Eastern Orthodoxy. As Anglican Catholics we have a peculiar position: we seek the doctrine of the Early Church having a common heritage of the first millennium with both Churches, a further half-millennium with the Roman Catholic Church, and then another half-millennium distinct from both. Yet we are committed to the long game of being part of the True Vine. We are a branch, however small, despite being disregarded by larger branches. Yet, the sap of that vine is the Blood of Christ of which, by Anglican tradition, we encourage the laity to share in that one cup.

In this unique position and with our reputation for sound scholarship, we do have an opportunity to see how to reconcile Augustinian and non-Augustinian theology and thus find the common language between East and West which will allow us to engage in fruitful dialogue with both hemispheres. We need to see how to place the theology of St Augustine in the East which didn't receive the Greek translation of his work until the 14th Century and in the West where it has been fragmented and distorted by extremists among the Reformers. The notion of Limbo has gone, replaced with Mystery. We do not know where babies who die unbaptized go. We are not provided with that information. what we are provided with is the knowledge that God is Faithful and loves His creatures. We can only leave it there.

We in the Western Church have embraced Philosophy more soundly than in the East. We do need to embrace Mystery more and remember that Reason may convince but often is more speculative than certain. Reason can only ever be at best asymptotic to the Truth. What does this mean? An asymptote is something to which we can get arbitrarily close but never reach.The Truth is closer to us than we can sometimes see and record via any theological science but theological science cannot attain that Truth. Yet, we must also realise that, with Reason firmly based on God's revelation to us both in Scripture in the greater and the World around us in the lesser as testified by Psalm xix and Roman i.18-21, our philosophical speculation does afford us an asymptote to the Truth rather than a divergence away from it. Thus, with Divine Mystery we may temper our speculations accordingly. All we have to do is look into our veins and see the the Blood of Christ coursing through them giving us life and communion with others even if they cannot see it.

Organic unity in that sense already exists, yet visibility of that unity is also a sign of hope to a darkening, bloodless world whose existence is being sucked dry by the parasitism of Evil in its futile mission to acquire some substance of its own. Churches standing together is an affront to the Devil which is why the divisions exist. We only truly embrace the Truth by embracing each other clinging to our common fallen humanity and knowing that the Church has been given the means to give the necessary grace to bring healing to a wounded world. The wound in the side of Christ was opened to repair the mortal wound in Humanity. By fastening our wounds to His, the Divine blood flows into us and makes us what God intended us to be.

Our Faith bids us believe that St Thomas Aquinas does stand with St Gregory Palamas in Heaven before the Throne. St Thomas realises how straw-like his philosophy is. St Gregory appreciates how close philosophy assists people to find God. What is Mystery in Heaven when one has God in plain sight? Surely Science and Mystery become the same thing. That's how the Church will be unified, just as Man and God are unified. It's something we must long for, but know that it's coming and rejoice! In another irony, we rejoice in the spilling of Our Saviour's blood! Would He have it any other way?

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