Saturday, December 31, 2011

Re-ordering unity

Good grief! My 400th post!

I am grateful to Jakian Thomist for providing me with information as to how Anglicans can accept re-ordination in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church. I do take his point that
"there is a sense of 'talking-past' one another on this topic, RC's 'reducing' its significance while Anglican contributors feeling as if 'THE' point has been completely missed."
Well, perhaps we need to find some way of finding the actual issue here an insuring that we get it right.

There are essentially two issues which appear to be in conflict:

1) Reunion of Anglicans into Communion with the Holy See;
2) The Invalidity of Anglican Orders via Apostolicae Curae.

From Apostolicae Curae, we see that, at the very least, Rome believes that Anglican orders are not the same as Roman orders and that an Anglican priest is not the same as a Roman Catholic priest. Are the two notions really different?
Well, here, I think, is where the idea of Absolute Ordination and Relative Ordination come in - it is a question of doubt and thence a question of trust. If one accepts that Anglican priesthood can only be truly completed by ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, then one can in good conscience submit to the process of re-ordination as a priest in order to have one's orders completed.

The problem with this attitude is that it then describes Anglicanism as being incomplete in a manner in which most Anglicans cannot accept. In a very good sense our incompleteness is true, since all "Churches" are incomplete without the others and mutual excommunication is a scandal. Anglicanism does very much need to be in Communion with Rome for the health of both Anglicanism and Rome. However, the view is that Anglicanism is incomplete in the Catholic Sense. We are then left with the question just how is Anglicanism incomplete?

Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy all stem from the Undivided Church of the seven Oecumenical councils and all claim to be following the same Apostolic Succession and the same idea of Sacrament which has been drawn from following Christ Himself. Many scholars will try to deny that, but the history of the earliest Anglicanism as independent from Rome is well attested to. Since the various Schisms have torn us apart, we now have been saddled with doubt to the intentions of the other bodies with which we formerly enjoyed full communion.

As far as I understand, the Eastern Orthodox position (and I'm honestly not quite sure that I do since there seems to be more than one Eastern Orthodox Church!) with the return to Communion will also come the return of the recognition of Anglican sacraments as Orthodox.

With Rome, the Reformation has cast a sufficient doubt on the underlying integrity of the Anglican system that there is insufficient confidence in what we do is truly what we say we do. Given the turbulence of the 16th and 17th Centuries, that's not a completely unfair position to take, provided that it were seen clearly that Apostolic Succession and the ministering of the Sacraments really has changed from the Undivided Church. As Saepius Officio shows, there is at the very least no clear evidence that Anglicanism has fallen away from the Catholic Principles of the Undivided Church.

The underlying issue is then not really of the issue of orders, though this is how it manifests itself, but rather an issue of trust.

Admittedly, churches that profess Anglicanism have done themselves no favours. If a church departs from the teaching of the Undivided Church, how on Earth can it be trusted to be following the Catholicism what is at the very heart of the existence of that Undivided Church? Corporately, the CofE and ECUSA have managed to rid themselves of Catholicism in order to appeal to a Zeitgeist. This cannot be said absolutely as many individual parishes and organisations within these bodies are striving to be Catholic. How successful they are is doubtful, but their struggles to uphold their Catholicism need support from all Catholics.

What has been more successful at completing the Oxford Movement has been the profession of the Continuing Churches, especially in the fact that they keep to the same integrity of Anglicanism prior to any change to the Catholic Faith. This has been hard, especially since Catholicism is not a popular movement in Western Society. Continuing Anglicanism has been accused of "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)". This seems to be rather an out-of-date view of the way that the Continuum is travelling given the substantial commitment to unity shown by the ACC, the APCK, the APA and UECNA. There will always be some floating bodies but the the commonality, indeed Catholicity of Anglicanism makes any boundaries more fluid - just like the Orthodox jurisdictions which are just as prone to "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)" and just as able to reunite and reconfigure.

All of the Anglican bodies are still recognisably Anglican because they have kept a commitment to the Undivided Church and though it be indefinable, save in a Wittgensteinian sense, there is an Anglican Integrity - a trustworthiness that we follow Our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner as his disciples in our different time, position, culture and milieu. Those who abandon the principles of the Undivided Church abandon that trustworthiness and thus separate themselves from that integrity.

Humility is about recognising the truth about oneself and one's condition and, given that the Continuing Churches look to regulate themselves in the light of what the Church has always been, there is humility. To be united in Christ is a goal well worth struggling for, but one must be careful in the way that one accepts that unity. If one finds an impediment in conscience because of a development subsequent to the schisms, then the offered unity cannot honestly be acceptable - to deny it is not humility because it is not true belief, particularly if it comes from the conscience. One cannot enter into unity with one's fingers crossed. Such an action is insincere and an insult to both sides.

Surely the parties to be united must look to themselves with regard to these impediments and trust the other that if the impediment exists then it needs to be examined very carefully from both sides. If there is no way around them, then the question must be about the quality of unity. Is this a suzerain-vassal covenant, or a recognition of mutual integrity?

So, what the issue boils down to is not of having the humility to submit to re-ordination for the sake of unity, but rather the trust that, when only God can be convinced of Absolutes, the other party has truly been seeking the same Catholicism that existed before Schisms occurred. If re-ordination were necessary then it needs to be at the very least sub conditione not sine conditione because the latter has the monopoly on the Absolute and this cannot be demonstrated as a fact because it is an Absolute. There is only one Catholicism: this is indeed an Absolute because there is is One Lord Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

We have to appreciate that there is much that we can trust. If we follow the Covenant, then we do forge a good relationship with God and we can be as sure of that as the strength of our faith. If we have faith in our Church Leaders to uphold the principles of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, then we can be sure of the validity of the sacraments that they minister to us, and with that validity the Truth of God Himself whose Incarnation we celebrate at this wonderful time of year!

I hate to end on matters of contention. My prayer is for a corporate unity that comes from both sides - a recognition of the fidelity to the Catholic Faith and a statement in the truth of the orders of orthodox Anglicans.

May I wish you all a most happy, joyful, peaceful, fulfilling and fun 2012! God bless you all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blogday 2011: Anglican Papalism and Me

Wow! Another year and this one has been quite momentous for me. Eagle-eyed readers of this blogling will notice that I've removed my page linking to Fr Brooke Lunn's description of Anglican Papalism. Does this mean that I cease to be an Anglican Papalist?

Well, yes and no - a typical Anglican answer! I hope you will understand my equivocation. I have had to re-evaluate myself this year and what I really believe, and perhaps now is the time to start nailing my colours to the mast. While I was in the CofE, I was as much a slave to the inherent confusion as anything else. I would leave even my own services with a headache, let alone from Mass and this was in no small part due to my trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. I have now had time to think more clearly. I have sailed that sea and, though with my sails tattered and my mast broken, find myself on a more comfortable shore.

The main principles of Anglican Papalism are:

  1. Anglicanism has made authentic and honourable contributions to the development of Catholic Christian practice (e.g., Week of Prayer for Christian Unity).

  2. Petrine Succession and Primacy are authentic and honourable developments of Catholic Christian theology.

  3. There is a legitimate place within Catholic Christianity for Christians seeking full Communion with the Apostolic See of Rome yet retaining Anglican practices deemed salutary by the Church's Magisterium.

I am not an Anglican Papalist if this means that I wish to take advantage of the Ordinariate. I cannot agree that the system that is in place preserves Anglicanism if it means that Anglican priests have to go through the unnecessary sacrilege of re-ordination. This is a blatant denial of the Catholic validity that Anglicanism has and which Pusey and the other members of the Oxford Movement saw when they rediscovered the orthodoxy embedded in Traditional Anglicanism. That Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman departed for Rome was not a problem for him because he doubted the validity of his own orders and ceased from practicing when he realised this. That he was also under much emotional pressure at the time is surely understandable. Likewise, I cannot condemn anyone entering the Ordinariate and I will explain why this is a good thing.

I am not Anglican Papalist if I have to hold to the Pope being anything more than a Patriarch and a Bishop with privileged see. Over the past few years, I have drifted further and further from the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and Supremacy as they stand defined in the First Vatican Council, on the grounds that (a) it is not a truly Oecumenical Council and (b) the doctrines doesn't make sense without it being a truly Oecumenical Council. The Infallibility comes from the Church and were the Church to hold a truly Oecumenical Council and for the bishops all to agree on a matter of faith and doctrine, then the Infallible position would then be ratified by the Pope. He would bang the gavel on the matter, as it were.

I do not hold to the idea that the Holy Father is a monarch of Christians, especially since, in the eyes of the Old Testament, the Covenant points to the Monarchy of God. I will willing hold to the Holy Father's primacy but not his universal jurisdiction, because it is not true. Either the Orthodox Churches who do not subscribe to Papal universal jurisdiction are not Catholic Christians (which Rome believes) or the Pope has universal jurisdiction (which the Orthodox Churches do not believe).

However, I am still an Anglican Papalist if I believe St Paul when he tells us that, in the Body of Christ, one part cannot reject another part and that I am still committed to the unity of the Undivided Church. I still hold to the Holy Father as my Patriarch, even if he himself denies it and goes so far to suppress that title. There is good evidence in the Early Church of the Primacy of the Pope, and that Anglicans do share very much doctrine with the Roman Catholic Church. I long for the Unity with the Holy See but I fear that Vatican II has ruined her more than Vatican I. Vatican I cut the Holy See off further from Anglicans, Orthodox and even her own ilk in the Old Catholic Church. Vatican II cut her off from her own past in an attempt to blow away the cobwebs. Moral: never open your windows to air your room when there's a Gale Force 9 Hurricane raging outside.

For unity to occur, there needs to be movement on both sides. The ACC did her bit in the 1970s when she came away from the heresies of ECUSA and again in the 1990s in the U.K. If Rome is serious about Church Unity, then she needs to look at herself to ensure that she is fit for unity rather than just assume that she is.

I am still an Anglican Papalist if that means I still defend the Roman Catholic Church where possible since, as I said above, Anglican Catholicism shares a very great deal of true doctrine with her. This isn't always possible when the hierarchy of the Holy See says some very silly things, usually from ignorance, but I certainly have her interests at heart. I have a great love and affection for her and the Holy Father and I certainly support the Ordinariate in that if Anglicans can subscribe to the extra conditions that Roman Catholicism imposes then they should take them up. It means that homeless Anglicans do find a sound spiritual home, though not without cost. It will also help the Roman Church see the value of Anglicanism and perhaps help her to play a better role in the unity of the Undivided Church. There are some very good and devout former Anglicans entering the Ordinariate, this can only be a good thing for all parties and I pray for its success and growth.

I am still an Anglican Papalist if that means that I recognise the contribution to Anglicanism that the five-hundred year walk with the Roman Catholic Church has forged with all its riches and colour as well as the inherent truth that Anglican and Roman Catholicism share. Although I recognise the need for its occurrence, I still find the Reformation one of the saddest and most abject periods in Church History and wish that it had never happened in the way that it did. I still hold to the pious opinions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady and to the doctrine of Purgatory, though not as a place of punishment, but rather a painful "place" of personal reconstruction but filled with the light and love of God.

Looking back at some of my earlier posts I notice that I have changed much, but then who doesn't? I am not ashamed of myself for the times that I have been a bit more ultramontane than I am now. I believe it is the sign of spiritual growth in me and I praise God for it. However, I'm not convinced that I've changed all that much, just a dotting of the Is and crossing of the Ts with the loss of hair and increase of girth. There's still much more growing that I have to do, but I am happy to be in a place which allows that growth to occur in a nurturing and supportive environment.

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Feast of the Nativity 2011

    God is with us. Alleluia.

    Another year and certainly not without upheaval, both personally and ecclesiastically! Yet Christmass still provides us, however busy our lives as Churchmen, lay and ordained, might be at this time of year, with a still centre as we say the old words and sing our old carols and love them still as if they were new. Each year we say them differently with a new breath. St Hildegard of Bingen famously said, "My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God."

    If you have been following St Mark's Gospel at Morning Prayer throughout Advent, perhaps you will have found yourself out of breath with the pace at which the narrative moves. Everything seems to happen in rapid succession as the Evangelist draws us further and further into the life of Christ. Even the Lord Himself seems blown along by events judging from the times that he wants to be alone yet finds himself blown hither and yon to mountain, valley and sea throughout His walk with us. He Himself becomes a feather on the breath of God.

    We remember that the Lord Himself also had a first breath as all tiny babies have and which is soon followed by that first distinctive cry. That sound is one of pain, confusion and great discomfort upon being born; it is instinctive and automatic, though it is true that many babies have to be encouraged to breath with a slap! Those of us who are fathers will remember the first cry of our children with joy because it is the sound of life, and the distress does not last long for soon the baby is clean, dry and warm in the arms of Mum.

    It has been a tough year for many of us. Some have struggled with their faith and gasp for Divine Breath. Others have sadly breathed their last and we pray that they receive the new air of Heaven. Others of us have suffered much with our health (indeed, a good friend has found even breathing a struggle) and we pray for their revivification and restoration. Others of us have suffered spiritually with much angst, confusion and doubt as we battle in the acrid smoke of Infernal forces, and we pray for their relief and victory over that which ails them.

    We also pray for cleaner air for all humanity to breathe. There is much spiritual pollution in the world as the Spirit of the Age vies in vain with the Holy Spirit of God. Yet still we feel the effects: Christmass itself gets obscured with an impure air of Mammon and Gluttony. We are fortunate enough to see through this smokescreen but we struggle to help others to see and to breathe deeply the clean, crisp air of Christmass.

    A Joyful Chrisrmass, one and all!

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    O Emmánuel

    O Emmánuel, Rex et légifer noster, exspectátio Géntium, et Salvátor eárum : veni ad salvándum nos, Dómine, Deus noster.

    O Emmanuel, King and our bearer of the Law, Hope of the people and their Saviour: Come for to save us, Lord, Our God!

    There's Christmass and there's Christmas. The latter is a pagan festival of acquisition, fashion, whim and overindulgence which nods at half-remembered stories of mangers and magi among mince-pies, mulled wine and Morecambe and Wise on the telly.

    The former is a celebration of One Whose unstinting generosity brought about a life worth living for each of us, the potential for joy, for looking beyond our failings and fallacies into a future filled with hope and eternal love.

    Why do we give presents only once a year? Why aren't we generous enough to find something of ourselves to give daily?

    Communion and Impairment, Covenant and Contract

    I am delighted to hear that Archdeacon Thompson's tract on what constitutes a proper church is to be published in the official ACC resources. I'll post a link to it when finally it appears.

    The ACC comes under some unjust fire in the U.K. It seems that there are many who not only misunderstand our position, but also misrepresent it. When we offer, on quite friendly terms, just to sit and talk about it, we are told that we are dangerous heretics and not to be talked to. I'm afraid that this attitude comes to us from some quarters of the CofE. We might be firm in our beliefs, but we do try to be as open and as accommodating as we can. If we are perceived as "nasty" and "bitter", then perhaps we need to know in what way we have been so "nasty" and "bitter" and correct it. Likewise, if you believe we are "dangerous" and "heretical", please tell us why you think that.

    However, we are a proper church as our Venerable Archdeacon states. How so? What do we mean by "proper"?

    Archdeacon Thompson states that it is because we hold fast to what the Church has always done. We have bishops, priests and deacons, say the traditional Masses, use the Books of Common Prayer as the CofE used to use. If they point to Eternal Truth, how can they go out-of-date? What I also see in his writing is that we can actually go a bit further and point to the whole notion of covenant which runs throughout all human relationship with God.

    One of the reasons that we modern Christians find the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) so difficult to engage with is because our "Christian" society has lost what it means to be bene berit "people of the covenant". The Hebrew term for covenant - berit - has the basic notion of promise or pledge, and for us Catholics, this is entirely bound up with the word Sacrament, which from the military Latin term sacramentum reinforces the idea of oath involved in our Christian worship.

    There is a great distinction between law and covenant, and St Paul really does hammer this home in his epistle to the Romans. A law is enforced by the prevailing political system and is there to regulate the actions of the people. One does not choose whether or not to obey the law, it forms an obligation with the threat of sanction and punishment. If we live by law, then we are judged by the law.

    If, however, we choose to enter into a relationship then we agree terms by which that relationship is defined and agree by all parties concerned. By allying ourselves to God, we enjoy His alliance with us. God is covenantal, He chooses to bind Himself within the terms of the covenant He has drawn up with us. We are free to reject that covenant, but in so doing we reject the benefits that we might receive from keeping it. If we live apart from the law, then we will be judged apart from the law.

    Of course, we do individually fail to abide by the Contract which we have made with God. However, there is a clause in this "contract" which enables us to remain people of the covenant. This clause is that of the Cross. The Covenant was written on the altar of the Body of Christ and signed in His Blood. It is through this advocacy of Christ that our sins and trespass - our transgressions of the Covenant - do not void the terms, as long as we recognise and keep the terms of the Body and Blood of Christ.

    This brings us to the very idea of what it means to be in "impaired" Communion.

    I do speak personally here because I have used this idea of impairment to remain past my time in the CofE, though I believe was kept in the CofE long enough to say my final goodbyes to a dear old friend.

    My argument went something like:

    1) I am a Catholic and therefore a member of the Catholic Church;
    2) My parish has a female deacon;
    3) The Mass in the next parish conforms to Catholic principles and the priest is validly ordained;
    4) I receive Communion with the next parish, but not my own;
    5) I can still serve as Reader in my own parish because I am still in Communion with the Church even though I do not receive Communion in my own parish;
    6) This is precisely impaired Communion.

    Is this any different from the Forward in Faith idea of impairment, that there is a "cherry-picking" of from whom we receive the sacraments and from whom we can't?

    One might accuse Archdeacon Thompson of false dichotomy when it comes to being in communion and cite the idea of being in bed or not being in bed as the exemplar of that. That would be unfair. While there are many issues in Christianity which cannot be described in terms of black and white, there are many issues that are. If I hate someone and wilfully stab them with a knife and they die, then I am guilty of murder. Not only am I culpable in the law and therefore deserving of punishment in the secular courts, but I am also in severe mortal sin and my soul is in danger of Hell.

    The issue of Communion is also a black and white issue, though we can't pretend for one moment that we have the ability to resolve every case in a black and white way. We mere humans are woefully incapable of grasping absolutes, but we can ensure that we keep ourselves sufficiently in the terms of the Covenant so that we can receive assurance from God that we are still in the relationship with Him. This is the whole point of the Church, because it is through our membership and activity within the Church that we receive that very assurance of God's love for us expressed sacramentally.

    If we violate the covenant as a body, then the assurance is lost. What may look like a well-done Mass will not have the assurance of the Body and Blood of Christ if the terms of the Covenant written on that very Body in that very Blood are not adhered to. Everyone who is in Communion with Christ is in Communion with each other, this is true. Thus we cannot fail to be in Communion with anyone, no matter who they are or what they do or believe, who is in Communion with Christ. However Communion with Christ requires that the terms of the Covenant be met. These terms are written in the Catholic Faith of the Undivided Church and prefigured in the faith of our beloved Jewish brethren whose faith is perfected in the person of Christ. Alteration to those terms violates the Covenant. Thus my erstwhile argument falls in (3): Catholic principles are more than aesthetic but underlie all that the Church does, otherwise they cease to be Catholic! (Well, Duh!)

    So what of those who do violate the Covenant? I don't know. I'm not the judge and I don't want to be. God is both just and merciful with all His Children, and faithful too. I'll still happily sit down and eat with them, discuss social issues with them and think about how we can work together, despite not being in Communion with them. They must understand that we can only go so far, and we must respect their choice.

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    O Rex Géntium

    O Rex Géntium, et desiderátus eárum, lapísque anguláris, qui facis útraque unum : veni, et salva hóminem, quem de limo formásti.

    O King of the peoples for whom they yearn, and stone of the Corner who makest both one: Come and save Man whom thou formedst of clay.

    With the cult of celebrity comes the business of yearning for the perfect body. Cosmetics and deodorants and shampoos and gym sessions and personal grooming and exfoliations and waxing and anti-wrinkle creams, all are seen as the means to be desirable. A six-pack or breast enhancement (sometimes both!) are seen as the only way to be loved and to be adored. Sex itself is raised as an idol - in order to be loved, you have to be available to as many consenting partners as possible. The old, and saggy, and ugly, and those with a party of seven instead of a six pack are unlovable on account of their un-sexy-ness.

    Yet we are all made out of clay, and a relationship built on lust will only survive until the clay droops or cracks, or bits get knocked off. Love lasts longer (eternally so) and yet involves more work than personal grooming. It involves hard grafting and self-sacrifice. The martyrs of old suffered many a disfigurement at the hands of those who would force them away from God. Yet they were not dealing with people who lusted after an empty deity, but rather loved a living God with all their heart. These are the ones whose clay beauty is fired into an eternal beauty.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    O Oriens

    O Oriens, splendor lucis ætérnæ, et sol justítiæ : veni, et illúmina sedéntes in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

    O Morning Star, splendour of Eternal light and Sun of Righteousness: come and illumine those sitting in darkness and the shadow of Death.

    Of all the frailties of humanity, none is more wretched that those who grudge the good things of this world. They see others bathed in light and they would rather that they should be in darkness like them. At least one can enjoy gluttony or lust or avarice even though they eventually rot the soul. What enjoyment can one get from grudging the good things of another. Such folk are unkind even to themselves. Theirs is a gross lack of any awareness of their worth ans consequently the worth of others.

    Allowing the Sun of Righteousness to shine on them to see the filthy black tar of envy and self-pity is more than they can often bear. Yet while we might recognise this in others, do we recognise it in ourselves? We are allowed to be kind to ourselves, not by going too far the other way into overindulgence, but to enjoy the light of God with others. The pale and pasty of us may envy those who can lie on the beach tanning nicely whereas we either sizzle and scorch like a lobster or turn to dust the moment we undo our top-button. That doesn't stop us from enjoying a lovely sunny day!

    We may, in the depths of winter be longing for that sunny day, but winter too has its joys which the Traditional Christmass points to. We need to lift our chins from our collars and look and see the beauty of God's Creation and then share it with others, rejoicing in what they have to show us too.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    O clavis David

    O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël ; qui áperis, et nemo claudit ; claudis, et nemo áperit : veni, et educ vinctum de domo cárceris, sedéntem in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

    O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel; who openest, and none closeth; who closest and none openeth: Come and draw out the convict from the prison-house who sitteth in darkness and the shadow of Death.

    The proverb says that some people are so lazy that they can't even put food into their own mouth, i.e. they won't even take steps to help themselves when the solution is right in front of them.

    We cannot escape the fact that we are sinners. The Lord Jesus shows us very clearly that our love for Him is finite. There are always conditions on our love for Him. We often say with Meatloaf, "I'll do anything for Love, but I won't do that".

    However in four days time, we are presented with a baby who will open the door for us to Heaven some thirty years later in His life with us. We have three choices. We can sit on our backsides in blissful ignorance of or blissful antipathy toward our need for God and then be surprised when He tells us He doesn't know us; we can recognise His love for us and sit on our backsides saying, "oh He'll sort it all out" and then wonder why our lamp goes out; or we can get up, walk towards Him, fall over, scuff our knees, pick ourselves up and walk towards Him again and thus make progress to Him from our darkness as he stands at the open door in a blaze of Heavenly light.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    O radix Jesse

    O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populórum, super quem continébunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabúntur : veni ad liberándum nos, jam noli tardáre.

    O Root of Jesse, Who standest as a sign of the people, towards Whom the kings hold their tongues, Whom the Gentiles shall implore : Come for to deliver us, now do not delay!

    There are people who believe that others should hang on their every word. This is a particular vice of teachers (mea culpa) and professors. If they have the authority to speak, then all well and good; their words can be understood and received confidently with that authority. However, there are some who speak on matter on which they are not qualified and make pronouncements that destroy rather than build up. There are those who seek to undermine peoples' faith with their own "discoveries" and "interpretations".

    The Root of Jesse will always stand as a signpost to the Truth and against delusion, particularly self-delusion. If one argues against that Root, the Root is withdrawn from them and they have no basis on which to build their conclusion. It is far better to have the humility to say "actually, I don't know" and submit oneself to the diligent and careful unearthing of the Root rather than to make a noise like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    O Adonái

    O Adonái, et Dux domus Israël, qui Móysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuísti, et ei in Sina legem dedísti : veni ad rediméndum nos in bráchio exténto.

    O Adonai, and Guide of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the flame of the Burning Bush, and to him on Sinai gave the Law: Come for to release us with arm outstretched.

    Why were there riots in the U.K. this year? Why are there riots in Russia? What about the instability in the Middle East? Are all these the same? It might seem that there has been an outbreak of lawlessness in the world as people eschew the law in order to obtain justice. Sometimes this is completely justified; at other times the outcome undermines any nobility of the cause. One can see that in the looting that followed the riots in London. The wrath of some people completely overspilled so that the decided to take what they believed belonged to them.

    Sometimes revolutions need to happen, but they often yield chaos as the new regime struggles to be born from the old.

    We see Moses leading an oppressed people out from a land of slavery and into a desert - hardly a Promised Land! The wrath of the people needed to cool so that a reasonable reformation and call to covenant could be answered peaceably. However rashness and indignity take over and delay the shaping of this covenant. Far better to be patient rather than to force things to happen before their time. Thus our release from the yoke of this world can only come with the patience to learn from Christ how to take up his easy yoke and light burthen.

    Advent IV: Insolent Ikons

    The Epistle:

    The Gospel:

    It's painful for an ex-chorister as myself not to join in verses of Scripture which one has sung many times and the words of which have inspired great composers such as Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell to write iconic music.

    That's just it. The music is ikonic, if I may be allowed to use more Hellenistic spelling.The purpose of any ikon is to point the way to Christ. The Roman Martyrology talks about various saints being persecuted for "the worship of sacred images" - a clumsy phrase considering that this is the translation of dulia - a profound veneration and not latria which is reserved only for God Himself and no other being. Sometimes, just sometimes, English doesn't communicate finely enough what is really meant. The act of dulia is the following of an arrow, the acceptance of the direction of a signpost or the attempt to be obedient to the directions of a yokel who tells you that you should have turned off near the windmill.

    The two Ikons in the Epistle and the Gospel are those of St Paul and St John the Baptist, both of whom have a reputation for being rather on the stern side. You don't want to get on the wrong side of St Paul. How the Galatians ears must have rung with the shout "ω ἀνόητοι Γαλάται!" "O Foolish Galatians!" Likewise, you'd want to steer clear of startling figures such as St John the Baptist in his ragged appearance calling you a brood of vipers!

    These saintly gentlemen will not pull their punches. If were on the wrong road, they will point it out to us. They will not spare our blushes because they certainly put the cost of our salvation ahead of our pride and dignity. And yet isn't this why we should venerate them? They actually bother and take pains to bother. They actually care about us, about our fate, about our relationship with the One Whom they know very well. Their music may sound rough to our ears - I doubt that St John the Baptist was a Kings College Alto - but it is beautiful music when it is put into the context of God and choirs of angels.

    And their message is not one of stern crossness, of frowns and hard stares; theirs is a message of hope and joy. "Make straight the way of the Lord!" "Rejoice in the Lord alway and again, I say rejoice" Both are pointing definitely in their ikonic poses to the Coming Christ who will wipe away all material dependence, all riches, all misplaced ease when He does come again, and give us something even more permanent upon which we can rest. Maranatha!

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    O Sapientia

    O Sapiéntia, quæ ex ore Altíssimi prodiísti, attíngens a fine usque ad finem, fórtiter suavitérque dispónens ómnia : veni ad docéndum nos viam prudéntiæ.

    O Wisdom, who from the mouth of the Most High proceedest, spanning from one end as far as the other, firmly and sweetly setting forth all things: come for to teach us the way of prudence.

    Holy Wisdom yields prudence which calls us to discern the intemperate and gluttonous way we live our lives. As we come to the end of our Advent season we should be recognising within ourselves how gluttonous we are and exercise the restraint of temperance with Wisdom's gift of prudence. We recall that C.S. Lewis describes the old lady 'turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sign and a smile "Oh please, please...all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast".'

    The prudent merely receives what is offered with a smile, controlling and restraining the passion to get what one really wants so that another can share something of themselves in honesty. By restraining our demands for delicacies, we are able to hear the prudence that wisdom teaches and find the peace which comes with it.