Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blogday 2014: Cut off in whose prime?

On Monday, this little blogling celebrated its ninth birthday, and I wasn't around to post. The power cable to my internet router failed and I had to wait for a week for a new one.

Initially, it was rather a tense time for me, but, as Christmas came and went, I found myself not really missing the internet and indeed feeling a bit better from staring at a screen for so long. All those emails and pages and social media that I stare at daily clearly have an effect. Therefore, I am going to be cutting down my internet usage this year which means that while I have a bumper crop of posts for 2014, I don't aim to post as much in 2015. This may relieve some of you.

December 29th is also the feast of St Thomas Becket and I am beginning to think that he has the potential to be a very important saint for the Church in England. St Thomas was killed by a king for defending the Church. He was revered by the Church, but his veneration was suppressed by another king eager for reform and eager to have the Church under his control. Despite the destruction of his shrine, St Thomas is still well known today though perhaps not as well as he might be. He suffers greatly from being cut off repeatedly. He keeps coming back though.

Yet he continues to be known. You can't keep a good saint down! For me he represents the outcome of the World's struggle for control of the Church. The Church of England is under control of parliament who want their agenda to be enacted within their "spiritual wing". The result is that the Catholic Faith has been lost within the Established Church. That's not to say that the Catholic Faith has been extinguished in England, but it does struggle for existence. Continuing Anglicans, Old Roman Catholics and other Catholics in England would do well to consider the case of St Thomas Becket.

Perseverance is paramount for all who stand outside the gates of state and politically run religion. The Sun of Righteousness is certainly born in our midst but we do have to turn to face Him and open our eyes to Him. We need to ensure that it is His love and His commandments that are realised in ourselves before we can hope to bring the Catholic Faith back to Great Britain.

Perhaps the new year may bring about another resurgence of Anglican Catholicism. I certainly pray it and I ask St Thomas to pray for it too.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Collects for the Sunday after Christmas Day

Prayer book
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (From the Roman Breviary for the Sunday in the Octave)
Almighty, everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure: that in the Name of Thy beloved Son we may be worthy to abound in good works. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son,  Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, God throughout all ages, world without end. Amen

The Breviary Collect conceals different colourations between the Sarum Collect in which one is "deemed worthy" and the very similar prayer of Abbot Aelfric of Eynsham in which one is "found worthy". It is God who says who is or who isn't worthy and we are not always party to what He actually finds. It is God who declares who is righteous and it is God who declares who is worthy.

Yet, the fact of the matter is that sinful Man is still worthy to receive God being born in his midst. Despite our sinfulness, there is something that God declares worthy of His love, else He would not give His love but withdraw it. Human beings cannot be totally unworthy of the love of God because He Himself tells us that we are worth at least more than many sparrows. Further, our nature is worth God taking, if He is willing to save us by taking that nature.

We are worth saving, worth regenerating, worth being adopted, and worth being daily renewed and our prayers are worth hearing. This means that there is still goodness within us which, though marred horribly by our fall from grace, still relects the image of God.

We may look at ourselves and find little worth, but God is clear. We are worth creating, and we are worth saving from our sin.

Collects for the Holy Innocents

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, whose praise the Innocents thy Martyrs did this day not by speaking but by dying confess: mortify all evil vices in us; that, as our tongues confess thy faith, so our lives may by their actions set forth the same. Through.

As with St Stephen, so the Holy Innocents also appear within the fires of the Feast of the Incarnation. Our Lord promises persecution for all who would dare to follow Him, or even be associated with Him. His birth is the catalyst for the hatred of man to commit atrocity and to destroy the lives of innocents, and in so doing to destroy the lives of mothers whose love for their children causes them a wound which they will carry to their grave.

As the eyes of the world turn to the deaths of children, the eyes of the Church must turn to their mothers and reach out with arms of love to hold them in their grief and suffering. The prayers of the Church for the departed must also hold close those who are left behind.

In this life, atrocities abound that try the faith of human beings in their capability to find God. The presence of atrocity in the midst of our celebrations of Jesus' birth shows all Christians that hatred and ostracising are the very opposite of Our Lord intentions, and the darkness of this world can be overcome by letting the little children come to Christ and remembering that we are all little children in His eyes.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Collects for St John the Evangelist

Prayerbook and Breviary

MERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St John's gospel is a tour de force of writing. It synthesizes Greek and Jewish wisdom and gives us the means to inquire about the mysteries of the faith to bring us closer to God. St John is unlike the other Gospel writers whose Gospels interact, give the details and incidences which show us the narrative of the Life of Our Lord. These synoptic Gospels each have their own individual beauty and nuance; they see the same things through different eyes but in order to provide the physical facts. They are so important.

St John's gospel, however, is what we now know to be metaphysical. From the outset with his discussion of Our Lord as the Incarnate Logos. St John speaks those great mystical statements which would be out of place in the other Gospels, not because they disagree or are out of harmony with each other, but rather because they have their own agenda: St Matthew for the Hebrew, St Luke  for the Gentile, St Mark for the Fact, St John for the Theory.

St John speaks the words and teaching of Jesus. He speaks the great "I am" statements, the forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery, the themes of light versus dark (though refuting the gnostic duality) and the long, emotionally charged and utterly devastating last sermon of Our Lord at the Last Supper. We can be confident that St John is like Our Lord because he sees Him as He really is. We shall too, if we choose.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Collects for St Stephen's Day

Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, so to imitate what we honour: that we may learn to love our enemies; since we celebrate the birthday of him who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.

Here, as the fires of Christmas Day still burn strong and the joy of the revels are still with us, the first challenge to our happiness arises. Our God is opposed. The Lord is opposed. His servants are opposed. The cause of our joy meets opposition in life, an opposition that threatens to quench that happiness, that joy, that sheer delight of knowing God.

We hear it daily: "there is no God!" "the Church is corrupt!" "Religion is irrelevant!" We find ourselves in a dark world,certainly, but the birth of Jesus challenges us not to succumb to the easy indifference and slothful antagonism of the World to all things that stand beyond its control. That challenge is simply to let go to that which the World tries to convince us to hold onto. St Stephen, the Protomartyr looks up and sees the enthroned God Whose birth we celebrate lustily. The World screams at him to renounce his antimaterialistic blasphemy; he refuses and as the first stone strikes, he lets go of the last thing the World would want him to carry for ever, the temptation to hate. On this, the second day of Christmas, we find the means to our salvation: love rather than hate, forgive rather than resent.

Herein is life, a life which comes from letting go and reaching out for Him Who is beyond it all.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Message to the Anglican Diaspora 2014

To the members of the Anglican Diaspora message board.

Your Graces, My Lord Bishops, Reverend Fathers and Esteemed Brethren

Judging by the news from around the world, we end this year in some darkness. Events are certainly overtaking our brethren in the Middle East and our thoughts and hearts are certainly with them as we pray fervently for their relief from the blood-soaked persecution which is raging in Iraq, Syria and other places. These are people who are coming face to face with the darkness that resides in the hearts of men.

It’s a darkness that affects us too in our daily battle to hold on to God. While the threat of death may not be heavy or hard upon us, the life of our souls are in peril too. Our Lord tells us that we should “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The souls of our departed brethren in the Middle East will shine for all Eternity to the glory of God and the condemnation of the acts that put them there. It is they who will be like the planets, reflecting the Lord’s Glory and shining His light on the world, revealing that which is wrong and hidden and dark.

That light shines upon us too. We have our struggles in life. Our may not be the same earthly fate as these brave Christians, but we share the same destiny in Christ because it is His Salvation in which we participate as every Christian does. We may not suffer this level of persecution: in all likelihood we will suffer the slow drip, drip, drip of the world’s abrasion trying to wear our Faith away. The Light of Christ will shine upon us to show us how far that abrasion has affected us. Painful though it is, we embrace that revelation because, in Christ, we may receive that which will perfect us and rebuild that which has worn away.

There is much in the world that is thrown at us to make us despair. The darkness and the gloom try to envelop us and cloud our vision from even our very selves. Even Church institutions are contributing to that fog and murk with heresy and deliberate acts of provocation and schism. Our lives are filled with cares, worries and frustrations. Let us then just put them down for a moment.

Let us just walk over to the manger.

Let us just pick up that Baby Whose little arms reach out for us.

Let us just pick up that Baby and embrace Him, with all His innocence and light, and allow that light to shine in us and shine through us.

Whatever happens in the world cannot compare to the Peace that this Baby brings us. The little bundle is the Light that shines in the world and the darkness cannot overcome. We pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Faith that we all share and in the Name of the Baby Who resides in the lives of each of us, shining His light, even Jesus Christ Our Lord. We may not see the end of suffering with mortal eyes and in mortal light, “but our eyes at last shall see Him in His own redeeming love” with the eyes of Eternity.

May God richly bless you this Christmasstide, and may the Child of Bethlehem, Our Lord Jesus, reside in your hearts giving you love, joy and peace, now and forever.

Happy Christmass, everyone!

Fr Dave,
Fr Jonathan

The Light shineth in the darkness...

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Feast of the Nativity 2014

Have you noticed that, these days, the night is never actually dark? That might actually sound obvious to you with the levels of light pollution from streetlamps, headlights, security lights and, at the present time, the gaudy light from a thousand electric santas, snowmen and reindeer adorning our streets. The night truly is as bright as the day and yet we still think of the darkness of the night. It has to be said, though, that all these lights are artificial. We create our own light to lighten our own darkness to see where we want to see. What happens in a power cut? What happens in countries where street lights are a luxury?


If the light goes out, then we could use the moon and the stars, but it would be a terribly dark night if it's overcast with clouds. There would be nothing to light the path save whatever little light we bring us. A tiny candle in the darkness seems not to do very much. When there is no light, we either blunder around trying to move forward, frightened by the sudden shapes that appear through the gloom. It seems easier to sit or lie still, and go to sleep and wait for the light to dawn.

We use our artificial lights to light up where we want to see. We can use a torch to light our path and travel in our own directions. There is no point in shining a light into somewhere we don’t wish to see. Security lights only go on when there is someone there. When there isn’t, they go off again. We can make our way in thick darkness by the light of our own little candle. The thing is, if we’re walking by our own light in such darkness, what guarantee do we have that we will end up where we want to be?


“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Our darkness comes from the fact that we are mortal and our eyes are prevented from seeing beyond that mortal life. If we cannot see then there is no light, but only darkness. Yet, upon us, light has indeed dawned. It isn’t a gaudy artificial light of our own invention, made for us to choose our own paths and go where we choose.This is the Light of Christ with us. It is His light with which we shine to walk in His paths and not ours. We do not know where we are going but we can trust that light to lead us through into the light of Eternity. “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

We cannot comprehend the source of this great light now, but the fact of Jesus Christ born among us points to the reality beyond our own experiences. He has come to be with us so that we might be with Him. This little tiny child, asleep in the manger, waking up crying for some food, being cuddled by His Virgin Mother, this child is our Light.

Has it dawned on us yet?

Collects for The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birth-day of Christ,

Prayer book
God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
GRANT, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new birth in the flesh of Thine only-begotten Son may deliver us who are held fast in the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Through the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end.  Amen.

It is a fact that Christians wrestle with sin as a concept as well as an actuality. We sin and this sin takes us away from God. Some Christians regard sin as a legal issue, indeed, Our Lord uses legal analogies in his parable to demonstrate how sin relates to judgement. Other Christians regard sin as a vile sickness which would doom us to death. Yet, whatever one's view of Sin there is are common facts. Sin separates us from God, and this separation is the cause of our death for there is none as dead as those who are separated from the One Who gives life.

The other fact is that which all Christians celebrate with great joy, the Holy Incarnation of God, Christ Jesus the Saviour of the world. It is this very incarnation that brings new life into a world killed by sin. It tis this incarnation that gives mankind the strength to rebel against the mastery of sin and to find freedom in living, renewal, grace and true joy.

It is this Incarnation that brings light, casts out fear, casts out darkness, casts out the inevitability of death.

Archbishop Cranmer does share the sentiments of the former collect and seeks to do justice to that intention. Christians may disagree about how sin works, but we do agree about its solution and from there - from Him! - our unity will forever grow.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Collects for the fourth Sunday in Advent

Prayer book 
O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
O Lord, raise up, we pray thee, thy power and come, and with great might succour us, that whereas through our sins we are sore let and hindered, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us. Who livest etc.

It is the Gelasian sacramentary that gives us this collect which spans the Reformation period with only a few changes. With Christmass nearly upon us, we find ourselves longing for the new Holy Baby for we are wearied by the toil of this life and our inability to be complete without the substance of God within us.

Our sins make us incomplete: we are sick and in need of wholeness. The law shows us our sickness, our disfigurement, and our frailty. God, however, shows us in His love that there is in us His image which, though marred, is not removed from us, just distorted by our illness. We are children of God, created for His delight, and it is His delight to save us from our sins, to make us right, to give us substance and make us His. He has never lost that delight in us.

Polarised Light?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Fourth Sunday in Advent

It’s amazing how quickly the Sun sets in winter. We approach the shortest day of the year and, already by three o’clock in the afternoon, the night is drawing on. Above the Arctic Circle, there can be no daylight for months – at the Poles, there is one six month day and one six month night. Of course, we know full well that this is as short as the day can get. Even if we were living at the Poles, we would still know that the Dawn will break.

Yet, it can be so difficult to remember this when you’re in darkness. All we want to do is follow the bears and squirrels and hibernate. Wouldn’t it be nice just to sleep all through the winter, only waking to see the spring sun?

[PAUSE] At Newgrange in Ireland, there is an enormous tomb that is thousands of years old. It’s like a large mausoleum in which the ancients could enter and visit their dead relatives. However the interior is very, very dark. There is only a door and no windows. Yet, every Midwinter morning, the Sun shines through a tiny slit in the door and illuminates the interior completely. It only ever happens at this time: it’s as if the ancients knew and were waiting for the Sun to waken the dead.

During Advent, we’ve been reflecting on how we are to live in the darkness. We know that it’s easy to be afraid of the dark and of the things that move around in the darkness. We know that sometimes it is the darkness within mankind that we fear most. It can even be the darkness within ourselves that we fear most of all. So how should we live in the darkness?

St Paul bids us do something quite absurd: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Rejoice always? In the dark? Really?


The thing is, if we want to wake up then we have to do it. We simply have to force ourselves out of bed. If we want to rejoice, then we just have to force ourselves to do it, and we shall find that we are soon able to. St Paul tells us that all our concerns will be met in Christ Himself. All of them, even the big, painful ones. We just have to open our eyes to the Light of Christ. Sometimes in order to be happy, we have to smile first in order to show ourselves how to be happy. Sometimes the way to feel like praying to God even in the midst of sadness is to start praying to Him in the first place. The promise is there, if we wish to receive it. We can have that peace of God which passes our understanding in the dark before it’s dawn. Then, when the dawn comes, we will finally see the Light of Christ born into the world.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The dying embers of the bridge

Pontiff, of course, means "bridge" and in the sacramental presence of Christ in our priests and Bishops, heaven and earth are joined. A priest participates in Christ's being the ladder of Jacob.

I notice that Libby Lane has been elected the first women to take the helm as Bishop of Stockport. For me, this is like watching the final parts of the bridge joining my way to the Church of England burn. There was no turning back for me back in March 2011 and that process of burning the bridge is almost complete. Strange thing is, I didn't set it on fire.

I wish Libby well. She has a difficult job in front of her, and I dare say there will be so many frustrations and difficulties. However, I wish her well from within the Catholic Church, knowing that any Catholic dialogue with the CofE can only ever be statements of well-wishing and affirmations of the ever dwindling common ground. Ecumenism now is just shouting pleasantries to each other from distant shores.

Of course, God is a very good bridge builder. So my prayers for the CofE will not cease.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Collects for the Third Sunday in Advent

Prayer book
O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
Incline thine ear, we beseech thee, O Lord, to our prayers, and lighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of thy visitation. Who livest etc.

So, whose job is it to enlighten folk to the coming of the Christ-child? Bishop Cosin's 1662 collect suggests that it belongs to the priests as ministers and stewards of the mysteries of God. Indeed, the clergy are responsible for their cure of souls and must answer for them on the dreadful Day of Judgement.

However, St Benedict himself reminds us that the priest is not responsible for everyone's teaching.
On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord's Judgment and may say to the Lord with the Prophet: "I have not concealed Your justice within my heart; Your truth and Your salvation I have declared" (Ps. xxxix:11). "But they have despised and rejected me" (Is. i.2; Ezech. xx.27). And then finally let death itself, irresistible, punish those disobedient sheep under his charge. (Chapter 2 of the Rule)
The Laity should indeed take some responsibility for their learning in Christ. Thus the Sarum Collect seems to be a prayer that everyone should pray regularly, not just on the Third Sunday in Advent.

Our prayer is our first duty towards God. We must seek to listen to Him if we stand any chance of doing His Will. We do not chase away the darkness before opening the curtains, so we cannot expect the darkness in our being be removed by chasing it away ourselves. We simply cannot do that: we will remain disobedient and wicked because we fail to see that the light comes from beyond our own tiny little selves, We have to open the curtains and let the light in. Opening the curtains takes a lifetime of doing.

There's none as deaf...

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Third Sunday in Advent 2014

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “there’s none as deaf as those who will not listen.” To that, we can probably add, “there’s none as blind as those who will not open their eyes” and “there’s none as lame as those who will not walk.” In the book of Proverbs, we read “The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.” In other words, some people are so lazy that they won’t even put their food into their own mouths. There’s only so much that you can do for people. At some point, they must do something for themselves. What do they expect otherwise?

If a man walks around refusing to open his eyes, then surely he cannot complain when he bumps into a lamppost. If a woman refuses to open her mouth, then surely she must expect to get hungry. We are expected to think of the consequences of our actions, because every effect has a cause.

St John the Baptist ministers at the river Jordan. People come from far and wide to see him, only to be told “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Why do people do it?

It’s rather like all those folk who go onto the X Factor with a singing voice like a piece of chalk on a blackboard. These are usually the same people who get upset when Simon Cowell gets upset when he tells them they can’t sing. That comes as a bit of an eye-opener for them, but does it really open their eyes? What do they expect to happen? If they go to Simon Cowell, they will be told that they can’t sing. If they go to St John the Baptist, they will be told that they need to repent of their sins.

And yet they still come. Why?


Our Lord asks that very same question, “what went ye out for to see?” Not a reed blowing in the wilderness, not a king, but a prophet. They surely know that St John the Baptist is a prophet, but do they expect him to tell them what they want to hear?

If they do, then perhaps they are looking for some hope in their lives. People go to hear prophets because they hope that they might hear God speak and find that they’ve got their lives right. Like Simon Cowell, St John the Baptist is surrounded by hopefuls. Yet their hopes are dashed when St John tells them to repent of their sins. They haven’t got their lives right, after all.

The people have two choices: repent or not. It’s their choice and it can’t be made for them. They can either listen or be deaf; they can either open their eyes, or stay blind. They can hope in themselves, or they can hope in God.

You see, Our Lord Jesus gives us hope for He says, “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

If we are willing to accept that we are wrong to trust in ourselves and our own abilities, then Our Lord will help us, but we have to accept His miracles in our lives. If we take offence at His judgement of us, then He cannot help us because we refuse to let Him. The only way to know if our sight is restored is to open our eyes and see. We only know if we are not lame if we bother to get up and walk.

Sure! It hurts to open eyes that are used to the dark. Sure! It hurts when weak legs start moving for the first time. But it’s better than being blind. It’s better than being lame.

St John the Baptist tells us to get up and prepare for Christ to do something miraculous in our lives. If we insist on having our own miracles performed in our lives rather than the ones He has in store for us, then there can be no welcome for the Christ-Child in our lives this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Arcane Acts and Anthropological Apologetics

As I stand in my chasuble at the altar, sometimes it can hit me how odd it must be to an outsider to see someone dressed in odd robes with his back to the congregation muttering words into the wall, occasionally waving a pot of smoke, before holding up into the air what seems nothing more than a bit of unleavened bread and a fancy cup full of wine. I also wonder what it might be like for one who does not understand the liturgy to hear the repetition, week in, week out, of the same old words. If they are aware of anthropology, then they might lump in my actions with that of a tribal witch-doctor dancing frenziedly amid flames of fire to cure a woman of his tribe afflicted with some curse. How can I claim any superiority to the primitive, if I myself am behaving in the same way, attributing sanctity to earthly things and taboo to certain actions.

First of all, I can claim no superiority over any human being. I am not in any way superior to any other person on God's own Earth. I bleed the same blood as any other human being and even as anyone of the past. I know why I stand there in my arcane dress, performing my arcane rituals and arcane ceremonies. I know also that I have arcane arguments to support my arcane views, but the fact is that all outsiders will focus on will be what is arcane

Yet, there is much in this world that I find as arcane as any outsider would find in my life. I don't understand sport with its ritual chants of the crowd when Tottenham Athletic play Manchester Arsenal. What's the point of shaking hands when we no longer carry swords or daggers? Or saluting, if we no longer wear obscuring visors on medieval helmets? One might argue that these social rituals are as obsolete as not walking under ladders or throwing spilt salt over the left shoulder. And yet these social rituals have great worth. The handshake means much when the war is over. The salute is vital to show respect to a colleague killed while saving lives.

If one does not know the military reasons behind handshakes and salutes, nor the chants of the crowd at football matches, then they are arcane. Each element of society has its element of the arcane. The arguments of higher mathematics are incomprehensible to those who know only how many beans make five and live wholesome, full lives without the knowledge of the Contraction Mapping Theorem. Even to the first year mathematics undergraduate, the conjuring up of a fixed point; by fulfilling the conditions of having a complete non-empty metric space together with a mapping of the space to itself which shrinks the distances between points is as much magic and ritual as the technique of walking on fire. To the outside world, this is arcane, to those in the know, this is comforting and edifying, giving meaning to what they do.

Of course, knowledge is not the basis of Christian Salvation, God in Christ is. Each Christian must meet what they find arcane about the Faith head on and wrestle with it. No-one will attain full knowledge until they are given it through perfection and sanctification by reconciliation with the Creator. For the time being we must accept what is arcane, even if it is a scandal to us until we are given the understanding that will allow us to go beyond and find edification and fulfillment.

The arcane is unavoidable in humanity. There comes a point where we realise that we are all performing rituals for reasons that are less than clear. The young text each other with the acronym OMG as an expression of surprise but are unaware that, whether they are atheist or not, they have cried out to God. Every area of life has its technical language associated with it which is only available to those in the know. When we encounter it, we can either accept it has meaning that is not for us, or endeavour to penetrate into that technicality to find what it's really worth and allow it to educate us. Either way, we should not just dismiss it out of hand otherwise we'll never find out what "out of hand" means.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Collects for the Second Sunday of Advent

Prayer book
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
STIR UP our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the ways of Thine only begotten; that by His coming we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds. Through the same. Amen

The Breviary bids us to fulfil the purpose of Advent – the preparation for the coming King. We are to make this preparation by being completely single minded in that purpose. This is why purity is so important. Christians possess within themselves the Kingdom of God. It is the duty of every Christian to grow that kingdom, not by seeking to convert, but by conforming the self to the will of God.

Archbishop Cranmer, in composing his collect, points out that knowledge of God can only come through what amounts to the Revelation with which God Himself has chosen to reveal Himself to His children. We start with Holy Scripture which is to be chewed over, taken into our minds even as Christ Himself is taken into our bodies at Holy Mass. Our Christianity cannot be just theoretical, nor passive, nor purely active. All three must take a balance. We must be patient with Scripture and accept the limitations that Catholic Doctrine places upon our lives. We must take comfort with the Holy Scripture and know that the sacraments that it describes provide the vehicles by which we may find the grace of God and true sustenance in Him.

Comforting terror and glorious fear?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the second Sunday in Advent 2014

Our Lord is not always very comforting, is He?

In fact everything He says seems to be a bit of a challenge for us. It’s not enough to tolerate our enemies, we have to love them. It’s not enough to forgive freely, but if we even think we’ve done wrong to someone else then we have to go and sort that out straightaway! It’s not enough to put something in the collection plate, you have to put in something of substantial value!

There’s always a challenge.

That’s usually because Our Lord wants us to remember that we are not perfect. There’s always a limit to what we are able to do to worship God, and it’s not exactly comfortable. However, we Christians remember that, when Christ comes again, all things will be perfected in Him. This is our hope.

So what does Our Lord say about His coming again?

“[T]here shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”

Here we are, looking forward to Our Lord’s return and we’re faced with distress, fear and terror. What hope is there in that?


If you think about it, the problem is not of the Second Coming, but the events that apparently lead up to it. Our Lord is being very clear when he says that there will be terrible things about to happen, but it is after these that He comes again. This tells us two things: first, that the terrible things will finish. second, that His coming again will be glorious!

St Paul reminds us that, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” As we pray, we need to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest our Scripture. If we look very carefully at the Old Testament, we see wars, rumours of wars, signs in the sun, moon and stars, distress of nations, the raging of the sea. People are always looking for the end of the world in the most ridiculous place.

There are those who seek to know the future from astrology, thinking that the configuration of the planets determines what will be. There are those who think that the signs of the future are foretold by birds. People despair at the wars raging, they fear natural disasters, they are frightened of Global warming and they lose hope. Their hearts fail them because they look for the end of the world in material terms.

Our Lord challenges us to let go. The Holy Scripture points to its fulfilment in Christ Himself, not in things of the world. Whatever happens on Earth, Christ is beyond it. If anyone wants to be saved from the world, we must let go of the concerns of the world and look beyond it to Our Lord Jesus. That’s not to say that we should neglect the world at all. It is God’s creation and we must look after it, but we need not fear because Christ will come again in great glory. Yes, there will be times ahead that will test us, frighten us and terrify us. If we try to look beyond that fear and trembling, we will find Christ standing there waiting for us. Perhaps it is not us waiting for Him, but Him waiting for us!

This is our challenge, this Christmas and every Christmas. Can we let go of the world enough to see the Lord come into the world?

Friday, December 05, 2014

Recognising Canterbury

Fr. Hart over at the Continuum blog ruminates on why ACNA and the REC don't need to be recognized by the See of Canterbury. Of course, the ACC does not really require to be recognized by the Anglican Communion, either. We are what we are and that's that, isn't it?

Of course in the UK, the CofE is the State religion. It has "a presence in every community" and, according to the official website:
"In urban areas, the Church of England exists alongside an increasing number and diversity of other Churches. In rural contexts, people from a diversity of Christian traditions may relate to our parish churches. In many communities, urban and rural, we work extensively with some longstanding partner Churches, and, increasingly, with a range of new partners as well."

Bishop Trevor Willmott of Dover says in his latest letter to his See: "As the Primatial See and Metropolitical See, Canterbury Diocese is often called to be generous to members of the Anglican family, a role, that I thank God, we accept graciously."

Of course, the problem is that the Anglican Catholic Church in this country is tiny, and further, many would doubt that we are Anglican in the first place. We are often accused of being isolationist given our policy on Church Unity, but I do wonder how many people have read it, and read it carefully.

First to the charge of being isolationist, let us consider what the problem really is. It has to be said that we are seen as a "breakaway" church. That term "breakaway" needs to be clarified. Essentially, we are seen to be unwilling to engage with other Christians and to come together to meet with them in projects such as "Churches Together". To many in the CofE, we are disloyal and unjustly using the word "Anglican" to set ourselves up in opposition to their work. They object to our being an alternative to the Church of England.

Yet, there are lots of alternatives to the Church of England. The Methodist Church was itself a "breakaway" church even though it did not see itself like that. With their high view of spirituality, the Methodists have always had much to offer in a manner that differs from the Established Church. The Tractarians have traditionally had much in common with the Methodists. However, they understand sacraments differently and do not see the need for bishops. Perhaps it takes two centuries for a Church body to be recognized warmly. Surely that's not what's meant by a "longstanding partner," is it?

Are we disloyal? In the Anglican Catholic Church we are loyal to God first; the Church of England would say the same. We say that we are loyal to the tradition of Christian Worship in this country; the CofE would say the same. We say that we are loyal to the people of this country and care for their spiritual development according to the Christian Faith; the CofE would say the same. We say that we are loyal to the expression of Christian Faith which has grown and evolved in this country for more than one-and-a-half millennia; the CofE would say the same.

So why are we different? Do we disagree on the word "loyal"? Or have we missed a factor out? Is it because we are not loyal to the Book of Common Prayer, or to the Anglican formularies, or to the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Again, we have to understand things carefully here as this ties in with the Anglican Catholic understanding of what Anglican means. Clearly that is a disputed topic, but let us see whether there is some commonality.

Again, I reiterate my disclaimer that I do NOT speak with any authority on behalf of the Anglican Catholic Church. It is my reading of the Anglican Catholic Canons and Constitution that our understanding of Anglicanism is the Orthodox Christianity that has existed ab initio in the British Isles and has its expression through the lens of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and concomitant ritual. This means that we read the Book of Common Prayer in the light of the first ten centuries and first seven Oecumenical Councils. We look neither to Rome to define doctrine nor to Canterbury but rather we continue he faith that the See of Canterbury once held before re-defining doctrine. It means that we do not accept the XXXIX articles as being an expression of dogma nor of requiring affirmation. There is much within them that is true, or may be interpreted faithfully in an Orthodox manner, but they do not define what is orthodox, nor are they a requirement for confession of faith. We have impeccable Anglican Orders and celebrate in Cranmerian English as standard. For us, this is sufficient for us to identify ourselves as Anglican.

Of course, many will disagree with that. They are free to do so, but they must understand that we do hold our understanding of Anglicanism very dearly and just as passionately, so we will not reconsider our position without sufficient reason. Those who try to demonstrate the necessity of the Articles to define Anglicanism simply have so far failed to provide that sufficient reason.

Of course, many in the Established Church will say that we are not continuing to be Anglican because we have broken Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they will cite this as our disloyalty.

Our point is simple: we can only be in communion if we agree on what Communion actually is. The Anglican Catholic Church holds to the doctrine of the Real Presence, essentially a non-Roman version of "transubstantiation," i.e. not necessarily viewed from a Thomist or Aristotelian definition. We say that before Mass there is wafer and wine and, when we make our Communion, we receive the actual and physically real Body and Blood of Christ which we recognize and treat accordingly with profoundest reverence. Whatever the transformation is, it is certainly substantial, but how this works is not for men to know. We trust God because God is faithful to the New Covenant of which Holy Communion is an expression.

As I said, our loyalty is to God first before all things, even the Bible. We learn about God through His revelation, but our loyalty is first to Him before all things. As we understand the Covenant, we seek Communion with God within that covenant. Thus we cannot be in communion with those who change the circumstances of that covenant, or who at least add a significant element of doubt into the circumstances of that covenant. This lack of communion is not due to a lack of love on our part, though I am sure that we freely admit that there are times when we are not as loving as we should be. That surely is a common human failing. However, it is not a lack of love to recognize that there are two different ideas of Communion here and, for the love of God, we continue that definition that the Church of England espoused in her history and not the definition that she now holds.

We accept that people are free to make their own decisions and thus are free to believe that the Church of England has the authority to change doctrine, but they must accept that we cannot accept those changes. Again, this is not out of hatred, it is out of faith. While we once accepted the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury in all things lawful and honest, we no longer do so, because we have grounds to believe that he (and now, potentially, she) authorizes that which is against the teaching of the Undivided Church. By "law", the CofE means that which she can pass in the legislature of the country. By "law", we understand the sacramental law of the Undivided Church which may not be altered without the authority of an Oecumenical Council.

Thus, if the CofE believes that we are disloyal, then they must understand that we are simply loyal to that which they once held but have now rejected. They've rejected things before in the Reformation and now have good relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, one would hope, in this enlightened time, that the CofE would be amenable to the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions in a similar vein following the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference.

We're accused of being isolationist. Perhaps that means that we believe that we're better than anyone else, or that we just don't want to know anyone else.

The point of fact is that each group of Christians believes that they've got it right. We believe that we are part of the Catholic and Orthodox Church. We certainly don't believe that we are the One True Church, but we do believe that we are Catholic and Orthodox, which means that we do indeed believe that people who depart from the Orthodox and Catholic Faith are wrong. The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church believe that we're wrong. The CofE believes that we're wrong. But so what? Humanity is flawed and God is immense. Nonetheless, we believe that we have good grounds to state that we are on the right path at least as much as the other Catholic and Orthodox Churches. If we're wrong then we will be put right by Him no differently from anyone else. The Anglican Catholic Church is no less fallible than any other Church, but we're no more fallible either. We've never claimed anything else. We seek perfection in Christ and in Christ, we will be perfected along with so many others. We don't expect that these "others" are only going to be Anglican Catholic (quite the reverse, given how tiny we are) but we share everyone's hope that we won't be left out.

Actually, we do want to know other people, but we have been burned. Archbishop Coggan has demonstrated that he did not want to have anything to do with the Continuing Anglican Churches and that the CofE would not recognize them. If that's true, then it's not actually the ACC being isolationist. No, we do not need any validation from the CofE to somehow justify our existence. We exist and are clear in our purpose and ideals, but this does not mean to say that we wish to distance ourselves from the CofE. Members of the CofE are the ones who accuse us of things such as misogyny or disloyalty or hatred. They are the ones who make the accusations, often personal. They come up to us with anger in their eyes, despite the fact that they are meant to respect "different integrities" within their own communion. If they can't recognize our own "integrity" that differs from their own just because we aren't part of the communion, then clearly it is only the fact of being in the Communion that determines our "unsuitability". Would they accuse members of FiF of being misogynist? According to the Code of Practice they could not. With us, are they simply sticking to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of that Code?

What about joining in with worship? Again, we fall into the problem of our Tradition. Worship is not something that we do just to be together. It must be a gathering in order to focus on God and we are firm believers in lex orandi, lex credendi. The way we approach God is deeply rooted in our liturgy. We do not embrace "contemporary" worship if it changes the way we approach God. The trouble here is that contemporary worship often expresses the very changes in ideas and teaching which the ACC has sought to avoid. It is possible that you might hear music in one of our Masses which was written less than fifty years ago. If you do hear it then it will be because it fits with the body of liturgy with which we worship God. However, much modern church worship material is full of sentimentality and false doctrine which supports that sentimentality. We don't worship to feel good. We worship the God whom Christians have always worshipped.

If it is isolationist not to attend acts of corporate worship, then we probably stand justly accused. However, given that so many Christians believe so many different things, how is an act of corporate worship going to suit them all, even to do justice to the different expressions?  Is it even possible beyond the superficial? The point I'm making is that we recognize that there is distance between us and other Christians and we respect that distance. This doesn't stop us from engaging with others outside of our services. Indeed, we try to worship God in all things that we do, and do enjoy talking with people of all sorts since we desire to see Christ in every human being. While, like everyone else, we fail to keep the Lord's two commandments of love, our intention should be to keep them dutifully. However, people must realize that the love that God bids us show Him and others is not a love that will permit everything and anything.

We are bound by that love. It may well be that, in the discussions which come with that love, our understanding of our canons will become better focused and nuanced. Given their antiquity, we still need to ensure that discussions continue even if we are not in communion with those with whom we speak. If the CofE reject us out of hand, that is their problem, but not our wish. Like Bishop Willmott of Dover, we seek to be generous to our Christian family - not with the spirit of condescension but with the desire to talk and serve the common good. We  do present ourselves as an alternative to the Church of England because we want to allow people to have the choice between expressions and integrities of Anglicanism. We do hold out the hand of friendship, but will it be grasped?