Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Imposing sincerity

One thing that Continuing Anglicanism needs to beware of is continuing the type of Anglicanism that leads one into the same errors as the larger Protestant denominations such as the CofE or ECUSA. We cannot afford to walk apart from them, only to fall into the trap of committing the same heresies some years later. As an Anglican Catholic, in a strict sense, I am not a Continuing Anglican because I am not technically an Anglican. Of course, I am not a Roman Catholic either, and thus, to Roman eyes, I am a heretic for denying the supremacy of the Pope. However, I am with St Cyprian in knowing that no Bishop can be a Bishop of Bishops save the Lord Himself.

As we Anglican Catholics seek to examine our Catholicism in the light of being Anglican, one thing that stands out is the difference in the way we approach discipline. One only has to read the Baltimore Catechism to see an authority being enforced, and a certain legalism being imposed upon Catechumens. Friday fasts, Confession at least once a year, attending Mass, and various activities which are ignored on pain of mortal sin. I think it fair that the Roman Church has really begun to see things perhaps in a slightly more Anglican fashion.

Anglican Spirituality is rooted in a sincerity of heart, not in enforcing a law. This is the trouble when the leader of one's Church has a political position to fulfil as well as a spiritual leadership, and when infallibility is rooted in his office rather than within the very fabric of the Church itself. On the other hand, we know that Liberal Theology wants to rip that infallibility out of the fabric of the Church and thus create an edifice of cardboard. Anglican Catholicism has a new via media to tread.

The goal is that of cultivating sincerity within the Church. Yes, we should fast every Friday, but better than that, we should want to fast every Friday. We should want to go to Confession regularly even when we don't feel like it. We should want to go to Mass each week even if the Canon of the Mass is the same and perhaps we find it a bit boring. It seems to me that imposing the phrase "mortal sin" on failing to meet one's obligations is actually counterproductive.

Is it a sin not to meet one's Christian duty? Yes, it is, but it is not a sin that is going to be fixed by sternly dropping the anvil of guilt on the errant soul. If a Christian does not want to meet their obligations, then there is a spiritual need presenting itself to the pastoral remit of the Church as a communicating community. The deadly sin of acedia is not vanquished by the threat of excommunication, but rather by a sensible programme of paraclesis through prayer, listening, friendship, appropriate advice and latitude.

Every Christian has a "dry spell". What we need to be taught is that perseverance will help in the aridity that arises in the race to Christ. The Legalist will crack the whip to force the sufferer on. The Liberal will pick the sufferer up in their car and drive them away, thus depriving them of the dignity of running in the race, but also driving them in the wrong direction. Some may think that a carrot is needed to spur the sufferer on. While that may help, sometimes what is needed is a pause in the race with a paraclete sent by the Church to help that sufferer know that the race is worth running. They may need to hear the roar of the Crowd Spiritual cheering them on. They may need their faces wiped spiritually by another St Veronica. I believe that this is what the Anglican way can offer, though I do admit that this offer is not necessarily exclusive to the Anglican way.

One has the Book of Common Prayer, an Anglican Breviary, and a Monastic Breviary all in accordance. One can therefore say any of the offices therein according to the state of one's conviction. But one needs to cultivate that conviction for himself in conjunction with the Catholic Church. In learning to desire to be an active part of the Catholic Church rather than living in fear of not being in the part of the Catholic Church, this produces something of a greater naturality in one's faith.

Human nature is not sinful in itself. In Romans vii, St Paul says, "If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Sin is something distinct from our nature: it is the infection of sin that leads us away from God. It is therefore important to our humanity to rule ourselves and encourage others to live our faith from the heart.

As Anglican Catholics, we believe that the Catholic Faith is infallibly embedded in the Doctrine of the Church and that any departure therefrom is a departure from the Church. The Canons of the Church are there to provide a structure by which the Church can be well-ordered in order to meet the needs of its people and allow them to live out their vocation as a blessing on God's world. Personal piety is something that the Church should encourage.

God has given Man freewill in order to allow him to respond to the love that He gives from a position that is not God. That freedom is only best expressed when it is in a voluntary obedience to God. We only truly and freely become ourselves when we submit ourselves to God's rule - that’s the paradox of our freedom. It comes with the inherent dignity of being Created by God.

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