Sarum Training Session

Having bought a webcam, I have done a training video on the “mechanics” of celebrating the Sarum low Mass. I never feel at ease being filmed and recorded, so I ask you to be forgiving of my hesitations of speech and formulating ideas.

This is a training session and not an actual Mass.

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Sarum Mass of Thursday in the first week of Lent

I have found some software that enables me to make videos on my laptop computer using the built-in webcam and microphone. Therefore the quality isn’t very good. I will need to plug in an external microphone and a good quality webcam (which are quite inexpensive these days).

I recorded the Mass of today, Thursday in the week after Invocabit (between Ember Wednesday and Ember Friday). I was a little too conscious that I was being recorded, and forgot the Flectamus genua and Levate before the Collect. I did not say any commemorations. It is just about what I do each day, without a server.

On the YouTube page, I wrote the following introduction:

Low Mass according to the Use of Sarum on Thursday after “Invocabit” (first Sunday of Lent) in the Chapel of St Mary, Hautot Saint Sulpice, Normandy. This ministry is under the oversight of the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province.

The sound quality is poor. I begin with the versicle and response preceding the Collect for Purity, and I only enter the chapel as I reach the end of the Judica me psalm. I recess whilst saying the Prologue of St John.

Purists might be disappointed at my not wearing an apparelled amice and alb. I just haven’t got round to making them, or an off-white gothic chasuble. For the time being, I wear the vestments I had when I used the Roman rite. The other slight difference is not laying the chalice on its side after the ablutions, because I use a purificator as in the Roman rite. Also, I didn’t forget the genuflections, because they are not in use in the Sarum Use. We use profound bows.

I hope to make some better recordings when I have bought the equipment to go with my computer, and preferably a video camera that I could also take on my boat!

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Front Page of Royal Yacht Association Magazine

rya-dinghy-cruisingThis is a rather nice photo from the latest Royal Yacht Association magazine. The text is to the point and positive:

Freedom to Roam
Whether it’s pottering up a local estuary or probing a strip of wild coastline, dinghy cruising is a great way to explore – and socialise – for people of all ages and abilities.

The picture seems to have been taken in France, going by the architecture of the old house in the background, probably at the Semaine du Golfe. Our favourite hobby is becoming more mainstream and better known in yachting and sailing circles. You don’t have to have a lot of money or prestige nowadays for this erstwhile sport of kings. Anyone can get an old boat for very little, sometimes for free, and do it up to requirements. The more enterprising can build a boat in traditional style more easily than one would imagine.

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Lenten Asceticism

People are free to do what they feel to be best, but we were warned by the Gospel of Ash Wednesday – keep it to yourselves and don’t broadcast that you are being holier than thou! Christ is most categorical about this principle. We don’t engage in spiritual practices to impress others! It is the same with prayer. It is best to pass for someone who isn’t at all religious but whose spirituality is secret and above all genuine.

Fr X and Mr Y often have their favourite whatevers to share with the world, and most of us just don’t care. We go without a certain kind of food, drink or pleasure. I greatly appreciated something my Bishop said a short while ago – Instead of giving up something for Lent, why not take something up? The whole idea of Lent is to relive the Catechumenate of the early Church as adult converts prepared for Baptism. The programme reflects the stage of conversion and baptism. Everything begins by our being conscious of our own mortality and then overcoming the fear of it by meditating on the issues of temptation, divine light, being delivered from evil spirits all the way to considering human wickedness through the two Passion weeks. We get a refresher course every year and thus renew the Christian commitment we made at our Baptism.

Yes, we can give money to this or that charitable cause, yet we are fleeced by taxes and social contributions. Giving to the bureaucracies of charity is no longer optional, at least since the late 1940’s under the threat of a Communist revolution. When we are bled dry for hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, the increasing amounts of money needed for illegal immigrants (some of whom are vowed to taking us over) who will never do a day’s work – and old age pensioners who will have more of a dolce vita than we late boomers will ever have, the endless yammerschooner appeals and outstretched hands sound hollow. The cows are milked dry.

Probably, the best thing for many of us is to have quiet times and take a book with us – the Bible, apocryphal and patristic writings or works of more recent theologians and spiritual men. A part of our Christian life is becoming better instructed and learning, and therefore being able to reflect and take a critical point of view – in order that our faith may be more pure and altruistic. I suspect that my Lent this year will be taken up in trying to figure out something of the subject on which I wrote yesterday, what happens to us when we die. The evidence is heavily in favour of consciousness continuing in some way after the dissolution of the body. The question is how. Quantum mechanics gives us some idea of the consciousness and life experience being divided into discrete units called quanta, and without the DNA or organisms to organise it all, it is just a pile of random fragments. Do these fragments form part of the whole of God and the universe, or do they find a new incarnation elsewhere, not necessarily in this world or universe, perhaps another? To us Christians, reincarnation or at least the popular concept of it is a heresy. Truth to be told, we just don’t know. I think we do need to look at various scriptures outside our Old and New Testaments, especially Nag Hammadi and the Bhagavad Gita. We also have the Greek philosophers and modern science which takes an ever-increasing distance from Newtonian materialism. The sources are rich, but what will we make of them? Will we find more than book knowledge?

I might seem to be very complicated, and struggling at the bit! I have the soul of an explorer. I will explore some things in my boat or on foot, but the real uncharted territory is the spiritual world and the things that lie outside our experience. Each Lent, I try to push a little further and get closer to understanding things.

For the first time since my childhood, I had a dream of World War III last night. One brief part was being in a building and being warned that an atomic bomb was about to explode. You “duck and cover” as they used to instruct Americans in the 1950’s. You protect yourself from the bomb’s light and searing heat, and then in some way from the blast wave. You may have some chance of doing so if you are some tens of miles from where the thing goes off. Any nearer than that and you are instantly vaporised! Then there is the fallout which we could probably never escape. In my dream, there was only the flash, the bang and the hurricane winds. Then I was transported to a warship and a naval battle – but the ship was sunk by a torpedo and I awoke as I was nearing the possibility of jumping into the sea with the other surviving crew. There is probably very little to make of it, except the fact I am becoming as frightened as during the Cold War of my childhood. Each day at Mass, I pray for peace in the world without trying to judge who the enemy is. Actually, in a modern war, the true enemy is war itself. I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. Has this world become the hell we all fear?

Perhaps during this Lent, we may be able to overcome our fear and undergo the true κένωσις of Christ in his Passion. How do we overcome our fear of death without literalising the many allegorical narratives out there? Does it really matter that we continue to be the same person we are now, or a jumble of fragments that can get reorganised elsewhere in something bigger than ourselves? And much better? I’ll do the best I can to do some serious reading and feel that I have really achieved something by Easter. Each to our own… We think differently and are attracted by different ideas and realities. I would not dare to tell someone how to make a good Lent.

Perhaps if other people think we have made a mediocre Lent, then we will have kept the secret and made some real progress.

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Contrasting Notions of Redemption

I have been running this blog for a good long time and I often have to use the search function to find out how many times I have written about a subject. One I have certainly written about is the Redemption in relation with the myth (in the meaning of an allegorical image of an unknown history) of Original Sin and the idea of a Nationalsozialistische Himmelreich Arbeiterpartei together with a demons looking after hell dressed in SS uniforms taking souls to gas chambers and fiery pits for the millions of damned. Please forgive my cynical satire about a certain notion of a very sick and distorted Christianity which is certainly the delight of atheists. It is not by Godwin’s Law that I make a comparison with Nazism, because Hitler’s ideology was a caricature of a certain notion of Christianity!

I am a Christian and a priest, concerned that my faith in Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word of the Father may continue to inspire generations of seekers and gentle folk seeking a different spiritual way to that of the clang of arms and the loud brash voices of our time. Since my fifteen years as a Roman Catholic, I struggled with the notion of vicarious atonement and the notion that the sins of humanity would be forgiven through the Son of God dying a horrible and lingering death at the hands of the Romans after having been judged for “blasphemy” by the High Priest of Judaism. Surely Christ gave more through his Incarnation and life than through his death. The theology of sacrifice is complex as we consider the covenants and sacrifices of the Old Testament. Ultimately, sacrifice is the ultimate of self giving in love, the giving of our best to God to create a more loving relationship. Some of us have risked our lives to save the life of another person. It is our duty if we find ourselves in that kind of situation. Sometimes, life ceases to be worth living under the conditions in which we find ourselves. I think of the many martyrs of history up to the score of Coptic Christians having their heads sawn off by Daesh barbarians only a few days ago. A certain journey along the Christian way takes away our fear of death, and it is something we understand or that we don’t.

The centre of a notion of Christianity that underlines authority, no salvation outside the X Church and heartless collaboration with any political regime that promises to uphold its totalitarian agenda is the notion of the Redemption and salvation we find in St Augustine, Calvinist Puritanism and Jansenism. The article Another narrative is fascinating and a scathing condemnation of Augustinian theology (in favour of what?). Only today, I republished the link to John Gielgud’s dramatisation of Dostoevsky’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor. It rings a bell in me when I consider that much of what passes for Christianity is all about “might is right” instead of compassion and empathy, considered as signs of weakness and lack of manliness.

We are so used to Augustine’s explanation of Atonement and Redemption that we take it for granted on both the Roman Catholic and Reformed sides. It is one thing that remained unreformed in the sixteenth century. When we stop and think of it, someone we “know” to be excluded from God’s “elect” can be treated as a sub-human. The twentieth century and our own times make hay of that idea! You don’t have to treat a “sub-human” to the respect with which you would hope someone else would treat you. What is as bad is accepting the idea that we are ourselves sub-humans – and that we can have some influence on God by submitting to the right authority and “true church”.

What happens if we dismiss Augustine’s theories? The validity and credibility of Christianity will have to be based on something other that sanctifying man’s thirst for power, money and being the first. We seem to have no further to look than the Gospels to find the Beatitudes and the other teachings of Christ, the sign of contradiction.

The Eastern Orthodox narrative of θέωσις has its expressions in post-Reformation pietist spirituality and in twentieth-century Roman Catholicism. Pope John Paul II mentioned “the teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers on divinization (which) passed into the tradition of all the Eastern Churches and is part of their common heritage. This can be summarized in the thought already expressed by Saint Irenaeus at the end of the second century: God passed into man so that man might pass over to God. This theology of divinization remains one of the achievements particularly dear to Eastern Christian thought“. It seems to me to be a more beautiful explanation of what God does for us through Christ than some notion of some bloodthirsty demiurge wanting to be appeased by suffering and death.

St Augustine is behind the exaggerations of both Calvinism and Jansenism in affirming that some or most human beings are predestined for damnation. The Another Narrative article is much more scathing of St Augustine than I would be, but it cannot be denied that there is a whole Manichaen side of Augustine’s teaching that is not one that reveals a loving God, but rather the Demiurge of the Gnostics, an emanation that would not be the true God. Luther and Calvin were products of their time, and God for them was the ultimate authority, a divine emperor. Original sin is seen as refusal of obedience to that authority. Then that authority is delegated to the Church and perhaps also to some of the most evil men in history.

The patristic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican (Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and others) notion of divinisation by grace brings joy, love and freedom. It takes away our fear of death and all the evils that go with it.

(…) there is no insulted “God,” no infinite offence, no atonement, no compensating for the disrespect to “God’s” authority, no universal guilt, no “double predestination,” no moral impotence, no infants condemned to  eternal torment.

It is perhaps this aspect of Christianity in the west that has been its undoing. With a notion akin to that of the Orthodox and our Anglican divines, together with the more enlightened modern Roman Catholic theologians, there is light, beauty and love. Obviously, that is not all, since many Orthodox folk hate each other. I am sure my Orthodox readers will tell me that belief in θέωσις is only a minority belief and that most have a much more primary notion of Christian spirituality. In any case, one doesn’t become Orthodox for θέωσις any more than you become a Lutheran because you like Bach’s music! We can have both in the Churches to which we belong.

It is Lent. Some are engaging in rigorous fasting and giving up pleasures. Others are taking something up. A revision of some of our fundamental assumptions may truly be our salvation! Let us go up to Jerusalem…

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The Three Temptations

On this first Sunday of Lent, I bring my readers another slant on the three Temptations Christ faced in the wilderness, from the mouth of the Inquisitor of Dostoevsky and interpreted by John Gielgud. I make no comment. Just watch the video and be attentive to the subject of the three Temptations coming up.

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Boom Tent

Dinghy cruisers are among the most ingenious people in the world – when it comes to using a very small boat as a cruise ship. Over the last couple of days, I have been busy making a boom tent for my boat – especially with the Semaine du Golfe in mind, also for other occasions when I need to camp for a night or two in my boat.

Everything in a boat needs to have several uses, and the tent structure is the rig of the boat. One end of the tent is supported by the mast, and the other is held up by a wooden support in the stern. In this way, no extra stress is put on the shrouds and forestay. The tent folds away into a very compact package and is lightweight, only the polytarp.

boom-tent01The tent covers the boat’s cockpit but not the foredeck. It is held at the sides by brass hooks screwed into the boat’s gunwale.

boom-tent02Here the tent is open at the stern showing the wooden support, that folds and is easily stored in the boat.

The next thing to go into is a compact mattress to go into the port side between the buoyancy tank and the centreboard well. The space is narrow, but I have tried it. My legs go under the thwart if the mattress isn’t too thick. I would be positioned with my head to the stern where there is the full width of the boat. I have a sleeping bag for summer use and clothing can be used as a pillow, all packed into a dry bag designed to keep clothing and bedding dry. The adventure is getting exciting!

After that, I will be making a small stern locker for everything to do with navigation (charts, Portland plotter, dividers, binoculars and sighting compass) and communications (VHF radio). The rest of the boat needs to be organised with a box for the galley and what will go into the fo’c’sle – which has to be lightweight and not exactly the ship’s riff-raff to kept in order under the threat of four dozen lashes of the cat! There will be some confusion between the crew, the midshipmen and the captain’s cabin. All that in twelve feet of length and five feet of beam!

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