A Long Time Ago

chadwicks1960I have just received this from an aunt in Canada – my family in 1960. I am the tiny tot in my father’s arms and my mother is holding my sister Wendy. We were on a visit to my grandmother in Surrey who died in 1971.

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Square Pegs in Round Holes

hagia_sofiaJV who often comments here has written an interesting posting for his blog – Unity or Coexistence? One cannot but wonder if some traditionalist Christians have simply missed the bus. JV is very lucid about these matters like in an article he took down for some reason in which he wondered whether the victory of secularism over Christianity was really due to some deep-seated human need.

We continuing Anglicans often talk about working for unity, both between our respective independent Churches and with Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Our bishops in the USA often hold meetings, and some profound statements have resulted from them. Obviously, the work should continue. I do believe that small churches with a similar vision and body of doctrine can work towards reconciliation and a choice between cohabitation or organic union of some kind.

Uniatism has been discussed ever since bodies of Orthodox Christians united with Rome at different times in history and were allowed to keep their own liturgy and traditions. Anglicanorum coetibus of Benedict XVI, like the Anglican Use under John Paul II and Cardinal Law of Boston, is a practical example of a pragmatic uniate scheme to bring a certain number of Anglicans into communion with Rome for the reason that they could no longer remain in the Canterbury communion for reasons of conscience (ordination of women, homosexuality, etc.). The question of the ordinariates has been discussed more or less exhaustively.

Certainly, things have changed since the early days of ecumenism and the Modernist movement that is so denounced by traditionalists as the nemesis nec plus ultra. The question of Islam is becoming very worrying – the apparent invincibility of Daesh aka ISIS and the atrocities they are getting away with worthy of the Nazis or Hirohito’s empire during World War II. Outside the extremist and terrorist groups, we in Europe are concerned about the numbers of Islamic immigrants and the way they will change everything once they attain a given percentage of the population within fifty years or so. It is a fact that Christianity in Europe, and also in North America, is crumbling away. Christianity can no more live in post-modern culture than a fish out of water.

Were that men of the Church were truly modernist! These words put it so succinctly:

The early 20th century, however, benefited from the influence of modernity in that there was an intellectual environment that encouraged contextualization and the conviction that one is not necessarily bound to the conventions of a previous era. Modernism, like most philosophical systems before it, at least offered one item for assimilation by Christianity – the appreciation of historical context and the reasonable limits of said context on the present.

The train has left the platform and the traditionalists are franticly asking railway workers the time of the next train. There isn’t one.

The ordinariates were hailed by some to be the fruits of the ecumenical movement, since there have been no successes between Canterbury, Rome and Orthodoxy. Indeed, uniatism tends to be an obstacle to dialogue between Orthodoxy and Rome. The big problem, especially between the “two one-true churches” is that one has to give way to the other, accept the ecclesiology of the winning church and submit its clergy to its selection and training system.

I appreciate the distinction between organic unity (the “losing” church surrendering and converting to the “winning” church) and coexistence. That is largely a moot question in an age when the governments of the entire western world are secular and care little for religion provided that it doesn’t break the law or disturb public order. I have lived in small northern English towns where no two churches were of the same denomination. In Kendal where I was born, if I recollect: there are three Anglican churches (low, central and moderately high), one RC church, one Methodist chapel, one United Reformed church, Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians. As a teenager, I spotted a sign to a Christadelphian church, and there are independent American-style Evangelical groups. What I have dubbed as “Christian islam” is doing quite well on account of its simple message. Kendal is a small market town of about 28,000 inhabitants. Coexistence? It is the de facto situation between Christians since about the 1950’s, at least in England.

Small churches like ours still has difficulty in being respected as a bona fide community on the level of the Methodists or the URC’s by the Anglican establishment or the RC’s. As a TAC priest, when it looked like we would be taken in by Rome lock, stock and barrel, I was constantly invited to be interviewed on the radio in France, asked to attend conferences and meetings. I was almost the star of the moment, but it didn’t go to my head. I was expecting what happened. Archbishop Hepworth’s bluff was called and he was discredited, and I went elsewhere after a time for discernment. I ceased to exist.

It is amazing to see Christians wanting the downfall of other Christians, in a world where the “winning” Christians are going to have a very hard time. I am not one of those who sees conspiracies under the bed or goes along with the “prepper” agenda, but there are concerns. There is the old fable about Constantinople when the Muslim invaders were ransacking the churches like Daesh are doing now in Syria and Irak – the theologians were discussing the sex of the Angels. The story is generally accepted to be untrue, but it teaches the same lesson as Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Our world potentially faces the end of capitalism and an economic collapse, World War III and the spread of Islamic totalitarianism. That seems to put things into perspective for us.

We can’t do very much about the world, but we can see about our own intellectual and spiritual health, the quality of our own belief in Christ and commitment. That seems to be where it all begins, with ourselves.

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seraphineOur little Seraphine left us this night. She was a Cairn Terrier of 14 who had suffered for some considerable time from kidney and liver failure. She was on a number of medications and something to ease pain due to arthritis.

The photo above was taken at the end of last month while we were on holiday. Cairn terriers always lie down with their back legs in this position unlike most other dogs. She was quite bright during our holiday, too weak for walks, but still enjoyed a piece of sausage or cheese. She took a turn for the worse as we brought her back home.

Seraphine was bought by my wife from a garden and pet shop near Rouen. This was before we met. She already had a cat (Frimousse who died in 2007) and went to buy a plant for her terrace. The puppy was in a glass cage and looked quite forlorn. “What do you do with dogs you don’t manage to sell”? – Silence. Shops like this one get their puppies and kittens from “puppy mills” whose owners are often unscrupulous about genetic quality or basic care. Anyway, Sophie went for it and bought the puppy. She was the last pet from before our marriage as Sophie reminded me this morning.

She died apparently without suffering and peacefully in her basket.

We will be burying her this evening in the garden next to our other dogs and cat.

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Sarum Movement?

The person running Rad Trad has promised a series: New Series: The Whole Sarum. This will be something to keep an eye on. This blog has on many occasions shown sympathy to other local traditions like diocesan rites and uses in France. This will certainly be a precious contribution to provoking interest in the Use of Sarum – and one which will transcend the boundaries of institutional Churches.

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Interesting Observations

For some time now, we have been treated by John Bruce of Los Angeles to a long season on the Ordinariates. It would seem to me that he loves doing down anything that is not under the mainstream bureaucracy or where the English eccentric may thrive. American Catholicism seems so corporate! Perhaps that has its advantages like European Union regulations on the shape of carrots or health & safety in corporate buildings in our cities. It’s not for me, but my perspective has little importance.

He has been recently comparing the American with the English ordinariates. If it isn’t big, corporate and “establishment”, get rid of it… The ordinariates are not my concern, and I don’t keep informed about what is going on in them. However, what would appear is that they are about as small and marginal as us Continuing Anglicans, and have little relevance. The observation is also made that most of the founders of the English ordinariate were Anglo-Papalists using the English Missal or the Novus Ordo.

Fr John Hunwicke writes an interesting blog, and I look at it most days on my morning round. I think he looks down his nose at me, but I have nothing against him. I was Establishment until the age of 22 but not a very “successful” one at it. I left the Church of England as a layman and made the error of not believing that to be a good cleric, you have to been of the type of personality that fits into a corporate and bureaucratic structure. Elsewhere, I have heard that the eccentric English clergyman was made possible by the benefice system, which I believe has now been abolished by the Church of England. He is an eccentric. I am a late-comer in the Baby-Boomer generation and underwent many of the same influences as the “liberals” and “progressives”. He is Oxford educated. I went to a red-brick university that is not even in England! Anyway, all that is of little importance.

Anglo-Papalism is an odd phenomenon – the desire to copy everything the Roman Catholic Church but doing it with the hope of joining it as a married clergyman. I remember seeing the Roman Novus Ordo in Anglican parishes in London in the 1970’s and wondered what the point of it was. The architecture of some churches in London and on the south coast is quite surprising. There is a story of an Italian going to Mass for many years in an Anglican church in London before finding out that it was not Roman Catholic!

This is what has brought me to make a clear distinction between Catholicism without any other qualification and the state of Catholicism as it reacted against the Protestant Reformation and embarked on its own programme of reform and regulation. High-church Anglicanism, from about the end of the nineteenth century, began to copy Italian Roman Catholicism as it expressed itself in the refounded English RC Church of 1850. For a time, from my Tiber-swim in 1981, I followed the movement – all the way to the “guilded mirror” of Gricigliano. After that point, my religious-cultural “reference” has been French Benedictine monasticism and aspects of the English “neo-medieval” movement of about 1890 to the outbreak of World War I. Paradoxically, I was interested in Sarum liturgics and medieval English and Norman churches throughout the time.

Eccentricity and limit-pushing can become excessive. Where is the line drawn? Should the Church be characterised by greyness, boring routine and conformity? Should it be adorned by colourful eccentrics? Is eccentricity a consequence of smallness and the state of being marginal? Perhaps. In the Anglican parishes I have known as a teenager, vicars and parsons could be themselves because they were practically their own bishops! Roman Catholicism provides no such security of tenure to its parish priests. Step out of line and you’re out! France is another case, if the priest is supported by his flock. I have known French priests who almost vied with Victorian Englishmen for their individuality and character, and I’m not thinking of Fr Montgomery-Wright who was in a class of his own. In France “everything is forbidden but everyone does it“. American grey corporate conformity would not go down well here. Nowadays, it’s much more difficult to get through the seminary system unless you buckle down and conform, at least until you get ordained.

Being eccentric and individual is an instinct that keeps some of us alive. Too much of it can make us horribly unpopular. In the end, it isn’t something we “put on” but which is a part of us. The idea transpires that the essence of Anglican Patrimony is this kind of eccentricity and priests being themselves and unhindered by the less intelligent aspects of social convention – going against the grain and using different liturgies from the status quo. This is something very English, and both Italians and Americans will find it difficult to comprehend.

Since the Victorian era, England has changed and the Church no less. The Church of England is no more welcoming to rebels and anarchists than the RC Church! No corporation can be, but small communities can to an extent assimilate them if an effort is made to find a modus vivendi. Some of us thrive in small communities, where we become alienated and sick in big corporations. Many people do better in large and disciplined units, whether in their spiritual lives or at work. Far from me to judge them! It is a question of temperament. I have had to discover a mechanism of survival!

I was disappointed to see the English ordinariate founded on the basis of Anglo-Papalism, but not on account of eccentricity. It was a lazy way of stopping up a hole so that normal ecumenical relations could be resumed between Rome and the mainstreams of Anglican slush that converge at Watford Gap and are served up as soup! Rome was obviously disappointed that the TAC was being led by someone with the profile of Archbishop Hepworth – and so had to bring the older Church of England based movement in to cover over the embarrassing cracks. There are different interpretations, and none of us has ever quite got down to the bottom of it.

John Bruce has his way of seeing things, and his work on the blog makes him stand out from the amorphous grey mass of humanity attending the parish where he goes on Sundays. He has uncovered many aspects that others see from a different perspective or brush under the carpet. I think the ordinariates will continue what they are doing in a similar way to that of the Latin Mass Society or the Fraternity of St Peter. They seem to be doing good as we all try to do. Mr Bruce’s message is obviously the dissolution of the ordinariates and pressure on those concerned to conform to the Novus Ordo system in place. That might be the most logical thing for those who have become Roman Catholics unless they go to some Tridentine Mass group or the Eastern Rite. It is easy to forget that each person has freedom of choice – and a conscience (at least outside the Orwellian dystopia).

If we consider things from a “business” and “marketing” point of view, Christianity in general has precious little future. Secularism and materialism seem to fulfil a human need at least to some extent. I already said in another posting that any Christianity that does not mean any more than its visible and institutional dimension means nothing at all. The churches are increasingly empty and the modern world has no use for them, nor does it wish to continue paying good money to maintain them. The corporate vision is the death of the spiritual life. Just close it all down and be done with it! There are more effective ways to control people via policing and electronic surveillance!

I am uncertain of the future of my little ACC diocese, but I do everything I can to help it to continue, grow and increase in stability. If there is a market for religion, it is for the simplistic notions promoted by Islam and Evangelical fundamentalism, the very kind of instincts that made the German people follow Hitler in the 1930’s. Only a very few will see a more mystical, symbolic and spiritual element – and it takes an instinct for individuality and rejection of the “world”. It is the ancient drama between Gnosticism and the Church of Constantine and the Ecumenical Councils.

We have only to be true to ourselves

* * *

Two quotes from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:

We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.

There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

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Renaissance Cathedral

renaissance-cathedralI found this one on Facebook (click on the image to get full size), and the person who posted didn’t say where it was. He describes the painting as “Paul Vredeman de Vries, 1612, Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art“.

My guess was Flanders. I found it to be Antwerp on account of the octagonal tower above the crossing, but there are differences between other paintings of the same building and a photo of this cathedral as it is now.

antwerp-cathedral-oldantwerp-cathedral-newI suspect that the painting of Vredeman was fanciful and took a lot of liberty. The octogon of Antwerp is larger and more ornate. The capitals on the pillars are quite different, and disappeared at some point after the choir screen was removed and the church reordered to baroque standards. Even with all the artistic licence, Antwerp seems to have been the inspiration.

Vredeman’s painting is from 1612 and shows a priest celebrating Mass in a “fiddleback” chasuble. There are examples of such cut-up chasubles from medieval England, of a more French than Italian cut. Surplices were long and without lace. I wonder if the scene in the second picture is earlier than the first, going by the dress of the people and the absence of a pulpit. The choir screen is less ornate in the second picture than in Vredeman’s painting, and does not have a second beam carrying the Calvary high above the choir screen.

I would be grateful for any opinions. Perhaps Vredeman invented his own cathedral on inspiration from Antwerp. Ideas?

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Hair Farming

20150820-hair02I have written before about men’s hair, John Wesley and related subjects. I am not much of a one for “selfies” or drawing attention to myself. All the same, I approach the two-year mark since I “gave up barbers” (to which my Bishop once commented with a smile on his face “I would never have guessed“). I usually tie it up into a ponytail for anything like ministry or church meetings in England, or simply in warm summer temperatures.

There it is, whether you approve of long-haired men or not. At my age (56), I am lucky to have all my hair, even if it has thinned a little on top over the past ten years.

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