An Excellent Initiative – Experience of Worship

My attention has just been drawn to this site of resources on medieval liturgy:

Since I had not known about this site, I must assume it is quite new and will evolve in time. My congratulations go to the person who runs the site.

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Scepticism and Freedom of Thought

We begin to breathe at the end of Storm Ciara, a particularly vast and nasty one that has caused a considerable amount of damage in the British Isles and northern Europe. My house just suffered a loose tile that I was able to put back without doing anything dangerous. High winds and rattling roof tiles cause anxiety, and the natural reaction, when possible, is to get into bed and somewhere warm. I remember such storms as a child in the 1960’s in the north of England, with the Victorian sash windows rattling away with each gust. The Atlantic storm coming in with the Gulf Stream is nothing new, but it is worrying when it happens, and a challenge to our illusions of human omnipotence. We can be thankful here in Europe that we don’t get tornadoes and hurricanes like in America, because they bring total destruction to homes, human property – and lives.

I will not mention any names, but I was surprised yesterday by the accusations of being a climate change denier by someone close to me. I was like a “heretic” facing an “inquisition” enforcing a new orthodoxy – one taught by Extinction Rebellion and the secretive political and business-motivated forces sponsoring Greta Thunberg. I spent a considerable amount of time last night learning about Green New Deal and the European variants that various far-left political parties try to propagate. I try to be open-minded.

I wrote an e-mail to the person expressing my shock in the face of such accusations coming from a radicalised mind. To be fair, we English-speakers talk of denial rather than scepticism as the French prefer in regard to us “enemies of the people”. The “dogma”I am expected to accept and profess is that the temperature of earth’s atmosphere will be so high by 2050 (sometimes 2030) that human life would become extinct, and therefore protest groups like Extinction Rebellion are justified in their demonstration to force the USA, the European Union and national governments to eliminate all carbon emissions within ten years. I know that such radical action would be impossible, and that such a radical position is by now largely discredited. The Right has won in England, and Trump has shaken off an attempt to impeach him. The Democrats must now be in tatters! I am of the mind to believe that if global warming is as they say, then there is nothing humanity can do about it.

I was yelled at yesterday for being “sceptical”, and I replied that I am indeed sceptical in that I suspend my judgement on the subject not being in possession of scientific data that I could trust is not influenced by political ideology. In postmodern French political culture, scepticism means denial, but I prefer to use words according to their etymology and conventional meanings. Sceptical philosophy, founded by Pyrrho of Elis (Πύρρων), is about suspending judgement whilst seeking for truth (or the nearest we can get to it). Scepticism calls us to act according to our limited state of knowledge of things.

When reason confronts fanatical certitude, the only answer is silence. However, I find myself with the duty of finding out what I can about solar activity (we seem to have a minimum presently), the movements of sea currents, content measured in ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other factors. I am quite curious, since sailing caused me to take some interest in meteorology, learning to read the weather. It is extremely unpleasant to find myself confronted with the beast of totalitarianism, thought control and everything else Orwell wrote in his dystopian novel.

Where can we find information that is not influenced either by “green totalitarianism” or Trump’s triumphalist capitalism? I do find it reasonable to believe that humanity puts a lot of carbon dioxide and toxic gases into the atmosphere, then decimates the forests of South America and other parts of the world, disturbing the natural regulation of carbon dioxide by vegetation that needs it. Industry is still tipping vast quantities of plastic into the oceans. Indeed, there is a dramatic ecological crisis. I have a lot of respect for those who invent special ships for recovering as much of that plastic as possible, a lot more than for stupid people gluing themselves to roads and railings in central London to cause the maximum amount of disruption and bitterness. Our world is in trouble, and I am all for efforts to clean up industry, reduce pollution of the air and sea, reduce intensive farming and air travel. We all need to go from a consumer paradigm to being a responsible citizen of the world.

In some ways, I could be tempted to want to go back to an eighteenth-century lifestyle, but that would be the end of my blog, e-mail and my computer. It would be worse for me than someone like Novalis in the 1790’s, because he never had the experience of what we have now. The thought is actually terrifying. I would have to learn to handle horses and have grazing space for them (my garden is on the small side). Goodbye, antibiotics, and we would have to be ready to die of diseases like tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Most people survive coronavirus, but I’m not sure I would, given the hard time I have recovering from common colds! Goodbye, electricity, but I would (like everybody else) still have to send smoke into the air by burning wood to keep warm and lighting candles indoors. So, I don’t think Miss Greta’s ideas are so practical. Maybe the idea she has in her mind is something along the lines of Logan’s Run, a 1970’s American re-run of Huxley’s Brave New World. She and her minders, of course, would have the pots of money and status to live in some nice country mansion away from the glass-domed cities of οἱ πολλοί. Please excuse my sarcasm. No, we need to look for a moderate way of thinking about this problem without getting emotional or hysterical.

After my experience of radical Catholic traditionalism and things like sedevacantism, I have come to apply the principles of scepticism to the notion of truth itself. Truth exists, indeed, but is for the most part beyond us. Pilate asked What is truth? He doubted whether truth existed apart from the pragmatism of the moment. Jesus responded that he was the truth, the transcendent to whom we all aspire and yearn. We have to seek it and be humble as it brings out of us the sense of wonder. Following the Idealists and Romantics, I now know that we cannot possess the truth or impose a caricature of truth on others. The freedom of thought and expression (within the limits imposed by other people’s rights) is inalienable. I apply the same scepticism to right-wing agendas as well as left-wing ones. Environmental hysteria is political and is concerned for controlling people and taking freedom away in the name of collectivism and the sacrifice of the human person to the state or whatever.

Whatever problems there are with the environment, I am not sure that man’s responsibility goes beyond a few percent, even with all the smoke belching out of factories mostly in China, Russia and America, and out of the exhaust pipes of millions of cars and freight vehicles. It seems to me that Extinction Rebellion has done a lot of harm through its totalitarian ambitions. I am just as careful about conspiracy theories like those saying that we would all be forced to live in glass-domed cities, given artificial food (we already eat enough junk food!) and forbidden from going into the re-wilded countryside. I have a nagging doubt, but I don’t believe anything earthly as absolute truth, especially when there is a hidden political agenda behind it.

As I live in this ugly time of history, I am taken back to the time of the early Industrial Revolution, William Blake, children working in factories with dangerous machines. My own reaction is as angry and revolutionary as that of Shelley as he wrote in Prometheus Unbound, championing free will, goodness, hope and idealism in the face of oppression.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.

Everything seems to be closing around us, with Brexit, other similar tendencies in Europe. It is quite dramatic here in France, with people not so concerned with half-baked solutions for the environment, but with their livelihood. There doesn’t seem to be much of an alternative to President Macron, who got where he wanted by exposing all the petty corruptions of all the mainstream candidates. Now, the only alternative is Le Pen. Perhaps that might not be a bad thing pour mettre les pendules à l’heure. After all the right-wing that has seduced the working classes got its victory in the UK. It seems to be the future.

The future seems to be authoritarianism, the end of thought, beauty, truth and goodness, the end of art and literature as man’s spirit gives way in obedience to the “new orthodoxy” and its “inquisition”. Some of us will resist and survive. Others will give their lives in seemingly futile gestures.

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery,
And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace.
For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.
And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself.
As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. – Wisdom 3, i-xix.

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Candlemas Mass and Office

At last, someone has made the full video available of the Sarum Mass celebrated in Merton College Chapel in Oxford. It was celebrated by the Roman Catholic priest Fr Sean Finnegan in 1997. These were the Masses allowed for Roman Catholics by the then Archbishop of Birmingham but forbidden by Rome. It gives some idea of the complexity of High Mass, and the care taken to recapture the beauty of the music and ceremonies. Until recently, it was split up into ten-minute segments as per the former YouTube rules.

This year on 1st February, I Vespers of Candlemas was sung in St Patrick’s Church, Philadelphia, also under Roman Catholic auspices (Ordinariate). This ceremony was organised by an extraordinary young man by the name of James Griffin. Here is the video:

See the congregational booklet. It can be downloaded.

It is heartening to see interest in the Use of Sarum and another liturgical tradition that transcends both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

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My Store on Lulu

My bookstore on Lulu is to be found on Anthony Chadwick’s Store. I intend to publish other books – as I write them!

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Romantic Christianity

I have just published my book through Lulu and am waiting for six copies other than my author’s copy. I will send the six copies to my Bishop and some friends free of charge.

Others who may be interested can buy the book directly from Lulu at a very reasonable price. Note: some may experience difficulties on Lulu’s site with this link that works for me in France. Try https://www.lulu.com/ and search for “Romantic Christianity”. There may be variations in the linking system in different parts of the world.

Here is my preface:

This modest volume has grown from the experience of life and my encounter with the Christian faith. What drew me to Christianity from a sceptical childhood and rational upbringing? I have had to discover that different things attract our contemporaries to churches, pilgrimages, priests, solemn music, plain preaching and silent prayer alone or in a group.

A few episodes in my childhood stand out in my memory in relation to the themes of Romanticism, especially the Sturm und Drang of a very black storm coming in from the Atlantic during a family holiday in Portugal. I stood on the breakwater of the port facing a freshening wind and the increasing waves. My mother found me and was concerned, rightly, for my safety. The dream died. What dream was that? It was perhaps a moment of facing the anger of nature with my own dark anger.

Throughout my adolescence, I was drawn to literature from the nineteenth century, especially the poets like Shelley, Keats and Byron. The passionate symphonies of Beethoven brought me another dimension in life than I would have found in the kind of music that stimulated my contemporaries. A few months after my brief encounter with the storm, I discovered the 1812 Overture of Tchaikovsky and its scenes of war and anger after the melancholy Orthodox Church chant opening the piece. Jules Verne was a particular influence with his vision of the future in technology that was yet to be invented. Captain Nemo seemed to be fighting the same war as Byron as he gave his life for the Greeks. I saw Christianity in Romantic terms as I began to learn the organ and sang in choirs. I was attracted by the transcendentals of truth, beauty and goodness, though I had hardly heard of Plato.

In our times, we find that Christianity has become much more associated with political activism in the belief that faith without good works is dead faith. Christian worship has largely become assimilated with television entertainment and the social dimension. At the age of 22, I embraced Roman Catholicism through the traditionalists. I crossed the English Channel the following year to France where I constructed a whole reality in my imagination, something I would never find.

For many years I asked many questions about Christianity, the world, other people and myself. I sought a theological response, a psychological answer, but none seemed to be forthcoming until I gained better self-knowledge.

From the outside, most institutional churches seem to be rotting, dwindling away, the buildings neglected or put to secular use. For the first time in history, the world is no longer hostile – but indifferent. The average person could not care less and has something else to do. Religion like politics becomes polarised and increasingly radical. No place remains for reasoned dialogue. The answer seems to be found in the observation that Christianity is being put to a use for which it was never intended: secular politics and governance. That is hardly a new problem.

Being a Christian involves initiation into a mystery that is hidden from those who are not ready to understand either with their intellectual faculties or a living imagination. I discovered that the themes of Romanticism which I had experienced for myself or read in literature perfectly described the human soul that was ready to receive this Mystery of God’s truth, beauty and goodness, expressed through man-made icons of music, liturgy and human love.

This work, not intended to be an academic study, but rather a set of reflections based on reading and personal thought over the years, is both a personal testimony and a narrative of a discovery which may bring others to happiness and fulfilment of life, answers to the eternal questions and our anguish.

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Miserere mei, Deus

On this 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps.

Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
O give me the comfort of thy help again: and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew thy praise.
For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.

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Continuing Anglican News

I am highly encouraged by our Archbishop’s Charge to Provincial Synod published on his website.

Also, the Traditional Anglican Communion is becoming the Traditional Anglican Church. See the Anglican Church in America news release. This means that the former communion of independent Churches will be a single Church with a number of Provinces. The TAC is a partner Church in the G4 with the Anglican Catholic Church and the two other Anglican Churches.

As our Archbishop informs us, relations with the Polish National Catholic Church (and by extension with the Union of Scranton and the Nordic Catholic Church) are promising and progress is being made.

Archbishop Haverland, in spite of his positive and optimistic approach, is sober about Continuing Anglicanism and indeed all Christianity in America and the western world. Some parishes are declining.

Perhaps this last consideration confirms me in my feeling that we have to come up with something new and interior. I don’t have the answers – as the least of the Church’s priests, but I’m looking for them…

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