A Meditation of the Stations of the Cross for Passiontide 2020

This is a tremendous uplift for us all, from our Bishop’s chapel:

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Holy Week 2020

I will be recording the ceremonies of Holy Week. As I will be on my own, they will be considerably simplified from what would have been done at Salisbury Cathedral in the early 1540’s! I plan the following:

Palm Sunday: Blessing of the Palms, a stationary “procession” with a choice of the sung antiphons and Mass with the Epistle and the Passion of St Matthew in English. Video available from the early afternoon.

Maundy Thursday: Mass in caena Domini and the stripping of the altars. Video available in the evening.

Good Friday: Mass of the Presanctified, Passion of St John in English and “burial” ceremony of the Easter Sepulchre Sepulto Domino. Video available in the late afternoon.

Holy Saturday: Lighting of the New Fire, Blessing of the Paschal Candle, Prophecies in English, Litanies and the first Mass of Easter. Video available in the evening.

Easter Sunday: Ceremony of the Easter Sepulchre Christus Resurgens. Mass of Easter Sunday with partly sung Proper and Sequence. Video available in the early afternoon.

Those are what I have been doing over the years, so I know which adaptions to make for being alone. See my recent posting on Rubricism. I refuse the “all-or-nothing” paradigm.

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Pastoral Letter from my Bishop

I publish this Pastoral Letter from my Bishop at his request. I am thankful for his fatherly care for us all, clergy and laity. He has my prayers for his protection, his safety and his health.

* * *

Diocese of the United Kingdom

From the Bishop

Passiontide 2020

To the Clergy and Laity of the Diocese of the United Kingdom,

Since at least Anglo-Saxon times England has been referred to as the “Dowry of Mary”. We often think of dowries as being settlements on a bride which she brings with her into marriage. However, it has another meaning, and it is from this meaning England has this title.

You may be aware that many grand old English Country Estates – think of “Downton Abbey” type Houses! – often have a smaller, although sometimes still impressive, house, such as the one the dowager Countess of Grantham (played by the indomitable Dame Maggie Smith), lived in Downton Abbey. Known as the “Dower House”, this was a property provided for a widow (the dowager) from the estate of her late husband – it was a place where she could live and maintain herself, but it would often require considerable care and attention perhaps a complete renovation before it was a fit dwelling place.

England’s Patron Saint has long been St George, but it was not always so. The ninth century St Edmund the Martyr, was St George’s predecessor. But above them all is set Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Patroness of England. There were, and possibly still are, more Churches dedicated to Our Lady in England than any other Saint. Prior to the Reformation you could hardly move for Shrines dedicated to her.

In 1381 England was ravaged by the Peasants’ Revolt, when the imposition of a poll tax caused the south-eastern counties to rise in open rebellion. This revolt was suppressed but it was a struggle. After regaining control of England King Richard II consecrated England to Our Lady in thanksgiving for the victory.

Later there was issued at Lambeth a decree, on 10th February 1399, which read: “The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has brought all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the beginnings of redemption. But we, as the humble servants of her inheritance, and liegemen of her especial dower – as we are approved by common parlance ought to excel all others in the favour of our praises and devotions to her.”

This year, on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March, there was to have been a re-consecration of England to Our Lady by the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in Norfolk. Sadly, with our country in lockdown, this big event was not able to take place.

With the Covid-19 virus and the threat it poses, causing the Prime Minister to declare an emergency -not to mention the general moral and spiritual decline we have seen in our nation, in recent decades, England, Mary’s Dowry, and the whole of the United Kingdom, most definitely has need of God’s mercy and Mary’s prayers. Also, like the Dower Houses I mention above, our Country, will require considerable care if not a complete renovation before it will become a worthy place for of Our Lady to call home.

Since the Council of Ephesus in 431 Mary has been called ‘Theotokos’, meaning God-bearer or Mother of God. For we know Christ cannot be truly man as well as truly God unless he is born of a human mother.

We recall the Angel’s salutation of Mary at the Annunciation and the revelation of the unique role she was to play in her own, and our, salvation. Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, also HAS to be Mother of God. To deny this is to deny Jesus’ divinity.

As the Creed we recite and affirm regularly proclaims:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made;
Being of one substance with the Father;

Scripture directs us to Galatians 4:4,”when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman” , and to John ‘s Gospel where Mary is always called ‘the Mother of Jesus’ and in 20:31 we find the words ‘ Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name’.

In a fragment of papyrus preserved in the Rylands Library, Manchester, dated no later than 270 A.D., there is the earliest recorded prayer to Mary in Greek, which translated reads: ‘we fly to thy (her) patronage’.

This clearly illustrates how from the earliest times the Church saw the Blessed Virgin Mary’s maternal role for followers of her Son, for us … and so it follows for England, her dowry.

And Oh, how we need a Mother’s love and prayers today!

The challenges of this present crisis requires all of us to respond with fortitude and faith … and not a little creativity. We find ourselves, I hope, trying wherever possible to maintain some form of Christian practice and worship in the face of much which is familiar being temporarily taken away through the closure, albeit necessary, of our church buildings.
I have always resisted the broadcasting of services online – except for big special events. Certainly not my Sunday services. However, I decided the time had come, from my own lock down, that I should try to provide what I hope is a helpful contribution to salve these feelings of frustration. I am pleased that other clergy are also doing similar things and thank them for their pastoral efforts.

Quite understandably this has prompted some people to ask about the effectiveness of watching worship on television, computers or smart devices. Of whether there is a difference between live streaming or recorded worship.

My own feeling is that, although of course gathering together and engaging in worship with others physically, and enjoying fellowship with other Christians is an essential part of our life and witness as Christians, I think it highly likely that the Lord of Time and Space, who is not constrained by our calendar or our feet of clay, can share His Grace in any way He chooses including with those watching and participating in faith regardless.

I will, Dv, be uploading services from my Domestic Chapel of St Nicholas, at my home in Lydd, with a Low Mass on Palm Sunday, the Diocesan Chrism Mass (at which I will perform the annual blessing of the Holy Oils) on the Wednesday of Holy Week and Mass on Maundy Thursday evening. On Good Friday I hope to celebrate the Liturgy of the Day and will also try to upload a meditation on the Stations of the Cross. These will appear on the Diocesan Facebook Page (@ACCDUK), my own YouTube Channel (search “BishopMead”) and be linked on the Diocesan website (www.anglicancatholic.org.uk). I will not be attempting the Holy Saturday Vigil on my own, but I will bless a new Paschal Candle for the Pro-Cathedral on Easter Day and celebrate a Sung Mass – Pontifically!
My prayer for you all is to remain safe and well during this present crisis. To keep smiling in adversity and to put you trust in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I would like to end with the Prayer from the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment
when Jesus, your divine Son,
dying on the cross
confided us to your maternal care.
You are our Mother;
we desire ever to remain your devout children.
Let us therefore feel the effects
of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ.

Make your name again glorious in this place,
once renowned throughout our land
by your visits, favours and many miracles.

Pray, O Holy Mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.
O Blessed Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Walsingham,

intercede for us. Amen

In Christ

The Right Reverend Damien Mead Bishop Ordinary

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I am not pointing any fingers in any particular directions, but I have been aware since the early 1980’s of a certain fashion of interpreting the rules of the liturgy. It is something we could also call canonical positivism. In his book The Mass, Adrian Fortescue describes the incensing of the altar and said “Such increased definiteness was bound to come and, after all, you must incense an Altar somehow; it does not hurt to be told how to do so“. It is a subject I encountered when researching the Tridentine codification of the Roman rite in 1570 and its ulterior regulation by the Congregation of Rites. A popular accusation of the old liturgy is that of rubricism where the hidden thought is the dissolution of all liturgical form. For this reason, I will try to isolate a moderate position between the two extremes of rubricism and anything goes.

The word appears to have been coined by Newman in a letter to Keble in 1840:

Right views and practices are spreading strangely; nor do I think with you that they tend to nothing more than rubricism.

The word plainly comes from rubric, which is the red print in liturgical books to distinguish rules or instructions from the text to be sung or said. As an American priest recently expressed as a slogan – Say the black, do the red. It is reasonable for us to be asked to learn the ceremonies and celebrate the liturgy correctly. Once the rules are learned, we then operate by habit and routine.

Rubricism is an extreme adherence to the rubrics to the last detail. It is a question of degree beyond “doing it properly” and excluding improvisation, the opposite extreme. It is possible to become obsessed to such a degree that we become unable to see the wood for the trees, the profound meaning of the liturgy for such details as the order of lighting the altar candles by the server.

It is something I have noticed in the English-speaking world in contrast with the more laid-back attitude among some of the old French priests I have known. Roman Catholicism before Vatican II was heavily influenced by a legalistic and tutiorist attitude. Probabilism and tutiorism are roughly two attitudes in regard to an ambiguous moral situation calling for a judgement. Probabilism

– is the moral system which holds that, when there is question solely of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action, it is permissible to follow a solidly probable opinion in favour of liberty even though the opposing view is more probable.

This can be helpful in unblocking a situation where the correct thing to do is unclear, and some measure of pragmatism is called for. However in tutiorism in its most extreme form:

It is not lawful to follow even a most probable opinion in favour of liberty.

In a less extreme form, tutiorism is

– the doctrine that in cases of moral doubt it is best to follow the safer course or that in agreement with the law

Neo-scholastic moral theology is a jungle of speculations and a legalistic mentality. As I was taught by Fr Servais Pinckaers OP at Fribourg University, following a compromise between Thomism and ressourcement theology, the moral act is judged by its end (finis operis) and the intention of the agent (finis operantis). Laws themselves are judged by their finality and not simply as the expression of the law’s legislator. This is why any system of law is preceded by a treatise on the principles of interpretation and application. Canon law is governed by the principle of epikeia, roughly expressed as necessity needing no law. For example, Jesus taught that it was legitimate to rescue a trapped animal on the Sabbath. This is the vital distinction to be made between the spirit and letter of the law, the essence of Christ’s teaching faced with the legalism and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees.

The principle of epikeia holds also for the rubrics in the liturgy. In most circumstances, the rubric tells us what to do and we do it, the alternative being some arbitrary choice of our own for no justifiable reason. What about omitting one of the vestments, like the maniple, because it is missing from the set of vestments, or taking a maniple from another set of vestments of another colour? What about reading the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular and facing the people at a Mass in Latin? What about “being trendy” and improvising the Eucharistic Prayer? The first of these examples is making do with what we have. The second is a measure of “pastoralism” or a pastoral measure to avoid alienating the laity. The third is a wanton violation of the very principles of the liturgy.

I now come to the notion of pastoralism, a term that was coined by a Papal master of ceremonies by the name of Msgr Léon Gromier in his criticism of the Pius XII Holy Week ceremonies. He refers to les pastoraux as those liturgists working for the Vatican who wanted to bring about liturgical reforms on pastoral grounds. It is a difficult problem which in history caused rood screens to be removed from churches and the plans of Jansenists at the Synod of Pistoia up to Fr Louis Bouyer and the philistinism of Msgr Annabile Bugnini. In its extreme form, pastoralism describes a concern for the pastoral relevance of the liturgy according to subjective tastes and desires. However, in a less extreme form, it defined an expression of French and German liturgical ministry – for example the biblical readings in the vernacular and read away from the altar, the possibility of vernacular hymns, a loosening of that feeling of the tutiorist and rubricist sarcophagus suffocating any human agency in the liturgy. Some of us seek what was  probably the spirit of the pre-Reformation liturgy, a healthy balance of a notion of tradition and custom, and a great measure of popular participation. We would like to see a cultural framework that makes liturgy live rather than be a mummified corpse as Louis Bouyer described what he must have seen in some churches in the 1930’s or 50’s.

In reaction to the post-Vatican II reforms, many traditionalists resumed the old rubrical tutiorism, the letter of the law for its own sake. There were also the more cranky excesses like some lay faithful believing that the Mass would be invalid if the priest was not wearing the maniple. Though it is more desirable to wear a maniple, when such is possible, it is hardly the matter and the form of the Eucharist (if we are defining things in Thomist terms).

One possible analogy with the correct observance of a liturgical rite is eating at table as a family. Children are taught to hold a knife and fork in the acceptable way. In England, we generally follow Debrett’s rules, depending on how formal the meal is. When eating peas, the diner squashes them onto the convex side of the fork with the knife to convey them to his mouth. Even faced with such a practical difficulty, it is improper to turn the fork over in the left hand and push the peas onto it with the knife – but it is much easier. French table manners are much less rigid about exceptions. At a family meal, the father of the family can surely be a little less rigorous as long as the children know what the right thing is for a formal meal. I remember as a child that my father came over so heavily about table manners that I left the table feeling nauseous. I was probably doing something incorrect and should have known better. I think my father then realised that he had been too strict and needed to be more patient with me. Nowadays, children often eat like pigs!

There has to be a balance between doing things properly in church, but without forgetting or burying the profound meaning of Christ’s Mystery. It is indeed the relationship between man and the Sabbath…

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Our Church’s outreach in these uncertain times

Fr Jonathan Munn has come up with an excellent initiative on our Diocesan website:

There are recordings of Mass from private chapels, including our Bishop who preached a lovely sermon yesterday. My “musical offering” is also featured in which I play a piece of music and a hymn tune on my little pipe organ so that people can sing the words at home.

Since doing this video, I find that my mobile phone captures the sound better than my webcam. Future recordings will thus be an improvement. Requests for hymns are most welcome. I just ask that they are hymns included in the English Hymnal or Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised. I will include the words on the YouTube page.

It is very heartening to see our Church adapting to this situation of emergency and our duty to remain in quarantine and avoid infecting other people, whether or not we have the virus and / or its symptoms. Any institutional Church that is able to make such an adaptation of its pastoral outreach will at last be providing disinterested service to its faithful. Material concerns take second place behind what the Church is really for – that of being a communion of souls in God. Like in the political world, the common good must prevail over the selfish interests of the elite few.

As the world suffers this cruel reboot, we hope and pray that what our liturgy and sacramental life mean in metaphysical terms may emerge purified and ever more resplendent in the coming weeks and months.

There are predictions that this week and much of April will bring confusion and violence. Millions of people being shut in at home – not in nice houses like mine with gardens, but in grimy city flats with no beauty or goodness to behold – cannot last for long. Every day, I read the political rants about skulduggery and conspiracies. We just don’t know what to believe, and it is best to be sceptical about everything, suspend our judgement and keep our heads low. This is Passiontide and the time of the worst level of hatred against Christ coming from the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. This is not the time to complain about our loss of freedom and having to be shut in. There are worse places than our own homes!

We try to put out the good word, food for meditation and prayer and prepare for our liberation, just like the French people who awaited the Allies in 1944. This time, the enemy is invisible and silent. It has no life of its own but lives from the life of our cells. This is the analogy between viruses and evil spirits wandering in the world for our ruin. Our war is a spiritual one, fought by doctors and nurses with their expertise and dedication, the rest of us by continuing to stay home and work on our spiritual lives.

Keep safe and well…

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Passion Sunday

Here is my recording of Mass and Sermon for Passion Sunday. The rite is the Use of Sarum in Latin except the Epistle and Gospel.

I intend to record also the Masses of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, the Mass of the Presanctified and ceremonies of the Easter Sepulchre on Good Friday, the Paschal Vigil and Easter Sunday. I will try to incorporate some singing, especially the Exultet. It is not easy to do everything alone, but I have a few years’ experience at this.

For those troubled at inaccuracies like liturgical colours and the absence of an apparelled amice, I have simply not got round to doing everything. Also, much of my liturgical materials is from the time when I used the Roman rite. I wear gothic and “fiddleback” vestment indifferently. I was given this black chasuble more than thirty years ago. The “correct” colour for Sarum Passiontide is bull’s blood red with black orphreys. This chasuble is the other way around. I used accessories from a dull red French set. I have reason to believe that in the early sixteenth century, liturgical observance was far from uniform. This is not a theatrical performance but a real Mass celebrated pro populo as are all my Masses whether or not they are recorded.

Another thing to consider is that we Anglicans normally celebrate Mass and Office in the language of the people. I habitually celebrate in Latin, because there are no people present at my Mass, and also because I think a priest in an expatriate chaplaincy needs to transcend denominational frontiers. I have no illusion of being “acceptable” to traditionalist Roman Catholics, because they have all they need. My Bishop is also recording his Mass celebrated in his home chapel because of the quarantine, and he uses the Anglican Missal. Other priests of our Diocese are also recording their Mass or doing a live broadcast via feature on Facebook like “watch parties”.

Many of the clergy are concerned that people may not return to church at the end of our quarantine period. They consider the lowest common denominator of people going by habit, hanging by a slender thread. It is a pastoral concern. However, the pandemic and the quarantine will be a trial for us that we have to overcome in ourselves. Some of us may lose loved ones, and not be allowed to go to their funeral. We cannot afford to remain at the same shallowness of faith, commitment and spiritual life. What remains when the externals are taken away are the measure of what there was in the first place. Much of the institutional Church will not survive, any more than the present world economy and monetary system. Much will have to be swept away. The gold will be tried in the crucible by fire.

I wish you all a holy Passiontide in our common prayer for new life after this confinement and our Paschal joy.

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Learning Common Sense

The UK is about to go into compulsory lockdown. We have been in lockdown here in France for just one week and Italy for quite a bit longer. Still, some people are in denial and spout all kind of conspiracy theories – or they grumble and moan because their employers have been unable to provide masks and sanitising gel for everyone. Sophie and I got our supplies in at the end of February and sanitising gel was still available in supermarkets and the chemists’ shops. We bought two small bottles, and they are quite enough when used sparingly. We were even able to order four FFP2 masks from Amazon that protect against viruses and extremely fine dust. They haven’t yet been worn, but I will probably do so for our next food order and necessaries from the chemist. I remember the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Sophie was once in the Girl Guides and I had a good formation at boarding school and my other formative years. Be prepared! When you see a crisis coming, you get ready for it – you don’t go into denial. When the chips are down, we have oil in our lamps for when the Bridegroom comes in that image of the eschatological Kingdom. It is not a reason to be smug, but a moment to be grateful and humble – and assume responsibility.

One thing to learn right now is that most supplies we normally buy in the shops are not available because the shops are closed. Amazon is now only supplying essential goods. It’s no good thinking about doing jobs around the house unless we already the materials and tools. Otherwise it has to wait until the end of our confinement. We can go and buy food, go to the chemist and see a doctor for anything other than coronavirus. The banks are still open, but I do all my banking by internet. The dustbins are still emptied and the postal service is still working, because those people don’t need to take risks. If they have registered mail or parcels, they leave it at the door and take a photo as proof of delivery – no signatures or contact with people. We learn to think in a new way and take all these precautions not only for self-preservation but to avoid infecting others in case we have the virus. In the absence of a diagnostic test, we just don’t know. The probability goes down dramatically after one week’s quarantine and almost to zero after two weeks. I last went to a supermarket one week ago, but with all recommended precautions. So far, so good… I keep praying and I keep on my guard.

A while ago, I wrote an article on My Take on Transcendentalism which includes a reflection on Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Our time of crisis is one for creative thinking and not “groupthink”. One example that has annoyed me here in France is the controversy over chloroquine which is usually used to treat malaria. It contains quinine and is not something without potential side effects. It has been used for Covid-19 in China and has produced results. Dr Didier Raoult in Marseille, a highly qualified specialist, has been appealing for the use of this drug until something better becomes available. The medical establishment in France wants to put it through the full test protocol before approving it, though now the French Government is in favour of its use. At present, there is nothing else, and Dr Raoult has been called a charlatan and just about everything else. Now, I don’t have medical expertise, but my immediate reaction is to ask the simple question – Is it better to leave someone to die or risk side effects using a drug that can do some good? At least, let doctors use chloroquine until a properly formulated and tested drug becomes available. I hope and pray that common sense will prevail.

This seems to be an example of creative thinking coming from a professional doctor who doesn’t seem to be an idiot! Groupthink seems to ignore the fact that many patients who are at the stage of pneumonia and needing intensive care are going to die. What is wrong with giving them some hope? We need to pull the blinkers away from our eyes and come out of denial.

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Stop press as of 23 March 8.15 pm: Chloroquine is now allowed in French hospitals for serious cases. Deo gratias for pragmatism until a more specific drug can be formulated and approved. See this article if you read French.

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Creative thinking is a part of our ability to be self-reliant. For the time being, many of us have some money (dwindling away) and the possibility of buying food. We might not have that forever. Perhaps this is the moment to turn our garden into a mini-farm, but this is not time for dreaming and being in illusions. There are things I do well, but I know precious little about permaculture and animal husbandry. The garden isn’t that big, so meat would essentially be from chickens (less heart-wrenching to kill than rabbits). In any case, at this time, the garden shops are closed. The next opportunity will be bartering with farmers, but they are hard-nosed characters! I do have assets like woodworking and just about every manual trade I turn my hands to.

One thing is sure. We have to be able to solve our problems by anticipating. We don’t go to the doctor or call the emergency services unless we are really in trouble – not even in normal times, but especially now. Our isolation from other people is above all going to force us to be self-reliant in spiritual and psychological terms. Some people are unhappy unless they are in a crowd and socialising. Now, they are shut in their small and grim flats in town, or in a house in the country. I am well adapted because I rely less on being with other people and am used to solitude or my “brother and sister” marriage.

Perhaps something is going to come out of this crisis. We are going to travel much less, and especially by air. I have always hated flying, not because of the risk of the plane crashing and killing everyone on board, but being forced into a kind of “factory” that processes people through the stages of checking tickets and documents, luggage handing, getting people to the right gate, onto the plane and to the right seat where human bodies of strangers are bustling together. There comes a time in life where world travel is just not worth it, especially on a budget. Those who are “people” people like cruises on modern ships built for that purpose, but promiscuity is to such an extent that sickness goes through the whole ship like a fox in a chicken coop. Life has taught me the joy of travelling much shorter distances to have a week on my little sailing boat or the two of us camping in some quiet and remote place. The main cause of this pandemic is mass tourism. That has to change in the future.

Being at home or away from home, I do like self-reliance as much as possible. My experience of quarantine gives me another angle from that of many who live it as a kind of imprisonment. Whatever kind of home we have, we can at least make things and read – but if we have at least that level of culture. The way some people live is unimaginable. Whoever we are, confinement and being away from society is going to bring us face-to-face with ourselves. Faced with ourselves, will we find heaven or hell? The ultimate solitude is being at sea in a boat or high up in the mountains, the laboratory of Nietzsch’s philosophy. I once wrote about a sailor who was all wrong with himself, and his solitude at sea drove him to madness and suicide.

We have to learn from necessity and live with it…

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