Bells and Smells?

Many of them, like Fr. Chadwick, are there [in the ACC] mainly because of the “smells and bells.”

* * *

Mmm… I am very rarely in England these days, so joining a Church because it uses incense and jangles bells at various points of the Mass would seem pointless.

Most of the time, my Mass is a Low Mass, because I am alone or with a couple of ladies as the congregation. Therefore I hardly ever use the sacring bell, and I make the effort to use incense (which is quite awkward when one is alone at the altar) on the very big feasts. I have some very nice Greek and Egyptian incense. Perhaps I should make the effort more frequently.

The term bells & smells seems to suggest the use of the sacring bell and incense just for the fun of it, without their having any true liturgical meaning. This is often the criticism levelled at Anglo-Catholics inspired by the old Ritualist movement, which actually was deeply social in its content and involved some very saintly priests, some of whom were prepared to go to prison for “non-conformity” to the 1662 Prayer Book. The bell is simply a signal to the faithful, and incense symbolises our ascending prayer and worship of the divine. It was always associated with the Sacrifice of the Old Testament. God always revealed himself in a veil of smoke, the smoke being a constant symbol of the divine presence in the Old Testament. If I just want to have fun, I have other things to do like going out in the boat (I did today during a brief “weather window”) or seeing films. I have been a priest for over fifteen years, and there has been plenty of time for the “novelty” to wear off.

Again, criticism helps us to reflect on the things we often take for granted.

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12 Responses to Bells and Smells?

  1. Stephen K says:

    It is abundantly clear to anyone but an idiot that your spiritual affiliations are rooted in much thought, openness and a love of tradition and what you perceive is goor traditional culture, as well as considerable experience with different religious politics and perspectives. Yesterday’s bells and smells are today’s wall-banners and tactlle peace-kissing. It is the attitude with which one approaches these things. I’m a theological modernist, and I think bells and smells work for me (and others)!

  2. James Morgan says:

    My liturgical ‘wish list’ would certainly include both bells and smells, among other things! Incidentally, in the EO churches there is a ‘tradition’ that incense is not used in the wedding service! (that is because the service is separate from the Liturgy, and because incense is so frequently used at a funeral to cense the remains. It seems to have a connotation of ‘bad luck’ to cense the bride and groom whilst they are still capable of standing up, I suppose!

  3. Neil Hailstone says:

    Idle and superficial remarks of this nature directed against any of us who are Anglican Catholic are best disregarded. I cannot think that the writer is interested in any meaningful discussion about our forms of worship.

    • I don’t think it’s too bad an idea to take up the challenge, not in regard to the accuser himself, but in terms of having a better and deeper understanding of what we do and why. Of course we are dealing with someone who has changed his religion like we change shirts. I don’t know the full story, but he has been Western Orthodox and more recently in the ACC. And now he claims to be a true Calvinist and that “classical Anglicanism” has to be rid of Anglo-Catholicism or “go under”. Whatever next? I’ll keep an eye on his blog because I’m quite curious. The idea of bigoted Jansensists who became revolutionaries under the Terror and sent Christians to the guillotine in the 1790’s is intellectually challenging. What makes men flip flop in this fashion?

      • Michael Frost says:

        What I find most interesting is that for a blog that purports to focus on “classical Anglicanism”, he doesn’t appear to define what he means or use citations from the relevant sources. He appears to rely essentially on his own scriptural interpretation.

        If he defined it as that formative period, say from about 1550 to 1600 or thereabouts, as captured by the 1552/1559 BCPs and 42/39 Articles, and then relied heavily on the giants of that period–Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bucer, Jewel, Hooker, etc.–he might have a lot to offer. But he mainly just wants to argue his own personal scriptural interpretation.

        I almost died laughing over the weekend when I saw his aside about infant versus adult baptism. He appears to come down on the side of the latter. Well one thing that certainly isn’t…it isn’t classical Anglicanism. And it is rejected by every magisterial Reformer of the 16th century (Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, Bullinger, Calvin, etc.), their confessions (e.g., Augsburg, Tetrapolitan, 2nd Helvetic, 39 Articles, Genevan, French, Scottish, Belgic, etc.), and catechisms (Luther’s, Heidelberg, etc.).

        So while he often sounds Westminster Confession of Faith 17th Century Reformed, he seems most in accord with 20th Century Baptist theology.

        I just find it sad that he won’t engage using the words and voices of the 16th century. When I quoted Bucer’s and Bullinger’s own words (and both are thoroughly Reformed and were friends of the Anglican Church in the 1550s-1570s), he labeled me a linguistic sophist. Bucer may be wordy and Bullinger solidly Swiss, but sophists? Hardly! 🙂

      • It seems you have had great fun, as you comment over there too. I have been looking in Google for comparisons of Calvinism (though there are “liberal” and “conservative” versions) with certain forms of Islam and even of Nazism. I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of stuff or the time to waste. If some kind of ideology tells me that some part of humanity is trash and can be killed with impunity, I’ll know it is not of God. I find it more healthy to move onto other things.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Father, I take these issues seriously, too. Which is why I always try to stay factually and historically grounded. (And keep a sense of humor.) And why when discussing the Reformation and its heirs I think using the actual words from the 16th century can be so valuable for all.

        I think we sometimes battle a caricature of “Calvinism”. At least that modern version which comes to us today in the English-speaking world mainly thru Beza, Dordt, and the Westminster Confession of the 1640s. The antidote is to be fair to the 16th century Reformers, the Reformed, and Calvin by looking at what they did, said, and wrote, not what we think they did, said, or wrote.

        I only wish the other side wouldn’t caricature us, as if we were living, acting, and thinking like the year were 875 AD (East) or 1275 AD (West). So I try to be fair to them in the hopes they’ll be fair to us.

        As for bells and smells… I think classical Anglicanism, whatever that may fully be, is somewhere closer to classical Lutheranism in Wittenberg and Uppsala and a bit farther away from classical Reformed in Geneva or Zurich, though there is overlap amongst all three and a certain continuity with all three and the Western Christendom they followed. (Even more so with today’s “reformed” RCC. For example, Bullinger’s words about fasting in the 2nd Helvetic seem pretty in accord with Vatican II.)

  4. Dale says:

    If, as this individual seems to be insinuating, Fr Anthony is only interested in smells and bells it would seem that with Fr Anthony’s education and background he then would most certainly switch to a more viable church with smells and bells that pays better than the ACC! What rubbish.

    The individual who is posting this stuff was never western rOrthodox, but one of those more Russian than the Russian types. I am happy that he has returned to Anglicanism, but I feel that perhaps his true home is with the Presbyterians.

  5. James Morgan says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard Paisley, and I wish I hadn’t. He sounds like an old bigoted bloviator to me.

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