Meaningless and Vulgar Reformations

Fr Jonathan Munn has done it again! Reform of the reform of the reform of the….

Indeed, every time there is a reformation, there are schisms and protests. I sometimes wonder whether a religion that needs to be reformed did not contain the seeds of its own destruction from the beginning. Religion obviously depends on the kind of persons who are appointed to be its custodians, good or evil, rationalist or romantic, philistine or aesthete, activist or mystic, you name it.

Between opposites, there are infinitely variable scales of colours, shades of light and anything else you might want to use as an analogy. Now, as in other eras, some people are incapable or relating to the world with subtlety and empathy. There is only black and white, all good on one side and all bad on the other. That is the humanity into which Christ was born, and from which he suffered, for the world knew him not.

Fr Munn kindly links to my own developing way of seeing this problem. It takes an original or unconventional way of seeing things to go to one side of The Pit. I live in the world, so I have to conform to its laws and go along with many things, but without accepting it within, without “loving Big Brother” in the way Orwell put it in his novel of 1948. The more I learn of the Romantics, the neo-Romantics, the Pre-Raphaelites and so many others in art, philosophy and spirituality, the more I sympathise with their other-worldliness and Cynicism (in the Greek philosophical meaning). But, most people are of this world and their god is power and money, and many people of the churches are people of this world. The Romantic and the anarchist is no less human, no less sinful, perhaps more sinful because more is given. We can sin horribly through pride and arrogance. Then we become men of The Pit!

In the ACC, we certainly have to grapple with our identity as Catholic Christians and situate ourselves in a tradition. A few days ago, I presented a little composition, a musical setting of a psalm verse to my singing teacher, and said “I’m sorry if it sounds like Vaughan Williams“! She said – “It doesn’t. We all work in our culture and tradition“. What a lovely thing to say! That can only encourage me to build on a distinct identity as I produce more pieces. We all have experience in our Churches of origin, and sometimes with our forays in other traditions, and all this shapes us as we grow emotionally and spiritually as persons. Likewise, the ACC is no longer the Church of England, nor is it the Roman Catholic Church or even an imitation. It is becoming a vehicle of another Catholic tradition and builds its own identity. I do believe the time has come to drop both the Reformation and the Counter Reformation and apply to ourselves the old French proverb – Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop. If we allow the natural (and the supernatural) to return, healing can occur.

Reform of the Reform? That seems to be a saying of Pope Benedict XVI containing the idea of restoring the spirit of the liturgy but without doing away with the Novus Ordo. Surely, the Anglo-Catholic movement in the nineteenth century sought to do this, as Dearmer doctored up the Prayer Book to bring back as many Sarum customs as possible. I have gone only one stage further – using the Sarum liturgy without making any bones about it. It is an intuition I fully understand given the political leanings of neo-counter-reformation traditionalist Roman Catholicism. It really depends on the persons appointed to be its custodians. it all comes down to that. Sometimes in history, good and wise men are entrusted with the common good, and at other times, might is right – psychopathy and  narcissism are rewarded.

This idea is obvious in Fr Munn’s penultimate paragraph. There is grace, but there is also humanity. Grace cannot operate without human collaboration, precisely because God respects our freedom. Everything is freedom of the spirit. One thing I love about the ACC is that we are not the Establishment. There are no positions of power, and even the Episcopate is more of a burden than an honour or position of status. That is good, and makes our Church that much more dependent on goodness and real human virtue.

As I said in my posting on evangelism, we can’t expect much from other people. It is our duty to go ahead ourselves and do what we believe to be right. If we are right and beautiful, then people might walk a few miles with us (rather than talk of their joining us). We can’t expect to see Churches signing concordats of unity and sorting out all the differences until we ourselves are working towards that goal by being good, loving, caring and visionary.

If there is to be peace in the world
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours,
If there is to be peace among neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home
There must be peace in the heart.

Velly old Chinese ploverb! King plawn cully and flied lice!
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.)

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