Today, I found the Liturgiae Causa article by a charming young man who lives in Kent, with whom I occasionally correspond. I met him in London recently in the company of a dear friend who is also keen on the liturgy and deeply critical of Roman Catholic traditionalism. He recently announced his intention to become Orthodox. My prayers and good wishes accompany him as he makes his slow, thoughtful and prayerful journey.
We who are now in our 50’s remember another period when we were through with Series III in the Church of England or the Novus Ordo. Our reaction was not ideological or political but rather more liturgical. The scales quickly fell from our eyes. We also remember our elders sharing that same experience of disillusionment with us. We have figures, often odd personalities, but who had their sensitivities. I particularly remember John Tyson from my early days with the SSPX in 1981 (I never went to their seminary, unlike what some say about me). His speciality was compiling an Ordo for the Roman rite as it stood in about 1920, and as his health failed, the work was taken over by Rubricarius (as he is known on the Internet).
Throughout my life, I have tended to befriend men some thirty years my senior, sometimes more. Their memories went back to the 1950’s and sometimes were mature young men in the 1930’s. One friend I had in the 1980’s was born in 1914 and became a Roman Catholic in 1930. Fr Coulson, who taught me how to serve Low Mass and ideas that served as an antidote to SSPX extremism was from 1912, served in World War II in the Italian campaign and joined the Camaldolese monks. He returned to his native England and was taken care of by a couple of Carmelite tertiaries living in Wimbledon. These and other men of that generation (about fifteen years older than my father) had a tremendous influence on me. They lived their youth in the “good old days” with the same difficulties as we lived through the 1970’s and 80’s.
One such man, whom I met during Holy Week in 1988 was Dr Raymond Winch. I went to spend some days with the Dominicans in Oxford to explore the possibility of a vocation with them. During a foray to Blackwell’s Bookshop, I stumbled across The Canonical Mass of the English Orthodox by Dr. Raymond Winch and another pamphlet with the title Orthodox Manual and Calendar. The Gregorian Club was based at 41 Essex Street, so I just went and rang the doorbell. That is how I met Dr Winch and enjoyed his company and immense learning.
He was as eccentric as they come, living in a very untidy and unkempt house. I had known others, and my own office gets into a mess, even though I am married. At the time, I was still doing my licentiate studies at Fribourg. He was an academic liturgical scholar with a doctorate in philosophy and many years experience in school and university teaching. His real subject was philosophy.
I never learned the details of this man’s life, but he seems to have been in his late 60’s when I met him. I would place his birth at around 1920. A cradle Roman Catholic with a fascination with Anglicanism, he would have been about 30 when Pius XII made his “infallible” definition of the Assumption of Our Lady. That seems to be the event that alienated him from Roman Catholicism. He became Greek Orthodox, as did another in about the same era, Timothy Ware who became Archimandrite and then Bishop Kallistos. Dr Winch never received Orders and remained a layman.
When I knew him, continuing to see him at his home in Oxford, or at his “other home” – the Oxford Union or the Bodleian Library, he used the Benedictine Office and attended Liturgy at his local Orthodox parish. He organised lectures at Pusey House and invited me to talk about my work on the Tridentine / Pius V reform (codification) of the Roman missal.
I and others have observed that he stood out by his gentle manners and courtesy, never judging and always ready to listen. I have even heard Dr. Winch referred to as a “new Joseph Overbeck“! Having spoken with him about this work and many other subjects, I was aware that he put in many hours of work and research from the wealth of manuscripts and published books in the various university and college libraries of Oxford.
Needless to say, the ideas expressed in his research never came to fruition in any recognised Orthodox Church. From about the mid 1990’s, he became highly disillusioned with Orthodoxy. He was a medievalist. As his health failed, Dr. Winch began to attend the Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in the old rite without being officially reconciled or receiving the Sacraments. If I remember well, I received an e-mail in about 2000 to inform me that he had died and that he requested a secular funeral.
I would now like to ask if there are any who read this blog and knew Ray Winch, or who had detailed knowledge about him. He has been largely forgotten since he died, and someone who had vaguely been in touch with me is in possession of his papers and unpublished works in view to getting them published. Google is parsimonious about him apart from the Canonical Mass and the Orthodox Manual and Calendar. His passing serves to remind us of our fragility and insignificance despite however much study we have done in the world’s greatest universities.
If there is any more information or reminiscences, please send them in. Any other comments concerning eastern or western Orthodoxy, not on this exact topic – please, put them in the Orthodox Blow-out Department.