Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Incarnation is not only for Christmas

The Feast of the Visitation has been, historically, a slightly odd one for those who have had an association with St Mary's Bourne St.  The month of May was never seen out with any great festivity, which you would at first think was unusual for a church in the highest of Anglo-Catholic traditions, dedicated to Our Lady, indeed thus dedicated on the Feast of the Visitation in 1874.  In fact there is a very good explanation.

Unlike so many of the apparently unusual traditions of individual parishes around the world, there was no secret behind this, there had been no loss of the rationale for this seemingly strange omission (although it must be admitted that the number of people "in the know" is not high).  The church was dedicated on the Feast of the Visitation according to the pre-1969 calendar, when this fell on 2 July, hence it always seemed slightly superfluous to hold another grand service on the 31 May.  Therefore, it had been practice since shortly after the calendar changes to observe the Visitation in a slightly low key way, given the bonanza to follow later in the year. 

Indeed, even although our friends at Bourne St now do mark the Visitation on 31 May in more style than in our time (and, on that note, we take the opportunity to wish the vicar a very happy birthday), the first weekend in July is still a time of great festivities there: founders and benefactors are commemorated on the Saturday, and a great procession around the parish accompanies the usual Sunday morning rituals. 

Whether the day is marked today and/or according to an older calendar, it is indeed a cause for great joy. Even if circumstances mean that we no longer agree on everything and are sadly no longer in communion, we have no difficulty at all in saying that our friends at Bourne St will be entirely right to include a Marian procession through the streets in their plans for early July.   The day should be marked with celebration and happiness.

Indeed, the first weekend of July holds a particular significance for us, as it was the occasion of our own parting of friends last year.....but we will say much more on that in around a month.

All that ecumenical introduction serves as explanatory background to the fact that we are not yet used to marking the Visitation at the end of May.  In this instance, we cannot attribute the lack of familiarity to strange Catholic practices, nor to clinging on to Anglican habits: the root cause lies in the parochial traditions of our former home.

The Visitation is a time of great rejoicing, commemorating not only the joyful leap of St John the Baptist in his mother's womb, but also the incarnation itself.  It is very easy to make the mistake of thinking that we celebrate the incarnation at Midnight Mass, and that that's enough : we do indeed celebrate the incarnation then, but the incarnation is not only about a signficant date of birth, but as the greatest of acts (all the more so for being an act of humbling abasement), it is rightly marked through the Annunciation, through the Visitation and all throughout the Church's year.

Without the incarnation there would have been no Holy Week and Easter, indeed even Pentecost, which we marked last week, would have been rather different.  The incarnation is a wonder that affects every day in the calendar, pre or post 1969, and it is absolutely correct to give thanks for it at all times.   

I mentioned above the celebrations of the Visitation in July (even if technically the event is now a commemoration of the anniversary of the dedication of a church).  Well, to make my point about the need to mark the incarnation throughout the year, I want to (appear to) be even more unseasonal and include Betjeman's well-known poem Christmas, another example of Anglican Patrimony.  The poem talks about all the ways in which Christmas is celebrated, and the things that people fixate upon, and concludes by noting that really what counts is miraculous yet rather simple.  The same can be said at any time of year, there is this single Truth that underpins so much of the Truth that the Church is blessed to proclaim.
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
The Gospels all flow from that single Truth, and we do well at all times and in all places to ensure that we ponder it in our hearts all year round, not just when the London shops are strung with silver bells and flowers.

The Visitation is a timely feast in its current position because it gives us one more chance to honour Our Lady in this her special month of May - not, of course, that we should desist from honouring her outside of May.  Time then for two pieces of music.  The first, a piece of Anglican Patrimony, the Magnificat, today's song, as set by Stanford in his Evening Service in C, and as sung at the Ordinariate's first anniversary celebrations at St James's in January this year.  The second: I just couldn't resist one last outing this year for Frank Patterson and Bring Flowers of the Rarest, a true May hymn. 

Tomorrow, our devotions turn towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the burning love of the incarnate one.  For tonight though, let us rejoice with Our Lady, and give thanks for her role in the incarnation.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Spirit of the Lord

In terms of what they like to call a "spiritual journey", the magnificent Elgar piece "The Spirit of the Lord" has a strangely symbolic place in my history.  

Often thought of as a standard, if long, example of an Anglican Cathedral anthem, a classic case of musica anglicana if you will, that reputation does not really represent the full picture.  It is not an anthem (it is the prologue to an oratorio, "The Apostles") and it was not written by an Anglican (Elgar was of course a Catholic, and he selected biblical texts in a very effective if idiosyncratic way to create the Oratorio).  Having said that, it is no surprise that the Church of England's musicians should find such appeal in a work of such power and quality, and therefore that it has indeed become such a favourite with Anglican choirs. 

Given the reaction from the Anglican establishment that had greeted the choral work on a similar scale that Elgar had written only a few years before The Apostles, there is, if I may say so, some degree of wry amusement that may be allowed.  Elgar's use of Blessed John Henry Newman's The Dream of Gerontius with its very clear expression of Catholic theology on purgatory, was a source of much Anglican angst.  The Dean of Gloucester banned the work from his cathedral in 1901, and the Dean of Hereford in 1902 decreed that it could only be performed in his cathedral with substantial edits.  One of the more acknowledged masters of musica anglicana, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, said that the piece "stinks of incense".

As a music undergraduate heavily involved in church music, I heard The Spirit of the Lord played on many CDs, but I didn't ever manage to hear it "live".  Then, in my early years in London thereafter, one quiet Sunday afternoon - which, logically, must have been Pentecost - I heard it sung at Westminster Cathedral.  As all who know the work can understand, it was a powerful experience, helped of course by hearing it sung in that wonderful building by the best cathedral choir in England.

The quiet, meditative introduction; the quiet, unison setting of the words of Our Lord; the concise, effective summary of some of the key tasks to be performed in the name of the Father expressed in warm and powerful singing and orchestration : it is a very moving piece for those who choose to listen carefully to its seven minutes. 
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord; to give unto them that mourn a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

The mystical introduction to the piece helps emphasise the other-worldly, spiritual genesis of this mission to good works.  Workers in the vineyard, yes, but not just any old vineyard: we are commissioned to work in the vineyard of the Lord.  There are many charitable things we can do, many excellent and important roles to be performed, but we are to carry them out for a reason and in a wider context.  We are not to be social workers in fancy dress, nor are we do-gooders who get together to sing songs and use fancy words once a week.  The calling we have comes from God Himself, and as such is intricately bound up with our place in his Church, our tasks being both spiritual and practical.

What a strange co-incidence it was then, that at our last Pentecost Sunday as Anglicans, the anthem at St Mary's was this very piece, this music written by a Catholic but so popular with Anglicans, this piece that expresses a spiritual calling, a mission, the undertaking of tasks, even a call to obedience. 

Is it too much in the way of wishful thinking to imagine that in the words being sung in unison there was a sign of there even being a call to the unity within which we would find ourselves a few months later, upon being received into the Catholic Church?  Perhaps it is, but the symbolism most certainly fits.  I heard the music "live" for the first time in the mother church of Catholic England, and it was one of the last pieces I heard sung in a church before I joined the Catholic Church - you will understand why I see significance in it.

Another Catholic musician much loved in Anglican cathedrals, and who wrote a famous piece of music often performed at Pentecost, was Thomas Tallis.  His setting of Loquebantur Variis Linguis is a staple of church music on this day throughout the country.  Tallis, and his contemporary and pupil Byrd, remained devout Catholics throughout their lives, notwithstanding the severe religious turmoil that battered sixteenth-century England. Both wrote music in English and in Latin and displayed a tremendous talent for adapting their composition skills to the needs of the particular monarch's religion at the time : both wrote glorious polyphony, florid expressions of the glory of Catholic church music, both wrote equally beautiful but very different and much plainer music for the protestant tastes of the newly born Church of England.

Byrd shared Elgar's ability to join disparate parts of biblical texts in one piece of music, whereas Tallis generally preferred to set texts from liturgy.  Here then is that Tallis piece, a setting of the second respond at Matins on the third day after Pentecost, in his typical polyphonic responsory style (where a number of parts weave around a plainsong cantus firmus sung by the tenor part) :

Loquebantur variis linguis apostoli, alleluia.
Magnalia Dei, alleluia.
Repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto,
et ceperunt loqui variis linguis.
Magnalia Dei, alleluia.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

The apostles spoke in many tongues, alleluia,
Of the great works of God, alleluia.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
and began to speak in many tongues
of the great works of God, alleluia.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Clarifying the Clarifications

First of all, before moving to topic of this post, a word of congratulations to all the new deacons ordained for the Ordinariate this morning at Westminster Cathedral.  A photo of the new deacons, taken from the Ordinariate's Facebook page, is included below.  Oh yes, and it is indeed new Deacon John Hunwicke that you can see alongside his fellow new deacons in this photo.

Our post on the statement issued by the Church of England's House of Bishops earlier this week attracted a lot of readers, and some very interesting, informed and courteously made comments.  Do have a look if you haven't already done so, you can find it all here.

As a short postcript, we draw our readers' attention to a statement issued last night by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York.  You can find the full text here, but we set out below a few extracts and comments.

In summary, the clarificatory statement confirms the way we had understood the statement from the House of Bishops.   You see, there's proof for all you doubters about whether Anglican Patrimony exists, we are still capable of deciphering the dense language that emerges from Lambeth Palace and Church House.
In the comments on our article Missing the Point, we said that the clarification about what delegation meant and where the replacement bishop's episcopal status came from did not change anything, it was merely a statement of fact.  A helpful one, but still a clarification only, bringing about no change.  York and Canterbury said :
To take the simpler ...[amendment]...first: we decided to make no change to the provision in the Draft Measure by virtue of which the arrangements made by diocesan bishops under diocesan schemes for the exercise of ministry by a male bishop take effect, as a matter of law, by way of 'delegation. But we believed that it would help to spell out what is and isn't meant by the 'delegation' of the power to perform acts of episcopal ministry. Bishops are bishops because they are ordained in the name of the whole Church; but they are enabled to act as bishops in this or that particular area in virtue of various legal provisions. For those who are not diocesan bishops, this means that a diocesan gives them the legal authority to act as bishops - as pastors and teachers and people responsible for other ordained ministers.
'Delegation' describes the giving of that authority. It does not take anything away from the diocesan bishop who delegates; it just allows another bishop to minister legally in the diocesan's area of oversight. The amendment simply declares what the law and practice of the Church already is, and what we mean by delegation in other contexts.
So, the clarification of the clarification of the first proposed amendment is clear: nothing has changed (no disrespect intended, but isn't that a classic example of the typical Anglican model of governance).  There is no additional comfort provided to Anglo-Catholics, and there should be no implication of "taint" assumed by proponents of the ordination of women to the Anglican episcopate.
The clarification of second proposed amendment is also pretty clear.  A replacement bishop supplied by a diocesan bishop must be male and must share the views of the parish on the issue of the ordination of women.  There is no right for a parish to choose who the replacement bishop will be.  Therefore, despite the ongoing role (even if no longer in PEV status) of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverly, a diocesan bishop need not call them in, but can call in a more establishment or mainstream figure, such as a nearby suffragan or retired anglican bishop (I don't mean to be rude there, it is no insult to anyone I hope, but I think what I mean is clear).
The earlier draft of the Measure already allowed parishes to request the diocesan to provide a male bishop to minister to them if their theological convictions were such as to make it impossible in conscience to receive a woman's ministry in this role. For this to operate effectively, a diocesan would obviously have to do what could be done to find a bishop who could work constructively with such a parish.

The amendment requires the Code of Practice which the bishops will draw up to offer guidance as to how this might be achieved. This was already something the bishops and the Synod would have been able to include in the Code. The change is that they will now have to include such guidance. It does not give parishes the right to 'choose their own bishop' or insist that their bishop has a particular set of beliefs. It allows them to ask for episcopal ministry, as spelled out in Clause 2 of the Measure, only on the grounds of theological conviction about women's ordained ministry. The precise wording in the Code remains something for the Bishops and Synod to determine but it attempts to take seriously the fact that, as has been clear all along, simply providing any male bishop would not do justice to the theological convictions lying behind requests from some parishes.
One can understand why Canterbury and York issued this clarification.  There had been a lot of comment, some of it very excited indeed.  I'm sure we have all read of the sadly infamous article commented upon at Let Nothing You Dismay.

As our comments on the Missing the Point blogpost suggested, we think that if for whatever reason, the legislation is not passed in the summer (without commenting on whether, from a personal perspective, any of us would wish that it should or should not be), then the negative fall out could be significant.  This will most especially be the case if the "pro" camp doesn't vote the legislation through.  The "pro" camp, the media and politicians will thereafter exert massive pressure on the new Archbishop of Canterbury to ensure the swiftest and clearest possible solution to what they will simplistically and erroneously - but successfully and convincingly - describe as a sacrifice by supporters of the ordination of women, made necessary by the bishops being too nice to meanie traditionalists. 

After all, who knows what the approach of the new Archbishop of Canterbury might be.  It seems unlikely that he will be as understanding as Rowan Williams has been.  The make up of the selection committee cannot, we suppose, offer much comfort to Anglo-Catholics

We have focused too much on developments in the CofE recently, even if given our history it is inevitable that we should.  One more mention then of the Ordination at Westminster Cathedral today, on which we will provide a report in a subsequent post.  Our prayers for all the candidates ordained deacon this morning.  Thanks be to Almighty God for sending so many good and holy men to serve in his Church.

H/T to the Once I Was a Clever Boy blog for this beautiful 15th century Catalan painting of the ordination of St Vincent to the diaconate by Bishop St Valerius.

A word also about the feast of St Philip Neri, Father of Oratorians.  His feast is being kept in the greatest style at the London Oratory today, led by HE Cardinal Burke.  We ask the prayers of St Philip Neri, and also offer our prayers, for that wonderful church, led of course by its new Provost, who like us is a former regular at St Mary's Bourne St, and with many former members of the Bourne St congregation in its pews.    Our fellow Catholics at the Oratory had the Theresienmesse as the setting of the Ordinary of their Solemn Pontifical Mass this morning.  Here is the Gloria, followed by a couple of photos taken by Eoghain Murphy of proceedings in Brompton this morning. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Missing the Point

Some wonder if we are intruding when we, as individual members of the Ordinariate, reflect on what is going in the Church of England.  Some still in the CofE think that we should forget about all those beside whom we knelt at the CofE's altars, and give no thought to their situation.  Our response to that has always been that it is impossible for us to forget all that was good about our Anglican past (no-one in the Catholic Church has ever asked us to deny anything of our Anglican past), and of course no small part of that was those around us.  As such, we maintain a keen interest. 

Certainly, we rejoice in where we now find ourselves, but that does not mean that we blank out, in a Stalinist way, those who were around us week by week in the past.  A commenter on another blog recently highlighted that some Anglican parish websites, in cases where the previous incumbent left to join the Ordinariate, have adopted the approach of airbrushing him (and those who crossed the Tiber with him) out of their history.  That is not what we want to do.  Many of these people remain our friends, and even those whom we don't know have, in many ways, a shared past with us: how could we possibly not be interested?

Why the urge to comment today?  Well, because the Church of England's House of Bishops issued a press release last night, which in essence states that the Code of Practice that they intend to accompany the legislation to allow the appointment of women to the Anglican episcopacy will be amended only in a couple of minor ways before being presented to General Synod for approval in a few weeks from now.  One must certainly compliment the author of the press release on his or her lawyerly eloquence.  To cut it all down in the most bathetic of ways, in a simpler tone, the Code of Practice seems to say more or less the following.
If a parish situated in a diocese where the diocesan bishop is female petitions the diocesan bishop for alternative episcopal oversight, that diocesan bishop, respecting procedures drawn up in her diocese, will allow a male bishop (with similar theological views to the parish in question) to act on her behalf in that parish.  That male bishop, although no less an anglican bishop in his own right than she is in hers, would be acting on delegated authority only, and would in no sense replace the diocesan bishop or usurp her authority as diocesan bishop.  The CofE will commit to maintaining a supply of male bishops able and willing to act on this basis, and will not discriminate in ordination selection against those who are unable to accept in conscience the ordination of women to the anglican priesthood or episcopate.
A press release from WATCH expresses outrage that any amendments at all have been made to the previous version of the Code of Practice, but frankly the only change worth mentioning is that a replacement male bishop must hold views compatible with those of the parish seeking alternative oversight (the misguided previous versions talked only about a need to provide a male bishop, which erroneously implied that all opposition was down merely to outrageous sexism, and could be easily addressed by ensuring that the replacement were male).

I don't think anyone is genuinely surprised by the news from the CofE's House of Bishops.  No, this is was what was expected (and in some Anglo-Catholic quarters feared, because there is still absolutely no statutory provision), but it was also what the clear majority in General Synod and in Diocesan Synods up and down the country had voted for.  As a matter of fact, that is how the Church of England governs itself: one is free to agree or disagree with that as a system, but "theology by democratic vote" is the way things are now done in the CofE.  Something of a change from the words of Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945-1961, often quoted by Anglo-Catholics thereafter as proof of the catholic nature of the CofE:
The Church of England has no doctrine of its own, save that of the one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
It is precisely because the democratic position has been so clear that the tone of some of those in favour of the ordination of women to the anglican episcopacy has perhaps been, on occasion, less friendly than it might have been.  There has been an understandable sense of exasperation that after so many years of debate, when the majority will has been made clear, that discussions continue.

Yet, it seems to us that the whole debate is actually missing the point entirely.  The understandable heat that has built up on both sides is deflecting attention from a more fundamental question.  The massive disagreement is not really about the ordination of women, at least from an Anglo-Catholic perspective it shouldn't be, it is about authority and unity.

Once one see this, then suddenly a great ray of light dawns.

We need to move beyond the genuine emotion and well-thought through arguments on both sides of these debates and stop to reflect.  Where is the authority to decide? 

Blessed John Paul II didn't think he had the authority to make changes to introduce women to the priesthood of the Catholic Church.  Therefore, the objection from Anglo-Catholic quarters was historically that the CofE could not decide on this alone and thereby distance itself from the wider Church in both the East and the West.  I think I can speak for all the Marylebone group when I say that we have never been particularly worked up about the ordination of women or the other big debates of the day, per se.  They are not and have never been issues that obsess us.  What matters far more is whether any of us, individually or as an elected group in a General Synod, have the authority to change or redefine things. 

When you join the Ordinariate, you are not asked to say that if you had the chance to make up your own religion, according to what you felt would represent a popular view in your times of what was good, you would come up with something that was word for word identical to the Catechism.  You are not asked to state that there are no hard teachings in the Catechism. You are asked to say that you accept the Catholic Faith as presented in the Catechism.  You are asked to say that in Christian obedience you accept that the Church is, using the words of 1 Timothy 3.15, the "...pillar and bulwark of the truth...", and that therefore you accept the teachings of the Church.  Specifically, you are asked to declare your faith through the Creed, and to say:
I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.
You are asked to say nothing more than you have probably sung a hundred times even in your Anglican days, now of course appreciating more completely the meaning of this verse from the hymn (Firmly I believe and truly) drawn from Newman's Dream of Gerontius :
And I hold in veneration
For the love of Him alone
Holy Church as His creation
And her teachings as His own
This has sometimes been criticised as meaning that you must switch your brain off upon becoming a Catholic.  That just isn't so.  Blessed John Henry Newman explained this point in the Apologia:
From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.
He had not changed, he was not a different person.  What had happened is that he found himself in a place where what the Church taught was the Truth, however convenient or inconvenient the Truth might be. 

The excellent Let Nothing You Dismay blog summed up this dichotomy between visions of what the Church is, indeed of what truth is, in a post earlier this week in which recent news from the Church in Wales is mentioned.  That the author should select the same extract of the First Letter of Timothy, highlighted in 1.8 of Lumen Gentium and in paragraph 27 of Veritatis Splendor proves that the same concern is shared on both sides of the Tiber.
Here we have it - Church as representative focus group of existing opinion or as the faithful teacher and guarantor of a revealed and authentic Christian tradition, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth?"  We all have to make a choice (personally, it would now seem) as to which 'model' we are theologically, philosophically, and ethically or morally willing or able to accept.
If your vision of the Church, and if your vision of truth, is concordant with a system where majority votes can cause significant changes that can make Unity far harder to achieve, then the General Synod is for you.  Vote by vote, five-year elected synod by five-year elected synod, things can be changed dramatically.  That's one approach. 

The other approach, being that there is a Truth to proclaim, is indeed set out in, amongst many other places, the two documents mentioned above, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and the Encyclical Veritatis Splendor (both are eminently readable and approachable, especially the latter).  Veritatis Splendor, although addressing a different and specific context, opens as follows, calling all to look to the truth in obedience, however hard or uncomfortable that truth might be. 

It thereby recognises the objectivity, indeed the splendour of truth, that when the Catholic faith teaches that certain things are true, it does so fearless as to whether that truth will be a hit or not.
Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22).

This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.
If we want the faith of the apostles, as handed down over millenia, then we have the Catholic Church.  If we don't accept that, if we want an approach where we ourselves can define what the truth is, then there are other options available.  As stated on Let Nothing You Dismay, the choice is this "...(the) Church as representative focus group of existing opinion or as the faithful teacher and guarantor of a revealed and authentic Christian tradition"

That concept of truth does not limit itself to the tougher moral teachings of the Church, but it brings with it an overriding concept that there is an absolute truth.  If we want to change things, we need to be sure that we have both a very sound basis to do so, and the clear authority to do so.  The mere fact that something appears to be "right" to a group of people, even to a majority of people, does not make it right: the popularity of something does not require that we bring it into being regardless of whether or not we can find any authority in scripture or tradition to do so.

It is for this reason that we have the magisterium.  If you ignore the magisterium, making yourself and your peers the ultimate arbiters, then Catholic teaching says that you step away from the guidance that Christ has given us through His holy Church.  Blessed John Paul II said this in a lecture in November 1988:

....The Church's magisterium is among the means which Christ's redeeming love has provided to avoid this danger of error. In His name, it has a real teaching authority. Therefore, it cannot be said that the faithful have embarked on a diligent search for truth if they do not take into account what the magisterium teaches, or if, by putting it on the same level as any other source of knowledge, one makes oneself judge, or if in doubt, one follows one's own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure teaching of the magisterium....

.....One of the great experts of the human heart, St. Augustine, wrote: "Our freedom consists in our subjection to the truth."  Always seek the truth; venerate the truth discovered; obey the truth. There is no joy beyond this search, this veneration and obedience.....

....In this wonderful adventure of your spirit, the Church is not an obstacle to you: on the contrary, she is a help. By departing from the magisterium, you risk the vanity of error and the slavery of opinions: they are seemingly strong but, in reality, fragile because only the truth of the Lord remains forever.
There are of course those who do not accept the magisterium.  It is an entirely logical position for people who do not accept the magisterium to be in the Church of England: no-one suggests the contrary. 

However, for those outside full visible communion who claim to be in line with the Catholic faith, the big question is not really to do with the technicalities of what General Synod is doing.  No, the challenge is (more so after last night's press release than ever), if you say that you are following the Catholic faith, what do you mean by the Catholic faith, if not the faith defined by the Magisterium, held by the Catholic Church and set out in the Catechism, and requiring communion with the Successor of St Peter?  Anyone in that position should read the letter that we quoted in this recent blogpost.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ascendens Christus in Altum Alleluia

Having been used to a pattern of feasts based on the BCP kalendar (for example, our friends at Bourne St mark the Ascension tonight), one of the little adjustments we have had to make as new Catholics is the keeping of solemnities such as today on the following Sunday. 

This caused a little confusion amongst us this morning as we sorted out plans for when to attend an Ascension mass, it being a Holy Day of Obligation, even if that obligation is transferred in England and Wales to next Sunday. 

Just to cause a little extra complexity, I had travelled this morning from Paris, where it is a French public holiday, marking indeed the Ascension.  On this Solemnity last year, while still an Anglican, I attended mass at my Paris parish church, S Pierre de Chaillot, mentioned before on this blog in respect of this year's Ash Wednesday liturgy.  Yet, this year, I was speeding on the Eurostar over to a country where the obligation had been transferred, and could not make the 11am Extraordinary Form Mass being celebrated at St James's..... Sunday it will have to be.

Whenever you mark the Ascension, a most blessed feast day to you.   Two pieces of music to help you celebrate today, the first a setting by Victoria of Ascendens Christus in Altum, the last Responsorium of the Second Nocturn of Matins for the Ascension; the second some well known Anglican Patrimony, a staple of Anglican cathedrals and colleges, the Finzi setting of God is gone up, the text coming from a meditation by Edward Taylor.   My search for a top quality recording on youtube of the Philips setting of Ascendit Deus continues: last year I had hoped to find one for the St Mary's Bourne St Facebook page, but to no avail, and no success this year either.  Let's hope for something for next year. 

Ascendens Christus in altum, alleluia.
Captivam duxit captivitatem, alleluia.
Dedit dona hominibus, alleluia.
Ascendit Deus in jubilatione,
et Dominus in voce tubae, alleluia.
Dedit dona hominibus, alleluia.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Life is Happiness Indeed

In recent months, some Anglo-Catholics have taken heart from the appointment to various Anglican episcopal roles of those they felt to be "sound", and who understood their situation.  It started with the Principal of Pusey House being given role of Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and the Vicar of Walsingham being given the role of Bishop of Richborough.  

There seems to be even more excitement now, following the recent appointment of Dr Martin Warner as the next Bishop of Chichester (an Anglican diocesan see, rather than an Anglican assistant bishop position).   Dr Warner is a good and holy man, much loved and respected by those who work with him, with great intellectual, spiritual and pastoral talents: no-one disputes that. 

However, does Dr Warner's appointment mean that Anglo-Catholics can dismiss the rest of all possible worlds, and conclude that they inhabit the best of all possible worlds

We don't wish to be flippant.  There are plenty who take a thoughtful and measured approach to this, who feel that what comfort has been given here is in the fact that such appointments can still be made at all (especially to an Anglican diocesan see rather than simply to an auxiliary or assistant position), rather than in any sense that the Church of England, or indeed the Church in Wales (whose bloggers are under no illusions), understands them or their ecclesiology any more than it has done in recent years. 

Yet, with no disrespect to any of the charming, erudite and truly christian men freshly appointed to their new roles, if the changes in the Church of England are going to happen (which seems very likely), isn't there a danger that these appointments could serve only to mask their effect, to disguise the fact that a fundamental shift has occured?    By the same token, undoubtedly Rowan Williams has much sympathy for his Anglo-Catholic flock, and no doubt he has pushed hard for these appointments (in the appropriate way), seeking to achieve by personal influence and charity what General Synod resolutely refuses to provide in law: yet is this delight in being able to trust one person to patch things up really all that wise, given that no-one can know what his successor(s) will do?  After all, the appointment of Dr Williams's successor as Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, one of the most uber-liberal of the current Anglican primates (in a competitive field), to the Crown Nominations Commission (the body that will recommend the next Archbishop of Canterbury) is hardly likely to generate any comfort for those in the Church of England who are aware of parallel developments in the Church in Wales.   

The reaction to Dr Warner's appointment was not universally positive.  A regrettably graceless comment is quoted in this BBC article, which is especially unfortunate following the appointment of a man who has shown himself very able to work with with all around him, whatever their views.   However, one has to wonder if the stark tone of the WATCH press release might not reflect simply an understandable frustration at the fact that, just as the CofE is on the edge of appointing women to its episcopacy, with no real provision for those who do not think such things can be decided by majority vote in one place alone, it is simultaneously prepared to appoint a diocesan bishop who will not ordain women even as anglican priests.

In an earlier post, written as the fuss before the most recent round of General Synod debates was at its height, we commented on how the sometimes direct tone of certain statements distracted people from seeing that the point being made was merely factual and not especially controversial.  In particular, we quoted The Telegraph's interview with the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin.  There is no doubt that what she said might have been phrased more delicately, but that doesn't undermine her point.
The Church is desperately trying to hold everybody together, and we haven’t understood that this is not going to be possible. To try to do that is to put on a sticking plaster that is going to curl at the edge and fall apart. It cannot be sustainable. The whole thing is a mess. We need to say, as a Church, 'We ordain men and women.’ Full stop. All the way to the top. For those who feel that they can’t live with it? They’re adults. By all means, go to Rome. Join the Ordinariate. Don’t stay and make demands of the Church. It’s wrong.
In that post, we said that we could all be excused a certain level of frustration having seen this issue being debated for 37 years.  Some might argue that a little bit of brutally frank honesty is what is necessary, for those on all sides of the debate, so that everyone might come to realise where they now stood, and to decide whether they liked it or not.

There will be those who come to the conclusion that they are delighted with their lot.  There will be those who will decide to be assimilated (not necessarily easily, but still), perhaps because these days you have to be in the majority.  Good for them: we might disagree, but we must wish each other well. 

There will also be those who consider that they don't like what is happening, but who somehow decide to stick it out, perhaps encouraged by the recent appointments, for example.  Their buildings haven't fallen down, the choir and servers still put on a good show, and the reality of the wider Church of England seems a million miles away.  However, in this, is the decision not being taken in effect to accept the phrase used with such punch by Fr Ed Tomlinson, and to opt for a system of terminal care for Anglo-Catholics and for the past understanding of Anglo-Catholicism and its aims?  Is terminal care really the best that can be hoped for?  Should people really settle for the Sunset Retirement Home for Ecclesial Visions?  Is that really the best of all possible worlds?

All this is so very far from the vision of Blessed John Paul II in his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral in 1982. 
My dear brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, “whom I love and long for” (Phil. 4, 1), how happy I am to be able to speak directly to you today in this great Cathedral! The building itself is an eloquent witness both to our long years of common inheritance and to the sad years of division that followed......I appeal to you in this holy place, all my fellow Christians, and especially the members of the Church of England and the members of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, to accept the commitment to which Archbishop Runcie and I pledge ourselves anew before you today. This commitment is that of praying and working for reconciliation and ecclesial unity according to the mind and heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ. On this first visit of a Pope to Canterbury, I come to you in love - the love of Peter to whom the Lord said, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luc. 22, 32). I come to you also in the love of Gregory, who sent Saint Augustine to this place to give the Lord’s flock a shepherd’s care (Cfr. 1 Petr. 5, 2). Just as every minister of the Gospel must do, so today I echo the words of the Master: “I am among you as one who serves” (Luc. 22, 27). With me I bring to you, beloved brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, the hopes and the desires, the prayers and good will of all who are united with the Church of Rome, which from earliest times was said to “preside in love” (S. IGNATII ANTIOCHENI Ad Romanos, Prooem.).
Dr Warner has rightly talked (from roughly 4 minutes into this film) of how significant the Anglo-Catholic movement has been to the life and identity of the Church of England, how it is a strand that contributes to defining the nature of the Church of England, how, without that strand, the Church of England would be less than itself.  This is all true, but when the claims of Anglo-Catholicism are based on a shakier and shakier logic, can one still say that the strand is there?  Can one say it will be there in a few years from now?

Dr Warner also cites ecclesia semper reformanda as a justification for the continual development of the Church.  Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.  Ecclesia semper reformanda is a phrase that needs to be understood in context, and not a phrase, I propose, that can be used to suggest that the Church of England is concordant with Catholic teaching in assimilating to whatever comes its way through the democratic votes of its decision making bodies.

Lumen Gentium talks in fact of ecclesia semper purificanda, which is of course not exactly the same thing.  The word reformanda does not appear in Lumen Gentium.
Dum vero Christus, "sanctus, innocens, impollutus" (Hebr 7,26), peccatum non novit (cf. 2Cor 5,21), sed sola delicta populi repropitiare venit (cf. Hebr 2,17), Ecclesia in proprio sinu peccatores complectens, sancta simul et semper purificanda, poenitentiam et renovationem continuo prosequitur.
While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled knew nothing of sin, but came to expiate only the sins of the people, the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal.
Further, using the phrase ecclesia semper reformanda is not without its difficulties for those trying to emphasise their catholic credentials from outside the Church, as it is often understood to be one of the great cries of the protestant reformers who sought to break away from catholicism and Rome.  The following quotation from the very same section of Lumen Gentium makes it clear that a key part of catholic identity, whether being reformed or being purified, is communion with Rome, with the successor of St Peter.
Haec est unica Christi Ecclesia, quam in Symbolo unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam profitemur, quam Salvator noster, post resurrectionem suam Petro pascendam tradidit (cf. Io 21,17), eique ac ceteris Apostolis diffundendam et regendam commisit (cf. Mt 28,18ss.), et in perpetuum ut columnam et firmamentum veritatis erexit (cf. 1Tim 3,15). Haec Ecclesia, in hoc mundo ut societas constituta et ordinata, subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata, licet extra eius compaginem elementa plura sanctificationis et veritatis inveniantur, quae ut dona Ecclesiae Christi propria, ad unitatem catholicam impellunt.
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
The further that the Church of England wanders from the path towards that communion with the Successor of St Peter, the more difficult it is to see that "vital strand" of which Dr Warner talks.   The meetings of ARCIC last week in Hong Kong give no hope at all in this respect, as the words of the Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand make clear :
There seem to be many obstacles from a human point of view, and it does not seem likely to have fully visible unity in the near future.
This is not to say that the phrase ecclesia semper reformanda cannot be used in a Catholic context: of course it can, and very effectively too, but this only in the sense of the hermeneutic of continuity, not in the sense of total rupture; in the sense of new ways of presenting the same Truth, not in the sense of innovations not justified through scripture or tradition.

In the same video interview, the phrase "Catholic and Reformed" is used, a label for the Church of England that I have never liked.  Apart from the obvious contradictions in the phrase, and the implication that circles can be squared (something that General Synod knows is not the case), it opens the door to a "pick and mix" approach to faith, doctrine and religion, and closes the door to the objectivity, the splendour even, of divinely revealed truth.  Without wanting to imply that Anglo-Catholicism was ever a single movement with a totally unified aim of corporate reunion, I think it is fair to say that we are now seeing something very new: an assimilation is taking place, whereby there is less and less even of a pretence of an interest in the Reunion of Christendom, the concept that features so prominently on the Halifax Memorial in our former Anglican home, St Mary's Bourne St. 

The ultimate goal seems to be to preserve some sort of special status in the Church of England, as part of the mix with liberal and evangelicals with whom there would be some rather significant theological differences.  An enclave.  A quiet corner.  Unity, apart from in the context of the old joke about the Church of England being an ecumenical movement in itself, doesn't get a look in.

The questions raised in our post Lines in the Sand remain.  In that post, we talked of the lines in the sand that meant that Manning and Newman felt called to leave the Church of England and to join the Catholic Church: yet it is very hard for us outsiders to see where the lines in the sand for the current Anglo-Catholic movement would be.  Given that the lines seem to shift pretty radically ("a code of practice will not do"), it is not especially hard to understand the frustration that leads to the tone of the WATCH press release mentioned above and to the tone of the quotation of the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

In the hope of Catholic Unity, we pray that the new view in the Anglo-Catholic movement is not that the Church of England is considered, of itself, to consitute the best of all possible worlds, come what may.  The appointment by the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury of two new PEVs (just as the role of PEV is about to be abolished), and of a good and holy man of the Anglo-Catholic tradition to one of the most Anglo-Catholic dioceses in England (even if that diocese voted in favour of the ordination of women to the Anglican episcopate) does not mean that all is well, much less that all will be well. 

After enduring terrible trials, even Dr Pangloss and Candide came to see that they did not in fact inhabit the best of all possible worlds where everything was for the best.  After their realisation of the truth, in the Bernstein setting, they sing the following words:

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground
You might guess where we would say the solid ground is located.  This is the appropriate moment, come to Rome in all safety.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Reforming Perceptions

On Tuesday, London’s tourists were flocking to the Mall to watch the Queen make her way to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament.  This is, of course, a familiar sight to those of us who live or work in the city; a sight as banal as the language of the speech our unfortunate monarch is required to deliver on behalf of her ministers.

Yet but a short distance away, in the even older ceremonial thoroughfare of Pall Mall, a more remarkable site was to be seen, that of fifty or so Catholic priests making their way not to the more familiar ecclesiastical territory of the Athenaeum or the Travellers, but to that less godly institution, the Reform Club.

The occasion was a meeting hosted by the Friends of the Ordinariate at which Mgr Keith Newton and Mgr Andrew Burnham discussed the role of the Ordinariate in the Catholic life of Great Britain and how that work might be supported by the priests and parishes of the Church.  The meeting itself was private but the goodwill demonstrated towards the Ordinariate was both heartfelt and heartening.

When we were received into the Church it was at first a little disappointing, if entirely understandable, to find a widespread lack of awareness of the Ordinariate among Catholics, of what it is about and why Pope Benedict brought it into being.  We are very familiar with the question “but why did you not just become a Catholic” and are well experienced in the art of explaining that we are indeed full members of the Catholic Church, rejoicing in a unity we so long denied ourselves.

In the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, we have been particularly fortunate not only in the support we have received from the clergy in the parish that our group attends, but also in having the opportunity at occasional Ordinariate services to demonstrate some of those rich traditions we bring with us as part of our Anglican patrimony.  We know that when we have the opportunity to explain, and better still to show, the role of the Ordinariate, understanding and support invariably follows quickly from those hitherto perplexed.  The initiative of the Friends in arranging the meeting, and there will be more to follow in other parts of the country, is greatly to be welcomed.  Quite rightly, the obligation is on us to explain ourselves, and this we are more than happy to do.

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith has already reported very positively on the meeting in the Catholic Herald, including reference to a service of evensong he attended in Chichester, a name that is to feature in an upcoming blogpost here.  

How appropriate it was that the meeting should end with the singing of the Regina Caeli, surely the first time it had ever been heard in the Reform Club.  As the words echoed from the Library, through the Gallery and the Saloon and into every corner of Charles Barry’s magnificent building, they enveloped the portrait of Daniel O’Connell, the bust of Henry Brougham and many another who had fought for Catholic Emancipation and who, in their triumph, paved the way for the passing of the great Reform Act itself.  O’Connell’s Catholic Association had profound and lasting consequences for the British constitution, far beyond those imagined by its founders.  Perhaps in their choice of the Reform Club the Friends of the Ordinariate were wiser than they knew.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Tidings of Joy

This morning, the Ordinariate announced its list of candidates for Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood.  Congratulations to all on the list: our prayers are with you, and we share your great joy and thankfulness that the shared journey we have made together into the full communion of the Catholic Church is now leading you onwards on the long and challenging road towards priestly service.

There is one name in particular on that list that causes us to rejoice.  It is, of course: Hunwicke, John William.  It is wonderful news that this learned, holy and charming gentleman is moving forward in the process towards being ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church.  What has happened is not official confirmation or agreement of Ordination, it is simply the publication of a list of candidates, but even so, even if it is no more than a small step forward as part of continuing deliberations, it is to be wholeheartedly welcomed.

Many of us in the Ordinariate owe a lot to the learning that Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes has given us.  Those of us who have met him, even if on only a few occasions, are even more in his debt.  He is a scholar with an in-depth knowledge of all the best of Anglican Patrimony (and of so much more), who has an unswerving loyalty and devotion to, and love for, Holy Mother Church.  He is also a truly lovely man, who has made sacrifices to play his part in answering Our Lord's call to Christian Unity, and who has continued to wait patiently on the Lord while the wheels of process turn.

Fr Hunwicke has featured on this blog before, indeed in one of our most popular ever blogposts.  He very kindly agreed to give us permission to reproduce in full a sermon he gave in October 2010 at St Mary's Bourne St.  It is an extremely inspiring sermon, on the topic of Our Lady of Victories and the Battle of Lepanto, full of details and wisdom, but entirely accessible even to those less familiar with the subjects covered.   Do take the time to read it.

The day after his visit to Bourne St, he posted a very favourable report of his trip to London on his own blog, the comments on which include a few interesting points from Bourne St regulars, on the origins of the sung Angelus in particular (now there's Patrimony for you).  His report charmed all of those at Bourne St who read it, indeed my wife and daughters were among those most thrilled to have been mentioned in such a kind way in so elevated a forum.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we posted an article on the First Mass of Fr Daniel Lloyd of the Oxford Ordinariate Group.   The eagle-eyed among you might even have spotted a photo of Fr Hunwicke reading the Prayers of the Faithful that day.  Since that group might one day soon, Deo volente, have another priest, as our newest member (a former member of the Oxford group) jokingly notes, it could soon be on its way to being fully resourced for a Pontifical High Mass. 

We concluded the blogpost on Fr Lloyd's First Mass with the Haydn Te Deum.  Time to post it again, in joy and thanksgiving for this wondrous news.  Small steps forward in a positive direction.  Prayers for, and congratulations to, all the Ordinariate's candidates for Ordination.  What a tremendous sign of encouragement, development and growth that there is a list, let along such a long one.  Let us hope, as the process continues, that all these candidates proceed to Ordination, and that the Lord will send us many more priests to serve in His Holy Catholic Church.

Deo gratias!

Monday, 7 May 2012

May Devotion

Between the 1030 and 1200 masses at St James's yesterday, the main act in the parish's May Devotion took place, a procession accompanied by the singing of hymns.  This is an act of worship that is extremely familiar to former regulars at St Mary's Bourne St. 

At the start of each May there, originally on a Sunday evening but then switched to be part of the main Sunday morning service in the late 1990s, a procession takes place around the parish (we have previously included some photos of this event c1992, including images of Fr Nicholas Kavanagh, now one of the parish clergy at St James's, in his Anglican days).  There was therefore something not only comforting and familiar, but also reinvigorating about seeing afresh a well known and loved devotion in what was undoubtedly its right and fullest setting.

Although the Bank Holiday Weekend around Easter had not seemed to have any adverse impact on the attendance figures at the Triduum at St James's, this Bank Holiday had clearly taken its toll on the usually impressive numbers at the 0930 Extraordinary Form Mass, the 1030 Solemn Latin Mass and the 1200 Mass.  Yet, squeezed in between the 1030 and the 1200, crowds appeared, seemingly from nowhere, to boost the throng and to join in this act of loving devotion to Our Most Blessed Mother. 

The St James's parish notes had prepared us for the event.  They had reflected on what is meant by natural law, a concept that seems so much to enrage critics of the Church.  There are some things that are quite simply right, that are known to be way that things are and must be.  For example, you do not need to be a Catholic or even a Christian to be aware that "Thou shalt not kill" is something that we all know to be right.  Those who talk of "just war", and yes even those who talk of euthanasia or capital punishment, all share the same premise that their case argues for a derogation from what we know to be right, what we know to be the normal and natural state of things. 

If we then turn to take another Commandment "Honour thy father and mother" and look at it in the same light of natural law, then we can say that devotion to Our Lady is utterly and completely natural and right.  Fr Colven, in those parish notes, advanced this argument as follows :
Somehow, in our Western secularised societies, Christians, and particularly Catholics, have to rebuild a credible presentation of natural law so that people begin once again to discover that right and wrong are not wholly relative terms – that there is such a thing as the objectivity (and, to quote Pope John Paul, the “splendour”) of truth.

Where do we begin this process? Perhaps we have within the Catholic tradition an emphasis which most people can recognise within their own life experience. The fourth of the Commandments (and the first to have a promise attached to it) is “honour your father and mother”. It is instinctive to respect and to love those who have given us life and nurtured its formative stages: this is not merely a matter of duty, but something which engages the heart and the emotions at so many levels - the general discomfort which is felt at the prospect of family breakdown, divorce, one parent homes, children in care, etc. only serves to underline the “naturalness” of maternal, paternal and familial relationships: this is what is expected and wanted, even when it is not found.

We know that Marian devotion has gone hand in hand with Christian orthodoxy – that as the Church began to understand (and define) the mystery of Jesus Christ in the first centuries of its life, it found that if had to speak about the woman in whom the incarnation had taken place. The authenticity of Christ’s humanity was (and is) guaranteed by a focus on the creature called to be his Mother. This focus is so much more than the theological emphasis from which it proceeds for, just as it is a basic instinct to love our own mothers, so it is the Christian instinct to love the Mother of Jesus. In so doing, we are caught up into something of the warmth of relationship shared by Jesus and Mary – “behold your Mother”. During Mary’s month of May it does us well to ponder the “naturalness” of Marian devotion and to see it as a potentially powerful tool in evangelisation – something that rings true to human experience, and can be the way to open up other avenues of shared understanding. Think about it!

The music at Mass yesterday led us towards the feast of Marian hymns that was to be a part of the procession.  The Offertory Motet was Croce's joyful and boisterous setting of the Regina Coeli, seen here being conducted by a university contemporary of mine (and fellow Pusey House musician) in preparation for a service at the Anglican cathedral in Southwark. 

Once the procession was underway, two great favourites were sung.  First of all, the Lourdes Hymn, the second verse of which we had not had the opportunity to sing in our previous existence as Anglicans.  How appropriate then, on a Sunday where the Gospel reading talked of the True Vine, the relationship between us and Christ, and thereby the relationship we have with Christ and His Church (the two not being mutually exclusive), that we should find ourselves singing this verse in the full Communion of His Holy Catholic Church. 
We pray for God's glory,
May His Kingdom come,
We pray for His Vicar,
Our Father, and Rome,
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

The other hymn in the procession was a hymn that has featured very recently on this blog, including in our most recent post.  However, that is no reason not to include it one more time.

The last hymn, sung after the blessing and dismissal, was a hymn that again featured on the St Mary's Bourne St Facebook site last year, and how lovely it was to hear it again, now in a setting where it feels so very natural, so very much the way of things in the entire Church.  It is no longer the territory of a particular wing, but the song of the whole. 

A few photos of this happy day follow below.   A few more can be found on our Facebook page.  Most Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, Help of Christians, pray for us and for all thy children.