Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Just one question.....

It must be difficult being a media religious affairs and having to cover this story from Saudi Arabia while keeping a straight face. Luckily, female correspondents on Saudi TV don't have to worry about keeping a straight face on air, because no one will see their faces at all. Just one question though......if these women prefer not to be seen by men outside their immediate family, why not just ditch the "-vision" part of television and just broadcast the sound?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Advent II

Here are one or two photos from the Mass of Advent II on Sunday.

The Asperges collect

The censing of the altar at the introit

Censing of the celebrant

The Gospel is proclaimed in the body of the church

During the Canon. As you can see, the Deacon wears a 'broad stole', representative of his folded chasuble worn over the shoulder, while he fulfills his diaconal duties at the altar.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent I

Just to share some quick snaps from the Sacristy after Mass last Sunday, where the new folded chasubles were premiered. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Aidan Harkers, assisted by Fr Philip as Deacon and Br Andrew as Subdeacon.

Just to steal an observation made by Rubricarius, as any Bishop who uses his vesting prayers should know, the dalmatic is the "garment of salvation, and the vestment of joy" and the tunicle is the "tunic of joyfulness". Surely then, the use of the Dalmatic and Tunicle in Advent is entirely inappropriate?

Friday, 20 November 2009

'The Same Catholic Thing'

Here is some of the text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's address yesterday in Rome, the full version of which is available here. I've taken out three paragraphs which I find particularly interesting, because in them, the Archbishop cuts to the chase and asks the questions we ought to be able to answer. As for the sections that I have highlighted, I ask readers to ponder them in the light of the Gospel wisdom of Luke 6:44 "For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush."

I don't want here to rehearse the arguments for and against the ordination of women, only to ask how recent determinations on the Roman Catholic side fit with the general pattern of theological convergence outlined. The claim of certain Anglican provinces is that the ordination of women explicitly looks to an agreed historic theology of ordained ministry as set out in the ARCIC report and other sources. Beyond that, many Anglicans have been wary of accepting a determination of who can be ordained that might appear to compromise the some of the agreed principles about how ordination relates to the whole body of the baptised. This, by the way, would hold for at least some who believe that a decision within a divided Church about a matter affecting the universal ministry should not be taken by a single province or group of provinces. But for many Anglicans, not ordaining women has a possible unwelcome implication about the difference between baptised men and baptised women, which in their view threatens to undermine the coherence of the ecclesiology in question.

And the challenge to recent Roman Catholic thinking on this would have to be: in what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so 'enhance the life of communion', reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined? And do the arguments advanced about the "essence" of male and female vocations and capacities stand on the same level as a theology derived more directly from scripture and the common theological heritage such as we find in these ecumenical texts?

Let us take this a stage further. All ordained ministers are ordained into the shared richness of the apostolic ministerial order – or perhaps we could say ministerial 'communion' yet again. None ministers as a solitary individual. Thus if the ministerial collective is understood strictly in terms of the ecclesiology we have been considering, as serving the goal of filial and communal holiness as the character of restored humanity, how much is that undermined if individuals within the ministerial communion are of different genders? Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals? In terms of the relation of local to universal, what we are saying here is that a degree of recognizability of 'the same Catholic thing' has survived: Anglican provinces ordaining women to some or all of the three orders have not become so obviously diverse in their understanding of filial holiness and sacramental transformation that they cannot act together, serve one another and allow some real collaboration.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Civil Unions

I was following a train of thought this morning on public transport, and decided to note down my feelings on the back of a shop receipt for bagels and plant food, when I suddenly realised I'd inadvertently composed a Haiku. Here it is:

Civil Unions,
For Heterosexuals;
Why would you bother?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


One quote from the brilliant book "Martin Travers: an appreciation" has always stuck in my mind, something about the interior of S. Magnus the Martyr looking, after it had been restored by Travers (and I'm paraphrasing) something like an Austrian country parish church that has been washed over by the counter-reformation. Well, in an idle moment today I got to looking at Austrian and Bavarian parish churches, and so compare the image of S. Magnus at the head of this page which the above image of the church in Traunstein, Bavaria, where a certain Fr. Ratzinger said his first Mass........

The Monarchy

I always seem to be shooting my mouth off about something or other these days; Anglican Controversial. Well I just read something very interesting the news. A Labour candidate has apologised after calling Queen Elizabeth II “vermin” and “a parasite”. It’s very fun and lefty, undergraduate PPS etc to be either virulently anti-Monarchist or to talk affectionately but patronisingly about the British monarch. The arguments against maintaining our monarchy normally centre on their finances, and the details of their “cost” to the nation. They often also moan about the sexist system of succession, and the fact that the monarchy is hereditary, not meritocratic.

Against those charges, backed up with facts and figures and the constant demands on public finances, the arguments in favour of the monarchy often fall down, because they centre on the unquantifiable: the sense of continuity the monarchy offers, the tourist draw. Things that are almost impossible to express with statistics, but which nonetheless, parts of society maintain are important for our national life.

It is precisely this unquantifiable benefit of the monarchy that interests me, partly because it reminds me of the situation in the church. Those who support the monarchy would openly concede that the Queen’s role is almost entirely ceremonial, but they would also argue that this is ceremonial is an integral part of our nation. It’s what makes Britain what is really is. To me, the monarchy is about maintaining a particular historical discourse of statehood which is the authentic expression of the historical, national and cultural character of the United Kingdom. Britain is not a republic, and the day that we start swearing-in a President on the fume-choked lawns outside the Houses of Parliament with music by a veteran soul singer is the day we stop being British. By contrast, Venezuela is a Republic founded by “the Liberator” Simon Bolivar, and as such, the ceremonial life of the Republic revolves around the struggle against the Spanish and the symbolism of Bolivar’s public persona. They celebrate the victory of the Battle of Carabobo, not Waterloo, and when their leaders wander around in tri-colour sashes in military parades, they are continuing the authentic ceremonial of statehood appropriate to a young nation, forged during the high-tide of Republicanism by a military figure. If president Chavez were to declare himself Emperor of Greater Bolivaria (something he would probably quite like to do), he would be rupturing the ties of continuity with how a nation, and those who feel they belong to it, perceive themselves, and have continued to perceive themselves throughout history. He would be doing something inauthentic and inappropriate to Venezuela as she is, and has been for two hundred years.

All of this reminds me of those in the church who do not recognise the value of ceremonial and ritual, the ephemeral and unquantifiably beneficial aspects of the visible life of the church. There is such an urge to re-form, to re-shape the church in a way which is subjectively deemed more appropriate, and this tendency reached a tragic zenith in the Reformation. Even now we have a Bishop in Peterborough who has written that the Eucharistic services of the church should not be treated any differently from Mattins and Evensong, and as such could be “presided over” by laypeople. Orthodox Anglicanism, which teaches the Real Presence and the role of the Sacraments in Salvation, is viewed as too “superstitious” by such extremists and must be brought up to date. I don’t believe this teaching has any place in the Church of England, when it owes no loyalty whatsoever to the Church of S. Augustine, and defiles the precious continuity which the Church of England has claimed with the pre-Reformation church.

The word “heresy” comes from the Greek word that describes a “choice” of beliefs particular to a faction opposed to Orthodoxy, and it has been used over the centuries to refer to those who have willingly cut themselves off from the family of the faithful. Whether it’s the Sacraments or the Monarchy, we would be making a huge mistake if we gave ourselves over to the “heresy” of innovation. Those who love the Church, love Her Sacraments, the “mysteries of Salvation” which we can’t quantify or put into statistics to justify their role in our lives. Likewise, those who love Britain should think twice before resigning the monarchy to history. Let us not forget what the monarchy means, and has meant to generations, and reflecting on the prospects of Britain in the coming years, we might realise that we need Queen Elizabeth now as much as we ever did.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

What I didn't get from the Apostolic Constitution

Call me a closet Protestant, attack me if you will, but there is one important hurdle that I don't think I'm ready or willing to jump in order to swallow whole the Apostolic Constitution, as some clergy and laity have evidently already done, and that is the absence of any recognition from Rome that Anglican orders may be valid.

The Holy Father's generosity is abundantly obvious to anybody who has read the document, and only serves to increase my fondness for a man I regard as my Pope and the legitimate successor of Peter. But generosity alone, however well intentioned, cannot completely plaster over the cracks of five hundred years of schism, and I am a little disappointed in those who rush to proclaim that it can.

My problem is this, and I'll phrase it as a question: Can those priests and bishops who have already accepted the AC in its entirety, and who desire to be reordained unconditionally as priests and bishops in the new Ordinariate, really do so with integrity? For I believe that to do so would be to turn their backs on me, and other faithful who have looked to them for guidance through our journey of faith, a journy that we have so far made together. To accept "conversion" to Catholicism, which is the faith they have been preaching from our pulpits for years, and to accept unconditional ordination, which is thereby to accept that their orders were invalid, is to say that every confession I have ever made, every Holy Communion I have ever received from their blessed hands, every confirmation and every Holy Matrimony was, all along, no more than a charade: "absolutely null and utterly void".

I hope you will pardon me for expecting something more from the phrase "Anglican patrimony" than merely the permission to use certain Elizabethan phrases in our Liturgy. To me, Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church means sanctioning our faith journey, which so far has been long, arduous and never for one moment without controversy or crisis. I do not want to beg the Holy See for permission to use, say, the English Missal, because I think it makes for a nice Sunday Service, but because the heroes of our Faith - Hope Patten, Frank Weston, Dom Gregory and countless others - have sanctified that particular Anglican liturgical text, and others besides, with their golden lips. To take those three as examples, Hope Patten restored Walsingham as England's Nazareth; one of the most inspired and successful initiatives of the Church of England in the 20th century. Frank Weston fought tooth and nail in Kikuyu against inter-Communion between Anglicans and Protestant non-Conformists, and he set thousands of hearts on fire at the Anglo-Catholic Congress of 1923 with his powerful words about Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (do I even need to quote his?). Dom Gregory Dix "shaped" so much of our thoughts about the Liturgy and the Sacraments, and his influence extended far beyond the Anglican Communion. So convinced was he of the validity of Anglican Orders that he died almost with the defense of them on his lips. All of these men lived as believing Catholics, and died out of Communion with Rome, but the legacy of these "Saints" who will never be canonised is powerful, and their witness reaches beyond time from their shrines and speeches and touches every one of us who dares call himself a Catholic in the Anglican Communion.

So what am I to do? Accept that I am not Catholic and follow my Protestant ministers to the Ordinariate where we will suddenly and magically become Catholics? Should I forgot about those heroes I hold so dear, who I know can never be called Saints of the Catholic Church, but to whose memories I cling to so dearly, and whose example inspires me? Forgive me for what seems like ingratitude or a lack of understanding, but when someone makes a journey, you can only expect them to arrive at their destination with baggage!

Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

For almost 55 years, the Western Church has been largely bereft of a Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified gifts, a service which our brethren in the East celebrate during weekdays of Great Lent, and which in the Latin Church has long been restricted to Good Friday. Instead of the Celebration of Mass, a service in which Communion is received from a Host consecrated at a previous Mass still forms part of the Liturgy of Good Friday, but the reformed rites of Holy Week introduced by Pope Pius XII altered the Liturgy so radically as to make it something else entirely, and not a genuine Mass of the Pre-Sanctified, but rather similar to an order for Holy Communion outside of Mass.

In the pre-1955 rite, the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified begins after the adoration of the Cross, when the Blessed Sacrament is taken in procession from the Altar of Repose to the main altar carried by the Priest, and is censed by two acolytes. Although the origins are of course different, this procession mirrors the Byzantine Great Entrance procession, and it is worth noting that in the Eastern Pre-Sanctified services, on this occasion the priest, rather than the deacon carries the diskos holding the lamb. When the procession arrives at the altar, the deacon arranges the chalice. In the pre-1955 rite, a large second Host consecrated at the previous night’s liturgy is placed in a chalice, and covered by a pall, upturned paten and finally a soft, white veil, which is tied at the node of the chalice. The deacon leaves the chalice covered and arranges the veil over the chalice as at Mass. Indeed, the whole rite of the Pre-Sanctifies points to the celebration of a genuine Mass in structure and symbolism, whilst also quite clearly being something other than the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The priest at this stage censes the Sanctissimum.

The priest then slides the Host from the chalice, onto the paten which is held by the Deacon, and is then placed, with the chalice onto the corporal. The Deacon then fills the chalice with wine, and a drop of water is added by the Subdeacon, and it is placed on the corporal and covered with the pall, all as at Mass, except that all of the gestures and prayers of the Offertory are omitted. The Gifts are then censed as at Mass, as the cross and altar. However, nothing else, including the celebrant is censed. The presence of this chalice of unconsecrated wine is one of the most obvious analogies to the Byzantine rite, where a chalice is also prepared, veiled and censed at the prothesis, and at Communion, the Consecrated Lamb is placed in the unconsecrated wine in the chalice.

The priest says the prayer “In spiritu humilitatis”, then kisses the altar and says the “Orate frates”. The response “suscipiat” is, however, not said and the priest does not make a full turn at the altar as at Mass. This prayer makes the same plea for acceptance that marks the end of the Offertory at Mass, but without its response, the rite is altered markedly: the people do not pray for acceptance from "thy hands", seen as no Mass is being celebrated, and the references to "praise and glory" are absent. The central parts of the Sacrifice, the secret, preface, sanctus and canon are not said and the priest passes directly to “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus” and the Lord’s prayer, sung in the ferial tone. With the Sanctus go the words "pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua", on the very day when God divested himself of glory. The embolism is sung out loud and its accompanying gestures are omitted. This mimicry of the structure of Mass is not perculiar to Good Friday, but also appears in the Blessing of the Palms on Palm Sunday, which has a "Liturgy of the Word" and a "Canon" of blessings over the palms so laid on the altar. In both cases, these ancient rites were divested of this unique identity and made to represent the rites of blessings and communion respectively from ceremonies outside of Holy Week. The reference to the Paschal Mystery, the very pivot of these observances, is lost.

Then comes the elevation, and the Deacon and Subdeacon, who kneel on either side of the priest but slightly back, lift his chasuble. In place of the bell, the crepitaculum or clapper is used. The ministers rise, the chalice is uncovered and the fraction is performed, saying nothing and not making the sign of the cross. Then bowing, he says “Perceptio corporis tua” following the normal rite of his Communion at Mass and then communicates himself. He then consumes the unconsecrated chalice, but without the usual prayers or rites, as this is not the Blood of Christ. After his communion, the Priest makes the normal ablutions of the chalice and his hands and the Deacon re-builds the chalice as at Mass. It has been a long custom of the Roman Church for only the Priest to receive communion on this day, but in the Eastern Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified, the people would also receive Holy Communion. The Church building itself is now empty of the Blessed Sacrament (Hosts for Viaticum being reserved in the Sacristy or another Altar or Building) which emphasises the sense of mourning at the Death of the Saviour on this day.

In the reformed rite of 1955, the Sacrament, in the form of a Ciborium of small Hosts, is brought to the Altar in Violet Mass vestments, by the Deacon (loosing the parallel with the Eastern Great Entrance), and incense is not used. The preparation of the Host on the corporal and the preparation of the chalice, incensation and washing of hands, as well as the prayers from the offertory are not performed. The introduction to the Lord’s prayer is said immediately, not sung as before, the Libera Nos is said by the Priest and then Perceptio is said silently. The priest communicates with a Small Host, and then Communion is given to all with the usual ceremonies of Mass. After Communion the priest makes his ablutions with vessels which were placed on the Altar for this purpose before the procession.

The simplification of the Communion rite of Good Friday eliminates both the parallels with the rite of Mass, and the analogies with the Byzantine Liturgy, both of which are integral to the identity of this rite. The reformed Holy Week makes the Communion no different from the distribution of Communion outside of Mass, such as would be given at a Wedding or for some other cause. With the reformed rite of 1955, the Western Church loses its one true Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified. I wonder if the Communion rite was deliberately “rationalised” to bring it into line with other forms for Distribution of Communion, or whether it was simply intended to be shortened to make room for the prayers which follow afterwards. I wonder also if we will ever see aspects of the older rite re-emerge with the reform of the reform. Let’s wait and see.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Sacristan's Supper

Talk about a variety performance, this blog has everything! Ever wondered what an Anglo-Catholic Sacristan eats for supper on weeknights? Well, this time of year, before the Christmas spend, I can tell you that I'm looking for economy, as well as something hearty to warm my cockles (actually I don't eat cockles). So I came home today from work puzzling over a cheap joint I picked up over the weekend: breast of lamb. What? Lambs don't have breasts! Well, this is the lamby equivalent of the pork belly, which is so IN right now. Lambs, of course, being gamblers, haven't got much meat down there on the "breast" so hardly anyone actually wants or buys it. This cut is a give away, literally in some places, because it's virtually inedible without long, slow cooking. Whatever you do with it, you'll probably be wanting to pick most of the fat away from the flesh on your plate, but during the long cooking process, the meat will become so soft and juicy that it just about makes it worth the effort.

So I decided to improvise a roasted lamb breast with herby stuffing with roast vegetables and braised red cabbage, a meal assembled from hallucinations of Saturday Kitchen and endless googling.

So start with your rolled breast joint. This one weighs aroung half a kilo and cost me £2.50 in Sainos. To make the stuffing, mix the chopped leaves of two or three sprigs each of rosemary and thyme with a few slices worth of breadcrumbs (here I've just mashed up some old baguette, but it's better if it's finer than this) with an egg, a small onion and three cloves of garlic. Mix and mash thoroughly. Keep the stems of your herbs to one side.

Untie your breast and season well with salt and pepper. Don't throw the strings away, as you will need them shortly. My joint came with some extra pieces in the middle. I trimmed these down, as there was enough fat on the joint, but take off any meat and keep it to one side.

Next, impose dabs of garlic butter and a generous helping of fresh sage leaves onto your breast joint. Try to cover as much of the surface as possible with your leaves.

Next spread your stuffing over the joint, and place your extra pieces of breast meat somewhere near the middle.

Roll the joint carefully to keep as much as the stuffing in as possible, and tie with the strings. Place the joint in an appropriate tin and put into the oven at gas mark three or four.

You will want something tart with this breast cut, because of the unseemly amounts of fat in it. I went for braised red cabbage because it's very seasonal. Gently fry some onions in garlic butter and olive oil, or plain butter and add some garlic to taste.

Finely shred half a red cabbage. Don't forget to check your lamb. Baste regularly with the fat to keep the exposed edges moist but drain off any that collects and keep to one side.

When the onions are translucent, add the cabbage, along with a glug of red wine vinegar and a little vegetable stock. I also added a dried lime as an experiments, but to be honest you could do without. You could add raisins or another dried fruit soaked in brandy to further develop this contorno. Set your cabbage on a low heat and cover tightly, stirring occassionally until soft all the way through.

Meanwhile, boil your vegetables. I used a sweet potato, normal potato and some carrots because I had things to use up. Drain them and place them in the roasting tin with the lamb, adding any extra fat you might need to coat them.

When you drain your vegetables, keep the water for gravy. Add some quality powdered stock to the vegetable water and immerse your herb stalks in the stock to infuse.

A joint this size will need at least two and a half hours in the oven to cook through properly. When it's ready, rest and then carve, taking care not to let the stuffing fall out of the slices, as I have done.

Drain all the fat from the roasting tin and add your stock, stalks and a crushed clove of garlic, placing the roasting tin on a medium heat. This cut won't give you much juice at the bottom of the tin, but scrape off what is there and bring it to a boil, adding flour slowly to thicken. Strain the gracy through a sieve or similar and keep it warm.

Pour your gravy generously over your meat and vegetables and serve with Nurofen.

Benedicamus Domino.

Remembrance Sunday at the Resurrection, New York

A few photos from Sunday at our sister parish, the Resurrection, New York. Fr. Swain tells me that the Music was Cristobal de Morales and greatly appreciated. The pall is by Comper (and matches a black Low Mass set of his), as also are the Lectern Fall and the Parish Banner, which can be seen at the Epistle side of the High Altar. Thanks to Fr. Swain for these photos.

This image will be instantly recognisable to most readers. I wonder if anyone could tell me what the recommended height or dimensions are for this sort of bier/catafalque or which term is correct. I remember someone once commented on the set of Travers prints above that "everything has been enlarged for the viewer's gratification", and it certainly seems to feature recklessly high candles. Also, how would such an enormous catafalque be fittingly arranged over/under a coffin? How would that work? I've seen pictures of enormous catafalques in Italy, but most these days seem to be of more modest proportions. I quite like the symbolism of a giant catafalque, but if it gets in the way of the action at the Altar then it's quite inconvenient. Readers let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The only catafalque in the City...

...apparently.....After Mass, the church was live with comment that ours was the only catafalque in the City. Whether that's true, and I'm sure it is, our usual shedloads of tourists and hangers-on filed into S. Magnus in the early afternoon and were offered, in the simple outline of the catafalque with its wreath of poppies, a true memorial, a real shrine at which to take time out and pray for the wartime fallen.

A Solemn Requiem was celebrated this morning for Remembrance Sunday. As Subdeacon, I ventured into the new territory of chanting the Epistle. Luckily for me, the epistle at a Requiem is sung on one note. The Rites of Absolution at the Catafalque followed Mass.

There are many ways to profane a public day of memorial, but few more brutal than the shocking behaviour of the public that voted Jedward through on X Factor. Please continue to pray for the conversion of Louis Walsh.

Monday, 2 November 2009

All Souls Day

I grew up with a very simplistic idea of what happens to us when we die. As a child, heaven was something to hope for; a mystical realm where I would live on a cloud and eat sherbet dibdabs forever, chatting to my dead pets and meeting relatives I’d only ever seen in photos. I had a vaguer, more cautious idea of hell as a large room underneath the church hall, where naughty children were locked away with the devil, thanks to the frustrated attempts of our Sunday School teacher to explain such things to children. What I grew into, as a teenager and a young adult, was the idea that actually nothing happens to us when we die. The assault on my childhood fantasies as I moved into a secularised society was so severe that I, like almost everyone in my generation, came to regard even the possibility of believing in some form of continuation of life after bodily death as so outlandish, unrealistic and idiotic that even those who maintained that a soul can join God in His Kingdom was worthy to be held in contempt.

Not every belief, though, was so ardently attacked. I remember going to a Buddhist meditation class while I was at university, and telling friends that I thought I might believe in the transmigration of souls. That was fine by them. It marked me out as a little quaint but, they said, if it floats your boat then it’s ok if you “buy it”. It’s not surprising that the vocabulary of purchase is applied to the believability of different systems in such a group of young adults. In a way, it sometimes seems that ideologies, beliefs and religions are arranged in a spiritual market place, like poloshirts in Uniqlo, to be looked over, assessed and eventually, invested in. These days, Atheism is flying off the shelves, and to buy into anything else, while not a heinous crime will definitely mark you out as a bit nerdy. To chose the Christian faith, particularly in its Catholic colours, makes you an irredeemable spod.

I sometimes think that a particular culture is capable, at certain points in history, of falling back into a kind of spiritual adolescence or early adulthood. It’s the mid-life crisis of a society that, unlike the human version of the condition, repeats itself at various junctures. I don’t believe that it’s linked to a particular time or place, such as secular Western Europe in the 21st century or Pagan Rome. It happens whenever a community or society allows doubt, fear and prejudice to prevail, and as a result feels the need to reject and trample on its own collective memory. I believe that the hostility and ridicule that Christians suffer for their hope in the Resurrection of the Dead, as also their belief in damnation, is a symptom of that condition.

However, I am just as much a product of my generation and its culture as anyone. My route to the Faith has taken me through all of that posturing and sneering, and that is why to me, Christianity is so unlike anything that came before it. But my thoughts are still, in some way, conditioned by that mindset, I am still partly burdened by the “critical skills” and keenness for a witty jibe that is the baggage of a Cambridge education. How on earth am I supposed to believe, like I say I do, in the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, in the punishing fires of Hell, or in the purification of Purgatory, when none of it is universally accepted by the world scientific community, let alone my friends? It isn’t easy. In the darkest moments, I feel trapped between the terrifying prospect that “this is it”, and incredulity at the florid accounts sometimes preached about what happens after this life is over.

Perhaps one way to begin the process of reconciling ourselves with the afterlife is to go back to a turning point in the narrative of salvation: the Incarnation. The resounding YES of Mary to God’s call gives way to the unintelligible NO of the Incarnation. I call it a NO, because in a way that we cannot hope to understand, God said NO to Himself, and divested Himself of the glory of omnipotence to be clothed in our own humble flesh, constrained by hunger, thirst, weakness, vulnerable to extreme cold or heat and ultimately to the cruelty of other men. In the resurrection, he rose again and was taken into heaven, body and soul, taking the flesh right into the Godhead, and he promised us that one day, we who love Him will join Him there too in the Father’s Kingdom.

For perhaps the first time in history, the flesh was not despised for the soul to be exalted. When God invited the Apostle to place his hand inside His wounded side, we saw God for who he truly is. In the mystery of the Incarnation, our human world of skin, bones, blood and guts begins to own the possibility of making sense, and in the Resurrection, that process of “making sense” will be complete.

Sometimes, we’ll find it difficult, even impossible, to believe fully in either the Resurrection or the Incarnation. Sometimes, we won’t even want to pray. Sometimes the wickedness of this world will turn us in on ourselves so much so that we lose interest in even thinking about God and resign ourselves to another option; crippling depression, or callow selfishness. However, bringing the thought of our Incarnate God, of our Risen Lord with us as we confront the terrible silence of death might help us grasp the precious thread of our faith and dare to open our eyes on the glory of God.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Back to the Fold!

It’s almost inconceivable that there are still people who haven’t heard the biggest news story in the Anglican Communion in recent years, but just in case anyone missed it: St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge will be re-introducing the folded chasuble, or planeta plicata, for its Advent liturgies this year. Already I can hear gasps and whispers (and snarls from across the Thames) at this supposed liturgical innovation, but let me assure readers that it has been our custom at S. Magnus since time immemorial (allowing for a few extended black outs between the pontificates of Popes Clement VII and Benedict XVI) to vest the Deacon and Subdeacon at High Mass in the folded chasuble during penitential seasons such as Lent and Advent.

Perhaps because the original reason and method for folding chasubles became so obscure, the folded chasuble was the unfortunate victim of reforms to the Roman Rite of 1962 and fell entirely out of use. Largely seen as a curio to be hunted in the sacristies of great churches, the folded chasuble is now almost exclusively seen in use only at certain Anglican shrines such as S. Clement’s Philadelphia. This is largely because Pope Benedict’s motu proprio liberalising the celebration of Mass in the usus antiquior specifies that the 1962 Missal, being the last “Tridentine” Missal, should be used, along with its rubrics and instructions. However, many Anglicans of the “Missal school” have come to regard the 1958 English Missal as the last authentic expression of Tridentine liturgy in the Anglican tradition, and as such maintain certain customs and usages which were lost in later Roman Missals.

So it is my pleasure to announce that, God willing, the folded chasuble will once again be seen in S. Magnus, as an expression of our desire to continue the authentic traditions of our Fathers in the Catholic movement; as a sign of our commitment to offering the Liturgy of our predecessors, and for Advent, to express the penitential nature of that season in vivid liturgical vocabulary.

For more on the folded chasuble, click here.

This post is also an open invitation to people interested in serving at S. Magnus. We occasionally borrow servers for big events, but like most churches, we generally get by on a small but dedicated serving team, who nonetheless have other commitments and leave us short. If you live in London and think you might want to serve at S. Magnus, please contact us. This year we have been able to offer a High Mass on many Sundays, and hopefully we will be able to do so in Advent and Christmas. Still, we need people with expertise and an interest in traditional liturgy to help make our celebrations run smoother. Be assured you would not be trained in the idiosyncrasies of some “High Church”, but rather you would be serving THE Mass of Ages.

Le Retour

Well, the Indian Summer is probably over so, so I can't pretend to still be on holiday. I admit it! My summer break did overrun slightly into....Winter.....However, in response to various enquiries, requests and suggestions (and also the rumour that I had been kidnapped in Syria and detained in luxury at a bedouin encampment), I've decided to write another post or two. A few people have persuaded me not to let Ex Fide expire, and I'm pleased to think that a Blog such as this still has something to offer to online community of Anglican Catholics of which I proudly consider myself a member. The way in which the blogosphere has provided a forum for debate for Catholics in the Anglican Communion, as well as those interested in their spirituality and claims; and the way they have been united around these blogs despite being separated physically by often huge distances, was my primary motivation for starting this blog in the first place, and I hope that, God Willing, it will continue to be of interest to those people in the ever-changing world of Ango-Catholicism.

Since the announcement of the new Apostolic Constitution almost two weeks ago, much time has been given to discussion, largely speculative at this stage, about what the Constitution might look like. I am not critical of this type of discussion, because it is important for priests especially to work out under what conditions and with what provision they would be able to move, with their parishioners, to Roman jurisdiction. Nonetheless, I feel as though I must bow out of providing long pieces about what an Anglican Ordinariate might look like and what our relationship will be with our buildings and former co-parishioners. So much has changed in the Church, but so much has changed also for me as an individual and as a Christian. I think that if I am to continue to maintain this blog on my own, I will have to keep the focus very much off the macro and on the micro as it were. The blog was also intended to advertise a London Parish that is very much in a phase of growth, and which I believe is a unique and precious beacon of Catholic faith and practice in an area which, on Sundays, feels like an open air museum. For that reason I hope to keep my focus on events at S. Magnus, and on the way that our Catholic faith is lived and experienced on the parish and individual level.

Thanks again for everyone's interest in Ex Fide!

Friday, 10 July 2009

I'm taking a break

Just a quick note to say that I'm taking a summer break from blogging:

I'm quite busy with work these days, and with other commitments. I will also be going to Syria for much of August and probably won't be able to post until after then. For those reasons I'm taking a summer holiday from Ex Fide......

However, I'd just like to say a massive "thank you" to the people who have introduced themselves to me at church as readers of this blog. Although it comes as a surprise to me that Ex Fide is actually being read by real people, I would like to offer personal thanks for your kind words of support and encouragement. My only hope is that by writing this blog I can share something of my faith with brother and sister Christians, as well as sharing something of the life of the best parish in the City of London (I've heard....).

Wishing everyone a lovely continuation of their summer.....

Friday, 3 July 2009

Jubilee Celebration

This photo is of the altar party of Fr Phlip Warner SSC's Mass celebrating 25 years of priestly ministry on Wednesday 1st July, Feast of the Precious Blood, at St. Magnus the Martyr.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Hic precursor Domini natus est...

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
Luke 1:57-66,80

Monday, 22 June 2009

I am an Ultra-Catholic....

My attention was drawn to this funny poem by Fr. Philip on Sunday, because of the line about colonial prelates. We had the Bishop of North Malawi, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Boyle, at S. Magnus to preach, and Mass was followed by a BBQ outside. I know that the poem has done the rounds, and many of you will have already read it a few times, so why not commit it to memory? Never know when it might be appropriate to recite it....

I am an Ultra-Catholic - No 'Anglo-,' I beseech you!
You'll find no trace of heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The Psalms of Dâvid I recite in heaven’s own native Latin,
And, though I don't quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi's strict Westmonasteriensis.

I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C. of E.'s in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the Rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop's put me under his 'profoundest disapproval'
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren't so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'
Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in Curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I've not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Sacred Heart of Jesus.....and other things

Perhaps I’m wrong to do so, but I frequently identify the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Eucharist. In the image of an abused, bleeding, tortured heart, that is at once aflame with caritas, I see the folly of divine love which is made real flesh in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The mystery of the Sacred Heart, in which God the creator of all “divest himself of glory” in order to subject himself to our harshest abuses, is too much for us to understand. And yet by launching ourselves into the depths of this mystery we are bathed in the light of God’s boundless love, the contradiction of His humanity and His Divinity, the paradox that we receive sacramentally in the Eucharist. From the flame of his Sacred Heart, Jesus offers to set light to our hearts, so that we might, if we’re willing, be burned up by the fire of that love. In the Mass too, we are invited to join the oblation of ourselves to that unsurpassable Sacrifice of Calvary and make ourselves “victims” of a love that we cannot describe.

There is a definite link, then, between what happens on our altars today and Pope Benedict’s institution of a Year for Priests on the 150th anniversary of the death of the Saint Curé d’Ars, S. Jean-Marie Vianney. The enduring teaching of the Curé is that of total dependence on the love of the Eucharistic Lord, and the way in which he viewed the Sacrament of Holy Orders in relation to the Sacrament of the Altar. Fr. Jeffrey Steele has drawn our attention to these lovely words from the Curé :

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. " At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord. " "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. "What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much?The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

But the Eucharist is not the only Sacramental ministry which the priest undertakes in order that we might meet our Lord. In response to figures published in an Italian newspaper which reveal that only 2% of practising Catholics in Italy go to confession more than once a month, the Pontiff had the following to say (taken from this article in the Times) :

"Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this sacrament. In France at the time of the Cure of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion. Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the Sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence."
The pontiff said that St. John Mary Vianney's followers knew "that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness." Penitents had from all over France, and he was often in the confessional for up to 16 hours a day, with his parish dubbed "the great hospital of souls."
The Pope urged priests to learn from St. John Mary Vianney to "put our unfailing trust in the Sacrament of Penance, to set it once more at the centre of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the 'dialogue of salvation,' which it entails". The French saint had "awakened repentance in the hearts of the lukewarm by forcing them to see God's own pain at their sins reflected in the face of the priest who was their confessor", while for those who came to him "already desirous of and suited to a deeper spiritual life" he had "flung open the abyss of God's love, explaining the untold beauty of living in union with him and dwelling in his presence."

On reading the article, I was shocked to find out that ONLY 30% percent of Italian Catholics never went to confession, as I assumed that many more people had absolutely no interest in this Sacrament. I’ve always seen it as a failure in catechesis on our part that so very few Anglicans go to Confession regularly, if at all. It is purely anecdotal evidence, of course, but in my experience, I have never seen a penitent make their confession before Mass in an Anglican church, and indeed only once after. In churches that have a regular time for confessions, if I do go then, I am normally the only one. At least we can take comfort from the fact that in the Roman church the situation is hardly better!

I hope that what I say doesn’t sound like a boast, and I’m definitely not trying to present myself as a model penitent, but I will speak of myself only because I cannot imagine a spiritual life without confession, and thanks to God I have the opportunity to go about twice a month. What drove me to the confessional for the first time was the weight of my sins, which I had prayed for the grace to see. I realised after my first confession that it’s all very well making a general confession at the beginning of Mass, or making a quick private prayer after realising some sin has been committed, but I know now that the surest way of knowing that a sin has been both truly admitted and truly forgiven is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the confessional, one kneels alone facing Christ, represented by His priest. In speaking the sin aloud, the penitent is vulnerable, exposed to the unease of sharing something so intimate with Christ in the presence of another person who is capable of, though not disposed to, judgment. The confessional is a foretaste of the judgment, when we will stand alone before the Saviour and be held to account. It takes a great deal of trust in Christ, and in his Priests, to make that journey to the confessional, but that trust is repaid a thousand times if one receives absolution. In the Creeds we affirm our belief in “the forgiveness of sins”, and how sweetly we can sing those words when we have truly tasted that forgiveness; the inestimable gift that is not deserved, but which is freely given.

So I hope that the observance of this year for priests will be accompanied by an increase in recourse to their ministry of Reconciliation. It would be a tremendous mark of respect for and trust in a priest to ask him to hear your confession. If you were once a regular penitent but have now lapsed, heed the Pope’s call to go back! If you have never made your confession before, then do your research and make an amendment to go. You will discover that there is nothing oppressive or frightening about confession, only beautiful and joyful. Any priest would be happy to answer questions about confession, regardless of whether you want to confess or not. It’s not for nothing that this Sacrament has been called “the dialogue of salvation”. God has said the “ice-breaker”; why not answer back?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Faith and Practice : Head Covering

After writing a little bit about the tradition (or rather, obligation) of Friday Penance, I inteded to write a little about the tradition of women covering their heads in prayer, and men uncovering. However, I've decided instead to merely collate some texts that are written with more eloquence than I could hope to reproduce myself.

As I mentioned in my last post, head covering for women (and uncovering the head for men), is something I have been thinking about a lot recently. Focusing first on head coverings for women, here is a little piece that has been widely reproduced online:

Why Wear the Veil?

In ancient traditions dating back even thousands of years, the “veil” represented purity and modesty in many religions and cultures. A veil, or head covering, is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity.

When a woman covers her head in the Catholic Church it symbolises her dignity and humility before God, not men. It is no surprise women of today have so easily abandoned the tradition of the chapel veil (head covering) when the two greatest meanings of the veil are purity and humility.

The woman who covers her head in the presence of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is reminding herself that she must be humble before God. As with all outward gestures, if it is practised enough it filters down into the heart and is translated into actions that speak volumes. The “veil” covers what the Lord calls, in Holy Scripture, “the glory of the woman”, her hair. Covering her hair is a gesture the woman makes spiritually to “show” God she recognises her beauty is less than His and His Glory is far above hers.

In doing this she is reminded that virtues cannot grow in the soul without a great measure of humility. So she wears the veil to please God and remind herself to practice virtue more ardently.

There is no other piece of clothing a woman may wear to serve this function. The veil symbolically motivates the woman to “bow” her head in prayer, to lower her eyes before the great and mysterious beauty and power of God in the Blessed Sacrament. By the bowing of her head and lowering of her eyes, she is more able to worship God in the interior chapel of her heart and soul.

The veil or head covering a woman wears gives a beautiful sense of dignity to a woman. When she wears it, she identifies herself with God’s greatest creation, the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. There was none on earth that loved and loves the Lord Jesus more than the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her love, her humility breathed forth like sweet scented incense before God. The veil she wore symbolised her purity, modesty and of course her profound humility and submission before and to God Almighty.Those women who love Jesus must come to realise the imitation of His Mother in wearing a chapel veil (head covering) and in other virtues is a small sacrifice to make in order to grow in spiritual understanding of purity, humility and love.

The covering of a woman’s head in Church is a striking reminder of modesty, something all but lost in the society of today. Modesty and purity walk hand in hand.

When a woman veils her head she is shielding her heart to be wooed by the love of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a mystical ‘country’ that only the Eternal Father may enter. Her veil is like the lighted lamps of the virgins waiting for the Bridegroom, an indication that she is prepared to receive Him at a moment’s notice; an aureole of her spiritual love for the Bridegroom. Wearing the veil is an act of love of God.

Why should a woman wear a head covering or veil in church? Not to be praised, not to go along, not for tradition’s sake, not to stand out in the crowd, not because you say or I say or anybody says…But because she loves our Eucharistic Lord Jesus and it is another small sacrifice she may offer for her soul’s sake and for the sake of many souls who have no one to offer for them. Amen.
(Sr Patricia Therese, OPB)

While I think the tone of this piece might be a bit much for many women, one thing that comes out of it very well is the fact that covering the head is an external manifestation of an interior piety. It is not, and should never be, enforced from without, by men or by women, but rather it comes from within, from the Christian woman's own soul.

One thing this piece doesn't deal with is the actual scriptural basis for headcovering, which is found in Corinthians. I hand you over to the blogger Catholic Knight:

The Scriptural case for the chapel veil...

1st Corinthians 11:2-16

I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you...

The tradition of the chapel veil comes from Christ, by way of the Holy Spirit, through St. Paul, for Paul mentions later in this same epistle: "What I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized." - 1st Corinthians 14:37-38 St. Paul commends the Corinthians for keeping the chapel veil tradition, among other traditions, and then he continues in chapter 11...

....But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God...

Here we have the central point of misunderstanding. This verse has been misused time and time again as a means of male superiority. Not only is this a misreading of the text, but it completely misses an important theological point Paul is trying to make. This chapter of Corinthians is entirely Eucharistic, in the sense that it centers around the Eucharistic celebration (or the mass). The following verses (17-34) deal entirely with the celebration of Holy Communion. When Paul says the head of every man is Christ, what he's saying is that Christ came in the form of a man. He's making a statement about the incarnation. He's saying that Christ came in human form, and because of this, the man becomes a physical representation of Christ -- particularly if he is a husband. When he says the head of every woman is her husband, he is not saying that women are inferior to men in any way. What he's saying is that if a husband becomes the physical representation of Christ's incarnation, than his wife becomes the physical representation of Christ's spouse -- or the Church. When Paul says "husband" here, he is referring both to earthly husbands, and to Christ himself. That being the case, wives take on the symbolic role of the Church. Paul continues in chapter 11...

...Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head...

Again, this goes straight back to the incarnation. All of this is a symbol of what we Catholic Christians believe about Christ, his incarnation, and the Eucharist. Paul tells us that if a man covers his head during mass, he dishonors his spiritual "head" which is Christ. In other words, a man who covers his head during mass dishonors Christ, because his action of veiling himself sends the physical statement that Christ was not incarnate as a man. The woman, on the other hand, representing the Church, ought to cover her head because if she believes that Christ is truly incarnate, she should veil herself as a sign that the Church has been made holy by Christ as his spouse. In doing so she honors Christ as a symbol of his sanctification on the Church. She also honors her husband with a physical sign that he represents Christ, because Christ came in the form of a man. The chapel veil is a sign of holiness because Christ has made his Church holy, and women represent the Church as the "bride" of Christ. It is a sign that the Church is covered and under Christ's protection. This is the symbolism of the Church's relationship to Christ. It is not so much a statement of a particular woman's holiness, but rather the Church's holiness. Paul continues...

-- it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil...

Here Paul is really laying it on thick, and he has good reason. He's trying to convey a big theological point. Customs in the church are not the result of random happenstance. These things exist for a reason. Under the Old Covenant, both Jewish men and women covered their heads during worship, but the early Jewish Christians changed that custom for a reason. They wanted to make this practice of veiling a symbol of Christ's incarnation, like they did with so many other Jewish traditions, and as Paul mentions in chapter 14 (cited above) these things are not trivial man-made customs, they came from the Holy Spirit Himself. Here Paul is telling us that it is shameful for a Christian woman not to cover her head during mass, and he is using an illustration from antiquity that has to do with punishment. In ancient times, women would have their heads shaved publicly as punishment for lack of modesty. It was a form of public humiliation. Here Paul is not advocating the shaving of a woman's head for refusing to wear the chapel veil, but rather, he is trying to convey the seriousness of the imagery. When a Christian woman refuses to do this, she is in effect saying (though perhaps not intentionally) that Christ was not incarnate in the form of a man. Granted, in modern times this is almost certainly not the intention of any woman who refuses to veil during mass, but what Paul is telling us here is that every custom in the Church has meaning, and because of that, failure to keep those customs also has meaning, whether one intends to convey that meaning or not. It's sort of like bowing, kneeling or genuflecting before the Eucharist for example. Catholics do these things in mass for a reason, and that reason is to stress the real presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament. In practice, we are bowing, kneeling and genuflecting before our God and King, whom we profess to be really and truly present in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. That being the case, if one fails to bow, kneel and genuflect, what kind of signal does that send to those around him/her? One may not intend to send any signals of disrespect, but invariably one can, whether one intends to or not. The custom of the chapel veil has similar significance. Paul continues....

...For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels....

Here we have another commonly abused passage. Again, Paul is not trying to bolster male dominance here. Remember, we have to keep the context of this chapter in mind, and the context of 1st Corinthians 11 is the Eucharistic celebration. Paul calls man the "image and glory of God" for one reason and one reason only -- because Jesus Christ (who is God) was made incarnate as a man. Then he expounds on this by pointing out that the woman is the "glory of man" (or mankind). This is meant to be a complement. Of the two human genders, women are far more "glorious" then men in their appearance, beauty, voice, fashion and general gracefulness. The hair was considered a woman's crowing glory in Biblical times (Song of Songs 6:5). Beyond that, women bear the special gift of motherhood. In that, God touches them in a way no man has ever experienced. The Scriptures tell us that God Himself fashions the unborn child in the womb, and plants a living human soul inside the body of a women when she becomes pregnant (Psalm 139:13-16). In this way, God touches the body of a woman in a way he never touches a man's body. This makes the woman's body a sacred vessel of God's creative powers. It is something that is particularly holy, and must be respected as such. It is no wonder why women are called the "fairer sex." Paul is agreeing with that here. However, Paul is also reminding women not to get too prideful. He reminds them of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, where the woman is made to complement the man, and not vice versa. Now we learn that the chapel veil is also a sign of personal humility in addition to the Church's holiness. The woman not only covers her head as a sign of her belief in a incarnation, not only to show how Christ has made his Church holy, but also to cover her "glory," as a sign of humility to show that she is not vain or overly proud of her womanhood and beauty. The veil or headcovering is a symbol of the woman's acceptance of her role in society, the family, and the Church, in accordance with God's will. It is an imitation of the Virgin Mary, who wore such a headcovering.
Then St. Paul says something very curious. He says the woman ought to veil her head during mass "because of the angels." Paul tells us that the angels participate with us during mass, and this is reinforced by the writings of St. John: "And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense that he might offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne." (Revelation 8:3, see also Matt. 18:10). The angels watch everything that is going on during mass, as they participate in the same liturgy we do. They are also well aware of the customs of the Church and what they mean -- even the custom of veiling. Angels are offended when we ignore or refuse to follow any liturgical custom, whether it be failing to kneel or veil in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.

...(Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.)...

If ever there was a verse to counter the abuse of male dominance, this is it. If ever there was a verse to prove that St. Paul was not a male chauvinist, this is it. Paul follows his previous verse, reminding women to be humble, with this verse, reminding men to be humble too. He doesn't want the men to use what he just wrote as a means of beating down the women in a form of male superiority. He is reminding the men that they are not superior to the women, but rather fully dependent on them, and that both genders come from God. One cannot be "better" than the other. Then he continues with some rhetorical questions to back his point...

...Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering....

Paul is not prohibiting hair styles here. To focus on hair styles is to miss the point. Paul is simply asking a few rhetorical questions based on popular culture. In most cultures women have longer hair then men, and when they do, it usually looks better. He's saying that when a woman has long hair it usually looks beautiful, and when a man has long hair, it usually looks a little odd. In some cultures, long hair is considered a sign of femininity. So if a man has long hair, it looks feminine in those cultures, and that is "degrading" to him. What Paul is doing here is he's appealing to nature. He's saying; "Look, even mother nature teaches us the same lesson. She gives women long hair as a covering and it looks good and proper on them." Then he concludes with this interesting verse...

...If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

Some Bible versions have mistranslated this verse to say "we recognize no such practice, nor do the churches of God." This mistranslation is often used to negate the previous first half of the chapter. In other words, those who abuse such mistranslations say that Paul spent half a chapter, explaining a deep theological principle pertaining to a custom he applauds the Corinthians for keeping, only to say in this last verse that they really don't need to keep it. Such interpretations are silliness. The proper translation is rendered here as "we recognize no other practice." Here Paul is telling the Corinthians not to get too contentious over the chapel veil custom, because he's not going to burden them with anything else beyond that. He's not going to tell men and women how to dress. He's not going to tell them what kind of a veil they should wear, or how they should wear it. He's simply saying that this is the custom as it is practiced in the "churches of God" and they recognize no other practice beyond this.

So the chapel veil has nothing to do with male dominance. It has nothing to do with subjecting women under male authority. It has everything to do with Christ's incarnation, and the real presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Amen. I think this piece deals very well with some parts of scripture which many of us these days have difficulty applying to our lives. Notice that this passage also contains an instruction for men to uncover during prayer, and I'd like to dwell on that for a little, considering how, aside from the biblical injunction, uncovering the head influences our approach to worship as social and cultural beings.

Until very recently, the hat was widely seen as a sign of man's place in society. Indeed it was for some, an essential aspect of manhood ; no self-respecting Victorian gent would leave home without his hat. Similarly, the flat cap of the working classes was something worn with pride as a symbol of rootedness in the cherished social order. It is only since the 1960s that men have given up on the hat. However, vestiges of this social conditioning remain. Everyday I see scores of teenagers wearing baseball caps, even when travelling on the underground and even inside buildings. Additionally, these baseball caps are worn with the shiny black and gold 59fifty label still attached (something to do with the hat being brand-new as an overt display of wealth). These same teenagers often wear their hoods up, or when it is too hot to wear a hoody, they wear the hood over their cap and let the rest of the garment hang down their back. This is something I have never seen girls do, presumably because of their extravagant hairstyles which don't allow for hair to be covered by a hat. This might be jauntily placed pony-tails, or braids, but anything as long as it's elaborate and features plenty of gaudily-coloured hair ties.!

If we assume then, from this most current of examples, that the normative fashion is for boys to cover their heads and girls to uncover them as a sign of social status and in conformity with prevailing worldly fashion, should we be surprised, then, that the church demands that we do the opposite in our worship? On entering the church building, we are coming into the presence of God, and the appropriate response to that divine presence is to relinquish our worldly social order in exchange for God's order, and scripture asks us to make this one concession for the Glory of God.

Ah! But what about the Biretta, you might ask. Well, it is true that this piece of headwear stands out as being permitted, formally required, to be worn at certain points during the Mass. The priest is directed to come to the Altar covered, and to cover there, and to resume the Biretta when seated and when in procession. Bishops also wear the Zuchetto, or skullcap, as part of their choir dress. In both cases, however, the head is uncovered during the most solemn moments of the Mass ; to hear the Holy gospel, and during the consecration of the elements and communion. The Biretta or Zuchetto is only worn as a mark of office when that is required: the priest as teacher, in some places, wears the Biretta when preaching.

After considering these points, the opportunity to worship God in the simple act of covering or uncovered the head seems too precious to pass up. So why do we not more readily do so? I remember serving at High Mass one Sunday morning in winter, and a member of the serving team arrived late. Since he had a shaved head, and the church was only just heating up, he left his woollen beanie hat on. Under the swelling notes of the Gloria, I saw our priest beckon an acolyte over to the sedilia and then send him over to the offending congregant to demand that he remove his hat. If we are so strict in the rare cases that a man enters the church with a hat on, why are we so reluctant to encourage women to cover their heads? Whenever my hair is long, I regret it most when serving at Mass, because if I serve as Subdeacon and wear the Biretta, it seems to inappropriate to uncover my head and still have to worry about arranging my hair again, and I wish it were already shaved. There are so many small things we can do to worship God, let's not pass up on the traditional practice of millenia for the sake of our own embarrasment or attachment to social norms and trends.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Corpus Christi Procession at S. Magnus

Here are a few pictures from the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament which took place after the Mass of Corpus et Sanguis Christi. As you can see, we processed around the Monument to the great fire, which is our nearest large public space, being a short walk up the hill.

Here you can see our flower-girl throwing rose petals down before the Blessed Sacrament.

Since our canopy is beyond use, it has been our custom for some time to use a liturgical umbrella, which Fr. Philip picked up in Ethiopia. I'm sure that the amount of Gold in it makes it liturgically legal for use in such processions, don't worry yourselves over THAT.

People find their places in the church before Benediction is given, and our Heavenly Father demonstrates his approval with a shaft of sunlight directed at the Blessed Sacrament. You'll also notice in these pictures a good turn-out for the Mantilla. I've been providing them for use for the last few Sundays, although I've given them away to women who would like to use them regularly. I will be making more myself this week, if only I could lay my hands on some tasteful scalloped lace edging.....

Shortly before Benediction...

The faithful kneel in rapt silence, adoring the Most Blessed Sacrament as sunlight cuts through the heavy haze of incense smoke.
There's one story I love which is told by one of our servers, Br. Deiniol, about a church he used to go to. There was an ecumenical programme there once which involved an exchange between the local Anglican and Methodist congregations so that they might better experience the other's worship life. So, the Anglicans went to the local Methodist Chapel for Evening worship with plenty of robust hymnody, and the Methodists were invited the following Sunday to Solemn Evensong and Benediction at the Anglican church. After the service, a Methodist lady was asked if she enjoyed Benediction : "Oh yes" she said, "lovely! Especially the bit near the end when the Minister picked up that carriage clock and it struck three". I fell about laughing.