Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Old news.

I've been catching up on old copies of the Tablet and noted 2 interesting articles.  One suggests that the Church of Ireland is benefiting from an influx of disenchanted Roman Catholics just as the RC church in Ireland is losing members and vocations hand over fist due to scandals.  The other points out that the Ordinariate in Scotland has 66 members (still a bus trip to Carfin, rather than anything like a viable parish) and that the Ordinariate nationally (i.e. across the UK) has has £1.3m in the bank INCLUDING the £1m from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament which has been referred back to the Charity Commissioners as a dodgy grant.

Interesting indeed.  The triumphalist claims are facing a hammering and that fiscal situation is more than likely to produce a swift absorbing of the Ordinariate into the ordinary Catholic Church.  I dropped into the RC Church in Falkirk whilst waiting for a train the other day.  No silence for prayer, but rather marvellously a group of lay people reciting the Rosary after Mass without the presence of a priest.  That's the beauty of Roman Catholicism in a way - the devotions that I like and value are a normal ordianry part of religious life, rather than an exotic and slightly suspect add on according to personal taste and fancy.  But if you can get that by just being RC why go Ordinariate? So you can retain Evensong and slightly less sloppy liturgical leadership?  A bit precious really.  And Rome will not allow that luxury unless it can fund itself.  Which looks unlikely as they face the bitter reality of life without the backing of Quuen Anne's Bounty and the historic endowmwents of the Establishmed Church.  This may be less of a Flaminian Gate moment than some would think.  Gameliel principle to be applied: if it is of God, it will flourish - if not, it will fade quietly into insignificance and nothing more than a footnote in a Church History text book.  Shades of the South India hoo-hah of the 1950's I think.

Haw Jimmy!

 The chapel containing the relics of St James in Compostela, Spain
Or even (if you have the Gaelic), Ha Seamus! (Which is Anglicised into the forename Hamish).  Today is St James's Day.  He was St John's brother and, like him, a fisherman. One of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first apostle to be martyred, being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in 44AD to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity. He was buried in Jerusalem, and nothing more was heard about Oor Jimmy until the ninth century.
Then a tradition emerged that his relics were brought to Spain (unlike poor old Andrew who was shipwrecked on the Fife coast and has had to put up with the weather both here and in the RC Cathedral in Edinburgh ever since) some time after his martyrdom, and his shrine at Compostela in Galicia grew in importance until it became the greatest pilgrimage centre in western Europe. In every country there are churches of St James and well-known, well-trodden pilgrim routes.  In England, pilgrim routes lead from all parts of the country to the major ports that were used on the pilgrimage. This network of routes is a witness to the fact that the Middle Ages were not the static stay-at-home time that we often think them to be: everyone must have known someone, or known someone who knew someone, who had made the pilgrimage. The scallop-shell, the emblem of St James, has become the emblem of pilgrims generally.

Since have in the last 2 weeks celebrated the Scottish 1929 Liturgy twice and attended Communion in the Church of England according to the Book of Common Prayer 1662 (Scottish Eucharistic Prayer infinitely superior, English order more sensible, but both Eric Morecombe liturgies - all the right words just not necessarily in the right places!), Archbishop Cranmer's collect is the only fit response:

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him; so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Elizabeth of Russia

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia. Monument in Marfo-Mariinsky Convent which she founded.

She is not a saint of whom I had heard until I read my copy of "Exciting Holiness".  A half English princess, her husband was assassinated by a Revolutionary.  She became an Orthodox nun, having campaigned for the remission of the killers' death sentence.  Her unusual combination of charity to the poor, holiness and the ability to forgive the most terrible personal injuries struck me as worth noting.  that and the fact that she died at the hands of a tyrannous and atheist regime.  A statue of Elizabeth (pictured above) was erected in the garden of her convent after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its inscription reads: "To the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: With Repentance."  Yes.  Making amends is as important as forgiving.  The two go hand in hand.  The orthodox hymn for her feast says it well:
Causing meekness, humility and love to dwell in thy soul,
Thou didst earnestly serve the suffering,
O holy passion-bearer Princess Elizabeth;
Wherefore, with faith thou didst endure sufferings and death for Christ, with the martyr Barbara.
With her pray for all who honor you with love.

Taking up the Cross of Christ,
Thou didst pass from royal glory to the glory of heaven,
Praying for thine enemies, O holy martyr Princess Elizabeth;
And with the martyr Barbara thou didst find everlasting joy.
Therefore, pray ye in behalf of our souls. 
Elizabeth of Russia, ora pro nobis.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Oddly enough, there is a Scottish Episcopal Church in this Diocese dedicated to her.  it's one of the very few medieval buildings we own (Kirkcudbright, Butt of Lewis and Blair Atholl being the others).  The Priory Church of St Mary of Mount Carmel at South Queensferry was a 15th century Carmelite Priory.  (And is rather wasted on the Evangelicals who "planted" it IMHO).  The Carmelites have been an influence on my own spirituality through St John of the Cross's writings at University and latterly through some dipping into Teresa of Avila and Therese of Liseux.  And knowing Carmelite nuns in both Dysart and Falkirk.  Their vocation is primarily to the Interior life. An authority on Carmelite spirituality, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, OCD,  wrote that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel means:

"a special call to the interior life, which is preeminently a Marian life. Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward vesture but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary's soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalculable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary's soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind reign supreme. ... Those who want to live their devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to the full must follow Mary into the depths of her interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, the life wholly dedicated to the quest for God, wholly orientated towards intimacy with God; and the one who has best realized this highest of ideals is Our Lady herself, 'Queen and Splendor of Carmel'."

Most of us can't manage that but we can aim to deepen our intimacy with God in silence and prayer. Like this by the Carmelite martyr Edith Stein, convert from Judaism, philosopher and nun murdered by the Nazi's in Auschwitz in 1942:

"O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. 
Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me 
along the next stretch of road before me. 
I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived 
where the horizon now closes down, 
a new prospect will prospect will open before me, 
and I shall meet it with peace."  

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -Edith Stein

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Maniple mania!

A maniple - for those who ain't never seen one!

I posted a note on my Facebook page, reporting the re-appearance of the allegedly extinct maniple in our Sacristy at St Michael's.  Blow me if there wasn't a positive flurry of responses.  I personally have worn this arcane vestment when it has been available, but hardly regard its omission as some invalidating heresy.  I never thought it had been abolished, I simply regarded it as largely disused since the Vatican 2 reforms.  To be frank, I have no strong feelings on it's reappearance.  Given the very traditional style of St Michael's liturgy, why not go the whole hog?  Memo to self: find your altar copy of the English Missile and your biretta - you may need them soon:-)

Blessed John Keble

John Keble

 Today is the commemoration (in the C of E) of John Keble.  Technically we in the frozen North recall him on 29 march (his heavenly birthday) but the English keep the anniversary of his Assize sermon which triggered the Oxford Movement.  No matter.  his hymns have deepened the devotions of many.  Today's collect (from Keble College Oxford) helps us to recall that.

Father of the eternal Word,
in whose encompassing love
all things in peace and order move:
grant that, as your servant John Keble
adored you in all creation,
so we may have a humble heart of love
for the mysteries of your Church
and know your love to be new every morning,
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Sunday, 10 July 2011

St Benet's Eve.


Tonight I popped into the Cathedral for Evensnog and found the sort of ecumenical service I like - A Pisky church, Pisky clergy and a Presby choir (Dunblane ex-Cathedral in their blue goonies).  At least you could make out the words of the psalm without the mangling of trebles! A very pleasant experience followed by mince and tatties - braw as Oor Wullie says (we have to read the Sunday Post now that the News of the Screws has gone!).

Tomorrow is St Benedict, father of Western Monasticism and patron of Europe (I thought that used to be Cyril and Methodius??).  Hang on, according  to the books  ALL of this lot are: Benedict of Nursia, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), Jadwiga of Poland.  Europe obviously needs much prayer (Eurosceptics might agree).

Here interestingly is St Benedict's "12 step programme".
I A first faltering step is taken when a monk consciously obeys all of God's commandments, never ignoring them but always holding within himself a fear of God in his heart, for "your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10)  Benedict then warns that we must always beware of what may be said to us in the future, lest we should through negligence fall into evil ways and become useless: "when you do these things, should I be silent?" (Ps. 49[50])

II Our second step is achieved when one thinks not about pleasing himself but instead follows the injunction of the Lord, "I came...not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me" (Jn. 6:38)

III The third step is reached when out of love of God, one obediently submits to a superior in imitation of the Lord, for "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death..." (Phil. 2:8)    Such obedience is at the heart of the Benedictine spirit. The obedience a monk shows to his Abbot, and not exclusively to the Abbot but also to his seniors and, for that matter to all his brothers, is an indication that he is actively seeking to do God's will. In the Benedictine tradition the abbot of a monastery holds the place of Christ, much as a bishop does in his diocese. For the monk, his superior is the father of his particular house of God. For this reason, Benedict gave pride of place in his Rule to the qualities that each individual abbot must possess, spelling them out in exhaustive detail at the beginning of chapter 2. By comparison, chapter 1 is but a short treatise on the varieties of monks and is quickly dispensed with. So seriously did Benedict consider the abbatial position that he did not hesitate to warn, "he should keep in mind that he has undertaken the care of souls for whom he must give an account" (RB 2:34). The saint adds that the abbot must be led to realize that any lack of good in his monks will be laid at his doorstep.

Benedict also demonstrates his understanding of human frailties when, after instructing the monk to obey the abbot's commands in all things, he remarks that should he (the abbot) himself stray from his own path the monks under him should "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice." (Matt. 23:3)


IV  The fourth step is achieved when a monk, under obedience, patiently and quietly endures all things that are inflicted on him. It should make no difference whether the trials are painful, unjust or even completely beyond his understanding; he should neither tire nor give up. "Whoever endures to the end will be saved"(Matt. 10:22). To this Benedict adds the consoling promise, "in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37)

V  The fifth step is reached when a monk humbly discloses to his superior all the evil thoughts in his heart as well as those faults and evil acts he has actually committed. Benedict urges us to "give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever." (Ps. 106:1)

VI  To achieve the sixth step a monk must without qualms accept all that is crude and harsh; at all times he considers himself a poor and worthless workman.

VII The seventh step is attained when a monk not only confesses that he is an inferior and common wretch, but believes it to his very core. He must be willing to humble himself and claim with the prophet that he is "a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people" (Ps. 22:7) and that "it was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your laws." (Ps. 118[119]:71)

VIII A monk reaches the eighth step of humility when he does only that which is demanded by the common rule of the monastery or by his seniors.

IX The ninth step can be achieved when a monk, practicing silence, only speaks when asked a question, for "where words are many, sin is not wanting; but he who restrains his lips does well." (Prov. 10:19)   The monk is here reminded that humility at all times entails the control of not only his thoughts but also of his tongue. Benedict was extremely aware of the ease in which one inflicts injury through careless chatter. A monk is instructed to use his powers of speech in order to encourage his brothers.

X The tenth step is climbed when a monk restrains himself from undue laughter and frivolity.


XI To reach the eleventh step a monk must speak gently, without jests, but simply, seriously, tersely, rationally and softly.  It is only through silence and limited speech that we are able to listen to God with the ear of our hearts; only thus can we be attentive to his divine presence in our monasteries and in our lives.

XII The final step is attained only when a monk can at all times show humility not only in his appearance and actions, but also in his heart.  St. Benedict felt that it is only upon climbing all twelve steps that a monk can hope to find that perfect love of God that casts out fear; only then will he be capable of acting solely out of love for Christ. Indeed the initial fear which may have been necessary as a motivator can inspire the renunciation of all externals, including ownership; this in turn may lead to an inner renunciation that is the very essence of humility. Fear is eliminated by love, which is revealed as the very pinnacle of life on earth: upon successfully climbing the twelve steps one discovers what can only be called an unspeakable respect for God. It is then that his word is listened to with veneration and his law lovingly observed.

(Pinched from the website of Christ in the Desert Monastery Albuquerque)

Not sure all of it works for me - the low self image jars given the efforts that have been made by so many to improve me self-esteem but make it realistic and honest.  but there is food for thought in this.