Monday, 28 March 2011

Where the ordinariate isn't!

Last week's edition of The Tablet contains some interesting figures for Receptions into the RC Church in England and Wales - and includes as separate figures those joining the new Anglican Ordinariate.  Much to my surprise, the biggest groups are NOT from London diocese.  Brentwood (Anglican Chelmsford), Southwark and Birmingham are.  But it's the "zeros" which are really interesting.Cardiff, East Anglia (Walsingham territory), Hexham and Newcastle, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Menevia, Middlesborough, Northampton, Shrewsbury and Wrexham all have no converts to the new beastie.  In other words, Anglicans in the North and West are showing no particular interest at this time in joining the RC Church's Anglican annexe.  They may be waiting to see what the Ordinariate looks like in practice OR they may be more firmly wedded to the Anglican identity than the Southern diocese's catholic wing.  Given that the biggest groups heading to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham were always from parishes in the North, it at least suggests that there will still be a Catholic wing of the C of E for the foreseeable future.  Good news for us - and perhaps a bit of a downer for those who thought every good Catholic Anglican would head over the Tiber due to the offer.

What the Incarnation REALLY means!

Went to see the film "Howl" today.  Absolutely superb.  I've haven't actually ever read the Allen Ginsberg poem until today, but the film absolutely opened it up for me.  What I discover to be the Footnote seems to me to lay bare (very explicitly!)  what the doctrine of the Incarnation is all about.

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! 

The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock 
and hand and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! Everybody's holy! 
Everywhere is holy! Everyday is in eternity! 
Everyman's an angel!
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! 
The madman is holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy 
the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy! 

Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien 
holy Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs 
holy Cassady holy the unknown buggered 
and suffering beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! 
Holy the cocks of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! 
Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana
hipsters peace & junk & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! 
Holy the cafeterias filled with the millions! 
Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! 
Holy the vast lamb of the middle class! 
Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria &
Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow
Holy Istanbul! 

Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time 
holy the clocks in space holy the fourth dimension 
holy the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad 
holy the locomotive holy the visions 
holy the hallucinations holy the miracles holy the eyeball 
holy the abyss! 

Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul!
Either the whole shoot is redeemed or we're talking piffle. "For what has not been assumed has not been healed; it is what is united to his divinity that is saved.... Let them not grudge us our total salvation, or endue the Saviour with only the bones and nerves and mere appearance of humanity." (St Gregory Nazianzen)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Edinburgh Reserve

There is something of a cultural myth that Edinburgh and its denizens are not the friendliest natives of the Kingdom of Alba.  From the legendary greeting at the front door of "You'll have had your tea?" to my mother's observation that if you were to have a heart attack in Princes Street, they'd just walk around you (as opposed to Glasgow where they ask you "Wherrurye gaun Missus?" if you stop moving and look confused), the natives of the capital are seen as just a trifle.. reserved, shall we say?

Today I found a context where this douce reserve does not apply.  The sauna.  We all got quite chatty as we sweltered away.  Perhaps it's the fact that there is no room for pretension when you are clad only in your best budgie smugglers, but even the lofty souls of Marchmont, Bruntsfield and Morningside become quite loquacious and sociable sans their suits from Gieves and Hawkes and their Academical ties.  Perhaps we could restore the Anglican Communion by sticking a mixture of Bishops in a steam room in purple Speedos and wait for them to converse interactively?

Just a thought.

The Annunciation

I had the experience of leading Morning Prayer for the feast of the Annunciation this morning and being the only male in the chapel.  Our reading was the account from Luke's Gospel of the announcement.  For the 1st time, I was struck by the difference it made hearing the message of the Angel given by a woman's voice.  In my blithe and thoughtless way, for years I had simply assumed that Gabriel was male!  Actually, it made more sense, given the cultural norms of the time, that Mary got the message from another woman (probably older) that her destiny was to be the Mother of the Messiah.  In a way, this painting of the Annunciation with a numinous messenger not in human form is (to me) more realistic that the traditional depiction of the angel as some sort of  humanoid thingy with wings.  It delivers us from the misinterpretation and confusion that abounds in so much Christian thinking when trying to picture the unimaginable reality of the Divine.  We human creatures think and imagine in pictures and then turn those pictures into unalterable"reality" which becomes "The Truth".  In fact, our idols are not the graven images of the Old Testament but the pictures of God we have in our minds.  The deadliest idolatry is internal, not external.  And they are the hardest idols to smash.  Lent is no bad time for a mental and spiritual clean out of our distorted images of God.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Rattling the Beads. 

I have been inveigled into presiding over a celebration of the Mass with Rosary in a week or two.  Which naturally sent me hunting for some suitable material of an intercessory nature to use with the beads.  Online I had very little luck, as most of the stuff I found seemed to dwell almost exclusively on "my sins", "my needs".  I know it is essentially a personal devotion, but you'd have thought someone out there might have thought up a Rosary of Intercession.  I did unearth something rather more useful from my personal collection of devotional literature (or "Holy Keekh" as I call it) in the shape of a Mirfield booklet by the late Fr Harold Ellis CR entitled "A Simple Way of Prayer".  The pattern is adaptable and, allowing for it being Pre-Vatican II Anglo-Catholic in tone and language (prayers for "native clergy" sound rather odd - but, hey, they produced Desmond Tutu so...), quite OK.  But there was one sentence in it that made me pause and ponder. And here it is:

"The Rosary is the next best and safest method, after the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, by which we can interceede for persons and causes".

Safest?  Prayer is safe?  My gut instinct is to describe prayer as anything but safe.  If it is a genuine encounter with the One, True, Living God, then safe is the last thing it is.  Exciting, disturbing, frightening.  Life enriching, consciousness deepening.  These are all adjectives which accurately describe prayer.  But "safe"?  If it's safe, then you can safely assume you're doing it wrong.  Prayer ultimately takes us out of our personal "safe space" and away from our comfort zone.  Prayer may be marked by a sense of being comforted or consoled (Ps 23); it can be a place of tears and darkness (Ps 130) or even of transcendent, near orgasmic, ecstasy (Bernini's marble "Ecstasy of St Theresa " being a stunning depiction of this). 

But safe?  Never.  Dull sometimes, empty for ages, intense for moments and dazzlingly clear for a few seconds, if you are truly lucky and blessed.  

I value the Rosary, not because it is safe, but because it stretches me, disciplines me and liberates me.  It stretches my inherited Scottish Protestantism by being so definitely and defiantly "Catholic" and by pushing me to reflect on incidents I can find utterly uncomfortable (like the Sorrowful Mysteries).  It disciplines me to concentrate on what I am praying, as I find fumbling with beads tricky and to reflect on scripture not of my choice.  It liberates me by giving me a mantra to recite to centre me and release my spirit to engage with the Divne reality in moments of meditative release.  Safety has absolutely nothing to do with praying the Rosary.

The Eucharist excels as a pattern for prayer: penitence, Scriptural reflection, intercession, self-offering and thanksgiving.  The Rosary offers a different but equally useful structure: credal grounding, imaginative reflections on gospel incidents, a mantra to focus the "inner eye of the soul" on God and a sense of praying with others of the Company of the Kingdom (particularly Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of the Saints).  It is a tool to help us pray.  One I might use from time to time as an aid to my faltering efforts.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Lenten Differences.

(St Basil the Great, whose Liturgy is celebrated in Lent)

This little bit of info intrigued me recently:
"On weekdays of Great Lent, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, because the joy of the Eucharist (literally "Thanksgiving") is contrary to the attitude of repentance which predominates on these days. However, since it is considered especially important to receive the Holy Mysteries (Holy Communion) during this season, the Liturgy of the Presanctified—also called the Liturgy of St Gregory the Dialogist— may be celebrated on weekdays. Technically, this is not actually a Divine Liturgy, but rather a Vespers service at which a portion of the Body and Blood of Christ, which was reserved the previous Sunday, are distributed to the faithful. Most parishes and monasteries celebrate this Liturgy only on Wednesdays, Fridays and feast days, but it may be celebrated on any weekday of Great Lent. Because the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays, it is replaced with the Typica, even on days when the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated. On Saturday and Sunday the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated as usual. On Saturdays, the usual St John Chrysostom is celebrated; on Sundays the more solemn and penitential Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great is used. "  (with grateful thanks to Wikipedia).

How fascinating.  Imagine if we stopped all weekday  celebrations in the SEC for the duration and had Reserved Sacrament Communions only.  We could use the nice shiny new Blue Book on Saturdays and only the 1929 Prayer Book on Sundays.  Doubtless this would utterly appal some - but might drive home the difference between Lent and the rest of the Liturgical Year to the majority of the people with some force.  I personally kinda regret the "sameness" of our liturgy in most parishes.  Yes, we change colour and drop the Gloria, but the music rarely really marks the difference nor does the severity of the penitential Rite.  Like it or loathe it, the old Prayer Book Confession came into its own in Lent.

Just a thought!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Into Lent.

I'm not sure if this is a Holy Lent yet - it sure is beginning as a busy one! Yesterday (Ash Wednesday) was a working day but I simply skipped brekkie and lunch, nibbled a cheese sarnie in the RC Cathedral cafe on the way home, purchasing some Lent material to fuel my devotions.  Evening Prayer was followed by High Mass and Ashing at St Michael's, a late but tasty supper of smoked fish and rice and Compline.  Today was work then the blessing of the Holy Hut (the Emmaus House Chapel) by +Brian.  Festal munching followed - well, in Scotland it is the Solemnity of St John Ogilvie (nice pikkie of his national Shrine in the Jesuit Church in Garnethill, Glasgow below).  I know it's really an RC festival, but he wouldn't have been martyred if the Pisky Archbishop of Glasgow hadn't insisted on it, so I claim a share of his festival for usage!  In a faintly Lenten spirit, I stuck to Lemon and dill poached salmon, potato salad, roasted vegetable and goats cheese pizza, fruit salad and apple juice.  I haven't eaten meat so far this Lent but this is purely conincidental.


My personal lenten discipline will be to try and read daily bible notes and do the Stations of the Cross every Friday.  This, I hope, will deepen my journey.  Anyone else out there up to anything more exciting?  (If it involves flagellation, you're probably taking this whole penance thing far too seriously - the blood that should be shed is Christ's not yours.)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Edward King, Bishop and pastor

T'is Shrove Tuesday!  Having little inclination towards pancakes (being a clootie dumpling man myself), I prefer to recall the saintly Ritualist Bishop of Lincoln Edward King who is commemorated today.

His saintly response to persecution by Kensitite Protestants was much admired, but my favourite story was from his later life.  He had lain down on the beach for a wee nap in the sun and found his stiff old bones made rising up tricky.  he called on a passing small girl to get help and she helped him back on to his feet.  "Thank you for helping me up, my dear" he said "You are very strong for a little girl".  Her reply: "That's OK mister.  I've helped my Daddy up when he was much drunker than you!"  I also love his advice to preachers:

"Christ lives in his saints. We know his life in them. St Paul prayed to know the Power of the Resurrection, though he knew the fact.  If you are to preach, you must make up your minds that you are sent, and sent by God. Without the gift of love, you will never be a preacher.  Nothing anonymous will ever persuade--the faith and conduct of the preacher give life and power to his message. Thus preaching is different from mere feeling. You may teach mathematics or geography without being fully convinced. But in delivering the Gospel message, if it is to be a living life-giving message, there must be in the preacher a sense of message and the desire to deliver it."

A godly man and bishop.  May he pray for us and with us today.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

St David's Day.

Merthyr (Martyr) Tydfil 

In honour of Dewi Sant, our daily prayer in the house has been of the saint, our lunch time soup was Leek and Potato and here is a  phonetic version of the Welsh National Anthem  for youse to hum along to.

My hair-n wool-add ver n-had eye
Un ann-will ee me
Gool-ard buy-rth ah chant-or-yon
En-wog-yon oh vree
Eye goo-rol ruv-elle-weir
Gool-ard garr-weir trah-mahd
Tross ruh-thid coll-ass-ant eye gwide
Gool-ard, gool-ard
Ply-dee-ol oiv eem gool-ard
Trah more un veer eer bee-rr hore-ff buy
Oh buthed eer hen-yithe barr-high

Yacky Da etc!