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For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Old Certainties

"All questions are re-opened" is a phrase from C.S. Lewis's introduction to his anthology of George Macdonald. He is describing the effect of great myths which trouble old certainties and "shock us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives".  Re-opening all questions can be unsettling to say the least, but doesn't the search for truth demand some such attitude?

I take it as fairly basic that anything worth the name of Christianity - call it creedal Christianity if you will - begins by stating that our Lord Jesus Christ is both the fountain and finisher of Creation, History and Redemption, and ought to be at the centre of the Church. There is, the student of ecclesiastical history would admit, some divergence of opinion on how Christ is to be found today, and on what the Church is. Occasionally these differences of opinion have become rather angry.

One accepts that the Church is City built on the foundation of the Apostles; one reaches the conclusion that Apostolic Order is part of the very marrow of the Body of Christ. But there are still a series of unresolved disputes among Christians who believe this much. What role should the Apostle Peter have; what authority has he been given; what power do the bishops have when gathered in council; how does one judge the meaning of Holy Scripture; etc., etc.?

One finds oneself in a particular church at a particular time, as a result of one's heritage, one's earnest study, choices made, and influences within and without: and one thinks that one has a rough but (for oneself at least) satisfactory set of answers for these questions. And then, a decade later, with further study and thought, experience of life and people, colliding with a chance word or phrase, and a long-forgotten hand reaching out from the past to one's shoulder... and "all questions are re-opened". Or thus it has happened to me within the last year.

Perhaps I am only facing up now to profound inconsistencies in my beliefs that I have rationalised but can no longer do so: the submerged doubts must now be brought up to the surface and examined if they are not to become monsters in my subconscious, turning me this way and that without their being uncovered and their power and nature known.

I underwent a psychological assessment lately, to judge my suitability for the diaconate in the Ordinariate. I am in a period of "discernment" at present, and am still not quite sure how things will go - either with my own discernment, or that of my Ordinary. But that is common enough, as one is never encouraged to be too confident, and rightly so. One's calling must be tested. However, the thinking through that I did as a result of the psychological assessment, and the questions that it raised about my own attitude to authority, made me realise that the simmering disquiet that I have been harbouring for the last year or so must be faced in as open and fearless a manner as I can muster.

I have decided to write about it all here, briefly, not so much as to be polemical as to state simply where I am. I want to place my cogitations in an ostensibly public forum, in part to avoid a distinctively clerical atmosphere which sometimes has a sweet sickly smell of disease: a combination of cloistered doubt or disbelief coupled with public avoidance of intellectual engagement in particular areas of theology, patronising smiles and anodyne "faith-talk". If I am ever to be a deacon, entrusted with the communication of Apostolic faith to my brethren in Christ, I want to believe what I say and say that of which I am fully persuaded, always. But I also wished to write about it here to discipline myself to thinking things through, and perhaps gaining some light from readers.

This may not of course be exciting for anyone else. What I say may very well be passé for many, but there is a certain exhilaration for me in pulling out all the drawers and clearing the cupboards, deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and more fundamentally whether the house is the best place to stay after all the sorting, or whether it doesn't answer.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

St Peter & St Paul, Old Saxon Church Albury

Sadly I have had to stop saying the Sarum Office at Old Albury for the time being, and have updated the webpage to communicate this. I am back to saying the Office at home. There are some good reasons for this. I am unlikely to go back to seek permission from the local incumbent and the Churches Conservation Trust to start again unless there were a quorum, a group of at least two or three. I am not too disheartened as I didn't expect a group of people to surface just like that; perhaps something will still be possible at some point.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Ancient rites

I have had some correspondence with someone else who has produced a similar lectionary that takes in the whole of Holy Scripture, but from a slightly different (Lutheran) starting point.

He has made me aware of research on the so-called Ordines Romani, a list of very early, first millenium liturgical instructions for the saying of the Office and the Mass. Those numbered XIII to XV give a fascinating picture of the breviary as it was said in the major basilicas of Rome, staffed by local monastic foundations, back in the early days before St Peter's became a "collegiate" church. St Peter's once had four monasteries to resource its liturgical life.

Somewhat remarkably, there is good evidence that at this early date (we are taking here about the 7th to 8th Centuries) the entirety of Holy Scripture was supposed to be said or sung on an annual basis at Matins - at least notionally - as an ad hoc lectio continua. This very possibly goes back a few centuries more, although there is some evidence that the shift from reading long sections of the Old Testament in an ad hoc fashion at Mass, to doing so at Matins (which previously were most likely constructed of psalmody almost exclusively), may have happened at some point in the 6th or 7th Century.

It seems that the early Roman Breviary's year was divided up into four sections, roughly corresponding to the seasons and bounded by the Ember Days. Genesis to Judges formed the spring lessons (Quinquagesima to Passion Sunday) along with the Easter lessons of Acts, Revelation and the General Epistles. Summer saw the reading of the books of the Kings; and Autumn the Wisdom books. The Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi were begun in December, and continued until the following Lent after the Christmas season. The Gospels and the "Apostle", i.e. the Pauline Epistles, were read at the stational Masses. Thus the early Roman Breviary: which varied somewhat in praxis, from monastic house to monastic house, from one basilica to another, even within Rome.

And then came the cross-fertilisation, or some would call it bastardisation, of the Roman rite with the Gallican, with the introduction of the Roman rite to the court of Pepin and the Franks in 754. This to-ing and fro-ing over the Alps produced many of the classic features of the lessons of the Roman breviary: the seasonal grouping of the lessons was weakened, as the months from August to November took on their recognisable pre-1970 form, and the Pauline epistles made their way into the post-Epiphany period. And the Office as sung at the basilica of St Peter became the liturgical standard, after it became a collegiate church and took over the running of its affiliated monasteries - thus introducing an element of standardisation into the Office at the same time as it was beng Gallicanised.

What I find most interesting, however, besides the above mentioned historical development, something of which I knew next to nothing, is the common feature at this period, which is an assumption that the whole of Scripture was of liturgical value and should form the life and prayer of the church... it is a period which gave us Bede's commentaries on the Tabernacle, and ends with the 12th Century Victorine commentaries on the more "obscure" parts of Genesis. These commentaries were not produced by library scholars poring over books that no-one else ever read, they were (I believe) familiar liturgical texts, heard year upon year, and heard within a Christological and - dare I say it - neoplatonic frame of reference.

I give the internet archive address of one of the books I was directed to:

The History of the Roman Breviary by Pierre Batiffol https://archive.org/details/historyofromanbr00batiiala

The other bits and pieces that I was sent are from more recent books and studies, so I am wary of copyright rules. But this particular summary of the lesson schemata from the Ordines is on-line:
www.naal-liturgy.org/pav/docs/jefferytables-10pt.doc

It has encouraged me to know that the norm of reading the entirety of Holy Scripture in the liturgical year is not some kind of supposedly "silly" Protestant, ergo anti-catholic fad (one hears such profoundly un-Patristic sneers about the sacred word from time to time), but is sadly another of its ancient traditions that the Apostolic see has let fall by the wayside.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The lectionary - almost complete

I have almost completed the lectionary I have been working on, notionally to read the entirety of Holy Scripture in one year. The Temporal is finished; the Sanctoral is not. In the table of lessons, there are (as in the Breviary) three lessons for Matins and one for after Prime; and (an innovation) two for Vespers as at a Book of Common Prayer Evensong. It has undergone a very slow and gradual evolution to get to its current form, and is likely to be further modified as I use it.

It can be seen by following the link entitled A Table of Lessons at this page.


It is based around the spine of the traditional Breviary lectionary of the Sarum use which is as follows:

Advent to Epiphany - Isaiah
After Epiphany - St Paul
Septuagesima to Passion Sunday - Genesis and the first few chapters of Exodus
Passion Week and Holy Week - Jeremiah
Triduum - Lamentations
Eastertide - Revelation, then the General Epistles
Ascension to Whitsun - Acts
After Trinity - History of the Kings
August - Ecclesiasticus
September - Job, Tobit and Judith
October - Maccabees
November - Ezekiel


This experimental lectionary expands the material so that slightly longer passages are read at Matins each day, and makes the following additions to the above material:

Advent - Daniel and Revelation
Christmas - Chronicles (the part about Solomon's coronation and consecration of the Temple)Epiphany - Exodus (the high priestly section)
After Epiphany - the rest of Chronicles
Septuagesima and Lent - the Sermon on the Mount, Deuteronomy, the rest of Jeremiah.
Passiontide - Hebrews
Eastertide - the rest of Acts, Joshua & Judges
Ascension and Whitsun - the rest of Exodus (Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle)
Trinity - the first chapters of the Gospel of John
After Trinity - Gospel of Mark, Proverbs
August - Esther, Wisdom, and the Song of Solomon
September to November - Leviticus & Numbers, Ecclesiastes, the Gospels of Luke & Matthew
November - the Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi


There are reasons for the ordering of the additional material - I have tried to make the choice of lessons in any part of the liturgical year mystagogical in character, primarily. A rationale for some of the more obscure of these choices:

Advent - Daniel looks forward to the Incarnation; Revelation to the appearing of our Lord Jesus
Christmas - Solomon, the son of David, is the type of new-born King at Bethlehem
Epiphany - the High Priest and his vestments, washings, oil and incense are a type of Christ's theophany at the visit of the Wise Men, and in his Baptism
Septuagesima to Lent - Deutoronomy is a recapitulation of the Law after a falling away, a warning to return to our baptismal promises
Eastertide - Joshua and Judges (the new life of Israel after resurrection , the crossing of the Jordan) parallel the account of the new life of the church in Acts
Ascension to Whitsun - The Ascent of Moses to Sinai, and the giving of the Law and the pattern of the Tabernacle, are types of the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost
August to November - I have fitted in the wisdom books and the rest of Pentateuch as best as I can; but the Song of Solomon (which is the type of the mystical union) is read during the octave of the Assumption.


One might ask if this is too much Scripture - if it upsets the balance of the Breviary. My own sense, from use of this lectionary, is that the longer passages for the Matins lessons don't upset the balance: Matins is a long office anyway, and reading around thirty verses of Holy Scripture over three lessons (instead of, say, ten verses) doesn't overburden the office or lengthen it by more than a couple of minutes. The Prime lesson is something to be read over breakfast perhaps. When it comes to Vespers, I can understand why those used to a form of the traditional breviary might not like two lessons added in, but for those used to Evensong it isn't unsettling. Again, one might think that it would lengthen Vespers considerably, but I doubt if it adds on more than five minutes on average.

Overall, the amount of Scripture read in the morning and evening is less than in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on average, partly because one doesn't read the New Testament through twice, and (because the lessons follow the liturgical rather than the calendar year) there is some redundancy on any given year with weeks omitted after Epiphany or Trinity.