Friday, 25 May 2007

The Rosary

Having spent a good chunk of today - with assistance - unloading & then reloading all the stuff on my computer - I had to re-install Windows - I'm rather more aware than usual of what I've got on it. One little programme I keep on my desktop is called Virtual Rosary. If you don't know it, it's worth having a look at. Clicking a mouse instead of clicking a rosary bead takes a bit of getting used to but it's one means of following the Apostle's dictum that we should 'pray without ceasing'.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Ascension Day

I've just discovered that the Church of Rome on both sides of the Atlantic is celebrating Ascension Day next Sunday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter) and not on Thursday. I'm grateful to Fr Longenecker for having a well justified rant. I had realised both Rome and Canterbury had Sundayfied some other feast days but not Ascension Day for goodness sake. I'm somewhat relieved to see that in this respect Anglicans have for once got it right and kept to the time-honoured date.

OK there's only one biblical reference to the ascension occurring 40 days after the resurrection but it's one of the relatively few dates Christians don't seem to have squabbled about. So why change it except to dumb down religion so it can all take place in the God slot on Sunday? How very feeble. What next? Good Sunday?

The beginning of disestablishment?

Christopher Morgan who writes for The Times and the Church of England Newspaper has this on his website Religious Intelligence. Who knows, we might actually come to love Presbyterian Gordy? Disestablishment has always seemed rather a distant proposition. Might this 'home rule' proposal be the start of such a process? Good news for anyone who, like me, tends to wonder whether in the long run - the very, very long run - history will judge the Constantinian establishment of Christianity as the religion of the Roman State as a step of questionable benefit to the followers of Jesus Christ.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Tridentine Mass

For 'the latest' see Ruth Gledhill in The Times. It seems the delay in issuing the motu proprio has been caused by the Germans not the French.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Requiem aeternam

Today to Hampshire to assist at the requiem mass of a long-standing member of the 'congregation' of the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady and St John at Alton.

Anglican Benedictine communities are not supposed to have 'congregations'. 'They should be worshiping in their parish churches' as a newly-appointed bishop said to the Abbot before he discovered he had as much hope of stopping people coming to the Abbey as King Canute had of turning back the waves. Today there were 70 or so people in the little Abbey Church which normally seats 40. Half of them were such members of the regular congregation who could get away on a Wednesday afternoon and the other half friends and relatives of the deceased lady. Most of those in the latter category clearly seldom darkened the door of any church let alone one in which I am perfectly certain the Pope (and this Pope in particular) would have felt as liturgically comfortable as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Such things can happen in a monastery but the secret lies in Chapter 53 of the Rule of St Benedict which instructs that 'all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.' Every single person who came to the Abbey this afternoon to mourn a much-loved friend or relative was welcomed as Christ whether they recognised their honoured status or not.

The picture is of the cemetary at Alton Abbey taken a month ago in Holy Week. Today it looked very different. A month's growth at this time of year is transformational. And it was raining. But they always say it's good if it rains at an interment. One can be sure the coffin is well bedded in.

Rest in peace, Paulene.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

M*** P******

Dare I say it? The fifth of May has come . . . and gone . . .

St John before the Latin Gate

This morning I took myself to St John’s College, Cambridge for a Solemn Eucharist for the Feast of St John before the Latin Gate. The what, I can hear you ask. There’s certainly no mention of such a feast in my 1962 missal but it’s there in the 1928 BCP and also in my copy of The Anglican Breviary which is based on the 1911 reform of the Latin Secular Breviary.

For those who need a memory refresher, the episode commemorated is the occasion when in AD 95 the Emperor Domitian convicted the Beloved Disciple St John of atheism and ordered him to be boiled in oil. He was immersed in the cauldron ante Portam Latinam but emerged completely unscathed He was exiled to Patmos and died a natural death as foretold in the final chapter of St John’s Gospel.

Anyhow St John’s College are keeping the Feast alive and long may they continue to do so. I’ve always thought Ss Stephen and John get a bit of a raw deal coming as they do immediately after Christmas – a bit like children whose December birthdays get subsumed within the generalised seasonal festivities – so for St John to get another go in the middle of the year is no bad thing.

Actually this was my second consecutive Sunday at St John’s. Last week I went on the spur of the moment without first checking only to find that the service was the College’s annual act of thanksgiving for its benefactors. Not exactly my cup of tea – a sort of BCP Matins but without the Benedictus – but it did provide me with an opportunity to remind myself just what a good choir St John’s has and to reflect that there’s now clear water, if you’ll forgive the rowing analogy, between the top half dozen or so English cathedral and collegiate choirs and ‘the rest’. It’s not that the rest are any worse than they used to be – indeed some of them are excellent – but that the front runners – St John’s, King’s, St Paul’s, Westminster Cathedral and a handful of others – are absolutely superb. Last week we heard Britten’s Te Deum and what in all honesty is probably the best performance I have ever heard of Parry’s I was glad. Hearing Sir Hubert’s coronation anthem for George V these days is a bit like hearing yet another performance of Beethoven’s Fifth. Everyone does it and it has become so familiar that for a performance to raise more than an appreciative eyebrow it has to be superb. This was, believe me, superb.

But even that paled when compared with what was on offer musically this morning. Frank Martin’s mass setting is no pot boiler. It’s difficult to perform and even harder to bring off. This morning the combined choirs of St John’s and Clare College blew our socks off. It would be difficult to imagine anything more thrilling.

And yet this was not a concert but a church service, a celebration of the holy mysteries. Self evidently there came to mind the old accusation that the worship of the Church of England represents the triumph of style over substance. And yet the substance was present this morning if only in the words of Common Worship which, like those of the ASB that preceded it, are so very close to those in the Roman Novus Ordo. The choreography had been meticulously rehearsed and was well done and the mood was prayerful. Perhaps the one criticism that could be levelled at the proceedings was the fact that because a solemn eucharist is a relative rarity in this chapel it had to be well rehearsed and it was this that showed up the artificiality of the occasion. Like a well-acted play, it was so well done that just for a moment one might be fooled into thinking it was the real thing. But it wasn’t. But in spite of that, I’m glad I was there.