31 December 2009

Defacing the Flag of Italy

It is not what you may be thinking ...

There is much on the internet at the moment about the desire of Italians to place a Cross upon their Tricolore (in terms of vexillology "defacing the Tricolore with a Cross"). Some want to place a large central cross in gold on top of ('defacing') the three colours of the Italian flag. Andrew Cusack provided some interesting possibilities, and the best ideas to my mind -- as a rejoinder to the non-practicing Finnish Lutheran in the court case that resulted in the European Court ruling against the Crucifix in Italian schools -- involved adaptations of the Italian colours to the Finnish (and Scandinavian) cross pattern from their national flags.

I have jumped into the creation of possible configurations and have enjoyed immensely the sketching and drawing . I recognise as well how ironic this may seem since one of my Italian ancestors had the surname 'Garibaldi' and here I am (a Roman Catholic Monarchist) sketching in the Cross of Christ upon the Tricolore !

I will spare you all the ideas I tried (*sigh of great relief*) but rather here present to you my latest updated version of the Italian flag -- 'defaced' by a Cross of red. Be advised that the colours are not the exact hues for the Tricolore, but are rather an approximation made quickly on my little Wintel laptop. Click on the flag to see it larger.

A Flag Proposed for Italy

Images and Design Copyright (c) 2009 by Vincent William Uher III

It is extremely handsome when hung as a banner or rendered as a pennant, and those are important questions about the vexillological integrity of the idea ... together with the various uses and adaptations of the national flag that would be employed at everything from sporting events to solemn state occasions.

Your comments are most welcome -- especially if you like it! Please keep in mind that this is not a perfectly scaled rendering but rather a conceptual sketch (under my Copyright).

And if anyone knows someone in Italy to whom I should send this for consideration, please let me know via the 'Comments' link below.
+Laus Deo.

30 December 2009

From the Anglican Patrimony

Introduction to the prayerbook Sursum Corda

t is an undoubted part of every Christian's duty to pray for others ; and, like many another duty, intercession is an ever widening one : it grows with the growth of the Church and her needs : it grows with the growing complexity of human society, as new classes and objects rise up to claim its help : it grows with the advance of human knowledge, as new mysteries of GOD's work and ways are revealed to us : it grows with every acceleration in locomotion, and every advance in intelligence -- in fact almost every step forward in civilisation seems to demand some correlative advance in intercessory prayer.

The duty of intercession is also an every widening element in each indiviudal life : as a man's interests and experiences widen, so must his prayers : at first his horizon is narrow, limited to a small home circle : then he goes out into the larger world, and that too claims his intercessions : and bit by bit, as friends, acquaintances, and interests grow, he must keep pace with all this expansion, not only in the activity of his outer life, but also in all the hidden energy of his life or devotion and supplication.

Again, if he is a man of GOD, there must be a development in his view as to what is a proper subject for intercession : he begins, alas, too often with a narrow view : he does not see how centrifugal and wide-reaching is this power of intercessory prayer : he looks to other things to accomplish his objects, to advance his interests, and to fulfil many of his best projects. But gradually, as he is a man of GOD, he learns otherwise : he finds that he accomplishes more of GOD's purposes and of his own best hopes by a short quiet half-hour of prayer than by days of restless activity : he no longer denies a place in his intercessions to certain parts of his aims and desires on the ground that they are unsuitable subjects for prayer : on the contrary, he insists on finding a place there for them all, for he finds how prayer, far more than anything else, brings him into effective touch with the widest circles of his fellow-men, the largest range of human interests, and with his own best and highest aspirirations, no less than with the eternal purposes of GOD.
From the Introduction to Sursum Corda
W. H. Frere

The Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield

Easter, 1898

"THE HOLY GHOST is in us to make us Christ-like. He is in us to communicate life, as the 'Author and Giver of life.' He is in us to communicate Christ, to enable us to partake of Christ's Body and Blood. He is our never-failing Friend, our never-absent Companion."

The Reverend Arthur Williamson, D.D.

+Laus Deo.

28 December 2009

Holy Innocents A.D. 2009

Flight into Egypt + From Egypt Home

Click here for tune.

Lonely travellers from the stable
Out beneath the hard blue sky
Journeying, wandering, hoping, praying
For the safety of their child
While our mother Rachel's weeping
Fills the streets of Bethlehem.
Kyrie eleison.

Warned by angels, moved to save him
Who was born our kind to save,
Joseph leads his holy family
Far from Herod and harm's way.
Mary shielding and consoling
Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Kyrie eleison.

Fleeing from the land of promise
They in Egypt find a home
Strange the workings of God's mercy --
House of bondage now God's throne.
But for sons who all were murdered
Sorrow breaks the House of Bread.
Kyrie eleison.

True the tale of flight and exile.
Out of Egypt comes God's Son.
Angels tell of Herod's dying.
All is ended, all begun.
Jesus will grow up in Nazareth
And the world will all be stunned.
Kyrie eleison.

Words: Copyright © 1997 by Vincent Uher. Used with permission.
Licensed here under Creative Commons 3.0 - United States: Commercial reproduction prohibited.

Music: Divinum mysterium
Meter: 87 87 87 7

+Laus Deo.

27 December 2009

A Lectionary Choice: Holy Family Sunday

Today in the Lectionary of the Ordinary Form of the Mass for Holy Family Sunday, the Second Reading has three alternatives, and the last of those alternatives is rarely employed; however, I think it is an exceptionally good choice in Year C of the Lectionary for the USA.

Now in the USA this text would be read from the New American Bible, and in Canada I believe it is the NRSV that is authorised. I have personal long lists of everything I find wrong with both of those translations, so where shall I turn for a translation on my blog? ... That's right, it is Back-to-the-Future with the Douay-Rheims translation of Bishop Challoner (of blessed memory) of the First Letter of John 3:1-2, 21-24:
1 Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not Him. 2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him: because we shall see Him as He is.

Dearly beloved, if our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God: 22 And whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of Him: because we keep His commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ: and love one another, as He hath given commandment unto us. 24 And he that keepeth His commandments, abideth in Him, and He in him. And in this we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.
Today at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas, my beloved and esteemed father was the lector for this reading. How I wish I had been well enough to drive there to hear him read God's Word. Once you have heard him read the Scriptures ... his is the voice you would want to hear in your head as you read the sacred page. I know that people think this alternative exists simply to avoid the other two possibilities, but to the contrary I find it a marvellous reading in Year C in the Catholic Church in the USA, and I hope many have had the opportunity to hear this portion of Scripture read aloud and that its message is written on all of our hearts. God bless us everyone!
+Laus Deo.
*The picture above of the Holy Family comes from Jim Shore's colourful collection of creches, ornaments, and angels.

26 December 2009


Grant us, O Lord, to learn to love our enemies,
by the example and intercession
of thy holy martyr Stephen,
who prayed to thee for his persecutors;
who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

Inspired by a variation on the 1549 BCP Collect for Saint Stephen, I had written a new hymn text for Stephenmas in 2008 but unfortunately it seems to have perished in the waters of Hurricane Ike which destroyed my home on Galveston Island in the same years. It is now almost 2010 and the words from that text are beginning to arise again in my mind -- no small fete after strokes (in the plural) and neurodegenerative brain atrophy!
So, my friends, I credit the reappearance of that hymn albeit fragmentary as a grace received through Saint Stephen who was one of my childhood heroes.

There is a magnificent hymn by Adam of St. Victor translated by J.M. Neale (of blessed memory):

Yesterday, with exultation,
Join'd the world in celebration
Of her promised Saviour's birth;
Yesterday the Angel-nation
Pour'd the strains of jubilation
O'er the Monarch born on earth;

But today o'er death victorious,
By his faith and actions glorious,
by his miracles renown'd,
See the Deacon triumph gaining,
'Midst the faithless faith sustaining,
First of holy Martyrs found.

Some may ask, Why write a new hymn when there is already one so brilliantly rendered? At root such a question -- which gets asked with some frequency -- speaks to a kind of divorce in the questioner's mind with regard to his or her own creativity. When we realise we are all called to a creative synthesis of our faith and talents and life, then it becomes clear that each poet will write his own poem, each needlepoint worker will create her own tapestry work, each cook her own recipe, each chef his own pastry, and so on. The genius of another does not render the rest of the world silent and motionless, but rather genuine genius leads to a kind of Pentecost event inspiring others in their own turn and in their own right. The painter inspires other painters, the dancer inspires other dancers. The athlete inspires aspiring athletes. The saint inspires others to be holy. And the hero inspires others to be heroic.

I never turned much to the traditional sources of childhood heroes in the world today. I suppose in part that was due to my maternal grandmother who told me about Jesus and the great saints; and, indeed she was the one who introduced me in the most personal and touching terms to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the difficult time when I was five years old and my young father suffered stroke and was in hospital.

I recall the way my Grandmother tenderly and simply comforted me by inviting me to tell the Blessed Mother everything in my heart. I begged Holy Mother Mary to return to my father to me ... a desperate cry, a prayer I had already begged of Jesus the Lord. God did indeed return my father to me alive -- a genuine miracle! -- plus with nearly an 100 % recovery, a second miracle to be sure.
Following that experience, I wanted to know whatever I could learn about the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the Little Flower, St. Frances Cabrini, and all others that filled my Grandmother's world. It was that world where we were never alone but always helped and encouraged by the saints of God ... it was that world of Christ's saints which I wished to inhabit all the days of my life.

Starting simply I remember singing Good King Wenceslaus and learning from my paternal grandparents about St. Wenceslaus and also St. Stephen the Martyr. "Upon the Feast of Stephen" -- a small line -- but one filled with mystery and interest for me, and in the succeeding years I tried to learn all I could about St. Stephen.

"He was the first martyr in the world!" -- I still recall the great excitement of realising that the good saint was the very first one ... and oh! was that powerfully important to me. The men named Vincent in my family (of which I was the third Vincent William) were named for Saint Vincent the Martyr, of Saragossa, Proto-Martyr of Spain.
And thus, the martyrs became the great heroes and heroines of childhood, and of my spiritual life and finally of my artistic imagination.

I have tried to relate in very simple words the great sweep of years in which I have grown to know St. Stephen more deeply. Fascinating it is that -- should I be called by anything other than 'Vincent' by someone who does not know me well -- invariably they call me 'Stephen'. This has continued to the present day and at times has had the variation of someone insisting that my middle name is 'Michael' not 'William' ... but that is a tale for another day.

Writing a hymn for S. Stephen has been very important to me, but I have never been truly satisfied with my results. I pray this Stephenmas I may be able to continue writing that special hymn in earnest and have something useful by the Feast of S. Stephen in 2010. Until then I offer the following hymn of mine for All Saints which is well suited to this 'candled season'. It can be sung to the oft used tune 'WINCHESTER NEW', but I sincerely hope it will come to be sung to the new tune written for it by the brilliant musician Noel Jones. The new tune 'TYBURN' was composed for this text, and I am profoundly grateful to Noel Jones for the honour of this marvellous tune for my poem 'Bright Torches in the Darkest Night'.

Bright torches in the darkest night,
The saints of God as lights yet shine.
Lord, let our witness rise with theirs,
And through their prayers give grace divine.

A dimly burning wick were we,
But now our faith fills with thy fire
For thou art all consuming love —
Thy perfect will our hearts desire.

Unite thy saints through every age
And cleansed from sin lift us above,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
One God in glory, one in love. Amen.
Copyright © 2006 by Vincent Uher
This may be sung to the tune Winchester New

+Laus Deo.

24 December 2009

Nativity 2009

A most happy and blessed Christ Mass

and a joyful Christmastide

to one and all.

20 December 2009

Lo, How She Brings Life With Her

"Lo, How She Brings Life With Her" is a hymn-text I wrote for the Feast of the Visitation and also for the Fourth Sunday in Advent in Year C of the Lectionary for the Ordinary Form. The first link below gives you my words set to a tune that was once much loved by Episcopalians in the USA and Anglicans elsewhere. The second link below is the same text set to a marvellous new tune by Noel Jones. There is also a setting to the rather well known tune Wie lieblich ist der Maien.

Lo, How She Brings Life With Her -- tune: Far Off Lands

Lo, How She Brings Life With Her -- tune: Ein Kerem (Noel Jones)

Noel Jones requested a suggestion for the name of the new tune, and I offered 'EIN KEREM' which is the village of St. Elisabeth and the place where I wrote down the very first ideas for this text. I love the new tune and hope parishes and congregations will make use of both my words and Noel's tune.

As so many are travelling, I pray for everyone complete safety under the protection of St. Raphael the Archangel. And as we journey to that place where we will keep Christ Mass, let us remember St. Mary the Virgin and St. Joseph the Carpenter and give thanks to God for their humility and for the part they play uniquely in the salvation of our souls through their beloved Jesus, Messiah, Saviour, Lord. God love you all !

19 December 2009

Preparation for the Blessed Sacrament

The Anglican bishop Lancelot Andrewes is one of the well-springs of mature Anglican Incarnational and Sacramental theology who drew his source material from the Fathers, both of the East and the West, the Sacred Scriptures, and the Divine Liturgies of the East. The following is one of Andrewes' devotional prayers to be offered before receiving the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist:

O merciful Lord Jesus, I confess myself to be a most grievous and wretched sinner, not worthy to approach into thy presence, altogether unfit and unmeet to receive thee under the roof of my soul, in respect of the stains and pollutions thereof, and that it is not decked and fitted, with such good graces, as thy majesty and presence requireth, and therefore am afraid to come near unto thee: yet, O Lord, considering thy comfortable saying, that thou dost nor desire the death of a sinner, but that he should turn unto thee and live; and thy blessed invitation, how lovingly, with the arms of thy mercy stretched out, thou hast called all, that are heavily oppressed with the burden of their sins, to come to thee for comfort and ease. And lastly, thy usual practice, in pitying and relieving those which were cast down with the thought of their misdeeds; as the Thief on the Cross, Mary Magdalen, the Woman taken in Adultery, the Publican, Peter and Paul, I am comforted and emboldened to come unto thee, assuredly trusting, that thou wilt of thy goodness supply my defects, and make me a worthy receiver of the high mystery and benefit of thy blessed Sacrament, whereof of myself I am altogether unworthy. Stretch out thy right hand, O sweet Jesus, to me thy poor servant, and give out of thy rich store-house of mercy what I want; that thereby I may be made a living temple to thee, and an acceptable habitation for thine honour to abide in: and grant, that being cleansed by thy mercy and goodness, I may, by thy grace and power, persevere in all godliness of conversation, to the end of my days, and attain to that blessed place, where thou reignest, with the Father and Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Here also consider this thrilling conclusion to a prayer of Lancelot Andrewes for use after receiving the Blessed Sacrament:

Give me a heart, which may love thee with so true, faithful, and constant affection, as that nothing under the sun may separate me from the love of thee. Let me not follow the love of the world, or delight in the vanities of it any longer: but give me power to kill and quench all other love and desires, and to love thee only, desire thee only, and only think of thee, and thy commandments: that all my affections and thoughts may be fixed on thee; that in all temptations and adversities, I may have recourse to thee only, and receive all comfort from thee alone, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

Uniquely Anglican

With Anglicanorum coetibus, many have asked what is uniquely Anglican worth preserving. It is interesting as a question since it comes from both Roman Catholics and Anglicans I know well. I have tried to engage the question by way of response on a few blogs, but at the moment I think it prudent to provide some light on the question from the perspective of the traditional Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England ... and no one better to speak for them than Arthur Michael Ramsey, the late Archbishop of Canterbury who penned the following when he was Anglican Bishop of Durham in 1945. The question in particular is the title of the same, and I offer it here without further commentary:

What is Anglican Theology ?

The discussion in Theology upon the nature of Anglican theology is timely. For there is such a thing as Anglican theology and it is sorely needed at the present day. But because it is neither a system nor a confession (the idea of an Anglican "confessionalism" suggests some­thing that never has been and never can be) but a method, a use and a direction, it cannot be defined or even perceived as a "thing in 'itself," and it may elude the eyes of those who ask "What is it?" and "Where is it?" It has been proved, and will be proved again, by its fruits and its works.

The method, use and direction characteristic of Anglican divinity first came into clear light in the writings of Hooker. His theology claimed to do both far less and far more than the theologies of Calvin, of Luther and of Trent. It did less in that it eschewed any attempt to offer a complete scheme of Biblical doctrine, or an experiential assurance of justification or an infallibilist system of dogma. It did more in that it appealed to a larger field of authority and dealt with the whole man rather than with certain parts of him. For it appealed to Scripture, tradition and reason: "the Spirit everywhere in the scripture...laboureth to confirm

us in the things which we believe by things whereof we have sensible knowledge." And it dealt with the whole man, both by its reverence for his reason and his conscience and by its refusal to draw a circle around the inward personal element in religion and to separate it from the world of external things. It was congruous with all this that the Incarnation, with the doctrine of the Two Natures, was central, and that the Church and the Sacraments were closely linked with the Incarnation. The claim of this theology to be "Catholic" rested not only upon its affinity with antiquity but upon the true "wholeness" of its authorities and of its treatment of man and his need. It offered him not only justification in his inward self but the sanctification of his whole being through sharing in the divine life.

The method, use and direction seen in Hooker persisted. Amid many diversities of emphasis there can be traced in Anglican divinity an appeal to Scripture which refuses to treat Scripture as a self-contained law or to select the doctrine of justification by faith as the essence of the Gospel, and insists instead that Scripture needs interpreting with the aid of the tradition of the Church as the witness and keeper of holy writ. And with the appeal to Scripture on these lines there is linked both the study of the ancient Fathers and a reverence for reason and conscience such as commends authority while eschewing infallibilism. In the centuries between Hooker and to-day the different elements in the Anglican unity have often "gone apart." High-churchmen, valuing tradition but missing the more dynamic aspect of the Word in the Scriptures, have sometimes been led into a "traditionalism." Evangelicals, holding the Bible in high esteem but divorcing it from the living tradition of the Church, have sometimes been led into a "scripturalism." Broad-churchmen, reverencing reason but missing the significance of certain aspects of Scripture and tradition, have sometimes been led into a sort of "rationalism." In each case there has been a tearing asunder of things which in the Anglican vocation are bound together—the Gospel, the Catholic Church, sound learning. Yet the underlying unity, often strained and never to be defined, has not perished. The special importance of F. D. Maurice is that while he fell foul of the advocates of the "isms" of his day—"churchism," "evangelicalism," "liberalism" alike—he is now seen to represent in a remarkable way the unity which they were missing.

The Anglican use can be studied with profit in many divines of the last three and a half centuries. It is illustrated in the width of Lancelot Andrewes' appeal to "the whole Church, Eastern, Western, our own," in Bishop Butler's use of the inductive method, in the title of the first of the Tracts for the Times, in James Mozley's famous passage upon the limitations of logic (Essay in Development, pp. 41-4), in F. D. Maurice's insistence upon the distinction between the truth of God and the forms wherein it is expressed, in the editing of The Library of the Fathers, in Frederick Temple's plea for the rights of the student ("if you pre­scribe the conclusions you preclude the study"), and in modern works which expound the Incarnation in its relation to the evolution of man and nature while fully conserving its unique, redemptive and transcen­dental character. These illustrations suggest many a tension between diverse elements, yet the underlying unity is there and Hooker may still show us something of its meaning. Unfortunately there has been a false view of this unity which thinks of it as a vague "comprehensive­ness" embracing a!l and sundry opinions for comprehensiveness' sake. But this notion does less than justice to the true unity of Anglican divinity. For it is not a unity between diverse "isms" and parties but a deeper unity in the Gospel of God, in the Catholic Church whereof the Church of England is a part, and in sound learning.

Now the Anglican use, method and direction discovered themselves in reaction from the pressure of Luther, Calvin and Trent; and it is possible that in the reaction against misleading systems there was a missing of certain valuable elements which those systems contained. Thus, though the Anglican method led to a balanced use of Scripture as interpreted by tradition and to an escape from the lopsidedness of the Reformed scripturalism, there may yet have been loss through the missing of the more "dynamic" use of Scripture known amongst the Reformed. In other words our emphasis (right as it has been) upon the "Word made flesh" may have led us to miss something of the meaning of the "Word spoken" as Reformed Christianity values it. Similarly the reaction against Rome may have led to loss through our neglect of the angelic doctor, from whom Hooker himself had learnt not a little. The day of revenge has come. The catastrophic times through which we have been passing have exposed the contemporary weaknesses of the Anglican use. Can it offer the wholeness of system which the Thomist offers? Does it sufficiently understand the notes of crisis and judgment which the Confessional Protestant has been making his own? It has seemed that Anglicanism has had less to say and has said it less powerfully than these two theologies upon its flanks. Its members often look to them rather than to their mother, and ask "Has she a theology of her own?" But history may soon repeat itself, and, as in the latter days of the reign of Queen Elizabeth [I], Anglican divinity may soon rediscover itself and, while claiming to say far less than the Schoolman and the Confessionalist, may speak both with a wider authority than they and to the whole man rather than to a part of him. For on the one side every sort of infallibilism demands (as James Mozley pointed out in the work already mentioned) an infallible logician, and this means an authority speaking to far less than the whole man. And on the other side Neo-Calvinism leads us to regard the use of our reason as a sinful titanism, and so dwells on our justification as to rob us of our sanctification through union with the divine life. If these judgments be true, the Anglican need not be too diffident or apologetic, though he may need to be more modest, in what he claims to say.

(1) The bona fide Anglican can never suffer the Latin scholastics to dominate the theology of his Church. This refusal need not involve a depreciation of what the scholastics can do in the field of Christian philosophy. But the refusal must be made, because the scholastic would substitute other categories than those of the Bible at the very heart of theology, where the Anglican believes that only the Biblical categories can rule. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith”: the appeal to Scripture demands that God's revelation be understood first in these Biblical categories with the Greek of the New Testament as the theologian's primary apparatus. It is here that the quarrel really lies. This is not to deny that a far more humble and ready appreciation of the scholastic's work is needed amongst us; but this is to say that he can never be suffered to possess the central shrine.

(2) Equally the bona fide Anglican is not at home with the divinity broadly and somewhat incorrectly called Barthian. It would be futile to belittle what has been learnt and needs to be learnt from the Barthian school concerning the failure of the "liberal" treatment of the Bible, the realities of God's transcendence, grace and judgment, and the more truly theological perspective in Biblical interpretation. Yet the Anglican's gratitude for this is no longer leaving him blind to the need for revolt and protest, akin to the revolt and protest of Hooker against the Calvinism of his day. A concentration upon the Word spoken which misses the importance of the Word made flesh, a concentration upon justification which as good as denies the theme of sanctification, a concentration upon certain elements in St. Paul which omits the teaching of St. John (particularly chapters vi and xvii) from its picture of Christianity, betoken a divinity which is less than truly Biblical. Nor can the Anglican fail to notice the loosening of the Neo-Calvinistshold upon the Incarnation as a central principle. Partly this is seen in a failure to make that estimate of Man which the Incarnation demands. Partly this is seen in a readiness (observable in different degrees in some writers) to part with the idea of the Incarnation itself, since if all that is needed is "an irruption into history for man's salvation" there is no special importance in the doctrine of God made Man.

Now Anglican divinity rediscovers itself by the recognition that it is of a mode and spirit other than these. It could never, for the truth's sake, leave the field to them. But it can do its work only with a careful recognition of its debt to them, even as Hooker owed much to the Rome and the Calvin whom he withstood. There seems to lie before Anglican divinity the immense task which is also an immense oppor­tunity: to appeal once again to the threefold authority of scripture, tradition and reason: not to repeat in archaic fashion the appeal as it was made in the sixteenth century, but to discover its new mode as it is needed today.

(1) As to Scripture the way is open for a treatment that avoids the errors and the violence of much modern work. The liberal method drew out the human nature of the Bible but misinterpreted it through losing its theological key. In reaction the "new school" has recovered a belief in the divine nature of the Bible but has often refused a due place to its human nature by ignoring questions of historicity, by trying to settle critical problems by theological affirmations, and by over­simplifying the rough, jagged process wherein the theology was hammered out in the history. Is there not need for a treatment of Biblical questions, an exposition of Biblical themes, an assessment of Biblical authority which holds in view the Two Natures of the Bible? And is this not a task akin to that which Hooker performed in a different though cognate field?

(2) But the interpreter of Scripture cannot work without presupposi­tions, and the disciple of Hooker approaches the Bible with pre­suppositions learnt from the living tradition of the Church. But the appeal to tradition cannot mean to-day precisely what it meant in the sixteenth century or in the writings of the Tractarians. It needs re­thinking. In place of a static appeal to the undivided Church (for the Holy Ghost has said many things since the great schism) we should perhaps think in terms of the appeal to Christian experience. This appeal will put the utmost emphasis upon the inward experience of Christians and its moral fruits; but it will not, in the manner of Hooker's opponents, draw a closed circle around the inward aspect of the Christian life. It will instead include the form and the sacramental life of the Church in their witness to the historical givenness of the Gospel. Though the form without the Spirit is dead, it is through His use of the form—in creed, sacrament, order, liturgy—that the Spirit preserves the true salt of Christian life in its union with the objectivity of Gospel and Church.

(3) As to the appeal to reason the writer of this paper would rather that others, with a philosophical equipment which he lacks, took up the tale. But perhaps the nature of the Anglican's appeal to reason 'may be discovered partly from the nature of the appeal to Scripture and tradition, and partly from the distinction (deep in the Anglican's bones) between authority and infallibility. "Two things there are that trouble these latter times: one is that the Church of Rome cannot, another that Geneva will not err." Where is the secret of a theology which does not require the infallible logician and yet "proves all things" as the apostle said, and speaks not to part of a man but to the whole of him, justifying and sanctifying and illuminating body, soul and spirit whole and entire unto the coming of the Lord?

In these tasks the Anglican will not suppose that he has a system or a confession that can be defined and commended side by side with those of others; indeed, the use of the word “Anglicanism" can be very misleading. Rather will he claim that his tasks look beyond "isms" to the Gospel of God and to the Catholic Church which he tries to serve with a method, use and direction needed as greatly to-day as in the past.
Loquere filiis Israel ut proficiscantur.

A.M. Ramsey

Originally published in the journal THEOLOGY
January 1945

This voice from 1945 is worth recalling as it does speak forthrightly of what was claimed and what was rejected in the Anglican project from its first formulation to the time of Lord Ramsey and his keen insight in all matters theological.

16 December 2009

The Opening of the Cause of Zita, Empress and Queen

Archduke Otto as a little boy at the Coronation
of his father Blessed Emperor Charles as King of Hungary.
Depicted seated in the Imperial Coach is Empress Zita
who was crowned Queen of Hungary.

The following is the official prayer to invoke the intercession of Empress Zita:
God our Father, you redeemed the world by the self-abasement of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was King became the Servant of all and gave his life as a ransom for many, therefore you have exalted him.

We ask you that your servant Zita, Empress and Queen, will be raised upon the altars of your Church. In her, you have given us a great example of faith and hope in the face of trials, and of unshakeable trust in your Divine Providence.

We beseech you that alongside her husband, the Blessed Emperor Charles, Zita will become for couples a model of married love and fidelity, and for families a guide in the ways of a truly Christian upbringing. May she who in all circumstances opened her heart to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy, be for us all an example of service and love of neighbour.

Through her intercession, grant our petition (mention here the graces you are asking for). Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Any graces received through the intercession of the Servant of God, Empress Zita — especially those which are possibly miraculous — should contact:

Association for the Beatification of Empress Zita
Abbaye Saint-Pierre
1, place Dom Guéranger
72300 Solesmes, France
+Laus Deo.

13 December 2009

Anglo-Catholics do have a real patrimony

Michael Ramsey, pray for us.

After some unfortunate and awkward statements by English Catholics who do not grasp the Apostolic importance of Anglicanorum coetibus, the Revd Anthony Reader-Moore, SSC provided an excellent response to one such lamentable letter, printed recently in Britain's Catholic Herald, and which I quote at length below:

Anglo-Catholics do have a real patrimony

Anthony Reader-Moore responds to Catholics who suggest that Anglicans considering the Pope’s offer have no true tradition of their own

It is right that there should be vigorous debate concerning the new Apostolic Constitution for Anglicans and what comprises their patrimony, but the letter by Robert Ian Williams in the November 27 issue, for all its apparent erudition, was not helpful and ought not to go unchallenged.

Indeed, it presented a narrow and somewhat jaundiced approach, hardly calculated to encourage a greater understanding of Anglican history among cradle Catholics, nor to assure Church of England clergy and laity who are seriously considering taking this course that they will indeed be welcome in the English Catholic Church.

It can be fairly argued that the “Anglican patrimony” is much greater than either Thomas Cranmer or the various versions of the Book of Common Prayer, integral as they are to Anglicanism both here and overseas. Thomas Cranmer’s Protestantism was mainly a personal matter acquired over a number of years prior to the publication of the First Prayer Book in 1549, largely as a result of theological exploration and his contacts with a number of continental reformers such as Martin Bucer and Philipp Melancthon. It more or less remained so prior to the death of Henry VIII. After that, with the accession of a child king greatly influenced by his Seymour relatives in a Protestant direction, Cranmer had an unparalleled opportunity to introduce what had been a private matter into the public realm of ecclesiastical and political affairs.

This suited not only the personal predilections of Protector Somerset, but more especially his political strategy and so became the official religious and political policy of the regime. If it was a matter for the ruling elite, it was hardly one for many of the bishops, most of the clergy and still less so for the bulk of the ordinary people, who remained staunchly Catholic in outlook and devotion. The English Reformation was always fundamentally about power rather than religious belief, the latter being seen as a convenient vehicle through which to impose changes as much sociological as they were concerned with faith.

Indeed, Cranmer’s First Prayer Book of 1549 was essentially a conservative reform and it is wrong to suggest that at this point he got rid of such things as the Benedictus and Agnus Dei from the liturgy. The Eucharistic rite was of traditional shape and order and still called “the Mass”, much of the traditional ceremonial being retained. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and a reactionary and opponent of Cranmer who later on was to be Mary I’s lord chancellor, accepted that it was fully patient of a Catholic interpretation. It was only with the imposition of the Second Prayer Book in 1552 that the regime felt able to bring in a more thorough going and radical change, but this lasted less than a year and it is questionable whether it was adopted much beyond the environs of London and the Home Counties prior to the death of Edward VI in the spring of 1553. Indeed, there is some evidence that upon her accession Elizabeth I would have preferred to have reinstated the 1549 Book rather than the compromise version that was actually adopted.

The position of the Church of England has always been that despite the many and various changes introduced into the religious life of this country during the upheavals of the 16th century – and no European state was not affected in some way or other by this – and notwithstanding the break with Rome, Henry VIII did not found a new church as such, but rather wrested from the papacy final control of all matters ecclesiastical within his kingdom. Thus Ecclesia Anglicana has always claimed to be the authentic manifestation of the One Holy Catholic Church in this land, the historic church of the English nation, maintaining continuity with the primitive Church of the early Christian centuries. Unlike some of the established churches of northern Europe, mainly of the Lutheran tradition, historically she has understood herself to be an integral, if lamentably separated, part of the Latin Church of the West. Because of this, there is an deep-seated consciousness of sharing a vast amount in common with the Roman Communion, from which indeed she sprang. So in this respect is is right to suggest that “there is nothing authentically Anglican about the ritual”. The nearest one could get to something “Anglican” as such might be the medieval Sarum Use, but even that was a version of the Roman. However, when he then asserts that the use of vestments and other liturgical practices were an wholesale appropriation by 19th-century ritualists, he is being at best misleading and at worst utterly wrong.

At the beginning of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (still the official liturgy of the Church of England in spite of the Alternative Service Book 1980 and, more recently, Common Worship) is what is known as the “Ornaments Rubric”. Here it states unequivocally that the chancels of churches are to remain as they were “in times past” and “such ornaments of the church and of the Ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and be in use as were in this Church of England, by the authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth”.

That, of course, was 1549, the year in which the First Prayer Book was promulgated and in which latter is set out in some detail what vesture is to be used in divine worship, including both the chasuble and the cope. So it is quite wrong to say that such things were reintroduced by the Tractarians and their immediate followers “illegally” during the 19th century. What they saw themselves as doing was returning the Church of England to a strict legal integrity by the use of the lawfully required ornaments and fostering a renewed understanding of her essential Catholicity through matters of worship and spirituality.

Indeed, a sense of the latter, even if muted, had never been entirely lost and is found in the writings of such figures as Bishop Andrewes, John Donne, George Herbert, William Laud and many of the later Caroline divines. The spark of Catholic belief and devotion, albeit in an austere and restrained manner, continued to be fostered by some of the Non-Jurors in the 18th century and is an integral part of the wider Anglican patrimony which Catholic Anglicans would bring with them into any future Ordinariate.

The Catholic Revival has had an incalculable effect on the life and worship of the average English parish, far more so than any other comparable movement either before or since. This is witnessed by the interior furnishings and decorations of the vast majority of our parish churches, even those of an Evangelical hue, and such transformation is a direct result of what Anglican Catholics were doing from the latter half of 19th century onwards. One has only to compare and contrast with what was normative in the time, say, of Jane Austen to see how profound and far-reaching this influence has been and how much a more objective understanding of the “beauty of holiness” has resulted.

Yet this was essentially the outward expression of a profoundly Catholic ecclesiology and spirituality which led to an increased desire on the part of many in the Church of England, by no means confined only to Anglo-Catholics, to explore the possibility of some kind of corporate re-union with the Holy See. The Malines Conversations in the Twenties leading, eventually to the visits of successive archbishops of Canterbury to various popes, resulting in the setting up of ARCIC and the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Canterbury in 1982, are all evidence of a burning desire that our two churches should be one again. Thirty years ago that vision was such that it looked capable of some kind of accomplishment. The tragedy is that, through the increasing adoption by the official Church of England of an uncompromising liberal and feminist agenda, this has been largely thrown away: corporate re-union at this level seems further away than ever.

Pope Benedict has shown huge understanding and compassion for traditionalist Anglicans and knows where they are coming from. His initiative is one of incredible generosity and vision and helps in no small measure to redeem some of the bitter disappointment and despair that the events of the last few years have caused people like myself to feel. It allows us to hope again; not least that what we have grown up with and loved, many of us from birth, is still valued and wanted – and where it really counts too – at the very heart of the Catholic Church.

The Rev Anthony Reader-Moore SSC is honorary assistant priest of St Mary’s, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and chairman of Peterborough Forward in Faith
+Laus Deo!

12 December 2009

Saint Michael the Archangel


Sancte Michaël Archangele,
defende nos in prælio.
Contra nequitiam
et insidias diaboli
esto præsidium.
Imperet illi Deus,
supplices deprecamur.
Tuque, princeps militiæ caelestis,
Satanam aliosque
spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum
pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in
infernum detrude.


08 December 2009

And God said

Let there be ... Mary.

God send you His blessings
for the love of Mary
on this most holy day!

05 December 2009

"Sing of Mary, Blest is She"

My hymn text "Sing of Mary, Blest is She" has proven more and more popular over the years since I first wrote it. I have not charged any fee to use it so long as it is not reproduced for commercial use. I simply wanted God's people to have it as freely as God inspired me to write it.

Here is a link to the text set to the well-known tune for 'Good King Wenceslas' that is TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM, Piae Cantiones:

God bless all who shall sing this hymn and all who love the Holy Family!

+Laus Deo!