03 July 2012

A strange e-mail



After my last post I received an e-mail from someone with whom I have never communicated by e-mail.  It was in reference to the post that follows below this one.  Frankly, I suspect someone had too much Madeira, my dear.  The message included these lines:

"You are an idiot.  Mgr Andrew Burnham knows more than you Yanks will eve (sic) hope to know.  You will use his liturgies, and you will thank him for it."

I find this fascinating, Mr. Spock.  Very intemperate for an Englishman but how very interesting.  What follows from this point on will follow the premise that these lines quoted above are true.  (Apologies if my conjectures and commentary seem incorrect because the premise is flawed or even wrong.  Let's just see where this goes if it were true...)

I was not aware that the new liturgies for funerals and holy matrimony were Msgr. Andrew Burnham's liturgies.  No one has said so.  Of course, I had been told in a telephone conversation with a man from Rome that Msgr. Burnham's liturgical vision for the Ordinariate would be the world standard 'even if the Lord Jesus should appear and indicate otherwise'.  Forgive me but I have had to approximate the romanitas in English. 

I was told several times that there would be no intermediate rites.  But, lo and behold!   Msgr. Burnham has produced liturgies in his Customary that replace the BDW Daily Office for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  Even with my criticisms of some its foundational material such as its Roman Lectionary as a very mistaken Ultramontane gesture, Msgr. Burnham's Customary on the whole is a magnificent effort clearly true to part of the English experience.  Of course, when one only looks to one's national tradition or the recent experience of the same, such an effort will be characterised by some as parochial rather than catholic in scope and frame.  As something of an interim set of national materials, considering what it is, one must admit that Msgr. Burnham's Customary is splendidly well done.

I would expect that Msgr. Steenson & Co. will simply copy it in the main and publish the thing as the Customary for their jurisdiction.  In my opinion the English are leading and if one does not have the drive to lead, then follow someone excellent.  That makes perfect sense.

Msgr. Andrew Burnham has great talent in this area of English Rome-looking liturgy.  His Manual of Anglo-Catholic Devotion is a sort of 'Uniate' re-write of the Manual of Catholic Devotion (Anglican) long before the Ordinariate was even a whispered hope.  One will note that Msgr. Burnham eliminates 'Holy Ghost' and replaces it with 'Holy Spirit' as is found in the printed text of the Creed in the new Funeral rites -- a version of the Creed never used by Anglicans in the the USA and not the traditional Anglican text which is what should have been printed in the actual main text of the rite ('Holy Spirit' ought to have been the alternative in the permissive rubric, not 'Holy Ghost').  Before moving on let me note that in his Manual his translation of Ave Verum Corpus is simply masterful. However, none of this means that I will withdraw my previous critique and criticism of this 'liturgical process'.

His other great work — Heaven and Earth in a Little Space — is a book I think all serious churchmen should read, full stop.   Judging from what appears to be transpiring it will give readers a fairly good window on what Msgr. Burnham intends the Ordinariate revised Liturgy to be or be like.  These are very good ideas expressed cogently and provocatively, but they are not the only ideas among us in the Anglican diaspora within the Catholic Church.    I do expect  Msgr. Burnham -- with clarity of purpose and great strength in his delivery -- to articulate and defend his well-considered point of view in meetings of the liturgical Working Group -- since it appears that he is a part of the group.  Is there no one else prepared to do likewise, to present ideas and defend them as successfully?  Apparently not.  What a pity.

So what if all of these liturgies are simply the brain-children of Msgr. Burnham rubber-stamped by the Vatican?  They will be a clear English national expression of the Anglican experience for the Roman Catholic context.  But it would be a very sad day for those of us who were labouring in the Church in the USA long before he decided to convert and join us if our experience were not given at least equal footing. It doesn't matter at what hour of the day the Master hired us ... so long as we all get to work together and not have one's work undone by another.

Even if one were told that these new funeral and marriage rites were the effort of the Monsignori Burnham and Silk, there would be no cause for rejoicing.  This simply isn't how it is done among people of the Anglican Patrimony around the globe.  Our corporate worship must arise from our corporate experience and wisdom, and not merely from the minds of a few folks given the task under the seal of secrecy and under the cover of media darkness.

How much better if each national Ordinariate simply prepared its own interim rites with The Book of Divine Worship -- as it stood before this decree -- as a world standard.  Let the ordinariates live with their draft efforts and revise their interim rites as needed.  Let them study what the other ordinariates are doing ... and in seven years time come together and begin working on a complete, thorough revision of the Book of Divine Worship that reflects the received wisdom and experience of all.

I do not think there was an U.S. American who heard  Msgr. Burnham's derogatory criticism of The Book of Divine Worship as "too American" without thinking to themselves, 'Oh dear, the Mother Country intends to put us in our place.' 

To one and all in the USA and its territories, a Happy U.S. Independence Day and a blessed and safe Fourth of July holiday.