Friday, October 24, 2008

Old School Ties - Someone Else's

The English have a charming custom of creating school and regimental ties which serve as signals to those who have attended the same school or served in the same regiment. It is pretty much the equivalent of the sports paraphernalia of which Americans are so fond, but much more discrete and elegant. You don't have to wear your own school or regimental ties, but you are really not supposed to wear the tie of a school or regiment of which you were never apart. It is considered very bad form, rather like pretending that you were a veteran of service in Korea or Vietnam when you were never in the military.
I have a habit, probably sinful, of surfing the web looking at photos of famous Anglican churches, especially those of famous Anglican architects such as John Ninian Comper, my very favorite. But I also go back and look for the websites of churches I once attended or had to which I had other connections. This can be very bad for you especially when you find how far from grace they have fallen. For instance there is one in London of which I was very fond and which still advertises itself as being in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, but whose new assistant (I am not going to call her a priest) is Mother Mary Elizabeth. Bishop Gore is probably spinning in his grave.
But the one which caught my eye recently was the New York parish whose one time rector became the bishop of Springfield and the chief bishop at the Denver consecrations. Needless to say, its present condition would be a shock to Bishop Chambers as it has taken on the full burden of late Baroque Roman bad taste." Yes, they have taken to the wearing of fiddlebacks and very skimpy ones at that. And worse, the albs are now of lace and the cottas of the servers lace trimmed. In Chamber's day lace albs were never used and the lace cottas we had at that time were only used when the very wealthy woman who donated them decided to show for a very ocassional Sunday service. And that would have been like one every two years or so.

I know that these "Latin" vestments are supposed to be the very highest proof of Anglo=Catholicism because they were what Roman churches came to use from the late Renaissance through the Baroque right up to the modern age when suddenly they realized that they were dead ugly. Indeed, the last few popes seemed never to have touched them, but here was one more formerly Anglican church of good reputation wearing the discards of another and lesser tradition. This is especially galling as that church has already abandoned them. Oh, Rome will still wear the lace albs and the rochets and cottas dripping with lace, but the tablard imitations of real chasubles, dalmatics and tunicles is almost completely a thing of the past which is something which Rome's greatest liturgists would certainly have applauded.

So why do some who think themselves Anglicans keep it up? Frankly, I don't have a real answer, but I think it has to do with the spirit of rebellion that infused the most leftist, effeminate, pinko wing of Anglican high churchmanship in the early twentieth century. Among those who entered the priesthood in England and the North Eastern United states there was a spirit of rebellion against the establishment by those who were the most visible sons of same. It was as if they would and did do anything which would embarrass their families and their class while pretending (and maybe even believing) they were more Christian than the rest of us. And while some of them were quite saintly indeed, many of them helped to make both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England into much the moral and sexual cesspools which they became in the last century.

The greats of the Tractarian Movement were not ritualists. They believed that it was more important to preach, teach and practise the faith rather than make a show of it. Even the very blessed Dr Pusey only begin to wear the traditional eucharistic vestments at the end of his life and then only in the chapel of the religious community which he was instrumental in founding. The classical prayer book tradition by means of the Ornaments Rubric requires them and so all who are ordained should wear them. But, and this is a very big one, they should be worn in the Anglican tradition which is and should be one of "antiquity, antiquity, antiquity." We should not be imitating the debased traditions of the Church of Rome. What we should do and have done, is to teach even Rome what is right. Our liturgical tradition in vestments and ceremonial should be based upon that of the English Church just before the first prayer book and that would mean upon the tradition of the Use of the great church of Sarum as all of the other English uses had been suppressed in 1541 in its favour. If we do so we will have an Anglicanism which is everywhere instantly recognizeable and vastly attractive while shedding the false tradition which lost the moral high ground in Anglicanism all over the world in favour of the too sweet smell of lavender and old lace.


Matthew Nelson said...

A hale and hardy, "Amen."

Canon Tallis said...

Thank you very much, Matthew. I sometimes think that most Anglicans are really ashamed to be "mere Anglicans" when the Roman Church is so much more sophisticated and powerful. But when I read something like the canon of the Ordo Romano Primus and realize that the theology of our '28 American canon is exactly the same only ours is more beautifully written and with much less in the way of non-essential matter, I wonder where the vaunted Anglican intelligence and taste have flown.

There is something extremely satisfying in knowing that our faith is so much more primitive than theres and when done according to the rubrics of 1559 and 1662, so much more elegant and beautiful.

Matthew Nelson said...

"Among those who entered the priesthood in England and the North Eastern United states there was a spirit of rebellion against the establishment by those who were the most visible sons of same. It was as if they would and did do anything which would embarrass their families and their class while pretending (and maybe even believing) they were more Christian than the rest of us."

John Shelton Reed has authored an excellent book on the Anglo-Catholic movement in which the above is a fair summary of his thesis. I highly recommend his book for a good read.

Canon Tallis said...

Would that book be "Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism?" I have heard of it but never read the same. I am glad to know that someone else shares my opinion in the matter. What bothers me is that they can't get over it or outgrow it or whatever. . . .

For the good of the Continuum and for souls still to be saved one would hope that learning to do "the right thing for the right reason" would trump overgrown little boy pique. But a century after the fact it doesn't seem to have done so. Pity!

Matthew Nelson said...

Correct book.

The Contemporary Anglo-Catholics try to ignore its existence or reject it as a "Prot polemic" because it is inconsistent with their party mythology. But, the ACs have yet to find a point out a single facutal inaccuracy in the book. And the facts support Reed's inescapable conclusion. In fact, Reed pulls his punches a bit of the secondary thesis, that is that ACism appealed to the lavender and old lace crowd as well as rebells.