Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lo! How the Mighty Have Fallen

I just read in the Christian History blog that a Greek Orthodox couple in Los Angeles have endowed a center for the study of the early church at Wheaton College. In the announcement mention was made of the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, but there was no mention of Anglicans at all. I was hurt.

You see, in the nineteenth and twentieth century it was Anglican scholars who were the great and consistent students of the earliest Church. Indeed, it was the basis for who we were and what we believed and taught. But now through the treason of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada and the way in which the Anglican Church in the British Isles have followed them in their heresies and embrace of immorality, it as if we have disappeared from the whole of the Christian world. Indeed, we have become a laughingstock, an embarrassment where once we were stupor mundi.

The worst of it is that we in the Continuum don't know who we are. Our parishes and missions, such as they are, reflect either the opinions of those who would have destroyed Anglicanism after the assession of Elizabeth I by their refusal to obey the Book of Common Prayer or those who decided that the only way to be either Anglican or Catholic was to substitute the use of missals and customs based upon the post-Tridentine liturgy of the Roman Church for that of the traditional Book of Common Prayer and the ceremonial and uses which the best liturgical scholars of the last two hundred years have determined was proper to it.

And that leaves me with a further question: do we really want to be Anglicans or are we just playing with religion because once the faith and practice of Anglicanism was that of the social and intellectual elite of the English speaking world? I am, let me admit it, a very high churchman who loves the fullness of English use. The language, the music, the vestments and ceremonial all move me, reminding me of the richness of the worship which God commanded for Himself in the Old Testament and for the protection of same which drove our Lord to violently drive the money changers from the temple. But I am equally made aware of the majesty of our Creator when I recite Morning Prayer and the Litany by myself on a cold morning without vestments, music or incense. Consequently, when I read something like the post in Christian History where Anglicans and Anglicanism is left out, what I hear ripping through my heart and soul is our Lord's cry from the cross: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?

12 comments:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Be of good courage, my friend. God is not finished with Anglicans, only teaching them the greatest lesson - the everlasting glory of a contrite and humble heart.

Canon Tallis said...

Thank you, Alice. I will take humility any day. It is the loss of truth and beauty that has a tendency to drive me more than a little crazy. I went to an Orthodox site on Saturday and its articles on liturgy were actually quite good. But while expounding on Orthodoxy's maintenance of the tradition, it forgot to explain why the ancient vestments which were part of the tradition of the whole church and which one can see in the mosaics in the churches in Ravenna and in some the ancient icons are no longer worn in the Orthodox churches. It is not an important point and certainly no real criticism of Orthodoxy because right dogma should trump everything else, but it was quick to criticize others for equally small points.

What bothers me is that so few Anglicans are willing to face the demands of the traditional prayer books. It may be that they call for a way of life almost as strict as an Orthodox Lent. Not that the dishes which can be eaten aren't as delicious as those forbidden - I do remember a delightful lunch with the ROCOR archbishop in San Francisco - but you have to internalize the discipline of simply being what you say you are.

You may know the story, one of my favorites, of the early Franciscans bringing St. Francis back to the mother house after he had received the stigmata. They had persuaded a country man to provide an ass for Francis to ride because of the condition of his feet and he was quite glad to accommodate the friars, but as they traveled he became concerned and finally turned and fell on his knees before Francis and begged him to truly be what the people thought he was, i.e., to be real and not a fraud.

As Christians we have to be real, authentic, if you will, living as close to both the letter and the spirit of the gospels as, by God's grace, we can. This is why even little betrayals hurt so much.

But we also need to be able to glory in the small and the almost hidden which is why I am so fond of Nicholas Farrer and his community and in the life and ministry of George Herbert at Bemerton. Their lives might seem small and insignificant but their holiness was great.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Quite right. The Orthodox wear Byzantine vestments, but I doubt these are seen as an innovation.

Orthodoxy should take a lesson from what has happened in Anglicanism and put off pride.

Integrity of witness has so much to do with the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer and fasting, confession, regular Eucharist, deep study of Scripture, accountability in the church, etc. Best done in small communities such as Farrer's (or in monasteries) where there is a godly bishop to prevent such communities from becoming cults.

02continuum said...

First time to your blog...

Be of good courage! Perhaps the Anglican witness today is not the intellectual one of former days, but I firmly believe that the Anglican way of life and prayer is a worthy one to offer to the rest of Christendom. Perhaps we are in a day of Anglicans returning to basics? At least those who truly live out the Anglican ethos. Who knows, just shootin' from the hip - but, at the very least know that you are never alone in the Office, but I know the feeling. When I chant the Office alone, or with one or two, I try to never lose sight of the fact that my prayers are said in unison with the faithful wherever they are.

charles said...

Dear Canon Tallis,

the problem with Anglican Identity is reproachment with Protestantism. So long as we no longer identify ourselves as Protestant, we will never define ourselves by Prayer Book standards but look elsewhere-- sic. EWTN.

I believe it would help to differentiate Protestant as per 39 Articles. The Articles reject Radicalism/anabaptism, and sadly Radicalism has supplanted original Protestantism. When we denounce protestants we should differentiate. We denounce Anabaptism not our own Magisterial Project (the national church).

Magisterial protestants not only consists of Anglicans but also our brothers in confession, the Lutherans. I might include those Presbyterians who submitted to conformity and crown, e.g. the Scottish engagers and men like Baxter.

I now whince whenever I hear Anglican Catholics deride Protestantism without this careful separation.

sincerely,
charles

Canon Tallis said...

Charles,

When did true Anglicans stop identifying themselves as Protestants? The question is 'Protestant' as it was defined by the framers of the Elizabeth Settlement and their legitimate successors or 'protestant' in today's popular mind which simply means anti-catholic or not Roman. We, as prayer book Anglicans, may not be Roman or even Roman imitating, but we have always intended to be Catholic as that word was understood by the Church of the first five centuries. But to actually claim that we must be fully obedient to the Book of Common Prayer as it is. And that means that we also stop trying to pretend that we are 'protestants' like Methodists and Presbyterians who wear cassocks and surplices for the funny little thing we do before 'The Sermon.'

charles said...

I probably am coming off very one-sided. I suppose if I were in a more 'evangelical' Anglican denomination, say REC, I'd want our catholicity firmly acknowledged. But being in an Anglo-catholic church, I find a defense or apologia for 'true protestantism' rather rare. It's generally maligned alongside the 39 articles. So it's a matter of perspective.

However, there has been many times I've heard catholic Anglicans speak of the reformation as if they were indeed Roman Catholics, usually saying something along these lines, "protestantism divided the universal church into a million sects". I have to ask which protestantism are they talking about, and where did they first hear this accusation? I think it's a loaded claim.

I have to be more sensitive how I write on the internet. It comes off very dogmatic and argumentative.
I apologize for my online demeanor and sloppy writing. Too often it's off the cuff.

sincerely,
charles

Canon Tallis said...

Charles,

No need for apology. The folks who divided the Church were those who adhered to the sins of the See of Rome. It was Rome that caused the break with the East and Rome that caused the Reformation, indeed, who made the Reformation necessary. There is also no need to apologize for the articles. A real Anglican understands and upholds them - even if he has to learn Latin. We must "testify for" the real Catholic faith which is to be found in Holy Scripture as interpreted by the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers, the Creeds and the theological decrees of the universally accepted General Councils. The Reformation was not perfect because none of us is perfect so we must each of us individually internalize the Catholic Faith, Orthodox Worship, Apostolic Order and Evangelical Mission. It is a big order and we could not, can not do it with out the Grace which is given to us the Father.

charles said...

thank you, Canon Tallis. :)

Death Bredon said...

Canon:

I see some hope in the Anglican Church of North America as a transition to something recognizably Anglican. Also, the Anglican Province in America. Both take traditional editions of the Book of Common Prayer seriously, as well as the 39 Articles, the Ecumenical Councils, and the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Of course, the ACNA is still struggling with "WO," but only one-quarter of its member diocese have this and not for Bishops. But more importantly, the question does not seem to be "decided in favor," as with Canterbury, but rather "ongoing and leaning strongly against." Moreover, so early in the wake of "The Episcopal Church's" collapse, we cannot expect instant perfection.

Perhaps, over time, those portions of The St. Louis Continuum not enthralled by Pius V and the Counter-Reformation may join together in this realignment.

Brad said...

Maybe they think that "Protestants" includes Episcopalians.

Canon Tallis said...

Brad,

That would be an insult to the word 'Protestant' and all who use it correctly. The present Episcopalians are more pagans than protestant to their own great misfortune.