We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Communion of Saints

In Anglicanism, what we pray is what we believe. While the idea of the via media is mostly viewed as discredited, I think it deserves a second look. On both Mary and the Saints, the ACC does a very good job of explaining the numerous complexities.

Instead of "invocation," one can say "oblique invocation" or "advocation." And, really, quite a lot of the troubles come from a completely puerile conception of prayer itself. As usual, lots of theological disputes dissolve into semantics.

I like the term comprecation and am deeply appreciative that some Roman Catholics ever bothered to try and express these thorny distinctions, as follows:

Anglicanism prefers comprecation to invocation with regard to the saints. By comprecation the prayer is addressed to God asking that we may benefit by the prayers of Mary and the saints. In a devotion such as the Divine Praises Anglicanism does not say “Blessed be the Virgin Mary ” but “Blessed be God in the Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God. Blessed be God in the angels and saints” (Celebrating Common Prayer p 242) Anglicanism is keen to make clear distinction between veneration and adoration, between honour and worship[,] between dulia and hyperdulia. For this reason no direct prayer to Mary or any other saint is included in the official Prayer Books of the Anglican Communion. Some unofficial devotional manuals may include some for private use. In commemorating the Incarnation in the words of the Angelus many less scrupulous Anglicans are content to pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death” ...

Commemoration of Mary is therefore bound up within the whole package, so to speak, of the Apostolic Tradition, as articulated by the historic creeds and the Bible, with the communion of saints being a fundamental living dogma. Mary has a distinctive mention in the Creed ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ which means she cannot ever be separated or thought of apart from her Son Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. In the words of Max Thurian of the Taize community she is ‘the Figure of the Church’. To separate her from Christ and the Church would be like children telling their mother to leave home and get lost. Some neglect of the Virgin Mary may seem a bit like that. She is essential to the Body of Christ, the community of faith. The icons, stained-glass windows, the paintings, sculptured figures and statues, and the title St Mary, given to churches, schools and colleges, are a constant reminder of her vital role in God’s work of redemption. If the church is compared to a ship Anglicanism knows that Mary Our Lady Theotokos is an essential member of the crew next to Christ the Captain. She is always on board: the ship cannot sail without her, let alone reach its destination. Thus Mary does have a vital part in Anglican ecclesiology.

--Revd Br Brian Harley SSF

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