The practical lesson which the study of these ancient customs teaches us is the caution which we should use in forming a judgment as to the source of the practices which some of us are old enough to remember in our youth. They are not all due to Puritan neglect, "the soft, easy, and comfortable pillow which ignorance and indifference make for a well-disposed head"; but many of them are part of the inheritance which has come down to us from our medieval forefathers. Sometimes we have suffered reproaches for belonging to a communion in which such slovenly practices could be found; just as we have been told that the Sundays after Trinity were brought in by Queen Elizabeth, instead of Sundays after Pentecost; whereas Trinity comes straight from the Sarum Missal, and may be found in many medieval German and French missals ; and even to this day in the Dominican Breviary. Now the Middle Ages are thought to have been unrivalled in the dignity of their worship, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in customs which trace their lineage back to so noble a time. Indeed it is to the middle ages that the Prayer Book bids us look for our ecclesiology. It declares that "the chancels shall remain as they have done in times past," that is, in the times which went before the edition of 1552. So that as a general rule we may take as safe guides medieval customs in ecclesiology, and also in ritual when not opposed to the present rubrics of the Prayer Book. Now the earlier ecclesiologists thought they might gain some knowledge of the customs of the middle ages by a study of modern Roman practices, receiving the assertion that Rome never alters with a too confiding generosity; and accordingly they proceeded to change some of the inherited medieval customs in accordance with the dictates of modern Rome. But from modern Rome we can learn next to nothing of the practices of the middle ages. A very little study soon convinces us of the deep division there is between the practice of modern Rome and of medieval England, and that modern Rome will only lead us astray if we trust to its liturgical decisions. Because a practice is Roman, it is not therefore of necessity good, or ancient, or Catholic. In the first place, the liturgy of modern Rome is the liturgy of the Franciscan Friars, while that of the national medieval Churches is the old Liturgy which was used in the parish churches of Rome before the days of Nicholas III. Theologians often tell us of the mischief which these Friars have caused in their science, and to philosophy; and the harm they have done in ecclesiology is certain. They are credited with the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, which even Mrs. Jameson can see set forth unworthy ideas. Further, how little of antiquity remains in practice in the Roman Communion may soon be gathered by those who will attend a few popular functions. Liturgical services, with the exception of the Mass, have well-nigh disappeared; and the seasons of the Christian Year, which we prize so much, are but little thought of. Lent has given way to the month of Joseph; Easter and Whitsuntide are swallowed up in the month of Mary and the Sacred Heart. A distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society told me that the only sign by which he now knew of the presence of Whitsuntide was the red colour of the vestments. If then the more conservative in the Roman Communion have been unable to save from the wreck the Breviary services and the Christian seasons, are they likely to have kept anything ancient in such comparatively unimportant things as the details of the ornamentation of the altar? They are rather likely to have been overwhelmed by the Oratorianism which, in the early days of the ecclesiological movement, was shown to be destructive of a scientific ecclesiology. As in Germany, in philosophy, the cry has been of late years Back to Kant, so in ecclesiology I am sure we must raise the cry of Back to Pugin, to the principles which Pugin advocated; we must throw away the worldly spirit of the Renaissance, and take our inspiration from the Middle Ages, remembering the direction of the Prayer Book that the chancels shall remain as in times past, and holding fast to a medieval liberty of practice as contrasted with the attempts of the Congregation of Rites to establish all over the world the iron uniformity which is the aspiration in most things of the nineteenth century. The end of this paper will have been attained if I should succeed in persuading some ecclesiologists that all that is Roman is not ancient, and all that is English is not Puritan.
As he proclaims earlier in the same piece, we do not want our sanctuaries "decorated" by the soft-hearted:
A dislike of the excessive ornamentation of the altar is not peculiar to Protestants. "How far the altar ought to be ornamented is a question which has been debated with much warmth since the reformation ... The Church of England, when not overawed by the clamors of the sectaries that assail her on all sides, is inclined to favour the practice," says a learned Roman Catholic clergyman, well known in his own day, and he adds that "the Roman Basilican altars, unencumbered with tabernacles, reliquaries, statues, or flower pots, support a cross and six candlesticks; furniture which is sufficient without doubt for all purposes of solemnity, and yet may be endured even by a Puritan. The other ornaments, or rather superfluities, which are too often observed to load the altars of Catholic Churches, owe their introduction to the fond devotion of nuns or nun-like friars, and may be tolerated in their conventual oratories as the toys and playthings of that harmless race, but never allowed to disfigure the simplicity of parochial churches and cathedrals." And in almost the same words, Bocquillot denounces the presence of images, relics, gradins, candlesticks, and flowers on the table of the altar: "Since the nuns, with a piety more worthy of their sex than of the solemnity of our mysteries, have begun to set pots of natural and artificial flowers on the altar, their example has been followed in the churches of the Mendicant Friars, and in country parish churches, where usually devout women tend the altars. This new usage, which I should call scandalous if the Church did not suffer it, has not yet been introduced into cathedral and collegiate churches, nor into those of the monks, at least of those who have any care to keep up old customs. The old customs should be preserved wherever the new have not yet been introduced, determined with the Holy Fathers, that the Holy Table is consecrated solely for the sacrifice, and that nothing superfluous should be set on it."