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, February 25, 2015

Not perfect

Few things are. The great strength -- and, simultaneously, the great weakness -- of Roman Catholicism is its strong ethos of specialization and professionalism. Unfortunately, this can lead to a broadly diffused attitude of "leave it to the experts," viz.

Some years back I was part of a group trying to arrange to bring Father William Menninger, like Merton a Cistercian (Trappist) monk, to our parish in Northern Virginia to give a workshop on contemplative prayer. It was all set. At the last minute, the pastor—who up to that time had been too busy to learn much about the program other than to insure that Father William was a priest in good standing and of “orthodox” Catholicity, cancelled the program. “I didn’t realize it was about contemplative prayer,” he protested. “That is something for monks and nuns, not for mere (his words) lay people like yourselves. Why, if it isn’t part of our life as priests, would it ever be part of your lives as lay people?”

While what some individuals achieve is truly supererogatory, the strength of the Anglican regula is that is indeed doable (so, why aren't you doing it?):

What if our church could witness to that aspect of who God is by at least providing the stability of common prayer?

I’m not saying the book is perfect. There are certainly some things that I’d change if I had the chance. But recognize this: 1) it is an authentic expression of the historic Western liturgy that has nourished literally millions who have come before us. 2) It is an authentic expression of the English devotional experience. (The importance of this is not that it’s English, of course, but that it is a rooted, embodied, inherited tradition that has been embraced and passed on by a diverse group over a period of centuries—not just dreamed up by a few people last week.) 3) It is an authentic expression of historic Anglican liturgy that balances reform of Western norms with Scripture and the theological and spiritual practices of the Early Church ...

... the Book of Common Prayer isn’t just the book for Sunday services. Instead, the Book of Common Prayer offers a full integrated spiritual system that is intended as much for the laity as the clergy and which is founded in a lay spirituality that arose in the medieval period. If you look at the book as a whole, it offers a program for Christian growth built around liturgical spirituality. The best shorthand I have for this is the liturgical round. It’s made up of three components: the liturgical calendar where we reflect upon our central mysteries through the various lenses of the seasons of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and in his continuing witness in the lives of the saints, the Daily Office where we yearly immerse ourselves in the Scriptures and Psalms, and the Holy Eucharist where we gather on Holy Days to most perfectly embody the Body of Christ and receive the graces that the sacraments afford.


No comments:

Post a Comment