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)

Friday, July 10, 2015

If it ain't Baroque ...

One way of dividing "the green from the yellow" -- or, distinguishing the two main strands of Anglo-Catholicism -- relates to how they each react to the Counter-Reformation. Most of the first group behold it with horror, while the second are inclined to incorporate it wholesale into Anglican practice.

One example:

While I have no objection to personal devotion to such peculiarities, I just can't see my way clear to making it any part of our common prayer. I guess my most sober adjudication would look something like -- but not exactly identical to -- this:

Being a Tractarian, ressourcement, patristically-minded, first millennial, conciliarist, philorthodox kind of Anglo-Catholic, I have always inclined toward the Eastern teaching on doxological matters, and this includes an appreciation for the Eastern Orthodox view on the counter-reformation devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. Anglo-Papalists included this feast in the Anglican and English Missals, but the Sacred Heart tradition is relatively modern and certainly post-Tridentine, originating as it does in the seventeenth and eighteenth century 'southern catholicism' of the mediterranean countries. As such, it is not part of the devotional tradition of the ancient and patristic catholicism of the undivided Church, and hence does not play a part in my own understanding of orthodox theology or in my own devotional experience.

And yet the heart does play an important part in Anglican liturgies.

ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GOD spake these words, and said; I am the Lord thy God: Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.
et al.

ALMIGHTY God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and power infinite: Have mercy upon the whole Church; and so rule the heart of thy chosen servant ELIZABETH, our Queen and Governor,


ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, we are taught by thy Holy Word, that the hearts of Kings are in thy rule and governance, and that thou dost dispose and turn them as it seemeth best to thy godly wisdom: We humbly beseech thee so to dispose and govern the heart of ELIZABETH thy Servant, our Queen and Governor,

And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace; and especially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear, and receive thy holy Word; truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.

And so forth ....

This is a prime example of Anglican patrimony that must be carefully nutured. It is not as though the 'heart' isn't mentioned anywhere else, but rather that a very specific view of the means of edification is thereby indicated. We seek to change, with God's help, people's hearts, not their minds.

I don't think that one has to endorse fully either Cranmer's "anthropology" or his "receptionism" but, nonetheless, we shouldn't be completely tone deaf to the possible truths those might contain. Fortunately, these topics have been unfolded by other, more capable hands:

Cranmer’s scriptural understanding of the Lord’s Supper may be simpler than his medieval predecessors, but it is no less thoroughly supernatural.

He fully believes that a miracle happens in the sacrament, but this profound mystery takes place in the human heart, not on the Holy Table. Real spiritual power is active in Communion, but its focus is the ordering of the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, since only a supernatural intervention by God can do so.

According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.

Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation. Working through Scripture, the Holy Spirit first brings a conviction of sin in a believer’s heart, then he births a living faith by which the believer lays hold of the extrinsic righteousness of Christ.

If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it.

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