Thursday, August 17, 2006

C.B. Moss on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Anglican tradition:

"[T]he Anglican [Church]. . .is unwilling to go beyond its knowledge in honoring our Lord’s Mother. We know nothing about her except what is told us in Holy Scripture or may be proved from the Bible. There are many legends about her but they have no historical value; even the oldest of these come from the Apocryphal Gospels, which are certainly fictitious. That she is “in glory” is more than we know. No doubt she is in the highest condition of honor possible for any human being who is not also Divine. Without claiming to be certain about things so far beyond our knowledge, we think that human beings will be given new bodies at the Last Judgment and that they will not be in glory until they are clothed with the resurrection body. Since there is no evidence for the legend of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we have no reason to suppose that she differs in this respect from all other human beings. We have no doubt that she prays for us, but we do not know whether she can hear our requests to her to do so and we have no right to ask her for anything but her prayers. For this reason there are no direct addresses to the Blessed Virgin, or to any other saint, in Anglican public services. Those who do not feel certain that she can hear what we say ought to be free not to address her directly. Those who think she can hear our prayers may freely address her in private, but they have no right to compel others to do so."

See also the following post from "The Patristic Anglican"--


Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

I just purchased a copy of C.B Moss
"The Anglican Church and the Seventh Council". This is a interesting approach to the dogmas
or even pious devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, you would have to extend his reasoning to other Saints of God. Was Saint Paul beheaded in Rome? Was Saint Peter crucified upside down? Did the Apostles go anywhere,really? Are the Apostolic Fathers real? You see, this can really go no where good. Sorry.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I had thought of that while reading through Moss and I thank you for mentioning it.

The Prayer Book does makes use of the other Saints of God mentioned in the Bible, but as you read through the collects of the Prayer Book there is (to the best of my knowledge) no mention of how they died or where. There is simply the mention that they lived and a thanks be to God for their example unto us. There are other feasts and fasts that can be celebrated in the Church (the 1662 BCP has most of the saints of the pre-Schism Church).

Fr. Moss is saying is that by celebrating this feast as "The Assumption" we are affirming something that we cannot, either by Scripture or the most ancient tradition, know concerning her ultimate fate. The other titles for this feast day, such as the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, or the Falling Asleep (Dormition) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, do not tie us to the a doctrine of Mary's end that was not known in the first five centuries of the Church. By adopting the title of the Assumption we commit ourselves to a title for the feast that does not have the consensus of the univeral Church.

This is not the same, really, as the mention of the Apostolic Fathers (or celebrating the feast of Justin Martyr, or Clement). We have their writings, and by the assent of the ancient Church we are fairly sure that Clement did live and write, as did Justin, and Jerome and Chrysostom. We know that the Blessed Virgin lived and that she died (I read from a Roman Catholic source that she was believed to have died and then assumed, but some other writings claim that she was assumed alive and never tasted death) but the manner of her death is only included in writings that were not accepted in the ancient Church.

I was afraid that this posting might be taken as some manner of attack on the Blessed Virgin. It is not. It is simply a question of what we are to teach, through the festivals of the Church, concerning her end.

You stated: "You see, this can really go no where good. Sorry."

I guess my approach goes in the opposite direction--by teaching more than we can claim from the assent of the ancient Church concerning the Virgin we sow needless division where there need not be. Many Anglican priests celebrate August 15th as "the Assumption" and the Conception of the Blessed Virgin as "the Immaculate Conception." In that we cannot demonstrate a univeral (Catholic) consensus on these matters, I believe it is best to affirm what we do know (that the blessed Virgin lived--was conceived--and that she is now in heaven. How she arrived there we do not know.

Anonymous said...

Generally, the idea is that expression of pious opinions and even non-dogmatic truths are fine outside of the context of public worship.

Hence, I can easily imagine an Anglican priest leading an adult study class on important non-scriptural pious traditions regarding the Apostles (Peter and Paul, etc.), or laymen getting great edification by private readings about the Legends of the Saints in Butler's, for example. Perhaps even artisitic representations of these nonsriptural matters of post-ascension church history outside the nave--in the undercroft or narthex or in the home. (St. Andrew's cross, St. Peter's cross, Joachim and Anna parents of Mary, etc.)

The Anglican point is not that only the scripture contains truth, but rather that our Faith, which is expressed in public worship, should be limited to Scripture and what can be proved by it. Our faith-life (para-liturgics and personal piety) can and should most certainly be supplemented by nonscriptural truths and very probable pious opinion (but not wild legends and sepeculations).

Do Anglicans need to pay more attention to the Proto-Evangelon of James? Certainly. Do they need to incorporate it into public worship? Certainly not. The line of demarcation is between the Gospel and Acts (chosen by the Church are canonical) and subsequnet true, Church history contained in the Apostolic Fathers and certain New Testament Apocrypha.

Mike+ said...

Hey Derrick+

Is that a Canterbury Cap on ol' C.B.'s head?

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Patristic Anglican: Agreed.

Fr. Mike: Per the Canterbury Cap--you betcha. Moss was an English Catholic all the way.

The Lemonts said...

If we can not accept Holy Tradition then how can we accept that scripture is indeed scripture? I have never read a list of the books that make up scripture in the scriptures. All I know is that scripture claims it does not contain everything, only what is neccesary for salvation, also it claims that the church is the pillar and ground of truth. The church is identified with the Bishop, the Eucahrist, and the people living in concordance with the faith once and for all delievered. We know that the faith exisited before there was a completed collection that now makes up the bible.

I lean more towards the necessity to determine which church is the church which is the pillar and ground of truth.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

But when a body of Christians departs from the teachings of the Scriptures, in what sense does it have the right to call itself "the Church?" Many Old Catholics have "valid" bishops, but they have departed from the teachings of the Scriptures. As Abp. Haverland has commented, Apostolic succession is not only the historic/tactile succession, but possessing the Apostolic Faith as well. And when a body starts claiming that its members need to believe things not found in or supported by Scripture how can we be sure they speak the truth?

Fr. Moss has not said anything that goes against the tradition of the Church Catholic.