Sunday, November 28, 2010

A very nice letter:

I just received a very nice letter from a reader of the blog. I know I haven't been posting regularly, but it is good to know that people continue to find this blog edifying and useful.

"Dr. Hassert--My name is Jonathan T, I'm an REC Deacon (I'll be ordained to the Priesthood next month) and currently working as an assistant minister at St. Francis. . . .I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I find it to be the single most edifying and nourishing blog on the net. I avoid all the angry, political, issue-driven blogs that just get my blood boiling, but yours has always been, for me, the finest expression available on the net of that glorious something which is classical Anglicanism. Your blog sustained me through seminary (constantly reminding me why I am an Anglican) and I continue to enjoy it. Thank you for feeding the sheep the filet mignon they need!"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saint Mary the Virgin, August 15th

At this time I’d like to explore some of the history of this Feast day of August 15th, which the calendar of lesser feasts and fasts calls the feast of Saint Mary the Virgin. The lesser feasts and fasts of the Church of England calls it the feast of the blessed Virgin Mary. The Anglican Church of Canada calls it the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Lutherans call it the feast of Mary, mother of our Lord.

However, this feast was thrown off the liturgical calendar of the Church of England at the time of the Reformation. Was it because the Church of England didn’t like to celebrate the feast days of Saints? Not at all. If you look in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 you see feasts for all of the biblical Saints, including red letter feast days for Mary—there are the feasts of the Purification of the Virgin Mary and Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—again as red letter feasts with their own appointed collects and lessons. In the list of lesser feasts of the 1662 Prayer Book there is also the feast of Conception of the Virgin Mary.

However, the primary or principle pre-reformation feast of the Virgin Mary was pointedly omitted from both the list of red letter primary feasts and black letter lesser feasts. Why is this?

Well, we must consider that during the time of the Reformation there were many abuses related to the saints—excessive devotion to specific saints was one of those abuses. Indeed, one could call it the cult of the saints. Chief among those individuals around whom cults had developed was the Virgin Mary. There had arisen so many specific and esoteric beliefs about Mary by the late middle ages that the theological study of Mary herself had developed—Mariology, as we now know it.

The Church of England attempted to keep a middle path between ignoring the feast days of the saints altogether and keeping them as they had been kept before the Reformation. The primary calendar omits all but the Biblical saints, and the list of lesser feasts and fasts kept only the feast days of the saints of the undivided Church.—Saint Cyprian, Saint Augustine, etc. While it kept the Biblical feasts of Mary, her primary feast was set aside, because at the time it was not simply the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, it was the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary—which means, of course, that she was assumed bodily into heaven. This belief had arisen around the 5th or 6th century and was based upon fanciful and apocryphal writings from the 4th century. The belief in the Assumption became accepted teaching in the 7th century Eastern Church. As the Roman Catholic historian Eatmon Duffy points out, “there is, clearly, no historical evidence whatever for it.”

Since this belief had no scriptural warrant the feast bearing the name of the Assumption was—rightly I believe—done away with in the official calendar of the Church of England. As I said, this does not mean that Anglicanism had forgotten the saints of the Church, nor did it mean that it had forgotten one of the primary saints of the New Testament. The goal of the new red letter calendar of Saints of the Book of Common Prayer was to make their celebration Christocentric in nature—the black letter lesser feasts and fasts pointed to the life of the ancient Church. The goal of the Saints was to point to Christ, and keeping the feast of the Assumption made this rather difficult , since it was centered around a nonbiblical and ahistorical event, and required numerous theological explanations and justifications.

When this once primary feast of Mary was reintroduced as a lesser feasts in America, Scotland, England, and Canada, mention of the Assumption was omitted, and now it was simply the feast of the BVM, Saint Mary the Virgin, or in its strongest form the “Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (which is also the Eastern Orthodox title for the Feast). Now we have a feast of Mary that can celebrate the entirety of her life in relation to Christ, rather than celebrating an apocryphal event. This reminds one of the fact that in Orthodox iconography Mary is always to be presented holding the Christ Child, never alone (as she often is in the West), for her primary theological importance is that she was Theotokos, which is most often translated as Mother of God, but this manner of presenting the Greek is a little misleading. In English this makes it sound as though the emphasis is on the Mother. A more literal translation would be “she who gave birth to Him who was God”—and here the emphasis is on the deity of the child, not the motherhood of Mary. However, the very mention of a human mother implies the humanity of the Son, even after the divinity of the Son has been expressed and emphasized. We have here the very mystery of the Incarnation and are reminded of what Saint Paul has to say of the Person of Jesus as concerns his origin: “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.”

Paul focuses on Christ’s fulfilling of the law, his humanity in conformity to his divinity to fulfill what we could fulfill not due to our sinful natures. Indeed, Paul does not even mention Mary’s name. But Mary is at the beginning of the historical drama of the Incarnation that Paul preached. In the liturgical life of the Church she appears most prominently at Christmastide, in statuary form as part of nativity displays, without prejudice in the homes of Christians of all backgrounds. The feast of Saint Mary, as well as the other Prayer Book feasts of Mary, allow us to dwell further on the biblical events surrounding this mystery from Mary’s perspective and examine what we can apply from her experience and example, to our lives.

In the gospel lesson for the feast we hear Mary rejoice in the part she will play in God’s plan of salvation. And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

Her soul magnifies God. Her spirit rejoices in Her savoir. This song of praise echoes Luke’s Gospel from just a few verses earlier where Mary tells the angel Gabriel:
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
And Elizabeth’s words to Mary: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

She hears God’s word. She counts herself blessed to be chosen by God. She responds to God’s word obediently. Luke tells us that Mary pondered all these wonderful and strange events in her heart, but it does not tell us that she fully comprehended these events. Indeed, Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus meant when they found him in the temple and he told them Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Mary’s reaction can teach us about our own reactions to Christ ‘s role and work in our lives. Sometimes we won’t understand. Sometimes we have to wait and see. As Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature there were still times when Mary and Jesus’ brothers, in their inability to comprehend His work, sought after Him to bring Him home. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ family thought He was crazy and attempted to seize Him. All we can do is wonder what Mary thought. We know that Mary knew the Jesus’ true origins, but we cannot know what she thought of the path His ministry had taken. Even if she knew He was the Messiah, like so many of Jesus’ disciples she may have misunderstood His actions.

However, even if Mary (and many of the disciples) didn’t fully understand the work of her Son, she was present in His earthly life until the end. John’s Gospel and Mark’s Gospel attest to her continued presence. We find her at the foot of the Cross. Ultimately, we find her as well at the founding of the Church in the Book of Acts. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

While we cannot say that Mary was assumed into Heaven, or that she was perfect in all of her actions, we can say that she was blessed amongst women, blessed for all generations, a woman who rejoiced in the knowledge that she needed a savior and that in her God she had a savior. We can say that she followed her Son her entire life, saw her own flesh and blood suffer and die a painful death upon the cross. . .and still find her in the Upper Room, rejoicing once again in the knowledge of her own salvation through Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, her Son and our Lord. So, in Mary’s life we see the grace of God, reliance upon that grace, obedience to the will of God, and persistence in her faith through times of doubt, inability to comprehend, and probably fear. We see ultimate persistence. Let us pray that we too will be filled with grace, conformed to the will of God, and persist to the end in the Christian life that is laid before us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This may seem like a rather small thing, but someone else in the blogosphere has adopted my original moniker "An Anglican Cleric," so I've now adopted the title "An Anglican Priest" for the blog (even though the address for the blog is still anglicancleric). This way when I post on other blogs people will know there is a difference.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Scriptural Way of the Cross

"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger. Lamentations 1:12

ASSIST us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The First Station: The Last Supper
Matthew 26:26-29
26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink ye all of it; 28for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's Kingdom."

ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in those holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Second Station: The Agony in the Garden
Luke 22:40-46
40And when He was at the place, He said unto them, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation." 41And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed, 42saying, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done." 43And there appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him. 44And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45And when He rose up from prayer and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow. 46And He said unto them, "Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."

O GOD, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Third Station: Jesus is Arrested
Luke 22:47-48, 52-54
47And while He yet spoke, behold, a multitude; and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him. 48But Jesus said unto him, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" 52Then Jesus said unto the chief priests and captains of the temple and the elders, who had come to Him, "Have ye come out as against a thief, with swords and staves? 53When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me; but this is your hour, and the power of darkness." 54Then they took Him and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Fourth Station: Jesus is Brought Before the Sanhedrin
Mark 14:55-62
55And the chief priests and all of the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death, and found none. 56For many bore false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together. 57And there arose certain ones who bore false witness against Him, saying, 58"We heard him say, `I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" 59But neither did their witness agree together. 60And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?" 61But He held His peace and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him and said unto Him, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62And Jesus said, "I am; and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Fifth Station: Peter Denies Jesus
Mark 14:66-72
66And as Peter was below in the courtyard, there came one of the maids of the high priest. 67And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him and said, "And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth." 68But he denied it, saying, "I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest." And he went out into the porch, and the cock crowed. 69And a maid saw him again and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them." 70And he denied it again. And a little after, those who stood by said again to Peter, "Surely thou art one of them, for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto." 71But he began to curse and to swear, saying, "I know not this man of whom ye speak!" 72And the second time the cock crowed. And Peter called to mind the words that Jesus had said unto him: "Before the cock crows twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice." And when he thought thereon, he wept.

LORD, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Sixth Station: Jesus is Brought Before Pilate
Luke 23: 1-5
1And the whole multitude of them arose and led Him unto Pilate. 2And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a king." 3And Pilate asked Him, saying, "Art thou the king of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "Thou sayest it." 4Then said Pilate to the chief priests and the people, "I find no fault in this man." 5And they became the more fierce, saying, "He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place."

ALMIGHTY God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Seventh Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned
John 19: 1-3
1Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him. 2And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe 3and said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they smote Him with their hands.

O LORD God, whose blessed Son, our Saviour, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame; Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst will to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that all the kindreds of the earth, set free from the captivity of sin, may be brought under his most gracious dominion; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Eighth Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death
John 19: 12-16
12And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend. Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." 13When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14And it was the Preparation of the Passover and about the sixth hour, and Pilate said unto the Jews, "Behold your king!" 15But they cried out, "Away with him, away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate said unto them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" 16Then he delivered Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away.

O GOD, who by the passion of thy blessed Son hast made the instrument of shameful death to be unto us the sign of life and peace: Grant us so to glory in the Cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss; for the sake of the same thy Son our Lord. Amen.

The Ninth Station: Jesus Meets Simon
Mark 15: 21
21And they compelled one Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who was passing by, coming from the country, to bear His cross.

DIRECT us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Tenth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Luke 23: 27-31
27And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women who also bewailed and lamented Him. 28But Jesus, turning unto them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming in which they shall say, `Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore and the breasts which never gave suck.' 30Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, `Fall on us!' and to the hills, `Cover us!' 31For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Crucified
Mark 15: 22-27
22And they brought Him unto the place called Golgotha (which is, being interpreted, The Place of a Skull). 23And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but He received it not. 24And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots for them to see what every man should take. 25And it was the third hour when they crucified Him. 26And the superscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27And with Him they crucified two thieves, the one on His right hand and the other on His left.

O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth; Have mercy upon us. O God the Son, Redeemer of the world; Have mercy upon us. O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful; Have mercy upon us. O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God; Have mercy upon us.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks from the Cross
Luke 23: 39-43
39And one of the malefactors who was hanged railed against Him, saying, "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us!" 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds. But this Man hath done nothing amiss." 42And he said unto Jesus, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom." 43And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

The Thirteenth Station: The Heart of Jesus is Pierced
John 19: 30-34
30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, "It is finished." And He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. 31The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, and so that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was a high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs, 34but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water.

O GOD, merciful Father, who despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as are sorrowful; Mercifully assist our prayers which we make before thee in all our troubles and adversities, whensoever they oppress us; and graciously hear us, that those evils which the craft and subtilty of the devil or man worketh against us, may, by thy good providence, be brought to nought; that we thy servants, being hurt by no persecutions, may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Buried
Luke 23: 50-56
50And behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, and he was a good man and a just. 51(The same had not consented to their counsel and deed.) He was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself also waited for the Kingdom of God. 52This man went unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. 53And he took it down and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54And that day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. 55And the women also, who came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher and how His body was laid. 56And they returned and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.

GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Grant us thy peace.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

From our enemies defend us, O Christ.
Graciously look upon our afflictions.
With pity behold the sorrows of our hearts.
Mercifully forgive the sins of thy people.
Favourably with mercy hear our prayers.
O Son of David, have mercy upon us.
Both now and ever vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ.
Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ.
O Lord, let thy mercy be showed upon us; As we do put our trust in thee.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

(Scripture selections from Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Adapted with selections from The Book of Common Prayer and Lesser Feasts and Fasts)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anglican History: Anglicanism defended from Puritan Extremists

(In honor of the lesser feast of William Laud, Archbishop and Martyr)

While the forging of the Via Media of Anglicanism began with the liturgical work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the apologetics of Archbishop Jewel, and the theological genius of Richard Hooker, it was a sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, that sought to put into practice the Reformed Catholicism of Protestant Anglicanism (Clark 1897, 248-300). It was under her reign that the major doctrinal and liturgical disputes in the Church of England were “officially” laid to rest. In keeping with the ideals of the Anglican Reformation, the canons of 1571 directed that all who preach in the name of the Church shall: “. . .see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon, which they would have religiously held and believed by the people, save that what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old and New Testament, and what the catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine.”

Under Elizabeth the liturgy, the Creeds, the historic ministerial Orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon would all be preserved in the Church of England. The liturgy of the Church would be simpler and in English (clearly the language of the people, following the ancient custom of national churches as expressions of the Church Catholic; see Article XXIV). In keeping with ancient practice, married clergy would be allowed, although Elizabeth personally disliked the notion (Hibbert 1991). The matter of the Eucharistic presence was not elaborated in the Articles of Religion any further than stating that the Body of Christ is given, taken, and received in the Supper by faith (Article XXVIII). Lutherans and Calvinists could find similarities and common ground with the bare bones theology of the Articles on most points within an ecclesiastical structure that preserved continuity with the pre-Reformation Church.
The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were affirmed (in keeping with the Anglican Reformers) to be effectual signs of grace (Article XXV), not bare tokens only (rejecting Zwingli’s teaching). While the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper was affirmed, transubstantiation was firmly and explicitly rejected (Article XXVIII). Contentious matters like predestination were pronounced upon using the austere language of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Clergy were to wear vestments, namely the surplice for parish churches, surplice and cope for collegiate churches and cathedrals, and use the Prayer Book exclusively, thus providing a common national Use. The first four great Councils of the Church would provide the doctrinal basis for Anglican teaching (Middleton 2001). Essentially, all the basics for a primitive and reformed Catholicism were laid down. It was a lofty ideal. The Church of England was to be a national Church that all Christian people could honestly belong to. It satisfied many, but caused dissent and anger among others.
Queen Elizabeth is purported to have commented that she knew how much the Romans would need to be pleased in the reformed English Church, but she thought that the Puritans would never be pleased—no matter how much she agreed to their demands (Hibbert 1991; Middleton 2001). If this was her mindset, in retrospect she could be pronounced essentially correct. The Puritan element in the Church of England saw the Prayer Book as being culled from the “dunghill of the Mass” and the reformed vestments as being “popish” garb (Bourne 1947). The Church of England, in the Puritan view, was far from being rightly reformed. Episcopacy was seen as a form of prelacy not far removed from Papacy , willfully ignoring that it was the form of church governance as far back as the first century. The Elizabethan appeal to the ancient Catholic past of the English Church, explicit in the use of a fixed liturgy, the maintenance of the Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, as well as an appeal to patristic theology (the Homilies of the Church of England are punctuated with quotations from the Church Fathers) left many Puritans disquieted and desirous of further change and “reform.”

The English Civil War under the reign of King Charles the First and his Archbishop, William Laud, was a direct result of the goals and ideals of the Elizabethan Settlement and the Puritan resentment it caused. Laud defended the Episcopacy, sought to enforce the use of the Prayer Book, the wearing of vestments, the upkeep of churches, the formal training of ministers, and the use of the King James Bible (Bourne 1947; McGrath 2001). Many historians today see Laud as right in his aim, but heavy handed and errant in the method of his reach (Wedgwood 1958). He was beheaded by a Puritan Parliament for seeking to re-introduce “Popery” into England, and his King was later beheaded as well. Elizabethan Anglicanism, Episcopacy and Prayer Book, was outlawed under the Puritan Commonwealth, only to be brought back at the Restoration under Charles II in 1660. Anglicanism asserted itself again by law, but much less by force as in the days of Elizabeth and Charles. Anglicanism had grown weary of doctrinal disputes, and Puritan sympathies as well as Deist tendencies slowly crept into the Church.

Over the next century Latitudinarianism (an academic approach, at its best broadly orthodox but perhaps a little too philosophical, at its worst Deist and far removed from the relevant issues of Christian orthodoxy) became prevalent in the Church. Distinctly reformed Catholic theology, such as that taught by Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, and Andrewes was slowly forgotten (although learned men like Bishop Berkeley and William Law resisted the darker aspects of Deism and the overemphasis of Reason in establishing “natural religion”). Anglicanism—broadly speaking—became apathetic concerning its past, in practice often forgetting its own rules and theology. The reformed Catholicism of the Elizabethan Settlement that seemed hard won at the Restoration, with its appeal to the ancient Church and her doctors and martyrs, slowly sunk below the horizon, to be replaced by a Church happy to be the “Established” Church of England. The foregoing might very well be a gross oversimplification of the matter—the essential unity of Anglicanism in England between the years of 1688 and 1832 is stressed—in some detail—by Gibson (2001). Moorman (1983) also attests to the vibrancy of the Church during the 18th century. However, the very existence of extremist Low Church elements within the Church of England that seemed to stand for the very things the Puritan movement stood for argues for a certain doctrinal incoherence within Anglicanism during this period. Teachings concerning the Eucharist, which the Prayer Book describes as the chief act of worship, although in some places it was celebrated only four or five time per year, ran the gamut from the heresy of Zwinglianism—in clear contradiction to the Articles—to the near orthodoxy of Calvin’s teaching (Hall 1993; I say this because most readers today would have difficulty distinguishing Calvin’s teaching on the Eucharist from most quotes from the Henrician Bishop Gardiner), notwithstanding Moorman’s (1983) attestation that there could be no doubt as to the straightforward Anglican teaching in the Prayer Book concerning the Lord’s Supper. The 19th century would see a re-emergence of distinctly “Anglican” theology (in a rediscovery of the works of Hooker, Herbert, Andrewes, etc.) in response to the Evangelical and Oxford Movements (each right in their essentials, but wrong in their extremes).

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Politics and Religion

I don’t know where I came across the link, but I recently saw a December 28th piece on the American Thinker where a formerly secular Jewish woman, searching for God in various houses of worship, found only political indoctrination of the progressive sort. On Christmas eve she saw a website from an Episcopal parish that appeared to be focused on religion, not politics. She called the church and left a voice mail message inquiring about the services, commenting that she wanted a church without a political agenda. She received a reply: “I don’t think you should check us out.”

Sad to say, I am not shocked by this. Several years back I was visiting an Episcopal cathedral in the Midwest and had a pleasant worship experience. The service was Anglo-Catholic and fairly orthodox, the sermon was from the Scripture reading and did a solid job of exposition. After the service some of the congregation came up to great the “newcomers” and ask about what brought us to church that day. I told them we were taking a little weekend trip and had previously visited the cathedral. I was then asked about our home parish. I hesitated, but told them the full name: Saint Andrew’s. . .Anglican. . .Reformed Episcopal. There was silence. Icy looks, a pause, and then one parishioner angrily asked me: “What made you think you’d be welcome here?”

I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, speechless. I had worshiped in Episcopal churches for most of my adult life and I had welcomed numerous visitors as a member of the congregation. I would never have thought of uttering those words to anyone. If someone were an atheist and told me as much I would have welcomed them warmly. However, over the years what the woman in her essay describes is what I’d come to expect. Politics confused with religion, the Stations of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals replacing the Stations of the Cross, inserts in the bulletin about the evils of plastic (or paper), sermons with analogies and comparisons made between Christ and revolutionary political figures. All I wanted to do in an Episcopal church was pray the liturgy and hear the Gospel. I didn't (and don’t) care if the priest is a Democrat, Republican, Green, or Socialist. However, far too many rectors have been far too eager to tell me, and pat me on the head like a child if a voiced a disagreement.

I am a liberal and a humanist. . .circa 1920 or so. I am open minded, but as Chesterton rightly noted: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” I do believe there are truths that the Christian religion teaches that, if they were changed, would change the essence of the Catholic Faith and make it meaningless, devoid of content. In discussions of Christianity I will not move on these issues, almost all of them taught quite explicitly in the Bible, the Creeds, and the Book of Common Prayer. However, it is wrong to equate the political agenda of one party or system with Christianity. I am fairly libertarian in my political leanings, but if we were in a truly Christian realm (where state and Church were systematically linked) I could perhaps see myself espousing the Christian socialism of Archbishop Temple. However, in a representative Republic that guarantees “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” to all, confusing a political party with the teachings of Christ is an error, one that is made on the left and the right. The mainline Episcopal Church (and many other mainline bodies) have done that writ large. They have replaced the Faith of the Gospel with the platform of European secularism, and it appears to be killing them.