Tuesday 21 June 2016

Tin-Eared Liturgists

Wiiliam Topaz McGonagall 
Florence Foster Jenkins; what a woman! She almost provoked a riot at Carnegie Hall when she gave concert there. We have just been to see Meryl Streep in the role, at our little local Cinema in the Community Centre. She reminded me of other dear deluded souls, who thought they were something they were not. Thomas Bowdler was perhaps the greatest of them all, supposing he could improve on Shakespeare and make his plays more family-friendly and more 'relevant' (dangerous idea). Then of course there was the inimitable, but often imitated, William Topaz McGonagall of Dundee, who immortalised the great Tay Bridge disaster and thought he was writing epic poetry..

This week, though, in the Ordinariate liturgy, we have discovered another contender for the title 'King of the tin-eared'. I do hope someone can tell us who it is who manages, with just a word or a phrase, to destroy the poetry of Cranmer's collects. Is it perhaps the same person who fiddled about with the Prayer of Thanksgiving? I wrote about those amendments in a previous post. Here is what Cranmer gave us in the collect for Trinity IV:

"O God, the protector of all that trust in thee,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
increase and multiply up on thy mercy,
that thou being our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal,
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, O Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our Lord."

Our liturgical genius, whoever she or he might be, excised the phrase
'that we finally lose not the things eternal' and substituted
'that we lose not our hold on things eternal'.

Does this improve the sense of the collect? Does it make the rhythm, the poetry, any better? Does it substitute acceptable catholic theology for Cranmer's protestantism? Surely none of these things. It just makes the collect end 'CLUNK' for all of us who have known the original from our earliest days. There are many more examples of this sort of rabid tinkering, and I shall hope to point them out as they occur in the liturgy. Then perhaps when our beloved Ordinariate Divine Worship comes to be revised in a century or two these 'improvements' can be reversed.

Saturday 18 June 2016

A Missionary Church

A Great Day Out
In my Anglican days we were often being encouraged to support missionary societies but we seldom heard about our need to be re-evangelised ourselves.

Fr Gerry in his Cloth of Silver
Then, when we were brought into the Catholic Church, we discovered that many parishes depended on priests from overseas. Our very first home as an Ordinariate Group was at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Southbourne, where the parish priest, Fr Gerry Onyejuluwa, made us greatly welcome. He is from Nigeria, one of a number of priests from the Missionary Society of St Paul working in this Portsmouth diocese.

Today was very special for him as he celebrated his twenty fifth anniversary of Ordination. He had friends from across the globe celebrating with him, and it was good to be there. Fr Gerry was surrounded by concelebrants, among them Fr Brian Copus of the Ordinariate. I arrived too late to concelebrate, but I had been able to offer the 9.30 Mass in Lymington for Fr Gerry. The preacher was Fr Ron Hishon. He spoke of his own time in Africa, and how despite his best efforts his first attempts at Pidgin produced gales of laughter. It helped us all to realise just how difficult it must be for mission priests in England, from Africa or from other parts of the world, to leave home and family and adapt to our curious ways.

The Altar Party surrounding Fr Gerry
It was good to catch up with friends from our time at Southbourne - we are now located down the hill in Iford. Good too to meet some of Father's friends and family. Like the congregation, the food was both African and English, and it was great - and plentiful. The rain kept off, and it was altogether a splendid occasion.

Food & Fellowship after Mass

Friday 17 June 2016

Custody of the Eyes

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here: Cuddesdon theological college
Edward Knapp-Fisher of blessed memory, sometime Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College, then Bishop of Pretoria, and ultimately Archdeacon of Westminster, had many favourite sayings. When he found any of his charge at Cuddesdon engaged in ribaldry - a not uncommon occurrence - he would pass by muttering "vapid hilarity". If he found anyone idle during a work-period, he would say "custody of time". Such sayings produced a good deal of mirth among us would-be ordinands. But I was reminded of Edward at Mass this morning. 

Everything God gives us is precious: so time is not to be wasted. But sight too is precious, and we must not misuse it. The reading at Mass was a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Today our Lord was telling us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.  He continued by speaking of the eye as the lamp of the body. "If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness".

In the daily Mass there is little time for a profound homily, but this saying of Our Lord seemed to need some comment. Just as our mouth can take in poison which will harm the whole body, so the eye can take in sights which will also infect and harm us. We are constantly assaulted with images, and some of them are very damaging to us. It is not just that pornography is never more than a mouse-click away when we are on line. Every  newspaper, every TV programme, is capable of  producing seductive images to distract us from the right path. Thus custody of the eyes is important for Christians; we must always be alert, ready to look away, to switch off. 

Usually my mini-homily produces no response. Today was different. Clearly this message had hit home with a few people, and some took the trouble to say so after Mass. Once again I am indebted to Edward Knapp-Fisher, a great college Principal and a faithful teacher - may he rest in peace.. The college where he was head is no more, swept away in the amalgamation with Ripon Hall which produced a hybrid beloved only by theological college inspectors. Neither the anglo-catholic ethos of Cuddesdon nor the liberal evangelical zeal of Ripon survives today. The place may look similar, but Edward Knapp-Fisher would not recognise it. Indeed he once told me privately after preaching at St Stephen's House that he knew where the real Cuddesdon was now to be found... but I could not possibly divulge his answer.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Where did they find THAT?

We have been using the Ordinariate Missal and none other for some weeks now in our small corner of Hants and Dorset. Increasingly I have found it's been little details which have become most trying. Many of the prayers from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer I remember from years of use, so when there are tiny but apparently meaningless alterations I have to keep my eyes fixed on the page instead of just praying the prayer. Why did they do it? Where did they find it?

There are several such trivial amendments in the Prayer of Thanksgiving - the invariable post-communion prayer in our Divine Worship Missal. So, for example, the original Prayer Book version reads "we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son which is the blessed company of all faithful people". Divine Worship omits "which is"... and so provides an unnecessary jolt for those of us brought up on BCP.  Another dislocation occurs when  "we most humbly beseech thee" becomes baldly "we humbly beseech thee".  Changes made for no perceptible reason.

A longer omission occurs earlier in the prayer. "We most heartily thank thee for, that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food" &c. In Divine Worship this is abbreviated to "that thou dost feed us in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food". Now if there were some consistent attempt to abbreviate and simplify such an emendation might be make sense. But that appears not to be the case. When it comes to the prayers over the gifts, far from simplifying there is a sudden outbreak of volubility.

I had supposed that we have to thank our transatlantic cousins for all the annoying oddities in our Missal. Certainly the ones I have so far quoted can be laid at the door of the "Book of Divine Worship" of the old American "Anglican Use" Roman Catholics. So I went to that book to see if the prayers at the preparation of the gifts came from there. "Whence it shall" seemed a  peculiarly American construction. Not so, and I apologise for having thought it. No, BDW has, like the Roman Missal in its most recent English form,"It will become for us the bread of life".

The Upstart Crow at work (rt): with Kit Marlowe 
So perhaps someone can help me understand just whence this verbiage comes? Is it maybe from the so-called "English Missal" beloved of many Anglican Papalists (most of whom, it seems, managed not to hear about Anglicanorum Coetibus).  And why? It is a terrible case of half-timbered English, which is used much more effectively in 'Upstart Crow' - incidentally one of the best things on Television for the Shakespeare Centenary. Perhaps that is the answer. When our Liturgy is revised, as surely it needs to be before it infects other parts of the Catholic Church, the Commission might ask Ben Elton to look at the language. At least he would give us a few laughs.