Sunday 11 November 2018

Real Worship


Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one … but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf Hebrews 9.24
I don't usually post my sermons. Perhaps you will forgive this one-off exception for 11 am on 11. xi. 2018.  The text from Hebrews is printed above.

We have had all sorts of stand-ins for the dead of the first world war, some more poignant and moving than others. In other years there have been floods of poppies. seeming to pour over ancient castle walls. This year, torches burning in the moat around the Tower of London. An Artist has made thousands of liitle figures, each different from the next, but all in shrouds laid out in lines. In parish churches, there have been cut-out figures, some in metal, some in cardoard or perspex, occupying the pews where they might on the internet. Perhapsyou will forgive this exceptio have been in life. All have attempted to bring some sense of the scale of the losses in the first world war, but also the individuality of those who died.
The Church has decided there can be a requiem mass for the fallen on Remembrance Sunday; but only if the Mass of the day is also celebrated. Since we have only one mass for the Ordinariate, we are bound to try to combine remembrance with this Sunday's ordinary worship; and it is not difficult. What can help us most with making the connection is in the second reading, a passage from that most enigmatic of New Testament letters, the epistle to the Hebrews. It is not clear who wrote it. At times it has been attributed to St Paul, but it is totally different from everything else he wrote. At other times there have been attempts to remove it from the Canon of Sacred Scripture; but here it is, and today we should be grateful that we have it.
The author looks at the worship of the Old Testament, the worship offered at the Temple in Jerusalem before that was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. He contrasts it with Christian worship, making it clear that what Jesus instituted was both a continuity with old Israel and also quite new. Today he is telling us that Jesus is the mediator of a new Covenant with God, a new Testament.
The old worship required endless repetitions of sacrifices, of animals and birds. You remember that after the birth of Jesus his parents went up to the temple to take part in that sacrificial worship, offering just two young pigeons rather than the sheep or goats or cattle which wealthier people might have given. It was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things, the Temple and its Services, to be purified with these rites, says the letter to the Hebrews. But that was when worship was only a copy, a stand in, a cut-out replica for the worship of heaven.
Quite different is Christian worship. That is the sentence which began this sermon; Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one... but into heaven itself. It is this true worship which we continue Sunday by Sunday, week by week. Not a repetition of Christ's one, true perfect sacrifice, but an extension of it, a continuation of it. We participate in the death of our Lord when we celebrate Mass; as St Paul puts it, we show forth his death until he comes again. That is why the eucharistic bread and wine, consecratd by the priest, are not stand-ins for the body and blood of Jesus. They ARE the Body and Blood. Just as he said, the IS my body, this IS my blood.

As we offer mass for the departed of two world wars, and the many others who have died in conflicts around the world, we do not need perspex cut-outs to stand in for them. They are here, and with them we are together the Body of Christ, in heaven and on earth.
Nor, says the epistle today, was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own, the blood of slaughtered animals. But Christ has appeared once for all to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Then the writer to the Hebrews gives us this amazing insight; Christ, he says, having been offered once to bear the sins of many will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him. Not to deal with sin, which he has done: but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him. It is a remarkable sentence; look it up in your Bible at home. It is worth reading again and again this last part of chapter 9 of the letter to the Hebrews.

That is how we should see our departed, then, and the fallen of the wars. Not pathetic bloodstained corpses, or figures in shrouds, not perspex cut-outs but young men and women eagerly waiting.... waiting with us for Jesus, victor over death and sin, himself risen and triumphant.

Piero della Francesca: the Resurrection
We can't yet know how this will be accomplished, this resurrection at the last day, any more than we can know who will be received into heaven on that day. We certainly know though, for scripture witnesses it, that it is his will that all should be saved; and what God wills is not frustrated by the wiles of men or of the devil. So pray, and pray fervently, that his will may be done, and that we, with our dear departed, may be partakers in the general resurrection. As St John assures us, 'it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is'. Death does not have dominion over them or us. Thanks be to God for his promise of the forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

Thursday 18 October 2018


Walsingham was the right place for clergy of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to meet the three Ordinaries of Australia, the  US and Canada, and our own Mgr Keith. As a bonus we also had with us Fr Tad, from the CDF in Rome, who was able to bring us news of how the Ordinariates are viewed by the Vatican.
USA,  Australia & UK ordinaries: Mgr John Armitage, and Fr Tad of CDF
Photo courtesy of Fr Ellis

There were about forty Ordinariate priests present from England and Wales, together with a number of priests' wives. A scholarly presentation on the theology of Thomas Aquinas was the first major event on Tuesday, after the Noon Mass which we concelebrated in the Shrine Basilica on arrival. Others will post on Facebook and elsewhere and you need to read these to gain a balanced view of the twenty-four hours in Walsingham. For me, the absolute highlight was the morning session on Wednesday when the three Ordinaries and Fr Tad addressed us, and even better responded to our questions and comments.

What struck the loudest chord for me was Bishop Lopes' insistence that the Ordinariate can only flourish,  develop. attract new members and become a real weapon for evangelisation when it has its own buildings. We heard from priests who felt themselves hamstrung by being obliged to another diocese for their place of worship. In private conversation with fellow priests this restriction is plainly a real burden for many. Diocesan priests are afraid their congregation might be attracted to this rival concern of the Ordinariate and some of them go to extreme lengths to ensure this cannot happen. For instance, they run an Alpha course, several Anglicans join in, but they are never even told that there is a local Ordinariate - they have to go through the RCIA, though it is often not the best tool for bringing former Anglicans into full communion.

There are times when Ordinariate pastors have a celebration which would usually be according to the Ordinariate Use, with the celebrant facing East; but because it is a day (perhaps some day of Obligation) when it will be convenient for members of the parish congregation to join them, the pastor is fearful of upsetting the parish priest and so uses Novus Ordo and adopts the bartender position at the altar. Small wonder that many of the catholic laity say such things as 'I don't know whay you can't just be ordinary catholics .. there doesn't seem to be any difference'. Where the Ordinariate has its own building (as in Torquay or Portsmouth) or even where its pastor is also the parish priest, but has some control over the way the building is used, as at Pembury or London Bridge) then catholics begin to see the point of the Ordinariate, and it is able to undertake its real purpose of evangelisation.

We were also profoundly saddened by the revelations of sexual immorality in the Church, and even more by the very inadequate response so far given from Rome. Here the American Church seems to be giving a lead in ensuring that this  is dealt with firmly and consistently.

The challenges of Australia have to do with the immense size of that country, and the distances between Ordinariate groups.Yet there are New Zealanders looking to see the Ordinariate working in that excessively 'liberal' region, and even small beginnings in Japan. Little wonder that, past retirement age, Mgr Entwistle is looking for the day when a younger successor will be appointed.

In the formal question and answer sessions, and in conversations with other clergy and clergy wives, we learned a great deal about the way the Ordinariate works; and why in some places it seems not to work so well. It is a very young plant; the first of us only came into communion with the See of Peter  a little over seven years ago. Under God, we are deeply indebted to all those who have encouraged and supported us, above all our former Pope, Benedict; we still have great support in Rome itself, as Fr Td witnessed. Most of all though it is our three Ordinaries who have borne and are bearing the heaviest burden. They deserve our  thanks - but even more our constant prayers.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Kinquering Congs their Titles Take

I was reminded of this silly spoonerism of (attributed to Dr Spooner himself) when I read a long and trivial correspondence in the Anglican Ordinariate's site. 'What is the correect form of an address for a Bishop?' it asked. And every sort of answer was given. Apparently Catholic Bishops should be addresses as "Excellency", Anglican ones as "My Lord", and Anglican Archbishops as 'Your Grace'. Now you would suppose Americans would be rather more egalitarian, After all, they can address their Presidents simply as 'Mr President'. But the questioner and most of those joining in the conversation on the Ordinariate Site seem to be Americans. Why do you, dear American friends, get your knickers in such a twist over trivia? 

The Queen at her coronation flanked by the bishops of Durham and Bath&Wells.
A friend of mine when a young Ordinand of Canterbury Diocese had to meet his Bishop. This was Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided at the Queen's Coronation in 1953.  He addressed Dr Fisher as 'Father'. Fisher exploded. 'I am not your father. I am old enough to be your grandfather'. So the lad tried once more - 'I am sorry, My Lord' Again Fisher exploded. 'Nor am I "My Lord". I am "Your Grace" or "Sir". Fisher had been a Headmaster, and that was how many of his clergy saw him.
Archbishop Fisher and his wife arriving in America.
Bishops in England get called 'My Lord' because they are reckoned equal in status to members of the peerage; and at one time all diocesan bishops sat in the House of Lords. Even the holder of a new suffragan see (say Richboroough) could be addressed as 'My Lord'. Archbishops, being highest in rank, are also put on a par with the highest ranking peers, and so like Dukes they are addressed as 'Your Grace'.
A Duke's Coronet
But what flummery and nonsense it all is. Fisher was the last Archbishop to insist on the wearing of gaiters, frock coats and hats with strings on. When I was given the title of "Monsignor" in the Catholic Church, the citation from the Vatican was accompanied by a letter telling me what Monsignori might no longer wear. no elaorate dressing up, no buckled shoes, no mozettas, feraiolas &c. Just a plain black cassock with coloured piping and buttons and a plain coloured cincture - no frills and furbelows, no fringes. For which we should all be grateful. Remember whose we are and whom we serve; the one who said "The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them. It is not to be so with you".  Bishops are not meant to be Lords over their flock, and they are seldom Excellent. But if they win the title "Father" from those they serve, they should rejoice.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

An Ordinariate Day

With our Pastor, Fr Keith Robinson, away I have been holding the fort for a few days. This morning with my wife Jane and I went to Braemar Lodge, a residential home just about half a mile away, to conduct their monthly ecumenical service.
Braemar Lodge
We took the Transfiguration as the theme, and used some familiar passages from the Book of Common Prayer. So we began with the Collect for Purity (from the beginning of the Eucharistic Rite - also in the Ordinariate Use) and concluded with the General Thanksgiving. We also prayed the 'Hail Mary' together. I had printed these on a single sheet, along with a few verses of two hymns; "'Tis good Lord, to be here" and "Now  thank we all our God".  Jane read the Lukan version of the Transfiguration, and many of the residents and staff who were present joined in prayers and hymns with enthusiasm. It is good for the Ordinariate to be able to use its experience of both Anglican and Catholic worship to bring together.well-remembered prayers from both traditions
Then this evening I said Mass according to the Ordinariate Use in the little Pugin church of St Osmund in Salisbury. As usual, there were a few members of the Parish who joined us. We commemorated St Dominic, and prayed for the Dominican Sisters at Sway. They were particularly supportive of us in the Ordinariate when I lived near them in Lymington. Altogether a very good and happy day.

Friday 6 July 2018

Don't Panic, Don't Panic!

Once again, for the second time this year, Salisbury has been attracting the Media, There has not been such excitment since the town moved from Old Sarum down into the watery valley where the rivers Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne join forces. Or perhaps since June Osborne was appointed Dean of its Cathedral. Once the move down the hill had been made, and once June was wished on the poor folk of Llandaff, life settled down again in Salisbury.

Now the excitement is all happening again - apparently because a couple of poor drug addicts picked up something missed on the clean up after the first Novichok scare - at any rate, that is what we are being told.  It is perhaps remiss of me, but I can't get terribly excited, any more than I can join marches for or against Brexit. Corporal Jones of  Dad's Army has the right words for us - Don't panic, don't panic,

Perhaps it is the result of a long life that leaves me pretty unmoved. I can just remember the anouncement on the wireless (radio, to you) of the declaration of war in 1939. My father served on destroyers on the Russian convoys, [ironic that he was helping save the Russians?] and was metioned in despatches. We went to whichever port he was in. Thus we were bombed out of
Father, Commissioner Gu er in 1944
our digs in Birkenhead and almost killed, and bombed out again in Greenock. Meanwhile our belongings left behind in Devonport were all lst through bombing, as was my first school. I changed school eight times between the ages of four and eight. After the war father was invalided out of the Navy, his health permanently shatered.

Those of my generation lived through the war and the austerity peace. We heard about the Bay of Pigs and the threat of the Hydrogen Bomb - but then we had sheltered in concrete bunkers and in tin huts in the garden, we had carried our gasmasks to school, we had heard bombs falling and seen doodlebugs hurtling out of the sky onto some poor unsuspecting souls, and the Festival of Britain .and the Coronation lifted our spirits. The again, we have lived through the self-destruct period of the Church of England, choosing to ignore its catholic heritage and  gladly accepting bondage to the spirit of the age.

Yes, we have prayed for the first victims of the Novichok nerve  agent, and shall pray for the more recent two now in Salisbury Hospital. We shall pray too for the overworked hopspital staff, for the police drafted here from their homes in other parts of the county, for the cameramen and broadcasters who are bored almost to death waiting for something to happen, for the scientists at Porton Down and for the small traders in Salisbury who have been losing business ever since March. 

The Blackboard has a longer view than the telephoto lenses - a pub which was the Guildhall of the Shoemakers.

Perhaps most of all though we need to pray for a sense of proportion in our Nation. A nerve agent attack is disgusting, but it is not a reason to go to war. Brexit may be tedious, but within a few years we will have adjusted to whatever outcome prevails. Lady clerics came and go. Another rather tedious religious lady, Julian of Norwich, made her motto something like Corporal Jones'; "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." So don't worry, and don't panic. If you want to help Salisbury, come and visit us here (not a long journey from Waterloo); marvel at
Pity the Coppers in this heat
the Catholic Dean and Chapter who had the nerve to build the Cathdedral in the early 1300's, [but don't pay to go into the Cathedral; it is just an empty shall, a carapace as Dr Stephen Morgan has it] enjoy the Market (Tuesdays and Saturdays) with its charter almost as old as the Cathedral, the Mediaeval sreet plan and the half-timbered shops. As for me, I am saying Mass at 7 this evening in St Osmund's our Catholic Church opposite the Cathedral, but beyond the precinct wall. I shall try to ask our Good Lord to put our little tribulations into some sort of perspective for us - sub speciae aeternitatis.

Friday 16 February 2018

The Very Stones Cry Out

St Martin's Tarrant Hinton

Throughout her post-reformation history as a Protestant Church, there have been individuals and groups within the Church of England who have tried to retain part of the catholic past. The Oxford Movement was one of the high points of that attempt; and by the mid-twentieth century, it even seemed as though there was a prospect of catholicism becoming the mainstream within Anglicanism. Now, with so many protestant novelties taking root, that dream is increasingly seen for what it always was, just so much romantic nonsense.

Font at the main South door
Yet always there have been witnesses to the catholic past.  Among the most effective witnesses are the buildings which survived, albeit stripped of much of their former beauty. Since arriving in Wiltshire I have been gradually discovering some of those witnesses. In neighbouring Dorset, Tarrant Hinton is fairly typical. A stone-built church mostly of the 15th Century, yet including evidence of long continuity - particularly through its Romanesque font. The walls which once would have been plastered and painted are stripped back to the bare flint and stone. The ancient stained glass has gone. The image of the Good Shepherd is modern, as are the crosses and crucifix. The brackets for images of the saints are empty. And yet, it survives.

At one time the parish probably had its own Rector. By the 1980s it had become part of a group of eight parishes.Today the Chase Benefice includes twelve former separate parishes, each with its own church, - one in private ownership - but only one full-time Rector, assisted by a number of retired clergyand various 'Local Licenced Ministers', most of them laypeople. It seems Tarrant Hinton has neither Churchwarden nor Pastoral Assistant, but the building is well cared for - it even has CCTV on the tower to deter would-be lead thieves from stripping the roof. The windows contain mostly non-representational glass, though St Edward (the Confessor) flanked by two other saints is in a South Aisle - so the Oxford Movement must have had its effect even here.

Remnants of an Easter Sepulchre
For me, the most remarkable and most moving element in the church is a recess in the north wall of the  chancel. It is the frame of the former  Easter Sepulchre. That much is clear from the beaurifully carved  Latin inscription, Venite, Videte.... 'come and see where the Lord was laid'. On the wall above are two censing angels. Such sepulchres had a vital role in the Easter Triduum. Another such is at Patrington in the East Riding of Yorkshire. There, carved sodiers sleep below the tomb slab. In other places, an actual tomb provided the resting place for the Corpus on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

Classical Capital and Angel in a roundel beneath the frieze
The  quality of the carving, and the classical details show that this was a costly addition ot the church, made probably only a few years before the devastation of the 'reformation'. It reminds me of 'Voices from Merebath', when the Vicar provides new vestments which will also be made useless by the 'reformers'. How much art, how much beauty, how much scholarship, how much pastoral care, how much great architecture was vandalised, all so that Henry VIII could buy his supporters, fight off Catholic Europe, and marry his mistress. Ichabod, the glory is departed.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Nothing succeeds like Excess

After a Novena of prayer the Salisbury Ordinariate decided to try something new. We need to reach out to Christians of other denominations; and so a trial run was held last week at our Pastor's home. It went well, but with only a very small number present because of the short notice.

Not the biggest dining room in Salisbury
This week is part of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity; so we decided that we would invite people to Chateau Barnes to celebrate St Paul's Conversion. Wisely my wife included an 'RSVP' slip. Now it looks as though we shall have a dozen or so attending; and our largest room will only comfortably accommodate about eight. Accordingly the occasion might be a trifle packed - but no doubt the Lord will provide. If  he could feed five thousand in Galilee he can no doubt cope easily with a dozen or so in Salisbury. Watch this space.

Monday 1 January 2018

BRONWEN ASTOR Praying for Christian Unity

Today the Telegraph posted an obituary of Bronwen Astor, born Bronwen Pugh. She was, we were reminded, a famous model, daughter-in law of the fearsome Nancy Astor and chatelaine of Cliveden when it became notorious. I remember her though as a good friend in Godalming, where after her husband's death she had retired to a lovely country house.

The local Catholic priest had asked me, at that time Rector of Farncombe, if they might use a room in our church school for a weekly Mass. I suggested it would be far better if they were to use our church. Everyone seemed to think this was a good idea - except for two bishops, the Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton and the Anglican Bishop of  Dorking (holding the fort during an interregum in the See of Guildford). Rather reluctantly they gave their permission.

St John's Farncombe
In Farncombe we had an ecumenical community, a group of ladies led by the formidable Carol Graham, many of them (like her) returned missionaries. Their Charism was praying and working for unity, and their House was the former home of the Revd Somerest Ward, noted Anglican spiritual director. They were greatly supported by Bronwen. She had set up a Retreat House in her home - she was a fairly recent convert from the Church of England to the Catholic Church, and was very concerned for all things ecumenical. When she heard of  the difficulties we were facing she used her considerable influence to persuade both bishops to permit this sharing as an 'experiment'.

Catholic Parish Priest of Godalming, present Rector of Farncombe, and me
 And so it happened that in December 2014 Fr James Rattue, Rector of St John's, invited me back to preach, That evening we celebrated forty years of the still-continuing 'experiment'. Catholics and     Anglicans in Godalming and beyond owe Bronwen Astor a great debt of gratitude 

  May she Rest in Peace.
Jesu, Mercy.
Mary, Pray.