Well, that seems to have stirred up a few things! At the suggestion of Fr Anthony Ruff, I would like to respond to at least some of the comments made, both in relation to my posting and to Paul Inwood’s insightful and wise thoughts.
- Fundamental to my own understanding of the Christian Way is that we move on, and do not afford ourselves the luxury of constantly looking back with longing.
The Israelites in the Wilderness were chastised for looking back to the ‘cucumber fields of Egypt’ for in so doing they were despising their new hard-won freedom. Jesus considered that ‘no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ There is a presumption here that in the journey of God’s people we move forward and do not hark back to what we have left behind.
Certainly that was the basis on which the original translations of the Mass into English were formulated. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer (like all the Tudor books so beloved of the traditionalists today) was not a discussion document or one option among many but a do-or-die new way; Now from henceforth, all the whole realm shall have just one use. (Preface of the First Prayer Book of Edward VI).
This is not a million miles from the intention of the Council Fathers in 1963 in setting forth The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nor of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in approving a new Book of Common Prayer in 1979, albeit with provision for a traditional rite alongside the contemporary.
So I would take issue with F.C. Bauerschmidt when he describes the ‘new’ liturgy as ‘one I happen to favour’. The new liturgy is the liturgy of the Church. For Anglicans, with our interminable and heartbreaking and traumatic experience of liturgical revision by committee, with the full democratic process applying alternatively the gas pedal and the brake in equal measure, there really is not excuse for anyone ‘opting out’ of the end product. It is what we have made it, all of us.
- The reforms of the liturgy over the last 50 years are not just about language or liturgical shape, they are the fruit of a renewed understanding of what it means to be church. This rediscovery helps us no longer to speak of ‘going to church’ but instead to realise that we gather to become church. This is a far cry from Christopher Evans’ assertion that I would reduce lay life to ‘doing things in church after Holy Communion’ , but it certainly includes acknowledging one another’s presence at the Lord’s Table, and giving generously of our time and energy to build up the body of Christ. These are activities which by and large the 8 o’clock culture reduces to optional, and highly questionable, extras.
- When we look at a community of faith attempting to renew and strengthen its common life in a post-Christian culture, we should question whether there is ever sufficient cause for it to be divided by time or place for Sunday worship. If the gathered assembly is paramount in our thinking, surely the only reason for two masses rather than one is when we cannot all squeeze into the building for a single gathering? In those circumstances it is of little consequence whether we go early or late; the celebrations of the rite will be the same and of equal importance in the life of the parish. Only when we divide from one another on the basis of personal preference (a highly modern and Protestant notion!) do the problems begin.
- Nowhere in the discussion do I see a recognition that liturgy is not primarily for our benefit. It is for the glory of God, for the proclamation of the good news that will draw many to Christ, and lastly for ourselves. It is not Rite I that will make Jesus weep, but a Church which has turned in upon itself and has ceased to be good news for anyone.
- I am sorry to sound such an old grouch about the 8 o’clock, and F.C.Bauershmidt is quite right to caution me about judging others’ souls, and yet ‘by their fruits you shall know them.’ Sadly, 44 years experience as a parish priest has left me with a consistent picture of the attitude of those who choose always an early Mass separate from the main body. Those who do so may claim that such a stance is about language, but it is in fact almost always and everywhere about taking part in worship one step removed from the life of the local faith community. This should not be so in theory, but invariably is, and a cause for deep sadness.