Sunday 30 June 2013

Active Participation

The viral vicar video (you know the one, some woman vicar dancing at a wedding in what was inaccurately described as a flashmob - ok here if you really must) coincided quite closely with Felicity's wedding, and set me thinking, once again, about the whole 'active participation' issue.

Clearly, by the most superficial analysis, those bopping in the aisle at Gary and Tracy's wedding were participating more actively than those listening to the sacred music performed by the choir, the schola, or the soloist at Felicity and Tom's a week later.

But I think that is a superficial analysis, and I think it is superficial because it doesn't address the two underlying questions: what are we participating in, and how are we participating.  The two are, of course, related.

I will address 'what' first; (and I will leave aside the issue of the fact that Gary and Tracy's wedding was a CofE service, as it is only an example, and one could find similar in many Catholic settings).  A wedding ceremony in a Church is a liturgical action.  That is to say, it is part of the public worship of God the Father, in union with the Son, inspired and animated by the Holy Spirit.

I suspect that those who favour the type of active participation exemplified by Kate Bottley in the video have lost sight of that fundamental fact. Of course, they are right to think that they are there to celebrate the marriage of two people; but the liturgical celebration should be ... well, liturgical.  Afterwards, there is normally plenty of scope for other celebrations: indeed, we had a Ceilidh as part of the celebration of Felicity and Tom's marriage - but we did not do that in the Church.

So the 'how' really should be informed by that 'what.'  Participation that tends away from the worship of the Father and towards a secular celebration is not active participation in the liturgy. It may be active and it may be participation, but it is participation in a distraction from the liturgy, not the liturgy.

But there is more to say about 'how.'

As I say, we had a Ceilidh to celebrate Tom and Felicity's marriage, and I even danced (to the delighted amusement of the Trovati and indeed many others...).  But I have also recently been to an excellent concert of sacred and secular music, performed by an outstanding choir.  I sat in silence (as did many others) and listened. But I would argue - and argue strongly- that I participated more in the second occasion than in the first: I was more fully present, more fully open to the experience, and (and this may be the important bit) more profoundly affected by it.

The theatrical analogy is also relevant: if one goes to a pantomime, there is lots of active participation: 'He's behind you!' and all of that.  Yet, if one goes to see Oedipus Rex, one sits in silence.  Yet the catharsis provoked by the second suggests a more profound type of active participation than the enjoyment of the first.

And it was notable how many people, unused to traditional Catholic liturgy, said after Tom and Felicity's nuptial Mass that, while they may have struggled to follow or understand it, they had found it profoundly moving.

Saturday 29 June 2013

St Peter and St Paul

Here is some chant for today's feast the traditional Alleluia and Verse for the Feast.

And here is some polyphony: three contrasting settings of the Tu es Petrus.

The first is possibly the most famous, by Palestrina.  The second is by one of my favourite modern composers, Maurice Duruflé.  The third is by James Macmillan, at the Papal Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

Happy Feast Day!




Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum.

Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her; and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Remember to pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and also for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl today - and every day.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Extraordinary Form beyond Europe and US

I was discussing liturgy with someone, who raised the question: 'I also don't know if EF is accessible to non-European traditions - Do you have any ideas on that?'

Well, of course, being me, I have plenty of ideas on that.  But I have little real data.

So I am curious, if any of my readers have experience of the traditional rites of the Church in non-European cultural contexts, how they would answer that question.

Relevant comments and links to relevant source material will be most welcome in the combox.

Monday 24 June 2013

The Last of the Wallendas

Some time ago, one of my sisters gave me a signed copy of Russell Hoban's collection of verse called The Last of the Wallendas.

Here is the title poem:

The Last of the Wallendas.

13 May, 1996

Reading the paper and shaking his head
my father looked thoughtful. "What is it?" I said.
"It's Helen Wallenda," he told me, "She's dead - 
the last of them all, and she died in her bed."
"Who were the Wallendas?" I wanted to know.
"How well I remember," he said, "when we'd go
to the circus and see them way up there so high,
and no net below them - at least that's how I
see it now in my mind, all the glitter and gleam 
of the dazzling Wallendas, the high-wire team: 
those silvery bicycles moving so slow,
with the music all breathless and Death down below,
and the balance poles wavering, catching the light
as the fearless Wallendas crossed high in the night, 
with Karl in a chair perching up at the top
and nothing below but a forty-foot drop.
All gone now - some early and some of them late,
they came off the wire and met their high fate.
Her husband, old Karl, the greatest of all,
was ten storeys up when the wind made him fall.
So brave and so daring and all of them dead!
But Helen Wallenda, she died in her bed."

So I was both surprised and delighted, following a link posted by Mark Lambert (@sitsio) on Twitter to find that a Wallenda is still alive and high-wiring.

Russell Hoban was ahead of himself...

A wonderful weekend

Saturday saw the marriage of Tom and Felicity.

We have known Felicity since she was so high: she and Ant have been best friends for as long as either can remember.  We first met them (and also Tom's wonderful family) at Walsingham on an NACF pilgrimage.  As fellow dwellers in the North (I wouldn't presume to describe myself as a northerner) we then kept in regular contact with Felicity's family, and they have become great friends.  We saw Toms' family only rarely as they live in parts southern (and we are not the greatest at staying in touch). However Felicity's and Tom's family kept in closer contact, both being much more sociable than me.

From which you will deduce that Tom and Felicity have also known each other for a long time, added to which one of Tom's sisters is also another of Felicity's best friends.

So it was a great match, and both families are rightly proud and delighted: and the couple looked as radiantly happy as one could possibly imagine.

The nuptial Mass was a magnificent High Mass, celebrated by Fr Mark Withoos (of Chartres pilgrimage fame) who flew over specially for the occasion.  It was the first EF Wedding I'd been to; and I have to say, I loved the fact that the bride and groom get married first, then the Mass is offered in celebration, thanksgiving, and supplication in support of their new marriage.  Liturgically that seems to me to work better than inserting the wedding into the Mass.

The music was the chant propers, sung by the bride's father with me and another friend of Felicity's; and the exquisite Mass for four voices by William Byrd, sung by the Santiago Singers, from St Andrew's University, from which Felicity is just graduating.  They also sung the glorious Duruflé Ubi Caritas during the signing of the Register.  At Communion, Patricia (the fiancée of one of Felicity's cousins) sung Franck's Panis Angelicus quite beautifully.

This was almost certainly the first High Mass in St Catherine's (Felicity's parish church) since the introduction of the new rites.  The altar was moved back to its proper place, which transformed the Sanctuary; the flowers were beautiful; and there is a stained glass window depicting a saint who features in Tom's family tree.

All in all the ceremonies were magnificent. Even Mrs T, who greatly prefers the meditative silence of a  Low Mass to the music and exuberance of a High Mass, found that she finally understood High Mass - it was absolutely appropriate for the occasion.

The reception was lovely. A huge amount of planning and care had gone into creating a lovely homely atmosphere in Morland Hall; the decorations were largely made by Felicity and her bridesmaids, the food was lovely, the speeches were enjoyable and witty without being embarrassing, the Ceilidh band were excellent, and everyone had a lovely time. Even I was seen to dance...

There was the added pleasure, as usual on these occasions, of seeing many other friends: both the families, of course, but also others whom we know from NACF gatherings, Chartres, and various other links.

And then, by way of contrast, we had a Low Mass on Sunday morning at the Hall, again celebrated by Fr Withoos, who preached a second excellent sermon.  The contrast with the High Mass of the previous day was dramatic: yet this too was completely appropriate for the occasion.

After a shared lunch and further conviviality, Tom and Felicity left for a brief honeymoon in Rome (it has to be brief, as Felicity is collecting her degree at the end of the week).

So remember the newly-wed couple in your prayers: I am confident that they will grow in happiness and holiness, but prayers are always important!

Sunday 16 June 2013

The Anglican Problem

There is a lot to love about Anglicanism, and more about Anglicans.

The Anglicans have some wonderful traditions, not least musically, and many wonderful people.

Yet it is founded on error, and remains error-strewn.

I have been reflecting on this following the visit of Justin Welby to the Holy Father, and the various comments and reports on the visit.

On the one hand, of course, charity demands courtesy and respect for the leader of the Anglican communion.  On the other hand, charity also demands that we do not risk any confusion about the true situation.

The soi-disant Church of England, for all its wonderful people and wonderful traditions, is a body established in defiance of, and in some ways in opposition to, the Church that Christ founded.

That has real implications for those who adhere to it.  Without for a second questioning their good faith, one can see that at the objective level, Anglican doctrines are faulty, Anglican orders and sacraments are illusory, and Anglican moral reasoning corrupted.

Therefore we do nobody any favours if we pretend that there is any equivalence between Anglicanism and the Church.

Now that the possibility of collective reunion seems so much more remote, following the decision to admit women to Anglican orders and other similar moves away from their own Christian heritage, we surely have a responsibility to work and pray for the conversion of individuals.

The challenge is how to make clear the claims of the Church to Anglicans, in a way that they may be able to hear.

It won't help to pretend it doesn't matter if one is Anglican or Catholic, but I can easily believe that confronting people with the truth too baldly will simply put up barriers.

Friday 14 June 2013

A Chip off the Old Block

In fairness to Ant (see last post) I should put it on the record why I nearly failed to get my degree (a very mediocre second - fortunately they weren't divided into 2:1 and 2:2 at my university back in my days).

Anyway, the reason I nearly failed to get mine was that I had miscopied the examination timetable and was on the point of leaving my digs with Mrs T (Miss Perdita, as she was then) for a trip into town, when the college porter phoned to ask where I was. I was desperate to rush to the exam immediately, but he insisted in giving me a pep talk: however hopeless I might feel, it was always better to turn up, there might be a quesiton I could attempt and so on...

So I managed to get him off the phone and then into sub-fusc and gown, onto the bike, and to the Examination Schools at breakneck speed. Fortunately it was a translation paper (for which they always gave too much time, in my experience) rather than a literature paper; so I strolled in nonchalantly as though I'd planned to come in 15 minutes late for this one.

Which probably tells you all you need to know about my academic career.

My Genius Daughter

Ant has just finished her degree. She signed up for a Bachelor's Maths degree, but they suggested she should do an accelerated Master's in the same time, as her results were really rather good.

So she did that, and has just been awarded a First.

Over breakfast this morning, she mused: 'Is there anything I need to do before graduation? I've got a gown hired...'

Me: 'Pay your Library fines?'

Ant, leaping t her feet, and knocking the milk all over the table: 'I'm so glad you said that!'

Apparently she still owes them for having Toy Story 2 out for four days instead of one, and of course you cannot graduate with unpaid fines.

It would have been a hilarious reason to fail to pick up her degree...

Thursday 13 June 2013

True tolerance?

I blogged yesterday about tolerance, and forgot the other thing I meant to say.  And that is how bogus such tolerance is.

You will notice that tolerance extends to (eg) prostitution, promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality and other moral issues. But it does not extend to (eg) racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, conscientious objection to abortion and other offences against the new liberal agenda.

In other words, tolerance merely means there are some things of which society used to disapprove which will now be deemed acceptable; but there are other things that are quite beyond the pale.

Intellectually lazy and dishonest...

Wednesday 12 June 2013

In praise of intolerance

In a society which seems to have abandoned most moral values, there is only one that seems universally lauded: tolerance.

Yet I do not remember that being on any of the old lists (as Treebeard might have said).  There were the Big Three: Faith, Hope and Charity; and the Cardinal Four: Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance, then the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit, but tolerance?...

And increasingly, I am intolerant of tolerance.

I have not been blogging for a while, as the sun was out and the weeds needed to be dug up (and Mrs T needed to be placated re said weeds).  However, digging the ground elder gave me lots of thinking time.  It is fairly easy, when weeding casually, simply to pull the stuff up, particularly around other plants; and even not to worry about it when it is in the empty spaces in-between: at least it is green and it is ground cover.

But that is a flawed strategy, as the wretched stuff thrives underground, sending long roots throughout the bed, growing up in the midst of your other plants; suffocating them and taking all the goodness out of the soil.

And it struck me (and here you will realise that I missed my vocation and should have been a vicar) that this was just like tolerating error. It may look harmless, but it will take over, and eventually choke truth and even the ability to think.

So whilst I think we should, of course, behave with utmost charity to all, including particularly those who are in error, we should not tolerate error itself.  That has been the fatal weakness of Christianity recently, in my view.

Instead of pretending that we think all points of view are equally valid, we should make a fearless and tireless stand for truth, and confront error.  Dialogue is fine, but it must not be a dialogue that pretends we accept erroneous views as valid; rather a dialogue that seeks the starting point or foundation from which we can evangelise.

Otherwise we risk misleading people both within and beyond the Church, which is a sin against both truth and charity.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

The Lords debate Same Sex Marriage

I listened to some of the debate in the House of Lords last night, and poor stuff it was.  In fairness I only listened for a couple of hours, missing the start and with a gap, so perhaps all the wisdom, insight and facts were discussed then.  What I heard was superficial and largely ill-informed.  But they were very self-congratulatory about the quality of the debate.

I heard no serious discussion of marriage as an institution, its meaning and function in society, and the consequences of changing it.  

The arguments pro were largely around a presumed need for fairness and equality, the inevitable march of history, and the inadvisability of the Lords rocking the boat; the arguments contra were largely about the dangers of ill-thought out and hasty change and lack of proper process  - reasonable concerns, but scarcely the main issues.

Two speakers particularly stuck in my mind. One was Lord Deben (John Gummer, as was).  He is, apparently, a convert to Catholicism.  His speech was a travesty, referring to his Catholic Faith, but his higher calling as a legislator...  He did not express any understanding of a Catholic view of marriage, but made explicit that he could lay any such understanding to one side for the sake of people who are not Catholics.  I suppose it is not his fault that his catechesis was so inadequate, but it was highly disturbing to see him lending credence to the idea that any Catholic could support this measure in good conscience.

The other was Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the chap who used to be the Legal Eagle on the radio for many years.  He is always an entertaining and individual speaker.  He recognised the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate and suggested that a simple solution would be to re-name SSM as 'Espousal;' this would confer full and equal rights, but avoid pretending an equivalence between SSM and marriage, which is what so many antis feel so strongly about.

He had the intellectual honesty to be clear that SSM and Marriage are different - but completely missed the point.  This legislation is not about equal rights: that was what Civil Partnerships were for. This is about precisely the lie he nailed: pretending that SSM and Marriage are in fact the same. It is designed to do a few things: to bestow societal approval on same-sex partnerships; to move public opinion further towards the complete acceptance of them; and to ensure that anyone who disputes this new orthodoxy can be persecuted and punished.  His 'espousals' proposal will be deemed homophobic as it would subvert those ends.

As I understand it, we already have legislation on the books that makes truth-telling illegal in some situations (eg re someone who has had their 'gender' 'changed').  This legislation seeks to extend that Orwellian practice to make it de facto a hate crime to maintain that Marriage and same sex relationships are different in any way: despite the fact that the legislation implicitly acknowledges and sustains some of those real differences.

This is dangerous and pernicious.  At some stage there may well be a backlash, and that too I fear.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.