Article about “20th century Sarum”

I have already mentioned St George’s in Sudbury in this blog. See Sarum in contemporary Roman Catholicism and Sarum in the Roman Catholic Church. The Rad Trad blog has just published Major Fetish in the Boutique: Sarum in the 20th Century with some interesting photos of this church and solemn masses celebrated therein. I visited this church in the 1990’s in the company of some friends, before its “wreckovation”.

There is also an article Memories of Don Franck Quoex (Guest Post). I too have my memories of him at Gricigliano and his combat for the Roman liturgy faced with sloppiness and legalism. This is a fine article that portrays this priest who died so tragically young.

Sometimes, one comes across visionary souls like these priests, others like Fr Montgomery Wright in France and Fr Jacques Pecha whom I befriended in 1991 after he asked me to find and install a pipe organ in his church. They are all dead now. I go on celebrating the Use of Sarum, mostly alone, in my little chapel – and even the liturgically-minded seem to be indifferent. It has ceased to be a cause of anxiety for me. I am trying to get back to my old project (which ran out of steam through discouragement and other concerns) of a Sarum Gathering. I need to refine the idea, together with Dr William Renwicke who has been supportive and enthusiastic. 2015 or 2016? Where? Following what agenda?

There have been waves of interest in reviving Sarum as a local use, something like the few local rites and uses that remained after the Tridentine “industrial revolution”. In particular there was the movement issuing from nineteenth-century Romanticism, and briefly in the early twentieth century parallel with the Arts and Crafts Movement extending into the 1920’s in spite of the end of our civilisation which began in 1914. I am only too aware of my isolation and lack of influence. I continue, knowing that anything I do will be forgotten at the very moment of my death. Such is life – vanity of vanities.

I am grateful to Rad Trad for keeping the memories alive, and the fact that there is another view of traditional Catholicism. He is in communion with Rome and I am not. I am spiritually and emotionally alienated from my fifteen years in that Church. I am grateful to Bishop Damien Mead and the English diocese of the ACC for having given me a spiritual home and tolerance to go on with my lonely pilgrimage. Our Diocese has continued the “Tridentine” tendency within Anglo-Catholicism, and that is the way it is. It strikes me when I go over there and participate in our Synod and Council of Advice meetings as well as Sunday Mass in Canterbury. English Anglo-Catholicism has a strange mix of Roman and English trappings in churches, compared with the garish taste in French churches and the sumptuous baroque of the European Continent.

As I found with Fr Montgomery, the French also had local liturgical traditions, having “resisted” Tridentine reforms until the mid nineteenth century in many places. Normandy had many aspects that showed the origins of Sarum as an essentially French and Norman usage. Many of those uses were heavily modified in the eighteenth century and the ordo missae brought into line with the Franciscan-Roman tradition. The “industrial revolution” globalised the Roman liturgy and the Pauline rites of the 1960’s and 70’s only went further in the same direction with its stereotypical altars facing the people and pseudo-modernity.

The bottom has most certainly dropped out of the “establishment” churches, and we clergy and faithful of small independent churches have no cause for triumphalism given our fragility. If “establishment” churches ever regenerate in the west, it will be on a secular political basis and support rather than anything else – as it has always been. I see the parallels in secular life, increasing polarisation between the mass of “controlled” humanity in an increasingly Orwellian world and marginal people who have made the break and achieved sufficient “critical mass” to create alternative societies. Such communities have no use for “mainstream” religion, but might be open to spiritual expressions based on experience of love and beauty. That would be the seed of a new Christianity based on something other than political power and human aggression.

I am aware of the fact that medieval liturgical uses depended on a cultural context that is gone from today’s world of electronics and instant communication, of people in a hurry and alienated from each other. That is why it is futile in human terms and the temptation is to try to build up some kind of repository or museum. Ultimately, all liturgical and ecclesiastical observances are alienated from human life and are meaningless to most of our contemporaries. Perhaps some kind of regeneration is possible among the marginalised, as is the case for me having kicked the world of power, money and competition in the teeth. The thriving nature of monasticism is evidence of my thesis of the human, cultural and social context, but most monasteries are run on the basis of authority, obedience and the surrender of personality. I am struck by the disdain of beauty in many communities like the Trappists and an almost “military” culture.

Men like Fr Quoëx and Fr Clement Russell, as many inspired souls stemming from Romanticism, had no place in the world in which they lived. I would never compare myself with such men, but have felt that I had something to give. I do so via the blog, which is such a limited way. Love and beauty alone seem to give meaning and bring us to contemplation of the transcendent. At least, that’s the way I see it. I may be wrong, and should be concerned with power and competition, but I can only be the way I am.

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16 Responses to Article about “20th century Sarum”

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Do you , or do any other readers, have ny sense of the interrelation of the audience(s) for all the fascinating recordings (and concerts) over the past, say, thirty years, reconstructing various mediaaeval, Renaissance, and Baroque liturgical celebrations, and people who would be willing to attend actual (historically informed) services?

    • There’s an element to be considered: watching something as an outsider and being part of it, in a deeper way of understanding than the buzz word “participation”. It means being part of a culture rather than looking coldly at a culture from the standpoint of coming from another culture or no culture at all. It seems to me that liturgical religion in the modern industrial world is futile, with a veneer of Christianity only being possible as a political ideology like any other. Do we adapt the glove to fit the hand or the hand to fit the glove?

      • ed pacht says:

        Your glove analogy doesn’t really fit very well. Christianity is designed to be transformative and not a mere overlay. To be ‘born again’ or ‘converted’, whatever words one uses, is to be remade, radically changed. By definition a Christian does not fit the world in which he lives and acts, and his citizenship is in an altogether different realm. To transfer from one realm to the other is indeed to be changed and thus to become alien in this world. Becoming Christian does not make one into a better Roman, Greek, Englishman, Frenchman, American, or whatever, but into some degree of a misfit in any of those cultures. We are called to march to a different drummer. This all means that at its core theology, liturgy, and daily practice will not match the world around us, but will be seen to be counterintuitive, impractical, perhaps mad, and perhaps even dangerous. In fact, if others are to be drawn into the faith, rather than into a pallid imitation or counterfeit, they do need to see what a radical disconnect is involved.

        At the same time, we do indeed need to apply this difference of perspective to the real world around us. Our earthly culture will and should affect the ways in which we express and practice our faith, but not in such a way as to conform us to the world. Rather it needs to show clearly just how one can move (or be moved) out of the sinful and broken mindset to a God-filled and radically distinct conformity with the mind of God. I don’t believe this can be done without centering on a tradition that, at its core, is out of step with contemporary expectations. In short, for our own spiritual health and for the purposes of spreading the Good News, we need somehow to be both alien and attractive, which is surely not an easy balance to find.

      • I would agree with you. I wasn’t very clear, but my thinking was that religion and culture for most people are a mere mask or garment. Transformation or “théôsis” is both in the individual and the community. For this to happen, the Church has to be incarnate in the community like a country parish before the days of “pastoral sectors” and the various band-aids modern French bishops try to apply to spin out the inevitable collapse of their “system” for as long as possible. Are any of us rooted in a community? Very few are, and I myself am one foot in the modern world concerned with keeping a house and a marriage going.

        Probably the ideal is the “intentional community” with a “non-establishment” approach to the faith and Christian spirituality. We have to think outside the box and be resourceful, and expect very little for other people who haven’t quite “got it”. In the modern world, it just isn’t possible to have the radical attitude that comes through when we read the Gospels.

      • Dale says:

        Ed, very excellent observations.

      • ed pacht says:

        Actually. Fr. C.,
        It is not only possible, but mandatory, for a Christian to have such an attitude in any human society whatever, even in this singularly dysfunctional one. It is precisely the cultivation of such an attitude that is the result of the Holy Spirit working His transformative process in us. Do we attain in this life? Rarely if ever. Is that excusable? No it isn’t, but it is forgivable. That’s precisely what the Cross is about. To aim in that direction is what St. Paul means by “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

        Now, can we put this attitude into practice in this world? To a degree perhaps, but not entirely without paying a price, perhaps even martyrdom. And that was just as true in a reportedly Christian society like that of the Middle Ages, and even in a monastery. So long as a Christian lives in this fallen world he or she shall be a misfit. It is only in the heavenly City of God that the alienation comes to an end. What can we do? We can do our best, knowing that it is not enough, and seek God’s help to do better.

      • ed pacht says:

        To focus back in on the subject at hand, one of the witnesses to such a transformed and transformative attitude is the refusal to conform all our thinking and activity to what the world around us finds comfortable. To this end a liturgy that does not look archaic or otherwise out of accord with contemporary thinking/practice is utterly inadequate, but rather tends toward a justification of this sinful society.

      • I agree with you in that I couldn’t bring myself to use a “modern” liturgy. But old liturgies only interest those who are conservatives for other reasons, ie, concerned with forcing everyone into their mould by political means, the old Christian version of ISIS. I don’t think there is a way out of it. Perhaps in America among a few enthusiasts. I am inclined myself to despicere terram et amare caelestiam, but we do so as individuals and tiny communities.

        Did Christian civilisation ever exist? It seems an increasingly relevant question, and we seem to have had it all wrong for a very long time.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    ed pacht observes, “a liturgy that does not look archaic or otherwise out of accord with contemporary thinking/practice is utterly inadequate”. I’ll try to think aloud about this, a little. One element that must be adequately taken account of, is history. The ‘shape of the liturgy’ in the primitive Church took account of its Israelite background which had presumably in its turn taken account of the contributions of Royal use in connection with the Temple at Jerusalem, plus effects of subsequent exile and return, and later, to varying degrees, with changes in the use of Aramaic in (international) culture, and the impact of ecumenic Hellenization in the sequel to Alexander. And then itself lived with the next near-millennium of practice and reflection in not only multifarious nationalized and international/ecumenical Greek culture, but Syriaic, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, Latin, Celtic, Gothic, Persian, Indic, Slavic, and Germanic cultures, and of developed Christian cultures become unfamiliar and still later reacquainted with each other – which has indeed stretched over the following millennium and more There is a depth of history, which is also a history of liturgical changes as well as continuities. The results can seem ‘archaic’, but need not, And then there is deliberate ‘reform’ which can sometimes seem rather to ‘deform’ in various ways, which can include historical misunderstanding, oblivion, ‘archaeologization’. But how is the (possible) participant (in a real rather than buzz-word sense) best brought to know and enjoy that history practically and reflectively as rich inheritance rather than burden and glorify God in and through it?

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “I couldn’t bring myself to use a ‘modern’ liturgy”: what might a really good ‘modern’ liturgy be like? (And if it doesn’t exist, shouldn’t ‘we’ have to invent one?, to play with a certain quip…). I think most of my experience (not counting CDs) has been of one sort of modern liturgy or another – even occasionally modern Latin Ambrosian – with a regular strand of Latin Novus Ordo, which does not put me off at all (though I am willing to read criticisms, e.g, re. ‘archaeologism’).

    “Did Christian civilisation ever exist? It seems an increasingly relevant question, and we seem to have had it all wrong for a very long time.” I should think we also seem to have had a lot of it right – in various ways, to varying degrees – for a very long time, though I agree it is an increasingly relevant field of of questions (e.g, as to what was/is right, what wrong, how did we ‘end up here’, and what can we do about it?).

    There is a curious Dutch children’s poem/song by an exceedingly popular author (whose father was a ‘liberal’ dominee, and who I don’t believe believed anything anymore herself) which goes (in a translation which loses the rimes) something like: “This is the pater Tieralier who makes his soup with pasteboard and love – nobody wants any.”

    Good intentions are not enough, on the one hand, but , on the other, what can be good enough in and of itself to prevail against a closed mind or heart?

    • ed pacht says:

      Did Christian civilization ever exist? I don’t think it could. But we certainly, even now, live in a Christian-influenced civilization that would not have been at all the same had it not been salted with the faith of Christ. We are not the world and never could be, as Christianity centers upon principles that are nor compatible with a sinful world centering on sin-infused self interest. Our Lord compared us to salt and leaven – minor presences that affect the whole lump.

      “Good intentions are not enough, on the one hand, but, on the other, what can be good enough in and of itself to prevail against a closed mind or heart?”

      Good intentions without action are nothing, but good intentions acted upon are precisely what the Gospel demands of each of us. This is ultimately the only thing that can prevail,
      and that is guaranteed — but we have not been promised that we will see the ultimate victory thus promised while we live. That has been the experience of Christians living by faith for two millennia. In our experience closed minds and hearts, greed, lust, and violence have thus far always won out. Faith says that this tragedy will ultimately come to an end. Good intentions springing from faith and expressed in God-centered living are all we have to work with. All else leads to the ugliness that fills the world.

  4. Luke DeWeese says:

    To “love and beauty” add “a sense of belonging.”

  5. The Rad Trad says:

    Thank you for bringing some of my content to your readers’ attention and for your own wonderful reflections.

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