Organic Development

In have just come across the article The Laws of Organic Development. It all brought me back to my student days as a Roman Catholic trying to conciliate traditionalist ideas with “ecclesiastical bureaucratico-socialist” (a neologism I have just invented) ideas about the liturgy. In time this entire conflict was discredited in my mind. I too at one time was seduced by Newman’s attempt to channel the emerging Modernism of his day and express it in the context of nineteenth-century reactionary Catholicism, whilst at the same time giving some justification to the new papal dogmas.

The problem of language is always the same: analogy, euphemism, literal use. One person says something with the meaning he intends, and the listener understands something else. A second listener and a third listener will understand something else still. Finally, we have to understand that our comprehension of language is based on the level of our human culture and spiritual growth away from literalism.

I suppose we are trying to understand what happened with the transition from the pre-Reformation situation of the liturgy in Europe and the momentous movement of the Counter Reformation and what that set in motion. At one time, liturgy was quite neglected or was just a fact of life in a diocese. It was interpreted quite loosely and people took liberties, a little like in Greek Orthodoxy. All of a sudden, it got taken over, made uniform and became tightly controlled on pain of severe sanctions. The attempt to reverse that situation in the 1950’s and 60’s created another situation of total control and ideology which would not produce anything positive.

The problem of the Church is one of wider society, the relationship between the person, the small local community and the State. From the Counter Reformation, the Church emerged as a kind of spiritual “state” with its unified system of law enforcement and control. I don’t find the idea of “organic” liturgy at all credible. What I would see as a positive move would be the removal of the “state” bureaucracy and huge structures and leaving local communities (based on people knowing each other) to govern their own affairs. Someone has to do the controlling and regulating, but on the basis of reality rather than ideology. That might seem to be a more credible notion.

What if this “state” were jettisoned now? This is what has happened for everyone who has left that Church which no longer has any temporal power, and is despised by our modern Socialist states. We have our little independent Churches like the ACC. Some grow and acquire “critical mass”. Others don’t. What happens to the liturgy is what we do to it. I use something that is in very rare use, but actually is no more strange than similar rites that larger numbers of priests and their communities use. Some do it with military precision. Some take small liberties and others take bigger liberties. An example is the Good Friday prayers. It makes no sense to pray for empires that no longer exist or pray for the return of all “heretics and schismatics” to the stable when we ourselves are horses that have bolted. We are faced with many such contradictions in the liturgy. What about O beata nox on a sunny Saturday morning?

Many ideas behind the Bugnini liturgy were not bad, creating a loose structure on the basis of which local communities would rebuild the old diversity of local usage. The trouble was is that it was enforced by the same “state” that enforced the Tridentine liturgy. That was accompanied by an iconoclastic movement, just as intolerant of difference and humanity. The categories of immobilism and “organic development” were a brave attempt to justify change but to prevent it from becoming “abuse”. It might work as an analogy, but a very imperfect one.

The traditionalist position of returning to the Counter Reformation status quo is naive. It’s over. The only future of liturgy is doing it, not waiting for someone to make it “official” for us. The alternative is accepting what the ecclesiastical “state” will give us (the usual novus ordo fare) or giving up on organised and liturgical religion, as most have done. The “consensus of the people” is gone and we are all atomised individuals. Some of us are able to reconstruct minimal communities in which liturgy would have some meaning.

At a “state” level, the future is bleak and Christianity is beyond its sell-by date. On a smaller scale, if we are prepared to accept that reality and make the best of it, there is a chance. Of course we will no longer have money for the churches that face demolition or conversion into secular use. We have to make do with what we can afford and what we have the skills to make ourselves.

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42 Responses to Organic Development

  1. Patricius says:

    The neo-cons have largely taken over RC traditionalism, which was once about, as you say, “doing” the liturgy but is now more about obedience and waiting on some infallible pronouncement from Rome on the matter. The more “sensible” types, the ones “doing” the liturgy as they see fit, tend to be more malicious and disingenuous; trying to ride the storm of the time while keeping up the countenance of obedience and orthodoxy. Yet these too are bound by that same obedience that caused all the present problems. They have no real interest or enthusiasm for the liturgy itself just ideologies and appearing separatist in a mainstream church that they want desperately to reform along their lines. It just won’t happen.

  2. J. V. says:

    “Many ideas behind the Bugnini liturgy were not bad, creating a loose structure on the basis of which local communities would rebuild the old diversity of local usage. The trouble was is that it was enforced by the same “state” that enforced the Tridentine liturgy.”

    In two sentences you summarized everything I’ve been trying to write for the past few months.

    “The only future of liturgy is doing it, not waiting for someone to make it “official” for us.”

    Yes – but somehow, this seems to be a Rubicon most concerned parties do not want to cross.

  3. ed pacht says:

    There’s a balance.

    Liturgy can’t be legislated or imposed from above without producing a strait jacket kind of legalism and making it not the ‘work of the people’ (which is what the word itself means) but the work of distant authorities. That converts the church, at the heart of its worship, into a bureaucracy. However, the very nature of liturgy is its willing submission to legitimate authority. By this I mean the authority of tradition and also the authority of the wider fellowship within which one worships. It is not legitimate to carpenter together a liturgy based solely on ones own preference. There is a tradition from which one has received a liturgical heritage, and there are brethren whose ways must be respected and honored.

    It isn’t “MY” liturgy to do with whatever I will, but it IS my liturgy to adapt and use and live with, making the heritage my own. Local variations are not only acceptable, but necessary, if the life of the church is to be honestly expressed in its worship – but such variations as ignore the tradition or serve to alienate ones brethren deny the liturgical spirit.

    A result of this kind of organic differentiation under authority is that there will be inconsistencies in these local uses. Liturgy will not be entirely rational in its organization and content, but will always contain elements that puzzle and that call forth sometimes clumsy attempts at explanation. That is to be expected – in fact, a totally rational and systematic liturgy is actually not a good vehicle for the people’s worship, as God is bigger than our reasoning and mystery, by definition, does not yield to easy systemization.

    Liturgy, then, is bigger than we are: bigger than any central authority can be, and bigger than anything local minds can possibly come up with.

  4. Dale says:

    Dear Fr Anthony,

    Such a succinct article, which does encapsulate so many of the issues and problems. Thank you for sharing it.

    I suppose I was lucky in that I never fell under the influence of Newman, he seemed simply to be a kinder, less authoritarian modernist to me (but one must admit that his autobiography is one of the high-points of English prose). But perhaps that was because he was not only English, but a gentleman as well. So very, very rare in the Roman Church, especially in its Irish manifestation.

    The only small issue I might have is with the concept that the Tridentine liturgy enforced a very strict uniformity. Although this is sometimes the popular conception, I do not know if it is really true. Having, mostly as a child in several countries, I can personally attest that the Roman liturgy as celebrated in France, Switzerland, the Philippines, Ireland, and finally, where I now live, the United States was very different in ethos and spirituality, much like the Byzantine liturgy, both Catholic and Orthodox, is albeit the same liturgy, but with very much a different “feel” dependent upon the ethnic composition of the congregation. Perhaps the mis-perception is based upon the fact that the Roman liturgy was usually, but not always, celebrated in Latin? I have also attended the novus ordo in several different lands, it is truly a uniform, and by-and-large banal landscape.

  5. Stephen K says:

    Dale, I’d be interested to know how the Tridentine Liturgy can be diverse in ethos and spirit across different ethnic congregations but the Novus ordo across different ethnic congregations is uniformly banal. What is the criterion by which you assert any difference? And what constitutes the “ethos” and the “spirit” of the former that you find so diverse, and what in the latter constitutes what you think is a universal banality?

    I’m afraid I can’t see how they can be different. The liturgies are such as set out in the respective liturgical books. If the Tridentine Liturgy is as diverse as its different ethnic performances, why would the Novus Ordo not be also?

    I think you will have to substantiate both claims: the first, that the Novus Ordo is banal (what do you mean by that?); the second that one liturgy can be positively diverse and the other not. In any case, I’d be interested in your fuller explanations.

    • Patricius says:

      I have to say that these days I tend to prefer the Novus Ordo to what passes for “Tridentine” liturgy in Traddieland.

      • Dale says:


        I completely concur. The “Tridentine” rite of the modern Catholic “traditionalists” is exactly as you have portrayed it (rather a lot of opening and closing quotation marks). One should also mention that they do not really celebrate the traditional Roman liturgy, but a 1962 concoction with a truly bizarre calendar to match.

        Your portrayal on your own site of so-called Catholic traditionalists is spot-on. One could also mention that they are really, really nasty as well and their theological position makes virtually no sense since they cannot separate themselves from their Papal fixations; yet they castigate the Pope for celebrating a truly horrendous liturgy; seeming to not understand the modernist doctrine of his personal infallibility, hence, any liturgy he celebrates must be an expression of this “personal charisma of infallibility” (The exact phrase used in the Catholic Encyclopedia in reference to his infallible nature) and effectively the Catholic faith in action .

    • I respond here to both Dale and Stephen. In my experience of the Tridentine rite, many liberties were taken in France by priests under the influence of the Liturgical Movement. Many pastoral experiments were being conducted in Germany and Belgium. These “arrangements” were still visible in a few parishes up to the 1980’s and later by parish priests who refused the novus ordo but continued what they were doing in the mid 1960’s. Everything was quite rigid in the English-speaking and Latin countries.

      The differences will be sutle both in the traditionalist communities as in the ordinary novus ordo parishes from this point of view. Perhaps in the latter, the uniform aspect is celebrating facing the people, modern style vestments, a cheerful and chatty style, more emphasis on community than mystery or private devotion. It is a reverse of many aspects of the Tridentine rite: rubrical rigidity, eastward position, a chasuble that looks like a beetle’s shell, silent congregation, private devotions, individualism, an atmosphere that varies between sad, reserved, mysterious, tense, etc. All rites and uses related to the Roman rite have as much uniformity.

      What seems to be taken for banality is the assimilation of the liturgy to relating with modern people the way public authorities, entertainers or tourist operators do so. When dealing with a group, the lowest common denominator is assumed, like taking a busload of people on holiday. You don’t assume they can swim or read a map or speak the local language – so they are herded and guided. Participation in the liturgy at any deeper level requires skill and knowledge which the uninitiated don’t have. One possibility is bringing back the disciplina arcani and admitting people at a catechumenal level to “Gospel services” that are not the Mass or the canonical Office. This would solve the problem of people dragging down the Mass to the lowest common denominator and depriving people of a deeper spiritual commitment of the older and more contemplative style of liturgy.

      I think the issue there is not the rite. I do think it would have been better for the Roman rite to be based on an eleventh-century standard as in the ordines romani, and then allowed to be used in dioceses and parishes – and fleshed out in time by use, and not by committees of experts. Even that would have been imperfect. Arguments against Sarum and other “obsolete” rites also go for the Tridentine rite. Most churchgoers are unfamiliar with it. Do we continue with happy-clappy masses with their cheerful and popular atmosphere, or do we provide evangelical gospel services to replace Mass and make the Eucharist something more elitist or esoteric?

      From the point of view of diversity in “non-essentials” (language, culture, music, etc.) both rites have the potential of flexibility. This point can tend to be a red herring.

      Myself, I celebrate Sarum in a fairly “monastic” spirit, and I make concessions for the language. I don’t have the charisma to be an “evangelist” or spiritual entertainer for crowds of people. It isn’t my vocation. I am more of a “Benedict” than a “Francis”. I have to recognise the existence of both vocations in the Church.

    • Stephen K says:

      I draw what I think are important points from what you both say, Patricius, and Father. First, when you say you prefer x to y, Patricius, I believe you are expressing very simply how any liturgy works at its most meaningful: namely, at the personal level. We each and all bring to any individual liturgical act or experience all our respective comprehensions and formations, our temperaments, needs and aspirations, such as they are, and each experience goes to confirm or modify or assimilate with all the previous. We say, of any form of liturgy, that we like or dislike it, that we prefer it or not, that we understand it or not, that it makes more sense or not, that it seems more comprehensible and aesthetic or not, and so on.

      There is no doubt that we can learn more widely and more deeply about the Liturgy and liturgies, and your own articles have been very informative for me in orienting myself and enabling me to look anew at various Roman forms and distinguish between them. There is, equally, no doubt that a single (or several) element can strike a jarring or discordant note and compromise the positive qualities we perceive in a liturgy and our experience of it. A boring, pompous, self-important homily can overshadow the Gospel it purports to explain or which precedes it; if we are in joyous mood the silent privacies of a Low Mass can seem disconnected with our state of mind; if we are in contemplative mood, a chatty, vulgarised celebration can put us quite out of sorts; a ritual element parachuted by priestly whim from one tradition into another form for which it was never intended can, even for someone who knows little other than what is expected, be shocking and incomprehensible……

      The list of distractions is long. But the point – reinforced by your own description, Father, of the ‘way’ you celebrate your Sarum Liturgy – is that all forms of liturgy may be said to “work”, both those that have an integrity of tradition and those that are eclectic or baroque, whenever, and only to the extent that, they leave a or b person in a better state than before. By “better” I mean here somehow more “uplifted” in a spiritual sense; and I accept that the spiritual plane will admit of many shades, moods and directions.

      This is why I think that whilst we can certainly analyse and identify the anatomies and pedigrees of liturgies, but beyond some of the more obvious descriptions, comparisons are odious. We should, I believe, be unashamed to admit that we think one form works better for us than others ceteris paribus, but that if things are NOT equal on any particular day, then our preference is theoretical, and the experience will trump the theory…..on that day. We all seem to be on the journey to try to understand spiritual wisdom, achieve religious integrity, and avoid harm and mistakes, so the study of these things can bring much satisfaction, but there are all sorts of reasons why we each feel more congenial or more comfortable in one religious paradigm and activity than another, and the least reliable of reasons is that somehow the form we prefer is universally better than anything else under all conditions!

      Finally, I think we have to keep reminding ourselves that liturgy (i.e. any liturgy, in the broad) does not exist primarily as a work of Art, for its own sake, or for the sake of Beauty (even if we could ever agree on where we could find it), but as a means by public collective ritual and formalised prayer to express and vivify the relationship of participants to one’s God (or Ideal).

      • Dale says:

        Stephen, I am actually supposed to be spending this time preparing notes for a class that meets today, so my response will be short!

        For me, the issue is not personal, or my “feelings”; liturgy expresses the fullness of the Faith, thus, my problem with the novus ordo is that it may express a faith, but not necessarily the old Catholic Faith as understood throughout the generations. As an example, one may attend the rites in Greek, Russian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Syrian churches and find a commonality of Faith and Practice, the same can be said for the old Roman rite, but the novus ordo? Hardly. It is a new rite for a new religion.

        I remember years ago speaking with an elderly priest and one of my seminary professors who stated that his problem was not with Vatican II, but with Vatican I (he had left the Roman Catholic church and become Orthodox so his knowledge of the traditional Roman rite and practice was extensive) and that because Vatican I had so vastly changed the old faith that it was only natural that eventually the rite would change to reflect the change in Faith. The novus ordo reflects this new faith. At the time I rather disagreed with him, now that I am old, I find that what he had posited is perhaps indeed true.

      • Stephen K says:

        Thank you, Dale, for your reply. I do understand what you are saying, when you say that for you the issue – liturgy – is not ‘personal’ and not about feelings, but about what faith it expresses.

        Of course I realise that liturgies, both texts and ritual actions, express or emphasise particular religious and doctrinal schemata and thus allow or facilitate and assist form or develop a person’s faith, as it happens to be. Which is why the concept of ‘a new (/different) liturgy for a new (/different) faith – as your old seminary professor spoke of – has meaning here.

        But we have, I think, a ‘chicken-and-egg’ situation (the old consciousness-materiality primacy issue): liturgies are designed or grow out of and from people’s understandings and aspirations, whether we are talking about deliberate academic designs or organic developments through spontaneous innovation or a combination of both; they are not pre-existing or static forms which demand only our intellectual acceptance or rejection. We have reactions to them – including our intellectual ones – which are ultimately idiosyncratic, and subjective, i.e. in the sense I described in my earlier post. I do not regard this subjectivity as invalidating any analysis one makes of the congruence of a liturgy with a particular historic expression of faith, but it will also lead to and include sweeping statements like one liturgy will be diverse and rich through ethnic variations but another will, through ethnic variations be uniform (and, presumably, “unrich”). This kind of statement appears reckless and is, whichever way you look at it, a reflection of one’s subjective characterisations rather than a universally verifiable condition. [And I still don’t see what is inherently in the one or either that could possibly ground such a claim.]

        And so it is with many value judgements you and I and others make nearly very day. In a kind of instinctive corruption of Kant’s process we are constantly trying to encapsulate our feelings and thoughts about things so we “universalise” them, and lump them into neat subjects for our characterisations. This seems to help our modus loquendi but they are always challengeable.

        So, Dale, to make my point clearer, I don’t in this case, dispute your analysis that the Novus ordo expresses and emphasises Christian faith differently to the Tridentine liturgy, and if one thinks it does so, so differently that it amounts to a new or different faith, then, since faith is a lived consciousness and not a purely book-bound formula, in that person’s life and mind it must be so. Nor, if enough people think so, can one sensibly deny it. But I maintain that this simply proves my hypothesis, that ultimately our adherence to, and our analyses of, liturgies, involve our subjective, emotional and prejudicial preferences, and we have to be disciplined about how we universalise moral or aesthetic judgements about them.

  6. Neil Hailstone says:

    A simple comment from an honorary Cornish peasant of the Poldarkian kind. Whatever liturgy anyone uses should it not be intelligible to ordinary people? Sorry to intrude!

    • Dale says:

      One suspect that depends upon what one means by “ordinary people.”

    • ed pacht says:

      Well, Neil, yes and no. Yes, the liturgy must be capable of engaging ‘ordinary people’ and drawing them into the Mystery of faith — but if they (or, for that matter, the clergy) fully understand the liturgy, the liturgy is not doing its job. Liturgy must always be just a bit out of the reach of its participants, for the Mysteries to which it leads are far greater than the mind can comprehend. Lord, deliver us from thinking we have to understand all things, and make us aware that we cannot. Amen.

    • Dale says:

      Neil, I am sorry that I wrote in haste and rather pointedly. But some of the most ordinary people I personally knew were monks and nuns who lived a liturgical life to its fullest, yet their liturgical life was not simple or plain, but at times extremely complicated; but their understanding of liturgy was very much within its spiritual dimensions. Too often when one speaks of ordinary people (a term I have come to despise) what is really meant is to have ordinary and pedestrian liturgy. Perhaps time spent in a Greek or Romanian village of simple peasants would be good for many of us, such places do have a rich liturgical life that most modern Roman Catholics would dismiss as “beyond the comprehension of ordinary people.”

  7. Neil Hailstone says:

    Ed – Food for thought there! Thank you.

  8. Neil Hailstone says:

    Dale – A brief sample locally in Cornwall to illustrate my point. Tractor Drivers, Farm workers picking flowers, fruit and veggies in the fields, Seasonal workers in the tourist industry on minimum wage rates.Unemployed people on benefits with no prior knowledge or experience of the christian faith, road sweepers, car park attendants etc and etc.
    In the 19th Century the Catholic movement in the C of E was very good at reaching out and engaging with ‘ordinary’ people.
    Are we?

    • Dale says:

      Neil, I will reply more fully later. But I think that modern liturgics, tends more towards a condescending attitude towards such people to be honest; and it has not only not attracted such people, but seems, if the demographics of church attendance are any indication, tended to drive them away. Much of this is not only the banality of liturgics of most modernist denominations, but the fact that clergy are no longer really interested in spiritual subjects but in being team leaders, leaders of social justice et cetera. Whatever do these types of clergypersons do when they have to tend to the dying? Ask them to get out of their deathbeds and participate in marches for the end of racism?

      I hate to sound snarky, but I have had to deal with such types of clergy for many years. When the priesthood is simply considered as a professional vocation, much like a school teacher, that must reflect full gender equality et cetera and not a sacramental reality, well, I could go on…

    • Christopher Willism McAvoy says:

      In the 16th century the C of E was rather better at massacring cornish people than reaching out to them. “The Prayer Book Rebellion”. In the year 1549 they cornish knew that the government and it’s newly concocted C of E were heretics and they would have them die as heretics. How times have changed!

      • Greg says:

        The Church of England was not newly concocted in the sixteenth century but dates back to St Augustine of Canterbury and before him to the ancient Celtic Church. Not sure how the C of E at the time of the Reformation could be considered heretics as they were simply returning to the patristic, catholic and Biblical faith of the earliest Christian communities?

      • I say this as a (continuing) Anglican, but I think this view is as simplistic as that of those whose say that Anglicanism is trash and the unfortunate individuals belonging to it should become Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics. This “take-this-take-that” just gets nowhere. I find no period of church history that would serve as a faithful reference point for Anglicanism under Elizabeth I or the Puritans.

        Indeed, I am inclined not to believe in the myth of a “pristine church of the holy Fathers”. Christianity has always been divided and prevailing orthodoxies won through the use of politics and force. The only justification for the Reformation was the excess of clerical sleaze and pastoral neglect of the faithful in many places. The same thing happened in the Church of England in the 18th century – minus the liturgy and popular religion.

        There is no perfect solution for all. All I can recommend is human-sized Churches in which people know and respect each other, and which endeavour to remain in the general Catholic tradition without being too self-conscious about it. It’s not easy, but I do find that the old polemics are unhelpful.

      • William Tighe says:

        I’ll say no more here than to refer interested readers to the oeuvre of Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch on the English Reformation, among them especially his Prothero Lecture of 2004, which PERHAPS can be accessed here:

      • ed pacht says:

        My good friend Prof. Tighe has supplied me with a number of MacCulloch articles, as well as with a lot of other valuable material. Let me just say that they have tended to confirm conclusions I have been reaching over the years. History is a fascination of mine and I find nothing more interesting than the attempt to unravel the course of events and to scry out the workings of men’s minds.

        However, I’ve learned to be very careful as to the interpretation of historical data. We all approach the data with our own often very strong preconceptions, and it is nearly, perhaps absolutely, impossible to arrive at unbiased conclusions. In this particular matter of Anglican history, it amazes (and, yes, amuses) me how reputable and trustworthy scholars, faced with the same data, can arrive at such startlingly divergent views. “Liberals” and “Conservatives”, Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, more Protestant Anglicans, Lutheran and Reformed scholars, and such hard-to-classify writers as MacCulloch working from the same sources manage to sound as though they are discussing altogether different events.

        Mention of abuses and injustices will accomplish little, as there is no faction of the Reformation period that comes off at all clean. “He did this – no, HE did that” is a profoundly unproductive course to take, as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and often in strikingly similar ways. All this does is to continue to fan the fires.

        Is Anglicanism truly Catholic? Well, I’m a Continuing Anglican and would shout a ringing affirmative, but do I think my case is proved? I don’t. Nor is the case of those who take the negative proven. Much depends on one’s preconceptions. Is Anglicanism continuous with the Faith once delivered to the Church? Well, there is obvious continuity of institutions coupled with an often expressed desire to continue the ancient faith. There are (either in reality or in appearance) bishops, priests, deacons, sacraments, creeds, and scriptures held over and valued from the times gone by. On the other hand, there are also obvious discontinuities, and those who do not believe my church to be Catholic can very credibly point to these. There is a puzzlement here. Historical studies simply cannot answer this question.

        The history is clear. The facts exist and, in themselves, fail to settle the questions. This is a matter for theology. It is our theological views that provide the lens through which we observe the events, and the events seem to have a vastly different meaning to those of differing theologies. Perhaps its time to stop shouting about who did what to whom when, and time to come together prayerfully, not only proclaiming, but also listening, trusting God to bring us all together in his own way, in his own time. We have much to say to one another – let us do it in love.

      • Dale says:

        Yes, Dr Tighe has also been sending me several fascinating articles as well, he has a gift for finding such things. but Ed, I also agree with what you have stated here (the use of historical documents to come to sometimes vastly different conclusions). One could also add that anyone who has had dealings with the Irish, when it comes to anything English, including the CofE,, it is perhaps sometimes necessary to take their conclusions with a certain grain of skepticism.

  9. Neil Hailstone says:

    Dale – Thank you for the two interesting replies. More food for thought!

  10. Neil makes a very important point. In Anglican terms a lot of clergy (thankfully not all!) who entered into the heritage of the great “ritualists” overlook the fact that their forebears combined a commitment to traditional liturgy that was a sort of Western “earthly heaven”, with a zeal for loving pastoral care combined with real evangelism and extraliturgical worship of the kind that “worked” in those days (such as extemporary prayer meetings, “hymn sandwich” mission services, and slightly later, public healing services). Studying the obituaries of many leading clergy of the second and third generations of the Church of England’s Catholic Revival (now remembered chiefly for their flamboyant liturgy) is a real eye-opener. Many of those obituary pages are flooded with tributes from non-conformist clergy recognising the Anglo-Catholics as the “real evangelicals.” Rich and poor alike knew that these priests had given up everything to serve them out of genuine love for the Lord Jesus and his people.

    At St Agatha’s Portsmouth, for example, the great Father Dolling had Eucharistic worship and Evensong with all the adaptations and accoutrements that Anglo-Catholics expected. Then, following Evensong on Sundays, he conducted a mission service with schmaltzy gospel hymns. He would walk around the congregation telling stories and preaching, sometimes sitting for a while on the altar step, just “chatting to the crowd about Jesus.” (Indeed, in Dolling’s case, as far as mission hymns were concerned, the schmultzier the better . . . he even wrote new words to the sentimental tune “Home, sweet home” for those Sunday night services – the Church of God being their true home spanning heaven and earth – and, apparently, the singing would have done the Salvation Army, Pentecostals and Methodists proud!) Dolling was by no means unique. The point is that worship, however brilliantly done and glorious, whether Sarum, Orthodox, Western, Southern Baptist or Pentecostal, needs to blur the boundary between heaven and earth, but it doesn’t work in a vacuum. It needs to be as connected to the real world of people it seeks to “re-enchant” as it is to the glorious worship of heaven. And that doesn’t happen unless the people know that that they are genuinely loved.

    In terms of “strategies” the challenge is to know what the equivalent is for our day. I think that there will always be wonderful cathedrals and shrine churches, where the interest and other income earned by the investments of dead people’s money will continue to sustain choirs, full-time musicians and the necessary bureaucracies, so that that the kind of “high culture” many of us love doesn’t die out altogether. And nor should it. But I’m inclined to agree with both our host, Father Anthony and the previous Pope that we are likely to go through some time (centuries?) during which small – even tiny – configurations of praying people meeting regularly to offer worship to the Lord as Christians have always done, swept up into the surging movement of love within the Godhead, and intentionally “re-enchanting” the daily lives of those around them, will become the normal manifestation of the Church in the world.

    We all struggle with where God has put us, especially if at other times in our lives we have had the privilege of being involved in awe-inspiring liturgical worship on a grand scale. Sometimes we wish that we’d been born in a different century or place. I’ve studied enough history to be cured of that! The real challenge – and this where we are helped so much by Fr Anthony’s dangerously honest blog – is to learn to be “real” right here and now in the way we live our faith, worship the Lord and interact with others.

    We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song (Augustine).

    • You have a point to which I alluded, the ability of Ritualist priests to celebrate the full liturgy and go out to the people following the example of John Wesley. If I were a parish priest, I would try to apply something like this to the folk of today. The big obstacle is cynicism, materialism and the fact that religion is discredited for most people. I would not personally feel called to be some kind of Billy Graham. At the same time, I think such worship should be available as it is in non-conformist and evangelical Anglican parishes, as it is already in Roman Catholicism (the Charismatic communities, etc.). It, rather than the liturgy, needs to be acculturated / inculturated to the consumer society and people whose television is on (even if they’re not watching it) all the time they are at home.

      Another observation is that the working classes are totally alienated from Christianity and parishes. Everything the Church used to do, the Welfare State does with more resources. You understand this well: (…) it doesn’t work in a vacuum. It needs to be as connected to the real world of people it seeks to “re-enchant” as it is to the glorious worship of heaven. And that doesn’t happen unless the people know that that they are genuinely loved. How does one “market” the Christian faith in a world that is full of advertising and consumerism? It is rather obvious that most people see that marketers are doing it for themselves and their profit – it’s their job – but, not the good of the customer. I have been down this route before.

      Perhaps Christianity, at any depth, is there for those who break with the consumer world and seek something else. Of course, they would run a mile if we present a glitzy and bling image.

      Fr Anthony’s dangerously honest blog” – I love it! I am lucky enough to belong to a dangerously honest Church. Fr Jonathan Munn, when I was joining the ACC, said to me that “what’s in the jar is what it says on the label”.

      We will come to another way of seeing things, but it is not for me to say what it will be. We all have to work it out on our own.

      • Christopher Willism McAvoy says:

        If one does not live the faith than they have no business being a clergyman. This is always a struggle within the Church, we all fall short. I agree that many “catholic” anglicans were of the 19th and first half of the 20th c were living the faith better than many in the second half and present times.

  11. Patricius says:

    Dale, thank you for your kind words. All I offer is the truth. That is why I am so heavily proscribed.

    • Dale says:

      Hello Patrick, yes I find that your understanding of Catholic traditionalist is spot on, well actually, rather brilliant. For me, I would much rather deal one-on-one with those who attend and support the novus ordo (this especially applies to clergy). The traditionalists are nasty and stupid at the same time. Their ecclesiology makes no sense and when one simply mentions that the Pope is personally infallible, with supporting documents from the Council by the way, they start spittle throwing (they remind me of Byzantine Orthodox converts to be honest). Their fixations on Latin and celibacy is truly bizarre; one of their clergy actually told me that married eastern rite Catholic priests are not real priests and that their Sacraments are invalid! My only real advice is to stay far, far away; of course, it took me years to arrive at this simple piece of advice. Their liturgical knowledge is virtually non-existent by the way; they actually believe that they are celebrating the “Mass of the Ages” and do not even know that their calendar is simply a modern invention post-Vatican II.

      In the end, the old fashioned, rather easy-going Anglo-Catholicism of my youth seems to be the best medium ground of two extremes, fanatical Protestantism on one hand and self-righteous Romanism and Byzantinism on the other.

      • Christopher William McAvoy says:

        Hmm. I think that the more ascetic minded monastics within the traditional side of Roman Catholicism and the Orthodoxy Churches are rather more intelligent than the run of the mill lay person. I also find many of the hispanic, french and other non-english traditionalists, as well as ethnic orthodox christians to be of a good balance. I concur with you about the self righteousness being annoying but seeing as I had such good times with french SSPX priests and ex-anglican ex-SSPX priest trained in in Econe seminary I wouldnt write them off so casually.

      • Rubricarius says:

        Dale is spot-on from my experience too. ‘OF’ people are, generally, far more pleasant than their ‘EF’ brethren. Within Anglicanism the A-C’s are certainly the most hospitable but clearly not what they once were.

      • I think that very few of us have any idea of the vitality of Anglo-Catholicism in its heyday (late 19th century to World War II and even beyond to our own time). We try to continue something of that tradition in the ACC and other continuing Churches.

  12. Christopher William McAvoy says:

    above – I ment to say more educated, not more intelligent, but also more careful in what they say and how they say it.

  13. ed pacht says:

    On rereading this post, this caught my attention:

    At one time, liturgy was quite neglected or was just a fact of life in a diocese.

    I’m a long-time student of liturgy. Liturgics as a study has a real fascination for me, in history, theology, and practice. However, to see liturgy as something to be studied may, I’m coming to suspect, be to go in the wrong direction. Liturgy is, indeed, a fact of life – something one simply does. It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) something separate from the life of a Christian community, something to be studied from the outside, but it is (or should be) the very core of the daily life of the people. I have come to believe that liturgical scholars (though their efforts may be admirable) have been the occasion of a lot of damage to the life of the worshiping community. Modern liturgics has the regrettable tendency to find principles through abstract study and build forms from those principles, often making a radical break with the ongoing life of the church. Before Trent scholarly imposition of rites was simply not occurring on a large scale. Liturgy was a fact of life. It was not fossilized, It changed. But it’s changes were not imposed, but organic. Perhaps our studies dominate too much.

    • Dale says:

      Ed, I agree with you here. We are both old enough to remember when liturgy was simply what was done on , and for most of us what had always been done and there was little debate. And, perhaps in retrospect, it worked. One suspects for the professional liturgists, it was all rather ghastly. Often old ladies rambling out badly sung Gregorian chants, usually from Burgess, another one pumping madly at an old reed organ (that would have been my grandmother) and using well-used missals and BCPs that would have been passed down the generations. I still have my grandfather’s old BCP that was given to him for his confirmation in 1904 and later used by my father and then by myself at school. I can still remember that last of this from of Anglo-Catholicism and was lucky enough to have been in France when the parish churches simply offered Lauds and a missal cantata as the normal course of affairs; what always struck me was outside of the priests being married, there was not too much difference in attitudes between old-fashioned Anglo-Catholicism and French Catholicism before Vatican II. And as I have already mentioned this lack of fixation on liturgy and making it available to ordinary people, is still very much alive in much of Orthodoxy, where it is not infected with ultra-nationalist heresies. Also, as Fr Anthony has mentioned, that is perhaps what the Anglican Catholic Church is attempting to, naturally, continue. The pity is that I have seldom, if ever actually, seen Catholic traditionalists of the Roman variety continuing this type of churchmanship. Perhaps much of it is because, especially if the are members of the Society, they no longer really have parish churches?

      • ed pacht says:

        Yes, and those who did know more about liturgy used their knowledge to do what was always done, only doing it better, not to do something “fresh and new”.

  14. Stephen K says:

    We are both old enough to remember when liturgy was simply what was done and for most of us what had always been done and there was little debate [Dale]

    Yes, but as we know, at least in the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgical texts and rubrics were subject to changes of different kinds at different points of the 20th century (cf. the Holy Week rites) (and maybe at different times previously). In other words, in the upper ecclesiastical stratosphere, there will have been, perhaps always, some people thinking and debating about whether, what or how to change things. Thus, it will only have been at the lower clerical and lay levels that thoughts about changing and debates will not have occurred, and this ‘happy’ state of routine acceptance will have obtained. In other words, one longs for the time when one was liturgically and religiously unconscious, or at least un-self-conscious. Like discovering your favourite uncle Charlie is a murderer, one part of you wishes for the restoration of your happy ignorance; now fear, dismay, mistrust and a sense of betrayal have filled your mind and heart. Surely it was true that most people accepted liturgy as a thing beyond their concern or control – a thing handed down from above – and, where Roman Catholics were concerned, for example, something taken for granted like some of the other chocolate-box niceties presented constantly to them, like the infallibility of the Pope, the holiness of bishops, the working of the Holy Spirit when electing Popes etc.

    But now, we have awakened: we know that popes are elected after factional negotiations by lobbies with agendas, where votes tallies do not measure the resentments and frustrations or gloating satisfactions of respective parties; we now, whether we proclaim ourselves as “traditionalists” or “progressives”, no longer really believe popes are infallible; we no longer think that we should simply accept what is sought to be imposed – we may, in a kind of obstinate way, insist that God alone has the kind of authority these leaders historically claimed to exercise on His behalf, but we certainly do not generally extend such a courtesy (or conviction) to any deputies. We are now ‘conscious’ – liturgically and religiously – and so we make many different choices: we seize upon a particular framework of principles (thus we align ourselves to one camp or another) – we choose whether to embrace and practise religion or not; we argue for or against a liturgical model or for particular religious principles. In other words, we can no longer back to such an ‘innocent’ past which lies in a different country. Nor would most of us, knowing what we think we know now, really wish to go back. Few people would agree to a lobotomy: life and knowing is a forward arrow.

    those who did know more about liturgy used their knowledge to do what was always done, only doing it better, not to do something “fresh and new” [ed]

    Well, ed, see my comment above. Two points: (1) at least some people who knew about knowledge did the latter. And though we can still have the genuine desire to “do liturgy better”, we can no longer do so in a state of unawareness that liturgy has become a self-conscious political marker. And (2) the idea or suggestion that could be inferred from your statement that the motive of doing something fresh and new could be intrinsically bad seems to me wrong. Even our seasons, in Spring, promise and deliver us ‘something fresh and new’. Doesn’t it lie at the heart of the theology – or psychology – of reconciliation, for example?

    Finally, the debate as to whether something is “organic” or “imposed” is not clear-cut, or so it seems to me. When has any development ever occurred without at some point someone somewhere doing something “different”? Where is the church whose liturgy has never changed in a single jot or tittle since the day it first met in organisation and worship? That is why I think that it is ultimately self- or counter- productive to rail against new liturgical rules and practices – none of us are in a position to counter-impose what we might think should obtain for everyone else as well as ourselves, and our nostalgia or outrage tends to amount to just such a desire, which makes us no better than those against whom we rail (and protest). That is why people of like mind form “churches” together. Father Anthony’s general instinct (if I read him correctly) seems right – just find people and friends of like mind and worship together and keep out of the polemics and not worry about anyone else’s preferences.

  15. William Tighe says:

    For those to whom it might be of interest, the other two related articles by Diarmaid MacCulloch are:

    “The Myth of the English Reformation,” *Journal of British Studies,* Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 1991), pp. 1-19.

    “The Latitude of the Church of England,” in *Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Tyacke,* ed. Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006), pp. 41-59.

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