Perhaps it is the same phenomenon from different points of view:
Oblivion about secularism in the western world. I find it difficult to discern what David Sullivan’s thread is through this article, but I can understand how our world can discourage us from raising families. Secularism really does bring us face-to-face with mortality, because in such a perspective – we are already dead in a way (notions of St Paul). Might I detect the notion of combining the demographic strength of Islam with the technological achievements of the west? Whose dream would this be? Paradoxically, does the family do any better in a totalitarian theocracy or the old Communist regime? The question is there and we can think about a few possible answers…
Gold, Silver, and Dross looks at the somewhat marginal status of those (including myself) pushing an interest in old liturgical forms. I do have to admit that I do not find this interest among family men or many women. I won’t go into the issue of the 1962 Roman liturgy, because it is simply not my concern. The families go to the Ecclesia Dei / Summorum Pontificem centres or the Society of St Pius X, or they remain conservative members of the more middle-of-the-road Novus Ordo parishes. None of those people have any interest in Sarum or old versions of the Roman rite. Interestingly, we in the ACC have a more “mainstream” parish life with the Anglican Missal, which amounts to the pre Pius XII Roman rite in classical English.
Do I postulate that “the end of the Latin tradition has begun”? I am not sure it ever really began. It is the whole story of Christianity in the old Jewish world and its missions to the Gentiles. The Church had its highest point of influence several centuries after the Peace of Constantine and when the Papacy had become a worldly and political authority, even over all other kingdoms and empires. What do we mean by “Latin tradition”? The entire liturgical tradition that is not Byzantine or Pre-Chalcedonian? The use of the Latin language and reference to classical Latin literature from the pre-Christian era? If I expressed this idea, I regret doing so because I do like to be a little more precise in my expression. The first challenges to the Latin tradition (defined as the western Church and the liturgy in that language) came from the least Latin or Jewish countries: England and Germany. We are not naturally Latin, even if we have been influenced by the Roman and Norman conquests, and have cultivated Latin and Hellenistic culture in our schools and universities. Eventually these northern forces brought the Reformation and its iconoclasm. Perhaps one country very near our culture has grown differently – Orthodox Russia. A good reading of Vladimir Soloviev will help us understand these differences.
So as not to “beat about the bush”, the only traditions with a future are determined by strongly reactionary conservative people who identify with the three Roman Catholic options I mentioned above. That doesn’t mean that they are right, but they prevail in the minority Catholic reactionary movement. Without any pride on my part, I think of the spiritual aristocracy theme, close to Gnosticism, that I have already mentioned which formed a great part of nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian thought. There are some people who just don’t belong to the mainstream world, but have to suffer for it.
I suppose we are indeed condemned to an existence of poor eccentrics, irrelevant to all and faced with our own mortality. We can alternately go along with one mainstream or another, knowing that we will never find our home with them. For me, it is much more than liturgical rites. If I had to join a church and be a simple layman, I would probably go for Methodism rather than Eastern Orthodoxy, something where the worshipping family is intimate and not “corporate” in its spirit (corporate here meaning something that is impersonal and bureaucratic). If I have to give up liturgy, then it is better to do so completely.
I know the argument of the reductio ad absurdam: wanting a liturgical form of one historical era. The question is – Why not go further? Perchè non andare oltre? If we want something from 1911, 1474 or 1350, then we should logically go back to the very beginning of church history. After all, is this not archaeologism, a vice condemned by Pius XII’s Mediator Dei of 1947? Pacelli’s double-edged sword would not only run through those who wanted Mass facing the people, but also those who resisted modern reforms. Was not the Church of England right to enforce the 1662 Prayer Book until it ceded to pressure from the revisers – 1928 to the present day? The same problem is transposed onto another context.
Some of my own thought had been influenced to some extent by my German friends at Fribourg University: Martin Reinecke, Andreas Bröckling and Markus Schulte. Fr Martin continues to help out in parishes (don’t ask me what he uses) and writes articles on the liturgy. Fr Andreas, ordained in something like 1989, ended up as a police chaplain in Germany. Markus Schulte from the Rhineland took on the most radical attitude, one that I had heard before, namely that the Latin liturgical tradition had seen its day and had only to be discarded. He emigrated to Greece, studied in Thessalonika, became Orthodox and married. I don’t know whether he become a priest. I have often heard this theory, and was also struck by the idea expressed by the near-Fascist Italian thinker Julius Evola and paraphrased by Troy Southgate:
Catholics, however, are far too dogmatic and would merely seek to make Tradition “conform” to their own spiritual weltanschauung. This, says Evola, is “placing the universal at the service of the particular.” Furthermore, of course, the anti-modernists who are organised in groups such as The Society of St. Pius X and the Sedavacantist fraternity do not speak with the full weight and authority of the Church. They are, therefore, powerless because “the direction of the Church is a descending and anti-traditional one, consisting of modernisation and coming to terms with the modern world, democracy, socialism, progressivism, and everything else. Therefore, these individuals are not authorised to speak in the name of Catholicism, which ignores them, and should not try to attribute to Catholicism a dignity the latter spurns.” Evola suggests that because the Church is so inadequate, it should be abandoned and left to its ultimate doom. He concludes by reiterating the fact that a State which does not have a spiritual dimension is not a State at all. The only way forward, he argues, is to “begin from a pure idea, without the basis of a proximate historical reference” and await the actualisation of the Traditional current.
Where do we go with this? Evola did not actually support Mussolini’s political system, but sought a kind of perennial tradition from beyond the origins of Christianity. Perhaps the “pure idea” of Christ can be found, identified, isolated and injected into a new cultural context. I have played with that idea too. I would have to read a lot of Evola’s work to get a better understanding. I have read a little René Guénon (he ended up converting to Sufism in Egypt) but his thought can only go so far. Many attempts have been made to do something with “perennial traditionalism”, but they have all come to nothing other than a few books.
Perceptio plays with the idea of Orthodoxy. I set up the Blow-out Department as a venue for people to argue about the use of the western rite under eastern jurisdiction and various other points. In his text, we can observe that he did convert to Orthodoxy and tries to take an original view of it. He speaks of his nostalgia for his western Christian past, but concludes that only the single and childless are concerned for the western liturgy in an Orthodox context. When I saw the Oblivion article about western secularism, the link between two apparently opposing worlds leapt off the computer screen and I saw the connection. Some of us are geared to the future of humanity in a traditional context of some kind, and others of us are out of phase and unable to relate. We are doomed to our own oblivion. What an indictment!
I will say that Orthodox liturgical life has both provided me with some additional perspective on these matters as well as squelched the sense of “crisis” about them. One has a better understanding of what certain figures of the original liturgical movement were after in their proposals. Silent prayers and the use of the vernacular are put into some sober relief. One’s attention is gradually drawn away from the Latin liturgy; the Orthodox liturgical tradition overwhelms and demands much of one’s attention if one wishes to remain liturgically invested. Whether or not this is good is a matter of dispute. Certainly, it leaves little room to act on the occasional nostalgia one feels for one’s former modes of prayer/liturgical observance. One could persist privately and make so doing one’s discipline and observance. Yet, belonging as I do to an Orthodox diocese that has a number of Catholics who migrated away from Rome, one finds the only people who make any such determination are single or childless. Liturgical prayer is inherently corporate prayer. Having made the transition to the Orthodox Church, one finds that family life is the single greatest factor determining the degree to which one’s observance of Orthodox liturgical forms begins to take one’s attention away from classically Catholic observance.
So why not go to our nearest Orthodox parish? We are westerners and live in the west. My friend Markus felt he could not make the step without going to live in Greece and becoming Greek to the greatest extent possible for a German. He married, probably did not become a priest, and no trace of him can be found anywhere (Facebook, etc.). In America’s multicultural society, there are whole ethnical communities where one can integrate, buy a house, send one’s children to school, melt in. I remember visiting a Greek town in Florida, an amazing place. Perhaps in Europe, in the biggest cities like Paris, London or Berlin. Frankly, my becoming Orthodox is not a prospect that interests or stimulates me, any more than returning to Roman Catholicism (in which I spent only fifteen years of my life). The Anglican Catholic Church has given me a canonical basis for continuing in the priesthood, and my connections tend to be by internet, plus a number of Council of Advice meetings and Synod. It is that or nothing, as simple as that. I admit that it is fragile, but without it, I can no longer relate to anything. Check mate.
I married nearly ten years ago, but we were unable to have children. I suppose I fit into the category of “single and childless” eccentrics facing only my own demise and oblivion. The idea brings suffering. Life often seems wasteful and irrational. Perhaps that is a part of Christ’s “pure idea” that is waiting to find its expression. All we can do is wait and discern the divine will, something that seems so elusive and intangible…
I finish with a letter of Fr George Tyyrell that has haunted me since I first read in a couple of weeks ago. It was written to an independent bishop by the name of Vernon Herford who had been consecrated in India and had founded The Church of Divine Love, hoping to make of it a nucleus of Christian reunion.
April 14, 1907 ?
Dear Bishop Herford,
Much ill-health has put me in everybody’s black books, as an infamous correspondent. My lucid intervals are crowded to repletion with neglected work, the struggle with which throws me again. It is a most vicious circle. I wanted much to write to you immediately after your pilgrimage to Storrington, just to explain the fundamental question on which, in spite of so much sympathy, I should find it hard to agree with you. All that I see of myself and others in these troubled times has convinced me that the best way to overcome the lamentable divisions of the Church cannot be to create new divisions; but for all of us to stick fast as far as honesty will stretch to our several communions, and work there for the widening of the conception of Christianity according to the particular exigencies of that communion, in the face of the new enlightenment. Thus it may come to pass that these widening streams may at last debouche in a common ocean. I would not so much mind passing from one of the existing Churches to another as any attempt to add a fresh element to the universal confusion. Frankly, that is why I look a little bit askance at the Church of Divine Love; and would so much rather see you working hand in hand with the liberalism in some of the big communions. God knows it is a slow, cramping, thankless task, but, as a Roman Catholic, I feel that, though I am a small atom, yet I belong to a well-knit universe where everything tells on everything else remotely, perhaps, but far more surely and lastingly. Again, assuming that the magical conception of priestly power is of the past, I feel that the true repository and source of the power of sacred order is the whole community, which acts through and in its appointed organs; that the difference between, say, a Wesleyan minister and myself is that in him it is the Wesleyan, in me it is the Roman, communion which acts and teaches, and blesses. Whom do you stand for? that is the question. Who and how many would acknowledge you as their representative? God s Spirit is immanent in every Christian communion; but in different measure. He is with two or three who are organised into a body; but still more with two or three millions; still more with a continuous, world-wide, world-old organism like the Catholic Churches of East and West. And I feel sure that the spiritual power of a man is proportioned to that of the body whose organ he is. For that reason again I cannot sympathise with your isolation so far as it is not the result of persecution or necessity. I feel I ought to say this to you quite openly. And indeed I do not speak dogmatically, but as one who is groping after truth in so many respects, and can readily make room for other points of view. Only, you seemed from your conversation to have got to somewhat of an impasse and to be searching for some path of greater utility; and to me that path seems to lie in the direction of aggregation to some work already in process, rather than in the inauguration of any new work. The most fruitful workers all feel that they could do more alone, but surely this feeling is just what needs discipline and sacrifice. This comes ill from a rebel like me. Yet God knows how gladly I would keep quiet were I once convinced that to do so were really the interest of the body I serve. There are times when a soldier is bound to disobey if he knows his officer is drunk or mad or misinformed. If his venture succeeds he is crowned; if not, he is shot. I shall probably be shot, “aber ich kann nicht anders”.
The source of agony for the severed branch is finding that the trunk of the tree is gone. Ich kann nicht anders – I can do nothing else. We have arrived at the beginning of November when we celebrate the Saints and the many souls who have gone before us. We have no idea what became of them as we know nothing of what will happen to us. Shot or crowned? There is only faith, hope and love – perhaps the purest idea that ever flowed from the Christian ideal.