Ray Winch, 7th February 1997

By now, I was staying at the guest house of Triors. Ray gives a slightly different angle on his subject of medieval parish worship, criticising Terence Duffy but without giving details (perhaps we might get lucky in his next letter).

* * *

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for your card and subsequent letter of Dec. 28th [1996].

I am glad to learn that you have returned to the Church. I have an instinctive sympathy for the Anglican traditionalists, but I have never had the slightest temptation to join them. It seems to me that the truth or falsity of Christianity depends entirely upon Catholicism. For a very long time I had supposed that Orthodoxy was, in some sense, a continuation of primitive Catholicism. My study of the history of doctrine undertaken over these last 6 or 7 years persuafes me that I was mistaken, eg. During the 10th to 13th centuries the West added much to Christian doctrine. During the 14th century the Greeks, on their own initiative, received most of these Latin innovations which subsequently appeared in all the dogmatic formulations (though they continued to make a fuss about “filioque”). There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church, but a number of national churches and various splinter groups. Not all are in communion with each other. The Bloomians are largely now in the hands of non-ethnic converts. “Hobbyists” abound. There is little discipline, and popular singing and exotic ritual provide a great part of the attraction. At Oxford there is clericalism and a curious kind of liberalism. The Bloomian clergy are active with “hands-of-the-clock” change. At Oxford the Cypriots seem to have noticed this and seldom care. I doubt if they appreciate Mass largely in fem-speke. There also seems to have been some kind of a local schism over who runs the choir. But I think that I have told you these things before. I have distanced myself from it all.

I am interested in the liturgical conference in France which you mentioned. However, I am a near monoglot. I can manage to read clearly composed French and liturgical Latin. Unfortunately that is about my lot. Also it would need to be inexpensive. Travel, etc. has, for an Englishman, become much more expensive than it was even eight years ago. Even the fare to Paris by the cheapest route is now more than twice what it was when I last went in ’88. However I could manage the cost if it were otherwise worthwhile. What do you think?

Publishing my articles in French? Obviously what I sent you were only exceedingly rough accounts of what I have in mind. I will not attempt to put my matter into presentable form until I know a little about the potential readership. I would hope to provide a type script.

(i) “Worship in English Catholic Churches before 1952”. This I would do entirely from memory – the memory of a youth who had some background knowledge and who lived in London. I often attended liturgical offices in Westminster Cathedral. I remember cycling considerable distances in search of a church where there might, at least, be Sunday Vespers. (Now, in spite of a new rite and the vernacular, things remain much as they were before – except that there are now far fewer participants.)

(ii) “Daily Worship in an English Medieval Parish Church”

My information comes from primary sources, though I would add a little guided guess work closely based on these sources. There would need to be a brief treatment of the clergy serving a parish church: the impossibility of strict rubricism, etc. I would wish to include reasons for maintaining that even the illiterate could, after a fashion, follow even most of the choir office. Then, perhaps, one or two matters which emerge. (a) Public liturgical prayer and the minimal sufficiency of the deed done with the right intention. (b) vicarious prayer and worship.

A few writers seem to have been aware of some of my evidence. However, presumably because they lack experience of public worship in a liturgical language, they are ill at ease with the subject and pass over much – sometimes making obvious blunders as they go. Even Duffy is strangely reticent in this field. Perhaps Duffy had not had the opportunity to attend week day Office in a Greek village. (I do make some use of the comparative method.)

Once again the Newman Society organized a Sarum High Mass in the choir of Merton. This year it was for the Purification with ceremonies and a procession. There was a large congregation which included a number of Catholic priests. In my judgement it was done too fussily to find much favour. It lasted over two hours. A choir sang elaborate music and, accordingly, a few of the adstantes insisted on singing the responses against the official choir. One of the three processional crosses became entangled with a pendant electric light, etc.

I hope that you are content with life in the monastery. I would enjoy it; though obviously you may have difficulties of what I know nothing. My own personal problem is that I am unable to discipline my daily life. I have insufficient will power to deal adequately with small matters. When I had the fixed hours of the job at the Union Library (Dec. ’95 – Oct. ’96) I was enormously happy. Now I am not. I do less academic work now than I did then. I wish that I could be a custodian at a place like Downside. Robert Stephen Mundi is, in some manner, around. He is using my address, but living surreptitiously in an office in the City and doing some work for a City church. His terrific intelligence, enormous self-confidence and ability to do without possessions are staggering, at least I find them so. I suppose that few others know how he tended Ronald Head – the aged vicar dying from cancer.

I am in the history library. I read “the people would not have understood the service because it was in Latin, but they would have known what type of feast it was from the colour of the priest’s chasuble. This is nearly as anachronistic as that Hamilton fellow whose description of Holy Saturday in the Middle Ages is an account of the new rite of 1950! I await the opportunity to read “Most people leaving church bought a copy of the current ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ to read after Sunday dinner”.

Vale, Ray

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ray Winch, 7th February 1997

  1. Ryan says:

    What were the innovations the Greeks adopted in the 14th century? Does he lay that out anywhere?

    • From the context, he was talking about doctrinal expressions and teachings, which from the time might have been subject to some influence from Thomism and RC scholasticism. Now, please don’t shoot me down because I am not affirming this, and don’t have time to go through too many Greek theological authors from that time. Dear old Ray had his heart in the right place, but I think he worked quite sloppily and became tired very easily. If I come across any examples of scholastic theology in Greek Orthodoxy, I’ll post it up on this blog. Perhaps Dale might have some insight with his studies at St Sergius.

      • William Tighe says:

        Scholasticism had a HUGE influence on Greek theology in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries (and even in some ways right down well into the 20th Century); even Gregory Palamas read (and was influenced by) Aquinas. Mark Eugenicus (Mark of Ephesus) the great, and at first the only, outspoken, opponent of the (in the event, ephemeral) union achieved at the Council of Florence, was certainly not an opponent of “scholasticism” per se, and was well-read in both Aquinas and Scotus. George Gennadios Scholarios (c. 1400-1473), a friend of Mark, who supported the Union at Florence, but subsequently turned against it, and who was made Patriarch of C’ple by Mehmed II in 1454 and served as such for three separate periods between 1454 and 1465, once described Aquinas as one who would have been the greatest of all Christian theologians had he only been Orthodox.

        A good case has been made that Orthodox (Greek) arguments against the Immaculate Conception were in large measure taken from Aquinas; and the Roman Catholic priest-scholar Christiaan Kappes (a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who did a Roman doctorate in scholastic theiology and is currently completing a doctorate in Greek patristic theology under the supervision of an Orthodox bishop-scholar at the University of Athens, and who is currently Academic Dean of SS Cyril & Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary) has written a fascinating book


        in which he argues that the Scotist understanding of the IC is virtually identical with that of Palamas, Nicholas Cabasilas, Joseph Byrennius, Mark Eugenicus, and Scholarios. I have read the book; it is absolutely fascinating – and one section, a real tour de force, is written in the exact form of a medieval scholastic scholastic (15.0, pp. 170-180).

        Quite inexpensive copies of the book can be found online, as also can more summary statements of Fr. Kappes’ “thesis” delivered as conference papers and/or as articles. Simply google up Christiaan Kappes (Fr. Christiaan W. Kappes); and it may be that parts of the book can be read here:


        All of this “Greek Orthodox scholasticism” came under heavy attack by the “school” of Vladimir Lossky, his students, disciples, and emulators, some of whom categorize (and dismiss) it under the term “the Western captivity of Orthodox theology.”

  2. Timothy Graham says:

    I can’t find it at the moment but I’m sure I skimmed a lengthy on-line essay within the last few months, debunking the notion that the Orthodox weren’t systematic and didn’t have their own version of theological scholasticism that shared a great deal with the Latin West , stemming in part from John Damascene.

    Here is something from the Eastern Christian Books blog:


    …but the article I read was much much longer.

  3. Ryan says:

    I do think the standard modern Orthodox polemic against scholasticism is overblown, and does ignore the influence that many Orthodox writers took from scholasticism, as well as a certain native semi-scholasticism stemming from St. John Damascene. On the other hand nothing I’ve seen from St Gregory Palamas et al is stylistically very similar to the Summa, even if some lines of argument are borrowed from it. The exhaustive exploration of problems doesn’t seem to be much of a concern. Re: “western captivity”, Lossky et al are usually referring to a later period where Orthodox theologians were heavily and directly dependent on Latin materials (Catholic and later Lutheran) due to the relative inaccessibility of ancient Greek patristic sources. Of course Russia’s Old Believers tend to date the beginning of the Greeks’ slide into heresy from the Fourth Crusade when they supposedly adopted various Latin practices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s