Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Earth's Light and Jubilee.

Driving from one place to another in South Manchester yesterday, I passed the Church of Saint John Chrysostom, Victoria Park. Saint John's is the Parish of the student halls of residence, for want of a more accurate description although it is doubtful that students from the more conservative, Opus Dei halls attend services here much. However, the door was open and a sign proclaimed its openness for looking around and praying, rather than an impending funeral. Having twenty minutes, in I went.

Saint John's is a member of Affirming Catholicism, which means that they are keen on Catholic practice but accept the ministry of female priests. Make of that what you will, I have neither the energy nor the will for argument on this Tuesday afternoon in the cold as I try and write an essay. Suffice to say, it is not somewhere I regularly worship although it is somewhere that many people do regularly worship, which is good, and it was also open for me to drop in and say my prayers today. I am sure it does a lot of good to many people.

For those who reject the idea of discipline from their orthodoxy there is abandonment by the Church Catholic and eventually rejection by the Anglican Communion when it becomes what the neo liberals are pushing it into becoming. The fulness of the Catholic faith, handed by Christ to the Apostles, is not handed on to another generation by selecting from a pick and mix counter of orthodoxy. I don't like the pink shrimp of obedience to the ancient councils and the teachings of those who knew Christ as Man, (because they do not fit into my view of how the world and God would be, myself clearly knowing best) so I will take two lemon sherbets of vestments and incense. Maybe I am unfair, but I have problems with the pink shrimps now and again as well, sometimes a glass of calvados helps it down.

You can see here that they have removed the first row of the choir stalls, to great success, allowing more freedom of movement in the Sanctuary and a more pleasing line of vision. On the other side, they have created an unusually large redundant space behind the altar table. My apologies for the dark pictures. It was, as it often is at half past two, getting dark.

The shrine to Our Lady. I enjoyed lighting a candle here, in the semi darkness, feeling prayerful in the still air. I was reminded of a paragraph in Troilus and Criseyde,

'Nor other cure canstow noon for me.
Eek I nil not be cured, I wol deye;
What knowe I of the quene Niobe?
Lat be thyne olde ensaumples, I thee praye.'
'No', quod the Pandarus, 'therfore I seye,
Swich is delyt of foles to biwepe
Hir wo, but seken bote they ne kepe'.


'Nor can you find another cure for me.
Moreover, I will die, do what you may.
What know I of a Queen called Niobe?
Spare me your old examples, I you pray.'
Pandarus then answered, 'No, that's why I say
A fool delights to weep over his woes,
And any hope of remedy forgoes. (Book 1, 109).

Notwithstanding Criseyde's Uncle Pandarus and the peculiar place they find themselves in, nor any of the pantheon of Greek legend (is there a happier opening line of a book than 'aegis bearing Zeus'?) for that concerns us not, in Victoria Park in a Church near a kebab shop (run by Turks, not Greeks), let us assume Niobe is Mary, a Queen called 'immaculate'. A fool delights to weep over his sorrows, loosing, in the same action, the chance of a way out of them. Affirming Catholics would do well to remember that it is their turn next, when the guillotine of neo liberalism comes looking for a vestige of the old faith. Here, anyway, I wept not over my sorrows, but undertook to light a candle and, forgoing old examples, a joss stick (for such was available) in front of the statue of the Queen.

Christ died, come what may, because he chose to. There were no old examples and the Queen called Mary stood by Him as He died, as you may just be able to make out here in this picture of the crucifixion taken in the gloaming. Neither she nor Saint John had time to weep over their woes, but kept looking to the rising sun for hope and justification for their faith. Death was the only cure for the human condition, the state of life, which established a Church of God, built on the sacraments offered by Christ and on the twelve men he ordained to continue the sacrifice that brings life to the world.

As an interesting aside, I wonder if an of our readers recognise these stations? They are the same as the ones at Saint Augustine's Tonge Moor, Bolton. I wonder who produced them? Roger may know.

IN what torn ship so ever I embark,
That ship shall be my emblem of Thy ark ;
What sea soever swallow me, that flood
Shall be to me an emblem of Thy blood ;
Though Thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face, yet through that mask I know those eyes,
Which, though they turn away sometimes,
They never will despise.

I sacrifice this island unto Thee,
And all whom I love there, and who loved me ;
When I have put our seas 'twixt them and me,
Put thou Thy seas betwixt my sins and Thee.
As the tree's sap doth seek the root below
In winter, in my winter now I go,
Where none but Thee, the eternal root
Of true love, I may know.

Nor Thou nor Thy religion dost control
The amorousness of an harmonious soul ;
But Thou wouldst have that love Thyself ; as Thou
Art jealous, Lord, so I am jealous now ;
Thou lovest not, till from loving more Thou free
My soul ; Who ever gives, takes liberty ;
Oh, if Thou carest not whom I love,
Alas ! Thou lovest not me.

Seal then this bill of my divorce to all,
On whom those fainter beams of love did fall ;
Marry those loves, which in youth scatter'd be
On fame, wit, hopes—false mistresses—to Thee.
Churches are best for prayer, that have least light ;
To see God only, I go out of sight ;
And to escape stormy days, I choose
An everlasting night.

John Donne, A hymn to Christ, at the Author's last going into Germany.

In the chapel of reservation is this statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. As I sat there reading my midday prayers the lights came on and I was able to see that I was in a splendid room. I can't say I saw a heavenly city, a New Jerusalem, but the effect was not dissimilar.

The ship shall be the emblem of my ark, said Donne and I often think that a ship would be a good shape for a tabernacle, the emblem and reality of our ark of the covenant, the certainty of the new covenant. When the Bishop of Blackburn asked me what the minimum Catholic requirement for me in a new Parish was, I said simply, (both of us knowing my ecclesiological stance) a tabernacle, or aumbry, call it what you will, but let it be reverenced and used. Let it be known what is inside. All my interests, my personal preferences, my hobby of translating the Mass into Anglo Saxon, walks in the woods and Van Morrison, even Palestrina, even real ale (!) take no part if there is the ark of the covenant, God with us. The eternal rather than the temporal.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.