Tuesday, 27 January 2009

An Interesting Day.

Walking to Church this morning down Whittaker Lane I detected a note of gloom in the air, compounded by the drizzle and the forecast for more. Business is down for most retailers in the local area and there is a bug going round which brushed past me yesterday in a final day of illness after a week of grogginess. Even the cafe in Church has noticed a couple of quiet days recently, but still peoples generosity is overwhelming, above you can see some of the Epiphany gifts ready for blessing on Sunday at the beginning of Mass, the flower ladies are bustling around with great sheaves of lilies and Frank at Catholic Liturgicals is pricing up an order for a purple High Mass set, after receiving his usual sheets of detailed instructions!

The Asperges would usually not be used from now until Lent at Saint Hilda's, when we hope to use our new vestments, but this Sunday will begin with a procession and the Asperges, for the dual purposes of the usual reasons for the rite and to bless the candles we give out on Candlemas. I must email Tim, our Organist and remind him. A previous organist used to read this blog and became so confused by the liturgical ramblings he would turn up in a fractious state muttering darkly about 'new ceremonies'.

Reading the Gregorian Rite and the Old Catholic Rite of noted spawner of lunacy Arnold Harris Mathew recently and mulling over the recent SSPX excitements my mind has been turning to unity, on what grounds and with whom. If liturgy alone was a deciding factor of unity, I should be hearing the Liturgy of Saint James on a regular basis, but it is not. Specifically I have been thinking about the point made by Edward Schillebeeckx in 'Jesus, an experiment in Christology' where he tries to decide at which point after the death of Christ did the Apostles feel themselves to be in a 'living and present fellowship with Jesus', with them as teachers and propagandists of the Word and at some point to return as the Son of Man. Schillebeeckx offers a model of a community of faith based on personal, faith motivated experience and the shared experience of an eschatological faith, this fits in neatly with, let us say, the road to Emmaus and the upper room experiences, particularly in the 'laus in choro' effect on the Apostles after each happening. They were relieved of anxiety and brought to praise God together but also publically, in contrast to the conversion of Paul, which is also of value to us as a narrative, particularly after this years of grace, as the personal and immediate conversion is followed by a full, active participation in and leadership of the new communion to which he belongs. The experience of Paul gives hope for those who feel personally and individually moved to enter a change of life, maybe by moving to another Communion. The experience of the Apostles gives us a valuable insight into a community when hope is lost and gradually, through communal and individual grace, regained a hundredfold.

I wonder what will become of us? We are not living in the dark days of the Apostles after the death of Christ, the dark days even after the resurrection when the teachings of Jesus seemed to leave the men incapable of doing anything except run away and hide. As I have said before, they were legging it as fast as they could to Emmaus and the upper room was not furnished with a board giving times of Mass outside and contact details. Yet into those places came Christ and the Spirit of God and changes their lives and, gracefully, the course of History.

Mary Magdala is the first to use the 'fatic code' as the Biblical structuralists call her recognition of the 'gardener' as Jesus. He says 'Mary' and she says 'Rabboni', spiritual contact with Jesus, a recognition of Him (as He was recognised in the breaking of the bread by the lakeside and in probings by Thomas) , ruptured by death, has been restored. Death has not shattered living communication with Jesus, I particularly resist using the word (and the fact of) resurrection, because this applies after the Ascension as well, it is not a concept limited to corporeal contact, only Thomas needed this. Jesus continues to offer His followers, after His death, a fellowship belonging to and constituting life. This is at the heart of my devotion to the Church of England - that it historically and presently offers, through the Mass, through now the brave few who continue fighting for this - fellowship in a personal and corporate way with Christ. The fatic code is inherent in every one of our Churches, in the Tabernacle, on the altar and in the Sacraments, the authentic contact of Christ is there, in as close a way as He inspired and taught as can be managed. Not only that, we offer a personalised experience of a fatic code, referring directly to the experience of the twenty first century English subject. This is worth preserving.

This formula that we profess, coming from the Apostles, that 'Christ is risen and dwells among us' is a unifying formula which binds together every person who shares an authentic apostolic faith. As Paul tells the Thessalonians, we believe that Jesus is risen and we are waiting for His Son. This news, this formula, has inspired me, by the grace of God, to seek ordination in this communion at this time. It has wrought change within me (change you can believe in!) and has sent me, demonstrably, leaving the upper room and preaching openly that this Good News is shared and disseminated from this Church. We all feel this and react in a similar way, I feel. Once again though, when the winds of time filled the upper room and anointed the Apostles heads, they all had been connected to Christ, individually, by the fatic code, at the time and in the way which was right for them. Then they all, filled with the Spirit of God went out. Together. And renewed the face of the earth.