"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Motivation in the Vatican Gym!

A superb cartoon by my friend M.B. Hwang. Ms. Hwang drew this cartoon in homage to a mutual friend of ours, "F." "F" wanted to begin an exercise program, but lacked proper motivation. The cardinal's red hat would be just the ticket to get him moving! Click on the image for a better view.

The image is copyrighted by M.B. Hwang, and is used here with her permission. Please contact the artist here for permission to reproduce. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Corpus Christi Sunday at Calvert House, U of C

The Calvert House community (i.e., Roman Catholic campus ministry) at the University of Chicago, relaxing after Corpus Christi Mass this morning. Several of these good people are friends of mine (as is the photographer, M.B. Hwang). Calvert House has a lively worship life and intellectual atmosphere, the latter especially because the Lumen Christi Institute is based there. Despite its obvious attractions, however, I somehow managed to avoid swimming the Tiber over my six year stay at the University! I assume that is because God still has some work for me to do within the Anglican Communion. A blessed feast of the Body of Christ to all my RC friends. Posted by Hello

State of the Clergy

The 2003 report "State of the Clergy" in ECUSA is still worth having a look at here. Take note of the graphs. If it should please God, Bishop Iker and the Commission on Ministry that I be ordained in a couple of years (and that is certainly "ify"), at 43 years of age I would still be younger by FOUR YEARS than the average ordinand in ECUSA! Astonishing. I would like to see the break downs on ordinations in the Network in the last two years. My impression is that the clergy of the diocese of Fort Worth are among the youngest on average in the nation. Is that true elsewhere among classical Anglicans?

Benedict Pledges to Mend Orthodox Rift


BARI, Italy (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI visited this eastern Italian port on his first papal trip Sunday and pledged to make healing the 1,000-year-old rift with the Orthodox church a "fundamental" commitment of his papacy.

Benedict made the pledge in a city closely tied to the Orthodox church. Bari, on Italy's Adriatic coast, is considered a "bridge" between East and West and is home to the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century saint who is one of the most popular in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Benedict referred to Bari as a "land of meeting and dialogue" with the Orthodox in his homily at a Mass that closed a national religious conference. It was his first pilgrimage outside Rome since being elected the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19.

Words aren't enough, he said, adding that "concrete gestures" were needed even from ordinary Catholics to reach out toward the Orthodox. “I also ask all of you to decisively take the path of spiritual ecumenism, which in prayer will open the door to the Holy Spirit who alone can create unity," he said. Benedict has said previously that reaching out to the Orthodox and other Christians would be a priority of his papacy, and his call to ordinary Catholics to take the charge as well built on that agenda.

Although a brief, three-hour visit, the trip was Benedict's inaugural pastoral pilgrimage and showed he was following in the much-traveled footsteps of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
... In his greetings at the start of the Mass, Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari referred to the city's Orthodox ties, saying the arrival of St. Nicholas' bones in 1057 "built a bridge between the East and West that neither time nor divisions have ever demolished."

"Even in these days, many brothers of the eastern churches have been united with us, encouraging us to continue with renewed commitment and enthusiasm on the path of prayer and ecumenical dialogue," the archbishop said.In a bid to improve relations, the Vatican's top ecumenical official, Cardinal Walter Kasper, proposed this week at the Bari conference to hold a synod, or meeting of Catholic and Orthodox bishops, news reports said.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tower Brick Work Complete!

The brick work is now completed on the new bell tower at St. Vincent's Cathedral. I am not sure what will be done with the exposed tar paper "windows" (will they be cut out and left open or filled in with another material?). It won't we long now until the sound of bells calls us to worship! Posted by Hello

More Details on the Clown Eucharist at Trinity Wall Street

The bulletin for the clown Eucharist at Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, NYC, is available here. Have a look. No creed was said (on TRINITY SUNDAY!), but there was open communion for non-Christians. Lovely pictures.

You can WATCH the entire thing here! The service had no spoken words until the closing hymn--it was MIMED, including the lessons, the sermon, and the EUCHARISTIC PRAYER. The circus music needs to be heard to be appreciated, pariticularly in a Gothic church. The thurifer blew bubbles instead of offering incense. The congregation had noise makers. Lord, have mercy.

Thanks to Fr. Chris Cantrell at www.apostolicity.blogspot.com for calling attention to the bulletin on his fine blog. Ron Turner clued me in on the video feed. Thank you, gentlemen.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nashotah Commencement Sermon

Canon Harmon has posted the text of Canon Heidt's sermon last weekend at Nashotah House here. It is well worth reading. Canon Heidt is canon theologian to the bishop of Fort Worth. The sermon is a fine reflection on priestly vocation. An excerpt:

"Looking back over the years, we come to realize that, apart from a few highlights here and there, our life and ministry has been mostly a failure. But then, with God’s grace, the light may begin to dawn, and we realize that it was for all this that we were ordained. We were ordained for failure. Now this in no way excuses the failures of the lazy, the indifferent, and the careless. But it is a warning to the industrious, the eager and the caring that though God uses all our abilities and talents, our efforts and energies to further His work, it was not for these that we were ordained.

We were ordained to live our lives on the sacrificial cross of disappointments and frustration, of criticism and contradiction, of exhaustion and personal suffering which we all bear in one way or another - because this is the cross which when high and lifted up will draw all people to Him and away from us - a cross forged by nothing less than the divine love among the persons of the Blessed Trinity worked out in the flesh of our humanity under the pain of our sinfulness. It is in our sinful flesh that the Lord will be high and lifted up – and nowhere else. It is in us that the people of this world will come to know Jesus, if they come to know Him at all.

The truth was driven home to me shortly after I was ordained. I was walking along Milwaukee’s Third Avenue between Wells and Wisconsin, in my brand new black suit and shiny white collar, when two little boys passed by me, street urchins really, and as they passed one looked up and said, “Hello Church.” And from that moment I knew who I was and always would be. Wherever I would go, whatever I would do, whatever I would say, for the people of this world I would always be their vision of the church. In me the world would know the church as either aggressive or gracious, arrogant or humble, self-serving or self-effacing, ambitious or sacrificial and simple."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2005

Preached at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church, Bedford, Texas.

"Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." From the First Book of Moses. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.” That will make you sit up and take notice, won’t it? We twenty-first century Americans are no longer used to claims of absolute Truth. You and I live in a world that celebrates diversity and is wary of uniformity, especially in matters of belief. In this post-modern age the idea that there might be a single, ultimate Truth is increasingly seen as old-fashioned, simple-minded, or perhaps even dangerous. Any opinion may be held as a personal belief, as long as we don’t claim it is actually the “Truth” (with a capital “T”). You have your truth, based upon your unique genetic inheritance, cultural background and personal experiences, while I have my truth, also unique and equally valid. Recently Pope Benedict gave this post-modern mindset a name. He aptly called it “the dictatorship of relativism.”

Yet this morning we are haunted by words from a very different age. For centuries Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans have recited the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday, and here at St. Vincent’s we continue that tradition today. And make no mistake about it, the Athanasian Creed does not shy away from truth claims. The claims it makes are exclusive and they are total. Since 500 A.D. this Creed has insisted that the Catholic Faith be kept “whole and undefiled,” lest those who stray from it “perish everlastingly.” No mincing of words here. Nothing less than the eternal fate of souls—salvation or damnation--hangs upon its carefully chosen and finely balanced phrases. Now I will be the first to admit that some lines of the Athanasian Creed make me feel a bit squeamish. Yet it is profoundly important that we engage these ancient words together on this holy day and that we take them to heart. The Holy Trinity lies at the core of our Christian faith, and this Creed has been the touchstone of Trinitarian doctrine for over a millennium. It is wisdom of the ages. We ignore it at our peril.

Doubtless the number of parishes where the Athanasian Creed is recited on Trinity Sunday shrinks every year. Admittedly, it is a bit long and repetitive, and some of the phrases sound rather odd to modern ears. But I suspect the main reason this Creed has fallen from favor is its exclusive tone. “This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.” People hear that sentence today and are immediately confronted with the “good Buddhist” problem. What about a devout, kind-hearted Buddhist woman who has never heard the Gospel? If she lives a morally upright life, will God really damn her to Hell for not believing in a Christ she hasn’t even heard about? Is that what the Athanasian Creed is really means?

No. The Athanasian Creed was not composed to address the salvation of those who have never known our Lord Jesus. Christ is the world’s only Savior, but the salvation He wrought is greater than our feeble minds can comprehend. The Church has always recognized that God is free to apply the saving grace of Christ’s cross and empty tomb any way He chooses. That is why we pray here every Sunday for “those who have died in the hope of the resurrection, and those whose faith is known to [God] alone.” The souls of righteous non-Christians are in the hands of a loving and merciful Creator. The Book of Life is entrusted to the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. It is not our place to take a census of Heaven. You and I cannot know the eternal fate of the “good Buddhist.” We can hope and we can pray, but we cannot know what God intends for her.

There is, however, something that you and I do know with absolute certitude: those who hold to the Catholic Faith--those who have repented of their sin, renounced Satan, turned to Jesus Christ in faith and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior--those who have been baptized into Holy Mother Church and have partaken of Christ’s precious Body and Blood--they will be with God and enjoy Him forever. Now that is TRUTH in all capital letters! And that is what the Athanasian Creed is really about—the only saving Truth the world has even known. This Creed explains and clarifies our Christian Faith so we may know and worship God our Savior as He truly is, One God in Three Persons. It reminds us that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the very foundation of our Faith.

God’s magnificent work of creation and redemption can only be properly understood in light of the mystery of the Trinity. The God of Heaven and Earth is not some distant abstraction of philosophers. He is not an impenetrable “Oneness.” Rather, the one true God is a God for whom relationship is central to His very being. Remember, St. John tells us that “God is Love.” John isn’t talking about some namby-pamby “feeling”. He means that the bond of Love within the Godhead Itself, the bond between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, is a Love that cannot be contained. This Trinitarian Love is the fount from which the whole of Creation springs. This is the divine love that the Creator built into our DNA—the love we are meant to return to God with all our hearts and souls and minds. It is the love of the Trinity that brought the eternally-begotten Son of God to the manger in Bethlehem, to the tomb of Lazarus, to a Roman cross at Golgotha. It is the love of the Trinity that rolled away the stone and brought forth “the first fruits from the dead.”

“Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our likeness,” the triune God said within Himself at the dawn of time. You and I were meant to be icons of the Living God, with the self-giving love of the Trinity imprinted on our souls, our Creator’s glory radiating from our very being. With the Fall of our First Parents in the Garden of Eden, however, the likeness of God within us became mired with sin and obscured in darkness. But God the Son, through whom all things were made, would not abide the destruction of His self-portrait within us. Becoming incarnate as our Savior Jesus Christ, the Great Artist Himself restored our likeness to Him, painting His divine image afresh in our hearts and minds and souls with the Blood of Calvary, making us shine with the new light of Easter.

In Christ’s sacrificial life and death, we see at once both the all-consuming Love at the heart of the Trinity and a flawless humanity that mirrors the divine nature completely. Christ’s perfected humanity now sits at the right hand of the Father and fully participates in the life of the everlasting Trinity. This is the image of Christ to which you and I are being conformed by the power the Holy Spirit. This is the divine Love we will take into ourselves in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. This is the Triune God you and I will be with and enjoy forever! Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Send in the Clowns!!

This is simply too much to believe. Trinity Episcopal Church in NYC--the famous and powerful Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street--is going to have a CLOWN EUCHARIST this Sunday. Yes, a CLOWN Eucharist on Trinity Sunday. Read it all here. What more is there to say?

Kyrie eleison.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Panel of Reference

Readers of this blog may remember that when the Primates of the Anglican Communion meet two months ago they asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to create a "Panel of Reference" to deal with North American parishes that were at odds with their diocesan bishops over recent events in ECUSA. Now the Panel is being formed under the leadership of Australian Archbishop Carnely. His interview with "The Living Church" will not be encouraging to many US orthodox Anglicans, however. Here is a sample:

The Panel of Reference will be an independent body, Archbishop Carnley said. It will offer pastoral advice and mediation. It is not an adversarial processes leading to a judgment. It will work with some of the differences experienced by parishes, dioceses, and provinces. Services will be offered to a national church at the request of its Primate. Participation will be voluntary.

In cases when an alternative bishop has been requested, Archbishop Carnley prefers to think of it as “alternative episcopal ministry” rather than “alternative episcopal oversight.” The diocesan bishop still has jurisdiction, but another bishop will provide ministry to the parish, diocese, or province in question.

So the Panel, which will only meet as a group once per year, will not be able to order a solution to the difficulties in any given situation. It will simply try to get the parties to talk to each other some more. But this emphasis on "talk, talk, talk" is pretty much how we got into this mess in the first place, isn't it? The revisionists have been "talking" their way to victory after victory for decades. And please note: the Panel will only become involved when Presiding Bishop Griswold asks it to do so!!! And if the Panel is volutary, cannot the diocesan bishop simply refuse to participate? It is difficult for me to see how this Panel will solve anything. Sigh.

Read the entire article here.

Roman Catholics and Anglicans on the BVM

I have not yet been able to locate the full text of the recent agreed statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Canon Harmon at Titusonenine, on the other hand, has already posted the key passages on his blog (his blog is excellent, btw). Read them here. Just scroll up after you click to read the text above the comments.

My own feeling about the statement is that it is a pretty good start. More than 95% of the text, apparently, is fairly non-controversial stuff. RCs and Anglicans agree that Mary, the Theotokos, plays a key role in salvation history, that she is exemplary for us in her faithfulness, etc. The key questions are the divisive issues of the RC dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Here the report agrees that these teachings are "consonant" with Scripture, which I take to mean that they are not contradictory to the teachings of the Bible.

But that is not really news. The Bible simply says nothing (or virtually nothing, depending on how you interpret the "full of grace" question) about these teachings. I am willing to say that neither is CONTRARY to Scripture (though St Paul's statement that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" does make me a bit concerned about the IC ). It is clear to me that the BVM was venerated as "all holy" from a very early stage in Church history, so I do not dismiss the IC out of hand, but the way the 19th century bull defined the IC reflects later, medieval developments and not the ancient Church's language. Still, I am fine with the idea that God graced Mary in a special way to be the Mother of our Savior. Therefore I find this quote from the report very interesting:

"It is not so much that Mary lacks something which other human beings ‘have’, namely sin, but that the glorious grace of God filled her life from the beginning. The holiness which is our end in Christ (cf. 1 John 3:2-3) was seen, by unmerited grace, in Mary, who is the prototype of the hope of grace for humankind as a whole. According to the New Testament, being ‘graced’ has the connotation of being freed from sin through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 1:6-7). The Scriptures point to the efficacy of Christ’s atoning sacrifice even for those who preceded him in time (cf. 1 Peter 3:19, John 8:56, 1 Corinthians 10:4). Here again the eschatological perspective illuminates our understanding of Mary’s person and calling. In view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One (Luke 1:35), we can affirm together that Christ’s redeeming work reached ‘back’ in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings. This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture."

I am more comfortable with the Assumption. The absence of any ancient church community claiming to have the relics of Mary in their possession is pretty good support for the Dormition/Assumption of the BVM. If Elijah and Enoch could "walk with the Lord" in a special way at their departure from this life, then surely the Theotokos could! More later when I can read the full report. Be sure to read the excerpts above. They are important. God bless. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Progress on the new St. Vincent's bell tower has been swift this week. It looks like we may be only two weeks from its completion! Thanks be to God! Posted by Hello

Monday, May 16, 2005

Our Galaxy and our atoms

This is a fairly interesting site from FSU. Click on the "auto" function.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Twelve bishops at ACN Eucharist

This is a photograph of the concluding Mass of the Anglican Communion Network's annual meeting, which St. Vincent's Cathedral hosted in late April. This was a major event. There were twelve bishops concelebrating (Bishop Iker of Fort Worth was the chief celebrant). Among these twelve bishops were two leaders from the "Anglican diaspora," groups that have left communion with ECUSA over doctrinal differences in the past. One of the major goals of the ACN is to restore unity among orthodox Anglicans of all kinds in North America, both those within and those outside of ECUSA at present. It was a glorious night! Thanks be to God!

More pictures may be found here Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Benedict XVI "fast tracks" sainthood investigation of John Paul II

From today's NY Times:

ROME, May 13 - Pope Benedict XVI said today that he had decided to forego the rules of the Roman Catholic Church and immediately put his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on the road to potential sainthood.

The pope's announcement effectively dispensed with a church law that requires a five-year waiting period before beatification cases can be opened, and thus put John Paul, who made more saints than all other popes combined, on the sainthood fast track.

Benedict's brief statement, made in Latin to a group of priests gathered at St John's Basilica on the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt against John Paul, also set off a long round of applause.

That outpouring of affection is indicative of the wave of advocacy for John Paul's beatification, the last step before sainthood, that has swept over Rome and much of the Church since his death on April 2.

During the John Paul's funeral, the faithful waved banners and chanted calls for the Polish pope to be made a saint right away while Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, seemed to hint at John Paul's saintliness when he said, "We can be sure that our beloved pope is now at the window of the house of the Father, and he sees us and he blesses us."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Vatican praises Lambeth Commission report

The Vatican has recently released a statement praising the actions of the Anglican Communion has taken to deal with the present crisis in ECUSA.

"The Windsor Report presents an ecclesiology which has broad similarities with that set forward in ARCIC’s agreed statements, and proposes various practical steps to situate the autonomy of Anglican provinces more clearly within the interdependence of the Anglican Communion. In February of 2005, the Anglican Primates endorsed The Windsor Report, and reiterated that the Anglican Communion’s teaching about human sexuality remains that stated at the Lambeth Conference of 1998, which affirmed the traditional Christian understanding of marriage and human sexuality.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is of the opinion that these developments affirm the general thrust and conclusions of the understanding of the nature of the Church put forward in the ARCIC dialogue to this point, and that this provides a foundation for continued dialogue and ecumenical co-operation."

Westminster Gospels

Westminster Psalter, ca. 1200. British Library, London.

"After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald." (Rev 4:1-3) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bell tower brick work is moving along nicely

As you can see, the brick work on St. Vincent's new bell tower's support building is now done. They had also laid bricks up to about twenty feet on the bell tower itself as of Wednesday afternoon, though they have skipped filling in the tower's docorative elements for the time being. Finally, the ultimate form of the bell tower is starting to take shape! Posted by Hello

Pope Benedict XVI on the Papacy

“In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presents him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith [.] … The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2000, page 166).

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bishop Iker on the ACN meeting here

April 22, 2005

The annual meeting of the Anglican Communion Network was held at St. Vincent’s Cathedral this past week, where the continuing theme was the importance of missionary outreach and the planting of new churches. There are 10 member dioceses of the Network, five geographical convocations, and a non-geographical convocation for members of Forward in Faith. Delegates to the meeting represented 800 clergy, 1,000 congregations, and over 190,000 communicants of the Episcopal Church. The Network was formed following actions of the 2003 General Convention that are contrary to the teaching of the worldwide Anglican Communion on sexual morality and the authority of Scripture.

The meeting expressed appreciation for the leadership of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in addressing the divisions we are facing over these issues and called upon the Episcopal Church "to repent of its actions which have alienated the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion." A message was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury imploring him immediately to organize the Panel of Reference called for by the Primates to help ensure the protection of beleaguered parishes and clergy of the Episcopal Church who find themselves in revisionist dioceses and are being persecuted for their orthodox views. In addition, delegates criticized the decision of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church to send a full delegation to the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as "further evidence of the arrogance of the church and a direct refusal to comply with the letter and spirit of the Primates’ Communiqué" of February.

Special greetings were faxed to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, whose election was announced on the first morning of the Network meeting. As Cardinal Ratzinger, the new Pope had sent a special letter of encouragement and support to the inaugural meeting of the Network in Plano in 2003. This letter has been posted on our diocesan Web site.

In other actions, the Network pledged to support and stand by six congregations in the Diocese of Connecticut where the Bishop is attempting to remove the rectors because of the their orthodox positions and to continue to work to build formal relationships with the Anglican jurisdictions not currently in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and to work for structural unity with them.

A Windsor Action Covenant was adopted to serve as a guide to those who are committed to remaining as faithful members of the Anglican Communion. You can read the Covenant and a Communiqué issued by the Network on our Web site.

Our diocese was represented by Dean Ryan Reed, Fr. Tom Hightower, Jo Ann Patton, and Walter Virden as delegates, and by Kay Stromberg, Judy Mayo, and Fr. Chris Cantrell as alternates. Any of them would be happy to come to your church to tell you more about the purpose and mission of the Network.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Marvelous words from Dom Gregory Dix on the Holy Eucharist


Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.

To those who know a little of Christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well–remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves—and sins and temptations and prayers—once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men. Yet each of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the Eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew—just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill–spelled ill–carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor:—‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much’. Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of Christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbours who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday Eucharist in her village church every week for a life–time mean to the blessed Chione—and to the millions like her then, and every year since? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes through the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought. (All that going with one to the altar every morning!)

It is because it became embedded deep down in the life of the Christian peoples, colouring all the via vitae of the ordinary man and woman, marking its personal turning-points, marriage, sickness, death and the rest, running through it year by year with the feasts and fasts and the rhythm of the Sundays, that the eucharistic action became inextricably woven into the public history of the Western world. The thought of it is inseparable from its great turning-points also. Pope Leo doing this in the morning before he went out to daunt Attila, on the day that saw the continuity of Europe saved; and another Leo doing this three and a half centuries later when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor, on the day that saw that continuity fulfilled. Or again Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while mediaeval England struggled to be born; and Charles I also, on that morning of his execution when mediaeval England came to its final end. Such things strike the mind with their suggestions of a certain timelessness about the eucharistic action and an independence of its setting, in keeping with the stability in an ever–changing world of the forms of the liturgy themselves. At Constantinople they ‘do this’ yet with the identical words and gestures that they used while the silver trumpets of the Basileus still called across the Bosphorus, in what seems to us now the strange fairy-tale land of the Byzantine empire. In this twentieth century Charles de Foucauld in his hermitage in the Sahara ‘did this’ with the same rite as Cuthbert twelve centuries before in his hermitage on Lindisfarne in the Northern seas. This very morning I did this with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed. Yet ‘this’ can still take hold of a man’s life and work with it.

from Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press, Adam and Charles Black. (1964 printing), pages 744-5. Thanks to Fr Richard Cantrell for calling attention to this text in his Basic Christianity class at St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford, Texas.

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