Monday, 30 March 2015

The Alternative Service Book 1980

The cataclysmic changes in liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church following Vatican II had a massive influence on the Church of England. The Anglicans quickly decided to follow suit and during the Seventies, plans were put in place for a new liturgy to replace the Book of Common Prayer, that had not been revised since 1662. The 1662 prayer book was very nearly abolished altogether, but was preserved, thankfully, by the efforts of the Prayer Book Society. Hence, the new liturgy was entitled "Alternative" as a gesture to the continuing validity of the Book of Common Prayer. However, the Alternative Service Book quickly became the normative rite for the Church of England and the Book of Common Prayer restricted to a remnant of enclave parishes. An entire generation had its experience of Anglicanism defined by the Alternative Service Book.

The title is not terribly inspiring. The old liturgy was a book of prayer, the new liturgy was a 'Service Book,' a book of religious formalities. This rather reflects the fact that the ASB is not ideal for use in private devotion. I'm not sure whether the compilers of this liturgy considered the question of its use privately by the laity.

The banal title reflects the general banality of its content. The grandiose English of Cranmer is reduced to something utterly dull and mundane. Christ no longer descended to hell, but rather clumsily descends to the dead, as if the dead was some sort of location. The Biblical source of some of the canticles and Psalms in the daily office is not provided, thus robbing the lay owner of the book of the chance to gain greater familiarity with the Scriptural sources of the liturgy.

The ASB provides two different rites for communion. One is a sort of modern adaptation of the BCP communion, while the other vaguely resembles the Novus Ordo mass. Likewise, the office of morning and evening prayer offers a variety of different canticles and variations. The sense of the Church of England finding a common identity in its worship was substantially weakened. Yet, it does have an advantage over its successor in Common Worship in that it is one single book (despite the publishing of some supplementary material). The newer liturgy consists of not a single prayer book or service book, but an entire library of liturgical volumes. The Church of England has gone from a book with an order of prayer, to a book providing a menu of services to a library of books providing a vast range of different worship styles.

I just made my first confession

Tonight I made my first confession to a Catholic priest and was given the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. It was after a special penitential service. I'm told there are normally only a handful at confession, but this being Holy Week, there was a long queue of penitents.

I felt rather nervous, but also very excited. It felt very good afterwards.

I can't wait for Saturday's Easter Vigil Mass.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Meeting once again at St. Alban's Cathedral

The committee of our Prayer Book Society branch met once again at St. Albans Cathedral and Abbey. As is our practice, we began with Holy Communion. This was celebrated at the Shrine of St. Alban. It's quite inspiring to pray next to the relics of Britain's first martyr.

The Anglican priest on our committee announced the celebration to the cathedral visitors in a very Catholic way, saying "We are saying a mass for the work of the Prayer Book Society. You are very welcome to join us." In the event, we were joined by two Orthodox tourists from Romania. Like me, these girls did not receive communion, not being Anglican or Protestant.

We used a specially prepared rite for St Albans cathedral. It largely followed the "deposited" 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The interest addition to this rite was a prayer to St. Alban at the end. I wonder what Thomas Cranmer would have made of that!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Will Many be Saved? by Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin, Will many be Saved?: What Vatican II actually teaches and its implications for the New Evangelism, Eerdmans

One thing I find frustrating in Catholicism is that when Catholics talk about mission, they usually seem to mean aid projects in the Third World. These projects may be good and worthy, but what of preaching Christ and his Gospel to the world? I read a Catholic mission newsletter with an interview with some Missionary Sisters in India. They had apparently been accused of trying to convert Hindus. In the interview, they pointed out that they had no intention of converting anybody. I found that so depressing. What is the point of being a missionary if you don't want to convert people to the Christian faith? This is precisely the sort of attitude that Ralph Martin seeks to challenge in this deeply interesting book.

Martin points out the uncomfortable truth that the New Evangelisation, as urgent as it is, has not been a terribly great success and has not captivated much interest from the Catholic laity. He identifies a lack of concern for the salvation of the heathen as a major source of this indifference to the New Evangelisation. The commonly held assumption since Vatican II is that most non-Christians will be saved anyway, so why bother to do any evangelizing? The author responds to this attitude by taking a close look at the text of Lumen Gentium. He points out a portion of it that tends to get forgotten:

She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

While the possibility of salvation for the unevangelised heathen is affirmed, this is not meant to be seen as a norm and is restricted by conditions. Thus, Lumen Gentium maintains the necessity of missionary endeavour.

Martin also addresses two theological ideas that have gained a lot of currency. The first is Karl Rahner's concept of the 'Anonymous Christian.' This has been spouted so often that one could easily think it was official Catholic dogma. The other is Hans Urs Von Balthasar's notion that Christians can hope that hell will largely be empty in the eschaton. Our author finds these ideas to be very problematic.

This book is an urgent call for the Catholic Church to recover its sense of mission.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord

O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Litany of Saint Gabriel

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary , Queen of Angels, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel, glorious Archangel, pray for us.
St. Gabriel, strength of God, etc.
St. Gabriel, who stands before the throne of God,
St. Gabriel, model of prayer,
St. Gabriel, herald of the Incarnation,
St. Gabriel, who revealed the glories of Mary,
St. Gabriel, Prince of Heaven,
St. Gabriel, ambassador of the Most High,
St. Gabriel, guardian of the Immaculate Virgin,
St. Gabriel, who foretold the greatness of Jesus,
St. Gabriel, peace and light of souls,
St. Gabriel, scourge of unbelievers,
St. Gabriel, admirable teacher,
St. Gabriel, strength of the just,
St. Gabriel, protector of the faithful,
St. Gabriel, first adorer of the Divine Word,
St. Gabriel, defender of the Faith,
St. Gabriel, zealous for the honor of Jesus Christ,
St. Gabriel, whom the Scriptures praise as the Angel sent by God to Mary, the Virgin,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

V. Pray for us, blessed Archangel Gabriel,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Jesus Christ.

Let Us Pray .
O blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, intercede for us at the throne of Divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in Heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. R. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Shameless Popery: 6 Early Christian Controversies That Protestantism Can't Explain

Shameless Popery: 6 Early Christian Controversies That Protestantism Can't Explain

To illustrate my point, I've chosen 6 early Christian controversies, each of them originating before the Council of Nicea, before Constantine, and before any of the other fourth century events that allegedly corrupted the Christian Church (and before St. Patrick, by the way). In each case, the Evangelical is left without a side -- either the whole debate is alien to his belief system, or he's left concluding that everybody is wrong

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent- Scrutiny Sunday

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God, may we walk eagerly in that same charity with which, out of love for the world, you Son handed himself over to death. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Today was the final 'scrutiny' before we candidates and catechumens are received into the Church this Easter. We were called to the front, where we recited the Nicene creed. Our sponsors laid a hand on our shoulder, and the priest laid his hands on our heads.

It was great to have my sponsor, a colleague I work with, present at church for this occasion. She had not attended the Rite of Election or the other scrutiny, so the other candidates and catechumens were starting to joke that my sponsor was not real.

Roll on the Easter Vigil mass!

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Lamb's Supper, by Scott Hahn

Scott Hahn, The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, 1999 Darton, Longman and Todd, London

I bought this not long after reading Hahn's book Hail Holy Queen. I was expecting it to be an explanation and defence of the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, but it turned out to be something different to that. The Lamb's Supper is a book of reflections on the Eucharist, particularly its eschatological context. Hahn draws a connection between the mass and the book of Revelation. The Apocalypse concerns the parousia, the coming presence of Christ in the world. In the mass, Christ truly becomes present. It is a foretaste of Christ's parousia. Likewise at teh climax of the book of Revelation, we have the supper of the Lamb. When we attend and celebrate mass, we get a foretaste of that supper. This is something I have come to discover and which has truly delighted me about Catholicism. When I attend mass, I feel as though I have been transported into the very throne room of God.

This is not a commentary on the Apocalypse, but it does offer comments on a number of key passages and themes in Revelation. No particular view of the interpretation of Revelation is championed, though Hahn admits he favours the Preterist view and an early date for the book. He does not discuss the question of the Millennium in chapter twenty.

This is a great book to read for some insights into the significance of what Catholics do at mass and also gives some useful Catholic insights into the book of Revelation.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Feast of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

O God, who through the Bishop Saint Cyril of Jerusalem led your Church in a wonderful way to a deeper sense of the mysteries of salvation, grant us, through his intercession, that we may so acknowledge your Son as to have life ever more abundantly. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Cyril, pray for us, that our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures may increase.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Triablogue: Should you have a "personal relationship" with Jesus?

'It's often said that many men are turned off by church because many churches have become too feminine in terms of sermon content, "praise songs," and the like. In the same vein, I wonder how many men find the phrase about "having a personal relationship with Jesus" off-putting.
Of course, the fact that something is off-putting doesn't make it wrong. But this isn't a Biblical formulation.
To be sure, a concept can be present absent a particular form of words. But is this "relational" language Biblical?
In fact, this is more than just a popular evangelical phrase. It's becoming a theological paradigm: relationaltheology–in contrast to Reformed theology and/or classical theism.'

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Rosary with Pope Francis

A nice little glossy booklet published by the Catholic Truth Society.

Our rosary prayer should not be a mindless repetition, but should be a thoughtful meditation on the mysteries. It can therefore be helpful to read the meditations and thoughts of spiritual writers to enhance once rosary prayer. In this booklet we get to read quotations from the Holy Father themed around all four sets of mysteries. These are not specifically written for rosary meditation, so there are one or two mysteries where the editor has had to select something slightly off topic, but close enough to be connected. Nevertheless, these are pious and edifying thoughts that we would do well to read prior to our rosary prayer.

The introduction offers an explanation of how to gain indulgences for rosary prayer. A short selection of Marian prayers are included as an appendix.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Feast of Saint Symeon the New Theologian

O holy father Symeon, you received divine illumination in your soul.
You were shown forth to the world as a most radiant light dispelling all darkness.
You call all men to seek the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which they had lost.
O righteous father! Pray unto Christ, our God, the He may grant us great mercy!

Saint Symeon the New Theologian, pray for us, that we may behold the light of God.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Truth at Home: The Blessings of Headcovering

Truth at Home: The Blessings of Headcovering

I recently received a comment on this site that made me stop and think. So far, I’ve shared with you some of what has made headcovering a challenge for me. But to dwell only on the challenges would be unbalanced; now I’d like to highlight what has made headcovering a blessing!

First of all, allow me to reiterate that head covering for women and head un-covering for men, during prayer and prophesying (which would include, but not necessarily be limited to, the corporate assembly for worship), is a biblical command, according to 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16. The ordinance of head covering was delivered to us by God, through the apostle Paul. Society does not dictate whether or not to use a headcovering–it is a practice which transcends culture, just as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When Christians discard this teaching as meaningless for our time, they are actually despising the word of God, and instead exalting the traditions of man.

We can forgive the Protestant tone of the line about 'traditions of man.' After all, headcovering is a part of sacred tradition, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Shameless Popery: Two Steps for Beginning Your Examination of the Catholic Church

Shameless Popery: Two Steps for Beginning Your Examination of the Catholic Church

'What Trueman shows is that we need a Copernican shift in our thinking on Catholic-Protestant issues. Rather than starting with the presumption that Evangelicalism is right on every issue, and forcing Catholicism to prove otherwise, the presumptions should work just the other way around.

To see why, imagine approaching Christianity from the outside. Or, if you prefer, imagine approaching a different religion. If you discovered that Islam had, since its very beginning (or at least, as near to its beginning as there existed clear records) believed X, and that a minority position arose in recent centuries denying X, which would you assume was the more accurate interpretation of Qu'ran? Which would you presume was the more authentic expression of Islam? These presumptions wouldn't be insurmountable, but they would at least form a rational starting point for the investigation. And if that's true from a purely historical perspective, it's all the more true of Christianity, where we believe that the Founder is still alive, and has sent His Holy Spirit to guide His Church throughout history.

Many a Protestant delays becoming Catholic because he doesn't understand, or isn't entirely convinced of, every doctrine of the Catholic Church. A better standard would be to ask yourself: if you were already Catholic, would these questions, doubts, or objections be strong enough to justify leaving the Catholic Church? For some of you, as for Trueman, the answer is undoutedly yes. But for many, that's not the case at all. In that case, by your own self-assessment, you lack a sufficient reason to not be Catholic. You might not fully understand why the Catholic position is true, you might see good arguements both for and against a certain teaching, but you don't have a positive reason to leave the Catholic Church, which is to say that you lack a positive reason for remaining Protestant.'

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Feast of Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity

O God, at the urging of whose love the Martyrs Saints Perpetua and Felicity defied their persecutors and overcame the torment of earth, grant, we ask, by their prayers, that we may ever grow in your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Perpetua and Saint Felicity, pray for us, that we may be men and women of faith.

I am very proud that my birthday should fall on the feast day of such blessed martyrs and I regard them as my holy patrons.

BBC News: Lord Baker: Conservative-Labour coalition may be needed

BBC News: Lord Baker: Conservative-Labour coalition may be needed

A Conservative-Labour coalition may be needed after May's election to prevent the SNP holding the balance of power, a former Tory chairman has suggested.

Writing in the Independent, Lord Baker of Dorking said a Labour minority government reliant on the SNP would be a "nightmare" situation at Westminster.

Lord Baker said such an arrangement could "stretch the constitution of our country to breaking point".

The SNP said it was trusted more than Labour to keep the Tories out.

Lord Baker accepted that a deal between David Cameron and Ed Miliband was "quite unthinkable" at the moment.

But he pointed out that Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats governed with the Social Democrats in Germany.

Lord Baker wrote: "What is at risk is the continuing unity of the United Kingdom.

"In order to preserve that unity, another way should be found

I do like this idea. Inevitably, it would be rejected by the rank and file of MPs in both parties. However, it could revitalise British politics and restore the public's faith in politics. Most people simply can't stand the endless name-calling between Labour and the Conservatives. However, I'm not so convinced it would save the Union. This move would simply alienate the Scottish people and would drive them deeper into the SNP's arms and eventually into independence.

The Quotable Newman, by Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong, The Quotable Newman: A Definitive Guide to His Central Thoughts and Ideas, 2012 Sophia Institute Press

Even as a Protestant, I have long had a great admiration for Blessed John Henry Newman. I first read his autobiographical Apologia Pro Vita Sua when I was just sixteen. At the time, I did not really undestand the arguments he was making. Nevertheless, through the years I came to respect his intellect and insights. My PhD thesis touched on the subject of the Oxford Movement, and so I re-read the Apologia about eight years ago. I was impressed by the strength of the case he made against Anglicanism and for the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps sowing the seeds for my own conversion. English Catholics must continue to pray that his canonisation may be confirmed.

This book is a beautiful collection of quotes edited by Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, who claims Newman as an influence on his own conversion to Catholicism. Quite a number of Armstrong's books have been self-published, but this is one of his books that has been published by Sophia Institute Press.

The quotes are taken from both Newman's Anglican Oxford Movement phase and his post-conversion writings, thus showing the evolution in his thinking. They get to the heart of his Catholic theology, as well as demonstrating why he could no longer believe that the Church of England was a true part of the Catholic Church. These quotes are Catholic apologetics of the highest order.

I was a little disappointed by a few of Newman's comments on Scripture. I had always thought of him as a defender of the Inerrancy of the Bible, but he seems to have wobbled a little on that stance and given a pass to a few critical ideas, much as conservative Catholics do today. I don't know why Catholics are so willing to surrender ground to higher criticism. Yet this should not dampen our admiration for this great defender of the Catholic Church.

Dave Armstrong has also edited a second volume of Newman's quotations, covering a slightly wider variety of topics. I hope to read that one day.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Daily Telegraph: The court ruling that proves Britain still has power inside the EU

Daily Telegraph: The court ruling that proves Britain still has power inside the EU

Article by Peter Wilding

'So the verdict destroys the eurosceptics’ defeatist narrative that we are isolated and powerless in a Eurozone-dominated Europe and that we are somehow better off out.

There is no way, indeed no mechanism, through which the UK could have challenged the ECB policy from outside the EU, even though it would still have been at the receiving end.

But there is a deeper lesson hidden in the small legal print of this verdict. Our membership of the EU is in itself a process of constant evolution and renegotiation. The choice is not and will never be between staying in a magically perfect EU, which will always put our interests first, or leaving and never having to worry about the EU again. The choice will always be between having an influence in pushing an imperfect EU closer to where we want it to be or surly estrangement and passive acceptance of EU rules we have not set.'

London Evening Standard: 'Boris Johnson is London's choice to replace David Cameron, if election ends in deadlock'

London Evening Standard: 'Boris Johnson is London's choice to replace David Cameron, if election ends in deadlock'

Boris Johnson should take over from David Cameron if the General Election ends in deadlock and the country is asked to go to the polls again in the autumn, Londoners say.

The Mayor has twice as much support as other senior Tories to succeed Mr Cameron as party leader if there is a historic second General Election this year, according to an exclusive YouGov poll for the Standard.

Four in 10 Londoners who expressed a view said Mr Johnson would make the best leader in such a scenario, while 33 per cent backed Mr Cameron, according to the survey.

Home Secretary Theresa May was in third place on 18 per cent, while Chancellor George Osborne managed just six per cent, and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was favoured by three per cent.

Since Theresa May started talking nonsense about immigration, Boris Johnson is now definitely my first choice in the event of a Tory leadership contest. Boris Johnson is generally thought of as a right-wing Conservative, however, as mayor of London, he has shown a willingness to work with those of differing political persuasions. Most importantly, he is supportive of immigration and opposes withdrawal from the European Union.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Feast of Saint Casimir

Almighty God, to serve you is to reign; grant that, with the help of Saint Casimir's intercession, we may constantly serve you in holiness and justice. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Casimir, pray for us, and for Poland.