Fr. Hunwicke, 11/1/2009

ANGLICAN PATRIMONY AND SOCIAL JOYS

High Mass at Pusey yesterday morning, celebrating their 125th birthday. The buzz went around afterwards, at the beanfeast, that if anybody wants to know what this 'Anglican Patrimony' is, well, it's the sort of thing we had this morning. The Mass was celebrated by the Principal, Dr Baker; the choir sang a new setting of the Mass commissioned for the occasion. We had a sparkling sermon from Dr Ward, in which he presented what I can only describe as a thoroughly rococo piece of scriptural exegesis. He claimed - well, he would, wouldn't he - that it came from somewhere in S Gregory.

One acute critic expressed concern about the number of clerics going up for Communion; surely, he observed, they should have said their own masses earlier. I think I agree (I certainly had done so). I was most impressed by one of the bishops in the congregation (concelebratory games have never infected the worship at Pusey) who was accompanied by a very elegantly dressed daughter. Her coat was exactly the same shade as her father's zucchetto. There's another bit of Anglican patrimony for you.

I don't know why it is - after all, the tune is just another of those hammy old Victorian melodies, and in any case I generally refuse to sing vernacular hymns - but the hymn Sweet Sacrament Divine never fails to get the tears pricking at the backs of my eyes. (Once when arranging a United Service in Co Kerry, I nominated it to my RC opposite number as one of the hymns from 'our' side. "Ah", he said, "the older members of my congregation will enjoy that". And they did.) I particularly like the phrase "Earth's light and Jubilee", although I'm not quite sure what 'jubilee' means here; simply 'joy', perhaps. Another bit of Patrimony. Likewise, Jerusalem the Golden, with the lovely phrase "conjubilant with song". And John Mason Neale, the brilliant translator of this hymn by S Bernard as well as of so much Latin Hymnody into English - he's a definite piece of Patrimony. Since he translated the original texts, uncorrupted by Urban VIII, texts which in accordance with conciliar mandate have returned in the Liturgy of the Hours (and never disappeared from the Monastic Office), his renderings are more up-to-date than those of his RC rivals. The other phrase in his rendering of Urbs Sion, "social joys", neatly gets another aspect of Patrimony much in evidence this weekend. (A devout lady once questioned the line "The shout of them that feast" "People don't shout while they're eating", she observed. How should I have dealt with that?)

As we worshipped Christ the Redeemer whose Propitiation, as Origen neatly put it, comes from the East, the morning sun shone brightly through Sir Ninian ('Patrimony') Comper's great stained glass Pantocrator in the East window. In my blog not long ago, there were some signs of RC unease about my naughty insistence that versus orientem and facing-the-same-way-as-the-people are not necessarily the same thing; and that the former has enormous patristic and traditional support while the latter has none at all and has to be defended on quite different grounds (such as, for example, those persuasively adduced by Joseph Ratzinger). As I walked up S Giles to Pusey, a penny dropped: there are three fine churches in that street: Blackfriars; Pusey House; the Oratory. All three are built along an East-West axis. Only Pusey, however, has the Altar at the East end; the two RC churches have their altars at the West end so that to face East, as the Fathers desired to do, means facing the people. One American RC correspondent informs me that in North America RC churches pretty universally ignore the ancient Christian and Ecumenical principle of Orientation. He seems to think that this creates some problem for the point I made.

I can only say "The problem is yours. If your forebears had had a more Anglican sense of a hermeneutic of continuity, you wouldn't have this difficulty. What you need is a strong dose of Patrimony".

And I think Smugness is very much at the heart of Patrimony.