Thursday, September 13, 2007

Careful with that thing: it’s loaded!


This past Sunday’s after-Mass, Internet-café read (commonly called a sermon) from Jane Ellen got pushed back in this blog by two historical anniversaries, one religious, the other secular (best known by its date, two days ago). In classic-Anglican fashion it’s entirely true as far as it goes, taking you where Richard Hooker and the Prayer Book (just about any version I reckon) will go but not speculating any further.

Digression (skip over it if you like): Just like this Hoosier Musing on the Sacrament (or why the holiest part of the Mass has such a blunt Latin word in it — it’s a direct translation from the Greek), which — in what’s possibly a massive historical irony considering relatively recent Anglican history affecting both our lives — points the way, in terms (what’s implied in the Prayer Book) everybody from Hooker to C.S. Lewis to Charley and Byrd would be comfortable with, to a essential part of the Catholic religion, more or less everything I believe in and its various expressions, from the eastward-facing Prayer Book services I started with to High Mass, Sunday Benediction and Corpus Christi processions to the Russian Orthodox Liturgy and full prostrations in church during Presanctified in Great Lent... which includes everything like the multiple meanings of ‘the Body of Christ’ (yes, we’re hip to modes of presence), ‘the Eucharist and community’... the tie between the Mass and the social order. The dynamo behind this blog’s attempt at a peace witness and much else.

(BTW one doesn’t have to do all those ‘continental’ practices to be Catholic — simply understand what they mean and accept that they’re not heretical, not telling you or me not to. All can, some should, none must.)

Anyway...
There are those of us who are perhaps less intentional about reading the Bible than we could be. It can be hard, I know. There are a number of reasons for that, of course; but I would suggest that often, the problem is that we try to read in isolation. That can mean two things: either (1) reading only select bits and pieces, or (2) reading scripture all by itself, without relation to other contexts.
  • My first discussion on the matter with Huw.
  • Very graphic examples from scripture that like Ref’s idea we shall never see made into Precious Moments statues. Alas. The real point is the Catholic and the liberal agree the thing is not self-interpreting (as if the thousands of different Protestant groups weren’t proof enough).
  • There is an authentic Catholic sense of ‘rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism (click to read Charley on the liberals’ f-bomb). It was never fundamentalism’s to begin with! That phenom is modern itself and a selective reading as its critics say.
  • But the non-Catholic side often has a motive though for talking about scripture thus. Yes, Dan, those examples are very funny — we get it.
  • Common knowledge: ‘Everybody knows that Catholics don’t know the Bible!’ ;) But point (1) is a real risk for us. If like many people one hasn’t the time to read a full office every day and reads only the little hours or a shortened office instead one can fall into ‘revolving endlessly round the little treadmill’ of a few psalms and short lessons as Lewis wrote in Screwtape (criticising the indiscipline of not following liturgical life!). Derek’s got a good point about a memorised ‘folk office’ sustaining people but I also give Cranmer’s Prayer Book credit: four huge readings a day are doable. Those offices are perfectly good but there’s so much a Catholic misses so it seems less like prayer than a Bible study. Yes, Paul, there are those marvellous books, usually four volumes with lots of ribbon markers... loads of Bible reading and study! But Matins is a bear for many people.
  • Classic Anglicans understand reason like Aristotle and the Schoolmen (St Thomas Aquinas) did: conforming yourself to reality including both the laws of God and nature.
Right, I’m done.

Oh, and thanks for the link yesterday, Tripp.

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