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As I close a week discussing Disroyalty starring the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, here are a few more views about their plans as well as a summary of what went on at Sandringham on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Before I get to those, however, it is important to remember that other Royals will have to pick up the Sussexes’ slack, leaving 200 engagements per year to divide among them.

Key points about the Sandringham summit

Here’s what to know about the Sandringham summit on Monday.

The Daily Mail says that Harry arrived at 11:20 a.m.

By then, Prince Philip had already left and was driven elsewhere on the estate. He was reportedly furious last week:

Philip was reportedly ‘spitting blood’ with anger when he found out last Wednesday and yelled at his aides: ‘What the hell are they playing at?’

If he left, he wasn’t feeling any calmer.

Prince Charles had arrived the day before. Prince William showed up 15 minutes before the meeting began at 2:00 p.m.

The meeting was held in the Long Library, which used to be a bowling alley. Princes William and Harry spent much time there as children.

It is located away from other rooms where the Royals might have been overheard.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, denied charges of racism (same link):

Ms Patel, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said: ‘I’m not in that category at all where I believe there’s racism at all. 

‘I think we live in a great country, a great society, full of opportunity, where people of any background can get on in life.’

Asked if the media had been in any way racist, she replied: ‘I don’t think so, no… I certainly haven’t seen that through any debates or commentary or things of that nature.’

On January 14, the Mail reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wisely refused to be drawn in on the controversy:

In his first major TV interview since the election, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am a massive fan of the Queen and of the Royal Family…

‘I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out.’

I was happy to read that Harry’s early arrival ensured that he could have a lengthy one-on-one conversation with his grandmother.

Bolter

In 2018, a few months before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, Germaine Greer gave an interview to Australia’s 60 Minutes in which she said she thought the bride would end up leaving.

The Cut posted the story on April 16. Prescient (emphases mine):

During an interview with 60 Minutes Australia this weekend, outspoken and controversial feminist author Germaine Greer said she thinks Markle “will bolt” as soon as she gets a sense of what life in the British royal family (which Greer refers to as “the firm”) is really like.

“Let’s hope they’re in love. If they’re not it’s going to be totally unbearable,” Greer told journalist Tara Brown. “She will see vistas of boredom that are unbelievable. I think the pressure to escape from the firm is crushing.”

When Brown asked what she predicted for the couple’s future, Greer answered, “I think she’ll bolt.”

“She bolted before. She was out the door,” she said, referring to Markle’s 2013 divorce from Trevor Engelson. “I think she’ll bolt. I hope in a way that she’ll bolt but maybe she’ll take Harry with her.”

When asked why Markle, already a successful television star, would give up her career to marry into the royal family, Greer quipped: “Why would a girl born in poverty marry a man with 53 million quid? I can’t think of single reason.”

It seems Harry might be worth less than that — possibly £30m, but the point stands.

There is also the status involved.

Opportunism

The deputy political editor at the Daily Mail, John Stevens, had this to say about the Sussexes’ announcement last week:

In fact, that is quite possible.

Allegedly, Justin Trudeau knew of their plans before the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. So did Elton John.

On January 11, the Daily Mail reported:

There was speculation last night that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have given a cryptic Twitter clue about the crisis that was about to engulf the Royal Family.

When news emerged that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had turned their back on Royal tradition and flown to Canada for Christmas, their powerful friend was one of the first to welcome them on social media.

He wrote: ‘You’re among friends, and always welcome here.’

Just weeks later, the Royal couple were looking to test that ‘always’ by announcing their move to Canada.

And the tweet has done little to dampen gossip in Embassy circles that Mr Trudeau was more aware of the Sussexes’ emigration plans than even their closest family.

Diplomatic sources claim Mr Trudeau and his wife Sophie were consulted about the decision late last year, before members of the Royal family and even the Queen.

The Trudeaus are friends with the Sussexes:

Last night, the Canadian government did not respond when confronted about the claims, but sources close to the Sussexes denied they had discussed the move with Prime Minister Trudeau.

The Canadian First Couple and the Sussexes have been close friends, with Meghan and Sophie even sharing a stylist – Meghan’s best friend and sometime babysitter for Archie, Jessica Mulroney.

Prince Harry, 35, and Mr Trudeau, 48, are two of the younger fixtures on the world stage, with both men appearing to enjoy each other’s company at events such as Commonwealth commemorations.

The two have also encountered each other on multiple occasions through Prince Harry’s Invictus Games for disabled servicemen.

I wonder if the Sussexes are aware that, many years ago, Trudeau once attended a fancy dress party in blackface. He thought nothing of it at the time. Terrible.

Returning to John Stevens’s tweet, here are a few responses:

Money

Although, technically, what Prince Charles does with his income from the Duchy of Cornwall is his business, the British would be annoyed if he continued to finance Prince Harry:

This YouGov poll shows similar results:

This Briton tweeted about the video of Harry touting Meghan to Disney’s Bob Iver for voiceover work:

Naturally, some of the money she would earn from such work would go to charity. Of course:

Trudeau said that his country will pay for the Sussexes’ security detail. Canadians won’t be too happy about that:

Another Daily Mail report said that Canada would pay half the Sussexes’ £1m annual security detail cost. We shall see. On January 14, the Mail published an article quoting Trudeau, who said:

I think most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of costs are involved, there are still lots of discussions to have.

Family

The young Anglican priest who tweeted the following has mistakenly said that the Sussexes are on the Civil List. They are not.

However, the larger point about their role in the Royal Family is what is important:

The Revd Giles Fraser, formerly Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral and now Rector of St Mary, Newington in South London, wrote a considered article on the topic that the Revd Philip Murray raised. The Bishop of Dorking (Surrey) complimented him on it:

Excerpts follow:

Do we still recognise moral obligations that exist prior to our having chosen them? That is, it seems to me, the question embedded within the whole Megxit scandal. It couldn’t have been better designed to drive a wedge between two very different ways of seeing the world

But this isn’t just about monarchy. For the same tension exists within the very idea of a family — the Windsors being, as well as royal, the most famous family in the world. How does liberalism — of which Meghan Markle feels like a supreme representative — deal with that age-old sense of moral obligation towards those who have brought you into life and have raised and nurtured you, without you having chosen them for the task. Of course, some families fail in this very basic duty. And most of us parents only get it half right, at best.

Without this very basic idea that we are born into some fundamental unit of existential solidarity, something towards which we owe an allegiance long before we are able to choose it, human life is released from its moorings and we are all deeply lost. This is where liberalism flounders. For when it comes to the most important basis of human flourishing, family life, liberalism has nothing useful to say, other than to remind us that some families are destructive and dysfunctional and best escaped from. Be your own person, it advises. Break free. But this is to cut off the branch on which nests are built.

Sense of duty

A Theology graduate from Cambridge University has the ultimate analysis of the Duchess and her outlook on a sense of duty.

This is a must-read:

So true — especially the closing thought about helping minority Britons!

When they got married, I thought she might look forward to such a role. I was wrong.

Poll on the monarchy

Between Thursday and Friday, January 9 and 10, Deltapoll conducted a survey on the monarchy. This was after the Sussexes’ announcement.

The favourable results were lower than I’d expected:

A Pole responded to that tweet, encouraging us to keep the Royal Family:

Good or bad? It’s important. I come originally from Poland. I read Polish papers and monarchy issues make front page headlines there. The monarchy is ‘s trademark, as it were, recognised worldwide. Try and lose it to see how good it actually is to have it.

I fully agree.

This is a breakdown of the question by age group:

I also agree with these replies:

I do not think that most of our Prime Ministers would have made great Presidents.

The Royal Family are good for Britain. Let’s not discard them because of the actions of a few bad apples.

Last Christmas, our vicar gave an excellent sermon on the Nativity story, looking at the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John.

John 1:14, which you can read more about here, was the Gospel reading. John’s theme of light — Light — pervades his entire Gospel from the initial verses:

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In terms of our personal Christian testimonies, our vicar wisely pointed out that the amount of light does not matter, because any amount of light shows up in the darkness. That reminded me of this Christmas graphic:

Note the darkness, yet how the light penetrates it.

Also note that Jesus was born at night — in the darkness — rather than during the day.

From Matthew 1:18-25, discussed here, our vicar pointed out how difficult it was socially for Mary to bear this Child, when Joseph was not the father. The verses from Matthew say that Joseph wanted to divorce her quietly. Then, an angel of the Lord appeared:

20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).

How humbling it was for Jesus to descend to Earth, our vicar said, not only to be among sinful mankind but also to be in such humble circumstances, from His birth to His humiliating death — for our sakes. ‘God with us’, indeed.

He also pointed out that Herod was disturbed to hear some months later from the Magi that a King had been born. Our vicar explained that Herod would have expected to hear a royal infant being referred to as a ‘prince’, but never a ‘king’. Naturally, he wanted to see the infant King. Fortunately, his wish was not granted.

Finally, our vicar noted the shepherds, who were watching their flocks, being drawn to the manger. He rightly asked us if we would be that obedient in our Christian witness, to leave what we were doing — no matter how important — to witness for Jesus.

He has a point, one well worth considering, not only today but all year round.

May I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas! May you have a blessed, peaceful day.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauI remember how bewildered I was as a young Catholic teenager going to church one December morning during the early 1970s and seeing a wreath with candles on a stand near the altar.

My parents — along with most of the congregation — did not know what it was, either.

As Mass began, the priest explained that we were going to light the Advent wreath. That hardly solved the puzzle of what it was and WHY.

For years, I did not like them. My mother said they were a Vatican II innovation. She was not wrong. Neither my parents nor I were interested in Vatican II innovations. Most took us away from the mysterium tremendum my parents had grown up with, something that had been taken away from me forever.

I became an Episcopalian 12 years later. Early in December that year, my mother asked me if our church had an Advent wreath. I said, ‘No’. She said, ‘Good’.

These days, Advent wreaths are in churches of all denominations. My present Anglican church has one, too.

So, we must be resigned to Advent wreaths. I’m still somewhat ambivalent about them, but, by now, at least two generations have grown up with them.

Symbolism

Advent wreaths can be used in schools and private homes as well as at church.

The QTree has an excellent post about the Advent wreath along with several related photographs. The designations of the different candles came as news to me (emphases in the original):

The most common Advent candle tradition involves four candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. Sometimes all the candles are red; in other traditions, all four candles are blue or white. Occasionally, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.

The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David.

The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too.

The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace–He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.

The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day.

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December.

My local Anglican church has red candles with a white candle in the middle for Christmas. This seems to be a more Protestant than Catholic colour scheme, even though our church follows the liturgical colour tradition of purple during this time.

The Revd William Saunders, writing for another Catholic website, Catholic Education Resource Center, has more in ‘The History of the Advent Wreath’. This has more information of which I was unaware (emphases mine):

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior

The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and good works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

History

A Catholic website, TIA (Tradition in Action), has a good article: ‘What Is the Origin of the Advent Wreath?’. It appears that I am not alone in my ambivalence about it.

The article was prompted by a reader’s question (emphases mine):

Dear TIA,

Where did the Advent wreath originate?

In our church this year there is no Advent Wreath because the priest said it is pagan. Many true Catholics are upset over this. The wreath traditionally has been part of the Catholic Church for over 400 years so where would this idea come from? Please help!

It appears that wreaths in general, although pagan in origin, first appeared in churches during the Dark Ages — so, centuries before the Reformation:

Perhaps your priest was referring to the wreath itself as pagan, since some histories report that the evergreen wreath originated in the pagan times of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Evergreens were gathered into round piles with candles placed upon them, which represented the yearly cycle, and so on. Such data, however, are not trustworthy since they generally come from wicca sites, which habitually pretend that every Christmas custom or symbol is pagan, baptized and adapted by Catholics.

From what we could verify, wreaths of evergreens were used in the 7th century in Catholic baptismal ceremonies. In early medieval Europe it was also used in weddings, the bride and bridegroom being crowned with wreaths to symbolize their victory over the temptations of the flesh. By the late Middle Ages, garlands and wreaths were being used as Christmas décor in much of Catholic Europe.

For Catholics the evergreen is symbolic of life because its needles are green and alive even as the world grows dark and plants die back. The circle wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God. The wreath is a good Catholic symbol, and, in our opinion, should not be rejected because of a possible previous pagan usage.

The article acknowledges that the Advent wreath is a Protestant creation, more about which below.

As for the Catholic Vatican II connection:

The Advent Wreath was used strictly in homes and schools among Catholics, never in Catholic churches because there were no official liturgical prayers or ceremonies in the Rituale Romanum, the Church’s official book of prayers and blessings.

With the innovations of Vatican II, a blessing of the wreath for the first Sunday of Advent to be said before Mass was included in the Book of Blessings for those countries that requested its inclusion. The wreath is to be lit before Mass at the first Sunday of Advent, and no prayers are said on the last three Sundays.

The Church of England also has a short prayer of blessing for the first candle.

The Advent wreath appears to be a northern European tradition:

Many American Catholics are surprised to learn that this custom is relatively unknown in Latin American countries, and even in Italy and Spain.

TIA advises:

In our opinion, it seems that the custom of the Advent Wreath may be adopted by those who feel an attraction to it. But its use should be restricted to their homes. It is not a liturgical practice of the Catholic Church that should be included in official ceremonies.

I tend to agree.

Protestant origins

Wikipedia has a delightful story about a Lutheran pastor who devised the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. That said, an older version was already in use in Lutheran churches soon after the Reformation:

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century.[7] However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.[8]

Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century.[9] During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.[10] Professor Haemig’s research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.

In Medieval times Advent was a period of fasting during which people’s thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ; but in modern times many have forgotten this meaning and it has instead been primarily seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context Advent Wreath serves as a reminder of the approach of the feast.

Image credit: Wikipedia.

———————————————————————————————

I learned a lot researching the symbolism and history behind the Advent wreath. I hope that you did, too.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauOn the First Sunday of Advent a fortnight ago, our vicar (Anglican) urged us to use the four Sundays of Advent wisely.

This is the first time I have personally heard a Protestant clergyman exhort his congregation to examine their consciences before Christmas.

The Gospel reading was Matthew 24:36-44, wherein Jesus described His Second Coming (emphases mine):

24:36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

24:37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,

24:39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

24:43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Our vicar advised us to consider the state of our souls with regard to death. We do not know when we will depart this mortal coil, therefore, we should take every care to make sure we are spiritually prepared.

He said that we put so much time and effort into preparing materially for Christmas — sending cards, wrapping presents and preparing meals — that we forget the deeper meaning of the season.

Just as John the Baptist called upon his followers to repent of their sins in preparation for Christ’s ministry, we, too, would do well to consider if our souls are in an appropriate state.

I wrote about this in 2012: ‘Advent: John the Baptist’s message of Good News — and repentance‘. I cited a sermon from a Reformed clergyman, the Revd Scott E Hoezee, ‘When Advent Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas’ (Reformed Worship, September 1997). In that article, he says of these weeks prior to Christmas:

… if you are to meet and greet this Messiah correctly, you must admit that you need him in the first place. If you don’t, then you’ll have no use for Jesus once he’s born

Only those willing to turn their lives over to God are ready for the Christ. The rest, John says, are fuel for the fire. None of that is very Christmaslike. Or is it?

His sermon cites Luke 3. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was from Matthew 3, which was a similar account about John the Baptist’s ministry, also mentioning ‘chaff’ and ‘fire’.

By all means, let’s enjoy the festive season within reason, but let us also remember Whose season it is — and why.

Charity towards all is a central tenet of Christianity.

Jesus said (Matthew 25:40):

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

Christians pioneered hospitals across Europe in the Middle Ages.

The earliest European universities were also Christian.

Sunday School began in Britain as a means of educating poor children in the three Rs as well as the Bible.

Until the mid-20th century, Christian organisations and religious orders provided charity, which now, in many cases in the West, has been taken over by State-run programmes, e.g. welfare.

Therefore, I am happy to report the following statistic from the United Kingdom. Although few Britons go to a Sunday service these days, local churches play an important part in the nation’s well-being.

Personally, where caring for others is concerned, I would much rather see churches involved than the State. Churches provide help rather than a lifestyle, although, admittedly, many attending these programmes could well be on some form of benefit:

The next two items come from Surrey, a county just south of London:

The next tweets are about church-oriented support for children nationwide:

Of course, charity from churches has its detractors:

It is good to know that churches are still helping the young, the vulnerable and the needy — no questions asked.

What’s wrong with that?

Before I get to the main story, October has been Theresa May’s best month this year.

Her birthday was October 1:

During the extraordinary parliamentary session of Saturday, October 19, 2019, she stood firm with Boris on his new Brexit deal. That was principled, considering that David Cameron didn’t stand with her when she was PM. In fact, he resigned as the MP for Witney (Oxfordshire):

She gave an excellent speech that day:

Now, let us cast our minds back to 1961. Theresa Brasier was nearing her fifth birthday. Her parents, the Revd Hubert Brazier and Zaidee ‘Mary’ Brasier, played host to a 16-year-old German teenager from Bonn that summer at the vicarage in Church Enstone, Oxfordshire.

On July 24, 2019, Detlev J Piltz wrote a fascinating article about his four weeks with the Brasiers for The Oldie magazine, outstanding reading for anyone over the age of 40. He learned invaluable lessons about the English during his time in the Cotswolds.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The Brasiers took young Detlev everywhere:

The four weeks I spent there enriched my life. Not only did I improve my schoolboy English and become more fluent, but the family took me with them on their shopping trips in their plush Morris Minor, usually to Chipping Norton.

On Sundays, the family and I attended the village church together. We all went to watch the motor racing at Silverstone, picnicked in the country, and the vicar showed me Oxford University and explained about its colleges.

He especially appreciated his time with the vicar:

What impressed me most were the many conversations that the Reverend Hubert, to call him by his first name, then in his mid-forties, carried on with a rather wet-behind-the-ears teenager.

The vicar, as folk in the village referred to him, was a good-hearted soul: clever, educated, helpful and gentle, yet quite clear about his moral and ethical principles. Perhaps this was also partly due to his slight stoop which, as he himself put it, had focused his concentration more on the spiritual than on the physical.

The parishioners – who visited us, or whom we visited – and the congregation in church always displayed an aura of love and devotion, but also respect, for their vicar.

I still admire him today for how he and his wife managed the not-so-easy duties of an English country clergyman. During my stay, I also learned something about Englishness and even about the English class system, although this knowledge was more sensed and intuited than consciously understood.

The Brasiers had just purchased a television set. A Test Match between England and Australia was being broadcast, so the vicar explained the rules of cricket to Detlev. Detlev also learned a lesson about the English. Only they can criticise their country. Foreigners cannot.

This is very true — and anyone coming here should remember it. It’s just how things are:

He straightforwardly concluded that the Australians would win, as they were both bowling and batting better than the English, an assessment with which I dutifully agreed.

This proved to be a mistake. My host took me to one side and explained, ‘You are quite right, Detlev. Australia is playing better than England. But perhaps I can give you a piece of advice for the future. As a foreigner, you would do well not to say so. Leave it to us.’

In a few words, the vicar had borne out a rule of English interaction with foreigners, summarised succinctly by George Orwell, ‘We spend our lives in abusing England but grow very angry when we hear a foreigner saying exactly the same things.’

Fortunately, comments in the opposite direction are allowed. If a foreigner praises certain features of England, the English are pleased, although they will immediately play down the merits of what has been admired and claim that it is actually not so great.

The bishop of the diocese visited the Brasiers on the last Sunday that Detlev was there. The couple made a point of impressing upon the young German the importance of manners:

something they had never previously done.

They told him to stay silent unless the bishop spoke to him:

I was also kindly advised not to engage the bishop in conversation myself, but to wait until he spoke to me, and to address him as ‘Bishop’, rather than Mr Johnson, or whatever his name might be.

They impressed upon him the finer points of tea drinking — always two cups:

a single cup was deemed impolite, as not enough; three cups were considered impolite, as too many.

Detlev did not like the special tea that Mrs Brasier served but refrained from commenting until later. It was probably Lapsang Souchong, a smoky tea:

‘It was Chinese tea,’ the vicar’s wife explained. When I asked why it was different from the tea we otherwise always drank, I heard for the first time in my life that it was ‘because of the bishop’.

The high point of his visit was when he accompanied the Brasiers to the local landowner’s for tea. Detlev had a keen interest in historic Royal Navy battles. When they arrived at Sir John’s house, Detlev could not contain his enthusiasm:

When we arrived in the entrance hall of the large and rather grand residence, I spotted on the opposite wall a painting of a scene from the 1916 Battle of Jutland, details of which were well known to me.

Without thinking, I stopped in front of the picture and said, ‘Oh, the famous manoeuvre of crossing the T [when a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships at right angles] by Admiral Jellicoe.’

Sir John treated his guests to tea and scones. Then he turned his attention to the young German:

Afterwards, Sir John asked me how I recognised the scene in the picture, and I told him about my interest in the Royal Navy. He signalled to me to follow him and we entered a room full of English naval memorabilia.

It transpired that Sir John had fought in the Battle of Jutland. For nearly a whole hour, he described the events and his role. I was eager to know whether he had known the English admirals, Jellicoe and Beatty, personally. It was an hour suffused with mutual affection between old and young, with never a word out of place, and certainly no nationalistic undertones. I remember it clearly and vividly to this day.

On the way home, Mrs Brasier expressed her disappointment that Sir John had not spent more time with them. The vicar responded:

Well, it may be years since he had such an admirer, let alone such a young one – and, by the way, he can do whatever he thinks fit.

Detlev’s stay with the Brasier family fostered in him a lifelong love of England.

In 2015, he and his wife visited the Cotswolds and passed through Church Enstone, where they stopped.

Detlev Piltz did not want to bother the present occupants of the vicarage, but he asked at the church what happened to the Brasiers:

… in the church, someone showed us a roll of past vicars, and there was the name of ‘my’ vicar, and his dates in office, from 1959 to 1971.

Piltz thought nothing more about it until the following year, which featured that momentous summer of the Brexit referendum and David Cameron’s immediate resignation, which was completely unnecessary but was perhaps for the better, given his Remainer views.

Lo, Theresa May won the Conservative leadership contest that summer:

The candidacy of Theresa May spawned widespread reporting about her background and early life. And only then did it become clear to me how small the world really can be.

For the idyllic village in the Cotswolds was Church Enstone, and the vicar and his wife were Hubert and Zaidee Brasier, although he always called her Mary. Sadly, I then learned that Hubert Brasier had been killed in a car accident in 1981, and his wife died the following year.

And I also learnt what had happened to their young daughter. She was called Theresatoday known to every Englishman and woman as Prime Minister Theresa May.

I thought that was such a terrific anecdote.

People have either made fun of Theresa May or criticised her mercilessly. We still don’t know what fully took place between her people and Angela Merkel’s regarding Brexit. Certainly, May’s downfall began when she put forward that London-Berlin Brexit deal in July 2018 at Chequers, when her own Brexit team, lead by David Davis, was putting together a proper exit plan (Canada ++), working together with Michel Barnier from the EU. May told a shocked assembly of her own ministers that it was her deal or the highway. The Evening Standard reported that she told ministers they could pay for their own transport back to London if they wanted to leave early. Brexit minister David Davis tendered his resignation afterwards as did Boris Johnson, who was Foreign Minister at the time.

My, how much water has passed under the dam since then. I hope that our former PM continues to vote in support of our present one, Boris Johnson.

I regret to report that our new exit deadline is January 31, 2020.

The following video was made in 2014, but I saw it for the first time last week.

Leonora Hamill filmed this stag, named Chambord, in the Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris, which held Easter Day services for the parishioners of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was devastated by fire during Holy Week on April 15, 2019.

Look how beautifully the stag blends into its surroundings:

It has a respectful look round the altar before leaving.

This is a sublime blending of God’s creation and His gift of aesthetics to mankind.

Some who have seen it recall the pagan deer deity Cernunnos, but, according to the YouTube comments, Ms Hamill filmed it to promote the Church of Saint-Eustache, located near Les Halles in the French capital. It is a church, by the way, and not a cathedral.

It is no coincidence that she chose a deer, as Saint Eustache — or Eustace, in English — was a Roman general named Placidus who saw a vision of a crucifix between a deer’s antlers. This was in the second century AD.

Upon seeing the vision of the deer with the crucifix between his antlers, Placidus changed his name to Eustace, which means ‘upstanding’ and ‘steadfast’.

Eustace wasted no time in converting his family and all were baptised.

Then, they underwent a series of dramatic trials of faith that were reminiscent of Job’s. According to Wikipedia (emphases mine):

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.

Although God restored his social standing and reunited him with his family, he died as a martyr for the faith in 118, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice:

There is a tradition that when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox,[5] in the year AD 118.

He was part of the General Roman Calendar of saints until 1970, when he was removed from the list, presumably because his life’s story could not be fully authenticated.

Nonetheless, after his death he was venerated in many countries across Europe. He still is today in several of them and, fortunately, remains listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is St Blaise. The list of the Fourteen Holy Helpers was devised in Germany during the Black Death in the 14th century. People sought their intercession in times of need. St Eustace was the healer of family troubles. The Catholic Church unceremoniously dumped several of the individual feasts of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in 1969, although Catherine of Alexandria’s optional feast day of November 25 was reinstated in 2004, possibly because Joan of Arc was said to have heard the saint’s voice.

Other individual feasts days of the Fourteen Holy Helpers were dropped, such as those of Saints Christopher, Barbara and Margaret of Antioch.

Back now to Eustace, who is also the patron saint of hunters, firefighters and anyone facing adversity. His feast day is September 20.

There was another saint who had a similar vision of a deer. His name was Hubertus, or Hubert. He lived near Liège and was the eldest son of Bertrand, the Duke of Aquitaine. Hubert was born in 656. Although he was an agreeable character, he loved hunting. He loved it so much that, one Good Friday morning, while everyone went to church, he went hunting.

According to the legend, recounted by Wikipedia:

As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht at the time. Lambert was later canonised, as was Hubert.

Lambert became Hubert’s spiritual director, and the young nobleman renounced his title, gave his worldly goods to the poor, studied for ordination and made his younger brother Odo guardian of his infant son Floribert.

Sadly, Lambert was assassinated and died as a martyr. Hubert brought his mentor’s remains to Liège in great ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance.

One could say that Hubert put Liège on the world map. It was only a small village when he had Lambert’s remains brought there. Not long afterwards, it grew in prominence. Today, it is a renowned city. St Lambert is its patron and St Hubert is considered its founder and was its first bishop.

St Hubert’s feast day is May 30. He died on that day in 727 or 728.

His legacy, in addition to increasing Liège’s prominence, involves God. Hubert evangelised passionately to the pagans of the Ardennes region at the time. He also developed a set of ethics for hunting animals humanely, standards which are still used today among French huntsmen, who venerate him annually during a special ceremony.

His feast day is November 3. He is one of the Four Holy Marshals, another group of saints that also was venerated in the Rhineland. He is the patron saint of those involved in hunting as well as forest workers, trappers, mathematicans, metal workers and smelters. A few ancient chivalrous orders also bear his name.

In closing, those familiar with the German digestif Jägermeister should know that the drink’s logo refers to Eustace and Hubert’s respective visions:

I wonder if that label has ever converted anyone. It would be nice to think so.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomI went to the early morning Easter Communion service today at my neighbourhood Anglican parish church.

The early morning Easter service is always a wonderful reminder of the passing from darkness into light. As our vicar reminded us, traditional churches remain dark from the end of the Maundy Thursday service through to Easter morning, whether that be at a daybreak or early morning service.

The light returns via the Paschal candle, which is lit following a prayer. The acolyte then lights the other candles from the flame of the Paschal candle.

John’s Gospel has a recurring theme of darkness and light. The risen Christ is, indeed, that Light.

Our vicar gave a moving sermon, encouraging us to think of the Resurrection as a living reality, whereby not only our souls but also our mortal bodies will once again be reunited in glorious perfection one day.

He pointed out that Christianity is the only religion that offers life after death. This is what Jesus accomplished through His resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter.

The vicar’s sermon was a moving one, as he is a convert from another world faith. He implored us not to turn the Resurrection into an intellectual or historical exercise, because it will be a very real experience when the time comes. He also exhorted us not to view Jesus as a mere historical good example of a life well lived, but as our Saviour and Redeemer.

I thought about the vicar’s sermon for most of the day whilst occupied with gentle pursuits: caring for God’s creation in the garden and preparing a suitable, satisfying Easter dinner of roast lamb.

Our vicar’s sermon made me wish that Easter were more than just one day. Whilst we are now in Easter Week, there are no modern readings by which to remember our Lord’s resurrection for the next six days.

As each year passes, I long for a more fulsome celebration and remembrance of the Resurrection. We sing the beautiful and joyous Easter hymns only one day a year.

For some of us, our recollection of the Resurrection ends up being a fleeting one.

However, it does not need to be this way.

An Evangelical pastor in California, the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries in Fallbrook, has written a beautiful series of sermons on the meaning of the Resurrection and its impact. I hope that you will read the following posts in the coming week and reflect upon his considered, thought-provoking messages about what he terms Resurrection theology:

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran (Missouri Synod) pastor has also reflected similarly upon the Resurrection in the context of people’s anger with the Church. This, too, is guaranteed to get us thinking about our sin and the purpose of the Crucifixion as well as our Lord’s rising from the dead in eternal glory — for us:

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

I hope that you will join me in contemplating Resurrection Theology, even when it is not stated in those terms.

Christ our Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Once again, readers, happy Easter.

May the blessings of the risen Christ be with us today and always. Amen.

The content of Advent sermons can be difficult for today’s pewsitter to accept — provided the clergyman (or woman) giving the sermon is true to the Bible.

For example, this year — Year C — the First Sunday of Advent gives us Luke’s account of Jesus’s words on His Second Coming. I was really looking forward to going to Sunday worship to hear about that.

But, no. Instead, we heard about the Creation Story in Genesis juxtaposed with John 1, the arrival of the Light of the World — the usual Christmas Day reading. The young ordained Anglican priest told us — a group of oldsters — that God really loves humanity, and we have nothing to worry about from Him. As we are all long in the tooth, we remember fire and brimstone sermons.

My takeaways from the old days were, ‘God loves humanity — His creation, made in His image — but He hates sin’. The Bible is all about this message, from cover to cover.

Advent readings follow a sequence for a reason. The sermons are supposed to match each Sunday’s theme, intended to get us to repent — ‘turn around’ — from our worldly ways before Christmas.

Therefore, it was a relief to read two reflections for Gaudete Sunday, the Third Week of Advent, from fellow Anglicans: an Episcopalian and an Anglican priest.

My reader undergroundpewster, the author of Not Another Episcopal Church Blog, wrote his reflections of John the Baptist’s message to his numerous and diverse followers (Luke 3:7-18). Although Gaudete Sunday is one of joy, John the Baptist called his followers ‘you brood of vipers’, warning them of ‘the wrath to come’ if they did not repent. And, he said of Jesus:

His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Undergroundpewster wrote (emphasis in the original):

Good news like, “but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Hmm…

With good news like that, who needs bad news?

Then he directed us to an excellent sermon at Crossway by Pastor Paul David Tripp, which explains why Jesus is the Good News (an excerpt follows, emphases mine).

It is all about humanity’s sins (bad news) for which Jesus sacrificed Himself in a once and perfect oblation on the Cross (Good News). Emphases mine below:

Sure, you can run from a bad relationship, you can quit a bad job, you can move from a dangerous neighborhood, and you can leave a dysfunctional church, but you have no ability whatsoever to escape yourself. You and I simply have no ability to rescue ourselves from the greatest danger in our lives. This means that without the birth of Jesus, we are doomed to be destroyed by the danger that lurks inside us from the moment of our first breath.

You don’t need to look far in the Bible to know what this danger is. Its stain is on every page of Scripture. Romans 3:23 exposes this danger with a few simple words: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Sin is the bad news of the Christmas story. Jesus didn’t come to earth to do a preaching tour or to hang out with us for a while; he came on a radical mission of moral rescue

He came to rescue us because he knew that we couldn’t rescue ourselves. He knew that sin separates us from God and leaves us guilty before him. He knew that sin makes us active enemies against God, and what he says is good, right, and true. He knew that sin blinds us to the gravity of our condition and our dire need for help. He knew that sin causes us to replace worship of God with an unending catalog of created things that capture the deepest allegiances of our hearts. He knew that sin renders all of us unable to live as we were designed to live. And he knew that sin was the final terminal disease that, without help, would kill us all.

The Revd Paul David Tripp holds a DMin from the well regarded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sermons from Reformed — Calvinist — pastors are always useful in reminding us why we need to repent: so that we might share eternal life with God and His Son Jesus Christ.

So, going back to the sermon at my church, yes, God loves humanity, but God really hates the sins that humans commit because of Original Sin. We cannot help ourselves, as the Bible tells us. Therefore, it is misleading for a young cleric to say, ‘God loves humans — nothing to worry about, folks’.

The second helpful sermon comes from an Anglican vicar in England, The Revd Vic Van Den Bergh, author of Vic the Vicar! Vic also had a post on the meaning of Luke 3:7-18, which puts repentance into perspective. Vic addresses his thoughts to present-day Christians, who are, after all, supposed to walking in Christ’s ways.

Excerpts follow:

Are we producing fruit ‘in keeping with our repentance’? Does the gratitude for our salvation have any substance in the way we live or do we think that attending church, wearing a cross (fish), and dropping money in the offering makes us fit for heaven?

Do you think the crowds were asking themselves how much bad stuff they were laying up alongside, or instead of, the treasures they should have been storing up in heaven?  Yet this is what John was calling them to focus on. John was calling them (and us) to look at the ways they (we) can raise their game and live differently

He didn’t tell anyone that God wanted them to be happy doing what they saw as fit and right to do (regardless of what the Bible might teach). He didn’t tell them to give more money – because God doesn’t want your money, He wants your hearts and lives filled with love and generosity in things, actions, and in spirit.

He told the people before him to live a godly and righteous life in the things and the places they were returning to after the show – and that is exactly what the prophecy of Malachi some four hundred years before called the people to do. And they didn’t and so, with the arrival about to be made public, John is trying to get the people to get their lives in order so they look at least a little bit presentable. This is not a harsh rebuttal but an act of generosity for it’s giving those hearing his words the chance to turn around (that’s a clever use of ‘repent’ innit?) – and this is what we are also doing when we encourage people to change their lives before it’s too late.

Living our lives well, looking and sounding and acting like Jesus, in the world is one of the most important witnesses we can make to our being people of faith. You don’t need a dog collar or a title or a medal – you need to exhibit the generous heart of God and that needs a cross – and gratitude, rejoicing in the freedom from sin and reconciliation with the godhead that that brings. Here we find the fruits of gladness become made real in our generous and right living. It’s so simple really, isn’t it?

He explains why even such a harsh message should bring us joy on Gaudete Sunday (December 16):

rejoicing is the natural response to the fact that God has taken away the punishment of his people and has ‘turned back’ their enemy. The reality in the words of Zephaniah given some time around 620 BC is the same reality that Jesus’ death on the cross brings for the Christian too. Jesus’ death brings defeat for our enemy (satan) and he (Jesus) bears in His body the punishment for us. He takes our place. What love. What generosity to pay a bill that wasn’t His to be paying! Jesus is the mighty warrior who saves; them one who no longer rebukes but rejoices over us with songs of deliverance.

And the Apostle Paul gets into the act with his letter to the church in Phillipi, a communication which I think affirms all we have here, for when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice,” he is nodding towards the fact that to rejoice is a choice of attitude. It is the expression of our gratitude for all God has given and done for us

Let us bear this message in mind as we celebrate Christmas with friends and family.

Regardless of desirable gifts and sumptuous feasts coming up on Tuesday, one thing should stay in our minds as we contemplate the Christ Child in the crib: Jesus is our eternal Lord and Saviour, who paid the bill ‘that wasn’t His to be paying!’ Rejoice!

My apologies for not posting Forbidden Bible Verses today.

I intend to schedule it for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I had something to do this afternoon which took much longer than expected and had to be done within a particular deadline. It’s finished now and I can truly agree, once again, that there is a wideness in God’s mercy.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy is a hymn that Dr Frederick William Faber, a clergyman with a Doctor of Divinity degree, wrote in 1862 to the melody of WELLESLEY (Tourjee).

Since then, Dr Faber’s lyrics have been adapted to other melodies, such as Corvedale by Maurice Bevan (b. 1921), sung below by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, London:

The hymn is widely sung across many denominations and appears in 785 hymnals.

Hymnary.org has the lyrics to Faber’s hymn:

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.

2 For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

Faber was part of the Oxford Movement — members of the Church of England who moved to High Church (traditional Roman Catholic-style) liturgy — in the 19th century. The movement later became known as Anglo-Catholicism and exists today.

John Henry Newman was one of the Oxford Movement adherents. He eventually became not only a Roman Catholic but also a Cardinal.

Faber also ‘crossed the Tiber’ and became a Roman Catholic in 1846. Hymnary.org tells us that he was the son of a Church of England clergyman, Mr T H Faber, and:

was born at Calverley Vicarage, Yorkshire, June 28, 1814, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1836. He was for some time a Fellow of University College, in the same University. Taking Holy Orders in 1837, he became Rector of Elton, Huntingdonshire, in 1843, but in 1846 he seceded to the Church of Rome. After residing for some time at St. Wilfrid’s, Staffordshire, he went to London in 1849, and established the London “Oratorians,” or, “Priests of the Congregation of St. Philip Neri,” in King William Street, Strand. In 1854 the Oratory was removed to Brompton. Dr. Faber died Sept. 26, 1863.

Balliol College is one of the foremost Oxford colleges. It is interesting that Faber served a parish in Huntingdonshire, part of Cambridgeshire, which was known for its Low Church adherence. During Cromwell’s time, two centuries earlier, Cambridgeshire was Calvinistic in belief, the very antithesis of High Church beliefs and worship.

Anyone who knows London will also know that the London Oratory is one of the centres of the capital’s Roman Catholic worship. The Oratory also has a famous boys’ school, which is over-subscribed year on year.

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