Some Anglican Difficulties
"The Church of England of twenty-five years ago is one that [Lancelot] Andrewes would have recognized and (generally) approved of; the present one is neither.... Andrewes would have deplored the loss of episcopal authority, of respect for tradition, of belief in basic doctrine; but most of all he might have deplored what perhaps lies at the root of all of these failures, the abandonment of a specifically religious language. The language of God has to be different; and once people cannot talk about God properly, they cannot talk about God at all."
-P.E. Hewison, in his introduction to Lancelot Andrewes, Selected Writings. (p. xv)
This is a veritable gem in explaining much of the malaise of modern Christianity, but it also opens a Pandora's box for me in many respects. I have addressed this topic before here . Since then, a friend of mine said to me that the concept of Biblical and sacred language cannot be reduced to a rationalistic transmission of data, but that the Word of God is efficacious is an almost sacramental sense; i.e. It has the power to enact and realize what It (or He) says. The old concept of translation, from the Septuagint and the Vulgate to the Authorized Version still had this in mind. Do contemporary translators, liturgists, and theologians share this reverence, or are they too busy editorializing against certain traditional concepts that they find distasteful? You be the judge.
The other find I discovered in my perusing of the Main Stacks of the U.C. Berkeley library was a copy of Ritual Notes written c. 1963. (Don't worry, classes haven't started yet, so I am free to goof-off this week.) The interesting thing about this copy was how it was looking anxiously at the liturgical proceedings of the Roman Catholic Church around the time of the Second Vatican Council. While I realize that those who want a more elaborate Anglican liturgy other than the straight Prayer Book have to look to Rome for many things, the ethos in which the author was writing seems to have been that of shadowing the Roman Church almost to the letter. He even tips his biretta to the much overused and vague concept of "active participation" by the faithful; a term that I have also critiqued severely in the past on this blog.
The crux of the problem is the following: Roma locuta est, causa finita? In other words, does our liturgical practice have to slavishly follow the dictates and programm of Vatican congregations? Is it absurd to still be using subdeacons, eastward facing altars, altar cards and other blasts from the past when the very people we were aping have long ceased to use them? Does this seem a bit ridiculous to anyone else? Perhaps the people who use the 1979 Prayer Book are right on the money on this one.
The answer I would give is that we must find a more substantial reason for these practices than mere obedience to the Roman way as a liturgical standard for the Universal Church. Do Roman chausables, tunicles, lace albs, and Baroque statues mean anything, really? Do they have something to do with the core of our Faith? I don't think there are easy answers to these questions. I tried to address these issues in my posts on the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus starting here . To say that they do makes us seems like Russian Old Believers, who in spite of being maligned for being martyred for supposed trifles, had a point on a very profound level. On the other hand, is not Hooker's Anglicanism a belief that such issues are not important? So where is the way out?