Posted by: Fr. C. | May 11, 2012

Directional Thoughts

Here are some thoughts for consideration from Fr. Chad Hatfield’s short but thought-provoking paper Anglican Options  Rome or Orthodoxy.

“I had watched the pitiful hissing and fighting within the Continuing Anglican churches for years.  I had come to the conclusion that the main vocation of these various groups was to serve a kind of chaplaincy to small elderly congregations.” Is this a valid observation?  We’ll set up a poll later to see.

Or, how about this? “[T]he ‘Anglican way’ and the ‘Orthodox way’ are one and the same with the appeal to Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition.  Orthodoxy is the best of classical Anglicanism preserved in our day, with an unquestioned link to the Apostolic Church.” Fr. Carl Bell, A New and Unknown World, The Evangelical    Catholic, Vol. XIV, No. 8, March/April 1992, p. 11.

Finally, in a reflection paper, written by Fr. Peter Geldard, a Roman Catholic priest whom I know and deeply respect and former General-Secretary of the English Church Union, three questions are put to Anglicans who are looking at their options.  They are as follows:

  • Does the Church in which I wish to be sustained guarantee me the continual grace and comfort of the sacraments as they were instituted by Christ?
  • Does my choice work for the building-up and the unity of the Church or its further disintegration?
  • Is it a Church into which I wish to inculcate my children and grand-children because I am convinced of its future and its ability to convert our nation?

Responses

  1. I did not choose to become Roman Catholic but in her defense, the RCC converted my heart to a sense of THE Church and her role in the world and in the life of the parishoner that I think can be found both in RCC and Orthodoxy, but not in today’s Anglicanism or Anglo-Catholicism. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but the business of saving souls – our own! – requires more bloodymindedness than misty eyed thoughts about what once was.

    By this I don’t mean to pick on things Anglican, but instead encourage that rather than trying to take the measure through logic and reason (philosophy), one instead begin to look at the role the church itself plays, what it offers, and how it works as an organic living institution… as the literal body of Christ. In essence, this is to enter the heart of the Church and try to feel its beat. The problems I think those on the fence between where they’ve been and where they might be headed is that they seem intent in holding to the illusion that you can tell where you fit from the outside. You cannot. If a sacrament changes you in an indelible indefinable way, then this very logic denies the efficacy of the sacrament of chrismation (whether into the Roman or Orthodox church). Yes, there are risks of getting it wrong. But the bigger risk lies in knowing that Christ and the power of his Body lies elsewhere and doing nothing. Folks have made mistakes and joined one, backed out and joined the other, and yes, this is hard, but I’d guess the gift of humility it brings would bring a smile to the face of any real saints. So have at it!

    One thing I would recommend in this course is to enter into the cycle and union of prayers offered by each communion. Because of the texts involved in Orthodoxy, this is hard and expensive to do. RCC in its genius makes this easier, and I would highly recommend ordering a copy of the reprinted 1954 St. Andrew Missal from St. Bonaventure Press as a compendium of worship and theology of the church’s services for the feasts and Sundays. Add a Benedictine manual and you’ve just about got all the tools to begin comprehending the mysteries and magic of catholic worship.

    Our faith is a journey, not a standing in one place waiting for enlightenment, insight or a sales pitch, but something grafted into us from the saints around us, before us and after us, and a willingness to do the hard work of sweating blood. These tools will help begin the process at a level of depth that will make philosophical ramblings about doctrine clear for the dithering and hesitation they are. I recommend anyone thinking of this get over themselves already. Go ahead, make a mistake! Confession’s there for a reason. Suffer the wildness of the stallion in Job that God seems to admire… and begin. Taming takes longer than we think! And God welcomes a repentant sinner… hard as it is to see through our own pride.

    The mystery of the Orthodox Church is harder to grasp, and indeed seems to turn the telescope around just as icons reverse our sense of perspective. Apprehension of the link between scripture and our services is equally layered in a way that can take years to absorb, reflect and appreciate. Together with its organic, cellular ecclessial structure, and its resistance to separating the monastic from lay life, Orthodoxy is not amenable to changing the goal of the christian life and the means of living it. Indeed, its comprehensiveness is such that life itself is a sacrament – and in an odd touch or irony, one of its greatest saints (St. Mary of Egypt) lived her life beyond the eucharist. So reverence for the apophatic way, and the antimonies of christian insight are not just very much more within her ethos, but at her center (which is not beyond RCC either… just more commonly seen as reserved for monastics… as most Orthodox will caution eager laymen, too!). Some contend that this leaves Orthodox too narrow a way… but I’d suggest the words of Pope Benedict on pruning the Catholic church should give pause to anyone thinking Rome’s way is (or should be) any less narrow. The easy way is wide and leads only to one place… and it is neither Rome nor Orthodoxy.


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