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The Anglican Catholic patrimony which the ordinariate will bring has been enriching us for years

Think of all those great translations of Latin hymns

By on Friday, 11 March 2011

High altar reredos by Sir Ninian Comper at St Mark's church in Primrose Hill, north-west London

High altar reredos by Sir Ninian Comper at St Mark's church in Primrose Hill, north-west London

There is an interesting Telegraph blog by the pianist Stephen Hough this week, about his conversion to the Catholic Church as a boy of 16. He and his mother were staying in a guesthouse, down the road from Buckfast Abbey:

“We went to Mass there, mainly because it was within walking distance, and immediately I had this feeling of entering an enormous, strange, fascinating new world.
 
“It wasn’t just the unfamiliar sight of sun streaming through stained glass windows and the sound of Latin chant. I felt I was in a forbidden place, an enclave of papism – really quite an exciting sensation for an awkward, rebellious teenager. I was about to leave all Christian faith behind when this window to a bigger truth opened: that beauty can be a path to God, and that a fixed, “impersonal” liturgy can seem less man-made than extemporary prayers.”

His conversion was from an evangelical form of Protestantism, and as he puts it, “it might have caused less offence if I’d taken up smoking hashish”. Now, he says, “I no longer feel so separated from the tradition in which I grew up. If I want to attend Anglican evensong or sing Methodist hymns I can – and do, with pleasure. Our communities understand each other better. There’s room for a two-way exchange, and I hope the ordinariate will make that exchange even warmer.”
 
I also hope it will: all the same, it has to be said that in the case of mainstream broad church Anglicanism I really don’t think that our communities do understand each other better: what has happened is that Roman Catholics have begun to understand Catholic-minded Anglicans a lot better (it isn’t just that Anglo-Catholics have realised that any kind of understanding with Anglicanism as it has developed is now impossible for them): and the “Anglican patrimony” they bring with them is of a kind entirely compatible with the Roman patrimony of the mainstream English Catholic Church.
 
Largely that is because, over the decades, beginning with the Oxford movement in which John Henry Newman was such a major formative influence, Anglo-Catholics made themselve  relatively comfortable within Anglicanism by constructing a liturgical culture and an ecclesiology (which has now entirely collapsed) according to which the Anglican Church had never really left the mainstream of Western Christendom. That explains why the Tractarians and post-Tractarians (or “Anglo-Catholics”) were culturally so entirely happy with – and showed, many of them, such wonderful comprehension of – the Catholic spiritual tradition. This led to some of the great Anglo-Catholic church architecture of the 19th century – think of Sir Ninian Comper (have a look here at the cover of Fr Anthony Symondson’s book about him) – and, most powerfully for me, to some of the great 19th-century hymns, many translated from the medieval Latin, some of which, I was delighted to find on my conversion, have long since entered the Catholic repertory.
 
Particularly, this is true of the greatest translator of all, Catholic or Anglican, the Tractarian priest John Mason Neale, who produced much the best English translation of the Benediction hymn (“Therefore, we before him bending”) as well as many other great classics: I think particularly of two hymns both of which in my parish (the Oxford Oratory) we sang on the last Sunday before Lent. The first, “Christ is made the sure foundation”, was the entrance hymn for the Pope’s visit to Westminster Abbey: with its magnificent tune by Henry Purcell and equally majestic words by John Mason Neale (from a seventh-century Latin hymn) – and, it has to be said, its stately choreography by the Dean of Westminster – it was such stuff as ceremonial dreams are made on. You can see it here; and here are the words:

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion’s help for ever,
and her confidence alone.
 
All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.
 
To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy servants as they pray,
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.
 
Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee of gain;
what they gain from thee, for ever
with the blessèd to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.
 
Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
consubstantial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.

(Singing those last two lines never fails to give me goose-pimples). But the greatest of all Neale’s translations for me is the tenderly beautiful, the wonderfully poetic “Jerusalem the Golden”, translated from words by St Bernard of Cluny. I don’t have a well-performed version for you, but if you don’t know the tune to which it’s usually sung, here it is:

Jerusalem the golden,
with milk and honey blest,
beneath thy contemplation
sink heart and voice oppressed:
I know not, oh, I know not,
what social joys are there;
what radiancy of glory,
what bliss beyond compare!
 
They stand, those halls of Zion,
all jubilant with song,
and bright with many an angel,
and all the martyr throng:
the Prince is ever in them,
the daylight is serene;
the pastures of the blessèd
are decked in glorious sheen.
 
There is the throne of David;
and there, from care released,
the shout of them that triumph,
the song of them that feast;
and they who with their Leader
have conquered in the fight,
for ever and for ever
are clad in robes of white.
 
Oh, sweet and blessèd country,
the home of God’s elect!
Oh, sweet and blessèd country,
that eager hearts expect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us
to that dear land of rest,
who art, with God the Father,
and the Spirit, ever blest.

(The sixth line is usually rendered these days “what joys await us there”, presumably because some ignoramus thought that “social joys” sounded too much like a cocktail party).
 
I could go on: I would like to say more about John Mason Neale (have a look here if you’re interested) and the Tractarian cultural tradition. I have only said as much as I have because someone whose blushes I will spare, shortly after the ordinariate was announced, said he doubted there was much of an Anglican patrimony that was compatible with real Catholicism. Well, we have been drawing on this Anglican patrimony for some time now: both these hymns are in the splendid Catholic Hymn Book edited by the London Oratory and published by Gracewing, and in other Catholic hymnals, too. And there’s a lot more patrimony (and not just hymns) where they came from: as we shall now begin to see.

  • SluggerJim

    The Catholic Church owes many debts to Anglicanism. Probably the greatest was the abolition of slavery. The leaders of the abolition movement in Great Britain (Wilberforce, Newton, and Clarkson) were all Anglicans, mostly of the evangelical wing of the church. Their reflection on the message of the scriptures lead them to pursue the goal of abolition with single-minded zeal. At a time when many Catholic religious orders were slave-holders, they perceived accurately the mandate of Christ. Their work with the Quakers and other Non-Conformists is one of the best arguments for the positive force of religion in society.

  • http://twitter.com/jamesdbradley James Bradley

    John Mason Neale continues to influence the Catholic Church through the Sisters formerly of the Society of St Margaret, which JMN founded in 1855, and who are now members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

  • Neville Devilliers

    I agree and would go so far as to say it is the CofE and world Anglicanism which should have the Ordinariate to which Roman Catholics could be admitted. Instead of the other way around. Rome’s theological patrimony married to Anglican culture, music, arts, letters, the English language, and progressive, largely tolerant thought. Civilizing the world in ways Rome has never done.

  • Neville Devilliers

    I agree and would go so far as to say it is the CofE and world Anglicanism which should have the Ordinariate to which Roman Catholics could be admitted. Instead of the other way around. Rome’s theological patrimony married to Anglican culture, music, arts, letters, the English language, and progressive, largely tolerant thought. Civilizing the world in ways Rome has never done.

  • Aging Papist

    I agree and would go so far as to say it is the CofE and world Anglicanism which should have the Ordinariate to which Roman Catholics could be admitted. Instead of the other way around. Rome’s theological patrimony married to Anglican culture, music, arts, letters, the English language, and progressive, largely tolerant thought. Civilizing the world in ways Rome has never done.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Aging Papist/Neville Devilliers: have you (both?) inadvertently blown your cover, not least in that your acceptance of the simplistic and derisory Anglo-centric generalization (“Civilizing the world in ways Rome has never done”), reveals a breathtakingly sweeping disregard for historically verifiable fact?

    Mindful of the Latin origins of the very word ‘civilization’, it is sad that myths and falsehoods about Rome’s past perpetuate, which contrive to ignore the civilization it promoted and continues to foster, preferring instead to represent the Church as backward-looking, malign or even evil.

    Yet an undistorted political or artistic history shows that for most of the past two millennia (and counting) it was Catholic Rome that enabled, for example, the vision of the city to continue to be seen as the centre of culture, learning, neighbourliness, religious practice, virtue and, yes, civility (there’s that word again…).

    For century after century, Rome’s influence in shaping the potential for beauty in thought, deed and aspect on the face of Europe can be seen progressing (albeit not always flawlessly) from one era to the next. From St. Jerome’s Vulgate (unacknowledged in the King James Version) to St. Thomas’ synthesis of philosophy and faith; from Gregorian chant to the music of Vivaldi ; from the art and architecture of the great cathedral and humble parish church, to the works of Raphael and Michelangelo and beyond; a legacy and patrimony that continues right up to the present day.

    Indeed, I wonder where post-18th century Enlightenment Europe would be today if, for example, the Anglo-Protestant insistence on the literal interpretation of Scripture as the only source of truth had not been resisted by the Roman Catholic insistence that it wasn’t?

    It bears repeating: much complacency of thought today still stems from self-serving propaganda, from the 16th to 19th centuries, which professed that the Roman Catholic Church was irretrievably corrupt – a politically compromised cliché which prevails even to this day from shibboleths about the Inquisition (which, contrary to the uncivilized institution of myth, was, by the standards of the times, a comparatively merciful one) to those which derogate the Church’s attitude to science (e.g., the re-cycling of distorted narrative, such as that surrounding Galileo, which makes science appear incompatible with Roman Catholic faith – which, of course, it wasn’t and isn’t) whilst ignoring the literally hundreds of scientists, including priests, religious and lay, not to mention the many major figures, whose contributions to science have not been compromised by either their allegiance to their faith or to Rome.

  • http://benedictambrose.wordpress.com/ Benedict Ambrose

    It’s not just the line Dr Oddie mentions that has been ignorantly bowdlerised – several others as they appear above are also travesties (as anyone with an English Hymnal can easily verify).

    Just the most ripely idiotic examples, since I’m in a hurry…

    1. The kiddie-speak “chosen of the Lord, and precious, / binding all the Church in one” should be the sinewy “Who, the two walls underlying, / Bound in each, binds both in one”.

    2. “God the One, and God the Trinal, / Singing everlastingly.” is what the good Dr Neale intended for the conclusion of verse two.

    3. “What they SUPPLICATE to gain; / here to HAVE AND HOLD for ever / Those good things their prayers obtain.”

    4. “CONjubilant with song” is so much potent than the the flaccid “all jubilant”.

    That’ll do for now!

  • Anonymous

    In the interests of balance, to the usually named trio of Wilberforce, Clarkson and Newton (who was a slave ship’s captain before becoming a clergyman and writing ‘Amazing Grace’) might I add the often over-looked William Roscoe (1753-1831), Liverpool philanthropist, polymath, MP and abolitionist.

    Among the most celebrated works of this author, artist, lawyer, banker and botanist were his lives of Lorenzo de Medici and Pope Leo X, which contributed to renewed English interest in Italian art and culture. A non-conformist himself, he also championed the rights of the oppressed Roman Catholic minority, making himself doubly unpopular with many fellow Englishmen and Anglicans who were, unsurprisingly, in the majority the main financial beneficiaries and proponents of the slave trade here in Britain.

    As for the Catholic Church’s position, Popes who condemned the slave trade include:

    - 1741 (almost a century before full abolition in British territories): Benedict XVI condemned slavery generally.

    -1815: Pious VII demanded of the Congress of Vienna the suppression of the slave trade, which Pious IX branded “the supreme villainy (summum nefas) of the the slave traders”.

    -1839: Gregory XVI condemned the continuing slave trade in ‘ In supremo apostolatus’.

    -1888: Leo XIII (ditto) ‘In plurimis’.

  • Aging Papist

    Laud and honor to the Father,
    laud and honor to the Son,
    laud and honor to the Spirit,
    ever Three, and ever One,
    consubstantial, co-eternal,
    while unending ages run.

    Note Anglicans have no difficulty dealing with “consubstantial”, but so many Roman Catholics do.

  • Aging Papist

    Catholic Rome that enabled, for example, the vision of the city to continue to be seen as the centre of culture, learning, neighbourliness, religious practice, virtue and, yes, civility (there’s that word again…).
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————
    Read the history of the papacy. One of corruption, greed, warfare, anti-Semitism,and the denigration of personal rights, from the early Churh to 1870. The shabby history of the Church fighting modernism and progress on all fronts. Nowhere is this in greater evidence than in Spain and South America. Still enslaved today. All you can cite are strictly artistic and cultural contributions which I concede are considerable, but there it ends.

    Unfortunately, Catholicism weakened itself in the 30 years war and was destroyed in England following the Wars of the Roses and the 100 Years war. The Counter Reformation was a signal failure in attempting to destroy Protestantism. Great music and architecture yes, but that’s it. A Church was formed obsessed with uniformity and control. Permitting Protestant Holland, Britain, Germany, and always the independent thinking French, to pick up the torch of learning, discovery, and to become the stage for the Enlightenment. The Jesuits,while successful in eastern Europe and France, failed in England. They’re a pitiably pale shadow of their former glory today.

    The university system largely succeeded on it’s own without papal support at all. Superstition, autocracy,and the desire to control the minds of the incurably incurious have become the Church’s heritage and hallmark, with very few exceptions. The Roman Church is sliding into irrelevancy and corruption again. As a result, we see the next Reformation taking root today.

    The Age of the Laity is rising fast even if Benedict XVI in unable to traverse the 16th century and come into the 21st century. As in the case of the last reformation 500 years ago, he and the Church are being dismissed. Just as the toadies flocking about Benedict continue to tell him all is well and that the Church of the status quo will triumph.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Aging Papist, the imperative tone and presumptive bias of your response (“Read the history of the papacy.”) perhaps betrays the hegemonic limitations of your own preferred reading of history, which as such, it appears, would seem to be a singular concept.

    The predictable litany of crimes and misdemeanours you proffer as though they were exclusive to one institution – rather than contingent features familiar to the stories of myriad human histories – is intellectually complacent, to say the least. To present it as the legacy of the Holy See in particular, and then Catholicism in general, would be merely risible, were it not for the fact that to perpetuate such simplistic and unrevised truisms in the guise of incontrovertible truths does no worthwhile service to anyone in the long-run: except, perhaps, the old trickster himself.

    There was (and is) always more to Christianity than the reductionism of Northern European philosophical and Protestant insistence on the individual’s autonomy; where, ultimately, has that led us, apart from Marxism, Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, and post-modern Man as God? Similarly, to patronizingly dismiss the many centuries of foundational and historical contributions of the Catholic Church to the great establishments of European learning as “Superstition, … (etc.)” is at best uncharitable. To thereby imply that the success of “The university system” stems mostly from the empiricism of the so-called Enlightenment is disingenuous. Your assertions ignore, as twentieth century physics demonstrated about perceptions of reality, that the closer the analysis so the greater the tendency for the hard facts and objects of the enquiry to dissolve into a much more dynamic complex of events and processes.

    One can only pray that “The Age of the Laity” you conspicuously capitalize does not provide the forces of the aforementioned trickster with too many unwitting foot-soldiers: marching with well-intentioned self-righteousness alongside the ranks of liberal and secular earth-bound rationalists; whose religious differences are so entangled with their political differences that they become inseparable, even as they themselves become inseparable from one another in the Babelite dead-end of their infernal discord.

  • SluggerJim

    As an interesting addendum to this discussion regarding the contributions of Anglicanism I would like to cite a recent nomination of that bastion of Christian sensibility, the New York Times. In an article published on March 5, it asked the question: “Who, since the time of Jesus and his apostles, has brought more people to Christianity than anybody else?” It suggests a few possible candidates such as the emperor Constantine and Pope Urban II but then comes down on the side of an Anglican layman, C. S. Lewis, “who moved more hearts with a pen than others have with armies.” This is an opinion about Lewis that many Catholics can wholeheartedly endorse and a testament to the way the Spirit blows where it willst.

  • Parasum

    “The first, “Christ is made the sure foundation”, was the entrance hymn
    for the Pope’s visit to Westminster Abbey: with its magnificent tune by
    Henry Purcell and equally majestic words by John Mason Neale (from a
    seventh-century Latin hymn)…”

    IOW, our own culture and faith is so impoverished that we are reduced to lifting stuff from non-Catholics. Deplorable. Those who lack the Faith in its fullness, cannot reflect it in its fullness. This is so blindingly obvious, so self-evident, that it would have been nothing less than a miracle if the organisers of that part of the Pope’s visit had understood this.

  • Nat_ons

    Read the history in Scripture; one of mass murder, wholesale and aggressive racism, disregard of ‘human rights’ for any who aren’t on the inside, not to leave out greed, corruption and sexual misdemenor. Of course, one might rather look at the history of the English empire and its church which has at times been one of mass murder, wholesale and aggressive racism, disregard of ‘human rights’ for any who aren’t on the inside, not to leave out greed, corruption and sexual misdemenor. Or if the term ‘empire’ seems to distance the point from modern man, consider the history of the WASPish United States of America, both national and imperial; this too has at times been one of one of mass murder, wholesale and aggressive racism, disregard of ‘human rights’ for any who aren’t on the inside, not to leave out greed, corruption and sexual misdemenor.

    Slavery is still all but rampant in areas dependent on the commercial empire built up by England and the US – tying the poorest of the poor to poverty so that cheap clothes and food can fill Hypermarket stores .. only to be thrown on the scrap heap when these (souls, food and clothing) are no longer required; it needs no more than a read of Dickens to show this. No one who walked through the Civil Rights disputes in America and N. Ireland in the 1960s can have any but the most vivid pictures of second class citzenry, de-enfranchised subjects, or resident alien status peoples shut out of the In-Crowd. These empires of money-making fact also imposed opium taking on foreign states even by means of war, they have sent gun boats to enforce diplomatic access to markets on their terms, and still invade the bad-boy rogue states they have found inconvenient or in opposition to them.

    It is foolish to believe that Anglicans, Baptists, My-Own-Church-ists et al formed no part in this. That they were and also often remain at the very heart of the decisions that uphold this system of first, second and third worlds – even in one country – is plain for any to see: if one makes the slightest effort to see it. And, moreover, that although their part is never rigorously explored by the mass media – historically and at present – they do indeed have the same mired hands which can be seen in the history of the papacy; except in this, the popes, and the catholic orthodoxy of the West in particular, have a developed singularly consistant scrutiny, regard and drive for the better or even to do the best for the commonwealth of all men .. England, America, Iraq (whether or not they also fail frequently in this betterment).

    The Aquarian Age – that of people against authority – has waned, and is fast disappearing along its own vanity. That it had no place in the Christian Faith, let alone running rampant through it, is not a matter of one saintly man imposing some imaginary 16th century model, it is precluded by God’s will. True, the Class War antics of the Soviet/ Capitalist Cold War has vapoured away already, yet its by-products have not .. some of them will overshadow generations for centuries to come .. nonetheless, this spirit of divisionism is still at work among way too many Catholics of the West and with the same vitriol that marked the initial drive for their enslavement to a worldly-wise error.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Deputy

    “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Heb 13 : 17.

    God bless, Nat.

    PS: Obedience in Christ is never blind to confusion, mistake and error in pastors. It is, however, insightful to all truths that they seek advance .. even if they do so in flawed or faulty ways. The constant opposition of the popes to slavery, of wild, brutal, illegal punishments, and the folly of disregard for reasoning – even among their own number - is easier to wish away than it is to obliterate from historical record.