Thursday, July 12, 2012

Treasures Of The Anglican Patrimony: Introduction

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI responded to the "repeated" and "insistent" requests of groups of Anglicans "to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately," with the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The document provides for the erection of "Personal Ordinariates" around the world in which former Anglicans may enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, while still retaining what is good, true, and beautiful in the "patrimony" of historic Anglicanism.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston:
The Principal Church of the American Ordinariate
As the Holy Father says, the first and most important goal of this scheme was "to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches." As Fr. Z rightly likes to remind us so frequently, "Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity." The reconciliation of what the Catechism calls the Church's "separated brethren," is of primary importance to the Holy Father because "every division among the baptized in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, 'such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature.'"

But, this was not the only goal. The Constitution says that the Holy See has also acted "so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared." That last phrase is key. Soon after the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus many in the Church began to speak of Benedict's apparent plan for the "mutual enrichment" of various liturgical uses within the Latin Rite. Especially they point to the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that cleared the way for wider celebration of what that document termed the Extraordinary Form. But this also applies to the Anglican Use, most of whom are bringing with them a particular reverance and dedication to the Sacred Liturgy, amongst other things, which it seems the Holy Father would like to exert a "gravitational pull," to use Fr. Z's phrase, on the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Use.
The Westminster Abbey Choir at St. Peter's in Rome
Since then many have attempted to examine the nature of the Anglican Patrimony to which the Holy Father is referring, to determine what it is the Ordinariates are bringing to the Church, and why His Holiness is so enamoured of it. (So enamoured, in fact, that he issued a personal invitation to the Choir of Westminster Abbey to sing at St. Peter's for, not just any feast, but the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul! I find it astounding that this event went by largely unnoticed. It wasn't that long ago the English were still hanging, drawing and quartering Catholics after all.) Several laudable articles have been produced, including this one by one of the Episcopal Vicars of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham himself, Monsignor Andrew Burnham, this one by Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement, and one by Dr. James Patrick of the Walsingham Society in four parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.
While all of these efforts are certainly commendable, I like the notion that an essential part of the Anglican Patrimony is what's been referred to as the peculiar Anglican "ethos," and this can be very hard to pin down. It can be difficult to explain to a Roman Catholic exactly what it is about Anglicanism, especially Anglican liturgy, which is so beautiful. Nevertheless, this is an extermely important task. If the Holy Father's goal of mutual enrichment is to be realized, those in the Ordinariate must take it upon themselves to bring the gift of their Anglican heritage and traditions to the wider Church.
I think perhaps the best way to come to an understanding of the Anglican Patrimony is to experience it firsthand. So, in an attempt to contribute something in that vein, here beginneth a new series on PopSophia entitled "Treasures of the Anglican Patrimony," in which I shall present particular (especially liturgical) elements of our tradition and provide cursory examinations of the same.

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