Sunday, 11 March 2012

++Rowan in Rome - or what really matters

Yesterday was a busy day in the world of Anglicanism.  The Church of Ireland's two archbishops issued a joint statement at the conclusion of the conference on human sexuality, emphasising the significance of communion and unity (see Anglican Down Under's comments).  The CofE diocesan synods voting on the Covenant yesterday voted 4-2 againstThinking Anglicans provided links to yet another set of anti-Covenant statements.  And the Simple Massing Priest - in a somewhat strange interpretation of the catholic tradition - informed us of his support for the 19th century Dean of Westminster who opposed the first Lambeth Conference on the grounds that "whenever bishops have met in councils, even in the earliest times, they have almost invariably done an infinite deal of mischief".  Personally I - and the entire church catholic - prefer the views of the bishops gathered at Nicaea to a Dean of Westminster.  Simple Massing Priest also omits to tell us that Dean Stanley was an inveterate opponent of the Oxford Movement and a strong supporter of the Gorham Judgement ... he had little time for simple massing priests.

Significantly more important, however, than the anti-catholic Dean Stanley or the assorted votes of some English diocesan synods, was ++Rowan's presence yesterday in Rome.  He preached at the Papal Vespers commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the formation of the Camaldolese (Benedictine) monastic family.  It was from the now Camaldolese monastery in which the Papal Vespers was celebrated that Pope St Gregory the Great sent St Augustine of Canterbury and a party of fellow Benedictine monks to Britain in the late 590s.

++Rowan's sermon addressed how the monastic vocation to contemplation must be embraced in the life of the wider Church:

If anyone were to say that contemplation is a luxury in the Church, something immaterial for the health of the Body, we should have to say that without it we should be constantly dealing with shadows and fictions, not with the reality of the world we live in.  The Church is called upon to show that same prophetic spirit which is ascribed to St Gregory, the capacity to see where true need is and to answer God’s call in the person of the needy.  To do this, it requires a habit of discernment, penetration beyond the prejudices and clich├ęs which affect even believers in a culture that is so hasty and superficial in so many of its judgements;  and with the habit of discernment belongs a habit of recognizing one another as agents of Christ’s grace and compassion and redemption.

Beyond the hasty and superficial judgements which reveal the Church's conformity to the world, we are called to more fully recognise the call in each other to be the Body of Christ - the call to communion.  The Archbishop went on to apply this to the relationship between Rome and Canterbury:

Your Holiness, ‘Certain yet imperfect’ was how our predecessors of blessed memory, Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert, here in Rome in 1989, characterised the communion that our two churches share.  ‘Certain’ because of the shared ecclesial vision to which both our communions are committed as being the character of the Church both one and particular – a vision of the restoration of full sacramental communion, of a eucharistic life that is fully visible, and thus a witness that is fully credible, so that a confused and tormented world may enter into the welcome and transforming light of Christ.  And ‘yet imperfect’ because of the limit of our vision, a deficit in the depth of our hope and patience.  Our recognition of the one Body in each other’s corporate life is unstable and incomplete;  yet without such ultimate recognition we are not yet fully free to share the transforming power of the Gospel in Church and world.

Unity and communion are vital to the credibility of the Church's witness to the world.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of the venerable See of Rome yesterday prayed together for the renewal of unity.  Of course, if you follow the anti-catholic Dean Stanley, this is nothing but mischief. For those of us in the catholic tradition, however, it is a powerful sign of the call to unity and communion.  Ut unum sint.

No comments: