Sunday, 27 January 2013

Holy Matrimony

A friend of mine has been musing as to whether Pentecost was the reversal of Babel.  Certainly there is some beautiful symmetry and poetry in considering Pentecost in this light.  Certainly, Pentecost made Truth so totally convincing and believable in the hearts and souls of the first disciples, that more and more converts found the Way.

Why are we just not convincing anymore?  I mean, why is the message of salvation not dripping from us in such a way that we are totally convincing to those around us?  In particular, why are we so far from winning hearts and minds in the debate on same-sex marriage.  Others may find our side of the debate "interesting", but interesting isn't good enough.  A good liberal will tolerate and listen to our views but he will not be arrested by them. We keep preaching to the liberals in the hope we can reach them, but we won't reach them whilst they cling to their liberalism.  Somehow we have to catch the liberal on his blind side and make him see humanity from an angle that he had never envisaged before, and to do this we have to be a lot more appealing, beautiful and truthful than we currently are.  And the appeal, the beauty and the truth must be Christ's.

Personally, I think the fault lies in our engaging far too much with the world and forgetting to keep our eyes fixed on heaven.  I do not think this is something that started with Vatican II or even with the emergence of Modernism in the 19th Century. Many of its roots lie within the bruising encounter of the Church with Protestantism from the Reformation onwards. Protestantism makes God too small and man too big, and we are all guilty of doing that.  

I want to give you an example.  Compare the opening of the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer 1559 with the opening to the Sarum wedding ceremony of 1604 (the only version of the Sarum rite one I could find on line).

The BCP starts:
DEARELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimony

Sarum starts:

Behold, brethren, we have come hither in the sight of God, the angels, and all his saints in the presence of the church, to join together two bodies, of this man and of this woman,
 There is a dimension missing from the BCP: the universality of the act of marriage, the timelessness of it, what a world of difference there is between "congregation" and "church"!

The BCP continues:
which is an honorable state, instytuted of God in Paradise, in the time of manes innocencie, signiflyng unto us the mistical union that is betwixt Christ and his Churche: which holy state Christe adourned and beautified with his presence and firste myracle that he wrought in Cana of Galile, and is commended of sainct Paul to be honourable emong all men, and therfore is not to be enterprised, nor taken in hande unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfye mennes carnall lustes and appetytes, lyke brute beastes that have no understandyng ; but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the feare of God,
Now this is all goodly and necessary advice.  However Sarum deems none of this to be necessary, it continues with:

so that henceforth they may be one in flesh and two spirits in faith and in the law of God, at the same time to the promised eternal life, whatever they have done previously.

 The BCP is decidedly earth bound, Sarum looks to heaven.

The BCP then witters on at great length as to the reason for the institution of marriage and I have to say, I've always found these rather repellent in the way they are set out. 
 One was the procreation of children, to be brought up in the feare and nurtoure of the Lorde, and praise of God. Secondly, it was ordeined for a remedy agaynste sinne and to avoide fornication, that suche persones as have not the gifte of continencie might mary, and kepe themselves undefiled membres of Christes body. Thirdly, for the mutual societie, helpe, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, bothe in prosperity and adversitye
The first is good and true. The third is true in itself but hardly the stuff of a vocation.  The second is an abomination, it seems to say "get married so that you can have an outlay for your lusts that isn't sinful". Does that mean it is OK for your husband to have intercourse with you whilst he is thinking about the wench next door?  Obviously, this is not the intention (as that would be un-Christian) but it comes across like that and again, are these 3 reason really necessary? Are they the ONLY reasons?  There is nothing heavenward or sanctifying.  The second reason can also quickly lead to a justification of contraception within marriage.

Sarum ends the opening with:
Therefore, I warn you all that if any of you know anything to speak, why these two persons cannot be lawfully joined together, he is to confess it now.

The BCP ends the opening with:
Therefore if any man can shewe any just cause, why thei may not lawfully be joyned together let hym now speake, or els hereafter for ever holde his peace.
 So they end on a similar note, but Sarum all the while was thinking heavenward, the BCP earthward.

 My question to you, dearest reader is:  are we Catholics closer to the BCP or to Sarum in our "common" understanding of marriage?  Irrespective of how well we know our catechism, are we really understanding the sacred and heavenly nature of marriage or are we earthbound and too preoccupied with the human aspects?  Isn't it time to aim higher than Cranmer?  The church of Cranmer can't even convince itself of anything these days.

[Note: the BCP came from here. The English translation of the Sarum can be found here.  The original Latin for the Sarum can be found here.]

1 comment:

Robert said...

Dear Rita, I love these recent posts you've written. I think you are right, here, in wondering why our message of salvation is not compelling. I think we, ourselves, do not find it so compelling. We should be "dripping" with it, overflowing with it. In this world, obviously, we can never fully understand it, but we still ought to be something like overwhelmed by it, by God's exuberant love for us.

Part of the problem is, as you say, we don't have our eyes fixed enough on heaven. Too much television and internet and all kinds of inessential distraction.

If WE ourselves were more convinced, we would be walking around something like star-dazed lovers, constantly thinking of God, constantly overwhelmed by his love, constantly seeking out how to love him, and that, obviously, would overflow to love of our neighbor, and they, looking at our sincere joy, would find themselves asking: "Where can I get some of that?"

We modern Catholics, no matter how traditional or conservative we are, often do not approach our faith and our God (and our neighbor) with this kind of love. We do our duty with a certain resignation un-tinged with joy and love, and too many of us live just like unbelievers: mindlessly entertaining ourselves, shopping and working on Sundays, dressing immodestly, wasting a ton of time, etc. They don't see us as being different, and they certainly don't see us as joy-filled and overwhelmed with love.

Consequently, they see Christianity as just another religion with a bunch of rules, a lot of "no's" when really, Christianity, especially Catholicism is a lot of "Yes's!"

We don't know that ourselves, and so we aren't very good at conveying that to others, even as parents to our own children.

God bless you!