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.]




Thursday, 24 January 2013

Generation Gap

Student Union debates 50 years ago and now:


Cambridge University, November 1963
That till death us do part is ridiculous
Defeated by 263 votes to 209

University of Keele, Autumn 1963
This house believes that private morality is irrelevant to public responsibility
Defeated by 104 votes to 82, with 11 abstentions

London University, January 1964
That this house rejects the traditional Christian conception of sex
Defeated by 282 votes to 189 with 81 abstentions

Cambridge University, February 1964
That fornication is more harm to society than smoking
Carried by 201 votes to 163

Northampton College of Advanced Technology, February 1964
That this house believes that marriage in its present form is out of date
Defeated by 82 votes to 60 with 24 abstentions
[source:The Cult of Softness, Lunn & Lean, Blandford Press (1965)]

*****

Oxford University, January 2013
This house would be glad to have gay parents
Carried by 345 votes to 21
[source: godzdogz.op.org]

Evidence of an increasing herd mentality?
Evidence of a decrease in intelligence?
Evidence of a decrease in the standard of debating?
Evidence that the end is nigh?

Not evidence of anything, but thought provoking nonetheless.......

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Korah's complaint

Things were all so simple back in the days of the Old Testament.  People stubbornly refused to obey God (after being given chances to do so) and things would happen; perhaps it was permanent exile for them, or perhaps their total destruction in flood, fire or the ground opening up and swallowing them.  Nothing like this happens now under the New Covenant, and I'm sure many mourn the passing of such visible retribution.

God certainly revealed His power in these mighty acts, but the mightiest thing He has done for us was to send His Son to die on the cross for our sins, bringing forth into the world a regeneration and expiation through the Resurrection and the Sacraments of the Church.  After that, there can be no more visible retributions, God has, pardoning the modern parlance "jumped the shark", He can't top that.  He speaks as ever urgently to our hearts and implores that we love Him; all of us, saint and sinner alike.

I'm actually musing about open rebellion in the Church and people who say things contrary to the teaching of the Church and our reaction to these souls.  There is many a time when we would love the ground to swallow them up, and more shame on us for that.  Has any heretic through the ages ever suffered some divine calamity for his heresy? I think not.  In some ways this "justifies" the heretic in his own reasoning.  He believes he must be OK because God hasn't struck him down.  He sees error all around him, he sees the mighty mechanism of the Church as the great whore of Babylon, and he believes himself to be the real holder of the truth.

I've cast my mind back to the revolt of Korah, Dathan and Abiram mentioned in Numbers 16.  This is what Korah said against Moses and against Aaron and the priesthood; "You have gone too far! For all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?".....There, in the wilderness we have rebellion against the priesthood, and what a "benign" thing it is that Korah says.  We are all holy, why do we need such a priesthood, God loves us all.  

Well the ground did swallow him up, but as he himself was a Levite, his incense burners were holy and they were spared. I love that detail.

Korah's complaint sounds so modern.  It is the cry that we have all heard so much since Vatican II.  It manifests itself in dodgy lay "ministries", naff liturgies, every Tom, Dick and Henrietta being allowed into the sanctuary, an erosion of the use of Confession, an erosion of the preaching of and need for personal holiness.  And still the ground doesn't swallow the new Korah's up (or their flocks).........





BUT, following the Epistle of St Jude, those who have preached Korah's error are indeed in trouble. They will be judged (Jude verse 11)

It is however timely to remember that St Jude also says, that those who do claim to be true members of the Church must "build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the Love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life".

And there is more; we can do something for the Korah's of this world, rather than just scoffing at them and wishing the "biological solution" would rid us of them. We can:

  • convince some who doubt
  • save some, by snatching them out of the fire
  • have mercy on some with fear
(read the whole Epistle of St Jude, it isn't long)
As surely if we have the Holy Spirit, and God has kept us from falling and we are without blemish, then we will be able to discern which course of action to take and we can play our part in the saving of souls rather than wanting them damned.

Then again, you could be a proper little protester and just ignore this Epistle and deny its validity....

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Blast from the Past

Nestling next to Kinsey's "Sexual Behaviour and the Human Male" in a second hand book shop yesterday was a little gem which I picked up for the princely sum of 75p.  Kinsey's shelf mate was a little paperback from 1965, most of which is as pertinent now as the day it was written.  The book is called "The Cult of Softness" and was written by the Catholic apologist Arnold Lunn along with the Anglican writer Garth Lean.  The book is critical of the secularisation of society and the attacks on Christianity from within.  The authors target humanism, the BBC, educational policy, the avant garde and journalism.....nothing changes.  They are particularly concerned by the attitude of some of the clergy of the day, in particular Canon Douglas Rhymes of Southwark.  I will give you a taster of the Canon's words and see if you think his attitude has actually "conquered" much of Christianity. May God have mercy on his soul.

"It is when we see ourselves as whole, a whole which is to be loved for its wholeness, not divided into higher and lower - that we begin to love ourselves, to love the flesh, the mind the spirit because the flesh, the mind and the spirit are me and the more I know about myself, the more I shall respect myself.  The less I feel guilty in myself, the more I shall respect, know and love others.  There is no part of me for which I need to feel guilty; the only guilt I need to feel is when I have ceased to be myself and, at the command of someone else, be it priest, Church, politician or parent, am pretending to be what I am not and calling it good."
This is I suppose, the battle cry of the "Cult of Softness".  It is the feel-good drivel that masquerades as Christianity and indeed in many Christian schools is the only mantra that is allowed. It is certainly un-Christian as Christianity demands obedience to and love of Christ, as the authors say themselves:

"Love,", it [the New Testament] says, "is the fulfilling of the law".  In other words, because we love, we shall observe the precepts of the law all the more carefully.  The new covenant does not abrogate the old, but fulfils it by giving it content, meaning and above all, motive.  Love is  no more a substitute for the law than the body is for the skeleton.

However, what strikes me most is the sentence quoted below this paragraph.  I hope the sentiment expressed in it wakes us all up.  Attacks on "softness" must be educated, sustained and gentle and often for the most part played out well away from the media (it is about our behaviour and what we show to the world). This is the way the English fight best and I feel that the day is coming when we may have to earn our title as Mary's Dowry and come out fighting. The authors and I myself believe that the silent majority of our lands do not actually adhere to the cult of softness and the liberalism it entails.  However, they remain silent and by the sickening process of hegemony, the soft brigade take over.

The last thing we desire is to criticise secularists for their determination to create the kind of society which they desire.  It is our failure as Christians to mount an adequate counter-attack that we deplore.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Getting Over It

For all us sinners living in the real world, I've though it may be necessary, after my last post, to offer some advice on how to "come out" (as it were) on the other side, having mastered your sexuality (your attachment to your sexual function for its own sake) so that it is no longer relevant.

The advice is personal and related to my own experiences and those of some of my friends who also feel quite strongly about this topic.

Firstly, take the words of St Philip Neri to heart:
He who does not go down into hell while he is alive, runs a great risk of going there after he is dead.
So use the fact you have been a lustful sinner to remind yourself that it is a miserable, unsatisfactory existence and that it is no model for Christian perfection.  Get to Confession, if you've not been over this and fulfil the criteria for a good confession. 

Now you've made a resolution, deal with lesser habitual activities you've built up over the years; the way you look at complete strangers, the sentimental attachments to certain mannerisms you find attractive in others, thinking about sex.  And the best way to do this is to think upon the Crucifixion and ask yourself "did Jesus really die for me to behave like this?"

Make sure you have absolutely no trust in yourself and be light hearted about it.  We are all like rescue dogs whose previous owners never properly house trained them.  Trust your new Master to turn you around.

When faced with serious temptation, flee it by making a quick prayer to Our Lady and removing yourself from the situation.

When faced with the garbage that has been dredged out of the recesses of your brain in a dream.  Remember it is garbage and don't dwell on it.  Occupy yourself with something.  Find some good act to perform (like phoning an aged relative) that will take your mind away from this.

Never act on a sexual thought by elaborating it or by turning it into a word or deed, and if you do, go to Confession. Keep a rosary to hand at all times, just holding it helps.

Get to know the Psalms, 24 is a favourite...

The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember. According to thy mercy remember thou me: for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.
The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way.
He will guide the mild in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways.
All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to them that seek after his covenant and his testimonies. For thy name's sake, O Lord, thou wilt pardon my sin: for it is great.
Who is the man that feareth the Lord? He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.
If your are led to believe that sexuality is a good thing ask yourself just who in the Bible made use of their sexuality for good.  The only answer I can come up with is the widow Judith who seduced  Holofernes in order to kill him and prevent worse atrocities taking place.  This righteous woman was then well aware that she had forfeited the right to re-marry after doing this necessary but devious act and lived a devout celibate life afterwards.

If you are led to believe that sexuality is God given and "the way your are made" and perhaps something you have to suffer through living a celibate life, please meditate on the nature of your suffering.  If chastity is making you suffer the pangs of withdrawal from sexual activity or causing serious temptations to rise up in you, see this as part of your purification and desire more strongly to pass through this fire, not to linger in there forever.  Is the fire producing good works in you? Is it increasing your joy in the Lord? Is it helping you overcome other little issues (speeding in the car, eating too much, badmouthing others....)? If not, then you need releasing from the fire and pray with confidence that you will be.

And if within marriage you are struggling with continence, here is some advice from the gentlest of 17th Century Spiritual Manuals: The Sanctuary of the Faithful Soul by Louis de Blois

Perchance thou wilt reply: "I have a wife what then shall I do?" I answer, use thy wife chastely: do nothing forbidden by the law of God.  If thy desire is to have children, be careful to restrain thyself within lawful bounds. Remember that thou are  rational man, not a mere animal. Happy is the truly spiritual man, who sometimes to find by experience how far heavenly and divine pleasure exceeds mere earthly and carnal delight. Happy indeed is that man who, looking at the glory of the flesh and all the pomp and dignity of this world with enlightened eyes, acknowledgeth it to be all nothing; for truly, is it not like a poor hedgerow flower, soon to wither and die?
 Then again, just ignore my advice, I'm just a nutter on a crusade to reclaim the Temple of the Holy Spirit for its rightful Owner.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sexuality

This post was going to be a ramble about the mess the Anglicans have got themselves into with with allowing the appointment of gay but celibate Bishops.  However Joe has written very well on the subject and that is not really the ground I wish to cover.  The main point in writing is a moan, I've made it before, about the whole notion of sexuality.  I will define sexuality as an attachment to the sexual function of our bodies and I will say now that it is the notion of sexuality that has so damaged these modern times and led to great damage in the Catholic Church as well as elsewhere.  It doesn't say anywhere in the Beatitudes, "Blessed be the straight".  Yes GAY does stand for "good as you", yes it is just as good as any other sexual orientation, it is good for nothing.

We need to stop thinking about our sexuality completely. Any attachment to sexuality does not aid chastity. The sexual act is confined to the marriage bed and should in the first place be conducted by virgins, in other words, those innocent of any prior attachment to their sexuality.  That is Church teaching, that is as it should be for those trying to live as members of the Body of Christ; say the Litany of the Holy Name, then tell me I'm wrong.

Sadly we live in a  world where we are increasingly being made to sexualise ourselves and define ourselves by our orientation.  This orientation contains a lot of nurture. We are told that masturbation is healthy.  It isn't: it makes you spiritually blind. Being rampantly heterosexual is not healthy, procuring any contract with a member of the opposite sex purely out of lust and sexual vigour is not Christian. Yet we are encouraged to develop our sexual orientation and walk down the street as a sexual being.  We encourage ourselves to say "I'm gay/straight, I'm attracted to that person, I wonder if that man/woman would be interested in me?".  Increasingly it may also explain why some women so like the company of openly gay men, the men see them as sexual beings but "not their type" so  the parties involved feel sexual and safe. These relationships are often very materialistic, revolving around shopping and entertainment.....

What happened in Sodom and Gomorrah may suggest that homosexual lust is worse than heterosexual.  The male inhabitants were so keen on satisfying their desires that when the angels visit Lot, they can only think about having intercourse with them, no doubt because of their beauty.  However when the cities are destroyed, it is Lot's wife who turns round to look back with a hint of nostalgia.  Perhaps the sexual proclivity of the women was just as bad, or maybe there were just some very good shoe shops that had bitten the dust.

The horrifying story of the Levite and his wife at the end of the book of Judges has a similar echo.  Perhaps it it more horrifying because these were all sons of Israel and had received the Law. The inhabitants of the Benjaminate town wish to have intercourse with the Levite.  On many grounds this is a crime too horrible for words as the Levite is a conduit to God as any priest is irrespective of his own holiness.  To prevent this happening the old man who has put them up for the night offers his virgin daughter, they don't accept this, but do accept the Levite's wife who they rape till she is dead.  Again this suggest the lusts are not purely homosexual, but that lust is lust is lust and will find an outlay in something eventually.

So what do we do if we find that our sexuality has become so ingrained in our being that it is very difficult to let go of it, as we must if we are to be truly chaste.  Do we suffer our pain at not being able to satisfy our sexuality?  This seems to be what many in the Church would have us do. However I'm not convinced. It can't be a suffering pleasing to God, it is not a suffering like that of Christ, or the devil would have tempted Him with a sexual temptation.  The most masculine men and the most feminine women you will ever meet are those in complete mastery of their sexual function, those for whom sexuality has been conquered, and this often puts them in the dangerous position of being very sexually attractive to others. 

I'll throw a little question at you to make my final point.  Consider yourself a first century Ephesian silversmith  who has just converted to the Faith due in the main part to the grace flowing through the teachings of St Paul.  Your life is not good and you tell God all about your suffering. God will listen attentively and his angels will comfort you as you tell Him about your loss of business due to your conversion, your increasing poverty and the sickness in your family as you tell Him how much you love Him and how you will do His will. However, when you tell Him how much you are missing your visits to the temple of Diana of the Ephesians and the "priestesses" therein, can you really tell Him that and say in the same breath that you love Him?