Fr Andrew sent me this video last night. It came just in time, actually, as I was ruminating over the anti-Russian frenzy in vogue among the British establishment. Russia is an easy target, really. It looks big on the map, has a strange alphabet, it always snows, and everybody remembers the true menace of the Soviet Union and are perhaps unwilling to remember that it actually collapsed under its own inherent deceit and corruption. The corruption is still there, of that I have no doubt, as well as rampant alcoholism and abortion, but as Holy Rus’ is on the increase, these things will go into abeyance in God’s eternal time. Churches are being built all over Russia, bishops, priests and deacons are being ordained, and vocations to the monastic way are on the rise too. As these pilgrims from Russia to the centre of Orthodox England in East Anglia bear witness, deep roots are not touched by the frost. That is just as true in this country, which has suffered more than 950 years of schism and idolatry, as it was in Russia under the atheist regime. I welcome these pilgrims from Russia, and would that they came to live among us.
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor 6:2.
It’s impossible to observe the Great Fast to the letter if you live in a non-Orthodox environment, as I do. I live with my parents, both of them secularists who think that my Christian faith is a private eccentricity. To make matters worse, my father is almost a pure carnivore; that is to say, he cannot eat a single meal (except fish and chips) without a portion of beef or lamb or pork or chicken. The dilemma I face is simply this: do I make a spectacle of myself, like the Pharisee, and say to my parents, “I can’t eat that, or drink this, because I am fasting,” or do I ask nothing and refuse nothing? I make my own small sacrifices but I feel trapped at home and therefore the Great Fast is less, for me, a time of unburdening myself of the perishable things of luxury but a time of distress and frustration. Are any of you in a similar situation? I read here an interesting article about Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.” I suppose in this sort of “utopia,” one would be free to observe the fasts of the Christian kalendar but something always holds me back.
It’s not often that I look at Papist blogs these days. Between work and other commitments I simply don’t have the time; and, in any case, to do so habitually would be like the Prodigal Son exchanging the fatted calf for the husks of swine. Occasionally I check Fr John Hunwicke’s blog but I’ve found that since he poped his erstwhile high standard has fallen, and I don’t care for his silly rhetoric about pope Francis. I see that to-day he is advocating schism (“I’m sure…the SSPX [sic] would happily make such provision as far as its ministry can reach,”) and calling an explicit papal teaching “heathen.” I never look at Crassus’ blog, that idol of American traditionalists whom I will not name, since he is excommunicated vitandus. And then there’s Raymond Blake. It’s ages since I looked at his blog. Heretofore I hadn’t noticed the photo in the header of an isolated pope but I’m sure it was chosen to make some point. In his latest post, entitled “DARE WE JOIN THE DOTS?“, Blake tacitly accuses pope Francis of being a paedophile by juxtaposing two images, one of a scantily-clad young man on his knees, and the other of two boys, with many a circumstantial charge. I wonder if Blake has seen this?
I first saw this in 2010. As a friend of mine remarked at the time, there can’t have been much liturgical orthopraxis going on in Rome so Ratzinger chose to pass the time with other activities instead. At any rate, as far as Francis is concerned, I’m inclined to believe that he is not a paedophile, even if he is corrupt; he’s too much of a thuggish bully. And if Blake is concerned that Bergoglio’s handing of abuse in Buenos Aires was wanting, what shall we say of his hero Ratzinger? This was a man so concerned about defending the reputation of the Papal Communion that he was completely incapable of the kind of self-criticism that might have saved him, and others more innocent, from many sins.
There are other bloggers too. Sean Finnegan doesn’t like Francis. The other Finigan doesn’t either but he seems to have gone quiet recently. So too has his female associate, a woman who takes the idolatry of clericalism to such an extreme that she would quit her job and move to another part of the country just to be his sacristan, and no doubt perform other services for him. For people who quite happily entertained the sodomites of the London Oratory this situation seems not a bit scandalous, especially given their shabby treatment of me in the past.
What all these people have in common is their loathing of pope Francis. The palmy days of Benedict XVI being long gone (and never coming back), they have no recourse. Their dear leader is the enemy! I’m sure some of them believe that the senescent prisoner of the Vatican is still the “true pope,” like one quasi-sedevacantist (another old queen) whom I knew at Covent Garden who wouldn’t accept Francis. I’m not sure how accepted Francis is among mainstream or left-leaning people. When I was in Knock some years ago I spoke to an elderly woman who liked neither Francis nor Benedict, but adored John Paul II and I thought at the time that was because he was around for so long, or knew how to smile for the camera. Who knows? It’s all idolatry to me and I can only dimly guess now what void the Papacy fills in the lives of people deprived, by birth or circumstance, of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Nonetheless, Francis is a polarising figure. Churchmanship in the Papal Communion has almost come to resemble party politics. Who is orthodox? Who worships in the correct way? Who is going to hell? Does hell even exist? And both sides, whatever you like to call them; modernists vs traditionalists; liberals vs conservatives; or, more crudely, the saved and the damned; they’re all guilty of the same fundamental heresy. They all think that raw authority, or the Papacy, is the answer to all their problems. They all think that some high ecclesiastic is going to wave a magic wand and spirit away all of the heresies, all the corruption, all the revisionism, and then impose some utopian vision of the Roman communion on earth, and converts will come flocking. When Benedict XVI was pope, the traditionalists were in the ascendancy (or so they thought), and how smug they were! They witnessed his arbitrary revival of a few defunct bits of papal frippery, such as the camauro, and they almost anticipated the return of the Papal States! The fact that almost nothing changed at the parochial and diocesan level (apart from the imposition of an artificial and pretentious translation of the new missal) during Benedict’s time seems to have escaped their attention. And now that he’s gone (well, not quite), and his replacement is of different character, their resentful, spiteful, obsessive sniping is most unedifying! It’s so bogus and worldly. I’d be interested to know the cause of this idolatrous tendency to rely completely on authority. What happened to integrity? What happened to common sense? What happened to doing the right thing locally? There are interesting parallels with the Brexit/Trump vs EU/Clinton divide.
Of course, as an Orthodox Christian I have a more holistic view of church history. To me, traditionalists are no different to their Tablet-reading enemies. The great failure of Papal traditionalism is its inability to see beyond the 19th century, or for some the 1950’s. How can you expect a revival of piety when all you have to offer is a bastardised form, or caricature, of what went immediately before you? That what went before might already have become so attenuated and corrupt as to be irreconcilable with Christ’s ordinances is not a thought that even occurs to traditionalists. As for the other side, well; they’re just the keepers of the torch. They are part of the epic of progress and authority that started in the West way back in the mists of time when popes Gregory II and Sergius made their respective alterations to traditional praxis which have continued to the present day. I’m not in the business of placing blame anymore; nor do I have regrets about it. The Orthodox Church has maintained the purity of worship and belief, and we have no need of popes or bridge-builders or keepers of keys or other idols to finish the course and keep the faith. I suppose that if I do have a regret it’s that other, more intelligent persons could see this, and recant their Romish heresy.
To-day is the anniversary, to the very day, of the martyrdom of King Charles I. This country has seen some very grievous things, from the Papal conquest of 1066 to the dissolution of the monasteries. Among the most grave, and that which shews forth the tragic trajectory of the Reformation, is the trial and execution of God’s anointed Sovereign. Think what you will of Charles; he had his faults, but the forbearance and courage with which he met the insolence and treasonous arrogance of his accusers (who, lest we forget, had real grievances) won him a martyr’s death and a heavenly crown, of worth thrice greater than the tokens taken by Parliament and melted down or sold off. As the inscription upon King Edward’s crown in the Eikon Basilike says, Vanitas. All things passing and perishable. These days it’s tempting for me to think that Charles’ death was in vain; that, while the tyranny of Parliament and of heretics came to an end, it has come back in another guise. But no such death is really in vain and we can put our trust in God that by Charles’ example and in the manner of his death we have in this country a saintly martyr coæval with St Nicholas of Russia, exemplary of right belief and right government in this evil world.
Thou didst not fear the storm of folly and abuse, O Royal Martyr Charles, when thou didst renounce agreement with thine enemies for the destruction of England; and thou didst endure censure, imprisonment, and death, crying to the Almighty: Alleluia.
Eloquent orators, like unto brute beasts, cannot express the height of thy patience; but we, beholding the abyss of our fall, cry out in contrition of spirit:
Rejoice, unvanquishable patience.
Rejoice, unwavering faithfulness to Christ.
Rejoice, wise teacher of the foolish.
Rejoice, thou who didst give an example to the faithful in thy life and martyr’s death.
Rejoice, thou who didst suffer for the sins of thy people.
Rejoice, O Charles, God-crowned King and Royal Martyr.
I finally got around to watching the much-praised BBC documentary “The Coronation.” In it, Her Majesty The Queen talks candidly about her memory of that day in 1953 and handles the Crown Jewels in a somewhat cavalier way (I wonder if that was for effect?). Of course, the narrator got the whole point of the Coronation wrong and I can’t recall that the words “Church of England” or “Christian” were even mentioned; but it’s the kind of documentary aimed at an ahistorical, secular modern audience anyway. Afterwards, I watched a Panorama special about racial/religious segregation in Blackburn and the contrast was incredible. On the one hand we have the self-adulation of a hubristic civilisation, disappearing up its own contradictions and unable to come to terms with its own demise; and on the other the grim reality which nobody wants to talk about. As a British subject (even if my passport no longer indicates this) and a Christian royalist, I admire The Queen for who she is, or rather what she represents, under God and for her personal qualities, but the documentary, despite its intention, brought home the fact that she is very much a part of the fantasy of modern Britain; a symbol of past national sovereignty thrust into the age of pooled sovereignty; an image of past (imperial!) greatness propelled into the time of present impotence. She is a living anachronism.
My mother watched the Blackburn documentary (which might just as well have been about Woolwich or Brixton, closer to home), trying to check a fast-rising wrath. She hates Muslims. She loathes the attitude of Muslim men towards her, a woman with uncovered hair and in trousers (very much my own attitude, I have to say), and she often says that the immigration of so many Asian and African Muslims to this country has caused the dilution of traditional Christian values in the national life. She isn’t wrong about this but it’s a simplistic and somewhat hypocritical position. This is shewn most clearly in a recent incident in which we had to get the bus somewhere. The bus was filled to capacity and we therefore stood perforce. When we alighted she did nothing but complain about the men who failed to offer her a seat. So what she really wants is all the equalities we hear so much about, in pay and job opportunities, but she also wants all the old chivalric norms we lived by in the days of inequality and Christian morality. It’s an interesting parallel. I often have cause to contrast my battleaxe mother in men’s clothes with a pretty young Muslim woman going about her business in a chiffon headscarf or hijab. Years ago, I remember lots of old British women wearing headscarves when they were out and about, and in church. Very few do so nowadays. Most “old” women now are “babyboomers,” pioneers of the sexual revolution. For these people, Christian values are private taboos, a burden we take on ourselves. They don’t go to church, they don’t read The Bible, and they think that people who do so are rather weird. So it is with my mother, who very often scolded my “obsession” with religion until she realised that I was not a creature that she had made anymore than she was Pygmalion. “You don’t have to go every Sunday,” she once said.
And yet, she resents the erosion of Christian values and blames this entirely on immigration. This amazes me! Can she not see that as the sunset of Christianity in this country has finally passed and the night of secularism has come, a state of things brought about by the apathy of people like her and the elitist, cultural ideas of Bloomsbury propelled into influence in the 1960’s, we have nothing substantial to offer anyone as a value system? Where before we had the values of the Gospel, now we have “British values,” vacuous precepts repugnant to right-believing Christians as well as Muslims. No wonder, as these subjective values have penetrated into all areas of public life over the years, Muslims have become more insular and reactionary. A friend of mine in Brighton witnessed a pair of homosexuals kissing in a public place some years ago, and a Muslim woman shielding the eyes of her two children as she passed them by. Similarly, a young Muslim man with whom I worked once told me that if he found out that his son was an homosexual he would probably kill him. So much for British values!
Paradoxically, whenever our government wishes to rouse hostility in us to an Islamist movement, whether Al Qaeda or most recently “Daesh,” they claim that “they hate our way of life.” Well, I also hate our way of life and reject British values! Like my mother, but for slightly different reasons, I resent the erosion of Christian values and the paganism of our contemporary culture. The difference is that I uphold Christ’s Gospel not as a tribal, reactionary recourse but as the very pulse of my daily life. I suppose the irony here is that rejecting British values for reasons of Christian faith puts me in remarkably similar moral position to our Muslim supplanters!
Herein lies the problem. This is the dilemma of a Christian who is also a patriot. It’s one thing to admit, truthfully, that the past fifty years or so have seen some of the worst social, political and economic mistakes ever visited upon this country (or indeed any country); it’s quite another to actually do something about it that is not illegal or immoral. And what would that be? Do we round up all the foreigners and repatriate them? Do we reintroduce bastardy laws? Do we lock up homosexuals? I think it’s too late for any of that and that such dead laws are inapplicable and hypocritical anyway. I am not a utopian and like the Lady Galadriel, I think we can only fight the long defeat in the hope and assurance that the Father’s Kingdom will come. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away, (Revelation 21:4).
What harm, then, if Her Majesty consents to make a little documentary about something as frivolous and fanciful as a coronation? I hope she enjoyed making it. But the ritual and symbolism of the Coronation bear no resemblance even to the Established church of this country, let alone the lives of most British people to-day with their credit cards and package holidays, people who only go near a church for weddings and funerals. As for the foreigners, whether Muslim or Pole or whatever, the old British traditions and institutions have nothing to do with them. They have no interest in them, and what British person would tell them about them? What would be the point when we have “British values” instead?
I wonder at times why I continue to maintain this blog. I thought, when I set it up, that it would be a continuation of the previous polemical blog over at Liturgiae Causa. That was set up in defiance of manifest charlatanry and was for long the forum for me and others to discuss all the tired and bogus arguments surrounding Rome’s liturgical history relative to its present situation. I profess no more interest in those questions or putative solutions to them, even if there were any, and I am too much of a novice in my new faith to speak with authority about it; still less am I a patristics scholar or theologian. I set this place up more to just let people know that I was still alive, and I suppose that vainly I missed being a “voice” out there. But I don’t anymore. It occurred to me soon after the first few posts here that I had nothing left to say. “Blogging,” which started for me in 2008, was very much the manifestation of “Patricius,” a person reminiscent of my new self but myself no longer. Sort of like what one of my old tutors at Heythrop said to me about a chapter in a book he had written thirty years ago with which he no longer agreed. My whole world view has undergone a profound change. I am therefore giving serious thought to just packing it all in. Readership has haemorrhaged, perhaps because I don’t write anything of substance these days, but undoubtedly because I have offended people with my views or with silence. If you care to know, I feel as if I have become stopped clock!
In any case, I have more important things to do for the Church of Christ than to commit myself to the frivolity and futility of this stuff. The LORD’s work, in fact; such as finding a suitable new church for mission work in the area. I wonder if, years from now when I look back on my blogging years, I’ll ask myself what on earth possessed me to take it up in the first place? But perhaps I am asking myself that already.
I wish you all the temporal and spiritual blessings in the manifestation of Christ to the world on this feast of the Theophany. As ever, Pravoslavie has some interesting stuff to look at.
Pravoslavie.com is a useful resource for Orthodox news, theology and traditions. In the spirit of the Christmass season, here are some Orthodox carols.
I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmass. Christ is born according to the flesh in Bethlehem! Alleluia! In token of this dearest of feasts, a few words from one of the most eloquent of the Orthodox Bishops of Old Rome, St Leo the Great:
Nativitas carnis manifestatio est humanae naturae; partus Virginis divinae est virtutis indicium. Infantia parvuli ostenditur humilitate cunarum: magnitudo Altissimi declaratur vocibus Angelorum. Similis est rudimentis hominum, quem Herodes impie molitur occidere; sed Dominus est omnium quem Magi gaudent suppliciter adorare.
O, when East and West spoke with one voice…
I can’t help but include this. I taped Carols from King’s when it was broadcast two weeks ago and shall watch it to-morrow with a mince pie and port. In the meantime, this is without doubt my favourite rendering of that antient carol In Dulci Iubilo. O that we were there! Merry Christmass!
This new book by Douglas Murray looks interesting. (Thanks to John of Ad Orientem for highlighting this). Or it could be another eloquent piece of pseudo-profundity, describing water to a drowning man. That’s the trouble with many on the political “right,” particularly neo-conservatives like Murray. They bemoan many of the things that do enormous damage to our way of life and yet fail to grasp the hypocrisy of their position. For example, they like to point out the decline in Christian faith in Western countries and yet most of them are not practitioners of religion at all. My secular parents often complain about encroachments upon the Christian values of this country and yet they see my faith as a kind of eccentricity. They don’t read The Bible, they don’t go to church, they don’t fast; and they think that people who do are rather weird. The question of immigration is also a hypocritical one. All these comfortable baby-boomers don’t want to clean toilets or make cappuccinos for a living; they’d rather inferior immigrants did these things, and yet they complain when the immigrants need housing, schooling and access to other services. Many of the loudest and most obnoxious of the anti-immigrant voice in this country are themselves descendants of immigrants!
As an Orthodox Christian, my views have undergone a slight shift in the last year or so. I find most of the arguments about the future of Europe rather tiresome. I certainly don’t see it as a Muslim problem, and even if it were, I can’t see secularism and consumerism being a viable, attractive alternative to a utopian caliphate. As to the question, posed by Murray, of there being a popular “backlash” against mass immigration, it won’t happen. Civil strife only happens when people truly believe in something, and love what they believe. Unfortunately, Western peoples are too comfortable and apathetic (an interesting combination) about life to bother taking to the streets. Many of my generation actually encourage what is happening too. There will be no scouring of England’s shires.