Friday, May 29, 2009

WHY THIS HYMN IS SO GOOD . . .

Every time I talk about music someone takes offence . . . because I have a genuine love for many different kinds of music. (By the way, have you clicked on the YouTube organ improvisation in the sidebar? It's brilliant!) The fact is that whenever a new book of modern hymns and worship songs comes out I pour over it in the shop, usually in vain, looking for songs we can use in worship.

I'm not being a musical snob. Truly! The problem for me (mostly) is with the words - in that so much of the stuff being written is more about us than about the Lord. It's about how he makes us feel, rather than who he is or what he has done. Now, I hear you say, some of the old hymns are really subjective, too. And I reply, yes, I know . . . indeed, so are some of the Psalms. But it's all a matter of proportion. Praise is praise. Worship is worship. It's about the Lord, not about me. That's why this hymn is in a class of its own. It's all about Jesus. Furthermore, its theology is good as well, not forgetting (as is often done by songs of this genre) sin and atonement . . . and it is deeply moving, easily calling forth the response of the last verse!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE POWER OF THE CROSS

If you go to the website of the Shrine of our lady of Walsingham, you can read the sermon preached at the National Pilgrimage a few days ago by the new Administrator of the Shrine, Bishop Lindsay Urwin (an Australian!) It's a great sermon about Jesus, his love for us, and the redemption we have through him.

At the end of the sermon Bishop Lindsay quotes the last verse of a contemporary hymn, "The Power of the Cross." I first heard this a couple of years ago and was deeply moved. Here it is on YouTube. The words are underneath the video clip.



Oh, to see the dawn,
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then,
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain,
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought,
Every evil deed,
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees,
Now the ground beneath,
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
'Finished!' the victory cry.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath -
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see my name,
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death,
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
This, the power of the cross:
Son of God - slain for us.
What a love!
What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend Copyright (c) 2005 Thankyou Music

Monday, May 25, 2009

THE VENERABLE BEDE, (673-735), Monk, Doctor of the Church, "Father of English History"

"The Venerable Bede Translates John" was painted in 1902 by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932).

Every now and then, the Divine Office sets before us the account of how the Saint for the day died. Today is one of those days. This morning we were treated to the moving account of St Bede's death, written by St Cuthbert.

St Bede was born near Sunderland, and lived his entire life in the north of England, yet he became perhaps the most learned scholar in all of Europe. At the age of 7, he was sent to the Nenedictine Abbey at Wearmouth for his education; at 11, he continued his education at the new monastery at Jarrow, on the Tyne, eventually becoming a monk and remaining there until his death. He lived a routine and outwardly uneventful life of prayer, devotion, study, writing, and teaching, and left his monastery only on occasion in order to preach.

Bede's writings depended on the fine libraries which St. Benet Biscop had assembled, and cover a very wide range of interests, including natural mathematics, poetry, timekeeping, history, orthography, chronology, and biblical translation and exposition. He was the first to translate the Bible into Old English. In his view, his 25 volumes of Scripture commentary were his most important writings. His best-known book is Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731, and still published today (by Penguin!). This work earned him the popular title "Father of English History", and not just because it was the first attempt to write a history of England. His historical research was thorough and far-reaching. For example, he asked friends travelling to Rome to bring him copies of documents relevant to English history, and he made use of oral traditions when written materials were not available. The book provides much historical information that can be found in no other source.

According to his pupil Cuthbert (later Abbot of Jarrow), Bede fell ill shortly before Easter 735, when he was translating the Gospel of John into the Anglo-Saxon language. Everyone realised that the end was near, but Bede was determined to complete the translation before he died. Between Easter and Ascension Day, he persisted in the task while continuing to teach his students at his bedside.

After a restless night, he resumed dictating the translation on the morning before Ascension Day. That afternoon he called the priests of the monastery to him to distribute his remaining earthly possessions. Seeing they were overcome with grief, he comforted them with these words:

"If it be the will of my Maker, the time has come when I shall be freed from the body and return to Him Who created me out of nothing when I had no being. I have had a long life, and the merciful Judge has ordered it graciously. The time of my departure is at hand, and my soul longs to see Christ my King in His beauty."

The young man who had been writing down the translation said there was still one sentence remaining, and Bede dictated the final words.

After a short while the lad said, "Now it is finished."

Bede replied:

"You have spoken truly; it is well finished. Now raise my head in your hands, for it would give me great joy to sit facing the holy place where I used to pray, so that I may sit and call on my Father."

And thus, on the floor of his cell, he chanted "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" to its ending, and breathed his last.

When he received word of the great scholar's death, St Boniface, who had used Bede's Bible commentaries, said, "The candle of the Church, lit by the Holy Spirit, has been extinguished". Within a generation or two, St Bede was being called "Venerable". His bones were translated from Jarrow to Durham Cathedral in the mid-11th century; in 1370 they were placed in the cathedral's Galilee Chapel.

St Bede is the only Englishman named in Dante's Paradise. He is also the only English Doctor of the Church.

Go HERE to read the moving address on St Bede given by Pope Benedict in February this year.

St Bede wrote that a priest or bishop

"who without an urgent reason omits to say Mass robs the Trinity of glory, the angels of joy, sinners of pardon, the just of divine assistance, the souls in purgatory of refreshment, the Church of a benefit, and himself of a healing remedy."

COLLECT:
O God, who hast enlightened thy Church with the wondrous learning of blessed Bede thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that we, being in all things enlightened by his wisdom, may at all times feel the effectual succour of his righteousness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

MARY'S MONTH OF MAY




For over thirty years I have been a member of the Society of Mary, which was the result of two similar societies founded in 1880 and 1901 respectively, uniting in 1931. It has members all over the world and is no longer confined to Anglicans. In fact, the number of Roman Catholic members has been steadily increasing over the last seventeen years. The Society is dedicated to the glory of God and in honour of the Holy Incarnation under the invocation of Our Lady Help of Christians.

The objects of the Society of Mary are:

1. To love and honour Mary.

2. To spread devotion to her, in reparation for past neglect and misunderstanding, and in the cause of Christian Unity.

3. To take Mary as a model of purity, personal relationships and family life.


Members promise to keep a simple Rule of Life, and to meet together as opportunity permits.



The Society of Mary almost died out among Anglicans in Australia (during the era of the widespread demise of Anglican Catholicism which morphed itself into "liberal catholicism"). Back in the 1980s, thanks to the hard work of Father Tony Noble, then Vicar of St Mark's Fitzroy, the solitary members of the SOM were contacted and re-constituted into a Region of the Society, with Father Tony as Superior of the Australian Region. In 1996 that role passed to me, and it is a little ministry that I continue to carry out with great gladness, as it provides fellowship for Anglican Catholics in the Anglican Church of Australia as well as in the Traditional Anglican Communion. Over the years we have grown to six wards. Go HERE to our web site, or HERE to the website of the SOM in England.



Traditionally, this is "Mary's Month of May", and the May Festival in London is one of the main celebrations of the English SOM. The photographs accompanying this post are of this years May festival held in the wonderful parish of S. Silas Kentish Town. (Click on each to see them at their full size.) The mitred bishop is Bishop Robert Ladds, until recently Bishop of Whitby, the Superior General of the SOM.



In a previous post I gave you the story of A.N. Wilson's return to practising the Faith. Here is his characteristicly witty eyewitness account of the May Devotion, containing - as is appropriate - a tribute to S. Silas' parish and its priest Fr Graeme Rowlands who is also the Chaplain-General of the SOM.


The Diary: By AN Wilson

Published: May 9 2009


Sirens whined, traffic honked. Blocking the buses and the cars, was a long religious procession. The image of Our Lady, borne shoulder high on a bier, teetered forward. Little girls threw flowers. From the doorway of a Brazilian bar a heavily lip-glossed waitress, with cascades of raven hair and 5cm of mini-skirt, made the sign of the cross.


The nutters in the procession, who included myself, sang, “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!” Behind the 250 people were an army of clergy in exotic rig, and the rear was taken up by two prelates arrayed in costumes that would have been a bit on the dressy side at the coronation of Pius IX – yards of lace, gauntlets, and jewels the sizes of over-ripe strawberries on their hands. One was the Suffragan Bishop of Whitby and the other the Dean of St Paul’s, who preached an excellent sermon at the Vespers of Our Lady that followed the procession and bun-fight. For we were not in São Paulo, or Lourdes, but in Kentish Town. And the clergy at this May Devotion were (just about) Church of England – what writer John Osborne in a superb joke called “Walsingham Matildas”.
These beautiful ceremonies are only the cherry on the pudding – the rest of the time the inspired and inspiring parish priest who is responsible for them is a key figure in the local primary school, tireless in his local knowledge and care for all of us, from the lonely alkies (and that’s just the writers) to the schoolchildren, the criminals and the housebound. Community may be an overused word but it isn’t an overused phenomenon.
What else in today’s Britain could bring together people of so many varied ethnic and social backgrounds?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

MORE ON THE RECENT ANGLICAN CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL MEETING

Because most Australian Anglicans will only get the official spin on the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Jamaica, I've provided these further links for those who are interested in what really happened.

Robert Tong, a layman and lawyer from the Diocese of Sydney was for some time a member of the ACC; he was also on the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference. His comments cannot be dismissed easily. Neither can his point about the "Joint Standing Committee" being, in actual fact, unconstitutional! Go HERE to read his article, A GRUBBY LITTLE INCIDENT, which includes this paragraph:

"People might wonder where were the Australian delegates in all of this? Our ACC representatives are Robert Fordham (Melbourne Diocese), the Archdeacon Sarah McNeill (Canberra/Goulburn), and Bishop Curnow (Bendigo). In addition Archbishop Aspinall and Mr Fordham are members of the Joint Standing Committee. Did Aspinall and Fordham vote against Uganda on Day One and how did the Australians vote on the litigation moratorium question on day five? All members of the Australian church have a right to know."

George Conger published THIS REPORT in the Church of England Newspaper. It fills out some of the points he made in the TV interview we posted a few days ago.

Seasoned commentator, David Virtue's report is HERE. It contains this paragraph:

Abraham Okouru clergy representative from Nigeria to the ACC, described what happened as "most unfortunate". The ACC "came with its mind made up, and talk of a healing process will not work. The covenant is going to bring healing to the existent wound. They (TEC) don't want that. They want to create more problems. I think it is Satanic. Before the healing can come it requires the intervention of God. Nothing will stop the Church of Nigeria doing the purposes of God."

And, if you're scratching your head about all the fuss, go HERE to Odessa Elliot's short but punchy sketch of how the ACC got the power it now has. It will surprise you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

FURTHERMORE . . . LOOK WHAT T.S. ELIOT SAID

"The Universal Church is today, more definitely set against the World than at any time since Pagan Rome. I do not mean that our times are particularly corrupt; all times are corrupt. In spite of certain local appearances, Christianity is not and cannot be within measurable time, ‘official’. The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide."

- T. S. Eliot, Thoughts After Lambeth (1931)

Prior to the 1930 Lambeth Conference all Christian churches were opposed to artificial contraception, on the basis of two thousand years of teaching on sexuality, morals and the family, anchored firmly in Scripture. But once the Anglican Communion gave in to mounting secularist pressure - albeit in a fairly minimal way to begin with - most of the protestant world followed suit. In contrast, I believe that Pius XI's Casi Connubii (1930) and Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (1968) will turn out to have been truly heroic (and prophetic) documents, whether or not the majority of first world Catholics live according to their precepts.

All right thinking Christians support the "culture of life" over and against the "culture of death." I am sure that future historians will use the latter expression to characterise the twentieth century as a whole.

In so many ways we live in the dark age of which T.S. Eliot spoke. The challenge for us is not only to keep the Faith, but to work patiently and positively towards the next season of renewal.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

THE REAL POPULATION CRISIS

. . . In rich countries, a total fertility rate of 2.1 babies per woman is needed if population is to remain stable. But in the European Union as a whole the rate is down to 1.5. Germany is at 1.4, and Italy, Spain, and Greece are at 1.3. The fertility rate in France is now 2.0, or close to replacement. But the uneasy question is whether this is due to subsidies or to the growing Muslim population . . .

Go HERE to read the entire article, POPULATION, ECONOMY AND GOD by Tom Bethell from the May 2009 issue of The American Spectator.

I have always believed that the current secularist mindset which is responsible for the downturn in the birthrate will give rise to a global era (2050 - 2100?) of religious revival in which the average person is likely to be either a Catholic Christian or a Muslim. Read Bethell's article which lends supports to my theory!

OUR LADY OF FATIMA PRAY FOR US

Today is the Feast of our Lady of Fatima when we thank the Lord for Mary's six appearances to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, between May 13 and October 13, 1917 at the little village of Fatima which had remained faithful to the Church during recent persecution by the government. Fatima is about 145 km north of Lisbon, Portugal. Our Lady said to the children that war is a punishment for sin; that the Church would face great persecution unless there was real repentance, a listening to the word of God and obedience to his commands. Pope John Paul II said that the message of Fatima is even more relevant and more urgent than when Our Lady first appeared. In fact, Mary’s message was a prophecy, an indication of what was to transpire in the 20th century.

As a sign that this message came from God, a miracle took place in the sky above Fatima before 70,000 witnesses on October 13, 1917 at the exact time, date and place that Lucy and the other two children had prophesied. While the crowd watched, the sun rotated, grew large and small, came close to the people, and then drew far away from them. The sun "danced." Everyone who was there testified to seeing this, even non-believers who immediately dropped onto their knees and begged for forgiveness.

Over the decades Fatima became a great pilgrimage centre, a place truly blessed by God that draws people from all over the world to seek Our Lady's intercession. In recent years increasing numbers of Anglicans have gone to pray at Fatima, including a youth pilgrimage organised by Forward in Faith UK.

Here is a video of the procession of Our Lady of Fatima.

Monday, May 11, 2009

THE DOCUMENTED SUMMARY

For those who think that George Conger is exaggerating, HERE is a longish summary of the debate on the Windsor Report. Note the role played by the Australian Primate!

Last Friday, as the Anglican Consultative Council met in Jamaica to take up the proposed Anglican Covenant, Dr. Williams ran out of strategies. In an effort to keep the 800-pound gorilla at the table, he managed to confound the delegates from the Global South to the point that they will probably never again return to the table - at least, not all of them . . .

Click HERE to read the full documented report.

THE ACC . . . THIS IS HOW THEY DO IT!

Check out this interview with George Conger, a respected religious journalist who is published in many places including The Living Church (USA) and The Church of England Newspaper (UK). George gives a brilliant but depressing insight into how TEC and their liberal allies conspire against orthodox Anglicans. It is worth watching this to the end.

By the way, a friend of mine who knows a lot about post colonial nations wrote recently:
"I really am at a loss how anyone could give a positive spin to the fiasco that was this last Lambeth Walk and still keep a straight face. Indabas indeed . . . I fear that they don't realise what a traditional Zulu Indaba was . . . it wasn't a benign gathering of wise and senior men along the lines of an African Witan . . . it was generally concerned with planning the extermination of others (& the plunder of their property) and generally caused suffering and distress, not solving problems."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

DAWKINS & LENNOX VIDEO

On October 3rd of 2007 in Birmingham, Alabama, Professor Richard Dawkins and his Oxford University colleague Dr. John Lennox engaged in a lively debate over what is arguably the most critical question of our time: the existence of God. The debate centred on Dawkins' views as expressed in his best-seller, The God Delusion, and their validity over and against the Christian faith. Both presenters agreed to the format and topics of discussion.

An online video of the debate is HERE. It is well worth watching right to the end.

Friday, May 1, 2009

HEY . . . HAVE YOU SEEN "WORDLE"?

A friend of mine put me onto "Wordle" which, he said, will show you at a glance whether your blog comes across to others as nasty and negative, or helpful and positive. My friend works in advertising, but is also a practising Christian; he said that we should all run our blogs through "Wordle" to see the impression created by our most used words.

The relevance of this for Christian bloggers is obvious! A bit like a check-up.

"Wordle" generates “word clouds” from the text provide from your blog. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and colour schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

I guess "Wordle" is mainly a toy . . . but I was greatly relieved to see the snapshop of THIS blog (above)!