Today is the commemoration of Samuel Seabury, first Anglican Bishop consecrated for North America, and specifically for the then-nascent United States of America, and its brand-new Episcopal Church. It is also known, for this reason, as “The Bestowal of the American Episcopate.”
“After a year of negotiation, Seabury found it impossible to obtain episcopal orders from the Church of England because, as an American citizen, he could not swear allegiance to the Crown… Seabury then turned to the Non-Juring bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and on the twenty-fourth of November 1784, in Aberdeen, he was consecrated by the bishop and the bishop coadjutor of Aberdeen and the bishop of Ross and Caithness, in the presence of a number of clergy and laity.
“Seabury played a decisive role in the development of the American Book of Common Prayer, when he kept his promise, made in a concordat with the Scottish bishops, to move the American Church to adopt the Scottish form for the celebration of the Holy Communion, with the restoration of the epiclesis, the prayer for the Holy Spirit, to the eucharistic prayer, as well as the prayer of oblation after the Words of Institution and the epiclesis, which had disappeared from the prayer of consecration in English Prayer Books after the first (1549) version.”
These are features which – notwithstanding my respect for the UK’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer – I particularly cherish in our American Prayer Book (1789, 1879, 1928), and so I am very grateful for Seabury for this gift.
“Fall of Constantinople, (29 May 1453). After ten centuries of wars, defeats, and victories, the Byzantine Empire came to an end when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in May 1453. The city’s fall sent shock waves throughout Christendom. It is widely quoted as the event that marked the end of the European Middle Ages. Ο Θεός ήλθοσαν έθνη translated as ‘O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance’. Manuel Chrysaphes, the composer of this marvellous historical piece, which has been discovered at the beginning of the first world war, did not find more eloquent words than those of Psalm 78 [Psalm 79] in order to mourn in it the church of Aghia Sophia [Hagia Sophia].”
“The English School of Theology experienced a renaissance of sorts under the ‘Caroline Divines,’ the theologians who delineated the manner in which the Church of England did and did not agree with the Reformation as articulated on the Continent; these Divines number among them Blessed Lancelot Andrewes, Blessed George Herbert, Blessed John Cosin, Blessed Thomas Ken, Blessed William Laud, Blessed Jeremy Taylor, and Richard Hooker. These men were most emphatic on demonstrating their adherence to the Fathers of the Church rather than to their own reading of Scriptures.”
Gerald McDermott – recently retired Chair of Anglican Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, the author or editor of 23 books, and teacher of courses in Anglicanism, history and doctrine, theology of world religions, and Jonathan Edwards – on the much-debated subject of the Anglican via media.
As quoted above, McDermott writes that “One could say that the argument over the Via Media is its own via media, cutting through two camps in the Anglican Communion,” and continues,
“Although there have been various ways of interpreting the term [via media], more recently its interpretation has divided two groups of Anglicans—those who insist on the Reformed character of Anglicanism and those who see Anglicanism as a way of being reformed and catholic but distinct from Rome.
The first group of Anglicans (let’s call them ‘Calvinist Anglicans’) says that the via media runs between Wittenberg and Geneva but finally ends in Geneva. The English Reformation, by its lights, was first inspired by Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone and grace alone. Then it turned to Calvin and his Institutes as its best expression of Christian faith purged of papist ceremonial. Cranmer and Jewell turned attention away from Catholic spectacle and back toward the preached Word. The Protestant center of Anglicanism is demonstrated by the Thirty-Nine Articles’ exaltation of biblical authority and rejection of Catholic sacramentalism.
“The other group of Anglicans (‘reformed catholic Anglicans’ might be apt) acknowledges Reformed influence on the early Anglican theologians and continued Reformation influence on Anglican soteriology and authority. For a few examples, Anglicans have always rejected Pelagianism, papism, and Mariolatry. But reformed catholic Anglicans point as well to the embrace of catholic worship—not Roman but patristic, and that of the undivided Church of the first millennium of Christianity—by its earliest reformers and continuing through the Elizabethan and Restoration eras.”
“For these and a hundred other reasons, historians such as the general editor of the Oxford History of Anglicanism have maintained that ‘[d]eveloping within Anglicanism over centuries was a creative but also divisive tension between Protestantism and Catholicism, between the Bible and tradition, between the Christian past and contemporary thought and society.'”
It will probably surprise few regular readers of this blog that The Anglophilic Anglican falls into the second of these two camps: seeing in the Anglican tradition an expression of Christianity which is both Reformed and Catholic, but not Romanist. So, it appears, does McDermott; and he spends the rest of this fairly long but interesting essay in defending that stance – or as he puts it, endeavoring to
“show in this space that the reformed catholic conception of the via media as running between Rome and Geneva more accurately depicts the Anglican story than the Calvinist one. The Reformed tradition has had an undoubted influence upon our faith and worship, but it is only part of the story” –
as well as providing some cautions for those who would behave in a manner too over-zealous, on either side. As he concludes,
“I would suggest that… we should accept our Calvinist Anglican brothers and sisters as good Anglicans whom we can invite to share more of our rich Anglican patrimony. Come not only to hear but also to taste and see.
“We ask in turn that our Calvinist brethren would accept us as genuine Anglicans [as well]. Let us say to one another, Come let us reason together and learn from each other.
An interesting take, from a Roman Catholic perspective, on the relationship between England’s “land of mirth and game,” and the English spirit, and spirituality – particularly as expressed in traditional faith and practice during the centuries of medieval catholicism, but continuing well into the modern era, especially in more rural (and thus, typically, traditional) areas:
“The English have a genius for play. Which other nation of Christendom has at the center of its villages not just a church but a field for sport? Along with the church and pub, the quintessential center of the English village is the cricket green…
“The origins of sport lie in the recreations and pastimes of pre-modern rural people. The agrarian and religious calendar shaped popular recreation as it did nearly every other aspect of English culture. From the land full of mirth and game, originated the primordial forms of many of the sports the world enjoys today.
“During the Middle Ages, the Church’s feast days were firmly embedded in England’s seasons of agricultural labor. Plough Monday, spring-time celebrations, harvest feasts, and autumn fairs were vital moments within the rhythm of organic English society. Robert Malcolmson notes how feast days were the occasion for festive leisure and for archaic forms of contemporary sports.
“Most of the saints’ days fostered in medieval England were tragically suppressed during the English Reformation, but many of the associated customs survived. Parish feasts (known as wakes) continued into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while the principal holidays—Christmas, Shrovetide, Easter, May Day, and Whitsuntide—continued to be observed despite the best efforts of the essentially urban puritan movement.”
Nota Bene: Herbert is referring, of course, to the Anglican via media (“middle way”), which is perhaps best thought of in Aristotelian terms as the “Golden Mean” between the extremes of surfeit (too much of something) and deficit (too little). Indeed, “via media” is itself a 19th-century term for this phenomenon; earlier centuries expressed it as the mean (cf. Herbert, above) between extremes, or even, as we shall see below, a “virtuous mediocrity.” But all can be understood in fundamentally the same sense.
Herbert’s view in this poem is expressed in rather more extreme language by Bishop Simon Patrick of Ely (1625-1707), who wrote of “that virtuous mediocrity which our Church observes between the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid slattery of fanatic conventicles” – though it should be noted that, as one scholarly commentator has pointed out, “squalid slattery” fits the sectaries of the Civil War and Commonwealth period better than the sober demeanor of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of the Continent, the products of the magisterial Reformation.
And indeed, it was within that context – the era of the English Civil War and Interregnum, and the eventual Restoration, that Bishop Patrick was writing.
In any case, a love of order, seemliness, and good taste (cf. I Corinthians 14:40 – “Let all things be done decently and in order”) has led the Anglican Church along a middle path between these two extremes. And as it has furthermore been elsewhere noted, the via media meant positioning the English Church such that it could recognize not only its affinity with the medieval catholic tradition, on the one hand, but with the enduring legacy of the Reformation, on the other: a position of both-and, not either-or.
Indeed, I would submit that the Anglican via media represents the point where several axes come together, if one can visualize a multi-dimensional graph: the legacy of the medieval Catholic tradition and that of the magisterial Reformation, as noted above; “High Church” and “Low Church” liturgy and churchmanship; Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical theology; and indeed Eastern and Western forms of catholic orthodoxy.
I believe that, as a contemporary Collect for that great 16th-century Anglican divine, Richard Hooker, has put it, the Anglican viamedia is to be understood
“not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth.”
The challenge, and the sadness, of course, is that humans have a tendency to want to hive off into our own little enclaves, and to declare our understanding of the “truth” to be the only one that is acceptable. Anglicans are no less guilty of this than are others!
I am not, as a rule, fond of tattoos – either on myself, or on others. The contemporary drive to get “inked” is one which is largely lost on me; indeed, The Anglophilic Anglican has posted previously in an attempt to discourage that urge: especially on young women, but young men as well. As I commented at the time,
“I have never really liked tattoos. That some of them can be artistically interesting is beside the point: that artistry could have been expressed in a different medium. And I especially don’t care for them on girls and young women – or women in general, for that matter. Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to a small, tasteful, and discretely-placed tattoo on a woman. But anything more reminds me, frankly, of someone spray-painting graffiti all over the Sistine Chapel.”
But I am no longer a young man, and every rule has its exception. This might well be one, should I ever – by God’s grace – be fortunate enough to make it to the Holy Land. Although done in modern fashion for reasons of health and safety, the history, tradition, symbolism, and heritage expressed here is worlds away from the tattoo parlor down the street inking you with your favorite band, an ostensibly “tribal” design from who-knows-what tribe, or even the name of your girlfriend:
“For 700 years the Razzouk family has been tattooing marks of faith. Coptic Christians who settled in Jerusalem four generations ago, the family had learned the craft of tattooing in Egypt, where the devout wear similar inscriptions. Evidence of such tattoos dates back at least as far as the 8th century in Egypt and the 6th century in the Holy Land, where Procopius of Gaza wrote of tattooed Christians bearing designs of crosses and Christ’s name. Early tattoos self-identified indigenous Christians in the Middle East and Egypt. Later, as the faithful came to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, the practice expanded to offer these travelers permanent evidence of their devotion and peregrination…
“Family lore dates the Razzouk’s involvement in this cultural practice to 1300, starting first in Egypt among Coptic (Orthodox) Christians and later in the Holy Land for Christians from a variety of backgrounds… [Pilgrims’ accounts dating to the late 16th century] report designs that have become enduring pilgrimage tattoos, such as the Jerusalem cross—a motif consisting of a central, equal-arm symbol flanked by four smaller versions—along with images of Christ, Latin mottoes, dates in banners, and more.”
I have not changed my generalized views on tattooing, as expressed in that earlier post. But every rule has its exception; and if, as I say, by God’s grace I am ever able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, this may be the one exception to my personal “no tattoos” rule. A family which has been engaged in the practice for 700 years, since the 1300s? A direct, lineal link with medieval pilgrims, of Chaucer’s age? Using designs – and stencil blocks into which those designs have been carved – known to date back at least to 1749 (one block, for the Jerusalem cross, they say is known to date back 500 years)? Yes. I could do that.
If I did, what design would I choose? Well, I’d take a look at what was available, of course. But I have a feeling I already know: the very one pictured above: the Jerusalem pilgrim’s cross – which was also the sigil of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem – and very likely, the “IHS,” with it. “In Hoc Signo.” In This Sign… Conquer.
Razzouk Tattoos has a website, of course. Everyone does, these days! Even tattooers to medieval pilgrims, with a 700 year history. Perhaps especially them!
And not merely “Glories of the West” – the Glories of Christendom! East as well as West. Beautiful music, and a remarkable assemblage of magnificent European churches, in a variety of traditional styles. Lovely!
“We’ve analyzed the numbers, and the one pattern that’s emerging here is that 100% of human beings are still in the loving hands of their Creator,” said a spokesperson for the CDC. “Christ created the world and holds the universe together by the power of His will. In Him all things hold together.”
The Babylon Bee has a knack for concealing truth under the guise of humour (or satire). Here, the truth is a little closer to the surface, and not very satirical at all:
“Remarkably, this data is very similar to researchers’ findings during the Fall of Rome, Black Plague, Holocaust, Spanish flu, swine flu, bird flu, and every other time of turmoil humanity has faced. No matter what the specific plague or time of suffering, research has always pointed to the fact that God is sovereign and bends the thread of history to His will for His glory.”
Reminds me of my dear late mother, who, when I used to worry about things – from problems in school to the danger of nuclear armageddon (I grew up at the height of the Cold War) – would give me a comforting hug and remind me, “God is still in charge.”
I have not been regularly sharing my Sunday offerings of Morning and/or Evening Prayer here on The Anglophilic Anglican, but today it seems especially right to do so. On Friday, March 13th, President Trump has proclaimed today – Sunday, March 15th, 2020 – as a National Day of Prayer for All Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts.
I have done so – and also included some introductory comments. Here ’tis: