Glories of the West: Greece’s monasteries in the sky

Source: METEORA : Greece’s monasteries in the sky | Places and People (Facebook)

Once again, I would have hoped for better music: Greek Orthodox chant, ideally, or at least something recognizably Greek. But the (presumably drone) video footage of the monasteries themselves is splendid!

 

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Anthony Esolen: Poetic Traditional Hymns Put Alternatives to Shame | Crisis Magazine (with comments)

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I have taken one small liberty, in substituting a more specifically Anglican image!

“Come on, priests, musicians, and singers. Learn some poetry. Open the old hymnals and read. You need not feed on slop all your life long when you might enjoy real meat and potatoes and vegetables. And sometimes—more often than you suspect—you might feast like kings.”

Source: Poetic Traditional Hymns Put Alternatives to Shame | Crisis Magazine

A typically excellent treatment of the subject, by the inimitable Professor Anthony Esolen.

“Not every carpenter in 1800 could make tables fit for Windsor Castle. But he made what would stand the test of time, because it required great skill and practice to make any kind of table at all. The sifting would already have occurred when the man was a boy, learning the feel of wood and tool.

“So, too, with the old hymns. A person would have needed certain skills not only to write a good poem in meter and rhyme, but to write any such poem, and he would have been accustomed to writing such poetry from his youth. Poetry was a big part of the ordinary person’s life. For some people it was only the poetry in folk songs and hymns, but for literate people—and I am not talking about college graduates—it was far more…

“Modernism is nearly synonymous with disruption from and dismissal of the past. The modernist says the clock’s hands have turned, that there’s no going back, and we must look to the future. Its results have been meager, and at worst a spree of destruction. I am not speaking merely of quality. Whole genres of poetry, to name one branch of art, have disappeared.

“This is not to say that modernist poets write poor dramatic monologues, poor epics, poor songs, and poor narratives; they do not write them at all. Poetry has shrunk to the confessional or political lyric, usually in free verse. Never in human history has poetry meant less to the ordinary man. It is a tree torn up by the roots.”

Click through and read on for more! It’s well worth it.

Of course, having identified and described the problem, the next issue is figuring out what to do about it. Professor Esolen’s recommendation – “Learn some poetry. Open the old hymnals and read” – is an excellent place to start! But how to get people to actually do that is a bit more of a conundrum.

As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” And you can lead a writer of “worship songs” to classic hymnody, but you can’t make him appreciate it, still less internalize its lessons, in such a way as to enable him to write in the same tradition… or at least, it doesn’t seem so.

It also helps to come from a faith tradition that actually is a faith tradition. Far too much of what passes for Christianity today is in point of fact what Patheos blogger Jonathan Aigner refers to as “jesusy” worship “experiences.” (He also refers to a lot of it as “masturbatory worship,” calling it a “self-worshiping, self-referential, nearly auto-erotic pursuit.” I don’t think he’s far wrong, but I’m trying to be nice.)

For a church – or a would-be hymn-writer – to have an authentic faith tradition, they have to be part of an authentic faith tradition: and for that, you need something like the Anglican tradition. Or the Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or (God help us… after all, I am an Anglican!) Presbyterian / Reformed traditions: traditions that have developed over the centuries, even the millennia, of the Christian era.

You won’t find it in the “community church” model, which almost seems to take pride in not being part of any tradition, which seems to practically glory in being cut off from the past (which, of course, is what inevitably happens when you hitch your wagon to the “contemporary” star).

There are a few such churches that seem to be trying to graft themselves back onto the Great Tradition, and I wish them all the best! But they are still relatively few and far between, and they’ve got their work cut out for them.

And of course, far too many of those who are members of churches that have historically been part of the Great Tradition have, for the last four or five decades (or more), been doing their best to cast off those connections. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these have nearly all seen a steep decline in membership.

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But I digress. The point – for the purposes of this post – is that to write hymns that have both theological and poetical depth, one must be steeped in both the poetical tradition and in an authentic, historical faith tradition.

It is said that the old Celtic Bards had to study for 21 years to become masters of their craft and trade. They had to learn not only the musical arts, but history, folklore, genealogy, myths and legends, and much more. Even law codes! Then and only then were they seen to be ready to ply the bardic arts.

Yet now, it seems, everyone who can string together a few lines of doggerel thinks they can write “worship songs” or “praise music.” Maybe we need a more Bardic approach to Christian hymnody! We had something like it once, though we may not have called it by that name: Tony Esolen explicates it, and the fertile soil in which it grew.

I pray we can get it back.

 

Harvard Study Reveals Religious Upbringing Better for Kids’ Health, Well-Being | The Stream

A Harvard study reveals that children who had a religious upbringing will likely be healthier and have a higher degree of well-being in early adulthood.

Source: Harvard Study Reveals Religious Upbringing Better for Kids’ Health, Well-Being | The Stream

While this is no surprise to me, or probably to most of those who read this blog, what is most saddening is that it probably does come as a surprise to many in the wider culture.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

— Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

 

Can America Become a Christian Society Again? | The Imaginative Conservative

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What is the status of Christianity in the United States today? Can there be such a thing as Christian society or culture?

Source: Can America Become a Christian Society Again? ~ The Imaginative Conservative

There are many points worthy of highlighting in this lengthy but excellent essay by Thomas Ascik – which I strongly encourage you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest! – but here is one that jumped out at me, and not only because it features one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Tony Esolen:

“Focusing on the differences between men and women and between fatherhood and motherhood, Dr. Esolen goes into an extensive analysis of the contemporary American family. He argues that girls become women more easily than boys become men, and, thus, the redefinition of masculinity and the compromising of formerly boy-oriented institutions like the Boy Scouts has been catastrophic. As a summary of ‘the way of the world’ in modern times, he points out that the Industrial Revolution took the father out of the house and feminism took the woman out of the house.”

Think about that for a minute (and ponder it daily): “the Industrial Revolution took the father out of the house and feminism took the [mother] out of the house.” Who does that leave? No one, that’s who! Continue reading “Can America Become a Christian Society Again? | The Imaginative Conservative”

Rogation Sunday and Rogationtide

 

Rogationtide – My Book of the Church's Year
From My Book of the Church’s Year, by Enid M. Chadwick. London: Mowbrays (no date).

So, what is Rogation Sunday, and Rogationtide (a.k.a., the Rogation Days), anyway…? The lovely Anglican blog, “Full Homely Divinity,” explains:

“The week of the Sixth Sunday of Easter [note: for those of us using the traditional calendar, the Fifth Sunday after Easter] is busy with processions and outdoor activities. The week begins with prayers and celebrations that focus on stewardship of creation and culminates in the great (but lately much-neglected) Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven on the fortieth day of the Paschal Feast.

“The Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day, originated in Vienne, France (not Vienna, Austria), in 470 after a series of natural disasters had caused much suffering among the people. Archbishop Mamertus proclaimed a fast and ordered that special litanies and prayers be said as the population processed around their fields, asking God’s protection and blessing on the crops that were just beginning to sprout.

“The Latin word rogare means ‘to ask,’ thus these were ‘rogation’ processions. In an agricultural society, closely connected with the soil and highly vulnerable to the uncertainties of nature, this was an idea that took root quickly, and the custom spread around Europe and over to Britain. The Sunday before the Rogation Days came to be considered a part of Rogationtide (or ‘Rogantide’) and was known as Rogation Sunday.”

Thus, the blessing of crops, and from that, a more general sense of exercising good, due, and proper stewardship of Creation, is an important part of this day, and this Tide.

Furthermore, there developed in England the concept of “the beating of the bounds,” in which the Rogation Procession made its way around the bounds of the parish, reaffirming a sense of place, and instructing the young in the geography of home, and significant locations, sites, and features within those bounds. Because those boundaries were sometimes transgressed, it also provided an opportunity to reconcile with one’s erring neighbors.

Another excellent blog, “The Homely Hours,” notes,

“George Herbert gave the following reasons to observe the Rogation Days, that are still practical for us today: 1) [asking] a blessing of God for the fruits of the field; 2) Justice in the preservation of the bounds; 3) Charitie, in living, walking and neighbourliy accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any; 4) Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or oght be made.

The author of that blog, Amanda, further recounts, “I remember the first time I participated in our church’s Rogation Day ‘Beating of the Bounds.’ I was deeply impressed by the way that the Rogation Days took seriously the life of the body in the world.”

So should we all!

A tale of two eras – Fr. Robert Hart | The Continuum

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For the last few years I have made it clear that Anglicans cannot use the words “Catholic” and “Protestant” to mean two opposite and irreconcilable positions, or even to mean mutually exclusive  positions. For us a good Protestant (in the Anglican sense) has to be a good Catholic, and vice versa…

Source: The Continuum: A tale of two eras

“What really separates English Reformation theology and the Oxford Movement is simply time. It is not a matter of disagreement. Time created its own emergencies, needing doctrinal clarification…

“The strength of Anglicanism today is that we have the restoration of Evangelical truth in our foundation, and we have the fullness of Catholic faith, worship and sacramental practice. We did not obtain this great inheritance by excluding any portion of the Faith of the Universal Church, but by possessing it all.

“One need of our era is to correct the misperceptions of Schools X and Y, and refuse to be pressured into losing part of our wealth by taking unnecessary losses through false choices.”

In my opinion, this essay by Fr. Robert Hart expresses very effectively and persuasively (*) what I believe is the proper balance in the Anglican tradition as truly Reformed Catholic: that is, occupying – dare I say? – an appropriate “Via Media” between the extreme High-Church Anglo-Catholic and extreme Low-Church Evangelical positions.

My recommendation? As I have written many times in this blog, borrowing a line from one of our more famous Prayer Book Collects: “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest“!


(* Despite what, Fr. Hart’s disclaimer / explanation in the comments notwithstanding, I cannot help but think is a slight caricature of the late-medieval, pre-Reformation English Church (I tend to take a more irenic view of Eamon Duffy’s evidence and interpretations)… but only slight.)

The New Primitives | Crisis Magazine

When a man ceases to believe in God, observed Chesterton, he becomes capable of believing in anything. It looks like we may now have reached the “anything” stage of human history.

Source: The New Primitives | Crisis Magazine

“As faith in Christianity recedes in the West, a strange thing is happening. Having shaken off belief in God, people are not becoming more rational, they’re becoming more gullible. They believe that babies in the womb aren’t really human beings, that same-sex “marriage” is the equivalent of real marriage, that there are roughly 52 varieties of gender, that boys can become girls, and vice versa. In general, they believe that wishing makes it so.

“Rejection of God does not lead to a flowering of civilization, but rather to a primitivization. Many of the ideas that are now current are pre-scientific and even anti-scientific. Science is solidly on the side of those who say that babies are babies, and that boys cannot become girls, yet when science comes into conflict with today’s magical beliefs it is rejected out of hand. For many, the ultimate source of truth is not reason, or science, or God, but feelings.

“It was belief in a rational God who created a rational and ordered universe that provided the main impetus for scientific study centuries ago. Christian and Jewish scholars thought it worthwhile to study the nature of things because the nature of things was considered to be rational and discoverable. Thus, the scientific revolution was a product of the Judeo-Christian world…”

Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!