Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Anglican Patrimony

A lot has been written in the past months about Anglican Patrimony. Looking eagerly at what other people have been saying it seems that this Patrimony is the Book of Common Prayer (which when ASB came out in 1980 became the CofE Extraordinary rite), Sarum rite, English or Anglican Missal, Evensong and the King James version of the Bible. I think these people mean heritage rather than Patrimony. All these issues are icing on the cake, they are the accidents and not the substance. This betrays also a view which is not entirely in touch with reality. Parishes using the above-mentioned liturgies or keeping Evensong every Sunday exist for sure but are few and far between. Most parishes of my tradition use the Roman Missal (and whilst appreciating the Holy Father’s care in allowing the use of the rite of St Pius V as reformed by Bl John XXIII, I personally value the Missal of Paul VI as amended by the present Pontiff) or else they use Common Worship (which I like too although it has a lot of borrowings from the Roman rite) or have a combination of the two. Whilst acknowledging that the above named rituals shaped our forbears we need to realise that that is not our Patrimony, it is our heritage. Those who use such rites should be encouraged to continue to do so but it should not be imposed on the many who have joined the evangelistic and missiological liturgy as presented by and since Vatican II.
So what is our Patrimony? It is not the depth and wealth to be found in the Caroline Divines down through the Tractarians and to recent giants like Dix and Mascall. That too is our heritage, that has informed our understanding of who we are and helped us live the Gospel in our day-to-day life. All these good and holy things and persons are our heritage that combined together and lived today are our Patrimony. Patrimony is alive and changes every minute as it is enriched by our living it. Our Patrimony is what we do today; how we live our Christian calling as a result of the joy and sadness we experience and share. It is also our experience of the Act of Synod, of upholding the Catholic Faith in difficult and sometimes hostile ground, a witness which makes that ground holy. It is the way in which you and I today live the Faith, teach it, knock on doors in visiting, go to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, assist those who come knocking on our doors and those whom we seek in the roads of life. Our Patrimony is all of us together today and the work we do, the prayers we pray, the love we live, the passion for Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life who consumes our hearts with his fire. That is why the Patrimony is a common treasure, alive, fresh and always changing from glory into glory as in humility it seeks to be Gospel shaped and thus Christ-like.

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