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Fidei Defensor — Henry VIII, Defender of the Faith

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Catholic Vespers at Hampton Court, February 2016 ]
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chapel-royal-hampton-court

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Yesterday, February 9th 2016, the (Cathlic) Cardinal Nichols celebrated the beautiful Vespers liturgy in Henry VIII‘s old chapel at Hampton Court Palace in London, with the (Anglican) Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, Dr Richard Chartres, delivering the sermon:

chapel royal

As the Guardian reported:

Almost half a millennium after the Act of Supremacy, which declared the Tudor king as the supreme head of the Church of England and formalised the break with Rome, England’s most senior Catholic cleric celebrated Vespers in the palace’s Chapel Royal on Tuesday evening.

The scent of incense filled the air beneath the chapel’s magnificent blue and gold ceiling as a small procession made its way towards the altar. Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, in a gold mitre and brocade robe, walked a few steps behind Richard Chartres, the Anglican bishop of London and dean of the royal chapels, in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation.

The first Catholic service in the chapel for more than 450 years was hailed as “one for the history books” by John Studzinski of the Genesis Foundation, which jointly organised the event with the Choral Foundation. “Dialogue between faiths is much needed and welcomed in these turbulent times. We need to recognise that we have more in common than not.”

And Vatican Radio:

World renowned ensemble ‘The Sixteen’ which specializes in early English polyphonic music, will perform works from the Reformation period, highlighting how – in the cardinal’s words – “music can help us rediscover our roots and shared heritage” [ .. ]

Cardinal Nichols notes that the music has been chosen to fit the history of the Chapel Royal, featuring composers like Thomas Tallis who “lived through all the turbulence of the Reformation of 1535” and the subsequent decades during which, he says, the situation in England was “quite porous and quite subtle”. Tallis and others wrote both Catholic and Anglican music and in many ways, the Cardinal says, “the Chapel Royal captures the fluidity and ambiguity of the age”.

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So — two senior clerics belonging to rival churches managed to join in prayer — is that such a big thing?

If religion is a semi-cultish fad or superstition, nah. If religion is a major aspect of culture, maybe. If the divisions in Christianity are an offence against the God of Love and a voluntarily imposed obstacle to the workings of Love in the world, then yes, and this is a step in the right ecumenical direction.

From a secular British perspective, leaders of two rival versions of the same superstitions managed to agree with one another long enough to hold a joint press conference and a concert. The concert was first rate, the setting historic, the seating limited – tickets were allotted by ballot – and the whole event worth maybe a human interest column in the day’s news, well behind the bombing of some city in Syria.

Let’s call that the perspective from the ground up.

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But hold it. The secular mind works from the facts, the “material world” as Madonna put it, with priority given to survival, food, shelter, and other needs – but to the sacred mindset, it is the spiritual world, the world of inspiration and joy that takes priority. Myth, ritual, dream, poetry, romance – these are the elements in human culture which must deeply touch our hearts, our souls — and from that perspective, the event yesterday at Hampton Court was anything but unimportant.

Let’s call this the perspective sub specie aeternitatis — from above. Rene Daumal describes its benefits in his brilliant mountain-climbing novel, Mount Analogue:

What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.

Monarchy, like religion, is a matter of myth, ritual, dream, poetry, and romance. The stories of the kings and queens of England are replete with myth and legend – King Arthur, Guinevere, Sir Launcelot, the Holy Grail, Glastonbury. The royal year is shot through with ritual – the great Royal weddings, Trooping the Colour and Changing of the Guards, the opening of Parliament, the races at Royal Ascot, the tagging of swans during Swan Upping, and towering about them all, the successive Coronations of sovereigns down the ages.

In sum, the monarchy embodies, for those who see it, the dreams and poetry of the nation, its traditions and its aspirations. And pageantry is at the heart of those dreams, its richest expression, just as liturgy – the performance of the rites and services of the church — is at the heart of the church’s dream, each being the enactment, with all solemnity and symbolic force, of a great ordering and binding principle.

Where the prayerful and celestial liturgy of the church and the grand traditions of the monarchy come together, the spirituality, the pageantry, the music, the gorgeous robing, the sacred architecture and yes, nobility, come together to stir the deep national memory, elevating us to that double sense of identity conveyed in the great hymn, I Vow to Thee, My Country, with words by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice and music by Gustav Holst. This hymn rang out in a multitude of voices at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, at the Festival of Remembrance, at the funerals of Princess Diana, of Baroness Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill, and it articulates the sense of a double world – “my country” and “another country”, the material and spiritual worlds in harmonious continuity – which is buried deep in the British consciousness.

I vow to thee, my country

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

That “other country” calls to mind Blake’s Albion, the sleeping Britain — the Britain of a possibility that transcends the Gross National Product, and lies at the heart of Britain’s reluctance to give over its sovereignty to the bureaucrats of Brussels.

All this is evoked by the grand ceremonial of Catholic Vespers accompanied by the prayers, incense and choral voices raised in prayer to the gilded rafters of Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, where Catholic worship last took place in the reign of “Bloody” Mary Tudor (1553-58). It is, if you will, a foretaste – in high British ceremonial style — of paradise.

And so yes, from a ceremonial, symbolic and mythic perspective, it was and is a big deal. It is a moment rich in the tapestry which interweaves heaven and earth, the sacred and secular realms – not to mention two great rival religious traditions. For yes, it was Catholic against Protestant that warred in Europe and gave us, finally, the Treaty of Westphalia, and the concept of the nation state, Catholic against Protestant that echoed from the Battle of the Boyne to the Belfast Troubles, Catholic against Protestant that sent Guido Fawkes plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament in an earlier era of sectarian hatred and religious terror…

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King Henry VIII was granted the title of Defensor Fidei or Defender of the Faith by a grateful Pope Leo X in 1521, in recognition of a treatise, Defense of the Seven Sacraments, which he had written attacking the “reformed” teachings of Martin Luther. In 1530, however, Henry broke from the Papacy and Catholic Church to establish the Church of England under his own royal authority, and was excommunicated and the title papally withdrawn. No matter, the British parliament confirmed Henry in the title soon after in its new sense, as Defender of the Faith of the Church of England – a title which continues to be held by British monarchs to this day.

During the coronation ceremony, the monarch swears an oath to govern the far-flung territories of the Commonwealth “according to their respective laws and customs”, “to cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed” in all the monarch’s judgments; and to protect the Church of England, of which the monarch is Supreme Governor. At the most recent British coronation, that of Queen Elizabeth II, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked:

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

— to which Her Majesty responded:

All this I promise to do. The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.

It is the Coronation Oath too, along with the twin sectarian meanings of the title Defensor Fidei, which is in play as we approach afresh the meanings of church and state, constitutional monarchy, in times both ecumenical and sectarian, secular and sacred, traditional, vitally present, and forward looking. The Catholic liturgy of Vespers, celebrated yesterday with all dignity and ceremonial in Henry VIII’s own chapel at Hampton Court is a reminder and a promise of the high spiritual, ritual and cultural possibilities to which our British traditions invite us.

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vespers-at-the-chapel-royal

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A video of yesterday’s ceremonial is not yet available, but I imagine this was the Magnificat that Harry Christophers and his choir sang…

I could live my life out under the shelter of such Magnificats.

What you say on Twitter, stays on Twitter

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — plus a quick followup to my post on Political candidates and religion ]
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Also of interest:

to which Sarah Posner responded:

Political candidates and religion

Monday, February 1st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — responding properly to Tim Furnish ]
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Political candidates and religion is not quite the same as church and state — an issue on which, as a Brit living in the States, I am profoundly impressed both ways. However, religion in politics very much interests me, and in my news scan early this morning I noted this tweet:

To which I responded:

Tim Furnish picked up on this, and tweeted:

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From my point of view, I think that’s both a fair question and a great DoubleQuotes opportunity, so I followed Tim’s lead to the NYT piece he was refering to, and the result, phrased in headlines, is as follows:

Cruz Clinton

Sources:

  • AP, Now deeply Christian, Cruz’s religion once wasn’t so obvious
  • NYT, Hillary Clinton Gets Personal on Christ and Her Faith
  • **

    For myself, I’m glad that Hillary Clinton “rarely talks about faith on the campaign trail” and that Ted Cruz‘s religion “once wasn’t so obvious”. Tithing as an obligation isn’t anything I worry about — the widow’s mite story gets to the heart of things, I think — and I’m a fan of reticence in matters of faith in any case:

    Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee

    pretty much puts the kybosh on publicity, methinks, as does:

    when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret..

    Similary, the second of MaimonidesEight levels of charity is this:

    to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven.

    And the Qur’an, Sura 76. 8-9, suggests:

    They give food, for the love of Him, to the needy, the orphan, the captive: “’We feed you only for the Face of God; we desire no recompense from you, no thankfulness..”

    I’m not dogmatically tied to these views, Tim, but I admire them greatly — IMO, there’s simply so much beauty in such advice!

    Juxtaposition: Christian and Islamic apocalypticisms

    Monday, January 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — being the revised version of the second part of my previous post ]
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    In an earlier post, rightly critiqued by evangelical pastor-writer-filmmaker Joel Richardson, I conflated Christian and Islamic “divine law movements” with Christian and Islamic “apocalyptic movements”. They are, as Joel pointed out, not the same, though perhaps somewhat related. I have left the first part of that post, dealing with “divine law”, standing, under the original title Juxtaposition: Qutb & Bahnsen.

    Here is my revision of the second part of that post, in light of Joel’s comment. It concerns the similarities and differences between Christian and Islamic “apocalyptic movements”, with special attention to the question of violence or nonviolence on the part of their followers.

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    Firts, let’s be clear that Sunni hadith — of which there are very many, and of which some are considered sahih (authentic) and some daif (dubious), &c — can be found to support the idea that the Mahdi’s coming will be violent. The particular hadith favored by the Islamic State is an obscure one, but it supports that point and is used by IS to suggest divine sanction for their own violent actions:

    The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army). which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed and the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople.

    The various black banners from Khorasan hadith, often used in Al-Qaida recruiting, similarly describes the Mahdi as a warrior-messiah:

    Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim recorded that the Prophet said, “If you see the black flag coming from Khurasan, go to them immediately, even if you have to crawl over the snow, because indeed amongst them is the Caliph al-Mahdi .. and no one can stop the army until they get to Jerusalem.”

    FWIW, Harun Yahya is the only Sunni source I’ve run across for the doctrine that the Mahdi’s activities will be non-violent:

    Hazrat Mahdi (as) is a man of peace who evades war. Hazrat Mahdi (as) will make the morality of the Qur’an dominate the Earth not by war but by love and the remembrance of Allah. That Hazrat Mahdi (as) will dominate the world by means of peace and love, which is one of his attributes, is related in the hadith as follows:

    People will seek refuge in the Hazrat Mahdi (as) as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty with justice. His justice will be as such that HE WILL NOT WAKE A SLEEPING PERSON OR EVEN SHED ONE DROP OF BLOOD. The Earth will return to the age of happiness.

    Almost all Sunnis who believe in the coming of the Mahdi believe also that he will come to establish peace by means of warfare.

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    Here likewise is a Shia view of the issue:

    Since the objective behind the uprising of Hadrat al-Mahdi is the establishment of divine government throughout the world and the elimination of tyranny and tyrants, it is natural that the Imam will face many difficulties and obstacles in realizing this objective.

    By conducting military operations, he has to remove those hurdles along the way and overrun one country after another so as to prevail in the east and west of the world and establish the government of divine justice on earth.

    The Mahdi, in this view, will again be a warrior-messiah. The question remains open as to whether his would-be followers can themselves hasten his coming by violence, or whether they must await hiom peaceably. Tim Furnish has addressed this question with specific reference to the use of nuclear weapons.

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    Since there is presently considerable concern about the potential violence of an Islamic Mahdist movememnt — Tim Furnish, for instance, has written, “Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones” — Joel Richardson has made the difference between Muslim expectation of the Mahdi and Christian expectation of the Second Coming of Christ explicit, writing:

    I explained to my host that unless a supernatural man bursts forth from the sky in glory, there is absolutely nothing that the world needs to worry about with regard to Christian end-time beliefs. Christians are called to passively await their defender. They are not attempting to usher in His return. Muslims, on the other hand, are actively pursuing the day when their militaristic leader comes to lead them on into victory. Many believe that they can usher in his coming.

    Perhaps it is worth noting that Joel Richardson’s quote, above, suggests that in his view at least, Christians will not take up the sword until the Second Coming of Christ, and that from Harun Yahya’ statement it is unclear whether there will be bloodshed along the way to the Mahdi’s reign of justice and peace.

    Intriguingly enough, Richardson and Yahya have met:

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    As I said in the earlier version of this post, I’d welcome comments from Joel Richardson, who has commented here on ZP before, Adnan Oktar, and / or Ceylan Ozbudak — especially in clarification of any points I have left obscure or gotten wrong. Thanks.

    Juxtaposition: Qutb & Bahnsen

    Sunday, January 24th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — edited version, see final para ]
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    SPEC DQ Qutb Bahnsen

    I’ve said before that juxtaposition does not imply eqivalence. It does, however, provide a striking means of raising questions, pointing up similarities where differences are also present and differences where similarities may be more easily discerned — questioning easy assumptions, in other words.

    In this juxtaposition, I want to make it clear that a small subset of Christians (Dominionists or Theonomists, here exemplified by Greg Bahnsen, lower panel) like a highly visible subset of Muslims (Islamists, represented here by Sayyed Qutb) seek the universal imposition of what they believe to be God’s law.

    It is worth noting, btw, that Gregory Bahnsen was a postmillennialist, which is to say he expected, to quote Wikipedia, that “increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations.” The dominionist / theonomist movement in which he partakes, in other words, is one which is busy making the world ready for Christ, not expecting him at any moment before that work is done.

    Please note, also, that this juxtaposition does not mean that Christian and Islamic apocalyptic movements divine law movements are “the same” —

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    I have now edited this post in light of Joel Richardson’s comment below, and removed the second half of my original post, in which I’d invited Joel to comment, which will shortly to be found in edited and revised form at Juxtaposition: Christian and Islamic apocalypticisms.


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