Book Reviews

 

A call from Rome to take liturgy seriously

THEOLOGY AT THE EUCHARISTIC TABLE

Jeremy Driscoll osb

Gracewing, 250pp, pbk

0 85244 469 9, £17.99

 

Dr WR (the Gloomy Dean) Inge of St Paul’s was dining at a high table in Oxford and was asked by his neighbour, the distinguished liturgist Craddock Ratcliff, whether he was interested in liturgy. ‘No,’ said the Dean, ‘and neither do I collect postage stamps.’ Today the superiority of interior ‘mystical’ religion is still a common idea among those whom a sense of superiority keeps aloof from the Church, but, for us insiders, a good deal of water, as Arthur Couratin observed, has passed under Folly Bridge. Can there be any greater human activity than entering into the movement of the Lord’s own Paschal Offering in the Mass?

Gracewing deserve congratulations for collaborating with the Centro Studi S Anselmo – the Benedictine liturgical HQ in Rome – to make available this collection of recent papers by a liturgist too little known in Anglican circles: Dom Jeremy Driscoll. The Church of England is being spared the worst of the internecine liturgical wars going on among anglophone Roman Catholics; we have battlefields enough of our own. But the same issues affect us, and we ignore at our peril the best of their work.

The fundamental division, not just in liturgy but in every area of Christian concern, is between those whose priority is to drag the Faith howling and screaming into the secular polis so that it exhibits no discontinuities with the culture of Everyman; and those who draw upon what has been received, to reinvigorate a Faith which dares to be counter-cultural. That is what caused the fuss when Rome issued the decree Liturgiam Authenticam: Rome was saying that Christians should not accept the world as normative and adapt to it their language and structures of worship; we should proclaim the vocabulary and cultural landscape of Scripture and Tradition; we should do mission on the assumption that the Divine Word, far from submitting itself to the Zeitgeist, summons human words to submission.

Driscoll is worried that Liturgical Theology runs the risk of being divorced from other departments of Theology. On the one hand, many liturgists nowadays are woefully ignorant of the whole dynamic sweep of Catholic Theology; they live in a narrow ghetto of self-regarding, mutually co-opting experts. On the other hand, theologians in other fields often fail to realize how theologically normative the Rule of Faith expressed in Liturgy is, even for so comparatively unliturgical a writer as Origen. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi; as Dix never tired of reminding people, the worship of the Church was in place centuries before the Canon of Scripture was agreed, and decades before the individual New Testament writings were written. Dom Jeremy would like to see liturgists being more theological and theologians more liturgical.

He points out that failure to recognize the link between doctrine and worship may not only mean that people fiddle around liturgically without realizing the doctrinal implications of what they are doing; sometimes a doctrinal innovation is deliberately given liturgical expression so as to manipulate the psyches of the theologically untrained and unsuspecting masses. At least, he cries, be honest. And do stop flinging the word ‘pastoral’ around as a substitute for disciplined thought.

‘Gnosticism in the patristic period, New Age theories in our own, and Pop Liturgy within the Church, all three have something in common. First of all, they have a real capacity to attract … but they cannot deliver the goods they promise, for to spotlight a need, an interest, a desire is only half the pastoral task. The other half is to receive the Gospel as the only possible fulfilment of these desires, to receive it with the complete metanoia, the completely new way of thinking, that it requires.’

It will be seen that Driscoll is on the ‘traditionalist’ side of the divide I describe above; but he is no hankerer after pre-Vatican II ways. He finds authority in the ‘new’ Eucharistic Prayers, while asking whether modern liturgical translators reflect sufficiently on ‘the mystery of language itself, and the relationship of this to the inner life of God, within which life one of the three is named Word.’ Hippolytus, he reminds us, (Christine Mohrmann would not have disagreed) is already using stylized liturgical language. And many Catholic Anglican readers will be moved by his final chapter on the Adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; but he situates the practice (as Mascall did) in a ‘modern’ sense of the corporate nature of the Eucharist as action.

Those of us who have the privilege of preaching to three or four village congregations every Sunday will discover thought-provoking advice. Should we be content to match the highest that Newman thought the Gentleman Country Parson could achieve: ‘his sermons were very rarely doctrinal; they were sensible manly discourses on the moral duties.’ Is a little elegant ethicizing, enabling us to maintain a just-tolerated position as chaplain in the suburbs of the Secular City, really good enough? Should we not pin Everyman to the ground and force-feed her with the real meat of Scripture as appropriated by the Great Tradition – the Bible ‘read with the eyes of Christian faith and in a typological key’? Driscoll shows us how the Eucharist, and most especially the Easter Liturgy, is marked, for the Fathers, by the application of biblical typology to liturgical rites and words. He offers, for example, a particularly illuminating biblical exegesis of the Hippolytan phrase, made available to us in the Second Roman Eucharistic Prayer and in Common Worship Prayer B, ‘he opened wide his arms.’

Driscoll advises us to avoid the sort of biblical exegesis we were trained for at our theological colleges: ‘an exegetical exercise which explains the text only in its original historical context. All texts must be brought to the event that encompasses them: the Lord’s death and resurrection. That through the Eucharist about to be celebrated we have communion in the very same death and resurrection – this too must be proclaimed and explained.’ Anglo-Saxon biblical scholarship (despite such giants as Austin Farrer) has long ignored typology as being dark-age obscurantism. That is why we no longer know how to preach Scripture. Driscoll will get you started – read his tenth chapter.

Basically, he offers two methodologies: ‘every gospel passage of the liturgy is a special and unique door of entry into the Eucharistic mystery’ (with an example from St Peter Chrysologus); and actually interpreting the Eucharistic texts themselves (where he finds support in SS Ambrose and Cyril of Jerusalem and Hippolytus).

Catholic Anglicans have been spoiled by having stylistically superb writers – my notes have already mentioned Mascall, Farrer, Dix. Driscoll is not in that league; indeed I suspect the poor fellow of being an American. But there are some good passages; for example, on the significance of the Offertory (and on the importance of using incense at this point). This leads Driscoll in a tactful footnote to express concern about the tendency to down-play the Offertory as no more than a simple placing of the gifts upon the altar. He emphasizes (as the Byzantine and Tridentine rites do) ‘that the gifts placed on the altar are somehow already holy even before their transformation.’

This is not all easy reading and not all readers will find each chapter equally useful. There are one or two quotations in Italian – not many – and Hippolytus’ text is printed in Latin (English translation in Dix, Shape of the Liturgy, pages 157–8). But Driscoll offers you a lot of opportunities to get up-to-date and hone your bluffing techniques. Do you want to know what this ‘typology’ business, in the New Testament and the Fathers, that everybody is now rediscovering, is all about? Could you explain what exactly ‘Fundamental Theology’ means? Would you like to be able to drop names like Mazza and Cantalamessa (what a wonderful name for a liturgist) and Fisichella at the next meeting of the Alternative Chapter? How about a fresh look at some hoary old, boring old, topics, for example the epiclesis (we are reminded that in Hippolytus the Spirit is not called down, as in modern adaptations, to change either elements or people, but so that, in consuming the chalice, we may drink him (John 7.37–39))? Go to Driscoll.

It saddens me, to use a schoolmaster’s phrase, when Roman Catholic writers show no knowledge of Anglican writers. You might have thought that Dom Jeremy would have been interested in Catherine Pickstock’s thesis (After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy 1998) that the culture of the Liturgy enjoys a primacy over Enlightenment Secularism; and her sympathetic exposition of the structure of the Tridentine Mass. But you can’t have everything.

Fathers, you have been called to offer the Mystery, to live the Mystery, to expound the Mystery. Jeremy Driscoll can give you a hand.

 

John Hunwicke offers the sacred Mystery in Devon.

 

SHOWING OF LOVE

Julian of Norwich

Translated by Julia Bolton Holloway

DLT, 133pp, pbk

0 232 52503 X, £9.95

 

I must confess that I have never been a fan of Julian of Norwich. My own unease with her had been brought about by those who had hailed her as a fifteenth-century patron of feminism. Her song, included among the Canticles in Common Worship – Daily Prayer, could never be a favourite of mine because of its opening words, ‘God chose to be our mother in all things.’ Apart from that, I had really known little about her, except for the celebrated passage about a hazelnut in the palm of a hand, which God showed to her in one of her visions, telling her, ‘It is all that I have made,’ and the famous saying near the conclusion of those visions, ‘All manner of things shall be well.’

However, this new translation of her work, more usually entitled Revelations of Divine Love, has enabled me to see her in a new light and to begin to appreciate the riches of her spirituality. This edition is beautifully produced, and it is printed in red and black, which comes unexpectedly in a paperback. The translation is in contemporary style, which makes for easy reading. Yet it clearly is the product of research and scholarship of the highest quality. The text which has been used was constructed from the available manuscripts of the original, and variations are noted by unobtrusive symbols. The original pagination of the Sloane manuscript in the British Library is also noted in the text.

The 28-page introduction is a masterpiece. It sets the scene of Julian’s anchorhold in Norwich, which was England’s second largest city in her time. We are told of the encouragement which she received from Cardinal Easton, who probably edited the text of Julian’s work. We are reminded that this was the age of John Wyclif and the Lollards, who were fiercely opposed to much of the Catholic Church’s teaching and practice of their time. By way of reaction, Archbishop Thomas Arundel clamped down on the teaching of unlicensed lay people, and the writings of Julian were held to be suspect. Consequently, a revision of the text was carried out in order to make it more acceptable to the hierarchy. Fortunately, earlier manuscripts were preserved, and this new edition makes full use of them. The text which is used as a basis for this translation is therefore composite. The final result is attractive, and if read carefully and prayerfully it will enrich one’s spiritual life.

 

Brother Martin is Mission Secretary of the Society of St Francis.

 

Paul Cullen, John Henry Newman, and the Catholic University of Ireland, 1845–1865

Colin Barr

Gracewing, 300pp, pbk

0 85244 594 6, £17.99

 

Many visitors to St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, are impressed by ‘Newman’s House’, now part of University College, Dublin. This Georgian building was originally the seat of another foundation, one which faltered, the Catholic University of Ireland (CUI), the subject of Colin Barr’s book. In the 1840s a majority of the Irish hierarchy were determined to set up a distinctively Catholic university in Dublin rather than become involved in the non-denominational, government-sponsored Queen’s Colleges. The result, the CUI, was a heroic failure, despite the key involvement of the Irishman Paul Cullen, successively Archbishop of Armagh and Dublin, and the Englishman John Henry Newman, the great convert.

Colin Barr’s book painstakingly traces the progress of the CUI from the planning stage with its tentative mention in an 1846 rescript, through opening in 1854 to faltering at the end of that decade. Some have blamed Cullen for the failure, others Newman; the merit of Barr’s volume is that he avoids such simplicities to reveal the variety and complexity of the problems that dogged the scheme. Cullen’s determination to have his university on his own terms underpinned his entire archiepiscopate; he would not compromise despite the absence of vigorous backing from other colleagues in the hierarchy.

He raised money for it across Ireland and in the United States, and head-hunted Newman to be rector as ‘possibly the only Catholic figure who had the experience and reputation necessary to make the project a success’ (74). But Newman was a part-time appointee, taking on Dublin while remaining superior of the oratory of St Philip Neri, Birmingham. He was praised for his brilliant lectures on theology delivered in 1852; against that contribution had to be set his misguided determination to depart as little as possible from the Oxford model of what a university college should be, and some embarrassingly derogatory references in his letters to ‘Paddies’.

Amidst the high talk of what a university should or should not do, there were plenty of chauvinist currents on both sides. By 1857–8, Newman had had enough and with his resignation the CUI (which had recruited the meagre total of just 106 undergraduates in four years) stalled. Cullen exhausted himself trying to save his creation but never succeeded in obtaining either a charter or independent power to award degrees. Colin Barr’s reassessment of Cullen’s role, based as it is on unpublished primary sources, will mean that Newman’s explanation of his involvement with the CUI should no longer be accepted so uncritically.

 

Nigel Aston is Reader in History at the University of Leicester.

 

THE WAY FORWARD?

Edited by Timothy Bradshaw

SCM, 256pp, pbk

0 334 02934 1, £9.99

 

This is a second edition, put together this July, of a collection of essays originally published in 1997, in response to the St Andrew’s Day Statement. This was an attempt by a group of Evangelical academic theologians to establish a theological basis for the debate on homosexuality.

With the emergency Primates’ Meeting only days away, it is clear that it is now, as Bishop Stephen Sykes points out in the new foreword, ‘an ecclesial-political as well as a theological matter’. There is a sense in which these essays have now been overtaken by events, but there is also great value in reading the careful detail of the arguments from a time (strangely distant) before the debate had become so aggressively politicized.

Of the obvious opponents, Jeffrey John offers an incisive and tightly logical demolition of the Statement, but does not (that was not his purpose) offer much in its place. Elizabeth Stuart overpowers it with a withering socio-anthropological rejection, and the reader is left with the clear impression that she is speaking for a new and different religion; or at the very least from a perspective so distant that no dialogue is possible. Only Michael Vasey, as an Evangelical, understands enough of what his colleagues were seeking, and so enters in actual debate; his arguments are the more powerful for that reason.

There are two most valuable contributions, largely independent of the 1997 debate. Anthony Thiselton writes the longest piece, on the hermeneutics and exegesis of the key biblical passages (1 Corinthians 6.9–11; Romans 1.26f; 1 Timothy 1.10; Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13). It is a dense summary of a great deal of scholarship, but an excellent point of reference for the witness of Scripture. If the texts are few, that is neither a reason to ignore them (liberals take note) nor a justification for simplifying their context and meaning (Evangelicals be warned).

Fully aware that the immediate answer is no, Oliver O’Donovan asks the simple question, ‘Can there be a fruitful discussion’ about homosexuality and the Church? It is a powerful piece. Is it possible to be true to Scripture and the Christian tradition and to be fair and affirming to those who are gay? If we accept that the ‘vocation’ (important term) of heterosexuals and homosexuals is not symmetrical, then yes, it might be. I found an Anglican rationality and fair-mindedness about the piece that, almost by definition, could not be shared across the comprehensiveness of the Anglican Communion.

If there is to be a fruitful debate, what this collection as a whole shows is that there is still a great deal to be said, and that a great deal of patience is required – which is exactly what has been denied by the actions of New Hampshire and New Westminster.

We need theology, and this book is helpful. We need, even more, philosophy, a careful analysis of just exactly what it is that we are talking about. How often have we said, after 1992, that the problem with that debate was that Synod never asked the fundamental question ‘What is priesthood?’ My fear is that we shall see the Communion split this month, without ever having asked the question ‘What is homosexuality?’ What is evident from this collection is not only how many answers to that question are offered, but how fluid and changing so many of them are. NT

 

We’re going on a Jungle Jamboree!

A five-day holiday club plan

John Hardwick

BRF, 64pp, pbk

1 84101 25 3, £7.99

 

You may, like me, feel quite relieved that you were part of a cohort of children that missed out on the phenomena of the Christian holiday club which seem all the rage now. Had there been such clubs in my day, I know that I would have been more interested on my school holiday in climbing up trees or collecting newts!

John Hardwick’s five day holiday club plan, is, as plugged, ‘complete and ready to run’, and could be just the sort of thing your parish needs if you being asked to implement a holiday club for five-year olds and under next year. This book will give you just about everything you need, right down to back-up sheets, First Aid information and craft ideas. You could follow this book line by line and you would have a well run, happy week. One important omission, however, is child protection. For example, the need for the correct forms, which are not mentioned at any point in the programme, even in the ‘stay legal’ section.

The programme takes as its basis a family called the Watts, who are on safari in the jungle. How you get from their jungle forays to the parables of Luke’s gospel (for example the good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep) is, as they say, interesting.

I have not seen this material in action neither have I seen John Hardwick on his live tours of the UK with BRF as he brings the Bible alive through puppets, drama and story telling. However, Jungle Jamboree has been piloted successfully in a number of venues. Hardwick’s experience is extensive so I think it is right to sound a confident note about this book.

By way of caution, I think Jungle Jamboree is typical of many Christian resources for children and young people in that in aiming for accessibility, the Gospel content of the programme is compromised. ‘Process’ is the buzzword with evangelism nowadays, and of course we reach out to our young people with appropriate resources which are fun and build community, but we can do this with confidence in God’s Spirit and his Revelation. So Jungle could have a bit less jungle and a bit more Jesus. The memory verses could have come from scripture and the songs could have been more recognizably Christian. The drama could have been based on the Gospel without being a turn-off.

Of course the primary purpose of the holiday club is not to teach the faith, but to make connections with our young people, to build relationships, and to provide a launch-pad for further work with them in church, school or the wider community. But we can do all that and still unashamedly drop in a little more of the faith as well, through song, drama, liturgy and art.

If you want to know how little of the Christian faith children (and some teachers) know, then, read Professor Terence Copley’s extensive research from Exeter University on RE in year 8: it’s truly frightening*. Then get out there and – whether you are building relationships through holiday clubs or other avenues – live and teach the faith!

 

Fr Simon Ellis is Vicar of St Laurence, Long Eaton.

* The figure of Jesus in Religious Education (The Report of the teaching about Jesus in Religious Education Project Terence) by Terence Copley and Karen Walshe, University of Exeter Press.) This report summarizes research in to 542 Year 8 pupils from four different schools.

 

ONE EQUALL LIGHT

An anthology of the writings of John Donne

Edited by John Moses

Canterbury, 360pp, hbk

1 85311 540 1, £20

 

From one of Donne’s sermons on death, quoted in One Equall Light:

Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes. The ashes of an oak in the chimney are no epitaph of that oak, to tell me how high or how large that was. It tells me not what flocks it sheltered while it stood, nor what men it hurt when it fell. The dust of great persons’ graves is speechless too; it says nothing, it distinguishes nothing. As soon the dust of a wretch whom thou wouldest not, as of a prince whom thou couldest not look upon, will trouble thine eyes, if the wind blow it thither; and when a whirl-wind hath blown the dust of the church-yard into the church, and the man sweeps out the dust of the church into the church-yard, who will undertake to sift those dusts again, and to pronounce, ‘This is the patrician, this is the noble flower, and this the yeomanly, this the plebeian bran?’

 

 

 

Born in 1572, brought up a Roman Catholic, diplomat, poet, lover, social climber, and finally Dean of St Paul’s until his death in 1631, John Donne was one of the Church’s finest preachers. He also wrote works of propaganda for the Faith and the Church of England; in our generation, his life is the better propagandist. The breadth of his experience and the contradictions of his character makes his personality a fine invitation to consider his faith; his preaching may be dense and overly complicated for an age such as ours, but he himself demands respect.

This is a fine book, well produced and eminently readable. Moses, the current Dean of St Paul’s, opens the collection with three well-balanced essays on the man, his life and his writing. To my way of thinking, many of the excerpts are unduly short, but so complex is his language, rich with allusion and artifice, that this is understandable. Donne in large quantities is indigestible; that is our fault, not his.

Dare one suggest, an excellent Christmas book, for a sceptical friend, or a member of your family who gently despises the childishness of what he thinks you believe. Donne is no saint, but he is a rich and complex exponent of a serious Christian faith. He is an approachable guide to a time when ‘the Church of England’ had a body of culture, order and theology to be proud of. SR

 

 

A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Elvi Rhodes

Corgi, pbk, 540pp

0 552 15051 7, £5.99

 

An aga saga without the edge, with the heroine a woman priest. Having completed her curacy during which her husband died (having her single helps the storyline, and divorce isn’t quite the thing) it is time for her to move to her own parish.

As so often happens, the Rev Venus (that’s what I call a good Christian name) is sent to a traditional parish who were persuaded to have a woman priest against their wishes, and Venus was likewise talked into accepting it. The story which follows runs par for the course, although I have never before heard of communicants actually going up to the altar rail and holding their hands out to receive and at the very last moment throwing them up in the air rather than taking the host – I found this a little far-fetched.

Rev Venus is given no honeymoon period, but she does have a wonderful and pastoral bishop (this is fiction), and we know she will win through in the end. A fascinating view of rural ministry. It is the non-church-goers who sustain the embattled vicar (against vicious, traditionalist Christians) enabling her to keep open the ancient church, to hatch, match and dispatch the non-church-goers. I thought it had something to do with God – sad, aren’t I? PT

 

MY FIRST BOOK OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Carine Mackenzie

Christian Focus, 72pp, bklt

1 85792 570 X, (£1.99)

 

‘A children’s version of the Catechism’ was my impression when I first picked this up. Reading the introduction, I find that is exactly what this little book was intended to be. Simple questions and simple answers, and a biblical reference after each one. Its only quirk is the quotation in full of all Ten Commandments, which gives the strange impression that graven images and the Sabbath are the most important elements of the Christian faith.

A nice little book. As the author explains, ‘The learning of doctrine is not salvation, but a good foundation of the truth is valuable in combating false ideas which so easily divert young minds.’ Quite so. AS

 

THE NEW ILLUSTRATED COMPANION TO THE BIBLE

JR Porter

Duncan Baird, 430pp, hbk

1 904292 68 2, £25

 

What is a companion to the Bible? It is not a dictionary nor a one-volume commentary, not a history nor an atlas, but a bit of all four, plus a bit of art and literary appreciation. From a publishing point of view, they are a fascinating genre, open to the moods of fashion and the whims of the editor; I have several that I have acquired over the years, ranging over more than a century. This goes to the top of my list, along with the solid, gold-embossed family heirloom version from 1890.

The basic foundation is historical; the immediate context is art (over 400 excellent reproductions and photographs); the principal influence is the internet. When it first arrived, the web offered an exotic richness of imagery, a mass of multi-layered information, pictures and links and the impression that everything you ever wanted to know is within reach. Book publishers have responded, and with improved printing techniques now offer a product that makes the internet look like shabby, old-fashioned clockwork. This is one such product, and I applaud it: it would take you a week to gather all this together on the web. Books fight back, and win!

Nearly half of the book focuses on Jesus, and the material is well presented, but every biblical book is covered, and most of the leading questions and problems are dealt with, even if some have to be dealt with in brief summaries in the broad margin. I say, ‘A bit too secular’; you say, ‘More approachable.’ It is worth putting on the present list. SR

 

POETRY

It is not that we do not like it, it is more a case of not knowing what to do with it. Reviewing, for the most part, is a critical activity. Do I agree or disagree? Is it well written or bad? Does it say something new? Does it help us understand more fully? And so on.

With poetry one can ask the same questions. It is finding the answers that is the problem. What have we received recently? The best produced book is I Thirst, a hardback at £10, by an Irish Anglican Peter Rhys Thomas, on religious themes.

There are the intensely local and private publications, that seem too personal to be available for review. Among the laity, we have House of God, Gate of Heaven by Ann Liles; from the clergy, we received A life of poetry, places and people by Charles Cole. Such items are diffused through the local networks of friends and acquaintance, not by reviews.

And there are also an increasing number of mainstream publishers producing paperbacks of ‘popular’ poetry. Three no less from Mayhew. Monday Mornings and Traffic Jams by David Gatward makes me realize my own internal mutterings and whingeings are not the worst on the planet, but whether they truly rise to the status of prayer, I doubt. Toothpaste and Pasta by Pete Townsend adds recipes to its prayer poems and aims for the young marrieds with troublesome two year olds. The Electric Bible by Peter Dainty claims its own (admittedly sharper) poem prayers are for public worship. Remember Michel Quoist? At New Directions we read anything; but it does not mean we can review anything.

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