views, reviews and previews
Looking for Civilisation
20 May-10 August
Admission £10, concessions available
Kenneth Clarkonce featured in a Monty Python album. At the time he was a posh man in late middle age and so ripe for satire. And yet, with the exception of a few sketches, the Pythons have not worn as well as Lord Clark has. His one major work of scholarship the catalogue of the Q:ueen's Leonardo drawings is a standard work of reference. More than anyone else he not only ensured the survival of the National Gallery but he made it the first museum in this country where the curator took second place to the public. In the same spirit his series Civilisation is the template for television art programmes, matched only by Robert Hughes' Shock, of the New. And his writing on art on the Gothic Revival, the Nude and Landscape is a model of how to do it.
Yet the patrician style and the dated views, even the fact he was a man, have been enough to condemn him, as happens when new Establishments define themselves against their predecessors. The usual charge against Clark is that he called a television series `Civilisation' when it only took in Western civilisation. Oddly the BBC never seems to be around to defend Clark about this. But not only did the series make the Corporation a lot of money, for which they might have been grateful, the title was chosen by the Beeb itself against Clarks own wishes. He had wanted a title which expressed the limited scope of the series. And, indeed, non-Western art was in his blood. As Tate Britain's show makes clear, since a young boy he hadbeen interested in andvalued. Japanese art. He was an almost Jamesian aesthete, though considerably better off than most of Henry James English characters.
Was he a snob? Quite possibly, though that would hardly mark him out in the art world, then or now. The Tate show has a room with clips from his television performances and two of these are intriguing for the perception of Clark the snob. In the first he is in a room full of bad taste. There are ducks flying up the wall, a hideous plate which Clark describes with the same precision as if it were a della Robbia, and a TV which he
particularly criticizes, even though he is, of course, performing on TV. But he does not look down on what is around him. He analyses it carefully. And then he says he would be happier living in that room than in one full of good taste. He even imagines himself drinking a pint of stout in it. That is a slightly naughty remark, but when he says that in his experience the people who live in bad taste rooms are usually much nicer than the people who live in good taste rooms he comes across as absolutely genuine. Can you imagine any of today's media dons saying Telegraph readers are usually nicer people than Guardian readers?
The same television sequence also has him state in nuce his attitude to the love of beautiful things. He says most people are not interested in art, but only because they do not have the time or opportunity to immerse themselves in it. Even if they did, not everybody would like art he had suffered from drones and hearties at school but many more would do than at present. That is Clark the elitist speaking but it is surely common sense. He himself had been immersed in art from youth. He knew it takes time to get to know a work of art. Nobody would expect to be able to write without an apprenticeship, or play football, or high dive why is it so upsetting to say the same about art appreciation?
And, of course, Clarks own TV lectures make the point. He speaks with authority because he knows what he's talking about. And, even more, Clark was quite capable of admitting his limitations. The second of the Tate's clips shows him introducing an exhibition at the Tate of work by Picasso. His only, mild, criticism of Picasso is that he has struck a pose of not caring if people understand him. Clark thinks it is human to want to understand and he explains he is bugged by Picasso because he likes his workbut cannot understand it. Apart from the way this nuances Clark the hater of Modernism, the fact of an eminent man and television presenter saying know what I like when I see it suggests a rare humility. Is there a clip of Sir Nicholas Scrota or Doctor Lucy Worsley saying as much (I hope there is)?
Most of Tate Britain's show is made up of pictures and bibelots bought by Clark, either on his own account or for the nation. Some are better than others and there is a 'Brideshead feel to the taste. But the television excerpts suggest someone at Tate Britain is alive to Clarks humanity.
PAUL JOHNSTON HARVIE 1936-2000
42pp, no other details available. Available from the author, The Rt Revd L.E. Luscombe, Woodville, Kirkton of Tealing, By Dundee DD4 ORD
I firstmet Fr Paul Harvie soon after I had arrived at the University of St Andrews. As a young man with an interest in religion, a friend took me to a simple Evening Prayer at St Salvador's, Dundee. As we entered the stunning church, much of which Fr Harvie restored by his own hand, Fr Harvie appeared followed by the ever faithful Mungo (his dog) and greeted us warmly. Within ten minutes I had agreed to serve at a special Mass and sing in the choir for another. Fr Harvie had a vast enthusiasm for the faith and would pass that on to those around him. His small choir of local boys in the Hilltown of Dundee is just one example of how he was dedicated to excellence for all people no matter who they were or where they came from. We must be grateful to Bishop Edward Luscombe for writing this short biography about a true giant in the land.
Fr Harvie was born in Australia and spent his early ministry there. He moved to St Paul's Cathedral in Dundee as Precentor and had a great ministry there. Music was at the centre of his life, he was a fine musician and a good teacher. The appointment of a new Provost with whom Fr Harvie could not work meant the move to the Hilltown. His ministry there was wonderful and personable. His love of his people shines through the pages of this short book, as does his love for St Salvador's church and his dedication to seeing it restored and that the liturgy should be executed beautifully and without fuss. Fr Harvie was a staunch defender of the faith and was chairman of the Scottish wing of Forward in Faith from its inception. He was not someone to be trifled with and it is clear from Luscombe's account that he knew his own mind and was not afraid to speak out. There are, it sometimes seems, fewer and fewer wonderful characters like Fr Harvie in our church. For him the life of the church, that is God's people, was at the centre of all that he did. On the cover of the book he is pictured in cassock, smiling, polishing candlesticks.
Elsewhere there are photos of him making toast, or cooking one of his famous lunches or taking the choir boys on holiday. He was indeed a man of many parts. His legacy is the restored wonder of St Salvador's Dundee and more importantly those who learnt the faith there and continue to hold to it, worshipping God in the beauty of holiness.
ST LUKE'S GRIMETHORPE 1904-2014
£6 including postage
Available from Mr Bryan Danforth, to whom cheques should be made out. 165 Brierley Road, Grimethorpe, Barnsley, S72 7AR. Proceeds will be donated to the church.
This smallbooklet (with 56 black and white illustrations) is, perhaps unintentionally, a very important piece of social history. As soon as I received my copy I could not put it down until I had read it. The tradition of St Luke's is uncompromisingly Anglo-Catholic but the writer does not dwell over-much on the niceties of architecture, liturgy, vestments, church furnishings and festivals, excellent though they all are at Grimethorpe. That is all part of a background which can be assumed. The writer focuses upon the things that really matter the people.
St Luke's has been at the heart of the Grimethorpe community for 110 years. That heart has experienced great joy and great distress. It is no exaggeration to say that this book is about incarnation. It is about death and resurrection. No need for a theological tome, for the Grimethorpe community has lived it.
A small farming hamlet developed into a busy mining village. We are told that St Luke's is A church built by the miners for the miners'. The story of Grimethorpe is the story of mining and the story of mining hereabouts is the story of Grimethorpe. The population grew and there was steady progress in all aspects of Church life until the First World War. Many of the men did not return and a most impressive memorial was erected close to the church. To this day Remembrance Sunday is a major church and community event in Grimethorpe with large numbers ttending the Act of Remembrance.
In 1921 when the miners would not accept worsened working conditions they were locked out for three months, with consequent great hardship. During that period the church hall was built, locals doing most of the labouring tasks. There was an uneasy peace but then another lock-out. During the Great Strike of 1926 the vicar, trying not to take sides, wrote: The Church must help to create the right atmosphere in which the counsels of peace can prevail. Church collections were suspended for the duration of the stoppages.
The 1980s were perhaps the greatest time of trial and we read, The church tried to support the people of the parish throughout the difficulties. Grimethorpe appeared on the news worldwide and the vicar was interviewed even for the New York Times. The church stood as the spiritual centre of the village for churchgoers and those who did not attend'. Following the closure of the mines Grimethorpe was classed as one of the poorest villages in Europe. Social amenities were threatened and even the demolition of the church was suggested. The plight of the village was depicted in the film Grassed Off in which it was called Grimley. The overriding image of the film was that even in times of great despair the people of the community rise above it and band together with care and a good dose of humour. At St Luke's an inspirational vicar worked indefatigably to build good relationships, to restore the building and to plan for a brighter future. The regeneration of the Church had begun. The village also began to change'. In 2003 the Miners' Memorial was dedicated. It lists the names of all those miners who had died in the mine. It is a striking landmark structure and a significant pilgrimage destination.
St Luke's, Grimethorpe is alive and well. When a former vicar was leaving he said that he was going to an `important parish. Didn't he know what he was leaving? The story of St Luke's is important and it needs to be recorded in some detail.
A version of this review first appeared in the Newsletter of the Anglo-Catholic History Society
IN MEMORY Of MEN
The Miners' Memorial outside St Luke's Church in Grimethorpe,
part of the story of
St Luke's Grimethorpe 1904-2014, compiled by Bryan Danforth
TALES OF THREE POPESTrue Stories from the lives of Francis, John Paul II & John XXIII
DLT, 112pp, hbk
978 0232531084, £12.99
At thecentre of this charming and attractive little book lies a simple idea: interweaving highlights from the biographies of the two new saintly popes John Pauli' and John XXIII and the man who performed the canonization ceremony. And if there is just a hint of hyperbole in suggesting already that historians will judge Pope Francis, along with John Paul II and John XXIII, to be the most influential and popular pontiffs of the modern era', then perhaps that is excusable in the context of a book brought out specifically to mark the double canonization.
Ted Harrison takes vignettes from the lives of each Pope in turn, and presents them in broadly chronological order, though he does divert from this pattern at times, which can be confusing to the unwary reader. But this is a book to be consumed and enjoyed, not analysed and studied in detail. It is a work of popular piety, not a piece of serious academic study. There are no footnotes or sources, though there is a short list of suggested further reading. And while the author is always sympathetic to his subjects, he manages to avoid a whitewash: his emphasis on Francis' sorrow and repentance for his indirect and unintended involvement in the kidnapping of Jesuit priests by the military Junta in Argentina is a good example of how Christian themes of forgiveness, love and humility are at the forefront throughout this book.
There are many quotable stories here: the moment John Paul II's friends realized that he was the figure emerging onto the balcony having just been elected Pope; or the description of John XXIII (whilst apostolic delegate in Istanbul and forced like all clergy by the secular state to wear non-clerical dress) as 'looking like a Lombardy businessman who found it difficult to cut down on the pasta But then as with all the best religious biographical writing amidst the amusing anecdotes and jolly tales, the luminous and the profound breaks through. 'Am I not too young to be a bishop? asked the 38-year-old Karol Wojtyla when given the news. `That is a weakness of which we are quickly cured; replied Cardinal Wyszynski. Even more profound is the description of Archbishop Roncalli by the sometime French Prime Minister, Robert Schuman: He is the only man in the whole of Paris who carries peace wherever he goes. As soon as you are near him, you can breathe it. Indeed you can almost touch it:
That is surely as good a description of sainthood as you might find in such a small number of words. The author acknowledges that many of the tales may well have been embellished in the telling over the years. But that doesn't matter: the fundamental truth remains. As an engaging and enjoyable survey of two (three?) saintly lives and the current Holy Father, this book does precisely what it says on the tin, and is very good value for it.
THE IDEALS OF INQUIRYAn Ancient History
OUP, 170pp, hbk
978 0198705604, £27.50
Science and its scientific method is, in terms of human history, a recent phenomenon. Its apparent simplicity and clarity is, however, based on lessons learned over a few thousand years. The common dismissal of all that went before the seventeenth century as prescientific is both unfair and ungenerous. The equally common extension of scientific method to areas well beyond its original sphere of inquiry is both foolish and disturbing.
This short, well-ordered account of classical Greek and Chinese inquiry of what used to be called `natural philosophy' (with further bits from Mesopotamia and India), from c. 500 BC to C. AD 500, is an excellent reminder of a broader human enterprise. Lloyd, now retired from a Cambridge professorship, offers a delightfully wise and authoritative elucidation of what our forebears achieved. Though quite dense, for he covers a lot of ground, it is full of sympathy and imagination. A most civilized little book.
What has this to do with theology? Modern scientists and their acolytes are far too quick to ascribe the failures of the pre-scientists to their belief in God and their consequent subservience to faith. They are wrong. Belief in a Creator, for example, offered the assurance of laws and order that enabled those early inquirers to search for, and sometimes find, large-scale laws of nature, where mere evidence suggested only chaos and randomness.
A belief in God was the foundation for the presumption of a stable ordered world. This in turn allowed them to make further assumptions that created the hypotheses which could then be tested by observation. Theology helped to develop a vision of the universe, which allowed men to move beyond the merely practical wisdom of earlier millennia.
Would science, as we know it, have developed without a belief in a creator God, who orders the entire universe according to coherent and therefore discoverable laws? Lloyd does not answer so hypothetical a question. His is a detailed study of what these early scientists themselves said about what they were doing, and why. But there is no doubt his conclusions lead into much wider speculation. It is fascinating stuff.
One example I found intriguing. The ancient Chinese assumed the world was flat; they set up posts at distant locations and then carefully measured the length of the shadows they cast, and from that, with the mathematics of parallax, they sought to calculate the distance of the sun.
Eratosthenes also measured the shadows of distant posts in the ground. His assumption was that the sun was indefinitely far, and from that he calculated the circumference of the earth. Though different, both began with a hypothesis and came up with a coherent, scientific measurement. The Chinese may have been wrong in their assumptions, but they were not unscientific. The Greeks were right; so why were their ideas not more widely received?
The answer is found in Aristarchus. He too asserted that the earth is a sphere, and what is more, it orbits the sun, not vice versa. This theory, however, was not generally accepted, because the evidence denied it. His colleagues argued, correctly, that if he was right that the earth orbited the sun there must be evidence of stellar parallax. And there wasn't. The evidence was only discovered in the nineteenth century, with more sophisticated instruments.
Faith is currently out of favour, and there is reckoned to be no need for the God hypothesis. But it was not always thus. Modern scientists could afford to be a bit more humble, while the rest of us could be more respectful of the ancients.
THE WRITINGS OF ST TERESA
Eugene McCaffrey OCD
Teresian Press, 124pp, pbk
978 0947916152, £5
Available from the Carmelite Book
The Writingsof Saint Teresa of Avila is one of a series of books which are being brought out during the course of the next year to celebrate the fifth centenary year of the Saint's birth in 1515.
This book is not meant to be an in-depth study of St Teresa's writings but serves to introduce the reader to her books, letters, writings and autobiography. Much of what she wrote was for her own spiritual daughters but her influence spread far beyond her own religious order, her country of Spain and her own century. This remarkable woman, mystic, foundress and Doctor of the Church not only reformed the Order of Carmel but became known throughout the world and continues to be studied and discussed by philosophers, theologians and historians.
Saint Teresa of Avila's best-known works are The Book of Her Life, The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. Each of these was written out of obedience to her superiors and to meet the needs of her Sisters in their formation, prayer and community life. Her other works, perhaps less well known to many people, include her Spiritual Testimonies, The Book of Her Foundations, Meditations on the Song of Songs, On making the Visitation, The Constitutions, Soliloquies, Response to a Spiritual. Challenge, A Satirical Critique, Poetry and Letters.
Her books reflect the social and historical context of sixteenth-century Spain in which she lived, the presence of the Inquisition, literary influences from the books she read on her ideas, the practical difficulties of founding her monasteries of nuns and friars, and the humour and practicality of this woman who was blessed with mystical gifts of the highest order.
Teresa did not consider herself to be gifted as a writer; in fact she can sometimes be difficult to follow as her ideas are not always presented in an orderly fashion, due to the circumstances in which she wrote: 'How I wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget one thing while I'm saying another!' She was intelligent, passionate and lively, taking an interest in the daily life of the people for whom she wrote and offering practical advice as well as spiritual guidance.
The book begins with a useful chronology of Teresa's life, continues with individual chapters which outline her mission, the context in which she lived, how she came to be writing, and then briefly explores the works which she wrote. The Writings of St Teresa of Avila is an excellent introduction for people who have not read her writings and offers a concise overview of the whole of her literary work which is useful to any student.
Fr Eugene McCcaffrey ocd is a Discalced Carmelite friar and teacher of prayer. He is the author of a number of books on prayer and Carmelite spirituality including Let Yoursetf Be Loved and Patterns of Prayer.
THE LOGIC OF SELF-DESTRUCTION
The Algorithm of Human Rationality
Meyer Leboeuf, 390pp, hbk
978 0992796105, £18.99
Ihave long been fascinated by the logical problems of self-reference. What we know about life, the universe and everything makes sense to us because God is our point of reference. If, however, you are determined not to believe in God, you are in difficulties: how do you get outside yourself, sufficiently objectively, to know about yourself? Now, this is no justification for the existence of God; there are many more problems than this one; but it is still a fair question.
Blakeway is an ex-investment banker who has written an energetic book telling us how we and the world works. Before the 2008 crash, such men were styled 'Masters of the Universe'. Poor Blakeway has taken this a little too literally. Like God he views the world from a privileged position. To dismiss, for example, any possible notion of free
will is easy enough when you are a millionaire; when you have gained all you want, who needs it? As an unconscious exponent of WEIRD culture Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic this book is a vivid, and most entertaining, expression of self- confidence.
What is it that makes
humanist liberals tick? How do they view the world? This curious mixture of theatrical exaggeration, political rant, clever philosophy and eco-babble is in many ways a better expression than more worthy, academic examples. He is particularly good in his analysis of emotion: he quite rightly downplays the importance generally ascribed to them. He is also good in his understanding of the importance of belief: he should have gone further, for it is here that Will first makes its appearance, well before we reach the critical moments of Choice.
Airports and train stations are full of books of social psychology, revealing the `unexpected' logic of human behaviour Freakonomics is the market leader and helping us to lead more savvy (and cynical) lives. This book takes this approach and turns it into a self-help manual. Daft, but fun.
JOURNEY TO MOUNT ATHOS
No ISBN or other information; available
in print or Kindle form fromamazon.co.uk
This isa small book by Fr Spyridon Bailey, an English Greek Orthodox priest. The opening section gives a very broad sketch of the events which led up to his disembarkation on the shore of the Holy Mountain. Fr Spyridon found God (or rather God found him) during and after his time at university. He trained for the Anglican priesthood at Lincoln, where he found the tension between the `liberal' and more traditionally minded students somewhat unsettling. Nevertheless he was ordained. After a curacy in Sheffield he was given the charge of a group of parishes in the south-west. He does not say whether he was a paid up member of Forward in Faith but he makes no secret of his support. In the fall-out after the 1992 vote he resigned his orders and joined a nearby Greek Orthodox community. He mentions some previous contacts with Orthodoxy a Russian community in Bath and a visit to an icon-painting hermit. He has little to say about the effects on himself of his change of allegiance either as a layman or later as an ordained priest, but this has no part in the present story. A fortunate windfall from an insurance settlement provided the funds for him to realize his long cherished hope of setting foot on Mount Athos, and now here he is.
Things have changed somewhat even on Mount Athos. Recent years have seen an increase in vocations both from Greece as well as the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Fr Spyridon was fortunate to find no shortage of English-speaking monks. On my first visit in 1959 the only wheels to be found on Athos were those of tractors employed in logging operations. Now there is a sort of bus service but not for the fainthearted, especially if a monk is driving. There is even evidence of the arrival of the digital age! A further notable development is the growth of an elaborate and bureaucratic border control. Time was when you obtained your clearance from the Patriarch of Constantinople, landed at Daphni, presented the letter at ICaryes, claimed your `diamoniterion' (which nobody ever asked to see) and you had the freedom of the Mountain for a fortnight. Now, apparently you even have to book your visits to the monasteries in advance. Was Fr Spyridon allowed only three nights? In any event non-Orthodox are now restricted to ten per cent of the intake at any one time. There is no danger of Athos becoming part of a theological hippy trail.
As Fr Spyridon remarks, eschatology is never far from Athonite conversation. We are to pray for the world because the world has never had more need of it. Fr X.s survey ranges widely over climate change, global banking, the breakdown of family life, the stultifying influence of the mass media. The powers of darkness are everywhere at work. Western Christianity has made its own contribution to the situation. Catholic and Protestant alike (only the latter more so) regard the purpose of their faith in terms of moral improvement and the hope of heaven. This is to set our sights too low! Of course we must be more moral, but there is much more to our faith than this. Our creator is God by nature and we are called to become gods by grace. The purpose of life is theosis. The theology of the West has become focused on atonement theories and regards the incarnation in terms of sacrifice. But the (Orthodox) Church understands it as the way by which our humanity is raised in Christ. The role of the Theotokos is the key to this. And how did God descend to the earth? Through the Theotokos. She is the link, the bridge between heaven and earth. Without her willingness to participate in God's plan the incarnation would not have happened
Father Spyridon also visited Simopetra, physically the most Spectacular of the monasteries of Mount Athos, for the third and last night of his pilgrimage. It was as he was leaving the next morning that he met Fr A. Fr As name had been given to him by a member of his congregation back home, and having time to spare before the bus would arrive he sent a message to see if Fr A was available. His luck was in.
Fr As discourse, reported in chapter 13, covers much the same ground as Fr X., always making allowances for the conversation taking place not in a monastic cell but at a bus-stop. He is more concerned to link the decline of the West to a succession of historical events, in particular to Michael Cerularius 1054 and all that. The resulting sad state of affairs was aggravated by the Reformation which resulted in everybody reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves.
Now everyone had become his or her own pope. At some time previously Fr A. had been involved in some kind of conversation with the Church of England but had withdrawn from this when the decision to ordain women was taken and noises to approve same-sex marriage were being made. The return to Orthodoxy had been effectively blocked.
I heard very much the same sort of thing when I visited the Holy Mountain so long ago. Naturally I was invited to embrace Orthodoxy but in those far-off days I had no complaints about the Church of my baptism. As a foreign student I was courteously and hospitably made welcome. I still treasure the carved box-wood crucifix given me by one of the Fathers in the Scete of Little Saint Anne. It was still many years before the CofE was to blot its copy-book! But then, as now, there was not the least hint of triumphalism or superiority. There may well be holy and devout souls outside Orthodoxy and, indeed, in other faiths. But that is God's business! They may safely be left in the care of his loving mercy. The Orthodox are to rejoice in being blessed in the discipline, work and sacramental fellowship of the one, holy, catholic Orthodox Church. When Fr Spyridon returns to England nothing will be asked of him beyond what he is already doing as a parish priest. There are to be no heroics. He will continue to tend his flock in their common worshipping and sacramental life. Only now he will be strengthened and inspired by the experience of his all too brief pilgrimage. Life can never be quite the same again.
STIR UP, O LORD
A Companion to the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels in the Book of Common Prayer
Sacristy Press, 234pp, pbk
978 1908381033, L14.99
As onewho was known in my time as a defender of the Prayer Book and advocate of its regular use in churches for main services, it gave me pleasure to read the subtitle of this book, being a companion to the Collects, Epistles and Gospels from the Book of Common Prayer. The Dean of Durham, who provides a foreword, describes Kevin Carey's understanding of the Prayer Book as 'vigorous, even combative", and tells us that the BCP is used daily in the cathedral at Evensong. Are we to take it, then, that this is the only occasion when the book is used? In any case, I am sorry to say that the vigour and combativeness which the Dean praises in the author are too often employed in a politically correct cause, including feminism, egalitarianism, anti-militarism, the causes of climate change, and so on. This may be all well and good in a different sort of book, but hardly in one that seems to be intended to introduce the Book of Common Prayer to congregations to whom it might be something new, and persuade them to like it.
This is not, says the Dean, an advocacy of 'comfortable religion'. Yet if he had been using the Prayer Book at Holy Communion, he would have realized that a 'comfortable religion' is just what we ought to find in it, that is, one that builds up and strengthens us. The author criticizes the Collects as leading us to an `almighty' rather than a 'loving' God; but surely the frequent references to God's willingness to forgive us imbue the Collects and indeed the whole Prayer Book with the spirit of loving kindness extended to us sinners by our Heavenly Father.
The book ends with a section containing 'Thoughts for Reflection. It has to be said that these will not be to everyone's taste.
I ought to be glad that the Book of Common Prayer continues to be used at all, and I suppose I am, but I must confess to a certain unease when it is described in such a way as to hint pretty strongly at modifications that need to be made. Like C.S. Lewis, I like it very well as it is.
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