AS I SIT down to write this review the popular religious press are carrying adverts for Fr Tissa Balasuriya's controversial book Mary and Human Liberation - a book which has led to the Sri Lankan's excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. The book itself belongs with a family of liberation books including Jesus Christ and Human Liberation and The Eucharist and Human Liberation. Therefore it would seem of some note that it is the connection between Mary and liberation rather than Jesus Christ that has drawn so harsh a sanction from the Magisterium. Perhaps it was always thus. Nonetheless, if Fr Balasuriya's book has become something of a cause celebre, it is, it has to be remarked, only one incident in a very noticeable ferment going on in the rather diffuse area known as 'Marian studies' at the moment. The reasons and provocations for this are no doubt several and, as with all shifts in theological interest, difficult to pin down to any one factor. Nonetheless all the way from more 'traditional Mariology' to radical and feminist attempts to re-appropriate Mary to her own - as it were - the figure of Mary is once again generating a good deal of theological debate. Now how much of this is so much froth and how much of it indicates engagement with real substantial theological issues is not always easy to discern. To my mind this contemporary re-awakening of interest in Mary is to be welcomed, and moreover is indicative of subterranean movement in Christian self understanding. As John P H Clark puts it in his eloquent essay 'Julian of Norwich and the Blessed Virgin Mary'
the place accorded to Mary is a corollary of the whole understanding of grace as an intrinsic principle of supernatural life, of the real effect of Christ's redeeming love within the soul, and also of the Church as the Body of Christ. (p. 23 8)
Thus from this perspective any theological attention to Mary will in and of itself soon plunge us into the deepest mysteries of the faith; and by the same token any serious and rigorous grappling with the mystery of grace, must provoke reflection upon the role of Mary in the economy of salvation.
Amongst this reawakening of interest then, this collection of essays, originally papers given to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Maiy, is to be warmly welcomed, not least in reminding us of the depth and range of the Tradition's meditation upon the Mother of our Lord.
The ESBVM was founded in 1967 with an explicit commitment to the ecumenical agenda and efforts being made towards Christian unity. In this, its work has been both important and prophetic. To encourage Christians to speak and think together at a point which has been - and continues to be - so fiercely contested in the Faith, offers the promise of real progress in understanding rather than cosmetic platitudes. This publication designed to mark the 30th anniversary of the society gathers together 24 papers that have been given to the society over the time of its existence.
Without doubt the papers are uneven in goal, purpose, and audience, but as W McLoughlin points out in his preface, this is all to the good in that the raison d'etre of the society is to promote ecumenical devotion, and the study, at various levels, of the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church, under Christ' (p.xv). The essays themselves are divided into four major blocks: Mary in Scripture; Mary in Systematic Theology, Mary and the Unity of the Churches; and Mary and Spirituality. A concluding essay by Gordon Wakefield addresses the place of the BVM in some modern poets.
The range of contributions is impressive and represents the success of the Society in creating a genuine ecumenical forum for debate. Of note I found Fr Edward Yamold SJ's 'Systematic theology of Mary' a clear and concise way into some of the many issues here, while Paul McPartlan's consideration of Balthasar's Mariology was helpful in spotting some of the contemporary movements in 'official' Roman Catholic Mariology. The Protestant tradition is well represented by David Butler's essay and indeed the collection is sprinkled with insights from traditions one would not necessarily associate with Mariology. In this sense the section 'Mary and the Unity of the Churches' offers both historical and theological reflection on the state of play. For those interested, the essays on the Malines conversations are very helpful. And so the list goes on.
To reiterate, the book is to be welcomed and has been nicely produced by Gracewing.
Nonetheless, in all the high endeavour that this collection represents still the question remains: why has reflection upon Mary provoked, and no doubt will continue to provoke, so fierce and damaging debates when the issue of authority and human liberation enter our conversation?
David Moss is Director of Studies at St Stephen's House, Oxford.
THESE TWO volumes, the second a companion and to a certain extent a sequel to the first, are designed to provide the medium-sized parish church in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America with ceremonial guidance for the celebration of the Eucharist and the major rites of the season from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost.
From the very outset it is clear that the typical parish the first author and his disciple have in mind is unquestionably 'on the high side' - Reform members, these books are not for you. However, as there has been no real attempt at writing a careful and comprehensive ceremonial guide for Church of England catholics since the demise of Ritual Notes after its eleventh edition in 1964, these books are worth having a look at if you think your liturgical choreography needs bringing up to date. In general such publications as have any use at all tend to come from authors in full communion with the Holy See, so if you want your western rite, catholic ceremonial strained through an Anglican, albeit American, filter these books will suit you. Be warned, however, these books set out to describe and advise on the eucharistic rites and ceremonies of the American Prayer Book of 1979 and not those of our own ASB of 1980. Detailed advice is occasionally ECUSA specific, but in general, as the ceremonial directions given are sound, of universal application and for the most part clearly derived from the rubrics of the current Roman rite, they can be applied to our own liturgy without any difficulty or hesitation on the part of the scrupulous.
Galley, the author of the first of these books, was a liturgical scholar of some reputation in the Episcopal Church until his death in 1993. He was working editor for most of the liturgical books currently in use in the American Church and his knowledge of the texts and the scholarly work associated with them is considerable. This erudition is evident in his book but it is lightly worn and the advice and liturgical commentary is pitched at a level appropriate to the wide audience not just the clergy - for whom he writes. Mitchell's book on the ceremonies of the paschal cycle is dedicated to Galley's memory and is based on an outline text on which he was working at the time of his death. This latter volume takes as read much of the general advice about the liturgical environment, vesture and basic ceremonial found in the former and majors on the ceremonies of the Triduum, Easter itself and Pentecost.
I would want to put Galley's book into the hands of all training incumbents for them to use in the liturgical and ceremonial formation of their deacons and newly-ordained priests. In the process of studying it for this purpose they will, in addition, also derive some benefit themselves. The book is sound on the liturgical ordering of churches and the correct disposition of furniture, devoting the first chapter to this subject. Galley then goes on to deal with liturgical ministries in general, dealing in turn with the ceremonies and gestures proper to all the participants in the celebration of the Eucharist from the Presider to the members of the congregation.
Part Four deals with seasons, music and liturgical practices and here I applied a stringent test in assessing the value of this book. Ceremonial guides are only of value if they are up to speed with contemporary practice. This can be judged by discovering what they discommend even better than by examining their recommendations. Galley clearly knows his ceremonies, 'why some be abolished, and some retained' and gives short, cogent reasons for his directives.
The detailed examination of the ceremonies of the Eucharist which takes up the largest part of the book is clearly tied to the ECUSA rite but in the majority of cases where the texts coincide the ceremonial advice is appropriate to our rite equally. The book winds up with guides to initiation rites and to episcopal ceremonies. As with all the advice offered the ceremonies described in these sections are simple and unfussy.
Mitchell's book suffers similarly from our point of view by being tied to the American rite but once again, in general, his advice is sound and can be recommended for use in conjunction with the services in our own Lent, Holy Week, Easter volume.
While we wait in joyful hope for the coming of a homegrown ceremoniale and the coaching notes which will surely accompany the new Church of England rites as they appear between now and the year 2000, these two volumes will repay study and, with careful adaptation, the sage advice contained therein may be applied to the rites and ceremonies currently authorised in our land.
Jeremy Haselock is Vicar of Boxgrove and a member of the Liturgical Commission.
IT IS hard to think of a better time than this for the appearance of John Richardson's slim but thoughtful guide to the Bible's final, fascinating book. The Jehovah Witnesses are still recycling their long discredited timetable, prophets galore are doing the rounds of more mainstream but equally gullible groups, and Milliennium-speak is as popular now as it was a thousand years ago.
Now is the time, then, not to abandon this wonderful book to the lunatic fringes, nor yet to the cynical debunkers, but to reclaim it for the local congregation as part of our heritage. When general bookshops and libraries are stuffed full of the weird, here is a chance to discover the truly wonderful. John Richardson has read widely in more detailed and scholarly works, but his book is not simply a digest of what others have said; even that would have been helpful. He is not afraid to strike out on his own where necessary, and he is certainly on his own when it comes to practical usefulness for a parish studygroup or Bible series.
The Scripture text is related at every stage to a simple time-chart, so it is easy to check at any point that 'You are here'. Most other New Testament books are called on for supporting evidence, together with many from the Old, some as expected (Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel, Daniel) and others less so. The words of Jesus in the gospels prove strikingly apposite, as we should expect but seldom do.
Neat shaded 'boxes' are provided on famously problematic topics (angels, Armageddon, numbers &c) and an appendix takes a cool view of the Millennium (it's started already) and the Rapture (don't get carried away). On the unwritten things of chapter 10, 'It would be a great help in our generation if we were less curious about the "heavenly revelations" of modern so-called prophets and more urgently interested in the gospel'. And on chapter 13, 'Spiritual power is no guarantee of spiritual truth'.
To say the book is balanced is not to say it is detached or less than urgent. But we must 'note the contrast between the popular view...that our ultimate destiny is to "go to heaven" and the Biblical view which is that ultimately heaven comes to us,'
Here then is a timely commentary of great clarity, fairness and friendliness, with some surprises in store. I would have valued a little more about the sheer imaginative power and verbal music of it all, and the smallest of the varied print sizes is meant for better eyesight than mine. But the coverpicture of a Rwandan preacher just before a massacre is a constant reminder of Revelation's power, pain and relevance.
Christopher Idle is Associate Minister of Christ Church Old Kent Road, SE London.
SEEING THE TITLE of this monograph, and considering it in relation to the state of the existing Anglican communion, one may be tempted to recall Ian Hay's question: 'Funny peculiar or funny ha-ha?' But, of course, the word 'peculiar' here means 'special ' or 'distinctive', as it does in the very similar title of a work by that pioneer of the Oxford Movement, Bishop Jebb of Limerick.
So what is distinctive about Anglicanism? It has often been said that Anglicans have no particular beliefs of their own, in the sense that they do not appeal to teachings of some great authoritative figure, Luther, Calvin or even Thomas Aquinas. Their appeal is rather to the catholic faith of the undivided Church of the first Christian centuries and, at least since Hooker and the Caroline divines, this has commonly been understood as comprising the three great elements of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
It is to Tradition that the author primarily addresses himself and, in the light of the present situation, this means a return to, and recovery of, the teaching of the early Church Fathers. Of course, the appeal to the Fathers has always been, and still remains, a living force also in Roman Catholicism, but Middleton shows that it has a distinctive importance for Anglicanism.
First, he emphasizes that it was this appeal which really determined the character of the Church of England as it emerged at the time of the Reformation, over against medieval Catholicism and continental Protestantism, and patristic scholarship was for long one of the glories of Anglican theology. It cannot be denied that such is hardly the case today: one has only to read the debates in the General Synod to see that issues of faith and morals are there discussed and decided in a very different context. But it is only a return to the Fathers, which can save the Church from what Middleton well describes as 'the relativism of the present and the transitoriness of the political correctness of the age.'
Secondly, he points out that Tradition is not the same as 'Traditionalism', which can mean no more than the mirage of a past 'golden age.' Rather, Tradition represents a dynamic, which binds together the Church of the past, the present and the future, in the ultimate goal of union with God. In some of his most interesting pages, Middleton expounds the way in which this understanding of Tradition was realized in the thought and devotion of the great Anglican divine, Lancelot Andrewes.
Thirdly, Tradition and Liturgy go together, and for Anglicanism, the liturgy, in which all share, has always meant the Book of Common Prayer: indeed, in no other Christian tradition has the authorized liturgy taken on so great a significance. The great Anglican theologians have always seen their work as being carried out within the Church's worshipping and corporate life but for many scholars today that link no longer exists. It is not surprising that this phenomenon has been accompanied by the wholesale neglect of the Prayer Book, where the fundamental patristic teaching of the Church is so clearly and definitely expressed. A return to that Book, of which happily there are some signs, could bring about a revived understanding of orthodox belief among ordinary church men and women, since, as the old adage has it, 'the law of prayer establishes the law of faith.'
All this and more is powerfully and convincingly expressed in Middleton's work. One can wholeheartedly welcome Middleton's vision of the recovery of authentic Tradition leading to a new unity with all faithful Christians of whatever denomination, a re-alignment of Christendom beyond existing ecclesial boundaries.
J.R. Porter is Emeritus Professor of Theology in the University of Exeter
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