St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta

I’m fascinated by the responses to my post yesterday about the two hypothetical but spiritually blessed congregations of St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta.

Broadly speaking, I think that the responses fall into the following categories:

  • Change the game and ordain someone else (the Ordained Local Ministry option)
  • Change the spirituality of the people and tell them they don’t need mass every week (the mattins option)
  • Change Catholic order and use the Reserved Sacrament (the current option? interesting the no-one was actually advocating this yesterday)
  • Change the way of making community and have people receive on their own/at home. (Madpriest and PMo offering different versions of this and the BBC flirted with it ages ago)
  • Change the expectation that only clergy can celebrate (The Sydney Diocese/Neo-Puritan option)

There is another response which is “yeuch” which interestingly came most quickly from two folk who have lived but no longer live in a couple of churches where the tricky consequences of Scottish geography are very real indeed.

I’m most interested that there have been no responses that I can identify from those living in such places and worshipping in such churches at the moment.

I have to confess that I am fascinated by this. The question would be an interesting one to ask ordinands or perhaps especially a group of people applying for selection for the priesthood.

Just a little anecdote to add to the conversation today.

When I was in Perth doing my curacy, I chanced one day upon a block of stone sitting in one of the sacristy cupboards. “What’s this?” I asked, “and why are we keeping it?” One of the sacristans patiently explained that it was a mensa – a portable altar. It was a piece of stone consecrated by a bishop (presumably with holy oil and prayers) so that clergy could go out into the community and celebrate the Eucharist in places other than churches with fixed altars. It was explained to me that such a thing was particularly useful for celebrating communion by the bed of someone who was sick, for example.

“Oh,” I said, “but I just use a bedside table or a coffee table. I’ve never taken that stone with me.”

“Yes,” said the sacristan, nodding sagely, “things change. Things change.”

Those who want to do a little research into some of the issues might want to follow up these two links:

Now, more comments about St A’s and St E’s and the predicament they are in are welcome. I don’t think we have exhausted the issues they raise by any means.

Things change you know. Things change.

Comments

  1. I think I shrank (uncharacteristically, I know) from supporting the Reserved Sacrament option, which has been the mainstay of our recent long Interregnum and still takes place on the odd Sunday when there is no priest available. In our congregation we have no difficulty in knowing which is which; we value and love it when we have a celebrant but feel sad and bereft (I do anyway) on the odd occasion when, because there were 2 priestless weeks in succession, we have had to resort to Matins. I didn’t become a Pisky to go to Matins – might as well have stayed on the fringes of the C of S – and tend to wish I was free to visit elsewhere (St Mary’s, f’rinstance) on such a Sunday.
    There. Pew-fodder/preacher opinion nailed to the mast.

  2. Thanks Chris

    I suppose my question about the Matins option is always to ask whether there might be a form of prayer that would comfort the heart and stir the soul which we do not yet which might yet take us close to God?

    Must it not be conceptually possible that we could develop a rite which we might enjoy and be nourished by and which we would not think of as having to be resorted to?

  3. I don’t know. I only know that experience of the Anglican form of communion changed my life – and it’s hard to get away from that.

  4. Rosemary Hannah says:

    I am old enough to have known Anglicanism before weekly communion was an expectation. The service of my childhood was Mattins. I had to go to it because the alternative was Sunday School and being told off for asking questions. I couldn’t be there and not ask questions, so I dodged trouble. Quite often Mattins was followed by an abbreviated service of communion, but I was expected to leave because at the age of ten or so I could not communicate, and the general impression was of an X rated occasion of great solemnity and gloom. To a nervous child it was downright scary.

    I liked bits of Mattins however, and it made me feel very close to God. Though perhaps not a close as praying in front of the little altar in my bedroom with its birthday candles which so horrified my parents. Happily I had no idea I really needed a bit of consecrated stone. I might have gone to some lengths to get one, and what would my parents have done then?

    But none of this in any way equalled the sudden descent on me of the Holy Spirit in my teens, and no formal service has ever recaptured the first heady days.

    The nearest I get to that is hearing the Bible read aloud and even more reading it aloud, and listening to preaching and even more preaching. This is I feel an guilty admission for a ‘Piskie, but the reading of the Bible and the sermon, whether mine or from others, is always the most, the most, (oh just say it!) involving bit of the service. Sorry.

    I would add that on the rare occasions when I have been unable to get to church and communion has been brought to me, it did not seem in the least second best, although it had been consecrated earlier. But it had been consecrated in and by and with a community I loved, who I knew sent it out to me in love.

  5. I’ve been thinking more about this – for I haven’t really considered what really affects me till now. I think it’s the physical nature of the business of actually receiving the bread and the wine, kneeling, having walked forward to do so – all so different from the services of my youth. The intense closeness of the .. well, of the Communion, with or without the capital C, is hugely important, and the absence of self and the presence of Other at that moment. This has never happened for me in any other context except for one: the moment of kneeling before the crucifix on Good Friday, kissing the feet of the crucified Christ. If I analyse this further, I can see the idea that to do this is somehow breaking with the norms of what we do in ordinary life – and remember, the church of my childhood never had you do anything other than sit, stand to sing, and say “Amen” at the end of prayers said by someone else. So the mystery of what happens has always been just that – mysterious – and I’m not really concerned by what produces that moment, whether the bread was blessed at that moment or at an earlier one.

    The comment box is so small here that I’m not able to tell if my comment makes much sense, but it’s clarified things for me if for no-one else!

    • Steve says:

      Sorry to have missed the rest of this discussion. I wasn’t advocating ‘change catholic order and use the reserved sacrament’ but, while thinking of other options, I think I did come down on the side of the less than ideal option of communion from the tabernacle with the bishop trying to get a priest to the community more often (travel on a Saturday to avoid Gloria’s scruples).

      Better this than abandoning catholic order, reformation principles and the clear teaching of Scripture and having lay presidency or cyber-consecration.

      Things change indeed, but they develop according to inherent principles. One of the great things about this discussion is that we have all been thinking about what these principles are.

      Saw some great altar stones in the Louvre this summer…

  6. David | Dah•veed says:

    I thought that my idea of overnight expressing was a vote in support of the reserved sacrament.

    • @David | Dah•veed – I think that strictly speaking you were voting in favour of extended communion – taking the sacrament directly from one celebration to folk at a distance. I should have included that option in the list.

  7. @Steve H – I think that the responses remain very interesting indeed. There is certainly a divide between those who think that the presence of a priest matters quite a lot and that the Eucharistic community is somehow not complete without that presence and those who appear ready to accept a virtual reality priesthood. Now, we all know that priests should not get in the way of people meeting God directly but I’m very interested that the priest seems somehow incidental to some and not to others.

    @chris – thanks for those comments. The necessity of the physical for you shines forth. The question that Fr Madpriest has raised for us is whether those who depend on the consecrated physical could live in the same church/world as those who find themselves able to meet God in ways that might not be immediately so physical.

    I find myself asking the question whether we believe that music, for example, can mediate an experience that we would describe as sacramental. Can we consecrate sound?

  8. Agatha says:

    Forgive my ignorance but what is thought to be wrong with Reserved Sacrament? Surely consecration doesn’t have a “best before” date?

  9. Steve says:

    Regarding altar stones. In ‘Recollections of Scottish Episcopalianism’ by William Humphrey S.J., p.39, the author remembers being sent by Bp Forbes to gather the things to make them: ‘I used to go to the marble-cutters and to the chemists, and procured the stones duly incised with five crosses, and the oil and balsam wherewith to make the chrism, and then the bishop did his best with a Roman Pontifical. Dundee was at that time regarded as an emporium of these sacred luxuries by the more advanced members of the Puseyite party.’

    So while things do change, the stones in the cupboard were more likely the relics of an ancient eccentricity.

    • It seems very likely that the very stone in the cupboard was one of these stones emanating from Dundee.

      I can imagine Alexander Penrose Forbes being rather keen on them

  10. Re the question of music: For a long time I’ve considered music to be God’s highway – a direct pathway with a power directly related to its own otherness.

  11. Steve says:

    Chris on music and Steven on holy communion – two ways in which we experience God (or rather the reality for which that word is code) directly.
    Says something about what we as a church have to give, that we historians and theologians can miss in our desire to get the theory right.

  12. Steve says:

    Touch the stone and you touch history

  13. Simon says:

    I write as the once organist at a church lead by the future Bishop of the Isles. On his departure the diocesan Bishop, being somewhat short of ordained Priests prepared to work for virtually nothing, established a lay community in the Rectory and weekly mass from the Reserved Sacrament became the norm rather than the exception.

    I think a priest must have popped in periodically to top the supplies up, but the congregation wasn’t very big. Certainly we managed a Priest for major festivals.

    The most remarkable thing was that the [mostly very devout] congregation took it all in their stride: I think they were mostly just grateful for not being closed down. It was a taste for keyboards and drumkits amongst the “community” that finally did for the organist, who felt it was better to withdraw gracefully and leave them to it than to be the grumpy old git at the back.

  14. Bene says:

    A priest, once consecrated, has no ending to the physical/spiritual continuum of ministry. As with Baptism [once and for all time], this should be true also of holy communion: I am content to believe that the elements, once consecrated, remain holy: time cannot erode that holiness.
    On an earlier point: the concept of a transmitted, virtual celebration seems splendidly ahead of time. Would the islanders be asked, or would the experience be given…?

  15. RogerP says:

    Truly fascinating. One thing that I think may have been missed; either that or I have not read the comments properly. It is not the priest at the altar who consecrates the elements. The priest’s role is purely vicarious. S/He calls down a blessing upon the bread and the wine just as S/He calls down any blessing. But. The blessing is given by God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. So what we need to ask is does God bless at a distance? Well one blessing that I can think of, given by Jesus is that sent upon the centurions servant in Matthew 8 and to a lesser extent Lazarus

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