30 November 2016

S Andrew's Day ...

... is not only the Patronal Festival of Scotland and of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also the felicitous and significant day upon which Cardinal Pole absolved this realm from schism in 1554. Moreover, it is the anniversary of a marvellous scene on S Andrew's Day in 1569: the Absolution of the Diocese of Durham from Heresy and Schism. (Also a day to reread Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith. Do it now before you forget.)

It is, moreover, if we gaze back at the Protohistory of the Ordinariate, the anniversary of the Consecration of Andrew Burnham as Bishop of Ebbsfleet (it was to be Bishop Andrew who appealed to Pope Benedict for help; thus formally setting in motion the process that led to the Ordinariate). In those days, the old system persisted in the Province of Canterbury of consecrating all bishops in London, and Andrew was 'done' in S Paul's Cathedral. My three main memories (apart from George Carey's dismal liturgical instincts) are of someone trying to die in the pew behind me in the South transept; of a remarkably inapposite sermon in which the preacher appeared to be making fun of the Orthodox (which is also the Catholic) practice of the Veneration of Relics; and of the scene, afterwards, on the steps outside.

As the custom used to be, the Consecration had been of two pontiffs for the price of one. The other consecrand was being provided to be a new suffragan for that illiberal liberal bishop, Selby of Worcester. Afterwards, at one end of the steps, a large queue formed up to kiss Bishop Andrew's ring and to receive his episcopal blessing. At the other end, the Worcester consecrand seemed to be doing a strange little ritual dance amid a small group of friends and family, intermittently yanking up his trousers to show off his Socks Of Many Colours. Perhaps he was a Mason, or an animist, or both.

The Ebbsfleet years were fun. And fine preparation for the real fun: the Ordinariate!

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