No, I will not comment on the hounding of Bishop Philip North from the See of Sheffield. What the Church of England does is no business of mine. We have enough problems in the Catholic Church!! Instead, I will look back into our wonderful Anglican Patrimony; a Patrimony which, bidden by Pope Benedict, we have been privileged to carry intact into full communion with the See of S Peter in the Ordinariate. And today, I wish to share with you the little-known figure of Folliott Sandford Pierpoint.
Pierpoint (vide Wikipedia) was a Tractarian, a teacher of Classics, and a hymnographer. He died one hundred years ago today, on 10 March 1917.
On 3 March this year, five stanzas of his best known hymn, For the beauty of the earth*, constituted the opening hymn in the services provided for Anglophone participants in the Women's World Day of Prayer. That is the Good News. From here on ... yes, you've guessed ... it's all down-hill.
Pierpoint equipped that beautiful hymn with a rousing chorus to follow each stanza: Christ our God, to thee we raise/ This our sacrifice of praise.
I think I understand his reasons for doing this. Even in his day, the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is, quite simply, without any ifs and buts, totally and unambiguously, God, was beginning to wear thin within late liberal Protestantism. Deists, of course, had never liked it. Evangelicals, officially, still asserted this truth, but even here it was in effect somewhat underemphasised because Evangelicals were much more preoccupied with Soteriology ... individual Soteriology ... than they were with the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. Byzantines, happily, have a robust liturgical habit of calling our Lord "Christ our True God". Not so we Latins.
So Pierpoint provided this memorable refrain so as to fortify in congregations the Truth of the Incarnation. Christ our God to thee we raise/ this our sacrifice of praise. To be sung seven times! They would, surely, get the point!
He cannot (I hope!) have forseen the brazen and heretical impertinence which would mark the centenary of his own death!
It is true that the phrase Christ our God had already long since been variously bowdlerised. 'Lord of all'; 'Father, unto ...'; 'Holy God'; 'God creative ...'; 'Holy Spirit ...'. Few phrases can have been more creative in stimulating Arians and other varieties of heretics to confect alternatives ... anything, apparently, to avoid the appalling horror of applying the G** word to God Incarnate. (Although, to be fair, some effort has also gone into eliminating the term sacrifice.)
So, a few days ago on March 3, Christ our God was bowdlerised to Gracious God. 'Gracious' is currently a favourite divine epithet among many modern heretics.
Perhaps I have been unfair to Arians. The more 'high church' of the Arians were happy to call Christ 'God' as long as it was understood that He was not quite Consubstantial with the Father. But their sour-faced modern representatives, women and men Rigid in their heterodoxy, will have none of it.
Pierpoint is in very good company in falling victim to the officiously emending pens of illiterates and heretics. Blessed John Henry Newman wrote some stanzas in Gerontius (later used as the beautiful and popular hymn Praise to the Holiest in the height) in which he described "God's presence and his very self/ And essence all-divine" as "a higher gift than grace" ... which it most certainly is. Various self-confident heretics have cheerfully emended that phrase to "God's highest gift of grace". There is also a suggestion that they were terrified lest someone might think that the words applied to the Most August Sacrament of the Altar. Alas ... poor, scared, timorous, wee things, these heretics; the Enemy has been so successful in robbing them of Joy; in stealing from their hearts and minds all that is wonderful and strong and joyful and beautiful in the Christian Faith.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to invite our heterodox Partners in Ecumenical Dialogue to engage in frank discussions about Trinitarian and Incarnational doctrine, instead of just assuming that ... they are anything other than thorough-going heretics! Something useful for ARCIC to do!!
In Pierpoint's original, the hymn ended as I print it below. This had already been changed by hymn books for, I think, metrical reasons: Thyself prefixes a syllable to the trochaic dimeter catalectic and hence risks precipitating a disaster in unrehearsed congregational singing.
. . . . . . . .
For thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled,
Offer we at thine own shrine
Thyself, Sweet Sacrament Divine!
An attractive hymn ... see yesterday's post ... for Benediction or Exposition?
*The hymn first appeared in the second edition (1864) of Lyra Eucharistica, (pp 340-342) compiled by the Fr Orby Shipley SSC MA. This volume, accessible via the Internet, is a fine monument to the piety and learning of the Tractarian and Ritualist movements.