16 April 2009

Immemorial Custom and the Third Rome and my biretta

Since the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, there has been a formula often used by Father when introducing something into the ritual of his church which his people have never seen before: "From today, as our custom has always been, such-and-such will take place." Let me explain the immemorial custom which I am minded to create: that our Clergy are entitled to wear the customary garb of the Clergy of the City of SS Peter and S Paul.

Three cheers for the Russian Orthodox Church and for Patriarch Cyril; but I question Moskow's appropriation of the style "the Third Rome" (Constantinople being the Second Rome). Canterbury has a far better claim to that title. The Church of Canterbury is the only major Western European church ... I think ... to have been founded directly from Rome. When S Augustine arrived at Canterbury, King Ethelbert knew all about Christianity; he had a Frankish Christian wife and she had an episcopal chaplain. But Ethelbert, I suspect, while keen to enter the European mainstream by becoming Christian, was too canny a politico to adopt his wife's religion and look like a client of of his wife's Merovingian father. He must have found it a godsend to receive a mission directly from the Pope of the City; bringing with them authentic Roman liturgical books (two hundred years before Charlemagne tried to standardise and Romanise the liturgy of his empire), Roman chant, oodles of Relics of the Apostles and of the Roman martyrs, and, importantly for him, a direct relationship with the fontal Church of Rome and its prestigious Bishop. Ethelbert thus leapfrogged the Merovingians in terms of European status. France and Spain and even such parts of Italy as Milan and Aquileia never got their religion and all its usages direct from Rome in this way; and if Roman Christianity spread later to Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, this was usually through Anglo-Saxon, Romanising, missionaries.

And when they got to Canterbury, S Augustine, his successors and collaborators set about creating there a Little Rome. Augustine's Cathedral Church, like the Lateran Basilica in Rome, was dedicated in honore Sancti Salvatoris. As Rome possessed the great cemetary basilicas of S Peter and S Paul outside the walls, so Augustine and his monks founded the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul outside the old Roman walls of Canterbury. The basilica of S Mary Major was to be represented by the Church of S Mary to the East of the Abbey. Another example is given by Michael Stratton: "The monastery of S Andrew on the Caelian hill in Rome which S Gregory had founded and from which S Augustine came, was built on the land formerly belonging to S Pancras's family ... furthermore, the rising ground in Canterbury on which [the Canterbury church of] S Pancras stands perhaps suggested a 'Caelian Hill' in England ..."

This is why the Foundational Charism of the fellowship of Churches which sprang from the Augustinian Mission is to be ROMAN OF THE CITY (I hope to return to this phrase tomorrow). And this is why, from time out of mind, our clergy (or am I drawing this too broadly: is it only the clergy who Receive the Chrism from the 'Augustinian' pontiffs of Canterbury, Ebbsfleet, and Richborough that enjoy this privilege?) have had the customary privilege of dressing like the clergy of the City of Rome; birettas without pompoms, etc. etc. etc..


Anonymous said...

Obscurm per obscurius...

I read years ago in the Icelandic word-hoard, Njal's Saga, that a sea change in the direction of Rome could be very economically salvific. In the words of Snorri, "I've no doubt that if you join Harald's men, you'll prove yourself a match for them all, and as good a man as the bravest of them in every danger. Just take care not to be too ambitious. Never try to compensate with men greater than yourself, but never give way to them either." Which words strongly imply that there were no blue pom-poms in Scandinavia.

123 said...

Pope St. Gregory I sent St. Augustine to Canterbury in 597. Old Rome gave way to New Rome in 330 when St. Constantine proclaimed it his capital.

Of course, Old Rome held preeminence of place in the nominal pentarchy of ancient apostolic churches through the time of St. Gregory the Great, but the Third Rome theory is politico-religious in the way of Byzantine symphonia. While the Church and State were separate, the East Romans saw them ideally working together. The miracle of the conversion of Constantine and the Empire was so dramatic that the Emperor took on a distinct role as a member of the Church - not clergy, but more than a simple layman; he communed in the altar and was specially anointed to his role; neither over nor under, but in and alongside the Church. Moscow became the Third Rome in this politico-religious sense due to the fall of the City to Islam along with all the other eastern Patriarchates, the Emperor's apostasy to the innovative Frankish doctrines of Old Rome along with much of the clergy of New Rome (Council of Florence), and due to the marriage of Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow to Sophia Palaiologina, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor.

Of course, most Orthodox and most Orthodox local churches - outside of Russia and its sphere of influence - do not grant Moscow such a title.

johnf said...

Father: Did you ever see those marvellous films Ivan the Terrible Pts I and II directed by Eisentein. Ivan is always talking about Moscow as the Third Rome. 'Two Romes fell. the third still stands. there will never be another'

Doesnt the Russian double headed eagle derive from Constantinople?