21 February 2010

Ecumenical bridges

I had a quick look recently at a blog which I don't often contemplate - because its long-winded silliness just makes me cross. And this occasion was no exception. I found the suggestion that Anglicanism - whatever that is - is an ecumenical Bridge between East and West.

Oh dear. Many Orthodox, over the last two or three generations, have been carefully explaining that the problem about the West is that its own antinomies are usually two sides of one and the same erroneous coin; that Westerners, despite their own conviction that they disagree with each other, are really much of a muchness and mired in identical presuppositions: from which Orthodoxy is free and can liberate them.

You could find holes to pick in that. Orthodoxy is not, in fact, as uniform itself as the proposition implies. And one sometimes wonders if there are Eastern problems to which the West can help with an answer. And some Orthodox - like many Westerners - can be a trifle self-congratulatory. And we Latins certainly should not accept them lock, stock, and barrel, at their own self-estimation.

But there is a very great deal of truth left in the proposition. I myself, proud to be a Latin to my fingertips, have felt that Oriental ways of talking about theosis, from the Greek Fathers through S Symeon the New Theologian to S Gregory Palamas, can provide a breath of fresh air which blows away the cobwebs of sixteenth century (and earlier) Western debates about Justification and Grace.

The idea that 'Anglicanism', with all its own baggage, and its dearth at the moment of theologians who work within the Great Tradition, is needed as a bridge between Benedict and Cyril and Bartholomew ... you may feel that this is a unique situation in that it has left me speechless. When at a loss, my wont is to reach for alliteration. "Bearded Buffoons" springs to mind ... er ... but I recall that my own elaborately pogoniate state ... wherever did I put those scissors ...

And now - goodness gracious, to quote the Nabob of Bhanipur! - I descry the claim that Dom Gregory Dix was anti-papal ... hang on ... somewhere here I have some more amplodomine ... yes ... better now ... are these poor ignorant nincompoops [good word, yes? etymology??] unaware that he devoted an entire series of papers in Laudate to establishing that the Decree of Vatican I Pastor Aeternus is "on a careful analysis very closely in line with what we have found in the second century ... there has been development in both cases [Nicaea and Vatican I]. But it is a true development, as I see it, bringing out only what was implicit and in germ in the original conception, and guarding it from misunderstanding and error."

These **** *** ********** ******** appear to be claiming to be the defenders of authentic Anglicanism! I am far from sure what 'Anglicanism' is - I have never subscribed any canonical formula that included it. Some superficial people, of course, might absurdly define it in terms of being in communion with some See in Kent ... But if I ever find out what this lot means by the word, it will be my first duty to ensure that I put as much distance as possible between It and Me.


Michael McDonough said...

This must rank as one of the most idioma-challenging posts I have ever read!

Your strategy, Fr. H, with regard to discovering what "It" is, reminds me of the sentence of Justice Brennan, I think it was, of our Supreme Court regarding pornography: "I can't define it, but I sure recognize it when I see it!"

Three cheers for the first operation of the mind!

Ttony said...

According to the OED: - ORIGIN late 17th cent.: perhaps from the given name Nicholas or from Nicodemus (by association with the Pharisee of this name, and his naive questioning of Christ); compare with French nicodème ‘simpleton’.

James said...

Sorry to hijack your blog, Father, but I hope you don't mind if I alert all your readers in the Oxford area to the arrangements for today's Day of Prayer for Christian Unity at Pusey House.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament today at Pusey House from 9:30 until Midday Prayer at noon. Exposition resumes at 14:30 and concludes with Solemn Evensong coram sanctissimo at 16:00.

"Ut unum sint."

Roland said...

Orthodoxy is not, in fact, as uniform itself as the proposition implies.

True. These days, on most issues there is more diversity within the East and within the West than between East and West.

And some Orthodox - like many Westerners - can be a trifle self-congratulatory.

They are as embarrassing to us Orthodox as they are annoying to everyone else.