Thursday, November 01, 2018

Being on Speaking Terms with All Saints in Oxford

As you may have noticed this All Saints in Oxford has had me reflecting in a number of ways. One way is thinking back on how I have progressed in my relationship with departed saints.
When I was a new Anglican and went to my first Easter Vigil (a glorious one at Smokey Matt’s), it included a Litany of the Saints.  I could not conscientiously participate in that but was just respectfully quiet. To me, it sounded like praying to saints.
But somewhere down the line, I figured that asking a saint to pray for you, as is done in the Litany of the Saints, is different than praying to a saint.  I never have studied the matter deeply; but just I would have no problem asking you good readers to pray for me, I got to the point where I had no problem asking saints to pray for me.  Besides, the triumphant saints are better at prayer than you.
And one of the endearing traits of traditional catholic Anglicanism is we do not put a great gulf between living and departed saints.  “We forever more are one” in Christ.  And, as I’ve mentioned, here in Oxford you can hardly escape the saints!
So where am I now, for better or for worse (but better I think) in practice?  I will use some of my experience here at Pusey House this term to illustrate.  About the only thing I cannot do here is sing the Salve Regina.  Now I can say or sing the Angelus, but not the Salve Regina.  Why? – as both are very Marian.  Whereas the Angelus uses Biblical language and asks Mary to pray for us, the Salve addresses Mary in a way that I think only God should be addressed.

But I am not just respectfully quiet during the Salve Regina.  I quietly say a personal litany of the Saints, which includes Mary but mainly consists of favorite saints, such as Ignatius, King Edward the Confessor, and King Henry VI (Yes, I know the latter is not canonized, but he should be.). And I often incorporate such a litany of the Saints into my personal prayer times.  Hey, I need all the prayer I can get!  And the saints are good at prayer.  In fact, I am convinced the prayers of King Henry VI brought me a very good answer about five years ago. And I will thank him and God once again when I visit St. George's Windsor soon.
This visit to Pusey House, I even kissed an icon for the first time on my initiative.  An icon of St. Nicholas given to the Principal has been on the altar (for forty days I think) in accordance with Orthodox practice. This morning the blessing of it was completed during morning Mass.  As I love Nicholas, I asked to kiss it afterwards.  (I guess now we are getting into the subject of images, but that is a whole ‘nother topic.)
So to sum up, when I was a very new Anglican, I saw the departed saints as a subject of historical study and as examples along with some inspiration, but not much more for me personally.  But now I see them as joining us in worship and prayer and in the fellowship of God’s Holy Church right now.
This loner has learned more and more through the years as a Christian not to be alone.  And because of God and all his holy saints, I am that much less alone.


J. Manresa said...

What do you think of the Alma Redemptoris Mater or the other Marian antiphones? I have began to feel this conviction as well about the Salve, so it is good to know I'm not alone in this.

Mark said...

Good question, J. M., and I am unsure.

I should add that I LOVE some of compositions set to these, including the Salve. Yes, I am a hypocrite. :)


J. Manresa said...

I also, hypocritically, love various compositions that set the Marian antiphons. I am rather partial to the Gregorian chant for the Salve Regina, as it is one of the first "high church" things I ever learned.

I fancy myself a high churchman, with my rule of life being the 1928s: Scottish, American, and Proposed. My Mariology is rather high: I believe in her perpetual virginity, her conception with special grace (commonly termed immaculate), and her assumption after the end of her life, but I believe also in the reformed, though Catholic faith of our Prayer Book, which is suspicious of the latria-dulia-hyperdulia distinctions so often made by Romans and the Orthodox. Honor the Saints, but don't worship them. Unfortunately, high church means Anglo-Papalist nowadays, and you find few places which hold to the faith of Laud and Charles the Martyr free of Romish superstitions.