27May

Fire and Brimstone on Trinity Sunday

Father Nicholas preached a belter this morning on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. What follows is a mish-mash of his main points embellished a little with my own!

Citing chunks of the Athanasian Creed Fr reminded us that the doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to Christian faith. Meaning we must not neglect it just because it is difficult to fully comprehend; for when the church stops taking theology seriously it invariably falls into heresy and error. As proof he asked us consider the modernists of recent time who justify radical departure from traditional teaching by suggesting the Spirit ‘is doing a new thing’ in order to bring about a new paradigm. Now one only needs a rudimentary understanding of Trinitarian theology to expose the argument as sham. This suggestion of division and contradiction within the Godhead is impossible. The persons of the Trinity are one and God’s truth eternal.

Father then urged caution in making definitive statements about God. These are dangerous and invariably fail, he explained, because they soon lead to our creating God in our favoured  image. We select statements which best suit our agendas. Ultimately we cannot know God for he is beyond human understanding. We can only glimpse through a glass dimly at that which he has chosen to reveal. And thus we are wise to obey what has  been revealed not ever claim to know his mind. A lesson in humility before God which is so obviously lacking in our current generation.

Father Nicholas then lamented what has been a terribly sad fortnight for Christianity in the U.K. First he pondered that Royal Wedding, held in the presence of the most senior cleric of both the Church of England and Episcopal Church of America. Everyone cheered and smiled, he noted, and took the easy path thus avoiding the difficult but obvious question. How could consent for this marriage be given when the bride is, in fact, already married to another man? Do ’till death us do part’ and ‘for better and for worse’ not mean today what they meant yesterday? And, if so, how can God’s blessing be given on such a union when no annulment has been granted given Christ’s own explicit teaching on the matter? What gives?

Not that Catholics can point fingers regarding fidelity to God’s word given the diabolical vote in Ireland two days ago which now paves the way for the slaughter of innocents. Here again we witnessed a cataclysmic failure to uphold the teaching of the church; this time as regards the sanctity of life. A shame deepened by the inaction and silence of most of the current hierarchy. And who cannot fear that when the Pope now visits Ireland in August the red carpet will be rolled out to cement the ridiculous but populist notion that one can be robustly pro-Catholic but not pro-life. It was a sorry day indeed.

In both the Royal wedding and the abortion vote one witnesses further evidence of an erosion of doctrinal fidelity on behalf of the faithful. The church falling into grave error due to a refusal to do theology and accept the unchanging truth of Christ. How apt then that the wedding sermon, itself massively populist and devoid of depth, centred on a sentimental and whimsical notion that ‘all you need is love.’ What drivel, Father Nicholas suggested, when you consider how crucial a mundane washing machine also is to domestic family life. One needs many things beside sentimental love to make a marriage work. Not least adherence to solemnly professed vows that pertain to lifelong fidelity.

Father Nicholas concluded by suggesting we have reached a pivotal moment. The tide has gone out on Christianity in the West and what is exposed is revealing. The most obvious lesson is that modernist Christianity, the sort that sprang into life in the wake of Vatican II, has proved an abject failure. Touchy feely safe religion, the sort that cosies up to the culture, has killed authentic faith in Christ. A truth writ large in Anglican and Catholic church alike. What good a sacramentalised but uncatachised faithful whose tribal belonging knows nothing of intentional discipleship? What good a timid Christian hierarchy that ever appeases the crocodile in hope it eats them last? The sooner this experiment ends the better…

And what Ireland showed us is that it is drawing to an end. The modernists might have had the ascendency for the last half century, they might hold all the aces in the present. But tomorrow does not belong to them. So as the institutional church all but collapses around us we must embrace that death and prepare for resurrection. That out of the ashes of the failed modernist experiment a more emboldened and authentic Catholicism might once more arise. The reform of the reform suggested by Pope Benedict wherein sound teaching, good liturgy and beauty in holiness combine to forge a renewed but ancient faith for the next generation. Move over tired corrupt liberal hieararchs- true Catholics want their church back.

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20 thoughts on “Fire and Brimstone on Trinity Sunday

  1. Thank God that both Fr Nicholas and Fr Liam at St Francis gave us a proper homily about the Holy Trinity, and eschewed any corny effort about arithmetical implausibility.
    Faith and Reason, the two wings on which man ascends to contemplate the truth. (St John Paul II.) Each needs and includes the other, both come from God.

  2. Just to pick up on the Royal Wedding and the Duchess of Suffolk’s freedom to marry, her previous marriage was a civil affair when she was unbaptised. She was baptised into the Church of England a month or so before the ceremony. The Pauline privilege applies and she was free to marry in church. Even if she wasn’t however marriage of divorcees in the C of E is hardly news is it?

    1. Not sure his job would have led him to scrutinise the past of Megan Merkel? Suffice to say that you might be right but that is not what was ever stated by Lambeth Palace. They merely said it was fine according to their rules which, these days, allow for remarriage so long as there is low risk of scandal and the new party was not instrumental in the break up of the previous marriage.

      The Pauline issue is interesting – certainly she was baptised as Anglican recently but that does not mean it was a first baptism given her background as a Pentecostal Christian. The baptism could have been conditional due to lack of paperwork for example or due to wording of original ceremony. So again if Pauline solution why has this not been clearly stated?

      But even if it wasn’t the case here the capitulation over marriage within Anglicanism is hardly an unfair point. Whilst I was an Anglican curate the local bishop presided over the fourth marriage of another curate who was marrying the churchwarden in her parish who himself had been married previously!!

      1. If she was Baptised, it would depend on whatever Pentecostal group she attended. Some groups have valid Baptism. Other groups do not because a key problem is that they do not Baptise in the name of the Trinity.

      2. A nasty lawyer would ask why, if Fr Nicholas hadn’t scrutinised the Duchess’ past, he felt qualified to comment upon it?

  3. The results of the two referenda in Ireland owe far more to the hurt and sense of betrayal felt by the Irish people as a result of the clerical abuse of their children than they do to the effects of modernism. Before the abuse became public it would have been inconceivable for the majority of Irish people to go against church teaching.

    1. She is actually the Duchess of Sussex not Suffolk.
      As regards the marriage, I may be wrong but I didn’t think the Anglicans had any machinery for annulment. Having no problems with re- marriage I don’t think they would get too concerned about the Pauline privilege, although it would appear that Mary is correct that it would apply in this case. The implication seemed to be that she had not been baptised.
      One thing that fascinates me is that although William and Kate, Harry and Meghan and now Eugenie and her fiancée have all co-habited before marriage I have not seen or heard any negative comments about this. (Not that I am judging them in any way, I am just making an observation.
      It just goes to show how times have changed

      1. Thank you David and apologies for the Suffolk/Sussex blunder. I come from a part of the world where the Norfolk family are very big and Suffolk is one of their titles I think. Re annulment it is quite right that there is no mechanism for annulments in the Anglican Church even if one were required so I’m not sure what point Fr Ed was trying to make. It has always struck me as deeply ironic that Charles and Camilla were obliged to have a civil serenity then a blessing when according to Catholic marriage discipline they were free to marry in church. Camilla had previously been married to a Catholic and that marriage had been annulled and Charles was of course a widower. In other words the Pope would have had no difficulty marrying them but the Archbishop of Canterbury wouldn’t ……. A question for Fr. Ed which is to ask whether in his previous ministry he ever married divorcees. If so then presumably his views have changed?

  4. For serenity read ceremony. That’s what comes of typing without you glasses and having blasted autocorrect!!!

    1. I know the problem well and its worse when you type in the keyboard gaps because you learned to touch type on a standard pitch keyboard.
      At the risk of stirring a pot, I have often thought that both privileges are an exercise in the “Power of the Keys”. There is some debate, among theologians, as to how far it extends. Is it all bishops, pope only or all holders of patriarchal sees?

      1. As I understand it the Pauline privilege can be dealt with by the diocesan marriage tribunal but in the case of the Petrine privilege the evidence gathered by the tribunal must be submitted to Rome for a final decision.

        1. Very possibly but, in either case, it doesn’t run as far as Anglicans are concerned. I suppose the best you can say is that, had the Duchess been marrying a Catholic, then the probability is that she would have been found free to marry. As she wasn’t however I’m still not sure what point Fr. Ed was seeking to make except perhaps a general one about Anglican marriage discipline. On which note please answer the question I posed, Fr. Ed, about whether you married divorcees when an Anglican. There’s no shame in admitting that your views have changed and your thought process, if you did, would be interesting.

          1. C’mon Father are you going to respond to the question I put? I’m not trying to embarrass you; I’m genuinely interested in the answer.

          2. St Barnabas Tunbridge Wells had a marriage policy that reflected Roman practice so I did none there – we did however offer a service of thanksgiving following a registry office marriage once or twice. As a curate the church did offer marriage following Anglican guidelines but I don’t honestly recall if I celebrated one of those or not.

          3. Thanks Father and I’m sorry if I appeared to be pressing you. Did you ever give thought to the lack of logic in offering a blessing of a marriage which you weren’t prepared to celebrate? Again I’m not trying to put you on the spot I’m genuinely interested because this has always seemed to me to be logically untenable, whilst acknowledging pastoral pressures etc.

  5. Mary,

    If Anglicanism had a motto it would have to be’ logically untenable’. Don’t bother them with logic, it upsets them!

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