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My Journey to Full Communion with the See of Peter

My Journey to Full Communion with the See of Peter

By Michael Nazir-Ali
March 14, 2022

The Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1996, together with the Malta Report (1968), set the agenda for the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission of which I was a member for many years. This agenda was nothing less than the restoration of full communion in faith and sacramental life between the two traditions. Since then ARCIC has produced a succession of agreements on Eucharist, Ministry, Authority, Salvation, Moral Teaching and the Blessed Virgin Mary, matters which were seen as church dividing. In the year 2000 AD, in spite of some new obstacles, Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury and Cardinal Cassidy of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, were able to call a meeting of bishops to consider how to take forward, in practical terms, the remarkable agreements already reached by ARCIC and so was formed the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission, of which also I was a member.

Difficulties Emerge

The problem has been that each time there was an 'agreement' on important issues, at least some of which were accepted by the respective communions, as consonant with what they believed, some part of the Anglican Communion would take unilateral action which cast doubt on the strength of these agreements. I well remember the somewhat anguished correspondence between at least two Popes, Archbishops Donald Coggan and Robert Runcie and Cardinal Willebrands of the PCPCU in which the Popes and the Cardinal were pleading with the Anglican Communion not to take unilateral action over the matter of the ordination of women to the presbyterate as it would cast doubt on the strength of the recently agreed ARCIC statement on Ministry, thus making any reevaluation of Anglican Orders even more difficult. Archbishop Runcie, while rehearsing some of the arguments in favour of ordaining women, expressed his inability to prevent, even if he wished to do so, any Province of the Anglican Communion from acting independently on the issue and, in fact, this is what happened. The scenario was, more or less, repeated over the ordination of women to the episcopate when Cardinal Kasper, basing himself on the Cyprianic maxim 'episcopatus unus est', earnestly requested the Church of England not to take unilateral action in this area. As Chair of the Rochester Commission which was appointed to consider all the theological and ecclesiological questions surrounding the proposed ordination of women as bishops, I received numerous submissions on the subject. One of them was from the Catholic bishops of England and Wales asking how Anglicans could claim to share the Apostolic Ministry with the Catholic and Orthodox churches and yet be prepared to make such a momentous change in it without ecumenical consensus about it. I remember this striking home at the time.

A Serious Difficulty

The problem arose in another, arguably more intense form, when the Episcopal Church in the USA ordained a divorced person who was also in an active homophile relationship to the episcopate in 2003, in spite of the 1998 Lambeth Conference solemnly declaring in its Resolution 1:10 that it could not 'advise' the ordination of those in such situations. In this the US church was eagerly followed by the Canadian Province, Brazil, Scotland, New Zealand and now Wales, with other Provinces, including England, either having made some changes to discipline and practice or contemplating making them. I was present at the stormy ARCIC meeting that followed the US action and, once again, the question was how Anglicans could agree one thing with their ecumenical partners and then go and do something quite different. In Life in Christ: Morals, Communion and the Church, Anglicans and Catholics appeared to have agreed about homosexuality, even if they had different pastoral approaches to the issue. Here, however, there was blatant disregard of such agreement. The disagreement threatened the future of ARCIC and it has never fully recovered its original mission of clearing the ground for the restoration of communion between Anglicans and Catholics.

Consistency in Ecumenical Dialogue

There has also been the charge that Anglicans say different things to different partners in the course of ecumenical dialogue. Thus the ARCIC agreements on Eucharist, Ministry and Authority uphold the importance of Apostolic Succession in relation to ordination and to the continuity of Apostolic Teaching. Other agreements, however, such as the Porvoo, (?) with the Scandinavian and Baltic Lutheran churches, and with the French Protestant Church, downplay the importance of Apostolic Succession and do not see its recovery as essential where it may have been lost, even if for understandable reasons. On the universal Primacy, similarly, the agreements with the Catholic Church and with the Orthodox seem to be saying quite different things.

The differences among the various agreements reflect, of course, differences of emphases and even belief within Anglicanism itself. Such differences are to be expected in a widely scattered communion of churches. What is concerning, however, is where they become part of official positions which contradict one another and are sometimes even celebrated as expressing the breadth of the Anglican tradition and the diversity of the Communion! They certainly confuse ecumenical partners as to what Anglicans really believe.
Anglicans have always claimed that they do not believe anything which the Church of the early Councils did not believe. There are two comments to make about this claim: one is the remark made, I think, by Pope Benedict that it is not enough to confess the credal formulae of the Early Church, we have also to consider the whole of their faith and their sacramental life as well. The other is that we cannot make claims to continuity with the patristic Church but then adopt a laissez faire attitude to innovation without regard to first principles.

Searching for an Adequate Ecclesiology

The breakdown of marriage discipline in many parts of the Communion, seemingly without any mechanism for checking this, lack of clarity about personhood and the protections due it at the earliest and latest stages of life and a tendency to capitulate to culture rather than being a prophetic voice within it, all made me look for an adequate ecclesiology that was able to meet these concerns. It seemed to me that what was needed was a Church where decisions that affect the whole church can be effectively implemented in each part. This means that while the identity of each particular church should be respected, and the principle of subsidiary invoked, so that decisions are made at the appropriate level, there cannot be the radical autonomy of such churches in the way the Western provinces of the Anglican Communion were not only demanding but exercising. Secondly, there is a need for a Church with a body of teaching, down the ages and across the world, which is held in common and used to guide the clergy and faithful in understanding and addressing the dilemmas they face in their day to day lives. It is in this sense that I wanted to understand the Augustinian dictum "securus judicat orbis terrarum". I did, of course, understand some of the difficulties in relating to the past: the churches of the Reformation in their insistence on appealing only to the Bible to answer questions come up against the perils of private interpretation where a person or a group claim a particular understanding of a passage without reference to the Church Catholic and its teaching, both synchronic and diachronic. On the other hand, there are revisionist liberals who acknowledge the 'plain sense of Scripture', for example on biblical anthropology, but do not feel it is binding on them or on the Church any longer.

What I felt was needed

What I felt was needed was a way of reading the Bible which recognised its 'once for allness' and that it is 'the supreme rule of faith', while also acknowledging our need for the Church's reading of them to truly understand what they mean. There are, of course, Christian traditions which have very high regard for Apostolic Tradition and I admire them for it, just as I admire those who emphasise the centrality of Scripture. There is, however, also the question as to how Scripture and the Apostolic Preaching are to relate to claims of new knowledge. Here the influence of St John Henry Newman is of the utmost importance in articulating a Catholic view of the development of teaching. Such development has to be principled: it must conserve the nature and vigour of the Gospel itself, it must represent a continuity of principles between what the Church has always believed and an articulation of Church teaching regarding what is new, it must provide effective guidance for the faithful in the present and it must anticipate the future, especially with regard to the 'slippery slope' on moral issues. Both the Vincentian Canon about what has been believed 'semper, ubique et ab omnibus' (always, by everyone and everywhere) and Augustine's 'securus judicat orbis terrarum' ( the secure judgement of the whole world) are obviously very important in discerning the catholicity of doctrine but, from time to time, an authentic teaching authority, at the proper level, has to take from this treasure, with due regard to the theological, moral and philosophical contributions of scholars, and declare the Church's position to its own members and to the world at large. In this connection, the task of the Pope, and the bishops together with him, is, in certain circumstances, in fidelity to Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, to define and declare the faith of the Church. Divine protection for the reliability of such teaching is promised when they do this ( Matt16:18-19, Matt 28: 18-20, John20:22-23). They cannot, of course, change the teaching of the Scriptures or the faith of the Church down the ages and across the world, only define it, clarify it and declare it.

What is Apostolic Tradition?

The Apostolic teaching or preaching (ie the Apostolic Tradition) as it is received and passed on from generation to generation and culture to culture, is constitutive of the Church. As it is received and re-received, different cultures, generations and even sexes will notice aspects of it which have hitherto not been to the fore. Thus St John-Paul II noted the feminine genius in reading the Bible and oppressed groups like slaves in America understandably identified with the Exodus trajectory of liberation and empowerment. In cultures with major religious traditions, questions arise as to how Christ both challenges and fulfils their spiritual aspirations. This is bound to take place in the course of the transmission of Tradition. At the same time, authentic teaching authority is necessary to declare what is genuinely inculturation and what is overstepping the boundaries of what catholicity will permit.

Translatability and Inculturation

The late Professor Lamin Sanneh, who was a convert from Islam and was received into the Catholic Church from a Presbyterian tradition, often spoke of the intrinsic translatability of the Gospel into every language and idiom. In this sense, although the Christian Scriptures have original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and 'venerable' ones like Latin, Coptic and Armenian, there is no 'sacred' language as Arabic is , for example, with Islam. Since the Second Vatican Council, much attention has been given to the question of proper inculturation. Thus Pope Paul VI, in his 1975 encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, is concerned that the Gospel should engage with culture at its deepest levels so that there might be authentic transformation. In successive encyclicals, it was St John Paul II, however, who noted the mutuality of the process. In Slavorum Apostoli, published in 1985, to celebrate the 11 hundredth anniversary of the evangelisation of the Slav people, he points out that SS Cyril and Methodius did not only incarnate the Gospel into the language and culture of the Slavs, they also brought the riches of that culture into the Church. What is said about the Slavs is widened in its understanding and application in Redemptoris Missio (1991) which deals with the continuing missionary mandate of the Church. We are told here that the Church not only transmits her own beliefs and values, enabling what is good in cultures to be renewed from within, she also brings peoples and cultures into her own community, which becomes increasingly diverse as a result. Already as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict had seen that the Church's 'providential encounters' of the past, such as that with Hellenism, can provide pointers and resources for the encounter with the great cultural and religious traditions of our own times. This theme is taken up in his Regensburg Lecture, which became well-known for other reasons! The evangelised culture of the Church comes into contact with various cultures, enabling them to find their true centre and is, in turn, enriched by all that is authentic in them.

The Limits of Inculturation

In Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II reminds the Church of two 'guiding principles' in the process of inculturation. These are now even more important as the Church faces various temptations at syncretism and capitulations to culture, especially, but not only in the West. The first is that of compatibility with the Gospel itself and the second of the need to sustain and promote fellowship among the particular churches. That is to say that the whole counsel of God, how divine love has been manifest in the story of a particular people and then definitively in the incarnation of God the Word in Jesus Christ, the objective nature of Christ's atoning and reconciling work and the new life released by his resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, cannot be compromised or diluted in Christian engagement with any culture. The second principle or limitation has to do with the need to maintain communion or fellowship amongst widely scattered churches. In other words, nothing can be done, by way of inculturation, which makes it difficult for churches and Christians from other cultures to recognise the Church of Christ in a particular culture or context. The difficulties in the Anglican Communion have arisen in respect of both these principles. There has been a tendency to capitulate to contemporary Western culture in such a way that divine revelation itself has been compromised and also that some provinces have failed to see their own faith in what other provinces have done. In deciding whether these principles have been breached, the Anglican Communion has been found to have no mechanism to resolve the disputes other than to continue to live with disagreement about fundamental matters. Surely, what is needed is an adequate teaching authority which, after consultation and reflection, in the light of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, can declare the Church's position in the matters in dispute?

Agreement on Ministry and Ordination and its Undermining

Since the very beginning, Anglican Ordinals have been claiming that it is their intention to continue the Apostolic Ministry which the Church has inherited 'from the Apostles times'. Such a claim gave confidence to Anglican faithful that their ministers were, indeed, in apostolic succession both through the continuity in ordination and its accompanying continuity in the apostolic teaching. Questions about both intention and the form of the rites which Catholics and Orthodox had about the Ordinals were being answered through ecumenical dialogue. Some Orthodox churches were willing to recognise the validity of Anglican Orders, even if, pending full doctrinal agreement, they did not act on such recognition. The ARCIC agreement on Ministry had also created a new context for the Catholic Church to reassess its judgement on Anglican Orders. At the very time, however, of ecumenical progress, successive provinces of the Anglican Communion went on, unilaterally, to ordain women first to the presbyterate and then, more controversially, to the episcopate. The latter, of course, calls into question also men ordained by women bishops to any of the orders of ministry. As I have said sometimes, I am not an 'impossibilist' in this matter but two things need to be borne in mind: before incorporating women into hitherto male orders of ministry, there was little serious consideration as to the ministries to which women were being called by virtue of their distinctiveness, the history of the Church and present day needs.

As Chalcedonian and Oriental Orthodox women have pointed out at their joint gatherings, there is long list of women's ministries such as evangelists, teachers, religious, spiritual and medical healers and deaconesses. To these, we could add pastoral and family workers, social workers, chaplains, cantors and many others. To my mind, not enough attention was given to the possibilities of such and other ministries in the rush to incorporate women into male patterns of ministry which may or may not suit their genius.

Secondly, little account was taken of the views of those churches with whom Anglicans claimed to share a common ministry. It is not surprising that these churches were warning especially about the ordination of women bishops as that would, in their view, touch the very source of apostolic ministry. Agreements about the nature of ministry with these churches have thus been shown to be insecure at best and hollow at worst. From a practical point of view, for the faithful in the pews, the assurance of apostolicity in the ministry of Word and Sacrament has been rendered uncertain. Nor is this a diminishing problem as with non-episcopally ordained clergy in the nascent Church of South India because there all new ordinations were to be episcopal. What we have now is a growing problem for the faithful to know the exact standing of the minister dispensing Word and Sacrament to them. I began to see, more and more, that a precious inheritance was being squandered without sufficient attention to our ecumenical partners with whom we claimed to share the historic three-fold Order, to alternative forms of ministry to which God may be calling women and men and to the need of the faithful having ministerial and sacramental assurance. I had often boasted that Anglicanism had, by divine providence, retained at the Reformation both the Sacred Deposit of Faith and the Sacred Ministry. If we lost the one, would the other be jeopardised or was the matter more serious than that? Some of our partners were saying that Anglican action in this regard showed conclusively that how Anglicans viewed the ordained ministry was quite different from the views of the ancient churches, Catholic or Orthodox.

What is a Sacrament and how many of them are there?

I have for long been uncomfortable with the Anglican (and general Reformation) teaching that there are only two sacraments: Baptism and the Eucharist. The others are believed to be either corruptions of the Apostles' teaching or states of life allowed by the Scriptures but are not sacraments in the sense that they have no visible sign instituted by divine will. What then can we say of marriage? In the order of Creation, the couple themselves are a sacrament of the divine mandates both cultural and familial and, in the order of Redemption, they are the mysterion or sacrament of the relation between Christ and his bride, the Church (Eph5:32). Where ordination is concerned, on that first Easter itself, the Risen Lord meets with the disciples and breathes on them saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John20:22-23). It is no accident that the Anglican ordinals use this formula at the time of the laying on of hands for the ordination of priests. If this is not the institution of a sacrament, what is? Apostolic practice can, similarly, be invoked for the ordination of deacons and bishops (Acts 6:6, 2Tim1:6). As Pope Paul VI tells us in his Apostolic Constitution Sacram Unctione Infirmorum, the sacrament of Anointing the sick is firmly based on the sending out of the Twelve by Jesus to preach the Gospel and to anoint and heal the sick (Mark6:13). In the Letter of James we are told clearly that the presbyters of the Church are to pray for and to anoint the sick for healing and the forgiveness of sins and this has been the constant practice of the Church down the ages and across the world.
It is true, of course, that Baptism and Eucharist have a special place among the sacraments and even if it be granted that there has been debate about the exact number of the sacraments, how can we deny the name 'sacrament' to the seven traditionally called that?

There have, of course, been questions as to whether I continue to hold to certain central truths which have been dear to me in the past. Thus on Holy Scripture, I can affirm with Dei Verbum and with St John Paul II that it is unique, immutable and the supreme rule of faith and that the entire practice of our faith should be ruled and nourished by Scripture ( DV21, Ut Unum Sint79). I have seen, however, the havoc that can be caused by the private interpretation of Scripture, against which Scripture itself warns us (2 Pet1:20). Of course, as Dei Verbum teaches, attention must be given to the historical and cultural background to the books of Scripture, as to their literary form. But when all is said and done, one part of Scripture is to be taken in the light of the whole because, although written by human beings, Scripture is also God breathed and divinely authored. The role of Scripture scholars and of theologians is most important and helps the Church to come to an informed judgement about the meaning of Scripture in this or that situation. In the end, however, the teaching authority, in the light of Tradition, as well as scholarship, interprets and confirms what Scripture teaches (DV 12).

Justification and Sanctification

Justification by faith alone was the articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae of the Reformers, the article of faith by which the Church stands or falls. Some friends have asked publicly what I now think of this doctrine. It may be worth saying at the outset that already the Council of Trent had declared that "it is necessary to believe that sins are not forgiven, nor have they ever been forgiven, save freely by the divine mercy on account of Christ" (Ch9, Session6). In the Catholic- Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification, the Catholic Church commits itself to the following: "Justification takes place by grace alone through faith alone, the person is justified apart from works" (JD15,16,25). This doctrine is, moreover, to be regarded as that "measure or touchstone for the Christian faith. No teaching may contradict this criterion" and this "criterion constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of the Church to Christ" (Annex to JD3). Pope Benedict XVI in his book Paul of Tarsus tells us that Luther's translation of Rom 3:28: "We hold that a man is justified by faith alone and not by works of the Law" is correct, even though the word μονος is not in the text, if such faith is not separated from the necessity of working through love" (Gal5:14) (Pp98ff). Even William Tyndale might have found acceptable such an interpretation of the relation between faith and love in Galatians!
There remain differences of understanding and expression: one is whether when we are accounted righteous before God because of the work and merits of Christ, such imputation then leads to the impartation or infusion, by grace, of righteousness in us which cleanses us from all sin or whether such impartation of righteousness is such that in via we remain simul justus et peccator (both justified and sinners at the same time). The former Anglican Bishop of South Carolina, FitzSimons Allison, has directed our attention to the internal debate at the Council of Trent where an influential party argued that infused righteousness should not be taken to be the 'single formal cause of justification' but that the remission of sins should be included in what makes for our justification. This view did not prevail at Trent but in Allison's view, if it had done, it would have safeguarded simul justus et peccator. Newman, in his Lectures on Justification, suggests the presence of Christ in our souls, in addition to infused righteousness, as the formal cause of our justification. Allison also mentions Hans Kung's attempt to open up discussion on the issue by pointing out that the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church assumes throughout that both priest and people are in a mixed state of grace and sin, thus safeguarding simul justus et peccator(in The Pastoral and Political Implications of Trent on Justification, SLJT June1988).

The Joint Declaration is aware of this difficulty and attempts to resolve it by first pointing out that Trent itself teaches that, "in the process of justification, together with the forgiveness of sins, a person receives, through Jesus Christ into whom he is grafted, all these infused at the same time: faith, hope and charity" (Ch7, Session6, JD Sources for 4:3). In its Annex, it first declares that God's justifying grace frees us from sin's enslaving power. That by it we are made righteous, receiving new life in Christ and that we have peace God and are made his children. In this sense, the justified do not remain merely sinners (1John3:9-10). On the other hand, it points out that it would be wrong to say that the justified are without sin (1John1:8-2:2) and need to pray continually to be cleansed from it. This leads to both sides affirming simul justus et peccator, even if they have slightly different understandings of it.
The ARCIC agreement Salvation and the Church is not as 'heavyweight' as the JD, with its undergirding of biblical and historical study but it is worth ending with a quote from it:-
"Justification and Sanctification are two aspects of the same divine act (1Cor6:11). This does not mean that justification is a reward for faith or works: rather, when God promises the removal of our condemnation and gives us a new standing before him, this justification is indissolubly linked with his sanctifying recreation of us in grace. This transformation is being worked out in the course of our pilgrimage, despite the imperfections and ambiguities of our lives. God's grace effects what he declares: his creative word imparts what it imputes.By pronouncing us righteous, God also makes us righteous .He imparts a righteousness which is his and becomes ours"(15). It could have gone on to refer to 2Cor5:21.

Eucharistic Faith

My Eucharistic faith is well expressed in the Book of Common Prayer's Prayer of Humble Access, now incorporated in the Ordinariate's Eucharistic rite, and as much loved by 'cradle Catholics' as by those of Anglican tradition in its voicing of a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. The ARCIC view is stated in its Elucidation (1979) of the agreement on the Eucharist and in its further Clarifications (1994): "What is here affirmed is a sacramental presence in which God uses realities of this world to convey the realities of the new creation: bread for this life becomes the bread of eternal life. Before the eucharistic prayer, to the question 'What is that?', the believer answers: 'It is bread'. After the eucharistic prayer, to the same question, he answers: 'It is truly the body of Christ, the Bread of Life'. In its note on Transubstantiation, the agreement explains that this means that God effects a real change in the inner reality of the elements. Thus it affirms the fact of Christ's presence not necessarily how it is brought about which can, according to Pope Paul VI's Mysterium Fidei, be explained in fresh ways, provided the faith of the Church is not affected. I have always believed that through the anamnesis of the eucharistic prayer, Christ's one and unrepeatable sacrifice is made present to the believers so that they may feed on him and obtain all the benefits he has won for us by the Cross. Just as every Passover celebration is a recalling and participation in the original Passover, so also with Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us and who is present as sacrifice in the eucharistic celebration (1Cor5:7-8, 1Cor10:14-22, 1Cor11:23-32). As the famous William Bright Anglican hymn puts it:-

One offering, single and complete,
With lips and heart we say;
But what he never can repeat
He shows forth Day by day.

The Communion of the Saints

The Apostles' Creed affirms the biblical belief in the 'Communion of the Saints'. This recalls Hebrews 11 and 12 which tells us that we are not alone in this world of trial and tribulation but that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses(martyrs?) who have endured persecution and hardship (Heb12:1). Chapter 12 also goes on to say that we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem "to the Church of the first born and to the spirits of the just made perfect" (12:23). This suggests a close fellowship between the saints in glory and ourselves. It is true that the Bible speaks of all believers as those who are called to be saints (1 Cor1:2). It is true that the New Testament often calls all God's people 'saints' or 'holy ones' ( Acts9:13, 26:10, Rom8:27, 2Cor9:1 etc).There are, however, also saints in a special sense: thus the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets (Eph2:20).The Coming of the Lord Jesus is described as a 'coming with all his saints' (1Thess3:13). 2Thessalonians also seems to distinguish between ' the Lord to be glorified in his saints' and 'marvelled at' by all the believers(1:10).Revelation11:17, similarly, distinguishes between the 'prophets and saints' and other believers.

We know that the martyr-saints in heaven are praying for God to end the persecution they have suffered at the hands of cruel and wicked people (Rev6:9-11). The saints are praising God in heaven (7:9-17) and their prayers are mingled with incense and rise to the divine presence (8:3-5). In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Dives' anguished prayer, although unsuccessful, can reach Abraham even from Hades! ( Luke16:19-31). We ask one another, in the fellowship of the Church, to pray for us. Why should we not ask the Church in glory, those in the nearer presence of God, but who are also all around us, to pray for us, provided it is understood that we and they pray through Christ, the only mediator between God and humanity( 1Tim2:5)?

The Blessed Virgin Mary

As with the other saints so also with the Blessed Virgin Mary: it seems clear to me that St Luke's account of the birth of Jesus and his early life can only have come from Mary (just as the Matthean account seems to depend on St Joseph for the early history). The Angel Gabriel tells her at the Annunciation that she is 'κεχαριτωμενη' i.e. one who has been endowed with grace (Lk1:28). It is fruitless to ask how far back in her life such 'gracing' might have extended. The Bible has a number of examples of God preparing people for their coming ministry from their very conception. It is thus said of Mary that she was preserved from the stain of sin, not in virtue of her own nature but by the grace of God and the merit of Christ, her Saviour and ours (Lk1:47) so she could be a temple of the Eternal Word. Anglican Reformers, following Luther, upheld her sinlessness because of Christ, to whom she gave birth, and who was her Saviour in her preservation from sin. That is why the BCP can speak of her as 'a pure virgin'. This also seems to be the teaching of Lumen Gentium(53)and the Catholic Catechism(491).

Continuing with Luke, When Mary arrives at the house of her relative, Elizabeth, the latter, filled with the Holy Spirit, greets her, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is it granted me, that the mother of the Lord of me should come to me?" (1:42-43).Mary herself, in her song, exclaims that "all generations will call me blessed!"(1:48b). The Evangelist tells us twice that Mary "kept all these things in her heart and pondered over them" (2:19, 51), as if to say that she is the source of his narrative (it seems it was this passage which allowed Calvin to affirm her as 'treasurer of grace' for others). The angel's greeting and Elizabeth's were fated to become the first part of the Ave Maria. Her question about the mother of 'the Lord of her' was to reverberate down the centuries and culminate in the Council of Ephesus declaring in 431AD that she was θεοτοκος (Latin: Deipara ) to emphasise the hypostatic union of our Lord's two natures. In principle, this should be the case with any of the titles of the BVM: they should point to her Son.
Much has been written about the woman in the Apocalypse, clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet and, on her head, a crown of twelve stars (Rev12:1-17). Whatever might be said of the symbolism here referring to Israel and the Church as the People of God, who will triumph against evil, surely the primary reference here must be to Mary as the mother of the Messiah who can also symbolise the whole People of God?

Remembering the Faithful Departed

Keeping in mind the BVM and the saints in glory, questions are asked about praying for the repose of those who have died in the Lord. There was a debate on this issue between the leading Anglican Evangelicals John Stott and Sir Norman Anderson. The latter had tragically lost a talented son and wished to remember him in prayer. It seems to me that there are two points to be made: if it is true that the faithful departed are purified by the nearer presence of God of the imperfections and vestiges of sin (1Cor3:12-15) so that what survives is worthy of that presence, then surely it must be permissible to pray that the faithful departed will soon be delivered from such testing, just as we pray that we and the other faithful on earth will be delivered from the test? Secondly, as Sir Norman argued, while the salvation of the faithful dead is assured, they still lack the resurrection and we can, at least, pray for that: May they rest in peace and rise in glory! To the objection that this too is certain, the answer he gave was that so is the Parousia certain but we still pray for that! The Anglican tradition certainly finds room to commend the faithful departed to the mercy of God at the time of death and at the Commendation and the Committal during the funeral. Is there any reason why we cannot continue to do this afterwards?

Vatican II teaches us to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints but it also warns us not to exaggerate such honours so that such exaggeration is not a stumbling block to other Christians. It reminds us that the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin always refer to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and devotion (Lumen Gentium67).

The Ordinariate

Friends and adversaries have asked why, if I had to plunge into the Tiber, I should swim in the direction of the Ordinariate. The answer is that I could not turn my back on the whole of Anglican spirituality and tradition. I have pointed out the serious lack in its ecclesiology which has driven me to where I am now but there are also many gifts which this tradition has to bring to the rest of the Church. These include the pioneering of Bible translation and liturgical worship in English and, after that, in many other vernaculars with great depth and beauty as revealing a commitment to inculturation. An approach to the Bible which is both reverent and critical, using biblical scholarship for understanding, preaching and writing. Models of ministry which seek to minister to the wider community roundabout as well as the congregation. A desire to witness to the Christian story in the public square and moral reflection which derives from such wider involvement rather than just the needs of the confessional or the pastor's study. It is my hope that just as those of Anglican tradition benefit from belonging to a Church that is truly Catholic, so they may also be able to bring gifts to it that have been nurtured even in separation. It is also my hope that the Ordinariates will continue to develop in a direction which enables them to use all of their legitimate patrimony to demonstrate a way of being truly Catholic which is yet also at home with what is of value in the Anglican tradition.

Final Prayer

Finally, it is my earnest prayer that all those of Anglican heritage will recover the faith brought to England by St Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow missionaries, as well as of those western and northern saints who evangelised the northern part of the country.Each mission had distinct charisms but shared the same faith.


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