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Chapter 1


When Dr. Martin Joseph Routh expressed a wish that the epitaph on his tombstone should tell succeeding generations that he had lived and died ‘attached to the Catholic Faith taught in the Church of England and averse from all papal and sectarian innovations’ [R. D. Middleton: Dr. Routh, p. 136], he was not only speaking for himself but summing up the religion of a great and venerable section of Anglican Church life, the religion of the traditional High Churchman before it had been given a new purpose and direction by the Oxford Movement. Dr. Routh was almost the last of the school; in Newman’s famous words he had been reserved to report to a forgetful generation what was the theology of their fathers. In his own person he represented the particular type of Catholicism characteristic of High Churchmanship: a devotion to Catholic truth in all its splendour and fullness, a devotion rooted in massive patristic learning: a spirituality drawing its nourishment from the Prayer Book: a sense of the oneness of Church and Society, with the Church sanctifying every side of national life and giving to society a Godward purpose and direction: a loyalty to an England whose national character was influenced more by theology than commerce, an England for which Laud and Charles I had struggled and died.

Dean Church has immortalized this High Church tradition in his history of the first twelve years of the Oxford Movement:

‘There was nothing effeminate about it, as there was nothing fanatical; there was nothing extreme or foolish about it; it was a manly school, distrustful of high-wrought feelings and professions, cultivating self-command and shy of display, and setting up as its mark, in contrast to what seemed to it sentimental weakness, a reasonable and serious idea of duty. The divinity which it propounded, though it rested on learning, was rather that of strong common sense than of the schools of erudition. Its better members were highly cultivated, benevolent men, intolerant of irregularities both of doctrine and life, whose lives were governed by an unostentatious but solid and unfaltering piety, ready to burst forth on occasion into fervid devotion.’ [The Oxford Movement, ch. 1.]

The centre round which High Churchmanship revolved was a liturgy, the Prayer Book; and that perhaps in all its implications constitutes the significance of the High Church tradition for Anglicans today. The Church of England, as indeed all western Christendom, is fighting for its life; the days when Christianity enjoyed a comfortable and established place in society are gone, and the Church stands face to face with a paganism which is enslaving each country in Europe, a paganism which sometimes glories in its apostasy and is crudely barbaric, more often it masquerades as secularism, broad-mindedness, and indifference.

The inner life of the Church is built round its worship; here it truly becomes itself and finds power and strength. But the Church as it prepares to do battle with the pagan world finds that its own inner life, the life of worship, has disintegrated. Worship has become divorced from dogma; it has been individualized and has lost all contact with the ordinary life of man. It is a dead thing, a meaningless round of word and gesture.

The worship of the Church is offered in the midst of a society which has turned its back on the intellectual, the spiritual, and the supernatural, and finds its main happiness in the examination of the visible world and a ceaseless round of activity. As Miss Helen Waddell says, annihilation of space in speed is the nearest approach our generation knows to religious ecstasy. [The Desert Fathers, p. 25.] It is a society which sees life in terms of doing rather than being. Worship is something which it cannot understand; for worship is being rather than doing, and is concerned primarily with God.

The Church has allowed this attitude to creep into its worship and has accepted the secularist view of dogma and of being. Worship has accordingly become detached from its dogmatic basis; its connection with eternal truth has been pushed away out of sight. The worship of the Church still goes on; but it is a worship which looks only to man and is concerned only with man. So worship is judged in terms of ‘uplift’; it must be comforting, and one has to feel better for entering church. If worship fails to be comforting, it can be dropped without any harm ensuing to the life of the soul. The divorce between worship and dogma shows itself in a humanitarian insistence on the service of one’s fellow men as the chief end of man. Worship is thought of solely as a means of promoting brotherhood and service; often it is equated with brotherly love. Typical of such an outlook is a verse from the well-known anthem Worship:

O brother man fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly thought a prayer

Cut off from God such worship must of necessity fail in its professed purpose of promoting brotherhood and end in idle sentiment; in any case it becomes but a means to a this-world end instead of the nerve centre of Christianity.

Worship has become individualized. It has ceased to be the voice of an organic body and become the joint utterance of a few pious individuals, the possession of the individual rather than the Church, a method of private prayer. This is due to forces which have been going on in Catholicism and Protestantism since the Reformation, and which have been accentuated by the liberal secularist conception of man as an individual in no organic relation with any other man. Protestantism has always been at its weakest in its thought on the Church and finds it hard to rise above thinking of the Church as a collection of individuals. Its idea of liturgy tends to be the meeting together of the godly in prayer, and the using by individuals of the one common form.

The idea of liturgy in those circles which have come under the influence of the Counter-Reformation is little better. The leaders of the Counter-Reformation sought to rebuild a Christian Europe, after the desolation caused by Renaissance paganism and Protestantism, by teaching people to pray. It was a one-sided teaching, concerned almost exclusively with individual prayer, meditation, and contemplation. There was no attempt to instruct the faithful in the inner meaning of the liturgy and the attitude of mind necessary for taking part in it. The divine office more and more became the private possession of clergy and religious; the Mass was regarded as a useful opportunity for concentrated private prayer, communion became an individual act, the consummation of the individual prayer life.

Baroque and rococo architecture encouraged this individualization of the liturgy in another way. Its typical features, movement, pronounced light and shade, tricks of perspective, plaster and gilt decoration, were all employed to translate the glory of the Church into terms which would catch the eye of the contemporary protestant and pagan world. But it was an architecture of the theatre; and some of its greatest achievements were in the realm of theatre architecture. European civilization would be the poorer without the Court theatre at Bayreuth and the Residenz Theater at Munich. Many of its churches manifest the spirit of the theatre. Santa Chiara at Naples has opera boxes over each arch complete with latticed grills, so that the nuns may watch the services in the church below shielded from profane eyes. When Benedict XIV first visited Santa Maria Maggiore after it had been restored at his expense by Fuga, he complained that the world would take him for a producer of opera, and that the church reminded him of a sala da ballo.

In such a setting the liturgy becomes a show, a spectacle. One is not surprised to find that in eighteenth-century Portugal priests while saying Mass wore high-heeled shoes to give an impression of height, that their vestments were kept in brocaded vestment chests which would do honour to the dressing-room of a Malibran or Patti. [These delightful objects are to be seen in the Treasury of Braga Cathedral.] A Mozart or Schubert composes settings whose true home is the opera house or concert hall. When the Mass becomes a spectacle, the congregation come to look on as at a spectacle. They are onlookers, an audience. The act done at the altar is the act of an individual priest with which they have no living connection. It is perhaps significant that Christendom since its division at the Reformation has lost the idea of liturgy as the voice of Christ in His Church, the prayer of redeemed humanity.

Worship has become divorced from the ordinary life of the world. There appears to be no relation between what is done at the altar and the grim realities of everyday working life. Again this is due to tendencies present both in Catholicism and Protestantism since the Reformation, which the secularist exclusion of dogma from the world of politics and economics has only accentuated.

Baroque and rococo churches not only make the liturgy a spectacle; their unreality reacts on the liturgy. The interior of a baroque church with its fricassée de marbre, its gilt cherubs and saints in ecstasy has no obvious connection with real life. The worship offered in it becomes nothing but a way of escape from real life into a dream world. Ordinary life is left behind as soon as one has pushed aside the padded leather door. What is done inside is an aesthetic experience, a theme for the prose of a J. K. Huysmans. It has no meaning for the mine, the factory, the council chamber, the home. The same is true of nineteenth-century Anglican ritualism with its sumptuous brass and marble interiors. It had no connection with ordinary life. As Mr. Middleton Murry points out: ‘It burned tapers, wore vestments, read the Acta Sanctorum, wrote new lives of the saints, was mildly gothic in its taste for architecture, and was no trouble to anyone. The very notion that it was related in a cousinly sort of way to Reform, and even to that horrible Chartism was unthinkable.’ [Heaven and Earth, p. 357.]

Protestantism has assisted this development by the meaning it has attached to the word ‘spiritual’. It has thought of ‘spiritual’ as something opposite to ‘material’; the latter is evil and can have no part in worship. Worship is a matter of the mind and soul; there is no place in it for bodily actions, the beauty of nature, or man’s creation. By its very nature it can have no connection with ordinary life. It is an activity on its own, an activity which concerns only half man’s nature. As a consequence it comes as a great shock to the modern Christian brought up in a Protestant tradition to find that what he does in church is vitally related to his working life.

Dogma, prayer, and life, all three have been isolated; and in isolation their power and glory have vanished and withered away. The Church, if it is to win the fight against modern paganism, and not only win the fight but heal the wounds inflicted by this paganism on man’s nature, needs reintegration, a new wholeness, in which the dogma, the prayer, and the life form a living unity. It is true that in the Church of England there is an increasing desire, not confined to any one school of thought, to give once more a dogmatic basis to political and working life. There is a perpetual stress on the fact that the life of worship of necessity involves the carrying of Christian behaviour into political and working life; but little is said about the vital connection between the community, its life and organization, the work its members do, and the life of worship. Often too this attempt at re-integration is amorphous and lacking in any practical result because it has never got beyond talk; it has failed to find any point of contact where dogma, prayer, and life all meet, any one definite action which is the meeting place of eternal truth and the sweat and toil of humanity. Man needs to see such an action which will not only integrate his working life into the eternal world, but also give him a vision of what that working life should truly be.

For some years now there has been a movement in the Church of Rome, usually known as the Liturgical Movement, which is trying to find re-integration and wholeness in the liturgy. The movement is not primarily concerned with the origin or history of the various Christian liturgies; nor, as is sometimes supposed in the Church of England, is it a matter of bright services, audible reading of lessons and prayers, parish communions. By penetrating beneath the outward trappings to the essence of the liturgy, it tries to make us comprehend its inner meaning and implications. It seeks to give liturgical worship a rightful place in the life of the soul. Each Christian is to take his share in the liturgy as the prayer of the Church in the totality of its life. In the thought of the movement the liturgy is an act not of the clergy or the choir or a pious few, but one in which the whole body of the faithful share, one in which they can find re-integration, wholeness, life, and joy.

It is in the light of the Liturgical Movement that the traditional High Church emphasis on the Prayer Book takes on a new colour and is seen to possess a meaning for our generation. It was an emphasis on the Prayer Book viewed not in isolation as a collection of services; but an emphasis based on an understanding of the inner meaning of liturgy and its underlying principles, and a sense that liturgy had something to do with dogma and life. The purpose of this book is an exposition of the liturgical ideals and principles of High Churchmanship between the age of Andrewes and the Oxford Movement. It will deal mostly with the seventeenth century; for the High Churchmen of the eighteenth century were content to be the passive heirs of the traditions of Andrewes, Thorndike, and Ken. Anglicans of today long to regain their integrity as the Body of Christ, to find a wholeness of dogma, of prayer, of life; in their hearts there is a deep desire, though often hesitating and inarticulate in expression, to bring a new wholeness of life to their fellow countrymen. It may be that the liturgical thought of traditional High Churchmanship will be found to point the way.


The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright ©2001.

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