Sunday, October 25, 2009

That Enduring Rock

Permanence in a world of change is hard to come by. However, the announcement from the Vatican this week about the establishment of the Anglican Rite within the church is so seismic that I cannot leave it pass without comment. Indeed hailed as perhaps the largest development since the Reformation, this inspired decision by Pope Benedict will change the face of Christianity for hundreds of years to come. What strikes me in particular is that we are witnessing not a reform (which is transient) but instead a new form, in that permanent sense that only the See of Peter the Rock can achieve. I am also humbled by the Holy Father's uncompromising generosity, a true gift.

I live in Ireland and indeed Anglicanism has had a major impact on the history of the islands of Britain and Ireland. I have attended funeral services of friends who were Anglican and each time I was struck by a sense of loss in that the litergy was beautiful but yet so tragic since it was empty of the Real Presence of Jesus. So it fills me with joy that at last the two can be reunited in a very special way and made whole.

I suspect that this decision will have a much larger impact in the UK than in Ireland, even though the Church of Ireland - Ireland's largest Protestant denomination - is part of the Anglican Communion. Several of the CoI archbishops are very liberally minded and are unlikely to be interested. That said, fifty years ago no one would have imagined that Trinity College Dublin would have an institute of Catholic theology, which is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks. It will be fascinating to watch.

Fr. Jaki of course had a large interest in the Church of England, mostly through his studies of Newman. Angelo is more qualified than I am to speculate on how Fr. Jaki would view the developments. I can only imagine the reception Pope Benedict will receive from Catholics -from every rite - next year when he visits England and perhaps even presides over the Beatification of Cardinal Newman!

This brings me to the excerpt I have reproduced in full below. It is Macaulay's review of Ranke's History of the Popes, much loved by Fr. Jaki. Macaulay may be an accurate forecaster but he may yet be wrong about St. Paul's! One must never forget to consider the work of the Holy Spirit who works in mysterious and truly creative ways!

~ Jakian Thomist
There is not, and there never was, on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose above the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back to an unbroken series, from the pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century, to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eight; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique; but full of life and youthful rigor. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world, missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustine; and still con-fronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated her for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendancy extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn - countries which a century hence, may not improbably hence contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty million, and it will be difficult to show that all the other Christian sects united, amount to a hundred and twenty million. Nor do we see any sign which indicates the term of her long domination is approaching. She saw the commencement of all governments, and of all the ecclesiastical establishments, that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot in Britain - before the Frank had passed the Rhine - when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch - when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.

From Macaulay's essay review of Ranke's History of the Popes

Edinburgh Review 72 (1840) pp. 227-28

Quoted in Stanley L. Jaki, And on this Rock pp. 165-166

1 comment:

Maolsheachlann said...

That is a truly sublime piece by Macauly. I remember looking at a nine-hundred year old Celtic cross in Sligo, not far from W.B. Yeats's grave, and suddenly feeling the full marvel of that piece of sculpture's continuing relevance to our own world. There was a carving of the Garden of Eden story, and seeing it rendered in stone made me appreciate-- really appreciate, in human terms-- just how ancient a story it was. Even a story like that of the Titanic, or the Beatles, or JFK's shooting, seems to be part of the strata of our collective consciousness, something that was always there. I can understand how a person would be an atheist or a non-Christian; but I don't understand how they would feel no sense of distress at their disconnection from the main artery of our cultural heritage.