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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Caroline Divines

By Dr. Marianne Dorman

At what seems a crisis time in the Anglican Communion at the beginning of the third millennium, it would be good for many Anglicans to reflect on what the Caroline Divines' legacy is to the English Church. I think the first thing they would insist on is obedience to the faith as handed down by the Fathers of the Church from Apostolic time and upheld by Holy Scripture, and certainly not anything that was modern.

The central doctrine of that faith was the Incarnation when the eternal Word took our flesh. This like the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the great mysteries of the Church. "That Heaven should thus come down to Earth, that God should become Man; that the Father of Eternity should be born in time", never ceased to amaze Andrewes. The Incarnation for Andrewes and all Caroline Divines, as described by Dean Church at the end of the nineteenth century meant living in "adoration, self-surrender and blessing, and in awe and joy of welcoming the Presence of the Eternal Beauty, the Eternal Sanctity and the Eternal Love, the Sacrifice and Reconciliation of the world." It was therefore as much a sensuous experience as spiritual, which further separated then from the Puritans who focused more on Christ as their "Captain", leading them in the battle against sin and all evil in this world.

One aspect of the Incarnation that these Divines also emphasised was the kenosis. Like the early Fathers they were full of wonder that the Logos would be as Frank put it:
poorly born; in a stable amongst beasts; poorly wrapped in rags, poorly cradled in a manger, poorly bedded upon a lock of hay, poorly attended by the ox and ass, poorly every way provided for; not a fire to dress him at in the depth of winter, only the stream and breath of the beasts to keep him warm; cobwebs for his hangings, the dung of the beasts for his perfumes, noise and lowings, neighing and brayings, for his music; every thing as poor about him as want and necessity could make it.
Closely associated with the Incarnation is the Sacrament of the altar. As Andrewes preached at Christmas 1618, the Child in the cratch will lead us to Him in the Sacrament, which outwardly like the cratch seems of little value but inwardly what treasure. "Of the sacrament we may well say Hoc erit signum," but through the sign, "invenietis Puerum 'ye shall find this Child'. For finding His flesh and blood, you cannot miss but find Him too." Thus by "infirma et egena elementa" we find Christ just as the shepherds "did this day in pr├Žsepi jumentorum panem Angelorum," "in the beasts' crib the food of angels; which very food our signs both represent and present unto us." Christmas 1612 saw Andrewes preaching, "And this day they first came together, the Word and flesh; therefore, of all days, this day they would not be parted." Two years later he concluded his Nativity sermon with this commendation. "This then I commend to you, even the being with Him in the Sacrament of His Body - that Body that was conceived and born, as for the other ends so for this specially, to be 'with you'; and this day, as for other intents, so even for this, for the Holy Eucharist." Taylor defined this succinctly when he stated that the Crib is the "altar where first lay that 'Lamb of God' which was afterwards sacrificed for the sins of all the world"
    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Societas Sanctae Crucis

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