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Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Passion and the Church Today

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The title of the post comes from the late Abp of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey's book, The Gospel and the Catholic Church. It is the title to the opening chapter of the book. I have picked the book up for a slow read on my early Saturday mornings, which have become about the only time I get to read something else I want that is not directed to my current research. This is a book that I believe ought to be required reading for all bishops and priests once a year. What the Anglican Church so desperately needs in the present moment is to get its head and heart around what Ramsey says about the Church's relevance. 'The relevance of the Church to mankind must be sought not in its social policies but in its relation to the Passion.' I believe that it is the lack of having this central theme to our vocation that is causing so much heartache in the Church today. Where is the Gospel in all of this? I believe that there is a lot to think about in the quotation that I am providing. Here is Ramsey in his own words.
Hence, as the Body of Christ crucified and risen, the Church points men to a unity and a peace which men generally neither understand nor desire. Thus the Church is pointing beyond theology, beyond reunion-schemes, beyond philanthropies, to the death of the Messiah. It leads the theologian, the church-statesman, the philanthropist, and itself also, to the Cross. The dying is a stern reality; theologian, reunionist, philanthropist learn that their work and their ideal is, in itself and of itself, nothing. But all that is lost is found; and the Cross is the place where the theology of the Church has its meaning, where the unity of the Church is already showing the peace of God and the bread from heaven to the nations of mankind. The Jews stumbled at the death and resurrection, and hence they never knew the Church to be the Body of the Christ. The disciples knew it, only when He had died and was risen from the dead.

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    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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