The Plague Rag: Corpus Christi, 14 June, 2020

This Sunday we come to the next of the great theological feasts after Eastertide, Corpus Christi. Many of the names we have for Sundays and even hymns come from the Latin directly, and Corpus Christi is the Latin for Body of Christ. This Sunday we reflect on the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the altar. In a way it is an echo of Maundy Thursday (another name coming via Latin, in this case mandatum, the Latin for commandment, from the first words on the introit of this feast, A New Commandment I Give to You.) On Maundy Thursday Our Lord instituted the sacrament of the altar, by taking bread and wine and declaring them to be his body and blood. However, on Maundy Thursday the theme is part of the great drama leading to Easter, so Holy Mother Church placed this feast of Corpus Christi after this period, to allow us to contemplate more fully this mystery.

The last week we have seen the Black Life Matters demonstrations in the US and here. In NSW there was a court case over the legality of the march. In part it plays out a fascinating balance – how much are our civic rights to protest peaceably constrained by the health emergency. We have relinquished our civic right for freedom of worship at the moment because of the needs of health, as we have many other rights. Here we have been fortunate, as the restrictions are already being lifted, so the clash between different rights have not yet been extreme. In the US, part of the unrest, I suspect, is based in the frustration of the long lockdown with only minimal result.

Which leads me to the fascinating historical balance of rights issue. Last week we celebrated the memorial of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, non-juror and hymn writer, who died in 1711. I was asked by someone what a non-juror was. This goes back to the conflict at the end of the Stuart era in England, around 1680-1700. The then king, James II, was a Roman Catholic, and wanted an easing of the religious laws to allow freedom of worship. However, these laws were passed by parliament and could only be changed with the consent of Parliament. James attempted to get around this by dismissing parliament and then issuing what he called a Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and 1688, using his claim of Royal prerogative to set aside the laws of the land. Now, in those days kings did not have the advantages of a twitter account, so to publicise this he ordered this proclamation to be read in all the churches of the land. By having it read out in the churches he also was trying to get the moral authority of the church to support his proclamation.

Seven bishops, including the then archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Ken, petitioned to be excused from reading it, claiming that it relied on an interpretation of Royal authority declared illegal by Parliament. James reacted with his customary fury to being opposed; calling it “a standard of rebellion.” After the petition was printed and publicly distributed, the bishops were charged with seditious libel and in a further fit of rage James had them imprisoned in the Tower of London. James was confident of a guilty verdict; he had appointed numerous sympathetic judges. They were tried but found not guilty, to scenes of wild rejoicing in London: bishops were and are rarely considered objects of public joy. It was the beginning of the end for James, and he abandoned England for exile soon after.

Two new monarchs were then invited to take the throne, William III of Orange and his wife, the daughter of James, Mary II. The dignitaries of the land, including the clergy, were then required to swear allegiance to the new monarchs. Nine bishops, including five of the seven previously imprisoned refused, as well as many clergy. Reasons varied; some, like Bishop Ken, considered themselves bound by their oath to James, but continued to attend church services. Others argued the new regime was illegitimate, since divine right and inheritance meant kings could not be removed, the so-called “state point.” A more fundamental issue was the “church point,” or belief Parliament had no right to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs, whether appointing or removing bishops and clergy, or changes to church policies. Eventually in May 1691, six new bishops were appointed to replace these bishops, including one for Bishop Ken, three of the original nine having since died. These were called the non-jurors, from the Latin verb juro meaning to swear an oath.

This group was never large, and had largely disappeared by the 1770s. But they had an important influence as they developed a more catholic Book of Common Prayer, similar to the first Book of 1549. It was significant in Scotland as the Anglican church was disestablished and became an independent Episcopal Church of Scotland, which would ordain the first bishops in the US.

The crisis in 1688 and the actions of the bishops and then the judges were immensely influential in developing the concept of the rule of law as a principle separate from the will of a leader. The assertion of Bishop Ken and the other bishops that they had to obey the law and not the King became a foundation of impartial government. The controversy about the right to petition the monarch or parliament free from coercion led to the insertion of this right in the 1689 English Bill of Rights and appears in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Monarchs, and later presidents, are subject to the laws duly passed, and temper tantrums are not enough grounds to imprison those who disagree with you. Another of the rights contained in the first amendment in the US Constitution was the right of peaceable assembly, which is the source of present legal actions in the US over the forcible clearing of protesters near the White House to allow the President to have his photo shot outside the nearby church. 

A right that is still being balanced here between the right to protest about Black Lives Matter and the needs of public health.

Anyway, back to the parish. Greetings and thanks from the Sua family in the Solomons, part of our dispersed parish. Their thanks for the money donated to help pay the school fess of Charlyn and Reece. This Sunday they are keeping the patronal feast of St Barnabas in the Cathedral there. It’s a wonderful experience to go to that Cathedral. The service is very high church, the servers very well trained, and come out in height order. The singing, well, that is spectacular, as any of you may have heard in PNG or the other countries of the Pacific.

At the moment we have to remain with a maximum of 20 per mass. The only mass that is full completely is the 10 am on Sunday morning – please do not come to this without a booking. I apologise for the need to record names, but I cannot avoid that. The list of names will be destroyed after one month.

But back to Bishop Ken. He is not just remembered for his principled stand, but also for his saintly life. He was offered his old diocese back, but on principle he refused, and led the rest of his life as a tutor, writing books of prayers and hymns. One is particularly famous, Awake, My soul, also known for its famous ending, Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. This was the period when hymns were just becoming accepted in churches, which had looked dubiously on any wording not found directly in Scripture. When Thomas Ken died in 1711, he was buried at sunrise with this beautiful hymn being sung. Here it is sung by Norwich Cathedral choir and here a modern rendition by Jacob Tilton. Here are the full words, although only four verses are commonly sung these days.

1 Awake, my soul, and with the sun

Thy daily stage of duty run;

Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,

To pay thy morning sacrifice.

2 Thy precious time misspent, redeem,

Each present day thy last esteem,

Improve thy talent with due care;

For the great day thyself prepare.

3 By influence of the Light divine

Let thy own light to others shine.

Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways

In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

4 In conversation be sincere;

Keep conscience as the noontide clear;

Think how all seeing God thy ways

And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

5 Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,

And with the angels bear thy part,

Who all night long unwearied sing

High praise to the eternal King.

6 All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept

And hast refreshed me while I slept

Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake

I may of endless light partake.

7 Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,

O never then from me depart;

For to my soul ’tis hell to be

But for one moment void of Thee.

8 Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;

Disperse my sins as morning dew.

Guard my first springs of thought and will,

And with Thyself my spirit fill.

9 Direct, control, suggest, this day,

All I design, or do, or say,

That all my powers, with all their might,

In Thy sole glory may unite.

10 I would not wake nor rise again

And Heaven itself I would disdain,

Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,

And I in hymns to be employed.

11 Heaven is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art;

O never then from me depart;

For to my soul ’tis hell to be

But for one moment without Thee.

12 Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

God bless

Fr Scott 

Online Resources

Today, let’s continue Father Scott’s look at St Barnabas’ Cathedral in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

St Barnabas is the seat of the Right Reverend George Takeli, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia.  The Church has 200,000 thousand members out of 800,000 citizens in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – quite possibly the highest proportion of active members in the Anglican communion – and a mission in Nouméa, New Caledonia.  Founded in 1849, ACOM has its own legends and martyrs (I’ll save them for another week!) and a deep and abiding collection of religious communities, including the Melanesian Brotherhood which is the largest in Anglicanism and is now sending missionaries to Australia.  Please take a look at the ACOM website – you will be surprised at how comprehensive it is: https://www.acom.org.sb.

Liturgy at the Cathedral itself, as Father Scott pointed out, is immaculately organised and is one of the many locations across Melanesia that successfully blends the indigenous style with the Christian faith, a sort of Pacific Gospel. I’m not good at describing music, so here’s some examples!

Unfortunately all the videos I can find for St Barnabas Cathedral are on their Facebook page; for those that can access Facebook they’re at: 

But here are some visually and acoustically more sophisticated offerings from the Melanesian Brothers and the Sisters of the Church – please watch these, they are wonderfully heartening to the jaded Western Christian:

Pax et Bonum, Tim Hender

If you’re having any difficulty accessing these resources, please contact Tim Hender at timothy.hender@mac.com.

14 Sunday                                                                                                               CORPUS CHRISTI

                           8.00 am      Mass

                         10.00 am      Mass

                         11.30 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

15 Monday                                                                                 Evelyn Underhill, Spiritual Writer, 1941

                                                                                                                                       Fr Scott’s day off

16 Tuesday                                                                                         Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253

                         10.00 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

17 Wednesday

                           8.00 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

18 Thursday                                                          Bernard Mizeki, Apostle to the MaShona, Martyr, 1896

                         12.00 noon   Angelus and Mass

                           7.30 pm      Gregorian Chant Group

19 Friday                                                                                                                   SACRED HEART

                           8.00 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

20 Saturday                                                                                                                                             

                           8.00 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

21 Sunday                                                                                                                      PENTECOST 3

                           8.00 am      Mass

                         10.00 am      Mass

                         11.30 am      Mass

                         12.00 noon   Angelus

The Midday Prayers (including the Angelus) are said in the gardens at the outdoor shrine every day from Tuesday to Sunday at 12 noon.

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St George the Martyr Anglican Church Goodwood, Adelaide, South Australia

An Anglican church in the Catholic tradition - the leading shrine church in Adelaide!

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