Last night at Antioch, a model (familiar liturgy, contemporary songs, edgy feel) youth service in a local parish, one song featured the line 'in the waves of his mercy.' Yesterday had a number of merciful waves for me. A 9am Roman Mass which was full to overflowing - to answer the inevitable question as to what a good Anglican priest was doing there: I was supporting my wife whose school class was there as part of the cycle of school liturgies through the year. I love the fact that in our secular country there are full churches.
Then a drive in the country on a sunlit day without a cloud in the sky. Once I found St. Andrew's church at Little River, a village at the end of a lake in a valley which God may have copied from the English Lake District, I had terrible temptation to resist. Due to the earthquake disrupting some piles beneath its floor, this church is unusable, so we met in a foyer-come-hall at the end of the church which has a wall of windows looking out over a graveyard and a green valley-and-hills pastoral scene of spectacular beauty. Everytime I allowed my eyes to wander to gaze upon it I had to force them back to attend to the service itself. It was a scene worthy of Constable and Wordsworth. Another wave of mercy. Then there was a hospitable lunch to follow the service - for all God's mercies we give thanks.
Incidentally an odd thing featured that morning. I spent a large amount of the driving time to Little River listening to Chris Laidlaw interviewing Christopher Ward, author of And the Band Played On, a moving story of the death of his grandfather, a violinist on the Titanic, and its consequences for his family - a truth is stranger than fiction story if ever there was one. You may imagine my surprise when the sermon began (and continued) with the Titanic as the key illustration for the message!
On return home the day was too entrancing to remain indoors and a family walk ensued, with a merciful rest-stop at my parents' place. Sometimes God's mercy is 'a severe mercy' and one wave in the day was to return home from the evening service to find that the Crusaders (local rugby) team had lost 16-17 to the Reds (playing at their home in Brisbane). Is God preparing us Kiwis for catastrophe in October's World Cup?
Meanwhile the splendour of the day changed nothing about the world economic crisis which, arguably, has Titanicesque qualities to it: there is an iceberg just ahead of us, but few see it, and even less want to do anything serious about it, least of all the officers on the bridge. In defence of the officers, they might respond by saying that the iceberg is so big it doesn't matter which way they steer. But, my mind possibly working in strange ways, I am provoked by this Catholicity and Covenant post, to wonder if Christianity is in an analogous 'world orthodoxy crisis' in which the solution is as elusive as the solution to the global recession. Apparently a sure and certain orthodoxy cannot yet be found anywhere in the West since Aidan Nichols (as important a licensed Catholic theologian as there is in the world today) has recently noted the potential of the Anglican Ordinariate to save Roman Catholicism from its Vatican II self:
'They know of course that all is not well in the Roman communion they may be entering, that in some places they may need a special environment not just to preserve an Anglican Catholic ethos but to preserve orthodoxy and orthopraxis until the crisis of postconciliar Catholicism in the West has passed - an eventuality considerably aided and abetted, it can be said, by the election of Pope Benedict XVI.'
Where is orthodoxy to be found if Rome itself is hesitant about the direction to guide us in? It is early days to be confident that heading backwards to the Latin Mass, whether in Latin or in a strict English translation, is the best way to navigate the shoals of the 21st century. Is it not a bit of a worry that Anglicans fleeing the SS Communion may be the pilots to guide the SS Rome on the right path? Is Eastern Orthodoxy the solution? Possibly. On analogy to the world economic crisis, perhaps this question is like the question of returning to the gold standard. Underpinning currency with gold has some good supporting arguments, but it has yet to persuade us that it is 'the solution.' In the case of Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicans, Romans and Protestants might at least be united in wondering about the extent to which Orthodoxy is in cultural captivities (Greek, Russian, Romanian, etc), structurally prone to conflict with leadership, and weak on theological engagement with contemporary life.
As an Anglican I can find common accord with Aidan Nichols in one respect. Orthodoxy is found among the Anglicans. It might be more helpful to world Christianity if we Anglicans could agree on what orthodoxy is and where it is found among us! Meantime we must appear to many non-Anglicans as though our greatest skills are as deck-chair rearrangers on a sinking ship. Kyrie Eleison.