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Issues for Comment or Discussion:
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Dear Mark,

In my earlier comments on Aidan Nichols' book Christendom Awake, I made the point that this was a work that should be studied not only by Catholic clergy, but by ministers of all Christian denominations, and that the themes covered could well serve as starting points for discussion in study groups etc. I have now selected the following quotations from the book which, to a degree, crystallize, some of the themes, and may, therefore, be used for reflection and comment by readers of your website.

1. Relating Faith and Culture

1. In attempts to relate the Gospel to modern life and culture, do clergy and theologians manage to retain a proper balance between the two so that the Gospel message is not compromised? Aidan Nichols states the following:

"In a secularised culture where agnosticism is intellectually de rigueur, those ultimate symbols, drawn from the vocabulary of the sacred, which alone can unify culture by synthesising its most fundamental intuitions of order, goodness and beauty, are suppressed or marginalised, and the temptation thus arises for a theology which would take its cue from such a culture to conceive of its task in purely 'horizontal' - generally speaking, sociological - categories. Such a theology fails in its kerygmatic function of furnishing authentically evangelical sacred symbols of the ultimate, and at the same time fails culture by acquiescing in culture's suppression of what should be its own must fundamental question - [the question of God]."

(Christendom Awake, pp. 12-13)

2. Re-enchanting the Liturgy

"The 're-enchantment' of the Catholic Liturgy is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time. In a justly famous passage from the
Russian Primary Chronicle, when the envoys of Vladimir, prince of Kiev, returned from the divine liturgy they had attended in the great church of the Holy Wisdom at Constantinople they reported:

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere on earth. …Only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places…

This is not aestheticism, it is religious ontology." (Christendom Awake, p. 21)

Eamon Duffy's article on worship and Liturgical reform which has recently been placed on your website appears to me to be an admirable study to place alongside the views of Aidan Nichols in this area.

3. Relaunching Christian Philosophy

" It has long been the conviction of the Catholic Church that theology cannot suitably be written without some underpinning of philosophy. Grace, after all, builds upon nature, while nature is open (of its nature!) to grace. So a defective philosophical culture is a source of potential disaster for the intellectual life of the Church." (
Christendom Awake, p.53).

4. Reclaiming the Bible

"…much of the contemporary approach to scripture in the academy - treating the corpus either as a collection of Near Eastern texts to be quarried for the light they throw on the historical genesis and religious creativity of an ancient society, or, in the postmodern manner, as a concatenation of literary fragments to serve as illustration of the analytic techniques of deconstructing semiologists… - falls short of a truly
ecclesial reading of the Bible in the spirit (the Holy Spirit) in which it was written. Hence the call today for a 'post-critical' exegesis: 'a truly Catholic reading of the Scriptures in the Church, in the light of her Tradition, in the spirit of her Fathers, guided by her Magisterium.'" (Christendom Awake, p. 163).

5. Reconstituting a Society of Households

"…the foundational cell of civil society in Catholicism's view is the
natural family, itself centred around 'a man and a woman bound in a socially approved covenant called marriage, for purposes of the propagation of children, sexual communion, mutual love and protection, the construction of a small home economy, and the preservation of bonds between the generations.'" (Christendom Awake, p. 91)

"A stable society… depends on a sufficiency of traditional families, as distinct from
menages constituted by passing sexual liaisons. This is because such families are bonded by a shared history, and ties of mutual help and loyalty that resist easy slippage. The theological, cultural and legal defence of the family is integral, therefore, to a humane and harmonious social order where the qualities of a sane and Christian economy …might find fuller instantiation." (Christendom Awake, p. 96)

6. Reconceiving Ecumenism

"Despite the considerable shared heritage of Anglicanism and Catholicism, and the many subsequently acquired positive characteristics they have in comon - all of which of course justify and, more than justify,
demand the exercise of Christian charity, good-neighbourliness, friendship, and common participation in much shared Christian work - for the Catholic Church to commit itself to organic union with the Anglican Communion must also be called, on a diagnostic analysis of the relations between the two, a self-destructive act.

"Taking the largest possible view, it seems clear that only the Eastern Orthodox Church has a serious claim - in most respects, not all - to be treated as Catholicism's ecumenical partner of preference.

"I come to this conclusion not with glee but with a degree of sadness. Like (I suspect) most English people who have moved from Anglicanism to Rome, I look back with a
melange of nostalgia, irritation and a feeling of parricide….For good or ill, as Newman pointed out…Anglicanism is bound up with being English." (Christendom Awake, pp. 182-3)

In this connection, it is worth noting that, on the practical level, which is a level that one should never underestimate when considering bridge-building between Christian communions, the organization
Aid to the Church in Need, which annually distributes millions of dollars to struggling parts of the Church around the world, contributes to a number of joint ventures with the Orthodox Church in Russia which have proved most valuable in winning trust and respect between the two Churches at "ground level", despite well-known difficulties between them at more theoretical levels. For those interested in finding out more about this remarkable body, readers are referred to its website: http://www.kirche-in-not.org or to its address in the United Kingdom: Aid to the Church in Need, 1 Times Square, Sutton, Surrey,
SM1 1LF and in Ireland: 151 St Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, 9

27th March 2001

Section Contents Copyright © ; Douglas Lancashire 2001

Version: 6th February 2006

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