Wednesday, May 27, 2020

"Spanish Elizabethans" in Exile and Their Books

Since I'm reading a book right now about how Catholics in England adapted to their changed lives of worship and community (Lest We be Damned: Practical Innovation & Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559-1642. Routledge: 2005, by Lisa McClain) seeing this book, Radicals in Exile: English Catholic Books During the Reign of Philip II by Freddy Cristobal Dominguez from Penn State University Press, among some new releases intrigues me.

In discussing the devotional literature written by English Catholics in exile for the recusant Catholics who remained home, McClain makes the point that the exiles often urged the recusants to observe Catholic worship just as they had before the Elizabethan Acts of Settlement and Uniformity. They should still go to Confession frequently, attend Mass on Sunday, etc., even though it was really impossible for them to do so: without priests, churches, parishes, etc. She comments that many of these exiles writing these guides were under the patronage of Tridentine communities and rulers: they were benefiting from the great Counter-Reformation revival in Rome and throughout Catholic Europe: they didn't know or acknowledge that what they were telling the "folks back home" was impossible. She further notes that, beholden to their mentors in exile, it behooved them to support papal or royal opinion on how English Recusant Catholics should be behave. Later Catholic writers, especially Jesuit missionary priests like St. Robert Southwell in A Short Rule to a Good Life, would provide more reasonable and feasible alternatives to the Catholic devotional and Sacramental life that the recusants of England had lost through personal, private, and imaginative means when no priest was available for the Sacraments.

Radicals in Exile explores another aspect of the lives and work of exiled English Catholics, particularly in Spain:

Facing persecution in early modern England, some Catholics chose exile over conformity. Some even cast their lot with foreign monarchs rather than wait for their own rulers to have a change of heart. This book studies the relationship forged by English exiles and Philip II of Spain. It shows how these expatriates, known as the “Spanish Elizabethans,” used the most powerful tools at their disposal—paper, pens, and presses—to incite war against England during the “messianic” phase of Philip’s reign, from the years leading up to the Grand Armada until the king’s death in 1598.

Freddy Cristóbal Domínguez looks at English Catholic propaganda within its international and transnational contexts. He examines a range of long-neglected polemical texts, demonstrating their prominence during an important moment of early modern politico-religious strife and exploring the transnational dynamic of early modern polemics and the flexible rhetorical approaches required by exile. He concludes that while these exiles may have lived on the margins, their books were central to early modern Spanish politics and are key to understanding the broader narrative of the Counter-Reformation.

Deeply researched and highly original, Radicals in Exile makes an important contribution to the study of religious exile in early modern Europe. It will be welcomed by historians of early modern Iberian and English politics and religion as well as scholars of book history.

"Book History" is a still-developing historical research discipline, according to this article in Perspectives on History, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association:

"Book history" is a long-contested and ever-developing concept. It emerged from two schools of thought, both of which focused on the book in Western culture: 19th-century Anglo-American analytical bibliography, which examined the physical features of books to draw conclusions about their production, and the French scholars of histoire du livre, who in the 1960s began using a socioeconomic lens to study broad trends in publishing, writing, and reading. In 1982, Robert Darnton argued in his influential essay "What Is the History of Books?" that book history is research having to do with any of the stages of a work's life, from author to publisher to printer to bookseller to reader. Since then, scholars have debated how much to focus on the physical characteristics of books versus trends in book markets, authorship, and reading. How large a role content should play in book history has also been contested.

Johns Hopkins University Press publishes a journal titled Book History:

Book History is devoted to every aspect of the history of the book, broadly defined as the history of the creation, dissemination, and reception of script and print. It publishes research on the social, economic, and cultural history of authorship, editing, printing, the book arts, publishing, the book trade, periodicals, newspapers, ephemera, copyright, censorship, literary agents, libraries, literary criticism, canon formation, literacy, literary education, reading habits, and reader response. Book History is the official publication of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, Inc. (SHARP).

Mary C. Ehrer of Fordham University, for example, has written a couple of books about reading and writing in pre-Reformation England and has inspired other historians to use "bibliography in the service of biography" or of history, political and religious, as demonstrated by a festschrift published by Boydell & Brewer:

Reading, writing, sharing texts, and book ownership in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and how they fostered social and intellectual links and networks between individuals, particularly among women: these are subjects which the pioneering work of Mary C. Erler has done so much to illuminate. The essays here, in this volume in her honour, build on her scholarship, engaging with Professor Erler's characteristic use of bibliography in the service of biography by investigating how the physical object of the book can enlighten our understanding of medieval readers and writers. They analyze, for example, what "reading" means in terms of the act itself (and the accessories, such as bookmarks, that helped to set the stage for reading), whether done aloud or silently, in such different venues as an aristocratic court, bourgeois household, village community, and monastic cloister. They also consider the culture of medieval reading practices, especially those of women, across social classes, and in terms of the transition between the pre- and post-Reformation periods; the fluidity of genre boundaries; and changes in devotional reading and writing in this liminal period. A wide variety of genres are covered, including secular romance, devotional texts, schoolbooks, and the illustrated Old Testament preface to the famous Queen Mary Psalter, which recasts the story and image of ancient Israelites to suit elite readerly taste.

Image Credit (public domain): King Philip II in old age, by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz1590–98

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Book Review: Simon Tolkien's "No Man's Land"

I went to Eighth Day Books (no longer a "bookeasy" with secret knocks at the back door or curbside service) on Thursday this week to browse. I stopped inside the front door to glance at the growing collection of books by and about Flannery O'Connor. Just to the right of them I saw two copies of the paperback edition of Simon Tolkien's World War I/Mining novel, No Man's Land, one of which I purchased (along with an edition of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical introduced by Etienne Gilson, an Image paperback (The Church Speaks to the Modern World: The Social Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII). I have been wanting to own and read both of these books for quite some time. Eighth Day Books had just received them recently so my timing was good.

My late husband Mark had in fact discovered the Tolkien novel among the new/future releases advertised by our local public library on his Kindle. He'd reserved the Ebook and the paperback in 2017 but it had never come through. He wanted me to read it out loud to him: we enjoyed sharing books that way.

So I started reading it immediately when I arrived home before going to Mass for Ascension Thursday (Extraordinary Form), continued it when I came home after Mass, and finished it yesterday morning. It was hard to put down. According to the publisher, Penguin Random House:

London, 1910: young Adam Raine’s impoverished childhood becomes even darker when his mother is killed in a workers’ protest march. His grieving father, Daniel, seeks a second chance for them in a coal mining town, where he begins working for the miners’ union. But tensions escalate between the miners and their employer, Sir John Scarsdale, and finally explode with tragic consequences.

In the aftermath, Adam is brought into the opulent Scarsdale family home where Sir John’s son subjects Adam to a succession of petty cruelties for daring to step above his station. When, despite everything, Adam finds love with the beautiful parson’s daughter and wins a scholarship to Oxford, he starts to feel that his life is finally coming together—until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart. Inspired by the real-life war experiences of the author’s grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien,
No Man’s Land delivers a Dickensian, page-turning novel of Edwardian England and World War I.

As I read the novel, however, I thought less of Dickens and more of A.J. Cronin. I see the Dickensian aspects of the story in the descriptions of poverty and horrific living conditions in London and in the labor issues in the mining community of Scarsdale, but the spirit is more like A.J. Cronin's novels of young men fighting against the odds, encountering great loss and suffering, and finding their way to happiness and success, personally, not socially defined. I've read several of A.J. Cronin's novels: The Citadel, The Keys of the Kingdom, The Green Years, Shannon's Way, The Stars Look Down, and his autobiography, Adventures in Two Worlds (he was a doctor before he became a very successful novelist). Several of his books were made into movies or television mini-series.

Adam Raine is a Cronin-style protagonist: orphaned, always feeling separate from the people he lives with whether in London, Scarsdale, Oxford, or No Man's Land, encountering and overcoming many dangers--especially from conniving and morally-blunted people--absorbing loss and grief, and by the end of the novel he wants to be a writer because he wants the dead soldiers of World War I to speak beyond the grave. He wants the people of England to know what it was like to fight in the trenches. The novel ends with Adam on the way to the publisher with his manuscript!

Tolkien's omniscient narrator describes Adam's thoughts and recounts the events of his life vividly. Perhaps the best twist in the novel is that the term No Man's Land applies not only to aspects of his wartime experience at the Somme and even on leave during the war but also to his antagonist's situation, as Brice Scarsdale, the son of his mentor Sir John Scarsdale who is described above as "subject[ing] Adam to a succession of petty cruelties for daring to step above his station" has both succeeded in obtaining everything he wanted but also has failed to enjoy or benefit from it because of one horrific action, or rather his actions after that action (not giving away much the plot, I hope!).

Simon Tolkien dedicated this novel to J.R.R. Tolkien: "This book honours the memory of my grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, who fought on the Somme between July and October 1916." The novel certainly does honour Tolkien, and I highly recommend it. I think that Mark would have liked the book, and it's so appropriate that I read it before the Memorial Day weekend. If you want a copy, there's still one on the shelf at Eighth Day Books!

The only thing that I wished for was for Adam to find faith in Jesus Christ, which the elder Tolkien so devoutly lived.

Friday, May 22, 2020

May 22, 1377: Pope Gregory XI's Bulls to England


On May 22, 1377, Pope Gregory XI, an Avignon-era pope who would finally return to Rome later that year (November 7) at Saint Catherine of Siena's insistence, sent a series of Papal Bulls to England condemning the teachings of John Wycliffe, an ordained priest of the Catholic Church. As Christian History magazine summarized the pope's efforts in a 1983 issue:

ON MAY 22, 1377, Pope Gregory XI issued five bulls condemning the work of John Wycliffe. Three of the bulls were sent jointly to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, who held the ecclesiastical power in England, and to the Bishop of London, William Courtenay, who was eager to carry out the Pope’s wishes. Needing political support, the Pope issued a similar bull to King Edward III, who died before he received it. Wishing to put pressure on Oxford, Gregory sent the final bull to the university’s chancellor.

Since Father John Wycliffe's doctrines are usually thought to be precursors of the sixteenth century Reformers' thoughts and a legacy of dissent from Papal authority before the English Reformation, it seems appropriate to remember this date. According to Fordham University's Medieval Sourcebook, these are Wycliffe's teachings that Pope Gregory XI condemned as not conforming to the teaching of the Catholic Church (there were 24 in total; these are the first 12):

1. That the material substance of bread and of wine remains, after the consecration, in the sacrament of the altar.
2. That the accidents do not remain without the subject, after the consecration, in the same sacrament.
3. That Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar identically, truly and really in his proper corporeal presence.
4. That if a bishop or priest lives in mortal sin he does not ordain, or consecrate, or baptize.
5. That if a man has been truly repentant, all external confession is superfluous to him or useless.
6. That it is not founded in the gospel that Christ instituted the mass.
7. That God ought to be obedient to the devil.
8. That if the pope is fore-ordained to destruction and a wicked man, and therefore a member of the devil, no power has been given to him over the faithful of Christ by any one, unless perhaps by the Emperor.
9. That since Urban VI, no one is to be acknowledged as pope; but all are to live, in the way of the Greeks, under their own laws.
10. To assert that it is against sacred scripture that men of the Church should have temporal possessions.
11. That no prelate ought to excommunicate any one unless he first knows that the man is excommunicated by God.
12. That a prelate thus excommunicating is thereby a heretic or excommunicate. . . .


Note that the first three condemned Wycliffe's erroneous teachings about the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

In the Papal Bull dispatched to the chancellor of the University of Oxford, Adam de Toneworth, Pope Gregory chastised him for his neglect and inaction:

Gregory, bishop, servus servorum dei, to his beloved sons the Chancellor and University of Oxford, in the diocese of Lincoln, grace and apostolic benediction.

We are compelled to wonder and grieve that you, who, in consideration of the favors and privileges conceded to your University of Oxford by the apostolic see, and on account of your familiarity with the Scriptures, in whose sea you navigate, by the gift of God, with auspicious oar, you, who ought to be, as it were, warriors and champions of the orthodox faith, without which there is no salvation of souls, ---that you through a certain sloth and neglect allow tares to spring up amidst the pure wheat in the fields of your glorious University aforesaid; and what is still more pernicious, even continue to grow to maturity. And you are quite careless, as has been lately reported to us, as to the extirpation of these tares; with no little clouding of a bright name, danger to your souls, contempt of the Roman Church, and injury to the faith above mentioned. And what pains us the more, is that this increase of the tares aforesaid is known in Rome before the remedy of extirpation has been applied in England where they sprang up. By the insinuation of many, if they are indeed worthy of belief, deploring it deeply, it has come to our ears that John de Wycliffe, rector of the church of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, Professor of the Sacred Scriptures (would that he were not also Master of Errors), has fallen into such a detestable madness that he does not hesitate to dogmatize and publicly preach, or rather vomit forth from the recesses of his breast, certain propositions and conclusions which are erroneous and false. . . .


Please read the rest there.

Pope Gregory XI may have dispatched these five Papal Bulls on May 22 but, according to the British Library page on John Wycliffe, they took some time to arrive:

These decrees did not arrive in England until Christmas 1377, whereupon Wycliffe was arrested. He was subsequently released and then summoned to a meeting with Archbishop Sudbury and Bishop Courtney. In the spring of 1378 Wycliffe appeared before the authorities in Lambeth, but the investigation was interrupted by Sir Lewis Clifford who was sent by Joan of Kent, the mother of the king.

The king mentioned above was the young Richard II, son of Edward, the Black Prince, who had predeceased his father (Richard's grandfather) King Edward III. The young king was 10 years old ruled with a council of advisors not including his uncle, John of Gaunt, but also without a regent. Nonetheless, his mother, who protected some of Wycliffe's followers, the Lollards, had some influence and power at Court, and thus was able to protect Wycliffe in this case.

As the British Library concludes, however, the association between Wycliffe and the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 led to further trouble for Wycliffe, even though he died in relative obscurity in 1384:

Despite this royal protection, in May 1382 Wycliffe was condemned at the Blackfriars Council. In June of the previous year there had been a rebellion in England, known as the Peasants’ Revolt: a group of rebels had marched on London, where they burnt buildings (including the Savoy Palace, the palace of John of Gaunt) and murdered anyone they encountered who was thought to be associated with the government. It’s unclear what influence Wycliffe’s works had on the rebels, but his ideas became associated with them.

In Henry IV's reign (who had supplanted Richard II), heresy laws were passed against Wycliffe's teachings and his Lollard followers were targeted, as the UK Parliament's website details:

In 1401 Parliament took action against believers known by the abusive term of Lollards or mumblers. The Lollards included some MPs – who from the 1380s began to speak out against important aspects of the Church and its thinking.

Inspired by the writings of the Oxford academic John Wyclif, they objected to the meanings attached to certain rituals used in church worship. They also felt that more attention should be given to God’s own words as revealed in the Bible, than on interpretations made by the Church.

Before the fifteenth century the English Church had been largely free of this kind of heresy or deviation from its teachings. But in 1401 Parliament enacted a law called
De Heretico Comburendo - On the burning of heretics - by which Lollard leaders were liable for imprisonment, trial and execution. It is thought that about 100 people were burned for heresy under this Act.

This act and two others of Richard II and Henry V were revived by the 1554 Parliament of Mary I, thus leading to renewed prosecution of heresy during her reign. These laws had been repealed by Henry VIII and Edward VI, but had been in force during Henry VIII's reign for some time (and his father's reign too) while Thomas More was Chancellor, investigating and prosecuting laws against heresy.

Image Credit (public domain): "Louis I, Duke of Anjou leading Pope Gregory XI to the palace at Avignon, while cardinals follow", from Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis (end 14th C) - BL Royal MS 20 C VII by Virgil Master and his atelier

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

May 19 in the Lives of Four Queens

On May 19, 1499, the 13-year old Princess Catherine of Aragon was married to the 12-year old Prince of Wales, Arthur Tudor by proxy.

On May 19, 1536, former Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded for adultery, treason, incest.

On May 19, 1568, Queen Elizabeth I of England ordered the house arrest of the former Queen of Scotland, her cousin Mary Stuart Valois Stuart Bothwell.

What a coincidence that three such momentous events occurred on the same date in the month of May!

Arthur and Catherine would not meet in England until November 4, 1501 and were married in person on November 14 in Old St. Paul's Cathedral. Then the Prince and Princess of Wales set off for Ludlow Castle to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches, residing at the Castle Lodge. They both became ill and Arthur died on April 2, 1502, while Catherine recovered.

Then Henry VII decided to keep her (and her dowry) in England, so from 1502 to 1509 protracted marriage negotiations took place between Henry and Ferdinand of Aragon, her father (her mother Isabella of Castile died in 1504). Henry VII's wife and queen, the former Elizabeth, Princess of York died in 1503 and he thought of marrying Catherine himself. It was finally decided that she would marry Henry, the Duke of York, and Henry VII applied for a dispensation from the Pope, Julius II, with Catherine testifying that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage, so there were no issues of affinity. Nevertheless, she was held almost as a prisoner in Durham House, London, the impoverished guest of the Bishop of Durham. When Henry VII died, Henry VIII married her on June 11, 1509 and she was crowned and anointed with him later that month on the 24th. She remained Queen until May 23, 1533 when Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared her marriage to Henry VIII null and void. She had been in exile from the Court since 1531 and would die in her final place of residence, Kimbolton Castle, on January 7, 1536 (after being moved six times in four years!) Henry VIII titled her the Dowager Princess of Wales; she accepted no title but Queen and true wife of the king. Although her last letter to Henry VIII is contested, authorities agree that this text expresses Catherine's attitude toward her husband and their daughter Mary and her rightful status as his wife and queen:

My most dear lord, king and husband,

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.

Katharine the Quene


Another former wife and queen of Henry VIII at the time of her death (as Thomas Cranmer and Henry VIII agreed), Anne Boleyn of course was the woman who had replaced Catherine of Aragon. She and Henry had been married on November 14, 1532 (secretly) and that marriage declared valid by Cranmer several days after he'd declared Henry's marriage to Catherine null and void, on May 28, 1533. She was crowned on June 1, 1533--and was pregnant at the time with the hoped-for male heir, it was believed--in a sumptuous ceremony and celebration. She delivered a girl, however, on September 7, 1533 (named Elizabeth) and after two miscarriages, had failed to provide Henry VIII with the son for whom he had turned the world upside down (separating the Catholic Christians of England from the universal Catholic Church and the papacy, executing good men and true, making his daughter Mary a bastard, and changing the worship and devotions of Catholics in England, among other actions).

Catherine of Aragon having died on January 7, 1536, Anne and Henry had felt more secure, although there's a lot of debate about their reactions, public and private, to the news. Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London on May 2, 1536; Cranmer declared her marriage to Henry VIII null and void on May 14; she was tried and found guilty of adultery, treason, and incest (with her brother George) on May 15 and beheaded with a sword within the Tower precincts on May 19. Her last words:

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.

With her head on the block, she repeated these words several times: "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul." One stroke of the sword and she was beheaded and then buried in St. Peter ad Vincula (where two of the good men and true mentioned above, Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More had been buried a year before).

Mary, Queen of Scots, who had claimed her right to the throne of England as the queen consort of France before returning home to Scotland, had been forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son (James VI) on July 24, 1567 while being held in Loch Leven Castle. She escaped from that castle on May 2, 1568 and after defeat at the Battle of Langside on May 13, fled to England on May 16. Mary was soon under house arrest on May 19, held first at Carlisle Castle and then at Bolton Castle. Inquiry into her role in the death of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1567, led to no conviction or finding of guilt, but she was imprisoned for the rest of her life, held in some comfort and at tremendous, unremunerated cost by her hosts, the Shrewsburys at their various estates, and then moved to Fotheringay Castle under close confinement on September 26, 1586 for trial (complicity with the Babington plot) and subsequent execution on February 7, 1587. Her last words, like Anne Boleyn's, were also repeated several times:  "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum" (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit" Luke 23:46) and unlike Anne Boleyn, she was not decollated with one stroke of a fine French sword--the first blow hit the back of her head.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Image Credit (Public Domain) for Catherine of Aragon (Juan de Flandres)
Image Credit (Public Domain) for Anne Boleyn in the Tower (Edouard Cibot)
Image Credit (Public Domain) for Mary, Queen of Scots in Captivity (Nicholas Hilliard)

Monday, May 18, 2020

This Morning: "Mysteries in Religion" and the Ascension


As promised, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show with Anna Mitchell at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central to talk about a PPS (Parochial and Plain Sermon) St. John Henry Newman preached on Ascension Thursday, "Mysteries in Religion".

Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.

This will be the last episode in our series of Lenten and Easter encounters with Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons on the Son Rise Morning Show. We began with Lenten reflections from a collection of sermons, mostly from his Anglican years, but a few Catholic sermons, using The Tears of Christ, edited by Christopher O. Blum of the Augustine Institute, and then we continued with selections from The Newman Reader after Easter Sunday. Although most of us won't be celebrating the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday, 40 days after Easter, at a Mass of Obligation, it's appropriate to conclude with this sermon.

At the end of this sermon, Newman brings up the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, based upon the Book of the Revelation of John (Revelation 6:10, 11:17-18, and 15:3-4). He has commented on the expediency of our friends and family dying and going on to Heaven to pray for us and to do God's will and continues:

Yea, doubtless, they are keeping up the perpetual chant in the shrine above, praying and praising God day and night in His Temple, like Moses upon the Mount, while Joshua and his host fight with Amalek. Can they be allotted greater blessedness, than to have a station after the pattern of that Saviour who has departed hence? Has He no power in the world's movements because He is away? And though He is the Living and exalted Lord of all, and the government is on His shoulder, and they are but His servants, without strength of themselves, laid up moreover apart from the conflict of good and evil in the paradise of God, yet so much light as this is given us by the inspired pages of the Apocalypse, that they are interested in the fortunes of the Church.

And then he concludes by bringing back the theme of mystery, especially the mystery of our cooperation in God's plan for us and our world:

What has been now said about the Ascension of our Lord comes to this; that we are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before us, sufficient for our proceeding forward through all difficulties. Take away this Light, and we are utterly wretched,—we know not where we are, how we are sustained, what will become of us, and of all that is dear to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being. But with it we have all and abound. Not to mention the duty and wisdom of implicit faith in the love of Him who made and redeemed us, what is nobler, what is more elevating and transporting, than the generosity of heart which risks everything on God's word, dares the powers of evil to their worst efforts, and repels the illusions of sense and the artifices of reason, by confidence in the Truth of Him who has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high? What infinite mercy it is in Him, that He allows sinners such as we are, the privilege of acting the part of heroes rather than of penitents?

With an echo of his sermon we talked about last week, "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church", Newman concludes not by telling this congregation what they should do but what he and they will do:

We will not wish for sight; we will enjoy our privilege; we will triumph in the leave given us to go forward, "not knowing whither we go," knowing that "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." [1 John v. 4.] It is enough that our Redeemer liveth; that He has been on earth and will come again. On Him we venture our all; we can bear thankfully to put ourselves into His hands, our interests present and eternal, and the interests of all we love. Christ has died, "yea rather is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from His love? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us." [Rom. viii. 34-37.]

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image credit: Ascension (1775) by John Singleton Copley, colonial era portraitist and historical painter.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Cromwell Without Purpose or Opponent

I admit that I have not read all Hilary Mantel's trilogy of novels on Thomas Cromwell--or at least not read all three of them through*. I've engaged with her characterization of Saint Thomas More in the first book, Wolf Hall, which I did read (and watched the miniseries based upon it). I skimmed through Bring Up the Bodies and have not read The Mirror and the Light. I am not a great fan of the stream of consciousness narrative style.

Nevertheless, I found this review by Nicholas M. Gallagher of the third book in the trilogy, the publication of which was rather delayed, in National Review to be well-written and even convincing. Gallagher points out the excellent qualities of the book, Mantel's mastery of stream-of-consciousness narrative, and her control of the third person narration's limited omniscience. But Gallagher points out the big problem in this book, much of which takes place while Thomas Cromwell was Vicar General and Viceregent of the King in Spirituals (implementing the Henrician reformation): the narrator's omniscience and the stream of consciousness never show us what Thomas Cromwell believed about God, salvation, Jesus, and the Church.

As Gallagher notes, Cromwell is never depicted as practicing his faith:

The tell is that, with one possible exception, we never hear Cromwell pray. Like Moses in the desert, the early Protestants — of whom Cromwell was one — spoke to God face to face. Along with reading the Bible in their native tongues, this defined their internal experience: They had stripped away priests, saints, and sacraments, and gloried in this direct communion. With Mantel’s Cromwell, though, we hear that he wakes up early and “says his prayers” — but we never hear the prayer. We learn that he attended services, but never see them through his eyes. We hear him address a dead cardinal and live servants in his head, but never God. Similarly, Cromwell describes his political actions as advancing “the cause of the gospel,” and risks his life and position to see the scriptures translated into English — but he never, to our eyes, reads them.

Gallagher believes this is important because without knowing what Cromwell believes and what he stands for or against--because there is no real conflict in the novel--we don't understand his motivation or his purpose. We knew why Mantel's Cromwell did what he did in the first novels; he had worthy opponents: Thomas More in Wolf Hall; Anne Boleyn in Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel's Cromwell has no worthy opponents in this novel. Yes, he contends with the nobles who resent his power and influence with the king, he deals with Catholics who rebel against the Dissolution of the Monasteries, etc, but Gallagher writes that for pages nothing much happens and that when trouble finally starts for Cromwell, on about page 600 of 754, he doesn't adapt to protect himself and we don't really know why:

Mantel’s Cromwell is smarter, more pragmatic, and more cunning than all the fanatics, fop-headed aristocrats, and would-be Machiavels that he runs up against. It is not credible that he would not see the crisis that leads to his downfall coming and adapt to it pragmatically: trimming his sails to accommodate Henry VIII’s desire not to get too far from traditional Catholic practices, forging temporary alliances with the conservative nobles that come for his head, taking them in and then casting them down as he had so many other, more dangerous foes before. Unless. Unless he had a damn good reason not to, a point of principle on which he would not yield even at the cost of his life.

In Gallagher's opinion, Mantel does not provide us with that principle; therefore, the Cromwell of Mantel's third novel is strangely passive. Please read the rest of the review here.

Perhaps the problem is that if Thomas Cromwell had an opponent in the last years of his life, it was Henry VIII. Having done everything Henry VIII wanted--getting rid of Catherine of Aragon, destroying the power of the Catholic Church, the Pope, and the English hierarchy, gathering up the wealth of the Catholic Church including the monasteries, and then getting rid of Anne Boleyn and finally finding a wife who would bear him a son who seemed likely to survive to inherit the throne--what else could Cromwell do but keep doing what Henry VIII wanted? That was the only way to stay in power and in favor. One question about Cromwell's character in the first novels was did he really want to do everything Henry VIII wanted him to do or did he just do it because it was the way to achieve what he wanted?

Remember also that one of the motivations for Cromwell's actions in the earlier novels was revenge against those--including Anne Boleyn--who had brought down Cardinal Wolsey, Cromwell's first mentor. 

Who else brought down Wolsey? 

Henry VIII. 

He would have been a worthy historical fiction opponent of Cromwell. That opposition would have created a different stream of consciousness: how do I, Thomas Cromwell, get revenge on Henry VIII? How do I seem to serve my king while serving my own purposes for power, prestige, wealth, and great achievement? 

Cromwell can't overthrow the king since Henry VIII's favor is the source of the power he has, but how can he manipulate the king to get what he wants? If Cromwell wanted to remake the world--the medieval world of England, the status quo world of Continental Europe--how could he do it when his master won't always cooperate? Mantel would have had a great story there.

Perhaps I should read The Mirror and the Light.

*Referring to an anecdote from the Life of Johnson: Mr. Samuel Elphinston commented on a new book to Samuel Johnson, who replied that he had "looked into it". Elphinston asked "have you not read it through?" Boswell reports that Johnson, "offended at being thus pressed, and so obliged to own his cursory mode of reading, answered tartly, 'No, Sir; do you read books through?'" We are not told Mr. Elphinston's reply.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Preview: Newman on the Mystery of the Ascension


Anna Mitchell and I will talk about "Mysteries in Religion", an Ascension Thursday sermon by St. John Henry Newman on Monday, May 18 on the Son Rise Morning Show about 7:50 am. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

This sermon is from volume 2 of his Parochial and Plain Sermons. He begins the sermon with the verse "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us." Rom. viii. 34.

Unlike the sermon we talked about on Monday this week, "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church" Newman does not mention the mixture of joy and sorrow the Apostles or even we might feel ("Thus Christ's going to the Father is at once a source of sorrow, because it involves His absence; and of joy, because it involves His presence.")--this sermon is all about the wonder, awe, and thankfulness we should feel:

THE Ascension of our Lord and Saviour is an event ever to be commemorated with joy and thanksgiving, for St. Paul tells us in the text that He ascended to the right hand of God, and there makes intercession for us. Hence it is our comfort to know, that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins." [1 John ii. 1, 2.] . . .

Wonder and awe must always mingle with the thankfulness which the revealed dispensation of mercy raises in our minds. And this, indeed, is an additional cause of thankfulness, that Almighty God has disclosed to us enough of His high Providence to raise such sacred and reverent feelings. Had He merely told us that He had pardoned us, we should have had overabundant cause for blessing and praising Him; but in showing us somewhat of the means, in vouchsafing to tell what cannot wholly be told, in condescending to abase heavenly things to the weak and stammering tongues of earth, He has enlarged our gratitude, yet sobered it with fear. We are allowed with the Angels to obtain a glimpse of the mysteries of Heaven, "to rejoice with trembling." Therefore, so far from considering the Truths of the Gospel as a burden, because they are beyond our understanding, we shall rather welcome them and exult in them, nay, and feel an antecedent stirring of heart towards them, for the very reason that they are above us. Under these feelings I will attempt to suggest to you on the present Festival some of the incentives to wonder and awe, humility, implicit faith, and adoration, supplied by the Ascension of Christ.

The first great mystery we should reflect upon is that Christ's ascension to the Father "is a sure token that heaven is a certain fixed place, and not a mere state." Heaven is real:

That bodily presence of the Saviour which the Apostles handled is not here; it is elsewhere,—it is in heaven. This contradicts the notions of cultivated and speculative minds, and humbles the reason. Philosophy considers it more rational to suppose that Almighty God, as being a Spirit, is in every place; and in no one place more than another. It would teach, if it dare, that heaven is a mere state of blessedness; but, to be consistent, it ought to go on to deny, with the ancient heretics, referred to by St. John, that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," and maintain that His presence on earth was a mere vision; for, certain it is, He who appeared on earth went up from the earth, and a cloud received Him out of His Apostles' sight. And here again an additional difficulty occurs, on minutely considering the subject. Whither did He go? beyond the sun? beyond the fixed stars? Did He traverse the immeasurable space which extends beyond them all? Again, what is meant by ascending? Philosophers will say there is no difference between down and up, as regards the sky; yet, whatever difficulties the word may occasion, we can hardly take upon us to decide that it is a mere popular expression, consistently with the reverence due to the Sacred Record.

Newman admits that there seems to be a contradiction between the Biblical view of the world and the philosophical or scientific view of the solar system and the universe, but he admonishes that the latter is too limited to explain the reality of Heaven, the mystery of Christ's Ascension--or of His return:

I will but remind you on this part of the subject, that our Lord is to come from heaven "in like manner" as He went; that He is to come "in clouds," that "every eye shall see Him," and "all tribes of the earth wail because of Him." Attempt to solve this prediction, according to the received theories of science, and you will discover their shallowness. They are unequal to the depth of the problem.

Newman then cites the description of Jesus as the Great High Priest in The Letter to the Hebrews:

Christ, we are told, has gone up on high "to present Himself before the face of God for us." He has "entered by His own blood once for all into the Holy Place, having effected eternal redemption." "He ever liveth to make intercession for those who come unto God by Him; He hath a priesthood which will not pass from Him." "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the Sanctuary, and of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." [Heb. ix. 12, 24, 25; vii. 24, 25; viii. 1, 2.]

He proposes that we cannot completely understand how Christ intercedes for us in heaven; what He does for us in heaven; how He fulfills the office of High Priest--but we believe and know that He does:

We are not given to see into the secret shrine in which God dwells. Before Him stand the Seraphim, veiling their faces. Christ is within the veil. We must not search curiously what is His present office, what is meant by His pleading His sacrifice, and by His perpetual intercession for us. And, since we do not know, we will studiously keep to the figure given us in Scripture: we will not attempt to interpret it, or change the wording of it, being wise above what is written. We will not neglect it, because we do not understand it. We will hold it as a Mystery, or (what was anciently called) a Truth Sacramental; that is, a high invisible grace lodged in an outward form, a precious possession to be piously and thankfully guarded for the sake of the heavenly reality contained in it. Thus much we see in it, the pledge of a doctrine which reason cannot understand, viz. of the influence of the prayer of faith upon the Divine counsels. The Intercessor directs or stays the hand of the Unchangeable and Sovereign Governor of the World; being at once the meritorious cause and the earnest of the intercessory power of His brethren. "Christ rose again for our justification," "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," are both infinite mercies, and deep mysteries.

Finally, Newman quotes the words of Jesus that "It is expedient for you that I go away . . ." (John 16:7) and makes a remarkable connection between Jesus' Ascension and the death of our loved ones--that their absence from us on earth, like His, is part of God's divine plan:

This is a thought which is particularly soothing as regards the loss of friends; or of especially gifted men, who seem in their day the earthly support of the Church. For what we know, their removal hence is as necessary for the furtherance of the very objects we have at heart, as was the departure of our Saviour. . . .

. . . yet, it may be, that Saints departed intercede, unknown to us, for the victory of the Truth upon earth; and their prayers above may be as really indispensable conditions of that victory, as the labours of those who remain among us. They are taken away for some purpose surely: their gifts are not lost to us; their soaring minds, the fire of their contemplations, the sanctity of their desires, the vigour of their faith, the sweetness and gentleness of their affections, were not given without an object.

I'll post some excerpts from his conclusion on Monday.

Image Credit: the Ascension by Rembrandt (1636)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Brownings in Winfield, Kansas

Turner Classic Movies broadcast the second MGM version of The Barretts of Wimpole Street (the one with Jennifer Jones as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and John Gielgud as her tyrannical father) Wednesday morning. Of course I read the play in high school and also read the poetry of both EBB and Robert Browning in college. I even accepted another student's challenge to read Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book!

While doing some online research, I discovered that here in Kansas, specifically in Winfield, Kansas (just 42 miles from Wichita), a gentleman named Philip Kelley is editing and publishing the correspondence of Barrett and Browning, supported by a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities.

The NEH featured his work in Humanities magazine in its September/October 2015, Volume 36, Number 5 issue:

Since 1984, twenty-two volumes known collectively as The Brownings’ Correspondence have appeared between hard covers and online, with eighteen more projected over the next twelve to fourteen years, to finish the series at a hopeful rate of one volume every nine or ten months. That’s forty volumes of letters, complete with deeply researched annotations, footnotes, contemporary articles that provide essential context, family papers, detailed biographical profiles of every important person mentioned, and all of it fully indexed, impeccably illustrated, and elegantly published by the very person responsible for the editorial work itself. Yet it is just one phase of a larger mission that has opened windows onto Victorian life that would otherwise be shrouded in obscurity.

There's a quotation from a review of the first two volumes of the series that indicates what Philip Kelley has achieved against certain obstacles:

“The story of Mr. Kelley’s venture is remarkable. He is a quiet, low-key person, almost hypnotic in the intensity of his vision, who prefers to work alone. Though he has established warm friendships with a small group of Browning scholars, the academic world as a whole, as it became aware of his work, has distrusted him as an outsider. . . . Now, in a move that is either foolhardy or heroic (or both), Mr. Kelley has launched an edition of the Browning letters, destined to be one of the largest of all literary correspondences even by the ample standards of the Victorian age.”

Please read the rest there

I called the phone number on the Wedgestone Press website and spoke to Mr. Kelley. He directed me to a website called The Brownings: A Research Guide at Baylor University and to the Humanities Magazine article too. Volume 26 is the latest book published, with letters 4303 to 4504 dating from January 1859 to October 1859.

Mr. Kelley has dedicated most of his life to this project. What a remarkable coincidence that I found his work just by chance on the internet.

May God grant him the years necessary to complete this project (the Humanities article said he was 80 in the fall of 2015!).

Image Credit: An engraving of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, published in Eclectic Magazine (Public Domain)

Monday, May 11, 2020

This Morning: "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church"


As promised, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show with Matt Swaim at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central to talk about a PPS (Parochial and Plain Sermon) St. John Henry Newman preached during the Easter Season, "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church".

Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.

At the end of my post on Friday, Newman had contrasted Jesus' appearances to St. Mary Magdalene and St. Thomas: He would not allow her to touch Him but He commanded St. Thomas not only to touch Him but to probe His wounds:

Or again: consider the account of His appearing to St. Mary Magdalene. While she stood at the sepulchre weeping He appeared, but she knew Him not. When He revealed Himself, He did not, indeed, at once vanish away, but He would not let her touch Him; as if, in another way, to show that His presence in His new kingdom was not to be one of sense. The two disciples were not allowed to see Him after recognizing Him, St. Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Him. But afterwards, St. Thomas was allowed both to see and touch; he had the full evidence of sense: but observe what our Lord says to him, "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." 

And he concludes:

Faith is better than sight or touch.

Not that we're left with only faith to guide us to the Truth about the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Presence of Jesus in His Church, but Jesus has given us the better guide to that Truth: Faith. 

At this point in his life, Newman might have been thinking of Faith--as Reinhard Hutter explains in Chapter 2 ("Faith and Its Counterfeits") in Newman on Truth and Its Counterfeits--as "a higher reason and a gifted inference", and therefore a human act of will. But as a Catholic, through studying St. Thomas Aquinas and several Counter-Reformation Thomists, Newman would understand this Faith as Divine, supernatural Faith, one of the theological virtues infused in us at Baptism, by which we believe what God has revealed--a virtue, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, above our nature.

Nevertheless, in 1838 Newman is sure that he can teach and describe what God has revealed about Christ's Presence in His Church and summarizes those teachings for his congregation, while alluding to some of the mysteries we cannot understand but accept by Faith:

Let so much suffice, by way of suggesting thoughts upon this most Solemn and elevating subject. Christ has promised He will be with us to the end,—with us, not only as He is in the unity of the Father and the Son, not in the Omnipresence of the Divine Nature, but personally, as the Christ, as God and man; not present with us locally and sensibly, but still really, in our hearts and to our faith. And it is by the Holy Ghost that this gracious communion is effected. How He effects it we know not; in what precisely it consists we know not. We see Him not; but we are to believe that we possess Him,—that we have been brought under the virtue of His healing hand, of His life-giving breath, of the manna flowing from His lips, and of the blood issuing from His side. 

Newman asserts that we may not understand it all now, but we'll know we've experienced it later (like the disciples on the road to Emmaus and back to Jerusalem). And there's a hint that this knowledge was infused by the virtue of Faith we didn't even know we had, that raises us above our human nature partly through our persistence and obedience but mostly because God is with us:

And hereafter, on looking back, we shall be conscious that we have been thus favoured. Such is the Day of the Lord in which we find ourselves, as if in fulfilment of the words of the prophet, "The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee. And it shall come to pass in that Day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light." [Zech. xiv. 5-7.] Nay, even before the end comes, Christians, on looking back on years past, will feel, at least in a degree, that Christ has been with them, though they knew it not, only believed it, at the time. They will even recollect then the burning of their hearts. Nay, though they seemed not even to believe any thing at the time, yet afterwards, if they have come to Him in sincerity, they will experience a sort of heavenly fragrance and savour of immortality, when they least expect it, rising upon their minds, as if in token that God has been with them, and investing all that has taken place, which before seemed to them but earthly, with beams of glory. 

He further instructs them that they will know these truths through the Church (by this time Newman was asserting that the Church of England was a branch of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of the Nicene Creed) because Jesus is present with His Church:

And this is true, in one sense, of all the rites and ordinances of the Church, of all providences that happen to us; that, on looking back on them, though they seemed without meaning at the time, elicited no strong feeling, or were even painful and distasteful, yet if we come to them and submit to them in faith, they are afterwards transfigured, and we feel that it has been good for us to be there; and we have a testimony, as a reward of our obedience, that Christ has fulfilled His promise, and, as He said, is here through the Spirit, though He be with the Father.

And thus he concludes:

May He enable us to make full trial of His bounty, and to obtain a full measure of blessing. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her and that right early ... Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." [Ps. xlvi. 4, 5, 10, 11.]

A sermon like this, preached a certain point in the development Newman's "religious opinions" as he called them in the Apologia pro Vita Sua, certainly demonstrates what Father Louis Bouyer of the Oratory said in the Ignatius Press one-volume edition of the Parochial and Plain Sermons:

These sermons are . . . the most lasting expression of Newman's own gradual discovery of all the fullness of the appeal and the challenge addressed to all men by Catholic truth and Catholic life, inseparable as they are within genuine Christianity. There, above all, he himself will be found, with his intellectual power, his poetical vision, as well as his moral and spiritual integrity. Nothing can constitute for us, still today, and maybe today more than ever, such a powerful introduction to what Christianity may give to and expect from our surrender to its call in the midst of a world no longer pretending to be Christian.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Preview: "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church"

On Monday, May 11, Matt Swaim, co-host of the Son Rise Morning Show, and I will discuss another Parochial and Plain Sermon by St. John Henry Newman for the Easter Season (at the usual time: about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central).

Since we are approaching the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord, we've selected "The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church" from volume 6, sermon number 10, which Newman preached on May 6, 1838 (Easter had been on April 15 that year).

Inspired by the verse "A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father" (from the Gospel according to John 16:16), Newman begins by contrasting two reactions to the departure of Jesus from the Apostles. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says that while the Bridegroom (He) is with the disciples, they cannot fast--but once He is taken away from them, they will fast. (Matthew 9:15). In the verses following the text cited from St. John, however, Jesus promises them joy even after He leaves them, and Newman says this explains a great paradox of Christianity:

Yet in the words following the text, spoken by Him when He was going away, He says; "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." And He says shortly before it, "It is expedient for you that I go away." And again: "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more: but ye see Me." Thus Christ's going to the Father is at once a source of sorrow, because it involves His absence; and of joy, because it involves His presence. And out of the doctrine of His resurrection and ascension, spring those Christian paradoxes, often spoken of in Scripture, that we are sorrowing, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.

Newman continues by commenting on how we know Jesus today even though He is not physically, Incarnately, present on earth today:

This, indeed, is our state at present; we have lost Christ and we have found Him; we see Him not, yet we discern Him. We embrace His feet, yet He says, "Touch Me not." How is this? it is thus: we have lost the sensible and conscious perception of Him; we cannot look on Him, hear Him, converse with Him, follow Him from place to place; but we enjoy the spiritual, immaterial, inward, mental, real sight and possession of Him; a possession more real and more present than that which the Apostles had in the days of His flesh, because it is spiritual, because it is invisible. We know that the closer any object of this world comes to us, the less we can contemplate it and comprehend it. 

He clarifies that we know Christ in His Church, even more than the Apostles did when He walked the earth:

Christ has come so close to us in the Christian Church (if I may so speak), that we cannot gaze on Him or discern Him. He enters into us, He claims and takes possession of His purchased inheritance; He does not present Himself to us, but He takes us to Him. He makes us His members. Our faces are, as it were, turned from Him; we see Him not, and know not of His presence, except by faith, because He is over us and within us. And thus we may at the same time lament because we are not conscious of His presence, as the Apostles enjoyed it before His death; and may rejoice because we know we do possess it even more than they, according to the text, "whom having not seen (that is, with the bodily eyes) ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." [1 Pet. i. 8, 9.]

As Newman continues, it is appropriate to consider this mystery during the Easter season, so he will "say some few words" (!).

He looks first at the promise cited often in Scripture of "a day of the Lord", stating that we are now in a certain Day of the Lord: the Day of the Church:

And another special day predicted and fulfilled, is that long season which precedes and prepares for the day of heaven, viz. the Day of the Christian Church, the Day of the gospel, the Day of grace. This is a day much spoken of in the Prophets, and it is the day of which our Saviour speaks in the passage before us. Observe how solemn, how high a day it is: this is His account of it, "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; your joy no man taketh from you. And in that Day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full ... At that Day ye shall ask in my Name, and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father." The Day, then, that dawned upon the Church at the Resurrection, and beamed forth in full splendour at the Ascension, that Day which has no setting, which will be, not ended, but absorbed in Christ's glorious appearance from heaven to destroy sin and death; that Day in which we now are, is described in these words of Christ as a state of special Divine manifestation, of special introduction into the presence of God. . . . Thus we Christians stand in the courts of God Most High, and, in one sense, see His face; for He who once was on earth, has now departed from this visible scene of things in a mysterious, twofold way, both to His Father and into our hearts, thus making the Creator and His creatures one . . .

This is the mystery that Newman continues to unfold to his congregation, exploring as he does so Trinitarian and Christological doctrines. He describes how Christ is present to us now spiritually, but still in His Person, God and Man, as "the Incarnate Mediator":

First, that Christ really is with us now, whatever be the mode of it. This He says expressly Himself; "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." He even says, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." [Matt. xxviii. 20; xviii. 20.] And in a passage already quoted more than once, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." Christ's presence, then, is promised to us still, though He is on the right hand of the Father. You will say, "Yes; He is present as God." Nay, I answer; more than this, He is the Christ, and the Christ is promised, and Christ is man as well as God. This surely is plain even from the words of the text. He said He was going away. Did He go away as God or as man? "A little while, and ye shall not see Me;" this was on His death. He went away as man, He died as man; if, then, He promises to come again, surely He must mean that He would return as man, in the only sense, that is, in which He could return. As God He is ever present, never was otherwise than present, never went away; when His body died on the Cross and was buried, when His soul departed to the place of spirits, still He was with His disciples in His Divine ubiquity. The separation of soul and body could not touch His impassible everlasting Godhead. When then He says He should go away, and come again and abide for ever, He is speaking, not merely of His omnipresent Divine nature, but of His human nature. As being Christ, He says that He, the Incarnate Mediator, shall be with His Church for ever.

For those who say that the Holy Spirit is with us now, not really Jesus, Newman provides correction:

But again: you may be led to explain His declaration thus; "He has come again, but in His Spirit; that is, His Spirit has come instead of Him; and when it is said that He is with us, this only means that His Spirit is with us." No one, doubtless, can deny this most gracious and consolatory truth, that the Holy Ghost is come; but why has He come? to supply Christ's absence, or to accomplish His presence? Surely to make Him present. Let us not for a moment suppose that God the Holy Ghost comes in such sense that God the Son remains away. No; He has not so come that Christ does not come, but rather He comes that Christ may come in His coming. Through the Holy Ghost we have communion with Father and Son. "In Christ we are builded together," says St. Paul, "for an habitation of God through the Spirit." "Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." "Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The Holy Spirit causes, faith welcomes, the indwelling of Christ in the heart. Thus the Spirit does not take the place of Christ in the soul, but secures that place to Christ.

And Newman explores other aspects of this mystery of how Jesus is present to us in the Church while not being present on earth.
  
In a particularly fascinating passage, Newman describes how the Jesus's Resurrection appearances to St. Mary Magdalen, the Apostles, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus were signs of how Jesus would be seen on earth after His Ascension: By Faith:

Now observe what was the nature of His presence in the Church after His Resurrection. It was this, that He came and went as He pleased; that material substances, such as the fastened doors, were no impediments to His coming; and that when He was present His disciples did not, as a matter of course, know Him. St. Mark says He appeared to the two disciples who were going into the country, to Emmaus, "in another form." St. Luke, who gives the account more at length, says, that while He talked with them their heart burned within them. And it is worth remarking, that the two disciples do not seem to have been conscious of this at the time, but on looking back, they recollected that as having been, which did not strike them while it was. . . . For so it was ordained, that Christ should not be both seen and known at once; first He was seen, then He was known. Only by faith is He known to be present; He is not recognized by sight. When He opened His disciples' eyes, He at once vanished. He removed His visible presence, and left but a memorial of Himself. He vanished from sight that He might be present in a sacrament; and in order to connect His visible presence with His presence invisible, He for one instant manifested Himself to their open eyes; manifested Himself, if I may so speak, while He passed from His hiding-place of sight without knowledge, to that of knowledge without sight.

Or again: consider the account of His appearing to St. Mary Magdalene. While she stood at the sepulchre weeping He appeared, but she knew Him not. When He revealed Himself, He did not, indeed, at once vanish away, but He would not let her touch Him; as if, in another way, to show that His presence in His new kingdom was not to be one of sense. The two disciples were not allowed to see Him after recognizing Him, St. Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Him. But afterwards, St. Thomas was allowed both to see and touch; he had the full evidence of sense: but observe what our Lord says to him, "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Faith is better than sight or touch.

As Newman concludes this sermon--which I'll post on Monday--he returns to the theme of the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Lord in His Church, the Day of the Lord we are living in today just as the congregation in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford heard it described to them 182 years ago.

Monday, May 4, 2020

This Morning: Loving Religion and Looking Forward to Heaven

As promised, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show with Anna Mitchell at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central to talk about St. John Henry Newman's PPS (Parochial and Plain Sermon) for Easter Sunday 1838, "Love of Religion, A New Nature".

Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.

Saint John Henry Newman, whom we may be assured is enjoying the splendors of heaven, concludes this sermon with some comments about the end result of believers' love of religion, comparing aspects of church services and prayers on earth to the worship of God in heaven:

That indeed will be a full reward of all our longings here, to praise and serve God eternally with a single and perfect heart in the midst of His Temple. What a time will that be, when all will be perfected in us which at present is but feebly begun! Then we shall see how the Angels worship God. We shall see the calmness, the intenseness, the purity, of their worship. We shall see that awful sight, the Throne of God, and the Seraphim before and around it, crying, "Holy!" We attempt now to imitate in church what there is performed, as in the beginning, and ever shall be. In the Te Deum, day by day we say, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth." In the Creed, we recount God's mercies to us sinners. And we say and sing Psalms and Hymns, to come as near heaven as we can. May these attempts of ours be blest by Almighty God, to prepare us for Him! may they be, not dead forms, but living services, living with life from God the Holy Ghost, in those who are dead to sin and who live with Christ! . . .

He reiterates the purpose of the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter in the Christian life. Newman emphasizes that our religious worship in church here on earth is a preparation for heaven. 

(In another PPS, "Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness", Newman made the connection between religion on earth and glory in heaven clear: “Heaven, then, is not like this world; I will say what it is much more like — a church. For in a place of public worship … we hear solely and entirely of God. We praise Him, worship Him, sing to Him, thank Him, confess to Him, give ourselves up to Him, and ask His blessing. And therefore, a church is like heaven; viz. [namely] because both in the one and the other, there is one single sovereign subject — religion — brought before us.”)

Make use, then, of this Holy Easter Season, which lasts forty to fifty days, to become more like Him who died for you, and who now liveth for evermore. He promises us, "Because I live, ye shall live also." He, by dying on the Cross, opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. He first died, and then He opened heaven. We, therefore, first commemorate His death, and then, for some weeks in succession, we commemorate and show forth the joys of heaven. They who do not rejoice in the weeks after Easter, would not rejoice in heaven itself. These weeks are a sort of beginning of heaven. Pray God to enable you to rejoice; to enable you to keep the Feast duly. Pray God to make you better Christians. 

He also brings up an image anyone who has read his Apologia pro Vita Sua will recognize: this world as a dream ("… I thought life might be a dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, my fellow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me with the semblance of a material world.").

Perhaps he exaggerates, but he is pressing a point, that heaven, not earth, is our true home:

This world is a dream,—you will get no good from it. Perhaps you find this difficult to believe; but be sure so it is. Depend upon it, at the last, you will confess it. Young people expect good from the world, and people of middle age devote themselves to it, and even old people do not like to give it up. But the world is your enemy, and the flesh is your enemy. [Not to mention the Devil!]

Finally, Newman exhorts them:

Come to God, and beg of Him grace to devote yourselves to Him. Beg of Him the will to follow Him; beg of Him the power to obey Him. O how comfortable, pleasant, sweet, soothing, and satisfying is it to lead a holy life,—the life of Angels! It is difficult at first; but with God's grace, all things are possible. O how pleasant to have done with sin! how good and joyful to flee temptation and to resist evil! how meet, and worthy, and fitting, and right, to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!
All Holy Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!