Sunday, February 21, 2021

Happy Birthday to Saint Newman; New Edition of "Anglican Difficulties"

Today is the 220th anniversary of Saint John Henry Newman's birth in the City of London. Our local Lovers of Newman group will meet this afternoon and read together (out loud) a Parochial and Plain Sermon: "Fasting a Source of Trial". We will, however, also celebrate his 220th birth anniversary with a cake: a red velvet cake (appropriate for a Cardinal I think), so our fasting won't be that much of a trial!

"And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered." Matt. iv. 2.

THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord's long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love. . . .

I also have news of a volume being added to the Newman Millennium Edition: his lectures on Anglican Difficulties from Gracewing Publishers:

Originally published in 1850 and revised in 1876, John Henry Newman's
Lectures on Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Submitting to the Catholic Church is a series of twelve talks that the convert gave at the London Oratory in King William Street before an audience of Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, Protestants and intrigued sceptics. The stated purpose of the talks might have been "to clear away from the path of an inquirer objections to Catholic truth," especially Anglo-Catholic inquirers, but the book is also a witty meditation on the Church and the World, a ruthlessly satirical study of the Oxford Movement, or what Newman called "the Movement of 1833"; an autobiographical dress rehearsal for the Apologia pro Vita Sua; and a piece of masterly prose. Richard Holt Hutton, Newman's finest contemporary critic regarded it as marked "in manner and style... by all the signs of his literary genius... the first of his books... in which the measure of his literary power could be adequately taken."

Neglected for over a century by many who regarded its hard-hitting criticism of the National Church of England as unforgivable, the book can now be seen as profoundly cautionary. If one of its animating themes is to show how worldly establishments travesty "the Ark of Salvation," Newman's
Anglican Difficulties has perennial appeal. Indeed, it is an anatomy of the false and brazen things that lie at the heart of all such establishments.

This is the first critical edition of the book to include an editor's introduction with an overview and summaries of the lectures, the book's critical reception, a definitive text of the 1876 edition, textual variants, annotations explicating the text's historical, theological, and literary references, and a comprehensive index.

“Edward Short's critical edition of Anglican Difficulties sheds fascinating new light on John Henry Newman's lectures of 1850. This is a lively, well-researched, well-written edition, which all faithful readers of Newman will enjoy." – Ian Ker, author of
John Henry Newman: A Biography (1988)

The Editor, Edward Short, sent me a link to this excerpt from his introduction to this volume, explaining why it is an important book today, and not just as an example of Newman's great skill and style as a writer:

. . . First and foremost, it is a far-ranging meditation on one of Newman's most abiding and insistent themes, the Church and the World, a theme which he would take up not only in his sermons but in Arians of the Fourth Century (1832), An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), Loss and Gain (1847), Callista (1850), and The Idea of a University (1875). It is a reaffirmation of the unity of the Church. It is an inquiry into the varieties of Erastianism, which, as Newman shows, presents a continual threat to the integrity of the Church's unique mission in the world.

It is a meditation on the nature of history, proof that the best historians are not always those who call themselves historians. "History is at this day undergoing a process of revolution; the science of criticism, the disinterment of antiquities, the unrolling of manuscripts, the interpretation of inscriptions, have thrown us into a new world of thought," Newman wrote in Lecture V, "characters and events come forth transformed in the process; romance, prejudice, local tradition, party bias, are no longer accepted as guarantees of truth; the order and mutual relation of events are readjusted; the springs and the scope of action are reversed."

Please read the rest there.

Short has also promised me a review copy!

Happy birthday, Saint John Henry Newman--and pray for us!

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