Oh, one other thought: The Melchizadek Club

In my previous piece [vide infra] I wrote about the liturgical magnificence of the Irvingites – the soi disant Catholic Apostolic Church. From what little I know about it directly, and from what I have read, it would seem that those who took part in its life and worship were indeed spiritually formed and nourished. The Eucharist was at the heart of their lives.

As I look again at their liturgy, I note that the “priest” (or Apostle or Angel or Bishop) who heard confessions in the Sacrament of Penance (or Solemn Absolution, to use their term) would pray thus:

“Almighty God, the Redeemer and Saviour of mankind, who gave unto His apostles the power, that whosesoever sins they remit should be remitted, and whatsoever they shall loose on earth should be loosed in heaven; Remove from thee His wrath, and deliver thee from eternal damnation, which thou hast justly deserved; grant unto thee the forgiveness of thy sins through the blood of Jesus Christ shed for the remission of sin, and release thee from the yoke and burden of them; restore thee unto the grace of His salvation, and enable thee by His Spirit to persevere in His perfect fear and love, and in obedience to His holy will, that thou mayest be received to His everlasting kingdom in the resurrection of the just.

Then putting both his hands upon the head of the Penitent,

“The almighty and most merciful Lord God grant unto thee, through the ministry of me, His unworthy servant, full absolution and remission of all thy sins, iniquities and transgressions, and blot them out for ever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

I have two observations, and then a question.

First, the Rite was long: the extract above amounts to perhaps less than an eighth of its total length. And second: it really “tells it like it is” – it is an elegant liturgy with no circumlocution, no evasion of spiritual reality, none of the contemporary desire to achieve brevity at all costs.

But was the penitent really absolved? After all, the confessor was not a “real” priest; he certainly would not be so regarded by the Holy See, nor, come to that, by many Anglicans. Are we to suppose that the Lord God turns His back on such charades – or laughs at them? Does His glorious Majesty reject the offerings of His misguided Irvingite supplicants as they present to Him what they mistakenly think to be the emblems of the Passion?

Of course not. And for this reason I am unwilling to deny the designation Bishop, Priest, or Deacon to those who are outside the Catholic Household of Faith. If, in all humility and honesty, they so regard themselves, and if their people believe that they receive divine grace through their ministries, then it is churlish and discourteous not so to honor them.

In my former parish we kept a “Year’s Mind” list, recording the names and dates of parishioners and their loved ones who had gone before us in the Faith, and who were prayed for at the daily Mass. (Incidentally, the term “Year’s Mind” was rejected soon after my retirement – on the surprising grounds that it was not understood, notwithstanding the fact that it had been in daily use there for more than thirty years; and even though the redoubtable Fr John Hunwicke asserts that that term is itself a part, albeit a small one, of the heritage that the Ordinariate exists to protect and promote. Ah, well.) That list contained the names and dates of a number of Anglican bishops and priests – as, for example on October 2 my own father, “Raeburn Simpson Hawkins, priest”. That style and title priest was excised, leaving only the names, as were all other such entries, soon after my departure. I still believe that such uncharitable action was triumphalist and sacrilegious, and mistaken at best.

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2 Responses to Oh, one other thought: The Melchizadek Club

  1. cav513 says:

    Spot on Fr. Hawkins. There is certainly too little charity and too much triumphalism among many who discuss the validity of the sacraments and ministry, as if the Lord isn’t capable of giving his grace freely, forgetting it is we who are bound by the sacraments, not God. I recall that in directing his words to the clergy of the Church of England, Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae used more charitable language than many who discuss these things: “We wish to direct our exhortation and our desires in a special way to those who are ministers of religion in their respective communities. They are men who from their very office take precedence in learning and authority, and who have at heart the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”


  2. Elizabeth says:

    “Year’s Mind” is gone??? One of the sweetest and most reassuring phrases in the liturgy?

    I was a refugee from bad liturgy when I first went to an Anglican Use parish, and when the names of the year’s minds were mentioned, I knew immediately what it meant! It touched my heart to know that the deceased were still being remembered by name, many years after they had died. It is a quaint and beautiful phrase and I’m sorry it’s gone. 😦


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