Nave altars

From FrAlan Cooke ssc

Peter Mullens ‘rant’ against nave altars in the November issue calls for an equally robust response.

He describes nave altars as ‘a fairly recent desecration. On the contrary, they were in use in the late Middle Ages in monastic churches which had a choir altar for the monks and an altar in front of the screen for the people.

Despite the heroic efforts of the late Mgr Klaus Gamber to prove the contrary, I cannot believe that the basilicas still in existence at Rome, Ravenna and elsewhere were all designed for what we would now call ‘eastward facing’ liturgy, with the celebrants back to the people.

Dr Mullen is a big fan of the Book of Common Prayer, which in its latest authorized edition (1662) requires that the priest shall be ‘standing before the Table…that he may…break the Bread before the people! I would be interested to know how many instances of eastward celebration Dr Mullen knows of in the Church of England between, say, the Elizabethan Settlement and the Oxford Movement.

Out of use, the Lords Table did indeed usually stand under the east window. In use, it was brought down into the chancel, where its ends stood east and west, the priest standing at the north side and the people surrounding the Table in the choir stalls.

I don’t deny that there may be some need to ‘reform the reform’, but it won’t come about through a headlong retreat into some imaginary golden past, whether of the fifth century or the fifteenth.

Alan Cooke

The Vicarage, Milne Street, Chadderton, Oldham OL9 OHR

Christmas Stamps

From the Manager of St Paul’s Bookshop

Congratulations are due to the Royal Mail for actually celebrating Christmas this year with six stamps featuring four heavenly angels, in the Italian renaissance style, depicting Peace, Joy, Goodwill and Glory.

These stamps also commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley who wrote the popular Christmas carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. These angels come in flocks (books) and are widely advertised to those who, not being Post Offices, sell stamps to the public.

Two other stamps, each featuring a different painting of the Madonna and Child, complete this Christmas issue. Sadly, these most Christian celebrations of the birth of Christ are not available in books, are not widely advertised, and are not normally available except at Post Offices. Royal Mail says that they ‘expect the Angels to be more popular’. Given these odd marketing decisions, this is hardly surprising.

Christians should now do three things. Commend Royal Mail for having stamps with a religious theme this year. Ask for the ‘Madonna’ stamps when buying their Christmas stamps as these are even more appropriate to the season than angels.

Ask Royal Mail to ensure that in future years at least one first class and one second class Christmas stamp celebrates the true meaning of Christmas. (Surely Christians will not object to having secular stamps available equally alongside religious ones.)

David Chapman

No need for prayer

From Mr A.]. Lowe

Owen Higg’s reference [ND October, p. 31] to praying for a parking space reminded of this story of a friend.

He was driving round and round the block looking for parking space so that he could attend an important meeting. After several rounds, he glances up to heaven and says, ‘Lord, have pity on me! If you find me a space I promise I’ll go to Mass every Sunday, and give up whisky – for a bit.’ Five seconds later, rounding a corner… there’s a parking spot. So he glances up to heaven again and says, ‘You needn’t bother now, Lord. I’ve found one by myself

A.J. Lowe

145 Outlook Crescent, Bardon, Queensland, Australia 4065

Generous Catholics

From Miss Juliet Hole

Mr Hawkins [ND September] strikes a cynical note in his attitude to the Evangelical membership of Forward in Faith. ‘Unholy alliance’ is not at all a good choice of phrase when referring to coreligionists.

This raises, opportunely, the question of what it means to be ‘Catholic’. There is the broad and essential sense of the Creeds, by which all Anglicans are defined as Catholic; and a narrow stylistic sense, associated with the term ‘Anglo-Catholic’ with a High Church vocabulary and a ritual tradition. The current tendency for the latter sense to swallow up the former and turn FiF into an Anglo-Catholic club is surely not in the spirit of its foundation.

The traditions of churchmanship are equally Anglican, and in the sense that matters equally Catholic, and no good purpose is served by viewing with disapproval those with a different church upbringing. We, of all people, affected as we are by another kind of take-over bid, should take seriously the claim to be for those who hold to the historic faith.

Juliet Hole

4 The Leasowes, Bayton, Kidderminster DY14 9NA

Virtue of modest dress

From Mrs Mary Hopson

I write in praise of the Revd John Richardson’s article [ND October] ‘Disappearing fathers’, but I would also like to applaud you for drawing attention to the writer’s use of that grossly under-used word these days ‘modesty’. You highlight: ‘What is needed, bluntly, is a return to modesty, to lower the emotional pressure on young people.’

Looking up the word ‘modesty’ in the dictionary, I was led to the words ‘self-respect’ and ‘dignity’. A return to one of these things, not only by the young, but also by older folk, would bring about a return to all.

There are many means by which these things could be restored, but none more important or, given the will, easier of achievement, than dress: decent, dignified, attractive, varied (except where school uniform is concerned), complementarity of the sexes and sense of occasion affirming dress.

Mr Richardson does well to speak of the need for example. In the matter of dress (as well as in other ways), let us older folk be sure we set one!

Mary Hopson

Tregate Castle, Monmouth NP25 5QL

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The Editor New Directions
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