The Lay Apostolate Considered From the Revd David Apps BA

I write as one who had great interest and enthusiasm for the Church Union concept of the Lay Apostolate. In my parish in Alton, fifteen or so parishioners enthusiastically adopted the Lay Apostolate scheme to their great benefit, and I continued with learning groups based on Bible reading throughout my incumbencies. Of course all priests have to be aware of their own limitations, and the privilege they have of seeking to instruct the laity, far more qualified in their own spheres. The clergy are trained and have specialised in theology in order to pass it on in the parishes. It seems it is now too late to prevent the main body of the Anglican Communion from drifting almost mindlessly up the river without a paddle, and with all its theological maps thrown out soaking up water and becoming litter on the river banks. I was, however, delighted to read Fr Ivan Clutterbuck’s letter and article in New Directions concerning the Lay Apostolate. Of course we have now, as always, some excellent, committed and knowledgeable laity. They have stood up for their faith in Synods at all levels, but there has not been enough of them, either as speakers or listeners. A certain Prime Minister said his priority was ‘education, education, education.’ If only he, the State and indeed the

Church had really taken those words seriously. Hopefully in his retirement Fr Ivan will help the Church in his concern for the promotion of a systematic Lay Instruction.

David Apps

12 Walnut Close, Exminster, Devon

The Lord’s Day?

From Lance Haward Ll.B

It has been suggested in this magazine and elsewhere that the Feasts of the Purification and the Annunciation might be considered more feasts of Our Lord than of Our Lady. The Annunciation, OK – clearly the beginning of the Era of Redemption, and the appropriate commencement of the year, as in former times. But, the Purification? I once went along with the apparent orthodoxy and the juggling of feasts and titles in obedience to it, but on further reflection it appears that the supposed heresy of former usage may in fact embody the better view, that what Candlemas commemorates and Luke 2 records is not (‘as it is written in the Law of the Lord’) the presentation of the first-born child at the Temple, notwithstanding Luke’s clear assumption to that effect. The BCP makes interesting reading in what might first appear to be a simple and harmless description – ‘The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (in small-point type) commonly called (in much larger type) the feast of the Purification of Saint Mary’. A very neat and diplomatic compromise. What we find is that it is actually the latter-day pedants, as commonly happens, who in their bullish enthusiasm for accuracy got it wrong! Pardonably enough, when Luke, that punctilious researcher (as the preface of Luke assures us), has also failed to apply his usual perseverance to ascertaining the exact requirements of the Torah. Had he done so he would have learnt that the Law which he cites, Exodus 12.2, has stated specifically that first-born children belonged to God. Like all first-born, man and beast, they had been placed under the ban of the Twelfth Plague, needing in the human case to be redeemed rather than sacrificed. But what Luke misses is that that had already been accomplished: the Levites had been dedicated as God’s in perpetuity, in place of the first-born of the people generally. What was relevant in Jesus’ case was the ceremony described in Leviticus 12.6–8, that sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons’ which indeed was ‘according to that which is said in the Law of the Lord’ (and has been commuted and reflected subsequently in the once commonly used ‘Churching of Women’ in the BCP). All that Leviticus required was that the mother (both of first-born and any subsequent child) should present herself at the Tabernacle/Temple. Bringing the offspring along too was nothing more than a question of the availability of baby-sitters or natural maternal reluctance to be separated from the child during its first five weeks of precarious life. The child’s incidental presence was not a formal presentation as such. Thus Candlemas is in short the Feast of the Purification.

Lance Haward

27 Landsdowne Road, London

Letters for publication should be sent to:

The Editor
New DirectioNs
2A The Cloisters, Gordon Square
London WC1H 0AG