In reading through the posts here I am often reminded that the Reformation was both painful and irreversible. As an Englishman I never cease to be struck by the role it played in forming a national identity that distanced itself from continental Europe, such that the phrase “the Pope in Rome” became a sneer about a perceived tyrant, rather than the invocation of a pastor charged with the care of Christ’s flock.
The Reformation unleashed civil strife and discord that lasts even to this day. Chalcedon has written about “the last acceptable prejudice” and one only has to trawl the comments section of Cranmer’s blog to find anti-Catholic passages.
Unfortunately there is no going back to a common outward worship shared by all Englishmen. We are called to see through the veil to the spiritual reality that we all partake of the heavenly worship depicted in Revelation 4, whether we use incense and vestments or not, whether we use the Old Tongue or not, whether we tread the ancient stones where prayer has been valid or not. Christ in us the hope of glory is all that ultimately matters. If we truly love Him and each other then satis est.
But seeing with spiritual eyes and being content are hard for us. Nor are we required to pretend we do not have feelings, passions, and convictions. An important question when churches are eventually permitted to assemble once more is how we can express that ineffable spiritual sorrow we are all experiencing at present.
The ancient Israelites donned sackcloth to express repentance and grief. Our churches are in mourning for the sadness of the nation in the face of so much death and hardship. There is a sense in which we need to say before God, “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
As I ponder what it means for us to emerge from this and to face the coming challenges of the end if the age that my heart tells me lie in store, I find myself wishing for something but I know not what. “Miserere Domine”. There will be no gathering of all English Christians into the Anglican Church or the Catholic Church. But perhaps there will be some flame burning gently in our hearts perhaps some inner voice saying “You are all My Children. Hold fast until I come.”