What is in a name

The epiScope’s whole Left/Center/Right thing and some discussion at Canterbury Trail and general things around this corner of the web have me thinking again.

M and I were having a conversation about this the other night and I finally vocalized some things that have been rolling around in my head for a while. Some people are against labels. I’m not, particularly, since I think there a helpful way of categorizing the world as long as you recognize and remember their limitations. For the purposes of political debate and influence in discussions about things that matter, they have a particular function—they concentrate opinion and signal a distinct outlook.

I’m looking again for a label that has a bit of precision to it.

What do you call something…:

  • That breathes deeply of the spirit of monasticism, especially that of John Cassian and Benedict, but is for people who live in the world?
  • That both upholds critical reasoning under the principle that all truth is God’s truth and also the Traditions of the Church—recognizing both the gifts and benefits of modernism and postmodernism as well as their problems and dangers?
  • That is not a branch of the Christian Historical Society seeking to transpose worship practices of some other time and place into this century but rather believes that some of the best ways of proclaiming the Gospel in this time and place can be found in the resources of the past?
  • That believes deeply in the Sacraments and the Mass and therefore recognizes the importance of the institutional church and the place of priests but balances that with the Offices, a liturgical path of living that needs neither priests nor institutions (indeed—Benedict was suspicious of allowing priests into monasteries in the first place…)?
  • That sees the joint liturgical paths of Mass and Offices as places of awe, holiness, and mystery where the Living God is most fully encountered and form our minds and habits in the Mind of Christ?
  • That furthers this journey into a disciplined way of being that, in the search for the Kingdom, seeks to cultivate virtue and suppress vice within ourselves and sees the cultivation of justice and compassion in the world as part of God’s plan?

I’m conflicted… I’d like to call it “Episcopal” but I don’t find these elements affirmed and upheld by all sorts of Episcopalians. The way that M and I practice it, it looks like, lives like, and shades into Anglo-Catholicism. But the difference I detect is a privileging of the monastic and contemplative ways and a Stoic philosophical base rather than the Scholasticism and Aristolelianism that so often grounds the former. This comes to a head, of course, in what I see as the Scholastic focus on mechanism, the how of the divine mysteries, which leads to a calcification of what I believe to be accidentals into essentials—i.e., God is incapable of conveying sacramental grace through beings who lack penises…

My first thought, and the one that M favored, was “Benedictine Anglicanism” but that has some problems since I, we, are not nor are we seeking to be Benedictine monks as the name might imply (becoming an oblate is a different story, of course)—nor are we all Anglican. LutherPunk fits these criteria and I dare say Andy, Lee, and others may as well who are not themselves Anglicans.

A much less specific term might be “Regular Christian” in the sense of a regula or rule but it neither captures it all and is also a bit too subtle, I think.

I like a term that Young Fogey has used on occasion, “Mass and Office catholic,” as I think that captures much of it—but I don’t know much about the origin of the term. I think it implies a way of life that these liturgies form but it certainly doesn’t require it.

I don’t know; I’m open to suggestions…

10 thoughts on “What is in a name

  1. Annie

    Second try:

    I think that in my own way I have been trying to find a label to catagorize my own stance. While I generally hate labels, it might be useful not to get lumped in with liberals automatically, or shoved in with them, as the case may be. It may be useful to the conversation to have a different viewpoint to refute various claims. For one, I would very much like for the terms orthodox and tradition to be more honestly used–maybe even more grounded in their historical intent and usage, less maligned and less a weapon. And, it would be more true to the Anglican tradition to show the diversity of its members.

  2. Derek the Ænglican

    You’re feeling what I’m feeling…

    Hmmm. Mass and Office Anglicans? I actually like that one better–but for the denominational issue.

  3. Lee

    Derek, Could you say more about the Stoic philosophical foundation and what kind of role you see that playing? I’m intrigued. Of course, I lean a bit more toward neo-platonism myself…

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    Well, Lee, I’d point you specifically towards John Cassian. Both the Conferences and the Instutes delineate a contemplative Christianity rooted in Stoic moral philosophy. The institutes particularly lay this out as it is essentially a two part book. The first part lays out the outward conduct of the Egyptian monks; the second is a treatise on the eights vices and virtues–the guide to their inward conduct.

    His premise is that moral conduct and the growth into faith, hope, and love is an integral part of hearing and going the word of the Gospel.

    And, quite honestly, being a neo-Platonist is no bar to embrace a Stoic moral philosophy–Cicero is a great example. Though an avowed student of the sceptical Academy, he adopts Stoic positions quite easily and naturally as can be seen in On the Nature of the Gods and On Duties.

  5. *Christopher

    What about Nyssa’s “On Virginity”? Or Law? Or the Wesleys? All well worth a read in this regard. In fact, the other day as I was composing a bit of poetry to Schmueke Dich (I hope C can arrange the music perhaps with some Bach), I kept harkening back to Charles’ bloody hymns and their relationship to practice.

    I might add that Mass itself implies a certain “school”. I’m not sure there is a word that doesn’t, for so does “Eucharist”, “Lord’s Supper”, and the rest. Even “Office” versus “Hours” carries slightly different nuances.

    Labels can help, but they can also hinder, or perplex, or leave one scratching her head when faced with a seeming contradiction or paradox, as I’ve discovered repeatedly. They can help us pinpoint a person’s particular position on a particular matter while obscuring an overall view of how and where this conclusion arises or what this person is about. I think this type of label would provide a more overall orientation of a number of folks from across a spectrum politically and denominationally that comment here.

    At any rate, this just seems all so *bogstandard* to me that I’m not sure what to call your points other than simply “Christian” or catholic, but I recognize that in reality, it’s not bogstandard, so some sort of label would be useful if tied to your points. I might add that for the most part they’re largely non-partisan, though perhaps if we focused more on Mass and Office, in other words on Christ, and less on plucking out one another’s perceived offenses, we’d probably all be better off.

    For what it’s worthy, I’ve had more than one Benedictine brother and sister comment that Anglicanism is Benedictine practice institutionalized, including the dangers of the middle way. But it may not work when we start thinking across traditions or in terms of lay practice, as I suspect C would prefer to be lumped as a Franciscan.

    Mass and Office Christian?

  6. The young fogey

    Thanks for the mention. The expression is a YF original. :) It does mean an Anglican-like moderation but also a kind of traditionalism and includes basic Catholic doctrine, a kind of ‘mere Catholicism’.

  7. Mary Sue

    Meh. I’m at the point where I feel that, once you assign, name, and claim a title for yourself, someone else will take it and try to warp it to fit their own beliefs and prejudices.

    I think I’m going to start responding with “I’m here.”

  8. Pingback: Anglo-Catholic Identity–Again | haligweorc

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