Friday, November 30, 2018

Reclothing the drawing pin

... or, less obtusely, changing tack.

According to my present figures, I now have 245 sermons published on this little blog, and I am very grateful to hear that people have been finding them of some small use. Over the past seven years, they have been devoted to the readings for the Mass in the ACC, principally because that is where the main attendance has been.

This year, however, I was made the Warden of Readers for the Diocese and I rather feel that I need to be more supportive of Reader Ministry in this Diocese as well as beyond into the wider Church.

To this end, as we approach the beginning of the Liturgical year, I intend to publish sermons based upon the Prayer Book Offices of Mattins and Evensong which Readers can use in their ministry. I will be using the Lectionary of 1922 which I found in one of my copies of the 1662 BCP.

This also affords me the opportunity of a more formal reflection on Holy Scripture different from the readings I have been used to at Mass.

I hope that this is a move that my readers and my Readers will find helpful. They are very welcome to use them if they think fit. If not, there is also an official bank of sermons here.

Comments are always welcome.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mistaken blessings

Sermon for the Sunday next before Advent
How fond are you of taking exams?
Clearly, it depends on the type of exam you have to sit. You might be spending three hours scribbling at a desk in the school gym, or you might be trying to manoeuvre the car around a corner, or you might be standing in front of a few academics trying to defend what you have written.
Some people love an exam. Some people hate them.
But we only take exams for a reason.
What if you weren’t aware you were taking an exam?
Surely, that would be rather unfair. You don’t want to be pootling your merry way down the high street with your shopping only to be confronted by a man with a clipboard telling you that you failed Life when you weren’t able to tell that bloke where Market Street was.
Is Jesus being unfair when He tests Philip by asking him where enough bread to feed five thousand can be found?
A test has to have a purpose. When we are tested, we find out what we know and what we do not know. We find out what we can do and what we cannot do. If we get 65% in an exam, we might pass because we know 65% of the material, but we know that we do not understand 35% of the material. If we can take the test again, then we know how we can improve.
So why does the Lord want to test Philip, especially as it seems it’s without his knowledge?
We have to look at the test itself. What is the Lord trying to test in Philip?
Philip is faced with the problem of knowing how to feed five thousand people. Immediately, he thinks about the economic cost. However, that is the wrong answer. To challenge that whole culture of buying and selling, Our Lord produces vast quantities of loaves and fish out of the little that he has. He might as well be buying five thousand fish and chip suppers for a penny.
Philip was wrong.
Well, so what? Does this mean that Philip has failed Life? Has he gone to Hell for not getting the answer correct?
Absolutely not!
Look at the lengths that the Lord goes to in order to rescue us from Hell. If only a simple verbal exam is necessary, then what is the point of the Cross? Our lives mean so much to God that an exam to get into Heaven misses the point spectacularly.
The fact is that Humanity is broken and God wants us fixed which He does through the Life and Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing to test here. All God wants us to do is to trust Him , to forge a relationship with Him, to be part of His Church, to receive what He gives us to keep us well in our spirits and in our bodies, and finally to be part of His Kingdom. This is why He gives us the gift of Faith and opportunities to strengthen that Faith so that we may learn to trust Him more.
Let’s look at Philip again. He makes a mistake, but look what happens. There is the great miracle to show that not only can Our Lord do great things, but that He can be trusted to look after us and feed us. This is a remarkable strengthening of our Faith. Philip’s wrong answer shows us, two thousand years later, what’s going on. Philip’s mistake blesses us because we learn not to treat our Salvation as a matter of Economics or Examination. And in making the mistake, Philip is also blessed in the strengthening of his faith. See how astonished he is at the feeding of the Five Thousand. See how much he gains from Our Lord’s work. See how glad he is to be wrong. And this strengthening of his faith will propel him to preach the Gospel to Greece, Syria and Phrygia and end his life crucified like Our Lord.
We remember that, in His role as our Saviour, Our Lord is a teacher. Teachers don’t just teach to test, they teach that students may learn and grow and develop using the knowledge that they have. Of course we make mistakes, and we sin sometimes truly horrifically. However, in God we have the opportunity for our errors to become our blessings if we truly learn, repent, and trust God. Life is not an exam to pass, it is a gift to be lived in God. Of course, this isn’t easy, but we know that every effort to know and love God will be rewarded, and rewarded abundantly, even more than five thousand loaves and fishes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sharing the presentation

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (St Matthew xii.47-50)

Many Protestants would use this incident in St Matthew's Gospel to present an obstacle to Our Lady being the Queen of Heaven. If we can all be mothers of Jesus, then surely Mary is not special. If we can all be Mary, then we can all be queens of Heaven.

There is an obvious problem with this. First, there is the obvious fact that each one of us has only one biological mother. There is only one person who actually gave birth to us. and thus there can only be one such person. There is only one mother of Jesus and, if Jesus is God and King of Heaven, Mary must therefore be the unique Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. If the Protestant balks at this simple piece of logical deduction from Biblical premises, then he must not make in his faith any similar use of logic for fear of committing the same offence!

However, the Protestant, as always, has a very good point to make in that we cannot allow our veneration of the Virgin Mary to spill over into idolatry. We can quite easily do that if we put her up on so high a pedestal that she loses her humanity. Unlike her son, Our Lady has only a human nature - a nature which is damaged by the sinfulness of human beings. Although many in the Early Church affirm that Our Lady is sinless, the presence of sin in human nature means that she, too, requires salvation. One can easily see the effects of sin in her life when we see her watching her son crucified upon the cross. The sin of those who had Him crucified affects her, but it is her choice whether or not to allow this sin to cause her to sin. If the Early Church is to be believed, it did not.

The Protestant is right to force us to remember the humanity of Our Lady. . Indeed, St Augustine of Hippo says:

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and my sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her - did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Thus, as the Protestant must recognise, the Blessed Virgin Mary is a woman of faith, indeed a complete faith in God. She is free to make the decision to bear Jesus and God who knows not only what must be but also what could be, what might be and what might not be, rewards her with the gift of His Incarnation. 

In full agreement with our Protestant, we can say categorically that Our Lord's words show us very clearly that we share in her motherhood of Christ if we do as she did and do the will of the Father. St Augustine goes on to say:

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

We are charged with bringing to birth the Christ that is in us and in that sense we become mothers of God. What we will not do is become His mother as Our Lady did. Christianity does not believe in reincarnation. We are born once, die and then go to judgement. Likewise, neither Our Lord, nor Our Lady will be born again save that we put on Christ in our living and become members of the Church, the Body of Christ.

We venerate Our Lady best when we seek to share with her in her motherhood of Christ, for where Christ is, Our Lady is never far away. We venerate her best when, in seeing her ikon, we resolve to live as she lived and obey as she obeyed and love as she loved. We venerate her best when we recognise her as the Queen of Heaven and worship her son who is God Himself. While we may bow the knee to her, with her we fall prostrate before Christ the King and are raised up by Him through His death and resurrection. 

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The King and I

Sermon for the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity using the propers for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Hierarchy is everywhere. Somewhere along the line, we are in some chain of command as the army might phrase it. We have authority over some people; some people have authority over us. We may not like it; we may even try to rebel and ascribe to some form of anarchy, but we cannot escape the fact that someone has authority over us and has the lawful right to use that authority whether we like it or not.
We are right to be suspicious of this thing called Authority. For time immemorial, Authority has been used to exert control over people and compel them to do and to suffer great miseries and hardship. This is true, even for the best of reasons. Brexit is happening for the reason that voters have given the Government authority to pull us out of Europe. Many of us are unhappy about that.
We often see that having someone with authority over us as a bad thing. We see our individual freedom to choose being taken away or diminished in some way. We have to pay taxes. We have to go to school and be taught things that the Government says we must be taught. We have to obey speed restrictions. We mustn’t park there… We didn’t choose to be governed this way. We didn’t choose to be put into this society. Why should we go along with it if we don’t want to?
We know full well what would happen if there were no system of government. Human nature would take over and William Golding makes a persuasive case for what would happen in The Lord of the Flies. We know that, in order to live together, we have to allow ourselves to be governed.
Indeed, St Paul is telling all Christians, each one of us, that although our King is in Heaven, yet we must recognise His authority when he sets up governments over us. We Christians are not to be anarchists, but rather to play our part in what is good for all people around us. We cannot convince people of our Salvation under the Kingship of Christ if we are seen as rebels and revolutionaries. Yes, there may be unjust laws in direct contradiction to God’s commands. If there are, then we must in good conscience disobey but accept willingly the punishment that comes from such Christian disobedience.
However, St Paul is not just talking of human authority. He is talking of “higher powers”. What might they be?
Other things have control over our lives beyond the choices of our society. We need to eat and sleep, so our own biology often puts limits on what we can do. The laws of physics explain why we cannot walk on the ceiling or through walls. The laws of science just describe how the physical world works around us and yet, we often try to contravene them. Biologically, at the level of every cell, a person is generally either male or female, and nothing can be done to change one to the other. Biologically, we cannot cheat death. Even the great saints had to eat or sleep occasionally. The basic idea that no-one can be in two different places at the same time means that if both parents work, they will need someone else to look after the children and that this choice will impact how their children will grow up.
These are the basic rules of Creation that God has given us and without them, we simply wouldn’t be who we are. We have to accept the facts of our world as God created it, and the facts about ourselves as God created us. Too often we wrap up our sense of self-worth with our wants and desires. Often we hate ourselves because we can’t live our lives the way we want to live them. However, St Paul is saying that our worth is not bound up in our free will, our worth is determined by God’s love for us. There is no worth in being superior or inferior to someone else because all authority comes from God.
To be honest, the greatest challenge we face as individuals is to accept ourselves truly as being creations of God on His terms and His alone. This is so difficult and may take us a lifetime. For some people it is impossible which is why we need to love them for who they are so that they can see themselves for themselves. What is impossible for Man is not impossible for God.
We have to admit it: we are not the kings of our own lives. The more that we see our individual worth in what we can and cannot do, the unhappier we will become. The more we do what God wants us to, and the more we shape our lives around the person of Jesus Christ, then the less hold this world will have over us and the greater our happiness in the wonders of God as He really is.
We can make a start on this by approaching Him in the Blessed Sacrament and truly receiving Him as He really is so that we can be Who we really are, happy and content under His authority.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Passion and Passchendaele

Sermon for Remembrance Sunday 2018

You only have to read the words of the war poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen to know that there is no real glory in warfare. While Remembrance Sunday is a day in which we remember all those who have fallen in battle, we think particularly of those who died in the trenches; those who died in the mud; those who were gassed; those mutilated by shrapnel; those who, when they were supposed to be displaying a “stiff upper lip”, died screaming or weeping in agony and fear.

And we hear the words of the Lord: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And we hear the great military leaders use these words to justify the Somme, Passchendaele, Ypres and Flanders Field.
Is it any wonder that, in 1918, there is a massive loss of faith?


We know that it is a bad argument to say that God can’t exist because humans are so terrible to one another, especially Christians and yet it is very convincing.
In the mud, blood and tears in the trenches, where is God?

Of course, with the guns firing loudly, we cannot hear the still small voice of love; we cannot understand the words of Christ when they are being twisted with the rhetoric of those who want to instil a sense of purpose in soldiers for the furtherance of a particular cause; we cannot see God through pained eyes filled with tears at the final suffering of a simple farmer’s boy called up to serve his country.

If anything should appal us, it is the sheer terror of being free to choose and that the consequences of our choices lead to Flanders Field and even not forty years later to the disgusting brutality of Auschwitz. The realisation really is that human beings, in exercising our freedom to choose, find ourselves looking upon Hell itself with our toes on the very edge.


We should not need armed forces. They should not be necessary for we should love our neighbour as ourselves. But they are necessary and we must thank God for all the military personnel who are willing to fight and die for the good of others. They are doing nothing wrong but rather seeking to protect that which is good. However, all humanity must accept the blame for the necessity of armed forces, for we are fallen and broken.

It is humanity itself that lies mortally wounded in Flanders Field, wounded by the Evil that Man invited freely into God’s Creation. If we look only at fallen humanity, then we will not see God unless…

Unless, we look to the Cross. Upon the Cross is a human being who suffers innocently from the Evil inflicted upon Him by others and yet Who has not allowed Evil to spread through His actions, but rather bears all that Evil on Him upon that Cross. No, there is no respite from the pain and degradation. No, He doesn’t even have the opportunity to die in a hospital with someone who might care for Him. He dies alone and vilified upon the Cross even as the farmer’s boy dies alone in No Man’s Land.

Where is God in the trenches?

He is in agony upon the Cross. For it is here that Evil is destroyed. The Cross shouts louder than the guns. The Cross makes a mockery of human rhetoric for its own selfish ends. The Cross is the only authentic response to the fears and sorrow of the dying.


“Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are to fight for Love. We are to be soldiers for Christ, for Good and for Love. When the darkness falls, when all seems black, when the pain becomes unbearable, we have to struggle for the trul love to shine through us, and that is so hard.

This is why we honour our fallen soldiers. Not because we glorify war, nor pretend that human causes are what God wants, but because those who die in the trenches teach us a vital lesson as to how fallen humanity is and how we need to learn to love again and fight to love again. We honour the fallen, and we entreat God for their souls, that their pain and suffering may be bound up with Our Saviour’s pain and suffering, and thereby, they might rise with Christ in His glory and to their Eternal joy. We honour the sacrifice that they make in that they believe they fight for Good and seek Good better in our own lives and in our Societies all around the world. Their deaths are not in vain because they are bound with thr death of Christ. All is not lost. All is gained for those who love God.

And this is something that we truly need to remember.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

“Loyal to a church that has passed away”

These were the words of the DDO to whom I was sent when exploring my vocation to the priesthood in the CofE. These words with which my vocation was rejected have stuck with me. I wanted to be ordained, but I always knew that wanting to be ordained was not enough and so I resigned myself to wanting something I couldn’t have and stuck it out. When the CofE and I parted company I joined the ACC, and I joined it not because I wanted to be ordained, but because I believed in the principles on which the ACC stands. I was quite content in being the clumsy server in my new parish, however my vocation was discerned and here I am bearing a large burden with a little confraternity of priests.
I mention this because I came across this little comment on Fr Little’s blog.

I was a member of the ACC. All I experienced were a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. Or turn the church into a version of the RCC. Very little about how to reach new people for Christ. Just more of the same.
What do I hear in this comment? I hear something very similar to the now-retired DDO that convinced me that the CofE priesthood wasn’t for me – and for whose decision I am deeply grateful. He was about getting new people into the Church.
Of course, I am not belittling the need for outreach and evangelism but my problem lies with what we are inviting people into. This is the mistake that the CofE has made: it has become trendy like a dad dressing like a teenager in order to deepen the relationship with his children only to find out that he has pushed them away by embarrassing them. Of course, the Church should invite people to discover their salvation, but that salvation needs to be lived not just read about in the pages of Holy Scripture.
I have to sympathise with this commentator. I wouldn’t want to be part of a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. I find myself part of a bunch of people who want to do things the same way that they have been done in England since time immemorial. This is because we are part of a timeless Church: our worship needs to reach out across Time as well as Space. We need to be authentic to our roots that encompass our Scripture and the Tradition that interpret it. The only thing we can present is a Faith that is two thousand years old.
If the worship of the ACC looks superficially like that of the RCC then that is to be expected. We are hewn out of the same rock. Indeed, the CofE has a common heritage with the RCC, and we in the ACC have a common heritage with the CofE. Fr Little’s commentator seems to be one of those Protestants who believe Rome can do no good without realising that he has Rome to thank for the fact that he believes at all, especially if he is of a predominantly Western heritage. Somehow, I doubt that he is of an Eastern Orthodox persuasion given his predisposition to the “new”. That’s his choice and may God enrich him within it!
However, he has left a church that regards fashion with a distinct suspicion and rightly so. The evidence is quite damning in that Churches that have gone with the new in pursuit of new Christians have reported a marked decline at a rate faster than many more conservative churches.
As for ACNA, well, I believe it to be well intentioned. However, we’ve been there before and know that we need to get ourselves in line with orthodox doctrine – something that ACNA has yet to do. Fr Little and I belong to churches that have fought all this fight before and know where we stand. This is why both our jurisdictions are stable and, in fact growing. The reason is that we seek to present the World with the Faith once delivered to the Saints. That will necessarily look old fashioned and liturgically high because we see in our liturgy the necessity of excellence in order to bring to God whatever worship we believe that we are doing. That seems less like passing away and more like still being here!
The commentator left us because he refused to see this which means that either his parish weren’t doing things correctly with God at the centre of the Liturgy, or that God has drawn him to see things differently in which case we would like to see how he demonstrates that from Scripture, Tradition and Reason, or he is mistaken in his understanding. Whatever is correct, it is appropriate for us to pray that he – and we – may always be guided into the ways of God’s truth. One thing we do know, God does not contradict Himself, something that certain ecclesial bodies seem to have forgotten!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

To γερμανικό μοντέλο θρησκευτικής ουδετερότητας του κράτους

To Γερμανικό μοντέλο της θρησκευτικής ουδετερότητας του κράτους που φέρεται να προτιμά ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Ιερώνυμος και θα συζητήσει με τον πρωθυπουργό βασίζεται στους πιστούς που δηλώνουν στην φορολογική τους δήλωση ότι επιθυμούν / δεν επιθυμούν οι φόροι τους να πηγαίνουν για θρησκευτικούς σκοπούς (π.χ. μισθοδοσία ιερέων). Αν δηλώσεις ότι δεν επιθυμείς, εξαιρείσαι από τον φόρο εκκλησίας, όπως έχει καθιερωθεί να λέγεται: Kirchensteuer. Τα ίδια ισχύουν σε Αυστρία, Δανία, Φινλανδία, Ισλανδία και κάποια καντόνια της Ελβετίας. 
Με την δήλωση αποχώρησης από την εκκλησία, οι πολίτες χάνουν το δικαίωμα θρησκευτικού γάμου και κηδείας σε αυτές τις χώρες. Το πρόβλημα είναι τί γίνεται όταν ο ένας μόνο από το ζευγάρι είναι πιστός και θέλει να παντρευτεί με κάποιον που έχει απαλλαγεί από τον φόρο εκκλησίας, αν κάνουν κοινή φορολογική δήλωση, κ.τ.λ.
Το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου έχει κρίνει ότι η αναγραφή στο εκκαθαριστικό ότι πολίτης δεν υπόκειται σε φόρο εκκλησίας δεν παραβιάζει την ελευθερία θρησκευτικής συνείδησης (Wasmuth κατά Γερμανίας, 17.2.2011).
Σε μια άλλη υπόθεσοι, οι σύζυγοι διαμαρτυρύθηκαν στο ΕΔΔΑ επειδή οι ίδιοι είχαν απαλλαγή από τον φόρο εκκλησίας, αλλά επειδή το έτερο μέλος του ζευγαριού δεν είχε απαλλαγεί αλλά δεν είχε και τα ανάλογα εισοδήματα, αναγκαζόταν τελικά ο απαλλαγείς να πληρώνει τον φόρο! Και σε αυτή την υπόθεση το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο έκρινε ότι δεν παραβιαζόταν ανθρώπινο δικαίωμα (Klein και άλλοι κατά Γερμανίας, 6.4.2017).

Monday, November 5, 2018

A church without nobility?

I think it’s one of those false-facts that the word “Posh” means “port out, starboard home” in reference to the privileged cabins on steam ship voyages to India. This origin has been somewhat debated. One question one could ask is “why isn’t soph the opposite of posh?” If “posh” arises in this way, then it would be reasonable for “soph” to have entered the vocabulary for the obvious reason.

Another word which has dubious described origins is the word “snob”. Many people seem to think that it comes from a Latin abbreviation sine nobilitate – without nobility. The idea is that untitled people allowed some privilege such as sitting at High Table would be announced as “snob”. That makes some sense – we can certainly see Hyacinth Bucket fitting that bill. However, the word “snob” is originally an 18th Century word for a shoemaker. That would make the sine nobilitate origin a load of cobblers! (Sorry!)

I have preached on this before, but it is an important subject for the Church to consider, especially as there are many churches across every churchmanship which have been described as snobbish. Clearly, this is contrary to what the Church should be. One might say that the Church should be sine nobilitate whenever nobility is defined by the world. The ancient Philosophers often spoke of the virtue of nobility – indeed, my confrere Fr Anthony Chadwick is at present, writing a piece for the Blue Flower journal on the idea of nobility of spirit. I am looking forward to reading this because it does perhaps show how we need to understand nobility before we seek to jettison it from the Church.

Certainly, the Church should not be snobbish. Understanding what this means will enable us to diagnose its presence in the Church and seek a remedy for it. We need to be able to recognise when it occurs and, also, where it does not occur so that we do not lose confidence when we are genuinely seeking first the kingdom of God.

In order to convict or acquit a church of being snobbish, we need to understand the common definition of the word. To this end, the OED says, a snob is “A person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and looks down on those regarded as socially inferior.”

We therefore have the following conditions for snobbery:

1)      A respect for a high social position.
2)      This respect is exaggerated.
3)      A desire to associate with social superiors.
4)      A disdain for those who are regarded as socially inferior.

Underlying this whole definition is the idea of a social hierarchy. The society here need not be a the general ambient society we inhabit. It can be a specific stratum of society: if we restrict to musical society, then we can have musical snobs; if we restrict to the fashion industry, then we have fashion snobs. We also need to have a defined hierarchy, i.e. a way of making some comparison as to whether someone else is superior or inferior to you.

It’s interesting that the word hierarchy is ecclesiastical in origin. A hierarch is a high priest, not just a priest and we can sort of see these ideas present in the ordering of the spiritual beings from Angels up to Seraphim.

The most obvious hierarchies exists in the military services in which people are ranked according to their authority and level of command. I am largely ignorant about the military and whether there is a form of snobbery there. I don’t hear of it, largely because my impression is that members of the forces are under a strict discipline. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a form of snobbery in the ranks based on that system. It would seem counter-intuitive to me that the army would allow a good officer to have such a casual disdain for those under his or her command: quite the revers, the good officer takes the welfare of those who are technically inferior very seriously. The campaign depends upon it.
I have used the word technically very deliberately. The captain is a superior to the private in her platoon, and necessarily the private is inferior to the captain. That is not a superiority of worth, but of an ordering necessary to carry out the demands of military service.

And now, perhaps, we begin to see the whole crux of what snobbery is. There may be a necessary hierarchy in a society, but it is how much worth the individual places in that hierarchy. A snob is, essentially, hierarcholatrous – a little neologism of mine, but I hope makes sense. The snob worships the hierarchical structure particularly when it affords concomitant privileges with each rank.

Often this hierarchy is quite arbitrary. I could regard people who know Greek as being better than those that don’t and thus see my rather poor knowledge of the subject as being superior to the person in the street that knows none. Often, however, the hierarchy comes from a necessary capacity inherent in the person. An army captain needs to have the intellectual ability in applying the facts of reconnaissance in order to direct her platoon appropriately, but she might not have the same intellectual capacities as her colonel who may have a wider grasp of the situation. If the captain demonstrates the capacity to become a colonel, then there is always the possibility for promotion.

This perhaps gives us some idea as to how to apply the idea of snobbery to the Church.

Is there a hierarchy?

Clearly there is a gradation and many would see it along the lines of layman, deacon, priest, bishop. However we can already begin to see refinements within each grade: for example for a bishop, we could subdivide into suffragan bishop, diocesan bishop, archbishop, metropolitan, patriarch (if we are using an Anglican Catholic understanding). Yet, even for Anglican Catholics, we can see that the last three are essentially the same. There is no sacrament that will turn a bishop to an archbishop, nor an archbishop to a patriarch. Their existence comes about from the level of responsibility that God puts upon them.
Within the monastery, there is also natural hierarchy: St Benedict arrange It in terms of length of service save that which is determined by the abbot who is called the superior. This is not hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy: it becomes necessary for the running of the monastery in the same way that the hierarchy of the Church is for the running of the Church. Snobbery results when one starts attributing worth to people according to their position in the Church.

 And that’s not on.

St Benedict says of the Abbot

For the Abbot must have the utmost solicitude and exercise all prudence and diligence lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him. Let him know that what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls and not a tyranny over strong ones; and let him fear the Prophet's warning through which God says, "What you saw to be fat you took to yourselves, and what was feeble you cast away" (Ezec. 34:3,4). Let him rather imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains and went to look for the one sheep that had gone astray, on whose weakness He had such compassion that He deigned to place it on His own sacred shoulders and thus carry it back to the flock (Luke 15:4-5). (Chapter xxviii of the Rule)

Further, in Chapter lxiii, St Benedict really sets out what hierarchy means.

Let all keep their places in the monastery established by the time of their entrance, the merit of their lives and the decision of the Abbot. Yet the Abbot must not disturb the flock committed to him, nor by an arbitrary use of his power ordain anything unjustly; but let him always think of the account he will have to render to God for all his decisions and his deeds.

Therefore in that order which he has established or which they already had, let the brethren approach to receive the kiss of peace and Communion,  intone the Psalms and stand in choir. And in no place whatever should age decide the order or be prejudicial to it; for Samuel and Daniel as mere boys judged priests.

Except for those already mentioned, therefore, whom the Abbot has promoted by a special decision or demoted for definite reasons, all the rest shall take their order according to the time of their entrance. Thus, for example, he who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day, whatever be his age or his dignity, must know that he is junior to one who came at the first hour of the day.

Boys, however, are to be kept under discipline in all matters and by everyone. The juniors, therefore, should honour their seniors, and the seniors love their juniors.

In the very manner of address, let no one call another by the mere name; but let the seniors call their juniors Brothers, and the juniors call their seniors Fathers, by which is conveyed the reverence due to a father.

But the Abbot, since he is believed to represent Christ, shall be called Lord and Abbot, not for any pretensions of his own but out of honour and love for Christ. Let the Abbot himself reflect on this, and show himself worthy of such an honour.

And wherever the brethren meet one another the junior shall ask the senior for his blessing. When a senior passes by, a junior shall rise and give him a place to sit, nor shall the junior presume to sit with him unless his senior bid him, that it may be as was written, "In honour anticipating one another."

Boys, both small and adolescent, shall keep strictly to their rank in oratory and at table. But outside of that, wherever they may be, let them be under supervision and discipline, until they come to the age of discretion.

This all sounds very alien to modern ears. St Benedict’s rather draconian treatment of children seems quite unpalatable. Yet, we must consider again that a child’s mind is not yet an adults and must be disciplined. We would not think of giving a five-year old the vote. However, we do see St Benedict strive to stamp out snobbery. Seniors are to be respected and juniors loved. Each are recognised as having the indelible worth of being human. The steps of humility are designed so that each individual must, must, must look for the worth of the other above the self. This stops inferiority in grade becoming inferiority in worth.
To indict a churchmember of snobbery, then, must be to indict him of hierarcholatry. We need to look at those four characteristics of snobbery in the context of the Church.

Respect for a high social position

St Benedict and St Paul insist on respect for everyone, especially those who have a responsibility of care for others. The persons to be respected most are those who exhibit Christ most. St Ignatius reminds us that the Bishop must be regarded as an ikon of Christ for the Diocese possessing, as he does, the fulness of the grace of ordination.

Thus respect is something that is part of Christian culture and of the wellbeing of the Church. It gets corrupted when this respect is not centred on Christ. The bishop becomes a snob precisely when he uses his position as Father of the Diocese to impose secular demands, or to equate the phrase “prince of the church” (princeps being the Latin for leader in as much a way as a captain is the prince of his platoon) with the modern understanding of “prince” as a royal and thus deserving of earthly privilege and earthly obedience. The same is true of any other member of the clergy.

Thus corruption of this Christian respect for superiority must come from equating it with earthly connotations.

However, the obvious hierarchy is not the only hierarchy in the Church. We remember that we can grade people in more ways than just one. For example, we can grade people on their knowledge of, and adherence to, Ritual Notes. We can even grade the version of Ritual Notes that is used, or whether it’s Fortescue or the Directorium Anglicanum.

However, it must be clear on how this gradation is not in service of Christ. The Ceremonies and Liturgy of the Church are to be performed excellently to maximise Christian worship. We take pride in what we do, set high standards, and seek the best for Glory of God and for the edification of His people. It does matter where the thurifer stands at a particular point in the liturgy precisely because taking the liturgy seriously for the love of God is an act of worship. The standards of liturgy and ceremony needs to be set high and we must aspire to it for the love of God.

That being said, there are liturgy snobs, and they come into their own in the fourth criterion for snobbery.

Conclusion: To indict a church member of snobbery, we need to demonstrate the hierarchy used and how it is deflecting that member from the service of Christ.

Exaggerated respect

Many clergy have to suffer some rather fawning and flattering individuals who seem to want to ingratiate themselves. A cheerful “great sermon, vicar!” certainly is a kind word for the priest, though it’s clear that it can be exaggerated by someone with an ulterior motive. The Protestant will decry the veneration of Our Lady as idolatry, but our need to venerate her can be demonstrated just as coherently from Holy Scripture as the Doctrine of the Trinity. However, we can exaggerate respect for her. She is not the Co-Redemptrix: that goes too far when she is seen as a source and not the instrument of our redemption.

Respect for the clergy becomes exaggerated when it goes beyond reasonable. Not every sermon the bishop will preach will be the best that’s ever been heard and he will probably be the first to admit that. The key feature of exaggeration is the lack of proportion, especially when it crowds out the worth of others’ contributions. Again, this is linked with the fourth criterion, but the effect of exaggeration will be that it will stick out like a sore thumb.

Conclusion: To indict a church member of snobbery, we need to demonstrate that the respect that that member has for the hierarchy established in the first criterion is disproportionate with respect to the worship of Christ.

Desire to associate with superiors

Given that the multitudes flocked to hear Our Lord preach, we have to admit that there is something that is right about trying to seek out God and remain in His court with praise. If the Bishop is an ikon of Christ then it’s clear that there ought to be something attractive about being in his circle of friends. This becomes problematic when there is a presumption that we are always entitled to be in the presence of our superiors and feel slighted when we are shut out of that presence.

We do note that Our Lord often went to pray by Himself, i.e. even without St Peter, St James and St John whom scripture shows clearly were the “inner circle”. However, the presence of that “inner circle” doesn’t prevent the others from being disciples. However, it is clear that the Lord chose His disciples because they merited being chosen. One of the big controversies in Protestant-Catholic dialogue is the nature of Election. Given that the Greek verb ekelego is used more or less universally to translate the Hebrew bachar, and that bachar means to choose on the results of a trial, it’s difficult to see how the Elect can ever be chosen unconditionally.

Indeed, the parable that Our Lord tells with regard to associating with superiors is that of the wedding feast in which we would be best advised to take the lowest place and be invited higher than to assume the higher place and be required to move down. If we truly recognise that it is the responsibility of the superior to make the choices necessary for the good order of the Church, then we should not presume to overstep our limitations.

There’s nothing wrong with putting our hat into the ring when there is to be an election, but when there is no election keeping one’s place is the wise and Godly choice – especially without grumbling.

Conclusion: To indict a church member of snobbery, we need to demonstrate that that member seeks membership unreasonably and unseasonably to groups determined by the superiors in support of the Church largely through the process of the disproportionate respect shown in the second criterion.

Disdain for inferiors

This last criterion is, by far, the most damaging for the Church because it is an obvious sin of pride and thus sets up divisions within the Church. If we disdain people because they do not meet our criteria for respect, then that is appalling. God has already set the criterion on which human beings are to be respected: our neighbour is to be loved as the self is loved.

We have seen that the first criterion does not preclude the setting up of high standards for worship. However this las criterion shows that, when we fall short of those standards, we are not to be looked down upon or derided. A Mass celebrated faithfully in poverty with a tin mug and dry crust on a shelf is no less a Mass than that on the high altar in a grand cathedral. We are to use the most excellent means of worship at our disposal, and God will judge the intentions of our heart. It is perfectly reasonable for the priest not to use a server who is dilatory and lazy. However, it is less reasonable for the priest not to use a server who drops the cruet of wine once and yet tries to make amends and learn from their mistake.

It is correct for the superior to seek to correct the juniors in the way of excellence in worship so that they might be edified and find themselves better integrated into Divine Worship. It is not so to make fun of the mistakes of juniors in a way that belittles them and shows our lack of respect for them.

Disdain is most chiefly shown in the making fun of others. Needless to say, the purpose of a good joke is to make everyone laugh. The best jokes will make God laugh. Thus it is possible for a joke to be exclusive and thus inappropriate. We can make a joke about someone, but if that person cannot freely laugh at it but rather finds it troubling or offensive, it is excluding that person. Thus jokes can be racist by excluding people by race, sexist by excluding people by sex, or antichristian by excluding Christians, et c. The more inclusive the joke, the better it is. The more exclusive it is, the more it demonstrates disdain and disrespect. Of course, it might not be at all funny in the first place.

Disdain occurs when we demonstrate the idea that we are of greater worth than our inferiors through poor humour, through wilfully ignoring their contributions, through patronising behaviour and through excluding them from confraternity.

Conclusion: To indict a church member of snobbery, we must demonstrate the disdain that the member has for those who are inferior in the hierarchy demonstrated in the first criterion.

Clearly, any Church that allows snobbery to thrive must be guilty of a culture of snobbery, so it behoves every church to take charges of snobbery carefully and to examine its practices carefully. I have already stated that the quest for excellence in worship is not an example for snobbery in itself but that it can engender it in others through a sense of false hierarchy. Likewise empty titles and positions in the Church could be indicative of snobbery, so again, it behoves a church to ensure that those who hold office in the Church are taking their responsibilities with the gravest care and are aware of the judgement that will fall upon them. A bishop may reward a clergyman with the title of Canon when they have demonstrated a significant contribution to the Church, but as soon as that clergyman seeks to exclude others by using that title, he has made it worthless.
Our sole object of worship is the Holy and Undivided Trinity, and it does us good to venerate the company of Heaven whom we seek to join through the true worship of God. Notice how the saints desire us to join them with all their hearts! How could we ever describe the saints as being snobbish? If we seek to be saints, how can we ever dare to be snobbish?

Snobs are indeed an exclusive club: you can tell who they are as they sit in the outer darkness where there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth!