aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,
aefenglommung
aefenglommung

The snows of yesteryear

I'm trying to work out this whole idea of ecclesiology. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians (not to mention Anglicans and Old Catholics) talk of the Apostolic Succession. We Protestants have dismissed that; however, I'm not in favor of everybody just making it up as one goes along. I think that God blesses obedience, and I think that schism is a sin. I also feel strongly that the undivided Church of the First Millennium had something which we have lost, and which I would like to go back to. But when the Churches who talk about Apostolic Succession do so, it leaves me cold.

Let me try to work it out this way. Let's say that we have a great desire to recapture the living experience of Anglo-Saxon England -- say, under Alfred the Great or Edgar the Peaceable. That ancient land and society has given us much, and we have much to learn from them. But how would we go about recovering what the past has buried?

1. Suppose we could build a time machine that would return us to the past. That would be great -- except that the past is a foreign country, even our own past. We would never truly be native there, even though they spoke a version of our language, etc. And nobody wants to go back to living without modern medical care and modern plumbing. Religiously speaking, even if we could return to the status quo ante, we would find that it wouldn't really be as cool as we imagine, for then we would have to fit into it all our subsequent experiences.

2. We could all transfer our citizenship to the modern England. By swearing allegiance to Elizabeth II, we would become members of the organic community which was, and still is, England. That would be a way of belonging to Alfred's and Edgar's England. But becoming modern English subjects will not recapture what we love about Wessex. In religious terms, joining the Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican Churches does not -- at least, to me -- connect me to that undivided Church of a thousand years ago, despite the fact that these Churches (particularly the Orthodox) can claim direct descent in unbroken line from the Apostles.

3. We could embalm the past. Dig up relics. Make a museum, and ignore the present world as much as possible. That's been done before in religious circles. But it doesn't go anywhere. Jesus said new wine has to be put in new wineskins.

4. We could re-create the past. The SCA does this, giving one chivalry + plumbing. It is a hobby, not a life-organizing relationship; nevertheless, this seems the way to go for me. Sacramentalist that I am, I believe that whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, Christ re-creates his Church around that Table -- the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This doesn't mean that issues of governance and whatnot aren't important, nor that anybody is licensed to do whatever one likes in this regard. But it's like Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle says, I'm going to live as like a Narnian (substitute, member of that Church) as I can,even if there is no Narnia (Undivided Church).
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