Monday, August 8, 2011
Anglicanism, "Diet Catholic" or "Catholic Throwback"?
If you are an Anglican or Episcopalian, you've probably been in a small talk conversation, introducing yourself to someone. Perhaps the subject of religion arises, you say, "Oh, I am an Anglican," your friend has probably said (or someone else) in reply, "Oh, that's like Catholic-lite, right?" You think to yourself, "Well, no, not really," but out of courtesy, you grunt a positive response and continue talking. One friend of mine recently used the expression, "Diet Catholic," to describe my Anglican faith to another of his acquaintances in introducing my reliigous persuasion. I couldn't reply to the description in that context but I will give a few thoughts here to that line of thinking.
Is Anglicanism just "Catholicism without the guilt"? Well, yes, and no. We do not have to feel guilty because Christ has taken our sins through his death at Calvary. Through faith in him, we need feel no guilt for, "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." In that sense, we do not have all the "guilt" of Romanism, but this is not a fault of our own for it is Christ's religion we practice. We do not have the option of diminishing Christ's sacrifice for our own attempts to achieve holiness. However, this liberation in Christ does not allow us to live as we please throughout the week only to "pay our dues" on Sunday morning. No, rather, Christ calls us to a higher life through his death. We are called to live a holy life and pursue holiness by the power of the Spirit.
The other half of the argument rests on the fact that Anglicans "like rituals." This is the result of the Ritualist movement of the 19th century. Perhaps our ministers do wear robes which distinguish them from other laity, this is the Christian custom. But our ministers say no Masses or perform magic rites from the altar but rather celebrate the Lord's death till he returns. They administer the Sacraments and preach his Holy Word from the Table and Pulpit. We commemorate Christ's sacrifice for us and receive the benefits at each celebration of Holy Communion and feed on Christ's body and blood, broken and shed for us, by the power of the Spirit through faith. We preach the Gospel of Christ through the Word and Sacraments.
So, perhaps, "Diet Catholic" isn't the right term for us at all. After all, our Prayer Book prescribes more fast days than the modern Roman calendar does. Following the bare minimum our Church calls for:
"The following days are observed by special acts of discipline and
Ash Wednesday and the other weekdays of Lent and of Holy Week,
except the feast of the Annunciation.
Good Friday and all other Fridays of the year, in commemoration of the
Lord's crucifixion, except for Fridays in the Christmas and Easter
seasons, and any Feasts of our Lord which occur on a Friday."
If one is to follow the classic Prayer Book the list grows, the Prayer Book calls for fasting on,
1. The Forty Days of Lent
2. The Ember Days
a. The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent
b. The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of Pentecost
c. The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after September 14 and December 13, respectively
3. The Three Rogation Days being the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Holy Thursday or Ascension Day
4. All Fridays throughout the year, except Christmas Day
Also on these vigils,
1. The Nativity of Our Lord
2. Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
3. The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
4. Easter Day
5. Ascension Day
7. St. Matthias
8. St. John the Baptist
9. St. Peter
10. St. James
11. St. Bartholomew
12. St. Matthew
13. Ss. Simon & Jude
14. St. Andrew
15. St. Thomas
16. All Saints
There is nothing easy about this list. Our Prayer Book also envisions the whole Christian community gathering for prayer each day in the morning and in the evening. The whole Psalter is to be said every thirty days. The majority of the Old Testament is to be read each year in the Daily Office and the New Testament twice. There is nothing "lite" about this robust spirituality.
I think a better "soda" analogy would be some far different from comparing our faith to a diet Coke but rather to a Pepsi Throwback. If you are unfamiliar, the beverage returns to the original formula by using natural sugars instead of artificial corn syrups to sweeten the carbonated beverage. Such is the case of Anglicanism. At the Reformation, the "corn syrup" of medieval theology was removed and replaced with the "sugar" of patristic faith. Out went the papcy, indulgences, superstition, invocation of the saints, sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation, Latin Mass, clerical celibacy, and all other abuses and in came the patristic "sugar" of the Bible in the vernacular, justification by faith alone, sola Scriptura, Holy Communion, genuine devotion to Christ, and biblical liturgy.
So next time your friend introduces your religion as "Catholic lite" or "Diet Catholic," you should say to him, "No, friend, I'm sorry, you are mistaken, we are much more than "Diet Catholic" but rather "Catholic Throwback," all the artificial muck has been replaced with the pure sweetness of the Gospel."