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The Anglo-Saxon Church
11-10-2007, 04:45 PM,
Anglo-Saxon Church
Dear John Mark,

Quote:I suppose what I am really struggling to get my (Catholic) head around is the notion of a much more fluid concept of terms to describe Christians in Britain.

Indeed; but this points up one of the problems with applying our contemporary usages to the past. When Bede writes about the triumph of the Catholic Church he is quite clearly referring to Chalcedonian Orthodoxy - which is both Catholic and Orthodox; that is it is believed everywhere by everyone and is right belief. Now, naturally, the non-Chalcedonians might have something to say here by way of qualification on the first part of that sentence - although it might not be quite what some folk think, in so far as we might want to say that since our Christology was always Cyrilline, we do not dissent from Orthodoxy at all - we were simply pilloried and persecuted for our refusal to agree to a definition which itself ended up needing to be qualified (but that's one for another thread!).

Be that as it may, the words Orthodox and Catholic apply to the whole Church; only later do these become terms of use which implicitly define one's own Church as THE Church. They may be appropriated in a polemical way to trace one's own favoured lineage back to Apostolic times, and those who do this may deny they are doing so; but this convinces only those in their own Church and is ultimately a self-referential act which, whether it means to or not, excludes the claims of others. It is what human beings have always done with the Christian Faith, but at least until 451 and its aftermath, without dividing the Church; after that, according to taste, either one part of the division remained THE Church and the other fell into heresy, or there was an actual division in which, in a way we are unwilling to explore, the Church was broken but not divided.

It is not only entirely probable that the liturgy in use in post 1066 England was more 'Orthodox' than you may have supposed, it is also the case that the liturgy (the same one remember) used pre-1066 was more 'Catholic' than the Romantic story may have it. Although we use 1054 as a dividing point, Sir Stephen Runciman's The Great Schism has the usual great common sense of a great historian, and shows how the process was lengthy, incremental, and neither new in 1054 nor complete in 1055.

To see Harold II as Orthodox and William I as Catholic is to import into the past distinctions which they would not have understood and which distort what is being described.

Harold was a cosmopolitan figure, able to deal with the Normans, Danes and anyone else he was required to be in contact with; Edward the Confessor's court was full of Normans, many of whom came over with him when he returned from exile. To see the Anglo-Saxons as somehow apart from the Continent is to subscribe to a myth of English exceptionalism which played well to a Victorian English audience, but which most historians would now want to modify, if not abandon.

What is certainly true, and you pick it up well with the Orderic quotation, is the violence and rapacity of William's conquest; it was ruthless, and the most extreme example I can think of from that period of the extirpation and expropriation of one ruling elite by another; however, since the ancestors of the Saxons had done something not dissimilar to the Britons, one may wish to qualify one's sympathy!

A Saxon Godwinsson dynasty would certainly have avoided the experience of being a Norman colony, as it would the experience of being part of a trans-Channel 'empire' where English resources were used to fuel the ambitions of Norman and Angevin war-lords. That, in turn, would probably have led to a less harshly defined class system here; it might also have led to a situation where Scotland, Wales and Ireland were not subjected to the ravages of the Normans.

This, of course, reveals my sympathies, I fear, since it might equally have led to England being rent by a long series of raids which a less competent king than Harold would have struggled to deal with - in fact a return to the days of Ethelred the Unready. But since my bias towards Harold is so clear, I discount that one!

(I ought, in a spirit of full disclosure, to reveal that I have never backed a winning cause: one of my colleagues once enumerated my preferences thus: 'What you'd really like would be a return to a monarchical form of government, with a powerful Church, no democracy, rule by the aristocracy presiding over a merry peasantry, and the abolition of the motor-car; you are anti every form of progress known to modern liberalism!') I thought this last jibe a trifle unfair, since I am a firm supporter of the abolition of the slave trade and I firmly approve of the penny post!

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Messages In This Thread
The Anglo-Saxon Church - John Mark - 10-10-2007, 02:38 PM
The Anglo-Saxon Church - John Charmley - 10-10-2007, 03:56 PM
[] - John Mark - 11-10-2007, 03:32 PM
Anglo-Saxon Church - John Charmley - 11-10-2007, 04:45 PM

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