There's been quite a bit written lately about "Anglican patrimony." It's been kicked around by bloggers and internet discussion groups. Sometimes it's just been kicked.
There seems to be consensus that any patrimony would include the liturgy, and not just the Eucharist, but the Offices and everything else that's associated with the Book of Common Prayer. Hymnody has been mentioned, as well as the Psalter and Anglican chant. Things like architecture, our choral tradition, a particular pastoral style - all these things and more come into the mix when there's a discussion of Anglican patrimony.
I'm wondering if these things really aren't our patrimony, but instead are things that simply allow our patrimony to be expressed.
Perhaps we could think of it this way. Imagine a family living in a comfortable home, surrounded by all that's been accumulated over the years. Some of the things are treasures from previous generations. Other things are the serviceable items that contribute to an agreeable life. But they're all things that have been chosen to express what the members of the family enjoy, what they value, what they find to be beautiful. If those things were to be destroyed in a fire, would the family's values be destroyed? Would they change their sense of what is beautiful? No. Those sensibilities are within the people themselves, not within the things. The articles simply serve as a means of expression. What can be replaced will be replaced. Other things that express the family's sense of beauty and comfort will be accumulated over time. But that which is being expressed comes from within the members of the family.
This, I believe, says something about the Anglican patrimony. It's something within the people themselves. This is how it's possible for the patrimony to be preserved even when it's a small group meeting in a rented storefront. Yes, majestic gothic buildings are helpful. Antique vestments and fine pipe organs are marvellous. Few things are more beautiful than sunlight filtered through stained glass. But are those things the actual patrimony?
No, a handful people who know and love Christ, who pray the familiar words of the Prayer Book together, who have a sense of things done "decently and in order," and who know what it is to offer one's best in worship and then take the grace received out into the world - this handful of people embodies the Anglican patrimony.
This is part of the genius of Anglicanorum coetibus. It carves out a place for people to make this patrimony a living reality under the protection of the Catholic Church. This is why it's going to work. It's already been successful within the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Our Anglican Use parishes, few though they may be, are incarnations of the Anglican patrimony. And the beauty of it all is that it didn't take thousands of people, and it didn't require gorgeous buildings to start. All it needed was a small community of faithful people who had this "Anglican sense" of things, and from that it grew. Our parish is filled with people who've never set foot in an Episcopal church, but they certainly demonstrate the Anglican patrimony in a wonderful way.
Anglicanorum coetibus has plenty of naysayers, people who are certain that the numbers will be few. Maybe they're right, but so what? I hope hundreds of thousands will flock to the Ordinariates, but if they don't, that doesn't mean it hasn't worked. Let's face it, our Lord's little band of apostles didn't look exactly overwhelming at first.
From whatever beginning God grants to the Ordinariates, this marvellous patrimony will expand and be strengthened. With every conversion, with the birth of every child, with the slow but steady growth of every parish, the patrimony will continue to flourish.
Maybe that's one of the reasons the Apostolic Constitution calls them "Personal Ordinariates." They have to do with persons, not things.
(Originally posted on AtonementOnline.)
For more on Anglican Patrimony, the audio recordings from the Anglicanorum Coetibus Conference at Pusey House are extremely helpful: Click here.