The three Sundays before Lent, as Fr. Parsch points out, ascend from the Station at St. Lawrence, to St. Paul and for this Sunday at St. Peter. Again this is no accident. Western Christianity, I will say it again, is to a very significant degree Roman. Just a little bit ago we celebrated St. Agnes the greatest of female martyrs, as far as her cult and veneration goes, is very much Roman. The first of the three -gesima Sundays began with the station at St. Lawrence (among the greatest male martyrs) whose cult and veneration is – again – profoundly Roman. We have also celebrated the “Chair of St. Peter at Rome” an ancient feast (though its universal celebration is more recent) – which is also very much Roman. The distribution of the Books of Scripture in Matins is derived from the great Roman basilicas, the Psalter distribution over the week (even the reformed one of Pius X such as in the Anglican Breviary) is recognizably dependent on ancient Roman traditions. And for us, Anglican Catholics, our very foundation as a Church depends heavily on Roman missionary effort by St. Gregory the Great (Pope of Rome) and St. Augustine of Canterbury. More such features can be mentioned. It therefore surprises me that on social media I am somewhat frequently confronted with a meme stating that not all Catholics are Roman Catholics … It is such a careless meme. Catholicism – even Anglican Catholicism – is deeply dependent on Rome. More sharply: Anglican Catholicism is a local expression of Roman Catholicism. This should not be surprising and certainly not controversial. Any – even the most superficial – comparison of Byzantine Catholicism (Eastern Orthodoxy or Uniate) and Anglican Catholicism will show how very much nearer we are to Rome than Constantinople.
So as we journeyed from station to station we have been traveling – at least in spirit – the streets of Rome. I am fully aware of the factual lack of communion between the current occupant of St. Peter’s Throne and the Anglican Catholic Church. I am also fully aware that we have not followed the Pope’s lead into further dogmatic definitions since the 16th century. But our present day schism between the Church of Rome and our own Church cannot deny the fact that insofar as we are both Catholic we are both dependent on our Roman roots.
Via the Station Mass at St. Peter’s our Churches are – liturgically – united before St. Peter. Although I am aware that both our liturgies have suffered immensely by reforms as zealous as they were ignorant. Yet gathered at the station at St. Peter’s there is at least a point of contact that remains. With St. Peter we both confess the Lord Jesus. With St. Peter we both offer the holy Sacrifice of the Mass to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in the vivifying power of the Spirit of them both.
The Breviary gives us Abraham to consider this (short) week before lent: “mighty Abraham the father of our faith (Ant. on Magnificat, Vespers on the eve of Quinquagesima Sunday).” And indeed in the story of Abraham we see a man of great faith step way out of his comfort zone in obedience to God. May the prayers of our holy father in faith Abraham strengthen such great faith in us too! But may we also be reminded that Abraham’s faith made him righteous before God (as St. Paul points out) and may we also be reminded that this saving faith included what Protestants disdain as works (as St. James points out). saving faith performs works and as St. James puts it:
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
James 2, 24.
This same faith includes a knowledge of God as Trinity, as the Anglican Breviary beautifully puts it:
R. And by the oaks of Mamre the Eternal One manifested himself to Abraham, * For when the father of the faithful did look to see the splendour of his Lord, Lo ! not One but Three stood by him. V. And Abraham said, My Lord, if now I have found mercy in thy sight, pass thou not away from me. For when the father of the faithful did look to see the splendour of his Lord, Lo ! not One but Three stood by him.
~ Anglican Breviary, Response ii at Matins for Ash Wednesday.
Which brings us back to St. Peter’s confession of Jesus Christ as “Lord.” For it was he who received the knowledge that Jesus is the Lord (meaning He is God) from the Father as Jesus Himself asserts! Abraham and Peter are united in this knowledge and faithful confession. May we too unite with them and call Jesus “Lord.” From St. Paul we know that confessing Jesus to be Lord is possible only by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 12, 3). Abraham and Peter are trinitarians – and so are we. The faith of Peter is our faith. The figure of Abraham is – in a sense – fulfilled in Peter.
So here we are … station at St. Peter’s Basilica. Lent is upon us.
Fr. Gregory Wassen