Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book #17: Parochial and Plain Sermons

This is book #17 for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge.  

Parochial and Plain Sermons Volume VII by John Henry Newman

Kindle edition for free at Amazon

If you really like Newman or sermon-reading, you can get a massive hardcover from Ignatius Press that contains all of Newman's Plain and Parochial Sermons.   This Ignatius compilation is also available in a Kindle version.

Now, I think that reading books of sermons and actually enjoying them makes me into Mary Bennet or some other equally unsympathetic character.  However, perhaps the fact that the sermon-writer is John Henry Newman, one of the most excellent stylists of the English language and also recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI gives me a bit of an excuse.

There is an extensive Newman Reader online, and you can see from the chronology of his work that Newman preached his Parochial and Plain Sermons when he was still an Anglican.  Still, Anglicanism of Newman's kind overlaps quite a lot with Catholicism and so you will find most of his themes and texts fitting very much into traditional theology.   Neither could I find anything I would have objected to when I was an Evangelical Protestant though I probably would have found the style and historical references more difficult to understand before my conversion. 

I started reading this book about the same time as I started reading Anna Karenina.  ... that is to say in early January.  However, I just finished reading it a couple of days ago.  I was trying to read a sermon every day or so during my "quiet time" in the morning.  

The themes of the sermons loosely follow the liturgical year and are also based on a Biblical text.    For example, let me take The Season of Epiphany   The text which he uses is

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." John ii. 11.
Newman writes

And in all of these seasons (of the liturgical year) He does something, or suffers something: but in the Epiphany and the weeks after it, we celebrate Him, not as on His field of battle, or in His solitary retreat, but as an august and glorious King; we view Him as the Object of our worship. Then only, during His whole earthly history, did He fulfil the type of Solomon, and held (as I may say) a court, and received the homage of His subjects; viz. when He was an infant.

His throne was His undefiled Mother's arms; His chamber of state was a cottage or a cave; the worshippers were the wise men of the East, and they brought presents, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All around and about Him seemed of earth, except to the eye of faith; one note alone had He of Divinity. As great men of this world are often plainly dressed, and look like other men, all but as having some one costly ornament on their breast or on their brow; so the Son of Mary in His lowly dwelling, and in an infant's form, was declared to be the Son of God Most High, the Father of Ages, and the Prince of Peace, by His star; a wonderful appearance which had guided the wise men all the way from the East, even unto Bethlehem.

This being the character of this Sacred Season, our services throughout it, as far as they are proper to it, are full of the image of a king in his royal court, of a sovereign surrounded by subjects, of a glorious prince upon a throne. There is no thought of war, or of strife, or of suffering, or of triumph, or of vengeance connected with the Epiphany, but of august majesty, of power, of prosperity, of splendour, of serenity, of benignity.

Now, if at any time, it is fit to say, "The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him." [Hab. ii. 20.] {76} "The Lord sitteth above the waterflood, and the Lord remaineth a king for ever." "The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." "O come, let us worship, and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker." "O magnify the Lord our God, and fall down before His footstool, for He is Holy." "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; bring presents, and come into His courts."
You can see from this how his sermons flow both logically and stylistically, and how many Scriptural allusions are brought in.   In this way he reminds me of Augustine or Chrysostom. 

I have to say I'm very glad that through the miracles of technology I can access this kind of work for free.   We live in a wonderful age, even though like most wonderful ages it is filled with change and unrest.   It's easy to feel one is caught up in a whirlpool but as Newman says in Steadfastness in the Old Paths, new things come out of old things and are grounded in them.   I've noticed that brand new media or technology often gives us new ways to access the old things if we only care to take advantage of the opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. I gotta read me some more Newman!

    Thanks for the great link to his works on line. That's a great resource!


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