I am grateful to the Marylebone Ordinariate Group for reminding me of this moving and impassioned speech – Our Present Duty – by Frank Weston, sometime Anglican bishop of Zanzibar, who made these remarks at the close of one of the great Anglo-Catholic congresses (1923, in fact) which were held in the Royal Albert Hall. Here is a video from the 1922 congress.
Anglo-Catholic attempts to bring about more obviously Catholic devotions within the Church of England were met with much discontent by the establishment and many Anglicans in the early years, but by this time the Movement was beginning to hold its’ own. This is why there is the reference ‘…you have begun to get your tabernacles’.
Whilst the situation of the Catholic Church is very different, these words apply equally; not least if we consider the liturgical reforms of the last few years. Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI and his profound love for and of the sacred liturgy. But the lex orandi – the beautiful and worthy celebration of Holy Mass – must always be a catalyst and fuel for the life of Christ to be seen in us, and in his Church.
Here’s the famous bit:
. . I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have, if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in His Blessed Sacrament, then, when you come out from before your tabernacles, you must walk with Christ, mystically present in you, through the streets of this country, and find the same Christ in the peoples of your cities and villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum. . . . It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacrament and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating Him in the bodies and souls of His children. . . . You have your Mass, you have your altars, you have begun to get your tabernacles. Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them, and, when you have found Him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of his brethren.
The complete speech is available here.