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Thursday, 6 March 2008

The temple and Christian liturgy

Alfred Edersheim, an Anglican convert from Judaism, wrote a book called "The Temple" which I read many years ago at the recommendation of Fr Roger Nesbitt. Edersheim brings many episodes from the Gospel to life by explaining the background to them in Jewish temple worship.

I was therefore delighted to find that Margaret Barker, a Hebrew scholar from a Methodist background, has been publishing on the subject of the roots of Christian worship in the worship of the first Temple. Her latest book, just published by T & T Clark, is called "Temple Themes in Christian Worship". I was introduced to this book by Dr Laurence Hemming and other members of the Society of St Catherine of Siena 'Nicholas Group' for Study of Theological Issues in the Traditional Liturgy which I was invited to join. ('Nicholas Group' because it first met on the feast of St Nicholas last year.)

Yesterday, the Society held a seminar, on the theme of Margaret Barker's latest book, in the Senior Common Room of the London Campus of Notre Dame University, just around the corner from the National Gallery. There were a number or short formal responses to the book given by scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds. It was interesting to hear the reflections of Bishop Basil of Amphipolis from an Orthodox viewpoint and I was glad to have the chance afterwards to talk to Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, the Principal of Leo Baeck College in North London. There were a number of other contributions from a variety of other scholars.

It was an accomplishment to bring together such a diverse group to focus upon a theme that was of interest to all of the participants. It struck me that this was a form of purposeful and focussed inter-faith dialogue in which indifferentism would be a positive hindrance to the quality of the exchange of information that was sought.

After the seminar, most of the participants walked to the Catholic Church of the Assumption at Warwick Street for Vespers, sung according to the 1962 breviary.
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