31 October 2007

The Very Revd Victor de Waal and Esther de Waal write:
HOW appropriate it was that Benedict should die on 3 September, the feast of St Gregory the Great, a man who combined scholarship with pastoral concern, and who was, above all, monastic. Benedict’s qualities as academic, teacher, and friend all flourished when in 1960 he joined the monastic Community of the Resurrection.

Humphrey Christian Green (to give him his baptismal names) was born in Oxford in 1924, the eldest of four children of the Revd F. W. Green, Fellow of Merton College, and subsequently Canon and Vice-Dean of Norwich Cathedral, and his wife, Marjorie Gosling, who had grown up in Bermuda.

He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, whence he won a King’s Scholarship to Eton, and then returned to Oxford as a Senior Postmaster (Scholar) at his father’s college, Merton. After Mods, he interrupted his studies to serve as a sub-lieutenant in the RNVR from 1942 to 1946 in the Far East.

On returning to Oxford, he completed Greats, and then read theology and went on to Cuddesdon. Ordained in 1951, he served under the pioneering parish priest Gordon Phillips in Northolt. In 1956, he moved to be a lecturer in the New Testament at King’s College, London, acting also as Sub-Warden of the college’s Vincent Square Hostel.

Already in his student days, his contemporaries recall his acute and fine mind, knowing him as a dedicated, if somewhat reclusive, scholar, someone who, it was said, never knew what it was to waste time. Deeply versed especially in New Testament scholarship, as also in liturgical studies, he went on to lecture in both fields, first at King’s College, London, then at Mirfield, and in the University of Leeds. He contributed significant articles and monographs over the years.

He long worked on a new commentary on St Matthew’s Gospel, a self-imposed task of filial devotion, updating his father’s own earlier commentary in the Clarendon series. But his major work on this subject became his monumental Matthew: Poet of the Beatitudes, finally published in 2001.

When he joined the Community of the Resurrection, with whose Catholic Anglicanism he felt so very much at home, he found a society notable for its scholars and widespread ecumenical relations. He specially valued the community’s monastic link with the Benedictine Abbey of St Matthias in Trier.

He spent ten years, 1965 to 1975, as Vice-Principal, and the following ten years as Principal, of Mirfield’s theological college, where pastoral gifts came to the fore. He will be remembered with affection not only by former students and their wives, but also by many others for whom he was a valued spiritual director.

He was a much-loved guide and confessor to the nuns of St Mary’s Abbey, West Malling, for whom he not only composed their fine eucharistic liturgy, but was also instrumental in commending the innovative young architects Maguire and Murray to design the nuns’ new chapel.

Benedict’s 46-year stability in the Community nourished his wide interests. Yet he was an essentially private person, with a distinctive stance, voice, and manner — a voice that became blurred over the years as he struggled with increasing Parkinson’s, bravely borne. His wit could be sharp, but this concealed a great warmth and generosity that earned him many devoted friends, whom he loved to visit.

At Benedict’s funeral in the great monastic church in Mirfield, Fr Peter Allen CR ended his words: “As we pray for the glorious completion of Benedict’s pilgrimage, we can surely recognise in the words of his beloved Matthew that here was ‘a scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven and is like the master of a household who brings out his treasure what is new and what is old’.”

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