24 August 2016

S Bartholomew's Day

The Day of the Great Ejection, in 1662, of those two or three thousand Protestant Ministers who would not accept Sacerdotal Ordination by a Bishop in the Church of England; a day also to remember because of the concomitant 'sacerdotalising' changes to her rites of Ordination. This initiated an era only ended by the unhappy 'Porvoo Agreement' in which the Church of England herself formally declared, as Leo XIII had declared a century earlier, that her Orders were identical with those of Continental Protestantism (1995).

Granting the views expressed by Dermot MacCulloch about the Protestant character of the Elizabethan Reformation, should we see S Bartholomew's Day as the moment when the Church of England definitively and formally set out upon a course distinguishing herself from Common Protestantism? A course upon which she remained until the events of last two or three decades concluded it (Women priests, Porvoo, Anglican-Methodist Covenant, Women Bishops).

August 24 1662: one of a number of significant steps in the long journey from Elizabeth Tudor's coup d'etat to Benedict XVI's Ordinariate.

Dies calculo notandus.

23 August 2016

A Model Diocesan Bishop

It would be interesting to know exactly what the Dean and Chapter of Exeter had heard about their new bishop in August 1327. They certainly knew that he had been 'supplied' by the Holy See in place of the man they had themselves elected and whom the King had already confirmed. Presumably they knew he was a favourite of Pope John XXII. I suspect they had also heard that he was a micromanager, because they immediately put in hand the creation of a new Cathedral inventory.

John de Grandisson (pronounced Grahns'n), member of a top-flight international family, certainly turned out to be a man who devoted scrupulous attention, and considerable funds, to worship. A decade or two ago, more than six centuries and one 'reformation' after his death, he still merited an entire section on himself in a major London exhibition of Gothic art ... and some vestments with his arms embroidered on them still repose in a sacristy in ... the Azores! After his enthronement (which as a devotee of the Mater Misericordiae he fixed for the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1328; he decreed that the day should be a top-ranking feast for ever) his first decree endeavoured to raise the level of devotion among the unreformed rabble of Cathedral clergy by granting ample indulgences to those who devoutly attended choir and bowed their heads at the Names of Jesus and Mary. (It didn't work; hearing a few weeks later that the junior clergy were still behaving like naughty third-formers, he sent the Dean a stinker: 'Someone has failed to take measures ...').

As the first of his many benefactions, he gave a sumptuous monstrance to the Cathedral so that Corpus Christi, recently (yes; don't believe all that Transiturus stuff) instituted by John XXII, could be properly observed with a procession. He began his great masterpiece, the Ordinale Exoniense, codifying and modernising the usages of his Cathedral (not, as some Art Historian nutter has written, of the Diocese; in a time of manuscript altar-books the concept of Diocesan Regulations is anachronistic). It was probably he who suppressed some dreadful old lyrics which had previously been sung in the Exeter Procession of Relics: Grandisson preferred the new cult of the Blessed Sacrament (and devotion to our Lady) to tall tales about dubious miracles performed by obscure relics. He dealt expeditiously with a false claim of a miracle, and suppressed a phony shrine of our Lady (a bit like a medieval Medjugorje?) which was in effect a scheme for fortune-tellers to exploit the gullible. We have a couple of pages from a Mary Missal, for daily use in the Lady Chapel either at Exeter or at his collegiate foundation at Ottery, in which the bishop in his own handwriting has painstakingly corrected scribal errors. He completed the building of his Cathedral in great splendour. He went after a Cornish heretic who, as heretics sometimes do, had stolen a Host specifically in order to commit sacrilege. He sent his own private army to prevent the Primate of All England, his own metropolitan Archbishop, from entering Exeter on Visitation. He complained to his Patron in Avignon about the Cornish weather. But he did his duty even in the wind-swept extremities of the peninsula, consecrating altars and composing conflicts and seeing to it that in Cornubiphone parishes the clergy could preach in Cornish.

Even though he did not die at this time of the year, he ordered that his obit be kept on the day after the Octave of the Assumption; that is, today. I can't think of a more suitable day.

He was a devout old bully and a most magnificently cosmopolitan pontiff and a gigantic credit to the much-maligned, unjustly maligned, Avignon papacy. What a mercy that a wise Providence in its eternal decrees did not call upon him to exercise his episcopal ministry in the Age of Bishops' Conferences; I can't imagine him ... er ... sitting quietly at a table ... and ... er ...

I said Mass for him this morning. They don't make them like him nowadays.

Cuius animae intercedente Matre Misericordiae propitietur Deus.

22 August 2016

Adrian Fortescue

A kind friend has alerted me to a fine piece on the blog Eastern Christian Books (August 12), with regard to the use and overuse of the Petrine munus docendi. It ends with a good quote from Adrian Fortescue.

Adam deVille, unlike some people, is never boring and never talks nonsense.

We should never forget that there are some very level-headed chaps over there in the Byzantine Rite sui iuris Churches. Perhaps, after Cardinal Sarah, it will be time for a Byzantine-rite pope. It would be quite like being back in the first millennium, wouldn't it, to be having African and Greek popes again.

I must read that blog more regularly.

Eirene pasin.

Taking leave

As we conclude the old Octave of the Assumption - I like the old Byzantine habit of "taking leave" of great festivals - I invite readers to engage with the question of what we are celebrating today ... and to begin by tracing the history of one particular hymn.

The post-conciliar revisers, in their first draft of the Hymnarium, proposed to offer a ninth century hymn, O quam glorifica, on Assumption day. It did not make it to the final cut, but it does appear in the new Office Book on August 22, the old Octave day, to which the 'reformers' transferred the Feast of Mary, Queen (at the same time ejecting the Immaculate Heart from that day onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart). Interestingly, that hymn was, in the first millennium, a Proper hymn for the Assumption.

I do rather feel that combining the Queenship of Mary with her Octave day does have a lot to be said for it. Long before gentlemen in liturgy offices in Rome started shifting Marian feasts around like counters on a Ludo board, Dom Gueranger saw the Octave day of the Assumption in terms of our Lady's Queenship. I hope I am not too puritanical about the Marian frenzy of the pontificate of Pius XII - that sort of thing is rather fun from time to time - but his liturgists never had an over-all, holistic look at the arrangement of the new feasts he showered upon the calendar. Even if Vatican II had never happened, a bit of sorting and sifting would have been in order in the next pontificate. 

They might have decided to make the old feast pro [multis] aliquibus locis of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces, on May 31, a Feast of the Universal Church. And to have left the Visitation where they found it. And to have adopted a neat eighteenth century idea of putting the Most Pure [aka Immaculate] Heart of Mary onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart.

That would have been an organic and gradual evolution of the data emerging from the 'baroque' period of the history of the Calendar.

21 August 2016

Mostly Philology

~ For some months now, I have noticed this phenomenon: some people being interviewed by journalists begin their every reply with the word "So ... ". (Rather as, for years, some of us began every answer to a question with "Well, ... er ...".)

Does anybody have any ideas about how, why, where, this arose?

I have never noticed any analogous changes in the use of particles in the Attic Greek of different periods. Have you?

~ I rather think that the more extreme "Yer-knowers" are now an aging minority. Yes? No?

~ "I was like" meaning "I said" still seems to me as common as ever among the bimboid classes to whose noisily confidential exchanges I hungrily listen as I sit in my no 35 'bus into Oxford's City Centre. Have you monitored this usage recently?

~ One of our politicians claimed that those now flocking into our Labour Party are Trotskyites. An opponent ridiculed this by saying "Most of the people I saw there were grandfathers and grandmothers". At which end might one begin an analysis of this exchange?

~ One day recently, the main News item was the "issue" of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women being so tremendously difficult to persuade to "enter the workplace". The very next day, the main item was the "issue" of flirting, stroking, groping, touching-up, et huius generis alia, in places where men and women work together. I have heard no member of the Commentariate suggesting that there might, even hypothetically, be any relationship immediate or even mediated between these two "issues". Have you?

~ Do you think "issues" are here to stay, or will they soon be circumvented by a new circumlocution?

My theory about "issues" is that the previous term, "problems", acquired a bad reputation because of aggressive usages such as "I'm a murderer and an embezzler ... (sticking his chin out) ... do you have problems with that?" Thus "problems" became things that it was increasingly difficult to admit to having, and a neutral or non-loaded term was required. Evidence for, evidence against this hypothesis?

20 August 2016

FR LOMBARDI (updated)

Is there any truth in the rumour that vast log-jams built up in S Peter's yesterday among the people queuing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as Fr Lombardi, on relinquishing his PR appointment in the service  of the Holy Father, made a General Confession?


On reflexion, perhaps unkind. Presumably Fr L is actually a human being with his foibles, his besetting temptations, his own struggles to let Grace dominate his life, just as we all are. But he has been forced by his job volens nolens to create for himself a persona, that of somebody who repeatedly pops out automatically at the pressing of a button to say "When the HF said X, what, of course, he really meant was non-X". This has, I am afraid, become quite funny, and it is not entirely our fault that it has. It was very much this comic persona, the circus clown, that I meant to mock, rather than a real existent Christian Priest, almost certainly a better one than I am, called Federico.

Dawkins and Bugnini are another couple who, I feel, are pretty well metamorphosed into their personae. Possibly also the Holy Father himself, with his "Butterflies" and his "Neo-Pelagian Narcissists" and (a crude, offensive, and inaccurate parody) his "Pharisees". Possibly (a maioribus ad minimum iam descendo) even I ... er ...  

19 August 2016

Rubrical specialists out there ...

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae says that Religious Orders may use their propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus. Does anybody know whether such books, in, for example, the Dominican or Franciscan or Cistercian or Carmelite Rites, were "kept up to date" (perhaps by an Authority within each Order?) in accordance with the general "reforms" of Roman Rite in the 1950s?

I have in mind things like the decimation of Vigils and Octaves ... the insertion of feasts like S J the Workman (May 1) and BVM Queen (May 31) ... the replacement of Gaudeamus with Signum magnum ...

18 August 2016

Assumpta est

A recent author of a comment on this blog very reasonably argued that Pius XII, if we perform a holistic reading of Munificentissimus Deus and apply a hermeneutic of Continuity, actually does teach that our blessed Lady died. The very same day, I received an intelligent email from a friend who found it repugnant to imagine that she could have been dead, even for a moment. One can, indeed, argue that the restraint of the actual Definition is laudable for not imposing beyond what is necessary upon either 'side'. Fair enough. I am no Torquemada.

But I would add the following: the lex orandi should help us to constitute the lex credendi (I am not too sure what I think about a proposal of Pius XII that this venerable tag operates both ways round). And this suggests to me a massive bias towards the immemorial assumptions of the common ancient traditions of East and West as found in their liturgies. And why should this symphonesis be a problem rather than a source of joy?

And I will repeat a point I made originally: that, as a result of the apophaticism of the Definition, the originally common traditions of East and West have de facto disappeared from the consciousness of the West. Can this really be a matter for denial? It is easy to get the impression that the Western Church regards the old apocryphal stories of the death, burial, and Assumption of our Lady with suspicion; as being rather dubious and 'medieval' and politically incorrect 'folk religion'. Indeed, they are not canonical Scripture. But our ignorance of them means that we can see a medieval alabaster, or mural, of the Assumption - or a Byzantine ikon of the Dormition - and not have the faintest idea what on earth they are all about. Why is that man shown on the Ikon with his hands chopped off? Why did the priest after Mass/Liturgy this morning bless and give flowers to the congregation?

I do not think it was wrong of me to discern something (in Ratzingerian terms) of a Rupture in Pius XII's Definition. Rather like those Conciliar formulae which were designed to be interpreted in different ways by different people! Rather like a certain recent Apostolic Exhortation which quoted Familiaris consortio ... and missed out half the paragraph! This sort of game has become all too tempting to the modern papal machine.

But, even if I was wrong, I suggest that we revisit these stories, even if only to enrich our capacities for perception and comprehension in the field of Christian archaeology and Art History!!

SO ... If you, happily, possess a pre-1950s Breviary, you could have a look at the Mattins readings for today, the IVth Day within the Octave of the Assumption. Otherwise, google your way to (pseudo-)Joseph of Arimathea The Passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

17 August 2016

Why was she assumed? A Patrimonial answer

Christians have sometimes based a belief in our Lady's Assumption upon her perpetual virginity; or her freedom from actual sin; or her freedom from original sin; or the inseparable physical bond between her and the Son who shared her flesh and blood, her DNA [a point essentially made by Dom Gueranger]; or the unbreakable bond of love that must exist between Mother and Son. All this I agree with. But as I observed yesterday, the reason most consonant with the liturgical traditions of East and West is that she was assumed so that she could be our Intercessor. Sometimes it is considered that the concept of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces is somehow "extreme" and is a horribly divisive extravagance that any sensible ecumenist (oxymoron?) dreads being defined ex cathedra by some maximalising pope. I disagree. I will make the point by giving a translation of a Secret which was often used in many parts of Europe during this season - including England.

O Lord, may the prayer of the Mother of God commend our offerings before thy merciful kindness; for thou didst translate her from this present Age for this purpose, that (idcirco ... ut) she might confidently (fiducialiter) intercede before thee for our sins.

A considerable Russian theologian, Vladimir Lossky, explained that "freed from the limitations of time, Mary can be the cause of that which is before her; can preside over that which comes  after her. She obtains eternal benefits. It is through her that men and angels receive grace. No gift is received in the Church without the assistance of the Mother of God, who is herself the first-fruits of the glorified Church. Thus, having attained to the limits of becoming, she necessarily watches over the destinies of the Church and of the universe".

Our Lady was assumed that she might be the treasury of God's grace, the Mediatrix of All Graces, the mother whose hands stretch out to bestow. In Newman's majestic words, written while he was still an Anglican: There was a wonder in heaven; a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypical; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal Throne; robes as pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all ... The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

A well-known Roman Catholic (traditionalist) scholar once said to me that he felt Newman wrote better when he was an Anglican than when he was a Roman Catholic. This passage could stand as evidence. When Newman was beatified, the author of his Anglican writings was beatified too. Nobody is more Patrimonial than Newman.

16 August 2016

Assumptive collects

Forgive, O Lord the offenses of thy servants, that we who by our own deeds are not able to be pleasing unto thee, may by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord [God] be saved.

Thus a literal translation of the collect which, until Pius XII, was said on Assumption day; after the 1950 proclamation of the dogma of our Lady's Corporal Assumtion, it was replaced by a collect more explicitly asserting the corporality of her Assumption. Incidentally, the word [God] appears in earlier texts and I think it ought to be restored because in this age of weakened faith we ought to lose no opportunity of hammering home the Godness, which is not a misprint for goodness, complete and unambiguous, of the rabbi from Nazareth. This old collect, by the way, survives as one among the options in the new rites for the Common of our Lady, and for use on Saturdays, and for August 5, now seen as the commemoration of the Ephesine definition of Theotokos.

Another reason why this collect might give pause for thought is its apparent assertion that we are 'saved' by the intercession of our Lady. A trifle (as some Anglicans might put it) 'extreme'? I do think this needs unpacking. And so I would make two points. (1) Earlier tradition asks the question "why was she assumed?", and gives an answer quite different from that offered by some modern theologians (i.e. that being immaculate she was not subject to death). She was assumed that she might intercede for us. You will find this in a sermon of the great hesychast Father S Gregory Palamas. This Eastern idea appears also in Western texts such as the Gregorian Sacramentary: "Great, O Lord, in the sight of thy loving kindness is the prayer of the Mother of God, whom thou didst translate from this present age for this reason, that (idcirco ut) she might effectually intercede for our sins before thee". "Let the help, O Lord, of the prayer of the Mother of God come to the aid of thy people; although we know that after the condition of the flesh she left this world, may we know that she prays for us before thee in heavenly glory".

And, (2), I feel we should give a broad sense to the word intercession. Yes, it means that she prays for us. But it also means that Mary came between (cessit inter) God and Man when by her fiat she gave birth to the Divine Redeemer. And, in Mary, function and ontology merge; she is eternally what she was in the mystery of the Incarnation.What she did at Nazareth and Bethlehem is what in the Father's eternal creative utterance she is. And so these two senses of 'intercession' are really one.

That is, surely, the root of the dogma of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces.

15 August 2016

Pius XII and the Assumption.

The simplistic notion that the Definition of 1950 regarding the Assumption of our Lady somehow constituted the 'imposition' of a 'new' dogma is quite the opposite of the truth. Put crudely, rather than being Doctrinal Augmentationism, that Definition constituted Doctrinal Reductionism.

The first millennium texts common to Rome and Canterbury expressed a belief common also to the East: that Mary 'underwent temporal death'; that nevertheless she 'could not be held down by the bonds of death' and that the precise reason why God 'translated her from this age' was that 'she might faithfully intercede for our sins'. This is the Ancient Common Tradition of East and West. It is, in fact, expressed clearly in much of the liturgical and patristic evidence which Pius XII cited as evidence for the dogma in Munificentissimus Deus; one suspects that this is because the Pope would have been much shorter of evidence if he had omitted this material. But it is left out of the definition. Which means that it has de facto disappeared from the consciousness of Latin Christendom.

And in the subsequent liturgical changes, our Lady's death and resurrection were censored out of the Divine Office. Yet the old beliefs were good enough for the pages of the Altar Missal of the Anglo-Saxon Archbishops of Canterbury (the 'Leofric Missal'), the faith of S Odo, S Dunstan, S Aelfheah, S Aethelnoth, S Eadsige and very probably of so many other archbishops of Canterbury stretching beyond Plegmund to S Augustine. They were good enough for the Breviary lections during the Octave. Blessed John Henry Newman's justly celebrated sermon on the Assumption makes the same point. She died and was resurrected. Authoritative, surely?

Yet this is not what Pius XII defined. His 1950 definition, as the ARCIC document on Mary accurately reminds us, does not 'use about her the language of death and resurrection, but celebrates the action of God in her.' [A very strange 'but'!] In other words, Pius XII took a machete and slashed ruthlessly at the Common Ancient Tradition about our Lady's end, not simply by ignoring the apocryphal stories about how the Apostles gathered and what they found in the tomb and how S Thomas arrived late and all the rest of it; but also by pruning away even the bare structural bones of what Christians Eastern and Western had harmoniously thought they knew: that she died and was resurrected.

The 1950 decree was not the imposition of some new dogma but the elimination of 99% of what the Common Ancient Tradition had for centuries comfortably shared. Those whose instinctive disposition is to avoid speculation about our Lady's End ought to applaud Pius XII and the radical austerity, the innovative agnosticism, of his definition. He went almost all the way to meet them.

14 August 2016

Evening Prayer today

August 14 is a day to say Vespers from any form of the Roman Rite which precedes the post-Conciliar 'reforms'. So as to have the magical experience of actually beginning the Office with that great shout of triumph and joy suddenly going forth: Assumpta est Maria in caelum gaudent Angeli laudantes benedicunt Dominum. Imagine the day of Mary's Transitus and that cry re-echoing ever outwards among the innumerable circles of the oyeresu to the uttermost extremes of the Universe! Compare that with the pedantic Marian minimalism of the Liturgy of the Hours. You can just imagine those grim committee-men sitting round their table ... "We really had better begin the Assumption by setting it in the theological context of the Ascension of Christ". I gather, incidentally, that the Antiphonale offers as the first antiphon at first Vespers Quae est ista, which at least shows a decent liturgical sense still surviving somewhere!

Even the Pius XII forms still have Ave Maris Stella at II Vespers, despite Fr Genovesi's dominance of the rest of the Hymnody. In Pius XII's time they at least kept Ave Maris Stella for II Vespers on most Marian Festivals. The 'reformers' knew better and they knew wrong.

The real loss in 1951 was of the Collect for the Assmption. We beseech thee O Lord forgive the offences of thy servants: that we who are not able to please thee by our own deserts; may by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord be saved. (Happily, it survives as an optional collect for our Lady in the Liturgia Horarum.) It was replaced by a modern composition which I must confess to finding inferior to the older one. The older collect emphasises the ancient conviction of East and West that the purpose of the Assumption is that our Lady might intercede for us; it reminds us that only through the Mediatrix of All Graces, reigning body and soul in heavenly glory, can we attain Salvation; it always reminds me of the homilies of the Greek Fathers, culminating in S Gregory Palamas, about the Mediation of our Lady. And of the plea one hears in the Byzantine Rite Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Indeed ... soson hemas ...