20 August 2017

Wiggery

In the passage by the Dining Room of the Clergy House attached to S James, Spanish Place, I noticed an engraving of a prelate carying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. I think the engraving had a date around 1792.

The prelate was wearing a wig.

I'm sure there are zillions of you out there who have the following sort of information right at your snuff-stained finger tips: did prelates eo fere tempore wear their wigs all through Mass? Even after their zucchetto had been removed as they approached the Consecration? When did Catholic bishops stop wearing wigs? (I think it went out of fashion in Anglican cicles in the 1830s.)

Changing the subject ... readers will have seen the splendid picture on Fr Tim's blog some time ago of the admirable Bishop Richard Challoner wearing his wig and blue choir dress. French and Irish bishops also wore blue ... illuminating comments?? A sign of Gallicanism? When did it cease?

We poor converts need all the help we can get in our struggle to become genuinely inculturated.

Good to see Fr Tim blogging again. Like all good Catholics, I check his blog daily.

18 August 2017

Fr Aidan Nichols, and the Amoris laetitia Crisis

Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, is without doubt the most considerable living theologian of the English-speaking Catholic World. For members of the Ordinariate, he is the great friend who helped and guided us during the years when we were planning, and then setting up, the Ordinariates. And he is as prolific a theological writer as Joseph Ratzinger (on whose theology he wrote a still normative guide, long before the election of Benedict XVI).

Now Fr Aidan has delivered a characteristic lecture on the crisis which has been precipitated by Amoris laetitia. I can't find the full text on my computer (can anybody provide a link?), but the Catholic Herald gives a report. And Fr Zed reproduces the Catholic Herald report. I urge everybody to read it; and to take it very seriously.

I would like to make two comment on my own behalf.

(1) Fr Aidan delivered his lecture at a meeting of the English Fellowship of Ss Alban and Sergius - largely an Anglican/Orthodox Society. Was this a good idea? Washing our dirty laundry in front of non-Catholics?

It was a thoroughly brilliant idea. You see, there are people who think that Pope Bergoglio's style of papacy may be somehow more "ecumenical" than that of some other popes. Bergoglio goes around kissing Patriarchs and begging their blessings; the man who insults his fellow-Catholics with such easy and iterated fluency can speak only well of non-Catholics. He is reported to have reopened the "Question of Anglican Orders"; he spoke ambiguously about "intercommunion" with Lutherans; made a fool of himself at Lund.

But, as you will forgive me for reminding you, I have often tried to explain on this blog that thoughtful Orthodox and Anglicans will not be attracted by a model of Papacy which can make any Roman bishop a self-obsessed tyrant propped up by an unhealthy personality cult; somebody whose least word or whimsy has to be accepted; who can, at will, change doctrine, morality, liturgy, and law. Such a papacy is not a papacy which the more open-minded Anglicans and Orthodox have ever been prepared to consider. There is no reason to think that they will be any more prepared to accept it when it comes with an Argentine accent and emphasis. Nor should they accept it, because it is not what the Catholic Church teaches.

Fr Aidan reminded his hearers that Vatican I in fact limited the papacy; and surmised "it may be that the present crisis of the Roman magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of the papacy [in regard to teaching]"

(2) Very naturally, there have been people, since Amoris laetitia, who have kept their heads below parapets; who have been cowed into acquiescence by fear of the noisy bully-boys, delatores, and sycophants who surround the current Roman bishop. The courage, and unambiguous words, of Fr Aidan Nichols might inspire them to show that parrhesia for which ... at an earlier stage in his pontificate ... pope Francis himself so often loudly called.

Just one more push!!! If we all get our shoulders to the task ... might this be the beginning of the end?

A Problem

Hmmmmph. A Problem. Some time ago I ran into a friend I had not seem for some time. In the course of conversation, he communicated to me the information that the Conclave for the election of the next Pope will take place in October. He was taciturn, but confident, about his sources.

Well, there you go. My own instinct had been that the present occupant of the Roman See would carry on as long as he could, so as to make his own particular agenda even more rigidly safe, and to make yet more of his wise appointments.

So, in an unwise moment, I advanced a reckless wager that my friend was wrong.

Now I've got Cold Feet. Suppose my friend knows something I don't know ...  What will he say when my cheque bounces?

Dear Readers, I desperately need the current pontificate to carry on at least until the early hours of All Saints' Day, Greenwich Mean Time.

I look to everyone to do anything they can to ensure this.

17 August 2017

Apologies

Ten days ago, we whizzed off South for a break, rendering me yet again incommunicado. I have just got back; I have, I think, enabled all the comments I received (and may I say how much I enjoyed them; not a single nastiness). Regretfully, I have to decline to answer some really pertinent queries, because I now have hundreds of emails to dispose of, as well as snailmail, and some unwritten papers which are creeping up on me, with catlike tread ....

It would be great if learned readers were able to look through the now enabled comments of the period 6 August to 17 August, and turn up one or two answers.

I do apologise to readers, who do me the kindness of reading this blog, and have thought me discourteous over these few days. I think I have been.

The Octave of the Assumption ...

... does not, of course, exist, either in the OF calendar or in the (already heavily reformed) books of 1962. Except vestigially; the old Octave Day was made the Feast of our Lady's Immaculate Heart in 1944 by Pope Pius XII. One of the changes made in the post-Conciliar Calendar which I find very attractive is the movement of the Feast of our Lady, Queen, originally placed on May 31 by Pius XII in 1955, to this slot. The reasons for associating this observance with the Assumption cycle are too obvious to need spelling out. The great fourteenth bishop of Exeter John de Grandisson (whom old lags in the reading of this blog will remember I have mentioned several times) arranged to have his enthronement on August 22 and (although it was not the anniversary of his death) to have his obit kept on the day following (is such a practice common?). Naturally; he was a devoted client of our Lady, particularly under the title of Mater Misericordiae, and his devotion seems to have been very much along the lines of that recommended by S Louis Grignion de Montfort.

I suppose an unofficial repetition of the Assumption Mass on the days within the Octave is contrary to current rules both in OF and EF; votive masses of events in the life of our Lord and his Mother are, with the exception of the Immaculate Conception, not allowed. One could, however, say ordinary votives of our Lady. I would like to see restored, as an optional Votive, the old Gaudeamus mass of the Assumption, the one superseded in 1950. It makes an important point about the Assumption: that we ought to see that mystery in terms of our Lady's mediatorial role. The Collect: it is Mary's intercession we need to be saved; the Secret: she has migrated so that we may sense her intercession in heavenly glory; the Postcommunion: it is by her intercession that we pray to be delivered a cunctis malis imminentibus.

16 August 2017

The English Catholic Hymn Book and Emily Clarke's not very Pindarick Ode to Bergoglio

Here is a piece I originally wrote when I was still pp at S Thomas's. I added the last bit in early February after being sent a link to Emily Clarke's unbelievable ditty. I include also some of the original thread.

When I took over the Church of Sancti Thomae Martyris iuxta Ferriviam Oxoniensium, I found a lovely pile of small green hymn books, apparently dating from the 1930s, in a cobwebby cupboard. The English Catholic Hymn Book  is full of absolute gems, recalling the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the Age of Martin Travers. The numbers start at 800, so as to render it practicable to use it together with the English Hymnal. 936 begins 'The happy birds Te Deum sing,/'tis Mary's month of May./Her smile turns winter into spring,/ And darkness into day' (Alfred Gurney, I think). It goes nicely to the tune of 'O little town of Bethlehem'. Then there's 928, 'O Mother! will it always be,/That every passing year,/ Shall make thee seem more beautiful,/ Shall make thee seem more dear'. That, of course - no prizes - just has to be by the greatest of the Romantic poets, Fr Faber. How could the tedious Mr Wordsworth possibly compare with him? I used it at S Thomas's to the tune of  'It came upon the midnight clear'.

We were once visited (anonymously) at S Thomas's by a chap writing reviews of churches (he wrote in his report of us that he would have given my homily 9/10 had I not ended with a ringing account of the Battle of Lepanto which, he thought, reduced it to a 5/10). He was scathing about the singing of 'I'll sing a hymn to Mary' to the tune of the Eton Boating Song ... a marvellous idea which I had picked up from the late, mighty Fr Melrose of S Giles in Reading (whom I think of every time I take up my beautifully printed 1940s Breviarium Romanum to say my Office, or one of my sticks to go for a walk .... all formerly his). But ... great heavens ... this is just the sort of plundering-for-God, robbing the Devil of his best tunes, that Faber, and the Wesleys, performed. It is the New Evangelism at its most joyous.

The only unhappy gap in this diverting little book seemed to be its lack of Cardinal Wiseman's 'Full in the panting heart of Rome', with its rather unEnglish manipulation of the English language. This got me wondering about producing an Anglicanised version celebrating the infallible magisterial Organ of the poor old Church of England: 'Full in the panting Synod halls /Within Church House's peeling walls/From pilgrims' lips that kiss the ground/Breathes in all tongues one only sound/ God bless our Synod, great and good.'

YAROOH!! Since I wrote all that, I have (4 Feb 2017) been directed to a four-minute Youtube clip showing some elderly chanteuse in a very obviously Irish church, singing an extremely sickly song actually invoking our dear Holy Father! As if he were a numen or ad minimum one of the mighty ones in the militia caelestis exercitus! At least Nicolas Wiseman didn't invoke Pio Nono!! Or is the song a coded cry for Santo subito? It includes lots of shots of pictures of the Sovereign Pontiff exposed in the church for veneration and framed for the camera by candles. And the poor chap isn't even dead yet!

The lady seems to have changed her dress after every few words of her ditty, so I presume an original full, unexpurgated fifty-minute video must somwhere exist showing her multiple strip-teases.This blog will preserve her aged modesty by not providing a link.

The full breadth and depth of Bergoglianism and its sugary personality cult continue to disclose themselves!!

15 August 2017

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

Which Collect is preferable on August 15? Certainly not an Anglican one: they all seem rather sad examples of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of wordy banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". The Pius XII composition is preferable ... but I'm not over-enthusiastic about it quite simply because one of the older collects it replaced is, in my view, quite exquisite. I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. But minimally conceived 'doctrine' does not exhaust the content of 'Tradition'.

My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I of course very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying common legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke so sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin.

Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are fused into one.

I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek with which S Gregory Palamas explained this truth! Pius XII, for all his Marian devotion, was opposed to the concept of our Lady's Universal Mediation. Now is the time for Pope Francis to recalibrate the balance!

14 August 2017

William Penn the Papist?

In 1687, our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VII and II visited Chester. His host, Bishop Thomas Cartwright wrote:

Sunday 28 August He walked thro the City (the Mayor, bareheaded carrying the Sword before him) to the Castle and heard Mass in the Shire Hall. 

He went into the choir of the Cathedral at nine o'clock where he healed 350 persons. After which he went to his devotions in the Shire Hall, and Mr Penn held forth in the Tennis Court, and I preached in the Cathedral.

His Majesty left the following day for the great and royal Catholic shrine at Holywell to pray for the birth of an heir. He was presented with the shift which his great-grandmother Mary Queen of Scots wore when she was beheaded. He was, indeed, granted an heir: our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VIII and III.

I presume 'healed' means that he touched for the King's Evil.


Bishop Cartwright was one of those Anglican bishops who supported the King's principled desire to allow Toleration to all, Papists, Anglicans, Quakers, and the rest. He published the Declaration of Indulgence, was one of the Commissioners for the reform of Magdalen College; and, after the Dutch Invasion, followed the King into exile. He died in Dublin in 1689.

I presume Mr Penn was that same Quaker William Penn who had dealings in North America and who accepted as sincere the King's policy of religious toleration.

The visit to Chester must have been one of those truly 'ecumenical' occasions which happened in England during this reign, before the Great Treachery of 1688 put a stop to them.

It is surprising how little we hear about this particular little corner of History.


13 August 2017

Drip drip drip

It must have been a schoolmaster that wrote the Quicunque vult. A parson couldn't have written it; parsons address their docile congregations Sunday by Sunday and are often complimented and sometimes disagreed with: each of these phenomena conceals the brutal fact that they aren't actually understood. It is the schoolmaster who endures the painful learning experience: the students leave his study or seminar room; he is happy in the sure and certain knowledge that he has just had one of the best, most learned, most interesting teaching sessions of his life ... and he discovers, when he reads the essays or marks the examination scripts, that the group falls into two groups: two thirds of them, who clearly hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about; and the other third, who did understand, but have forgotten it three weeks later. Or do I mean one week?

The parson feels the need to make sure he never bores the folk, so he never says the same thing twice. If you preach what is essentially the same message ... just dressed up a bit differently or put the other way round ... clearly they will notice your repetitiousness. So you don't do that. And this means that the poor people never get anything straight. Because with humans you just have to lay it out as simply as possible, elementary stage following elementary stage, and then just keep repeating it. Drip drip drip. And a few years later, just a few might start to grasp a bit of it. This is the truth that teachers find out very fast and preachers rarely do.

Cranmer may, as a good Protestant, have disapproved in principle of 'vain repetitions' but he had a dash of the schoolmaster about him. He understood drip drip drip. Not so Bugnini. So Cranmer ordered that the 'Athanasian' [it wasn't actually written by S Athanasius] Creed should be used once a month, but Bugnini, blindly and mechanically following the suggestion of the Council that repetitions should be reduced, expunged it from its last toe-hold in the Liturgy of the RC Church.

Just try reading it. You'll find it on Trinity Sunday in the 1962 Breviary, but before Pius XII started meddling, it was said on every Sunday where the liturgy was not lengthened by a Commemoration. In the Church of England, it was ordered to be said twelve times a year. It is printed after Evensong in the Prayer Book. "Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal. And also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet there are not ..." Yes; even Bloggs Minimus, your most gamma minus student, will be starting to get the point. Drip drip drip.

'It's unsophisticated. People won't put up with being condescended to in this patronising way'. You can perfectly understand why the Modern Parson, and the Modern Liturgist, heave a sigh of relief as they shovel Quicunque vult into their rubbish bins; something that Pusey and Newman, Aquinas and Benedict XIV weren't ashamed to recite prayerfully and humbly as they said their office. It is my impression that most modern clergy are either Unitarians or Modalists, and (what is worse) they are so unwholesomely pleased with themselves about it.

The omission of QV from the Office of the clergy, for nearly two generations now is, in my view, one of the main causes of the de facto total disintegration of Trinitarian belief in Western Christendom. We've lost that Threefold drip drip drip. But there is another such loss: the use of the Preface of the Holy Trinity on most Sundays of the year ... the Green Sundays, Advent, and the Gesimas . Of course, when one uses repeatedly a liturgical formula, one does not think profoundly about the fulness of the sense of each phrase every time one says it. But ... drip drip drip ... it becomes part of you. Drip drip drip.

12 August 2017

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (3)

Continued from the previous two posts.
The Blessed Sacrament, as the Body, not of the dead but of the living Christ, became a focus for devotion, not surprisingly, around the same time as personal devotion to Jesus became common; the revolution by which public liturgical prayer in the Latin Church continued, in the classical formulae, to be to the Father through the Son, but was accompanied by a vivid devotion of the individual directly to the Son. This is also the age in which the Elevation of the Host began its rise to the status it possessed at the end of the middle ages as the principal focus of lay devotion. And this was the age when some fashionable cosmopolitan intellectuals apparently started to view with disdain a number of features in the inherited cult of relics. The massively wealthy Avignon nominee to the See of Exeter in the 1320s, John Grandisson, appears to have suppressed there an embarrassingly crude popular hymn which was sung annually at the Exeter Procession of Relics. And in the vast lists of benefactions which he made to his Cathedral and to his collegiate foundation at Ottery and to the beneficiaries of his will, I have found not one single mention of even one single relic. But he possessed and donated monstrances of fabulous wealth and beauty; he ordered that country parsons should bear the Sacrament to the sick with proper dignity and not just carry It any old how. I have no doubt that his instinct was: relics are all very well, but the Sacrament is the living Body of our Maker and Redeemer.

Grandisson was the protege of the (undervalued) pope to whom, under God, we owe the Feast of Corpus Christi and the immense devotional riches, for Latin Christians, of the Cultus of the Blessed Sacrament. We are often told that this all started with the bull Transiturus in 1264. Forget it! That 'legislation' had not, as far as can be discerned, been followed* even in the papal chapel itself. But Transiturus was repromulgated probably* at the council Vienne in 1311 and then incorporated in the collection of decretals called the Clementines which was changed and corrected by Pope John XXII. He, in 1317, sent it to the universal Latin hierarchy, and set an example himself by instituting Corpus Christi processions (which had not in fact been envisaged in Transiturus). His initiative spread like wildfire. Nobody quite knew how to do these new things; in 1320 a Council at Sens naively gave up the attempt to legislate for appropriate ceremonial and left the arrangement of this "apparently divinely inspired innovation" to the devotion of clergy and laity.

It was clearly a devotional initiative whose day had come. We Latins can be modestly proud that it was through us that the Lord showed the richness of this wonderful treasure.

This series is now completed.
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* In those days before printing, there is nothing very remarkable about a papal liturgical initiative directed at the Universal Church being pretty well universally ignored. Nor - although this will surprise and disquiet superconciliarists of all sorts - is there anything strange in the fact that we are far from sure exactly what happened at several ecumenical councils, including Vienne. Ecumenical Councils, as Joseph Ratzinger rather liked to point out, have often done more harm than good. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point out the crucial significance of printing in the history of Liturgy and - indeed - of Theology.

11 August 2017

Ming the Merciless

Somebody Who Should Know told me that our beloved Holy Father is sometimes known among his Curial fellow-toilers as Ming the Merciless.

The term suggests to me flickering black-and-white adventure movies from the 1930s, long fingernails, improbably droopy moustaches, unimaginable oriental cruelties, opium dens, and all that. Am I on the right lines?

One simply cannot imagine Oriental Cruelties, or even Opium-fuelled Orgies, in Pope Francis' Rome.

Incidentally, apparently the Holy Father, to show that he is not a luxuriating Renaissance Prince, is spending a humble and abstemious August in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Does anyone know whether or not the air-conditioning (vide Laudato si Paragraph whatsit) is on?

Is there any truth in the rumour that the cooler and papally-vacated Castelgandolfo has been made exclusively available to clerical bloggers and their wives?


10 August 2017

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (2)

Continues:
Bishop, however, exaggerates when he talks about the cult of the Blessed Sacrament as absent through the whole middle ages. The thirteenth century shows a dawning awareness of something more profound. A 1260 ordinarium from Zurich finds it necessary to explain that it is "contrary to reason ... altogether absurd" that "the Eucharist, which is the true living Body of Christ, should represent his dead Body". In the same century a conventual ordinal preserved in Dublin ordered the Sacrament to be "honourably reserved for the use of the sick", but less than a century later another hand feels it necessary to add to the manuscript "and for the devotion of the choir".

[There is a red herring to be disposed of here. Dix, engaged in tweaking the tails of Anglican bishops who attempted to issue 'regulations' banning Corpus Chisti processions, loved to point out that the first records of Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were in Palm Sunday processions at Canterbury. Fair enough; the Anglican bishops of Dix's day included a fair number of bigots, who deserved what they got from his versatile and merciless pen. But Dix is perpetrating, in my view, a genre confusion. On Palm Sunday, Christians in many parts of the Latin West desired to actualise ritually the Lord's Entry into the Holy City. They used, sometimes, a wooden statue of the Lord on a donkey; or the Book of the Gospels; or ... sometimes, the Sacrament. The genre is Drama and so the question is: We are doing a dramatic representation of a historical event, the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem: therefore how shall we represent the Figure of Jesus? But the genre of the Corpus Christi Procession is not Drama but Adoration: and so the question here is; We possess the true body of the living Christ: therefore how should we worship Him?]

Once you stop thinking of the Sacrament Reserved as the real but dead Body of Christ which the Faithful need to receive when sick or dying, and begin to see it as the living Body of the living Christ, you will see it not as a supremely potent but dead relic but as the locus for a direct, lived, relationship between believer and Lord. We see this transition in the development of some of the very rare, early, processions of the Host before the end of the thirteenth century. The host was processed together with the other most potent relics of the Church concerned. But, over the next fifty years, such practices became much less common, and eventually disappeared.

And this revolution led to a change in the vessels used for Reservation. No longer were they made of ivory, but of precious metals. No longer were they designed to represent the Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Above all, no longer was the Sacrament to be reserved in the same vessel as the Holy Oils*.

One more piece should conclude what I want to say about this topic.

__________________________________________________________

*In the first millennium - remarkably, to our minds - the vessel blessed to be a container for the Sacrament was often called the Chrismale!

9 August 2017

Papyri and Fallibility (2)

"S Mark's Gospel must be the earliest to have been written because it is so much simpler; and its rough, primitive unsophistication ... "

"Early Christological models are inevitably simpler, indeed, more sincere, than the later Christologies, with their complex and artificial ... "

"The sophisticated theology and complex narratological techniques of S John's Gospel make clear that it can hardly predate the second decade of the second century ... "

"The worship of the Christian Churches, as it developed from the simple fellowship meals held by the early Christians in memory of Jesus of Nazareth ... "

"The palaeographic indications which appear to suggest that the papyrus [containing the prayer Sub tuum praesidium] dates from as early as the third century, must give way to the realisation that its developed Mariology cannot possibly ... "

So very many of the 'assured results of modern scholarship' have rested ultimately upon comfortable and rarely interrogated Enlightenment prejudices. To the mentality of the last two-and-a-half centuries, it has seemed obvious that 'primitive' simplicity must have been transformed, in a simple linear process, into greater complexity. Rousseau's Noble Savage, dated into mythical human pre-history, must necessarily predate the Bourbon Court! That such a methodological presupposition still survives among 'liberal' Christian academics is, it seems to me, another example of the intellectual naivite of such writers and of their chronic inability to keep up with advances in the secular study of the ancient world. Here is a passage, written in 1998 by Peter Parsons, Regius Professor (now emeritus) of Greek in this University and a very great papyrologist. He is surveying the large number of 'new' ancient Greek texts which the sands of Egypt had yielded in the couple of decades before he wrote. (It is worth adding that further papyrological discoveries in the two decades since, have done nothing to weaken his argument.)

" ... the new texts test the categories and structures of scholarship, the faible convenue which nineteenth century positivists based on the assumption that the texts then surviving were typical and to be explained simply in relation to one another. As usual, aesthetic prejudices and unquestioned categories lie below the scientific surface. Scholars used to regard Aeschylus' Suppliants as the earliest of his plays; it has a simple plot, little action, and long choruses. Now a papyrus has dated it, less than ten years earlier than the Oresteia. False assumption: that artists develop in linear mode, from simple to complex, irrespective of theme. Now that we have Simonides' celebration of the Battle of Plataea, the great patriotic war of classical Greece, we see how he reinvented epic in elegy, the Trojan war in the Persian war, Homer in himself. Standard literary histories had put such generic mutations and complex intertextualities two centuries later. Another false assumption: that classical poets were all genius without artifice (and that their successors [of the 'Hellenistic' period were] all artifice without genius)."

8 August 2017

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (1)

"It must be allowed that during the whole middle ages ... the Blessed Sacrament reserved was commonly treated with a kind of indifference which at present would be considered to be of the nature of 'irreverence', I will not say indignity."

Thus wrote that Prince of Liturgists, the lay Roman Catholic Edmund Bishop. Dix, also, observed that, in the first millennium, he could recall no instance recorded of a Christian praying in the conscious awareness of the Sacrament Reserved. I propose to devote one post to explaing why that is; and another to looking at the 'Eucharistic Revolution' of the fourteenth century.

We all know that Reservation for Communion is very ancient. But an examination of the liturgical formulae used to bless the vessels used for this reveals a surprising understanding of them. "God grant that this vessel be sanctified and made by the grace of the Holy Spirit a new sepulchre for the Body of Christ". "God, who for three days and nights didst lie in the sepulchre ..." And when Archbishop Hubert Walter was buried at Canterbury in 1205, they interred with him a chalice engraved with this couplet:
Ara crucis, tumulique calix, lapidisque patena;
Sindonis officium candida byssus habet.
[The Altar has the job of the cross; and the chalice, of the tomb, and the paten, of the stone; and bright linen has the job of the shroud.
]

Note that the thinking here is entirely of the Body of Christ as His dead Body (an idea found in a rather different form in Byzantium; and known to some seventeenth century Anglican divines). And surviving artefacts make it clear that such vessels were constructed in the shape of a tower in order to resemble what the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem was believed to look like. Perhaps the practice in some places of reserving the Sacrament underneath the altar-tomb implied the same idea.

Such an understanding could easily assimilate the Sacrament to the status of a Relic. Thus an Anglo-Saxon Council of 816 even reassures the faithful that, if a church is not fortunate enough to have relics, the Reserved Sacrament will be good enough on its own!
To continue.

7 August 2017

Trump and the Russkies

I think the wisest thing I do is, normally, to steer clear of secular politics, but I am going to fall victim to the temptation to be unwise ... Yes, I know I shall regret it ... have your pens ready ...

... I get more and more mystified by news items wafting across the Herring Pond and centring on allegations that Brother Russky did something underhand to help one Donald Trump to win some recent North American election.

Ever since WW2, various American agencies have been engaging in attempted or actual regime change in countries generously scattered all over the known world. They have not always, in so doing, managed entirely to avoid the termination of inconvenient lives. They seem quite unfazed by suggestions that they often leave 'liberated' countries in a far worse state than they found them. Then there are American-based corporations with fabulous wealth which 'charitably' spend money and bully UN and NGO bodies to attack the structures of the family world-wide, and to disseminate the Culture of Death.

It is really quite stunning to hear so many in the Land of the Free, especially those tied to the apron-strings of that gruesome international abortionist Hillary Clintonova, suddenly discovering that they have such principled objections to anybody else on this planet influencing the political processes or moral systems of other countries.

I can think of worse things than a world in which the leaders respectively of Russkiland and of Yankiedoodleland had a cosy relationship. If Donald Fyodorovich Trump really is hand-in-hand with Vladimir Vladimirovich, that's fine by me. If they can get together to dismantle some of their murderously vile weapons and use their combined influence to make the world a chummier place, so much the better. If they could collaborate in building, by the thousand, in continent after continent, superb churches for the Eucharistic Liturgy, the blessed Epiphany of God upon Earth, and in supporting the structures of the Traditional Family throughout humankind, best of all.

That's what I would say if I were on the Grand Jury.

6 August 2017

The Battle of Belgrade and S Xystus

August 6; the Transfiguration; an oriental feast brought into the Roman Calendar by Calixtus III in 1457 to commemorate the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Belgrade in 1457 (rather as the Feast of the Holy Rosary commemorates the Battle of Lepanto ... whatever would we do without all those defeats of the Turks?). Late Medieval England developed a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, especially with the encouragement of the Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII. So here in England, the following day became the Feast of the Holy Name. A good idea, in my view. Just as Corpus Christi needed to be extracted from Maundy Thursday and given the opportunity to be celebrated at a time not preoccupied with the progress of Triduum (call it duplication if you like), so the Holy Name can do with being extracted from the Christmas/Circumcision/Naming sequence and given space to stand alone. What a shame the Ordinariate Calendar missed this opportunity. Actually, if you follow the Novus books, you could say a votive Mass and Office of the Holy Name on August 7.

What went under, what got lost in all this, was poor old Xystus. One of the martyr-popes in the Canon Romanus; the Pontiff whose own martyrdom preceded that of his own Archdeacon, S Lawrence, a few days later. The story is a poignant one: the arrest of the pontiff while preaching from his cathedra; his leading away to 'sacrifice to the gods'; his refusal. He was then brought back to be martyred at his own altar, together with two of his deacons; as he was being prepared for death, Archdeacon Lawrence said "Why do you abandon me, Father, you who never offer the Holy Sacrifice without your deacon?" "You will follow me in three days", said S Xystus. S Lawrence is one of three great patrons of the Roman Church; Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima being dedicated, as their liturgical propers demonstrate, to SS Lawrence, Paul, and Peter. Celebrating S Xystus on the 6th and S Lawrence on the 10th is both elegant and moving.

But, in the Novus Ordo, you can't. The novel fad for confining one day to one theme, unknown to the classical Roman and Byzantine rites, led the reformers to move S Xystus back off the Transfiguration (on the 6th) to the 5th and then to change their minds and move him to the 7th. I can only say that I consider this a great shame. What on earth is wrong with the old custom of keeping the Transfiguration on the 6th with a commemoration of S Xystus? He's much more likely to be noticed there than as an optional memorial competing for attention ... and on the wrong day.


5 August 2017

Jesuit Apostasy??

Somebody sent me a link to a picture apparently showing the "General" of the "Society of Jesus" in a Buddhist posture praying, it appeared, among Buddhists towards a Buddha. Of course, photographs do not always tell the whole story, and there may be circumstances of which I am not aware. And it will undoubtedly be true that if the "principles" of Amoris laetitia really do cover Adultery, as so many of our Holy Father's admirers claim, then they will clearly also cover Idolatry (together with Genocide, Paedophilia, Embezzlement, Torture, and all the other Family Entertainments for a Cold Winter Evening so conveniently listed in Gaudium et Spes 27 and carefully repeated at Veritatis splendor 80).

Apostasy? Clerical Apostasy? Public Clerical Idolatry?

I am reminded of the description in Dix (Shape pp 24-26) of the apostasy of the clergy of Cirta (Constantine, in Algeria) in 303. Here is a snippet of the great Anglican Benedictine in characteristic  (purple passage) full flood:

" ... What could they have said? To have surrendered the scriptures and the sacred vessels was 'apostasy', still for clerics (though not for laymen) the irremissible sin for which there was no possible penance. And they knew it; Felix [the City Warden] knew it; even the grinning public slaves knew it. They had saved their lives - but they had all irremediably forfeited their orders in that quarter of an hour. I know no more moving picture of the inner meaning of the persecutions than that shamefaced helpless group of apostate African clergy with the uncouth Berber names - the men who were not martyrs - as the public slave saw them across the shoulders of their enemies and jotted down their actions on that hot May afternoon sixteen centuries ago."

I believe the most recent very senior cleric to be caught apparently committing Idolatry 'to camera' was Maradiaga. It is claimed, I do not know upon what evidence, that there is another cardinal who once offered flowers to the deities in a Hindu temple. Pretty certainly misreported nonsense, but the sort of misreported nonsense that can be unsettling for us simple and unsophisticated souls.


I wonder whether we are bound to regard those against whom there is very plausible and undenied  prima facie evidence of Idolatry as still morally entitled to the exercise of their Orders (of course, the character of the Sacrament of Holy Order will certainly not have been expunged from their souls ... the Church's Rigid Dogma makes that clear).

Will the student clergy in the Roman Colleges be obliged to concelebrate with highly-placed apostates? Would it be a helpful service if the Annuario Pontificio published the names of those hierarchs who had committed Idolatry, making clear, perhaps, which of them had been subsequently absolved for the Sin, and which (on the grounds that "their consciences were comfortable with it") had not?

As our dear old British journal of public record, Private Eye, likes to say, I think we should be told.

4 August 2017

Mueller

His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Mueller may not have been well treated by the current occupant of the Roman See ... but he was badly treated by the more eccentric wing of Traddidom long before that.

Among the things I most admire about Mueller is his steadfast defence of the highly important  principle, established by Benedict XVI and detested by the apostate sections of Germanic Christianity, that Episcopal Conferences have no theological status. The Universal Church, within which the Roman See is the centre of Catholic Communion, does have status; and so does the the Local, Particular Church, with its Bishop, Presbyterium, Diaconate and Laos. But 'Conferences'  ... no way. Lose sight of this, and you will find yourself wandering down the muddy track called Provincial Autonomy, which smashed up the unity and traditions of the once great Anglican Communion. The Universal Church does indeed have priority over the Particular Church, as Ratzinger demonstrated in his punctiliously courteous but devastating demolitions of the sneering and nasty Kasper. The scholarly clarity of the former was more than a match for the slippery and phony logic of the latter.

But the dafter traddies never really noticed any of this. It was Mueller's stand on Amoris laetitia which most irritated them. They totally failed to observe the dilemma upon the stiletto-sharp horns of which he skewered Amoris laetitia. His Eminence offered AL two alternatives: (1) it has changed nothing; Familiaris consortio and Caritatis sacramentum still rule, OK; or (2) it has changed the immemorial praxis and doctrine of the Church.

The former of these is the only viable option. It is widely suspected both by the pope's admirers and his critics that Pope Francis had hoped to create a massive and confused muddy area of ambiguities in which the solutions he wanted would bubble up to the service and gradually, over time, establish themselves as facts upon the ground. If that is accurate, Mueller called his bluff. Perhaps that is why he had to go.

Gerhard Mueller will now have the leisure to work on his major edition of Joseph Ratzinger's works; and, I hope, to do a lot of his own work. He is, for a cardinal, young, and has much to offer the Church ... for which reason I am particularly glad that he did not accept some face-saving but time-wasting 'role'. If this pontificate lasts long enough, Bergoglio may come to regret that he did not (as the English mingently express it) keep Mueller inside the tent.

Mueller has put up with major humiliations, such as the tediously insistent implication in Pope Francis' words that Kasper, and then Schoenborn, are this age's brilliant theologians. There are also compelling reasons for thinking that the more minor and private humiliations which Mueller endured, Friday after Friday, may not have been few in number. This kindly and intelligent man has served the People of God through all of that with grace, simplicity, and loyalty.

I particularly hope that he will have time to return to the question of Liberation Theology. Despite a fair bit of froth about the Poor and the Peripheries, Pope Francis has no interest in this. But the major problems of unequal distribution and of the multinational corporations are still with us. So are the consequent violent polarities (as we see today in Venezuela) and the concomitant theological questions. Mueller is the man to take a fresh look at them.

3 August 2017

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum


There appears to be a consensus that there is no evidence for the Our Father being in the Mass anywhere in Christendom before about 350. Before that, it was a non-liturgical prayer used, perhaps several times a day, either privately or among groups of the Faithful. And the evidence is that during this period, when Christians shared the Our Father, they concluded it with a kiss of peace. The earliest evidence I know for this is in Tertullian (c160-225; see de Oratione PL 1 1176-9). A custom had grown up of people omitting the Peace after the Our Father when they had been fasting. Tertullian disapproves of it because it includes an inclination to boast publicly about fasting, contrary to Matth 6:16. He calls the kiss the signaculum orationis; the sealing (as a document might be sealed) or finishing-off of the prayer. Rhetorically, he asks: 'What prayer is complete when the holy kiss has been torn from it? Whom does the Peace impede as he is doing his duty towards the Lord? What sort of sacrifice is it, from which people go away without the Peace?' And a couple of paragraphs earlier, speaking about the ending of the prayer, he uses the phrase assignata oratione; 'when the prayer has been sealed'. Similarly, Origen (c185-254) , commenting on the Kiss of Peace referred to by S Paul in Romans 16 and elsewhere, describes it as happening 'after the prayers' (PG 14 1282). Since S Paul never specifies where the kiss is to be given, Origen's 'after the prayers' presumably reflects the usage of his own time.

It seems highly likely that what happened is this. When the Our Father was introduced into the Mass, it brought with it its concluding signaculum, the Kiss of Peace. Thus the Pax in the Liturgy is not, in itself, a reconciliatory preparation for Communion, but a 'signing off' from the Our Father and the Eucharistic Prayer. We find this situation reflected in the Letter of Pope S Innocent I to the Bishop of Gubbio in 416 (PL 56 515). Troublemakers in Gubbio had been saying that it was better to follow the custom of another Church as to the position of the Peace rather than that of Rome; the Pope responds ' the Pax has to be done after all the things which I'm not allowed to mention to show that the people have given their consent to everything which is done in the mysteries and celebrated in Church, and to demonstrate that they are finished by the signaculum of the concluding Pax'. The fact that he employs the very term signaculum which had been used by Tertullian suggests that we are dealing with conventional usage widespread enough to be common to Rome and North Africa and over a period of at least two centuries.

Thus the Roman position of the Peace appears to have a meaning and logic which go even beyond the introduction of the Our Father into the Mass, back to those early days when Christians met in little groups to say the Lord's Prayer together. That logic was the communal and corporate assent of God's People to the Lord's own Prayer. Of course, this does not exclude the notion of the Peace as a gesture of reconciliation among those who, as one Body, are just about to receive in the Eucharist the one Body and the one Cup of the Blood of the Redeemer. That theme is itself suggested by the last few clauses of the prayer, concerning mutual forgiveness.

But I wonder if there is a slightly different alternative narrative which might be valid here. Might the passage I have quoted from Tertullian relate not to the extraliturgical use of the Lord's Prayer among Christians, but to its use within the Mass? He does seem to be talking about something more corporate than merely a semiprivate prayergroup. And note the phrase 'What sort of sacrifice ...?' And there is a paragraph nearby where he criticises the habit of sitting down after the Peace; if the Peace simply concludes a little prayer meeting, why should the participants not be allowed to sit down once it was over?

Another And ... Having criticised his fellow Christians for witholding the Kiss so as publicly to flaunt the fact that they had been fasting, he goes on ' ... on the day of the Pasch, on which there is a rule of fasting which is common to all and as it were public, we rightly drop the kiss, because we don't care about hiding the thing [i.e. fasting] which we are doing with everybody else'. Those familiar with the traditional Roman Rite will recall that, to this day, we do not exchange the Sign of Peace at the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified, nor at the Mass of the Easter Vigil (even though the celebrant has said the words). This is because we are all deemed to have been fasting.

Questions arise: if the Our Father was within the Mass as early as the time of Tertullian, what does this do to our understanding of the early history of the Liturgy? How are we to fit in the apparently second century evidence for the Peace coming at an earlier point in the Mass? Why should those fasting consider it appropriate to withold the Kiss? What is the relevance of all this to the Eucharistic Fast, first witnessed in North Africa at the end of the fourth century? And does the evidence we have considered derive support from Dom Gregory Dix's compelling theory about the Mass of the Presanctified (i.e., that the third century practice of Christians communicating themselves privately on weekdays from the Host which they had reserved at the Sunday Mass, and blessing by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and then drinking a cup of wine as an 'antitype' of the Blood of Christ, is found as the Communion Rite of the traditional Roman Good Friday liturgy, simply transferred from the private to the communal context)?

I never cease to be surprised at what I find whenever I delve back into the history of the venerable and wonderful Roman Rite.

2 August 2017

Summorum Pontificum?

It was because of rumours that the current papal regime might reverse Summorum pontificum that I wrote my recent series on Concelebration in the Roman Colleges. I suppose I must learn that people don't read all one writes and commonly fail to grasp what one is really getting at.

I will put my opinions as simply as I can.

I do not think it is the Holy Father's style to do things in an unnecessarily and publicly confrontational way.

There are certainly gruesome individuals around like Andrea Grillo who do hope for SP to be eviscerated. This, they hope, would be achieved by eliminating the Subsidiarity according to which all presbyters can celebrate the EF without needing permissions.

But I do not think that the HF would just reverse SP, certainly not during the lifetime of his predecessor.

I think the current pope prefers to achieve his ends by more subtle and round-about means.

I suspect the draft Working Paper which I discussed at such length, of being an attempt by Pope Bergoglio or, more likely, his intimates such as the Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, to destroy the priestly culture that SP fed into. That's much more his style.

Anyway, Benedict XVI, not the stupidest of men, got in first by making clear that it would be ultra vires for any pope to attempt to extinguish the classical Roman Rite.

Remember also that it is historically the position of the SSPX that they did not ask for permission to celebrate the older Rite themselves in a private ghetto, but insisted, absolutely rightly, on this fundamental liberty, never lawfully abrogated, being confirmed to every presbyter of the Latin Churches. Pace Bishop Williamson's mistrust of his former colleagues, I do not think the Society would renege upon such a highly important principle.  

1 August 2017

Are you loafing at Lammas or dancing at Lughnasa?

Ronald Hutton may not be doing either. Ronald Hutton is the scholar who wrote a splendid debunking book in 1996 called The Stations of the Sun. What he exploded was the old nonsense dreamed up by anti-Christian students of 'Comparative Religion' in the first half of the twentieth century, led by Sir James Frazer. Those people enjoyed 'showing' that most Christian festivals were ancient pagan festivals very thinly disguised, and that Christianity so failed to leave its mark deep in the psyche of the common folk of the British Isles that many pagan rites survived the official triumph of the Pale Galilaean. An example:

At Padstow in Cornwall, two hobby-horses dance their way through the town each May Day. In the 1930s some daft people called the Folk-Lore Society persuaded themselves that this was a relic of a pagan sacred marriage between Earth and Sky. (Hutton gives a witty and hilarious account of the antics there of one of these nutters, called Violet Alford, who was very angry that the locals failed to realise the massive cultural significance of male transvestites.) The town council cheerfully assured prospective tourists that it was a Celtic custom 4,000 years old ... well, they would, wouldn't they? But modern scholarship, Hutton demonstrates, shows that there is no evidence for the custom going back beyond the late eighteenth century and very good reasons for being confident that it did not.

At the beginning of August, in many parts of Ireland, the country people climbed mountains and indulged in bonfires and jollity in honour of the God Lugh ... or did they? Hutton ... spoil sport ... gives good reasons for doubting whether these customs really have anything at all to do with the 'Celtic' god Lugh. They celebrated the opening of the cereal or potato harvest. And, as such, they were broadly parallel with the Anglo-Saxon celebration of 'hlaef-mass', loafmass, Lammas. It was the custom to reap the first of the ripe cereals and bake them into bread which was blessed in church upon that day; quaint things were sometimes then done to it to make the barns into safe repositories for the grain about to arrive in them.

Hutton leaves it an open question whether there is any link beteween the Lammas ceremonies and those of Lughnasa. But he does see both as "a reminder of the excitement which once attended the ripening of the corn across the ancient British Isles" (what my Irish readers call "the Atlantic Archipelago").

The popular play 'Dancing at Lughnasa' constituted a particularly nasty, more modern, example of the manipulation of any silly old heathen superstitions that can be dragged along to rubbish or ridicule the Catholic Faith ... a potent cultural icon, in effect, of post-Catholic Ireland and its sad vacuity.