31 March 2017

STRONG WOMEN

So here come those lovely Passiontide hymns, which are permitted in the Liturgia Horarum for this coming week even though it has officially abolished Passiontide.

Having a powerful and well-connected Mother Superior in your patch is not every cleric's preference, especially if she's inclined to start the day after Mass by just happening to mention 'By the way, father, my friend the Emperor of Constantinople is sending me a nice big relic of the True Cross. Will you be around? Could you just knock up a new hymn or two for the occasion?' But I jest: undoubtedly Venantius Fortunatus, the bishop of Poitiers who died in 609, was just as excited by the prospect of such a glamorous relic as was the Rt Revd and Rt Royal Lady Abbess Radegunde herself.

Sing my tongue the glorious battle, sing the ending of the fray,
now above the Cross, the trophy, sound the loud triumphant lay;
tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer, as a Victim won the day.
What a wonderful expression of joy at the thought of Jesus' Crucifixion. Some people used to say that only the Orthodox really understand S John's perception that Jesus' death on the Cross is the high triumphant moment of his glory (doxa). But this hymn (Pange lingua) and its twin (Vexilla regis) coming from so very Western a Christian as Venantius prove what nonsense that is.

Triumphant, yes, but before that word Venantius uses another: a Greek word, tropaion. This refers to what you did after winning a glorious battle: first you found a tree; then you lopped its branches off; and you clad it with armour stripped from your defeated foes. Clever of Venantius, to see the Cross as a Victory Tree, and neat to think of the diabolical powers as stripped naked in defeat. Next we have a Latin word, Triumph, which refers to the boisterous procession into Rome after a victory: the Triumphator, his face painted red so that he looked like Juppiter, processed in his chariot with his legions following and singing. By the chariot wheels marched the leaders of the defeated enemy; they were facing a decisive end in a dark little cellar on the Capitoline Hill (you'll remember that Cleopatra didn't look forward to making her last public appearance in such a way). And what the soldiers chanted was the Triumphant Lay: io triumphe io triumphe. Venantius neatly suggests that we Christans have our own Triumphant Lay: immolatus vicerit; The Sacrificial Victim has won the day. An oxymoron: sacrificial victims usually ended up dead rather than in glory. Or you could call it a paradox; G K Chesterton rightly observed that it's not easy to be a Christian if you can't take paradox.

The metre of this hymn calls for comment: the trochaic tetrameter catalectic (tumtytumty four times with the final syllable chopped off). What is interesting here is that this metre was used by writers such as Menander in Athenian New Comedy for scenes that are pretty nearly slapstick - Aristotle called it kordakikoteron or 'tending to a lively vulgarity'*. Caesar's soldiery chanted their ritual abuse at him (to avoid the the risk of the Gods taking offence as he rode in triumph) in this metre. I wonder if Venantius chose it because of the joyous exuberance of the procession accompanying Abbess Radegunde's spectacular new acquisition into Poitiers. Roman Triumph Processions were boisterous to the point of being disorderly, the soldiers probably having already made bibulous inroads into their bounties. I'm not suggesting that Pange lingua was written to accompany a drunken orgy, but I bet the procession at which it received its premiere was not quite the sort of prim and stately event that Anglican Outdoor Religious Processions usually are.

The same may be true of some of those first Corpus Christi processions in Avignon after one of my my favourite popes, John XXII, got that festival going and thus gave an airing to the great hymn in which S Thomas Aquinas borrowed Venantius' first three words, and his metre.

(And I wonder if Prudentius danced a bit as he composed Corde natus - also in this metre.)

*Sandbach wrote, in 1973, that "such passages in this metre are distinguished in tone from the adjacent iambics, but not always in the same way". In his 2013 edition of the Samia Sommerstein wrote "trochaic tetrameters  were clearly considered suitable both for farcical scenes (such as the latter part of the present act [Samia IV]) and for passages of unusual solemnity (such as Demeas' speech in [Samia] 694-712 or Knemon's in Dyskolos 708-47)."

30 March 2017

Dubia

"The Holy Spirit guided the Church in the process of your [i.e. Bergoglio's] election".

Dubia (1) Is this alleged as being true of every pope? What would be the evidence in the Catholic Church's Magisterium for such a proposition?

(2) If so, how is this historically to be reconciled with, for example, the means by which Leo V, Christopher,  Sergius III, Anastasius III, Lando, John X, Leo VI, and Stephen VIII, and not a few others, secured the papal throne? Is the direction of the Holy Spirit to be discerned in the process of murdering one pope and then seizing his place? What theological account are we to give of role of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Pope John XI in the womb of Marozia and his elevation by her influence to the Papacy only two decades later?

(3) Alternatively, granted the considerable improbability of (1), is this stated as being true, not of all popes, but in a special, individual way of Papa Bergoglio? If so, how do we know this? How does the writer know this? Is this anything other than the speaker's subjective and personal feeling?

"The same Holy Spirit guides and supports you [i.e. Bergoglio] day by day".

(4) Is this alleged as being true of every pope ex officio? What would be the evidence in the Catholic Church's Magisterium for such a proposition?


(5) If so, how is this historically to be reconciled with (exempli gratia) Urban VI's habit of guiding and supporting day by day the torture (culminating in their executions) of those Cardinals who had sent him a Letter of Fraternal Correction? (I recall that the life of our own learned and saintly English Cardinal Adam Easton, sometime teacher of Greek and Hebrew in this University, was only saved by the intervention of King Richard II.)

(6)  Alternatively, granted the considerable improbability of (4), is this stated as being true, not of all popes, but of Papa Bergoglio in a special, individual way? If so, how does the writer arrive at such confident certainty of knowledge about the daily guidance afforded to any other human being by the Holy Spirit? Is the writer claiming of himself that (vide John 2:25) "he knows all men and needs no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knows what is in man"?

"I assure you, Holy Father, of the ... whole-hearted suppport of us all".

(7) What processes exist, formal or informal, to dissociate oneself from this audacious claim; to say "Not in my name"?

During Henry Tudor's 'Great Matter', Archbishop Wareham assured Henry of the unanimous support, signed and sealed, of the English and Welsh Bishops: "That is the truth if it please your Highness; I doubt not that all my brethren here present will affirm the same".

And there was just one voice that said "That is not my hand nor seal!" 

29 March 2017

Celebrity Pontiffs

In an idle moment, I browsed through some grainy old black-and-white video clips of the life of Pius XII. I had not realised how much he travelled in the 1930s, when he was Secretary of State. It all looked uncannily like a preview of the culture mainly set in place by S John Paul II, of the travelling papal circus going from country to country, doing big things at big services in a thoroughly big way. Not surprisingly, Cardinal Pacelli was called the cardinale volante (remember that air travel was by no means as every-day at that time), and described as a sort of vice-papa. Occasionally, I was even reminded of Herr Hitler and the cult he fostered ... Pacelli and Hitler have in common a legacy of embarrassing studio photographs showing the Great Man trying out 'to camera' some rhetorical gestures.

I am far from sure that I agree with all that sort of thing. If we are to use our 'modern' technology to whizz images around the world, the sort of things we need to show and be shown must include the lovely clip, reproduced on Eponymous Flower, of Papa Ratzinger silently and most humbly kneeling before his Eucharistic Lord while the Divine Praises are chanted.

Foreign visits? On the one hand, the role of Peter is to strengthen his brethren, and I would have to concede that a papal visit can be very strengthening to a besieged and insecure local Church (and in such circumstances would be even more powerful if it were rarer). But the whole present-day business does rather suggest to me that a pope is a sort of superbishop, which he isn't. He is the Bishop of that Church with which all Christians are supposed to be in communion; of the Church where Peter's voice lives and speaks - so that under specified conditions he articulates the Infallibility of the whole Church and has a Primacy, when and where it is needed, of ensuring that the universal norma fidei is everywhere also the local norm. In a healthy Particular Church, surely the local Successor of the Apostles, the Diocesan Bishop, should be capable, in normal circumstances, of fulfilling the munera apostolica without needing the Head Master to come into his classroom and restore order? 

The endless and vulgar showcasing of Papa Bergoglio demonstrates how inherently dangerous this cult of personality really is. Turning the Servus servorum Dei into a cosmopolitan celeb obscures, rather than expresses, his true place in the Church Militant, as that role has been handed down and was taught authoritatively by Vatican I. Even Pio Nono did not consider that his  Primacy (which he was indeed anxious to have defined) required him to gad around the world showing it off like a girl with a new engagement ring. And, before anybody draws my attention to the 'pompous' 'Renaissance' rituals of the pre-John Paul I Papacy, I will suggest to you that a pope lurching precariously around on an old-style sedia and with a weighty triregnum* to keep safely balanced on his head was not in a position to posture and gesture and flirt with the mob, or to dish out ill-considered one-liners to a hungry Press. But the modern papal cult, for all its phony 'immediacy' and showy 'spontaneity' and theatrical 'humility', is a much more domineering phenomenon than all those harmlessly quaint bits of baroque fun. And, in the hands of a pope who does not care about doctrine, and who has a supreme over-confidence in the value of his own misguided and often inane off-the-cuff remarks, the entire, present-day officially promoted papal personality cult is a very dangerous and profoundly unedifying tool.

Next time, we could do with a much quieter and less visible and more considered papacy. A pontificate along the lines of the Petrine Ministry as it was so admirably defined in the careful and balanced words of Vatican I; as it was publicly demonstrated in the quiet and gentle Petrine Ministry of Pope Benedict. Perhaps we may even now pray for that man who, in God's omniscient foreknowledge, will be the next Roman Pontiff?

Unless, of course, we are truly living in the Last Days.

* A truly edifyingly and really humble pontiff might resume the use of the papier-mache tiara made for the Coronation of Pius VII after the Conclave held in Venice while Rome was occupied by French revolutionary armies. It was light-weight, and is said last to have been worn by B Pius IX. 








28 March 2017

Cardinal Easton and Formal Corrections of Roman Pontiffs (2)

Yes, I thought you would be surprised that Easton, while at Oxford, was both a Hellenist and a Hebraeist. I remember, when I researched my favourite fourteeenth century prelate, Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter, being surprised to learn that among his books was a Hebrew Grammar. Perhaps some of the popular inherited assumptions about the New Learning and Medieval Obscurantism could do with being revisited.

Adam Cardinal Easton is buried at the back of his Titular Church, Sancta Caecilia trans Tiberim (not a million miles away from where a couple of liturgists, in the mid-1960s, botched together in a pub the bizarre formula officially known as Eucharistic Prayer II). On his tomb, a couple of elegiac couplets:-

Artibus ipse Pater famosus in omnibus ADAM
     Theologus summus cardique nalis erat.
Anglia cui patriam, Titulum dedit ista beatae
     Aedes Caeciliae, morsque suprema Polum.

Yes; perhaps the writer was not above an occasionally iffy quantity, particularly in loan words from Greek. But I knew you would be delighted by that rather neat tmesis in the second half of the second line. Not quite as striking (in every sense ... geddit?) as the famous phrase from Ennius saxo cere comminuit brum. Perhaps it would be excessively Alexandrian (or Cyrenaean?) to suggest that the tmesis on Easton's tomb referred to his split possession of the cardinalitial state.

One of my colleages at Lancing, a mathematician with a carefully crafted cockney accent, once said to me "Why are you so contra bl**dy dictory?" Perhaps, as a rather baroque literary device, tmesis is still not dead!

At this time when Formal Fraternal Corrections of Roman Pontiffs are so much in the air, I expect that the tomb of Adam Cardinal Easton is daily surrounded by swarming flocks of thoughtful visitors, including cardinals in mufti. (The best one could do to chase up Easton in Oxford would be to visit the oldest part of Worcester College, containing the medieval staircases occupied by the students from the English Benedictine houses; in Easton's time it was called 'Gloucester Hall'.)

Is the Castle at Nocera, where Easton and his fellow signatories were tortured by Urban VI, still standing? Does it have a Visitor Centre with interactive displays of cardinals busily writing Formal Fraternal Corrections and then being tortured?

When a Pope personally tortures a cardinal, is this, according to Cardinal Nichols and the hypersuperueberpapalists, a formal Magisterial action, performed under the direct and intimate guidance of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity?

27 March 2017

The Formal Correction of a Roman Pontif ... and its dangers ... (1)

One of the greatest ornaments of this immensely humble University was Cardinal Dom Adam Easton, distinguished teacher of Greek and Hebrew; distinguished canonist; international diplomat; worker for Church Unity; spiritual director ...

He was made a Cardinal Presbyter in 1381 by Pope Urban VI. His probems began when that Pope tranferred his curia to Nocera (Umbria) in 1384. Soon afterweards, Five Cardinals, including Easton, wrote a Letter to Urban, protesting against his cruelty and despotism. This led to their incarceration in Nocera Castle and their daily torture under the Holy Father's personal supervision. Somewhere around Christmas and New Year 1385/1386, four of the (by now degraded) cardinals, and another cardinal who had come under suspicion, were executed in Genoa. Easton survived because of the personal intervention of King Richard II. Under the next pontificate, that of Boniface IX, Easton was restored to favour and to the cardinalitial dignity.

He is said to have had a hand in the imposition upon the Church Universal of the Feast of our Lady's Visitation, as an act of intercession for unity. (The behaviour of Pope Urban VI had led to the Great Western Schism ... it's the sort of thing that can happen when you have a disordered and profoundly dysfunctional papacy ...)

More later on Cardinal Easton, Man for our Times.

26 March 2017

IS JERUSALEM JEWISH?

So people are busy fishing out rose vestments for 'Mothering Sunday'; although I'm unclear why today is so observed by those who do not follow either the Tridentine Rite or the 1662 Prayer Book. The theme of the old Roman Mass is (Galatians 4) of our Mother the heavenly Jerusalem; but in the modern rite, the Roman Pontiff is not instructed to have a statio at the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem (the church which the Empress Helena, my Colcestrian concivis, devised to be 'Jerusalem in Rome' and to which she imported cartloads of soil from Jerusalem together with significant relics of the Crucifixion). Sadly, moreover, choirs are rarely required to sing all those lovely Siony texts which embellish the old propers. Common Worship, of course slavishly follows the modern Roman Rite in abandoning the theme of the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother; the City whose politeuma we enjoy.

Of course, those old propers and S Paul's teaching in Galatians 4 raise in an acute form the very problem involved in the Good Friday prayers for the Jews. Has God's Covenant with the Jews been superseded? Do they need to take Christ on board to be saved, or are they, alone of all races and peoples, given a Christless way to salvation? It seems to me clear that S Paul teaches throughout Romans that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile either in the problem - sin - or in the solution - faith in Christ. The 'Jews-are-to-remain-Christless' line rests upon an interpretation of Romans 11 which doesn't hold water; I recall that the founder of the late twentieth century New Line on S Paul, Ed Sanders, concluded that, qua exegete of Paul, he was obliged to admit that in Paul's view Jews as well as Gentiles needed Christ (although qua liberal he did not think that Paul's view was now plausible).

So: 'cast out the bondwoman and her son'; Jews both need and are entitled to Christ. The Old Covenant was the type, the shadow, of the reality which is Christ. Not, of couse, that it would be particularly seemly somehow to to seem to single out Jews for mission in a Western society which largely consists of lapsed Christians: it would seem as if we were saying 'We've made a hash of hanging onto our own people so now we're going to try to get our hands on yours'. But the principle needs maintaining; all have sinned and all need Christ.

I have sometimes wondered if Pope Benedict had in his mind, when revising the EF Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, that his own ordaining bishop, Cardinal von Faulhaber, was a member of the group Amici Israel, which proposed revision in the 1920s. (I seem to recall that Merry del Val may have been among those who scuppered the proposal.) But I am not convinced that, in its essence, the original Good Friday Bidding (Let us pray for the unbelieving Jews) was anti-semitic - on the contrary. There have always been Christian Jews and they are as fully privileged as any other Christians ... if not more so. In the Good Friday prayer we were not disdainfully and in a racist way praying against the Jews as a race but for those members of that race who do not believe. The reason why we prayed for them specifically (and not, e.g., by name for the Fijians) was simply their special place in God's dealings with Man and the steady New Testament witness, echoed in Pope Benedict's revised prayer, that the Eschaton will mean the combined redemption of Jew as well as Gentile. There is also, as S Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10, a sharp reminder for all of us in the fact that the great majority of Jewry, for whom first the Euangelium was intended, failed to hear God's call.

I draw to your attention the book Index Lectionum A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite published in 2016 by Matthew P Hazell (and his wife Lucy; I reviewed it when it first came out. ISBN 978-1-5302-3072-3); if you want to take a serious interest in what the Bugnini junkies did after Vatican II, you really do need to have this book. At the flick of a wrist it reveals that the Novus Ordo Sunday Lectionary entirely dumped this old reading from Galatians (a pitifully bowdlerised version of it was allowed to survive on a Monday morning in Ordinary Time in alternate years).

I can just imagine Screwtape's glee: "The bad news, my dear Wormwood, is that the Christian leaders have decided to encourage their people to become more familiar with the pestilential Enemy propaganda known as The Bible. But all is not lost ... far from it! Our policy is now to work through the soi disant 'liturgical experts', whom we already have securely under our control. They will be easily persuaded to increase the amount of time reading the Bible in Church, while eviscerating the text of passages and ideas which we will convince them are 'difficult'. Thus any teaching which is not currently popular among a certain narrow portion of the intelligentsia in the 1960s will be carefully concealed. The next stage, which we have scheduled for the beginning of the Third Millennium, will be to use the dominant ideologues to promote the notion that the portions of Scripture which have been censored out of public use contain ideas which it is actually forbidden for Christians accept. We will then stir up particular, easily duped, constituencies (our planning department has the German and English episcopates particularly in mind) to demand peremptorily the elimination of these ideas from any public prayers".

25 March 2017

Different types of women priests

Opening one of the undergraduate freebies in this University and looking at the pictures in the 'Fashion' section, I found myself saying "I know her!!".

"Her" was the Chaplain of Lincoln College. I knew her because when I was at S Thomas's we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham accompanied by some members of the Mags congregation. She was one of them; she had not yet entered the Anglican Ministry. She was a very bright young woman, good company, who was reading for a doctorate in Tacitus; an obscurely opaque Roman who, I think (I can't be sure about such details), may have written about History. I think, on stylistic grounds, he must have been born in New Zealand.

Many Anglican womenpriests are natural Bergoglians; that is to say, they are not Rigid and Doctrinal and Liturgical. They very often have had no training except in 'Ministerial Training Courses' in which Anglican candidates for Holy Orders are prepared part-time together with aspirants for non-Conformist ministries. These ladies do provide eucharistic services when their deplorably old-fashioned laity expect them, but they really prefer a form of event known as Messy Church. I would love to give you a description of this style of activity, did anautopsia not prevent me. Readers will have fertile enough imaginations ...

But there is a very different type of womanpriest, of which there are several examples in Oxford ... sharp and academically considerable, who never wanted to be foolish folksy creatures like their 'messy' sisters. What they wanted to be was ... Priests.

Such is the lady of whom I speak. In her newspaper Interview, she gives a very sound explanation of the rationale of wearing cassocks (all the time) and vestments and refers always to "saying Mass". And the paper's Fashion Correspondent includes a picture of her vested in red.

Those of you with a sharp eye for liturgical detail would instantly spot that she is wearing ... unlike the Saint in Westminster Cathedral about whom I recently wrote ... a maniple! That is not always an easy thing to do nowadays, because back in the 1960s the then dominant tendenz realised that the obvious way to get the Huddled Masses back into Church was to have bonfires of maniples. This means that, even in churches where the vestments are of respectable material, cut, and design, a 'set' very often lacks its matching maniple. Archaising clergy have to make a real effort to find a spare maniple somewhence with which to 'make up' the sets in their charge. These spares are, naturally, very often not en suite with their stoles and chasubles.

The photographs do not show her wearing a biretta, but ...

I do hope you will not shout at me. In giving you this information, I advance no agenda and certainly not the Ordination of Women. I simply wish to impart anthropological enlightenment.

 


24 March 2017

Terrorists ... or Adrians?

What a difference it makes to learn that the terrorist who managed to cause such murderous and evil mayhem with just a hired car and a couple of kitchen knives was really a Man of Kent (or do I mean a Kentish Man?) called Adrian.

In other words, home-grown. The product of the errors and tensions and cultural alienations of our own society. Not a phenomenon we can blame on immigrant hordes.

I'm not sure I agree with my correspondent who is glad that Adrian ended up dead. If I were in Security, I would prefer to have such individuals alive and interrogable. Corpses are so often taciturn, even if water-boarded.

I've known a lot of chaps called Adrian, all of them ... as far as I can recall ... distinctly nice.  I wonder what our Mr Farago thinks of Adrians in particular and of immigrants from Kent in general.

My ancestors on my Mother's side migrated from Kent to Essex.

And I have, several times, visited friends along the Hagley Road in Birmingham. I may well be on CCTV.

And my wife has just revealed to me that we have knives in our kitchen.

Should I give myself up?


Adulterii laetitia multiplex ...

 ... or, in English, Adultery is a many splendoured thing. Let me focus on just two particular and contrasting modes of Adultery ... two among so many .... [I am not unaware of other models, or of the tragedies of innocent parties.]

(1) Covert Adultery. Jack (or it might be Jill) keeps his sinful activities secret from wife, children, friends, neighbours.

(2) Overt Adultery. Jill (or it might be Jack) obtains a civil divorce, and then goes through a ceremony of 'Marriage' with her partner in her sin. The couple thereafter conduct themselves as Mrs and Mr Overt and wear nice rings on their wedding fingers and function as 'Eucharistic Ministers' and School Governors.

Both cases, of course, according to the canons of traditional morality to which I adhere, equally involve Mortal Sin. But ... we all enjoy an entertaining diversion into an Alternative Universe, don't we? So let's examine the differences between Jack and Jill from the perspectives of classical Utilitarianism; and the 'situation ethics' of the 1950s and 1960s condemned in Veritatis splendor.

Jack Covert wants to have things both ways. He wishes to indulge his lust, but at the same time not to hurt or to risk losing his wife and family. Let us assume the best of him: he may promise himself that he will repent, but "not until tomorrow"; he may even prefer not to weaken Matrimony as a social, public, and Christian institution. Let us accept that he is ashamed at the idea of being yet one more person who troops through the courts publicly affirming (in the most solemn way possible) the lie that a valid and consummated Sacramental Marriage is soluble. He is a sad picture of incipient movements of Grace being stifled by his servile bondage to his sin. But there is one thing which, happily, he does still have: the knowledge that Sin is Sin.

Jill Overt, on the other hand, noisily demands that her incontinent lust be validated in each and every possible public forum. She would certainly not be prepared to leave open any possibility of her own repentance and reconciliation with her true spouse ("my Ex", as she now cheerfully and routinely calls him). Happy in her new "marriage", she might talk about "the importance of moving on". To describe her, the Victorians would have reached for the adjective 'brazen'.

[When I was in the Church of England, I once heard, at a clerical lunch, two women clergy, each of whom planned to "move on" from a "failed marriage" to a new union, complaining (not very quietly) about the Bishop's desire to "talk things through" with them: this, they warmly agreed, would be "Opening Up Old Wounds".]

You know what I'm going to say: it seems to me that Jack Covert, seedy little deceiver that he is, has the better of it in terms of the ethical systems at which I have nodded.

And it also seems to me that Jill Overt and such "remarried Divorcees" score lowest on the scale of "How Moral is your Adultery?".

The Award for Most Moral Adulterer ... the John Stuart Mill Gold Medal (in four-and-ahalf carat gold) ... would surely have to go to the adulterer who most covertly used the services only of prostitute women or men, having checked carefully that they had not been trafficked.

And yet ... and yet ... in our Bergoglianist Ethosphere, things seem to be exactly the other way round. Nobody seems to give a damn for poor Jack Covert endlessly tortured by his fear of being found out.  It seems that Herr und Frau Overt receive all the sympathetic attention; it is for them that we must all lean over backwards until our spines snap; for them the Verba Domini are to be curtly and irritably set aside; for them the constant Magisterial teaching of two millennia is endlessly vilified as Rigidity and Pharisaeism by an angry mouth which seems incapable of shutting except when confronted with Dubia.

Why don't we just give up trying to regulate Sex altogether? I'm sure that resourceful Archbishop Fernandez could easily draft for the Holy Father an Exhortation along the lines of Fay ce que voudras.

23 March 2017

Why do bishops resign?

It is commonly assumed that Catholic Bishops are bound to offer their resignations when they are seventy five years old. Many people find it odd that there should be an apparent fall-back assumption that a bishop will be past 'it' at an age at which, according to the current narrative of so many, the 'Holy Spirit' appoints so many popes to begin their Petrine Ministry. You'd have thought that a pope's job might be even more taxing than that of a Diocesan Bishop. Vincent Nicholls has spoken movingly about the heavy work-schedule to which our Holy Father subjects himself ... but, apparently, this is not really so. 'Poping', so the actualite of Church life appears to say, is really just a doddle, a light retirement hobby for someone who is well past his prime!

However (and I add this with trepidation since I am not a canonist) is the common assumption correct anyway? Canon 401 says that the Bishop rogatur [is asked] to offer his resignation. If a Bishop is ill, the same canon says that he enixe [strenuously] rogatur to offer his resignation. Apparently, then, the seventy five year old bishop is 'asked' less 'strenuously' than the ill bishop to offer resignation. There are degrees in the moral force of canonical 'asking'.

I am, as I said, most certainly not a canonist; but surely rogatur cannot mean that there is an obligation upon the Bishop to do this. The CIC seems generally quite lucid about things it regards as obligatory.

Vatican II, about which some people, when it suits them, claim to be very enthusiastic, makes clear that a Diocesan Bishop is not merely a Vicar of the Roman Pontiff, but a successor of the Apostles. The current praxis suggests, rather, that the Bishop is like the manager of a supermarket, removable at the judgement of Head Office in accordance with its published corporate guidelines. This represents a disordered understanding of Episcopacy.

Why don't some orthodox bishops just decline to accept this invitation (rogatur) of Canon Law, and see how much respect Head Office accords to their Apostolic Status?

It might prove quite a reality check.

22 March 2017

.... and so ...

... grateful thanks this morning to our Blessed Lady of the Atonement, the Mother of God of Walsingham and Fatima and Czestochowa! Kind Mother and Guardian of the Ordinariates! And may her blessings continue, particularly upon Fr Christopher Phillips and his wife JoAnn, the clergy and nuns and Faculty at the Academy of the Atonement, all the many members of the congregations; all the students.

(Wozzat? You wanna know how Fatima and Czestochowa come into this? Bishop Stephen's father is Portuguese and his mother Polish. With what joy the Canon of the Mass will have been said at the Atonement this morning una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Francisco et antistite nostro Stephano!)

21 March 2017

Our Lady of the Atonement and the future of the Ordinariates

Brilliant News!!! The Holy See has directed that the Texan parish of Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio is, with effect from today, part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of S Peter, the American Ordinariate.

'Atonement' was the first (in 1983) of the parishes set up to perpetuate within the Roman Unity groups adhering to their Anglican Liturgy, Spirituality, and theological tradition. It was spectacularly successful, under its dynamic and charismatic Pastor Fr Christopher Phillips.

When the Ordinariates were set up, the position of parishes adhering to the 'Anglican Use', but operating as units within ordinary dioceses, became anomalous. After all, the Holy See had set up the Ordinariates specifically to include such communities.

The Archbishop of San Antonio was understandably anxious to keep such a vibrant parish and its academy within his own diocese and jurisdiction. But he is an honourable man. So he made it very clear that he would ensure the continuation at the Atonement of the provisions made by the Holy See for Anglicans who had entered the Catholic Church upon a certain understanding.

But that proposed arrangement misses the point. It treats the Anglican Use as merely something provided as a condescending kindness for ex-Anglicans or their descendants. This would mean that the Use could die out when the original 'converts' had died, unless new converts from Anglicanism had continued to trickle in so as to keep the arrangement on a life-support machine.

That is quite simply not how things can be allowed to be in a Church which takes Mission in any way seriously. A flourishing and orthodox Christian community will inevitably attract others, particularly those from the peripheries of the Church, where people may have a residual association with Catholicism but have grown disillusioned or alienated within the 'mainstream' or 'diocesan' Church.

It is a natural suspicion that Gerhard Cardinal Mueller has been involved in this wise decision, which is good news not only for the Atonement but for all members of the three Ordinariates. It demonstrates that the See of S Peter is as committed to Pope Benedict's bold ecumenical experiment as ever it was. We were not 'taken up' just so that we could be 'dropped'!

Four cheers and more for his Eminence!

Hooray for the wise guidance Bishop Lopes has given to his Ordinariate!

Ut unum sint!! 

... has lost his maniple.

Devout persons who drop into Westminster Cathedral to pay their respects at the shrine of one of my favourite Saints, S John Southworth, will discover ... here's the good news first ... that there are some quite sweet little Prayer Cards now provided for use and for taking away. They contain a nice picture of the Saint vested for Mass. (I think the surname is or was pronounced Sutherth.)

The bad news is ... that, although the Saint is pictured on these cards as vested in alb, red stole, and red chasuble, he ... seems to have lost his maniple.

Medieval hagiographers would have undoubtedly had an account of how this happened; their stories would probably have ended with a spectacular miracle resulting in the supernatural restoration of the maniple. Inventive readers of this blog must surely be capable of some diverting inventions within the general conventions and dynamics of that genre. But what is to be done?

Traddies with large families might consider taking all their children into the Cathedral, equipped with red crayons or board-writers or loads of red paint, and settling them down with instructions to add maniples to all the cards. This would result in what Anglican Priestesses proudly call "Messy Church", and thus constitute an Ecumenical Gesture.

As an incorrigible classicist with an ungovernable imagination, I fear that what swept immediately into my mind was the demonstration by Aeschylus (apud Aristophanis Batrakhous, vv 1206 et sqq.) that pretty well all of Euripides' Prologues are susceptible to the conclusion lekuthion apolesen. Mutating the mutanda, it occurs to me that pretty well any statement about Papa Bergoglio or Cardinal Kasper or Cardinal Marx or the Rio Tinto, or any of the other Great Ones of the Bergoglian faction, could be reduced to bathos ... to even greater bathos ... by inserting the concluding phrase "... (has) lost his maniple". Oimoi peplegmetha!

'Terminal bathos' is surely the greatest gift made to mankind by satiric Aristophanic Old Comedy or, indeed, by classical Greek Civilisation as a whole, before it lost its oil-pot.

May that very great Saint and Priest and Martyr for Jesus, S John Southworth, pray for us and for the whole state of Christ's Church Militant here in earth, now in these years of her passion.

20 March 2017

FILIOQUE

I do not intend to explain what this is all about ab initio to those who do not already know the general outlines. Just to add some facts which some who do know may not be familiar with.

In 1995 the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity published a learned and interesting paper which suggested that a lack of correlation between the Greek (ekporeuesthai) and Latin (procedere) terms for "proceedeth" is part of the problem. ekporeuesthai refers to the origin of the Holy Spirit within the eternal and glorious economy of the Holy Trinity. And, since the Father is the Source (pege, aitia) of the being of the other two Persons, clearly the Spirit ekporeuetai from the Father alone. To suggest that he might ekporeuesthai from the Son as well is to risk positing two sources of Divinity and thus, in effect, to believe in two Gods.

Procedere, on the other hand, is a broader term. As well as sharing the meaning of ekporeuesthai, it also encompasses the Sending (proienai), wthin time, of the Spirit by the Son. And it includes the possibility of asserting that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.When the Western Church was battling against Arianism, it seemed important to safeguard the full divinity of the Son by incorporating into the Creed His authentic Missio of the Spirit.

So you could argue that Filioque with ekporeuesthai is gravely erroneous because it is tantamount to polytheism, while procedere without the Filioque is dangerously suggestive of Arianism.

It is well known that Rome firmly forbids the addition of Filioque to the Creed when it is said in (or translated from) Greek - whether by 'uniate' Byzantines or in ecumenical contexts. But she has been slow to delete Filioque from the Creed when it is used in (or translated from) Latin.

However, in 2000 a very significant new development occurred. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a document called Dominus Iesus, which was immediately made the object of hysterical abuse by illiterates who couldn't read it (including poor dopey George Carey) - you probably remember the hooha raised at that time by the ecumaniac industry both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church. This furore still occasionally has echoes. This is and was unfortunate; the document represented some very interesting advances ecumenically in several respects. Not the least of these is that it began by giving, as 'the fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith', the 'Nicene' Creed in Latin and without the Filioque.

I would lose very little sleep if a Roman Pontiff eliminated Filioque from the Latin Creed. But it would leave some traces behind it. In, for example, the Quicumque vult. And I know an Anglican priest who, being very Orthodoxophile, presses his lips together at a certain point in the Creed. But, when he does duty in College chapels here in Oxford, he has to sing, in the Litany, " ... proceeding from the Father and the Son ..." because otherwise disastrous confusion would ensue when the choir came to repeat his words. The learned Dom Benedict of Silverstream once showed me a version of the Pange lingua in which a 'Western Orthodox' had rewritten S Thomas's Doxology ...

No; I would be very unwilling to go down such paths as those. The Latin West is as entitled to the integrity of its own Patrimony as is the Byzantine East. Probably best to leave the sleeping dogs ...

And we gallant presbyters of the Ordinariate are unlikely to forget that Filioque was introduced to the English Church by the Syrian Greek S Theodore whom Pope S Vitalian (657-672) sent to be Archbishop of Canterbury. I think we could catch the stuffier "English Orthodox" on the horns of a juicy dilemma by asking them whether the "Anglo-Saxon Church" of S Theodore was Orthodox ... or not ...

18 March 2017

The Aetas Bugniniana

The most eagle eyed of my readers may have noticed me trying out a new piece of terminology a month or so ago.

The 'reforms' to the Liturgy with which so many Latin Catholics now have to live were not, as many traditionalists have been led to think, the result of "the Council". One could argue that they started with the changes to the Psalter under S Pius X or even with the Barberini corruption of the hymns; but, substantially, what I have in mind is the string of changes which began under Pius XII with the root-and-branch 'reform' of the Easter Vigil and continued through to the 'post-Conciliar' 'reforms'. One could make a case that, if the Council had never happened, but Pius XII had lived for another twenty years, the 'reforms' might have been even worse. But that's another question!

In my need for an uncumbersome phrase to describe concisely this period and this process, I had toyed with the phrase "the Pio-Pauline interferences". But this, of course, elides the role played by Papa Roncalli.

So I am now suggesting the interferences of the aetas Bugniniana vel brevius the Bugninian interferences; because, of course the late Hannibal was a Promoting Spirit of all this stuff pretty well from beginning to end.

And now ... the apparent prospect of a new liturgical Dark Age, with the participation of Bad Marini, Bugnini's spiritual son. The Aetas Bugniniana Altera?


17 March 2017

Apostasy??

More than a month ago, a Bergoglian bishop reportedly said: "Whoever wants to discover what Jesus wants from him, he must ask the Pope, this Pope, not the one who came before him, or the one who came before that. This present Pope".

I had hoped to hear some retraction from this cleric ... after all, each of us can and often does misspeak, and we hope to be forgiven for it. Or some correction of those (perhaps just childishly impetuous) words, administered by the Roman Pontiff himself. But there has, I think, been nothing (if any reader is aware of a retraction, or a papal condemnation, of these words I would be very grateful to be pointed to it).

And this misguided man still occupies a See as a metropolitan Archbishop of the Catholic Church.


I think this is the most horrible misdescription of the Catholic Faith I have yet to hear, in this crisis, from a Catholic bishop. Horrible in its trashing of the concept of paradosis to which S Paul pointed when he said What I have received I have handed on. Horrible in its shameless, shameful denial of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church at Vatican I (The Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might publish new doctrine but so that by His assistance they might devoutly guard and faithfully set forth the revelation handed down through the Apostles, that is, the Deposit of the Faith). Horrible in its idolisation of one man, the incense it burns to one mere human; in other words, it breathes that same spirit of the Antichrist which inspired the devilish chant Ein volk ein reich ein fuehrer.

Horrible, above all, in that it blasphemously brings into its crippled parody of Christian Truth the sweet Name of our Most Holy Redeemer.

16 March 2017

Other Blogs

(1) On GKIRKUK the admirable and learned Dr Kirk raises the question of Vincent Cardinal Nichols'  interestingly sycophantic letter to the Holy Father, and asks ... why ... why now ...

My hypothesis is that Vin knows Bergoglio well enough to realise how deeply he resents dissent; and that he, Vin, wrote this letter at a time when he knows that our beleaguered Holy Father is coming under a lot of behind-the-scenes pressure and expressions of concern from mainstream Cardinals and Bishops. So the letter's message is: Hard times, but I'm behind you; I love you; and you can rely on me to see to it that the entire English Church is soundly bergoglianist! Franciscus papa et Vincentius contra mundum!

(2)  The SSPX USA website has a series of six good pieces by a professor at Econe explaining that Bergoglio is not a formal heretic, and has not lost the Petrine See. Recommend it to any panicky friends who are toying with the unmitigated nonsenses, the illiterate rubbish, of sedevacantism!

(3) Eponymous Flower has good videos of the Liturgical celebrations in S Petersburg last autumn. How splendid to see such vast crowds; such a public  and corporate exhibition of the Faith in the great City of our Lady of KAZAN ... who is the very same as the Mother of God of FATIMA!!! Her Immaculate Heart will prevail!! Most Holy Mother of God, save us!!

(4) Settimo Cielo blog has fine extracts from a piece by Rabbi Professor Giuseppe Laras, complaining about the "homilies of the Pontiff" which "on a daily basis" repeat and reinforce "the old inveterate structures" of ignorant misrepresentation of Judaism. A paper of my own on this very subject is due, God and the printers willing, to be published in two or three weeks. I wish Rabbi Laras and I had been able to synchronise our  ...

Christine Mohrmann (5)

Christine Mohrmann followed de Saussure and Bally in pointing out that "language by no means serves only to communicate actual facts but is also ... a medium of expression. Whereas ... language used purely as a means of communication normally strives towards a certain degree of efficiency, which results in linguistic simplification and standardisation, language as expression usually shows a tendency to become richer and more subtle. It aims at becoming, by every possible means, more expressive and more picturesque, and it may try to attain this heightened power of expression ... by the preservation of antiquated elements already abandoned by the language as communication". It is on these grounds that she resisted the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy (except for the readings); modern languages, in her view, develop their efficiency as media of communication, but this makes them less suitable for sacred stylisation.

It was not until 1997 that the Magisterium of the Latin Church caught up with the questions Mohrmann had posed, and in an admirable instruction Liturgiam authenticam (hysterically vilified by the illiterate vested interests which at that time dominated ICEL, and now under threat from a Bergoglianist committee set up in the CDW) called for nothing less than the creation of new sacral vernaculars. "If, indeed, words or phrases can sometimes be employed in liturgical texts which differ from common and everyday speech, this in fact quite often actually leads to the texts being more memorable and more effective in expressing heavenly things. So it appears that observance of the principles explained in this Instruction tends to the gradual production in every common language of a sacred style, which also is to be recognised as the correct dialect for worship (sermo proprie liturgicus). So it can happen that a certain way of speaking which might seem a trifle obsolete in everyday speech, can be preserved in a liturgical context". Speaking in 2001, Fr Aidan Nichols envisaged the enrichment of the 'classical' - that is, Tridentine - Roman Rite with"all that is best in the Pauline reform" and its "diffusion" either in Latin "or in a 'high' vernacular capable of exercising the functions of a sacral language".

In the Ordinariate, we do, of course, already possess a high, hieratic vernacular. And we use it!

15 March 2017

Christine Mohrmann (4)

The ancient Romans were very legalistically minded. When they prayed to the Gods, they did their best to ensure that they covered everything; that they addressed the Gods by the right titles (and all of them) so that they could be assured that they were heard; that they asked for everything that they required so that an accidental omission would not frustrate their petitions. Christine Mohrmann showed that there is more than a little of this attitude in the prayers which comprise the Roman Rite of the ancient Latin Church.

In the Canon of the Mass, perhaps this is shown most clearly in the word 'adscriptam'. It means, I suppose, "written on the list". It's lawyer-like. If something's in the Statute, in the inventory, then it's covered. If not, not. We pray that our oblation be "written up". The old ICEL version simply ignored the word; the new ICEL, currently in use, renders it "acknowledged", which is still a trifle coy.

It is not difficult to understand the nervousness of the translators. "Legalism" is not instinctively seen as a virtue in modern culture, still less in modern religious thought. God is not, we feel, a crabbed old backwoods attorney or solicitor just looking all the time for an opportunity or a pedantic excuse to catch us out. He's loving, merciful, generous, understanding. Perhaps, it is suspected, the authors of the Roman Canon were a little bit too Roman and a little bit less Christian than they should have been.

But No. Long before the Roman Canon was written, S Ignatius of Antioch wrote that the Eucharist had to be celebrated by the Bishop, or by one to whom the bishop committed it, for it to be bebaios: a Greek word meaning sure, certain, secure, safe. Conditions have to be fulfilled. To some, this may seem like Legalism. But it is a principle which in turn is based on two root principles of our Faith.

God is true and will do what he has promised. We are called to be faithful and to do what he has commanded in the way that he has commanded. When we are obedient we know that what we have done is official, valid, in the archive, stamped by the clerk.

Praise to him for his faithfulness.
Continues.

14 March 2017

Mohrmann (3)

I have enabled some intelligent comments questioning whether ... granted that Liturgical Latin is the way it is presented in the ancient Roman Sacramentaries and as it is analysed by Christine Mohrmann ... we really do need to worship like that. To this point, I would reply:
(1) The Liturgy we use is described as the Roman Rite. That is the label on the tin.
(2) Vatican II, which I regard as a true Ecumenical Council, did lay down in Sacrosanctum Concilium that the Roman Rite, while being up for revision, was to be substantially retained.
(3) In the fifth part of this series, I shall summarise Mohrmann's own account of twentieth century work on linguistics and varied linguistic registers.
(4) Liturgical Greek ... which Mohrmann also worked on ... is certainly not reductive or banausic. I do not know Coptic and Church Slavonic, but I have been told that the same is true of them.
(5) There is currently a sweet little exhibition in Bodley including a late Medieval Altar Missal with the Roman Rite in the Croatian language. I would love to be told what sort of Croatian that is!
(6) If we do not retain the tradition of the Sacral Language, I do not entirely see why we should retain traditional gestures, traditional vestments ...
(7) One comment, which suggests that we should change the language because we now see God differently, seems to me to give several games away.
(8) I think that most societies have had a more sophisticated set of linguistic presuppositions than Modern European Man. Classicists will recall the Homeric rhapsodes, who did business in a dialect of Greek which never ever had been used anywhere in Greece. And the Doricising traits of choral lyric.

I conclude with a passage kindly sent in by Thomas a couple of years ago, taken from The Earliest English Poems by Michael Alexander (Penguin 1966).

" ... old English prose never achieved the sophisticated word-order and complex synrtax of Greek or Latin. This does not apply to verse ... the poets used a special archaic diction inherited from days when their art had been purely oral. This word-hoard amounts almost to a language within a language; it differs greatly in vocabulary and syntax from the rudimentary attempts of the prose writers - because ... the poet is the keeper of the traditions which hold the cynn (the kin) together ... the older a word was, the more it was vlued by the cynn ... the poet is historian and priest, and his songs have ritual significance. That is why the language of the poets was so deeply conservative, and why the written records of it that we have show it so different from the language of the earliest prose-writers."

To which I would add a reminder of (the Anglican) Catherine Pickstock's brilliant account of the Classical Roman Rite in terms of oral culture (Beyond Writing). As well as reading Mohrmann, the tinkerers in Rome would be well advised to read Pickstock.

13 March 2017

Benedict XIV, Clement XIV, and Clement XV.

Once again, I visited the bust of Pope Benedict XIV in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum for one of my periodic discussions with that great Pontiff. There is a brief summary for non-Latinists at the bottom.
Res mira! Hodie ridentem inveni magnum et carum pontificem! Quem saepe lugentem, miserum inveneram, quinimmo paene flentem, tot miseriis adflictum propter vulnera in Ecclesiam Militantem his temporibus illata, hodie palam gaudentem aspexi. "Cur Domne laetaris?" rogavi. "Propter tuum Zuhlsdorfium" respondit "virum lepidum et ad cor meum, qui mirabiliter prae Mundi oculis exhibuit amicum meum Ganganelli, meum in Sede Petrina sub nomine Clementis XIV successorem. Tot poculis huius papae et imagine et armis adornatis per orbem terrarum missis, gloriam tanti historici valde promovit et promovet!"

"Poculis tam bonis cotidie utor. Sed amicus tuus, Sancte Pater, Ganganelli fuit? Historicum dixti?"

Parvum emisit suspirium. "Ignorasne quot et quanta pro Iudaeis defendendis hic gesserit?" Ignorare me demissis oculis confessus sum. Ille "Iudaei per saecula multa inter homines nefasti et scelesti habebantur. Hoc illis crimen scelestissimum adlatum est, eos sanguine Christianorum et praesertim parvulorum in suis panibus conficiendis uti et usos esse. Quam rem Ganganello meo commisi penitus inquirendam. Omnia perscrutatus omnia lucide monstravit: crimen omnino falsum esse; nil tale unquam factum. Et Poetae Tragici L. Annaei Senecae fautorem se doctum monstravit. Gavisus sum maxime illo in Sedem Apostolicam postea promoto. [Hic pausam aliquantulam fecit et venuste subrisit] Sed audi! Hoc quoque placet et placebit ... dies nunc appropinquat liberationis vestrae."

Attonitus tacui. Deinde "Qui dies quae" dixi "liberatio?"

Circumspexit ne quis prope esset auditor; tum suo more cautius murmure parvo hoc mihi patefecit: fore ut pontifex Romanus ... e suo loco tolleretur! Quae secutura dixit, me prohibuit nuntiare; hoc tantum vobis dicere possum, tempora breviora. Idcirco annuntio vobis gaudium magnum!! Non habebimus papam!!!

Abire parantem me detinuit. "Et novi quid tu, improbe, paucis his ante diebus egeris" ait. Rubui et immotus steti. "Ubi Domne?" "In viis et angiportibus Urbis nostrae". "Quid Domne?" "Proscriptionibus muros texisti. Papam accusationibus iustissimis verberasti. Et novi quibuscum hoc feceris".

"Tace Domne tace" perterritus clamavi. "In Urbe vestra muri scelerum conscii silent; haec Oxonia nostra est, cuius urbis muri auriti sunt; quaecumque audiunt vix mora interposita conclamant".

Papam cachinnantem currens effugi et hoc benigne addentem "Natalem tibi hodiernum, pusille, quam faustissimum precor!".

If your Latin is a little rusty, all you actually need to know is: get your Ganganelli mugs from Fr Zed fast because they may soon be valuable historical items. IMPORTANT!

12 March 2017

"Join the Ordinariate! Join it now!! The Game is Up!!!"

A very good piece by Mgr Edwin Barnes, emeritus Bishop of Richborough, on his blog Antique Richborough.

Incidentally, Mgr Andrew Burnham, emeritus Bishop of Ebbsfleet, in a splendid piece on the Catholic Herald blog, appears to imply that he swam the Tiber in 2008. Can that really be right?

Christine Mohrmann (2)


 "Father Mars, I pray thee that thou wouldst forbid defend-against avert diseases seen and unseen dearth and ravage calamities and disorders". " I beseech solicit and seek favour of thee that thou desert this people and state and leave the sacred defined spaces and their city and go away from these ...". The first was a prayer for the lustration of fields used in ancient Rome centuries before the age of the Caesars; the second the text of a prayer by which the Romans attempted to persuade the Gods of an enemy city to desert it. Here are the original texts; and I ask those who do not understand Latin to spot at least the parallelism, the wealth of words, the alliteration, the rhyme, the lawyer-like precision. "Pater Mars, precor uti tu morbos visos invisosque vidueritatem vastitudinemque calamitates intemperiasque prohibessis defendas averruncesque". "precor veneror veniamque a vobis peto ut vos hunc populum civitatemque deseratis loca templa sacra urbemque eorum relinquatis absque his abeatis ...".

These pieces of archaic Latin were used by the great Christine Mohrmann (the towering intellect of liturgical scholarship in the generation before the Council, whom the Conciliar generation ignored or chose to forget) to explain the nature of the Latin of the Canon of the Mass. She has in mind, to offer but one example, the words of the Quam oblationem: benedictam adscriptam ratam rationabilem acceptabilemque [blessed written-up ratified reasonable and acceptable]. What she is demonstrating is that there is nothing vernacular about such language, nothing simple and clear, nothing that the-man-on-the-top-of-a-Clapham-or-Aventine-omnibus could understand.

Mohrmann argues that Christian liturgical Latin is a hieratic dialect deliberately created in the image of the liturgical Latin of pagan Rome centuries before Christ. The rhythmically balanced flow of words, the juridical precision, the monumental verbosity, combine with scrupulosity towards the Gods.

Forget the idea that when the Roman Church replaced its Greek liturgy with the Latin, it was trying to be more understanded of the people and comprehensible by the man in the street. It was trying to do exactly the opposite. It was trying to be dignified and obscure.

Continues ...

11 March 2017

Recent liturgical shenanigans in Rome; this blog revisits Mohrmann (1)

Unhappily, there are still people who wish to involve the Anglophone Catholic Church in new Liturgy Wars ... not least with regard to the English translations to be used in Novus Ordo worship. Again, we shall hear ... we already hear .. the same spurious arguments paraded in the pages of anti-intellectualist periodicals such as the Tablet. And now, this morning, Riposte Catholique tells us more about a probably iffy Commission which has been set up in Rome.

So, with apologies to those of you who are bored with all this, I am going to dive back in!

Here is a narrative which I think is often at least implicit:

In the Early Church, Worship was always in the same everyday language that common people used all the time. So, in Rome, as soon as Greek became less common as a language, Latin, the prevailing vernacular, replaced it. Sadly, as the centuries passed, Latin in turn became incomprehensible to most. So, happily, the Second Vatican Council decreed that all worship should be in the vernacular again. And in the simplest possible language so that the greatest number of people could understand it. Because this would serve the cause of Active Participation.

You are waiting impatiently to explain to me that the last three sentences represent a complete travesty of what Vatican II decreed. Well done. But I think it is important to understand that the whole of this narrative is completely erroneous, and constitutes a deception.

One of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century was a Dutch Classicist called Christine Mohrmann. In a long series of articles and books in all the main European languages, she demonstrated that Liturgical Latin (and, indeed, Liturgical Greek) were never intended to be be vernaculars; that, indeed, they were deliberately designed to be formal, archaic, and hieratic. I will let her speak to you in her own words (1957):

"Liturgical Latin, as constituted towards the end of Christian Antiquity and preserved unchanged - in its main lines at least - is a deliberately sacral stylisation of Early Christian Latin as it gradually developed in the Christian communities of the West. The Latin Christians were comparatively late in creating a liturgical language. When they did so, the Christian idiom had already reached full maturity and circumstances rendered it possible to draw, for purposes of style, on the ancient sacral heritage of [pagan] Rome ... As regards the plea which we hear so often for vernacular versions of the prayer texts, I think ... that we are justified in asking whether, at the present time, the the introduction of the vernacular would be suitable for the composition of sacral prayer style. As I have pointed out, the early Christian West waited a long time before adopting the use of Latin. It waited until the Christian language possessed the resources necessary to create an official ecclesiastical prayer language. ... the modern, so-called Western languages ... are less suitable for sacred stylisation. And yet we must realise that sacral stylisation forms an essential element of every official prayer language and that this sacral, hieratic character cannot, and should never, be relinquished. From the point of view of the general development of the Western languages - to say nothing of the problems raised by other languages - the present time is certainly not propitious for the abandonment of Latin".

Much Mohrmann follows.

10 March 2017

Married Priests?

A reader has asked my views.

I am trying to train readers to use the Search Engine, top left hand corner of the screen. Tap in Married Priests.

Folliott Sandford (Anglican Patrimony) Pierpoint: his centenary today. The need to anathematise the modern Arians.

No, I will not comment on the hounding of Bishop Philip North from the See of Sheffield. What the Church of England does is no business of mine. We have enough problems in the Catholic Church!! Instead, I will look back into our wonderful Anglican Patrimony; a Patrimony which, bidden by Pope Benedict, we have been privileged to carry intact into full communion with the See of S Peter in the Ordinariate. And today, I wish to share with you the little-known figure of Folliott Sandford Pierpoint.

Pierpoint (vide Wikipedia) was a Tractarian, a teacher of Classics, and a hymnographer. He died one hundred years ago today, on 10 March 1917.

On 3 March this year, five stanzas of his best known hymn, For the beauty of the earth*, constituted the opening hymn in the services provided for Anglophone participants in the Women's World Day of Prayer. That is the Good News. From here on ... yes, you've guessed ...  it's all down-hill.

Pierpoint equipped that beautiful hymn with a rousing chorus to follow each stanza: Christ our God, to thee we raise/ This our sacrifice of praise.

I think I understand his reasons for doing this. Even in his day, the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is, quite simply, without any ifs and buts, totally and unambiguously, God, was beginning to wear thin within late liberal Protestantism. Deists, of course, had never liked it. Evangelicals, officially, still asserted this truth, but even here it was in effect somewhat underemphasised because Evangelicals were much more preoccupied with Soteriology ... individual Soteriology ... than they were with the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. Byzantines, happily, have a robust liturgical habit of calling our Lord "Christ our True God". Not so we Latins.

So Pierpoint provided this memorable refrain so as to fortify in congregations the Truth of the Incarnation. Christ our God to thee we raise/ this our sacrifice of praise. To be sung seven times! They would, surely, get the point!


He cannot (I hope!) have forseen the brazen and heretical impertinence which would mark the centenary of his own death!



It is true that the phrase Christ our God had already long since been variously bowdlerised. 'Lord of all'; 'Father, unto ...'; 'Holy God'; 'God creative ...'; 'Holy Spirit ...'. Few phrases can have been more creative in stimulating Arians and other varieties of heretics to confect alternatives ... anything, apparently, to avoid the appalling horror of applying the G** word to God Incarnate. (Although, to be fair, some effort has also gone into eliminating the term sacrifice.)

So, a few days ago on March 3, Christ our God was bowdlerised to Gracious God. 'Gracious' is currently a favourite divine epithet among many modern heretics.

Perhaps I have been unfair to Arians. The more 'high church' of the Arians were happy to call Christ 'God' as long as it was understood that He was not quite Consubstantial with the Father. But their sour-faced modern representatives, women and men Rigid in their heterodoxy, will have none of it.

Pierpoint is in very good company in falling victim to the officiously emending pens of illiterates and heretics. Blessed John Henry Newman wrote some stanzas in Gerontius (later used as the beautiful and popular hymn Praise to the Holiest in the height) in which he described "God's presence and his very self/ And essence all-divine" as "a higher gift than grace" ... which it most certainly is. Various self-confident  heretics have cheerfully emended that phrase to "God's highest gift of grace". There is also a suggestion that they were terrified lest someone might think that the words applied to the Most August Sacrament of the Altar. Alas ... poor, scared, timorous, wee things, these heretics; the Enemy has been so successful in robbing them of Joy; in stealing from their hearts and minds all that is wonderful and strong and joyful and beautiful in the Christian Faith.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to invite our heterodox Partners in Ecumenical Dialogue to engage in frank discussions about Trinitarian and Incarnational doctrine, instead of just assuming that ... they are anything other than thorough-going heretics! Something useful for ARCIC to do!!

ENVOI
In Pierpoint's original, the hymn ended as I print it below. This had already been changed by hymn books for, I think, metrical reasons:  Thyself prefixes a syllable to the trochaic dimeter catalectic and hence risks precipitating a disaster in unrehearsed congregational singing.

                                        . . . . . . . .
For thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled,
   Offer we at thine own shrine
   Thyself, Sweet Sacrament Divine

An attractive hymn ... see yesterday's post ... for Benediction or Exposition?

*The hymn first appeared in the second edition (1864) of Lyra Eucharistica, (pp 340-342) compiled by the Fr Orby Shipley SSC MA. This volume, accessible via the Internet, is a fine monument to the piety and learning of the Tractarian and Ritualist movements.
  

9 March 2017

Anathema! Anathema! Anathema!

I expect many of us read, a couple of days ago, Fr Zed's piece on Orthodoxy Sunday, with the beautiful video showing the proclamation of the Anathemas against heresy in a Russian Church. Gracious me, how immensely happy they all looked and sounded, and how gloriously joyful the music was! And how superb the Anathemas themselves! The one towards the end, against Ecumenism, I found bewitching in its beauty.

My first thought was: why don't we take over such a useful, beautiful and moving ceremony. But then I recollected my own principle, that what we do should emerge organically within and from our own Western Tradition. So ... ... ...

In a rough and ready sort of way, our Trinity Sunday can be thought of as our equivalent to Orthodoxy Sunday. And we do have, in our Western arsenal, the Quicunque vult.

Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholick Faith is this ... etc..

It is currently left to the Anglican Patrimony and to the SSPX (with the smaller Traditionalist groups) to keep alive, just about, this superb proclamation of true doctrine. But the devotion needs to be brought back into the full consciousness of the whole Latin Church. For B John Henry Newman, it was "The most simple and sublime, the most devotional formulary to which Christianity has given birth".

On Trinity Sunday, we could have the Athanasian Creed, Quicunque vult, solemnly sung before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Why not carry on the Exposition until Solemn First Vespers of Corpus Christi on Wednesday? Perhaps on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the QV could alternate with the Niceno-Tridentine Confession. Could the Syllabus Errorum have a place found for it, punctuated ... why not ... by the Byzantine threefold chanting of ANATHEMA!

Is all this, I hear you objecting, overkill? Definitely not. TOMORROW I will offer you, in a discussion of a beautiful Tractarian hymn now horribly bowdlerised by heretics, proof that such acts of witness are both necessary and badly needed; dreadful proof of the widespread abandonment of classical Trinitarian and Christological dogma..

8 March 2017

International Women's Day

International Women's Day ... how very interesting. It is now 100 years to the day since this celebration emerged from the events leading up to the Bolshevik revolution.

And how engagingly old-fashioned it all now seems. A day for a ceremonial rereading of The Female Eunuch? Or even of The Rights of Women?

But perhaps we are forgetting the cottage industry of blurring gender distinctions, of making all things fluid and deliciously 'intersexual'. I wonder how much longer the 'International Day' will be allowed to survive.

I bet it will be Politically Incorrect in a decade's time. Because these fashions are so transient.

When I was young, anti-apartheid demonstrators marched chanting "One Man One Vote". Tut tut.

In the 1970s, Bad Old ICEL mistranslated Deus as Father. Nowadays, at the hands of a Bergoglian Neo-ICEL, Father may be at risk of being mistranslated as God.

Tempora mutantur ...

But Germaine Greer, dear old Ozette, is still immensely readable.

Alternative Moralities (2)

So what we want is Balance. And we got it from Papa Ratzinger:

"The human being will be capable of respecting other creatures only if he keeps the full meaning of life in his own heart. Otherwise he will come to despise himself and his surroundings, and to disrespect the environment, the creation in which he lives. For this reason, the first ecology to be defended is 'human ecology'. That is to say that, without a clear defence of human life from conception until natural death; without a defence of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; ... we will never be able to speak of authentic protection of the environment."

Some of the writings of the current Roman Pontiff could be read with the help of such a hermeneutic; for example Laudato si (ex. gr. paragraphs 118; 120; 155).

A Hermeneutic of Continuity, involving the reading of Bergoglio's many, long, straggling, incoherent and opaque statements against the background of  the Regula Fidei succinctly established in so many areas by his two greater predecessors, would sift out the idiosyncratic dross from the Papal Magisterium. I do not mean to diminish the binding force of the Magisterial statements of all the Pontiffs over two millennia; but the last two popes were manifestly engaging with a 'modern' world recognisable as the world of Bergoglio, so that a claim of "changed circumstances" could have little plausibility.

7 March 2017

Alternative Moralities (1)

Human Nature, apparently, craves a morality. The Church has insistently offered and prescribed a moral system to the People of God.

It is not always noticed that when HWHY delivered a code of morality, Ten Words, to Moses for the People of Israel, He did so in the singular: "Thou shall ...  Thou shalt not."

This 'singular' aspect of Morality is essential. I will not say that it is the whole of the story. Most of the Torah is in the plural, addressed to the People. Perhaps some readers will not share my approval of certain aspects and expressions in Liberation Theology, but I am quite sure that Sin is embodied in immoral corporate structures. And in those corporate structures Sin is indeed to be resisted. The doctrine of Original Sin expresses the truth that our Sin is a Corporate, species-wide, Sin; inherent in what it is to be a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve.

But any morality which excludes individual obligation is phony. Which is why we must resist the modern tendency to down-play individual Sin and to elevate the corporate aspects of Sin so high as to obscure individual responsibilities.

Quite possibly, in a culture which emphasised, as 'Victorian Morality' perhaps did, the lapses (particularly sexual) of individuals, Christian witness obliged us principally to condemn corporate structures of Sin. But such a situation, if it existed, is now reversed.

So, among other things, I am talking critically about a culture which ignores the precepts of the Decalogue, addressed to each individual, and lays great emphasis on corporate Sin. In our own day, Thou shalt not kill is ignored when it is matter of the life of one inconvenient child in the womb of one inconvenienced mother, but a genocide happening thousands of miles away, or two or three generations ago, is a matter of great moment and of self-righteous moral posturing.

Thou shalt not commit adultery is reduced to very small proportions by a prescribed obligation to demonstrate against Global Warming. And what is left of it is demolished by emphasis on the newly-minted 'Sin' of failing in Inclusivity and Diversity and Non-judgementalism.

It is only if my feet are firmly planted on my obligation not to kill or to commit adultery, that I have any locus standi to say to my fellows "We must do, or must not do, such-and-such".

To be concluded.

6 March 2017

Sandford and Faber (2)

The gracious archivist of Sandford Church (see yesterday's post) tells me that she has discovered, in a mouldering chest, a Prayer Book and a Bible inscribed by Fr Faber as given to the church while he was serving there; and that their stone altar, very like that at nearby Littlemore, is conjecturally ascribed to Faber.

This puts me in mind of Chapter 2 of Loss and Gain, Newman's novel of Tractarian life in Oxford. Here Bateman, a young Ritualist clergyman, proudly shares his pride in the renovation of a country church near Oxford ... which is in the very latest Ritualist style (even though he does not anticipate it having an actual congregation). 'It was as pretty a building as Bateman had led them to expect, and very prettily done up too. There was a stone altar in the best style ...'. ''We offer our Mass every Sunday, according to the rite of the English Cyprian, as honest Peter Heylin calls him; what would you have more?'' explains Bateman; an explanation which mystifies his hearers all the more. Not that I am suggesting that Loss and Gain is directly satirising Faber; the details do not fit and, in any case, it is not that sort of book. Its relevance is in the accuracy with which it describes the fashion of a particular moment.

Mind you, if Fr Faber did put that stone altar into Sandford church in 1839, it would have been one of the earliest to enter an Anglican church after the 'Reformation'.

PS Those interested in the historical details about Our Lady of Sandford should look at Professor Tighe's exciting comment attached to my previous blog on the subject. The standard Art History reference to the statue is in a 2003 number of Apollo, which has not caught the Recusant side of things.

5 March 2017

Sandford and Faber and Mamma (1)

Just down the road from where we live, and across the flood-plain of the Thames, is the Church of Sandford upon Thames: which has a marvellous piece of undamaged medieval sculpture which survived by being carefully buried face-downwards so as to look like a paving stone in the Churchyard. Disinterred in 1723, it is Maria Assumpta, her aureole clutched by some very determined angels and at the bottom two angels holding a carved stone reliquary (empty). I wonder how many churches in England tried to protect their treasures in this way, and when. We shouldn't assume that it had to be in 1546/9; there is evidence that a great deal survived until the Civil War.

The officiating priest in 1839 was that admirable (why is there no cause for his beatification?) missionary for Jesus and hymnographer, Fr Faber, composer of so many of the lovely hymns in the English Catholic Hymn Book (see the post of February 4). Of course he was still an Anglican at the time he was at Sandford. A devoted client of our blessed Lady, it is recorded that after one particularly moving Marian Extravaganza at Brompton he asked, in tears, 'Do you think Mamma was pleased?'

He is now interred in the Brompton Oratory, which he founded; the only church in London where I feel really at home. I wonder how his spiritual journey was affected by his years at Sandford, looking at that early sixteenth century carving of Mamma's Glory; and whether, amidst the Baroquery which he assembled for his Oratory (built after his death), he ever thought back to his days under our Lady's care in a little church by the Thames.

I include below a comment made some years ago by my friend Professor William Tighe, who seems to stroll in and out of the prosopography of the Tudor Court with distracting familiarity.

To be continued. 

4 March 2017

Mugs! Popes! Jesuits!!

They have arrived!! I am immensely grateful to two kind and generous benefactors who have made me possessor of a mug and of a stein commemorating Papa Ganganelli, alias Clement XIV. Thank you! They are very fine indeed; I would encourage all readers to avail themselves of these impressive monuments to a great pontiff.

I have recently read a 1914 biography of Cardinal Allen, and some chapters in Eamon Duffy's new collection of his papers, both treating of the Jesuits. We all know and deeply admire such Jesuit martyrs as the erudite, sparkling, courageous S Edmund Campion, but it is fascinating to peruse the internecine warfare which existed between the Jesuits  and the secular clergy in the recusant period of English Church History.

There must have been many people, down the centuries, who have longed for the Society's suppression! When Papa Ganganelli did suppress them, many brimming steins must have been raised to him in many countries!

Did Archbishop Lefebvre make a big mistake? (2)

I know what you're going to say. Marcel Lefebvre and all the other (except four) Council Fathers made a big mistake by signing a blank cheque. We can, with hindsight, see that. To which I will reply that 'hindsight' is a standard of judgement by which few of us would be happy to be judged. But more: the cheque wasn't blank. Sacrosanctum Concilium deliberately made the cheque unblank by ordering  "There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing." Blame the plotters who acted as if the Council gave them a Sartrean carte blanche, not the Conciliar Fathers.


But does this mean that Eucharists confected with Eucharistic Prayer II ... and Orders conferred according to the new, corrupted Pontifical ... are invalid?

It most certainly does not. There are four reasons for this
(1) Do-it-yourself 'theologians' fail to understand that for mere naked validity, the Church requires very little. I have written about this often before (Search Engine?). That highly iffy Eucharistic Prayer, and that deplorable Prayer for consecrating bishops, do contain all that is necessary for validity. They are deplorable and iffy in our Latin Church because they abandon the theology as well as the ancient and noble traditions of the Roman Church; traditions which are as sacrosanct for us as Byzantine and Oriental formulae are to the adherents of those rites. And because the Roman tradition is, in any case, more ancient and venerable and beautiful. But 'Deplorable' does not in any way feed into 'Invalidity'.
(2) Those formulae (a) had for centuries been used by dissident communities in the East whose Sacraments the Roman Curia had by its very ancient praxis always regarded as valid; and (b) when groups left those dissident communities and entered into Full Communion with the See of S Peter, Rome ordered their ancient rites to continue to be used. Nobody was reordained!
(3) Those rites continue to be used to this day both by dissident and by united (Catholic) Orientals. Can it seriously be argued that when a 'Monophysite' Coptic bishop is consecrated, he is truly made a bishop, but that when the same prayer is used on a Latin Rite consecrand, it doesn't "work"? The 'rigorist' stance so absurdly, so gleefully, adopted by sedevacantists means that when the dissident Patriarch of Alexandria consecrates a bishop, Hooray!! The rite 'works'! But when a Latin bishop is consecrated with the same words, God goes all severe and says No.
(4) If there were radical verbal inadequacies or ambiguities in the forms presented by the post-Conciliar Pontifical, we would need to remember that usage and situation can pinpoint and narrow the referentiality of words. So if it is laid down by a particular linguistic community that the words "governing Spirit" shall henceforth, when used by them, refer to the Holy Spirit by which the order of the Episcopate is conferred, then, when the words are (at least, thereafter) used by them in that context, that is what those words do mean. British Acts of Parliament commonly lay down what particular terms within the Act shall therein mean. And they do so mean.

There are ecclesiological problems for all of us when a pontificate goes off the rails as badly as this one has. But the sedevacantist claim that 'Conciliar Orders' are invalid is a facile and cheap dodge, a short-cut, to avoid the hard work involved in working through the real problems. And to do so by scaring good Christian people. It has more than a little something of the Enemy about it.

3 March 2017

Some priest called Ruff ... and : Did Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre make a big mistake? (1)

A Fr Ruff has written, concerning Sacrosanctum Concilium, the liturgical Decree of Vatican II, that the Fathers "approved a major paradigm shift ... and then left open what the implications of that shift would be. No doubt many of the Fathers didn't yet have in mind all the possible implications of the paradigm shift".

I welcome this admission. It is a long-desired, much-needed, tiny step in the general direction of honesty. Not a very big step and not much of an example of honesty ... but a little something.


Not long ago I read yet another example of a common and quite disgraceful suggestio falsi: the suggestion that the whole post-Conciliar 'reform' had the overwhelmimg support of the universal episcopate "because only four Fathers voted against it". Of course only four bishops voted against SC, because the text itself gave no indication whatsoever of the radical character of the corruptions which very rapidly followed, once certain interests had got their hands on the levers of power.

The Fathers were taken for a ride.

Let me give just two examples.

(1) Does anybody seriously think that Lefebvre and Castro de Mayer and all the other 'conservative' members of the Coetus Internationalis Patrum would have stuck their signatures onto that document if they had been told that, in less than a decade, the Canon Romanus, the unique and ancient Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Church and, for 1200 years, of nearly all of Latin Christendom, would have fallen into almost total disuse? That it would have been replaced, to all intents and purposes, by a very brief Prayer put together by two men over a caraffe of wine one evening at a bar in the Trastevere? That the text these two used as their basis would, half a century later, be recognised by both Catholic and non-Catholic scholars as having no connection with the Roman Church? That its consecratory theology is contrary to that of the Canon Romanus? And that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document the Council Fathers were tricked into signing, would be flaunted around as a sufficient Conciliar Mandate for this outrageous, dishonest, and corrupt process?

(2) The paragraph in SC which deals with the rites of Ordination gives two extremely revealing instances of the sort of things the Fathers thought they were voting for. The only suggestions it gives for revising those rites are (a) that the Address by the Bishop to the People at the start of each ordination might  be in the vernacular; and (b) that more than three bishops might lay hands on episcopal consecrands! Yes; I said might, and I said it twice.

Two such very minor, optional, alterations! Those were the sorts of tiny modifications going round in the minds of the Fathers.

What actually happened after the Council? The entire ancient Roman Prayer for making a bishop, marked by a theology we already find in the First Epistle of S Clement in the 90s A.D., was totally dumped and replaced by a highly dubious prayer of Oriental origin.

Knavery! Or, as a popular British comedian once said, "Infamy! They've got it In for me!"

The man responsible, Dom Bernard Botte, more or less admits (in his Memoire printed in English as From Silence to Participation) the outrageous nature of what he achieved. He concedes the impropriety implied in writing a new Prayer from scratch ("some amateurs could be found who would be willing to attempt it"). But ... what about just adopting the oriental Prayer? "My colleagues ... looked at me in disbelief ... they didn't believe it had the slightest chance of being accepted".

In other words, Botte's fellow committeemen most certainly did not believe that this proposal was simply a dutiful fulfilment of the mandate given them by the Council Fathers. Nor did Botte even suggest this to them.

Botte convinced them by playing the 'ecumenical card'. 

Does the Conciliar document on Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, anywhere suggest that 'ecumenical considerations' are a sound reason for replacing ancient and extensive Roman formulae by dubious oriental texts? Is this a 'principle' sanctioned by Lefebvre and 'all but four' of the Fathers?

Back now to the passage I quoted at the start of this piece.

Ruff concludes it by writing: "No doubt many of the Fathers didn't yet have in mind all the possible implications of the paradigm shift. Nor did they need to".


"Nor did they need to"! In other words, Ruff is saying that the Fathers were induced to sign a blank cheque without realising that it could be filled in with a quite different sum of money from what they had in mind ... and that this sharp practice matters not one tiniest bit.

Suppose I want to buy a scarf for a friend. We don't know whether it will cost £20 or £50. So I give him an open cheque to buy it with.

If he goes off and uses the cheque to buy himself a flash new car for £50,000, he may not have broken the Law, but I shall think of him for ever more as one hell of a crook. Sorry; but I shall.

If that makes me judgemental and rigid and unbergoglian, fine. I can live with it.

NO COMMENTS WILL BE ENABLED UNTIL THE SECOND HALF OF THIS HAS BEEN PUBLISHED.

2 March 2017

The Asperges and Martyrdom

In August, 1549, the parish priest of the church of S Thomas the Martyr, Exeter, Fr Robert Welsh, was hauled to the top of his own church tower, vested as for Mass, and hanged from a gallows at the top, 'havinge a holye water bucket, a sprinkle ... and such other lyke popyshe trashe hangued aboute him'. The holy water bucket related to one of the most 'up front' features of his weekly ministry ... what we now call (even when in Eastertide the formula changes) "the Asperges".

The procession at the beginning of every Sunday's Parish Mass had just been abolished by Dr Cranmer. Very probably, the absence of the Asperges at the start of Sunday Mass on Whit Sunday 1549 (the day the First English Prayer Book was ordered to be used) represented the first moment at which the people of England realised, with a fury that mounted as that Mass continued, that they were being robbed of the communal rituals which cemented not only their religious but their secular life: if, indeed, one may distinguish the two. The Asperges was not just a preliminary to Mass or (as it is described in the modern rite) an optional way of doing (that postConciliar innovation) 'The Rite of penitence'; it was an elaborate procession which went around the church to sprinkle the altars (themselves expressions of the intricately interwoven common life of the medieval Christian with his system of guilds and chantries) and the members of the congregation. It perhaps went outside and sprinkled the graves of the departed, symbolically bringing into one unity the departed as well as the living. The water was taken into households and sprinkled to put the evil spirits to flight. Eamon Duffy writes of the 'emphasis on the location, and maintenance of blessing, healing and peace within the community'. The congregation, that is to say, was not an atomised association of individuals who chanced to be in one place but an organic, living whole.

Fr Welsh, as even his protestant chronicler acknowledges, 'verie patientlie toke his dethe, he hadd benne a good member in his commonwelthe had not the weedes overgrowne the good corne and his foule vices overcomed his vertewes'.

His 'foule vices', of course, were his brave resistance to the tyranny which was bent on depriving the people of England of their Faith, and, in doing so, of their whole social cohesion. Neither their worship nor their 'commonwelthe' ever recovered from that most ungodly, most unspiritual Pentecost of 1549.

1 March 2017

The ASPERGES: by the Blood of Christ

"Thou shalt wash me, O Lord". These words, familiar to the laity from the Ceremony which precedes Sunday Mass, come from Psalm 50 (51) , which, in the more penitential parts of the year, comes first in Lauds. So your clergy are currently saying this psalm daily.

I thought, since this blog is nothing if not strictly Ecumenical, you might find helpful to have some presbyterian input. Notice that the writer, unlike most modern Catholics, is not afraid to conclude with a sound piece of Typology.

"Hyssop is an herb generally known, and in Hebrew called esob. It was commonly made use of in purification instead of a sprinkler: thus God commanded the Hebrews, when they came out of Egypt, to take a bunch of hyssop, to dip it in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, and sprinkle the lintel and the two side-posts with it. Sometimes they added a little wool to it, of a scarlet colour. So in the purification of lepers, they dipped a bunch composed of hyssop, the branches of cedar, and red wool, in water, mingled with the blood of a bird, and with it sprinkled the leper.

"David alludes to these ceremonial purifications: Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: that is, 'As lepers and other unclean persons are by thy appointment purified by the use of hyssop and other things, so do thou cleanse me, a most leprous and polluted creature, by thy grace, and by the virtue of the Blood of Christ, which is represented and signified by those ceremonial usages.'"
The Presbyterian Alexander Cruden, A Complete Concordance, 1737.