20 May 2018

Pentecost Time

How splendid it is that the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate Missal preserve for us this Pentecost Octave which stretches, like the Easter Octave, to Saturday arternoon next. But there is, I fear, something missing in what we have; an omission which undermines the liturgical integrity of Pentecost.

Your Roman Missal, if it preserves the Roman Rite as it was at the beginning of the Pontificate of Pius XII, will show you a Pentecost which begins with a Baptismal Vigil: just as does Easter. The rites are scaled down for Pentecost; there are only six lections: but it is clear that Pentecost is a secondary Baptismal Season. Practically, it was a useful back-up to Easter for those who, for whatever reason, had not received Christian Initation at Easter. But in any case, the association is theologically appropriate, since the Pentecostal Anointing of the Spirit is central to the full rite of Initiation. Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix was, I am convinced, absolutely right to insist that Consignation/Confirmation is not a secondary adjunct to "Water Baptism", but one of the primary elements in Christian Initiation.

(I devoutly trust, by the way, that the Latin Church will not follow the boring old Anglican mistake of regarding Confirmation as an adolescent Rite of Passage, a sort of Christian Bar-Mitzvah; a misunderstanding as pastorally disastrous as it is theologically flawed. It most certainly is nothing whatsoever of the sort.)

The point of the Pentecost Octave is quite simply that it follows on logically from the Baptismal Vigil Liturgy. It is a week in which (as after Easter) the Illuminati wear their Whites (a meaning still, probably, alluded to in the English name Whitsunday). The Eucharistic Celebrant continues through the week to use the form of the Hanc igitur which is said for the newly initiated. On Saturday, the Neonati returned their Whites to the Pontiff; the statio was ad S Petrum in Vaticano.

It is rumoured that Ecclesia Dei has been allowing pre-Pius XII Holy Week Rites. I can see no reason why they would object to a restoration of the Pentecost Vigil. After all, it has been restored ... sort of ... in the Novus Ordo.

FOOTNOTES
(1) The Vigil disappeared under Pius XII; we should never forget that the disintegration of the Classical Roman Rite has Pius XII [if not S Pius X!] for its godfather. The 'Council' and its aftermath merely formed a logical progression of what Pius XII and Mgr Bugnini and others had already enthusiastically set rolling in the 1950s.
(2) The practical problem of administering Confirmation to adolescents, familiar to all Anglican parish clergy, is summed up in the old Anglican joke about one Churchwarden advising another about how to get rid of the bats in his belfry despite the fact that they are a protected species. "We just got the Bishop to climb up the ladder to the bell-chamber and clamber round the bells and confirm every bat he could find. We've never had a single one of them inside the Church since".

19 May 2018

Apostasy

I have deleted a submitted comment in which the writer assured me that, if X were to happen, "That is the day I walk out of the Church never to return".

I had better be frank about this.

Such a contingent threat of Apostasy, if seriously meant, suggests to me that the writer is in a most dangerous spiritual state.

It is true that PF treats the Church Militant (happily, there is no way he can get his hands on the Church Expectant and it is not within his mercifully limited power to "make a mess" in the Church Triumphant) as if it were some sort of private playground in which he can get up to whatever games he finds personally satisfying and heap up any number of his boasted "messes". But the Church is the Body of Christ. Not PF's playground; not mine; not yours.

There have been appallingly bad popes in the past and, depending on how long it is until the Eschaton, there very probably will be more of them in the future. None of that makes a nanogram of difference to the fact that the Catholic Church is the Ark of Salvation; the only and the essential Ark of Salvation.

And it is not a human and worldly 'membership organisation' which one can walk out of in a huff. You and I were incorporated into it by our Baptism. It is rooted in eternity; splendid as an army with banners; a terror to the fallen spirits; a wonder to the Angels.

If anything I have ever written has, however unintentionally, given any encouragement to the sort of unCatholic attitude which horrified me in that comment as I sat down to deal with it this morning, then, here and now, I repent of it.

If PF, or I, by our misconduct, drive one soul to "walk out of the Church", then he (or I) will have to answer for that in the day of Judgement. But the person who has "walked out never to return" will have the gravest charge of all to answer.

Apostasy.

18 May 2018

A very personal problem

The Vatican has just put out a teaching document on economic matters. For me, personally, and I can speak for nobody else, this moment precisely epitomises the problem created by PF's misuse of the munus given him by God.

At any time before 2013, I would have simply received such a document with docility. In a case like this present one, because it deals with matters in which I am not personally academically competent, I would have done my best to understand it, quite simply because (although not ex cathedra) it came to me with authority. I would have done my best to put myself into the position of being able to explain and commend it on this blog and to members of Christ's faithful people to whom I might find myself speaking or who, out of a misguided esteem for myself, asked me about it.

But that is not how things can be now. For five years, PF has, arguably, played irresponsible games with the authority placed in his hands. He has - daily - pursued policies which are difficult to reconcile with a faithful following of our Most Holy Redeemer. In particular, he appears to have set himself to undermine the careful teaching of his predecessors, notably the last two, on the evils of moral relativism, and has publicly ignored appeals to bring clarity to these appearances. Unbelievably, the Successor of S Peter is seen by both admirers and critics as one who encourages souls for whom Christ died to be comfortable in a life of habitual adultery. He has impudently justified his conduct by talking about a God of Surprises. Hagan lios: he has had the temerity to go so far as to create 'a mess' in the Lord's Vineyard; and then to invite others to follow him.

It was necessary, 1300 years ago, to say in sad condemnation of an earlier pope, that 'he has permitted the purity of the Church to be polluted'; that 'he has fostered heresy'. Because this has happened, we know that it can happen.

If ... may God grant it ... from this very moment onwards PF's pontificate were to be a model of humble repentance and of chastened discipleship ... then, indeed, laus Deo; but it would inevitably still take a time for it to become apparent Urbi et Orbi that this sea-change had taken place.

Whether under this pontiff or another, it may be years before one can again receive teaching emerging from the Vatican in the old simple, childlike, obedient trust; with open and willing ears. There will long be the nagging, destabilising, anxiety that, in such very extraordinary times, the chill bonds of conscience and of duty might require one dokimazein ta pneumata.

This is the measure of the catastrophic damage which Jorge Bergoglio has done to his great Office of maintaining the Depositum Fidei by being a remora against the assaults of Novelty. In Blessed John Henry Newman's language, we feel less securely under our feet the rock of the soliditas cathedrae Petri. It may take decades, at the least, for the good God to heal this insecurity.

17 May 2018

The Irish Referendum

I originally posted this piece on 1 June 2015. It seems depressingly relevant as the Irish electorate faces another Referendum, again, in effect, inviting them to vote for or against Christ.

When I was young, there was a lot of talk to the effect that Vatican I had defined the Papacy; but had left its teachings unbalanced by saying so little about the Episcopate. Vatican II was said to have done splendidly by correcting this balance.

So, at Vatican II, we had the status of bishops being given a puff ... by the bishops! And the bishops, additionally, claiming enormous moral credit for ... themselves giving themselves this puff!

I wonder what narrative History will give of the First World Episcopate in the decades since the Council.

I could go on about the collapse within the Church of the religious orders, of vocations to the priesthood. I could get rhetorical about the Liturgy. But I might simply be expressing my own prejudices. I have as many, if not more, human failings than most. And perhaps what has happened since the Council constituted in some cases (as it certainly did in the case of Liturgy) simply an extrapolation of what was already happening.

But ... the Paedophile Priest scandal! Here, considered objectively, we do have a massive dereliction of duty on the part of Bishops and of Episcopacy. In many cases, it seems, they disregarded juridical procedures and maintained 'the filth' in pastoral ministry.

And then there have been some high-profile episcopal adulterers; firstly in Ireland and then in Scotland and most recently in England (I wonder, incidentally, if there has been any enquiry into who knew what about Kieran Conry before his episcopal nomination; and why not).

I think it does the Irish laity enormous credit, in all the circumstances, that [in the Gay Marriage Referendum] so many of them did vote in accordance with the teachings of the Church. (One constituency voted against SSM; two constituencies, knife-edge.)

It would be reassuring if some representative body of bishops ... perhaps, let's say, a Synod ... were to express some corporate regret about what their Order has done to the Church in the last disastrous half century. It has, in some parts of the world and in more than a few individuals, shown disturbing indications of a radical dysfunctionality.

Instead, we have suggestions of enhancing still further the powers of this Order by entrenching canonically and structurally and even dogmatically their Episcopal Conferences.

Holy Mother Church needs that like she needs a hole in the head.

16 May 2018

sermon concludes

Throughout history, Mary comes to us as the Immaculate Conception; the one whom God preserved from Original Sin so that she could be the perfect and flawless Mother of God the Divine Son; so that she could give God back his own gift to her by giving him a perfect and flawless humanity to unite inseparably with his Divinity. And Mary comes to us as our Mother too, as well as the Mother of Jesus. Because if we are one with Christ, one in Christ, as S Paul teaches, then Christ's Mother is our Mother too. When we kneel at the Altar to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, what the priest puts  upon our lips is the Body that Jesus took from Mary and the Blood which flowed in her veins before it flowed in his. Mary is our Mother; and what is it that mothers give their children, soon after birth, except food? Our Mother Mary brings food for her children "in this our exile", food neatly packaged for the journey we are making through this Vale of Tears; food to give us strength until we reach our True Native Land. beth lehem is Hebrew for House of Bread; and when we come to Communion the Mother of this House, the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, brings from her cupboard and sets within us the Blessed Fruit of her womb Jesus. Because Mary is not locked away in Bethlehem or Nazareth; she's not even a fixture who only made it as far as Lourdes. Mary walks down the centuries and across the seas and countries and hurries to make her way to this country of England in this our Mary Month of May; she comes this afternoon to this place and to this moment of time; comes to be your Mother and your merciful guide and advocate, here, in your own land.
The sermon is concluded.

15 May 2018

sermon continues

I don't think Jesus changes; our Saviour God, Scripture tells us, is the same yesterday, today, and always. And I know Mary must be the same, yesterday, today, and always. I was privileged - together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and several hundred other Church of England people - to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Appearances of the Mother of God to S Bernardette Soubirous. We prayed at a little cleft in a rocky cliffside, called the Grotto, which is where S Bernardette had her vision. The Archbishop bent forward full-length on the cold, damp rock of the little cave and prayed there for some minutes. A few feet above his head was the fissure, the slit where our Lady appeared. At the time, S Bernardette was 14 years old - just the same age as Mary was when she became God's Mother - and Bernardette described the Lady of her vision as"no bigger than me". It is as though, through all eternity, Mary is to be seen of men as she was at that moment when she did the Great Thing which all the millennia had been looking forward to and brought God into his own world as her own Baby. She is for ever the One-giving-birth-to-God, Theotokos. And she was, so S Bernardette said, very beautiful. Beautiful, we might say, like her Son who is the fairest among the Sons of Adam.

Let me tell you another thing about Mary that doesn't seem to change. It's the way she talks. Just as she murmured to her Baby, not in Greek, the international language of Big People in government and politics, but in Aramaic, the language of ephphatha and Abba, so, when she appeared at Lourdes, she didn't speak to Bernardette in some grand language of the great affairs of men. There in Lourdes, in the Grotto, two or three feet above where Archbishop Rowan got his cassock damp from lying on the rock underneath the statue of our Lady, they've written the words Mary said when Bernardette asked her who she was: Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion. And that's not French. It's the local dialect, a branch of an ancient and almost extinct language they spoke in the South of France centuries before they spoke French there. It's called Gascon, and it's the language little girls like Bernardette still used among themselves. Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion: I am the Immaculate Conception. 

Continues later

14 May 2018

The (new) Bishop's fine new mitre ...

Firstly: apologies to those to whom I have, in the last fortnight, failed to reply. As I did explain a fortnight ago, I have been in retreat from Modernity ... id est, from all in-coming information about the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. I have now enabled many of the Comments some of you sent me during those two weeks.

A nice worldly, fleshly, and devilish tit-bit I missed in that period was about the daft new Austrian Bishop who wears a see-through Chasuble. My first thought, reading this, was to wonder whether his Mitre is also see-through. (My second: to wonder if the gentleman knows the story of the Emperor's New Suit.)

Indeed, episcopal rings, pectoral crosses, and pallia could all be made see-through too.

Why not?

After all, such trinkets only concern mere status. They are terribly out of the spirit of Bergoglian humility.The Mozetta PF wore when he first stepped out as Pope onto the balcony of S Peter's was, you will remember, entirely see-through.

13 May 2018

May Sermon

As I made a bonfire of old homilies, including some from 2011, I decided to give this one a last outing on the blog.
In lots of places, in the old days, there was a custom of fixing a card to the Paschal Candle giving some dates and times. This year the 'Charta' would have told you that it was the 1978th year since the Lord's Death and Resurrection; the 2011th since his Birth; and also the 2025th since the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tot it up: you'll see that, according to tradition, our Blessed Lady was 14 when she became God's Mother. There's a picture I find very moving - of a little girl, not much more than a child herself, leaning over the cradle of her baby Son, and murmuring the first endearments that a mother utters to the little thing that was part of her own body only minutes ago ... bonding, as they call it. And, as Divine Baby grew into Divine Toddler, I think we can actually put our finger on some of the things Mary said to her Son. The official language of that time was Greek, but I think that mothers and babies and people in bedrooms and kitchens used, in Palestine, a different languge: Aramaic. I don't think I have much doubt about one word Mary used to our blessed Lord. Imagine him - sitting in whatever sort of high chair they used to feed toddlers in. I think what Mary said was what most parents say: "Open wide". The little mouth opens, and one deftly manoeuvres the spoonful in before it shuts again. And the Aramaic for "Open wide" is Ephphatha. And so, when years later the Redeemer was healing a mute, S Mark tells us that he slipped from talking Greek into Aramaic and said "Ephphatha".

And I think I know another Aramaic word that Mary said to her Saviour. It was while she was teaching him his prayers and telling him about God the Father. She taught him to call God "Abba"; which some philologists translarte as "Daddy". In other words, she taught him to keep the Daddy-word, not for S Joseph, but for God the Father of Heaven. And we know Jesus called him "Abba"; he used that word in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest: " Abba, not my will but thine be done".

And there's another thing about that Mother and that Baby that people often don't spot. Our God and Lord Jesus Christ didn't have an earthly, human father; his Father was the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. Now: you know how it is with an ordinary baby: "Cor - he's got his mother's nose". "Look: she's got her father's ears". But this Baby ... there's only one person he could look like: Mary. If you could have seen them side by side, I'm sure you would have spotted the uncanny similarities; the distance between the eyes, perhaps; the curl of the lips; the shape of the fingernails; some indefinable likeness in the way each of them walked. Just as identical twins are so very like each other, I suspect that Mother and that Son must have been very strikingly similar. And, as our Lord took his humanity solely and uniquely from Mary's, I wonder if his human mind ran along the same tracks as hers; so that each often felt they knew what the other was thinking before anybody actually said anything ... as happens with some identical twins.
Continues later.

12 May 2018

Getting to Know Newman

I venture to make a constructive suggestion. In 1848 Newman published Loss and Gain; a partly autobiographical novel about the life, the currents of thought, the characteristic personages of the Oxford that he left in 1845. Of course we can (and should) go to Littlemore; how evocative it is, how welcoming the Sisters. You can venerate in nearby cases the red silk MA hood that Newman wore when celebrating the Eucharist as an Anglican, and the alb he wore at his first Eucharist in full Communion with the See of S Peter. But if it is Newman's mind you are after, this novel will be your key.

It is full of the most wonderful satire (as a satirist, Newman left Dean Swift many parasangs behind): of sweet young 'Catholic' things who think that they are discussing becoming monks and nuns when really they are falling in love with each other; of dons who use the XXXIX Articles to bully undergraduates but turn out not to know the actual text terribly well; of silly young ritualists who think that Catholicism is a matter of piscinas which will never drain an actual chalice and tabernacles which will never contain an actual Host; of the bizarre figures in the religious underworld of the day. And it contains some of Newman's most moving purple passages - not least Willis's famous eulogy of the Mass; and the description of worship in the unfinished Passionist Church.

Newman also describes the emotional hold of the Anglican Prayer Book upon those who know and love it, and its capacity to be a comfort in bad times as well as good. And the picture of the hero's father describes him as a decent, pious, generous, devout, popular, gentlemanly High Tory parson of the old school. This was Newman's tribute to all that was good and lovely in the Anglicanism which he had left; but my understanding of it is that Newman is praising, in Anglicanism, those good and wholesome things which were natural goods but which preceded the special graces which come with Catholic Faith. Newman's own father had been a banker, but he gave Charles Reding a gentlemanly clerical father who was generous to the poor and whose manners made him welcome in the greatest houses ... but whose sermons were undoctrinal.

Little known because of anti-Catholic prejudice, this book is, I am convinced, one of the greatest, most cleverly and most sharply yet beautifully written pieces of fiction produced by the nineteenth century.

11 May 2018

Caught you out there

I refer to all those pedants who thought they had caught me out in error when I described this Diocese as "The old Catholic Diocese of Oxford" ... since it was founded by "King" Henry "VIII", surely better referred to as Tudor Minor.

Yah boo ... the diocese of Oxford was erected by Reginald Cardinal Pole on December 24, 1554, by virtue of his Legatine powers, in his Legatine Constitution Cum supremum. So there.

Another bit of Revenge Pedantry: Roman Catholic writers love to remind us that, apart from a Welshman called Kitchen, no 'Marian' bishop conformed to the 'Settlement' of Elizabeth Tudor the once Virgin 'Queen'. Not so. Hugh Curwen, who had been consecrated Archbishop of Dublin by Edmund 'Patrimony' Bonner, Bishop of London, in 1555, was later translated to Oxford. I often wonder how this poor old bishop-of-bray got on with the grim gang of Calvinists who were his confratres. Not to mention the Calvinist dons who by this time had been intruded into Oxford professorial chairs. "Serve him right", I hear you say. You are a heartless lot.

I append some very interesting comments attached to a much older post on this subject.

10 May 2018

We share His Divinity

From time to time I talk about Divinisation in the teaching of S Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast tradition; of course, the basis of the tradition is much older and indeed Biblical. The locus classicus is II Peter 1:4: we become theias koinonoi phuseos (shareholders in the Divine Nature). S Leo (or conceivably an admirer soaked in his thought and latinity) wrote the prayer we still use secreto at the filling of the chalice at Mass: eius divinitatis esse consortes (to be sharers of his Divinity). And the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension seems to come from the same mind: ut divinitatis suae tribueret esse participes (that he might grant us to be partakers of his Godhead).

Cranmer, in one of his less fortunate expansions of his Latin originals, made this into 'to prepare a place for us; that where he is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with him in glory'.(I suspect one reason for this mutilation is the Protestant Reformation belief that even the justified sinner is still totally a sinner, simul justus et peccator: against the Catholic view that sanctifying grace truly transforms.) Bad Old ICEL rendered this 'to claim for us a share in his divine life': where 'claim' is not the same as 'grant us to be partakers' , and 'divine life ' is a watering down of 'Divinity'.

Good New ICEL offers "sharers in his divinity". As so often, accuracy in Latin translation, as well as being desireable in itself, has the bonus of manifesting the essential unity of the Latin and Byzantine traditions.

9 May 2018

More on Steventon

The Directors of the Railway Company used to have their meeting in Steventon; it is roughly half-way between London and Bristol, and a train from each place brought the two groups of Directors for Board Meetings, held in a solid building (which still survives) beside the Railway Station (which does not; a "Kingdom Hall" is built on its site). If you go up Steventon High Street and then turn left down the ancient Causeway, half-timbered medieval houses beside you for all its length, you come to the Church. Its notice board caught my eye.

On it (I approve of the use of Heraldry) are the arms of the old Catholic Diocese of Oxford. These show a fess; above it, three female demi-Saints who were clearly princesses, since they are crowned. Tradition identifies them as S Frideswide, Advocata specialis almae Universitatis, and two other ladies who appear in her legends: S Margaret and S Etheldreda (the three appear again in the famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's, cause of the celebrated anti-Ritualist law-suit). In the base is an Ox walking across a ford. The old undergraduate joke was that the composition represents three lady dons viva-ing a cow.

However, the artist of the Steventon notice board had introduced a variation of his own. Each of the three ladies has her upper garment drawn open, revealing her breasts. They look for all the world like those rather noticeable 'priestesses' or 'mother goddesses' dug up by Sir Arthur Evans (whose home was not many miles away in Boars Hill) in Minoan Crete.

I wondered how one would blazon such a detail. The words "lactating, proper" passed through my mind, but that's not quite right.