31 August 2015

Ecclesia eadem Westmonasteriensis

Fascinating to have read those comments on my earlier post of August 4: again, thank you, everybody. They establish that those 'Lists' in Westminster Cathedral, which assert the Communion between the Popes and the Chief Pastors of the Catholic Church in England, do this by getting thoroughly confused about whether Archbishops of Canterbury were appointed by, received the Pallium from, and maintained communion with, 'the genuine' pope; or a 'wicked antipope'. Similarly, they fail to understand that the Vicars Apostolic of the London District were not (as the Archbishops of Westminster were to be) Coetus Episcopalis totius Angliae et Cambriae Praesides perpetui. Next time I'm there, I'll have a look to see how the Lists negotiate the status of Stigand, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the 'antipope' Benedict X; and check out whether (as I think I recall) the Lists imply that, throughout the Henrician and Edwardine schisms, Thomas Cranmer was in peace and communion with the Successors of S Peter. Incidentally, is it arguable that, from 1558-1579, Nicolas Heath, Primate of England, was Chief Pastor of the Catholic Church in this country? And how nice it would be to think of a reason for adding dear Cardinal Allen to the list. Surely, de facto ...

But the more interesting question, ladies and gentlemen, now surely becomes: who was responsible for this botched and even comical attempt to assert a tidy and problem-free rewriting of ecclesiastical history? I suspect (my suspicions are no more than hunches) Vaughan. If it was he, did he tell some  green young chaplain to draft it on a couple of sheets of paper ... "My dear boy, it's quite simple: you just stick the Popes down one side, and the Archbishops of Canterbury down the other side ... you can't go wrong ..."?

Or might these Lists be the most dramatic public and permanent examples of poor Abbot Gasquet's idiosyncratic, Alice-in-Wonderland, History-is-what-I-think-it-ought-to-have-been, style of Historiography?

29 August 2015

Off with his head?

As History and S John Paul II both teach, the Rosary has been/is a flexible devotion. I sometimes recall my great Patron by saying these decades: The Annunciation to Zachary; the Visitation; the Nativity of S John Baptist; the Baptism of Christ; and the Decollation of S John Baptist.

In this delightfully hypersynodical age, what a very topical festival today's commemoration is. How sad it never occurred to S John Baptist to make clear to Herod and Herodias that all would be tickety boo about their interesting and fulfilling 'union' if only they performed an episcopally-authorised 'Penitential Path'.

Anyway, the Good News is that nobody has decapitated Cardinal Marx.

28 August 2015

Lavington again; and some questions.

Lavington Church (vide antea) was rather harshly treated by Street ... although I do feel the need to remind myself that the much-criticised Victorians had to make something of church buildings which had often received at best little more than patchwork ad hocery since the Reformation. You will find within it Soapy Sam's crosier ... I wonder when Anglican bishops resumed the use of the crosier? And the little church has early Victorian widows in which, bestriding the gulf between the later ideologies of Zionism and Nazism, the Star of David and the Swastika alternate as decorative motifs. And, unmentioned by Nairn [Pevsner], there is what looks to me like a Georgian pulpit with a rather worn brass plate recording that it was given to the Church of ... S Mark's, Kennington! Does anybody know where it had been originally; how it got to S Mark's Kennington (the 'Waterloo' church opposite the Oval Underground Station, on the spot where they killed the officers of the Manchester Regiment after the '45); and how it migrated thence to Lavington?

As I turned away from Caroline's grave, I found myself wondering how often the Cardinal Archbishop quietly murmured, as the Ministers turned away from him at the Altar so as not to overhear the Names, "... qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei et dormiunt in somno pacis: et praesertim coniugis meae carissimae Carolinae ..." [the manuals of that age suggested that one could offer Mass for departed schismatics but only privately]. The former Rectory, later renamed Beechwood, does not seem to have a blue disk recording his residence.

Newman is sometimes, and naturally, thought of as the more 'Anglican' of our two greatest modern English  Cardinals; but Lavington can suggest a new approach to Blessed John Henry's confrater in purpura. His background in England's Squirearchy; his own years as a country parson; above all, his affection through so many decades for a wife, surely give him a dash of 'Anglicanism' or at least of Englishness in fields where the mighty Beatus lacked it. Should the historians reclassify him as an outlier jure conjugis of the great Wilberforce clan? Could we thus insert Manning, and his role in settling the London Dock Strike, into a continuum linking the Anti-Slavery Movement and Rerum Novarum?

27 August 2015

Excellent ...

... pieces at Father Zed (on pews); and at Rorate, by Professor de Mattei, on a first-millennium Adulterous Synod.

26 August 2015

Lavington Churchyard

A few days in Sussex gave us the opportunity of walking to Lavington Church to visit Caroline (nee) Sargent's grave. I hadn't been there since the mid-1950s, and we had trouble rediscovering it ... you know how hard inscriptions can be to read when lichen has superimposed its own arabesques upon the lettering. Eventually we found it, under a shady wall, right under the steep and sunless wooded North incline of the Downs. I had to kneel down to trace the inscription with my fingers, my knees crunching in the beechmast. Her husband is not buried beside her.

They were married in 1833 in the nearby church by her brother-in-law Soapy Sam, later bishop of Oxford and then of Winchester, who was to earn eternal detestation among prim and humourless people by getting a cheap laugh at Darwin's expense. Four years later, childless, she died of consumption. Had she lived, might she have been the wife of an Archbishop of Canterbury? I have lost count of the number of bishops, not to mention the mere parsons, in her family connections.

Her husband succeeded her father, whose curate he had been, as Rector of Lavington and Graffham. He left behind him diverting accounts of his peasant parishioners, in which the summaries, if critical, ex. gr. 'addictus inebrietati', 'familia malo et ignaviae addicta', are in Latin or Greek. "The morning and evening prayers and the music of the English Bible for 17 years became part of my soul. If there were no eternal world, I could have made it my home".

A friend described his deathbed, nearly sixty years after the marriage: "I was by his bedside; he looked around to see that we were alone: he fumbled under his pillow for something; he drew out a battered little pocket-book full of a woman's fine handwriting. He said 'For years you have been a son to me, Henry; I know not to whom else to leave this - I leave it to you. In this little book my dearest wife wrote her prayers and meditations. Not a day has passed since her death, on which I have not prayed and meditated from this book. All the good I may have done, all the good I may have been, I owe to her. Take precious care of it'. He ceased speaking and soon afterwards unconsciousness came on".

You will remember the edifying accounts of how, when the body of S Thomas More was prepared for burial, under his outer finery was discovered a hair shirt. But on this occasion what they found on this corpse was a small locket, containing the portrait of his 'dearest wife' Caroline.

I hope they had the decency to leave that locket where they found it, round his neck, beneath the pallium. I like to feel, as I approach the Byzantine edifice to which they moved his body, that, under all the haughty marble assertion, beneath the dangling red hat, there lies a tiny picture of the very devout and pretty girl who was the daughter of a squarson and the wife of his curate and who lies in spe beatae resurrectionis under the beechmast in Lavington churchyard.

25 August 2015

Appeal for help!

Since B Dominic Barberi was beatified in 1963, there must exist a Mass for him according to the conventions of the Missal of 1962. Can someone tell me where to find it, or email it to me? His feast is tomorrow, and I would prefer to use the authorised form rather than Os iusti.

23 August 2015

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (5)

If you browse through the Pontificale Romanum as it so admirably was before the post-Conciliar alterations, you will discover that the most solemn liturgical blessings and consecrations both of persons and of things had one constant feature. They began like the Preface of the Mass, with Dominus vobiscum; Sursum corda; Gratias agamus; Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare .... This is how Major Orders were conferred; how Chrism and the Paschal Candle were blessed; how Abbots, Abbesses, Virgins and Queens, Churches and Altars, were solemnly blessed. The custom was not 'primitive'; but fitted very beautifully the 'primitive' understanding that it is by Thanksgiving, Eucharistia, that things are blessed and made over to God. Nowadays, apart from the Mass, the Paschal Candle appears to be the only survival of this noble custom (apparently, in modern liturgical theology, candles are more sacral objects than Bishops or even Virgins!). Couratin provides the Prayer for the Ordination of Priests remodelled in this way. Here we have something more than just an elegant literary embellishment; it is in itself a theological statement. Priests are something more than the merely functional.

The Rite of Ordination which I have described was only used in one diocese (as far as I know) and possibly only during two episcopates. I must emphatically disclaim any intention of investing my narrative with any broader theological significance. But that Diocese was a rather special star in our Anglican firmament (fuit Troia, fuimus Troiani ...), and Kirk was a profoundly significant figure in the now vanished Anglo-Catholic world of Dix and Mascall and their associates. Surely, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest precisely how just such a bishop solemnly administered the Sacrament of Holy Order in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford?

Does anybody know how Robert Mortimer, another Good Egg, did things down in Exeter?


22 August 2015

Docuit Ecclesia Westmonasteriensis ...

I've just returned from a period away from my computer and have endeavoured to deal with emails (400ish) and comments. I have, I think, enabled all the comments except for one (which tried to discuss at length the errors of the C of E rather than engaging with the actual subject of my post); and another which asked whether it was S Pius X or Pius XII who changed the collect for Assumption Day ... believe me, it was the latter!

A very good haul of comments on the piece I wrote on August 4 (Docet Ecclesia Westmonasteriensis) about the grandiose brass plates inside Westminster Cathedral. They seem to clarify that it was the antipope John XXIII who provided Chichele to Canterbury and sent him the Pallium ... and that the London Vicars Apostolic were, as I suspected, not senior to the other Vicars Apostolic. I thank all my erudite contributors and earnestly enjoin you to read their contributions.

I keep getting stuff about Facebook. I do not do Facebook. If you are being informed that I have rejected you as a Facebook Friend, this is why! 

21 August 2015

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (4)

Continues ...
Couratin made further additions from the Pontifical; before the Ordination Prayer he included a translation of the formula Oremus fratres carissimi ...; and, during the administration of Holy Communion, the Choir were to sing the Jam non dicam vos servos .... He introduced the Offering by the Newly-ordained to the Bishop, and provided a formula: the Pontiff said "I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness: I will sing and speak praises unto the Lord"; and the choir sang "Ye have not chosen me ...". Then, during "The offering of the Bread and Wine" the choir sang "Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech". It is not difficult to detect here a determination to restore that sense of Sacrifice and Priesthood which Apostolicae curae had complained that Cranmer had eliminated.

Apostolicae curae did, however, have a point. By eliminating the part of the Roman Canon which followed the Consecration, the Prayer Book Rite presented Anglo-Catholics with a problem. Having successfully taught the laity that the bread and wine truly became the Lord's Body and Blood, they found they had a rite in which the Consecration now appeared merely to be a way of securing the Presence so that it could be adored. This was accentuated by the growing practice of singing the Agnus Dei after the Consecration. My learned predecessor at S Thomas's, Trevor Jalland, observed "Thus the whole attention of the worshippers is concentrated on the Presence at the very time when there should be thought of sacrificial offering" (This our Sacrifice, 1933, 146sqq.). He went on to suggest that "a partial remedy lies ready to hand". He recommended the use of hymns "expressive of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist", mentioning in particular one of a number of hymns composed by W W H Jervois designed to paraphrase parts of the Unde et memores and to teach the doctrine of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for the departed as well as for the living. This hymn was duly introduced into the Oxford rite of Ordination between the Consecration and the Agnus Dei.

It appears with the title "Hymn at the Consecration", and reads: Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants/ Here set before thee Christ thy well-beloved,/ All-perfect Offering, Sacrifice immortal,/ Spotless Oblation.// See now thy children, making intercession/ Through him our Saviour, Son of God incarnate,/ For all thy people, living and departed,/ Pleading before thee. It was often sung in Anglo-Catholic churches (as late as the 1960s in Pusey Chapel in Oxford) after the Consecration, while the Celebrant said various things secreto. I would be interested if anyone had evidence bearing on how widespread this usage was.

This little booklet produced for the guidance of the congregation does not mention the Latin Church's custom of Concelebration by the newly ordained. But at the rehearsal, the Precentor, Fr Michael Watts, a product of St Stephen's House in the era of Canon Couratin, explained about Concelebration to the ordinands, and instructed them what to do. I remember this clearly!

Perhaps the most striking changes made by Couratin concerned the central Prayer of the Rite. As left by Cranmer, this failed to ask the Almighty to do anything whatsoever to the Ordinands. Couratin made three changes. He printed the heading "The Prayer for the Holy Spirit". Following the draft Prayer Book of 1928, which Parliament had rejected, he inserted into the Prayer a request that God would "endue them with all grace needful for their calling". And (again following 1928) he significantly changed the opening of the Prayer ...  as I plan to explain next time.

19 August 2015

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (3)

Continues ...
The Prayer Book forms of Ordination, unlike those in the Pontifical, provide Proper Collects and Epistles and Gospels. For the highly  'Romanising' form of the Anglican Rite which we are examining, it was necessary to supply what the Prayer Book lacked: such as an Introit, a Gradual, and an Alleluia (in English and in plainchant). Couratin [if my identification of the hand at work here is correct] secured them from a very interesting source. The Introit Hic accipiet benedictionem is from Psalm 23/24; Hic ... Jacob; Domini est terra; Gloria; Hic. It comes from a form disused in the Catholic Church herself since the Conciliar ruptures, the Rite De Clerico faciendo or Tonsure. It is what the Choir sings immediately after the Pontiff has cut the hair of the candidates. In other words, Couratin begins the service by supplying what would have been experienced by the ordinands if they had been taken through the Tonsure and Minor Orders as prescribed in the Pontifical.

The Gradual and Alleluia are from Psalm 14/15 and 15/16 and represent the following: Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo, aut quis requiescit in monte sancto tuo? V Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur justitiam; qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo. Alleluia. Alleluia. V Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei: tu es qui restitues haereditatem meam mihi. Alleluia. This Alleluia incorporates the words which the ordinand was required to say while the Bishop was actually cutting his hair. Pope Benedict XVI took it to heart and remmembered it all his life, quoting it in his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia in 2007. "This is marvellously expressed in a verse of a  priestly Psalm that we - the older generation - spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot". The priest praying in this psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy. After taking possession of the land, every tribe obtained by drawing of lots its portion of the Holy Land and, with this, took part in the gift promised to the people of God. The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significamce. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priestly life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself. The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life ... has rightly seen in the following of the Apostles in communion with Jesus  himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must say today with the Levite Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei. God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence. ..."
To be continued.

17 August 2015

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (2)

I suspect Couratin of having the large hand in producing this booklet, because when I was a seminarian at Staggers under Fr Derek Allen, the liturgical dispositions put in place by Canon Couratin were still in place. There was a particular style about them; that of accommodating Anglican formulae to a Tridentine Roman mindset. I can't express it better than thus, and with the following examples, which those of you with a certain sort of background will understand: at the Divine Office, we used to say the Collect of the Day with the standard longer conclusion, then the last two of the three final collects sub una conclusione with the longer ending after the last one (instead of Cranmer's varied conclusions after each one). At the start of Lent, a notice went up signed by the Bishop of the Diocese formally dispensing members of the House from the strict observance of the Lenten Fast. Mass Practice sessions inculcated the Tridentine ceremonial even in the case of seminarians who would, in their title parishes, be marrying up that ceremonial to Cranmer's libretto. So Couratin's my hunch; but, out of honesty, I'd better give you evidence for different conclusions.

When Kirk became Bishop of Oxford, certain changes were made which are described in the biography of Kirk written by his son-in-law, Eric Kemp, long-time Bishop of Chichester. These were masterminded by his friend Canon Dr N P Williams [who also used to help out at S Thomas's]. Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost were henceforth marked by a Pontifical High Mass. Kirk was given a full set of pontifical vestments, which he used on these and other occasions (they may the ones which he bequeathed to his episcopal son-in-law). "The ceremonial of the ordination was carefully worked out by Williams and E C Ratcliff, and later on was under the direction of A H Couratin ...". Ratcliff was a most distinguished liturgist with a passion for the Roman Canon; he did a great deal in collaboration with Couratin, who had an instinctive understanding of his mind. If the little booklet I am examining was the product of Ratcliff and Couratin working together, this would fit the data. It's just that I am a trifle doubtful about evidence for Williams' hand in it. (He was dead by the time of the publication of the booklet; but, of course, there could have been an earlier version of the booklet.)

So, when in the next instalments, I refer to "Couratin", what I really mean is ... whichever of these three, severally or in which combinations, did it.


16 August 2015

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (1)

The Choir.
Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, qui ...

is how the little book begins; it was among my late Mother's effects. On the cover it reads: "This book is the property of the Diocese of Oxford and must not be taken away." But my Mother, God rest her soul, was rather inclined to keep little mementos of memorable occasions; and this was "The Form and Manner of Making and Ordaining of Deacons and Priests"; and she preserved it as a memento of my Deaconing in 1967 and my Priesting in 1968 in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. It has some interesting features.

It bears no date; but bibliographical considerations narrow its printing down to the period 1945-1947; and thus to the episcopate (1937-1955) of Kenneth Escott Kirk, predecessor of the Bishop Harry Carpenter who ordained me. I look upon both of these as sacerdotes magni; incidentally, for those Catholics to whom the papal condemnation of Anglican Orders in Apostolicae curae is a very important part of their Faith, I will in passing point out that each of those two bishops received the episcopate from coconsecrators including Bishop Bertram Fitzgerald Simpson, who was himself raised to the 'Old Catholic', i.e. Dutch Schismatic, episcopate in 1932 by Henry Theodore John Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem (utpote per consecratorem aequiprincipalem). Rome has never issued an Apostolicae curae to condemn 'Old Catholic' Orders, and, indeed, accepts them as valid (although I have been told that she does, wisely, proceed with immense caution with regard to people from the tiny and proliferating 'Liberal Catholic' and other sects which claim 'Old Catholic' Orders). Simpson left it on record that when he took part in Anglican consecrations, he carefully intended always to pass on the Dutch, as well as the Anglican, episcopal succession.

Ecce sacerdos magnus is a significant starter to a service; it is what is sung in Catholic churches when a Bishop enters solemnly for a great liturgical occasion. Bishops Kirk and Carpenter certainly regarded themselves as Catholic Bishops in the fullest Catholic sense; both were distinguished Anglo-Catholic scholars and Oxford academics and it was Kirk who masterminded the collection The Apostolic Ministry (1946) which defended Catholic doctrines of priesthood and episcopacy. Among his close friends (and an Honorary Chaplain from 1946) was Canon Arthur Hubert Couratin, Principal of St Stephen's House (1936-1962; died 1988) and a considerable liturgist both theoretical and practical. He used to bring his 'circus', a gang of seminarian servers, to the Cathedral in order to 'do' Kirk's ordinations. I believe, from internal evidence, that the little book I am considering is a collaboration between Kirk and Couratin; and it exhibits ... as I have said ... some very interesting features, of which Ecce sacerdos magnus is the first.
To be continued. This is in five parts, and I shall not enable any comments until all five have appeared.

12 August 2015

Isis Regina and Cardinal Ravasi (2)

Continues ...
Syncretism ... the worship of many deities while considering them truly to be manifestations of the One ... was the real religion of the Graeco-Roman world. Worshipping any one deity in no way excluded the worship of another. The more sniffy and traddy and 'Roman' emperors sometimes showed hostility to 'Oriental Cults' on the very natural traddy ground that these seedy greekish immigrant cults with their iffy foreign clergy and secret subversive ceremonies were displacing the good old Roman public sacrificial worship of Jupiter and Mars, of Vulcan and Venus, of Dea Roma and the Genius of the Imperial House. But persecution, real persecution, was reserved for those who worshipped Iesous ho Chrestos. Because Christianity was regarded, and very truly, not as just another name and cult for worshipping the One; it was recognised as a denial of all other gods and goddesses. That is why Christians were held to be, were loathed as being, Atheists.

At Acts 4:12, S Peter says "There is no other Name given among men under heaven in which it is necessary (dei) for us to be saved." That is the essential truth which distinguishes Christianity from Isiacism, Mithraism, and the rest. I know no better way of situating S Peter's statement in its original cultural and religious context than to quote, again, the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, Book XI.
"The Phrygians call me the Mother of the Gods; the Athenians, Kekropian Athene; the Cypriots, Paphian Aphrodite; the Cretans, Dictynnian Artemis; the Sicilians, Infernal Persephone; the Eleusinians, Demeter ..." etc. etc..

The Christian God is not known by many peoples under many names and worshipped through many cults; He is known universally by One People under One Name and worshipped at One Table.

That is why S Paul insists that the Gods of the heathen are demons and insists, further, that worshipping them, and worshipping the Father and His Incarnate Word, are mutually exclusive (I Corinthians 10). Some of his converts undoubtedly had been, and were prepared to continue to be, syncretists.

No. We do not, as well-meaning people sometimes say, "all worship the same God really".

This is the Faith our martyrs died for.

That is what makes it different.

I received a hostile comment recently from somebody who criticised me for referring to Cardinal Ravasi without mentioning his Eminence's name. I have now rectified that detail. He then criticised me for writing about Ravasi without actually knowing what was in his mind. Actually, that was why I had refrained from mentioning his name. I did not really want to do business in terms of personal denunciations. And, finally, my correspondent went on to exculpate Ravasi by surmising that he thought that "paganism's reverence for the earth and its fertility is a valuable religious impulse that needs to be respected, purified, and inculturated into Christianity".

Perhaps, indeed, I grant, there are things we do not know about the scene which was recorded by the videoclip on the Internet. Perhaps there are ways in which a new light could be cast upon Ravasi's actions. I hope so. I am not in a place to pass judgement upon another, nor do I do so. But cardinals, above all, honoured as they are with the bright colour of martyrdom, the colour of the blood of those Coptic peasants poured out upon the shore of the Mediterranean, have a duty not to give scandal. And to appear to take part in what has been widely publicised as a ceremony in honour of a deity whose name is not Jesus, is, prima facie, to behave scandalously. If this is not what Ravasi did, then I am very deeply relieved. But it is clear that he still has a duty to repair an apparent scandal. If some other person has grossly misrepresented actions which were every way proper, then that person has a scandal to repair, and, additionally, owes his Eminence an apology. Since Ravasi is a cardinal presbyter of the Roman Church, I think his bishop also has responsibilities in this matter.

I can offer a Patrimonial discussion of Syncretism; C S Lewis dedicated an entire volume to it: The Last Battle.

11 August 2015

ISIS REGINA and Cardinal Ravasi (1)

Iesous ho Chrestos ['Iesous the Good'; Christos in the first century was mistaken by many for the commoner word Chrestos, because by that point the pronunciation of each word was the same], as we know with the hindsight of History, came out on top of the myriad of other deities (Serapis, Osiris, Sabazios, Mithras ...) which made their fashionable journey from the mysterious Orient and secured enthusiastic followings in Greek Rome (never forget that, just as there are more Jews in New York than in any other city in the world, so Rome was the largest Greek-speaking city in the world).

We know this with hindsight; in the first century it far from obvious that this latecomer would displace those who were already firmly established. And foremost among those was Isis.

Isis was an originally Egyptian fertility goddess whose cult was fashioned into a world-beater when she was adopted and hellenised by the Greek monarchs of Egypt (the Ptolemies) who had governed there since the time of Alexander the Great. The last of these Greek dynasts was, indeed, herself an incarnation of Isis (Kleopatra nea Isis philopateira thea). If you want to get a seductive taste of the entrancing power which her cult exercised, read Book XI of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius.

Here is how Isis describes herself:
"Rerum Naturae parens, elementorum omnium domina, saeculorum progenies initialis, summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies uniformis ... cuius numen unicum multiformi specie, ritu vario, nomine multiiugo totus veneratur orbis ..." [Mother of the Nature of Things, Mistress of all the elements, initial Progeny of the centuries, Summary of divinities, Queen of souls, First of the skydwellers, uniform Appearance of the gods and goddesses,  ... the whole world adores my deity alone, under a different appearance, a different rite, a different name ...]. Because Isis, as she goes on to explain, does not exclude the other gods and goddesses worshipped in every place upon earth; she is those other divinities. She is simply an expression of all the deities anybody worships anywhere ... or rather, in her age-old Egyptian manifestation, she is the truest such expression and Isis is her truest name. Very modern: inclusive rather than exclusive! [Incidentally, I believe this attitude is very close to Hinduism, where the vast numbers of different divine manifestations are really one single deity. But I'm not an expert ...]

So the Cult of Isis is really a form of monotheism, and does not require anybody else to give up any other deity, for all are one and one is in all. Indeed, after being initiated into her mysteries, the hero of Apuleius' book goes on to become something of a collector of deities and their mysterious cults!

There is a technical name for this approach to the divine: it is called Syncretism.
To be continued.

10 August 2015


THE GOOD NEWS One of the little luxuries one gets from the Divine Office is the days when, not confined to the Commons of Saints, one has antiphons proper to the day. S Lawrence's day is an example.

THE BAD NEWS But the Liturgia Horarum is squeamish. We've lost that nice old antiphon to the Magnificat at II Vespers
While Blessed Laurence was being burned, stretched upon the gridiron, he said to the wicked tyrant "It's just about done this side; turn it over and tuck in [assatum est iam, versa et manduca], as for the goods of the Church which thou demandest, the hands of the poor have already carried them off into the heavenly treasures". Funny how our 'liberated' and 'uncensored' age has more hang-ups, and a greater tendency to bowdlerise, than allegedly less relaxed ages. I miss the antiphon on S Agatha's day with the lovely lingering alliterative Ms: He that hath vouchsafed to heal me from every blow, and to put my poor little breast back onto my chest [mamillam meam meo pectori], upon him do I call, the living God. And on Caecilia's day we've lost the antiphon which, by being slightly mistranslated, made her Patron of musicians: Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino decantabat ... (and notice the Cs and and Ts and Ds here). [The ablative absolute 'As the organs were playing' was mistakenly taken to mean that Caecilia was playing them.]

THE GOOD NEWS Following the mandate of the Council, the revisers brought into the new Office some gems of ancient Christian Latin hymnography. Today's Liturgia Horarum Office Hymns include a cento from Prudentius, the classicising Spaniard who wrote around 400ish. He delightfully describes the Roman Martyr Lawrence as now a citizen of heaven and a member of the eternal Senate (curia) and as wearing the Corona Civica: the crown/wreath of oak leaves given to a soldier who had saved the life of a comrade in battle, but often included among the insignia of Augustus. Prudentius wrote at just the time when the Church in Rome was coming to a cultural consensus to present itself as the guardian and exemplar of the old Romanitas; it was around now that the Canon Romanus was revised in the style of the ancient pre-Christian liturgical formulae of the City (vide Christine Mohrmann).

THE BAD NEWS For those of you who say the office in English: ICEL decided not to bother you anyway with the ancient hymns which the reformers had only just (in obedience to the Council) brought into the Liturgia Horarum. So you won't be reading Prudentius after all. Surprising how often ICEL promptly nullified the good initiatives of the Council. In our modern English vernacular, this is sometimes known as 'Sod's Law'.

8 August 2015

Una cum papa communicantes

There has recently been some discussion on the internet about the idea that being in communion with the Church or Bishop of Rome has an inherent connection with 'being a Catholic' or 'belonging to the Church'. I rather feel that some people who bullishly demand patristic references to such a concept may in fact be polemically asserting that such an idea did not exist in the early centuries. I am not interested in such. But for any who ask the question genuinely seeking an answer, I commend the following article, which argues convincingly that the Communicantes in the Roman Canon originally followed on from the reference to the Roman Pontiff in the Te igitur. It is written in German but includes a good simple summary in Latin for those who, like me, are germanically challenged.

"Te igitur" und "Communicantes" im Messkanon, Sacris Erudiri VIII, 1 (1956).

I found pp 26-35; 53-54; 65-67 particularly helpful.

7 August 2015

S Xystus and the blessing of the grapes

Through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless and bestow all these good things upon us.
This paragraph near the end of the Canon can confuse people. They can take it as refering to the consecrated Elements upon the altar. But the language is highly inappropriate if the Sacrament is meant. The Blessed Sacrament is not Blessed Bread, like the Antidoron of the orientals or the Blest Bread of Medieval England. It is the transsubstantiated Body of Christ our God.
This paragraph originally concluded the blessing of substances brought to the Altar: such as oil on Maundy Thursday ... and beans on Ascension Day! Not that beans had a liturgical association with the dogma of the Ascension: it just happened that the bean harvest in Rome coincided with the Ascension (no, don't ask me how the bean-harvest fluctuated according to the varying date of Easter ... just don't go there ...). And the first grapes were available to be blessed on the feast of S Xystus!
Bless, O Lord, also these new fruits of grape which thou O Lord by the dew of heaven and the showers of rain and the serenity and quietness of the seasons hast deigned to bring to ripeness, and hast given them to our uses to receive them with thanksgiving in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom etc..

The Latinity is workmanlike, I almost wrote banausic, even gauche and gawky, with little in the way of rhetorical flourishes or theological sparkle. Roman, in fact, in its sobriety and earthiness.

I sometimes feel sad at the opportunities the post-Conciliar reformers missed. In their keenness to spend long hours inventing innovations ... such as new Eucharistic Prayers and lectionary systems yanked ex nihilo ... they rarely bothered to go for the organic development which the Council had actually mandated. They could have allowed local hierarchies to incorporate appropriate blessings at this point in the Canon, and thus also have promoted a genuine inculturation which yet was totally within the spirit of the traditional Roman Rite.

I wonder if it would be nice, on some feast in August, to bless fragrant flowers at this point in the Mass? The feast, perhaps, of Someone whose empty tomb when opened was found to be filled with fragrant flowers? Until Pius XII set his pruning hook to August 15, we used to share all those delightful 'apocryphal' legends with the Orientals; as far as I am aware, they are now totally forgotten in the West. Very narrowing.

6 August 2015

The Battle of Belgrade and S Xystus

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

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

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

Tomorrow, a word about a curious custom which occured on his feastival.

5 August 2015


Around 700ish someone wrote a hymn about our Lady, Quem terra, pontus, aethera. It was subsequently divided into two and and thus provided a couple of Office Hymns for the Common of the BVM. The second half began "O gloriosa Femina". This was subsequently altered to "O gloriosa Domina", ["woman" changed to "Lady"] for reasons which are fairly obvious. Urban VIII's revisers changed it to "virginum" ["of virgins"]. They will have disliked "Domina" because the first syllable of that word is short, while this is a metrical hymn in which the first syllable of the word at that place in the line has to be long - as the first syllable of "femina" is.

(Never forget that the corruption of the Roman Rite began, not with Paul VI, not with Pius XII, not even with Pius X, but when, in the 1620s, Papa Barberini aka Urban VIII mucked up the ancient Office Hymns because he wanted them to sound more like Horace. This was the first example of the Roman Catholic Church adopting the "we've-now-got-printing-so-we-can-now-impose-our-latest-revolutionary-fad-almost-overnight-on-the-Universal-Church" syndrome which ultimately led to Bugnini. Protestants like Cranmer, of course, had seen the possibilities of this technology for liturgical devastation much earlier. Back to Pius V should be the traditionalist instinct. That is why, if you want to use English translations of the original texts of the Office Hymns as given in Sarum, Pius V, and the new Liturgy of the Hours, you need to use Anglican translations - done from Sarum by people like J M Neale - rather than RC translations by scholars like E Caswall.)

Vatican II rightly ordered that the text of the Hymns should generally revert to the original texts still for the most part found in S Pius V's original Breviary (not to mention in Sarum and the other medieval local dialects of the Roman Rite). Dom Anselmo Lentini's Coetus proposed, when dealing with the hymn we are considering today, restoring the original reading Femina [woman] on the grounds that " it seems to us very beautiful, since thus the glory of the humble creature raised to so great a dignity shines more brightly; moreover, Domina [Lady] spoils the metre ...". But at some point somebody decided that Domina ... even if unmetrical ... even if unoriginal ... had better go back into the text. I wonder who ... and do you agree with them?

Incidentally, the first part of the original hymn - what we know as Quem terra, pontus, aethera [Urban VIII changed aethera to sidera] - had a third stanza long since omitted, which Lentini wanted to reintroduce, but ... apparently ... here again he was vetoed by somebody. It went (I translate unmetrically):
"Therefore the ages wonder,/That an Angel brings the Seed [Lentini wanted to emend this to "That the Spirit overshadows her"]/ That the Virgin conceives by ear/ And, believing in her heart, gives birth." This, of course, gives a picture which relates to much medieval iconography of the Annunciation, where a piercing ray goes from the Father or the Spirit to our Lady's ear.

Speculate on the problems - and advantages - in that stanza!

3 August 2015


I have just got back (from doing the LMS Latin Summer School at Pantasaph ... splendid to see old friends, including, for the last couple of days, the Brethren from Silverstream) and read gillions of emails and enabled nearly all the comments offered.

I would remind readers that I particularly dislike comments which are just a line or two and include typoes. If you're too busy to check through what you have written, don't bother to comment.