24 September 2018

A Julian BREXIT?

A Handbook of Dates For students of British History appeared in a new edition in 2000; C R Cheney and revised by Michael Jones*. They wouldn't get away with that title nowadays, because, while the book gives the Regnal Years of English monarchs, it appears entirely ignorant of Scotch kings ... not to mention Welsh princes. It really is a trifle parochial; thus, it only gives Julian Easters down to 1752, when we went Gregorian, although it would have been useful (despite the self-limitation of the title) in the one volume to have continued the Julian information down to the present and beyond.

It does provide the complete layout of the unique year 1752, when the people of England were deprived of eleven days of life as September was reduced to a mere nineteen days so as to bring us out of the old Julian Calendar and into line with the Gregorian Calendar of Western Europe.

And now these Three Kingdoms (as we used to call them before they were renamed the Yewkay ... I have found the older usage surviving in literature as late as the 1930s) are due to slip their European moorings and slink off into mid-Ocean in the hope of striking lucrative trade deals with the lost continent of Atlantis. No longer will the right wing Press be able to inspire terror at such thoughts as EU standardisation of the shape of bananas, Imperial being replaced by Metrical, and all that.

But what nobody, even the Daily Mail, has advocated is going the Whole Hog by resuming use of the Julian Calendar. "Thirteen additional days of Life! A longer Summer!! A two week August Bank Holiday!!!" What's not to like? It wouldn't matter if a subsequent British Europhile regime reversed such legislation as long as in doing so they snipped the thirteen (or fourteen?) days out of the middle of winter. Who would resent being deprived of a fortnight in January? It would be a win-win situation.

You know it makes sense. Everything I suggest invariably makes sense.

Paperback, Cambridge University Press, ISBN-10 0-521-77845-X

23 September 2018

The Anglican VIA MEDIA revisited

It occurs to me that there may be more to the Anglican notion that Anglicans constitute a via media between Protestants and Papists than we sometimes suppose.

Official Anglicanism, after all, cheerfully, whole heartedly, and gleefully persecuted both Papists and Protestants. As far as the former are concerned, I wrote in 1992: "We [Anglicans] should acknowlege that ... the great historical fact is that, for hundreds of years, the community of which we are the inheritors defined itself in broad, popular, international and cultural terms by opposition to Rome, to priesthood, and to sacramental religion. We helped to torture and kill those who perceived themselves - and were perceived by others - to be maintaining these things. ... for centuries we persecuted other Christians and then, when we finally realised that they had been largely right all the time, we couldn't even be decently apologetic and humble about it".

As far as Methodism is concerned, in the 1930s Dom Gregory Dix wrote about the hunger of the early Methodists for frequent Communion (Wesley rather liked a daily Mass) and commented "When one contrasts this hunger for communion with the torpid rapacity of prelates like Archbishop Manners-Sutton, who combined the See of Canterbury (then worth £40,000 a year) with sixty-three livings with cure of souls as well as other preferment, what can one say but that, great as is the sin of schism, the sin of Amaziah the priest of Bethel may well be greater still?"

In an age in which it appears to be fashionable to apologise for what one's predecessors or ancestors did, I wonder when Official Anglicanism is going to apologise for the via media from the comfort of which it raked with its heavy artillery the poor dissenters on each side of that Way. And let us not forget the Unitarians whom it continued to burn for long after the 1559 breach with Rome.

Will a Lambeth Palace Spokesman give us dates for all these very necessary ritual grovellings?

22 September 2018


A repeat of an old post, with its original thread.

 I am not the first to point this out; but some readers may not have heard it: the first recorded Limerick is found in the middle of the prayer attributed to S Thomas Aquinas in thanksgiving after Celebrating and Communicating.

Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio,
Concupiscentiae et libidinis exterminatio,
Caritatis et patientiae,
Humilitatis et obedientiae,
Omniumque virtutum augmentatio.

This must surely prove that there is something inherently satisfying about these structured rhythms and rhymes.

I bet nobody could render that into an elegant English Limerick.

21 September 2018


EVERVIRGIN has been a title of our Lady from the earliest days; it appears, albeit obiter, in the documents of councils from Chalcedon onwards. It still appears (confiteor; Communicantes) in the Novus Ordo Mass; was rather more frequent in the Classical Roman Rite; and comes very often in the Byzantine Rite. It is part of the Church's Marian dogma, and was treated respectfully, if rather evasively, by the ARCIC document on Mary. Non-Catholics sneer at it. The great Tom Wright is dismissive. Let us consider the question in the form of a Socratic Dialogue.

Haereticus: The Gospels make it quite clear that Jesus had brothers.
Catholicus: They don't. Adelphoi can mean kinsmen. It doesn't have to mean uterine (that is, born-of-the-same-womb) brothers.
So you say. But that's the obvious meaning if anyone talks about "Jesus' brothers" in any language, isn't it? 
 Not at all. Mark's and Matthew's Gospels, in their accounts of the Crucifixion, both talk about "Mary the mother of James and Joses [or Joseph]". If this Mary had been the same as Christ's own mother, it would have been very odd for them not to refer to her as the Mother of Jesus. The "obvious" and natural inference is that the "Mother of James and Joses" was a different Mary from "Mary the Mother of Jesus".
So what?
Well, in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55, the places where those "brothers of Jesus" are mentioned, the full text reads: " Jesus the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses [or Joseph] and Judas and Simon". We've just seen that this James and this Joses are apparently the sons of some Mary who was not the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus. And they're the first two on the list here. The list is thus clearly not itemising individuals who were uterine brothers of Jesus.
Well, I still think it's obvious that ...
If it's so "obvious", you've got some explaining to do. Throughout the second century the Gospels were increasingly regarded as 'canonical' and authoritative. If it is so "obvious" that James and the rest of those listed in the Gospels were uterine brothers of Jesus, then the tradition that Jesus was Mary's only child must have arisen well before those Gospels came to be regarded as authorities. Otherwise, when somebody started saying "she never had any more children", somebody who had read the Gospels would have said "Aha, you're wrong: here's a list of his brothers". So, if you're right about it being so "obvious", you're going to have to admit that Mary's perpetual virginity is so early a tradition as to predate the acquisition of authority by our Four Gospels; which modern scholarship dates to the beginning of the second century at the latest. I've got you either way.
That's all gobbledegook. It's obvious ...
That's the problem with you Prods and you Liberals. You're impervious to evidence and to reason.
Of course we are. "Reason is the Devil's Whore". Martin Luther said so. It's obvious.

20 September 2018

Next Monday ...

Are you preparing to celebrate, on September 24, the Solemnity of our Lady of Walsingham? It is, of course, in the English Ordinariate a Solemnity (in £.s.d., "Double of the First Class") and, in the other two Ordinariates, a Festum.

Readers might be interested in the provenance of the Propers for this celebration, as found in the Ordinariate ('Divine Worship') Missal.

Mary's home at Nazareth is a symbol both of Incarnation and of the sanctity of simple family life. The Propers of this festival started life as the Propers of the Shrine of the Holy House at Loretto in Italy, where the House is encased in baroque finery; but, of course, for those of the Anglican Patrimony the first resonance will be  the restored Anglican Holy House at Walsingham, where the architecture and ambience still speak of the joyfully optimistic Anglo-Catholicism of the 1930s (and its fine aesthetic tastes). In the Ordinariate, we have not lost our affection for this shrine; so the Mass authorised in our Missal for our Lady of Walsingham is a close translation of the lovely old Mass of the Holy House at Loretto (authorised pro aliquibus locis by Innocent XII, 1691-1700), which Fr Fynes Clinton adapted for use at Walsingham by simply omitting the phrase in the Collect about a miraculous Translation!! Themes in this exquisite and immensely Biblical and Typological Mass are: Mary; the House of God; the House of Wisdom.

Sadly, the Anglican shrine gave up the use of this Mass during the disorders of the post-Concilar period and now uses formulae reminiscent of the style favoured by ICEL in its dreariest days. We in the Ordinariate are faithful old bodies ... we don't just dump our Anglo-Catholic Patrimony!

TECHNICAL NOTES FOR CLERGY: The Mass in the Ordinariate Missal gives altermatives at a number of places. If you desire (I hope you do) to use the formulae authorised by Innoocent XII and recycled by Fr Fynes Clinton, select the first alternative in each case.

Clergy who say the Latin Mass using the old Appendix pro aliquibus locis need only turn to December 10 and delete the phrase eamque in sinu Ecclesiae tuae mirabiliter collocasti  from the Collect.

Those who wish to say a Votive in Eastertide will need to know that the Easter Alleluia is Alleluia, Alleluia. Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be alway praising Thee. Alleliuia. For one day in thy courts: is better than a thousand. Alleluia. 

There was a (now lost) Holy House at Glastonbury, where the void now reminds one of the void that lies at the heart of Protestantism, Liberalism, Relativism, and Iconoclasm. I have a private suspicion that these English medieval Holy Houses might have had their origins in First Millennium wooden or turf Oratories which survived because they were already venerated for their immemorial antiquity half a millennium before the Norman Conquest and its ambitious passion for rebuilding.

19 September 2018

The Corn, the Wine, and the Oil

As I settled down to supper and dowsed some bread (Italian) in olive oil (Greek, Kalamata) and enjoyed the reassuring gurgle of some wine (Gascon, ad honorem deiparae Virginis de Lapurdo nuncupatae) I thought of the exquisite biblical phrase 'the corn, the wine, and the oil'. And I recalled that the old Ember Days (commonly ignored now in the 'diocesan Church' ... today is an Ember Day!!) grew out of the old Mediterranean harvests (Pentecost: cereals; September: vintage; December: olives. See G G Willis 1964).

Some of the more intelligent American bishops are ordering the restoration in their jurisdictions of the Ember days. These are the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays of certain weeks which were celebrated as agricultural festivals in the Roman world. They were continued in the Roman Rite, but with a penitential sobriety intended to reform the excesses of the pagan celebrations. Because of the fasting, they became thought of as he ideal times for Ordinations. And so these admirable American bishops are suggesting the penitential use of the Ember Weeks in the context of the present very great crisis in the Church. Needless to say, the Ordinariate Missal retains the Ember Days.

But perhaps we had better start off with a fundamental point about the survival in the Roman Rite of Ember Days. And the theological point is this: our Faith is a Mediterranean faith, rooted in the agricultural communities of the Mediterranean basin, from the Hebrew Patriarchs onwards ... let us never forget that our Hebrew Faith is not 2,000 years old, but three (at least) thousand. And our sacraments are inextricably bound up with the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil. And the denial of the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil is the basic heresy, the elemental root of all error.

I don't only have in mind the iniquity of anti-alcoholism, although that is part of it. The Gnostics, creation-denying dualists, celebrated 'eucharists' in water, and we can share the righteous disgust of that acute theologian Dr Augustus Fagan ("Lloyd George, the temperance movement, Nonconformity, and lust stalking hand in hand through the country, wasting and ravaging"). The fact that Methodists and others commonly use substances other than wine in their communion services is not, as professional ecumenists try to get away with implying, some minor detail, easily fudged. And the disappearance of the Chrism in Protestantism is a real apostasy.

But more insidious still is the idea that the principle of inculturation could be applied to the elements used in the Christian sacraments. I have known suggestions that to use bread made from something other than wheat, alcohol produced not from grapes, and the oil of vegetables other than olives, would 'affirm' cultures which do not find their origins in the Mediterranean basin. This seems to be based on the notion that Christianity is an idea; and ideas can, in different cultures, be garbed in different clothes. That is what is the basic heresy. Because Christianity is not an idea. It is a Person, a God who took flesh - a particular flesh - from a particular Girl in a particular country in a particular culture. This is why the Liturgy insistently proclaims that Blessed Mary, single-handed, puts down all the heresies in universo mundo.

And that God, born of her ovaries, in that flesh died on a Cross made from a particular Tree: "One of the Trinity died upon the Cross". And He did so after He had, on a particular evening, given Himself to His friends under the outer appearances of a loaf and a cupful of wine. This particularity and this materiality, this rootedness, is Christianity. That is why the Gnostics were not Christians, and why Matthew Fox is not a Christian. And the Matter of the Sacraments is rooted in the particularity of that Incarnation and its culture.

Without the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil, nulla salus.

18 September 2018

Organic development

There are still people who do not understand the difference between Organic Development of the Liturgy, as suggested by Sacrosanctum Concilium  of Vatican II, and the sort of liturgical ruptures perpetrated in the post-Conciliar decade.

I have before me an Altar Missal printed in 1903. It was kept sedulously up to date during the first part of the twentieth century, by paste and fountain pen. Among the Prefaces, S Joseph is pasted in. After the Sunday following Corpus Christi, a very neat fountain pen has annotated "Feria VI post Oct: C.C. Festum SS. Cordis Jesu invenietur p. 380". After the Pentecost Sundays, Henricus Dante has provided the proper texts for Christus Rex, which are duly and carefully inserted. In June 1943, [Bishop] Edward Myers  has given the OK (perhaps it was difficult to secure printed texts from the continental liturgical publishers) for the Commune unius aut plurium Summorum Pontificum, and throughout the Sanctorale the Careful Pen has duly 'corrected' the entries for Holy Popes.

Personally, I dislike that characteristically Pius XII innovation of a distinctive Commune; Popes do not belong to some sacramental Order superior to that of Bishops. As originally authorised, that Commune actually and disgracefully prescribed the use on such days of the Praefatio Apostolorum; subsequently ... mercifully ... this little example of hyperpapalist excess was deleted.

The saints whose cultus was promulgated, or, in most cases, extended to the Universal Church during the Twenties and Thirties, are pasted in, providing a kaleidoscopic experience of the different typographical styles of the great publishing houses which in those happy days served the needs of the Latinophone Church ... except during the war years when Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, Ltd, London, got a look-in. The Preface for the departed, the first of the 'neo-Gallican' prefaces to be authorised for the Universal Church, got the paste-brush in 1919, entered among the Masses for the Departed..

Whoever was the careful custodian of this Missal had hung up his pen and his paste-brush before the 1950s. Gaudeamus is undisturbed upon August 15.

The book is still capable of being used now, more than a century after it was printed, by those who celebrate the Old Mass. This is the litmus test for 'organic evolution'. It is more than can be said for the books which, confected during the 1960s or 1970s, sit gathering dust in the sacristies of England.

17 September 2018

82, and counting ...

As more and more people wonder about PF's mental health, I have decided to reprint a piece I published about six months ago.
I think PF will soon be 82 years old. Since more and more voices world-wide seem to be talking about the possibility of this pontificate coming to a conclusion, I have been looking through the age-at-death of recent Roman Pontiffs. According to the rough notes I have made on the back of an old envelope next to my computer, the following ages, since Pius XI inclusively, seem at least roughly right [I excluded Pope John Paul I, the one-month pontiff]:
Pius XI, 82; Pius XII, 82; John XXIII, 82; Paul VI, 82; John Paul II, 85. [Benedict XVI was elected at the age of 78 and five years later is still 'making his pilgrimage home'.]

It would be interesting to know how long popes from before this period lived. A priori, it might be expected to be less long, because they had less advantage from modern medical advances. But I don't have enough backs-of-envelopes ...

I do not intend to suggest that an actuary would consider PF's death to be imminent ... although his own words after election, that he expected his pontificate to be only four or five years long, might suggest that he had himself used the backs of his own envelopes! No; my object is totally different.

(1) Conclaves seem very willing to elect quite old prelates to be pope. Curious, when the retirement age for bishops is 75; and, curiouser, one might have thought that bishops had less work and less strain than popes ... but, well, there you go.
(2) We seem to be in the middle of increases in the numbers of the elderly suffering from senile dementia. A quick foray into the Internet suggested to the back of my very humble envelope that perhaps one in six of those beyond the age of 80 has dementia. That really is quite a lot.

So it looks as if we have been distinctly fortunate in the excellent mental health of those elected pope from 1922 right down to the present. Long may our good luck hold!

But can we afford to be complacent? Given statistics like these, and if Conclaves keep electing old men, sooner or later we are going to have a pope with dementia.

If a bishop starts to have worrying symptoms, the Nuncio ... his Metropolitan ... the Congregation for Bishops ... the Pope himself ... all have the opportunity to intervene. But what if the Pope himself ...

Is there canonical provision for such a situation? If not, I think there should be. And, as Fr Aidan Nichols has hinted, there might also be provisions for the situation where the man who was the previous pope promoted heresy; so why not for a pope who, prima facie, is spreading heresy?.

In fact, it seems to me that there should be a whole new section in the CIC called de Romano Pontifice semovendo. The Times recently quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr as remarking that a constitution should be framed with "the bad man" in mind, because a state or an institution needs structures enabling it not merely to potter comfortably along in normal times, but also to survive a despot, or a sociopath, or a dunce ...

The Church Militant needs to take such advice on board. Her survival is indeed divinely guaranteed, but the whole economy of Faith rests on the assumption of a God who works with and through human synergy.

The Depths

In Saturday's Times, Mgr Roderick Strange, formerly Rector of the Beda, wrote:

"And it may be that even now the depths have not been plumbed, as allegations seek to compromise Pope Francis".

I wonder what he knows ... Mr Henry Sire's latest article at Onepeterfive about Cardinal Bergoglio's years in Argentina is most disturbing.

I will be reprinting in a few minutes a piece I wrote about six months ago when I was worried about PF's mental health. Frankly, and particularly in view of his habitual mendacity and buck-passing, I increasingly incline to fear that PF's problem is moral rather than psychiatric.

16 September 2018

Mainly for Tolkienists and Hellenists.

Currently, in the New Bod, there is quite a tasty little exhibition relating to the brilliant Catholic apologist and philologist J R R Tolkien. Among the goodies is a jeu penned by T when on a walking holiday with fellow Inklings.

It constitutes a spoof Examination Paper. This is how it begins:

College of Cretacious Perambulators. 

[?1] April 1938

Comment on the following.

(1) It is no good setting them that, they would know it.
(2) 'The poet sat in the third and laughed.'
(3) 'Ten twenty thirty you're very dirty.'
(4) 'The Armada can wait but my bowels can't.'
(5) Panta sphairei [in Greek letters with accents.]
(6) Felix qui potuit felis cognoscere caudam.

(1) presumably parodies the thought processes assumed to be present in the minds of cantankerous examiners. (3) is from George MacDonald ... Does anybody have any thoughts about (2)? Or about contextualisation in general?

(4), (5), and (6) speak for themselves ... or do they? In (5), the ink of the final two letters is much stronger, and it appears to me that they represent a correction of what was first written rather more faintly. Grammarians will immediately guess that the lectio prima might have been Panta sphairoi. But, in either case, what is the phrase supposed to mean?

I wonder if there are conceptual links between the 'questions'. One could certainly imagine a link between the appalling Drake's profluent bowels and the apophthegm of Heraclitus "Panta rhei". And between Heraclitus and the greatest of the Greek philosophers, Epicurus, as mediated through Lucretius to Virgil.

Whose was the cat and whence its sapient tail?

15 September 2018


From today and for two weeks, I shall not be reading emails or moderating comments. But I still hope that there will be daily posting on this blog.

Sub tuum praesidium ...

The earliest known prayer to our Lady is found first in a Greek Papyrus from around the year 200.

The Latin text which most Catholics will know either in the Latin or in a vernacular translation can be rendered:

We fly to [really 'beneath'] thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever [the 'ever' should really go with 'deliver us'] glorious and blessed Virgin.

The Greek in the papyrus could be rendered thus:
We flee beneath thy mercy, O Mother of God; do not overlook our petitions in necessity, but deliver us from danger, O only Chaste, only Blessed.

You will notice that 'protection' was originally* compassionate mercy, eusplagnia. The root here is a word literally meaning 'bowels', seen as the seat of feeling, of compassion. When the Synoptic writers say that "Jesus had compassion upon ... ", this is the root they are employing. The Apostles sometimes beg their converts to show eusplagnia to each other. And the word for 'deliver' is the same one that we have at the end of the our Father. The prayer, in other words, is thoroughly biblical in its language, and the writer is clearly familiar with the Lucan narrative in which our Lady is Blessed, eulogemene. It is interesting to note how, well before the Council of Ephesus, it seems natural to call our Lady Mother of God.

It might seem odd to call our Lady only [mone] chaste. And other women might also qualify as blessed. I take it that the sense is that Mary is in quite a different league from other chaste and blessed women. Perhaps the point is that our Lady's chastity reaches deeply into her being so as to protect her from the sensual corruptions of the Enemy. If so, it is a witness to her Immaculate Conception.

Indeed, it is the very elevation assigned to the Mother of God that made the first modern editor of the rediscovered text misrepresent the date of this lovely prayer.


* Logically, of course, the Latin and the Greek might both come from a lost common archetype ...