30 April 2016

S John at the Latin Gate ... should it be a Double of the First Class?

S John at the Latin Gate, a Prayer Book festival (also still to be found in the delightfully unreformed Calendar of the University of Oxford) long since abolished on the modern Roman Calendar, reappears on May 6 on the Calendar of the Ordinariate (disguised as "S John in Eastertide")! Since you have probably been wondering why, and because I know you are discreet, I will let you into the secret. Just within these four walls. Are you sitting comfortably?

Before the Ordinariates were canonically erected by the great, the erudite, the fabulous Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity, a group of us had a series of highly confidential meetings in catacumbis, or, to be more prosaic, in the Catholick Apostolick cellars of Gordon Square, guided by our Flying Bishops. Episcopopteryx Andrew Burnham decided to term these the 'Latin Gate' meetings, because the first of them took place on this day in 2010! So next Friday is the glorious celebration of the first synodos of that bold group, some of whom risked being bullied into premature resignation if their Anglican bishops had found out what they were up to (that is why the meetings had to be so secret). It celebrates the start of the process which led to those priests becoming the core of the founding presbyterate of the English Ordinariate. Imagine us as being rather like the courageous First Wave that stormed up the Normandy beaches on June 6 in 1944! I think that we battle-scarred heroes, we noble Band of Brothers, the Class of 2010, ought to be given special medals to pin proudly onto the Black Scarves of our Anglican choir dress. But, Fathers, the least we can do is to celebrate S John the Apostle at the Altar, and turn our money under the New Moon.

The subterranean meetings eventually morphed into the 'Formation' [not a word I much liked] meetings at Allen Hall, where we were made to feel wonderfully welcome by staff and students alike. It was an exhilarating experience for us, whose Catholic Faith was mediated to us within the Church of England, to feel, at last, our longed-for unity with the other great strand of English Catholicism, the Martyres. 

You will know that Allen Hall was founded at Douay following the accession of Elizabeth Tudor, Bloody Bess, after ex-vice-chancellors, Heads of Houses, Regius Professors, Fellows, students galore, had had to flee in a great Exodus from Oxford; and it was founded moreover by the indefatigable Cardinal Allen, sometime Proctor of this University and Principal of S Mary's Hall, who would have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the winds had been a tadge more accommodating in 1588.

So Allen Hall is in a real continuity with Marian, Catholic, Oxford (so well evoked by Duffy's Fires). And it was a novel luxury for us to have access to its bibliotheca superbissima where the Bullaria of the Roman Pontiffs ... including the great Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini ... were just sitting there on the open shelves, immediately inside the door, generously available to anybody and everybody. Not even the library at Staggers was as well equipped! No wonder Allen Hall men are such excellent priests!

The food, too, was better than at Staggers. Both the teaching and the food were most graciously subsidised by the kindness of the Catholic bishops and, I gather, of a charity on which they were able to call.

29 April 2016

Easter Festivals Pius XII and S John XXIII robbed us of

On May 3, we lose the Feast Inventionis Sanctae Crucis, double of the Second Class. It was a beautiful opportunity to contemplate the Cross suffused with rays of Easter, Resurrection, rejoicing. (The Easter Commemoratio de Cruce, added often at the end of Lauds and Vesppers, served the same admirable purpose.) Of course, May 3 is the Novus Ordo date for SS Philip and James, the Dedication Festival of their Church; its ejection from May 1 by Pius XII to May 11 seems to me particularly deplorable. I was a bit depressed by the failure of the Ordinariate Calendar to rectify this disaster; but there is a legal way round this in the Ordinariate: say a votive of Pip and Jim on May 1!

Both of these feasts were Days of Devotion (Holy Days which had been demoted from "Obligation to go to Mass" to "You are most strongly urged to go to Mass"), and were still days on which Parish Priests were obliged applicare Missam pro populo. The ease with which, from the middle of the twentieth century, quite highly ranking festivals were dumped or shifted around from day to day at the ephemeral whimsy of transient Pontiffs, or rather, their liturgical 'experts', seems to me an early indication of that arbitrary approach of papal liturgists to Tradition to which we rightly apply terms like Rupture and against which Benedict XVI complained.

Pip and Jim, of course, went on their travels in 1956, after Pius XII, or one of his advisers, had the bright idea of snitching May 1 from the Marxists by making it the Solemnity of S Joseph the Workman ('Opifex' ... 'Craftsman'?). The ploy never worked, not least because the US of A kept Labour Day on quite a different date. In any case, I rather liked  putting on blood-red vestments on the Workers' Day and commemorating the Apostle who, in his Prayer Book Epistle, did make some remarks about the Unrighteous Rich which surpass anything Marx and Engels said. So, for most of the Latin Church, the Workman on May 1 as a major celebration lasted little more than a decade.

And when S Joseph was frogmarched to May 1, his solemnity on the Wednesday after Easter II was abolished ... a Double of the First Class with an Octave reduced to zilch, just like that. It had been extended (from the Carmelites) to the entire Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1847 ... the eve of the Year of Revolutions (you recall that we also owe to him the Feast of the Precious Blood) ... and was moved from the Third Sunday after Easter to the preceding Wednesday by Pius X. Frankly, I rather like the propers for that feast, with their emphasis on S Joseph's ancestry and the suggestion that his sexual continence is typified by his namesake's rejection of Mrs Potiphar's bed. That the 'Workman' was pure, temporary, faddery ... what our Holy father would call a modo ... is demonstrated by his demotion to an Optional Memorial in the post-Conciliar rite.

Incidentally, younger readers should make a note that - as Wise Virgins who keep Cheney by their computers will already have spotted - in 2047, 2058, and 2069, the Wednesday after Easter II will fall ... on May 1! Annos valde Iosephinos! Episcopal Conferences, as they feverishly read this blog, might like to remember that they have the competence to move, for the Novus Ordo, S Joseph from March 19 to a date permanently outside Lent ... they could select the Wednesday after Easter II!

S John before the Latin Gate, and S Michael, May 8, will follow in a day or two.

28 April 2016

S Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort

I gather that the 1962 Missal contains this Saint in its Appendix pro aliquibus locis; and the SSPX ORDO lists him for April 28 "en certes lieux". Today is the 300th Anniversary of his natale, his Heavenly Birthday; somebody assures me that the CTS has published a pamphlet in honour of the occasion. I have high regard for this Breton priest; hence he is gummed into my (1955) Altar Missal, available always when the rubrics allow me a Votive. This regard was shared by S John Paul II, who took his motto, totus tuus, from the Saint's writings. I first met S Louis when I was a little boy, in the Catholic Church in Clacton-on-Sea, where, most suitably, a fine statue, very movimento as the Saint strides forward, stands right beside the very Breton shrine of our Lady of Light. There's not much else that's Breton about Clacton! I wonder if the Confraternity of our Lady of Light still survives in that parish; if the Rosary is still said daily at that Shrine.

De Montfort comes from a Baroque devotional milieu which has been an object of criticism. Particularly out of favour has been the wholehearted style of his devotion to our Lady, which involves a consecration of servitus [slavery] to Mary. In fact, it wasn't too popular in his own time: there were unwholesome people around called Jansenists who sniffed at such things. Run a mile if you meet one!

Grounds for disdain are obvious: granted that the word doulos [slave] occurs frequently in Scripture, surely, so the condescending will remark, it is Jesus whose doulos, slave, S Paul so often proclaims himself to be. So is the douleia of Mary just another example of popery putting the Mother of God into the place reserved for her divine Son?

But remember the biblical verb hypotassesthai: to submit oneself, to order, to arrange, to subject oneself hypo, beneath, another, be that other a master, a spouse, a ruler, or whatever. New Testament religion is a million miles from the Protestantism which sees only a relationship between the one and the One. S Paul in fact calls upon us to submit ourselves in this way one to another: not just to Jesus (although all must be en Christoi). And since Mary alone is unflawed by Original Sin, she is the one to whom a Christian can be in hypotaxis without that relationship being flawed (as all other hypotaxeis except that to her Divine Son can run the risk of being) by unchristlike traits in the other.

S Louis is far from being the first Christian to have practised this Slavery of Mary. In his True Devotion to Mary he lists many predecessors in both East and West; to whom I would add my own favourite Bishop of Exeter, John de Grandisson. He concluded a life of servitus to Mary by having himself described on his lead coffin as Matris Misericordiae miserrimus servus. So clearly this devotion is Patrimony! Since the terms kyrios(a) and doulos(e) are correlative, the terms domina and kuria [Lady], common in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity (not to mention the more archaic Greek despoina), and the English term our Lady (BCP), imply the Montfortian attitude.

27 April 2016

Parochial affections in Alnwick

While looking round the old Medieval Parish Church at Alnwick in Northumberland a few months ago, I got talking to the Steward by whose kind presence the church was open for people like me to look around it. He lamented that the church, although handy for the Castle, was very uncentrally placed as a place of worship for the town. "Well," I said, "perhaps you should have kept S Paul's in the middle of town and sold this church to the Catholics". (You see, the Anglican early Victorian church of S Paul ... by Salvin ... was, a few years ago, sold to the Catholic Church.)

"Yes", was his reply, "that would have been a rational thing to do. But it would have been unthinkable."

It has a lot of Christian sense to it, this very Anglican and very lay attitude. A church was solemnly anointed and consecrated and for, perhaps, a millennium has been a place where prayer has been valid and generations have been christened and churched, married and buried, in which the community has had its centre ... and such things do matter. Ours is an incarnational religion, in which places are sacred. Matter matters.

But ... affection for a building can become a fetich, an idolatry. It is no secret that this is the factor which led to a smaller percentage of layfolk than of clergy making the transition to the Ordinariate. It is why the Anglican Bishops, Olympic gold medallists in Anal Retentivity, desperately made sure that no church, however much unwanted by the Church of England, fell into the hands, or even the shared use, of the Ordinariate.

S Paul's, in the middle of Alnwick, is a fine building with a tall, assertive, rather East Anglian tower. It is a curiosity in as far as, built by the Third Duke, it contains his effigy over his tomb. It was carved by J E Carew, the irascible Irishman who did so much neo-Classical sculpture for the Earl of Egremont at Petworth in Sussex, not to mention that large marble carving of the Assumption which used to be the altar piece in the Ordinariate Church of our Lady and S Gregory in Warwick Street. His Grace lies wearing his ducal coronet and his Garter robes ... is this a customary combination? I wonder what he would have thought if he could have known that his building, which makes such a statement, now makes that statement for the papists of Alnwick. And I wonder if the pp has him on his obits list.

Those papists, incidentally, had previously worshipped in a much smaller church, S Mary's, lower in the town, which was built in the decade after the Emancipation and is now the Town Museum. Gothic as that style was before it became grammatical, even in alienation it still feels a friendly, homely little place. As congregations numerically decline, I wonder if it is now actually just about the right size for the Catholic congregations of Alnwick. But it doesn't have its own carpark. Beside it, part of the ensemble, is its convent, with a statue of the Mother of God in a niche high up above the entrance, so that still, happily, survives. Or rather, it did do until the end of last September when the few remaining sisters were relocated and the House closed. You knew I was going to add that last sentence, didn't you?

At nearby Berwick on Tweed, the Catholic church is still the intimate unobtrusive building that was put up in 1829, lurking well back from the street and behind the presbytery; accessed through an alleyway. Georgian-gothick windows; still, despite the 1970s, with more than a whiff of the era of Mrs Fitzherbert about it.

There is something, to me, exquisitely, intensely, appealing about Catholic churches of that era. Before the great expansion of the earlier twentieth century, yes ... but before the catastrophic post-conciliar collapse. Have you read Blessed John Henry Newman's description of those years in The Second Spring?

26 April 2016

April 26: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

150 years since the great Ikon, after repairs, was enthroned in Rome.

Prayers for the brthren of the Redemptorist community on Papa Stronsay.

25 April 2016

Tales from the Ordinariate (2)

I heard a story from a brother priest in the Ordinariate who had found himself lending a hand in a 'diocesan' parish. Since they did not always have a handy priest around, most weekday evenings there was a service of the Word followed by Holy Communion from the Tabernacle, all done by layfolk. Naturally (if naively) he did the decent thing and offered the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them during the period he was there. The very touching gratitude of the entire parish community for this daily privilege ...

Gratitude be d****d! There was uproar! How outrageous that he should arrogantly impose 'his' Mass on them! He was depriving them of ... etc. etc..

Dom Gregory Dix criticised the old Anglican 'Prayer Book Catholic' practice, particularly common in Cathedrals, whereby, after Cranmer's rather truncated 'Prayer of Consecration', the Agnus Dei was immediately sung. Dix's complaint was that this made it look as if the only purpose of Consecration was to confect the Eucharistic Presence. This resulted in the people having very little awareness that the Eucharist is a ... no; not a but the sacrifice.

We now, apparently, have a very similar problem, lack of awareness of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the Catholic Church. And I blame it upon the last half century; upon the almost universal use, within a dumbed-down ritual ambience, of the pseudo-Hippolytan 'dewfall' Botte-Bouyer "we made it up at a trattoria in the Trastevere" "shall we order another bottle?" Eucharistic Prayer. That unworthy little Prayer, at about 360 words, is not vastly longer than Cranmer's (especially if you count the Humble Access), and actually contains much less talk about Sacrifice than Cranmer's Prayer did (yes, I do know he was a heretic).

Are most modern Catholics aware that at the altar they are present at the august sacrifice of Christ himself at Calvary and within eternity? Has anybody explained to them that at Mass heaven and earth are made one and our altar is united with the altar of the Lamb slain in sacrifice before all the ages? Do they understand that at the Consecration their church is filled with the adoring and wondering hosts of Angels and Archangels and the whole company of Christ's Church?

Happily, the Catholic Church now has a splendid young generation of seminarians and newly-ordained priests coming through the system. Men who really understand what their Priesthood is. I venture very, very humbly, and diffidently, to offer them a piece of advice, based upon four decades of ministry in the Church of England. Don't assume that when you've explained things once, you've done it. However well you put it! Layfolk don't assimilate things the first time they hear them. They even sometimes assume (if it's something they haven't heard before) that they can't really be hearing what you seem to be saying. (A typesetter once, in kindly good faith, deemed "Sacrifice of the Eucharist", in a piece I had drafted, to be my typo for "Sacrament of the Eucharist".) You just have to keep on dishing out the same stuff ... of course, in different ways and in different words ... year after year. And even then, only a minority of them will get it. Honest. Your task, of building up again the ruined places, will still be barely started when your ministry ends.

24 April 2016

Calleva Atrebatum and the Irish

Silchester is of interest as almost the only Roman City in Brittania which became a green field site, rather than having a medieval and modern city built over it. The Society of Antiquaries excavated it more than a hundred years ago, in the rather ruthless way people did before the advent of modern Archaeology.

Professor Fulford, more than a decade ago, chose Insula IX because the SA excavators had found ... there in the middle of England! ... an Ogham stone stuffed down a disused well. It is so remarkable to find such a piece of distinctively Irish culture in a late Roman context that for quite a time the Silchester Ogham was regarded as a forgery; a sort of epigraphical equivalent of Piltdown Person. But Tebicatos - the named individual - is now vindicated and respectable. It is his context that now remains beguilingly intriguing. During one visit, looking down at the hole in the ground where this Ogham was found, there in the middle of Roman urban culture, I felt quite disoriented. Peering at Ogham stones is something that I expected to do in the cityless Kingdom of the West, God's own blessed country the County of Kerry, with the fuchsias luxuriating in the hedgerows and the choughs complaining overhead ... or at least in the "Celtic" extremities of Cornwall. Of course, there were Irish Kingdoms in Wales - Dyfed, I believe - and one of the factors that intrigues historians is that while the Latin and Irish languages were dignified with stone inscriptions, Welsh and Cornish were apparently despised. Irishness implied, it seems, status. And so Tebicatos would not have been a peasant or a tramp. Indeed, it seems a priori unlikely that one would erect a stone inscription which could only be read by the the person who erected it ... so it appears unlikely he was the only Irishman around.

As far as I can make out, the scholarly establishment has not made any connection between Tebicatos and his stone, and the discovery by the SA excavators of a building in Silchester which, on the basis of its plan, they and subsequent writers have considered likely to have been a Christian church. And let us also take in here one of the controversies within the Irish archaeological community: was Ogham script specifically, culturally, Christian? Many think it was (I would adduce an Ogham stone in my old Irish parish of Dromod in the Diocese of Ardfert: in an ecclesiastical site on Church Island just off Beginnish Island just off Valentia Island just off the coast of Kerry, where the Ogham inscription is superimposed upon a good quality carved cross).

You see where I am going. Is Tebicatos the first named member of a Christian congregation to be identifiable from Roman Britain?

The English, God forgive our boorish arrogance, used to deride the English RC Church as the Italian Mission; until Dom Gregory Dix neatly pointed out that since the C of E claimed to have been founded by Agostino and Mellito and various other Eyeties, it ought to assert that identity for itself. Another Anglican sneer was to call it the Irish Church (nowadays, why not the Polish Church?). How diverting it would be if the Romano-British Church in Silchester also proved to have filled its pews (don't bother to write in and point out that they wouldn't have had pews) with Irish! I wonder if they had a statue of S Patrick near the door at the back (OK, they didn't have statues) on the grounds that this was the part of the church which that Saint's Sons occupied so that they could exit fast during the Last Gospel (don't bother to write in with tendentious suggestions that the Last Gospel may not be quite as early as the fifth century).

23 April 2016

Sacking bishops

Back in the 1850s, Cardinal Wiseman had a falling-out with his Coadjutor, Archbishop Errington. For these purposes, we do not need to know much about why, nor to speculate on the involvement of Henry Manning.

The plain fact was that Wiseman and Errington could not work together, and Errington made little effort to conceal the fact. The matter went to Rome, where Mgr Talbot, not one of our heroes, exacerbated matters by accusing Errington of Gallicanism. It is perhaps fair to say that Errington was out of sync with the current style of Catholicism represented by Pio Nono, Wiseman, and Manning. It sometimes can happen that a bishop may be out of sympathy with the Roman Pontiff ... or even vice versa.

Errington went to Rome and, of course, was received by the Pope. It is, surely, well-nigh inconceivable that a bishop whose job was in question should not be welcomed fraternally and paternally and sympathetically in Rome by the Sovereign Pontiff. Pio Nono begged Errington, as a personal favour to himself, to resign his coadjutorship and to accept the Archbishopric of Port of Spain. Errington refused to resign, but made clear that he would obediently leave his job if the Pope so ordered him. Papa il conte Mastai-Ferretti was unwilling to take such extreme action; and again implored Errington to accept the post offerred him in Trinidad. It was made clear that Talbot's slanders were not believed. Errington took out a pocket book and started to transcribe the Pope's words, which was a novel experience for the Pontiff. Matters deteriorated; soon the guards and the prelates in the ante-chamber were surprised to hear, from behind the closed doors, the two hierarchs shouting angrily at each other.

Errington stormed out of Rome crying Vim patior; patior iniustitiam. The Holy Father felt he had no alternative but to relieve him of his Coadjutorship; upset by the uniqueness of the action to which he was driven, Pope Pius referred to it as Il colpo di stato di Dominiddio. Brian Fothergill, the author (2013) of a biography of Wiseman, quotes a description of it as "an exercise of [the pope's] supreme authority and an exertion of power altogether unwonted and perhaps unprecedented".

Of course, Blessed Pio Nono was an ultramontane tyrant; a baroque throw-back to the unhappy days of Renaissance absolutism. Everybody knows that. Equally, everybody knows how inconceivable it is that, in our happier age, a pope would dismiss or constructively dismiss a bishop for anything other than the very gravest doctrinal or moral delinquency. Deo gratias.

21 April 2016

Censing the Altar at High Mass

Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice: words said by the Priest as he censes the Altar at the Offertory at High Mass.

The evening sacrifice:
That is, the Minchah, or 'meat-offering', of fine flour, mixed with oil and frankincense, and salted, which was added to the daily burnt-offering of a lamb, both morning and evening; but, for a typical reason, a greater stress was laid on the evening rite. The Minchah was, first of all, made of corn, the chief food of man, but not until it had been made, by bruising and grinding, into flour; thus typifying the sufferings of CHRIST, the Bread of Life, which fitted Him to be the offering for the sins of the world. Wheaten flour so ground is pure white, marking CHRIST'S perfect holiness. It had to be fine flour for the Minchah, boulted more than once, to make it free from husks and other foreign matter; as in CHRIST there was no unevenness nor inequality, no changefulness nor uncertainty. Oil was poured upon it, to denote His anointing by the Holy Ghost; frankincense because of His acceptance, sweetness, and Ascension; salt because of His incorruptibility and preserving power. His prayer for man's salvation ascended with Himself into Heaven in perpetual mediation as the incense at the golden altar. His lifting up His hands upon the Cross where they were nailed was the evening sacrifice, at the close of the Mosaic day of legal ceremonies, for the sins of the whole world; wherefore too it was on the night before His Passion, He constituted that new Minchah of the Gospel which Malachi foretold, offered now in all places amongst the Gentiles, and made the food of his royal priesthood.

And therefore, O Lord, as my trust is in that all-sufficing oblation upon the Cross, let the lifting up of my hands in final penitence, in the evening of my days, when the shadows of the night are coming fast around me, be like that evening sacrifice, and in union with it, be acceptable unto Thee, that as I have abided by Thy Cross in the sorrows of the Passion, so I may offer Thee the morning sacrifice too, in the bright dawn of the Resurrection!

John Mason Neale

A typical piece of Anglican Patrimony from our 'Classical' period. A superb example of what we have to offer for the restoration of Tradition within the maimed and limping Catholic Church.

Neale exegetes Liturgy and Scripture with an erudition that extends with moving devotion to the Old Testament, as well as to the New and to the great Tradition of the Worship of the Universal Church. I feel that if our beloved Jewish brethren understood how it truly is their Temple Faith which still lives and is practised among us, they would hurry from the Synod of Jamnia to ascend the Temple Mount with us to offer daily the Tamid lamb. 

Furthermore, if ignorant people who write Papers for the Vatican on Christianity and Judaism really understood the Traditional, Biblical, Patristic way of handling Scripture, called Typology, in which the OT antitype is fulfilled and replaced in the NT type, we would get less nonsense put before us.

20 April 2016

Commemorating the Cross

In the pre-1960s Roman Rite, during most of Eastertide, the rubrics sometimes ordered that a commemoration at Lauds and Vespers be made of the Holy Cross. I find this wholly edifying, as a reminder that Cross and Resurrection are two sides of the same redemptive coin. Although divided chronologically, they are inseparable doctrinally; so that it is bad method to forget the Resurrection when concentrating on the Lord's Passion, or the Cross when glorying in his Resurrection. Thus in the Western Rites the triumphalist hymns Pange lingua and Vexilla Regis are sung during Holy Week and even on Good Friday.

Here is the Commemoration, which followed the Collect of the Day.

Antiphon The Crucified hath risen from the dead and hath redeemed us, alleluia, alleluia. V Tell it among the nations, alleluia. R That the Lord hath reigned from the Tree, alleluia.
Let us pray.
God, didst will that for us thy Son should undergo the suffering of the Cross that he might drive out from among us the power of the Enemy: grant to us thy servants; that we may attain unto the grace of the Resurrection. Through the same.

The Response (" ... YHWH hath reigned from the Tree") comes from a version of Psalm 95 (aka 96) verse 10. This was how it read in early Latin translations of the Psalter, and it is known that the reading goes back at least to S Justin. It is found in many later Latin Fathers, and in Venantius Fortunatus' original text of Vexilla regis. The admirable (Anglican Patrimony) translator of Latin hymnology, John Mason Neale, renders Venantius thus: 
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.

The more recent history of this stanza is highly interesting and significant. The first (1968) draft of the hymns for the new breviary finds Dom Anselmo Lentini (who was in charge of the post-Conciliar coetus set up to revise the hymns), explaining the unbelievably venerable history of this reading; he concludes by observing "So we do not dare to suppress the stanza or change the line". But, in the three years before the Liturgia horarum was actually published in 1971, that stanza had bitten the dust. Somebody had 'dared'. Here we have a minute footnoted detail which penetratingly illustrates the entire post-Conciliar process; "Experts" feeling increasingly liberated, as creative day followed inventive day, from a need to respect texts which had fed the Latin Church for 1,500 years. The Council had wisely mandated only such changes as were certainly necessary; in less than a decade the "Experts" had gradually come to gloss this as meaning Fay ce que voudras. (Was Theleme a Benedictine House?)

It is easy to see the 'problem'. The old text of this hymn alleges that King David, regarded as the composer of the psalms, had written the words about God having reigned "from the tree". Pedantic 'Enlightenment' readers of the Hebrew Massoretic Text will speedily if ponderously point out that they are absent from it. Indeed, even in the Greek Septuagint only the bilingual 'Verona' psalter, I think, gives this reading (apo xulou).

But this demonstrates exactly what is wrong with that sort of approach to the august interwoven synthesis of littera scripta and Tradition which is at the heart of our Faith. And even some secular literary critics would inform you that "Reception is part of Text".

This reminds me of the point made by Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Lecture about the divine inspiration of the Septuagint. And Mgr Andrew Burnham, in his splendid book on Liturgy, pointed out that, for the Orthodox, the Septuagint is a divinely inspired correction of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Footnote Before 1956, the 'Commemoration of the Cross' was somewhat more complicated than the simplification I give above.

19 April 2016

19 april

Thirteen hundred years since the Monks of Iona adopted the Roman Easter. So the beautiful calendar produced by their spiritual successors, the Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay, reminds us! What do readers suggest is the the great lesson we should learn from this centenary?

18 April 2016


The preoccupation among academics, for well over a century, with the 'problem' that the Roman Canon "lacks a theology of the Spirit" has, it seems to me, closed off some interesting lines of theological enquiry. For example: why is it that the Holy Spirit is absent from the NT narratives of the Last Supper and the Passion and Resurrection (except, just possibly, at John 19: 30)? He is central to all the accounts of the Lord's Baptism; and in the teaching of S Paul and S John about Christian Initiation (we receive the sphragis marking us with chrisma of the Spirit as a guarantee that we God's). In the classical Roman Rite, there is no shyness about involving the Holy Spirit in the formulae for Confirmation and for the Consecration of the Chrism. Might there be an interesting theological reason why, in the New Testament as in the immemorially ancient Roman Rite, each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity is involved in Baptism/Confirmation, while the Supper/Passion involves solely the sacrificial movement of the Son to His Father? The Classical Roman Rite might have unfolded fruitful truths to us, had its mouth not been stoppered by 'scholars' who preferred to be distracted by a different agenda.

My own, rather Patrimonial, view is that the liturgical forms we have inherited from so early in Christian history, particularly the Canon Romanus, have an authority similar to that of the other divine gifts which secured a normative status in those same early centuries, such as the Canon [i.e. official list] of books in the Bible; the three-fold Apostolic Ministry of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons; the Petrine Ministry. (Readers who wish to follow up my views on all this could look up auctoritas on the search engine.) These things are prescriptive in very much the same sort of way as S Prosper explained (see the first instalment of this post). So the Lex supplicandi should establish [statuat] the Lex credendi.

I am a trifle uneasy about the way in which Pius XII flirted (Mediator Dei, 1947) with the notion of reversing this formula so as to make the Law of Believing establish the Law of Praying, and of retaining both versions in, as it were, creative tension. This could easily relegate the Law of Praying to the humble status of a resource occasionally plundered by those drafting pontifical documents and needing proof-texts to bolster up a weak argument. This demotion of the Law of Praying seems indeed to be precisely what happened in the disordered years after the Council, when the levers of liturgical power in the Church fell into the hands of a tendenz determined to make their own presuppositions the dominant norm according to which liturgical texts would be judged and changed or even (as in the rite for the Consecration of bishops and by the provision of Alternative Eucharistic Prayers) dumped.

An expression of this desire to make the Lex credendi determine the Lex orandi (rather than the correct way round) can be found in the Decree of 1951 ordering a new Office for August 15: " ... congruum erat ut etiam Officium iis adornatum esset laudibus, quae Deiparae Virgini ob definitum corporeae Assumptionis dogma merito tribuendae erant".

As so often, when one really looks into matters, Pius XII turns out to be real progenitor of the "Post-Conciliar Reforms". Hannibal Bugnini forsaw this very clearly when he wrote in 1956 that the pope who had been, first, the Restorer of the Vigil and then the Restorer of Holy Week, would become the Supreme Restorer of the entire sacred Liturgy (totius sacrae Liturgiae Summus Instaurator).

We did not and do not need a Supreme Restorer of the entire Liturgy. We need a recovery of respect for the ancient liturgical texts so that they can form the beliefs of the worshipping community. The first step in true liturgical restoration should be, not so much the immediate prohibition of the entire Novus Ordo as the immediate outlawing of those Cuckoo's Eggs in the Roman Liturgy: the unRoman and orientalising Alternative Eucharistic Prayers.