Well, I seem to have made some inroads into the backlog, and find myself revisiting my own blog. Do you think that those of you who see this ... and are well-disposed ... could spread the word that I have Resumed? Numbers of course have, during the Vacation since the start of the month, plummetted, and I'd like this not to be a waste of my time but to be read by somebody. By the way: perhaps fellow bloggers who have me listed as separated brethren or suchlike might care to reassign me to whatever category they in conscience feel consistent with the canonical adjustments of Tuesday in Holy Week, and to give me a puff. I would be grateful.
This evening, to Sarah Foot's Inaugural Lecture as Regius (Regia?) Professor of Ecclesiastical History in this University ... she was led in by the Bedell and Mr Vice-Chancellor. It was characteristically witty and very pointed. Sarah (daughter of that urbane and exquisite old free-thinker Michael Foot) is not keen on the idea that, in order to be 'academic', the 'profession' in a modern university of a subject like ecclesiastical history has to be left to those who have a reductionist view, and who see the subject from a hostile and secularising standpoint in which Faith simply has to be considered a facade for more mundane and untheological historical processes. It is the duty of the ecclesiastical historian to restore 'their present' to earlier communities by taking them seriously. While the student does not have to be a believer, (s)he should have an empathetic (my word) understanding of the faithed humans (s)he describes.
I find it a remarkable example of diabolical skill, this idea that only those hostile to Christianity really count as impartial; as if Christians must be disqualified for having a biasing agenda but atheists are dispassionate students of their subject. I recall the passage in The Pilgrim's Regress in which C S Lewis portrays the minions of the Zeitgeist indoctrinating their prisoners:
What is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord [God]?
You say that because you are a Steward [priest].
Good boy ... what is the answer to an argument that two and two make four?
You say that because you are a mathematician ...
Jonathan Riley-Smith has for some decades been restoring a genuine theological conviction to the Crusaders. But I remember particularly the words of M Schneiders in 1996, discussing early Irish liturgy: for a proper understanding of the past an affinity with the material is useful, at least if one wishes to go beyond the recovery of mere facts, if one tries to understand the people who used these texts, who celebrated Mass with these ancient prayers. But 'useful' is too timorous; and Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix put it so much more memorably when, writing about the Canon Romanus, he said: This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the Third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed. Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it.