7 October 2015

Our Lady of Victories (1)

So, had I been Bishop of Rome, how would I have structured this Synod of Bishops? Firstly: I would have put it under the Patronage of our Lady of Victories. My statutes would decree that, each morning, after each of the Fathers had offered his own private Mass, they should all come together for a corporate celebration of the Akathist Hymn.

What a telling title: our Lady of Victories. So very Western Catholic; so Counter-Reformation ; so baroque; so redolent of the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1920s and 1930s. You couldn't possibly imagine, could you, the Byzantine Christians giving the Theotokos a title like that ... Well, of course, they did. One of those Greeks did write a hymn to Mary as the hypermachos stategos with an aprosmakheton kratos (the Protecting General with an irresistible power). If the Orthodox had Hymns Ancient and Modern, you would probably find in it a paraphrase of the Hymnos Akathistos beginning: Stand up, stand up, for Mary. Or, taking my fantasy even further, imagine some Orthodox Sabine Baring Gould writing Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war; with the Protecting Robe of Mary, going on before.

Because, of course, the title our Lady of Victories, just like the Akathist hymn, does have its military associations. That great Pontiff, S Pius V, established the Feast of our Lady of Victories to celebrate the triumph of Christian arms at the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, a victory won by the countless rosaries which clanked through the hands of the Rosary Confraternities of Western Europe. They begged God for the safety of Christendom against the invading Turk. Gregory XIII pusillanimously renamed the feast as 'of the Rosary', and popped it onto the first Sunday of October (a stone's throw from the Feast of the Protecting Robe of the Mother of God in some Byzantine calendars) where it stayed until the reforms of S Pius X. But, to this day, those who follow the Extraordinary Form are allowed, on the first Sunday of October, an External Solemnity of this feast. And, after all, no homilist could be forbidden to refer to this celebration as our Lady of Victories.

More on our Lady and on the Synod, later today, probably after lunch.


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