14 September 2017

We need a Novena ...

Tomorrow, September 15, Feast of our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, is a good day to start a Novena leading up to the Feast of our Lady of Walsingham, on Sunday 24 September (in the English Ordinariate, of course, the feast of our Lady will this year supersede the Sunday Mass and Office).

Nine days of prayer, that the intercession of the Mother of God might bring succour to the Ecclesia adflicta of her divine Son. Has the Church, in your lifetime, ever needed this more than it does today?

Mgr Armitage, current Administrator at the Catholic Shrine (known to Anglicans as The Barn), has put out texts for the Novena, and the Ordinariate Secretariate has passed these on to us.

I am not willingly negative; indeed, I would not deny the propriety of a rich diversity of approaches to Marian devotion. I don't regard it as my job to criticise others and to disparage their own initiatives and to snarl at anybody who does things differently from the exact way I would do them. But I do have a couple of reservations about the texts issued.

(1) This is technical: the translation given of the Angelus is the English Roman Catholic text. I would advocate, in the Ordinariate, the traditional Anglican translation, especially the use, at the end, of the Anglican (Cranmerian and Prayer Book) translation of the ancient Collect.
(2) My next reservation is more substantial: a form of Litany of our Lady is offered, clearly designed to be be more 'modern' than the traditional Litany ("of Loretto"). You know what I mean: instead of (ex.gr.) "Turris Davidica", one might invoke "Woman of Faith"; instead of "Ora pro nobis", one might pray "Keep us in mind".

I mention this not for the rather cheap motive of inviting you to groan at the inept 'modernity' of such things, but because what we are losing here is in fact something extremely important: the typological character of the old Litany. The titles of our Lady in that Litany include many of the  typological titles which Christian devotion, since at least the time of the Council of Ephesus, has discovered in the Old Testament as pointers to the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

Typology is discerning in the Old Testament the Figure of Christ and his Mother and the events of their lives, so that the Old Testament passage is the Type and the New Testament Figure or event is the Antitype. Typology is the central way in which the Great Tradition of both East and West has appropriated the Old Testament. It goes back to the New Testament texts themselves: Christ as the New Adam ... and see I Corinthians 10:1-11 ... and look at I Peter 3:20-21 ... etc.etc.. Typology is part of the fundamental Grammar of the Faith; something even deeper than dogma.

Today ... the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ... liturgical texts reminded us that the Lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is the Antitype of which the Lifting up of the serpent in the desert was the Type (Numbers 21:4-9; S John 3:13-17; S John 12:32).

I know that most laity have not been taught about Typology; because the Clergy weren't taught it either; because there were so much more important things for them to be taught in seminary (the Synoptic Problem... the inauthenticity of most of S Paul's letters ...)*. But seeing the Lorettan Litany displaced by a modernist 'relevant' formula devoid of Typology brought home to me again the radical impoverishment of current Catholic culture.

The Catholic Church needs a John Mason Neale redivivus. Come to think of it, perhaps that is precisely what God has raised up the Ordinariates for.

*None of my strictures apply to the admirable Fr John Hemer, of Allen Hall, who understands perfectly about Typology!


motuproprio said...

I have been able to trace this litany back to the publication 'Every Pilgrim's Guide to Walsingham by Elizabeth Obbard ODC published in 2007 where it is to be found on Page 53 but whether it was composed earlier than this I have not been able to discover.

Anita Moore said...

"Woman of Faith"? "Keep us in mind"??? Pee-yew!!!

But it is not merely that these are specimens of inept modernity: these are entirely different "prayers" than what they are meant to replace. These blur, rather than bring into focus, the supernatural. This is all part of the eradication of beauty and the graying-out of revelation: the materialist notion that only the banal, the pedestrian, the flat-footed, the dull, are "real." I cannot believe that such stuff is not the product of an absence of faith.

Bert Louth said...


motuproprio said...

I think it is an attempt to give Walsingham a distinctive litany, not to replace the Litany of Loretto, just as the Litany of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Litany of Our Lady of Victory and the Litany of Our Lady of Good Counsel do not replace it.

Banshee said...

If Walsingham needs a distinct litany, it needs one that is English and pertinent to Walsingham. A litany that sounds stupid is not good enough. Time for a rewrite.

I am pretty sure that the Litany of Loreto is one of the things that got me interested in digging around in the Bible. It was beautiful, it was interesting, and it made seven-year-old me wonder why those titles were being used.