9 July 2020

Our Lady of Aberdeen

Today is the Festival of our Lady of Aberdeen; in the old days, in the Diocese of Aberdeen, Double of the First Class with an Octave; under the Novus Ordo, I gather, a Sollemnitas thoughout the Kingdom of Scotland but, strangely, without an Octave. My friend Fr Michael Mary, on my visit to Papa Stronsay, gave me a booklet with fantastic pictures.

Until the Reformation, the statue was in Aberdeen, perhaps in the medieval Cathedral. But the original statue (replaced now in Aberdeen's Catholic Cathedral with a copy) is currently in Brussels ...

The Aberdeen Journal recorded the "common belief of the vulgar people that the statue was thrown into the sea at Aberdeen and carried on the waves of the sea miraculously to Ostend". Historical evidence, however, suggests that the 'translation' of the statue was a little more prosaic. But she got there (just as our Lady of Ipswich got to Nettuno), and so escaped the Scotch Reformation. Duffy illustrates how, in England, the contents of churches were 'laundered' around faithful parishioners until the happy days returned; and comparisons of inventories suggest that, in the years before the Tudor despoliation, vast amounts ... incredibly vast amounts ...of stuff just disappeared, rather than fall into the hands of the Edwardine regime. I bet things were very similar in the Northern Kingdom.

There was an attractive hymn to our Lady of Aberdeen in use among Aberdonian Catholics; the first three stanzas had the refrain Bring the old Faith back to Scotland / Our Lady of Aberdeen. It contained plain historical facts, such as The love of God grows cold / In a country that has forgotten / The saving truths of old; statements of the obvious, like The ashes of faith still smoulder / where the fire of the Faith has been; and rousing descriptions with which all right-thinking people would agree: In the happy days of old / Men deck'd thy gracious image / With silver and with gold; / Though darker days succeeded / Thou still art Scotland's Queen / Come back, come back to Scotland, / Our Lady of Aberdeen.

That hymn was pretty well totally rewritten in the enlightened pontificate of Bishop Conti, anno 1983. For example, the last of the quotations I have just offered you became Once by this comely shore / Men looked to thy protection ...

The only surviving words from the original version are men and thy. And uet they are words which are now disallowed!!


Yes, you know what I'm going to say ... 1983 was just about the tipping point when one stopped being allowed to use men in this inclusive way; and archaic pronouns were already a good decade out of date.

Amusing, yes?

2 comments:

scotchlil said...

ah, Mgr. Conti.... Bp of Aberdeen in my youth. The story went that the Nuncio was somewhat mystified by the Scottish names on the terna - ", eh - Ma Gregor?.... Fitz a Patrick? - ah!!! CONTI"

Sad that the Diocese these days is desperately reliant on clergy from outside the UK, tho' they have a rare treasure in Bp Hugh....

Titus said...

I would be fascinated to hear the tune and see all the original words to that hymn. Is it about somewhere?