20 August 2019

Meeting Newman

A fine way of encountering Blessed John Henry Newman, as we prepare for his Canonisation, is to revisit the Oxford which formed both Newman the Anglican and Newman the Catholic; Newman the Tractarian controversialist and Newman the venerated Cardinal.

In 1945, Evelyn Waugh looked back to the 1920s and wrote "Oxford -- submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in -- Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and talked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days ... when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth."

But how can you revisit that city, those aquatints, those submerged streets? There are still copies available of a booklet deceptive in its slightness (50 pages) which the admirable Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oratory wrote in 1995 and greatly enlarged in 2010 to celebrate the Beatification. It is called Newman's Oxford and is in stock at the Bookshop attached to St Aloysius' Church in St Giles. With painstaking scholarship, it traces the places the Blessed lived and worked in, and retells anecdotes very worthy of the retelling ... such as the College washerwoman who so memorably impinged upon the installation of Edward Hawkins as Provost of Oriel ...

But stay: I am aware that some of you may be unable to visit Oxford before the Canonisation. Do ot worry. One of the strengths of Fr Jerome's work is that he has hunted down some thirty pictures and engravings of Oxford as she was in Newman's time.

Perusing this slender but exquisite volume, you will visit Oxford  -- Newman's Oxgord -- more truly than if you fought your way through the regiments of Oriental touristswho have gridlocked the city once so "branchy between towers; Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark-charmed, rook-racked, river-rounded ..."

19 August 2019

Missile Romanum ... hairesis kai skandalon ...

The egregious Austin Ivereigh is reported to have complained that admirers of the former Roman Pontiff Pope Benedict are a "source of division and scandal" because they launch aginst PF "a missile every month".

It is surprising how different things can seem from different viewpoints. To me, it seems that admirers of PF, and sometimes even his own pontifical mouth, are the most constant sources of division and scandal, consistently reliable in their grim predictability.

And it seems to me that never a month goes by without these same gruesome sources emitting divisive missiles of unorthodoxy or of scandalous ambiguity.

Let us be fair. From the beginning of this pontificate, there has been no concealment of the fact that  its policy is "to make a mess". It is a shame that the words ataxian polutropos poieson are missing from so many of the Greek manuscripts of II Timothy 4.

However, in the surviving fragments of that sadly lacunose text, S Paul does advise us to preach the Word eukairos akairos. He never ... even in an ambiguous footnote ... mentions the need to do this on an irregular, intermittent, or less than monthly basis.


18 August 2019

Typology is the answer

The 'Spirit of the Council' has had a lot to do with the erroneous notion that 'the Council' told the Jews that they did not need to 'convert'.

It's very closely similar to what happened to Liturgy: the Council Fathers thought that in Sacrosanctum Concilium they were mandating a modest revision which would leave Latin substantially in place ... and so on. But in less than a decade, change had vastly outstripped the texts which the Fathers had actually subscribed. And, gradually, people were led to think that the Council had ordered a totally vernacular Liturgy; had prescribed the well-nigh universal reordering of sanctuaries ... and all the rest.  

Nostra aetate  had a very similar fate. The Fathers thought they were roundly condemning anti-Jewish persecution and prejudice. They thought they were doing what little they could to atone for the Shoah. Disgust at what had happened less than two decades earlier led them to speak strongly against the obscene horror which had befouled the face of Europe and about defects in Christian culture which may have contributed to it. But they did not establish, and did not intend (indeed, there is no evidence that they even considered this) to establish, the Two Covenant Error. Yet within a few decades people were being told that the Council had outlawed 'supersessionism'.

Just as there are millions who have never read a page of Sacrosanctum Concilium but are quite sure that it ordered the liturgical ruptures and abuses which in fact ensued, so there are very many who have never opened Nostra aetate but have been lied to about what it contains.

And where did we go wrong?

I don't mean ... two things. Firstly, I don't mean that we should particularly target Jewish communities in our 'mission'. I have never stood outside a synagogue dishing out leaflets. Nor, for that matter, outside a mosque or a Methodist Church or a Mormon centre. Like most clergy, I have always felt that there were enough people around who technically belonged to my Church but were either totally lapsed or had only very light observance. And then, good heavens, there are the multitudes that are not even technically anything. There are only twenty four hours in the day ... and I think I would even feel a trifle uneasy about the deep-down attitudes of people who had a great obsessive thing about Converting Jews and did little about converting anybody else. There is such a nastiness as Anti-Judaism (I prefer to avoid the vague term Anti-Semitism, because, after all, Arabs, too, are Semites). But, when all is said  and done, the Gospel Call to Faith in Christ is for all men and women and that includes Jews. Always and everywhere and despite whatever. There is no Alternative Covenant for anybody; nothing but the Covenant which is in the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, I also do not believe that, unless particular urgent needs make it essential, we should preach or teach against other faiths. My view is that we have failed adequately to teach our own faith.

 One, big, example.

Typology. Exodus the Type, Baptism the Antitype. And so on. All that. Typology is what makes clear that the Old Divine Dispensation has been superseded by the work of Christ. Typology permeates the the Scriptures and the Fathers. It is the Christian hermeneutic for reading the Old Testament. With it, pretty well everything points to Christ; or is a type of something in the Christian life. It is because most laypeople (and clergy?) are unaware or only nominally aware of this that the usually unspoken problem they have is: What is the point of reading the Old Testament? Why do we have all those dreary and irrelevant psalms? And then there is the Easter Vigil: without an understanding of Typology, it is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. The Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, indeed. Poor Egyptians. What a nasty God. And what a long time ago. Why on earth am I sitting here listening to all this?

I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work this subject into a sermon. I try to introduce people to it myself, especially when I am invited to give Retreats or Conferences or Lent Courses. But ... well, let me put it like this. I was sitting in Allen Hall in one of the "formation" sessions awaiting a lecture entitled something like the Catholic Approach to Scripture. I did not have much expectation of anything other than an hour of 1960s tedium. But then Fr John Hemer came in and explained, lucidly and brilliantly ... that the Catholic Approach to Scripture is Typology! What a sense of liberation I felt ... gosh, I thought, I'm not, after all, the only one ...

To be fair: Cardinal Danielou did Typology in The Bible and the Liturgy 1956.

And Byzantium does a good line on Typology: if you don't use it already, why not pray the Akathist Hymn? But perhaps we Anglicans In Full Communion With Peter could have a particular role to play here. We had John Mason Neale, who filled the windows of his large Convent Chapel with typology ... Lionel Thornton, a Mirfield Father and a notable typologist ... Austin Farrer ... and, deep in the archives of Pusey House, lie the manuscript lectures on Typology of our own great Dr Pusey quo maior vix ullus.

Pusey ... If the Ordinariates have any purpose at all beyond mere survival, it must surely be to bring Pusey along with us as a big part of our luggage, as a particular treasure of our Anglican Patrimony, as a gift of incalculable value to the Universal Church. May he, before the Throne of Grace, intercede for us his children in the Ordinariates.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to the rest of his polymathy, he was Professor of Hebrew in this University.

17 August 2019

Priestly Formation


Back in the happy days when the Church of England still existed in more than name, she was famed for the intellectual quality of her clergy. Nowadays her degenerate successor organisation trains its ministers largely at non-residential regional Ministerial Training Courses, run jointly with the Methodists ... I remember a day when Bishop John Richards and I had met one of these gentry and 'JR' had some things to say about his total ignorance of Scripture and, indeed, of anything.

In the old days, much seminary training went on in theological colleges. Those Theological Colleges were largely one of the fruits of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (Chichester was founded by Charles Marriott). In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation Tridentine reforms, first adumbrated, as Eamon Duffy pointed out, by Reginal Cardinal Pole, they were very often founded in cathedral closes ... Chichester or Wells or Salisbury or Lincoln ... not simply so that the seminarians could benefit from the influence and teaching of erudite canons residentiary, but so that they might be part of the episcopal familia. They remind me of Archbishop Michael Ramsay's admirable definition of classical Anglican Theology as Divinity done within the sound of church bells. Their closure (do chickens come before eggs?) betokened the collapse of that classical Anglicanism which it is the duty of the Ordinariates to recover and to repatriate into Catholic Unity.

It would be wonderful if our Catholic Bishops, or some of them, were to rebegin clerical formation within their own households. (Possibly Bishop Mark Davies is heading in this direction with his Mater Sacerdotum House.) How such a reform would rejoice the priestly hearts of Cardinal Reginald Pole and S Charles Borromeo! This could help in the long labour of rebuilding a clerical culture in accordance with the mind and legislation of the Church. I am thinking here not least of Veterum Sapientia (S John XXIII) and of the provisions of canon 249.

NOTANDUM

The celebrated Schola Sainte-Cecile will be in Oxford for the first part of next week.

Monday August 19: 6.30: Vespers and Benediction, the Oratory.

Tuesday August 20: 9.30 am: Solemn Mass in Balliol Chapel.

Wednesday August 21: 11.00 Solemn Mass, the Oratory.
                                            6.30: Sarum Rite Vespers, in Balliol Chapel.

Lucky Oxford!

16 August 2019

Masterful Me ...

Returning to contact with the World, I have done my best to deal with comments and emails.

And I have capriciously decided not to enable two additional categories of comment:
1. Comments including the grammatical error "We must respect he who is the King of Tonga". We do not, in English, say "we must respect he [nominative]"; we say "We must respect him [accusative]". A curious idea seems to be growing up that whenever the relative pronoun "who" is used, it has to be preceded by a nominative. It most certainly doesn't. This is the same sort of error as using the nominative for the second of two linked names: "He spoke to Theodore and I". We do not in English say "He spoke to I"; we say "He spoke to me". So: "He spoke to Theodore and me".

I once heard a colleague refer to "Paul and I's study".

A less spectacularly horrible usage which is getting common is to make genitive only the second of two linked names. "Michael and Anne's house" is, surely, as illogical as it is imprecise. It would imply that we were talking about two objects: (1) Michael; and (2) Anne's house. If we are talking about a house which belongs to both Michael and Anne, the logical form surely is "Michael's and Anne's house".

The correct thing for that colleague (who, incidentally, was a Wykehamist, heaven help us) to have said would have been: "Paul's and my study".

2. Comments in a language which I do not understand or imperfectly understand. The reason for this is, I think, obvious.

So there. Dixi.

15 August 2019

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

Which Collect is preferable on August 15? Certainly not an Anglican one: they all seem rather sad examples of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of wordy banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". The Pius XII composition is preferable ... but I'm not over-enthusiastic about it quite simply because the older collects it replaced are, in my view, extremely fine.

Veneranda nobis Domine huius est diei festivitas, in qua Sancta Dei Genetrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit quae filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.

Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus, Domine, delictis ignoxsce: ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus; Genetricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur.

I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. But minimally conceived 'doctrine' does not exhaust the content of 'Tradition'.

My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I of course very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying common legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke so sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin.

Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are fused into one.

I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek with which S Gregory Palamas explained this truth! Pius XII, for all his Marian devotion, seems to have been lukewarm towards the concept of our Lady's Universal Mediation.

14 August 2019

Nostra antonomaica Domina

When the Lufwaffe bombed Exeter Cathedral (tit-for-tat: the RAF had bombed a nice little medieval University city in Germany ... and the Rhodes Scholars in the German government wouldn't allow Oxford to get the retaliation ... such are the legends) a discovery was made amidst the rubble: of wax ex voto offerings which had been hidden behind a stone above the tomb of Exeter's great and holy Bishop Edmund Lacey (it was rather a shrine: his progress towards canonisation was of course halted by the Reformation). Presumably they were hidden away when the Protestant Dean Simon Heynes vandalised the tomb. (He was not a popular dean and his new-fangled religion was as unpopular in the Close as it was in the City.)

Lacey was an intellectual who was not above putting his head into intellectual hornets' nests. On August 15 1441 he preached to the English Chapter of the of the Domicans in the Exeter Blackfriars at a time when the Preachers were still far from enthusiastic about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; his action in having his sermon transcribed into his register has no parallel that I know of in Medieval episcopal registers ... (would anyone like to comment on that?). Lacey pulled no punches: So those who, with their rash and reprobate opinion struggle to besmirch her Conception, let them shut their mouths; and those who struggle to put blemishes on her way of life, let them put a sock in it; and those who are unwilling to exalt the outcome of her Assumption, let them get lost and stay lost (perpetuo delitescant).

But let me tell you his argument for the Assumption. The Philosopher of the Ethics proves that it is necessary for there to be some end to human affairs, namely immortality and eternity. To which our antonomaic Lady is deservedly assumed by the Apostle, Romans 2, 'Glory, honour and peace to the one who does good'.

So you bung Aristotle and S Paul together and invoke the principle of antonomasia, which I trust is still taught in the Fundamental Theology courses in our seminaries, and Bob's your Uncle.

Antonomaica Domina in caelum gloriose Assumpta, ora pro nobis.

13 August 2019

Thumbs and tongues

I shall get slammed for this piece of sexual stereotyping ... but I have to express my conviction that the ceaseless use of little plastic machines held in the left hand is commoner among young women than it is among young - or older - men. It is ... have I got this right? ... called Texting, and involves the agile flickering of the thumb of the left hand in order mysteriously to communicate with distant other young women. It appears to imply an unwillingness to have communications severed, even for an hour, even for a minute, even for the blinking of an eye, by mere distance.

Long before these funny little machines were invented, I at the age of about six was aware that the little girls at my Primary School simply could not stop gossiping with each other. Except when compelled to be silent in class, they were endlessly engaged in huddling together in corners whispering their perfervid confidences to each other. Sometimes they became noisy and shouted (just as girls now sometimes talk loudly on mobile 'phones), but the intimacy of the corner, filled with murmuring and giggles, seemed preferred. Mark Studdart in That Hideous Strength felt, as a small boy, so terribly excluded by the whispered intimacies his sister Myrtle shared with the little girl next door. Is Texting simply the ultimate, the technological validation, of this urgent biological necessity among young girls? Should we relate it to the different linguistic functions of the two sexes as the men crawl around silently in distant fields doing the Hunter Gatherer stuff, while the women endlessly Cement Relationships back in the Cave?

Girls can, as I have just said, still be noisy. The previous house we occupied in Oxford was on the bus route which conveyed the trainee school-teachers of Brookes University from one campus to another (they seemed almost all to be female). Those large double-deckers were capsules of din as fifty or sixty young women endlessly and ferociously exchanged information. You will remember that the maidservants in Odysseus' home on Ithaca tended to be heard phthongo eperkhomenai ... . But confidences seem to be even more attractive than din. I have just had a sudden vision of the Fornicating Maidservants in the Odyssey, after being led out (end of book 22) by Telemachus to be hanged, stretching their necks forward into the nooses while their thumbs still flickered on their texting machines minuntha per, ou ti mala den.

S Ambrose was critical of girls who were accustomed circumcursare per alienas aedes ... demorari in plateis ... in publico miscere sermones .... Is the Texting Machine the Omega Point to which a girl-culture of the unbroken exchange of unmemorable secrets has, through all the millennia of human history, been deplorably pointing?

12 August 2019

ISIS

Now that Mr Trump has proclaimed the final defeat of ISIS, this may at last be a safe moment to reveal that I am, myself, the Founder of Isis*.

It happened in a modestly Anglo-Catholic establishment on the South Downs, called Lancing College. In 1973, newly appointed, I founded a Society which gave members the opportunity to get off the campus and attend meetings in my house and to go on expeditions which did not exclude hostelries (nowadays, organising such society activities would be an instantly sackable offence). Quite why we chose Isis as our Patron, I cannot now remember; but we had nice ties manufactured bearing the hieroglyph of Her of the Throne. I still have one somewhere. You had better not tell the CIA.

In the first centuries of the Christian era, Isiacism was a very attractive syncretistic religion. It denied the validity of no other religion; it conceded that the same Deity was behind all the divine names in all the cults. Isis was the preferred name (and her mysteria  the most satisfying); but in no exclusive way. Like PF, they believed that plurality of religions was part of the Divine Will. I have often wondered why those relativistic Christians who take an analogously syncretistic stand because all religion is at root the same, do not have courage of their convictions and rebrand themselves as Isiacs. It would be a particularly attractive cult for those of them who, by an unfortunate accident, have like poor dear Apuleius got themselves metamorphosed into donkeys with oversized membra virilia.

Moreover, if only the Right Side had been victorious at Actium, Isis might have had a great literary future. After all, Cleopatra VII, the philopateira Thea, was also the Nea Isis. Would Vergil, instead of writing that rather tortured aetiological epic about the Ira Iunonis, Venus Genetrix, Pallas puer, and Pius Aeneas, have poured all his heart and genius into an Isiad, which would have climaxed, not in the vengeful killing of Turnus paidophonos, but in the divinely glorious Nuptials and exquisite couplings of Isis Epiphanes with her Neos Bakkhos? Er ... perhaps not ... I admit that you are right. He probably wouldn't. No scope there for his libido pronior in pueros. But somebody else might have done it. Publius Ovidius Nosey, for example.

Since an excitingly Hellenistic Romano-Alexandrian Empire would have had a much more Eastwards bias than the boring old Roman Empire did, the Name of Isis would have been Great in the Orient, two thousand years earlier than today.
_________________________________________________________________________________
*To make Isiacs feel at home in Oxford, we have renamed our bit of the Thames after the Goddess, and divided our other river, the Cherwell, into two parallel streams so that we can call the bit in between them Mesopotamia.

11 August 2019

Talking Oxford (2)

Continues:
At the 2014 Encaenia, the then Public Orator, Mr Richard Jenkyns felicissimae memoriae of LMH, had used a phrase which one of his hearers ... none other than the then Vice-Chancellor himself, a poor silly Professor A D Hamilton ... had disliked so much that he cherished it, for four months, in a Resentful Bosom. When he came to make his own Oration in October at the start of the 2014/2015 academic year, Hamilton, speaking in English, had this to say:
"I want to reflect with you on the public value of Oxford; the benefit that flows to others from who we are, what we do, and how we do it. And if, in the course of these reflections, I manage to say something of wider interest and relevance about the special importance and value of higher education in the world of the twenty-first century, well, then I shall consider I have not entirely wasted my time or, more importantly, yours."

Oh dear. Not a word of this is Talking Oxford, is it? How terribly portentous and consequential! How full of a Politically Correct sense that we must demonstrate the vast amount of good we do to others! Might it even contain 'virtue signalling'? Do you feel the adjective "pompous" struggling to make itself heard in your mind? Not a touch here of that quick and allusive levity, that faux self-deprecation behind which Oxonians lightly conceal our feeling that we are so obviously unique that we don't even need to remember that fact, still less to be so unspeakably vulgar as to assert it. Even worse, observe the implication that Oxford is relevant. Nemo qui mammas almae huius Universitatis ipse suxisset haec vel talia unquam proferre potuisset! Quid de apicibus somniantibus? Quid de rebus desperatis? 

This sad (and now happily long departed) Hamilton was not a man who, in those formative youthful years, was woken daily by his College Servant bringing him hot water and the information "Good morning sir, quarter to eight sir, blizzard in the night sir, three cars crashed on the ice coming down Headington Hill, eleven people killed sir, will there be anything else, sir?" vel similia. You see, Talking Cambridge is a class dialect designed to condescend and to insult those marked out by the speaker as social inferiors. But Talking Oxford is a style of processing and assimilating reality, of cutting mere facticity down to size, a style which in my undergraduate days owed as much (at least in the men's colleges) to our beloved and respected College Servants as to dons or undergraduates.

Let us resume our reading of poor daft Hamilton's embarrassing Oration.
"It was our celebrated Public Orator, Richard Jenkyns, at Encaenia [2014] who stated in the course of a typically mordant review of the worldly achievements of Oxford alumni, I quote: 'Life - always our most dangerous competitor.' He captures neatly that too familiar perception of the academic world having little if anything to do with life, certainly life as it is lived; life with a capital L.

"Well, this morning I want to try not just to take issue with that perception by illustrating some of the ways in which it is woefully wide of the mark, but to go further and even to argue that life as it is lived - still with that capital L ..." and blah blah blah for several pages more. Dinosaurs competed for mention with budgerigars. Honest! Heaven help us.



10 August 2019

Talking Oxford (1)

Cambridge men and women, vulgo "Tabs", are, in my experience, without exception (well, 'spiritually', as Rex Mottram would say), Old Etonians with aunties and uncles high up in the KGB, who speak with a leisurely, languorous and protracted drawl which rarely seems to approach a conclusion. It expresses their contemptuous sense of superiority to the rest of the world ... "You dear little people, you have nothing better to do with your poor little lives than to listen to me". It has been suggested that Oxonians feel no need to prove any such thesis and and that we more characteristically speak faster and then pause for breath in mid-sentence so that, when we do get to the end of the sentence, we can immediately leap into the next sentence without giving any opportunity to a polite interlocutor to ... er ... er ... interlocute (stet haec sententia pro exemplo). I think this is right; but there is more to "talking Oxford" than just that one particular (very serviceable) device.

At this point you need to know that, since about 2004, the role of Vice-Chancellor in this University has radically changed. Previously, the VC was himself an Oxford product, commissioned, so to speak, from the Lower Deck. But since then we have had members of the new international elite of super-administrators, Staff College products who have never drunk from the Isis, who can (and do) cheerfully flit from running Yale to running Oxford; from running Oxford to running NYU. Let us not go into the question of any financial aspects there may be to these arrangements (neat example of a Ciceronian praeteritio, yes?). What this sociological change means is that a modern Vice-Chancellor does not now speak, or even understand, Oxford's own idiolect (forgive the dittography). He ... or she ... has, quite simply, not been suckled at the correct breasts. Ergo, a deep gap in communication ... C S Lewis's phrase a phatic hiatus will have sprung to your minds. Exactly. Gottit.

More later.