6 June 2020

Dorothy Sayers and the Wars of the Enclitics (2)

So Greeby was murdered for his Platonic enclitics. Or perhaps he wasn't. At the time Sayers wrote Murder at Pentecost, John Dewar Denniston was reading systematically through the whole of Greek Classical Literature to perfect his maximum opus: The Greek Particles published in 1934. I wonder if Sayers knew what he was working on, and, with a tactful variatio, is alluding to it.

Denniston was a mighty scholar. In our day, academe has arranged its wagons into a fortified corral; it is manned by in vitro life-forms generated in PhD manufactories; dominated by a culture of five-papers-a-year. Denniston's was a broader era when teachers hopped back and forth between posts in Oxbridge and jobs in Public Schools or Whitehall, and the Detective Fiction novel was a literary form enjoyed and respected by the Intelligentsia (some of whom, indeed, such as 'Michael Innes', wrote it).

Denniston was a very serious practicioner of the art of Prose Composition: i.e. putting passages of English into Latin or Greek. He rightly believed that you haven't really understood a language until you have become expert at writing it yourself. He was particularly attached to Greek Prose Compo, and formed a group of Oxford College tutors who not only taught the undergraduates this art, but practised it among themselves. In 1949, they published Some Oxford Compositions. Another member of this group, Maurice Bowra, who wrote an obituary of Denniston for the British Academy in 1949, wrote that "He excelled at Greek Prose and was equally accomplished in the Platonic and the Demosthenic manners. ... the first produced more dazzling results in versions from Shelley and Meredith and Dorothy Sayers ... for every word and every phrase he found an equivalent at once exact and exciting, and the final result was itself an accomplished piece of art. For example, in translating a piece of Dorothy Sayers he had to deal with something which was undeniably conversational but had none the less a literary distinction ..." Bowra then quotes the passage from chapter 3 of the Bellona Club which begins "Well, Felicity ...", and  gives four lines from Denniston's Greek version; and comments "This called for something in Plato's most dashing manner, and got it in Denniston's version ... This is certainly Plato, but it is also Miss Dorothy Sayers".

Agatha Christie did a fair bit of damage to the prestige of 'Detective Fiction', with her mechanical denouements, her superficial cardboard characters, her wooden style, and her lack of intellectual depth. Sayers, on the other hand, gives witty and penetrating expositions of life and culture between the Wars; the bohemian underworld and the Left Book Club; rich widows and their gigolos in seaside grand hotels; the advertising industry; women's colleges in the decade after "women got their degrees at Oxford"; exploitative Lesbian relationships; the fad for 'Spiritualism"; the Abdication Crisis  ... And she can contrive the most diverting genre-confusions: has anybody else ever realised the erotic potential of the Oxford Degree Ceremony?

I do urge any readers who have a curiosity about the Thirties and have not yet met Dorothy Sayers, to do so. She was so good a writer of English prose that the best brains in Oxford used her books for their most mind-stretching intellectual exercises. Her own style was honed and polished by her studies in the Greek, Latin, and English Classics, her love of French, and her adventures translating Dante.

And she was an extraordinarily able apologist for orthodox Christian belief. She took no prisoners.

Don't be put off by Media "adaptations". As with Narnia, so with Sayers: adaptations are devised by non-Christian subliterates with the motive of excising anything which lies outside their own poverty zones.

5 June 2020

Dorothy L Sayers and the Murder of the Master of Pentecost (1)

When  Dr Greeby, the Master of Pentecost College in this University, was murdered in (note this date) 1933, an undergraduate summarised the actualite thus:

" ... he was returning to his house from delivering his too-well-known lecture on Plato's use of the Enclitics. The whole school of Litterae Humaniores will naturally be under suspicion, but ... I really didn't murder the Master. His lectures were -- if I may say so -- dull, but not to that point exasperating."

"That is a very impudent observation, Mr Radcott," said the Professor severely, "and in execrable taste ... Poor dear Greeby! Such a loss to classical scholarship!".

The dry-as-dust tedium of some Oxford Classics changed very soon after this date; we ... rightly ... attribute much of the transformation to the influx into English academe of the cream of German Jewish scholarship in the secessio doctorum  from Hitlerite Germany; a secessio which the great Eduard Fraenkel himself compared to the flight of the scholars from the Library at Alexandria under Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II.

But I feel there might, in more recent years, have been an additional factor.

When I was in teaching, it fascinated me to be told how boring, according, at least, to the students, the teaching had been in those other subjects which they had been compelled to study ... mainly, the sciences. I put this tedium down to the fact that those who taught such subjects were under no pressure to make their subjects alluring or even entertaining. Their subjects were compulsory. They had no Darwinian self-interest in seducing the young people into enjoying scientific studies. So, once the students were given the luxury of opting for their three favourite subjects, the labs didn't see many of them for dust, dry or otherwise.

Tedium is the ultimately unforgivable sin in Education.

We Classicists, on the other hand, knew that, unless we displayed our subject with unashamed meretriciousness, cavorting outrageously and ultra-vulgar in our showmanship, the customers would  decline to opt for Latin and Greek, and we would be out of a job. After all, even in 1933 Radcott had 'cut' Dr Greeby's last ante mortem lecture in favour of an engagement with a punt. No wonder Mgr Knox when schoolmastering at Shrewsbury composed his witty piece on The Greek Particles and devised neat little tricks to lure his fascinated pupils into composing Alcaic stanzas without even realising they were doing so.

I still get former pupils reminding me "Father, do you remember when you ..." (I usually don't).

This is what comes into my mind whenever there are yet more calls, since "this country so badly needs more scientists and engineers", for the Young to be peremptorily volentes nolentes compelled to study such subjects.

My Plans For Educational Reform? Sack tedious paedagogues in whatever subjects they are flaunting their disgusting and shameless tedium. Employ even more Greatsmen and Greatswomen in the Treasury and the Foreign Office. Start the tinies on Latin at the age of six; Greek at seven. Close down the PPE Faculty.

Then Britain will be great and glorious again. Rule, Britannia ...

4 June 2020

LIBERATION

On 4 June 1944, Rome was liberated (I'm not quite sure which regiment of the British Army achieved this ... probably the Honourable Artillery Company). Immediately, some enterprising cleric at the Church of S Maria in Porticu clearly got to work and produced, in English ("To the Catholics of England"), a tiny booklet about the prayers for the Conversion of England customary in that Church. It bears the Imprimi potest of Joseph Forcellati, Rector Generalis, Romae, 17 iulii 1944.

It explains that our late Sovereign liege Lord King Henry IX, King (by the Grace of God) of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, when he was merely His Royal Highness the Duke of York, was created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XIV, 5 July 1747 (less than a year after the return of HRH the Prince Regent from 'the '45'), and was assigned the Diaconal Title of this Church (raised the following year to a Presbyteral Title). The booklet goes on to inform us that he had a great devotion to our Lady under this title; and enacted that her feast be celebrated with the sumptousness of Sacred Music, the richness of Sacred Vestments and Altar Ornaments, and with the splendour of Church liturgy.  Then, with the use of inverted commas but without any indication who or what is being quoted, it goes on
"' he endowed the Shrine with a perpetual legacy for the celebration of a Mass on every Saturday, at 11.00 a.m., followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the offering of prayers for the return of the separatist brethren of England to the Catholic Church, the true Flock'".

Incidentally, the Feast of our Lady in Porticu is in the old Supplementum for England and Wales as to be observed in Wales on July 17 with the Mass Quae est ista. What is the Welsh connexion?

It seems to me endearing that His Majesty, embarking upon an ecclesiastical career after the failure of arms, lacking now any power to assist their bodies, was yet mindful of the souls of the people of this Kingdom.

After recording that Pope Leo XIII presided over a triduum in this Church in 1868, the panphlet gives the texts of two prayers, without indicating whether either or both was composed by His Most Eminent Majesty, Defender of the Faith, or by His Holiness.


It would be jolly to get some light on this.

The first prayer begins "O Holy Virgin Mary, thou who hast for so many centuries revealed to our souls the sweet attraction of Divine Maternity ..."

The second begins "Give thy servants, o Lord, your [sic] celestial help ..."


It offers this invocation:
Romanae Portus Securitatis, Ora pro nobis.

Did you know that His Majesty participated in the Consecration of the eventual Clement XIV, the pope who suppressed the Jesuits? Small world!

Delens vetusta

Like all right-thinking people, I deplore the intrusion of the Feast of the Lord's High Priesthood into Thursday of the former Octave of Pentecost, because it pushes still further back any rapprochement between the Calendars of the two forms of the Roman Rite.

But the OF propers for this new Feast have an interesting fearure. They appear to favour the view called 'Supersessionist', the doctrine hardwired into the liturgical texts of the last two millennia that the New Covenant fulfills, supersedes, the old (Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui).

These new texts employ Hebrews 10:5-10 (a document Cardinal Kasper, for obvious reasons, is said to dislike); and include in one of the hymns the phrase "delens vetusta".

I wonder if this phrase survives into the German translation.

3 June 2020

Tradition under threat

A few days ago, the Congregation for Divine Worship published Latin Propers for S Faustina, who is now an optional memorial in the "Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite", for use by anybody in the world who still uses that sweet archaic liturgy, picturequely encrusted as it is with the venerable cobwebs of the 1960s.

My first reaction was to wonder if interdicasterial warfare has broken out. At this moment, an Office in the CDF is preparing propers for the 'newer' Saints to be used in the NNR ('New Normal Rite'; what we called, pre-pandemic, 'the Extraordinary Form'). "CDW is determined to snow them under with even more work", I thought. But then I noticed something very strange about these new propers. 'Uncanny' is not too strong a term. You may shiver as you read the next bit.

I can't see any mistakes in the new texts.

For decades, since, I think, the 1980s, I have been eagerly enjoying new propers issuing from Rome ... they are great fun, because, sooner or later, you find the multiple mistakes in them. This has become a venerable and much-loved Tradition. Sometimes there are elementary III Form howlers in basic Latin Grammar. Sometimes there are mere typos. Often, both. Each time I noticed one, it was like meeting an old friend in one of those old places called "restaurants" in which we used to be convivial together before the Pandemic struck and the CBCEW ordered that all the restaurants should be closed and locked up (or am I getting a bit confused here?).

As well as being a break with Tradition, these new propers for S Faustina seem to me nothing less than a disloyal attack on PF himself. Correct grammar and accurate texts are ... I must be blunt about this ... Rigid. They are also Pharisaical. Could anybody deny that they are Neo-Pelagian? If Austin Ivereigh fails to go public on this, I shall think very much the worse of him.

PF's policy has, from the start, been clear. He wants people to "Make a Mess" (hagan lio). He himself has bravely and paradigmatically led the way by endlessly creating his own top-quality Messes. But what quality of Messes shall we now have in the Catholic Church if Mgr Grotti (who, I can reveal, has long been responsible for inserting the errors into new liturgical texts) has been head-hunted by the Grauniad Newspaper?

Frankly (is that an appropriate adverb to use during this pontificate?), all the dicasteries should, as we English say, "Do Their Bit" (I'm sure bishop Roche will be able to explain that concept to his boss).

CDW is Letting the Side Down (I'm sure etc.etc..)

They must Play the Game and Keep a Straight Bat (I'm etc. etc..)

1 June 2020

The Miraculous medal and the Anglican Patrimony

I first wrote this in 2010; I reprint it, together with its admirable thread, to complete my series about Sub tuum praesidiu, which finished this morning by bringing the story down to the Miraculous Medal and S John Henry Newman.

 On Saturday 27 November 1830, a young French nun, (S) Catherine Laboure, beheld her second and third visions of the Mother of God in the Sanctuary of her Convent Chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris. Our Lady appeared to her, radiant, standing on a globe, and with her arms stretched out in a compassionate gesture. From her fingers rays of light fell upon the globe at her feet. An oval frame then formed around her with gold lettering that read: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Our Lady promised great graces to those who wore this design with confidence; she showed the Saint the design which now appears on the back of the Miraculous Medal: a large M surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts beneath it, one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword, all encircled by twelve stars.

In 1836, Abbe Desgenettes, who had taken over the Church of Our Lady of Victories (a church degraded and desecrated during the Revolution and with a minute congregation), dedicated his parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and founded a Confraternity of Prayer, which had the Miraculous Medal as its badge. In the days before S John Henry Newman's conversion, intense prayer was offered for him in this Church by the members of that very same Fraternity. Back in Blighty, it was on the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1845 (a very patrimonial day: it was also the birthday of blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey) that our great Saint first began to wear the Miraculous Medal.

Yes! The greatest intellect of the nineteenth century! Like any Irish washerwoman, he wore a miraculous medal! Is there a sobering message here for our supercilious cultural pride? Should we each be a little more thorough in rooting out of our own minds the sordid dregs of Enlightenment superstitions? I stand by my mixed metaphor!!

Now back two or three years, to January 20, 1842. On this day, a wealthy Jewish banker called Alphonse Ratisbonne had, in the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, a vision of our Lady just as she appeared on the Miraculous Medal. Shunt forward ... please ... to 1847: S John Henry and St John (who, after their reception, had visited the shrine in Notre Dame des Victoires in thanksgiving for the prayers offered for him there) found themselves now awaiting admission to the presbyterate of the Latin Church, lodged in the Collegio di Propaganda in Rome. Newman makes clear in a number of letters that their windows looked down on the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte; it clearly made some considerable impression upon him. On June 9 1847, his long-time intimate woman friend, Maria Giberne, painted a picture of Newman and St John in a room at Propaganda, with our Lady, as she appears on the Miraculous Medal, between the two of them.

In the Old Missal, in the Appendix pro aliquibus locis, November 27 is the feast of Our Lady Immaculate of the the Miraculous Medal. Let us hope that this commemoration will one day make its way into the Calendar of the Patrimony!

More Light on SUB TUUM PRAESIDIUM

One of the problems about the scholarly study of the past is that those following different disciplines do not always talk to each other. When they take an interest in the same text or object, they are so often asking different questions. With regard to the Christian papyrus containing the prayer to our Lady usually known as Sub Tuum Praesidium, those interested in Christian dogma will ask different questions from the queries of palaeographers (experts in handwriting). That is why an editor who, being a submissive and credulous slave of Liberal Dogma, is terrified of discovering Theotokos, "Mother of God", on an early piece of writing, will desire to find different things than a palaeographer, who ... simply looks at the handwriting. Holistic studies of the same text are rarer than you and I would hope.

Of course, dating a papyrus only gives you the latest possible date of the original composition of the text it contains. That text might have been composed a thousand years before somebody made this particular copy. This is why it ultimately proves little even if (as has indeed happened!) somebody argues that the papyrus is 600 years later than everybody hitherto thought!

What exactly is this papyrus sheet with (what most writers have deemed to be) our earliest text of Sub tuum Praesidium? To begin with, it is a stand-alone sheet of papyrus; that is to say, it is not part of a scroll, or a page torn from a codex (book). It contains one text-formula, giving the text from beginning to end. There are no concluding words from a lost previous section; no sign the first part of a now missing next section, no random break in the middle. And nothing on the back (so it is not likely to be part of a codex).

Secondly ... have a look at this papyrus on your computer in a moment ... it has been folded. You can see the fold across the middle. and you can identify where the papyrus has been worn by the balancing, symmetrical pieces of damage on the top and bottom halves. I'll tell you what it uncannily reminds me of. I carry in my trouser pocket a printed copy of the timetable for the Number 35 buses into and from central Oxford. It is folded up. But, being in my pocket, it gets a lot of wear. Especially, along the lines where it is folded. It wears, it rubs away. Every month or two I replace with a new timetable. It is clear to me that this is exactly what has happened to the papyrus. But why?

There is a recognised type of Christian papyrus text: to categorise it, papyrologists use the term amulet. It is a written prayer-text carried around on one's person.

Thirdly: do you recognise this text: "O Marie, concue sans peche, priez pour nous qui avons recours a vous"? I wonder how many of you carry it around in your pocket or on your person? Have you ever wondered what would be the third century Koine Greek for nous avons recours?

Bang on! Holed in one (just as our younger son did on a never-to-be-forgotten day on the third green at Parknasilla in the County Kerry). I knew I could rely on you.

KATAPHEUGOMEN. The fourth word on the papyrus!


Yes; when you carry around your Miraculous Medal, with its inscription referring to Mary's Immaculate Purity, and your recourse to her help, you are in a direct line from the first owner of the papyrus now kept in the John Rylands Library in Manchester; and, earlier than him or her, all the other Christian people whose copies have not survived the chances of History and whose names we are unlikely ever to know..


[Subversive footnote ... that 'Museum of the Bible in America, funded, I think, by a wealthy evangelical Green family ... had they been offered this interesting papyrus for sale ... would they ...]


Prayer to OLW

In memory of those happy years when "The National" always happened on Whit Monday, I give the text of the Prayer to our Lady of Walsingham, in use since at least the first edition of the Pilgrims' Manual in 1928 (in more recent decades, detudorised ... such childishness ...).

Perhaps nostalgic old persons like me would like to burst forth from Lockdown and make a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy House, back in time to, say, Whit Monday 1960. Or would that be schismatic?

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, thy divine Son, dying upon the cross, confided us to thy maternal care. Thou art our Mother, we desire ever to remain thy devout children. Let us therefore feel the effects of thy powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. Make thy Name again glorious in this place once renowned throughout our land by thy visits, favours, and many miracles.
    Pray, O holy Mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.
    O blessed Mary, Mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen. 

Hi There to Trendy readers who are today celebrating a Feast of our Lady, Mother of the Church!

Later, my final thoughts on Sub tuum praesidium


31 May 2020

SPIRITS

I like to think that the Patrimonial Anglican lay theologian C S Lewis offered a good refutation of the Bergoglianist error. By 'Bergoglianism' I do not mean the thoughts of PF within himself ... how could I know these? ... but the view expressed so loudly by his admirers: that the Holy Spirit speaks certainly through PF's mouth, even when he is a very long way from his Cathedra and not least when he appears to be a considerable distance from the Great Tradition. They use the Holy Spirit as a fast, plausible and cheap way of bridging the gap between the Deposit of Faith and the words of Jorge Bergoglio ... as their own personal, ready-made Deus ex machina.

In Lewis's novel, an eminent physicist called Edward Rolles Weston (1896-1942) has fallen under the influence of the Enemy. He and a philologist called Edwin Ransom, a Christian, are thrown together on an unfallen planet called Perelandra. Weston is speaking here:

" ... God is spirit, Ransom. Get hold of that. You're familiar with that already. Stick to it. God is a spirit."
"Well, of course. But what then?" ... ... 

[Weston] "It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on to its goal."
"Look here," said Ransom, "one wants to be careful about this sort of thing. There are spirits and spirits, you know."
"Eh?" said Weston. "What are you talking about?"
[Ransom] "I mean a thing might be a spirit and not good for you."
[Weston] "But I thought you agreed that Spirit was the good -- the end of the whole process? I thought you religious people were all out for spirituality? What is the point of asceticism -- fasts and celibacy and all that? Didn't we agree that God is a spirit? Don't you worship Him because He is pure spirit?"
[Ransom] "Good heavens, no! We worship Him because He is wise and good. There's nothing specially fine about simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit." 

Perhaps someone should send PF a copy of Lewis's Space trilogy.


30 May 2020

Sex and Scandal on the River

The Internet may have convinced us that  Coronavirus is just a Chinese hoax, but the University's Rowing clubs, unaccountably, have cancelled Eights Week. For any who may have withdrawal symptoms, I here follow an ancient British custom, exemplified by the Beeb, and give you a Repeat! (The old thread has one or two very sweet comments.)

Well, Eights Week, the annual Summer Bumping Races on the Isis, is now over. Nothing changes; the accents of upper-class girls from New England (and I don't mean the one in New South Wales) as ubiquitous as ever. The usual male undergraduates who, having Pimms taken, loudly try feebly to cap each other's feeble jokes to impress women undergraduates ... why is it that the girls never even hint by word or body-language their contempt for all this pathetic male preening? Shall I ever understand Sex?

But, this year, a Scandal. Let me tell you all about it. In the final race of the top Division, the Scone boat, with effortless superiority, came first out of the Gut. It was followed by the Judas eight, now renamed Amazonia, and greeted by the traditional undergraduate cheers of  'Dobson, Dobson'. Close behind in third place was the Simon Magus boat. But as the Judas cox steered his boat over to the Rain Forest on the Green Bank, he went too close, and the eight came to a juddering halt tangled in undergrowth and baboons and viri probati. This enabled Simon Magus to bump it spectacularly, indeed catastrophically, seriously damaging the entire stern of the Judas boat. Thanks to a supernatural premonition, the Judas cox had already leaped out of his seat onto the bank, and so, alone of his crew, escaped serious injury. Klaxons all round, chaps!

The fourth boat out of the Gut was also going strongly; 'DLS' painted on its bow, and the familiar domestick cat of Shrewsbury College on its oars. It avoided the melee; and careered onwards at such a speed as to catch up with and to bump Scone (the crew of which, having seen Judas bumped, had foolishly slackened their pace). So Shrewsbury ended up Head of the River!

The scandal? It transpires that the Judas cox had been bribed with money and (he is a poor simple American boy) the lure of "Irregular Relationships"; the Senior Common Room at Simon Magus, led by Mr Provost himself, had organised it all!! It seems that my lord Chancellor may have to be called in.

Rumours abound about how Mr Orator might allude to such an episode at Encaenia in his Creweian Oration. Might he quote the Pro Caelio? Or mention the technological aspects of the death of Agrippina?

29 May 2020

Hate Liturgy? (4) Sub tuum praesidium ...

With the background afforded by my meditations upon the final paragraph of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo [GIED], I now revisit the ancient Marian prayer, which I examined early in this Mary Month: Sub tuum praesidium [STP]. My suspicions are quite simple: that it fits very snugly into the same cultural format, somewhere towards the end of the third century; the period when psalmi idiotici were still all the rage. You will remember that an early Christian papyrus contains this prayer [PAP means this papyrus] in one of its slightly differing versions.

Like GIED, STP appears to be aware of  the New Testament scriptures. Our Lady is addressed as Eulogemene, Blessed, the word used in S Luke's narrative of the Annunciation. PAP also has rhusai, which is very rare in the Gospels (the Byzantine version replaces this with lutrosai). But it has a high profile use, coming at the end of the Matthaean version of the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us ...".

Then there is the word eusplangkhnian, a noun with the corresponding adjective eusplangkhnos. This is a compound Greek word. Literally, it means 'having bowels well'. So the term appears in ... medical textbooks! As 'bowels' had a sense of compassionate emotion,  the meaning expanded to take in the idea of kindness or mercy. Interestingly, where the Roman version of the STP has praesidium [protection], the Ambrosian version, closer to the Greek, has misericordiam.  In the NT Epistles, the idea applies to human beings (I Pet 3:8; Eph 4:32). But in the 'Prayer of Manasses', it is applied to the Almighty: su ei Kyrios hypsistos, eusplangkhnos, makrothumos, kai polyeleos. Notice here hypsistos (Most Highest). The Prayer of Manasses hovered on the fringes of the Biblical Canon right down to the time of Pope Clement VIII; all we know about its dating is that it cannot be later than the early years of the third century.

But what I find of most interest is the description of our Lady in STP/PAP as mone hagne mone eulogemene. She is called "The Only pure, The Only blessed" just as her Son is addressed in GIED as "The Only Holy, The Only Lord, The Only Most High." [the Roman form of STP omits the Only; but it is retained in the Ambrosian form]. I followed Jungman in seeing these Onlys as exclusionary when we met them in GIED. How might that play into the context of PAP?

When the composer of STP/PAP wrote Only Holy/Chaste (mone hagne; in the Ambrosian version of STP, sola casta), he or she was using a term applied to divinities and more or less anything connected with them, but most especially goddesses. In particular, the Virgin Huntress Artemis. Artemis was regularly for Homer "Golden-throned". And Isis was "she of the throne". In an Isiac papyrus, Isis proclaims herself as having the title Hagne at Paphos.

Perhaps it hardly needs pointing out that STP, like GIED, was clearly composed at a time, like that of PF's Vatican, when polytheism and syncretism were still live problems and merited being implicitly refuted, even in a devotional formula.

But  what sort  of formula is STP? I have finished my study of GIED and Hate Liturgy; but, with regard to STP, I have a very tasty fact or two or three which don't appear in books likely to be on the shelves of many readers. These will follow.

28 May 2020

Word Play on Ascension Day

Since  a reader seeks elucidation of the text of an Ascension Office Hymn which I quoted recently, I here republish the account I gave last year.

The chairman of the coetus charged in the 1960s with revising the Breviary Hymns, Dom Anselmo Lentini, was convinced that 'word-play' ["nimius lusus verborum", as he put it] was out of place in texts for modern use. So he disliked two superb lines in an Ascension Day fifth century Office Hymn

culpat caro, purgat Caro,
regnat Deus Dei Caro. 

First he deleted them; then he re-admitted them but bowdlerised them.

[literal crib: flesh sins, Flesh cleanses, God rules, the Flesh of God. The Anglican Fr John Mason Neale produced a fine rendering into English verse: that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained / and God, the Flesh of God, hath reigned.]

Unbowdlerised, these seem to me two of the most sublime lines in Latin poetry, whether sacred or profane, during the last two and a half thousand years.

Visitors to the Cathedral at Cefalu in Sicily will have seen the same sort of word-play pressed into the service of the same shattering, profound truth. In this Norman church, built by King Roger II and adorned with a purely Hellenic mosaic Pantocrator of about 1141, a Latin elegiac couplet [hexameter + pentameter] goes round the arch of the apse and reads:

Factus Homo Factor hominis factique Redemptor
     iudico Corporeus corpora corda Deus.

[Made Man, I, the Maker of man and the Redeemer of what I have made, judge, as God Embodied,  bodies and hearts.]

Lentini was a learned and able and civilised man. It is telling, in my view, that even the very best of those who hacked away at the Liturgy during that most terrible decade could have been so blinded and limited by the fashions of their age. Proof, indeed, that Liturgy should only ever evolve organically and without ineluctable ideologies.

Praise to that redeeming and triumphant Flesh!