29 September 2008


Is it a record? At Cardinal Kasper's International Mass he shared the Asperges with a former Vice-Principal of S Stephen's House; the Gospel was read in English by one of the House's latest deacons; and most of the serving team were Staggers men. What sort of record, I wonder? In the Good Old Days, when the Diocese of Oxford was under the sound Catholic management of Bishop Kirk, whenever a major event was needed, the Principal of the House turned up with a team and managed things with that style and precision for which Staggers was famous. One of the Chapter members at Christ Church - I think it may have been Canon Jenkins, but they were mostly a rather weird lot - said 'I suppose we shall have Couratin here again with his circus'. To which Arthur is said to have retorted 'Well, old man, better a circus than a menagerie'.

It would be lovely if, whenever the Western Church needed really top quality serving, Mgr (Good) Marini sent for Canon Ward and his circus. And it could easily come to that. Have you seen the interesting names recently added to the list of Consultors of the Office for Pontifical Ceremonies?

28 September 2008


How brilliant. Was it Fr Rowlands's idea? To make the climax of our pilgrimage an event not in Lourdes but at the older nearby shrine of our Lady of Betharram? One can get a trifle tired of the two styles of architecture in Lourdes itself: that heavy and idiosyncratic French Gothic Revival in the older churches, and the concrete brutalism of the newer ones (all rather like the Jubilee Line, as one of our seminarians acutely put it). So on our last full day we went to a jewel of early C18 baroque so that, as Father put it, he could show us what we ought to like. A profound piece of theology. Wonderful shrine that it is, Lourdes lacks a hermeneutic of continuity. At the beginning of the C20, even the old parish church - S Bernadette's church - was demolished so that a new one could replace it in guess-what style (although you can see some of the altar furnishings from the church S Bernadette worshipped in Sunday by Sunday preserved in the chapel of the Fort which looms over Lourdes). But Betherram is an unbroken masterpiece in the same style: bright and joyous and playful; as Bishop Ladds put it, not a straight line in sight (except that in one of the side chapels I did see something rather nasty: a square kitchen table with some chairs informally around it). There are lots of those Salomonic pillars, curvy like the supports of the ciborium in S Peter's in Rome, reminiscent of Raffael's cartoons inthe V and A showing the Temple pillars at Jerusalem. The porch north of Oxford's University Church (the porch with the statue of our Lady which formed part of the indictment leading to Archbishop Laud's indictment and martyrdom) has just such columns. So here we have an art style diachronically continuous in its idiom, and synchronic in its tying-together of Caroline Anglican Oxford and post-Huguenot Conte Bearn. Except that Laud's porch doesn't have putti with wobbly little bottoms climbing up the pillars. You need something to go to Aquitaine to see.

Father, I don't know if you read this humble blog, but, if you do, I did like what you showed us and I think the whole pilgrimage was simply wonderful.


Walter Cardinal Kasper, the soon-to-be-ex-Prefect of the Christian Unity Council, undoubtedly set out to make gestures at the Lourdes International Mass; gestures to the old pre-Oxford-Movement style of Anglican Liturgy. Like old-style Protestant Evangelicals, he presided at the (ritual) North End; the altar lacked both cross and candlesticks. Somebody should have told Professor Kasper that since the 1840s Anglicans have somewhat developed their ritual practices. Indeed, some of our clergy, including my predecessor Fr Thomas Chamberlain, were physically persecuted for their doings. How different Kasperliturgie was from the pictures the tatshops of Lourdes were still showing: our Holy Father celebrating only a few days previously: seven candles and a crucifix on the altar. And how good it is to have a proper Anglican Pope after all these years. Kasper should copy his boss.

Two particularly interesting features, however. Despite the regulations that 'non-Catholic ministers' may not preach the Homily after the Gospel, Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England (does that make him de jure to be a Legatus natus of the Holy See?) did just that. Was it at the invitation of the Ordinary, Jacques our bishop? Or is Cardinal Kasper himself getting demob happy? And why did not Geoffrey Rowell carry a crosier? After all, as he reminded us, we were in his diocese.

27 September 2008


If the Lord spares me, I may post a number of comments on the remarkable week which many of us have just spent in Lourdes; the Society of Mary pilgrimage during which hoardes of Anglicans seemed to be taking over the basilicas of our Lady's shrine; a week during which I suspect that the numbers of those flocking to receive the Bread of Life at the hands of our bishops were far in excess of the number of Anglican pilgrims.

Two quite remarkable and iconic moments: firstly; the seminar room in which Cardinal Kasper and Archbishop Rowan Williams read their papers and tried to answer questions. I did not feel that either of them had anything useful or new to say about the current Anglican crisis; each of them seemed to feel that the agreements already secured under the auspices of ARCIC about issues in which few are terribly interested could be of value when new and vibrant issuies are creating new and acrimonious divisions. The erudition of the erudite twosome was interupted repeatedly by the malfunctioning electronic system which relayed instead the devotions elsewhere in the domaine of congregations praising the Mother of God, seemingly in every peasant patois known to Europe. I felt that a jocose Deity, or perhaps a Deity with a jocose Mother, was making a different point and making it rather well.

Secondly: the sight of Archbishop Williams prostrate on the uneven and damp rock beneath the staue of the Immaculate. He is successor not only of Augustine and Pole but of Cranmer (surrounded by his gang of foreign heresiarchs); of Manners Sutton (the avaricious pluralist who kept his sons and sons-in-law in the style of Whig aristocrats out of the inheritance of English Christianity) ... I wondered what these and so many other Archbishops would have said if they could have seen such a day. And Williams, too, a cleverer man than most of them!

What price now, the venom of the 'Reformation'; or the disdeign of the 'Enlightenment'. Peasants, shepherdesses, and Popery seem to have the last laugh.

21 September 2008

Whoever wants to be saved ...

There are quite a lot of rural areas in the Church of England where a mixture of conservatism and an inherited suspicion of the Eucharist means that Prayer Book Mattins has survived as a main Sunday service on at least some Sundays in a month. I wonder how many of those churches used, this morning, as the rubric ordered, the Quicunque vult (aka the Athanasian Creed).

Not many, I suspect. It is long, and it starts and ends with some politically incorrect observations about the eternal destiny of those who do not keep the whole Catholic Faith. But it is a superbly simple explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity: effective by the pedagogic device of repetition. You cannot read it without getting straight that each Person really is God and each Person is not one of the other Persons.

Laurence Hemming in his new book (you must read it) suggests that the elimination of this creed from Sunday Prime, back in the 1950s, is probably the reason why modern R C priests don't have Trinitarian orthodoxy at their fingertips. The disuse of it in the Church of England, even by Prayer Book 'enthusiasts' (BCP orders its use a dozen times a year), has certainly gone hand-in-hand with a practical loss of interest in the Trinity, which is now Boring and not Sexy. Conservative Evangelicals, while technically orthodox on the Trinity, de facto are much more interested in soteriology.

Remarkably, Common Worship actually allows the QV to be used as an alternative to the 'Nicene' Creed on Sundays. If ever again I find myself doing 'duty' in a mainstream church, I'll spring it on them.

18 September 2008


Some members of the S Thomas's PCC having asked for the restoration of the Asperges (which disappeared after the time of Canon Lucas; his association with our church began when he was a curate here in 1933 ... he died not long ago aged more than a hundred), and the rest seeming willing enough, I am wondering about the practicalities. If a Cantor is present, he can sing it; but without a Cantor the congregation might struggle. Purists will tut-tut about this, but I wonder if anybody knows a metrical version of it?

If not, perhaps it might not be hard to construct one. If one used the tune of Cwm Rhondda and allowed oneself a little dynamic equivalence in translating, one could start
Thou shalt purge me from my sins
With thy cleansing hyssop, Lord;
Thou shalt wash me white as snow ...

Any help welcomed!

Our Lady of Sandford

I'm getting more and more interested in the beautifully preserved and almost unknown Assumpta of Sandford-upon-Thames in Oxfordshire (see earlier posts). The likelihood is that it was taken there from some more prestigious church which possessed a relic of our Lady which could be fitted into the apparently 'reliquary' niche at the bottom. The Powells, the (subsequently) recusant family who had the Manor of Sandford also secured the property of the former Carmelite house at the end of Friars' Entry, opposite S Mary Mags church in Oxford, where Henry VI often stayed.

Does anybody know whether there was anything distinctive about late-medieval Carmelite iconography of our Lady? Or where such info might be sought? Another possibility is that the Sandford Assumpta came from the Dominican House in Oxford, which had its quire rebuilt around 1500, the conjectural date of our carving, and was a site of frenzy-feeding in the 1540s as parish churches in Oxford (little knowing how soon they were themselves to be looted and vandalised) sent labourers to walk off with its goodies.

17 September 2008

What is the language of Heaven?

As Lourdes cowers in terror at the imminent arrival of goodness-knows how many Anglican pilgrims led by our beloved and primatial Welsh Wizard, I wonder if someone could help me with the question of what our Lady actually said. I have always thought that she said, in the Gascon dialect of Occitan, Que soi era Immaculada Concepcion: where era shows the characteristic Gascon shift from the ela of other dialects (prescinding of course from the knotty question of whether Gascon is an Occitan dialect). But the erudite Fr Martindale, in his 1957 CTS booklet, gives Que soi l'Immaculado Councepciou. There must be someone out there in the blogosphere with enough historical knowledge and philological learning to put me right on this.

Incidentally, I think I recall Metropolitan Kallistos Ware once suggesting that (bearing in mind that the Mother of God was speaking on the Feast of the Annunciation) what she meant was 'I am the one in whom the Logos has been immaculately conceived'. Did he really mean this, or was it an example of his Beatitude's deliciously feline sense of humour?

Daft women and spineless men

I heard this evening of a liturgical innovation in a normal, middle of-the-road C of E parish. The 'Worship Committee' decided that some women (who felt that they had the gift of healing) should lay their hands on all those kneeling at the altar rails to receive Holy Communion. This happened before the Blessed Sacrament was administered.

Enough people complained about this daft little ritual for a change to be made: that the Salutary Imposition should happen after the Sacrament had been received and that those who wished not to avail themselves of its benefit could intimate as much by folding their arms upon their chests as the Impository Nutters approached. Ah: and, by the way: a couple of women also lurk in a side chapel in case anybody returning from the altar Needs To Talk About Something. And this is not a parish in which womenministry is so unavailable that a safety valve is necessary to satisfy the pent-up hunger for feminine pseudoliturgy: it is a parish crawling with womenpriests.

The Rector, I was told, is too weak to put a stoppers on such nonsense.

Is this a novelty, or is it a widespread fashion which I, as so often, am the last person in the world to hear about?

16 September 2008


.... is of not knowing whom to commemorate. I've always had a soft spot for S Januarius; the thought of all those small but perfectly-formed Neapolitan crones screeching their abuse at the Saint if the relic of his blood is lazy about liquefying; the clergy smoking and gambling in the Sacristy and occasionally strolling out to see whether it's happened yet; the episode a few years ago when a Sceptical Journalist (oxymoron?) was given a prime spectator's position so that he could see and report what 'really' happened and who was flabbergasted to see that the liquefaction really did happen; the Archbishop then, as he took the Reliquary around to be kissed, pressed it upon the Man of the Press with such generosity that his nose was nearly broken ... now there's real religion for you.

But then there is S Theodore of Canterbury; and the wonderful thought of a Pope of Rome appointing a Greek-speaking Syrian monk to be Archbishop of Canterbury ...

Of course, if the modern Liturgy were not so neat, so reformed, so Enlightenment, so uncluttered, so logical, so etc., I might be able to say Mass of one with a commemoration of the other.

13 September 2008

St Aidan and St Ninian

The New Liturgical Movement blog has an article by the distinguished Dominican theologian Fr Aidan Nichols. Fr Aidan is a kind and sympathetic friend of Catholic Anglicans; he sat as R C consultant with the Forward in Faith group which put together Consecrated Women, our theological response to the imminent consecration of women bishops in the Church of England. I rather sympathised with his point that the title of that book would be misunderstood by Roman Catholics to whom consecrated women are nuns; Fr Aidan's suggested title was The Voice of the Bridegroom.

Fr Aidan knows more about Anglican history and culture than most Anglicans: it is a curious and disconcerting fact that most Anglicans are now completely uninterested in the Anglican tradition. An earlier fruit of Fr Aidan's learning and sympathy was The Panther and the Hind, in which he writes about the different Anglican traditions, their histories, and what they could each offer to a united Christendom. The book makes no secret of Fr Aidan's conviction that a 'Group Solution', repatriating the viable part of the Anglican faith-group to unity with Catholic Christendom, is a desirable way ahead. The same belief is implied in his more recent book, The Realm.

His New Blackfriars article recognises the contribution which our Catholic Anglican liturgical tradition can make to the reform and resacralisation of Western Catholic worship and of the architectural attitudes that go with it. He is not unmindful of the great role played by Sir Ninian Comper, and of the immense beauty of Comper's buildings. What a complete contrast to the heavy Teutonic contempt which Sir Nikolaus (Come and play with me in my Bauhaus) Pevsner loved to pour on Comper's oeuvre: 'limp' was perhaps one of his nicer words.

Roman Catholics sometimes have trouble understanding why Catholic Anglicans, who are so very much more orthodoxly Catholic than many Roman Catholics, are slow to leave their heritage behind them and to submerge themselves in the institutionalised philistinism of the English RC church. Fr Aidan's article might help them to understand.

Audemus dicere

Today's post has got hidden away acouple of days down.

12 September 2008

Why do they get my dates wrong?

Whenever I do a draft in advance, store it, and then publish it, the Machinery publishes it with the date of my first draft and not the date when I publish it. I'm finding this irritating, not least because busy people might hit this blog, spot an old date, and travel swifrtly elsewhere without having a look. What can I do to choose the dates I want?

10 September 2008

How many Names has she got?

The three prayers for the new Mass of the Most Holy Name of Mary remind us that, as well as Mary, she has the Names Aeiparthenos, EverVirgin; and Theotokos, Mother of God. The latter, of course, goes back to the determination of the Council of Ephesus to protect the belief in the Divinity of the One she bore; and the former is found in the Conciliar documents of the first Four Councils. Slipshod Biblical scholarship enjoys disputing the Perpetual Virginity of our Lady; the ARCIC document on our Lady secured agreement by saying that 'our two communions are both heirs to a rich tradition which recognizes Mary as ever virgin' ... words which, characteristically, avoid actually saying that we believe it.

Recent Roman documents enciurage those who need a festival of Our Lady of Such-and-such-a-place to select September 12. This seems to me unnecessarily unimaginative. It is fun to have special days which apply to this shrine and not to others. The whole glory of theIncarnation is specificity: that the God who was incarnate in one place (and not others) of one Woman (and not others) manifests particular graces through this place(and not others).

Mass for September 12

The Memoria of the most Holy Name of Mary on September 12 may be optional, but our Holy Father is observing it in his visit to France. This blog continues to encourage the observance of this festivity by offering translations of the new texts for this day (of course, we await definitive rendering from New ICEL when their integral translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal is published and authorised). The English Missal, of course, offers a translation of the pre-Conciliar Mass.

Exegesis of these new texts will follow soon.

At the Entrance
You have been blessed, O Virgin Mary, above above all other women on earth by the Lord, the Most High God, for He has so exalted your Name that the lips of men will never cease to praise you.

Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God, to all who celebrate the glorious Name of Blessed Mary the Virgin, that she may herself gain for us the benefits of your mercy.

Reading 1 Gal 4:4-7 or Eph 1:3-6 & 11-12

Respons. ps Luke 1:46-55 R. Blessed is the Virgin Mary who bore the Son of the eternal Father.

Alleluia cf. Luke 1:45

Gospel Luke 1:39-47

Over the Offerings
We beseech you, O Lord, that the intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin may commend our offerings, and make us, as we venerate her Name, acceptable to your Majesty.

At Communion
All generations will call me blessed, for God has looked with favour on His lowly servant.

After Communion
Lord, may we gain the favour of your blessing at the intercession of Mary the Mother of God, that we who celebrate her honourable Name may perceive her help in all our needs.

9 September 2008

Sept Ember

We drove a few miles south of Oxford the other day, to a party. Richard Liwicki, who entered Lancing College as a pupil the same term in 1973 as I began my three decades there of priestly ministry and teaching Latin, Greek, and Theology, owns The Bothy Vineyard and he (and wife Sian) are feeling quite cheerful because one of their yummy products has won a prestigious prize for English wines. The party was for those who help them with the picking, as well as for odds and ends like us.

And now we come ( bear with me, there is a continuity here) to the September Ember Days, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of next week. There are four Ember seasons in the year (hence the Latin name Quattuor Tempora, the Four Times). I am giving a word of explanation because, while the Church of England and followers of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (categories which are not without a certain overlap) still retain them in the Calendar, the post-Conciliar Church in its wisdom has more-or-less abolished them.

The Ember seasons seem to have been Christian replacements for the old Roman pagan celebrations of the various harvests; Roman religion operated on a principle of propitiating the gods so as to dissuade them from visiting the crops with pestilence and ruin (it is often a matter of deploying legalistic formulae to get the gods ...for example Robigo, Mildew ... to stay away! Theophanies, for the pagan Romans, were regarded as disastrous!). The September Ember marks the time of the Mediterranean vintage (Richard's comes a bit later). Which is why the old Ember Masses are full of references (look in your English Missals or EF prayer books and see how many you can spot) to the fruits of the Earth and not least must and wine.

Because they were celebrated with fasting, the Embers were regarded as suitable times for preparing for ordinations; which accordingly happened at the Saturday Vigil - which is why the Saturday Ember masses are so long. They have six readings, which were originally twelve because they were sung in Latin and Greek. It is as times for Ordinations that the Embers retain their status in the C of E; and the Prayer Book Calendar still orders them to be kept as Fasts.

Not that many people do; except, I presume, for members of the Prayer Book Society who, if they stick to their principles, must fast more than any other Western Christians! Think twice before joining it!

8 September 2008

Anglican Liturgy

I found myself wondering the other day (this won't be of interest to non-anglicans) whether it is factually accurate to regard the Prayer Book Eucharistic Rite as somehow normative; the original rite to which others are optional alternatives or johnny-come-lately substitutes.

What I mean is this. We believe that the C of E was founded in 596. Between then and 1549 the Roman Rite was used, exclusively, daily.

After 1559, The Eucharist very quickly slipped out of use in the majority of Anglican churches. The Prayer Book Eucharist was the rite enforced by Parliament, but it was very rarely used because the Eucharist was very rarely celebrated.

Whenever some movement got under way that recovered Patristic and Catholic sacramental and liturgical theology, and the Eucharist began to be celebrated frequently, almost instantly the Prayer Book rite was found to be not fit for purpose and was discarded or transformed.

Rather than regarding the Prayer Book rite as our base-line liturgy, I wonder if we should not instead frankly acknowledge that it is an eccentric rite which has never been central to the life of the Church.

For example: rather than bullying Principals of seminaries to expose their charges at least occasionally to this rite, I wonder if it would not be sounder to encourage exposure to the Roman Rite; either in the form it had reached by 1558, or in the 'Extraordinary Form'. Perhaps it could be in English and done from the good old English Missal.

This would give our students for the priesthood a far more historically accurate notion of where we come from.

Don't get me wrong. The Prayer Book Eucharist is a de facto part of our faith-experience as Anglicans. It nourished and sanctified Charles Stuart, William Laud, the Tractarian Fathers. It created a hieratic idiom of liturgical English which I regard as a precious treasure. I am a member of the Prayer Book Society.

But I wonder whether we shouldn't regard it as even more important to have, say, an English Missal Society or - what about this - a Priestly Fraternity of S Gregory (FSSG) for the practical experience of the Roman Rite in the Anglican context.

And it would help us when RCs ask that dodgy question 'What exactly is it that you want to bring with you into Full Communion?'

Female discontinuities

Perhaps, I thought this morning, I ought to omit, as the OF allows, the Lord's genealogy in the Gospel for the Festum of the Nativity of the Mother of God. A bit of a burden before breakfast. Then I thought: No; there's something mysterious about that long list of names. The male names are striking enough, integrating the Lord into the sweeping continuities of Israel's history. As S Paul put it in Romans 9:1-5, 'They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever [don't let 'translators' bamboozle you into putting a full stop after God so as to eliminate this striking assertion of Christ's Divinity].

But the women are all the more remarkable. Tamar who prostituted herself to her father-in-law; Rahab the the resourceful harlot; Ruth the foreigner; Baathsheba who so curiously seemed to be unaware that the bath she used was overlooked by King David's rooftop viewing place. It is as if the evangelist is making a point about the Virgin Birth: of course Christ is a descendant of David by virtue of his patriarchal lineage even though he was not Joseph's son secundum carnem. Matthew does this by showing the family tree to have been, so to speak, helped on its way by the most remarkable collaborations between (sometimes even wayward) human behaviour and divine predestination.

So I read it: attempting exegis as I did so by the knowing, nudge-nudge way I read the phrases about the women. But that was questionable, wasn't it? One isn't supposed to intrude personality like that into the proclamation of the Gospel Word, is one?

1 September 2008


Apparently - according to another blog - one of the clergy being considered for Westminster rejoices in the nickname 'Catwoman'. In this bleak Ecumenical Winter, I regard that as one of the most promising signs for a long time.

Catholic Anglicans have for long been divided from Genuine Catholics by culture rather than theology. At least in my day, Anglo-Catholic seminarians and clergy tended to be regarded as Honorary Woofters and accorded 'camp' nicknames ... even if, like me, they had already acquired a woman and were actively planning an extensive campaign of procreation. Roman Catholic clergy, on the other hand, seemed so much more Manly. We now know that one or two of them were not above a little paiderasteia, but theirs seemed a culture of betting on the geegees, emptying Whiskey bottles, playing cards, and knocking the hell out of golf-courses. Many Anglo-Catholic clergy with a touch of Roman Fever were kept in the Church of England by the realisation that if they poped their new clerical colleagues would be men whose ideas of witty small-talk consisted of a detailed stroke-by-stroke account of their last five rounds of golf and the iniquity of the bookies in the last dozen Irish Derbies.

So there you go. I wonder what odds I could get on Catwoman?