31 October 2008

Whatever happened to the Resurrection?

The other day I went to the funeral of a dear friend, Jack; and came away wondering where God had been. The service seemed so Man-centred. There was no emphasis - as there would have been in a Medieval rite - on the need to pray for the dead lest he end up in Hell. Indeed, white rather than black or even purple stoles were worn by the clergy. But this was not an indication that Resurrection Glory had become the major theme of the celebration. It was barely mentioned except in some of the set Common Worship formulae. There were tributes, there was extensive biography; there was indeed a beautiful singing of the Hail Mary, but it was in Latin which, I imagine, must for most of those present have thrown a veil of opacity over any idea that Mary, sweetest advocate of the departed, was at the heart of the ceremony (this is confirmed by the fact that the tributes were all in the vernacular). Dr Cranmer's own typically late-medieval use of funeral rites as a sort of memento mori ... repent, for you will die too ... was also lacking. In few areas of Liturgy can there be as little of a Hermeneutic of Continuity as in those surrounding Death.

I left feeling very weepy, and grateful that divine grace had moved me to say a Requiem for Jack.

14 October 2008

Concordantia Missalis and Pelagius and Smoke

Enormous thanks to the correspondent who revealed the existence and usefulness of the Concordantia Missalis. I could create quite a case out of those references.

But ... am I right? ... it doesn't give the sources of the formulae; whether from a Sacramentary or newly composed. Where would I turn for that information?

On another subject entirely ... what the Pelagians thought about grace can be accessed via the de Gratia Christi et de Peccato Originali.

On another subject entirely ... a friend points me to a blog called Holy Smoke, which appears under the pseudonym 'Damian Thompson'. The writer seems to have a dislike of Catholic Anglicans which, in the comments anonymous others have added to his post, becomes almost pathological. He and they appear to be quite sympathetic to at least some of the features of our Holy Father's agenda but to be totally unaware of the long history of sympathy towards Catholic Anglicans shown by Joseph Ratzinger; and, for that matter, by theologians closely in line with Ratzinger's thought such as Aidan Nichols. It would be a sad day for the 'Thompsons' of this world - but a splendid day for Catholic Anglicans - if papa Ratzinger were to give Nichols the See of Westminster.

'Damian Thompson' is a curious pseudonym. It invites speculation about ... but no; perhaps correspondents can unpack its semiology.

13 October 2008

The Fulness of Grace

There is something that has been nagging at my mind for some years as I have said my Office according to the Liturgia Horarum. It is the word plenitudo, or fulness. I seem to keep on coming across it, but foolishly never make a note. But one example would be the nova Collect for the memoria (happily, a Festum in the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District, God bless it) of the Presentation of our Lady in the Temple, November 21: ... concede ut de plenitudine gratiae tuae nos quoque mereamur accipere (grant that we also may be worthy to receive of the fulness of thy grace).

Now it may be that this collect, and others with similar locutions, are not (as I confess I suspect) novae compositions, but come from the ancient sacramentaries of Western Christendom. Or that there are within the Tradition parallels; although the Concordance s.v. pleroma does not offer anything relevant from the Pauline Corpus. Perhaps someone with more skills than I possess in Information Technology is in a position to resolve this question.

Why does it worry me? To be frank, because I suspect it of arising from a semi-Pelagian mindset. Euchological formulae which are indubitably old ask that we be delivered from our sins; or saved from a very nasy fate; or cleansed from our vices; or be able diabolica vitare contagia. But those fulness phrases seem to me to suggest that we've already got quite a nice lot of Grace or Redemption or whatever, but are turning to God for a useful top-up, or to receive the total works. Which is not so much semi- as fully Pelagian. My suspicion fits disconcertingly well with the devastating critique of the ideology of the novae collects by Lorenzo Bianchi in the 1999 CIEL Redbook (Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal; these Redbooks, now sadly discontinued, were a most valuable resource. But Laurence Hemming's projected Journal will undoubtedly be more than a replacement).

12 October 2008


What a splendid two-day Forward in Faith Assembly we had in London; how easy to come away on a high. But, as I told my wife about it, I began to wonder whether some of the layfolk present will have understood some of the Jargon. Do we clergy always explain our jargon?

For example: we passed a resolution about how we understand our ecclesiology in the context of ARCIC. What this means is that since the 1960s, we have been glad to remain in the C of E because we were told that the discussion group called ARCIC was sorting out the differences between ourselves and Rome so that we can have Christian unity; full unity with Rome. Have we always explained this to our people? And have we explained our great hope and prayer that we will keep our Anglican traditions, our Anglican way of life, our Anglican churches and shrines ... while having the great joy of being in full communion with the rest of Catholic Christendom.

The last address was given by the S Thomas's Honorary Curate, Fr Jonathan Baker. It was characteristically brilliant. He gave the first reason for being 'cheerful' as the fact that we have such a wonderful Pope now. But have I ... and other clergy ... explained why we are so keen on Benedict? That Benedict is the most Catholic Anglican Pope ever; he has actually explained the limitations of Papal power as no previous pope ever did; how the pope is the guardian of the Ancient Tradition and not some autocrat who can change and innovate according to his own whimsy. And have we explained how Benedict's liturgical programme is exactly what we have gone for and done since 1833; and continued doing even when people have taunted us with the jibe that 'it's all guitars and clown-masses in the RC Church now'.

Perhaps more sermons on all this are called for.

11 October 2008


The calendar on my bedroom door - the 2008 SSPX calendar with glamorous pictures of ecclesiastical architecture - showed us, in September, the Chapel of the Anglican Sisterhood of S Peter in Woking; built by J L and F L Pearson. Now, in October, we have an even more splendid former Anglican convent chapel, at Bristol, where the architect was G F Bodley. Each is now a centre for the mission of the SSPX. How admirable that there is someone to take over these places and continue in them the style of liturgy for which they were designed and built; there can belittle doubt that they would otherwise, even if listed, have suffered a dire fate. I know a former convent in Sussex jampacked full of superb glass by Harry Clarke where, of course, the glass is preseved but in a most unfortunate context.

You've never heard of the great Irish maker of stained glass, Harry Clarke? Shame on you. His glass is not in the least like that of Sir Ninian Comper except in that each of them did learned glass with several sermons in each pane. And that the glass of each of them is, at its best, absolutely stunning to look at.

10 October 2008

What's the time of Mass?

The preconciliar Missal lays down that Mass may be said between Dawn and Midday. History isn't, of course, as simple as that . At an earlier period in Western Liturgy, Mass on fasting days was to be said after None ... at a time when None was in the afternoon. This is why the Oratio super populum in Lent is appointed to be also the Collect at Vespers. Celebrant and communicants would be fasting, and no doubt one reason why the times of services otched gradually earlier is the reponse of human frailty to this regimen. I hope to share some thoughts on another occasion about the Eucharistic Fast. For the moment, suffice it to say that Mass in the morning was the general rule until Pius XII permitted evening masses, thereby undermining one of the most insistent campaigns which Catholic Anglicans had been waging since the start of the Catholic Revival.
Of course one accepts that this flexibility has been one of God's new gifts to his Church in the last couple of generations. I do not know if there is any significant body of Western Christian that condemns it; the SSPX certainly countenances evening Masses. But I wonder if we ought to regard it as the norm, so that when arranging the times of Mass in Retreats or pilgrimages we just fix them for any old time. I suggest that, if the Hermeneutic of Continuity means anything to us, we ought to start off with a prejudice in favour of beginning the day with Mass. This doesn't mean getting up at the crack of dawn; on a retreat I can see no reason why Mass should not be at 8.30 and be followed by a comfortable breakfast. We shouldn't let what the catering staff have grown accustomed to providing become a barrier to facing the Lord who comes to us with the rising of the sun so that the Mass is what our entire day springs out of. And on our Lourdes pilgrimage, it was entirely natural for us to meet for Mass in the evening of the Monday of our arrival. But I wonder whether it was necessary to delay the Tuesday's Mass until the evening.
Nor am I suggesting that later masses which suit workers, or those who do not live near the church which they attend, are anything but a Good Thing which should continue. I'm not suggesting anything which would be awkward or uncomfortable or make Mass less easy to attend. I'm simply asking whether some of us could benefit in our own personal discipline from what nearly 2,000 years of Christianity did find to be a manageable norm.

9 October 2008

Any vexillologists out there?

During the marvellous week of our pilgrimage to Lourdes - what a boost it gave to our optimism and self-confidence - there was an interesting phenomenon which I haven't seen commented on elsewhere. In front of the basilicas, there are some flagposts. While we were there, two flags flew: the Cross gules on the argent field, for S George and for England; and the arms of the See of Canterbury: azure an archiepiscopal cross in pale or surmounted by a pallium proper charged with four crosses paty fitchy sable. What a pleasure it is always to see these arms, reminding us of happy days when the Archbishop of Canterbury received the pallium from the Successor of Peter (of whom he was also, I believe, Legatus natus) as a sign that he was a major Archbishop in peace and in communion with the Holy See. What a pleasure just for a moment to be able to forget all that has divided us since 1559; to imagine that one has just woken up from a gross nightmare and that the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury is leading a great Catholic pilgrimage - greater even than September's - from an England which had never been sundered from the rest of Christendom.

Now to come down to earth: what is the convention at Lourdes with regard to those flagposts? Which countries and which prelates normally get to have their flags flown? Despite the crowds of Croats, Italians, and Irish, I didn't see their flags.

7 October 2008

What are we going to hear on Friday?

The Daily Torygraph having leaked the recommendation of the Manchester Group that Catholic Anglicans should continue to have Flying Bishops in the imminent gynaecocracy, we are all wondering what the House of Bishiops will have made of it in their meeting of Monday and today. Any little feelings of amusement we might have at the hilarious fury with which the Chaplain of New College greeted the news is less important than the question of what we shall be told at the National Meeting of Forward in Faith on Friday and Saturday. Whatever the House of Bishops has or has not decided, we need to know about it and to be able intelligently to discuss it. Otherwise either we shall not have the oportunity of informed discussion before the July meeting of General Synod, or we shall have to be recalled: a greater inconvenience for those who live in Devon or Cornwall, Yorkshire or Northumberland, than it is for those of us who live in London or Oxford. It would be very unfortunate if our bishops, out of loyalty to Club confidentiality, were unable to inform us and lead us. If this situation does look like arising, let us hope that some responsible person will blow the gaff to the media so that it can be discussed as something that has been put into the public domain. This, surely, is too critical a situation for us to be the victims of gentlemanly rectitude.

In 1992-3, I remember the fury that many felt because it seemed that the loyalties of the episcopal 'leaders of the Catholic Movement' were more with episcopal collegiality than they were with their fellow Catholics. We can do without those sorts of divisions this time. Another thing 1992-3 taught us was that Right Reverend Fathers do not possess all the wisdom and that mere laity, presbyters and seminarians (not to mention the womenfolk of the seminarians) are entitled to a say in our own future. If we have one.

6 October 2008

The S Thomas's Ecumenical Outreach

Although we are in no real sense part of the Church of England, we at S Thomas's are by no means lonely - quite the opposite. Today Oxford's 'Syrian Orthodox' community celebrated its first Liturgy in our church. It was a jolly and a reverent event; apparently only in the Protestant tradition is worship either a lugubrious tedium or else an even more tedious attempt at informality and withitness. I suppose it's a measure of my own alienation from 'Anglicanism' that I felt at home with the 'Syrians' and yet I feel like a tart in a nunnery on those rare occasions when I can't get out of worshipping in the post-Christian folk-Protestant tradition which pervades most of the Cof E.

And that is despite the fact that I couldn't understand a word of what was going on: although the congregation is in communion with one of the Patriarchs of Antioch, most of its members are from Kerala in South India and the Liturgy was in the the Malayalem language with only a few ecphoneses in Syriac (not, anyway, that I can now remember any of the Syriac that I got a smattering of when I was doing N T Textual Criticism with the late George Kilpatrick). But the Shape of the Liturgy was clear enough and the grammar of its ritual conventions would be familiar to anybody nutured in any ancient Tradition; the way the incense was used; the way blessings were given and received; the way the Blessed Sacrament was treated; the respect shown to God's priest (see the bits in Fortescue/ O'Connell on the solita oscula); the chanting; the versus orientem; even details like flashy tat and lacey albs. If one were on a semi-desert island and this were the only liturgy available - not an EF Mass or a Byzantine Liturgy anywhere on the group of atolls - one could be very comfortable with it.

The 'Jacobite' Patriarch they are are in communion with (there are, I fear, quite a lot of hierarchs with the title Patriarch of Antioch) is the one we used to call 'monophysite'; although I share the common suspicion that it was terminology rather than deliberate heresy that separated the more moderate of S Cyril's followers from Chalcedonian Christianity.

The provisional plan is that this community should worship at S Thomas's on the first Sunday of each month at 12.00. You would be very welcome (but remember to sit, men on the left, women on the right, just as people did in medieval England and still do in many traditions East of the Adriatic). It wouldn't matter if you got taken ill because most of the women seemed to be nurses from the JR. Best of all, come to our Solemn Mass at 10, have coffee and refreshment, then settle down for a Syrian. Plenty of Sunday parking in the grounds of the Old Vicarage next door.

5 October 2008

Hermeneutic of Continuity

Catholic Anglicans can only feel amused sympathy as the Roman Catholic Church grapples with the question of whether Vatican II was a new Pentecost which rejected and put behind it the tradition of the past ('a hermeneutic of rupture') or should be seen - and interpreted - as in unbroken continuity with what went before (the 'hermeneutic of continuity' described by our Holy Father in his most important Magisterial utterance so far, the Christmas allocution to the Roman Curia soon after his Election). How we pray that Benedict's teaching may take hold in the Roman Catholic Church and begin the great enterprise of driving what Paul VI called 'the smoke of Satan' out of the Church.

But I said 'amused', because this debate is the very one which we have been living with - perhaps I should have said 'fighting' - for 450 years. In my College here at Oxford there is a dark and horrible picture showing a group of C16 heretics lurking round a table ... and on the head of each of them, a Pentecostal flame. Consider what happened when Cranmer's first Prayer Book came in. There were, of course, the courageous 1549 Rebels about whom I have several times posted. But there were also those who conformed yet within a hermeneutic of continuity. Bishop Gardiner argued from the actual text of the 1549 Book that it expressed Catholic doctrine. Bishop Bonner, apparently, only occasionally performed new rites in his Cathedral and preserved the old 'Apostles' Mass' and 'our Lady's Mass' in its side chapels as 'communions'. What the parochial clergy did can be discovered from what the Royal Injunctions of 1549 felt it necessary to forbid: 'Item, for a uniformity, that no minister do counterfeit the popish mass, as to kiss the Lord's table; washing his hands at every time in the communion; blessing his eyes with the paten or sudary; or crossing his head with the paten; shifting of the book from one place to another; laying down and licking the chalice of the communion; holding up his fingers hands or thumbs joined towards the temples; breathing upon the bread or chalice; showing the sacrament openly before the distributiion of communion; ringing of sacrying bells; or setting any light upon the Lord's board at any time ...'.

Ever since, this game has been played out among us Anglicans. At the dogmatic level, there have been those who have interpreted the XXXIX Articles in accordance with the teachings of the continental 'Reformers' while others sought their true interpretation in the writings of the Patristic and later periods. The whole point of the Catholic Revival, of course, was to claim both in the Tracts and at the Altar that the Church of England was not a Tudor or Protestant confection but a body in continuity (ministerial, liturgical, doctrinal, moral) with the preceding centuries.

The tragedy has been that as the hermeneutic of rupture gripped the RC Church after Vatican II, many of our people lost heart ... 'What's the point of making a fuss about X and Y and Z when Rome doesn't bother about them any more?' Countless Catholic Anglican clergy have struggled to uphold Catholic Truth in regard to some area of Faith or Morals only to be undermined by the fact that Fr Flannahan down the road is saying the opposite. Every innovation proposed among Anglicans has been advanced on the back of a confident claim that an ever-changing Rome will undoubtedly itself hop onto that particular bandwagon ... just give it a pontificate or two longer. Our adversaries taunt us with this every day with regard to the womenbishops question. Yes, 'Catholics' have been one major factor in the corruption and destruction of everything we had worked for and recovered and built up since 1833!

2 October 2008

Any Padre Pio experts out there?

Let me explain my problem. I say my Divine Office according to the postconciliar Liturgia Horarum in Latin because that is what Vatican II mandated except in what it anticipated as the very rare exceptions when a cleric did not know Latin. When a new Saint is added to the Universal Calendar, I photocopy the new proper from Notitiae, the Vatican periodical which gives the official texts of the Acta of the Cogregation for Divine Worship and whatever, and gum it in.

This is where my problem starts. The typists who process these documents into print are manifestly a ropey and highly careless lot (presumably this is why, in the Collect for Padre Pio, the word presbyterum is misspelt). There's nothing new in this; indeed, the problem goes back to the 1987 edition of the Breviary, which is full of misprints - sometimes a word misspelt; sometimes an impossible punctuation; sometimes a couple of lines missed out. Some mistakes are easy to handle; for example 'italianisms' like spirito instead of spiritu; misto instead of mixto; ogni instead of omni. Others reduce the text to meaningless gibberish so that the only recourse is to go into Bodley and if possible look up the originals.

But even in this context, the Lectio Altera for S Pius of Pietrelcina is quite outstanding. I've counted five major grammatical errors of the most elementary nature: the sort of howlers I would not have expected my IV Form Latin set to make. What does this mean? That the quality of those who produce the official Latin texts of the Latin Church has plummeted to an even more appallingly low level than before? Or could it be that Padre Pio wrote his letters in Latin and that the mistakes are the Saint's own mistakes? Saintly mistakes, so to speak.

I would love to know.

1 October 2008


Back to Archbishop Rowan and the double act he did with Kasper. Correct me, those of you who were there, if I got it wrong, but I have a distinct recollection that he expressed the conviction that Community is more important than Ideas. He got this, with his usual unfailing felicity and elegance, out of the narrative of Luke's Infancy narratives, where the Annunciation sets up Community between Mary and her enwombed God, and the Visitation extends that Koinonia. [[I think he used the Greek word; I thought the less well of him for doing so: I have a rooted aversion to the game of impressing the troops with hellenisms. But I applaud his apparent belief that Luke's Infancy narratives are 'historical', just as I do his definition of the Resurrection: 'Empty tomb and no Body'.]]

Being nasty, however, I did discern within myself an unworthy suspicion that he had in mind the Current Crisis ... Oops, Crises. So did a highly intelligent laywoman sitting beside me, who observed, as I stroked her knee with my left hand, that he shouldn't have brought his problems (and our crises) to Lourdes. Was he saying that we should hang around in the C of E because Community is more important than Ideas?

Because if he was, perhaps there is a question he could answer. Why, if Togetherness is more important than being sure about your intellectual integrity, does the Anglican Community, en bloc, not submit to the See of Rome? And why do his own problems (hinted at in the following debate as they have been in obiter asides over the years) with the Petrine Ministry not merit being set aside in the greater cause of Christian Unity?

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at a meeting of the House of Bishops at which Rowan unfolded a policy, based on blind submission to Vatican I (Pastor aeternus), for Corporate Togetherness with the biggest Christian communion.