29 November 2008

Tridentine Anglicans

In a recent number of New Directions, Fr Digby Anderson wrote about the need for more Anglican priests and bishops to celebrate the Old Mass. Of course, since the motu proprio making clear that any priest of the Western Church may celebrate this Mass without further permissions, there can be no doubt about its legality in the Church of England. The Holy Father has ordinary, immediate, and episcopal jurisdiction over all the Faithful.

I wonder if there are any Anglican clergy or seminarians out there who would be interested in becoming a small and informal group or network to support and promote the Old Mass, whether in Latin or in the English Missal version - which surely must have acquired liceity by immemorial custom.

FSSA, perhaps? (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Augustini)

Stowe Celtic Sarum

Interesting comments on my last post. The early Irish Stowe Missal in Latin was published in the Henry Bradshaw Society series; I doubt whether it's still in print. The chaplain of Lampeter did produce a (depapalised) English translation in something called - I believe - A Celtic Eucharist. If I did a Demonstration Celebration I would of course do it in the Latin: Latin was unvernacular to the Irish peasants who worshipped in the 790s, so do do it in a vernacular would be grossly inauthentic. I would also keep the congregation standing outside the church for the whole sevice, with the clergy starting outside and entering the church only after the Gospel. If there were torrential rain, that would only make the whole thing even more genuine. See my 2002 paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (Vol 102C, Number 1). Copies, if there are any left, at only 4.50 Euros from the RIA, 19, Dawson Street, Dublin2.

I did make plans a few years ago to celebrate a Sarum votive of the Five Wounds down in Cornwall to commemorate the 1549 Rising. This was being organised by a sound and admirable priest who reluctantly had later to tell me he had discovered that most Cornish Nationalists seemed to be antiChristian and those who weren't appeared to think that Methodism is the authentic Cornish indigenous religion: so his lovely idea had to be aborted. I had been planning a low Mass, and I discovered that while the Sarum Missal provides very full rubrical directions, they presuppose a Cathedral High Mass. It is not at all easy to work out what exactly Sir Mumpsimus did when he was racing through his Chantry obligation at six o'clock on Monday morning; my plan was to supply this void with help of the customs with which the preConciliar Dominican Low Mass used to be celebrated: Fr Aidan Nichols was a great help. But it all came to nothing.

27 November 2008


'Stand up', the nagging deacon of the Byzantine Rite reminds us just before the Gospel. And so we should, as the soundwaves in the church are transsubstantiated into the true and very voice of the Rabbi from Nazareth. But in C of E tradition, we don't; at least, we don't when the NT reading at Mattins or Evensong is a Gospel reading. But we were all put to shame the other evening. All right-thinking people from anywhere near Oxford had gathered for Pontifical Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, and Pontifical Benediction in the Church of S John the Evangelist in Hinksey. (What a superb occasion; Fr Wilkinson organised it to coincide with the blessing of his new Christus Rex; and Fr Ward, who runs our seminary, preached with his usual wit and elegance and learning. How can anybody possibly want to belong to the poor sad expiring Diocese of Oxford when such splendours are on offer on the sandbanks of Ebbsfleet? Though there were things to make us sad - such as the sight of the S Mary Mags ombrellino, vexillum and reminder of even happier days when that church was the Catholic centre of Oxford and before the arid heterodoxies of the wybrew incumbency.)

So when we got to the NT reading in Evensong, we all slumped, Anglicans to a woman, while a passage from S Matthew was read. All except for the Pontiff himself, his deacons, and the Altar Party. They stood; and so they should. And so should we have done.

In the rites, old and new, of the Western Church, the Gospels are not usually read at the Divine Office. This in itself is a significant fact: it says that there is something special about the Gospel words of the Incarnate Word; that they should not be cheapened by being used lightly or sprung on us as apparently chance and equivalent alternatives to the other parts of Scripture. Where a Gospel is read in the Office - for example, as the climax of lengthy vigil - it is proclaimed with the proper and traditional rituals to a respectful, attentive and standing church.

Bishop Andrew was right. And surely we should also move to having Gospel readings within the Divine Office proclaimed by a deacon and with candles and incense. You know it makes sense.

25 November 2008

More on buses

Despite what some friends think, I don't have a lot of a problem with the adverts they're putting on the London buses about how there probabably isn't a God. We live in a rainbow country. My only suggestion would be that our atheist/agnostic friends should show a bit more awareness of our cultural diversity. Do they realise that some London buses go into areas where English is not everybody's first reading language? Why haven't they considered putting their advert into Koranic Arabic for buses that go through mainly Islamic suburbs? Or into the various culturally Islamic languages? And they could enhance the implied cultural engagement by including their home addresses on the adverts. I would willingly supply the local branch of Al Qaeda with road atlases.

Likewise with the individuals who are are defiling Hosts on Youtube. My main anxiety, again, is the cultural narrowness of the enterprise. They could always add to their repertoire the doing of nasty things to Korans. In fact, like the agitprop Trotskyites of the 1960s, they could turn it into street theatre. It would have maximum impact if they did it outside mosques just as the faithful are emerging from Friday Prayers.

Perhaps I should make clear that I am indulging myself a degree of irony; I would in fact offer no support at all to any sort of ritual desecration of anything sacred to any Faith or Nonfaith community. My point is that there's a certain sort of secularist who's tremendously brave about attacking Christianity, but very shy about attacking Islam - the coward who only attacks soft targets. And I have a fair bit of admiration for the way Moslems ensure that people don't take liberties with their religion. At the heart of it is the social fact that Islam is still a religion for men as well as women. Christianity has, for a couple or more generations, been turning into a feminised religion. Ordination of women is only a symptom of this: but symptoms generate their own momentum, and in a generation's time, when the overwhelming majority of 'clergy' are women, it will be regarded with the same contempt that many people (misguidedly) have for largely feminine spheres such as primary school teaching, nursing, et al..

So, yes, I do have a bit of a sneaky envy for those Islamic clergy whose main pastoral problem is to restrain their 'radicalised' yoof.

24 November 2008

It is amazing ...

...how one can be misrepresented: as in my comments on the Holodomor. I am accused of making a criticism of Jewry, when what I wrote was 'some Zionists (by which I do not mean all Jews) ...' My criticism was not even of 'all Zionists'. I am perfectly aware of those Jews, both in Israel and in the diaspora, whose contemplation of the Shoah leads them to say, in effect, 'And, dreadful as it was, it also serves to remind us that other peoples have suffered in the same way'. And the silly fury about lebensraum inspires me to wonder whether the author is aware of the many Jewish settlements built in the West Bank, and around Jerusalem, and the security wall which includes some of those settlements within Israel, so as to 'create facts'. Are there not Jews living in these settlements? If so, what is wrong with writing about livingspace?

The next contribution, which makes claims with both the tone and content of which I would not wish to be associated, is no reason why I should submit to being whipped into line.

In fact, that first contribution confirms me in my views about the attitudes of 'some Zionists'. In broader terms, my preference would be that both contributors would conduct their private warfare in some place where it doesn't affect me or my blog.

22 November 2008


I wonder if I'm the only one who , when he hears talk of the Lottery (although I've never actually had a go at it) fantasises about what he would do if got the twelve million. This week, I have no doubts. I would pay for a lavish advertising campaign on the sides of buses, with this message:

20 November 2008


This week's Secret (Extraordinary Form) must be one of the shortest prayers in the Missal - and one of the most strikimg (I wonder if it survived into the Ordinary Form). Haec nos oblatio, Deus, mundet, quaesumus, et renovet, gubernet et protegat. We ask the Lord that the Oblation we are about to offer may cleanse us; wash us from our sins as our baptismal cleansing did; may make us new again, keep us in the new creation which is our Lord Jesus Christ who promises to make all things new; might direct us as the helmsman does the boat; and guard us from the pirates, human or diabolic, who might draw alongside and try to swarm up the sides of our frail craft.

19 November 2008

Countercultural Cardinal

My computer now having returned from the doctor, I can pay tribute to the Mass - Extraordinary Form - in Magdalen Chapel for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Reginald Pole; and the elegant address by Fr John Osman. I'm sure there were some Cradle Catholics there, but there was a very good showing from Anglicans, not to mention former Anglicans.

We modern Catholics are so at odds with the circumambient culture that I sometimes uncomfortably wonder whether we are really just people who get our daily fix from being countercultural ... as perhaps our Victorian prededcessors did (remember that lovely book The Glorious Battle?) {Oh dear, I don't seem to be able to do italics now} In the Middle Ages, instead of being staunch Catholics, would we have been Wycliffites or ProtoLutherans? Pole reassures me. In Bodley, there is a copy of Bishop John Grandisson's Vita of the blissful Martyr S Thomas of Canterbury with the owner's name written inside, in elegant Italian humanist script. That owner was Reginald Pole, and his ownership was a year or two before Henry VIII had his mother murdered. You will remember how Pole, upon hearing this, thanked God that he had a mother who was a martyr.

In the years before the 1549 Rebellion against Protestantism, many of those who were to join the Rebellion in Cornwall will have seen one of the plays which were performed in their round, open-air theatres, the Plen-an-gwarry. It contains a Wicked King whose name is ... Tudor. His desire is to impose an alien religion - Islam! The Western peasantry were apparently brought up to suspect the Political Correctness of their time; and the readiness of intellectuals such as Pole to resort instantly to countercultural categories (and there can be few categories more counterculural than that of martyrdom) convinces me that even in the the age of Christendom, Christians were capable of independant judgement.

14 November 2008

Not so Maudlin

A splendid evening, thanks to a kind friend whose college it is, at the Magdalen Guest Night. Not even the splendours of food and of company could entirely distract me from the linenfold panelling which, apart from some plaques inset coimmemorating the life of S M M, is plausibly reputed to have come from Reading Abbey at its dissolution. By coincidence, today is the Memoria of the the last Abbot, Blessed Hugh Cook of Farringdon, and his martyred brethren.

It is an interesting college; in the 1630s, when elsewhere Puritan iconoclasts were smashing the Saints out of the windows, Magdalen inserted a brand new set of them, a baroque equivalent of the windows at New College and All Souls in what Professor Nikolaus 'Bauhaus' Pevsner described as the'dry repetitive logic of English perpendicular gothic'. And a generation later that enlightened monarch James II installed a Roman Catholic President - to whom a memorial has recently been placed in the chapel.

God willing, next Monday I will be back there for the Requiem to be offered on behalf of the last Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Pole, who (together with his queen) died 450 years ago - our last primate to have been in peace and communion with the See of Peter.Quod Deus vortat in bonum.

8 November 2008

Good bye Geza

Today, a conference at S Stephen's House organised by Margaret Barker and in the area of Temple Studies. The topic was Melchizedek. And what a wonderful demonsrtration it was of the ephemerality of the Historic Jesus. I am old enough to rember feeling excited by Sammy Brandon's Che Guevarra Jesus of the 1960s and decidely less so by Geza Vermes's construction of the Jewish Holy Man Jesus. The Jesus we met today was a Jesus aware of his Divine, priestly, and kingly status; a Jesus whose perceived inner calling was to be Melchizedek. In fact, a Jesus very much like the Jesus whom we met in Professor Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth; particularly in the chapter on the sermon on the Mount where the Professor brilliantly exploits the work of the American Jewish Rabbi Jacob Neusner.

I'm not an advocate of being slavishly at the Cutting Edge of the Latest Theories on Christology, or, indeeed, of anything else. Most Cutting Edges are Bunkum. But just sometimes when you pull the lever of the one-armed bandit you do get that crash of cascading dubloons. I rather think that this is one such moment. Particularly if you read Margaret Barker and Joseph Ratzinger (his next volume is to be out soon) and Jacob Neusner and Laurence Hemming.

Thirty years ago when we were on a seaside holday my children discovered a machine in the amusement arcade which was paying out every time. Conscientiously, they milked it until it was dry. Are we in a phase a bit like that now?

5 November 2008


Two or three days ago I saw an afro-american interviewee saying that she would vote for Obama because he is black, so as to show that the colour of a person's skin doesn't matter.

I'm a decrepit and decayed product of what I recall somebody described as Old Europe. Could some smart with-it person explain to me the logical processes which make the World's only Superstate function?

4 November 2008

Missa sine ministro ... how?

If there is nobody to make the answers, how does a priest celebrate Mass?
(1) The Extraordinary Form; the old Tridentine Rite either in its Latin form or said using the English Missal. Here the priest makes the replies - all of them - himself. After all, as well as being sacerdos he is also a member of the laos, the plebs sancta Dei. I find that even the Blessing at the end gives me no trouble; I think of myself as blessing the whole parish beyond the walls of the church. The Missal itself tells you how to modify the reply to the Orate Fratres; the only other change you have to make is that in the Preparation at the foot of the altar, like Michelle of the Resistance, you say the Confession only once and omit et vobis fratres/et vos fratres and then you say misereatur nostri ... nostris ...nos .... This information is given in reliable manuals bearing Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, such as O'Connell. Remember that, although you are alone, you say every prayer with your lips moving and in a low murmur. This applies to both Uses of the Rite and is essential for validity.
(2) The Ordinary Form, aka the Novus Ordo. Para 211 of the General Instruction of 1969 said that the priest omits salutations and the final blessing, to which the Third Edition adds monitiones, advices. I take this to mean, for example, that the priest omits both the Orate Fratres and its response; that he omits the entire dialogue before the Preface; the Pax; Behold the Lamb of God; and so on. The Second Recension of the Third Edition completely revised the rites to be employed in this type of Mass; itself an indication that this form of liturgy is not obsolescent but a living part of the Western Rite. I give directions for how to do it simplified for when there is no server.
Having venerated and kissed the Altar, the priest stays at the Altar, where the Missal has been placed, and says the Introit; In the Name ...; Penitential Rite; Kyries (and Gloria); Collect. If possible, he goes to the legilium for the Ministry of the Word (and Creed); for the (optional) Intercession. Mass then continues as you would expect, with the omissions described in my last paragraph, until he has received Communion. Then he says the Communion Antiphon and does the ablutions either at the Altar (in which case the chalice is left at the side of the Altar) or at the Credence (when the Chalice is left there). Mass ends with the Postcommunion. He Kisses the Altar, venerates it, and retires.
This could be a rather brief Rite; I suspect most clergy will wish to use the First Roman Eucharistic Prayer so as to inject a slowing-down, and some gravitas, into the Mass. But why not take the oportunity to get chummy with the Old Mass?
Personally I find an early morning Private Mass a profoundly appropriate way to start the day. The main problem is that distractions creep in more than when I have a congregation ... but perhaps that's only my frailty. I do advertise these Masses, and sometimes they are not so private!

3 November 2008

Missa sine ministro ... whether...?

How does one say a Private Mass - a Missa sine Populo? Well, of course, there is no such thing as a Private Mass. Any Mass, as Eric Mascall once explained, whether celebrated alone in a Saharan hermitage or in S Peter's Rome with cardinals galore and hundreds of thousands of the Faithful, is equally the Sacrifice of Calvary, the public sacrifice of Christ's Church, the great mystery of every place and age. Quite a thought as one stumbles up to the altar in an empty church on a freezing winter morning.
But we do use these slang terms as convenient shorthand for a Mass where the priest is assisted only by a server; or, even more reductively, by someone in the pews. (Incidentally, since the Motu proprio, laypeople who happen to know that there is such a Mass happening, are welcome to turn up, and that still doesn't stop it technically being sine populo - further proof of the point in my first paragraph: as well as of papa Ratzinger's creative cunning.) There is, however, an even more 'Private' Mass: one at which noone at all is present except the celebrating presbyter.
Until recently, such Masses were forbidden (not only in the C of E but also) by Vatican authority [General Instruction, 1969, para 211] nisi ex gravi necessitate. Such necessitas might have been the need to confect the Blessed Sacrament for somebody in articulo mortis. But the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici modified this to nisi iusta et rationabili de causa - for a just and reasonable cause - and the semi-official Question Box of Msgr [now Bishop ... how these S Stephen's House liturgists do get around ...] Peter Elliott points out that Canon 904 'strongly recommends' daily celebration 'even if the faithful cannot be present'. The present Holy Father does not seem often to miss the chance of strongly commending daily celebration when addressing priests and seminarians. Now the General Instruction has been modified to bring it into line with the canon. And the old para 4, now para 19, has been modified to state that, in celebrating, the priest fulfills his principle role, so that he ought if possible to do so daily. This makes clear that even if there is another Mass that day in that church, or in another church to which the priest could get, at which he would be able to receive Communion but not to (con)celebrate, the laudable desire himself to celebrate would give him a just and reasonable cause to celebrate alone. If there were a concelebrated mass in which he could take part as a concelebrant, the matter might not be so clear.
I hope to do a post a little later about the ritual employed in doing this both in the Ordinary and in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.