30 April 2009

Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence (continued from the previous post)

Llewellyn the ludicrous is the author of most of the articles which relate to Liturgy. He gets under way by assuring us that "The Last Supper was described as a simple meal during which Christ invested ... bread and wine with symbolic significance". And he carries on talking about the 'symbolism'. But the Last Supper was described in the Synoptic Gospels as a Passover Meal, and the Passover was nothing like a Pizza on your knee during the Simpsons. 'Simple' and 'Symbolic' be damned. But I suppose you could say that there have been Protestants who have seen the Supper in purely symbolic terms. So NL is simply opting for one among a variety of differing opinions. Though why the unwary should be bamboozled by his unqualified assertions into thinking that his theological views are objective and uncontroverted fact, I don't see. (Curiously, he goes on to tell us that origin of the word Mass is much disputed. I thought everybody knew ... yes, all that.) But what is unforgivable is his repeated claim that Catholics belief in the Mass is "magic". This is not only mistaken but offensive. Why should a civil servant (well, I presume NL is paid out of public funds) be allowed to insult the largest segment of the world's largest religion? I bet Art Historians would be more careful if it were a matter of giving an account of Islam in an exhibition about Islamic artefacts: and so they should be.

NL appears to know nothing of the history of the eucharistic vestments; he thinks that priests wear chasubles rather than dalmatics simply for practical reasons. But rather than catalogue factual errors, let's have a look at his style. I would describe it as the English of a not-very-bright member of the Lower VIth who is trying to sound clever and important. Even when not just plain wrong, he is off-centre; for example, the word 'host' does not mean sacrifice but sacrificial victim. The Host is not "bread or bread-like" but just plainly bread. An example of his weakness for the verbally grandiose comes in his very unsurefooted account of the Immaculate Conception, where he writes about our Lady's "immaculacy"; but we just don't talk like that, do we? And he is conceptually grandiose too, as when he sees the ablutions at the end of Mass as "a necessary precaution in the in the world of the Baroque, where the forces of good and evil were understood to be playing out an endless competition for power and where holy materials had to be kept from falling into the hands of evil-doers and the forces of darkness". Well, I just thought we treated the crumbs of the Host with such care for the simple workaday reason that when something is so terribly holy, that's the natural thing to do. He surmises that the monstrance contains a lunette as an allusion to the crescent moon beneath the feet of our Lady, so that "The Host partaken of at the eucharist is seen as the body of the redeemer, incarnated and born, miraculously, in the immaculate person of his earthly mother". Stone the crows, guv, I just thought that a narrow crescent was the simplest practical way of propping up a Host in a monstrance. Subconsciously, NL repeatedly slips into treating the Catholic Religion as some obsolete cultural phenomenon that has imaginatively and hypothetically to be reconstructed by clevers like himself. He could have strolled down the road to the Oratory and spoken to Fr Rupert Machardy, who appears in a short video playing in the gallery, so as to check up on what real practicioners of the Catholic Faith who still live this religion in the present day actually really do believe. Curating an exhibition on the Aztecs has to be a matter of inferences from artefacts. But - good heavens - the Oratory House actually adjoins the V & A.

But, Oh No. That's not the way of things with 'experts' in Art History.

29 April 2009


When I told my erudite Churchwarden about the splendours on view at the V & A, from the John Baptist Chapel in the Church of S Roque in Lisbon - an apotheosis of the concept of the prefabricated building; it was commissioned by King John and made in Rome, blessed by the Pope, and then assembled in Lisbon - "I've seen it all", she remarked, "in a nice little museum in Lisbon that nobody ever visits". Well, people are coming to gawp at the exhibits now. That's what the blockbuster exhibition is all about: hype. The V & A already has a set of galleries immediately to the left of the main entrance, full of exquisite baroque exhibits. When I have a bit of time to waste in London, I drop in and have another look. Except that I don't, because it's pretty well always closed (economies) when I want to drop in. It's open now, but, of course, with lots of gaps-with-labels denoting the exhibits which have been moved upstairs to the blockbuster.

The other feature of the blockbuster is the big glossy book. What I don't like about these is that they are all full of errors. Year after year, I shake my head in disbelief at the errors in latinity and in what the 'Art Historians' write about Christianity. Of course, I am not an Art Historian. But - tell me if you can spot a gap in my logic - since in the very limited fields in which I am competent, including Latin and Liturgy, I find these volumes riddled with errors, I can only assume that the sections on subjects on which I know nothing are equally unreliable.

So I've stopped buying them. Except when I am particularly interested in what the exhibition is about. And I must confess that I do regard Baroque Liturgy as the highest point of human cultural development. So I bought the book. And my fears were, as ever, fulfilled. Particularly in the area of Liturgy. Which is pretty unforgivable, since the V & A is literally a stone's throw from the Brompton Oratory, where there must be something like a dozen clergymen who could have looked through the text and alerted the author to his mistakes.

The author in this case is a halfwit called Nigel Llewellyn. (More later.)

28 April 2009


Well, today I said an EF Mass with the Mass Justus ut palma and the Collect from the newest Missal for S Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. He is one of my favourite saints and when I am Pope I shall make him a Doctor of the Church. I feel he does not disapprove of my celebration.

On Friday, I hope to say an EF Mass of SS Pip and Jim (11.30); because when the calendars of S Pius V and BCP and Common Worship coincide, somehow it feels right to follow the convergence.

"Feels", you cry in outrage. "Christianity is not about feeling. You attitude is totally illogical".

I suppose you're right. But I do think you're a bit hard on me.

27 April 2009

What is the really High Church way to wear a stole?

I have been to see the Baroque exhibition at the V & A; I hope shortly to do a post on the gross ignorance on show in the labelling of the ecclesiastical items and in the glossibuch that goes with the exhibition. But briefly ...

... the book has picture of a stole made in Rome (part of a sumptuous commission from the King's Majesty of Portugal) in the middle of the 18th century; it seems to show three ribbons attached to the stole, each with an exotic bobble at the bottom of it. One ribbon is affixed to the middle of the stole; the other two some way down each of the ends.

Does this mean that the stole was worn with the midpoint, where the cross is, well down the back, and with a ribbon securing it to the girdle? My old edition of O'Connell says that auhorities differ about how far down the back the stole should go, and I believe sometimes it was, if long enough, tucked into the girdle. There is a photograph of Fr Hope Patten vesting for Mass in the Sacristy at Walsingham, and with the stole a long way down his back.

I habitually wear the stole like this; but it does leave the stole at risk of slipping off one's collar bone and down one's shoulders. Perhaps the other two, shorter, ribbons are to prevent that?

24 April 2009

Mental Reservation ...

... was also used by Anglican Catholics for purposes of survival under the tyranny of Henry VIII. The most famous example was the recognition by Henry VIII as Head of the Church by the Convocation of Canterbury. The assembled clergy signed up to the Government formula, but only with the addition of the words "as far as the law of Christ allows". They were 'mentally reserving' the proposition that Christ's law did not allow the royal headship at all.

Nowadays, the clergy of the C of E are not required as once they were to sware to use the Prayer Book "and none other"; they have to undertake to use only the forms "allowed by canon". This undertaking, of course, is easy peasy. On simply entertains a mental reservation that by 'canon' is meant the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Rome for the Latin Church in 1984. This, indeed, is the position demanded by our ecclesiology anyway. The same reservation modifies the sense of the the oath of canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop "in all things lawful and honest".

A possible additional Reservation when swearing the oath of canonical obedience would be that a See is in fact vacant; having been forfeited by heresy. Sedevacantism, indeed! It could be argued that when a bishop has deliberately and sacrilegiously purported to ordain women to the priesthood; has provided perhaps half of the parishes in his diocese with spurious ministers offering mere simulations of the sacraments; has flouted the authoritative teaching of the Roman Pontiff in Ordinatio sacerdotalis; has ignored the personal plea of a papal emissary not to go ahead with the 'consecration' of 'women bishops'; then he has been guilty of such contumacious, persistent, and unrepented heterodoxy embodied in heteropraxy that he must have forfeited his see. Personally I am not too sure about this. I am not a canonist, but surely, for us papalists, under the Code of 1984, it is necessary for the Sovereign Pontiff, by formal canonical procedings, to depose a bishop before his see becomes vacant. Naturally, Anglo-Catholics who do not take a fully consistent papalist position might not see it in quite this pedantic way, and might indeed feel that since there is no practical way of dealing with the rampant episcopal heresy in the modern C of E, one has to live with models of automatic forfeiture. But ... c'mon ... Johnny Barchester is a very nice man; mired in heresy though he may be, he is terribly sincere. Lean over backwards and grasp at any shred of an argument that, taking the rough with the smooth and considering everything in the round, he might still just possibly be the Bishop of Barchester. Give the bugger the benefit of the doubt. That's what I say.

But what, I hear you ask, about the Barmy Bishop of Bux?

Ahh .....

23 April 2009

More Ministries

Doorkeepers and Subdeacons do not exhaust the list of ministries common in the earlier Christian centuries. And these diverse ministries could have profound theological and ecclesiological significances.

Take the Unity of the Universal Church. This could be expressed by the inclusion of names on the Diptychs; by the exchange of letter of Communion from one Church (or bishop) to another. But the commonest everyday expression of it was by the acceptance of Christians travelling to an unknown place by their fellow Christians there. They might show 'Commendatory letters', but the essential expression of their acceptance was the hospitality they were given. And, in down to earth terms, this was largely a matter of hospitality shown by the Widows of a Church.

And let's not forget that the Widows were not an ad hoc group; they were a formal body who sometimes sat in particular places in the Ekklesia. Admission to this Order had formality attached to it, just as did admission to Holy Order. And it appears that sometimes Widows might have been called presbytides.

I don't know how such riches might be restored to present-day Church life. But ... and this is the point of my posts on Monoliturgy and Vicepresbyters ... modern styles of liturgy (often more among Protestants than among Catholics) give little sense of the Church as a corporate body with a plurality of ministerial callings. And, to that extent, they might fairly be called 'corrupt'.

22 April 2009


A friend has sent me a fascinating article on the problems faced by Anglican Catholics in the 1530, during the 'Gestapo' regime of Henry VIII. Faced with an oath repugnant to conscience, a man might use words which bore a double meaning - or even involved homophones - so that what the recipient of the oath understood to be said, and what the oath-taker himself intended by the words, might be radically opposed. A famous text-book example is: the householder asked by a murderer if his intended victim were within could reply "non est hic", where 'est' might mean 'is'; but might come from the verb 'edo' and mean 'is eating'. Apparently, the Master of Queen Catherine's Household is said to have sworn " that the King se ha hecho [has made himself] head of the Church", where the words are identical in sound to sea hecho [may be made].

Nothing much changes. This all reminded me of the occasion in the 1960s when, as one of a group of seminarians on retreat just before Ordination, I had to read the words of an oath to use the liturgical forms in the Prayer Book "and none other". While Evangelical and Liberal ordinands cheerfully uttered the oath as a meaningless formality and intending to ignore it, we Catholics, with better formed consciences, said "and one other"; refering, of course to the good old English Missal. Another and very public example of equivocation was the abortive 1960s scheme for Anglican-Methodist unity. I, rather doubtfully, voted for it after the distinguished canonist Eric Kemp, one of the authors of the Rite of Unification and later to be Bishop of Chichester, explained that it had been constructed on the principle of Equivocation, so that what the Methodist Ministers thought was just a rite to confer the sort of extra graces they would need in a united Church, would in fact be a fully formed and watertight Conditional Ordination.

Then there is Mental Reservation. Let's do him the day after tomorrow.

21 April 2009

Good news: subdeacons

In many places, clergy and people are reaching into old vestment chest and hauling out the dalmatics and tunicles which have not seen the light of day since the 1970s. Masses are being celebrated which increasingly represent and resemble the old ritual and ethos of the 'High Mass'. (A little girl in S Thomas's was fascinated by the sight of the three clergy one behind the other "like carriages in a train". It did not occur to her unpolluted mind to complain about how they 'had their backs to the people'.) I think this is all splendid. It means, of course, that very often a priest has to use his diaconal status rather than his presbyteral. But does this matter (any more than it matters that we all find it practical to give communion from the ciborium in the Tabernacle rather than, as the newer texts prefer, from hosts consecrated in the same Mass)? And the restoration by Benedict XVI of his Cardinal Deacons functioning in dalmatics and mitres suggests that by receiving a sacerdotal ministry a man does not lose the right to appear publicly in a diaconal role.

But suppose there are not three clergy. According to the old rules, anybody who had entered the clerical state by being tonsured, or possessed a 'minor order' - one thinks nowadays of a Reader or a commissioned Acolyte - could (maniple-less) function as a subdeacon, and many Anglo-Catholic shrines in the 1960s acquired Readers for just this purpose. But it meant a lot of pointless swotting to get the 'qualification'.

I think the role of Subdeacon is ripe for revival. Despite its abolition by Paul VI and its disuse in the C of E since 1559, the order is of enormous antiquity. And it has considerable advantages.

It does not legally exist. A bishop cannot ordain a Deacon without creating somebody who, in civil as well as canon law, has the significant status of a Clerk in Holy Orders. And doing this is circumscribed by statute and canon. He cannot license a Reader without having regard to the canons and regulations. But canons and statutes and regulations know absolutely nothing whatsoever of subdeacons. So in ordaining them a bishop would be performing a legal nullity. He wouldn't have to worry about anything except the suitability of the candidate for the role! And, because the law of the Church, and the praxis of mainstream Anglicanism, have no place for the Subdeacon, the order couldn't turn into an automatic stepping-stone to the priesthood, as the diaconate has. The subdeacon would remain a Minister in the local church to which he was ordained.

This seems to me one way of beginning the recovery of the Sunday Parish Mass as a corporate interaction of varied ministries. Go on, you know it makes sense.

20 April 2009


Having coined 'Monoliturgy' in my last post, I now have another new coinage for you. By Vicepresbyters, I mean individuals who substitute for a priest because there is a shortage of priests. For example: deacons; (in the Cof E) readers; catechists; religious women ... Now: all of these could be part of a corporate ministry at a corporate Eucharist under the presidency of a (presbyteral or episcopal) priest. I would not then designate them Vicepresbyters. But in fact, such ministies largely exist to perform whatever functions a priest would perform if there were one present - except for those specifically sacerdotal functions which only a priest can do: largely consecrating the Eucharistic Elements, Absolution, Unction. Everything else ... reading Scripture, preaching, administering Communion from the Tabernacle, doing Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals ... is done by these Vicepresbyters in the absence of a real presbyter.

Putting my two neologisms together, I would say that we see the worst of every world in the modern liturgical scene in the combined corruption of the vicepresbyteral monoliturgist. We see the fruits of this corruption in the Church of England, when Readers, who will do Evensong or a 'Family Service', are actually preferred to a priest offering the Adorable Sacrifice by worshippers who dislike and resent sacramental worship; and, in the Roman Catholic Church, when feminist nuns, so I have been told, may welcome the absence of a priest because the vacuum enables them to substitute for one.

Next time I will discern some Green Shoots of Recovery.

19 April 2009


I have in mind to complain about Liturgy which has just one Minister: the celebrating priest. I call it Monoliturgy. But a couple of caveats:
(1) I am not attacking 'private masses', in favour of which I have recently blogged, or guild masses, or ritual masses such as those at the conferring of sacraments or at funerals , etc. etc.. What I have in mind is the main corporate Mass of the Lord's People on the Lord's Day. Which ought, in my view, to express in the involvement of formal ministries its corporate and very special status.
(2) This has nothing to do with sacerdotalism but a fair bit to do with clericalism. In the centuries after the Reformation, the C of E was repeatedly nagged by Puritans and Presbyterians to make its worship more of a clericalist monologue.

We have an account of the ministry of an ordinary North African town in 303. We learn of Paul the Bishop; of Montanus, Victor and Memorius his presbyters; his deacons Mars and Helios; his four subdeacons, and a considerable squad of sextons (Dix SL 24). Clearly Sunday Mass at Cirta was no Monoliturgy but a corporate 'performance' involving a diversity of ministries which were clearly not informal or ad actum, but formal and structured. But a normal Sunday Mass nowadays may have a deacon - if the parish is lucky enough to have a transient deacon preparing for the priesthood, or a 'permanent deacon' - but in the great majority of cases, although various laypeople may read, or intercede, or serve, or sing, or (extraordinarily) administer Communion, there will be no formal ministries involved except for that of the Priest. True, an Oriental Liturgy ought always to have a deacon; but in my experience Orientals in the diaspora often cannot afford a deacon. A priest, of course, is necessary for there to be a Eucharist.

Together with the almost mandatory deacons, what used to be called the 'Minor Orders' supplied the rich interaction of ministries which characterised worship in the early centuries. But they turned into mere stepping-stones for aspirants to the presbyterate and have now disappeared. Or have they? More on this shortly.

17 April 2009

Fr Arthur Middleton and my Biretta

I would never dream of lauching one of my snide attacks on our great historian Fr Arthur Middleton. He is infinitely more learned than I could ever hope to be; has deployed his erudition unsparingly for the Catholic Cause; and is a far nicer person than I am. And it's not so much anything he has written that I have problems with, but what you might call the Body Language of what he writes.

He is a dab hand at showing how the Anglican tradition of the last 450 years bears upon the problems besetting our Communion at the moment; and he does it with magisterial elegance. But the incautious reader just might get the impression that our tradition is that of the last 450 years, and that the Church of England seeks its customary authority and traditional teaching in the divines of that period. I'm sure Fr Arthur would be among the first to agree that the Church of England ... the provinces, that is, of Canterbury and York ... dates from around 596 and that the last 1400 years (despite such nastinesses as the Tudor Disruptions and the Great Rebellion and the Dutch Invasion) are an essentially unbroken continuity. But what I am sure is implicit in his writings may not always seem explicit to some.

This is where my biretta comes in. My previous two posts have shown the uniqueness of the C of E as a Roman foundation, and the significance of the Ancient Tradition that our clergy ... or at least, the clergy who Receive the Chrism from the bishops of Canterbury, Richborough, and Ebbsfleet ... dress like the clergy of Rome itself; pompomless biretta and all. I am reminded of Dom Gregory Dix's words: Under a succession of archbishops who were all missionaries from Italy (this includes the Greek S Theodore) or Saxon disciples trained in their school, the Anglo-Saxon church was 'ROMAN OF THE CITY' in its rite, in its calendar, in the dedications and fittings of its churches, in its church music and in ecclesiastical details generally.
That is how I define Anglicanism, to which I owe unswerving loyalty: to be ROMAN OF THE CITY. Here lies what, in the post-Conciliar jargon, we might call our Anglican Foundational Charism. S Thomas's church expresses this by the picture in the baroque reredos above the High Altar: a superb copy of the painting Raffael did for the High Altar of the church of Sancta Maria in Ara Caeli on the Capitoline Hill: the heart of Rome where the Imperatores concluded their Triumph processions and where our Lady is said to have explained to Augustus the Advent of a yet greater King. I do my best to lead my people in being ROMAN OF THE CITY. And I notice that Bede, in his account of all the paraphernalia sent from Rome in 601 to sustain the life of our young church, includes sacerdotalia vel clericilia indumenta: the things that priests or clerics wear. That is why the purest expression of our unique Anglican identity is to be as ROMAN OF THE CITY as possible; in big things, like dogma, in middling things, like the use of the Canon Romanus, and in little things, like pompoms.

As Tully used to say, dixi.

As traditionalist American RCs get angrier and angrier about Aborma being welcomed at "Catholic" Universities, I hope they will not fail to notice the good news. Apparently he has decreed that CIA operatives guilty of torture will not be prosecuted. While that is thoroughly bad news in itself, it does have just a little silver lining ... it could be the beginning of the end of all this mindless adulation.

16 April 2009

Immemorial Custom and the Third Rome and my biretta

Since the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, there has been a formula often used by Father when introducing something into the ritual of his church which his people have never seen before: "From today, as our custom has always been, such-and-such will take place." Let me explain the immemorial custom which I am minded to create: that our Clergy are entitled to wear the customary garb of the Clergy of the City of SS Peter and S Paul.

Three cheers for the Russian Orthodox Church and for Patriarch Cyril; but I question Moskow's appropriation of the style "the Third Rome" (Constantinople being the Second Rome). Canterbury has a far better claim to that title. The Church of Canterbury is the only major Western European church ... I think ... to have been founded directly from Rome. When S Augustine arrived at Canterbury, King Ethelbert knew all about Christianity; he had a Frankish Christian wife and she had an episcopal chaplain. But Ethelbert, I suspect, while keen to enter the European mainstream by becoming Christian, was too canny a politico to adopt his wife's religion and look like a client of of his wife's Merovingian father. He must have found it a godsend to receive a mission directly from the Pope of the City; bringing with them authentic Roman liturgical books (two hundred years before Charlemagne tried to standardise and Romanise the liturgy of his empire), Roman chant, oodles of Relics of the Apostles and of the Roman martyrs, and, importantly for him, a direct relationship with the fontal Church of Rome and its prestigious Bishop. Ethelbert thus leapfrogged the Merovingians in terms of European status. France and Spain and even such parts of Italy as Milan and Aquileia never got their religion and all its usages direct from Rome in this way; and if Roman Christianity spread later to Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, this was usually through Anglo-Saxon, Romanising, missionaries.

And when they got to Canterbury, S Augustine, his successors and collaborators set about creating there a Little Rome. Augustine's Cathedral Church, like the Lateran Basilica in Rome, was dedicated in honore Sancti Salvatoris. As Rome possessed the great cemetary basilicas of S Peter and S Paul outside the walls, so Augustine and his monks founded the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul outside the old Roman walls of Canterbury. The basilica of S Mary Major was to be represented by the Church of S Mary to the East of the Abbey. Another example is given by Michael Stratton: "The monastery of S Andrew on the Caelian hill in Rome which S Gregory had founded and from which S Augustine came, was built on the land formerly belonging to S Pancras's family ... furthermore, the rising ground in Canterbury on which [the Canterbury church of] S Pancras stands perhaps suggested a 'Caelian Hill' in England ..."

This is why the Foundational Charism of the fellowship of Churches which sprang from the Augustinian Mission is to be ROMAN OF THE CITY (I hope to return to this phrase tomorrow). And this is why, from time out of mind, our clergy (or am I drawing this too broadly: is it only the clergy who Receive the Chrism from the 'Augustinian' pontiffs of Canterbury, Ebbsfleet, and Richborough that enjoy this privilege?) have had the customary privilege of dressing like the clergy of the City of Rome; birettas without pompoms, etc. etc. etc..

15 April 2009

My biretta ...

... has had a busy life. It is not a 'show' biretta meant to go with a lace alb, but a working hat, out of shape and greying because of country churchyard burials during which, in the 42 years of my ministry, it has protected me from the elements.

It is a miraculous biretta. The pompom is gradually changing colour ... this is not a joke but sober fact ... from black to a reddish colour. I find this embarassing; I have never wanted to be a canon, and I don't think I would accept a canonry if offered. I wouldn't mind having a blue pompom like those Gricigliano chappies, but I don't know how to go about becoming their Anglican Annexe. But what am I to say when somebody asks me "Which Cathedral, Father, are you a canon of?"

I am minded to remove the pompom and go pompomless. But wouldn't that expose me to a charge of Aping the Oratory? Readers can help: am I right in thinking that the pompomless biretta is in fact the biretta of the clergy of the City of Rome itself? Is there any reason why the Anglican Clergy should be entitled to wear the garb of the Clerus Urbanus?

I think I've just thought of one. More tomorrow.

14 April 2009


Those using the misprint-ridden 1986 Latin edition of the Liturgia horarum might like to know that today's (missing) Magnificat antiphon is, in earlier editions:
Dum flerem ad monumentum, vidi Dominum meum, alleluia.

A gremlin got into some of the Roman Psalter Week information.
This is what it should have given:
Page 38: week 1
40: 2
41: 3
56: 3
57: 4
65: 3
66: 4
67: 1
And: Page 43: ignore what it says about the Sacred Heart, which you observed last week.
Page 64 Note 4: November 17 is not a Saturday.
Even Hunwicke nods. But, if you don't use my Ordo, you are missing one of the best things in life.

9 April 2009

Chrismatic Communio

In antiquity, the Bishop of Rome used to send a fragment of the Host, each Sunday, to each of the presbyters of the Roman title churches as a sign of his Communio with them ... and of his own Eucharistic presidency. It was commingled with the chalice at the Fraction; the origin, in fact, of the Commixture which has bravely survived Bugnini and still exists even in the Ordinary Form.

A little while ago, Bishop Andrew reminded us that it is not good enough just to have any old validly consecrated Chrism around; the Chrism in fact functions now as a expression and diagnostic of Communio. The C of E never has had proper incardination; the Tudor Establishment preserved the old medieval bureaucratic legalities (Gregory Dix liked to point out that the Church of England is riddled with more unreformed medievalisms than any other body in Christendom). But whose oils one uses in the radically liminal rites of Initiation shows which Bishop one is a presbyter of.

Sometimes our Traditionalist English bishops refer to their clergy as "Clergy who look to me". Perhaps a crisper, more theological, more sacramental, formula would be "Clergy who receive my Chrism".

I think it's a good point. 'Whose Chrism' is so much better an indication of a presbyter's ecclesial location than legal pieces of paper like licences. Chrism, after all, is not about lawyers but about the sacramental structure of Christ's Church.

Bishop Andrew, it seems, will have had about 150ish priests at his Chrism Masses. These PEVdoms seem to compare very favourably with the size of dioceses in some parts of the anglican Communion.

8 April 2009


Forty years since the New Mass and bloggers are reconsidering the question Where Are We; reprinting bits of Gamber; questioning the limits of papal power. At the heart of this, of course, is the paradox that 'Liberalism' was imposed by a maximalised papacy ... and that now the liberals are in a shock horror situation (as modern English syntax, I suspect, would put it) even at the very modest ways in which the present Holy Father has tweaked the tiller.

What I think is this. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that applies to the liturgy. It is not 'manufactured'. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.

Yes, I have reproduced this Ratzinger (1999) quotation before. It is a definition of Papacy, and a glossing of Vatican I, which has enormous ecumenical potential - I am particularly thinking of Orthodoxy. It represents a welcome and definitive conclusion to, and emergence from, the historical period characterised by the words of Pio Nono (did he really say them?) La Tradition, c'est moi.

SSPX only exists because - without putting it in quite these words - its members were not prepared to accept the bloated and corrupt model of papal activism which the liberals unscrupulousy deployed and manipulated after the council. It is time we stopped regarding SSPX as 'extremists' and realised that, loyal as they quite honorably claim to be to the Roman Pontiff both personally and institutionally, at the heart of their witness is the need to clarify and readjust the relationship between Tradition and the functioning of a papacy which, before the rise of Joseph Ratzinger, was drugged up to the eyeballs with an elixir of innovatory maximalism.

SSPX in their isolation may have become a trifle eccentric but essentially their allegiance is to authentic Catholic belief in the authority of Tradition and of its organic development. Their dialogue with Rome, please God, will not just be a search for verbal fudges enabling them to receive canonical status without too much loss of face on all sides. I pray that by God's grace it will be a rich gift to the whole Church and to ecumenism.

There is a sense in which they are the Western Orthodox ... even though they don't realise it.

7 April 2009

Hunwicke and the Holy Father

I'm sure you remember my BYZANTIUM 1 post on March the 25th; Lady Day. I quoted Joseph Ratzinger's words on how the West has an imperative duty to appropriate the iconographical developments of the East.

And have you now read - courtesy of NLM - how the beginning of the Easter Sunday Papal Mass has been overhauled in the last few years and a splendid new icon created for the pontiff and the people to venerate?

If you want to know what's in the Holy Father's mind, Hunwicke is essential reading.

I notice, by the way, that through the Triduum the Sovereign Pontiff is using the Canon Romanus at the Lord's Supper Mass, but otherwise the Third Eucharistic Prayer.

And that some intercessions are to be in Arabic and Hebrew. That's splendid. But I wouldn't mind betting that some Nasties will complain. For example, when JP2 canonised Edith Stein, there were complaints that Rome was trying to commandeer the Holocaust. And there have been Moslems who have complained about the use of the vocable Allah to refer to any God but their own.

It's not what the Pope actually does or actually says that they dislike; they have a frenzied and bigotted hatred of the man ... whatever he ... they're determined .......

What a shame it was in English

Yesterday morning, to the Apostolic Administrator's Chrism Mass in Byzantine S Barnabas (guarding the Mass). Versus Orientem; splendid homily (which will be on his website on Thursday). Only distractions: use of the vernacular; no episcopal dalmatic ... and stole and maniple decorated with swastikas. DON'T TELL THE BARMY BISHOP OF BUX, or he will probably renew his allegations that Anglican Catholics are holocaust deniers. (Actually, S Barnabas also have a rather splendid banner crawling with swastikas. I have a sudden surreal picture in my mind: Hitler has invaded, and all those nice Rhodes Scholars in the German administration have made S B's their church of preference, turning up to the Sunday High Mass with MA gowns over their SS uniforms.)

And another distraction: rods, like curtain rails, round all four sides of the badachino, for all the world as if somebody might pop curtains on them, and draw them across, veiling the mysteries, at the Sanctus. Now that really would be a retro piece of liturgy. Go for it, Fr Beswick.

Post scriptum: I spent a afternoon in Bodley sussing Ante torum ... . A final couple of posts on this after Easter.

6 April 2009


Palm Sunday morning, I had my Syrian Orthodox here; during their Liturgy they made several processions round the outside of the church, throwing flowers and singinging Hosanna. It set me thinking.

In our austere Roman tradition, the essential purpose of processing is usually to get from a point A to a point B. There can be other reasons - praying for the crops at the Rogations; processing the Sacrament for adoration, or Relics, Statues and Ikons to articulate the mutual relationship between heavenly patrons and their earthly fellow-citizens. Still, my instinct is that these things are historically secondary, and not so much core 'Roman' as the utilitarian need to get from one spot to another.

But I suspect that other traditions see a naturalness in walking round and round a holy site simply for the sake of its holiness. They did it in pre-Tiger Ireland; round and round a spot made sacred by saintly presence, saying the while the prescribed exercises. I remember doing this year by year as we stopped at the shrine of St Gobnait near Ballyvourney in West Cork, on our way to the blest Kingdom of the West, Co Kerry.

I suspect analogues could be found in Oriental Christianity, in Islam, in other non-Christian religions. Probably somebody somewhere has thought a great deal more about this than I have, because it's only just occurred to me. But I don't feel like perusing that old heathen Fraser ... he'd probably say it was Sun-worship, or something daft like that.

I welcome enlightenment.

[Anticlockwise, if you're wondering].

5 April 2009

The lesbuterai of Ebbsfleet

The Lesbuterai of the cultic groves of the great city of Ebbsfleet; there's a positively sci-fi thought. The 'lesbutera' bit could get one into trouble; possibly even into a libel court. (I once heard a catty sermon about episcopussies and serviettes.) But let's not sully the beautiful name of Ebbsleet ... or that of Richborough.

I don't know if the person who thought up E and R as episcopal sees (to be held by the 'flying bishops' who care for traditionalist Anglicans) knew what he was doing, but he/she thereby invented a very nice piece of ecclesiology. They are places associated with the life of Pope S Gregory's emissary S Augustine before the latter got to Canterbury and set up his episcopium there, followed by the creation of all the sees which derive from that Augustinian Mission.

There was a risk that the arrangement made to 'care' for us might have implied that we traditionalist Anglican Catholics are a new phenomenon; "Worcester...Lincoln...Salisbury...Durham: they're the original old authentic Church of England; now we've kindly created some new 'provision' to cater for these new 'problem' people". But Ebbsfleet and Richborough make the point that we are the authentic ones because we go back to before Canterbury etc.; back to the original sending by the Roman Pontiff of authentic Roman Christianity to be the authentic religion of the English Church. We, not the 'mainstream', are the genuine article; the real representatives of the fons et origo of English Christendom. Soon the "Church of England" will have 'women bishops'; soon more than half its 'priests' will be women; it is increasingly providing a phony religion with pseudo-sacraments for the English people. In the modern jargon, it must, just about now, be at that tipping point between being 'churches' and becoming a mere 'ecclesial community'.

Canterbury has gone its way and York is gone and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to nought; but the Church of England has died; the vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of S Peter, the grace of the Redeemer has left it. That old Church has become a corpse, and does but corrupt the air which once it refreshed, and cumber the ground which once it beautified. But the Church lives again. Ebbsfleet and Richborough, Fulham and Beverly, if the world lasts, shall be names as musical on the ear, as stirring to the heart, as the glories we have lost.

Now however did that flowery passage come to form itself in my mind?

3 April 2009

More Lesbian Vampire Killers

As I beheld the crowds surging out of the cinema, I did so long to engage them in conversation. You see, I loved teaching Lesbian poetry; I did it in the Lancing Lower Sixth, if a set was able enough to cope with the exceedingly strange Lesbian dialect. And I have never lost my interest. It would have been so fascinating to ask the viewers whether the film throws any new light on the relationship between Alcaius' mythical exempla and his politics. And what the film-makers' line was on the big new Sappho fragment published in Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigrafik. (I will be frank: I do have my doubts about some of the conjectural supplements offered by the Editio princeps.)

But No. I knew how it would be if I tried. That familiar look of cagey astonishment which I have seen so often in the past when I have tried to engage tous pollous in such every-day small-talk; a look suggesting that they feel they have just been cornered by a nutter. I have never quite got the hang of how to talk to common ordinary folk (COFs, as Senior Granddaughter neatly calls them).

It has been the one slight blemish on an otherwise brilliantly successful pastoral ministry.

2 April 2009

More Leo

What was done in the one Temple of Judaea with obumbratis significationibus (note the rumbling bs) , overclouded makings-of-signs, is now celebrated by all the nations pleno et aperto sacramento, in a full and open mystic rite. The Great Leo, the greatest Latinist ever, goes on to apply this to the Ministry: since the Cross is the fons of all graces, real substance, if I may paraphrase, has been pumped from it into the insubstantial ministries of the Temple so that now the order of Levites (deacons) is clarior, the dignity of Elders (priests) is amplior, the anointing of Priests (Bishops) is sacratior. Perhaps Leo would have felt that the inauguration of the Christian Ministry should be celebrated on what he would have called the Pascha, Good Friday, rather than on Maundy Thursday.

It's bad homiletics to tumble from such heights into terminal bathos, but I do rather wonder what S Leo would have thought of the post-Vatican II discarding of the ancient Roman Prayer for Consecrating Bishops, which expresses just this theology, in favour of some Eastern formula. What price the right of the Roman Rite to have its integrity protected! It almost makes one wonder if post-Conciliar Orders are invalid ... no, of course, I don't really mean that. In fact, I don't mean it in any way at all. But the sedevacantists who use Leo XIII's bull Apostolicae curae, which condemned Anglican Orders, to call in question the adequacy of the Bugnini Pontifical, do have some disturbingly good rhetoric on their side. And even some logic.