31 August 2009


Sometimes facts are just too big to see. I think the position of "Ecumenical Councils" in the Church is a fine example. We had Vatican I, which gave us a dogmatic definition of Papal Primacy and Infallibility. We had Vatican II, which, as episcopal shop-stewards comfortably explained to us, "redressed the balance" by saying some rather wonderful things about Episcopacy. But we have never had a Council which went properly into the theology of Ecumenical Councils. Throughout Church history, there has beem more than a tendency for 'Conciliarism' to be a political weapon of power-groups in Christendom anxious to down-play the role and status of the Papacy or the Local Church or both. We had that in the late Middle Ages; that committed Conciliarist Henry VIII was not above playing the 'Council' card; and Byzantine Orthodox use it as an argument against Papalism and an alibi for their own lacunae in the area of Magisterium. They always seem to be on the point of having a Council but never quite to have it; non-Orthodox might be forgiven for suspecting that they dare not actually have a Council because it would reveal too starkly the fault-lines in their own community. So, in theory and in terms of their liturgical commemorations, Councils are highly important ... but there hasn't been one since the Seventh. I know there are historical reasons which would have made it difficult for them to have a Council; but it remains a plain fact that their conciliar rhetoric and theorising seem out-of-sync with reality.

There is little Biblical evidence for Concilarism. The Council of Jerusalem is sometimes cited; but S Paul seems so unaware of its status and authority that the first two chapters of Galatians leave biblical scholars wondering whether he is actually referring to it or not. If he is, it seems that S Peter had forgotten about it, or perhaps understood its decrees differently from S Paul. As for the Ecumenical Councils of the succeeding centuries, some of them, as Joseph Ratzinger once pointed out, were such a right old mess that one wonders if they did more good or harm. I have some vague recollection ... perhaps readers can fill my gaps ... that in some cases we are not quite sure what degrees they did pass ... if they did ... And that same Joseph Ratzinger wrote very critically about the post-Vatican II notion that the combination of Council+Pope is so potent that it can do more or less anything and ride rough-shod over Tradition.

This is where we Anglican Catholics can help. Dom Gregory Dix pointed out, in 1938, the ad-hoccery which lay at the basis of Conciliarism.
"The Council of Nicaea is a landmark in the history of dogma, and it is no less so in the history of Church institutions and law. But it is essential to remember that its contemporaries hardly saw it in that light. After ages could revere in it the first and most august of a whole series of Ecumenical Councils, all divinely inspired for the infallible vindication of fundamental Christian truths. But Nicaea came before the Christian world of its own day with no background of theory concerning the infallibility of "General Councils" as such (such a thing had not even been dreamed of in pre-Nicene times), without precedent or even any real preparation of Christian opinion, and without ... any clear and universally accepted theory of the binding nature of any Conciliar authority in matters of belief or practice.In pre-Nicene times Councils were an occasional device, with no certain place in the scheme of Church government. The local church under its bishop might be expected to give weight to a Council's decision, but acceptance and carrying out of that decision was still not so much a duty as a matter for the local church itself to decide.
The ultimate effect of Nicaea was decisive in more than one direction, but for the moment it did not look as though it would be so. A century later it has become "the great and model synod" ... but in its own generation local churches which were unconscious of any presumption did not boggle at emending out-of-hand its dogmatic symbol for their own purposes - what of those unknown persons who constructed our "Nicene Creed" out of the Council's Symbol, omitting the ek tes ousias tou Patros ..."

I hope to return to this.

30 August 2009

De Galaretta?

So: is Bishop de Galaretta to lead the SSPX 'team' in negotiations with the Holy See? Not unnaturally, the blogosphere is alive with speculation about whether the SSPX 'team' will make mincemeat of the CDF, or vice versa. I don't think this is quite where we are.

Last year, Rowan Williams pointed out that the problem in 'dialogue' can sometimes be whether each of two sides even have enough common language to be able to disagree. Take Abortion. On one side, the discourse is all about the Woman's autonomy. On the other, about the immorality of terminating innocent Human Life. There is no overlap between the two discourses; hence there can be no dialogue. Discussion can only consist of the blindfolded shouting "Where are you Moriarty" and trying to whack the blindfolded. Or consider the question of the Ordination of Women. Its proponents are concerned with the question of Equality. They do not really think that traditionalists believe in Equality or are even aware of the question. A few years ago, a C of E Commission put together the Rochester Report, which even-handedly described the arguments on both sides. Bishop Nazir Ali naturally assumed that this would be the start of a big debate on the subject. So did Forward in Faith; a group of us wrote Consecrated Women, in which we attempted to address the theological, anthropological, and cultural issues involved. Naive fools, we were surprised that nobody 'on the other side' read our book (except, perhaps, for about three people, two of whom was Rowan). The determination of the feminists to rush ahead meant that nobody read Rochester either; and it looks as though the realisation of this was a big factor in the growing disillusionment of the Bishop of Rochester with the Church of England.

In the SSPX/CDF dialogue, if SSPX merely try to demonstrate that some of the wording of Vatican II formally contradicts some of the statements of the pre-conciliar Magisterium, they will have won hands down. They will have won, that is, in terms of their game, their discourse, and their victory in the cosy forum of their own minds will be useless. But, for progress, what each 'side' needs to discover is a common language; a circumscribed area of discourse in which they are actually both talking to each other.

I do feel that this dialogue will be an important one for the intellectual integrity of the whole Western Church, and also for Ecumenical relationships among Traditionalists both RC, Orthodox, and Anglican. So, although I know it annoys some readers that an Anglican should be pontificating about things that aren't his business, I intend to do so. I urge RCs who think this is all nothing whatsoever to do with me just to ignore these posts, rather than writing irritably to point that out.

29 August 2009


As we enter the last three months of the current ORDO, I repeat, for those who may have missed it, a list of Errata I posted some time ago.
Roman Psalter Weeks:
page 56= week 3
57= 4
65= 3
66= 4
67= 1

Benedict XVI

I expect readers will have read, via NLM or Fr Zed, about the report required by and submitted to the Sovereign Pontiff last spring by the CDW. Naturally, there has been frantic discussion in the blogosphere about whether the Holy Father should issue ever fiercer directives to the episcopate compelling them to enforce obedience to the legislative norms with regard to Liturgy, or whether he should continue his apparent policy of attrition; of brick-by-brick; of good example.

I feel rather torn. On the one hand, I think it is important to recall, and to explore the logical consequences of the fact, that Benedict XVI is Bishop of Rome, and that 95% of what we are talking about (5% being Milan, Toledo, etc.), is the Roman Rite. Happily, the new Anglophone liturgical books, instead of the word Sacramentary, will have ROMAN MISSAL on their spines. If the Bishop of Rome is not entitled to say how the Roman Rite should be done, who, I wonder, is. Certainly not that dreadful von Trautpersonn, who (have you read via Adoremus the 'Hansard' account of the discussions in the American RC Bench of Bishops?) seems to be having a lot of trouble realising that he is Yesterday's Man. Requiescat in pace. It certainly looks - touch wood - as if our Holy Father has a good chance of frustrating his last-minute desperate campaign to delay authorisation of the new ICEL translation until The Next Pontificate.

But, on the other hand, I recall the Summorum Pontificum controversies. Many of the doctrinaire liberal bishops lost any residual sense of balance and behaved so outrageously that Our Chaps called for clarifications, which indeed were at one point said by a very high curial Cardinal to be imminent. Something had been drafted and lay upon the Pope's desk for a long time ... until, apparently, it was quietly buried. Surely, Benedict realised that if the matter were left, the EF would bed down naturally; that off-message bishops would gradually (die, retire, or at least) calm down and realise that a ferocious Armageddon of liturgical reaction was not about to drop onto their dioceses. I think he decided that his Project would work better if the EF found its natural level and then developed and ... with modest but deft assistance ... grew ... organically!

And as far as the Reform of the Reform is concerned, I supect Pope Benedict realised that the liturgical directives of the previous pontificate (tot them up; I'm not going to list them all) had, in themselves, achieved very little among those who were ill-disposed (while being welcomed with frenetic enthusiasm by Sound Chaps who didn't need any such advice). Remember Joseph Ratzinger's conclusion, a decade or two ago, that however academically and mystagogically preferable versus Orientem was, we couldn't afford to disrupt the present habits of the Faithful too radically and too abruptly. And who can deny that the quiet but high-profile setting of a good example by the Roman Pontiff himself has achieved decidedly more, organically, than the legislative nagging of the last regime.

On balance, I'm willing to accept that the Sovereign Pontiff is a clever and holy man and that what I surmise to be his policy is, given the state of the Universal Church as he found it upon his Election, the way ahead which is most likely to achieve results. As you look back at how much of the ethos has changed in five years, don't you agree?

28 August 2009

Errr ..

I see Fr Zed has repeated his former error to the effect that those nearby should be able to hear the secreto parts of an EF Mass. Not so.

27 August 2009

Vincent Nichols

I was impressed by VN's piece on the Extraordinary Form. Despite Tablet trouble-making, what he said was a careful, accurate and sensible distillation of what the motu proprio said and meant. Take, for example the bit near the beginning where he said that the Training Week was owned by the diocese of Westminster and put on with the help of the Latin Mass Society. That is exactly right as a balanced combination of everything the mp said and of the Holy Father's assurance in his letter to his Venerable Brethren that their supervisory role in Liturgy remained intact. It seems clear to me that Archbishop Nichols is a main-stream Benedictian, if that's the right word, loyalist.

I was intrigued by his insistence that the OF should also have an honoured place even in a week's course devoted to teaching the EF. I don't think this is a cheap "I'll show who's really boss" dodge. I would not be in the least surprised if he followed it up by insisting, in some generally OF event, that the EF should also have an honoured place. Similarly, since he says there is no place for those who call the OF deficient, I give him credit for being very likely to say, in a future and different context, something sharp about those who slag off the EF.

More broadly, I think that this could mean that if our Holy Father does something for Anglican Catholics, VN would accept what the Pontiff decreed, think positively and carefully about it, and endeavour to fulfill the decree acurately, and completely ad mentem Summi Pontificis.

I pray that I am right. If I am, well, you can't want more than that.


Can someone with an historical turn of mind explain to me why popish priests, on the rare occasions when they don a cassock, do not have the correct number of buttons down their soutane?

26 August 2009

Canon Law: the question.

In Summorum pontificum, our Holy Father makes clear in the first Article that any priest may, without any permissions, say a Private Mass whenever he wishes in the Extraordinary Form.

Does "Private Mass" have a legal meaning in terms of the legislation surrounding the current post-conciliar liturgical texts? Or in the current Code of Canon Law?

Does the term "Private Mass", when applied by legislative documents (such as a motu proprio) to the EF, mean what it meant in the official documents of the age when the EF was the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, back in the days of the great Rubricians, the era of O'Connell et al.?

If so, which of the eight different meanings found in those documents does it point to? Or, when there is a lack of specificity in a legal formula, does the subject of the law have the right to the least constricting of the possibilities?*

For Info: O'Connell gives these definitions of "Private Mass", with footnotes pointing to the legislative basis which each has. I simplify:
A Mass in a private place
A Mass neither High nor Sung
A non-conventual Mass
A Mass neither Sung nor Conventual
A Mass not of obligation
A Mass detached from the Liturgy of the Day (e.g. the Palm Sunday Procession)
A Requiem neither sung nor conventual nor 'privileged'
A Votive, whether High, Sung, or Low, celebrated for a cause which is not public and grave

* This sentence is the question which I am most interested in having an informed answer to.

Hippolytus again

Yes, my post on the "Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus" was somewhat gung-ho, and I have some sympathy with the reader who said that words like (my) "Everyone agrees" inspire him to consider a contrary approach. Likewise. To be told that "Modern Scholarship" has a particular consensus does remind all right-thinking people of all the nonsenses which, over the years, various academic establishments have demanded that we accept on faith.

I would also agree that Paul Bradshaw does have an agenda of his own. But what I feel it is very important to emphasise is the uncertainties surrounding "Hippolytus". I am far from sure that Ap Trad can be certainly known to be by a Hippolytus who, as an early "Antipope", claims he is giving, and really is giving, the liturgical tradition of "his", id est, of the Roman, Church. I am unsure who really wrote it; what his status was; whether it represented the Tradition of a particular Church or what some shadowy writer thought ought to be its Tradition; whether (if it really has some sort of relationship with Rome) it is the Liturgy of the Roman Pontiff himself or of some other grouping within a pluriform Roman Church; whether the text as we have it is a reliable witness to the liturgical Tradition which might be recoverable from what might be identifiable as the earliest stratum of that text.

In view of all this, I feel that the way the liturgists of the Sixties rammed "Hippolytus" down our throats is itself a scholarly consensus which we do very well to view with immense suspicion. This text is not something which deserves such enormous respect that whole liturgical traditions have to be reconstructed to conform to it. It is a very interesting but highly suspicious text best left to scholars to amuse themselves with, and not to be imposed on congregations. When I recall that in the modern RC Church the "Hippolytan" Eucharistic Prayer has, de facto, become the normative Prayer, on Sundays and weekdays, all over the world (or am I wrong about that too?); and that in the C of E "Hippolytus" is used as an alibi for Eucharistic Prayers which have an 'epiclesis' after the Institution Narrative; I feel that something is decidedly askew.

Piltdown Man, well before the 'forensic' scientists exposed the fakery, had become suspicious because he increasingly failed to fit into growing amounts of new evidence about the evolution of our species. Likewise, I feel that "Hippolytus" is very hard to fit into the emergence of what we have as the Canon Romanus. The consensus seems to be that "H" is to be dated to the first half of the third century. How exactly did this Ape evolve (in Liturgy, an area given to the preservation of the archaic) into a Prayer the text of which was, in my opinion, pretty well settled in if not before the time of Leo the Great?

[Mazza, 1995, The origins of the Eucharistic Prayer; Driscoll, 2003, Theology at the Eucharistic Table; are books which do offer a different perspective to that of Bradshaw].

25 August 2009

Missing Votive

Yesterday morning I tried to find, in my 1950 Missale Romanum, the lovely old Sarum Votive In Gratiarum Actione pro Reditu Cinerum. But in vain. Was it eliminated by S Pius V? If so, was it because of that Pontiff's well-known and irrational prejudice in favour of Australians?

[I think it would, on the whole, be best if Americans don't try to work out this post.]

Canon Law

The Anglican Clergy (or, more specifically, the Anglican Catholic Clergy?), as everybody knows ... well, to be specific, as the Anglican Clergy know ... are ... no ... were the best educated, most learned in the world. I correct my tenses, because nowadays priestly formation in the C of E has taken a nose dive. The financial mismanagement ... the stock market misjudgements ... the sale of valuable property at the bottom of the market ... has precipitated a financial crisis in which clergy, and clergy training, can no longer be paid for. Laity may say the the old prayer "God give us priests, give us holy priests", but the bishops pray "God, give me fewer priests, give me cheaper priests". The ordination of the almost entirely untrained, often the retired who have a solid income, and especially of women at a loose end who've mislaid a husband or two along the way (so many women in irregular unions fancied themselves as priests that the rules were changed) and feel like a hobby activity, preferably one which will give them an excuse to interfere in other people's affairs, is now seen as the way ahead as far as staffing is concerned. Taking a young man from University ... especially a good one ... and giving him a thorough residential training and formation ... is the very last thing a Father in God has in mind, as he sits down with his generously configured bureaucracy to work out the next scheme for managing decline (these schemes invariably have incredibly sexy names like "Moving on in Mission and Ministry"; I'm collecting such titles and would be grateful for contributions ... genuine contributions ... remember, this business has gone beyond parody ... R C contributions would also be of interest).

Back in the Sixties, it took me seven years to attain the diaconate. Mods, Greats, Hon School of Theology, GOE, for those who know the old terminology; in other words, Latin and Greek language and literature; Ancient History; Ancient and Modern Philosophy; Biblica; Patristica; Moral Philosophy; Liturgy; Pastoralia. The last three of these years were in a seminary with a traditional daily structure: Mattins, Meditation, Mass, Lectures, Evensong, Social Time, Night Prayers, Greater Silence.

Roman Catholic readers will have noticed a particular lacuna in that lot: Canon Law. Traditionally, the Anglican clergy have not received a training in Canon Law; I know that RC clergy do, and that that is one of the big cultural differences between us. The usual RC practice of selecting bright young men for a fast track to episcopacy on the grounds of a doctorate or two in Canon Law is incomprehensible to Anglicans. Mind you, when I was in training the Anglican Canon Law had just been overhauled in the Primacy of an ex-Public-School headmaster called Geoffrey Fisher, who believed in Discipline and whose motive had been to put in place structures enabling bishops to suppress iniquitous activities like the use of the Roman Rite and the extra-liturgical cultus of the Blessed Sacrament. Such things as Canon Law were best put out of mind.

That is why my query this morning was going to be addressed to R C clerical readers, if there are any, because they know their Canon Law and most Anglicans don't ... but this proemium has overrun its natural span. The substantive query will have to come tomorrow.

23 August 2009


We ORDO makers tend to notice things that you common folk might not spot. Today, for example, there's something odd about the second reading. You heard a passage from Ephesians and you heard it because here we use the modern Roman Lectionary. So, for the most part, does the Church of England. But the C of E decided to make an "improvement" in the selection for today. It chose a different passage from Ephesians. I will remind you of how our reading began, and then leave you all with just one guess as to why the Church of England decided to omit it. "Be obedient to one another out of reverence to Christ. Wives be subject to your husbands". Nuff said.

Of course, there are jokey explanations. There is the old story about the wife who explained how her husband made all the big decisions, she just obeyed him and made a few small ones. "He decides whether the West should get out of Afghanistan and how to solve the banking crisis, I only decide where we live, how we spend our money, where we send the children to school, and things like that". It's a picture many married men might recognise. Indeed, it's a picture we find in the Bible. In Proverbs, the Prudent Wife apparently runs the whole household and the entire family economy. She provides food for her household; she considers a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard; she opens her hands to the needy; her household are clothed in scarlet and her own clothing is fine linen and purple; she manufactures garments and girdles and does deals with the merchants. And - while she's getting on with all that - what is her husband doing? What is his contribution to the family economy? One thing only is specified in the Inspired Text: "Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land". Notice the verb: "sits". I've often wondered whether Proverbs may have been written by a female satirist. The husband's sole job, apparently, is to be a figure of respect and awe among the other menfolk as they sit and gossip in their male enclave and put the world to rights while the women get on with doing. Perhaps one could suggest that this model of female "subordination" does have its intriguing aspects. Joking aside, what's really going on is that in the ancient world, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, and in most premodern societies, men and women did have distinct roles; men in a public forum, women in the domestic; and in this context the notion of the wife as subordinated to her husband does have a decidedly different look to it than if the words are stripped of context.

I will leave you with two minor additional thinking points. Firstly: could it be in fact right that men and women should have distinct roles and live and act within discrete structures? - rather than acting as we do in our unisex world? Would a lot of people, possibly, be happier?

And, lastly - I think I got this from the Tale of the Loathly Damsel (AKA the Lady Ragnold) in the Arthurian Cycle - there is the idea that women are so very much the dominant sex, so naturally programmed to dominate their menfolk, that the only way of slightly redressing the balance and restoring some degree of equilibrium is to try to subordinate them structurally. And, of course, ....

No .... er .... I think I'll end my sermon there.

21 August 2009

Rum things, Calendars. This...

... morning I would have liked to say Mass of S Pius X and to have prayed specially for the brethren of the SSPX, but I was using the EF, which provides otherwise. Come to think of it, so were the brethren of the SSPX, so they didn't commemorate Papa Sarto either. They and I will have to wait for September 3, which is S Pius' festival in the EF Calendar. But stay: that day will be, in the OF Calendar, the festival of S Gregory the Great, Patron and Solemnity in the Western (Ebbsfleet) District, a day when I shall be saying the OF Mass, and therefore keeping ........

The only solution I can think of is for Bishop Andrew to proclaim S Pius X also Patron of his Apostolic District, and for Bishop Fellay also to make S Gregory Patron of the SSPX and for the SSPX and the Ebbsfleet District to amalgamate (FSSGPX: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sanctorum Gregorii Piique X) and to conduct joint negotiations with the Holy See.

If the cost were a agreement that we would all use the 1962 liturgical books, this is a sacrifice I would be prepared to make.

That's so obvious that I can't imagine why it hasn't occurred to anybody else. Come along, bishops. Digiti extrahendi.


I have found a grave error in a preconciliar liturgical book!

My Altar Missal is Dessain 1950. It must be late 1950, because for August 15 it gives the Mass Signum magnum. I had to paste Gaudeamus into it.

But, infra Octavam, it gives for the prayers of commemoration of the Octave our old friends Famulorum etc..

20 August 2009

The sacrosanctity of 1962?

Both SSPX and Summorum Pontificum are based upon the normativeness of the 1962 books of the Roman Rite. I feel some nuancing of this position needs to happen.

It is accepted that - for example - 1962 prefaces might be added to the EF. If Pius XI could add prefaces for the Sacred Heart and Christ the King to the Missal, it is not easy to see why Benedict XVI should not add prefaces for the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. But I feel revision of details in the EF Order of Mass should not stop there. For example, the Rite of Communion should be gently tidied up to envisage a situation in which many masses include a communion of the people. And the the punctuation of the Preface should be corrected to "Domine, Sancte Pater, ...". But this morning I look at the Calendar and at festivals of our Lady.

Pius XII replaced the Octave Day of the Assumption with the Immaculate Heart, and put the Queenship of Mary onto the last day of the Mary Month of May, a day on which the Feast of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces had previously been spreading, by indult, to more and more places. Paul VI put the Queenship onto the old Assumption Octave Day: in my view, a good move. The Queenship in Heaven of Mary is exactly what the Octave Day of the Assumption is about. But when Paul VI put the Visitation onto May 31, he made a big mistake. The original idea was that this festival should have as one of its themes the Mediation of our Lady - and one of the hymns provided by Lentini was worded to express this. But the idea never beddded down.

What we need is a calendar on which May 31 is the BVM Mefdiatrix of All Graces; August 22 is our Lady, Queen; and the Visitation goes back to July 2, an old dating with ecumenical implications about which I have posted before. The Immaculate Heart could well go onto the Bugnini date following the Sacred Heart; this fits in with instinct of Christian people for First Saturday Masses of this devotion.

That would be an 'organic' resolution of the present confusions.

19 August 2009

"Organic development"

Vatican II mandated that liturgical development be 'organic'. I suggest a touchstone for what is, or isn't, organic.

A change might be organic if you could just paste a newly authorised liturgical text, perhaps for a newly canonised Saint, into your Missal or Breviary ... and still keep using it. Or if it mandated revised Rubricae Generales so as to purge the Calendar a bit, so that you could use the old Books as long as you kept your eye on the ORDO.

Change certainly is not organic if it means you have to dump, as now totally unusable, your old Books, and shovel money at publishers to buy the new ones.

But - if readers are impressed by this definition - we will need a footnote to cover situations in which the Tradition was so badly ruptured a generation or so ago that one needs to be a bit radical (like the new ICEL texts) in order to pump out the bilge, get the ship on to an even keel, and put new parts into the engine, so as to get her under way again.

S Pelagius

In the late medieval glass in New College Chapel (you can't do much better than Oxford for late medieval glass; by the time the bastards had got the Reformation to stick in Oxford, the age of the Learned Georgian Antiquaries had arrived to preserve on the grounds of Antiquity what the Reformers would have destroyed on the grounds of Idolatry) there is a window with a figure wearing a papal tiara and carrying a cross, labelled "S Pelagius".

Can anybody throw any light on this?


Does anybody know what modern scholarship holds about the authorship of Omni die dic Mariae? Was it written by S Bernard or S Casimir? Did Fr Faber translate any bits other than the first part?

18 August 2009

Good Lord deliver us

After the Quicunque vult, so you will discover, your Prayer Book has the Litany. But when, be you Protestant or Papist, did you last hear that said or sung in church or in procession? Yet Cranmer ordered it to be 'sung or said' three times a week.

Cranmer's Litany affords, as Cuming pointed out in his history of Anglican Liturgy, a superb example of Cranmer's mind at work, a mind which was a capacious repository of everything Cranmer had ever prayed, or heard, or read. Essentially his Litany is derived from the Sarum Litany but phrases and expressions and ideas break in from an extremely wide spread of sources within the Tradition of Western Latin Christendom. Except that it omits the Saints - a fault easily remedied - it is a scintillating summation and efflorescence of that Tradition. Yet we Anglicans so often fail to realise we're sitting on something good.

Its predecessor Litanies were used in ordinations, in Rogation processions for the crops, when processing the relics round the town ... The great Forty Hours Devotion - the Sacrament exposed for three days as a stimulus for prayer in times of great adversity - has the Litany at its heart. We used the Litany once a year before the whole College at Lancing, and I was always moved by the humbled silence of the student body ... not all of whom were always exempt from the temptations of adolescent self-consciousness ... as priest and choir moved round that great Minster Church of the Assumption and S Nicolas singing Cranmer's Litany to the old Sarum tones.

Once a year is not enough. Or, to be practical, Fathers, chopped-up bits of it go very well into Benediction.

15 August 2009

Heady stuff

Well, last night I said the pre-1950 Mattins; and what heady stuff. The way the service starts with Assumpta est ... "Mary is taken up into heaven: the Angels rejoice ..." makes it seem as if you're back nineteen hundred years and someone comes dashing into the room shouting the exciting news. And the way this antiphon is repeated (likewise, the formula Exaltata est ..."The Holy Mother of God is exalted above the choirs of Angels to the heavenly realms") is just how it is when one has heard something transportingly wonderful and for joy one just cannot help continually iterating and reiterating it (which is why I love the Byzantine Easter with its incessant "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death with death, and, to those in the tombs, gracing Life"). By comparison, there is something schoolmasterly about the Bugnini first antiphon, with its downbeat and careful theological reminder that Christ went up first to prepare a place for his Mother. Paedagogues and Bugninis can kill anything.

Donnishness did not start with Paul VI's rite. The Office decreed by Pius XII in 1951 (doesn't change the antiphons but does) eliminate those wonderful First Nocturn Readings from the Song of Songs, and replaces them with Genesis 3 and I Corinthians 15, to instruct us on the Pauline theology with which Pius XII (quite rightly) associated the Assumption.

I think there's a whole Octave's worth of meditation in those old lections from the Song of Solomon (1:1-16), and the relationship of their imagery to our Lady.

A jolly nice and keen congregation at my 10.30 EF pre-1950 Mass. I suspect my Altar Missal must be one of the very few in the world into which the Mass Gaudeamus has been pasted!

Tomorrow, modern propers. In the Asperges I shall sprinkle them with water from Lourdes and, Deo volente, we shall sing "I'll sing a hymn to Mary" (who was the Fr Wyse who wrote it?) to the tune of the Eton Boating Song (an idea I picked up from the late and lamented Fr Melrose at S Giles, Reading). And, at the end, ""Daily daily ...". The spirit of Fr Faber and the English Catholic Hymn Book still flourishes at S Thomas's.

13 August 2009


It caught my eye in my (English) Altar Missal: you know the collect A cunctis ... which used to be said so often as a commemoration after the collect of the day ... it has a rubric, all of course translated from the Latin, attached to it about the addition of the name of the Titular of the Church. At the end there is an abrupt note"NB in England the mention is always of S George".

Really? When and by whom was this direction given?

Assumptive fastings

A little while ago I made a catty crack about Orthodoxophile Anglicans who go a bit light on observing the traditional Byzantine fasts. Perhaps I could balance it by pointing out that Western Traditionalists have a similar question to answer. Why are we so shy of taking seriously all those vigils in the old Western rites, the days preceding festivals? The question might, for example, be put to members of the Prayer Book Society whether they observe the 16 fasting vigils which the Prayer Book orders to be kept in addition to Lent and Fridays. Keen devotees of our Lady might ask ourselves whether a new devotion for us to adopt might be fasting on the vigil of the Assumption. Easterners, as I observed before, fast for a forthight before the festival and in some places give a Lenten character to the Liturgy. In some places, the Eve of the Dormition is celebrated with a Service of the Burial of our Lady, based on the rites used in Holy Week to commemorate the Burial of our Redeemer. A Roman version of such a celebration is described in my ORDO.

In the old texts, that day seems sometimes to have a sense of alluding to her death as a prelude to her Assumption. It is well-known that Pius XII deliberately left undecided, in the definition of 1950, whether her Assumption was preceded by a death. But the tradition of both East and West strongly suggests that it was.

I have in mind the old postcommunion for August 14: "Grant, we beseech thee, O God, thy protection to our weakness; that we who celebrate the repose [requiem] of the holy Mother of God, by the help of her intercession may rise from our iniquities".

11 August 2009

Is Fr Zed infallible?

Something on WDTPRS about whether the priest, when praying secreto in the EF Mass, should be audible. Fr Zed says that the authorities say that the server should be able to hear him.

Not what I was taught in Mass-practices in seminary in the pre-Novus Ordo days. So I looked in the Rubricae Generales and found that the priest should not be heard by the 'circumstantibus'; which O'Connell glosses as 'those nearby'.

Does anybody know whether there is any authority for Fr Zed's utterance? Or is it an example of how, when he is very busy indeed, even Homer nods?

Nearly Naked

I think my favourite Calendar is the one done by the Blue Biretta Brigade: the ICKSP. I have one in my study and one in my sacristy. BUT the August picture ... well ... it shows an almost naked Cardinal.

I expect better from them.

Nondum beatus?

According to the Calendar of the Church of England, today we have the choice of observing S Clare ... or John Henry Newman. In the modern Roman Calendar, S Clare rules OK; this is her compulsory memorial. So I suppose JHN will get pushed onto tomorrow? Incidentally, in the Old Calendar, S Clare is tomorrow, so I suppose JHN would appropriately occupy today. Unless - Rubricarius could put us straight on this - the day in S Lawrence's octave were to prove too prickly an obstacle. What tricky areas calendar and ORDO making are.

We have angelic doctors, seraphic doctors, and goodness knows what sort of doctors; when JHN is made a Doctor of the Church, qualis Doctor should he be called?

JHN ended his sermon on the Assumption by quoting:
"Her spirit is sweeter than honey, and her heritage than the honeycomb. They that eat her shall yet be hungry, and they that drink her shall still thirst. Whoso hearkens to her shall not be confounded, and they that work by her shall not sin".

10 August 2009

No Rumours?

Given the propensity of people to create rumours about what the Holy Father is going to do and when he is going to do it, I am surprised not to have noticed rumours that since tomorrow is the Year's Mind of Cardinal Newman, Rome will take the opportunity of telling us when the beatification will take place.

8 August 2009


Before their 2009 season came to a recent end, the University Archaeological Department were continuing to work on their enigmatic site at Frilford. I went down there and was shown around in footsteps of Professor Martin Henig and before a visit to the excavation team from the illustrious and still active Professor Sammy Frere ( there can't be many people who have moved on, as Frere did, from schoolmastering at Lancing straight to a fellowship at All Souls).

Palimpsest doubly palimpsested is about the shape of Frilford; the last layers being late Roman and early Saxon. There is the ubiquitous Romano-Celtic Temple; then, built c 340, an orientated building with a rectangular 'chancel' at both East and West and what I think of as a 'porticus' on the North. Not far away is what looks like a stone amphitheatre ... except that it collects water and seems to have been designed to do so (with a leat draining off to a nearby river). Am I barmy, or do we have here ...

4 August 2009


A recent article in NLM deals with Masses at which there is not even a server present. Needless to say, I dealt with all this on my blog quite a time ago. Read it first here. Mistakenly, NLM claims that the post-conciliar Missal makes no provision for Mass a solo. But Para 211 of the 1969 Instructio Generalis, amended by para 254 of the recent edition, prescribes the omission of the Greetings, Monitions, and Blessing.

Erroneously NLM suggests the omission of Greetings and Blessing when the EF Mass is said a solo. Somewhere - I think it is in his book The Celebration of Mass [I don't have it to hand] - O'Connell gives the rules laid down by the old Sacred Congregation of Rites for Mass a solo and it is quite clear that apart from the modifications listed in these decrees everything is to be said and done.


Tomorrow is the festival of the Dedication of the Roman basilica of S Mary, said to be the first Western church to be dedicated to our Lady (she tended to lose out in the dedication stakes because church buildings often took dedications from the martyrs or saints who might be buried in them. For some reason or other, nobody has ever even thought of forging relics of the Mother of God.) Its dedication occurred in the aftermath of the declaration in the Council of Ephesus that Mary is theotokos.

The new liturgy provides, for tomorrow, a collect which, in the preconciliar rite, was the collect for Assumption day. I plan to post on its history and theology tomorrow. For the time being, I suggest we treat its appearance on August 5 as a hint to prepare for Assumption day. I suggests it should put into our minds the propriety of keeping novenas in preparation for the Assumption. And the same collect is offered in the new rite as one of the options for the Saturday celebration of our Lady. My own custom is to use it on Saturdays and Marian votives between now and the Octave day of the Assumption.

Here is another suggestion which I offer to a limited constituency: those Anglicans with a gut anti-Romanism that expresses itself in flourishing little details of Byzantinism: "We're not Romanisers but we are traditional Christians and we do celebrate August 15 but we call it the Dormition." Remember: genuine Byzantines (and Oriental Christians) prepare for the Koimesesis by a fortnight''s fast in honour of our Lady. Do you? Put your belly where your rhetoric is!

3 August 2009


Today I decided that I would concelebrate the Funeral Mass of Fr Michael Melrose, Vicar of S Giles, Reading. My reasons were: the Mass was presided over by our Bishop, Andrew, Bishop of Ebbsfleet. It seemed appropriate to join with Bishop and sympresbyteroi in the eucharistic Farewell to a departed sympresbyteros, a fellow member both of the presbyterate of the Universal Church and of the presbyterate of the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District.

Readers will be aware that I am less than enthusiastic about the post-conciliar fad for incessant concelebration, accompanied as it is by a disuse of the priest's own daily Mass. The two factors that influenced me today were: the episcopal presidency; and the koinonia in sympresbyterality which, with my fellow presbyters, I shared with Fr Michael, in and through our joint corporate membership of Bishop Andrew's Presbyterium (I had, incidentally, already said Mass in S Thomas's).

And it wasn't just theologically right; it felt right. It was a last expression of collegiality - no, drop theology, friendship, with a dear friend, a learned priest, a caring pastor. Fr Michael represented all that is best about Anglican Catholicism: its commitment, its erudition, its love of God in the glory of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the guardianship of our blessed Lady. We are no mean people; the Church of England may be anxious to exterminate and humiliate us; the English Roman Catholic hierarchy may be suspicious of us; but we are the friends of Laud and Kenn, of Pusey and Keble; of Walke and Wason. God has been good to us; we have treasures which no other corner of Christendom possesses; whatever God wills for us now, his splendour has been seen and loved among us. May Fr Michael rest in peace and glory; may he pray.