15 February 2014


I dealt in three recent posts with the desire of liturgical 'progressives' to cut modern congregations off from the Liturgy of the Church by imposing an English translation which obscures, to the point of total opacity, what Pope Paul VI's Missal (issued after Vatican II) actually sought to put before the worshipper. Denis Archdeacon (see those earlier posts) goes explicitly further. He writes "the Latin original should be set aside. Then the Bishops' Conferences of the English-speaking world, with the help of the best liturgists, writers and poets, could commission a completely new English text of the Mass".

Let us be quite clear what is being suggested. From the day in 597 when S Augustine arrived in Kent, it was the Roman Rite which he and his collaborators brought to this country. Pope Gregory himself had actually advised them to be more eclectic; and, at that time, the Roman Rite did not extend far beyond Rome itself (it was not until the reign of Charlemagne that a major effort was made to enforce it throughout Gaul). But this little, nascent, English Church was a tiny island of superb Romanita in a great sea of non-Roman Latin Christianity. Our earliest scholar of international standing, S Bede the Venerable, wrote his Historia to demonstrate this fact. The great Anglican liturgist G G Willis demonstrated how Roman was the genius and practice of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. Indeed, the same seems to have become true throughout these islands: the early Irish 'Stowe Missal' has no resemblance to spurious modern invented 'Celtic Christianities' which spawn the so-called 'Celtic' whatevers all over the daft 'Celtic Christianity' sections of religious bookshops: Stowe is the Roman Rite, its Eucharistic Prayer is the Roman Canon, and the book even exhibits features going back to before S Gregory I reformed that rite by making the Lord's Prayer follow immediately after the Canon.

The Roman Rite ... divided after the Norman Conquest into slightly variant 'dialects' ... the Sarum or York or Hereford uses ... remained the religion of Englishmen until 1559. It survived the Reformation in the persecuted communities of Elizabethan England. Diversity of dialect began to disappear after December 1576, when the students at Douay started to study the version of the Roman Rite newly published by S Pius V. After 1850, thousands of Anglican clergy endured persecution to reintroduce that Roman Rite into their churches: their spiritual descendants now form the Ordinariate. The years after Vatican II saw the reappearance of 'dialects' of the same Roman Rite: not now Sarum or Hereford or York, but EF and OF and Anglican Use; and also the introduction of the vernacular into that Roman Rite. The Church's Liturgy has indeed not been changeless; but through all its changes the essential identity of English Catholicism has been linked indissolubly with the Roman Rite, the most ancient, the most venerable, the most widely used rite in Christendom, and with the Roman Canon, its only authentic Eucharistic Prayer.

So there you go. 1,417 years of continuity in English Catholicism. Until the Era of Archdeacon and his Grand Project. Truly, an alter Cranmerus. Perhaps a friend with his interests at heart should show him that cross in the paving of Broad Street a few feet from the door of the Master's Lodgings of Balliol College, lest a feeling arise that he needs his whiskers singed, and the cry be heard Archidiaconum ad ignes.

No comments: