31 August 2015

Ecclesia eadem Westmonasteriensis

Fascinating to have read those comments on my earlier post of August 4: again, thank you, everybody. They establish that those 'Lists' in Westminster Cathedral, which assert the Communion between the Popes and the Chief Pastors of the Catholic Church in England, do this by getting thoroughly confused about whether Archbishops of Canterbury were appointed by, received the Pallium from, and maintained communion with, 'the genuine' pope; or a 'wicked antipope'. Similarly, they fail to understand that the Vicars Apostolic of the London District were not (as the Archbishops of Westminster were to be) Coetus Episcopalis totius Angliae et Cambriae Praesides perpetui. Next time I'm there, I'll have a look to see how the Lists negotiate the status of Stigand, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the 'antipope' Benedict X; and check out whether (as I think I recall) the Lists imply that, throughout the Henrician and Edwardine schisms, Thomas Cranmer was in peace and communion with the Successors of S Peter. Incidentally, is it arguable that, from 1558-1579, Nicolas Heath, Primate of England, was Chief Pastor of the Catholic Church in this country? And how nice it would be to think of a reason for adding dear Cardinal Allen to the list. Surely, de facto ...

But the more interesting question, ladies and gentlemen, now surely becomes: who was responsible for this botched and even comical attempt to assert a tidy and problem-free rewriting of ecclesiastical history? I suspect (my suspicions are no more than hunches) Vaughan. If it was he, did he tell some  green young chaplain to draft it on a couple of sheets of paper ... "My dear boy, it's quite simple: you just stick the Popes down one side, and the Archbishops of Canterbury down the other side ... you can't go wrong ..."?

Or might these Lists be the most dramatic public and permanent examples of poor Abbot Gasquet's idiosyncratic, Alice-in-Wonderland, History-is-what-I-think-it-ought-to-have-been, style of Historiography?

29 August 2015

Off with his head?

As History and S John Paul II both teach, the Rosary has been/is a flexible devotion. I sometimes recall my great Patron by saying these decades: The Annunciation to Zachary; the Visitation; the Nativity of S John Baptist; the Baptism of Christ; and the Decollation of S John Baptist.

In this delightfully hypersynodical age, what a very topical festival today's commemoration is. How sad it never occurred to S John Baptist to make clear to Herod and Herodias that all would be tickety boo about their interesting and fulfilling 'union' if only they performed an episcopally-authorised 'Penitential Path'.

Anyway, the Good News is that nobody has decapitated Cardinal Marx.

27 August 2015

Excellent ...

... pieces at Father Zed (on pews); and at Rorate, by Professor de Mattei, on a first-millennium Adulterous Synod.

25 August 2015

Appeal for help!

Since B Dominic Barberi was beatified in 1963, there must exist a Mass for him according to the conventions of the Missal of 1962. Can someone tell me where to find it, or email it to me? His feast is tomorrow, and I would prefer to use the authorised form rather than Os iusti.

22 August 2015

Docuit Ecclesia Westmonasteriensis ...

I've just returned from a period away from my computer and have endeavoured to deal with emails (400ish) and comments. I have, I think, enabled all the comments except for one (which tried to discuss at length the errors of the C of E rather than engaging with the actual subject of my post); and another which asked whether it was S Pius X or Pius XII who changed the collect for Assumption Day ... believe me, it was the latter!

A very good haul of comments on the piece I wrote on August 4 (Docet Ecclesia Westmonasteriensis) about the grandiose brass plates inside Westminster Cathedral. They seem to clarify that it was the antipope John XXIII who provided Chichele to Canterbury and sent him the Pallium ... and that the London Vicars Apostolic were, as I suspected, not senior to the other Vicars Apostolic. I thank all my erudite contributors and earnestly enjoin you to read their contributions.

I keep getting stuff about Facebook. I do not do Facebook. If you are being informed that I have rejected you as a Facebook Friend, this is why! 

12 August 2015

Isis Regina and Cardinal Ravasi (2)

Continues ...
Syncretism ... the worship of many deities while considering them truly to be manifestations of the One ... was the real religion of the Graeco-Roman world. Worshipping any one deity in no way excluded the worship of another. The more sniffy and traddy and 'Roman' emperors sometimes showed hostility to 'Oriental Cults' on the very natural traddy ground that these seedy greekish immigrant cults with their iffy foreign clergy and secret subversive ceremonies were displacing the good old Roman public sacrificial cults of Jupiter and Mavors, of Vulcan and Venus, of Dea Roma and the Genius of the Imperial House. But persecution, real persecution, was reserved for those who worshipped Iesous ho Chrestos. Because Christianity was regarded, and very truly, not as just another name and cult for worshipping the One; it was recognised as a denial of all other gods and goddesses. That is why Christians were held to be, were loathed as being, Atheists.

At Acts 4:12, S Peter says "There is no other Name given among men under heaven in which it is necessary (dei) for us to be saved." That is the essential truth which distinguishes Christianity from Isiacism, Mithraism, and the rest. I know no better way of situating S Peter's statement in its original cultural and religious context than to quote, again, the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, Book XI.
"The Phrygians call me the Mother of the Gods; the Athenians, Kekropian Athene; the Cypriots, Paphian Aphrodite; the Cretans, Dictynnian Artemis; the Sicilians, Infernal Persephone; the Eleusinians, Demeter ..." etc. etc..

The Christian God is not known by many peoples under many names and worshipped through many cults; He is known universally by One People under One Name and worshipped at One Altar.

That is why S Paul insists that the Gods of the heathen are demons and insists, further, that worshipping them, and worshipping the Father and His Incarnate Word, are mutually exclusive (I Corinthians 10). Some of his converts undoubtedly had been, and were prepared to continue to be, syncretists.

No. We do not, as well-meaning people sometimes say, "all worship the same God really".

This is the Faith our martyrs died for.

That is what makes it different.

I once received a hostile comment from somebody who criticised me for referring to Cardinal Ravasi without mentioning his Eminence's name. So I rectified that detail. He then criticised me for writing about Ravasi without actually knowing what was in his mind. Actually, that was why I had refrained from mentioning his name. I did not really want to do business in terms of personal denunciations. And, finally, my correspondent went on to exculpate Ravasi by surmising that he thought that "paganism's reverence for the earth and its fertility is a valuable religious impulse that needs to be respected, purified, and inculturated into Christianity". So here we had the insidious old temptation to revert to the Fertility cults of Palestinian religion which the Prophets denounced, still exercising its ancient and seductive charms!

Perhaps, indeed, I grant, there are things we do not know about the scene which was recorded by the videoclip on the Internet. Perhaps there are ways in which a new light could be cast upon Ravasi's actions. I hope so. I am not in a place to pass judgement upon another, nor do I do so. But cardinals, above all, honoured as they are with the bright colour of martyrdom, the colour of the blood which twenty Coptic peasants poured out a couple of years ago upon the shore of the Mediterranean, have a duty not to give scandal. And to appear to take part in what has been widely publicised as a ceremony in honour of a deity whose name is not Jesus, is, prima facie, to behave scandalously. If this is not what Ravasi did, then I am profoundly relieved. But it is clear that he still has a duty to repair an apparent scandal. If some other person has grossly misrepresented actions which were every way proper, then that person has a scandal to repair, and, additionally, owes his Eminence an apology. Since Ravasi is a cardinal presbyter of the Roman Church, I think his bishop also has some responsibilities in this matter.

I can offer a Patrimonial discussion of Syncretism; C S Lewis dedicated an entire volume to it: The Last Battle.

11 August 2015

ISIS REGINA and Cardinal Ravasi (1)

Iesous ho Chrestos ['Iesous the Good'; Christos in the first century was mistaken by many for the commoner word Chrestos, because by that point the pronunciation of each word was the same], as we know with the hindsight of History, came out on top of the myriad of other deities (Serapis, Osiris, Sabazios, Mithras ...) which made their fashionable journey from the mysterious Orient and secured enthusiastic followings in Greek Rome (never forget that, just as there are more Jews in New York than in any other city in the world, so Rome was the largest Greek-speaking city in the world).

We know this with hindsight; in the first century it far from obvious that this latecomer would displace those who were already firmly established. And foremost among those was Isis.

Isis was an originally Egyptian fertility goddess whose cult was fashioned into a world-beater when she was adopted and hellenised by the Greek monarchs of Egypt (the Ptolemies) who had governed there since the time of Alexander the Great. The last of these Greek dynasts was, indeed, herself an incarnation of Isis (Kleopatra nea Isis philopateira thea). If you want to get a seductive taste of the entrancing power which her cult exercised, read Book XI of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius.

Here is how Isis describes herself:
"Rerum Naturae parens, elementorum omnium domina, saeculorum progenies initialis, summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies uniformis ... cuius numen unicum multiformi specie, ritu vario, nomine multiiugo totus veneratur orbis ..." [Mother of the Nature of Things, Mistress of all the elements, initial Progeny of the centuries, Summary of divinities, Queen of souls, First of the skydwellers, uniform Appearance of the gods and goddesses,  ... the whole world adores my deity alone, under a different appearance, a different rite, a different name ...]. Because Isis, as she goes on to explain, does not exclude the other gods and goddesses worshipped in every place upon earth; she is those other divinities. She is simply an expression of all the deities anybody worships anywhere ... or rather, in her age-old Egyptian manifestation, she is the truest such expression and Isis is her truest name. Very modern: inclusive rather than exclusive! [Incidentally, I believe this attitude is very close to Hinduism, where the vast numbers of different divine manifestations are really one single deity. But I'm not an expert ...]

So the Cult of Isis is really a form of monotheism, and does not require anybody else to give up any other deity, for all are one and one is in all. Indeed, after being initiated into her mysteries, the hero of Apuleius' book goes on to become something of a collector of deities and their mysterious cults!

There is a technical name for this approach to the divine: it is called Syncretism.
To be continued.

10 August 2015


THE GOOD NEWS One of the little luxuries one gets from the Divine Office is the days when, not confined to the Commons of Saints, one has antiphons proper to the day. S Lawrence's day is an example.

THE BAD NEWS But the Liturgia Horarum is squeamish. We've lost that nice old antiphon to the Magnificat at II Vespers
While Blessed Laurence was being burned, stretched upon the gridiron, he said to the wicked tyrant "It's just about done this side; turn it over and tuck in [assatum est iam, versa et manduca], as for the goods of the Church which thou demandest, the hands of the poor have already carried them off into the heavenly treasures". Funny how our 'liberated' and 'uncensored' age has more hang-ups, and a greater tendency to bowdlerise, than allegedly less relaxed ages. I miss the antiphon on S Agatha's day with the lovely lingering alliterative Ms: He that hath vouchsafed to heal me from every blow, and to put my poor little breast back onto my chest [mamillam meam meo pectori], upon him do I call, the living God. And on Caecilia's day we've lost the antiphon which, by being slightly mistranslated, made her Patron of musicians: Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino decantabat ... (and notice the Cs and and Ts and Ds here). [The ablative absolute 'As the organs were playing' was mistakenly taken to mean that Caecilia was playing them.]

THE GOOD NEWS Following the mandate of the Council, the revisers brought into the new Office some gems of ancient Christian Latin hymnography. Today's Liturgia Horarum Office Hymns include a cento from Prudentius, the classicising Spaniard who wrote around 400ish. He delightfully describes the Roman Martyr Lawrence as now a citizen of heaven and a member of the eternal Senate (curia) and as wearing the Corona Civica: the crown/wreath of oak leaves given to a soldier who had saved the life of a comrade in battle, but often included among the insignia of Augustus. Prudentius wrote at just the time when the Church in Rome was coming to a cultural consensus to present itself as the guardian and exemplar of the old Romanitas; it was around now that the Canon Romanus was revised in the style of the ancient pre-Christian liturgical formulae of the City (vide Christine Mohrmann).

THE BAD NEWS For those of you who say the office in English: ICEL decided not to bother you anyway with the ancient hymns which the reformers had only just (in obedience to the Council) brought into the Liturgia Horarum. So you won't be reading Prudentius after all. Surprising how often ICEL promptly nullified the good initiatives of the Council. In our modern English vernacular, this is sometimes known as 'Sod's Law'.

3 August 2015


I have just got back (from doing the LMS Latin Summer School at Pantasaph ... splendid to see old friends, including, for the last couple of days, the Brethren from Silverstream) and read gillions of emails and enabled nearly all the comments offered.

I would remind readers that I particularly dislike comments which are just a line or two and include typoes. If you're too busy to check through what you have written, don't bother to comment.