28 April 2022

Next Sunday: Pip'n'jim on May Morning? Go on ... ... be daring ...

That is how Ss Philip and S James used irreverently to be referred to in Oxford. One of our most majestic Victorian Anglo-Catholic churches, also known as Pip'n'jim, raised its great spire into the sky above North Oxford; Parish Church for the redbrick suburbs that grew up in the later nineteenth century after dons were allowed to marry. Spire and building are still there, but the building now houses offices for some Evangelical organisation. A symbol of what has happened to this place. So swiftly, as Waugh put it, have the waters come flooding in; Newman's aquatint Oxford, Anthony Trollope's Oxford, hot-house of Anglican Theology ... and of Anglican scheming and quarrelling and gossipping ... the grey-stone town where and whence the black-backed parsons ruled ... even Zuleika's playground ... these Oxfords are no more, unless Plato has their idea wisely and safely tucked away in his heaven and allows tour-operators to arrange excursions.

May Morning still exists; but it consists of little more than Mr Plod doing his best to quell disorder (more among the Town than among the Gown). The Proctor, of course, comes not within a million miles of Carfax and neither do his minions in their bowler hats. Frankly, if anyone wants to listen to madrigals sung, without any alcoholic disorders, they might be happier visiting the front quad at S John's (usually, at 7). For such gentle souls, that is distinctly more attractive than pretending to enjoy the 'traditional' crowded goings-on at Magdalene bridge (at six o'clock).

Rather a sad fate, this, isn't it, for the lovely old English celebration of May Morning? And it gets sadder: Pius XII, silly fellow, followed by the Usus Deterior of the Roman Rite, trashed Tradition by abolishing the celebration of Ss Philip and James on May Morning, and shoving the pair of them around, like suspicious vagrants Of No Fixed Abode, endlessly moved on by the police. Yet this had been one of the thirty-odd Days of Obligation when the community met together for Mass, until encroachments of the Enlightenment (I particularly blame Napoleon) and an appetitive Capitalist desire to keep the workers' noses to the grindstone reduced most of those days to Days of Devotion; when the Faithful were merely urged to go to Mass (and, of course, next to nobody nowadays even urges).

Dispossessing Ss Philip and James of May 1 so that S Joseph Opifex could occupy it and so reclaim for the Church the Socialist Workers' Festival is ... let's be fair ... not a bad idea. 


But it never caught on. 

You can't, simply by decree, create a deeply known and inculturated traditional celebration. Imaginative liturgical reformers never realise that. They favour the idea of inculturation, but, when shown a living example, they scarper off and take cover in their self-invented rigidities.

And this year, of course, yet another problem raises its ugly head. Pip'n'jim is on Sunday May 1 and therefore collides with a Sunday in Eastertide; a fact which, since the time of Pius XII, has required their suppression. Mgr Burnham, emeritus Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and Dr Lawrence Hemming, have deplored these modern rules which mean that most of the feasts of the Apostles never get exposed liturgically to the contemplation of Sunday worshippers. 

I can offer a nicely pedantic dodge which might enable readers to circumvent this absurdity.

H Davis Moral and Pastoral Theology (1934) Vol iii p 145 writes "To substitute for the Mass prescribed in the Calendar another Mass at choice would normally be a venial sin, but if great scandal arose or there was contempt or serious negligence, the sin would be a grave one. It would be no sin if the celebrant had a reasonable excuse for the change and if there were no scandal. But to make such substitutions frequently would connote contempt of the Rubrics, and would be a grievous sin unless, as stated, there was a serious reason for thus acting."  

Would a devotional desire, or the pastoral need for catechesis, be a iusta causa? Even a gravis causa?

Davis, of course, was writing in those bad old Rigid times which PF has taught us to suspect. If Davis could write as permissively as that then, how much more forgivable must it be nowadays to give oneself just a little leeway in such matters? Occasionally?

Is a fortiori in your dictionary?

So who feels daring enough to tell their sacristan to put out red vestments for Sunday?


Oliver Nicholson said...

"Magdalene bridge" ? Semper e Cantabrigiensi aliquid novi

Richard Down said...

Red for the 1st with Commem. of Good Shepherd Sunday, Red for the 3rd (The Cross) White for the Wednesday after Good shepherd Sunday - the Solemnity of St Joseph (don't forget the ocatve!) and Red for the 6th - St John APL, and next Sunday, White for the 3rd after Easter with Commem. of St Michael the Archangel (well, and maybe Mother Julian of Norwich)Just get back to the good old English Missal (1933) you know where you are with that - no mucking about!!!

PM said...

A very wise priest whom I love dearly announced in the early 1990s announced that he was breaching the rubrics by wearing white on a Sunday for which the official colour was green. Why? Because overnight the news had come from Moscow of the dissolution of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

This was a Novus Ordo Mass, and I suspect that it was only the self-styled progressives, those Bergolianist foes of Rigidity, who would have had any scruples.

In those sunny days, little did we imagine that an unregenerate KGB thug would regain control of Russia.

Andreios said...

Being blessed (finally) to live to a Cistercian monastery using the Old Cistercian rite, we have been able to celebreate ss. Phillip and James on this Sunday. What a wonderful custom to let the Saints be celebrated! Of course, at the Last Gospel of the Mass instead of John 1 the celebrant read the Gospel of Sunday in Eastertide… Another great custom of old…