1 January 2019

The Circumcision and Mrs Cranmer

Sometimes one reads traddy criticisms of the abolition of the title "The Circumcision" formerly attached to January 1. There may be a slight confusion here. But before I explain this, I would like to emphasise the importance of celebrating and teaching ... perhaps in Lent and Holy Week ... the profound significance of the Circumcision within the context of our Lord's complete Jewishness and his identification with the Jewish people. Perhaps I might be permitted a quick and waspish observation that the only picture I know of our Most Holy Redeemer where the artist has troubled to make him look unmistakably Hebrew is by Caravaggio.

The Mass texts of the Roman Church, for centuries, made no reference on January 1 to the Circumcision except in as far as the opening verses of S Luke Chapter 2 were an obvious choice for the Gospel. The whole Mass was about our Lady's Divine Maternity. The 1960s 'reformers' were guilty of many nastinesses, unmandated by the Council, often contrary to the Council; but all they did to January 1 was to give it the title which best fitted the immemorially ancient and exquisite texts of the Roman Church. If you don't trust me, here are the words of Gueranger.

"The holy Church of Rome used formerly to say two Masses on the first of January; one was for the Octave of Christmas Day, the other was in honour of Mary ... The Church celebrates today the august prerogative of this divine Maternity, which was conferred on a mere creature, and which made her the co-operatrix with Jesus in the great work of man's salvation ..."

And the great Benedictine writes another five superb pages on our Lady's Divine Maternity.

The sometimes rather mechanical biblicism of the Middle Ages led to the title of the Circumcision being given to this day. But, as a result of the admirable inertia in matters liturgical which has always been part of the Catholic instinct (some people nowadays invoke the phrase organic development), the actual Mass texts were left unchanged ...

 ... until Archbishop Cranmer got his hands on the Liturgy. As so often happened with the 'reformers', Cranmer behaved in impeccably 'late medieval' ways. So he borrowed from Mattins an Epistle from Romans 4, and composed this Collect:

Almyghtie God, whiche madest thy blessed sonne to be circumcised and obedyente to the law for man; Graunt us the true circumcision of thy spirite, that our hertes, and al our membres, being mortifyed from al worldly and carnal lustes, may in al thinges obey thy blessed wil; through etc..

Frankly, I am glad that the Ordinariate Missal sticks with the old Roman texts here, and ignores Cranmer. Since the poor old gentleman kept a wife secreted somewhere, I wonder how consistently he did mortifye al his membres. Or was Mrs C a merely titular wife whose purpose was to minister to Cranmer's self-understanding that he really was a world-class Reformer just like those enwifed Swiss and German chappies? (Calvin's sexuality has, of course, been a matter of debate, or do I mean gossip? Stigmaticus perfuga ...)

One good idea of the 1960s 'reformers': they introduced into the Divine Office for today the wonderful hymn of Prudentius Corde natus ex parentis ...  


Joshua said...

The Neo-Gallican revisers who compiled the 1738 Paris Missal did somewhat as Cranmer:


Colossians 2:6-11 (chosen by reason of the last verse: "in whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ.")


Deus, qui pro nobis homo factus, hodierna die circumcidi, et Salvatoris nomen accipere voluisti; concede propitius, ut carnis renuntiantes operibus, salutis æternæ præmium per invocationem sancti tui nominis consequámur; Qui vivis...

(O God, who, made man for us, didst will on this day to be circumcised, and to accept the name of Saviour: favourably grant, that renouncing the works of the flesh, we may attain the reward of everlasting salvation through the invocation of thy holy name: Who livest...)

Joshua said...

The Dominican Missal contains the same Mass texts for the Octave Day of Christmas as does the Roman - except for the orations, which not Marian, but rather make reference to the Octave Day:

Deus, qui nobis nati Salvatoris diem celebrare concedis octavum: fac nos, quæsumus, ejus perpetua divinitate muniri, cujus sumus carnali commercio reparati. Qui tecum vivit.

(O God, who dost grant unto us to celebrate the octave day of the newborn Saviour: make us, we beg, to be defended by his perpetual divinity, by whose fleshly commerce we are restored. Who with thee liveth…)

Fr PJM said...

Speaking of Jewishness, etc., on the last day of the year, in the Liturgy of the Hours, at Morning Prayer, we find: "Christ, God and man, Lord of David and Son of David, fulfillment of all prophecies, we pray that Israel may recognize you as its Messiah."

Bob said...

As far as an artist emphasizing the jewishness of Christ, perhaps it is my imagination, but I see a lot of sidelock in the depiction of the Lord here


Mark said...

As I do on occasion, I prayed both the BCP collect and the Sarum collect (translated into English) this January 1 morning during my daily office.

I have to admit, the Sarum collect is better, both simpler and more profound IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

I find the introductory comments in the Saint Andrew Missal for 01 January to adequately explain the three-fold significance of the 01 January Feast. In general I find the comments and introductions in this missal to be considerably better than those in the various 1962 missals. Often I prefer the translations, most particularly that of Psalm XXII in the private prayers after Mass.

Anthony Bidgood

Protasius said...

There is a very recent article at New Liturgical Movement discussing exactly this subject of the Circumcision in the Roman Rite. One of the findings is that the Missal and Breviary of Pius V are quite in the minority in not referencing the Circumcision in the Collect, while other Medieval uses such as the Dominican or the Sarum use were more explicit about that. However, also in the Roman Use the references to the circumcision are not lacking: the first antiphon of Lauds O admirabile commmercium quite clearly refers to the circumcision as the first shedding of the Saviour's Blood, the mercantile language being a reminder of 1 Cor 6, 20 (you are bought with a great price) and 1 Petr 1, 18 et seq. (you are not redeemed by corruptible things …). And further more oblique references can be found in the Gelasian Sacramentary.

Gregory DiPippo said...

Reverend Father you may find this of interest:


Gillineau said...

Are you intimating that Calvin was having his worldly membre mortifye'd by a secreted husband? Yet more evidence that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

A Lutheran historian inspected the archives of Calvin's old diocese and discovered that he was convicted of, and sentenced to be executed for the crime against nature.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

That rumour was widespread in the 16th century. Hence in the Decem Rationes S Edmund Campion amused himself with the phrase stigmaticus perfuga ... apparently, in Geneva convicted homosexuals were branded.

No; not nice.