18 April 2019

'qualiter ... immolatus vicerit'

As we come to the Pascha itself ... in the older understanding of that term, found in the Homilies of S Leo ... this blog will fall silent. On Friday and Saturday, I shall simply mark my blog IEIUNIUM PASCHALE -- the Paschal Fast. This Fast appears to go back to before the invention of Lent; these two Days are not technically part of Lent. If you never quite got round to a proper Lenten observance, surely you ... we ... could manage just two days?

There used to be a simplistic error to the effect that the Eastern Christians, with their superior wisdom, emphasised the glorious and joyful triumph of the Resurrection, while we poor plodding unsophisticated Occidentals were preoccupied with the gloom of the Passion. Happily, we hear less of this, not least because of the sensible insistence of Metropolitan Callistus Ware that it was a nonsense.

But I simply don't see how anybody could ever have looked at the Roman Rite and claimed that it lacked the joy, the triumphalism of the Byzantine Rite. The Breviary ... and the Liturgy ... make insistent use of the two hymns composed by S Venantius Fortunatus, at the behest of a Right Royal Reverend Mother, for the Reception of a large Relic of the Holy Cross from the Emperor (of Constantinople) himself. The Reception was pretty Right Royal as well.

So, in these hymns, we get the wonderfully paradoxical oxymoron immolatus vicerit (the Sacrificed Victim is the Conqueror). Dic triumphum nobilem. And the claim that the Cross is like a tropaion ... the Tree on a battlefield, with the spoils of the defeated enemy nailed to it, which a victorious Army left on the battlefield as a monument of its Victory. And the General himself, the Imperator, having waited with his army outside the City until the Senate voted him a Triumph, entered the city with his face painted red like that of very Juppiter himself. There was no higher human glory than his. His soldiers did their apotropaic best to distract and nullify any feeling on the part of the gods that there was hubris in all this, by shouting obscene abuse at their General. In the case of C Iulius Caesar, this consisted of reiterated allusions to his alleged acts of sexual inversion. Jolly stuff, not printable on a Family Blog.

Roman Triumphs were politically incorrect occasions. At least, that is what the defeated kings must have felt as they trudged along chained to the chariot of the Imperator, hearing the repeated shout io Triumphe, their every step bringing them one step closer to the final icing on the day's cake, their own climactic strangling.

That rather over-the-top Anglo-Saxon poem glorifying the Holy Rood indicates that there are indeed other ways of making the same triumphalist point. Serial paintings by Rubens ... the Triumph of the Eucharist, the Triumph of the Church ... also demonstrate the correct and Catholic mindset. The important thing is to be triumphant. The thrill of this Triumph should be in the heart of every Christian throughout Holy Week. It is, of course Christ's Triumph and not ours, so a certain reticent sobriety on our part ...

But Hey!! It is our triumph, because we are incorporated by Baptism into Christ and His Triumph is ours. As He remarked, tharseite, ego nenikeka ton kosmon (John 16:33).

Io Triumphe!  Immolatus vicit! Regnavit a ligno Deus!


Kathleen1031 said...

Fr. Hunwicke have a holy and blessed Sacred Triduum and a very Happy Easter!
God bless you and all here.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Triumphalism?

That is hate speech in ecumenism.

Stephen Barber said...

Was Venantius Fortunatus canonized?