17 January 2020

Mascall and Vergil: only for Classicists

That most exquisitely Latin of Anglican theologians, E L Mascall, was haunted by a passage in Vergil's First Eclogue; the shepherd Tityrus says that Rome tantum alias inter caput extulit urbes/ quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi. His fellow Meliboeus asks Et quae tanta fuit Romam tibi causa videndi? to which he replies: Libertas ...

Libertas ... it evokes memories of how many of us felt, nine years ago, when we sought and found Liberty in the Rome of Benedict XVI; liberty from the attempts of the Church of England to impose heteropraxy upon us. That Pope himself seemed to me a cypressus towering above the viburna.

But now, apparently, viburna rule, OK. As we take up our breviaries for the Feast of the Cathedra Petri; can there ever have been a Chair of Unity Octave like this year's, overshadowed by Pachamama? In the second nocturn of Mattins, another great Latinist, S Leo, apostrophises another shepherd, S Peter, entering the City a couple of generations after Tityrus: Ad hanc ergo urbem tu, beatissime Petre Apostole, venire non metuis, et ... turbulentissimae profunditatis oceanum, constantior quam cum supra mare gradereris, ingrederis. That Ocean, now, is surely more than just turbulentissimus.

Here is a stanza probably by S Paulinus II Patriarch of Aquileia, which used once to be sung on the Feast of S Peter ad Vincula:

Petrus beatus catenarum laqueos
Christo iubente rupit mirabiliter:
custos ovilis et doctor Ecclesiae,
pastorque gregis, conservator ovium
arcet luporum truculentam rabiem.

It cannot be wrong to pray for a Shepherd today who will see his duty arcere rather than augere! Most certainly, the lupi whom Pope Benedict mentioned at his inauguration have not (as Gerry Adams once remarked about the IRA) 'gone away'.

And how, during these last few days, they have been howling ... just because of one little book! Urban Wolves, indeed! Menin aeide thea ...

Was it Barth who oberved that Santa Maria sopra Minerva accurately expressed the relationship between Catholicism and Paganism? I wonder if he would have wished, could he have but seen our own age, to call it Pachamama superposita Petro.


OreamnosAmericanus said...

Since you are a man of linguistic exactness, may I ask if Italian has recently developed an accusative form of the noun?

"Was it Barth who oberved that Santa Maria sopra Minervam accurately expressed the relationship between Catholicism and Paganism?"

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Thank you! I have eliminated that accusative.