18 February 2020

Patrimonial Moses and Aaron

In Long Crendon church near Oxford, you can find two eighteenth century paintings; one of Moses, holding the Tablets of the Law; the other of Aaron, wearing a mitre, the breast-plate, the bells, and holding a smoking thurible.

Before the church was regothicised under the Victorians, these pictures clearly stood at each end of the Ten Commandments, which in pre-Tractarian days, stood behind and above the Altar. Moses was presumably on the South side, since he is pointing with his right hand to the (now missing) Commandments. The arrangement surivives intact in Fr Fynes Clinton's (Wren) church of S Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge and a number of other places.

I am intrigued to imagine the scene: the priest, wearing voluminous surplice and (if he was a gentleman) a red silk MA hood and a neat powdered wig, kneeling at the North End of the Altar to celebrate the Prayer Book Communion Office, with, above his head, the mitred, bell-adorned, Aaron, waggling incense. I wonder what effect these juxtapositions had on the imaginations of eighteenth century farmworkers ...

It is interesting to recollect that this iconography taken strictly suggests a notion of the Sacrifice of the Mass (aligning it narrowly with the Jewish sacrificial system) different from that of the Canon Romanus (which carefully alludes to pre-Mosaic sacrifice). Other texts in the old sacramentaries do refer, of course, to the Eucharist as the fulfilment of all the 'differentias hostiarum'. And the pre-Conciliar Pontificale takes a vivid doctrinal interest in the indumenta sacerdotalia.

So, I feel sure, did the author of the First Epistle of S Clement quam vide.

But not Dom Botte.

1 comment:

Fr PJM said...

Surely Dom Botte could not have suffered from antisemitism?