31 May 2020


I like to think that the Patrimonial Anglican lay theologian C S Lewis offered a good refutation of the Bergoglianist error. By 'Bergoglianism' I do not mean the thoughts of PF within himself ... how could I know these? ... but the view expressed so loudly by his admirers: that the Holy Spirit speaks certainly through PF's mouth, even when he is a very long way from his Cathedra and not least when he appears to be a considerable distance from the Great Tradition. They use the Holy Spirit as a fast, plausible and cheap way of bridging the gap between the Deposit of Faith and the words of Jorge Bergoglio ... as their own personal, ready-made Deus ex machina.

In Lewis's novel, an eminent physicist called Edward Rolles Weston (1896-1942) has fallen under the influence of the Enemy. He and a philologist called Edwin Ransom, a Christian, are thrown together on an unfallen planet called Perelandra. Weston is speaking here:

" ... God is spirit, Ransom. Get hold of that. You're familiar with that already. Stick to it. God is a spirit."
"Well, of course. But what then?" ... ... 

[Weston] "It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on to its goal."
"Look here," said Ransom, "one wants to be careful about this sort of thing. There are spirits and spirits, you know."
"Eh?" said Weston. "What are you talking about?"
[Ransom] "I mean a thing might be a spirit and not good for you."
[Weston] "But I thought you agreed that Spirit was the good -- the end of the whole process? I thought you religious people were all out for spirituality? What is the point of asceticism -- fasts and celibacy and all that? Didn't we agree that God is a spirit? Don't you worship Him because He is pure spirit?"
[Ransom] "Good heavens, no! We worship Him because He is wise and good. There's nothing specially fine about simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit." 

Perhaps someone should send PF a copy of Lewis's Space trilogy.

30 May 2020

Sex and Scandal on the River

The Internet may have convinced us that  Coronavirus is just a Chinese hoax, but the University's Rowing clubs, unaccountably, have cancelled Eights Week. For any who may have withdrawal symptoms, I here follow an ancient British custom, exemplified by the Beeb, and give you a Repeat! (The old thread has one or two very sweet comments.)

Well, Eights Week, the annual Summer Bumping Races on the Isis, is now over. Nothing changes; the accents of upper-class girls from New England (and I don't mean the one in New South Wales) as ubiquitous as ever. The usual male undergraduates who, having Pimms taken, loudly try feebly to cap each other's feeble jokes to impress women undergraduates ... why is it that the girls never even hint by word or body-language their contempt for all this pathetic male preening? Shall I ever understand Sex?

But, this year, a Scandal. Let me tell you all about it. In the final race of the top Division, the Scone boat, with effortless superiority, came first out of the Gut. It was followed by the Judas eight, now renamed Amazonia, and greeted by the traditional undergraduate cheers of  'Dobson, Dobson'. Close behind in third place was the Simon Magus boat. But as the Judas cox steered his boat over to the Rain Forest on the Green Bank, he went too close, and the eight came to a juddering halt tangled in undergrowth and baboons and viri probati. This enabled Simon Magus to bump it spectacularly, indeed catastrophically, seriously damaging the entire stern of the Judas boat. Thanks to a supernatural premonition, the Judas cox had already leaped out of his seat onto the bank, and so, alone of his crew, escaped serious injury. Klaxons all round, chaps!

The fourth boat out of the Gut was also going strongly; 'DLS' painted on its bow, and the familiar domestick cat of Shrewsbury College on its oars. It avoided the melee; and careered onwards at such a speed as to catch up with and to bump Scone (the crew of which, having seen Judas bumped, had foolishly slackened their pace). So Shrewsbury ended up Head of the River!

The scandal? It transpires that the Judas cox had been bribed with money and (he is a poor simple American boy) the lure of "Irregular Relationships"; the Senior Common Room at Simon Magus, led by Mr Provost himself, had organised it all!! It seems that my lord Chancellor may have to be called in.

Rumours abound about how Mr Orator might allude to such an episode at Encaenia in his Creweian Oration. Might he quote the Pro Caelio? Or mention the technological aspects of the death of Agrippina?

29 May 2020

Hate Liturgy? (4) Sub tuum praesidium ...

With the background afforded by my meditations upon the final paragraph of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo [GIED], I now revisit the ancient Marian prayer, which I examined early in this Mary Month: Sub tuum praesidium [STP]. My suspicions are quite simple: that it fits very snugly into the same cultural format, somewhere towards the end of the third century; the period when psalmi idiotici were still all the rage. You will remember that an early Christian papyrus contains this prayer [PAP means this papyrus] in one of its slightly differing versions.

Like GIED, STP appears to be aware of  the New Testament scriptures. Our Lady is addressed as Eulogemene, Blessed, the word used in S Luke's narrative of the Annunciation. PAP also has rhusai, which is very rare in the Gospels (the Byzantine version replaces this with lutrosai). But it has a high profile use, coming at the end of the Matthaean version of the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us ...".

Then there is the word eusplangkhnian, a noun with the corresponding adjective eusplangkhnos. This is a compound Greek word. Literally, it means 'having bowels well'. So the term appears in ... medical textbooks! As 'bowels' had a sense of compassionate emotion,  the meaning expanded to take in the idea of kindness or mercy. Interestingly, where the Roman version of the STP has praesidium [protection], the Ambrosian version, closer to the Greek, has misericordiam.  In the NT Epistles, the idea applies to human beings (I Pet 3:8; Eph 4:32). But in the 'Prayer of Manasses', it is applied to the Almighty: su ei Kyrios hypsistos, eusplangkhnos, makrothumos, kai polyeleos. Notice here hypsistos (Most Highest). The Prayer of Manasses hovered on the fringes of the Biblical Canon right down to the time of Pope Clement VIII; all we know about its dating is that it cannot be later than the early years of the third century.

But what I find of most interest is the description of our Lady in STP/PAP as mone hagne mone eulogemene. She is called "The Only pure, The Only blessed" just as her Son is addressed in GIED as "The Only Holy, The Only Lord, The Only Most High." [the Roman form of STP omits the Only; but it is retained in the Ambrosian form]. I followed Jungman in seeing these Onlys as exclusionary when we met them in GIED. How might that play into the context of PAP?

When the composer of STP/PAP wrote Only Holy/Chaste (mone hagne; in the Ambrosian version of STP, sola casta), he or she was using a term applied to divinities and more or less anything connected with them, but most especially goddesses. In particular, the Virgin Huntress Artemis. Artemis was regularly for Homer "Golden-throned". And Isis was "she of the throne". In an Isiac papyrus, Isis proclaims herself as having the title Hagne at Paphos.

Perhaps it hardly needs pointing out that STP, like GIED, was clearly composed at a time, like that of PF's Vatican, when polytheism and syncretism were still live problems and merited being implicitly refuted, even in a devotional formula.

But  what sort  of formula is STP? I have finished my study of GIED and Hate Liturgy; but, with regard to STP, I have a very tasty fact or two or three which don't appear in books likely to be on the shelves of many readers. These will follow.

28 May 2020

Hate Liturgy? (3) Hitler, Pachamamma

But I feel there still remains a nagging doubt about that final paragraph: "Thou only art The Holy. Thou only art The Most High".  The Byzantine Liturgy, in the response of the People before Communion, raises a similar question: heis Hagios, heis Kyrios, Iesous Christos ... When all is said and done, doesn't that leave an uneasy query in one's mind: we are addressing God the Son. So when we tell him that he alone is The Holy One; he alone is The Lord; he alone is The Most High ... well,  isn't His Father (and the Holy Ghost) equally entitled to these honorifics? Jungmann explains "If we refer [these epithets] to Christ, they must also by that fact be claimed for the triune God". Indeed. Very True. But, again ... ...

Jungmann, writing, I think, during the Nazi tyranny, argues that "in the period when our hymn originated, such expressions very vividly outlined the sharp antithesis between our Catholic worship and heathen worship with its many loosely-given attributes of divinity, its many kyrioi, and its emperor-worship. Above and beyond all these creations of human fancy stands Jesus Christ, radiant and grand, the sole and only Lord. Our own day has great appreciation of this sublime contrast." [My italics.] Indeed. Jungmann's 'day' had more than its belly-full of Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer. In the context of such tyranny, isn't the final paragraph of the Gloria in excelsis still endowed with all its old subversive power? Does it not still breathe the spirit of all the Martyrs of all the ages? Is its truth not still increasingly necessary as liberal tyranny fastens its hold upon our own society, and even upon the Church?

So S Paul admits that in his society there are theoi polloi kai kyrioi polloi, but opposes to this heis Theos ho Pater, heis Kurios Iesous Christos (I Corinthians 8:5-6; cf  Ephesians 4:5-6). Indeed, in syncretistic polytheistic cultures, there certainly are many Kyriai and many Kyrioi: Isis, Osiris, Sabazios, Mithras, Pachamamma  ...   All of whom the Christian radically rejects. Our shout inevitably and inexorably goes up "In Tiberim, in Tiberim". Splash Splash!! Sink Sink!!!

So 'only' and 'monos' and 'solus' clearly function as exclusionary and excluding dogmatic terms. They are profoundly and deliberately anti-ecumenical. That is their value and their immense strength. And, I would say, their necessity. Our society is focussed upon being 'inclusive', and this ambiguous 'virtue' (newly and cunningly manufactured in the laboratories of Hell) makes its way even into the religious sphere, where it encourages syncretism only yards from where S Peter bore his uninclusive Witness. But the ideologically powerful final paragraph of the Gloria in excelsis, which is not just poetry and not even solely prayer, is an unfurled dogmatic standard around which to gather in the battles ahead.

Jungmann realised this in Nazi Vienna. How clear is it to us here and to us now?

In the fourth and final section, I shall return to the Marian prayer Sub tuum praesidium.

27 May 2020

Hate Liturgy (2)

By the way, you'd better not whisper to PF what I've just explained, or he may "correct the translation" (to employ the silly terms he used in altering the Our Father) of the Gloria in excelsis to cut it down to what he can himself understand, and to prevent it from 'offending' people. Not least because our Moslem friends are, in their Christology, Unitarian rather than Trinitarian. I have, incidentally, wondered whether the irritation felt in Trendiland by the translation, in the Creed, of homoousios as consubstantial may arise from a crypto-Arian mindset. Similarly, the replacement of the 'Nicene' Creed by the 'Apostles' Creed'. (I don't know what ultra-orthodox and very witty Anglican liturgist had the idea of allowing the 'Athanasian Creed' to be used at Mass in the C of E!! That really would be a step in the right direction!)

But, however the baddies may tamper with the text or use of the Creed, I find it reassuring that the Gloria still preserves the Church's orthodox Christology. And expresses it with very great beauty.

How should we date the Gloria? It had certainly got itself, in a variety of versions, all over the Christian World by the middle of the fourth century. It can hardly be later than the third century. Dix  suggests an origin "even, perhaps in the second century".

That would not be surprising. Batiffol and Jungmann see it as a surviving example of the psalmi idiotici ... psalms wriiten by private individuals rather than being found, like the Psalms of David, in the Scriptures. Gloria in excelsis attracts our attention first as part of  the psalmody of the morning Office; by the second half of the fourth century Catholic worship tended to banish them (that is when the Council of Laodicea simultaneously banned psalmi idiotici and the reading of 'uncanonical Scriptures'). Dix points out that it is only with Tertullian at the turn of the century that we begin to find Scripture employed  as normative and as constitutive of sound doctrine. "Unless we recognise the important change produced in Christian theological method by the definite canonisation of the NT Scriptures, which only begins to have its full effect after c. A.D. 180, we shall not understand the second-century Church".

Yet this Song does start off with a 'motto' (to use the terminology of commentators on the Classics) drawn from NT Scripture: the Song of the Angels recorded by S Luke in his infancy narrative. This is surely some indication of the growing liturgical influence of the Scriptures. Perhaps Gloria in excelsis should be dated to the end of the second century, although one must remember how fluid its text for some time remained.

To be continued.

26 May 2020

Hate Liturgy? (1)

"From the tyrannye of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, Good lorde deliver us.".

As the victims of the Tudor regime were being dragged to their ritual disembowling, it must have comforted them mightily to reflect that at least the kyngs maiestie and his counsaile were keeping papal influence well beyond the boundaries of the Staple of Calais.

The words I quote above are the sort of thing I mean by Hate Liturgy.

But I must confess that I do have a softer spot for our own sort of Hate Liturgy. At the Byzantine Liturgy, when the Monogenes is being sung ... I must admit this ... there does surge within me the warmly combative sentiment "T*ke th*t, N*st*r**s!" I'm sure you experience the same feeling. It's only human.

Today, I want to look at a delightful piece of Hate Liturgy which frequently crops up in our beloved Roman Rite.
For thou only art the Holy, thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art the Most High in the glory of God the Father..

Keen eyes will spot that the definite article has been added in the phrase the Most High. It is not in the Latin. Latin does not have articles, either definite or indefinite. But the addition in the translation is correct, because the phrase is being used as a title. And that is why, in modern translations, the same is done to Holy. Since it is being used as a title, it can indeed be usefully rendered as the Holy One. It is important also to remember that 'the Lord' is used, following Septuagint and Vulgate precedent, as the equivalent of YHWH, the ancient and unutterable Name of the God of Israel. It is quite something that we are saying in this paragraph about our Lord Jesus Christ.

So where does the 'hate' come in?

We should never forget the Arians, particularly because so many Christians today (without, poor poppets, being aware of it) are Arian; they do not instinctively believe that, within the undivided and ever-blessed Trinity, our Lord is co-equally God with his Father. Whenever a speaker ... even a homilist ... uses a phrase like "God and Jesus", we should be suspicious. Jesus is God. Just as 'much' as the Father is.

Arians, aka Unitarians, believe that Jesus Christ is no more than the greatest created being. S John Henry Newman explained that, in asserting this, Arians (and modern liberal Protestants and all the rest) are demoting Christ to the slot properly occupied by our Lady. It is not surprising that, meeting the way we Catholics and Orthodox talk about Mary, ignorant modern proddies might accuse us of raising Mary into the place of Christ. They fail to understand that, merely by entertaining this suspicion in their poor simple heretical minds, they reveal themselves not to have a nearly 'high' enough belief ... not within a million million miles ... about Christ: about who/what  he is. They show themselves, all unwittingly, to be Arius-groupies.

If you now look back at that last paragraph from the Gloria in excelsis Deo, you will realise how precisely and effectively it is crafted to 'get at' the Arians. The Man from Nazareth is YHWH! He is 'the Holy One'! There were, indeed, the more  'high church' Arians who were prepared to use the loftiest language they, in good conscience, could manage to describe Christ. But obviously, even they could hardly describe Him as 'the Most High'. Obviously, that title would appear to make Him outrank the Father, who .... obviously ... is the 'mostest High' (Jungmann adduces PL  LXII 387).

So, every time we partake in the final paragraph of this splendid hymn, we are  really saying "S*d  y**, Ar**n sc*m!" As well, of course, as praising the Lord!!

To be continued.

25 May 2020

Variis linguis loquebantur Apostoli ...

 ... but among the many tongues the Church speaks nowadays, Latin, the proper language of the Latin Church, apparently is not to feature. We are preparing for the liturgical celebration of Pentecost, the bestowing upon the Church of the gifts of tongues. Yet the language most securely fixed into place by Tradition and by the enactments of popes and councils, Latin, has had a gag rudely thrust into its mouth by the Enemy and by those whom he has corrupted. It is difficult to avoid a conclusion that the bishops, as a body, are largely the guilty men.

I have noticed, over the years, three or four occasions when a bishop, perhaps when asked to provide a celebrant for the Extraordinary Form, has cheerfully informed the world that not many clergy know Latin nowadays, so that it's hard for him to find someone who can celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

I am amazed by the nonchalant and shame-free way that bishops make this revelation without any apparent awareness that Canon Law (249) requires the clergy to be proficient in Latin. If a diocesan bishop were rebuking a cheeky young curate for ignoring Canon Law, what would be his reaction if the junior cleric cheerfully (and nonchalantly) said "Come off it, Bish dear, nobody takes any notice of all that old Canonical C**p any more nowadays! Crawl out from under your poncy mitre and try to get real!" But apparently there are bishops who feel exactly this same disdainful contempt with regard to Canon Law. Is chirpy insouciance combined with dereliction of duty any less reprehensible when expressed in po-faced management-talk by self-important bishops than it would be among lowly and racy presbyters? 

I am moved to repeat the actual teaching of the Conciliar and post-Conciliar popes on this highly important matter.

S JOHN XXIII and Latin.
 Roman Pontiffs do not commonly sign their Magisterial documents on the High Altar of S Peter's in the presence of the body of Cardinals. But S John XXIII thus promulgated his Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia, 1962, in which he insisted that the Latin language must remain central to the culture of Western Christianity. What on earth could the good old gentleman have done in order to make his point more emphatically?

That Letter was praised by S Paul VI (Studia Latinitatis, 1964, " ... principem obtinere locum dicenda sane est"), who was anxious that seminarians "magna cum cura et diligentia ad antiquas et humanas litteras informentur"; and S John Paul II (Sapientia Christiana) emphasised the requirement for knowlege of Latin "for the faculties of the Sacred Sciences, so that students can understand and use the sources and documents of the Church". Benedict XVI (Latina lingua, 2012), praised Veterum sapientia as having been issued iure meritoque: it is to be taken seriously both because of its legal force and because of the intrinsic merit of its arguments; and in his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis wrote specifically about the need for seminarians to be taught Latin. We have, in other words, a coherent and continuous expectation in the teaching of popes S John XXIII, S Paul VI, S John Paul II, and Benedict XVI that all seminarians should become proficient in Latin, the language of the Church. [So let nobody argue that the provisions of Canon 249 have fallen into desuetude because the legislator has failed within living memory to continue to insist upon them.] And the attitude of the popes to the promotion of Latin studies in even broader contexts than that of the formation of the clergy is demonstrated in the establishment by S Paul VI of a Latin Academy; a foundation re-established and strengthened by Benedict XVI.

This papal teaching by no means relates solely to the language of worship; it desires Latin to remain a living vernacular for the clergy and not least for their formation; and it is explicitly based upon the belief that, by being latinate, a clerisy will have access to a continuity of culture. My post would have to be very long indeed if it quoted fully all the words of all four popes to this effect. Coming as I do from the Anglican Patrimony, I will instead share the witness of C S Lewis's Devil Screwtape, who confessed, "Since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another". And in his Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis suggests that the growing disuse of Classical languages is a Diabolical trick to isolate the educated classes from the wisdom of the Past. Both in secular culture and within the Church, there is a risk that the educated class will be cut off and imprisoned in the narrow confines of a particular culture - victims of its particular Zeitgeist. A literate clerisy is one that reads what other ages wrote, which means that it will at least be able to read Latin; and an obvious sign of such a clerisy, in practical terms, will be that it can with ease say its Divine Office in Latin.

VATICAN II and Latin.
It is in this context that we must see the requirement of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 101): "In accordance with the centuries-old tradition (saecularis traditio) of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in reciting the Divine Office". And it is highly significant that it goes on to make any use of the vernacular an (apparently very rare) exception which bishops can grant "only on an individual basis". One might plausibly surmise that this exception may have been envisaged as useful in areas where resources for clerical formation were limited, like the remoter parts of the 1960s Third World. I wonder how the Council Fathers - or a significant proportion of them - might have reacted to the information that in less than a decade the bishops of Western, Old, Europe (whose culture both religious and secular had been based upon Latin for nearly two millennia, the continent of the great universities in which the civilisation of the Greek and Roman worlds had been transmitted) would regard both this conciliar mandate, reinforced by the directions of the Conciliar Decree Optatam totius on seminary training, as an irrelevant dead letter. As early as 1966, S Paul VI was deploring (Sacrificium laudis) the habit of requesting dispensations for a vernacular Office.

Readers of this blog are probably familiar* with the other prescriptions of Vatican II for the retention of Latin, particularly in the Liturgy, and I will not labour the point. I emphasise that I am not basing an argument for the retention of a living Latin culture simply and nakedly upon the words of the Council. The auctoritas for that retention is very much more broadly based, as the Council Fathers themselves emphasised by calling it and invoking it as a saecularis traditio. The conciliar mandate is merely a dutiful affirmation, proper to an Ecumenical Council of the Church, of the continuity and abiding prescriptiveness of the Church's Tradition; the guarantee making explicit that in an age of revolutions the old assumptions are still in place. Without these words of the Council, it might have been plausibly argued by ill-disposed persons that a radical cultural and intellectual shift had invalidated previous assumptions. In view of the plain language of the Council, such a thesis can only be advanced as a deliberate repudiation of the explicit words of an Ecumenical Council ... as well as of the centuries preceding it and of the teaching of subsequent popes. 

CANON LAW and Latin.
But not long ago I met a bright and recently ordained young priest who had been taught "a little Greek but not a word of Latin". So, despite Canon 249 (in the post-Conciliar Code of Canon Law), the clergy have not all learned, and are not now all being taught, Latin as part of their seminary formation?

Well, of course they all haven't so learnt, and are not all being so taught. Everybody knows that. A priest of my acquaintance once wrote to me "When I was a seminarian in the 1980s, the very fact of having done a course in Latin at University was considered tantamount to a declaration in favour of Archbishop Lefebvre. A priest who gave a retreat (a prominent moral theologian of those days) searched our places in choir and denounced those who possessed Latin Breviaries as certainly having no vocation". One can hardly blame the present generation of English bishops for a problem which looks as though it arose more than half a century ago (in any case, blame is not my purpose). Indeed, I have heard that matters may now be a little less bad. But not, I believe, everywhere, and certainly not for all seminarians. Surely Catholic Bishops have some say about the syllabuses taught in seminaries? Surely they have some responsibility for the formation of their own clergy? Are they happy that seminaries are run in a way which pays only very selective regard to the Magisterium of S John XXIII? And to the Second Vatican Council, which (vide Optatam totius 13) laid emphasis on the role of Latin in seminary education: or is that particular Conciliar document now to be consigned to oblivion? S Paul VI, as the first in his list of academic priorities for seminarians, wrote "The cultural formation of the young priest must certainly include an adequate knowledge of languages and especially of Latin (particularly for those of the Latin Rite)." (Summi Dei verbum.) There has long been a tacit assumption among some that the Magisterium of the 'pre-Conciliar popes' is to be quietly forgotten. Pius IX? Pius XII? Who on earth were they? But now one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Magisterium of the Council itself, and the teaching of the 'post-Conciliar popes', are now also (when it suits) being treated with similar contempt by these grand men. Are those more recent Pontiffs to be elaborately honoured with questionable Beatifications and break-neck-speed Canonisations and facile rhetorical praise, while their actual teaching, emphatically and insistently given, is tossed aside as irrelevant or impractical?

"There just isn't room on the syllabus for any of that". Really? When Seminary syllabuses are composed, shouldn't it be the first aim to ensure that the insistent mandates of Roman Pontiffs are not be ignored? Since entering into Full Communion in 2011, I have met significant numbers of clergy who have deplored the fact that, at seminary, they were robbed of what the Catholic Church regards as the first building block of a priestly formation. They have seemed to have in mind quite a number of useless topics which could profitably have been omitted so as to liberate syllabus time.

Cardinal Basil Hume, back in the 1990s, rather impertinently reminded Anglican enquirers that "Catholicism is table d'hote, not a la carte". Surely that gives an ex-Anglican some right to wonder whether this principle also applies as much to those who run or who episcopally supervise seminaries as it does to Anglican enquirers?

A final quotation from S John XXIII. "The teachers ... in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin (latine loqui tenentur) and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. Those whose ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for them to obey these instructions shall gradually be replaced by teachers who are suited to this task (in eorum locum doctores ad hoc idonei gradatim sufficiantur). Any difficulties that may be advanced by students or professors must be overcome (vincantur necesse est) either by the patient insistence of the bishops or religious superiors, or by the good will of the teachers."

And a final question: how many of those currently teaching in English seminaries are (in the sense of S John XXIII's precise use of the word)  idonei, 'fit for the job'? Indeed, are there any?
*You sometimes find claims made to the effect that "Vatican II mandated more extensive use of vernacular languages in the liturgy". Sacrosanctum concilium para 54 says 'Linguae vernaculae in Missis cum populo celebratis congruus locus tribui possit'. Doesn't sound to me much like a 'mandate'. It doesn't even say 'potest'! Somebody must have decided to put the verb into the subjunctive! It goes on to say 'praesertim' and mentions the readings. Then, much more cautiously, it raises the possibility of the vernacular 'even' (etiam) 'in partibus quae ad populum spectant' linking this with a specific requirement that the laity should also be able to sing and say those selfsame parts in Latin. Hardly a 'mandate' for the vernacular! Rather, a nervously tentative partial permission.

23 May 2020

Urbi et Orbi (2): A Greta-Compliant Pontificate

Placing people within social structures can be so very difficult. Catullus belonged to the 'establishment' classes; somebody had got him onto the cohors of a proconsular governor. But, at least in his poetic persona, he scarcely has a quadrans to bless himself  with. Yet in the world that he describes, it is apparently plausible that he should have a lectica in which he could be carried through the streets of Rome, carried loftily above the polloi ... and also apparently plausible that even a pushy little demi-mondaine might be able at least to borrow somebody else's litter (and eight Men) in which to be carried to one of the fashionable Hellenised-Egyptian cult centres (if that was really where she planned to go). Litters, apparently, were not confined to consulares and ... ...

Di immortales! It has suddenly occurred to me! I bet you hadn't thought of this! S Peter, when he was in Rome and starting to become a little bit frail, must pretty certainly have had pressed upon him for his use, by an enthusiastic member of the congregation (probably a Devout Lady), a litter, a lectica. I'd call that a moral total certainty ...

When I am elected Pope, I shall restore this beautiful Apostolic and Evangelical custom. I shall be carried around upon a litter, which I shall call the Sedia Petrina. It will be so much more Ecological and Green than those beastly fuel-guzzling Popemobiles used by my resource-prodigal predecessor Francis. Entirely Fossil-Fuel-Free and Greta-Compliant, it will be lifted and carried by eight stocky females from the Amazon Basin who will be called the donne della periferia or, for short, the diaconisse. To support and encourage the humble and oppressed ostrich farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa and Rutlandshire, I shall be fanned, as I progress, with ostrich feather flabella. As for actuosa participatio, the people will fall prostrate and cross themselves while I, scattering blessings, pass through their midst; and, as an Ecumenical Gesture towards Orthodoxy, they will shout Eis polla ete Despota! In deference to Health-and-Safety (mine), babies will not be thrust up for me to kiss but handed straight over to my Extraordinary Apostolic Basiator Archbishop 'Tongue' Fernandez. Given our current Covidic biodiversity, his Ministry may be sweet but short.

Security will be in the hands of gigantic Australians who, like sniffer dogs, will have been trained to recognise and, without any hesitation or second thought, to exterminate Jihadists, Sede-vacantists, and Liturgists. They will be known popularly as the Matildas. The very sound of their simple but uplifting vernacular war-song will be enough to strike terror into the hearts of the German Episcopal Conference and Cardinal Baldissieri. When I return to the Apostolic Palace (the Domus Sanctae Marthae will by that time have been handed over for holiday use to the Indigenous Married Priests, all of them Viri Probatissimi, of the Ordinariates) I shall then ...

Oh dear ... am I getting carried away?

Two Other blogs

(1) NLM describes a fine Flanders rood-screen in the V&A. My advice to prospective Catholic art-lovers visiting London would be to visit the building next door to the V&A, the Brompton Oratory. Its shell  is a [very good] Victorian pastiche of Roman baroque, but nearly all the fittings are genuine baroque artefacts. Perhaps the loveliest thing is the fabulous pietra dura Lady Altar from Brescia, at which I was kindly permitted to offer my first Mass in Full Communion with the See of S Peter (incorporates a statue of S Pius V).

It is far better to enjoy such wonders in a proper, used, cultic, Catholic context than to see them reduced to the horrible status of Exhibits at the mercy of appallingly ignorant secular "Art Historians". (I am also unhappy about Exhibitions of Icons.)

(2) Lifesite has the full text of a good homily from Bishop Schneider, in which he holds up for admiration the devoted ministry, during a plague, of the Victorian Anglo-Catholic 'slum clergy' of London. This, rather than the ARCIC nonsense, is genuine Ecumenism! Perhaps his Excellency could invite himself to to the Ordinariate Church of the Assumption and S Gregory in Warwick Street, where he would find the very same Anglican tradition but now happily reconciled in Full Communion.


22 May 2020

Urbi et Orbi (1): The Forum to the Serapeum ... Varus me meus ...

"This is how it happened. Me in the Forum. Totally at a loose end. My chum Varus carted me off to see his Significant Other; a dear little bimbo - it stuck out a mile - amusing, sexy, fashionable. She steered the conversation round to Bithynia. 'What's it like there? I bet you made lots of like money while you were on the Governor's like staff.' I told her the truth: that the Governor was an absolute ** ** ** ** ** ** **; so that not one of us had made brass quadrans. 'But' says she, 'you must have got hold of some like slaves to carry your litter. Everybody knows that Bithynia's the place they like come from'. 

"I wanted to look good ... it's the sort of effect a girl has on a chap ... so I said: 'Well, obviously it wasn't so terrible that I couldn't at least get hold of eight upright blokes.' (Fact is, neither there nor here could I lay my hands on a single bloke to put a single stick of broken bedstead anywhere near his shoulder.)

"Depraved is too good a word for that sort of girl. Her true character showed up in what she said next. 'Darling Catullus, please ... dearest Catullus', says she, 'just for a teensy weensy moment, please lend them to me ... I want to go like down to the Temple of Serapis just like soooo badly ...'"

I will leave you to find out for yourselves, if you don't already know, how Catullus struggled to wriggle out of that social dilemma. You are, I expect, put in mind of Nanny's apophthegm about What a tangled web we weave ...

I should make clear, by the way, that the above rendering is my humble attempt to translate Catullus following ad litteram the principles of the infamous Vatican document Comme le prevoit which enjoined 'dynamic equivalence' upon 1960s translators of liturgical books. It was one of the Enemy's most skilfully organised strategies, and it worked abysmally well. Its methodology managed to ensure that any disiecta membra, any distant echoes, of Tradition that survived into the Novus Ordo would be frog-marched out of it at the Vernacular stage, through the process of 'translating' them into non-existence ... a bit like Marshal Stalin's approach to the art of photography.

But I think it's absolutely made for the sort of literature I've used it on above.

Back to Catullus, and 'his' litter, Deo volente, tomorrow. Believe me, this is important stuff with significant doctrinal implications. Give it another chance!

20 May 2020

A bit messy?

Those familiar with Vespers of the Dead (Old Rite) and the old propers for the Departed, and with one of the old Masses for a Confessor Bishop, may have shared puzzlements of my own with regard to what some people call The Afterlife. Here are two.

(1) I refer firstly to all those old texts which ask that the departed be delivered from Hell. Such texts do not, I think survive into the postconciliar texts, presumably because of the assumption that, immediately after death, the eternal destiny of the defunctus is definitively and tidily settled. Either he is in Hell or he will eventually be in Heaven. Do the ancient texts suggest rather that in the journey his soul is undergoing it might yet fall eternally? Or even that in the mysterious working of divine mercy Hell might not, for everybody there, be the last word? Or that the same Place might prove to have been Hell to those who never emerge from it but Purgatory to those who get out!?! This is the view explicitly taken by C S Lewis in The Great Divorce. Is it capable of being squeeezed under a Catholic umbrella? I simply love his picture of the Liberal, Apostate bishop, who persists in refusing Joy and Mercy.

(2) Secondly: the Common Sacerdotes tui in the Old Missal. The second set of texts, in the Secreta, asks God that our oblations might 'be profitable unto [the holy bishop] for the reward of blessedness'. How does this fit in with the idea that there is a tidy distinction between those who need our prayers and those who are fully in blessedness and pray for us? Could it be that even the Saints have yet progress to make in God's grace?

Perhaps the relationship between God and Time ... Perhaps ... ... Perhaps  ...

Are such Perhapses contrary to the Magisterium? Of course, I have no desire to be anything but an obedient servant of what has been defined. But there is, surely, something amusing about the fact that such speculations can be suggested by the Old Rite but not the New; as if the great prayer-bag of Tradition is an older, freer, more thought-provoking, less narrow and prescriptive world than Bugnini-style scholasticism and its passion for being Safe and Tidy.

I'm glad one can still buy unpasteurised cheese, even though, given my age, I steer clear of it.

19 May 2020

Perpetually drunk.

"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"
"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober.".

Since Dorothy Sayers records these words of Peter Wimsey, it may be that we could suspect her of thereby revealing one of her own her own weaknesses. Certainly, the first half of the twentieth century ... and possibly most of all, the 1930s ...  were the years of the consummate stylists; the men and women for whom deft juxtapositions, sparkling paradoxes, layers of irony, afforded infinite satisfaction. They could even, on occasion, be martyrs to it ... like poor Plum Wodehouse, whose ironic description of the German Army prevented him getting his knighthood until long after the war. We very much lesser epigonoi suffer from the hangover; American friends often gently remind me that most of their fellow-countrymen 'don't do irony', so that my own literary weaknesses and ineptitudes can lead to serious misunderstandings.

It surprises me how many of the Mighty were writers of detective fiction. G K Chesterton; Ronald Knox; Dorothy Sayers; Ernest Bramah ...

Ernest who? Well, Sayers thought that Bramah deserved to be bracketed with Donne and Burton. Wimsey was, apparently, never far from the stories of Kai Lung. And Bramah wrote detective fiction in an age when it was an intellectually respectable recreation (as late as 1957, Dacre Balsden spoke of dons as beginning the new academic year by "changing their detective fiction at the Library in Elliston's").

'Max Carrados' was Bramah's blind detective; but those who still remember the writer most probably remember him best for Kai Lung ... the Chinese Teller of Stories whose mannered diction so often contains menace underneath its flowery courtesies and Mandarin conventions. Let me give you an example. A young woman's lover is about to go on a dangerous journey; she gives him what seems to be a suicide potion, with these words: "This person [i.e.'I'] places her lover's welfare incomparably before her own happiness, and should he ever find himself in a situation which is unendurably oppressive, and from which death is the only escape -- such as inevitable tortures, the infliction of violent madness, or the subjection by magic to the will of some designing woman -- she begs him to accept this means of freeing himself without regarding her anguish ...".

You can't speed-read Bramah; only if you read him with attention, I suspect, will you appreciate that, once the rhetoric and the courtesies are stripped away, what is left is the lady's ruthlessly determined intention that her admirer should die rather than fall into the hands of another woman.

I rather think that Bramah's elaborate Mandarin courtesies were in C S Lewis's mind when he imagined the cruel but endlessly well-mannered Calormenes. As we made our bed-time-story way en famille through The Horse and his Boy, which like all the Narnian books is full laughs for adult readers as well as for children, the line that amused me most ... which I always looked forward to declaiming to those five pairs of little ears ... occurred when the Tisroc has contrived to "send my first born son on an errand so likely to be his death", and concludes business with a para prosdokian, worthy of Aristophanes, "And now, O excellent Vizier, the excess of my paternal anxiety inclines me to sleep."

Many of these writers were Catholic or Anglican; Bramah, I think, was not. But Belloc, no mean stylist, no half-hearted Catholic, thought it worth his while to write an enthusiastic preface to one of the Kai Lung volumes.

I was introduced to them by my 'Gardone' friend Alex Sepkus, a man of rare discernment.

18 May 2020


Well, say what you like, the centenary of the birth of S John Paul II is a great deal more significant than a lot of the rubbish we are asked to 'celebrate'.

I intend now a briefish summary of points I have made before. I know that the line I will be taking is unpalatable to many. I am prepared to accept comments which make this clear, but not if they seem to me long, or even longish, or even a bit long.

I see the combined pontificates of S John Paul and of Pope Bebedict, lasting together about a quarter of a century, as essentially a single Magisterial period in which the two men worked both collaboratively and effectively. I see it as one in which large parts of orthodoxy were normatively restored. I regard the document Veritatis splendor as being of great importance.

During this period, and particularly after his own Election, Benedict worked to establish precedents which, in an organisation which works on precedent, matters.

He declared in Summorum Pontificum  that the Old Rite had, canonically, never been abrogated. And to this he added a theological assertion that it cannot  be abrogated. Pushed to explicit clarity, this means that a pope who tried to do so would be acting ultra vires. So this is on the record.

By his choice of liturgical vesture, Benedict emphasised that he was the successor both of the pre-Conciliar popes and of the post-Conciliar popes. He asserted evolution-with-continuity by replacing the heraldic triregnum with a heraldic mitre which recalled the tiara by its three horizontal bands.

He made theologically significant changes to the rites of canonisation. These have now been undone by his successor; but it is the programmatic intention to which I am drawing attention.

Acute readers will be able think of additional examples.

And Assisi ... and its, er, 'spirit' ... (Here I draw upon Chiesa ...).

I believe that Benedict considered the model for the Assisi Event bequeathed by his predecessor to have been unsatisfactory. He had declined to attend the first such event. In my view, he desired to put in place a changed model which, he hoped, would be the precedent to which his own successors would look back for guidance.

So, at Benedict's Assisi, there were no times of visible and organised prayer among the participants, not even 'in parallel'. Instead, the (300) guests were given individual rooms for "a time of silence, for reflection and/or personal prayer". In a letter (2006) to the Bishop of Assisi, he wrote
"In order not to misrepresent the meaning of what John Paul II wanted to achieve in 1986, and what, to use his own words, he habitually called the Spirit of Assisi, it is important not to forget the attention paid on that occasion to ensuring that the interreligious Prayer Meeting did not lend itself to syncretist interpretations founded on a relativistic concept. For this very reason, John Paul II declared at the outset 'The fact that we have come here does not imply any intention of seeking a religious consensus among ourselves or of negotiating our faith convictions. Neither does it mean that religions can be reconciled at the level of a common commitment in an earthly project which would surpass them all. Nor is it a concession to relativism in religious beliefs.'".

And it was Joseph Ratzinger who issued the very fine CDF document Dominus Iesus. The measure of its orthodoxy and its importance can be gauged by the uproar which it caused among the the bad, the mad, the stupid, and the unorthodox.

And it is a measure of the littleness of PF that, instead of building on the quarter-century of work and prayer and Magisterium which he inherited, he apparently is willing to give countenance to those who wish to unravel it and to create new and contrary 'facts'.

17 May 2020

Ratzinger's knife? (2)

I think Professor Ratzinger's phrase "the approval of the official organs that must be asked according to established norms" is very interesting.

Readers will remember ... Cardinal Mueller certainly does remember ... the occasion when some of his own colleagues were sacked, directly and unheard, by PF. A narrative which has not, I think, been denied, holds that they had been heard complaining about the personal intervention of PF to quash the convictions of some clergy convicted of sexual abuse. Mueller took the view that his staff had been unjustly dealt with and that, in any case, it was odd that he had not himself been consulted.

Another such undenied narrative is that while actually celebrating the Holy Mysteries, His Eminence had been summoned to the phone to be told, by an angry PF, to drop the canonical investigation (recently initiated according to the established norms) against Cormac Murphy O'Connor, a member of the 'S Gallen Group'.

And Cardinal Mueller was subsequently not confirmed in his position as Prefect of the CDF.

I need say no more. But, if anybody is interested, there is a series of blogposts which I replay from time to time, arguing that the Curia Romana is not an irrelevant bureaucracy, but has a theological significance and status. This series last appeared in July last year.

16 May 2020

Ratzinger's knife? (1)

Joseph Ratzinger has written a piece for the Polish bishops about Pope S John Paul II. It is wise to take seriously what such an eminent scholar says. Although he does not enjoy the Petrine Magisterium (there can only be one Pope, FULL STOP), his auctoritas is immense. And, of course, he is still qua bishop a Successor of the Apostles, and, should we wish to express ourselves in Irenaean terms, it must be added that he is a powerful witness to the authentic Tradition of the Roman Church.

I particularly draw your attention to this passage:
" After consultation, the Pope [S John Paul II] chose the Second Sunday of Easter [for the feast of the Divine Mercy]. However, before the final decision was made, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express its view on the appropriateness of this date. We responded negatively because such an ancient, traditional and meaningful date like the Sunday 'in Albis' concluding the Octave of Easter should not be burdened with modern ideas. It was certainly not easy for the Holy Father to accept our reply. Yet he did so with great humility and accepted our negative response a second time. Finally, he formulated a proposal that left the Second Sunday of Easter [i.e. Low Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter] in its historical form but included Divine Mercy in its original message. There have often been similar cases in which I was impressed by the humility of this great Pope, who abandoned ideas he cherished because he could not find the approval of the official organs that must be asked according to established norms.".

I am not going to have or host a discussion about whether Novus Ordo Low Sunday is quite in its 'historical form', because there are so many important points to liberate from this passage.

(1) Observe the contrast between the 'humility' of S John Paul II and the behaviour of PF, seen particularly the way way PF kept bullying Cardinal Sara over the question of the admission of women to the Maundy Thursday foot-washing ... "an idea he cherished". And, even after he had eventually forced the poor man to change the rubrics, he then went boldly on to disobey in his own praxis the new rubrics (by including non-Christians among those whose feet he washed)!! His behaviour, as so often, speaks for itself. And it is neither attractive nor principled.

When a man is so arrogantly self-confident that he advocates changing the words of the Prayer attributed to the Lord Himself, whatever would he not consider himself competent to do?

(2) The call for a Feast of the Divine Mercy resulted from the visions of S Faustina.  Observe how Ratzinger describes this devotion as "modern ideas" which would be a "burden" to Low Sunday. He makes clear that "ancient Tradition" trumps new devotions, even when they do have heavenly sponsorship!! This is precisely the correct and necessary starting point for a proper oversight of the Liturgy.

(3) It is significant that Ratzinger has been prepared to write to Poles in a way that sets a very popular modern devotion of Polish origin in a theologically and liturgically limited context.

(4) His boldness in emphasising the greatness of S John Paul alongside a reiteration of his enormous  humility compels sober reflection upon any combination one might notice of ungreatness with unhumility.

(5) The Ratzinger who wrote this is clearly the same Ratzinger, who, as Cardinal, wrote so scathingly about the post-Conciliar error that "the pope really could do anything in the liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council".

(6) And this Ratzinger is no fool. I have little doubt that he has devised an oblique way of drawing PF's attention to the inherent limitations of the papal office.

In other words, an oblique knife!

Ad multos annos Domne!!

15 May 2020

"The Synodal Way": S Gregory Nazianzenus and S John Henry Newman's comment

A.D. 382: "S Gregory [Nazianzenus] writes: 'If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops; for never saw I synod brought to a happy issue, and remedying, and not rather aggravating, existing evils. For rivalry and ambition are stronger than reason - do not think me extravagant for saying so - and a mediator is more likely to incur some imputation himself than to clear up the imputations which others lie under"(Epistola 129). It must ever be kept in mind that a passage like this only relates, and is here quoted only as relating, to that miserable time of which it is spoken. Nothing more can be argued from it than that the Ecclesia docens is not at every time the active instrument of the Church's infallibility.'"

This is from On Consulting the Faithful in matters of Doctrine by Saint John Henry Newman. I have said before, and I shall say again, that we can have no surer practical guide during times of ecclesial disorder than S John Henry. This is because of his deep understanding of the previous periods when the Church had been similarly afflicted. And his own immersion in the events surrounding Vatican I. And rememember that he is an extraordinarily subtle and precise thinker and writer. (His analysis of the Syllabus of Errors is perhaps the sharpest exammple of this.) In the piece I have printed above, I would draw yout attention to the last fourteen words. Each one of them is careful, and carefully weighed.

I would add a word of my own: A Catholic is obliged to be in communion with the See of S Peter (both when, as now, it is occupied, and also when, as during interregna, it is unoccupied). One is under no strict obligation to like the currently reigning Pontiff, nor to agree with him, nor to think that he is a man of prudence (although I think it is a mark of the mens Catholica to give him the benefit of any real doubt). Many bishops, and even cardinals, did not like Benedict XVI, did not agree with him, did not admire his prudence. Indeed, not a few of those hierarchs, as soon as Benedict abdicated, came crawling out of their lairs and said so. Presumably, as soon as Francis is either buried or abdicated, the same thing will happen.

You have to be in communion with him and to accept anything he defines ex cathedra to be the teaching of Christ. When, in his Ordinary Magisterium, he affirms the Church's teaching (and Francis has sometimes done that) you are thankful for it. When you have a problem with some word or action, you lean over backwards to see it in the best possible light. But your duties of faithfulness to Christ do not mean that you have to be pathologically sycophantic towards whoever happens to be at any particular time the current bishop of Rome. Still less, towards those who appear to speak on his behalf.

And we need to avoid the temptation to panic every time some daft bishops, or even some daft cardinal, says or does something ... daft.

This Pontiff has given encouragement to people to speak with parrhesia. I think we should accept him at his word.

But I do wonder why so many bishops have come to the conclusion that he doesn't really mean that.

14 May 2020

More New Normal

Apparently, robust congregational singing [RCS] is unacceptable to those who are keeping us safe from the Pestilence.

I'm not going to crow about 'silver linings' while so many people are dying so painfully from the New Death. But, at least, I do not feel that we are obliged to mourn the criminalisation of RCS. It need not impinge at all upon traditional Catholics; the singing in a sung Mass can be done by socially distanced members of a schola or, at a pinch, by a single cantor. As far as the Novus Ordo is concerned, the sooner most of its dreadful music is discontinued, the better. Personally, both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, I have never sung hymns. When, in the Church of England, I deemed it pastorally prudent, I used to mime the words noiselessly with my lips. In the Catholic Church, with its less fierce regimentation, I have felt under no pressure to do even this.

But what many people, including many Catholics, will probably not realise is that the proscription of RCS is de facto the proscription of the surviving patterns of Popular Protestantism. For the common (wo)man, 'worship' means RCS. For those who never visit places of worship, 'going to Church' would mean RCS and listening to a 'vicar' preaching. Vast numbers of 'ordinary' lay  'Anglicans' intensely dislike the Eucharist. This is the Elephant in the Room which nonsense-circuses such as ARCIC have never noticed. After Bishop John Richards lured me down to his own retirement patch in rural Devon, I learned a great deal about popular Anglicanism. When our Incumbent resigned and, within days, 'JR' died, I was sweetly asked if we could take this happy opportunity to abandon the Eucharist and have forms of service generically known as "Songs of Praise". That means Everybody's Favourite Hymns. Except that it doesn't even mean that. It means Everybody's Favourite Tunes.

There are, of course, fragments of the old Anglican and Non-Conformist Patrimonies, mainly at the 'extremes', where this is not true. But, overwhelmingly, it is (I believe) a fact that modern 'dogma-free' Liberal Protestantism would not survive the abolition of RCS as a cultural phenomenon.

So we are faced with an interesting theological conundrum. Should we collaborate in eliminating this effete and pitiful parody of Christianity? S John Henry, you will remember, faced this question when he advocated the survival of the Church of England on the grounds that it was a barrier against worse varieties of unbelief; but added that the time could well come when a different prudential assessment might apply.

Have we reached that point? Is it best to retain a subculture which, at least, keeps alive a memory of Christianity, or would we be more free to preach the Gospel without this millstone round our necks?

I am far from infallible, but I increasingly incline to the latter assessment. I think the encroachment of 'Women Clergy' has been significant. We used to argue that the 'Ordination of Women' was "invalid", but the truth is that it is only too potently 'valid'. A 'woman priest' or 'bishop' is an ultra-valid symbolical affirmation and expression of a profound gender disorder, subversive both of Scripture, Tradition, and of most human experience. It has been the hyperbebaios first step into a brave new world of fluid and indeterminate gender.

So: burn the Hymn-books?

No? Yes?

13 May 2020

New Light on the Spirits of Vatican II

Don't you ever tell me that God has no interest in clerical minutiae such as the 'coincidences' of ecclesiastical Calendars. On October 19 this last year, Fr Jerome Bertram died; and that day is the feast of S Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford, where that great priest and antiquary worked and studied; and also of S Philip, titularis of Arundel Cathedral in Fr Bertram's beloved Sussex ... the Church in which he was baptised and ordained.

A year before his death, Father wrote his own extended obituary in the form of an account of a 'pilgrimage' from Oxford to Arundel. It is called Isis to Arun, and costs £9.50 and is in stock at the shop attached to S Aloysius Church in St Giles in Oxford.

Here is an extract.

"Wonersh, of course, is far famed for its seminary. ... The buildings had been greatly expanded in 1962, for the then bishop of Southwark was sure that the forthcoming General Council would trigger such a vast increase in priestly vocations that double the capacity would be needed. All these extra priests would then fan out over the diocese to serve the enormously increased congregations of eager converts that would come flooding into the church as soon as the longed-for reforms had begun to take effect. ... That was Bishop  Cyril Cowderoy ... it did not take long before he realised that the great revival of faith was not going to happen in his lifetime. He came to visit the English College soon before he died, and someone [omnes Quis? dicimus] had the cheek to ask him about the Council. 

"'Wasn't it very boring, all those long speeches in Latin, rather like endless seminary lectures?'
'Well yes, it was exceedingly boring. But there was a bar, you know.'
Suddenly we realised how it had been - bishops happily chatting in the bar, the 'Bar Jonah' it was called, and trooping through the lobbies when the division bell rang. How much had how many of them really understood of what was going on? They would never say."

Ah, the Spirit(s) of Vatican II. Is there an exorcist in the house?

12 May 2020

Liturgical updating

SS Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla, Pancras ... a year or two ago, rather ultra vires, I put a footnote about S Pancras into the ORDO I compile: "Double of the First Class in the Railway Station". It also occurs to me that he would make a good Patron for Steam Railways. It is important for us liturgists to keep up wth the Cutting Edge of Modern Technology.

And, talking about Cutting Edges, perhaps SS Nereus and Achilleus should be declared the Heavenly Patrons of all those who, deceived by the fads, fancies, fashions and fantasies of the Zeitgeist, have had themselves, poor poppets, castrated.

One of my top liturgical advisers has advised me that, on Thursday, taking a hint from the Martyrologium Romanum, I should say Mass of S Corona. But would this not be redolent of (h/t Sir J G Fraser) pre-Christian apotropaic magic?

Which reminds me: I ought really to have a copy of the latest edition of the Roman Martyrology. Would anybody care to ... er ... very generously ... er ... I never know how to put this ...

Is the Patrimony Red or White?

As many readers will know, Anglican churches used to have a white light burning before the Blessed Sacrament ... as we do in the Church of the Holy Rood in Oxford, and as described in Betjeman's Lincolnshire Church and in his moving poem Felixstowe about the old nun, sole survivor of her Order,

... And all the world goes home to tea and toast.
I hurry past a cakeshop's tempting scones
Bound for the red brick twilight of St John's.
"Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising".
Here where the white light burns with steady glow,
Safe from the vain world's silly sympathising,
Safe in the Love that I was born to know,
Safe from the surging of the lonely sea,
My heart finds rest, my heart finds rest in Thee.

We used to follow strictly such Roman legislation as the old CIC 1271 and S.R.C. 3576 (5), which laid down that the light before the Most Holy should be white (but tolerated  coloured glass). I remember hearing it asserted that red lights* were a Franco-Anglo-Irish RC corruption ... one example among so many of how we kept the rules so much better than they did (no, we weren't very nice people, were we?).
*In heavily Gothic Victorian churches, we had (sometimes as many as) seven (vide Revelation cap 5 et alibi) red lights burning before the High Altar, but not as an indication of the Sacramental Presence which might have been on a side altar and which, wherever It was, had Its own white light. A red light would probably also burn before the image of the Sacred Heart, and a blue one before the Great Mother of God.

11 May 2020

Query ... mainly for Stuart legitimists

On a folded printed sheet, published by the Society of King Charles the Martyr, there is a Mass for blessed Charles Stuart* in English, in the style of the English Missal (i.e. pre-Bugnini, pre-ICEL), obviously intended to be gummable into Altar Books.

It is endowed with a Sequence, given both in English and in Latin. Such things can be intriguing! Which is a version of which?

The English begins Heavenly King, of Kings the Pastor; the Latin Rex divine, Rector Regum. At the foot of the English, there are the initials C.B.M.; at the foot of the Latin, H.J.. Frankly, the Latin seems to me distinctly more elegant than the English. Both versions make use of Andrew Marvell's lines "He nothing common did nor mean ..."

CBM is presumably the Revd Claude Beaufort Moss, 1888-1964.

HJ, I imagine, is the Hentry Jenner, FSA, 1848-1934, Jacobite, Founder of the Order of the White Rose, Cornish Language revivalist, and Morrab Librarian at that admirable club in Penzance.

Rather my sort of Englishman ...

Does anybody know anything about the genesis of this Sequence in either language?

10 May 2020

"The A G Swannell Library"?

When I was in my teens, I often darkened the doors of the Roman Catholic Church in Clacton on sea. It was an unusual building. Opened in 1903, it was not just another piece of late-Victorain ungrammatical 'Gothic'. It was Romanesque; taken stylistically from S Bartholomew's Smithfield. The architect, F W Tasker, supplied those furnishings which would not have been present in Norman England ... including all the altar masonry culminating in a fine 'Romanesque' Exposition Throne ... in the same spirit. Stylistically, it was all of a piece.

Or rather, Tasker designed the church and its fittings. It was a Mr A G Swannell who gave ... paid for ... the High Altar, the Altar Rails, the pulpit. To my adolescent eyes, it made a perfect ensemble, graced, additionally, by a Shrine of our Lady of Light (about which I shall write on another occasion) and a statue of Blessed (beatified 1887; canonised 1947) Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, to whose apostolate the devotion to Our Lady of Light owes so much. Totus tuus ...

Using my computer, I have tried to manage a look at the current interior of this Church; the results have not been quite decisive. But I get the impression that the Sanctuary has been completely devasted. Whether the pulpit and statue were allowed to survive, I know not. I would be interested to hear.

I would also be mildly interested to know when the devastation occurred. Such things have continued until fairly recently. The Younger Pugin Cathedral at Queenstown ... er ... I mean Cobh, the one you admire as you sail into Cork Harbour ... was in the news only a few years ago. There were plans to reform the interior in accordance with Vatican II. But Catholic laity, thank God, appear less grovellingly supine than they were in the post-Conciliar decades. They secured some sort of enquiry, and put up Alcuin Reid. Alcuin was easily able to demonstrate forensically that the Council had in no way mandated what was proposed.

Two or three decades ago, I was talking to some Kerry ladies outside Killarney Cathedral (wow, Constable's Salisbury in miniature!!); they described vividly the skips outside, full of smashed masonry and pulverised marble, when Ireland's Most Charismatic and Most Modern Bishop, the Most Reverend Eamon Casey (Bishop of Kerry 1969-1976) was 'reordering' (in 1973) his Cathedral Church.

Casey exemplified ... perfectly ... the "Spirit of Vatican II". Sponsor some Cultural Festivals! Smash up some Altars! Get Sexually Active! (ironytriggerwarning). After all, why on earth do you think God gave us pickaxes? What are American divorcees, and nieces, for?

That generation was a generation of habitual liars. They could read; so they knew perfectly well that Vatican II had prescribed none of the vandalism they desired to unleash on Catholic Churches (or, indeed, the sexual immorality). That's why they invented the mendacious fiction of a "Spirit of the Council". It needed to be invented in order to cover up the con-trick being perpetrated.

I think someone somewhere should maintain an archive of prelates and priests who took part in that crooked cultural conspiracy ... a sort Truth and Justice Commission. With a view to academic use, its lists could be cross-referenced with lists of clergy involved in sexual misconduct or cover-ups.

For all I know, some of those nice old gentlemen may still be oppressing the People of God from Episcopal or Archiepiscopal Thrones.

The archive could be called The A G Swannell Library. May Swannell rest in peace; may he enjoy the rewards of his labours. And of his good taste.

9 May 2020


The politicians are already indoctrinating us to accept that, post-pandemic, we shall have a "New Normal". I'm pretty sure what they have in mind is that so many clergy will have been celebrating, privately in their studies, the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Eucharist, that they will find it hard to drag themselves back to ... er ...

You are all going to have to prepare for this. But help is at hand. Very cheap help.

You would need to dive in the deepest seas, or traffick for the strangest webs with the most Eastern of merchants, before you found better value for your £3.50 than you will get by buying a little book, written by Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society and published by the dear old Catholic Truth Society (mind you, their pamphlets used to cost 4d at the back of any Catholic Church when I was a boy).

The book is called:


It is full of information, it covers a vast field, and, unusually in this age, does not condescend to the reader. You are treated as an adult, and given footnotes!

Joseph Shaw is, as many readers will be aware, a man of exemplary energy and drive. His activism has been the main impulse behind the publication of the very fine FIUV Position Papers. This is an age when many ordinary Catholics seem to have a faintly bewildered manner. Not so the laymen and laywomen and laychildren attached to the Traditionalist movement. Do you want passive laypeople who simper submissively in the presence of domineering clerical bullies? Steer clear of the Latin Mass Society.

Of course, not everybody would write any book in exactly the same way. I would have welcomed a clear statement that the rules of the Old Rite allow celebration facing the people or facing the same way as the people ... and that the rules of the New Rite ...  have precisely the same two options!!! And that Benedict XVI allowed the Readings in the Old Rite to be in  the vernacular. I myself would not do disturbing things in the presence of a congregation likely to be irritated by my eccentric personal choices, but ... for example ... when offering Mass at an open air Altar a few years ago on August 15, at a recusant House not far from Oxford, I said the Old Mass facing the people (literally, I think, versus australia) and with vernacular readings. They were a congregation mostly, I think, not familiar with the Old Mass. They seemed perfectly happy.

My stuff about seas, webs, and merchants ... I can't remember whether I'm alluding to Walter Pater on La Gioconda, or Evelyn Waugh on Mr Scott-King, or Boris Johnson on Winston Churchill. Amazing how vague one gets in old age.

7 May 2020

Intron Varia Er Ro, Pedit Evidomp ... ... UPDATED


In the Breton harbour town of Oldbridge ... or do I mean Henbont ... or am I writing about Hennebont ... they used to have problems which, today, seem only too up-to-date. Pestilences. Perhaps being an entrepot had something to do with it.

But the Pestilence which struck in 1699 was worse ... more terrible ... than all the previous disasters. It was no respecter of persons: bras ha bihan, kozh ha yaouank ... bout a oe betek seizh pe eizh a dud varve bemdez (yes, I have slipped into the 'modernised' orthography: the Bretons are as keen as the Irish and Cornish on 'updating'). Though I suppose, today, we would have to add a fair number of zeroes to those over-modest digits.

But the town elders (Vistr=Magistri??) decided do something practical; to vow a silver statue to our Blessed Lady. And, as soon as the pestilence abated, they had a procession round the town with the statue and promised, in thanksgiving, to do the same thing annually. So, each year, this takes place on the last Sunday in September (the silver statue was melted down down at the Revolution, but a new one, this time silvered bronze, took its place after the Bourbon Restoration).

KEY: Intron means Lady (the modern orthography has deleted the first of the ns); Varia is Maria (the so-called "Celtic" languages do strange things with certain consonants at the beginnings of words); and Ro means Vow. Our Lady of the Vow. And Pedit Evidomp? The older banners in Breton Churches have the Pray for us in Breton. (I have often wondered how long this cultic usage survived the practical near-disappearance of the language.)


It has suddenly occurred to me!!! Good Heavens!!! !!! How can I have been so slow!!! During this year in which we have rededicated this Kingdom of England to Blessed Mary as her Dowry, we could use the Henbont Strategy to attack Coronavirus (yes; I know this would reduce our Biodiversity, but I am not a Laudato si man). Or perhaps not exactly the same thing. I doubt if the Chancellor's ransacked Exchequer could run to a silver statue! Austerity!! But what about 'vowing' a splendid new Crown to our Lady of Walsingham? The Anglican statue doesn't need one, because she has the spectacular 'Oxford Crown' (given by the people of S Paul's Walton Street, originally a daughter church of S Thomas's but now a nightclub). But, with my sound Anglican Catholic background, I have always thought the image in the Catholic Shrine looks so poor and drab and neglected without a proper Crown or even any hint of a Cope. In the sight of Providence (so S John Paul II reminded us after the bullet was deflected from his heart on the Feast of our Lady of Fatima) there is no such thing as coincidence: therefore we ought to have had Faith enough to realise, from the very name of our current pestilence, what it was that our blessed Lady desired: Coronam novam et splendidam para mihi. Hint hint!!

Like the fine people of Brittany, we could then celebrate the deliverance annually, obviously with a procession along the Walsingham Holy Mile (perhaps backed up by a Metropolitan procession from Westminster Abbey down Victoria Street to a Site near the Railway Station).

The First Lord of the Treasury, God bless him, would fittingly walk the Holy Mile barefoot immediately behind the Incoronata. It might add even more force to this whole anti-virus Strategy if he were to add a personal ingredient to the National Vow: videlicet, that he, Boris, would himself return to the Catholic Faith.

UPDATE An erudite friend suggests emending the penultimate paragraph to: " ... ... Victoria Sttreet to a station near the Railway, with further stations also marked by appropriate devotional images."

6 May 2020


Today's Feast of S John, restored to the Ordinariate Calendar after falling foul of the 'reformers', marks, of course, the beginning of the series of secret meetings (literally underground) which led to the start of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I send fraternal greetings to any member of that select (fewer than a hundred) and unique priestly group, who happens to be reading this. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!

Nor do I forget the priests' wives who sustained and supported this process. Stong, sensible, orthodox, resolute women. Did ever priests' wives play such a decisive role before in the history of the Latin Church?

Self Construction?

One hundred years ago, on May 6 1920, a little fellow was born called Lawrence Alexander Robertson. When he died, on August 4 1994, he was Lawrence Alexander Durdin-Robertson, 21st Baron Strathloch in the peerage of Ireland, and Priest of Isis.

How did he make that journey?

I believe that it was a voyage of self-construction. I think it was rather like the life of Athelstan Riley, who re-invented himself by acquiring noble status through the purchase of a property on Jersey which carried with it a feudal title Seigneur de la Trinite; who had the arms his father had acquired redesigned and regranted to appear more medieval; who transformed a Cornish Church so that it looked just as if the Reformation had never happened and contained a distinctly attractive Riley Chantry Chapel; and who rebuilt his property in Jersey so that it looked just like a traditional Norman Manor House (the German CO lived there during the Occupation).

But Riley, for all his pretensions, remained an orthodox Anglo-Catholic. What happened to Robertson?

Trinity Dublin; BA and MA; Wells Theological College; Ordained in the C of E in 1948. He married in 1949; held a living in the County Wicklow (Aghold, 1951-1952) and then in Norfolk (East Bilney, 1952-1957). Then his career took off. As his obituary in the Irish Times, surely crafted by sources close to his family, was to put it, "He returned to Ireland ... religious convictions led him to withdraw from the Anglican Communion  in 1970 and, in 1972, to receive the priesthood of Isis and to found in 1976, with his wife and sister [sic] , the Hon. Olivia Durdin-Robertson, the Fellowship of Isis."

He appears to have augmented his surname by deed-poll. Not difficult. But whence the Barony?

The Obituary carries on: "In 1979 he established, by genealogical reearch, his claim to the ancienrt Gaelic title of Baron Strathloch, which was matriculated by the Chief Herald of the Irish Genealogical Office, on May 7th, 1979".

I apologise to his shade if what I now about to surmise is wrong. But here is my hypothesis.

I think he may have secured a grant or exemplification of Arms (anybody with adequate money for the fees can do this). The Grant included Supporters. In English heraldry, supporters indicate noble status. So he interpreted the Grant as acknowledgement that he was a peer of the Kingdom of Ireland.

But in Irish Heraldry, this is not quite so. For example, the head of the Liberator's family used Supporters, as anybody can detect by looking carefully at the silverware displayed in their romantic property at Derrynane in the County Kerry.

To continue the story in the Irish Times: "He devotedf a great part of his life to scholarship, as might be expected of a cousin of the poet Robert Graves [the Ascendancy gentry, not strangely, were much intermarried], and was the author of some 15 books, in the main dealing with goddess worship throughout the world".

He died on August 4 1994. May God have mercy upon the soul of the poor silly old apostate.

5 May 2020

Bernard of ?Cluny and Bishop Grandisson of Exeter

In the Chapter Library at Exeter, there is an unpublished fragment which comes from a Mary Missal; a Missal containing only the Ordo Missae and the Masses of our Lady (analogous to the Requiem Missals we have nowadays). They were produced for use in the Lady Chapels of great churches which were able to provide an entire establishment ... clergy, books, vestments, plate, cantors ... for  use in such chapels. This fragment was corrected by the hand of Bishop John de Grandisson (pronounced Grahnsn; Bishop of Exeter in the fourteenth cenrury).

In this fragment, the Eastertide Mass of our Lady has a Sequence which neither the late Walter 'Patrimony' Frere nor I were able to find elsewhere. I print the remains below; [] indicates a hole in the manuscript. The Revd Dr James 'Patrimony' 'Ordinariate' Bradley learnedly spotted that the first stanza came from the Mariale (III) by Bernard (of Cluny? or of Morlaix?); a long praise of our Lady in 15 Rhythmi; and the other stanzas are scattered around in V. I was accordingly able to fill up most holes in the text from Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi; Volume 50, pp 423 sqq...

This hymn is associated with the name of S Casimir, because a text of it was buried with him. We know it best in the form of dear Fr Faber's translation Daily, daily, sing to Mary, which only uses a small selection from the hundreds of stanzas.

The question remains, whether the centonisation was done by Bishop 'Patrimony' Grandisson of Exeter himself, a great client of our Lady, for the Mary Missal which he had made for his Cathedral or for his collegiate foundation at Ottery; or whether someone else had already done the work.

At the bottom, for my own satisfaction, I give, from AH, a brief account of textual variants it records.

III.15 [O beat]a
per quam data
nova mun[do gaudia]
et aperta
fide certa
regna sunt caelestia.

V.19 [Quot dolore]s
et angores
tua sensit anima
cum in cru[cem
summ]um ducem
gens levavit pessima!

21 Corde tris[ti
pa]ssionis gladium
cum irrisum
et occisum
as[pexisti filium.]

28 Sed quam laeta
es effecta
die statim tertia
[cum rex fortis
v]ictae mortis
protulit indicia!

30 Nec nar[rari
nec pensari]
tuum possit gaudium,
quando maestis
[rex caelestis
pacis dedit nuntium.]


mss=most of the manuscripts; ms=one or few of them.

III.15 ms quam beata

V.19 mss quot angores quot dolores; ms tot dolores; ms et dolores; ms quot languores quot dolores; ms quot dolores quot angores
mss cum; ms dum; ms levavit impia.

V.21 mss tuum cernis filium; ms cernens filium; ms tuum vides filium

V. 28 mss o quam; ms es completa; ms et repleta [haec cum assonantia]; mss die facta tertia; ms die virgo tertia; ms facta die tertia; ms dum rex; ms qua rex; ms dirae mortis; ms pertulit; ms iudicia.

V. 30 mss quis narrare quis pensare; ms quis pensare quis narrare; ms hinc narrare, quis pensare; ms unde maestis; ms quoniam maestis.

4 May 2020

Spiritual Pilgrimage

In accordance with suggestions received, I here give the "Spiritual Pilgrimage"' locations for the rest of May. They are the Medieval English shrines as listed in the little Walsingham booklet I mentioned before. As I suggested, one could go a-roaming to foreign shrines too; and to English-Welsh modern shrines. There is, for example, the Shrine at the Oratory Church in Cardiff; there is our Lady of Light, once at S Hilary in Cornwall and also at Posbury S Francis in Devon and Clacton on Sea in Essex  ... suggestions welcome on this thread ...

4: Our Lady of Westminster (at the North door of the Abbey and in its Pew Chapel, and in Westminster Cathedral.
5: Our Lady of Grace at the Pillar in S Paul's Cathedral.
6: Our Lady at the Oak in Islington.
7: Our Lady of Willesden.
8: Our Lady of Muswell.
9: Our Lady of Oxford.
10: Our Lady of Grace at Cambridge.
11: Our Lady of Coventry.
12: Our Lady of Grace of Ipswich.
13: Our Lady of Thetford.
14:Our Lady of Woolpit.
15: Our Lady of Abingdon.
16: Our Lady of Pity in the Galilee at Durham.
17: Our Lady on the Bridge at Wakefield.
18: Our Lady of the White Friars in Doncaster.
19: Our Lady at the Pillar, St Edmundsbury.
20: Our Lady of Evesham.
21: Our Lady of the Four Candles at S Alban's.
22: Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover.
23: Our Lady in the Park, near Liskeard in Cornwall.
24: Our Lady in the Wood, near Epworth in Lincolnshire.
25: Our Lady of Winchester.
26: Our Lady of Windsor.
27: Our Lady of Peace, at Winfarthing in Norfolk.
28: Our Lady of Ardenburgh, in the Church of S Nicholas in Yarmouth.
29: Our Lady at the Oak, in S Martin's, Norwich.
30: Our Lady on the Red Mount, King's Lynn.
31: Our Lady of Walsingham.

3 May 2020

Spitting: how, when, why, and where to do it.

Our Lady at the Red Ark of York, pray for us
The theory has been attractively argued that the collect for the Third Sunday After Easter in the Old Calendar (as that Calendar was before, according to Fr Louis Bouyer, it was wrecked by "three maniacs") was originally composed, perhaps by Pope Damasus, during a Papal campaign to get the Lupercalia celebrations in Rome banned. An aristocratic Collegium called the Fratres Luperci, naked but for a  thong, ran through the streets of the City slashing with leather whips the outstretched hands of the citizenesses - who hoped thereby to secure fertility. This collect, in such a context, would be expressing the hope that the Roman aristocracy (who had conservative tendencies) will relinquish such pagan residues as incompatible with their Christian Faith.

Even if, however, that rather jolly theory were not true in its details, it does remain very clear, from the early Roman Sacramentaries, that this Collect comes from a Mass-set deeply concerned with the duty of Christians to abstain from going to the Sacrificial Banquets  which followed and were an integral part of the worship of pagan deities. Here is another prayer from the same set: "... Deus qui tuae mensae participes a diabolico iubes abstinere convivio, da quaesumus plebi tuae ut gustu mortiferae profanitatis abiecto puris mentibus ad epulas aeternae salutis accedant" [God who dost command the participants at thy table to abstain from the banquet of the Devil, grant we beseech thee to thy people that, rejecting the taste of death-dealing profanity, they may approach with pure minds the banquets of eternal salvation]. The Preface of this Mass-set vividly describes a situation in which true and false Christians are all mixed up in the Church, so that there is risk that the True might weakly slip away, while we must hope that the False and weak will be converted and get their senses back (resipiscientiam).

This, of course, is the point S Paul is already making in I Corinthians 10. We all need to be reminded, in our respective cultures, of the risks of conforming to this world, to the Devil, rather than to the very different Way of our Merciful Saviour. The temptation for Greeks and Romans was the stronger because those distinctly tempting Sacrificial Banquets were both  religious and social  occasions combined.  

Our rather good Anglican Patrimonial translation of this collect:
Almighty God, who shewest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion; that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same.
In the Latin, the word Cranmer rendered as eschew, respuere, really means spit back out.  

Spitting ... Yes! The Pontiff who composed this collect is vividly suggesting that the rather decent food provided in Pagan Sacrificial Banquets deserves really to be just spat back out! It is Diabolical! Spitting back out is a Christian duty!

Spitting ... Memories crowd in of all those old notices whereby English town councils tried to preserve genteel ladies from the offensive spitting of the lower orders (somebody ought to start a museum for surviving examples; and for other old favourites like Commit No Nuisance, and Kindly Adjust Your Clothing Before Leaving The Convenience).

But we know from first millennium documentation that part of the papal entourage, as the Pope (on horseback!) made his solemn way through the streets of Rome, was a subdeacon carrying a bowl for the Sovereign Pontiff to expectorate into. What a shame we no longer have Subdeacons (the abolition of which was a 'reform' which Dom Bernard Botte, the main post-conciliar reviser of the Pontifical, regarded as a most unfortunate breach of an ancient tradition which the West shared with the East). One imagines seminary professors needing to instruct ordinands for the Subdiaconate on the best techniques for avoiding inaccurately projected Pontifical Spittle. Dear me, how I do ramble. You really should stop me.

I have never quite been able, when saying this lovely old collect, to get out of my mind an image of Marcus Antonius, who was a lupercus, capering through the streets of Rome generously bestowing welted hands and fertility upon the philoprogenitive womenfolk. Just imagine the look of sniffy disapproval on the face of Octavian. What a shame he won the Battle of Actium. I have never liked the cut of his ... rambling again ...

Here is a limerick offered by that mighty Pontiff, the late Edwin Barnes, First Bishop of Richborough:
     There was a young man of Darjeeling
     Who got on a 'bus bound for Ealing;
        When he saw near the door
        "Do not spit on the floor"
     He climbed up and he spat on the ceiling.

2 May 2020

Sub tuum praesidium (2).

Our Lady Undercroft of Canterbury, pray for us..

Here is a very literal translation of the Greek original of the Sub tuum praesidium.

O Mother-of-God, we flee-for-refuge beneath thy bowels-of-compassion; do not overlook our supplications in a-time-we-are-surrounded, but ransom [or deliver] us from danger, only Holy-one, only Blessed-one..

Supplication: in Greek thought, if you were in danger from someone (perhaps they might be about to kill you in battle), if you could clasp their knees or reach up and touch their beard, you achieved the official status of 'suppliant' and ought not to be killed. You might be sold into slavery ... but ...
Surrounded: surrounded by threats, dangers, enemies.
Ransom: buy back, 'redeem'.
Deliver: this variant reading gives the same word as the 'deliver' at the end of the Our Father.
Blessed: the same word as in the Hail Mary.

Here is a common English translation of the Latin version.

We fly to thy protection, O holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

 Edgar Lobel's early dating of the papyrus, of course, simply gives us the terminus ante quem of this prayer. It could come from much earlier than 250. As far as theotokos is concerned, even in the West Tertullian writes Dei ... Mater; and one would expect such talk earlier in the East than the West; and particularly in the Egyptian backyard of S Cyril's own Church. It would be no skin off my nose if it turned up in a very early second century context. While I do not (for cogent reasons I am prepared to explain) see the cultus of our Lady as being a 'Christianisation' of the Ptolemaic goddess Isis, I do suspect that the coinage of the verbal compound theotokos is very likely to come from the same inveterate habit of linguistic ingenuity which generated the Isiac aretalogies of Pap Oxy 1380 and the Kyme stele published by Salac in 1927. Perhaps Callimachus of Cyrene coined it .... oops, he died before the Christian era ... but you know what I mean. He would have done it if ... come to think of it, I wonder if anyone has ever done a study of what S Cyril owed to Callimachus ....

1 May 2020

May Morning in Oxford

The Hymn of Thanksgiving was not, of course, sung from the top of Magdalen Tower this coronaviric morning. But it was sung electronically on the Internet, quod videte. A written account of May Morning is in Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night, Chapter XI.

In Magdalen Chapel, there is glass from the 1630s; one of the lights shows our Lady, labelled  as Deipara ... the Latin equivalent, of course, of Theotokos. I wonder if it is pure coincidence that in the May Hymn (text and music seventeenth century) there is the stanza

Tibi, aeterne Spiritus
cuius afflatu peperit
infantem Deum Maria,
aeternum benedicimus.

It was in that interesting decade that the baroque 'salomonic' porch was built onto the University Church, with the crowned statue of the Mother of God which so infuriated the Puritans. In the late 1630s, Oriel (associated with the University Church) acquired a statue of our Lady; removed in 1650, she returned after the Restoration. S John Henry Newman (himself of Oriel) remarked "The presence of Catholicism was at length simply removed ... It took a long time to do this thoroughly; much time, much thought, much labour, much expense; but at last it was done. ... Truth was disposed of and shovelled away ..." Yet 1630s Oxford does at least slip a hesitant footnote into that summary.