30 June 2021

Doctor Diggle's Dictionary (2)

The older universities ... well, I am thinking of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin ... have an official known as either The Orator or The Public Orator. His job, nowadays, is to declaim elegant and witty speeches in the Latin tongue when distingushed honorands are being presented for their honorary degrees. Diggle was the Cambridge Orator 1982-1993. He also produced a study of the history of the job, in which I am a little suspicious of his use of evidence to establish the antiquity of the post. When he cites late medieval documents about 'orators' I suspect that some of his material relates to the the usage 'bedesman'; in other words, a lesser person is assuring a greater person that he will pray for him to the Almighty (bedesmen were sometimes carved around the monumental tombs of the great). 

Be that as it may, I think it is proven that Cambridge was the first university to have a formally appointed Orator. Its first Orator was a King's hellenist called Richard Croke, who taught at Leipzig, was admired by Erasmus ... he was a Canon of King Henry VIII College at Oxford (have you visited it?) and, laudably, a witness for the prosecution at poor Cranmer's trial. He died in 1558. He is one of those figures who give the lie to the picture of a corrupt late Medieval Catholicism, torpid and resistant to the New Learning. (As Duffy demonstrated, it was the reign of Mary which enabled the brilliance of the European Renaissance to shine in England.)

Diggle's tenure of this post coincided with another age in which gods (and goddesses) still walked upon earth. Syme ... Leakey ... (Owen) Chadwick ... (Alec) Guinness ... (Iris) Murdoch ... Elton ... . People still received Doctorates in Divinity in those days (Kueng; Chadwick; Soper ...); I'm not sure how much that is allowed nowadays. Likewise, when King Juan Carlos was being presented, Diggle referred to how Ferdinand and Isabella "aliena pro superstitione fidem confirmarunt Christianam"; I wonder what a kerfuffle such words might stimulate nowadays. And Diggle wandered down some exotic paths which, possibly, might today be thought a trifle over the top: in presenting Sir Geoffrey ['Galfridum', if you were wondering] Elton, he broke off to declaim "Ite hinc socioanthropopsychologisantium catervae!" When Jacques Derrida was 'done', Diggle evoked the spirit of Aristophanes: "Sokratikophroidiazousai".

Terms such as that did not make it into Dr Diggle's new Cambridge Greek Lexicon.

To be continued.

29 June 2021

Doctor Diggle's Dictionary (1)

With great panache, the Classics Faculty in the University of Cambridge has announced the publication of a new Lexicon of Classical Greek. Slightly curiously, the interconnected main arguments it has put forward for this step are that (1) if you look up in this new Cambridge Greek Lexicon terms with sexual or excremental references, you will find yourself reading English words such as 'shit' or 'fuck', rather than genteel circumlocutions; and (2) the lexicon which it is designed to replace is 'Victorian'. 

Henceforth in this post, I shall follow my usual nervous, 'asteriscal', custom of writing s**t and f**k. But, given the bravura with which Dr Diggle has splashed his own lexicographical preferences around the commentariate, I make no apology for having, at the beginning of my comments, followed his very decisive example of fully frontal vulgarity.

Dr James Diggle is a very distinguished Cambridge Classicist. He was, perhaps, at the top of his game in the 1980s, when he produced a three volume edition of the plays of Euripides for the Oxford Classical Texts series. It is a fine piece of work. Some of the problems encountered in editing Greek plays are like those which crop up in dealing with Shakeseare ... involving matters such as variant editions resulting from mss which respond to stage performances or rehearsals. But what the woman or man in the street will at once notice is that the Diggle Euripides employs the 'lunate sigma'. 

This way of writing the Greek letter S had become popular among those who edit fragmentary texts for publication: the old orthographic habit of having a different sigma for the ends from words is problematic when a papyrologist does not know whether the sigma in a tiny scrap came in the middle, or at the end, of a word. And after all, the Greek you find in Christian mosaics and Uncial mss only had one ... the lunate ... sigma: sigma written like an English letter C. Hence, the Diggle Euripides was 'lunate' (so, indeed, was the personal practice of my own Mods tutor, Margaret Hubbard, who infected me with it).

But (was Diggle overruled by colleagues or publisher?) the CGL is, sigmatically, conventional ... indeed, 'Victorian'!

The 1980s were also marked by Diggle's tenure of the role of Orator of his University. This enabled him to have light-hearted, hilarious, but learned fun ...

... which leads me on to my next piece.

28 June 2021

Woke Fens

 The admirable and indefatigable Professor Tighe has drawn attention to

https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/july-2021/frenzy-in-the-fens/

Frankly, whenever I walk the streets of Oxford and see 'the Diversity Flag', flying over a college, I recollect that this is what it must have been like when, in countries defeated by Nazi Germany, one had to behold the swastika fluttering from the flagpoles.

My city ... my University ... are no longer mine. 

And They are determined that I should know this.

S Leo II and S Peter and the Papal Magisterium.

As I look into the Sarum Missal, and the pre-Pius X breviary by my desk, I discover that, before the twentieth century, June 28 was occupied by a great pope, S Leo II (681-683). He was later evicted from this day so that S Irenaeus could be placed there. S Irenaeus was subsequently moved to July 3, so that the Vigil of the Holy Apostles could be freed up (but the current edition of the Roman Martyrology still lists S Leo on July 3, well beneath S Irenaeus). This is the sort of messing around that we had, even before Vatican II and Bugnini.

No; I don't like it either.

Did I say a great pope?

Our Holy Father Pope S Leo II was 'great' because he undertook the unhappy but necessary duty of ratifying the condemnation, by the Sixth Holy Ecumenical Council, of his own predecessor, Pope Honorius I (625-638), as a heretic. As the Vicar of Christ wrote to the Spanish bishops, Pope Honorius "did not, as befits the Apostolic dignity, extinguish the fire of heretical teaching when it began, but by his negligence fostered it".

Gueranger ... I cite him from time to time because he represents main-stream opinion from the period before our own ... observed, with his often-over-the-top rhetoric: "Leo had to probe with steel and fire, in order to save the Church. Once only has the terrified world beheld anathema strike the summit of the holy mount ... Leo II, therefore, sending forth his thunders, in unison with the assembled Church, against the new Eutychians and their accomplices, spared not even his predecessor."

Some people believe the Petrine Ministry means that a Pope is set in place and guided by the Holy Spirit in order to provide exciting new perspectives, perhaps even surprises, to the Church. Not so. Not in a month or a millennium of Sundays. As S John Henry Newman taught, in a memorable passage in his Apologia, the ministry of the Roman Church, its "extraordinary gift", has always been negative, to be a remora, a barrier against novelty, innovation. Gueranger [English translation as published in 1900] neatly struck down in advance the corrupt Hyperueberpapalism of our own decade: "The Holy Ghost, indeed, who has guaranteed the infallible purity of the doctrine flowing officially from the Apostolic Chair, has not pledged himself to protect in a like degree, from all failure, either the virtue, or the private judgement, or even the administrative acts of the Sovereign Pontiff. ... for it is to the teaching of Peter, not to his silence, that the unfailing assistance of the Holy Ghost is guaranteed."

 
                                          WHAT IS A POPE FOR?

Imagine the jagged and dangerous edge of a high and precipitous cliff. 

The Pope is the Council Workman. Boring man, boring occupation.

His very simple job is to carry out instructions; to put up a big notice saying  
                                       DANGER: KEEP AWAY.
'Negative', laconic, 'rigid', but, oh, so necessary. 

A mischievous or mischievously homicidal pope might put up a notice reading
                                         ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND
or
                 YOUR OWN CONSCIENCE WILL TELL YOU WHEN TO JUMP 
or  
                    WE SHALL ACCOMPANY YOU RIGHT UP TO YOUR JUMP

or                          STRAIGHT AHEAD FOR THE SYNODAL WAY

But he would be failing in the duty set him by his Master.

Through  two millennia, it has been the duty of successive Bishops of Rome to resist, condemn, and extirpate novelty and any attempt to change the Faith.

That is why S Vincent of Lerins (circa 450?) quotes Pope S Celestine (422-432) as writing "Innovation should stop attacking what is ancient", and the next pope, S Sixtus III, (432-440) as writing "Innovation has no rights, because it is inappropriate to add anything to what is ancient; clearly, the faith and belief of our ancestors should not be stirred up by any mixture of filth". The great Anglican historian of the Papacy, Fr Trevor Jalland, wrote of the "supernatual grandeur" of the Roman Church; "its strange, almost mystical faithfulness to type, its marked degree of changelessness, its steadfast clinging to tradition and precedent". Hammer; nail; head.

On the great feast of the Holy Apostles of the Church in Rome, we can do worse than to listen to those powerful words of S Leo II. His predecessor Honorius had been Pope when a particular error arose; it had been his duty as domnus Apostolicus to extinguish the blaze; but he was negligent; he failed to do his (negative) duty of repelling innovation; and his negligence led to the growth of the error.

It therefore fell to an Ecumenical Council to condemn him, together with the leaders of the heresy he failed to extinguish, and to use the unambiguous noun heretics and the unambiguous verb anathematizomen.

And it fell to his successor S Leo II to confirm the condemnation and to ratify the anathema.

There is more than one way of qualifying for the title of Heretic!

27 June 2021

What to do with your arms?

Specifically: after the Elevation of the chalice, what does the celebrant do with his hands and arms as he goes on to the Unde et memores ... ?

According to our present S Pius V Missal, his hands should be extended in front of his chest, palm facing palm. Just as he holds them normally during prayers. (During Mass Practice at Seminary in the mid-sixties, I recall the humorous suggestion being made that the priest was keeping the Sacerdotal Power bouncing back and forth between his two hands ... only during the Hanc igitur did he bring their combined power to bear upon the Elements.)

But in old English Rite of Sarum it was different ... and also in the Dominican Rite and the Carmelite Rite and every other Rite I've specifically inspected, even the non-Roman Ambrosian Rite. Even the Romanised/Jansenised 1846 [is that the version you use?] Rite of Lyons ...

In all of these, he extended his arms in the form of a Cross, thus imitating the Crucified Lord who stretched out his arms for our Salvation upon the Cross. (There is probably a hint in the S Pius V Ritus Servandus that the Priest is not to do this: 'ante pectus'.)

I have no idea when this custom arose ... does any reader? (One can easily guess why.)

And today I am interested particularly in the corresponding question: why was the Rite of S Pius V keen to exclude it, when it seemed so (nearly?) universal?

Very tentatively, all I can think of is this: the Pian rubricists were very anxious to ensure that any fragments of the Most Holy which might have adhered to the fingers of the celebrant should not fall to the ground. (This, of course, is why he is bidden to keep thumb and index fingers conjoined ... and very properly so, too.)

Did it worry people that, with the arms fully extended, fragments might fall which, naturally, would not fall safely on to the Corporal?

===================================================

English Recusant gentry welcoming the new Seminary priests aftr 1577 must initially have found the New Rite of S Pius V quite strange in its omission of this practice. Moreover, its many genuflexions must also have struck worshippers as strange, since Sarum lacked them. 

At least, they are absent from the printed versions of the Sarum Rite. Perhaps they happened in everyday practice, you suggest ... But I think not, because in his 1549 rubric forbidding the Elevation, Cranmer did not think it necessary to forbid the genuflexions (nor did Ridley in his paranoidally comprehensive Visitation Articles of 1550)!

By one of history's delicious paradoxes, the introduction of kneeling before the Consecrated Elements seems to have entered English worship in the Order of Communion of 1548, added to Sarum by Thomas Cranmer, in which the priest kneels for the Humble Access (ditto in 1549). Bishop Stephen Gardener, I seem to recall, alluded to this polemically, and Cranmer responded in 1552 by transferring the Humble Access to before the Institution Narrative.

A Golden Day!

On the 28th of June 1971, that is, Monday, Father Peter John Morgan thanks God for his GOLDEN JUBILEE.

Father Peter was the first priest whom His Excellency Archbishop Lefebvre ordained for the Society of S Pius X. 

I have known him for two decades; and have learned a great deal from the friendship of those twenty years. I gather that during the 1970s he was wonderfully energetic and successful in setting up Mass Centres for the Old and Authentic celebration of the Roman Rite throughout England; Bishop Tissier writes about him with much appreciation in his Biography of the Archbishop. 

Father: AD MULTOS ANNOS! May your priestly ministry continue to bear great fruit in the sight of the Lord!


 

26 June 2021

Streaming!

Today, Saturday, I received this welcome and joyous email;

Tomorrow [i.e. Sunday June 27] on the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour, Father Anthony Mary's 30th anniversary of ordination, we will be live streaming the Solemn High Mass. The link is available here: https://youtu.be/rtn l1W-q6U

Ad Multos Annos!

Pusey and another professor of Hebrew

I reprint the following piece from 12 February 2010, when we were still in the remains of the C of E. The thread, with a fascinating contribution from the (late and most lamented ) Bishop emeritus of Richborough, retains the 2010 entries.

 A cold day; but we went to look at Cassington church. A brass memorial to Thomas Neal, Regius Professor of Hebrew in this University. Neal was one of those distinguished followers of the New Learning who so adorned the Church of England in the days of Good Queen Mary and of that exquisite humanist Reginald Cardinal Pole .... the last occasion when our dear C of E was in truly congenial hands. He had enjoyed the patronage of Sir Thomas White, founder of the Marian Counter-Reformation Catholic stronghold of S John's College; and had kept safely abroad during the dark days of Edward Tudor, perfecting his skills in Greek and Hebrew. When the good times returned, so did Neal, by now an ambitious intellectual in his 30s, to be made a Chaplain to Bishop Bonner (the Broadhurst of the decade). In the confusions of 1558-9, he is said to have conveyed to the vacillating Bishop of Llandaff (who appears to have negotiated an obscure fudge with the regime enabling him to remain in office without too much swearing of oaths) Dr Bonner's threat of excommunication should he participate in episcopal consecrations sine mandato Apostolico.

Like so many of us, Neal had trouble discerning whether the End really had come. He stayed in post at Oxford, and even took part in the official welcome on the occasion of Elizabeth Tudor's visit. In those days it was none too difficult to practise the Faith in Oxford, to keep one's fingers crossed, and to hope for better times. Henry's bastard might die; or she might marry a Catholic ... Above all, the persecution was, in Tudor terms and for the time being, quite moderate.

But by 1569 the Catholics of the North had had enough. In the bloody and dangerous aftermath of the Northern Rebellion, Neal packed his books and fled to this rural backwater four or five miles from Oxford, where he spent the years until his death in 1590 producing Latin translations of rabbinic commentaries on the Prophets. By the time he died, the Puritans were riding high. But he composed his own epitaph which ingeniously asked, in the tactful obscurity of Latin Elegiacs, for the prayers of his coreligionists: "Vos ergo Thomae Neli quos* lingua iuvabat/ Elinguem lingua (quaeso) iuvate pia." [You therefore whom TN's tongue helped, now that he is tongueless, please, help him with a dutiful tongue.] I've marked a day to say a Requiem for him, pius pro pio. He's Patrimony. It's what he asked for. We don't forget our own.

The other Professor of Hebrew? In the choir at Cassington (a Christ Church living) are some fine Jacobean stalls ejected from the Cathedral in Oxford when Gothicism became the rage. On one of them a little brass inscription reveals that, from 1828 to 1870, it was Dr Pusey's stall. He's Patrimony too, and one of the very greatest Catholic teachers and spiritual directors of the modern period. Oret pro nobis, oret, oret. Seu potius Ora dicam?

Is it within the competence of an Ordinariate to initiate the Cause of Pusey's Beatification?

*Note the heavy succession of spondees. I think Neal is saying: "Seriously, I mean this".


25 June 2021

The Preparation before Mass: Cenodoxia

Do you know the feeling of having said a prayer any number of times, and then, all of a sudden, a word in it - previously passed quickly over - suddenly brings you to an abrupt halt? I once had that experience while saying the 'Sunday' portion of the 'prayer of S Ambrose' before Mass.

"Repelle a me ... spiritum superbiae et cenodoxiae". "Send far from me the spirit of ... pride and", er, what? Keno- is the Greek root for empty. -doxia suggests 'thinking' or 'glorying'. Does it mean letting the mind dwell on empty, vacuous things? It occurs in the writings of my favourite Greek philosopher, Epicurus, and in Wisdom 14:14, where we are told that Idolatry, whoring after false gods, is not part of God's eternal creation but came into the world through the kenodoxia of men. Glorying in what has no basis in fact leads men astray. The Devil, unable himself to create anything, likes nothing better than to get us chasing after what doesn't exist. Glorying without proper matter for glorying leads to the dictionary translation of kenodoxia as 'Vainglorying'; and the Vulgate at Philippians 3: 2 translates kenodoxia as 'inanis gloria' .

Preoccupation with what has no reality: Idolatry is a kenodoxia. When that Idolatry is a preoccupation with excellences which I complacently think I possess (when I don't), kenodoxia is a distinctly dangerous sort of flaw in my character.

Printers shouldn't print it 'coeno-' or caeno-', because that makes it look as though it comes from koino-, meaning 'common', which, as far as I can see, it jolly well doesn't.

Or have I got all this completely wrong?

24 June 2021

Again, PF repudiates the Petrine Ministry

Oh dear! Last night, I put the finishing touches to a piece, in advance, about Pope S Leo II, scheduled to pop up next Monday ... and now PF has got his reply in first, explaining why, in his view, I'm wrong.

Let me put my cards upon the table. 

"My" conception of the Petrine Ministry is what was defined by Vatican I in 1870. I believe, ex animo, that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of S Peter so that, by His revelation, they should propagate new doctrines, but so that, with His help, they should devoutly hand on the Tradition, the Deposit of the Faith, which they have received through the Apostles.

I condemn what Vatican I condemned  both because Vatican I gives me the authentic Teaching of the Catholic Church which demands my unconditional adherence and because (happily for me) it coheres with my own understanding of the Catholic Faith.

Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I got things right. When I teach the same, I am getting things right. When PF teaches the opposite, he is getting things wrong.

PF says he going to tell us all about S Paul's Letter to the Galatians. But you don't need to wait for him to do this. Even in this pontificate, you are allowed to read the Epistles of S Paul for yourself.  And here is the programmatic statement which launches this magnificent Epistle on its way:

"If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received [par' ho parelabete], let him be accursed [anathema esto]." 

S Paul says in Galatians precisely what Vatican I taught. "What you received" Rules OK. If anyone teaches the opposite, Anathema. 

PF's approach is the same now as it was in his 2017 homily at the Easter Vigil, which I analysed in Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies (pp 207ff). PF claims that those who disagree with his own new dogmas are in a situation analogous to that of those who disagreed with the Lord ... or (in this recent address) disagreed with S Paul.

But this is not only arrogant almost beyond belief. It is also blasphemous. PF is not Jesus. There is to be no Third Age with new teaching. Moses' version of the Law was "fulfilled" by that of Jesus, but PF is not a Third Lawgiver sent to supersede Jesus. 

PF is so determined, so aggressive, so persistent, and so offensive when he attacks his critics that I suspect him, deep down, of knowing that he is wrong. But, having dug himself into a hole, he sees no alternative but to keep digging. However, there is an alternative: it is called metanoia, Repentance. The reason why Pride is such a disastrous sin is that it makes metanoia so terribly difficult.

PF has read parts of the New Testament, and has come up with a formula "The baddies are those who adhere rigidly to the Old and will not hear the New". Because. prima facie, this fits the teaching of Jesus and the reaction of those who opposed Him, PF is cheerfully confident that he can fit the same hermeneutical template onto this present period within his own pontificate ... with himself centre stage, covered in grease paint and doing an Olivier in the comfortable role of Jesus.

The reason why he cannot do this (and must not be allowed to get away with this tawdry trick) is that what he, PF, so constantly attacks is the New; the Good News which lives in the Gospel words of Jesus and in the witness of S Paul.

23 June 2021

Women at Encaenia

Today should be Encaenia in this University ... which was postponed from last year. Because last year was the centenary of the admission of women to degrees at Oxford, the idea was to have a list completely composed of women.

But Encaenia has been postponed again ... to September. And rumour has it that the list of women honorands includes some woman called Rodham something.  

Women are, of course, very much in fashion as a Species; especially if they can be the First Woman who etc.. But there are marvellous women whom I expect to be ... ignored. Here is one such.

Elizabeth Anne Livingstone, born July 7 1929. Matriculated from S Anne's Society (now S Anne's College) 1948; M.A. 1955. Those of you who have The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on your bookshelves are possessors of a work which is substantially hers. 

Its first edition in 1957 was conceived and effected by the late Frank (F L) Cross, 1900-1968, sometime Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church (he was among those who laid hands on me in 1968, when I was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood; one of his major academic interests was the Canon Romanus). As soon as 'Betsy' had completed her degree, he secured her services as his collaborator. She checked, I think, every word, and communicated with every scholar who helped with the Dictionary, and naturally took over after Cross's death. She also ran the Oxford Patristics Conferences, and, I think, the Oxford New Testament Conferences; and saw to publication the papers which were delivered. 

I remember her, years ago, at the table permanently reserved for her in the Patristics Room in Bodley, swathed in galley proofs. But I did not come to know her personally until, much later in life, I became pp of the Church of S Thomas the Martyr iuxta ferriviam. By that time, the Zeitgeist had taken over the Cathedral; Betsy, who was a daily communicant, therefore needed churches to attend on those mornings when the 'celebrant' at Christ Church was to be a woman. Already elderly, already with failing eyesight, she would trudge down to S Thomas's even through inches of ice and snow. I was able to give her some very minute pieces of help during her last productive academic years; Pam and I much enjoyed the hospitality she dispensed in Georgian St John Street.

Half a century ago, Learned Spinster Ladies were a common phenomenon in Oxford. They sped along the streets in their bicycles and were repositories of remarkable erudition ... not to mention prosopographical information. There are not many of them left.

It was obvious that Betsy should have been honoured years ago; when attempts to persuade the University to do the decent thing were not successful, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave her a 'Lambeth' Doctorate in Theology; using a power retained by the Archbishops after the Schism, continuing a jurisdiction possessed by the Medieval Archbishops by virtue of their status as Legati nati of the Apostolic See.

I don't expect to see her at Encaenia receiving the Doctorate earned by her decades of learning and of service to this University.  Non sumus quales eramus. 

I do not know how suitable it would have been to include such  a remarkable Oxonian, the inheritor and symbol of such a remarkable history of scholarship, among the Rodhams.

Wrong sort of woman.

AD MULTOS ANNOS, DOMINA.

22 June 2021

Cecil Rhodes

The (North) front of Oriel College which faces the High Street includes a statue of Cecil Rhodes, who gave an astronomical sum of money to build it. 

Until the current agitation for its removal began, I doubt if one among 100,000 who passed it knew whom it represented, and what his significance was. This is because it is very high up indeed; you can't really see it unless you cross the road. Even then, if you look at it for long, you will get neck-ache. If Oriel College (this is one current suggestion) puts an 'interpretative plaque' at eye level to foster historical understanding, it will probably cause many deaths as the tourists step out into the road so as to be able to look up at it. And, of course, millions who would otherwise never have heard of Rhodes ... will have heard of him!!

I am puzzled that it was ever allowed to be built. You see, that Front of Oriel also has statues of two Kings of the Yewkay ... and they are lower down than Rhodes ... pretty well beneath his feet! To a Monarchist, British Imperialist, instinct, this, surely, is plain weird.

Also weird (although a trifle more erudite ... bear with me) is the pair of columns, one on each side of Rhodes. They are what is sometimes called Salomonic, because in the 1630s they were thought to have been the sort of columns which graced the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem (cf e.g. S Peter's Rome ... the Raffaele cartoons ...). So they speak powerfully of God Present; of the Holy Place where the Name of God dwells in power.

And that is why, almost opposite Rhodes, Salomonic columns frame the Porch of the University Church of S Mary. In fact, they are framing a crowned statue of the Theotokos holding in her arms God Incarnate.

So the statue of Rhodes, framed as if he were God, gazes nonchalantly down and across at the statue of Mary and Jesus placed on S Mary's Church in the 1630s ... a gesture which appeared on the Puritan indictment of the Anglican Archbishop Laud, which cost him his neck.

As a Christian devoted to the Dogma that Jesus of Nazareth is God Enfleshed, I rather object to the architectural humiliation inflicted on my God by British Ultra-imperialists who so placed and so glorified a little man as unworthy as Rhodes.

So would I join the campaign to remove Rhodes? On balance, I think not. Once we start hauling down the statues of objectionable persons, there would be no end to it. By keeping such a weird and improper statue in place, perhaps we are providing some sort of protection for the other statues up and down our land which do now, or might in the future, express ideas which a ruling cultural tendency might at any moment decide to find objectionable.

One additional detail. The statue is accompanied by a chronogram. That is, an inscription in Latin in which, if you count up all the letters (C, D, I, L, M, V, X) which in Latin can have a numerical value, you get a total which will, in most cases, turn out to be that of a year.

It would seem massively illogical to remove a statue honouring Rhodes, while leaving an inscription ... honouring Rhodes!!

Unless, of course, the intention would be to demonstrate a repudiation by Modern Oxford of (1) the capacity to read Classical Languages and (2) the capacity to perform simple mathematical addition up to 1,911.

In 1957, a highly Oxoniolatrous writer, Dacre Balsdon, a Mods don, referred to "the horror of the Rhodes Building of Oriel ... Here, without doubt is the ugliest mark which the [twentieth] century has ... left on Oxford architecture."

But, if matters were left to me, I would not vote for its removal or even its 'adjustment'. I would leave Rhodes in place as a risible symbol of the Apotheosis of the Absurd.


21 June 2021

Nostalgia and Pasipha'e's Consenting Bull

I have been accused (I think, a trifle pompously) by one reader of indulging myself too much Nostalgia. Rubbish. I merely follow the advice of C S Lewis to "read old books" ... not because other cultures got everything right, but because, as he carefully explains, it is probable that the things one age gets wrong, another will get right. And vice versa.

And ... in any case!! ... a decade I often revisit, the Thirties, is a decade in and by which I attempt critically to identify some of the roots of many of the grossest errors of our own age. I find in that decade an aid to Discerning the Times, not a safe refuge from present realities which frighten me.

And ... in any [MORE!] case!! ... how exactly am I supposed to wallow in the Future?

Quae praefatus ... I offer here some Classical nostalgia.

In the Review section of last Saturday-but-one's Times, there was a review of film called Sweet Tooth. It was accompanied by a picture of (I think) an American boy-child; like all such, sweetly chubby-faced. And with Deer Ears and antlers. "Gus [is] a rare deer-child hybrid with antlers, glow-in-the-dark eyes and an acute sense of smell ... We also get [a] syrupy voiceover telling us that 'this is a story about a very special boy'".

Hrrrmph ... the culture on which I prefer to nostalge also amused itself with phantastical games involving imaginary Hybrids. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Minotaur. And here I must share with you one of the great tragic (in both senses) accidents of literary history. A play by Euripides called Kretes (the Cretans) was lost ... probably during those centuries when Brother Turk was spreading his Nostalgia all over the Levant. Lost: all of it but for one third century A.D. parchment page (you thought I was going to say papyrus, didn't you?). Editio princeps by the formidable Wilamowitz. Accessible in Loeb Select Papyri III.

Small though the fragment is, it gives me a mighty appetite for what is lost. King Minos refers to hede xunergos: probably the Nurse figure who bestrides both Euripidean Tragedy and Menandrian New Comedy. How we would have enjoyed the arguments with which this corrupt old woman encouraged Pasipha'e to give way to her Illicit Passion for the Bull! How subtle and plausible will have been the picture of Pasipha'e's gradual consent! I wonder how Nurse carried messages to and from Lover and Beloved.

Like me, you are wondering if the arch-technocrat of Antiquity, product of a pre-Periclean Silicon Valley, Daedalus, was among this play's prosopa. He would have given an account of the skill with which he had manufactured the artificial cow into which Pasipha'e inserted herself in order to accommodate the bull's, er, addresses. 

We Chaps sometimes claim ... mischievously, of course ... that in any argument between a man and a woman, she will inevitably eventually succeed in proving him to be the one responsible for whatever has gone wrong. So, in Pasipha'e's speech to Minos, she concludes toi m'apollus, se gar he 'xamartia, ek sou nosoumen ... She is no Common Whore; it is not that "the sight of his pretty clothes, the gleam of the wine-red light that shone from his eyes, his auburn hair, the beard dark upon his chin" led her astray.

Indeed not, my dear, but do you not here reveal yourself as having a rather roving eye?

I have sometimes wondered whether this speech made comic use of tropes and topoi which might have been exchanged when a husband of a young wife made the discovery that she had not been quite as safely inaccessible within the gunaikon as he had assumed. 

Never forget the comedic possibilities when you are reading Euripides. He didn't.

In Euripides, there is a sort of comic realism (you get it also in Ovid) which asks "If X were possible, what would its details have been like?" And an actual hybrid would very probably not have been a cuddly little Bambi. Like Actaeon and Titian, I've never met a cuddly stag.

Beatrix Potter, a writer who deserves to be nostalged, was gloriously unromantic and unsoppy. Caught rabbits, in her world, get eaten (in pies). Incautious ducks do not live happily ever after. I think Hunwicke's Thirteenth Law might be that, the more corrupt an age is, the soppier, more sentimental it is. 

Remember how weepy the Gentle Giants of Harfang grew as the Autumn Feast approached.

P.S. Has the traditional notion that an antlered male is a cuckold disappeared in poor Mr Biden's America? Is Gus still the hypocoristic form of Augustus? Was Augustus Caii Filius a cuckold? Am I, a mere simple hypernostalgic European, missing out on rarified but delightful transpontine intertextualities?

 

 

20 June 2021

Plural popes ... if you have two of them, which is the genuine pontiff?

Today (although the Mass is Of The Sunday) is the festival of S Silverius, Pope and Martyr. He and his historical period raise interesting questions with possible applications to our own equally troubled times.

QUAERITUR:

Suppose you have an acknowledged pope ... but some usurper, by whatever means, pushes him aside and takes his place ... who is then the real pope?

The early history of the Roman See rather suggests that the principle of de facto applies in most situations. The chap who's actually in control ... in Canon Arthur Couratin's phrase, has his bum on the seat ... possesses, as we English say, nine tenths of the law.

But, just for the sake of the argument, let's suppose a more de iure sort of approach. According to this logic, if a usurper usurped without any legality, we would need to say that the displaced pope is 'really' still the 'real' pope. The bloke who displaced would merely be an illegal usurper ... an antipope, in fact.

So far, straightforward enough.

But suppose the displaced but still lawful pope subsequently dies ... what is then the position? (1) Should we say "Right! The See is now vacant, and so the normal procedures for electing a new pope need to take place."? (2) Or should we cheerfully and pragmatically say "Ah well, it was awkward when we had two possible popes, but now the competition has been reduced to one ... let's just live quietly and peaceably under the survivor. No need for Conclaves! Viva il Papa!"? 

Here is a summary answer from a reliable source: 

"After the taking of Rome by Belisarius [Pope St Silverius] was arrested, owing to the intrigues of the ambitious Vigilius, and died in exile at a date which is not known. Vigilius had taken his place on 29 March, 537.

"Having usurped the Papal throne by illegitimate means, Vigilius received universal recognition after the death of Silverius, and thus became lawful Pope." [My emphasis.]

And here is Dom Gueranger with a similar approach:

"The usurper could but be an intruder; until such time as the all-powerful merits of thy glorious death had obtained the transformation of the hireling into the legitimate Pastor, and had made this Vigilius become the heir of thine own courage."

And Gueranger also makes this observation about the questionable succession of S Silverius himself: "The inevitable play of human passions, interfering in the election of the Vicar of Christ, may perchance for a while render uncertain the transmission of spiritual power. But when it is proved that the Church ... acknowledges in the person of a certain pope, until then doubtful, the true Sovereign Pontiff, this her very recognition is a proof that, from that moment at least, the occupant of the Apostolic See is as such invested by God himself."

D'you think these precedents are clear enough?

(In case you were wondering ... the 'deposition' of S Silverius was, according to the Liber Pontificalis, performed by a subdeacon removing the pallium from his neck and dressing him as a monk.)

 

 

19 June 2021

Yet more Crass (2)

It is truly remarkable how often people competent in relevant fields, but not technically "NT Specialists", easily spot the crass nature of "Modern Biblical Scholarship"... while the 'experts' are blind to it. Because, for the 'experts', their livelihood and academic standing depend upon acceptance of all the accumulated claptrap. 'Experts' have their 'academic periodicals', their societies, their conferences, acceptance of which binds them all together and relieves them of any obligation to take seriously any writer who doesn't swallow the main corporate conclusions of their narcissistic clerisy.

C S Lewis (Fernseed and Elephants) did an elegant (and hilarious) demolition of such 'Scholarship' to an audience of Anglican seminarians. He had, he said, been studying literary genres all his life; and what the Biblical 'experts' wrote about such things was nonsense.

Anthony Kenney, former Catholic Priest but for most of his life a secular and agnostic philosopher, demonstrated by stylometric analysis that (contrary to the certainties of the 'experts') all but one of the 'Pauline' letters really were by one writer.

Tom Skeat, an eminent Codicologist, showed grounds for thinking that it was in Rome around 100ish that the decision was made to acknowledge a Gospel Canon of Four Gospels. I do not know of any NT 'experts' who incorporated his findings into their accounts of the evolution of the NT Canon.

Bishop John ('Honest to God') Robinson, who had been a very 'liberal' academic all his life, wrote first On redating the New Testament and then The Priority of John, demolishing the theories, accepted as certainties among the 'experts', which dated the NT douments late. Something so subversive of the entire Modern Scholarly Consensus could never have been accepted for publication if Robinson had not for decades been very famous. It probably also helped that, when he wrote Priority, he was dying of cancer.

Professor Graham Stanton, having seen the little notebooks produced by planing wood which were used by the legionaries along Hadrian's Wall, expressed to me the opinion that the Lord's hearers might have jotted down verbatim what they heard him say in just such handy little notebooks ... ergo no need for any solution to the Synoptic Problem, because there isn't one.

A Nord called Gerhardsson explained the processes used by rabbinic teachers to make their pupils learn their teachings off by heart: ergo no need for any solution to the Synoptic Prioblem, because there isn't one.

Butler deployed arguments for regarding Matthew as the first Gospel, but he was ignored because he was a papist. Ergo ...

Eric Mascall demonstrated the factual plausibility and likely authenticity of some narratives in John, but he wasn't a NT scholar ... just a silly old mathematician/logician ... so, of course, nobody took any notice of him.

Austin Farrer wrote On dispensing with Q, showing what nonsense the Q-hypothesis was. Everybody agreed that he, and his paper, were immensely, incredibly, fantastically, clever, but that he was not a NT specialist; ergo ... of course ... he did not even merit refutation.

It's all very much like the reaction when Joseph Ratzinger started expresssing views about Liturgy. The 'Experts' gathered round to explain that he was "not a Liturgist", so his views were worthless.

I expect that's still A Grillo's opinion.

18 June 2021

CRASS (1)

Dunno if you read, a couple of months ago, of some two-millennia-old Biblical fragments recently discovered in caves in the Judean deaert. One of them (Zechariah 8:16-17) was ... except for the Tetragrammaton ... written in Greek.

Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world.  Rome was the lergest Greek-speaking city in that world. Non-Greek languages survived in circumstances of bilinguality. Think Palestine ... think Wales ...

But we know that Christ spoke Aramaic. This raises an interesting question. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain long passages which are more or less verbally identical. 

IF YOUR ARE SPEED-READING THIS, YOU MIGHT AS WELL SAVE YOURSELF TIME BY GIVING IT UP NOW.

Now: if you ask three people to translate a single text into a different language, it is highly improbable that their three renderings will be verbally identical, even reproducing the same word-order. In a classroom, you will work out whose work was passed around and then plagiarised by the other "students". Time was when, at this point, the cane came out of the cupboard. Not that I ever used one. I relied on Mental Cruelty.

So, clearly, one needs an answer to the problem of the Three Synoptic Gospels. Who did the original translation of the words of the Lord from Aramaic into Greek? Mark is shorter and cruder, so he is clearly first. The other two borrowed from him. What about passages in Matthew and Luke which are not borrowed from Mark? It stands to reason that they were taken from a now-lost work which wiser men than me (or you) have called 'Q'.

Bingo! You have solved "the Synoptic Problem".

But do we know that Christ spoke Aramaic? Of course we do. Mark records him as using the Aramaic Talitha Coum(i) when raising Jairus' daughter. And Abba and Ephphatha. QED.

Um ...

But why does Mark only record a few odd Aramaic words? Modern Scientific Commentators go shifty at this point. Do these words safely record Christ as an Aramaic speaker ... or do they neatly record some rare occasions when a habitual Greek-speaker spoke Aramaic instead?

In conditions of bilinguality, the 'old' language ... Welsh or Aramaic ... may still be used round the hearth, in families, by women and children. The chaps will use the big, cosmopolitan language ... English, let us say, or Greek. But when turning to babies, young girls, the handicapped, they might well use the 'informal' local language. I have heard educated speakers of 'Establishment' English automatically using the Glottal Stop when they address children or minorities which they (perhaps unconsciously) despise.

I have a fair bit more to say on all this. But first let me dispose of the 'Priority of Mark' ...shorter, cruder, therefore clearly first of the Gospels to have been written.

A great Oxford papyrologist called Peter Parsons once gave a paper, not on any biblical subject, but on Classical Literature. Particularly the chronology of the plays of Aeschylus. Recent papyrological discoveries had revealed that the Supplices was quite late in the playwrite's oeuvre. But it had always been assumed that it was among his first plays ... because of its 'primitive' structure etc, etc..

Parsons adduced other examples of the dangers of facile a priori assumptions.

One of the problems about Modern Scientific Biblical Scholarship is that those involved in it are often much too proud to take any notice of those outside their own narrow, precious, speciality. Particularly of us Classicists! More on this later.

If Christ habitually spoke Greek, then the 'Synoptic Problem' disappears into thin air. Massive numbers of 'learned' books and articles are ... Crass. No; we do not need another imaginative reconstruction of 'Q'.

And the 'new' Judean manuscript makes clear (what we well knew already) that Christ would not have been the only faithful Jew to speak Greek. Indeed, consider the varied names recorded of His disciples. PHILIPPOS is not only a Greek name; it is redolent of the Macedonian North Greek culture which became part of the common hellenic currency of the regions which had been conquered by Alexander the Great and ruled by his 'Successors'. 'ANDREAS is Greek for ... no; I will leave to you the fun of speculating. You might enjoy including in your speculations the names of the hellenised Chief Priests mentioned in the Books of the Maccabees.

To continue.

17 June 2021

Pope Benedict: the Greek Old Testament (3)

So the LXX is not just a translation of the Hebrew OT; it is in itself a divinely given moment in the process of divine revelation; in a sense, rather like the discernment by the Church of the Canon of Scripture. It therefore deserves respect for and in itself, and is neither only nor even mainly a means to a different end (such as the reconstitution of a Hebrew 'original text').

But that concept of an 'original text' is, as I observed earlier, an idea characteristic of the Enlightenment but in itself questionable and now questioned. I think it can be sustained best in relation to an epistle of S Paul (there must presumably once have been one particular document which physically was taken by Phoebe from Corinth to Rome). But, even here, there is the overwhelming probability that all our existing textual forms go back to an early collection or edition of the Apostle's writings. Once you move beyond the Epistles, you run up against the relationship between Orality and Literacy in cultures predating the invention of printing, and particularly in the ancient world. Work has been done on this subject, both by secular Classicists (such as Rosalind Thomas of Balliol) and by NT specialists (such as Loveday Alexander at Sheffield). To put just one part of this briefly: in a fundamentally oral society, the written word often served as back-up for business which was mainly done orally. If you taught somebody cookery, this was basically done on the job, by word of mouth, in the kitchen. Books about cookery were supports, but they presupposed the oral and, in reaction to the oral, were texts that tended to fluidity. (You may yourself have a cookery book in your kitchen which, over the decades, you have modified, corrected, augmented as the result of your own practice of the culinary art.) Even in the letters of S Paul one finds hints that the person who (physically) carried the letter will fill it out, will explain it to the recipients.

So the 'Enlightenment' idea that, if only you had enough evidence and sufficient skill to deploy it, you could in principle reconstruct an 'original text', is dubious (it also puts disproportionate power into the hands of those who proclaim themselves to be Experts, and whose 'scientific' conclusions will probably be overturned by the generation which succeeds them). Even more dubious is the common Protestant superstition (a superstition because it erroneously makes into an idol, reifies, what should be one functioning element in ecclesial life) or fetich (a fetich because it is a paraphilia rather like being erotically fixated on your husband's ears rather than on his totality) that there is a static 'Bible' which stands as a test of doctrine over and above the life of the Church, and to which that life is subject and, even forensically, needs to be made answerable. 'Bible' is simply a vitally important element within a whole, within a traditio or paradosis. And this should, in my opinion, lead us to a privileging of those biblical editions which have fed and do feed the Church, have been cited by Fathers and Councils, and have been sanctified and authorised by sustained liturgical use. So: three cheers for the LXX. 

And ... my final point ... three cheers also for the Vulgate*. And I would include in my cheers the passage about the Adulterous Woman, in John 8, even if it is not an 'original' part of the Gospel, and 1 John 5:7b, even if that is not part of the 'original' text of its Epistle, and the last part of Mark 16; such passages, whatever their history, are still canonical Scripture. Incidentally, by Vulgate (Vg) I do not mean the NeoVulgate of S John Paul II, which I regard as subordinate to the 'real' Vg because of the 'Enlightenment' methodology of its production. There is most certainly nothing bad about it; it has the Church's formal approval. It just does not have the status, the auctoritas, of the LXX or the proper Vulgate (I suppose, a thousand or two years of intensive use might enhance the status of the NeoVulgate!). And, happily, the LXX and the Vg present us with texts which have considerable similarities. It's not nearly so often a matter of LXX versus Vg as it is of LXX+Vg versus The Rest. (The day, incidentally, when Orthodoxy abandons the Textus Receptus will be the day when, I hope, my Orthodox friends will become Old Believers!)

So don't throw away your English translations of the Vulgate, whether they be Dr Challoner's revision of the Douai-Rheims Bible, or Mgr Knox's translation, sadly underrated as it nowadays is. There is certainly no harm in the RSV (make sure that it is either a 'Catholic Edition' or else contains the 'Deuterocanonical Books', and do not ever use the feminist "New Revised Standard Version") ... it is probably the best of the modern Anglophone Bibles and it is certainly better to read the RSV than to read nothing ... but ... well, I've given you my own preferences!
______________________________________________________________________________
* I do not include in the same three cheers the MT as used in the medieval and modern synagogue, because its text-type has been formed, for nearly two millennia, independently from and, to a degree, probably in reaction against, the Church. It has in its own right, of course, immense value and interest as a witness to the history of the post-Jamnian rabbinic Judaism of our present world, the product of that radical reconstruction which Diaspora Judaism needed after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple had rendered so much of the Jewish Bible obsolete.

16 June 2021

PDM privatim

Perlegam si quid ad me mittere tibi placuerit.

Pope Benedict: The Greek Old Testament (2)

So when Benedict XVI said that the LXX is "an independent textual witness", he was saying that, in any attempt to reconstruct an 'original text' of the Old Testament, the LXX is just as respectable piece of evidence as the MT (the Hebrew texts used in modern synagogues). The Reformation view that the 'Scriptures' should be translated from the 'authentic Hebrew Original' is a gross oversimplification. That's Common Sense, if you think about it: why should Hebrew manuscripts which date from hundreds of years AD be prioritised above the now lost Hebrew manuscripts which the Jewish translators in Alexandria two or three centuries BC had in front of them on their desks? Why should the LXX, 'the Bible' which S Paul knew and used, be viewed as inferior to the much later MT? Indeed: let me digress from the main thrust of my argument to say that it may well also have been Christ's Bible: the assumption that the Lord Himself always spoke Aramaic (or Hebrew) is dubious in view of the fact that he lived very near a large Greek city in a bilingual Palestine. (And did you know that the notices in the Temple at Jerusalem were in Greek?) S Mark records, in his Greek Gospel, that Christ spoke in Aramaic to the girl he raised to life and to the dumb man whom he cured. The most obvious conclusion to draw from that is that he normally spoke Greek but reverted to the local language, Aramaic, when raising a young girl or curing a handicapped man. In bilingual societies, it is common for the cosmopolitan international language of the world of men and of great affairs (English; Greek; French) to occupy a different sociological niche from that occupied by the old local language of hearth and family (Welsh; Aramaic; S Bernadette's Gascon). It was as a toddler that the Incarnate Word would have heard from his Mother the Aramaic term for Daddy, Abba. It was the language of mothers and children.

The LXX, then, is not a bit like old uncle Bob, of whom in polite company we are rather ashamed because of his uncouth manners ("It's the way he burps and dribbles as he eats his rice pudding with his mouth open ..."). And Alexandria (with which the LXX is associated) symbolises the height of Greek culture and civilisation. Athens had in comparison become something of a backwater. Alexandria was wealthy and sophisticated and it sucked into itself the artistic and literary resources of the Greek world. Its library, founded and sustained by royal patronage, was the greatest in the world. Its Librarians were the great scholars of Hellenistic antiquity. And its Jewish community was wealthy and humane and powerful and a patron of the arts. This is why Pope Benedict was right to see the LXX as a synthesis of Greek and Jewish erudition. And he was right to see this cultural marriage as "a distinct and important step in the history of Revelation".  It is not without the hand of Providence that S Paul was soaked in the LXX; that Christianity rode around the Mediterranean on the back of the LXX.
One more section of this to come.

15 June 2021

Father Tim Finigan

Only last Sunday I wrote about the splendid ministry of Father Tim. Many of you will have heard that he is rather unwell. 

Please ...

Pope Benedict: the Greek Old Testament (1)

As with many of you, the 'Islam question' has inspired me to a new reading of Pope Benedict's Regensberg lecture. Today I would like to draw two sentences to your attention. "Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter [between 'biblical faith' and 'the best of Greek thought'] in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion."

'Modern Biblical Scholarship' has, in Western academic circles, seen one of its tasks as being to practise 'Textual Criticism'. This phrase does not mean what most people assume; what it does mean is comparing the different manuscripts (and other evidences) of a ancient text so as to analyse the differences between them and to reconstruct what the 'original' text said. So the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, was commonly viewed as just one source of evidence for reconstructing the original Hebrew text (which, until such discoveries as the 'Dead Sea Scrolls', had medieval Jewish manuscripts as its earliest witnesses ... manuscripts which we shall call the MT). The LXX (= the Septuagint) was found lacking because it seemed to be an inaccurate rendering of the Hebrew. This was never very fair, and recent discoveries suggest that that the Hebrew manuscripts from which the LXX was translated have every claim to be given no less consideration than the MT. Furthermore, a very interesting Methodist scholar called Margaret Barker has plausibly argued that, where LXX and MT differ, this can sometimes be the result of the MT text having altered original readings which were seen by Rabbinic Judaism as too favourable to Christianity. Another Furthermore: a number of textual critics (such as an American called Epp) now doubt whether the concept of an 'original text' actually is a viable idea when we are dealing with ancient manuscripts both sacred and secular. I happen to share that view, and will return to it later.

To be continued.

14 June 2021

S Basil and his mouth

In reprinting this 2015 piece, I have left it unrevised, nor have I deleted the original, very jolly, thread!

Doctors of the Church commonly, both in the Novus and Vetus Masses, have an Introit which begins In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os eius et implevit eum Dominus spiritu sapientiae ... in the Latin, but, according to the New ICEL translation, In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom ...

I am worried by the implied translation of eius. In Latin there are two words for his. We use suum when 'his' refers ('reflexive') back to the subject of the verb (and, in effect, means 'his own'). We use eius when 'his' does not refer back to the subject of the verb. So 'his' cannot refer back to 'he'. The character who 'opened' did not open his own mouth. If the Latin had meant to say 'he opened his [own] mouth', the word would have to be suum.

The subject both of 'opened' and of 'filled' has therefore to be Dominus, the Lord; even though it comes a bit late in the Latin (Latin word order is more flexible than English). So the introit means In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth and filled him with the spirit of wisdom ... .  Divine initiative ... prevenient grace ...

"But" - you cry - "probably Fr H is getting this wrong. Excessive pedanticism, combined with their innate arrogance, is the reason why all right-thinking people hate, loath, and detest all classicists so much".

You are probably right about most of that, but I have not got this little matter wrong. Try the Septuagint, where the subject of the sentence is in fact Divine Wisdom; she is the subject of every verb in the relevant passage (Ecclesiasticus 15:1-5). In the Neo-Vulgate, the same is true. And in the Authorised Version and the RSV. And, in the 1949 Burns Oates Latin-English Missal, Mgr Ronald Knox, no mean classicist, no mean biblicist, translates this introit The Lord moved him to speak before the assembled people, filling him with the spirit of wisdom ...

It's an interesting passage. Close examination will reveal to you that the translations I have listed have the verb in the future; and that one line preserved in the Vulgate is missing elsewhere. Hebrew tenses don't work like Indo-European tenses; and the Vulgate sometimes preserves a better text than other versions - its variant readings are always worth taking seriously. (There must be someone out there who would enjoy getting into the Vetus Latina ... and there are some Hebrew fragments of Sirach ...)

The introduction to the Neo-Vulgate wisely expresses doubt whether an "original text" of this book, 'The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach', otherwise known as 'Ecclesiasticus'** [not to be confused with Ecclesiastes], ever was or could be recoverable; an agnosticism with which I would like to see more editors, both of sacred and of profane texts, handling their documents. Catholics, free from the fetiches of textual fundamentalism, have less need to be worried by this than do Westcotts and Horts and the 'modern' scholarship of the twentieth century.

** If the bible on your desk doesn't have this book in it, under either name, it means you are using a Protestant bible. Get a Catholic one!

13 June 2021

So beautiful ... why do they hate it so much?

Perhaps a couple of years ago, I had the privilege to be in the company of a great prelate just after he had offered a pontifical High Mass in the old rite.

Suddenly, quite out of the blue, he murmurred: "So beautiful, so beautiful. Why do they hate it so much?" 

Afterwards, I started to recall the events which followed our entry into Full Communion with the See of S Peter, when a determined effort was made to prevent my admission to the presbyterate of the Latin Church. During those long, difficult, and extraordinarily painful months, I had the advice and support of some very good and holy men. I shall eternally be grateful to them. I remember all of the things that were said to me.

One of them said, and repeated it a number of of times, "John, you simply must realise how strongly these people feel about the 'Extraordinary Form'".

Another said he would explain to me why there was such prejudice against the old Mass. "It's because they associate it with a form of Catholicism which they think of as rigid, sin-obsessed, oppressive, and, frankly, frightening. They are afraid that, with the old Mass, the entire moral and cultural complex which they think they remember will return. And the thought terrifies them."

Happily, there is, I sense, rather less such liturgical terror now among Catholic Bishops, at least, here in England. Some of them make careful and generous provision for the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite. 

Although ... I do hope that they are not thereby trying to control or limit its effect upon ordinary parish life. We need priests in parochial ministry who share the mind and methods of the great Fr Tim, once, so gloriously, of Blackfen. God forbid that the old Mass should be, or even appear to be, a precious ghetto for precious and exclusive clergy and laity anxious to hide away from their fellow Catholics. 

What is necessary is 'dual economy' parishes ... such as those often provided by the Oratories. An easy and gracious and unneurotic symbiosis ...

Joseph Ratzinger said in the 1990s when some English Catholic bishops were violently resisting a 'Corporate Solution' for Anglican Catholics: "What are they so afraid of?"

So ... To answer the question in my heading ... Fear. They hate the Old Rite because the Enemy has set fear in their hearts. Fear is his weapon of choice.


12 June 2021

Jesuits or Jansenists?

I was born too early to have been part of the Drug Culture which you, dear readers, enjoyed so much, but I do know just a bit about addiction. 

There is a ... particular passion ... I try to resist it ... which can only be indulged by those who possess a number of old Missals.

It is an addiction to the section of Missals headed Appendix pro aliquibus locis.

This Appendix is at the back of the book. It contains Masses authorised but only for use in particular dioceses or orders. 

I have never encountered two missals which have identical versions of the Appendix. The fascination lies in the view you get of the gradual evolution of particular devotions among particular groups. You meet versions of Masses which existed locally before a particular Festival was "extended to the Universal Church". These Mass formulae are not always identical to what later became authorised. Before you know what's happening, you're making notes about changes, similarities, oddities, influences ... hooked, in fact. Just like people high on Thingummy and Whatsit.

I don't recommend getting hooked on the Appendix pro aliquibus locis. As with all addictions, the results are horrible. The addict could find him/herself sweating in bed as the leering, diabolical face of Hannibal Bugnini looms over the fevered couch. Behind him, the waving trunks of mountaineering elephants. The horrible menacing sound of massed Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, on heat and endlessly crooning Eat this bread, drink this wine ...

Don't risk it. Instead, I will tell you about my own experiences this morning.

The Appendix I was browsing through dated from before the liturgical observance of the Sacred Heart had became part of the universal worship of the Latin Church. The Mass formula for the places where it had been allowed by indult  began with an Introit in which the psalmus was the verse Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo. That was natural: time was, when Masses of the Lord's Passion (nearly?) always began thus. In Sarum and the Ordinariate Missal, the Mass of the Five Wounds still begins thus. (I remember a heureka moment in Devon when I realised that the inscription on a carved bench end from the 1490s, which nobody had been able to decipher, began MIASDNI ... misericordias domini in abbrevation.)

But the 1962 Missal gives a different Mass for the Sacred Heart

I wonder why Rome changed the original Mass of the Sacred Heart. Could it be something to do with Jesuits versus Jansenists? Somebody out there will know all about this.

Then I turned the page ... and discovered that the Jesuits were observing, on the Sunday (Pentecost III) after the Sacred Heart, the Feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. I believe Rome resisted a number of requests for that Feast in the nineteenth century.

You can see the logic of bringing these two celebrations close together ... the same logic, of course, led the Novus Ordo people in the 1960s to move the Immaculate Heart from August to the Saturday after the Sacred Heart. Conceptual coherence, and all that.

But ... I think it's a good idea. Liturgical dates fixed in the 1940s and 50s by Pius XII do not, in my view, have the same call on our respect as traditional dates ... like Ss Philip and James on May 1.

And when it comes to Jesuits versus Jansenists, I'm a Jesuit!


11 June 2021

The Reverend Professor Canon Doctor Eric Mascall

Tomorrow is a great day in the Calendar for those of us who remember a stanza in The Ultra-Catholic:

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'

Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;

And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,

They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven. 

Ah, the days when clergy and laity might turn up on weekdays at seven. The rejuvenation of the Church after Vatican II put a stop to all that.

Newman and "The Anglican Patrimony"

People still sometimes ask what is this Anglican Patrimony of which Professor Ratzinger wrote in Anglicanorum coetibus. Does it just mean occasional Choral Evensong?

I believe dear old Archdeacon ... oops, Cardinal ... Manning summed it up thus:

I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church.

Bang on, except for that strange word 'danger'.

I have often wondered whether our own Professor Henry 'Patrimony' Chadwick had Manning's words consciously in mind when he wrote

The fact that [Newman] had been converted to Catholicism by Oxford and the study of the Church Fathers, not by any personal friendship with Roman Catholics, meant that everything he wrote and said sounded almost Anglican.

That's the Patrimony: Anglican tone. Including, of course, Saint John Henry Newman's old Anglican gifts of Irony, Satire, and especially, above all, and pretty well daily, the Argumentum ad hominem.  

And an adherence to Saint John Henry's belief in the iniquities of Liberalism.

And his resolute opposition to Ultrahyperueberpapalism. 

And his emphasis on getting one's guidance from the Fathers. 

And writing decent English. 

Those are things I would have concentrated upon if anybody had ever asked me to contribute to the endless Conferences that keep happening in order to pin down and identify the meaning of "the Anglican Patrimony". 

 

10 June 2021

Is Time Short?

I think it was Arcbishop Tucho Fernandez who explained, early in this potificate, that when the Pope realised time was getting short, he would act more speedily (can anyone see a link to this?).

I had a look at PF's Corpus Christi Liturgy; and thought how much older and unsteady he looked.

Is that why he has now decided to attack the Liturgy?

Could it be that he was unwilling to demolish Summorum Pontificum while Pope Benedict was still alive .... but now he realises it's too risky to wait much longer?

9 June 2021

S Columba: all is revealed (2) (With a fine thread from more than a decade ago)

There isn't really any mystery about why S Columba did not enter the church until after the Gospel of the Mass. For the answer, you only need to go to the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry - that's the bulge sticking out into the Atlantic just South of the not always edifying tourist honey-trap of the Dingle. (Avoid the Dingle; go to the Waterville and Valentia Island area.) If you are a bookish sort of person, take the admirable Archaeological Survey of the Iveragh published by UCC. And, before you go, read my own paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Volume 102C, Number 1, 2002. (You could do worse than to read the even older treatment in by Francoise Henry: Volume 58C, 45-166.) And let yourself be lured into crawling around the innumerable early Christian sites. 

The Skellig Island (to which, as I recently observed, G B Shaw once had himself rowed from Sneem) is uniquely dramatic and - provided you are not easily seasick - a must, but you may be a little diasappointed by being made to wait before climbing to the top so that the previous lot of tourists can come down, chattering away into their mobile phones to their boyfriends in Barcelona. Go as well or instead for peace and quiet and visit Killabuonia and trace the buildings among the brambles on the hillside; and get a boatman to row you the few yards from Port Magee to Illaunloghan,  excavated and spectacularly written up by Jenny Marshall White (for sale in the shops at Port Magee ... Magee was a pirate ...). Or during the spring low tides you can walk through the straights across to Illaunloghan, watching the scallops snapping shut as you wade past them.

What you will discover is that the stone oratories which survive in such abundance, often with 'Founder's Shrines' and standing crosses beside them, were very very small. And archaeology has revealed that the wood and peat oratories which preceded the stone edifices were even smaller. And yet, apparently, these chapels served large 'monastic' communities and very large lay districts. It is clear that entire congregations could have not got into these little buildings. 

What obviously happened was that the bulk of the congregation was outside, and that even the clergy were outside, from the litany which started the Mass until after the Gospel. Then the clergy, probably not more than half a dozen individuals, went inside for the Holy Sacrifice.

Ergo ...

8 June 2021

Episcopal inertia (1)

Thank you for enquiries about my health. One eye is rendering me very good service; the other one is gradually recovering. Please continue to keep it in your prayers! I am grateful.

Meanwhile, here is something I wrote earlier ... more than a decade ago ...

 "He entered the Church, of course, after the Gospel". We of the Patrimony, nurtured on the writings and wit of our great mystagogue and monk Dom Gregory Dix, scourge of bishops ... " remember that the sign of a Bishop is a crook, and of an Archbishop, a double cross" ... and might suspect that the habitually lazy lout described above must have been a bishop. 

(Dix once wrote: "Even when the stately summer of the Carolines was over, the 'Whig grandee' Bishops of the eighteenth century and the 'Greek Play' Bishops of [the 1860s] still had something for which the genial energy of a business man in gaiters does not quite compensate". He penned that in the 1940s; with what phrase, equally swift and just as catty, might one bring it up to date?) 

We might think there was little trouble in placing the attitude betrayed here, so careless at once of liturgical propriety and of the proclaimed Evangelium - but who was the bishop, and of what age? Benjamin Hoadley? Talleyrand? - but he would probably have remained outside until after the Creed. But the culprit is, in fact, a sixth century Irish abbot, an example of austerity and of penitential endeavour, S Columba himself. Moreover, he was accompanied by four other monastic founders. And Columba was even the celebrant of the Mass! 

Was S Columba really too sluggish an old gent to get out of bed before the Gospel? An ancient manuscript once in the library of the Dukes of Buckingham and now kept in Dublin suggests the answer to this conundrum.  

Continues later.

7 June 2021

An Indelicate Post

A lovely Jesuit has recently said (I saw this in Fr Zed) that the Old Mass should only be allowed for "older people who do not understand the need for change". Younger people, he suggests, should not be allowed to attend. The Chinese communists have had exactly the same brilliant idea with regard to Christian worship in general!! Oh dear! Governments are discussing the introduction of Covid Passports restricting entry to to certain events to people who have Had The Jabs. Now the Jesuits will want to encumber us with documentary evidence that we are old enough to attend Traditional Worship.

Frankly, on the (thankfully, rare) occasions since we entered into Full Communion when I have had to attend 'mainstream' Novus Ordo  worship, the Enemy has afflicted me sorely with the temptations consequent upon boredom. On these occasions, I have deeply resented the lack of provision, in such Catholic Churches, of the Book of Common Prayer, the quintessential antidote to boredom..

Let me explain. 

In Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (various editions 1785-1796) is an intriguing usage: a very promiscuous woman is called 'an Athanasian wench'. 

No connection here with Bishop Schneider.

The usage rather puzzled me. But then I noticed that such a woman, according to Grose, could also be called 'a Quicunque vult'. Then the denarius belatedly dropped.

Those familiar with the Book of Common Prayer will be aware of the 'Athanasian Creed', otherwise known by its first phrase as The Quicunque vult. 

These two words could rendered as "Whosoever wants [to be saved ... he must believe the Catholick Faith ... etc.]". 

However, to a sufficiently disordered mind ... 

What intrigues me is the little peephole this gives us into a Regency mindset. Regency bucks may have been mired in gambling, drinking, horses and whoring, yet they knew their Prayer Book well enough ... and their Latin ...

Are we to picture them in Church, when convention compelled them to attend, in a scene such as the one portrayed in that engaving by Hogarth? Did they, perhaps, when bored and with no other reading matter and no girl in sight worth ogling, browse through their Prayer Books?

I will own up to having whiled away excruciating sermons by calculating (from the extensive data provided at the beginning of the Prayer Book) the date of Easter.

Interesting, how religion can so permeate even the libertine classes.

The many terms in Grose for women also induce in me this sobering thought: they seem so full of desire and so full of hatred. As if those same libertine classes were driven by the extremity of their lust to resent and to hate the figures who inspired it.

Are promiscuity and misogyny inevitable bedfellows?




6 June 2021

Craddock Ratcliff (1896-1967)

Most of the Anglican 'Patrimony' whom I introduce to you were Papalists. Not so Ratcliff. Indeed, when he died he was in the process of seeking admission into an Orthodox jurisdiction.

Like many in his generation, indeed, like Dr Pusey himself, Ratcliff was a considerable Classicist and an adept in Hebrew and Aramaic. He taught at London, Cambridge, and Oxford. His friend and collaborator Arthur Couratin (Principal of Staggers) gives us this window into Ratcliff's boyhood:
"As a schoolboy he attended a church in South London which was notoriously Anglo-Catholic. Here the Communion Service of the Book of Common Prayer was celebrated with all the ceremonial of High Mass of the Roman Rite, and the Canon Missae was silently interpolated under the cover of the elaborate music. Whatever may have been the devotional value of such a performance it could not fail to arouse the intellectual curiosity of a highly intelligent schoolboy".

Ratcliff was particularly intrigued by this paragraph of the Canon Missae [I give the Ordinariate translation]:
We humbly beseech thee, Almighty God, command these offerings to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in sight of thy divine majesty; that all we who at this partaking of the altar shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of thy Son, may be fulfilled with all heavenly benediction and grace.

And Ratcliff loved the idea that our heavenly altar is taken up and united to the everlasting heavenly place of sacrifice; he once called Mass 'a pass to the Royal Enclosure'. Rightly, he discerned here the mindset of the first and second Christian centuries. The reference to Christ as 'thy holy Angel' is found in Justin; Irenaeus wrote "So there is an altar in heaven, for thither our prayers and oblations are directed, as John says [Revelation 8:3 'the golden altar before the throne]". All this is implied in Pope S Clement I when he calls the Lord "the high priest of our offerings". Not to mention Hebrews and the Apocalypse.

The antiquity of the Roman Canon is demonstrated by the fact that it clearly evolved its main features well before S Athanasius invented (Oops! I meant to say, developed) and the Council of Constantinople imposed the dogma of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit; before the idea that the Eucharist is effected by an illapse of the Holy Spirit (read Fortescue if you want an account of the tortured hypothesising which distracted nineteenth century theorists preoccupied with the completely mythical 'lost epiclesis of the Roman Rite'). The reference to Christ as an 'Angel' suggests that we are well before the start of the Arian controversy. Significantly, the Milanese version of the Canon 'corrected' 'angel' to 'angels', presumably to eliminate this 'problem'; Rome herself was too traditionalist (and the words too established) to tamper with the phrase, even when most of the world had turned Arian.

S John Paul II (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 10) wrote of "an aspect of the Eucharist which merits greater attention: in celebrating the sacrifice of the Lord, we are united to the heavenly liturgy". Suppose every Latin Rite priest still bowed low over his altar every morning (supplices te rogamus ... if we had Byzantine manners we would probably prostrate ourselves here or do proskyneseis) and said those stunning words which begin "iube haec perferri ...". The Holy Pontiff would not have needed to make his implicit criticism.

5 June 2021

Getting to Know Newman

I venture to make a constructive suggestion. In 1848 Saint John Henry Newman published Loss and Gain; a partly autobiographical novel about the life, the currents of thought, the characteristic personages of the Oxford that he left in 1845. Of course we can (and should) go to Littlemore; how evocative it is, how welcoming the Sisters. You can venerate in nearby cases the red silk MA hood that Newman wore when celebrating the Eucharist as an Anglican, and the alb he wore at his first Eucharist in full Communion with the See of S Peter. But if it is Newman's mind you are after, this novel will be your key.

It is full of the most wonderful satire (as a satirist, Newman left Dean Swift many parasangs behind): of sweet young 'Catholic' things who think that they are discussing becoming monks and nuns when really they are falling in love with each other; of dons who use the XXXIX Articles to bully undergraduates but turn out not to know the actual text terribly well; of silly young ritualists who think that Catholicism is a matter of piscinas which will never drain an actual chalice and tabernacles which will never contain an actual Host; of the bizarre figures in the religious underworld of the day. And it contains some of Newman's most moving purple passages - not least Willis's famous eulogy of the (authentic form of the) Mass; and the description of worship in the unfinished Passionist Church.

Newman also describes the emotional hold of the Anglican Prayer Book upon those who know and love it, and its capacity to be a comfort in bad times as well as good. And the picture of the hero's father describes him as a decent, pious, generous, devout, popular, gentlemanly High Tory parson of the old school. This was Newman's tribute to all that was good and lovely in the Anglicanism which he had left; but my understanding of it is that Newman is praising, in Anglicanism, those good and wholesome things which were natural goods but which preceded the divine graces which come with Catholic Faith. Newman's own father had been a banker, but JHN gave Charles Reding a gentlemanly clerical father who was generous to the poor and whose manners made him welcome in the greatest houses ... but whose sermons were undoctrinal, moral, 'manly'.

Little known because of anti-Catholic prejudice, this book is, I am convinced, one of the greatest, most cleverly and most sharply yet beautifully written pieces of fiction produced by the nineteenth century.

A Prayer?

Tomorrow afternoon I am due for another eye op.

4 June 2021

Sancti Petroci, Abbatis et Confessoris

Today, June 4, is the Festival of the Patron of Cornwall, S Petroc. 

In the Ordinariate Calendar ... don't ask me why ... he has misguidedly wandered off to May 23, following three mss. But June 4 is his authentic date; it is thus given in the Roman Martyrology. And in the medieval Exeter diocesan sources. And in French liturgical books. And he is thus observed in Cornwall. And in the Anglican diocese of Truro (which owes its Calendar to the erudite Canon Doble). (Possibly it might occur to somebody to try the hypothesis that May 23 was his obitus and June 4 his depositio ... but I know no evidence to support this. There were also a couple of autumn festivals, one called the Exaltatio, the other the Translatio, probably linked to the Digging Up and the Removal of his relics from Padstow to a place of safety at Bodmin during the more vivid Danish contributions to our national history.)

Medieval relic-lists suggest that bits of him did rather travel. I would be interested if anybody knew of a still-extant relic. I suppose any North French sacristies which were not looted at the Revolution might be the best places to look. I would suggest the Oxford Oratory, but the Jesuits, fine folk, cremated all the relics there back in the 1970s.

Under the new CDF rules for the Old Mass Calendar sanctioned in 2020, S Petroc may be observed today instead of S Francis Caracciolo. Indeed, if he is acknowledged as Patron of Cornwall, Cernow, Kernow, he ought to be a top ranking celebration therein (although, this year, he will have lost his First Evensong/First Vespers to Corpus Christi).

His (Bollandist) Vita gives highly plausible circumstantial topographical details about his departure from Padstow to a hermitage in a remote valley nearby; and the place of his death. The church at Little Petherick close by was beautified, back in the dear but dead days of Anglican Catholicism, by Athelstan Riley, Seigneur de la Trinite. Windows ... Rood Screen ... by Sir Ninian Comper. Who else? Only the best would do for Athelstan and, er, his God.

S Petroc's processional banner (also by Comper) bears the words Ave gemma monachorum/ gloria Dumnoniorum/ nos, Petroce, respice. I suspect that this, in a metre traditionally used for liturgical sequences, was composed by Athelstan himself. Unless anybody can provide a genuine earlier source??

For my own fun, I have completed the stanza with Nemo sit in fontis valle/ qui sanctorum possit calle/ elici, te vindice.

"The Saints' Way" passes nearby.

3 June 2021

Michael Collins?

It will soon be a century since General Michael Collins signed an agreement with the British Government, fearing, as he did so, that he was signing his own death warrant. 

He was.

I hope that when Mansour Abbas signed up to the new Israeli coalition last night, he was not signing his death warrant.

Nothing has worked in the Holy Land. The settler movement has continued to create Facts Upon The Ground. Periodically, armed conflicts seem to finish with the Palestinian casuaties at ten times the the numbers of Jewish casualties. This undoubtedly creates immense pleasure in the leadership of Hammas. American presidents with domestic political interests stage Press Opportunities, but ...

I suppose the arrangement agreed last night have less than a 0.1% chance of leading to anything ... but surprising things can happen. I will pray to the God of Surprises!!

Pope John XXII and the Feast of Corpus Christi

(1) A most blessed feast of Corpus Christi to all readers.

One of the strange things about this Feast is that, despite the Bull Transiturus, the feast seems not to have been observed until the second and third decades of the 1300s. Not even .... get this! ... in the Capella of the Bishop of Rome himself! We owe it to the instincts of that fascinating Pontiff John XXII that this celebration, with its associated devotions, spread like wildfire. 

Devotions ... festivals ... have their moment. Comes the time, comes the Pontiff. God bless John XXII. Thank God for the much-maligned Avignon Papacy!

(2) Who wrote this ?

"We think ... of all the thousands of masses which are being said or sung the whole world over, and all rising with one note of blissful acclamation, from grateful creatures, to the Majesty of our merciful Creator. How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way round the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the seminary, where the various colours of the faces, and the different languages of the people are only so many fresh tokens of the unity of that faith which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome! Upon how many altars of various architecture, amid sweet flowers and starry lights, amid clouds of humble incense, and the tumult of thrilling song, before thousands of prostrate worshippers, is the Blessed Sacrament raised for exposition, or taken down for benediction! And how many blessed acts of faith and love, of triumph and of reparation, do not each of these things surely represent! The world over, the summer air is filled with the voice of song. The gardens are shorn of their fairest blossoms, to be flung beneath the feet of the Sacramental God. The steeples are reeling with the clang of bells; the cannon are booming in the gorges of the Andes and the Appenines; the ships of the harbours are painting the bays of the sea with their show of gaudy flags; the pomp of royal or republican armies salutes the King of kings. The Pope on his throne, and the school-girl in her village, cloistered nuns, and sequestered hermits, bishops and dignitaries and preachers, emperors and kings and princes, all are engrossed to-day with the Blessed Sacrament ... "

Viva il Fabbro!!! May Christendom return!

2 June 2021

To Arms, to Arms

It is well known that this University has always regarded itself as immune from the jurisdiction of the Kings of Arms; both University and Colleges have ever devised and adopted into use their own Arms; often simply using the achievement of a Founder. My wife's College uses the Arms of the father of its founding principal, Dr Eleanor Plumer; he, as a distinguished Field Marshal and First World War general, had been granted a Coat of Arms including a sword surrounded by a laurel wreath ... a striking heraldic adornment for a Women's College!

When, in 1548, the University Press was finally firmly established (after two rather infirm earlier establishments going back to 1478) with Joseph Barnes as Architypographus, the first thing he did was to have a splendid block made of the University Arms. These were then, as they are now, three ducal coronets upon a field azure and, between them, an open book. But, whereas the words on the book now read Dominus Illuminatio Mea, from Barnes' time until at least 1658, the 'motto' was Sapientiae et Felicitatis. The suggestion, I gather, has been made that this is derived from the Summa contra Gentiles. Any ideas?

If I had anything to do with the (technically illegal) assumption of Arms by Catholic entities in England, I would behave rather differently from whoever currently does cook up such designs (it is my confident guess that the College of Arms has had nothing to do with these sad productions). The Ordinariate, for example, uses something reminiscent of the Arms of the Priory of Walsingham impaling Newman, which would normally imply either that the Prior of Walsingham had married a Miss Newman, or that a member of the Newman family held the office of Prior. The Anglican College of Guardians of the Shrine did distinctly better in 1945; I suspect Fr Fynes Clinton (who paid the fees) may have had a lot to do with the design. The  Kings of Arms granted Arms consisting of the Priory of Walsingham (Argent, upon a cross sable, five lilies of the first slipped and seeded proper) differenced with a canton (azure, charged with the Holy House or). A correspondingly elegant composition for the Ordinariate might have been the Priory of Walsingham differenced with a canton of Newman.

I think I rather like the use of cantons to do differencing. I can think of an example that goes back as far as the Roll associated with the Siege of Caerlaverock in 1300. It means that neither of the two coats concerned is deprived of its integrity. Allen Hall, for example, would look well if (given its origins) it were Oxford Ancient (i.e. with the words Sapientiae et Felicitatis!) differenced with a canton of Allen ... that is, his very jolly little conies!

Gumming a couple of coats together by means of impalement, which in heraldry most commonly implies the sort of temporary association that goes with a marriage (or the metaphorical marriage where an office-holder impales his arms of office with his own arms), seems unsophisticated if not down-right plain misleading!

Moreover, whoever dreams up these rather weak compositions puts a standardised mitre on top of his shields. This seems to fit rather ill with the rules about hats and tassels which have the authority both of the Holy See and of the College of Heralds.

Or have I misunderstood something?

1 June 2021

Statues CORRECTED

We Catholics can only plead guilty to giving our own encouragement to the practice of destroying the statues of those who have, er, gone out of fashion. There is a statue of S Peter in S Peter's in Rome which is said to have been made from the metal secured when Capitoline Juppiter was melted down. (I think there is a replica of it in the Brompton Oratory, and possibly yet another copy in the Victoria Railway Station Chapel, the large red-brick building nearby that looks like a late-Victorian Marshalling Yard with a minaret added. One of the feet is worn away by the lips of the Faithful. I expect Mr Johnson during his recent visit paused to add his oral tribute ...)

It's natural human instinct to eliminate the out-of-date. About a decade ago, somebody identified a statue which had been smashed in its head and then used as building rubble in the first century palazzo at Fishbourne in Sussex: it is probably of the young Nero, deliberately defaced after the end of his artistic career.

Moi, I think the equestrian statue of Oliver Cromwell in Parliament Square should be deftly adjusted. The head could be removed, and replaced with a newly-cast head of our late Sovereign Liege Lord King James III and VIII, Hapsburg lip and all. The nearby statue of a member of the Churchill family ... nasty man, nasty statue ... could be melted down and recast as a statue of the Horse of Hannover, prostrate beneath the trampling hooves of King James's noble steed. OOPS I was in error; Cromwell's statue is not equestrian. Sorry. It is something I have always hurried past, eyes averted ... the whole thing will need to be melted down ... Sorry ...

So I don't want to be 'dogmatic' about agalmatophobia. I confess "Me Too", as is fashionable. But I did bridle recently when somebody called, I think, Elgot, appearing on the Beeb, said how sorry she felt for black students in Oxford who are forced ... "literally", she said ... with some emphasis ... to go through an archway on top of which is a statue of Cecil Rhodes ... nasty man, indeed; nasty statue ...

I am nervous about any but the literal use of the adverb literally. Apart from that ...

Elgot has clearly neither visited Oxford nor deigned even to research its Oriel College on her computer (and I bet she's not a Tab, or Palatinate Purple). Students, of any colour, would have a lot of trouble getting into Oriel College by going underneath its statue of Rhodes. Regular entry ... for students of whatever subtle tint ... is "literally" secured by walking a few hundred yards round a corner and down a side-street. The essence of Oxford lies in the dominance of its side-streets.

It is a good practice to verify one's references ... was it Dr Routh who said something like that?

But the Beeb, and its slipshod minions, are far above such pedantries. Our Media also rose stratispherically beyond mere fact in attacking the Prime Minister of Hungary, a Mr Orban, when he visited us recently. (I hope you had a happy birthday yesterday, Victor.) They tried to savage him for having spoken some time or other about an Islamic Attack on his own country. He explained robustly that a lot of Moslems had battered down a frontier fence and illegally invaded his country. Is his plaint not fair enough?

In our mealy-mouthed land, we would be expected to use a careful periphrasis such as "illegal immigrants". But by what law are visiting foreign politicians required, when wantonly attacked, to share our nervous passion for being periphrastic when we are in a minefield?

And it didn't sound to me that the Meejah were aware of the centuries-long tale of Islamic aggressiion in Eastern Europe ... I rather think the Hungarians didn't succeed in getting rid of Ottoman garrisons until the eighteenth century. Why is Johnny Foreigner not allowed to possess ... and, indeed, to have been formed by ... his own History? And who promoted us to such global supremacy that we experience no need to find out about Distant Lands before we publicly demonstrate once again that We Know Nothing about them?

Orban, incidentally, is an alumnus of Pembroke College in this University. I haven't heard this fact mentioned; nor have the Media let drop any hint that Mrs Vice-Chancellor, or the Master of Pembroke,  issued a gracious invitation to him to drop in for a quick noggin and to have a look over Pembroke's fine new quadrangle. (I must declare an interest: Senior Grand-daughter was at Pembroke.)

Could it be that he is ex officio a Cancellato?