28 February 2023

Ember Days? (1)

So this first full week of Lent is also an Ember Week!

But, er, what does that mean?

Originally, there were only three Ember Seasons: around Pentecost; in September;  in December. They arose (I still suspect) out of the old pagan Roman celebrations of harvests: respectively, of the harvests of the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil. There were special Masses on the Wednesdays, the Fridays, and the Saturdays within these three weeks.

But unlike more recent harvest celebrations, they were decidedly sober occasions. The Community fasted!

The fast appears to have led to the association of Ordinations with the Ember Weeks, since it is appropriate to approach the Sacrament of Holy Order with prayer and self-denial and even exorcism. The actual Ordinations would be done during an all-night vigil between Saturday and Sunday. The minor Orders, followed by the Major Orders, were conferred one after another in the gaps within the series of Readings.


So how does it come about that we have an Ember week at this time of the year? How did Tria Tempora mutate into Quattuor Tempora? ["Three Seasons" into "Four Seasons".] After all, February and March, in our Northern hemisphere, are not months one would immediately associate with Harvest!

To be concluded. I have tried to find a path through data mainly given by the great Anglican liturgist, student and admirer of the Classical Roman Rite, Fr G G Willis [Essays in Early Roman Liturgy, 1964]. And I have made a few connections of my own.. I do not find Talley convincing.

27 February 2023

CORONATIONS ... English Unction

Legg again ... "In days of Anglo-French rivalry the prestige accruing to the King of France from being anointed with this heaven-sent oil [of Clovis: see yesterday's post] was a source of much jealousy to the King of England, and we find traces of a rival story under Edward II, which ripens under Richard II into the detailed legend that the Virgin Mary had given to St  Thomas of Canterbury, when in exile, a phial of oil for the anointing of the King of England. It would seem that Richard had had ideas of being anointed a second time with oil from this phial, which was miraculously anf opportunely found at the Tower, but nothing was done before his deposition. To Henry IV the discovery of the phial was a godsend. In view of the weakness of his title to the throne, he could obtain great prestige as compared with Richard, if he could say he had been consecrated with oil from St. Thomas' holy ampulla, while his rival had not. The phial was therefore placed in a golden eagle ..."

I wonder whether this oil was used at the coronations of Bullen and of Tudor's two daughters. Objects connected with Byshop Bekyt may not have enjoyed much favour in the years between 1532 and 1552. Perhaps 'plain' Chrism was used. 

After the Great Rebellion, the regicides included the eagle-shaped ampulla in their disposal of the implements used in coronations (so a new eagle had to be made at the Restoration).

Nowadays, most Anglican diocesan bishops consecrate the customary oils, and most probably Chrism is used in the coronation. Or, perhaps, they continue the earlier Anglican custom of having oils specially blessed on the morning of the coronation by an episcopal member of the Westminster Chapter.

Does anybody know?

26 February 2023


 Spitting, liturgically, has a secure and respected place in the Traditional Roman Rite. The collect for the Third Sunday AFTER Easter is thought to have emerged from a context in which the Roman Pontiff was campaigning against pagan survivals, particularly, perhaps, the Lupercalia (February 15) celebrations; so we pray that all those whose names are on the Official Christian List [Christiana professione censentur] may "spit back upon" [respuere] everything  which is inimical to that Name. (I think the collect survives in the Forma Mutila et valde Deterior of the Missal, on Sunday XIV per annum.)

And there is First Millennium evidence that the Pope, when proceding through the City, was preceded by a minister carrying a spittoon to receive the papal ejections.

Good rich wholesome traddy stuff.

And I noticed the other day a Tudor example. It was a great day ... 1553, June 1 ... when Anne Bullen (Boleyn) went to her coronation. She had set off from the Tower of London days before "Apparelled in riche clothe of golde, [she] entered into her barge ... the bachelors' barge going on to the Queeene's right hand, which shee took great pleasure to beholde": quite probably ... perhaps one of those admiring bachelors was her own favourite (perhaps very favourite?) brother ...

Days later she sat, crowned, in Westminster Hall "under her clothe of estate ... on her left hande stoode the countesse of Worcester all the dinner season, which divers times in the dinner time did hold a fine clothe before the queene's face when she list to spit, or do otherwise at her pleasure ..."

Ah, those days of 'otherwise' pleasures and of limitless listing ...

I don't know how common this good old custom still is today. In S John Henry Newman's day, the future Archbishop Whately still kept up, in the Oriel Common Room, the habit of spitting into the fire.

I think the tradition is now confined to Association Footballers, whether or not they are in Oxford Common Rooms. Do our Oratorians ... er ...

From my childhood I recall that public conveniences for the use of males once had notices designed to be read as officiants prepared to walk out: COMMIT NO NUISANCE.

Y'know, I never did.

25 February 2023

CORONATIONS ... French Unction

 L G Wickham Legg writes:

"There should be no need to remind the reader of the famous story of how at the baptism of Clovis a crystal phial was brought down from heaven with the chrism for the anointing of the King, and how every French King down to the ill-starred Louis XVI was anointed at his coronation  with chrism into which a small fragment of the solidified oil of Clovis was mixed."

I've looked at the vestments worn by the clergy at the coronation of Charles X; as I did so I couldn't help wondering with what Louis XVI and Charles X were anointed; because, possibly, Robespierre and his buddies and his successors may not have been over-sedulous about the careful protection of the fabled and historical Oil of Clovis. Did they simply make do with (or get the pope to help make special provision) the 'ordinary' Oil of Chrism?

A similar problem was to arise in England.

24 February 2023

Popes Rescriptive, Popes Prescriptive ...

There is a tacit assumption that licit Liturgy rests on a basis of Papal positive legislation. What he decrees, everybody has to do. When he changes his mind, the world must be deafened by the sound of bishops and presbyters all changing their minds. "Catholic Liturgy" is what he grants!!

The very word grants says it all.

Consummate rubbish. Liturgy rests upon Custom and Tradition, not the latest motu proprio on your computer. Or even a Rescriptum ex audientia Sanctissimi. No man on earth grants Liturgy to us.

No Pope did (because no Pope could) issue world-wide or general mandates regarding Liturgy before the invention of printing (in the middle of the 1400s).

I suppose that today's fanatical uebersuperhyperpapalists could argue that, nevertheless, the power so to legislate was tacitly incorporated in the Lord's mandate to S Peter, designed to lurk there unrecognised until, a millennium and a half later, the technological moment arrived for it to spring into action ... 

... but, frankly, that is a theological fantasy-world whose daft sci-fi games I feel little interest in playing.

If only PF were to relocate to Mars and govern the obedient Martian sands with his fearsome decrees ...

The notion that we must all obey positive legislation was, I suspect, invented by the English Protestant regime in 1549 in order to impose Heresy. Which, ultimately, it succesfully did. The Evil One simply adores Liturgy which is by Motu or by Rescript or by Prescript. It enables him to display himself at his most effective.

But, earlier, there had ... I admit it ... been people who had views about Liturgy and Uniformity ... it's just that they weren't the popes! The Emperor Charlemagne was one of them. He wanted to establish in his own imperium Romanum redivivum the authentic Rite of the Urbs. Here is the description of Dom Gregory Dix of how he embarked upon this policy.

"Charlemagne therefore applied to the Pope Hadrian I, for an authentic copy ... as early as 781. The Pope was a busy man, and irritatingly uninterested in the great project of securing perfect uniformity throughout the West to the rite of his own see. No book arrived, and Charlemagne was forced to repeat his request. At last, somewhere between 785 and 793 the long-awaited copy came. After all this delay the book the Pope had sent turned out to be unusable as it stood for Charlemagne's purpose. Not only had the text been carelessly copied, but the book itself must have seemed to the emperor strangely defective. ...  It is perhaps regrettable that history records no expression of Charlemagne's opinion of the Pope or his book when the latter was presented to him after getting on for ten years of expectation."

Yes!! Pope Hadrian was "irritatingly uninterested in the great project of securing perfect conformity to the rite of his own see"! 

I don't think this delightfully lazy old gentleman is likely to have stamped around ranting and roaring about unicus usus!

He reminds me of an even earlier Pope, S Gregory the Great, who (according to S Bede) responded to a request from S Augustine of Canterbury. Augustine had discovered how diverse liturgical habits were, and wanted advice on how to regulate the worship of the new Anglo-Saxon Church. So Gregory explained to him that there was only one (unicus) usus of the Roman Rite and that Augustine should impose it ruthlessly. "Check the parish newsletters to ensure that they mention no diversity", he boomed. "Obey my words and do this before you had your breakfast croissant three weeks ago."

No; of course S Gregory didn't say anything like that at all. I don't even think he was aware that the Roman Church only had an unicus usus. I don't think the bergoglian supergod (the uebergott?) had revealed to him that the whole world had got to worship according to some unicus usus

Bede claims that he replied ... ah ... how careless and carefree those popes were! ... "Ex singulis quibusque ecclesiis, quae pia, quae religiosa, quae recta sunt, elige ..."

23 February 2023

Archbishop Myers on Living Lent with the Authentic Roman Rite

 A few days ago, I included a paragraph from Fr Adrian Fortescue about the immense auctoritas, the antiquity and majesty and theological importance of the Authentic Roman Rite ... the rite by which most Western Christians were worshipping before 1970.

My purpose was to expose (yet again) the dishonesty of those who go around arguing that the publication of the Novus Ordo by S Paul VI in 1970 is somehow equivalent to the publication of an edition of the Roman Rite by S Pius V in 1570.

To state or even to hint at this is disgraceful. What S Pius promulgated was an edition of our rite which had evolved, gradually and organically and gracefully, since the Patristic period. In fact, S Pius made so few changes that it was still possible, after 1570, for a priest to use at the Altar the previous edition of the Roman Missal. In his Bull of Promulgation, the Pope in fact mandated the continuance of earlier 'dialects' of the Rite. 

Mandated: he did not "permit"  the continuance of editions such as our English Sarum or York Missals. He "ordered" their continuance, provided that they had been established more than a couple of centuries before.

Today, I set before you another learned writer of the pre-Conciliar period ... which was a golden age in liturgical studies before Liturgy fell into the hands of men for whom telling the truth was not their primary consideration.

Here are some words by Archbishop Edward Myers, Coadjutor Archbishop of Westminster:

" ... if we take the text of our Missal and consider the Ferial Masses, it is surely an inspiring thought that the prayers that the Church asks us to say with her day by day during Lent are the self-same prayers that have inspired the sanctity of close on fourteeen hundred years. The epistles and gospels read during Lent, with one or two exceptions, are the self-same as were read on the same days in Rome in the sixth century. The prayers of the Proper of the daily Mass come to us straight from the records preserved in the Gregorian or Gelasian Sacramentaries. In the Introits, Graduals, Offertories and Communions of the Ferial Lenten Masses, we pray as prayed the Saints of old, and draw our inspiration from the self-same sources."

Myers was born in 1875; priested in 1902; consecrated Bishop of Lamus in partibus infidelium in 1932; translated to (the Pauline See of) Beroea in 1951 as coadjutor Archbishop. He died in 1956.

This Lent, I have beside me his masterly Lent and the Liturgy published by The Grail in 1948 (44 pages). It contains the paragraph I have offered above.

Is his work still available?

22 February 2023


So, according to the old Roman Pontifical, on Ash Wednesday the Bishop expelled the Ashed Penitents from Church "with tears" (did the MC have to provide the Pontiff with a sliced onion?).

On Maundy Thursday, the Penitents were received back into the Church, the following Prayer being used.

Perhaps one of the ills which lie at the roots of our present problems is the loss of a sense of an actual Order of Penitents in the Church. There is evidence that, in first-Millennium Ireland, there were special areas, below the Church on 'ritual' hillsides, where the Penitents were expected to stand.

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, almighty everlasting God, through Christ our Lord; 
Whom, almighty Father, thou didst will ineffably to be born, that he might loose the debt of Adam to thee the eternal Father, and destroy our death by his own, and carry our wounds in his own body, and wash away our stains with his own blood; that we who have fallen by the envy of the ancient enemy might rise again by his mercy. Through him, Lord, we humbly beg and beseech thee that thou vouchsafe to hear us on behalf of the excesses of others, though we are not sufficient to pray thee for our own. Do thou therefore, most merciful Lord, call back to thyself, with thy wonted love, these thy servants, whose sins have separated them from thee. For thou didst not despise the humbling of Ahab the most wicked, but put away the punishment which he deserved. Peter also thou didst hear when he wept, and didst later commit to him the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and to the confessing thief didst promise the rewards of that same kingdom.
Therefore, most merciful Lord, mercifully gather back those for whom we pour our prayers before thee, and restore them to the bosom of thy church, that the Enemy may in no wise have the power to triumph over them, but that thy Son may reconcile them to thee, and cleanse them from all sin, and deign to admit them to the banquet of thy most holy supper. And may he so refresh ["reficiat" ... remake?] them with his flesh and blood, that after the course of this life he may bring them to the kingdoms of heaven; even he, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

You might like to observe that this Prayer is after the pattern of the Roman Canon as it must have been before the insertion of Sanctus-Benedictus
     "Vere dignum ... ";
     A 'legalistic' recitation of precedents from both the Old and New Testaments;
     "Therefore most Merciful ..."; and finally
     Request that the Rite be efficacious.

After many more prayers and psalms, the Pontiff gave a solemn Absolution, framed in the old 'precative' way rather than in the modern 'declarative' mode.

These elements witness, surely, to the great antiquity of the rite.

21 February 2023


I noticed, winking at me from my revolving book-case, my 1845 (Hanicq) Pontificale Romanum. Nice engravings! Idly wasting the lazy moment, I just happen to notice that, on Ash Wednesday, the Pontiff expels the Penitents from Church and warns them not to darken its doors again until Maundy Thursday. 

Ah, happy days, when the clergy told people not to come to Church!

The (barefoot) penitents were to be garbed in sackcloth and ashes; the penitential psalms and the Litany were to be sung and then the Pontiff was to say: "Look! You are chucked out today from the thresholds of Holy Mother Church on account of your sins, just as Adam the first Man was ejected from Paradise on account of his transgression." 

Then the choir were to sing a couple of very heart-warming anthems: "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread ... etc. etc.."

Tomorrow: the next stage (2) in the story.

I wonder how this penitential system fits into the conviction of PF and his Teutonic Knights that (as long as people pay their Church Tax) they ought not to be expelled?

And I do rather wonder how those people nuance I Corinthians chapter 5 (especially arthei ek mesou humon ... ego kekrika ... paradounai toi satanai ... me sunanamignusthai pornois ... exarate ton poneron ex humon auton ...).

It is often a good idea, when listening to a slippery/dodgy politican, to notice what s/he is very careful not to claim. When PF claimed not long ago that Jesus never sent anybody away (datum sed non concessum), what about S Paul's praxis

Or are the 'Pauline writings' yet another bit of the Bible which Ming the Mighty and Merciless has cut out of the Canon of Holy Scripture?

When PF issues to the Bishops some document headed Sacrae Scripturae custodes, what action should we take?

Big Man, Huge Errors, Hefty Scissors.


 From Gueranger: "The ancient discipline of the Church obliged all the faithful, under pain of being considered as no longer Catholics, to receive Holy Communion on Christmas Day, as well as on Easter and Whit Sundays. We find a formal decree of this obligation given in the fifteenth canon of the Council of Agatha, (Agde,) held in 506."

I wonder how this relates to the old Anglican rule ...


20 February 2023

Sayers (2): Abortion?

DLS was, from the beginning, not averse to writing ... erotically? ... not, I think, the right word; 'explicitly', perhaps. Her first draft of her novel Whose Body had laid some emphasis on the status, in terms of Circumcision, of a naked male corpse. Busman's Honeymoon is full of John-Donnery; Donne was an author himself awake to the possibilities of bringing together the corporeal and the geographical. DLS was not above writing a novel the key to which is Interbellum Lesbianism. But I do not think that anything she wrote earlier was quite as explicit as the episode early in Thrones and Dominations, situated at the back of a Parisian taxi, where Wimsey takes his wife's hand and starts burbling on about "cherishing worms". 

And the relationship between Laurence and Rosamund Harwell is given a basis in the sexual exploitation of sexual frustration. He wants a baby; she is determined not to allow this to happen. The role of her ridiculous dog in chapter 6 is, in my view, masterly.

My hypothesis, advanced as nothing more than a hypothesis, is that Rosamund, having become pregnant, seeks a solution to this problem in Abortion. Harwell loses his temper when he finds out.

I wonder if Sayers slips into her draft an allusive reference to the sexual act which had resulted in that conception.

On the night when Lord Dawson killed George V, Rosamund has gone to bed, while Laurence listens to the bulletins. After the announcement of the Royal Death, he goes to bed. "His sudden arrival startled her. She said, 'Not already?' and he answered. 'Yes; he's gone,'  and she could only cry, 'Oh Laurence!' and cling to him. A rich melancholy enfolded them. They felt the grief of a nation lap them in luxurious sheets of sympathetic bereavement. A whole epoch was collapsing about them, while at the core of darkness they lit their small blaze of life and were comforted."

How exactly does one 'light a small blaze of life'?

Sayers, with ironic detachment, characterises this as "a night of stars and love".

19 February 2023

Only for those interested in Dorothy L Sayers (1)

 DLS used to spin 'mysteries' for her living ... and for the amusement of her devotees. But she herself left behind a mystery, in the form of a detec-fiction narrative which she gave up, incomplete, after writing six chapters.

Thrones and Dominations ... so ... whodunnit ; and why?

DLS's literary executors commissioned the late Jill Patton Walsh to "finish" the book ... to solve the mystery. The solution JPW came up with was: Laurence Harwell strangled his wife Rosamund because he erroneously believed that she had arranged an adulterous tryst with another man.

Incidentally, I do not subscribe to the claim advanced in several of the 'blurbs', that the junction between DLS's chapters, and JPW's 'completion', is seamless

Nobody, unfortunately, has published surviving materials which may have led JPW to her conclusion. There exists a diagram ... there are alternative versions of some parts of he story ... there is, apparently, a description of Peter Wimsey's 'initiation' into sex ... which have all been kept from us (was JPW a prude? Sayers certainly wasn't). Given DLS's deserved distinction as a Christian thinker, a stylist, and a writer, I feel that this is unfortunate. Moreover, even in the chapters which DLS wrote, there are one or two solecism which suggest to me that JPW tampered with the text.

And there is another embedded mystery. Why did DLS give up writing her novel? Was it because the unfolding Abdication Crisis threw up some disconcerting parallels between a sexuality described (graphically) in her typescript, and the passion of 'Edward VIII' for the dominant Mrs Simpson?

Very possibly. But, next time, I shall offer an alternative hypothesis. I shall not repeat great swathes of text, because these pieces are directed at the interests of Sayers-enthusiasts who will know her published texts anyway.

17 February 2023

Repetition of the Sexagesima Mass

 After my words about the repetition of the Sexagesima Mass on ferial weekdays, wise and intelligent friends have asked the obvious question: "Why don't you just use Votives?".

Respectfully, I disagree with the implications here. Votives are not provided simply to enable presbyters to avoid the old Sunday Masses. It's more that ... Ah; I think Adrian Fortescue has put it better than I can: 

"The liturgical student cannot but regret that we so seldom use the old offices which are the most characteristic, the most Roman in our rite, of which many go back to the Gelasian or even Leonine book. And merely from an aesthetic point of view there can be no doubt that the old propers are more beautiful than modern compositions. It is these old propers that show the austere dignity of our liturgy, that agree in feeling with the Ordinary and Canon, happily still unaltered."

Some of the disiecta membra of some of those ancient Roman propers, Prayers and Readings, survive, scattered around in the Novus Ordo. But it is in the loss of the entire Masses in the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite that I feel the biggest wound inflicted by the liturgical innovations of the 1960s.

In fact, those words supra from Fortescue explain, for me, precisely what is most wrong with the actual texts of the Bugnini Rite. 

Sexagesima, from its Introit onwards, recalls the dying agonies of the Roman Empire: the death of S Gregory's predecessor as Pope from water-born disease after the floods; the incursions of the Lombardic slavers. So, on Sexagesima, the People of Rome went to the Basilica of the Teacher of the Gentiles, one of the three great churches which, like sentinels, guarded the City with the suffrages of its three greatest Saints. The sermons Pope Gregory the Great preached on the three 'Gesima' Sundays, explaining in particular the choice of the Gospel readings, still survive and are still illuminating.

Rather as we also might do in our own time of wars and earthquakes, the Roman Christian called upon the Almighty for mercy in such terrible days. Sexagesima was in the liturgical books which S Augustine probably brought to Canterbury (vide Orchard, HBS Leofric, Vol I page 131) and copies of which were undoubtedy used in England for nearly a millennium. In partial form, indeed, Sexagesima lasted for much more than a millennium: even Thomas Cranmer in 1549 preserved Sexagesima, and the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel remained substantially the same. In 1649, when (in Dix's words), "medieval England came to its final end", Bishop Juxon read the Sexagesima propers when he gave King Charles I his last Holy Communion as the regicides met in their 'Parliament' to abolish the Monarchy and the Church of England. (Did you know that in 1649, in the Julian Calendar, January 30 came within Sexagesima week?)

When, after the Parting of Friends, S John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey walked separately in Birmingham and Oxford, they both still kept Sexagesima. The imprisoned Anglican priests of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England observed Sexagesima, just as the heroic Catholic martyrs had done during the long and bloody penal centuries.

A Papacy which, by the stroke of a pen, thinks it can prohibit the Liturgy of 1,500 and more years, is an expression, not of service to the Church, but of arrogant repudiation of that Church. The persistent lie that the older rite "dates only from 1570" should be shown up for the piece of shameless (if spectacular) mendacity which it truly is.

I can think of nothing more utterly ridiculous than any notion that men like Bergoglio and Roche should consider themselves Lords of the Liturgy (Cfr Ratzinger Spirit pages 165-6), omnicompetent not only to abandon the Roman Rite themselves, but even to pretend to forbid the Holy People of God to use it. 

Such mighty hubris; such gross, overweening pomposity. 


16 February 2023

The Sacrament of the Altar

Sacrament an Alter ... edited by Daveth Frost ... has received my enthusiastic commendations in several recent posts. Here are one or two detailed, final, points.

I'm not sure that Frost has radically reconsidered material he has incorporated from his earlier articles. He could have enriched our enjoyment of the "pope-holy" pitlgrimage, for example!

Possibly, those wishing to engage hand-to-hand with the texts Frost cites might wish to check them. Exemplorum gratia: page 38, footnote 34: is inentum a mistake for inventum? On page 210, what does Frost mean by 'Hippolytus'? If he is referring to the document, widely popular among 'liturgists' in the middle of the twentieth century and to which they referred as 'the Apostolic Tradition', he appears not to be aware that it is not nowadays very widely, or very confidently, ascribed to Hippolytus; nor is it deemed to offer secure information about the early liturgy of the Roman Church. And my copy of Jungmann does not allude to this text on Volume I, page 51, anyway. 

And ... oops ... it has just hit me in the eye  ... see footnote 252 ... the De Sacramentis (at least as edited by Henry Chadwick) does not (I am glad to say) read Accipte or sanguis meis.

But these are the merest quisquiliae. Frost has produced one of the finest works of scholarship I have seen for a long time. I hope that other volumes in this series will boldly emerge. We have all struggled with quite early modern editions of the Ordinalia, the medieval Cornish Mystery plays; how wonderful it would be to have editions which actually discussed the interesting literary questions which so often present themselves. Nicholas Williams has done marvellously with one 'recent' text, Bewnans Ke (sadly out of print). But the queue is long.

A final point: readers of Frost will, thankfully, not be much troubled by what I have heard called the KKommon KKornish KKult; a revised account of Revived spoken Cornish invented by one Ken George. Hundreds of people may be wasting their time learning this version of 'Cornish'; they would have done better to stick with the 'Unified Cornish' which was good enough for Nance and his generation.

15 February 2023

Syncretism Rules OK

 A very ancient festival, today ... the Lupercalia.

How do we know that it is so old? Because it has no particular god associated with it.

Let me explain. 

Roman religion was originally rather different from Greek religion. Forget all those colourful gods and goddesses with the glamorous stories: they date from when Rome was invaded by Greek culture and mythology; the time when the old Roman Juppiter/Jove suddenly found himself garbed in all the Greek stories about Zeus. Furthermore, new Greek-style stories were invented and pegged onto the newly "Greco-Romanised" deities.

That did happen to the Lupercalia. Ovid has a diverting tale to explain why the Luperci did their run through Rome in a state of nakedness. Pan/Faunus, you see, saw Hercules and Queen Omphale ("Tummy Button") walking together while they were in their trans-dressing phase. He noticed which cave they entered to sleep, and when the night was safely lightless he crept into the cave and, as one does, groped around a bit. Discovering a bed upon which reposed a figure in exotic feminine garments, his interest was aroused. Yours might have been, too. But, of course, his further researches led to an unexpected if dramatic denouement.

So that's why the custom of dispensing with clothing at the Lupercalia first began. According to Publius Ovidius Naso.

Very 'Greek' in style, although pretty certainly invented by Ovid himslf ... or perhaps I should use the word 'Hellenistic', because it has an aetiological slant: that is to say, it gives the aition ... cause, origin ... of the custom by which the two colleges of Luperci charged naked up and down Rome's Via Sacra as they whipped the women who held out their hands.


Two or three years ago, a new academic dictionary of the Irish language came out, which gave us an exciting new piece of information about at least one lost detail of Irish philology.

What follows below is not ... NOT ... a rather poor joke just invented by me. Honest.

The word Leprechaun "is now thought" (as we moderns confidently say) to be a derivation from, a corruption of, Lupercus.


There is surely scope here for combining a splendid piece of ritual Revivalism with some good inspiring Syncretism. 

PF and Co could galumph naked round Rome whipping the women in the beautiful and ancient act of purification designed to increase their fertility. The superb liturgical craftspersons of the worship dicastery would have no difficulties grafting the Lupercalia onto the glorious Cult of Pachamama. And, in return, our beloved Amazonian brethren and sistren would benefit immeasurably from a healthy influx of naked Leprechauns.

You know it makes sense.

14 February 2023

Sacrament an Alter (2) Can God be touched?

Frost includes full, scholarly, lucid notes on the text he is publishing. He enables us to contemplate the discomfort Thomas Cranmer must have felt in dealing with the fact that S Thomas the Apostle Touched God (bus e dochya). And we "touch God" also (indella ny a ra touchia Christ i'n sacrament, rag Christ ew the vos touchis, rag e vos eff keveris dew ha deane).

(By the way: Frost includes a glossary, with information about such matters as lenition, covering every Cornish term in the text. Even words borrowed into Cornish from English, like touchia.)

Cranmer, so I find myself conjecturing, never really internalised the Council of Ephesus. The Theotokos dogma intended to teach the hypostatic union in Christ of Full Godhead and Full Manhood (dew ha deane in the Cornish above). What Mary bore in her womb, and suckled, was God. Mary bore God and the elite crucified God and the Apostle put his hand into the Side of God. Even the oaths of medieval Catholics ... God's Body ... God's Wounds [Zounds] ... expressed the Divinity of the Man from Nazareth in a way that many modern Christians are embarrassed to handle and, in my view, Cranmer also did not really understand. In his 1549 Prayer Book, his adaptation of the Communicantes ,"Mary, mother of thy sonne Jesu Christe our lorde and god" is his closest, cautious, approach to the term so natural to those who used the Roman and Byzantine liturgies, Theotokos/Dei Genetrix

But Catholics and Protestants, during the Reformation years, were concerned rather more with Soteriology and Sacramental theology; rather less with the implications of the Incarnation. 

In one of his purple passages, Dix imagined Cranmer's thoughts "as he hurried of his own accord out of S. Mary's along the Turl to where the stake stood in the Broad outside Balliol ... Would English christians always be rent henceforward?--(Here was the stake at last)--This was what it all came to in the end--the bread had nothing to do with the Body--That is what he was dying for--"

Three centuries after Cranmer's execution, a few hundred yards South of S Mary's, in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford, Dr Pusey preached before the University, deploying an array of 'realistic' Patristic quotations on the Eucharist very similar to that which Cranmer's accusers had used. 

For this, Pusey was found guilty and suspended for two years from preaching before the University.

The Armenians aren't there any longer ...

 As terrible news about the Earthquake continues to emerge, some place-names stand out ... Gaziantep ... Adana ...

Would you have guessed that 'Iskenderun' is a corruption of 'Alexandria'?

Use of Wikipedia reveals that most of these places were substantially Armenian Christian, until the hideous twentieth century genocides of Armenians by Turkey.

BTW, I'm far from sure that all the Alexandrias were founded by Alexander. His Successors ("diadokhoi"), I think, founded quite a number.

13 February 2023


 The University of Exeter Press is to be congratulated on producing this edition by D H Frost. While every phrase of Cornish, Latin, or Greek is translated into our current vernacular, I could not deny that this is a book one needs to burrow into in order to find the fun.

Essentially, it is a Cornish text perhaps dating from the 1570s, containing a catena of Patristic quotations on the Eucharist. What has fairly recently come to light concerns the origin of this Collection.

In 1554, 'Disputations' were organised in Oxford and other places in which Catholic and 'Evangelical' scholars debated Eucharistic doctrine. The evidential texts they brought into play were printed in the years after the Accession of Elizabeth Tudor by Foxe (him of the Martyrs). His book was widely circulated, partly through copies provided for reading in parish churches.

A writer with Catholic prejudices copied down from an edition of Foxe the Patristic texts used in these Disputations; this manuscript was later combined with the Tregear Homilies (a Cornish translation of homilies commissioned by Edward Bonner, restored Bishop of London in the 1550s, for use in the catechising of his diocese after the heretical teaching of the 1540s).

You may find it entertaining to imagine a covert Catholic propagandist, making use of a work printed in order to promote Protestantism, in order to refute that selfsame heresy.

I do. 

Frost  found more fun: in those Oxford Disputations, the Catholic Scholars threw at Thomas Cranmer quotation after Patristic quotation in which earlier writers had written in very 'realistic' terms about Christ's Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist; demonstrating, in instance after instance, that for 'the Fathers' the Eucharistic Elements were in absolute truth the Lord's Body and Blood.

Cranmer's replies are where much humour comes in. He argues, in effect, that the very strength of the language in which this reality is expressed means that an early Christian writer cannot really have meant to be taken literally. 

And so when the 'Catholic' side provide yet more evidence of Eucharistic realism in the 'Patristic' period, Cranmer, far from capitulating, regards that evidence as further proof of his contention that such extravagance cannot really be meant literally.

To continue.

A longish Epistle?

A superb Epistle, for Sexagesima Sunday; S Paul's ironical force leaves one quite shaken. And perhaps makes one wonder to what extent ancient rhetorical models may stylistically have contributed to it.

But did you find yourself, Father, wondering if, for the ferias of the coming week, it might have been just a trifle long? 

If you did, you have quite a 'Sarum' mind.

In that rite (or use?) there is a rubric to the effect that, when the Mass is resumed in the week, the Epistle begins at Damasci praepositus ...

Curously, Cranmer shortened the lection by cutting out "Damasci praepositus" and what follows.

Could the reason possibly be that he felt that the full Epistle sounded a bit like accumulating Good Works? 

12 February 2023

Humble Gratitude

A big Thank You to those who have funded or helped to fund my participation in this year's Gardone Conference.

I am immensely grateful for your kindness and your generosity; naturally, I will say Holy Masses for you.

I feel that, in the current crisis, there is so much that needs saying, and I am glad ... assumng that the Almighty spares me! ... that I may have the opportunity to say some of it.

God Bless You.

Problems about being at the mercy of the underlings of absolute monarchs.

 On my bookshelves, I have two copies of Pacem in Terris, a 1963 Encyclical of S John XXIII; both of them in the livery of the Catholic Truth Society. The first, printed in May 1963, tells us that "This translation was originally published by the Vatican Polyglot Press and is here reproduced by their kind permission".

The second, printed in August 1963, gives this information: "Translated by Rev H. E. Winstone M.A. from the Latin text as published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. LV, 1963, num. 5. ... This translation supersedes that of the Vatican Polyglot Press previously issued by the Catholic Truth Society."

I like the situation which this reveals: the CTS (or the English Bishops?) didn't like the Vatican translation, and so they commissioned a better and more accurate translation back here in Blightie.

Good for them.

My impression is that, nowadays, unlatinate Britons only ever get to see the Vatican 'translation'; and there is also a need to remember that these Vatican 'versions' are often not translated from any Latin text at all but (I think most commonly) from an Italian draft.

Let's look at two recent examples of Vatican sharp practice.

(1) In Traditionis custodes, there is an interesting detail: at one point, bishops are urged to consult Rome about a particular matter.

Half a year later, a new version of that (already disgraceful) document emerged, asking bishops, not to consult the Vatican, but to get permission from the Vatican.

So ... which version must be correct?

Enter the mighty figure of Arthur Roche. He waggled his forefinger in all our faces and piously proclaimed that we should obey the latest version ... fair enough ... but note the reason he gave for this: that the Latin version is normative.

Hang on ... Rome had not originally provided any Latin version. How were bishops supposed to guess ... etc.. Are they given crystal balls in the modern rite of  'episcopal ordination'?

We don't need an Agatha Christie to work out what happened. It is obvious. Somebody decided that this detail should be changed ... somebody wanted it tightened up. This was done by the simple expedient of issuing an apparently previously non-existent official Latin Text and directing us to treat this as normative.

(2) Even more recently, Roche has apparently instructed some American bishops that Traditionis custodes revokes the right of bishops canonically to dispense from Universal Law. But even the text of Traditionis custodes does not contain any such statement or reservation.

In today's Vatican, there are clearly people who consider that, like the practicioners of Ingsoc in 1984, they have the right to rewrite History; even to defactualise facts; which functions, necessary in any tyranny, are carried out ... of course ... in the Ministry of Truth..


I bet that the bit of paper which PF originally signed didn't have these new glosses. But ... what the hell ... who bl**dy cares ... it's important to make all those common and ordinary bishops, clerics, and laics, grovel.

Noses right down into the mud, chaps.

I profoundly dislike this present-day culture and the praxis of a Vatican in which bishops, clerics, and laics are all at the mercy of bureaucrats who experience a need to keep up with the unstable prejudices of their Master.

Legislative texts should be issued in an official, properly legally attested, Latin text, and vernacular translations of these texts should be on the authority of local Bishops, Successors of the Apostles, or their Conferences. Such texts should not be regarded as fluid products which a distant bureaucrat is permanently at liberty to 'evolve' in any way he chooses.

Anything different from this is what we Brits used to call arbitrary rule; and which we Brits used to regard as the very hallmark of tyranny.



Our intrepid journalists bring us terrible news of the earthquake in "Antakia".

My assumption is that this is the ancient Antiochia, the great City where the followers of the Crucified Rabbi were first called Khristianoi.

After the military conquests and death of Alexander the Great, his vast empire was divided up. Seleucus I Nikator got the middle bit; he built a number of cities called either Seleucia or Antiochia; Antiochus having been his Father's name. 

I gather the earthquake has damaged Christian sites. Oremus ...

Antioch lies on the river Orontes. The satirist Juvenal condemned the orientalising dirt and corruption of his own Rome by saying that the Orontes had flowed (defluxit) into the Tiber. After Vatican II, a Father Wiltgen wrote a book in which he wittily updated this image, suggesting that the Rhine had discharged its filth into the Tiber.

Anybody know anything about the rivers in Argentina?

11 February 2023

The First Anglican Pope.

 New material, from the pen of Benedict XVI, has recently been published. One such piece is The Meaning of Communion. It would be a great kindness if somebody could provide an indication of where/how to find an English version of this on the Internet.

Here is a detail, which may surprise some readers, but does not surprise me.

Ratzinger deploys the notion of the Jewish Chaburah meal.

Our very own Dom Gregory Dix did just this in 1945. Vide especially The Shape pp 50 sqq and 76 sqq.

I once described Pope Benedict as "The first Anglican Pope".


 Here is part of something I published only two or three weeks ago.

My reason for repeating it is: there are reports from the English Anglican General Synod of moves to change the orthopraxis of referring to the First Person of the Blessed Trinity as "Father".

If this led to changes (either de facto or de jure) in the Rite of Baptism, it would render subsequent English Anglican baptisms ... by Catholic standards ... invalid.

Here is what I wrote:

"One Baptism".

It's just not true that, nowadays, there is "only one Baptism". 

Immensely clever people ... immensely cleverer than the Man from Tarsus or even me ... prefer formulae like " ... in the name of the creator, the redeemer, and the sanctifier." Such phrases have even had to be dealt with in the Catholic Church. My suspicion is that in the broad sunlit uplands of the Reformation Inheritance, they are very common.

As Catholic Clergy check the Baptisms of their Paschal Neophytes, I wonder how aware they are that when somebody has written on a certificate that s/he "baptised N according to the Rites of the Church of England", this is quite possibly ... and often certainly is ... a shameless lie.

It is my belief that people entering into full communion from such religious environments should be conditionally baptised. As they once were.

And what about Holy Orders? If an ordinand was not validly baptised, then his Confirmation and Ordination are not valid.

There was a time when some Catholic Bishops, after ordaining presbyteri, reordained them all sub condicione in the Sacristy ... just to be on the safe side ... 

Perhaps this wholesome instinct should be restored and extended: so that, in the Sacristy after the Ordination, the chaps would all be conditionally baptised, confirmed, and ordained.

If this would be "unecumenical", then the blame for such a sin lies with those who, despite the ecumenical agreements and assumptions of the 1960s, arrogantly took to themselves the right to render Baptism an area of sacramental uncertainty.

Our Lady of Lourdes*

 " ... de Lapurdo*" in Latin!

Reverend Fathers who don't already know this might be interested in the following: Dom Anselmo Lentini suspected  ("fortasse") Leo XIII of being the author of Omnis expertem maculae Mariam and of Te dicimus praeconio

(Lentini it was who led the coetus which revised the Breviary hymns for the Liturgia Horarum.)

In the latter of those two hymns, Lentini emended Intacta Mater Numinis (itself borrowed from a hymn probably written in the seventeenth century for the Feast of the Purity of our Lady, at that time observed on the Third Sunday in October) to Mater Dei purissima) on the grounds that numinis smelt too much of mythologia.


10 February 2023

Truro and Treguier

I warmly commended recently Sacrament an Alter, a fine recent edition of a catena of Patristic texts concerning the Most Holy Eucharist. D H Frost has been working on this teext for more than two decades; here we have the ripe fruits of his scholarship.

Parts of this work have, over those years, appeared, notably in Cornish Studies (e.g. 2003; 2007). I will refer today to one such episode; related by Frost in 2007 and repeated in his new publication. 

Fr Thomas Stephyn, Vicar of nearby St Newlyn, was involved in a most diverting fracas in the port of Truro in 1537. An agent of the Tudor regime, Alexander Carvanell, heard about a ship called the Maudelyn which, with Fr Stephyn and two other priests and a few dozen laity, was about to set sail for the Pardon** (patronal festival) in Treguier (Lantregar) Brittany, "faynyng a poope holly pilgrymage". The pious miscreants refused to allow the Tudor employees to board the ship; Carvanell and two assistants were at first thrown overboard. 

They persisted, and eventually the ship sailed off with the three government men as captives on board. Five miles out from Falmouth, the two lackies were put in a boat to row ashore, but Carvonell himself was carried all the way to Brittany. The pope holy pilgrims amused themselves by threatening to tow him behind the ship at the end of a rope. The fun continued in Treguier; the Cornishmen explained to their Breton cousins the status of Carvonell, and the more devout among those who had gathered for the Pardon duffed him up beautifully in the streets of Treguier, "shuldryng and buffeting him as though he had bene a turke or a Sarzin". But he survived to get home and to report to the Council.

Perhaps Fr Stephyn's subsequent disappearance from the records means that he went into the Catholic underground. Perhaps Sacrament an Alter went with him; in 1564 Fr Tregear, incidentally, was involved in passing on, presumably among those clergy whom he knew would make sympathetic use of them, books bequeathed by a traditionalist priest. Who knows; perhaps the volume of 'homilies' to which Sacrament had become attached spent some time, not very far away from St Allen and St Newlyn, in the Lanhearne residence of the Arundell family. They suffered in the aftermath of the 1549 rebellion; a house where the Blessed Sacrament never ceased to be reserved even during the darkest days - and where now the admirable Carmelites, formerly Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, pray the Old Rites. 

There are little details in these narratives that make me want to know more ... surely, the episode demands more treatment in its own right. What, in 1537, did Tudor lackies expect or wish to find in a ship headed for for Treguier? Why might they wish to prevent sound Cornish Catholics from attending a Pardon there (the English Reformatin had hardly by then entered its ideologically Protestant phase). What did Cornishmen know about Turks and Saracens? Were the Corsairs still raiding Cornish villages to kidnap inhabitants for the Slave Trade?

**Pardon of S Yves, mid-May. Pam and I had a marvellous fortnight near Treguier a couple of decades ago. It is a remarkable little city with very good seafood and ravishing pastries and a charming cathedral and cloister.

9 February 2023

Ten Years

 Ten years ... since, with a smashed shoulder patched up, I hobbled up the steps into the pulpit in the Church of S Agatha in Portsmouth. Ten years to this day; and Senior Grandson, a keen bellringer, was pealing away.

It used to be said that, if you couldn't afford a holiday in Italy, you should go to Brompton and enjoy the Roman Baroque marvels to be found in the Oratory. The point is absolutely bang-on. And, if you want an earlier phase in the Renaissance, you should go to Birmingham and enjoy that Oratory Church. (Since the Shrine of S John Henry Newman is there, you could combine your visit with a pilgrimage.)

Perhaps I could add that, as in so many Oratory churches, the preaching, the the Liturgy, and the music are top-notch.

One can add to that rather exclusive list of churches to enjoy if you can't get to the Med; and I encourage readers to do so.

I will today set an example ... by starting with that great 'Lombardic' and 'Romanesque' basilica in Portsmouth. If financial constraints discourage visits to your actual Venice, go to S Agatha's in Portsmouth. It suffered when Councils with 'Bauhaus' mindsets did their best to destroy it; earlier, it had suffered from the Luftwaffe. So it is a glorious Anglo-Catholic 'slum church' ... without any actual circumambient slums! 

But Fr Maunder has gathered back many of the goodies which were dispersed when the C of E did its worst; and has brought in artistic treasures from elsewhere. And has erected a fine neo-baroque picture above one of the altars, incorporating our blessed Lady and S Agatha and Pope Benedict (with an adjacent triregnum) and the first four (Anglican) parish priests, devoutly praying for Unity with Peter. 

This church is now one of the brightest jewels in the Ordinariate.

And among the collection of Relics is the Skull of S Boniface; once in the possession of Queen Mary of Modena, wife of our late sovereign liege Lord King James VII and II.

Again ... why do thoughts of possible pilgrimages not spring to life in pious breasts?

8 February 2023

A New Bank Holiday?

 Yes, of course! Most certainly, today, February 8, should be a Bank Holiday in this Kingdom of England! (As everybody knows, England embraces Wales.)

For it is the Anniversary of the happy day (in 1550) when Pope Julius III was elected Successor of S Peter! Depromite ...

Julius, that great Papa del Monte who presided as legate over Trent (I hope all readers adhere closely to the Spirit of the Council ... that Council) and later sent Reginald Pole as Cardinal Legate to reconcile this Blessed Realm to the Petrine Unity!

May God hasten the day when another Monarch and the two Houses of Parliament (perhaps thinned out a trifle by some Acts of Attainder), on their knees, beg a Papal Legate to absolve the realm from heresy and schism!

I wish someone would re-issue the fine medal which I presume the Holy Father issued as on S Andrew's Day ... the medal with ANGLIA RESURGES; a benign pontiff stretching out his reconciling hand to a kneeling Anglia as Pole (beard, galero and all) presents her in the rejoicing presence of the Emperor, and of our late sovereign lord King Philip ... 

... I wonder if anyone could explain this oddity which has puzzled me for my eighty two years: for four centuries, lists of English monarchs never mentioned that we were fortunate enough to have a King Philip ...

... and, on the far right, our late sovereign lady Queen Mary -- I think, the first of the Four Ladies of that glorious Name to be de jure Queens regnant of England.

At this point, a moment of sadness intrudes: Her Majesty has her hand upon her swelling belly; signalling, I presume, the pregnancy that turned out to be ... not.

In the exergue, the words UT NUNC NOVISSIMO DIE pointedly allude to the actual day in 1554 of the legatine Absolution; the Day of England's Resurrectio.

[The medal is among the illustrations in Duffy's Fires, and is on the front cover of Urquhart's Ceremonies.]


7 February 2023

My Lord Mayor ... (2)

Chantry chapels were abolished by the Act of I Edward VI, cap 14: "The King shall have and enjoy such goods, chattels, jewels, plate, ornaments, and other moveables ... of every such college, chantry, free chapel ... ". The buildings in which the endowed Masses were offered stand stark and unused in many of England's Medieval Cathedrals.

It must have seemed to Augustus Welby Pugin a miracle of restorative grace when he was commissioned to design a magnificent Gothic Cathedral in South London. And when S George's Cathedral was finished and Pugin was dead, his son Edward Pugin was commissioned to build within it a chantry chapel for the offering in perpetuity of Holy Mass for Sir John Knill, Master of the Plumbers' Guild, and Lord Mayor of London. 

Just as many earlier Catholic Mayors, such as Sir John Percival, had provided for 'perpetuity', so now there was a Catholic Lord Mayor who could endow his own chantry in London's new Catholic Cathedral.

Sadly, the Devil had his own, characteristic and extensive, plans. The cathedral was largely destroyed in the Blitz. Lamentably, it was the Pugin magnificence of S George's which suffered, while the large church near Victoria Station survived undamaged. (Had I been an Abwehr agent in London, I would have ensured that the Luftwaffe authorities in Berlin had the red-brick minaret in Westminster on their list as an important military communications facility.)

The good news is that Knill's chantry survived. You can go and see it, together with the Petre Chantry. (Southwark Cathedral was rebuilt and reopened in 1958. But the Devil had not finished his hatred of this fine building: in 1989, the vandals broke in and "reordered" the Sanctuary.)


Chantry Chapels were endowed so that, in each one, there was financial provision for a priest to say Mass there daily. I wonder ... I would love to know ... if, in Southwark Cathedral, the daily Mass for Sir John Knill is still said in his gracious chantry. 

Or, like the dead and lifeless chantries neatly maintained by the Anglicans, is it left to the spiders?

6 February 2023

My Lord Mayor ... (1)

 I felt instantly guilty ... it was a tap upon my shoulder. The sort of tap which is likely to be followed by invitations to comealongame, and Not To Make Any Trouble, together with the chink of handcuffs.

I was about to start bleating about how I wasn't guilty; that it was the other bloke what did it, when I recollected that, in the archives of the City of London, my interlocutor was unlikely to be PC Plod or Inspector Knacker or even Dame Cressida, er, Dick.

As one enters those archives, one writes in a register the subject of one's researches. So I had written "Sir John Percival". The aimiable and erudite custodian had seen this, and had some news for me. 

In the City Church of S Mary Woolnoth, there had once been a manuscript, beautifully scribed and on display, in which Sir John Percival, Master of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, sometime Lord Mayor of London, detailed his benefactions, together with the provisions made to endow Masses (with chantries) for his soul. Percival was one of the closest circle of intimates of the Welsh Intruder, Tudor, known to History as Henry VII. Percival was one of the notable men of the new regime.

But his desire for the Mayorality had attracted so little support among the other livery companies that one of Tudor's heaviest enforcers, Bishop Savage of London, had needed to explain realpolitik to the City Fathers.

As everybody knows, the Great Fire of London was to destroy pretty well every single one of the old churches, together with every tiny bit of their contents. Usefully, earlier writers had recorded Sir John's text, together with the information of its certain demise in the all-consuming flames.

Except that, um, it hadn't demised. After Wren, vir nonnunquam laboriosus, had rebuilt all those churches in the style which some snooty people refer to as Impure English Baroque, the ms had (wisely) taken refuge in a ... doubtlessly 'Wren' ... cupboard. 

Where it had recently been noticed, just in time for my researches!

Y'know, I do rather wonder whether the Great Fire was as determinedly catholic in its destructive embrace as we used to believe. Did Old S Paul's, with its sleek new Inigo Jones facade, really have to be dynamited away?

5 February 2023


 Lead us, Evolution, lead us /Up the future's endless stair; /Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us, /For stagnation is despair; /Groping, guessing, yet progressing, /Lead us nobobody knows where.

The erudite Fr Simon Heans has sent me the first stanza of a Sacred Lyric which C S Lewis composed and sent to D L Sayers. Possibly, someone who knows how to do such stuff might care to put all six stanzas onto this blog's thread.

The Humnos seems to be conceptually linked with Lewis's opposition to a particular 'humanist' fad whereby immortality might be sought for the human race by enabling it to mutate through evolutionary means as it spreads through the Universe. Videte the passage near the end of Out of the Silent Planet (1938), where, as instructed by the Ousiarch of Malacandra, Ransom is translating the vapourings of Professor Edward Rolles Weston, FRS.

But this stanza ...

Ask not if it's god or devil, /Brethren, lest your words imply /Static norms of good and evil /(As in Plato) throned on high; /Such scholastic, inelastic, /Abstract yardsticks we deny.

... calls to mind the elastic ethical systems of our own days, in which morality is endlessly mutable. Neatly refuted in Veritatis splendor of S JP2.

Knox could have turned this sort of stuff into Latin elegiacs at the drop a a hat. I can't. Take

Bulbous-eyed or square of stern.

Whatever would that be in metrical Latin?

4 February 2023


Tomorrow Traditionalists begin the observance of the three Sundays, instituted probably by Pope S Gregory I, the Great, at a time of enormous tribulation for Rome, Italy, and the World: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.

On these three Sundays, Pontiff and Clergy and People went out in turn to the three great basilicas outside the City walls, dedicated to S Lawrence, S Paul, and S Peter - which stood as mighty fortresses of prayer and of divine power defending the City. 

There they prostrated themselves before the Lord and sought Mercy, in the times of floods, pestilence, and war. 

Strangely, they refrained from asking interesting questions about how the catastrophes which hung over them could be reconciled with the existence of a Loving God!! (Indeed, were you to ask me, I would hazard a guess that they would not even have been able to understand the terms of such a question, let alone its overweening hubris.)

That sort of stuff ... sometimes called Theodicy ... is a neat device of the Enemy.

I hope you will, on Septuagesima Sunday, begin reading, in accordance with the immemorial Tradition of the Latin Church, the Book of Genesis. You can do this liturgically in an old Roman Breviary, or in the"1961" Lectionary of Church of England Anglican origin, now happily authorised for use in the Ordinariates. 

Or you could just read it in your Bible!!

If you want a 'poetic' commentary on 'the Fall', I commend Perelandra, aka Voyage to Venus, by C S Lewis. 

Jam-packed full of thought-provoking theology!

3 February 2023


Well, Thank You to those offered me help with my queries about the propers for the Fourth Sunday and Week after Epiphany. This morning was the last occasion many will have used Green in the Usus Intactus of the Roman Rite, until after Trinity Sunday.

I think this proper was overtly devised for the place it very often has: immediately before the Gesimas.

As it appears in our current Missal, it shares the psalmody of the III, V, and VI Sundays after Epiphany, just as (when it is used to supply a Mass for Sundays just before Advent) it shares the psalmody for that adjacent period. So Collect and Gospel are left to make its point (on Epiphany II, the chap who arranged the Epistles got us into Romans 12 sqq.)

The Collect, clearly, was designed for the penitential period which we enter around this time of the year; ideology and phraseology closely follow the euchology of Gesimatide and Lent. Indeed, in some sources it is offered for use on the Lenten Ember Saturday.

The Collect teaches that Sufferings of body and soul are condign punishments for our sins ... but, O Lord .... Hence the Gospel reading about the Ship (to ploion) which would have sunk ... but the Lord intervened.

Here is Cranmer's translation from 1549:

God, whiche knoweste us to bee set in the middest of so many and great daungers, that for mannes fraylnes we cannot alwayes stande uprightly; Graunt to us the health of body and soule that al those thinges which we suffer for sinne, by thy helpe we may wel passe and ouercome.

I have marked in red phrases additions (very characteristically) made by Cranmer ... my suspicion is that he feared lest the naked concision of Latin originals might often hurry past the ears of congregations before they had properly woken up!

In 1662, somebody (one naturally suspects Bishop Cosin) revised the text.

O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations

I have marked in blue the alterations made in 1662. 

Unfortunately, these changes rather tend to obscure the 'Last Week before the Gesimas' spirit of the original

2 February 2023


 This is a historical day for me, since I am about to enter the dear old Anglican controversy about How Many Candles On The Altar.

Back in the good old days when such things were deemed to matter, dear old C of E was divided between (1) Evangelicals who regarded any candles in the same way as their modern successors view sodomy: as pretty well the ultimate sin. (2) Moderate Men or 'the High Church', for whom it was an article of Faith that Two Candles should stand on every Holy Table. The main evidence for this conviction seems to have been the 1547 Tudor Injunctions, the real point of which seems to have been graciously to allow parishes to retain two candles after the government had looted the rest. (3) Six candles ... beloved by 'Romanisers' ... how one's heart lifted as one entered a strange church if its High Altar were thus adorned ...

Dix p420 exploded these sacristy orthodoxies by listing the generous variety of customs which, in reality, existed in and before the England of 1548 (the year when, by a pedantically precise reading of the 1549 Prayer Book, the ornaments of the churches and their ministers were fixed and frozen in perpetuity).

But just notice Dix's words: "There appear in fact to be instances from medieval England of every number of altar candles from one to twenty, except seventeen and nineteen."


Did you spot that? ONE! How asymmetrical!

In what follows, I am being horrifically anecdotal. But it is up to you to bring me to my senses.

I am suspicious of rubrical sources which give numbers. I suspect them of giving us information about what was done in great churches. I am far less convinced thatat side atars and in chantries, this convention existed.

For some time, I have been noticing, without ever making records, pictures of Low Masses in medieval English manuscripts, in which the altar appear simply to have one candle; at the South ('Epistle') end of the Altar. Another example arrived in my post yesterday: D H Frost's magnificent Sacrament an Alter. An expensive book (£80/$109) but vital reading for anybody interested in Recusancy, the 'Marian Reaction', Tudor History, the Cornish Language, Bonner ...

On the front cover is an illustration 'from a Book of Hours, Sarum Use, c1440-c.1450' (BL, Harley 2915, folio 84).The priest is elevating the Host; there appears to be one candle on the Altar; the Clerk, whose left hand lifts the foot of the chasuble, with his right hand holds aloft two candles.

1 February 2023

Mathematics and mathematicians

Some wykehamist has argued that all young people should be forced to study Mathematics until they are 18 years old. 

What nonsense.

I've nothing against Mathematics or mathematicians. On the contrary: the subject seemed to attract the same analytical minds as Latin and Greek. So very often, sensible young people chose Greek-and-Latin-and-Maths for their troika of subjects. They revisited the College years later, their faces distended by the exertions of London's clubs, with their tales of dangerous life in the distant and arid wastelands of the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

But if 'too few' of the young opt for Mathematics, the guilty women and men are ... not the poor young people themselves, but teachers who fail to make their subjects compelling or even tolerable.

In our current debate, bouncy people keep getting interviewed on TV (for a fee?) and rabbit on about how totally fascinating Mathematics is. Perhaps it is is for them; but why, then, are their former students queuing up in such vast droves to opt out of the subject?

Last time we had this same national discussion, we were told that those prepared to teach Mathematics should be paid more. (Why, if it's such fun?)

I can think of nothing more subversive of good Common Room relationships (both personal and professional) than this. How are the rest of us expected to feel, seeing crass and ineffective fools whose students attain lamentable grades in public examinations, being paid more than us just for "being Mathematicians"?

In principle, teachers who consistently show poorly in the public examinations of their students should be invited to move on and to take the fascinations of their subject elsewhere.