1 May 2023

Let me very tentatively ...

 ... run this past you. A doctrinal matter. 

The solemnity of S Joseph Opificis instituted under the Venerable Pius XII seems to point in the direction of an exaltation of 'Labour'. But how biblical is the concept of the Dignity of Labour???

According to Genesis, Labour is a consequence of the Fall. God situated humankind in a 'Paradisus voluptatis', a description taken up in the Liturgical Responsorium. But through his disobedience, Man was ejected from Paradise and told that the very Earth is "maledicta in opere tuo". To give credit to the liturgical functionaries responsible for the Breviary propers issued at that time, we should remember that, for lectio iii at Mattins, they did include Genesis 3:17-19 & 23-24.

But I do not detect a full integration of this biblical structure into most of the propers. The middle nocturn, taken ex actis Pii pp. xii, lays emphasis on the pope's determination to remove odia ac jurgia and encourage civium pax by tweaking the Calendar.

The strategy appears to be: steal Mayday from the Marxists by exalting 'Labour' ("... labor nobilitatur atque evehitur"). In the last resort, this seems more like an echo of the politics of Pacelli and Spellman and the Cold War; of Will Italy Go Commie more than of theological rigor. Indeed, the theology of Genesis 3, considered in itself, might have suggested a penitential trajectory more proper to Lent than to Eastertide (May 1 must perforce come within that window which is in every year unavoidably Paschal). Perhaps this perception was in the mind of the hymnographus Evaristus D'Anversa who, in his hymn for May 1, wrote "victus cibique copiam/mensuret una parcitas".

Once when I was teaching II Thessalonians (3:6-12) it did occur to me to wonder if the Thessalonian Christians who were refusing to work had been led into this comfortable theologoumenon by the realism of S Paul's own teaching that, washed in the regenerating waters of Baptism, they were no longer subject to the consequences of the Fall.

That is speculation. What is, embarrassingly, clear is that the ideology of this feast seems incredibly distant from the ecological preoccupations of the current pontificate. 

Pacelli's"terram subjiciant atque oeconomicae prosperitati consulant" is not very Laudato si, not terribly Amazonian, is it?

Popes come and go, don't they, bringing their delightful whimsies with them? Pretty poppets, but I wish we could have a nice run of three or four incredibly boring old popes whose motto was Quod accepi tradidi.


Banshee said...

Fr. Hunwicke? Why is the CoE advocating this acclamation "May the king live for ever" thing?

Isn't that a Persian expression?

Why the heck would such a thing be inserted?

Banshee said...

Apparently they acclaimed King Edward VII with "God save King Edward," "Long live King Edward," and "May the king live for ever."

But seriously, that seems dumb. Just why?

Also, I did not know that the coronation ring is associated with St. John, or that the ampulla was supposedly given to St. Thomas a Becket by the Virgin Mary, while he was in exile at Sens. These old magazine articles on Google Books are certainly full of info, although I wish they gave sources.

DM said...

My traddy parish does Pip & Jim - fine by me. But - there is a certain dignity in a prisoner serving out his sentence willingly, with a sense of order. If the consequences of the fall are undignified, they can be flipped to become the tool of that charity that seeketh not its own way - which I believe is a higher dignity than if we hadn't fallen?

Paulus said...

A modest proposal for the mutual enrichment between the Roman rite and the extraordinary form of the Punic rite. The first of May shall be restored as the Feast of Saints Philip and James, but, if a procession seu demonstration is held, the Mass is of Saint Joseph the Worker.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Every authentic economy is anchored in three principles, Farming, Mining, Manufacturing and Labor is a crucial component for the health and happiness of man.

In America, we no longer have an authentic economy. We have a FIRE Economy (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and international corporations have sent manufacturing jobs overseas and left the once middle class mired in hopeless penury to such an extent that the life expectancy of white men has been cratering.

I was born in an excellent time in America the such things were honored, at the back end of when Detroit was Main Street America, not Wall Street America; at the time when Henry Ford, Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh were America First leaders striving to keep American men out of a World War the "elites" were desperate for.

It was a time and economy which honored and valued labor to such an extent that an H.S. educated man could make a good living and take care of his family in largely peaceful neighborhoods where the local Church worshipped God in the authentic Roman Rite.

Lord have mercy, it is all gone. All...

Banshee said...

Going back... Obviously God "worked" for the six days of Creation, and He was also a Builder (which is presumably why He picked St. Joseph to support and teach the Son Incarnate).

We also have Jesus tell us that His Father is a Farmer. And Jesus is a Good Shepherd and a Good Physician.

Also, Adam was a priest in Eden, with the job to "tend and guard."

And Jesus is a King, a Warrior, a Teacher... All kinds of work.

Banshee said...

I guess there is a difference between work and labor?

But anyway, spinning and weaving is also Biblically praised and mandated, and it was one of the Blessed Mother's areas of expertise. So there is definitely a dignity of that.

And the Temple paraphernalia's makers are especially praised, so that is another kind of work that is deemed good.

And the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls is praised, and that is shift work.

And of course working in the vineyard is good for sons and for hired men and even for angels. Same thing with harvesters and the Lord of the Harvest.

Eric said...

I think it says in Genesis 2, if I am not mistaken, that Adam was created (before the Fall) to keep and guard and till the Garden i.e. he had a job to do and his failure to do that job was ultimately the cause of his and his bride's downfall. I mean at any point he could have fulfilled his task of guarding Paradise by going up to Eve while she was chatting with the snake and saying 'hey this is crazy, stop listening to this fool' but he didn't do it. Productive work is a wonderful gift from God. It is the drudgery and misery of that we experience in regard to labor that is the punishment we incurred from the Fall - not the work itself.

That said though I think you are right about the motivation for the Feast which is why I have never liked it. It was all about mid twentieth century politics and nothing more. And besides the most effective Communists have long since ceased to employ the whole worker/capitalist dialectic in their efforts to destroy society and moved on to other tactics so it doesn't even serve that purpose anymore.

RexTrebbius said...

In an attempt to be as pre-1955 as possible, I decided at Vespers yesterday to observe May 1st as the Feast of "Pip and Jim" according to the Divino Afflatu of P. Pius X (which happens to be "die vi infra Octavam S. Joseph" anyway). After reading your post, Father, I took a look at lectiones 4-6 from Matins which you discussed and I was struck by the following: "Etenim sanctus Ioseph... abúnde spíritum illum hausit unde labor nobilitátur atque evéhitur." I find "ille spiritus" used in this way to be reckless. Was S. Joseph's willingness to work to provide for his family based on a principle somewhere articulated that work is noble and/or ennobling? I would have thought that S. Joseph would simply agree with what his "putative" son said: "Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit quae ei imperaverat? Non puto." (Luke 17:9-10) Well, I know I'm no theologian, but I expect a little better than being told something is so according to some undefined spirit. So, for whatever it's worth, I agree with you. Now, back to Divino Afflatu!

Repentant Sinner said...

Permit me to very briefly propose that there is a difference between work and toil. Perhaps we use labour, toil, and work all synonymously. I usually do.

The content and context of the speech (or writing) of any given person on the matter will give us a sense of whether the person speaking is referring to ante-lapsidian participation in God's dominion over chaos and the elevation of creation to the praise of God, or whether the person is referring to the post-lapsidian toil...which not divorced from the praise of God but is mixed. Now we, post-resurrection enjoy the benefit of praising God by our works AND uniting elevating even our labour in a redemptive manner, to be a source of blessing God and He blessing us.

My widow's pence.

Unknown said...

Forgive my ignorance, but can't labor also be taken as a positive/ sanctifying activity? The first thing that comes to my mind is the Benedictine motto.

Moritz Gruber said...

Well, the first nocturn is quite neatly done. It would have been wrong, or at least deficient, not to speak of labour as also a curse (lesson 3); but before it had gained that additional characteristic, it had already existed as the directive ut operaretur et custodiret illum (scil. paradisum) (lesson 2), with this being a particular instance of "subjicite eam (scil. terram) (lesson 2).

St. John Paul II later would quite correctly sum express this in a phrase such as "the work which our stemparents would have desired like an enjoyment". Ah well, would have. Though those of us that do mental labor often do sometimes get a feeling of this when friends ask them to play at "furniture remover".

Of course, Popes need not "keep the proportions" in their own speeches, as long as they are correct. This feast was instituted specifically to give a patron to all that is good in the Workers' fight for justice and, more so, fight the wrong ideologies claiming to speak for the workers. So of course it talks more about the dignity of labour than about the curse of labor. The important thing is that it there is both; that is the first is also.

Besides, even without the political background one feast of labour really did was somewhat missing from the Church's calendar. (They might have used the March 19th feast for it; or some Saints' feasts such as St. Isidore the Labourer, which here means farmer though; but still.) In ideological peacetime, we might have put it prima feria II in Septembre, following the US choice. We then could have let Sts. Philipp and James on May 1st. But we did not live in ideological peacetime.

Besides, what is right about Laudato sii here is the "custodiret" part.

Moritz Gruber said...

Some other observations:

1. Thanks for the note about "victus cibique copiam/mensuret una parcitas". That is a rather fascinating idea, and one rather different from the usual tone we hear words like "moderation", "mortification" and so on in sermons and motivational speeches (though it may be that the problem is rather with our not-Catholic-enough ears than the choice of phrase). Let us (also) have the goods of the earth, and let us have them in abundance; and let that be curbed by Christian moderation - but, please, by Christian moderation only. How great is that.

2. With all due respect, the fight against the main political enemy of Christendom of at least the second half (for the first half, we'd have to tread on the "how Socialist was National Socialism" minefield) of the 20th century is something rather more than a "delightful whimsy of a Pope". Even if it should have a special focus on Italy: Italy, after all, is - while there is of course no nation-of-God in a natural-national sense in the New Testament world -, what might perhaps come closest to that; also, it is the nation the Pope himself is primate of; also, it apparently was most in danger of actually ideologically falling to Communism of all nations in the Western world (excepting the Portuguese for a few months after the overthrow of their dictatorship). And, ideologically, probably more than a great number of Eastern-bloc countries (though not the GDR) from whom the Communists were just powers-that-be. It's fiction, but did Guareschi's Mondo Piccolo come out of nowhere? And that works on the principle that secular and Communist - and those are convinced, if human, Communists - means practically the same thing.

Also, though that's not how God measures things, it seems to have been successful. Italy did not grow Communist; and the Democrazia Christiana held out long enough until the end of the Cold War. (Then it collapsed, perhaps for being no longer that necessary.)

3. That alone, of course, would not be sufficient reason to move Sts. Philip & James, but it does add a nice, perhaps providential touch that our Lady's month begins with her husband's feast.

4. I do have "a bad feeling about this" (as Han Solo would say) one thing that a feast of St. Joseph the Worker possibly trumps an Eastertide Sunday. (I would not have this feeling about the old Patronage-of-St.-Joseph feast.)

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. This bit about Labor is quite bracing as Adam, the most intelligent man ever created, worked in Paradise (just for not very long) and farmers are men of great dignity but about whom we almost never here praise about from our Prelates.

The antiquity of agriculture and the dignity of farmers is certain because both were established by God and commanded unto Adam and his descendants - Abel, Seth, Noe, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were farmers.

The crazier this world has become the fewer are the numbers of farmers and so if you live in an area blessed with these men support them to the extent that you can, buy their products and tell your friends about them. Would you rather get your meat (lamb, beef, pork) from them or some gigantic company owned by a foreigner (as I recall China bought Smithfield Ham)?

And produce? In Florida right now we buy sweet corn and real tomatoes from a local producer.

Back to labor for just a moment. I was born in Vermont and lived there and in Maine for about half of my life before I moved to Florida and one of the great and happiest moments of all my time there was the many hours I spent splitting and stacking the wood I would burn that winter. I would be out there all day long - from early light until dusk - splitting and enjoying the labor, the feel of the wood, the sound of it cracking when it split, the smell of the wood, the stacking of it between two trees and the occasional breaks I would take, smoking a cigar and drinking a beer as I looked at what I had accomplished and still had left to do that day.

The Bride thought I was crazy and i could never make her understand what joy that brought to me and and how my muscles were happily wearied by labor.

O, and one last thing Father. Trademark Authentic Roman Rite. It is fantastic and it is a great substitute for the clumsy Latin designation that the normal man never remembers.

"Authentic Roman Rite" Tm Hunwicke.

Albertus said...

Well, i certainly enjoyed - and learnt much from - all the wise comments here at Father Hunwicke's post today! It seems seems to me that you are all right, and complement one another. Working before the Fall was participation in God's own work of creation; work after the flood became toil, and often drudgery and kind of penance (think too of the many unhappy slaves, e.g.); our work, after Christ's own work of redemption and resurrection, once again becomes a possible means of becoming holy. Certainly work is necessary to a well-ordered society: "he who will not work, let him not eat", says the Apostle. And still, 1 May should in our day once more be celebrated as the feast day of the holy apostles Philippus and Jacobus, full stop. Saint Joseph is very happy with 19 March, i am sure. Party politics and worldly ideologies should never determine our liturgical calender.

Gaius said...

Fr. Hunwicke? Why is the CoE advocating this acclamation "May the king live for ever" thing?

Isn't that a Persian expression?

Why the heck would such a thing be inserted?

It's also Biblical expression (Dan. 6.21, Neh. 2.3). If the prophets can say it of a pagan monarch, we can say it of an anointed Christian king.

Albertus said...

''May he live forever'', is not only biblical, but one could understand it to mean ''may he live a ling time upin earth, and afterwards forever in the company of the Saints, in the prsence of the Most Holy Trinity''. Thus , a pious wish for His Majestys eternal salvation.