16 April 2024

Which Ocean was the real one?

We Englishmen ... I won't presume to speak for the Scots ... are extremely (nowadays everybody says incredibly) insular. This fault was encouraged during my own childhood by talk of a Second Elizabethan Age ... the phantom-heroics of the Age of Elizabeth Tudor were still, in their fictionalised forms, alive and well. It had been a time when Englishmen went to sea and robbed Spanish galleons ... and this was laudable. Englishmen had engaged on coastal raids upon Spain, and (how incredibly witty!) we were taught to think of this as Singeing the Beard of the King of Spain. I put it to you that the realities behind these childish pieces of xenophobic fiction represented a childish distraction from the political and military realities of the authentic sixteenth century, which had a Mediterranean bias.

But our native style of imperialist culture went back before my time, to that of an earlier English queen (Disraeli knew that his Sovereign was a woman!). And, decades before, the Fabers and the Mannings had been, to a degree, alienated from many of the assumptions and icons of mainstream English culture. Faber was not the only convert to seek an ultramontane version of Catholicism. The Protestant Ascendancy suspected Roman Catholics of disloyalty: juridically, this was nonsense; Romanists fought and died for the Empire and for Victoria Queen Empress as loyally as did any Protestants. But psychologically there was a certain truth in these antitheses. 

The expansion of the Empire Imperatricis auspiciis evoked memories of that earlier imperial period of Gloriana, and received inspiration from a romantic perception of the two Queens and of devoted service to them. Is it an accident that the Victorians loved little stories such as the one about the pirate Raleigh (whose father had nearly been torn to pieces by the people of Devon in 1549) and his use of his cloak to protect his Sovereign from puddle-water? We know that there was a market for stirring manly tales about Elizabethan seadogs, because they were written by a Charles Kingsley; he was the attacker of S John Henry Newman; he shared sado-masochistic fantasies with his fiancee and liked the thought of kissing women's feet. 

One of Kingsley's characters says, in Westward Ho (1855): "you owe [your preservation] to the prayers of that most pure and peerless virgin, by whose commands you sailed: the sweet incense of whose orisons have gone up for you daily, and for whose sake you were preserved from flood and foe, that you might spread the fame and advance the power of the spotless championess of truth, and right, and freedom--Elizabeth your queen."

Indeed, Boleyn's daughter and the Mother of God were alternative and, to a degree, exclusive icons: during a sea-battle later in Westward Ho "the smoke cleared away, the gorgeous painting of the Madre Dolorosa, with her heart full of seven swords, which, in a gilded frame, bedizened the Spanish stern, was shivered in splinters." That such sentiments are not entirely remote from reality is guanteed to this day by the state of the statue of our blessed Lady Vulnerata in the seminary at Valladolid.

While Kingsley's sort of fantasy-history was being written, 'the real world' was happening the other side of the Pillars of Hercules.

15 April 2024

A King for England??

 What to do about a Queen Regnant who lacks a husband?

I am writing, of course about, a woman who in her own right holds the rights to the Crown of (let us say)  England. I am not writing about all those women who, simply by marrying or being married to a male who happened to be a lawful Sovereign, acquired what is is essentially a courtesy title of "Queen". Such women are commonly termed Queens Consort. (There may be intriguing ambiguities here: I think I read somewhere that the besotted Tudor VIII planned to use parliamentary jiggery pokery to confer upon La Bolena the status of Sovereign. And let us not get into Williamnmary.)

But, before the long 'reign' of Bloody Bess had habituated England to thinking of Virgin or Almost Virgin Queens, there was an assumption that if the person upon whom the English Crown lawfully devolved happened to be both female and unmarried ... she needed a husband. Accordingly, the early years (decades?) of the Second Tudoress were overshadowed by the question: whom will the Queen marry? Were the winner of this jackpot to be a foreign prince, there would be implications for international politics, as there had been in the time of Queen Mary I. If Elizabeth condescended to an English Spouse, our internal national politics would be likely to be engaged.

In the 1570s, Mediterranean politics were of interest to the Mediterranean powers. How safe were Cyprus and Malta from Islamic aggression ... Sicily ... elements of Spanish power in North Africa ...?

Further North, how real were the 'marriage negotiations' between Elizabeth and the youngest brother of Charles IX, the Dule of Alencon (the Duke of Anjou having been elected King of Poland in 1573)? In an age when Dukes were rarae aves and came into the international category of 'Princes', and when the English aristocracy had few enough dukedoms, the holder of the Dukedom of Norfolk was naturally a person of interest to some.

But was Boleyn's daughter the only woman whose marriage prospects or intentions engaged thoughtful Englishmen?

To be continued.

14 April 2024


 During the long resistance of the English people to the imposition by Tudor despots of schism and heresy, a dispossessed monk wrote a hymn of which I offer you the first two stanzas. I won't take my quotation any further, because ... well, I'll be honest with you ... he does rather go on about the dissolution of the monastic houses!

"Christ crucified!/ For thy wounds wide,/ Us commons guide/ Which pilgrims be/ Through Goddes grace/ For to purchase/ Old wealth and peace/ Of the spirituality."

I invite you to imagine youself as one of a great concourse of devout (or even not so devout) lay folk, called to take part in a demonstration of lay power and of sound lay liturgical foundations. Buoyed up by the support of your fellow parishioners, if ... to pick an example ... you were among the the fifteen hundred well-appointed horsemen and the large numbers of footmen from Ripon, who had gathered there before dawn on the morning of 18 November 1569, perhaps you were particularly proud to be marching behind a banner made by a daughter of an important local family, the Nortons. 

If the banner she had worked on followed the customary design of banners of the Five Wounds, it must have been in preparation for quite a time ... she couldn't have thrown it together overnight. 

Wherever you and your friends went, there would be Protestant wooden Communion Tables to smash up and burn. Bonfires could be fed by the Book of Common Prayer; the Bible; the homilies; metrical psalters; and John Jewell's Apology for the Church of England. One participating churchwarden had poked the flames with his staff, declaring "See where the homilies fleith to the devyll".

Did you all sing the hymn I printed above? I don't know how many printing presses there might have had access to (in the South West, the Abbey Press at Tavistock had of course fallen victim to the Dissolution).

But, in any case, did they, do you, think the first stanza was ... a bit trite, a tadge obvious and platitudinous and over the top? Those rhymes Crucified, wide, guide?

Perhaps you are right. But I can offer a little piece of converging evidence.

In the Resurrexio Domini which I mined for this blog during the Octave Week of Easter, those boom boom boom English rhymes were not available since the language was Cornish. But we find there the same emphasis on how widely open the Lord's wounds were. Cleopas and his Socius sit with the Stranger at table and the Socius comments that me a wel the wolyow/ warbarth a les ... where a les means wide, widely. The same word appears a few lines lower (a les ol y wolyow a-thyragon pan guylsyn) and in succeeding dialogue, including sites where there is no suggestion of rhyme making it prescriptive or even helpful.

I suspect that the wideness of the Lord's gaping wounds was a customary topos of medieval Catholic devotion. 

13 April 2024

Multilayered Successes!!!

 As we successfully generate more 'ecological' energy, will such an increase stimulate a greater demand for and use of energy?

12 April 2024

Callimachus, Caravaggio ... (2)

In 1605, what is arguably Caravaggio's finest picture appeared upn the scene in S Augustine's Church in Rome. It was a painting of the Mother of God with her Divine Child. Two pilgrims are approaching them, on their knees, and neither is very smartly dressed. The man has piedi fangosi, dirty feet; the woman is wearing a cuffia sdrucita e sudicia, a torn and dirty headdress. I do not know what precedents there may be for such a display; but the facts recorded are that the popolani raised a schiamazzo, an enormous din. 

They were not accustomed to this sort of thing. Indeed, I rather wonder whether they were accustomed to the concepts of "Art", of "Art History", or the prospect of special young ladies commuting up and down Bond Street to discuss their common profession over yet another cup of coffee. Today, in a compartmentalised world, "Art" is a "subject". Specialists make a "career" out of it. Attributions are advanced and then withdrawn; international exhibitions are organised in the hope that, seeing certain pictures together, it will or will not  become clear whether the same hand produced them. Odium philologicum is an important ... and lucrative ... part of the game. 

To us, it does not matter that those piedi fangosi might teach us a lesson, or draw us more closely into the lesson that Mary's Son was Incarnate and Crucified for your and my redemption. 

We shall be none the wiser because we have looked upon the long, pure lines of the neck of the Immaculate as she leans forward, compassionately down upon those who kneel before her and her Son.

Whether or not Caravaggio lived a good life, in Loretto and Walsingham the devotion to the Truth of the Incarnation is strengthened  by our knowledge that this Mystery was worked out in an ordinary Home like that in which we each of us have lived.

11 April 2024

From late Greek fun to aristocratic Roman Gardens (1)

By the time of the Seicento, many people throughout Europe, but not least in Rome, were impressed to see before their own very eyes, gleamingly white statues from antiquity; and great profit was made by those enterprising individuals who dug them up, restored broken arms and noses, and sold them on to their fellow-countrymen or to visitors from the North who were performing the Grand Tour. You can, for example, see a splendid collection at Petworth, where bits continues to be tacked on at the end of the House to provide more exhibition space for the Earl's collection.

But, in an important respect, viewers and collectors alike were being deceived. Those statues were not planned or executed in order to be gleaming white marble. They were, in Antiquity, polychrome. (There is a fine book on this published in Copenhagen by the Carlsberg Glyptothek.) What Winckelmann admired and Thorvaldsen carved is so different from the Classical realite as to be, plausibly, a different genre. 

And the same conventions, apparently, reached down the scale of social dignitas. The rooms and gardens of first-century palaces were full of such 'furniture'. And levitas replaced dignitas. Old women, habitually drunk, clutch an amphora. Nymphs, fauns, and hermaphrodites struggle to accomplish or to escape rape. Two boys are fighting over a game of knucklebones ... originally, this was deemed to be a boy eating another boy's leg! Also in the Townley Collection, before most of it was stashed away in cupboards by the BM Trustees, a young fisherboy sported an extensive membrum virile ... before English propriety modified him. Another fisherman was "a clinical study of old age", but he would accompany well the Old Market Woman in the NY Met ("her delicate , diaphanous chiton and elaborate sandals imply a hertaira fallen upon hard times"). Most of these pieces of fun were mass-produced for wealthy Romans, for their homes and gardens: that is why the last few centuries have unearthed so many products of the same pattern-books. Pan, it appears, was a mighty if tumescent educator: he is so often see teaching a boy to play the pipes while simultaneously grooming him.

Even the gods of Olympus manifest a jocose facade: on Delos, a smiling Aphrodite wards off Pan with the worn sole of a sandal. Realism has displaced divine maiestas: the great Apollo who slew the monstrous Python becomes a sinuous youth regarding ... a tiny lizard climbing up a tree trunk. And this prioritising of the ordinary, the every-day, extends to the animal world: two dogs courting' were among Townley's acquisitions; a fine dog, usually categorised as a "Molossian Hound", sits beside the lake at Petworth and is to be found elsewhere.

Precisely the same movements can be detected in literature. Aristophanes is displaced by Menander and the Roman writers o f domestic 'New Comedy'. Homer gives way to Callimachus: long epics with heroic heroes metamorphose into short epyllia, so that the title (Aktaia) of Callimachus' "little epic" is a describer of its heroine, a peasant woman called Hecale. She entertains Theseus, and we read a detailed account of the homely peasant meal ... and the homely home. In Latin, Ovid was to employ the same generic tropes in his Philemon and Baucis. 

D'you know: I have often wondered whether the lack of hospitium in the reception offered to the Holy Family in the Lucan Infancy narrative alludes to the same literary tradition: after all, Acts 14 intersects neatly with Ovid's Metamorphoses.

How many swallows ...

 To be concluded with our Lady of Loreto.

10 April 2024


On a high and lofty peak in Kerkyra, there is a monastery ... much, I fear, restored. But it still has the encouraging dedication of ho Hypselos Pantokrator ["the lofty ... high up ... Ruler of All"].

It was, apparently, founded in the fourteenth century.

In the vaulted ceiling, to the West of the Ikonostasis, there is painting of ho tes Megales Boules Angelos; words which the bi-lingual guide-book helpfully translates into English as ... er ... "the Angel of the Grate Will" (I'm not making this up).

I think I discern here what our Roman Rite's Third Mass of Christmass ... what we term the Missa in Die ... calls, in its Introit, vocabitur nomen eius magni consilii Angelus [LXX kaleitai to onoma autou Megales Boules Angelos]. This Third Mass is the great dogmatic statement of what, on that Day, we are celebrating, with its majestic readings from Hebrews and the Gospel According to S John. 

The image on Corfu shows our Blessed Lord. He has 'angelic' wings; he is raising his right hand in [Byzantine] blessing while his left hand holds a globe; in his halo are the letters making ho on [the One who Is]; at the top is written ho tes Megales Boules Angelos

I am reminded here of the majestic words of our Canon of the Mass, where we beseech Almighty God jube haec perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime Altare tuum,  in conspectu divinae majestatis tuae. I have long regarded this Angelus as being our Lord Himself. 

Jungmann reminds us that so did Ivo of Chartres (d 1116); Honorius Augustodunensis (early twelfth century); Alger of Liege; Sicard of Cremona (1155-1215) ..."and others" ...

These words in the heart of our authentic Western Eucharistic Prayer are one of the elements that make it, both among the ancient rites of Christendom and the horrible novel inventions of the 1960s, so distinctive. This prayer, like the reference to the Sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham, mentioned just before, makes a mighty link with what Jungmann calls "the concept of of the continuity of the history of grace" ... which is why Abraham's sacrifice was one of the favourite subjects of ancient Christian iconography. 

I feel an interest in this parallelism between the Corfiot mural and the authentic teaching of our Canon. Perhaps somebody with more knowledge than I sadly have of the Byzantine side of this Tradition could supply information or comments?

9 April 2024


The Magdalene Laundries ... the treatment of Fallen Women ... what a cruel and depraved island Ireland was! Poor old De Valera ... Poor od Archbishop McQuaid ... what a corrupt, hate-filled society they ran!! Apologies ... Compensation ... but what good is all that? It is not much better than words.

The Times recently published a review of a new book. The Reviewer asked: "How surprised would you be to discover that a comparable system operated in Britain during the 20th century?A system that has not been acknowledged or apologised for, let alone compensated for?"

The book is The Undesirables The Law that locked away a a Generation, by Sarah Wise. It does for Britain what so many 'revelatory' books have done for Ireland. The British law concerned was not repealed until 1959.

Alice O'Keeffe, the Times Reviewer, enables us, in more ways than the merely statistical and legal, to understand the social arrangements in Britain and Ireland in their contexts. The origins of the British 1913 Mental Deficiecy Act Act "lay in the Eugenics movement of the ealy 20th century. Alarmed by the poverty in the slums of Britain's big cities, this group of keen social Darwinists decided that the best solution would be to prevent the poor from breeding ... As the eugenicist George Mudge put it: 'The stunted individuals are not the product of the one-room tenement, but the one-roomed tenement is an expression of [their] inherent incapacity'.

"The Eugenics Education Society was founded in 1907 and found a sympathetic ear in Winston Churchill, who once wrote that 'the improvement of the British breed is my aim in life'. Influenced by an American book called The Sterilisation of Degenerates, Churchill, when he was home secretatary in the Asquith government, advocated a simple surgical operation ... The working-class Labour MP Will Crooks observed that such people 'are almost like human vermin. They crawl about ... polluting and corrupting everything they touch.' ...

"As Leon Whitney of the American Eugenics Society observed: 'Many far-sighted men and women in both England and America have been working earnestly towards something very like wht Hitler has now made compulsory' ..." 

What thoroughly wicked old men De Valera and Churchill were to have lived in a culture different from ours!

And how about all those Metropolitan Archbishops, McQuaid in Dublin and, in England, Fisher and his successors? I spent nearly half a century in the ministry of the Church of England, and I know all about the phrase "Giving a man another chance". And my own ministry was overshadowed by a bishop called Peter Ball; because he was an alumnus of the College I worked in, he used to hang around it inviting the (male) students to "Give a year to Jesus". Another of his phrases was "Be strong for Jesus." This meant "Let me whip you." 

It was ... literally ... decades before he was finally convicted and locked up. "Cover ups", indeed!


8 April 2024

Palm Sunday

 I have something to put before you. But before I do so: Thank You for your Good Wishes. Pancreatic Cancer is not the best daily companion, but your prayers and good wishes really do help.

Presumably, it is not wicked to canvas views on liturgical changes. We had a lot of those between about 1910 and 1970; and, it seemed, we never stopped talking about the subject, like IV Formers discussing Girls (or Boys). But, strangely, we seem now to be within what one of my doctors calls stasis. And 1970-2024 seems a long time to be static, as well as silent, especially compared with those decades of incessant, officially encouraged change, which I have lived through!

I think Palm Sunday is the least successful of the liturgical confections devised for the post-Conciliar Holy Week.

This is because of the disparate sources out of which it was put together. 

(1) We had the assurances of fashionable Experts that the Essence of Palm Sunday was the Procession with the dramatic use of palm leaves ... everything else was to bow down before that, as if it were the Mikado's Daughter-in-law Elect. 

(2) We had the earlier lectionary choices made with Holy Week and Passiontide as the guiding principle, centred upon the Matthaean Passion Narrative, in mind. 

(3) And we had the old, Western, popular notion that those leaves, so neatly folded by those nice foreign ladies, would be sacramentals powerful to keep safe homes in which they were on view. Quicunque ex ea receperint, accipiant sibi protectionem animae et corporis : fiatque tibi, Domine, nostrae salutis remedium, tuae gratiae sacramentum ... omni adversitate effugata ... and vide the similar sentiments in all the old five prayers of blessing. 

I never have felt that all these elements have worked comfortably together.

Might we be better off with just two main options: (1) a joyful, popular celebration based upon the Lord's entry into Jerusalem and the use in Procession of the palm leaves; and (2) a celebration closer to the spirit of Holy Week, centred on the proclamation of the Matthaean Passion Narrative.

Reconsideration of Palm Sunday would, of course, be accompanied by the suppression of all those successive rites of the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, leaving just the pre-Pacellian formulae for that Day, and the couple of new choices.

I think a lot of people could be happier.

7 April 2024

Ave Crux ...

Well, Easter ... the paschalia festa ... are now peracta; the ancient collect of today, Low Sunday, makes that explicitly clear. But, for our strange Novus Ordo brethren, this same ancient collect is now attached instead ... believe it or not ... to the Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter ... so, presumably, they regard that Saturday as end of their Easter Octave. Seems a funny business to me, but I'm sure that they, poor poppets, understand their own massively peculiar rite better than I do. Anyway, this is not my real subject for today.

As we leave the Easter Octave behind, we have some unfinished business. Lady Day, the Annunciation of our Blessed Lady, needed to be moved out of Holy Week, the Maior Hebdomada, so we celebrate it tomorrow, Monday. It is therefore next Tuesday that restores the normal rhythms of the season. And, as I peer into my 1874 Breviary, in my survey of the liturgical sources and habits which fed the piety of S John Henry Newman, Fr Faber and those heroic early Oratorians, Wiseman and Manning and Ullathorne and so many ...

... there I find this rubric: "Afterwards, there is the Commemoration of the Cross, which happens daily at Lauds and Vespers, up to the Ascension ... other Commemorations, of S Mary, S Joseph, of the Apostles, of Peace are not said in the Easter Season."

Is it strange to commemorate the Cross during Eastertide

I think not. The risen Saviour who comes to greet us is the Crucified One bearing in his limbs the marks of his love. The Feast of the Inventio Sanctae Crucis will beautifully emphasise this; but, with an early Easter this year, May 3 seems a long way off! 

Easter certainly does not cancel out the Crucifixion or diminish the splendour of its Five Wounds; it exhibits them to us as glorious and salvific ... and draws each of us into their wonder.

At Lauds the Commemoration was: 

Antiphon: Crucifixus surrexit a mortuis, et redemit nos, alleluia, alleluia.

V Dicite in nationibus , alleluia. R Quia Dominus regnavit a ligno, alleluia.

Deus, qui pro nobis Filium tuum crucis patibulum subire voluisti, ut inimici a nobis expelleres potestatem: concede nobis famulis tuis; ut resurrectionis gratiam consequamur. Per eumdem. 

At Vespers, the antiphon was Crucem sanctam subiit, qui infernum confregit, accinctus est potentia, surrexit die tertia, alleluia. The V, R and Collect the same as at Lauds

6 April 2024

That Johannine Crux!! (6)

In the Resurrexio Domini, we find that it distressed Mary of Magdala that she could not 'see' Jesus (rak na'n guela). But after a little dramatic teasing, the Gardner, 'Ortolanus', "demonstrabit latus eius ad Mariam Magdalenam et dicit ..."

"Maria, myr ov Pym Woly!/ Crys my the wyr the thasserghy ... " Mary, See my Five Wounds! Believe that I have truly risen again]. ..."

As with S Thomas, the sight of the Wounds is found convincing. And the Magdalen desires immediate engagement. "A ker arluth eth yn grous pren./ thy'm ny thogouth amme the'ethpen./ Me a'th pysse a lauasos/ lemmmyn amme vn wyth the'th tros." [ O dear Lord who went on to the cross-beam, it is not becoming for me to kiss your head. I would beg you to allow me now to kiss just your foot"] But the Hortolanus is inexorable; and inexorable in Latin: Mulier, noli me tangere. After the Latinity, he repeats its meaning  in Cornish: "A vynynryth na tuche vy nes."

 In "Celtic" languages, the forms of words change in response to grammar and to adjacent letters. One commentator observes pym-woly cryst should  really ... correctly ... be fymp goli. My instinct is that the words were so regularly used as a stand-alone phrase that they assumed this unadjusted form. It is, of course, an allusion to the powerful devotion to the Lord's Wounds; on my study wall I have good photographic representation of the 'Norfolk' Banner of the Five Wounds. Be gracious, Lord, to the souls of those slaughtered in the 1549 Western Rebellion, and in the Northern 'Pilgrimages' during the 'reigns' of Henry and Elizabeth Tudor.

Amma, you will have gathered, is Cornish for kiss. D'you think it might be onomatopoeic? In a day or two, I hope to make some remarks about English kissing habits, which seem to have differed from those of mainland Europe.

"Mulier noli me tangere". I suspect the text presents this in Latin because it was, well, not unfamiliar. Does anyone recall seeing it in the context of late Medieval art?

In the Cornish version of the phrase, the Lord uses the term vynynryth. Why? vynyn is Cornish for Woman, and ryth, judging by the large number of compounds in the Breton Language which contain its parallel (reizh), appears to come from a root rect- or reg- [cf Latin??]. Rule and rectitude seem to be the story; my baby Breton Dictionary gives justice; equite; droit (ensemble des lois); sexe; genre (en grammaire); outillage. English renderings of the Cornish compound offer womankind.

 But why the word Vynynryth? By this point, Mary of James and Mary Salome have disappeared from the 'stage', leaving just the Magdalene alone with the Gardener. However, I have memories of Latin and Greek texts where a commentator, unable to solve a conundrum, has finally left it with the observation that the difficulty is metri causa. Perhaps we need a word with just this number of syllables. (The author has used the word only a few lines above.)

And we need to remember that in premodern societies people use names ... vocatives ... much less frequently than we do; our verbal interactions are soaked in the gross and promiscuous over-use of names. When I was last in hospital, I became much irritated by all those nurses and auxiliaries, who looked about fifteen-and-half years old, and who constantly shouted JOHN!!! !!! at me. Perhaps the Author of the Resurrexio Domini was preserving her name ... Maria ... from dramatic over-use.

My final point. 

Why will the Lord not permit the Magdalene to touch him? 

Perhaps we do not know enough to be sensitively awake to the social nuances of interactions between men and women in late medieval Cornwall. (Or, indeed, in First-century Palestine?) As I have just remarked, our society is deeply marked by incessant and emphatic verbal insincerities. Perhaps the word thogouth gives us a hint; "it is not fitting". And, a line or two later, "na na wra gruyth na fo the les ... [do not behave inappropriately]"

Some readers may be glad that, for the time being, this blog is done with the Medieval Cornish 'Ordinalia' texts.

5 April 2024

The Ordinalia again (5) in Glass?

So, down in Cornwall, during the Middle Ages, they had religious plays, the Ordinalia, in the ancient Cornish language (some enthusiasts are currently trying to revive it; in fact, these dramas in Medieval Cornish have been the main basis of their 'revived' language ... oddly; suppose we spoke an English constructed upon the verses of Chaucer, without paying any attention to the fact that our Geoffrey had both chosen and arranged his words so as to fit his half-millennium-old-metrical scheme! And, Homer's Greek can never have been spoken as a vernacular by anyone.)

However, in the Resurrexio Domini [sic], the Lord (of course) appears first to his Immaculate Mother. 

Medieval Cornish, like Modern English, was an omnivorous language heavy with vocabulary, quotations, phrases, technicalities, expletives from other languages ... English; Latin borrowings going back to the Roman Occupation; contemporary Latin borrowings; French (another thing which the inventors of 'Modern Cornish' can't stand; rather as Herr Hitler did for the German language, their dictionaries constantly enjoin us not to use loan-words amply attested in the literature, but to stick to pure 'Celtic' roots).

And the Lord greets his Mother with the Latin phrase O salve Sancta Parens. This, of course, is the beginning of the Introit for Eastertide Masses of our Lady (and comes ultimately from Sedulius). The O needs to be in the Cornish text because the lines have to have seven syllables.

Throughout the manuscript, there are two scribal hands. Manus prima, is the slightly faded original. Rather darker, manus secunda adds some stage directions, changes some ts to ds, and, at one point, appears to have updated a joke by erasing three lines and writing some different Cornish placenames into the space thus made available ... making it, I suspect, topical to a different audience from that for which the manus prima had originally written out the play.

In the greeting O salve Sancta parens, it looks as if that erasing knife has again been at work underneath the first two words. Over that rasura, O salve is darkly inked in by manus secunda. Most probably, manus prima wrote Salve Sancta parens; manus secunda realised that a syllable extra was needed - made a botched job of supplying it - then scraped the area clean so as to make a neat fresh start.

You can look for yourselves at the manuscript without even travelling up to Oxford: search for Bodley 791 and scroll down to folio 61 verso.

But if you prefer glass pictures to written drama, go to Fairford Church in Gloucestershire. There you will see the Lord greeting His Mother Salve Sancta Parens. This window (Window 7; in two lights) is roughly contemporaneous with the Cornish text: "... probably due to Richard Fox, bishop of Durham and then of Winchester. The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 probably under the direction of the King's glazier, Barnard Flower, largely in his workshops at Westminster." Our Lady has her hands raised in amazement; the literature describes her as "coming from her bedroom in great joy".

At the highest cultural levels of early Tudor England, people were not ashamed of these "extra-textual" stories.

4 April 2024

Folk Catholicism tangled with liturgical echoes? (4)

 After the Lord has greeted his Mother with the liturgical formula O Salve Sancta Parens, and has assured her that after her death, she will be assumed to heaven above the angels and saints, Mary expresses a desire to see him (has she hitherto been merely audible?); she genuflectit... presumably, now seeing him. He reassures her (using the same term, melder, 'honey' with which she has earlier addressed him). According to the Stage Directions, she embraces and kisses Him.

I feel that this text has merest dash, in what follows, of maternal, peasant tut-tuttery. As any mother would, Mary desires reassurance that, after all he has been through, her Son is really trouble free. 

Us whet the'th corf galarow/ na torment orth the greffye?/ yw saw ol the wolyow/ a wylys vy the squerdye,/ a wruk an gu ha'n kentrow/ the kyc precius dafole?/ lavar thy'mmo, caradow,/ lemmyn gorthyp fatel fue./

[Are there still pains in your body and torment grieving you? Are all your wounds healed which I saw tear you, which the spear and the nails made to defile your precious flesh? Tell me, my beloved, answer now; how it was.]

Middle Cornish, like modern English was a remarkably resilient and greedy picker-up of words from other languages, from Latin onwards through every possible influencing source! In the above, I have marked in dark blue all the words which, according to the George dictionary, are loan words. How words and meaning do seem to wander ... slither ... around ... Kentrow, for example, apparently from the Latin centrum! Just as we, nowadays, never have a Problem; but 'Issues' are never far away!

The next rubric betrays that the Lord kneels. Are they both now kneeling? Or, more probably, does the text mean that each performs an act of genflecting?  

However that may be, in the next stanza the Lord says reverons thy'so, vam ker; henor mur ha lowene; [reverence to you, dear Mother, much honour and joy ...] to which our Lady replies confortys yv ow colon [my heart is comforted]. 

They both then 'osculantur et separent'.

3 April 2024

The Disappearing 'Angels' (3)

 In my last section, I advanced a supposition that the Christus Resurgens would have been sung by members of a group who were attached permanently to a church, and who would, thus, have by custom sung it annually at the Easter Morning Service. There is another point in this dramatic presentation of the Easter Mystery where a similar assumption is made: the Gloria in excelsis Deo is to be sung ... and, again, by the 'Angeli'. 

Surely, these were the functionaries referred to in the rubrics of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 as 'the Clerks'. 

Liturgical historians, commonly, have not paid much attention to this group and its place in the woshipping life of a community. Interest has tended to focus upon the texts and their theological meaning. Yet there is a profound change in the spirit and presentation of the Liturgy between 1549 and the date of the second Prayer Book in 1552 ... whatever the texts may have meant or implied.

I have counted eleven references to 'the Clerks' in the 1549 texts and rubrics. But in 1552, not one reference survived. The 'clerks' are no more.

In 1549, 'the clerks' began the Service: "Then shall the Clerkes syng in English for the office, or Introite". The Kyries may be sung by them; next "Then the Prieste standing at Goddes borde shall begin, Glory be to God on high. The Clerkes. And in yearth peace "etc..

The Creed begins similarly. "After the Gospell ended, the Priest shall begin, I beleue in one God. The clerkes shall sing the rest."

At the point of the Offertory, we read "where there be Clerkes ... whyles the Clerkes do syng the Offertory ..." ... ...

Holy , holy ... This the Clerkes shall also syng ... ...

The peace of te Lorde be alwaye with you. The Clerkes. And with thy spirite. ... ...

In tthe Communion tyme the Clarkes shall syng, ii. O lambe of god ... ... ...

... when the Communion is ended, then shallthe Clarkes syng the post Communion ... ...

Where there are no clerkes, there the Priest shall say al things  ... ...

In fact, in 1549, there was very little for the people to say or sing. This may be less evident in a printed text than it must have been to the almost totally quiescent laity. When the Cornish parishioners rose in rebellion in 1549, they remarked in their 'Articles' that many of then knew no English. But even those who did know English will have noticed one thing: while many of the manners of the old 'Masse' had survived into the 1549 Prayer Books which they had heaped onto the bonfires outside Exeter, the newer Book presented them with a root-and-branch change in what they were accustomed to.The Clerks, presumably, will have noticed being obliged to learn new texts. 

We do not know when the dramatic performances of the Ordinalia, including the Resurrexio Domini, ceased to be acted in parochial Playing Places throughout Cornwall. But the culture of the older rites seems to have disappeared fairly rapidly.

And this, I suspect, was the time when the 'Angeli', the Clerkes, who could be called upon to sing the Easter Chant of Christus resurgens and the Sunday-by-Sunday sung parts of the Mass, disappear from the scene, jst as the Abbeys and the Chantries had done.

Perhaps this event, and the massacres which accompanied it, should be marked as the real end of medieval England.

2 April 2024

Christus Resurgens ... (2)

Now let us move out of the church building. Near the church, there will probably be a Plen-a-gwary; a circular open-air theatre (in St Just in Penwith it is still there, a literal stone's throw from the church). In these enclosures, religious plays were presented the texts of several of which have survived, written in the Cornish Language with the rubrics ...  stage directions ... naturally in Latin. There were pavilions around the circumference, used by certain of the Players ... we even have diagrams of Who goes Where! As for the audience, I suppose they might have sat around the circumference: but I have wondered if, perhaps, they might just have wandered around the enclosure following the Players.

These plays are called the Ordinalia; one of them is headed


We dip into its text about 400 lines after its beginning. We find the Four Soldiers boasting about how well they will guard their buried prisoner; if he tries to get out of the tomb, he will get a 'clout', because Middle Cornish is not afraid of loan-words from English. y pen crac me torse! Violence and threats and rough humour seem to be at the heart of Middle Cornish society. Bribery seems also to function heathily: Pilatus promises the soldiers that, if their custody is successful, gobar da why agas byth Gon Dansotha ha Cruk Heyth ... where the place names of these promised rewards are ... Cornish!

You don't need me to tell you that, despite all their tough talking, the Quattuor Milites, having gone off to their duties, do fall asleep. As the stage instructions put it, Et tunc ibunt ad sepulchrum ... hic dormiunt milites ... tunc surrexit Ihesus a mortuis et iet ubicunque voluerit et cantant angeli cristus resurgens ...

Yes; the medievals did remodel the Latin verb ire to suit their own purposes!

I don't know how the Resurrection was 'presented' dramatically ... whence the actor playing Christ emerged ... Could there have been an aperture in the ground?

But did you notice what was going on as He rose again?

The 'Angels' were singing Christus resurgens.

The list of Characters, which in this play comprises only two angels, could include as many as nine. It is a fair inference that all or some of these sang the Christus Resurgens at the Easter Morning rites. They would be the obvious professionals to 'do' the Antiphon again at this dramatic performance, as an umistakable musical indication that the Lord had indeed risen. 

I think I detect a culture here of assumptions that would have spoken vividly to Medieval Man, but which are almost invisible, intangible, to us. Such assumptions are perhaps the hardest things to uncover and to recognise when one culture looks at a different system.


1 April 2024


 I have noticed a grammatical construction which I can thus describe: you have an ut-clause; and dependant upon that clause you have another subordinate clause which might reasonably begin with another ut. In these circumstances, the second potential ut may be replaced by quatenus.

Here is a Patristic example, taking us back a few centuries, from the sermon of S Gregory the Great, read on Easter Sunday: "sic quippe necesse est ut audiamus quae facta sunt, quatenus cogitemus etiam quae nobis sunt ... facienda."

Here is a liturgical example: "Deprecantes, ut beatus confessor Birinus ... nobis obtineat, quatenus ipsius societate perfruamur ..."

And here is a curial example: " ... rogamus, ut ita in dei opere perseverare studeas, quatinus regi regum deo placere valeas ..."

My second example was from a 12th century liturgical book probable connected with Abendon; my third from a letter sent by or associated with Pope S Leo IX, to King Edward the Confessor.

Now here are my queries.

 Is this particular construction widespread? Should we consider it "Christian"?

According to Lewis and Short (sub voce E and F), we should think of Lactantius (d. 326), Cassiodorus (d. 575), and the Digest, which would be heavy enough hints even if we were not advised "(eccl. Lat.)" and "(post-class)." Here we are certainly being referred to temp S Gregory.

But what about the other end of things? I am referring to Renaissance Latin. Is this a usage stylists such as Cardinal Pole, or Bembo or Gigli, would have been happy with? Or would they have deemed it a relic of the Dark Ages?

Has anybody spotted it in any non-Christian texts?


So, at what point, would a medieval Englishman feel that his Easter was really starting? 

The ceremonies of Holy Week have left his parish church with the Most Holy Sacrament, together with the Cross, in a recess, probably on the North side of the Sanctuary and called "the Sepulchre". On Easter Morning, very early (ante matutinas) the clergy enter and go straight to the Sepulchre. Having censed it, they take the Sacrament to the High Altar, where it is replaced in the usual place of Reservation. They then return to the Sepulchre.

The clergy, genuflecting, then extract the Cross. The most senior cleric present "with another most excellent person begins in an alta voce this antiphon Christus resurgens, with which antiphon let the procession proceed with the choir singing the whole antiphon with its verse. And then all the bells are to be rung for a classicum ... the antiphon being sung with its verse by the whole choir ..." [I have given the Exeter version of this]. All then "kneel joyfully before the Cross and kiss it in worship ... The crosses and images throughout the church are unveiled now". [Urquhart.]

So, as this antiphon is loudly chanted, and the bells are rung in a jangling peal, and his church sheds its penitential Lenten aspect, the lay worshipper realises that Easter, surely, is under way! Here is the text of the antiphon  (Romans 6: 9).

"Christus resurgens ex mortuis jam non moritur, mors illi ultra non dominabitur. Quod enim vivit, vivit Deo. Alleluia. Alleluia. Versus Dicant nunc Judaei Quomodo milites custodientes sepulchrum perdiderunt regem ad lapidis positionem, quare non servabant Petram iustitiae aut sepultum reddunt, aut resurgentem adorant nobiscum dicentes Quod enim vivit, vivit Deo. Alleluia. Alleluia.

And so firmly was this fixed in the traditional memory that Cranmer preserved parts of it in his 1549 Prayer Book, to be used "in the Morning afore Matins, the people being assembled in the church". ... indeed, damaged fragments are still present in the BCP.

There are wider cultural references here, rarely or never noticed, to which I intend to return tomorrow. 

I have had a brilliant idea ...

... in the interest of good and harmonious 'community relations' ...

... how about the following:. 

Moslems fast; in fact, their customs so resemble what Christians (vide exempli gratia the Tudor Anglican Book of Homilies) used to do, that it has been argued that there is a connection. 

My suggestion: during the days when Ramadan and Lent overlap, all those who self-identify as 'Christian' should join in the fasting customs of Islam.

Makes sense?

31 March 2024


Well; youve guessed. My own personal, private Maria Consolata devotion this Easter Evening will be the section of the Exsultet about the Bee  ... the section which is missed out of the current formula. Followed by the Regina Caeli.

And my mind goes back to happy years, spending summers in the Diocese of Ardfert. We used to travel through County Cork, and, before leaving the Cork Gaeltacht, we always visited the shrine of S Gobnait in Ballyvourney. She was the Patron Saint of Bee-keepers; she set her swarms to work putting some robbers to flight. I suspect she might have been a Producer of Paschal Candles ... perhaps even of Lucernaria Requisites in general. There is a fantastically splendid window honouring her, by Harry Clarke, in the splendidly magnificent Honan Chapel of Cork University. It shows the Saint with some five magnificently huge bees, and some terrified would-be fantastically-tiny robbers. 

We used to perform what we could of the Exercises in Ballyvourney before admiring the dippers under the bridge in the River Sullane and then carrying on to Knightstown, domain of the Hereditary Knights of Kerry.

The imminent coins for 'Charles III' have a couple of bees ... very anaemic bees, if bees have blood anyway ... on the One Pound coins. I don't seem to be able to discover the identity of the designers of this sad new set of flora'n'fauna coins. If I were among the guilty, I would keep jolly quiet about it, too. 

This idea is not new; in 1928, a new set of coin designs started appearing in the Twenty Six Counties, featuring their fauna. The only overlap I have noticed is the leaping Salmon, common to  both sets of coins.

An Advisory Committee including W B Yeats had commissioned the Irish coins from Percy Metcalfe, and they are extremely fine.

The earlier ones are inscribed SAORSTAT EIREANN; after Brexit, I did wonder if, after Brexit, we should have responded with SAORSTAT BHREATAIN on our coinage. 

The great Irish glass-maker, Harry Clark, was born on S Patrick's Day, 135 years ago this year. 


The Easter Vigil with Benedict XVI, 2012

 At Easter, on the morning of the First Day of the week, God said once again: "Let there be light". The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus' passion and death, the night of the grave, had all passed. Now it is the First Day once again -- Creation is beginning anew. "Let there be Light, says God, "and there was Light". Jesus rises from the grave. ... The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God's pure Light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the Resurrection of Jesus, Light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new Light of the Resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God's new Day, new for all of us. ... 

On Easter Night, the Night of the new Creation, the Church presents the Mystery of Light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal Candle. This is a Light that lives from sacrifice. The Candle shines in as much as it is burnt up. It gives Light, in as much as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the Paschal Mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great Light. Secondly, we should remeber that the Light of th Candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the Mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the Light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourseves. "Whoever is close to me is close to the fire", as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. ...

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the Deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter Liturgy, points us gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the Candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of Creation plays its part. In the Candle, Creation becomes a bearer of Light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the Candle also in some sense contains an implict reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of Light. ...

30 March 2024

EXSULTET: the Bee (2)

ICEL: ... accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants' hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church. ... for it is fed by melting wax drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

S Pius V: ... suscipe sancte Pater, incensi huius sacrificium vespertinum, quod tibi in hac Cerei oblatione solemni, per ministrorum manus, de operibus apum sacrosancta reddit Ecclesia. ... in hac cerei oblatione solemni, per ministrorum manus, de opere apum sacrosancta reddit Ecclesia ... Alitur enim liquantibus ceris, quas in substantiam pretiosi huius lampadis, apis mater eduxit.

Knox: ... accept , O Holy Father, this our evening sacrifice of incense: which as at this time thy holy Church maketh before thee, and offereth to thee by the hands of thy servants, the works of the creatures which thou hast made ... For the wax that melteth doth but feed the flame, for thereunto have the creatures of God's hand brought it forth ...

Ordinariate: ... accept, O Holy Father, this our evening sacrifice of incense, which as at this time thy holy Church maketh before thee, and offereth to thee by the hands of thy servants, the work of the bees, thy creatures. ... For the wax that melteth doth but feed the flame, for thereunto have the creatures of God's hand brought it forth ...

 A careful eye might observe here a recurring embarrassment with the presence of the Bees. And that Eye would be right.

But, in fact, once upon a time the bees were even busier in the Exsultet. They had an entire paragraph to themselves. It came immediately after the point where, in the S Pius V text, we have the words  mater eduxit. (This paragraph had already fallen into disuse when the Sarum Missal was printed; but it had appeared in Praefatio hucusque of the 'Gregorianum'.)

Some have used the term 'curious' to describe this extra, apian, material. I don't agree. If you are blessing Olives, you naturally include a bit of back-history about Olives in your liturgical formulae.Why deny it to the bees who produced the wax?

Not that the Latin texts address plural bees; we read 'apis mater'. "O vere beata et mirabilis apis'. But I think these are collective and dignified singulars: the activities of The Bee are certainly described in the plural. We learn that some (parte) collect flosculi with their mouths and return with these burdens to their castra; in there, aliae line the cells with gluten: aliae cram in the flowing honey; aliae turn the flowers into wax; aliae shape their offspring with their mouths; aliae includunt nectar.

This might easily prompt suggestions that Bees can offer us an example of hard work and collaborative ministry within the Church. Perhaps they can, the poppets. But the texts go on to ... er ... praise Virginity! This is because it was a commonly held belief that Bees perpetuated their race without masculi violating their sex or filii destroying their chastity.

Although the Queen Bee is indeed ... um ... versatile, this theory is not now, in its entirety, maintained! Perhaps this accounts for the textual difficulties many have discerned within this passage. But the pericope does end Thus did the holy Virgin Mary conceive; Virgin she gave birth; and Virgin she remained.

Some have detected the malign influence of Vergil at work here. I'm not so sure. Much of Georgics IV is indeed on Bee-Keeping, but it is really mock-didactic. I think Vergil comes closest to the Exsultet in his 'epic' similes (e.g. Aeneid 6: 707sqq.) But perhaps Apollonius of Rhodes got there first (despite Iliad B 87 sqq). The Argonauts have been consorting with the Man-murdering Men-crazed Women of Lemnos ... until Heracles (friend of Hylas!) speaks strictly to them. As the Fleece-Seekers prepare to sail off, the Lemnian women flock enthusiatically and affectionately around their departing lovers. They are like bees pouring out of their hollow rock into the meadows and in clusters flying to the sping-time flowers. This is very much in the spirit of what the Exsultet  bees do cum canitiem pruinosa hiberna posuerint, et glaciale senium verni temporis moderata [= moderatio?] deterserint ...

But, when it comes to it, I doubt whether the Author of the Exsultet was very much concerned with the views on Reincarnation of an Augustan Roman; or the naughty tongue-in-the-cheek slapstick of a Ptolemaic Alexandrian. My instinct about those Christian centuries is that writers might make their own use of any thaumata, wonders, that suited their book(s). A sound instinct!

O vere beata et mirabilis apis!

29 March 2024

EXSULTET: some notes (1)

piaculi ... pio cruore is nice little Latin pun which won't go into English (?).

patres nostros filios Israel educens de aegypto. I am glad that patres nostros (ICEL: 'our forebears, Israel's children') survived; it is very important to remember and to emphasise the identity between the 'Fathers' who escaped through the Red Sea; and ourselves. 'Our Religion' is not some sort of successor to Judaism; we are the authentic people of God, the old promises now having been fufilled. That is why the Canon of the Mass so confidently refers to Abraham as 'our  Patriarch'.

Later in the Exsultet, the authentic text blesses warmly the Night which 'despoiled' the Egyptians, but enriched the Hebrews'. That, again, is a reference to us; and it is a shame (anti-semitic?) that the post-Conciliar 'reformers' eliminated it.

Haec nox est ... The Exsultet treats the Night as if it were a person ('hypostasisation'?). This is particularly striking when the words proclaim that this Blessed Night is the only one (sola) which meruit scire tempus et horam of the Resurrection (ICEL: 'worthy alone to know'). Hypostasisation ... what parallels are there; how far back does the usage go? The parallel which sticks in my mind is the beginning of Job chapter 3, where the Night of Job's Birth is hypostasised so that it can be roundly cursed! It occurs to me that this literary trope should not be ticked off as ... a literary trope, but viewed as an example of the realism with which we embrace the gifts of the God who has created Day and Night; the seasons ...

O felix culpa ... I recollect that, some time ago, the C of E produced a silly little book called Lent Holy Week and Easter, which omitted this passage. It also encouraged the antisemitic nonsense of not lighting the Paschal Candle until after the Prophecies ... as if the centuries of the 'Old Covenant' were just a deplorable period of unrelieved Darkness. (ICEL: 'O happy fault, that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer'. Knox [vide infra]: 'O blessed Iniquity'.)

curvat imperia ... I love this bit. Imperium means the power of a lawful Magistrate to command with the right to be obeyed. It was a concept taken very seriously both during the Republic and during the Principate/Empire. In these words of the Exsultet, subversion reaches its boldest pitch. (ICEL: 'brings down the mighty').

curvat means 'to force to bow down'; 'to bend over'. Knox rendered it "boweth down mighty princes". Knox's translation, incidentally, was used at the Church of England's most Tridentine seminary, St Stephen's House, and now has its proper place in the Ordinariate Missal.

On Saturday, I plan the second half of these Notes, when I hope to write a few words about the Missing Beasties: the Bees, which make only the most fugitive appearances in modern versions of the Exsultet.

28 March 2024

Humble Access

"We do not presume to come to this thy table (o mercifull lord) trusting in our owne righteousnes, but in thy manifold and great mercies: we be not woorthie so much as to gather up the cromes under thy table: but thou art the same lorde whose propertie is alwayes to haue mercie: Graunt us therefore (gracious lorde) so to eate the fleshe of thy dere sonne Jesus Christ, and to drynke his bloud in these holy Misteries, that we may continuallye dwell in hym, and he in us, that our synfull bodyes may bee made cleane by his body, and our soules washed through hys most precious bloud. Amen."

Since the Holy See has approved the Ordinariate Missal, approval has automatically thus been given to a Eucharistic Theologoumenon which is distinctively Anglican. The use of the above Prayer is mandatory in the Ordinariate Missal.

Just before its end, the Anglican Prayer has, since 1552, concluded by asking "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may ever more dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

This association of the Lord's Body with the needs of our bodies, and of his Blood with the needs of our souls, is a medieval idea going back to an unknown writer whose works were mixed up with those of S Ambrose, so that he is for convenience known as Ambrosiaster. S Thomas Aquinas, who in the Summa (III, lxxiv, 1) teaches this distinction (as had that enthusiastic Carolingian upholder of the Real Presence, S Paschasius Radbertus), quotes it as from S Ambrose; and I think it is clearly what the Angelic Doctor had in mind when he wrote the third stanza of his Verbum supernum prodiens; I give a literal translation: To whom [i.e. the disciples] He gave flesh and blood under twofold appearance that He might feed the whole Man of double substance. That is to say, He gave himself in the two species so that He might feed the entirety of Man who is composed, doubly, of both body and soul.

In his first (1548) liturgical experiment in the Eucharistic Liturgy, Cranmer carried this Thomistic distinction even into the formulae at the administration of Holy Communion: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ .... preserve thy body ... and The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ ... preserve thy soul .... 

Successive generations of Anglican liturgists have been nervous about this Thomist, non-Biblical distinction between the effect of the Body upon our bodies and of the Blood upon our souls; Dix cattily remarked "there is no particular reason why people should be made to pray medieval speculations in a Reformed church". The Puritans asked for its removal, and it has been eliminated from most modern Anglican rites. 

But in the Ordnariate we faithfully preserve this highly distinctive piece of Patrimony!

An erudite correspondent once told me that Garrigou Lagrange argued for the Blood being more efficacious than the Body, because the reception of the Body ipso facto remitted all venial sins repented of, thus leaving the soul the more cleansed and ready to profit from the Chalice (medieval monarchs at their coronations were given the Chalice "ad augmentum gratiae").  

Lagrange also held that a desire thus to profit was a sufficient motive for desiring the Holy Order of priesthood!

27 March 2024

"So what does it SYMBOLISE?"

I sometimes think that this is a profoundly UnCatholic question to ask. 

Of course, as concerns the Consecrated Eucharistic Elements, the prods both inside and outside the Church will give this answer: "They symbolise Christ's Body and Blood". It may then become our duty to embark upon the laborious task of explaining yet again that the Elements ARE the Lord's Body and Blood.

But I fear that the malaise may go even deeper. My view is that the natural and the supernatural interrelate, interpenetrate, in the Liturgy, and especially during these days of the Paschal Mysteries.

Let me begin with the Oil of Chrism.

S Cyril of Jerusalem taught his catechumens that, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, just as is the case with the the Loaf of the Eucharist becoming the Body of Christ, so (houto) this holy muron is not 'bare' (psilon)--or as someone might say 'common' (koinon)--oil, but the kharisma of Christ and, by the presence (parousiai) of the Holy Spirit is become 'causal' (energetikon) of his  Godhead. "And the body is anointed with the visible muron, while the soul is made holy by the holy and unseen Spirit."

Here comes the first of today's two funny bits.

When the 'reformers of the 1960s incorporated this passage in the Liturgy of the Hours, they chickened ... the wimps chopped out the strong parallelism between the Consecration of the Eucharistic Loaf, and the Consecration of the myrrh.

But, hey ... 

In the Traditional Paschal rites of the Roman Church, the Pontiff begs the LORD, the Holy Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, that he might deign to sanctify the richness of this creature with his blessing and to mix into it the virtus of the Holy Spirit through the power of his Christ.

Immiscere is a natural, functional term such you might find in any recipe book, such as the much-fingered 1960s volumes on our kitchen shelf.

This is what, at the Chrism Mass, our Bishop asked God to make an ingredient in the Oil of Chrism. I do not think that we are here a million miles from the instincts of S Cyril. 

And here's another thing the Bishop did. He breathed (three times) on to oil as he consecrated it.

This clearly symbolised ... er, No; it didn't "symbolise" anything.  

As Dix used to explain, the Bishop is "the mediatorial, sacrificing priest ... the unique organ of the Holy Spirit who indwells the Church ... ex officio a prophet, ex officio a healer and (the highest form of healing) a supremely potent exorcist." [Today's second Funny Bit: Dix's powerful advocacy thus assigned to (Anglican) bishops something most of them neither wanted nor for the most part believed in: the status of Sacrificing Priest and of  'supremely potent' confector of Sacraments. But Dix denied them what they were really ravenously hungry for: the Bergogliological  jurisdiction to ban and to extirpate the hated Tridentine Eucharistic Rite.]

Your Bishop at his Chrism Mass is homo mixtus Deo, the Powerful Organ of the Spirit. As he breathes on the Oil, his breath is the Breath, the Pneuma, of the creating Father (Genesis 1: 1) and of the Incarnate Lord (John 20: 22) who in this rite so empowered his disciples. It is one of the most powerful elements in the mysteries of these three mystery-laden days.

You know how universal the use is of the Oil  of Chrism. At what in the West we call Confirmation, the Bishop uses it with the words Signo te Signo Crucis et confirmo te Chrismate Salutis (and what a tragedy it was that anybody thought to tamper with those words). Ordinations; Coronations; the Blessings of Bells and of Churches ...

The Mystery of the Chrism binds together these three days, and the ancient liturgy rightly speaks of a Sacramentum perfectae salutis vitaeque; it refers to the constitutionis tuae  sacramentum, using the word Sacramentum in a broad and prescholastic sense. 

Incidentally, if we are to believe Prudentius, the Blessing of the Easter Candle, as an instance of a Lucernarium, involved the use of Chrism: Lumen ... tinctum pacifici Chrismatis unguine.

26 March 2024

Good Friday: Holy Communion?

 I think that I ... and perhaps, you ... am so habituated by, and to, modern customs, that we might not always realise that Receiving the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar on Good Friday is neither universal; nor the custom, traditio, of all the ages. And not even 'primitive'.

It may now be the almost universal custom in the modern Roman Rite, even in those places where pre-Conciliar usages are valued, for everybody to do what by custom they do every Sunday: to go 'up' and to receive the Sacrament. But "the first witness of the reception of the Eucharist on the Friday of Holy Week is found in the Ordo Einsiedlensis written in the eighth century but recording the custom of the middle of the preceding century". 

Pope Innocent I (401-417) wrote to the the Bishop of Gubbio that "the Tradition of the Church is very strongly that the sacraments are not celebrated" on this Friday and Saturday. 

Was this an abstinence peculiar to Rome? Etheria (circa 385), in her detailed account of the liturgical use in this Week in Jerusalem, makes no mention of Communion on this day. I rather think that some Byzantines abstain from Communion on this Day ... and what was the Ambrosian traditio before the Council?

And when we do start to hear of lay people receiving Holy Communion on Good Friday, it persists in being an option which people might choose. For example, we read that the Pope and the Deacons do not communicate at the Mass in the Basilica of the Holy Cross ... people who desire to communicate will go to other Roman churches, perhaps one of the titulares, and do so there. Amalarius (circa 830) informs us that "in ea statione ubi Apostolicus salutat crucem, nemo ibi communicat".

It rather looks to me as though we see here new 'customs' gradually, untidily, making their way in ... customs which  the Roman Pontiff himself might not publicly adopt. This rather laisser faire approach seems to have gone on for a very long time; only on 19 February 1632 does the SRC prohibit lay Communion on this day ... a prohibition which was not universally implemented!

You will have gathered that I am not strongly in favour of dragooning everybody up to the Altar on Good Friday.

In the 1930s, an Anglo-Catholic Bishop wrote about the "Eucharistic Fast" on Good Friday as being "perhaps the most moving ceremony of the whole liturgical year. No one who has not experienced it can realise what a climax it makes to the observance of Good Friday, or how near we are brought to the Divine Victim of the Cross. In theory perhaps we ought to wish for the restoration of the general Communion of Good Friday, but in practice the very fact of abstinence from Communion is felt by many to enhance the essential feeling of the day, that the Bridegroom is taken away from us."

Bishop: you were right about 'moving' and 'felt' and 'essential feeling' , but wrong about 'in theory' and 'ought'.


25 March 2024

Good Friday: what colour is suitable for a Dies Amaritudinis?

 (In a few remarks during Holy Week, I draw on information in the Commentary on the 1955 Holy Week by Braga and Bugnini.)

Incidentally, I rather like the old Latin appellation Great Week.

In the Ordinariate Missal, the rubric intimates that the "Priest and Sacred Ministers, wearing Red or Black vestments ...". This permissive use of Black is interesting and tempting. In the 'reformed' rite of 1955, the rule was still the use of Black, long customary in the Roman Rite (exchanged for Violet in the part of the rite which involves the Most Blessed Sacrament). I do not see the point of Red, the modern usage, a colour which is also used at Pentecost and on other occasions. Is there any more sombre and sober marker of this unique Day than the denuded church and the Ministers, in Black, silently making their way to the Sanctuary?

S Ambrose calls this Day a Dies Amaritudinis; that is, of luctus et dolor (bitterness ... sorrow ... anguish). Dictionaries quote Cicero and Quintilian and talk of passionate expression, pathos). It is necessary, I think, for us occasionally to face up to the role (or absence) of psychology in our liturgical deliberations. I do not think that it is entirely healthy to relegate such considerations entirely to those eras of Christian history which in our lordly way we might consider more emotional or affective. Is our religion not designed to apply to every part of our lives and personalities? If I were in a Hispanic area (and healthy enough), I would take the advantage of all those rites and public, communal usages which centre upon baroque images of the Sacred. Call me a peasant if you like ...

And if Amaritudo has no relevance on this particular Day, when will it be relevant?

I suspect that the old Anglo-Catholic practice of devotions to Maria Desolata on the evening of Good Friday (and then to Maria Consolata on Easter Sunday) does have its point.

24 March 2024

Palm Sunday (3)

The admirable Fr Thurston, I have argued, may not have spotted all the exciting possibilities of the Palm Sunday Rites in the Missal of S Pius V. He writes: "It is a regrettable fact that in many of our Catholic churches the oldest and certainly most interesting portion of the ritual of Palm Sunday is too often not carried out". Interesting! Apparently, palms were blessed and distributed, but in 'many' churches there was no Procession! This was also once the 'moderate' Anglican practice, because processions were High Church. The Blessing and Distribution of Sacramentals, apparently, was not!

"The whole essence of the ceremonies peculiar to this day lies in the procession." [Thurston's italic.]

 This fundamental assumption lay, too, at the basis of the Pacelli-Bugnini changes in 1955.

"... we can only admire the piety which leads the faithful to preserve [their palms] thoughout the year ... [but] the boughs were consecrated primarily to be used in the procession ...".

Well ... ... up to a point, Lord Copper. But the next prayer calls these olive branches a 'tuae gratiae sacramentum'. This interesting phraseology must go back to before the word 'sacramentum' had had its meaning limited by the precisions of systematic theology (O'Connell/Finberg nervously translate it 'sacred symbol'). But it was, surely, even then a strong word.

I think we may have here a genuine deepening of understanding resulting in a, frankly, more sophisticated appropriation both of Scripture and of Ritual. The much despised peasant kneeling and kissing her palm cross and carefully preserving it throughout the year may, just possibly, have been onto something which Archbishop Bugnini and Papa Pacelli never quite spotted.

23 March 2024

Palm Sunday (2)

You need to have read Palm Sunday (1).

The Pius V liturgy  for Palm Sunday was accounted for by Fr Thurston in a neat CTS booklet. He was a more elegant writer than I am; and more learned by far. But I think he probably got it wrong.

He explained the S Pius V Palm Sunday in this way:
The preliminary rite for blessing the Palms consists of the remains of what was originally a separate Mass. It includes all of the components of a Mass ... even a Preface ... but not the Consecration and Oblation. What clearly happened originally was that clergy and people attended one Mass at a church outside town; then progressed into town for a second Mass.

I think that, over the years, many of us have come uneasily to feel that, logically, two possibilities are equally probable:
(1) Thurston's: we have here the eviscerated remains of what was originally a full Mass; or
(2) the Blessing and distribution of the Palms was gradually built up by accretion, with the structure of the Mass providing a pattern.

I think the second of these models deserves a run for its money. But I want to look at the 'Preface' (translated below mostly by O'Connell/Finberg):

It is very meet, right ... Lord, Holy Father, Almighty everlasting God: whose glory is in the wisdom of thy Saints. For to thee thy creatures render service, acknowledging thee as their sole origin and their God; and the entire fabric of the universe joins in praising thee; and thy saints bless thee. For they boldly proclaim that great Name of thine only-begotten Son before the kings and powers of this age. Around him stand angels and archangels  ...

I don't actually think this is a superb piece of Latin. I would be surprised if it had been composed by S Leo I or even Leo XIII. But its content is very good dogma. And it is attractively cheerful.

We are blessing branches ... or a branch ... of Olive ... or perhaps of Palm. And we regard the sanctification of these inanimate parts of creation as a sign and foretaste (some 'biblical scholars'might use their fancy grecism 'prolepsis') of the restoration of that creation which fell with and through the primeval Fall (Romans 8:18-24; this is worth reading). These blessed twigs will indeed (see the next prayer) be a 'tuae gratiae sacramentum'.

And so, as the King rides past on his donkey, Creation (omnis factura tua) comes to life (is this a bit Narnian?) and joins in praising him (collaudat). But the Saints are busily blessing too, and speaking with parrhesia before the earthly powers. And ... get this ... not only the Saints but the angels and archangels join the praise.

So it is eschatological: we are teetering here on the edge of the great Restoration at the End when all shall have been put right, even in the trees along the sides of the roads. They are already praising their Maker, and it's not surprising that the Saints get caught up in this cosmic glorification. And ... Yes! ... the heavenly powers, unfallen, seeing this apokatastasis have gathered around the Only-begotten and are singing for all they are worth.

Concludes tomorrow.

22 March 2024

Most Holy Mother of God, Save us.

Going through some old papers, I found something by Timothy Ware, otherwise known as Metropolitan Kallistos of Diocleia (Tablet. 17 January 1998). I offer you a couple of selected extracts ... since today is the Feast of our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. 

"With the greatest frequency in Orthodox worship we say to the Virgin Mary, 'Most Holy Mother of God, save us.' In our invocations to other members of the Communion of Saints, including St John the Baptist, except on very rare occasions we never say more than '... pray for us'. This is not an isolated example. ... 

"Such language is not new. It has been used by Eastern Christians for many centuries, and scarcely ever has it given rise to scandal or controversy. The phrases are thoroughly traditional ... we Orthodox will continue to address Our Lady with the time-honoured invocation, 'Most Holy Mother of God, save us'."

Until the pontificate of Pius XII, the Western Collect on Assumption Day was: Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus , Domine, delictis ignosce: ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus; Genitricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur. Lord, we beg thee to forgive thy servants' offences:and since we are unable to please thee by our own deeds, may we be saved through the intercession of thy Son our Lord.

Thus the Latin Church confessed the understanding which it shared with Byzantines: that our very salvation comes through the prayers offered on our behalf by the Mother of God. Notice the word salvemur.

Papa Pacelli sent out his minions and they destroyed the old Propers for August 15. 

21 March 2024

Num Spectat Clio?

 Some politician has pronounced that "History is Watching".

What does this mean?

Palm Sunday (1)

I am going to reuse three pieces about Palm Sunday which I wrote some years ago. My reason is that they offer a radical alternative to the narrative we normally accept about the meaning of Palm Sunday.

I think I will leave in place the old threads.

 The liturgies for Palm Sunday which are in use, de jure or de facto,  in the 'Roman Rite' of the Latin Church are:
(1) S Pius V
(2) Pius XII (1955)
(3) The Novus Ordo.

I am not going to say much about (3). I am going to explain why, in my opinion, (2) is as bad as, if not worse than, (3), and I will explain what was lost when (1) was displaced by (2).

A spin-off from this is: we need to understand that 'the Council' is not the problem; Hannibal Bugnini was put in place by Pius XII, and the mayhem which the pair of them created in 1955 was just the first stage of the deformation of the Roman Rite which some good people erroneously attribute to 'Vatican II'. Pius XII should not be thought of as a Hero of Tradition.

My own personal view is that I would not inconvenience myself in order to attend (2), which is what you will find in the Missal of 1962, mandated by Summorum Pontificum. If you can be happy with Bugnini, you might as well go to a decently performed staging of (3) ... the sort of thing which the Oratories manage so superbly. (Indeed, there are one or two details, such as a fuller provision of Readings at the Easter Vigil, where (3) is more traditional than (2).)

The Priestly Fraternity of S Peter have had an indult to use (1). I regard that as a very positive move. I hope it is made permanent and universal. In one or two other places which I think I will tactfully not mention, (1) is happily in use. It was the rite originally employed when the SSPX began its mission in this country.

To be continued.

20 March 2024


 Not long ago, in the Breviary Reading, we had this from S Ambrose: "And if your sin be so grievous that you cannot wash it away yourself with penitential tears, then let Holy Mother Church weep for you, for she intervenes [intervenit] for each one as a widowed mother for her only sons".

The verb, of course, is a compound of venire, to come, and inter, between.

We shall leave aside the apparent implication that a widowed mother might have a plurality of Only Sons. I want to dwell upon the the use of intervenire both as a verb, and in the form of nouns drawn from it.

Perhaps the incessant cry of our wonderful Western litanies resonates in our minds ... Ora pro nobis. And we are so familiar with the words in the Holy Rosary Ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae that the verb orare, to pray, comes naturally to us when we are thinking of the Saints and their Ministry of prayer for us.

But, a little while ago, browsing idly as one does through some first-millennium liturgical texts from around this part of the Land of the West Saxons, celebrating its great 'Apostle' S Birinus, I came across a Proper Preface asking God that he eum pro nobis apud te iugiter intervenire concedas. And a Benediction (one of those old-style triple benedictions imparted by a Bishop before the Pax) from a different liturgical book asks that, as S Birinus through his praedicationem [preaching] saved  innumeri, so now he might 'save' us through interventionem.

So I did what any sensible person would do: I consulted Sr Dr Ellebracht. She never lets one down.

She explains that intervenire in legal terminology 'has basically the same sense as intercedere , but "it includes the of ' the assumption of another's obligation"'. And it is far less frequent, in the Prayers of the Roman Missal, than intercedere.

Then comes a really interesting bit in Ellebracht's information.

Intervenire appears much more frequently in the Veronense, what we used to call 'the Leonine Sacramentary', and Ellerbacht remarks that, really, intercedere is theologically the more accurate word, "since the role of the saints is to plead in behalf of the faithful on earth, but not to intervene in the strict sense of the word".

The Veronense is a very strange old document: I think it is still unknown who collected its contents and why. It is a sort of ragbag ... everything in it is of interest, but we are a bit stymied about how to place it all. However, it is clear that we here are in the rich, fertile soil of the First Millennium. 

And I think that intervenire has much more of a sense of an almost legalistic intervention, as if the interventor has a more formal role of acting on our behalf than even Messrs Wigge and Gowne in the High Street. We would be very glad, in Ellebracht's words, if our selected interventor were, indeed, to "intervene in the strict sese of the word". 

Stricter the better!

Interventor has bigger clout than Intercessor. Does that work?



19 March 2024

Improper liaisons inside the House

Attentive readers of Scripture will have noticed that the Ioseph typikos, of whom our blessed Lady's chaste Spouse is the Antitypos, is described (Genesis 39) in the Vulgate (and the Neo-Vulgate) and the Septuagint  as having been sold as a slave to Potiphar, 'Eunuch' of Pharaoh. Indeed, Brown Driver Briggs gives "Eunuch" as the central meaning of the Hebrew SRIS. 

Eunuchs were very often Great Men in ancient kingdoms because a sovereign could be moderately confident that they would not spend their time and ingenuity squirreling away state resources for their own offspring. Since, therefore, great officers of state were often eunuchs, it will often yield apparently good sense to translate SRIS as "Officer" or "Courtier" or (Tyndale) "Lorde". 

And, of course, that rendering will prevent naive people from blurting out "But how can a eunuch have a wife?" Nor will puzzled children ask what a Yew Nuck is and, when told, get out their pen-knives and start experimenting on the household pets.

And, indeed, all the proliferating English Protestant Bibles which derive from the King James Bible do  translate this word as something like Officer. But, surprisingly, so do the Catholic Knox and Jerusalem Bibles (and, even more oddly, they do so with never even an explicatory footnote). Only the Geneva Bible and the Douay-Rheims-Challoner Bible courageously give "eunuch". (John Wycliffe, sometime Master of Balliol College in this University, rendered it "gelding"! Nice one, Master!)

Now: observe, in the Genesis narrative, the emphasis given by the writer to Joseph's sexual attractions. He was (LXX) Kalos toi eidei kai horaios tei opsei ... sphodra (exceedingly)! And this heavy hint introduces the narrative of Potiphar's wife's attempt upon Joseph's virtue. 

Translating the term accurately as "Eunuch" gives, um, piquancy to Potiphar's wife's rather urgent desire for sexual intimacy (some have suggested that her name was Zuleika!) And the writer emphasises that there was nobody else in the oikiai when she made her attempt. He also sees a narrative need to explain that Joseph was not dillying or dallying, with no reason, within the oikia ... No; he had had to go inside to poiein ta erga autou. Dutiful; as well as chaste!

Joseph is not another Paris; although perhaps Potiphar's wife is another Helen (vide my previous post in which I drag in Homer).

I venture to suggest that the Spouse of God's Mother has through Providence the name Joseph precisely because of his chaste abstinence within his marriage to Mary. This would make the emphasis on his name, in both Matthew and Luke, a "historical" witness to the Perpetual Virginity of our Lady.

B Pius IX felt that the afflicted Church needed a Patron/Protector, and gave S Joseph a Sunday in Eastertide (according to Gueranger, the commemoration had to be on a Sunday to ensure that Joseph did get a Day of Obligation). A Pontiff or two later, when it had become unpopular to encumber the same Sunday permanently with some other celebration, S Pius X shifted him onto an adjacent Wednesday. Pius XII, another restless liturgical innovator, suppressed that festival, replacing it with S Joseph Opifex on May 1. The post-conciliar revisers (according to Fr Louis Bouyer, "three maniacs"), noticing that nobody much seemed to want S Joseph the Workman, chopped him down to an Optional Memorial.

I disagree with you: this story is not funny. It has had the effect of sending Pip and Jim on their travels.

The bodies of Ss Philip and James are buried in the Basilica of the XII Apostles, dedicated on May 1 in some year near 570. Pius XII exiled them to May 11; the post-conciliar 'reformers' reduced their sentence of relegation to three days and left them on May 3.

Reckless libertarian that I am, I plan to be getting out Red Vestments on May 1. 

The celebration of S Joseph on March 19, found in many Western calendars in the first millennium, was received at Rome in 1479 but did not enter the universal Roman calendar until 1621 ... yet another witness to Rome's innate conservatism ... before the twentieth century ...

The Masses and Offices provided for  S Joseph are very decently typological; shedding a great deal of light upon the role of S Joseph in a rounded, intelligent Heilsgeschichte.

18 March 2024

Visiting women in their houses

In the Iliad, the epic account of the Wrath of Achilles during the Trojan War, there is a thought-provoking vignette juxtaposing Hector and Andromache, and Paris and Helen. The latter pair are corrupt adulterers whose passion has precipitated the War. We must remember that, in Classical Literature, sexual passion is regarded as a wound or madness which leads to disaster; the Romantic superstition that sexual incontinence is "love" and that it justifies any and every wrong deed, had not yet been invented.

Hector his brother, on the other hand, is a brave man who fights for his country; and Andromache is a faithful and devoted wife and mother.

Paris was defeated in a single duel with Helen's lawful husband, Menelaus, but rescued from death by - needless to say - his divine patroness Aphrodite, louche goddess of sexual passion. She miraculously transfers him to his fragrant bedchamber and then scoops up Helen to join him in bed. Meanwhile, the slaughter continues.

In Book 6, we find Hector deciding to urge Paris back to the battlefield. He approaches Paris's house, which consists of thalamos, doma, and aule, defined respectively by the Scholiast [ancient commentator] as bridal chamber, men's quarters,and 'outside'. Still fully equipped in his armour, Hector enters (eiselthe) ... but how far does he go inside?

He finds Paris in the thalamos with Helen and the handmaids, to whom she is assigning their tasks. Paris is sitting there stroking his superb display armour (I was tempted to translate: fiddling with his tackle). To his brother's remonstrances, Paris replies that he had been feeling rather depressed, but that Helen had been wheedling him malakois epeesin to return to the battle. The Scholiast helpfully reminds us here that Paris is gunaimanes, 'womancrazed'.

Helen now adresses her brother-in-law Hector. She apologises for being an abominable bitch who would have been better not to have been born, and adds some derogatory remarks about her husband ... and starts trying to persuade Hector to 'come in' and sit beside her on this nice little chair.

But is Hector not already 'in'? I think not; and the Scholiast agrees with me. He explains that Hector had so far only entered 'in' as far as the aule. In other words, he had been standing on the threshold of the thalamos. Now she desires him to go in and sit down.

What we need to know here is that in pre-modern societies there were rigid and prescriptive assumptions about where each sex did go and did not go. Except when retitring at night, you would not normally expect a man to spend daylight hours in the thalamos with his wife and the womenfolk. 

That Paris was doing so reflects enormous discredit upon him. And now Helen is inviting Hector to join in this discreditable behaviour.

Tomorrow, I plan to move on to Joseph and Potiphar's wife. And to the proprieties of their situation.


17 March 2024

Imbolc; S Patrik; and S Bridgit (2)

 But ... one moment ... did I inform you that all the old chapels in Killarney Cathedral had been obliterated? That's not quite right: the Kenmare chapel still survives. And in it is anothe brass which the erudite and affable Fr Bertram, indefatigable antiquarian, might have wished to record. 

It shows a gentleman in the robes and wearing the coronet of an earl.

When the military situation in Brtitain still hung in the balance in 1689, our late Sovereign liege Lord, King James II, was still in Ireland, and holding a Parliament in Dublin. On 20 May, by Letters over the Great Seal of Ireland he created the Head of the Browne Family to be Viscount Kenmare and Baron Castlerosse. After the disaster of Williamite success in Ireland, nobody quite knew what to do about this. The unuttered compromise was ... just to ignore it. At the end of the century, the same titles were granted in the name of the Georgite regime to the de iure Jacobite Viscount; and they were granted again shortly afterwards with an earldom tacked on when, because of the 'Union', peerages of the 'Yewkay' became more politically useful than mere Irish peerages. 

These particular Georgite de facto creations, I think, became 'extinct' in the 1950s. (Conceivably, the old de iure creations of 1689 might not have suffered the same fate. Does anybody know?) There are in existence some very 'Thirties' paintings by dear Sir John Lavery of Lady Castlerosse by the bathing pool at the head of the Lake. 

And, in the 'former' Kenmare chapel of the Cathedral, is this very fime Brass of the then Earl ... perhaps looking rather pleased with himself for having got his rather unique and special de jure peerage Hannoverified; Georgificated. There are also some good tiles with the motto of the Family: LOYAL EN TOUT. I wonder how far back this motto goes ... and to which 'royal' family it proclaims its rather absolute loyalty.

In the Killarney Brass, two scrolls emerge from his Lordship's mouth, One reads: Sancte Patrici ora pro me. The other: Sancta Bridgida ora pro me.

Going back to the Moriarty brass ... in the canopy-work above Bishop Moriarty are representations of these same two Irish Saints.

May they pray for us all.  

And may we always be mindful of that great Christian craftsman and architect A W Pugin, of whom Bishop Moriarty, at the Consecration of the Cathedral, said "I was delighted that the great architect who designed the work was present on that occasion in the person of his own child--Mr Edward Pugin--who was not only the son of his affections but the child of his genius. Where is the Catholic mind that does not remember the mighty spirit of the departed, who has left the impress of his vast mind on the length and breadth of Great Britain and Ireland--who performed the work of centuries, in restoring the taste for ancient architecture, surrounding the temples of God with those forms of beauty which are so instinct with holy suggestions and thoughts." 

Young Edward Pugin himself remarked that ,"even when a child, he remembered hearing his father say that of all the churches which he had designed the Killarney Cathedral was the nearest to his heart, for he had endeavoured to make it a splendid temple to Almighty God". With a characteristic nod to the realities of the the Tourist Trade, he referred to "the vast numbers who flock to gaze on its unrivalled scenery, which, as it were, called, with a voice, half-divine, for the erection of a temple of worship suited to the beauty and majesty with which the God of Heaven had clothed every hill and valley of that earthly paradise."

The inhabitants of the Iveragh like that sort of thing: the Tralee Chronicle records "loud cheers"! In August 1861, Queen Victoria, her family and their entourage, were to pay a spectacular State Visit to Killarney, Lord Castlerosse being their host, but it is not not recorded that the Visit included Mr Pugin's masterpiece. I doubt it!


However, 2024 is, I think, the second year in which the name ... even, the identity, of S Brigid ... has been disrespectfully glossed over. The Irish State ... whatever would Mr Devalera have said, or General Michael Collins, each of them devout men ... has appointed the First Monday of February as a Bank Holiday in honour of ... is it S Brigid or Imbolc or a conflation of both?

My unhappy fear is that this is yet another lamentable expression of the Secularisation, the deChristianistion, of the Irish National State When I first began our visits to that Island, I rejoiced to be setting foot on a part of the British Archipelago where Divorce, Abortion, and all the other horrrs, had no place.