29 February 2024

Deus misereatur again

 Dr R F Littledale, the continuator of John Mason Neale's four-volume commentary on the (Coverdale) psalter, had a bit of a temptation to want to educate the (Anglican) clergy. So, in this psalm, he likes the idea that in verse 6 (where the correct and LXX/Vulgate reading is The earth hath brought forth her fruit), earth refers to our most blessed Lady; and he quotes (Octoechus) anerotos aroura horathes, ton stachun tekousa tes zoes. anerotos aroura ... gracious me, how those Byzantines did love that sort of thing ... as Peter Wimsey admitted with regard to himself, they were drunk on words; never really quite sober.

In the old Breviaries, Deus misereatur was umbilically joined to psalm 62/63; the latter preceded Deus misereatur  and they shared one Gloria, one antiphon. This seems to me fitting: upon waking I recall my afflictions, my thirst ... but the combined psalm ends with the song of glory and divine blessing, which is Deus misereatur. 

Older commentators sometimes related this psalm to the combination in one chosen race of 'believing gentiles' and 'the repentant people of the Jews'.

And in 62/63, I can offer you another example of Dr Littledale's didactic endeavours: in verse 9, he quotes the hymn Salutatio aurea, and relates the words of the psalm to devotion to the Lord's Five Precious Wounds: Ave dextra manus Christi/ Perforata plaga tristi,/ Nos ad dextram iube sisti,/ Quos per crucem redemisti.

Sometimes people want to know what this "Anglican Patrimony" is. Perhaps I might define it as a passion for making arcane connections between disparate texts. Farrer ... Thornton ... Littledale ... Neale ... 

I wonder how our Holy Father would have got on with Gregory Dix ...

28 February 2024

Prayer Book Piety (1)

 " ... going to church was a pleasure to her. She liked to hear the Lessons and the Collects, coming round year after year, and marking the seasons. The historical books and prophets in summer; then the 'stir-up' collect just before Advent; the beautiful collects in Advent itself, with the Lessons from Isaiah reaching on through the Epiphany; they were quite music to her ear. Then the Psalms, varying with every Sunday; they were a perpetual solace to her, ever old yet ever new. The occasional additions, too, the Athanasian Creed, the Benedictus, Deus misereatur, and Omnia opera, which her father had been used to read at certain great feasts; and the beautiful Litany ..."

Such is S John Henry Newman's account of the piety of a devout Anglican lay-woman in an ordinary parochial context ... we notice, of course, the absence of a Eucharistic element. I am a little puzzled that, apparently, the Benedictus was an 'addition' ... was it customarily replaced by the Jubilate? Does 'which' refer to the [Benedicite] Omnia Opera, or to all the items on the preceding list?

Intriguingly, Saint John Henry makes reference to the Deus misereatur, psalm 66 (LXX and Vulgate)/67 (Masoretic text). This optional alternative to the Nunc Dimittis was added in the Book of 1552. But there is something here of which not everybody may be aware.

This psalm had been a daily part of the Roman Catholic Morning Office, of Breviary Lauds, until the revisions imposed by S Pius X. What this means is that, from the day S John Henry and Henry Manning and Frederick Faber and all the rest of the nineteenth century clergy, started saying the Breviary Office, Lauds, for them, began with Deus misereatur

And, according to Durandus, the practice was of immemorial antiquity. 

Yes; custom ... stuff ... come and go; rupture or no rupture, the Psalter of S Pius X is what we use now ... but the (much more than) half a millennium during which Lauds began with Deus misereatur seems to me a long time. And the generations of clergy nourished by this practice must amount to rather a vast number of clergy ... century by century. 

It is not undeserving, surely, of respect and even of regret. Or am I just soppy?

And it is a diverting whimsy of History that, in the Church of England, it is legal to use Deus misereatur daily, ever since 1552 when that horrible zwinglian Cranmer tweaked his Evensong ...

A bit more on this psalm to follow.

27 February 2024

Fr Adrian Fortescue again

 " ... even in religious matters the Pope is bound, very considerably, by the Divine constitution of the Church. There are any number of things that the Pope cannot do in religion. He cannot modify, nor touch in any way, one single point of the revelation Christ gave to the Church; his business is only to guard this against attack and false interpretation. We believe that God will so guide him that his decisions of this nature will be nothing more than a defence or unfolding of what Christ revealed. The Pope can neither make nor unmake asacrament, he cannot affect the essence of a sacrament in any way. He cannot touch the Bible; he can neither take away a text from inspired Scriptures nor add to them. He has no fresh inspiration nor revelation. His business is to believe the revelation of Christ, as all Catholics believe it, and to defend it against heresy."

26 February 2024

Thou shalt not pray for the pope ... nor for the Bishops ...

Is today, February 26, the Feast of an Apostle?  No; S Matthias was on the 24th. BUT this is a leap year ... so the Apostle should be observed on the correct number of days before the Kalends of February. BUT more: that would get him onto a Sunday in Lent, which would be very wicked indeed. So he gets transferred onto Monday the 26th of February.

I love these Feasts of the Apostles. But, on these days, I am nowadays sometimes slightly saddened by the recollection that, since 1970, most of my fellow presbyters of the Roman Rite have been forbidden ... YES!! ... FORBIDDEN ... to pray for the pope or for the hierarchy in the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer. 

Before that year, the Praefatio of the Mass for Apostles begged God to grant that he would not desert his flock but would guard it through his blessed Apostles with continual protection; that she might be governed by those same helmsmen whom the Father had appointed as vicarious shepherds of his Work.  

('continual': one old manuscript entertainingly reads pervigili; God, literally, was asked not to nod off to sleep. You might justly fear that mixed metaphors of Shepherds and Helmsmen might have been confusing to some people ... but such minor details had long-since been smoothed away.)

However, in the post-conciliar disorders, this petition was struck out. It is no longer lawful in the Preface for a Novus Ordo priest to beg (suppliciter exorare) the Father for anything at all.

I find myself wondering: if this salutary petition had been retained and kept in the Preface, might the Church have been spared the terrible decades since the Council? Instead, there is not a single word of deprecation in the new Preface.

Another detail which is not without significance: in the formula which has replaced the old Preface, instead of the reference to "Vicars of your work", the unfortunate clergy concerned have been saddled with "Vicars of your Son", which I take to be an allusion to the phrase "Vicar of Christ", commonly applied to the Roman Pontiff.

And I think that phrase smells of Canon Law. Or am I being over-sensitive?

Do remember to thank God for Summorum Pontificum.

25 February 2024

Fiducia Supplicans

 I think a  change has been made in the way documents of the Dicastery for the Doctine of the Faith are presented. And not a change for the better.

In the old days, these documents concluded with a statement that the Roman Pontiff had agreed the document, and ordered it to be be published. But, in the case of Fiducia Supplicans, this is replaced by the words Responsum ad 'dubium'de benedictione unionem personarum eiusdem sexus, et Nota esplicativa. Ex Audientia Die 18 Dicembre 2023 FRANCESCO.

The Cardinal Prefect, in a text he has added to the top of the document, refers to the pope thus: "he approved it with his signature".

Although published in a rich variety of languages, this document has not appeared in Latin. Moreover, there is not (as there sometimes is) an indication of the original language of the text. But one can surmise that it was composed by someone whose Latin had not reached even an elementary stage. (I have highlighted in red two errors in the one sentence ... and should Die be Diei?.)

Cardinal Mueller has pointed out that this document encourages the clergy to commit "a sacrilegious and blasphemous act against the Creator's plan and against Christ's death for us which meant to fulfill the Creator's plan".   

I would disagree with this only to the extent of critcising additionally the employment by the one-time Suprema of illiterates.

24 February 2024

The Fifteenth Mystery of the Holy Rosary

No ... this is not yet another article advising folk to say the Rosary differently. It is not even a commendation of Different Mysteries which I will urge people to adopt ... since the Rosary, as the Lay Person's Psalter, should have 150 Aves ... no more; no less ...to represent the 150 psalms of the psalter. (So I was a little disquieted when S John Paul II added some more.)

No; I wish simply to suggest a fresh tiny shade of meaning to the final Mystery: the Coronation of our Blessed Lady.

I have no complaints about the thirteenth-century iconography, which so often shows the Mother of God sitting beside her Divine Son, who is placing a a Crown upon her head. But I am mindful of a phrase in the old Western Secret in the Vigil Mass of the Assumption, which claims to give a concise and precise account of why Mary was Assumed. Idcirco, it explains to God, you transferred her from the present Age so that she may pray faithfully to intercede for our sins: de praesenti saeculo transtulist, ut pro peccatis nostris apud te fiducialiter intercedat. Idcirco means "for this very reason".

And my heart does rather warm when I find East and West concurring in the same sentiments. So, when I read some words of S Gregory Palamas, Doctor eximius Marianus, my heart uttered a pious Heureka!!

Kanteuthen kai nun dia thanatou pros athanasian khoresasa, kai dikaios apo ges eis ouranon metastasa ... tais akoimetois pros auton presbeiais touton pros pantas hileoumene ... 

Palamas referred to our Lady as the Boundary (methorion) of created and uncreated nature, so that nobody could come to God except through her ... she is the Treasury (tamieion) and President (Prytanis) of the Wealth of the Godhead. ... Thou didst become the Steward and Full Encompassment of Graces ...

23 February 2024

Today, I filch ...

 ... some very important information from Michael Hodges's magnificent recently published The Golden Legend. It relates to the Norfolk Saint Walstane, born of local royal stock. He died in 1016, and was buried at Bawburgh. Miracles led to him becoming a ...Saint 'by acclamation',

John Bale, an unfriendly 'reformer', wrote:

 " ... both Men and Beastes which had lost their Privy Parts had new Members again restored to them, by this Walstane. Mark thys kynd of Myracles. For your Learnynge, I thynke Ye have seldome redde the lyke."

 Mr Hodges lists some ten surviving paintings of  S Walstane in Norfolk churches; his feast day, apparently, was (is?) on May 31.

He is usually shown with a scythe and with cattle.

22 February 2024

Saint David ... ??

 It's a little while until March 1, so I'm sneaking in with a query seeking information in good time ... it concerns the liturgical observance ... or not ... of S David, in accordance with the hints to be gleaned from Tradition and past praxis

I begin with the Victorian period and its evidence.

I have an 1874 Breviary. It contains a single appendix for 'Anglia'. This appears to treat Wales as part of England. It does have S David on March 1, but not with any particular dignity. He is a plain "Double". The assumption must be that in every part of England and Wales he was observed, and with that rank.

9 November 1943: the SRC granted a Calendar to the English Diocese of Nottingham. It has nothing indicated for 1 March. 

In 1949, Burns Oates Washbourne published a bilingual hand-missal with copious information about British local Calendars. On 1 March, S David was observed as a "double" in: Westminster, Cardiff, Menevia, and Portsmouth. I can imagine historical reasons for the Westminster observance; I think Cardiff and Menevia at that time constituted the whole of Wales; but why on earth is Portsmouth the only other 'English' diocese to observe S David? Is it because he visited Paulinus on the Isle of Wight (Vecta insula) and eiusdem hortatu vicinis populis praedicare coepit?

A 1958 Brentwood Calendar, for 1 March, simply says "Ember Day. Mass of feria." And the Anglo-Papalist English Missal of 1958 gives congruent information.

A friendly priest researching an associated topic writes: "I found a set of old Clifton breviaries ... I discovered that in 1962 SS David and Patrick were not in Clifton's calendar at all."

Joining up the dots indicates whither this is all leading. Does anybody have other fact-based information? 

I wonder if one could discern in this jumble of facts evidence for a paper on Liturgical Evidence for Notions of Nationhood?

21 February 2024

Dons, Murder, and Rape

A day or two ago, as one does, I happened to catch the end of an interview on the Steam Radio; it involved two dons ... one, an Anglo-Saxon specialist; the other (to judge from the small fragments I heard of her input) a pro-Viking enthusiast. Is there some new exhibition somewhere highlighting the Vikings? Anyway, I may have got this wrong, but I think she was asked what the Vikings had done for us. Her reply was to the effect that every placename ending in -by is part of what the Vikings did for us.

Well, different people can see things differently ... and I come from a part of England with Viking placenames. Each such toponym suggests to me the expropriation of land and property, and the merciless slaughter of men, women and children; theft and rape and pillage; the destruction of much that I hold sacred.

But, for the interviewee, the Vikings are History and 'Heritage' and Exhibitions.

I possess a small relic of S Theodore, Martyr, Abbot of Croyland (alias Crowland).

Croyland is ... or, until the days of Tudor Minor, was ... a large Abbey in a disart; that is, in inaccessible lands remote from humankind. It founder is considered to be S Guthlac, but this morning I take you back to 870. An army of devout and principled believers in Odin is, by the Permissive Will of God, approaching Croyland. So, "putting on their sacred vestments, the abbat and all the others assembled in the choir, and there performed the regular hours of the holy office; after which, commencing it, they went through the whole of the Psalter of David. The lord abbat himself then celebrated high mass, being assisted therein by brother Elfget, the deacon; brother Salvin, the subdeacon; and the brothers Egelred and Wulric, youths who acted as taper-bearers.

"The mass being now finished, just as the abbat and his assistants before-named had partaken of the mystery of the holy communion, the Pagans bursting into the church, the venerable abbat was slain upon the holy altar, as a true martyr and sacrifice of Christ, by the hand of the most blood-thirsty king Osketul. His assistants, standing around him, were all beheaded by the barbarians ...."

Visitors and pilgrims can still see the skull of that Holy Abbot. He died, I suspect, without a thought for 'History' or 'Heritage' or magnificent Exhibitions or the career prospects of dons. His death, probably, has some connection with the deep sword wound by his left eye-socket.

Chroniclers tell us that on March 22, Bardney in Lincolnshire observed the Festival of the Many Holy Monks and Nuns martyred during the Danish Persecution. Not unfittingly; apparently King Osketul also managed to slaughter the monks of Peterborough and the nuns of Ely and many others of my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ with whom I am most solemnly linked in my crucified Saviour and whose gracious suffrage I implore.


20 February 2024

Part (2) of the Bishop of Lamus.

In the first half of this piece, I demonstrated the shifty treatment which an old prayer received at the hands of the liturgists of 1943. I also wished to suggest to you that, whereas the seventh century original was about the Church of Rome and its protection by its august Apostolic Patrons, in 1943 the spotlight falls on the lonelier, soltary figure of the Bishop of Rome ... whom we rather hope will continually protect the Roman Church.

I can best illustate this by a quotation or two from the sam ancient source. 

In an adjacent Preface, we learn that, however many heretics there are around (errantium multitudo), the true Sons of the Father's Redemption are those who do not make a different noise from from the principalis Traditio; who follow quidquid sedes illa censuerit quam tenere voluisti totius ecclesiae principatum.

The "Principal Tradition". The "See which by God's will holds the principatus of the whole, world-wide, Church".

As I read this, I feel almost as if I am back in the first or second century. You will remember the Latin version of S Irenaeus: "ad hanc Ecclesiam propter potentiorem principalitatem ... in qua semper ... conservata est ea quae est ab Apostolis Traditio". S Cyprian called Rome the "Ecclesia principalis, unde unitas saccerdotalis exorta est." As Dix pointed out, everybody knew that Jerusalem was the first Church chronologically, and then there was Antioch; early writers cannot be staking a claim that Rome came first chronologically. I suspect that Greek concepts are at work here: the authenticity of Roman Tradition means that, like a stream emerging from a hill-side, Rome is at the pure source. S Irenaeus is certainly making that point when he calls the Roman Church arkhaiotate. Classicists will remember the poetics of Callimachus and his school. 

A couple of generations ago, scholars on the continent (Callewart, Chapelle ...) and even in England (Cross in Oxford) did a fair bit of work, identifying on stylistic grounds liturgical compositions by various Roman Pontiffs, going back to S Leo himself, in the Verona Sacramentary. They identified two or three centuries of elegant, gracious, confident Latinity, centred around the essential concepts of Primacy and Tradition. Here is one example; another Preface:

" Qui ineffabili sacramento ius apostolici principatus in Romani nominis arce posuisti unde se evangelica veritas per tota mundi regna diffunderet, ut quod in orbem terrarum eorum praedicatione manasset Christianae devotionis, sequeretur universitas salubrique compendio; et hi qui ab illorum tramite deviassent haberentur externi; et tantummodo filii veritatis existerent qui a principali nullatenus traditione discederent."

I don't find it easy to imagine men who thought, conversed, and prayed like this, discovering much in common with the Fernandezs or the Bergoglios or their Rome.

19 February 2024

The Bishop of Lamus (1)

 Edward Myers, titular Bishop of Lamus and Vicar Capitular of Westminster, sat at his desk to deal with his correspondence on June 10 1943 ... the Thursday, Octave day, after the Ascension. He was a good liturgist who wrote a small book on the Lenten Liturgy which I commend. But, on that Thursday, Stuff was Happening in the Med. The 'Allies' were interested in a little island called Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily and, therefore, a useful possible base from which to open up a front in Sicily ... and, thence, in Western Europe. The invasion of this tiny island was envisaged and planned. But it never took place.

As Myers sat at his desk, the Axis commander on Pantelleria, at his desk, was receiving permission from Rome to surrender. On Friday, the surrender came into effect. And before the end of July, Il Duce had been sacked by Italy's midget Piedmontese monarch and ... the tide of war had turned.

Yes!! I can tell you a bit about Bishop Myers' post-bag that morning! ... although it had no relation to the situation on Pantelleria. He signed the Imprimatur on a new liturgical text: nothing less than a new Commune to be gummed into your Roman Missal. 

The new Commune was for sainted Popes.

Very many of the early popes had been martyrs and sat comfortably in the Calendar. But their liturgical commemoration at the altar was performed simply by the use of the Commune of a Bishop ... either as Martyr or Confessor. Now somebody had decided that they should have their own Commune. Perhaps it was felt that a Bishop of Rome deserved better than the familiar Propers used for any old ordinary bishop!

And I have some views on the Collect of that new Mass. It is still, I think, in the 1962 Missal. It is drawn from a very old Roman collect in a very old volume ... so far so good ... but:

It begins Gregem tuum, Pastor aeterne [bone], placatus intende, et per ... . There are two versions in the Verona Sacramentary: 291 and 316. And, after per they both refer to the Apostles, because this section of the Sacramentary is a collection of Masses for the Solemnity in June of Ss Peter and Paul. So ... per [beatos] Apostolos [tuos] ...

If you look now at the 1943 Commune in your Missal, you will see that, instead, it names the Holy Pope who is being commemorated on that day. per beatum N [Martyrem tuum atque] Summum Pontificem This twists the entire sense of the rest of the prayer. Because the words which, in the original, applied to Ss Peter and Paul on their great festival, were made to apply instead to a particular day's commemorated pope.

316 goes on to say that the Apostles were totius ecclesiae ... Filii tui vicarii pastores; 291 refers to the Apostles who were [are] the same rectores, gubernatores, whom the Lord appointed to be his vicarii pastores.

The same sort of neat, slippery job we expect to find in accounts of the 1960s!

The first thing I dislike about this is that it gives a false impression: that a Pope is a superior rank in the Church's sacramental structure to that of an ordinary Bishop ... just as a Bishop is sacramentally superior to a Presbyter. And, quite simply, I do not believe that this is true. As Mascall put it in 1958, " ... whereas the episcopate is a sacramental function of the Church, which is imparted by the sacramental act of consecration, the Papacyis a juridical and administrative one, which is imparted by the administrative act of election. ... nothing can alter the fact ..."

The good news is that the guns fell silent on Pantelleria.

To be rapidly concluded.


18 February 2024

A Panicky September?

 In the autumn of 1745, things may have looked good, especially in Scotland. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales and our future King Charles III, bearing a Commission of Regency from his Father King James VIII of Scotland and III of England, was the centre of Edinburgh Society, and had defeated the Georgite general Cope at the Battle of Prestonpans on Saturday 21 September; wags suggested that Cope was the first general to have carried the news of his own defeat when he entered Berwick in fullest flight.

Back in the capital, Charles "received the ladies who came to his drawing room; he then supped in public, and generally there was music at supper and a ball afterwards". "He dines every day in public. All sorts of people are admitted to see him, then. He constantly practises all the arts of condescension and popularity--talks familiarly to the meanest Highlanders, and makes them very fair promises".

As the news spread in London, rumour had it that Smug Herrenhausen was about to foot it back to Hannover and that in London's dockland, ships were being loaded with such goodies as could be salvaged by the usurping dynasty.

But what was happening in Golden Square, in the property we now rejoice to know as the Headquarters of the Ordinariate? And, especially, in the Portuguese embassy which resided in those properties and had established there an Embassy Church?

The Portuguese Minister was Sebastiao Jose De Carvalho e Melo, an 'enlightenment' figure later created Marquis of Pombal. He was to acquire a fearsome reputation as a result of his political conviction that the only good Jesuit was a dead Jesuit. In the following decades, he ruled Portugal with whatever is the Portuguese for an iron rod.

A GLC blue plaque in Golden Square suggests that the property ceased to be the Portuguese Embassy in 1744, but other sources assert that Pombal left London on September 25 1745.

If that is the correct date, we have the interesting coincidence that the Portuguese diplomat left London only three or four days after the Georgite debacle in the Northern Kingdom.

Are we here in the realm of interesting coincidences, or ...

17 February 2024

Are they permanent? (PAL 3)

As well as of the Lord, the Appendix pro Aliquibus locis contained many Masses of our Lady under various titles. Here I share with you a personal puzzlent. 

When I was a tiny boy, I lived at Clacton on Sea; where there was a splendid Catholic Church in (unusually) the Romanesque style ... sanctuary and all. I found it very attractive; and I greatly enjoyed browsing through the booklets on sale. What a lot one could learn from them ... does that form of Apostleship survive anywhere now?

The Church was dedicated to Our Lady of Light ... not a feast on any Calendar. But, apparently, when Our Lady's shrine had been in Cornwall, request had been made to Bishop Graham to allow the formation of an Association. He granted this on May 14, 1893 ... that year, the Sunday in the Octave of of the Ascension. And the Titular was to be on: the Sunday within the Octave! And "Our Lady of Light, Spouse of the Holy Ghost", was (so the little book said) "recently granted by Rome".

That feast, to my knowledge, did not make it into Pro Aliquibus Locis. Or did it get in and then lose its position? Does anybody have the sort of links with the archivists at Plymouth or Westminster which would would enable the question to be asked?

Personally, I have wondered whether it was granted but not entered into PAL (the souces make clear that it is Sunday we are considering, not the Saturday). Papa Pecci ... Pope Leo XIII ... was a great client of the Mother of God; every year, in the autumn, he issued a document to the Universal Church urging upon the faithful the use of the Holy Rosary. Would he have said No ... especially when that Sunday is rather a suitable one for our Lady of Light, Spouse of the Holy Ghost?

Back to Clacton again ... in that (now sadly vandalised) Romanesque church, there is a statue of S Louis-Marie de Montfort, Missionary of Mary, Apostle of Brittany, Doctor of Marian devotion. I don't know when he entered PAL but it was after 1955 ... and he disappeared from it not long ago. You must remember that his cultus received a big oomph from the devotion of S John Paul II.  

That is, I think the regular way in which that Saints retire from PAL ... promotion to universal status ...

16 February 2024

PAL (2)

 So ... what does the Appendix Pro Aliquibus Locis ... see yesterday ... teach us about Life and Liturgy?

 The Lenten Liturgy of the Roman Church was, once upon a time, an intense but a sober and stately affair. Daily, the Pontiff was booked to visit his 'stational ' churches, accompanied by his clergy and his household. The liturgical texts often gracefully related to the church thus visited, but not to the details of the Lord's Agony. They were not the colourful, melodramatic, emotional extravaganzas of late medieval or post-Reformation piety.

Readers will recall the words of Edmund Bishop about the characteristics of the Classical Roman Rite: "this simplicity, this practicality, this gravity...", contrasting it with "the effusive, the affective, and devotional ..." He added: "If I had to indicate in two or three words only the main characteristics  which go to make up the genius of the Roman Rite, I should say that those characteristics were essentially soberness and sense." 

That was all to change, and the PAL offers you the symptoms.

On each of the Fridays in Lent, the PAL provided (this year's dates) ...

February 16: the Crown of Thorns; February 23: the Lance and the Nails; March 1: the Shroud; March 8: the Five Wounds; March 15: the Precious Blood.

You see how the affective piety of the Counter-Reformation has changed the emotional liturgical expectations of the clergy and people.

Even in our own irreligious days, not everything has disappeared. The polychromatic wooden statue carved by Gregorio Fernandez still makes an appearance on Good Friday. Juan Martinez Montanes was known to be, personally, a deeply religious man. Francisco de Zurbaran is still one of the great figures of Western Art. Their artefacts were not, of course, cheap or easy to produce: in the process, the Confraternities (cofradias) played a large economic role. But what people pay for may indicate what strikes them as important.

To be concluded.

15 February 2024


 This is a heading that many readers will seen at the head of sections at the end of Missals and Breviaries. You will certainly have seen it in Latin editions iuxta typicam; and it occurs in the more up-market bilingual editions*. Sometimes the heading is abbreviated to PAL.

If you look carefully, you will see that these sections are fascicles bound into liturgical books which, would have been complete without them. In other words, the great pre-Conciliar liturgical publishers had to decide, guided by their markets, what to include before the binders were set to work.

BTW, I am NOT writing about National or Diocesan propers or those of Religious Orders. These also do come separately from the presses  and decisions do have to be made by the binder about inclusion or non-inclusion, but the PAL is a different matter. It will probably be bound into books intended to be bought and used by clergy all over the World.

PAL is a a fascinating witness to continuity and discontinuity in the period brfore Vatican II. Liturgy, in those days, was not set in stone. It evolved ... non stop ... but did so in an organic way. Its evolution concerned mainly the Calendar. Dioceses, and Nations, asked to be granted indults to observe particular festivals. Often, somebody had got the idea from someone else. Indults for the same propers might end up being granted ... for example ... to all the lands subject to the King's most Catholic Majesty.

Eventually, it seemed rational for Rome to gather a large number of such propers together, and to make them available to those who sought indults.

Come to think of it, this step must, in itself, have given impulse to the culture it expressed. I wonder if anybody has ever made a study of this.

Examples, explanations, to follow, because tomorrow, First Friday in Lent, shows the sort of thing that went on.

* The 1949 Missal in Latin and English produced by Burns Oates and Washbourne incorporates the PAL  Masses into the body of the work, marking them with a red dagger.

14 February 2024

Digging into the psalms of the Divine Office (4)

No; we are, none of us, perfect. And this goes too for the holy pontiff S Pius X. He 'reformed' the Breviary ... not least, the distribution of the Psalms. But, ever since, there have been people who have pursed critical lips when this subject (or Papa Sarto's name) comes up.

The problem particularly involves the last three psalms: 148; 149; 150. You see, there is evidence that the daily use of these three psalms, lined up together at the end of worship, goes back to the worship of the Jerusalem Temple, and, thus, of the Incarnate LORD himself. 

Anton Baumstark wrote sarcastically that "to the reformers of the Psalterium Romanum belongs the distinction of having brought to an end the universal observance of a liturgical practice which was followed, one can say, by the Divine Redeemer himself during his life on earth." Laurence Hemming reminded us that the "roots [of the Liturgy] are manifold, but above all they are in the religion of Israel and in the Temple ... What has been of greatest importance is the disturbance and loss of the order of recitation of the psalmody in the Breviary, an order which in at least some of the offices appears to have been taken over from the Jerusalem Temple and predates Christianity itself." In 2010 Bishop Andrew Burnham wrote about the need for "A cursus, recovering some of the richness of the pre-1911 breviary (for example the daily use of the Laudate Psalms (148-50) at Lauds, the omission of which in 1911 has been much lamented ever since)".

A glance at these three psalms will reveal the wealth of joyful ecstasy in their vocabulary, especially in terms of the collections of words (in heavy type in the following) which I analysed recently on this blog. Praise the LORD from the heavens ... angels, sun, moon, stars, heavenly waters; sea monsters, deeps, fire, hail, snow, frost; mountains, hills; kings, young, old: "let them praise the NAME of the LORD, for his NAME alone is exalted ... 

And the TEMPLE SANCTUARY introduces the climax, with all manner of musical instrument: and so, finally, "Let everything that breathes praise the LORD


13 February 2024

Archdeacons galore

 Quite close to Mrs Fletcher in Dorchester Abbey under the stones of the Abbey, is the memorial tablet to Michel Desvalpons (ob March 1798). He was archdeacon and Vicar General of Dol in Brittany; he is buried in Dorchester because he was a refugee in flight from the Revolution. The local Davey family, of Overy Manor within the same parish, were Catholics, which is one reason why that exquisite little church by the river, lovingly restored by Fr John Osman, is where it is and the way it is.

I have run into refugee French Archdeacons before, in the quiet little convent graveyard at Lanherne in Cornwall. Apparently, Bath was awash with them, and sometimes they did duty in convents.

Can anybody think of a reason why refugee French clergy never ... I think ... get into the pages of Jane Austen? Maria Edgeworth wasn't afraid to introduce an occasional expatriate Catholic, was she?

12 February 2024

A sunny afternoon in Dorchester Abbey ...

 ... among the bric-a-brac of the centuries. I think the following memorial inscription is quite well-known:

"Reader! If thou hast a Heart formed for Tenderness and Pity, Contemplate this Spot. In which are deposited the Remains of a Young Lady, whose artless Beauty innocence of Mind and gentle Manners once obtained her the Love and Esteem of all who knew her. But when Nerves were too delicately spun to bear the rude Shakes and Jostlings which we meet with in this transitory World, Nature gave way. She sunk and died a Martyr to Excessive Sensibility. MRS. SARAH FLETCHER Wife of Captain FLETCHER departed this Life in the Village of Clifton on the 7 of June 1799 In the 29 Year of her Age. May her Soul meet that Peace in Heaven which this Earth denied her."

So ... when did exclamation marks start appearing on memorials? When did the limitation of capitalisation to nouns (not precisely applied here), German Style, become the rule? When did Nerves become important? When did She sunk become a tolerable English aorist?

What would Jane Austen have thought of this? Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811. I wonder if Captain Fletcher was ... not a naval officer but a Wickam-style redcoated libertine.

11 February 2024

Adrianus a Forti Scuto

Accordingto his obit cards and Memorial Inscription, Fr Adrian Fortscue died on 11 February 1923. I offer you an extract from one of his books.

"A Pope may be quite ignorant and a very poor theologian. He may make a mistake as private theologian; only God will take care that he does not commit the whole Church to it. Papal infallibility is a negative protection. We are confident that God will not allow a certain thing to happen; that is all. It does not mean that the Pope will always give the wisest or best decision, or that what he says will always be well-advised or opportune. He may not speak at all; he may preserve a regrettable silence, just when it would be greatly to the good of theChurch if he did speak. But if he does speak, and if he spoeaks in such a way as to commit the Church, then what he says will not be false. It may be inadequate."

Later, I will give you another extract. 

10 February 2024

Egge Satterday, the Buck's Bottom, and the Obalisques

Regular readers will have seen versions of this seasonal offering, and its thread, before!

Careful readers will notice that this piece contains an Elephant Trap; in previous years, it has generally caught at least one unsuspecting victim, despite being accompanied by a very obvious Trigger Warning. Who'll be first this year?

 Festum Ovorum, the Feast Of Eggs, is how they describe today, the Saturday before Lent, year by year in the Oxford University Diary, despite the fact that for some centuries only the occasional Oxford eccentric has even thought of celebrating this entertainingly named day.

The origin and purpose of Festum Ovorum is pretty certainly exactly what each one of you will have guessed from first principles: as on Mardi Gras, to have a binge before Lent. It has stayed on the University Calendar since the Middle Ages ... just as, in this University, All Soul's Day and Corpus Christi and the Assumption survived the 'Reformation' (I bet they didn't in the Fens). We know that this was not just a custom in alma academia, but flourished throughout the neighbouring country areas, where, in their endearingly unlatinate way, the rude but worthy yokels just called it Egge Satterday. (There must be some poignantly laboured witticism about Yolks and Yokels. Or tongue-twisters? "The yokels liked yolks for lunch"?)

However, purely by coincidence, it became, in this University, linked with an academic deadline: the last day on which bachelors were allowed to 'determine'; that is, to complete the exercises for the degree of M.A.. And academics had a 'Determination Feast' to celebrate this, which goes back at least to the time of Lord Richard Holland (nephew of Richard II the monarch who dedicated this realm of England as the Dowry of our blessed Lady) who had his Determination Feast on the 21st and 22nd of February, 1395 (yes, I have checked that date in Cheney). As late as 1603, "all the bachelors that were presented to determine did after their presentation go to every college where they were determining and there make a feast for the senior bachelors, videlicet, of muscadine and eggs; figs; raisons; almonds; sack; and such like".

I suppose all this was quite an exotic spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Waitrose where, before Covid, we could pop in for our free Coffee and copy of The Times. Except for the muscadines, which are sweetmeats made from a pod near the fundament of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the days when the trade routes brought both it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantium. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted almost into bio-undiversity ... ah, the compulsions of homo insipiens, the so-called animal rationale ... fortasse potius animal dicendum venereale. But I gather that chemists now produce a synthetic version of musk. (I wonder what their motives are.)

When I have published versions of this post in previous years at the corresponding time of year, the biggest interest it has attracted has been among North Americans who, in their very welcome billions, regularly offer me Comments in which they patiently explain to this poor ignorant European that, in all their own splendid (but transpontine) dictionaries, muscadine refers simply and only to grapes. But the old multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary gives entries of three separate words with this same spelling: (1) grapes; (2) animal musk; and (3) "a Parisian woman of fashion". This year (2023) I am going to enable absolutely NO Class (1) comments, but I would admit relevant academic comments on (3) Parisian Women of Fashion (whom I had always thought were known technically if crudely as les grandes horizontales or as obalisques [h/t there to Evelyn Waugh The Loved One]). I suspect that (3) is in fact secondary to (2) and derivative from it.

The English sweetmeats made with musk were called 'kissing cakes' or ... er ...  'rising cakes'. Odd names, don't you think? Now ... no offence ... many of my best friends are chemists ... but I bet muscadines made with synthetic musk would have much less potent characteristics than the Real Thing as extracted from the Buck's Bottom. As for Fashionable Parisiennes, I have no experience whatsoever of their potential characteristics or physiological effects, synthetic or otherwise. My wife comes from Leicestershire.

A series of controlled experiments, perhaps, in somebody's laboratory?

9 February 2024


Earlier today I posted a slight piece on Slavery. Now I reprint a slightly more substantial post from 2021.

G K Chesterton reminded us of all the Christian Galley Slaves whose freedom followed the smashing of the Turkish Battle Fleet. So as the Woke pull down the statues of those who had even tenuous links with the Slave Trade, should we not erect new statues to those who, at Lepanto and through the centuries, liberated Christian slaves from the tyrants who had stolen their lives?

Perhaps the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral should host a massive new baroque statue of our Lady of Victory, surrounded by triumphalist bass-reliefs showing those who collaborated with her in this great Liberation. Probably, the Catholic Bishop of Plymouth should perform the Act of solemn Blessing, in view of all those English people in our south West who were kidnapped for the slave markets by the Barbery corsairs. Naturally, the kings, dictators, and warlords of North African countries would wish to take part in the ceremony and to offer formal Apologies for what their ancestors did.

Writing, as Chesterton did, a poem about a Spanish sea victory is not really the sort of thing that proper Englishmen do; we were brought up on stories about the defeat of the Armada. And we were brainwashed by the notion that 'English Victory' was woven seamlessly into a consistent narrative of our Island Race protected by our Silver Sea (soon to be renamed the Mare Plasticum?) against Philip of Spain and Buonaparte and Hitler, who were all foreigners.

 But ... surely ... we Catholics are counter-cultural. British politicians may preach fatuous sermons about British Values and the importance of brainwashing immigrants to this country with the Values implicit in sexual promiscuity and widespread abortion. But their sick preoccupations serve simply to remind us that the British Values they prose on about are dirty-minded imposters dancing on the graves of the English Catholic martyrs; cavorting and absurd Whig clowns hypocritical in their (doubtless looted) Phrygian caps.

And perhaps we need a gallant band of Christian youth to go on a cutting-out expedition ... today!! ... and to recover the Ottoman flags captured at Lepanto, which poor misguided Montini, S Paul VI, cravenly handed back to Brother Turk. What a wonderful piece of news that would be in tomorrow's headlines!

Chesterton reminds his readers of the Christian slaves labouring deep within the Ottoman galleys,  each witless in his quiet room in hell / Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell, / And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign. But as we take up the joyful story ...

 ... Don John of Austria has burst the battle line!

Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for the bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

     Vivat Hispania!
     Domino Gloria!
     Don John of Austria 
     Has set his people free!

Is Uncle Arffur a Slaver??

It occurred to me yesterday as I buried my nose in my Breviary that the 'revisers' of the 1960s had, among their favourite little fetiches, a compulsion to eliminate from the Calendar those Saints who were engaged in opposition to Slavery.

S John of Matha founded an order "ad redimendum de potestate Saracenorum captivos". The Master Liturgists of the 1960s left him 'for particular calendars'"quia non agitur de Sancto 'momentum universale revera prae se ferente'".

So out he had to go.

Nice to know that Slavery is ... or was in the 1960s ... not really of world-wide interest. 

Not many years ago, I was horrified by the way the Saracens of ISIS treated their Yazidi women captives ... and, indeed, any subject populations.'Vile' and 'disgusting' and 'filthy' would be words infinitely too mild to be adequate. 

I think that Christian Saints who fought against the Islamic enslavements, especially of women, deserve to be brought out again into the light of liturgical day.

Time was, when our Brethren of the Third Abrahamic Religion used to go raiding round the South West of England to supply the Slave Markets of the Islamic World. I have, previously, suggested that the last hill in Cornwall, Carn Brae, should have on it a large monument to the victims of this vile 'trade'.

In a period when the Woke are combing Bristol and Oxford for names to ban because of their associations with the Slave Trade, I am at a loss to know why ... as far as I can make out ... they confine their searches to Slavers of Anglo-Saxon racial or cultural provenance. A Carn Brae monument should have large penitential inscriptions in Arabic. Perhaps, neon-illuminated. 

Why should our friends and allies in the oil-rich states of the Middle East not wish to share these parts of our cultural memories?

8 February 2024


Dr Kenneth Kirk, Bishop of Oxford, while in bed suffering from Laryngitis, noticed an interesting coincidence ... if coincidence it is ... about his diocese.

In this area, we have a couple, at least, of medieval shrines; S Frideswide (obiit circa 735) in the Cathedral at Oxford; one of S Birinus (obiit circa 650) in the former Abbey at Dorchester, not many miles down the Thames. Both had formal shrines; each was the focus of pilgrims. Dorchester Abbey vied with Winchester Cathedral for the possession of the relics of S Birinus; he and S Frideswide of Oxford have left us substantial Vitae. And they have this in common: in neither case did the devotion to the respective saint have any discernible effect upon the medieval Church Dedications of the surrounding area. Indeed, they do not appear in lists of their respective Anglican diocesan dedications, or even in those of England, except where Victorian highchurchery or a newly resurgent Victorian Catholicism has been at work (S Frideswide, 1872; S Birinus, 1848 and 1892). (As a boy, I noticed that the shrine of S Osyth in North East Essex appeared to have had no influence on Anglican church dedications.) 

This contrasts strongly with the cult of S Thomas of Canterbury, where talk of 'wildfire' would not be entirely inappropriate. Of course, in the case of S Thomas, we have a national policy at work and a consciousness that the Clergy as a class needed a protector against an over-reaching executive; and also, I suspect, a growing sense of English national identity.

Several possibilities suggest themselves. Perhaps, by a certain date, there weren't any churches left to whom a Patron needed to be assigned (but the case of S Thomas points the other way). However, at the Synod of London in 1237, the papal legate Otto gave orders that all unconsecrated churches should be properly consecrated within a couple of years; and we find bishop Bronescombe of Exeter spending the late summer and the autumn of 1259 busily progressing from hamlet to hamlet consecrating their churches. We should probably regard these initiatives as the end of the careless old culture of leaving great numbers of village churches unconsecrated. Additions to the stocks of consecratable churches ... as in the cases of the S Thomases outside Exeter and Oseney ... may be the results of expanding conurbations.

Or perhaps Common Folk and their Common Clergy had no particular devotion to the saints who were important to important people and their important foundations ... one could argue that parishes needed to assert their independant status.

I have wondered if a memory yet survived of times when the Patron of a church might be expected to be an 'A-list' saint ... our Lady or a New Testament saint.


7 February 2024

Sorry ...

... I don't often indulge my affection for Literary Criticicism of passages in the Latin Language, because I know that this is not everybody's Cup of Tea. Er ... But ...

In the First Christian Millennium, there was scope for clerics whose pens had an elegant bias, to show what they were made of. Episcopal Benedictions galore were needed; more conclamantly, Proper Prefaces seemed to demand composition for every single Mass-formula. Loads'a'texts! Of course, a fair bit of what got onto the market was dross ... platitudinous statements of the obvious. But not everything.

There may have been elegant pens at Winchester, particularly in the building now known to historians as the New Minster. Among the Saints whose relics they had 'translated' there, was the S Birinus who had evangelised the whole East of England from Winchester to Lincoln ... our own East Midlands Apostle. The Proper Preface which somebody composed for one of his feasts began with a sentence including the phrase Vivificae incarnationis assumpta mortalitas ... nos expiavit. The way this brackets the Incarnation with Christ's Life and Death seems to me very happy. And the credal summary "Christ assumed flesh which implied death so as to bring us life" is plain smart. The writer does not repeat terms without having a good reason for doing so: so when he takes up mortalitas with immortalitatem the device is pleasing. 

Having described the the College of Bishops as rutilae sanctitatis collegium, he identifies S Birinus with this College by assigning to him the same term sanctus

Perhaps most strikingly, the writer describes him as strengthened (roboratus) by his wonderful constancy of preaching, and then tells us that S Birinus subjugated the common folk uniquely (sola) by the power of this preaching. This remark appears to allude to a strong tradition that S Birinus was an extraordinary powerful preacher. Thus a pontifical Benediction on S Birinus' Feast Day refers to his Evangelicum ... ministerium; his work plurimorum pro salute; and how innumeros salvavit per praedicationem. See also the remarks of S Bede; and surviving medieval glass at Dorchester which appears to show theSaint preaching with a vigorous gesture.

The author of the Ptreface is not averse to using words with weight in order to bring a period to its dignified conclusion: immarcescibilem iucunditatis aeternae coronam percepit.  

I could go on for quite a time...

6 February 2024

S Agatha's Church, Landport, Portsmouth, and its special (papal?) hymn (2)

Our hymn begins by reminding us that S Agatha is doubly crowned: and this is not meaningless floridity. Et diadema duplex decorat (Riley: Double diadem she weareth). It is a common motif of early Christian writings that a Virgin Martyr wears a Crown of Martyrdom and a Crown of Virginity. I wish to emphasise the high significance which this pervasive Christian culture attributes to Virginity. 

It is my view that pretty well every modern novel, pretty well every daily newspaper ... even the 'intellectual' journals ... which one picks up, will tell you about sex ... sex and the young; sex and the very old ... having it or not having it .... But this is not the culture of Christian antiquity, it is not the culture which our Christian sources commend to us as being characteristically Christian. If this be the universal motif of the cultures which surround us ... why should we be surprised? Why should the Church preserve her rules of Abstinence and Celibacy?

The Hymn continues with Agatha's Passio and its details (you do know why she is the Patron of Bell-ringers?) until, towards the end, a new very active protagonist appears upon the scene: Mount Aetna.

Volcanic eruption becomes, in the Latin, a rogus. The pagan population ( Ethnica turba) flee, and (Riley) 'beseech her succour'. Christians (Quos fidei titulus decorat) ought to be all the readier for this crisis. For them, may the Saint herself all the more definitively repress (premat) Venerem.

Riley renders Venerem as "the flames of lust's desire". And rightly so. In Classical poetry, Venus can mean the (anthropomorphically conceived) Goddess; or it can mean her commodity: disordered sexual passion. Or it can alternate elusively between the two (So 'Bacchus' can mean the god Dionysus ... or simply alcohol! Baccho plenus means totally sozzled). But, of course, Riley's version cannot avoid losing one part of these two meanings.

Did the ancients have much sense of Romantic Love? Readers may be able to remind me if Vergil ever gives us his account of Aeneas and Dido Living Happily Together Ever After. But I do remember Aeneid IV 689: "infixum stridit sub pectore vulnus", with J W Mackail's comment "[stridit] accurately expresses the whistling sound with which breath escapes from a pierced lung." (1936 ... did Mackail see service in the Great War? ... I suspect he must have been rather too old ...)

Beata Agatha Virgo et Martyr: Preme, preme!

5 February 2024

S Agatha's, Landport, Portsmouth, and its special (papal)? hymn (1)

 Perhaps I've got this wrong, but I rather think that Christianity is the only religion ... not that I like the word 'religion' ... or, let's say, the only one of what silly people call the "Abrahamic Faiths" (even worse!) ... which makes a fuss about the concept and practice of Virginity.

But how often do we hear of this striking divide when "inter-religious dialogue" (Heaven help us even more !!) has got itself onto the agenda?

I remember thinking of this back in 2013, when I was given the privilege of preaching at the Patronal Festival of the mighty Ordinariate Basilica of S Agatha at Landport in Portsmouth (S Agatha's day is on February 5; one of ny admirable grandsons was among the ringers doing a celbratory peal). The thought passed through my mind that all these Mediterranean ... perhaps I should say, Sicilian ... festivals, with their ferocity, their violence, their cruelties, their hot blood, their maimings ... are really expressions, even explosions, of the inevitable enmity between Christianity and the World which is obsessed by Sex. All those Legenda about the cutting off of breasts, the gouging out of eyes ... how unEnglish ... And how splendid that Fr Maunder has the custody of the splendid Lombardic, Romanesque Basilica, which Fr Radclyffe Dolling ("Christian Socialist; Anglo-Catholic; Anglo-Irish") erected in this place.

As the superb Ordinariate Liturgy made its way to its Divine climax, I was struck by a particular hymn.  Not from Ancient and Modern! Its Latin original was translated into English by Athelstan Riley, a learned Anglo-Catholic 'Squirearch" who composed and translated many hymns (the best known, perhaps is Ye Watchers and ye Holy Ones). He lived in Cornwall, and at Little Petherick, near Padstow, you can see what Riley thought a medieval church would be like if the Reformation ... O utinam! O utinam! ... had never taken place. He subsequently lived in Jersey, which, on his wife's monument, he described as Ducatus Normaniae, and died twards the end of the German Occupation.

This text has been attributed to Pope Damasus, and the Latin incipit is Martyris ecce Dies Agathae. Athelstan's version begins Lo this day shines forth with glory. Damasus, incidentally, has also been credited with the composition of the collect for Easter iii during a campaign he waged against the pagan festival of the Lupercalia. (The 'Lupercals' ran pretty well naked through the streets of Rome whipping the hands of women who sought fertility: " ... graunt unto all them that bee admitted into the fellowship of Christes religion, that they maye exchew those thinges that be contrary to their profession ..." is how Thomas Cranmer rendered part of the Collect.)

Tomorrow, the texts and contexts of the Hymn.




4 February 2024

Adnue iam coeptis ... and the sinfulness of the A Priori ...

 Yeah ... of course I know where that comes from ... the Ars Amatoria or the Fasti of Publius Ovidius Naso ... I'll find it for you ... hang on a jiff ... don't be impatient ...  book just over here ... gimme just a moment ...

It's gotta be Ovid. Elegiacs; combined with literary pretences of Divine inspiration ... as Pope Francis would say, it just smells of Ovid, doesn't it ...


Saint Bede the Venerable, you say, in his Historia Ecclesiastica? ... pull the other one ... Book IV cap 18/20? .. well I'll be jiggered ... and Bede wrote these verses himself? How on earth did Ovid's 'didactic' poetry get onto the shelves of his devoutly Anglo-Saxon monastic library? Explain that away ...

Wozzat? S Dunstan had Ovid on his shelves ... ? In his library at Glastonbury? You must be joking. 

True, I' afraid. Book I of of Ovid's humorous spoof of didactic verse, the Ars Amatoria, had lost, in S Dunstan's copy, its last page. So the Saint, in his own handwriting, copied out the missing text. It's in Bodley ... Auct. F.4.32 ...

And S Bede's fifty-or-so line poem has all the tricks and dodges; recusatio down to recondite allusion. Its style is Carolingian ... er ... well ... wrong century, you say ... s'pose so ... but what about those compounds in the last couple of couplets ... dulcisono and altithrono ... isn't that the sort of thing the Carolingian scholars loved?

Indeed ... but so did the 'neoterics' in the age of Catullus. It must be something about compounds ... mind you, when S Bede wrote his poem, Cinna and Calvus and the rest of them may not have been 'lost'. Just as, before the Franks and the Turks took their tinder-boxes to the great libraries of the Byzantine world, I bet you could have strolled in and read the complete text of the Hecale and the Aitia. Adrian Hollis need not have devoted all that time and energy to reconstructing mangled fragments from the sands of Oxyrhynchus. 

But I had better come clean. If you look more closely at S Bede's elegiacs, you will find two refinements to 'Neoteric' cleverness, designed, in fact, to make the already-clever-clever even cleverer.

(1) The couplets are alphabetic ... which is why the poem has 54 lines (after Z, Bede puts in four more couplets forming AMEN). 46+8=54). 

(2) The first quarter of the distich is repeated verbatim as the second part of the pentameter. Such schemes are called echoici, serpentini, or reciproci. Ovid occasionally did it, when it suited him: Fasti IV 365-6.

Easy? You try doing it.

But S Bede leaves me, at least, with a different sort of puzzle. In his introductory words, he writes ante annos plurimos ... composuimus

Why does the Saint, apparently, want to distance himself by saying "I wrote this a long time ago"? Is he afraid that his peers will say "It's not very good"? Or that a censorious mouth will enquire whether Bede has nothing better to do with his time than ...

3 February 2024

Tria Mysteria

 Browsing, as one does, through Mass Cards, Christmas Cards, Get Well cards, I offer you three queries.

(1) From a Farnborough Abbey Mass Card: "He Episkepsis". I am not ignorant of what Episkepsis might mean. But on the accompanying pictorial rendering, does this refer to the Lord looking at the Theotokos  ... or our Lady looking out of the ikon at me ... or what?

(2) I have quite often noticed conies ("rabbits") in late medueval art: on carved wood; in manuscript illumination. But in an engraving sent by a brother priest, "Holy Family in a garden" by Albrecht Duerer, there are some of the little fellows playing around the feet of the Holy Family. Does anybody have any illuminating observation ...

(3) From the Bible Reading Fellowship: a roundel of nineteenth century stained glass portraying the Adoration of the Magi, with a small inscription reading "Offert par le quatrieme pelerinage de penitence France 1885". Can anybody gloss this?

I am grateful for kind wishes and ... all the more ... prayers and assurance of prayer. I am, you will oberve, well enough to read cards and to think and to write this! I can say Mass nearly every day, which is a tremendous joy although sometimes a bit tiring. I seem to have lost most of my capacity to read emails; I crave your forgiveness.

Please do accord me as much of your intercessory prayer as you can spare!

And very best wishes to all readers for 2024. May God bless you all.

2 February 2024

Benny! Die! City!!

 One of the few surviving pleasures available to clergy who serve substantial churches with substantial musical establishments, is the use ... when announcing to a congregation today's piece of classy music ... of the old 'English' pronunciation of Latin. My heading today attempts crudely to suggest to you the 'old' pronunciation among Anglicans of the word Benedicite.

With the demise of choral Mattins, there are probably Anglican congregations which, two generations ago, would have known what the Benedicite was ... I suspect, not now. But it soldiers on, the sturdy old thing, from Prayerbook to Prayerbook. Among Catholic clergy, however, it still remains as part of the form to be used in Thanksgiving after the Offering of Holy Mass. Daily!! De gratias!

Nobody knows where it comes from, except that the earliest texts are in the septuagintal style of Greek. Somebody has suggested that it must have been written by an Alexandrian Jew ... as if Alexandria was the only place you might find hellenised Jews ... as if the vast and mighty Seleucid Empire, centred upon Antioch, had never existed. Dr Paul Levertoff (1878-1954), who enlivened the inter-war period at Holy Trinity Shoreditch by inventing his own idiosyncratic, very Thirties, synthesis of Middle-of-the-road Anglicanism and Rabbinic Judaism, thought the Benedicite emerged from the Synagogue ... a safe if not-very-daring guess. Equally vaguely, I would tend to attribute it to the rich if confusing or even messy world of Judaism (sometimes syncretistic) and Christianity (not always orthodox) from which our religious culture emerged.

Although it is to be found in the Byzantine daily Office, apparently not much of it is, daily, said there nowadays. It met with the approval of S Benedict.

A very considerable scholar called Craddock Ratcliff (1896-1967), who should have known better, twice uses the word "monotony" with regard to the Benedicite; "The length and monotonous form of Benedicite do not commend it for frequent use in modern congregations". This is because nearly every verse of it is along the lines of "O all ye XYZ, bless ye the Lord: prayse hym and magnifye hym for ever." But throughout history, the refrain has very commonly been omitted; in 1549, Cranmer had given this gawky English rendering: "speake good of the lorde" ... I suspect, in a donnish attempt to translate accurately Eulogeite. By 1552, he had seen sense.

Is the Benedicite boring? Not to me, when I say it daily in the Gratiarum Actione. Are we all so very busy ... is our every moment so valuable ...?

More importantly, we should remember that we humans are as priests of Creation, offering the praises of dumb creation to its Maker. As the hailstones rattle against your February windows, who else is there to translate their din into the rational adoration of the Logos?

1 February 2024

The Consecration/Sanctus candle

"Candle Mass" ... Like me, I expect that many readers have been intrigued by medieval illustrations showing the Server, "clerk", at Low Mass lifting up two candles. 

Jungmann does not notice that the custom was, at least in England, to raise two candles. He writes: "The consecration candle, from which in many places the Sanctus candle developed, was originally intended to be lighted and lifted aloft by the deacon or the Mass-server at the early Mass, when it was still dark, ut corpus Christi ... possit videri. It was lit at Hanc igitur or sooner, or extinguished after Communion. Hence it turned into an expression of veneration for the Blessesd Sacrament."

It is interesting to recall problems which could exist before modern lighting and heating became general. At Lancing, the inventories listed a pomme, silver and apple-shaped with a screw-on top, into which hot water could be poured, so that a celebrant could keep his hands from going numb on the coldest mornings.