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. 

16 March 2024

Saint Patrick and ... um ... Imbolc ... (1)

 Dunno ... does the Sacred Congregation of whatever still allow the Irish to celebrate S Patrick in preference to a Sunday in Lent/Passiontide?

Might you wish to put up a prayer to S Patrick in the most wonderful church ever built in his honour ... Pugin's masterpiece, the Catholic Cathedral at Killarney? That is a laudable desire, but ... well ... permit me to go off on a momentary tangent.

In Pagan/Protestant England, visiting one of the ancient Cathedrals in the custody of the body once known as the Church of England is comparatively straightforward. You enter; they do their best to extract some money from you; then you decide whether to buy a guide book. The advantage of doing this is that it will almost certainly contain a plan of the building, showing where each chapel is. S Cross and S Michael; S George and S Faith; S Peter and S Paul ... they will all be on the plan because, a century and more ago, learned old gentlemen worked out the plan from the archives; men such as the Canon J N Dalton, Canon of Windsor, the savant  who was such a spectacular failure as Tutor of Edward VIII ... M.A.; F.S.A. ... So, off you go ...

Killarney Catholic Cathedral will be rather shy about informing you which chapel was here and which one was there. Pugin's plans left it well-equipped with chapels, and his intentions were carried out  as it was completed by followers including his son Edward, and J J MacCarthy. 

But where now is the plethora of such chapels? 

The guide book I purchased, years ago, goes strongly on the adjective "former". "the former Blessed Sacrament Altar". "formerly St Brendan's Chapel ..."

The interior of this once superb church has been a wasteland since Bishop Casey, the first Swallow of the moral and institutional collapse of the Catholic Church in Ireland, had it gutted. I remember the looks on the faces of the little old ladies with the long memories, describing to me the time when the builders' skips were being loaded with smashed masonry. 

But ... one moment . Here, attached to the wall, is a rather splendid brass monument (I wonder if Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory ever rubbed it) to Bishop David Moriarty, a close friend of S John Henry Newman and another of the 'inopportunists' of Vatican I.

Those were the days when the Bismarcks pretended to believe that the Vatican I decrees exaggerated papal authority. It was to take the grim violence of the unhappy Bergoglio years to demonstrate that those decrees in fact constituted limitations upon the use of the Petrine Ministry.

And ... mark these words: "Hanc Tabulam muralem necnon et Altare Sancto Patritio dedicatum Clerus populusque moerens erexit ..." and Bishop Moriarty  "vindicavitque sibi recordationem perennem."

So the S Patrick Altar (and Chapel?) was somewhere round here. It took the adulterous episcopal vandals of a later age to reinterpret words like recordatio and perennis and to level it with the ground. 

Moriarty, by the way, actually performed the Consecration, on the Octave of the Assumpton in 1855 as coadjutor to old Bishop Cornelius Egan, Diocesan since 1824. The Homilist, a Corkman, concluded his remarks with the following allusion to the old gentleman whose ministry, after all, did stretch back into the Penal Period: 

"It is no wonder that he should rejoice and be happy, when he sees that by the the zealous co-operation of his worthy clergy and his devoted people, that glorious structure at length almost completed. And now that his most earnest desire has been accomplished, that his earthly career is drawing to a close, his spirit may well look forward to that 'rest which remains' for those who have served God so fervently and faithfully as he has done. And oh! may the zeal of that great and good prelate serve as a bright exemplar to others to follow in his footsteps. Yes! when his venerable grey hairs, now silvered, as it were, with the light of the eternal world, shall have been exchanged for the halo of glory which diadems the brow of the beatified spirit -- when he shall have resigned the crozier for the crown -- this magistic [sic] temple, and the various churches and religious institutions with which he has studded this beautiful and interesting county shall be -- his MONUMENT."

My own view is that all bishops should die in ofice.

The second part of this should get me to Imbolc and even to S Patrick..

15 March 2024

Loss and Gain

"Soon he came in sight of a tall wooden Cross, which in better days, had been a religious emblem, but had served in latter times to mark the boundary between two contiguous parishes. The moon was behind him, and the sacred symbol rose awfully in the pale sky, overhanging a pool, which was still venerated in the neighbourhood for it its reported miraculous virtue. Charles, to his surprise, saw distinctly a man kneeling on a little mound out of which the Cross grew; nay, heard him, for his shoulders were bare and he was using the discipline upon them, while he repeated what appeared to be some form of devotion ..."

Goodness! You don't expect to see such weird goings-on in England's mild countryside! Has S John Henry Newman forgotten that his character is in the English Midlands? Has he strayed into the Gothick domains of Mrs Ratcliff? Is it the Castle of Otranto that we descry looming through the sulphurous mists?


Another page takes Charles Reding on to his lodgings, where an anonymous letter reveals that there is an anonymous Other in the neighbourhood. But not before Charles has been moved to draw near to the Cross, take off his hat, kneel and kiss the wood; to drink some of the cold water and to resist the temptation to pray to S Thomas the Martyr, patron of that pool. The next chapter brings us to luncheon, with the fatuous high-churchman Bateman ... in company with Willis. He is already a Catholic; and Newman enjoys setting us a scene in which Bateman is rigidly maintaining the Prayer Book rules on Fasting, by that time ignored in the Church of England, while the converted Willis modestly confirms that once desuetude overshadows a rule, it no longer binds.

Willis soon disappears from S John Henry's narrative, praying as he does so that Reding may receive the gift of Faith.

What is going on here? The former friends, Willis and White, go their separate ways, Willis to a Passionist House, while the rather more high church White has married the elder of the two 'pretty' Miss Boltons and they are planning their parsonage. Reding accidentally overhears their love-talk. "Charles breathed freely as they went out; a severe text of Scripture rose in his mind, but he repressed the censorious or uncharitable feeling ..."

What do you think that text of Scripture was? Possibly, "Verily I say unto you, they hath their reward"?

Newman retained a prejudice against the comfortable, wealthy domesticity of the married Anglican clergy. For the Passionists, he retained a great respect and was, eventually, received by a Passionist priest into the One Fold of the Redeemer. In 1848, in Loss and Gain, the Passionists reappear in what must be some of S John Henry's most emotional passages, in the Chapter X near the end of the novel: two centuries after S Philip and S Ignatius, Newman recalled their 'bodily austerities ... mortification' ... (in the Second Spring he was to speak of S Philip as "a calm old man, who had never seen blood, except in penance"). 

And Father Domenico de Matre Dei enters the narrativeof the novel. And the fictional Willis ... now 'Father Aloysius' ... is in the novel's very last sentence.

I gather that 'our' nuns, God bless them, are happily to be residing in Aston Hall in Stone, Staffordshire (architect, Edward Welby Pugin). This is an old recusant property where once the relics of S Chad were hidden. 

And in this property, Blessed Dominic Barberi once founded (1842) a Passionist noviciate.

I think it is appropriate, in the Ordinariate, for us to regard the Passionist Blessed Dominic as One Of Ours.

14 March 2024

Farewell to Lady Raglan (3)

 It is hardly surprising that Lady Raglan has been deemed the Inventrix of the Green Man, since she herself wrote that, as she looked at the carving in Llangwm church in Monmouthshire, the suggestion was made to her that the Green Man was intended to symbolise the spirit of inspriration. "But it seemed to me certain that it was a man and not a spirit, and moreover that it was a 'Green Man' ... and so I named it"

Silly old woman, she convinced herself that "by the 15th century it formed an important part of the religious life of the people."

"It is still", she wrote, "the custom to hang bells or flowers over the bride and bridegroom at the wedding ceremony ... now I see it to be none other than the Garland of the Sacrificial Green Man and his sacred bride."

Well, at Dorchester those who buy Sue Dixon's guide to the former Abbey church will continue to be informed that the Green Man is a "pre-Christian symbol of rebirth and renewal". And, reputedly, there are enthusiasts who, in pursuit of 'Wicca' are informed that it "predates Christianity by thousands of years".

Enough about that!!

13 March 2024

The Green Man (2)

 Julia Hamilton-Udny, daughter of Robert 11th Lord Belhaven, married Fitzroy Richard Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan. He was an atheist and a humanist and an anthropologist; he was a member of the All-Party Humanist Group at Westminster, and a prominent member of the British Humanist Association.

It is commonly said that Lady Raglan invented the term 'Green Man' and the mythology surrounding this figure; and that she did so in 1939. None of this is precisely accurate: the term Green Man had for centuries been applied to figures in English Folklore. But the rigmarole associated with this figure since the 1930s can certainly attributed to her. "It seems to me that not very deeply buried in this rite we have the bones, the framework, of the magical rite of the Spring Sacrifice ... a man was chosen to represent the god, and he, after conferring by the proper magical ceremonies his strength and fertility upon his people was sacrificed (perhaps by hanging), and his head placed in a sacred tree ..."

Perhaps it is as well that illustrated coffee-table books with titles like the Wit and Wisdom of Lady Raglan are not available ...

I think she may have had to repress some scepticism even within her own mind: "the idea of such sacrifice was not foreign to the minds of the common people even as late as the 16th century ..." But, like others in that fascinating decade, she clung to her own interior certainties: "the unofficial paganism subsisted side by side with the official religion". Conspiracy-theory mania writ large ... some people will believe anything ... and was this not the period when people tried to advance themselves at the courts of Hitler and Himmler with strange and complex constructions of the Occult?

Raglan had convinced herself that her green man belonged to a "world which was beginning to need him, a world in which people were gradually realising that industrialisation was steadily degrading our planet ... [the green man] came to represent all that the modern world undervalues, excludes, and lacks."

It all seems to me like a flight from reality; it is, surely, in the glorious and august Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we discern, and appropriate, true divine reality?

12 March 2024

Th Green Man (1)

In church buildings all over the Three Kingdoms, one can find carvings, in stone or wood, of the Green Man. He is a grotesque figure, usually showing just a rather unhappy (or hostile) head and face, with foliage emerging from its orifices. 

This is a relic of the pre-Christian fertility cults which, after a long battle with the increasingly dominant and intolerant Christian Religion, finally lost the battle.

Except that this is not true. You will find it, or parts of it, in the 'popular' guide books which, at the back of church after church,  you are invited to buy. I recently found it in the little book currently on offer in Dorchester Abbey near Oxford. But it will be convenient to begin with a factual account of the present academic status quo ... and that means Stations of the Sun (1996) by Ronald Hutton. (Curiously, the Green Man is missing from the index: so I will give you the page numbers ... 241-2 and 424-5.) Hutton explains that we have here, according to 1930s writers, "representations of pre-Christian deities or spirits of nature and fertility. This supposition was not based upon any research into the history of either: it was, rather, an extension of Sir James Frazer's preoccupation with tree spirits encouraged by the proposal of another member of the [Folklore] Society and follower of Sir James, Margaret Muurray, that some of the more enigmatic images in medieval churches were representations of pagan deities in which much of the population still believed. This notion was itself equally devoid of any research into medieval sources, but it so perfectly reflected what mid-twentieth-century folklorists wished to believe that it became an orthodoxy."

In 1979, Roy Judge had published his account of the evidence, based on a systematic investigation of historical evidence; but after the publication of Hutton's Stations, Eamon Duffy gave Stations a highly positive review, speaking of : "a great deal of pseudo-science and sheer gobbledegook, for which the great Victorian anthropologist Sir James Frazer must bear much of the blame ... Like many other late nineteenth century neo-pagan intellectuals, Frazer was convinced that under the Christian veneer of modern society, older and deeper beliefs persisted, enshrined in 'folk' customs and recoverable from a srtructural anthropological scrutiny of those customs. This was a theory taken up with enthusiasm by students of folklore ..." In 2014, Tom Shippey wrote about how "over the last hundred years and more, it has been popular to think that past ages worshipped what is variously called the Great Mother, Earth Mother or Mother Goddess. DIstinguished scholars pioneered the idea, including Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated Knossos, and the Cambridge classiciist Jane Harrison ... D H Lawrence , Robert Graves, and Rudyard Kipling ... so that by the early 20th century, Mircea Eliade commented : 'A search for the Mother' had become a major component of the 'unconscious nostalgia of the Western intellectual'".

In 2010, Richard Hayman wrote a small but stylish volume (The Green Man) in which he demonstrated that "The term 'green man' does not have any currency earlier than the 1930s ... That the term has become firmly established is due initially to Lady Raglan, who was inspired to enquire into the green man in the church at Llangwn Uchaf near her home ... In 1939 she published an article in the journal of the Folklore Society in which she argued that the green man in church architecture was a relic of pagan nature worship that had somehow weathered several centuries of Christian culture ... these were 'pagan' images on the margin of a later culture, the work of anonymous craftsmen stubbornly resisting orthodox Christian teaching and carving green men as a silent affirmation of an older faith ... pagan survival ... Upon this foundation the green man was reinterpeted in the latter part of the twentieth century to suit the needs of the post-modern world, as representing some sort of spiritual union with nature ... the assumptions made about the green man in the 1950s are no longer convincing."

!939?? Lady Raglan?? Who on earth was ... 

I hope to complete this piece later.

10 March 2024

Mothering mothering mothering mothering ... but never a word about ...

 Endless, endless stuff on the wireless this morning about Mothering Sunday or "Mothers' Day". But I didn't hear a word about the biblical basis of today's observance.

Every three years, during what the Informed so wisely call YEAR C, Novus Ordo worshippers are graciously allowed to hear selected, safe extracts from S Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. But, poor vulnerable poppets, they are preserved from the whole of Chapter 4.

Gotta protect them, you see ... from ... er ...

In this brilliant chapter, Christendom's ablest mind in two thousand years explains that our Patriarch Abraham had two sons; that these two represent allegorically the two Covenants. The first, son of Hagar, symbolises "the present Jerusalem" (tei nun Ierousalem), who is in slavery with her children. But the second, "the Jerusalem above" (he de ano Ierousalem), is free, and she is our Mother.

We, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 

But Hush. This is information reserved to obscurantist old Bible Students who heard Galatians 4 this morning. 

We are the tekna tes eleutheras.

9 March 2024

Now what about this ...

 ... the early records of the See of Exeter tell us that the episcopium was moved from the villula of Crediton to the civitas  of Exeter because the former had so very often (saepius) been devastated (devastari ... notice the intensitive de-) by the Infestation of Pirates.

I wonder what pirates  meant in the middle of the eleventh century. Did it refer to the raiders from the North; that is, the Vikings, the sophistication of whose advanced culture we are often invited, through Exhibitions and Seminars, to admire?

Or do we have here, coming on stream, our old friends the Barbary Pirates, Messengers of the Third Great Abrahamic Civilisation?

Where did all that loot from the great Anglo-Saxon monastic settlements end up?

Surely those who have excavated sites in Scandinavia and North Africa must know what Anglo-Saxon artefacts have come to light?

8 March 2024

Don't skip the opening pages

 I learned quite a time ago the importance of looking through the stuff at the beginning of liturgical books.

I was fortunate enough to have come into possession of the (the Henry Bradshaw edition of) the Ordinale Exoniense, all four volumes by Bishop John Grandisson ('grauns'n'); gracious me, what a workoholic micromanager the dear old fellow was. By chance, my eye fell upon mid-August. After the Assumption on August 15, August 18 offers Sol in Virgine.


It got me wondering whether this astronomical datum might explain why the Heavenly Birthday of the Mother of God should have been fixed in the middle of August.

But stay. Years later, Nicholas Orchard published his superb edition of the Stowe Missal. And the Exeter Diocesan Clergy Book Fund provided me with a copy. That book also has oodles of introductory material. And here also, perhaps three centuries before the Ordinale, we find ... well, this time it's Sol in Virginem. what a terrible schoolboy error ... an accusative rather than the ablative ... but ... perhaps the formula is an abbreviation and we are to 'understand' intrat.

The agreement of these two books offers another problem: as the centuries moved onwards, the divergence between the Julian Calendar and what we now call the Gregorian ... i.e. where the Heavenly Bodies actually were ... grew greater ... yes? So presumably the coincidence of these two sources of information indicates that the information was passed down orally or in writing; and was nor secured from or based upon observation.

 Incidentally, the Grandisson Calendar gives lots of information ... for example, that, today. February 21 is the "End of Winter. Beginning of Spring. Last possible Date for Septuagesima".

And hang on. Here's another thing. The disjunction Julian/Gregorian must surely have a spin-off with regard to how late Easter can be. I happen to have a Sarum Missal ... thank you, Father; it has been and is endlessly useful ... I have equipped it with tabs and ribbons ... in my view, that is why Providence has endowed us with such a rich supply of tabs and ribbons in all those old Novus Ordo liturgical books so that we can cannibalise them for loftier uses ... and Sarum says: April 25 is ULTIMUM PASCHA ... the last day Easter can possibly occur.

Now I shall turn to Cheney/Jones (I bought that myself). And ... apparently the latest date of Easter is ... April 25!! 1943 was the last such year; 2038 will repeat it.

I am now totally confused ...

7 March 2024


 A little while ago, the Book Review section of The Times carried a review of a new book on homosexuality. The Reviewer was Diarmaid MacCulloch.

I don't know much about this "AI" business, but it seems to me that a Machine properly programmed would give you, if you typed in 'MacCulloch', exactly what this review says. All our dear old friends, now elderly chestnuts, are here ... "testy passing remarks of Paul of Tarsus": S Paul has had his "Saint" removed, just as if he had mismanaged a Post Office. We are told that it is "not 'homosexuality'" that "is denounced in the Christian Bible". 

For MacCulloch, "the same-sex relationships so pronounced in  the life of James VI and I of Scotland and England had no physical elements; that seems implausible." It reminds of the analysis, common in our time among the ideologically motivated, which argues that any opposition to a homosexualist agenda arises from the speaker's own covert or repressed homosexuality ... a neat thesis, which means that you can't argue against homosexualism without providing your interlocutor with additional evidence for the thesis you are opposing. 

And he refers to "a bizarre quarter-millenniun of paranoia about masturbation (not something that had much worried previous cuktures)." Anybody who has performed even a cursory survey of forms of devotion for "Compline" will know that going-off-to-bed was regarded as a dangerous moment for devout males (Dom Anselmo Lentini modified the text of the hymn Te lucis ante terminum) because it "excultis nostris moribus non opportuna est, unde expunctam velimus".

But what puzzles me ... what makes me seek enlightenment from readers ... is a sentence near the beginning of MacCulloch's review. "Embarrassed historians long neglected the topic; proper research had to await the 1980s and the efforts of three gay scholars: Michel Foucault, John Boswell and Alan Bray."

Really? Is MacCulloch unaware of the figure of Sir Kenneth Dover, 1920-2010, President of Corpus Christi College in this University, who published his Greek Homosexuality in 1978? It caused a great deal of comment when it was published. It is true that the volume currently under review is about "Early Modern Europe" and not the 'ancient Greeks' , but MacCulloch himself chooses to expand the subject under discussion to "three millennia".

Is there some ancient Odium Philologicum among dear old gentlemen going on here? Did Dover write or do something which MacCulloch still resents? 

Does anybody know?

6 March 2024

St. Saviour's College

 Dr Newman informs us that Mr Charles Reding was destined to learn Anglicanism at Oxford; and so "to that celebrated seat of learning he was in due time transferred, being entered at St. Saviour's College."

Recently I spotted, in something I was (er) reading, that "St. Saviour seems to have been the medieval form of Christ Church, and though there are medieval precedents for Christ Church and modern instances of St. Saviour, Christ Church is almost entirely modern." 

The writer was not alluding specifically to S John Henry Newman or to the Colleges of the University of Oxford, although he was a Keble man ... and Ely, if you really want to know ... Modern History ... and he gave no evidence or references for these assertions. No hint that he had Cardinal College particularly in mind.

Are his assertions true? Any ideas?

5 March 2024

Wandregesilius ...

"Wandregesilius was Abbot of Fontenelle, near Rouen, and how he came to be commemorated at Bixley [in Norfolk] is something of a puzzle."

Well, I thought that was quite funny. Sorry if you didn't. More below.

Skip the next paragraph if you know all this about Church Dedications (Medieval; England) already.

The ruptures of the 'reformation' period meant that, very often, accurate information about Church Dedications was lost. In the eighteenth century, 'antiquarians' did their best to discover this information (Ecton; Willis). Sadly, they often relied upon suspect methodologies. The same thing happened in the nineteenth century (Arnold Foster; Bond; Crockford's Clerical Directory). So a lot of dodgy 'information' got left on the record.

My friend Dr Simon Cotton, whose erudition and breadth of knowledge is very considerable, has, over the years, sent me papers and off-prints relating to this subject, and much of what I may know is the result of his generosity.

In 1946, Bishop Kenneth Kirk of Oxford brought out (OUP) Church Dedications of the Oxford Diocese. It is a very elegant publishing job, but vitiated by Kirk's unawareness that the sources (supra) upon which he relied were unreliable. In 1996, Professor Nicholas Orme of Exeter University produced English Church Dedications with a Survey of Cornwall and Devon. This is an academically painstaking attempt to trace the evidence from the medieval period onwards (sadly, the Luftwaffe ignited Exeter's medieval wills, but they didn't get to the Episcopal Registers).

 But among Dr Cotton's benefactions to me, is Norfolk Church Dedications by the Revd C L S Linnell (1962), who came to conclusions similar to those later reached by Orme. I hope I may be forgiven for finding Linnell's constant expressions of surprise when he has uncovered the insecure foundations of earlier writers, rather amusing. And his own sneaky sympathy for a priori expectations.

" ... in Norfolk the dedications for St Andrew outnumber those for St. Peter ..."

" ... Though there was much popular devotion to St. Anne in the middle ages ...  this does not seem to have been reflected in dedications ..."

" ... it is a little surprising that the East Anglian St. Etheldreda ... gets no more than three ..."

" ... It is curious that the Apostle to East Anglia, St. Felix of Burgundy, receives but one dedication in Norfolk ..."

"The dedication for St. Julian at Norwich is puzzling ..."

" ... it is difficult to find any definite evidence that a church was consecrated on the feast day of its patron, or that the anniversary was observed on the actual date."

"Given in most authorities as St. Nicholas but in wills invariably as St. Mary."

"A mistake?"

"A mistake?"

"A mistake?"

Personally, I am as sceptical about the a priori as I am about decuit ergo factum est. There is a lot we do not know about this subject and my suspicion is that it includes much that is irrecoverable. 


4 March 2024

My final few thoughts on FIDELIA SUPPLICIA

As I understand it, the heart of the new Bergoglian dogmas concerning blessings is something like this: 

A Blessing is a pure act of divine benevolence and does not imply that the Almighty, or the person receiving the Blessing, sees it as a formal legitimation of the status, actions, or entire mode of life of the one blessed.

So let us consider X, who is planning a genocidal expedition to exterminate a particular race. He is a decent enough bloke, and particularly kind and considerate to his wife and children. He is an exemplary boss towards his subordinates, assisting them when necessary in personal and professional matters. He encourages a scrupulously honest approach in every area of life. Realising that Genocide is not quite in accordance with the full Catholic dogma as envisaged in the manuals, he, nevertheless would welcome God's Blessing on all and everything that is noble and wholesome in his life.

Or perhaps we might consider Y, who is a practising paedophile. He is kindly and gentle, never rough or violent, generous to his young friends, concerned to do all he can to advance their lives and to assist their personal interests. He, too, realises that his activities ... sexual, in this case ... fall short of the nuances and the precise, detailed structures commended by the the teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to Sex. But he would like to move forward, gradually coming closer and closer to Catholic sexual ideals ... although, at the moment, he is not yet able to accept them in their fulness. 

Each of these feels that a Pastoral Unliturgical Blessing from a priest would assist his journey, and each of them desires to be accompanied by the Church in his spiritual journey (synodoporia).

How easily will X and Y fit into the format described by the document which Fernandez has drafted and PF has signed? 

3 March 2024


In an idle moment, I thought I would just check.

Let me explain. When the CDF authorised those 'new' Prefaces three or four years ago,  I decided to give the Preface for Martyrs a bit of a whirl, it being of respectable, ancient, origin ('Leonine Sacramentary' alias Verona Sacramentary, circa 600). So I typed it neatly out and gummed it in. There ought to be a special prayer for performing this essential liturgical manoeuvre.

But now I got a shock.

The villains of the 1960s took indecent liberties with this Preface when they incorporated it. 

I have now removed it from my Altar Missal. I won't get caught like that again. There definitely ought to be a prayer for such removals ... purple stole and all that.

The venerabilis with the sanguis of the Martyrs has, of course, disappeared. But where the present post-Vatican II text reads "vires infirmas ad testimonium roboras", the Verona codex had "ita nostris et studiis dat profectum et fragilitatibus praestat auxilium." And the subject of these verbs is now the Father, not, as in the Codex, the outpoured blood of the Martyrs.

In other words, the old ... probably original ... text did not inform God that he strengthens us to bear witness; it explained that the outpoured Blood of the Martyrs gives us progress in our endeavours and grants assistance to our weaknesses.

(The traditional syntactical framings ... sicut ... ita ... have, not surprisingly, disappeared.)

You might think that "progress in our endeavours" (studiis dat profectum) is rather bathetic. You might feel that commemorating the Martyrs by talking about Strength to Bear Witness is a distinct improvement (I think 'enrichment' is the technical term).

But this morning, while ploughing through another breakfast jar of Frank Cooper's Original Oxford Marmalade ... Coarse Cut ... I browsed through those early 'April' pages in the Verona Sacramentary; they appear to provide a collection of Masses for Martyrs. I looked, of course, particularly at the Vere Dignums.

And it seemed to me that the conceptual connection we enthusiastically make between the 'Witness', Martyrion, of the martyrs, and our vocation also to 'bear witness' in our own generation and context, was not terribly much in the minds of those who composed (or those who collected) the Prefaces in these old Masses.

Hence the apparent bathos with which this Preface, adopted and adapted by the 'reformers' of the 1960s, concludes.

Perhaps and perhaps. But I like to know where I'm standing; whether some ingenious connection in a text is the product of a clever-clogs of circa 600 or of a smartie-boots of circa 1970.

In future, I'll go slower on the glue-pot.

2 March 2024

When is a Bishop not a Bishop? When is a Double of the First Class (with First Vespers and Octave) not even any sort of Feast Day?

 Looking at a 'new' Calendar is a bit like looking over a 'wreckovated' church. So, I warn you that, today, don't try to find S Chad on modern English Catholic Calendars. He has been amalgamated with his brother S Cedd and, combined, they occupy 26 October. The reason for this is the Conciliar superstition that no Saint ... well, perhaps just the weightiest Saints of all ... should be allowed to "clutter up" Lent.

All this; despite the fact that today, the 6th before the Nones of March, is the day of Chad's death and burial. And it is the day when he was commemorated throughout the Middle Ages ... until our own times. You will find him in the Breviaries used by our Victorian Catholic forefathers such as S John Henry Newman. His shrine had been in Lichfield Cathedral, until, at the Reformation, that shrine was despoiled  ... but I expect most readers know the romantic tale of how Mr Prebendary Dudley rescued the relics; how they were kept safe by the Hodgetts family; rediscovered by Fr Benjamin Hulme in 1840, just in time for the Age of Pugin.

When (1841) Mr Pugin built his new Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, the rediscovered relics were splendidly enthroned above the High Altar; this, I think, makes Birmingham Cathedral (rather wonderfully) the only such church in this country where the dispositions of a major Catholic Shrine Church are still to be found. 

Back in S John Henry's time, after the enthronement of the relics, Birmingham Cathedral had S Chad as its the Titular: His Festival was a double of the First Class with an Octave through its dioecese: a week which is now liturgically a wasteland. While this Kingdom still had its own Calendar ... I am still describing the days of S John Henry ... S Chad was celebrated (March 2) throughout the entire Kingdom. However, when each English diocese received its own separate Calendar, this came to an end: but S Chad still remained on the Calendars of many of the English dioceses, from the Scottish border South to Oxford. And so matters remained ... until the decade of the the Great Calamity, when, hand in hand with his brother, he was ordered off into the Essex autumn.

You can just imagine those Great Men ... the Liturgical Experts of the 1960s ... fulfilling their Calling of Slashing, Ruining, Maiming, and Burning. They wouldn't have been put off by trifles like the words in the ancient Chad Collect " ... hodierna festivitate laetificas ..." And soon their cry will have gone up: "Here's another Chadfest! 'Tuesday in the fourth week after the Octave of Easter: Translation of S Chad'! Horrors! That could come in May! Just imagine the weather being fine and they'll all be doing out door processions! This isn't Tasmania, you know! Quick! Scissors! Quick!" 

[Which 'translation' was that? The end of Lectio vi in an old Birmingham Breviary will probably say, but I don't possess one.]

S Chad was a great Missionary bishop, but he had a problem with the Greek-Syrian monk Theodore, whom Rome sent to be Archbishop of Canterbury. S Theodore judged S Chad not to have been validly consecrated to the Episcopate. The reason for this suspicion is unclear ... it probably lies somewhere in the tangle of facts surrounding his Consecration: the Roman Mission to the Anglo-Saxons happened to be rather short of bishops; Chad's principal Consecrator, Wini, had secured his see through, er, simony; and the two assistant consecrators were probably Cornishmen: iffy 'Britons', anyway. All S Bede tells us is that Chad, in the Archbishop's view, non fuisse rite consecratum. But so impressive was S Chad's humble acceptance of the harsh judgement thus passed, that S Theodore ordinationem eius denuo catholica ratione consummavit ... and S Chad resumed bishopping.

I think of S Chad as a rather Ordinariate figure. When the Ordinariates were set up, we clergy were all required to give up the exercise of our episcopate or priesthood ... and to regard ourselves as unordained! I remember the bizarre day when our bishops, whom we had so often seen with pontifical dalmatics under their chasubles, were "ordained deacons" in the despoiled chapel of Allen Hall and then solemnly, ritually, clad in ... diaconal dalmatics!

I wrote a light-hearted article about this at the time ... I think I might also have described how the incense kept activating the Novus Ordo fire alarms ... and was told that I had been a Very Naughty Boy Indeed.

Sancte Ceadda bis consecrate in mortis tuae hodierno anniversario ora pro nobis.

1 March 2024

Two points about Fiducia Supplicans

 (1) TRUTH

 This document begins with what a loyal Catholic might call a suggestio falsi, but a non-Catholic would identify as a couple of lies.

This Pontiff writes that the Lord "is a blessing for all humanity, a blessing that has saved us all, and he is the Eternal Word with whom the Father blessed us while we were still sinners (Romans 5: 8)". 

The word 'blessing' and its cognates, crucial to the argument currently being deployed by the pope, do not occur in the text of S Paul.

We/us' could mean either 'all humankind' or 'we who are Christians'. Since this paragraph begins by writing about "us who are justified by Faith". I see no reason to force down S Paul's throat the idea that the passage is 'universalist' and applies to all men. 

The Bergoglian text refers to us "all". Sine, in here argument here, S Paul does not once use this word, I see no evidence to support the Bergoglian determination to shove the word in, and to do so twice.

It is true that this section is taken from a papal catechesis of two or three years ago, but I cannot see what difference that makes. Are we all supposed to spend our time with a fine toothcomb going through every word this man utters in order to check that he isn't interpolating some notion which, in a year or two, will be Magicked into his Magisterium?


These 'unliturgical blessings' are ... apparently ... to be carefully arranged without ritual or formalities or anything that might confuse them with official blessings or unions.

Yet it seems to be envisaged that a priest might participate. Why? A priest is an official minister of the Church, of the Christian Community. Even if he wears no formal indication of priestly identity, the mere fact that he has been brought in to participate means ... that he is priest and is functioning qua priest; because he is known to be a priest.

There is something very profoundly dishonest going on here. Cardinal Mueller has spoken of sacrilege and blasphemy ... and how right he is. But I think there is something even wickeder happening; a criminal plot to destabilise the entire concept of Truth; to destroy the very notion of a distinction between Truth and Untruth.

This clearly bears the mark of the Great Father of Lies himself. At this point, if we were not before, we are well into the pontificate of 1984. We are, in S Paul's words, "not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places".

How much of this pontificate will need to be disentangled to sort out the Papal within it from the Diabolical?