21 May 2024

Piddle Time ... who was born on May 21 1688?

May 21 is the anniversay of my Ordination to the Sacred Diaconate in 1967, in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. And the Birthday of ...?

 So what are we to do but ... to Piddle (vide OED sub voce)?

And where better to piddle than in the Thames-side Villa of Mr Alexander Pope. What greater pleasure than to disembark and walk up the steep lawn to his 'Palladian' yet humble abode, perhaps with Bounce sniffing affectionately round our ankles. D'you know who remodelled this house? James Gibbs, who built S Mary at Bow and S Martin's in the Fields. Gibbs was, like Pope himself, a Catholic; I like to think that, as he designed those churches, perhaps he had in mind how well they were suited to be converted to Catholic Worship when ... er ... the King should have his own again. Later, he built the Radcliffe Camera at Oxford ... did you, by the way, know that Pope once visited the Consulting Rooms of the omnipotent Dr Radcliffe? 

 
So shall we climb the steps up to the front door ... no we won't; because Mr Pope himself has hinted that we should look lower. Know, all the distant din the World can keep/ Rolls o'er my Grotto, and but Soothes my Sleep. So, instead, we go through the door under the low arch ... but stay!! the Enlightenment has been tampering with the Romance of the Grotto! Dr William Borlase, a Cornish antiquary, has collaborated with Mr Pope by providing genuine Cornish granite which is now layered and propped up just as in a genuine Cornish mine. How instructive and improving!

We soon pass into the famed garden and pause by the Shell Temple, entranced. Why are we entranced? Mr William Kent, who has had no little hand in the design of this Estate, has sketched the scene, and what is particularly entrancing us all is a tableau at the foot of a rainbow. Naked (but for a flimsy gauze) is a Goddess ... Goddesses do so like to get their clothes off ...: I suspect this one is Venus Maritima because she is surrounded by merpeople of each sex with the loveliest swishy tails. One of them ... it's what Tritons do ... is blowing a shell (even poor pompous Wordsworth knew that Tritons do that). Why is it that Mr Kent's deft pen so often uncovers such exquisite scenes, Ovid repackaged as by Boucher?

Under the Shell Temple, incense is burning on an altar; my banausic suspicion is that this is to dispel the nasal evidences of a nearby tannery ... is that what Lady Mary Wortley (the cat! the cat!) is refering to in her sarky words "fragrant odours"? Confound the opulent retreats of the repressive Whig Oligarchy! Confound 'Sir' Robert Walpole!! Who needs a Houghton or a Blenheim? Let alone a Herringhausen. Come friendly bombs and ... er ...

Content with Little, I can piddle here/ On Broccoli and Mutton round the year; /... 'Tis true, no Turbots dignify my boards, / But Gudgeons, Flounders what my Thames affords:/ From yon old Walnut Tree a Show'r shall fall;/ And Grapes long-lingring on my only Wall,/ And Figs from Standard and Espalier join:/ The Devil's in you if you cannot dine.

The spirit, of course, of Horace's Beatus Ille, but without the subversion of Horace's wicked last four lines. And, if Horace was 'refreshing' Archilochus, as papyri suggest, we can be thankful to be living in so much a gentler age than his. Or can we?

Happy Birthday, Alexander Pope, Catholic, Satirist, Wit, Translator and Gardener! And the last truly great English poet until the age of Chesterton and Betjeman!

9 May 2024

DISIMPROVING HYMNS

The text of the hymns in the post-conciliar breviary is a great deal better than in the 1962 breviary; many texts have been restored to what they were before Urban VIII classicised them in the 1620s. So the new texts are in line with the Sarum and Benedictine usages of the Roman Rite. They are, many of them, in their original forms. But the coetus which redacted them in 1968 did make some alterations of its own'.

Disastrously, the coetus proposed to omit, in the Fifth Century Ascension hymn Aeterne rex, altissime, the glorious words 'culpat caro, purgat caro, regnat Deus Dei caro' ('flesh sins [in Adam], flesh cleanses [in Christ], God [the Son] rules [so what rules is] the flesh of God'. English Hymnal - i.e. the superb Anglican hymnographer J M Neale - renders it (141) 'That flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned'). The coetus found these words 'vel obscuros vel nimio lusu verborum expressos': 'too much playing around with words'. 

Fortunately, somebody stood up against this philistinism. and the lines survived; unfortunately, in a bowdlerised form: '...regnat caro Verbum Dei' ('flesh reigns, [which is] the Word of God'). This still slightly shies away from the divinely glorious boldness of saying (crisply and epigrammatically) that the God who reigns above the highest heavens is nothing other than the Flesh which the Incarnate Second Person assumed of that Palestinian Girl.

8 May 2024

Drinking the Evil Spirits away

The 747 Anglo-Saxon Council of Cloveshoe attempted to purify the Rogations from Vanitatibus and maioribus epulis. But a reading of Duffy [Stripping; hereinunder plundered by this post] makes one wonder whether the English peasantry ever  ... er ... quite internalised Cloveshoe canon 16! 

Some quotations: "and then they had there some ale or drinkings". "they [went] about the bounds of the town in Rogation Week, on the Monday one way; on the Tuesday another way, on the Wednesday another way, praying for rain or fair weather as the time required; having a drinking and a dinner there upon Monday, being fast day: and Tuesday being a fish day they had a breakfast with butter and cheese, &c, at the parsonage, and a drinking at Mr Clopton's  ...". " ... [funds] to fynde a drinkenge upon Ascention Even everlastinge ...". "[They had] good chere after".

The Rogation processions were designed to drive out of the community the evil spirits who created division and sickness. They were to bring good weather and blessing and fertility to the fields. But, like the old Lustrations, they also reinforced the boundaries (if the Procession from one community accidentally met its neighbour, there could be fisticuffs; not least, because each might suspect the other of driving its demons across the common boundary). Again, like the old Lustrations, they reformalised and resolemnised the distinction between the purified space within and the profane space beyond the bounds.

In order to sanctify as well as to mark the 'bounds' of the community, the chest of the relics was carried; and the community's banners. The litanies of the Saints were sung and bells were rung in order to put to flight the spirits "that flye above in the eyer as thyke as motes in the sonne". The Cross was carried because "wher soo ever the devyll ... doo see the syne of the crosse, he flees, he byddes  not, he strykys not, he cannot hurte". At Stations marked by crosses, Gospels were read: William Tyndale ridiculed this "saying of the gospels to the corn in the field in the procession week, that it should the better grow". 

One last query, stimulated by the admirable Ceremonies of the Sarum Missal by the admirable R J Urquhart (T and T Clark; a most invaluable volume). Among the banners carried were ... the Dragon and the Lion.

Exactly!

But was the draconis vexillum just a banner? "[T]he woodcuts [in the Processional] suggest something more three-dimensional. In some places the Draco was made of leather and was inflatable or filled with chaff". 

Sounds very jolly, yes? My initial instinct was to wonder whether Draco and his friend Leo had an apotropaic function. Duffy, per contra, tells us the the Dragon had a long cloth tail as he went before the procession on Monday and Tuesday, but was carried shorn of his tail on the third day, "as a symbol of the Devil's overthrow".

Hmmmmm


7 May 2024

Rogations; and the Last Gospel

 Readers may recall that, during the Rogation processions, 'stations' were made at crosses. My own suspicion is that the stone crosses which stand along the paths leading to churches, especially in the Penwith peninsular at the very end ... the loveliest part ... of Cornwall, were where such stations were made. And (even before the endowed drinking started) passages from the Holy Gospels were read.

Because there are North and South and East and West, four points on the compass, and there are four canonical Gospels, the readings were arranged accordingly. The Annunciation Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) ... the Epiphany Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12) ... the Ascension Gospel (Mark 16:14-20) ... the Christmas Day Gospel (John 1:1-14). 

Rumour has it that, in the Usus Deterior, the people are only allowed to hear S Mark's Ascension Gospel once every three years ... I couldn't possibly comment ... and that modern vernacular Bibles drop heavy hints that it is not 'authentic' ... I couldn't possibly comment ... (but I think W Farmer had some views on this). Certainly, as an adjunct of the Rogation processions, its daemonifugic and thaumaturgic references (verses 17-18) will have had a considerable resonance. A shame most modern worshippers are, er, protected from all this.

Acute eyes will have noticed that that all four of these Gospel Readings are Incarnational rather than Soteriological. It would be wrong to over-emphasise this fact: after all, the Devotion to the Five Wounds, which will have been heavily emphasised in the Parish and Guild banners, is radically soteriological. But emphases do bear their own messages. The practice of the the Rogations was essentially incarnational in as far as it related Divine action and benevolence to the created and material world. Medieval Christians, unlike their modern successors, would not have needed self-conscious homilies to instruct them that the Gospel is not confined to what goes on inside church buildings.

There are actions which carry their own inherent meaning. The 'Enlightenment' notion that only what is verbally understood has any status, needs to be rebutted. The most 'Novus' worshipper does not, I am sure, grimly and rigidly focus every fibre of his intelligence on every vernacular formula he hears or utters in Church. Things are internalised and made part of a holy routine. Lift up your hearts is full of meaning ... but you don't need to be Craddock Ratcliff, or to think rapidly through loads of theologoumena, every time you respond to this invitation. Liturgy is not meant to be like a kindergarten learning by rote its Three Times Table.

The Johannine Prologue has, for centuries, been a favourite among Christians. It might be read at an Extreme Unction or a Baptism; it has been a blessing for the weather, the crops, and the fields. When Jungmann wrote just after the War, he recorded that in Salzburg and Carinthia, it was 'still' used as a daily blessing for weather. There were places where the Reading of this Gospel was associated with the Blessing of the pain benit, distributed after Mass. 

And so we are fortunate enough to have this sanctifying lection at the end of nearly every Mass in the Usus Authenticus!

Objectively, irrespective of any enlightenment, the words of this august Reading have their own logic and meaning; subjectively, it establishes the individual and her community in the diachronic and synchronic unities which structure our existence in this world.

 



6 May 2024

ROGATIONS

The three Rogation Days are upon us! Instituted in Gaul around 475 'to repel calamities'; to ask that God will ... in the words of Cranmer's translations of the Litanies ... "give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the Earth"*, they served also to impress upon parishioners and outsiders alike the parochial identity, both social and territorial. Hence their in-your-face nature. Watch out for the Lion and the Dragon as they galumph round the parish! Of course, there were the banners and the endowed potations and the Readings of the Four Gospels to sanctify the crops ... and the prot bishop of Chester, as late as 1581, happily still felt it necessary to forbid "banners, crosses, handbells, or any such-like popish ceremonies". His clergy could and would supply the processions with the banners and crosses and all the other necessary popery wherewith to define parish boundaries, and Urquart (Ceremonies of the Sarum Missal) will remind you what was done ritually. But those 'handbells' look to me like a lay contribution to the potentially controversial duty of emphasising to outsiders "This is our territory. You cannot claim to have been unaware of our passing.".

In 1906, William Holt Yates Titcomb painted what, to my eye and mind, is one of the truly great 'Cornish' pictures. The Church in Cornwall: a Rogation Procession, shows Fr Bernard Walke, Curate of St Ives, who had sat for the portrait, leading a Rogation Procession along the quayside at St Ives. The picture is instinct with life: the servers in choir dress; the boys carrying the crucifix and candles; the men carrying the canopy; the massed fishing boats. 

Because: this picture must be seen against the background of the enormous number of pictures painted for an eager market. I can only say that so many of these images seem to me to be marked by necrophiliac and biblioleutric preoccupations: Cornish faces mourning dead Cornish fishermen, or being comforted in their tragic losses by the printed words of the King James Bible: Frank Bramley A hopeless Dream; Edwin Harris Words of Comfort; Albert Chevallier Tayler Her Comfort; Walter Langley Waiting forthe Boats; Daydreams; Lingering Hope; William Eadie Where there's Life There's Hope ...

*THE LITANIES

"That it may please thee to geue and preserue to our use the kyndly fruytes of the earth, so as in due tyme we may enioy them." Sic Cranmer.

"Kyndly". Both the Medd Latin version of the Prayer Book and the Oxford Latin Litany simply omit this word! As for "due tyme", Medd gives "tempore opportuno"; the idiosyncratic Oxford version "ut suo tempore pie eis utamur".   

Incidentally, I have a very tentative hypothetical explanation of that delicious phrase "the kindly fruits of the Earth", which I now offer for Englit specialists and philologists to shoot down.

There is a grammatical usage sometimes called 'predicative'. Consider the difference between 

(a) He kicked the black and bue boy; and

(b) He kicked the boy black ad blue.

In (b), the boy's state is part of the end result of the verbal action.

Could it be that, in "kindly fruits of the Earth", the 'kindliness' is part of what we ask God to confer ... that the fruits may prove kindly?

And is it possible that this parsing might be what the Oxford version is reaching for with its "pie"? Not all Oxford dons are fools.

For Ber Walke, of course, it would have to have been the kindly Fish of the Sea ... pisces propitiosos?

5 May 2024

QUICUNQUE VULT, &C. ...

The Ordinariate uses the 'Athanasian Creed' on Ascension Day ... on Trinity Sunday ... S John Baptist ...

This wonderful, luminous outpouringof love towards our One and Triune God made its final,disgraceful, exit from the worship of the mainstream church in the 1960s.

You may wish to call me wild, or to pigeon-hole me as an extremist; but I feel that the suppression of this credal formula counts as one of the definitive moments of the post-Conciliar Apostasy.

4 May 2024

CROWBAR RAID ON CORNISH CHURCH

 Such was the headline in a London newspaper in 1932. The account continued:

"The beautiful reredos at the back of the Altar, designed by Ernest Procter, A.R.A, was destroyed and the canopy torn down. Two tabernacles were removed, the Venetian bracket supporting the image of St. Joseph was dug out of the wall and the images of St. Anne and Our Lady removed ..."

The account by Fr Bernard Walke goes on : "Whenever I enter an old country church and see the signs of destruction wrought there in the sixteenth century, I can hear the sounds of hammering and the crash of falling images ...

"There are two tabernacles in the church at St. Hilary: one on the High Altar ... the other above the Chapel of the Sacred Heart ... in this tabernacle  the Holy Sacrament was reserved. Now the guardianship of the Blessed Sacrament is part of the priest's office; the two men with me realised as fully as I did that the Holy Sacrament must be defended against profanation ... a man who appeared to be in charge approached me and suggested that if I surrendered the monstrance, now locked in the safe, he would be willing for me to to remove the Sacrament.

"I could make no terms with him. Seeing that we were preparing to defend the Sacrament at all costs, he consented to my demands and allowed me to carry it to a place of safety. On my way to the house to fetch the key of the tabernacle, I spoke hurriedly to the people who had gathered outside and told them to procure candles. I returned and ...went to the altar and, opening the door of the tabernacle, took out the Sanctissimum.

"Outside the church were a number of people ... As I came from the little doorway of the Lady Chapel carrying the Holy Sacrament, I found them all on their knees lining the pathway through the churchyard, with lighted candles in their hands.

"I had passed from the noise and tumult of passion to a quiet world of faith."

3 May 2024

Guary

As medieval Cornish parishioners attended their local Pleyn a Gwary, they saw at one end of the circular site an elevated strucure called the pulpitum. Round the circular edge, were 'tents' where kings had their 'tents'; perhaps so that the spectators might be able to admire the the especially extravagant gear worn by such lofty individals when eventually they emerged. Here, God the Father creates Adam and Eve.

After some 700 lines of drama, the now fallen Adam claims that the roots of the briars are so strong that his arms are torn; he wishes that the Oyl a vercy (Oil of Mercy) might help him. At this point, seamlessly, the narrative abandons the story which the lines of Old Testament dialogue prescribe. Adam cannot go searching for it himself', because, since the Fall, the footprints of Eve and himself are burnt.

The Oil is, punningly, the elaion, the Oil of Mercy, because it is the eleos, the Mercy Open to open to all.

So Seth makes the journey. A cherub permits him to look into Eden; he is amazed. Good fruit; beautiful flowers;minstrels;sweet song; a silver stream with four large streams flowing from it. And a tall tree, with many bare branches and no bark.

In the Tree, there is a serpent (sarf) and ... when Seth looks yet closer, he sees high up a little new-born child, in swaddling clothes. The cherub assures him that this is the Mab dev, Son of God, who will redeem Adam .. the Child is the oyl a vercy ... through Him the world will be saved. Seth is instructed to take three pips, try spus from the Apple which Adam ate and, upon his death, to put them between his teeth and his tongue. From them Seth will see three trees grow quickly, because Adam will not live more than three days beyond Seth's return.

People with more visual imaginations can always visit St Neot's church in Cornwall, with its fine set of medieval glass, where they will behold Seth doing his stuff with the pips. Off at the side, the tee is robustly portrayed with its naked baby. The rubric in this window is Hic Seth ponit tria grana sub linguam Adam.

After a finely described Noe, and Abraham, and Moses, we find the last of these up the Mountain; where he sees three splendid rods ... which he instantly discerns as a demonstration and token, dysquythyans ha token, of the three Persons of the Trinity. He declares that he will cut them down and take them home. They turn out to have curative properties' provided that a suppliant kisses them. They are subsequently found by King David, who is told that from them a Cross will be made to crucify the Son. 

At this point, there appears ... significantly? ... to be an insertion into the original manuscript to provide for the healing of a Cecus, a Claudus, and a Surdus. These stories, and texts, evolved.

And so the narrative proceeds. A diligent reader will notice the imprecation By my ballock, and that Bathsheba describes her affair with King David as agan guary (is this the sort of word girls used in order to play down their adulteries?). But, above all, he or she will appreciate the strong doctrinal theme linking the Tree of the Fall  with the Tree of Redemption. 

Links with our cultus of the Most Holy Cross are, I think, strengthened by descriptions of the Tree being garlanded with silver.

 

 

2 May 2024

Was Gueranger a Great Liturgist?

Of course he was.

Surely, one of the signs of a truly great Liturgist is his ability to think up a truly profound reason for a liturgical phenomemon which to mere mortals appears counter-intuitive.

So here is Gueranger on why the Mary Month of May has no Marian festivals:

"Ever since our entrance upon the joys of the Paschal Season, ... of our Blessed Lady there has not been a single Feast to gladden our hearts by telling us of some mystery or glory of our august Queen. ... May and June pass without any special solemnity in honour of the Mother of God. It would seem as though Holy Church wished to honour, by a respectful silence, the forty days during which Mary enjoyed the company of her Jesus, after his Resurrection. We, therefore, should never separate the Mother and the Son ..."

He is going on to commend the Feast (pro aliquibus locis), on May 24, of Our Lady Help of Christians. It commemorates the day in 1814 when Pius VII brought to an end "five years  during which the spiritual government of the Christian world had suffered a total suspension". But his words (which have an intriguingly Newmanish ring to them!!!) have been falsified by the last century. 

The medievals took the words Salve Sancta Parens as the Lord's Easter greeting to his Mother. Cardinal Mercier persuaded the Pope to make May 31 the Festival of Mary Mediatrix of All Graces ... a fine theologoumenon with interesting Byzantine analogues. And Papa Pacelli changed that in order to suit one of his own little games; his intervention would have been theologically up-to-the-minute somewhere around 1300 A D. The post-Conciliar 'reformers' decided to replace this with their own piece of cleverness. 

Some places, apparently, were granted Our Lady of Light Spouse of the Holy Ghost on the Sunday after Ascension. Papa Bergoglio parked Mater Ecclesiae on Whit Monday. And our Lady of Fatima now appears on May 13.

1 May 2024

Mary's Month of May, and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner

"The happy birds Te Deum sing,/'Tis Mary's month of May;/ Her smile turns winter into spring,/ And darkness into day;/ And there's a fragrance in the air,/ The bells their music make,/ And O the world is bright and fair, / And all for Mary's sake.// "

The first stanza of Number 936  in the good old English Catholic Hymn Book; by a sometime Vicar of Pimlico, Fr Alfred Gurney (1843-1898). How very true it all is. That hymn used to get a good annual airing when I was pp of S Thomas's By The Railway Station in Oxford. But I doubt whether Sir Nikolaus ever had those edifying thoughts crossing his mind.

 
Pevsner will need no introduction to British readers; our transpontine friends may not all know that he produced, largely single-handed, The Buildings of England  guides which still indicate to the middle-class middle-brow Brit whether that little church behind the trees over there is worth stopping to have a glance inside. In this, he is, in my view, a dangerous cicerone: on innumerable occasions I have found fascinations in things and places where (racism trigger warning) his dull teutonic eye saw nothing. He is sometimes referred to as Bauhaus Pevsner, which is not at all the whole truth but gives the general idea. His praise of buildings he liked has not saved at least one brutalist monstrosity from demolition here in Oxford ("A witty building", he had commented.)

Here is what he gives us for the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham: "It is a disappointing building, of brick, partly whitewashed, and looking for all its ambitions, like a minor suburban church."

The Shrine Church was not constructed as a prize entry for an architectural competition in Weimar Germany. It sprouted up organically from the soil of a particular situation within a particular community. Bishop Pollock had ordered Fr Hope Patten to remove the statue of our Lady which he had placed, without a faculty, in Little Walsingham Parish Church [Little Walsingham is, of course larger than Great Walsingham]. So he did. So he reconstructed a Holy House [think Nazareth; think Loretto, think Erasmus at medieval Walsingham] and put her there. With a little chapel around it. People came. There was never enough room. There were never enough altars for all the priests to say all their private Masses ... the building expanded ... and expanded ... our Lady was given a silver crown, the "Oxford Crown", by a parish which was once a daughter church of my last Anglican parish. And people gave relics in reliquaries. And 'Catholic Societies' wanted their own special places, so they sponsored the altars of the fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

You can't stride in and enjoy the satisfying vistas because, immediately inside the entrance, your view is blocked by the Altar of the Annunciation with a major relic of S Vincent to your left.

It is one of those irritating buildings where you are constantly being drawn round intriguing corners or lured up enticing little stairs and surprised by the unexpected. Here a Relic of the True Cross; there a Russian copy of the Ikon of our Lady ton Iveron on Mount Athos; or a Holy Well (discovered by the builders); or the pan-Orthodox Chapel; or the foundation stone naming the reigning pontiff as well as Bishop Pollock ... there's a story in that and there's a story in practically everything.

My memories are of the early 1960s, and the tinkle of bells at the altars and the traffic of servers and priests from sacristy to altars and the queues at the confessionals and the queues of new pilgrims arriving with their priest saying the Prayers upon Arrival and all the bustle of the 'National'.

It is where generations of Anglo-Catholics discovered the awe of Catholic worship and the holy busy-ness and the fun of it all ... before the Sixties did their spoiling.

"A disappointing building".


30 April 2024

ONLY FOR CORNUBIPHONES: puns in Middle Cornish?

(1) In the Resurrexio Domini, the Concealed Jesus (line 1290) reassures Cleophas and the Socius on the Way that they will definitely (deffry) enter intothe clos of the one they seek. I had assumed that this word came, like the English (Cathedral) Close, from claustrum. But there is another, etymologically distinct but identical Cornish word, which means 'glory'.

I wonder if a coincidence is intentional.

(2) As little later, at 1330-1331, Cleophas and the Socius are drawing the episode of their walk to Emmaus to a close; the Socius observes that, when the Stranger showed them his wounds (wolyow), there was no need for ... guariow (the rhyme being required by the metrical scheme).

Gwarry is the term regularly used for a dramatic performance. The circular spaces created for these 'plays' are still called, and marked on maps, as Plain an Gwarry.

The medieval plays whose texts survive are often vigorous and even violent; certainly, unrestrained in their language. Indeed, by line 1399 S Thomas is threatening S Philip with physical violence.

So it is within a gwarri that one of the players, while in playing costume, assures the spectators that there is no need of guariow for those who have been shown the Five Wounds.

Is this a deliberate subversion of the genre? I think that it certainly calls for an explanation. But it is not always easy to catch the hints and implications of a language and culture which died half a millennium ago! Modern  'Language Revival' games (!), in my view, make the task (game?) more, not less, difficult.

Or does this statement simply explain why, earlier in this same scene, there had been no need for the actors to waste time and energy on slapstick? 


29 April 2024

What is a BIBLE?? (1)

Yes ... I remember President Clinton carrying one when he went to church. You bind them in black leather; I think their purpose is to enable the Worshipper to check that the homilist is not pulling a fast one. 

In 1998, an English Anglican academic called Catherine Pickstock published a book called After Writing; on the Liturgical Consummation of Philosphy. Described brutally, it upholds Orality as against Literacy. The spoken word has priority over the written. Using the tools generated by her philosophical discussion, she argues for the profoundly flawed character of the 'Liturgy' which emerged in the West after Vatican II. She exhibits the laudably oral character of the previous Classical Roman Rite. And, in doing so, she writes "In the Middle Ages, 'the Bible' was not conceived as a singular entity but was dispersed into several manuscripts, often surrounded by commentaries and allegorical representations. However, printing allowed the emergence of the Bible as a discrete written artefact, which encouraged a Protestant sense of it as an authority over against the Church."

After all, the very word 'Bible' comes from a Greek plural indicating a plurality of 'books'. We need to remember that the 'codex' ... our 'book' with leaves or pages ... can encompass very considerably more text than a poor old-fashioned scroll. 

Pickstock, I'm afraid, rather likes Greek jargon and neologisms. She enjoys handling Plato. So she writes "the written word will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it. It is an aid to reminding (hupomneseos) and not to memory (mnemes)". She refers to "Plato's preference for the oral word", and to "the oral mythic tradition, with all its chains of supplementation, alteration, and arrival from without". 

The Socrates of the Phaedrus, she argues, "supplies a myth to illustrate the dangers of displacing speech by writing, as inimical to the philosophic exercise of memory of the good and the practice of dialectic. The critique of writing is therefore closely linked with an assault upon the sophists ...". 

Before printing, medieval man  and woman lived in, swam in the waters of, were deeply marked by, gobbled up, couldn't get enough of, a profoundly and inescapably oral culture. The devotion to the Holy Cross offers an example of how such a culture, in practice, really could and did work. So, on May 3, si vivimus, we shall break off, for a moment, from celebrating Mary's Month of May, so as to enjoy the exquisite festival of the Inventio of the Holy Cross. No; I am not going to thrust a lot of Dream-of-the-Rood stuff down your throats, splendid though it all is. You probably know it already.

Instead, on this blog it will be something that I think is perhaps a tadge jollier.