29 June 2010

Romanita

Yesterday I took a bus to Iffley, renewed acquaintance with that formidable yet exotic late Romanesque church - so unEnglish in its appearance and the detail of its mouldings - and then walked from Iffley lock down London River to Sandford lock. I took with me my battered "summer picnic" volume of the Pars Aestiva; and, since Mr Newman must often have done this walk from nearby Littlemore, his Apologia pro Vita sua.

I love the Mattins readings for the Second Nocturn, from S Leo's First Sermon In natali Apostolorum Petri et Pauli. It gets to the heart of the Romanita of the Western Church, and especially of the Church of England; S Leo, the finest Latin stylist since Cicero, explains to the plebs Romana (now the plebs sancta Dei) how all that is meant by being Roman has been transformed ... yet, in transformation, preserved and enhanced ... by the Gospel. "For although, glorified by many victories, you have advanced the jus of your imperium by land and by sea, yet, what the labour of war subdued to you, is less what the Pax Christiana subjected to you". The culture of classical Roman antiquity was baptised by S Leo; my view is that he is the one who finally recast the Roman Eucharistic Prayer in a Latinity moulded by the the prayer-style of the old, pre-Christian, prayer-style of early Rome. In S Leo, essentially, being a Christian ceased to be adherence to a faintly dodgy sect largely followed by Greeklings, and became the new majestic embodiment of all that it meant to be Roman in culture and law and liturgy. And, with S Augustine, that Romanita became the essence too of the Anglo-Saxon Church; the Church of Augustine and Justus and Mellitus; of Wilfrid and Bede and Alcuin. The Kentish king who had considered it beneath his dignity to follow his wife's Merovingian religion rejoiced in the opportunity to receive Christianity from its august and Roman fount.

And Mr Newman expressed the essence of the Petrine Ministry, of the infallibility of the Successor of Peter, in that epigrammatic passage: "It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift". It is precisely along these lines that Cardinal Ratzinger criticised the bloated and corrupt hyperpapalism of the post-Vatican II period, with its belief that a pope, especially if backed by a Council, could monkey around at will with Tradition; it is, he asserted, the Pope's job to be the Guardian of the Tradition and the preserver of its integrity and authenticity.

Benedict XVI+Newman=hermeneutic of continuity.

Sadly the pub at Sandford lock had got the builders in. No Stout.

10 comments:

Giles Pinnock said...

What is the betting that 'Anonymous' - whoever he was - doesn't dare get as cross with Fr H for refering to an Anglican clergyman as 'Mr', even from behind the cloak of anonymity, as he did with me (http://onetimothyfour.blogspot.com/2010/06/ecclesial-quislings.html)?

John Whitehead said...

May I suggest that the church at Iffley is not at all "unEnglish", but rather that what we think of as English has changed since the twelfth century. I am,dare I say so, rather surprised to read you, dear Father, writing such things - if you are not careful you will be saying that all those continental-type devotions practised in English churches before 1533 were "unEnglish"

Little Black Sambo said...

When did "Fr" come in, in English usage. Not so long ago, Mr Hack was Vicar of St Mary Mag's.

Peregrinus said...

Until later in the nineteenth century 'Pere' or 'Father' was generally used to address religious or monastic priests not secular clergy.

'Monsieur le cure' is still in use in France and Quebec.

F.G.S.A said...

Monsieur l'Abbe is still the norm in certain contexts in Mauritius. This is how we address visiting FSSPX priests as well.

Pastor in Valle said...

Sandford is interesting for another reason. While I was in Oxford, there was a run-down farm that has, I think, since been transformed into a hotel.
In former days, the buildings had been a Preceptory of the Knights, and in recusant days (again, if my memory serves me rightly) the old chapel was used as a church for Catholics. Subsequently it was converted for use as a barn. Blessed George Napier, the Oxford martyr, is buried somewhere there, though the grave is long lost. I took some undergraduates there on a bicycular pilgrimage once, but we were denied access to have a look.
Bd George's story, and the story of Sandford Preceptory, is told in Dom Bede Camm's Forgotten Shrines, a wonderful book.

As a sort of a joke, I once asked the professionally aristocratic superior of the London Oratory, Fr Michael Napier, if he was related to the beatus. He drew himself, up, took a breath, and said 'oh yes, I think so' and proceeded to describe the details. I survived, just……

Jacob Hicks said...

Fr Pinnock, might that be because Fr Hunwicke is consistently and deliberately old-fashioned (and even, occasionally?, waspish) whereas your post was meaning to annoy?

ex_fide said...

Alternatively, the Pope could dissolve all these nonsense councils and entrust liturgy to tradition. Perhaps the less he does the better. I don't think Pope Benedict is as interested as previous Popes in messing around with the Liturgy, but he's certainly enable the "traditionalist" to be unleashed onto the Catholic mainstream, which often has quite detrimental effects on Liturgy and its study.

Patricius said...

Joseph, I couldn't agree more.

Rubricarius said...

To the comments of 'Ex Fide' and 'Patricius':

Ditto!