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.