17 August 2010

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

May I comment on one or two observations attached to Sunday's post? I do this randomly ...

I feel - I hope this isn't offensive - that the American Anglican collect for August 15 is a rather sad example of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". I prefer Pius XII's collect ... in fact, the main reason why I'm not more enthusiastic about the pian composition is simply that the collect it replaced is, in my view, quite exquisite. And I don't feel, as one writer did, that Pius XII's is a 'slap in the face' because I do of course subscribe to its dogma. In fact, I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which John Henry Newman spoke sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin. Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are made one. I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek of S Gregory Palamas! And May 31 could be given to the Universal Church to celebrate this truth.

Judith ... my instinct is that Judith has commonly been a type of Mary. Considering the enthusiasm which typology has for spreading its cloak over everything it can reach, it would be mighty strange if she hadn't. I rather thing S Thomas Aquinas said something about it, and that in some Byzantine iconographical schemnes Judith, together with Esther and other obvious candidates, is associated with Mary.

I am grateful for all the contributions to that post.


fieldofdreams2010 said...

There used to be (and for all I know still is) a custom among the Franciscans of singing a Marian anthem on Saturday evenings, to obtain the Beatification of JohnDuns Scotus. It began:
Tota pulchra es, Maria...
et macula originalis non est in te...
Tu gloria Ierusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri...
These epithets are, of course, taken from the praise of Judith by the High Priest after she had slain Holofernes. The Old Vulgate, as you will recall, implied that the Woman herself (ipsa, not ipse) would crush the serpent's head.

Joshua said...


At our (Franciscan) parish, we've been singing just this anthem every second Tuesday at Benediction after Compline:

V/. Tota pulchra es, Maria.
R/. Tota pulchra es, Maria.
V/. Et macula originalis non est in te.
R/. Et macula originalis non est in te.
V/. Tu gloria Jerusalem.
R/. Tu laetitia Israel.
V/. Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
R/. Tu advocata peccatorum.
V/. O Maria.
R/. O Maria.
V/. Virgo prudentissima.
R/. Mater clementissima.
V/. Ora pro nobis.
R/. Intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Jesum Christum.

V/. Thou art all fair, O Mary.
R/. Thou art all fair, O Mary.
V/. And the original stain is not in thee.
R/. And the original stain is not in thee.
V/. Thou glory of Jerusalem.
R/. Thou joy of Israel.
V/. Thou honour of our people.
R/. Thou advocate of sinners.
V/. O Mary.
R/. O Mary.
V/. Virgin most prudent.
R/. Mother most tender.
V/. Pray for us.
R/. Intercede for us with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here's a link to a fellow singing it:


Joshua said...

Oh, and Bl John Duns Scotus is already beatified - now, on to canonization!

Rubricarius said...

As some one who openly and totally rejects Pius' dogmatic definition I am forced to disagree with our esteemed blog host.

The more than ample evidence from both East and West regarding the death and subsequent translation of the Virgin is more than sufficient evidence for the belief. Pius' act was totally superfluos and unwarranted.

Joshua said...


I fear you fall under the anathema:


44. ...by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma:

that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

47. It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

-Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950)


Please tell me I have misunderstood you!

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

I do not feel that Rubricarius disagrees with me or that he falls under any anathema. I share his view that the doctrine defined by Pius XII was more than adequately asserted by the witness of the East and West for so many centuries. This is what is technically known as the Infallible Ordinary Magisterium.

As far as the opportune or inopportune nature of the proclamation is concerned, on the strictest understanding of Papal Infallibility one may take either view. I often incline to a feeling that it was unnecessary, but then I find myself reflecting that radical theologians, had there been no such definition, would undoubtedly, in the 1970s, have started rubbishing the combined witness of East and West, and been able to do so with impunity. I am content to leave it to the historiographers of 300 years time to give their verdict.

Figulus said...

These days, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the sun enters Virgo in mid-September. Back in the good old days, however, the astrologers reckoned its entry on 23 August, the day after the octave. Dunno how significant that is.

The link between astrology and the Christian calendar provides fertile ground for speculation. At least one modern astronomer has commented that at Midnight, 25 December 2 B.C., the Virgin was standing on the horizon, with the Praesepium (aka the Beehive Cluster) directly overhead.

It's interesting that Virgo is not declined. I wonder whether that's because the phrase is short for "sol in [signo] <>", making Virgo an indeclinable neuter.

Joshua said...

Oh, that's alright then, Fr H. - I was honestly quite scandalized to have thought that Rubricarius was anathematized.

Rubricarius said...


Thank you for your concern.

A friend drove me to Suffolk on Tuesday and I saw Holy Trinity, Long Melford, for the first time. I was overwhelmed with the sense of real Tradition in the architecture, the magnificent Clopton Chantry and the significant collection of medieval glass. We visited magnificent Thaxted on the return journey too, where are the Conrad Noels and Jack Puterills today?

Contrasting those wonderful churches and the Tradition they witness the 1950s seems very much Tupperware tradition.

austin said...

The Old Testament typologies of Mary get short shrift in modern US devotion. Perhaps Anglicans, slightly better versed in the OT, could help revive them. It's a pity that the longer form of "Ye who own the faith of Jesus" is not more often sung. It has the verse:

So of her that loved and suffered
Was our better Samuel born;
So did Zion's Virgin Daughter
Laugh Assyria's might to scorn;
So did Esther, daring all things,
Lift again the captives' horn.

Enough there for a month of Sunday School classes.