6 December 2010

Dignity of festivals

Today we keep S Nicolas; for a couple of decades of my life, a half-holiday when we all sallied forth down to Brighton to do our Christmas shopping or, in the case of the students, to imbibe. I remember browsing happily, one S Nick's Day, in that shop for remaindered books down East Street. I had my back to the window; and I was showing a scholarly interest in a large glossy volume entitled Forbidden Pictures From Ancient Pompei (I didn't buy it). Some cheerful drumming on the window behind me suddenly awakened me to the fact that a fair portion of the V Form approved warmly of my reading matter and shared my views about its academic significance.

The cultus of S Nicolas is one of the most ecumenical and one of the most ancient; he was a saint with as large a portfolio of Patronages as a Renaissance cardinal. He was, at Lancing, co-principal Patron with (the Assumption of) our Lady. In the OF he is merely optional.

The point I would like to make is that the historical aspects of his cult make his observance, IMHO, distinctly more significant than many feasts with a loftier 'intrinsic' status; even feasts, for example, of our Lord. S Martin is another saint about whom I would make a similar judgement. I would be far more outraged if either of them disappeared from the Calendar than I would at the disappearance of Christ the King or S Joseph Opifex. Easy come, easy go.

Does this mean that I lack the true Mind of the Church?

5 comments:

fieldofdreams2010 said...

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Joshua said...

I too was gladdened by St Nicholas' feast to-day: the Dominican Breviary serves up a nice collection of proper antiphons. You are right to lament, however, the disappearance of the memory of the saints.

One thing amongst so many others that disturbs me, and ought disturb us all, is the fading away of the cult of the saints, their feast days, their memories even: no one prays to them, reads their lives, or strives to live as they did and so find the narrow path that leads to life...

Nowadays, in the average church one finds still some image or statue of Our Lady, with a candlerack, and perhaps similar representations, sans candles, of St Joseph, or St Therese (very popular in the first half of the century, and proving by her presence the era in which the church was decorated last), or St Anthony - but save for old stained glass, no commemoration of the great saints of such formerly universal importance as, yes, St Nicholas and St Martin.

The idea of saying prayers to Our Lady is still strong, but I fear the idea of praying to saints is fading out of popular consciousness.

It is horrifying how the doctrine that nothing impure shall enter heaven, with its corollary of purgatory, is completely neglected, how jocular talk of auntie or uncle having a beer with God in heaven covers over an uneasy lack of belief in any real afterlife; the thought to live as becomes saints fades away.

I was struck at the ordination I attended on the weekend by the puzzled pre-Mass gossip of the fairly unchurched people who sat next to me: what was this "memorial of St John Damascene" that the front cover of the Ordination Mass booklet referred to? They were surprised to think a funeral was being mentioned! Was Fr Paul recalling an anniversary? They didn't recognize "memorial" as a grade of feast, and "St" didn't seem to trigger any thought... they noticed that the booklet called him a priest, and wondered if Paul were hoping to follow in his footsteps - true enough! But it was sobering and saddening to hear them groping for understanding.

How very ironic that one of the entirely orthodox and most important points repeated at Vatican II, the universal call to holiness, to live as becomes saints, is forgotten, or replaced with a smug, complacent acceptance of mediocrity.

As the old church billboard put it, If Christianity were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

The Flying Dutchman said...

"Does this mean that I lack the true Mind of the Church?"

It means quite the opposite, I should think.

Rubricarius said...

I would have thought the removal of S Joseph Opifex (aka San Giuseppe Comunista) from the Kalendar would be an excellent excision.

Albertus said...

The early Christians had a lively devotion to the Martyrs - and later, to all categories of Saints, as Roman archeology, architecture, art, history, liturgy and folk customs well witness to. The Apostles, St. John Baptist, The Prot-Martyr St. Stephen, St. Nicholas, St. Martin, St. Sebastianus, St. Lawrence, St.Agnes, St. Lucia, Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, Saints Cosmas and Damianus, etc. are all far more important feast days than the modern politically motivated Christ the King, Holy Family and Joseph the Worker. The undying mind of the Church (as opposed to the temporary regulations of the Vatican) would ever honour the old Saints, and will eventually scrap the usurpers.