18 May 2011

Zeitgeist

Well, I seem to have made some inroads into the backlog, and find myself revisiting my own blog. Do you think that those of you who see this ... and are well-disposed ... could spread the word that I have Resumed? Numbers of course have, during the Vacation since the start of the month, plummetted, and I'd like this not to be a waste of my time but to be read by somebody. By the way: perhaps fellow bloggers who have me listed as separated brethren or suchlike might care to reassign me to whatever category they in conscience feel consistent with the canonical adjustments of Tuesday in Holy Week, and to give me a puff. I would be grateful.

This evening, to Sarah Foot's Inaugural Lecture as Regius (Regia?) Professor of Ecclesiastical History in this University ... she was led in by the Bedell and Mr Vice-Chancellor. It was characteristically witty and very pointed. Sarah (daughter of that urbane and exquisite old free-thinker Michael Foot) is not keen on the idea that, in order to be 'academic', the 'profession' in a modern university of a subject like ecclesiastical history has to be left to those who have a reductionist view, and who see the subject from a hostile and secularising standpoint in which Faith simply has to be considered a facade for more mundane and untheological historical processes. It is the duty of the ecclesiastical historian to restore 'their present' to earlier communities by taking them seriously. While the student does not have to be a believer, (s)he should have an empathetic (my word) understanding of the faithed humans (s)he describes.

I find it a remarkable example of diabolical skill, this idea that only those hostile to Christianity really count as impartial; as if Christians must be disqualified for having a biasing agenda but atheists are dispassionate students of their subject. I recall the passage in The Pilgrim's Regress in which C S Lewis portrays the minions of the Zeitgeist indoctrinating their prisoners:
What is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord [God]?
You say that because you are a Steward [priest].
Good boy ... what is the answer to an argument that two and two make four?
You say that because you are a mathematician ...

Jonathan Riley-Smith has for some decades been restoring a genuine theological conviction to the Crusaders. But I remember particularly the words of M Schneiders in 1996, discussing early Irish liturgy: for a proper understanding of the past an affinity with the material is useful, at least if one wishes to go beyond the recovery of mere facts, if one tries to understand the people who used these texts, who celebrated Mass with these ancient prayers. But 'useful' is too timorous; and Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix put it so much more memorably when, writing about the Canon Romanus, he said: This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the Third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed. Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it.

35 comments:

threehearts said...

Fr
some posts ago you mentioned Masoretes. I have a very interesting article from good source in Rumania. I would like to send it to you for your comments. How do I do this

Nixon is Lord said...

Why is religion so boring? I would rather have root canal than go to church.

Michael said...

Welcome back. Alternatively I wondered if you had; given up blogging/ fallen ill/ died (delete as appropriate). Congratulations and welcome to your Holy Week news. Could you arrange for me to do the root canal on Nixon?

Sue Sims said...

Father, have you read Lewis's 'Bulverism' piece, which expands on the bit you quote from Pilgrim's Regress? Witty and profound at the same time. (Typically Oxonian?)

Ben said...

It is delightful to have you back at the blog!

Joshua said...

Wonderful to have you back! Have adjusted blogroll.

AndrewWS said...

Wednesday in Holy Week, surely? I was there, at the altar rail beside you.

Sir Watkin said...

Welcome back.

I recall a lecturer at university pointing out how much more plausible and sophisticated was the understanding of Pythagoreanism shewn by the Church Fathers, than that shewn by rationalistic philosophers. The explanations of the latter (e.g. on the Pythagoreans' famous abstention from beans) were shallow and fatuous.

The Fathers' analysis may or may not have been correct, but they were at least able to engage theologically with the beliefs and practices they were critiquing and treat them seriously.

A subversive point, as the modern presumption was to trust the ancient philosophers (congenial rationalists) against than the Fathers (superstitious old fools who would naturally be so biased against pagan belief systems that they wouldn't be able to do them justice).

Doubly subversive, as casting doubt in turn on modern rationalists (and thus supporting the point Lewis/Sarah Foot/you make).

Woody said...

It's great to have you back, Father. These are the best blog posts anywhere, in my view. Keep up the good work.

Timothy Mulligan said...

I don't know what a "puff" is in this context, but I will add you to my own blog list, Fr. Hunwicke. What wonderful news.

The Sibyl said...

Welcome home - we've been waiting for you!

johnf said...

Welcome back Father. i was about to send you a concerned email. . .

The members of the Pope John XXII appreciation society are too few to let go without a major kerfuffle!

Capreolus said...

Father,
Many heartfelt congratulations and best wishes on your great good news.

It is also extremely gratifying to have you writing posts again. Yours is the only blog where I always read every word. Please don't desert us now!

--Fr. Capreolus

nodjam said...

What a delightful surprise to see your blog pop up today. Glad you are back.

Indelible Inkstain said...

I learned over on the Papastronsay blog of the news. What a wonderful gift to Church and may you and your parishioners be blessed as we have been blessed by your "coming over".

Dorothy said...

Glad to see you back and blogging again. What an adventurous time this is for you!

umblepie said...

Have just been reading the Papa Stronsay blogsite; welcome aboard the barque of St Peter. Prayers and best wishes.

wllacer said...

Thanks god it has been a short stop

I thought you were till Pentecost buried at Allen Hall ...
Btw., I understand it's not easy to be again layman -for a short while- but white jackets are not to be used unless high summer ;-) cf "Ancient Richbourough"

FootmanUK said...

So glad you're back! Every day I have checked your Blog only to find the date still stuck on May 2nd. What a joy today to find you back again!!

Jon said...

Congratulations, and wonderful to have you back, Father!

On this side of the pond, you are often the only blogger who posts early enough (noon for you, seven a.m. for me) to enjoy with my coffee. I was getting lonely.

Patrick said...

Great to have you back, Father,
Your blog is pretty much my favorite even though it is over my head.
I am with Sue Sims on Lewis's
Bulverism essay.

√Čamonn said...

Regia is a bit like emerita, surely? It could only apply to a professra; as long as the title is professor ...

Fr Levi said...

Glad you're back and hope the hiatus was fruitful.

Peter James-Smith said...

I only discovered you relatively recently and have missed youduring your absence. Saw you photographed at Allen Hall so realised why. I'm delighted! You have been on my blog roll ever since I started it!

Flambeaux said...

Welcome back. Love the blog; missed your musings; had stopped checking daily as your announcement of a hiatus was taken seriously.

Welcome to the family. :D

Fr William said...

Sue Sims: re. Bulverism, Fr H posted on this in December '09 (in response to a comment of mine on a previous thread).

Fr H: Good to see you back.

Leo Ladenson said...

I think Chr. Dawson also speaks somewhere of the advantages of empathy of the Christian as an historian of Christendom.

Jonathan Riley-Smith is likewise a wonderful example. I wish Bl. John Paul had heeded JRS's cautions about "apologizing" (in the modern sense) for the Crusades.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Axios, axios, axios!

The Raven (C. Corax) said...

I am glad to see that your sabbatical is at an end, Father.

GOR said...

Great news, Father! Welcome back...and home!

APL said...

Well, everyone else seems to have said what I was going to say!

Welcome across the Tiber.... wonderful news.

Sigiliant said...

Diabolical? When people not of your view point distrust groups other than their own on objectivity they are diabolical?

When believers marginalize nonbeliver's viewpoints or use unfair rhetorical tactics against them are then also diabolical? or angelic?

I'm encountering priests on the web using the word diabolical rather freely. Evil people almost never believe themselves to be evil but usually believe themselves to be opposing evil.

Having a self-serving distorted view of things seems much more human to me than diabolical.

eulogos said...

Welcome. You have been so low key about it that I didn't know and couldn't guess for sure. What a great fruit of Pope Benedict's papacy! While you describe this as an ecclesiatical adjustment, and in a way with the beliefs you already had I can see that it might seem minor, but I know I heave a sign of relief and feel something is set to right and you are safe home now.
Susan Peterson

J.Samuel Ross. said...

Likewise, happy to see you back!

Father John Boyle said...

Have only just heard the good news - congratulations and God bless you.