31 May 2011

Can my eating slake your hunger? (2) The Transalpine Redemptorists

There is little point in reading this if you have not read Part 1
Pickstock, drawing heavily upon Bossy, emphatically demanded a positive answer to Luther's typically late medieval and individualistic question Can my eating slake your hunger? She demonstrated the profound authenticity of a corporate understanding of Christianity in which what we do does affect our fellow-members of the Body of Christ. You may wonder how anybody who had read I Corinthians 12 could possibly not be familiar with this truth. It is a measure of the intense individualism which Protestantism inherited from some of the latest strands in medieval thought, that the implications of S Paul's teaching were so long ignored. (It is relevant to recollect Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix's demonstration, Shape pp 605 sqq., that the characteristic tropes of Protestant public worship constitute nothing more than the objectification and canonisation of what in late medieval piety had been the subjective devotion of the individual layman.)

This recovery of Pauline corporatism places in an entirely new and favourable intellectual context some of the most derided loci of medieval theology. You may indeed think of the Treasury of Merit and of Indulgences. I would like, today, to concentrate upon the medieval system of chantry Masses for the departed; and I might as well quote Pickstock.
The doctrine of Purgatory permitted both the living and the dead both to be involved in one unfinished story of salvation and reciprocal aid. ... Such active charity was grounded in a concern with their members beyond the point where those members could possibly be seen to confer any positive, immediate or predictable benefits back towards the fraternity ... and Pickstock goes on to speak of the working out of salvation itself as a process of interpersonal support and reconciliation.

Above my desk as I write this I have a Certificate of Perpetual Membership of the the Purgatorian Archconfraternity in honour of The Most Holy Redeemer of Golgotha For the Relief of the Poor souls in Purgatory, maintained by the Transalpine Redemptorists who pray and work and live on the northern island of Papa Stronsay. I find it a source of great strength to know that both now and after my death I shall be in the fellowship of prayer which this represents, that the One Sacrifice will be offered again and again for me. Does it seem like a throw-back to a departed model of Catholic life, to a style of Catholicism which has faded like a dream in the clear dawn of the Spirit of Vatican II? Is there a danger even that some may value it merely because it has the charm of something retro? Or that we shall simply make lofty and detached observations about how the pendulum certainly seems to have swung back rather since the 1970s?

Of course, this culture of prayer for the departed is 'old' in the sense that it represents the ancient and authentic conviction of the Church that the Sacrifice of Calvary ought to be offered for the departed; that we and they remain one fellowship of life and prayer, members still together of Christ's Body. One remembers S Monica's last words to her son S Augustine "Tantum illud vos rogo, ut ad Domini altare memineritis mei, ubicumque fueritis". One thinks with affection of the armies of Chantry Priests at their laudable work in our English parish churches during the Middle Ages. But I thought there would be little harm in pointing out that this wonderful culture of interdependence is actually also the culture of the best liturgical thinking and rethinking of the last couple of decades. What the dear fathers and brethren on Papa Stronsay do is not only immemorially ancient; not only ineradicably founded in the teaching of the New Testament; not only rooted in the unavoidable command to apply the benefits of Christ's redemption to quick and to dead; but is also at the Cutting Edge!

God bless them and reward them for what they do on behalf of all of us.

30 May 2011

Can my eating slake your hunger? (1) Bossy and Pickstock

Martin Luther notoriously, and polemically, asserted "As you massmongers cannot be baptised nor believe for someone else, similarly you are unable to receive the Sacrament for someone else. As every man is baptised for himself, so he has to eat and drink for himself. Can my eating slake your hunger? No more can your eating of this Sacrament do me good". Two late twentieth century writers effectively turned the question in Luther's rant back on itself and returned to Luther a positive answer: indeed - my eating can slake your hunger. The first was John Bossy, whose Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (1985) charted the breakdown, towards the end of the Middle Ages, of a corporate conception of society which Bossy had examined in terms of kinship patterns and economics as well as religion. The second writer was Catherine Pickstock, a Cambridge member of an Anglican group called Radical Orthodoxy, who titled a major section of her After Writing (1998) with Luther's question.

Pickstock's book is not often found to be easy going. She has a donnish weakness for neologisms and an assumption that any potential reader will be happy to work hard to understand her sometimes contorted jargon means. But her book deserves to be rescued from its ... frankly, not entirely undeserved ... obscurity, for several reasons. One such reason is her importance in the establishment, in the 1990s, of the reaction against the assumptions and presuppositions of the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reforms'. When Fr Aidan Nichols wrote his Looking at Liturgy in 1996 (and, goodness me, how well that volume has worn: dust it down and reread it), he was able to incorporate a discussion of Pickstock's work because he had read parts of it, in its earlier guise as a Cambridge thesis submitted for the degree of Ph.D.. By her study of 'liturgical stammering' and 'repeated beginnings', she demonstrated the essentially 'oral' generic nature of liturgical language, vindicating it against 'Enlightenment' fashions for 'linear clarity' and for the avoidance of what Vatican II question-beggingly called "unnecessary repetitions" (how can an ecumenical Council have been so oblivious that this is contemptuous of the ancient and venerable Byzantine Rite which so unashamedly re-echoes - again and again - its call "Again and again let us pray to the Lord" .... Kyrie eleison ...  ?).

But it is, in particular, her emphasis on the corporate quality of Christianity that I desire to consider; that your eating does slake my thirst. Every man is not an island.

This piece will be concluded with an examination a Purgatorian Archconfraternity.

27 May 2011

DISIMPROVING HYMNS

The text of the hymns in the post-conciliar breviary is a great deal better than in the 1962 breviary; the texts have been restored to what they were before Urban VIII classicised them in the 1620s (thus bringing them into line with the Sarum and Benedictine usages of the Roman Rite). They are, many of them, in their original forms. But the coetus which redacted them in 1968 did make some alterations of its own, which seem generally to have an unfortunately flattening effect. Take, for example, Chorus novae Ierusalem, by S Fulbert of Chartres (d1029), now, happily, an optional hymn for OF Lauds on Paschal ferias. The author called upon the choir of new Jerusalem to utter 'novam meli dulcedinem' ('a new sweetness of melos'), where melos is a Greek word meaning melody or lyric song. The coetus replaced the Greek with a drabber Latin word 'cantus' (which after more reflection became 'hymni') on the grounds that 'meli non facile intelligatur'. But surely S Fulbert had, in half his ear, the Latin word 'mel', 'honey'. Interestingly, the Carmelite breviary followed some manuscripts in reading 'nova mellis dulcedine', 'with new sweetness of honey'. The revised text loses this half-echo, this subliminal suggestion.

More disastrously, the coetus proposed to omit, in the Fifth Century Ascension hymn Aeterne rex, altissime, the glorious words 'culpat caro, purgat caro, regnat Deus Dei caro' ('flesh sins [in Adam], flesh cleanses [in Christ], God [the Son] rules [so what rules is] the flesh of God'. English Hymnal - i.e. the superb Anglican hymnographer J M Neale - renders it (141) 'That flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned'). The coetus found these words 'vel obscuros vel nimio lusu verborum expressos': 'too much playing around with words'. Fortunately, somebody stood up against this philistinism. and the lines survived; unfortunately, in a bowdlerised form: '...regnat caro Verbum Dei' ('flesh reigns, [which is] the Word of God'). This still slightly shies away from the divinely glorious boldness of saying (crisply and epigrammatically) that the God who reigns above the highest heavens is nothing other than the Flesh which the Incarnate Second Person assumed of that Palestinian Girl.

26 May 2011

A jolly week liturgically ...

... on Tuesday, our Lady Auxilium Christianorum, commemorating the return of the Holy Father from Napoleonic Captivity. Does anybody know anything about the Brandimarte who, according to the Google links, wrote the delightfully, exuberantly, Baroque Office Hymns for this feast? The Sapphic metre does fit this sort of thing rather well, doesn't it? Does anyone know why the Feast was in the old Calendar for England, but disappeared (except in Wales) when this was replaced by separate propers for the English RC dioceses?

Then Gregory VII, Papa Hildebrande. I remind the Patrimony that Dom Gregory Dix claimed that he had taken the name Gregory in religion, not as an allusion to S Gregory the Great, but as a tribute to Hildebrand "who deposed more bishops than anybody else in history".

Then S Philip Neri, who has done so much for English Catholicism. Can anyone explain to me why it is that when we are venerating his (or other) relics, the priest taps our head with the reliquary if we are male but not if we are female? Is it anything to do with the Paulinum about Headship?

Ad cenam agni providi

If you are accustomed to the Liturgia Horarum, and you look in a 1961 Breviary, you will get a shock when you got to the Office Hymn for Vespers during Eastertide. Instead of Ad cenam agni providi you will find Ad regias agni dapes. This text is the piece of elegant Renaissance Latinity which Urban VIII substituted for the the fifth century text previously in use. The problem Pope Urban had with the original is that it was written when Latin was still a spoken language, a living and vivid vernacular, and its text is therefore, from the point of view of classical purists, full of irregularities. For example, it treats stolis (robes) as if it were istolis: which is how they pronounced st- in the 'Vulgar Latin' period*. Like most popular and subclassical texts, it has anacoloutha, diminutives, and 'intolerably' erratic systems of accented syllables. All this is why I like it. I even feel that the author was a considerable poet who actually used 'irregular' accentual patterns to emphasise words.

Urban's gang of resurrected Horaces so rewrote the second stanza that not a word of the original remained ... but perhaps by this point I have lost non-latinists. Never mind. If you have your English Hymnal to hand, you can find the original, translated by the incomparable John Mason 'Patrimony' Neale, at 125. You will find the Urbanist replacement at 128. You may feel that both, in their different ways, are good hymns. You are right. I just happen to feel that Vatican II was wise to mandate the restoration of original texts (although the 1968 revisers, foolishly, did straighten out the rhythms a bit). The Benedictines, incidentally, never did adopt the Urbanist texts. Moreover, the Renaissance version can miss things. Neale was convinced that the old text's description of Christ's blood as 'rosy' (roseo: 'light pink', because Roman roses were not modern cultivars) is explained by that fact that if a body is totally drained of blood, the last few drops are ... pink (how did he know? Was he right?).

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*Grandgent writes thus about the prosthetic vowel: "The earliest Latin example is probably iscolasticus, written in Barcelona in the second century; it is found repeatedly, though not frequently, in the third century; in the fourth and fifth it is very common: espiritum, ischola, iscripta, isperabi ..." Isidore of Seville in the seventh century was the first to comment on it. It has, of course, left innumerable marks upon the lexicography of the Romance languages (e.g. stella>istella>etoile).

25 May 2011

The Abbe Perdreau and the Mary Month of May

"The thought of Mary and of the Eucharist easily unite; they are connected with each other, so to speak, and are convertible terms. It is Mary who offers us the Divine Infant of Bethlehem; at the foot of the cross she presents us with the dead body of Jesus swathed in its shroud; at the Altar she gives it to us again enveloped in the Eucharistic linens.

"Is this not what the Church of God is thinking when it authorises us to chant before the Blessed Sacrament the beautiful sequence AVE VERUM: I salute thee, O Body, truly born of the Virgin Mary! Thus, at the moment when Jesus emerges from his tabernacle, the memory of Mary is revived in our souls, Mary appears to us like the monstrance in which the Saviour's Body shines. In fact, the Sacred Host is a present from the Blessed Virgin. S Augustine says so in four oft-quoted words: CARO IESU, CARO MARIAE ... The flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary. This Body, this Blood of Christ which upon the Altar becomes our food and drink, derive their origin from Mary. It is the substance of Mary which has become the substance of Jesus. Mary is one of the principal constituents of the Blessed Sacrament; she contributes thereto as the grain of wheat that is sown produces the ear of corn which itself forms the harvest."

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Who was Perdreau? Was he orthodox?

24 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae: final notes

para 1 Universae Ecclesiae One might have expected Universali Ecclesiae; the normal term for "the Universal Church". Universae seems to me deliberately to avoid the formulaic expectation so as to emphasise per variationem that it really is the (yes!) entire Church which is to have a richer appropriation of the Roman Rite. (I take this literally. Just as Latins would have their spirituality immeasurably enriched if they knew the Byzantine Rite better, so Byzantines will be enriched the better they know the riches of the ancient Roman Rite.)

paras 1,2,3,4: Notice how, in accordance with this same stylistic trope of variatio, the Pope is referred to differently as Summus Pontifex, Sanctitas Sua, Apostolicus Dominus. This last of these seems to me to have an early first-millennium flavour to it; I have traced the language of it back to a letter from the Emperor Maximus to Pope Siricius (384-399); and there is a whiff here of the Ordines Romani (except that later in the first millennium dominus would have been syncopated to domnus). A tiny verbal harbinger of a more First Millennium Papacy?

para 5 heic How delightful to see this unusual orthographical rendering of hic! OLD says that it is common in inscriptions. Does this mean that the official responsible spends most of his spare time with his nose in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum? Let us hope that he is not too addicted to all those naughty graffiti in Pompei!

para 10(2) emanat seems to have acquired a transitive sense in the corridors of modern Rome.

para 20(c) Slightly odd. It seems to imply that if only a malevolent bishop could prevent a priest from ever saying a first EF Mass, that priest would never attain to full idoneitas.

para 21 enixe is missing from the English version. In the Latin, ordinaries are strenuusly asked to ensure the appropriate formation of clergy. But we English are so laid back that the Vatican dare not strenuously ask Anglophone bishops to ensure this provision.

para 21 providebitur. The English reads ... seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the EF ... The Latin says ... seminaries, in which it will be provided that future priests are given proper formation, by learning Latin and, where needs suggest it, the EF itself. I think that the Latin indicative future providebitur means "we assume they will be taught Latin because Canon Law explicitly requires that anyway ... but whether they are taught the EF too depends on circumstances." There seems to be an implication here that seminary principals may have in the past been negligent in obeying CIC 249 (on the teaching of Latin), not to mention the explicit mandate of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum concilium 36; and see Optatam totius 13). Surely not!

para 24 I presume this means that SSPX priests will have to buy birettas. And I think it means that when the Oxford Oratorians sing 1962 Sunday Vespers on Septuagesima, they will have to do it in purple ... and that they will have to keep Christ the King in October, Ascension and Corpus Christi on Thursdays, et sim..

para 25 aliquae So it appears that not all the new OF Prefaces will enter the EF wholesale. The addition of just a few will be in line with the gradual tendency to add individual prefaces, which was established in the first half of the twentieth century.

para 32 et quidem integre et Latino sermone. Vernacular translations appear to take this as meaning that the Breviary office must, if the 1962 Breviary is used, be said in its entirety from that rite ... i.e., if you don't say it all, you can't say any. This would make it illegal for Oratorians to sing Sunday Vespers according to 1962 unless they were all in the habit of saying their entire office according to 1962 .... Prime and all. But Laudis canticum of 1970 established a precedent by envisaging permitting decayed clergy sive ex toto sive ex parte retinere the old Breviary. I would take the Latin of UE to mean "and what is more*, they have the facultas [if they desire to use it] of reciting it in its entirety and in Latin".

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*The normal sense of et quidem is (OLD s.v. quidem 5) "(adding a reinforcement or afterthought) And what is more ... ". ["Provided that they say it in its entirety and in Latin" would, I think, have to be "Dummodo id recitent integre et Latino sermone".]

23 May 2011

I Haven't Finished With Universae Ecclesiae

I feel uneasy about the suggestion that UA would have been better or stronger if it had embraced the Ambrosian, and other, Latin rites. Subject always to correction, my view is that this would have been improper and an improper exercise of papal authority.

The Bishop of Rome necessarily and logically determines what the Roman Rite is. The Bishop of Milan, Successor of S Ambrose, determines what the Ambrosian Rite is. The Dominican and other such usages are, to use Adrian Fortescue's felicitous term, 'dialects' of the Roman Rite (and the usages of the Anglican Ordinariates will themselves have the same status). As such, they come within the natural liturgical ambit of the Bishop of Rome*. Rites such as that of Milan, in my view, do not (unless they contained flaws which might damage the Communio of the Universal Church; in which case, of course, the duty of the Roman Pontiff to strengthen the fellowship of his brethren would come into play).

In my piece of April 28, 4th in my Ratzinger-and-liturgical-law series, I dealt with Cardinal Ratzinger's thought about the Papacy and its limitations. My concern was to demonstrate that he had a nuanced and sophisticated view of papal authority and its limits. He is concerned to emphasise that the Pope is not some sort of omnipotent despot but a person who works within limits which are inscribed in the life and in the very nature of the Church Militant.

Cardinal Ratzinger made clear his view that the immediate post-conciliar period was profoundly in error in its view that a pope (especially if claiming the mandate of an ecumenical council) can do anything. In my view, he was absolutely right. It is a strange age we live in: both those on the 'left' ("The pope should allow the Ordination of Women") and the 'right' ("The pope should interfere in the details of the rites of other churches") seem to be united in holding a crude and maximalising view of the papacy which neither Papa Ratzinger nor I could easily swallow.

I am neither on the 'left' nor on the 'right' ... nec dextera nec sinistra sed ubi Petrus.

I wonder why it is that I sometimes feel that I am part of a despised and ridiculed minority ... even a persecuted minority.

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*Para 34 makes clear that the Rites of the religious orders may be used by their members. It is unfortunate that the English "translation" fails to translate the words sodalibus ... licet ... .The same principle of subsidiarity according to which individual secular clergy have the right of using the EF without needing any hierarchical approval is also enjoyed by each individual religious.

22 May 2011

More gems from Universae Ecclesiae

If you want to engage seriously with today's point, you would be well advised to reread what I wrote, just before Universae Ecclesiae came out (honest, nobody broke the embargo by sending me an early copy; nobody ever does; I just have to rely upon my telepathic understanding of the Holy Father's mind), on April 27, the third piece of my Ratzinger-and-liturgical -law series. I was concerned to distinguish between the gradual changes made over the centuries in the Missal of S Pius V, and the radical, ruptured, novelty of the Paul VI Missal.

UE para 4 makes my point with delightful succinctness. It records that the old Missal "prolabentibus saeculis incrementa novisse". That's (almost) exactly right. The old rite had additions made to it; new propers, new votives, new prefaces. Fathers: if somebody gave you a copy of the first printed Roman Missal of 1474, you'd have very little trouble using it ... just three or four handwritten changes needed in the Ordo Missae ... as long as you were prepared to glue new feasts and Prefaces in. Additions constituted overwhelmingly the evolutionary development of the rite. [The English crib inaccurately and most deplorably translates incrementa novisse as "was kept up to date".] Then UA goes on to contrast this with its description of the post-Conciliar Missal as novum.

Exactly.

And para 25 makes clear that the evolutionary development per incrementa of the EF will continue "quam primum".

21 May 2011

Fr Ray Blake of Brighton ...

... has again written a fine piece, this time about the Toowoomba business. With a sound ecclesiological instinct based upon the ancient traditional praxis of both East and West, Father points out that the first steps in dealing with an heretical bishop should be taken by his corporate Presbyterium; if that fails, by his comprovinciales. Only on the rarest occasions, when this has all manifestly failed, should the Bishop of Rome have to intervene.

We sometimes hear bloated rhetoric about the evils of Roman 'centralisation' and the sweetness of Local Autonomy. This will all ring very much more true when all dioceses, and provinces, are more ready to deal effectively with their own heterodoxies and heteropraxies. It is well known that, when he was Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger became increasingly irritated by local establishments who kicked all doctrinal problems into the long grass of the collis Vaticanus so that that they could then play Mr Niceguy with their own cherished local heretics: "I'm your friend, but Rome is putting pressure on me".

Exactly. And something similar is true when the situation is so bad that a Roman Pontiff has to issue detailed legislation to foster licit liturgical communities of a traditional nature, and to protect them. It is splendid that there is an organ, the papacy, which can protect the small people from the bully-boys ... we who have been formed by Anglicanism know that only too well. But it shouldn't be necessary.

Universae Ecclesiae and Redaction Criticism

Immediately UE emerged, I went via a link on Fr Zed's blog to the Latin text and printed it off. As one does, I instantly noticed that the last sentence of paragraph 15 in the Latin text is missing in the English version. It occurred to me today to see whether the other translations omit it ... so I went to the Vatican website and discovered that they did. While I was there, I had another look at the Latin version ... and discovered that the sentence in question was missing there!!!

Here is my hypothesis. Fr Zed provided a link on his blog to a copy of UE which, in breach of the embargo, had been sent to him a little while before. In the interval between Fr Zed getting that version from his leaky chum, and the official publication, a last-minute change was made in the text.

[QUAERITUR (as Fr Zed so neatly says): was that change made after or before the Holy Father saw and approved the text on April 8?]

The sentence concerned: Ad numerum fidelium huius coetus designandum, pastoralis succurrit ratio, cautis tamen circumstantiis aequa lance ponderandis. Is all this evidence that, right up to the last moment, there was still nervousness about the question of how many people it takes to make up a coetus?

19 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae

I like paragraph 19, ordering the pro-EF Faithful not to "help or give their name to" bodies which impugn the validity or legitimacy of the OF, or are hostile to the Roman Pontiff. This does not, of course, in any way refer to bodies which, while deeming the OF to be both unquestionably valid and canonically legitimate, consider it to be an inferior form of the one Roman Rite. The Ecclesia Dei Commission does not, unfortunately, have any direct jurisdiction over the whole body of the Faithful, otherwise it might usefully have required that those Faithful who strongly prefer the OF should not question the legitimacy of the EF (did I read somewhere that the Tablet's Rome correspondent does question the lawfulness of Summorum Pontificum?) and should not be hostile to the Roman Pontiff. That would provide what we English call a level playing field. Other jolly old English phrases refer to cats and pigeons, and sauce for ganders.

But perhaps I'm wrong; perhaps Ecclesia Dei does have a broader jurisdiction. Para' 8a says that the purpose of Summorum Pontificum is "Liturgiam Romanam in Antiquiori Usu, prout pretiosum thesaurum servandum, omnibus largire fidelibus". Omnibus is not qualified by a clause such as "those who want the EF"; omnibus is just omnibus. The English crib is clearly a bit worried by this, because it translates largire as "offer" ... rather in the manner of the wretched waiter who sidles up to you just when you're leaning over the table to share a conjugal confidence with your wife and "offers" you the pepper: "offer" so often means "take it or leave it but it's here if you want it". But largiri [here we draw a veil over the IV Form error of the Roman official who forgot that largior is a deponent verb] means to give bountifully ...to lavish. This document makes clear that the EF is to be lavished upon, not a minority with a preference for it, but "all" the Faithful.

Isn't that rather thought-provoking? Am I right or am I right? Come to think of it, the very first sentence of UA talks about making the riches of the Roman Liturgy "propiores" to the Universal Church.

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.

2 May 2011

sermon concludes

Throughout history, Mary comes to us as the Immaculate Conception; the one whom God preserved from Original Sin so that she could be the perfect and flawless Mother of God the Divine Son; so that she could give God back his own gift to her by giving him a perfect and flawless humanity to unite inseparably with his Divinity. And Mary comes to us as our Mother too, as well as the Mother of Jesus. Because if we are one with Christ, one in Christ, as S Paul teaches, then Christ's Mother is our Mother too. When we kneel at the Altar to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, what the priest puts into our hands or onto our lips is the Body that Jesus took from Mary and the Blood which flowed in her veins before it flowed in his. Mary is our Mother; and what is it that mothers are always having to dish up, except food? Our Mother Mary brings food for her children "in this our exile", food neatly packaged for the journey we are making through this Vale of Tears; food to give us strength until we reach our True Native Land. beth lehem is Hebrew for House of Bread; and when we come to Communion the Mother of this House, the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, brings from her cupboard and sets within us the Blessed Fruit of her womb Jesus. Because Mary is not locked away in Bethlehem or Nazareth; she's not even a fixture who only made it as far as Lourdes. Mary walks down the centuries and across the seas and countries and hurries to make her way to this country of England in this our Mary Month of May; she comes this afternoon to this place and to this moment of time; comes to be your Mother and your merciful guide and advocate, here, in your own land.
The sermon is concluded.

1 May 2011

sermon continues

I don't think Jesus changes; our Saviour God, Scripture tells us, is the same yesterday, today, and always. And I know Mary must be the same, yesterday, today, and always. I was privileged - together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and several hundred other Church of England people - to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Appearances of the Mother of God to S Bernardette Soubirous. We prayed at a little cleft in a rocky cliffside, called the Grotto, which is where S Bernardette had her vision. The Archbishop bent forward full-length on the cold, damp rock of the little cave and prayed there for some minutes. A few feet above his head was the fissure, the slit where our Lady appeared. At the time, S Bernardette was 14 years old - just the same age as Mary was when she became God's Mother - and Bernardette described the Lady of her vision as"no bigger than me". It is as though, through all eternity, Mary is to be seen of men as she was at that moment when she did the Great Thing which all the millennia had been looking forward to and brought God into his own world as her own Baby. She is for ever the One-giving-birth-to-God, Theotokos. And she was, so S Bernardette said, very beautiful. Beautiful, we might say, like her Son who is the fairest among the Sons of Adam.

Let me tell you another thing about Mary that doesn't seem to change. It's the way she talks. Just as she murmured to her Baby, not in Greek, the international language of Big People in government and politics, but in Aramaic, ephphatha and Abba, so, when she appeared at Lourdes, she didn't speak to Bernardette in some grand language of the great affairs of men. There in Lourdes, in the Grotto, two or three feet above where Archbishop Rowan got his cassock damp from lying on the rock underneath the statue of our Lady, they've written the words Mary said when Bernardette asked her who she was: Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion. And that's not French. It's the local dialect, a branch of an ancient and almost extinct language they spoke in the South of France centuries before they spoke French there. It's called Gascon, and it's the language little girls like Bernardette still used among themselves. Que soy era Immaculado Concepcion: I am the Immaculate Conception.
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