26 June 2017

Aeschylus and Euripides and Junia and the Gestapo

As many readers will know, Adolf Hitler was unintentionally (and hideously) by far the most significant benefactor of the Oxford Classics Faculty (called Litterae Humaniores) in well over a century. In the 1930s, Oxford became the home to many of the finest Classicists from the German universities: such as Eduard Fraenkel, 'the World's greatest Latinist' who (not without some opposition) walked straight from his Freiburg Chair into the Corpus Professorship. It has been shown that in his monumental Commentary on the Agamemnon, especially in the figure of Cassandra and in the fate of Agamemnon, Fraenkel's 'strictly philological' treatment of the ancient text is in fact constantly marked by the Holocaust experiences of European Jewry (Fraenkel was a Jew). And, in Pfeiffer's History of Classical Scholarship, largely written during the War, Ptolemy VIII, under whom the great men of the Learned City of Alexandria fled in what came to be called the secessio doctorum, is clearly framed as a Type of Hitler.

It is salutary sometimes to recollect upon ones good fortune; Fraenkel and Pfeiffer had been pupils of the 'legendary' Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf ... what an Apostolic Tradition we callow and naive undergraduates of the 1950s and 1960s were privileged to be admitted to!

And the paradosis continues. I once I went to an undergraduate performance of the Hippolytus in Oriel College (the quadrangle used was once the St Mary's Hall of which Cardinal Allen was Principal). Rather ... undergraduate; twenty minutes late starting because they couldn't get the patio heater to light up! But the Greek text was faultlessly learned (or should I mention that just occasionally the iambs sounded a trifle ... iambic) and vigorously delivered and the tragic conclusion really did grip the (albeit slightly chilled) audience. Oh, the charming, touching innocence of the young ... I bet none of them knew that Hippolytus was also the name of somebody who didn't write the text which Botte and Bouyer so lamentably adapted into that dreadful Eucharistic Prayer, their bibulous pencils dancing frantically as they drafted their opus on the terrace of a trattoria in the Trastevere while the Phaedras of the Night minced up and down before them. And I bet the young people also didn't know, when they got to the line describing Aphrodite as episemos en brotois, that this is a line detested by feminists because grammatically it subverts their daft claim that there ever was a 'Female Apostle' called Junia.

Good thing they didn't know ... the feminist Thought Police or the genderist Gestapo might have demanded its excision ... I wonder what Euripides would have thought of being No Platformed ... no ... Aristophanes would be the man to ask about that ... what a wonderful satire he could have written on No Platforming and Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings and Transphobia and (this is Pride Month in Not-terribly-great Britain) Hubris kai ta loipa. What would it have been called? Hoi Eunouchoi? Hoi Malakoi? Lyssanesos? Eschropolis? [I am indebted to Professor C S Lewis of this University for the last two suggestions.]

Quaeritur ... if anyone's interested ... after the Hippolytus I watched the old 1962 film version, entitled Phaedra, with the myth transposed to a modern Greek ship-owning family ... Melina Mercouri as Phaedra, score by Theodorakis, you name it. Beta question-mark plus, I thought. The Wikipedia entry said it was popular in Europe, but a box-office flop in the US of A. I wonder why?


25 June 2017

Sporting the Papal Oak*: the Vocabulary of Gesture

I am finding it difficult to elaborate a workable hermeneutic by which to understand the unwillingness of the Roman Pontiff to allow his door to be opened to the Four Cardinals.

It has been critically pointed out by others that he opens his door to some rather unusual applicants. This seems to me to be not at all a just object of criticism. I applaud him for it. How can anyone fail to notice that, in so doing, he is following the example of his Line Manager, the Second Person of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity? Whom did the Incarnate Word ever turn away?

But ... well, may I put it like this. If I ran a very welcoming household, admitting anyone who knocked, friends and foes, from tramps to parliamentary candidates, talking to all, hearing their troubles, struggling with their worries, and trying to resolve their uncertainties, but refused ever to find a moment to hear and talk with my wife, children, and grandchildren, what judgements ought to be made of me?

The Lord washed the feet of his most intimate friends, and that pedilavium was seen in the Church when Abbots washed the feet of their sons, Bishops the feet of their presbyters. But the present occupant of the Roman See refuses this service of humility to his associates and rigidly confines it to people whom he has, as far as we are informed, never met before. I am impressed by the symbolism of what he does do ... with its gracious imagery of openness to those on the social peripheries ... while being puzzled by the determined rigidity of his exclusions.

Perhaps ... who am I to speculate? ... our Holy Father feels impatient that Four Cardinals are unable to understand his recent document Amoris laetitia. Possibly he suspects that they fail to understand because they are determined not to understand. I know exactly the same feeling. Both in the parochial teaching ministry, and in a scholastic environment, I have sometimes had that very feeling. In my simplicity, however, I have usually tried to devise other strategies by which to make myself understood. Should I really have just refused to waste my time? Is that the message and example we lesser people are to infer from the conduct of the Vicar of Christ?

Papa Ratzinger once invited to tea a dissident theologian with a life's history of heresy and of malevolent and unpleasantly expressed antagonism towards himself: Hans Kueng. I thought that was a rather fine and lovely gesture. Or: perhaps not so much a mere gesture as a real and Christ-like openness to a brother in Christ. Was I merely naive to think this? Should Ratzinger simply have locked the door, eaten all the sandwiches himself, licked his lips, and had a nap?

I can understand it if the present occupant of the Roman See has a mental list of people he would rather not meet, which includes bishops whom he has just sacked as well as the Four Cardinals. That would be very humanly and endearingly understandable. Many pastors have, at least in petto, just such a list of parishioners. I once went along one particular street rather than another to avoid the risk of meeting such a person. But then, in my examination of conscience, it occurred to me: suppose Providence had disposed the likelihood of such a meeting with the intention that some particular good would result from it?

I am finding it quite a struggle to discover the truly Christian and pastoral meaning in locked doors, unanswered letters, and rigid exclusions.

*Male undergraduate sets of rooms in Oxford used to have an inner and an outer door. The latter was called the 'Oak' and it was said to be 'sported' when it was shut. 'Sporting one's Oak' occurred when, in some such emergency as an Essay Crisis or a woman, the undergraduate concerned had no time for socialising. Will Papa Bergoglio go down in the History books as the Papa Robustus, the Oaky Pope? Will the next step of the Four Cardinals be to compose in Greek elegiacs a paraklausithyron?

24 June 2017

Encaenia UPDATED

Wednesday,21 June, was the  University's annual celebration, Encaenia. Honorary degrees are conferred, and the Oratio Creweiana celebrates the magnificentia and praecellentia of Alma Mater Oxonia. The speeches presenting the graduands are in Latin; and this year we had a new Public Orator, Jonathan Katz, displaying to his public his Latinity for the first time. (He also teaches Greek and Sanskrit; he did not spring upon us the surprise of addressing us in the second of those tongues.) The temperatures here were pretty Texan, and Sir Christopher Wren forgot to install air conditioning in the Theatrum Sheldonianum ... 

The Creweian Oration, nowadays, is in English. Last year, when Mr Orator Jenkyns was doing his last stint of duty, he asked the Chancellor for the customary permission to use the vernacular for this Oration: Honoratissime et Insignissime Cancellarie, licetne Anglice loqui? And the Chancellor, with feigned irritation, and no small delay, eventually murmured Hoc ultimo tempore, licet. This year, back to just licet.

An Englishwoman; a Scotswoman; four American males; one American female. Such were our honorands this year. I am fearful that, in the years to come, outside Europe, we shall become more and more of an American dependancy, in cultural, academic, political, economic, trading, terms. I was never blind to the failings of the European project; I just hoped it might protect us from ...  alternatives ...

Shirley, Baroness Williams, was one of the Gang of Four who split the British Labour Party a generation ago. Since her gender is unambiguous, I wondered how apt was the Latin Societas Quattuorvirorum. Quaterna cohors? Quaternum Latrocinium? 

One of the things I dislike about the Vatican's Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis is its preference for circumlocutions. Machina quae facit x y z ... that sort of thing. Cumbersome. So I did not much like Mr Orator Katz's librorum per aethera legendorum saeculum for "the e-book era". I prefer coinages: Mr Orator Griffin very wittily did e-mail by e-pistula. I am sure readers will be able to contrive neologisms for e-book.

Caeliscalpium for Sky-scraper, I did rather like.


23 June 2017

Printing and the Sacred Heart

Once when I was an Anglican, using the older of my two Latin Altar editions of Missale Romanum, I said the Mass of the Sacred Heart as it existed, firstly pro aliquibus locis and then for the Universal Church, before Pius XI provided a replacement in 1928. I rather liked the older mass. The psalmus in the Introit was Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, a haunting verse which has stuck in the minds of many. You find it in Pius IX's Mass of the Precious Blood; it occupied the same place in the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds; I remember deciphering it, highly abbreviated, on a choir pew put in Lifton church in the late fourteen hundreds by Parson Halyborton, an adventurous Scotch cleric who came to Devon, became an archdeacon, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I recall seeing it on a portrait, 1582, of S Teresa of Avila, once in the Carmel at Lanherne ... Why did this old Mass of the Sacred Heart have to be abolished? Its collect was to be resurrected by the post-conciliar 'reform', so it can't have carried the marks of being too dated. Why couldn't the mass have been kept as an alternative, or even just as a votive, somewhere in the Missal?

I have written before about the significance, understood by too few liturgical writers, of printing. This made it possible for legislators with liturgical bees in their bonnets to enforce, in a flash, liturgical revolutions. Before printing, we had a situation - I am thinking of the early history of Corpus Christi - in which a pope could mandate a feast for the Universal Church and it wasn't even observed in the papal capella until nearly two generations later. But printing made it possible for a Cranmer to overturn an entire liturgical culture overnight, and to replace his own liturgical innovations with a substantially different and yet more radical version of them a couple of years later.

This particular technological mechanism of Rupture came to town, I mean ad almam Urbem, after Vatican II. But there were earlier signs. I have just mentioned Pius XI and the liturgy of the Sacred Heart. Then there was Pius XII and the Assumption. Out went the old Mass and Office and in came radically new replacements. There was nothing wrong with the old euchological formulae; they made the point which was at the heart of the theology of the Assumption in both East and West in the first millennium and a half: that Mary was assumed so that she could intercede, be the Mediatrix of all graces. Granted that Pius XII desired in 1950 to imprint upon the liturgy his new dogmatic definition, he could have behaved in the organic, evolutionary way of earlier pontiffs - he might, for example, have left the texts which he inherited untouched but embodied his new precisions in an added word (corporea) in the Preface; or even have asked that fertile Fr Genovese to write a Sequence, ordering it to be printed in liturgical books after that date and to be be brought into use as the newer books gradually spread. (Something like that is what Papa Barberini did when he classicised the texts of the Office Hymns.)

Printing is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of liturgists.

22 June 2017

When the Patriarch was returning ...

Today, the old Octave Day of Corpus Christi, I remind readers of the Hymn Hoste dum victo triumphans, a superb hymn about the Lord's priesthood and the ministerial priesthood rooted in Him. Fr E Caswall - after he left the Church of England for the Birmingham Oratory - translated it as When the Patriarch was returning; you will find this version in the English Catholic Hymn Book. I would regard it as a prime piece of Patrimony although Fr Caswall was a Roman Catholic when he did his translation, since it was long popular as the Office Hymn of the Votive Vespers ("Guild Office") of the old Anglican GSS ("Guild of the Servants of the Sanctuary").

You will find much valuable and fascinating information in a comment which I have preserved from the thread originally attached to a 2010 blogpost on this hymn.

20 June 2017

Ordinations in the Ordinariate

What a superb occasion, last Saturday! As England enjoyed ... or endured ... a flow of very hot weather from Spain, the Ordinariate happily migrated to the cool spaces of the old Spanish Embassy Chapel: S James Spanish Place. The Sacrament of Order was solemnly administered by our dear friend Bishop Robert Byrne, who ordained Deacons for England, Scotland, and Wales (yes ... poor old Ireland is still inordinariate.). This seems to me a most welcome advance on the old practice of ordinands being 'done' by the geographical diocesan Bishop of their place of residence. That could appear to suggest that they are really clergy of the diocese and that the Ordinary is just a sort of Vicar General for iffy converts. The new arrangements make visible the fact that the Ordinariate is a totally separate jurisdiction, directly subject to the Holy See, distinct from and equal to the dioceses. The fact that Spanish Place as an old Embassy Chapel goes back to before the Restoration of the Hierarchy, makes the point even more crisply (the same is, of course, true of our Principal Church, the old Bavarian Embassy Chapel). And indeed, Bishop Robert's titular See, Cuncacestre, takes us right back to the glory days of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Proto-ordinariate! Memories of the sweet talent with which S Bede the Venerable married together Englishness and Romanita!

The S James's Choir and servers did splendidly by us. So did the blessed providers of the Repast which followed. But the biggest stars were our ten new clergy. As well as eight in Anglican Orders, two had discerned their priestly vocation as lay members of the Ordinariate ... the first such two.

I wonder how many dioceses in Northern Europe have ordained as many clerics this summer. Last Saturday offered the Catholic World a vivid picture of a Traditional jurisdiction which is really going places! Four cheers for Mgr Keith!!

All we need now is for diocesan bishops to 'think Ordinariate' when they wonder what to with their imminently redundant churches and presbyteries. And a relaxation of the rules confining membership of the Ordinariates to those with Anglican or Methodist connexions, would help us enormously. Is it really in accordance with the New Evangelisation for us to have to turn people away?

19 June 2017

Cardinals, Collegiality and Amoris Laetitia UPDATE.

UPDATE
This morning the Settimo cielo blog prints the text of the latest appeal by the Four Cardinals for an audience to discuss the Dubia which they raised earlier with the Sovereign Pontiff. I repeat, below, the piece I published yesterday, Monday.

Collegiality did not wait to be invented by Vatican II. In the 1950s, Papa Pacelli, Pius XII, wrote to each bishop of the Catholic Church to ask (1) whether he believed in the Corporal Assumption of the Mother of God; and (2) whether he considered it opportune for the dogma to be defined. The subsequent Solemn Definition followed upon the overwhelming consensus apparent in the replies of the world-wide episcopate.

More than a year has passed since the emergence of the divisive and poorly drafted document called Amoris laetitia. In this time, many Bishops and  episcopal conferences have issued guidelines making clear that nothing has changed since S John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, and Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis, reemphasised the Church's immemorial discipline: 'remarried' divorcees who will not repent of their adultery and undertake either to separate or at least to try, with the help of God's grace, to cohabit chastely, exclude themselves from the Sacraments during the time of their impenitence.

A few conferences and Bishops have issued statements understood as meaning that the thusly impenitent may, by virtue of Amoris laetitia, receive the Sacraments. Yet other conferences, such as that in England and Wales, have been manifestly unable to agree among themselves. It is clear that the Universal Episcopate is not united behind a 'German' interpretation of Amoris laetitia. Very far from it.

In the context of the Unity of the Una Catholica and of the collegial nature of the Universal Episcopate, cum et sub Petro, the time has surely come for this 'dialogue' to be moved to a new stage. Manifestly, if we are to persist with the embarrassing notion that we belong to one Church with one Teaching about the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, steps must be taken to move in the direction of coherence, harmony, and united witness. The idea that someone who is excluded from the Sacraments by his own impenitent rejection of the Gospel needs only to walk across the border between Poland and Germany, or from one American diocese to another, to be welcomed enthusiastically as a communicant in good standing, is obviously a profoundly unCatholic absurdity which needs speedily to be resolved. Indeed, if one of Bishop Lopes's Ordinariate parishes in America were geographically within a 'liberal', Cupichoid, diocese, the dissonance between the two in doctrine and discipline would be even more ludicrous.

The time has surely come for the Four Cardinals who intervened last year with their Dubia to revisit the question. And the time for Bishops, Successors of the Apostles according to the teaching of Leo XIII and of Vatican II and not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, to speak with courage, clarity and unanimity. And for clergy, laity, and academics to do the same. Remember that, at the height of the Arian Crisis, it was not among the Bishops or even in Rome that the Faith was most conspicuously preserved and defended. Remember the careful and lucid teaching of Blessed John Henry Newman, beloved Patron of our English Ordinariate, on the Suspense of the Magisterium.

Parrhesia, boldness in witnessing to the Truth, a virtue which was once (only a couple of years ago ... it seems like an eternity, doesn't it?) so very incessantly on the lips of the current occupant of the Roman See, is surely still an obligation for all faithful Catholics.

The more who speak boldly, the more difficult it will be for individuals to be put under unsympathetic pressure.

18 June 2017

A little elementary ... no; intermediate ... Latin

In his great hymn Pange lingua for Vespers at Corpus Christi, S Thomas writes:
Verbum caro panem verum
    verbo carnem efficit ...

We are going to translate it together. Are you sitting comfortably?

You will only be able to translate it by first asking and answering certain questions. Such as these.

Here we go.

What is the subject? That is, what is in the nominative? Verbum ... but caro as well. They are in what is often called 'apposition'. They stick together. Verbum means the Word in the sense of the Second Person of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity. Caro means flesh; so Verbum caro means the Word [who had become] flesh ... i.e. the Incarnate Word.

What is the verb? efficit, meaning makes.

What is the object? That is, what is in the accusative? panem, verum, and carnem. Let me persuade you to put carnem in the fridge for a moment and to deal first with panem verum. That means true bread.

So far, we have "The Word [made] flesh makes true bread ...."

Time to polish off carnem. Let's pause for a moment. Consider (1)"He beat the boy black and blue"; (2). "He beat the black and blue boy". In each of these English sentences, 'black and blue' is in grammatical agreement with (i.e. it tells us more about) the boy. But they are different. (2) means that the boy was black and blue before the beating. (1) means that the blackness and blueness was the result of the beating ... i.e. the end, purpose, result, of the verbal action.

Carnem is like (1). It is the result of the verbal action.

"The Word [made] flesh makes true bread [to be] flesh".

Oops ... we've left out verbo, which, incidentally, has a lower-case v. Its ending makes clear that it is either dative or ablative. I will tell you for free that it is ablative.

"The Word [made] flesh by a word makes true bread [to be] flesh".

You can't translate Latin, as you can a lot of modern languages, by attacking each word in the order in which it comes in the sentence. You have to work out grammatical things like what is the subject, what is the verb, what is the object etc. etc.. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time.

By 'wasting', I mean wasting.

Because the sense in Latin depends on the inflexions (i.e. the syllable at the end of a word which changes, as with verbum ... verbo; caro ... carnem), a poet is able to group the words in a beautiful or pointed way. The patterning of this couple of lines is, in my view, perfectly exquisite.

The great Anglican scholar John Mason Neale translated these lines, very simply, very finely,
Word made Flesh, by word he maketh
       Very bread his Flesh to be. 

Have you booked yet to attend the Latin Mass Society Latin course this summer in Pantasaph?

 

17 June 2017

Who started CORPUS CHRISTI?

A big Thank You to Pope John XXII for this great feast!

'Really?' you cry, 'surely everybody knows it was ordered to be observed by Urban IV in 1264, through the bull Transiturus'. Well, yes, up to a point, Lord Copper. But the strange thing is that this bull had no ... or very little ... actual effect. It even appears (a strange crowd, the medievals) that the observance was not even kept in the papal court itself!!!. It was not until John XXII sent to the entire Western hierarchy, in 1317, a collection of decretals called the Clementines that it began to be universally observed. And Transiturus had not mentioned such things as Exposition and Processions of the Sacrament. Although there may be a very few refences to such activities between 1264 and 1317, it was after that date that a great wave of enthusiasm for the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament swept the Church.

Corpus Christi as you know it and love it results from John XXII seizing the moment when the devotional mood of the faithful was exactly ready for it.

Through most of the first 1200 years of the Church's history, there was no 'devotion to the Blessed Sacrament' as we know it. The Sacrament was indeed known to be truly the Body if the Lord and was reserved so that it could be administered to the sick. But there was no sense that it also afforded a focus for adoration and for a direct relationship with our Lord verily present. That was a precious gift of which the faithful became aware in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. And it was the example of what John XXII did when he had the Host carried in glorious rite through the streets of the papal city, Avignon, that was emulated throughout the Catholic world and which provided the pattern for what you are doing this Corpus-Christi-tide.

Three cheers for the Avignon papacy and for the greatest of the Avignon popes, John XXII!

16 June 2017

Idolatry?? (2)

Sometimes one hears it suggested that pagan deities are simply the "God whom we all worship" in a different garb and cultural context. So that, however convinced we are that our inherited perception of God is divinely revealed to us, we might licitly respect other, albeit imperfect, manifestations of God. Perhaps all the "gods" are simply masks behind which lies "the same one God".

Such an attitude is not irrational. In fact, is was widely held in the early centuries of the Christian era. I am not an expert on Hinduism, but I think it is today the belief of educated Hindus. It deserves the respect we owe to all good people who hold to an erroneous religious faith.

The good people who held it 2,000 years ago were those who worshipped the goddess Isis; an ancient Egyptian deity hellenised and much promoted by the Ptolemaic (Macedonian Greek) rulers of Egypt in the centuries between Alexander the Great and the the absorption of Egypt into the Roman Empire. Cleopatra VII herself was, indeed, the father-loving goddess the new [i.e. Incarnate] Isis.

You can explore Isiacism in Book 11 of the Metamorphosis of Apuleius ... a work available in paperback translation. Or, if you have access to an academic library, in Plutarch; or in P. Oxy 1380 of the Oxyrrhynchus papyri (modern books about the cult are often unreliable and are not recommended).

Cult members believed that Isis was the proper name of the deity, and that the cult as propagated by the Ptolemies was her authentic cult. But they believed that she was in fact the same deity that was worshipped in every place under a variety of names and by different cults. So, if you woshipped her in one place as Hera, in another as Athene, in another as Diana, you were worshipping the same divinity. Behind all these different external formats, the deity was One. Accordingly, if you had been initiated into the Mysteries of Isis, there was no reason why you could not also be initiated into other cults, such as the associated cult of Osiris, or that of Mithras ... In Apuleius, indeed, the subject of the narrative seems to be rather keen on 'collecting' such initiations. Quite prbably, some of his Christian converts at Corinth whom S Paul warned against idolatry had been people of such a type ... which is why such vigilant pastoral care needed to be taken of them and their religious activities.

This is one form of a religious culture sometimes known as 'syncretism'.

In the time of S Paul, Isiacism was extremely popular (particularly among women, as Mithraism was among soldiers). Had you asked a contemporary of S Paul "What is the Future of Religion?", you would probably have been told 'Isis' or 'Mithras'. In a cosmopolitan and mobile world, these sophisticated and personal international 'mystery' cults from the Orient had an appeal which the old, rather distant classical tutelary gods of the polis did not have.

Christianity stood out against such syncretisms. Pagan gods, S Paul taught, were either non-existent; or were demons. In either case, they needed to be very firmly shunned. The advice available to us in Scripture affords no support for a policy of respecting Isiac or Mithraic or Hindu cult objects as a way of demonstrating polite respect for the persons of Partners in Interfaith Dialogue (otherwise known as Idolaters). And I can find nothing in the advice of Vatican II which in this matter contradicts Scripture. If I did, it might not be Scripture that I would downplay.

This is the historical background against which we have to understand the firm formulation in Acts: "There is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved except that of Jesus".

One of the reasons why Christians have always spurned 'Freemasonry' is that its ritual, so it is reported, combine and mingle together the One True God with the names of heathen so-called divinities ... in other words, the very essence of syncretism.

Even very Eminent people need to be warned: "Shun Idolatry!"

15 June 2017

Salus, honor, virtus quoque sit ...

I've often wondered about these words in the Tantum ergo. Honour we can give to God, as is his due; Might we cannot give Him, because he possessses it, but we can and should doxologically ascribe it to him, acknowledging that it is his. But "Salus", Salvation, seems to me a different Kettle of Fish: it is in principle what he bestows upon us. In what sense can we 'give' it to him, or say "let it be" to him?

I wondered if Latin philology might help; given the root meaning, does it here mean 'perfection', which we could ascribe to God? Or, in view of the phrase "dat salutem", "gives greeting", is that the sense here? But it seems unlikely that S Thomas is delving into antiquated Indo-European philology; or that the phrase is simply a way of saying "Hello, God".

I suspect S Thomas got the phrase from the old hymn to S Martin, Iste Confessor, eighth century and probably Carolingian (they liked Sapphics), where the doxology begins "Sit salus illi, decus atque virtus ...". But there is a Biblical basis: Revelation 7:10 "Salus Deo nostro" (the Greek is "He Soteria toi theoi hemon" ... see also 12:10 and 19:1). R H Charles (still my favourite commentary on Revelation) comments that "They know and proclaim that the Deliverance is not their own achievement, but that of God and of the Lamb".

So are we really saying, in these doxologies, "We ascribe our Salvation to God's action"?.

I would be glad if anyone has spotted something textual, literary, or historical that I have missed.

___________________________________________________________

By the way, Iste Confessor used to be the Office Hymn for all 'Confessors' (i.e. male Saints who were not martyrs) in the Old Rites. Dom Lentini's coetus commented "The very few metrical licenses led the Urbanian correctors to make so many and such grave changes that they gave pretty well a new appearance to the hymn. It ought to be totally restored; it is very well known and worthy and not to be restricted simply to the feast of S Martin".

But when Liturgia Horarum came out, Lentini had been overruled, the hymn confined to S Martin, and some very unmemorable compositions had been provided for every category of male non-martyr.

14 June 2017

Idolatry?? (1)

Apparently, the English Catholic Diocese of Hallam has on its website advice about how to behave in pagan places of worship ... which pagan cult objects to bow to, for example. This has caused some degree of negative interest.

The advice may very well have been set up without the knowledge of the Bishop. Since I can't find it on the website, it may very well have been taken down by now; quite probably in a proper exercise of the Bishop's episcopal diligence.

The phrase used in this advice was that these ritual gestures "show respect to the host community". This does, of course, provide a rationale for dissociating the gesture from its idolatrous implications by redirecting it away from idolatrous cultic objects themselves and towards the people  to whom we might wish, very naturally, to show proper human respect.

Whether ordinary Christian people ought to be troubled with such semiological incoherences seems to me debatable. Still, perhaps we should not get too hysterical about this. The Hallam situation is, it appears to me, a great deal less scandalous than the "Earth Mother" devotions in which, according to reports, Cardinal Ravasi has taken part. And one recalls the disturbing action, reported and uncorrected in his Wilkipedia entry, in which Vincent Nichols in 2009 is said to have offered flowers to Hindu deities in a Hindu temple in Neasden. (Yes! There really is such a place, even outside the pages of Private Eye!!)

But I do still feel a residual unease about the Hallam situation. Somebody ... probably a local 'Interfaith' clerical enthusiast with some titular dignity in the local curia ... must have been responsible. If so, I think it is fair to ask questions about the degree of appropriate Christian formation of such an individual.

Christianity, the lineal descendant and successor of the Judaic Covenant, is still committed to the principled and unrelenting monotheism of the Hebrew prophets. And, most particularly, the principle of refusing reverence to pagan cult objects was deeply branded into our Christian consciousness during the periods of violent persecution which our Martyrs endured in the centuries before the Peace of the Church.

An apparent assumption that the natural desire to be courteous to our partners in interfaith dialogue renders this monotheistic consciousness 'out of date', seems to me to demonstrate an extremely shallow degree of integration into our own Christian identity on the part of an individual concerned.
To be continued.

13 June 2017

Kneeling for Communion

In absolute terms, it is hard to condemn the practice of standing for Holy Communion, since this is the customary posture in Oriental rites validly and licitly and laudably used within the Catholic Church.

But there is a difference between standing for Communion in a Christian tradition in which it has always been thus, and doing so as an innovation in a tradition where kneeling has for centuries been the custom.

To forget this is, ultimately, to forget that ours is an Incarnational religion in which the transcendent Mysteries are expressed and inculturated in multiplicities of times and spaces, that is, within the immemorial traditions and lives of social entities embodied within history.

Cardinal Sarah has beautifully described the insistence with which S John Paul II, dying, weak, and in great pain, insisted on being helped to his knees in order to receive Holy Communion. Strangely, the description is closely paralleled by an account of Henry VIII being advised that, because of the immense agony which his stinking leg ulcers caused him, he need not kneel for Communion. The dying king, despite the schism which he had precipitated, had never lost his belief in the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, and he insisted on kneeling, on the grounds that, could he even crawl beneath the earth, he would do insufficient honour to his Sacramental Lord and God.

12 June 2017

Hugh Curwen (3)

Continues 
Old and ill, and perhaps panicking that Elizabeth Tudor's regime would discover the extent to which he had been frustrating its Protestant intentions, Hugh Curwen, English Archbishop of the 'English' see of Dublin, left Ireland in 1567 to become Bishop of Oxford.

So this year is the 450th anniversary of Curwen's brief occupancy of the See of Oxford. (His Election was confirmed by the Crown on the 8th of October.)

He came to a bishopric which had never been able to get itself properly organised since Henry VII established the See in the magnificent former abbey church at Oseney in the Western suburbs of modern Oxford. Within two or three years, Tudor had decided to save money by suppressing the cathedral at Oseney and transferring the See to the chaotic building site upon which Cardinal Wolsey had founded Cardinal College. The projected Chapel there, which Wolsey had intended to surpass King's College Chapel in Cambridge in its splendour*, had not risen above ground level (it never did) when the Cardinal fell from grace; and worship perforce continued to be held in the Priory Church of S Frideswide, which, marked for replacement, was already partially demolished. The question of whether the Bishop of Oxford was entitled to regard as his palace the buildings of the former monastic college of Gloucester Hall [Worcester College is now on this site] was to rumble on in litigation for generations (in fact, Gloucester Hall was already notorious, when Curwen arrived, as a full-blooded 'recusant' appendage of the 'Church papist' college of S John's). So Curwen settled into an episcopal residence near Burford in Oxfordshire, and died a few months later in the autumn of 1568.

Thomas Goldwell, the friend who anointed Pole on his death-bed and was in 1558 bishop-elect of Oxford, had been unable to take possession of his See because of the accession of Elizabeth Tudor**. So, when Curwen was appointed in 1567, the See had been vacant for nearly a decade. After Curwen's death, it remained vacant until John Underhill took possession in 1589, during what some historians call the "second reign" of Elizabeth: which began in 1584 when the monarch entered upon new extremes of savagery in the torture of Catholics***. Thus it was not until 1589 that Oxford, rife with recusancy and church popery, received a bishop who had been consecrated according to the Anglican Ordinal and had a mind to impose Protestantism. The actual day by day administration of the diocese (which in those days encompassed only the County of Oxfordshire) had presumably been in the hands of the Archdeacon and his Court, throughout this remarkable thirty-year episcopal hiatus ... longer even than the sede vacante which Bloody Bess notoriously contrived at Ely so that she could milk the revenues of that See.

Curwen is the English Marian Archbishop who 'conformed'; the man who wasn't a hero. But who are we to condemn an old man who used his extensive training in Canon Law to protect the Faith and to frustrate the heretics while he placed his own soul in danger? Especially if we spent so many decades ourselves as 'Church Papists'?



* Colvin, Unbuilt Oxford.
** He was the sole representative of the English episcopate at Trent.
*** John Guy Elizabeth The Forgotten Years.

11 June 2017

Trinity

What I find most striking about the liturgical texts for Trinity Sunday is the emphasis on worship. We find it in the Collect (even as mangled in the 'reforms') used in the Roman and Anglican usages, and in the Preface (before it was truncated for Anglicans by Cranmer); come to think about it, this is the point of the doxology (Glory be to ..."). And for some of us there is the Quicuncue vult, the Athanasian Creed which was not written by S Athanasius (in the Pius XII form of the Roman Rite, this is said at Prime only on this Sunday of the year?). The point about the Trinity Sunday is not how Three can be One, but that we worship Father, Son, and Spirit; we worship the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity. Possessors of the Breviary will not need to be told about the insistence of its antiphons upon Doxology: giving glory to the blessed Trinity and the undivided Unity.

For earlier generations, Trinity Sunday was the commonest day for ordination. It was for Blessed John Henry Newman. From his ordination as an Anglican to the diaconate to his ordination in Rome as a Roman Catholic, ordination, for Newman, meant Trinity Sunday. And how appropriate this was. On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrated the outpouring by God the Father through his Son of the Holy Spirit; through those glorious days of Octave we Alleluiad the Holy Spirit and prayed daily in the Sequence and the Office Hymns for the Holy Spirit to "come" upon us. And on Trinity Sunday, Veni Creator Spiritus was sung over us ... in my case, it was in Christ Church Cathedral just along the road from here ... as the climax of this Octave; the bishop laid his hands upon us "for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands". As in the ancient Western Pontificals, the imposition of hands was accompanied by the paschal commission of the Lord himself: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins thou dost remit, they are remitted ...". Sadly, these dominical words have diappeared, with much else, from the post-Conciliar Pontificale Romanum.

I find it impossible to hear Veni Creator Spiritus without memories crowding the tears to the back of my eyes; and there is another detail of the Anglican tradition which remains powerfully with me; I wonder if it did with Newman. The Old Testament Reading at Prayer Book Mattins on Trinity Sunday, just like the first two readings of Mattins in the Breviary of S Pius V, was the passage from Isaiah 6 about the Glory filling the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, and all the Seraphim singing Holy Holy Holy. You will remember that it ends with the seraph bringing a burning coal from the altar and touching the prophet's mouth; and "I heard the voice of the Lord saying 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said 'Here am I, send me'". How sad that the Liturgia Horarum knew so much better than to continue this usage.

Priests are given many job-descriptions, because there are many different modes in which priesthood is exercised. But in all of them, the heart of the purpose of priesthood is to give Glory to the blessed and undivided Trinity; to offer to the Father the glorious and adorable Sacrifice of his Son's Body and Blood "in the unity of the Holy Spirit", because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Act of glorification of the Trinity; whatever else a priest has to do or does, it comes second to, or is derived from, the duty of standing day by day at an altar and joining the angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven and lauding and magnifying his holy Name, evermore praising him and saying: Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.

Panic!

A reader has emailed me to say that he can't read the comments on my Saturday post because every time he tries to do so, he gets an occlusion on his screen, allegedly from Google Chrome.

Are other people getting this?

I would appreciate both positive and negative responses.

10 June 2017

SOME OXFORD MARTYRS

Recycled from a previous year.
Once a term (on the Saturday, I believe, in Seventh Week, which is today), the authorities of S John's College in this University open their gates to those who wish to look at their unique collection of late Medieval vestments. These vestments date from the foundation of the college in the reign of Good Queen Mary as part of the reform movement which she, Cardinal Pole, and their bishops were sponsoring. After the dark days of Henry VIII and Edward VI, it must have seemed to right-thinking Christians that all was back to rights again; but Mary's reign was not just a restoration of the old. New standards of clerical professionalism were part of its nascent policy, together with new schemes for instructing the laity in their Catholic Faith (Mary's collaborators were not afraid to use some of those precise methods which were used in the previous reign to disseminate heresy). This is England's aborted but briefly glorious Counter-Reformation. Duffy, of course ...

I wonder if there will ever be a national exhibition of what remains of this period - one of the most sparkling quinquennia in our history. If there were, S John's could provide some spectacular exhibits; and in my view the two banners which they possess would have the greatest interest. One is of their Patron, S John Baptist, and shows him in a distinctly baroque style. The other is of our Lady Assumpta; an idiosyncrasy is that the crescent moon on which she stands has, on top of it, a face - the Man-in-the-Moon (another of the vestments on display also shows our Lady upon the crescent Moon; I wonder how early this Baroque commonplace is found in late Medieval English iconography? I have seen it circa 1450 ... can anyone push it earlier?).

But the most remarkable thing about this banner is the name, at the top, of its donor: Thomas Campion. Was this Thomas a relative of the future Jesuit martyr S Edmund Campion (martyred 1581)? A supporter of Sir Thomas White, the wealthy Founder of S John's (he had been Warden of the Merchant Taylours)? We know that S Edmund entered S John's upon its foundation and, being an able Latinist, very soon became a Fellow. In those brief, happy years before the Queen's death, S Edmund must have worshipped in Chapel and looked at the banner of our Lady which his kinsman had given. At the bottom of it among other shields is a shield of the Five Wounds of our Redeemer (the other banner also bears this device). It is difficult not to feel the significance of this: the Tudor rebellions in defence of the old Faith had marched behind this banner; it represened the devotional heart of Catholic England. Even Cranmer knew the popular votive of the Five Wounds so well that in his 1549 Prayer Book he incorporated the text of most of its Collect into his Prayer for the Church and used it twice in his Burial Service. Less than a decade before S Edmund entered S John's, there had been executions in Oxford and throughout Oxfordshire (these Troubles are less well known that the West Country insurrection, possibly because they lacked a chronicler) at the conclusion of the 1549 Rising against Protestantism. The device of the Five Wounds was a mark of identity, of commitment to the historic Faith, and S Edmund must have felt this as he saw it carried.

Readers of this blog will know that the banner of the Five Wounds can sometmes be seen flying over the Catholic Chaplaincy in Cardiff!

Those banners, surely, represent the tipping point between a Catholicism that looked back to the old, and the 'new' Catholicism of the seminary priests; between the culture of Marian priests surreptitiously saying the old Sarum Rite and that of the young men who brought the Missal of S Pius V back with them to England (at Douay, the students were taught the Missal of S Pius V between December 1576 and April 1577; presumably the Protomartyr of the seminaries, S Cuthbert Mayne, another S John's College man, ordained in 1575, had used the Sarum Rite).

Campion and Mayne were not S John's only martyrs. If you penetrate to the back quadrangle, you will find baroque architecture as fine as any in England: even the dreadful Nikolaus 'Bauhaus' Pevsner saw it as of European significance and quality. The two entrances are framed by statues of blessed Charles Stuart, King and Martyr, and his Queen Henrietta Maria. This building was done in the 1630s*, the decade in which England and Rome were most nearly reunited; and the builder was our martyred archbishop William Laud ... he and his King both parts of the glorious baggage of the Anglican Patrimony. The St John's exhibition includes blessed William Laud's zucchetto, and a dark satin cope linked with his name (he was President of the College).
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*A pilgrimage to this fascinating decade would include this quadrangle, the glass in Magdalen Chapel, and the Porch of the University Church with its statue of our Lady. What else? The 1640's, of course, would bring in all the colleges used when Oxford was the administrative capital of Royalist England, and the monuments to dead royalists in the Lucy Chapel in the Cathedral.

9 June 2017

June 9 1968

I have a signed and sealed document which assures me that on this day in 1968, Harry, by divine permission bishop of Oxford, solemnly administering Holy Orders in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford, did duly and rightly ordain ME to the office of Priesthood ... etc.. Curious the things one remembers; during the imposition of hands by the Bishop and his presbyters simultaneously (so much more meaningful a collegiate action, inherited in the Church of England from the old Sarum Pontifical, than the curious little procession of individual presbyters that does it according to the more recent Roman Pontificals) I was aware of a curious fluttering on my head; not so much the Holy Spirit struggling to get through but the hand of one of the canons, a very distinguished Anglican Catholic theologian who was, poor chap, just starting Parkinson's disease. Cuius animae propitietur Deus. I use almost daily a work of reference which he compiled.

Then back to my place; and a few minutes later, as the Cathedral choir began the Sanctus, I began, for the first time as a presbyter, to murmur Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum ... How many times, since then ...

Harry Carpenter was a kindly and gracious, if rather shy, Father-in-God, and a very learned (and orthodox) Bishop. He derived his episcopal succession not only through S Augustine's successors in the See of Canterbury (and, incidentally, through bishop Bonner, the hero of 1559), but also (via some rather iffy Dutchmen) through Bossuet and Cardinal Barberini, nephew of Urban VIII. It seemed difficult to imagine, back in 1968, how anything could happen that would make one wish to fulfill one's vocation as a Priest of the Catholic and Latin Church anywhere other than in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. So much holiness was there and so much real and profound learning; so much were they part of of the fabric of every English town and village; so autochthonous.

I wonder how many generations it took for those once flourishing churches around Hippo in North Africa to pass into sand and become history and memories. Sic transit ... As Blessed John Henry Newman put it, Canterbury has gone its way, and York is gone, and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to naught; but ... And even Oxford, in a sense, is gone; the Oxford which for Newman - and for Trollope! - was the bastion and symbol of all that was best and most solidly enduring in Anglicanism.

Thank goodness I did not make the mistake of continuing to cling.

8 June 2017

The Holy Spirit and the Roman Rite UPDATED

UPDATE: THOSE INTERESTED ARE INVITED TO PERUSE MY EARLIER PIECES VIA THE SEARCH ENGINE AT THE TOP LEFT HAND CORNER OF THE BLOG (you may need to disable your adblocker) BECAUSE I DONT FEEL LIKE EXPLAINING IT ALL AGAIN!
Every now and again I return to the question of the Epiclesis of the Roman Rite. My answer is invariably the same (see Search Engine attached to this blog): the Roman rite not only does not have an Epiclesis to summon the Holy Spirit upon the Elements so that they may become the Lord's Body and Blood; it never did have such a formula. Comments then flood in from readers who have been brainwashed by the belief of late Victorian scholarship that the Roman Rite must originally have had an oriental-style Epiclesis [as mythical as the canals once discerned on the surface of Mars]; combined with some untruths perpetrated in the years after the Council.

The Roman Rite does not have an Epiclesis because that rite is so ancient. It predates the interest in the Holy Spirit which developed in the fourth century and which then influenced most Eastern Rites.

According to the later Oriental rites, the priest invokes the Spirit which then descends to change the Elements.

According to the older Roman Rite, the Church offers the Elements to the Father, and it is simply by His gracious act of acceptance that they become the Body and Blood of His Son.  

This is exemplified in the Prayers over the Offerings, the 'Secrets', of this Octave week of Pentecost. If the venerable Roman tradition had had the least inkling that the Spirit is involved in the Consecration of Bread and Wine, surely the Pentecost Octave, and the Prayers over the Offerings, would have been its opportunity to offer some sort of hint in this direction.


There is none.The Propers of these days emphasise the role of the Holy Ghost in the Paschal Mysteries of Initiation, Baptism anf Confirmation. For this connection, of course, there is Biblical and Patristic evidence galore. And the renewal of the hearts and lives of the Faithful by the outpouring of the Spirit is expressed.

But not a whisker of any suggestion that the Gifts which, by the gift of the Faithful and the Ministry of the Deacons, have just been piled up on the Altar, might be transformed by that Spirit  from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Word.

Of those 'Secret' Prayers, one only brings the Holy Ghost into any sort of proximity with the oblata. It stands out because of its arresting and unusual imagery: the Secret of the Mass of the Friday. Here is a dead literal translation:
O Lord, grant that that Divine fire may take away the sacrifices which have been offered in thy sights, which [=Divine fire]set alight the hearts of the disciples of Christ thy Son through the Holy Spirit.

The imagery is of the animal sacrifices of the Jewish, Greek, and Roman cults, in which some or all of the meat of the sacrificed animal is burned away to nothing upon the stone altar.

7 June 2017

Older than the Octave

People like me tend to nag you about the desireability of keeping the Pentecost Octave. But there was an observance this week which is much older than the Octave; indeed, much older than Christianity itself: the Summer Ember Season.

The pagan Romans kept Feriae messis, Days of Harvest, connected with the corn harvest. In the ancient Liturgy of the (local) Church of Rome, which we are privileged to have received for our own, this ancient piece of local Romanita is preserved for us as the Ember Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week following Pentecost. Like the other pagan agricultural festivals, this one was converted by the Church into a fast: S Leo regards fasting as particularly appropriate for the Ember Days this week "So that if, amid the joys of the festivities, negligent liberty and inordinate licence has made any presumption, this [fast] may discipline (castiget) it by the censure of religious abstinence".

So some elements in the Old Rite propers for these days precede the imposition of 'Spirit' themes by the Octave. Today's Gospel about the Bread of Life, for example, christianises the pagan celebration of the corn harvest. I will leave you to fish out your good old English Missals and find the evidence for this also in the readings for Friday and Saturday. (Remember that our forefathers in the Faith believed that healings from illnesses and exorcism of unclean spirits were closely related to fasting [see Mark 9:29 with the variant reading and Matthew 17:21], so also be on the lookout for pericopes about healings and exorcisms.)

In 455, the Arian Gaiseric was attacking Rome (he took it on the Ember Wednesday, secured thousands of potential candidates for the slave markets, and pillaged most of the basilicas ... it's the sort of thing heretics do). Pope S Leo wrote a number of collects on this occasion; one of them survives as the collect for the Ember Friday this week. Find it in your English Missal. You'll see the point of the phrase hostili nullatenus incursione turbetur. Relevant today?

6 June 2017

Lock'em up and grab the cash

A common Protestant myth in mid-Victorian England concerned gullible young ladies who were also the heiresses to considerable fortunes. They were induced by cunningly persuasive Catholic priests, so it was widely believed, to join religious orders and to hand over the caboodle ... after which, mysteriously, they very quickly died. Blessed John Henry Newman, a superb exponent of the Swiftian traditions of English Satire, once delivered a hilarious send-up of this jolly topos. Some things are best dealt with through satire; I rather like the hypothesis floated by Mgr Ronnie Knox to the effect that Satire is the purpose for which God created Humour. Satire is at the heart of the cultural identity of the Ordinariate.

What Victorian Protestant bigots absurdly believed about the Catholic Church is being metamorphosed into truth in this Age of Bergoglian Mercy. Circe and her wand are alive and well! According to rumours supported by various sources, Fr Manelli, Founder of the once vibrant young order called The Franciscans of the Immaculate, is being held under house arrest on Vatican orders, and denied normal contact with people outside the House of his incarceration.

[I suspect that most readers will know about the merciless persecution to which that order has been subjected. I refer those who are unaware to the facts available on the Internet.]

According to recent reports on the Internet, Fr Manelli, who is well into his eighties, was recently presented with a demand that he swear an oath of obedience to the current occupant of the Roman See. Perhaps unwisely, he did this. Soon afterwards, he was presented with a demand that he hand over the assets of his foundation.

I understand that in fact, the 'properties of the Friars of the Immaculate' are held by lay trustees, since the Friars do not hold property. Is the intention now that Fr Manelli should use his influence to persuade these Trustees to hand the assets over??

Readers may well recall reports that the resignation of Fra Matthew Festing from the Grand Mastership of the Sovereign Order of Malta was secured by the same ruse of appealing to a sense of obedience to the current occupant of the Roman See.

Choppy weather.

Sources: Eponymous Flower blog; Horace Odes I 14; Alcaeus fragments 6, 208, 73 [Loeb].

5 June 2017

We took to arms

The Monday of Whit week, Monday in the Octave of Pentecost, was the day in 1549 when many of the people of Devon and Cornwall made quite clear to their parish clergy that they did not want the Government's Protestant service (they likened it to a Christmas game) for a second day, let alone a second Sunday (they had experienced Dr Cranmer's matchless English prose and his iffy theology on Whit Sunday, and they thought that once was enough). In fact, they rose in rebellion (and so did people in Oxfordshire and in many parts of England), and marched with their demands, under the banners of the Five Wounds of our Redeemer. This is the same admirable banner which sometimes flies over the Catholic Chaplaincy at Cardiff.

The Five Wounds are a recurrent theme in the surviving late Medieval decoration in West Country churches. And its Mass was very popular (and, appropriately, is included in the ORDINARIATE MISSAL). But the devotion to the Five Wounds is not an unwholesome preoccupation, somewhat gruesome and probably lugubrious, with the sufferings of a dead Saviour. In the Ordinalia - the Mystery Plays in the Cornish language written most probably by the canons at the Collegiate Church of Glasney in Cornwall - this is made very clear. The Resurrexio Domini emphasises the centrality of the Five Wounds to the joyful celebration of Christ's Resurrection. In particular, it emphasises that it is by those Five Wounds that the Lord who died on the Cross is discerned as truly risen.

Thus, the Ortolanus, Gardener, who appears to Mary of Magdala in the garden asks her if she would recognise Jesus. She replies that she would - "dhe'n kensa vu", at first sight. Et tunc demonstrabit latus ejus ad Mariam et dicit: "Marya, myr, ow fymp woly! Crys my dhe wyr dhe dhasserghy". Mary, behold, my Five Wounds! Believe that I am in truth Risen! So Mary goes to the Apostles: "y fyrys y wolyow!" I saw his wounds. The motif is also intruded into the pericope about the Road to Emmaus; the two disciples do not so much recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread as when ostendit eis vulnera, and one of them says "my a wel dha wolyow warbath a-les": I see your wounds, all together, wide! They depart, saying that they have no time, once they have seen all his wounds, for playing - gwaryow; the word which is used to refer to the 'playing place' (plen-a-gwary) in which these Cornish dramas were probably performed. The playwright, I presume, is suggesting, not without some sophistication, that the theme he is presenting dramatically is not in fact a drama but salvific reality.

Much of the rest of the play is devoted to Thomas's long refusal to believe the witness of the other disciples; a tortured agon which is ultimately resolved when the Lord appears to him also: "Thomas, rak ty dhe weles oll ow golyow a-les, yn dha golon ty a grys": Thomas, because you have seen all my wounds open, in your heart you believe.

Medieval devotion was, despite the contempt in which, despite Eamon Duffy's studies, it is sometimes still held, a religion of joy and faith in a crucified Saviour alive now and for ever and apprehended by faith in the transfigured reality of those wounds which are, as the Cornish texts repeatedly emphasise, "a-les": wide open.

4 June 2017

PAPAL ABDICATION

Today is, I think, as well as being the Great Feast of Pentecost, the anniversary of the last occasion before 2013 upon which a Roman Pontiff abdicated. On June 4 1415, Pope Gregory XII, Angelo Correr, abdicated from the See of S Peter.

He did this for the good and the unity of the Universal Church Militant, which was gravely afflicted by schism. This had meant, for example, that if as a priest you walked outside the walls of the English town of Berwick to say Mass in a church within the adjacent Scottish county of Berwickshire, instead of saying una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Gregorio, you had to remember to say Una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Benedicto. Unless ... oops ... I'd forgotten this one ... you accepted the third pope, recently elected on the authority of a Council at Pisa and called John XXIII. Going into a strange Sacristy and looking around for the notice headed Nomen Papae must have afforded the travelling priest with endless surprises. Perhaps, after all, God is a God of Surprises.

Confusing times. Evidence of these confusions is still on public display in Westminster Cathedral, where a big and prominent List of Popes shamelessly displays a very uncertain attitude to the question of who was pope when and where and why in those diverting years at the beginning of the fourteen hundreds.

Disunity in Christ's Church Militant is always a bad and sad thing.


3 June 2017

Hugh Curwen (2)

Continues.

I had better make it plain that, in cultural terms, Curwen was Archbishop of an English see. An Englishman himself, he went to a Dublin which, socially, politically, and religiously defined itself as part of the 'Englishry', as opposed to the 'Irishry' beyond the Pale ... in the rest of Gaelic or Gaelicised Ireland. The whole of Dublin's ecclesiastical structure was English; and one very amusing example of how this tension between the Englishry and the Irishry played out is provided by Curwen's predecessor, Archbishop Browne.

Browne, rather like Thomas Cranmer, had been so far infected by the new heresies that he had contracted a form of marriage, and maintained his floosy on a remote episcopal manor. But, when in 1541 Henry VIII attempted to reinforce the discipline of clerical celibacy, this left Browne in a very difficult position. His enemies knew of his marriage, and were able to use it to blackmail him in terms of policy. Of course, it was never in their interest to go for the 'nuclear option' of sending a full account to London; once you blow your information, you lose all hold over the victim of your blackmail. So matters were ... adjusted. Mrs Browne was disposed of to become Mrs Bathe; the archiepiscopal bastards were provided for. When the reign of Edward Tudor began, and clerical marriage was legalised, Browne heaved a great sigh of relief; the new King was of such tender years that the reign was clearly destined to be a long one. Mrs Bathe was sent for, and resumed the dignity of Mrs Browne.

But of course, the pious stripling was soon assumed to his eternal reward, and in the Marian restoration, Browne had to do some very nippy footwork with Cardinal Pole to regularise his position ... and Mrs Browne reverted to Bathehood. (Yes, I know you want to know what became of her ... after Bathe, she had three more husbands and lived until the 1590s. Clearly, she had been a young and lusty wench when first she graced the primatial couch. What a shame that no portrait of her is known to survive. She encapsulates the problems involved in gambling upon one's guesses during the decades of the Tricky Tudors.)

The significance of all this is that clerical celibacy was not merely an element in traditional Catholic discipline, but was something even closer to home: one of those things that the 'Englishry' of the Pale saw as distinguishing them from the Gaelic culture of the rest of Ireland ... where concubinage was rife among the clergy*. Celibacy was the proof that the Dublin clergy were 'English' rather than 'Irish'. It set the seal on a culture where English language, English law, and English cathedral structures (and the Sarum 'use' at the altar) were the order of the day. It was part of a public demonstration of the superiority of the English culture of the Pale over the despised barbarism perceived to reign in Gaelic Ireland.
Continues.

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*I once did a little research into the Medieval parochial clergy of the diocese of Ardfert, alias Kerry, the Kingdom of the West, where never ending 'dispensations from the impediment of bastardy' punctuate the succession of clergy who were obviously inheriting the family profession and business, generation after generation, from Dad.

2 June 2017

The enigma of Hugh Curwen (1)

This year we, here in Oxford, are offered a 450th anniversary celebration which might be characterised as a rather 'niche', or even 'boutique', commemoration. I shall return to that in the last of this three-part series.

We all have our myths and quite often they need tidying up. For example: the myth that upon the accession of Elizabeth 'my-father-said-I-was-a-bastard' Tudor, all the English bishops except for the occupant of one Welsh see refused to take the oath of Supremacy. This fails to take account of suffragan bishops, such as the bishops of Bedford, Berwick, Hull, Shrewsbury, and Thetford. It also fails to take account of the enigmatic figure of Hugh Curwen (pronounced Curen).

A few years ago, Enforcing the English Reformation in Ireland, by James Murray, gave Curwen some context. He was one of Cardinal Pole's choices of reliable and reforming bishops who would bring the Counter-Reformation to the British Isles and would staunchly maintain the rights of the Church and of the Roman Primacy - what you might call a very 'Duffy' figure. He was papally 'provided' as Archbishop of Dublin, and consecrated by Bonner in Old S Paul's Cathedral in 1555, the Pallium having been granted even before his Consecration. He was thorough and resolute in restoring the supremacy of the Catholic Faith in the Diocese of Dublin. But, upon Elizabeth's acquisition of power, he (as we say) 'conformed'.

Historians, not surprisingly, have found it easy to regard Curwen as an episcopal Vicar of Bray, especially since he had tolerated all the Tudor changes since 1541. Murray, through a careful examination of minutiae, argues for a strong likehood that Curwen was a 'Church Papist'; that he remained opposed to to the Reformation but stayed in post in order to have his hands on the mechanisms of episcopal jurisdiction, with a deliberate intention of thus frustrating and obstructing government religious policy. In this, he was successful; Dublin remained a Catholic city until the influx of Protestant immigrants in the next century. Of course, his enemies reported his doings to London; he was an 'unprofitable workman', a 'living enemy of the truth', a 'disguised dissembler' who was unwilling to further 'our business'. Inevitably, Curwen attempted in 1564 to exculpate himself by assuring the Tudor despot that the 'sinister information' which had made her 'conceive some misliking towards me and my doings' was untrue. As Murray puts it, "From this point on ... the Archbishop knew that it would be increasingly difficult to sustain his outwardly conformist attitude to the established religion, while at the same time continuing to defend the interests of the old religion and his conservative clergy".
Continues.

1 June 2017

The Pope's Necessary Obedience to the Church

Is the pope above the Church? Depends what you mean. There is, of course, no doubt that the Roman Pontiff is the supreme law-giver of the whole state of Christ's Church Militant here in earth. But he is a member of, therefore within, the Church. He is therefore also a subject of the Church. (This does indeed mean that he qua Jorge Bergoglio is subject to the Church and therefore to the Pope qua Supreme lawgiver.) He is not the one person upon earth who is solutus ab omni lege.

Regular readers will recall my repetitious quotation from the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: " ... the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."

Although not thus footnoted, this phraseology is clearly based upon a statement by the German bishops after Bismarck had attacked the Definition of Papal Infallibility agreed at Vatican I. Bismarck had alleged that it made the pope "an absolute monarch". The German bishops replied that Papal Infallibility, being an instance of the Infallibility of the Church, is bound to the doctrine contained in Holy Scripture and in Tradition and definitions already promulgated by the Church's Magisterium. The pope, they explained, is bound (obstrictus) to those things which Christ set in place in His Church. He cannot change the constitution given by the Church's Divine Founder, and the constitution of the Church is founded in all essential things in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is free (immunis) from every arbitrary human arrangement. Blessed Pius IX praised, in fulsome language, this explanation of the German bishops.

The question of the limitations upon the papal office came up again at Vatican II. In Lumen Gentium paragraph 22 (at the end), Blessed Paul VI, laudably anxious that papal authority should not be given away on his watch, wished to add the words uni Domino devinctus. In the old Abbott translation, this would have made part of the last sentence read "provided that the pope himself, bound fast to the Lord alone [or bound fast to one Master], calls them to collegiate action." But the Council's Theological Commission refused the pope's request on the grounds that it represented an excessive simplification (nimis simplificata); "the Roman Pontiff is bound to observe Revelation itself, the fundamental structure of the Church, the Sacraments, the definitions of previous Councils, etc. [sic]. All of these cannot be counted". (Papa Montini submitted.)

Indeed he is. Indeed, they can't.


Every pope is as tightly bound in obedience to the Magisterium as you are. He can no more set aside a syllable of it than I can.