Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Orwell on Monarchy...

"The function of the King in promoting stability and acting as a sort of keystone in a non-democratic society is, of course, obvious. But he also has, or can have, the function of acting as an escape-valve for dangerous emotions. A French journalist said to me once that the monarchy was one of the things that have saved Britain from Fascism. What he meant was that modern people can't, apparently, get along without drums, flags and loyalty parades, and that it is better that they should tie their leader-worship onto some figure who has no real power. In a dictatorship the power and the glory belong to the same person. In England the real power belongs to unprepossessing men in bowler hats: the creature who rides in a gilded coach behind soldiers in steel breast-plates is really a waxwork. It is at any rate possible that while this division of function exists a Hitler or a Stalin cannot come to power. On the whole the European countries which have most successfully avoided Fascism have been constitutional monarchies. The conditions seemingly are that the Royal Family shall be long-established and taken for granted, shall understand its own position and shall not produce strong characters with political ambitions. These have been fulfilled in Britain, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, but not in, say, Spain or Rumania. If you point these facts out to the average left-winger he gets very angry, but only because he has not examined the nature of his own feelings towards Stalin. I do not defend the institution of monarchy in an absolute sense, but I think that in an age like our own it may have an inoculating effect, and certainly it does far less harm than the existence of our so-called aristocracy. I have often advocated that a Labour government, i.e. one that meant business, would abolish titles while retaining the Royal Family." From the Partisan Review, 1944.

It sounds almost like Fr John Ball, the mad Kentish priest, who in A.D 1381 proposed to the masses at Blackheath that there ought to be one rank beneath that of the King. I disagree with Orwell's views about the aristocracy. If peers of the realm serve any function at all these days it is their place in the House of Lords. I doubt very much that peers are at all interested in political correctness which means that they can vote on things that are sensible and in the interests of the people; unlike the oligarchical Commons who, for the most part, just give voice to the great unwashed, who think with their genitals and cry hysterically about equality.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Kingsfoil and the Royal Touch...


When the black breath blows
and death's shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king's hand lying!

Kingsfoil, or Athelas, was a plant with healing powers that grew in Middle-earth nigh to the ancestral kingdoms of the Dúnedain. It was brought to Middle-earth by the Númenóreans and in later years was little known by the lesser men that supplanted them. Those of you who have read The Lord of the Rings will remember that Aragorn used Kingsfoil to tend Frodo's stab wound near Weathertop and in the Houses of Healing. When steeped in water its fragrance was at once sweet, wholesome, floral and redolent of some fair memory of dewy mornings of unclouded sun in a springtide long ago; and it seemed that the very air itself was quickened, filled with a living freshness, and sparkling with joy. The scent of the plant also seemed to vary between those standing by. Ioreth said that the fragrance reminded her of roses; to those who stood by Eowyn it seemed that a keen wind blew through the window with no scent at all, but was as of an air wholly clean, a new wind from snowy mountains or from silver shores washed by sea foam never before breathed by living things; to those stood by Merry the scent came as the scent of orchards and of heather in a sunshine full of bees.

The staves quoted (above) by the herb-master, garbled in the memory of old wives, are reminiscent of Ioreth's prophecy: "Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so shall the rightful king be known." This is clearly influenced by the tradition of the Royal Touch. The Royal Touch was a tradition of the English and French kings and a sign of divine favour and dynastic legitimacy. In England it was begun by St Edward the Confessor and maintained by the Plantagenets. Henry VII revived the tradition after Bosworth Field in order to legitimise his claim to the throne. The tradition survived the Reformation and saw a significant revival during the reign of Charles II. Bad King Billy had no time for such "popish superstition" but Queen Anne continued the tradition and it was last performed in 1712. The sick, generally those with scrofula, fever or blindness, were brought into the King's presence. The King would make the Sign of the Cross over the sick, he would touch them while reciting verses of scripture, he would then place a medal around their necks and prayers were said by the King's attendants. Probably the ceremony had a liturgical structure akin to the Expulsion of Publick Penitents on Ash Wednesday, and the tradition was inextricably linked up with the Coronation Service, again an obvious connexion to legitimacy. Unlike the Royal Touch of our own Kings, there was no ceremony involved in the Houses of Healing (there are, strictly, no ceremonies in Tolkien's legendarium as he writes principally of a pre-Christian era). Aragorn simply went to the bedside, touched the forehead of the afflicted, call him by name, and then steeped the Kingsfoil in water and departed; but the connexion between his right to reign and the tradition of our own Kings remains. I was very moved when I read this:

"Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?'" (The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter VIII).

Indeed, one of Aragorn's names in the high tongue of old was Envinyatur, the Renewer, an allusion to his doom to revive many old traditions in himself in Gondor as much as to heal the sick. Kingsfoil was, in this sense, a token of his return and the renewal of Tradition.


Kingsfoil is curious etymologically. Tolkien had clearly based it on existing English forms such as Rockfoil and Cinquefoil; saxifrage and potentilla respectively. The -foil element is derived from the Latin folium via Old French. It was the Númenóreans who first called Kingsfoil Athelas. Athelas means "helpful leaf" in Sindarin. In Quenya its name was Asëa Aranion, which signifies "beneficial [leaf] of the kings." There don't appear to be any plants with royal connotations in the English language. Kyngeswort meant sweet marjoram in mediaeval times, and other writers referred to some kinds of clover as "king's clover." However, it cannot have escaped Tolkien's marvellously fecund imagination that Basil is of Greek derivation. Basil is, as you know, derived from βασιλεύς, which means "king," and the herb is a symbol of royalty and has some connexion to the feastival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. At Mattins for Holy Rood Day in the Byzantine Rite, Christ's Rood token is placed upon a bed of fresh basil leaves and exalted by the faithful. In comparative Armenian praxis the processional cross is adorned with basil and the four corners of the church are blessed. In the Roman Rite the lesson at Mass is taken from St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, in which that marvellously apposite verse, used somberly throughout Holy Week, beckons us to bend the knee at that most Royal Name, Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.

I have established here an unlikely connexion between Kingsfoil, the Royal Touch and the liturgical use of basil on Holy Rood Day but I thought it was worth thinking about.

Art: 15th century manuscript depicting the Frankish king Clovis I touching the sick at his Coronation. The second image is by the Tolkien illustrator Ted Nasmith and depicts Faramir and Eowyn in the greensward amid the Houses of Healing looking out towards the north, whither all their hopes had gone.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Wise words...


"However much I may be absorbed or employed in other duties; however much I may succeed in them, yet my labour will be lost time and my success a failure if it does not include the Mass devoutly offered and the Divine office devoutly recited." Mgr John Moyes, the second Canon Administrator of Westminster Cathedral.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Fellay...


I rather doubt Fellay is at all interested in Ordinariate Use liturgy, pater dilecte. As traditionalists used to think before the days of pope Benedict XVI, the Church of England has nothing worthwhile to offer the Roman church and to them the Prayer Book is a bastardised and heretical book, worthy of a thousand anathemas, and even worse is some inferior mixture of two parts Novus Ordo, one part Prayer Book, such as the Ordinariate Use.

"So, Monsignor, what reservations do you have about liturgy inspired by Anglican patrimony for use in the Ordinariates?"

"The Council of Trent condemned vernacular liturgy [indeed I have read tracts on $$PX websites condemning the very notion of a vernacular liturgy]; St Pius V condemned the Anglican Prayer Book in Regnans in Excelsis, Roma locuta; Leo XIII condemned Anglican orders in Apostolicae Curae, causa est finita. The Prayer Book may indeed contain orthodox texts not dissimilar to our Roman missal but their worth is set at naught by their being in that very book, and for neo-Modernist Rome to go about constructing a new liturgy in a vernacular language based on this compendium of heresies to accommodate closet-Protestants who do not wish to become true Roman Catholicks, it's like Nostra Aetate by the back door! Why, even to utter an orthodox collect in Cranmerian English is to commit a mortal sin. English churchmanship died in 1559 only to live on in recusant houses and the hierarchy was not re-established until 1850. What happened among most Englishmen, in all English churches (which really belong to us anyway), between was of no consequence. Anglicans are not real Christians. And we really cannot understand pope Benedict's mentality. We thought he was one of us!"

"But, Monsignor, have you ever read The Book of Common Prayer?"

"I'M NOT READING THAT RUBBISH!!!"

You may be surprised to learn that my opinion of Fellay would actually go up if he maintained Ghislieri's view of any aspect of the "impious mysteries," and "manifestly heretical" content of the Prayer Book and its use as an instrument by Rome to easily lure disillusioned Anglicans into her bosom. These, I am sorry to say, were pretty much my own views as little as 8 to 10 years ago. After all, what does some nebulous understanding of Anglican patrimony have against such grave abuses as Mass in English or using a surplice and tippet at "Evensong?" We have Low Mass!

What astounds me is how the whole mentality has changed. And why? Simply because the pope reverses Pius V's condemnation and instead says that Anglican patrimony contains many "treasures worthy to be shared." You may ask why it irritates me so much. Well, not because I recognise any sudden enlightenment on the part of Rome's attitude towards Anglicanism but the sudden change itself. I honestly don't know what Fellay's views are on the Ordinariates but it would actually be encouraging if the $$PX shewed some constancy.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

"I can't work you out!"

A "metrosexual" young man. 80 years ago, with hair like that, he'd have been strung up...

Quoth the enemy.

Some have accused me of having my feet in both camps. That is incidentally true but it is nonetheless an oversimplification. I would have said that the convictions that I have, while fast, are not fully worked out yet because I am ignorant, and lonely. I do not hold that one particular hermeneutic of tradition, of culture, of politics or of society contains all wisdom and goodness. I am an avowed monarchist, for example, a position inspired by my Christian beliefs. At the same time I greatly admire the writings of George Orwell, a man whose sense of justice and moral righteousness was very keen and whose works are an indispensable instrument for understanding the quagmire of 20th century politics. I am a terrible snob (aren't all social climbers, though?) but I also enjoy the society of the local old dears and their custard creams. Politically, I suppose you might call me broadly "conservative," again bethought of my Christian beliefs, although I do not have much sympathy for the Conservative Party or for Mr Cameron. I tend to prefer the terms "defiant" or "sullen" to succinctly describe my political sympathies: the world and I in a constant passive-aggressive struggle for mastery (no prizes for guessing which of us is losing). I am queer but I find the ostentatious and distasteful nature of the gay community very off-putting and I cannot really say that I believe in rights for anyone, let alone "equal" rights. "Equal" is a dead word! Even so, I have some very effeminate tastes. Hinge and Bracket anyone? When I am not depressed I even take care over my appearance (but still less than the average "metrosexual" young man, in love with his own reflection and, therefore, the idea of the erect phallus)! In terms of the legal status of homosexuality, sin or crime, I would say: keep the sin behind closed curtains, but go ahead and sin. Neither confirm nor deny; but never be seen at the tail end of a "gay pride" march.

So what of the Church? I said some months ago that I intended on being received into the Greek Orthodox Church. As you might expect, I have done nothing about it. I am just lazy. Maybe I just need some quiet months to reflect, or something? I would say "let the LORD look to it," but at the risk of putting Him to the test I'll promise to at least try to incline myself to do something.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Amateurs...


I got a swift reminder this evening from the New Liturgical Movement that I am officially barred from commenting there. I wouldn't have minded but when I saw what my comment was replaced with I have to say I became rather angry. There are people who comment there with absolutely no knowledge of liturgy whatever, spouting nonsense like "who is allowed to wear a cope at pontifical mass at the throne," and "I don't have my Fortescue handy so I don't know." Amateurs, nasty, wretched little amateurs. If you're that interested, why not go out and buy a Caeremoniale like I did? Have you never looked at the reference sections in Fortescue? Or maybe you can't read Latin?

These people make me sick. Traditionalists are either opinionated louts like John Zuhlsdorf or ignorant enthusiasts with no interest in liturgical accuracy who suck up to the former. No taste, no discerning, no souls. Decent people don't really like them. And what did Fortescue himself say of such people?

"I neither know nor care one straw whether the celebrant should or should not have a hassock to kneel on, nor which sort of Monsignore may use a Bugia [sic]..." (Letter to Edward Myers, 27th May 1918).

And:

"...you cannot conceive how I loathe the idea of going into all that horrid business of the minutiae of tomfool modern ceremonies once again." (Letter to S. Morrison, 20th May 1920).

In other words, I am supremely confident that were Fortescue alive to-day he would have the same contempt for modern Traddies as I do.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ex libris...


When I was sixteen years old my parents had a mind to move house. One morning we went to view an house in Bexleyheath, a large four bedroom semi-detached house with a sloping roof of the kind built in the 1930's. The owners of the house were unabashed elderly Calvinists. I had decided that they were Christians before they opened the porch door. There was a notice just above the letter box which read: "No mail on the LORD's Day, thank you." My mother detected that they were Protestants upon seeing a framed photograph of the old gentleman with the Lord Bannside. I never saw this. The old man brought me into his study because I told him that I liked books and he shewed me his modest albeit rather impressive library. He had very handsome volumes of Calvin and Baxter; he took one down and read a favourite passage therefrom. At this point I said "we're Roman Catholicks." I'll never forget the look he gave me.

It has been years since I undertook an inventory of my own books. The few that I have has taken me a life time to assemble (well, at least my life time). But they are too eclectic so far. They are enough to fill three large bookcases on subjects as different as Church history is from Vogue models. The only "complete" subject is Tolkien; even so, my Tolkien books are primary sources and exhibit few studies, although this has more to do with my contempt for most people who presume to study him. I have a small collection of liturgical books. It's a while since I studied them. If I want anything in life it is to assemble the rarest and choicest liturgical books for my very own study. The lore of liturgy is no longer comfortable; in fact it's almost as disturbing as the scientific study of psychopaths, but I enjoy it nonetheless. You may ask why. I would say that to look into an antient liturgical book is like stepping into the House of Elrond, a place where tradition, regal history and the truth is enshrined forever and kept in reverent memory. Close the book and go to your church and the opposite is the case. We may piously hope for a change of days but hopes have a tendency to bear fruit in want.

Monday, 10 November 2014

What does the "priest" do all day?

I rather like this blog. It's called What does the Priest do all day? in which the witty author satirises the pedantic liturgical translations and Delia Smith cooking of that fat sponge John Zuhlsdorf, the man whom no reasonable person takes seriously. Do see the next-to-latest post on Cardinal Burke, the man who epitomises Roman Catholick hypocrisy. I too congratulate His Eminence. How old is he? 66 years old? That's my age in Vatican years. It is a tremendous achievement and a testament to all that whinging, all that downright suffering under the great pope Francis that he has been put out to dry so soon. But I must say that it's very telling about the traditionalist mindset that they have unanimously shewn unwavering support for Burke; some even declaring that his new position is less a demotion as a promotion. I mean their holy father has proven to be a patsy who likes nothing more than to smile to the camera and cater to modern fancies (who am I to judge?); I doubt he's even queer (which gives him the distinction of being the first "straight" pope in recent times), and so they have to flock to a bitter old queen to feel valid in their twisted religious life. I can think of no other reason to have liked the pope-emeritus. When Francis kicks the ecclesiastical bucket I'm sure the Traddies will all flock to Burke for the next pope.

UPDATE: See here for an excellent and succinct article on, among other things, why Cardinal Burke will never (God willing) be pope.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Tantum hoc anno...


Among the more lamentable innovations in liturgical praxis brought about by the Papacy in the 20th century was Benedict XV's indult of 6th October 1919 (pp 420-421 in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis) which allowed the celebration of a Mass of Requiem, whether sung or not, on Sunday 2nd November (being the twenty-first after Pentecost) of that year. The decree states quite clearly that this departure from the liturgical norm was tantum hoc anno...attentis lacrimabilis belli conditionibus. These stipulations notwithstanding it is now customary to see in many Roman (and Anglican) churches the celebration of Masses of Requiem on Remembrance Sundays annually.

I do not wish to dishonour, in any way, the memory of the ultimate sacrifice that our grandsires made in defence of our country but can I just point out that it is grossly uncanonical to have any votive office on Sundays? Indeed, the peculiar nature of the Requiem Mass makes it entirely unsuitable for Sunday celebration. This is the Day which the LORD hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it! The Eucharistic Liturgy must conform to the Office of the Day and the Sunday propers are older by far than the Office of the Dead. The pastoral motives of departing from liturgical law were at least intelligible in 1919 but the Great War has passed out of living memory. To what purpose do you continue holding these illicit Requiems to-day? Why not devote other Sundays to Culloden or Agincourt or Hastings and forget entirely all liturgical decency in a sentimentalist fudge? The Byzantines have a similar problem with the incorporation of the Litany of the Departed into the Sunday Liturgy.

One reason, among so many others, that I fell out with the Traddies.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Thanksgiving...


O Lord, who didst this day discover the snares of death that were laid for us, and dist wonderfully deliver us from the same; Be thou still our mighty Protector, and scatter our enemies that delight in blood. Infatuate and defeat their counsels, abate their pride, asswage their malice, and confound their devices. Strengthen the hands of our gracious Lady Elizabeth, and all that are put in authority under her, with Judgement and Justice, to cut off all such workers of iniquity, as turn religion into rebellion, and faith into faction; that they may never prevail against us, or triumph in the ruine of thy Church among us; But that our gracious Sovereign and her Realms, being preserved in thy true Religion, and by thy merciful goodness protected in the same, we may all duly serve thee, and give thee thanks in thy holy congregation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Not that it's quite the fifth day of November yet but, I expect, vast numbers of you are celebrating our deliverance from the tyranny of evil men to-day rather than on the day appointed in the Prayer Book. This is the second collect appointed to be read at Mattins. I chose it because of its obvious reference to the Gunpowder conspiracy ("workers of iniquity, as turn religion into rebellion," etc). But the language is exquisite. Almost it reminds me of the excellence of the new ICEL!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

War...


Fr Hunwicke has foretold a fierce conflict betwixt the chivalrous sons of Ultramontane tradition and the knavish rabel of Liberalism. He offers the literary works of C.S Lewis as a comfort and a solace amidst the grief that is to come in which vile old queens, who have probably never read C.S Lewis, are denied their right guaranteed by the pope-emeritus to celebrate defective liturgy in whatever church they choose. We have already seen the devastation (!) caused by Fr Fisher in Blackfen and who wants a repetition of such injustice as this? As to C.S Lewis, I would have proffered Letters to Malcolm rather than That Hideous Strength. Malcolm is full of barbed comments about the Papal communion and Lewis even admits his contempt for John Henry Newman therein so I hardly imagine how Lewis can be seen as "Patrimony" that compliments theologians like Ratzinger (he who knows as much about liturgy as a pig).

I hope the inexorable tide of Liberalism drowns them all. I look forward with hope and anticipation for many more such stories as Blackfen. I mean if the cause of "tradition" is represented and epitomised by men like John Zuhlsdorf then it must be wrong!

There's a silver lining,
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Irish Dancing...


More years ago than I care to remember I was an Irish Dancing champion. One of my dancing teachers was a man called Anthony O'Shea. One morning my mother took me to his house for a private tuition session. I went into his living room and noticed a pair of "old dear" glasses on the mantelpiece and I said, "are these your wife's glasses?" And my mother said, "he's not married, Patrick."

It seems that I have been surrounded by queers my entire life...