Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Ecclesia and Synagoga...

The statues of Ecclesia and Synagoga on the façade of Strasbourg Cathedral are in the antient tradition of Christian typology. Both are depicted as beautiful, slender young women and are clearly akin albeit in the sense that Sam perceived that Frodo and Gollum were akin on the slopes of Mount Doom. Ecclesia is crowned, upright, mantled and in posture of triumph; holding Christ's holy rood in her right hand and the Chalice in her left. Synagoga, by contrast, is downcast, blindfold, her mantle gone, she is utterly bereft; in her right hand she holds a broken lance, even the lance with which Christ's side was pierced; and in her left, slipping from her grip, the Old Law. Together these two disparate figures represent the triumph of the Cross, the typological antecedent of the Old Testament in relation to the New (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Sarah and Hagar, and so on). Synagoga is a deposed queen who ruled the earth during the age of the Law. She is deposed because of her blind refusal to acknowledge Christ as Messiah, yet she remains so that Ecclesia can be shewn forth in her majesty and insofar as Synagoga unwittingly upholds Christian truth. Indeed Synagoga holds an instrument of Christ's Passion in her right hand, broken to symbolise Christ's victory over death. Her blindness is a clear reference to Christ's disputation with the Pharisees and St Paul's description of the veil ("But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." 2.Cor 3:14-16. Compare the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews (the real one).

For those of you who are interested in a Tolkienian application to the two figures, this is the passage I had in mind:

"Frodo flung him off and rose up quivering.
'Down, down!' he gasped, clutching his hand to his breast, so that beneath the cover of his leather shirt he clasped the Ring. 'Down, you creeping thing, and out of my path! Your time is at an end. You cannot betray me or slay me now!'
"Then suddenly, as before under the eaves of the Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than the shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice.
'Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom!'
The crouching shape backed away, terror in its blinking eyes, and yet at the same time insatiable desire." The Lord of the Rings, Book VI, Chapter III.

If you consider Frodo as a type of Christ, Gollum as the people of the Jews and the Ring as the all-encompassing instrument of the Passion, Gandalf's own prophecy that Gollum might avail to do good yet, in spite of both Sauron and himself, assumes a profound Christological significance. The Ring becomes then the broken lance in the right hand of Synagoga and Gollum as Synagoga unwittingly brings about the salvation of mankind.

Unfortunately Ecclesia is no longer in majesty for the Church herself is defiled and men no longer hold her in reverence. In many ways Synagoga has filled the vacuum and has now assumed a crown of her own, a worldly and corrupt crown. She cannot now be deposed but by constant prayer for her conversion. If she is not converted then she will triumph over Ecclesia till Christ comes.

Art: Ted Nasmith.

Monday, 27 April 2015

I believe one, &c...

I believe ONE holy catholick and apostolick church...

It wasn't that long ago that I thought all the Roman communion had to do to magically reclaim her orthodoxy was for the pope to infallibly proclaim his own fallibility and then dismantle the Novus Ordo. Then he would take his place as primus inter pares of the bishops of a reunited Christian Church and we'd all live happily ever after. Of course, that's a load of old rubbish. The hermeneutic of continuity has never worked in the direction of orthodoxy! If anything, all Rome can do now, indeed all she is capable of doing, is become more and more aliturgical, more and more cut off from her tradition (and the broader tradition of the Fathers, both western and eastern) and simultaneously more moralistic and just plain weird. I remember during the visit of Benedict XVI to these shores Sinéad O'Connor did an interview on the BBC which, at the time, I shrugged off as cynical nonsense, very much in her manner. I'm afraid I can't find the video on YouTube but she said something about how ridiculous to take seriously an old man in a white dress. And she does have a point, if rather crudely put. The neo-conservatives, with their catechism and rosary crusades, might let on otherwise but Rome doesn't really care in what people believe. If she did, the liturgical experimentations of the 20th century would never have been given the papal stamp of approval. Instead, all that matters is that you are in communion with Rome. You can worship, think, act in any way that you like; just so long as you (nominally) obey the pope. If this is the case, why should we take the old man in the white dress seriously?

And this obsession with acknowledging papal supremacy despite contrary customs and traditions is as old as the hills. At Ferrara in 1438, the Greek acknowledgement of the pope's universal and immediate jurisdiction was a matter considerably more important to Eugenius IV than the Filioque, purgatorial fire or the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist. Similar overtures can be read in the encyclical letters of Pius IX and Leo XIII "to the Easterns," in which both popes profess carelessness about the venerable Eastern traditions so long as they exist within Roman jurisdiction. Even in the Latin church itself, and this was brought home to me for the first time in 2007 when, as a traditionalist, I first encountered neo-conservatives with a preference for the "traditional Latin Mass" in a parish setting. I was told that I had the "wrong attitude" because, at that time, I was advocating abrogation of the Novus Ordo and its replacement by the "Old Rite." But I acknowledged papal supremacy so it didn't really matter either way. And this is to say nothing of whether liberals and the traditionalists even share the same faith! But I entreat you all sincerely, is this really the oneness and unity of the Confession of Faith? Because it seems to me that this oneness exists only on paper. And to come back to what I said at the beginning, about the pope dismantling the papacy, what do you think would happen if he did that? We can only imagine but I expect the whole thing would implode, like when Éowyn pierced the Lord of the Nine Riders. One blow and what seemed to threatening and imposing just disappeared. If you apply this principle to the secular realm, like dictatorships, once they are set up, and the defining principle of statehood becomes absolute obedience to the dictator's will, any subsequent weakening of that dictatorship ineluctably brings about the destruction of the state.

If the oneness of the Church then consists solely in obedience to the pope, and it is pretty obvious that the centralized papacy is the only thing that keeps the structure intact these days, is there any hope for the reunion of the churches? Is it not scandalous that competing communions confess the same Creed and yet have entirely different beliefs, not only about the oneness and unity of the Church but all other subtleties in theology and praxis? For Rome, the "living magisterium," papal supremacy is not open for discussion. Take it or leave it. The pope is the pontifex maximus, the guarantor of orthodoxy and the communion of Christ. That this communion is a complete waste of time at the level of peoples' faith and worship notwithstanding, the papacy is actually the most divisive and controversial figure in the entire history of Christianity. In the words of Professor Southern (quoted by Dr Geoffrey Hull):

"In 1453 the papal view of Christendom had triumphed. More than any other force it had been responsible for giving western Christendom an independent existence in the eighth century, and for providing the doctrinal basis for western supremacy from the eleventh century onwards. The movement toward Conciliar government in the church, which might have offered a new path to unity, had in the end collapsed, not least because of the strength of the papacy. So, from the point of view of Christendom as a whole, the papacy was the great divisive force throughout the Middle Ages." (The Banished Heart, p.130).

So much for "bridge-builder."

People often say, stupidly, that Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are so similar. They are not similar in any way, except superficially. So in terms of Christian unity, if, as we Orthodox hope, the pope steps down from his lofty position, that won't help at all. He would just leave a vacuum because he is all there is to Roman Catholicism. Pope, pope, pope. Put simply, we don't really want the communion of Roman Catholics because even if they did away with the pope, the damage has been done already. The whole system was buggered by centuries of decadent liturgy, bad theology and worldly king-popes. There is absolutely no hope for the union of the churches. The only way to truly confess the oneness of the Church is to actually personally join that One Church, which is the Orthodox Church of Christ.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


What a poignant article to wake up to and I daresay there is something Tolkienian about. Tolkien is sobering, almost depressing, in his Catholic notion of the "long defeat" of history, which is the antithesis of Whiggery; defeats (Hastings, Manzikert, 1453, &c), fruitless victories (Agincourt? Lepanto?), it is in the nature of Christianity to be in retreat from this world. Things pass, hopes fail, communion is broken by the sin and scandal of schism, each of us is singly put to flight by the enemies of Christ under whatsoever guise; Turk, Jew, even our own godless countrymen. It's one thing to say that Saint Sophia is a shell of its former glory, it's quite another to say that that was inevitable from its first building. Trust rather that God set in our hearts this longing for Christendom and that in the End, when we have built Jerusalem, even the least of our desires will have fruit.

As Bombadil said, "till the world is mended."

Friday, 24 April 2015


Some readers were horrified by my post "If I were king for a day," (anyone remember Evelyn Laye?). Could I ask why, and which of the twenty-one points were so odious? I mean if those points were so offensive, it's a good job I didn't elaborate on them! As I said, that would just be the start. I said nothing about gypsies (or "travellers"), for example, or the various purges that I would encourage. Or education. Latin and Greek would be compulsory in schools, all schools would be required to display portraits of Her Majesty The Queen and a crucifix in all classrooms. Christian assembly would be brought back, The LORD's Prayer would be recited 1662 fashion before lessons. Corporal punishment would be restored. Asylums for fallen women would be built. Homosexuality would not be against the law (it is a sin, not a crime) but something like Section 28 would be brought in, and "gay pride" would be a thing of the immoral past. Supermarkets would be forbidden to sell foods out of season so no more hot cross buns in the Summer or strawberries imported from Spain out of season. No more of this 24/7 culture and decent trading hours would be restored. Shops and businesses would be closed on Sundays. And so on.

If these proposals are undesirable then I would question your Christian faith to be honest...

Thursday, 23 April 2015

St George...

That's right, I had to be reminded that it's St George's Day. I was rather surprised that Google had a St George-themed cartoon, complete with anachronistic cruciform shield and fiery dragon. Having said that, I have never really liked St George and think his patronage of England should be removed and given once again to St Edward the Confessor. I don't know, perhaps people might take English Christianity more seriously if its patron saint was not garbled in legends? And how many people in this country really care that it's St George's Day? I can't say I know of another country whose "national holiday" is so conspicuously ignored. And is it telling that as a patriot myself I am not even that keen on the national holiday? As someone with Irish ancestry, I am slightly less embarrassed by St Patrick's Day. At least he had some connexion with Ireland! But no, in the evening of our time I think it more decorous to quietly keep St Edward the Confessor in our hearts when his feast comes around in October. When he died 950 years ago, it was on the brink of an invasion that adulterated our language, religion and culture forever. I will not belabour the obvious parallel with our own time.

So, I do not wish people a happy St George's Day. The day is just a painful reminder of what's wrong with this country.


My winter depression, like mist from the dawn fields, has lifted but I still feel disinclined and largely apathetic. This reflects most clearly in my posts, many of which I am embarrassed. I look at other blogs and many of them seem to have wealth inexhaustible of fecund, insightful articles and my own is reduced to nasty mockery and shrill polemic. Recently I have been constructing a sanctorale for use in my imaginary church. I was thinking of turning it into a novel, like Smoke in the Sanctuary, or something. But then I'd have to draw the church (I am good at drawing), plans of the church, orders of service, liturgical books, vestments, plate, fabric, invent major canons, honorary canons, vicars, archdeacons, mattins clerks, chaplains, choristers, ecclesia et synagoga, roods, curtains, banners, processional crosses (lots of those), heraldric devices, sacristans, porters, readers, acolytes, auxiliary churches (two...no three of these), a chapter house, cloister, bishop, king and queen, university doctors and the royal court, choir dress...oh, it's a never ending task. And am I even qualified? In the meantime, the steam has gone out of the blog.

I'd be very interested to know what readers think of the idea of an ideal imaginary church dedicated to liturgy. It would have a mediaeval cathedral model but it wouldn't be a real historic church. I'm still divided on chant, though, as I think that Gregorian chant (Solesmes fashion) is rather vulgar and unattractive in its syllable-by-syllable monody...

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A lace bucket...

Those cheap net curtain cottas one often sees the Tradunculi wearing at their low masses are bad enough but I've seen it all now. A lace bucket! One wonders if it was draped over the bucket to safeguard the dignity of the candle? How is this different from those tawdry plastic holy water bottles shaped in the likeness of the phantom woman of Lourdes? Or that hideous statue of pope Francis I saw the other week in St Paul's by Westminster? Once again the New Liturgical Movement leads the way on the straight and narrow path to liturgical orthopraxis...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Western Wall...

Dribbler, Betty and Bogroll undermining the Christian Faith at the "Western Wall." Even Pius XII never stooped to this and Pius X, who met Theodor Herzl in 1904, condemned the Zionist principle without question. In those far off days popes actually believed in something; it was horribly wrong, but at least they believed it sincerely. These days ecclesiastics in the public eye don't believe in anything! They're scarcely less obnoxious than secular politicians. Oh, I know John Paul II (he of the Assisi gatherings) is worshipped as a saint now, and Benedict XVI is the new "pope of the liturgy," and Francis is some model of "humility," but praying at the "Western Wall" is a worse sin than suicide or apostasy. It is participation in a Jewish Satanic cult and the blatant denial of Christ's Prophecy that the Temple would be thrown down (Matthew 24:2), which was fulfilled in A.D 70 when the Romans got sick of the Jews. You won't ever see a Jew praying before a tabernacle!

Monday, 20 April 2015

If I were king for a day...

Disclaimer: I profess absolute and total loyalty to Our Sovereign Lady Her Majesty Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, our Undoubted Queen and Governor.

It was a fine morning and it is my father's 58th birthday so I decided to go to the bakery to buy a tin loaf and make him some breakfast. Bearing in mind that I live in quite a remote part of "suburbia" which, hitherto, I thought was safe from these people, I saw no less than five blacks in the space of about twenty minutes and within less than half a mile of my house; one with a pram on the corner of the road, two more in a car, another by the green and another by the bus stop. On the way back up the hill to my home, tin loaf and some bread pudding in hand, I thought of The Scouring of the Shire and started singing Jerusalem to myself (which I know by heart), and conceived this post, "if I were king for a day." Please note that I am fully aware that the real power lies in the hands of unprepossessing men in suits and not the Lady in the gilded carriage and that this is all a bit hypothetical.

So, if I were king for a day:

1. All Jewish, atheist and Muslim Members of Parliament and local councillors would be dismissed.
2. All female Members of Parliament and local councillors would be dismissed.
3. All non-white and non-British Members of Parliament and local councillors would be dismissed.
4. All elected Members of Parliament would be constrained to take an oath of loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the True Faith of a Christian and must be practising Christians.
5. I am not going to name names but certain current and former Cabinet Ministers would be hanged for treason.
6. The Scottish National Party, Sinn Féin, the Green Party and all republican parties would be forced to disband.
7. Diplomatic ties with the "State of Israel" would be permanently cut off; the British Embassy in Tel Aviv would be closed and the staff withdrawn.
8. The "State of Israel" would no longer be recognised as a legitimate state with sovereign status. There would be no trade agreements and Israeli passport holders would not be allowed past our borders.
9. All Jews would be expelled from the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to the Edict of Expulsion A.D. 1290, and their property forfeit to the State.
10. All Synagogues would be razed to the ground and all copies of the Talmud would be destroyed.
11. Conversion to and practice of Judaism would be against the law with strict penalties.
11. All Muslims would be expelled from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
12. All Mosques would be closed and the buildings converted for profane use.
13. All non-white and non-British communities would be expelled from the United Kingdom under a "Homeward Bound" programme.
14. The United Kingdom would withdraw its membership from the European Union.
15. The United Kingdom's borders would be closed permanently to all foreigners.
16. The 2007 Smoking Ban would be lifted.
17. The House of Lords reforms of 1911 would be reversed.
18. A new charities commission would be established to regulate charities according to Christian principles.
19. The Church of England would be heavily reformed; The Book of Common Prayer Book brought back and all women clergy laicized.
20. The Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches would be homogenised, created an autocephalous Church and named anew the English Orthodox Church under an English Patriarch.
21. Profession of Romanism would be legal but certain societies would have their charitable status revoked and the rite of 1962 would be forbidden.

I could write at least another fifty points but I have to go out again. Suffice it to say in conclusion that I hold Enoch Powell, Mary Whitehouse and Lady Birdwood in high esteem and that the political right in this country is impoverished these days because most people who profess to be right wing are either nuts or Zionists. See if you can guess which people (and I could name many others) I'd have hanged!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Mozarabic liturgy...

The New Liturgical Movement has reported that Mozarabic liturgy is to be celebrated in the Pagan Archbasilica of the Vatican on 16th May by the Archbishop of Toledo. That presents an interesting historical anomaly. Skipping lightly over whether the music or the rite itself will be authentically Mozarabic, just think what pope Hildebrand would have thought! He despised the Mozarabic Rite and called it "the Toledan superstition." Why? Who can say? Probably because it differed in many important ways from the abridged (hence "breviary") liturgy he himself celebrated and it was the nature of this megalomaniac to think that whoever thought, worshipped, and acted in any way contrary to the way he thought, worshipped and acted was a heretic. The Mozarabic liturgical books had been approved in Rome in 1065 but this clearly wasn't enough for Hildebrand, the driving force of whose pontificate was absolute uniformity and centralization and the acknowledgement of his temporal (or at least feudal) authority. And so he attempted to have the Mozarabic liturgy abolished by pressuring the Hispanic lords and sending his Romanising Cluniac monks over the Pyrenees. Alfonso VI of Castile, whom to-day we might call European, perceived that attempts by the reformers to supplant the venerable Mozarabic liturgy were met with popular resistance and so he put the matter to trial by combat, pitting Roman and Mozarabic champions against each other. The Roman champion was defeated and this was clearly not to the king's liking and so he caused a great fire to be kindled in Burgos, and declared that whichever of the Roman or Mozarabic books thrown into the fire and was unscathed, that rite would be accepted. According to legend, the Roman missal smouldered whereas the Mozarabic missal flew out of the fire unharmed. Then wrath mastered the king and he kicked the Mozarabic missal back into the fire, saying: "Let the horns of the laws bend to the will of kings!"

Clearly God favoured the Mozarabic Rite! However, Alfonso VI appealed to Hildebrand who was determined to impose the Roman Rite and so he sent his legate Cardinal Ricardo to Castile where at the Synod of Burgos in 1080 the Roman Rite was enforced throughout León and Castile and the Mozarabic Rite solely restricted to Toledo. I don't know how this was achieved but I expect it was by force of arms. Such was the organic development of the Roman Rite in Spain. It's interesting to compare the contemporaneous ecclesiastical reforms of Lanfranc in England and the later Norman Conquest of Ireland but which most history books would pass over as insignificant "reforms of the church." Or, going back to Charlemagne's time, compare the suppression of the various Gallican uses in his zeal for Romanitas. Or, nearer to Rome, the riots in Milan in 1442 when Eugenius IV launched an abortive attempt to impose the Roman Rite on the Milanese. But the suppression of the Mozarabic Rite in Spain exemplified a tendency, accelerated by the Council of Trent four hundred years later, of centralization and uniformity, all under the aegis of the Papacy. It is intolerant, arrogant and stupidly wrong to suppose that just because a rite has not its uttermost origins in the pope's chapel it is of its very nature heretical, suspect and in need of reform. But such has been, for the most part, the history of the popes and their relationship with the native uses and rites of the West. And the irony is that the old rites and the old uses of the West contain many antient features that have been lost in the Roman Rite. Mozarabic vespers, for example, contains an obvious allusion to the old Lucernarium in the preces, even so:

Κύριε, ἐλέησον
Χριστέ ἐλέησον
Κύριε, ἐλέησον
Pater noster, &c.
℣ In nomine Domini Iesu Christi, lumen cum pace.
℟ Amen.
℣ Hoc est lumen oblatum.
℟ Deo Gratias.

Just imagine being in attendance as the lamps were lighting. It would certainly call to mind Egeria's experiences in the Holy Land. But no! This is Toledan superstition!

I wonder what pope Francis thinks of this Toledan Archbishop celebrating Adoptionist, reformed liturgy in his church?

Friday, 17 April 2015

I have seen a dragon...

F.E Brightman (1856-1932), as liturgical scholars all know, was a distinguished ecclesiastical scholar and tutor at Magdalen College, Oxford. Apropos of fiery dragons, C.S Lewis wrote these alliterative staves:

We were talking of dragons, Tolkien and I
In a Berkshire bar. The big workman
Who had sat silent and sucked his pipe
All the evening, from his empty mug
With gleaming eye, glanced towards us;
"I seen 'em myself," he said fiercely.

This short poem is a fictionalized account of a meeting between Lewis and Brightman at some point (we're not told when). Brightman used to sit quietly in the Common Room of Magdalen College, saying nothing except on rare occasions. It transpired that they were all talking about dragons one evening and Brightman said: "I have seen a dragon." Nobody said a word for a moment, until: "where was that?" "On the Mount of Olives," he said. He went quiet again and never, even to his death, explained what he meant. This story can be read in Tolkien's letters (no.300) and in Carpenter's The Inklings: C.S. Lewis,  J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends, chapter 4.

O, to have been a fly on the wall in the Bird and Baby in the 1940's!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Bidding Prayer...

Who would not echo the sentiments expressed here by Dr Daniel Rock?

"That we Catholics of England should ever have left off our Salisbury, York and other venerable missals and breviaries, and laid aside our fine old national uses and ritual - among the rest the 'bidding of the bedes' - it is deeply to be lamented. Let us hope, however, that ere long a rite which was practised by the Anglo-Saxons, the Anglo-Normans, and the English, till the end of Mary's reign, may once more be taken up and put to fill its place in the public worship of the Catholics of England, so that our people, as of yore, may all join their priest and say along with him, before he begins his sermon, the truly Catholic petitions of the 'bidding prayer.'" (The Church of Our Fathers, volume II, 1903).

If I remember rightly, the missal of Paul VI has a bidding prayer in this place...