Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Memory eternal...


I'm afraid I've been too busy to fittingly mark Tolkien's anniversary, let alone finish the "necromancer" post I've been writing for weeks on the other blog, and I shall be in Ireland next week. So I call upon you to remember blessed John Ronald who reposed in The LORD forty-two years ago to-day.

I have writer's block. I've been sat here for two hours trying to think of something insightful to say about Tolkien and death but one cannot simply summon the muse. So I'm going to think about the Ents and the Entwives to-day, and hope that when the land under the wave is lifted up again then hope in their search and reconciliation is lifted up too.
We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.
J.R.R Tolkien, 1892-1973
Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Romanitas...


Fr Hunwicke has started an interesting series on the worship of the Anglo-Saxon Church, with reference to a new book in the subsidia series of the Henry Bradshaw Society. He writes: "If there was one single over-riding characteristic of Anglo-Saxon Christianity, it was its Romanitas." I agree. It is beyond dispute. The affection of the Church of England for the Church of Rome down to the eleventh century was unmatched anywhere in Christendom. No other kingdom paid Romepenny (or "Peter's Pence"), and the old English liturgy was based for the most part on the Ordines Romani, with some monastic and Frankish influence (such as the Rogations processions, unknown in the old Roman liturgy). But the Church of England was very old-fashioned. While English churchmen stimulated the Carolingian renaissance in the Frankish Empire, and benefited therefrom, they were generally suspicious of reform and change, clinging to the insular traditions, many of which went back to the time of Sts Augustine and Theodore.

What were these insular traditions, then? Well, before the many pestilential reforms imposed by the Normans in the 1070's, the Church of England used the old Roman Psalter; never abandoning it in favour of the Gallican or Vulgate editions. The English liturgical Bible was similar to the Vetus Latina, preserved in long tradition against the encroachments of the Vulgate. The Church of England was very monastic, as opposed to the Church in Normandy; the sees of Canterbury and Winchester were monastic by tradition. Most English bishops were monks, as in the Orthodox Church to-day, and the Benedictine Office was sung in most cathedrals. The church canons were very different, and there was no separate ecclesiastical court. The penitential and dietary laws were preserved in tradition from the time of the Roman missions, which were again different to those of the Normans and therefore in need of "reform." The liturgical kalendars of the English churches were different to those of the Normans, with memorials of the Roman martyrs, keeping the feast of the Conception of the Mother of God in December and her Oblation in the Temple on 21st November (no doubt the influence of the Greek monasteries of Southern Italy); the feast of St Dunstan, and many English saints beside - all suppressed by Lanfranc. The rich and pious heritage of vernacular literature roused the contempt of the Normans. The Church of England even preserved an older tradition of plainsong where the Normans used the reformed chant of William of Dijon. William of Malmesbury has it that the monks of Glastonbury refused to accept the reformed chant because "they had grown up in the practice of the Roman Church [!]."

This latter point is the most important. As I have said, reverence for the Church of Rome in England was unfeigned. Any casual reader of St Bede can see that. The dedication of many churches to Sts Peter and Paul (such as Westminster Abbey) was a memorial of the filial relationship of England with Rome, the Mother Church, as was the Romepenny. Many nobles went on pilgrimage to Rome, most famously St Alfred the Great. The English liturgy was in Latin. But the Romanitas of the Church of England ere the Conquest was not identical with the Ultramontanism of 19th century English prelates like Cardinal Manning, or the exaggerations endemic in Abbot Gasquet's history of the Church in England. Seen in terms of traditionalism, the Romanitas of the English was surely virtuous. And there were no papalists in England before the Conquest. The Gregorian Revolution, the evolution of the Papacy into an ambitious and political force in Europe, &c were continental and had neither sympathy in the English episcopate nor with the King, especially with the appointment, by St Edward the Confessor himself, of Stigand to the holy See of Canterbury. It's possible that the English preferred the old corrupt popes of the tenth century to the meddling feudal types on the eve of the Conquest. Give me a remote John XII over an interfering Gregory VII any day! Even William the Bastard never aligned himself completely with the reforming papacy. But the support given by the Papacy to William's conquest of England, ostensibly to rid the Church of England of pluralism, simony and other abuses and to regulate the church in line with the reforming principles, is telling. The Norman Conquest was ruthless and completely successful, and it changed everything; culturally, linguistically, legally, and ecclesiastically. It is perfectly true to say that the Church of England, of England mind you, was steeped in Romanitas, but it had remained largely unchanged from the time of the Roman missions because, and this is my earnest belief, the English were Orthodox. What Lanfranc, who called himself a novus Anglus, brought with him was new. Rome had ceased to be what she was, and the Normans marched under a papal banner.

The writ of the Bishop of Rome runneth not in England.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Dormition...


"So thou truly foresaw, that thou wouldst be called blessed by all generations, not from the moment of death but from the very moment of conception. Therefore death hath not made thee blessed, but thou hast thyself made death glorious; thou hast destroyed its horror and shewn death to be joy." From a sermon on the Dormition of the Mother of God by St John of Damascus.

In Tolkien's dealings with Death...is there any other subject in Tolkien?...we are presented with a two-sided coin. On the one hand is the alleged "immortality" of the Elder Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves; that is to say that they are identical with the natural life-span of the earth itself, and not "immortal" in a divine sense. And on the other is the mortality of the Younger Children of Ilúvatar, Men, who die after a comparatively short span of years. The "fall" of the two kindreds is inextricably linked up with Death, with mortality and longevity. This is not going to be an exhaustive exposition of the entire subject, in which I am busy elsewhere, but a note on a good Death by a good Man. The Númenóreans were, in their beginning, good. They were rewarded for their rejection of Morgoth with enhanced gifts in arts, lore, beauty and a span of years thrice that of lesser men (and sometimes more). When the time came for their eternal rest, they would lie them down to rest and relinquish life voluntarily by surrender in faith and trust before being compelled by illness or senility. The only such deathbed discussed in detail is that of King Elessar in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings. It is one of the most moving and theologically fecund accounts in Tolkien; Aragorn and Arwen discuss the Memory of their days, and the sundering fate of the two kindreds. In splendour and piety, Aragorn then said: "Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!" So he died, and in death his countenance was fairer ever than it had been in life.

In one of his letters Tolkien compared a good Númenórean death (death being natural biologically and spiritually for Men) to the Assumption of St Mary. The Mother of God was the only unfallen person (save Christ), and so her falling asleep in the fullness of her days can be seen as a simple regaining of unfallen grace and liberty. She asked to be received, and was received. And so the words of St John of Damascus, almost as a retelling of the Paschal Troparion, come to mind: "thou hast destroyed its horror and shewn death to be joy." So the faithful Kings of Númenor died, so Aragorn died; so too did Our Lady, the Mother of God most holy, of whom was born Christ the Saviour. What praise could one say more?
We beseech thee, O LORD, mercifully to forgive the sins of thy people; that we, who of ourselves can do nothing that is acceptable unto thee, may be succoured by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son. Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
As Rubricarius said yesterday, possibly the finest Collect in the service books. That's a tough one; I like the Collects for Purity, that of the Invention of the Holy Cross, the third Sunday after Easter, and many beside. But I suppose that antient prayers become dearer when they are cruelly suppressed by despotic madmen.

Art: El Greco, shamelessly stolen from Saint Lawrence Press blog. Notice the careful integration of the two traditions of East and West in this masterpiece. A nice ecumenical painting.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Prayers...

When I first went to university these nine years ago I was in a very fragile state, although I didn't know it at the time. I had become bored with full-time education and I had wanted to take some sort of "gap year," but my mother forbade this so I went straight from sixth form college to university. I was offered a conditional place at Exeter College, Oxford to read History. I turned it down to read Divinity at Heythrop instead, a mistake so grave that not a day goes by that I don't regret it. It was a combination of stupidity, vanity and desperation. Stupid in turning down a place at the most prestigious university in the United Kingdom; vain in that I thought that "Divinity" sounded far grander than "Arts," and Divinity being a postgraduate degree in some institutions, I thought that this would, in some way, work to my advantage; and desperate in the sense that even if I were inclined to go to Oxford, I was by no means ready to leave home. I had the wherewithal to leave home then, but not the maturity. Now that I have the maturity (and earnest desire), I lack the wherewithal.

When I went to Heythrop I spent most of my time in the Theology Library in the "stacks" reading old editions of Martinucci and Le Vavasseur, diocesan and religious liturgical books, old collections of letters, some Latin literature. I never went into the JCR. I had almost nothing in common with my fellow Divinity students, all of whom were seminarians. I was the baby, by at least eight years. I was the only traditionalist. I went to the college Mass only once. As such I took to solitude and the books like a duck to ducks. In addition, I was living at home with my belligerent, unpredictable and volatile sister. Two hours on the train there, two hours back. I seldom worked at home because I had no privacy, or peace and quiet. At college I was too distracted by my liturgical interests to focus much on the work, much of which I found tedious. The combination of stress, adjusting to the rigours of academic study, new people, the travel, my sense of having no rest at all (I was working part-time at Morrisons, again at the insistence of my mother), the domestic situation, the unfinished essays piling up, &c eventually led to some sort of mental breakdown. I ended up at a crisis unit at Queen Mary's Hospital. I was discharged after spending the night there and referred to an outpatient clinic for treatment for "undifferentiated psychosis." I dropped out of Heythrop, needless to say without telling anyone, and kept up the pretence of going for as long as I could. In those days I was still comfortably well off and could spend days in London and elsewhere without hurting my bank balance (I had a black card in those days too).

Another reason "AnthonyMunday" is barred from commenting here.

With the help of my therapist I negotiated a place back at Heythrop and managed to do much better. I achieved several firsts in Latin, Greek and Church History, and respectable seconds in fundamental theology and Biblical studies. I devoted much more time to studying, staying in the library until closing time, taking notes, consulting all works in the bibliographies. Nevertheless, I couldn't keep it up. The domestic situation hadn't changed, and had in fact worsened (which also goes to explain the extra time I spent in the library), I was still working part-time and had no day off (I was even working Sundays), I was still having to travel the four hours everyday. My money was fast disappearing, squandered on a trip round Italy with my father, dining out, the Royal Opera House, not to mention an expensive wardrobe. I dropped out again.

Now that I am a drain on society, being both unemployed and in debt, I had been giving very serious thought to going back to Heythrop to actually finish my degree. And I would have this time. I would have moved into halls of residence in order to extricate myself from my toxic family (my sister, who hasn't changed, is moving back with us), and knuckled down. But I read the sad news two days ago that the college will be closing in its current form as a constituent member of the University of London in 2018 and, as such, won't be accepting new students. I was grieved at this ill turn more for the college, which last year celebrated its fourth centenary, than for myself. But for myself, I have nowhere to go. I am at this moment trying to have the debt for my tuition fees waived, or in some way reduced, as I did in fact leave the university for health reasons. Otherwise I am ineligible for student finance. Postgraduate degrees cost over £6,000 which I can scarcely afford even if I were not already in debt. And I am beginning to feel tired with rejected applications for menial jobs that I don't even want.

Above all, I need to get out. I need to get out of this prison without bars. But the only way I can do that seems to be by returning to education of some sort. A friend of mine found a MA in Christian Liturgy that I could do. Otherwise there are undergraduate degrees in Theology, if I can only get the money to fund them, at places like King's College London. I need to get out. Life for me at this time is nothing short of a living hell.

So I desperately implore readers for their prayers for me at this time. Pray for me that I can get out and move on.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

And so...

A new comment on Just deserts. Blogger, unlike Wordpress, has no way of displaying the most recently published comments as a gadget. This means that comments left on older posts go, for the most part, unread.

I have done nothing with the new blog for about a week. It was inopportune to start a new blog actually since I seem to be slipping back into depression once again. I dreamed last night that I walked down the hill near my house at early evening and it was growing dark. I found myself then on a wide strand of grey, wet sand, and the tide was coming in. I didn't make it back.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

"Your views."


I come from a dysfunctional family. In fact, I think that families that really love each other are a dangerous myth invented by movies and television. To give you some perspective: my mother doesn't talk to her mother, and hadn't spoken to her father for about ten years before he died (and didn't go to his funeral). She doesn't speak to two out of her three living brothers, and the one she is on speaking terms with none of us really like. I cannot be in the same room as my sister, who is, if not my nemesis, certainly the bane of my life and the worst human being I have ever met (an attitude for which my mother ironically scolds me some of the time). My father hasn't spoken to his sister for about fifteen years, and has a cold relationship with his mother who always treated my aunt and cousins with favouritism and who, during the course of my short life, has moved further and further away from us; first to Cornwall, then to France, and now Australia. I wouldn't care if I never saw her again and I don't think my father would either. I barely know my distant relatives; I don't really care for any of my cousins. You can feel the love, can't you.

I seldom, if ever, tell my mother anything of importance. For years growing up I was lulled by her claims to be an unselfish, caring person who was mistreated by her own family, and that her constant comparing my brother and me to other children, her constant put-downs, &c were just my misunderstandings. One parents' evening I shall remember to my dying day. Mrs Wheeler said to my mother: "This boy has produced the best piece of English literature coursework I have ever seen for GCSE." When we got home mother said that Mrs Wheeler obviously hadn't taught English for very long. This was the same parents' evening at which my mother failed to confront my history teacher about her constant bullying, and said afterwards: "well, what was I supposed to say?"

We don't see eye to eye on almost anything and, since she has a very short temper, any disagreement can and usually does disintegrate into verbal abuse (on her part). Last night was just one of many such occasions. I had let it slip that I wanted to become Greek Orthodox. She seemed to think that this was only because I had actually been to Greece recently, but her first reaction was: "what, and you think they'd accept you with open arms?" This degenerated into an argument about Roman Catholicism, and my own religious odyssey, in which she kept bringing up things from years ago, such as my one and only experience of World Youth Day, and my trip (largely against my will) to Hyde Park to see Benedict XVI, which concluded with my leaving early with my uncle, on account of boredom and scandal, to have a nice supper at Brasserie Blanc. My argument "is there anything in scripture that warrants all that?" fell upon deaf ears. But: "you don't like Roman Catholics, do you?" was the next lie that she spoke, to which I said: "that is not true; I only dislike a certain kind of Roman Catholic." "You mean 'traditionalists?'" "Yes." "Well, weren't you supposed to be one? A few years ago, you were in Blackfen every week before they got rid of you. And now you're talking about becoming Greek Orthodox? You wouldn't fit into any church with your views! You'd be better off joining some Muslim cult!"

She becomes more volatile after drinking and when she threatened to hit me I went to bed. You just can't reason with some people. Think about it! She is 54, I am 27. She is talking about a period of ten years as though I were coæval with her. For somebody my age, ten years is a comparatively long time and brings many changes. I am certainly not the same person I was when I was 17, although with respect to my beliefs I would say that the fundamental principles have remained the same, that is the same desire for Truth. I became a traditionalist at a very young age for the simple reason that I was reared in the Roman communion, and thought its teachings were true, and I saw around me a sharp disparity between what I had read about what liturgy used to be like, and what it was like now (or then); what prelates used to dress like, and what they dress like now; how people used to dress going to church, and how they dress now, and so on. It didn't enter my imagination then that Rome's teachings were false; that came incrementally over a period of years and earnest study. As to the charge "weren't you supposed to be one [a traditionalist]," I would say that I always was, and still am, after a fashion. But the vast majority of other self-styled traditionalists are faithless, disingenuous and rather nasty people who never shared my beliefs and were never interested in my liturgical ideal. Theirs was a delusional commitment to the conditions that make Tradition impossible (the Papacy), and to a very narrow liturgical era (the late 1950's); mine was a commitment to a genuine, holistic Tradition founded upon the Gospel and the Church's wide patrimony. To put it bluntly, I was the only true traditionalist in this world, and modern Traddieland had been shaped largely by the pestilential Lefebvrists and taken over by neo-cons; a realisation that came too late.

I should add that my becoming a traditionalist is really no different to a cradle Anglican joining a continuing church, or a prayer book society. The principles are the same.

"With your views." That's harsh. I don't know what she meant by that. Perhaps readers might conjecture for me? What would be so objectionable about my views that would make a Greek priest loath to receive me into the Church?

Photo: I don't know who took it, but it's me in the old barn. I found it in Google Images.

Monday, 17 August 2015

A new page...

Until I started Legendarium, I had no idea how to create pages on a blog. I have created two new pages for my new blog, which you can read here.

In other news, I am slowly losing weight. Since I returned from Kefalonia I have lost 8Ibs and my new pedometer which arrived this morning should help motivate me. No job yet, though.

Assumpta est...


This is a charming relief of St Mary's Assumption on the ceiling of the old Pew Chapel of Westminster Abbey, dating from the 1380's. Perhaps the vile soldiery of Parliament, who generally wrecked the church during the sad and long exile both of the Church and King, didn't realise it was there? Nevertheless it is one of many examples of the Church of England looking after a tradition where Rome cheaply discards it. I can imagine processions thereto after the Magna Missa and Vespers during the Octave (yes...those), anthems and antiphons to Our Blessed Lady, in the glorious days of England's piety. These days the relief is only acknowledged by the odd tourist who looks up and the Pew Society which celebrates a Mass in honour of Our Lady of Westminster once a year, sadly after Evensong. It's encouraging that at least this poignant icon of so beautiful a Lady has never been dishonoured with Signum Magnum.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Another grim day for Tradition...


Just as on Palm Sunday, and for the duration of Holy Week, so every 15th August dawns and I rise from my bed feeling both utterly depressed and wrathful. Why? Well, my depression is caused by the rape of the Tradition by modern, "infallible" popes, but the wrath is undoubtedly caused by the recalcitrance and apathy of the traditionalists who seem to want to do nothing to confound and amend those pernicious reforms. I had this argument years ago with one particularly stiff and unyielding traddie, whose lips curled with lofty contempt at all the arguments from reason, tradition, scripture and common sense that I put to him in favour of Gaudeamus. But I expect he hasn't changed, and neither have most of them. Notwithstanding the fact that the reforms themselves, which I will not belabour anymore (it has already been done to death), are hateful, destructive of unity, heap odium on the Tradition of the Church and virtually destroy orthodoxy, what causes the faithless attitude of the traditionalists to the traditional order and proper? Because this cannot simply be symptomatic of the hopelessly wrong "no earlier nor later than 1962" position.

Between the reign of Pius IX and the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council the Papal communion adopted a somewhat siege mentality to the modern world, exacerbated by Pius IX's feud with the Italians and brought to its whimsical conclusion in the encyclical Pascendi and subsequent "Oath against Modernism," until the insidious Council threw open the windows and the "smoke of Satan" infiltrated the seminaries and sanctuaries. With this siege mentality, albeit the seeds were sown in the distant past, came the domination of the visible hierarchy, from popes dispensing "infallible" dogmas to "father knows best;" all the symptoms of clericalism. As a result the active principle of faith, founded upon the sound precepts of the Gospel and the Grace of God, had been, for the most part, banished and supplanted by the passive habit of obedience to a visible authority, and the two have become confused and equated. Hence the acquiescence, nay grateful acceptance, as beggars might eat greedily at a rind of stale bread thrown them by a cruel, miserly tyrant, of the Traddies, ever willing to adopt the mentality of that fortunately long-gone time, for Signum Magnum. Their faith, what little they have, is fortified by Rome, sanctioned by Rome, made up on the spot by Rome. All appeals to Tradition, to traditional propers, however venerable, are useless, in fact suspect. I was accused of schism by a short bald man for declaring my unwavering adherence to Gaudeamus, long before I abandoned all trust in Roman primacy. And now I see why. It is because Traddies are faithless and superstitious. "Superstition" is not simply a baseless accusation thought up by Protestants. It is what happens when the conditions in which faith thrives are stifled and sucked dry and replaced with something else, like human objects of worship, or fear. Go back around the vicious cycle and we come again to oaths against modernism, recited on pain of excommunication; a ban on use of the old Psalter arrangement on pain of not fulfilling the obligation to recite the breviary; and to modern times with the Traddie refusal to use Gaudeamus on the feast of St Mary's Assumption for no other reason than fear of schism and the withdrawal of submission to the Roman pontiff.

THIS IS NOT FAITH. It is an utter admission of failure. A pox on anyone who uses Signum Magnum to-day!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

"Church of England"...


Already my new blog has attracted some controversy! It seems that my use of the term "Church of England" to designate that part of Christendom on English soil before the Reformation is objectionable to some. But I fail to see why. Ecclesia Anglicana is a term that appears in Magna Carta and means simply the Church of England. Moreover, the Church of England was always conceived of in broadly national terms, a characterisation that was never lost during the centuries between the Conquest and the Reformation when clergy and laity were subject, de iure, to the Bishop of Rome. But clergy and laity were also subject, de iure and de facto, to the Crown. The Church of Rome, that is the Church of the city and diocese of Rome, was held in the greatest esteem as the prime See in Christendom by the English. Her bishop they acknowledged as the successor of St Peter and keeper of the awful keys with feelings either of devotion or disgust, depending upon the occupant. One can hardly blame an Englishman of the Hundred Years War holding a French pope in Avignon in some suspicion. But the English were not "Roman Catholics," and certainly did not belong to a "Roman Catholic Church." What on earth does that mean? It's an anachronism and would have had no meaning to anyone in Christendom, whether in the Ecclesia Gallicana, the Ecclesia Hispanica or the Ecclesia Romana.

Englishmen were members rather of the Church of England, and the English Church had her own rights and privileges, her own hierarchy, her own system of sacred canons, her own venerable liturgy, her own law-courts and legislatures, all distinct in many respects from the customs of the Roman Church. I am not suggesting that Englishmen were not in communion with Rome, I am merely pointing out that to speak of the Church in England before the Reformation in terms of Ultramontane ecclesiology is a weird anachronism and the reflection of a later, more lurid conception of ecclesiastical history.

Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to speak of the Church of England, as distinct from the Protestant Anglican Church, before the Reformation. As to the date the Church of England was founded, please do not stupidly propound a few 16th century dates or Acts of Parliament. The Church of England was founded in the 6th century by our father in faith St Augustine who established the old See of Canterbury. Any contrary view is stupid and prejudiced.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A new blog...

I have started a new blog dedicated solely to my Tolkien studies. It's called aptly Legendarium, which is explained in the inaugural post. Unfortunately the URL "legendarium" was already taken; to add insult to injury by a defunct blog, but never mind. I have also set up a Twitter account @TolkienLegenda for people who are interested in following me. It won't be used to publicize posts here, I assure you. There will be no polemic or controversy on my new blog, just Tolkien.

As for this place, well it's burnt out. I've said this countless times before but I really have nothing more to say about liturgy. I had thought about changing the title of this blog and continuing here but after five years I need a clean break. I may still post here occasionally but don't hold your breath. It's about time I started doing something I know I can do rather than trying to maintain this resentful place with its dwindling readership.