Monday, 5 July 2010

Ramblings on Turkey...

I'm low on blog post ideas so these ramblings will have to do...

I have always wanted to visit Turkey, as much as Italy (for the Grand Tour no less!), Greece (I went to Corfu in 1993, if that counts?) and the Holy Land, but one curse of being an illiterate University drop-out is that you are reduced to humiliating and degrading employment, and getting pittance for it. And so the opportunities of going anywhere beyond the last stop on the 492 bus route are closed unless I want to spend way beyond my means (my mother told me, in her characteristic ''told you so'' tone, after I had spent £4,000 in savings,''your lifestyle exceeds your income''). This is fair enough, and I am paying the price now, but I would like to experience something old and foreign outside of my books.

As a good Catholic boy (going to Mass on Sunday not once but twice!) I always imagined that the Holy Land and Rome were the mothers of the Church and of civilisation. The Gregorian missions may have set out from Rome to convert the Saxons, but they brought not with them a Roman faith (although they spoke the hard tongue of the Romans, and the faith had a sort of Roman veneer), but one shaped in Asia Minor. Turkey is truly ancient and central to the Classical world. Noah's Ark would have foundered but for the highest peak in Turkey (this depends, of course, upon how you read: Requievitque arca mense septimo, vigesimo septimo die mensis, super montes Armeniae). The Argonauts sailed the northern coast of Turkey to Colchis in their search for the Golden Fleece. The Hittites, who sold Abraham a tract of land, dwelt in Turkey and conquered Babylon and but for the tides of history would have provided a dynasty of Pharaohs. Two of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World were built in Turkey - the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus. It was here that St John wrote the most beautiful of the Four Gospels (in my opinion), and St Mary, of whom was born Christ the Saviour (what praise could one say more?), laid down her head to sleep at last. St Paul wrote most of his Epistles to the great cities of Turkey, and it was in Turkey that the great Ecumenical Councils were held. It was at Nicaea and Constantinople that the holy fathers drew up the Creed we sing during Mass (minus the F word, added later at Toledo and without the consent of an Ecumenical Council), and at Ephesus the holy fathers anathematized any who should add or take away from the Creed. At Chalcedon in AD 451 the holy fathers acclaimed the Tome of St Leo and expounded the orthodox Christology, and at Nicaea the heresy of Iconoclasm was finally stamped out.

What of Rome though? Rome was for long a great bastion of orthodoxy and Tradition. It was long the custom (before Constantinople muscled its new head in at Chalcedon - I still do not recognise Canon 28!) for not only Western sees, but for Antioch and Alexandria (because of the Petrine links??) to make appeals to Rome rather than Constantinople, which was a relative newcomer, and not even an apostolic see. During the Iconoclast period, Rome (and the West generally) was a safe haven for those who clung to the orthodox faith. But alas, alas for modern Rome! I would now only visit Rome to further my classical education...(the Grand Tourists were often profoundly disappointed with Catholic Rome).

I'm bored with this post now, and it has long ceased to follow any clear course or have any meaning, so I am going to get some lunch. Do take the time to watch the Commencement video on Fr Finigan's blog. It is so nice to hear the correct pronunciation of Latin for a change! Moreover I was amazed at how much I understood. When I learned Latin, I received the classical fashion of pronunciation (that employed in the video), and so when I first encountered liturgical Latin (at an Anglican Benediction when I was 15) I thought that it was very strange - I still do! My dear Latin teacher taught us that v's were pronounced as semi-vowel sounds in ancient Rome, hence the ''w'' sound. I think that the Church (at least north of the Alps) should adopt this mode, shaking off the Romanism and centralization of Pius X (whom I don't regard as a saint by the way...) - I mean, it's not as if your average parish priest in Medieval England pronounced Latin as they did in the Roman Curia!; although it is interesting - I wonder if, in Rome, during the bleak period when Romance languages were developing, whether Latin was pronounced in the modern Italian fashion? Food for thought...


  1. The people who first brought Christ to these shores were mostly Greeks and hellenized semites. People I'd recognise immediately.

  2. I still do not recognise Canon 28!

    That's because, with your ecclesiologically Latin and Western head on, you attach a disproportionate importance to it. The Councils addressed themselves to such things so as to clear the ground of matters of human institution and human convenience (and therefore, potentially, inconvenience) merely. It's the Eucharist that creates and constitutes the Catholic Church, not the Patriarchates, either singly (e.g. Rome) or in combination (e.g. the “Pentarchy” theory of the Emperor Justinian). Neither the lustre of an Apostolic foundation nor the lack of it carries any dogmatic significance whatsoever. As human institutions, the Patriarchates, Rome included, were useful for as long as they were useful, and then – not. None of them belongs indispensably to the divine constitution of the Church; none is in any sense uniquely the subject of Christ's promises to His Church, and therefore a condition and requirement of the Church's visibility (c.f. recent conversations with our friend aelianus). Constantinople claimed a particular status on exactly the same basis as the claims of Old Rome were understood principally to rest, prior to the “development” of unique, exclusive claims to St Peter - that of Imperial city, and administrative centre of the oecumene. The Head of the Church is Christ, represented on earth by the bishop, especially when he presides at the Eucharist.

    “Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by the one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
    - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8:1 (110 A.D).

    This is the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church. There is one episcopate, that of Christ, in which every bishop participates fully and equally. The various “ranks” exist purely as an administrative convenience (the convenience of which is, admittedly, not always obvious). If all the Patriarchates were to vanish tomorrow, the visibility and integrity of the Church would remain undisturbed, so long as a single right-believing, right-worshipping bishop remained to gather his people and constitute the Body of Christ. For aelianus, (for example), the visibility of the Church would require that sole, surviving bishop to be the Bishop of Rome; and it wouldn't matter whether he we were right-believing and right-worshipping or not, because his indefectibility is implicitly (invisibly!) maintained on the basis of geographical “succession”.

  3. On the pronunciation of Latin:

    The academic pronunciation, attempted by the commencement speaker, approximates to the pronunciation of classical Latin from around the 1st century BC to around the 1st century AD - because this is the 'golden' period for classicists. It's the same principle by which when I teach Latin prose composition, I use Cicero or Caesar, perhaps Livy but seldom anyone later (Plinian style is sometimes acceptable). But there is good evidence that the vulgar pronunciation was already changing within this time (I believe < u > made the shift [w] > [v] by the end of i AD for example), and continued to do so apace: already by the time the Roman Church started using Latin on an official and liturgical Latin it would, indeed, have started to sound much closer to modern Italian.

    You are right, of course, that some of the territories would have developed a distinctive pronunciation of Latin. In Northern Europe, the pronunciation of + front vowel as [ts] is a good example of a relic of one such regional variation. Sadly we just don't have enough material to make informed judgements about this throughout the medieval period.

    It seems reasonable to impose a degree of uniformity on pronunciation, and the Italianate pronunciation is certainly the most logical option, given that Latin had ceased to be an evolving language while this pronunciation was in force.