Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Andrewmas...




Beatus Andreas Apostolus sit pro nobis perpetuus intercessor. I trust you all had a pleasant feast day? I know I did (thank you lovely friend)! I have now raided my father's vintage whiskey cupboard - well not really, his middle name is Andrew, and he seemed pleased that today was one of his name days; and has let me partake of some of his 30 year old Glenfarclas. I'm no connoisseur of whiskey, but cheers dad!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The armour of light...

A welcome sight. The Sacred Ministers vested for the celebration of Mass at the church of St Magnus the Martyr nigh to London Bridge on the First Sunday in Advent. A truly splendid way to begin the liturgical year!


Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen. (Collect for the First Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer). You will look in vain to the Sarum liturgical books for this. The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent in Sarum is much the same as the ''modern'' (you know what I mean) Roman books; it seems that the Collect above is a 16th century composition, not wholly inappropriate, it must be said; although the Collect prescribed for next Sunday is less good, and bethought of protestantism. The Officium in Sarum for this Sunday, and the next, and the next, correspond to the Roman Introits; for the First Sunday, even so:

Ad te levavi animam meam: Deus meus in te confido, non erubescam: neque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te expectant non confundentur. Ps. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoce me. Ad te levavi. Gloria Patri, &c.

The Introit Rorate Cæli, for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, is not found in the Sarum liturgical books, and in its place is the Officium:

Memento nostri, Domine, in beneplacito populi tui: visita nos in salutari tuo: ad videndum in bonitate electorum tuorum, in laetitia gentis tuae, ut lauderis cum haereditate tua. Ps. Peccavimus cum patribus nostris: iniuste egimus, iniquitatem fecimus. Memento nostri. Gloria Patri, &c.

A rather loose, albeit beautiful, translation is given by Coverdale. Remember me, O Lord, according to the favour that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation, that I may see the felicity of thy chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of thy people, and give thanks with thine inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers: we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly. Remember me. Glory be to the Father, &c.

The Epistle and Gospel pericopes correspond across all three for the First Sunday, although in Sarum there is, of course, a Sequence (Salus Aeterna), which is peculiar (as are all the Advent Sunday sequences) since all lines of each verse end with the letter a, and do not seem to follow any strict poetic cursus. There is a goodly translation by Pearson (1871), which renders it almost Tolkienian, since it is laden with the sorrow of mortal men, but typical of Advent, with expectation, by which the season is enriched. I wonder if Tolkien knew of these Sequences? As a mediaevalist, it is not unlikely.

The Missal of Robert of Jumièges contains a proper Preface for this Sunday. I was hoping against hope that this would correspond to the ad libitum proper Preface for Advent in the 1962 Missal, but no. The preface in the 1962 Missal is, interestingly, derived from the Lyonese Missal, a curiosity considering that most else in that dread reform had no source in the Tradition of the Church.

(Domine sancte Pater omnipotens aeternae Deus), cui proprium est ac singulare quod bonus es. Et nulla umquam a te es commutatione diversus. Propitiare quaesumus supplicationibus nostris, et Ecclesiae tuae misericordiam tuam quam deprecamur ostende. Manifestans plebi tuae Unigeniti tui et Incarnationis mysterium, et adventus admirabile sacramentum: ut in universitate nationum constet esse perfectum quod vatum oraculis fuit ante promissum, percipiantque dignitatem adoptionis quos exornat confessio veritatis. Per quem...

Or as found in the 1962 books and the Lyonese Missal (to be used on all Dominicae and feriae even up to the Vigil of the Lord's Nativity inclusive):

(Domine sancte Pater omnipotens aeternae Deus): per Christum Dominum nostrum. Quem perdito hominum generi Salvatorem misericors et fidelis promisisti: cuius veritas instrueret inscios, sanctitas iustificaret impios, virtus adiuvaret infirmos. Dum ergo prope est ut veniat quem missurus es, et dies affulget liberationis nostrae, in hac promissionum tuarum fide, piis gaudiis exultamus. Et ideo...

It would be interesting to see how many traditionalists, accustomed to using pre-Pius XII liturgical books, use the ad libitum Preface for Advent - it's quite traditional. It is one of those rare things in the modern Roman Rite where you can have catholicity in variegation, rather than uniformity, which is not now nor ever desirable.

A blessed Advent to you all. Watch ye for ye know not when the master of the house cometh.

The Door of Night...



''Thus came it that the Gods dared a very great deed, the most mighty of all their works; for making a fleet of magic rafts and boats with Ulmo's aid - and otherwise had none of these endured to sail upon the waters of Vai - they drew to the Wall of Things, and there they made the Door of Night (Moritarnon or Tarn Fui as the Eldar name it in their tongues). There it still stands, utterly black and huge against the deep-blue walls. Its pillars are of the mightiest basalt and its lintel likewise, but great dragons of black stone are carved thereon, and shadowy smoke pours slowly from their jaws. Gates it has unbreakable, and none know how they were made or set, for the Eldar were not suffered to be in that dread building, and it is the last secret of the Gods; and not the onset of the world will force that door, which opens to a mystic word alone. That word Urwendi only knows and Manwë who spake it to her; for beyond the Door of Night is the outer dark, and he who passes therethrough may escape the world and death and hear things not yet for the ears of Earth-dwellers, and this may not be.'' (The History of Middle-earth, Volume I, Chapter IX, The Hiding of Valinor).

Earendel keeps ceaseless watch upon those doors, lest the Dark Lord figure out the secret of them and essay to rend them. I have often wondered about the presence of ''dragons'' - creatures of Morgoth, even if they are lifeless. Smoke is said to issue ever from their jaws. Perhaps they function like to cathedral gargoyles, such as you find on Notre Dame de Paris? The idea was that images of devils would cheat the Devil into thinking the church were a place already claimed by them, temples unto his cult, or something. The Middle Ages were fun!


I dreamt of those doors once, when I was staying with my grandmother in Cornwall, as a boy of 14 or 15 Summers; I stood upon the edge of a vast precipice and beheld an unbroken forest kingdom below, beyond which was a sea, which I could descry with the sight that was given to me, and amidmost were the impenetrable doors. I longed to fly like a bird to them, but I woke up and the vision was taken away. It was time to get up.

St Quentin of Bumhampton...



Well this certainly tickled my fancy when I opened the email from Blogger. A comment from a less-than-sympathetic reader? A cruel joke? An innocuous observation? Think of it what you will!

You know, I've long suspected that Anglo-Catholics should be called Gaynglicans and that most men who dress up and get all exercised about liturgy aren't exactly the most butch, but you sir, take the cake.
Why not just canonize Quentin Crisp and be done with it?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Venturus est Dominus...



Well, Advent is finally upon us. It is less sombre than Lent, and, even as the Gnomes standing upon the high walls of Gondolin await the coming of the Dawn, and to raise their voices in song at the uprising of the Sun, the Church too awaits the coming of Christ, the liturgical Sun and the Sun of Justice. It is a liturgical season of rather blended feelings; on the one hand, the use of folded chasubles reminds us of our need to do penance, and the sorrow of the Church on earth is united to the sorrow of the old Israelites awaiting the Messias (indeed it is behoveful that we all of us unite ourselves to the old Israelites in asking God for the Christ-child), but on the other hand, the Church ceases not to say Alleluia in the Sacred Liturgy, nor wholly to assuage gladness in the Sanctorale. As Dom Prosper put it: ''This is the reason why the Alleluia accompanies even her sighs, and why she seems to be at once joyous and sad, waiting for the coming of that holy night which will be brighter to her than the most sunny of days, and on which her joy will expel all her sorrow.'' (The Liturgical Year, Volume I, Advent).

Trado, tradere...

A silhouette of Whitby Abbey - a vision of that which has been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time.



I am not a protestant - protestants do not pray to the Saints, nor do they make such a fuss about Liturgy, or ornaments, rubrics, candles, etc. Protestantism is a heresy which consists in rejection of Tradition and the triumph of one's own judgement upon the Word of God. A year or so ago I was accused of protestantism because I was guilty of ''rigidly adhering to antiquity in spite of contrary papal or conciliar legislation.'' Do Roman Catholics not understand the meaning of Tradition? They accuse protestants of selectivism, rejection of proper ecclesiastical authority, etc, but are they not themselves guilty of a similar heresy? It is often the way with diametrically opposed schools of thought, or things - they're exactly the same, suffering the same prejudices and want of reason. Nazism was manifestly much the same as Stalinism, for example. So it is with modern Roman Catholics and protestants. If it boils down to authority then we may we may well ask wherefore the pope has authority sufficient enough to alter Tradition - or if he does, what distinguishes the Word of God from Tradition since both are inextricably linked in the fundamentals of revelation. How is any verse of Scripture exempt from the authority of the pope? Do I exaggerate? Apologists for Papal authority go on and on about the limits thereof, but I am no longer convinced of their arguments. History, which the Roman communion cannot conceal forever, begs to differ. Papal authority as it has been manifested since the 19th century has, in my view, gone way beyond the parameters set by legitimate exercise of authority in the Church, be it that of an ecumenical synod or the delicts of a local bishop. Even in terms of philosophy it has neither been justly exercised nor for the good of the Church.

The stance of the Roman communion on doctrinal and moral relativism is commenable, but is this not just a stinking red herring? It is but to say: ''you must believe this, this, and that; you must also do this, but the pope, Christ's Vicar, is above these rules and can do as he sees fit on a whim. He is infallible, after all.'' Or maybe I've spoken of this before and I am just repeating myself. It is unpopular to think so, but if the pope can decide that folded chasubles aren't to be used on the Sundays and ferial days of Advent anymore, what's stopping him from saying that the doctrine of the Triune God is false? A few weeks ago I had this argument with a Greek Orthodox woman who said that all the pope has to do is ''remove the Filioque,'' and everyone would be happy. Who exactly did she have in mind? Certainly not me! Such a ''trivial'' thing as she seemed to think involves very complex questions of theology and ecclesiology. The Roman church has professed belief in the double procession of the Holy Ghost for over a thousand years. For the pope to simply remove the Filioque from the Nicene Creed would be the height of arrogance. Not only would he be anathematizing hundreds of Western saints who taught contra Graeciae, he would be severely re-shaping Roman Trinitarian theology as defined by the councils to which Rome attaches the name ''ecumenical.'' Does the Bishop of Rome have this authority? What then? Would the pope step down from his exalted position in Christ's Church and pick up where everybody left off in the 11th century? What then was the purpose of the Papacy for a thousand years? Its self-destruction? Would that it were! But no. It matters not that the pope added the Filioque in the first place, or that maybe one day he will remove it, to nobody's satisfaction but the ignorant. The point is simply this: if you question the pope's authority (whether or no you blame the authority of the pope) regarding folded chasubles, or some other aspect of liturgical reform, you might as well question the addition, or removal, of the Filioque. What are the ecumenical implications of all this? Personally, I think that it leaves small hope for the reunion of the Roman and Orthodox churches - but who wants that anyway? I know of many deluded Romans who think little of the Orthodox (''how dare they reject our lovely pope!''), and still more Orthodox who can't abide the Papacy. I can just imagine the Orthodox and the Traddie in conversation about it. After the pope excises the Filioque from the Creed, the Traddie asks: ''so, what do we do now, then?'' The Orthodox replies: ''well, now you abolish Pastor Aeternus and Lumen Gentium.'' ''Why?'' ''Because the Filioque is a fundamentally papal issue. In no other way are our ecclesiologies so far apart as the question of the pope.'' Can any of you see this going anyway?

I adore this. It's superb. Liturgy as it should be.

This post has long ceased to have any coherent point, so I'll just round up. A few years ago I went into Holy Trinity church at Long Melford in Suffolk, a masterpiece of the perpendicular style. I marvelled at the church, so beautiful it was, and I looked about me with a profound sense of regret which has never wholly left me, even now when I think that Rome has no actual right to have dioceses in England. It was the feeling of an exile returned after a long absence, looking about at things at once familiar and yet remote, remembering times when he was lord - the typical triumphalist attitude of the Roman Catholic to the Anglican about their own ancestral churches. It put me in mind of the words of Galadriel to Celeborn. You remember her kindly remonstrance about the company of the Ring being caught up in the net of Moria? ''If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?'' Even if Roman Catholics eventually got all the old churches back, would the liturgy they brought with them be any improvement? Do they vainly suppose that their traditionalism would be a homecoming? That our catholic forebears would be familiar with their modern liturgical books, statues of St Joseph the Worker and Lourdes shrines?


Well doesn't this show up my lack of skill as a writer! I am actually quite bored with the raison d'etre of this 'blog at the present. I am labouring under a crippling depression, struggling at work, home and university, have suffered a series of setbacks, etc. I can't even concentrate on my Tolkien books. I started reading Book V of The Lord of the Rings about two weeks ago, and haven't even finished The Siege of Gondor. Maybe I should just keep quiet about liturgy. It makes me unhappy and I can't claim to have anything more than a rudimentary knowledge anyway. Let the Ents look to it!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tolkien's Mother...



Mabel Tolkien, A.D 1870-1904. Latter day Martyr, long-suffering for the Catholic Faith. Mabel was so inextricably linked up with Tolkien's own faith that, in a sense, the Catholic Faith occupied the same place that she had, after she passed from this world unto her long home. She died after her Baptist and Unitarian family cut her off for ''poping'' in the Jubilee Year.

Seneca...



I am among a minority of Classicists who believes that Seneca was a proto-Christian humanist. I am also among a minority of Catholics who thinks that planetis plicatis ante pectus should be used on Dominicae and feriae of the season of Advent.

I wonder. Are such dispositions measurable in the history of my salvation? When I stand before the just Judge on the Day of Judgement, will it avail me to say to Him: ''I was traditional in that respect,'' when I live in the knowledge that my life is a great moral vacuum? It reminds me of that passage in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth where Tar-Meneldur, the fifth King of Númenor, reads the letter of Gil-galad, musing on the judgement of Eru. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Libera me...



I'm sorry to learn that Dominic Mary of the 'blog Libera Me has died. I met him a handful of times in this world and found him to be a very pleasant man, pious and understanding.


I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.

I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me: Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours. Amen.


From the gate of hell. Deliver his soul, O Lord. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Narn e' Rach Morgoth...



''You say it,'' said Morgoth. ''I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of all the Valar, who was before the world, and made it. The shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will. But upon all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death.'' (J.R.R Tolkien, The Children of Húrin, Chapter III).


Monday, 21 November 2011

In mei memoriam facietis...




I was very interested to read this yesterday by the Bishop of London (whom I was privileged to meet in 2003). I thought it wise, timely and pastoral. That the use of the new translation of the Roman Missal in the Church of England is ''a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter'' is without question. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer ought to be the standard for Anglican liturgical praxis, not Common Worship, or the modern Roman liturgical books.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ut quid, Deus?



O God, wherefore art thou absent from us so long: why is thy wrath so hot against the sheep of thy pasture?
O think upon thy congregation: whom thou hast purchased and redeemed of old.
Think upon the tribe of thine inheritance: and mount Sion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
Lift up thy feet, that thou mayest utterly destroy every enemy: which hath done evil in thy sanctuary.
Thine adversaries roar in the midst of thy congregations: and set up their banners for tokens.
He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees: was known to bring it to an excellent work.
But now they break down all the carved work thereof: with axes and hammers.
They have set fire upon thy holy places: and have defiled the dwelling-place of thy Name, even unto the ground.
Yea, they said in their hearts, Let us make havock of them altogether: thus have they burnt up all the houses of God in the land.
We see not our tokens, there is not one prophet more: no, not one is there among us, that understandeth any more.
O God, how long shall the adversary do this dishonour: how long shall the enemy blaspheme thy Name, for ever?
Why withdrawest thou thy hand: why pluckest thou not thy right hand out of thy bosom to consume the enemy?
For God is my King of old: the help that is done upon earth he doeth it himself.
Thou didst divide the sea through thy power: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
Thou smotest the heads of Leviathan in pieces: and gavest him to be meat for the people in the wilderness.
Thou broughtest out fountains and waters out of the hard rocks: thou driedst up mighty waters.
The day is thine, and the night is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy hath rebuked: and how the foolish people hath blasphemed thy Name.
O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the enemies: and forget not the congregation of the poor for ever.
Look upon the covenant: for all the earth is full of darkness and cruel habitations.
O let not the simple go away ashamed: but let the poor and needy give praise unto thy Name.
Arise, O God, maintain thine own cause: remember how the foolish man blasphemeth thee daily.
Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the presumption of them that hate thee increaseth ever more and more.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

From the side bar...

Some of you may have noticed that I have removed the image of Pius XII and the petition from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer against the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome, and all his detestable enormities. Long time readers of this 'blog will remember that before my utter rejection of the Roman communion there had been an image of pope Benedict. I replaced it with the aforementioned image of Pacelli in posture of Lord-knows-what, and the petition from the Litany. Some people think I am cracked like old Mr Bilbo, or a fanatic, and I guess that that ship has long since sailed. Think of it what you will - an attempt to regain credibility, a mild ecumenical gesture, completely random, whatever. I think of it as a symbol that Liturgiae Causa is not reactionary like Protestantism, set up in defiance of Christ's Church, even if most Roman Catholics see Protestantism only in terms of rejection of Papal authority, and fissiparous even so because therein lies the root cause of all heresy. Personally I think that there is more to Catholicism than intellectual assent to the teachings of the pope, and that such a notion as ''do what the pope says on a whim'' is wholly novel, and certainly unprecedented in the history of the Church. Catholicism encompasses all manner of traditions, pious customs and culture.

I hope that this move is welcomed by readers. I venture to ask, though; does anybody listen to me?

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Eye of Sauron...



''Of old there was Sauron the Maia...'' (The Silmarillion, Part V, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age).

A few years ago I attended a Forty Hours Prayer where, during the Mass coram Sanctissimo (on the third day), the celebrant preached (!) about the Blessed Sacrament. He contrasted the Sacrament in the monstrance to the great Eye of Sauron, a symbol of vigilance and a reminder that God pervades over all, or something. I was told in the vestry afterwards that most eyes in the church fell upon me when the name of Tolkien was uttered - I guess one of a number of reasons that preaching is actually forbidden during Masses coram Sanctissimo. I felt obliged to remonstrate with the celebrant about his choice of topic (naturally my complaints and adherence to the law of the Church regarding the subject of a sermon at all were completely ignored), since it seemed to me that his information was based upon the Peter Jackson film interpretation of Tolkien's magnus opus, and not the work of Tolkien himself. One of the most obvious discrepancies between The Lord of the Rings and the film trilogy is that of the physical form of Sauron. In the film he is depicted as a gigantic floating eyeball wreathed about with fire and lightning. I imagine that this is because the people who made the film mistook Frodo's vision in the Mirror of Galadriel:

''In the black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the Mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat's, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter VII, The Mirror of Galadriel).


The Lord of the Rings itself contains no physical description of Sauron. I believe this to be a literary device of a sort (like the Eagles, or lembas (waybread, viaticum) - naturally miles are miles, and hunger and thirst are even so in Middle-earth, and lembas makes plausible long journeys in the wild on foot), a means of rendering the Dark Lord more menacing. The question remains, though: what did Sauron look like? It is a cogent question though difficult to answer, for Sauron had spent many ages in Middle-earth and could formerly assume many forms. Therefore it is behoveful that we look to the Ages of the legendarium to piece together a picture of the emissary of evil.


The Battle of Huan and Sauron, here in the form of a ''monster,'' I guess. Ted Nasmith.

As I have said hitherto, Sauron was in origin a Maia, of the people of Aulë the Smith, and is thus akin both to Saruman (who was also of the people of Aulë) and to Gandalf . As a Maia, he had certain inherent abilities, which to Men would appear ''magical,'' though to the Maiar they were just as natural as the ability to walk or to sing. Of these great was his power to change shape at will. In The Silmarillion, Sauron's ''own accustomed form'' seems to have been human - it was customary for the Ainur to imitate the form of the Children of Ilúvatar in their dealings with them, and insofar as the manifestation of the will of the fëa (spirit) corresponded to their Valinorean stature (cf. The History of Middle-earth, Volume X). For example the Diabolus Morgoth first descended upon Arda in girth and majesty greater than any of the Ainur, ''as a mountain that wades in the sea;'' Ulmo, Lord of Waters, could be seen as a mounting wave, etc. In the battle between Sauron and Huan the great Wolfhound of Valinor, Sauron was pinned down, and in his endeavour to escape he shifted shape, from wolf to serpent and thence to ''monster,'' and upon his defeat, fled in the form of a vampire bat, ''great as a dark cloud across the moon,'' dripping blood from his throat upon the trees. At the end of the First Age, dismayed by the downfall of the Diabolus Morgoth, Sauron abased himself and assumed the most beautiful form he could devise, and did obeisance to Eönwë the herald of Manwë. He would not, however, return in humiliation into the West to abide the judgement of the Valar for his service to Morgoth, and he hid himself in Middle-earth. His repentance, therefore (which was probably genuine, if only out of fear of the Valar), caused a greater relapse, until slowly, beginning with fair motives (the re-ordering of Middle-earth after the tumults of the War of Wrath, the rehabilitation of the wild Men ''neglected'' by the Valar, etc), he himself became a ''dark Lord.'' As one of the Maiar, however, indeed the greatest of the Maiar, he kept the power to change shape.


Early in the Second Age, the age of Númenor, Sauron appeared to the Elves of Eregion, exiled Gnomes who refused to return into the West, in his most beautiful form and took the name Annatar, Lord of Gifts, unto himself. His teaching was most enamoured of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the Jewel-smiths who followed Celebrimbor, for Sauron was skilled in craft, and under his teaching they wrought the Rings of Power. To all but the most wary his countenance was fair and wise, but some misdoubted his fair seeming - Galadriel rejected him, as did Elrond, and he was not welcome in Lindon. In this form Annatar was taken to Númenor as hostage of Ar-Pharazôn, the last king, and there he corrupted the Men to idolatry and the worship of Morgoth. In the tumults of the Downfall of Númenor Sauron's fair form was dragged down in the ruin of the temple of Morgoth, and destroyed, and his spirit fled back to Mordor on a cold dark wind. In the Dark Tower he fashioned for himself a new form, terrible to behold, and the form in which he wrought so great an evil he could never assume again. He could never again appear beautiful to Men. Interestingly, this mirrors Morgoth's declension from beauty and splendour into ugliness and impotence. Morgoth, who in the earliest days of Arda was brighter than the Sun and could drive all the Valar into retreat, became permanently incarnate and was, therefore, vulnerable and afraid, and waged war by means of subordinates and devices whilst remaining safe in the deepest depths of Angband - remember that he took up the challenge of Fingolfin perforce, enduring the names ''lord of carrion'' and ''wielder of thralls'' in the presence of his captains.

In the Battle of the Last Alliance, at the end of the Second Age, Sauron himself came forth after the Siege of Barad-dûr and wrestled with Gil-galad the Elven-king and Elendil of Númenor, slaying them both, but was himself overthrown, Isildur having cut the Great Ring from his hand. In his defeat he lost his physical form altogether, and we are told that: ''...he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.''




During the first millennium of the Third Age Sauron remained impotent and invisible in the wild, until he returned to Dol-Guldur in the south of Greenwood the Great. We know nothing of his appearance at this time, the ''Shadow of Sauron,'' except that he exerted vast influence and dark things crept back to him, the great forest became the haunt of dark things, and was named anew; Mirkwood it became. It would appear that without the Ring, which was lost, he could not fashion for himself a new form, or would not. Even after his return to Mordor he would not even permit the Orcs to use his name on their devices or in parlance beyond his realm, something which Aragorn noted after the death of Boromir when examining the livery of the soldiery of Saruman (though since the lieutenant of the Dark Tower declared himself the ''Mouth of Sauron'' is is likely that either Aragorn's information was obsolete, if indeed this is not an inconsistency in the story).

Towards the end of the Third Age, when Bilbo found the Ring in Gollum's cave, Sauron was driven out of Mirkwood by the White Council and returned again to Mordor, though his flight was feigned and his return long-prepared by the Nazgûl. He must, by this time, have created for himself a new form. By the end of the Third Age, with the onset and duration of the War of the Ring, Sauron did indeed have a physical, human form. As I have said heretofore, there are no descriptions given anywhere in The Lord of the Rings, and people are often confused by constant references to the ''Eye of Sauron,'' and the ''Eye of Barad-dûr.'' There are cases where this is clearly figurative, but others it would appear that Tolkien equates the Eye with Sauron himself - as seems to be the case with Frodo's vision in the Mirror of Galadriel; ''the Red Eye will be looking towards Isengard,'' and all that.

However, Sauron clearly had a real physical, human form. Gollum, who had seen the Dark Lord in person, said: ''He has only four [fingers] on the Black Hand, but they are enough.'' Furthermore, there are other references which indicate Sauron's ability to travel around freely such as Denethor's remonstrance with Pippin that Sauron would not leave the Dark Tower until he came to triumph over him, or, curiously, Aragorn's command that the lord of the Black Land must come forth to abide the judgement of the King.

The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, however, procure the answer to the question we asked at the beginning of this post.

''Sauron must be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.246).

My supposition is that the ''Eye of Sauron'' must be seen as a metaphor for his constant vigilance - it could even refer to the Palantír of Minas Ithil which he had seized in the overthrow of that city. It would certainly explain why Denethor was driven mad, and Frodo saw the glazed yellow eye - for Sauron exerted great command over the Palantíri, and could make those who foolishly dared to look into them see only what he wanted them to see - unless they had a will of adamant and could wrest the stone from him.

So there we are. Someone (actually a number of people) suggested I do a doctorate ''in Tolkien.'' Anybody have any suggestions as to what exactly?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A new book...



I don't read The New Liturgical Movement much anymore. I daresay I find the tendency of that 'blog to elevate form over substance quite irksome (you know, ''look at the lace!'' or ''bishop celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in the usus antiquior with beautiful Roman cut red vestments'', and blah, blah, blah), though I daresay that every so often they post something of interest. Gregory DiPippo's articles are always worth reading, possibly because cloaked beneath the tact and the diplomacy is someone with eyes that see both deep and far - much like Rubricarius, and very unlike our now-dormant liturgical pimp friend. I wonder if the writers of The New Liturgical Movement know I exist? Oft am I taken aback at the reports Sitemeter generate for me everyday.

Anyway my friend sent me news today of a new book about that illustrious man Dr Adrian Fortescue. The Latin Clerk: The Life, Work and Travels of Adrian Fortescue by Aidan Nichols promises to be an interesting read, and something which dispels the myth of the Sackville-Bagginses that Adrian Fortescue was some kind of proto-Traditionalist (though some hold to the view that he was a ''Modernist'' because he rejected the Oath against Modernity!). See here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The King James Bible...




As you may know the year of Our Lord 2011 marks the 400th year since the publication of the Authorized Version, otherwise known as the King James Bible. Manuscript English bibles had been in circulation since the days of the Lollards, and the Authorized Version was the third official translation of the Word of God into English, the first having been Henry Tudor's Great Bible (with its famous frontispiece), the work of Myles Coverdale, one time rector of St Magnus the Martyr; and the Bishops Bible of 1568. The Gospel and Epistle pericopes for the Lord's Supper were revised in the Prayer Book of 1662 to bring them into line with the Authorized Version, but Coverdale's psalmody remained. I have heard it said that the Douay-Rheims version influenced the scholars who translated the King James Bible, but I have no source for that.



A service of commemoration was held this day at Westminster Abbey in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to mark the anniversary. I am trying to think of familiar modern phrases which come from the Authorized Version, but I can only think of Tyndale's ''Let there be light.'' Suggestions in the combox please!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Traddies and Neo-Conservatives...



Fr Chadwick over at English Catholic has written a very apposite post warning Poping Anglicans against the Roman communion - at least that's how I read it. The general thrust of the post is that there is no room for any semblance of Anglican tradition, or ''patrimony,'' in the Roman church - just blindly obey the new orthodoxy wrought and propounded by the contemporary Magisterium (expressed in the will and whim of the Holy Father), you know, Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, etc, and you're laughing. Like me and you want something more than a commonplace cotta every Sunday and you're held in suspicion, until something else convenient comes up and you're thrust out.


Nowadays I am of the opinion that the neo-conservatives are more dangerous than the Traddies. Traditionalists are at least at variance to some degree with Rome; many want to see the ''Old Rite'' in whatever recognisable form in situ again, even if the ornaments and the rubrics are rather modern. Some express private dismay at the precepts of Summorum Pontificum, seeing it as a temporary measure, a means to an end, conciliatory to the $$PX, or whatever. Some are dangerous and want 1962 all over again. To the neo-conservatives, however, to whom the expressions ordinary and extraordinary form comes as second nature, Tradition means nothing. To them obedience to the Magnisterium comes first, conscience and knowledge of the Truth second - they are irrelevant. That Tradition has an auctoritas independent of the reigning pope is a concept that does not enter into their small minds, enthralled to the totalitarian pope and his retinue of sycophants in the Vatican.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Upon the Double Murder of King Charles...



Great Charles his double misery was this,
Unfaithful friends, ignoble enemies;
Had any heathen been this prince's foe,
He would have wept to see him injured so.

(Katherine Philips, 1632-1664).

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Flos, flos, florem...



As a sort of ''update'' to my latest post on the Octave of All Saints, here is my account of my visit to Westminster Cathedral two years ago on the occasion of the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. It is interesting to see how much my views have changed since then, particularly about Roman Catholicism in general (especially in this country), and the saints. I remain, as I said then, convinced that that was one of the great events of my life, and proof enough for me that St Thérèse of Lisieux was indeed saint Thérèse, whatever others say. Such feelings as I expressed then are simply not inspired by the bones of men, and it was no counterfeit of the Enemy.

On the Octave of All Saints...



(which, in proud defiance of Papal authority, we continue to celebrate here)...

I found this image ages ago, presumably depicting a meeting between St Dominic and St Francis of Assisi. Some Orthodox believe that St Francis of Assisi was possessed of devils and find the very idea of stigmata a blasphemy. I am undecided. St Francis was the saint I chose at my Confirmation twelve years ago and, despite being rather embarrassed by that these days, he remains one of my patrons. While being crypto-Orthodox I do not believe that all the saints of the Roman Church canonized after 1054 are heretics; many of them were just as holy and heroic as Orthodox ones. I have, for example, a special place in my heart for St Thomas of Canterbury, and even rather late, simple ones like St Thérèse of Lisieux whose relics I visited two years ago in Westminster Cathedral. The Dominicans, at any rate, enriched the liturgical patrimony of the Roman Rite (are there not similarities between their liturgical books and those of the illustrious cathedral church of Sarum? did they not number Sundays after Trinity, for example?), and many among the more distinguished theologians of that Order (such as St Thomas Aquinas) were opposed to such things as immaculate conceptions, well into the 19th century. We can't really say the same for the Franciscans, who were (and remain) a very aliturgical bunch - at least the ones I've met. The sons of St Francis valued poverty as an end, not a means, and there was never much scope for sung Office and high Mass among itinerant friars who were seldom even allowed to own liturgical books. Instead they adopted the abridged rite of the court of Innocent III and took this across Europe. The little I know of that process would be reckoned a matter of tears were men gathered for the telling of tales.


Still, a very blessed Octave to you all. St Dominic, St Francis and all the Saints, pray for us.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Vespers this Wednesday...




I cordially recommend going to the church of St Magnus the Martyr on Wednesday evening for Vespers of the Dead with the Funeral Sentences of the Prayerbook, if you can. Last year was superb. I took the photo last year.



That's Wednesday 9th November at 6:30pm. Refreshments to follow!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

From the Litany...



From all sedicion and prievie conspiracie, from the tyranny of the Bysshop of Rome and al hys detestable enormities, from all false doctrine and heresy, from hardnesse of hearte, and contempte of thy woorde and commaundemente, Good Lorde, deliver us. (The Litany from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer).

Remember, remember...




I trust that English members of the Roman church, being loyal to the Crown, will be celebrating the deliverance of this nation from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome today? Blessed John Tolkien was loyal to the Crown for all his life, and upon receiving his CBE medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace he wrote to his publisher and friend Rayner Unwin: ''But I was very deeply moved by my brief meeting with The Queen, & our few words together. Quite unlike anything that I had expected.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, 30th March 1972).

Almighty God, who hast in all ages shewed thy power and mercy in the miraculous and gracious deliverance of thy Church, and in the protection of righteous and religious Kings and States, professing thy holy and eternal truth, from the wicked conspiracies and malicious practices of all the enemies thereof; We yield thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for the wonderful and mighty deliverance of our late gracious Sovereign King James, the Queen, the Prince, and all the Royal Branches, with the Nobility, Clergy, and Commons of England, then assembled in Parliament, by Popish treachery appointed as sheep to the slaughter, in a most barbarous, and savage manner, beyond the examples of former ages. From this unnatural conspiracy, not our merit, but thy mercy; not our foresight, but thy providence, delivered us: And therefore, not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy Name be ascribed all honour and glory in all Churches of the saints, from generation to generation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




Sts Charles I, King and Martyr, Edward the Confessor, Edmund the Martyr, and all the Saints, pray for us.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A.D 2012 Ordines...




The Ordo Recitandi for the year of the Lord 2012, published by the St Lawrence Press, is now available for despatch. See here. I encourage readers to support the St Lawrence Press. The Ordo gives you a measure of the Catholic kalendar of saints days and the temporal cycle before the ravages of heathen men destroyed them.



St Lawrence and all the Saints, pray for us.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

''Pope of the Liturgy''...



Four years ago I visited Dublin. It was 21st August, the feast of Pius X in the New Kalendar. I went to Mass in a Roman church where a priest said ''a few suitable words'' (as the Shire hobbits would say) about what old Pius had done for the good of the Liturgy - nothing worth repeating, I daresay. I went on afterwards to the Cathedral church of St Patrick (in the Church of Ireland, the church of my grandmother), where they put on a respectable Evensong. When the Minor Canon got to the Collect ''O God, from whom all holy desires...'' I burst out laughing because the irony of the Roman priest's words returned to me. ''Deus, a quo sancta desideria...'' was, of course, a Collect sung at Lauds and Vespers in the Roman Office before the 1911-1913 reform. The preces too can be found in the traditional Roman Office (the Prayerbook having the liturgical books of old Sarum as the source). What's ironic about it? Well, if you want a taste of the traditional Roman Office, why not just go to the local Anglican church where they put on Prayerbook Evensong!

Actually I haven't been to Dublin for close to 10 years. This was a story told to me by a very good friend of mine - it sounds better when told in the first person. It is, as you know, the feast of All Saints (a blessed feast to you all), and the first centenary of Pius X's bull Divino Afflatu, which relegated the traditional offices of the Breviary to the stacks of Cathedral libraries and the private collection of liturgical scholars. Who controls the present controls the past, and all that. Rorate Caeli have thought it fitting to mark the centenary, though after a manner disconsonant with the very names they name unto themselves, of ''catholic'' and ''traditional.'' See here.

I must say my favourite quote from Divino Afflatu, by which old Sarto cast odium upon the tradition of the Church, is this:

This we publish, declare, sanction, decreeing that these our letters always are and shall be valid and effective, notwithstanding apostolic constitutions and ordinances, general and special, and everything else whatsoever to the contrary. Wherefore, let nobody infringe or dare to oppose this page of our abolition, revocation, permission, ordinance, precept, statue, indult, mandate and will. But if anybody shall presume to attempt this let him know that he will incur the indignation of almighty God and of his apostles the blessed Peter and Paul.


J.R.R Tolkien thought that the reform of Pius X was the greatest of his lifetime, ''surpassing anything, however needed, that the Council will achieve.'' He was writing in 1963, after the reforms of Holy Week by Pius XII. I wonder what he thought, nigh a century ago, when he went to Mass on Sunday expecting the feast of so-and-so and his priest came from the vestry in green vestments? When I do my doctorate in Tolkien I aim to investigate such questions. I think that, little though this might seem, they reflect upon his work. More on this in a later post. I am tired, it's been a long day (having been up since half past four), and I have another early start (and late night) tomorrow.