Thursday, 30 August 2012
According to my sitemeter statistics, I seem to have passed the 100,000 mark, so thank you to everyone who has made this 'blog worth writing. Actually I am coming down with a cold and the weather has been somewhat chill here in this part of the country these past two days, so I am going now to drink something hot and watch some DVDs. I'm thinking Meet me in St Louis...
Monday, 27 August 2012
Apparently this church was worth saving. May I ask why?! The church is hideous (just look at it!), and reminds me of High Street Kensington underground station, and devotion to the ''Sacred Heart'' is a superstition. If you ask me it would have made a rather nice Waitrose, but it wouldn't be suited even to that. I notice that all the Traddies have been taken up with it. Are they not allowed to express disgust at a grotesque architectural style or are they genuinely in love with tat? I can never tell.
Sunday, 26 August 2012
''As a shadow Melkor did not then conceive himself. For in his beginning he loved and desired light, and the form that he took was exceedingly bright; and he said in his heart: ''On such brightness as I am the Children shall hardly endure to look; therefore to know of aught else or beyond or even to strain their small minds to conceive of it would not be for their good.'' But the lesser brightness that stands before the greater becomes a darkness. And Melkor was jealous, therefore, of all other brightnesses, and wished to take all light unto himself. Therefore Ilúvatar, at the entering in of the Valar into Eä, added a theme to the Great Song which was not in it at the first Singing, and he called one of the Ainur to him. Now this was that Spirit which afterwards became Varda (and taking female form became the spouse of Manwë). To Varda Ilúvatar said: ''I will give unto thee a parting gift. Thou shalt take into Eä a light that is holy, coming new from Me, unsullied by the thought and lust of Melkor, and with thee it shall enter into Eä.'' Wherefore Varda is the most holy and revered of all the Valar, and those that name the light name the love of Eä that Eru has, and they are afraid less only to name the One. Nonetheless this gift of Ilúvatar to the Valar has its own peril, as have all free gifts; which is in the end no more than to say that they play a part in the Great Tale so that it may be complete; for without peril they would be without power, and the giving would be void.
''When therefore at last Melkor discovered the abiding place of Manwë and his friends he went thither in great haste, as a blazing fire. And finding that already great labours had been achieved without his counsel, he was angered, and desired to undo what was done or to alter it according to his own mind.
''But this Manwë would not suffer, and there was war therefore in Arda. But as is elsewhere written Melkor was at that time defeated with the aid of Tulkas (who was not among those who began building in Eä) and driven out again into the Void that lay about Arda. This is named the First Battle; and though Manwë had the victory, great hurt was done to the work of the Valar; and the worst of the deeds of the wrath of Melkor was seen in the Sun. Now the Sun was designed to be at the heart of Arda, and the Valar purposed that it should give light to all that Realm, unceasingly and without wearying or diminution, and that from its light the world should receive health and life and growth. Therefore Varda set there the most ardent and beautiful of all those spirits that had entered with her into Eä, and she was named Āri, and Varda gave to her keeping a portion of the gift of Ilúvatar so that the Sun should endure and be blessed and give blessing. The Sun, the loremasters tell us, was in that beginning named Âs (which is as near as it can be interpreted Warmth, to which are joined Light and Solace), and that the spirit therefore was called Āzië (or later Ārië).
''But Melkor, as hath been told, lusted after all light, desiring it jealously for his own. Moreover he soon perceived that in Âs there was a light that had been concealed from him, and which had a power of which he had not thought. Therefore, afire at once with desire and anger, he went to Âs and he spoke to Ārië, saying: ''I have chosen thee, and thou shalt be my spouse, even as Varda is to Manwë, and together we shall wield all splendour and mastery. Then the kingship of Arda shall be mine in deed as in right, and thou shalt be the partner of my glory.''
''But Ārië rejected Melkor and rebuked him, saying: ''Speak not of right, which thou hast long forgotten. Neither for thee nor thee alone was Eä made; and thou shalt not be King of Arda. Beware therefore; for there is in the heart of Âs a light in which thou hast no part, and a fire which will not serve thee. Put not out thy hand to it. For though thy potency may destroy it, it will burn thee and thy brightness will be made dark.''
''Melkor did not heed her warning, bur cried in his wrath: ''The gift which is withheld I take!'' and he ravished Ārië, desiring both to abase her and to take into himself her powers. Then the spirit of Ārië went up like a flame of anguish and wrath, and departed for ever from Arda; and the Sun was bereft of the Light of Varda, and was stained by the assault of Melkor. And being for a long while without rule it flamed with excessive heat or grew too cool, so that grievous hurt was done to Arda and the fashioning of the world was marred and delayed, until with long toil the Valar made a new order. But even as Ārië foretold, Melkor was burned and his brightness darkened, and he gave no more light, but light pained him exceedingly and he hated it.''
From The History of Middle-earth, Volume X, Part V, Myths Transformed).
Tolkien said elsewhere that one essential difference between his legendarium and other mythologies was that the Sun and Moon were seen not as divine symbols but as a second best thing, a sign of a dislocated, fallen world. This story, while retaining some elements of the Narsilion in the Quenta Silmarillion (such as Arien, the guardian of the Sun), creates enormous problems in the narrative. In the Quenta, the creation of the Sun (and Moon, which was older) took place after the death of the Two Trees of Valinor; here the Sun is seen as coeval with the Earth, even during a time of primeval cataclysm when the regions of Arda were uninhabitable. This, rather sudden, change in counsel was conceived during a period when, towards the end of the 1950s (at the time of the composition of the Athrabeth, and the Essekenta Eldarinwa), Tolkien began to ''rationalise'' everything in the legendarium, and changed the entire conception of legends of the Elder Days from tales told to the mariner Eriol by the Elves of the Lonely Isle to primarily Númenórean legends preserved in Gondor. The strife between Melkor and the Arien is here put far back into the history of Arda, when Melkor was still an Ainu of light and spleandour, and it's said here that he attempted to ravish her. The account given in The Silmarillion, however, is that Morgoth feared the Sun with a great fear, and sent spirits of shadow against Arien, and that he sent forth from Thangorodrim a great reek and clouds to conceal his realm. A vestige of this latter remains in the tale, but the Ages of the Stars are seen not as without sunlight, but that Melkor had sent forth great, impenetrable clouds and smokes into the northern sky, blocking the sun, but only in the north of Middle-earth. One wonders, then, how the Eldar could be called Star-people?
As for me, while the tale of Melkor and the Sun is interesting, and adds something to the legendarium, I prefer the Narsilion as told in the Annals.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
When I came away from the country church to which I went for Divine Service on Sunday morning I thought how fortunate it was that the church had fallen into the hands of the protestants in the 16th century. How much the ravages of the Tridentine and subsequent reforms were a direct response to the Reformation is hard to say. If the Reformation had never happened, would Roman churches be as degraded as they now are, or was the fall of Rome doomed from when first a pope uttered qui ex Patre Filioque procedit in the liturgical Creed long before the Council of Trent? But I'm not as silly as all that. One word can make a tremendous difference, but I do not personally attribute the liturgical apostasy of Rome to words in the Creed (or not in the Creed as the Orthodox would say). Rome was once a bastion of orthodoxy, so great and so wonderful; but you can see how degraded it has become. To come back to the country church, I thought how ignorant I was when I thought that the most prominent provincial cathedrals and country churches in England belonged to the Roman church, from which the Church of England had become separated by faith and a great expanse of years. But no one has any real ''claim'' to them anymore, except, perhaps, the Orthodox Church, and I would thrust them out if any of them attempted to Byzantinize them. The faith of the Romans is not the faith of our Catholic forebears anymore than the faith of most Anglicans nowadays, and even the Orthodox, which is a peasant's religion in this country, is too far gone.
An altar in St James' church, Spanish Place. It would look rather nice if they got rid of the bloody doll.
If the Romans were successful in their claim, the Church of England having died a hypothetical death, and notwithstanding English Heritage or whatever, what would the Sackville-Bagginses do with all those churches? Since Romans have virtually no taste, seem apt only to trivialise a Tradition they are demonstrably incapable of understanding, and in the process ruining the Christian faith, I expect they would ruin every church they got hold of, in the vile spirit of Popery. Gone would be sober names like St Mary, St John the Baptist and Christ Church, and ''Our Lady of Fatima'' and ''Sacred Heart'' would take their place. Banished would be the surplices and plain altar linens and net curtains would take their place. Away with the Rood Screens, since they block the view of the Chancel, and brass altar rails would be installed. The High Altars would be destroyed, the riddel curtains and frontals removed, and replaced with hideous sideboard-slabs, on top of which would be piled steps, upon which would stand tall candlesticks and flowers in hideous arrangement adjacent to out-of-place tabernacles, obscuring the view of the old reredos' expounding to the congregation the story of Our Lord's Passion (why not destroy that too? Why not destroy the central panel and make room for a space to put a monstrance?), mortifying the stained glass and distorting the scale and size of the Chancel - oh, and don't forget the brass crucifix! Along the walls of the nave would be placed the ''stations of the cross,'' and banners of Joseph the Worker confraternities reminiscent of the upholstery at Aer Lingus. Side chapels would be littered with tacky statues of crowned dolls, representing visions that never took place. Gone would be the glorious tongue of Cranmer and in its place some ungodly, turgid, incomprehensible language, uttering doctrines wholly alien to the them that built the church; or the Latin of the 1962 Missal, intruding sentiments and beliefs which our catholic ancestors would have repudiated. Everything designed to make a grand, religious statement and rubber stamp of popery.
Would such a thing really be welcomed by the martyrs, people like St Margaret Clitherow or St Thomas More? I am reminded of Gandalf's apposite words to Denethor: ''He would have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.'' In the same way that the Catholic faith, what was left, was banished from the realm, and yet remained in ways that on the Continent would have been impossible, so a ''return'' of the Roman faith to the churches of this land would be unthinkable -for an it returned we would not have known it, for it would have (and has) become evil.
Monday, 20 August 2012
Yestermorn I went to a service of choral Mattins in a fairly mainstream Anglican church not far from here. Mattins is a decent, scriptural and increasingly rare service nowadays, and confessedly it was my first experience of it in a parish church rather than somewhere like Westminster Abbey or St Paul's Cathedral. Parochial but pleasant, and I have every intention of going again. The order of the liturgical day was rather muddled, with an 8 o'clock BCP said Holy Communion, followed by a sung ''family Eucharist'' at half past nine of the clock, and then Mattins at 11:15. It would be much better to have Mattins, Litany and Holy Communion, all 1662 Prayer Book, and done up Sarum fashion with a procession, but at least the effort is there. I was talking to the Rector afterwards, who expressed his dismay at the attitude, so prevalent nowadays, of calling off services because of insufficient numbers, and that only two weeks ago he had said Mattins antiphonally with two other people.
I must say that incorporating the Eucharistic liturgy into the Office of the Sunday, or any day whatever its rank, gives one a proper sense of perspective - about the Blessed Sacrament, liturgical prayer and the corporate worship of the Church. Now if only the Roman church did something similar? But no, go into any Roman church at random and your program of services is Mass, on the hour every hour. It makes me physically sick.
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
I'm glad I was at work today; it took my mind off things papal.
Today is one of those days that my blood runs cold within me, and I wish that the papacy were forever banished from this world. Centuries and centuries of unchanged Tradition, gone forever at the stroke of a pen. The Roman Rite is accursed, ruined by ancient hatred and power. Those who inherit this burden of tat, and propound it as good for the soul, are liars without shame. I am actually beginning to despise anyone who celebrates the modern Roman Rite, in whatever form. Who could go to Mass on this day and not think of Gaudeamus without intense longing? Whose ears could endure the atrocious Collect of this day and not be filled with wrath, and a burning hatred of the papacy, destroyers and usurpers? Only the Ultramontanists, possessed of devils, and doing only his will in their madness. I no longer desire any part in the Roman Rite, and wish I could forget all that I know (which, confessedly, isn't much) about it. Even if anyone could resurrect the Uses of the mediaeval English Church, it would be empty, shorn of authenticity, and all that's left would be sentimentalism, nostalgia, and regret about the waning of lore and the passing of the years.
But maybe this was doomed to be. Good liturgy is a thing of the past, gone long into the grave with out catholic ancestors, and all that is left will die out with my generation. Knowledge of Latin and Greek is waning among men, so also is the memory of things past, things needful for the wise to know. There is no hope left, which is why I have disavowed religion - or at least religious people. Does anyone remember the vision of the hobbits on the Barrow-downs, of the shadow-shapes of Men, a great expanse of years behind them, marching with bent backs in the shadowy hills? Do we not, like the Company of the Ring, observe the passing away of all that is fair, while we sit helpless on the shores of a grey and leafless world?
All I can say now is alas, alas for Our Lady.
Art: Ted Nasmith. The painting depicts a scene from the Quenta Silmarillion to rend one's heart, and says more to me about this once wonderful day than can be expressed in words.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
The drums rolled louder. Fires leaped up. Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old. Great beasts drew it, orcs surrounded it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it.
But about the Gate resistence still was stout, and there the knights of Dol Amroth and the hardiest of the garison stood at bay. Shot and dart fell thick; siege-towers crashed or blazed suddenly like torches. All before the walls on either side of the Gate the ground was choked with wreck and with bodies of the slain; yet driven as by a madness more and more came up.
Grond crawled on. Upon its housing no fire would catch; and though now and again some great beast that hauled it would go mad and spread stamping run among the orcs inumerable that guarded it, their bodies were cast aside from the path and others took their place.
Grond crawled on. The drums rolled wildly. Over the hills of slain a hideous shape appeared: a horseman, tall, hooded, cloaked in black. Slowly, trampling the fallen, he rode forth, heeding no longer any dart. He halted and held up a long pale sword. And as he did so a great fear fell on all, defender and foe alike; and the hands of men drooped to their sides, and no bow sang. For a moment all was still.
The drums rolled and rattles. With a vast rush Grond was hurled forward by huge hands. It reached the Gate. It swung. A deep boom rumbled through the City like thunder running in the clouds. But the doors of iron and posts of steel withstood the stroke.
Then the Black Captain rose in his stirrups and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone.
Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.
In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.
All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen.
''You cannot enter here,'' said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. ''Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!''
The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.
''Old fool!'' he said. ''Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!'' And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.
Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
(J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter IV).
So much repetition here, suspense and symbol. Grond, the weapon in the hands of Morgoth in ancient times, the head of which is shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf, pitted against the cock, a Petrine symbol, a symbol of vigilance and hope in the Resurrection. The Lord of the Nine Riders, who fills the soldiery of the Dark Lord with fear and madness, set against Gandalf, white and without fear, here described as ''steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen,'' which was the ancient ''silent street,'' and buriel place of the Kings of Gondor. This is not the only place where Gandalf is described in this curious way - at the end of Book III it is said that Pippin had a strange feeling, that he and Gandalf were as still as stone, seated upon the statue of a running horse, as the world passed them by. What does this say of Gandalf and Shadowfax? Though not cut in stone, it reminds me of the melancholy expression of Christ on the Rood Loft of Binham Priory, Christ and the Saints who presided over the solemn celebration of Liturgy aforetime, and still, though defaced and long since gone into the grave, at least watch through the rude carvings of verses from an English bible. Gandalf kept vigilance, urged the men of Gondor to put off their fear of the dark, ''wherever he came men's hearts would lift again, and the winged shadows pass from memory,'' it is said of him. It was not to preserve the mere lives of Men that Gandalf went down into Minas Tirith, and stood alone before the face of a terrible captain, but to defend the Tradition and Memory of Númenor, in both the Living and the Dead; the living who were free men and true, inheritors of a regal Tradition, and the men that slept in Rath Dínen, around which the memory of that Tradition was woven, and fundamentally to defend them from enslavement to and worship of the Dark. How would Gandalf fare against the Lord of the Nine Riders who, during the Siege of Minas Tirith, was given by his Master an added demonic force and dominon? Maybe that is the wrong question. What if Gandalf had pursued the Black Captain from the Gate when he turned to meet the new challenge of his foes? What if Pippin had never come? Is it not telling that Gandalf went rather to the aid of Faramir than to the field of Pelennor? Ever the instruments of God are the small and simple in The Lord of the Rings! The cock heralds the coming of the dawn, described by Aragorn as ever the hope of Men; Pippin, as small as a pebble to cause an avalanche in the mountains, saved the line of the Stewards by calling upon Gandalf. It is sad that others died, that the Lady of Rohan was in the path of the Black Captain, but the Battle would have been more evil if Gandalf had pursued him into the field. Maybe the day would have been lost, and the hosts of Mordor victorious.
This is not an attempt to uncover Tolkien's own thoughts here at the time of writing in order to discern some pattern, least of all any obvious parallels with Christianity. This is just how the text speaks to me. I read the passage aloud to myself earlier and quailed at the words: ''all save one.'' My heart is now full of it.
Art: Ted Nasmith.