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.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

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.

Monday, 10 August 2015

A Númenórean lady...


One of my favourite artists is Hans Memling, best known for his distinctive Madonna's and iconic Last Judgement. The fine altarpiece above is the Donne Triptych, commissioned by a Welsh courtier Sir John Donne (no relation to the John Donne, so far as I know) circa 1478. The affect of Lady Donne's piety (detail below) is ineluctably profound and I have always been most impressed with the conical headdresses in vogue at the time. I would that they still were in vogue to-day and think foul scorn of those silly little lace mantillas women wear in church nowadays (that is when they even bother to cover their heads).


She looks Númenórean to me, in the company of St Catherine. Not of the House of Elros but certainly a high lady. I imagine her walking in the retinue of the King of Númenor to Meneltarma with her illuminated book.

What I'd like to see, because there is so little of it out there, is a Tolkien artist's rendering in a series of paintings or illuminations of the contrast between the high days of Númenórean culture and religion, such as one might imagine Lady Donne in her piety, and the days of the Shadow when men turned to worship of Morgoth. To my mind comes now that moment when Sauron defied the lightning at the pinnacle of the temple, and there are many others; the ships laden with slaves, Tal Elmar's vision of the black sails; the altars of blood sacrifice; the scorched dome of the temple; the tombs of the dead; even the wrath and fear of the old whose time is at hand. The very thing most poignant about Númenor, and this echoes even down to the time of Faramir (c.f the "prayer" before dinner) is the deep impression that it was an holy island, an holy people and an holy civilisation; Mankind brought to the zenith of his art and wisdom and under the Grace of God. Turned sour, of course, by the constant tendency of Man to rebellion, to self-righteousness, to pride and to envy.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Tolkien illuminations...


Thanks to reader "Tom" for informing me of these. They're from a 1993 Russian edition of The Lord of the Rings, by the artist S. Juchimov. I rather like them. The one depicting Gandalf and the Lord of the Nine Riders (above) could have been inspired by the mediaeval leitmotif of the three living and the three dead (see here), a judgement one can make by their postures and contrast.

Clearly inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. Theoden Rex interfectus est. It captures one of the most heart-rending scenes from the book, in which Théoden is described as Oromë the Great in the impetuosity of his wrath as he rode to the defence of the city of the Númenóreans to be shot at by an evil arrow from the dark.

This is clearly the Invention of the White Tree in the snowy heights of Mindolluin by Elessar and Mithrandir. Just as the True Cross was carried in triumph into Constantinople by the Emperor of the Romans, so the sapling of the new tree was borne into Minas Anor by the King of the Númenóreans in memory of the old. This painting could almost be an icon of Christ's Transfiguration.

I don't know about the yellow and black barrier but at least Pippin's helm is accurate, being the winged helm of the Guards of the Citadel of Gondor. Who could tell, upon first reading, that the War of the Ring would have ended upon the very doorstep of Bag End?

It's encouraging to see Tolkien's work rendered into these illuminations. It's as I have imagined them for years.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Brideshead...


Some thoughtful reflections on Brideshead Revisited. I read Brideshead for the first time when I was 18, and I have read it only once since then; a few weeks ago in Kefalonia. All my friends like it. It leaves me cold, for the most part, if I'm perfectly frank. I have never seen the series, or the film, and I have no real affection for any of the characters, or affinity with either the university, the estate, the ship, the artist, or Venice. I have no sympathy for the kind of extravagance and depravity to which the young Charles and Sebastian stooped. Charles Ryder seems a social climber to me, and more than a bit mercenary towards the end of the novel. I certainly found reading Jasper's counsel in chapter I about the subtleties of the social graces and conventions at the university jarring, but maybe that's because I never went to Oxford and never once went into the JCR at Heythrop? Call me a philistine but I have never made any attempt to keep up appearances: what you see is what you get. Some have compared me with Sebastian Flyte over the years, which, like my parents saying that my sister and me are very much alike, I just do not see. Anthony Blanche (who is not mentioned in the critique) seems a despicable caricature of a homosexual, as catty and as camp as can be. Brideshead himself is a bore. In fact, of all the characters in Brideshead the one I like most, and I don't much like him, is Charles' eccentric father. Maybe that's because his waspish and scarcely concealed polite contempt reminds me so much of my mother?

Maybe this is Waugh's understanding of the operations of divine grace among this group of undeserving incorrigibles but I have never understood Charles' conversion to Popery at the end. He seemed so convinced of its vanity and spuriousness throughout the novel (c.f the rather moving deathbed of Lord Marchmain) that his seeming conversion comes across as inextricably linked up with his, what would you call it, "missed opportunity" with Julia? Although maybe that's the whole point and that, thick as I am, I just don't get it.

But it's as I said recently about the privileged and aristocratic. They don't deserve happiness; misery and hellfire is the price they pay for their wealth and, in Charles' case, libertinism. And poor old Sebastian! No, my overall opinion of Brideshead is that it's all vanity. It is good literature but it's a nasty work.

A short rest...


On his homeward journey from the Quest of Erebor, Bilbo went down again into Rivendell, to the Last Homely House west of the mountains. As in a monastic community, he awoke at night to the sound of the merry folk singing by moonlight, singing this merry madrigal:

Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
The wind's in the tree-top, the wind's in the heather;
The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
And bright are the windows of Night in her tower.

Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together!
Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather!
The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting;
Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting.

Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him!
The wanderer sleepeth. Now soft be his pillow!
Lullaby! Lullaby! Alder and Willow!

Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn!
Fall Moon! Dark be the land!
Hush! Hush! Oak, Ash, and Thorn!
Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand!

It puts me in mind of Morley's famous madrigal for the month of May, which can't be right for Morley's is a song to be sung by day, not night. But that's an example of the many nonsensical connexions my mind makes at times.

Art: Alan Lee, one of the three good Tolkien illustrators; the others being Ted Nasmith, who crops up quite regularly here, and John Howe. Does anyone know of any others? There are some very strange illustrations for The Silmarillion in the David Day "Tolkien encyclopaedia" by the artist Roger Garland but they seem rather surrealist for my taste. I did once read about an heroic chap who was rendering the text of The Silmarillion into Book-of-Hours-style illuminations, which I'd like to see published, but I can't think of the man's name. Any ideas?

In the meantime, here's Morley's seasonal madrigal, out of season:

Friday, 7 August 2015

Riots...


Readers will remember that four years ago London suffered four nights of senseless and barbaric violence, looting and thievery. I worked at the suburban supermarket at the time and although the rioters didn't spill out so far, we did shut early (a "secure shutdown," even) and most of the day the shop was empty. It's not often that I agree with everything a man says, and I can't say that often of Mr Hitchens, but he has it 100% right in this short video.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Just deserts...

The resemblance is striking...


"Fellay for cardinal, Burke for Pope, Lefebvre for saint." See here.

I would have said: "Fellay for the insane asylum, Burke for lobotomy and a stagnant pond, and Lefebvre dug up, hung in chains in some public place and then beheaded and his body thrown into a common pit;" not that I expect there's much left of his remains by now. Pius XII was so evil that he began to rot before he was fully dead! Nay, let Lefebvre share in the fate of Oliver Cromwell, curse his name; let the justice of the Restoration court be measured out for one equally deserving of eternal ignominy, faithless and accursed!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Corruption of the Roman Rite...


Fr Hunwicke has just posted a rather good article here on the hymns of the breviary. He says:

"Never forget that the corruption of the Roman Rite began, not with Paul VI, not with Pius XII, not even with Pius X, but when, in the 1620s, Papa Barberini aka Urban VIII mucked up the ancient Office Hymns because he wanted them to sound more like Horace. This was the first example of the Roman Catholic Church adopting the "we've-now-got-printing-so-we-can-now-impose-our-latest-revolutionary-fad-almost-overnight-on-the-Universal-Church" syndrome which ultimately led to Bugnini. Protestants like Cranmer, of course, had seen the possibilities of this technology for liturgical devastation much earlier. Back to Pius V should be the traditionalist instinct. That is why, if you want to use English translations of the original texts of the Office Hymns as given in Sarum, Pius V, and the new Liturgy of the Hours, you need to use Anglican translations - done from Sarum by people like J M Neale - rather than RC translations by scholars like E Caswall." (Emphasis my own).

Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini, indubitably! With respect to Fr Hunwicke, whose deep knowledge of matters liturgical exceeds my own, I would have thought, taking my mantra from Gandalf, that "beginning" is too big a claim for anyone, particularly for any matter in the long, sad story of the Roman Rite. I agree entirely that Barberini mucked up the antient Office hymns, so did Dr Fortescue, and one of the great reforms, among many, of Vatican II was to, at least partially, put them right. But the corruption of the Roman Rite goes back much further than even Barberini. Who knows when and where? The University of Paris? Wandering beggars? The Greeks were already scandalized by the decadence of the Roman liturgy at the Council of Lyons in 1274, and by the standards of to-day that must have been magnificent! The Council of Trent almost certainly tolled the death knell of the Roman Rite.

These days I would say that traditionalists have no objections worth serious consideration to arbitrary, nonsensical changes in their rite. If the pope can add the Filioque to the Creed of his own volition, what merit does an hymn have, however venerable? Yea more, who now has anything to say about the changes to the Roman Rite during the Gregorian reforms? Indeed, who knows anything about them? The answer is no one. Those changes, long out of living memory, are completely irrelevant to our time. The corruption of the Roman Rite comes ultimately down to the position of one man, he that exalts himself in Christ's Church as opposed to those that make themselves humble: the Bishop of Rome. The zealous violence committed by a string of popes in the name of uniformity and power cannot be undone and the only thing left of the Roman Rite in 99% of Latin rite parishes is a festering, withered creature, scarcely worthy of the name "liturgy." The other 1%, the traddies, are too stupid and wicked to see the problem, even if they were interested in truth and orthopraxis.

The Roman Rite has been eviscerated over a period of centuries, not decades, and for people like me the only option left is to just look the other way.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Isles...

This is a valley outside Frikes.

I was tempted to say of Kefalonia and Ithaca quod scripsi, scripsi. When I wrote my piece these two weeks ago I thought I could say no more, despite calls for photographs and stories. By the standards of to-day I am not well-travelled. I had been to Greece once before in my life, to Corfu in 1993. I was five years old. I have been to France, Belgium, through the Netherlands to Germany, Italy (not counting my brief stay in Rome - fortunately the unholy father was on another continent!), and once to Canada when I was eight. And Ireland was for much of my childhood a second home. But I hadn't been abroad since 2011. My old friend Nina used to go away almost every weekend on mini trips to the Netherlands, France and sometimes Berlin. When she was a dancer on cruise ships she saw the world and developed a taste for travelling. But it wasn't for me. The Baggins in me always ruled the Took. And to be frank I look at most people who travel incessantly with disdain. Maybe it's pent up envy about their seeming inexhaustible wealth and my own penury, or their courage as opposed to my fear. I don't like being far from my home. That's the trouble with social networking sites, and one reason I left Facebook. People narrate their lives with such things as "off to Turkey for two weeks, look out for photos," or, "a nice brace of lobsters for supper, and champagne," and never mind about the have-nots. And when these people go overseas what do they do? They hang around beaches and clubs. Why not do that in Blackpool, or Brighton, and be surrounded by the scum of the earth there? And such is their arrogance that they make no effort to learn the regional language. Perhaps my Anglo-Saxon countenance gave it away but I had many times to interject with the Greeks when they spoke to me first in English, but they were delighted at my halting attempts at modern Greek. There were too many English people in Kefalonia (not so in Ithaca, which was one reason I loved it so). A scouse woman at an adjacent table in a cafe in Argostoli addressed the waiter as "signor." I felt like punching her in the tits. But perhaps, as my parents would say, I am just "intolerant."

That is the view of Vathy from the belfry of Kathara Monastery. The small island in the bay is the place from which, in the old Greek rite, the bishop blesses the sea on Theophany Even. I'd like to see that.

My two days in Ithaca I shall cherish to my dying day. I saw no European flag flying there, there were no English, and everything felt old, notwithstanding the earthquake that destroyed much of the islands in 1953. The cathedral in Vathy had the most beautiful iconostasis I have seen in many a year, five panels gilt and richly carved and gleaming in dull gold in the midday sun that came down in slender beams from the windows, with Christ Pantokrator in majesty, albeit dim with the years, over the royal doors. Standing upright upon the cathedra of the church was a crimson cushion on which was traced in gold thread the Byzantine double-headed eagle. I crossed myself thrice with a prayer for our most devout Emperor, wherever he may be, and went to refresh myself with some peach juice. I took the bus to Kioni. How the roads twist and turn the higher you go up into the hills! It was rather disconcerting to see a rusted car wreck among the bushes just off the roadside and I found out later that if you did indeed have some accident on the roads in this wilderness you will die. There is no hospital on Ithaca and, while there are a few helipads dotted about the island, I don't suppose holiday makers are missed or expected anywhere in the towns. I made sure to tip the bus driver when I disembarked!

The next morning, in Kioni, after breakfast I walked up the hill through the town and saw two little green lizards basking on a stone wall among the olive leaves. I'm not a herpetologist but being small, slender and very quick to scuttle off at the sound of one of the big people making a noise like elephants I guess they were a species of European rock lizard. Past the watering trough (full of shrubs, unfortunately - the place wasn't that old!) into the hills I wandered by the road side and looked about me at a landscape immeasurably remote, wild and beautiful. Only once in my life have I felt so blissfully alone; at the tip of Malin Head in Co. Donegal at a time of winter looking west over the Atlantic. But here the air was clean and fragrant, not keen and salty; as I imagined the air of Númenor to have been in the days when the King lead the people in procession to the holy mountain. I felt as Samwise did as he laughed for heart's ease in the fair region of Ithilien, but I felt less like a hobbit as like an Ent tramping in the quiet of the world, even as Treebeard himself in the willow meads of Tasarinan in a spring time long ago. I too took a deep breath and filled my soul with the lavender and thyme that grew there. I picked a lime from a tree and followed the road back to the village. I had to return to Kefalonia at lunch time.

One of the loggerhead sea turtles in Argostoli. Notice the barnacles on its back. How old would you say it is?

A small tour group arrived in Kioni and I had arranged to join them back to the ferry to Sami the previous day. Meanwhile it was lunch time and there was an hour to spare so I walked down hill (it was all down hill) to the restaurant by the pebble beach where I had breakfast in the morning. There were small dinghy boats anchored in the bay, and a local man snorkeling. The sea washed up about two feet from the terrace; it was an ideal place to eat in the summer. Three girls from the tour group sat at an adjacent table. I gathered from listening to their conversation that they'd only just met. I hoped that they'd include me in their congenialities because, against my will, I began to feel lonely but they only seemed to look my way when I spoke in Greek to the waiter. Oh well.

A mural in Kathara Monastery depicting Sts Dionysius of Zakynthos (right), Gerasimos of Kefalonia (middle), and Spyridon of Corfu (right). Paron saints of the Ionian Isles.

After lunch it was back to the ferry, back to Sami, back to Kefalonia. It seemed, strangely, the end of a dream. I could see the ferry from the port but it was about twenty minutes away so I went and sat by the water in the shadiest place I could find (the heat was incredible). Overcome with weariness, I fell asleep on the bus and awoke as we were just across the sea from Argostoli. I walked down the hill to my hotel full of Greece that afternoon, which is something that cannot be described in literature. Still my mind wanders among the cypress trees and the shallows of the Ionian Sea. And I wonder: do people who go overseas to get drunk around thoroughly-English clubs and pubs come away with so rich an experience? If not, why bother going?

A note on the photographs. I had them developed at the Boots chemist in Crayford. They were taken on my mother's modest "Canon," which I borrowed for the trip, and since she also paid for their development not all of them were printed. These are in fact photos of the photographs as I could think of no other way to upload them, so please forgive the quality. I did my best.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Clerk of Oxford...

She doesn't like me very much (see the thread here) but I do sympathise with A Clerk of Oxford and humbly beseech my few readers for prayers on her behalf. I would say that to know one's place in life is a great blessing, and she clearly does; she knows what she wants, and what she's good at. But I don't know mine yet so I cannot actually wish anyone happiness and keep a straight face. Happiness is for people like me, the undeserving poor in life, and God knows I am incapable of it. This is the chief reason I have never had any sympathy for Lady Diana Spencer, or indeed any famous person with troves of money. Misery is the price they pay for their privilege and who cares about their problems? As for the Oxonian Clerk, well, like Gollum, we can all weep for the hardness of the world and creep underground to shut it out, but it doesn't help much. For what it's worth, I have always enjoyed her articles and found them both uplifting in joy and edifying. To make even the smallest difference to somebody's life in that way is never without benefit and God grant that in time even the least of her aspirations will come true.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Little Gidding...


I found a charming and informative article on Little Gidding here. A sample:

"They restored the abandoned little Church of Saint John the Evangelist for their use. The household always had someone at prayer and had a regular routine. They read the daily offices of the Book of Common Prayer and also read the complete Psalms each day. Day and night, there was always at least one member of the community kneeling in prayer before the altar so that they might keep the word, “Pray without ceasing.”

"They fasted with great rigour, and in other ways embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the poor. The life of the Ferrar household was strongly criticised by Puritans, and the community was condemned by William Prynne in a series of scurrilous pamphlets as “an Arminian Nunnery.” However, the family never lived a formal religious life at Little Gidding; instead, this was a family living a Christian life in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer and according to High Church principles."

I think in these latter days all Christian families are called to something like Little Gidding. If thou wilt be perfect, and so on. As for me, I am reclusive enough. I just need to find a comfortable job that pays well enough and doesn't make unreasonable demands upon my time and energy. But does that even exist? I've been told that employers don't like it when you say that you won't work on Sundays.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Dwimmerlaik...


My post about necromancy was hastily concluded and published solely because I hadn't posted anything in two weeks. I plan to expand and edit it in due course. One thing I neglected to mention, which I now rue, was the significance and etymology of "dwimmerlaik," a strange word in the tongue of the Rohirrim uttered in fear and disgust by Dernhelm upon the battlefield of the Pelennor:

"'Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!'
"A cold voice answered: 'Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'" The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter VI.

The command "leave the dead in peace," coming from that noble Northern spirit of the Éothéod, is most pertinent to the subject. The justly appointed masters of spirits were the "Fëanturi," brethren among the Valar. Irmo was the master of dreams and visions and Námo, Doomsman of the Valar, he that summoned the spirits of the dead to Mandos. The Lord of the Nazgûl, however, was a necromancer of Sauron's following, and necromancy, as we have seen, implies unnatural dominion over the dead. As it says in "Laws and Customs among the Eldar:"

"To call on them [spirits of the departed] is folly. To attempt to master them and to make them servants of one's own will is wickedness. Such practices are of Morgoth; and the necromancers are of the host of Sauron his servant." The History of Middle-earth, Volume 10, p224.

What the Lord of the Nazgûl was going to do with "his prey" remains, mercifully, unknown but since Théoden was captain of the field one only needs to cast one's mind back a thousand years (ahhh, where time moves in centuries!) to the fate of the last King of Gondor to get some idea. And so Dernhelm's rebuke of the Black Captain was not merely in respect of the body but of the king's eternal soul. It is therefore one of the most theologically rich in all of The Lord of the Rings; c.f Aragorn's "surprising earnestness" in Book I, Chapter XI.

So, what's in a word? As I have heard it said. For this, I recommend a libellus entitled "The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary," compiled by Gilliver, Marshall and Weiner. Under the entry for "dwimmerlaik," it says:

"The word is derived from the Old English stem dwimer- which is found in gedwimor 'apparition, phantom; delusion; delusive practice, witchcraft.' The suffix -layk, a northern spelling of the Old English suffix -lac, survives in modern English only in the word wedlock. (The -lock in warlock is from a different Old English root, -loga, meaning 'liar'). In Middle English the word was, it appears, mainly abstract, but Tolkien has made it a concrete noun, presumably meaning 'sorcerer.'

"The root dwimer- is seen also in the adjective dwimmer-crafty, a derivative of Old English dwimercræft (OED: dweomercræft) used by Éomer to describe Saruman (LR III.ii). It also appears in two place names, Dwimorberg (the Haunted Mountain at the rear of Dunharrow in Rohan), and Dwimordene (literally 'Vale of Illusion,' the name used in Rohan for the Elvish land of Lothlórien). It may seem remarkable that the same word is used to refer both to evil magic and to the benign power of the Elves. However, it is clear from the words of Wormtongue ('webs of deceit were ever woven in Dwimordene:' LR III. vi) that in the minds of the Rohirrim there was little distinction: both were extremely dangerous." C.f Boromir's misgivings about the Golden Wood (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter VI).*

The horror with which Dernhelm challenged the Nazgûl came naturally, and her choice of word (or should I say Tolkien's) carefully chosen. Dwimmerlaik denotes Power, which is a central theme and an ominous and sinister word in all the tales, except as ascribed to the Valar (c.f Letters. no.131), and power ill-gotten by diabolical craft. *That evil sorcery and Elven arts should become confused in the minds of latter Men is not as "superstitious" (if you like) as may at first appear. How can a man distinguish the kinds? With regard to the spirits of the dead, particularly of the Eldar (that is, those who, by violence or mishap, have become unbodied), there are those who are evil, the which seeking contact is fraught with peril (of fire and water, so says the Gospel); then there are those who linger in grief among the places of their habitation of old, whose bodily forms are seen only fitfully and dimly by those who are wise and true. These latter do not desire bodies, or power thereover, indeed they do not seek converse with Men, except rarely for the doing of some good or because they perceive in a Man's spirit a love of things antient and fair. Then they may reveal to him their forms, and he will behold their beauty. As for the unbodied, such as the Nazgûl, they have no bodies to reveal and even if it were within their power to counterfeit Elvish forms, deluding Men with lies and deceit, such visions as they could conjure would be marred by their evil intent. For the hearts of true Men are uplifted in joy to behold the true likeness of the Eldar, their antient kindred, and this joy nothing evil can counterfeit.

Art: John Howe.