Wednesday, 30 June 2010


There are so many wonderful stories in St Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and one of them is the story of the man Cædmon who lived in the monastery of St Hilda of Whitby. Oftentimes at meat he would leave early were the harp or other instruments passed to him, because he had not the gift of song. This changed after a dream he received from God, where he was visited by an Angel, but I may relate the whole story at a later date. I'd like here to consider something interesting from a liturgical perspective.

The night of Cædmon's death, he visited a house where the sick and infirm were accustomed to stay when they were on the point of death. He asked one of the stewards of this house to prepare a place for him, although the man wondered, for he seemed to be in the vigour of youth. The story goes:

Cumque ibidem positi vicissim aliqua gaudente animo una cum eis, qui ibidem antea inerant, loquerentur ac iocarentur, et iam mediae noctis tempus esset transcensum, interrogavit si Eucharistiam intus haberent. Respondebant: ''Quid opus est Eucharistia? Neque enim mori adhuc habes, qui tam hilariter nobiscum velut sospes loqueris.'' Rursus ille: ''Et tamen,'' ait, ''afferte mihi Eucharistiam.'' Qua accepta in manu interrogavit, si omnes placidum erga se animum et sine querela controversiae ac rancoris haberent. Respondebant omnes placidissimam se mentem ad illum et ab omni ira remotam habere, eumque vicissim rogabant placidam erga ipsos mentem habere. Qui confestim respondit: ''Placidam ego mentem, filioli, erga omnes Dei famulos gero.'' Sicque se caelesti muniens Viatico, vitae alterius ingressui paravit...

And when having been put there they were talking and joking in a joyful spirit one with those who had come to this place before them and when the time of midnight had already passed, he asked if they had the Eucharist in the house. They replied: ''What need is there of the Eucharist? For you are not about to die yet, you who speak with us so happily as if you were in good health.'' Again he said: ''Nevertheless bring me the Eucharist.'' When he had taken It into his hand, he asked if they were all charitably disposed towards him and without complaint or of disagreement or rancour. They replied that they all had a most peaceful attitude towards him and without any feelings of anger; and they asked him in turn whether he had a peaceful attitude towards them. He replied without delay: ''My little sons, I have a peaceful attitude towards all the servants of God.'' And thus, fortifying himself with the heavenly Viaticum, he prepared for his entrance into the other life...

St Bede goes on to relate that Cædmon asked how long before the monks sang the Night Offices and that he was content to wait with the monks until then. He died in his sleep, signing himself with the Sign of the Cross (in the traditional way). You will notice that there are some peculiarities here. The most glaring is that he took the Blessed Sacrament into his hands, but there are others too. The Eucharist was reserved in the house, rather than in the monastery church, and was reserved solely for Viaticum. The monks seemed puzzled as to why he wanted the Eucharist, for he seemed not on the point of death. Having received the Eucharist, he asked how long until the Night Offices (Mattins) and he was content to wait until then, and having laid down his head to sleep, he died making the Sign of the Cross.

This is a story from the 7th century. 20th century Catholicism is almost completely in reverse of this, because of the strange principle called the ''development of doctrine'', which I am sure would be as alien to St Bede as it is to any Orthodox Christian today. I am sure he would find the idea that the content of such things as Pastor Aeternus are to be found implicitly in the writings of the Fathers completely risible. By implication of this strange principle, Cædmon and the monks at his deathbed understood the Blessed Sacrament less than modern day Catholics. Pius X advocated frequent Communion, whereas the monks looking after Cædmon were puzzled as to why he wanted the Eucharist (for he was not on the point of death). And it is noteworthy that he was more concerned as to the time of Mattins than prostrating himself in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which he promptly ate. How then did Cædmon understand the doctrine of the Real Presence less than modern-day Catholics?

I think that the doctrine of the Real Presence is poorly understood in the Catholic Church, and certainly extra-liturgical Eucharistic adoration has gone off the rails, somewhat. Modern day Catholics might well be concerned (even horrified, if you're of the ''traditionalist'' kind) that Cædmon had the temerity to take the Eucharist into his hands. What if there had dropped particles to the floor? And what was all his concern about the Night Offices about? Surely to have Benediction and to devoutly prostrate oneself before the Eucharistic Lord is more fitting than having sung office?

I think that this notion of the ''development of doctrine'' is a false notion and is just a way of trampling on Tradition. What better way of saying: ''The Fathers were wrong; we are the inheritors. Novelty is better than Tradition because we, the modern-day Catholics, understand things better than they did.''

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


During Sunday Mass (in green rather than white vestments - you can blame wonderful Pius X for that - see Abhinc duos annos) I was looking around the congregation as the choir sang Credo III and thought: ''None of you have any idea what you're singing,'' and the thought came to me that while the term ''vernacular'' is almost entirely meaningless, why do people who can't even read Latin prefer Latin as a liturgical language? Liturgy is a profound mystery of the Faith, and yet does ''mystery'' necessarily entail collective ignorance of the Ritus? I am thinking of the Orthodox church - where they have achieved a most perfect balance, something inconceivable in the West - the Liturgy there is at once mysterious (and beautiful) and comprehensible, because they have always been careful to utilise the vernacular of the local area (even if, in the case of the Russians and the Greeks, this is a more ancient and courteous form of language, rather like Cranmerian English today), there is real ''active participation'' with the litanies (only two Masses in the Roman Rite now begin with a Litany, those of the Vigils of Easter and Pentecost, whereas anciently all penitential Masses began with a Litany, which replaced the hymn).

In the West there really is no such thing as ''active participation'' of the Faithful. The congregation are sat in their pews (pews themselves being antiliturgical and cluttering up a liturgical space), counting beads or trying to follow the variable parts of the Liturgy with layman's missals etc, and then upon the great Dominus Vobiscum answering Et cum spiritu tuo - this just about sums up how much real ''participation'' there is in the Roman Rite. There have been various attempts to alleviate this over the centuries, and Vatican II was an attempt to make the Liturgy more traditional (even if it got just about everything wrong), but these have all been haphazard and ill-thought out (such as having the sacred pericopes of the Epistle and Gospel read before the Sermon - why bother when the proclamation of these are as much for the instruction of the circumstantibus (notice that this means ''those standing by'') as an act of worship? You might as well translate the whole Liturgy for the congregation before the Sermon if ''understanding'' at an intellectual level is what you're attempting by doing this). Similarly the idea of a layman's missal, with the variable parts of the Liturgy laid out plainly in Latin and English, negates the idea of having Latin in the first place.

What am I saying then? Latin Liturgy for the Latinists? English Liturgy for those who have not the hard tongue of the Romans? As a Latinist myself I am biased, and I would never abandon Latin (I like Latin as much for its ancientry as for its inherent beauty), moreover my own experience of vernacular Liturgy in a Western context has been incomparably bad. I don't know - maybe one day I shall undertake the hard task of translating the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into Latin and abandoning the old Roman Rite altogether. In the days of the Fathers, the Roman Rite and the various Eastern liturgies may have shared a common ethos, an expression of the same Faith, but now they are almost entirely at variance, the one expressing scholastic ideas and ''merits'', and the other more expressive of the ancestral faith.

I don't think that the Roman Rite is irretrievably lost (I would have nothing to do with it if I did) but it will take a lot to ''sort it out'' as it were. What do my readers think?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Liturgical sense...

In the Year of Our Lord 1284 Durandus wrote in the Rationale:

''Now the priests and prelates of the Church, to whom it is given to know the mysteries, as can be read in Chapter VIII of Saint Luke, and who are the distributors and dispensers of the sacraments, should shine forth with the powers that they represent in order that others, reflecting their insights, might also be enlightened. If such is not the case then it is a matter of the blind leading the blind, or as the words of the prophet put it: ''their eyes are darkened and they cannot see where they are going.'' But (and how sad) in these days many seem to have hardly any understanding of the things they engage in daily pertaining to the practices of the Church, or her divine worship. Nor do they know what they signify or why they were instituted. So much is this the case that the words of this prophet seem to be fulfilled to the letter: ''The priests will be like the common people,'' for they bear the showbreads and mysteries of the Lord's altar without any understanding or respect, such that, beyond any doubt, they will be considered, by the just judgement of God, as beasts of burden who carry the food which provides for the sustenance of others. They will have to render an account of this ignorance on the day of judgement and then, while the very cedars of paradise tremble, what will happen to these reeds in the desert? For it is said of such by the Prophet: ''They have not known my ways, and I will judge them in my anger, and they will not enter into my repose.'' (Emphasis my own).

Is this an early indication of the gradual loss of liturgical sense in the West, which undoubtedly occurred in the second millennium? I often look at the history of Liturgy in the West in the second millennium with a mixture of fascination and regret. There is much good there, real liturgical piety and Tradition, but also much bad - superstition and bad theology. If only I, and many of like disposition, had been there in the days when Low Mass first started to creep into the liturgical life of the Church (nobody knows when); if only to counsel the Schoolmen that the idea was a subtle prompting from the Devil to sift the wheat.

The Latin Mass Society are currently having their '62 Rite Pontifical Mass at Westminster Cathedral. What is this supposed to be exactly? A celebration of Catholic Tradition or liturgical reform? It is by no means ''traditional'' in any meaningful sense, and yet they will undoubtedly have advertised it as a ''traditional Latin Mass.'' Most people involved in it will no doubt think that bare Sacramental validity is all that really matters in the Liturgy - in other words, Christ deigns to come down from on High to the Altar regardless of the way in which the Liturgy is celebrated; to what extent this is the result of an unbalanced cult of the Blessed Sacrament (to the detriment of real Liturgy) in the West I don't know, but this sort of mentality seems contrary to my understanding of Liturgy. Others involved will just think: ''oh, but it's in Latin, ad orientem, and has a lot of outward display of ceremonial - and the '62 Rite isn't that different from the Old Rite anyway, so it makes no difference.'' Boob. Were I completely ignorant of all politics and legal positivism apropos Summorum Pontificum, and I saw ''traditional Pontifical Liturgy'' advertised somewhere, I'd have gone - but expecting Miranda I'd have been greeted by Caliban.

The Catholic Church is full of doctrinally orthodox people (we can all be doctrinally orthodox) but liturgical heterodox people, and most of the time these doctrinally orthodox people (Catholics of the ''neo-conservative'' kind, and lamentably the greater part of the ''Traditionalist'' kind also) form a significant part of the liturgically heterodox. In recent years (since Mediator Dei, but the malaise probably goes much deeper, the Lord only knows the full tale of this lamentable neglect of Liturgy) liturgical orthodoxy has been relegated to the dustbin in favour of formation in Catholic belief based on the teachings of the Magisterium and the cult of the Pope. As a consequence, liturgical complacency is so common among so many Catholics. Doctrinal orthodoxy is important, fundamentally so, but still more is the environment in which we acquire and maintain the orthodoxy - which is the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy - even George Tyrell (condemned as a ''Modernist'' in 1907) understood this!

I keep saying: THE LITURGICAL BOOKS OF 1962 DO NOT REPRESENT THE TRADITIONAL LITURGY OF THE CHURCH. Just because the '62 Rite looks superficially like the Old Rite is unimportant, and does not negate the fact that it is the inorganic (sorry to whomever coined that term) product of a committee of self-important liturgists. If you're going to do the Old Rite, then at least do it properly - but please don't parade about in the smug delusion that you're in any way superior to the tambourine-waving yokels in a typical Catholic parish if you celebrate liturgical reform (by using the liturgical books of 1962) just as much as they do. The only real difference between you is that you prefer lace cottas to cassock-albs, and Low Mass to concelebration.

Friday, 25 June 2010

A story of conversion...

As you all know, I am very fond of St Bede. His Ecclesiastical History is full of conversion stories, miracles, apparitions etc, and is often very interesting from a liturgical point of view. I may relate the story of Caedmon in a future post with this in mind, but I wish here to share my appreciation of this wonderful story about the conversion of Edwin, King of the Northumbrians. It is true that the principle cuius regio, eius religio reigned at the time, but it is a lie that the Christian missionaries to this Isle came bearing swords and slew the heathen men who clung still to their old gods. The bishop Paulinus came to the king, expounded the Word of God, and let the king make up his own mind. ''First you have escaped with God's help from the hands of the enemies you feared'' said Paulinus. ''Secondly you have acquired by His gift the kingdom you desired; now, in the third place, remember your own promise; do not delay in fulfilling it but receive the faith and keep the commandments of Him who rescued you from your earthly foes and raised you to the honour of an earthly kingdom. If from henceforth you are willing to follow His will which is made known to you through me, He will also rescue you from the everlasting torments of the wicked and make you a partaker with Him of His eternal kingdom in heaven.''

And so the king summoned a council of the chief priests and eorls of his realm. The story goes:

Cuius suasioni verbisque prudentibus alius optimatum regis tribuens assensum, continuo subdidit: ‘Talis,’ inquiens, ‘mihi videtur, rex, vita hominum praesens in terris, ad conparationem eius, quod nobis incertum est. Temporis, quale cum te residente ad cenam cum ducibus ac ministris tuis tempore brumali, accenso quidem foco in medio, et calido effecto caenaculo, furentibus autem foris per omnia turbinibus hiemalium pluviarum vel nivium, adveniens unus passeium domum citissime pervolaverit; qui cum per unum ostium ingrediens, mox per aliud exierit. Ipso quidem tempore, quo intus est, hiemis tempestate non tangitur, sed tamen parvissimo spatio serenitatis ad momentum excurso, mox de hieme in hiemem regrediens, tuis oculis elabitur. Ita haec vita hominum ad modicum apparet; quid autem sequatur, quidue praecesserit, prorsus ignoramus. Unde si haec nova doctrina certius aliquid attulit, merito esse sequenda videtur.’ His similia et ceteri maiores natu ac regis consiliarii divinitus admoniti prosequebantur.

My translation:

Another of the king's chief men, offering counsel with his recommendation and with prudent words added immediately: ''Such,'' he said, ''seems to me, O King, [to be] the present life of men on earth, in comparison to that time which is unknown to us. It is like when you are sitting at meat with your ealdormen and thegns in wintertide, with the hearth burning in the middle and the dining room [caenaculo] has been made warm, but outside the storms of wintry rain or snow are raging through all, and a sparrow flies quickly through the hall, who when entering through one door, soon goes out through another. At that time, when it is inside, it is not touched by the storm of winter, but however when a very small space of calm has run out in a moment, soon returning from winter unto winter, it escapes from your eyes. So this life of men appears moderately [modicum, restrained, moderate]; but what follows, or what goes before, we know not at all. Consequently, if this new doctrine brings us more certainty, it seems worthy to be followed.'' Other elders and counsellors of the king continued after the same manner, being divinely prompted to do so.

Merito esse sequanda videtur - it seems worthy to be followed. Rest assured that St Paulinus brought not with him Low Mass or Benediction, or Rosary at a side Altar...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Proper Pilgrimage...

Some friends from my parish church are going to cycle to Rome next month via an ancient route from Canterbury called the Via Romea. I encourage you to take a look at their blog for more details.

I have never been to Rome, but I have always wanted to go. My mother and I had planned on going for my 21st birthday but lack of funds dashed that idea. Years ago I wanted to go to Papal High Mass each day in each of the stational churches in Rome during Lent, but since no such splendour exists anymore I think nowadays I'd rather visit Rome to aid my classical education more than anything else (the 18th century Grand Tourist was often profoundly disappointed with Catholic Rome)...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Newman and his Collect...

I am currently (having set aside the Ultramontanism post for a while - I'm sure readers have long ceased to expect it anytime soon) working on a funny post - well, it is funny to me anyway, in a controversial sort of way. When it is eventually published, I'll let readers make up their own minds.

I don't usually condescend to comment on things so recent as Newman, but I was interested when I read that his Propers had finally been published. I wonder who composed them? By modern standards they aren't bad, but were probably drafted in English and then translated into Latin by some poor chap. Fr Hunwicke has an interesting post on the Collect (although he beat me to the conclusions about the curious Latinity!). I know Newman chiefly through his Marian work so when I read the Collect, I didn't quite understand what pacem in Ecclesia tua invenire meant, but this sort of thing is curious from a liturgical point. Are Prayers, which are the collective prayers of the Faithful, supposed to express the mind of the Church or the sentiments of the saint?

I tend to think that if Newman were alive today he'd have joined the Orthodox Church, although I am sure that Tolkien would be pleased that he is in the process of canonization. ''Process'' - does there need be such a bureaucratic process? In the early Church, to be made a saint the Bishop would just add your name to the local Litany - this still seems the best way to me. It certainly seems more apposite than a centralized and thorough scrutiny into the minutest points of his life. Saints who are relevant to the Universal Church, and therefore the Kalendar of the Universal Church, are few and established by ancient custom - saints like St Mary, St Peter, St Mary Magdalen, the Fathers and the Apostolic Martyrs etc. Is Newman really relevant to Catholics and Anglicans beyond these Isles? Despite the huge euphoria for his canonization in recent months, I know of one or two Catholics (and prominent literary Anglicans, C.S Lewis for one, who in Letters to Malcolm (do read this monstrous work to get rid of that silly unfounded notion that Lewis was one of the Anglo-Catholics) said that Newman made his blood run cold) who can't stand Newman. I admire his learning first and foremost, but I think I shall stick to old English saints such as Sts Bede and Edward the Confessor...(for those of you who think I am joining the Orthodox Church, this is just to let you know that St Edward the Confessor, who is one of my favourite saints, is not recognised as a saint in that church).

Here is the Collect: (Notice that I have excised the macrons, no doubt included for the benefit of non Latinists).

Deus qui beatum Ioannem Henricum presbyterum lumen benignum tuum sequentem pacem in Ecclesia tua invenire contulisti concede propitius ut eius intercessione et exemplo ex umbris et imaginibus in plenitudinem veritatis tuae perducamur. Per Dominum.

The first part is a bit of a mouthful I think, plus I don't quite understand why the translation given on the Propers webpage features the word ''grace'' - where is this in the original? The verb confero, contuli, collatum (which has a variety of meanings, but here means confer or bestow - in translation it is always good to distance yourself from overly explicit Latinisms - for example, I avoid using such terms as laudable, and use praiseworthy instead, I use foreword instead of preface, etc.) seems to agree with the accusative participle sequentem, but translated literally into English it doesn't make sense. Here is my own translation (I wonder if I have lost something from the original):

O God, who bestowed upon blessed John Henry the priest [the grace] following your kind [benigne is the adverb rather than the adjective benignus] light to find peace in your Church, grant mercifully that by his intercession and example we may be led out of the shadows and images unto the fullness of your truth. Through the Lord.

Not bad as far as a modern composition is concerned. But who am I, so rustic and untutored, to comment?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Doctrine or Liturgy...

Ever since Pius XII reversed the ancient principle of the Lex Orandi in his infamous Encyclical Mediator Dei (absurdly upheld by Traditionalists as a great bastion of liturgical orthodoxy before the Council vis-à-vis the separation of Altar and Tabernacle, and all that) there has been a tendency in the Catholic Church to view correct doctrine (even if this is not in fact correct) and discipline as more important than the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. I have met many modern-day Catholics, of the ''conservative'' kind (right-believing, if a tad-Ultramontane for me, about such things as the use of artificial contraception, pro-Life issues, the indissolubility of Marriage etc), who are sometimes open to the Old Rite (but sometimes, and more often than not, not so), but don't really care much about how the Liturgy is celebrated, and often attack Traditionalists for not seeing the New Rite as ''valid'' and all that rubbish. This is a very eccentric kind of person to me. I spoke to a ''conservative'' Catholic once about Liturgy, Popes etc, and his view was that he preferred the New Rite because it was more open to the lay people, was in English and was fundamentally more Scriptural than the Old Rite. Also that he thought that Pope John Paul II was the greatest of all modern Popes, especially because he canonized so many Saints - indicating, so he said, the obvious sanctity of the Church. Another conservative Catholic I know thinks that to have liturgical ''opinions'' is a mortal sin - because such opinions fly in the face of the Magisterium, who have provided the Church with a nice homely Liturgy. Another conservative Catholic told me that my attitude to the New Rite was fundamentally wrong in and of itself, because you can ''prefer'' one rite to another rite, but that they are fundamentally the same - how very in the spirit of Summorum Pontificum!

Many conservative Catholics, many of whom (since the publication of Summorum Pontificum) have now joined the ''Traditionalist'' group (and have subsequently influenced it), seem to me to be just as bad as the Modernists of the 19th-20th century (which was a reaction against the heresy of Ultramontanism). Now Traditionalists, whereas before they were at variance with Rome, are seen (and I daresay, view themselves) as the bastions of Catholic orthodoxy (what kind of orthodoxy would this be, I wonder?) against the ravages of heathen men (the Modernists). But whereas proto-Traditionalists such as Evelyn Waugh and J.R.R Tolkien (two very different men nonetheless) saw the defence and right-celebration of the Sacred Liturgy as the prime aim of the ''traditionalist'' movement, modern day Traditionalists (the new kind) see this as just an afterthought - a return to traditional (by which they mean, not very ancient) doctrine and practice seems to them to be more important. In other words, everything before the Council was hunky-dory. Liturgy just becomes the ''tip of the iceberg'', an affectation, not very important in the great scheme of things. After a hard-day lambasting the Modernists, the Trads might like to retire for a nice evening Low Mass, vernacular hymns a plenty, with a chaplet of the Divine Mercy afterwards and other devotions at a side-Altar. This attitude, that of the subordination of right Liturgy to right Doctrine, is a heresy. It is in fact the anti-Liturgical heresy - and, most uncomfortably, the sources for this heretical notion are to be found in an ''infallible'' teaching of the Pope - Mediator Dei. Of course in reality Mediator Dei was not written by Pius XII but his underlings, and probably underwent many revisions before he eventually signed his name. Who really wrote it I wonder? Was it Bugnini? How very ironic that would be!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Numquam mortuorum obliviscemur...

Of your charity please pray for the repose of the soul of my uncle (my Godfather in fact) Sean, who died 20 years ago today. He was 18 years old.

I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live; and everyone that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever.

Pie Iesu Domine, dona ei requiem. Amen.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A reserved Sacrament...

Part of the devotional ''development'' outside the Orthodox tradition in the West was the development of a cult of the reserved Sacrament. Anciently in the West the Blessed Sacrament was only reserved (usually kept in private houses, as can be gleaned from St Bede's account of the man Caedmon, who on his deathbed, asked the pious family if they had the Eucharist in the house) for Viaticum and the Communion of the Sick. This ancient praxis seems more apposite to the very nature of the Blessed Sacrament to me than the modern, untraditional, devotional development. From this development we got ''Benediction'', the Feast of Corpus Christi and many other things alien to the Early Church (and to the more traditional Orthodox Church). I wonder: are such developments a good thing? We must remember that while the Blessed Sacrament is truly and objectively the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord under the appearance of Bread and Wine - Our Lord instituted the Blessed Sacrament fundamentally as a food for the life of Men, the very Bread of Life (Cormas, or ''life-bread'', as Tolkien dubbed the Waybread of the Elves in Quenya). Therefore, it seems rather strange to me that such practices as ''Benediction'' of the Blessed Sacrament, people going into church to pray before the Tabernacle (whereas anciently they prayed before the Altar, where Heaven and Earth come together in the Eucharistic Liturgy), or even the Blessed Sacrament ''exposed'', and Corpus Christi processions. Like Medieval men gazing for minutes on end at the upheld Sacrament, going from side-Altar to side-Altar in the parish church (I actually felt rather irritated on behalf of that Lollard cleric who, in the middle of his preaching, was interrupted by the warning bell for an Elevation at another side Altar and his audience disappeared and go and see another Elevation!), it just seems ''superstitious'' to me, and a tad anti-liturgical. But this may be an extreme way of looking at it. Since we're more or less stuck with Benediction and the cult of the reserved Sacrament in the West, I would just try to curtail it as much as possible, rather than abolish it completely (although I would abolish the Sacred Heart without any qualms at all) - restrict Benediction to the Feast and Octave of Corpus Christi or something. What do my readers think? The Church building is not holy because of the reserved Sacrament - and banal, modernist ''churches'' (hideous sermon halls) cannot be made to feel holy, or even wholesome, because of the reserved Sacrament - but rather because it is a liturgical space where the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy occurs. At least this is the theory.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this recently, and she said to me: ''What was it the 39 Articles say? The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them...''

Quite. All this said, I am rather fond of Aquinas' Eucharistic hymns. My Latin teacher and I, whom I miss sorely, used to sing them.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A ''code'' of Canon Law...

Cardinal Gasparri, the architect of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, who can be said to be the Annibale Bugnini of the canonical reform. I wonder if he too was a Freemason? Eugenio Pacelli was also on the commission to codify the Sacred Canons - the man who later became Pius XII...

Arturo Vasquez of Reditus posted a link to a very interesting article the other day which I heartily recommend. It is an article from The Remnant about the novelty of codifying the Sacred Canons of the Church and how this relates to the questions of liturgical reform and the powers and prerogatives of the Pope. Read the article here.

Here is a snippet of the excellent article:

One way to see the stark difference in approach between Traditional legal systems and modern ones (such as the Code of Canon Law) is to look at the relationship between authority and time. In the modern liberal system, authority is linked to novelty. The newer the law, the more authority it carries. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law has greater authority over provisions in the 1917 Code because it has been enacted more recently.

The Traditional understanding of law was just the opposite. The older a particular law or legal norm could be demonstrated to be, the greater authority attributed to it. Customs which existed “since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary” were seen as much more reliable, and thus authoritative, than newer and novel norms. Opinions of ancient thinkers, jurists, philosophers, popes and saints that had stood the test of time were more authoritative than something dreamed up yesterday. Again the ancient attitude is filled with humility and acceptance of human failing.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Roman prejudice...

J.R.R Tolkien as an Undergraduate in 1911 - at the time of Pius X's reform of the Breviary.

When I was at Heythrop studying Divinity, my tutor (in my opinion, the most intelligent priest in the land) recommended various books on Church History which I initially turned my nose up at. Among them were several books by Henry Chadwick, who was probably one of the greatest Church historians of the 20th century. My reasons for disapproval were simply that Henry Chadwick was an Anglican. As an 18 year old student, and a ''traditionalist'' at the time, I thought (with a typically trad sense of triumphalist arrogance): ''What could an Anglican possibly know about Church history!'' Eventually this naive and totally unintelligent disposition caved in (inevitably) when I was obliged to actually read some of his work (he was on the compulsory reading list for one or two essays I had to write, for which I got Firsts by the way), which I found very lucid and intelligent, although I found his assessment of St Leo's Tome to be rather untoward (he claimed that some parts were ''plagiarised'' from Augustine). I think that men like Henry Chadwick and John Hunwicke - men who have a clear grasp of Church history and the Sacred Liturgy - are among the few surviving truly ''catholic'' men in the West, and are among the sole hopes of Western Christendom. Unfortunately, all too many ''conservative'' or ''orthodox'' Catholics that I have met couldn't give two hoots about Liturgy, seeing it as merely an affectation or something we have to put up with for the sake of obligation - don't worry, we can pray the Rosary when we get in dear...

I received a comment today from an intelligent and respected reader telling me that people are simply not interested in Liturgy, and seldom in the (modern) history of the Catholic Church have they been. Of course this is nothing new to me, but it brought home a horrible truth. Are we liturgically-minded Catholics doomed to forever look around us in utter despair at the desolation wrought by elitism, Low Mass, politics, minimalism, Ultramontanism and other such unfortunate and aliturgical heresies?

Back to ''Roman prejudice'' - some of you might bring up Tolkien's contempt of the Anglican church. Unfortunately Tolkien, great man though he was, was a product of his time - a young man (my age) under Pius X, old man under Paul VI. As a boy he suffered persecution from his Anglican, Unitarian and Baptist family because of his mother's ''defection'' (or apostasy they might call it) to Rome. His father Arthur having died in 1896, his mother was immediately cut off from any financial support when brought the boys into the Faith in 1900. It was not respectable or becoming of a Suffield to join the Popish church, and this sneering contempt was something Tolkien had to put up with well into his adulthood. In 1944, as the German army advanced upon Rome, Tolkien complained of the tactless atmosphere of his own College. At high table one evening, when the Rectorship of Lincoln had just been announced, the Master (sat right next to Tolkien) stood up and shouted at the top of his voice: ''Thank heaven they did not elect a Roman Catholic to the Rectorship anyway: disastrous, disastrous for the college'' to which was echoed ''disastrous.''

On account of occasions such as these, it is not surprising that Tolkien looked down his nose at the ''pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs'' which he thought the Anglican church to be. Of course I could think of many other things to which I could affix this description! And in the 1960s Tolkien complained of being patted on the back by his fellow Anglicans, as being the representative of a church which had (because of the Council) abandoned its arrogance and hauteur. I think, with the gift of hindsight, that this is a good thing (although Tolkien's complaint was more personal - considering his history of persecution) - I mean, what cause has Rome to be so arrogant about? Can Rome really say that Anglican orders are invalid, considering that since Apostolicae Curae she has revised her own Orders? Can Rome really claim to have all four marks of the Church when the New Rite has none of these four marks?

Maybe it is just as well that Tolkien died when he did, although I regret (on behalf of my friend - I consider him to be a friend, although he died 15 years before I was born, since we have much in common) that he saw the very last days of the Sacred Roman Liturgy, and that those days were marked by such a negligence and aliturgical heresy. Tolkien's experience of Liturgy was mostly Low Mass (he went to Mass early each morning before work, and took his children with him), and I suppose that in the churches where he went to Mass, Low Mass (such as it is) was celebrated reverently by the priest, although I wonder sometimes. In 1963 Tolkien said that he had been ''grievously afflicted'' in his life by stupid, tired, dimmed and even bad priests, and how else can he mean this than in the celebration of the Liturgy? When I went to Westminster Cathedral some years ago I complained to one of the priests there (a very old man, I can't remember his name, but he has died since then) of the aliturgical heresy, and in my ignorance at the time, supposed that everything pre-Vatican II was pristine and perfect. He told me that in his experience he had seen priests celebrate Low Mass in 15 minutes. Tolkien probably had similar experiences, and certainly in the early 1970s (as an old man nearly 80) saw some of the worst things. As the vernacular was introduced, Tolkien (who could read Latin remarkably well, and so at an intellectual level had no difficulty ''understanding'' the Liturgy) would make the responses very loudly in Latin, as everyone else parroted them in English. One Mass was so bad that the elderly Tolkien limped to the end of the pew, took three profound bows (very in keeping with the Roman custom of genuflexion!) and departed in wrath.

Men like Tolkien didn't deserve to end their lives in an atmosphere of antiliturgism. He did once say that he'd give a bit for a time machine. So would I - Tolkien would go back to old Mercia in the 9th century. Where and when would I go?

J.R.R Tolkien in August of 1973 (the last known photo taken of him) next to his favourite tree in the Oxford botanical gardens. I wonder what he was thinking then.

As for Roman prejudice - I think that it behoves traditional-minded Catholics to look around at their own Church before they attempt to criticize others, and to concede that not all the answers can be found in Rome. Many of the traditions of the Latin Rite can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, and much that was once common to West as well as East can be found in the Byzantine liturgical books. In an age of Ecumenism, the greatest possible ecumenical gesture on the part of Rome would be the cultivation of its own Traditional Liturgy and the abandonment of old triumphalist prejudices.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Minor or Major?

Fr Blake put up a post earlier about the upcoming Latin Mass Society training conference. I can't say I like what he said about the LMS ''pressuring'' him into advertising it (although since I have no sense of humour maybe I am a bit slow in the uptake?). I personally would just go ahead and organise Liturgy without their knowledge - since when did the LMS have the monopoly over ''traditional'' Liturgy? I personally think that their promotion of just the middle-stage in a well-planned and intelligent reform of the Liturgy as the ''Traditional Latin Mass'' is very dishonest.

High Mass in the Old Rite is rarer than it ought to be. This is probably because of the issue of Sacred Ministers - for a High Mass, practically (these days) you need to procure three priests. The Celebrant has to be a priest, the same as the Deacon has to be a Deacon, but what of the Subdeacon? For some obscure reason, in recent centuries, the Subdiaconate was treated as a Major Order in the Latin Rite, but why? It has not been treated consistently so - and in the East it is seen as the highest of the Minor Orders. Plus, if the Subdeacon is indeed a Major Order (well was, it was one of the many abolishments under Paul VI...) then why does the Bishop not lay hands upon the candidate, as is common to the ordination rites of other Major Orders? It would make more sense to me to treat the (hopefully, resurrected) Subdeacon as a Minor Order, just like the ministries of Acolyte, Porter, Lector and Exorcist. This way, a layman can (in extreme circumstances) act as Subdeacon. There is no use complaining about it though, for ''purist'' reasons - if a layman can act as Master of Ceremonies, or Acolyte, then why can not a layman act as Subdeacon? The rubrics of the Missal suppose all ministers of the Altar to be at least tonsured clerics.

Naturally also the Deacon should actually be a Deacon and not a Priest, since the ministry of the diaconate is more apposite to the Deacon than the Priest (although I appreciate that a Priest is a Deacon). There should be some encouragement from on high of vocations to the permanent Diaconate. Since Paul VI issued his motu proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem in 1967, the permanent diaconate has been revived in the West - but not really. Most seminarians are still training to be priests. I think that the Diaconate is very important - so important that every parish should have one. How most people view the parish priest is really how the deacon of the parish should be seen - the one in charge of the pastoral ministry, apostolic care of the poor, making visits to the sick with the Holy Viaticum etc, and most importantly ministering to the Celebrant at High Mass (but also the mediator between priest and people, leading the holy litanies, censing the liturgical choir, the holy images and lay people individually instead of three simple swings...). This way the parish priest can focus on his own spiritual life and prepare adequately for the weekly (rather than daily) celebration of High Mass.

In churches where the entire Office is not chanted in choir there should really only be one High Mass a week, and on Holydays. Sunday should have at least some Office (Mattins, Lauds and Vespers - perhaps Compline also), with High Mass. Mass should never be separated from the Divine Office.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Good taste...

I like this photo. It shows the very good taste of the then Cardinal Ratzinger (courtesy of Google Images). He is a man of very cultivated tastes and humanity, a truly pious man, and very bright. I like him very much. I'd like to have him round for tea one day, I think we'd have a lot to discuss. He'd be more than welcome at my Day of Medieval Liturgy (more on this later). I saw him five years ago at the World Youth Day in Cologne. I bet none of you can imagine me at a World Youth Day!

This thought has just come to me - I think that the greatest possible Ecumenical endeavour, well-within the powers of the Pope, would be a thorough cultivation of the Roman Liturgy - a true revival (Summorum Pontificum aside of course), bringing us closer to our brethren in the East. This doesn't mean Byzantinize the Roman Rite, not by any means, but certainly a return to more traditional praxis - Communion under both kinds within the Traditional Roman Rite, more permanent Deacons (the Diaconate is so important - I think every parish should have a Deacon), more sung Office and less Low Mass etc. It is one of the greatest tragedies of the Latin Rite that there is no Office in parochial churches. This ought to be on the Holy Father's agenda just as much as the fight against anti-life policies encroaching upon Europe and the rest of the world...

Vernacular Hymns...

On Sunday afternoon I had a discussion with a friend, whose views I respect, about the dignity of having vernacular hymns during Liturgy. His view was that vernacular hymns were really no different from having things like Adoro Te Devote or Pange Lingua to ''fill the gaps'' (if the Propers were not Psalm-toned but were instead sung to the real plainchant melodies in the Roman Gradual there would be less gaps), since the Latin hymns were not strictly liturgical texts proper to the liturgical day. I concede this much. My view was that nothing in the vernacular is liturgical, and therefore the singing of vernacular hymns is alien to the spirit of the Liturgy. The usual rule of thumb with me is that if ever the Sacred Congregation of Rites issues a directive, always do the exact opposite, but we have it as late as 1958 (De Sacra Musica, 3rd September) that: During High or Sung Mass nothing may be sung in the vernacular. I agree wholeheartedly with this. Unfortunately the conversation was cut short because I had to go to work, but it is worth articulating a few things here.

I usually leave accusations of ''developments'' since the Second Vatican Council as being overly-Protestant to Traditionalists (Protestantism is, these days, strangely outside of my thoughts), but I cannot help thinking that vernacular hymns have contributed heavily to the collapse of Traditional Liturgy in a very Protestant fashion. (A slightly less-informed reader once accused me of Protestantism for questioning Papal authority over Liturgy - I am anything but Protestant I assure you! I would have thought that my thoughts on the primacy of Liturgy would at least indicate this...) As a boy, attending Sunday Mass with my mother (and, not seldom, also with my grandparents in the evening - you see I enjoyed being extra pious as a boy, plus I would get another Sunday roast and pudding out of it), I would sing merrily away (even at the top of my voice) with the rest of the congregation such hymns as Soul of my Saviour, The Angel Gabriel from Heaven came, even ones like Walk in the Light and Make me a Channel of your all seemed to be about ''feeling good'' about the Faith rather than uniting ourselves to the Sacrifice of the Altar. Afterwards my grandmother, with her typically-Irish enthusiasm about Catholic devotions (remember the intimidating portrait of the Sacred Heart over the mantelpiece I mentioned? She even has a church-sized statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in her living room...), was wont to approach Father and say something like: ''Och, wasn't that a lovely Mass, father!'' - she might as well have said: ''Wonderful service Vicar!''

To be quite frank, these vernacular hymns (the whole Mass was in English though) dominated and smothered the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. There were no sung Propers, and if the priest read them at the Altar (or wherever he stands in the New Rite) I didn't know (or care - I was more interested in which page to turn to next in the hymnal). And in hindsight it all seemed very untoward. But what is the history of vernacular hymns?

Hymnody is as old as the hills. The ancients, the Romans and the Greeks, sang hymns (which in Classical Greek and Latin was their vernacular of course) to their gods, not only in the public Ritus, but to the Lar, the household god as well. The very word ''hymn'' is of Greek derivation. But Christian vernacular hymns are of significantly less eld than the Greeks and the wonderful Latin hymnody of St Ambrose and Prudentius. It was the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century who, in their zeal to abolish Liturgy, composed vernacular hymns, catchy, easy things to learn, enkindling enthusiasm for the new heretical movement in the hearts of their followers. People singing a vernacular hymn (packed full of propaganda against the old Roman Church) at the top of their voices created an obvious sense of community and solidarity. But vernacular hymns have no place whatsoever in the Sacred Liturgy - they are in fact wholly alien to the Sacred Liturgy, since the hymns do not express the same sentiments as the texts of the Mass, which themselves are to be sung, but the sentiments of the mind (in many cases, a reprobate mind - I have often heard Protestant hymns at Catholic funerals of relatives) that composed them. And so people who sing vernacular hymns, sometimes at Masses according to the Old Roman Rite, may be moved - there may be ''active participation'' of the faithful - but they are not moved by the Liturgy itself, but by something that is imposed upon Liturgy and something which is inimical to the Sacred Liturgy. Whereas the plainchant melodies of the Gradual, which are suited to the Roman Mass, resonate from church unto church and express that singular and harmonious, concordant voice of the Universal Church which rises to God's Altar in Heaven and reflects the Heavenly Liturgy which is there. Plainsong is as old as the Church and expresses the belief of the Church. Vernacular hymns are diametrically opposed to this, and most of the ''Catholic'' ones are very recent, and reflect the growing tendency in the Church to ''liturgize'' pious devotions (such hymns as ''Sweet Heart of Jesus'' are obvious examples). It is not about singing at Mass, but singing the Mass itself. If, for practical reasons (in a parish setting, for example, the Propers are psalm-toned) there are big gaps in the chants of the Mass, then why not sing a Psalm appropriate to the day? Choose one from the Office of the Day and be content, but I have serious liturgical misgivings about the enthusiastic singing of vernacular hymns (even after the Liturgy has ended) in church.

Of course, this post is not going to change the dispositions of those who hail from liturgical Philistia and people will lamentably continue to sing vernacular hymns in the spirit of antiliturgism...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Linking to me...

I received an email from the moderator of a ''.com'' blog last week or the week before, telling me that what I write might be of interest to a certain audience (I am not going to be candid about anyone), and asking me to contribute articles to their site. I politely refused, and explained that my own blog was a personal endeavour and that I had no wish to be seen as the voice of anything modern, or heretical/schismatic, so that readers might start attributing to me sentiments and beliefs which I repudiate (I already get comments enough on this blog of that nature). Instead I asked them to link to me. Oftentimes having gone back to their site I notice that they have decided not to include me in their blogroll. Why is this, I wonder?

It was often the case with other ''overmighty'' blogs who wouldn't link to me when I wrote Singulare Ingenium. Why do people not link to me? Do they consider what I write to be objectionable? Or perhaps I write things exactly as they are and people just don't want to read it? When I wrote Singulare Ingenium I refused to publish a comment from a reader who accused me of fanaticism, and who described me as a ''pre-'62 anorak.'' I am beginning to wonder whether this is the general perception of me. Am I really fanatical and an extremist for having clear-cut liturgical convictions? Well I'm sorry if I think that Liturgy is somehow important for the life of the Church and I refuse to ''go-with-the-crowd'' and keep cranking the ''Benedict XVI has liberated the Traditional Latin Mass'' ratchet. In reality he has done nothing of the sort; in fact I think he has made things worse in the long-run, and you certainly cannot look to Mother Rome when Mother Rome is full of idiots who know sod all about Liturgy. In a church which is full of legal positivists, was it really wise for Benedict XVI to specifically designate 1962 as the ''extraordinary form''? I look forward to the day when the next Pope issues another ''clarifying'' motu proprio stating specifically that any deviation from '62 is a damnable heresy, punishable by excommunication - or even makes Summorum Pontificum null and void - that is the day when Ultramontane Traditionalists will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Will they carry on with Tradition or obey the Pope?

It just seems to me that Tradition in the Catholic Church sits uneasily upon a narrow ledge, and will stand or fall by its Popes...if the Pope is a modernist, and there have been such popes, then Tradition is thrown out the window; if the Pope is good, then it waits uneasily for the next Pope...

Interesting article...

The other day a reader kindly sent me the link to an interesting article on The Anglo-Catholic. The article, entitled The Proto-History of the Roman Liturgical Reform by Dr Geoffrey Hull, deals chiefly with the liturgical reform, but also touches upon Jansenism - the author even says that many of the ''antiquarian'' ideas of the liturgical reformers in the '60s (not so much the '50s - their ''restoration'' was nothing of the sort, whereas many of the reforms of the '60s were genuinely older than the Missal of Pius V) were themselves modern descendants of Jansenist liturgical ideas in the 17th century. He also astutely points out that the Ultramontane Papacy ultimately led to the Novus Ordo of Paul VI. Here is an interesting quotation, which I think pretty much sums up my fierce objection to the Ultramontane Papacy:

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence today that the modern Popes consider themselves the infallible arbiters of disciplinary and liturgical tradition rather than its respectful custodians. John Paul II, for example, has been known to act arbitrarily and inconsistently in contravention of established liturgical law. One famous episode was during his visit to West Germany in 1980 when, in contradiction to the firm Papal policy of not giving Communion in the hand, he administered the Sacrament in this manner to a small boy by way of exception, thus establishing an irrevocable precedent. On another occasion, I am told, the Pope incorrectly knelt during a Papal ceremony in Rome, and when his Master of Ceremonies discreetly directed him to rise, John Paul remained on his knees and retorted pointedly: “II Papa s’inginocchia!” – “the Pope is kneeling!”. With such a subjective attitude towards liturgical tradition, unthinkable in any of the Eastern Churches, it is understandable that the modern Popes and the ultramontanist Curia should view traditionalist rejection of the liturgical reform as incompatible with Catholic orthodoxy which they narrowly understand as right belief and right morals.

I never liked Pope John Paul II, and certainly was not among the many thousands shouting out ''Let the Great John Paul be canonized immediately'' when he had at last gone to his long home. Clearly the attitude expressed in the above paragraph indicates that he thought he was above Tradition. A clever M.C I know and I were discussing the dignity of pushing and pulling about bishops unfamiliar with Pontifical ceremonies at Pontifical Masses once, and he rightly said that ''the bishop does whatever the M.C tells him to do;'' naturally, since the M.C, who is familiar with the ceremonies, is there to ensure that the entire function conforms to the liturgical tradition of the Church. If the bishop (or Pope) decides not to adhere to Tradition then there is a serious aliturgical problem.

Read the whole article here.

Monday, 14 June 2010

By the fruit is the tree known...

As you all know, I am no fan of the ''Sacred Heart'' cult, but Fr Hunwicke has written an excellent sermon for the occasion. Here is a snippet:

Is there really an equivalence between Stalin and the Flappers? The Flappers may have been a trifle naughty, but they surely weren't murderous? They didn't send you to gulags or contrive a genocidal famine in the Ukraine. Yet ... I wonder. This age of ours, an age of sexual license, of which the Thirties were perhaps the first care-free dawn, has led to a new Holocaust: of the unborn. I don't think you have to be over-imaginative to join up a line of dots between the flirty skirts of the Thirties and the era of the overmighty abortionists. Which may serve to remind us that it was Pius XI who also, in his Encyclical Casti connubii, defended the principles of Christian Marriage.

Immodest indeed. Well did Pope Pius XI warn against the evils of immodesty. Too many people think that their actions have no consequences, drunk on the liberal nonsense that ''if it doesn't immediately affect the other person, it's all right'' blah blah blah...I personally think that women should not wear trousers. Of course such an opinion is considered to be extreme nowadays, and I shall probably incur the wrath of some woman who sees nothing wrong with it (most likely a woman in a man's job) for daring to utter such a misogynistic opinion, but I shall go to the grave with my convictions. At any rate, Tolkien complained of it in the 1960s.

In terms of actions having consequences, trees being known by their fruits and all that, what are the consequences of liturgical reform? Liturgical reform hasn't (fortunately) made people commit murder (but then, He alone knows all ends...), but it has made people complacent about Liturgy (or was it the complacency that kick-started the reform in the first place? Who knows). Even Traditionalists such as the Society of ''St'' Pius X (why-o-why was a man who committed such a gross act of autocratic violence against the Liturgy ever canonized? But then, it was Pius XII who canonized him. Urban VIII was fortunately never canonized, but then he not only has his absurd hymns on his CV, but also the Galileo affair...suffice to say, I have no particular ''devotion'' to Pius X), the Latin Mass Society etc all see Liturgy as singularly unimportant. Both organizations would fain have us think that there was no reform whatsoever before the Council, and that the Tridentine Mass remained unchanged from the time of St Gregory until that awful Vatican II ruined everything. Boob! My biggest issue with them is that they take 1962 as the cut-off year (because it was before the Council - which month in 1962 I wonder!), when in fact the liturgical books of 1962 represent just a stage in the liturgical reform. Let me put it simply: if you're going to have the Old Rite, at least do it properly and don't shy away from Tradition, for whatever reasons you might think of (for ''pastoral'' reasons, or ''obedience'' to Summorum Pontificum or whatever - if you genuinely prefer '62 to the Old Rite then I pity you). Or perhaps because of the ''development'' of doctrines Liturgy gets dragged into this vacuum too? If so, there is no legitimate reason for any Catholic to prefer the Old Rite. If Liturgy is simply what the Pope says it is in any given era in the Church's history, then you are putting yourself at variance with the Pope if you adhere to Tradition.

This is where Summorum Pontificum comes in. Now that the Holy Father has said that the 1962 Rite is an ''extraordinary form'' of the New Rite, Traddies have identified themselves anew. Now that they have Summorum Pontificum, ''the'' Motu Proprio (as if there were none published before 2007!), behind them, they can use the so-called Usus Antiquior to their heart's content, without recourse to the permission of the local Ordinary. Before Summorum Pontificum, Traditionalists used arguments from immemorial custom (quoting Pius V's Quo Primum) to celebrate Mass. Arguments from immemorial custom to celebrate the 1962 Rite are just downright false since the whole point about ''immemorial custom'' is that the custom in question has to be in existence for over 200 years, whereas the 1962 liturgical books were juridically abrogated in 1965, a mere three years after they came into force!

Perhaps the Holy Father needs revision? This aside, I suppose being in a church full of legal positivists it is good to have some sort of ''guide'' from on high about how to do things and most bishops are too aliturgical (and therefore stupid) to know the difference between '62 and the real Old Rite. But since Summorum Pontificum says nothing about the Old Rite (except in passing), why do many Traditionalists celebrate the Old Rite and yet look to Summorum Pontificum for their justification in doing so? If we were relying on Summorum Pontificum, and we followed that to the letter, we'd all be doing the '62 Rite (well, except me that is).
You may be wondering about my choice of the above painting (by Duccio) of the Lord curing the man born blind. It may seem strange but one of the most moving passages from Scripture (I find) is St John 9:38-41.
And he said: ''I believe, Lord.'' And falling down, he adored him. And Jesus said: ''For judgement I have come into this world; that they who see not may see, and they who see may become blind.'' And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard. And they said unto him: ''Are we also blind?'' Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin. But now you say: 'We see.' Your sin remains.''
For my thoughts on this Gospel pericope in relation to what I have said, I shall leave to your imagination...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Octave of the Sacred Heart...

This useless period of eight days was instituted by Pius XI in 1928 and abolished by Pius XII in 1956, so it lasted 28 years - older than me but still all in the lifetime of people still living - Pope Benedict XVI for one. Is it really worth observing an Octave that has no theological or liturgical value and was moreover (rightly) abolished in less than 30 years? I actually agree with Pius XII on this one, although our motives for the abolition would be different - rather like the time I spoke to a Jesuit about the Latin Mass Society; he said they have very strange ideas. I agreed, and after a short conversation, we both laughed - he didn't like them because they were ''too traditional'' - I have never liked them because they're not traditional enough!

Unlike Pius XII though I'd have gone further. I'd have used my God-given authority as Supreme Pontiff to utterly abolish the Feast altogether, and any traces of devotion to it. This we, the Vicar of Christ, the mediator of all graces, do solemnly publish, sanction, command, decreeing that this, our order, shall be always and everywhere effective unto the consummation of the world. Wherefore let no one infringe or oppose this, our abolition, and will. But if anybody shall presume to attempt this let, him know that he will incur the wrath of almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

This is usually how Papal bulls on matters end, with some threat of eternal damnation if you don't fall into line - this is how Divino afflatu ended at any rate - basically telling priests that anyone who adhered to Tradition rather than Papal authority would not be fulfilling their Office and would be moreover guilty of no small sin. But if the Pope threatened to abolish the Feast of the Sacred Heart, on pain of excommunication, there'd be a public outcry - pious people would accuse him of the misuse of his authority, of being unjust to many people devoted to the Sacred Heart and of wanton tampering with the Faith, etc. That is a reasonable way of looking at it. So why are Popes allowed to do what they want with the Liturgy?

That, I think, no one will ever know. Either the Pope has not the authority to do as he wants with the Liturgy, after the manner of an irresponsible tyrant, and therefore Papal reform of Liturgy is manifestly an abuse and not easily reversible. Or the Pope has this authority and...well I can't really conceive of ''what next'' I in danger of schism (or alone) in thinking that I would rather have an ancient liturgical Tradition than a despot Pope who thinks he can do what he wants with it? Because if Traditionalists think that Popes have this authority then there is no justifiable reason for them to ''prefer'' the Old Rite to the New Rite. Surely to ''prefer'' one aspect in the liturgical Patrimony is to fly in the face of the aforesaid Papal authority?

Is there a sort of Magna Carta that tells Popes what they can and can't do? If there is, I'd like to see it...

Saturday, 12 June 2010


My post about Ultramontanism is taking longer to write than I had hoped. I had to cut a significant amount of it out earlier today, since I realised that I had completely gone off into the realms of the controversy about Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (re: the Papal concerns about the ambition of Constantinople in relation to minor metropolitan Sees in the East). By now I should be at least in the 8th century, but details are so important...As a sort of ''bridge-the-gap'' post, I was going to write a short post about Urban VIII's decision to rewrite the Breviary hymns in 1629, some of them having been in use for about 1000 years at the time, but I may incorporate this into the Ultramontanism post - it is yet another example of the monstrous misuse of authority to unwrite Tradition which is essentially the whole point of my rejection of Ultramontanism as a godless and pseudo-political system, unbecoming of the Petrine ministry. All in good time though.

Instead let us have a look at two Collects. This first one, from the Feast of St John Baptist de la Salle, a Confessor:

Deus, qui ad christianam pauperum eruditionem, et ad iuventam in via veritatis firmandam, sanctam Ioannem Baptistam Confessorem excitasti, et novam per eum in Ecclesia familium collegisti: concede propitius; ut eius intercessione et exemplo, studio gloriae tuae in animarum salute ferventes, eius in caelis coronae participes fieri valeamus. Per Dominum.

Goes on and on a bit doesn't it? A bit too flowery for the Roman Rite? Too many ''explanations'' perhaps? If whoever composed this Collect wanted to be extra meticulous I wonder that he used excitasti in place of excitavisti; similarly with collegisti...Had I composed the Collect for this Feast, I'd have said something like: O God, thou who didst raise up blessed John Baptist thy Confessor as a teacher of the poor; grant mercifully, that by his intercession we may burn more brightly with the love of thee and never fail in charity for little ones. Through Our Lord... Brief, to the point, more in the spirit of the old Roman Collects than the present one. Compare it with the more ancient Collect for the Feria II in Holy Week:

Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus; ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus: intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus. Qui tecum vivit.

I very much like this Collect. It says: Grant, we beseech, Almighty God; that we, who fail from infirmity beneath so many adversities, may be revived [literally, ''get our breath back''] by the intercession of the Passion of your only begotten Son. Who with thee lives...

It is hard to translate passione and intercedente together - each takes the Ablative case in the original Latin, whereas this can't be rendered into good English articulately, so I have used a Genitive case instead.

There is a profound difference in ethos, not only length and language, between these two Collects. The former is a good contribution to rhetoric, but falls quite short (in my humble opinion) of the old Roman tradition of the oratio ad collectam, which goes back to the Leonine Sacramentary (many of the oldest may well have been composed by St Leo, which mercifully are still to be found in the Missal - and it is noteworthy that this was a period when Latin was still a spoken tongue whereas the former composition it remained merely as the language of lore and Liturgy). The latter is pure genius and piety, the interpenetration of sound religion with excellent Latinity. I wonder what sort of influence the chap who composed the former Collect was under? Certainly not Roman. I must say that the first time I heard it, it put me off for the rest of Mass...

Friday, 11 June 2010

The '62 Rite...

Don't worry! I have done enough ranting about novelty for one week, moreover I am trying to finish off my post about Ultramontanism (it may go into two more posts because of the greatness of the period covered). Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press has put up an interesting post today about his newly acquired 1962 Missale Romanum, published in 1964, and incorporating many of the subsequent changes made to the Ordo Missae, the Proprium de Tempore etc, such as English Introits, Psalm 42 made optional for much of the year etc.

Pop over and have a read. It is more or less a two-fingered gesture to certain ''traditionalist'' organisations who parade about in the smug delusion that they're superior to the tambourine-waving yokels down the road because they love ''tradition'' so much...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The ''Sacred Heart'' of Jesus...

A word on the Latin cult of the ''Sacred Heart'' of Jesus...

I never liked this feast. Even as a child, on trips to my grandparents' house in Cornwall, I always shied away from their majestic portrait of the Sacred Heart over the mantelpiece - it intimidated me. It reminds me of one of the more amusing quotes from Angela's Ashes is: ''Why is the man's heart on fire?'' I always preferred the large Spanish crucifix my Irish grandmother salvaged from Spain in the mid-1970's. I'd spend hours staring at it. I was a strange boy...

Anyway, I think there is something very queer about devotion to the Sacred Heart - it detracts somewhat from the one worship of Christ's one Person. It is clearly a ''pious devotion'' that has influenced the Church's Liturgy - to great detriment. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, like Corpus Christi, is relatively modern. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that it was familiar by about the 12th century and, like Low Mass, it spread rapidly throughout Christendom. It wasn't until the 17th century that the devotion, which quite rightly had hitherto remained strictly private, was celebrated as an actual ''feast'' with its own Office. To her credit, 18th century Rome refused to grant indulgence for a universal institution of the ''feast'' (to celebrate what exactly?!), but under pressure from the French bishops she eventually caved in, and in 1856 Pope Pius IX made it a Greater Double, and in 1889 Leo XIII made it a Double of the First Class. Once again, where you'd expect the bureaucracy of a centralized Papacy to come in handy in stamping out an enthusiasm, she goes ahead and recognizes it, and even makes it Liturgy - just like Low Mass at the Council of Trent. It is noteworthy that the ugliest church in France is dedicated to the Sacred Heart...

Hideous beyond belief...

As I have said, devotion to the ''Sacred Heart'' detracts from the one and inseparable worship due to God the Son, according to both the Divinity and Humanity, since both are inseparably united in the one Hypostasis of the Word. Canon IX of Constantinople II (an Ecumenical Council, and therefore binding on all Christians) says: If anyone shall take the expression, Christ ought to be worshipped in his two natures, in the sense that he wishes to introduce thus two adorations, the one in special relation to God the Word and the other as pertaining to the man; or if anyone to get rid of the flesh, [that is of the humanity of Christ,] or to mix together the divinity and the humanity, shall speak monstrously of one only nature or essence of the united (natures), and so worship Christ, and does not venerate, by one adoration, God the Word made man, together with his flesh, as the Holy Church has taught from the beginning: let him be anathema.

In the light of this canon of Constantinople II, does not the cult of the ''Sacred Heart'' seem out of harmony with the constant Tradition of the Church? Clearly the devotion was a Medieval ''enthusiasm'' - like the strange practice of going to church purely to see the Elevation of the Sacred Host (held aloft sometimes for minutes on end), or on the Feast of Corpus Christi throwing about pieces of unconsecrated bread. To me, devotion to the Sacred Heart is just as decent as devotion to the most holy bowel-movements of Christ. Liturgy should direct pious devotions, not the other way round. The foundation of the Church's life, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, ought to be celebration of the Sacred Liturgy by the Bishop with the assistance of his Priests and Deacons, not pious devotions which detract from Liturgy.

At any rate, my chief objection to the ''Sacred Heart'' cult (leaving theological implications aside) is that it is new. And what was it the Romans used to say in Apostolic times? Nothing can be both new and true...

Much better. This Icon is full of symbolism; the perfectly round head, cruciform halo etc. Notice also that the hand with which Our Lord is imparting blessing is making use of the traditional Sign of the Cross.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sitemeter Statistics...

My new blog has now had well over 1,000 hits, and it's only over two weeks old. As you can see my ''average'' now (although it fluctuates a bit - the ''dip'' over the weekend was when I didn't post anything) is about 75 hits a day, which is more or less where I left off with Singulare Ingenium. Interestingly I get more Orthodox and High Church Anglican readers than Catholic ones - someone said the other day that this ought to be cause for concern, but I don't think so necessarily. The Orthodox have more liturgical sense generally than most Catholics, and I consider most Catholics to be heretics, in a state of de facto schism with their own liturgical tradition (the logical consequence of Papal interference in Liturgy and such ''traditionalist'' organisations as the Latin Mass Society, who deliberately pull the wool over the eyes of sincere faithful who long for Tradition - expecting Miranda and they're greeted by Caliban more often than not) anyway.

Do take the time to congratulate Fr Hunwicke on the anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Heresy of Ultramontanism, part I...

''There is no doubt, indeed it is known to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, Prince and Chief of the Apostles, column of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom, and that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was given to him, and he till the present time and always lives and judges in his successors...'' (These words were uttered by Philip, a presbyter sent as Apostolic legate of Pope Celestine I with bishops Arcadius and Proiectus to the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, A.D 431).

In my last post I questioned the legitimacy of ''offering up'' to God the thoughts of a mind made bitter by liturgical abuse and scandal - my supposition being that you cannot offer up to God that which takes away from God. This post, in two (or perhaps three, it is developing as I write)installments (since it is quite long), is an endeavour to clear up any ambiguity readers might have about my disposition on the Papacy.

The Petrine ministry is as old as the Church, older in fact, going back to that time when Our Lord entrusted to St Peter the Keys of the Kingdom, fortified him with the command of strengthening the brethren, of binding and loosing, and of feeding the Sheep. St Peter, alone of the Apostles, is mentioned some 191 times in the New Testament. By comparison, all the other Apostles combined are named about 130 times (although St John the Beloved features prominently among them). The name of Peter is mentioned always first in any list of the Apostles, just as the name of Judas is always mentioned last, and, needless to say, this is a recognisable pattern which has theological (as well as liturgical - you must never isolate Theology from Liturgy, at your peril, for Liturgy is the source of Theology) significance, and the Church, the only legitimate exegete, has articulated this pattern into a coherent and apostolic teaching. These thoughts are not an objection to the Roman teaching about the Petrine ministry, but rather a critique of certain excesses which have crept into the Church over a period of centuries, which I think are detrimental to the liturgical Tradition of the Church.

While I am certainly enamoured of Tradition, I have never understood obstinate appeals to antiquity as the yardstick of all orthodoxy. As J.R.R Tolkien wisely said: ''primitiveness is no guarantee of value'' (he was referring, of course, to liturgical decadence, which he said was as much a problem in the time of St Paul, vis-à-vis his strictures on Eucharistic behaviour, as it was in 1968). One of the greatest tasks of the Church, which is a living church and ought constantly to be engaged with the times, is of passing on the Apostolic Tradition in tact from one generation to the next in order to safeguard the orthodoxy of subsequent generations. This is the fundamental principle and end of Tradition. Just as the Lord is the same yesterday, today and in aeternum, so is the Catholic Tradition - or ought to be (leaving aside questions of ''development'' for the time being). Now, while I do not consider looking at the sources, the rudiments, of the Faith as always a good (not out of fear that the sources do not speak for modern notions of ''papacy'', but rather that there is a danger of a Protestant disposition in looking to the sources, to make my own subjective judgement of these sources the final standard of orthodoxy) it is nevertheless sensible to start from the beginning.

We're all familiar with Matthew 16:18 (And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.), the classic ''proof'' of St Peter's primacy; naturally this seems the obvious place to start, but there is an intrinsic danger of undermining the correct exegesis of the Scriptures when taking passages in isolation from the rest of Tradition - indeed, I think it renders comprehension of the Scriptures more difficult. Mainstream Protestant interpretation of this controversial passage tends to separate St Peter's confession from St Peter himself, thereby creating the implausible etymological dichotomy between Petra and Petros, when in reality they are one and the same words. Their's is manifestly a (deliberate, I daresay) misinterpretation of Scripture. Petra (the Greek for ''rock'') and Petros (the same word turned into a masculine proper name) both translate the masculine Aramaic word for rock, namely Kepha, or Cephas in a Greek form. If early commentators often took the reference of Mt 16:18 to be to Peter’s faith, it was simply because the notion that the verse bestows unique authority on Peter and that the Petrine office is continued in the Church uniquely by the Bishop of Rome didn’t occur to them. St Cyprian of Carthage took the verse to refer to the authority possessed in each See by the bishop of that See. If as Catholics we believe that Christ has bestowed unique authority on the Pope, we naturally read this verse in the light of this doctrine, but I don’t think that many theologians today would argue that supreme papal authority can be proved from this verse. I certainly don't think it can.

It is a fallacy that all bishops are essentially the same and equal. When the Apostles were all dead, each local church had a fixed hierarchy made up of local bishop, presiding in the place of God, priests (essentially assistants and the ministers of the bishop in the ritus or liturgy), and deacons, who performed the ministry of the Lord in evangelisation, preaching, and the apostolic care of the poor. (Curiously, since the spread of Low Mass, the role of the Deacon has been curtailed in the Latin West, and much of his former prerogatives have been adopted by the Priest, so much so that his role was solely limited to assisting immediately to the Celebrant at High Mass, and even at Mass he did very little. Until the Second Vatican Council, the diaconate was seen as merely a stepping stone to the priesthood - a mentality at stark contrast with the Tradition of the Church, and which contributed to the false notion that the bishop has the ''fulness of sacramental Orders.'' I wonder how many Latin priests see their vocation as a stepping stone to the episcopate? The restoration of the permanent diaconate is one of the many good things accomplished by Vatican II). Later, as the Church became a more established entity within the Roman world, a further organisation arranged the relationship of bishops with each other. By the time of the Council of Nicaea (A.D 325), there was already in existence a complex arrangement of exarchs, metropolitans, suffragans, archbishops etc (at this time, the title patriarch was used merely for more venerable bishops), and it was customary for bishops of the more important towns and cities (such as, obviously, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, the primacy of these Sees being recognised at Nicaea according to ''ancient custom'') to exercise episcopal jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of their own dioceses. The reason for this (with the exception of the Bishop of Rome, who is a special case) is that the Faith had come first to the more important cities, so naturally, with Missions going out from the more important cities, the Bishop of the city would exercise jurisdiction of the mission territory, and would ordain the new local bishop. By the Council of Chalcedon (A.D 451) there existed a Pentarchy of great Sees (Patriachates): Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem; Constantinople (originally the most insignificant diocese in Asia; it is not even an apostolic see, but the curious rise and ambition of this diocese is beyond the scope of this post) being the least of them.

The unique authority of Rome as the mother and teacher of all the churches was undisputed in the early Church. Already in the 1st century St Clement of Rome (the fourth Pope) sent to the church in Corinth (far away from the diocese of Rome) his Epistle, admonishing the Christians there to receive back their ecclesiastical superiors; and the sending (and reception) of this epistle indicates that he had sufficient Apostolic authority to do so. St Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the 2nd century, is content to quote against herestics ''the greatest, most ancient and best known Church, founded and constituted by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, at Rome,'' because ''every church, that is, the faithful from all parts, most agree with [or ''go to''] this Church on account of her mightier rule, and in her the tradition of the Apostles has always been kept by those who are from all sides'' (convenire ad literally means ''to go with to'', but it can also mean ''agree with'' - both are acceptable readings of this passage). Rome (practically the Bishop thereof) was the final court of appeal (if an Ecumenical Council did not suffice) in ecclesiastical disputes. When a finer point of faith was in question, naturally the churches looked to the first and oldest of the churches, Rome. Sozomen says of the heretic Macedonius: ''When this question was moved, and when the quarrel grew from day to day, the Bishop of the City of Rome having heard of it wrote to the Eastern churches that they must confess the Trinity consubstantial, equal in honour and glory, just as the Western bishops do. When he had done this, all were silent, as the controversy was ended by the decision of the Roman Church, and the decision was seen to be at an end.'' St Augustine of Hippo says in one of his sermons: Roma locuta est, causa finita est. Even St Cyril of Alexandria, the yardstick of orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon (even St Leo's Tome, the great Western Christological statement, had to agree with Cyril - this is indicated by the lengthy discussion of the Tome in the fourth session), appealed to the authority Pope Celestine I in his disputes with the heretic Nestorius, because of the ''ancient custom of the Church'' to communicate them with Rome.

So far we have seen the development of a hierarchy of deacons, priests and bishops in the aftermath of the Apostolic age, the development of an elaborate relationship of exarchs to metropolitans and local bishops, the advent of the great Pentarchy, and the unique position of the greatest of all these Sees - Rome. The next post shall go over the development of the Roman Primacy in the West in subsequent centuries, ill-feelings in the East, the Great Schism, and the encroachment of a fundamentally anti-Evangelical and untraditional Ultramontane system and the implications of this godless pseudo-political system for the Church's Liturgy.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Offer it up?

In my days as a Catholic Traditionalist, I used to (like my fellow traddies) look down my nose at schismatics, tambourine-waving yokels, High Church Anglicans, even the Orthodox, because I considered the Catholic Church, with her monarch-bishop in Rome, completely aliturgical episcopate (not to mention the countless secular clergy, Religious and laity - more fond of pious devotions such as the Rosary than real liturgy), Sacred Congregation of Rites (or whatever it's called nowadays - a nasty wretched little oligarchy created so that some pen-pushing cleric in Rome could have a job), her lovely 1962 liturgy and subsequent liturgical reforms, promulgated through Papal authority, and a tradition generally mudded by ''development'' etc, to be the True Church. The Roman claim to be so aside for a moment, I'd like to consider the question as to why, if we are privy to liturgical abuse and scandal, we are supposed to ''offer it up.''

The idea of ''offering it up'' (whatever ''it'' is) in a liturgical context is a fond fancy and seems to me to be a pretentious way of maintaining one's loyalty to the Apostolic See whilst putting oneself through obviously defective (even heretical - I would consider the abomination of the Folk Mass to be heretical, and partakers in such ''liturgy'' as heretics) liturgy because of one's ''obligation'' to do so. I would be interested if a reader provided me with evidence from the vitae sanctorum, the Scriptures or the Fathers of the Church of Christians ever having to tolerate heresy in worship, scandal and abuse as the litmus test of one's loyalty to Rome. ''Offering up'' one's feelings of profound bitterness at liturgical abuse can only be directed as a choking smoke in the sight of God's Altar in Heaven. It makes absolutely no sense to me to attend a '62 Rite liturgy (and some traddies, the SSPX for instance, actually think they're superior and safely above the tambourine-waving yokels you'll find in most Catholic churches because of this - to me they're in the same boat - both damnable heretics, both with an unreasonable contempt of Tradition) or a New Rite Mass with a postcommunion dance or whatever and to say to oneself: ''I know what is going on here is a blasphemous farce - I know, I'll offer it up, because by putting myself through this nonsense, I'm gaining brownie points with the Lord!'' Still, the wicked shall be turned into hell (Psalm 9:17). But why bother putting yourself through it in the first place?

And then there's me. Because I love Tradition and hate novelty I would rather attend an Old Rite High Mass in an Anglo-Catholic or Western Rite Orthodox church than a '62 Rite Mass (or even more monstrous, the spectacle of a '62 Rite feast following pre-'62 rubrics) in a Catholic church, however reverently it is offered. As regards Anglo-Catholics, I just got silly ideas of ''validity'' out of my head. Apostolicae Curae is a century out of date, and doesn't account for various developments, both within the Anglican church and the Roman Church, in the last century. The constitution also does not account for the modern manner of conferring Orders in the Roman Rite. Indeed, I wonder sometimes that the Roman Church has not abandoned its hauteur and separatism in this regard since we have an embarrassing century of liturgical deform to account for. Anglicans may have women ''priests'' and ''bishops'', but the Catholic Church has an equally spurious ''liturgy'' - Novus Ordo and its older cousin the '62 Rite. At least with the Anglo-Catholics the reverent externals of traditional Liturgy are present - and I daresay, sometimes God must fain send down the Holy Ghost upon the Altars of those in schism with Rome who do Liturgy properly, but must withhold the Sacraments from those Catholic-heretics (the aliturgical folk, the damnable heretics, the very brood of vipers) who make a mockery of Liturgy.

So to come back to the question of ''offering it up'' - why bother when you can attend traditional Liturgy beyond the confines of Rome?