Friday, 30 July 2010

My advice to bloggers...

On average I get about 130-140 visitors to this blog a day. In the last week this has dropped (due to the lack of regular, and decent, posting - I also lost two ''followers'' after putting up that recent post about Pius XII and his haircut), but I sometimes wonder just how famous this small blog really is. I am convinced (from viewing some of my Sitemeter statistics, and one or two other things) that there are a number of readers who are quite famous in blogdom and think that this blog is like the pearl of great price, but sadly don't link to me because I am the only Catholic out there who talks any sense about Liturgy, especially about Summorum Pontificum, and they are just so beaten down with trivial things like politics, and keeping up the façade that Benedict XVI has made a quick-fix solution to a huge problem (by administering a small plaster to an enormous gash created by popes), that they just can't be seen to be in any way controversial...why bother? Speak your mind! I do! If you think that the Pope is an idiot, then go ahead and say so (I don't think that the present Pope is an idiot, just most of his 20th century predecessors). If you think that the Bishops are a host of spineless (even heretical!) morons, say so! If you think that the liturgical books of 1962 are a grotesque diabolical travesty of Liturgy which no-one in their right mind would admire, or think represents 2000 years of Catholic Tradition, then say so! I personally think that the liturgical books of 1962 were composed by Satan himself. If only people would face the facts and didn't make unnecessary compromises...

I don't like people who beat about the bush.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


I have a morbid interest in the phenomenon of the castrati - men who were forcibly mutilated at a young age so that their vocal ranges retained their child-like uniqueness. I imagine that this was a rather callous gamble with the child's life - I mean there never was a guarantee that the boy's singing voice would remain absolutely wonderful was there? Years ago I listened to the only record made of a castrato singing (Alessandro Moreschi, the last castrato of the Sistine Chapel, who died (scarily) in 1922 - in the lifetime of my grandfather!) part of Eugenio Terziani's Hostias et Preces (you can find it on wikipedia), and to be quite honest I fail to see why they were so popular. The man's voice sounds to my ears like a cat screeching, and I felt quite horrified listening to it. I once heard that Allegri composed his Miserere with the castrati in mind; can anyone verify this? I doubt I'd have enjoyed it so much had I heard it sung for the first time by a choir consisting solely of men...

I fail to see how the Church (and not only the Catholic Church) got around the very serious moral questions surrounding the castrati. There is no warrant for the horrid practice in the Scriptures - just a very liberal interpretation of Matthew 19:12 and St Paul's command about the silence of women in church in 1Corinthians 14:34. Pope Benedict XIV tried to suppress the castrati in the 18th century, but so popular were they that he failed, although they declined eventually, until the Church stopped admitting castrati to the Sistine chapel choir in 1878.

I don't know this, of course, but what would the life of a castratus be like? I imagine that it must have been quite depressing, especially if the man had wanted to sire children. What do we think of castrati these days? I think personally that they were a huge mistake, and the practice laid the lives of many boys in ruin.
The above photo is of Mgr Lorenzo Perosi, Maestro Perpetuo della Cappella Sistina between 1898 and 1956 (gosh didn't he see many changes!) and the Sistine Chapel choir. Perosi saw the final departure of the castrati from the Vatican in 1913, when Alessandro Moreschi retired.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


I try to keep this blog updated on a daily basis (I have nothing else going for me at the moment) but my mood has once again hit rock bottom since last week and I just haven't had the inclination. I began the composition of several posts, two about Liturgy (on the magnitude of Pius XII's reforms, only to find that Rorate Caeli had already done so (and far better than my own feeble attempt), and another on the question of the Julian Kalendar - how Liturgy, which is the sanctification of Time, can both transcend Time and be consonant with it), and one about the Papacy (how differently, even in the early Church, the Papacy was seen by east and west), but each was simply cut short because I got ''bored'' with them. The Papacy one basically ended with a discussion about how ''pentarchy'' compromises the Petrine ministry, and how the relationship of Western Christians to their Patriarch in Rome was naturally more ''intense'' than Eastern Christians; the question of language, going back to antiquity, the differences in nuance and meaning between Latin and Greek - Latin being more legalistic in the first place than Greek (it is such a logical language, far more so than English), and how this effected Western theology (St Augustine, greatest of the Latin Fathers, already spoke of the ''Greek church''), and after all this I simply wrote: ''Oh, what's the bloody point'', and I haven't looked at it since. Even more adventurous would be a post about the Filioque, although I am not trained enough in theology for that sort of thing.

Before I went to sleep last night I picked up The Lord of the Rings and began to read it, but got ''bored'' by the end of the second page. This has never happened to me before. I have read The Lord of the Rings countless times since I was 9 years old, and have never once got bored with it, which you might expect given my familiarity with the text. Is ''boredom'' the right word though? How could I possibly be bored with The Lord of the Rings? And now I am being called to do the washing up, which usually takes me at least an hour and a half (which I probably won't finish before I have to go to work), and even though I only do a five hour shift I'll come home feeling exhausted, then more washing up, then bedtime. Since I sleep late now, because I can't sleep at night, I wake up usually by around 1:30pm so I don't eat anything before I go to work, which means that I come close to fainting by the time that my 15 minute break comes around (at around 8:00pm and the only respite from the nightmare), and I don't much like eating Morrison's food so I don't eat anything before I get home at nearly 10:00pm (by which time my brother is fast asleep so I don't see much of him during the week), and I have to finish the washing up...just life's cycles.

Please don't tell me that I ''lack perspective'' - I get enough of this from my parents. Perspective means nothing to the individual, and it's just a veiled way of saying: ''you have no right to complain about your problems because there are others considerably worse off than you''...normal blogging will resume when I can be bothered.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Cooking things was what appealed to Georgina. ''Let's make caramels,'' she said.

I was surprised that two people in a kitchen could make caramels. I thought of them as a mass-production item, like automobiles, for which complicated machinery was needed.

But, according to Georgina, all we needed was a frying pan and sugar.

''When it's caramelized,'' she said, ''we pour it into little balls on waxed paper.''

The nurses thought it was cute that we were cooking. ''Practicing for when you and Wade get married?'' one asked.

''I don't think Wade is the marrying kind,'' said Georgina.

Even someone who's never made caramels knows how hot sugar has to be before it caramelizes. That's how hot it was when the pan slipped and I poured half the sugar onto Georgina's hand, which was holding the waxed paper straight.

I screamed and screamed, but Georgina didn't make a sound. The nurses ran in and produced ice and unguents and wrappings, and I kept screaming, and Georgina did nothing. She stood still with her candied hand stretched out in front of her.

I can't remember if it was E. Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy who said, during the Watergate hearings, that he'd nightly held his hand in a candle flame till his palm burned to assure himself he could stand up to torture.

Whoever it was, we knew about it already: the Bay of Pigs, the seared skin, the bare-handed killers who'd do anything. We'd seen the previews, Wade, Georgina, and I, along with an audience of nurses whose reviews ran something like this: ''Patient lacked affect after accident''; ''Patient continues fantasy that father is CIA operative with dangerous friends.'' (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Benedictio aquarum...

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters, Alleluia, the God of glory thundereth, Alleluia.

A few months ago, at a friend's kind suggestion, I purchased a copy of The Blessing of the Waters on the Eve of the Epiphany (1901), arranged and translated from the original Latin, Greek, Syriac, Coptic and Russian by John, Marquess of Bute, and E.A Wallis Budge. It is a fascinating text, and the original, ''Old Rite'' (we might say), Latin ceremonies bear a striking similarity to the ceremonies of the other Rites.

Unfortunately most of the rubrics for the Latin version are obscure, scarce and in Italian (which I find rather strange), so I cannot give a detailed outline of the ceremony. On the Eve of the Epiphany (one of the four Greats of the liturgical year - I believe that only Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany and Christmas should have the rank of ''double of the first class'' - but this is besides the point), after the chanting of the ninth lesson at Mattins, the priest, vested in cope and with sacred vestments, with the Deacon and Subdeacon, likewise fully vested, preceded by Acolytes bearing the candles and processional Cross and the Thurifer, and choir, come to the appointed place. As they process a Responsory (Hodie caeli aperti sunt) is chanted. The rest of this ''old rite'' Latin version, which goes on for another 41 pages in my copy, is taken up with various Antiphons, Responsories, Blessings, Exorcisms, Scripture lessons and Psalms. As I have said, the rubrics are not entirely clear, although the text is very interesting for translation.

A footnote on the first page reads:

''When the writer saw the ceremony performed in the church of Sant' Andrea in Valle, at Rome, the water was in a large silver vessel somewhat like a wine-cooler, placed upon a table in the middle of the Nave. In Egypt there are tanks for the purpose adjoining the churches in the cities; but he understands that in Christian districts the Nile itself is blessed, and it seems to be more usual to bless a natural river where it can conveniently be done. At St Petersburg this is the Neva, in the frozen surface of which a hole is cut in order to get at the water, near which is a chapel beautifully decorated, in honour of the Baptist, built of blocks of ice. In Abyssinia, if the stream nearest to the church is not sufficiently large, it is dammed at a convenient spot so as to make a pool.''

Interestingly there are two forms in the Latin Rite; the ''Old Rite'' one which I have already mentioned, and a ''New Form,'' approved by the S.R.C in 1898. Bute says:

''This form is chiefly interesting as marking an entire variance from the ancient form used in the Church of Rome, and also in all other churches. Those forms are all in commemoration of the baptism of Christ, while in this that subject is entirely ignored and the form made simply one for blessing holy water to be used against evil spirits.''

The Old Rite version is 41 pages long, and features lengthy chants and long prayers of exorcism. The ''new form'' is 3 pages long and seems to be little different from the blessing of ordinary holy water before High Mass on Sunday. The tale, as long as years of torment, of liturgical deform in the Roman Rite goes on...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


I'd like to know exactly how this man combed his hair so that the horns didn't show...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Attend to the East...

The absolute worst thing you can do liturgically is face the wrong way...discuss [I shall in time write something more detailed on this most critical of subjects, but poor old Patricius is back to work today and is rather short of time and inclination at the moment].

Saturday, 17 July 2010


This painting (by Vasily Perov) depicts an Old Ritualist priest Nikita Pustosviat disputing with Patriarch Joachim the Confession of Faith.

I was thinking this morning what the use of authority is when authority so obviously departs from ancient norms and liturgical tradition. In the above painting, it is a poor lonely priest (whose attire is clearly in stark contrast to that of the Partiarch's retinue) who questions the liturgical changes brought about by Patriarch Nikon, which history shows was not wanted by anyone in the first place and the Greek liturgical forms, which Nikon sought to emulate, were in fact the newer ones. I have written about the Old Believers before, and while such things as using three instead of two fingers to make the Sign of the Cross, or the direction of a liturgical procession, might seem to Western eyes, long accustomed to arbitrary change, as rather trivial, to the Orthodox such changes are of fundamental importance, and could mean the difference between the profession of heresy, or even complete apostasy from the Faith, or not. It's the little things, as much as the whole, that constitute the Liturgy, and thereby also the Faith.

The Old Ritualists in Russia were harshly persecuted. It was the age of Cuius Regio, eius Religio (which had disastrous consequences for the Church of England - how ironic that this same principle was fundamental to the conversion of the English people to the Faith in the first place!), and anyone who dared question the changes was either driven as an exile into Siberia to wander hopelessly, or was burned at the stake, which was probably the fate of the aforesaid priest. Aren't we in the West lucky that the changes brought about under 20th century Popes were not enforced on pain of death - but it is certainly interesting to wonder that if they were brought about 450 years ago whether there'd be such a furor about them now, and what a ''traditionalist'' might be like. Would they still exist? The Old Believers, sundered from the Moscow Patriarchate (the ''authority''), went into schism and eventually splintered into many sects (many of them downright heretical), some don't (because of the ''apostasy'' of the Orthodox hierarchy) have priests or bishops of their own and merely hold prayer meetings led by some sort of elder, others still have a hierarchy of a sort and retain the ante-Nikonian liturgical tradition. Would the old Western traditionalists have a hierarchy? Would they be as fanatical as their Russian equivalents? That I think no one will ever know...

The history of the Old Ritualists just goes to show the fine balance which ought to exist between authority and tradition. Authority should conform to Tradition not the other way around. If only juridical hermeneutics of ecclesiology could be shaken off by Catholics and we could return to the simplicity of St Ignatius of Antioch's famous, and self-evidently liturgical, formula: Where the Bishop is there let the multitude of believers be, even as where Jesus is there is the Catholic Church. I don't see why we should accept, as Catholics, what the Church does with the Sacred Liturgy as acceptable when it so obviously is not acceptable. This is why I hate the liturgical books of 1962 and think that Summorum Pontificum is not so great as people make it out to be. Summorum Pontificum only exists because of a false understanding of the Petrine ministry. Pope Benedict has just as little authority to create a distinction between the so-called ''extraordinary'' and ''ordinary'' forms of the Roman Rite as Pius XII had to do away with folded chasubles. That authority simply does not exist. Popes are the guardians of Tradition, not the lords thereof, and 20th century Popes have failed, failed spectacularly, at their jobs. In 1957 (in the immediate aftermath of the new ''restored'' Holy Week) Tolkien wrote to his grandson Michael, and said quite rightly that God ''won't be dictated to by high ecclesiastics whom he himself has appointed.'' Of course he said this in the context of his translation of Jonah, who fled into Ninevah from the face of the Lord.

Of course, there is also an inherent danger in separating oneself from the Church (you only have to look at the various Protestant sects - Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses - which in a certain sense resemble some of the most extreme Old Ritualists of the Russian Church) completely. Schism heals nothing. I perceive the providence of God, then, in the fact that Pius XII was born in 1876 rather than 1576...


Utinam habitare possim in terra vallis auri cantantis...

Friday, 16 July 2010

A pertinent question...

I am not a ''traditionalist.'' Traditionalism is a rather recent reactionary movement which is doomed to failure (unless it has not already failed) because it seeks to emulate the errors of the pre-Conciliar church (and they are many). I daresay that it is thus in the same class as such things as modernism (just another 'ism'), a 19th century reaction against the infallibism of Pius IX, and soundly condemned by Pius X. It is greatly ironic that George Tyrell's understanding of Liturgy was more holistic and traditional than Pius X's - George Tyrell being a man held in contempt by Traditionalists, and Pius X (a man who did more violence to Tradition than any Modernist could) seen as the arch-defender and guardian of Tradition. Both, in my view, appear to have been exponents of an understanding of the Church which is fundamentally inimical to the Apostolic Tradition. Modernism is a heresy - it can offer nothing to the Church except doctrinal relativism. But then Ultramontanism is also a heresy - this false understanding of the Papacy has demonstrably had catastrophic effects on the Sacred Liturgy, and can offer nothing to the Church except fanatical legalism and an untraditional cult of the Pope - seeing not only Liturgy, but also Theology in merely juridical terms, and hanging onto the Pope's every word as though it were the very breath of the Holy Ghost.

I think that since I have started this blog, or rather the other one, I have been poorly understood. ''I can't work you out!'' Someone on another blog accused me of heresy for thinking I am ''more catholic than the Pope'' (and someone else thinks I am a Jansenist!); others are confused that I seem to advocate an even more traditional approach to Liturgy than most Trads (you know, things like Joe the Worker and Signum Magnum on the feast of St Mary's Assumption - Propers which are simply unworthy of the feast) whilst I simultaneously think that the High Altar is no place for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, Tabernacles really ought to be either in the Presbytery or a side Chapel, the Bishop's Throne ought to be in the apse of the church rather than on the Gospel side (the Ceremonial of Bishops still provides for this arrangement), I advocate Communion under both kinds (and I have no real theological problem with the communicants standing either - but I would have them receive less frequently, and having fasted from Midnight, as is traditional), the permanent Diaconate, decentralization of the Church, free-standing Altars etc. When I was talking to my mother a few weeks ago about the damnable heresies of the Sacred Heart cult she asked: ''what do you believe Patrick?'' Hmmmm...

Is there a label for little old me? I hope this doesn't sound too pretentious but I am rather fond of the term Old Believer - the term used of the old ritualists of the Russian Orthodox church who repudiated the reforms of Patriarch Nikon. Since I hail from the Roman Church of about the 12th century this seems especially apposite. I am a fundamentally liturgical person, and there is no hope for the Church outside of traditional Liturgy. There is no quick-fix solution to the liturgical crisis but for the meantime I would have the Pope abolish the New Rite (and '62) as an aberration having no intrinsic value, and I would have the Church go back to the Mass and Office as they were before 1911, using the hymns of the Breviary as they were before 1629. Only later can we work on things such as Communion under both kinds and a sacramental concelebration rather than Low Mass, the curtailment of other late accretions etc...

But to what extent does this treatment of Liturgy express rather artificiality than Tradition? Am I another Bugnini or Antonelli for trying to forever fix the Liturgy in some era (I am not advocating this, but mentioning particular dates is always going to entail this criticism)? He alone sees all ends though...

The above image is the famous fresco from the cathedral church of Orvieto of the Antichrist. It could well be how the Devil whispered the text of Maxima Redemptionis into the ears of Pius XII...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Morgoth's Ring...

I can't be bothered with Liturgy at the moment so a nice Tolkien post will do...

The Silmarillion, containing the vast corpus of the canonical history of Middle-earth and Valinor, is really the compromise of a compromise - narratives, some of them very beautiful, being curtailed or missed out altogether, often for the sake of publication, sometimes because one manuscript or typescript doesn't agree with a later one, or the published Lord of the Rings etc. One such story is that of the making of the Sun and Moon - in The Book of Lost Tales it comprises a whole lengthy chapter, whereas in the published Silmarillion the whole narrative is cut down, many ancient (and to a certain extent theological) elements have been lost, to the detriment of the Tale, and the whole feel of the later version is rather compendious and succinct. As such, I prefer The History of Middle-earth to the canonical stuff - which, by comparison, is often quite ''boring'', and to a certain extent reflects the growing tendency in Tolkien's later work (cf. Myth's Transformed, Volume 10 of The History of Middle-earth) to ''rationalize'' everything.

One such story, which I shall relate here in part, is that of The Darkening of Valinor, which is quite at variance with what you'll find in The Silmarillion.

When Manwë heard of the ways that Melkor had taken, it seemed plain to him that Melkor purposed to escape to his old strongholds in the North of Middle-earth, as was indeed his most likely course. Though there was little hope in this, Oromë and Tulkas with many of their folk went with all speed northward, seeking to overtake him if they might; but they found no trace or rumour of him beyond the shores of the Teleri, and in the unpeopled wastes that draw near to the Ice they could hear no tidings even from the birds. Therefore at length they returned, but the watch was redoubled along all the northern fences of Aman.

This indeed Melkor had expected; but he had other things to do before he would return to Middle-earth, and ere the pursuit set out, indeed ere the messengers came to Valmar, he had turned back and in great secrecy passed away far to the South. For Melkor was yet as one of the Valar, and he could still (though with pain) change his form, or walk unclad, as could his brethren; though that power he was soon to lose for ever.

Thus unseen he came at last to the region that once was called Avathar, beneath the eastern feet of the Pelóri; a narrow land it had become, eaten away by the Sea, and was long forsaken. There the shadows are deepest and thickest in the world. In Avathar, secret and unknown save to Melkor, dwelt Ungoliantë, and she had taken spider's form, and was a weaver of dark webs. It is not known whence she came, though among the Eldar it was said that in ages long before she had descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the light in the kingdom of Manwë. But she had disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness. To the South she had fled, and so had escaped the assaults of the Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had ever been to the North, and the South was long unheeded. Thence she had crept towards the light of the Blessed Realm; for she hungered for light and hated it.

In a ravine she lived and wove her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. All light she sucked up and spun it forth in dark nets of gloom. But now she was famished, and in great torment; for all living things had fled far away, and her own webs shut out from her all light that could come to her dwelling, whether through passes in the walls of Aman, or from the heavens above. Yet she had no longer the strength or will to depart.

Now Melkor sought for her, and he put on again the form that he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno: a dark Lord, tall and terrible. In that form he remained ever after. And when Ungoliantë saw him coming she was afraid, knowing his hatred for all who tried to escape from him. She shrank into her deepest lair, and tried to shroud herself in new shadow; but such darkness as in her famine she could weave was no defence against the eyes of Melkor, Lord of Utumno and Angband.

''Come forth!'' he said. ''Thrice fool: to leave me first, to dwell here languishing within reach of feasts untold, and now to shun me, Giver of Gifts, thy only hope! Come forth and see! I have brought thee an earnest of greater bounty to follow.'' But Ungoliantë made no answer, and retreated deeper into the cloven rock. Then Melkor was angered, for he was in haste, having reckoned his times to a nicety. ''Come forth!'' he cried. ''I have need of thee and will not be denied. Either thou wilt serve me, or I will bury thee here and under black stone thou shalt wither into naught.'' Then suddenly he held up in his hands two shining gems. They were green, and in that lightless place they reflected the dreadful light of his eyes, as if some ravening beast had come hunting there. Thus the great Thief set his lure for the lesser.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Fiery dragons...

793 In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the people. They consisted of immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine immediately followed those signs, and a little after that in the same year, 8th June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter. And Sicga died on 22nd February. (from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).

The ''heathen men'' were, of course, the '62 police. Were they wearing lace cottas I wonder...

Monday, 12 July 2010


Greek monks chanting the Office. Does anyone know the technical name of the wooden frame they're all leaning against? They're like choir stalls...

Leaving Egeria aside for one moment I'd like to consider something else liturgical. If you read the Ordinary prayers of the Roman Rite, many of which are among the most ancient features of the Rite, you'll oft come across the word ''circumstantes.'' This word refers literally to ''those standing nearby'', and comes from the verb ''circumsto'' which means ''I stand around'', or even ''surround''. For example, in the Diptychs of the Living in the Roman Canon the priest says:

Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N. et omnium circumstantium...[Be mindful, O Lord, of your servants and handmaids N. and N., and of all standing nearby...]

Likewise, in the offering of the Lamb (the Suscipe sancte Pater prayer) in the Offertory:

Suscipe, sancte Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus hanc immaculatam hostiam quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero tibi, Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis, et pro omnibus circumstantibus...[Accept, O holy Father, almighty eternal God this immaculate host which I, your unworthy servant, offer to you, to my true and living God, for my countless sins, offences and negligences, and for all those standing by...]

What then does ''circumstantes'' refer to? Is it some theological ideal, or some last relic of a long forgotten practice of people crowding the priest at the Altar? I think it is a combination of both these things (without the crowding part), and refers to the ancient posture of liturgical prayer which is standing, symbolising the Resurrection. For the last two weeks I have retired to the congregation to watch (unmolested by the duties of holding a torch to greet the Elevation) the Liturgy and I confess to getting rather impatient with the whole stand, sit, kneel routine - which is the aliturgical consequence of having pews clutter up a liturgical space. Could you imagine the huge difference to the ethos of the Roman Rite it would be if we suddenly did away with pews? This way the Nave of the church could once again be a real liturgical space, free for liturgical processions (when I attended a Pentecost Vigil in a nearby church earlier this year I was rather annoyed that I couldn't join the Procession to the Font (in the wrong place) because of the pews), and the Deacon could go around the church with the thurible and incense each and everyone (and the other statues and images in the church) at the Offertory of the Mass, rather than the current practice of the Thurifer giving the lay people three simple swings from the gates of the Quire.

Regarding the stand, sit, kneel routine (which effects not only the lay people but also the Sacred Ministers and clergy in choir), I have never quite understood the three degrees of ''emphasis'' inherent in this strange custom. Apologists of the routine tell me that we stand for the Prayers and Gospel (rightly so), we sit for other ''less important'' parts such as the Epistle and Offertory prayers, and we kneel for such things as the Canon and Prayers for Requiems. Kneeling is very apposite in certain liturgical contexts (such as during Lent and Holy Week, the most solemn and serious days in the year), but I would personally do away with all kneeling on Sundays and during Paschaltide. Requiems are interesting - what is the idea behind kneeling for the Prayers at a Mass of Requiem? The sombre character of the Catholic Requiem Mass appeals to me aesthetically and liturgically. The Propers (is the Dies Irae not part of the Ordinary of the Requiem Mass?) express that we are grieved and torn to pieces by our loss, but that we too hope in the general Resurrection and the fathomless mercy of God, but does kneeling for the Prayers not compromise the balance that the Requiem encapsulates? I would rather the Prayers be sung standing, the attitude common to all Prayers, the idea expressing the reality of the Resurrection.

Sitting is simply not a liturgical posture of any kind, and as I have said, I would reduce any seats in a church to those lined against the wall for the benefit of those who simply cannot stand for long periods.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Quid agis, hodie?

I left my house for the first time this week this morning, my mood having reached rock bottom in the course of the week (and having zero money), but I was glad that I did. I had the opportunity to catch up with one or two young friends whom I have missed and the day was pleasant. I even had the opportunity to peruse a ''traditional'' hymnal brought in by another friend, with a foreword by Bishop Williamson, which turned out to be not quite so traditional (the Office hymn for Christmas was a dead giveaway - it was the one composed by Urban VIII in 1629), which was fun. I must do a post about these hymns when I get the chance. Some of them were completely rewritten, others one or two words were changed around (why I don't know - since Latin is an inflected language word order doesn't matter so much as it does in English, although in hymnody and poetry I suppose word order is important in terms of emphasis...) in which case the changes are so meaningless that one wonders why they were made in the first place.

I received confirmation earlier this week from the admissions department at the University of London (I am not going to specify which college - those of you who know me personally will know) and I was offered an unconditional place. The degree (a BA in Classics) will be part-time over four years and will begin on 1st October. I am at the point now where I just wish I could get it over with - in September I shall have worked in the same shop for five years - but I suppose that each of us has a cross to carry. I just hope that the Day of Judgement isn't anytime soon (I could just about imagine hearing those glorious trumpets and thinking: ''God, I've wasted my life...'')

I do think, however, that lace cottas are a damnable heresy. They clearly undermine the doctrines of the Blessed Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, the Real Presence, overturn the Seven Sacraments and are rather extravagant and effeminate. You won't ever catch me wearing one again! I know you all think I am insane...

Do pop over and read Fr Hunwicke's latest posts (here and here) - he rightly derides the illiteracy and ignorance of most Art Historians (one of whom claimed today that the reason babies were baptised newly born in the Middle Ages was to prevent them from going to Purgatory...!)

Perhaps more Egeria tomorrow...

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Egeria is the most famous of Western pilgrims. She came out of the West (most likely Aquitaine) into the Holy Land between A.D 381 and 384. In this passage from the Itinerarium (the record of her journeys) she describes the pre-dawn liturgy at the Anastasis (a Greek genitive form meaning the ''Resurrection'' - this is the holy Sepulchre, the place from which the Lord came forth on Easter Day - in Egeria's time it was a cave (spelunca) in the rock surrounded by a colonnaded building and flanked by a screen, called the cancellus (which means ''lattice'')).

Here is her description (vulgarisms and Greek forms and all) of the pre-Dawn liturgy (ie: Mattins) at the Anastasis:

Ut autem sciret affectio vestra, quae operatio singulis diebus cotidie in locis sanctis habeatur, certas vos facere debui, sciens, quia libenter haberetis haec cognoscere. Nam singulis diebus ante pullorum cantum aperiuntur omnia hostia Anastasis et descendent omnes monazontes et parthene, ut hic dicunt, et non solum hii, sed et laici preter, viri aut mulieres, qui tamen volunt maturius vigilare. Et ex ea hora usque in luce dicuntur ymni et psalmi responduntur, similiter et antiphonae: et cata singulos ymnos fit oratio. Nam presbyteri bini vel terni, similiter et diacones, singulis diebus vices habent simul cum monazontes, qui cata singulos ymnos vel antiphonas orationes dicunt.

That your kindness may know, how the daily service is held in the holy places, I ought to make you certain, knowing that you would be glad to know these things. For everyday before the song of the cockerals all the doors of the Anastasis are opened and all monks and virgins go down, as they say here, and not these alone, but also lay people, men or women, who wish to keep vigil earlier. And from this hour even unto the dawn hymns are said [she means sung] and psalms are responded, in like manner antiphons also: and after each hymn a prayer is made. For the priests, similarly the deacons, together with the monks, two by two or three by three, take it in turns everyday to say prayers after each of the hymns or antiphons.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Itinerarium Egeriae...

Does anyone know where I can purchase a relatively cheap Latin copy of the Itinerarium Egeriae? I have tried Amazon and Abebooks but the ones listed there are rather out of my price range (why are most of the books I want so expensive? I missed a great opportunity at Pendlebury's a few weeks ago - they had a second-hand Liddell & Scott Greek lexicon for £30 - most of them are around the £100 mark, but I didn't have the money then, and it's gone now), and I don't know where else to look.

Egeria was a 4th century nun (this is the traditional theory) who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to experience Pontifical Liturgy there. I first encountered the Itinerarium, which is the diary of her experiences, when studying Late Latin at university. Her style is quite simple, but I wouldn't recommend Egeria for her style as much as what she says. I noticed one or two grammatical solecisms the last time I read it (maddeningly I can't find any of my old annotations of the text though) - which is interesting, considering the emergence of Romance languages (I wonder if this was indicative of the time generally?), but the content is fascinating - particularly, I found, the references to the Lucernarium, and the position of the Bishop's throne behind the Altar in the apse of the church. Here is another interesting liturgical sample from the Itinerarium:

Et diacono dicente singulorum nomina semper pisinni plurimi stant respondentes semper: kurie eleuson, quod dicimus nos: miserere Domine, quorum voces infinitae sunt.

Which can be rendered:

And the names of each of the many little ones standing by being said by the Deacon, they respond always with countless voices: Kyrie Eleison, whereas we say: Lord have mercy.

As Fortescue says, the Kyrie is not the last remnant of the old Greek Liturgy in Rome - it was a late addition from the East, which is interesting in the light of what Egeria says (do read it). It is sad that so little of the Roman Liturgy is Greek. Apart from the Kyrie we have the Trisagion on Good Friday, but that's it. I would personally rather have the Scriptures chanted in Greek than Latin, but there we are...

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A less-than-charitable Tolkien?

J.R.R Tolkien, my hero as you all know, read The Catholic Herald. I cannot recommend The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien enough - they are often very witty and intelligent. When Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien were arranging these letters in the late 1970s, they couldn't possibly incorporate each and every letter from Tolkien's life, many of which were deeply personal or were related to business, publication and academia, and many were probably lost too. I'd like to get my hands on some more of the stuff from the 1950s and 1960s - and possibly arrange them into a coherent corpus like A Bitter Trial. Sadly, Carpenter knew little of the Catholic Church, and certainly an end note in the index of The Letters, in which he tries to explain what Tolkien meant by his reference to the changes brought about under Pius X being the ''greatest'' (I wonder what he meant by this?) that he or his sons would see in their lives, is misleading.

I would like to draw attention to this very amusing letter though, written to Christopher Tolkien on 11th February 1945 (and numbered 80 in the series Pater ad filium natu sed haud alioquin minimum):

''I've wasted some precious time this week-end writing a letter to the Catholic Herald. One of their sentimentalist correspondents wrote about the etymology of the name Coventry, and seemed to think that unless you said it came from Convent, the answer was not 'in keeping with Catholic tradition'. 'I gather the convent of St Osburg was of no consequence,' said he: boob. As convent did not enter English till after 1200 A.D. (and meant an 'assembly' at that) and the meaning 'nunnery' is not recorded before 1795, I felt annoyed. So I have asked whether he would like to change the name of Oxford to Doncaster; but he's probably too stupid to see even that mild quip.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 97).

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Of the ''supreme pontiffs''...

I heard earlier (through various channels) that it is the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. When I conceived this post, I had planned on simply putting a photo of Pope Benedict XVI up and saying something like: ''Nothing interesting happened three years ago today.'' But for those of you who are perhaps confused as to why I reject Summorum Pontificum - ''the'' Motu Proprio - here are a few reasons.

Summorum Pontificum, along with the liturgical books of 1962, Low Mass and Ultramontanism is listed in the side bar under the heading ''Bad Things.'' The reason they are bad things is because they are all antiliturgical in certain ways. The liturgical books of 1962 are clearly just as much the result of committee work as the New Rite - shunned by Traditionalists as a Protestant-inspired Ecumenical liturgy. Low Mass, as I constantly tire of saying, is a liturgical abuse. Ultramontanism, as I explained in the Summa Liturgica, is a monstrous abuse of Papal primacy and Ultramontane popes have not ceased to tamper with the Sacred Liturgy. Summorum Pontificum is the crown of it all though. It says nothing whatsoever about the Old Rite (except in a few passing references, such as to Pope Gregory, and the ''what was sacred and great'' malarkey in the accompanying letter to the Bishops), and moreover is indicative of the fundamentally false assumption that Popes have some authority over the Sacred Liturgy (and wasn't Pius XII puffed up with this arrogance - I sincerely hope that he is never canonized). Am I alone in asking: since when did you need the Pope's permission to celebrate Mass?!

While the whole point of Summorum Pontificum is ''numquam abrogatam'', ''no permission necessary'' etc, these are all stinking red herrings and spurious arguments. The 1962 liturgical books were (rightly) abrogated by Missale Romanum of Paul VI. By implication of the Pope saying ''you don't need permission'' he is in fact saying that you do need permission - and not from the local bishop, but from the Pope himself. This is yet another example of Papal centralization, so rife since the Council of Trent and to the detriment of the Church's life. Since the Catholic Church is full of legal positivists (no doubt one of the malefits - a term coined by Tolkien - of ''Canon Law''), I suppose it was seen as a necessary evil for the Pope to say: ''you need my say-so to celebrate Mass according to an imagined 'extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite'', but this does not negate the more serious questions, which are: does the Pope have this authority over the Sacred Liturgy in the first place, and if so, does not the Tradition of the Church sit uneasily upon the whims and arbitrary decisions of modern Popes? What is going to stop the next Pope, when the present Holy Father pops his ecclesiastical clogs, from reversing Summorum Pontificum? What if the next Pope is a Modernist, and he suddenly says: ''There is only one Roman Rite in the Catholic Church, and this is according to the Pauline liturgical books. Any deviants from this rule will be in a state of schism with the Church''? It will be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Traditionalist circles when this happens! There is no point in arguing that this is not possible - if Pius XII can promulgate Maxima Redemptionis and pervert the Tradition of the Church by his authority, then future Popes have the same authority to reverse, mutilate, create novelties at their whims also - that is until an Ecumenical Council draws up a sort of Magna Carta telling Popes what they can and can't do. Although I sometimes wonder how much the Catholic Church can convincingly conceal her mistakes under the blanket of the so-called ''hermeneutic of continuity''...

In the days before Summorum Pontificum Traditionalists (most notably the SSPX and similar pressure groups, either at variance canonically with Rome or uneasily in communion with Rome) argued for a return to the 1962 books because of immemorial custom, and they ceased not to quote Pius V's bull Quo Primum in support of this argument. While this too is a monstrous calumny, it seems a much worthier argument for Tradition than the Pope's permission. I was a Traditionalist in the days prior to Summorum Pontificum - I think precisely because Traditionalists were at variance with Rome. In fact, I even welcomed Summorum Pontificum with the words of the Psalm: A Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis meis! It was only after earnest study of the history of liturgical reform in the Catholic Church that I was completely put off it. Nowadays Traditionalists (and Catholics of the ''neo-Conservative'' kind - those who before SP were apologists of the New Rite, or even advocated a ''reform of the reform'', and welcomed SP because of the ''mutual enrichment'' nonsense) are the Pope's faithful servants, dutiful sons of the Church. They have in fact re-identified themselves - whereas before they were the enemies of Rome, Modernist Rome, now they are the defenders of Tradition on the side of Rome amidst a sea of Modernists, moral-relativists and people who read The Tablet (I know of several people, whom I respect deeply, who read The Tablet - I wonder how many opponents of this magazine actually read it?).

No, now I just see Summorum Pontificum as yet another example of Papal interference in the Liturgy. My hat goes off to Pope Benedict XVI! He has merely succeeded in playing into the hands of the Lefebvrists (whose liturgical ineptitude is beyond belief, and with whom I doubt he will ever be reconciled), and throwing another spanner into the works of the genuine renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. You can't possibly think that abuses in the New Rite can be remedied by making recourse to the liturgical books of 1962, which are themselves the result of a team of liturgical periti? While I doubt not that the Holy Father's intentions in promulgating (I hate that word...) Summorum Pontificum were good - to aid the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, and to heal a schism in the Church - I just think that he was badly advised (especially for someone with experience of this kind), and that the future holds nothing but more problems, and problems of a more serious kind, for the Sacred Liturgy. Alas for the Sacred Liturgy...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Thought for the day...

Low Mass developed in the Middle Ages largely because of theological speculation and replaced the older tradition of concelebration. Low Mass has thus had far-reaching liturgical and theological consequences, and its effects even ran into the Sacred Canons and church architecture. It is because of Low Mass that we have side Altars in churches, the Missal and Breviary (which are ''compendiums'' of older liturgical books), the fact that the Celebrant reads everything at High Mass, and probably a ''code'' of Canon Law as well. The ''speculation'' was along these lines: each Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice has a particular value before God, therefore two Masses are better than one.

Now we have already seen that it is because of Low Mass that we have Missals and Breviaries, side Altars etc, but the effects of Low Mass run much deeper than this. The fact that the Diaconate was seen until recently (that is, the last 43 years!) as a stepping-stone to the priesthood is probably a residue of the ''Low Mass mentality'' - since Deacons are seen as liturgically superfluous during Liturgy, what is the point in having Deacons at all? Even during High Mass the role of the Deacon (summarized by O'Connell as to minister immediately to the Celebrant) is comparatively trivial compared with his role in Eastern Liturgies, and my supposition is that in the Early Church in the West the role of the Deacon was more or less consonant with his role in the East - that is, not only to minister to the Celebrant but to safeguard the participation of the lay people as well - even, dare I say it, to act as a sort of ''bridge'', that is, to bridge the gap there is between the priesthood of the clergy and the common priesthood of all the People of God. The general thrust of the modern ceremonies of High Mass (by which I mean High Mass as it was before the pontificate of Pius XII - I don't discuss the new liturgy on this blog) are directed towards the solemn function of the Celebrant, with the functions of the Deacon and Subdeacon as merely enhancing the dignity of the ceremony (what does the Subdeacon do other than chant the Epistle and stand in medio with the paten and humeral veil!) and an affectation. The fact that the Celebrant reads everything is indicative of this mentality.

I wonder if this all ties in with the unbalanced cult of the Blessed Sacrament in the West? Low Mass clearly runs contrary to the Office, and therefore to the detriment of the Sacred Liturgy altogether. What is the point of the Office when the persons required to sing the Office could each be whispering from a book at a side Altar, and after the magic words elevate a white disc (it's not even real bread) and hold It aloft for minutes on end for the adoration of simple, aliturgical folk? It is this unbalanced, speculative mentality which produced Benediction, trivialised the role of the Deacon, enhanced beyond his vocation the role of the Priest (and therefore the Bishop, who has the fullness of sacramental orders - and consequently the Pope, who is seen as some kind of super-bishop), and the minimalist, Scholastic reasoning behind it all produced a scenario in which Liturgy itself no longer matters but rather bare sacramental validity. The lay people at Mass have no connexion to the Sacrifice and so either they are just left kneeling, counting beads (to supplement and compensate for their alienation), or (like me during Low Mass) their minds wander off into trivial things. I took my father to a Low Mass once and afterwards he complained that it was boring - I know exactly what he meant! I imagine that if Low Mass were the norm for a Sunday Mass in a parish church in the late 1950s, no wonder they desired reform.

Low Mass is, therefore, a liturgical abuse. It should never have been recognised by the Church as a normative and acceptable form of Liturgy.
The above photo is amongst the most distressing things I have ever seen...

Monday, 5 July 2010

Ramblings on Turkey...

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sub utraque specie...

One of the greatest ironies of the Second Vatican Council was that it attempted to make the Church's traditional Liturgy more traditional. I could just about imagine Michael Davies, and many like him, turning red in the face at my saying that (those who advocated the unfounded notion that the Novus Ordo of Paul VI fell out of the sky on an unsuspecting episcopate!), but it is true. Just as Lumen Gentium attempted to ''moderate'' the Infallibism of Pius IX and the ultramontanist content of Pastor Aeternus (by ''sharing'' the infallibility of the Pope with the collective body of the Bishops), so Sacrosanctum Concilium attempted to ''reform'' the Liturgy within a more traditional periphery. The desire of reform surely indicates that the Rites were faulty in some way, or not doing what they were supposed to? I have often found that Traditionalist objections to certain elements within the New Rite (although I share some of them) are simply whinings for a return to Catholic Liturgy of the 1940s and 1950s - in the days when the Roman Rite was so far removed from Tradition that Low Mass and Benediction were the norm in most parishes. In fact Roger Martin, in his article Liturgy and Christianity, speculates that the only reason Traditionalists like traditional Liturgy (of a rather late vintage) is because, for them, it enshrines the old Scholastic system (I would elaborate and say that this applies more to Low Mass than traditional Liturgy, per se), in other words, it is desirous that churches have as many side-Altars packed into the Nave as humanly possible (following this logic, why not do away with the High Altar completely? What is the point of High Mass when all the Sacred Ministers and other persons involved in it could be saying private Masses at all those side Altars?), and it is also desirous that we have as much Benediction as we can get away with, etc, etc. Therefore, among other reasons, ''traditionalists'' aren't really traditional in any meaningful sense at all - they just pine after Catholicism of the second millennium with all its abuses and superstition.

Among the more traditional liturgical practices revived at the Second Vatican Council is the salutary custom of distributing Holy Communion under both kinds. In the early Church (in West and East), Communion was ordinarily administered under both kinds, indeed it was seen (rightly) as a matter of Divine precept. Our Lord plainly says: Drink all of this (Matthew 26:27), but the practice gradually fell into abeyance in the Roman Rite about a thousand years ago. In the Middle Ages there were certain revivalists like John Wycliff, the Lollards, the Hussites etc, who questioned the Church's discipline regarding the distribution of the Sacrament and advocated a return to a more traditional, biblical, understanding of Holy Communion, but these were all condemned as heretics, until the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in its ''do the exact opposite of the what the Reformers are doing'' attitude (how could the Catholic Church possibly be wrong?!), finally forbade the Chalice to all but the Celebrant at Mass. Another of the orthodox Articles of Religion goes: The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

What, therefore, are the reasons that the custom of administering Holy Communion under both forms fell into abeyance in the West and why do Traditionalists wish to maintain this untraditional, and unScriptural, tradition? Like Low Mass it arose from theological speculation (and like Low Mass, I see the distribution of Holy Communion under the form of Bread alone, except in cases of extreme necessity, as a huge aliturgical problem - like lace cottas of course). Traditionalist apologists for the Bread Alone theory argue that the reason the discipline became crystallized in the West was because of dangers of profanation of the consecrated Sacrament. While this is an intelligible motive, it does not negate the greater issues at stake here - namely, whether the custom flies in the face of Divine ordinance, or even whether communicants under a single kind receive half the Sacrament. It doesn't do to be too concerned about profanation. I see this as a godless form of rubricism, sterility in the Liturgy, and extra-liturgical concern about the Blessed Sacrament. I would be more concerned about frequent Communion and people receiving unworthily, and certainly too often, as a form of profanation than if the Celebrant drops the Ciborium, or the Precious Blood is spilled on the mensa of the Altar. Accidents happen - I'm sure the Lord knows this!

Another Traditionalist argument for Communion under the form of Bread Alone is precisely that the older custom has been in abeyance for a thousand years in the Roman Rite, and that therefore a revival of the tradition amounts to little more than liturgical archaism (soundly condemned in Mediator Dei, aka Ego Liturgia sum, by Pius XII). But surely where a custom is wrong a revival of the more ancient and correct custom is praiseworthy? As Our Lord Himself said: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. (John 6:53). Whatever you might think of the whole ''but each communicant receives the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Saviour under a single kind alone, and so communicants who receive under both kinds receive nothing more than communicants who receive under a single kind'' theory (which is beyond the scope of this post) is unimportant. Anciently the Church in the West was more traditional in this regard, as in many others, but during the Middle Ages, because of questionable Scriptural exegesis, selective (and I daresay revisionist) Patristic commentary and Scholastic reasoning (is there anything meritorious about Scholasticism?), minimalism, centralization and Papal decree was seen as more important. If only the Council of Trent had hearkened to the Reformers in this, and a few other, respects - the Catholic Church could have prevented a major schism. Instead, the Catholic Church never being wrong, she decided to cling to the tradition and succeeded in merely perpetuating a huge error (rather like an ill-behaved child, after a telling off by her parents, sulkily going to her bedroom to brood, or even a solipsist nutcase content to think that everyone is else wrong except him). The Council of Trent arguably was the axe to the tree of traditional Liturgy (a Papal axe), which even in the Middle Ages was not totally dead and gone as it is now. Is there any surprise, then, that there was so huge a reaction against this mentality in the 1960s?

Of course, for advocating a return to a more traditional practice, Trads will just label me a Modernist, or even a Protestant (I have already been labelled a ''heretic'' on another blog for thinking that I am ''more catholic than the Pope''). How very sad that I am so poorly understood...

Friday, 2 July 2010


My two dogs, Lucy and Elle, are my two best friends. Dogs are wonderful animals. In fact, my mother once told me (when she was still a practicing Catholic, that is) that if I wanted to conceive somewhat of the glory of God, ''look down at that silly creature rolling around on the floor''. They are both happy, frivolous dogs who ask only to be fed, loved and looked after. This means that you can relate to and understand dogs better than you can human beings, who are often shallow, stupid, dim and wicked creatures. The dog is not going to throw a fit in Game because you didn't buy it the new Xbox is it? You cannot spoil a dog. The dog has four moods - happy, sad, cross and concentrating, so you will always know what the dog thinks. Therefore, dogs do not have agendas like human beings and they are faithful and consistent. I daresay that dogs are in fact more important than human beings.

In my entire life I have never come across a church where the Liturgy is celebrated properly (as I would have it celebrated). I think, therefore, that I would rather entrust Traditional Liturgy to my two dogs than to Tradworld, which has agendas, makes unnecessary concessions, and very often is profoundly dishonest. My two dogs wouldn't have Signum Magnum on the Feast of the Assumption, for example, swap the traditional feast of Sts Philip and James for Joe the Worker (a feast created by that awful man Pius XII in deference to Communism) because the people have a devotion to St Joseph, or have Mass on Mandy Thursday in the evening with the Mandatum pasted into a post-'56 part of the Liturgy. No, dogs are always consistent and honest, and if I said ''we're not using lace cottas anymore'', the dog would do as I said; moreover if I said to the dog ''we're not having vernacular hymns in the Eucharistic Liturgy anymore,'' the dog would agree.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Quid novi?

This afternoon I had an interview at the University of London with the admissions tutor for my new BA in Classics. I expect that the interview went well, although since I find it extremely difficult to develop a natural rapport with someone I've only just met (all part and parcel of being wonderful Patricius, I expect), who can say? The question first asked, which would seem the most pertinent (why Classics?), I found the most difficult to answer articulately. Being loath to say something like; ''because I think that the ancients were bloody geniuses,'' I just meandered about the subject and my admiration for Virgil and Catullus. During the course of the interview, a Scripture passage occurred to me: Ubi enim est thesaurus tuus, ibi est et cor tuum, (Matthew 6:21), and I was reminded of that wonderful dream St Jerome had, where he was scourged before the Judgement seat of the Judge. So bright was the countenance of the heavenly court that he durst not raise his eyes and he prostrate himself on the ground. Asked what ''rank'' he was, and he answered a Christian. ''You lie,'' answered the Judge. ''You are a Ciceronian, not a Christian'' and the Judge had him flogged, and he was tortured in conscience, for ''in the grave, who shall give thee thanks?'' (Ps.6:5), and he cried out ''Lord have mercy'' and those present, making intercession unto the Judge on his behalf, besought the Judge to take pity on the man's youth. And St Jerome swore an oath unto the Lord saying: ''Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied thee.'' St Jerome returned then to the world and then read the Scriptures with greater zeal. (See, St Jerome, Epistle XXII.30).

Hmmm. Interesting! In my application I said that chiefly I translate Scriptural and liturgical texts which, in comparison with real Classical works (such as you will find in the Odes of Horace and the Eclogues of Virgil - although it is a prejudice that all Late Latin is rubbish (much of it is - Egeria, although interesting, makes frequent mistakes - confusing suum with eius being one glaring example)), are rather mean and uncouth in style and grammar. This is purely because they are easier, by far, than Caesar and Cicero, and I am awfully lazy.

The aforesaid dream of St Jerome is interesting, though, from a certain perspective. Most prominent literary Catholics (and non-Catholics) studied Classics - Oscar Wilde, J.R.R Tolkien, C.S Lewis, Timothy Ware, John Hunwicke etc. Classics is really the sister-discipline of Theology. But in St Jerome's case, which is an extreme case, what room is there left for it? It doesn't do to renounce ''worldly books'' in my view as hopelessly pagan. Equally it doesn't do to turn into people like Urban VIII and his team of resurrected Horaces and spurn ancient Christian hymnody, even if the style isn't great (I don't know...I tend to view some of them as being composed by authors highly skilled in the Latin tongue and purposefully using certain strange words and syntactical constructions to emphasise certain theological points - look at the Dies Irae - Cicero would hate it!) You can't really understand the Latin and Greek languages without having some knowledge of the ancient literature which eternally enshrines them. Tolkien, however, was a renegade in the Classics, and was moreover wilfully in exile among barbarians for his 34 year long professorship at Oxford!

Still, I am rambling now. On the way home I purchased Klaus Gamber's The Reform of the Roman Liturgy in St Paul's bookshop, which surprisingly I have not read hitherto. It is ages since I read The Modern Rite (and I remember agreeing with it at the time - I wonder if I would now?), and this one looks bad historically already - I read about a quarter of it sub arboribus in horto matris meae and his short discourse on the history of liturgical reform makes two short references to Pius XII, and even makes the ill-informed statement: ''...not a single predecessor of Pope Paul VI has ever introduced major changes to the Roman liturgy...'' I may write about it when I get the chance.

When I got bored in the garden, I thought that if there were a dishy young female Pope, I'd do whatever she said...