Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Help needed...

p.s. We are supposed to be having a Missa Cantata on Candlemas, it would be much better if it was High Mass, are there any priests willing to come and assist, I want to be deacon - any volunteers to Celebrant and Subdeacon? Beds and dinner available!

If there are any Deacons or Subdeacons out there that would like to assist Fr Blake to celebrate Candlemas in Brighton it would be a great boon for TLM Catholicism. No doubt the Mass will be celebrated ad Orientem in the Extraordinary Form, and if not undoubtedly with the Benedictine Altar arrangement which ''re-orients'' the congregation inwardly ''eastward'' to the Sacrifice of the Cross, as our omniscient and benevolent Holy Father, who knows so much about Liturgy, has said, binding and loosing that which is on earth, just like when he declared Limbo superfluous to the Gospel (thereby changing the destinies of however many millions of souls).

Oh wait...there are no Deacons or Subdeacons in the Roman Church since there are only Popes and Priests, the ''Extraordinary Form'' is pernicious crap, and facing the correct way liturgically is, for some obscure reason, a legitimate option. (Chortles). If this is the face of Traditional Catholicism, I want no part in it.

My very own post scriptum: Did the MC in this photo cover and uncover the Ciborium and Chalice? If not, why is he kneeling to the right of the Celebrant?

Monday, 24 January 2011

What alternative is there?

The Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, faithful steward of the Divine Deposit, bulwark against heresy, successor of St Peter, vicegerent of Christ on earth, guardian of Tradition. This is what I used to believe, and was indeed led to believe.

But...if the Bishop of Rome is demonstrably not everything the Roman Catholic Church makes him out to be, what is he then? Is he just a kindly old man with delusions of grandeur, or just harmlessly misled? Or is he rather Christ's enemy and a demented megalomaniac, exalting himself in the Church of Christ and bent on the suppression of liturgical Tradition? I am not talking about personal scandal, but rather the magisterial imposition of systematic abuse on every godly and orthodox Catholic in Europe.

I believe, and have felt for some time now, that Pius XII (at least) was an Antichrist, and that such violence as he contrived against Tradition would be the envy of the most reprehensible Iconoclast of the 16th century. This is the uttermost choice, and the litmus test of one's ''loyalty'' I suppose (though to what? a pathetic has-been? The Roman Church is finished) - either Pius XII's reforms were a deliberate exercise of anti-Traditional abuse, or they were just a horrible mistake. Since they clearly fall into the former category, what shall we say of the man himself?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites all; because you are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and of all corruption! (Matthew 23:27).

Sunday, 23 January 2011


I don't like it when people disagree with me. This may seem rather ''immature'' to others, but in terms of something as fundamental as Liturgy I have a tendency to get very angry when another person expresses an opinion which is diametrically opposed to my own (correct) one. The other day someone I knew from college put on his Facebook: ''What if we just said 'and also with you?''' I tried remonstrating with him the consequences of eschewing the traditional diction of liturgical prayer, but to no avail, and his response to my arguments in favour of Prayerbook English was simply that it wasn't ''pastoral.'' His recourse to this Modernist pseudo-theory of Liturgy (which only threatens the Tradition of the Church) put me in such a foul for the rest of that day, and the next (and in fact I am even seething about it now, seeing in his view the final cut administered by bad theologians with the Tradition of the Church). I have never come away a better person from even seeming-trivial disagreements such as this. When people express sentiments which I repudiate, I see them very often as something strange and crooked in them as persons; almost a disease of the mind which must be cured (by me). It angers me that when I demonstrate the orthodoxy of my own views people cling to their own false views with a somewhat delusional conviction. Why do you not alter your wrong opinions and believe my correct ones?

I cannot personally conceive of being wrong in many of my beliefs, but I would happily accept correction in some if they were proved to be wrong. Why, then, do so-called traditionalists still use the lace cotta in spite of my every effort to prove how pernicious it really is? They honest to God get me so angry I might actually scream!

Saturday, 22 January 2011


''A shadow passed over Saruman's face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through his mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV).

As ever Tolkien provides food for thought. I was thinking about this quote all morning of yesterday, and in fact when I got in from work spent some considerable time staring at it. You see the Roman Church sickens me, in every conceivable way. For centuries the Roman Church has developed in externals into what, to somebody like the Venerable St Bede, would be unrecognisable. St Bede was no Ultramontane Traddie sucking up to the new translation of an impoverished Missal, and concerned with pro-this, anti-that causes! Neither did he make recourse in his prayer life to superfluous books of devotions or miraculous medals. St Bede held the City of Rome, and the Bishops thereof, in honour, but in a very sober and reasonable way; and his prayer life was purely liturgical, as St Cuthbert testifies in his epistle to Cuthwin the Deacon. There was no S.R.C in the 8th century, or a Pius XII (or even a Pius V) to impose liturgical abuse on every godly and orthodox Catholic in Europe - wilful obedience to the Tradition being tantamount to open schism, and rejecting the supreme authority of the Church. The Saxon Church followed the Roman Rite as best they could, not because it was imposed upon them by a centralized Papacy, but because the Saxons received the Faith from Roman missionaries bearing Roman liturgical books, and out of an ardent affection for the then orthodox Church of Rome. One wonders whether, were St Bede a father at Vatican I, he would have been shouted down for rejecting the spurious doctrine of Papal Infallibility?

In the last 10 years (probably) I have been disillusioned with the Roman Church; with banal liturgy, with spineless bishops who never come to celebrate Liturgy in the parish (and indeed one knew of only as a name mentioned in the Anaphora), with people I have little in common with liturgically etc. The reason I left my old parish was because a parishioner said to me: ''I don't believe the same as you then,'' because I had told her about the aliturgical practice of celebrating Mass facing the wrong way. In my old parish Sunday Mass was celebrated in old ICEL English, facing the people, at a wooden Altar, with vernacular hymns in place of traditional psalmody etc. In my most recent parish Sunday Mass is celebrated facing Eastward, in Latin, according to the Old Roman Rite (of a rather late vintage, with occasional neglect of the St Lawrence Press Ordo in favour of the Latin Mass Society one - I'll never understand why they can do Palm Sunday properly but not the feast of Sts Philip and James, or the Assumption), but with a host of shortcomings. This is not about triviality, and I reject the notion that some traditions (or customs, if you will) are less important than others; Traddies may like to scoff at my preference for the ''Anglican'' surplice (I was once actually called ''Protestant'' for ranting about it), or Medieval Liturgy, because they, traditionally of course, think that what comes after is always better than what went before; but such things are measurable in the entire holistic Tradition of the Church, and are just as important as using unbleached candles for Requiems, or being careful not to omit certain ceremonies or prayers on days when the Liturgy is longer than usual.

I am not averse to the ''brick-by-brick'' approach to the restoration of Tradition in the Church. I am willing to compromise (in the time being mind you) on liturgical subtleties which can be corrected in time. However on such things as evening Mass, or deciding not to follow the Ordo, I am not going to compromise. Similarly I am not going to compromise on the use of the modern cotta in place of the traditional Surplice. The reason I am frustrated about this especially is because they have no intention whatever of eventually replacing them, and so five-ten years down the line you're still going to have a Traditionalist parish with lace cottas and a Sung (not High - you can't always procure three priests can you!) evening Mass on Holydays (this is provided Rome doesn't decide to impose its unified ''rite''). For these reasons (and other personal ones, which I will not elaborate) I couldn't possibly remain Catholic and experience a fulfilling and uplifting liturgical life. I would say that this is almost a repeat of six years ago, except now I am the one to say: ''I do not believe the same as you then.''

There are issues of authority and liturgy in my rejection of Rome. The way I see it, if Rome tried to intervene in my own way of restoring Tradition I would simply say: ''Why don't you correct the last 100 years of gross tampering in the liturgical books before you tell me what to do?'' Why can't Rome just leave people alone to just get on with it? There are people who have suffered in the last 50 years because of what Rome has done to the Liturgy...
I said before that my long term plans are unclear, as yet, but that I am interested in Western Rite Orthodoxy (for those of you who are not aware, these are Orthodox Christians who follow a liturgically ''western'' Rite - such as the Old Roman Rite, or the Book of Common Prayer, or Sarum etc). However ancestral attempts at Western Liturgy on the part of the Orthodox have been rather ham-fisted. The trouble is that you just can't agree with most of them on how best to do Liturgy. In this case I seem to have more in common with Trad Catholics in communion with Rome. I wish to retain Latin - in fact I am adamant on this - but they don't. They often insert a Byzantine Epiklesis into the Canon - I wouldn't; in fact the Roman tradition is older by not having one. I hate the Roman Church, but I dread to leave it don't you know...

Friday, 21 January 2011


Can anybody please tell me if they know of any Scriptural or Patristic text encouraging the practice of shunning particular groups of people?


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sed Dominus est omnium...

...quem Magi gaudent suppliciter adorare. (But he is the Lord of all men whom the Magi rejoice humbly to adore).

Yestereve I went to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Ennismore Gardens for evening liturgy of Theophany, which was worth the effort. I had to run to my local railway station (I had other commitments throughout the day), and due to extensive roadworks at South Kensington had to pass within sight of the Temple of Baal (and I don't mean the Latter Day saint hall!), but these were small prices to pay. The Bishop was received at the West Doors by two ministers - I think they were Readers, but they were wearing a (what seemed to my untutored eyes) short orarion; later these two held the triple candle for the Bishop at various points, such as the incensing of the church at the beginning, with the two Deacons in procession. Quite dull to start off with, with two cantors monotoning the prayers, but after the Lord's Prayer the priests all came out from the North and South doors of the Iconostasis and it got interesting. Five loaves were solemnly blessed (Artoklasia, a kind of Antidoron I expect), and were cut up and administered to the congregation afterwards (I partook myself, after venerating the Icon of Christ's Baptism and having my head anointed by the Bishop).

It's interesting that the Protodeacon holds the orarion (stole) aloft in his right hand whilst chanting from the book. It seems a rather obsolete custom since initially the reason he held aloft the orarion was in order to keep his eye on the text. Is that a priest-monk in the background (the elderly one without a kamilavka)?

I know very little about Russian Liturgy so rather than blabber on about it I'll just let you look at some photos I took on my iPhone (apologies that the quality isn't great). It is interesting that the Russians were celebrating the Baptism; in the West we remember the visit of the Magi on Epiphany, and the Baptism and Marriage feast of Cana afterwards; all manifestations of Christ's Divine nature though.

A very blessed Epiphany to you.

The Protodeacon incensing the loaves.

The Bishop anointing one of the Cathedral priests.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Principles of Translation...

In his essay On Translating Beowulf, J.R.R Tolkien said:

''If you wish to translate, not re-write, Beowulf, your language must be literary and traditional: not because it is now a long while since the poem was made, or because it speaks of things that have since become ancient; but because the diction of Beowulf was poetic, archaic, artificial (if you will), in the day that the poem was made. Many words used by the ancient English poets had, even in the eighth century, already passed out of colloquial use for anything from a lifetime to hundreds of years...''ergo...''you will misrepresent the first and most salient characteristic of the style and flavour of the author, if in translating Beowulf, you deliberately eschew the traditional literary and poetic diction which we now possess in favour of the current and trivial.'' (J.R.R Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays, pp.54-55).

Tolkien's principles of translating Beowulf could be aptly applied to the principles of translating liturgical texts. The Latin of the Roman Rite was never a barbarous tongue understanded of the people in the Protestant sense, making use of everyday colloquialisms, with an air of familiar informality. Rather the Latin was of a more archaic, courteous style, and richer in beautiful words (comparable with, say, Túrin Turambar's first meeting with the outlaws after his flight from Doriath. The outlaws thought him an Elf because of his manner of speech and bearing), as befits the Sacred Liturgy. Evidence enough for this is the style of the Roman Canon and the Collects, neither a purely classical Latin, nor an expression of vulgarism; such words as quaesumus (''we beseech''), used in most Collects, were considered obsolete even by Cicero. Their inclusion in the language of Liturgy, which is the principle means by which we know God, is noteworthy, and dashes the Modernist belief that Liturgy in the early Church pertained to the nature of Pentecostalist tongue-wagging, or holding hands around a bowl of water filled with tea lights; incense sticks and whale music. No, the ancestral language of Liturgy in the West was lofty and non-vernacular.

Therefore, following Tolkien's principle, the English translation of the Latin original should reflect and contain the style and sentiment of the Latin, but in a way which is equally expressive of the loftiness of ''liturgical language.'' It should be utterly faithful to the sense, spirit and cadence of the Scriptural and Patristic texts of the Liturgy, but not so literal as to render these texts bald and artificial. How can you faithfully convey the sense of Liturgy, after a manner consonant with the original composers of the texts, such as St Leo the Great (whose demonstrable mastery of the Latin language was astonishing), intelligibly in English if you have so distanced yourself from its inherent loftiness of expression? The new ICEL translation of the Roman Canon, at least the draft version (the only one I have seen I'm afraid - you can view the text on this man's blog), is at best a verbose, overly literal rendering of the original; at worst clearly betrays the very principles of translation (in such a way as to make Old ICEL seem desirable! At least old ICEL is succinct - like Latin!). Is this incidental or endemic of the general incompetence of modern Rome in absolutely everything? In the last five years we have seen efforts on the part of Rome to cultivate the Sacred Liturgy, but what do we get? First, to cover up a demonstrable liturgical abuse, the Pope says that using six candles and a crucifix (itself very modern, and traceable to the bad taste of Baroque liturgy!) makes this void. Effectively he has conjured out of thin air a pseudo-theology of liturgical orientation at stark contrast with the ancestral attitude of Christian liturgical prayer, which is compass Eastward. Next we have Summorum Pontificum, which I have discussed before. And now this long-awaited translation! I have no doubts at all that Pope Benedict's desire is for the good of the Church, but either he is badly advised or he needs to stop imposing his own theologies of Liturgy on the Church. This new translation is going to make something very beautiful in the liturgical patrimony of the Roman Church a hideous travesty, in a way which candles and crucifixes won't.

King David composes the Psalms, from an Old English Psalter, circa A.D 750.

Which sounds fairer?

The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament proclaimeth the works of his hands. Day unto day uttereth speech: and night unto night sheweth knowledge. (Ps 18:1-2, Douay-Rheims version).


The heavens declare the glory of God, the vault of heaven proclaims his handiwork, day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the knowledge. (Ps 19:1-2, New Jerusalem version)

This is nothing to do with Old or New ICEL, but is simply to demonstrate the very different sense that these two translations of the same Psalm verse convey. On the one hand you have a Psalm-verse worthy of liturgical expression, and the other a rather boring modern version which is unedifying. God help Catholic school children provided with such a translation, to the ruin of their taste and impetus to improve their limited vocabularies!

If Old ICEL made the modern Roman liturgy seem less sacred and more ''familiar'' than the legitimate desire to translate the ancient Roman Liturgy into Cranmerian English would have done, then New ICEL, verbose and literal, is an assault on the Roman Liturgy in a more serious way. Yes the literal sense of the text is conveyed, but has Rome not rather traded a faithful translation for a literal one, and at great cost?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ordinariate thingy...

I offer my congratulations to the three new priests who have come over to join us on the astro turf, that is to say, the Roman Church.

However, I must speak my mind and ask what on earth possessed you? You must have been under the false impression that the Roman Church is the true church of Jesus Christ, or at least that the English Church's only connexion to the Catholic Church was from Rome. If so then good luck to you, but don't expect me to share your enthusiasm! I think that you will all go back at some point, or join the Orthodox Church. I know of many ex-Anglicans who once again became Anglicans because something about the Roman Church put them off.

So what will be the reason of your going back? The culture? The Liturgy? The negative doctrine? The people? The Bishops? Rome herself, perhaps? As for me it was a bitter brew with all these ingredients, and Traddieland stirred the cup. It is a fact that only a handful of Roman Catholics worldwide know anything about Liturgy, and most of these are accused of some heresy (like me). Traditionalists, as a rule, are ignorant of Liturgy because of their blind obsession with the revival of 1950s Catholicism, and pro-this and anti-that causes (not to mention their Ultramontanism). Since Liturgy is more important than all that, I would rather go where it is done properly, or at least tastefully, even if this means beyond the confines of Roman jurisdiction. I now have no qualms at all about serving Anglo-Catholic liturgy. My long-term plans ecclesiologically are nebulous, as yet, though 20-30 years from now I can see myself in a ''Western Rite Orthodox'' parish in ROCOR using the Liturgy of Old Sarum. So no lace (the very use of which I find so utterly repugnant as to warrant a most severe punishment), no big six, no Great Elevation etc, just pure Medieval Liturgy, unmutilated by popery.

If Roman Catholics find my views about the Papacy objectionable then perhaps they'd care to make earnest study of the history of Liturgy since the Council of Trent. It's quite grim reading to be honest, with succession after succession of Popes doing whatever takes their fancy with it.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Obedience unto Purification...

Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur puer, vocatum est nomen eius Iesus, quod vocatum est ab angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur. (Luke 2:24).

Today is the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, and the Octave Day of Christmas. It is one of those feasts in the liturgical Kalendar where the reality of Christ's twofold consubstantiality is emphasised. On Christmas Day you have the picture of the frail Infant, drawing a veil over the immensity of His Majesty (as St Leo wrote in the Tome). On the eighth day you compelled to understand that Christ became so truly human that not only did He depend upon His blessed mother's milk, but that He condescended to undergo the decrees of the Law.

As you know I am very fond of St Bede the Venerable, whose Homilies and Scriptural exegeses oftentimes surpass even St Augustine's for coherence and eloquence of expression. What shall we say of this Circumcision, this first shedding of the Infant Christ's precious blood? St Bede wrote a wonderful Homily for today's feast, In die festo circumcisionis domini, which you will find in G.A Giles' collection of 1843 (I don't own this huge work, but would love to). St Bede, following St Augustine of course, interprets the mystery of the Lord's Circumcision as a type of His Passion according to the flesh and a lattice window, as it were, through which we can glimpse at His glorious Resurrection, and by extension, the general resurrection of all in Christ. ''You ought to know,'' he says, "that Circumcision under the Law wrought the same healing against the wound of Original Sin as does the Baptism in this time of revealed Grace, except that under Circumcision they were not able to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.'' I will not belabour the obvious parallel between Innocent III's exposition several centuries later, but St Bede went on to conclude that the mystery of the Circumcision of Christ was integral to the mystery of the Incarnation itself. Since Man must be redeemed after a manner consonant with his nature, it was necessary for Christ, as a true Son of Abraham, our father in faith, to undergo Circumcision out of righteous obedience to the Law.

Christ ''submitted to Circumcision as decreed by the Law. He who was without any stain of pollution did not reject the remedy by which the flesh of sin is made clean.'' Christ was obedient to the Law, as our divine Legifer, ''that He might commend to us the necessary virtue of obedience by an outstanding example. Just as He submitted Himself to the waters of Baptism, by which He wished the people to be washed clean of the stain of sin, undergoing it Himself, not from necessity, but to set an example. Purification, both by the Law and by the Gospel, which He needed not, the Lord did not despise and did not hesitate to undergo.'' In the mystery of the Circumcision, and of the Lord's Baptism, the mystery of the Incarnation is made whole, and the gulf sundering the Law and the Gospel is bridged, for Christ Himself willed it. Ultimately we are, by putting on Christ, ''circumcised,'' as it were, from all stain of mortality. Circumcision, says holy Bede, is an eschatological type of that veritable cleansing of our hearts, where we look forward to our true and complete circumcision, when, on the Day of Judgement, all souls having put off the corruption of the flesh will enter the forecourt of the heavenly kingdom to behold forever in blessedness the beautiful countenance of the Creator.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

What miserable drones...

...and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric? (Henry Plantagenet is said to have shouted these words at his castle in Rouen, according to his chroniclers, upon hearing the news that the newly-returned Becket wouldn't admit those who had remained loyal to the King to the communion of Christ's Church).

I shamefully neglected to mention one of my favourite Saints in the Martyrology on the occasion of his feast day on the 29th, though since we are curiously within four Octaves (that of the Nativity, of St Stephen Protomartyr, of St John the Evangelist, and of course the man himself, St Thomas of Canterbury), I think I might be forgiven - at any rate I have many other cares and commitments presently. St Thomas of Canterbury was one of the unlikely heroes of the Angevin Empire, a true defender of the rights of the Church, unlikely though this was considering that during his time as Chancellor he was notorious for his worldliness. Henry II (the greatest of all our Medieval kings, for all his faults) desired royal control over the Church, and his choice of Becket as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1161 was probably to this end (incidentally he was only a Deacon when appointed to the post - it is a Trad myth that there were no permanent Deacons in the West until Paul VI came on the scene; rather permanent Deacons disappeared once ''Low'' Mass was invented, and the wise initiative of Paul VI was rather a restoration, not an innovation). Unfortunately it didn't work out as the King had planned, and in 1164 Becket opposed in the most militant language Henry's proposal that the English clergy submit to the ''customs of the Realm'', at Clarendon Palace. He was exiled (on trumped up charges of improper use of funds as Chancellor), with a small retinue, to the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny. In 1170 he returned, after intervention from Rome, and was reinstated as Archbishop, though his reign was short-lived. On 29th December 1170 he was murdered whilst about to celebrate Vespers with the monks of Canterbury. (As an aside, should I start saying Evensong instead of Vespers? I must say I agree with Tolkien (and I think Fortescue) who used Saxon words in place of Romance ones. At any rate I already say Mattins instead of Matins).

This image, evidently from a Book of Hours made long after the life of St Thomas, is interesting in that it mistakes the Office at which the Saint was martyred for a kind of ''low'' Mass (as it was then - probably not in the Tridentine sense of ''Low Mass'') rather than Vespers. By all accounts and long-standing tradition St Thomas was martyred as he was about to celebrate Vespers in the Cathedral - Vespera erat, nox longissima instabat, as the account of William Fitzstephen, an eyewitness, has it. Notice that the Archbishop is wearing a Sarum blue Chasuble.

Edward Grim has this to say of St Thomas' final hour (I can't for the life of me find St John of Salisbury's account, but I have it somewhere).

Without delay the sacrilegious men entered the house of peace and reconciliation with swords drawn; indeed the sight alone as well as the rattle of arms inflicted not a small amount of horror on those who watched. And those knights who approached the confused and disordered people who had been observing vespers but, by now, had run toward the lethal spectacle exclaimed in a rage: "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor of the king and kingdom?" No one responded and instantly they cried out more loudly, "Where is the archbishop?" Unshaken he replied to this voice as it is written, "The righteous will be like a bold lion and free from fear," he descended from the steps to which he had been taken by the monks who were fearful of the knights and said in an adequately audible voice, "Behold I am here, no traitor to the king but priest of God; what doth it please you?" And Thomas, who had previously told them that he had no fear of them added, "Here I am ready to suffer in the name of He who redeemed me with His blood; God forbid that I should flee on account of your swords or that I should depart from righteousness." With these words, at the foot of a pillar, he turned to the right. On one side was the altar of the blessed Mother of God, on the other the altar of the holy Confessor Benedict - through whose example and prayers he had been crucified to the world and his lusts; he endured whatever the murderers did to him with such constancy of the soul that he seemed as if he were not of flesh. The murderers pursued him and said, "Absolve and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated and return to office those whom have been suspended." To these words Thomas replied, "No penance hath been made, so I will not absolve them." "Then you," they said, "will now die and will suffer what you have earned." "And I," he said, "am prepared to die for my Lord, so that in my blood the church will attain liberty and peace; but by the authority of Almighty God I forbid that you hurt my men, either cleric or layman, in any way." The glorious martyr acted conscientiously with foresight for his men and prudently on his own behalf, so that no one near him would be hurt as he hastened toward Christ. It was fitting that the soldier of the Lord and the martyr of the Saviour adhered to His words when he was sought by the impious, "If it is me you seek, let them leave."
St Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us.


There are no Sacraments outside the Church. You cannot have ''valid,'' albeit ''illicit,'' Sacraments which do not confer Grace. Otherwise, what would be the point of the Sacrament?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I receive lots of ''hits'' from various Universities around the world; from Oxford, Cambridge, various colleges of the University of London, Durham, Princeton, even some German and Italian institutions. I the people who read this blog from those various ''sausage factories'' (as Tolkien's tutor Dr Wright said of Oxford in...when was it? 1915 I think) realise that I don't in fact have a Degree, the vast majority of my friends do, and that this is a source of tremendous grief to me? I look at various young people going to University, simply because it is ''the done thing'' nowadays; they come away after three years of study in some absurd topic (such as ''Media Studies''), and have better job prospects than I do because they have a piece of paper...

I studied Divinity for four years at the University of London, but walked out because the work was tedious, I rarely submitted coursework on time (the little that I did submit was first class), and spent most of the time either in the Library in the Classics section and perusing things like 19th century Breviaries and the Sarum Missal, or off squandering my savings on irrelevant books (many of which now embarrass me!) and clothes. Now I am almost 23 years old, I am still living at home because I can't afford to move out, I have no savings, and I am still in the what-I-thought-would-be-only-temporary retail position I started five and a half years ago. I am trying now to compose a personal statement for a UCAS application to study Classics somewhere. Now what do I say? How do I articulate ''I have done nothing since I left school five years ago'' in a way which will successfully get me enrolled upon a Classics Degree (which I know I am more than capable of doing) at a prestigious University?

It's this frustration which probably underlies many of the bitter posts I write on this blog.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Blessing of the River Thames...

See here for photos and an account of the Blessing of the Thames on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Latin or English?

I don't care for vernacular Liturgy. Maybe this is some vestige of growing up and the banal, want-of-translation I was provided with every Sunday and Holyday, or maybe this is something to do with the fact that the Latin language has been used in the Roman Church everywhere for 1500 years. I am adamant about the retention of the Latin language in the Roman Rite...but then, as a Latinist, I am biased.

Old and New ICEL came up in conversation on the Lord's Day. What a waste of time and effort both translations of the Missal were! Old ICEL is simply an appalling translation of the Latin, has successfully managed to remove any sense of the sacred from the liturgical rites, and encapsulates the sort of Bible-in-basic-English mentality, so very condescending and so very undignified, which Tolkien bemoaned even in 1960. New ICEL is, quite similarly, appalling. The problem with translating Latin, especially liturgical Latin into a proper and decorous liturgical English, is the fact that the two languages have two very different structural principles and nuances. How can you remain at once faithful to the Latin text and yet intelligibly convey something sacred, and understanded of the people? The New ICEL translation may be more faithful to the original Latin, but the English is of a rather pretentious, contemporary, sterile and artificial style (hardly vernacular!) which scarcely conveys a sense of the sacred. Even when Latin had long ceased to be a vernacular tongue in the West, and was rather the language of lore and tradition, the Latin of the Liturgy was of a more courteous, lofty and ancient expression, as befits the language of Liturgy; the language of Liturgy serving at once as an outward expression of worship, and for the edification of the Church; hardly the Latin used of the plebeians of ancient Rome! Methinks that this committee of experts in Rome, locked away inventing their new ''vernacular'', know little either of the English language or of the very concept of ''vernacular.''

There really is no such thing as a ''vernacular'' language, precisely because ''vernacular'' tongues are constantly in use, and are therefore constantly changing. As long as words are in use their meaning is going to shift slightly so long as they are applicable to any given nuance or concept, and given to new ones wholly different. However subtle this process is, the language of Liturgy is more important because the language of Liturgy enshrines and reflects the eternal Truths of Faith, which are immutable. I seem to have misplaced my copy of A Bitter Trial, but I am certain that Evelyn Waugh wrote something of this in the mid 1960s, arguing that in some places (such as in parts of Asia and Africa), where as many as three local languages exist side by side, you couldn't possibly provide a real vernacular for all the congregants at once. Some languages have no accurate equivalent to such Christian concepts as the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, a Triune God etc. How are you supposed to convey something Christian in a way that is in any way meaningful, when you have so distanced yourself from the ancestral expression of these truths? The advantage of Latin, as an ancient non-vernacular language, is that the words do not change, neither in form nor nuance, and better reflect, therefore, the Truths of Faith, which do not change. The Latin language is, moreover, a cultural connexion to the Latin Fathers, to the Scholastics, to St Bede - to the whole illustrious Roman Church, even a visible sign of the catholicity of that Church, across the ages and across the lands. I would rather worship in a language understanded of St Bede, to think and meditate like him about concepts surpassing the reach of my thought, than in a language wholly alien to him. This is where New ICEL falls down. I come to Liturgy to await the Advent of the Lord, to bear witness to Christ and to partake of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, to take part as a Catholic in the Sacred Liturgy, which the very way in which Christ is made known to the Church. The language, the very mode of that solemn expression, is integral to the mystery of Liturgy. What do you get when that language is made sterile by familiarity? If there is to be vernacular Liturgy in the Roman Church, I don't see that this ''vernacular'' necessarily entails absolute intelligibility and familiarity in all modes of expression. Why, for instance, have the committee translated Et cum spiritu tuo as and with your spirit? Why not use thy? The use of the singular pronoun is more important than many people care to think.

I am by no means a Traddie apologist for the Latin language simply because John XXIII argued for it in 1960, or the liturgical books of 1962 just happen to be in Latin (and are therefore in some way more ''traditional'' than, say, the Book of Common Prayer). I do not see Latin as a highly fundamental extension of Tradition per se, more important than the actual texts and ceremonies of the Liturgy. I would say, however, that the retention of Latin in the liturgical rites is a more meaningful expression of the connexion between Tradition and communion (in the catholic sense) than using a modern translation dispensed by Rome.

All this said, Cranmer (by all accounts a bloody genius) did a rather good job with the Prayerbook, and I am not averse to Prayerbook a good Anglican.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Holy Innocents...

Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (St Matthew 2:16-18).

Today is the poignant feast of the Holy Innocents, an ancient feast in the Roman Church commemorating the martyrdom of those infants who were massacred by the wicked king on account of the Infant Saviour. St Bede composed a beautiful hymn in honour of the Holy Innocents, which I am yet to see in a fitting translation (it's quite simple so I'll probably get around to it this week):

Hymnum canentes martyrum
dicamus Innocentium,
quos terra deflens perdidit,
gaudens sed æthra suscipit;

Quos rex peremit impius,
pius sed Auctor colligit,
secum beatos collocans
in luce regni perpetis.

Præclara Christo splenduit
mors innocens fidelium;
cælis ferebant angeli
bimos et infra parvulos.

O quam beata civitas,
in qua Redemptor nascitur,
notque primæ martyrum
in qua dicantur hostiæ!

Astant nitentes fulgidis
eius throno nunc vestibus,
stolas suas qui laverant
Agni rubentes sanguine.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna sæcula.

The Baptism of the Lord...

Yesterday I was at St Magnus the Martyr for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It was a High Mass, of course, with lay Subdeacon (naturally), tunicled Crucifer, and another tunicled server bearing an Icon of the Baptism - overall very impressive. After Mass we went to London Bridge to bless the River Thames, where we were met by the congregation of Southwark Cathedral (not the pretend Southwark Cathedral dedicated to St George). Going quite regularly to St Magnus I sometimes forget about the general apostasy of the Church of England, and the party from Southwark consisted of a Deaconess in cope (who read the Gospel), and various servers in cassock-albs, one of whom looked like a randy old lesbian. Still, little different from the kind of pseudo-Liturgy the Roman Church is wont to provide, where the basic rhythm of Benediction or Low Mass is uninterrupted. It would have been even more impressive to have witnessed the traditional Roman form for the blessing of waters on the Eve of the Epiphany (not, of course, the mutilated version approved by the S.R.C in 1890).

Afterwards we went to Southwark Cathedral for refreshments, where it was good to catch up with friends. The Deaconess kept her distance; I wonder if she noticed the sidelong looks I was giving her? I suggested to someone that I might collect information about J.R.R Tolkien's involvement in the early Traditionalist movement, and anything in his unpublished letters pertaining to the upheavals in traditional Liturgy in the '50s and '60s. They said that it would be interesting, but then proposed that I write something on Liturgy in St Bede's time. Western Rite Orthodoxy then came up, and I expressed my sympathy with the movement. An Orthodox friend told me of his reservations with the movement, which I fully understand; ''Western'' Liturgy having developed outside of Orthodoxy in the last 1,000 years. I must say that the people who provide ''Western Rite'' liturgy in the Orthodox Church seldom know anything about Liturgy, and do such disservices to the Roman Rite as artificially inserting an Epiklesis into the Canon. Putting Liturgy upon an operating table and cutting out bits which are less ''orthodox'' than others is a method of artificial creative liturgy fraught with peril. If I were in charge of a Western Rite Orthodox parish I would provide Sarum Use Liturgy, in Latin, following the Julian Kalendar, with a ''universal'' Sanctorale more or less consonant with the kalendar in use in the Roman Church around the 12th century (but also incorporating various Catholic and Orthodox saints canonized afterwards), and a ''local'' kalendar consonant with the local kalendar of the diocese, and probably the only serious correction I would make to the rite of Mass is the removal of the Great Elevation after the Consecration.

Discussing Liturgy is great, but methinks that there is a pre-requisite for Romans that they know absolutely nothing about it. The most stimulating conversations about Liturgy I have ever had have always been with Orthodox and Anglo-Catholics.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

If only...

For when you run out of Andrex...

I wish I were a Traditionalist Roman Catholic, so that I could wake up every morning and enjoy a fresh cup of Traditional Latin Rite Coffee and a delicious, Traditional, crunchy bowl of Tridentine Rite Cereal with added Papal bits, and an Infallible Croissant on the side. Alas, as a mere Anglican my breakfasts consist of a cold cup of Protestant Truth, and a dry crust of Double Predestination dipped in Schism...

This was on a friend of mine's Facebook a little while ago. I thought it was hilarious!

Unfortunately what is less hilarious is the fact that some Traddies, such as those who contribute to the Fisheaters forum (which attacks little old me sometimes), honestly think they experience the ''Tridentine Rite'' each time they go to their '62 Rite Low Mass on the second Saturday of the month at 4:00pm. I was once accused of hating the Tridentine Rite on the Fisheaters forum (I guess the ignoramus confused the liturgical books of 1962 with the Missal of Pius V). I can't say that I have ever truly experienced the ''Tridentine Rite'' (though it would be an experience) - that Rite having undergone countless revisions since 1604 (not to mention the Gregorian Kalendar). So we pity these deluded people, or rejoice in the inferiority of their understanding of Tradition? This blog rightly mocks the disposition of those Traddies who seek to revive 1950s Catholicism with all its evils, but what do we do about those invincibly ignorant and prejudiced Traddies, deluded by the lies of Una Voce and the $$PX? Since I only get links from Orthodox and Anglican blogs I cannot seriously hope that any of them read this blog, since Traddies only read TLM blogs...

St Stephen Protomartyr...

A friend of mine sent me this photo in December. I don't fully understand the significance of such a photo but I appreciated their having shared it with me. They are mitred Deacons, a curious Armenian tradition. As Gandalf said to Gimli on the confines of Hollin, ''may you have joy of the sight, my good dwarf!''

I am presently listening to Good King Wenceslas, a favourite Christmas carol of mine (and one which I know off by heart), though I am trying in vain to recall the amusing lyrics composed by a friend of mine about that awful Pope Sarto...
A very happy feast of St Stephen Protomartyr to you all!

Friday, 7 January 2011

The lace cotta...

The lace cotta annoys me almost as much as Harry Potter. Not only are they ugly, offend against liturgical propriety and look ridiculous, but they're also very modern and reflect the degrading liturgical decadance and generally poor taste of the 17th century. I mean, why not just celebrate Mass facing the people and walk out in procession shaking a tambourine whilst singing Colours of Day? What would be the difference?

Now which looks better? Luverly Low Low Mass (with God's Grace dispensed at low low price and low low effort), and all this awful lace, or this painting of St Bede's deathbed, where the clergy are wearing the full length traditional Surplice over their cowls? Methinks that lace ornamentation has little to do with the noble simplicity of the Roman Rite as desired by the Second Vatican Council...

Húrin Thalion...

Odd events in my life often remind me of obscure passages in Tolkien. Whilst processing my Returns at work this morning I was reminded of this:

Now Húrin journeyed eastward, and he came to the Meres of Twilight above the Falls of Sirion; and there he was taken by the Elves that guarded the western marches of Doriath, and brought before King Thingol in the Thousand Caves. Then Thingol was filled with wonder and grief when he looked on him, and knew that grim and aged man for Húrin Thalion, the captive of Morgoth; but he greeted him fairly and showed him honour. Húrin made no answer to the King, but drew forth from beneath his cloak the one thing which he had taken with him out of Nargothrond; and that was no lesser treasure than the Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves, that was made for Finrod Felagund long years before by the craftsmen of Nogrod and Belegost, most famed of all their works in the Elder Days, and prized by Finrod while he lived above all the treasures of Nargothrond. And Húrin cast it at the feet of Thingol with wild and bitter words.

''Receive thou thy fee,'' he cried, ''for thy fair keeping of my children and my wife! For this is the Nauglamír, whose name is known to many among Elves and Men; and I bring it to thee out of the darkness of Nargothrond, where Finrod thy kinsman left it behind him when he set forth with Beren son of Barahir to fulfil the errand of Thingol of Doriath!''

Then Thingol looked upon the great treasure, and knew it for the Nauglamír, and well did he understand Húrin's intent; but being filled with pity he restrained his wrath, and endured Húrin's scorn. And at last Melian spoke, and said: ''Húrin Thalion, Morgoth hath bewitched thee; for he that seeth through Morgoth's eyes, willing or unwilling, seeth all things crooked. Long was Túrin thy son fostered in the halls of Menegroth, and shown love and honour as the son of the King; and it was not by the King's will nor by mine that he came never back to Doriath. And afterwards thy wife and thy daughter were harboured here with honour and goodwill; and we sought by all means that we might dissuade Morwen from the road to Nargothrond. With the voice of Morgoth thou dost now upbraid thy friends.''

And hearing the words of Melian Húrin stood moveless, and he gazed long into the eyes of the Queen; and there in Menegroth, defended still by the Girdle of Melian from the darkness of the Enemy, he read the truth of all that was done., and tasted at last the fullness of woe that was measured for him by Morgoth Bauglir. And he spoke no more of what was past, but stooping lifted up the Nauglamír from where it lay before Thingol's chair, and he gave it to him, saying: ''Receive now, lord, the Necklace of the Dwarves, as a gift from one who has nothing, and as a memorial of Húrin of Dor-lómin. For now my fate is fulfilled, and the purpose of Morgoth achieved; but I am his thrall no longer.''

Then he turned away, and passed out from the Thousand Caves, and all that saw him fell back before his face; and none sought to withstand his going, nor did any know whither he went. But it is said that Húrin would not live thereafter, being bereft of all purpose and desire, and cast himself at last into the western sea; and so ended the mightiest of the warriors of mortal Men. (J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chapter XXII, Of the Ruin of Doriath).

The painting is by the Tolkien illustrator Ted Nasmith. Some of his work is great but he can't paint people. This is not at all how I imagined Morwen, or Hurin for that matter, or the stone.

From the Roman Martyrology...

On the Eighth day of the Kalends of January, under a new moon, long ages having passed since the Creation of the World, when in the beginning God created Heaven and Earth, and formed Man unto His image; even many ages from when the Almighty placed a rainbow in the clouds after the Flood, a sign of covenant and of peace; twenty one ages from the migration of Abraham, our Father in Faith, out of Ur of the Chaldeans; thirteen ages from the flight of the people of Israel, lead by Moses, out of Egypt; around a thousand years from the annointing of David unto the kingship, in the sixty fifth week, according to the Prophet Daniel; in the one hundred and ninety fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty second year from the making of the City [Rome]; the forty second year of the reign of Caesar Augustus Octavian; the whole World united in peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and eternal Son of the Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most religious coming, being conceived by the Holy Ghost, and nine months having passed since His conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea, was made man from the Virgin Mary. [Today is] the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Magnificatus est...

...Rex pacificus, super omnes reges universae terrae!

I am presently listening to Christmas Vespers from Westminster Cathedral, a CD I would heartily recommend. It could quite aptly be called ''Tridentine'' Vespers, since the Office hymn is Christe Redemptor omnium, which Urban VIII ''improved'' in 1629. [Update: A reader more learned than I in matters liturgical has pointed out that other than the traditional Office hymn, the presence of the Short Responsary and subsequent Kyrie and Pater indicate that the Vespers sung/performed here pertains more to the nature of pre-Tridentine Monastic use, and probably gives a taste of what Liturgy at Westminster Abbey was like once upon a time - all the more reason to go out and buy it I'd say!] When I first bought the CD, I thought that the inclusion of the traditional hymn was because the choir had sang the hymn to a setting by a pre-Urban VIII composer - not the case! The composer is in fact only 12 years older than me. Comparing the two hymns makes interesting reading - the Urban VIII version is a completely new composition! In fact a task I have set myself for this month is to translate the two hymns literally into English. It seems quite clear that the ethos and symbolism of the old Office hymn was lost when the Pope decided that it wasn't good enough, and invented his new improved version. Rather like when Pius XII changed the propers for the feast of St Mary's Assumption (propers used by so-called ''traditionalist'' groups I might add - clearly in deference to Tradition. The irony...).

I invoke for you all the graces from the child Jesus in this most dear solemnity of His Birth. Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis!

Crastina die...

Alleluia, Alleluia. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terrae, et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi. Alleluia.
In a strange way Christmas Eve reminds me of this passage in The Silmarillion.
''Now as has been told the power of Elwë and Melian increased in Middle-earth, and all the Elves of Beleriand, from the mariners of Círdan to the wandering hunters of the Blue Mountains beyond the River Gelion, owned Elwë as their lord; Elu Thingol he was called, King Greymantle, in the tongue of his people. They are called the Sindar, the Grey elves of starlit Beleriand; and although they were Moriquendi, under the lordship of Thingol and the teaching of Melian they became the fairest and the most wise and skilful of all the Elves of Middle-earth. And at the end of the first age of the Chaining of Melkor, when all the Earth had peace and the glory of Valinor was at its noon, there came into the world Lúthien, the only child of Thingol and Melian. Though Middle-earth lay for the most part in the Sleep of Yavanna, in Beleriand under the power of Melian there was life and joy, and the bright stars shone as silver fires; and there in the forest of Neldoreth Lúthien was born, and the white flowers of niphredil came forth to greet her as stars from the earth.'' (J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chapter X, Of the Sindar).

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Custom, and the 1962 books...

Whilst looking for something entirely unrelated, I stumbled upon this. I can add nothing more than to observe that like Summorum Pontificum, the now-almost-forgotten (since 2007) Trad argument for '62 from ''immemorial custom'' is a damned lie which comes from the Devil. This article demonstrates that, from the point of view of Canon Law, an argument for the '62 books from a ''custom'' perspective is futile, since custom derives from the worshipping community, not from on high, from whence liturgical law comes. Since the liturgical books of 1962 were imposed by Rome, and were never meant to be anything but a temporary stage in a well-planned and thorough revision of the Roman Rite (to conveniently incorporate the changes of Rubricarum Instructum, inter alia), they cannot be said to have arisen from a legitimate custom, to which all members of Christ's Church have an inherent right. Also how can you argue from immemorial custom by citing Quo Primum, which, contrary to custom, was the imposition of the Tridentine Rite upon the whole Latin Church, even where it was wholly alien? That's like arguing for the establishment of democracy by autocratic means (poor analogy perhaps but I have just realised that I published this post without thinking of one!)I t is therefore doubly wrong to say that all priests have a right to celebrate according to the '62 books, since not only were they juridically abrogated by successive revisions during the 1960s (and the Roman Rite as it was in 1962 was NEVER allowed as an option), but the '62 books are distinct from other approved Uses within the Roman Rite because they arose not from the worshipping community as customs do, but from the source of liturgical law - Rome - and according to Canon Law the Supreme Pontiff, as legislator for the whole Church, has the right to suppress customs as he sees fit anyway!

Apropos. It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church.

As the Grinch would say; wrongo! The question of abrogation seems to have been conveniently passed over by Traditionalists, who desire '62 (or at least some impoverished expression of the Old Rite, vis the abundance of lace, or mixing it up a bit by having the Old Rite but at an inappropriate time). I am still waiting for a response from any prominent Traddie as to whether they honestly believe '62 was never juridically abrogated, and if so to provide me with evidence in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis or some other source bearing the force of liturgical law supporting this spurious claim. I could provide a plethora of liturgical legislation supporting my position, though I think that the abrogatory clause in Missale Romanum (1969) suffices:

''In conclusion, we wish to give the force of law to all that we have set forth concerning the new Roman Missal…. In promulgating the official edition of the Roman Missal, Our predecessor, St. Pius V, presented it as an instrument of liturgical unity and as a witness to the purity of the worship the Church…. While leaving room in the new Missal, according to the order of the Second Vatican Council, ‘for legitimate variations and adaptations,’(SC 38-40) we hope nevertheless that the Missal will be received by the faithful as an instrument which bears witness to and which affirms the common unity of all. … Thus, in the great diversity of languages, one unique prayer will rise as an acceptable offering to our Father in heaven, through our High-Priest Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit…. We order that the prescriptions of this Constitution go into effect November 30th of this year, the first Sunday of Advent…. We wish that these Our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation.''

Far from presenting the liturgical books of 1962 as an option it seems quite clear that the revised New Missal is to be normative, and the one expression of the ecclesial Lex Orandi - that is, of course, if you accept any liturgical ruling which comes from Rome. I don't for the record. Since, however, the most recent liturgical legislation in the Roman Church is the more authoritative (in stark contrast to the traditional understanding of the Sacred Canons - that is that the older a particular law could be proved to be, the more force it has), one might well question the worth of previous legislation in the Roman Church. When the next Holy Father revises, or annuls, Summorum Pontificum with the next liturgical constitution (imposing, I have no doubt, the modern Roman lectionary, kalendar, and the rite of the Mass as it was in either 1965 or 1967), I wonder if Traddies will question the present legislation then? Or come to think like me perhaps? Lord only knows.

What would be the best for the Roman Church in matters liturgical? The implementation of Summorum Pontificum? I think not. I personally think a ''grass roots'' endeavour would work better, without ratification (or even knowledge, if you can get away with it) from Rome, where an argument from ''immemorial custom'' would actually make sense.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Two photos, two kinds of Liturgy...

Decadence, tastelessness...I honestly don't know how to describe this exactly. Their attempt at Liturgy seems at best a revival of 1950s Catholicism, a ''let's pick up where Pius XII left off''' kind of approach, with the abundance of lace, children, the ''big six'', grotesque Roman style vestments (the Chasuble here, up close, looks like sandpaper), and wooden mock-gradines, as if the Altar itself isn't good enough (and don't let us forget such incidents as Joe the Communist and Signum Magnum - both innovations from the 1950s). You would have thought that at a solemn feast such as the Nativity there'd have been more of an effort with the ceremonial, and ''colour'' (i.e, tunicled Acolytes perhaps, Crucifer etc; there was a Deacon but because Fr So-and-so the Priest didn't turn up, he was relegated to the choir, along with potential Subdeacon), but in Traddieland the only thing to distinguish a feast from a day of simple rite is the extra lace. How unedifying it truly was. Indeed, to put it one way, this photo looks less like real Liturgy as a theatrical performance (as I said before, children's Nativity play)!

Now this photo by contrast is quite pleasing. Note the tunicled assistants to the Celebrant in cope, pluvialistae (possibly rectores chori, if so most likely laymen), etc. This seems more in keeping with the ''noble simplicity'' of the Roman Rite to me than the inordinate use of lace ornamentation, and a million kids in cottas.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Traddies compared...

J.R.R Tolkien 100 years ago.

It is J.R.R Tolkien's 119th birthday today. On 2nd January 1969, in a latter to Amy Ronald (whom he affectionately called Aimée, in deference to her love of French, which is fairer), he had explained that his name was John, a name much used by, and indeed beloved of, Christians, and that he was born on the Octave Day of St John the Evangelist (which is, of course, today in the Gregorian Kalendar), therefore taking the saint as his heavenly patron (though with a careful note that neither his father nor mother at the time would have thought of anything so Romish as to have named their firstborn son after a Saint!). I showed this letter to a good friend of mine on the Sabbath of the Advent Quarter Tense (i.e, Saturday last), and he rightly noted that it was interesting that Tolkien reckoned the dates in terms of Octaves - Octaves abolished by Pius XII a decade earlier.

In another letter, written to his son Michael in November of 1963, Tolkien said something quite extraordinary:

''I suppose the greatest reform of our time was that carried out by St Pius X: surpassing anything, however needed, that the Council will achieve.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.250).

Nothing about the liturgical books of 1962, or the reforms of the rites of Holy Week (or the rapid abrogation of the liturgical books of 1962 and the emergence of the Novus Ordo throughout the 1960s). An end note says that this was possibly a reference to frequent Communion, though I would beg to differ - frequent Communion being a mark of the Roman Church going back even to the days of Sts Bede and Dunstan (see, for example, the Regularis Concordia, or the First Life of Dunstan, though confessedly the custom was nebulous). Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien were both lapsed Anglicans, to whom Liturgy was a purely Sunday affair (Christopher had converted to the Church of England in 1959 in order to divorce his wife, understandably to the rancour of his father, who despised Anglicans), and the general thrust of this collection (very small, Tolkien was a prolific letter writer) of letters is towards the emergence of Tolkien's legendarium, comprising The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), and finally The Silmarillion (published posthumously in 1977), so passing references to religion are often overlooked or misunderstood. If we consider the reforms of Pius X, which Tolkien experienced as a young man of my age, they effected not just the Roman Breviary, which by 1911 was the province purely of the clergy, but also the Kalendar. Before Pius X's reforms, if a Sunday had an occurring feast, the Mass of the Day was festal, and the Sunday was commemorated. Pius X reversed this, so that occurring feasts were commemorated and the Sunday took precedence (depending, of course, upon the rank of the feast). Whatever the merits of this reform it could hardly have gone unnoticed - in 1911 I expect that most Sundays one's parish priest wore red or white colour vestments. By 1914 this had completely changed, and green took over. I don't know what Carpenter was thinking of when he thought up this end note, but it is clearly not what Tolkien had in mind - and nothing to do with the Council (with which Tolkien was well-informed. On 10th March 1960 Tolkien attended a lecture at Blackfriars to mark the feast of St Thomas Aquinas entitled: ''The Coming General Council of the Church: Everybody's Concern'', given by Fr Jerome Hamer, OP).

J.R.R Tolkien with his family in 1955. Note the presence of his eldest son Fr John Tolkien, ordained a priest in the Roman Church in 1946.

Simon Tolkien, Tolkien's grandson, has this to say about Sunday Mass with his grandfather in the 1960s:

''I vividly remember going to church with him in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn't agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right.''

As a Classicist Tolkien couldn't understand at a personal level the pastoral motives for translating the liturgical rites into English. What must have irked him most in this sense though was the banal, degrading, Bible-in-basic-English (which he complained about to his aunt Jane Neave in 1961, see Letter no.234) vernacular with which he was provided. It doesn't take an idiot to work out that ''Et cum spiritu tuo'' does NOT translate as ''And also with you.'' He must have felt very sour, and alone, to have been ill-fated to die when he did, and to witness with his very eyes the collapse of everything he thought so strong and everlasting, from 1911 even unto 1973. In 1968, in another moving letter to Michael, he said: ''I know quite well that, to you as to me, the Church which once felt like a refuge, now often feels like a trap. There is nowhere else to go! (I wonder if this desperate feeling, the last state of loyalty hanging on, was not, even more often than is actually recorded in the Gospels, felt by Our Lord's followers in His earthly life-time?)'' (Letters, no.306). As you can see Tolkien was hanging on by a thread. He died in 1973, in communion with Rome, though Mass for him got so bad that he stormed out. How it angers me that this great man was humiliated in the twilight of his years by the very guardians of the Liturgy, which he loved.

The liturgical material in Tolkien's Letters is woefully scarce, understandably because they were compiled with the purpose of shedding more light on his literary works rather than his personal beliefs. If I am spared so many other cares and commitments I may take the time to personally research Tolkien's unpublished letters in order to piece together a more complete picture of a prominent literary Catholic, who saw throughout his life each stage of the liturgical reform. It is, however, clear enough from the material I have just shown that Tolkien was one of the proto-Traditionalists of the 1960s, in the same class as Evelyn Waugh, who famously said:

''Every attendance at Mass leaves me without comfort or edification. I shall never, pray God, apostatize but church going is now a bitter trial.'' (Letter to Archbishop Heenan, this very day in 1965).

People like Tolkien and Waugh are unlike modern Traditionalists. There has arisen a certain kind of modern Traditionalist (especially in the last three years, where obedience to the precepts of Summorum Pontificum is seen as the yardstick of one's orthodoxy), who mistakes blind obedience to the liturgical whims of the S.R.C or the Pope for righteous, Christian obedience to the teaching of the Church. One oft hears such repugnant things as: ''The Church permits the liturgical books of 1962 to exist side-by-side with the modern Rite'', or ''the whole purpose of Summorum Pontificum was the leitmotif numquam abrogatam'', etc. Please do not be deceived by this kind of pseudo-traditionalism. Evelyn Waugh was not interested in what the Church ''permitted'' in 1962 in matters liturgical; neither would he be fooled (had he lived) by the hackneyed ''numquam abrogatam'' nonsense, which is demonstrably false. Tolkien and Waugh were interested solely in the authentic Tradition of the Church as found in the traditional liturgical rites (pre-Pius XII) with which they were nourished throughout their lives. Pope Benedict XVI errs (or worse) when he says that the liturgical books of 1962 are an ''ancient usage'', were ''never juridically abrogated'', and were moreover ''familiar to them from childhood.'' To whom? Certainly not my 80 year old grandmother, nor even my 53 year old father!

Clearly there are Traditionalists and Traditionalists. Tolkien and Waugh would have Liturgy as it was in all the days of their lives. Who knows what modern Trads want, but their erroneous beliefs and their oft tendency to scoff at their local bishops indicate to me that they are not really traditional in any meaningful sense of that term, nor interested in historical liturgical accuracy, but are just brainwashed Ultramontane types who hang on, in spite of remonstrance to the contrary, to the Pope's every word, whether it be true or false. Is this not an apt description of delusion? Old Traditionalists were in a state of variance with Rome (as was I before Summorum Pontificum); modern Traditionalists are now the most obedient Papal sycophants, and look down their noses at everyone - since they implement Summorum Pontificum and the liberals don't! Whatever they want in the Church they clearly have little in common with Waugh and Tolkien, both of whom, I would say, would have repudiated Summorum Pontificum as repugnant to the Tradition of the ancient Roman Liturgy.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

More on the Subdiaconate...

Please note that while Blogger may reckon the dates according to the New Kalendar, I don't, so to me it is the Fourth Sunday of Advent today (with a beautiful Missa Rorate Caeli), and the New Year doesn't start until 25th March, which as Tolkien said was the actual date of Our Lord's Crucifixion (and the beginning of the New Year in Gondor), as is tradition in the Church. Unfortunately so far-reaching is the worship of Mammon encroached upon our lives, even as Catholics in communion with the Apostolic See, that we oft witness the spectacle of so-called traditional people heralding the coming of New Year during Advent - along with all manner of secular people, to whom pious religion is ridiculous.

To supplement (and improve I must say!) my thoughts the other day on the Subdiaconate and the general pretence of Trad Catholics, I received an email from a certain Han, who comments sporadically on this blog, who said:

''I agree that if there can be lay acolytes, there seems to be no reason why a layman cannot fill in as a subdeacon. Whatever some may have speculated in the past it seems clear to me that the Roman Catholic Church does not consider the subdeaconate to be a major order. At the very least, the fact the Pope Paul VI abolished it along with the rest of the minor orders must mean that it could never have truly been a major order, since the distinction seems to drawn at the level of sacrament. Either ordination to the subdeaconate is not a sacrmant and therefore was never a major order, or Pope Paul VI abolished a sacrament which means that the Roman Catholic Church is not the True Church. Being Orthodox, I naturally do not think that the Roman Catholic Church is The True Church, but nevertheless, for your (non-Sedevacantist) Catholic contributors putting forth the theory that you are a perfidious heretic for thinking that a layman may serve as subdeacon, it might be worth considering.

''More significant, in my mind, is the fact that subdeacons were never "ordained" by the laying on of hands by the bishop. The Canon Law approach that some have suggested is flawed. The subdeaconate dates back to at least the 4th Century, whereas the very idea of Canon Law dates only to about the 11th, and the Code of Canon Law only to the 20th. We know for a fact that there were married priests in the West as late as the 11th Century and it is likely that the notion of having an "obligation" to pray the Office dates only to Trent. Therefore, mandatory celibacy and Breviary-reciting duties cannot be the test of whether any particular order is a major or minor one. As an aside, I will note that if these two criteria were determinative, monastic tonsure should have been recognised as a sacrament in the West (as it was in some places in the East). Anyway, the laying on of hands by the bishop seems to me to be was separates the Latin major orders from the minor ones. If it is accepted that the deaconate, the presbyterate and the episcopate are indubitably major orders, then we should look to longstanding liturgical practice to determine if the subdeaconate is also a major order. Because the rite for making a subdeacon is like that of the minor orders rather than that of the major ones, it seems clear that the subdeaconate is a minor order.

''That it has been treated as a major order is curious in the extreme. Why should it have been so? Someone commented that it was the close connexion between the ministry of the subdeacon and the altar. If this is the case, then there should be no lay acolytes. If proximity to the Holy Table requires one to be in major orders, the only principled place to draw the line, it seems to me, would be the rail. Certainly, there is some historical evidence of this. I remember the story of the Emperor attending liturgy in the West during a visit wherein he was kicked out of the sanctuary because such area was reserved to the priests. If one can tolerate non-clerics to be inside the rail doing stuff at Liturgy, then there is no reason why the ministry of this particular minor order need be performed by a priest.

''Actually, there is no good reason why priests should be acting as deacons or subdeacons at all. Such practice seems to deny that there are actually any major orders, plural, in the Roman Catholic Church. Based upon the practice of the Roman Catholics, it seems to me that they have (or had until Vatican II revived the deaconate) only two orders: the Pope and Priests. Deacons are simply defective priests with no real ministry of their own, and bishops are merely mitred archpriests with jurisdiction. Priests derive their authority not from the bishop (as evident in their "right" to celebrate their own private Mass every day), so it is not as if bishops have the ministry of being "overseers." Yet, at the same time, they act as middle managers of Rome, so it is not as if they are successors to the Apostles.

''For my part, I think that part of the reason why this issue arose for you is that the current lens through which Latin theology looks at ordination is the lens of ontological status rather than ministry. Take again the example of the priest's "right" to celebrate his own Mass every day--a "right" that priests who have no ministry seem to nevertheless have (most monks, for example). I think it is far better to think of priesthood as a ministry. Since the bishop is the head of his Church, all ministry is delegated ministry of the bishop, and priests are ordained as needed for Eucharistic ministry. Furthermore, in the Orthodox Church, no priest has the "right" to celebrate Divine Liturgy by virtue of being a priest; rather, he must have been given an Antimension by the bishop for that purpose. Were we to look at your situation through this lens, the answer would be clear. Is there a need for a subdeacon? If so, is this particular ministry necessarily derived from the ministry of the bishop (such as the priesthood), or is it a separate ministry of the Church (such as prophet, teacher or evangelist). If it is within the category of the former, then a layperson cannot fill in as the need arises, but rather the bishop must ordain one to that ministry. If it is within the latter category, then a layman can fill in, but if this becomes a common occurrence, such person should be tonsured to be the "ordinary minister" of such ministry rather than create a situation in which a parish has regular minister without any relationship to the bishop.''

This is me vested as an Orthodox Subdeacon.

I agree with everything you say, especially about the laying on of hands - something integral to the threefold Sacrament of Major Orders. I have myself written about the Subdiaconate before. New readers of this blog might like to read the posts I wrote here and here, for instance.