Tuesday, 31 January 2012

King Charles the Martyr...

Better late than never, as the saying goes. At any rate I was at work all day yesterday and rather under the weather when I got home. Catholic England has (or had) Apostolic Succession and Monarchy at her heart; St Charles the Martyr (one of the patron saints of Liturgiae Causa - a truly ecumenical 'blog) was martyred for the preservation of these things. One only needs to look at what happened to these Isles (I don't say ''British Isles'') under the ugly despot Oliver Cromwell to see that without Monarchy, bad things happen. That isn't to say that there aren't bad Monarchs, but King John and our Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II are not the same person, are they? Monarchy is intrinsically good and Christian. Republics are not. It is no coincidence that δημοκρατία meant something like ''mob rule'' to the Greeks. Anyone who disagrees with me in this matter scarcely deserves the name Catholic.

Great Charles his double misery was this,
Unfaithful friends, ignoble enemies;
Had any heathen been this prince's foe,
He would have wept to see him injured so.

(Katherine Philips, Upon the Double Murder of King Charles, 1667).

I wonder why Rome didn't name St Charles patron of their English Ordinariate?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Silmarils...

A reader left a comment on this painting (by the Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith) in a now-deleted post, asking whether that Silmaril was ever recovered. No, it wasn't. According to the doomsman of the Valar Mandos, the Silmarils will not be recovered until the Last Battle, and are doomed to abide at the bottom of the Sea, in the heart of the Earth, and as a Star of the firmament until then, and their maker waits in the Halls of Mandos.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Of Winter...

A heartwarming post from that Ent Fr Chadwick. He has made my day with these musings.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Among the hemlocks...

One of the most personal, evocative and certainly among the oldest moments at the heart of Tolkien's legendarium is the vision of Beren, wayworn and bereft, in the woods of Doriath when he chanced upon the Elf maid Lúthien, dancing among the hemlocks at a time of evening under moonrise. I expect that most of you know ''hemlock'' as the poisonous weed which caused the death of Socrates, but to Tolkien, whose mastery of the English language was surpassed by none in his life, the word was generic, with roots in regional English. As the Oxford English Dictionary explains, the name is ''also applied in rural use to the large Umbelliferae generally,'' that is, to any of various plants whose flowers and seeds are borne upon delicate, many-branched umbels. These are familiar plants of English woodlands, but their modern common names are less apt to Tolkien's purpose. The mention of ''Queen Anne's lace'' would seem out of place in a tale of the Elves, and for Lúthien to dance among ''cow's parsley'' would conjur an image of a rustic milkmaid, not an Elven princess. According to Christopher Tolkien, the greatest of all Tolkien scholars, Tolkien did not sympathize with the botanists' habit of applying distinct English names to more or less similar plants which popular usage made little attempt to distinguish (cf: J. Garth, Tolkien and the Great War). This appreciation of old and rural plant distinctions is seen also in the use of the terms Gladden and Nasturtian.

There are so many layers to Tolkien's legendarium. I daresay that not one of the many thousands of words went unconsidered. I wonder if this much attention was lavished upon the works of lesser authors?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Where it be the custom...

You would think that such photos as these would damage my credibility, being the arch-Nemesis of the lace cotta, but I have a sense of humour. All I can say is that I enjoy going to St Magnus on Sundays and feasts, and feel privileged to serve there. After all, it's a church with some history and architectural merit and most excellent people, not a hideous barn.

Old Sarum...

I have lost all interest in religion lately, and especially that propounded to us in most 'blogs. However Fr Chadwick has started a new 'blog, dedicated to the Sarum Use and other Northern liturgical patrimony - a supreme contribution to England, and the memory of which (and practice thereof, in isolated places of orthopraxis) is a remnant of our truly Christian past. It reminds me of the relationship of the Ents to the Elves, and how they became estranged. The Elves had taught the Ents to speak far back in the deeps of time, and the Ents cannot forget it; but the two kindreds had grown far apart as the Ages of the Sun went by, and all about the lands the influence of Sauron grew, and dark things crept back into the Wild.

Historia is a magnificent lady, much like Natura, especially when she narrates to us the story of churches, laden with so much regret, showing up the various grotesqueries of human nature for us all to see, in all frankness. I think this is why Tolkien appeals to me so much - for historical reasons. Fair enough, it's all legendary, but he doesn't beat about the bush. Bad things happen, ends come, people die, many fair things that might have come to everlasting fruition perish from this world. So it is with the Church, and the churches. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. Or as Galadriel said of the Springtime of Lothlórien, that it ''will never be seen again, save in memory.'' Perhaps the more venerable liturgical customs of England, now entirely obsolete (except in such places as Westminster Abbey, where they are watered down and mingled with such things as priestesses), are that much dearer because we know nothing else? Tolkien said once that the beauty of the Eldar was enriched by sorrow and wisdom, and even to Melkor was it said: ''And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.''

What am I trying to say, exactly? That we ought to be content with things as they are? Presently I haven't a hope left in the world. I am no longer interested in even being right, let alone doing right. Religion just fills me with wrath. Finis.

Do go over and pay a visit to Fr Chadwick's new 'blog. Actually he is desirous of articles by others who have an interest in the matter of Sarum and all that, so do let him know. I would ask also that you pray God for his health, since he is recovering from a hernia operation. Jesu mercy, Mary pray!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Evensong and Benediction...

I never heard of such tosh. I guess that the Papists won't be content until they have heaped so much of their claptrap onto everything the pope draws unto himself until what little ''patrimony'' is left in the Ordinariate is bent over double, weighed down, and is consequently of little intrinsic worth. Almost like the case of Gwindor, son of Guilin, a prince of the Gnomes, in the Tale of Turambar - a brief stint in Hell with the Dark Lord, and he came forth as one of the aged among Men. I mean the head of this new Ordinariate is now styled ''Monsignor,'' an Italian name unless I am quite mistaken. Do these people know the first thing about the ancestral liturgy of the Church of England? If you want dignity and tradition, why not pay a visit to Westminster Abbey at five o'clock on a typical weekday?

I was invited (naturally), but decided to perform a public service for somebody socially isolated with two atheist friends of mine instead. It was great fun loving my neighbour, I must say.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The fallen king...

Standing there for a moment filled with dread Frodo became aware that a light was shining; he saw it glowing on Sam's face beside him. Turning towards it, he saw, beyond an arch of boughs, the road to Osgiliath running almost as straight as a stretched ribbon down, down, into the West. There, far away, beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the Sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire towards the yet unsullied Sea. The brief glow fell upon a huge sitting figure, still and solemn as the great stone kings of Argonath. The years had gnawed it, and violent hands had maimed it. Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn stone, rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead. Upon its knees and mighty chair, and all about the pedestal, were idle scrawls mixed with the foul symbols that the maggot-folk of Mordor used.

Suddenly, caught by the level beams, Frodo saw the old king's head: it was lying rolled away by the roadside. ''Look, Sam!'' he cried, startled into speech. ''Look! The king has got a crown again!''

The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold. A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed.

''They cannot conquer for ever!'' said Frodo. And then suddenly the brief glimpse was gone. The Sun dipped and vanished, and as if at the shattering of a lamp, black night fell. (J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter VII).

The image? A restored Rood Loft from Binham Priory in Norfolk. Our Lord was expunged, painted over with verses from an English Bible. Look at the eyes, in token of pity, almost grief. It was the beginning of the end.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

St Hilary on the Holy Virgin...

My soul breaketh out for the very fervent desire: that it hath always unto thy judgements (Psalm 119:20).

''A sword will pierce the soul of blessed Mary, so that the thoughts of many hearts might be laid bare (cf. Luke 2:35). If this Virgin, made capable of conceiving God (capax illa Dei Virgo), will encounter the severity of His Judgement, who will dare to desire this Judgement?''(St Hilary of Poitiers, Tractatus super Psalmum 118, 12).

What could St Hilary mean by this? That man must be redeemed after a fashion consonant with his nature, in all respects? Clearly, but I confess myself wholly ignorant of the Fathers.

Philomythus ad Misomythum...

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends -
if by God's mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not tread your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day-illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.
(J.R.R Tolkien to C.S Lewis, Mythopoeia).

Thursday, 12 January 2012


''Its name was Cirith Ungol, a name of dreadful rumour. Aragorn could perhaps have told them that name and its significance; Gandalf would have warned them. But they were alone, and Aragorn was far away, and Gandalf stood amid the ruin of Isengard and strove with Saruman, delayed by treason. Yet even as he spoke his last words to Saruman, and the palantír crashed in fire upon the steps of Orthanc, his thought was ever upon Frodo and Samwise, over the long leagues his mind sought for them in hope and pity.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter III).

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


There were three children, two boys and a girl. We were of widely different temperaments, and this was shewn most clearly in everything that we did. When my father allotted to my brother and me lots in the garden, in which we could each do exactly as we pleased, my brother commenced a furious digging, in an attempt to find the centre of the Earth. I planted snowdrops.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Octave of the Lord's Epiphany...

One of the more reprehensible of the 1955 reforms was the abolition of the Octave of the Epiphany. It seems strange that the Christmass Octave should be retained (not that those of the comites Christi were kept) instead of that of Epiphany; for Christmass is celebrated within the context of the Lord's manifestation to the world, not vice versa, and the Octave of the Epiphany (indeed the feast itself) was far older. Traditionally the Octave Day of the Epiphany marked the Baptism of the Lord, by which He fulfilled all righteousness. But what went through the mind of old Pius when he took it upon himself to break so venerable a tradition upon his will? Whatever the reasons, and I'm sure they fall short of truly justifying anything, I rejoice that there are pockets of orthopraxis out there who have escaped from his shadow. Truly, I mean. I have no time for those Ultramontane types who pay lip service to Tradition, and deserve the words: This people honours me with its lips; but its heart is far from me. (Is. XXIX, 13). The right celebration of Liturgy is a moral activity, and your soul is compromised if, on the Day of Judgement, the only reason you can come up with for acting contrary to the Tradition of the Church is: ''because the pope decided otherwise.''

So observe the Lord's Octaves (especially local ones), keep his fasts and feasts on their proper, traditional days, and you can't go wrong. Do otherwise and things might very well go ill with you on the Day of Judgement.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Blessing the River...

A blessed Epiphany to you all! Mine has been uneventful, really. No blessing of the waters (yet), no chalk, etc. I had to work, of course, though spent happy hours last night instructing my Asian friend in the rudiments of the Christian faith, using a sermon of St Leo and some antiphons as examples (per Liturgiam ad Deum, and all that).

Gregory DiPippo of Style over Substance 'blog has written an interesting post about the blessing of the waters on the eve of the Epiphany, which is one of those subjects which demonstrates how truly ecumenical traditional Liturgy is. I am going to St Magnus the Martyr on the Sunday within the Octave, where we're going to solemnly bless the River Thames. Come along if you have a mind.

I wish to convey my best wishes to the Old Kalendrists who are today celebrating the Lord's Nativity, and, of course, belated blessings to the New Kalendar Armenians for yesterday's festivities.

Keeping up appearances...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


On the Octave day of St John the Evangelist, in the year of Grace 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is 120 years old today! He hasn't quite beat the Old Took yet, but there we are! Incidentally, 2012 will also mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. Abebooks have a first edition, first impression, hard-back copy of The Hobbit signed by Tolkien himself, in very fine condition. It's only £9500. It would make a very nice birthday present!

The painting is, of course, by Tolkien himself, depicting Bilbo's travail on the Forest River after his escape from the Elven-king's halls in northern Mirkwood. I imagine that Tolkien and Bilbo were very much alike. At any rate The Red Book of Westmarch is the legendarium, preserved in Gondor and the Shire after Bilbo passed into the West.