Saturday, 31 March 2012

Let's have another Mass!

The New Liturgical Movement had a rare, interesting post the other day; a quote, in fact, by the great Dr John Wickham-Legg, one of the 19th century's great scholars of historical liturgy and whose predictions about the later twentieth century liturgical reforms at the behest of the popes of Rome proved accurate, very accurate indeed. The quote is about low Mass, or Missa Privata, a purely Western phenomenon, and which I consider a liturgical abuse of the worst kind - akin to celebration with one's back to the East, the direction of Jerusalem, and from whence Christ will come on the Last Day, even unto the West, to judge both the quick and the dead. Dr Wickham-Legg writes even so:

The variations in the ceremonies practiced in the celebration of the Eucharist make a division into two heads easy: missa solemnis and missa privata. The missa solemnis is the public, or high Mass, and gives us the rule for the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon....The private, or low Mass, on the other hand, must be regarded as the exception, and in this the priest is assisted by a server only. It is the presence of the deacon and subdeacon which makes the difference between high Mass and private Mass, and not whether any part of the service be sung. Now, it cannot be too often repeated that it is only high Mass which gives us the ancient, typical ceremonies of the celebration of the Eucharist, and from which we may learn the true idea of the Eucharistic rites. Low Mass only gives us the rite in a maimed and imperfect, not to say corrupt and irregular way. Private, or low Mass, that is, a celebration of the Eucharist without deacon or subdeacon, was as little known to the Church at large for the first 800 years, as it is to this day to the Eastern Church. It seems to have come in when Latin ceased to be understood by the people, who betook themselves, therefore, to their private prayers. Low Mass robbed the medieval church of the idea of common prayer, which it is the glory of our Prayer Book to have brought back. The celebration of the Eucharist in private (I am only using the word still used by the Roman Missal) shews but small respect to the Christian mysteries. It may be borne with in country parishes where there is no one in holy orders but the curate himself, but to see in a church with a large staff the altar served by some boy taken out of the street, who probably does not know his Catechism, and has not been confirmed, while men in holy orders are doing nothing in the stalls of the choir, or only come into church to distribute the Communion, shews that there is little or no zeal for the solemnity of the Eucharist. It shews a contempt for the practices of antiquity, to which in all questions of ceremonial, as well as in faith and morals, the Church of England appeals.... Even the more learned Roman Catholic authorities dislike the boy server, and tell us that it is the deacon who is the proper minister of the altar.

''On Some Ancient Liturgical Customs Now Falling Into Disuse,'' in Transactions of the St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society, vol. 2 (London, 1890), 123-24.

Another example of Anglican patrimony, I daresay, which Rome has lately claimed to admire and esteem, when just a century ago it could not be borne - are not Anglican orders, for example, null and utterly void in the eyes of Rome? Naturally I agree with everything Dr Wickham-Legg says, especially about the sense of corporate worship and that low Mass renders the Eucharistic liturgy bare of all dignity and splendour. Many who knew me in my days as a Roman Catholic (and a ''traditionalist'') will probably think that I have been too easily influenced by men like Dr Wickham-Legg and Percy Dearmer. I can actually say in all honesty, however, that I arrived at my conclusions about low Mass on my own. Initially it's because I found it boring and uninspiring; and it is, objectively. People who like low Mass are ill-informed and ought to be educated. Low Mass is for people who simply can't be bothered with Divine Service, and the same goes for people who disdain the Divine Offices.

The comment thread on the NLM post is interesting, and demonstrates two things - the disdain Roman Catholics have for great champions of Anglican patrimony (and, by extension, the Anglican patrimony itself - which proves that the Ordinariate is just a sham), and the typical Roman response to any criticism of their system. Let it be said that you may question the conclusions of Dr Wickham-Legg in matters liturgical when his conclusions are proven to be false, or without warrant.

Friday, 30 March 2012


I'm afraid there was an ''incident'' with two of my email accounts and I have lost everything. Could the reader who expressed an interest in my books kindly send me their details again so that I can arrange for the books to be sent?

Many thanks.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

40 years ago today...

On this day, the 28th March in the Year of our Lord 1972, J.R.R Tolkien, by now a highly decorated and accomplished octogenarian, received his CBE medal from our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for services to English Literature, an occasion, he wrote letter, which he found both memorable and delightful. As arranged by Rayner Unwin, a car collected Tolkien, Fr John and Priscilla (Edith had died the year before) from Brown's Hotel at 9.45am and drove them to Buckingham Palace where, he wrote later, ''inside...the ceremonies were, especially for recipients, accompanied by some tedium (with a few touches of the comic). But I was very deeply moved by my brief meeting with the Queen, & our few words together. Quite unlike anything that I had expected.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.334).

Blessed John Tolkien, pray for us.

O Lord, save the Queen.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mgr Gilbey...

The great Mgr Alfred Gilbey died 14 years ago today. Customers of the St Lawrence Press Ordo will notice that on 26th March, under the instructions for the liturgical day, is written: Dies Anniv Rmi Alfredi Newman Canonici Gilbey, Praelati, 1998. This inclusion is due to the fact that Mgr Gilbey bought, and used, the Ordo. I have heard nothing but praise of Mgr Gilbey from those who knew him well (including many of my personal friends). Great among the proto-Traditionalists of the Church, he resigned from the Chaplaincy to Fisher House, Cambridge in 1965, after 33 years, when it became clear that the university would admit women to the status of undergraduates - a man whose views about women resemble my own. It can be said that the shibboleth of Liturgiae Causa is the pseudo-feast of ''Joseph the Worker,'' about which I have written at length before. Mgr Gilbey, who was herald of a time when traditionalism was about at least the semblance of Tradition, had nothing to do with it, and on 1st May was wont to come from the sacristy of the London Oratory in a chasuble of the blood red hue of the Martyrs, to the indignation of the provost. Nor did he ever say the Collect Pro Papa on the days prescribed, but said rather Ecclesiae. Modern Traddies conveniently seem to forget this.

Were Mgr Gilbey alive to-day, I doubt he would identify with modern day traditionalists and their reprobate customs. Mgr Gilbey was a gentleman with principles and sense, not a sell out to the Ultramontane Papacy. I wonder if Tolkien knew him? It seems not unlikely. I expect they had a great deal in common.
I couldn't find a photo of Mgr Gilbey, so this image of the Travellers Club will have to do, I'm afraid. Mgr Gilbey did, of course, take up permanent residence there when he retired.

Requiescat in pace.

Lady Day...

''And God saw all the things which he had made, and they were full good. And the eventide and the morrowtide was made, the sixth day.'' Genesis 1:31.

''And the angel said to her, Dread thou not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Lo! thou shalt conceive in the womb, and shalt bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.'' St Luke 1:30-31.

''But one of the soldiers, with a spear, pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done that the Scriptures should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again, another Scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.'' St John 19:34-37.

A very happy feast to you all, and indeed a Happy New Year! In Catholic England, until 1752, the new year, logically, started in the Spring of the Year nigh to the Equinox, upon the festival of St Mary's Annunciation.

My hero, J.R.R Tolkien, was a Catholic and a mediaevalist, and in the tradition of the Saxons it came to pass, by Divine ordinance, that the Dark Lord Sauron fell on 25th March. Quoth Gandalf:

''But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King.'' The Lord of the Rings, Book VI, Chapter IV.

The Saxons believed, as indeed it was held in ancient tradition throughout mediaeval Europe, that Lady Day was also that solemn and serious Day upon which Our Lord was crucified, and the last day of Creation - a Day most holy, and encapsulating a treblefold mystery of our Redemption. All of this is asserted in Byrhtferth's Manual, written by Byrhtnerth, a monk of Ramsey, c. A.D 970-c.1020. Until the adoption of the Gregorian Kalendar in 1752, the 25th March was the beginning of the new year for most legal and official purposes in England, and a remnant of that still exists today, with the fiscal cycle. The Fellowship of the Ring departed from Rivendell on 25th December, and the realm of Sauron was ended on the 25th March. You see, it is not just in the Marian symbolism implicit in such persons as Elbereth and Galadriel, or Catholic teaching about death in the confusion of immortality with limitless serial longevity in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, or the symbolism of Aragorn as a new ''Holy Roman Emperor,'' in which we read aright the faith of the holy Fathers, but in the moral and religious significance of dates also. In other words, it is behoveful as Catholics to keep New Year on its right and proper day.

Roman Catholic Traditionalists, of course, with their typical rejection of anything old (or in this case, ancestrally Christian!), will continue to celebrate the new year on 1st January. God forbid that we remember anything which hath not its uttermost source in the pope!

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Just for the record...

I am not now, nor will I ever be, a communicating member of the Church of England. That church, the only legitimate claimant of catholicity in the land, being by law established, has deliberately abandoned the Catholic faith - by laying hands on women. Not that the Roman communion has any right to have churches or diocese' in England (or even members), but that is another matter.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Thomas Cranmer...

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, one of the Oxford Martyrs, who was burned at the stake for treason and heresy under our late Sovereign Queen Mary I. Cranmer was a masterful man and an eminent scholar, whose enduring legacy is the Prayer Book of the Church of England, although it is unclear how much of the same was his own composition. It is established that he was influenced in the structure of Mattins and Evensong by the Quiñones breviary (which was, thank God, abolished in 1568), the Holy Communion by the Sarum Missal, Luther's Deutsche Messe and Litany, etc. In all fairness, we can't really say much for Cranmer's moral character, having married secretly whilst in Orders, all those recantations made out of fear, not to mention his unfair treatment of the reformer John Frith in 1533, etc, but it would be a great disservice to the great man to say, as so many Romish biographers have, that he was an opportunist and a sycophant, without principle or conviction. His heroic stand at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on 18th March was commendable, where he said: ''And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine!'' Pure Patrimony! Therewith he was dragged from the pulpit and imprisoned, to be put to death a few days later. He died, his right hand, with which he had written his recantations, outstretched to receive the flames.

Cranmer did much to extend and unify the English language in the realm, a feat comparable to the influence of Dante on Mediaeval Italian. The 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion was due in part to the fact that Cranmerian English was little understood in the West Country, and a translation of the Prayer Book into Cornish was never made (this can actually be cited in favour of the liturgical use of Latin, at least as a unifying principle). At any rate, the subsequent Demands of the Western Rebels shews how much the minds of men were still under the yoke of superstition. An example of Cranmer's masterful, beauteous English can be taken from the Eucharistic Prayer of the 1549 Prayer Book:

And, here we do give unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks, for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy Saints from the beginning of the world: And chiefly in the glorious and most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God, and in the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, whose examples and steadfastness in thy faith, and keeping thy holy commandments, grant us to follow.

Does anyone know if Cranmer has a place in the Ordinariate kalendar of saints days?! To have created and influenced so great a part of the Anglican Patrimony for four hundred years, I would have thought he would merit something - a proper Collect, Epistle and Gospel, at least?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Byrdings...

It was my birthday on the 16th March so I thought I might expound something of birthday customs among the hobbits of the Shire, especially significant as The Hobbit is approaching its 75th anniversary.

Those of you who have read The Lord of the Rings will know from all the fuss about Bilbo's long-expected birthday party that, in the Shire, birthdays had a considerable social importance. A person celebrating his or her birthday was called a byrding (from the Old English byrd, birth). Birthday customs in the Shire had, though deep-rooted, by Shire Year (SY) 1401 (the year of Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday), become so regulated by strict etiquette that they were, in a sense, reduced to mere formalities, as seen in Tolkien's explanation that birthday presents were not expensive, ''as a rule.'' When, in SY 1419, Gandalf narrated the history of the creature Gollum to Frodo in the morning of the Shire, it was said that Gollum's constant claim to the Ring of Power, notwithstanding demonic promptings from the Ring itself, came in part from the fact that it had come to him on his birthday, that it was his ''birthday present.'' That Gollum was of hobbit-kind (of the Stoor kindred of Wilderland in fact), that hobbits were very slow to change, and that Bilbo had given presents away on his own birthday, makes the two customs seen here seem at variance, or that there was an error in the text. Tolkien explains that the byrdings both gave and received presents, but that the processes were different in origin, function and etiquette. The reception of presents by the byrding (omitted from the text of The Lord of the Rings) was the older custom, and by extension of this fact, the custom more regulated by etiquette.

The receiving of presents was an ancient ritual connected with kinship. It was at once the formal recognition of the byrding's membership of a family or clan, and the commemoration of the same. Anciently this took place shortly after birth with the formal announcement if the byrding's name in the presence of the family, or clan, assembled, or in larger families (such as the Brandybucks of Buckland) to the titular ''head'' of the family. No present was given by the father or mother to the byrding on their birthday (except in rare cases of adoption); but the ''head'' of the family (generally the oldest living member) was expected to give something, if only in token.

The giving of presents was a personal matter, not solely limited to kinship. It was a form of ''thanksgiving,'' and taken as a recognition of services, benefits and friendship shewn, especially in the past year. As soon as hobbits became faunts (that is walkers and talkers) they were expected to give of something they had ''produced'' (grown, found or made) or in their possession to their parents (in the case of small children, usually wild flowers). This may have been the origin of the custom of giving presents in wider distribution, and why it remained ''correct'' that the presents were previously owned or had been made/grown by the giver. Bilbo's gift of potatoes to his servant Hamfast Gamgee springs to mind.

By SY 1401, ''expectation of receiving'' was limited to second cousins and nearer kin who dwelt within twelve miles of the byrding. Even close friends were not expected to give presents, though they might, and usually did. This residence limit was obviously a recent result of the break-up of traditional kinship communities and dispersal of relatives, but according to Shire etiquette, the received birthday presents had to be delivered in person on the eve of the Day, or at least before nuncheon on the Day. They were, of course, received privately by the byrding, and it was very improper to exhibit them as a collection; a vulgar custom you sometimes find in modern day wedding receptions (and which would have horrified the Shirefolk). The giver could thus accomodate his present to his income, and could give of something heartfelt without incurring public comment. Naturally custom did not require anything expensive, ''as a rule,'' and hobbits were often flattered by unexpectedly good presents, as seen in old Rory Brandybuck's forgiveness of Bilbo's disappearance after finishing the first bottle of Old Winyards, left to him by Bilbo in thanks for much hospitality.

In ''primitive'' communities, such as those still living in the smials (or clans such as the Tooks), the byrding was expected to give something to the titular head of the family. This may have been the case with the expedition of Déagol and Sméagol. Sméagol was probably an orphan, and I don't suppose was accustomed to give anyone presents on his own birthday, save the tribute to his matriarch-grandmother. Fish, probably.

The giving of presents varied much from time to time, and from place to place, and depended on the byrding's social status and age. Wealthier hobbits gave presents to the members of their household, to their servants and to close neighbours and other kin (within the twelve mile residence). The withholding of a present was seen as a serious rebuke and a mark of extreme displeasure. Junior members of a house were under no obligations in the manner of giving gifts, though they usually did, according to their means and affections. Not expensive, as a rule, applied always and everywhere, although Bilbo was the obvious exception. His Party was a riot of generosity. Birthday parties were, of course, a very commonplace birthday custom. Them that were invited were given presents by the host, and they were expected anyway. Guests of the party did not bring presents with them, as this would have been very inappropriate. By the time of the party, the time for the giving of presents was past. If a guest could not come to the party, and was beloved of the byrding, a token invitation was sent anyway, with a present - usually consisting of food or drink, purporting to be a portion of the party fare.

I hope this has been interesting. Sources: The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien and Appendix C to The Lord of the Rings.

I couldn't find any images of hobbits, specifically hobbits celebrating a birthday, without using imagery of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, so these general images of the Shire will have to do. Art: Ted Nasmith and John Howe.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

St Patrick...

St Patrick, as depicted in a Book of Hours, ca. 1445. During the Middle Ages St Patrick was best known for his patronage of St Patrick's Purgatory in Co. Donegal. A brave pilgrim is seen entering the mouth of the cave, with the saint's blessing.

''I shall go, and turn again to my place, till ye fail, and seek my face. In their tribulation they shall rise early to me.'' Hosea 5:15.

''We entreat thee, O holy youth, that thou come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us!'' So cried the children of Focluth, according to legend, to St Patrick in vision by the Irish Sea.

A very happy feast day to you all! St Patrick is, of course, my patron saint, the Apostle to the Irish and founder of the Church of Ireland. To me, St Patrick holds an especial place in my devotion, not just because of his unique apostolate to the Irish (my ancestors), who were brought into the fold of Christ even before the English, but also because of the steadfastness and long suffering of the Irish on account of the same faith, which they have since, alas, deliberately abandoned. Yet great wealth hath Eire of godly and righteous men! I try to distance myself from modern St Patrick's Day festivities, which typically involve dressing up like an idiot with green face paint, marching in parades with tricolour flags, and getting drunk; you know, idiocy which plays into the thick mick stereotype; although I remember fondly my first (and only) Mass in the Irish language at St Saviour's church in Lewisham in 1996, during my Irish dancing days. Tonight, however, I shall be at the Royal Opera House watching Alice in Wonderland, which I'm sure St Patrick would agree is far more civilised than dying the river green for the day. Dear God!

A leaf from the famous Book of Kells (ca. A.D 800) depicts Christ enthroned in Majesty; an example of the supreme contribution of the Church of Ireland to Europe.

St Patrick was born to Romano-British aristocrats (hence the name Patricius) in about A.D 373. There doesn't seem to be a general consensus as to where exactly he was born. The Catholic Encyclopaedia (which has a thorough and interesting account of his life) suggests Kilpatrick in Scotland; other sources say Cumbria; personally, I had always thought Wales. His father Calpurnius was a deacon, who held the rank of decurio in the Roman magistracy; his grandfather was a presbyter. At the age of 16, as the Roman Empire was beginning to wane in power and influence in Britain, and was undermined by endless political turmoil in Rome, St Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery, where he was a herdsman for six years in the service of a cruel master named Milchu in Co. Antrim, and, according to his Confessio, ''more and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith, increase.'' It came to pass one night that the Angel of the Lord came to him in a vision, telling him that the ship in which he was, by Divine ordinance, to flee, was ready, and he fled thence to Gaul, even to St Martin's monastery at Tours, where he was ordained to the sacred ministry by St Germanus of Auxerre, with whom in after days he went to Britain (at the behest of pope Celestine) to contend with the Pelagian heresy. It was here, according to the earliest Vita Patricii, that the voices of the children of Focluth came to him in vision on the shores of the Irish See.

A 17th century Italian altarpiece, now in St Patrick's Cathedral in Dundalk, depicts St Patrick in the company of St Brigid of Kildare and St Francis of Assisi adoring St Mary and the Christ Child.

St Patrick returned to the hither lands in A.D 432, having been ordained bishop by St Maximus in Turin, with a small band of followers. It seems he went first to Antrim, to the land of his old master Milchu, to pay the price of ransom, and to impart his blessing. He established his see in Armagh, which has since been the centre of Christianity in Ireland, and the men of Ulster were first received into the Church. It was no small feat. Although he met with great success in Ulster and Tara, he was constantly in danger. Twelve times St Patrick and his followers were held captive by the druids, but when the Paschal Fire was kindled on the Hill of Tara at Easter Even 433, in the presence of the chieftains and the druids, it heralded the triumph of the Gospel. It is said that on the Hill of Tara St Patrick first plucked a shamrock from the greensward to expound to the men of darkness the doctrine of the Triune God, and so were they fortified in the True Faith.''For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God.'' (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

An illustration of St Patrick in the text of Messingham’s Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum was to prove influential in subsequent decades, providing the model for later coinage representing the saint.

You may believe myths about St Patrick at your whim; myths about driving serpents from Ireland, still more myths about a sort of apostolic commission to the Irish direct from the papacy after the manner of St Augustine, etc. I am of the opinion that myths about Irish saints (and they are many and fantastical!) are to be received not so much with a ''pinch of salt,'' as the saying goes, but on face value - that they are myths which have an inherent religious value, expressing truths about our faith which would otherwise go unexpressed. So spake Tolkien, who was very fond of Ireland (if not the Irish language), in his lecture On Fairy Stories. Many of them are just as wonderful and edifying as the old Norse sagas, or the Finnish Kalevala; I expect the most famous being the Voyage of St Brendan. As for serpents, St Bede writes in his Ecclesiastical History that: ''No reptile is found there [in Ireland], nor could a serpent survive; for although serpents have often been brought from Britain, as soon as the ship approaches land they are affected by the scent of the air and quickly perish. In fact almost everything that the island produces is efficacious against poison.'' As for the Papacy, neither St Patrick's Confessio nor his Epistola ad Coroticum make any mention of pope Celestine, but it is not unlikely that he received his pallium from Rome. Where the Celtic Church comes into that, who knows. St Bede wrote bitterly against the customs of the Celtic Church.

Sancta Patrici, ora pro nobis.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

Oft does the Sacred Liturgy contain words most apposite for our time and needful for us to know. I do think, however, that the stance of the Roman communion on this civil matter of the proposed redefinition of marriage is rather inconsistent. Forgive my ignorance but if homosexuality is as depraved, unnatural, perverse, ordered to the destruction of Christ's Church and the dignity of man as their doctrine makes clear, then why would they wish to treat homosexual people with any compassion or understanding? Surely the Scriptures admonish you to expel the wicked from among you? I am, of course, alluding to personal experience of Roman Catholics. They do not understand, and therefore there is no way that a thick mick priest can engage with a homosexual, in the confessional or otherwise, in a pastoral way. I think I speak with some authority when I say that homosexuality (and how I hate using that word! Do any of you seriously think that such terms encapsulate me?) is not a personal lifestyle choice, made on a whim, still less a temptation in the manner of food or drink. It is inextricably ontological, so utterly pervading that not a day goes by without the thought of it. I knew what I was far back into the earliest years of my life, and no amount of; ''no Patrick, boys kiss girls,'' made any difference to me whatsoever. You cannot reason your way out of it, or try to suppress it in the name of religion, as I did for so many years. That way leads to sadness and wrath.

What I find so strange about prejudice about homosexuality is where people think it is purely a sexual deviance - probably one reason I dislike such terms as ''homosexual.'' I think that a lot of gay men are driven purely by their bodies' needs, and I do not identify with the modern LGBT movement, or any aggressive activism bethought it of contempt for Christ's Church; but they err who equate all men together in this way. As I said, do you think that such terms as ''homosexual,'' ''pansy,'' or poofter'' portray an accurate picture of me? I am so much more than that. Can any Roman Catholics, so ''upright'' and ''sapient,'' explain why, as a boy, I preferred to go with my grandmother to the Royal Ballet than to the lake fishing with my father? Can any of you explain why I enjoyed helping my mother do the ironing more than other, more typically ''masculine'' pursuits? Why, for example, did I find music so moving as a boy that I was careful to listen only in the quiet of my bedroom, where people would not see my reaction thereto? Iconic women such as Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland, so beautiful and so pure, stirred something ineffable in me, and bestowed on me a glow of tranquillity which even religion failed (and still fails) to bestow. I must have been no older than four or five years old when, at my grandparent's old house, I watched My Fair Lady for the first time, and turned to my grandmother, so beautiful herself, with tears in my eyes. She gave me a very knowing look, but an expression only of love and understanding.

To return to matters more pressing, naturally I oppose the coalition government's proposed ''redefinition'' of Marriage, for fundamentally personal reasons. I daresay it is highly arrogant and presumptuous of any government to challenge so ancient an institution as marriage in this way. It cuts to the very core of our society. Even from a secular perspective, marriage (in the traditional understanding of that term) is for the good of society because it provides a stable home for two people, a man and a woman, who come together to start a family. Are men of a certain Classical tradition excluded from this vocation? There is more to chastity than abstinence and mastery of our passions. Only God is the judge of men's hearts, He who brings every work into judgement. But in the civil matter of ''marriage equality,'' there are very delicate legal and moral questions at stake. Do we overturn marriage, an institution far older than England, the Church, and godless pressure groups, to satisfy the same? What I resent is the confusion the political Left seems to have between legal rights and moral obligations. Is it confusion, though? Political liberalism and secularism have together created a society in which expression of moral convictions at variance with that of the State is tantamount to some form of discrimination. If secular people truly want a separation of Church and State they need to stop crossing the line, and leave the matter of ''gay marriage'' to the clergy. But this is too reasonable for these latter days, is it not? The godless do not want an application of religion in their political lives, but they want to treat religious issues with an application of civil rights. How abominable this whole matter is!

For those of you who have a copy, I'd suggest reading letter number 49 in The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, written in fact to C.S Lewis. As far back as 1943 Tolkien complained that it was ''intolerably hard to bring up Christian youth in Christian sexual morals (which are ex hypothesi correct morals for all, and which will be lost but which depend upon Christian youth for their maintenance).'' I agree, but I'm afraid this is too personal and depressing a matter to continue on what is primarily a liturgical 'blog. I thank God that I am gay; I do not consider myself crippled or at fault on account of it. But Glory to God in all things! Let us conclude therefore with a quote from the Word of God:

''Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sarah, arise, and let us pray to God to-day, and tomorrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock.'' Tobit 8:4.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


I would like to bring your attention to a new 'blog, well worth bookmarking, by a friend of mine. You can read it here. Blogger is being its usual reliable self and won't let me add it to my Blogroll yet, but I shall do so post haste. Commendable is the author's insistance on commemorating local saints in the Litany!

It really is quite simple. The more Ultramontane you are, the less open to the Tradition of the Church you are. The more traditional you are, you find that you have less and less time for the presumptions of the Ultramontane popes.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


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?

2011 equivalent.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Two photos, each representing two sides of the Anglican Patrimony. And a petition in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, excised by our late Sovereign Blessed Queen Elizabeth I in A.D 1559, whose assassination ''saint'' Pius V promised would gain that reprobate heathen safe passage into the Kingdom of God. Fortunately it never came to pass, and the legacy of Queen Elizabeth I is that much the greater. Pius V left us with impoverished liturgical books, paved the way for a new kalendar, and the impression that successive popes could (and would) do whatever they liked with the Liturgy. Elizabeth I, very catholic at heart, made an already great nation very great indeed.

Lenten Array at Westminster Abbey, symbolising the austerity of Lente by the absence of colour. Very simple, very old, ordered to the inspiration of godly piety and the holy fast in imitation of the Lord. Passiontide veiling, a later continental custom, doesn't have quite the same effect, does it?

From all sedicion and pryvie conspiracie, from the tyrannye of the Bysshop of Rome, and al hys detestable enormities, from al false doctryne and heresy, from hardnes of hearte, and contempte of thy worde and commaundement. Goode Lorde, deliver us.

You may ask wherefore this petition forms part of the patrimony, since it was only in use briefly, but the same may later be said of the Novus Ordo of Paul VI, the Quiñones breviary (which inspired the structure of the Prayer Book services), or the liturgical books of 1962 when, on the Day of Judgement, the Lord brings every work into judgement, with every hidden thing, whether it be good or ill. Such reprobate practices as Mass facing the people, irrespective of an eastward facing Altar, rainbow stoles, polyester cassock-albs and other liturgical abuses might be said to form part of the Roman tradition one day, not to mention new and old ICEL, and all 20th century liturgical books; all the stuff sanctioned for use from on high. The Syllabus of Modern Errors and the Oath against Modernity can one day be seen side-by-side with their later revision or abolition by the popes. The fact that popes Leo III and John VIII rejected the Filioque, and the fact that the Filioque now forms part of Roman doctrine; the fact that some of the more distinguished among the papal theologians, such as St Thomas Aquinas (and the Dominican Order, even into the 19th century), rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and that this doctrine (distorted by Rome) is now, like the Filioque, set in stone, presents a communion with much less a consistent system of concordant teachings, depending upon and resonating one to another; but rather a mutable, relativistic fudge defended and symbolised by the bishop of Rome, the dispenser of grace and teacher of all Christians. So what shall we say of Leo III and John VIII, defenders of the ancient orthodoxy of Rome? Are they heretics because they did not view the procession of the Holy Ghost through the prism of later innovation? What of St Thomas Aquinas, the most highly influential theologian of the Middle Ages, with his reasoning on the Conception of St Mary the Virgin? Yea more, what of Thomas Cranmer and his Prayer Book? What of all the English Martyrs of the Reformation, such as Ridley and Latimer, who set a candle to burn at the heart of England? Such men as these, remembered by the Church of England, rejected Rome. Will Rome one day accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, integrate them into her tradition?

Another example of Patrimony. Notice the Christmass Tree, which the Papists adore and worship; whilst the truly liberated English Church, that has been set free from nonsensical, non-Scriptural superstitions, looks on aghast at such pagan totemism!

Ahhh, the problems of ecumenism and the integration of a tradition utterly at variance with Rome into the Roman communion. Are the Romanizing Anglicans, destined for this Ordinariate, expected to anathematize their fathers and their tradition? What of the tradition itself? Taken of itself, the Prayer Book of the Church of England (which one?) is a masterpiece of English literature, a watered down, protestant compendium of services (although there is room for an interpretation of the Eucharist in an orthodox sense if one reads the words aright - at least that is my opinion). The Collects of the Prayer Book are by no means found in the Sarum Missal, although there are many other elements. Forgive me, but were the Prayer Book the product of 20th century papal reform, instead of 16th century Cranmerian reform, I daresay the Traddies would be less enthusiastic about the Patrimony than they let on. How much do any of them know about it?

Rome isn't interested in the Anglican tradition in any meaningful sense, it just wants converts by means of veiled aggressive proselytism, hence all the ''formation,'' the appalling treatment of the great Fr Hunwicke, and the fact that Mgr Keith Newton now dresses like a Roman prelate. If you saw him, and knew not who or what he was, could even the wisest man tell him apart from anyone else in the Roman hierarchy? Why does he not wear the English cassock, with the Canterbury cap? I could well imagine Rome saying not so much, come to me and I will preserve your tradition, but rather come to me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will swallow you up. It is true, though. Soon to forget, and be forgotten, forever lost in the papal system.

Just some musings on a Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

On writing...

''It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realise that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple beautiful sentence.'' Isadora Duncan, 1877-1927.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Two choirs...

The superb choir of Westminster Abbey have been invited to sing at St Peter's pagan basilica in Rome for the feast of Sts Peter and Paul; to sing alongside the Sistine Chapel choir in fact at two papal liturgies. This should be interesting. You can read more about it here. Two choirs, two traditions (well, one actually). It reminds me of the Music of the Ainur, almost.

To my mind, it brings into focus pope Benedict's view of the Anglican patrimony, either how little he truly knows about it (or how badly he is advised) or his great impression of the quality of Liturgy as celebrated at the Abbey. Does he think that the Abbey is emulated by all Church of England parishes? The Dean of Westminster Abbey told me that the watered-down Evensong celebrated there during the papal visit was a compromise between Lambeth Palace and the papal entourage. Nevertheless, the pope was clearly impressed by it; a tunicled Crucifer, the apparelled albs and amices, the Queen's Almsmen, etc. What happened in the pseudo-Byzantine cathedral the next day was an absolute travesty of liturgy!

The news put me in mind of this quote from the Ainulindalë:

''And it seemed at last that there were two musics progressing at one time before the seat of Ilúvatar, and they were utterly at variance. The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came. The other had now achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the music by the violence of its voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern.''

Art: Ted Nasmith.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Enigmata Saxonica nuper inventa duo...

These riddles, composed by J.R.R Tolkien, were first published in A Northern Venture in 1923. They were included in the second annotated edition of The Hobbit, but were removed from subsequent editions (for reasons unknown). Very clever, I daresay.

Meolchwítum sind marmanstáne
wágas míne wundrum frætwede;
is hrægl ahongen hnesce on-innan,
seolce gelícost; siððan on-middan
is wylla geworht, wæter glæs-hluttor;
Ðær glisnaþ gold-hladen on gytestreamum
æppla scienost. Infær nænig
nah min burg-fæsten; berstaþ hwæðre
þriste þeofas on þrýþærn min,
ond þæt sinc reafiaþ - saga hwæt ic hatte!

In marble of milk-white are
my walls wonderfully wrought;
a delicate garment is hung within,
just like silk; since in the middle
desire is filled, water glass-clear;
There glistens gold-laden in still streams
the shiniest apple. No one has entered
my fortress fast; nevertheless will burst
thirsty thieves in my splendid hall,
if that treasure reave - say what I'm called!

Hæfþ Hild Hunecan hwíte tunecan,
ond swa réad rose hæfþ rudige nose;
þe leng heo bídeþ þe læss heo wrídeþ;
hire teáras háte on tán bláte
biernende dreósaþ ond bearhtme freósaþ;
hwæt heo sie saga, searoþancla maga.

Hild Hunecan hath a white tunic,
and hath a ruddy nose as red as a rose;
the longer she bideth, the lesser she riseth;
her tears glowing hot on a twig lividly
burning fall dead and in brightness freeze;
say what she is, man of wisdom.

Old English riddles are largely anthropomorphic. Many found in the Exeter Book describe common objects in the day-to-day life of the Saxons, revealing an earthy similarity between rustic implements or weapons and the people or animals who use them. The solutions to the riddles are often surprising; in fact, some of them are just as bawdy as any modern innuendo, though most are serious in tone and are rather inciteful. They are, as a rule, told in the first person, and in some, the subject describes itself to the reader, even if it is inanimate. Can anyone guess the answers?
Art: Riddles in the Dark by Alan Lee.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Pugin Bicentenary...

It has been a rather full day for me today, and I had nothing scheduled from the other day, but today, the 1st March, is the bicentenary year of the birth of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, a man whose architectural and aesthetic principles accord much with my own. Pugin died very young, at age 40, but accomplished much for the good of the Church in his life.

''Indeed, if we view pointed architecture in its true light as Christian art, as the faith itself is perfect, so are the principles on which it is founded. We may indeed improve in mechanical contrivances to expedite its execution, we may even increase its scale and grandeur; but we can never successfully deviate one little from the spirit and principles of pointed architecture. We must rest content to follow, not to lead; we may indeed widen the road which our Catholic forefathers formed, but we can never depart from their track without a certainty of failure being the result of our presumption.''
So much for ''if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it.''