Sunday, 31 March 2013

A Paschal Sermon...

Igitur, si con-surrexistis cum Christo, quae
sursum sunt quaerite, ubi Christus est in
dextera Dei sedens.
Quam sursum sunt sapite, non quae super terram.
Colossians 3:1-2

A very Happy Easter to you all; that is to those of you who use the Gregorian Kalendar. On Easter Day in the Year of Our Lord 1613 Lancelot Andrewes preached a beauteous sermon before His Majesty King James VI and I on the subject of the aforesaid Scripture about how right it is that on Easter Day we seek after Christ, just as the holy women sought for him in the morn. The reason we seek above, as says the Scripture, is because that is Christ's most comely abode and thither we shall see His glory. It is there that we have our rest after all the travails of life under the sun of this world. The great man of the Golden Age of Anglicanism says:
''For this day was, indeed, a day of seeking. I know whom you seek, you seek Jesus Who was crucified, says one angel. Why seek you the living among the dead? says another. To rise when He rose, to seek Him when He was sought. This day He was sought by men, sought by women. Women, the three Maries; men, the two apostles. The women at charges, the apostles at pains. Early by the one, earnestly by the other. So there was seeking of all hands.
''And they who sought not went to Emmaus, yet they set their minds on Him, had Him in mind, were talking of Him by the way. So that these do very fitly come into the agendum of this day; thus to seek and set our minds. At least not to lose Him quite, that day we should seek Him, or have our minds farthest from Him, that day they should be most upon Him.
''The Church by her office, or agendum, does her part to help us therein, all she may. The things we are willed to seek she sets before us, the blessed mysteries. For these are from above; the Bread that came down from heaven, the Blood that has been carried into the holy place. And I add ubi Christus for ubi Corpus, ubi sanguis Christi, ibi Christus, I am sure. And truly here, if there be an ubi Christus, there it is. On earth we are never so near Him, or He us, as then and there. There in efficacia, and when all is done, efficacy, that is it must do us good, must raise us here, and raise us at the last day to the right hand; and the local ubi without it of no value.
''He was found in the breaking of the bread; that bread she breaks, that there we may find Him. He was found by them who had their minds on Him: to that end she will call to us, Sursum corda, which, when we hear, it is but this text iterated, Set your minds, have your hearts where Christ is. We answer, We lift them up; and so I trust we do, but I fear we let them fall too soon again.
''Therefore, as before so after, when we hear, Thou Who sitteth at the right hand of the Father; and when again Glory be to God on high, all is but to have this. But especially, where we may sentire and sapere quae sursum, and gustare donum caeleste, taste of the heavenly gift, as in another place he speaks; see in the breaking, and taste in the receiving, how gracious He was and is; was in suffering for us, is in rising again for us too, and regenerating us thereby to a lively hope.  And graciously in offering to us the means, by His mysteries and grace with them, as will raise us also and set our minds, where true rest and glory are to be seen.
''That so at this last and great Easter of all, the Resurrection day, what we now seek we may then find; where we now set our minds, our bodies may then be set; what we now but taste, we may then have the full fruition of, even of His glorious Godhead, in rest and glory, joy and bliss, never to have an end.'' The Sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, Volume II: Paschal and Pentecostal, pp.83-84.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Oh dear...

It would be nice to see some photos of a real Palm Sunday liturgy on the New Liturgical Movement blog. But no, instead we have Keith Harrison of the Birmingham Oratory wearing a red cope and blessing palm branches at a table facing the people. Is this part of the movement for liturgical renewal in the Roman church? Mediocrity and liturgical abuse in the Roman Rite? Thank God I'm no longer a Roman Catholic, that's all I can say! At least I have the freedom to say what I want about all this nonsense.

Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press has published a very good commentary on the reform with his usual masterly commentary on the real thing here. I have said often enough that the most moved I ever was by liturgy was at a celebration of Palm Sunday four years ago, my first in the Old Roman Rite, at the Blackfen chuch. It was during the chanting of St Matthew's Passion narrative; Scripture in situ as it ought to be heard; and I understood every word.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Another random post...

''The great pagan civilisations march their eternal round like weary ghosts through the schoolroom; at the stroke of the clock they vanish, and the activities of real life are resumed. Hardly does the thought occur that these too, like other restless spirits, have a message to deliver, and are burning to speak.'' Sir Walter Raleigh.

An old friend, a confirmed secularist, once said to me that Latin has no place in modern society, per se. I found this awfully funny even if what he said had a grain of truth. Now, I'm not going to repeat all that nonsense about the decline in Latin being another attack on the Roman Catholic church but I would say that a lot of young people, myself included, are considerably more stupid to-day because of it. Even from a pragmatic perspective, if a boy who attends public school is taught Latin and Greek, achieves some mastery of them; whereas a boy who attends a comprehensive school is taught neither but has a meagre instruction in modern French; then the public school boy has a skill that the unfortunate other schoolboy has not, whatever you might think of the ''point'' in learning these languages might be. I was taught Latin at school but the instruction was minimal. A few abridged passages from Caesar and Cicero and a few lines from Virgil - a poor return for two years of my life. It's as if a French boy were taught English at school and given a few pages of Wellington's dispatches or a speech of Burke, augmented with some lines from Paradise Lost. Would that give the boy a decent, nuanced view of our history and culture? No, and they're not even the best examples of English literature either; plus Milton's skill as a poet is dimmed, in my opinion, by his political and religious views. At any rate we're not always fighting, and neither were the Romans.

I never understood the decline. Maybe it's because people can't be bothered? Who knows. There's no use complaining, though. I have felt very deflated recently, very apathetic. Eventhough I was at Evensong at the Abbey on St Patrick's Day I have only been to one other service in the last three months, namely that put on at the Banqueting House by the Society of King Charles the Martyr on 30th January. Yesterday was my first aliturgical Palm Sunday in four years; five years ago I was in Ireland and, as I have already explained, I was then of the opinion (much as I am now, actually) that most liturgy celebrated throughout the world was beneath my taste. So, feeling deflated? Just as well that to-day's Collect at Mass asks God that we might get our breath back (respiremus).


Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit aureis.
Linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
Nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
ad claras Asiae volemus urbes.
Iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
O dulces comitum valete coetus,
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diversae varie viae reportant.
Catullus 40.

My Latin has gone all rusty of late. I enjoy Catullus but seem to be relying more and more on translations. This poem was written in the Spring of 56 B.C, when he was leaving Bithynia to tour ''the renowned cities of Asia.'' He says that Spring has come with a breeze of Zephyr (egelidos means ''ex-chill''); he desires to get him gone from the plains of Nicaea into the cities of Asia; that his soul is praetrepidans, literally fluttering with anticipation; and he bids the commitum, the staff, farewell as he longs (avet) for the way home diversae variae viae, in divers paths and through different lands.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


I can't seem to concentrate very well recently. In my post on Latin Christian poetry I was going to conclude it by making some comment on the continuity of forms and metres being by no means aping or disrespecting that of the pagan Romans but a genuine fusion, almost like the integration of Roman culture into Britain before the days of the Saxons, but never mind. To be honest I sometimes wonder why I bother continuing this fast-failing blog - most of my readers are gone, most people don't take me seriously anymore and all the ''interesting'' stuff is from two and three years ago, and it wouldn't be worth repeating all that, would it? At any rate, the posts into which I put the most effort are the least-read of them all.

I am persona non grata at home again and during Easter Week I shall be starting Jury Service so posts will be sparse from now on.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Poetry in continuity...

We don't hear much about early Christian Latin poets, do we? When we think of the Patristic age we tend to think of St John Chrysostom preaching or condemnations of heretics at General Synods of the Church. But Latin poets there were and a vast corpus of great poetry there is, much of it never translated into modern tongues. Classicists have always had a rather dim view of such poetry; they say that men like Lactantius, Ambrose, Cyprian of Gaul and Sedulius simply aped Virgil and Horace by using their forms and dulling them with images from the Christian Bible, which even to godly men like St Jerome was as dull as ditch water, though it told aright the history of Salvation. Church historians and theologians don't set a very high store by this poetry either as they tend to look to the more meaty stuff such as the Acts of General Councils and the sermons and epistles of great men like St Cyril of Alexandria. Even in the Patristic age itself poetry, particularly poetry set to iambic metre, or elegaic couplets or hexameters was seen as suspicious, partly because of the ancestral persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, partly because of the pagan beliefs enshrined in those forms - ''lies, though breathed through silver,'' as C.S Lewis said in 1930. I think they're wonderful. They appeal to all my aesthetic inclinations, and to my understanding of Divine Service, and you can use them in good conscience as much as the Roman Canon, the Psalms or even the Lord's Prayer itself in your devotions.

I was at Westminster Abbey for Evensong yestereven, wearing my harp broach in honour of Her Majesty's Western Isle, and the service was magnificent. Plainsong Introit, Psalm, Versicle and Respond augmented by Palestrina Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. Psalm 96, one of my favourites, too. At the verse O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness for some reason (perhaps the later association of the trees giving praise to God with Tolkien's Ents?) I thought immediately of those seldom-heard poems and will dedicate some time to producing some of them here. One of my favourites, typical of many conversion stories throughout the Middle Ages (you know, heathen, miracle happens, converted heathen), is by (or at least attributed to) Severus Sanctus Endelechius, a contemporary of Paulinus of Nola. The poem is De Mortibus Bovum, On the Death of Cattle, and is obviously based on Virgil's Eclogues, beautiful pastoral poems about suffering and the intervention of local gods, at which I spent considerable time translating as a student of Divinity at Heythrop when I should have been reading about systematic theology!

Imagine, Bucolus and Aegon are shepherds and together bewail the death of their cattle by Plague and hear from a certain Tityrus (again, Virgil...) that his cattle were saved by Christ's Rood Token. The Latin is exquisite:

Quidnam solivagus, Bucole, tristia
Demissis graviter luminibus gemis?
Cur manant lacrimis largifluis genae?
Fac, ut norit amans tui.
Can anyone guess the metre? O, why do you wander sighing sadly and alone, Bucolus, your eyes cast down as if you were oppressed? Why do tears stream down your cheeks? Will you not tell your friend?
Reading further you can see that there is even some polemic interwoven in the text. Tityrus says to the others, Come, let us go together, it is not far, and acknowledge Christ's Divinity. Of course, that's one idea. Truth is black and white, like pages of the Bible, but you can at least make it pleasing to the senses. No wonder good liturgy existed aforetime, but no more, but in far sundered places.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Papal Court liturgy...

With yestereven's news, and especially the choice of papal name, I have turned once again to the subject of Innocent III's liturgical reform, carried on by his successors Honorius III and Gregory IX, and taken to the farthest reaches of Christendom by the Franciscan Friars. A good reference for this subject is The Origins of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Liturgy of the Papal Court and the Franciscan Order in the Thirteenth Century by S.J.P Van Dijk and J.Hazelden Walker. I doubt liturgy is on the agenda for pope Francis but it will be interesting to see what kind of liturgy he celebrates publically, and whether he retains much (or anything) of Benedict's reform. His time spent with the Easterns might have some positive influence. Who knows? As I said yesterday, the fact that he came out onto the balcony without scarlet almutia and stole speaks volumes; I wonder if he'll have this approach to liturgy in general? As he is 76 years old and has only one functioning lung, I say: use well the days!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


There's nothing fanciful in a name. John Paul I chose such a name so as to continue the legacy of popes John XXIII and Paul VI, popes of the Second Vatican Council (and other things). John Paul II chose his name because his predecessor died only a month into his office (under suspicious circumstances if rumour is to be believed). Benedict XVI took the name benedictus on account of his admiration for St Benedict of Nursia. And now we have pope Francis. Francis was my Confirmation name. All my classmates took more common names like John and James, nice apostolic names; I chose Francis on account of Francis of Assisi, a man whose ministry I now repudiate, because he was reportedly very fond of animals, as I was of my pet dog (at the time a shih-tzu named Sammy). But pope Frank; you came out onto the balcony almost naked! This is a good sign, I think. The few Jesuits I have known (well, I did study Divinity at a Jesuit institution) have all been very congenial, intelligent men.

I'm going to be frank (no pun intended) and say I know absolutely nothing about this new pope even if I knew there'd be a Latin American. It's too early to say anything about what he plans to do; it will be commendable if he does something wildly evangelical. If he knows nothing about and cares not one whit for Liturgy then all the better for everyone. The previous pope did far too much damage with his aliturgical theories. Let us hope for something more Christological and sensible from this one.

The comments on Rorate Caeli are amusing, once again. They're hysterical! One of them says ''we're doomed! The Church is finished!'' I guess that's the danger of a little knowledge...

Friday, 1 March 2013


The Tablet has an interesting collection of letters on all manner of things on their website. I thought Simon Perry's comment very apposite, part of which I reproduce here:

''Firstly, the proponents of the pre-conciliar form of the Mass seem mistakenly to believe that they have a monopoly on tradition; secondly, those who attend the old rite generally keep themselves apart from other Catholics, and quite often pride themselves on never attending the ordinary form of the liturgy except for funerals or weddings. And thirdly, emboldened by the Pope's support, the often very vocal supporters of the extraordinary form seem to be gradually propagandising in favour of the old rite by speaking of it so incessantly as the traditional Mass that they have actually succeeded in convincing themselves and many of the rest of us that this may be so.

''Most significantly, however, is the way in which many traditionalists, who are often at ecclesiological and theological variance with Pope Benedict, seem to be reaching and propagandising disaffected Catholics who tire of endless Shine, Jesus, shine, pseudo-folksy bubblegum music, and the rather annoying middleclass white busy-bodies (unfortunately many of them female, as a feminist Catholic friend pointed out to me recently) who dominate the parish scene.

''I find it difficult to believe that the Pope's liturgical efforts will bear much fruit, but in order for them to have a fighting chance I suggest that control of the old Mass be wrested from the hands of the 'trads' so that it become something for all without the un-Catholic ideology so often on display in traditionalist circles and secondly that priests and bishops genuinely attempt to re-enchant the contemporary liturgy which has an inherent dignity, nobility and a winning spaciousness and simplicity which the pre-conciliar incarnation somewhat lacks.''

I couldn't have put it better myself. Traditionalists do indeed pride themselves on their separatism, something decidedly unCatholic, and their refusal to concede any merit at all to the Novus Ordo of Paul VI or any post-Conciliar developments, whether in terms of ecclesiology, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, episcopacy or biblical exegesis. I speak from personal experience. As a traditionalist I had nothing whatever to do with the Novus Ordo and thought ill of most Roman Catholics who didn't see liturgy through my own eyes. My eyes were opened by being receptive to acts of great charity and altruism from many mainstream Roman Catholics in my old parish, people who had very little to do with the Extraordinary Form (or whatever you call it) and whose faith and devotion were far greater than my own.

I agree wholeheartedly that the ''Latin Mass'' should be wrested from the hands of the Traddies, who seem to endue it with their own doctrinal standards and ill-informed pieties - far removed from the eminence and dignity of the practice of liturgy. The Bishop is the regulator of Liturgy in the diocese, let the Bishops look to it! "Oh, but Summorum Pontificum says..." Bother Summorum Pontificum! It's a complete load of rubbish and demonstrably false. Benedict XVI has put a spanner in the works by Summorum Pontificum. I would ask what authority the bishops have left in their own dioceses for it? Grossly unfair. You may not like or agree with your bishop, but he is your bishop nonetheless. I find it worrying that the traddies rejoice that the pope has removed episcopal authority over liturgy.

As for rather annoying middleclass white busy-bodies (unfortunately many of them female...) who dominate the parish scene, what can I say? We've all had run-ins with that sort!