Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Two popular posts...

Here and here. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Woses...

Púkel-men (as in Shakespeare's "Puck"), or Wild Men, woodwoses and other names besides, seen in a 14th century Italian Book of Hours. Pretty aren't they?! I first discovered the word "woses" in a Christian context in a polyglot bible (in Gothic, Old English, Tyndale and Authorized translation) in the Heythrop Theology library. Wycliffe used it therein to refer to the "doleful creatures" of Isaiah and in the tale of Nebuchadnezzar. Their appearance in Christian art during the Middle Ages is curious. Tolkien adopted them in The Lord of the Rings; for those of you who have read Tolkien, you may remember the ascent of the Rohirrim into the foothills of the White Mountains. On the slopes of Dunharrow there were many shapeless statues of a forgotten race whom men called "woses." I think their presence in Christian art was to exemplify human ignorance or barbarism. Seen here in the context of the Blessed Trinity, and what appears to be the Coronation of St Mary...I wonder what the artist intended?

Friday, 25 July 2014


This is episode three of Simon Schama's impartial, detailed and politically incorrect A History of Britain. If you skip to about 43:30 you can hear what I think is Emma Kirkby. Does anybody know what she is singing? If you can ignore Schama's commentary on the feud between Henry II and Richard Coeur de Lion it's rather beautiful.

One thing I found amusing about this part of the documentary was Schama's treatment of the manner of King Richard's death upon the battlements of Châlus as, "a triumph of daredevil romance over common sense."

Thursday, 24 July 2014

In the Outbox...

Dear reader,

Liturgiae Causa has been in decline for well over a year now, the result of sheer weariness of the subject - not of liturgy, which remains as interesting to me as the literary works of J.R.R Tolkien, but of the Roman Rite, the Papacy and "Traddieland" (which now includes the Ordinariates). The blog used to be very busy, with posts appearing daily and with many comments from readers, but the bulk of my readers have since gone elsewhither - and I don't blame them. Nowadays I update it a handful of times per month and even then posts are about subjects other than liturgy. Liturgical posts are ignored for the most part as their quality has declined. It is a depressing topic. If you want a flavour of what Liturgiae Causa used to be I should start from the beginning (Whitsun 2010) and continue reading until roughly two years ago. This is, in my opinion, the only post worth reading this year and the quality of this exposition of the recent history of the Roman Rite was met with no comment whatever. That alone tells me that Liturgiae Causa is finished.

In answer to your questions: [1, What is your problem with transubstantiation? 2, Why do you consider the historic intervention of popes in matters liturgical to be bad in every respect?].

1). Transubstantiation is an abomination. It renders the Eucharistic Sacrifice an act of sorcery, with the "balance of power" (so to speak) resting with the priest's recital of magic words of institution rather than with the Almighty Himself who deigns to send down the Holy Ghost upon the altar. In the West, ordained priests have been seen (since about the 13th century) as alter Christi as opposed to delegates of the Bishop sent to the parishes on his behalf to minister to congregations. This shift had its uttermost origins in the pontificate of that awful pope Innocent III, the man whose mission seemed to be to bring about a real schism between East and West (by legitimising the Latin Emperors of Constantinople and their abysmal treatment of the Orthodox Church, its rites and customs) and whose Lateran Synod of 1215 introduced a number of pernicious innovations, disguised by RC apologists as "developments," into the Roman communion which weakened the Latin Church's connexion to her own traditions as well. The Lateran Synod, in addition to defining transubstantiation, introduced eucharistic reservation under lock and key, a development which would have disastrous consequences not only for the daily celebration of the Liturgy but upon the most solemn and serious rites of Holy Week. Transubstantiation gave way to the "low Mass mentality" (a phrase coined by a friend of mine). It's quite simple. If procurement of the Eucharist boils down to a priest, and there are plenty of those, saying a few words and making a few signs, then what's the use of musick, of ceremonies, of all those people, all that time spent preparing for high Mass or for the manifold Offices, when you could fill up churches and monasteries with side altars and have everybody say their private masses, several times a day? Just think of cashing in on that abundance of Grace! The real nail in the coffin was when the Council of Trent legitimised low Mass and the 1570 missal mandated a set of rubrics for it. Then came the Baroque period, the Jesuits and their notorious "food for the mission" mentality. The ruin of the contemporary Roman liturgy goes back much farther than 1969!

2). Well, popes have been, for the most part (there have been exceptions), aliturgical. The irony is that some of the most aliturgical popes have been canonised, placing their actions above reproach! This tendency goes back many centuries; I suppose, for argument's sake, we could start with the 11th century. Gregory VII was one of the "great reforming" popes; typically obsessed with unity and subjugation of the whole of Europe to his will. His treatment of the Mozarabic Rite was hardly saintly, though. Simply because the venerable Spanish liturgy differed from the customs of Rome, it could not be borne and so with the spread of the Gregorian reform in Spain by the Cluniac monks, out went legitimate local traditions in favour of Roman ones, a tragic loss for Spain. The Slavonic liturgy in Bohemia suffered a similar fate, thanks to the "apostolick labours" of Gregory VII. Pope Nicholas II attempted (unsuccessfully) to suppress the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, beaten only by mass revolts and the disgust of the Milanese themselves at such shabby treatment. Skipping a few centuries, the Council of Trent placed liturgical regulation squarely into the hands of the reigning pope, an act of unprecedented liturgical centralization. The liturgy since that time, that is, in Western dioceses, has been something not traditional to the place but imposed from on high - reminiscent of Pius XII's reversal of the Lex Orandi in the encyclical Mediator Dei of 1947. This is, curiously, diametrically opposite of St Gregory the Great and Preacher of Dialogue's counsel to our father in faith St Augustine of Canterbury on the mission to England: non pro locis res, sed loca pro bonis rebus! Post-Tridentine liturgical developments have since proved to be pernicious and arbitrary, from Gregory XIII's new kalendar to Urban VIII's sterile and ridiculous Breviary hymns (corrected, partly, by the Liturgia Horarum). But this Papal contempt for liturgy was not solely limited to the Roman Rite (as Gregory VII has shewn). The Chinese Rites controversy springs to mind, as well as the treatment of the Maronites, the Malabarese, the Chaldeans and the Ethiopians by colonial powers, with full papal encouragement. The quintessential mentality of the Papacy, until the time of Leo XIII, in all these cases was: anything that is not the Roman Rite is inferior and must be altered, with complete disregard for legitimate local traditions and the sentiments of the faithful. The Uniates of Byzantine tradition have suffered notorious Papal-endorsed latinization of their churches and rites.

As for the Roman Rite itself, the 1911 Breviary reform was revolutionary - greater, said Tolkien, than anything the Second Vatican Council could have achieved. Rubricarius specialises in those reforms so I would encourage you to read the articles on the St Lawrence Press blog. All these reforms, no matter how great or insignificant, they all of them beg the question: why? To what purpose? Like the construction of St Peter's Basilica (which replaced the old Constantinian basilica), do they represent a kind of imperialism or triumphalism? To me they have little to do with pastoralism or, if you like, cultivation of farmland (that is, to compare the Sacred Liturgy unto a tree, with the popes as arborists): to me, they represent the exercise of raw power. A power that is not apostolick or legitimate, a power that has been usurped and consistently misused. So, for me, the Roman Rite is a lost cause. Even if the Papacy were obliterated the sorry state of the Roman Rite would still remain for reasons beyond the scope of an e-mail; it is the result of centuries of abuse, neglect and bad theology. If you have read The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's description of the obscene and parched lands about Mordor is most apposite.

So, are you an ex-Anglican? I'm afraid the Ordinariates are outside the range of my sympathy. "Patrimony," for example, is a trite term with little meaning. If an ex-Anglican prelate who celebrates the modern Roman Rite, styles himself "monsignor" and wears Roman liturgical attire circa 1970 thinks he is safeguarding Anglican Patrimony then I think "patrimony" means something different for Keith Newton than it does for me. I own a copy of the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham and there is nothing Anglican about it! What could be more traditionally Anglican than the King James Bible, for example? The kalendar authorised for the Ordinariate follows the pattern of the modern Roman one, with a smattering of English saints here and there. May 1st is notorious. Open a Prayer Book kalendar for May 1st and you'd find Sts Philip and James, as you would in the historic Sarum Missal or the Roman Missal until 1954. Does San Giuseppe Comunista represent Anglican Patrimony? What the Ordinariates represent is Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholicks, who already eshew the authentic Prayer Book traditions, joining the Roman Communion and carrying on as they are and they are little different from either mainstream Roman Catholicks or Traddies. Prayer Book Anglicans, if they are still extant in some remote corner, are not interested in Rome. And I can see no real evidence that Rome is keen on Anglican traditions, a legacy of mutual contempt that goes back to the Elizabethan Settlement.

I should like to know why you think that Benedict XVI is wonderful. To me, he is no different from Pius X or Pius XII. A servant of crime whose liturgical theories will bear fruit in bitterness.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Truth and Falsehood...

There is no moral or practical reason to believe that which is false or to ascribe tradition to impious customs. If a teaching is false then you should not believe in it. If a custom is ostensibly bad then you should not practise it. Furthermore, people have no right to profess false teachings or to defend impious customs. Christianity is true. Orthodox Christianity is the "truest" manifestation of Christianity, being that Church which has preserved true patristic episcopacy and theology down to our own times. Romanism is false. Its theology is rotten and its traditions are distorted. Because its teachings are false and its customs are evil, men have no right to profess Romanism. The same goes for any other religion.

There seems to be a fundamental dishonesty and treachery to religious integrity to say that other people have the right to maintain their erroneous beliefs unmolested in spite of true Christianity. Blurring the distinction between truth and falsehood for the sake of sparing somebody's feelings is a sin.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The evils of tolerance...

If tolerance of other peoples' false beliefs and customs were an Apostolick tenet then there'd be no Christian faith to-day. If St Paul had said to the Galatians, "oh you know, I respect your rights to carry out genital mutilation and to carry on adhering to the Law," what would be the state of the churches in Galatia? Or if the Synod of Whitby found that it had no right to impose orthodox Roman customs upon the Celts, what would be the state of Christianity in seventh century Northumbria? Or, speaking generally, what of evangalisation? Do Christians not have a duty to evangelise? What's the point of sending out missions to pagan villages if, upon arrival, they just say, "oh, we understand that you believe in pagan gods and human sacrifice; we believe in Jesus Christ, but we'll just agree to differ because we don't wish to cause offence to anybody." What a waste of time! Liberalism is completely incompatible with Christianity.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Some principles...

As I have said, I am broadly in sympathy with those efforts that are to enshrine or revive "Western" rites within Orthodoxy. However, there are dangers. Not just in terms of doctrine and culture but in terms of arbitrary liturgical experimentation and vandalism. There is also the danger that practitioners are just disaffected Anglicans or Papists wishing to continue on as they were accustomed within their respective communions within Orthodoxy - that, in my view, defeats the whole purpose of conversion.

However, before anybody even thinks about Western Rite Orthodoxy then some principles need to be established and some problems need to be addressed. One of the most important, if not the most important, is the question of jurisdiction. In London, for example, there are many Orthodox jurisdictions, the Russians, the Greeks, the Serbs, etc. each with their own bishop. Quite simply this is due to immigration. The problem, of course, is that having more than one bishop within a diocese flies in the face of the Holy Canons. This canonical, but still inevitable, irregularity cannot be allowed to continue but at the same time it cannot be rectified in a day. For most ethnic Orthodox in the UK their religion is one of the dearest connexions they have to their homeland and so to have a bishop and clergy of their own language and custom is, for the time being, a pastoral necessity. I would see the creation of an autocephalous British Orthodox Church, with her own Patriarch and all churches in the land coming under one jurisdiction. I don't know how we would go about that; it might take several generations yet, but celebrating liturgies in English would be a fitting start. Then comes the question of the Kalendar. There is no beating about the bush here: the venerable Julian Kalendar is that kalendar committed to us by the Church. The revision or replacement thereof is deference to the authority of Romish popes and secularisation of the liturgical cycle. The British Orthodox Church would adopt the Julian Kalendar or be accursed.

But I am still treading my own path to Orthodoxy. No doubt if I went in uttering these thoughts I'd be accused of ambition, of meddling, of popery and ostracised. All in good time.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Greeks...

I have decided, after much thought (though, confessedly, not much prayer) to be received into the Greek Orthodox Church. All my liturgical instincts are crying out: "nay, nay and thrice nay!" The Greeks are not, after all, the most conservative in matters liturgical but in terms of culture, of Christendom and liturgical  language they remain the inheritors of Byzantium. Culture is as important in the history of Christianity as liturgy and in any case my going to the Greeks rather than to the Russians is tantamount to a return to British Orthodoxy. And if we are to establish a new British Orthodoxy I daresay it is worthwhile to do so from Greek rather than schismatic Roman stock. The Roman Rite is a lost cause and modern practitioners, whether RC traditionalist or renegade, just ape the same problems and do any of them listen to a word I say? Of course not. If I said to one of them: "why don't you just leave out the elevations and genuflexions and read the Canon from Te Igitur to Omnis honor et gloria as one uninterrupted anaphora?" Do you think he'd say: "Oh, that's a good idea! Is this the stimulant of an older, more holistic eucharistic theology?" No, I'd be accused of antiquarianism or Protestantism or Jansenism or cafeteria-ism or, dare I say it, "Modernism!"

But that would be no use, would it? Like the renegades with whom I used to celebrate Holy Week (they leave out the Filioque from the liturgical Creed), what is the use of paying deference to the modern Roman Rite, in all its putrescence, when you're really looking for something else? Is there a moral difference between omitting the Filioque and reciting baptismal promises on Holy Saturday? As I have said, the Roman Rite is a lost cause and the hallmark of Popery. Practitioners are little more than puppets and the pope himself is the grand puppet master. There is not one word of the Roman Rite's countless Prayers, pericopes, rubrics, etc that has not passed through the papal system unscathed, so much so that I have actually come to despise it as a bastardised rite altogether, historically destroying and usurping local rites wherever it has been carried, whether by the Jesuits, the Franciscans or by men like Dom Prosper Guéranger (in my view, one of the most arrogant and destructive men of the 19th century - a true contemporary of Pius IX).

You may ask, what about Western Rite Orthodoxy? I am broadly in sympathy with it, except where the modern Roman Rite is concerned (for clarity's sake, where I say "modern" Roman Rite, I mean, naturally, pre-1956 or pre-1911; not the Novus Ordo of Paul VI).

Well, just to let you know.

Kyrie Eleison
Kyrie Eleison
Kyrie Eleison.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Travail and sorrow...

I was speaking with a dopey young Muslim called Mo[hammed] a few weeks ago about women - he instigated the discussion, not me. He was asking me the sort of questions you might expect from a sex maniac; what kind of women I was attracted to, what I look for in women, etc. I am loath to tell anybody about my suffering from sexual perversion; it is my wont neither to confirm nor deny. (Of course, there are people aware of my being queer - usually people who ask). I was telling him such things as "women are the ruin of young men," and "I don't particularly care for women," but he wasn't getting it. Well it transpired that he found out from somebody else about my being queer. He apologised unreservedly if he had offended me. You see, after the discussion about women he moved onto homosexuality and how, in Islam, homosexuality is a damnable sin (much like Christianity) and that if he had a homosexual son he would probably kill him.

I didn't particularly care for his apology because of his confusion. He seemed to think that being homosexual was in the mind, that you "believe in it." What on earth does that mean? In reality, you can only speak of actions as being homosexual and repeated, habitual actions lead to a homosexual lifestyle - a lifestyle which I do not live. As for his comment that my "belief" in homosexuality had no bearing on our "friendship," that was probably his fear that I might have him disciplined for homophobia coming out. Of course now that he knows about it he avoids me like a leper - how sad. Equally sad, and distasteful, is people's obsession with knowing. It starts with "do you have a girlfriend?" or "are you married?" Then, after more questions, to put their minds at rest one is perforce to admit "I'm actually gay..." This is by no means a gratifying admission. Then comes the assumption that you regularly visit gay bars, that you are in a civil partnership, that you are politically liberal, that you don't practise any religion, etc. Later, from people with no qualms at all, comes questions about what rôle you take in bed! To a young man who asked me that recently I said: "I will not tell you that. For as long as you know me that will be an unsolved riddle in your mind."

I guess this is one reason I get along with the elderly much more than I do so with my own generation.

Saturday, 5 July 2014