Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ennismore Gardens...

After an exhausting and unproductive day at work I went to the Sourozh Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens for the Vigil Service of St Mary's Dormition. I went armed with Daley's Early Patristic Homilies of the Dormition (highly recommended) and noticed, upon arrival, that the place was under maintenance work. The service therefore took place in a cramped side hall. I don't go to Ennismore Gardens as often as I once did. When I was at Heythrop I went every other week. I don't know if this is some sign of interior struggle but I feel a great deal of physical pain at Ennismore Gardens. Maybe it's just hours of standing in one place and listening to a language I don't understand (I know only a handful of Slavonic phrases) but every time I go there my shoulder, right arm, back and legs ache. I managed to stay for two and a half hours, took the antidoron and was anointed by Metropolitan Elisey, but I yearned for my bed and the long journey home was ahead. Maybe the Byzantine Rite doesn't agree with me? At any rate I said Mattins and Lauds of the Assumption this morning using the old Roman Rite (I was far too fatigued last night), called upon God's vengeance against them that do violence to Tradition in the name of Pius XII and read The Mirror of Galadriel to remind me of times past in the beauty of holiness.

"To forget and be forgotten" is a phrase that has stuck in my mind to-day.

Sunday, 24 August 2014


It has often been claimed, in especial deference to the spirit of this godless age, that Christians and the Ishmaelites (or "Muslims") worship the same God. The honest answer is that we do not worship the same God. We, the Church, adore the One True God, the Father and Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth; the God of the Patriarchs and of the Prophets, Triune and yet One, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. As for the god of the Ishmaelites, who is this "Allah," the "humiliator," the "subduer," and the "afflictor?"

Allah was being worshipped in Arabia before the false prophet Muhammad was born. Muhammad's father was Abdullah, "servant of Allah;" one of many tribal Arabian gods. The pagan Arabs worshipped many false gods; gods of fertility, the heavenly bodies, etc; whatever was important to them. The only thing Muhammad did, having chanced upon the Scriptures and devising his heresy, was to declare that one god, "Allah," was the God of the Patriarchs. If you would perceive the true foundation of the Ishmaelite superstition look no farther than the Crescent Moon itself. "Allah" is simply a false Arabian moon deity to whom the Ishmaelites ascribe the infinite perfections of the Godhead. Furthermore, the Qu'ran explicitly denies the Divinity of Christ, the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection and abominates Christ's Holy Cross. Clearly, Christians and the Ishmaelites do not worship the same God.

Does anybody else remember the scandal, not so long ago, when the "Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of Allah" were recited in Westminster Cathedral?

St Constantine Palaeologos , pray for us.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Praise ye The Lord, part one...

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

blessed Tolkien wrote that to his son Michael in 1963. You may speculate about Tolkien's use of the words "greatest" and "achieve" vis-à-vis the benefits (or malefits) of papal or conciliar reform but what is interesting about this is the conspicuous lack of comment upon the reforms of Pius XII, then only seven years previous. Given Tolkien's earlier rejection of the reformed rite for Palm Sunday, expressed in a private, unpublished, letter to a friend on, of all days, Spy Wednesday of 1956, there seems little doubt, to my mind at least, that, redolent of Tom Bombadil's assessment of Farmer Maggot, Tolkien had wisdom in his bones and both his eyes were open. That he gave his support to the Latin Mass Society in its earliest days is evidence enough that, like his contemporary Evelyn Waugh, Tolkien rejected most 20th century liturgical reform, liturgical reforms that went back to his undergraduate days when all the Sundays went green.

Tolkien's liturgical sentiments notwithstanding he refers to Pius X as a saint. Far be it from me to contradict so learned a man but I am not personally convinced of Sarto's sainthood. His liturgical reforms, the codification of the sacred canons begun during his pontificate, his treatment of Fr George Tyrrell as much as the opinion of his contemporaries are enough to shatter myths of his personal sainthood for me. Like pope John Paul "the Great," hero of the contemporary Roman Catholick church, Pius X always struck me more as a recalcitrant and bullying tyrant than a true shepherd with the lost sheep in his care. His canonisation, however, has effectively elevated his every action above reproach for Roman Catholicks.

The Sarto liturgical and canonical reforms are little known to-day, even less known than the comparatively trivial reforms of Pius XII. They began in A.D 1903 with the publication of the motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini on sacred musick. I have always been torn on this motu proprio, even to this day. On the one hand, I think it a praiseworthy effort to restore, at least in principle, the primacy of Gregorian chant, of choral worship, the exclusion of women from church choirs in accordance with the Scriptures, and so on; but on the other hand I cannot ignore the deference it makes to the inauthentic Solesmes tradition, the ban on Castrati and the implication that the Italianate pronunciation of Latin is the only acceptable form. Of note is Sarto's use of the term "partecipazione attiva." As this encyclical was curiously published in Italian first rather than Latin (so as to be wider read, perhaps?) I find it strange that apologists for Sacrosanctum Concilium (which famously incorporated the term), like pope Benedict XVI, ignore the fact that the "actuosa et communitatis propria celebratione participare possit" enunciated by the Council had its uttermost origins in an Italian phrase which literally means active participation. The distinction is otherwise condescending and irrelevant. It might seem an uncomfortable truth to some that Pius X, hero of Traddieland, was in this sense (and others) the fount of all innovation.
To the mediaeval mind there was nothing more serious than an oath. Húrin and Huor, the sons of Galdor, swore an oath before Turgon, High King of the Gnomes, in Gondolin never to reveal his secret counsels or the location of the city. In after years Húrin suffered greatly bound to that oath. Fearing greatly for the integrity of Roman church teaching, Matthew 5:37 notwithstanding, in 1910 Pius X imposed the famous "Oath against Modernism" on the unhappy clergy of the Latin Rite. I myself once swore that oath. When I was 16 or 17 I remember printing the text and pasting it into a Bible. That Bible has since been given away though the text is, I believe, still on one of my bookshelves, in my copy of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. As you all know, the raison d'être of the Oath was that men like Fr George Tyrrell, that brilliant and astute Irish gentleman, were preaching monstrous doctrines, doctrines later adopted by Rome herself in a shift of delicious historical irony. Intellectual integrity and science had to be sacrificed on the altar of absolute, blind obedience to the "holy office" and the prisoner of the Vatican. I cannot imagine that it was ever taken very seriously. Dr Fortescue complained in a letter to a friend:

"Centralisation grows and goes madder with every century. Even at Trent they hardly foresaw this kind of thing. Does it really mean that one cannot be a member of the Church of Christ without being, as we are, absolutely at the mercy of an Italian lunatic?"

And again:

"Give us back the Xth century Johns and Stephen, or a Borgia! They were less disastrous than this deplorable person."

Italian lunatick; deplorable person...spoken like a true Protestant! Were it not for Dr Fortescue's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, on which they so evidently rely, I doubt very much whether the Traddies would have much time for him. Nevertheless, his exasperation is justified by the trickery, the condescension and the deplorable lack of faith of the old pope himself in the bishops and seminary rectors. Such requirements as this oath are symptomatic of a deformed ecclesiastical polity, conceived solely in the exercise of absolute power.

The Code of Canon Law was published in 1917 but, of course, this monumental work was done principally under the aegis of Pius X. While the codification of the Sacred Canons had intelligible pastoral motives I cannot really say that I have much sympathy for what effectively rendered the interpretation of antient laws an Enlightenment principle. It is true that the Pio-Benedictine Code was based largely upon the works of Gratian and Raymund, contextualised in a modern context, but the publication of the Code reversed an antient legal maxim (in a way strikingly redolent of the reversal of the Lex Orandi by Pius XII) that the older a particular law or custom could be proved to be, the greater auctoritas it has for us to-day. There is a goodly article published in The Remnant here which treats of the codification of Canon Law and precedent it set for later liturgical reforms. These quotes synthesise the whole point perfectly:

"One way to see the stark difference in approach between Traditional legal systems and modern ones (such as the Code of Canon Law) is to look at the relationship between authority and time. In the modern liberal system, authority is linked to novelty. The newer the law, the more authority it carries. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law has greater authority over provisions in the 1917 Code because it has been enacted more recently.

"The Traditional understanding of law was just the opposite. The older a particular law or legal norm could be demonstrated to be, the greater authority attributed to it. Customs which existed “since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary” were seen as much more reliable, and thus authoritative, than newer and novel norms. Opinions of ancient thinkers, jurists, philosophers, popes and saints that had stood the test of time were more authoritative than something dreamed up yesterday. Again the ancient attitude is filled with humility and acceptance of human failing."

Last, but by no means least, the Breviary; Sarto's lasting monument even were all his works made void. I'm afraid I have run out of time and, being a work night, must needs be off to bed. I shall continue this post with a more detailed look at the pre- and post-1911 Breviaries later this week.

The title of this series, by the way, is in reference to the Laudate Psalms antiently used at Lauds.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Holy Rood...

For those of you preparing for the Assumption of St Mary the Mother of God may I wish you a sober and blessed fast.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Crux, crucis...

Some years ago I donated my grandmother's old Spanish crucifix (terribly life-like) to a friend of mine. My mother didn't much like it due, in part, to its size, my old obsession with it and the fact that she and my grandmother are seldom on speaking terms. I had two other roods but I gave those away to an old acquaintance from Blackfen last year (or the year before), along with some other papist devotional rubbish and a lot of books. Apart from a small brass crucifix that I received at Baptism (which is in the loft) I have been without a crucifix since then. This worries me because I have always considered the display of Christ's Rood in the Christian household to be, in a word, necessary.

The trouble is, if you type "crucifix" into the eBay search engine thousands upon thousands of distasteful, ugly crucifixes appear; objects that nobody in their right mind would buy (or accept as gifts). Doe anybody know of an online shop that sells nice crucifixes? I am looking for something old.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Update on Orthodoxy...

Some time ago I let it be known my intention to join Holy Orthodoxy. As you might expect, I have done nothing about it. Last weekend I had the excuse that I was working Saturday, had no money and didn't much relish the idea of waiting around the West End for Vespers at Moscow Road. My disinclination was due, in part, to not feeling altogether well. This week I have been laid low with the worst cold/chest infection I have had in many years. I lost my voice on Tuesday and was sent home from work on Wednesday, finding breathing increasingly difficult. I don't suppose I'll be doing anything about it this weekend either; though I fully intend on attending services for the Assumption.

In the meantime, I have taken up the reading of The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo disappeared after giving his speech at his eleventy-first birthday party, leaving Frodo the Master of Bag End and Gandalf's suspicions about Bilbo's magic ring have led him to make a sudden departure. I hadn't wanted to leave the house to-day but I have run out of brandy.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sanguis eius...

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Matthew 27:20-25.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. John 19:26-27.

You might say that the first Scripture applies only to the people then living and to their children (whether living or yet unbegotten); you might also say, in keeping with the first hermeneutic, that the second Scripture applied only to St Mary the Mother of God and to St John the Beloved. So why do men deduce from the second Scripture a mariology of spiritual motherhood of mankind in a general way, the singular cases notwithstanding, and not apply this same hermeneutic to the former Scripture in relation to the Jews?