30 May 2010


What I find most striking about the liturgical texts for Trinity Sunday is the emphasis on worship. We find it in the Collect (even as mangled in the 'reforms') used in the Roman and Anglican usages, and in the Preface (before it was truncated for Anglicans by Cranmer); come to think about it, this is the point of the doxology (Glory be to ..."). And for some of us there is the Quicuncue vult, the Athanasian Creed which was not written by S Athanasius (am I right in thinking that in the Pius XII form of the Roman Rite, this is said at Prime only on this Sunday of the year?). The point about the Trinity Sunday is not how Three can be One, but that we worship Father, Son, and Spirit; we worship the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity. Possessors of the Breviary will not need to be told about the insistence of its antiphons upon Doxology: giving glory to the blessed Trinity and the undivided Unity.

One little personal detail. For many of my generation, Trinity Sunday was the day of our ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood. Not, I know for all of us; but for me it was thus; at S Stephen's House the Leavers, after a certain amount of imbibing (spirit-filled occasions multiplied, but not all these spirits were equally holy), and after a fair bit of festivity, left the House at Whitsun to go off to their diocesan ordination retreats. And as well as for me,Trinity Sunday was ordination day for John Henry Newman. From his ordination as an Anglican to the diaconate to his ordination in Rome as a Roman Catholic, ordination, for Newman, meant Trinity Sunday. And how appropriate this was. On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrated the outpouring by God the Father through his Son of the Holy Spirit; through those glorious days of Octave we Alleluiad the Holy Spirit and prayed daily in the Sequence and the Office Hymns for the Holy Spirit to "come" upon us. And on Trinity Sunday, Veni Creator Spiritus was sung over us ... in my case, it was in Christ Church Cathedral just down the road from here ... as the climax of this Octave; the bishop laid his hands upon us ... in my case, the erudite and holy Bishop Harry Carpenter, whose Year's Mind we kept this year during the Pentecost Octave week ... "for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands". As in the ancient Western Pontificals, the imposition of hands was accompanied by the paschal commission of the Lord himself: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins thou dost remit, they are remitted ...".

I find it impossible to hear Veni Creator Spiritus without memories crowding the tears to the back of my eyes; and there is another detail of the Anglican tradition which remains powerfully with me; I wonder if it did with Newman. The Old Testament Reading at Prayer Book Mattins on Trinity Sunday, just like the first two readings of Mattins in the Breviary, was the passage from Isaiah 6 about the Glory filling the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, and all the Seraphim singing Holy Holy Holy. You will remember that it ends with the seraph bringing a burning coal from the altar and touching the prophet's mouth; and "I heard the voice of the Lord saying 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said 'Here am I, send me'".

Priests are given many job-descriptions, because there are many different modes in which priesthood is exercised. But in all of them, the heart of the purpose of priesthood is to give Glory to the blessed and undivided Trinity; to offer to the Father the glorious Sacrifice of his Son's Body and Blood "in the unity of the Holy Spirit", because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Act of glorification of the Trinity; whatever else a priest has to do, it comes second to, or is derived from, the duty of standing day by day at an altar and join the angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven and laud and magnify his holy Name, evermore praising him and saying: Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.

28 May 2010

Keep it White

After my offer (on Pentecost Sunday) of a creative solution to Whit Week, I offer today some thoughts about the first couple of Sundays after Trinity. Corpus Christ, of course, will be celebrated by all right-thinking people on the Thursday after Trinity, but here in S Thomas's we shall also keep an 'External Solemnity' on the following Sunday, with a Sung Mass of the feast. The unreformed Roman Rite was quite generous in its provision of permissions to celebrate such external solemnities and, of course, back in the good old days of Octaves, you did it anyway under the guise of observing a Sunday Within The Octave (I find it very liberating to have the admirable St Lawrence Press ORDO in my Sacristy).

You know what I'm about to say: on the following Sunday I shall do the same with the Sacred Heart. Quite right. You know it makes sense. I deem this a relaxed and creative appropriation of the Tradition.

27 May 2010


There are elites within elites within elites within elites. If you say the Divine Office ... in Latin ... according to the Old Rite ... but using the text of the hymns as they were before Urban VIII debauched those texts in the 1630s ... then:

You will know that the Office Hymn at Mattins this week is Iam Christus astra ascenderat. In the post-conciliar reforms, Dom Anselmo Lentini kept it as the hymn for Terce; but, as well as adding a new stanza (Descende ...), he eliminated several of those in the original. Not surprisingly, one of these was the stanza about the Jews (Iudaea ... vesana ...). But that stanza had already been neutered by Barberini. The original contained the line "ructare musti crapulam" - belching the drunkenness/drunken hang-over of the must. But belching, although Horace uses ructare in the Ars, is not the sort of vocab you expect in the Odes - and it was the Odes which Urban's merry men took as their stylistic bench-mark. So they changed it to "... madere ...". (I know what you're thinking: Quod barbari non coinquinaverunt, stupraverunt Barberini.)

You may be wondering how the disciples could have been drunk on must: unfermented grapejuice. Sometimes, mustum seems to mean partially fermented wine, and S Jerome certainly thought that it was a fair translation for the gleukous of the original.

26 May 2010

Christus Sacerdos Aeternus

If those who use Anglican forms of the Office desire to celebrate Christ the Priest on the Thursday after Pentecost, they might care to consider the following propers;
[1EP Pss 23, 42, 43; Levit 16:1-14; Heb 4:14-5:10.]
MP Pss 110, 111, Gen 14:14-20; Heb 6:19-7:end.
2EP Ps 116; Exod 24:1-11; Heb 9:6-end.

Has anybody heard any more about this idea since the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship said he was going to supplicate the Holy Father for this feast, as a permanent mnemosune of the Year of the Priest?

Older than the Octave

People like me (is there anyone like me?) tend to nag you about the desireability of keeping the Pentecost Octave. But there was an observance this week which is much older than the Octave; indeedd, much older than Christianity itself: the Summer Ember Season.

The pagan Romans kept Feriae messis, Days of Harvest, connected with the corn harvest. In the ancient Liturgy of the (local) Church of Rome, which we are priviged to have received for our own, this ancient piece of local Romanita is preserved for us as the Ember Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week following Pentecost. Like the other pagan agricultural festivals, this one was converted into a fast: S Leo regards fasting as particularly appropriate for the Ember Days this week "So that if, amid the joys of the festivities, negligent liberty and inordinate licence has made any presumption, this [fast] may discipline (castiget) it by the censure of religious abstinence".

So some elements in the Old Rite propers for these days precede the imposition of 'Spirit' themes by the Octave. Today's Gospel about the Bread of Life, for example, christianises the pagan celebration of the corn harvest. I will leave you to fish out your good old English Missals and find the evidence for this also in the readings for Friday and Saturday. (Remember that our forefathers in the Faith believed that healings from illnesses and exorcism of unclean spirits were closely related to fasting [see Mark 9:29 with the variant reading and Matthew 17:21], so also be on the lookout for pericopes about healings and exorcisms.)

In 455, the Arian Gaiseric was attacking Rome (he took it on the Ember Wednesday, secured thousands of potential candidates for the slave markets, and pillaged most of the basilicas ... it's the sort of thing heretics do). Pope S Leo wrote a number of collects on this occasion; one of them survives as the collect for the Ember Friday this week. Find it in your English Missal. You'll see the point of the phrase hostili nullatenus incursione turbetur. Relevant today?


See Willis 1964.

25 May 2010

Newmanology and S Philip Neri

In his distractingly moving peroration to his Second Spring sermon - arguably the most superb piece of rhetoric to emerge from the nineteenth century - Blessed John Henry Newman talks about the habit of the English seminarians in Rome of going to S Philip Neri before returning to the perils of the English Mission, for his blessing. "They went for a Saint's blessing; they went to a calm old man who had never seen blood, except in penance; ... and therefore came those bright-haired strangers to him, ere they set out for the scene of their passion, that the full zeal and love pent up in that burning breast might find a vent, and flow over, from him who was kept at home, upon those who were to to face the foe. Therefore one by one, each in his turn, those youthful soldiers came to an old man; and one by one they they persevered and gained the crown and palm - all but one, who had not gone, and would not go, for the salutary blessing.

"My Fathers, my brothers, thsat old man was my own S Philip. Bear with me for his sake ...".

Who was the one who would not go?

24 May 2010

We took to arms

The Monday of Whit week, Monday in the Octave of Pentecost, was the day in 1549 when we Anglican Catholics - or at least those of us who lived in Devon and Cornwall - made quite clear to our parish clergy that we did not want the Government's Protestant service (we likened it to a Christmas game) for a second day, let alone a second Sunday (we had experienced Dr Cranmer's matchless English prose and his iffy theology on Whit Sunday, and we thought that once was enough). In fact, we rose in rebellion (and so did people in Oxfordshire and in many parts of England), and marched with our demands, under the banners of the Five Wounds of our Redeemer.

The Five Wounds are a recurrent theme in the surviving late Medieval decoration in West Country churches. It came home to me, during our recent break in Cornwall, that the devotion to the Five Wounds is not an unwholesome preoccupation, somewhat gruesome and probably lugubrious, with the sufferings of a dead Saviour. Pam and I were continuing our readings of the Ordinalia - the Mystery Plays in the Cornish language written most probably by the canons at the Collegiate Church of Glasney in Cornwall. This spring we read the Resurrexio Domini. And I was surprised by the centrality of the Five Wounds to the joyful celebration of Christ's Resurrection. In particular, by the topos that it is by those Five Wounds that the Lord who died on the Cross is discerned as truly risen.

Thus, the Ortolanus, Gardener, who appears to Mary of Magdala in the garden asks her if she would recognise Jesus. She replies that she would - "dhe'n kensa vu", at first sight. Et tunc demonstrabit latus ejus ad Mariam et dicit: "Marya, myr, ow fymp woly! Crys my dhe wyr dhe dhasserghy". Mary, behold, my Five Wounds! Believe that I am in truth Risen! So Mary goes to the Apostles: "y fyrys y wolyow!" I saw his wounds. The motif is intruded into the pericope about the Road to Emmaus; the two disciples do not so much recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread as when ostendit eis vulnera, and one of them says "my a wel dha wolyow warbath a-les": I see your wounds, all together, wide! They depart, saying that they have no time, once they have seen all his wounds, for playing - gwaryow; the word which is used to refer to the 'playing place' (plen-a-gwary) in which these Cornish dramas were probably performed. The playwrite, I presume, is suggesting, not without some sophistication, that the theme he is presenting dramatically is not in fact a drama but salvific reality.

Much of the rest of the play is devoted to Thomas's long refusal to believe the witness of the other disciples; a tortured agon which is ultimately resolved when the Lord appears to him also: "Thomas, rak ty dhe weles oll ow golyow a-les, yn dha golon ty a grys": Thomas, because you have seen all my wounds open, in your heart you believe.

Medieval devotion was, despite the contempt in which it is sometimes still held, a religion of joy and faith in a crucified Saviour alive now and for ever and apprehended by faith in the transfigured reality of those wounds which are, as the Cornish texts repeatedly emphasise, "a-les": wide open.

One of the joys of having the S Thomas's congregation is to know Isabel and Keith Syed. Isabel is Archivist at Walsingham; Keith is equally at home in Classical languages and literature; Semitic philology; and Middle Cornish; and has been very generous to Pam and me with books and loans and tapes. We Anglican Catholics ... considered as a collectivity ... we are not exactly an unlettered people, are we?

23 May 2010

Pentecost Green

NLM has an interesting post on the use, by some Byzantines, of green as the liturgical colour of Pentecost. This reminds me of the lovely Postcommunion in the (EF) Roman Rite, about the inpouring of the Holy Spirit; the inward sprinkling of His dew; and the fecundity this brings.

You won't be surprised to be reminded that Bishop "Trautmann" objects strongly to all this stuff about the Dew of the Spirit.

Whit Week

I know that the week which begins today, Pentecost Sunday, ought to be the Octave of Pentecost. But ... for a moment ... I make a proposal about the Real (postconciliar) World.

The New Office invented, for the Octave of Christmass, the idea of celebrating a Saint at Morning Prayer etc; but of keeping the Octave at Vespers. Taking a leaf out of this book, next week those of you who possesss preconciliar breviaries could use your postconciliar books for Mass, Morning Prayer etc.; but for Vespers say the Vespers of the Octave from your Breviary. It is of course permitted to do this chopping-and-changing by the decree authorising the Liturgia Horarum.

This expedient would to a degree preserve the Octave while enabling you to share some commonality with the Novus Ordo Church - which will be celebrating some rather dishy Saints this week, including S Philip, S Augustine, S Bede ...


BTW, I suspect that the Oratories will, on Tuesday infra Octavam, be having Old Rite First Vespers ... but of S Philip. Is this strictly licit?

Welcome to Hind Street!

That was the liturgical opening of the Sunday Morning service on Radio 4. It was a service to celebrate, first, the 200th anniversary of this Methodist church. Not "In the name of Father Son and Spirit". Not "The Lord be with you", with its subtext of the power of the Spirit. Not even some unliturgical, charismatic and spontaneous proclamation of the Spirit's power.

I think that said all that needs to be said about the ... er ... spirit of post-Christian post-Protestant English folk-religion. And about the difference between Catholicism and such folk-religion.

22 May 2010

Good News

I expect that, even in foreign parts, friends may have read of a piece of good news to emerge from the British General Election. One of our Oxford MPs (City of Oxford; the University Members were abolished half a century ago), Dr Evan Harris, was defeated by a very narrow margin.

This could hardly fail to be good news, whoever defeated him. He is one of the best-known adherents of the Death Cause in English politics (he could justly take upon his lips C S Lewis's neat imitatio cum variatione of a biblical phrase: "I have come that you might have Death, and have it more abundantly"). He is particularly enthusiastic about abortion.

I once asked him: "We Christians can't always vote for somebody who is soundly with us on Life and moral issues; often it is a matter of voting for the lesser of the evils. So that I can estimate how extreme a pro-abortionist you are, could you answer this: would you be in favour of rules providing that, when a foetus very nearly at full term, with its nervous system fully capable of feeling pain, is to be killed, it should first be anaesthetised, before being dismembered or having its cranium opened for its brain to be vacuumed out?"

He looked me straight in the eye and replied "Not if it might upset the woman".

He was defeated by a woman with evangelical Christian antecedents. There is a very real possibility that Christian votes helped to achieve this. Deo et Deiparae Virgini gratias.

A kind American priest ...

... has very graciously sent me some extremely interesting books; most of which bear the autograph (and annotations) of a Fr J B O'Connell ... a name which seems familiar ... whose reactions to emerging 'reforms' from the 1940s to the 1960s one could trace. (Tucked inside one of them was a 1946 envelope, with rough notes on the back, from 'Great Southern Hotels'; the Irish Hotel group which includes Parknasilla, where G B Shaw wrote plays and my family played golf while I read and watched the otters and kingfishers on a then-secluded ruined quay ... it's a small world ...). One volume bears a stamp of ICEL in its earliest days; it is Mary Pierre Ellebracht's highly erudite and useful Remarks on the Vocabulary of the ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum of 1964. Other volumes include papers on Latinity by the ever-great, ever-admirable Christine Mohrmann.

There must be material for posts in all this ... thank you very much, father.

21 May 2010

Bl John Henry Newman

An appeal to those In the Know and who Have Connections. Someone will be/already has finished composing propers for John Henry Newman; to be used at and after his Beatification. I hope they will be composed in Latin (in this day and age, in fact, they ought to be composed simultaneously in both [the most relevant] vernacular, and in Latin, so that both versions say the same thing and each is a nice piece of Liturgy in its respective tongue).

Can someone slip me copies ... either now or as soon as they get them?

Pius IX

A translation of a card in Fr Melrose's Breviary:

PRAYER to beg of God the glorification of Pius IX and to obtain graces.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who consecrated the Universal Church to thee.
(3 Gloria).
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Immaculate.
(3 Ave).
Saint Joseph, most pure Spouse of Mary the Virgin, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Patron of the Universal Church.
(3 Pater)
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary, Immaculate and our Hope, Saint Joseph, hear our prayer and glorify your servant Pius IX, granting us by his merits and intercession the grace which we ardently desire.

20 May 2010

Fr Michael Melrose

A pleasure - a melancholy pleasure - in inheriting liturical books from someone else is afforded by the reading of thecPrayer Cards between the pages. Here is the First Mass Card of the late Fr Micael Melrose, pp of S Giles, Reading.


offered for the first time to the honour
and propitiation
of Almighty God
the Most August Sacrifice of the Mass
for the Peace of Holy Church
a blessing on all his friends and for
himself the gift of apostolic and
priestly charity.
JULY 3rd, 1972


Father was a shy and bookish and devout priest very deeply loved and trusted by his people.

Another card when next I find Computer time.

19 May 2010

S Dunstan ... a problem

A great Pontiff, S Dunstan, whom we celebrate today; a great reformer. But is he part of the Patrimony?

He was, as I am sure you know, very unenthusiastic about Married Priests (or concubinarii, as we used to be called). And Bishop Edwin, with whom I agree about all things, has identified a married clergy as an essential part of the Anglican Patrimony. Next time I see him I must ask him how we get round this knotty little problem.

Incidentally, it is not only presbyters who, in those far off days, manifested a lack of awareness of being called to celibacy. I remember reading about one of the early occupants of the See of Ardfert in the County of Kerry, whom annalists distinguished from both his predecessors and his successors as having been 'chaste'. (Bishop Eamonn Casey was a later bishop of this same see.)

The Great Lanherne Treasure

Reverend Mother (see the two last posts) passed out to us through the Turn the large relic of S Cuthbert Mayne. S Cuthbert was a West Country man (born near Barnstaple) who, in many ways, provides the link between the Catholic Renaissance of Queen Mary's reign, and the Recusant culture that followed the apostasy of Elizabeth Tudor. He got his education in Elizabeth's time at S John's College Oxford, which had been founded as a place of Catholic renewal in the previous reign. Although outwardly conforming to the new regime, S John's, even more than the rest of Oxford, long remained secretly devoted to the old Faith, which was kept alive and vigorously taught there (another son of this college was to be William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, martyred by the Puritans in the 1640s). Mayne learned the Faith at S John's and then went to the new College at Douai for his priestly formation. He returned to England and ministered in the South West; eventually he was captured and after the customary torture hanged, drawn and quartered at Launceston (then the 'capital' of Cornwall) in 1577.

His head was exposed on a pike at Wadebridge, not far from Lanherne, and rescued from there by one of the Arundells. The crown of the skull is kept in the Sisters' choir of the Chapel at Lanherne, a light constantly burning before it. This relic we venerated and were blessed with; and then we passed it back through the Turn! Mother also very graciously sent us Miraculous Medals.

The Tridentine Mass which S Cuthbert brought to England - he was the Protomartyr of the Seminaries - is still celebrated, honoured and loved at Lanherne. I pray that the sundered traditions of English Catholicism may, by his intercession, and by the prayers of the Sisters of the Immaculate at Lanherne, be reunited. This, surely, is what the Ordinariate scheme is all about?

18 May 2010


The little house at Lanherne, tucked away in its magical Cornish valley between S Columb and the sea (see last post), is no longer the home of Arundells (a branch of which family does survive at Wardour Castle). Throughout the Penal period, it was a recusant house - it is said that at no time did the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar cease to be reserved and honoured there. But the Lanherne Arundells died out towards the end of the eighteenth century, and the House was then converted into a Carmel; occupied by a Carmelite community of English women who had been in Antwerp since 1619, and returned to their native land in 1794, during the disorders of the Revolutionary period.

But the twentieth century brought a decline in vocations, and the few remaining Carmelite sisters have joined another Carmel in the North of England. Their House is now occupied by the Sisters of the Immaculate: one of those young, vibrant communities which have sprung up during the new spring of the last and of this Pontificate. They have adopted the liturgical books of 1962, and found professores to teach them Liturgy and Latin. By the kindness of one of these, a priest who is dear friend of mine, we met Reverend Mother and Sister Vicar. Sitting our side of the double grill in the Parlour, we heard about the energy and devotion of this young community of thirteen, about their formation and charism. I felt particularly at home with them, since they are devoted to that great master of the spiritual life, S Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, and to his teaching about Consecration to Jesus through Mary (yes, he is the chappie who was so important to Venerable John Paul II and who provided that Pontiff's motto Totus tuus). The sisters have a Marian vow - that our Lady may do with them whatever she wills - to complement the three Religious vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience; and, said Mother, "We treat that as our first vow".

Pam and I and Fr X had tea our side of the grill, passed though the Turn beforehand by Mother. After tea, Mother very graciously - it was entirely her idea - suggested passing out to us, through the Turn, the greatest treasure of her House ... Continues.

17 May 2010


Lanherne is the ancient house of the Arundell family, which, in the Middle Ages, was one of the great Cornish families who dominated and administered the Duchy. It was Sir Humphrey Arundell who, in 1549, led the 'Prayer Book Rebellion', the great Anglican Catholic insurrection against Cranmer's Prayer Book, which marched beneath the banner of the Five Wounds. A throne nearly tottered; the government of Edward Tudor survived only by the use of a mercenary army and what historians have termed a genocidal series of massaces throughout Devon and Cornwall. Sir Humphrey was executed in London on January 27, 1550.

So it was interesting to find, in the Parish Church, a fine pulpit bearing the 'Arms of Christ', the Instruments of his Passion and the shield of the Five Wounds. These motifs are found throughout the South West, especially in the large number of surviving medieval bench-ends. What was different about this pulpit was that it was distinctly Renaissance in style, and dated - I know not upon what evidence - to 1553. Such a dating would indeed fit that magical five years in which (see Duffy Fires of Faith) it appeared that Marian England would be in the forefront of the Counter-Reformation, leading Europe in Catholic Renewal, in sound Patristic teaching, in priestly formation; as well as being in the artistic mainstream. This glorious but frustrated spring was so brief that it is always fascinating but poignant to find surviving relics of it. And especially in a spot like Lanherne.

So did we follow this discovery up by going into the Manor House for tea with the Arundell family? We did better than that ... Continues.

16 May 2010

lectionary systems

It is difficult to read a new book on Liturgy (have you bought Burnham yet?) without coming across suggestions about the reintegration of the ancient Western cursus of Sunday Eucharistic readings as we find it in the EF and (with a dislocation or two) the BCP. Here is Hunwicke's view, arising out of many years of ORDO compiling.

Make the traddy cursus a fourth option - D to follow on from A, B, and C (it could be allowed additionally to be used optionally in place of any of the other three, just as those long Lenten Johannine Gospels in year A are permitted in other years too).

Practically, this would reduce the number of different combinations of the Sunday Three Year Cycle with the Weekday Two Year Cycle which we poor lectionary compilers have to juggle with. At the moment we have A1, B2, C1, A2, B1, C2 - six possibilities. Under my scheme we would only have four combinations: A1, B2, C1, D2. And, since, for example, Sunday Year A would always coincide with Weekday Year 1, it would make some fine tuning possible, to avoid duplications between the two systems or to open up some intertextualities, for those who still hunger for 'improvements'.

It is conceivable that clergy would come under pressure to favour the D cycle from lay people anxious to soak themselves in the Old Testament through their private Bible Study rather than through the public worship of the Church.

And if the old series of Sunday Collects were made optionally permissible, both forms of the Roman Rite would be able to feed each other.

All sorts of interesting pennies could drop as to why such a reading in the D cursus crops up at such a time of the year ... for example, why Luke 5 (the Gospel of Pentecost IV and Trinity V) comes near 'Petertide'.

12 May 2010

We share His Divinity

In recent posts I did talk about Divinisation in the teaching of S Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast tradition; of course, the basis of the tradition is much older and indeed Biblical. The locus classicus is II Peter 1:4: we become theias koinonoi phuseos (shareholders in the Divine Nature). S Leo (or conceivably an admirer soaked in his thought and latinity) wrote the prayer we still use secreto at the filling of the chalice at Mass: eius divinitatis esse consortes (to be sharers of his Divinity). And the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension seems to come from the same mind: ut divinitatis suae truibueret esse participes (that he might grant us to be partakers of his Godhead).

Cranmer, in one of his less fortunate expansions of his Latin originals, made this into 'to prepare a place for us; that where he is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with him in glory'.(I suspect one reason for this mutilation is the Protestant Reformation belief that even the justified sinner is still totally a sinner, simul justus et peccator: against the Catholic view that sanctifying grace truly transforms.) Bad Old ICEL rendered this 'to claim for us a share in his divine life': where 'claim' is not the same as 'grant us to be partakers' , and 'divine life ' is a watering down of 'Divinity'.

We shall have to wait and see what Good New ICEL has drafted for us. As so often, accuracy in Latin translation, as well as being desireable in itself, would have the bonus of manifesting the essential unity of the Latin and Byzantine traditions.

10 May 2010

Catholic Cornwall

Back to Cornwall for another Easter break, by the kindness of the Posbury sisters (the Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary) who lend us their holiday cottage at Porthcurno near Land's End. As we drive to look at 'our' ravens' nest to see whether they're sitting yet, we pass the First and Last Ebbsfleet church in the land, at St Just. Happy memories: it was on the notice board of that church that I first saw the news, five years ago, of the election of papa Ratzinger. Less happy memories as we pass churches which were once great Catholic shrines, back in the days when the Truro diocese had the reputation of being the most Catholic in the Church of England. Its last two bishops have put paid to that. Everywhere there are women who have been through a form of sacerdotal ordination, or their male running dogs (the latter, in my experience, often nastier than the former). And such people so often claim that they are the real successors of the the martyrs and confessors of the Catholic Movement: impertinently they hijack our fathers and apply some condescending argument to the effect that the 'papalism' of these great figures was so conditioned by the circumstances of the time that it doesn't really 'count'. So the heroic Fr Bernard Walke of St Hilary, who had to watch his church being wrecked by a protestant mob, has the heroism of his witness neutered. But his words are just as powerful and as relevant now as when he wrote them in 1935: '[I] was convinced that the Catholic movement in the Church of England, which began in the discovery of the Church as a divine institution, could have no other end but a corporate union with the Apostolic See of Rome. Outside that unity there could be no assurancce of the preservation of the faith and morals of the Christian revelation'. Notice there the words and morals. Fr Walke did indeed begin his incumbency by immediately replacing Prayer Book Mattins with the Tridentine Rite; but he was not some naively simple ritualist. Not long before he wrote, the Lambeth Conference had begun, albeit tentatively, the long but unambiguous process of unhitching Anglicanism from the common ancient tradition of historic Christendom with regard to sexual morality by admitting the possibility (of course, in the rarest and most exceptional cases: where would the liberal agenda be if wedges did not have very thin ends?), of artifical contraception. I am sure Walke had this in mind, and how right his prognosis has proved to be. It is instructive to compare his words with those of Bishop Gore, in a pamphlet which can be found on PROJECT CANTERBURY. Gore, a 'non-papal' catholic, was a good enough scholar to know that what had happened was a disaster of major proportions. But, blind to the significance in the divine dispensation of the Roman Primacy, his paper, for all its erudition, quite simply flounders. Only unambiguous papalism can reach the parts which other ecclesiologies cannot reach.

9 May 2010


Thinking as I am at the moment about Typology, and especially about the biblical typological basis of devotion to our Lady, I am wondering if anyone can help me out with information about that lovely invocation in the Litany of Our Lady, Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis.
The litany of our Lady (of Loretto), we learn from standard reference books, is first found in the sixteenth century and bears a close family resemblance to a number of late fifteenth century litanies to her. We know, too, that Tower of Ivory appears to be derived from the Song of Songs, where the beloved bride is said to have a neck like a tower of ivory.

In 1957, writing about Eucharistic Reservation, two theologians (SJP van Dijk and J Hazelden Walker) discuss the practice, common in the first millennium, of keeping the Blessed Sacrament in a tower made of ivory; the tower being designed to resemble what was taken to be the appearance of the Sepulchre in which the Lord's body rested. They write: 'the purity and whiteness of ivory was much favoured. Up to the present day, this preference is preserved in the litany of the blessed Virgin, who is invoked as the Tower of Ivory'. They make this statement obiter and without references.

My problem is that as far as I am aware (and I, not long ago, published a piece of research on this), this method of Reservation did not survive until the middle of the second millennium. So was the idea of vD and HW just an attractive guess? Or is there evidence for this title being used of our Lady in the centuries before the sixteenth? I would very much like to believe these writers. The symbolism of relating our Lady, as 'container' of his natural body, to the vessel within which his sacramental Body is kept, is, surely, devotionally very attractive.

7 May 2010

Mary's Month of May (4)

The conclusion of S Gregory's sermon.
Therefore, O sovereign Mistress, give to all thy people, this thine inheritance, a rich share of thy mercy and of thy graces. Grant release from the dread things which constrain them. Thou seest how many and how various are the things that oppress us, at home and abroad, without and within. By thy power turn all things to the better; making gentler towards each other those within, who are of the same race, while driving away those who rush in upon from outside us like wild beasts. Weigh out to our passions thy help and healing, distributing both to souls and bodies the abundant grace, sufficient for all matters. And if we make no progress, make us the more to progress, and so deal out thy grace that, saved and empowered by it, we may glorify the Word, enfleshed from thee for us yet older than the ages, with his uncaused (anarcho) Father and the livemaking Spirit, now and for ever and unto the unending ages. Amen.

6 May 2010

Mary's Month of May (3)

S Gregory Palamas preached this sermon on August 15, hence the now in the next sentence. The Hesychast tradition which he skilfully expounded emphasised the truth, reality and possibility of human participation in the Divine Nature; accordingly, it was easy for him to see our Lady as the supreme triumph of divinisation.
O Virgin, divine and now heavenly, how shall I tell the whole of thee? How shall I glorify thee, who art the treasury of Glory? It is alone thy memorial which sanctifies the one who uses it. Attention to thee (neusis pros se) is the only thing which makes the mind clearer, raising it immediately to a divine height; through thee the eye of contemplation is made more acute; through thee is illumined the spirit by the indwelling of the divine Spirit; for thou didst become steward (tamiouchos) and full content (perioche) of graces; not so that thou mightest keep them by thyself, but so that thou might fill the whole of everything (ta sumpanta) with grace - because the Dispenser of inexhaustible treasures ordains (epitropeuei) it on account of the distribution: for why would he make the undiminshed wealth to be closed up?

5 May 2010

Mary's Month of May (2)

This continues a previous post in this series.
For since the following rule is established for ever in the heavens: 'Through the greater the lesser share in the One who is established beyond Being' - and the Virginmother is beyond all comparison greater than all - through her those will share whosoevever will share in God; and whosoever know God will win her, the place of the Unencompassed One (tou achoretou choran); and those will hymn her after God whosoever hymn God. She also is the cause (aitia) of what came before her, and the advocate of those who follow after her, and guardian of eternal things. She is the subject matter of the prophets, the head (arche) of the apostles, the firm basis of the martyrs, the foundation of the teachers. She is the glory of what is on earth, the pleasure of what is in heaven, the pride of all creation. She is the beginning and fount and root of goods beyond telling. She is the highest point of what is holy, and its perfection.
S Gregory Palamas was Archbishop of Thessalonica in the fourteenth century, defender and expounder of the 'hesychast' mystical tradition of union with God which was particularly associated with the monks of Mount Athos. It is my view that his Mariological writings are refreshingly different both in their content and their assumptions from what we are used to in the West.

4 May 2010

Mary's Month of May (1)

I plan to reprint during this Marian month, bit by bit (because it is a very dense piece of Byzantine rhetorical theology and repays careful study section by section) a passage of a homily which, I feel, has interest as explaining, from an Orthodox point of view, why our Lady should be deemed Mediatrix of All Graces. The author was S Gregory Palamas, sometimes thought of as a defender of the Orthodox theological tradition against 'Latin error'. I'll probably say a bit more about him as May goes on (Greek at PG CLI 472C Seqq).
Just as through [Mary] alone, [Christ] came to be with us and was seen upon earth and dwelt among men - he who before her was invisible to all - so, unto the coming endless age, every advance of divine enlightenment, every revelation of divine mysteries, and every kind of spiritual gift, cannot be encompassed (achoreton) by any without (choris) her. She it was who first received the fulness of him who fills all things, and made him encompassable by all, distributing powerfully to each, proportionately according to the measure of the purity of each: so that she is the treasury (tamieion) and Controller (prytanis) of the riches of the Godhead.
I welcome comments, both on the theology and on my attempt to render the highly mannered Greek in comprehensible yet faithful Enlish.

1 May 2010

Mary Month: a contribution from (Bl) John Henry Newman.

Newman intriguingly argued that the Arians, who were prepared to use the most extravagant language about our Lord while firmly denying that he is coequal in his divinity to the Father, accustomed Christians to believe in an exalted yet created mediator. They were condemned by the Church, on the grounds that Christ is God and thus, like the Father, Uncreated. So the question arose : who is the merely created being that really does occupy, in God's will, the lofty place which was still considered infinitely too lowly for the Divine Word? Now read on.

[The Arians] left Him a creature and were found wanting. Thus there was a 'wonder in heaven': a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, 'the Mother of fair love, and fear, and holy hope', 'exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho', 'created from the beginning before the world' in God's counsels, and 'in Jerusalem was her power'? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy.

Newman goes on to argue that it was thus, during the period of the Arian controversy, that it was 'determined, that to exalt a creature was no recognition of its divinity'; and to speak of those in his own day who condemned devotion to Mary as (unconsciously) heretics. 'It is not wonderful ... if those who never rise higher in their notions of our Lord's Divinity, than to consider Him a man singularly inhabited by a Divine Presence, that is, a Catholic Saint, - if such men should mistake the honour paid by the Church to the human Mother for that very honour which, and which alone, is worthy of her Eternal Son.