24 April 2011


I wish all the joy of Christ to those who read this blog; to the friends who have written comments since it began and to those who have arrived more recently; to those who have prayed for me and said Masses on my behalf.

23 April 2011

Readers' Digest?

I nearly binned the envelope that bore the message OPEN AT ONCE DO NOT DELAY, assuming that it contained another unmissable offer from Readers' Digest. But no: it was my voting paper for the Referendum: do we keep our first-past-the-post voting system, or replace it with a ballot paper listing candidates whom we number in order of preference?

I was at a loss. In the first place, I care less than a fig for Democracy. I consider it unspeakably more important for a country to be governed in accordance with the Law of God than to have any particular political structure. If you recommend to me Hitler's policies as having been approved democratically by the people of Germany, or assert that Abortion Law represents the broad and settled consensus of British Society, my instinct is to reply "So What? How horrible!" But, I thought, perhaps I should vote on this issue ... Yet how?

On the one hand, making the change would enable me to support minority parties who would never be first past the post, such as a pro-Life party, while giving a second or third vote to that political Moloch which I considered marginally less horrible than the other one. But refusing the change would enable me to assist in giving a bloody nose to the self-confessed libertine Clegg. In the end, I did vote for the change, having heard it recommended by the First Minister of Scotland.

Because I am a devolutionary sort of person. I would rather see a Europe which was a mosaic of of Statelets ... Scotland and Catalonia and Brittany and The Two Sicilies and Bavaria and the Papal States and Navarre and Provence and the County Palatine of the Rhine and the Dukedom of Burgundy ... you get the idea ... and say Good Bye to to the imperialist nation states of the modern era*. I am a member of Mebyon Kernow.

I think this might be an example of Subsidiarity. Yes?


*A character in Waugh's Scott-King's Modern Europe says: "I am a Croat, born under the Hapsburg Empire. That was a true League of Nations. As a young man I studied in Zagreb, Budapest, Prague, Vienna - one was free, one moved where on would; one was a citizen of Europe. Then we were liberated and put under the Serbs. Now we are liberated again and put under the Russians. And always more police, more prisons, more hanging ..."

22 April 2011

Highlights of Holy Week so far?

Well, attending the Westminster Chrism Mass. Not so much the Mass itself - it was certainly well enough done but former Ebbsfleet clergy have been somewhat spoiled in this respect - as the scene beforehand outside: the Association of Catholic Women with posters and little cards to hand out saying We Love Our Priests. I would have liked to kiss them all. What a lovely lot. Catholic Women are obviously a very superior breed. Why has nobody ever told us this?

Another high point must be the recollection that, Deo volente, this will be the last Holy Week in which the faithful will have been fobbed off with the Comme le prevoit mistranslations by Bad Old ICEL. I thought of this at the Oratory today when we got to the bidding 'translated' as "that God may ... free those unjustly deprived of liberty", as if God were some sort of rather superior Parole Board. The original, you will recall, is the terse, forceful, brilliant, aperiat carceres, vincula solvat. I wonder how Good New ICEL renders this.

G G 'Patrimony' Willis demonstrated the extreme antiquity of those biddings - older even than the beautiful ancient collects which they introduce - by pointing out that they lack cursus.

20 April 2011

National Unity again

I trust that no-one will have been deceived by the mannered frivolity of my last post into thinking that I am anything but horrifed at the sight of the Camerons of this world defining for all of us the markers of common 'British' national identity. The fact is that the dominant culture of this country is now not so much non-Christian as anti-Christian. Increasingly, definitions of the 'tolerant' 'inclusive' character of our 'British Culture' mask an ideological determination to eradicate Christian morality and Christian assumptions from our national way of life; and to exclude their assertion from public discourse. Much the same appears to be true of other Western European and North American cultures.

An interesting example is provided by recent French legislation to Ban the Burkah. Almost every degree of female immodesty is, apparently, treated as normative ... but modesty is put on trial. A newspaper cartoon, showing a beach full of topless female sun-bathers ... and a gendarme chasing one topless sunbather who happened also to be wearing a burkah over her face ... made this point rather neatly. Happily, the British political class is not, at the moment, much minded to go down this path.

But notice the way in which the secularist zeitgeist, with its libertine determination to promote sexual promiscuity, now occupies the central ground - that is, the cultural assumptions behind the arguments - in Western societies. I heard some Moslem women interviewed on the wireless; they justified their wearing the burkah on the grounds that this was what they freely themselves wished to do. Well, good for them, I have respect for their choice and their courage in expressing it. But the assumption underlying this dialogue was that a woman's 'choice' is paramount; so we are not surprised to find in the French legislation exemplifies, that the greater penalties are reserved for men who constrain their womenfolk to cover their faces in public.

Of course I am not a Moslem and of course I do not campaign to promote either Islam, Sharia law, or Islamic styles of feminine conduct, in our British society. But let me make clear: I do think it is entirely acceptable - and even laudable - for a man to be concerned for the modest dress and conduct of his wife and daughters without being at risk of prosecution. And it would be nice to be able to walk through the streets of this city on Friday and Saturday nights without being confronted by acres of bare thighs, as the bimbo classes hunt in packs for a Good Time; and not to have to make my way around drunken mobs of them and their followers while lethargic policemen whose overtime my taxes pay wait to intervene. And then to hear in the morning news bulletins that the 'Morning After Pill' is to be made more readily available, paid for out of my taxes.

When the insufferable Cameron pontificates upon the need for immigrant communities to accept 'British Values', I feel rather as German Jews must have felt in 1933 when they heard the mobs beginning to chant "Ein Volk ...". You think I'm overstating this? Well, a society formed by 'British Values' already slaughters hundreds of thousands of innocent lives each year - lives, one suspects, largely conceived as the result of the sexual incontinence it has fostered; while, in 1933, the extermination of European Jewry was still only a manic gleam in the Fuehrer's eye.

'British Values and Culture' as defined by our cultural elite, an elite class hell-bent on the promotion of sexual promiscuity of every kind, are a corrupt menace. When I hear of proposals to constrain 'immigrant communities' to accept and conform to these notions, I feel that the bell is tolling for me as well.

I am not prepared to subscribe to what I perceive to be the modern British way of life. In my humble way, I shall do everything in my power to subvert it. When some future SuperCameron ships the 'unassimilated' Pakistanis back to Pakistan, where will he send unassimilated me?

19 April 2011


I give notice that, on May 3, this blog will enter upon a Summer Vacation. There are some academic pieces that I need the leisure to complete.

National unity: Hunwicke's Modest Proposal

Mr Cameron doesn't please everybody when he argues that 'immigrants' into Britain should be able to speak English. I, however, warmly and wholeheartedly agree with him. But I think his views should be ... er ... nuanced just a trifle.

English is not our only historic and native language in the Three Kingdoms. There is Welsh; there is Cornish, the language that Pam and I dip into together during our Cornish holidays as we return to the Catholic culture of medieval Europe by reading the mystery plays and sermons which survive in the old Cornish language. There are the two kinds of Gaelic; and, no, I haven't forgotten Manx. (In the disiecta membra of the old Duchy of Normandy, fragments of Norman French dialects survive.) Each of these is as properly, anciently, British, as is English ... the late Mr Chaucer's dialect ... or, possibly, even more so. But there is also another inherently British tongue: Latin, the language of these islands from the Claudian invasion onwards; the language of S Bede the Venerable and Sir Isaac Newton; the language in which Law and Theology and Mathematics and Logic were taught in our ancient universities ... Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Aberdeen ... in the Middle Ages and thereafter; the language in which the three nations worshipped for a thousand years.

So here is Hunwicke's Modest Proposal ... just the merest adaptation of Mr Cameron's very sensible approach. We should have two levels of citizenship: full citizenship; and associate citizenship. Full citizenship, including the right to vote and to own property and to have social benefits, would be available to all who could speak at least two of the languages on the following list; associate citizenship would have much more restricted rights attached to it, including temporary residence and the right to pay taxes, but would be freely and generously available to lesser mortals who were only able to be fluent in one of these languages.

(In the Channel Isles, Norman French.)

Gosh, the scope for fertile combinations: lessons in Cornish for native speakers of Urdu; Latin word lists for Polish Plumbers and Dentists.

You know it makes sense.

18 April 2011


Launceston is a small, pleasant, but not terribly remarkable town in Cornwall; well, just on the boundary of Cornwall. We lived nearby for six years. It was for long - anachronism coming up - the Capital of Cornwall, at a time when Capitals might not be in the middle of an area but on its edge, so that Crown officials could enter the territory upon their circuit. (Thus the President of the Council of Wales had his base at Ludlow in Shropshire.) For Catholics, however, the main glory of Launceston (by the way, it is pronounced Lahns'n) is that it is the place of the martyrdom of S Cuthbert Mayne, Protomartyr of the seminaries (whose skull is venerated not far away in Lanhearne).

But stay. A marvellous book has just plopped onto my doorstep full of the most marvellous, atmospheric, pictures of Launceston and district. People stand above the terrifying torrent of floodwaters in Launceston's Cataract Gorge; flowers stand in the City Park with their heads held high; the autumn leaves lie upon the ground in Brickfield's Reserve. The area is clearly very lush; rather as in Co Kerry, tree ferns and myrtles appear to germinate naturally (I believe that, in the old world, tree ferns made their way here from the Antipodes by accident, as ballast in ships, which was noticed to be sprouting!). Strangely, a Georgian house, with a Gothick church nearby, dominate the ridge above a vineyard in Coal Valley. Interesting, that; since I had not known that there were vineyards in Cornwall. There are quite a lot of fields there called Vineyard Field, but experts in Celtic philology suspect that this is an Anglophone misunderstanding of minnack (vinnack with lenition), or 'stoney', in the old Cornish language.

Thanks, Joshua, it is really lovely book, and I had no conception, despite the vivid description brought back from Tasmania by one of my daughters, that your native land was quite so beautiful. We did know that Tasmania had a Launceston - the result of generations of Cornish tin miners taking their unneeded skills to that and many other distant places.

A classicist cartographer seems to have wandered around Tasmania: Pelion Plains; Mount Geryon; Lake Oenone; Meander Valley (with awesome falls); Mount (yes!) Olympus; Styx Valley. The last of these, readers will not be surprised to learn, does not look in the least sulphurous!

16 April 2011

Situating John Paul II

While I do not make a habit of questioning the judgement of Roman Pontiffs, I have never concealed my feeling that John Paul II's Assisi Event would not lose any of its value if it were given just a little clarification. Similarly his action in kissing a copy of the Koran. The ill-disposed could so easily misinterpret these events as giving some sort of cover for syncretism or religious relativism. I have recently twice suggested that the structuring of the Next Assisi might constitute just such clarification.

I found the newly published Collect* for Blessed John Paul II interesting in this respect. It hopes that we will be edocti by his instituta, but, lest any should deem those instituta to encourage syncretism, it concludes by describing Christ as the unus Redemptor hominis. Thus it takes up the theme of the admirable CDF document Dominus Iesus, which so lucidly explained that only in Christ can be found salvation. Thus by one word the nature of JP2's Magisterium is definitively and permanently clarified by having a Hermeneutic associated with it.


*Personally, I feel that it would better have read ... praesta qs, nobis, eius institutis edoctis, ut corda nostra ... aperiantur. Primacy of Grace, and all that.

On the train to Allen Hall on Thursday, I took my schoolmaster's correcting pencil to the texts published by the Vatican. There is one patent typo; another place where I don't quite see what the meaning is unless there is a typo. And the Eulogium reads to my eye rather oddly. I invite periti - or do we nowadays say idonei? - to join in the hunt. As a start ... how would you account for 'reditus' in line 2?

15 April 2011


Since Fr Blake's tiscali machine refused to accept a comment I tried to put onto his (most admirable) blog, I repeat here the message which modern technology bounced back to me.

When disposing of old Altar Books, always keep the tabs and ribbons; they can be most useful when renovating and bringing back to use old EF Missals.

Some people might find it useful to remove from old ICEL volumes the Missale parvum which is incorporated towards the end, giving a basic minimum of what is necessary for saying the OF in Latin when one is travelling and has no access to a complete OF Missal and Lectionary in a language one knows. It can then become a light-weight addition to ones travelling Mass kit.

Hoc Hodiernum Tempus; or 'Hemming (3)'

Continues from the Hemming posts.
Not long ago, turning the pages in the Liturgia Horarum, I noticed in the 'Patristic' reading some words of Vatican II, taken from the Pastoral Constitution de Ecclesia in mundo huius temporis. These were the opening words of the passage selected* for the reading: "Mundus hodiernus ...". How long, I asked myself, is hoc hodiernum tempus* to be deemed to last?

A few hundred Council Fathers were worried by the incorporation into a conciliar constitution of transient observations relating to a rapidly changing world: which is why, to satisfy such traditionalist pedantry, a long exculpatory Note is attached to that constitution's title. But - still - how long was their hodiernum tempus?

In the World outside the conciliar aula, that 1960s tempus passed quite quickly. The Beatles soon became what they are now, a delightful but retro taste. I recall the first of Ian Fleming's books to be made a film ... that distant decade when female parishioners told me that I resembled Sean Connery ... but, as the years passed after Dr No, the producers increasingly found Fleming's hodiernum tempus much too old-fashioned ... and commissioned new scripts. Among politicians, hoc hodiernum tempus was marked by the Cold War and fears that the Menace of World Communism would gobble up country after country until we had Soviet Commissars looking over our shoulders as we ordered our books up to Duke Humphrey or punted down the Cherwell. That tempus passed before the 1990s.

But perhaps hodierna tempora last longer in the Church? Did the hodiernum tempus Concilii Vaticani II end with the death of the last pope who was himself a Father of the Council - in 2005? (I presume that, long before then, the last conciliar diocesan bishop had retired upon reaching the retirement age). Or will hoc hodiernum tempus end when the last old gentlemen ... Kuengs and Ratzingers ... who were bright young periti of the Council, have passed to their (immensely varied but equally deserved) rewards? Or let us consider the Babes of the Council: those who ... despite the contraceptive frenzy of the time ... succeeded in getting conceived during the conciliar decade. They are already in middle age, tut-tutting in front of their mirrors over their white hairs and counting the wrinkles round their eyes. In a generation they will be retiring; a generation after that they will be as deadish as I shall be. Which of these landmarks might indicate the end of hoc hodiernum tempus?

Or possibly - it occurs to me - there is another looming indicator of the termination of this tempus. Shortly before his retirement, the then director of ICEL, Mgr Bruce Harbert, speaking in Oxford, said that ICEL was very shy about doing too much work on a new English translation of the Liturgia Horarum because of the strong likelihood that the post-conciliar form of the Office would itself be back in the melting pot before they had got very far. O utinam ... you can just imagine the majestic words in the Bull of Suppression, can't you: ... auctoritate praesentium tollimus imprimis et abolemus breviarium novum ab Hannibale Bugnini viro scelestissimo confectum, et in quacumque ecclesia, monasterio, conventu, ordine, militia, et loco virorum et mulierum, etiam exempto, tam a primaeva institutione quam aliter ab hac Sede permissum ... these things more or less write themselves ... or is my subconscious recalling a passage from some earlier papal document ... my memory is fading by the day ... how I do ramble ... will that felicitous moment indicate the end of the hodiernum Tempus Concilii Vaticani II?


*Hoc hodiernum tempus means, literally, this todayish time. Incidentally, I wonder what earlier precedents there are for including extracts from recent conciliar documents as 'Patristic' readings in the Breviary. Bl Pius IX and Pius XII included passages from dogmatic bulls dated respectively 1854 and 1950. Other parallels?

14 April 2011

The Bishop of Bruges

Oh dear! I gather he was the most exciting, charismatic, of the Belgian bishops.

Peter Ball was undoubtedly the most exciting and charismatic of the English bishops. And, across the sea in Ireland, Eamonn Casey, aka Mr Annie Murphy, wowed the folk of Kerry and then of Galway. Kerry is still filled with the aging, embarrassing, Modern churches he built. He vandalised Killarney Cathedral in an incredibly exciting and charismatic way.

Being exciting and charismatic seems to provide dangers to the soul as well as sometimes to cathedrals.

Hemming again (2)

Continues from the last post.
Hemming sees the fly in the o******t as being actuosa participatio, as the phrase is understood in 'Enlightenment' liturgical fashions ... that is, by the liturgical apparatchiks who still act as the guardians of what they see as the Pure Spirit of Vatican II; the same jokers who for decades sneered so nastily at Joseph Ratzinger's contributions to liturgical rethinking on the grounds that 'he is not an expert'.

The idea (writes Hemming) that a single self can consummate in itself the entire meaning of every particular liturgical act as it is enacted ... is foreign and indeed corrosive to the interior character of a complex and centuries-long symbolic language which uses the differentiatedness of place, of time, and of the different vocations and stations of all humanity, to mediate the full range of the drama of our salvation. ... The idea - well known in the East* - that the entire liturgy must be fulfilled, but that it is impossible for any one person to fulfil it alone - was superseded in the West by the idea that every priest must complete the Office and Mass daily and in full ... (he concludes by describing liturgy as:) something which the whole local church - monastic house, convent, diocese, and so forth - has to distribute across its membership and life for the sake of the distributed body of Christ as it manifests itself in particular places.

You see his point. Frantically determined that every priest should say the whole Office, the West has repeatedly slashed and reduced that Office to make the aim attainable ... and, by so doing, has lamentably ravaged its traditional Office. The alternative would be to keep (or to restore) the great integrity of the historical Office while limiting the amount of it that each individual is required to fulfill.

Hemming's principle represents exactly what happened in the medieval cathedrals of England, such as (the one I have studied in most detail) Exeter, codified by its great reforming bishop John Grandisson in his Ordinale. The Lady Chapel, for example, had its own complete and distinct establishment to ensure the fulfilment each day of an entire round of Office and Mass in honour of our Lady, which duplicated the worship at the High Altar. There survives in the Chapter library just one sheet of a Marian Missal, corrected in Grandisson's own hand, for use either in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral or in that of his Collegiate establishment at Ottery. The weekly Mass and Office of our Lady in Sabbato, as we have them in the Tridentine books, are but a pale remnant of all that. Our massive cathedrals, which now so embarrassingly struggle to demonstrate to the tourists (and to the parishes) their 'relevance', were built quite simply to house those majestic structures of worship; a massive round of daily sacrifice and praise performed in full, not necessarily by each individual, but by a large differentiated community.

*I would welcome comments by Orthodox about whether Hemming is right here. My instinct is that he is dead right; but we occidentals can so easily misunderstand a different tradition.

13 April 2011


VIS seems to indicate that a lot of new Provinces are being created all over theplace. What might be the ecclesial or ecclesiological significance of this?

Hemming and "the distributed body of Christ" (1)

In 2008, Laurence Hemming published his Worship as a Revelation. It has now lost its status as a 'new' book and will have a few decades to go before it becomes a Revived Classic. In the betweentime I thought I would remind you of this (uneven but) extremely important book. Not least of its importance is the fact that it reminds us of how close many of the instincts of the 'unreformed' Roman Rite - that is, the rite as it was before S Pius X got his hands on it - are to the ritual instincts which (apologies if as an ignorant Latin I have got this side of things wrong) animate Byzantine worship.

I have recently revisited Chapter 11, "Temporal Liturgy"; because I recalled that it gave me a 'line' on some thoughts that have been nagging at my mind recently. I have been comparing the distribution of the Psalter in the Roman Rite
before Pius X;
and after Pius X;
and post-Vatican II.
And what you find here is an ever more intense application, as time goes on, of the associated principles of brevity (the clergy must not be given too great a burden to recite in their Office) and of avoiding repetition. An example of what I mean: before Pius X, you said psalms 148, 149, 150, every day at Lauds (all lumped together with one antiphon and just one final Gloria) . They were the 'Praise' psalms (ainoi) that gave 'Laudes' its name. But such incessant repetition means that there isn't room for a vastly extensive use of the rest of the Psalter ... unless you pile on the 'burden'. So under S Pius X they were removed from daily repetition, split up from each other, and, together with other psalms beginning Laudate, spread lightly around. I am indebted to our learned friend Rubricarius for the information that the great Dr 'Patrimony' Wickham-Legg wrote: "In the estimation of the devout Roman Catholic, the Canon of the Mass and the distribution of the Psalter in the Breviary were almost on a footing as regards the impossibility of either being changed, amended, or re-arranged. They were the sacred Ark of the Liturgy, which no man might touch ... the Curia ... has already accomplished what can only be described as an astounding liturgical revolution, a thorough-going redistribution of the Psalter, in place of the old distribution, which can claim the most venerable antiquity; which Benedict XIV and his consultors in their proposed reform of the Breviary had not dared to touch, for they could not find that the Church of Rome had ever used any other"*.

Liturgical scholars (at that time, many of them were still Men of the Tradition rather than innovatory tinkerers) were horrified at the disappearance under Pius X* from daily use of the ainoi, which at least arguably go back to the Jewish usage of the first century. The recent 'spreading more thinly' of Miserere, which used to mark each day in Lent, can also be deplored as a sad dilution of the spirit of that season. But ... if we were still to recite these splendid things ... and all the other splendid things ... preces and suffragia and goodness knows what ... and with recollection! ... our Office would take all day! Hemming cuts this Gordian Knot by arguing that not everybody always needs to say everything.


*Those dodgy liturgists Quignon and Cranmer, followed by the equally dodgy 'Gallican' (Jansenist?) bishops who confected the eighteenth century French breviaries, had led the way in mistreating the
laudate psalms. Incidentally, I won't get too dewy eyed about Wickham Legg's rhetoric because, I fear, his argument was that if Pius X could do such things, what harm was there in Cranmer having done them earlier?

12 April 2011

AD ORIENTEM, every morning

The common ancient tradition of the Universal Church was, until recently, to offer the Holy Eucharist facing towards the rising sun understood as as an an Ikon or Type of the rising Lord, the one who comes to us from the Beyond to give us his daily gift of newness. East and West have commonly interpreted psalm 19(MT)=18(Vg & LXX) verses 4-6, referring to the sun, as giving an image of our Lord as the Bridegroom leaving the chamber of his Mother's virginal womb like a strong man running his course with joy. And this insight is now tardily being reappropriated by Western Christendom.

I would like to suggest another application of these truths. Should not the normative time for celebrating the Holy Eucharist and receiving communion be at the beginning of the day, as the sun rises, as Christ, new every morning, comes to us from his Father's House and is given to us by that maternal womb which is the Mediatrix of all Graces? This has, of course, been historically the general custom in the Church (even if in fasting seasons vesperal masses sometimes concluded the day's fast). It coheres with the ancient Eucharistic Fast, from the night before. Everything here speaks of newness, of the Father's eternal gift of the Son; of the Bread of Life as the Fount of the graces and deeds of the day.

I am not suggesting a new burdensome rigidity. My own discipline is that whenever I celebrate Mass after Noon, and there can be few modern pastors who never do this, I avail myself of the newer discipline of the fast. And I applaud the modern provision of a Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. We cannot afford to miss any opportunity of giving people the means of fulfilling their Sunday obligation, or of daily Mass and Communion. But there is a certain breathlessness about the modern arrangements, however splendid it is when an office worker gives up part of her lunch-break to go to a midday Mass. And the gathering on Saturday evening of those Getting It Out Of The Way so that they can sleep in on Sunday morning seems to me to lack the wholesomeness of a regular congregation meeting in the newness of Sunday Morning to consecrate the week to God: perhaps the Anglican Patrimony (not to mention Orthodoxy) has something that is of value to the whole Latin Church.

I affirm all the modern arrangements whereby modern Western Christendom makes our Eucharistic Lord available to a world in a hurry. I am simply suggesting that Mass before breakfast, and on weekdays as well as Sundays, is worth considering as an ideal; after all, it is a norm which most Christian cultures and most Christian generations have found normal.

11 April 2011

...audemus dicere PATER NOSTER ...

The words introducing the Lord's prayer were translated by Cranmer, felicitously, as ' ...we are bold to say'. New ICEL with equal accuracy renders '...we dare to say'. But surely we should be 'happy' to say or 'cosy' to say or at least 'confident' to say? Old ICEL, indeed, prayed 'with confidence', and the equally corrupt Common Worship translation totally skives the question of how to render 'audemus'. Yet there is quite an ecumenical convergence here (if one ignore the Modernists and considers just the healthy consensus of the classical Roman and Byzantine Rites): the Byzantines ask God to make us worthy, with parrhesia and without condemnation, to dare (tolmain) to call upon the God of Heaven as Father.

Lying behind the modern squeamishness is a feeling that Christianity should be a religion of intimate warmth warmth. Indeed, there is in the world at large a belief that all men are brothers and that accordingly God, if there is a God, is the indulgent unjudgemental Father of all men*. So why should there be anything bold or daring about calling him Father? Rather than being dangerous, it should be next door to a platitude. But this is not the religion of the New Testament. The Lord's habit of regarding God as his father, Abba, seems to have been distinctive and unusual. The fact that the word is Aramaic suggests that it goes back to the Incarnate Lord's infant linguistic habits. And permission is given to humankind to share this habit in as far and only as far as humans are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and thus en Christo, members of his Body, Sons only in the sense that they are in the One Son. Wayne Meekes (The First Urban Christians) attractively suggested that the Pauline converts actually cried Abba (Gal 4:6) as they emerged dripping from the regenerating, resurrecting, waters of baptism. Only because we thus share by the theosis of filiation in Christ's Divine Sonship dare we, as the Byzantines happily put it, with parrhesia (standing on our two feet and looking him in the eye) call God Pater.


*Old Bad ICEL cheerfully translated Deus at the start of most Collects as Father. I suspect that this corresponded to the intimacy of the common habit of which Evangelicals are commonly said to be guilty: of starting every ex tempore prayer with the words "Father, we just want to say ...". By the sort of diverting coincidence which is the ultimate proof that a humorous Providence must exist, the Modernists of the next generation came to abhor the vocative Father even when it does translate Pater ... as being patriarchal!

9 April 2011


How about acquiring a new habit as your special discipline this Passiontide; I mean, getting into a habit you haven't been in before and then continuing it for the rest of your life.

Here is a possibility: get into the way of bowing your head reverently at the Holy Name of Jesus (and another name as well: vide infra). My apologies to those of you who do this already; but my impression is that very few people do, even among the pious, even among the pious clergy. Yet it is even prescribed in the old Canon Law of the Patrimonial Church of England to be done by clergy and laity alike, and this order was explicitly retained in the twentieth century revision of Canon Law. And, of course, it was laid down in the old Ritus Celebrandi Missam: 'When the Name of Jesus is named, [the celebrant] bows his head ... and similarly whenevever the Name of blessed Mary is named, or that of the Saints of whom the mass is said ...'. I try to do this, not only liturgically, but also when I hear the Name of our Saviour uttered lightly as an expletive.

A great Bishop of Exeter, John Grandisson, made the encouragement of this the first thing he did when he arrived in Exeter in 1328 after having been 'provided' to the see by his frienrd and patron, that great pontiff John XXII. In his decree Ineffabilis Misericordiae Matris he wrote 'The Mother of Mercy - a mercy beyond all words - has endlessly shown favour with ready hand to the whole human race, from the beginning of our redemption; favours that will last for ever.Having these always before our eyes, and not forgetting how often she has helped, cared for, protected and excused us before her Son, and has graciously reconciled us to herself, we desire with all our heart to entice and enflame the minds of others to her love and service.' He went on to remind his cathedral clergy of the 'very great indulgences which we know Popes Urban IV and John XXII graciously to have granted' and to add to these a new indulgence of his own to all his clergy who 'sweetly call to mind the Name of her Son Jesus Christ or of Mary, when it is sung or read, by bowing their head.'

Recent reforms restored the festivals of the Names of Jesus and Mary to the (new) Roman Rite. You know it makes sense!

8 April 2011

A bit messy?

Those familiar with Vespers of the Dead (Old Rite) and the old propers for the Departed; and with the EF commune Sacerdotes tui, may have shared my puzzlements. The first set me thinking about all those texts which ask that the departed be delivered from Hell. Such texts do not, I think survive into the postconciliar texts, because of the assumption that, immediately after death, the eternal destiny of the defunctus is definitively and tidily settled. Either he is in Hell or he will eventually be in Heaven. Do the ancient texts suggest rather that in the journey his soul is undergoing it might yet fall eternally? Or even that in the mysterious working of divine mercy Hell might not, for everybody there, be the last word? Is it true that in some parts of Europe there are beliefs that the soul is not judged immediately after death? Are there parallels in Byzantine euchology?

The second set of texts, in the Secreta, asked God that our oblations might 'be profitable unto [the holy bishop] for the reward of blessedness'. How does this fit in with the idea that there is a tidy distinction between those who need our prayers and those who are fully in blessedness and pray for us? Could it be that even the Saints have yet progress to make in God's grace?

Are these speculations contrary to the Magisterium? Of course, I have no desire to be anything but an obedient servant of what has been defined. But there is, surely, something amusing about the fact that such speculations can be suggested by the Old Rite but not the New; as if the great prayer-bag of Tradition is an older, freer, more thought-provoking, less narrow world than Bugnini's.

I'm glad one can still buy unpasteurised cheese.

7 April 2011

YHWH God of hosts

The new translation of the Sanctus is a fine example of why the new English Mass is necessary; and of how translation should be done.

The original Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus Domine Deus Sabaoth comes from Isaiah 6. Readers will not need to be reminded that Domine translates YHWH, the unutterable Name of the Jewish God ... that is to say, our God, for we ought never to forget that (as Pius XI said in the era of Hitler) we are all spiritually Semites. Before the Preface, the priest has invited us to Make Eucharist (give thanks) to YHWH our God; now we join the angels in shouting his holiness.

He is YHWH God SBAOTH; an ancient cult title which the Vulgate properly translates as 'God of armies'; he is the God who went to war before David and the people of Israel, his chosen, throughout their ... oops, I think I should have written 'our' ... history. But how to translate SBAOTH?

Old ICEL rendered 'Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might'. Very nasty, because it makes LORD a final monosyllable that in saying and singing gets psychologically and physically (we are just coming to the end of our puff) lost. It puts a heavy break before the phrase 'God of power and might' and thereby breaks up the integrity of the Hebrew original.

But there would be something awkward in a literal rendering 'God of Armies'. If that had been proposed, the furore would have been understandable. New ICEL has done a very wise thing. It has gone back to the archaic English phrase 'God of hosts'. where 'hosts' is old English for 'armies' (cf Wycliff and the Authorised Version and Cranmer's Prayer Book). 'Sabaoth' is an archaism; what more fitting than an archaism to render it; an archaism which reminds us of our Hebrew roots and of the long history of Biblical and liturgical English. This is precisely how translation should be done.

Someone should tell those clergy who are campaigning against the new translation (in organisations such as "What if we just said Wait until Ratzinger is dead") that, in very many cases, they are campaigning against the wording with which Anglicans have been familiar for 450 years. This is very unecumenical.

5 April 2011


A very satisfactory session at Allen Hall yesterday; what, I gather, is known as Twenty-four Hour Pork. My goodness me, how tasty, how succulent.

As a brother priest murmured, what an excellent thing it is that modern Roman Catholics have a ... er ... nuanced view of Lent.

Only for philologists

I heard, on the wireless, a young woman with an exotically, positively rococo, East End accent say that 'Mel C'* was her "me:er". I'm fairly sure that this is Estuary English for "Mentor". Not very Hellenic ...

*I think 'Mel C' may have been one of the "Spice Girls". I was still in teaching when these phenomena were live, so I had them explained to me. No? ... ah, well ...

4 April 2011


For those who use the Liturgia Horarum: today's readings are important. I'm not going to expound them in detail because I think anybody can work the business out for themselves, and I hope they will do so. Just a pointer.

Home in on Leviticus 16: 13-14. Compare the translation of this in the Biblical Reading, as offered you in LH Second Edition (it comes from the Neo-Vulgate), with the translation of the same Hebrew verses in the text of the Patristic Reading, Origen's exegesis of the Leviticus passage. You will notice that the Neo-Vulgate offers you "contra frontem", while Origen read "contra orientem". Origen's text comes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation used by the first Christians (and, if I am right in my own conviction that our Lord normally spoke Greek, by him too). For your information: the traditional Vulgate had a reading similar to that of the Septuagint: "ad orientem". ["orientem" means the East.]

Now go on reading Origen's exposition, reflecting on its significance for the direction of Christian Eucharistic worship.

[A subsidiary point: this does also raise the question of the propriety of providing new translations, such as the Neo-Vulgate, which may be closer to what philologists and Rabbinic Judaism agree the Hebrew means, but which close off from us Patristic understandings of Scripture. I suspect that when the Neo-Vulgate was substituted for the Vulgate in LH, nobody quite noticed that this rendered Origen's exegesis rather mysterious.]

3 April 2011

Clergy Appeal: Auxilium petitur ...

His hebdomadis in quibus prohibitione obstringimur quin sacrosanctum Missae Sacrificium offeramus, nonulla occasio oritur in qua pastorali cura motus desiderio haud parvo offerendi afficior pro salute vel pro bono statu alicuius viri seu mulieris, aegrotantis fortasse seu dolentis.

Rogo confratres caros compresbyteros meos ut sua benevolentia velint litare pro intentione et ad mentem Ioannis Hunwicke, idque mihi significent, ut missas eas (quot et quando?) ad bonum applicem eorum quibus opus est huius tam salutiferi beneficii.


I gather that the eldest grandson of the Head of State is to be married in the Octave of Easter; and that he has favoured the public sheets with the intelligence that he will not be wearing a wedding ring. There was a little debate on the Home Service a day or two ago between two opposing 'celebrities' (of neither of whom I had heard); the one who deplored the young man's decision and who upheld the desireability of husbands wearing wedding rings was introduced as "holding the traditionalist view"!

When I got married in 1967, for a husband to wear a ring was the innovation of a small minority. I had one colleague at Lancing who wore one; my suspicion was that this was something to do with the fact that he was a Francophile.

I am not particularly interested in joining a debate about the goodness of each partner in a marriage wearing a wedding ring, or even about the evolution of different customs in different regions. What absolutely fascinated me was the apparent fact that what was in England a little known innovation in 1967 is now regarded as the 'Tradition' which holds sway! So brief a period, apparently, now suffices to establish a 'tradition'!

There is a yawn-making old joke that, however unfashionable one is, if one waits long enough one will be in forefront of fashion. I now know that the prescribed period of time for this process is 44 years.