Monday, 31 August 2009

My very own ''blonde'' moment...

People have often said I have no ''common sense,'' and I guess they're right. I went to University (as normal) today, and went into the Library. I sat down at a computer and set off to work on my essay (which is, incidentally, due tomorrow - and is still unfinished! Although I have an excuse for that...) I should have guessed that something wasn't right because I had to turn the computer on, there was no one in the Library at all (not even a Librarian) and there were no lights on, but I carried on. I got some books from the shelf, and was perusing my notes. This went on for about fifteen minutes, when suddenly I heard someone coming up from the Stacks. A door opened, and in walked the Librarian. I paid no attention to him of course, but I heard a voice. So I turned round to hear. ''We're closed,'' he said. ''Sorry?'' I said, confused. ''We're closed,'' he said again, ''it's the August Bank Holiday.'' It finally registered. My face must have been a study in wonder! So I went to put my books back etc, and walked out with the Librarian feeling very stupid. Apparently there was a sign on the door (which I obviously didn't see) indicating that the Library was closed. What I want to know is this: why didn't anyone tell me it was a Bank Holiday! (This day is just one reason I hate them).

Unfortunately, the Library being shut (and the Computer Suite also), I had nothing to do, and no means of doing it, so I went into a comfortable lecture room overlooking the Garden and sat down. Fortunately I had non-work related reading material (J.R.R Tolkien's The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, and my Latin Grammar) so I sat down to read that instead. I actually found it quite boring too, and I felt rather sullen and stupid after the Library incident (it always happens to me, at least that's how it feels whenever it does!)

I hope Mac doesn't think I'm stealing her post ideas!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

They reach their destination...


I have been quiet about The Silmarillion for about two weeks now, so let's pick up where we left off, which was the capture of Eöl by the scouts of Curufin. After hearing the dark prophecy of Curufin, Eöl mounted his horse and rode westward to the fords of Aros filled with hatred of all the Noldor and the anger of his humiliation. At length, he came to the ford of Brithiach, where he caught sight of Aradhel and Maeglin, and he marked them seeking among the hills for the secret entrance to the Mountains.

Aradhel was welcomed by the guards with joy, and came thus to Gondolin with her son. Maeglin was amazed at the strength and majesty of the Hidden City, and he took Turgon the King as lord. But he stood and looked about, and by nothing was his gaze held longer than Idril, daughter of the King. The King listened in wonder to all that Aradhel had to tell of her time beyond the Mountains.

But at length messengers came into the hall bearing news of the coming of Eöl, for following Aradhel, he had discovered the Dry River and the Outer Gate. And being held by the guards, he was wrathful and hard to restrain. And Aradhel bid the messenger bring him to the King's Judgement, for she was in truth his wife and he was the father of their son. And so it was done. Eöl was amazed at all that he saw no less than his son, but this but increased his bitterness, and he spoke in wrath to the King, refusing his embrace. And so the King offered him two choices - to live in Gondolin as vassal of the King or to die in Gondolin, the same also for Maeglin (for it was the King's law that none who found the way thither would be given leave to depart).

Eöl looked into the eyes of Turgon and was not daunted, and in hatred he seized a javelin that he had concealed beneath his cloak crying: ''The second choice I take and for my son also! You shall not hold what is mine!'' But Aradhel sprang before the javelin, and she was wounded in the shoulder, and Eöl was overcome and led away in bonds. It was decided that Eöl would be brought to the King's Judgement the next day, and Aradhel moved Turgon to mercy. But she sickened during the night and died, for too late it was discovered that the point of the javelin was poisoned. Therefore when Eöl was brought to judgement, he found no mercy and was led away to the Caragdûr, a dark precipice on the north side of the city, and so he ended - for he was cast over the edge, cursing his son.

To all, the death of Eöl seemed just, but Idril was troubled, and she mistrusted Maeglin. But Maeglin grew swiftly to high honour in the City, and was loved by all. He led many bent to his craft into the Encircling Mountains, where they would find ore, and Gondolin was enriched in those days, and profited much from his teaching. But a grief he had which robbed him of all joy - he desired Idril the King's daughter, without hope. The Eldar did not marry with kin so near (she was his cousin), nor had any ever desired to do so before (or after). And the Wise have afterwards declared this desire to be perverse, a dark fruit of the Kinslaying. And Maeglin grew to resent Idril, and all the more desired to have his will in other matters (often in defiance of the King). And so, amid all its splendour, a dark seed of evil was sown within the city of Gondolin.

The above image depicts the death of Eöl, and is by the artist Ted Nasmith.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

St Augustine of Hippo...


First Vespers having been celebrated, I'd like to wish all my readers a very Happy Feast of St Augustine of Hippo, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church. He is without a shadow of doubt one of the greatest minds the Church has known, and was a remarkable character. I'd like to share one of my favourite passages from his Confessions. I did a translation of this passage in Latin once, under the expert (and patient!) direction of my dear Latin teacher, Sr Magdalen. What follows is not my own translation (since I can't find that) but the one given in an indispensable book for any historian of the Early Church, Creeds, Councils and Controversies by J. Stevenson:

The Conversion of St Augustine, August in the Year of Our Lord 386:

''I flung myself down I know not how, under a fig tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of my eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice to thee [see Psalm 50:18]. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spoke I much unto thee: And thou, O Lord, how long? [Psalm 6:4] How long, Lord, wilt thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, [Psalm 78:5] for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words; How long? How long is it to be? 'To-morrow, and to-morrow?' Why not now? Why is there not this hour an end to my uncleanness?

''So was I speaking, and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, suddenly I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of a boy or girl, I do not know, often repeating in a sing-song, 'Take up and read; Take up and read.' Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently, whether the children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So I checked the torrent of my tears, and got up; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read, was spoken to him; Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come follow me [Matthew 19:21]. And by such an oracle he was immediately converted unto thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting, for there I had laid the volume of the Apostle, when I got up from there. I seized it, opened it, and in silence read that section, on which my eyes first fell; Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh [Romans 13:13-14], in concupiscence. I wished to read no further; nor did I need; for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished.

''Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calm countenance I disclosed all to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus disclosed to me. He asked to see what I had read, I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I did not know what followed, namely, Him that is weak in the faith, receive [Romans 14:1], which he applied to himself, and explained to me. And by this admonition he was strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, in which he was always very far different from me for the better, without any crisis and delay he joined me. Thence we went to my mother [St Monica]; we told her; she rejoiced in triumph, and blessed thee, who art able to do above that which we ask or think [Ephesians 3:20], for she perceived that thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg with pitiful and sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith where thou hadst showed me unto her a vision so many years before. And thou didst convert her mourning into joy [Psalm 29:12], much more richly than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she once required, by having grandchildren of my body.'' (St Augustine, The Confessions, Book VIII 12.28-30).

The above painting is by Ary Scheffer and shows St Augustine with his mother St Monica.

Seven things we'd like...

Anita over at V for Victory! gave me this excellent post idea. What are the seven things that we as Catholics want or would like to see happen? Below is my list:

I. I'd like to see the return of the Traditional Papal High Mass, along with the Papal Tiara, the Sedia Gestatoria, the Noble and Palatine Guards, the Papal States etc. (I know, I know!) Naturally, since Rome is the sun of Christendom, the liturgical example would emanate to every corner of the Latin Rite (or one would hope that it would). Along with this I would like to see the return of the traditional liturgical books (proper to each Minister of the Mass), the restoration of the Minor Orders, Canon Law to be made the ''sacred Canons'' again (rather than its present ''codification''), the return of the traditional Curia (Inquisitions etc!), and Low Mass to be declared irregular except in cases of grave necessity (I don't much like Low Mass you see).

II. The return of the Traditional Latin Liturgy (not just the Mass) to every parish church in the West.

III. The end of the Culture of Death, as seen in the obscene promotion and procurement of Abortion, Contraception, Euthanasia, Fornication etc. Laws to safeguard the sanctity of the traditional Catholic family would be nice too.

IV. The vast improvement of education; well-grounded in the Classical languages and literature (special attention ought to be lavished upon these), actual English literature (I did virtually none when I was at school, being stuck with this hideous green anthology filled with mediocre ''poetry'' and appalling prose), the Roman Catechism and a proper introduction to the Catholic Church and its vast and regal history, the Sciences (taught separately), Art and Art History (again, like English Literature, actual Art - with emphasis on the High Renaissance and the Baroque periods), Calligraphy (an extension of Art), Music, History (nothing 20th century), Geography, the Modern languages (the teaching of which would start in Primary School) and many other things beside. The return of corporal punishment would be good too...

V. My very own Hobbit-hole (with adjacent Mathom-house and a private chapel - it would have to look like the Sainte-Chapelle!), complete with a round green door with a brass knob, a nice garden and plenty of pantries - in short, Bag End with a vast library!

VI. Church of England churches (at least our ancestral churches) to be returned to the Catholic Church and restored to what they were of old, Rood-Screens the lot! Also, conversion of the English Royal Family and Nobility to Catholicism, and a return to a pre-Magna Carta style of government (oh to have been alive in the 12th century!) Kingship is, afterall, ''the best form of government,'' (St Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum, chapter VI). The restoration of Christendom and the old Pentarchy would be nice too., with the conversion of the Orthodox...

VII. J.R.R Tolkien to be declared Servant of God...

I know I may have ''cheated'' by including lots of things under one heading, but I think this sort of thing is fun. I tag Fr Finigan, Mac, Fr John Boyle and Leutgeb to do the same...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

St Zephyrinus...


This is another post for Zephyrinus. It is your Feast Day today! St Zephyrinus (according to the St Andrew's Daily Missal) succeeded St Victor to the Apostolic See, and was also martyred. He abolished the use of wooden chalices in the celebration of Mass, and ordered them to be replaced by glass ones (I find that rather odd, since the use of glass is also forbidden). He also ordered all of Christ's faithful to receive Holy Communion on Easter Day. A defender of orthodoxy against heretics, a glorious Pope (confessedly, I knew practically nothing of him until I read this small piece in the Missal). His Mass is Common, except for a Proper Collect, which reads:

Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut beati Zephyrini Martyris tui atque Pontificis, cuius gaudemus meritis, intruamur exemplis. Per Dominum. [Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God: that we may be instructed by the example of blessed Zephyrinus Thy Martyr and Pontiff, of whose merits we rejoice. Through the Lord.]

The translation of the Collect given in the Missal is rather dodgy actually, so I have corrected it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mini ''blognic''


Yesterday evening, after a day of essay-writing at the University, I went to Mass at Corpus Christi church, Covent Garden (as is my wont on a Monday evening). Fr Finigan was celebrant, and six out of the seven Servers in the Sanctuary were from Blackfen! I was Thurifer. After Mass, I met a friend of mine, Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press and another chap called Andrew (who reads this blog) and we went to the pub for a few drinks.

It was quite honestly the best evening in recent months. The conversation was intellectual, witty and very interesting, ranging from liturgical history, rubrics and theology (not just in the Roman Rite) to Tolkien, Catholic families and the Latin language. Rubricarius showed me a 1910 Breviary, in mint condition, and I was amazed to see the Psalterial discrepancies. I haven't had time yet to properly compare and contrast the differences, but it will be interesting when I eventually do. I showed him the 1828 Missal Propers from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which he found interesting. Fr Finigan joined us a little later on (he had joined the families at Pizza Hut first), and so the meeting was a miniature ''blognic'' too!

One thing that was said especially interested me. Rubricarius reckons that I should do a PhD thesis on Tolkien. I wonder what I would write about; maybe something like Tolkien's theology of Creation and sub-creation (if that doesn't sound too solemn, Tolkien might think it does), the literary value of The History of Middle-earth or perhaps, more appropriately, something on the generally Catholic thrust of his work.

All good things come to an end though, and we were obliged to leave because of the ''warning bell.'' By this time, I realised that I had had a little too much to drink, which marred the evening somewhat. I was certainly glad to get in eventually (after what seemed a never-ending journey home) and I went to bed feeling exhausted.

I shall be going to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral again on Thursday, as it will be the Vigil of the Dormition of the Mother of God (according to the Julian Kalendar). They are having a service of Vespers and a ''burial'' ceremony (something which I have never seen, and apparently has only been done once before in London) to mark the solemn occasion.

I am not looking forward to going to work tomorrow, or to next week, but the mini ''blognic'' was a welcome break and a solace amidst those cares. The above image depicts Corpus Christi church.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Importance of a Parish...


I thought I might develop my previous post about not having a parish. If anyone has read the title of this post and is expecting a lengthy treatise, then I am afraid you're going to be somewhat disappointed. I am too busy for treatises. But it is an interesting topic all the same, and what follows are a few thoughts, mostly autobiographical.

When we left our old parish, we were left with nowhere to go. By this time, I had already read about the Second Vatican Council and its New Mass, and had formed a lasting view of it. We moved to our current house when I was 16, and I went along to the local parish to see what it was like. The church was quite small and ugly, and so was the Liturgy there, but I went there purely to fulfill my Sunday obligation. My mother made no attempt whatsoever at coming along - she had already declined into a secular state. When I was 17, I started work part-time at a local supermarket, and had to work Sundays to keep my head above water. And so, I was constrained to go to the Sunday evening Mass instead. That was even worse than the morning Mass, with a full compliment of euphemistic monsters, girl Altar servers and even a folk choir. After a few months of that, I decided that I couldn't quite take anymore, and decided to stop going to Mass on Sunday indefinitely (at least until I found something more tolerable).

Before I started University, I began reading Mass of Ages, the quarterly magazine of The Latin Mass Society, and discovered in their Mass Supplement that there was a Missa Cantata every Monday at Corpus Christi church, Covent Garden. And so I decided to go and see for myself. I made no attempt at joining The Latin Mass Society, and still have no intention of doing so. I was blown away by the Mass there, and have been going there regularly since. Before then, the only Old Rite Masses I had attended were Low Masses (my first, in fact, was at the London Oratory on a Sunday in October of 2005), and it quite intoxicated me. The schola there chant the Mass very well. And so, still working Sundays, I treated Monday evenings as my Sunday.

But I still had no parish church. I would not return to my actual parish (I had nothing whatsoever in common with the parishioners there, not even my Faith), and I didn't know anyone at Corpus Christi - I simply went to Mass, and went home, that was it. I went to other odd Masses advertised in the Mass of Ages Supplement, but despite recognising people by face, I still didn't know anyone. In a certain sense, I had made myself an outlaw for Christ and His Mass (if that does not sound too grandiloquent). That is until the bane of my life came along (my current job), and I opted to stop working Sundays. And so, in November of last year, I went to my first Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary church, Blackfen.

I have discovered again the joy of having an actual parish church, with real families, real friends. What is even more poignant is that at the heart of the parish is the Traditional Latin Mass, which in a sense, has returned from exile. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I can now attend, and am privileged to now serve, an Old Rite Mass within walking distance of my house. I only hope that the Old Rite returns from the back of beyond to many, in fact, all parishes; instead of what I was used to for years - a Low Mass on the third Friday of such a month at 3:30pm in an obscure church in London, where you were advised to telephone before travelling. Fortunately, thanks to our most Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, to whom be many years, this prospect seems the more likely as the days pass.

An old photo...

After Mass this morning, Maureen gave me that photo she promised me. I don't recall ever seeing my great-grandfather before, but there he is. My great-grandmother is kneeling next to him. The photo appears to be from the early 1970s (at least by my reckoning) and the general consensus at church this morning was that it was taken at Lesnes Abbey. I am not quite sure what they were doing there, because they are my Irish great-grandparents. It looks more to me like an outdoor Mass somewhere in Ireland, but who knows. There is nothing on the back to verify it. Going through old photos with my grandparents was one of my favourite activities when I was little. It was interesting to see my parents when they were younger, in the 1960s and 1970s (long before I came on the scene!); rather odd to see my father with hair too!

I was talking to David and Steve this morning about growing up ''without a parish,'' as it were. That is not to say that we didn't have a parish church (we did) but that we weren't really ''involved'' with it. When my mother was still Catholic, we went to our ''parish'' (it wasn't the nearest church, but my mother didn't get on well with the priest of the nearer church, so we had to walk that much further) church every Sunday evening for Mass (just a ''Low Mass'' in the New Rite), and I would serve. I only really spoke to the priest (Fr Fox, a very good man, and very generous, who sadly passed away a few years ago) and Maureen, who read the Lessons. My mother spoke to various older women, and a family who lived near us, but there was nothing really beyond that. But we did have a good relationship with our parish priest. He came round to see his parishioners every so often, and my mother would have him bless the house on the First Sunday of Advent.

I miss those days. I also miss Fr Fox, who gave me my Confirmation classes. He it was who first introduced me to the Latin language. I remember approaching him after Mass and asking him what the Sign of the Cross was in Latin, and he wrote it down for me. When we stopped going to that parish (for reasons which I will not elaborate), I saw him once or twice and avoided him. I think he was very lonely, and rather sad. In a way, he reminded me of Treebeard because he was quite old (well anyone over 20 is old to a young child) and he spoke quite slowly, but had a rustic kind of wisdom and piety. I am sure that there was much that he didn't know or understand, but he was a good man. I found out about his death through my brother, and I didn't believe it. I only wish that I had made the effort to visit him when I had the chance.

Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Vocabulary...

I am still writing my essay about Galatians, and it is starting to look like an essay; the trouble is, whenever I write something of this sort (something I have no interest in whatsoever, hermeneutics, the implications of the use of Greek subjunctives, genitives etc - boring!), I read it back to myself, and I just seem to be belabouring the same point, it just sounds repetitive. I wonder if anyone else has that problem? Well, I'm not bothered at this stage; so long as I get at least a 2:1 (which is my average so far), I shall be glad to be rid of it. Even more daunting is the exam though...I wonder if I can get away with deferring it again? It would be a great weight lifted. I almost cried last night looking at two old exam papers. I only knew how to answer one question, and even that would be a ludicrously inadequate answer.

Anyway, on my short break from essay-writing, I picked up one of my favourite resources: The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien (I would strongly recommend this book, it gives invaluable details, explanations, commentaries on not only his work, but also his faith, academic life, publication issues, the personal letters to his sons and daughter are particularly beautiful). This quote comes from a draft letter to Walter Allen, dated April 1959:

''Life is rather above the measure of us all (save for a very few perhaps). We all need literature that is above our measure - though we may not have sufficient energy for it all the time. But the energy of youth is usually greater. Youth needs then less than adulthood or Age what is down to its (supposed) measure. But even in Age I think we only are really moved by what is at least in some point or aspect above us, above our measure, at any rate before we have read it and 'taken it in.' Therefore do not write down to Children or to anybody. Not even in language. Though it would be a good thing if that great reverence which is due to children took the form of eschewing the tired and flabby cliches of adult life. But an honest word is an honest word, and its acquaintance can only be made by meeting it in a right context. A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one's age-group. It comes from reading books above one.''

Sorry if this seems entirely meaningless, but I think that the same applies to learning a new language. Reading simple Latin stories is easy, perhaps too easy, for me, and no matter what I said about reading Virgil or Caesar as being ''too hard'' (at least at the moment), I do find immense joy in translating their works, looking at an acclaimed English translation, and finding that I am not so far from the mark as I would sometimes think (this is especially true of Latin Verse such as Virgil's Eclogues, which I abandoned sometime ago for reasons of necessity; reading the Oxford translation, which is in keeping with the metre, I actually found my translation was more literal, and that in keeping with the metre, the Oxford edition lost something). Well, I best get back to work now or I shall fail utterly.

By the way, a new '62 Missal arrived this morning which I had ordered from AbeBooks. 1862 that is...

Friday, 21 August 2009

Reading the Scriptures...

I seldom read the Bible. I don't know why exactly, but it has never been something that I have taken to. Naturally, reading the Scriptures is no small thing; you're reading the very written Word of God, and as such, a casual approach is untoward. The Scriptures, instead, are honoured by the Church in the Sacred Liturgy, a treasure house of the Church's Tradition. Since the Scriptures are part of that Tradition, naturally to enshrine them within such a glorious liturgical context is the Church's godly approach to Scripture. Perhaps Protestants, content with their own made-up and vain ''priesthood,'' take a somewhat slovenly approach when they engage in their study sessions, which really amount to little more than the projecting of their own obscene theological heresies upon the Scriptures, which is an abuse. So much for Sola Scriptura; it ought to be rendered ''Only what I think the Scriptures say; since, in my arrogance, I am my own Magisterium...''

I am in the process of writing an essay on St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Since I got distracted (as is my wont when it comes to things of utmost importance), I glanced at one of the Psalms. A nice verse to conclude this post:

''In the daytime the Lord hath commanded his mercy; and a canticle to him in the night. With me is prayer to the God of my life.'' (Psalm 41:9).

Back to work...alas...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Quick post then back to work...

Forgive the rather nasty tone of my last post. I was rather angry, and I am under an immense amount of stress at the moment, what with essays to write and exams to revise for. I have spent a good deal of time ''revising'' (not quite the rote memorisation of facts, but just a hell of a lot of reading, highlighting and note-taking) and am still with no results. I feel just as ill-prepared for the exams now as I did a week and more ago. But who knows, I may get to the exams and find them all-right. I spoke to a woman from a similar course (the BA in Theology) this afternoon after my lunch and she said that they were relatively easy, and I suppose I can bluff two exams. Just depends on having enough knowledge of the subject-matter to get by, the ability to string together a coherent and plausible argument, and making the odd insightful remark. Maybe not the latter...

I had planned on posting about two Mass formulas for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception I found in an 1828 Missal and comparing them to the current one, but I have been too busy to get them into literary shape, or to think them out properly. For some obscure reason, I don't know whether this is because of acute awareness of the perilously important outcome of these exams or because of some other reason, but I feel very small and frightened. I guess that to those who have a genuine reason to feel those things I have this to say: ''I understand.''

Since I haven't spoken to my parents since Tuesday (and I am always the one who has to ''make the first move''), I haven't spoken to my mother about this, but I gather from overhearing their conversations that my grandfather is very ill, perhaps fatally so, so do pray for him (Frederick), and for my mother (Lisa). They haven't spoken for about 13 years (for a variety of reasons) but perhaps it is time that they did. I had them both in mind this evening during Rosary and Benediction.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Annoyed...

I overslept this morning, owing to many early mornings and late nights recently, and I am quite annoyed. I had planned on spending the day revising for my exams and structuring an essay on the New Testament, but that idea was dashed. It is better to do this in the Library at University, but it takes almost two hours to get there from my house, and by the time I woke up (feeling exhausted and in need of more sleep), the time I spent travelling would leave me with only a few hours in the Library. I decided, stupidly, to do it at home instead. My mother has spent literally all day (since she woke up this morning until a few minutes ago) on the computer, playing frivolous games and looking at holidays whilst I, trying to read photocopied books in my bedroom, was constantly interrupted by the noise not only of the computer (a very loud blowing noise) but also of the labour of workmen building an extension on a neighbour's house. In the end, I gave up, went down stairs, and watched a documentary.

My father came in from Jury Service, and reminded me (in a rather sardonic manner) that the grass in the back garden was just as long as it was on Sunday. I looked at him sullenly and went upstairs, being in no mood to be disturbed by anyone. The noise of the neighbours continues, and I am still vexed by it all. As regards access to the computer, I have argued with my mother over this many times. To all my objections that I need the computer for academic purposes, she just says: ''it's my computer.'' I wonder which is more important? My future, or playing a game of cards...I would have gone to the local Library, but that place offers no such sanctuary of quiet and a studious environment conducive to study. The last time I was there, the librarian refused to act on my complaints that everyone else was making an ungodly clamour (heard from all corners of the Library) and that a girl on an adjacent computer was tapping at the keyboard maddeningly too loud.

You must all think I am too easily irritated by people, but I guess when one's place in an academic institution rests on the ability to pass two exams, in two weeks, well I guess it is understandable that I am quite irritable. So things like cutting the grass, doing the washing up, all seem rather trivial at the moment...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Mass of the Assumption...

Yesterday evening, I spent some time comparing the Proper texts for the Feast of the Assumption from my 1962 Missal with my 1945 Missal. The Mass Propers were changed in 1950 because of the dogmatisation of the doctrine of the Assumption. It interests me to compare the great number of differences between the Traditional Roman Rite and the 1962 Rite. A friend of mine, a sincere Catholic according to his fashion, once tried to persuade me (when I was even more ignorant of these changes than I am now) that the only ''major'' difference was that the Confiteor was not said before the Communion of the faithful! How wrong he was I later discovered.

The traditional Propers for the Feast of the Assumption are incredibly beautiful (and relevant to the Feast!). An example (the Introit):

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore beatae Mariae Virginis: de cuius Assumptione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. Gloria Patri. (Let all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast day in honour of Blessed Mary the Virgin: of whose Assumption the Angels rejoice, and greatly praise the Son of God. Ps. My heart has proclaimed a good word: I speak my works to the King. Glory to the Father.).

This was changed to:

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus eius, et in capite eius corona stellarum duodecim. Ps. Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit. Gloria Patri. (A great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the Sun, and the Moon under her feet, and on hear head a crown of twelve stars. Ps. Sing to the Lord a new canticle: for He has made wonders. Glory to the Father.).

What is gained by making this unwarranted change? It is often alleged that the New Rite is more ''Scriptural'' than the Old Rite. If they mean that there is more rather meaningless Scripture littered about the Rites (to possibly compensate for the wanton eradication of many traditional and meaningful Psalms absorbed into the Ordinary) then I can perhaps see what they mean. But the Catholic faith is not Protestant. Our divine faith is not confined uncomfortably to the Bible. The Introit of this beautiful Mass is a fruit of centuries of Catholic devotion, which is orthodox, apostolic and pious. Its abandonment represents a shocking departure from the Western liturgical Tradition which no words of any modern liturgist can allay. In my opinion, the new Propers are simply not worthy of the Feast.

And today...

I went to Mass this morning. The church was very well-attended too (and not just because of the Baptism crowd, which was very small). After Mass, I went into the small hall for tea and a nice long chat with two friends (but not before having a brief chat with Maureen, my uncle's godmother and a very old friend of my grandmother's, who promised to give me an old photo of my great grandfather which she has at home). We spoke long about faith and intelligence (the Curé of Ars was mentioned). I asked whether intelligence could be measured purely upon the basis of the ability inherent within someone of memorising facts by rote, or the ability to string facts together into a coherent argument. Intelligent conversation is amazing. I learned of something called ''emotional intelligence'' - which had to be explained to me - I then said that it sounded like something I would fail spectacularly at, but was assured - with evidence - that it was not so. That was nice.

Then I was invited round to lunch. It was a lovely day to eat outside, and I played ping pong with the children after stewed plums in toffee sauce with cream and coffee. I hadn't played ping pong for years - in fact, I did many things today which I haven't done for years (that makes me sound old, but I guess I just don't get up to much - except keeping up my knowledge of Tolkien, who, as you know, constantly fascinates me). I rang my father at around 6:00pm to let him know that I was going to be home later, and discovered in the process that I was supposed to have mowed the lawn!

Well anyway, I thought I'd share a quote from The Lord of the Rings I was thinking about this evening. One thing I haven't yet mentioned on this blog is my attitude to the film ''trilogy.'' This post is not about that, but one thing the films lack (or wilfully portray in a manner discordant with Tolkien's work) is the profundity and piteousness of the creature Gollum. This may seem a trivial detail, but the manner in which Gollum is presented in the film ''trilogy'' on Mount Doom (in which he sneers something - a quote in fact from Book IV, although taken out of context - and pounces upon Frodo) departs shockingly from the moving narrative of Tolkien, which goes:

'''Now!' said Sam. 'At last I can deal with you!' He leaped forward with drawn blade ready for battle. But Gollum did not spring. He fell flat upon the ground and whimpered.
'Don't kill us,' he wept. 'Don't hurt us with nassty cruel steel! Let us live, yes, live just a little longer. Lost lost! We're lost. And when Precious goes we'll die, yes, die into the dust.' He clawed up the ashes of the path with his long fleshless fingers. 'Dusst!' he hissed.
Sam's hand wavered. His mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil. It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again. But Sam had no words to express what he felt.''

Now which presents a more Catholic approach to Gollum? The film treatment, with its emphasis on meaningless violence and its grossly unwarranted tampering with the nature of Sam's character (which Tolkien would have resented) or the portrayal in the book? Food for thought, but sadly not my own. I shall spend the next two weeks cramming like I've never crammed before! Sorry if this post follows no clear sequence, but it's been quite a full day!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Maria Assumpta est...


Happy Feast Day all readers! Today is the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption into Heavenly glory, where after her brief (it had to be) sojourn on earth after her Divine Son's Ascension, she was received body and soul and with great rejoicing into Heaven. I would like to write a longer post, but alas, I have to leave for my depressing job momentarily. I am only glad that the computer was free when I got in from Mass!

As for feeling depressed or grieved, well a few words from Cardinal Newman might assuage that:

''She will comfort you in your discouragements, solace you in your fatigues, raise you after your falls, reward you for your successes. She will show you her Son, your God and your all. When the spirit within you is excited, or relaxed, or depressed, when it loses its balance, when it is restless and wayward, when it is sick of what it has, and hankers after what it has not, when your eye is solicited with evil and your mortal frame trembles under the shadow of the tempter, what will bring you to yourselves, to peace and to health, but the cool breath of the Immaculate and the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon? It is the boast of the Catholic Religion, that it has the gift of making the young heart chaste; and why is this, but that it gives us Jesus Christ for our food, and Mary for our nursing Mother? Fulfill this boast in yourselves; prove to the world that you are following no false teaching, vindicate the glory of your Mother Mary, whom the world blasphemes, in the very face of the world, by the simplicity of your own deportment, and the sanctity of your words and deeds. Go to her for the royal heart of innocence. She is the beautiful gift of God, which outshines the fascinations of a bad world, and which no one ever sought in sincerity and was disappointed.'' (John Henry Newman, On the Fitness of the Glories of Mary, this sermon was in the first volume of Newman's Catholic sermons, preached and published in 1849.)


Mater Maria, pro nobis Christum exora.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Of Eöl the Dark Elf and his Son...

Aradhel Ar-Feiniel, daughter of Fingolfin, had dwelt with her brother Turgon in Nevrast, but when Gondolin was full-wrought, she removed with her people and dwelt there. But she tired of the guarded kingdom, desiring to ride in the Great Lands and moreover to meet with the Sons of Fëanor, her friends of old. And so she besought permission of the King to depart from Gondolin, but she was refused. But again, she approached the King, arguing that she was not as the servants of the King, and that she would go as seemed good to her, and so the King gave her leave to depart, although grudgingly. For wise with the wisdom of Ulmo, he desired none to dwell beyond the leaguer of the hills that knew the way hither. But departing with three lords of Gondolin, Aradhel went forth and Turgon was grieved at her going.
When she came to the Ford of Brithiach, she turned south and sought admittance into Doriath, but the march-wardens denied them, for none of the Noldor were admitted to that land (save the kin of Finarfin) and she went forth therefore into the perilous regions of Nan Dungortheb, seeking the land of Celegorm. Although not as dangerous as it later became, Nan Dungortheb was no place for the Eldar, and only the march-wardens of Doriath knew the land, and only close to the borders of Doriath. For there Ungoliant had dwelt and mated with other monsters of spider-shape, and there was only death and shadow. And straying from her companions, she was lost, and the lords sought for her in vain. But soon the foul creatures of the brood of Ungoliant were roused and pursued them, and they hardly escaped with their lives. And returning to Gondolin, they told Turgon of all that had come to pass; and he met the news with sullen silence.

But Aradhel escaped Nan Dungortheb, and eventually came into the realm of Celegorm. Celegorm was away with his brothers in Thargelion, but his people received her with joy, and she dwelt there in peace awaiting his return. But he returned not, and she grew weary again, and riding often alone far beyond the borders, she one day strayed into the fastness of the forest of Nan Elmoth. There dwelt Eöl the Dark Elf, he who when the Girdle of Melian was spun forth departed from Doriath, leaving his sword Anglachel to Thingol as fee to depart. He hated the Sun, and shunned the Noldor, and he had greater love for the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains than to those of Elven-kind. And in the shadows of Nan Elmoth he made his abode, and seeing Aradhel stray among the trees, he set his enchantment about her, so that she became lost and wandered ever deeper into the wood. At length he greeted her, and took her to wife by force, and she was not seen again for many years.

In the shadows of Nan Elmoth was born Maeglin. In looks he resembled the kindred of the Noldor, but he had the stern mood of his father. Often he went with his father to stay with the Dwarves, and of them he learned much craft, of the finding of ore in the mountains the chief among them. But in secret his mother told him of the greatness of the Noldor, and of Gondolin, and desire awoke in him to go himself to that city, and to wed Idril the King's daughter. Eöl became aware of these tales, and he commanded his son to have nothing to do with the Noldor, the usurpers of their lands and the bringers of war. But Maeglin gainsaid his father, and there was mistrust between them.

One day, when Eöl was away with the Dwarves, Maeglin besought his mother to depart from the darkness of Nan Elmoth, saying that there they would surely rot under the duress of Eöl, and that they should seek for Gondolin. And so they departed. But Maeglin erred in his reckoning, and coming back sooner than they had hoped, he discovered that they were but two days gone, and so great was his wrath that he pursued them, even by the light of Day.

As he entered Himlad, he mastered his anger and rode warily, for he was now within the realm of Curufin, son of Fëanor. But he was waylaid by the riders of Curufin, and he himself came to judge the matter. No love did Curufin have for Eöl, but according to the laws of the Eldar, he could not slay him as he desired, and he let him pass on his errand. But before departing, Eöl said: ''It is good, Lord Curufin, to find a kinsman thus kindly at need. I will remember it when I return.'' But Curufin looked darkly upon Eöl and said: ''Do not flaunt the title of your wife before me. For those who steal the daughters of the Noldor and wed them without gift or leave do not gain kinship with their kin.'' And he foretold that if he pursued those who loved him no more, then never would he return to his dark woods.

Usus Antiquior...


I received a letter this morning from Maney Publishing, informing me of the upcoming launch of the new academic journal Usus Antiquior, on the Sacred Liturgy, and thanking me for my subscription interest. The contents are online, at this link, but I won't read any of it just yet, as I am in a terrible rush to get other stuff finished.

I can't say I am altogether satisfied with the labels ''usus antiquior'' or ''extraordinary form'' (and those who know me, and read this blog, will note that I am careful to use neither in designating the Old Rite). Antiquior is a comparative adjective, which means ''more ancient;'' than what? The New Rite? That goes without saying; but it is misleading, because the Old Rite is old, old as the hills; the New Rite is exactly that; new, and its history goes no farther back than the 1950s. I am not keen on ''extraordinary form'' because I don't believe that the Old Rite should be ''extraordinary.'' Quite apart from theological and liturgical misgivings about labelling, it's also a bit of a mouthful!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The unrest of the Sindar...

While the Hidden City was being wrought in secret in the Encircling Mountains, Galadriel dwelt with Melian in the Kingdom of Doriath and at times Galadriel and Melian would talk of Valinor and of the hopelessness of the War; but she would say nothing of the manner of the departure of the Noldor from Valinor, and fell silent. And noting this silence Melian questioned her, and noted that a shadow lay on the high lords of the Noldor. But Galadriel said that she was content that past woes were indeed past, and that she would take what joy and peace was left in the world, ere Morgoth would burst forth from Angband and drive the Noldor into the sea. But looking into her eyes, Melian perceived more than Galadriel chose to reveal, and she questioned her still. Then Galadriel told her of the Silmarils, and of the slaying of Finwë at Formenos, but she said naught of the Kinslaying or of the burning of the ships at Losgar. And Melian said that she perceived much that she did not reveal, and counselled her to reveal to her the true intent of the Noldor, especially the perilous Sons of Fëanor. But Galadriel remained silent, and Melian questioned her no more.

Going to Thingol, Melian told her all that Galadriel had revealed (and the more that Melian perceived) and Thingol was troubled. And Melian counselled Thingol to be wary of the Sons of Fëanor, and they spoke no more.

It was not long in the reckoning of the new Sun years before tales began to be told among the Sindar of the coming of the Noldor into Beleriand. These tales were true in parts, and yet twisted by lies, and it is certain that Morgoth sent forth spies with fair and cunning forms among the Elves for this end. And Círdan, Lord of the Havens, was troubled by these tales, for true or false, he wisely judged that they were published by malice - although he deemed that it was the malice of the princes of the Noldor, because of the rivalry of their Houses. And he sent messengers to Thingol to tell all that he had heard.

It chanced that shortly after this, the sons of Finarfin were again the guests of Thingol; and Thingol questioned them concerning the tales. Finrod was greatly troubled, for he had withheld the matter of the Kinslaying from Thingol, but he would not betray the other Noldorin Houses and he remained silent in shame, but in anger Angrod told Thingol all the truth of the matter, and he spoke bitterly against the Sons of Fëanor, and he cried: ''Wherefore should we that endured the Grinding Ice bear the name of kinslayers and traitors?''

Melian told him that the shadow of Mandos lay on him also, but Thingol told them to be gone from Doriath and said that they may return later, if they would, but he forbade the use of the High Elven tongue in Beleriand, and commanded the Sindar to shun those that spoke it openly; for they would be accounted as kinslayers and traitors unrepentant. And the sons of Finarfin departed from Doriath with heavy hearts, perceiving how the prophecies of Mandos would ever be made true. After this time, the Noldor forsook (openly) the High Elven tongue and adopted the Sindarin tongue; but the High Elven tongue remained as a language of lore and ceremony.

When Nargothrond was full-wrought, the sons of Finarfin were gathered together for a feast, and thither came even Galadriel from Doriath. Finrod Felagund had no wife, and Galadriel asked him why this was so. But a foreboding came upon him in that hour of a time yet remote that was to come, and he said that he would one day swear an oath, and go into darkness; moreover, he said, nothing of his realm would endure for a son to inherit. But such dark thoughts had not ruled him before, and indeed, she whom he had loved was Amarië of the Vanyar, but she was not permitted to follow him into exile.

The above image is by Ted Nasmith, and depicts the crossing of Fingolfin's people over the Helcaraxë, or Grinding Ice, a stretch of narrow sea and ice in the far north of the world where the waters of the Ekkaia (or Outer Sea) and Belegaer (Great Sea) came together and blended, forming harsh icy straights and ridges. It is not as I imagined it; I just saw it as a perilous sea region with vortexes, strong currents and icebergs aplenty, but you can decide for yourselves I suppose.

Clouds of doom...


I procrastinate...a lot. In fact, some of the work I am expected to complete is over a year out of date. I can't explain it, but finding the impetus to sit down and write something insufferably tedious is impossibly difficult for me under the present circumstances. I never had this trouble at Sixth Form, or at school, so why now, when matters hang by a thread and things are perilously important? My attention is so easily diverted from the important stuff to the fun stuff. I remember that roughly a year ago, my Latin teacher caught me translating one of the Propers from the day's Mass when I ought to have been revising Cicero. I have also a strong tendency to divert my attention away from meaningless stuff such as Inter-religious dialogue and Ecumenism towards Liturgy and Church History - you know, things that have a righteously exalted place in the discipline of Theology. But the Syllabus is different, and I expect that doing a degree in a Modernist institution comes with a price. I only pray God that I can find the inclination to cope with it, and get a First, or a high Second, if I am spared. (May I ask the prayers of my readers for this intention also?)

On a lighter note, after doing some work and checking my emails, I went into the Stacks today and was perusing Martinucci and an old 1884 Breviary. It was a massive tome! And I came out covered with the dust of it (marvellous!) I photocopied three pages from Martinucci, and after packing my things, went off to South Kensington. I decided to visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of All Saints and the Dormition (it's not far from the Oratory) for their ''Evening Service'' with Veneration of the Holy Cross. I forgot how long those things are. Two hours exactly! But it was pleasant enough; not as grand as the last time I was there (in November 2007 for Vespers and Akathist to the Mother of God, on the occasion of the visit of the ''Kursk'' Icon to the Theotokos) but I do admire Orthodox Liturgy. I didn't like the fact that half of it was in Church Slavonic and half in the English tongue - I would rather it were all in Church Slavonic, which seems to suit the chant better, but there we are, I don't experience enough of their Liturgy to care much. It seems strange to me that the Orthodox churches have no equivalent to a Master of Ceremonies. The ceremonies of a Divine Liturgy or Vespers all seem rather complex to me, and yet all seem to know what they're doing...On the train home, I read the pages of Martinucci. I wonder why I find Ecclesiastical Latin so much easier than Classical Latin? Maybe someone else can answer this for me!

I hope you're all enjoying my posts about The Silmarillion...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Rock of the Music of Water...


In my previous post, I related how by the guidance of Ulmo, Turgon discovered the hidden vale of Tumladen and thought how he might build a fair city, a memorial of ancient Tirion, for which he yearned in exile. After the Dagor Aglareb, the unquiet that Ulmo set in his heart when he journeyed with Finrod Felagund in the Vales of Sirion returned to him, and summoning the most skilled of his people, he went forth from Nevrast in secret and began a long and secret labour. Sentinals he set around that hidden valley in the Encircling Mountains, so that none would mark their passing, or their work, and they were protected by Ulmo. When the city was full-wrought, Turgon removed from his halls at Vinyamar by the sea and went with a great many people, Noldor and Sindar, to the Hidden City. Ondolindë it was called in the High Elven tongue, which signified ''The Rock of the Music of Water,'' but it was called Gondolin in the Sindarin tongue, the Hidden Rock.

Before he departed, Ulmo appeared to Turgon and said: ''Now thou shalt go at last to Gondolin, Turgon; and I will maintain my power in the Vale of Sirion, and in all the waters therein, so that none shall mark thy going, nor shall any find there the hidden entrance against thy will. Longest of all the realms of the Eldalië shall Gondolin stand against Melkor. But love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West and cometh from the Sea.''

And Ulmo warned Turgon that he too lay under the Doom of Mandos, and that maybe one day treason would find its way even into the Mountains, and they would be in peril of fire. But Ulmo also foretold the coming of someone to warn Turgon even from Nevrast, and told him therefore to leave arms and a sword in his house so that when that day came, he would know the one sent by Ulmo and not be deceived. And so Turgond departed, and came unseen to Gondolin and the mountains were shut behind him.

Of surpassing beauty was Gondolin, a veritable memorial of Tirion the Fair over Sea. Tolkien describes the city thus:

''But behind the circle of the mountains the people of Turgon grew and throve, and they put forth their skill in labour unceasing, so that Gondolin upon Amon Gwareth became fair indeed and fit to compare even with Elven Tirion beyond the sea. High and white were its walls, and smooth its stairs, and tall and strong was the Tower of the King. There shining fountains played, and in the courts of Turgon stood images of the Trees of old, which Turgon himself wrought with elven-craft; and the Tree which he made of gold was named Glingal, and the Tree whose flowers he made of silver was named Belthil. But fairer than all the wonders of Gondolin was Idril, Turgon's daughter, she that was called Celebrindal, the Silver-foot, whose hair was as the gold of Laurelin before the coming of Melkor.'' (The Silmarillion, Chapter XV, Of the Noldor in Beleriand).

The above image (by Ted Nasmith) depicts Gondolin. The man standing on the right is Tuor.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Dagor Aglareb and the Long Peace...


Seeing that the Noldor had little thought of war, and that their princes and peoples wandered freely about the lands, Morgoth's wrath was stirred and he prepared another stroke. And in the sixtieth year since the first rising of the Sun, Morgoth caused great earthquakes in the north, and fire issued from many fissures in the earth, and smokes and flame came down the Mountains of Iron, and the Orcs came forth from Angband down the plains of Ard-galen. Thence they passed into the Pass of Sirion and wrought there great evil, and in the east they broke upon Maglor's people. But Fingolfin and Maedhros were not as idle as the reckoning of Morgoth made them, and they hunted the Orcs into the highlands of Dorthonion and slew them, and they pursued the remnant far into the plains of Ard-galen and slew them to the last and least. This was accounted the Third Battle in the Wars of Beleriand, and it was named Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle, for the victory of the Hosts of the Elves was great - great, and yet a warning. Henceforth, the Noldor tightened their leaguer about Angband and redoubled their vigilance.

Thus was set the Siege of Angband, and after the Dagor Aglareb the Orcs would not dare pass beyond the doors of Angband, for they were in terror of the Noldor and of the Sun, and Fingolfin boasted that save by treason among themselves, Morgoth could never again venture forth from his dungeons.

But Morgoth was mightier than them all, and though he was locked away in the Hells of Iron in the North, he still devised new evils and rested not from labour. Spies he would oft send by secret and devious ways into Beleriand, with the command to capture any that wandered alone or but few together, and these they would take by grievous paths into Hell, and there they were tormented. Thus would Morgoth sow dissension and fear among his foes, for the captured would be returned to their kin, where they made craven counsels and in terror of the Dark Lord, haunted by the memory of the horror of his countenance, would do his bidding, even far-sundered from him. And in this way also, Morgoth learned much of the hidden counsels of the lords of the Noldor, and he was well-pleased.

After another hundred years, Morgoth once again made trial of the vigilance of Fingolfin, and he sent an army into the snowy regions north of Angband, and coming down along the coasts of Drengist, they entered Hithlum from the west. But Fingon, son of Fingolfin, swiftly destroyed the host, and drove the survivors into the Sea. This was not counted among the Great Battles because the armies were not great. Morgoth now perceived, though, that the Orcs unaided were no match for the Elves, and he took counsel with this dark thegns.

After another century, Morgoth sent forth Glaurung, Father of Dragons, the first of the fire-drakes to cause ruin in Beleriand, and he came forth from Angband by night. The Elves fled before him into the Mountains of Shadow, and he defiled the fields of Ard-galen. But coming upon him with a host of archers on horseback, Fingon, Prince of Hithlum, drove him shrieking back into Hell, for he was as yet not full-grown and he could not in his youth withstand the arrows of the Noldor. Fingon won great praise for his victory over the Dragon, but few could tell the full significance of this new evil.

And so Morgoth was left well-nigh impotent, and the Long Peace followed of well-nigh two hundred years. He was ill-pleased that Glaurung was driven back, but he could do little now but watch and labour in secret. Behind the long Siege of Angband, the Eldar wandered the lands in peace and in many places the Noldor and Sindar were welded into one people, and some still sang as they went, thinking little of war...

The above image is a sketch by Ted Nasmith, and shows the defeat of the Dragon Glaurung.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Noldor in Beleriand...


After the reconciliation of the hosts of Fingolfin and the Sons of Fëanor, the Noldor in Beleriand began their long and arduous labours and they sent heralds to meet with the people that dwelt in Middle-earth.

Elu Thingol, Lord of Beleriand and King of the Sindar, did not altogether welcome the coming of so many high princes out of the West, and to his kingdom he would welcome none save the sons of Finarfin, who could claim kinship with Thingol through Eärwen of Alqualondë, who was the daughter of Olwë, Thingol's brother; unless they came in great need. And wisely he trusted not to the restraint of Morgoth by the swords of the Noldor alone. First of the Exiles to be admitted to Menegroth was Angrod, herald of Finrod, and he spoke long with the king; but being loyal to the Noldor, and thinking all griefs now forgotten, he spoke nothing of the Kinslaying, nor of the manner of the coming of the Noldor to Middle-earth. But Thingol spoke darkly to Angrod, asserting his lordship over all Beleriand, and allocating to the Noldor realms in the far north (such as Hithlum) where his power ran not.

Soon afterwards, the Noldor held council in Mithrim and thither came Angrod out of Doriath, and he spoke all that he heard of Thingol. The Noldor were ill-pleased to hear what the king said, and the greater part of the Noldor feared the fell words of the Sons of Fëanor. The Sons of Fëanor themselves removed from Mithrim (this counsel Maedhros himself devised) and dwelt in East Beleriand around the Hill of Himring. It was in East Beleriand that the riders of Caranthir (son of Fëanor) came across the Dwarves for the first time, who dwelt in their mansions in the Blue Mountains. Of the Noldor the Dwarves learned much secret craft, so that the craftsmen of Nogrod and Belegost became renowned in Middle-earth.

It came to pass that after twenty years of the Sun, Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth, ordained a great feast. Mereth Aderthad it was called, the Feast of Reuniting, and thither came great companies of the Noldor, Grey Elves from the Havens and Green Elves of Ossiriand. There counsels were taken and oaths sworn, and it is said that the Sindarin tongue was spoken by all, even the Noldor. The feast was enjoyed by all who were present. At this time, Turgon left Nevrast and sought out Finrod his friend of old, and journeying down the vales of Sirion, they rested a while. But coming up the River, Ulmo himself, Lord of Waters, laid on them heavy and troubling dreams, and when each awoke, they witheld the telling of each dream one to another, but being unquiet amid the watchful peace of Beleriand, they sought each alone for places of hidden strength.

On a time, Finrod was the guest of Thingol in Doriath, and with him was Galadriel his sister. There Finrod marvelled at the strength and majesty of Menegroth, and the thought came to him that he might himself build a refuge in the hills after the manner of Menegroth. Therefore, he told Thingol of the dreams that Ulmo sent him, and Thingol told him of the deep gorge of the river Narog, and the caves beneath the High Faroth in its western shore; and when Finrod departed from Doriath, Thingol sent with him guides that he might find the place. Galadriel remained in Doriath, for there dwelt Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol, and there was great love between them, and moreover, she had the friendship and tuition of Melian. But Finrod began the delving of his refuge beneath the gorge of Narog, and he had the counsel and aid of the Dwarves in this labour, and thus was wrought Nargothrond. Here Finrod established his throne, and thither came many of the Noldor (and presumably some of the Sindarin wanderers), and the Dwarves named him Felagund, Lord of Caves.

But Turgon remembered in his exile the great city of Tirion upon Túna, and he yearned for it in his heart, but he dwelt in peace in his halls of Vinyamar beside the Sea. But Ulmo appeared to him, and besought him to search the Vales of Sirion, and by the guidance of Ulmo, he discovered the hidden saucer valley of Tumladen, a green jewel in the Encircling Mountains, in the midst of which there was a hill of stone. And so he returned to Nevrast, and devised counsels on how he might build a white city in Tumladen after the manner of Tirion in the West, but he spoke of his plan to none. Still, however, the darkness brooded in the North, and Morgoth was ever labouring at some new evil, that none would know ere he would reveal them...

Gratia plena...

Athanasius over at Suffering World has a superb post, after a manner consonant with my own sentiments, on the Ave Maria - viewed from a Classical perspective. The post highlights the etymological significance of kharis (Latin gratia) and how this ties in with profound reciprocal communion of Grace Godwards to Manwards through the medium of the Theotokos. The significance of words is something I find very interesting, although my education was too ill to encompass anything so good. My language and English tuition at school was solely limited to bad modern French and a ghastly green anthology of poor poesy and appalling prose. Would that I were coeval with Tolkien...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Low Mass...


During August, the parish choir takes a well-earned break from singing and our Sunday Mass is therefore a simple Low Mass with two servers. I like to think with a mixture of fascination and annoyance about the evolution of Low Mass, as I am fascinated by the history of the Liturgy (I cannot, however, claim to possess anything more than a routine knowledge of its complex history).

The simplicity of the Rite of Low Mass often misleads people into the assumption that it is the normative form of the Roman Rite, that High Mass, with all its beautiful and complex ceremony, is just superfluous Medieval scaffolding and obscurement - running counter to the ''noble simplicity'' (cough) inherent in the Roman Rite. On the contrary, Low Mass is just a curtailed and very simple form of High Mass; as such, the Celebrant himself, alongside his ''apprentice'' (as Evelyn Waugh would put it) server substitutes for the offices of Deacon, Subdeacon and choir all at once. Low Mass, therefore, cannot be understood without reference to High Mass. The so-called Missa Cantata is much the same, with the Master of Ceremonies (so-called for convenience) supplying the offices of Deacon and Subdeacon. The Missa Cantata is, of course, also a Low Mass.

The origins of Low Mass go back to the Middle Ages. In the days before daily Mass, there was no such thing as Low Mass - since the Liturgy was seen as something proper to Sunday. As such, there was a greater turn out of the necessary people, clergy in plenty, choir, servers etc. There would be a High Mass - very proper for a Sunday. This older practice has been retained in the Eastern Liturgies, where daily Mass is quite seldom - restricted to places like cathedral churches and perhaps monasteries. However, during the Middle Ages (probably due to the Scholastics and their syllogistic system of reasoning) there arose the belief that since each Mass has a definite value before God, two Masses were better than one. And so there arose the universal practice of offering one Mass a day by an individual priest. Naturally, many liturgical abuses arose from this practice - I have read of absurd practices such as having three Masses of the Catechumens, for three separate intentions, and then having one Mass of the Faithful. Many priests offered several Masses in one day.

Since the practice of offering Mass daily arose, naturally the necessary parts of choir, Sacred Ministers etc could not be provided. And so there arose the ''compromise'' thing we call Low Mass. The ceremonies were vastly simplified, some things were omitted altogether, the Mass was said mostly inaudibly by the Celebrant, and the Server would make the responses kneeling. There is no record in previous editions of the Roman Missal (to my knowledge, do correct me if I am wrong) of the Rite of Low Mass before the Tridentine Missal of St Pius V - which gives precise directions for its proper conduct. And so, my supposition is that the Rite would be determined by various local customs. Fortescue notes that the liturgical book called the Missal arose because of Low Mass - because before that, each separate Minister had his own liturgical book; the Celebrant had the Sacramentary, containing all that he needed. He had no need of other books, since he was not concerned with them. Since, however, Low Mass required the Celebrant to provide for the absence of the other Ministers, he needed the relevant texts at hand, and a plethora of liturgical books was naturally unsightly.

Although Low Masses are particularly suited to early mornings on weekdays (indeed, J.R.R Tolkien served Low Mass before school at the Birmingham Oratory, and although he served Mass consistently for much of his life, I can only picture him serving Low Mass as a boy!), I think that overall, it is a shame that it came into being. I am not criticising an aspect of the venerable liturgical history of the Roman Church, but I think I generally prefer the practice of the Eastern Churches in this respect - who, as has been said, have no equivalent of Low Mass - that Mass ought to be the focal point of the week in the parish. I much prefer High Mass to Low Mass, for aesthetic as well as liturgical reasons.

A cogent point, though rather odd to relate: to what extent was the curtailment of Mass, from High to Low, the result of the scholastic methods? Was it all because of that? And how has this affected liturgical praxis and theory in the lead up to, and encompassing, the Second Vatican Council? How did the general ignorance about the origin of Low Mass among so-called liturgy experts, and among many sincere Catholics, influence the idea that ceremonies could be dropped as embarrassing embellishments? The idea that some essential part can be omitted, or modified, because of the lack of some essential person; or how, say, the use of incense becomes optional. It all seems to me to subject the Liturgy to one of the many options in the cafeteria of modern Catholicism...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Returning to The Silmarillion...

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my mini-series on Elvish ''death'' but they are hopelessly long in the composition (I think I said that before), and I have neglected The Silmarillion. I shall return to that short series in due course, but I also need to concentrate on boring academic stuff too. And so, continuing from where we left off, the Sons of Fëanor had pursued their impetuous father into the very realm of Morgoth, and the Balrogs would have slew him had they not come. Bearing him away to Eithel Sirion, he died on the slopes of Ered Wethrin within sight of Angband, and long would Mandos hold him.

Now in Mithrim, west of Ered Wethrin, there dwelt Grey Elves, under the lordship of Thingol, and the Noldor met them with gladness as kin long sundered, but at first speech was not easy among them (they were sundered from one another for some thousands of years!) From the Sindarin Elves of Mithrim, the Noldor learned somewhat of the lands about them, and of Thingol in Menegroth; and the tidings of the meeting of the hosts of the Noldor with the Sindar came swiftly to Doriath, and to the havens at Brithombar and Eglarest. And the Elves of Beleriand were filled with gladness at the sudden return of their mighty kindred out of the West, in the very hour of their need - and they believed at first that the Noldor came under the grace and guidance of the Valar to deliver them.

But the Sons of Fëanor, on their return to Hithlum, were met at unawares by an embassy from Angband, acknowledging defeat and offering terms. Maedhros persuaded the Noldor to feign treaty with Morgoth, and to meet the embassy at the appointed place, and so they met the embassy with a greater force than was agreed, but Morgoth sent more, and Balrogs were among them, and Maedhros was betrayed. His company was slain, even to the last, and he himself was brought to Angband by the command of Morgoth. The other Sons withdrew and fortefied their camp at Hithlum, but Morgoth sent word that he would not release Maedhros unless the Noldor departed forever from Beleriand, or returned into the West; and he devised this torment for Maedhros: he had him hung upon a vast and sheer precipace of Thangorodrim by the wrist of his right hand.

Now, as has been told, Fingolfin was abandoned by Fëanor in Araman, but he led the greater part of the Noldor by the perilous sea of the Helcaraxë, and many perished in that crossing. But at the first Rising of the Moon, he marched with his host through Hithlum and so came back to Middle-earth; and he pressed on and on, and the Sun arose flaming in the West at that time, and he came to the very doors of Angband. He smote on the brazen doors, and they rang clear in the new mornings, albeit choked by the vast reek that Morgoth caused to shield his realm from the light of the new Sun. There came no answer from Angband, for the slaves of Morgoth still cowered deep under the earth, afraid of the Sun, and Fingolfin, wary of the deceits of Morgoth, departed, hearing not the cries of Maedhros from above. Returning to Hithlum, he made his camp by the northern shores of Mithrim, opposite the camp of the Sons of Fëanor. No love was there between those two hosts, and there was almost peril of battle. Many of the people of Fëanor indeed repented of the deeds of their king, and were moreover filled with amazement at the valour of their kindred, but dared not welcome them for shame.

And so, the Noldor achieved nothing, and Morgoth rejoiced seeing the dissension of his enemies, in spite of the Sun. And he sent vast smokes and vapours forth from Thangorodrim, and they went west and coiled about the lake of Mithrim, and in the North the earth trembled with the thunder of the forges of Angband.

But Fingon the valiant, son of Fingolfin, arose from thought and resolved to heal the divisions within the House of Finwë; and alone, taking counsel with none, he rode forth one morning and came within the realm of Morgoth. Aided by the very darkness that Morgoth caused to be made, he came even to Thangorodrim, and looked about in despair. Then, in defiance of the Great Enemy of God and Elves, he brought forth his harp and sang a song of Valinor, and the sound must have been extraordinary; his voice echoed among the crags, and soared up even to Maedhros in his torment. And Maedhros heard, and sang in answer; and seeing him far above, Fingon climbed to the base of the precipice, and he wept when he saw the cruel device of Morgoth. Therefore Maedhros begged Fingon to shoot him with his bow, and crying aloud to Manwë, Fingon drew his arrow, saying: ''O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft, and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need!''

His prayer was answered. For Manwë sent forth the Eagles of the Lords of the West, commanding them to dwell among the peaks of the Iron Mountains and to keep watch upon Morgoth, and Thorondor, Lord of Eagles, was come, and staying Fingon's hand, he bore him up to Maedhros, but Fingon could not release him, and Maedhros again begged to be slain, but Fingon cut his right hand off below the wrist, and Thorondor bore them back to Mithrim.

Fingon won great praise, from both sides, for this great deed, and the dispute was healed (for the time). Maedhros was healed, and he begged the clemency of Fingolfin and of the greater part of the Noldor for their cruel deeds at Losgar, and he abandoned his claim to the overlordship of the Noldor, for Fingolfin was the eldest of the House of Finwë. And then, the Noldor began their long labours, and they besieged Angband from west, south and east, and sent their messengers down into Beleriand, to treat with the people that dwelt there.

The above image is of course by Ted Nasmith, and depicts the rescue of Maedhros from Thangorodrim.

Friday, 7 August 2009

LMS Training Conference...

Fr John Boyle over at Caritas in Veritate (a most prudent name for a Catholic blog in the post-Modern world) has put up a reminder to lay folk that The Latin Mass Society is holding their annual training conference for Priests wishing to learn the ''Extraordinary Form'' of the Roman Rite, and that the liturgical celebrations held there are open to the public. The Conference is this year sadly not at Merton College (would that it were! I'd love another excuse to go there - it was, afterall, the home of J.R.R Tolkien from 1945-1959) but is being held closer to home, at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney, Hertfordshire AL2 1AF. I think I shall attend the High Mass for the Feast of St Augustine of Hippo on Friday 28th August at 11:00am, as I have a particular devotion to St Augustine (I am also trying my hardest to memorise the complex rubrics of High Mass, and to experience High Mass - which is quite rare, even in the post-Summorum Pontificum days - is naturally better than memorising Fortescue and O'Connell by rote!). He is also a Doctor of the Church, and as such his Mass enjoys special privileges...

''The present life of Men...''


I mentioned a while back that for my Latin (at ''Intermediate'' level, whatever that means), I was reading St Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I remember when I first went into Waterstones, years ago, to enquire about the book, the poor girl at the till had never heard of him! I also remember, wrongly, saying that he was inordinately dull. St Bede may be rather tedious in places (but that is, of course, subjective), but in other places, he rises to great heights of religious and Catholic prose. Below is my translation of a very famous and moving moment in the History (with the Latin original):

Cuius suasioni verbisque prudentibus alius optimatum regis tribuens assensum, continuo subdidit: ‘Talis,’ inquiens, ‘mihi videtur, rex, vita hominum praesens in terris, ad conparationem eius, quod nobis incertum est. Temporis, quale cum te residente ad cenam cum ducibus ac ministris tuis tempore brumali, accenso quidem foco in medio, et calido effecto caenaculo, furentibus autem foris per omnia turbinibus hiemalium pluviarum vel nivium, adveniens unus passeium domum citissime pervolaverit; qui cum per unum ostium ingrediens, mox per aliud exierit. Ipso quidem tempore, quo intus est, hiemis tempestate non tangitur, sed tamen parvissimo spatio serenitatis ad momentum excurso, mox de hieme in hiemem regrediens, tuis oculis elabitur. Ita haec vita hominum ad modicum apparet; quid autem sequatur, quidue praecesserit, prorsus ignoramus. Unde si haec nova doctrina certius aliquid attulit, merito esse sequenda videtur.’ His similia et ceteri maiores natu ac regis consiliarii divinitus admoniti prosequebantur.

Another of the king's chief men, offering counsel with his recommendation and with prudent words added immediately: ''Such,'' he said, ''seems to me, O King, [to be] the present life of men on earth, in comparison to that time which is unknown to us. It is like when you are sitting at meat with your ealdormen and thegns in wintertide, with the hearth burning in the middle and the dining room [caenaculo] has been made warm, but outside the storms of wintry rain or snow are raging through all, and a sparrow flies quickly through the hall, who when entering through one door, soon goes out through another. At that time, when it is inside, it is not touched by the storm of winter, but however when a very small space of calm has run out in a moment, soon returning from winter unto winter, it escapes from your eyes. So this life of men appears moderately [modicum, restrained, moderate]; but what follows, or what goes before, we know not at all. Consequently, if this new doctrine brings us more certainty, it seems meritorious to be followed.'' Other elders and counsellors of the king continued after the same manner, being divinely prompted to do so.

Isn't it marvellous? It brings the ideas to life, of how the darkness of paganism (cast into new shadows by the literal darkness of winter, the tempests and the cold snow and rain) was lifted by the evangelisation of the early monks and missionaries to these Isles. The above image (which I have used before in relation to the sunless world of Beleriand in ancient days) has nothing whatsoever to do with St Bede or the conversion of the Northumbrians, but I can't help thinking about it. It seems to elucidate the darkness more than words.

Ego sum Pastor Bonus...


I am fond of reading St John's Gospel in the Vulgate; the Latin is simple, and even passages where I am not entirely certain about the Latin, the story itself is probably familiar and so I can go through it without the need of a dictionary or grammar. I found this haunting image on Google Images, and thought I'd put up one of the moving chapters from St John's Gospel to go with it. I'm afraid my translation of the Eclogues will have to wait - and I know you were all so excited about it! - since I have many other pressing things to get on with (such is life). As yet, I have only translated the first three paragraphs, which considering I am by no means skilled in the Latin language (and Virgil is especially hard, my Latin teacher told me), is quite all right for the time being. Anyway, here is my translation of John 9:35-10:11 (yes I know that is an odd place to begin, but I only picked it up at an odd place!):

Jesus heard that they cast him out, and when he came (to) [demonstrative pronoun takes the accusative] him, he said to him: ''Do you believe in the Son of God?'' He responded and said: ''Who is he O Master, that I may believe in him?'' And Jesus said to him: ''And you have seen him, and he who talks with you is He.'' And he said: ''I believe, O Lord,'' and prostrating himself he adored him. Jesus said to him: ''In judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see might see, and those who see might be made blind.'' And those from among the Pharisees who were with him, heard and said to him: ''And are we blind?'' Jesus said to them: ''If you were blind, you would not have sin; now that you say that 'we see indeed,' your sin remains.

''Amen, Amen I say to you, he who does not enter by the gate of the fold but climbs up another way, he is a thief and a brigand. However, he who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own [proprias] sheep by name, and he leads them out, and when his sheep are sent, he goes before them, and the sheep are led because they know his voice; however they are not led by a stranger, but fly from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.'' This proverb Jesus said to them; however, they did not understand what he said to them. Therefore Jesus said to them again: ''Amen, Amen I say to you, that I am the gate of the sheep; however many that have come are thieves and brigands, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the Door; through me, if a man enters, he shall be saved and he shall go in and go out and find pastures. The thief does not come unless he might steal and slay. I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his soul [animam] for the sheep.''

An interesting thought I have about those who do not enter by the gate but vault the fence are those non-Catholics who through arrogance and contempt for the Faith go to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches...

''Tagging'' business...


Fr Blake over at St Mary Magdalen has a fun post up about Seven things we like. Eventhough I haven't been tagged myself (not being famous enough!) I shall endeavour to take part too, since I think it is fun. Here goes (they are in no particular order):

I. High Mass (in a beautiful church like the London Oratory, or St James', Spanish Place or the Saint Chapelle in Paris, sung exceptionally well by a professional choir, such as they have at Westminster Cathedral, celebrated by a visibly holy and venerable priest, under the expert direction of a superlative Master of Ceremonies, overflowing liturgical choir, massive, albeit devout and decorous, congregation), I know, I know...I could have said Pontifical High Mass at the Throne, or even a Papal High Mass in the Old Rite (like you would have had at the Canonization of a Saint, or the solemn proclamation of a Dogma of Faith), but I can only dimly imagine such a precious and majestic jewel in the crown of Mother Church...

II. The Lord of the Rings. I could have picked any great work by my hero J.R.R Tolkien, such as the high prose styles of The Lay of Leithian, in octo-syllabic couplets, or the strong and very English alliterative verse of the Narn i Chîn Húrin, or the theological lucidity and truism of the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (I could go on endlessly), but The Lord of the Rings, his magnus opus, is so thoroughly complete, inherently Catholic and beautiful that I marvel at its genius. At the moment, I am thinking of only a small aspect of the whole, namely, the almost ''sanctoral'' cycle of its history (ie: the history of Middle-earth). The ''good guys'' (sorry!) live in a world where, although doomed to inevitable darkness under the inexorable duress of Sauron, there is bright hope (like estel - ''high hope,'' the name the Elves of Beleriand gave to Eärendil, the Morning Star, when he first arose flaming in the West, a sign of the downfall of the Dark Lord), because they live in the shadow of venerable kings and saintly men. Life for them is not merely tolerable, but exuberant. This isn't the right post to go into great detail, but the book makes me laugh (especially at those absurd, simple but fundamentally very good - good in the most profound theological sense - Hobbits), makes me cry - tears of sadness (at the miserable creature Gollum, particularly upon the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, where he came so very near to repentance, and on the slopes of Mount Doom where Sam finally caught a glimpse of the internal agony of his shrivelled mind, enslaved to the Ring), tears of great joy (the Field of Cormallen); the book just leaves me with an odd, ineffable, unexplainable feeling of ''fulfillment'' - well, there are not superlatives enough to do the work justice.

III. Glendalough. Shortly after my grandfather died, in September 2002, we visited Ireland for a week. We went to Wexford, and spent the days doing lots of good and wholesome things. On our way back to Dublin on the last day, I suggested that we take the ''scenic route'' through the Wicklow Mountains - well worth it - and at the behest of my then parish priest, the late Fr Fox, we visited Glendalough, a valley in the mountains of surpassing beauty. The ruins of an old Celtic monastery, founded by St Kevin, are there. We arrived there early in the morning - undoubtedly the best time to visit the area - and we were all of us moved by the profundity of its beauty. Imagine, it is October, it is not really ''cold,'' but you're wearing a coat to keep out the wind, you walk along the banks of the river, and you see mists coiled about the rocks. You walk among the ruins, the gravestones, and the old church with its tower, and you look down into the valley, the newly risen Sun, glad of the Morning, is reflected upon the lake, warming your face, and casting shadows among the old stones. It is an old place, and the stones contain the memory of holiness, and it is brought to life by the light of the new Sun. Even my agnostic father, on that day seven years ago, felt something of the immensity of God's majesty - revealed most clearly in the mixture of his keen and new grief mixed with wonder at the newness of Creation.

IV. The Latin language. Quid plura dicam?

V. My dying meal would probably be Sausage and Mash, with a pint of Murphy's. Generous portion of mashed potato, with real thick onion gravy, lots of good meaty sausages. There'd have to be something else with it too, like mushrooms. I adore mushrooms (I am, afterall, a Hobbit!). For dessert, ermmmmmm, probably Chocolate cheesecake (a generous portion) with thick cream and a cappuccino, with a chocolate mint.

VI. Walking my two dogs. Not round the block (that is boring) but somewhere isolated and peaceful, like a great moor, or in the hills, or woods. When my grandmother lived in Cornwall, we used to go and visit her (and sometimes we'd take the dogs). We'd take them for walks in the country, across fields, by small rivers. Has to be early in the morning, and we'd finish up by breakfast back home (consisting of an Ulster fry with lashings of tea) or a teacake, depending upon whether I were sick of fry-ups! I wish she still lived in Cornwall...I like walking, the only trouble is that there is nowhere interesting to walk around here, and you'd really need to take the car out for several miles to have a proper decent walk. Where is best to walk I wonder? Woods or along a long beach (provided there are no people about to spoil it)...

VII. I can't really think of a seventh thing...I know there are many things I love, or love to do, but this sort of thing is harder to do than you might think! Perhaps reading in general is something I particularly enjoy doing. I already said Tolkien, but my reading is, of course, not solely limited to his work.

Perhaps I have taken this ''tagging'' business a bit too seriously, but it was certainly nice to write this post. Can I suggest that we now do one of the Seven Things we detest?!

The above photo is of Glendalough. The photo does not encapsulate my feelings about the place, nor does it do justice to the beauty of it, a place where the glory of God is revealed in a very poignant way (I wonder if my new grief at the death of my most-beloved grandfather added to my first impressions of Glendalough? If so, it calls to mind Tolkien's concept of the eucatastrophe does it not?) Feast your eyes on it!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Noman-lands...

Since I am running low on post ideas (well not exactly, but the posts I have in mind, such as Parts II and III of my series on Elvish death and mortality, are hopelessly time-consuming in the composition, not to mention rather muddled and following no clear sequence of argument), a quotation from The Lord of the Rings on the Noman-lands surrounding Mordor seems appropriate. Tolkien writes:

''At last, on the fifth morning since they took the road with Gollum, they halted once more. Before them dark in the dawn the great mountains reached up to roofs of smoke and cloud. Out from their feet were flung huge buttresses and broken hills that were now at the nearest scarce a dozen miles away. Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

''They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion. 'I feel sick,' said Sam. Frodo did not speak.

''For a while they stood there, like men on the edge of a sleep where nightmare lurks, holding it off, though they know that they can only come to morning through the shadows. The light broadened and hardened. The gasping pits and poisonous mounds grew hideously clear. The sun was up, walking among the clouds and long flags of smoke, but even the sunlight was defiled. The hobbits had no welcome for that light; unfriendly it seemed, revealing them in their helplessness - little squeaking ghosts that wandered among the ash-heaps of the Dark Lord.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter II, The Passage of the Marshes).