Sunday, 31 January 2010

Septuagesima...


Forgive the lateness of this post, but I have been with good friends all day (and what a lovely day I had - the only bad thing was having to go home to more belli domestici). Today is of course Septuagesima, with seventy days until the great Pascha, and the Church begins this ''semi-penitential'' season with a beautiful (and personally pertinent) Introit:

Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, dolores inferni circumdederunt me: et in tribulatione mea invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit de templo sancto suo vocem meam. Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea: Dominus firmamentum meum, et refugiam meam, et liberator meus. Gloria Patri.

The sighs of death have surrounded me, the sorrows of hell have encompassed me: and in my plight I have called upon the Lord, and he has heard my voice from his holy temple. I shall love you, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my support, and my refuge, and my deliverer. Glory be to the Father.

Now, I think, is the time to give earnest thought as to the Lenten fast. Before I ''converted'' to the Old Rite, I never properly conceived of the magnitude of the Great Pascha, and a sort of ante-fast to the great fast (which seems to me to be the character of the gesima weeks) seems very opportune in this respect. I fast too little, and often ''forget'' to do so on the Vigils of Feasts, and I failed just before the ''finish line'' during Lent last year. By the Grace of God, this will not happen again...

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Ultramontanism and the Liturgy...


I am no liturgical scholar. Most of my liturgical posts have been translations of Introits and Collects, musings about certain aspects of Liturgy and liturgical history (liturgical theology is a modern thing in my opinion), rubrics etc. I have here a cogent question to raise: to what extent has the ultramontane Papacy done greater harm than good to the Liturgy of the Church? It was a Pope who changed the Breviary hymns to better resemble the metre of the Classical age in 1629; it was a Pope who, to lessen the burden of the Ferial Office, authorized priests to celebrate Votive offices in the late 19th century (thereby going against the very first Rubric in the Missal - Missa quotidie dicitur secundum ordinem Officii); it was a Pope who changed the Breviary and other parts of the Mass 1911-1913; it was a Pope who authorized the changes to the Rites of Holy Week (beyond recognition) in the 1950s; it was a Pope who authorized and approved the Novus Ordo in 1969. These days we rely solely on the authority of the Pope (a very great Pope I daresay) to have the Old Rite...liturgical history, then, is not without a sense of irony.

Fr John Hunwicke over at Liturgical Notes has an interesting similar post about the process of canonization. He rightly says that Pope Benedict XVI has been wise to give this back to local churches. I am very much in favour of legitimate ''local custom'' - moreover I would go back to the days when there were no Missals or Breviaries, but were Antiphonaries, Sacramentaries etc (I wonder what the implications would be for the priest at High Mass if we did away with the Missal - would he still have to read everything? I would hope he would, since this seems to me to be integral to the Mass); I would that there were no ''Code of Canon Law'' but there were the Sacred Canons again; I would that there were a whole Psalm for the Introit rather than two verses, I would that instead of just the liturgical choir deserving a censing, the whole congregation at High Mass were censed individually (the Subdeacon can and should answer the Suscipiat); I would that Low Mass were abolished and there were more sung Office (no matter how much you go on about ''active participation'' - reason dictates that the congregation at Low Mass are indeed mere spectators, and spectators to what? a very unedifying, boring and certainly abridged form of Liturgy; no more pews etc. I would also that the training of priests for the celebration of High Mass would stop referring to things like ''the rest is as at Low Mass'' - High Mass is the definitive form of Liturgy, not Low Mass. More Sequences for greater feasts...

If you did away with the idea that you should have Mass everyday, more than once a day, then you could have more High Mass - at any rate, such an attitude towards the Mass only leads to complacency about the Blessed Sacrament. My somewhat strange opinion of Low Mass is not a new thing. My first experience of the Old Rite (although it was not in fact the Old Rite) was a Low Mass at the Oratory on a Sunday 5 years ago, and I came away rather perplexed - I even thought ''no wonder people desired reform!''

The Orthodox Church does not have this problem. From personal experience, their Liturgy is at once sacred but not exclusive to the clergy behind the Iconostasis. The greater litanies encourage ''active participation'' (although I would rather they stick to the liturgical languages of their respective churches - Church Slavonic for Russia, Greek for the Greek Church - I was most unimpressed the last time I attended an Akathist to the Theotokos at the Russian Orthodox cathedral at Kensington, half of it was in Church Slavonic, which was exquisite, but the other half was in a kind of liturgically stylized form of modern English which I thought was impertinent - rather like hearing Gregorian chant in English; it just doesn't work) in the congregation; people who know the liturgical tongue can join the clergy in singing the Akathist etc; and there are no pews and so the church feels clearer and has an atmosphere more conducive to worship.

There is nothing wrong with the Liturgy of the Roman Rite, but I am often compelled to ask: what went wrong? Pews, Low Mass and other such unfortunate terms seem to have stifled it. The answer? I am no authority, but I'd suggest do away with pews, and Low Mass, and bring back more incense, more chant (no more Mass VIII and Credo III though), more ''legitimate local custom,'' more litanies, more Latin hymns (English hymns, well any devotion in the vulgar tongue, goes against the grain somewhat), and especially sung Office (a good place to start would be Sunday Vespers, and perhaps Vespers for Holydays and other great Feasts). As I have said, there is nothing wrong with the Liturgy of the Roman Rite but there seems to go with it a sort of attitude inimical to liturgical things such as incense and chant...comments, suggestions, protests etc in the comment box...

Friday, 29 January 2010

Ambulans...


Some people think I'm off my head because I go for long walks in the freezing cold. I say to them that if I didn't walk, I'd get no exercise at all. Well this evening I was well-rewarded. I walked up to the nearby woods (about 20 minutes walk for me, 25 if I'm being lazy and slow), as is my wont if it is late in the day and I don't want to go far. I left the house at 4:35pm. As I was walking down the hill, I looked over the roof-tops and saw a most beautiful evening Moon, with a pale golden hew suspended over a turquoise clear sky canopy. I shivered, since a cold wind blew, and I was reminded of a passage from The Lord of the Rings (can anyone guess which one?); delighted with this, I carried on. I reached the woods at 4:55pm and strolled in.


The woods were nice and quiet and warm, since only the wind was cold and, unlike the last time I was there, there were no people in sight (I walk also for contemplative ends, and I find that people distract my thoughts and ruin the whole time), so it was even better - I had the whole place to myself. I found the broad path that leads up the hill to the open field and I walked along at my leisure. I was thinking about the Blue Wizards mostly, but other things as well. When I got to the field, I looked out over the world and saw what was left of a most marvellous sunset (not the best I've ever seen, not by a long shot, but I have never not enjoyed a sunset); a fiery sky interpenetrated with purple clouds, sadly over rooftops and not the mountains or the sea. I wish I had brought my camera.


I remember talking to a...well he isn't my friend, but I told him one night of my especial appreciation of the great lights of the firmament, especially the Moon on cold clear nights, or sunsets there to illumine and warm the cold hearts of men. I said that sunsets and the moon were always beautiful and poignant since they were so evanescent, rather like the especial form and shapeliness of a favourite flower, like lilies or purple saxifrage - they are always similar, but never the same, and unless they are ''captured'' in a photograph for instance they would remain only in the memory. The moon will only be seen wreathed in silver clouds of a certain shape once, one night only in the vast history of the Earth, and perhaps by only one man, since most people have their eyes downwards. I think this is one of the reasons I like Tolkien, since his own extraordinary grasp of this sad truth is one of the central motifs of his work; the indefinate and irretrievable loss of something beautiful. I wrote about this a while ago in my post on Memory.


I was forced to leave, though, as it was getting dark, and had to take the main road home. Mindful of that passage from The Lord of the Rings, I stopped off to get some wine on the way home...

''Are you going to be a priest?''


The other day, while on my ''tea-break'' at work, I was reading a book called Fairy Tales in Latin, which is very amusing. It is a collection of twelve familiar fairy stories, in Latin, for use both as a means of comprehension and written translation. Since I don't want to bring a host of dictionaries and grammars with me to work, it is a good easy exercise for me to keep my Latin up. I had only passed the first page of Bella Dormiens when a woman from the Grocery department walked in, got a drink from the vending machine, and sat down on the adjacent table. She looked over at me and asked what I was reading, and so I held the book aloft. She then said ''gosh, that's clever, are they really in Latin?'' I said ''yes,'' and showed her the page I was reading. She then said ''can you understand it?'' I said ''yes;'' and she then asked me to tell her what I was reading, so I went back to the beginning of the story and did an extempore translation for her. She seemed impressed with this, and asked why I studied Latin. I said that until recently (since it has become associated with ''elitism'' and absurd things like class-distinction - knowledge of Latin is not very egalitarian is it) knowledge of Latin was the litmus test as to whether someone was properly educated or not, that I greatly enjoyed Latin, was fascinated by the form of the words, found it aesthetically gratifying etc. She then asked me whether I wanted to be a priest. I promptly said no (well I actually said ''ugh, Lord no!'')

You may be surprised by my reaction, but there are various reasons for it. When I was very little, my grandparents thought that I was going to be a priest one day because I went eagerly to Mass every Sunday (twice on a Sunday in fact, with my mother in the morning and then with my grandparents in the evening, after which I would have Sunday dinner at their house), prayed the Rosary, was very courteous and grave (except to people who exasperated me) etc, etc (I may never tire of ''blowing my own trumpet'' as the saying goes, but to others this may seem conceited - at least that's what my mother says when I boast of things). In fact one day, my old parish had a visit from a prelate of some sort (I thought he was a Bishop, but my nanny said he wasn't, and so I guess this was the Archdeacon; that is, the modern day ''Vicar General''), and I was rather put out when my grandparents told him that I was going to be ordained priest when I was older, and that this was in accordance with my personal wishes and vocation. I said to the Archdeacon that I had no such wish and that I would be no good as a priest.

As I grew older, this false assumption went with me, through school, Sixth Form College, work and even University. I do get tired of being asked this same question by people, and the more I am asked the more I am put off by ordination. Why don't people understand that one can be a religious young man and not have a vocation to the priesthood? It is just as well that I have no such vocation anyway, since I cannot canonically be ordained. And anyway, why be a priest when you can boss the priest about as an MC?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My little book...

I am giving earnest thought to publishing a book, or at least trying to. The libellus I envision would be a collection of short essays, musings, questions (with one or two illustrations) - a sort of ''memoir,'' but not quite - about Asperger Syndrome. I would naturally incorporate some of the stuff on this blog, but chapters would needs be written from scratch. One or two are already germinating in my mind - one would certainly be about my education (or lack thereof). I have found a publisher who specializes in this area, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, who are very good. Who would read my book I wonder?

Any suggestions for chapters or themes in the comment box please...or better still, if you think I should give up the idea completely!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Sancti Ioannes Chrysostomi...


Ecclesiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, gratia caelestis amplificet: quam beati Ioannis Chrysostomi Confessoris tui atque Pontificis illustrare voluisti gloriosis meritis et doctrinis. Per Dominum. We beseech thee, O Lord, that heavenly grace may increase your Church: which you willed to illumine by the merits and teachings of the blessed Confessor and Bishop John Chrysostom. Through the Lord.

St John Chrysostom (344-407), Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, whose Feast we celebrate today, was rightly named the ''Golden-mouthed'' (Χρυσόστομος, that is Chrysóstomos), on account of his profound genius and eloquence. One of the only real saints to have occupied the See of Constantinople, he remains engraved in the memories of both the Western Church and the Eastern churches as the most perfect preacher and theologian.

The celebrated genius Fr Adrian Fortescue says of him:

''The day on which his relics were brought back (January 27) is his feast among his own Byzantines and to us Latins. They sing: 'The holy Church rejoices mystically at the return of thy sacred relics, and receives them as a golden treasure. She never ceases teaching her children to sing of thee, and of the grace obtained by thy prayers, John of the Golden Mouth.'

''She never does cease. She teacher her Latin children, too, on that day to sing of the 'High Priest who in his day pleased God. For there is none other like him who kept the law of the Most High. Blessed is the man who suffered hardship, because when he has been tried he shall receive a crown of victory.' And when we sing of Chrysostom in our language while they praise him in theirs, we may look out across the sea and think of his people, his own Byzantines, cut off by this lamentable schism from the throne that defended him, and groaning under the heel of the unbaptized tyrant whose presence still defies the city of eighty Roman Caesars. If anything can trouble the peace of the saints, he must be troubled to see his successors rebel against those of Innocent, and to hear the Mu'ezzin cry from the place he would not have defiled by Eudoxia's statue. And if any saint has a special reason to pray to God for the end of these evils, it is John who appealed to Old Rome as lawful Bishop of New Rome, who, where Islam is now preached, spoke for the gospel of Christ with his golden mouth.'' (Adrian Fortescue, The Greek Fathers, Chapter IV).

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Musings on the Introit...


Whenever I do liturgical translations for this blog, they are usually either the Collect proper to the Feast or the Introit. I am especially fond of the Introits, particularly Gaudeamus for the Feast of the Assumption (Signum Magnum is not worthy of the Feast, and is evidence merely of the growing tendency in Rome for scripturalizing the Mass) and Rorate Caeli for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

The Introit is one of the most ancient elements of the Mass, going back to the days before there was such a liturgical book as a ''Missal.'' The Introit is thus found in ancient Antiphonaries (never in the Sacramentary, since this chant was proper to the choir and not the priest). It was conceived of in ancient days as merely the Psalm to accompany the entrance procession, which makes more sense to me. Why, then, are the choir now instructed to begin the Introit as soon as the priest makes the Sign of the Cross to begin the Preparatory Prayers? The entrance procession is thus (unless accompanied by the Organ, which from personal experience I would rather were left out altogether sometimes) reduced to a rather dull and silent affair, more suited to a Requiem. If I had watched the glacial movement of liturgical history as from a high cliff or over a table, and had power to affect it, I would not have reduced it to one or two verses from the Psalm but would have kept the whole thing, with the Antiphon, and the choir would begin the Introit as soon as the warning bell were rung.

Does anyone know why the name was changed, and when, from Introitus to ''Antiphona ad Introitum''?

Uneasy sleep...

In the last post, we witnessed the confrontation between the Dark Lord and Lúthien. The Lay goes on...

She let her flying raiment sweep,
enmeshed with woven spells of sleep,
as round the dark void she ranged and reeled.
From wall to wall she turned and wheeled
in dance such as never Elf nor fay
before devised, nor since that day;
than swallow swifter, than flittermouse
in dying light round darkened house
more silken-soft, more strange and fair
than sylphine maidens of the Air
whose wings in Varda's heavenly hall
in rhythmic movement beat and fall.
Down crumpled Orc, and Balrog proud;
all eyes were quenched, all heads were bowed;
the fires of heart and maw were stilled,
and ever like a bird she thrilled
above a lightless world forlorn
in ecstasy enchanted borne.
All eyes were quenched, save those that glared
in Morgoth's lowering brows, and stared
in slowly wandering wonder round,
and slow were in enchantment bound.
Their will wavered, and their fire failed,
and as beneath his brows there paled,
the Silmarils like stars were kindled
that in the reek of Earth had dwindled
escaping upwards clear to shine,
glistening marvellous in heaven's mine.
Then flaring suddenly they fell,
down, down upon the floors of hell.
The dark and mighty head was bowed;
like mountain-top beneath a cloud
the shoulders foundered, the vast form
crashed, as in overwhelming storm
huge cliffs in ruin slide and fall;
and prone lay Morgoth in his hall.
His crown there rolled upon the ground,
a wheel of thunder; then all sound
died, and a silence grew as deep
as were the heart of Earth asleep.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Just say no...

I make a point of not attending New Rite Masses. I went to three last year, on Ash Wednesday morning (because I had to work in the evening) - only because I consider the Lenten fast to be quite meaningless without the imposition of Ashes. I attended a Confirmation Mass in February or March, where I said something quite funny to a certain visitor, some readers might be amused to recall; and a Mass on St Patrick's day, since he is my patron. In 2008 I managed to avoid the New Rite for the whole year, which I was quite pleased about. Previous years were quite mixed. Before the Motu Proprio was issued (funny how we refer to Summorum Pontificum as the Motu Proprio, as if there were no previous ones!), I was hard put to it to find a decent Sunday Mass; so I would travel up to the Oratory on occasion for their 9:00am Mass - a Low Mass - but this proved too hard for me. So in a sense I gave up, and I treated Mondays at Maiden Lane as my ''Sunday'' Mass. Then things changed and I started going to Blackfen when the Old Rite was brought in, although it was a long time before anybody noticed that I was there.
A ''correspondant'' sent me this by email, and I thought it quite amusing and pertinent.

In Conversione Sancti Pauli...


Scio cui credidi, et certus sum, quia potens est depositum meum servare in illum diem, iustus iudex (Ps 138). Domine, probasti me, et cognovisti me: tu cognovisti sessionem meum, et resurrectionem meam. Gloria Patri.

I know whom I have believed, and I am certain, that he is able to look after my trust into that day, the just judge (Ps 138). O Lord, you have tested me, and known me; you have known my sitting down and my resurrection. Glory be to the Father.

This is the Introit for today's Feast. I cheated somewhat with my translation because I couldn't make sense of ''sessionem'' so I looked that part up in my layman's Missal (the rest of the text I copied from my 1862 Priest's travelling Missal).
I remember talking to an Orthodox about St Paul's mission to the Gentiles some years ago; and he (to my amazement) said that this was proof enough that St Peter never established his See in Rome, since he was the Apostle to the Jews. What do readers think of this? Until then, I had taken it for granted that the Orthodox believed in the apostolicity of the See of Rome. At any rate, such a heretical opinion clearly goes against the faith of the Greek Fathers. Eusebius, the father of Church History, writes of ''the first succession of the Apostles,'' and says: ''Linus received the Bishopric of the Roman Church first after Peter.'' (Ecclesiastical History, III, 4).

Sunday, 24 January 2010

My bit for this ''Octave''...

Deus, qui errata corrigis, et dispersa congregas, et congregata conservas: quaesumus, super populum Christianum tuae unionis gratiam clementer infunde; ut divisione reiecta, vero pastori Ecclesiae tuae se uniens, tibi digne valeat famulari. Per Dominum nostrum. (Oratio ad tollendum Schisma).

O God, you who correct errors, bring together the dispersed, and keep together the congregated: we beseech you; kindly pour forth the grace of union over the Christian people; so that, having rejected division, and uniting themselves to the true shepherd of your Church, they may be well to serve you worthily. Through the Lord. (Collect for the taking away of Schism).

I have always had sympathy for Ecumenism (understood to mean efforts on behalf of the Pope of Rome to reconcile stray Christians to the Catholic Church - I have no time whatsoever for prayer-meetings, inter-communion and other such relativistic and pernicious nonsense), since the schisms which have severed the various churches from the One True Church are manifestly a source of grief to every godly and Catholic soul. But Ecumenism is a very complicated matter, and I doubt that many ''churches-together'' groups actually consider what a united Church would be like. Below are a list of musings about what I would consider to be the ''ideal'' United Church. I shall go through each of the Communions in turn (devoting a paragraph to each) and last of all give a ''synopsis'' of the stuff that we could concede. Any comments, queries, protests etc in the Comment box please.

The Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Great Orthodox Church evidently deserves pride of place. These Christians, with their long and pious (if rather fossilized) Tradition will have to do the following: accept all the Ecumenical Councils of the Roman Church as binding in all that pertains to dogmata of Faith. They will not have to insert the Filioque into their own Creeds, since this is not part of the tradition (with a small t) of their Church, nor adopt Western Canon Law, but they will have to accept that the Filioque is a dogma of Faith as defined by the Council of Florence (liturgically speaking, the Credo at Mass is merely the Symbol of Faith, and no Creed is a compendium of all doctrine anyway - the Creeds say nothing about the Sacraments for example), and their catechisms will of course teach accordingly. They will have to accept the Primacy of Jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff as defined by the Vatican Council as pious and apostolic teaching. The venerable Liturgies of the Eastern Church will remain unchanged and certainly unLatinized, except that the name of the Pope will be restored to the diptychs. They will, though, adopt the Gregorian Kalendar, and there will be an investigation into personal sanctity and orthodoxy of the lives of their many ''saints'' (the host of Emporers for example, most famously Constantine I, a pagan his whole life, then baptised on his deathbed by an Arian bishop). This last point is especially complicated, since what I am asking them to do is anathematize their own saints...Perhaps in recompense for this the West could adopt some famous post-Schism Eastern Saints into her own Kalendar (such as Seraphim of Sarov, the famous Russian mystic). Ideally, the various autocephalous churches (an Eastern innovation) will be dissolved and brought again under the ancient Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Local churches will, of course, retain the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in their own local tongues. The Patriarchs will be made Cardinals and can partake in the Conclave to elect the Pope (will this privilege extend to other Bishops and Metropolitans, I wonder?) The Patriarch of Constantinople can retain the title ''Ecumenical Patriarch.''

The non-Chalcedonian Churches.

I know very little about these Christians, and I think that it would be better if they first reconciled with the Orthodox Church beforehand. They will, of course, accept the Christological Definition of Chalcedon (451) and all other Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the Primacy of the Pope etc. All the rest is applicable as above.

The Anglican Communion.

Anglicans will have to accept all Ecumenical Councils of the Church, as well as fully submit to the doctrines of the Catholic faith. They will recognise the Primacy of Jurisdiction of the Pope as defined by the Vatican Council (the writ of the Bishop of Rome does in fact run in England too!) They will adopt the Sarum Use (in Cranmerian English if they prefer this - English is not a liturgical language, but then is Church Slavonic?) As to the Book of Common Prayer...this was composed by a genius, but a genius with a fiercely anti-Roman (and therefore, reprobate) mind, so I am not sure how to treat this. I have always looked with suspicion upon ''Latinized'' BCP services, just as I have looked with suspicion upon Western-Rite Orthodox Masses, with an inserted Epiklesis and left out Filioque. The ancestral churches of England are to be restored to what they were, insofar as this is possible, and so orders are to be sent out for the rebuilding of Rood Screens, the carving of statues, the painting of sacred images, the building of Altars etc. The Sees of Canterbury and York are to be restored to what they once were, and all Dioceses in England and Wales are to be shared on both the Catholic and Anglican sides (but they will keep their respective bishops, insofar as this is possible). The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will be made Cardinals of the Church and will therefore partake in the Conclave to elect the Pope; although they need not go to Rome to receive the Palium or Biretta but will be consecrated in their own respective Cathedrals by the Pope's Legate.

Other Protestants.

Other Protestants are to be assumed into the current Anglican Communion and are to be treated as Anglicans. They will, of course, do all of the above and repudiate their heresy. They will by no means be allowed to retain their current services of worship but like the Anglicans will adopt the Sarum Use.

On our part...

The Old Rite will be fully restored to the liturgical life of the Church in every aspect (Kalendar, Books etc). Bishops Conferences will no longer have the authority to tamper with the Kalendar (transferring Feasts to nearest Sundays etc). The Church will adopt the revised Good Friday prayers. All Latin Rite priests will be well-versed in the Latin language. The role of the Deacon will be enlarged to match the Deacons of the Eastern Churches. The Minor Orders will be restored, as well as the Subdiaconate, and these Orders will be made permanent if so-desired. Popes will again be crowned rather than ''inaugurated'' and representatives of all the churches will be present (Patriarchs of the Eastern churches as well as the Archbishops of York and Canterbury). Popes need not be Cardinals.

I realise that I have left a lot unsaid. Anything that I have missed out, please let me know in the comment box.

Budgeting etc...

I am overdrawn this month, significantly (I hate having no money!). I discussed this with Mac in the parish club this afternoon after Mass, and we agreed that I should draft a budget (I have often thought that I am too impulsive and greedy, and therefore stupid, to stick to a budget, but I really need to sort out my finances). My monthly expenses are basically housekeeping, the money I owe my brother, lunch at work and college and a few other small things. I spend nothing on travel because I have a free Oyster card and I do lots of walking, so I am lucky in this respect. I have spent some time ruminating over this this afternoon, but I got distracted and instead went onto Amazon and Abebooks going through lists of books that I want (and need in a few cases). The list is vastly incomplete (I left out all the first editions), but already the total cost is at £1,236.13 (three books in this list are very expensive). The most expensive one is the Oxford English Dictionary, in 20 Volumes, for £688.97 (with money off too!) - Tolkien got this for free of course, having worked on it as a lexicographer. I doubt I'll be able to afford this for at least a year, unless by some miracle I win the lottery...

I wonder if going through this list of expensive books (a lot of them are Tolkien books) constitutes a kind of budgetting? At least I am aware that I cannot currently afford them! Back to work now I guess...

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Iona Propheta...


Tolkien's latest book will be published for the first time next month - I can't wait!!! It's just his translation of the Book of Jonah. In the 1960s, Tolkien was ''questioned on one or two points of style'' (as he put it) for the new Jerusalem Bible. Owing to other commitments (disputes in America over pirate editions of The Lord of the Rings, the publication of the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings, the deteriorating health of his wife etc) he could only complete one book, and a very short one. I have never read his translation, which should be interesting. I am not sure whether it is from the Septuagint or the Masoretic, but that will undoubtedly be revealed by a learned reader.

I was, in fact, doing a translation of the Book of Jonah on my own. It was quite easy but I couldn't be bothered using the dictionary, so when unfamiliar words cropped up, I gave it up. Does that make me lazy? I shall return to it after I finish at least one chapter from the Contra Errores Graecorum - I am doing Pars Secunda, Caput XXXII on the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, where the Angelic Doctor equates denial of the Primacy with denial of the Double Procession (at least that's how I have read it).

Lux Orientalis?


In a previous post, I expressed my profound sympathy with the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church. It might be good for me to elaborate my thoughts on the Orthodox Church in general.

Until recently, I admired the great Orthodox Church. I have always marvelled at the inherent beauty of her Liturgy, which is the legacy of a long and pious Tradition, and which I have been privileged to experience on a few occasions. But I think that nowadays, this is the one and only thing I really admire about them. I remember at the time the Holy Father decided to drop the title ''Patriarch of the West'' talking to a Russian Orthodox man about it. I was against the decision, thinking the explanation of the emphasis on the Universal primacy of the Pope a stinking red herring, since this title encapsulates the special relationship that we, as Roman Rite Catholics, have with him and which Catholics of Eastern Christendom do not. He is not their Patriarch is he? To them, he is merely Pope. To Catholics living in the Eternal City herself, he is local Bishop, Archbishop, Metropolitan, Patriarch and Pope; in England he is simply Patriarch and Pope. Anyway, we argued over the other ''Papal titles,'' and he seemed especially indignant that the Church should decide to keep such ''arrogant'' titles as Vicar of Christ while doing away with a respectable one. He went quiet when I told him that at the time the Patriarch of Constantinople (not even an Apostolic See!) assumed the grandiloquent title ''Ecumenical Patriarch,'' (a pompous title which, in my opinion, compromises the rights and dignities of the Patriarch of Rome) the Popes of Rome adopted the title Servus Servorum Dei...

Whenever speaking to an Orthodox about ''Western'' affairs, I would adopt a somewhat apologetic persona and was almost always on the defensive. The two chief points were, need I say, the Filioque and the Papal claims, but I had to answer for other things as well, such as the Immaculate Conception, purgatorial fire, and in the case of an astute Orthodox, the present state of our Liturgy. This last point was especially painful for me, since they have had no liturgical crisis (except, arguably, the Nikon reforms - although what was this compared with what we have to put up with?), and so in the end I gave up. I stopped treating them as though they were our superiors (we are, in fact, their older brothers, not vice versa); I recognise and acknowledge the authority of the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and Universal Patriarch, they don't; I am a member of the True Church of Christ, they are unhappy schismatics, and for all their pretence of ''catholicity,'' most of their history since the Schism is riddled with petty squabbling over the rights of Constantinople, most of their hardly distinguished theologians have spent the best part of their time writing against us; but they have paid the recompense for their obstinate arrogance by being the long vassals of the Sultan; as Cardinal Humbert said, Videat Deus et iudicet.

In 1894, Pope Leo XIII sent out an Encyclical letter called Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae, generous and kindly and without any word of blame calling for the reunion of Christendom. The schismatic Orthodox bishops responded with this vituperative and poisonous encyclical letter, bringing up the old hackneyed arguments against the ''damnable heresies of Rome,'' the Filioque, Papal claims etc. Curiously, no mention is made of Azyme bread or Latin Bishops wearing rings, being clean-shaven or any other such thing (which in old times were the chief charges made against us, the Filioque being an afterthought!). It was the upstart Photius who first called the Filioque into question, and his bitterness about the Primacy of the Pope was because he couldn't stand being second after Rome. In any case, this appalling letter also mingles lies with the truth, at one point claiming that it was the ''custom'' of the holy fathers to hold Rome in the prime place simply because she was the capital of the Empire! What is this if not an anti-Evangelical and certainly Protestant heresy? In nothing is the hurt caused by the virtually blasphemous arrogance of Constantinople (now not even a shadow of what it once was) shown more clearly than in the great East-West Schism.

One thing I'd like to translate in the future is St Thomas Aquinas' Contra Errores Graecorum, but not yet. The above icon depicts ''saint'' Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople between 858-867 (although at the time of his election, he was a layman, and there are serious Canonical issues surrounding his appointment), he was deposed and excommunicated by Pope St Nicholas I, the greatest of all the Popes between Sts Gregory the Great and Gregory VII, and after the death of Ignatius in 877, was Patriarch until his death in 886. He was a great man according to his measure (an outstanding scholar, although he knew no Latin) but certainly prejudiced, and one of the many bogus saints of the Orthodox Church.

Friday, 22 January 2010

The words of Morgoth and Lúthien...

In the previous post, we saw how Lúthien could not deceive the dread Lord of Hell with her false raiment and how she was stripped of it by his will, revealed to all the hosts of Angband as the daughter of Thingol and Melian. The Lay goes on:

The fires of Angband flared and died,
smouldered into darkness; through the wide
and hollow halls there rolled unfurled
the shadows of the underworld.
All movement stayed, and all sound ceased,
save vaporous breath of Orc and beast.
One fire in the darkness still abode;
one sound the breathing silence broke:
the mirthless voice of Morgoth spoke.
''So Lúthien, so Lúthien,
a liar like all Elves and Men!
Yet welcome, welcome, to my hall!
I have a use for every thrall.
What news of Thingol in his hole
shy lurking like a timid vole?
What folly fresh in his mind,
who cannot keep his offspring blind
from straying thus? or can devise
no better counsel for his spies?''
She wavered, and she stayed her song.
''The road,'' she said, ''was wild and long,
but Thingol sent me not, nor knows
what way his rebellious daughter goes.
Yet every road and path will lead
Northward at last, and here of need
I trembling come with humble brow,
and here before thy throne I bow;
for Lúthien hath many arts
for solace sweet of kingly hearts.''
''And here of need thou shalt remain
now, Lúthien, in joy or pain -
or pain, the fitting doom for all
for rebel, thief, and upstart thrall.
Why should ye not in our fate share
of woe and travail? Or should I spare
to slender limb and body frail
breaking torment? Of what avail
here dost thou deem thy babbling song
and foolish laughter? Minstrels strong
are at my call. Yet I will give
a respite brief, a while to live,
a little while, though purchased dear,
to Lúthien the fair and clear,
a pretty toy for idle hour.
In slothful gardens many a flower
like thee the amorous gods are used
honey-sweet to kiss, and cast then bruised,
their fragrance loosing, under feet.
But here we seldom find such sweet
amid our labours long and hard,
from godlike idleness debarred.
And who would not taste the honey-sweet
lying to lips, or crush with feet
the soft cool tissue of pale flowers,
easing like gods the dragging hours?
A! curse the Gods! O hunger dire,
O blinding thirst's unending fire!
One moment shall ye cease, and slake
your string with morsel I here take!''
In his eyes the fire to flame was fanned,
and forth he stretched his brazen hand.
Lúthien as shadow shrank aside.
''Not thus, O king! Not thus!'' she cried,
''do great lords hark to humble boon!
For every minstrel hath his tune;
and some are strong and some are soft,
and each would bear his song aloft,
and each a little while be heard,
though rude the note, and light the word.
But Lúthien hath cunning arts
for solace sweet of kingly hearts.
Now hearken!'' And her wings she caught
then deftly up, and swift as thought
slipped from his grasp, and wheeling round,
fluttering before his eyes, she wound
a mazy-wingéd dance, and sped
about his iron-crownéd head.
Suddenly her song began anew;
and soft came dropping like a dew
down from on high in that domed hall
her voice bewildering, magical,
and grew to silver-murmuring streams
pale falling in dark pools in dreams.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Fortescue and the Old Believers...


I find myself in sympathy with the Russian Orthodox ''Old Believers'' - even if to Western eyes, the things they niggle about might seem rather trivial. I used to consider myself a kind of Western ''Old Believer,'' but I later rejected this comparison as inaccurate since I do not consider the Catholic Church (or for that matter, the modern Russian Orthodox Church) to be a church of brigands. In any case, I can understand some of their grievances, since Liturgy is the most important thing for the present life of Men, as it was to our Fathers and will be to our Sons, the Lord's greatest gift.

For those of you who don't know, the Old Believers go back to 17th century Russia, when the Patriarch Nikon revised the Russian liturgical books to bring them into line with the Greek ''originals'' (which later turned out to be older than the contemporary Greek liturgical books, which contained many innovations). This was met with considerable opposition, and many left the established Church, calling themselves Starovjerzi (Old Believers). There were several flash-points: the spelling of the Holy Name (Isus in the old practice, Iisus in the new), instead of saying of the Holy Ghost in the Creed ''true Lord and Lifegiver,'' the modern Slavonic Creed says simply ''Lord and Lifegiver,'' the Sign of the Cross was changed from two fingers (signifying the Two Natures in Christ) to three (signifying the Blessed Trinity), the number of Alleluias and prostrations were reduced etc, etc. As I say, these changes may seem trivial to Western minds, but since the Orthodox are notoriously and very rigidly conservative, to them (or some of them, the Russian Church was pretty autocratic under the Czars and so the vast majority of the Orthodox in Russia just complied out of fear) these changes represented a danger to ''the faith of the Fathers and the Seven General Councils'' (it is the doctrine of the True Church as well as the Orthodox schismatics that doctrinal and liturgical truth interpenetrate, so one can understand the Old Believers from this perspective at least). The Old Believers were cruelly persecuted by the establishment, which just made them wildly fanatical. Over the years, this dwindling group of traditionalists split into sect after sect over all sorts of grievances. Unfortunately, their whole history is too great and depressing to elaborate (even if I knew more than the rudiments of it anyway). A good book to consult on their history is Meyendorff's Russia, Ritual and Reform.

I am currently (among other commitments - I should be doing more Latin) reading Adrian Fortescue's The Orthodox Eastern Church. As with all his work, it's fascinating, but I rather disagree with his assessment of the Old Believers (as I disagreed with his views on the Council of Trent and the abolition of all those Sequences). He gives a list of their alarming sects (such as the Philipovzi, who preach suicide by fire to quicken Christ's Parousia, and the Beguni, who practice fornication rather than marriage), and one is astounded at the extent to which fanaticism and schism can run. He calls them all madmen and pedants (and in the latter cases, certainly they are), but I don't see that he is qualified to dismiss them outright. The Old Believers represent what can sometimes be the hard discrepancy between blind obedience and conscience. I have seen people do some very strange things for obedience's sake...but why? There is obedience and there is obedience. I think St Thomas Aquinas says something like ''obey one's superiors in all things that are not sinful'' (don't quote me on that!); if the Pope ordered you to jump off a bridge, would you do so out of obedience? No; so if the Pope asks you to accept the 1962, 1970/2002 liturgical books, then why do you accept them if you know in your heart that they are faulty?

Incidentally, a humorous footnote in Fortescue reads: ''One advantage of their existence is that they afford unequalled opportunities for the scientific study of lunacy. Russian doctors and psychologists are taking up the matter from this point of view, and they publish most deserving works on the psychology of mind-disease - they have plenty of material to study.'' (Adrian Fortescue, The Orthodox Eastern Church, Chapter X, p.302).

Survival of the Fittest...

''Autistic children are often tormented and rejected by their class-mates simply because they are different and stand out from the crowd. Thus, in the playground or on the way to school one can often see an autistic child at the centre of a jeering horde of little urchins. The child himself may be hitting out in blind fury or crying helplessly. In either case he is defenceless.'' (Hans Asperger, 1944).

On Sunday afternoon, before I had to shoot off, I had a brief chat with a friend over a cup of tea about ''building confidence'' and being able to defend oneself against abuse. This is an interesting subject and explores some of the most (to me) incomprehensible aspects of the human mind - how one person is singled out as an ''easy target'' by some innate ''instinct,'' and another is left alone in the same way. I have spoken to my mother, wise with the wisdom of the world according to her fashion, about this, and she says that we each of us exhibit certain signals, manifested by our body language, posture, other subtle nuances and gestures etc. By these signals, we make personal judgements about whether this person is a weakling, that person is not to be messed with. If you are extrovert, sit and stand upright, sporty, popular etc, you are naturally going to be ''respected'' by your peers in the playground (so far as school children understand ''respect'' that is); if you are shy, weak, slouch, sit with your arms folded you are naturally going to be the easy target. This attitude of mind seems to manifest a, what I shall call, ''survival of the fittest'' mentality; and my devoting a blog post to this subject at all betokens that on the one hand I consider it to be inherently flawed, and on the other that I recognise that it is, all the same and in spite of all endeavours to remedy it, not going to change - until the Lord comes and the meek come into their own.

As a child, I never had the ''innate confidence'' about which I have just spoken. Moreover, as a child with Asperger Syndrome, I was manifestly different from my peers in many ways. I was more intelligent than most of them (and therefore simply attracted the scorn of the ignorant and the markedly stupid); I was shy and introvert, preferring the quietude of my own thoughts and the genius of the written word to the company of others (although I did have a small group of friends); I also made a point of not following the latest fashions or fads, which to me were just silly transient things. When I was in Primary School, I had cultivated a sense of detachment from people, so by the time I got into Secondary School, I was not really ''used'' to people much, so my dealings with them, which were often more frequent than I had time or interest for, were often halting and uncomfortable. Sometimes, mid-sentence, I would just get bored and walk away. This was my way of saying ''I am tired,'' or ''I find your gestures bewildering or objectionable,'' or ''I am bored with you and it won't be good until you're out of my presence.'' In Primary School, certainly before I was taken in by the headmaster about my behaviour towards the other children, I would probably have told them to go away, or shut up; but apparently this was inappropriate. Nobody thought to tell me that actions, sometimes moreso than words, could be just as inappropriate. These are just a few examples though.

It's all very well and good to talk about one's body language and other subtle nuances of manner, it's quite another to explore why they affect people the way they do. In this area of human psychology, seeing things through the lenses of a very peculiar perception, I am confessedly left altogether bewildered. For one of the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome is the impaired ability to read body language, social cues etc, which are said to make up as much as 93% of human communication - for someone with severe Classic Autism, they might as well be blind and deaf. I expect (being no expert or authority of course - just someone who lives with Asperger Syndrome day after day, if that counts for anything) that for this reason, as well as having impaired Theory of Mind abilities (which are, of course, related), people with Asperger Syndrome cannot fully understand how to act around people. And this is not something you can read about in some hypothetical manual of human behaviour, or learn by some other means like a language or the rudiments of some interesting subject. And what happens? In practice, this means that children and adults with Asperger Syndrome come across as very halting, uncomfortable individuals - trying to constantly work out what to say, and when, what to do, and how to do it. For me, as someone on the ''milder'' end of the Spectrum (interestingly, I was not when I was younger, but my mother rejected psychological help and other financial grants when I was very little and was just very strict with me, trying to ''correct'' my behaviour all the time), I developed a not-very-effective remedy to this. For years, I observed the interactions of other people and memorised them by rote, in the hope that when the occasion arose, I could apply them to new situations - like an actor revising a script and then acting it out, as it were (in fact, on the occasions when my relatives caught me ''talking to myself'' I was in fact revising the best way to say something). But this simply does not always work. I expect neuro-typical people just instinctively know what a raised eyebrow means, or how to read and understand an ambiguous facial expression, or (and this often thwarts me) what people are saying when they mouth things.

I hated school, at both Primary and Secondary levels. I had nothing but contempt and scorn for most of the teachers, most of the pupils, all of the work, the school grounds and the timetable. I spoke to an 11 year old boy about this recently, and he seemed surprised, since I ''know so much.'' Trying to get him to understand that one can be naturally intelligent and still despise a system that stunted my intellectual growth was futile. Although a doctor had speculated as far back as 1993 that I had Asperger Syndrome, I received no diagnosis until last year, and so to my teachers at school (except, perhaps, one or two astute ones - although no one ever said anything) I expect that I must have been just that slightly odd, clearly bright but lazy, awkward and bitterly angry boy. Alas, though, I am aware that this post is already quite long, so if what is intended as the central topic of this post is to be reached within a manageable space, a lot of context and elaboration must be left unsaid (although I have devoted most of it already to the establishment of context). Questions and Answers in the Comment box please.

All the popular children at school seemed to be good at PE (which to me just said it all really; they had no capacity for real learning). On the rare occasions that I turned up for PE, I was often subjected to teasing by teachers and pupils alike on account of my lack of physical strength and force (what use are attempts at improving social skills if in cases such as this one is consistently, maliciously and deliberately rejected by people?); I would almost certainly be picked last to form a team for some pointless exercise (this was not always the case - there were people more weak and pathetic than I - but these sad cases didn't even have brilliant minds to compensate for this so they were doubly worse off - I did pity them though) etc, etc, you probably know the situation already. Usually my response to teasing was to walk back to school and sit in the Library; if one teacher (the one who especially hated me, and knew how to wind me up) called me ''stupid'' (to me, a significant personal insult, since I valued intellectual ability above all things, and certainly as one of my strengths) I would go into a fit of rage and be sent to the ''behavioural management centre,'' where I would listen to a well-meaning but clearly unimaginative woman with no personality drone on about adherence to the rules etc. Rules...school rules ought to have been logical. Clearly most of them were not, and so I disobeyed them. I adhered to rules about the uniform and other such things, being quiet in-between lessons, going straight to them etc, but other rules such as having to attend PE lessons were not logical and were therefore fit to be ignored.

Anyway, as is my wont, I have been distracted and I am bored with writing this now (as you probably are with reading it). The point of this post is this: why did school children and PE teachers value physical powess and popularity over intelligence? Why did school children scorn someone who was intelligent, label him ''geek'' or ''nerd'' or ''weirdo,'' and prefer someone manifestly ignorant but good at PE? To me, such children were stupid, unoriginal and unimaginative, slaves to fashion etc. It still goes on; I am still rejected by people in all walks of life, and the hurtful thing is that some of these people are people for whom I have deep personal affection, desiring only their ''rehabilitation'' (by which I mean, conformity to my own world view).

This post has been appallingly written and hardly merits posting (I am never quite satisfied with posts of this sort, they are always not-quite-finished, fall short of making a point etc). So the cogent question is: which will fair better on the Day of Judgement, the popular boy or the weaker intelligent boy eaten up with bitterness?

Ortírielyanna...


My other ''interesting'' post is taking longer to write than I had heretofore anticipated, and in the writing it is increasingly ''bitter'' and I am yet to arrive at a point, but I'll let readers be the judge of that instead. The trouble I have in writing is that it is always in too grandiloquent a style and I always fall short of actually making a point (at least that is how I see it), and so the result is neither a contribution to rhetoric nor anything else worthy. Anyway, I am not sure that I have blogged about this yet, but here is Tolkien's Quenya rendering of the beautiful Sub tuum praesidium. Enjoy!

Ortírielyanna rucimme, Aina Eruontari. Alalye nattira arcandemmar sangiessemman, ono alye eterúna me illume ilya raxellor, alcarin Vénde ar manaquenta.

Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Writer's block...

I am currently writing a post about Asperger Syndrome and that heinous tendency (alas, all too easy to find in the playground and in the workplace, and probably every other conceivable place) among human beings - bullying. But I have writer's block, and since I cannot simply summon the Muse, I am afraid an interesting post must wait for a little while. I know you're all on the edges of your seats though!

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Tridentine Rite...


When I was at Sixth Form College, I had an argument with my RE teacher, a Modernist woman who knew sod all about Liturgy, about the ''Tridentine'' Rite. At the time, my knowledge of the Council of Trent was still embryonic (it still is), but I maintained the argument that ''tridentine'' in fact refers to the Council of Trent. She had claimed that Pope John Paul II's funeral contained many ''Tridentine'' elements - the ''almost exclusive'' (that's what she said) use of Latin, incense etc. I tried to get her to understand that the funeral was in the New Rite, with some typically New Rite peculiarities (which, I am sure, the Orthodox clergy who were present found irksome, as did I); I mentioned lay readers and bidding prayers as an example (I am aware of the presence of ''bidding prayers'' in other liturgies, even some ancient ones, but since I don't see primitiveness as any guarantee of value, I thought it pertinent to say that this anachronistic and semi-liturgical uselessness peculiar to the New Rite). Alas, though, it's hard to win an argument with someone if one's opponent doesn't even know what they're talking about - and simply cannot in humility accept remonstrance. It is a fact, though, that a lot of Catholics are simply unaware of pre-1970 changes to the Missal and Breviary. In the case of some, they have genuinely been misled; others are simply ignorant; others would fain have us think that the '62 Rite is in fact the ''venerable'' Roman Rite (I am naming no names, but I'm sure readers know to whom I especially refer).

To remedy this, Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press blog has started a new blog called The Tridentine Rite, which is well worth a visit. It is essentially the same as the St Lawrence Press blog, except that it follows the rubrics of the 1568 Breviary and the 1570 Missal, and therefore uses the Julian Kalendar. It is a shame that the commemorations of the Octaves of the Comites Christi during the greater Octave of the Nativity were not made this year, since under the Tridentine rubrics, the Octaves were all of Double rite, and therefore merited commemorations. It is noteworthy that under the 1911-13 changes to the Liturgy under the saintly lunatic Pius X, the Octaves of the Comites Christi were all reduced to Simple rite - a step-forward for later liturgical deform? I guess if you reduce a Feast or an Octave in significance, get rid of a great many etc, you just pave the way for later relativistic ''liturgy.'' The 1962 ''liturgical books'' retained only three Octaves, namely Easter, Pentecost (Octaves of the ''first class'') and Christmas (the Octave of the ''second class''). O with what great violence and contempt the Liturgy was stripped to the bones and done away with! Afterall, what is the New Rite but a pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Tolkien, The Catholic Herald and etymology...


The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien are a veritable treasure-trove of information; I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Tolkien. These letters, largely abridged of course, reveal a lot about the workings of his mind which you simply cannot deduce from his mythopoeic work. This letter always amuses me. In 1945, Tolkien wrote a letter to The Catholic Herald in response to a correspondent who wrote about the etymology of the word Coventry. The letter goes:

''I've wasted some precious time this week-end writing a letter to the Catholic Herald. One of their sentimentalist correspondents wrote about the etymology of the name Coventry, and seemed to think that unless you said it came from Convent, the answer was not 'in keeping with Catholic tradition.' 'I gather the convent of St Osburg was of no consequence' said he: boob. As convent did not enter English till after 1200 A.D. (and meant an 'assembly' at that) and the meaning 'nunnery' is not recorded before 1795, I felt annoyed. So I have asked whether he would like to change the name of Oxford to Doncaster; but he's probably too stupid to see even that mild quip.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 97).

I'd like to see that letter. Does anyone know where/how I can access the archives of The Catholic Herald? Their website only goes back to 2003. So far as Catholic periodicals go, Tolkien (to my knowledge at least) had nothing whatsoever to do with The Tablet...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

''News...''

I have always had this much in common with J.R.R Tolkien (and also C.S Lewis, and probably many others): I find ''news'' for the most part trivial and fit to be ignored (a cause of much tension between my uncle - a BBC Journalist - and I!). I never read newspapers, and seldom if ever watch the news on TV (which nowadays I only use to watch documentaries and play my Nintendo). In my opinion, the only Truth is to be found in Literature and Liturgy...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Amor librorum...


I love books, for the pleasure of reading as well as the book itself. I don't know how many books I own (not having counted them in about three years, or so), but I must own in advance of 1000, which may be a lot to some and a little to others - I suppose I fall in the latter. Living at home, with an agonizingly small income (which my lifestyle far exceeds) means that I cannot always afford the books I want - I am also only 21! Going into the offices, homes, libraries etc of friends, tutors etc, and my own small ''library'' (which I call my small collection of books, in absurd grandiosity, stuffed for the most part into two small bookcases, under my bed and in drawers) pales into insignificance - I must remember that my tutors are eminent scholars, and the books they own have been built up over a lifetime of earnest study - not like a rustic and untutored Hobbit you see.

A significant portion of the books that I own (especially on Theology) I would gladly throw away (if I did not think that this were an abuse - plus I can't be bothered taking them to charity shops or anything), some because I just don't want them anymore; some because I wonder that I was dull enough to buy them in the first place (such as my copy of ''Contemporary Catholic Theology'' - what was I thinking? - although this book does include a chapter by Fr Robert Murray, SJ on the Scriptures - Robert Murray being an old friend of J.R.R Tolkien - I think he is still at Farm Street, although I may be mistaken), some because I am not interested in the subject matter anymore; some because they are old, unwanted presents; one because of most of the above, plus it is the first (expensive) volume of a very large series (The Glory of the Lord by Hans Urs von Balthasar - again, what was I thinking?) which, in all honesty, I don't want.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent about an hour in the Library going through the Corpus Christianorum (Series Latina obviously - I did glance at the Greek series, but I cannot read Greek - being half a Classicist, and a very inept one. If I am ever bitter about anything, it is my education, or lack thereof - when Tolkien was 12 years old, he was fluent in Latin and Greek, and here I am...well don't let us get into that again!) looking for some stuff by St Hilary of Poitiers. I'd like to own the complete series one day (I don't know how many books there are, or even if it is complete yet, but the Latin series alone filled a complete bay), as well as a few other things (such as an original Octavarium Romanum, a pre-1884 Missale Romanum (Altar size - I do in fact own an 1862 priest's travelling Missal, but it's not a very handsome tome), a complete pre-1911 Breviarum Romanum, a Lewis & Short (I keep meaning to buy one, but it is rather difficult juggling my small income between other commitments sometimes), a first edition Redbook of Westmarch, the Summa Theologica in Latin (I already own an English translation), at least one manuscript by Tolkien himself, even the least important letter, a Book of Hours, etc, etc...maybe I should set up a ''wish-list'' in the Sidebar and start asking for donations and gifts, but I may then be accused of emulating certain people...

O to have seen the great Library at Alexandria...

Further into Hell...

We saw in the last post how Beren and Lúthien penetrated the fastness of Angband, that ''most grievous of all abodes'' as the Tale of Turambar and the Foalókë puts it (The Book of Lost Tales, Part II, Chapter II). And here, they both put all the might and pride of the Princes of the Gnomes to shame...

Lo! through the grinning portals dread
sudden a shadow swooped and fled;
and Beren gasped - he lay alone,
with crawling belly on the stone:
a form bat-wingéd, silent, flew
where the huge pillared branches grew,
amid the smokes and mounting screams.
And as on the margin of dark dreams
a dim-felt shadow unseen grows
to cloud of vast unease, and woes
foreboded, nameless, roll like doom
upon the soul, so in that gloom
the voices fell, and laughter died
slow to silence many-eyed.
A nameless doubt, a shapeless fear,
had entered in their caverns drear,
and grew, and towered above them cowed,
hearing in heart the trumpets loud
of gods forgotten. Morgoth spoke,
and thunderous the silence broke:
''Shadow, descend! And do not think
to cheat mine eyes! In vain to shrink
from thy Lord's gaze, or seek to hide.
My will by none may be defied.
Hope nor escape doth here await
those that unbidden pass my gate.
Descend! ere anger blast thy wing,
thou foolish, frail, bat-shapen thing,
and yet not bat within! Come down!''
Slow-wheeling o'er his iron crown,
reluctantly, shivering and small,
Beren there saw the shadow fall,
and droop before the hideous throne,
a weak and trembling thing, alone.
And as thereon great Morgoth bent
his darkling gaze, he shuddering went,
belly to earth, the cold sweat dank
upon his fell, and crawling shrank
beneath the darkness of that seat,
beneath the shadow of those feet.
Tinúviel spake, a shrill, thin sound
piercing those silences profound:
''A lawful errand here me brought;
from Thû's [Sauron's] dark mansions have I sought,
from Taur-na-Fuin's [Taur-nu-Fuin's] shade I fare
to stand before thy mighty chair!''
''Thy name, thou shrieking waif, thy name!
Tidings enough from Thû there came
but short while since. What would he now?
Why send such messenger as thou?''
''Thuringwethil I am, who cast
a shadow o'er the face aghast
of the sallow moon in the doomed land
of shivering Beleriand.''
''Liar art thou, who shalt not weave
deceit before mine eyes. Now leave
thy form and raiment false, and stand
revealed, and delivered to my hand!''
Then, she was stripped of her guise by the will of Morgoth, and stood revealed and powerless before the hosts of Hell...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

O me miserum!

Patricius is not feeling very well at the moment as he has a terrible sore throat (the early signs of man-flu) and feels generally very run-down. Prayers would be welcome.

By the way, I just checked my Sitemeter and I have had almost 300 visitors today! I checked the Referrals and the vast majority have come from New Advent and looked at my lovely photo - a consolation amidst other cares and griefs. Now I shall finish my soup, put my uniform in the tumble-dryer and get some much-needed sleep - it has been a long day and I must be up early for work.

I did in fact read some of St Hilary today, but his style was rather more difficult than I expected and didn't do any real translation. I did, however, get a copy of the Corpus Christianorum (the Latin Series) out of the Library which I shall tackle over the weekend.

St Hilary of Poitiers...


Today is the Feast of St Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. One of the greatest Fathers of the Western Church, whose works (to my shame) I have not in fact read. I am just on my way out to college now, so I may dig something out of the Library this afternoon and amend this. Happy Feast Day all!

It's a shame, though, for on the feasts of Saints whom I love and respect deeply, I like to translate some of their works and post them, but like over Christmas, I simply haven't had time. Funnily enough, on the Feast of St Augustine last year, I sent cordial greetings to my tutor (who lectures regularly on him). I had said that I was reading his Confessions, and even The City of God (in Latin; the latter proving quite hard indeed, for the Introduction is very clever Latin, and I had to go through the whole paragraph to find the main verb!), which he seemed pleased about. Unfortunately, he told me, he had to spend the day marking essays on St Augustine, which he explained was no substitute for reading the Great Doctor himself!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Changes to this blog...

Last night I made a few changes to this blog. The most obvious is the picture in the Header. When I created this blog, I made a point of using art by J.R.R Tolkien himself, and the first picture was taken from Chapter VI of The Hobbit. The new one is also from The Hobbit, although the illustration was not included in some editions - the only edition I have in which this illustration appears is the 2007 70th anniversary edition, which is supposed to be based on the First Edition (I have never actually seen a First Edition of The Hobbit, much as I'd like to own one). The painting depicts Bilbo's journey in the bitter cold down the River of Northern Mirkwood, and is a rather nice painting, considering Tolkien was not the greatest of all artists.

Other minor changes include a ''Reactions'' thingy, added to all posts. I had wanted to include more reactions, such as ''incomprehensible,'' or ''funny'' but Blogger would have none of it. As a result, I have only used two. The first is derived from reported meetings between Tolkien and C.S Lewis, in which Tolkien would read Lewis some of his manuscripts, to which Lewis would (if he approved) wave his pipe and pace up and down crying ''distinguo, Tollers, distinguo!'' The other is pretty straightforward. The other changes (I can't remember them all, and it was 4:00am in the morning when I made them) include changing ''Favourite Blogs'' to ''Blogroll'' since many of the blogs in my Blogroll are not, in fact, my ''favourite'' blogs. Some are there because I find them especially interesting, others because they are amusing, some out of politeness (since the authors have added me to their blogrolls), some because I find it easier to just have a quick link to a blog without typing in the URL. As you probably know, I don't link to some blogs because I don't like the bloggers. Apropos, I have also done away with some blogs - only because I have realised that it is months since I last looked at them.

I hope you find this blog a tad more interesting because of the changes. I might make some more in the next few days, provided that I am spared for a time the rigours of scrupulous research (by that I mean leisurely sitting in the Library with a Lewis & Short and going through St Bede!)...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A lovely photo...


I found this photo of the then Cardinal Ratzinger in Google Images a while ago. Isn't it very human? Pope Benedict is probably one of my favourite Popes; he is a theologian, an intellectual, a philosopher, a Latinist, a most accomplished man, a man with a clearer grasp of Liturgy than most of his 20th century predecessors; this photo also manifests his humanity, and good taste. He reminds me of J.R.R Tolkien in a way; and what greater compliment can Patricius render unto any man?

Many years to the Holy Father!

Anathema sint, Part II...


The other day, I wrote about a group of old fools styling themselves ''Stand up for Vatican II'' - well, on Monday afternoon (when I should have been doing Bede!), I spent a good hour composing some Latin canons against them. I am not quite finished yet, but here is what I have done so far:

I. Contra eos qui pacem concordiamque Sanctae Ecclesiae occidere moliuntur.

II. Contra eos qui in duas ecclesias Ecclesiam scindere audent.

III. Contra eos qui Latinam Liturgiam, id est Liturgia sanctorum patrum, oderunt.

IV. Contra eos qui conscientias eas potius quam doctrinas Ecclesiae (qui errare non possunt) stulte sequuntur.

V. Contra senes qui de Spiritu Sancto spirenti et fenestris aperientibus insaniendo delirant.

Itaque, ignorantia Sancti Concilii Vaticani et Sanctarum Scriptuarum et Traditionis Ecclesiae Occidentalis eos haereticos fecerit; nimis imperiti veritatis ostenduntur; lupi sunt, et lupi esse videntur. De istis locutus est a rege: ''noluit intelligere, ut bene ageret; iniquitatem meditatus est in cubili suo'' (Ps. 36:4).

More soon...nunc enim hora est studiorum plenissima, et nos iuvenes, ex feriis in collegium reditus, maledictionem primi parentis sentimus, in sudore vultus etc!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Hell...

I so wish that I had read the Lay of Leithian before the abridged narrative in The Silmarillion. I am sure those readers of this blog who read these posts have already read The Silmarillion, and therefore know already what happens. I think this is a shame, for the prose has not the aesthetic and gripping power of verse, and in my opinion, ergo, falls short of Tolkien. Apropos, instead of giving the boring narrative, I post here some staves of Canto XIII of the Lay.

Into the vast and echoeing gloom,
more dread than many tunnelled tomb
in labyrinthine pyramid
where everlasting death is hid,
down awful corridors that wind
down to a menace dark enshrined;
down to the mountain's roots profound,
devoured, tormented, bored and ground
by seething vermin spawned of stone;
down to the depths they went alone.
The arch behind of twilit shade
they saw recede and dwindling fade;
the thunderous forges' rumour grew,
a burning wind there roaring blew
foul vapours up from gaping holes.
Huge shapes there stood like carven trolls
enormous hewn of blasted rock
to forms that mortal likeness mock;
monstrous and menacing, entombed,
at every turn they silent loomed
in fitful glares that leaped and died.
There hammers clanged, and tongues there cried
with sound like smitten stone; there wailed
faint from far under, called and failed
amid the iron clink of chain
voices of captives put to pain.
Loud rose a din of laughter hoarse,
self-loathing yet without remorse;
loud came a singing harsh and fierce
like swords of terror souls to pierce.
Red was the glare through open doors
of firelight mirrored on brazen floors,
and up the arches towering clomb
to glooms unguessed, to vaulted dome
swatched in wavering smokes and steams
stabbed with flickering lightning-gleams.
To Morgoth's hall, where dreadful feast
he held, and drank the blood of beast
and lives of Men, they stumbling came:
their eyes were dazed with smoke and flame.
The pillars, reared like monstrous shores
to bear earth's overwhelming floors,
were devil-carven, shaped with skill
such as unholy dreams doth fill:
they towered like trees into the air,
whose trunks are rooted in despair,
whose shade is death, whose fruit is bane,
whose boughs like serpents writhe in pain.
Beneath them ranged with spear and sword
stood Morgoth's sable-armoured horde:
the fire on blade and boss of shield
was red as blood on stricken field.
Beneath a monstrous column loomed
the throne of Morgoth, and the doomed
and dying gasped upon the floor:
his hideous footstool, rape of war.
About him sat his awful thanes,
the Balrog-lords with fiery manes,
redhanded, mouthed with fangs of steel;
devouring wolves were crouched at heel.
And o'er the host of hell there shone
with cold radiance, clear and wan,
the Silmarils, the gems of fate,
emprisoned in the crown of hate.
(The Lay of Leithian, Canto XIII, lines 3840-3903).

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Anathema sint...

I have just read on Mulier Fortis of a group styling itself ''Stand Up for Vatican II.'' Look at their website for a good laugh - there's nothing more pathetic than a geriatric telling me about how to ''move with the times.''

I enjoy reading the Canons of Ecumenical Councils. I thought about composing some of my own, such as ''if anyone despises the Old Rite, let him be anathema...'' or a few like that, but I suppose at the risk of being labelled a fanatic, I'll just leave it...I expect that charity and prayers on behalf of these sick people might cover a multitude of sins, and Lord knows, they may get well...

They come at last to the Gate...


Let us return now to the Lay of Leithian. Beren rode north to the Pass of Sirion, and coming to the foothills of Taur-nu-Fuin, he looked out across Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust, and saw afar the reeking peaks of Thangorodrim, the mountains of Hell. There he dismissed the horse of Curufin, bidding it run free in the green vales of Sirion, and being now alone on the threshold of Death he made the Song of Parting in praise of Lúthien and the lights of heaven. He sang aloud, caring not that he should be heard, for he looked for no escape.

But Lúthien heard that song from afar and coming with Huan she met with Beren again between the waste and the wood. Huan had long pondered in his heart the best counsel for the succour of these twain, for he loved them, and so consenting to the prayer of Lúthien, he went again to Sauron's Isle and took there the hame of Draugluin and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil, a messenger apt to fly in vampire form to and from Angband. And so, clad in these forms by the arts of Lúthien (she in the form of Thuringwethil, he in the form of Draugluin), they went north over the sands to Angband until at last they came to the drear dale which led to the gates of Angband. Black chasms opened beside the road, out of which forms as of writhing serpents issued, and on either cliff there rose tall battlements upon which carrion birds cried with hideous voices. Before them was the Gate itself, a tall and wide arch at the foot of the mountains.

But they were stopped at the Gate by Carcharoth, the great Wolf, who seeing them come from afar was filled with doubt, for rumour had long gone forth from the south that Draugluin was dead; and so he stayed them and sniffed them suspiciously. Then Lúthien, casting aside her foul raiment, stood forth bright beneath the mountain, and lifting her hand she cursed the Wolf, saying: ''O woe-begotten spirit, fall now into dark oblivion, and forget for a while the dreadful doom of life.'' And thus they won the passage of the Gate...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Chalcedon and problems with translation...


When I was studying Church History (it was quite extraordinary actually, we had one two-hour long lecture on the entire Counter-Reformation period!), we looked at the Christological controversies surrounding the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, A.D 451. I found this fascinating, and I took it upon myself to further my knowledge of this period in the history of orthodoxy. My tutor showed me an old Latin and Greek edition of St Leo's famous Tome to Flavian, and he suggested that when my Latin were sufficient, I might like to read it myself. That was over 2 years ago now, and in August of last year, I took it upon myself to translate the Tome (don't get me wrong, my Latin is still far from perfect!). I blogged about some very fine verses from it in the Summer.

At the beginning of last year, I ordered the complete Acts of the Council of Chalcedon in three volumes, translated and arranged by Dr Richard Price (probably the most intelligent man I have ever spoken to, and an expert in early Church History) and Michael Gaddis. It is noteworthy that this is the first complete translation of the Acts into any modern Western language, which themselves are perhaps the longest surviving text from the ancient world. They are very revealing of the Imperial politics of the time and the loyalties and concerns of the Bishops. One thing I find interesting is the honorifics; ''that most blessed and apostolic man, Leo,'' ''the most devout presbyter,'' ''the most God-beloved'' so-and-so etc. It seems, however, that these honorifics no more express admiration than when English Members of Parliament refer to eachother as ''the right honorable Gentleman'' - the Preface citing at least one incidence: ''The most devout Anastasius, having neither the fear of God before his eyes nor respect for the laws of your piety...''

Anyway, famously, at Session II of the Council, the Tome of Leo, Archbishop of ''Senior Rome,'' was read out by Veronicianus, ''the hallowed secretary of the divine consistory.'' Dr Price has for his edition of The Acts translated not the Latin original, but the Greek version, since this was the version read at the Council at this point and because Latin translations are ''region.'' According to the Acts, the Greek translation of the Tome is faithful but not slavish - Eduard Schwartz being so impressed by its quality that he surmised that it was produced at Constantinople under the aegis of the empress Pulcharia. Anyway, the point of this long-winded post is that last night I read the English translation of the Greek text alongside the Latin original in Volume II of the Acts. Even in English translation the text is very melodious, and St Leo was a master of Latin.

That small section of the Tome which I translated last year included this sentence: Similis est rudimentis hominum quem Herodes impie molitur occidere; sed Dominus est omnium quem Magi gaudent suppliciter adorare. Now, I translate this as: ''He is like the beginning of Men whom Herod strives impiously to kill; but he is the Lord of all whom the Magi rejoice humbly to adore.'' I cannot find an online Greek version (even if I could read it anyway!) but Dr Price has translated this sentence as saying: ''He whom Herod impiously plots to kill is like human beings newly born, but it is the master of the universe whom the Magi rejoice to worship with supplication.'' I remember that I had difficulty translating rudimentis, because on the surface the word means ''beginning;'' but the sense in which the Greek/English version reads, it appears to mean something more like ''innocence;'' ''newly born'' as Dr Price renders it. I wish that I had spotted that, but I guess that this just shows the importance in reading the works of others in works of translation - this is not cheating. Dr Price checked Russian and French translations of the Tome I believe...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Kneeling and Genuflexion in liturgical prayer...


In the Western Church, the most common posture of prayer (whether private or at Mass) is to kneel (or even to sit!). However, the correct posture of liturgical prayer is to stand (stare - like ''stabat Mater dolorosa, iuxta Crucem lacrimosa...'' the sorrowful Mother stood, near the Cross weeping...although my mother's beautiful alabaster Calvary Crucifix, brought from Corfu in 1993, depicts the Blessed Virgin, who curiously unlike her companions St John the Beloved and St Mary Magdalen, is depicted without halo, kneeling); and both the Scriptures and the early Ecumenical Councils of the Church assume this to be the universal praxis - see for example St Mark 11:25: ''And when you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have aught against any man'' etc; the Council of Nicaea 325 even forbids kneeling of any kind on Sundays - the day of the Lord's Resurrection (standing being, as it were, in imitation and memory of the Resurrection). The Scriptures and decisions of the General Councils being binding on all Christians, I wonder that they are so little heeded in this respect in the West.

This is not to say that I am against kneeling in liturgical prayer, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, for I am afterall a Western Christian. I have cited above a passage from the Gospels which assumes that standing is proper, but one could also easily cite other passages where kneeling is more proper, ''procidentes adoraverunt eum'' (in the Gospel for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, St Matthew 2:11) for instance, or ''Peter, kneeling down, prayed...'' (Acts 9:40) The custom of kneeling arose in the West especially in respect of a development in understanding about the Eucharist. Kneeling in liturgical prayer is also especially pertinent on penitential and mourning days (such as the Vigils of Feasts, Fasting days and Requiems - the choir on these days kneel for the Collects and the Canon), which I suppose derives from the ancient Jewish praxis of kneeling when the supplicant was desirous of some grace urgently (such as Solomon ''kneeling down in the presence of all the multitude of Israel, and lifting up his hands towards Heaven'' (2 Chronicles 6:13)).

But standing, not kneeling, is assumed even by the Western liturgical books to be the correct posture adopted by the priest as Celebrant of Mass and Vespers, his Ministers and the circumstantes (I translate this as ''those standing near or by'' - the Master of Ceremonies and his Servers in other words). When, at Mass, the Celebrant and Ministers are directed to the Sedilia by the Master of Ceremonies during such times as the chanting of the Gloria and Credo, the reason they sit is, I presume, because they have no liturgical function (I believe I read that in Fortescue's The Mass, but I can't presently find the reference). The Celebrant cannot begin the Collect(s) while the choir are still singing! I suppose sitting in this respect makes things look neater and more convenient but I would rather that nobody sat at all during a liturgical function (you will notice that the Clementine Instruction for the Forty Hours Prayer admonishes that there ought to be no sitting if at all possible - and no preaching!). If I had my way, every pew in a church would be done away with, and churches would, where seemly and appropriate, adopt the Eastern practice of having those arm rests along the walls like choir stalls (they have a peculiar name but I cannot remember it, even if I knew it once). This post has been interesting to think about, but badly written, and I am rather reminded of Gandalf's admonition to Wormtongue: ''The wise speak only of what they know Gríma son of Gálmód.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book III, Chapter VI, The King of the Golden Hall).

Any comments would be welcome...