Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Maxima Redemptionis...

For those of you who are interested, the text of the General Decree of the S.R.C (a nasty wretched little oligarchy, staffed with idiots), Maxima Redemptionis, of November 1955, can be read on the new, highly useful, section of the Vatican official website, Acta Apostolicae Sedis. It can be found on pp. 838-847. The text is in Latin.

I post this now since after this I really will be away! Having failed my Lenten fast and other penances miserably, I shall endeavour with God's Grace to make up for this for the Sacred Triduum. I shall try to get to as much Liturgy as I am able, but one or two inconvenient things will prevent this. Maundy Thursday I shall be at the Russian Cathedral for Hours and Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil. Unfortunately I cannot attend Mattins of the Passion (complete with twelve Gospel pericopes) since I shall be elsewhere in the afternoon. On Good Friday morning I shall be among the Greeks at Moscow Road for Hours and Vespers of the Un-nailing. If I have time, I shall pay a visit to the Armenians at Kensington for the solemn Burial of the Cross. Then elsewhere for the rest of Good Friday. Holy Saturday morning I shall again be among the Russians for Hours and Vesperal Liturgy (with fifteen Prophecies) and then in the evening I shall return home (that is, Westwards) for the Paschal Vigil. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend Pontifical Mattins and Lauds of the Resurrection, as I greatly desired, this year, owing to yet more unfortunate circumstances.

In the meantime, I am off to Tenebrae. Unfortunately the Psalms for Lauds will be incorrect, but you can thank Pius X for that...
I wish all readers a blessed Triduum and every blessing for the Paschal season. Dominus det vobis suam pacem in osculo amoris; habete, me, precor, in orationibus vestris in hoc tempore, quia misericordia Iesu indigeo, et familiam meam. Laus sit Domino nostro Crucifixo, qui de Cruce regnat. Valete.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Which is more catholic?

I have added this blog to my Blogroll: Ex Fide, the blog of an ''enthusiastic'' Anglo-Catholic. I was alerted to their liturgically exquisite Palm Sunday Liturgy by both Fr Hunwicke and Rubricarius. Do also have a look at the preview of their Black Folded Chasubles. I can't say I approve much of Anglicans, and I find Anglo-Catholics very strange indeed (Tolkien couldn't stand them), but I feel compelled to ask: which is more ''catholic'' - a parish church in schism with the liturgical history and traditions of its See (i.e; almost every Catholic parish church in the world), or a parish church legally in schism with Rome, but with more liturgical sense than Rome? This is not so complex a question as you might think. All you need to do is get ideas of ''validity'' and externals out of your head. Since, according to the lex orandi, ceremony and liturgy are the factors that determine what one believes, ceremonial, passed down by an unbroken and living Tradition, certainly uninterrupted by liturgists and popes, surely the Anglo-Catholics at St Magnus the Martyr are more catholic than most who profess to be Catholics? To quietly go on accepting novelty, to me, indicates a fundamental flaw in one's acceptance of Truth and Liturgy, and is also indicative of a rather slovenly approach to Liturgy (and therefore God). To cut a long story short, it means you accept violence against Liturgy as acceptable, and indeed praiseworthy, because Rome says so...would that traditional priests in the '50s and '60s, not bowed down by Ultramontanism, had said: ''I don't care what Rome said, I am observing the Octave.'' What does St Thomas Aquinas say about obedience to one's superiors again? In all things but sin?

Perhaps the Lord vouchsafes to send the Holy Ghost down upon the Altars of those legally in schism with Rome, and ignores those pseudo-Catholics who obliquely recite the Nicene Creed at New Rite services (I cannot bring myself to call it liturgy, it's so far removed from that), not believing a single word of it, every Sunday, use ''Eucharistic Prayer III'' and enjoy shaking eachothers' hands? I would have no qualms at all about attending St Magnus the Martyr over such a church - at least St Magnus has Liturgy. In all honesty, I wonder whether Anglo-Catholics are all that interested in Anglicanorum Coetibus. I am sure they look around Rome and see all the similar signs as they see in their own schismatic church, liberals here, modernists there, plus a host of vegetarians, homosexuals, climate-change fanatics, women-getting-above-themselves etc. All this, plus Traditionalism, is because of the collapse of Traditional Liturgy. For this very reason Anglicanorum Coetibus might end up being another has-been, a fruitless effort by Rome to pick the pieces up after the damages wrought by Low Mass, Ultramontanism and Bugninis...but one can hope still.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Two Tolkien snippets...on '62...

While Tolkien's (published) works contain few references to the Liturgy, there are a few gems if you look closely. I have already posted some of these; these latest are simply applicable. Rubricarius of The St Lawrence Press has, in his post for Palm Sunday, written a rightfully scathing, and honest, comparison between the Old Rite and the Extraordinary Form of the New Rite. Read it here. For the Tridentine praxis, which is ceremonially identical, see here. It's even worse than the usual story of omissions here, alterations there; practically the whole ceremony has been mutilated.

Reading about Palm Sunday rather put me in mind of a passage from The Lord of the Rings (which I have not read yet this year, no wonder I feel like I'm forgetting things). See if you can see where I'm coming from:

''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.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter II).

This next passage comes from The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, oddly enough, from the late 1950s. On 8th April 1958, Tolkien had written to Rayner Unwin, his publisher, about negotiations of the proposed film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's criticism is highly pertinent if you would like an idea of what he'd think of the Peter Jackson trilogy. He complains that ''Morton Grady Zimmerman'' [...I know...], the man who composed the synopsis and ''story-line'' (a term Tolkien didn't seem to understand) had not in fact read The Lord of the Rings and had composed a bad synopsis based upon confused memories, with few references to the original story, and with constant mistakes (getting names wrong - or even misplacing them: Radagast becomes an Eagle, for instance. I wonder if Mr Jackson suffered this slovenly malady when he was making his film trilogy, now almost a decade old? In one of the completely made-up scenes from The Two Towers, you see a village of Rohan being attacked by Orcs, or Wild-men from Dunland (I forget - it's probably Orcs since Jackson sometimes conveniently forgets the existence of evil Men), and a mother admonishing her son and daughter to ride to the king's courts at Edoras. The horse's name appears to be Gárulf, which is rather a strange name for an horse (it is Anglo-Saxon for ''spear-wolf''), and in the Book was a man of Éomer's éored, who was sent to intercept the company of Saruman's Orcs returning to Isengard...very strange). Anyway, in the next letter in this series of The Letters, Tolkien writes to Forrest J. Ackerman (the film company rep) and goes through Zimmerman's story-line bit by bit. Unfortunately, only a portion of the original survives into The Letters (I'd love to see the original), but even this is very interesting (and amusing - in the previous letter, Tolkien had promised to be reticent - if this is reticence, then I'm a Dwarf!).

The conclusion of this letter is most delightful. See what you think:

''Part totally unacceptable to me, as a whole and in detail. If it is meant as notes only for a section of something like the pictorial length of I and II, then in the filling out it must be brought into relation with the book, and its gross alterations of that corrected. If it is meant to represent only a kind of short finale, then all I can say is: The Lord of the Rings cannot be garbled like that.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no 210).

Post omission...

I was counselled earlier to delete a comment I wrote following a post on Traditionalists. I am not sure how Blogger does that so I have deleted the whole post instead. I doubt I shall post anything for the duration of Holy Week. I am ''going East'' for much of Holy Week (what does that say about the modern Catholic Church, when one is obliged to attend a schismatic church for more appropriate Liturgy? Don't let's worry though; Modernists and pseudo-traddies will one day smell the brimstone), and for much of it I shall be too tired to post anything anyway.

I shall return, Lord willing, on Easter Sunday...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Narn i Chîn Húrin, the Intro...

We come now to the longest of the great Lays about the Elder Days, the Narn i Chîn Húrin, or The Tale of the Children of Húrin. Incidentally, ''chîn'' is pronounced ''k-heen;'' you'll find in Unfinished Tales (the book from which I first read the tale in prose) the rather curious spelling ''Hîn'' - this was an editorial decision of Christopher Tolkien, which he later regretted, to prevent people from pronouncing the word like the modern English ''chin.'' I am not going to blog from The Silmarillion but rather from the recently published (well, if you count 2007 as recent) The Children of Húrin, which is far more detailed and coherent. When I brought this book, in the hardback first edition (with beautiful illustrations by Alan Lee), I was amazed that Tolkien was still being published in my lifetime (the 12 Volume The History of Middle-earth series was published by Christopher Tolkien from 1984-1996, but I was too young to remember those - or even if I could remember them, too young at any rate to appreciate them - they are very scholarly)!

First, I think we should establish some dates, something I have neglected too much in my hopelessly long synopsis of these days. The Narn is essentially the story of Túrin Turambar and his sister Nienor, the children of Húrin and Morwen. According to the Grey Annals Túrin was born ''in the winter of the year'', ''with omens of sorrow;'' that is, the 464th year after the first rising of the Sun, nine years after Morgoth broke the Siege of Angband in the Dagor Bragollach. The Nirnaeth Arnoediad took place in the spring of the 472nd year, when Túrin was 8 years old...I expect this sets the scene so far, if I think any more dates are required, I'll insert them in somewhere.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Even more Traddies...

More questions about Catholic ''traditionalism''...Traddies are fond of Pope Benedict XVI (as am I, I think he is a very pious and erudite man), but are they not overly fond of him? They go on and on about Summorum Pontificum, even dubbing it the Motu Proprio (as if it were the only one in Church history!), and celebrate the '62 Rite merrily ''because the Pope says so''...maybe I am being rather fickle in thinking that since when did you need the Pope's permission to celebrate Mass? Personally, I am not in favour of Summorum Pontificum. Not only does it say nothing about the Old Rite (the Holy Father does go through a succession of Popes, beginning with Gregory the Great, and he mentions the Missal of Pius V in passing, but it's all about '62), but it also espouses a kind of pseudo, hitherto unfounded in the Latin West, ''theology'' of Liturgy, manifested in the distinction the Holy Father makes between the so-called forma extraordinaria and forma ordinaria of the Roman Rite. There should be no such distinction. The New Rite should not be the ''Ordinary form'' of the Church's lex orandi; it should not exist at all; it is in fact the bane of my life. I am afraid that I must re-echo the sentiments of Andrew Cameron-Mowat (Professor of Liturgy at Heythrop College): that there can be only one Roman Rite in the Catholic Church - the different ''expressions'' of this one Roman Rite being determined by legitimate local (national, diocesan, even parochial) custom. Where I disagree with him is that this one Roman Rite should be the Old Roman Rite, as it has been celebrated and honoured in the West since the most ancient days. This alone should be reason enough to celebrate the Old Rite. Summorum Pontificum is just another example of Papal interference in Liturgy.

This is not to say that I completely repudiate Summorum Pontificum, like so many liberal vegetarian homosexual teetotalers. I think there is only one benefit to Summorum Pontificum, and this is far over-shadowed by it's downsides: it has (''legitimately'' at any rate, not that Canon Law has much to do with Liturgy) freed the Old Mass, and does limit the power of liberal episcopal interference, but even this is barbed because this ''benefit'' is stimulated by an already false notion of Papal authority over Liturgy. What Summorum Pontificum has in fact done is relativised the Liturgy, made Liturgy subjective to preference, this preference being legitimised by the Pope himself! In pre-Summorum Pontificum days (which I remember well, unlike most modern Traddies - I was attending the Old Rite long before Summorum Pontificum), in the days when most Traditionalists were traditional, you went to the Old Rite and that was it - some with strong stomachs went to the New Rite on Sundays, but I had nothing to do with it. These days, in the days of the ''Extraordinary Form'', Catholics ''prefer'' (instead of repudiate) one ''expression'' of the lex orandi to the other. My attitude towards the New Rite was stupidly called ''wrong'' by a Traddie simply because I said that the New Rite was made-up liturgy. However, surely even to ''prefer'' one ''expression'' to the other means that you at least subconsciously think that there is something wrong with one?

I am being rushed off the family computer now so this post is going to end miserably since my thought has been disrupted. I hope I have demonstrated (baldly, I'll admit) the dangers of Ultramontanism and Liturgy. It is a great monster don't you know. As Faramir said of Minas Tirith: the Church is not a mistress of slaves, even a kind mistress of willing slaves. Apropos, Summorum Pontificum is inherently flawed, and you won't find this sort of post on the blog of any Traditionalist...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The realm of Sauron is ended!

Happy Feast day all. The 25th March is a very significant day, not only in the infinite dimensions of our Redemption, but also for Tolkien. It is also believed (by some, I don't know enough to comment) to be the actual date of Our Lord's Crucifixion. You may remember that 25th March was the day on which the One Ring was destroyed; you may also remember that the day on which the Fellowship set out from Rivendell was 25th December. Presumptuous though it may seem for one so blackened by sin to comment upon the Incarnation, I venture to say that I am eternally grateful to God. I'm sorry I couldn't come up with some fantastic and insightful post today, but I am just an instrument. What I would recommend, though, is reading Stratford Caldecott's chapter A very great story, The Lord of the Rings, in his book Secret Fire. He compares the heroic virtues of Frodo (showed forth in weakness and humility rather than the more conventional heroes of legend) to Christ in many more ways than I could have imagined. This quote from The Field of Cormallen will have to suffice:

'''Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.'

''And when Sam heard that he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: 'O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!' And then he wept.

''And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.'' (The Lord of the Rings, Book VI, Chapter IV, The Field of Cormallen).

Art: Ted Nasmith. It depicts the end of Sauron's realm and his great shadow, rising up in towers of gloom, terrifying but impotent. Upon Gandalf, however, no shadow fell.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More ''traddies''...

A question...does liturgical complacency, that is, willingness to stupidly accept novelty alongside tradition as two things that can co-exist in a comfortable relativistic fudge (in other words, any difference there might be between Old and New Rite doesn't matter, since they are ''two forms of the same Roman Rite'' - this includes '62 of course) entail a moral or an intellectual suicide, or both?

This constitutes my first objection to ''Catholic Traditionalism'' - other such questions will follow soon...

The aftermath of the Battle...

Great was the triumph of Morgoth, and his victory was achieved in a manner after his own heart; for Men took the lives of Men, and betrayed the Eldar, and fear and hatred were aroused among those who should have been united against him. In those days, the hearts of the Elves were estranged from Men, save those of the Three Houses.

The kingdom of Fingon was no more, and the Sons of Fëanor, bereft of their power of old, wandered as waifs of the wood and mingled with the lesser silvan Elves. In Brethil, few of the people of Haleth dwelt yet in the protection of the woods, and Handir was their lord; but to Hithlum came back none of Fingon's host, nor any Man of Hador's House, but Morgoth sent hither the vile Easterlings, denying them the rich lands of Beleriand which they desired, and he shut them in the cold lands, and forbade them to ever leave it. Such was their reward for their service to Morgoth. The remnant of the Eldar of Hithlum, save some few who hid themselves, were taken to Angband and were there enthralled, although some escaped the mines and wandered hopelessly in the wild.

The Orcs and wolves went throughout all the North freely, even as far as Nan Tathren, and none were safe in field or wild. Doriath, secure by the Girdle of enchantment set there by Melian almost five hundred years before, of course remained, as did Nargothrond, but Morgoth troubled not about them, either knowing little of them or because their time had not yet come within the dark designs of his mind. Many fled Beleriand in those days, some to dwell with Círdan's people at the Havens, some fled eastwards beyond the Blue Mountains into Eriador. But in the following year, Morgoth sent great strength over Hithlum and Nevrast, and coming down the rivers Brithon and Nenning, they ravaged all the shoreland regions and besieged the walls of Brithombar and Eglarest. Smiths, miners and masters of fire they brought with them, and valiantly though their onslaught was stayed, in the end they broke the walls down and destroyed the Havens, and most of Círdan's people were enslaved or slain. Some went aboard ship and escaped by sea, and among them were Ereinion Gil-galad, son of Fingon, and this remnant sailed with Círdan to the Isle of Balar, and there they made a refuge for all that could come, keeping still a well-hidden foothold among the reeds of Sirion's mouth.

When Turgon, High King of the Gnomes, heard of these things he sent messengers to the Mouths of Sirion who besought the aid of Círdan the Shipwright. At the bidding of Turgon Círdan built seven ships, and they sailed into the West to beg the clemency of the Valar upon the sorrows of the Elves, but they came never back, save one. The mariners of this ship toiled long in the sea, and despairing turned back, and at last they foundered in a great storm within sight of the shores of Beleriand, but one was saved by Ulmo, who cast him ashore at Nevrast. His name was Voronwë.

By the command of Morgoth the Orcs with great labour piled all the bodies of the slain with their weapons and livery in Anfauglith into a great mound, and it was like a hill seen from afar. Haudh-en-Ndengin it was named by the Elves, the Hill of the Slain, and grass came to grow there after a while, alone in all the dust of that plain, and thereafter no creature of Morgoth dared to tread there, where the swords of the Eldar and the Edain crumbled into rust.

Art: Ted Nasmith. It depicts Rían, the wife of Huor (who was slain with a poisoned arrow in the eye in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad), standing before the Hill of the Slain.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Fr Hunwicke, the Anglican clergyman from Oxford, has once again spoken with more sense than many who are accounted ''traditional'' in the Catholic blogosphere. See here for his succinct post on the Apostolic visitations and the Papacy. He is very right about the Papacy you know. While I uphold the dignity of local churches over nasty little oligarchies (S.R.Cs and Consiliums) and tyrants (bad Popes), Fr Hunwicke rightly says that these Apostolic visitations are exactly what are needed because this is what the Papacy is for - to strengthen and encourage the brethren, to discipline those who are clearly at fault, to depose, to excommunicate etc. We often forget St Paul's connexion to the Papacy, but I fail to see why; whenever a Feast of St Peter is celebrated, there are Prayers also to God through St Paul...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

A tragedy...

I was speaking to a friend of mine recently about the tragedy of practicing Catholics coming from a secular family. When they die, and they have not specifically indicated their funeral arrangements in a will or however those things work, naturally the funeral arrangements are left to the secular family, who may have a deep-seated contempt for the Faith, or who may simply (and this is most likely to be the case) not know the first thing about Catholic funerals. What follows will depend upon how much or little they know, the discretion and prudence of the priest (if there is one - the secular, and therefore stupid, family may not even organise a Requiem Mass) and other circumstances. My grandfather had this problem when he died in 2001. My grandfather, a man who took pride in the fact that he had not missed a single Sunday Mass in his life, was sent to his long home to the sound of All Things Bright and Beautiful. I have seen far worse than this at a funeral, but I came away afterwards (I was 13 at the time, and then knew merely the rudiments of Liturgy) feeling very sour for my grandfather. He was also cremated, specifically against his wishes.

Why do I get the feeling that when I die (which could well be tomorrow, or later today, to be grim) this is exactly what will happen to me? Yea more...mine is the sort of family that, knowing my liturgical orthodoxy, would (out of sheer spite) just go to any Modernist priest and have a New Rite requiem with 1970s hymns gallore, and a sort of ''prayer service'' at the crematorium afterwards...that is if they do this much for me. It is necessary to think how far hatred can go...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Nirnaeth Arnoediad...

On the appointed day of the battle, on the morning of Midsummer, the trumpets of the Eldar greeted the rising of the Sun, and eastwards was raised the standard of Fëanor; westwards the standard of Fingon, High King of the Gnomes. Fingon looked out from the walls of Eithel Sirion. His hosts were arrayed in the valleys and the woods upon the slopes of Ered Wethrin, concealed from the roving eye of Morgoth, and the host was very great for all the people of Hithlum were there assembled, as well as Elves from the Falas and Gwindor's company from Nargothrond, as well as a host of Men under the lordship of Húrin, and of Huor his brother, and to them were gathered also the Men of Brethil. And Fingon looked towards Thangorodim, and from those reeking towers there went up a black smoke, and he knew then that the wrath of Morgoth was aroused and their challenge accepted.

But doubt then pierced Fingon's heart, and he looked across Anfauglith, thinking so as to see the hosts of Maedhros. But he saw him not. He knew not that Maedhros was hindered by the treachery of Uldor, who deceived him with false warnings of assault from Angband.

But then a cry went up, and the hearts of Elves and Men were lifted in joy. For unsummoned and unlooked for Turgon, the Hidden King, had opened the leaguer of Gondolin and had come with a host ten thousands strong. And when Fingon beheld his brother, all doubt left him and he cried aloud: Utúlie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie'n auré! (The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!) And all those to whom that cry came answered: Auta i lómë! (The night is passing!).

But Morgoth, who knew much of the hidden counsels of the Gnomes, chose his hour to a nicety, and trusting to the treachery of the Easterlings, he sent a host seeming great (although only a tithe of his real might) towards Hithlum, showing no naked steel that their coming would not be marked until they were far afield. When they were seen, the hearts of the Gnomes grew hot, and many desired to assail the host, but Húrin spoke against this, bidding them ware the wiles of Morgoth, whose strength and purpose were always other than they seemed. But the signal of Maedhros came not, and many grew afraid and impatient, but still Húrin bade them wait, and to let the Orcs break in assault upon the hills.

But the Captain of Morgoth in the west had been commanded to draw out the hosts of Fingon at whatever cost, and so he marched his host to the edge of Sirion's stream, to the walls of Eithel Sirion and the outposts of Fingon could see the eyes of their enemies. But the taunting of the Orcs availed not to draw them out. And so the captain sent out riders with tokens of parley, bringing Gelmir son of Guilin with them (he was a lord of Nargothrond captured in the Dagor Bragollach and enslaved in Angband), and he had been blinded. The heralds showed him forth, crying: ''We have many more such at home, but you must make haste if you would find them; for we shall deal with them all when we return even so.'' And they hewed off Gelmir's hands and feet, and his head last, and left him.

By ill chance, Gwindor the brother of Gelmir saw this and now his wrath was kindled to madness, and he leapt upon horseback, and many riders with him, and they pursued the heralds and slew them and then drove on into the main host. And seeing this the Gnomes were set on fire and all leapt from the hills in sudden onslaught. So swift was this onslaught that almost the designs of Morgoth went astray, and before the host he had sent westward could be strengthened, it was destroyed, and the Gnomes passed even within the threshold of Angband and slew the guards, and Morgoth, hearing them beat upon his doors, trembled upon his deep throne. But the Gnomes were trapped there, and all were slain (save Gwindor, whom they took captive), and Fingon could not come to their aid. And then, by many secret doors from Angband, Morgoth sent forth his main host, and Fingon was driven back across Anfauglith with great loss.

And so on the fourth day of the battle was begun Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears. The host of Fingon was driven back over the sands, and Haldir, Lord of Brethil, was slain in the rearguard, and all his men about him. The Orcs surrounded the hosts of Hithlum and they fought all through the night. In the morning came hope, for Turgon was come with his host. The phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks of the Orcs, and Turgon came to Fingon his brother and Húrin Thalion, and in that hour the trumpets of Maedhros were heard in the east, and the Orcs wavered and some were already turning to flight. But even as Maedhros came, and the Orcs fled the field, Morgoth sent forth all his strength and Angband was emptied. There came wolves and wolf-riders, and there came then Balrogs and dragons and Glaurung sire of dragons. The strength and terror of the Great Worm were then very great and Elves and Men withered before him. He came between the hosts of Fingon and Maedhros and divided them.

But Morgoth would not have won the day by the strength and terror of his demons alone, for in this hour the guile of the Easterlings was revealed. Many turned and fled, being filled with fear and lies, but some turned suddenly upon the hosts of Elves and Men and in the confusion that was wrought they came well-nigh to the standard of Maedhros. And in that hour new strength of the Easterlings came over the hills and assailed the hosts of Maedhros upon the east, who was now almost surrounded, and many fled. But fate saved the Sons of Fëanor, and gathering together the remnant of the Gnomes and Dwarves, they drove their way out of the battle and made east towards Mount Dolmed.

Last of all the eastern host to stand firm were the Dwarves of Belegost, for the Dwarves withstood fire and blast of sorcery more hardily than Men and Elves, moreover they wore great and hideous masks in battle. They made a circle about Glaurung and even his mighty armour was not full-proof against the blows of the axes of the Dwarves, and when in his rage Glaurung struck down Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last breath Azaghâl drove a knife into the belly of the Dragon, so wounding him that he fled the field, and in dismay the beasts of Angband followed. Then the Dwarves raised up the body of their lord and bore it away, chanting a dirge as they went, and none dared withstand them.

In the western battle Fingon and Turgon were beset by a host of foes thrice greater than their own and Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, was come. He drove a dark wedge between the Elvenhosts, surrounding Fingon and thrusting Turgon and Húrin aside towards the Fen of Serech. Then he turned upon Fingon. At last, Fingon stood alone against Gothmog, his guard dead about him, and Gothmog beat him down into the dust, and his banner, blue and silver, he trod into the mire of his blood.

The field was lost to the hosts of Morgoth, but still in the west Húrin and Huor his brother stood strong alongside Turgon, now High King of the Gnomes, and the hosts of Morgoth could not yet win the Pass of Sirion. And Húrin bade Turgon go back to Gondolin and there lie hid, for thereby Morgoth would still know fear, and Huor added this doom: ''This I say to you, lord, with the eyes of death: though we part here for ever, and I shall not look on your white walls again, from you and from me a new star shall arise. Farewell!'' Maeglin, Turgon's nephew, who was stood nearby, heard these words, and he did not forget them, but he said nothing. And so Turgon departed, gathering such remnants of his host as he could, and they returned to the mountains. But the Men of Dor-lómin would still not retreat, and the last stand of the Men of Dor-lómin redressed the treachery of Uldor.

The hosts of Morgoth swarmed against the Men of Dor-lómin, and Huor was slain with a venomed arrow in the eye. Last of all Húrin stood alone, and he cast aside his shield, and wielding a great axe he slew the troll-guard of Gothmog until the axe withered. Each time he slew an Orc he cried: Aurë entuluva! (Day shall come again!); seventy times he uttered that cry, but at last he was taken alive, for the Orcs grappled him, and their arms clung still to him though he hewed them off, until he was buried under them. Then Gothmog bound him and dragged him to Angband with mockery.

Thus ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad as the sun went down in the West. Night fell over the northern lands, and a great storm of wind came out of the West.

Art: Ted Nasmith. This painting depicts the battle of Fingon, High King of the Gnomes, with Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

More questions of liturgy...

Instead of having the New Rite, why don't priests just say the Old Rite in English? - that is, English of an Elizabethan/Cranmerian style, or if not, at least a style of English that is at least superficially removed from that of the pubs and the streets (Vulgar Latin was spoken in Roman brothels too)...slippery slope here though, vis-à-vis, the idea of a ''liturgical language'' - what would be the point of Latin if the Old Rite were in fact in the mother tongue? Well, for that matter, what would be the point of Liturgy if the language of the Rite, which is fundamentally a ''mystery'' (a kind of ''sacrament'' of its own right - not that I account Liturgy as an ''eighth'' sacrament, but it is the most important thing in the Church, the mediator of all Graces) were far removed from the ancestral, Sacramental, civilised tongue, the language of lore and culture? Does Latin ''adorn'' Liturgy and make it wonderful, or vice versa? Or does this question have any value in liturgical dialectic at all? Where does understanding in the literal sense come into Liturgy? Is ''understanding'', taken to mean in the Scholastic ideal, really for the Christian man?

I think I am being over-bold in my questions about Liturgy, and very candid! But we must remember that Liturgy should never be discussed lightly, lest we lower ourselves to the likes of Bugnini. Liturgy is a matter to be thought about kneeling, and with a Domine, non sum dignus in the minds of those who discuss it. I sometimes think that Liturgy was never meant to be discussed about, just done (as a pious work, in charity and inspired by the Holy Ghost) out of the love of Christ, according to the rhythm of the Church's Kalendar...not out of imposition or Sabbatarianism.

In one of his letters, J.R.R Tolkien complained of people saying ''my subject'' - that is, the subject that they adorn or make their own, project their ideas onto, and thereby make utterly obscene. I see self-styled ''liturgists'' in this context - people who do greater harm to the Church than good, in the vanity of their minds. Were I introduced to someone, and they said they were a liturgist, I think I would say: ''I don't have any idea what that means. Do you mean to say that you put the greatest treasure trove of the Church upon an operating table, cut it open, remove bits here, add bits there according to your whim, and do other acts of gross violence to the Church? Or do you mean to say that you make a living out of an equally spurious and reprehensible 'analysis' of Liturgy?'' There should be no such thing as a ''liturgist,'' nor other such unfortunate terms as ''liturgical theology'' etc. And as for ''trained'' liturgists!

Sancti Patricii...

Happy Feast day all! St Patrick (c.387/388-493) is of course my Patron saint. I was going to be Patrick anyway, so said my father, but it was just a coincidence that I was born on the eve of his feast day. I like the name Patrck, or Patricius (pronounced pat-rik-i-us). St Patricius was a Romano-British aristocrat (a civilised barbarian, and hence the name), who naturally spoke Latin, and was captured by Irish pirates sometime in his youth. He escaped to Gaul, where he was ordained Deacon, and received prophetic dreams about the conversion of the Irish. He was sent to convert the Irish by Pope Celestine I (famous for excommunicating the heretic Nestorius), where he had many disciples.

I believe that England owes much of the Apostolic faith to the Irish. Naturally when St Augustine and his followers came to these shores there were already small Christian communities dotted about the Isle, and St Columba, that great Saint who converted the Picts, came from Derry. Ireland used to be a very Catholic country (even today, if you have the opportunity to visit Ireland, you can still see some of the most beautiful churches; in the South there are many roadside shrines to Our Lady, although in the militant North, where my family are from, you will see little of this beyond road curbs being painted green white and gold and a good many murals!), although something went horribly wrong somewhere, and I never shared the Irish preference for Low Mass. St Patrick never celebrated Low Mass of course...although what sort of Liturgy did he celebrate?

I St Patrick to be accounted among of the Fathers of the Church? He is from the Patristic age, but I have never heard anyone refer to him (seriously that is, never mind about his Feast day) as one of the Fathers.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


On this day 22 years ago I became a ''child of wrath'' you may be interested to know, so congratulations to me for reaching 22 and not having gone completely mad! In recent years, I have thought about why we celebrate our birthdays in relation to the Sanctorale and an interesting discrepancy comes up. Liturgically, only the Nativities of Our Lady and St John the Baptist, who were immaculately conceived and sanctified before birth by the Holy Ghost respectively (unless I am completely dull and have neglected to mention another important saint - Our Lord's Nativity naturally goes without question), are celebrated. All other saints, even some of the greatest, are celebrated on the days of their going to their parting this life (or where this is impeded, some other significant date).

Incidentally, 1988, the year of my birth, saw two ''interesting'' things religiously. This was the year of the dread consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre, and also the year that Ian Paisley called the then Holy Father John Paul II the Antichrist to his face at the European Parliament! While going through periodicals in the Theology Library a while ago, I looked up March 1988 in The Tablet and found the date (19th March) nearest to my birthday. In that edition there was yet another attack on the then Cardinal Ratzinger, although I can't remember exactly what was said. I guess that this is nothing that I think about it, that pious man in Rome must have been almost universally despised for most of his life...

Anyway enough ramblings from me...

UPDATE: I forgot to mention; my Profile Photograph was taken this time last year by a friend of mine. In the background are the University's shrine to Our Lady and behind that the Theology Library, where I was wont to spend happy hours doing lots of reading but little work...

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Union of Maedhros...

It is told among the Eldar that Beren and Lúthien returned to the northern lands and dwelt together as living man and wife, and they went again into Doriath. Those that saw them were both glad and afraid, for Beren had returned as mortal Man from the Dead, but Lúthien healed the winter of Thingol's grief with the touch of her hand. But Melian, looking into her eyes, read the doom that had befallen her in the West and looked away, and never has there been such a grief of loss as befell Melian the Maia in that hour, for she knew then that a parting beyond the Circles of the World had come between them. And so, Beren and Lúthien went then alone to Tol Galen, the Green Isle in Ossiriand, and all tidings of them ceased. The Eldar named that land Dor Firn-i-Guinar, that is, The Land of the Dead that Live, and there was born Dior Eluchíl, the beautiful, and the heir of Thingol. Beren spoke no more with mortal Man, and none saw where the twain left the world, nor marked where their bodies lay.

In those days, Maedhros son of Fëanor, perceiving the wondrous deeds of Beren and Lúthien, lifted up his heart, for he saw that Morgoth was not unassailable. Yet he perceived also that Morgoth would smoke them all out one by one if they did not make common counsel and union, and so he began those plans for the raising of the fortunes of the Eldar which are called the Union of Maedhros. But the Oath of Fëanor and the evil deeds of that House wrought injury to his designs and he had less aid than should have been. Orodreth, lord of Nargothrond, would render no aid whatever to any Son of Fëanor (because of the deeds of Celegorm and Curufin), and for the most part the Gnomes of Nargothrond trusted still to maintain their domain by secrecy and hidden dart. However, Gwindor son of Guilin, remembering the Dagor Bragollach and the loss of his brother Gelmir, marched forth (against the will of Orodreth) beneath the banner of Fingon.

From Doriath came little aid, again because of the Oath. Maedhros had before sent messages to Thingol with haughty words reminding the woodland king of the Sons' claim to the Silmaril, summoning him to yield the holy jewel or become their enemy. Melian counselled the king to give it up, but Thingol, having become fast-bound to the Silmaril and mindful of the sufferings of Beren and Lúthien (and again because of the merciless deeds of Celegorm and Curufin). And so he sent messengers with scornful words to the Sons. Maedhros did not reply, being busy with counsels of war, but Celegorm and Curufin vowed openly to slay Thingol and destroy his kingdom if they returned victorious from the war and the Silmaril were not given up freely. And so Thingol fortified the confines of Doriath and none save Beleg and Mablung went forth to war. To them Thingol gave leave to go, so long as they marched under the banner of Fingon and served not the Sons of Fëanor.

The Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost rendered service to Maedhros, and the mountain smithies were busy in those days. All the Sons of Fëanor, and all who would follow them, were marshalled then, and the Men of Bór and Ulfang the Easterling were enlisted. In the West, Fingon gathered together the remnant of his people and called together the people of Himring, and in Hithlum the Gnomes and the Men of Hador's House prepared for war. In the woods of Brethil, Haldir, son of Helmir (who died ere the war began), marshalled his people. Word of these counsels came beyond the mountains even to Gondolin.

But Morgoth was aware of well-nigh all that was done, and he took counsel against Maedhros. Spies and other workers of treachery he dispatched then into Beleriand, and the Men of his secret allegiance were yet deep within the counsels of the Gnomes. But Maedhros, having called together all strength of Elves, Men and Dwarves that he could, counselled to assault Angband from east and west. He purposed to march across Anfauglith with banners in open force, and that when he had lured the hosts of Morgoth across the sands, he purposed that Fingon should come down out of Hithlum upon the West and so they would take the might of Morgoth as between a hammer and and anvil and break it to pieces; and the signal for this would be the firing of a great beacon in Dorthonion...

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The good old days...

We're fast approaching Holy Week, the most solemn (and my personal favourite) time of the liturgical year. I was going through the St Lawrence Press blog archives earlier and was pleased to find this gem. I remember reading it at the time and having a rather ineffable feeling of mingled ''nostalgia'' (that is if one not old enough to actually remember something can feel nostalgia) and wrath, since Liturgy-wise things have declined at Westminster so magnificently (the New Rite is as far removed from Liturgy as a block of flats is from the Sainte-Chapelle, the most beautiful church in Christendom); although the choir there are second to none. Were this the order of Holy Week at Westminster Cathedral this year, I think I would camp outside for the week! See here for a 1962 comparison (try not to punch something).

Pontifical Mattins and Lauds of Easter Sunday must have been superb. An old friend of mine (with whom I have sadly lost touch), a Russian Orthodox, had a bargain (I suppose similar to the bargain made between Legolas and Gimli) at one time. We agreed to visit each other's churches for the duration of Holy Week, to experience for the first time one anothers' different and venerable Liturgies. Nothing came of it, alas, because I informed him that the church he had in mind (not my parish church, but a church I go to often enough) did not observe the Traditional Liturgy for Holy Week (or indeed at any other time of the year)...

Friday, 12 March 2010

Sancti Gregorii...

Today is the Feast of St Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome A.D 590-604. In my Latin studies, I read much of him in St Bede's Ecclesiastical History, and since the Liturgy owes a great deal to him, (both in the West and in the East - he is said to have composed the Byzantine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified; although this is probably spurious since although he did sojourn in Constantinople, he spoke virtually no Greek at all - in the West I know he did away with the old Litany and just kept the ninefold Kyrie (preferring, so his reason dictated, to meditate solely upon the Lord have mercy, an ancient liturgical petition, in a general sense) although my knowledge of Liturgy in this period is wanting, to be polite), I thought it fitting to share this passage from St Bede.

St Augustine of Canterbury went to Arles, and in accordance with the command of the lord Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, was consecrated Archbishop of the English race by Etherius, archbishop of Arles. He returned then to Britain and sent the priest Laurence and the monk Peter to inform the Pope that the English race had received the Apostolic faith and that he was their bishop. He also sent the two with a list of questions which seemed urgent. St Augustine's second question is most interesting in terms of Liturgy...

''II. Augustine's second question. Even though the faith is one, are there varying customs in the churches? And is there one form of Mass in the Holy Roman Church and another in the Gaulish churches?

''Pope Gregory answered: My brother, you know the customs of the Roman Church in which, of course, you were brought up. But it is my wish that if you have found any customs in the Roman or the Gaulish church or any other church which may be more pleasing to Almighty God, you should make a careful selection of them and sedulously teach the Church of the English, which is still new in the faith, what you have been able to gather from other churches. For things are not to be loved for the sake of a place, but places are to be loved for the sake of their good things. Therefore choose from every individual Church whatever things are devout, religious, and right. And when you have collected these as it were into one bundle, see that the minds of the English grow accustomed to it.'' (St Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book I, Chapter 27. Emphasis my own of course).

I shall leave what I have in mind vis-à-vis the emphasis in that wonderful quote (St Bede is full of wonderful quotes. If you haven't read him, then do. In my opinion, his Scriptural commentaries are more coherent even than the great St Augustine of Hippo's) to the imagination of the reader...Happy Feast Day all!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

''Look at all the mess...

...he made with that triple candle!'' I can't remember who said that (some poor Sacristan I shouldn't wonder), but it was an amusing (and true) story I heard about a priest whose proper observance of Holy Saturday in the 1950s caused much indignation when the mess had to be cleared up afterwards. Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press has put up an instruction PDF on how to mould the triple candle for the ceremonies of Holy Saturday. I have personally never been to traditional Holy Saturday (or indeed, any of the Triduum, except a slightly more traditional office of Tenebrae - readers who live in and around London will know where I mean), having had to cope with post '55 for about four years. Last year I was roped into chanting one of the Prophecies (in spite of my chest infection) on the Paschal Vigil. It went rather well, but I don't plan on doing any more chanting soon (unless at the uttermost end of need)...

Rubricarius has also put up a guide on the construction of the hearse for Tenebrae. The only ''hearse'' I ever saw for Tenebrae was a small table upon which were stacked books (veiled in the colour of the Office), upon which were placed two candelabrae with bleached candles and a tall candlestick in the middle. It seemed to work well enough...

Is Retro always best?

For my sins, I work at a counter in a Supermarket that sells CDs, DVDs, Blu Ray and Video Games. Last night, while doing the ''Availability checks'' on the Gamezone, I was looking at some of the games in vogue on the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo DS. Recently, a young boy asked whether I had a PS3, because he said he wanted to play against me online. I said that I didn't, but that I wanted one, since the fourth generation slimline PS3 has 250 GB memory and plays Blu Ray, but going through the games last night, I only found one that I thought was worth owning - a new release called Final Fantasy XIII, but even this, in spite of the impressive graphics and visual gameplay, looks like a poor comparison to its excellent predecessor, Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation, released in 1997.

When I was little, I had every games console worth having (the Super Nintendo, the N64, the Gamecube, the Gameboy, the Gameboy Color, the Gameboy Advance, the Playstation, the Playstation 2, I also had lots of games for the desktop computer). My mother brought me the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 for Christmas and my birthday some years ago, but I never played them, partly because the games she brought me were rubbish (they are ''Mario Party 8'' and ''Mario Strikers Charged Football'' for the Wii, and some racing car game for the Xbox 360), and because I think I was content with the old consoles, which take me back to many Christmas' and birthdays ago. I used to spend hours playing classic Tetris on the SNES and the New Tetris on the N64; I loved Donkey Kong, Super Mario World (Yoshi's Island 2 will always be my favourite, one of the last games to be released on the SNES in 1995), Super Mario Kart (on both the SNES and the N64).

My two favourite games of all time, though, are without doubt The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released on the N64 in 1998, and Final Fantasy VII, released on the Playstation in 1997. In terms of quality of gameplay, difficulty, music, art, story and adventure, they simply cannot be beaten. It took me two whole years to ''complete'' Final Fantasy VII (and even then, the first time I merely got to the end and neglected the many side-quests - I still haven't thoroughly completed it, since I haven't defeated the two hardest Weapons - giant monsters, one lives in the desert, the other under the sea, and this is a game I have been playing sporadically for over 12 years). It took me less time to complete Zelda, but the game is shorter. Newer versions in the Zelda series were less good. I completed Twilight Princess on the Gamecube, but only once, and I haven't played it since (it was only released in 2006 anyway).

Lately, the Wii have been releasing some of their classic games, like Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Kart (these are also available on the DS - I'd like to know why. Years ago one game was available on one console, another on another console, so if you wanted both, you had to get both consoles. I know that there is slight variation in gameplay across the different consoles, but I still don't see the point in releasing the same game on two and sometimes three different consoles). Having played them, I can honestly say that I am most unimpressed. They are just rip-offs of the classic Super Mario games, with hardly anything original about them. They're not even that hard anymore! Of course, boys 10 plus years younger than me, who have no memory of the old games, think they're the best thing ever...I wonder if I just grew out of them? I think that games consoles have had their day and unless Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony come up with something wonderful and original, I'll stick with the classic games.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Liturgy and eras in Church history...

Were I asked to pick a favourite period in the history of the Church, I would say the 11th-13th centuries. The spring time of the Middle Ages didn't have Low Mass. Were I asked to pick a least favourite period, I would say the entire Counter-Reformation period, beyond that even - 1500-2010. In the Middle Ages, piety, devotion and Liturgy were more ''creative'' (a cant word confessedly! I am not a Modernist, and I do not approve of DIY liturgy, where you make things up as you go along, with many a Postcommunion dance in evidence and shaking hands etc - I mean ''natural;'' creative in the sense of arising from our subcreative abilities derived from the Creator, perfectly harmonious with the Kalendar and the dictates of ''decency'') or ''fluent'' (Liturgy growing naturally in an air of undiluted prayer and genuine Catholicism) than in the Counter-Reformation period, where centralization and a generally stern countenance seemed to be the norm for the Church. Piety and Liturgy became ''crystallized,'' as it were, where paranoia about a Protestant influence on the faithful through devotion and Liturgy increased to such an extent that real ''organic'' development (letting the tree of the Liturgy grow naturally...) was shunned, or at least looked upon with suspicion. The growth of the Liturgy became stunted, and so later approaches to ''liturgical reform'' were hopelessly misguided, coming from intelligible motives (some of the time), but just getting everything wrong; and if we skip a few centuries, the logical result of all this is the Novus Ordo.

I think that the Fathers of the Council of Trent erred in their approach to Liturgy. Instead of reforming the Liturgy in the way that they did (codifying a new set of rubrics for Low Mass and doing away with a plethora of beautiful Sequences (even if some were, as Fortescue says, about wine and beer!) and many things beside), the Fathers should have sat down and said: ''we don't need to do much here - except about this awful thing called Low Mass; it's a very Protestant and minimalist approach to Liturgy, which ought to be as solemn as our means can afford as mortal Men. It is to be declared a liturgical abuse and entirely obsolete. Liturgical devotion is to be fostered among priests in the newly built seminaries, where seminarians are to be taught the ceremonies of Mass that they might competently minister at the Altar. They are to be well-versed in plainsong and the Latin tongue, since these are the liturgical traditions of the Western Church. Where possible, the Office is to be sung in all parish churches. All parishes are to have a Deacon, and the Subdiaconate need not be treated as a Major Order - it has not been treated consistently so in the West anyway, and so a devout Server can provide this role where necessary;'' etc, etc. If they had decided to do things as things were always done, then later liturgical reform would not have been so botched. It is, however, noteworthy that the Pope put himself in charge of the liturgy at Trent, and we all know about Popes and Liturgy...

Since the natural growth of the Liturgy was crystallized by the Council of Trent, later approaches to ''improve'' it were rather ham-fisted - instead of pruning and cutting out cankers, cutting off branches, or even trying to dig the whole thing up became the norm. It is almost as if the Western Church lost a great and inherent ''liturgical sense'' - a grievous loss. We had Liturgy, but didn't know how to do Liturgy. If we go forward, past all the unfortunate changes under Pius XII, to Vatican II, and we see the same thing going on. The Fathers, and worse, the peritii (under the aegis of that sniveling little Orc Bugnini) rightly saw that by 1962 the Liturgy was in desperate need of ''reform,'' but they had little idea about how to do it, and so they ended up merely perpetuating the errors of their predecessors. Change for the sake of change is never a good thing, no matter how much you might dress it up as for making the Liturgy accessible; but then were the Fathers of Vatican II that interested in Liturgy anyway? Because the growth of the Liturgy, which is the most important thing in the treasure trove of the Church which comes from God, had been stunted so many centuries ago (largely a Protestant influence I think, but we can blame the logic behind Low Mass for that ultimately), the fruits of liturgical reform belong to the flora of Mordor, and we need not go into them. Suffice to say, the Church feels the affects now...

To conclude on a rather eccentric note, I think that a more ''Entish'' approach to the liturgical movement is called for; to see Liturgy in Entish terms (insofar as we are able - we do not live as long as Ents though), moving at a glacial pace. I am sure that the Ents would look down their noses at Low Mass. But alas, I don't think this is going to happen. The damage has been done, and as Treebeard, the most liturgical character in The Lord of the Rings, said: ''much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.''

The image is a silhouette of Whitby Abbey, a vision of that which has been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time (and liturgical reform) as it were.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The last stage...

We have reached the end of the Lay of Leithian now, and in all honesty, I am relieved. As beautiful as I think this story is, I have dragged it on a bit. I can't remember exactly when I started it, November I think, but it took a while since I believe that to truly appreciate the legends of the Elder Days, it behoves us to read them in verse, or better still to hear them sung in verse, just as the Hobbits heard them sung aright in the House of Elrond, but this just isn't going to happen. I imagine that the chief legends of the Elder Days, when sung in full in Elrond's House, must have sounded like sung Office. When Tolkien chanted Galadriel's lament for a researcher, he noted that it sounded a bit like Gregorian Chant...I don't think I shall treat the other chief Tales (those of Húrin and the Fall of Gondolin) in this manner - it is, afterall, supposed to be a ''synopsis.''

Mablung and Beleg came to the King's aid, but when they looked upon what had happened, they cast aside their spears and wept. Mablung took a knife and cut open the belly of Carcharoth, and sure enough, there was the Silmaril, and his innards were blackened and burned as with a consuming fire, but the hand of Beren was yet incorrupt. But when Mablung reached for the Silmaril, Beren's hand was no more, but the light of that holy jewel filled the shadows of the forest. Then Mablung, with great fear and haste, took the Silmaril and placed it in Beren's hand, and quickened for a moment by the touch of the jewel, he held it aloft, saying: ''Now is the Quest fulfilled and my doom full-wrought,'' and he spoke then no more.

They bore back the body of Beren upon a bier of branches with Huan the valiant, and night fell ere they reached Menegroth. Lúthien met them at the feet of Hírilorn, the great beech of Doriath, and she put her arms about Beren and kissed him, and bade him wait for her beyond the Western Sea, and ere his spirit left him, he looked into her eyes.

Upon the dim shores of the Outer Sea the spirit of Beren indeed tarried, unwilling to leave the Circles of the World, until Lúthien should come to say her last farewell. And the spirit of Lúthien fell then into a great darkness of grief, and fled her body, and her beautiful body lay as a flower upon the grass that is newly cut off. And a winter, as it were, the hoar age of mortal Men, fell upon Thingol, but Lúthien coming at last to the halls of Mandos, that place in the far West where are the appointed places of waiting for the Elves and where they sit in the sorrow and shadow of their thoughts, besought Mandos to mercy, and she sang to him, that inexorable Vala who never was so moved to pity upon the sorrow of the Elves and the grief of Men.

As she sang before him, the fairest and most beautiful song that ever in words was woven (and which is sung still in Valinor, to the sad ears of the Valar), her tears fell upon his feet like rain upon stone, and Mandos was moved. And so he summoned Beren, and they met at last in his sad halls beside the Outer Sea. But Mandos, although Judge under Eru, had no power or authority to withhold Men beyond their time of waiting, nor to change the doom of either kindred, and so he sought the counsel of Manwë, who praying hard, delivered this judgement. Because of her labours and her sorrow, Lúthien could leave the Halls of Mandos and dwell forever among the Valar, forgetting all ties and all grief, until the World's End. Thither Beren could not come, for none of mortal Men were permitted to dwell among the Valar, nor could Death be withheld from him. Or she might return to Middle-earth, and to take up her life again with Beren, without certitude of life or happiness. Then she would become mortal even as he, and be subject to a second Death, and her beauty would then become merely a memory in song.

This last choice she chose, forsaking the Blessed Realm and the kinship of the Elves, and thus was her fate joined to Beren's beyond the Circles of the World, and alone of the Eldar she has died indeed and left the world long ago.

The Hunt for the Wolf...

Beren knelt before the throne of Thingol, and Thingol looked in amazement upon him (but little love, because of the sorrow that had befallen his kingdom). ''I return according to my word,'' said Beren. ''I am come now to claim my own.'' ''What of your quest, and of your vow?'' asked Thingol. ''It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand'' said Beren. And Thingol said: ''Show it to me!'' And Beren held forth his hand, opened his palm, and the hand was empty, and then he put forth the stump of his right hand, and he named himself Camlost, that is, the Empty-handed.

But in that hour Thingol's mood changed, and Beren sat upon the left of the King, with Lúthien upon the left, and they told all the tale of their Quest, and all were amazed, and it seemed to Thingol then that Beren was unlike other Mortal Men, whom he had hitherto held in scorn, and the love of Lúthien a thing noble and not to be held back. Therefore, at last he consented, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.

But the joy of those present was short-lived, for learning the true tale of the madness of Carcharoth, the people were filled with dread, perceiving that the power of the Silmaril drove him on. And Beren, learning of the onslaught of Carcharoth, understood in that hour that the Quest was not fulfilled. And so, since Carcharoth drew nearer to Menegroth daily, they all prepared the Hunting of the Wolf, of all pursuits in the recorded history of Arda the most perilous. Thither went Huan, the Wolf-hound of Valinor, Mablung, chief captain of the King, Beleg Strongbow, Beren and Thingol himself with a great host. They rode forth in the morning, and as Lúthien watched them depart at the gates of Menegroth, a shadow fell upon her, and it seemed to her that the Sun grew sick and the daylight was darkened.

The hunters went north-east, following the course of Esgalduin, until sure enough they came upon the Wolf himself in a dark valley, down the northern side where there were falls. At the foot of the waterfall, the Wolf drank to ease his pain, and he howled, and thus they were aware of him. But he was aware of them, and rushed not suddenly to attack them but instead concealed himself in a deep brake and there lay hid. A guard was then set about that place and they watched and waited until the shadows grew long in the woods. Beren stood beside the King, and they were both aware that Huan was missing. Then suddenly a great baying was heard in the woods, for Huan became impatient and went to ambush Carcharoth, but Carcharoth avoided him and sprang upon Thingol. Beren strode before him with a spear, but Carcharoth swept it aside and bit his breast, and he was felled. But then Huan went in for the kill, leaping from the thickets upon the back of the Wolf and together they fought fiercely. No battle of wolf and hound has been like it, for in the baying of Huan was heard the wrath of the Valar and the echo of the horn of Oromë the Great, but in the howls of Carcharoth was the bottomless hatred of Morgoth and malice crueller than teeth of steel, and the trees and the rocks were rent by the clamour of that battle. Together they fought to the death, but none heeded them, for Beren lay dying, and Thingol knelt at his side.

Huan in that hour slew Carcharoth, but himself met his doom, and the venom of Morgoth went into him. He came to Beren and spoke then the third time, and the last, and he bade him farewell. Beren did not speak, but lay his hand upon the head of Huan, and so they parted.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Beren and Lúthien return to the Woods...

In the last post, we had reached the stage in the tale where the Eagles, warned by Huan to keep watch on the movements of Angband, had rescued Beren and Lúthien and set them down on the borders of Doriath. Even as the Eagles returned to their eyries in the Crissaegrim, Huan returned to Lúthien and together they tended Beren, whose wound was perilous. Long he wandered on the borders of Death, but at length he woke again, seeing the first leaves of Spring in the trees.

Thereafter, Beren was known as Erchamion, which is the One-handed. Together Beren and Lúthien wandered the woods, and they were both content, but both according to his love and to the laws of Men, Beren would not suffer Lúthien to remain a waif of the wild woods forever, and so he counselled that they should return again to Menegroth, and so their doom willed it.

Upon Doriath an evil climate had descended. Grief and silence had come upon the inhabitants of that land since the disappearance of Lúthien, and Daeron, the greatest minstrel of the age (save only Maglor, son of Fëanor), who loved Lúthien most ardently, despaired and strayed from the land, where it is said that he made lament for her beside the waters of strange lands for many ages. In that time Thingol turned to Melian for counsel, but Melian would not open her heart, saying that the Doom must work to its appointed end and that he must wait upon time. In that time also, Thingol learned of Lúthien's sojourn in Nargothrond, and that Celegorm would take her to wife by force, and he was wrathful and sent forth spies, thinking to make war upon Nargothrond. In this way he learned that Lúthien had gone forth from Nargothrond, that Felagund was dead and that the Sons of Fëanor were driven forth as exiles. And so, he sent messengers to Himring to summon their aid in the search for Lúthien, but in the north of his realm, his messengers had met with a peril unlooked for - the onslaught of Carcharoth.

In the impetuosity of his madness, the Wolf of Angband had burst forth from the North, had passed through Taur-nu-Fuin as a gale on its eastern side and came upon the sources of Esgalduin. Nothing stopped him, and the Girdle of Melian had no power to hinder him, for Doom drove him on. All fled before him, but alone of the messengers of Thingol, Mablung, chief captain of the King, escaped and brought the tidings to Thingol. Even in that dread hour, Beren and Lúthien returned, and the news of their coming passed through the woods like a sound of music borne by the wind into dark houses where men sit sorrowful; and they came at last to the gates of Menegroth, and a great host followed them...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Lewis & Short for iPhone...

The iTunes App[lication] store is a treasure trove of cack, but occasionally you'll find something fun or useful - you just have to know where to look. Last week, I found the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary (something I have wanted for ages, but can't afford!) for iPhone, an App that was only about £3! (cheaper than it's ''Collins Latin Dictionary'' equivalent). The disadvantage is that you cannot browse, you have to look words up, but the entries are still far more thorough and edifying than my Oxford Latin Dictionary. I found this this afternoon, under bibo (I drink): bibere naturae est, potare luxuriae. I cannot possibly translate this since, heretofore, I had not realised that there was a difference between the verbs. The Dictionary says that bibo is to drink from a natural thirst, whereas poto is to drink from passion, at leisure etc, although the latter is occasionally used in deference to water. Interestingly, over lunch this afternoon, Fr Finigan told me about the New Rite Offertory prayers, which in their Latin originals (seldom heard - I think that in my whole life I have attended only one New Rite Mass entirely in Latin, and I found it just as boring as the New Rite in English) describe the Chalice of Salvation as potus spiritualis (''spiritual drink''). I am not a clever Latinist but quite apart from the ambiguity of the term ''spiritual drink,'' I am not entirely satisfied with the rather carefree connotation potus seems to render the Precious Blood...since the Sacraments are things that we hunger and thirst after as things that we need, surely potus falls short of defining the Sacrament...

As I have said, I am a poor Latinist, and maybe there is no other word for it. No one else seems to have picked up on this though, even the SSPX. I have read lots of their stuff, and often it's very good, but I stopped reading their ''Problem of Liturgical Reform'' when they described the 1962 Missal as the last ''traditional'' edition. Why do so-called ''traditionalists'' (and the most famous ones) so often get in the way of real Tradition?

Is there an App for conversation?

Lots of people have noticed that I am glued to my new iPhone [the bloody space bar isn't working - it won't press down properly without a lot of force which makes typing a nightmare - does anyone know how to sort it?]. This is one reason that blogging has been slow this week. Someone asked me last night in the club (after I put the iPhone back into my pocket; purely because the battery was dead) whether there was an App for conversation! I have found that Wi-Fi doesn't work in my bedroom, so when I need to use the Internet, check mail etc, I am rather stuck without the family computer (my laptop doesn't have the Internet, and it's been in it's box on top of my wardrobe for months because I don't have a proper desk or bureau in my room to work from).

This morning I attended a Sung Mass of Requiem with Absolutions for Fr Adolph Koch (I hope I have spelt the name right?), parish priest at Blackfen from 1945-1980, whose thirtieth anniversary it is. He was in fact the priest who married my grandparents in 1957, which puts it back a bit. I must stop now because this space bar is driving me nuts. I may blog about The Silmarillion tomorrow, since I have neglected it lately.