AN AGREEMENT

 (Mr. William Clissold regards Birth-Control as the test of liberality: those against it are reactionary; those in favour are for the progressive revolution.)

Where you have laid it, let the sword divide;
And your unmotherly Medea be
Here sundered from our human trinity,
The Mother and the Virgin and the Bride.

Why should we falter? Ours shall be the mirth
And yours the amaze when you have thinned away
Your starving serfs to fit their starveling pay
And seen the meek inheriting the earth.

That Christ from this creative purity
Came forth your sterile appetites to scorn
Lo; in her house Life without Lust was born,
So in your house Lust without Life shall die.

(This is from Chesterton’s lateish collection of poems, ‘The Queen of the Seven Sword’. Wiliam Clissold was a character which H.G. Wells used to expound his own opinions about life.)
Happy feast of St Joachim – and of St Anna too, if you are observing hers today. St John Damascene rather charmingly calls them a chaste pair of rational turtle doves.

Reading a sermon of Ronald Knox’s the other day, I was struck by one phrase. He speaks of ‘the joy of conflict, without which there is little savour to living, except for the few who live very close to God’. Tomorrow is the great day of her whom the liturgy compares to a castrorum acies ordinata, an army set in array. In these strange and critical days for the Church, perhaps we should ask Mary for a holy joy of battle.

heavn

Do the Blessed know the value of π?

There should be a revival of interest in Dom John Chapman, the early 20th century abbot of Downside, patrologist and Church historian. As far as I can see, he was at least as learned as Adrian Fortescue, and without Fortescue’s occasional slapdashness. He could be almost as witty as him, too, when he chose.

Chapman’s Studies on the Early Papacy, though having an apologetical inspiration, particularly against Puseyism, is a little masterpiece of scholarship. In the chapter on ‘The Age of Justinian’, he describes the unfortunate pope Vigilius. Vigilius was popularly supposed to be in cahoots with the monophysite Empress Theodora, and to have been responsible for the early death of his predecessor Silverius. The Roman people called on the emperor to investigate. Justinian, not one to fall short of his own prerogatives, or indeed to be reluctant to overstep them, acquiesced for his own purposes:

Justinian ordered Vigilius to be brought to Constantinople. He was seized in the Church of St Cecilia and put on board a ship. The crowd asked his blessing, to which they cried ‘Amen’. Then they pelted him with stones and sticks and crockery, shouting: ‘Thy famine be with thee: thy plague be with thee: thou hast done evil to the Romans. Mayest thou find evil where thou goest’ (‘Studies on the Early Papacy’, 1928, p.229).

Image result for unjust steward picture

 

The parable of the Unjust Steward is a googly which the Church bowls each eighth Sunday after Pentecost at unwary preachers. Many of them are stumped. Naturally one can find some worthy treatments of it in the Catena Aurea and in the Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide; but the profoundest interpretation I know appears in neither place, coming rather from St Gaudentius of Brescia. As it may be that you don’t know who St Gaudentius was, I will tell you: he was a friend of St Ambrose and a defender of St John Chrysostom and he ruled the see of Brescia in Italy for some 25 years.

A friend of his, called Herminius, or Serminius, or possibly Germinius (it must have been a cold day in the scriptorium when the monk copied out the letter) wrote to St Gaudentius to ask what, exactly, this passage from the holy Gospel means. And the saint, after talking at length as one might expect of the dangers of wealth and the virtues of alms-giving, begins to give a mystical interpretation. The rich man, he says, is almighty God – dives in misericordia. The  unjust steward is the devil, who has been allowed by God to have a certain power in the cosmos, as a steward on an estate. The devil is allowed to test the saints, says St Thomas Aquinas, so that he may not be entirely useless.

But the devil, of course, abuses his power. St Gaudentius says that “the devil wasted the substance of his Lord when he sought the ruin of mankind”. He persecuted the human race beyond all measure, bringing upon it all the cruelties and terrors of paganism. And so God resolved to cast the devil out of His Estate and into the abyss, and made this known when He came among us. Whereupon “this most wicked one, reckoning the death of man as his profit, is consumed with anxiety because the Lord is about to take away the power that he has over others.”

He is not strong enough to dig, and is ashamed to beg, and so turns from violence to craft:

Since he will not work what is good, and is ashamed to ask for mercy as a penitent, he thinks within himself how he may still have power over the debtors of his Lord (that is, over those involved in the debt of sin), not alone by open persecution, but also, under the guise of benevolence, by deceiving them with smooth words, so that seduced by his false kindness they may more readily receive him into their houses, to be judged with him forever.

The devil begins to write off men’s debts:

He falsely promises that he can relax the debts of his fellow servants, which are in his Lord’s power, by vainly assuring indulgence to those who sin either in faith or in deed. For he convinces them that their crimes will not be imputed to them, although even those who commit them know them to be grave offences: for they acknowledge the amount of their debt.

He does this both with the wheat and with the oil:

The wheat is faith in Christ, the principle of man’s life. For He is the living bread who came down from heaven. The oil is good works, which the foolish virgins lacked, and hence when the lamp-light of their souls went out, they abode in darkness. . . . Even so does the devil trick the race of men with false promises, that they may not know what debt of faith and works they owe.

And if the oil is brought down from a hundred, the number of perfection, to fifty, and the wheat is brought down only from a hundred to eighty, perhaps this is because “a smaller number are withdrawn by the devil’s cunning from the true faith, than are withdrawn from right deeds, as our Saviour Himself declares, saying: ‘Why do you call me, Lord, Lord; and do not the things which I say?'”

Found this app: Catholic Trivia by OPAU applications (link) on the Google Playstore. While probably getting a bit repetitive at higher levels (?), I found this surprisingly orthodox so far.

The good Cardinal Sarah has been in the news recently for saying that the two kinds of Mass should eventually merge into a ‘common, reformed rite’. Joseph Shaw observes: ‘It seems that the most trad-friendly Prelates of the Church actually want the Traditional Mass to disappear.’ He has some other sensible things to say about the problem with a general adoption of the revised lectionary and calendar.

An even more basic problem is that the framers of the Pauline missal envisaged the Mass as different sort of thing from what it had been up till then. The late Fr Brian Houghton said in one of his books that the reformers wish to personalise the Mass, and that their opponents wish it to be anonymous, and concluded logically enough: ‘The two aims are not compatible’ (I quote from memory).

(Incidentally, I hear a rumour that Fr. Houghton’s two novels and his autobiography may be republished. Buy them, if they are.)

Putting it in another way: the reformers envisaged the Mass as something done by everyone there, clergy and laity. I don’t mean that they would have rejected the doctrine about the essential difference between the priesthood of the ordained and that of all the baptised. Perhaps some of them would have done, but I know of no reason to think so (except for reasons for thinking that one or more of them rejected all Christian doctrines, e.g. evidence that Bugnini was a freemason).

I mean that what they wanted the Mass to feel like, was something done by everyone, as a good host at a dinner-party wants everyone to talk, so that the thing will be a success. The Mass was to feel like a sacred dinner-party, and the priest’s job would be to bring everyone out. Isn’t this implied by the famous article 7 of the GIRM? “The Lord’s Supper, or Mass, is the sacred meeting or congregation of the people of God assembled, the priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord.” Rorate suggests that these may have been ‘most influential liturgical words written in the 20th century’.

What the traditional Mass feels like, on the other hand, is something done by the clergy in the sanctuary, to which those in the nave unite themselves.

Now, in the latter case, the feeling corresponds to the reality. The Mass is something done by those in the sanctuary (litanies, readings, prayers, offertory, consecration, priest’s communion). Those in the nave unite themselves to this reality. This is sufficiently  proved by the fact that the Mass can be done with no one in the nave, but not with no one in the sanctuary.

Cardinal Sarah says that the ‘theologies’ of the two Masses are compatible. I am not sure if I know what this means. But I am confident that the wishes of the framers of the Pauline missal were not compatible with the reality of the Sacrifice which Christ left us.