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Annual reminder…

The Church has solemnly defined that the performance of the rites of the Old Law is mortally sinful.

HolyGrail

ArthurArthur’s title to the throne is hereditary. He does not acquire it through political virtue. It is, furthermore, unknown to him. The advantage of heredity – that the pursuit of power corrupts even more than its possession – is therefore magnified in his case. He thinks he is the younger son of Sir Ector. He is identified by means of a wonder sought from God by national prayer led by the Metropolitan of Londinium. When the sign first appears on Christmas Day, in the presence of the entire political nation, Arthur is not present. He is present on the Feast of Circumcision as page to Sir Kay.  He is being trained in the skills necessary for the exercise of the temporal power in his day, as befits what he believes to be his gentle but not exalted rank, but in a mode of service. Sir Kay has already been a knight for three months. The sight of the wonder is supposed to be guarded in a pavilion by ten knights but they have gone to the tournament. The tournament is the symbol of all those skills necessary for the governance of the temporal city which are nonetheless mere skills and not virtues. Sir Kay, the bully, is bursting to display his prowess at the joust and as is later revealed, should the opportunity present itself, to be king. Arthur doesn’t even know what the sword is, he draws it to help his brother while going the extra mile to serve him. He draws it alone in front of St Paul’s the outpost of the City of God in the world while the world is at the tourney. In Sir Ector’s oath the codes of honour and virtue combine to force Kay to admit that Arthur is King.

 

Then stood the realm in great jeopardy long while, for every lord that was mighty of men made him strong, and many weened to have been king. Then Merlin went to the Bishop of London, and counselled him for to send for all the lords of the realm, and all the gentlemen of arms, that they should to London come by Christmas, upon pain of cursing; and for this cause, that Jesus, that was born on that night, that he would of his great mercy show some miracle, as he was come to be king of mankind, for to show some miracle who should be rightwise king of this realm. So the Archbishop, by the advice of Merlin, sent for all the lords and gentlemen of arms that they should come by Christmas even unto London. And many of them made them clean of their life, that their prayer might be the more acceptable unto God. So in the greatest church of St Paul’s all the estates were long or day in the church for to pray. And when matins and the first mass was done, there was seen in the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus:—Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all Britain. Then the people marvelled, and told it to the Archbishop.

I command, said the Archbishop, that ye keep you within your church and pray unto God still, that no man touch the sword till the high mass be all done. So when all masses were done all the lords went to behold the stone and the sword. And when they saw the scripture some assayed, such as would have been king. But none might stir the sword nor move it. He is not here, said the Archbishop, that shall achieve the sword, but doubt not God will make him known. But this is my counsel, said the Archbishop, that we let purvey ten knights, men of good fame, and they to keep this sword. So it was ordained, and then there was made a cry, that every man should assay that would, for to win the sword. And upon New Year’s Day the lords let make a jousts and a tournament, that all knights that would joust or tourney there might play, and all this was ordained for to keep the lords together and the commons, for the Archbishop trusted that God would make him known that should win the sword.

So upon New Year’s Day, when the service was done, the lords rode unto the field, some to joust and some to tourney, and so it happened that Sir Ector, that had great livelihood about London, rode unto the jousts, and with him rode Sir Kay his son, and young Arthur that was his nourished brother; and Sir Kay was made knight at All Hallowmass afore. So as they rode to the jousts-ward, Sir Kay lost his sword, for he had left it at his father’s lodging, and so he prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword. I will well, said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and when he came home, the lady and all were out to see the jousting. Then was Arthur wroth, and said to himself, I will ride to the churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a sword this day. So when he came to the churchyard, Sir Arthur alighted and tied his horse to the stile, and so he went to the tent, and found no knights there, for they were at the jousting. And so he handled the sword by the handles, and lightly and fiercely pulled it out of the stone, and took his horse and rode his way until he came to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword. And as soon as Sir Kay saw the sword, he wist well it was the sword of the stone, and so he rode to his father Sir Ector, and said: Sir, lo here is the sword of the stone, wherefore I must be king of this land. When Sir Ector beheld the sword, he returned again and came to the church, and there they alighted all three, and went into the church. And anon he made Sir Kay swear upon a book how he came to that sword. Sir, said Sir Kay, by my brother Arthur, for he brought it to me. How gat ye this sword? said Sir Ector to Arthur. Sir, I will tell you. When I came home for my brother’s sword, I found nobody at home to deliver me his sword; and so I thought my brother Sir Kay should not be swordless, and so I came hither eagerly and pulled it out of the stone without any pain. Found ye any knights about this sword? said Sir Ector. Nay, said Arthur. Now, said Sir Ector to Arthur, I understand ye must be king of this land. Wherefore I, said Arthur, and for what cause? Sir, said Ector, for God will have it so; for there should never man have drawn out this sword, but he that shall be rightwise king of this land. Now let me see whether ye can put the sword there as it was, and pull it out again. That is no mastery, said Arthur, and so he put it in the stone; wherewithal Sir Ector assayed to pull out the sword and failed.

Now assay, said Sir Ector unto Sir Kay. And anon he pulled at the sword with all his might; but it would not be. Now shall ye assay, said Sir Ector to Arthur. I will well, said Arthur, and pulled it out easily. And therewithal Sir Ector knelt down to the earth, and Sir Kay. Alas, said Arthur, my own dear father and brother, why kneel ye to me? Nay, nay, my lord Arthur, it is not so; I was never your father nor of your blood, but I wot well ye are of an higher blood than I weened ye were. And then Sir Ector told him all, how he was betaken him for to nourish him, and by whose commandment, and by Merlin’s deliverance.

Then Arthur made great dole when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father. Sir, said Ector unto Arthur, will ye be my good and gracious lord when ye are king? Else were I to blame, said Arthur, for ye are the man in the world that I am most beholden to, and my good lady and mother your wife, that as well as her own hath fostered me and kept. And if ever it be God’s will that I be king as ye say, ye shall desire of me what I may do, and I shall not fail you; God forbid I should fail you Sir, said Sir Ector, I will ask no more of you, but that ye will make my son, your foster brother, Sir Kay, seneschal of all your lands. That shall be done, said Arthur, and more, by the faith of my body, that never man shall have that office but he, while he and I live.

 

Pray for our readers in Galway.

Boniface VIII defined that “outside of [the church] there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins”. Could it be that, after the schism, its monastic adherents being deprived of habitual grace, they developed a pseudo-nepsis as a technique rather than a spiritual exercise which opens the soul not to the passive purgation of the senses but to the influence of separated substances opposed to God? This idea seems to be anticipated by Maritain in The Degrees of Knowledge:

What metaphysician, not to speak of the ancient Brahmins, has felt more keenly than Plotinus this burning desire for the supreme unity? But the ecstasy of Plotinus is not this supreme act, rather is it the vanishing point of metaphysics, and metaphysics alone does not suffice to procure it. The good fortune which Plotinus knew four times during the six years that Porphyry lived with him suggests a brief contact with an intellectual light in its nature of greater force, the spasm of a human mind in contact with a pure spirit. If we believe Porphyry when he says that his master was born the thirteenth year of the reign of Severus, that he heard Ammonius at Alexandria, that he came to Rome when he was forty, that he died in the Campagna, and when he describes to us his state of health and way of life, his kindness to the orphans committed to his care, his way of teaching, of composing, of pronouncing Greek, his handwriting, etc., why do we not believe him when he says that the philosopher was inspired by a daemon who lived with him, and which showed itself, in a sensible form, at his death? ‘At that moment a serpent passed under the bed in which he was lying and glided into a hole in the wall; and Plotinus gave up his soul in death.’ What would be astonishing would be if the metaphysical eras, there where Christ does not dwell, did not call forth some form of collusion with superhuman intellectual natures, rectores hujus mundi.

Recently there has been some discussion on-line about whether Catholics who assist at the traditional Roman Mass are more likely than others to be anti-Semitic.  In following this discussion I came across an article by John Lamont from 2014, “Why the Jews are not the Enemies of the Church”.  As anyone familiar with Dr Lamont’s work would expect, it makes a clear and forceful case for its thesis.  He points out that rabbinic and conservative Jews do not seek to convert Christians away from belief in Christ, while secular Jews who attack Catholics do so not in virtue of Jewish beliefs but in virtue of Enlightenment principles which were opposed in their origin by both Catholics and Rabbinic Jews.  He also points out that conservative Jews are often active in defence of the moral principles upheld by the Church, and even of the Church herself.

All this is important and needs to be said.  At the same time there is the doctrine of the two cities to uphold, articulated among others by St Augustine and St Thomas.  It was expressed thus by Leo XIII:

The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, “through the envy of the devil,” separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God (‘Humanum genus’, 1).

St Thomas, for his part, wrote:

The end of the devil is the aversion of the rational creature from God; hence from the beginning he has endeavoured to lead man from obeying the divine precept. But aversion from God has the nature of an end, inasmuch as it is sought for under the appearance of liberty, according to Jeremiah 2: “Of old time thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst, ‘I will not serve.'” Hence, inasmuch as some are brought to this end by sinning, they fall under the rule and government of the devil, and therefore he is called their head (Summa theologiae 3a, 8, 7).

The angelic doctor also holds that in this age of the world, one can be liberated from the dominion of sin only by explicit faith in the mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ.  From this it follows that not Jews only but all non-Christians are subsumed into the counter-Church, which St Augustine calls the city of man or of the devil.  However well-disposed non-Christians may be as individuals, they are still for the moment part of the enemy’s forces, conscripts in his attempt to maximise the aversion of the rational creation from God.  In holding this it is important to remember the words of Bl. Pius IX:

God forbid that the children of the Catholic Church should ever in any way be unfriendly to those who are not at all united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. On the contrary, let them be eager always to attend to their needs with all the kind services of Christian charity, whether they are poor or sick or suffering any other kind of visitation. First of all, let them rescue them from the darkness of the errors into which they have unhappily fallen (Quanto conficiamur moerore, 9)

St Thomas also holds that the sin of unbelief is worse in heretics than in Jews, but worse in Jews than in pagans who have heard the gospel and rejected it.

The unbelief of heretics, who confess their belief in the Gospel, and resist that faith by corrupting it, is a more grievous sin than that of the Jews, who have never accepted the Gospel faith. Since, however, they accepted the figure of that faith in the Old Law, which they corrupt by their false interpretations, their unbelief is a more grievous sin than that of the heathens, because the latter have not accepted the Gospel faith in any way at all (Summa theologiae 2a 2ae 10, 6)

He then makes an important qualification:

The second thing to be considered in unbelief is the corruption of matters of faith. In this respect, since heathens err on more points than Jews, and these in more points than heretics, the unbelief of heathens is more grievous than the unbelief of the Jews, and that of the Jews than that of the heretics, except in such cases as that of the Manichees, who, in matters of faith, err even more than heathens do.

However, he concludes:

Of these two gravities the first surpasses the second from the point of view of guilt; since, as stated above, unbelief has the character of guilt, from its resisting faith rather than from the mere absence of faith, for the latter, as was stated, seems rather to bear the character of punishment. Hence, speaking absolutely, the unbelief of heretics is the worst.

From this it follows that, say, animists or Zoroastrians, are less inimical to the Church than Jews, but that Jews are less inimical than, say, Anglican bishops or members of the editorial board of the Tablet. All this is per se, of course. Per accidens, anything can happen.

If the gold head of the statue in Daniel 2 signifies Nebuchadnezzar/Babylon, then is the golden idol in Daniel 3 an idol of Nebuchadnezzar himself? An extension of the gold head from Daniel 2 as an act of refusal to accept that his kingdom will pass into the hands of another metal/empire?

In a booklet called Catechism of Mental Prayer (a basic Baltimore Catechism style Q&A on mental prayer), the author (Fr. Joseph Simler) asks the question, “Has the religious who is devoted to an active life any special reason for applying himself to mental prayer”. Fr. Simler answers yes, with one of his reasons being that “Because Our Lord, Who came on earth to save mankind, devoted far more time to prayer than to preaching.”

Not being opposed to the thought (in fact I’m definitely partial to the idea), I nonetheless wonder on what basis Fr. Simler states such. Certainly we see our Lord retreating to the mountains for prayer, stating that the interior life is the one thing necessary, praying from the cross, etc. Nonetheless, do we not actually read Him preaching more times than praying?

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