Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino.....beati Thomae Martyris


Today is the Feast of S. Thomas of Canterbury. You may have realised that I have a personal devotion to this Saint, having made a pilgrimage to Canterbury and venerated the Martyrdom and the Site of the Saint's Shrine in the Cathedral.

The Parish & Pilgrimage church of S. Magnus the Martyr is so named partly for its association with pilgrimages to Canterbury and Walsingham. In the case of Canterbury, a chapel of ease was located half-way across London Bridge within the Parish of S. Magnus-the-Martyr and this was traditionally where London pilgrims would say their prayers before setting off to Canterbury. In the Canterbury Tales, the pilgrims convene at the nearby Tabard Inn, just across the bridge in Southwark. The chapel of S. Thomas fell into disuse and was destroyed when the buildings on London Bridge were removed. The chapel can be seen in the scale model of London Bridge which is located at the back of S. Magnus church, and it is also depicted in the stained glass window on the South side of the church beneath an image of our co-Patron S. Thomas.

You may remember back in July I posted pictures of a procession from S. Magnus to the site of the old chapel on the feast of the Translation of the Relics of S. Thomas. I am pleased to report that S. Magnus has gratefully received a primary relic of our very own of S. Thomas, ex ossibus, which means that the Procession can now become an annual event if God wills.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Childermas


Today's feast of the Holy Innocents is known in English as Childermas. This feast is a real liturgical curiosity. Certainly very ancient (going back in the West to at least 485), this feast is pegged in different traditions to either the "Sanctoral" or the "Seasonal" cycle of the year. While the Latin church keeps this feast on the 28th December, the Greeks on the 29th and the Syrians and Assyrians on the 27th, the Armenians on the Monday after the second Sunday of Pentecost, as they maintain that the Holy Innocents were killed fifteen weeks after the Nativity.

Another curiosity is the liturgical colour used for the feast. If the feast falls on a weekday, Violet is used. This stems from the Roman argument that since the Innocents were killed before they were able to attain the beatific vision, they should not be commemorated as other Martyrs, but in honour of the women of Bethlehem, the Gloria and Alleluia are not sung at the Mass. In the Gallican rites of France and parts of Germany, this distinction was not made and Red was used along with the Gloria and Alleluia. Therefore, in the Old Roman Rite, Violet is used if the feast falls on a weekday and Red is used if it falls on a Sunday (and on the Octave day, when the Gloria and Alleluia are also sung), a rare example of compromise between Roman and local uses.

In England, there was a custom of not working on whatever day of the week the feast fell on for the rest of the year until the next Childermas. It would be logical to assume that this custom was only followed by the very wealthy.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

S. Stephen, Proto-Martyr, Deacon

Who needs Bristol Cribbs Causeway shopping centre and turkey curry on "Boxing Day", when we could be having this:


Deacons in the Armenian church wear mitres on the feast of S. Stephen, and on other great feasts whenever there are seven deacons present. The Deacon's mitre is, as you can see, closer to a Byzantine Bishop's mitra than the Armenian Bishop's mitre, which I believe derives its shape from the Latin mitre. These ones are also holding small church-like structures which remind me of a Coptic icon of S. Stephen I have at home. In this image he is entirely localised to Egypt, carrying an Egyptian censer, a small church structure and wearing an ornamented alb and Coptic "mitra"(even though, to my knowledge, Coptic Deacons never wear mitres). These Armenian Deacons are living icons of the Greatest Deacon and the first to die for Christ.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Holy Nativity


Wishing a very Merry Christmas to all who visit this blog.

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shone forth the light of Wisdom upon the world!

-Troparion of the Nativity

Monday, 20 December 2010

Palm Sunday at S. Magnus (1935)



Great thanks are due to a member of the S. Magnus congregation who forwarded this video of Palm Sunday ceremonies in London. the video shows the Rector of S. Michael's and the Rector of S. Magnus, the famous Fr Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton processing down Lower Thames street and into the Church. It is amusing to see the cross being used, quite incorrectly, to knock for admittance. The foot of the cross should be used to knock three times against the door, not the upper part as is seen here. Also, the commentary is wrong: it is not the rector of S. Magnus knocking for admittance. One wonders if Fr Fynes-Clinton had stern words to say in the sacristy after the Mass.

The film then moves to Westminster Cathedral, where we see folded chasubles in use. It is a shame that only two priests in cope are in Vestments for the Procession at S. Magnus, as I'm sure Fr Fynes-Clinton would have copied what was happening at the Cathedral closely. I have read and been told that he preferred to celebrate a Missa Cantata as the principle Sunday Liturgy rather than to procure a Deacon and Subdeacon, perhaps (with reason, as we see here) he didn't trust other clergymen to get things right.

I hope this video goes some way to answering the criticisms I have patiently suffered from "Tranglicans" (a new hybrid species of Anglican in alliance with Roman Catholic Traditionalists whose primary ministry is to berate non-Papalist Anglicans for publicly declining the "generous offer" of Anglicanorum Coetibus). "Catholic Gossip" aside (I do not see how gossip can be a ministry of the Church, but oh well!), I have to say now, as Ex Fide the blogger, comments that compare my views unfavourably with those of the "supreme Anglican Papalist" Fr Fynes-Clinton, erstwhile rector of S. Magnus, do nothing to persuade me to change my position regarding the Ordinariate. I find it offensive and ultimately divisive; a terrible disservice to the cause of Unity.

This video shows Fr Fynes-Clinton in his heyday, indeed in the heyday of Anglo-Papalism and, for Roman Catholic Traditionalists, the Golden Era before Vatican II, even before Pius XII if he is what irks you! There is nothing to profit from evoking the ghosts of Fr Fynes-Clinton, Dom Gregory Dix, Fr Hope-Paten...........These men died 60 years ago, and they died as Anglicans! If Rome were as inviting as Traditionalists promise us it was and is now, then why did these men not seek conversion on their death beds or long before that? Indeed, is it not reasonable to assume, from a Roman point of view, that these men were schismatics, no, even promoted schism by not submitting to Rome, and therefore are probably in Hell? Or will someone create another story when their legacy is exalted as ""Anglican Patrimony""????

I have my reasons for not seeking submission to Rome which stem from an Ecclesiology and Theology that I believe is infinately more in keeping with Tradition than that promoted by so-called Traditionalists. I will not mock, berate or insult Anglicans who want to submit to Rome, I simply wish them the best of luck, but please, let me respectfully ask you that you refrain from attacking those of us who will not go.

I remember over a year ago, another blogger, a well-known RC Traditionalist posted a picture on his blog of the Sacristy of S. Magnus which contains a now infamous certificate of Papal blessing. In his post, and in the comments box below, we Anglo-Catholics were mocked by the Traditionalist crowd for practising some sort of quasi-Catholicism and accused of stupidly supposing that we believe ourselves to be under the Pope's jurisdiction. In other words, we were persona non grata in the RC Traditionalist movement. Suddenly, the blogosphere is alive with comments lauding these "Anglo-Catholics" who have managed to survive so long under Canterbury's tyranical regime, and the Trads out-do themselves in gasping excitedly about which Parish will fall next. Tranglicans have been born, and add "Anglican" voices to the hot air around the Apostolic Constitution. It reminds me not a little of the CNN coverage of the Iraq War, when Iraqi cities were falling to the Americans like dominoes, only to be lost later when it became apparent that the very people they had "liberated" turned on them. Not to suggest that AC will be a tragedy on the scale of the Iraq War, but Anglicans, think about how you were treated by Traditionalists two years ago. What has changed? Why is the one who ridiculed you now your best friend and your brother now your enemy? Which part of the Gospel encourages you to pick up stones and throw them so easily? God have mercy.....

Monday, 13 December 2010

Gaudete Sunday at S. Magnus


A snap from yesterday's Mass of Advent III known as Gaudete Sunday. Rose-coloured vestments were worn, with the Deacon and Subdeacon wearing Dalmatic and Tunicle to lighten to the mood of Advent.

This set of Vestments (a complete High Mass set with humeral veil, cope and additional choir stoles) was a donation. As you can see, the Dalmatic and Tunicle are distinguished from each other as they ought be: the tunicle being slightly longer and bearing only one horizontal band. They both have the flap-sleeves common in French and Belgian vestments. The chasuble features an Agnus Dei embroidered motif and a large cross orphrey. The humeral veil is embroidered with IHS.

The Mass was served by the Rector, Fr Warner, with Fr Craig Barber as Deacon. Mr Jason Groves served as Subdeacon, celebrating his 20th Anniversary serving in that role. Twenty years ago he first served as Subdeacon Crucifer for Solemn Evensong of Advent III in Australia.

After the Liturgy, the people of S. Magnus retired as usual to the crypt, where refreshments were offered, including pink beetroot waffles, a beetroot and mackerel pate and "pink" cocktails (pink gin and cosmopolitans). Every single member of the congregation wore an item of pink (or rose-coloured) clothing to celebrate Gaudete Sunday, including the Premier Sacristan, Ex Fide, who was stunning in a pale pink Oxford shirt, it must be said.

It's very encouraging to see S. Magnus continuing in its strong and steady growth. It's a joy to receive visitors to the church from all over the world (owing to our location next to the Monument) and it's very satisfying to see so many people return Sunday by Sunday. I believe 2010 has broken the record for Weddings solemnized at S. Magnus, and next year's calender is looking full already (so book now!), with more weddings and baptisms scheduled. Perhaps the reason S. Magnus folk have gone all out to celebrate Gaudete Sunday is because there really is something to celebrate. Gaudeamus, because we are part of a community of witness that has flourished in an unlikely place, and which seems to defy all the doom and gloom stories of plummeting attendance and the death of the orthodox, catholic faith in the Church of England.

Monday, 22 November 2010

High Churchmanship and Anglo-Catholicism - what now?


At some point in the last century, the term "High Church" became a perjorative term used by those who called themselves "Anglo-Catholics" to denote groups who had not become "ritually advanced" to the point of celebrating the Roman Liturgy and practising contemporary Roman Catholic devotions. The term was used to distinguish the post-Ritualist and predominantly Romanised Anglo-Catholics from those who persisted in the Tractarians' cautious cleaving to the Prayer Book whilst quietly reserving the Sacrament in aumbries and increasing celebrations of the Holy Communion on Sundays and feast days. In more recent times, "High Church" has been applied to Liturgy to describe practices that, while headed in the right direction, don't quite meet the accepted standard of the Western Rite: A Prayer Book Eucharist with Copes and incense on Feast Days rather than the Roman Mass followed by an Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart or similar. The idea behind this use is that High Church parishes have not made it all the way to being fully "Catholic", as they insist on using Cranmer's Liturgy and regard Baroque church fittings, Ultramontane teaching and the promotion of contemporary Roman Catholic devotions as ostentatious and extreme. "After all," they would say, "this is the Church of England!".

This was a significant, if not the most signficant, split between the groups and parties that believed themselves to be heirs of the Oxford Movement. It was part of a trend that involved a dynamic between Teaching and Practice throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, Tractarianism spawned the Branch Theory, and this focus on the relationship of the C of E to the Medieval Church instigated a re-appraisal of the Anglican Liturgy, creating the necessary conditions for the Ritualist movement, which in turn crystalised around Liturgical Romanism which produced and fed Ultramontanism and Anglo-Papalism, leading to the apogee of Anglo-Catholicism and the start of its slow decline after the 1960s.

At every stage of this development, there were those who fell away and refused to assent to the advances of the radicals, and the movement became characterised by the rivalry of conservative and extreme elements, both embarking on creative projects of scholarship in an attempt to justify their own party labels. There were Branch Theorists who vehemently opposed the re-introduction of "popish" liturgical practices from the Medieval Church. There were Liturgical Romanists (served by the SSPP publishers) who adopted the aesthetic, if not the substance, of contemporary Roman Liturgy, refusing to drop Sundays after Trinity and the Collect for Purity. One important group rivalled the Romanists in the last years of the 19th century and were dismissed as practitioners of "British Museum Religion". The Dearmer set and the Alcuin Club are now remembered for the famous put-down I just quoted, and their often eccentric attempts to imbue the Prayerbook Liturgy with Sarum ceremonial. They were superseded by Romanists, now claiming to be Anglo-Catholics, and their legacy fizzled out as they became identified with the defeated High Church label.

So where has all this taken us, and what do we have to show for our journey and our battles? Anglican Papalism lost its identity after Vatican II, and the Ultramontane leanings of its clergy led to continuous, sometimes debilitating, defections to Rome culminating in the exodus of 1992 in the wake of women's ordination to the Priesthood in the Church of England. Anglicanorum Coetibus stands to flush out the very last Anglo-Papists in the Anglican Communion (at least those who accept the Papal claims in toto and fantasise that they are under the Roman Pontiff's jurisdiction). In a curious irony, the very Anglo-Catholics who for so long have disparagingly referred to non-Romanised, and more recently "alternative-integrity" ritualist Anglicans, as mere "High Church" imitators, are now being beaten about the head with the same label by some Roman Catholic Traditionalists, eagerly awaiting the Ordinariate's Anglican liturgical contribution to their slightly ludicrous programme of the "Reform of the Reform" (the image of clergy obscurbed behind the 'Benedictine arrangement' candlesticks and crucifux at a west-facing altar is one example that springs to mind of this movement's bizarre urge to invent traditions).

Indeed, irony is the prevailing flavour of the current state of Anglo-Catholicism and the purpose and integrity of those Anglicans who don't go to Rome will be a serious question that demands a serious answer. For my part, I think it's worth taking a step back to evaluate what the whole point of the Oxford Movement has been, and my personal conclusion is that we need to serious review the work and teaching of the High Church movement, and especially those High Church Liturgists who started with the Prayerbook and worked backward.

The High Church movement was cerebral, scholarly, quiet and calm. In contrast to the extreme Romanists who tried to nudge the Church of England to catch up with contemporary Roman Catholic practice, the High Churchman started with the basic premise that the formulas o the Prayerbook were an adequate, even complete, statement of the Catholic and Apostolic faith of the Church of England, and yet at the same time they were not so prejudiced (as Evangelical Protestant apologists were) as to overlook or dismiss the Medieval Liturgy of Sarum, and the uses of other great Sees, and indeed these Liturgists produced some important scholarship on Liturgy in Medieval England, translating the Sarum Missal and Breviary. These translations allowed for the publication of editions of the Book of Common Prayer printed in parrallel with the Sarum Missal - an exercise that allowed Catholic Anglicans to see quite plainly that whatever Cranmer had intended to do to the English Liturgy, in most cases he had merely paraphrased the Sarum Liturgy in English.

The High Church liturgists also took a fundamentally different approach to the Romanists. Instead of accepting wholesale the Liturgical culture of contemporary Rome, and updating their liturgies in line with the latest prescriptions from the Vatican, the High Churchmen took a more measured approach, focusing on the good and authentic aspects of the Prayerbook liturgy and living out that Liturgy according to their understanding of the Church's Apostolic history: They made the Eucharist the principle Sunday service, and fiercely defended the daily Office against the proliferation of daily celebrations and evening Masses. They encouraged devout Communion at one principle Sunday service rather than banning it at High Celebrations as the Romanists did. They were keen on continuity with the Medieval Church whilst also proposing that the institution was in need of reform, and they only very cautiously introduced aspects of Medieval Liturgy, and rarely invented new services. The sorts of things they did bring back were authentic and original to the context, and they delighted in their Englishness. Crucifers in tunicles became associated with High Church or English Use Liturgy by Anglo-Papists who had become used to copying contemporary Roman Catholic Liturgical practice, which was itself prone to imitate the Papal Court Liturgies. This despite the fact, and without the knowledge, that even Acolytes wore the tunicle in Rome until fairly recently. As Romanism became more extreme and intolerant as ultramontanists rejected any liturgical practice not sanctioned by the Congration of Rites, High Churchmanship became more tolerant of the Church parties around it, sure in its Anglican identity and steady, measured rapprochement with its pre-Reformation past.

I have to admit I don't know a great deal about this group, or the High Church Divines that informed their teaching, but I think it is now time to re-appraise the High Church ideals, and ask how they might be relevant to the future of Catholic Anglicanism. Romanism and its logical conclusions are set to play out in the years ahead. We have to decide whether we will give up on the Church of England, or whether we will try to carve out a more durable, realistic and authentic identity within it.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Office of the Dead - Absolution


Perhaps prompted by the service of Solemn Vespers of the Dead which will be sung at S. Magnus tonight, I've been considering that part of the Office of the Dead that normally follows the Mass: the Absolution. This ceremony is interesting to me for two principle reasons: firstly that the same rites can be carried out whether a body is present or not, and secondly because the presence of a Subdeacon with cross, and more specifically, the Subdeacon of the Mass, lends this ceremony to comparison with other rites in which this configuration appears: the Procession of Palm Sunday and the Procession of Candlemass.

In previous posts, I've written about the "language" of Liturgy and how the use of certain prayers, vestments and liturgical colours and actions in the Roman rite form a structured discourse, not unlike a human language, which discloses meaning and "makes present" Christ's actions and attributes in the Liturgy. It seems to me that one can speak both of Christ's Sacramental presence in the Eucharist and His Liturgical presence in rites of the Liturgy (making sense of the ceremonies of the Gospel reading in the Mass etc).

We know that the Processions of Palm Sunday and Candlemas are a liturgical re-enactment, or making present, of events in the Gospel. In the case of Candlemas, the Presentation of Christ is enacted by the arrival at the Sanctuary gates of the Cross, born by a Subdeacon, while a description of the prescribed sacrifice is sung by the choir. On Palm Sunday, the Cross is again used a type of Christ and is processed among palms and hymns before arriving at the Church doors, the Gate of Jerusalem, where the Subdeacon knocks on the door with the Processional Cross, and those outside and inside the church begin a sung dialogue of Praise and welcome.

What then, is being made present in the Absolution of the Dead? Well, as with the two examples above, the clue is in the prayers recited and the configuration of the Subdeacon and Cross. In this rite, the procession forms essentially as at the other Celebrations, the Subdeacon and Cross with Acolytes either side and preceded by the Thurifer, and the Subdeacon goes to stand at the head of the Bier. This is clearly important because the Subdeacon will be facing the Altar in the case of a layman or empty bier, or facing West at the Bier of a simple Priest or Bishop. The link between the Cross and the head of the Deceased is important. The rites begin with the Priest Celebrant facing the Cross, wherever it be, beginning with:

ENTER not into judgment with Thy servant, O LORD, for in Thy Sight can no man living be justified. Judge him not therefore, O LORD, whom the prayers of the faithful commend unto Thee, but of Thy mercy let him who, when alive, was signed in the Name of the HOLY TRINITY, escape Thy just vengeance. Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

If there be a body present, this prayer is followed by the singing of the Libera Me:

R/.. Deliver me, O LORD, from death eternal in that day tremendous: when the Heavens and the earth shall be moved: when Thou comest to judge the world by fire. V/. I am in fear and trembling until the sifting is at hand, and the wrath about to come. *When the Heavens and the earth shall be moved. V/. That day, a day of wrath, of calamity and misery, a great day, and exceeding bitter. *When Thou comest to judge the world by fire. V/. Rest eternal grant to them, O LORD, and let light perpetual shine upon them. R/. Deliver me, O LORD,....... by fire.

Incense is imposed and blessed, and the Kyrie Eleison sung antiphonally by one side of the choir, then the other. The Celebrant then intones the Pater Noster while aspersing and then censing the Bier. The Priest, significantly, is instructed to bow low when passing the cross, while the Deacon genuflects, meaning the Cross, in common with Palm Sunday and Candlemass, is a liturgical object that has been invested with Christ's symbolic, liturgical presence for the sake of this re-enactment. There follows a collect:

O GOD, Whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive, receive our humble petitions for the soul of Thy servant N., which Thou hast commanded to pass out of this world: deliver it not into the hands of the Enemy, neither forget it at the last, but command it to be received by Thy holy Angels, and to be carried into the land of the living; and, forasmuch as he hoped and believed in Thee, let him be counted worthy to rejoice in the fellowship of Thy Saints. Through our LORD JESUS CHRIST, Thy SON, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the HOLY GHOST, GOD, for ever and ever. Amen.

...and the absolution....

ABSOLVE, O LORD, we beseech Thee, the soul of Thy servant (or handmaid), N., that though dead to the world, he may live to Thee; and whatsoever he hath done amiss in his human conversation, through the weakness of the flesh, do Thou by the pardon of Thy most merciful loving-kindness wipe away. Through CHRIST our LORD, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the HOLY GHOST, GOD, for ever and ever. Amen.

So what is being enacted here? The prayers here share the common theme of begging mercy from the Almighty, the pardoning of offences at the general Resurrection, with Christ sitting in judgement. However, as we well know, this is a future event alluded to in the Gospel, not an historical event that we can re-enact. Could it be then, that this ceremony is a shadow of the Judgement to come? The image is quite clear: Christ at the head of the deceased Christian, who is surrounded (quite literally here) by the prayers of the living. The clergy are directed to hold lighted candles for the absolution, as at Candlemass and Palm Sunday, signifying the active participation of those present in the Liturgical action. Nonetheless, this is not strictly a "re-enactment" of the Judgement, but rather an illustration of it, perhaps more aptly, an "ikon" of the Judgement. A comparison springs to mind in the ceremonies of the Paschal Vigil, when the Lumen Christi procession is made by the Deacon in white vestments through a dark church, where the ministers and Altar are still dressed in Violet. One cannot say where in this Vigil the Resurrection is actually "enacted", although there are allusions to It throughout the beginning the of Vigil.

My thesis would also be that the Ceremony of Absolution could also be interpreted in light of the Descent of Christ into hades, if only because the Libera Me evokes this, and because of it is represented in the Byzantine Liturgy of Holy Saturday. For example at the Midnight office, a procession is made around the Church with the new Paschal flame-lit candles, while the Church inside is decked for the Feast. The Priest knocks on the church doors with the Cross (not unlike Palm Sunday) and begins a dialogue with a "voice of Hades" from inside the Church, which are then flung open to symbolise the gates of Hades being destroyed by Christ.

Perhaps because the enactment of this event is not explicit in the Roman Paschal liturgy, I can't help wondering of there is something of the Descent in the ceremony of Absolution. The Descent was so prominent in Patristic teaching during the early formative years of the Roman Rite, and there are ceremonial aspects in it which could relate to Byzantine practice - I'm thinking particularly of the Pall-like Plashchanitsa (shroud depicting the dead Christ) being moved from the Sepulchre to the Altar of the Church, the Procession that follows it. The Catholic Encyclopaedia says of the Libera me: "This is one of the few texts in the Roman Liturgy alluding to Christ's into hell. It is also a very ancient composition". All of this opens the possibility that something of the Descent that was originally part of Roman or other Western Paschal Liturgies got transferred to the Office of the Dead. I'm very keen to hear readers' views on this.

My final point is this: One must never underestimate the doctrinal core of the Sacred Liturgy. I have often discussed Liturgy as analogous to language, and like language, the Liturgy is also a medium of instruction. If one were to draw a diagram of Catholic theology on Prayer for the Dead, it would probably look very much like a plan-view of the Absolution ceremony: the dead are surrounded by the prayers of the faithful; a priest pleads before Christ the Head on their behalf and offers prayers beseeching Absolution. The Dead are honoured by the presence of mourners with candles, their physical remains, or their "ikon", are censed and lustrated etc. The Sacred Liturgy is effectively the language of our Salvation: it discloses to us the very essence of our Faith, and allows us to live the Gospel and to live "in" the Gospel, as Christ is made Sacramentally, Liturgically, figuratively present to us. This is the brilliance of the Old Rite, and this brilliance is lost the moment we start assenting to commitee religion and bad, spurious, invented liturgical practice. To those who continue to flog a dead horse: the Modern Roman Rite, Common Worship, the so-called Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, anything that represents a serious and damaging breach with Traditional practice: what they are affirming in the name of obedience to the Pope, or preference for modern language, or whatever, is a total ignorance of, and lack of concern for, the richness of the Traditional Liturgy. This just isn't right.

Friday, 5 November 2010

More on Deacons, and Maniples


More on the subject of Deacons, and more specifically the question "Is a Priest a Deacon?" which has been exercising my mind over the last few days.

I broached this topic with an Anglican clergymen that I met when he was a recently ordained Deacon and who is now a Priest. He said that yes, he was a Deacon. One sign of this is the Priest and Bishop's use of the Maniple, which has its origins in the towel carried by the Deacon. A quick glance at the Catholic Encyclopaedia, which I tend to believe and trust, seems to contradict this, however. The origin of the Maniple is supposedly in a small mappa, or handkerchief which was ornamental and rarely put to actual use, and was carried by anyone of high rank in the left hand. The evidence for this is found in the peculiar use of this vestment by the Bishop who is handed His Maniple to wear at the prayer Indulgentiam in the Mass, while other clergy put theirs on before Mass begins. The Maniple, then, has as its origin a sign of status, rather than service, although the modern Maniple could well be a conflation of the ornamental maniple with other, more practical cloths and towels employed by clergy in the service of the Altar, the Deacon included. Furthermore, along with the development of the Subdiaconate as a Major or higher Order, the Maniple came to be given to the Subdeacon at his ordination, placed on his arm by the Bishop himself, almost as a sign of his inclusion in the higher ranks of clergy. Additionally, the analogous vestment in the Byzantine rite, the epigonation (that hangs from the cincture) belongs only to the Bishop (and there exists an exclusively Papal version in the West). The other possible analogy, the epimanikia, are ornamental cuffs worn by Bishops, Priests and (strict) Deacons.

This is quite a diversion from the actual question "Is a Priest a Deacon?" which the Roman Church logically affirms, since She teaches that Ordination produces an indellible mark on the soul: a diaconal ordination cannot be undone, and diaconal orders are not revoked. It seems to me that a mythology of this gradual acquisition of Orders (indistinct from Office) has been projected onto the Liturgy, which is why Catholics can say a Bishop is Priest, Deacon and Subdeacon when vested in Chasuble, Dalmatic and Tunicle at the Liturgy.

My assertion is that in the West, there has traditionally been a distinction (now lost) between Orders and Office, which comes out in the oldest forms of Ordination rites. The "possession" of certain Vestments by certain Orders is also false, generating an ecclesiastical version of secular "insignia", but probably stems from the idea that as a clergyman ascends through the Orders, he retains their proper Offices and therefore some visible sign of them. If that is true, why do we have Mitred Abbots (who are not in Episcopal Orders) and Deacons and Subdeacons in Folded Chasubles (evidence that the planeta was not originally only a Sacerdotal vestment)?

My feeling is that this conflation of Orders and Offices in the West, and all that comes with it, has been had overwhelmingly negative effect on Western Liturgy: the virtual suppression of the Diaconate, making the Office of Deacon a temporary state from which one will almost invariably proceed to be Priested, and in any case not an important office at all, since all functions can be fulfilled by a Priest; the actual suppression of the Subdiaconate and Minor Orders in our own time (regardless of their antiquity) and, finally, the evolution of the "Server" as an ambiguous category of person occupying the borderland between clergy and laity and therefore quite unregulated and uncontrollable. Given all this, it hardly surprises me when I see Romanized Anglican "Priest-Deacons" forget the rules and kiss the Gospel Book at a Pontifical Liturgy: they simply don't know what they're supposed to be doing, and in most cases, as long as there's incense and pretty vestments, they don't even care.

The first time I opened a Pontifical, I couldn't believe what I was seeing: all the Ceremonies and Rites for instituting and ordaining every category of clergy you would ever need (and some you might think you don't), and blessings for pretty much every eventuality. These rites are effectively dead to most of the Western Church, which is a shameful neglect and rejection of our very anchor in the Faith. When will we learn that we have to let the Sacred Liturgy, that great repository of Tradition, teach us what to do? When will we stop projecting our own superstitious symbolism onto the Liturgy, and hacking away at its integrity with our own confused notions of what is "permissable" or "convenient"? The moment we start constructing the Liturgy (or a Liturgy) around ourselves is the moment when we start making up our own religion, and after that, there's just no point.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Priests, Deacons, Subdeacons...and Ethiopians

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I don't have much time to linger on Liturgical blogs these days, alas. Whenever I do look at RC tradworld blogs, however, I do notice one feature of tradworld liturgies that irks me: the practice of priests serving the Liturgy not as priests, but rather as Deacons and Subdeacons. I've also been reading a little about the Ethiopian rite of the Divine Liturgy and tradworld vs Ethiopian Orthodox is quite a contrast.

Reading tradworld rubrical guides, new and reprinted, one often sees instructions to the effect that Priests may carry out the functions of the Deacon or Subdeacon at Mass, or similar. In the Latin rite, a layman may fulfill the functions of the Subdeacon, with certain restrictions, of course, on what he can wear and do. This raises several important questions about how the Western Church "does" Liturgy: Are we saying that the rite is inherently defective, because it puts into vestments a person (the Subdeacon) who needn't be ordained to fulfill that office? Why is it that under current rules, both an ordained priest and a layman can serve as Subdeacons at the Liturgy? Does that make sense? Is there supposed to be a sharp line between clergy and laity, and which side of the Minor Orders does it fall on?

At the Ethiopian Liturgy, one will find at least five (seven is canonically correct) ministers: The Celebrant, the Assistant Priest, the Deacon, the Subdeacon, and the Lector, to which Fanbearer and Acolyte are added to make up the canonically required seven. A Priest assists, but he does so as an Assistant Priest. There is no notion of "demoting" him to the rank of Deacon for the duration of the liturgy.

Western practice begs the question, what actually is the Priest-Deacon? Is he a just a Priest in Deacon's clothing? If he is, why does he receive Communion with his stole tied inappropriately, or if he's acting as Subdeacon, not at all? The inconsistencies that arise, where the Priest in choir is expected to receive Communion in a stole, but the Priest-in-Tunicle isn't!

Another major question is that of the relationship between Office and Liturgical Function. My understanding of Orders, starting from scripture and going on to the Fathers, is that each clerical order has both an Office and a Function. In some cases, the liturgical function overlaps a little: Bishops and Priests both celebrate the Liturgy, Subdeacons and Lectors (formerly) both chant Readings. Yet, their respective offices are not precisely the same. Is it right then, for a priest to temporarily relinquish his proper function to fulfill that of another minister, or for a layman to usurp the liturgical function proper to a Subdeacon?

This might all seem like so much splitting of hairs, and shying away from providing real answers. But comparing the Ethiopian and Latin-rite practice reveals the massive gulf between how East and West project their own notions of convenience onto the Liturgy.

Convenience does matter, though. In my church, I'm used to priests acting as Deacons. We don't have a Deacon affiliated to the Parish, and when one visits, he acts as Deacon. Luckily though, I don't think I've ever seen a Priest act as Subdeacon in the Parish (which must be one of the worst liturgical solecisms ever!). The rotation of lay servers in this role is perhaps not the ideal, but is certainly better practice than using a priest, and approaches at least a "simulation" of ministers in minor orders. And to my mind, the minor orders are the answer to this problem. That and the promotion of the Diaconate. One of the good things (but possibly the worst named) to come out of late twentieth-century mucking around with the Liturgy is the revival of the "Permanent" Diaconate, individuals who are ordained as Deacons to fulfill the Office of pastoral care and teaching, and the Functions of the Deacon at the Liturgy. Surely that is the first step in achieving an understanding of orders that chimes with scripture and tradition.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Happy Feast of S. Gerard Majella


Wishing everyone a happy feast of S. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of, among other things, expectant mothers and a good confession. Unfortunately I haven't had time to organise anything at S. Magnus (I originally wanted to keep a Triduum in honour of S. Gerard in some way or another) and frankly I'd rather stay at home and say the Kosher Hours rather than schlep all the way to the Redemptorist church in Clapham for a Hiberno-Nigerian fertility liturgy.

Although his cult can seem irrelevant to your average 20-something non-pregnant male, I've had a strong affection for this saint ever since I first read his Vita, which is available in full online. If you disregard the florid devotional tone of this book, the character of S. Gerard emerges - a humble, wise, generous young man who had the most wretched start and end to his short life, but who brought light and joy to so many. Happy feast!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Antidoron, the Pain Benit and the Sunday Loaf


I've been considering quite a lot recently the role and history of blessed bread in the liturgy and by extension, in parish life. The distribution of bread which is blessed, not consecrated, at the conclusion of the Liturgy is found in both Western and Eastern liturgical traditions. The Antidoron, the remains of the Eucharistic breads not consecrated during the Liturgy, is distrubted after every Liturgy amongst Russian and Greek Orthodox christians. The custom has as much of a history in the West, attested by the existence of no fewer that six benedictio panis prayers in the Roman Ritual, and the survival in France of the pain benit, bread blessed before, during or after the liturgy and distributed to the faithful as a sign of charity and community.

The common origin of both is found in the primitive liturgy, where the faithful would supply the bread that would be consecrated in the Liturgy. It is assumed by some that surplus bread was consumed by those who had been present at the Liturgy, including the catechumens (Gregory Dix makes reference to this in his description of the primitive liturgy in Sacramental Life, where he imagines a modern re-enaction consisting of secretive Christians arriving at a house laden with scones to be consecrated!). This custom survived as the Fermentum, where a Bishop would send consecrated Eucharistic Bread to his priests as a sign of their communion. Later, in order to prevent profanation of the Sacrament, as as the baking and supplying of the bread became the responsibility of ministers, supported by the donations of the faithful, the parrallel customs of the Western eulogia and the Eastern Antidoron took shape. As the Catholic Encyclopaedia notes:

The usage then began of sending blessed bread instead of the Holy Communion to those who did not communicate at the Mass, and to those who might wish to receive this gift as a pledge of communion of faith. These who did not communicate received bread offered at the Offertory the Mass but not consecrated. It appears to have received no other blessing than that of the Offertory Prayer, and was considered blessed because it formed part of the oblation. This bread is called eulogia, because it is blessed and because a blessing accompanies its use; it is also called antidoron, because it is a substitute for the doron, the real gift, which is the Holy Eucharist. The eulogia prescribed in the liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, but now it is distributed to all, both communicants and non-communicants. It existed also in the West, and is mentioned by St. Gregory of Tours, the Council of Nantes, and Leo IV in terms which would make it appear a somewhat universal custom.
Other small loaves, blessed but not consecrated, were also called eulogiae, and used by Bishops in a similar way to the fermentum, and the sending of a loaf signified by a Bishop could signify the resumption of communion after a schism or censure.

The development in the West of the wafer-like Eucharist host, which could not be easily baked in most homes and became a task entrusted to religious, signified the beginning of the end of the original eulogia, bread presented at the Offertory. The custom survived, however, in France, where one continues to see vestiges of Liturgical praxis that have died out in the rite of Rome. CE again:

Later, when the faithful no longer furnished the altar-bread, a custom arose of bringing bread to the church for the special purpose of having it blessed and distributed among those present as token of mutual love and union, and this custom still exists in the Western Church, especially in France. This blessed bread was called panis benedictus, panis lustratus, panis lustralis, and is now known in France as pain bénit. It differs from the eugloia mentioned above, because it is not a part of the oblation from which the particle to be consecrated in the Mass is selected, but rather is common bread which receives a special benediction. In many places it is the custom for each family in turn to present the bread on Sundays and feast days, while in other places only the wealthier families furnish it. Generally the bread is presented with some solemnity at the Offertory of the parochial Mass, and the priest blesses it before the Oblation of the Host and Chalice, but different customs exist in different dioceses. The prayer ordinarily used for the blessing is the first or second: benedictio panis printed in the Roman missal and ritual. The faithful were exhorted to partake of it in the church, but frequently it was carried home. This blessed bread is a sacramental, which should excite Christians to practice especially the virtues of charity, and unity of spirit, and which brings blessings to those who partake of it with due devotion. The Priest, when blessing it, prays that those who eat it may receive health both of soul and body: "ut omnes ex eo gustantes inde corporis et animae percipant sanitatem"; "ut sit omnibus sumentibus salus mentis et corporis". In some instances the pain bénit was used not only with superstitious intent, and its virtues exaggerated beyond measure, but also for profane purposes. This usage was brought from France Canada, and was practised chiefly in the province of Quebec. There the pain bénit had blessed immediately after the Asperges, and then distributed to those who assisted at high Mass. The parishioners furnished it in turn, and vied with one another in presenting as rich and fine a pain bénit as possible, until finally the bishops, seeing that it entailed too much expense upon the poor circumstances, prohibited it. Within the last twenty-five and thirty years the custom has almost entirely disappeared.
I'm not very knowledgeable about the extent of this practice in England, although it would seem to make sense that in Sarum something similar was done with bread as in France, at least on major feasts. However, the custom of wealthier parishioners supplying bread for the needs of the poor seems to have been a part of Parish life in the post-reformation Church of England, and to have possibly flourished on account of the Poor Laws enacted from the 16th-19th centuries. My own Parish church of S. Magnus, built by Wren in 1676, features eight small shelves either side of the main doors in the Narthex to house seven loaves, which were distributed to poor families after Sunday Service. It is unlikely that this bread ever received a special benediction before distribution, but the fact that this bread was donated by those with means to do so for the benefit of fellow Christians, as well as the mere fact that this bread was placed in individual shelves visible to all as they left the Church means this custom of the Sunday Loaf is linked, at least in ethos, to the eulogia of old.

I believe personally that all of these uses of bread honour an ancient and authentic aspect of the liturgy; that of giving. The Sacrifice of the Mass, depends in material terms on the giving of real bread and wine by the faithful, or at least having contributed by giving money. The consecrated Bread was received by those initiated and disposed to do so, but surplus bread, blessed not consecrated, was an important sign of the Christian's belonging to the community, even if he is unbaptised. As we saw with the pain benit, when the Eucharistic bread was no longer supplied directly by the faithful, they substituted ordinary bread, blessed at some point during the Liturgy, to be distributed afterwards. To my mind, this is the meanings of the word "leitourgia", which signifies the whole community of the faithful supplying the spiritual and the material substance of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. To disinvest them of this opportunity to contribute materially, is the first step towards alienating the faithful from the liturgy of the Mass. I would urge "practitioners" of Liturgy to consider reviving the custom of the pain benit, or preferrably of the actual eulogia (blessed by being part of the Offertory). It would be quite simple for an MC or server to place a basket of bread on the altar during the Offertory which could be removed after having been blessed at "haec dona, haec munera" and distributed after Mass. Alternatively, bread could be blessed after Mass according to the Ritual and distributed in the Narthex. Does that sound like such an eccentricity.

Former member of the congregation of S. Magnus speaks out about present abuses: exclusive voice from the grave....


"Many former members of the congregation [of S. Magnus] in more solid days are astonished by the church's present life and its breach with earlier traditions, little of which any longer appear to be understood."

-Anonymous [so far failed to present himself by name, but rumoured to be the voice of Myles Coverdale speaking from the grave]

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Fraternity of Our Lady de Salve Regina in Walsingham


Good Walsingham Procession...

Bad Walsingham Procession - I don't see why pilgrims should have to carry Our Lady of Ronseal around, rather than an image that looks more like the real McCoy. Unrobed image-bearers and those funny little pen-lights around the statue. Oh dear.....

Just wanted to share a few photos from this year's pilgrimage to Walsingham with the Fraternity of Our Lady de Salve Regina, which happened this weekend.

The Fraternity has a very interesting history, which you can read below. In common with the Shrine at Walsingham, the Fraternity was a 20th century revival of a medieval institution, and in many ways the modern history of the Fraternity is intimately linked with the Walsingham shrine, reflecting the close partnership between Fr Hope Patten and Fr Fynes-Clinton in the 20th century Catholic movement. The Walsingham shrine at S. Magnus is maintained by the Fraternity, and is an official starting point for pilgrimages to Walsingham. The Fraternity is also represented in the church's fabric by a stained glass window above the Lady Chapel of S. Magnus, which features the Fraternity's badge.

Tat-spotters will notice that in the photos I am wearing a blue sash or ribbon around my neck when robed for serving liturgical or devotional functions. This blue and gold band is the privilege of members of the Court that governs the Fraternity, and it is worn at all Fraternity events and by Court Members whenever they serve or celebrate the Sacraments. If you'd like more information about the Fraternity, or you'd like to join, then please contact me.

From the S. Magnus website :

Fraternity of Our Lady De Salve Regina

A Fraternity was founded in 1343 for the purpose of singing the hymn Salve Regina - a practice that was repeated in a number of other churches of medieval London. Records of neighbouring churches show that they too observe this practice with entries in several wills leaving property and money for the purpose.

Here at St. Magnus the image took the form of the Salutation of the Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel. Subscriptions of the members were devoted towards the five candles that were burnt before the statue during the singing of the hymn. Further allotments of money were used to provide altar cloths, plate and other accessories for the maintenance of the chapel. The architect of Westminster Hall, Henry Yevele, left in his will money to maintain a lamp that was to burn perpetually in front of the statue. Yevele, who died in 1400, was buried in the nearby chapel.

At the time of the Reformation in the 16th century the Fraternity was dissolved, and not reformed again until 1922. Currently [1994] there are some fifty to sixty members. The hymn with petitioning prayers is said or sung after the Eucharist throughout the year. The Fraternity's badge is shown in the stained glass window at the East end of the North wall of the church above the reredos of the Lady Chapel altar.

Five wax candles were burnt in honour of the Five Joys of Mary: 1 The Annunciation St. Luke i, 26-38 2 The Visitation St. Luke i, 39-56 3 The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ St. Luke ii, 1-19 4 The Presentation in the Temple St. Luke ii, 22- 39 5 The Finding in the Temple St. Luke ii, 41-51 As recited in the Rosary.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Procession of the Relic of S. Thomas of Canterbury


This Sunday at S. Magnus we kept the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of S. Thomas of Canterbury. After a Sung Mass, a relic of the Saint which was kindly lent to us for the occassion was transferred from the High Altar to a Feretory and Bier, and taken in Procession, carried by two Subdeacons, to London Bridge. The Old London Bridge, whose thoroughfare formerly went under the bell tower of S. Magnus, once had a chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury where pilgrims on the medieval pilgrimage route would gather before heading over to Southwark and on to Canterbury. This chapel, which is depicted in a window and model in S. Magnus church belonged to the Parish of Saint Magnus the Martyr, and so we have inherited that saint's special patronage.


The Mass was Sung by the Vicar, Fr Philip, who wore a red chasuble featuring the Arms of Saint Thomas.


As the Procession left the church, the choir began singing the petitions of the Litany of the Saints.


Here you can see the beginning of the Procession. You'll notice that S. Magnus maintains the venerable tradition of the Verger, who carries a mace and wears a distinctive verger's hat.


The Procession goes up the steps from Lower Thames Street onto the Bridge.



At the approximate place of the former Chapel, the relics made a station, and the Office of Sext was sung. This was followed by the Anthem of the Benedictus of the Office of S. Thomas of Canterbury, using the Sarum chant. On the return to the Church, the "praise psalms" 148, 149 and 150 were sung. On arriving at the church, the choir sang the Antiphon of the Magnificat of the aforementioned Office, followed by the versicle and collect. The reliquery was then removed from the Feretory, and place on the High Atlar, then censed, and the faithful had an opportunity to venerate. The reliquery also contained a fragment of the True Cross, among other relics, which explains the genuflections made by some. After Benediction of the Relic, the dismissal was given and all retired to a delicious curry lunch in the sun.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Comments welcome...


...although I do wonder whether I should adopt a more stringent policy on which comments will be published.

Ex Fide is a personal blog, and the essential keywords are "Catholic Liturgy and devotions". I'm starting to wonder whether any comments on ecclesiological controversies should be allowed to appear at all, since they almost always upset people. Anglicanorum Coetibus is a hot topic, but this blog really wasn't set up to provide a platform for partisan mud-slinging. There are many other blogs and discussion groups that are dedicated to reasonable (and unreasonable) debate, and they do it much better and involve far more people than this one.

The main reason that I started writing Ex Fide was to share the joy that I experience from being a Catholic Christian, being part of a worshipping community that strives always to live the Gospel, and to explore it in a way that is often fun, sometimes informative, always honest.

It is always the more light-hearted posts on this blog that attract the most derisive comments, and there are always people waiting for the next swish of lace or similar to use as ammunition against us. I'm personally not interested in defending myself against charges of frivolity and triviality, but in the interests of others, I'm not happy to let this blog become a blackboard for insulting Anglo-Catholics. I firmly believe that being a Christian can be, and sometimes should be, about having fun, and not taking oneself too seriously. That's largely what Ex Fide is all about. Therefore, if you don't want to read my ramblings on Liturgy, vestments, birettas, home altars or anything else, then kindly don't bother to waste your time reading this blog, and certainly don't go the extra length to leave a comment.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Future trends at S. Magnus....


I think you can guess where this is going.....apparelled amices and pear-shaped chasubles are already making inroads in the Parish, and more than one person has suggested we crown the Pieta, add some tears of real crystal and parade her on Good Friday under the title "La Santisima Virgen de los Dolores La del Puente"....


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Place of Chanting the Lessons at High Mass


What you can see above is a typical image from a typical S. Magnus Liturgy, of the Subdeacon reading the Epistle of the Mass accompanied by the MC. Now Rubricists will balk at the dreadful disregard of Roman custom in a Parish that claims to practice the traditional Roman Rite in full. I do myself sometimes wonder how to justify this perhaps eccentric custom of having the Subdeacon sing the Epistle from the gates of the Sanctuary.

I refer frenquently as the Classical Roman Rite, by which I mean that developed rite which existed in regional "dialects" both within and without the immediate Central control of later Committees. I include under that term the Roman Rite properly called (i.e. the Use of the City of Rome) which came to be regarded as the normative, authoritative form during the Counter Reformation, as well as regional varieties of the same Liturgy which are now termed "Uses". This term necessarily includes various customs which were region-specific, and some of these customs applied to the place of reading the Epistle(s) at Mass. The Roman custom that is now regarded as the norm is that the Subdeacon, having reverenced the Altar stands some distance from it towards the edge of the Sanctuary (the South side) and sings the Epistle facing East, but as I will mention shortly, this custom is only an approximation of what happened anciently.

However, another question to consider is practicality. While the Rubrics of the Mass are supposed to safeguard the dignity of the celebration and to limit personal excess, they have historically not been an obstacle to considerations of practicality. Different churches have different shapes, some are large and some are small. I wonder where one would send the Subdeacon to sing the Epistle at the Crib Altar in the Grotto of Bethlehem!

One of my favourite photographs that I have on a bookcase at home is a black and white photograph of the ancient Roman church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, whose portico hosts the famous "Bocca della Verita" or Mouth of Truth. In this photo the church is unadorned except for the altar furnishings: a frontal and six typically Roman tall candlesticks (last time I went in there there were two large electric heaters kicking around the sanctuary). I've always felt that the starkness and simplicity of the church's mouldings are off-played by the wonderful patterns of the marble and the warmness of the frecoes and the intimate, embracing form of the basilican schola. The present structure might not be the original, but it is certainly based on it. The schola structure also indicates where and how the lessons and gospels would have been read. On either side of the schola there is an ambo (which means simply "high place"). The one on the North side is reserved for the Gospel, while that on the South for the Epistle and Lessons. Originally however, there was only one. We read in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Originally there was only one ambo in a church, placed in the nave, and provided with two flights of steps; one from the east, the side towards the altar; and the other from the west. From the eastern steps the Subdeacon with his face to the altar, read the Epistles; and from the western steps the deacon, facing the people, read the Gospels. The inconvenience of having one ambo soon became manifest, and in consequence in many churches two ambones were erected. When there were two, they were usually placed one on each side of the choir, which was separated from the nave and aisles by a low wall. An excellent example of this arrangement can still be seen in the church of St. Clement at Rome. Very often the gospel ambo was provided with a permanent candlestick; the one attached to the ambo in St. Clements is a marble spiral column, richly decorated with mosaic, and terminated by a capital twelve feet from the floor.

Where there were two or more ambos, one was used only for the Gospel. The common arrangement was that of an ambo on either side of the church, between the choir and the nave, as may still be seen in many old basilicas (e.g., S. Maria in Cosmedin at Rome, etc.). In this case the ambo on the north side was reserved for the Gospel, from which the deacon faced the south, where the men stood. The north is also the right, and therefore the more honourable, side of the altar. The ambo on the south was used for the Epistle, and for other lessons if there were only two. In the case of three ambos, two were on the south, one for all other lessons, one for the Epistles. This arrangement still subsists, inasmuch as the Epistle is always read on the south side (supposing the church to be orientated). Where there was only one ambo it had two platforms, a lower one for the Epistle and other lessons, a higher one for the Gospel (Durandus, "Rationale", IV, 16). The ambo for the Epistle should still be used in the Roman Rite where the church has one; it is used regularly at Milan.

From this history then, we can see that the custom of facing the altar developed from the use of one Ambo only. When churches without ambos became more common, and the Gospel was read facing north (i.e. without turning ones back to the Altar), this action was theologised as providing a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (a division which deserves another post!). However, we also see that churches made their own arrangements according to the structure of the building, and that practicality ruled in reading to the faithful. We also get a sense of the importance overall of the "High Place" in reading both the Epistle and the Gospel.

Time to share these two photos. The first is from the Alcuin Club's reconstruction of Sarum ceremonial, and shows the Subdeacon reading the Epistle from the entrance of the screen, facing the people but also positioned somewhat to the South side of the entrance. This is more or less what happens at S. Magnus, minus the screen of course.


In this second photo, from a celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (note, not Dominican rite) in Blackfriars, Oxford. You will notice the Subdeacon reading from the "Epistle side" of the Sanctuary but facing the people, not the Altar.


One of the worst features of the Modern Roman Liturgical praxis is that it perpetuates the false division of the "Liturgy of the Word" and the "Liturgy of the Sacrament". Through what is admittedly a little bit of retrospective theologising, the link between the two "halves" of the Mass is exemplified in the Roman Rite by the reading of the Collects at the altar, the Subdeacon facing East to chant the Epistle, and the Celebrant's reading of the Epistle and Gospel there too. It is therefore imperative for someone wishing to preserve the ethos of the Roman Rite to consider this link with the Altar when deciding to break free of Roman custom in the name of practicality.

However, in both of the pictures above, we can see that both the Altar and the "Ambo" are present in the Subdeacon's position. In the first, we notice that the Subdeacon is directed to remain just outside the screen, but still on the highest step. We need only think of the what the word "altar" means those whose rites involve an Iconostasis to realise that in standing where he does, the English Use Subdeacon has not really left the "altar" at all. He is also reading from an "ambo", a "high place", being elevated by some steps from the lowest level of the church. Exactly the same is true of the Mass at Blackfriars, where the Subdeacon is standing a step or so higher than those you can see in choir, he is also in an equivalent position to the basilican ambo whilst remaining within the Sanctuary of that church as it is configured.

We can see then that there is some legtimate latitude in the position of singing the Epistle at High Mass in the Classical Roman Rite. Looking at tradition and customs from across the West, we can discern that the two principles of the Ambo and the Altar are what determine the "correct" place from which to chant the Epistle and other readings. But, there is never any point in being too prescriptive without thought of circumstance : I'd love to hear suggestions of where the Subdeacon should go to sing the Epistle in the beautiful, multi-level church of San Miniato in Florence!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The seeds of its own dissolution?


I'm currently reading Fr Colin Stephenson's amusing memoir Merrily on High, a very interesting first-hand account of some of the churches I know and love in the glory days of Anglo-Catholicism. I'm only about half way through, but one thought which Fr Stephenson repeats at various junctures of his story deserves comment and interrogation.

From the beginning of his testimony, Fr Stephenson asserts that the strain of Anglo-Catholics who threw their lot in with the "Baroque Catholicism of the Continent" were really dooming themselves to failure, as the fruits of the Liturgical Movement (perceived by Fr. Colin as intrinsically a good thing) percolated into the stuffy mainstream of Western Catholicism.

At points he recalls individuals whom he accuses, and I'm sure not erroneously, of adopting Papalism or Ultramontanism as a foil for inflicting their own whims on their congregations and communities. There is one passage in the book which typifies this opinion:

"Yet for all its [Anglo-Catholicism's] triumphalism it held within it the seeds of its own dissolution which the disorganisation of the last war simply accelerated. It had become congregationalist and cut off from the main stream of the Church of England and rejoiced to have it so. It had thrown in its lot devotionally with the baroque Catholicism of the continent just when that movement was about to be discredited in the church of its origin, and looking back at it now one realises that it had about as much chance of appealing to the average Anglican as the Folies Bergeres to the Mother's Union."

There are also frequent digs at "fussiness" in the Liturgical and Devotional aspects of the movement in the 20s and 30s :

"'It's not a sermon you have [at St Bart's, Brighton] but an interval while the wind performers empty their instruments'. Some months ago I should not have thought this funny, but now I could see the point and as I was leaving he said. 'Our High Mass is always over within the hour'." p66

"I did not see him [Fr Kenrick] often after this pilgrimage, which is recorded in his memorial in Holy Trinity, Hoxton, but I did once visit him there on a Sunday and was surprised to find only a handful of people at High Mass. I was still at the stage when I honestly thought that the externals of Catholic worship were bound to attract crowds. Mature experience has taught me that they are far more likely to drive them away!" p.69

..a reflective passage towards the end of the book...

"[Mount Athos] did reveal to me very clearly the dangers of trying to shut the Church up in the past. So much of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England has been a turning backwards and a holding on to certain positions with a fanaticism bred from a sense of insecurity." p186

"... the new Roman instructions for the rites of Holy Week laid down that on Good Friday the cross, if wished, could simply be held up for people to venerate in their places. When Duncan-Jones did this twenty years earlier in Chichester Cathedral he was the laughing stock of the whole Anglo-Catholic world." p. 77

It is difficult to isolate passages of the book which articulate in full Fr. Stephenson's retrospective critique of the fussiness, extremism and punctiliousness of the Anglo-Catholicism of his youth, but I hope you get a general idea of the argument, which could be summarised as follows: Some of the more Romanised Anglo-Catholics were only attracted to the movement for its colour and exoticism and had no interest in an authentic Catholicism (strangely never fully expounded in this memoir, whereas the "externals" are). The truest Anglo-Catholicism found its expression in the Reformed religion adopted later on in the Roman Catholic Church under its greatest hero-Pope John XXIII, which became far more palatable to Anglicans in general and has proved itself over time."

This retrospective criticism of the Anglo-Catholicism is common among the generation who grew up in its Golden Era, and who subsequently had to mourn its passing, and then took charge of the the introduction of the New Catholicism into the mainstream of the CofE. It is also the heritage of that generation of priests who were taught by Fr Stephenson's generation, and who knew him at Walsingham as youngsters, the same exuberant generation of fallen Catholics at places like Staggers, before Ena the Cruel put an end to their shennanigans; a generation that simultaneously revels in the old party badges of lace, birettas, continental vestments and baroque fittings, while owing complete allegiance to the Reformed Roman Liturgy and a vague notion of Papalism. There is a dreadful schizophrenia among these two generations of Anglo-Catholic clergy. The glory days were brilliant, but there is bitterness stemming from the fact that the movement failed to deliver on its promises. They do not know how to deal with the fact that while the Liturgical Movement and its most radical reforms in some ways signalled the death of Anglo-Papalism, Anglican Ultramontanism and Romanism as lively forces in the Anglican Communion, the subsequent Reformation and Iconoclasm of Western Catholicism turned out to yield a far more importable fruit the heady ecumenical decades of the 70s and 80s, apparently giving Papalist clergy what they'd wanted all along : a vernacular Eucharistic liturgy, expressed in the ASB and CW texts.

I have two main objections to this point of view. Firstly, there is an unhealthy distinction between the "externals" of worship and the "interiority" of the faith, with the assumption that those who cherished the externals spurned the Faith itself. Secondly, the attitude that Papalism has proven to be the magic ingredient that has kept the small flame of Anglo-Catholicism alive into the present day, and that it continues to be the guiding light of the movement.

On the both points, I concede that the Romanised Anglo-Catholic dependence on Ultramontanism for its self-expression was the reason for its dramatic death in the 1960s, as the "old ways" were markedly changed (at least inasmuch as the faithful perceived this "radical" change) and old certainties were eroded. However, I would also like to suggest that the reason why some of the most "extreme" and "fussy" Romanised Anglicans enjoyed any degree of success, and I have no hang ups in including the wealthy, largely White Anglo-Saxon congregations of places like S. Magnus (it its day) along with the famous but over-fetishised Slum Parishes (like Hoxton); is not so much because they espoused extreme liturgical Romanism and Ultramontanism, but because these places offered the fullness of the Sacraments, the fullness of the Liturgy, the rootedness in something authentically ancient and identifiably so, a true living School of the Faith. The Ultramontanism of these Parishes was certainly one factor in their decline; but their subsequent side-stepping of Vatican liturgical regulation in favour of asserting their own autonomy in matters liturgical under the authority of tradition is part of the secret of their survival. I have been to English Missal Masses at Hoxton (ergo not a strict 1962 celebration!), but I know far more about S. Magnus, where after years of increasing isolation and a liturgical regime of slack modernism, the Old Rite is flourishing and managing to find its feet again. We have learnt the lesson that good liturgy needs no special dispensation from the Holy Father, to whatever degree we accept his Spiritual Jurisdiction here in our little corner of the Anglican Communion. The prospect of an Anglican Ordinariate full of Anglican clergy bowed down under Roman liturgical law and so using the modern Roman Missal and the "liturgical Bonsai" that is the 1962 rite, has brought our cherished freedom into even sharper relief, despite our perilous position in the wider Communion. These days are for us an opportunity to explore that tradition, and I personally am coming to realise that the "fussiness" denounced by the Colin Stephenson generation is actually the beginning of a spiritual revival for our little group (small, but outward looking, intimate but not exclusive), where all around us is death and division.

Moreover, I hope we can steer clear of the label "traditionalist", which is bandied around so often by Forward in Faith circles, as if we were the same movement that in the Roman church cherishes the heritage of the Liturgical Movement and its "saints" Bugnini and Pio XII, abhorrs Vatican II and exalts Papal Authority. We are rather the "orthodox", who value the genuine authority of tradition, without wanting to go around harrassing gay rights activists and abortion doctors with it.

The new generation of orthodox Anglican seminarians, as well as their established faithful, are entering an era where the issue is no longer "Women Bishops", but whether or not to take the leap into the Roman Jurisdiction. They will need to decide how to live out the faith, or to pick up Stephenson's terms, which "externals" to adopt, in this new and uncertain territory, both inside the ordinariate and outside it. Is the only future for orthodox Anglicans under Roman authority? Is the alternative to submission complete division into various laity-lite bodies calling themselves "Anglican"? Is it possible that the Ordinariate will close the book on Anglican Ultramontanism? What and who will be left behind? I wonder if we're onto an answer....

Monday, 7 June 2010

Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi


Bewildered servers prepare for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass on the Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi

Thursday, 3 June 2010

"beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt"

Following on from my last post (very Hunwickesque, if I might utter the master's name), another thought came to mind re: the Beati qui.

Only moments before the Invitation, (unless you're sitting through the Coronation Mass) the priest has said the prayer: "Unde et memores, Domine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta, ejusdem Christi Filii tui Domini nostri tam beatae Passionis....etc"

Or in the Missale Anglicanum :

Wherefore, O Lord, we thy servants, and thy holy people also, remembering the blessed passion of the same Christ thy Son our Lord...etc

In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, tradition endows the Passion with the attribute "blessed". Now, the discussion about whether or not beati should be translated as Happy or Blessed is something I won't go into here, and you can probably guess which side I'd fall on, but there is something significant about this for the Invitation.

Christ's Passion is Blessed. Christ underwent this Passion for the redemption of the whole world. We Christians, though we are called to, and the Saints always do, pick up the Cross, it is important to bear in mind that we have not undergone the Passion of Our Lord. In human terms, it is possible to suffer physically as Christ did, but we have not redeemed ourselves; rather we have been redeemed. Is it a confusion to call ourselves "beati" at the moment before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ? Is it correct to conflate "the Supper of the Lamb" of the Apocalypse with the Banquet of the Mass? Are we not blurring the distinction, despite our Communion, between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant? Thoughts?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ecce qui tollit peccata mundi....

Let us consider for a moment these words from the Mass. These moments between the Consecration and the Communion are filled with the recollection of Christ as the pure and spotless Lamb, and of our own petitions for mercy. The priest at High Mass makes the fraction, commixture and receives Communion before and during the singing of the Agnus Dei. Thereafter, if others are to receive Communion also, he first hears their Confiteor, absolves them and then turns to them holding a Host at eye-level and says :

Ecce Agnus Dei, Ecce qui tollit peccata mundi

Behold the Lamb of God, Behold him who says away the sins of the World.

The image provided by the liturgical action, of the Spotless Lamb on the Altar, comes from the Apocalypse, but the verbal formula used go back to the Gospels, where the Baptist bestows upon Our Lord the title "Agnus Dei", Lamb of God. At the River Jordan, he says "Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccatum mundi", referring in the singular to the sin of the whole world. In the Liturgy, the response of the faithful is "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be heald". Here, they are echoing the words of the Centurion in Matthew 8 who responds to Jesus' promise to heal with "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed."

The Gospel texts which have been collated here do not come from one Gospel narrative, but do in fact reflect a common theme: the recognition of man's unworthiness to receive Jesus. The Baptist's words are provoked by his seeing Christ coming towards him, with the crowds of sinners, to be Baptised. These words, these striking images, preface the Baptist's discourse on his unworthiness, and on his role as praecursor. His words are motivated by faith, however, in the fact that Christ's baptism of the Spirit will be the true Baptism, and a true remission of Sins.

The centurion speaks as one who knows his unworthiness before the poor Healer from Gallilee, but also reflect his faith in the healing "word" of Jesus. The liturgical action that accompanies these immortal words skip back to another Gospel story, that of the publican in the Temple who beats his chest and proclaims his unworthiness.

What we have here then is a very small dialogue between the Priest, the People and Christ. While the Priest addresses the faithful in the person of the Praecursor ("Behold..."), the People respond to his declaration by addressing Christ in the Host directly ("Lord, ..."). We have two speech-acts, two voices, and in them, the meeting-place of two themes: unworthiness and faith. This is how tradition has determined that we dispose ourselves before receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

In the reformed rite of Paul VI, however, we find another formula inserted into this simple three-way dialogue : After Ecce Agnus dei, we have Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt, which is erroneously translated into English as "Happy are those who are called to his supper". The Latin is in more accurately "Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb".

Now, I'm not sure how I feel about picking on specific minutiae of the reforms in order to criticise them (I often feel the principle of reform has had much more disastrous consequences than most of the details), I do think it's important to interrogate these insertions into the rite, and to ask what they mean. My specific interest is in the analogy of Liturgy with language, and so I would like to ask what is meant by these words; who is speaking them and in what voice? What is the meaning behind them, and where do they fit into the dialogue I described earlier?

Clearly this formula is not entirely inappropriate to the liturgical "Invitation to Communion" as this is often labelled in modern Missals. The cena referred to in the sentence is the "marriage feast of the Lamb" of Revelation 19.9 and certainly describes what we are partaking of. However, it must be pointed out that this leap from the Baptist's words in the Gospel to the mysterical and esoteric disrupts the Communion dialogue by bringing in another voice. Suddenly, to the voice of John the Baptist is added the voice of an Angel saying "write these words : Blessed are those....". From the awe and wonder of Christ's presence amongst men (in both the Baptist's words and those of the centurion), we are taken abruptly to the celestial realm, and asked to ponder not the Human Face of our God, but the mystical wedding feast of the Lamb and His reign in Heaven. The addition of this formula to the Mass is consonant with a general de-emphasis of the Mass as Sacrifice in preference of the Mass as Supper and of course, the Mass is both. However, it does seem to me at least that the insertion of the "Beati qui..." into the Mass is at least a little jarring. The Post-Communion collects of the classical Roman Rite, to my mind, do quite enough to emphasise the Mass as meal "these gifts which we have received..." etc. I would also point out that where the voice of Angels is most prominently echoed, in the Sanctus, the words are padded out with plenty of non-scriptural language, and the Sanctus has an "organising" role in the flow of the liturgy that is quite unique.

In any case, I'd be very interested to hear what other people think about the New Rite Invitation to Communion, and whether the "Beati qui..." is an appropriate interpolation.....