Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A new Acolyte at the Oxford Oratory

At the High Mass last Sunday, the Solemnity of All Saints, Br Oliver Craddock was instituted as an Acolyte at the Oxford Oratory by the Provost, Fr Daniel Seward.

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The acolytate is one of the 'ministries', formerly called 'minor orders', on the way to the priesthood. Anciently, the acolyte carried candles and tapers for the liturgy, and took a fragment of the Pope's Host to Masses elsewhere in the City of Rome. This state is one that reminds us of the holiness of the liturgy therefore.

The candidate is called forward:

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He is blessed:

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He is handed the ciborium, containing the bread which will be offered at the Mass, as a sign of his service of the altar:

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He assists the Deacon in preparing the altar:

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He washes the Celebrant's hands:

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The elevation of the Chalice:

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The Ecce Agnus Dei:

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Holy Communion:

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The recessional of the Mass:

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Photographs by Hannah Chegwyn.

Images and text(adapted) : Oxford Oratory website 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

How Far to Extend the Hands at Mass

I thought this post on the Liturgy section of the Zenit website might be of interest to readers, blending historical understanding with issues around liturgical practice:

How Far to Extend the Hands at Mass:
There Are No Strict Specifications

Rome, October 13, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Father Edward McNamara | 8849 hits

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: One local priest at Mass extends his hands almost to the fullest extent possible, elbows well out from the body; most others keep their elbows close to the body. Are there any official guidelines regarding this gesture? -- O.K., Dallas, Texas

A: Unlike the rubrics of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, the current rubrics do not give detailed specifications regarding what is meant by "hands extended." This does not mean that they are arbitrary but presume that a priest, through his formation and observation, knows what this expression means and how to apply it in accordance with liturgical tradition and his own physical makeup.

The extraordinary form is much more specific. As one popular ceremonies book describes the gesture at the collect: "While [the priest] says 'oremus' he extends the hands and joins them again, and he bows his head to the missal. Then he reads the collect, holding the hands uplifted -- but not exceeding the height or width of the shoulders -- and extended, the fingers held close together and bowing towards the missal should the name of the saint in whose honor the Mass is celebrated occur. When he says 'Per Dominum nostrum' etc., he joins his hands."

While a priest celebrating the ordinary form may not be strictly bound to these exact norms, I would say that they do provide a good rule of thumb as to what the Church understands when it asks priests to pray with hands extended. These rules were not invented by some obscure 16th-century curial official but are rather the codification of an already existing custom that had developed over several centuries.

A priest could follow the above rule. However, since the post-conciliar liturgy deliberately left out a strict specification of the gesture, it is also legitimate to extend the hands a little further if he considers it appropriate. For example, some modern vestments tend to require a somewhat more ample gesture than the traditional Roman chasuble. The above rule, however, does caution against exaggerated gestures that tend to draw attention toward the celebrant himself and not the prayer he is reciting.

The gesture of extending and raising the hands in prayer is found in some form in almost all religions. In the Bible we have the example of Moses during the battle against Amalek (Exodus 17:11-12), as well as references in the Psalms and prophets. Thus Isaiah declares to Israel: "When you spread out your hands, I will close my eyes to you; / Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood!" (1:15).

These gestures are also found in the New Testament and the early Christians who prayed with uplifted hands, although here there is the added meaning of being united to Christ who extended his hands on the cross. At the beginning it would appear that the practice was to stretch out both arms and hands to resemble the form of a cross. Thus the early Christian writer Tertullian writes, "But we not only lift them [the hands] up, but even spread them out, modeling them after the Lord's Passion, and, while we pray, we confess Christ" (De Oratione, 14). However, he also warns against exaggerated gestures in this respect: "In praying with modesty and humility, we shall the rather commend our prayers to God, not even our hands being lifted up too high, but being lifted up with moderation and seemliness, not even our face being raised upward with boldness" (De Oratione, 17).

There are also many images in the catacombs and other places showing how early Christians made this gesture. These sometimes represent biblical figures such as Daniel or Susanna or a female figure whom some scholars believe represents the souls of those buried in the catacombs interceding for the living.

Although it is not certain, it is probable that early Christians used this posture for both private and public prayer. As time progressed, however, it gradually became an exclusively priestly gesture, at least within the context of the liturgy. It might have died out due to practical considerations, as the number of Christians expanded, churches became more crowded and there was less space to carry out this gesture.

The gesture of the priest stretching out the arms crosswise in certain parts of the Mass also diminished over time, although it continued in some religious orders such as the Carmelites and Dominicans. In general during the Middle Ages the gesture became similar to current practice: thus the "Micrologus," written in the 11th century says: "We extend our arms at the Collects and during the whole of the Canon but only the breadth of the chest, in such wise that the palms of the hands face each other. The fingers are joined together, and their tips must not reach higher than the shoulders nor exceed their breadth, and this must be observed whenever the hands are to be spread ante pectus. In taking up this attitude the priest shows forth in his person Our Lord upon the Cross."

St. Thomas Aquinas also says that "the actions performed by the priest in Mass are not ridiculous gestures, since they are done so as to represent something else. The priest in extending his arms signifies the outstretching of Christ's arms upon the Cross. He also lifts up his hands as he prays, to point out that his prayer is directed to God for the people, according to Lamentations [3:41]: 'Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to the Lord in the heavens" (III, q. 83, a. 5).

We can thus see that from relatively early the gesture became reserved to the priest, at least in the context of the liturgy, and became the fairly austere gesture we know today. This remains the overall spirit of how this gesture should be carried out in the liturgical context.

The faithful may use this gesture outside the liturgy for private prayer, in prayer groups, and, in those countries where it has been approved, during the recitation of the Our Father during Mass.

Some liturgists believe that this practice is an anomaly. It represents the only occasion when a priest prays with hands extended together with the people. In all other occasions in which he extends his hands, he prays alone in representation of the people. Indeed when the Our Father is recited during the Divine Office the priest has his hands joined and not extended. These experts believe that having the priest extending his hands during Mass was a rubrical oversight from 1958 when Pope Pius XII allowed the Our Father to be recited by the people, in Latin, and not just by the priest as had been the practice hitherto. It was logical for the priest to extend his hands before this change but not afterward. They recommend a change of rubric so that the priest, and people, pray with hands joined.

Others sustain that the Our Father, being the Lord's Prayer, is a special case. For the moment this remains a technical debate; the rubrics specify that the priest and concelebrants pray with hands extended.

Finally, for some of the historical data mentioned in this article, I wish to acknowledge my debt to an article written in 1926 by Joseph F. Wagner for the Homiletic and Pastoral Review and made available online by CatholicCulture.org.

* * *
November 3

Regarding the hypothesis that the norm for the priest to extend hands might have been an oversight, a Dominican priest comments, referring to the rite of that venerable order: "I agree that it should have been abolished as the priest is not praying for the people but with them. And in the 1960 Dominican Rite Holy Week Missal (Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum Instauratus, Romae: Ad S. Sabinae, 1960), p. 67, in the rubrics of Good Friday (the only place where the people joined the priest in the Pater at that date in our rite), it says that the priest recites 'item iunctis manibus' -- the 'item' is there because the rubric for the invocation of the prayer was also 'iunctis manibus.' Obviously some Dominican rubricist understood the logic of the gesture. Sadly, in the last edition of our Missal (1965), the rubric is changed to 'extensis manibus.' So someone must have dedicated to mimic the bad logic of the modified Roman Missal."

Other readers asked if the deacon can extend his hands during the Our Father and if the rite is optional where permitted.

The answer to this depends on the country. In those countries where the bishops' conference, with the approval of the Holy See, has allowed the faithful to extend their hands during the Our Father, this obviously includes the deacon. In countries where the practice does not exist for the faithful it does not apply to the deacon.

However, outside of Mass, if a deacon presides at a communion service in the absence of a priest, he may extend his hands at the prescribed moments.

In all countries where it has been approved it is an option and neither faithful nor the ministers, other than priests, are obliged to carry it out.

* * *

Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

(October 13, 2015) © Innovative Media Inc.
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Thought for the day

"Those who seek to legitimate a claim to power in the present often have recourse to the idea of tradition. They decorate themselves with its cultural authority. But the encounter between the self-proclaimed inheritors of tradition and the historical record rarely takes place on equal terms."

Christopher Clark Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947, p.662

Sunday, 1 November 2015

All Saints

Today is the Feast of All Saints, and John Dillon has posted some images of them on the Medieval Religion discussion group:

Today, being both November 1st and the Sunday in the octave around November 1st, is in Latin-rite churches and in others influenced by their festal calendars, the feast of All Saints (in Eastern-rite churches, where the observance arose, their celebration falls rather on the first Sunday after Pentecost). Herewith some period-pertinent images associated directly with this veneration in that they either accompany texts for or describing the feast in question or else are parts of altars devoted principally to the cult of All Saints (as opposed, say, to images of the Coronation of the BVM drawing upon the traditional imagery of All Saints). Also included (item k) is one well known image of the saints in their multitude arrayed about the Godhead where a direct connection to the liturgical celebration is not immediately evident.

a) as depicted in a later tenth-century sacramentary from Fulda (c. 975; Göttingen, Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, 2 cod. Ms. theol. 231 Cim., fol. 111r):


b) as depicted in the earlier eleventh-century Sacramentary of Robert of Jumièges (c. 1020; Rouen, Bibliothèque Jacques Villon, ms. 274, fol. 158v):


Detail view (losing most of the frame):

c) as depicted in a later twelfth-century sacramentary for the abbaye de St.-Martin in Tours (c. 1170-1180; Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 193, fol. 115r):


d) as depicted in a later twelfth-century sacramentary from the abbaye de St.-Amand in Saint-Amand (c. 1170-1180; Valenciennes, Bibliothèque de Valenciennes, ms. 108, fol. 46v):

e) as depicted in a perhaps mid-thirteenth-century pontifical and collects concordant with the Use of the abbaye de St.-Pierre at Corbie (Amiens, Bibliothèque Louis Aragon, ms. 195, fol. 132r):
Textual context:

f) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century breviary perhaps from Cambrai (c. 1275-1300; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 J 18, fol. 470v):

g) as depicted in a late thirteenth-century missal from Auvergne (c. 1280-1290; Clermont-Ferrand, Bibliothèque du Patrimoine, ms. 62, fol. 267v):

h) as depicted in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the Legenda aurea (c. 1280-1300; San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 150v):

i) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century Taymouth Hours (c. 1326-1350; London, BL, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 87v):

j) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century Roman Missal of north Italian origin (c. 1370; Avignon, Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 136, fol. 279r):

k) as depicted by Giusto de' Menabuoi in his later fourteenth-century frescoes (later 1370s) in the central cupola of the battistero di San Giovanni in Padua:


l) as depicted in a late fourteenth-century missal from Autun concordant with the Use of Beaune (1394; Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 110, fol. 387r):

m) as depicted in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century altarpiece of Spanish origin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:

 The Trinity Adored by All Saints

n) as depicted in an early fifteenth-century missal concordant with the Use of Tours (Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 185, fol. 251r):

o) as depicted in the early fifteenth-century Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection, ms. 1954 (54.1.1), fol. 218r):

p) as depicted (right-hand column) in the early fifteenth-century Hours of René of Anjou (c. 1405-1410; London, BL, Egerton MS 1070, fol. 103v; image zoomable):

q) as depicted by the Boucicaut Master in an earlier fifteenth-century book of hours made in Paris (c. 1415-1420; Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, ms. 22):

r) as depicted by Beato Angelico (probably) in two corresponding panels, flanking the central one of Christ in glory with angels, on the predella of his earlier fifteenth-century San Domenico Altarpiece (1423-1424) in the National Gallery of Art, London:
1) http://tinyurl.com/q4tbmb2
2) http://tinyurl.com/p9ac548
The predella in its entirety:

s) as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Breviary of Marie de Savoie (c. 1430; Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 4, fol. 637v):

t) as depicted in the Suffrages in an earlier fifteenth-century prayer book seemingly from Brabant (c. 1430-1440; Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, Walters ms. W.164, fol. 177r):

u) as depicted in a mid-fifteenth-century missal concordant with the Use of Nantes (Le Mans, Médiathèque Louis Aragon, ms. 223, fol. 201r):

v) as depicted in grisaille by Jean le Tavernier in the mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Philip of Burgundy (c. 1451-1460; Use of Paris; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 2, fol. 283r):

w) as depicted by Jean Fouquet at the conclusion of the Suffrages in the now dismembered mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Étienne Chevalier (1450s; this folio in the Musée Condé, Chantilly [Oise], ms. 71, fol. 113r):


x) as depicted at the conclusion of the Suffrages in a later fifteenth-century book of hours made in Bruges (c. 1460; Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, Walters ms. W.186, fol. 293r):

y) as depicted by Willem Vrelant in the later fifteenth-century Arenberg Hours (early 1460s; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum and Library, Ms. Ludwig IX 8, fol. 81v):

z) as depicted in a later fifteenth-century prayer book of Viennese origin (c. 1460-1470; Vienna, ÖNB, cod. s. n. 2599, fol. 160r):

aa) as depicted in the later fifteenth-century Ranworth Antiphonal (c. 1460-1480; Ranworth [Norfolk], church of St. Helen, unnumbered ms., fol. 271v):


bb) as depicted by Lieven van Lathem in the later fifteenth-century Prayer Book of Charles the Bold (1469; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum and Library, Ms. 37, fol. 43r):

cc) as depicted in a late fifteenth-century copy of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1493; Angers, Université Catholique de l'Ouest, Bibliothèque universitaire, incunable non coté, fol. 241v):


dd) as depicted by Albrecht Dürer in his early sixteenth-century All Saints altarpiece (1511; a.k.a. the Landauer Altar) in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna:


The painting at higher resolution:


ee) as portrayed in high relief on the early sixteenth-century altar (1518) in the Allerheiligenkapelle of the Pfarrkirche St. Benedikt in Altmünster (Land Oberösterreich):


Detail view:



The November page in the Très Riches Heures is attributed entirely to Jean Colombe and dates from the completion of the manuscript in the later 1480s. Unlike the other pages by the Limbourg brothers seventy or so years earlier it does not show a specific place, but rather a scene of rustic life. In that sense it is, I think, less interesting than the other calendar pages. The landscape does perhaps suggest that of Savoy, for whose Duke Colombe worked. What is depicted is the fattening of pigs on acorns and beech mast - the right of pannage. There is presumably the suggestion of plenty of pork and pork products to eat at the approaching Christmas season.

November 1415 witnessed the triumphant entry of King Henry V into London following his victory at Agincourt.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Hell Hounds

The BBC News website, no doubt with Halloween in mind, has a report under the title of  The terrifying story of the 'hell hound, and saying that tales of ferocious dogs have been the stuff of myth for centuries, but how have accounts of these mythical beasts spread so far and wide?

The answer is, apparently to be found at their report, which can be seen at

Now is it a shaggy dog story? Woof or grrrrr.....?

Barker on Agincourt

I marked the anniversary last weekend of the battle of Agincourt by reading right through Juliet Barker's Agincourt


Image: Amazon

In my post some months ago on Prof. Anne Curry's book on the battle I described Juliet Barker's book as being more popular. That it perhaps is, but not in any slighting sense. It does perhaps set the battle and the society that existed at the time in a way that is perhaps a little more approachable to the non-specialist reader.

Although I would have some quibbles about points Juliet Barker makes, especially on church matters, her book is splendid - very readable and full of details, one that self-consciously looks at individuals and how they prepared for the campaign, such as the Earl Marshal equipping himself with armour, but not always from the same supplier, and it is a gripping read, which touches on those emotions Agincourt still evokes in the English, a point to which I referred in a recent post.

For anyone wanting to know about the battle or the wider campaign, or the military society of the time this is, perhaps, the book to read. When first published it was the fourth best selling history book of the year ( which also tells you something about the continuing fascination with the battle) and richly deserved its success.

It is quite a page turner, gives one plenty to think about - such as firing off ten arrows inside a minute to be able to qualify as an archer - and catches the sheer emotion of the success against the odds of King Henry V and his men in 1415.