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.

Saturday 30 April 2011

Making liturgical history with the Ordinariate

Earlier this evening I attended the first Mass offered by the Oxford group of the Ordinariate at Pusey House. Following the reception of members in Holy Week this was the first independent liturgical celebration, and along with a number of other supporters I went along to support the group and to participate in the Mass.

The celebrant was Mgr Andrew Burnham, and this was the first opportunity to really enable one to see what the liturgical character of the Ordinariate may be. Whilst faithfully adhering to the Missal the Mass, rather as at the reception Mass the previous week at the Oratory, had more congregational hymns and also sung propers that drew upon the older traditions of the Church. If "patrimony" was what one was seeking to identify then yes, it was present - present as a particular, reverential, style that used good music to ornament the liturgical action.

In this Mgr Burnham, who used to teach liturgical studies, and his team of servers and musicians are to be congratulated in producing a fine liturgy that reflected the Anglican inheritance that the Ordinariate can bring to the established Catholic books.

It was slightly curious for several of us, old Pusey hands that we are, to be back in the church and able to communicate as part of the Universal as well as the local Church. As was said the stones of the building were doubtless happy to see us back. The congregation was welcomed by the Principal of Pusey House, who sat in choir for the Mass.

The Ordinariate group's Mass will be celebrated at Pusey House at 6.30 (doors open at 6.15) on Saturdays this term with the exception of Pentecost eve and in Eighth Week, when another venue will be used.

The Royal Wedding

Well the Royal Wedding went very well indeed, as I for one expected, and, dare I say so, predicted back in November in Royal engagement.

Prince William and Kate

Image from Yahoo

What I did not forsee was that press coverage in advance was not as bad as I rather feared, which is good, and even better, even I did not forsee quite such an enormous outpouring of affection and regard for both TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and for what they represent, and that is very good indeed. As HM The Queen was heard to say "It's amazing." Well, actually, perhaps not, but it must still be reassuring for the Royal family and, I firmly believe, for us as a nation.

Prayer for the Royal Wedding

From the Ordinariateof Our Lady of Walsingham newsletter

I will write more about the Royal Wedding and share some thoughts it has engendered in coming days.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

The case for Christian Monarchy

The Mad Monarchist has recently produced three posts setting out his arguments for Christian Monarchy which can be read at Refuting Republicanism in Christianity Part I, Refuting Republicanism in Christianity Part II and Refuting Republicanism in Christianity Part III.

Apart from being somewhat topical in Easter Week with a Royal Wedding coming up they are a useful reprise of arguments with which to be equipped as and when occasion demands.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

The Last Knight sallies forth again

My friend that doughty crusader The Last Knight has three posts well worth reading on his blog.

Where the wild things are comments on the latest legal developments in the controvery around the Cardinal Vaughan school, and, forcefully, on the proper role of the Catholic laity.

In Another fine mess he, or rather his associate the Rubric Monster, ( a doubtless fascinating companion) make interesting points about the subdiaconate and the functions of traditional acolytes and modern instituted ones at Mass.

With Who else’s opinion was it going to be? he addresses the issue of opinion and the nature of belief, and our ability to express what we really hold to be true.

Reforming the Act of Settlement

I am not sure if I always agree with Damian Thompson, but he has an interesting post in
Did Lambeth Palace block the reform of the Act of Settlement? Or was it Buckingham Palace?
Once again I am not sure if I agree with him entirely, but it makes for interesting and thought provoking reading.

When it comes to dealing with the exclusion clauses of the Act( and that is what it was designed to do - exclude) I think that it is not as difficult to do as some would have us believe. As I undwerstand it the Statute of Westminster of 1931 applies the same succession to the other realms that applies in the United Kingdom. Clearly any change needs to be approved by the Crown in Parliament of Canada, of Australia, of New Zealand and of the other realms, but the principle is there.

To remove the anti-Catholic bias could surely be done by enacting that those clauses no longer apply to the descendents of a particular Sovereign. So it could be applied to the descendents of the Queen, or her grandfather King George V - the King who in effect created the House of Windsor, and in whose reign the 1931 Statute was enacted - and this would re-integrate the members of the Kent branch who are currently excluded. The antiquated nature of the 1701 Act is shown by the fact that the Duke of Kent himself is not excluded by his Duchess' conversion to Catholicism as the Act does not envisage a spouse converting to Rome subsequent to the marriage. A more generous reform would be to extend it to Queen Victoria's descendents.

So far as Canada, Australia, or for that matter Northern Ireland, are concerend such achange could be seen as removing an issue which might be considered to offend some of Her Majesty's subjects.

As far as the Church of England is concerned the possibility of a Roman Catholic Supreme Governor would doubtless remain remote, and given the nature of the exercise of the Royal Supremacy, hardly threatening. Given the way the Church of England appears to be going, and the odd opinions of at least some bishops and clergy on Establishment and Monarchy, such a change would be no serious problem, and might actually make them appreciate what they do possess in living in a system of Christian Kingship.

As to how important the whole question is remains open - the succession appears safe and assured, and the modern obsession of some with equality, fairness removing discrimionation and potential offence and such like is one promoted, at least in part, by those who are no freinds to Monarchy, or Catholicism, or Christianity. That said I think a sensible reform could be achieved if there was good will, and that may be the missing element.

Monday 25 April 2011

Observing the Triduum

I observed the Triduum largely at St Gregory and St Augustine Oxford, athough I did attend, as regular readers will recall, Tenebrae at Blackfriars on Thursday and Saturday, and also Stations of the Cross at the Oratory on Good Friday evening.

Along with other friends I was asked to assist with the serving due to illness and the absence of other regulars at SS Gregory and Augustine. I was happy to do so, both to help the parish and as it was the first occasion since I became a Catholic that I would have the privilege of serving the Triduum.

Not only was it a privilege, but an enjoyable one. Admittedly not everyone's idea of enjoyment is the same, but for me Christmas and Easter would not be the same at church without being called upon to clean brass and silver in preparation, and there was quite a bit of that to do on Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. More importantly it was enjoyable because the parish community was welcoming, appreciating help from friends, and because it was a properly serious celebration of the sacramental life of the Churchat this season.

On Sunday morning I was back at the Oratory for the 11am Solemn Mass, which was as splendid as ever, and rounded off, as is our custom, with the choir' s performance of the Hallelujah Chorus. In the evening they were back to sing for Solemn Vespers. This was performed with three coped Oratorians and followed by Benediction. A visually splendid way to celebrate, but which went beyond the merely aesthetic, but articulated something of the great truths of Easter.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Christ is Risen Alleluia

The Resurrection
Piero della Francesca c.1463
Sansepolchro, Tuscany

Described in an essay by Aldous Huxley as "the greatest painting in the world" there are online articles about Piero della Francesca's The Resurrection here and here.

Does not a ray of light issue from Jesus, growing brighter accross the centuries, that could not come from any mere man and through which the light of God truly shines into the world? Could the apostolic preaching have found faith and built up a worldwide community unless the power of truth had been at work within it?

If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen. He is alive. Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path. With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus' pierced side and confess: "My Lord and my God!"

Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week

From pp.276-77

Saturday 23 April 2011

Coronation Day 1661

Were it not Holy Saturday today would be the feast of St George, the patron saint of England. It was on that feast day 350 years ago that King Charles II was crowned as King of England in Westminster Abbey - he had been crowned as King of Scots in 1651 at Scone.

There is an eye-witness account of the day by the diarist Samuel Pepys which can be read here.

This was the first occasion on which the regalia made by the London goldsmith Sir Robert Vyner at a cost of £12,050 3s 5d to replace that destroyed in 1649 was used. Despite some alterations and replacements this set is at the heart of the present regalia held in the Tower of London.

Amongst the regalia St Edward's Crown, about whose design I wrote in St Edward and St Edward's Crown, and the Orb are unchanged since 1661, although since 1911 the Crown is permanently set with jewels, whereas previously they were hired for Coronations and then replaced with paste substitutes.


St Edward's Crown


The Orb

Image: The Internetforum/Royalforum

Both the Crown and the Orb assert that thr Sovereign's authority derives from and is under that of Christ and His Cross, which is a suitable thought for this most solemn and joyful weekend of Easter.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Tenebrae at Blackfriars

This morning, as in past years, I attended Tenebrae at Blackfriars here in Oxford.

This is always popular not only with Catholics but also some Anglo-Catholics in the city and the congregation was again of a good size.

The austere nature of the service fits well with the elegant but again rather austere style of the neo-Perpendicular Dominican church and it was a suitably meditative start to the days of the Triduum. The candles on the hearse and the High Altar were all of unbleached wax, rather than the ordinary type shown in this Wikipedia file photograph:

Being celebrated in daylight inevitably removes some of the impact the service would have had when observed the night before, but it is still very striking and well worth attending. It is one of those liturgies which could well be revived by more churches which could draw in a reasonable congregation.

Ordinariate reception

Yesterday evening I attended the Mass of reception for members of the Oxford group of the Ordinariate which was celebrated by Mgr Burnham at the Oxford Oratory.

I have been going along to the preparatory meetings on Saturdays, and here is a picture taken the other week of members of the group together with Mgr Burnham and several of us who were there in support:

I was asked to act as pro-sponsor for a couple, Arthur and Sylvia, from the Derby group who are currently staying near Oxford and were also received last night at the Mass. This was a great privilege which I was happy to fulfill.

Mgr Burnham had explained last weekend that hev sought to have a liturgy that conveyed a sense of what the Ordinariate can both share with and bring to the wider Church. So there was more than might be usual of the Anglican tradition of congregational singing with an offertory hymn, but also beautifully sung Gregorian chant for the Kyries, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei - which bodes well for their Saturday evening Vigil mass at Pusey House after Easter.

Amongst those being received were several friends from St Thomas here in Oxford, and James Bradley was on hand to take photographs, which will doubtless appear when he has time from his own hectic schedule of receptions, on his Flickr website.

There is more information about the Group and its liturgical programme for the next few months here.

Please continue to pray for all those received last night or over this Easter, and for the success of this significant Papal initiative.

The Royal Maundy

Not only is today is the 85th birthday of H.M. The Queen, but being Maundy Thursday, it is also the day on which the Royal Maundy ceremony takes place. This year it is being held again in Westminster Abbey.

The tradition of the Mandatum being performed by the English monarch goes back to at least the thirteenth century. From the late seventeenth century the pedelavium was discontinued, as was the presence of the Monarch until 1932 when King George V, following the suggestion of his cousin Princess Marie Louise resumed the practice of distributing the Maundy money, as has continiued to the present day. Maybe we can see that as a case of a reform of the reform, or partially recovering with hermeneutic of continuity from one of discontinuity. The same principle could be applied to the offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh on Epiphany in the Chapel Royal - the Monarch last did that in the time of King George II.

There is an article here about the ceremony, and the Queen's website has an account of the ceremony here. The Royal Mint, which produces the silver Maundy money, has an article on its website here.

An Elizabethan Maundy Ceremony, c.1560 - Lievine Teerlink

The Royal Maundy of Queen Elizabeth I c.1560
A minature by Lievine Teerlink

In the medieval period it was not just the monarch who carried out the mandatum - we know from household accounts that other princes and magnates did so as well as the liturgical ceremony performed buy Popes and Bishops. As with the Royal Maundy this latter action was an event outside the liturgy of the Mass, a feature which survived until the changes of the 1950s.

Something which seems particular to English practice is washing the feet or distributing food and clothing to as many men and women as the Monarch has years of age. This seems to have beeen established at least by the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.

Elsewhere in Europe the custom was for the monarch to wash the feet of twelve men, as with the Episcopal ceremony, and for twelve women to have their feet washed by the Consort.

In Spain this ceremony survived in this form in the reigns of King Alfonso XII and King Alfonso XIII. Here the custom was for the King to serve a meal to the recipients. I am not sure if the ceremony has been revived since the 1975 restoration.

In Austria the ceremony was also performed. Emperor Francis Joseph and the Empress Elizabeth used to perform the ceremony, each with twelve poor people in the great Ceremonial Hall of the Hofburg in Vienna on Maundy Thursday. I recently found an engraving of this in a book on the Empress, but cannot find the picture online.

As an exercise in Royal humility, indeed in Christ-like humility, it is inevitibly ritualised, but anyone who has seen in person or on television the Queen distributing the Maundy money can recognise an authentic spirit of compassion in her demeanor as well as the reminder in the liturgy of the monarch as being at the service of their subjects. That is present in all Maundy ceremonies.

Interesting, is n't it, that those elected political leaders who so loudly claim to be of the people do not perform such ceremonies as a reminder to themselves or those they rule of the need for humility in high office. When did you last hear of the Presidential Maundy?

Happy birthday Ma'am

Today is the 85th birthday of H.M The Queen.


Whilst I have no reason to thnk that Her Majesty will read my blog, putting apost online to express my good wishes is a way of expressing loyalty to both Her Majesty as Sovereign and to the institution she embodies.

All of her realms have been fortunate to possess her as their Queen, and to have as their monarch not only a skillful exponent of the art of kingship in the modern world but also a woman of serious purpose combined with good sense and humour. Commentators often speak of the Queen's dedication, and that is a good word to describe her, but at times it becomes a cliche. Maybe one tribute we can pay her is to stop using such terms in that way and to actually reflect upon the very real way in which she has maintained her constitutional and personal compass bearings in an age of change and uncertainty which has swirled not just around around her and the monarchy, but around her realms and territories and their peoples.

Long may she reign

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Papal anniversary

Today is the sixth anniversary of the election of the Pope.


For me it will remain as a vivid memory, and an event for which I am profoundly grateful to God.

The Pope has brought immense gifts to the task and imparted imense blessings on the Church, not only in specific acts, such as Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus, nor just by his encyclicals, nor just by pursuing a very considerable number of pastoral visits worldwide for a man of his age, but in addition to all that by renewing the sense of holiness and prayerful study and thought at the heart of the Church, and in the lives of communities and individuals. He has also addressed painful and difficult issues which were festering and causing harm both practically and spiritually.

This has not always been easy, and not always received the support he deserves, as is pointed out in these posts from Fr Blake Reigning but not ruling and Fr Finigan The Youcat fiasco: Raffaella says "Give us a break....

Nonetheless he continues to combine wisdom and charm, intelligence and a great ability to communicate the truths of the Faith with clarity which make him a truly remarkable shepherd of the flock. Here in Britain we had the great privilege of seeing that in person last September on his state and pastoral visit. The humble worker in the vineyard is performing an heroic task.

Although I am wary of identifying one's membership of the Church with one particular Pope - the "I'm a John Paul II Catholic" approach we used to hear quite often - by dint of circumstance I am a Benedict XVI Catholic in so far as I was received just two days before the death of his predecessor and the Conclave and election coincided with my first weeks in full peace and communion. Long before that, along with other friends who were to engage on the same spiritual journey, we had looked to Cardinal Ratzinger as the Church leader we most admired and hope to see occupy the Papal throne. That, in God's merciful providence, came to pass.

I believe we are extraordinarily fortunate (no pun intended, but it is perhaps apposite as a phrase) to have Benedict XVI as Pope, and I continue to pray for his ministry as Vicar of Christ and Successor of St Peter to continue for many years to come.

Ad multos annos

Monday 18 April 2011

More on Holy Week liturgies

I have revised my post Holy Week in Oxford to include more details of devotions and also an Extraordinary Form Mass on Easter Monday at Dorchester on Thames.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Disaster at Hereford

April 17th 1786 was Easter Monday, and the calm of the cathedral close at Hereford was shattered by the collapse of the western tower of the cathedral.

The West Prospect or Front of the Cathedral Church of Hereford

The west front about 1700.

Image: British Library

The original Norman west front is similar to that of Rochester Cathedral, and shows similariries to that of Tewkesbury, although lacking the great recessed arch that is so distinctive afeature of the Gloucestershire abbey church.

To this was added the western tower. It was clearly designed to complement the central tower of 1320-40, hence the pattern of fenestration and use of ballflower ornament. Built as it was on top of the west front and clerestory, rather than from the ground, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that it collapsed - the only other similar examle in England was at Malmesbury, which suffered the same fate.

View of the West Tower and Front of Hereford Cathedral

The west front on the eve of the collapse.
The spirelets have been removed, the stonework appears to be in poor condition and there is what should have been a worrying crack in the masonry to the north of the doorway.

Image: British Library

The head of the statue of St Ethelbert from the west front is said to now adorn St Ethelbert's Well in Quay St in Hereford.

The North Prospect of the Cathedral Church of St Ethelbert at Hereford



Another view from the north of 1779

View of the Ruins of the West Tower of Hereford Cathedral

The aftereffects of the collapse as depicted by I. Wathen in 1786

Image: British Library

The Dean and chapter called in the architect James Wyatt to restore the building. As a Neo-Classical architect was fine - as for example the Oriel Library of 1788. Let loose on a medieval church he showed at Hereford, even more than he had at Durham and Salisbury, all the sensitivity of a1960s town planner faced with an historic town centre. Over the decade 1786-96 he shortened the nave by a bay, rebuilt the whole of that part of the cathedral above the nave arcade, and removed the timber spire, pinnacles and parapet from the central tower. Inside the cathedral a vast amount of damage was done, including the loss of many monumental brasses, although the figure of 2 tons weight is surely exaggerated.

Not until Lewis Cottingham's 1841 restoration were the parapet and pinnacles, rather larger in the latter case than those there previous to Wyatt, but which work well, replaced on the central tower.

Wyatts' insipid west front found little favour and in 1878 Sir George Gilbert Scott produced a design in the romanesque style, that perhaps mercifully, was not carried out. In 1902-8 his son J. Oldrid Scott rebuilt the west end as a memorial to Queen Victoria. This is a much more impressive design, though the nave still remains short of a bay.

The present west front

Image: Britannia.com

The front which collapsed in 1786 was perhaps a little awkward in its appearance, the result of piecemeal alterations and development. The current front is in many a fine piece of work, but part of me regrets that there was not the decision to reconstruct the pre-1786 design.

Hereford is a cathedral for which I have a great affection. Part of that I recognise is because I am aware of the damage it has sustained over the centuries since the reformation, but it has survived neglect and the attentions of vandals and restorers, and still presides over the city.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Nought for our comfort

Over twenty years ago when I was still living in Pontefract and was Parish Clerk at St Giles it fell to me to be the narrator of the Passion for Palm Sunday.

Reading through the text so as to deliver it as well as I could I was struck by the thought that in the Passion of Our Lord every system of government is itself found wanting.

Thus the Theocracy of Ciaphas and Annas and the Sadducees around the Temple cult is found wanting. So is the Monarchy of Herod, and so is the Imperialism, colonialism and military rule represented by Pilate and the Romans.

Even more worrying to modern eyes and ears, not least those of some liberal theologians, not to mention political demagogues, Democracy is found wanting in the cries of the crowd of "Crucify him!" Their idea of "Liberation theology" was somewhat lacking in understanding. So too, I more than suspect, is the liberal assimilation of the Christian message to contemporary mores, reducing it to no more than, well, being "nice" to other people, without ever pointing out that the ensuing relativism and social and moral fragmentation that ensues.

We can understand why those particular representitives of those systems, the Priests and their attendant aristocratic connections, the King, the Governor and the Mob acted as they did - they "knew not what they did." It does not vitiate their particular functions. It does however show them to be found wanting in their exercise of power, and for that to be happen potentially with any form of human governance.

This leads me to further reflection. Given that we do not all live as Desert Fathers or contemplatives untouched by the world, and indeed that there is such a Thing as Society, and Christians are certainly called to believe in that society or body which is the Church, this is sobering. The more so as we have the Dominical statement that His Kingdom is not of this world. This world offers us challenges and problems that have to be dealt with as Christians, or, for that matter, non-Christians.

So we have to get on and face the fact that all systems are fallible, as they were shown to be in first century Palestine. What we have to do is attempt to make them as close as we can to the Divine Will and model, knowing that as fallen beings we shall never achieve Heaven on earth or by our own efforts. That, incidentally, makes me wonder if those who become politicians in the modern world mean becoming Pelagian? Given the fallen nature of the world does not, however, mean that we are not called upon to try, and to seek a model that accords, however falteringly, with the Divine order. To do that we have, of course, to discern the Divine plan. Which takes us back to the Church and to prayer.

This little insight has stayed with me these twenty odd years. Some might thnk it reveals my pessimistic streak, but I am inclined to see it as being realistic.

Happy birthday, Holy Father

Today is the 84th birthday of the Pope, and an opportunity for Catholics to express their affection and regard for the Holy Father.

Friday 15 April 2011

Holy Week in Oxford

Here are the liturgical programmes for Holy Week for the churches I attend in Oxford, and in case any readers will be in the city and looking for service times.

Oxford Oratory

Palm Sunday

Saturday Vigil Mass: 6.30 pm
Latin Mass(1962): 8 am
Parish Mass: 9.30 am
Solemn Mass and Blessing of Palms: 11 am
Vespers and Benediction: 5.30 pm
Mass: 6.30pm

Monday in Holy Week
Mass at 7.30am,10am and 6pm
Stations of the Cross at 10.30pm

Tuesday in Holy Week
Mass at 7.30am,10am and 6pm
Stations of the Cross at 10.30pm

Wednesday in Holy Week
Mass at 7.30am,10am and 6pm
At the 6pm Mass members of the Ordinariate will be received and confirmed
Stations of the Cross at 10.30pm

Maundy Thursday
Low Mass: 12 noon
Mass of the Lord's Supper 8pm
Watching at the Altar of Repose until midnight
Compline: 11.45pm
Confessions: 11am-12noon and before Mass

Good Friday
Matins and Lauds: 9am
Children's Stations of the Cross: 11am
Liturgy of the Lord's Passion: 3pm
Stations of the Cross: 7pm
Confessions: 10am-12 noon and 1.45-2.45 and after the Liturgy

Holy Saturday
Matins and Lauds: 9am
The Easter Vigil: 9pm
Confessions: 10am-12noon and 4pm-6pm

Easter Day
Latin Mass(1962): 8am
Parish Mass:9.30 am
Solemn Mass: 11 am
Vespers and Benediction: 5.15 pm
Evening Mass: 6.30pm

S.Gregory and S.Augustine

Palm Sunday
Solemn Mass:10.30am

Monday in Holy Week
Mass:9.30 am
Mass (1962): 6pm

Tuesday in Holy Week
Mass:9.30 am
Mass (1962): 6pm

Wednesday in Holy Week
Mass:9.30 am
Mass (1962): 6pm

Maundy Thursday
Mass of the Lord's Supper: 8pm

Good Friday
Liturgy of the Lord's Passion: 3pm

Holy Saturday
The Easter Vigil: 8.30pm

Easter Day
Mass: 8am
Solemn Mass: 10.30am


Monday in Holy Week
Stations of the Cross with reflection by aDominican student:12 noon
Mass : 6.15 pm

Tuesday in Holy Week
Stations of the Cross with reflection by aDominican student:12 noon
Mass : 6.15 pm

Wednesday in Holy Week
Stations of the Cross with reflection by aDominican student:12 noon
Mass : 6.15 pm

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae: 9.30am
Midday Prayer:1.05pm
Polish Mass:
Mass of the Lord's Supper:8pm

Good Friday
Tenebrae: 9.30am
Midday Prayer:1.05pm
Liturgy of the Lord's Passion:3pm
Polish Service: 6pm

Holy Saturday
Tenebrae: 9.30am
Polish - Blessing of Food:11am
Midday Prayer:1.05pm
Confessions: 12 noon - 1pm and 5pm - 6pm
Polish Service:
The Easter Vigil:11pm

Easter Day
Mass: 8am
Mass: 9.30
Polish Mass: 11.15am

Midday Prayer:1.05pm
Solemn Vespers:6pm

St Birinus Dorchester on Thames

In addition to their celebration of the Triduum and Easter Day there will be on
Easter Monday
Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form: 10am

Thursday 14 April 2011

Formidable ladies

In the tutorials I gave last term on women in sixteenth centuruy England the last non-royal personage I looked at was Bess of Hardwick(1527-1608), the remarkable self-made, or self-improving, Derbyshire woman who became the matriarch of the Cavendish family.

The Oxford DNB life of her is here, and there are other online lives here and here.

File:Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury from NPG.jpg

Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury, 1592
Attributed to Rowland Lockey

Image: Wikipedia

Her most famous creation is Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, built for her in the years 1590-98.


Hardwick Hall.
The ruins at the right are the remains of Bess of Hardwick's previous house which served as a servent's wing until it was unroofed in the eighteenth century.

Image: Bolsover Local Strategic Partnership

In preparing this post I was initially tempted to write of her in terms of being untypical, but in looking for the ODNB life I found that today their 'Life of the Day' was that of Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676), which can be read here, and there is another online life here.


Although she belongs to a later era the similarities are strong, although Lady Anne was born into the aristocracy rather than the upwardly mobile Elizabeth Hardwick, who came from the minor gentry, but who with her fourth marriage eventually married into it. In the reign of King Charles II Anne, as Dowager Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery, but even more importantly, Baroness Clifford, was still maintaining the life style of her medieval ancestors, restoring their castles, and was keenly aware of her family and its history.

File:Clifford Family.jpg

Lady Anne Clifford's tryptich of c.1646
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal


Both were determined women by any standards, sixteenth or twenty-first century, and have left not only remarkable evidence of their activities as builders but also extensive documentation. They may thereby have, to an extent, magnified their exceptionality.

I was brought up midway between the areas in which these two women had lived and came to know some at least of the palces thay had occupied and built or renovated, so they spring to mind, but I am sure they were not unique. In the extent of their achievements they may be untypical, yet they typify in many ways in which women at all levels of society could and clearly did play a distinctive and active role.

From the period of the English Civil War one only has to think of Lady Bankes or Charlotte de la Tremoille, Countess of Derby defending Royalist castles at Corfe and Latham House against besiegers, Lucy Hutchinson or Lady Brilliana Hervey as diarists and writers on the parliamentarian side, Jane Lane smuggling King Charles II to safety or Margaret Duchess of Newcastle and her literary interests to realise that women were very well able to account for themselves.

Women who left fewer records may well, in their own sphere of life, have been equally determined and successful, and these later examples were no doubt the daughters of women well able to look after their daughters' interests as well as their sons'.

Pro-Life Vigil in Twickenham on Saturday

The organiser of the Oxford Pro-Life witness has asked me to publicise the next vigil at the BPAS abortion facility, 15 Rosslyn Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TE1 2AR, which will be held this coming Saturday, April 16th.

It will start from St Margaret's Church, 130 St Margaret's Road, East Twickenham, TW1 1RL, and will be led by Bishop Alan Hopes, together with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

It has been arranged with full Police co-operation.

Times (approx) are as follows:

9.00am Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St Margaret's Church
9.40am Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
9.50am Prayerful and peaceful procession to the BPAS Abortion facility, carrying the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with recitation of the Holy Rosary and hymns.
11.30am Return procession with prayers and hymns
12.00 noon Benediction
12.15pm Tea and get together. Please bring a packed lunch

Directions: St. Margaret’s Station, South-West Trains. St. Margaret’s Church is opposite the Station. By road – it is close to Chertsey and Twickenham Roads (A316) and Richmond Road (A305). There is ample carparking.

Please join us - you really do make all the difference, and please try to bring someone with you.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Lenten array - a further observation

It occurred to me last night that in my researches on the Lenten array for my posts Passiontide veils and Lenten array and Vexilla regis prodeunt no-one appeared to make the point, which indeed had not fully dropped as a penny in my failing wits until then, that it is not just, as is argued, that the Lenten array is ashen in colour, but rather than unbleached linen is of such a texture and hue as to be reminiscent of sackcloth and of ashes, the ancient symbols of repentence. Thus it is not just a case of forswearing the use of silken hangings for the altar but of the church as a building as well as a community repenting in sackcloth and ashes during Lent and Passiontide.


The Lenten array at the Catholic church of St Birinus Dorchester on Thames

Image:Lawrence Lew on Flickr

Once the thought came to my mind I realised that I do not think I have seen the point made in print - though it doubtless has been - so I thought I would share it with anyone who might be interested.

The Ordinariate in Oxford

Last Saturday I again attended as a supporter the catechumenate meeting for the Oxford group entering the Ordinariate this Easter. The speaker was Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory, who prepared me for reception in 2005, and who delivered a really excellent talk on the practise and practicalities of prayer as well as giving good practical advice about confession.

It seemed to me that the group of candidates attending had moved on a significant stage, going from people who wanted to enter the new structure of the Ordinariate but were still a little unsure as to what it involved, to being committed and confident in what they are about to do.

As if to underline this we assembled at the end for a group photograph which included those of us who are going along as supporters.

Please keep those being received into the Church in your prayers, and especially the Oxford candidates who are being received on Spy Wednesday at the 6 pm Mass at the Oratory.

Mgr Burnham has forwarded the news that the Fathers of the Oxford Oratory have readily agreed to designate the weekly Wednesday 10am Mass at the Oratory as an Ordinariate Mass.

This means that Ordinariate Priests would also be on the roster of those who celebrate that Mass and, should there be sufficient interest, lay members of the Ordinariate might read the first reading and psalm. He says that he hopes that this both responds imaginatively to the suggestion of the Archbishop of Birmingham that there be an abiding link between the Oratory and the Oxford Ordinariate Group and gives a regular midweek place where members can meet and support one another.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Oxford Tutorial for D.Cameron (BNC)

Dear David,
Your essay on Oxford University's admissions policy with respect to black students rather looks as if you wrote it in haste on your way to your party in Harrogate. This is not good practice for essays or for the responsibilities you have taken on in the last year.

You really should know by now to check your facts and not to rely on downloading information from the Internet.

You really should not cribb ideas from G. Brown ( Edinburgh, not even an Oxford man); he tried this argument ten years ago, and, well, look what happened to him.

Although you may cause some University breast beating by the politically correct who have taken the governmental shilling, the University has been able to point out the errors in your argument. Please remember that for future reference.

Do not be a bully (even if you are in the Bullingdon) to the university which gave you a place. you are agrown up now, so stand up against the entrenched educational establishment that is obsessed with social engineering in a way that smacks more of Big Brother than the Big Society.

One way to open up the educational chances for minorities is obvious to some of us older chaps - things called Grammar Schools. Yet I seem to recall you and your friends in your very poor essays on educational policy set your faces against such institutions. Just because you went to that large comprehensive school outside Slough does not mean that all comprehensives are as good academically (they are not) or as socially advantageous (they are not).

As his tutor once said to a friend of mine about his NT Greek essay " I would give this a Delta but you probably would n't know what it meant..."

I remain, etc...

P.S. Perhaps the problem is very Oxford - you belong to a college on the north of the High and I to one on the south...


Several bloggers have cited or referred to the account by former students of theological formation at Maynooth which has appeared recently.

St Patrick's College Maynooth

Following Fr Blake I would point those interested to Fr Zuhlsdorf's easier to read version.

It is sobering reading, and points to a malaise in the Irish Church that is not related to past instances of abuse but to more recent theological and cultural drift that is not just a problem in Ireland. We should be grateful for the authors having the courage to voice their criticisms, as I suspect there is considerable pressure not to rock the boat. However this is a boat(s) in the flotilla of the barque of Peter that looks in serious need of being rocked.

One can hope, and indeed pray, that a genuine renewal of priestly formation can emerge which will in turn help in the renewal of the Church.

Heritage Lottery funding for historic churches

I have been sent the following piece of information by an architect who specialises in restoring churches, and which is of serious concern to anyone interested in matters related to historic churches of any denomination. Please read it and look at the consultation, and respond by April 26th.

“I have been told authoritatively, and from a completely dependable source, that the initial results from the Heritage Lottery Funding on-line e-mail consultation are not especially encouraging with regard to potential future funding for churches.

Although a sizeable proportion of those responding to date have indicated that they enthusiastically support future funding for historic structures and buildings, a far smaller proportion have indicated support for resources being targeted at churches. This may reflect a shortcoming in the questions themselves, and therefore a confusion in the public mind about whether funding would be offered to churches as historic buildings or whether all churches are to regarded as religious institutions, and therefore as a low priority for Heritage funding.
Given the eventual phasing-out of much English Heritage money to support historic buildings, and the need to garner support from the HLF for our churches, it is essential that we do all we can to influence the on-line consultation in the direction of continued (and greater) support for church buildings as important historic structures and part of the national patrimony.

deadline for on-line comments is 26th April
and the documentation is available on www.hlf.org.uk/consultation2011
Please respond yourselves and get anyone else (DAC members, workers in your diocesan office, friends, complete strangers off the street…) you can to do the same. The numbers of people responding are fairly small, so the chances of having a significant effect on the statistical balance are good. "

Monday 11 April 2011

Vexilla regis prodeunt

Following on from my previous post about Passiontide veiling I have now found some pictures which give an idea of the effect of veiling the reredos at St Aloysius here in Oxford and the sombre splendour that results.


Palm Sunday 2010 at the Oxford Oratory

Image: Oxford Oratory website


Good Friday 2010

Image: Oxford Oratory website

Fr Blake writes on his blog about veiling in St Mary Magdalen's Brighton in this piece Lenten Veiling, and with this picture of the church this year:

I cannot see why veiling in Passiontide was made optional, nor why anyone would opt not to veil at this season.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Passiontide veils and Lenten array

Today, in the Roman Rite images will, hopefully, be being veiled to mark the beginning of Passiontide.

I gather there is some variation between dioceses these days, but here in the Archdiocese of Birmingham traditional practice appears to prevail. I always find the sight of the reredos of St Aloysius in Oxford clothed in violet very dignified and impressive - it has a sombre magnificence suitable to the season.

The current Roman practice is to veil in violet for Passiontide alone. The medieval English Sarum Use had veiling for the whole of Lent and in unbleached linen with stencilled decoration.

The following is edited from notes on a US Episcopalian site, fullhomelydivinity.com:

Veiling of Crosses
according to the Roman Rite.

Those who follow the Roman tradition veil crosses, pictures, and statues on Passion Sunday and they remain veiled until the arrival of Easter.

Before the first Evensong of Passion Sunday‑all crosses, pictures, and images in the church (including, if practically possible, the great rood) are covered with opaque purple veils. These veils, which must not be transparent, nor bear any device or symbol, are not removed for any festival, however high in rank, which may occur during Passion week; the processional cross, however, is unveiled for the procession on Palm Sunday.

At the festal Mass on Maundy Thursday, the veil on the cross on the high altar (but no other cross) is white; and also on Good Friday that of this same cross is sometimes black, though the Roman rite itself seems to require that the altar cross and candles be taken away and the altar be left totally bare on Good Friday. Stations of the Cross are not veiled.

The spirit of the Passiontide veiling seems to be that the Church would draw off our attention from everything but Him whose suffering she is commemorating, bidding us 'consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners.' It is also symbolical of the hiding of our Lord's glory during His earthly life, and especially during His ignominious and bitter Passion.

The Present Roman Rite. The liturgical changes of the 1960s "suppressed" the Lenten veil. In the 1975 edition of the Sacramentary, the practice was reintroduced as an option. At the end of the propers for the Saturday of the 4th week in Lent we read: "The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed.... The crosses are to be covered until the end of the Lord's passion on Good Friday, images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil."

Veiling according to the Sarum (Old English) Rite. In this tradition "according to the rules that in all the churches of England be observed, all images [are] to be hid from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day in the morning." This is called the Lenten Array and it includes a curtain which hides the reredos, a frontal which covers the altar, and veils which cover other statues and pictures in the church. The colour was Lenten white which was natural linen material, sometimes referred to as ash colour.

According to An Introduction to English Liturgical Colours, "The explanation of this use of white, which is closely akin to ashen, is 'in this time of Lent, which is a time of mourning, all things that make to the adornment of the church are either laid aside or else covered, to put us in remembrance that we ought now to lament and mourn for our souls dead in sin, and continually to watch, fast, pray, give alms....,' wherefore 'the clothes that are hanged up this time of Lent in the church have painted on them nothing else but the pains, torments, passion, blood­shedding, and death of Christ, that now we should only have our minds fixed on the passion of Christ, by whom only we were redeemed." This practice made a startling transformation of the church for the whole of the Lenten season so that Easter literally burst forth like the Lord from the tomb when the church was returned to normal state. Both the Roman tradition and the Sarum tradition, though different in colour and different in length, were about the same thing. They were about helping us to focus single-mindedly on the Passion of Our Lord.

There is an article with links to images here by fr Lawrence Lew OP from the New Liturgical Movement website.

The following five paragraphs are adapted from an article on Vitrearum's Church Art from 2009, whence also the photographs.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire - high altar lenten array

Lenten array designed by F. C. Eden at North Cerney, Gloucestershire

Until a few years ago it was fairly common to see the altars of English churches covered with unbleached linen hangings known as Lenten array. This striking custom is a medieval one and was fairly universal in medieval England.

In the Middle Ages the idea of covering altars, reredoses and images with off-white material, was to provide a visual deprivation of colour and ornament within the church building. The purpose of this was twofold. Firstly it was reflective of the contemplative character of the season. Thomas Becon, the protestant theologian, wrote about the purpose of it as he understood it:

'So likewise [in] this time of Lent, which is a time of mourning, all things that make to the adornment of the church are either laid aside or covered, to put us in remembrance that we ought now to lament and mourn for our souls dead in sin and continually to watch, fast pray, give alms etc. etc.'

Secondly the contrast between the visual deprivation of Lent, with the visual splendour of the festal hangings of Easter, emphasised the triumph of the Resurrection.

In the Middle Ages the linen hangings were usually decorated with red, black or dark blue stencilled motifs. These motifs were generally related to the Passion of the Lord, the Instruments of the Passion or sacred monograms. The coverings over images were often stencilled or appliqued with an attribute, text or even by the late medieval period a representation of the image covered.

Some statues at least were in a wooden case-like niche or housing which could be closed for Lent and then opened on Easter Day. As well as surviving examples there is a recorded incident of one such closed image of St Anne flying open when King Edward IV prayed before it in 1471, which was seen to be an augury of his military success and restoration that Eastertide.

Similarly many late medieval wooden reredoses were designed with covers to close off the image from view, and often with the Lenten face painted in grisaille or muted colours, or, as in the one by Stefan Lochner now in Cologne Cathedral, with The Annunciation on show.

A modern example can be seen in the reredos formerly in SS Philip and James and now at Pusey House here in Oxford, which when closed displays the instruments of the Passion on a linen coloured background.

Winchester Cathedral

Lenten array on the nave altar at Winchester Cathedral.

Dorchester, St Birinus

Lenten array by the Warham Guild at St Birinus Catholic Church
Dorchester, Oxfordshire.

Southwarklent 008

Lenten array by Sir Ninian Comper in the retrochoir of the Anglican Cathedral in Southwark .

The best account of the medieval use of Lenten array, including a large amount of documentary evidence is probably W. St John Hope and E. G. C. Atchley English Liturgical Colours (London, 1918).

Following the work of Percy Dearmer and publications such as those of St John Hope and Atchley, a revived Sarum Lenten array became accepted in many English churches and cathedrals, including Canterbury, Winchester, Wakefield, which I have seen in place, and even Westminster abbey.

Some Anglo-Catholic churches made the point of following Roman rather than Sarum usages, and that may account for the decline in Lenten arrays in recent decades as indicated by the author whose work I have used above. Certainly at St Thomas in Oxford when, as churchwarden I reinstated the custom of Passiontide veiling in 2004 - i.e. climbed up and put the veils in place myself - all the veils, some of which were quite old, were Roman purple or violet in colour.

The recovered Saruin practice may be a part of "Anglican patrimony" which can be carried forward and encouraged, as at St Birinus in Dorchester. It is the true patrimony of both Catholics and Anglo-Catholics in England - which is not to deny or begrudge the familiar purple hangings of Passiontide.

One rather curious tradition, which I think is a misunderstanding of the Lenten use of linen, and appears to have arisen with no real historic precedent, is that of having vestments also made of the unbleached linen and using them.

From the 1552 Church Good Surveys I have seen and used in research I have never come across reference to such vestments, and I suspect that they did not exist. Purple or violet fabric may have been an expensive and difficult colour to obtain, but I think it, or a substitute would have been worn by the officiating clergy. Here diocesan practice varied - if my memory serves me right from what I have read the practice was to follow the use of the cathedral - hence Exeter clergy wore purple, and those of Wells blue. Hence the revived Sarum tradition of wearing blue in Advent.

Friday 8 April 2011

St Derfel

Last Wednesday, April 6th, was the feast of the Welsh St Derfel, who is associated with the church at Llandderfel near Corwen and with the site of another chapel at Cwmbran in the south of the Principality.

There is an account of his life here.

I have written and edited the following piece using material from a Cwmbran website and from the Diocese of St Asaph's online history of Llanddefel, together with some points of my own:

Derfel is celebrated in medieval Welsh poetry as a follower of King Arthur, and as one of only seven survivors of King Arthur’s
last battle at Camlan, in the 6th century. The poet describes that Derfel survived through the strength of his spear.

Derfel is said to have retired into the church after the battle and to have built two churches in Wales, one in North Wales at what is now Llandderfel village, and the other in Cwmbran at what is now known as Llanderfel Farm, within what was the Lordship of Caerleon. He finally became the abbot of Bardsey Island (the island of 20,000 saints), and to have died there in 660.

Both churches became sites of pilgrimage in the medieval period. Every year during the pilgrim season, numerous pilgrims visited these shrines to pray to St Derfel, as it appears to have been a tradition that Derfel could enter Hell and retrieve the lost soul of a relative of the praying pilgrim.

Hundreds of pilgrims came to Llandderfel in the middle ages to pray at the huge wooden image of St Derfel and to offer gifts in return for a blessing on their animals and for other favours. The cult appears to have been one of those of which there is little written evidence, but which had considerable popular appeal, and one of those devotions with deep roots in the local folk memory and practice.

Parish Logo
Llandderfel church as rebuilt at the end of the medieval period

In the later period there was a wooden statue of St Derfel in the church at Llandderfel, apparently with a legend attached to it that if burnt it would burn down a forest. The statue was taken from Wales by order of Thomas Cromwell under King Henry VIII in 1538 - the year which saw the destruction of the statues of Our Lady from Walsingham and elsewhere.

The Welsh devotion to such statues was described as the “idol worship of gargoyles”, and it was decided that the statue was to be used as part of the pyre for the public burning in chains at Smithfield of
John Forest, an Observant Franciscan Friar, and a former confessor of Catherine of Aragon, for refusing to except King Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. The Oxford DNB life of Fr Forest can be read here. This was one of those show-piece executions which occurred in these years - events designed to not only punish the condemned but to make a polito-theological point, with Bishop Latimer preaching and many councillors and officials in attendance. This one took place on May 22nd that year - and so St Derfel set a Forest ablaze. Apart from the discussion in the ODNB article there is more about the martyrdom of Fr Forest here, which is a post from Elena Maria Vidal's Tea at Trianon blog, citing material from Fr Schofield's Roman Miscellany.

Hall’s Chronicle of 1539 relates that, “upon the gallows that he died on was set up in great letters these verses following”:

Derfel Gadarn
As sayth the Welshmen
Fetched outlaws out of Hell,

Now is he come with spear and shield,
In armour to burn in Smithfield,
For in Wales he may not dwell,

And Forest the friar,
That obstinate liar
That willfully shall be dead,

In his contumacy
The Gospel doeth deny
The King to be supreme head.

The grim gallows humour of the period loses nothing of its unpleasantness with the passage of time.

It appears possible that it was only the figure of St Derfel that was burned - the carving of his horse may have been left behind at Llandderfel. There still survives a carving of a red stag known as the "Horse of Derfel" which is now situated in the church porch. In 1730 it was removed from the church and decapitated on the orders of the Rural Dean - the spirit of the reformers was still alive in the eighteenth century it would appear. This may refer to the persistence of "folk religion"in rural Wales, which is well attested in academic studies.


The remains of St Derfel's 'horse' from Llandderfel Church

Last year a new statue of him was unveiled at Cwmbran on April 6th.

Thursday 7 April 2011

St Margaret Clitherow

Via the Hermeneutic of Continuity I have come across another online biography of St Margaret Clitherow which may be of interest to those who read my posts on Recusant women and the LMS Pilgrimage to York.


A modern statue of St Margaret Clitherow

Image: Catholic Women's League

It is by Daniel F. McSheffery and entitled St Margaret: Mother and Martyr and can be read here.

Here is a picture of the site of St Margaret's martyrdom.

Old Ouse Bridge and St William's Chapel, 1803 or 1805,

by John Varley, York Art Gallery

Image: historyofyork.org.uk

The medieval Ouse Bridge had become crowded with buildings. As well as houses and shops, the bridge supported St William’s Chapel at one end, which was transformed into apartments after the Reformation.

The thirteenth century chapel commemorated the saint-archbishop, who died in 1154, and whose prayers were believed to have saved those who fell into the river when the bridge collapsed upon his return to the city.

In the winter of 1564 snow, a frost, a sudden thaw and a flood caused the central arches to collapse again. Twelve houses fell into the river and 12 people drowned.

The new bridge, opened in 1566, had five arches, with the central one 81 feet wide and more than 17 feet high. The bridge had a chapel, St William's, on the south side of the river. The Council chamber was housed next to the chapel and the damp city gaol was below. It was one of the sights of the city.

It was in the gaol, in the basement of the desecrated chapel, that St Margaret died.

The bridge was cleared and rebuilt in the years after 1810, but a plaque marks the site of the chapel.

FSSP Mass in Amsterdam

A friend has sent me the link to a blog post on the Daily Telegraph website by the composer James MacMillan which may be of interest.

Mass at the Sint-Agneskirk

Mass at the Sint-Agneskerk

He recently attended an Extraordinary Form Mass at the FSSP church of Sint-Agneskerk in Amsterdam, and writes enthusiastically about the experience here. The FSSP community there has recently been given full recognition as a community by the diocesan Bishop. The development of the Fraternity foundation there has been covered by the New Liturgical Movement, and they have several posts about the church in their archives. This definitely looks to be the church to attend if one is in Amsterdam.

You can read James MacMillan's account here.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Ford Lectures IV

Now that it is the vacation I have a little more time to write up my notes from the Ford Lectures last term - assuming that I can read my own handwriting, which is not guaranteed, and will lead to a slightly disjointed account of a stimulating lecture.

In his fourth lecture Prof. Peter Lake began with an examination of two more tracts from 1584.

John Lesley (Leslie), Bishop of Ross, produced De titulo et jure Mariae Scot. Reg., quo regni Angliae successioneoi sibi juste vindicat (Reims, 1580; translated in 1584)

John Lesley.jpg

Bishop John Lesley

Image: Wikipedia

This proceeded in a moderate tone on the basis that people needed to know who the Queen's successor would be and the Stuart claim was opposed to the actions of the selfish Machiavells. A union of the Crowns would be beneficial, and avoid the potential for another War of the Roses; the line of King Henry VII must be maintained.

William Allen, who being an Oriel man is of particular interest to me, produced An Answer to the Libel of English Justice (Mons, 1584).


Cardinal William Allen

Image: Church of St Nicholas Owen Thornton

View Image

The arms of Cardinal Allen in the Hall of Oriel

Image: Lawrence Lew on Flickr

In Allen's view the disorder in political life was the result of a few who overruled the Queen against her wishes. He depicted them as athiestical Machiavells, politiques who used religion as a cover for their actions. England had become the rogue state of Europe due to the uncertainty about the succession to the Crown. The true faith had been abandoned and the true heirs abused; the line of King Henry VII must be maintained or the risk was of war. King Henry VII had rescued the nation, even though King Richard III had been an anointed monarch.

The clique around Burghley persecuted Catholics for political reasons, not religious ones. When it came to who should decide on issues of legitimacy and resistance Protestants left the decison to themselves, Catholics sought order by appealing to the Pope, whose concern was for people's spiritual welfare.

Given Allen's political manoeuvering he was being perhaps rather disingenuous, but that he could make so plausible a case indicates the fluidity of perceived opinion at the time.

Leicester was again seen as planning selfishly for himself in the event of Queen Elizabeth's death. Leicester's Commonwealth appears as disinformation to force Elizabeth to offer concessions to Mary Queen of Scots.

The government's Bond of Association to bind people to defend, or avenge if need be, the Queen was accepted widely, and those taking it included Mary Queen of Scots.

Dr William Parry, the eccentric Church Papist MP and double agent ( a "nutter", but interesting, in Prof. Lake's expressed opinion) who was tried and executed in 1585, appears to have been accepted by the Queen as an alternative voice to those in her government as a means of showing her freedom of choice as to the advice she received. Parry was both her agent and also someone who planned to kill her. As an MP he had advocated the rights of succession of the Queen of Scots and her son. Elizabeth appears to have used parry to suggest an openness to catholicism on her part. Her government began to think that she should be told not to do so.

Parry's plot gave the government an opportunity to respond and his claims were used to undermine the cause he advocated. The government sought to counter the claims of Catholic loyalism. Hence the tract the Due and Plain Duty. The official view was that all Catholics were traitors. Those like Parry must not be allowed near the Queen, which would serve to exclude the Church Papists from access. If the Queen herself could be misled by Parry, so could others. Parry claimed to have been affected by seeing the queen, seeing in her Henry VII, and both the Queen and the Queen of Scots were of the lineage of Henry VII. Parry's own divided state of minfd indicated what could happen to the c country as a whole

Revealingly at his trial Parry said he was there because he was "not settled" - which surpised the judges, but was a reference to the password Leicester's Commonwealth attributed to the coterie around the Earl of Leicester.

Whilst in the Tower awaiting execution Parry wrote of his fear of the French link, believed in restoring the Spanish alliance, and the acceptance of Mary and James VI as heirs - straight from Leicester's Commonwealth. Rescue was not on hand, with Elizabeth presiding over the regime. Blaming the situation on evil counsel was not the explanation, and therefore he had looked to kill her.

In Prof. Lake's view Robert Parsons with Leicester's Commonwealth captured the dynamics of the political situation, exercising a malign influence that affected everyone in the Parliament of 1584-5 from the Queen downwards, and confirming Parsons' skill as a propagandist.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Origen and Orientation

When I read the wonderful passage by Origen in the Office of Readings yesterday one of the things which struck me was Origen's emphasis on facing to the east. I was not the only person to be so struck - so were Fr Hunwicke and Fr Blake, whose linked post you can read here.

If you have not read Fr Michael Lang's Turning to the Lord about the eastward direction of prayer, well do so - there is still time to do so in Lent.

Here is the text from the Office (courtesy of Universalis)

From a homily on Leviticus by Origen

Christ the High Priest makes atonement for our sins

Once a year the high priest, leaving the people outside, entered that place where no one except the high priest might enter. In it was the mercy-seat, and above the mercy-seat the cherubim, as well as the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense.

Let me turn to my true high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. In our human nature he spent the whole year in the company of the people, the year that he spoke of when he said: He sent me to bring good news to the poor, to announce the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of forgiveness. Notice how once in that year, on the day of atonement, he enters into the holy of holies. Having fulfilled God’s plan, he passes through the heavens and enters into the presence of the Father to make him turn in mercy to the human race and to pray for all who believe in him.

John the apostle, knowing of the atonement that Christ makes to the Father for all men, says this: Little children, I say these things so that you may not sin. But if we have sinned we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just one. He is the atonement for our sins in his blood, through faith. We have then a day of atonement that remains until the world comes to an end.

God’s word tells us: The high priest shall put incense on the fire in the sight of the Lord. The smoke of the incense shall cover the mercy-seat above the tokens of the covenant, so that he may not die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull-calf and sprinkle it with his finger over the mercy-seat toward the east.

God taught the people of the old covenant how to celebrate the ritual offered to him in atonement for the sins of men. But you have come to Christ, the true high priest. Through his blood he has made God turn to you in mercy and has reconciled you with the Father. You must not think simply of ordinary blood but you must learn to recognise instead the blood of the Word. Listen to him as he tells you: This is my blood, which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

There is a deeper meaning in the fact that the high priest sprinkles the blood toward the east. Atonement comes to you from the east. From the east comes the one whose name is Dayspring, he who is mediator between God and men. You are invited then to look always to the east: it is there that the sun of righteousness rises for you, it is there that the light is always being born for you. You are never to walk in darkness; the great and final day is not to enfold you in darkness. Do not let the night and mist of ignorance steal upon you. So that you may always enjoy the light of knowledge, keep always in the daylight of faith, hold fast always to the light of love and peace.


V. Jesus has entered heaven before us and on our behalf, a lamb without blemish: he has become high priest of the order of Melchizedek, for ever and ever.
R. He is the King of Righteousness, whose descendants will have no end. He has become high priest of the order of Melchizedek, for ever and ever.

Origen's passage links in with what the Pope says in the latest, second volume of Jesus of Nazareth . This is in his exploration of how Our Lord's Sacrifice replaces those of the Temple, and how at a very early stage that truth had impressed itself upon the nascent Christian community - he cites St Stephen and St Paul as well as the evidence from Acts as to how the Church met for prayer in the as yet undestroyed Temple, but that they "broke bread" in their houses, indicating that to them it was clear that this was the new sacrifice that made peace with God, not rituals of the Temple. In particular the Pope draws out the significance of links in what St Paul writes about Christ as our expiation and the rituals of the Temple - but don't rely on me - read the Holy Father's book.