For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Monday, 11 November 2019

40 Days Until Christmas

It is 40 days until Christmas Eve from Thursday - the late Sunday Gospels and Collects at the end of the period after Trinity are already looking forward to Advent, and I wonder if it would be good to keep a kind of Lent from this date until Christmas arrives.

I received a letter from my broadband internet provider a few days ago telling me that I could end my contract a year early because they were unexpectedly putting up the monthly price. On an impulse, it felt like a wonderful opportunity. After 45 minutes on the phone listening to a sweet song that went "everything inside you dark and twisted / do you feel a little bit different / well baby so am I, so am I" or something like that, I got through to a person - not the singer I suspect - who was very concerned for my happiness, at least for the rest of that day, and who seemed to think that I was holding something back and had more to tell her - "are you sure there is nothing else I can help you with today?" But no, I simply wanted to cancel, that was all. No, nothing else thank you. Thank you, I'm looking forward to the rest of the day now that you put it like that. Bye.

In four weeks' time I will have no internet connection at home. I have plenty of opportunity for the necessary - e-mails, booking important things and ordering the odd book - at work. This blog will become more dormant than it already is.



Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Lectionary - the almost final version

Could one read the whole Bible in a liturgical year?

I've been working on this lectionary for several years. It adapts the traditional Sarum lectionary for the Mass (unchanged) and Office of Mattins (tweaked), adding in a lesson for the end of Prime and two lessons for Vespers, like Evensong. One reads the entirety of Holy Scripture in one year - except that there is some redundancy, and owing to the variable length of the seasons after Epiphany and Trinity, there are at least five weeks of lessons in any one year that won't get an outing.

This is close to the final iteration. There is still a bit of work to be done on the Sanctoral and I'm sure there are undiscovered mistakes.

For some background.... the oldest Western lectionary we know of in the Ordines Romani was possibly arranged around the four seasons (and the Ember Days?): I've written in brief about this before...

It seems that the early Roman Breviary's year was divided up into four sections, roughly corresponding to the seasons and bounded by the Ember Days. Genesis to Judges formed the spring lessons (in Lent, from Quinquagesima to Passion Sunday) along with the Easter and Whitsuntide lessons of Acts, Revelation and the General Epistles. Summer (after Trinity) saw the reading of the books of the Kings; and autumn the Wisdom books. The Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi were begun in December, and continued until the following Lent after the Christmas season. The Gospels and the "Apostle", i.e. the Pauline Epistles, were read at the stational Masses.
The Pauline Epistles were added to the Sundays after Epiphany sometime around the 8th Century, and the creation of the liturgical "months" of August to November resulted in some displacement (e.g. the minor prophets were moved to November).

I have made some accommodations but kept as close as I could to this general scheme: there are four lessons per day excluding the Missal lessons, each averaging about 20-25 verses. The placement of Old Testament lessons, where these diverge from the ancient schema, follows a typological rationale e.g. the giving of the Law = Pentecost. It has taken more than three years to put this together partly because it had to be revised by experience and usage.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Wrought in the Silence of God

...hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing and likewise also the death of the Lord -- three mysteries to be cried aloud -- the which were wrought in the silence of God.

 Ignatius of Antioch

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

My fruit is dreams

The sleep-flower sways in the wheat its head,
Heavy with dreams, as that with bread:
The goodly grain and the sun-flushed sleeper
The reaper reaps, and Time the reaper.

I hang 'mid men my needless head,
And my fruit is dreams, as theirs is bread:
The goodly men and the sun-hazed sleeper
Time shall reap, but after the reaper
The world shall glean of me, me the sleeper.

Love, love! your flower of withered dream
In leavèd rhyme lies safe, I deem,
Sheltered and shut in a nook of rhyme,
From the reaper man, and his reaper Time.

Love! I fall into the claws of Time:
But lasts within a leavèd rhyme
All that the world of me esteems --
My withered dreams, my withered dreams.



- from To Monica by Francis Thompson

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Dire Longing

O pater.... quae lucis miseris tam dira cupido?

Father... what is this dire longing of these wretches for light?


- Aeneas to Anchises, Aeneid Book VI (l. 721)

Monday, 17 June 2019

A Prophecy about Drones

This evening I was walking the dog in the twilight, and as usual a solitary blackbird was singing, pausing every so often to listen, from a white dead branch at the top of an old ash tree. I was conscious of another unpleasant hornet-like noise of a machine somewhere nearby, but couldn't locate it until I realised it was up high, and then I saw it - the green light of a drone fifty feet overhead.

It brought to mind this prophetic passage from Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan, written in 1959, the third book of the Gormenghast trilogy, which seems to foresee the invention of the drone.

(This is an utterly different book from the first two, which are set in the feudal world of the vast castle. No-one in this modern bureaucratic nightmare into which Titus has wandered, like something from Kafka, really believes Titus when he speaks of Gormenghast. It is the modern predicament: the Titus figures carry Gormenghast within them, it defines them, they have fled the traditions and found themselves in a merciless world run on different lines in which the only possible redemption is personal love and loyalty. And they are lost and bewildered.)

There was no one ahead of him in spite of the length of the road, but it seemed that he was no longer alone. Something had joined him. He turned as he ran, and at first saw nothing, for he had focused his eyes upon the distance. Then all at once he halted, for he became aware of something floating beside him, at the height of his shoulders.
It was a sphere no bigger than the clenched fist of a child, and was composed of some transparent substance, so pellucid that it was only visible in certain lights, so that it seemed to come and go.
Dumfounded, Titus drew aside from the centre of the road until he could feel the northern wall at his back. For a few moments he leaned there seeing no sign of the glassy sphere, until suddenly, there it was again, hovering above him.
This time as Titus watched it he could see that it was filled with glittering wires, an incredible filigree like frost on a pane; and then as a cloud moved over the sun, and a dim, sullen light filled the windowless street, the little hovering globe began to throb with a strange light like a glow-worm.
At first, Titus had been more amazed than frightened by the mobile globe which had appeared out of nowhere, and followed or seemed to follow every movement he made; but then fear began to make his legs weak, for he realised that he was being watched not by the globe itself, for the globe was only an agent, but by some remote informer who was at this very moment receiving messages. It was this that turned Titus's fear into anger, and he swung back his arms as though to strike the elusive thing which hovered like a bird of paradise.
At the moment Titus that raised his hand, the sun came out again, and the little glittering globe with its coloured entrails of exquisite wire slid out of range, and hovered again as though it were an eyeball watching every move.
Then, as though restless, it sped, revolving on its axis, to the far end of the street where it turned about immediately and sang its way back to where it hung again five feet from Titus, who, fishing his knuckle of flint from his pocket, slung it at the hovering ball, which broke in a cascade of dazzling splinters, and as it broke there was a kind of gasp, as though the globe had given up its silvery ghost... as though it had a sentience of its own, or a state of perfection so acute that it entered, for the split second, the land of the living.
Leaving the broken thing behind he began to run again. Fear had returned, ….

Having a drone above one's head, even when one is not being hunted, is sinister and revolting. I understand Titus's rage.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Look What Happens

Even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth, 
'You owe me.'
Look what happens 
with a love like that. 
It lights the whole sky.

- Hafiz

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Stubborn Lives

The truth has to be melted out of our stubborn lives by suffering. Nothing speaks the truth, nothing tells us how things really are, nothing forces us to know what we do not want to know except pain. And this is how the gods declare their love.

- Aeschylus, Oresteia.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Even In Our Sleep

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep
Pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

Aeschylus: from the Agamemnon.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Sarum Office: Psalmody for Matins during Eastertide

The cursus (or order for running through the Psalter) differs in Sarum Matins during Eastertide, compared to the rest of the year. I've pasted in the Eastertide cursus for Sarum Matins in the table below (psalms are numbered new style, as per Coverdale) - courtesy of Dr William Renwick who generously provided me with this information.

What I'm about to say isn't exact, but during Easter week one runs through the usual Sunday Matins and Sunday Prime psalms more or less consecutively. Then, during weeks 1-4 of Sundays after Easter, one says three psalms of the appointed twelve Matins psalms for that day of the week, so on the four Mondays of Eastertide one runs through the twelve psalms one would normally say on a single Monday. The only day that doesn't get this treatment is Saturday which is mostly occupied by the office of St Mary in Eastertide.



Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
Easter
Sunday
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
19
20
21
23
24
26
1st Sunday after Easter
27
28
29
39
40
41
53
55
56
69
70
71
81
82
83
98
99
100
2nd Sunday after Easter
30
31
32
42
43
44
57
58
59
72
73
74
84
85
86
Office of BVM
3rd Sunday after Easter
33
34
35
45
46
47
60
61
62
75
76
77
87
88
89
4th Sunday after Easter
36
37
38
48
49
50
64
65
66
78
79
80
92
94
96
Rogation Sunday
27
28
29
Office of BVM
53
55
56
Asc
Day
-
-

A query: when they were coming up with their bright ideas for lightening the psalm cursus for clerics in the early twentieth century and again in the 1960s, didn't anyone consider this as a good starting point for a revision for Matins that could have left the day hours more or less intact, perhaps also cutting down on the length of Lauds a little and spreading the long Psalm 119 over the week from Prime-None instead of over a single day? A four or five week cycle for Matins could have covered the entire traditional liturgical year, which (apart from Lent) is mostly made up of four or five week blocks: think of the liturgical months from August to November, Advent, Eastertide etc., and even Septuagesima added to Lent makes up two blocks of four or five weeks depending on whether one includes Holy Week in the count. This is what a conservative revision could have looked like, and wouldn't have been such a radical departure. In fact all that would have been needed was a slim volume detailing which antiphons to use for the psalms on these days: everything else (but everything) could have been left untouched.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Per quem haec omnia

Per quem hæc omnia, Domine, semper bona creas, santificas, vivificas, benedicis, et præstas nobis.

Through whom, O Lord, thou dost alway create all these good things, dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us.

This prayer comes just before the concluding doxology in the Roman Canon. Jungmann and a few other scholars I have read seem agreed that it originally followed on a blessing of some kind - possibly produce on various feasts or seasons of the year - that once concluded the Eucharistic prayer. The idea was to bring the gifts offered for blessing into proximity to the gifts offered for the holy sacrifice. The "good things" that the Lord creates, makes holy etc. include both the offered bread and wine and the additional things brought for blessing.


What has puzzled me on hearing the words for the last five years every Sunday is their order. Why does bless come after sanctify, for example? And why does vivify come in between those two? Is there a reason for the sequence? On casting around to find a rationale, it might help to think of the context of (1) creation and (2) eucharistia or thanksgiving. We (1) take the things of creation, (2) offer them with thanksgiving, and then God raises them to another level.

Take (1) creation first of all. In the original account God creates: "In the beginning God created"; then makes living things (days 3, 5 & 6); with blessings of fecundity following on day 5 (the blessing of fish and birds) and day 6 (the blessing of mankind, male and female); and then bestows plants for food. The obvious creation order is therefore creas, vivificas, benedicis, præstas nobis. The sanctifying is done last, on day 7, the Sabbath, which God both blesses and sanctifies. The idea is that in the Sabbath rest (a rest from the work of creation) God is making holy the day of completion and enjoyment and therefore making holy the completed and perfectly ordered cosmos. The sanctifying comes at the end, after the bestowal and blessing and all the rest: whereas in the Roman Canon it is the second term.

However the context (2) of the Eucharist is different. Here the world is being re-made, re-created. The divine Image is being impressed on creation in a new and higher way.

First, creas. The new creation is begun on the eve of the Sabbath, with the pouring of the water and blood from Christ's side. We enter this moment of Christ's death in baptism, washing away our sin and dying, unmaking the old corrupted creation. Bread and wine - made from grinding down and crushing up the stuff of the old creation - are also an image of this moment, the bread being Christ's dead body and the wine the blood that has poured from his side.

Then (sanctificas) the Sabbath is the day when we have entered into the mystery of the death of Christ, beneath the waters of baptism, when the Spirit is hovering over the darkness of inchoate existence, ready to give it new life. In the Eucharist one can draw an analogy with the Spirit fluttering above the offerings that have been set apart as holy things, ready to impregnate them with the life of God.

Vivificas: in the original creation order the Word generates light, the land emerges from the sea, and life germinates and breeds upon it. This life is of two kinds: plants bearing seeds (from which we make bread) and trees bearing fruit (from which we make wine). In the new creation, the resurrection of Christ generates the divine light of faith, and with him the Church emerges from the grave and the waters of baptism, just as the dry land rises out of the sea. The bread and wine, the seed-bearing and fruit-bearing substance of the old creation, are now re-made in Christ, and given new life as the Bread of Life and Cup of Everlasting Salvation.

The blessing (benedicas) of the fish, birds, and then Man in the creation week is a benediction to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. In the setting of the new creation the fish that multiply to fill the sea are the people of God who increase in faith, and in number, filling the nations. But there is an additional blessing given to Man who is also to exercised dominion over all creation. In the blessing of the new creation, Christ the last Adam weds his Bride, the Church; and so in the Eucharist the mystery of the making one flesh of Christ and his Bride is accomplished. The Church gives birth to many sons and daughters, and with her Lord produces the fruit of goodness, and rules the healthy but bestial parts of human nature. The blessing is ultimately a nuptial blessing, a blessing of the Supper of the Lamb and the Bride, and issues in God's committal of all things in heaven and earth to Christ's rule, and the nations to the rule of Christ's people.

Præstas nobis: the bestowal of the seed and fruit bearing plants upon mankind for food in the original creation is taken up to a new height of grace in the new creation, in which the divine life is given to us as bread and wine. This is a giving not just of life and nourishment, but is the pouring into us of the very life of God, in which we become partakers of the divine nature and everything else besides. He who delivered up for us his own Son, "how shall he not with Him also give us all things?"

The reason for this prayer's inverting of the original creation order (of God's first blessing and then sanctifying the whole at the Sabbath completion of his work) is because the Eucharist is a feast of the new creation: the order of re-making and restoration is necessarily different than that of creation. In the new creation God first makes his Son holy, and then through him restores and blesses and pours out gifts on the whole. In authoring the new creation the divine irony reaches a glorious height: God sets the new creation in motion by dying, by taking into himself the old and dragging it into death; he continues by sanctifying not the whole creation but its corpse; he then animates this with his own divine life, presents it as a King in marriage to the fallen world, and through that nuptial rite bestows his own life to the new world.

40 Days Until Christmas