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

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Confound Their Politics

The herald at the birth of Princess Mary, the only child to survive infancy of the brood of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, proclaimed, "God send and give long life and long unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess Mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King's Highness".  For the little one born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, we recall the prayer, and think it would not be bad thing if Prince William were to dash off on horseback to give thanks at the Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, and then hold a splendid joust in honour of the child - as did Henry on the birth of his son Prince Henry on New Year's Day, 1512.

I propose a new prayer of thanksgiving for the birth of a boy in particular, given the recent unseemly scramble to change the laws of succession into something more acceptable to that lovely pair Harriet Harman and Theresa May. "Almighty God, who hast delivered unto thy humble servants the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a man-child in safety, in thy providence to be our lord and sovereign, grant that thou mightest alway confound the politics of the ungodly and cast down their foolishness, that the rule of this Christian realm might never be wrested from its rightful heirs. Amen."

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A Lamb At Home, A Lion In The Chase

Fingal, my Irish wolfhound, will turn four years old in a couple of weeks. He was finding this spell of relentlessly hot weather unbearable, able to do little during the day but lie panting in the shade: and so I decided to bestir myself from my laziness about his grooming, and give him a proper trimming. It took Saturday afternoon and several hours on two evenings this week to finish the job, shaving off the long rough winter coat, snipping off ragged tangles, and clipping around his legs, ears and face. There was enough hair lying around afterwards to make a nice shawl, I suspect.

It was immensely satisfying, because his puppy markings, buried beneath the black-tipped iron-grey hair of his overcoat slowly emerged again. I had forgotten how unusual his undercoat was, and I say that not only with the besotted owner's pride. It is a remarkable "brindled" coat, mostly a yellowish white to orange with dark stripes, and can appear almost tigerish looking in the right kind of light. Since his haircut he looks smaller, slimmer and younger, and without the thick shaggy coat one can see his only defect (for Fingal was a runt), a narrowness of the chest that gives him more of a greyhound look than the usual broad chested wolfhound. Arrian's criteria (c. 400 A.D.) are still the accepted ones in judging the breed: “The neck should be long, round, and flexible. Wide chests are better than narrow ones. The legs should be long, straight, and well-knit, the ribs strong, the back wide and firm without being fat, the belly well drawn up, the thighs hollow, the tail narrow, hairy, long and flexible with thicker hairs adorning the tip. The feet should be round and firm.”

I could go on and on about wolfhounds: I'm afraid I do so very often. They seem sometimes, especially on a wide open space, loping through heather or long wiry grass, to have something almost prehistoric about them. There is an echo of something deep in their past as boar and wolf hunters, something (for all their lamblike gentleness in the home) untameable and noble, so that one feels almost tangibly the world that runs warm in their flowing arteries, the world of Fionn, of warrior chieftains and the drinking horn in the high hall, of bloody loyalties, terrible loves and of aristocratic disdain.

In case anyone thinks I am overdoing my praise of the breed, I call in Oliver Goldsmith: “the most wonderful of all [breeds] is the great Irish wolfdog, that may be considered as the first of the canine species... he is extremely beautiful and majestic in appearance, being the greatest of the dog kind to be seen in the world.” And for those who need more visible proofs of the wolfhound's majesty, I append the following photograph in which I am vainly trying to avoid having my ears licked.


Friday, 5 July 2013

The Ordinariate Rite: Some News

Just last week at the Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome, there was a paper presented on behalf of Monsignor Burnham who has been involved in the development of the final form of the Ordinariate liturgy, along with the group set up to oversee the task, Anglicanae Traditiones. I have been looking around for a text of the as yet unpublished paper, and discussion about it, but can find very little apart from a link to some excerpts on the official Ordinariate website. Apparently the very final approval is awaited, but the broad shape of the liturgy has emerged and I can't imagine there will be any big surprises from here on.

It is very reassuring for those like myself in the Croydon Ordinariate group who have become used to the traditional form of the liturgy from the Book of Divine Worship over the last year: it seems that this is the basic form that will be used, with some modifications. I was a little surprised by some of the additions, however, because they are much more sympathetic to the Book of Common Prayer rite than I had expected: for example, the option of the use of the Decalogue at the beginning of the Eucharist. Some other modifications (the Asperges and Vidi Aquam) I had half expected to be included. But what delighted me most of all, was the restoration of the Last Gospel, the Johannine Prologue, to its ancient place at the culmination of the rite.

A couple of questions remain: will we have the Novus Ordo readings? If we are to have the Cranmerian Collects, then won't it be more fitting to have the traditional yearly cycle of readings which fit together with these Collects? The lectionary isn't mentioned in the excerpts from the paper, so far as I can make out. And will the Novus Ordo words of institution be fitted into the Coverdale canon - which is what the scanty notes seem to suggest?

But it seems that the Sarum rite isn't about to revived in one piece, neither in direct translation, nor in its Latin form (it was felt to be an "antiquarian" interest, and not to have formed a familiar and well-worn part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition and so is not to be counted Anglican liturgical patrimony). One can't but hear a whisper of regret that the opportunity wasn't taken to put the Latin Sarum rite into the stewardship of the Ordinariate, as their own "Extraordinary Form" to learn and celebrate as a living rite. Who else will do it?

But overall things look like they are proceeding quickly, and that an English rite of real beauty and recognisable Anglo-Catholic provenance will be with us soon.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Hölderlin: In Lovely Blue

From In Lovely Blue

Like the stamen inside a flower
The steeple stands in lovely blue
And the day unfolds around its needle.


 A recent discovery, which I stumbled across in Douglas Hedley's study on Platonism "Living Forms of the Imagination", is the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin d.1843 (another reason to learn German). He was not rated, or even much read in his lifetime, but is now seen as perhaps the greatest German Romantic poet, and an important part of the history of German Romanticism, and had the acquaintance of Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, Novalis and Schiller.

“I have seen it once, the one thing that my soul sought, and the perfection that we put somewhere far away above the stars, that we put off until the end of time – I have felt it in its living presence” (from his novel Hyperion).

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dr Margaret Barker and Temple Theology

A friend drew my attention to an approach to the bible, both the New and Old Testament, pioneered by the Methodist theologian Dr Margaret Barker. Her website lists a series of publications building on the idea of a "Temple Theology", the notion that the first century Jewish Christian theology and liturgy was continuous with the kind of theology and ritual of the Jerusalem temple rite. It looks like a fascinating line of study from the little I have gleaned from this website, and another one linked to it called Temple Studies Group. (On the Temple Studies website they also list conference dates and programs, and very generously publish abstracts and texts from various papers given at their symposia.) The whole idea fits very neatly with two other pieces of biblical research I have fallen in with lately, these being Austin Farrer's interpretation of the book of Revelation as a series of Jewish liturgical feasts and symbols taken up into Christian life and thought, and the heavy influence of the Temple ritual and Passover feast on the Eucharistic liturgy.

There were a couple of things, however, that stopped me short when I was reading the book reviews etc. of Dr Barker's published work, and which I would like to look into further.

(1) She mentions a historico-critical claim that the Jehovah of the Old Testament was a local deity, and who was (possibly) called the Son of the Most High God, i.e. a god of a larger pantheon of whom the Most High God was the head. I had heard of this before; but Dr Barker seems to advance a theory that this was in fact a live notion at the time of Jesus in the Temple cult, and that the early Christians drew upon the notion in their understanding of Jesus as the Son of God and as Jehovah. I find this a little surprising, but would like to read more: was there already a Trinitarian strand in Hebrew theology? She mentions a couple of passages in the New Testament that made me think that there might be something in it.

(2) She seems to draw a clear distinction between the First Temple, destroyed in the reign of Josiah, and its rites, and the rites of the (according to her) much more Mosaic and Deutoronomic Second Temple which was not so conducive to Christian theology. This seems to open up a theological split within the Old Testament itself in favour of the more ancient rites prior to the writing of Deutoronomy. However, I am not so sure that recent critical scholarship is in favour of Deutoronomy being a late addition to the Penteteuch, and I am not sure what Dr Barker does with the well known and extensive parallels between Moses and Jesus in the synoptic gospels. Part of her claims seem to centre on the prominence of Psalm 110 in the book of Hebrews, in which Christ is linked to David's kingship, and through Melchisedek to the high priestly role: in order to bypass the hereditary priesthood of Aaron the Christians must reach back to an earlier idea of priesthood residing in the house of David via their participation in the divine priesthood of the mysterious Melchisedek (who turns out to be the Son of God). But I am not sure if one needs to set up an First Temple rite in opposition to the Second Temple, and introduce the notion of an anti-Mosaic theology, in order to frame these observations. I will be interested to see how extensive and radical her claims actually are.

(3) She mentions the important notion that the old Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, actually witnesses to a scheme of theology conducive to Christian ideas, and that the Hebrew Masoretic text, formed as it was during a period of Christian-Jewish controversy, has (on the Jewish side) edited out certain theological notions sympathetic to Christian thought. I had heard that the Septuagint was in certain respects more ancient - for example in the more accurate ordering of Jeremiah - but Dr Barker points out that one of the quotes in the Epistle to the Hebrews from the prophet Isaiah ("and let all the angels of God worship him") is a Christian Messianic text edited out of the Masoretic manuscripts. This is food for thought: was St Jerome's preference for the Hebrew text, and his canon, a mistaken preference for a less ancient and less Christian text? Dr Barker certainly seems to think so, which is interesting coming from a Methodist.

(4) She draws attention to the maternal figure of Wisdom in the First Temple, and the early Christian understanding of the Theotokos, and seems to suggest that there is some kind of direct influence.

(5) Dr Barker is reported to argue, in her study of the Apocalypse, that St John is writing to the churches in Asia to warn them against St Paul's influence. Oh dear, it's that evil Paul at his work again, misogynist, complicating Jesus' simple gospel of love, and now caught in the act of falling foul of another clever academic revisionist theory. How naughty of him! I don't have much sympathy for this line of argument, but I suppose one should read it and be fair all the same.

(6) One other thing - among many! - that caught my eye was the notion that the succession of pieces of furniture and rituals on entering the Temple are parallel to the days of the Creation week, culminating in the washing of the High Priest in the golden Laver and symbolising the creation of Adam as the High Priest of Creation. And there seems to be a strong tradition of understanding Adam as the first High Priest in other ancient Hebrew sources.

What this scholar seems to understand is the hologram technique of the book of Revelation, where one image is piled on top of another: the City coming down from heaven, the Garden of Eden, the Holy of Holies - these are cumulative images that draw in depth after depth of meaning until every layer of biblical history and imagery is vibrating in harmony as a polyphonic song to Christ.