Monday, February 28, 2011

Theodicy Again

Image from Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion that conducted aerial surveillance of areas affected in Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Crown Copyright 2011, NZ Defence Force – Some Rights Reserved.

And there were present, at that very time, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answering, said to them: Think you that these Galileans were sinners above all the men of Galilee, because they suffered such things?  No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them: think you, that they also were debtors above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish. 
— St Luke xiii, 1-5

Our Lord here teaches the moral we mortal men ought draw from every disaster, man-made or natural: those who died in the fall of the tower at Siloe, those who perished in the collapse of the spire in Christchurch, they were no worse nor better than we are; "but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish."  Thus saith the Lord!
On Occasion of an Earthquake.
O LORD our God, We desire with the utmost Reverence to prostrate our Souls before Thee, confessing that Thou art a great God, mighty and terrible; Thou removest the Mountains, and overturnest them in thine Anger, Thou shakest the Earth out of her Place, and makest the Pillars thereof to tremble. We beseech Thee, O Lord, to awaken our Attention, duly to consider and hear the Voice of thy amazing Judgements, and to learn the Instructions they have a tendency to convey: may We every one of us examine our own Hearts, see where we have done Iniquity, and sincerely resolve to do so no more: Suffer us not, as soon as our present Consternation is over, to forget our Deliverance, or to grow vain and presumptuous, lest a worse Thing should befall us. We acknowledge it is of thy Goodness, O God, that we were not utterly consumed, and that we were not swallowed up quick, by the late dreadful Earthquake. O may a Sense of thy many wonderful Preservations of us continually abide upon our Hearts, and produce such a godly Care and Watchfulness in our Conduct, that, no Disaster in Life may ever surprize us; that Death itself, at what time and in what manner soever it cometh, may not find us unprepared; and that at length We may safely arrive at that Kingdom, which can never be moved; for the Sake of thy Mercy in Christ Jesus, our Worthy Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.
The Christian Common Prayer Book or Universal Liturgy (London: 1761), 55f.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Votive Prayers in Time of Earthquake: Theodicy

Please continue to pray for the people of Christchurch: God rest the souls of those killed; God comfort and strengthen the living who have endured terror, loss of treasured possessions, injury, even – worst – the death of loved ones.


If it can be contemplated without offence to those in Christchurch, it struck me how full-blooded and disturbingly Biblical (!) are the Votive Prayers in Time of Earthquake, as found in the Traditional Roman Missal (that of 1962, and way back through the centuries): for they dare to acknowledge that it is from God's hands that we are dealt death and disaster, life and healing.

This is a consideration of theodicy: as it were, justifying God's ways to Man.  (For it is evidently presumptuous in the extreme to attempt to justify Man's inhumanity to God.)

Yes, earthquakes will happen; and notoriously New Zealand, with all its beauties, is a very unstable corner of the world, teetering on the edge of two tectonic plates (indeed, that is why Aotearoa is so beautiful – it highly geologically active).  That said, we are not considering geoscience, but the whys and wherefores of Divine Providence: why God did make the world, and set it up and direct it so that, just now, a terrible earthquake struck Christchurch (as in recent times Haiti and Chile have been devastated, and as a tsunami raised by a tremblor slew hundreds of thousands only a few years earlier).

God, of course, was free to make the world as He chose: He could have made it better, or worse, but in the event He made it as it is.  We must return to the central point that these prayers repeat, which I now repeat: that it is from God's hands that we are dealt death and disaster, life and healing.

What sort of a God could act thus?  The True God.

This is indeed the message of Scripture.. but what a scandal to moderns, who (if they believe at all) love only to prate of a lovey-dovey God made of fairy floss, who angrily reject any insinuation that the Lord might scourge us on account of our sins, let alone that we and the whole world ought tremble before the Almighty, the dread Sovereign of all.

Lutherans tend to be rather readier to testify to these truths than postconciliar Catholics.  Yet it is the Sapiential Book of Ecclesiasticus, from the Deuterocanonicals, that tells us straight: "Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God."  (Ecclesiasticus xi, 14).

Consider the prayers at issue – first, the Collect:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, “qui respicis terram, et facis eam tremere”: parce metuentibus, propitiare supplicibus; ut, cujus iram terræ fundamenta concutientem expavimus, clementiam contritiones ejus sanantem jugiter sentiamus.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, “Who lookest down upon the earth and makest it tremble” (Ps 103:32a), spare those who are afraid, show Thy mercy to those who implore Thee; that we who fear Thine anger, which shaketh the foundations of the earth, may evermore enjoy Thy mercy, which healeth its commotions.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Indeed as the Psalmist sings, God looks down upon the world, which trembles before His Face; and indeed we ought fear the anger of the Divine Majesty, all-righteously enkindled against the enormities and crimes of sinners.  (Comets were once thought to be the sins of men risen up to heaven and set aflame by the Lord's wrath: but as a wag once opined, if comets were indeed thus formed, would not the sky be ever full of them?!)  

This Collect very boldly juxtaposes the Divine wrath and the Divine mercy: God's anger is confessed to shake the very foundations of the earth (cf. Ecclus xvi, 19), and yet we hope in Him!  The same Deity Who causes the earth to tremble, heals also its commotions.  "For it is thou, O Lord, that hast power of life and death, and leadest down to the gates of death, and bringest back again" (Wisdom xvi, 13).

What is "the wrath of God"?  Does God have feelings as man?  "My ways are not your ways..."  Yet we know from Romans (how Lutheran! how Biblical!) that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice" (Romans i, 18) – the Lord hates only one thing, sin.  For did not the Creator see all that He made, and find it very good (Genesis i, 31)?  How did God deal with the world when sin came into His Creation?  Did He destroy it for ever?  No; the Flood did recede...  We know that in the fulness of time He sent His Son; and that Son died and rose again for us, and revealed that the way to heaven is by the royal way of the Holy Cross, just as He suffered and so entered into His glory.

Next, the Secret:

Deus, “qui fundasti terram super stabilitatem suam”, suscipe oblationes et preces populi tui: ac trementis terræ periculis penitus amotis, divinæ tuæ iracundiæ terrores, in humanæ salutis remedia converte; ut, “qui de terra sunt, et in terram revertentur”, gaudeant se fieri sancta conversatione in cælestes.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
O God, “Who didst establish the earth on firm foundations” (Ps 103:5a), receive the offerings and prayers of Thy people, and by wholly removing the perils of earthquake, turn the terrors of Thy divine anger into healing remedies for mankind: that “those who are of the earth and to the earth shall return” (cf. Gen. 3:19), may rejoice in becoming citizens of heaven by the holiness of their lives.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We know and declare that God is the Creator Who emplaced the earth, and after Man's Fall, told him that as he came from the earth, to the earth in death he would return – yet promised, first in ways veiled and then revealed in His Son, to bring repentant Man from the dust of the earth to the promised land of heaven, made holy by grace, as once he was soiled by sin.  Holiness of life: that is God's gift and requirement.  Christ lived an all-holy life, and yet endured death; holiness is not the avoidance of all care.

Holy Mother Church confesses what Scripture reveals, as in the history of Israel (sinning, being punished, repenting, being redeemed): we fear "the terrors of... divine anger" and yet confidently look for healing from the same Lord, not a capricious Deity, but the True God in Whom justice and mercy meet, nay, Who Is Justice and Mercy at one and the same time.

And this prayer makes a most important point: that our hope is not, is not, for this life only: for if it were, then, as the Apostle says, we would be the most pitiable of all.  Earthquakes kill, yes; but whether by earthquake or natural death, we all shall die.  Man is mortal, doomed to die.  What comes next is infinitely more important.  This life is not the only one; indeed, as Kant put it in his philosophy, and as more orthodox Christians have ever averred, we must needs postulate, we must needs believe in a God Who works justice, so that the wicked shall not triumph for ever, nor the poor for ever labour in vain; so that justice is done and seen to be done, if not in this miserable and naughty world, certainly in the life of the world to come.

Finally, the Postcommunion:

Tuere nos, Domine, quæsumus, tua sancta sumentes: et terram, quam vidimus nostris iniquitatibus trementem, superno munere firma; ut mortalium corda cognoscant, et te indignante talia flagella prodire, et te miserante cessare.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, to keep us, who receive Thy holy mysteries, and by Thy heavenly power make firm the earth, which we see trembling because of our sins; that men may know in their hearts that these scourges come from Thy wrath and cease by Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The last line sums up the doctrine of these three orations: "that men may know in their hearts that these scourges come from Thy wrath and cease by Thy mercy".

Is this a prayer that could be heard without dismay these days?

Man, not particularly wishing to acknowledge his sins, is loathe to even imagine that such would ever earn punishment!  "A loving God will never punish" – says the fool.  We have so magnified the everlasting mercy of the Lord as to spurn the Scripture truth of the Divine wrath.  Yet it is the one Revelation that attests to both: is it not the very definition of heresy to pick and choose?

We trust in God through our Lord Christ, Who revealed to us God's love in undergoing the cruellest of deaths, God's love so extreme that it spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – for though God could have saved the world in any other way, He chose to reveal the lengths to which He would go to save us.  In this, we see also that our journey to heaven, into the abyss of God's Love, will not be an easy ride: or rather, it will be made easy by grace, while to nature it may be sharp and trying.

Interestingly, it was in past ages the tendency to fear God so much as to doubt His mercy: whereas the opposite heresy is the modern fashion.  Does this not equally disparage Christ's Sacrifice?  If God's love is fondly imagined to forbid Him ever closing the gates of heaven against anyone, be he the worst and most unrepentant sinner, does that not make Christ's death utterly superfluous, even pointless?

Confessing God's mercy that we all do not utterly perish, we acknowledge His justice, and we cry to Him to save us, trusting that He and He alone can deliver us from  all threatening perils.

A flagello terræmotus, libera nos, Domine.

From the scourge of earthquake, O Lord, deliver us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Terrible Earthquake in Christchurch

"And at that hour there was made a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell..."
—Apocalypse xi, 13

I learnt while at work that a terrible earthquake struck Christchurch just before 1 pm N.Z. time; it was horrible to see the images and read of the havoc and death.  Having only visited the city in January, thinking matters safe after the initial earthquake struck back in early September last year, it horrified me more than ever – I pray especially for the friends I made in Christchurch, that they be safe and sound.

(UPDATE: I've just heard from my friends, who live in Rangiora to the north of the city, and they are mercifully unharmed, thanks be, though they know another family whose home is wrecked...)

At least sixty-five lie dead, many killed by falling masonry.  While buildings are as nothing compared to people, it is sad to see that the Anglican Cathedral's famous spire has collapsed (with fears many died in its fall), the beautiful Catholic Cathedral is half fallen-in, and probably will have to be demolished, and the historic Provincial Buildings now lie in ruins.

Please pray for the people of Christchurch, those slain and those who survive; pray for the rescue-workers and for all whom must now renew their labours to rebuild.

Kyrie eleison.  Christe eleison.  Kyrie eleison.
Pater noster…
V/.  Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
R/.  Sed libera nos a malo.
V/.  Salvos fac servos tuos.
R/.  Deus meus, sperantes in te.
V/.  Mitte eis, Domine, auxilium de sancto.
R/.  Et de Sion tuere eos.
R/.  Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
R/.  Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.
Our Father..
V/.  And lead us not into temptation.
R/.  But deliver us from evil.
V/.  Save Thy servants and handmaids.
R/.  My God, who hope in Thee.
V/.  Send unto them, O Lord, help from Thy holy place.
R/.  And from Sion protect them.
R/.  O Lord, hear my prayer.
R/.  And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.

From the Traditional Roman Missal, the Votive Prayers in time of earthquake:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui respicis terram, et facis eam tremere: parce metuentibus, propitiare supplicibus; ut, cujus iram terræ fundamenta concutientem expavimus, clementiam contritiones ejus sanantem jugiter sentiamus.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, "Who lookest down upon the earth and makest it tremble" (Ps 103:32a), spare those who are afraid, show Thy mercy to those who implore Thee; that we who fear Thine anger, which shaketh the foundations of the earth, may evermore enjoy Thy mercy, which healeth its commotions.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Deus, qui fundasti terram super stabilitatem suam, suscipe [oblationes et] preces populi tui: ac trementis terræ periculis penitus amotis, divinæ tuæ iracundiæ terrores, in humanæ salutis remedia converte; ut, qui de terra sunt, et in terram revertentur, gaudeant se fieri sancta conversatione in cælestes.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
O God, "Who didst establish the earth on firm foundations" (Ps 103:5a), receive the [offerings and] prayers of Thy people, and by wholly removing the perils of earthquake, turn the terrors of Thy divine anger into healing remedies for mankind: that those who are of the earth and to the earth shall return (cf. Genesis 3:19), may rejoice in becoming citizens of heaven by the holiness of their lives.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Tuere nos, Domine, quæsumus, [tua sancta sumentes:] et terram, quam vidimus nostris iniquitatibus trementem, superno munere firma; ut mortalium corda cognoscant, et te indignante talia flagella prodire, et te miserante cessare.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, to keep us, [who receive Thy holy mysteries,] and by Thy heavenly power make firm the earth, which we see trembling because of our sins; that men may know in their hearts that these scourges come from Thy wrath and cease by Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saints to be invoked against earthquakes:

  • St Agatha, Virgin and Martyr;
  • St Amatus, Bishop of Nusco;
  • St Emidius (Emygdius), Bishop and Martyr;
  • St Francis Borgia, Confessor - named patron saint against earthquakes in 1756;
  • St Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop and Confessor.

The people of Cuzco venerate an ancient crucifix as Señor de los Tremblores (Lord of the Earthquakes):

A flagello terræmotus, libera nos, Domine.

From the scourge of earthquake, O Lord, deliver us.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Arms and the Man

To become armigerous, one applies to the relevant authority... it appears from checking the website of the College of Arms that some qualifications are required of one before daring to apply; having a university degree is mentioned, but I think something more - a mark of character, of public service, of distinction - would be asked; plus a fee of £4,400 or so.  Hmmm.

Strictly as a private and unofficial blazon, I would propose what has been my settled idea since I was young, and first read Dante: for I was struck by his image (Purgatorio, Canto XXIX, ll. 109ff) of the griffin, with foreparts like an eagle, of gold imperishable, and hindparts as a lion, dappled white and blood-red – this fabulous beast representing Christ in His Divinity and sacred Humanity: the eagle, king of the birds, standing for the king of heaven, shining golden and eternal; the lion, king of beasts, representing the king of men, doomed for man to die, His Flesh wounded, pouring forth Blood, His Flesh and Blood our sacrifice and spiritual feast.

Interestingly, in mediæval times it was more common to represent Christ in the guise of a hippogriff than of a griffin; for the issue of a griffin and a mare (horses normally being the food of griffins, according to legend) was considered more miraculous even than that of an eagle and a lion – hence the proverbial "to mate griffins with horses", meaning something impossible.

(While I prefer this creature's name spelt "gryphon", in heraldry it is "griffin", or in French "griffon".) 

Dante, having summited Mount Purgatory, beholds a mystic Pageant (variously illustrated here):
...un carro, in su due rote, trïunfale,
ch’al collo d’un grifon tirato venne.
Esso tendeva in sù l’una e l’altra ale
tra la mezzana e le tre e tre liste,
sì ch’a nulla, fendendo, facea male.
Tanto salivan che non eran viste;
le membra d’oro avea quant’ era uccello,
e bianche l’altre, di vermiglio miste.

A chariot triumphal on two wheels,
Which by a Griffin's neck came drawn along;
And upward he extended both his wings
Between the middle list and three and three, * 
So that he injured none by cleaving it.
So high they rose that they were lost to sight;
His limbs were gold, so far as he was bird,
And white the others with vermilion mingled.
— Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XXIX, lines 108-114.

[* The "middle... three and three" are the seven bands of light trailing behind each of the seven candles that led the procession.]

Now, bearing the theophoric Christian name of Joshua, thus testifying that "God is my salvation", and revering the Holy Name of Jesus, the equivalent in Greek of the Hebrew original of Joshua, and keeping the Lord before my eyes, I find in Dante's griffin a charge suitable for a shield – which shield, out of suitable Marian and Ecclesial piety, ought be blue, for as Our Lady brought forth Christ both God and Man, so our Holy Mother the Church brought forth every Christian, remaining human and yet thus right marvellously divinized by adoption and grace.

Hence, I would adopt, if permitted, arms with a blue background, upon which walks a griffin with extended wings, its fore-parts gold and its hind-parts dappled red and white.  In heraldic language, as near as I can achieve it (I don't know the technical term for "hind-parts"), this would be emblazoned or worded thus:

Azure, a griffin passant segreant Or, the hind-parts vairy of gules and argent.

(By the rule of tincture, a colour may not lie upon a colour, but this rule does not apply to furs, and vair seemed to me the closest to the sort of fur I imagined the griffin would have – tufts of red and white.)

The motto, of course, would be Psallite sapienter.

After all, in the Psalms, everywhere we read of Christ, His Divinity, His Humanity, His saving works, His rule over all; and in Psalm 46:8, the full verse reads Quoniam rex omnis terræ Deus: psallite sapienter – "For the king of all the earth is God: psalm ye wisely".  Christ born of Mary is our King, and God, and Sacrifice.

If anyone would kindly draw me these proposed arms, please email me.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Recommendation

Pressure of work has decreased my blogging of late; but I have at least done some reading in the evenings and so forth.

Until I considered the matter yester-day and to-day when reading the newspapers, I hadn't realized how often I buy books online, and have them posted to me from far-flung corners of the globe...  The headlines I allude to refer to the bankruptcy of a large chain of bookshops, on the grounds that they are undercut by such sales.  Now, personally I buy online because the local bookshops are unlikely to stock remaindered copies of Dowden's The Scottish Communion Office of 1764 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922), or even such a recent bestseller as Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo (how remiss of them, I know), but it appears that my fellow Australians are doing the same when purchasing their own favourite reads; for the last remnants of protectionism here in free-trade Australia have maintained barriers to the commercial importation of cheap books, while not forbidding people buying in these cost-cutting items privately.  Adam Smith is proven right again.

May I recommend an example of such an overseas import?  Readers of this blog will perhaps enjoy Andrew Burnham's Heaven and Earth in Little Space: The Re-enchantment of Liturgy (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2010).  This excellent summary of much restorationist liturgical thinking was completed in late 2009 and only published last year, and in the meanwhile its author, then still an Anglican bishop, has come into full communion with the Holy See and been ordained a Catholic priest in record time: long may he serve the new Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham!

It is well-known that he is engaged on implementing the "re-enchantment" of which he wrote, by greatly assisting in the preparation of the forthcoming liturgical books for use by the incoming Anglicans of the nascent Ordinariates.  God willing, I may soon enough join my local T.A.C. friends at Mass, united in one communion at one altar, employing such a rite, once the Australian Ordinariate is established.


As the late Fr Peter Knowles, O.P., forcefully stated, all the Sacraments are acts of worship – even Confession.  Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus: quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus – Confess to the Lord for He is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.  We cannot but worship God and praise Him for His goodness and mercy in offering us forgiveness of sins.

(He was a notable and beloved eccentric; having given up on the Western liturgy after its postconciliar reforms, and gone all Byzantine, he would often enquire of the brethren as to such matters as, "How do you Latins baptize?"  Fr Paul, whose ordination I attended last year, likes to joke that the proper reply to such a query is - say it in a broad Aussie accent - "We pour the water over the arse, Faaather!"  Likewise, whilst feasting on fresh oysters, he would hold forth on the rigours of Great Lent...  He is also famous for telling seminarians, making a retreat with him as director, that "The Holy Trinity is not a young man, an old man, and a bird!"  Quite right.)

What brings me to all this?  Going to confession this morning, as is my wont, and realizing anew what grace draws one to this sacrament, and what a plenitude of power for healing, temporal and eternal, it is – when, humanly speaking, how could man ever expect forgiveness for any sin?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dies Iræ, Dies Illa

The Syrian Jacobite Anaphoras – there are over seventy extant – tend to feature rather sobering thoughts in their anamneses, which but briefly commemorate Christ's saving work, and offer Him His own Sacrifice of Himself given into the hands of the Church, and instead develop at great length eschatological themes, expatiating in rather terrifying words on Doomsday and the Last Judgement.  

Herewith, such a passage, upon which 'tis all too necessary soberly to meditate, from the Liturgy of Severus, as kindly translated into Augustan English (that best of styles) by Thomas Brett the Nonjuror, via the Latin of the scholarly Renaudot:

We therefore, O Lord Jeſu, offer this unbloody Sacrifice, and implore thy Pity towards Mankind, which induced Thee to give thyſelf a Sacrifice for us.  We are mindful alſo of thy Second, Glorious, and Dreadful Appearance, when Thou ſhalt ſit highly exalted upon thy Awful Throne, encompaſſed with Thouſand Thouſands of Angels ; and a Stream of Fire ſhall break forth and miſerably deſtroy the Wicked : When all Men ſhall give an Account of their Works, and there ſhall be no Occaſion for an Accuſer or an Advocate, but the very Works which they have done ſhall be made manifeſt, their own Conſciences accuſing or elſe excuſing them : When every Man's Work ſhall be tried by Fire, and the Wiſe and Learned ſhall not be able to offer any thing in their Defence ; but in that time of Terror, Fear and Dread ſhall fall upon the rational Part of the Creation, and every Mouth ſhall be ſtopped, and Confuſion ſeize the Fooliſh and the Ungodly ; their Fathers and Brethren ſhall give them no Aſſiſtance, nor their Pity and Compaſſion avail them any thing : When Vengeance, without Mercy, ſhall overtake them who have not ſhewed Mercy.  In that Day turn not thy Face from us, nor give up thine Inheritance to Eternal Torments.  Make us not Heirs of Darkneſs where there is no Light, nor alienate us from thy Fellowſhip ; do not deny us, and ſay, I know you not ; ſet us not on the Left-hand with thoſe who ſaw Thee hungry, and fed Thee not ; ſick, and viſited Thee not : But acknowledge us, and number us with thoſe who have done thy Will.  For theſe things thy People, thine Inheritance, make their Supplications to Thee, and by Thee to thy Father.

Lessons and Lauds

This week, as Matins is beyond me, I have taken up praying the Lord's Prayer, then reading the day's Lessons, together with their blessings, responsories, and the Te Deum if appointed, before going straight into the versicle before Lauds and Lauds itself (with Pretiosa).  In other words, by prefixing the second part of Matins to Lauds, I have profited from a good deal of Scripture.  (The readings have been from St Paul to the Philippians, chapters 2 and 3.)

Furthermore, what happy feasts: Bl Jordan of Saxony, O.P., first successor of St Dominic as Master of the Order of Preachers, on Monday (with Memory of St Valentine); Bl Henry Suso, O.P., that ascetic mystic, on Tuesday; a feria yester-day; and feria with Memory of Bl Reginald of Orleans, O.P., he whom the Blessed Virgin cured and  to whom she revealed the habit of the Order, to-day.  A pleasant run through the week of the Sixth after Epiphany, with Septuagesima to come this Sunday: "Alleluia our transgressions make us for a while give o'er" and all that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Her Virgin Eyes

Congratulations to the newest clergyman of the Ordinariate for England and Wales, Deacon Edwin Barnes, formerly emeritus Bishop of Richborough, who was ordained to the Catholic diaconate yester-day, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (and World Day of Prayer for the Sick).  He mentioned on his blog that the opening hymn at the Mass of Ordination was Thomas Ken's "Her Virgin eyes saw God Incarnate born", a fine example indeed of Anglican Patrimony entirely orthodox and catholic.

Curious as to its original text, I did some digging, and found that this hymn is a cento from a much longer poem in pious veneration of Our Lady's whole life, which appeared first in 1721, in a posthumous collection of his hymns or poems on the Christian Year, and was luckily available in toto via Google Books.  I subjoin the entire text below, noting only that the hymn extracted from it is composed of lines 105-8, 115-122 and 183-6 thereof.  It is interesting, though unsurprising, how what Ken writes of the childhood and youth of the Blessed Virgin, what her occupations, what her devotion, what her virtues, seems to recapitulate what St Ambrose wrote upon that subject.


His mother kept all theſe ſayings in her heart.
St. Luke ii. 51.

GOD, Who is pleaſed bright Angels down to 
ſend, 1

On purpoſe little children to attend; 

When bleſſed Mary firſt drew vital air, 

Entruſted her to a bright ſeraph’s care; 

The aged Saints, who for a child had pray’d, 
Sang hymns to God when joyful parents made; 

Devoted God’s free gift to God alone, 

And more God’s child eſteem’d her than their own; 

Her ſeraph kept her in his ſweet embrace, 

No one foul ſpirit durſt approach the place; 
The Holy Ghoſt His temple in her built, 

Cleanſed from congenial, kept from mortal guilt; 

And from the moment that her blood was fired, 

Into her heart Celeſtial Love inſpired. 
The babe, when ſhe began to ſpeak, was taught 15

To conſecrate to God her tongue and thought,
And, prompted by her ſeraph, took delight 
Continual hallelujahs to recite ; 

Her phylacteries next ſhe by degrees 

Had learn’d, and to repeat them on her knees; 20

Thoſe which the love of God ſincere enjoin’d 

Affected moſt her heaven-enkindled mind : 

When ſhe began to read God’s holy book, 

In which ſhe her initiation took, 

Her ſoul was with a heavenly manna fed, 25

Her ſpirit taſted every truth ſhe read ; 

And ere ſhe ſaw two weeks of years complete 

She the whole pſalter could by heart repeat; 

From types, and what the propheſies foretold, 

Which ſhe, by Heaven enlighten’d, could unfold, 
She the idea of Meſſias drew, 

Pray’d for His advent, kept Him ſtill in view; 

Seven times a-day ſhe to her cloſet went, 

Her fervent love in fervent prayer to vent ; 

And her unwearied zeal was wont to pray 
By warm ejaculations all the day ; 

She in the depth of her ſerene repoſe 

At midnight to her ſolemn office roſe : 

As ſhe grew up love daily gain’d new heights, 

And ſhe from them began ſublimer flights. 
No Angel who e’er human likeneſs took 

Had a more chaſte, ſweet, charming, heavenly look, 

A look, which all at the firſt ſight revered, 

And while it ſtruck a ſacred awe endear’d ; 

Plain, cleanly, and becoming was her dreſs, 
Had nothing curious, nothing of exceſs; 
She idleneſs, the peſt of ſouls to ſhun,
In intervals of prayer her garments ſpun ;
Soon as herſelf ſhe decently array’d,
She veſtments for the poor and naked made ; 50
Charity, next to Heaven, abſorb’d her care,
The poor, in every meal ſhe eat, had ſhare ;
Her cloſet-meditations moſt ſublime,
Where with her God alone ſhe ſpent her time ;
Her languors, bleſſ’d Meſſias to behold, 55
Spring-tides of Heaven, whicho’er her ſpirit roll’d;
Humility, which all proud thoughts ſuppreſs’d,
As if no one perfection ſhe poſſeſs’d,
Her will transfuſed into the will Divine,
Accuſtom’d with God’s will to co-incline; 60
Her ſanctity to God’s true likeneſs grown,
Her frequent viſits from the glorious throne
A ſilent admiration may create,
None but her guardian ſeraph can relate.
To parents, next to God, ſhe reverence paid, 
They ſweetly ruled, as ſweetly ſhe obey’d ; 

She was the ſubject of their prayer and praiſe, 

Their tender nurſe in their declining days; 

Heaven warn’d them their dear daughter to commend 
To reverend Joſeph’s care, their ancient friend, 70

A ſaint, who would her purity protect, 

And treat her with angelical reſpect; 

To her dear parents’ choice ſhe choſe to yield, 

And the eſpouſals ſolemnly were ſeal’d; 

Gabriel meanwhile from bliſs flew down full-ſpeed, 75
To tell her as ſhe pray’d that Heaven decreed 

She the Meſſias in her womb ſhould bear, 

Whoſe ſight had been the ſubject of her prayer; 

The boundleſs might of Fontal Love Divine 

The love co-breathed, third of the Glorious Trine, 
On thee deſcending ſhall thy womb diſpoſe 

Great filial God incarnate to incloſe ; 

She ſcarcely could believe her ears and eyes, 

The meſſage had ſuch rapturous ſurpriſe, 

Till Gabriel her aſſured it was God’s will, 
Which ’twas her ſole ambition to fulfil; 

And as he back to Heaven his flight began 

In a love tranſport ſhe conceived God-man ; 

While Godhead templing in her womb remain’d, 

What influence from God within ſhe gain’d, 
What ſuavities, loves, languors, ardours, lights, 

Joys, jubilations, beatific ſights, 

What rapts when ſhe Magnificats compoſed, 

Or when t’ Eliſa Gabriel’s news diſcloſed, 

Her ſpirit fill’d, no poetry can gueſs, 
Herſelf could never what ſhe felt expreſs. 

Joſeph with jealous eye her change beheld, 

Till a bright Angel all his doubts diſpell’d ; 

Then both at Nazareth lived a bliſsful life, 

Moſt tender huſband, moſt ſubmiſſive wife ; 
Their chaſtity was free from ſenſual taints, 

Their mutual love pure, as in heavenly Saints ; 
His Angel and her Seraph could not join 

In friendſhip more endearing, more divine. 
When ſhe to Bethlehem came that happy morn, 
Her virgin-eyes ſaw God incarnate born ; 

How high her raptures then began to ſwell, 

None but her own omniſcient Son can tell; 

God-man, who deigns to temple in pure hearts, 

A wondrous love to common ſaints imparts, 
Gives them of heavenly love foretaſting ſight, 

To comprehend its length, breadth, depth, and height ; 

Much greater love to His dear Mother ſhew’d, 

Heaven in ſweet deluge on her ſpirit flow’d; 

As Eve when ſhe her fontal ſin review’d, 
Wept for herſelf, and all ſhe ſhould include ; 

Bleſs’d Mary, with man’s Saviour in embrace, 

Joy’d for herſelf, and for all human race; 

All Saints are by her Son’s dear influence bleſs’d, 

She kept the very fountain at her breaſt ; 
The Son adored and nurſed by the ſweet maid, 
A thouſand-fold of love for love repaid ; 

Saints, who of God have beatific view, 

Such mighty joys peculiar never knew ; 

They to hymn God as vot’ries are employ’d, 
As mother of the God they hymn’d, ſhe joy’d. 
But yet to temper rapturous exceſs, 

Her joys below were mingled with diſtreſs ; 

When ſhe a mother, yet a virgin pure, 

Purification legal would endure : 
Simeon, who honour’d was God-man to hold, 

The ſword, which ſhould the Mother pierce, foretold, 

Her Son was born our griefs to undergo, 
She ſweetly ſympathiſed in all His woe: 

The wound which firſt check’d her ecſtatic joy, 
Was Herod’s plot the Infant to deſtroy; 

But warn’d by Heaven, to Egypt ſhe took flight, 

God cured that wound by baffling Herod’s ſpite; 

Babe, Virgin, Joſeph, when the ſtorm was o’er, 

Return’d to Nazareth, where they lived before, 
There humble and obſcure the parents dwelt, 

And of their Son, God-man, the bleſſings felt; 

Above two luſtres in ſweet peace they ſpent, 

Then with their wondrous Son to Salem went; 

The Virgin there received a ſecond wound, 
Which ſoon was cured when the dear Child they found ; 

All three to pleaſant Nazareth then retired, 

Where Joſeph in the Virgin’s arms expired ; 
God-man Himſelf his abſolution ſpake, 
His ſpirit long’d its priſon to forſake ; 
Son then and Mother lived exempt from noiſe, 

Reciprocating heavenly loves and joys. 
Into the world ſoon as bleſs’d Jeſus came, 
His mediatory-office to proclaim, 
Bleſs’d Mary, who in her reflecting ſoul 155
Took care all Jeſu’s actions to enroll, 
Who had of ſin and Love Divine, a ſenſe 
Next to her Son, moſt lively, moſt intenſe, 
When ſhe His Love, which ſinful man redeem’d, 
Saw daily ſcorn’d, inſulted, and blaſphemed, 160
The ſword pierced daily through her tender heart, 
And ſhe of all His ſorrows felt the ſmart;
But when ſhe on the Croſs beheld God-man, 

Up to the hilt the dol’rous weapon ran. 
Soon as He left His grave her joy revived, 
She from her Son freſh ſprings of joy derived; 

To John’s dear care ſhe by her Son conſign’d, 

To his ſole manſion her abode confined ; 

The bleſs’d above adore their heavenly King, 

Contemplate, love, converſe, rejoice, and ſing, 
Thoſe were her ſole employments day and night, 

Her converſation darted heavenly light; 

To all the hours of prayer ſhe daily came, 

When any cool’d, her zeal refreſh’d their flame ; 

She to Devotion all her time applied, 
She lived as if already glorified ; 

Her love ſtill languiſh’d for the happy day, 

When to the grave ſhe ſhould reſign her clay, 

Exulting when the world ſhe was to leave, 

And her divine Viaticum receive, 
Fell ſick, and died of an exceſs of love, 

Haſt’ning to her reſtorative above ; 

Heaven with tranſcendent joys her entrance graced, 

Next to His throne her Son His Mother placed ; 

And here below, now ſhe’s of Heaven poſſeſs’d, 
All generations are to call her bleſs’d.

Bishop Ken’s Christian Year or Hymns and Poems for the Holy Days and Festivals of the Church (London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1868), pp. 58-64.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anglican Patrimony; and Psalm 86(87) — II

Anglican Patrimony – what is it?  Pope Benedict defines it thus:
...ita ut intra Catholicam Ecclesiam vitales serventur spiritales, liturgicae pastoralesque Communionis Anglicanae traditiones, ad instar magni pretii doni, ad sodalium fidem alendam ac participandam. 
..the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion [brought] within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.
— Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus, III. (& cf. VI. §5, which explicitly refers to all this as Anglicano patrimonio, "Anglican patrimony"; the same expression occurs in the Complementary Norms, Article 10 §2.)

Of course, these liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions must ipso facto be orthodox – hence, liturgies to be used must "have been approved by the Holy See" (A.C., III), and all this patrimony must be subject to the clear statement that "The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate" (A.C., I §5).  A "purification" is called for: no Erastianism, no Calvinism, no Zwinglianism; no liberalism nor modernism!  But "yes" to all that is godly, catholic and conformable to the doctrines of the universal Church.

What relevance has the Patrimony of Anglicanism to the Psalms and to prayer?  Firstly, the Anglican daily Offices, wherein traditionally the whole Psalter is sung through, in rich Anglican chant, once every month; secondly, the prayers and devotions and preachings of Anglican divines founded upon the Psalms.


In the more particular of the present case, following upon my brief notes relative to Psalm 86, or 87 as the Hebrews and Anglicans number it, I've turned up a prayer by Jeremy Taylor, from his The Psalter of David: with Titles and Collects, according to the Matter of Each Psalm (Works, Volume XV, p.156):

A Contemplation of the Excellencies of Sion, or the celestial Jerusalem.
O Lord God, who dwellest in Sion, and delightest to have thy habitation in the hearts of men: thou hast built the church as a city upon a hill, and laid the foundation of it upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone: make us to be a spiritual building fit for thy habitation, and a residence for thy Holy Spirit, grounding us in faith, building us up in hope, and perfecting us in charity; that we, being joined in the communion of saints, in the union of the holy catholic church militant on earth, may all partake of the blessings of thy church trinmphant in the city of thee our God, in the celestial Jerusalem, where thou livest and reignest ever one God, world without end. Amen.
While unfortunately Taylor was rather bigoted against the Holy Church of Rome, this and many of his devotions (but for their oft wearisome sesquipedalian length) are in themselves pious and uncontroversial; and ought be welcomed home.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Godly Prayer

While reading a 19th C. book of Bidding Prayers (you know me), I came across the following devout orison by a learnèd Anglican divine, "Dr. Featly, or, more properly, Fairclough,... the son of the cook of Magdalen College" (1582-1644):

O Lord, who desirest not that we should die in our sinnes, but our sinnes in us, mortifie our fleshly members by the power of thy Son's death, and renew us in the spirit of our mindes by vertue of his resurrection, that we may die daily to the world but live to heaven, die to sinne, but live to righteousnesse, die to ourselves but live to thee. Thou by the prophet professest thy desire of our conversion, say but the word and we shall be converted; call us by thy Spirit and we shall hear thee, and hearing thee turn from our wicked waies, and turning live a new life of grace here, and an eternall life of glory hereafter in heaven with thee, O Father the infuser, O Son the purchaser, O Holy Spirit the preserver of this life. Amen.

—Henry Octavius Coxe, Forms of Bidding Prayer, with Introduction and Notes (Oxford: Parker, 1840) pp. 147f (note) & 152f.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Hobart for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany

There was a Missa cantata in Hobart for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, in lieu of the normal first-Sunday Mass, but I was unable to attend owing to prior commitments in Launceston.

This week, I've been back at work (hence no blog posts), but this weekend I'm off to Hobart as usual, it being the first Sunday of the month and therefore time for the Missa cantata again.

As (pray for me) I'll be acting as M.C. again, I'd best pack my cassock and surplice, my Fortescue-O'Connell-Reid, and (regretfully) leave my Liber usualis at home: I can't both sing in the choir and serve Father at the altar.